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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #376 -- 2/25/05

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


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"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Table of Contents

    The president's past drug
    use is unimportant --
    but not irrelevant.
    Years after candidate George Bush's non-answers to questions about his possible drug past fueled controversy and a sense that he indeed had such a past, proof for some of it at least has at last emerged. On one level, it's not very important. On other levels, the proof after all these years raises some important philosophical issues.
    The campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act's (HEA) drug provision -- the brainchild of arch-drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder -- continues to pick up steam.
    A bill that would define drivers as impaired if certain set quantities of illicit drugs or their metabolites are detected in their blood or urine sailed through the Ohio Senate last week, but may have been knocked off course this week in the House as opponents mobilized to amend or defeat it.
    With medical marijuana already approved directly by voters in eight states and by the legislative process in three more, the push for medical marijuana in state legislatures is well underway this year.
    Two complementary collections of essays on drug crops and the drug war have different aims and focuses, but between them readers will find a wealth of information on drug production, drug prohibition, and their impact on producers and producer nations not usually found in an easily accessible fashion.
    Please join DRCNet and the Perry Fund for the second stop in our national tour raising money for student scholarships and awareness of a bad law.
    This week there are new developments in a pair of nasty stories previously mentioned here, as well as a motley collection of cops and prosecutors who probably don't qualify as corrupt, but who have the sort of bad habits for which they usually arrest or prosecute others.
    In conversations with a friend who secretly recorded his comments, President Bush all but admitted to having a past history of drug use. The tapes were released late last week.
    On the eve of Wednesday's official release of the 2005 National Drug Control Strategy, drug czar John Walters told Reuters the US should employ some of the techniques it uses in the "war on terror" to the war on drugs.
    Barely half of today's parents would be upset if they caught their teens experimenting with marijuana, according to an annual survey released Tuesday. That has the Partnership for a Drug-Free America worried.
    The FBI and Arizona local authorities are investigating an incident in which a US Border Patrol agent shot and killed an unarmed Mexican man who was part of a group backpacking marijuana across the border. It is only the latest incident of Border Patrol agents wounding or killing unarmed Mexican immigrants.
    The superintendent of Iowa's rural Mount Pleasant School District is set to recommend that the school board bar children from bringing homemade treats to share with other students at school events out of fear the cakes and cookies could contain methamphetamine.
    The Canadian parliament is already debating a bill from the ruling Liberal Party to decriminalize marijuana possession. But in a sign of discontent with halfway measures, party delegates from Alberta have crafted a resolution calling for the legalization and taxation of the country's booming marijuana trade.
    Officials in Singapore are targeting the rich and the powerful in an anti-drug media campaign after more than a dozen members of the puritanical city-state's glitterati were rounded up in the nation's first cocaine bust.
    Author, provocateur, prodigious drug-taker and rabble-rouser Hunter Thompson's savage journey through life came to an end last Saturday when he committed suicide at his long-time home in the mountains outside Aspen, Colorado.
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    A host of new work opportunities in the movement have just opened up.
    Showing up at an event can be the best way to get involved! Check out this week's listings for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!

(Chronicle archives)

1. Editorial: PROOF

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

David Borden
Years after candidate George Bush's non-answers to questions about his possible drug past fueled controversy and a sense that he indeed had such a past, proof for some of it at least has at last emerged. Taped excerpts from a conversation, released by the author of a new book, reveal the future president essentially admitting to past marijuana use and explaining why he would never acknowledge it in public.

On one level, the educated reaction to this news is something along the lines of, "so what?" Tens of millions of Americans have used marijuana during their lives. It wasn't a big deal for most of them. Even the more dangerous drugs aren't a problem for most of their users -- that's not the strongest argument for legalization of them, but it's true. All the more so for marijuana. Bill Clinton used marijuana. Al Gore used marijuana. It did not and should not have disqualified them from the nation's top job. Nor does it disqualify George Bush.

On other levels, however, the information is troubling, for two reasons. One is that candidate Bush criticized his opponent, Al Gore, not for having used marijuana but for having admitted to it. "I want to lead," he explained, and "I don't want some little kid doing what I tried." He couldn't criticize Gore for having used drugs because he had also used drugs. So instead he criticized him for being open and truthful.

There is a level on which one could legitimately hold that it is counterproductive for kids to be keenly focused on the drug use of famous role models; this is an area on which reasonable people can hold varying points of view. But the way to accomplish that would be through legalization and treating private drug use as not a big deal. And that is not what George Bush has advocated.

Which leads us to the second reason, one of hard policy. As governor, Mr. Bush escalated sentences for some drug offenses, putting other people in prison for longer time periods for things that he himself had done or supported. As president, under his authority the federal government has targeted medical marijuana cooperatives, escalated the war on pain doctors, campaigned against drug policy reform initiatives or legislation, promoted drug testing and vastly overreaching drugged driving laws, gone to court against any reform to drug policy that it could no matter how modest.

So if marijuana use in the distant past is not relevant to judging the president, hypocrisy on the drug issue is very relevant. And if not being open or candid about one's own youth is not exactly the same as lying to children, it verges on that. Not to suggest that his predecessor and failed opponents have stellar records on the issue by any means; they most certainly don't. But they're not president right now.

So if it is unimportant that George Bush used marijuana, it is kind of sad that he opposes honesty about it. And it is very sad that he continues to support cruel and repressive drug policies -- policies which could have ruined his life if they had been in place back then, but realistically only in theory.

I am glad, therefore, that now there is proof of George Bush's drug use. If only by providing one more bit of rhetorical ammunition, it will make it slightly harder for the drug warriors to continue to escalate their pogrom against the American people.

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2. Campaign Against "Souder's Law" Progresses Forward and Outward in DC and the States

The campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act's (HEA) anti-drug provision -- the brainchild of arch-drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) -- continues to pick up steam. On Wednesday, legislators in the Arizona General Assembly Education Committee approved a bipartisan-sponsored resolution calling on Congress to repeal the drug provision by a vote of 6-2 -- the measure now moves to the assembly as a whole, where a vote is expected as early as next week. And in Washington, DC, reformers are gearing up for a pair of events marking the reintroduction of Rep. Barney Frank's repeal bill in early March.

CHEAR press conference with ten
members of Congress, May 2002
The HEA drug provision bars students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid for specified periods. According to figures from the US Department of Education, more than 160,500 have lost financial aid since the provision went into effect in 2000 including some 34,000 this academic year alone. This number includes only those who completed their federal Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA), not those who gave up because they (rightly or wrongly) believed they did not qualify for aid.

"It seems that we have support from both sides of the fence" in Arizona, said Chris Mulligan, a member of DRCNet's staff who is serving as campaign director for the umbrella group leading the effort, the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR). "The legislator leading the way on this issue, David Bradley, has 25 years of experience in dealing with at-risk youth. It seems the legislature has been heeding his expertise on this issue."

If the measure passes the legislature, Arizona would become the second state to have passed such a resolution -- Delaware passed a similar one last year, almost unanimously. The moves are aimed at persuading US Representatives and Senators from those states that voters back home support repeal of the provision.

The campaign will also kick things up a notch on March 9 and 10 in Washington, DC. On March 9, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and former mandatory minimum drug war prisoner Kemba Smith will keynote at a fundraiser for the John W. Perry Fund, a scholarship program providing scholarships to students who have been denied federal financial aid because of drug convictions.

The following day, CHEAR is hosting a Capitol Hill press conference to announce the introduction of the Removing Impediments to Students' Education (RISE) Act by HEA reform friend Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who will moderate the event. The RISE Act is Frank's bill calling for full repeal of the HEA anti-drug provision, although this year it has a new, media-friendly moniker. Also addressing the press conference will be Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Hilary Shelton of the NAACP, Larry Zaglaniczny of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, Scarlett Swerdlow of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), along with representatives from the ACLU, the United States Student Association, and other organizations and members of Congress to be announced.

The Perry Fund, which is a project of DRCNet Foundation, is named after a New York City police officer and widely respected civil libertarian and drug reformer, John Perry, who lost his life in the rescue effort at the World Trade Center in September 2001. The Perry Fund's purpose goes beyond helping needy students stay in school, said DRCNet executive director Dave Borden, intellectual author of the fund. "The Perry Fund helps some students, but it also makes a statement, a special kind of impression that goes beyond mere advocacy. We're not just talking about how bad this law is. We're actually giving scholarships to keep the people in school whom Congress tried to keep out. It's also a great way to find victims of the law who are willing to speak out in the media, even though we don't require that."

