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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #379 -- 3/18/05

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

    Afhan opium: What to do about it?
    Congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball, with celebrity sports stars subpoenaed to be there, was the talk of the airwaves. If history is a guide, more teen steroid use may result.
    Thanks to rulings by the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, Alaska is the only state in the union to have legalized the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana in one's home. Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski doesn't like that, and he's trying to change it -- again.
    Last week, Drug War Chronicle reported on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna, but our deadline came before the meeting ended. This week we report on how it all turned out.
    Efforts to regulate marijuana like alcohol and tobacco are underway at different ends of the country, with legislation in Vermont and a Nevada effort aiming at the 2006 ballot.
    A new report from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws pegs the costs of marijuana law enforcement in the United States at $7.6 billion annually and finds that escalating marijuana arrests over the past two decades have failed to have any impact on marijuana use rates.
    Order DRCNet's new Stop the Drug War coasters -- and enjoy your favorite beverages while talking about prohibition.
    Events and conferences are coming up around the country -- come out and get to know the people in the movement!
    Another slow week on the corruption front -- nothing spectacularly evil, just the same old banal personal corruption of cops and jailers who either couldn't resist temptation or let their habits get on top of them. But the taint of drug law-related corruption is cumulative, and each story like this adds to the general impression of police run amok.
    In a report released Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups charged that US drug policy is bringing severe, disproportionate harm to women
    A bill that would extend welfare reform legislation enacted by Congress in 1996 would cut federal welfare funding to any state that does not require drug tests for those applying for or receiving welfare benefits. But at least one state has seen such policies struck down as unconstitutional by a federal court.
    Police in Columbia, Missouri, are trying to overturn a voter-approved law that spares students from financial aid loss by treating marijuana possession as a municipal ticketable offense rather than a prosecutable state one.
    The NAOMI heroin maintenance pilot project got underway Monday in Vancouver, with three users becoming the first in North America to participate in such a program, receiving and injecting free heroin in NAOMI's highly secure facility in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
    In a four-day series of editorials last week, British Columbia's largest newspaper, the Vancouver Sun, called for the legalization of marijuana. The editorial series came as parliament considers a middle-ground measure to decriminalize pot possession and as Canada reeled from the killings of four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in a raid only tangentially -- but sensationally -- linked to a small marijuana grow-op in Alberta.
    The top United Nations anti-drug official in Colombia has predicted that cocaine prices in the United States and Europe will rise next year because of US-sponsored aerial fumigation of coca. But officials couldn't explain why there've been no signs of it so far.
    A Paris-based drug policy think-tank called last week for Afghanistan's record illicit opium crop to be regularized, with farmers licensed to grow poppies for medicines such as morphine and codeine. Government ministers have made conflicting statements about the idea.
    A police crackdown on crack cocaine users and homeless people in the central Sao Paulo area known as Cracolandia has drawn criticism from Brazilian harm reduction groups.
    Tony Papa on Artists Against the Drug War for Alternet, Slate on the WTO and Marijuana Laws, UK Overdosing on Opiates Article
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is hosting an online benefit auction this week on E-Bay.
    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: How to Launch a Nationwide Drug Menace

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

David Borden
It was the talk of the airwaves today: Congress held hearings on steroid use in professional baseball, with sports stars like Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa subpoenaed to be there. Is steroid use wrong? Can baseball police itself? Are congressmen seeking the public good or just grandstanding? Should the issue lie within Congress' purview at all? Numerous participants in the public debate have opined on the issue, and it will no doubt continue to be talked about for months or more likely years to come.

The most emotion-laden argument heard is that of the superstar athlete as role model for the nation's youth. One of the witnesses at the hearing was a grieving father whose son committed suicide, it is believed as a result of withdrawal from anabolic steroid use. If kids get the idea that steroids can make them excel at sports, maybe even make the major leagues, more kids will use them and more such tragedies will be the result, is the idea. There may or may not be a lot of truth to the notion -- it is notably difficult to sort fact from fiction on matters involving drugs and especially drugs and kids. But let's assume for the sake of argument that there is at least some truth to it. There probably is at least a little.

All the more reason Congress was wrong to do what it did this week. If there were any young people in American who didn't know that steroids can enhance one's athleticism, they almost certainly know it now. Along with thinking about the policy and social issues, some young people are now thinking, more than they were before, about whether or not to take steroids. It is an inevitable chain of events whenever politicians or the media draw attention to a drug. Though I do not know whether steroid use will increase as a result of the hearings, I would not be surprised by that. Whereas I would be surprised if the hearings directly or indirectly caused steroid use to drop. That's just not the way these things tend to work out.

Anyone interested in this issue should read "How To Launch a Nationwide Drug Menace," chapter 44 of the 1972 classic, "The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs." The chapter traces the evolution of glue sniffing from an obscure habit in 1959 to a major national phenomenon by the early 1960s. Anyone hurt or concerned by the harms wrought by drugs on some of their users ought to be disheartened by that story's similarities to today's steroid brouhaha. Will publicity from Congress' unintended advertising of steroid use serve to drive use up?

Time will tell, but if history is any guide, the answer is probably yes. And I for one was not interested in yet another demonstration of what not to do. Unfortunately, history likes to repeat itself. One more nationwide drug menace in the making.

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2. Alaska Measure to Recriminalize Marijuana Headed for Hearings Next Week

Thanks to rulings by the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, Alaska is the only state in the union to have legalized the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana in one's home. It is also a state where there is strong popular sentiment in favor of the outright legalization of marijuana, as evidenced by last fall's regulation initiative, which was defeated, but still gained the support of 44% of voters.

This state of affairs sticks in the craw of Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski and the state's law enforcement establishment, and in January Murkowski introduced a bill to recriminalize the possession of marijuana, and incidentally, increase penalties for a number of marijuana offenses. The state Senate Health Education and Social Services Committee has set hearings for next Tuesday and Thursday, and drug reformers are scrambling to ensure that legislators get more than a one-sided attack on marijuana.

That is certainly what Gov. Murkowski and his allies in the legislature have in mind. The bill presented to the legislature contains in its preamble a lengthy list of alleged dangers from marijuana that is right out of the US drug czar's playbook. Marijuana is more potent than before, the bill finds, and it "has many adverse health and social effects, and there is it evidence it has addictive properties similar to heroin." While the list of alleged marijuana-related problems is lengthy, the governor's bottom line is that "the legislature finds that marijuana poses a threat to the public health that justifies prohibiting its use and possession in this state, even by adults in private."

That language is a direct reference to the Alaska Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decisions, beginning with Ravin in 1975, that found the harms from marijuana to be so minimal as to allow its private home use by adults to be protected by the state constitution's privacy provisions. The Ravin decision was the law of the land in Alaska until 1990, when Alaskans in a referendum voted to recriminalize the plant. But a popular vote does not trump the state constitution, and while it took 13 years for a case to challenge the 1990 vote to make its way to the state's high courts, once it did, Alaska jurists reaffirmed their earlier ruling in Ravin.

