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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #380 -- 3/25/05

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

    steroids & baseball: a failed
    anti-drug strategy's last gasp?
    Every now and then a candid comment by a public official reveals the sheer incoherence of the government's anti-drug strategy. The latest such remark came from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, on the topic of opium in Afghanistan.
    In the midst of a parliamentary election campaign where drugs have become a key issue, the Labor government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair moved last weekend to reconsider its reclassification of cannabis.
    Drug reformers and patient advocates started 2005 with high hopes of seeing more states jump on the medical marijuana bandwagon. They will now have to look somewhere beside Illinois and New Mexico to gain a legislative victory this year.
    University of Texas drugs and sports expert John Hoberman comments on last week's US congressional hearings on steroids in baseball.
    From the bedroom to the boardroom, from Olympic stadiums to the neighborhood YMCA, and in countless unseen pockets of everyday life, it is all about performance. John Hoberman's "Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping" is a powerful rumination on the history and meaning of the quest for athletic excellence and eternal youth.
    David Borden urges the Hurwitz case judge to release Dr. Hurwitz because of jurors' fundamental misconceptions about the case as revealed in quotes given by their foreman to the Washington Post.
    Participate in DRCNet online action alerts asking Congress and two state Legislatures to undo Rep. Mark Souder's much-criticized law stripping college aid from students with drug convictions.
    Another mixed bag this week, with a crooked 911 dispatcher, another former prosecutor gone downhill, and a group of notorious Oakland police facing justice -- again.
    DRCNet's "This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories" series is now on the air, thanks to the Cultural Baggage Drug Truth Network.
    Events and conferences are coming up around the country -- come out and get to know the people in the movement!
    A ten-day sentence for marijuana possession turned into a death sentence for Jonathan Magbie when the DC Jail and a hospital failed to provide the quadriplegic with proper medical care. The judge who sent him to his death has now been cleared of misconduct by a judicial commission.
    Dozens of Michigan police raided a Flint nightspot late Saturday night, arresting 118 club goers, mostly for "frequenting a drug house." The mass arrests of apparently innocent people parallels a similar 2003 bust in Wisconsin.
    Activist Steve Kubby fled California in 2001 to avoid a virtual death sentence through denial of access to medical marijuana. Now Kubby is alleging fraud by Placer County officials in a bid to overturn his conviction.
    While British politicians are busy wringing their hands over marijuana as parliamentary elections loom, actor Alex Norton of police drama "Taggart" fame has other drugs on his mind.
    A Fijian senate ad-hoc committee on drugs and vice holding a public hearing on marijuana growing in the Navosa region got an earful from local residents.
    The effort to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan, strongly backed by the United States and the United Nations, is threatened by its own success, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday.
    Last month DEA administrator Karen Tandy urged Pakistani Muslim religious scholars to issue a religious decree, or jihad, against drugs. At a meeting last weekend, some of them took her up on it.
    Media Scan: Becker-Posner Blog, Neal Peirce, URI on HEA, Tulia, Loretta Nall, Baker Institute on Needle Exchange, New Jersey Network on Medical Marijuana,
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    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: Rise or Fall

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

David Borden
Every now and then a candid comment by a public official reveals the sheer incoherence of the government's anti-drug strategy. The latest such remark came from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The topic was opium in Afghanistan. Annan informed attendees at an Afghan opium conference in Pakistan this week that the anti-opium drive in Afghanistan was counteracting itself by driving up the price opium fetches on the black market, making opium growing more attractive for farmers.

I would have told them to expect that to happen, if they had asked me. Or they could have asked officials involved with eradication in other countries. But that's where it gets really incoherent.

The economic theory behind supply-side anti-drug efforts is that reducing the drug supply or increasing the danger in providing drugs will drive up their prices. Higher prices, it is thought, will then reduce demand -- supply and demand, Econ 101. (Of course prices have dropped dramatically during the decades the supply-side drug war has been waged. But that's another issue.)

I was surprised to learn, then, that the bureaucrats coordinating interdiction on the ground in nations like Colombia or Peru or Bolivia are not trying to drive the prices up, but rather down. Or at least some of the time that's what they're doing. They've experienced the same phenomenon that Kofi Annan this week reported for Afghanistan. So instead of driving prices up, which would make growing more lucrative, they want to reduce the prices to make it less so.

But if prices are made to fall, how does that serve the overarching goal of increasing prices? One hand is pulling in a different direction from the other, and it doesn't add up. But it's important to understand why this is happening.

It is happening because drug warriors are fighting a futile battle, against a force of greater power than any government can master. Large numbers of people, in the US, Europe, and elsewhere want to use drugs made from opium, have the ability to pay large sums of money for those drugs, and are willing to do so. Demand at such a level creates supply. Therefore someone will grow the opium, process it into heroin, and distribute it to the world's heroin users, regardless of what governments try to do about it -- also Econ 101.

And so any supply-side measure against drug supplies will ultimately end up serving the mechanisms of the market in one way or another. But because policymakers and drug war generals can't admit this, they are driven to all extremes of intellectual contortion to create an appearance of having an approach that just might work -- if only they are given more funding to attempt it. Pushing the prices up didn't work? Let's try pushing them down. Pushing the prices down didn't work? Let's try pushing them up. Pushing the prices up didn't work? You get the idea.

In a time of international terrorism, the world can scarcely afford to squander its resources indulging in such fruitless foolishness. To do so in Afghanistan, where the worst of the terrorism has been organized and where the anti-drug campaigns risk losing us the hearts and minds of people whose help we need to stop it, is particularly offensive. Instead, opium and its products should be legalized, its profits brought into the licit economy where they can be channeled in ways that foster stability and lawfulness rather than undermine them.

Which makes it time for our leaders to be truly candid. And then for them to act on it.

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2. Reefer Reversal? British Government to Reconsider Cannabis Reclassification

In the midst of a parliamentary election campaign where drugs have become a key issue, the Labor government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair moved last weekend to reconsider its reclassification of cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug. Class C drugs are those controlled substances deemed least dangerous under British law and include steroids and some anti-depressants. Under the reclassification, which has been in effect for slightly more than a year, cannabis users in most circumstances now face only ticketing, not arrest.

In a March 19 letter from Home Secretary Charles Clarke to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which is charged with reviewing drug scheduling, the Blair government asked the council to review recent evidence about the harmfulness of cannabis. In the last few weeks, both the tabloid press and the opposition Conservative Party have paid much attention to several studies allegedly linking cannabis to the development of psychosis or schizophrenia. Clarke's letter highlighted those concerns. He also asked the council to look into high-potency marijuana, or "skunk," which seems to be the preferred British term.

The Conservatives and third-party Liberal Democrats immediately made political hay of the move, with Conservative leader Michael Howard calling it a retreat and a reversal. The Tories have announced plans to return cannabis to Schedule B if elected, and shadow home secretary David Davis told reporters Clarke's move showed the Blair government was admitting that downgrading cannabis was "the wrong decision."