In addition to Conyers and Smith, the event will feature grand old man of drug reform Arnold Trebach, Hilary Shelton of the NAACP, Nkechi Taifa of the Open Society Institute, Scarlett Swerdlow of SSDP, and DRCNet's Borden. Perry's mother, Patricia, a strong supporter of the fund, has been invited, but her appearance had not been confirmed by press time, as was the case with Larry Zaglaniczny of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, an organization that has consistently advocated for the drug provision's repeal.

While Conyers will provide the political clout, the fundraiser's star power also comes from Kemba Smith, one of the best known drug war prisoners of recent years. At age 24, Smith was sentenced to 24 ½ years in prison for "conspiracy," primarily because her boyfriend, a violent and abusive man who is now dead, was the leader of a cocaine ring. After being featured on the cover of Emerge magazine, she became a cause celebre in the African American community, and in December 2000 her sentence was commuted by President Clinton. Smith has since graduated from college and become a frequent speaker at events around the country, under the auspices of the Kemba Smith Foundation.

"There are more individuals, organizations, and members of Congress calling for repeal of the HEA anti-drug provision than ever before," said CHEAR's Mulligan. "Mark Souder has placed his solution to the problem -- limiting the provision to currently enrolled students -- in several pieces of legislation, but we think that a partial fix like that is not enough. It is our job to show Congress and the education community that denying financial aid to anyone with a drug conviction, no matter how minor, is simply a failed public policy. These events will help us raise the profile of this important issue," he said.

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3. Ohio Drugged Driving Bill Hits Speed Bumps in House After Quick Senate Approval

A bill that would define drivers as impaired if certain set quantities of illicit drugs or their metabolites are detected in their blood or urine sailed through the Ohio Senate last week, but may have been knocked off course this week in the House as opponents mobilized to amend or defeat it. The bill, a pet project of Hope Taft, the wife of Republican Gov. Robert Taft, would make Ohio the second state after Nevada to set precise measures of amounts of illegal drugs that would be considered per se evidence of impaired driving.

Drunk driving laws use a per se measure -- typically a 0.08% blood alcohol level -- and assume that drivers above that level are impaired. But the national push to enact drugged driving laws announced in November 2002 by drug czar John Walters has typically favored "zero tolerance" drugged driving statutes, where any detectable amount of a drug or its metabolites is considered evidence of impaired driving. At least ten states have passed such laws since the campaign began.

Opponents of such measures argue that because zero tolerance drugged driving laws have no scientific basis -- the presence of a drug or metabolite does not necessarily prove impairment -- their real purpose is not to increase highway safety but to find yet another way to punish drug users. Since most drug users are marijuana smokers and since marijuana is notorious for lingering in one's system, opponents view such laws primarily as an attack on marijuana users. While per se standards are less obnoxious than zero tolerance standards, opponents say, those standards must be set at drug levels that are actually scientifically linked to impairment.

The legislation, Senate Bill 8, approved on a 30-1 vote by the Ohio Senate sets the following standards, among others:

  • 10 nanograms of marijuana per milliliter in the person's urine, or two nanograms per milliliter in the blood. (A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram and a milliliter is a unit of volume equal to one-thousandth of a liter.)
  • 150 nanograms of cocaine per milliliter in urine, or 50 nanograms per milliliter in blood.
  • 2,000 nanograms of heroin per milliliter in urine, or 50 nanograms per milliliter in blood.
"Although we have a standard of 0.08 for alcohol, we have no... standard for driving under the influence to measure drugs," said state Sen. Steve Austria (R-Beavercreek), the bill's sponsor. "Cases become subjective and vary from court to court."

"What it will do is give us the same objective measure for drugs that exists for alcohol, so a jury or a judge can have confidence that the person we have arrested has got levels that are high enough that it did not accidentally or involuntarily get into their system," Captain John Born, legislative lobbyist for the Ohio Highway Patrol, told the Senate.

But Paul Armentano, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and an authority on drug testing, told DRCNet the bill would roll up unimpaired marijuana users in its dragnet. "Because marijuana's main metabolite, THC-COOH, remains detectable in certain bodily fluids, particularly urine, for days and sometimes weeks after past use, this legislation seeks to define sober drivers as if they were intoxicated," he said. "Someone who smokes marijuana is impaired as a driver at most for a few hours, certainly not for days or weeks. To treat all marijuana smokers as if they are impaired, even when the drug's effects have long worn off, is illogical and unfair."

Armentano laid out three broad objections to the bill as written. "We object to including drug metabolites as indicative of impairment when clearly there is no scientific evidence that the presence of metabolites establishes either recent drug use or impairment," he said.

"Also, there is no scientific consensus that an individual who has two nanograms of THC in his blood is either impaired or has an elevated risk of a traffic accident," Armentano said. "The science on this is in its infancy, but there is data out there to suggest that when a person tests above five nanograms, and closer to ten, that there is an elevated risk. Two nanograms is not a standard associated with impairment. If they are going to use a cut-off standard it should be in line with scientific evidence and associated with actual impairment. The standard for alcohol was picked because there is evidence that when a person reaches that threshold, he is a danger on the road. Marijuana should be held to the same standard -- not a different one with no scientific basis," he argued.

The bill's per se standard is also objectionable for another reason, Armentano said. "Rather than setting a per se standard that says all a prosecutor needs is a toxicology report to win a conviction, we would like that changed to a rebuttable presumption, where the driver might be presumed to be impaired, but could still present evidence to show that he was not."

Armentano has been working hand in hand with former Ohio legislator Ed Orlett, the Ohio representative for the Drug Policy Alliance to win changes in the bill. In a House committee hearing this week, Orlett's testimony, along with that of a toxicologist who was called to testify by bill supporters, succeeded in sowing some doubt in legislator's minds about the measure.

"I told the committee our position is that metabolites should not be in the bill because they only detect usage, not impairment," Orlett told DRCNet. "I also testified that the limit should be five nanograms, not two, if they want a reasonable standard supported by the scientific evidence."

With copies of Orlett's written testimony in hand before the hearing, committee conservatives attempted to blunt his remarks by bringing in Dr. James Ferguson, a toxicologist and former county coroner, to testify to the appropriateness of the standards, but to the committee's surprise, and Orlett's pleasure, Ferguson agreed that metabolites should be stricken from the bill and that the blood level for marijuana should be set not at two nanograms but above five nanograms.

"The Highway Patrol about fell out of their chairs when they heard that," Orlett chortled.

Shocking the Highway Patrol is one thing; getting the bill changed is another. But, said Orlett, there are signs that will happen. "Rep. Sites (R-Cincinnati) is one of the most conservative members of the committee, but when I asked him if he would be drafting appropriate amendments to the bill, he said he was already working on it."

To get the bill modified to remove its most egregrious provisions would be a tremendous victory, said Orlett. "This is Hope Taft's pet project, and it has been prioritized by the governor as one of the top seven bills he wants passed this session."

If the House does amend the bill, it will have to go back to the Senate, and if the Senate declines to accept the amended version, the bill would have to go to conference committee, Orlett said. But he pronounced himself well-satisfied at being able to throw a wrench in the works already. "I thought this was a done deal," he confessed. "I know when I hear a train a-coming, but maybe we've derailed this."

Stay tuned -- more hearings are set for next week.

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4. Medical Marijuana at the Statehouse 2005 -- An Overview of Progress So Far

With medical marijuana already approved directly by voters in eight states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Montana) and by the legislative process in three more (Hawaii in 2001, and Vermont last year, plus a less far reaching bill in Maryland that provides a medical necessity defense), the push for medical marijuana in state legislatures is well underway this year. According to a DRCNet count this week, as many as 20 states may have (or have had) a chance to legislate on the issue this year. DRCNet counts eight states with bills introduced and still alive, four states where bills are either already dead or effectively so, and eight states where strong efforts are underway to get legislation introduced this session.

Rhode Island Senate
While the going is tough -- remember, only three states have recently okayed medical marijuana legislatively -- medical marijuana advocates hope to pick up some victories this year. Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) executive director Rob Kampia told DRCNet two weeks ago that he thought bills would pass in two states this year.

For some states, it is already too late. In Mississippi and South Dakota, bills were introduced but have already died, while an Iowa bill appears stymied by uncooperative committee chairmen. In New Hampshire, a bill has been introduced but was dead on arrival, according to MPP communications director Bruce Mirken. In other states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York and Wisconsin, efforts to get legislation introduced by the Marijuana Policy Project, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the Drug Policy Alliance, and/or local activists are well underway but have not yet borne fruit. Here are the bills that are alive as of this writing:

CONNECTICUT: HB6578 is identical to the medical marijuana bill that passed the House last year. With strong bipartisan support, favorable editorials in major state newspapers, and the backing of the Connecticut Nurses Association and more than 300 Connecticut doctors, bill supporters are hopeful that this year the legislation will make it to the governor's desk.