For a state political establishment grasping at straws in its effort to bust pot smokers, Ravin and associated rulings left one last opening: In those cases, the courts weighed the evidence about marijuana's harmfulness and found it to be not especially so, but added that the issue could be revisited in the event that new information on the drug was presented.

As with the 1990 initiative, the passage of a bill recriminalizing marijuana does not trump the state constitution. The bill was written precisely to provoke a court challenge, said Chief Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli. "If the bill passes, as we think it will, we expect that someone charged with possession of under four ounces will ask that the case be dismissed based on the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decisions," Guaneli explained. "We will then have an opportunity to present to the court the same information we are presenting to the legislature and we will ask the courts to defer to the legislature's judgment that marijuana is something the legislature has good grounds to criminalize. We expect to prevail," he said.

"We get constitutional challenges all the time; the question is whether we think we can win them, and with this bill, we think we can," he told DRCNet. "Alaska's courts have said as early as the 1975 Ravin decision that if things change, the state can come back and ask them to revisit the issue. We believe that things have changed. Not only has marijuana become more potent and thus more dangerous, but the patterns of usage have also changed a lot. In Alaska, half of those people admitted to drug treatment whose primary drug is marijuana are kids aged 12 to 17. We think there is a real problem with youth in Alaska having access to marijuana. We have studies showing that use by Alaska natives in rural villages is three times the national average," Guaneli continued. "We think it is important for the legislature, the public, and the courts to know these facts, and we think they all combine to justify the legislature prohibiting marijuana."

Thus, next week's hearings will be designed to make the case that marijuana is so harmful that Alaska courts must change their minds. While staffers for the Alaska Senate Health Education and Social Services Committee, which will host the hearings, were unable or unwilling to provide a list of witnesses, drug reformers expect the worst and are preparing a counterattack. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Drug Policy Project sent out an urgent message seeking assistance in combating exaggerated claims of marijuana's dangerousness. Along with the state ACLU, local marijuana activists, and the Marijuana Policy Project (htp://, the ACLU Drug Policy Project is scrambling to present countervailing witnesses next week.

"We and the ACLU and the folks in Alaska who have been involved in this for a long time have been working together to coordinate strategy and to assemble testimony and witnesses for the hearings," said MPP communications director Bruce Mirken. "We are scrambling to see who is available," he told DRCNet. Given Alaska's remoteness, said Mirken, witnesses may be able to testify by teleconference.

Mirken was not impressed with Murkowski's attempted end-run around the Alaska courts. "This is essentially a strategy to do something completely phony, which is to try to overrule the constitution with a statute. They are trying to create a legal basis to do that by making the preposterous claim that the court decisions don't count anymore because marijuana is somehow different than it was in 1975," he growled. "They are trying to back this phony legislative maneuver with a collection of phony arguments and fabricated facts. What we will do in these hearings is present evidence and testimony that shows these claims to be absolute utter nonsense."

Thirty years after the groundbreaking Ravin decision, Alaska politicians and lawmakers continue to try to overturn it. Next week's hearings are unlikely to be the end of it. Unless Alaska legislators can be convinced to leave well enough alone, Alaska's marijuana policy wars will once again be headed for the courts.

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3. The UN Vienna Meeting: Glass Half Empty or Glass Half Full?

Last week, Drug War Chronicle reported on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meeting in Vienna. But our deadline came before the meeting ended, so this week we come back to see how it all turned out.

On the face of it, prohibitionists led by the United States succeeded in pushing back the advance of harm reduction strategies in the UN's global drug policy-setting body. A Brazilian resolution calling for the availability of clean needles as an HIV/AIDS prevention strategy was defeated. Similarly, the definition of HIV/AIDS prevention -- the topic of the conference -- was narrowed to include only drug abuse prevention and treatment, not harm reduction approaches.

But these symbolic victories came only as the prohibitionists revealed their isolation. "During the half-day long debate on HIV prevention, the majority of the people who spoke made explicit mention of harm reduction or needle exchanges and made it clear they supported these strategies," said Daniel Wolfe of the Open Society Institute's International Harm Reduction Development Program. "Even Sweden associated itself with the European Union statement on the issue, which was supportive. Virtually every country except the US and Japan expressed a commitment to harm reduction and needle exchange. In marked contrast, the US emerged as one of the strongest voices against harm reduction, a term it believes is best avoided. Of course avoiding harm reduction also means avoiding preventing HIV for the large number of people who are unwilling or unable to stop taking drugs."

Marco Perduca
"A more compassionate approach was expected out of this meeting, and with the exception of the US, Japan, and Russia, who all opposed 'harm reduction' as a term and as a strategy including needle exchange and substitution therapies, and some Arab states, the rest of the member states clearly stated their policies and the ways in which they believe a global approach to the prevention, containment, and reduction of the spread of the disease should be," said Marco Perduca, representative of the Transnational Radical Party at the meeting. "There was a lot of anticipation that the US would oppose all these measures -- and the open letter from HIV groups in over 60 countries made a big media splash -- but the US delegation played its cards very carefully. They did not antagonize the Europeans in the plenary, but took their opposition to harm reduction in the closed-door committee meetings, where they made their position very clear."

While NGOs had trouble being heard and at some points were even barred from the sessions -- perhaps illegally -- their presence is destabilizing what remains of the prohibitionist consensus at the CND, said Perduca. "The more active presence of the NGOs is starting to create some problems for the formerly quiet debates at the CND, and its not just harm reduction or drug reform NGOs but groups concerned with global issues, like Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Institute, that are getting involved," he pointed out.

OSI's Wolfe agreed that the involvement of broader NGOs was a positive development. "I think that sent a powerful signal to the US and others that trying to make this a simple drug control issue was both ill-conceived and unsuccessful."

Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt, representing the European Coalition for a Just and Effective Drug Policy, the British charity The John Mordaunt Trust and its publication The Users' Voice, was one of the NGO delegates ejected from the sessions, and she was not pleased. "The US has acted illegally over Iraq at the UN, and now they are acting similarly at the CND," she said, placing the blame for the ejections squarely on the US delegation. "When will they stop being the world's bully?"

"The US decided to take its attack on needle exchange and human rights and other troublesome issues behind closed doors," said Daniel Wolfe of the Open Society Insitute's International Harm Reduction Project. "The NGOs were not actually present at the discussions where these promising resolutions were gutted," he told DRCNet. "But delegates who were there told us the US found needle exchange and harm reduction language 'unacceptable.' No compromise, no clean needles, no human rights in Vienna this year. No resolution that passed mentioned HIV prevention except in the context of substance abuse prevention and treatment."