"The downgrading of cannabis was a dreadful decision which sends out mixed messages to children about the dangers of drugs," said Davis. "The government will now have to clear up the mess of its hasty and ill-thought through decision on cannabis which Charles Clarke himself has admitted could lead people into harder drugs."

Liberal Democrats piled on, even though the party doesn't see much of a problem with cannabis. Home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said police should concentrate on "very serious drugs" and devote fewer resources to going after pot smokers. But Oaten also expressed a willingness to reconsider reclassification as well. "If evidence changes and it is clear that there are more harmful aspects of cannabis," Oaten said, "it makes sense to review the law and that is why we would support any changes based on evidence that the home secretary is considering."

The Blair government naturally denied it had changed its mind on marijuana. The move was not a policy reversal; drug classification is "under constant review," the Home Office said. "It makes sense that government policy reflects scientific findings and is kept up to date."

The findings that have provided the political cover for the classification review include a study by New Zealand researchers published earlier this month that drew links between adolescent marijuana smoking and the risk of developing mental illness and a Dutch study published in the British Medical Journal earlier this year that found that "cannabis use moderately increases the risks of psychotic symptoms in young people but has a much stronger effect in those with evidence of predisposition for psychosis."

But while those studies have been the stuff of banner headlines in the tabloid press and have provided fodder for anti-drug campaigners, the more sensational readings of their findings are not supported -- even by the researchers who did the studies. The professor who did the New Zealand study, for instance, told the New Zealand Herald: "These are not huge increases in risk and nor should they be, because cannabis is by no means the only thing that will determine if you suffer these symptoms."

And Professor Jim van Os, co-author of the Dutch study, told the Guardian newspaper that his finding that cannabis could trigger psychosis in a small minority of people was a good reason to legalize the drug, not ban it. If cannabis were legal, van Os said, the government could more effectively provide advice and information and control higher-potency varieties such as the dreaded "skunk."

Cannabis was downgraded in January 2004 on the recommendation of the same Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that is now being asked to reconsider. While marijuana was "unquestionably harmful," the panel found, it was much less so than other Class B drugs. But British police and politicians have complained in recent months that reclassification is causing "confusion" among Britons, some of whom now believe the drug is legal, as well as leading to open pot-smoking in some areas.

The election season move was criticized by the non-profit drug think-tank DrugScope, whose director, Martin Barnes, diplomatically called it "surprising." While DrugScope supported the constant monitoring of drug classifications and reviews of new evidence, said Barnes in a statement, "when the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommended reclassification, it fully considered the evidence that cannabis can trigger mental health problems. It is surprising that the government is asking for a review so soon after reclassification. Available evidence suggests that cannabis usage amongst young people has remained stable since reclassification, and has even fallen amongst 11-15 year olds," said Barnes. "The latest research on the potency of European cannabis concluded that claims for soaring THC levels were exaggerated and not substantiated."

The bottom line for DrugScope was that the current classification of cannabis is appropriate. "There are obvious concerns about the links between cannabis and mental health," Barnes noted. "Cannabis is not a harmless drug, but classification reflects relative harms."

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3. Medical Marijuana Bills Fail in Illinois, New Mexico

Drug reformers and patient advocates started 2005 with high hopes of seeing more states jump on the medical marijuana bandwagon. They will now have to look somewhere beside Illinois and New Mexico to gain a legislative victory this year. In both states, advocates' initial optimism turned to gloom as they saw carefully crafted efforts fail in the face of political intransigence at the state house. In New Mexico, the loss was especially bitter, since the medical marijuana bill there had passed one chamber and was supported by Gov. Bill Richardson (D), but died as a result of unrelated maneuvers as the session came to a close.

In Illinois, a joint effort by the Marijuana Policy Project and the in-state group Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform (IDEAL), backed by an impressive array of state medical groups, came up against a concerted counter-attack by prohibitionists led by former deputy drug czar Andrea Barthwell, an Illinois resident, and was bushwhacked by a surprise blitzkrieg appearance by a heavily-guarded drug czar John Walters at a committee hearing last month. After Walters' appearance, the bill failed in committee on a 7-4 vote.

Reformers had one last chance at a new vote early this month, but on March 9, the last day to pass bills out of committee in the Illinois House, the bill lost again on a 6-5 vote. With committee Republicans voting in a bloc against the bill, two Democratic defectors, Reps. Naomi Jakobsson (Champaign) and Michelle Chavez (Cicero) provided the margin of defeat.

House Bill 407, the Illinois Medical Cannabis Act, was introduced by Chicago Democrat Rep. Larry McKeon, an HIV sufferer, and would have allowed people with debilitating diseases such as cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain to legally possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana and up to 12 cannabis plants. Patients would have had to register with the Illinois Department of Health to obtain an ID card that would exempt them from arrest and prosecution. The bill would have also allowed for designated caregivers to grow marijuana for patients who are unable to do so.

The defeat in New Mexico was even more difficult for reformers, patients, and supporters to swallow. In the Land of Enchantment, medical marijuana legislation had passed the Senate and gained the public support of Gov. Richardson, who promised to sign the bill, only to be killed by legislators who held the bill hostage for reasons unrelated to medical marijuana.

While House Speaker Ben Lujan (D-Nambe) imposed the death penalty on the bill -- blocking a last-minute attempt to hear it by saying, "This is a very controversial item. We probably need a three-hour debate" -- it was maneuvers by Reps. Dan Silva (D-Albuquerque) and Henry "Kiki" Saavedra (D-Albuquerque) that sealed the bill's fate. Silva told New Mexico reporters last week he was holding SB 795, the medical marijuana bill, hostage until Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Cisco McSorley held hearings on a Silva bill dealing with environmental impact fees on developers in the state's largest city.

McSorley (D-Albuquerque) was the sponsor of the medical marijuana bill. In his effort to force McSorley to hear his pet bill, Silva effectively derailed the popular medical marijuana bill. Rep. Saavedra, who was supposed to be championing the medical marijuana bill in the House, allied himself with Silva and against medical marijuana patients by asking that the bill he was carrying be passed over. Thus, while SB 795 sat on the House calendar awaiting a vote all of last week, the session ended with the bill poised to pass, but legislators never got the chance to vote.

Medical marijuana patients in New Mexico were less than impressed with the legislative maneuvers. "We had such strong support for this in Santa Fe; that's why it was shocking to see the garbage that went on in the House," said AIDS patient and medical marijuana user Essie DeBonet of Albuquerque. "I have never witnessed such blatant disrespect and lack of concern for patients than I saw there last week," she told DRCNet.

DeBonet has been a staunch supporter of the bill, testifying repeatedly and persuasively before legislative bodies and at press conferences. "For me, this is truly a matter of life and death," said the 60-year-old. "Before turning to medical marijuana I was down to 80 pounds and literally dying," she explained, adding that the herb counteracts the nausea-inducing side effects of her AIDS medications. "My gastrointestinal tract is most likely permanently damaged. It takes 5 ½ hours for me stomach to empty. I don't even know what it feels like to feel normal anymore," she said.