The bill allows for the use of medical marijuana with a written doctors' recommendation for a "debilitating medical condition" including, but not limited to, cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, wasting, and muscle spasms. Patients would have to register with the state Department of Consumer Affairs. The bill allows a patient or designated caregiver to grow up to five plants and possess up to an ounce of marijuana without running afoul of the criminal law.

The bill is currently in the judiciary committee, where it was the subject of a hearing February 15. At that hearing, lawmakers heard from the doctor and widow of a cancer patient, a patient suffering from paralysis and spasms, and the head of Hartford Hospital's cancer center, with all urging legislators to pass the bill.

The bill's cosponsors include Reps. Penny Bacchiochi (R-Somers) and Melissa Olson (D-Norwich). Another supporter of the bill told the Hartford Courant the day of the hearings she thought chances for passage were good. "I think the fact that it passed the House last year will give it more momentum," said Sen. Toni Harp (D-New Haven). "There's a lot more energy around the issue this year than in the past."

ILLINOIS: As we reported last week, a medical marijuana bill that supporters thought headed for success was at least temporarily derailed by an unfavorable committee vote taken after an unannounced barnstorming visit to Springfield by Office of National Drug Control Policy head John Walters. The bill remains in the Human Services Committee as supporters attempt to rally their forces. The bill, HB0407, would allow patients suffering from a debilitating disease or condition to use marijuana upon a physician's written recommendation. Patients would register with the state Department of Human Services and would receive an ID card protecting them from arrest if the amount of marijuana they possess is within 12 plants and 2 ½ ounces of usable marijuana.

In addition to legislative supporters, the Illinois bill is being pushed by Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform and the Marijuana Policy Project, who have enlisted medical organizations in support of it. In addition to drug czar Walters, his former henchperson Andrea Barthwell, who served as deputy drug czar until resigning last year, has been prominent in raising opposition to the measure. Illinois NORML has also been working on the bill in concert with Ideal Reform.

NEW JERSEY: Senate Bill 220, the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, has been introduced by Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Middlesex) with a companion bill set to be introduced in the House by Assemblymen Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton) and Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Patrick Township). The Senate bill currently awaits a hearing in the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

Under the bill, patients with a debilitating medical condition could, upon obtaining a written doctor's recommendation, possess up to six plants and one ounce of usable marijuana would not be subject to arrest or prosecution. Patients and caregivers would be issued registry cards by the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Support for the bill is led by the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, which includes a former New Jersey NORML group and which has pushed for and received endorsements for the bill from a number of groups in the Garden State, including the New Jersey Nurses Association.

NEW MEXICO: Senate Bill 492, the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, is moving. The measure has been passed out of the Senate Public Affairs Committee on a 5-0 vote and is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The measure would protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution if they comply with regulations that must be written by the state Department of Health. Patients would seek a written recommendation from a physician and register with the state. The bill also provides an affirmative defense from prosecution for persons arrested who are in compliance with the act.

The Drug Policy Alliance and local activists are leading the charge in the Land of Enchantment.

OHIO: The Ohio Medical Marijuana Act was introduced February 17 by Sen. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown). The bill would allow doctors to recommend marijuana for a variety of conditions, including HIV/AIDS and other wasting diseases, epilepsy, glaucoma, Multiple Sclerosis, muscle spasticity, cancer, cachexia, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, Crohn's disease, nausea and chronic pain. Patients would register with the state Department of Health and receive an ID card protecting them from arrest. The Ohio bill does not set quantity limits; instead, patients may possess "an adequate supply" of marijuana, which the bill defines as "not more than is reasonably necessary to ensure the uninterrupted availability of marijuana for the purpose of alleviating the symptoms or effects of a qualifying patient's debilitating medical condition."

"This bill is about helping seriously ill and debilitated Ohioans get access to a treatment that will help them," Senator Hagan said. "I'm not trying to legalize marijuana. I just believe that allowing people to suffer needlessly when there is an effective drug out there to ease their symptoms is unconscionable."

The effort in Ohio is being led by the Ohio Patients Network and the Marijuana Policy Project with added assistance from Northern Ohio NORML. "Cannabis has been proven to be an effective medicine and this bill will protect patients and doctors. Hopefully this bill will pass and the sick and dying can finally be taken off the battlefield in the war on drugs," said Network president Joseph Zoretic upon the bill's introduction.

RHODE ISLAND: Senate Bill 710, the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act, was introduced February 17 by Sen. Rhoda Perry (D-3rd), with a companion bill introduced in the House by Rep. Thomas Slater (D-10th). The bill awaits action in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is the successor to an effort last year that came close but ultimately failed.

The bill allows patients registered with the state Department of Health to possess up to 12 plants and 2 ½ ounces of marijuana without fear of penalty. Patients must have a written recommendation from a qualified practitioner.

The companion Senate and House bills have broad bipartisan support, with a total of 68 cosponsors, as well as endorsements from Rhode Island Medical Society, Rhode Island State Nurses Association, AIDS Project Rhode Island, United Nurses and Allied professionals, Rhode Island ACLU, and more than 100 Rhode Island physicians. The local effort in Rhode Island has been championed by Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapters at Brown and the University of Rhode Island and MPP.

TENNESSEE: Earlier this month, Sen. Stephen Cohen (D-Memphis) and Reps. Rob Briley (D-Nashville) and David Shephard (D-Dickson) introduced companion measures -- HB0968 and SB1942 -- that would create the Tennessee Medical Marijuana Act. The measures currently are assigned to the House Mental Health Subcommittee of the Health and Human Resources Committee, which is chaired by Shephard, and the Senate General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee. The Tennessee measure follows the pattern of bills introduced in other states, with patients suffering from a debilitating medical condition allowed to possess up to six plants and one ounce of marijuana upon a written recommendation by a physician and registration with the state Department of Health. Caregivers receive the same protections. A newly formed Tennessee NORML chapter is heavily involved in that effort.

TEXAS: On January 28, two representatives from Austin, Terry Keel (R) and Elliot Naishtat (D), introduced HB 658, which would allow an affirmative medical defense for people arrested for marijuana possession if that person has a bona fide medical condition and a doctor's recommendation. The bill also explicitly protects doctors from harassment for recommending medical marijuana.

The substantive portion of the bill reads as follows: "It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (a) that the person possessed the marihuana as a patient of a practitioner licensed to practice medicine in this state pursuant to the recommendation of that practitioner for the amelioration of the symptoms or effects of a bona fide medical condition. An agency, including a law enforcement agency, of this state or a political subdivision of this state may not initiate an administrative, civil, or criminal investigation into a practitioner licensed to practice medicine in this state on the ground that the practitioner discussed marihuana as a treatment option with a patient of the practitioner."

The prime mover behind the bill is the Austin-based Texans for Medical Marijuana. The Austin NORML chapter has also been involved in lobbying for the bill. The bill has been referred to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee where it awaits action.

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5. DRCNet Book Reviews: "Drugs and Democracy" and "Dangerous Harvests"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor, [email protected], 2/25/05

"Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: The Impact of US Policy," eds. Coletta Youngers and Eileen Rosin (2005, Lynn Reiner Publishers, 414 pp., $25.00 PB) and "Dangerous Harvest: Drug Plants and the Transformation of Indigenous Landscapes," eds. Michael Steinberg, Joseph Hobbs, and Kent Mathewson (2004, Oxford University Press, 325 pp, $29.95 PB)

These two complementary collections of essays on drug crops and the drug war have different aims and focuses, but between them, readers will find a wealth of information on drug production, drug prohibition, and their impact on producers and producer nations not usually found in an easily accessible fashion. "Drugs and Democracy," a project of the Washington Office on Latin America, focuses specifically on the malign effects of US drug policy in Latin America, and is written with an eye toward influencing US policy in the region, complete with a set of policy prescriptions (see below). "Dangerous Harvest," on the other hand, has a broader global scope and is written by academics for a largely academic audience.

Ironically, "Dangerous Harvest" may be the easier read. While some contributors lay on the jargon of the latest academic fashions, most of the essays are clearly and interestingly written, and for serious drug policy wonks, subjects like the rapid expansion of kava crops in Micronesia or the historical experience of cannabis cultivation in colonial India are inherently fascinating. "Drugs and Democracy," on the other hand, is, of necessity a work of high wonkery, and its detailed chapters on the workings of the US foreign policy machinery make for tough, if highly informative, reading. To be fair, however, the subject matter -- the various laws governing US foreign and military assistance -- is innately the stuff of glazed eyes. Indeed, as its contributors point out, the Byzantine intricacy of the various appropriations laws bore and bewilder even the senators and congressmen whose job it is to oversee them.