"In the public discussions," said Wolfe, "the US consistently replaced HIV prevention with explicit references to HIV prevention through either abstaining from or stopping the use of illicit drugs. These little semantic nuances are important; the implication is that any HIV prevention that wasn't about stopping or preventing drug use was not appropriate for the CND. What that means is that the HIV prevention strategy that gets left out of the equation is needle exchange."

"We are deeply disappointed that in a year when the focus was on HIV and AIDS, there is not a single mention of syringe exchange in the final resolutions," said Wolfe. "That is an omission with very serious implications for the HIV epidemic in many parts of the world, particular the former Soviet Union and Asia. The idea that we could debate this topic and emerge without any resolutions supporting needle exchange when the AIDS epidemic is driven by injection drug use and international intervention could change the course of the epidemic; well, that is a terrible shortcoming," Wolfe said.

This year's meeting in Vienna may be over, but the battle will continue, said the TRP's Perduca. "In his closing remarks, UNODC head Costa said he hopes next year to bring some real people to Vienna. I suppose people and organizations like the TRP, who believe that prohibition and not drugs themselves is the bigger public problem, should try to bring real people to Vienna, too. In the past, on the land mine issue and on the issue of the International Criminal Court, we have seen that coalitions of NGOs have been the driving force for major changes; in fact, we helped found some of those coalitions."

And not just Vienna next year, said Perduca. "We need to be building such coalitions again for 2008, when the UN will meet to assess the drug action plan it launched seven years ago. From campesinos to injection drug users, from indigenous people to people living with AIDS, now is the time to unite and be heard."

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4. Marijuana Regulation Efforts Moving Forward in Nevada and Vermont

Efforts to regulate marijuana like alcohol and tobacco are underway at different ends of the country. In Nevada, the Marijuana Policy Project is in the midst of a full-court press to once again bring marijuana regulation and taxation before the voters, while in Vermont, a freshman legislator has introduced a bill that would establish a system of licensed, regulated marijuana sales. Action in either state is unlikely this year -- the Nevada effort is aimed at 2006 -- but the efforts in both states are laying the groundwork for a stronger push in the near future.

Vermont is seeing its first bill ever calling for marijuana legalization. Introduced by Rep. Winston Dowland (Prog-Holland) and now cosponsored by Rep. David Deen (D-Westminster), the aptly named Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, H. 390, calls for the removal of "criminal and civil penalties for the possession in nonpublic places of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults 21 years and older" and the strictly regulated "cultivation and sale of marijuana, permitting such activity only by licensed wholesalers and retailers."

Under the bill, retailers would be allowed to sell limited amounts of marijuana and those sales would be taxable by the state. The bill would bar retail marijuana outlets from locating within 500 feet of churches or schools and bar them from selling or advertising alcohol. Retail outlets could not include gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores, or nightclubs. Existing penalties for the unlicensed sale or cultivation of marijuana would be maintained.

In a statement released earlier this month, Rep. Dowland said his purpose in introducing the bill was not so much passage this year as beginning the discussion of regulation and taxation of marijuana. "I do not expect this proposal will be enacted this year," he said. "I hope it will get some hearings in the Legislature, though."

Current marijuana policy in Vermont is not working, Dowland wrote in the bill itself. "A new approach is needed to meet the goals of preventing our children from using marijuana, discouraging adult misuses, and keeping our communities safe," the bill says. "By implementing a system of taxation and regulation, the state will maintain strict control of the cultivation and sale of marijuana, thereby removing its control from the criminal market."

Dowland, who represents a corner of the state long rumored to be a hotbed of marijuana cultivation, told the Vermont Chronicle he was ready to deal with the consequences of introducing a controversial bill. "I didn't come down here to make a career," he said. "The reason why they elected me in the Northeast Kingdom is to come down here and make a difference."

"We don't expect anything dramatic from this in the short term," said Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) communications director Bruce Mirken. "Our Vermont branch will be making some efforts to educate people, and we'll see how the public discussion process goes. We don't have any illusions that it will pass immediately, but this gives us the opportunity to engage the public and have it take a serious look at what the marijuana laws are doing and whether they make any sense," he told DRCNet.

Meanwhile, MPP is fighting the latest battle in its years-long effort to bring regulated, taxed marijuana to Nevada. After losing an initiative vote in 2002 and being thrown off the ballot last year, MPP began a signature-drive even before the November election had occurred to get the issue back before the voters.

Because MPP's latest effort is a statutory initiative -- not a constitutional amendment -- the first stop this time around was the Nevada legislature. If the legislature failed to approve the measure, it would return to the voters in the November 2006 election. Last Wednesday, the Nevada Assembly Judiciary Committee did just that, killing the measure at the state capital and opening the way for a popular vote next year.

Nevada lawmakers and law enforcement are already lining up in opposition to the measure, but MPP is confident of eventual success. MPP executive director Rob Kampia told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he expected a close victory. "We don't expect a landslide victory," Kampia said.

At the committee hearing, Rep. Richard Perkins (D-Henderson), who is also deputy chief of the Henderson Police, testified that he would do everything in his power to stop the measure. He had arrested many people who committed crimes because they were "spurred on by substance abuse and mostly by marijuana," he said. "Does this committee, this Legislature want to send a message to our youth that using a drug is a good thing?" Perkins asked.

Kampia, who also testified, challenged police to create a workable marijuana policy that keeps pot from kids. "I didn't hear a solution," said he said about the police testimony. "If you have tried a war on drugs for 35 years and drug use has gone up, it is time for a new approach."

The current MPP measure calls for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, with doubled penalties for driving under the influence or providing the weed to minors. It also provides for the regulated distribution of marijuana.

While the November 2006 election is a year-and-a-half away, MPP has already put out the call for volunteers and paid workers to go to Nevada to ensure victory next fall. That work is ongoing.

"It is interesting that we are now seeing this happening all over the country," said MPP's Mirken. "We have a bill in Vermont, we have this measure in Nevada, there is all the things the Seattle bar association is doing," he said. "While nobody imagines we are going to have sudden success and all these proposals will sweep into the law books, we are finally beginning to have a rational discussion about prohibition, and especially marijuana prohibition, about whether it makes any sense at all and whether it is accomplishing anything. We can only benefit from that."

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5. Marijuana Law Enforcement Costs More than $7 Billion a Year -- and Doesn't Work, Says New Report

A new report from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) pegs the costs of marijuana law enforcement in the United States at $7.6 billion annually and finds that escalating marijuana arrests over the past two decades have failed to have any impact on marijuana use rates or other indicators chosen by drug enforcers to measure "success" in the war on drugs. What marijuana law enforcement has accomplished, the study found, is hundreds of thousands of arrests each year, with the burden of criminal sanctions borne disproportionately by the young and the non-white.