"This defeat was incredibly disappointing," said Reena Szczepanski, director of the New Mexico office of Drug Policy Alliance, which led the fight for the bill. "We had the votes and the bill would have passed, if they just heard it. For all of us -- staff, patients, and advocates -- it has been devastating to see first-hand how ugly politics can be and to see this bill held hostage over something about land development," she told DRCNet. "When it became evident that the bill was stuck, we pulled out all the stops, from the grass roots to the grass tops, but we couldn't get anyone to budge. This is really devastating."

All the more so because on this, the fourth attempt since the days of drug reforming Republican Gov. Gary Johnson, the effort finally appeared ready to bear fruit. "None of these moves that killed our bill had anything to do with sick people," said Szczepanski. "It was about this unrelated political deadlock; that's the heartbreaking part. Those politicians decided that the environmental impact bill was more important than the lives of sick and dying New Mexicans," she said.

Making lemonade out of lemons, Szczepanski found consolation in the fact that while the bill did not pass, understanding of the issue appeared broad. "Finally, people really understood this was about patients, about helping the seriously ill. This is not a defeat where people don't understand what happened. It was clear this bill had broad support, and the public understands exactly what happened. Reps. Silva and Saavedra are already being held accountable by the public and the press."

Neither the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance nor the state's medical marijuana patients are walking away from the struggle. Under New Mexico's constitution, the legislature meets in full 60-day session every two years. On off-years, the legislature has a 30-day session where only the governor can introduce bills. Szczepanski and patients will ask the governor to put his money where his mouth is, she said. "We are going to work on the governor and make him realize that not putting this bill on the agenda for the 2006 session will have a negative impact on him. We will definitely be back," she said. "We have to ensure that the bill gets on the governor's agenda. It has a really, really good chance of passing if we can only get it to a vote."

For medical marijuana patient DeBonet, the defeat in the House means she is only redoubling her efforts. "I'm calling everybody I know and telling them to call the governor's office. He is being swamped with phone calls," she said. "He says he was upset the bill wasn't voted on. If he's so upset he can call a special session or put it on the agenda for next year. But waiting another year is not a good choice. I have to spend the next year choosing whether to live or break the law."

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4. Special to DRCNet: Steroids, Sluggers, and the War on Drugs

Commentary by University of Texas drugs and sports expert John Hoberman, author of "Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping" (2005, University of California Press)

Last week's US congressional hearings on steroids in baseball should be seen as the dying gasp of a failed exercise in social engineering. The idea that America's national pastime can help to remedy our social ills acquired its credibility back in the 1940s and 1950s, when Major League Baseball (MLB) finally allowed black athletes to integrate the country's most celebrated sports venues. This highly publicized experiment in race relations, starring the charismatic Jackie Robinson, convinced many people that shaping behavior in the sports world could produce larger social effects. Ordinary people would emulate their heroes, and these role models would help American society to leave its racist past behind.

The brouhaha set off by Jose Canseco's book may be a failed experiment's last gasp.
While there is a broad consensus that the heroism of Jackie Robinson did teach Americans something important about race relations, the usefulness of today's elite athletes as edifying role models is greatly overestimated.

Over the past year the Bush administration, and now the Congress, have resolved to apply another sports-based strategy to the War on Drugs, a favorite project of the Republican Party ever since Richard Nixon launched his campaign against marijuana in 1969. The launching pad for the anti-steroid initiative was the Balco "designer steroid" scandal that erupted in October 2003. Four months later, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced federal indictments against four men alleged to have distributed illegal steroids. In a single stroke the federal government had annexed the anti-steroid campaign and assigned it a starring role as the latest version of a War on Drugs that already enjoyed the status of a sacrosanct social policy.

The untouchable status of the anti-"drugs" campaign in the United States was already evident when the House Government Reform Committee issued its invitations, backed by the threat of subpoenas, to MLB players and executives. Despite the bitter ideological warfare between the major parties that has virtually paralyzed the Congress, here was a committee leadership that had risen above the political fray. When it came to the war against steroids, bipartisanship was alive and well. With Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) on the right and Henry Waxman (D-CA) representing the left, the entire nation was poised to confront this latest manifestation of the pharmacological Axis of Evil that sprouts as many heads as Medusa herself.

Summoned to this crusade, Major League Baseball executives found themselves caught in a painful dilemma that produced two contradictory responses. On the one hand, they had no choice but to swear allegiance to the effort to protect American youth from the medical hazards of these drugs. Using language that bordered on the hysterical, Commissioner Bud Selig dutifully castigated anabolic steroids as "horrible substances," thereby ignoring the perfectly legitimate medical roles these drugs have played over the past 65 years. Likeminded sportswriters fed this misguided crusade. One USA TODAY writer called steroids "the bubonic plague of baseball, a pestilence," as if the Black Death had returned to wreak the horrors of the 14th century upon the children of the 21st.

But verbal compliance with the government's anti-steroid campaign was not enough to satisfy the members of Congress who had seized upon the drugs-in-baseball scandal as a platform to promote the cause of steroid-free children. After six years of stonewalling and evading the steroids issue, the MLB leadership had squandered whatever credibility on the drugs issue they had once had. The drug-testing program that went into effect in 2003 had been widely (and correctly) disparaged as ineffectual. The revised plan that would eventually face the televised scrutiny of Congress on March 17 was not much better. As damaging revelations about players' steroid use continued throughout 2004, some politicians lost their patience and resolved to impose their will on a branch of the professional sports industry that had worn out its welcome in the halls of Congress.

Confronting a House committee that threatened to impose its will on the baseball industry, MLB executives and the players' union had good reason to view the March 17 hearing with trepidation. Leading the industry's public resistance to political intervention was Stanley Brand, an attorney whose ringing defense of personal autonomy made him sound like an emissary from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Brand challenged the committee's jurisdiction, charging that it was involved in "an excessive and unprecedented misuse of congressional power." He likened its intrusion into baseball's self-regulatory activity to the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee of the 1940s and 1950s, which "destroyed people's lives." Most ingeniously, and invoking the language of a classic Supreme Court decision on obscenity, he denounced those members of Congress who were bent on satisfying "their prurient interest" in which celebrity ballplayers might have been taking illegal drugs.

While baseball's challenge to congressional tyranny left much to be desired in terms of the motives and ethical stature of those who had launched it, their resistance did have the salutary effect of catalyzing the resistance of other critics of governmental hubris. The conservative National Review, for example, declared that: "Congressional hearings are not for shaming people randomly without any possible legislative purpose." Another conservative, the columnist George Will, described Republican politicians bent on driving drugs out of baseball as conservatives who had "gone native" in Washington. Such hygienic meddling was, he suggested, better suited to the paternalistic welfare mentality of the liberals.

But what, in fact, did the baseball executives really have to fear from the House Government Reform Committee? Stanley Brand had detected an unwholesome, Joe McCarthy-style appetite for "subpoenaing players and officials for unwelcome, pointed questions." What actually transpired before the television cameras was far less ominous than what Brand and some others had anticipated. The MLB leadership heard what they had already heard before, that their program was inadequate and that a failure to institute more rigorous testing would lead to congressional intervention. If the committee thought they could force Bud Selig's team to mend its ways in the course of this hearing, they were mistaken.