A lengthy essay by pioneering drug politics scholar Alfred McCoy, the author of the groundbreaking 1971 "Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia," forms the centerpiece of "Dangerous Harvest," providing a framework on which to hang the field reports that constitute the bulk of the book. For half a century, writes McCoy, the US and the United Nations have been following a supply-side strategy of eliminating drug use by eliminating drug crops, all within a staunchly prohibitionist regime. It won't work, he argues. "By trying to crush global market forces with the raw power of paramilitary coercion, this prohibition policy has produced a concatenation of unwanted, even counterproductive outcomes -- rising drug production, increased consumption, powerful crime syndicates, police corruption, and political collusion."

Instead of repressing drug crop production, McCoy writes, prohibition has acted as a "stimulus" to increased production. Taking note of cocaine production in Latin American and opium production in Asia, McCoy demonstrates how prohibitionist policies have extended the breadth of drug production. Suppressing production is one area only causes it to pop up in another as the laws of the market make a given crop more profitable when supply is disrupted.

And as the contributors to "Dangerous Harvest" point out, illicit drug production is increasingly pushed to "fringe" areas outside the effective reach of national authorities, whether it be the highlands of Southeast Asia or the Amazonian jungles of Colombia. As a consequence, the indigenous peoples who inhabit those marginal areas become increasingly involved in production for the global market (as opposed to production for traditional, ritual, or sacred uses) and thus, increasingly larger targets for repression.

Whether it is the case of opium in Laos or Afghanistan and Pakistan, cocaine in Bolivia, marijuana in Belize, or the drug traffic between Mexico and the United States, the case studies in "Dangerous Harvest" uniformly demonstrate both the futility of prohibition and the drastic, disruptive effects on indigenous populations of both production for the global market and the violent efforts to repress it. But "Dangerous Harvest" also explores relatively untouched ground as well, with chapters on peyote use in Mexico and the United States, environmental problems linked to coca and cocaine production in Peru, and historical chapters on cannabis cultivation in colonial India and successful opium suppression in indigenous corners of China during the Maoist revolution.

As academics, the contributors to "Dangerous Harvests" are short on prescriptive solutions, preferring to stick with verifiable facts in the field. As co-editor Joseph Hobbs notes in his concluding essay, "The Global Nexus of Drug Production," however, some common themes emerge. "Aside from the obvious solution of limiting demand in the consuming countries, the collective answer is to wage war on poverty and inequity, not drugs." And while some contributors, such as McCoy or Harry Sanabria, the author of the chapter on Bolivia, make clear their belief that prohibition is doomed to failure, there is no strong call to end it. As Hobbs notes, "One recommendation notable by its absence in this volume is the legalization of what are now illegal drugs."

In two introductory chapters for "Drugs and Democracy" on the nefarious role of the US military and police assistance, Adam Isaacson and Rachael Nields, respectively, outline in excruciating detail the nefarious effects of such assistance on Latin American governments and citizens alike. US military assistance to Latin American drug warriors in particular has come at a high price for democracy, accountability, transparency, and human rights -- and not only in the destination countries but also for the Unites States itself. And aid to Latin American police forces has too often achieved the same results, with the US increasingly resorting to specialized investigative units more beholden to the DEA or the US Embassy than to local or even national control. Country chapters on Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, and the Caribbean untangle these dire consequences in great detail.

Drug policy reformers will feel anger and frustration at the senseless destruction flowing from current Latin American drug war policies that "Drugs and Democracy" details, particularly the persecuting and impoverishing impact they have on large numbers of the developing world's poor, a point the book drives home in country after country. At the same time, as with "Dangerous Harvest," out-and-out legalizers may feel a disconnect between the reality described in "Drugs and Democracy" and policy recommendations that seem tempered to reflect current political realities. While characterizing US-enforced drug prohibition as a disaster, or in own her words, "a failed and misguided policy," not only for the people of Latin America but by its own standards, editor Coletta Youngers stops short in her recommendations of calling for prohibition's end. By the standards of a progressive Washington think-tank, the reforms she lays out are eminently reasonable: Restrict the role of the US military, remove Latin American militaries from domestic drug enforcement, decriminalize peasant drug crop production, eliminate harsh penalties like mandatory minimum sentences, seek alternative development and local input.

By the same token, Youngers' recommendations reflect the larger limits constraining both mainstream liberal progressivism and harm reduction as approaches for dealing with the damage done by prohibition. What Youngers is advocating is indeed a harm reduction approach: "Such a policy should begin from the premise that, while controlling illicit drugs is a legitimate and important goal, drugs will be produced as long as there is demand. The goal therefore should be to reduce the demand as well as the damage that illicit drugs cause to individuals and society. Policymakers should seek to minimize the harmful consequences at home and abroad of illicit drug production and use and the strategies designed to curtail them."

But harm reduction does not necessarily imply ending drug prohibition, as Youngers' call for what is essentially a "kinder, gentler" prohibitionist policy demonstrates. Though many harm reductionists indeed see legalization as harm reduction on a large scale, harm reduction can nevertheless be practiced under prohibition or legalization alike. While Youngers does bring up the notion of legalization, she does so only in the context of setting it off against current prohibitionist policies in her search for "a constructive middle ground."

Similarly, Washington-focused liberal progressivism, which is probably a fair term to describe WOLA's political stance, in this case signifies a pragmatic acceptance of the broad contours of drug prohibition. That the US should intervene to "help" Latin America deal with drug problems is a given; the only question is how to do it more humanely. By crafting recommendations for a more liberal and humane prohibition, Youngers and WOLA basically accept the status quo, with one eye on affecting US drug policy at the margins.

So, anti-prohibitionists and revolutionists may be impatient with the stances taken by "Democracy and Drugs." But as with "Dangerous Harvest," there is much that is useful and informative within, and in the context of current US and international politics, it points in the right direction and makes a strong critique of current policies. For readers with a critical eye, there is much to ponder in both volumes.

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6. DRCNet/Perry Fund Event to Feature Rep. John Conyers and Kemba Smith, March 9 in Washington, DC

DRCNet (Drug Reform Coordination Network) Foundation invites you to the second event in a national campaign benefiting:

The John W. Perry Fund
Scholarships for Students Denied Federal Financial Aid Because of Drug Convictions
Memorializing a Hero of 9/11 and Champion of Civil Liberties

featuring keynote addresses by:


and supporting remarks by:

Arnold Trebach (emcee); Hilary Shelton, NAACP; Nkechi Taifa, OSI; Patricia Perry (invited); Larry Zaglaniczny, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (invited); Scarlett Swerdlow, Students for Sensible Drug Policy; David Borden, DRCNet; others to be announced.

Wednesday, March 9, 6:00-8:00pm
The George Washington University Club, 1918 F Street, NW
Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC

[email protected] or (202) 362-0030
Light refreshments will be served.

Host Committee: Paola Barahona, Adam Eidinger, Rob Kampia, Matthew Lesko, Kris Lotlikar, Matt Mercurio, Bill Piper, Gary & Tanya Reams, H. Alexander Robinson, Eric Sterling, Keith Stroup, Scarlett Swerdlow, Arnold Trebach, Kevin Zeese, John Zwerling, others to be announced

John Conyers is United States Representative for Michigan's 14th Congressional District. Elected to Congress in 1964, Mr. Conyers is the House of Representative's second most senior member. He is the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and is the only committee member to serve on both the Watergate Committee and the more recent impeachment committee. He is one of the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and is considered the Dean of that organization. Rep. Conyers is the principal author of the "End Racial Profiling Act," legislation to ensure that the rights of all Americans are protected by banning racial profiling nationwide and requiring all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to take administrative steps to eliminate the practice. He was a leading sponsor of asset forfeiture reform legislation passed by Congress in 1999, and is a vigorous supporter of drug policy reforms including sentencing, medical marijuana and other issues.