Current marijuana polices, which rely heavily on criminal penalties, are "wholly ineffective at controlling the use and sale of marijuana," the study concluded.

Authored by researcher and long-time marijuana watcher Jon Gettman, "Crimes of Indiscretion: Marijuana Arrests in the United States" includes a wealth of data on the costs associated with pot law enforcement, as well as a state-by-state and demographic analysis of who is being arrested under the marijuana laws. It's not a pretty picture.

Marijuana law enforcement is effectively racially biased, the study found, with blacks being arrested for marijuana offenses at a rate twice what would be expected based on their usage levels. While adult blacks constitute 11.9% of annual marijuana users, they account for 23% of all marijuana possession arrests in the United States.

Blacks aren't the only ones paying a disproportionate price, the study found. One out of four marijuana possession arrests involves people under the age of 18, and nearly three-quarters of all pot arrests are for people under the age of 30. As the report noted, "Marijuana users who are white, over 30 years old, and/or female are disproportionately unaffected by marijuana possession arrests."

"We see some interesting patterns," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML executive director. "Although our figures only go through 2002, we see that the massive increase in marijuana arrests in New York City has been reversed. The number decreased from 58,000 in 2001 to only 9,000 the following year," he told DRCNet. "This resulted from a combination of Mayor Bloomberg's staff getting rid of Operation Condor and, of course, from 9-11. The priorities are different now, as they should be."

"The other significant difference is that in our last report four years ago, we saw a huge number of arrests and racial disparity in the Rust Belt extending from Albany and Schenectady over to Cleveland," said St. Pierre. "This time, that macro pattern has shifted to the Upper Midwest -- Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan -- and the racial disparities are so much higher than elsewhere in the US. In places like South Dakota, you see blacks or Indians getting arrested at a ratio of 9:1 over whites."

On the other hand, Montana has the lowest per capita marijuana arrest rate in the country, St Pierre said. "Probably the safest place in the country to be a marijuana user is the college towns of Montana," he said.

Based on numbers from 2002, the latest year for which complete data was available, the study found that taxpayers shelled out an average of $10,400 for each pot smoker plucked off the streets by police. Of this more than $7 billion annual total, police costs totaled $3.7 billion, court costs $853 million, and prison costs $3.1 billion. In the nation's two most populous states, California and New York, taxpayers are faced with an annual marijuana enforcement bill of more than $1 billion.

Not surprisingly, California and New York lead the nation in marijuana arrests, with more than 60,000 in the Golden State in 2002 and more than 57,000 in the Empire State. But when the numbers are crunched to arrive at per capita marijuana arrest rates, the hotbeds of marijuana law enforcement are all conservative heartland states. The state where one is most likely to get popped for pot is Nebraska, with 458 arrests per 100,000 citizens, followed by Louisiana (398), Wyoming (386), Kentucky (364), and Illinois (359). The national average was 239 marijuana arrests for 100,000 population. Only Illinois scored in the top five in both actual arrests and arrests per capita.

What all those arrests have accomplished is difficult to determine, the study found. While marijuana arrests have increased dramatically in the past decade, rising from 287,850 in 1991 to 755,000 in 2003, the increased arrest rates "have not been associated with a reduction in marijuana use, reduced marijuana availability, a reduction in the number of new marijuana users, reduced treatment admissions, reduced emergency room mentions of marijuana, any reduction in marijuana potency, or any increases in the price of marijuana," the study reported.

The report is an "indictment" of current marijuana policy said NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre. "Public policies are measured by their ability to produce intended results," St. Pierre said. "The stated goal of criminal marijuana prohibition is to deter marijuana use and promote public health. As the data show, the current prohibition-oriented policy clearly does neither. Rather, the enforcement of state and local marijuana laws unnecessarily costs American taxpayers billions of dollars annually, disproportionately impacts the lives of young people and African Americans, and encourages approximately one million teenagers to become entrepreneurs in the criminal drug trade."

A million teen-age pot dealers? Based on data from the annual National Survey of Drug Use and Health, the report found that the nation's black market in drugs supports more than 4.6 million drug sellers. As report author Gettman noted, while the NSDUH data does not disaggregate the data based on the type of drug sold, marijuana is by far the most commonly sold drug, and the NSDUH undercounts actual drug use and sales, so the figure of 4.6 million marijuana sellers is probably accurate. Of those, 23%, or about one million, were under the age of 18. Most of the teen sales are small-time, the study found, and most of the sellers were only occasional sellers, but some 27% sold pot more than 10 times in a year. But even if the sales are small-time and occasional, the consequence can be a serious felony marijuana distribution bust.

While the report has been consciously crafted for use by local activists and state and local reporters, press response has been less than hoped for so far, said St. Pierre. "This is a report that was researched, written, and published for local media outlets to use; we even went as far as producing state cheat-sheets, so even the laziest producer or editor could easily access all this information, but the response so far has been profoundly disappointing. Our full release started last week, when we sent it out to the chapters and like-minded organizations, then over the weekend, we sent it out to all 100-plus Associated Press outlets, but so far we have had only six or seven mentions," he said. "The Wall Street Journal and USA Today both turned down exclusives, which is a shame, because the report is really groomed to appeal to USA Today's McNews-like qualities."

Part of the problem, St. Pierre suggested, was competition on a bad news weekend. "You had that Atlanta shooting, and the media were on that almost around the clock, and they still are. Atlanta Journal Constitution editor Cynthia Tucker told me she had had the report sitting on her desk all week, but had been overwhelmed by the shooting and hunt for the shooter. We hope we'll see something on the backside of this."

But even if the media isn't biting, said St. Pierre, activists can still use the report. "We told our chapters to print out everything and then start approaching everyone from the dogcatcher on up. This report serves as a beginning point for discussion. Our members can ask the politicians about the arrests and the costs, and we can start to speak very specifically about shifting priorities," he said. "Drug reformers have long had a hard time reaching out to minority communities, and this report can help. We can show interest groups and professional organizations like the NAACP that their people are being disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition. With so few black people in South Dakota, for example, you have to ask how they are being arrested at such high rates. It is not necessarily deliberate, but they are in the crosshairs of the system, and this report demonstrates it quite clearly."

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6. Coasters to Stop the Drug War

The Black Market... Gang Warfare... Bathtub Gin... Mobsters... Bootlegging... Disrespect for Law... The Roaring Twenties... Crime... The Valentine's Day Massacre... Speakeasys...

Are the parallels between alcohol prohibition from 1920 until 1933 and the current "war on drugs" glaringly apparent to you? If they are, you and your guests may enjoy reflecting upon the irony of serving your favorite beverages on DRCNet's latest gift item, cork coasters bearing our stop sign logo. Make a donation of any size and receive one coaster for free -- click here if you would like to donate online -- or donate $15 or more to receive a set of five, or $25 or more to receive a set of ten. (For more than 10 coasters add $1 or more for each additional.) We are also pleased to offer our handy travel mugs -- add $20 to your donation to get one of those too, or donate $30 or more to receive just the mug.