The committee's soft treatment of the players, by contrast, befitted a group of witnesses who came off as mentally underdeveloped and painfully lacking in the maturity one expects of responsible adults. The glib Curt Schilling, cast in the role of teacher's pet, said he had exaggerated steroid use in the past. Rafael Palmeiro, matinee idol handsome, said all the right things about drug use in a tone so wooden and formulaic he sounded like a marionette. Sammy Sosa, cowed and inarticulate, projected a childlike vulnerability. Jose Canseco, the unstable celebrity author, betrayed his own book by claiming he had now converted to the politically correct line on steroids. Again and again, these big men parroted each other like schoolboys copying the answers to a test.

But of all these characters only Mark McGwire managed to disgrace himself in front of the nation that had once made the mistake of idolizing him. His craven refusal to take responsibility for his own past conduct left him diminished in a way one could hardly have imagined. One can only hope that his legion of admirers will now reexamine the proposition that the ability to hit the stuffing out of a baseball confers heroic stature on those who can do it.

Yet it is precisely this sort of primitive thinking that underlies the congressional campaign to enlist Major League Baseball in the War on Drugs. The idea that these athletes are indispensable "role models" for youth is the Unifying Theory of the anti-steroid crusade, invoked over and over again by politicians, doctors, and all of the other concerned adults who regard adolescent steroid abuse as a public health emergency. What this Unifying Theory implies is that our children are being held hostage by the world's most publicized athletes. If these celebrities don't clean up, our children are in peril. Alternative scenarios are conspicuously absent and even unwelcome.

Has it occurred to these social engineers that the athletes who cut such a sorry figure at last week's hearing represent an athletic population that is simply unfit for this role? Do they really believe that forcing abstinence from drugs on these public figures will cause young people to disregard the pharmaceutical propaganda that has become a ubiquitous presence in our media universe? Indeed, it has become painfully obvious in recent years that prying drugs out of the hands of elite athletes around the world requires a major policing operation that faces daunting odds. Do those in charge of anti-doping campaigns really think that these reluctant role models will inspire children to lead "drug-free" lives?

Survey data show that the last dozen years of the anti-doping campaign have coincided with a decrease in the number of American high-school seniors who regard steroids as dangerous. Most French children already believe that performance-enhancing drugs are the norm for high-performance athletes. Given the enduring popularity of the drug-soaked Tour de France, that is hardly surprising. In short, the idea that coercing elite athletes to serve as "drug-free" role models will protect children from the consequences of the larger pharmacological culture that surrounds us in an illusion.

The second mistaken assumption of the anti-doping campaign is that "the public" is demanding an end to athletic doping. Politicians who address the voters as anti-doping activists either assume or pretend they are addressing a population that is up in arms about athletic doping.

Survey data and stadium attendance figures show, however, that "the public" responds to doping scandals in various ways. Large majorities usually tell opinion surveys they want drugs out of sport. Yet one-third of American adults 30 or older told a New York Times poll in December 2003 they do not object to medically supervised doping by professional athletes. The comparable figure for younger Americans between 18 and 29 was even higher. According to this poll, every seventh American is really bothered when professionals use doping drugs.

"The public" can also vote with its feet and its spending power. Awash in "bad" publicity about their steroid-boosted sluggers, professional baseball is watching attendance figures go through the roof. Those who observed the 1998 Tour de France doping scandal may recall that the Festina corporation sold more watches after their riders had been disgraced than they did before all the trouble began. Where is the anti-doping politician with the courage to lecture the voters on their shameful toleration of drug-assisted athletes?

It is time to admit that the traditional arrangement that presents elite athletes as drug-free "role models" is dying before our eyes. As traditional distinctions between "therapy" and "enhancement" evaporate, what we call "doping" becomes more difficult to define, and athletes become more rather than less identified with the various technologies that can enhance their performances. It is most unlikely that these performers will ever consent to serve as the last pharmacological virgins of the modern era.

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5. DRCNet Book Review: Sports, Sex, Eternal Youth: A Cultural History of Testosterone

"Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping," by John Hoberman, University of California Press, 2005, 381 pp., $24.95 PB

Reviewed by Steve Beitler

From the bedroom to the boardroom, from Olympic stadiums to the neighborhood YMCA, and in countless unseen pockets of everyday life, it is all about performance. Most of us have long since internalized the American creed of self-improvement; it's only natural to strive to do more and do it all better. In sports we want faster times and longer home runs from great athletes, who show that it is possible to transcend normality, mediocrity and perhaps the bounds of nature itself.

John Hoberman's "Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping" is a powerful rumination on the history and meaning of the quest for athletic excellence and eternal youth. Hoberman, who teaches at the University of Texas in Austin, is a leading scholar of the history of performance enhancement in sports. He describes "Testosterone Dreams" as "a medical and social history of synthetic testosterone and the ...steroids that are modified versions of the testosterone molecule." With baseball superstars and members of Congress now having endured elaborately staged hearings on steroids in that sport, Hoberman has hit a home run in terms of timeliness. His book also sets a high standard in its analysis of the complex overlays of performance enhancement and medical therapy as well as the deepening connections between the war on drugs and the effort to make elite sports drug-free.

Testosterone was first synthesized in 1935, and it quickly began a career as a "charismatic" drug. "Pharmacological charisma means that public discussion of a drug takes for granted its power to significantly enhance the functioning of most people," Hoberman writes. He shows how testosterone has been "regarded as a rejuvenating drug, as a sexually stimulating drug, and as a doping drug that builds muscle and boosts athletic performance," and the book explores the history of each of these roles. Hoberman's purpose is to "illuminate the important and sometimes bizarre roles that testosterone drugs have assumed in clinical medicine and in the wider world of diverse personal needs and ambitions that range far beyond the therapeutic aims of the clinic."

Hoberman focuses on the Olympics and elite cycling to show why performance-enhancing steroids are so prevalent and hard to root out. While the mainstream media relentlessly portray steroid use as individual deviance, Hoberman pierces this illusion in his discussion of the "mutual solidarity of the dopers and their medical counselors." Complicit as well are sports officials and federations. In the second half of the 20th century the International Olympic Committee (IOC) focused on building and then protecting the multi-billion dollar enterprise that the Olympics became. It ceded a lot of power to the federations that run different sports and to national Olympic committees, a decision that enabled the IOC to keep its distance from the realities of doping among Olympic athletes and to treat the issue primarily as a public relations matter.

The federations and their athletes were interested in dramatic competition and breakthrough performances, while national Olympic committees (and many others) were under the sway of what the author calls sportive nationalism -- "the use of elite athletes by governments or other national bodies to demonstrate national fitness and vitality for the purpose of enhancing national prestige." The ultimate expression of sportive nationalism was the massive use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in the 1970s and 1980s by East German athletes under the direction of their government.