At age 24, Kemba Smith was sentenced to 24.5 years in prison for "conspiracy," an ill-defined legal concept that federal prosecutors used to tie her to the crimes of her deceased, abusive boyfriend, a ringleader in a $4 million cocaine ring. After being featured on the cover of Emerge magazine, her case drew broad support from around the nation, and her sentence was commuted in December 2000 by President Clinton. Kemba is a graduate of Virginia Union University with a bachelor's degree in Social Work, and is a Soros Justice Fellow. She is a frequent speaker for audiences around the country, on topics such as domestic violence; challenges facing youth; reentry of ex-offenders into society; injustices in the criminal justice system; the social, economic and political consequences of current drug policies; and other issues. Kemba's story has been featured on numerous outlets including Nightline, Court TV and The Early Morning Show, and in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, People and Essence.

John W. Perry

About John Perry: John William Perry was a New York City police officer and Libertarian Party and ACLU activist who spoke out against the "war on drugs." He was also a lawyer, athlete, actor, linguist and humanitarian. On the morning of September 11, 2001, John Perry was at One Police Plaza in lower Manhattan filing retirement papers when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Without hesitation he went to help, losing his life rescuing others. We decided to dedicate this scholarship program, which addresses a drug war injustice, to his memory. John Perry's academic achievements are an inspiring example for students: He was fluent in several languages, graduated from NYU Law School and prosecuted NYPD misconduct cases for the department.

Please join us on March 9 in Washington to thank Rep. Conyers and Kemba Smith for their important work on this issue while raising money to help students stay in school! If you can't make it, you can also help by making a generous contribution to the DRCNet Foundation for the John W. Perry Fund. Checks should be made payable to DRCNet Foundation, with "scholarship fund" or "John W. Perry Fund" written in the memo or accompanying letter, and sent to: DRCNet Foundation, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. DRCNet Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, and your contribution will be tax-deductible as provided by law. Please let us know if we may include your name in the list of contributors accompanying future publicity efforts.

Visit DRCNet for more information on our work, and contact the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform or Students for Sensible Drug Policy to get involved in the campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act's drug provision. Contact the Perry Fund at [email protected] or (202) 362-0030 to request a scholarship application or with other inquiries.


David Borden
Executive Director

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7. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

This week there are new developments in a pair of nasty stories previously mentioned here, as well as a motley collection of cops and prosecutors who probably don't qualify as corrupt, but who have the sort of bad habits for which they usually arrest or prosecute others. While one may have been doing a bit of low-level wheeling and dealing, there is no evidence to suggest the others are guilty of anything more than hypocrisy and, in the last case, extreme bad judgment in picking a wife.

But before getting to the new cases of poor judgment, it is worth noting that a man featured here just two weeks ago, former Campbell County, Tennessee, Sheriff's Department head narcotics officer David Webber, is now behind bars awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to beating and torturing an alleged drug dealer. Webber was the leader of a five-man sheriff's squad whose two-hour terrorization of Lester Eugene Siler was partially recorded by Siler's wife, revealing a remarkable display of thuggish brutality.

In the face of the damning recorded evidence, Webber pled guilty in US District Court in Knoxville Tuesday to conspiring with the rest of his squad to violate Silers' rights. He admitted in court that he led the attack, in which Siler was handcuffed and beaten at gunpoint, and convincingly threatened with death. Three of his cohort, former deputies Samuel Franklin, Joshua Monday, and Shayne Green were scheduled to plead guilty this week as well. A fourth deputy, William Carroll, will proceed to trial.

All face up to ten years in federal prison. Monday faces a separate charge of brandishing a firearm during the crime and faces a seven-year mandatory minimum sentence on that count. There is no information yet on whether Monday's plea bargain will result in the dropping of that charge. Webber's plea bargain granted him immunity from prosecution for any other crimes, leading one to ask: what other crimes?

Down in Dallas, Big D taxpayers will shell out $5.7 million to settle lawsuits stemming from the "sheetrock" scandal, where police informants planted "cocaine" and "methamphetamine" on people that turned out to be nothing more than gypsum powder. The settlement covers 16 of the 24 people, mostly Mexican immigrants, who sued over their 2001 arrests and imprisonment, according to a report in the Dallas Morning News. One plaintiffs' attorney, Tony Wright, told the newspaper settlements for his clients ranged from $120,000 for a man jailed for a day to $480,000 for a man jailed for months. Settlements for the 12 clients of attorney Don Tittle averaged $370,000, he said.

Three informants have been sent to federal prison for their roles in the scheme, while two former Dallas Police Department narcotics officers, Mark Delapaz and Eddie Herrera, await trial on evidence tampering charges.

And now, on to the cops on dope:

  • In Texas, a former Denison police officer was arrested February 17 on charges of possessing more than an ounce of methamphetamine, the Denison Herald Democrat reported. David Wayne Stanley was arrested by police in Sherman after he consented to a search of his vehicle during a traffic stop. The search uncovered meth, ecstasy, digital scales, baggies, a cell phone, $1500 in cash, "drug notes," and a handbook on how to stash and hide drugs in automobiles and homes.

    This is Stanley's second crank bust in recent months. In October, he was arrested in Denison and charged with meth possession. He was out on bond when arrested in Sherman. During his first arrest, Stanley refused to consent to a search of his vehicle, so Sherman police sicced a drug dog on it. The dog alerted, the police searched, and Stanley was arrested. Stanley had a nine-year history of police work when he resigned from the Denison department in 2001.
  • A Michigan State Police trooper was arraigned Saturday on charges of conspiracy to possess less than 25 grams of cocaine, according to a statement from the Michigan State Police. Trooper Todd Cardoza of Flint, a 17-year-veteran, was one of four people arrested two days earlier by members of the Michigan State Police Emergency Support team. State officials refused to release any further details on the circumstances surrounding the arrest, but Cardoza spent two days at the Genesee County Jail before bailing out Monday.
  • And in New Hampshire, Manchester city prosecutor has been charged with three counts of marijuana possession and is out on bail awaiting a March 10 arraignment, the Manchester Union Leader reported. City prosecutor Kenneth Bernard, 34, will be arraigned in Manchester District Court, where he used to prosecute people charged with violations and misdemeanors, including marijuana possession.
Bernard was ratted out by his wife, with whom he is in divorce proceedings. Donna Bernard called police to the family home on November 30 and directed them to a bag of weed in the master bedroom and a roach on a shelf in the basement. Ms. Bernard also volunteered to police that Bernard smoked two joints a night during the week and four a day on the weekends. She admitted to smoking pot with her husband in the past, but also said she was concerned about his ability to care for their children once she saw the baggie in his dresser drawer. She thoughtfully videotaped the marijuana, called her divorce attorney, then called the police.

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8. Newsbrief: Bush All But Admitted Past Drug Use in Secretly Recorded Tapes

In conversations with a friend who secretly recorded his comments, President Bush all but admitted to having a past history of drug use. The tapes were recorded by Doug Wead, a long-time Texas pal of the president's, between 1998 and 2000, when Bush was considering a first run for the White House. Wead told ABC's Good Morning America that he did not intend to make the tapes public, but that he was forced to release them by his publisher as questions were raised about his book about Bush. Wead's book, "The Raising of a President: The Mothers and Fathers of Our Nation's Leaders," went on sale last month.

While some, particularly political allies of the president, have questioned Wead's motives in releasing the tapes, no one is denying their validity. White House press spokesman Scott McLellan told reporters on Monday the tapes were authentic. They reflected "casual conversations that then-Governor Bush was having with someone he thought was a friend," McLellan said.

"I wouldn't answer the marijuana question," Bush said as he and Wead discussed various scenarios for a presidential campaign. "I don't want any kid doing what I tried to do 30 years ago. And I mean that. It doesn't matter if it's LSD, cocaine, pot, any of those things, because if I answer one, then there will be another one. And I just am not going to answer those questions. And it may cost me the election. But you got to understand, I want to be president. I want to lead. I want to set -- Do you want your little kid to say, 'Hey, Daddy, President Bush tried marijuana, I think I will?'"

The comments came as Bush mocked former Vice President Al Gore for admitting that he smoked marijuana. "Baby boomers have got to grow up and say, yeah, I may have done drugs, but instead of admitting it, say to kids, don't do them," he said.

Bush, who acknowledged a drinking problem only after an old DWI arrest surfaced in the final days of the 2000 presidential campaign, told Wead he had strategies for dealing with the "wild behavior" of his past. Worrying about the possibility that rumors of past cocaine use would surface during a campaign -- as they did -- Bush said he would blame his opponents for starting them. "If nobody shows up, there's no story," he said. "And if somebody shows up, it is going to be made up." When Wead mentioned that Bush had previously denied ever using cocaine, Bush denied it. "I haven't denied anything," he said.