Make a statement to your guests that the war on drugs is wrong, and inspire conversations about how drug prohibition drives the thriving and dangerous black market, enriches criminal organizations, places children at risk, spreads death and disease, wastes criminal justices resources, contributes to the decay of our cities, and erodes the Constitution.

If you want to contribute, but would rather not do so online, you can also send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Tax-deductible contributions supporting our educational work should be made payable to "DRCNet Foundation" -- non-deductible contributions supporting our lobbying work should be made payable to "Drug Reform Coordination Network" -- both kinds are much appreciated and very much needed. Or again, click here to donate online, order your coasters and support DRCNet's work! (The portion of your donation that is tax-deductible will be reduced if you choose to receive any gifts.)

Does someone you know not agree with ending the drug war, but would practically take up arms if Congress decided to bring back alcohol prohibition? These coasters might help them to see that the current not-so-noble experiment has failed as well. These fun and useful coasters make a great birthday, holiday or random gift! Order yours today!

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7. Events and Conferences Coming Up for Drug Reformers -- Come Out and Be a Part of It

Events and conferences are coming up around the country. One major annual gathering is the conference of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), taking place this year from March 31 to April 2 in San Francisco. This is a great opportunity to learn and to meet and get to know fellow reformers -- DRCNet will be attendance, so look for us if you're there. Later in the month, April 21-23, the North American Syringe Exchange Convention will reconvene in Tacoma, Washington. Visit NASEN to find out more. Later in the year, November 9-12, further south in Long Beach, California, the 2005 International Conference on Drug Policy Reform will convene. This is expected to be a big one -- DRCNet will be there too. Finally, for those of you in Britain or with a taste for travel, the International Conference on the Reduction of Drug-Related Harm will meet in Belfast, Ireland, later this month from March 20-24.

There are many local events coming up around the country -- see our Reformer's Calendar to learn more -- New York, Wisconsin, Iowa, Utah -- these are just a few locations where you can come out and be a part of the movement. Keep an eye out in the calendar for more upcoming Perry Fund events by DRCNet, too, including June 1 in Seattle. Hope to see you there!

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8. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another slow week on the corruption front -- nothing spectacularly evil, just the same old banal personal corruption of cops and jailers who either couldn't resist temptation or let their habits get on top of them. But the taint of drug law-related corruption is cumulative, and each story like this adds to the general impression of police run amok. Here we go:

In another apparent case of jailers gone bad, KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City reported Wednesday that three current and one former Lincoln County jail guards have been arrested on various charges, including rape and distributing marijuana within the jail. All of the jailers are women, and three of them have been accused of having consensual sex with male prisoners, but that is still rape in the eyes of Oklahoma authorities. "It can be consensual," said Lincoln County Sheriff A.T. Brixey, "but the fact of the matter is the custodial people in a penal institution cannot have sexual relations with the inmates. When they do, that's second-degree rape." Former jailer Misty Simon is also charged with introducing contraband into the jail, based on allegations she sold and delivered marijuana to prisoners.

In Fostoria, Ohio, former police sergeant Nicholas Portentoso, 43, is sitting in jail after being hit with six charges, crack cocaine possession among them, related to his stormy relationship with his ex-wife. He is also charged with felonious assault, two counts of disrupting public services, menacing by stalking, and intimidation according to the Seneca County Advertiser-Tribune. The charges stem from a 2003 incident when Portentoso accosted his ex-wife, Kathy Portenoso and allegedly threatened both her and his own life while he was under a restraining order to stay away from her. The pair are involved in an ongoing custody battle over their two children, the newspaper reported. After being arraigned on the charges, Portentoso was denied bail and sits in jail awaiting a March 31 hearing.

And in Springfield, Georgia, an Effingham County Sheriff's deputy was arrested March 8 after buying marijuana from an undercover officer, the Savannah Now web site reported. Melinda Stewart Johnson of Statesboro was in the Effingham County Jail facing charges of marijuana possession, criminal solicitation, and possession of a firearm during a crime, Sheriff Jimmy Duffie said. The sheriff focused in on Johnson only days earlier after receiving reports she had previously bought marijuana. Duffie set up a sting operation in a local parking lot and snared the errant deputy, who was still on probation as a new employee. She probably shouldn't count on keeping her job.

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9. Newsbrief: US Drug War Hurts Women, Says New Report

In a report released Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and two other groups charged that US drug policy is bringing severe, disproportionate harm to women -- many of them mothers -- who are being sent to prison in ever increasing numbers on drug charges even though they typically play only minor roles in drug trafficking groups. The report, "Caught in the Net" was released at the end of a two-day national conference on the subject in New York City. That conference brought criminal justice officials, sentencing reform activists, and others together to consider reforms that would reduce the harmful impact of the drug war on women.

"Drug convictions have caused the number of women behind bars to explode, leaving in the rubble displaced children and overburdened families," the report said, and the hard numbers back it up. Since 1980, the number of women in prison has increased eight-fold to 101,000 last year. Roughly one-third of women prisoners are drug offenders, compared to about one-fifth of male prisoners.

"Many of the drug conspiracy and accomplice laws were created to go after the kingpins," said the ACLU women's rights project director, Lenora Lapidus, a lead author of the report. "But women who may simply be a girlfriend or wife are getting caught in the web as well, and sent to prison for very long times when all they may have done is answer the telephone."

When it comes to drug war injustice, it's not just a man's world, the report found. Among its findings:

* Many women who are convicted of drug crimes were only peripherally involved, and some were convicted solely because they failed to turn in their partners. Sentencing laws fail to acknowledge factors that may keep women from going to police, such as economic dependence or fear of abuse.

* Black and Hispanic women are imprisoned on drug charges at far higher rates than white women even though they have similar illegal drug use rates. The report suggests prosecutorial discretion, police tactics, and practices such as the selective testing of poor, minority women for drug use while pregnant play a role.

* Most women in prison leave children behind. The consequences can be shattering for both mothers, who may lose parental custody, and children, thousands of whom are placed in foster homes.

The traditional view that women and mothers should be treated more gently gets turned on its head when it comes to drug-using or drug-selling women, said Florida State University criminologist Bruce Bullington. "It's not just an issue of drugs, but of embedded moral values," he said. "We demonize these women, and it comes back to haunt us in a variety of ways," he told the Associated Press.

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10. Newsbrief: Welfare Bill Amended to Cut Funding to States That Fail to Drug Test Welfare Recipients, But None Currently Do

A bill that would extend welfare reform legislation supported by President Clinton and enacted by Congress in 1996 has been amended to include language that cuts federal welfare funding to any state that does not require drug tests for those applying for or receiving welfare benefits and are suspected of drug use.