In the summer of 1998, many Americans were enthralled by a now-suspect drama that was unfolding in major league baseball. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa pursued the record for most home runs in a season, which both sluggers ended up surpassing. At the same time, the Tour de France, cycling's showcase event, was unraveling in what Hoberman calls the greatest doping scandal of the 20th century. It may well have been the greatest but it was far from the first in cycling. Hoberman says that "long-distance cycling was the most consistently drug-soaked sport of the twentieth century," and his retelling of that sport's story is an incisive look at how the quest for extreme performance has led to extreme self-medication.

Hoberman ranges beyond the Olympics and cycling to link drugs in sports with broader patterns of drug use and the attempts to control both. "Athletic doping is comparable in important ways to the use of drugs in the larger society," he says, and he believes that "drug habits that do not appear to threaten the social and political equilibrium of a society will only be lightly regulated." For Hoberman the manic fury of the drug war is rooted in the belief that drug use is a dire challenge to the productivity and efficiency that are essential to America's prosperity and survival, with marijuana the signature threat to "the morale of a society that must produce and consume to survive." However, Hoberman notes that, given this emphasis on productivity, it is "only a deeply irrational view of drug abuse" that makes alcohol and nicotine acceptable while "recreational drugs that do far less damage to health and workplace productivity" are demonized.

"Testosterone Dreams" is an ambitious and deeply informed analysis of issues that are growing in importance to the drug policy reform movement. The book ranges far beyond sound bites on steroids to shed light on little-known events and complex historical patterns. Hoberman's book asks a lot of the reader as it moves among the history of medicine, sports and the study of sex in America. Drug reformers and other readers will be richly rewarded with a fresh appreciation for connections and historical origins that today's headlines often obscure. In "Testosterone Dreams," John Hoberman gives a great performance.

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6. DRCNet Letter to Judge Wexler on Upcoming Hurwitz Sentencing Hearing

click here for PDF version

The Honorable Judge Leonard D. Wexler
United States District Court
Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division
401 Courthouse Square
Alexandria, VA 22314

Re: United States v. William Eliot Hurwitz, 03-CR-467-ALL (LDW)

Dear Judge Wexler:

I am writing to express concern about comments made by Ralph Craft, foreman of the Hurwitz case jury, which appeared in the December 21, 2004 edition of The Washington Post. Mr. Craft's remarks indicate the jurors fundamentally misconstrued both the legal and medical issues involved in the case. I have observed the pain issue and worked with pain patients, physicians and their advocates for ten years and am well versed in the issue.

Mr. Craft told the Post, "the legitimate doctors out there don't prescribe anywhere close to what Hurwitz did." However, the dosage which according to the Post "astounded" Craft, 1,600 5 mg oxycodone pills, adds up to 8 grams daily, of a medication equivalent in its potency to morphine. According to Dr. Russell Portenoy, Chairman of the Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care at Beth Israel Medical Center, "[i]n clinical practice, the range of opioid doses required by patients is enormous" and "[d]oses equivalent to more than 35 g morphine per day have been reported in highly tolerant patients..." (1) The 35 grams Dr. Portenoy, one of the world's leading pain specialists, finds appropriate in some cases, is more than 4 times the dosage Mr. Craft and presumably other jurors believed was impossibly large -- a serious misconception that appears to have played a major role in the convictions.

Mr. Craft also told the Post that Dr. Hurwitz "wasn't running a criminal enterprise." However, the charges of which he and other jurors voted to convict Dr. Hurwitz are clearly intended to apply to persons involved in major criminal enterprises. That Mr. Craft and perhaps other jurors could understand that Dr. Hurwitz did not run a criminal enterprise, and yet convict him for running a criminal enterprise, suggests they were either unable, unwilling, or inadequately prepared to properly interpret the charges on which they were deciding.

Given the multiple, fundamental errors made by jurors, I believe your legal and moral obligation is to reverse the convictions and release Dr. Hurwitz immediately. Short of that, I urge you at least to use the discretion afforded by the recent Booker/Fan Fan Supreme Court ruling to sentence reasonably, and sentence Dr. Hurwitz to time served when he appears before you next month. Since the jurors themselves did not believe Dr. Hurwitz ran a criminal enterprise, it would be unreasonable to hand down a sentence Congress intended for leaders of criminal enterprises.

Thank you for taking my points into consideration. I will be attending the April 14 sentencing hearing in support of Dr. Hurwitz, pain patients, and all enlightened physicians who wish to treat them. I believe this is a matter of the utmost moral gravity and that history will watch and remember the actions you take that day.


David Borden
Executive Director

1. Lowinson, Joyce H. et al, Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook ed. 3 (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, January 1997), p. 573.

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7. Please Help Students Losing Financial Aid for College Because of Drug Convictions Get Their Aid Back -- Alerts Online for the House, Senate, and Arizona and Rhode Island Legislatures

On March 9, members of Congress introduced H.R. 1148, a bill to repeal the Drug Provision of the Higher Education Act, with the largest number of starting sponsors (56) that the bill has yet had. If you are a US voter, then your help is needed to build on this momentum to get this bill passed.

Click here to ask your US Representative to cosponsor H.R. 1148. Even if you don't think your Rep. would support this bill, it's still important to write -- it could make the difference in how much opposition we face when the legislation comes up for a vote.

Click here to write your Senators asking them to introduce and support equivalent legislation in the Senate.

If you live in Rhode Island, click here to ask your state legislators to support legislation just introduced (at our suggestion) that would have the state make up for federal aid lost by Rhode Island residents because of the drug provision and put the state legislature on record calling on Congress to repeal the drug provision.

If you live in Arizona, click here to ask your state legislators to support legislation (also introduced at our suggestion) to put the state legislature on record calling on Congress to repeal the drug provision.

Thank you for taking action! You can also read about our two big events this month on this issue -- a Wednesday, March 9 fundraiser to provide to scholarships for students affected by the drug provision, featuring US Rep. John Conyers and former drug war prisoner Kemba Smith; and a Thursday morning, March 10 press conference in the Capitol with seven members of Congress and other advocates announcing the introduction of H.R. 1148 -- click here to read the Drug War Chronicle report about both events. Video footage and pictures from the events are now online as well, formatted for Windows Media Player -- visit or go straight to the Wednesday night pics or the Thursday morning pics. Finally, please consider making a generous donation to support this accelerating campaign.

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8. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another mixed bag this week, with a crooked 911 dispatcher, another former prosecutor gone downhill, and a group of notorious Oakland police facing justice -- again. Let's get to it:

In Parkersburg, West Virginia, 911 dispatcher Jonathan King, 29, was arrested March 18 on charges he passed along sensitive law enforcement information to a suspected drug trafficker, TV station WTAP reported. He is charged with obstructing an officer during the course of a narcotics investigation. Police would not reveal more about what information King allegedly forwarded to the drug suspect, saying it would interfere with an active drug investigation. But police said King's actions could have placed police in harm's way. Police said that the subject of the investigation was an old school friend of King's and that they had no evidence he had none similar things in the past. He is out of jail on a $2,500 bond pending trial.