Bush is profilic at such denials. During that first successful presidential campaign, Bush at first refused to comment on rumors of past drug use. Then he said he would have passed White House rules that barred employment for anyone using drugs in the past seven years. Under continuing pressure from the press, Bush pushed his denial back to 1974, when he was 28. But when asked to clear the record about any adult drug use, he drew the line, saying only that he suffered from "youthful indiscretion."

The tapes also show Bush practicing a pious response to questions about drug use or other misbehavior. His "immature" past was "just part of my schtick, which is, look, we have all made mistakes," he said. He told Wead he had learned a couple of good lines from a Texas pastor. "What you need to say time and time again is not talk about the details of your transgressions but talk about what I have learned. I've sinned and I've learned."

And, as the 2000 campaign drew nearer, a combative response. "I think it is time for somebody to just draw the line and look people in the eye and say, I am not going to participate in ugly rumors about me, and blame my opponents, and hold the line, and stand up for a system that will not allow this kind of crap to go on."

And show no tolerance for similar indiscretions by today's youth.

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9. Newsbrief: Pushing National Drug Control Strategy, Drug Czar Calls for Drug War to Emulate Terror War

On the eve of Wednesday's official release of the 2005 National Drug Control Strategy, drug czar John Walters told Reuters the US should employ some of the techniques it uses in the "war on terror" to the war on drugs. International drug traffickers share many characteristics with terror networks, he said, although he did concede there were important differences.

"Maybe the brutal experience we've had with terror helps to make this more concrete and understandable," he said cryptically.

Drug trafficking organizations shared structural similarities with terror networks, he said. Most are no longer centrally controlled, with one organization establishing vertical control over the sale of a certain drug from production to retail distribution, or, as Walters put it, "from the farm to the arm." As a result, like terrorist networks, drug organizations are now more difficult to disrupt since individual cells that were knocked out of commission could be replaced.

Walters did not mention the contention that the creation of amorphous, "boutique" drug trafficking groups is a direct result of past efforts to disrupt vertically integrated groups like Colombia's so-called Medellin and Cali cartels.

On the other hand, Walters said, drug trafficking organizations may be easier targets than terrorist networks because of their sheer size, involving thousands of people. "We now have tools and ways of sharing intelligence and looking at these organizations more as businesses. We begin to ask questions... Where is it most particularly vulnerable? What does it take to cause a disruption in those markets?"

Walters also told Reuters that in evaluating US drug policy, success should be defined not so much by calculating the amount of drugs seized or destroyed, but by measuring the flow of drugs to US markets. That leaves him in a tough position, since by any measure, more than three decades of US "war on drugs" and tens of billions of dollars have not caused significant, long-lasting shortages of any illicit substances, as agencies such as the US General Accounting Office have trenchantly observed.

Walters did not specify in the interview just which "terror war" techniques he would apply to the war on drugs. Military attack? Torture, er, "robust interrogation methods"? Torture by proxy? Secret tribunals? Illicit renditions? Indefinite imprisonment without charge?

Look for a detailed analysis of the 2005 National Drug Control Strategy next week.

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10. Newsbrief: Parents More Chill About Teen Drug Use, Study Frets

Barely half of today's parents would be upset if they caught their teens experimenting with marijuana, according to an annual survey released Tuesday. That finding, along with others suggesting that personal experience of drugs among parents today trumps decades of anti-drug propaganda, is cause for concern for the study's sponsor, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

While only 11% of parents reported being current pot smokers, 58% reported having used marijuana, a figure unsurprising in a generation that grew up dazed and confused in the 1970s and early 1980s, a time when reported teen drug use was at an all-time high. This cohort of parents, some 23 million strong, is slightly less likely to believe that experimentation with marijuana poses a "great risk" to teens (28%, compared to 29% six years ago). Nearly half of today's parents said that experimental marijuana use poses only a "slight risk or no risk," with 43% agreeing with that statement, up from 35% in 1998.

Parental estimates of risk of other drug use -- regular marijuana smoking, experimental cocaine use, regular cocaine use -- also declined in the survey compared to 1998. But in all of those categories, large majorities of parents continued to see those activities as highly risky. Nearly two-third of parents saw regular pot smoking among teens as highly risky, while 86% said the same about teens' regular cocaine use.

"While the vast majority of parents have left old habits behind, they're carrying old attitudes and beliefs forward," said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership. "If old habits die hard, the data suggests lax attitudes about drugs die even harder. "To be clear, parents don't want their kids using drugs -- any drugs," Pasierb said. "But the data tell us today's parents don't regard drug use as seriously as past generations of parents. Our challenge is getting parents to look at this issue anew, and in ways that penetrate their current beliefs and attitudes."

The Partnership was particularly perturbed by a finding that the number of parents who had never talked to their kids about drug abuse had doubled in six years, from 6% in 1998 to 12% this year. "Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana cocaine -- parents know these drugs," said Pasierb. "Today's teens, however, are exposed to new drugs of abuse -- Ecstasy, GHB, crystal meth, and increasingly, a wide variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications. In total, parents are seeing less risk in a variety of drugs and fewer parents are talking with kids just when teens are facing new drugs and new drug threats. All of this adds up to a potentially dangerous convergence in the trends -- one that we must interrupt."

What Pasierb does not mention is that while certain substances may be new, they fit well into existing drug typologies. Ecstasy, a mild psychedelic, has been popular for at least 20 years, GHB is a soporific, "crystal meth" (the Partnership's term for "ice" or smokeable methamphetamine) is a stimulant like other amphetamines, prescription drugs of abuse are typically sedatives or opiates. Today's parents, with their experience of drug use, may be more able to understand these "new" drugs than Pasierb is willing to allow.

But the Partnership is drawling a different lesson from the findings. It is using them to launch a "new, national communications effort designed to reach parents with new, compelling information about the evolving nature of the drug problem in America." The program, to be called Partnering With Families, is part of the Partnership's free contribution to the Office of National Drug Control Policy's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

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11. Newsbrief: In Latest Border Killing, Agent Shoots Unarmed Marijuana Mule

The FBI and Arizona local authorities are investigating an incident in which a US Border Patrol agent shot and killed an unarmed Mexican man who was part of a group backpacking hundreds of pounds of marijuana across the border in remote Santa Cruz County. It is, the Arizona Republic reported, only the latest incident of Border Patrol agents wounding or killing unarmed Mexican immigrants. The incident also comes as tensions run high among US law enforcers on the border, with fears of spillover from violence among Mexican drug traffickers and as well as shootings directed at Border Patrol agents near Douglas, AZ, last month. No one was injured in those incidents.

United States Border Patrol
The latest killing took place in the pre-dawn hours Saturday, when Border Patrol agents confronted about a dozen men carrying backpacks full of marijuana in Pesquiera Canyon about 10 miles north of the border. According to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department, when the agents tried to apprehend the smugglers, they scattered. For unknown reasons, a Border Patrol agent whose name has not been revealed fired one shot, hitting one of the men in the chest and killing him.

"I don't know what the level of threat was that caused him to discharge his weapon," said Sheriff Tony Esparza. No weapons were found at the scene and none of the other smugglers were captured. Agents did seize about 350 pounds of pot.

While Border Patrol agents report having been fired on nine times since October 1, they have been firing as well. According to the Republic, the following incidents have all taken place within the last year:

  • October 4: A Border Patrol agent in the Tucson sector shot a Mexican man in the head as agents tried to stop his vehicle near Sierra Vista.
  • October 20: A Border Patrol agent in the El Paso sector shot and killed a Mexican citizen near Portal, on the New Mexico border.
  • February 4: The Unites States paid $125,000 to a Mexican citizen shot by a Border Patrol agent as he clung to the border fence near Agua Prieta, Sonora. That shooting took place in January 2002.

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12. Newsbrief: More Meth Madness -- Iowa School District to Ban Homemade Goodies for Fear of Crank Contamination

The superintendent of Iowa's rural Mount Pleasant School District is set to recommend that the school board bar children from bringing homemade treats to share with other students at school events out of fear the cakes and cookies could contain methamphetamine, the Associated Press reported February 17. Superintendent John Roederer said the move had been under consideration for at least a year, even though food contamination by meth was not a problem in the district.

Roederer was heeding a warning from Iowa Department of Human Services specialist Greg Lorber, who raised the alarm in an AP interview. "If the parents are brewing up the meth in the microwave or storing it in the refrigerator or stove, that toxin could be transferred to the food," Lorber said. "Kitchen utensils can do double duty for meth cooks, as well. As if anyone doubted it, exposure to methamphetamine is dangerous," Lorber said. "They (meth manufacturers' children) show up at school with flu-like symptoms -- headaches, stomach pains -- and they really have acute methamphetamine poisoning," he said.