Only one state, Michigan, attempted to enact drug testing of welfare recipients, but that effort was thrown out by a federal appeals court in 2003. That ruling, which also applies to Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, held that any such drug testing programs were an unconstitutional violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

The federal welfare reauthorization bill, the Personal Responsibility, Work, and Family Promotion Act (HR 240) was amended and approved by the Ways and Means Committee's Human Resources Subcommittee on Tuesday. It could be considered by the full Ways and Means Committee as early as April.

The amendment will not sit well with representatives who stand to see their states lose funding, said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We expect to see a rebellion by members of Congress from states that would lose federal funding under this law. These states won't just be caught between a rock and a hard place, they'll be crushed under the rock."

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11. Newsbrief: Police in Missouri Town Seek to Overturn Marijuana Reform Ordinance

Police in Columbia, Missouri, are determined to save voters there from themselves. In November, voters in the central Missouri college town approved a local ordinance that sets a maximum fine for marijuana possession of $250 and charges violators under a city ordinance -- not state law -- so that students need not fear losing eligibility for federal financial aid in the event they get busted with a joint. Now, the Columbia Police Officers Association is preparing a petition drive to overturn the ordinance.

Saying police were "caught off guard" by November's election results, association president Sterling Infield told a press conference last Friday that police will go door-to-door seeking signatures for a petition asking the city council to revisit the ordinance. City officials have so far showed little interest in repudiating the will of the voters, Infield complained, as he vowed to put an initiative on the local ballot if necessary. "If that doesn't work, we'll take the issue back to the ballot," he threatened.

Infield may already have gotten off on the wrong foot. In a letter to city officials complaining about the ordinance, he referred to the shooting death of Columbia police officer Molly Bowden and the wounding of officer Curtis Brown by a man who had a previous record of misdemeanor marijuana possession. That man, Richard Thiel Evans, killed himself in January after shooting Brown. "To stop this ordinance would bring a small degree of justice back to Officer Molly Bowden and Officer Curtis Brown, who risked all to protect their community," Infield wrote.

After criticism over linking the ordinance to the shootings, Infield said he was not attempting to use the shootings to oppose the ordinance. But he couldn't help himself. "At the same time, he had drugs in his car -- the same drugs we're facing today," he said of Evans.

The police association is also attempting to raise fears that the ordinance does make it possible for state parole officials to know automatically that a parole has been charged under the ordinance. Under state parole guidelines, any drug offense by a parole is considered a parole revocation, but Columbia's marijuana possession tickets do not make their way into the state parole department database.

But even that ploy is drawing criticism. Eleanor Wickersham of the League of Women Voters told the AP Infield the police association was using scare tactics. "He's trying to associate it with rape and murder," she said.

Meanwhile, while the police association bemoans the ordinance passed by popular vote in November, Columbia police are busily enforcing it. According to a Tuesday report in the Columbia Missourian, police are ticketing more people per month under the ordinance than they arrested prior to its passage. From November to February, police wrote 141 tickets for pot possession, compared with 100 arrests made during the same period a year earlier. And last month's 44 tickets was the largest single month total in the last 10 years, the Missourian reported.

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12. Newsbrief: Heroin Maintenance Study Now Underway in Vancouver

The North American Opiate Maintenance Initiative (NAOMI) heroin maintenance pilot project got underway Monday in Vancouver. Three Vancouver heroin users became the first in North America to participate in such a program, receiving and injecting free heroin in NAOMI's highly secure facility in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The pilot project will last for two years and will eventually include 157 heroin users in Vancouver, as well as hundreds more in Toronto and Montreal as it undergoes a scheduled expansion.

"Today, the treatment stage of the NAOMI study begins," spokesman Jim Boothroyd told reporters Monday. "The clinical trial is fully up and running."

In the clinical study, some participants will receive heroin while others will receive methadone in an effort to see whether heroin works better in weaning long-time drug users who have not responded to either abstinence-based programs or methadone maintenance. Those who receive heroin will go to the NAOMI facility three times a day, seven days a week, to receive and shoot up their fix under a nurse's supervision. Methadone users need come only twice a day to drink their fix.

"This will be the first time in Canadian history that physicians are prescribing heroin for the treatment of heroin dependence," said NAOMI clinical director Dr. David Marsh.

Heroin maintenance programs have been underway in European countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, for several years. They are ardently opposed by United States drug czar John Walters and United Nations anti-drug agencies such as the International Narcotics Control Board.

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13. Newsbrief: Vancouver Sun Says Legalize It

In a four-day series of editorials last week, British Columbia's largest newspaper, the Vancouver Sun, called for the legalization of marijuana. The editorial series came as parliament considers a middle-ground measure to decriminalize pot possession and as Canada reeled from the killings of four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in a raid only tangentially -- but sensationally -- linked to a small marijuana grow-op in Alberta.

The Sun came out swinging. "Since the murder of four RCMP officers in Alberta last Thursday, some people are urging the federal government to scrap its marijuana reform legislation, which would decriminalize possession of small amounts of the substance and increase the maximum penalty for growing it," the newspaper noted on March 8. "The feds should ignore these calls. Indeed, Ottawa might even have to consider legalization of marijuana if it's to stop organized crime from profiting and to minimize the violence this activity unleashes."

Canadian cannabis prohibition, the Sun noted, began for no reason at all in 1923, when marijuana was "almost unknown" in Canada. "To this day, no one knows why marijuana was banned. Parliamentarians had no evidence that marijuana caused any physical, psychological or social harm," the paper explained. "Nevertheless, the legislation was passed without debate, which isn't surprising since parliamentarians could hardly have engaged in debate concerning a substance about which they knew nothing."

Despite such sensible reviews as the LeDain Commission report in 1973, which found no evidence supporting the continued criminalization of marijuana, the Sun continued, a prohibitionist mentality continues to dominate Canadian marijuana policy, and the government's decriminalization bill reflects that ideology. In its second editorial March 9, the Sun dissected that policy and found it wanting: "The legal prohibition of marijuana has been one of the most spectacular failures of the 20th century," said the Sun.

The Sun zeroed in on a key analytical failure of prohibitionists: the assumption that the application of criminal sanctions has a serious impact on drug use levels. "So what is the relationship between marijuana prohibition and marijuana use?" the Sun asked. "There isn't one: As a number of European studies have demonstrated, the severity of drug laws simply has no effect on the level of drug use."

With marijuana use "influenced much more strongly by cultural factors and social values than by the law," prohibition does not work, and it has pernicious consequences, the Sun agued. "This suggests that our attempt to control marijuana use through the blunt instrument of the law is doomed to fail -- indeed, it has already failed. And while failing, it has created a monster," the criminality associated with the market in prohibited goods.