In Macon, Missouri, former Macon County District Attorney David Masters was found murdered last week. Three drug users with whom he was associating are charged in his death by cocaine overdose. According to police, the trio, who shared Masters' home, tied him up and injected him with a lethal dose of cocaine because he owed rent money and had made a pass at one of them. According to court documents, when one of the trio pulled a gun on Masters, he said he would rather die from a drug overdose. A hard-nosed prosecutor until he lost re-election in 1998, Masters apparently fell apart after that. His daughter told the Associated Press Masters had separated from his wife, abandoned his law clients, and surrounded himself with drug users, but no one will say out loud that he had himself was using drugs. Citing no direct source, the AP said, "Masters fell in with the wrong crowd, by many accounts sinking into a subculture of drugs and depression."

And in Oakland, California, a pack of predatory Oakland police who styled themselves the Riders are in the news again. The group of four cops, Clarence "Chuck" Mabanag, Jude Siapno, Matthew Hornung, and Frank Vasquez, are on trial on 15 felony counts, from conspiracy to obstruct justice for filing false reports, to assault, kidnapping, and false imprisonment in a reign of terror in West Oakland in 2000. According to prosecution witnesses, the group brutalized suspected drug offenders, planted drugs, and ran roughshod over the law as well as area residents. All four were fired by the Oakland Police Department in 2000 and tried in an eight-month trial in 2003. At that trial, jurors acquitted them on eight charges and remained deadlocked on 27 more. The second trial, which has lasted five months, is now coming to an end. Prosecutors gave their closing arguments this week. While all four Riders are on trial, Vasquez is being tried in absentia. He fled in 2000 and is presumed to be in Mexico.

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9. Corrupt Cops Stories on the Air

DRCNet's "This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories" with Phil Smith are now available on the airwaves. Visit Dean Becker's Drug Truth Network to check them out, or go straight to the latest installment. And be sure to click on the "affiliates" link to see if Drug Truth Radio including DRCNet's Corrupt Cops Stories can be heard on the air in your city.

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10. 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. Visit NORML for further information.

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. Visit DPA for the details.

And 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. Click here to learn more.

There are many local events coming up around the country -- see our Reformer's Calendar to learn more -- New York, Princeton, Iowa, Lima, Sacramento -- 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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11. Newsbrief: DC Judge Cleared in Jail Death of Paralyzed Marijuana User

A ten-day jail sentence for marijuana possession turned into a death sentence for a quadriplegic suburban Washington, DC, man last fall when 27-year-old Jonathan Magbie died at the DC Jail last September 24 after authorities there and at a DC hospital failed to provide proper medical attention. DC Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin, who handed down the unusually harsh sentence -- most minor pot possessors never see the inside of the jail -- was the object of especially harsh criticism from Magbie's family and supporters, but she has now been cleared of any wrongdoing by a DC judicial commission.

Retchin made only a "limited and uninformed" inquiry about Magbie's medical requirements before delivering the wheelchair-bound man over to the tender mercies of the DC Jail, the Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure concluded March 17. But the report cleared her of misconduct, concluding that she acted within the law by making an effort -- no matter how feeble -- to ensure that the jail could provide for Magbie's medical needs.

The fault lay not with humans but with "failures of communication among the participants in this tragic sequence of events," the report concluded. According to the commission, communications between Retchin's staff and DC jail personnel failed to clarify that Magbie was to serve his sentence at the jail and was not a felony offender set to be sent to federal prison.

An earlier investigation of Greater Southeast Community Hospital by the DC Department of Health faulted the hospital for failing to provide adequate care after he was sent there from the jail. A DC Office of the Inspector General investigation of the actions of jail staff is pending.

While most simple marijuana possession offenders in DC receive probation, Judge Retchin said she ordered the jail sentence after Magbie told court investigators he would continue to smoke marijuana for health reasons and because a gun was found in the vehicle in which he was arrested. According to Retchin, who was interviewed for the report, if she had known about Magbie's medical needs, especially access to a ventilator while he slept, she would have selected "a period of home confinement, rather than a jail term, which would have far better served her sentencing objective," the report said, paraphrasing the judge.

Instead, Magbie and his motorized wheelchair were taken to the DC Jail. He was hospitalized during his first day there, then returned to the jail, then hospitalized again before dying half-way through his sentence.

In demonstrations outside the courthouse in the days after his death, Magbie's mother, Mary Scott bitterly criticized Retchin, a former prosecutor, calling her a murderer and demanding she be removed from the bench. Talking to a Washington Post reporter after the judge was cleared, Scott remained unmollified. "If she wanted to know if they could accommodate him, she should have tried to find out what his needs were," Scott said. "How can you say someone's going to take care of you if you don't know what they need?"

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12. Newsbrief: Michigan Nightclub Rave Raid Nets 118, Many Charged Only with Frequenting a "Drug House"

Dozens of Michigan police raided the Flint nightspot Club What's Next late Saturday night, arresting 118 club goers. Of those arrests, only 17 were for felony drug charges, the Flint Journal reported, while the rest were charged with misdemeanor drug possession or "frequenting a drug house." No breakdown of the numbers arrested on the latter charges was available.

Police said they raided the club after undercover officers made multiple drug purchases on the premises that evening. (Later reports clarified that the "multiple" drug purchases were actually a total of three.) They said they seized GHB, ketamine, Ecstasy, LSD, and psilocybin mushrooms, along with marijuana, cocaine, and "rave paraphernalia." They also seized some $3,500 in cash, according to Flint Police Lt. Phil Smith. Some 60 police from the Flint Special Operations Bureau, the Crime Area Target Team, the Flint Area Narcotics Group, and the Genesee County Sheriff's Posse participated in the raid.

The mass arrests of innocent club goers would appear to parallel the Racine, Wisconsin, rave bust of November 2003. In that incident, Racine police arrested more than 400 club goers, charged them with "inhabiting a disorderly house" and sought whopping $968 fines. But in the face of outrage from ravers and civil libertarians alike, the city ended up dropping all charges a few weeks later in return for a pledge from the Wisconsin ACLU not to sue.

No word yet on whether the Flint 118 will similarly go on the offensive against overreaching law enforcement. Stay tuned.

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13. Newsbrief: From Exile, Kubby Challenges Search Warrant in Case That Caused Him to Flee United States

California medical marijuana activist and former Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate Steve Kubby fled for his life from California in early 2001 after being convicted of drug law convictions in Placer County, California. To serve time in California jails, where he would not be able to receive medical marijuana, would amount to a virtual death sentence, Kubby has said. He suffers from a rare form of adrenal cancer.

With Canadian authorities having so far rejected all efforts by Kubby and his family to stay in Canada, he has now filed a California motion seeking to overturn his conviction. The motion accuses Placer County of fraudulently obtaining the search warrant that led to his conviction and lying about it in court. A hearing for the motion is set for next Monday, March 28, in Placer County Superior Court in North Auburn.