Brownies and fudge from home are out, said Roeder, but prepackaged snacks are okay. Fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas and grapes make the cut, as do string cheese, cereal in the box, and granola bars. The ban did not apply to snacks for the French and Spanish classes, he said, without any further explanation.

Roederer cited warnings from Lorber and other meth and health experts in seeking the ban. Other districts had already enacted a ban, he said. He also sought to reassure anxious parents. "We don't want to scare a lot of people or make people think we have high incidences of (meth residue in the schools) in Mount Pleasant," Roederer said. "We don't."

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13. Newsbrief: Marijuana Legalization to be Debated at Canadian Liberal Party Meet

The Canadian parliament is already debating a bill from the ruling Liberal Party to decriminalize marijuana possession, but in a sign of discontent with halfway measures on marijuana, party delegates from Alberta have crafted a resolution calling for the legalization and taxation of the country's booming marijuana trade. The resolution will be debated at the federal Liberal Party convention set for Ottawa March 5-6, Canada Press reported Monday.

According to Canada Press, which reported it had copies of a number of resolutions, the legalization resolution from the Alberta Liberals says: "Legalizing marijuana would be a serious blow to drug dealers and organized crime financially." And funds from pot taxes could be earmarked for treatment and prevention. "Resolved that a portion of these tax revenues be used to educate youth against drug use and to provide treatment for those who are adversely affected by use of marijuana."

Resolutions for the national conference are in part a grassroots phenomenon. While some are crafted by provincial party power-brokers and awarded "priority" status at the convention, meaning they will automatically be voted on by all delegates, each province is limited to one "priority" resolution. The Alberta Liberals' marijuana resolution is not a "priority" resolution. Instead, it came up by winning support at the riding (district), regional, and provincial levels, and it must survive debate in a workshop at the conference in order to go before all the delegates.

Ironically, another resolution, this one asking for stiffer sentences for persons growing marijuana, comes from British Columbia, where the industry employs more than 5% of the provincial workforce and generates an estimated $4 billion annually.

Other resolutions submitted to the Liberal Party conference, which will help set the party platform, include competing calls for and against same-sex marriage, a call from Quebec delegates to reject participation in a proposed US continental missile shield, and a call for national education standards, certain to be viewed by Quebecois as an assault on their Francophone values.

Given the marijuana resolution's non-privileged status, as well as Liberal parliamentarians' lukewarm support of their own decrim bill, the chances for passage in Ottawa would appear slim. But at least the Liberals will be talking legalization.

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14. Newsbrief: Singapore's First-Ever Cocaine Bust Prompts Ad Campaign Aimed at Elite

Officials in Singapore are targeting the rich and the powerful in an anti-drug media campaign after more than a dozen members of the puritanical city-state's glitterati were rounded up in a cocaine bust in October -- the first in Singapore history. The campaign will feature ads in next month's issues of two upscale magazines, Singapore Tatler and The Peak, the Straits Times reported Monday.

The campaign is part of a larger Partnership for a Drug-Free Singapore media campaign sponsored by the city's anti-drug agency, the Central Narcotics Bureau, and the National Council Against Drug Abuse. But unlike the current anti-drug media campaign, which targets lower-class drug use through shock and scare tactics, the elite version attempts to get Singapore yuppies to question whether they can control their drug use: "I Can Stop Taking Cocaine Any Time I Want," reads the headline in the new print ad. But the text of the ad warns, "The More You Use It, The More You Crave It."

The anti-cocaine ad was courtesy of Crush advertising agency, whose creative director, Frank Young, told the Times readers of Tatler and The Peak "were not ordinary addicts," and would not be reached by ads in the current campaign, which typically feature youths behind bars. "It would not work on readers of Tatler and The Peak," he said. "Tatler and Peak readers are often rich and powerful, people who think they are always in control, so the advertisement challenges them to think whether they can control cocaine if they mess around with it. Subconsciously, they already know the answer. It's a definite 'no' and this makes the advertisement more effective."

The October bust went down when Central Narcotics Bureau agents nailed cocaine dealer Guiga Lyes Ben Laroussi and then went after his client list, which leaned heavily toward the well-connected. Among those swept up in the wake of Laroussi, were stock broker Dinesh Singh Bhatia; French chef Francois Fabien Mermilliod; former banker Andrew William Veale; his girlfriend, Penelope Pang Su Yin, daughter of veteran beauty pageant organiser Errol Pang; and Sri Lankan painter Jeremy Mahen Chanmugam.

Ironically, former Tatler editor Nigel Simmonds, another of the 14 Singapore jet-setters caught up in the high-profile bust, will view the new ads from the inside of a prison cell. In December, he became the first to be convicted on charges related to the bust. He was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of three charges: possession of a half-gram of methamphetamine, consumption of methamphetamine, and consumption of cocaine.

The October bust netted a total of slightly more than two ounces of cocaine, and Singapore officials deny that the drug is becoming a presence on the local scene. It was "an isolated case," said CNB deputy director S. Vijakumar at a press briefing last week. "The drug amount seized was 60 grams and was consumed within a close-knit group."

But the ad campaign would suggest Singapore officialdom is worried about drug use among the jet set. But when queried on that topic by the Times, CNB spokesperson Dawn Sim would say only: "The ads are intended to widen our reach and help address potential drug abusers on the dangers and harm of abusing drugs, as well as how drugs can ruin their lives, careers and cause untold pain to their families."

Speaking of pain to families, Simmonds' Japanese wife and four-month-old daughter have been deported while he serves his prison sentence because they now have no source of income in Singapore.

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15. Newsbrief: Counterculture Icon Hunter Thompson Dead By His Own Hand

Author, provocateur, prodigious drug-taker and rabble-rouser Hunter Thompson's savage journey through life came to an end last Saturday when he committed suicide at his long-time home in the mountains outside Aspen, Colorado. He was 67 years old and reportedly suffering chronic pain from a broken hip and back surgery.

Hunter Thompson at demonstration for Lisl Auman
From a beginning as a hard-drinking sports writer from Louisville, Thompson rose to achieve iconic status in the American counterculture that achieved critical mass in the 1960s. Thompson first broke on the literary scene with a 1966 book, "Hell's Angels," in which the style of non-objective reporting he pioneered, known as Gonzo Journalism, first began to emerge.

But it was his "Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream" a few years later that fired the imaginations of countless American dreamers, including this writer, and made him forever an unapologetic spokesman for the young, the restless, and the reckless. "We were on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take effect," the novel began. Before it ended 200 pages later, Thompson and his sidekick Oscar Zeta Acosta had consumed ungodly amounts of drugs -- uppers, downers, laughers, screamers, cocaine, ether, LSD, weed, even adrenochrome (best when extracted from the adrenal gland of a living human, Thompson wrote, it made his "heart beat like an alligator") -- frightened innocent hitchhikers, freaked out runaway girls, tripped their way through a District Attorneys convention, and, oh yes, visited a Las Vegas drug store to stock up on amyl nitrate. "I have one fuck of a case of angina pectoris," a sweating, jabbering Thompson told the befuddled druggist.

After the surprise success of "Fear and Loathing," Thompson retreated to Aspen, where he ran for sheriff -- and nearly won -- on the Freak Power ticket in 1970. Thompson made Aspen his home base for the rest of his life, but soon returned to the literary scene with "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972," the quirky chronicle-old of the McGovern-Nixon race that helped transform his reputation from literary crazy to literary crazy as astute political analyst.

Thompson continued to write for the rest of life, contributing pieces to Rolling Stone during the 1970s and 1980s, penning more books through the years, and at the end, pontificating from his position as an ESPN sports analyst in a weird combination of gambler junkiedom and harsh political commentary. His most recent book, "Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness -- Modern History from the Sports Desk," a compilation of his ESPN columns, showed that Thompson still had it as he skewered failed sports franchises and "shithead" politicians like the one mentioned in the title alike.

As both an avid drug user and a gun-lover, Thompson personified all that is wild and crazy in the American psyche, making him an appalling personage to liberal do-gooders and conservative reactionaries alike. While he wrote often about politics, Thompson did not wear his own politics on his sleeve; rather, he lived it. But there was one political crusade Thompson took up in recent years, and it is a pity he did not stick around to finish it. In late 1997, a young Denver woman named Lisl Auman was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a young skinhead fleeing the police. After the vehicle was finally stopped, Auman was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in a police car. But the driver of the vehicle continued to elude police, shooting and killing one officer before he himself was shot and killed. Outrageously, Denver prosecutors and police colluded to charge and convict Auman of murder in the officer's death, and she was sentenced to life in prison where she remains.