On March 10, the Sun considered the government's decrim bill, which would remove criminal penalties for possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana. Instead, offenders would receive tickets and fines. But penalties for marijuana growers would increase, doubling from seven to 14 years for more than 50 plants. While calling decrim a good idea "in principle," the Sun suggested it would both lead to increased enforcement of pot laws and "will likely strengthen the hand of organized crime." Thus, the bill and its middle way between legalization and prohibition could be a "worst case scenario, even worse than leaving the law as it is."

"The alternative -- legalization -- is one no country has taken yet, but it's an alternative the international community should consider," the Sun exhorted. "Canada can lead the way by explaining to the world the benefits of this radically different approach to dealing with marijuana."

On March 11, the Sun noted that despite the failure of marijuana prohibition, no country had legalized marijuana because of the "intransigence of the US" and the international treaties it backs. It is time to get beyond that and Canada can lead the way, the Sun suggested. "Many countries recognize the folly of the war on drugs, and are, therefore, open to discussing legalization and regulation. Canada is particularly well suited to promoting such discussions."

A clarion call for cannabis liberation has come from unexpected quarters on the Pacific Coast.

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14. Newsbrief: UN Predicts Cocaine Price Increase, Cites Colombia "Success"

In an interview with the Associated Press Monday, the top United Nations anti-drug official in Colombia predicted that cocaine prices in the United States and Europe will rise next year because US-sponsored aerial fumigation of coca crops there has resulted in significant reductions in the harvest. Colombia produces more than three-quarters of the world's cocaine, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

coca seedlings
Critics of the US approach in Colombia have cited stable cocaine prices as evidence that six years of effort and hundreds of millions of dollars have failed to make a dent in global cocaine supplies. But 2004 was a record-breaking year in Colombia's coca and cocaine repression efforts. The Colombian government reported 340,000 acres of coca destroyed, almost 150 tons of cocaine seized, and more than a thousand clandestine cocaine processing labs destroyed.

"Considering Colombia supplies 80% of the world cocaine market, we think prices are going to rise starting in 2006," said Sandro Calvani, director of the UNODC in Colombia.

It hasn't happened yet, though, as US Southern Command head General Bantz Craddock told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday. "Why there isn't a price increase in cocaine, I don't know," he said. "It's a mystery to me."

Calvani had a possible explanation that also serves as an out in case the anticipated price increase fails to materialize. Drug traffickers have been storing stocks of cocaine for years, he said, and may be able to absorb the higher production costs arising from eradication and enforcement. "These warehouses allow them to have enough to satisfy the market for two years," Calvani said. "So when the availability drops in Santa Marta or Barranquilla, there is no lack of cocaine the next week in New York."

He also implicitly endorsed the US-backed use of aerial fumigation to destroy coca crops. That effort has been widely criticized because it is indiscriminate -- the sprays also destroy other crops nearby -- and because the herbicide has also reportedly caused illness in humans and livestock and damaged the environment.

Although armed groups may pressure peasants to grow more coca to compensate for that lost to spraying, said Calvani, such tactics may not work. "Aerial fumigation does not ask for permission from the armed groups. It destroys the crops whether they like it or not," Calvani said. Meanwhile, coca production is reportedly on the increase again in Bolivia. Production there was up 18%, Craddock said.

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15. Newsbrief: European Drug Think-Tank Calls for Legalizing Afghan Opium Crop -- Afghan Government Reaction Mixed

A Paris-based drug policy think-tank, the Senlis Council, called last week for Afghanistan's record illicit opium crop to be regularized, with farmers licensed to grow poppies for medicines such as morphine and codeine. After some initial hesitation, the Afghan government shot down the idea this week -- or not. Conflicting statements came from government ministers.

incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)
With United Nations anti-drug officials warning that Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a "narco-state" and the United States pumping some $780 million into the opium suppression effort there this year, Afghan opium production is not only the mainstay of the national economy but paradoxically profoundly destabilizing as its profits find their way into the pockets of nominally pro-government warlords and anti-government, Taliban-linked rebels alike. It also employs some 2.3 million Afghan farmers, according to the UN.

"Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a narco-state, said Senlis executive director Emmanuel Reinert. "That could happen in the next few years. So we are somehow in a crisis situation. The solutions at hand right now either will make things worse -- like eradication or forced eradication through aerial spraying -- or they will just yield results in several years. I'm thinking of alternative development that will take several years to yield results. And that would be, in a way, too late."

Instead, said Reinert, the opium trade should be regularized, licensed, and directed toward medical channels. "The world's largest supply of opium could be turned into essential medicine such as morphine and codeine rather than heroin," said Reinert. "Our solution would allow farmers to carry on producing opium for the legitimate and useful legal market instead of the illicit trade in heroin. Reducing the amount of heroin produced by Afghanistan's poppy crop would shift the drug trade and its profits from the drug lords and terrorists to the people of Afghanistan," Reinert added.

Such a solution would allow farmers to produce legal opium for legitimate interests, and to produce such essential medicine as morphine and codeine in the face of a huge shortage of those products in the world and, more specifically, in developing countries, Reinert said. "The idea is not to turn Afghanistan into a mono-crop economy. The device is here as a transition to complement what is done to develop the country and eventually to have a diversified Afghan economy that is a sustainable and stable economy. The first step would be to launch one or two pilot projects in very specific regions, so you could have clear control of the farmers who cultivate those lands, to look at the way the license could work."

Under the current global drug prohibition regime, countries must apply for a license from the International Narcotics Control Board to legally grow and sell opium for medicinal purposes. Countries that currently produce opium under license include Australia, France, India, and Turkey.

But while Reinert and the Senlis Council said the proposal was at its earliest stages and the group planned to present a feasibility study for the idea at an international opium conference in Kabul in September, the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai had rejected the notion by Monday. Or at least part of the government had.

Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalai ruled out legalizing opium production in a Kabul press conference. "Changing this and legalizing it from my point of view is not that easy and it is not possible," he said. "We cannot just legalize it." Oddly, he argued that opium could not be licensed and sold for medicinal purposes because "the money which made from drugs finances crime, terrorism, and also using this money some groups form private militias." But that is precisely the status quo, and a regulated opium market would presumably regularize those financial flows.

That next day, Afghan Minister of Counter Narcotics Habibullah Qaderi was a bit more open to the proposal. "It is a new idea, and proper research has to be done to look again at all sides of it; the control mechanism, permission from the International Narcotics Control Board, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime," told the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network. But Qaderi expressed concern about how the trade would be regulated. "Unless there is a proper policing system, provincial officials who are not corrupt and a forum for the profits to be used for the development of the entire country, then the idea is not workable," Qaderi said.