According to the motion, the North Tahoe Narcotics Task Force began investigating Kubby and his wife after they were denounced in an anonymous letter sent to authorities during his 1998 campaign run. The task force obtained a search warrant for the Kubby home after telling a judge that the DEA had identified visiting journalist Pete Brady of Cannabis Culture magazine as a Jamaican drug smuggler. According to a brief filed by Kubby's attorney, Bill McPike, Brady subsequently attempted to acquire the DEA report of his supposed arrest, but was informed by the agency that no such file existed.

Placer county authorities "willfully and knowingly misled the Magistrate" when they testified about alleged statements from the DEA and FBI, wrote McPike in the brief. The motion also accuses Placer County authorities of failing to provide exculpatory evidence regarding Brady's non-existent Jamaican drug smuggling arrest.

"Unless they can produce the report, then a fraud was committed on the court in order to obtain a search warrant," Kubby said Monday.

Kubby was convicted in December 2000 of possessing old, dried up psilocybin mushrooms and peyote buds. That conviction came after jurors split 11-1 to acquit him on marijuana charges and the presiding judge declared a mistrial. Kubby and his family moved to British Columbia in 2001, but have failed to obtain refugee status. They have appealed in Canadian federal court, but could be deported if they lose. Kubby has also lost an appeal of his conviction in the California appellate courts.

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14. Newsbrief: Britain's Top TV Cop Says Legalize Heroin

While British politicians are busy wringing their hands over marijuana as parliamentary elections loom, actor Alex Norton has other drugs on his mind. Norton, who, as DCI Matt Burke in the police drama "Taggart" is Britain's most famous TV policeman, spoke out this week about heroin. In a move whose cultural significance would be akin to "The Untouchables" star Robert Stack bemoaning the idiocy of alcohol prohibition or "NYPD Blue's" star Dennis Franz (who plays Andy Sipowicz) coming out in favor of crack cocaine, Norton has called for the legalization of heroin.

Alex Norton's "Taggart" character, Matt Burke
In remarks reported in the London Daily Record Monday, Norton said creating a regulated supply of prescription heroin would cut street crime. Norton, his family, and friends have been victimized by burglaries, car break-ins, and robberies, the 55-year-old actor said. "I don't think it takes a genius to work out the connection between drugs and street crime," Norton said. "Addicts will do anything to get their money. I think you have to try registering drug addicts and give them their fix and actually control it. It is like Prohibition in the States in the 1920s. That was what created all the alcohol barons."

It is long past time for politicians to try a new direction in the war on drugs, he added. "Every time you pick up a newspaper, it's about the war on drugs but we're not winning. Have they not realized that yet? Clearly, whatever is being done now is not working. We've got to try something radical because it is completely out of control."

The situation has only worsened in past decades, said the Scottish born actor, who moved to London in the 1970s. "Things were bad when I left Glasgow, when there were a lot of gangs and knifings," he said. "Now, I am afraid to pick up the newspapers in Scotland. There certainly seems to be more knife crime and the drugs problem didn't use to be anything like it is now. When we are out filming, you see a lot of desperate looking people, bombed out of their heads, who just seem to have no hope. You despair and think, 'What can be done for these people?'"

Prohibitionists promptly attacked the outspoken actor. "Alex Norton should stick to acting," said Alastair Ramsay of Scotland Against Drugs, who brought up the government's move to reconsider reclassification of cannabis. "The fact the Government has just announced a review of the reclassification of cannabis because of its potential for mental health problems really does take the debate into a new field," Ramsay told the Daily Record. "The remarks illustrate a lack of understanding of the way drugs -- particularly heroin -- impact on lives. This does not help people who have heroin problems."

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15. Newsbrief: Marijuana Crops Defended in Fiji Senate Hearing

While pot production in the South Pacific island nation of Fiji may not be a big deal in the global scheme of things -- neither the US State Department nor the International Narcotics Control Board even mentions Fijian marijuana cultivation -- it remains a controversial topic at home. As DRCNet has previously noted, police and marijuana farmers in the Navosa highlands clashed last fall during eradication campaigns, and the topic has led to much public hand-wringing by politicians since then.

Now, the Fiji Times reported, a Fijian senate ad-hoc committee on drugs and vice has held a public hearing on pot growing in the heart of the Navosa region, and they got an earful from local residents. Marijuana cultivation is traditional and should be excused, villagers told the committee chaired by Sen. Viliame Navoka. People grow marijuana for understandable reasons, villagers said, and by the end of the day it sounded like they had convinced Navoka.

"For generations the villagers of Navosa have had to travel down mountainous and rugged terrains to reach a road and a few hours more before they can get to the market to sell their produce," Navoka said. "Some have to cross rivers with water up to tire-level and, by the time they reach the market, there is no guarantee their produce will all be sold. They are still facing the same economic hardships their ancestors faced years ago. Some of them said that is why they have no choice but to resort to marijuana growing. The product is lighter, it has a steady market and is economically viable," he said.

Navoka added that the committee was "impressed" with some of the large homes and furniture apparently purchased with pot profits, but that villagers were concerned about the impact of marijuana use on the youth, "most of whom had become too lazy to farm." Villagers blamed modern human rights law for making it difficult to enforce traditional customs frowning on such activities. "The villagers emphasized that illegal drugs and social problems could be controlled through the strict observance and preservation of the Fijian culture and tradition," Navoka noted.

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16. Newsbrief: Afghan Anti-Opium Drive Causes Prices to Rise, Makes New Planting More Attractive, UN Head Annan Says

The effort to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan, strongly backed by the United States and the United Nations, is threatened by its own success, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday. Addressing an international conference on Afghan opium meeting in Pakistan this week, Annan said that while last year's huge harvest drove prices down and discouraged farmers from planting this year, a tightening of the market because of eradication efforts this year has caused a near doubling of the farm-gate price for opium since October, from $100 a kilo then to $180 a kilo now.

Farmers could return to growing opium "if active intervention on law enforcement, coupled with effective alternative livelihoods assistance is not provided on an urgent basis," Annan warned according to Reuters coverage of the conference.

The opium trade is a mainstay of the Afghan economy, accounting for 60% of the country's gross domestic product. Roughly 10% of all Afghans -- some 350,000 families -- make a living directly from growing poppies, while hundreds of thousands more make a living indirectly from the trade, which, according to the UN, accounted for 87% of illicit opium grown worldwide last year.

Rapid eradication of the opium crop, said Annan, could have "dire consequences," given the extent of opium cultivation, its economic importance to the country, and the fact that many farmers have taken advances on their 2005 crops and would be left with huge debts if their crops were destroyed.

The US government has budgeted more than $700 million to do just that, with Britain kicking in $100 million and seeking another $300 million from other countries.