Thompson took up her case with a vengeance, organizing rallies, speaking out on her behalf, and penning an article last year in Vanity Fair, "Prisoner of Denver," where he decried the injustice and thuggish brutality of the Colorado criminal justice system. But Lisl Auman remains behind bars, and now her greatest advocate is gone.

Dr. Gonzo, Raoul Duke (the character in Doonesbury based on Thompson), call him what you like, but Hunter Thompson has left us. His legacy will remain, however, and given the nature of our contemporary society and politics, he will doubtless be an inspiration to new generations of rebels and dreamers and outlaws. We will need that inspiration. Hunter's spiritual and literary children, where are you?

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16. This Week in History

February 26, 1995: Former mayor of San Francisco Frank Jordan is quoted in the Los Angeles Times, saying, "I have no problem whatsoever with the use of marijuana for medical purposes. I am sensitive and compassionate to people who have legitimate needs. We should bend the law and do what's right."

February 28, 1995: In compliance with the 1994 Crime Act, the Sentencing Commission issues a report on the current federal structure of differing penalties on powder cocaine and crack cocaine. The Commission finds that "under some criteria, crack offenses deserve lengthier punishment than powder offenses, but on other criteria differential treatment could not be justified." It recommends that Congress "revisit" penalties enacted for these offenses.

February 28, 2000 -- UPI reports that Spanish researchers say the chemical in marijuana that produces a "high" shows promise as a weapon against deadly brain tumors. A research team from Complutense University and Autonoma University in Madrid found that one of marijuana's active ingredients, THC, killed tumor cells in advanced cases of glioma, a quick-killing cancer for which there is currently no effective treatment.

February 29, 1996: In his State of the Union address, President Clinton nominates Army General Barry McCaffrey, a veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm, as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Two days later, the appointment is confirmed by the Senate without debate. McCaffrey had been head of the U.S. Southern Command (SouthCom) which provides military backup for US policy in Latin America -- a policy long linked with chronically ineffective and corrupt drug enforcement.

March, 1977: US Representative and future Vice President Dan Quayle is quoted as saying, "Congress should definitely consider decriminalizing possession of marijuana. We should concentrate on prosecuting the rapists and burglars who are a menace to society."

March 1982: Pablo Escobar is elected to the Colombian Congress.

March 1, 1915: The Harrison Narcotics Act goes into legal effect.

March 1, 1999: Advice columnist Abigail Van Buren in her popular column "Dear Abby" writes, "I agree that marijuana laws are overdue for an overhaul. I also favor the medical use of marijuana -- if it's prescribed by a physician. I cannot understand why the federal government should interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, nor why it would ignore the will of the majority of voters who have legally approved such legislation."

March 2, 1997: Judge John Curtin, an active member of the New York-based ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy, likens the "drug war" to the Vietnam War in an op-ed for the Buffalo News.

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17. Job Openings with MPP Nevada Campaign, and Other Opportunities

The Marijuana Policy Project currently has 14 full-time job openings, all of which are based in Las Vegas. The positions are all for MPP's campaign to pass a ballot initiative that would tax and regulate marijuana in Nevada -- something that has yet to be achieved in any state. Visit for more information about the campaign.

The available positions are Campaign Manager, Field Director, ten canvassers and two team leaders. Visit for detailed job descriptions and instructions for applying.

Additionally, MPP is seeking proposals from accomplished and creative videographers to direct and produce an inspirational 15- or 20-minute videotape/DVD that explains -- in emotional and educational terms -- the horrors of marijuana prohibition and the need to end it. Interested videographers should visit to apply.

Also, the MPP grants program is interested in reviewing proposals from people who are interested in building a long-term, statewide coalition to tax and regulate marijuana in each of the following states -- Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire and Oregon.

If you live in one of the above seven states -- or you are willing to move there -- and you have substantial organizing experience, visit to see MPP's grant guidelines.

MPP is not taking phone calls about these positions; rather, all interested candidates should apply by using the process described at the links above.

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18. The Reformer's Calendar

Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].

February 25, 8:30am-3:30pm, Bridgeport, CT, "The War on Drugs: A Perpetuation of Poverty in America," conference by Efficacy, Ujima and the Better Way Foundation. At Housatonic Community College, 900 Lafayette Blvd., admission free. Contact Ethel Higgins-Harris at (203) 581-2952 or Letticia Brown-Gambino at (203) 218-0460 for further information.

February 25, 6:00pm-midnight, Kingston, RI, "Rock Out with Your Rights Out!", live music and screening of "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters." At Edwards Auditorium, University of Rhode Island, sponsored by URI SSDP, $5 donation requested. For further information contact Micah Daigle at [email protected].

March 5, Los Angeles, CA, beginning of cross country ride by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition member Howard Wooldridge and his horse. Visit for further information.

March 12, 7:00pm, New York, NY, Judge James P. Gray addresses the Community Church of New York. At 40 East 50th St., contact Rev. Tracy Sprowls at (212) 683-4988 or [email protected] for info.

March 12-17, New York, NY, further appearances by Judge Gray, including Columbia University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and other venues, on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. For further information, visit or contact Mike Smithson at [email protected] or (315) 243-5844.

March 17-18, New York, NY, "Caught in the Net: The Impact of Drug Policies on Women and Families," conference sponsored by the ACLU, Break the Chains and the Brennan Center for Justice. At New York University School of Law, e-mail [email protected] for info.

March 20-24, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 16th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm. Sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Association, visit or contact Dawn Orchard at +44 (0) 28 9756 1993 or [email protected] for further information.

March 29, 6:00pm, New York, NY, art sale to benefit Drug Policy Alliance. At Cheim & Read, 547 West 25th St., contact Livet Reichard Co. at (212) 966-4710 for further information.

March 31-April 2, San Francisco, CA, "Get Up, Stand Up! Stand Up for Your Rights!" 2005 NORML Conference. At Cathedral Hill Hotel, visit for further information.

April 8-9, Iowa City, IA, Students for Sensible Drug Policy Midwest Conference, organized by University of Iowa SSDP. For further information, contact Diana Selwyn at (210) 860-2077 or [email protected].

April 9, noon-6:00pm, Sacramento, CA, rally in support of medical marijuana. South Steps of the State Capitol, near "N" and 12th, singer/songwriter Roberta Chevrette, Reggae/Dancehall DJ Wokstar, speakers and more. For further information, contact Peter Keyes at (916) 456-7933.

April 21-23, Tacoma, WA, 15th North American Syringe Exchange Convention. Sponsored by the North American Syringe Exchange Network, visit for further information or contact NASEN at (253) 272-4857 or [email protected].

April 30 (date tentative), 11:00am-3:00pm, Washington, DC, "America's in Pain!" 2nd Annual National Pain Rally. At the US Capitol Reflecting Pool, visit for further information.

May 4, Washington, DC, Marijuana Policy Project 10th Anniversary Gala. Featuring Montel Williams and Rep. Sam Farr, at the Washington Court Hotel, contact Francis DellaVecchia at (310) 452-1879 or [email protected] or visit for further information.

May 7, numerous locations worldwide, "Million Marijuana March," visit for further information.

May 9, Santa Monica, CA, Marijuana Policy Project 10th Anniversary Gala. Featuring Montel Williams and Tommy Chong, at the Sheraton Delfina Hotel, contact Francis DellaVecchia at (310) 452-1879 or [email protected] or visit for further information.

June 1, Seattle, WA, John W. Perry Fund fundraiser, featuring US Rep. Jim McDermott. Details to be announced, contact DRCNet Foundation at (202) 362-0030 or [email protected] for updates or visit online.

August 19-20, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science and Response in 2005," First National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV and Hepatitis C. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Harm Reduction Project, visit after January 15 or contact Amanda Whipple at (801) 355-0234 ext. 3 for further information.

August 20-21, 10:00am-8:00pm, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest 2005. At Myrtle Edwards Park, Pier 70, admission free, visit or (206) 781-5734 or [email protected] for further information.

September 17, Boston, MA, "Sixteenth Annual Fall Freedom Rally," sponsored by MASSCANN. On Boston Common, visit for updates, or contact (781) 944-2266 or [email protected].

November 9-12, Long Beach, CA, "Building a Movement for Reason, Compassion and Justice," the 2005 International Drug Policy Reform Conference. Sponsored by Drug Policy Alliance, at the Westin Hotel, details to be announced. Visit for updates.

April 5-8, 2006, Santa Barbara, CA, Fourth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time, details to be announced, visit for updates.

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