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16. Newsbrief: Crackdown in Sao Paulo's "Crackland" Stirs Criticism

A police crackdown on crack cocaine users and homeless people in the central Sao Paulo area known as Cracolandia (Crackland) has drawn criticism from Brazilian harm reduction groups. Beginning early this month, a joint action by federal, civil, and military police known as Operation Cleansing has targeted residents of the poor inner city neighborhood for removal as part of an urban development scheme by Mayor Jose Serra.

crack in Brazil
Brazilian press accounts described policemen attacking homeless people and crack users even as Mayor Serra walked down Rua Triunfo declaring that his administration would take a strong stance against illegality without resorting to violence. "They come in here beating everyone up and saying we have to go," one area resident told reporters. "We're drug users, but we're people, too," said another.

But even as police were sweeping the area, harm reduction workers from the Centro E de Lei were setting up shop for their thrice-weekly rounds in the "Stonermobile," a vehicle from which workers dispense condoms, pipe stems, tissues, and lip balm to the at-risk population in an effort to reduce the spread of disease. "This population doesn't have the habit of going to the doctor, and when they do they are often mistreated, so instead we come to them, explained E de Lei director Naime Silva.

According to Silva, Operation Cleansing is doomed to failure, not only because Cracolandia residents have nowhere to go, but also because the mayor and the police failed to coordinate their action with other organizations working with the population there. "If it is not coordinated, it will not work," said Silva. "The medical center in Campos Eliseos, which does wonderful work, was not consulted. We at E de Lei were only told of this the day before it occurred. Only the police were consulted," she said.

E de Lei is not the only group criticizing the offensive on Cracolandia. Brazil's largest drug reform network, the Brazilian Harm Reduction Association (ABORDA), passed a resolution criticizing the crackdown as it met for its fifth annual meeting last week in Campo Grande, Mato Grasso do Sul. The association "repudiates the repressive moves and the 'cleansing' that has been occurring in downtown Sao Paulo," the motion said.

"The so-called decay of downtown Sao Paulo, as well as other urban areas, is a result of the social inequality that has haunted our country for decades and not a result of the presence of one or another social group," ABORDA maintained. "Drug use is a matter of public health; the role of police repression serves only as a device to excite the media."

But with the Brazilian media constantly hyping drug use and violence (and neglecting the nexus between prohibition and drug-related violence), such campaigns are good politics for media-savvy politicians like Mayor Serra.

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17. Media Scan: Tony Papa on Artists Against the Drug War for Alternet, Slate on the WTO and Marijuana Laws, Vancouver Sun on Marijuana Legalization, UK Overdosing on Opiates Article

Anthony Papa of "15 Years to Life" fame announces "Artists Against the Drug War," published on Alternet March 15.

Tim Wu of UVA Law School speculates on the prospects for a WTO challenge to US marijuana laws for Slate, March 17 in "World Weed: The WTO -- The Stoner's New Best Friend"

March article of the month from Britain's Drug and Alcohol Findings -- "Overdosing on Opiates" -- available for free download.

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18. This Week in History

March 18, 1839: Lin Tse-Hsu, the imperial Chinese commissioner in charge of suppressing the opium traffic, orders all foreign traders to surrender their opium. In response, the British send expeditionary warships to the coast of China, beginning the First Opium War.

March 19, 1983: First Lady Nancy Reagan of "Just Say No to Drugs" fame appears on the NBC sitcom Different Strokes to say, "Let me tell you a true story about a boy we'll call Charlie. He was only 14 and he was burned out on marijuana... One day, when his little sister wouldn't steal some money for him to go and buy some more drugs, he brutally beat her. The real truth is there's no such thing as soft drugs and hard drugs. All drugs are dumb... Don't end up another Charlie."

March 21, 2003: President Bush announces his intention to nominate Karen P. Tandy to be the Drug Enforcement Administration's new administrator. Tandy served in the Department of Justice (DOJ) as Associate Deputy Attorney General and Director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. She also previously served in DOJ as Chief of Litigation in the Asset Forfeiture Office and as Deputy Chief for Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Earlier in her career, she prosecuted drug, money laundering, and forfeiture cases as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia and in the Western District of Washington.

March 22, 1972: The Richard Nixon-appointed, 13-member National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (the "Shafer Commission") recommends the decriminalization of marijuana, concluding: "Marihuana's relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it. This judgment is based on prevalent use patterns, on behavior exhibited by the vast majority of users and on our interpretations of existing medical and scientific data. This position also is consistent with the estimate by law enforcement personnel that the elimination of use is unattainable."

March 23, 1983: Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush is placed in charge of the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System, supposed to staunch the drug flow over all US borders.

March 24, 1998: House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) establishes the Speaker's Task Force for a Drug-Free America to design a World War II-style victory plan to save America's children from illegal drugs. Chaired by Congressman J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and co-chaired by Congressmen Rob Portman (R-OH) and Bill McCollum (R-FL), the 36-member Task Force is charged with helping to raise public awareness about America's drug crisis and advancing a comprehensive legislative strategy to achieve a Drug-Free America by 2002.

March 24, 2002: Another day goes by with America no closer to being drug free than six years before.

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19. MAPS Benefit Auction

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is hosting an online benefit auction this week. Over 40 items are listed, including, psychedelic memorabilia including books, signed blotter art, and glassware from chemist Dr. Shulgin; artwork including a Huichol yarn painting, portraits of psychedelic luminaries, and a Carolyn Kleefeld oil painting; and donations from celebrities including a guitar signed by The Cure and books signed by Tom Robbins & Andrew Weil.

Visit MAPS or for further information or to participate, and check out the article on Wired online.

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20. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 19, 2:00pm, Columbia, MD, "Entheogens and the Spiritual Life," talk by William A. Richards, sponsored by the Council on Spiritual Practices. At Oakland Mills Interfaith Center, call (888) 585-8870 for directions or further information.

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 24, 7:00pm, Madison, WI, Madison NORML benefit concert. At Café Montmartre, 127 East Mifflin Street, admission $5 in advance or $7 at the door, contact Gary Storck at (608) 241-8922 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 4-8, 2:00-7:00pm, Lima, Peru, "International Forum on the Coca Leaf." At Auditoria de la Biblioteca Central, Ciudad Universataria, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Puerta No. 4 Ave. Universitaria. Visit for information.

April 5, noon-1:30pm, Washington, DC, "Are Drug Courts a Solution to the Drug Problem?" Urban Institute First Tuesday Seminar, at 2100 M St., NW, 5th Floor, lunch available at 11:45. Seating limited, RSVP to (202) 261-5709 or [email protected].

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 20, 5:00-7:00pm, San Francisco, CA, " Marijuana: Medicine, Menace, or Both?" Forum at the San Francisco Medical Society, 1409 Sutter Street (at Franklin), RSVP to (415) 921-4987 or [email protected] or visit for info.

April 20, 8:00pm, Pomona, NJ, "Confessions of a Dope Dealer," solo performance by Sheldon Norberg. At Richard Stockton College, call (609) 652-4205 or visit for info.

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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