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17. Newsbrief: At US Behest, Pakistan Clerics Vow Jihad Against Drugs

The Bush administration's faith-based initiatives bear fruit in the oddest places. Last month, DRCNet reported that DEA administrator Karen Tandy had urged Pakistani ulema (Muslim religious scholars) to issue a religious decree against drugs. At a meeting last weekend, ulema from all over the country's Northwest Frontier province took her up on the offer, the Pakistan Daily Times reported Saturday.

incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)
The call for jihad, or holy war, against drugs and drug trafficking came at a Peshawar seminar jointly hosted by the Pakistan Anti-Narcotics Forces (ANF) and the Narcotics Affairs Section of the US Embassy. Provincial chief minister Akram Durrani opened the session with a call on religious scholars to educate the faithful about the harmful effects of using and producing drugs. "I wrote to the Ulema to deliver sermons in mosques on the problem of narcotics. We all know that people listen to them," he said.

The move comes as Pakistan faces not only an onslaught of Afghan opium that transits the country on its way to Western markets but also a revival in opium growing in frontier areas bordering Afghanistan. Durrani took the opportunity of the weekend seminar to also warn farmers the government would strictly enforce the ban on opium production.

"I have gone in Jirga to poppy-growing areas to urge farmers not to grow poppies. Besides, our government was assisting the areas affected by the ban on poppy-cultivation by undertaking development projects there. I want to make it clear that growing of even a single plant of poppy would not be allowed," he said.

Area clerics, for their part, declared the war on drugs "a great jihad." Islam had banned intoxicants more than 1,400 years ago, the scholars noted, and thus Muslims should neither grow nor use narcotics. Drugs are not only bad for Muslims, they said, but for all mankind.

DEA administrator Tandy had called for just such a declaration during her visit to Pakistan last month. "Narcotics are against the teaching of the Holy Quran," she said in remarks carried on a Pakistani radio station. "Pakistani ulema should give fatwas against narcotics and support the anti-narcotic effort," she said.

While the declaration of jihad against drugs by provincial ulema should warm the hearts of US drug warriors, Pakistani calls to emulate the Taliban in this regard are probably going over less well. The former fundamentalist rulers of Afghanistan had achieved "zero-cultivation," noted Durrani. ANF chief Major General Nadim Ahmad also cited the Taliban example. "The Taliban took this step when they realized that opium poppies were not being used for medical purposes," he said. Ah, for more drug war allies like the Taliban!

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18. Media Scan: Becker-Posner Blog, Neal Peirce, URI on HEA, Tulia, Loretta Nall, Baker Institute on Needle Exchange, New Jersey Network on Medical Marijuana,

Becker-Posner blog on legalization: Becker and Posner

Neal Peirce discusses strategies for ending violence including legalization, in The News Journal, Wilmington, Delaware

Letter from Tulia in the Texas Observer, by Alan Bean

University of Rhode Island's "The Good Five Cent Cigar" newspaper ran two front page articles on the Higher Education Act drug provision yesterday: Legislation in House Would Repeal Drug Provision

Boston Globe on

Activist Loretta Nall writes about My Day in Court for

The New Jersey Network's "Due Process" will broadcast a medical marijuana debate on Sunday, 3/27 at 9:30am and 6:30pm, and Tuesday, 3/29 at 11:30pm EST.

William Martin of Houston's Baker Institute writes on Needle Exchange Programs: Sending the Right Message

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19. This Week in History

March 25, 1994: Rev. Accelynne Williams, a 75-year-old Methodist minister, dies of a heart attack during a no-knock raid by a Boston police SWAT team on the wrong apartment.

March 25, 2002: The Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approves H.B. 1222, the Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act, removing criminal penalties for medical use of marijuana.

March 26, 2002: The US Supreme Court rules unanimously that public housing tenants can be evicted for any illegal drug activity by household members or guests, even if it occurred without their knowledge.

March 27, 2001: Patricio Martinez Garcia, governor of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, tells the newspaper El Universal that he would support legalization of certain drugs to dilute the power of criminal groups that benefit from the black market.

March 28, 2002: Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan finds the Barr Amendment unconstitutional, allowing advocates to petition to put medical marijuana on the District of Columbia ballot. Another court later overturns the decision.

March 28, 2003: The Hemp Industries Association, several hemp food and cosmetic manufacturers and the Organic Consumers Association petition the federal Ninth Circuit Court to once again prevent the DEA from ending the legal sale of hemp seed and oil products in the US.

March 29, 2000: CNN reports that a multination drug sweep known as Operation Conquistador has netted 2,331 arrests, 4,966 kilograms of cocaine, 55.6 kilograms of heroin, and 362.5 metric tons of marijuana. The 17-day operation took place in Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Martin, British Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Aruba, Curacao, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

March 30, 1961: The UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is convened in New York City, the first of the three most important UN Drug Conventions requiring states to adopt penal measures against drugs in their domestic law.

March 30, 1992: Presidential candidate Bill Clinton says, "When I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale."

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20. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 30, 4:00-7:00pm, Oakland, CA, Americans for Safe Access new office reception. At 1322 Webster Ave. #208, call (510) 251-1856 or visit for further information.

March 31, 6:30pm, Chicago, IL, "Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: The Impact of US Policy," book discussion with staff of the Washington Office on Latin America. At the University of Chicago, International House Home Room, 1414 E. 59th St., contact Rachel Farley at (202) 797-2171 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 1, 3:30pm, Chicago, IL, "Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: The Impact of US Policy," book discussion featuring US Rep. Jan Schakowsky and staff of the Washington Office on Latin America. At The Gleacher Center, Lecture Hall 400, 450 Cityfront Plaza Dr., Chicago River, light refreshments will be served. For further information contact Rachel Farley at (202) 797-2171.

April 2, noon, Ann Arbor, MI, 34th Annual Ann Arbor Hash Bash, rally on the DIAG, followed by Monroe St. block party. 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 5, 4:30pm, Princeton, NJ, "The Drug War and You!", multimedia presentation by Anthony Papa of At Princeton University, contact Reona Kumagai at [email protected] for further information.

April 7, 7:30pm, Poughkeepsie, NY, "The Drug War and You!", multimedia presentation by Anthony Papa of At Vassar College, contact Harley Stokes at [email protected] 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 12, 6:00-8:00pm, Washington, DC, "Public Forum: An Evening with Honorees of the Keith Cylar Activist Awards for Domestic and Global AIDS Activism," sponsored by Housing Works, Drug Policy Alliance and National Association of People with AIDS. Hosted by the Public Welfare Foundation, at The True Reformer Building, Lankford Auditorium, 1200 U Street, NW, food provided by Ben's Chili Bowl. For further information contact Robert Cordero at Robert Cordero at (202) 408-0305.

April 19, 6:45-8:45pm, Washington, DC, "Harm Reduction 102: Dispelling Some of the Myths," free training at the Social Action Leadership School for Activists. At 733 15th Street, NW, Suite 1020, space limited, visit or call (202) 234-9382 for info or to register.

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 26, 6:45-8:45pm, Washington, DC, " Politics and Race: A Truly American Perspective," free training at the Social Action Leadership School for Activists (SALSA). At 733 15th Street, NW, Suite 1020, space limited, visit or call (202) 234-9382 for info or to register.

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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