(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)
Issue #381 -- 4/8/05
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Table of Contents
Medical marijuana continues to be a hot issue in state legislatures this year. While no bill has yet passed and bills have been killed in at least four states (Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota), medical marijuana bills are moving ahead in several states and just being introduced in others. While 10 states have enacted valid medical marijuana laws, only in Hawaii and Vermont have those laws come through the legislative process, and reformers are keen to pick up at least one or two more this year.
ALABAMA: A bill to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes was introduced March 31. Sponsored by Rep. Laura Hall (D-Madison) and three others, the Compassionate Use Act for Medical Marijuana would allow marijuana to be used to treat specified conditions, including AIDS, anorexia, and chronic pain, with a doctor's recommendation. The bill is currently awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
Alabama law currently makes no distinction between recreational and medical use, with anyone found guilty of possessing marijuana subject to a Class-A misdemeanor carrying a possible prison sentence.
The bill debuted at a Montgomery press conference last week that featured activists, patients, and lawmakers. "I believe this is a matter of choice for individuals with terminal illnesses and chronic pain who have more pain and medical challenges than most of us could ever imagine," said Hall.
"My parents said either I'm too stupid to be scared or I'm doing the right thing," said Laura Campbell, a medical marijuana patient who spoke about her own use of the herb and the need for medical patients to have legal access to it. "I've told the children that if the police show up, do not be disrespectful. Don't be ugly. They're doing their job," she adds. "What I'm doing is wrong, and I know that, but left with the alternative, I'm willing to take the risk to see if there can be a change."
But given Alabama's cultural climate, finding more people like Campbell who are willing to speak out could be difficult, said Loretta Nall, founder of the US Marijuana Party and Alabama gubernatorial candidate. "There is a lot of silent support," she said. "There are people who want to see it pass, but don't want to give up their political clout. Lots of people are hesitant, so it's been kind of difficult," she said.
It is unlikely the bill will pass this session. Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Marcel Black (D-Tuscumbia) has yet to schedule a hearing. Ranking minority committee member Rep. Stephan McMillan (R-Bay Minette) told the Huntsville Times he is undecided on whether to support the bill. "Conceivably, yes, if there were enough controls on it. I don't want to open it up so anyone and his brother can say, 'I've got a medical condition,'" McMillan said.
And even if the bill does pass, it is likely to be vetoed by Gov. Bob Riley (R). "The governor does not support the legislation to legalize marijuana or any other illegal drug," said John Matson, Riley's press secretary.
CONNECTICUT: A medical marijuana bill backed by a coalition including the Drug Policy Alliance, Alliance Connecticut, and A Better Way Foundation won a favorable report from the legislature's Joint Judiciary Committee Tuesday, passing by a margin of 26-13.
Last year, a similar bill nearly made it, but died for lack of a floor vote at the end of the session. This year, advocates and sponsor Rep. Penny Bacchiochi (R-Somers) are increasingly confident the measure will pass. "Not only does this bill protect the rights of Connecticut citizens to receive compassionate care, but it also protects their sacred relationships with their physicians," said Michael Blain, Director of the Alliance's Office of Public Policy. "We are close to winning medical marijuana legislation this year."
The bill, newly renamed SB 124, is now on its way to the state Senate, where it has strong bipartisan support. In the Senate, it must work its way through additional committees.
MINNESOTA: In a Gopher State first, a bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Minnesota passed the Senate Health and Family Security Committee on a 5-2 vote Tuesday. Sponsored by Sen. Steve Kelley (DFL-44th District), SF 1973 would protect medical marijuana patients and their caregivers from prosecution.
An incident involving one witness for the bill demonstrated the need for relief for medical marijuana patients in the state. Jerome Schaffer, 63, who testified in favor of the bill, was arrested for pot possession after leaving a hospital where he sought treatment for complications of his cancer chemotherapy. Police handcuffed Schaffer and jailed him overnight.
"This bill is about making sure people like me aren't arrested for taking our medicine," said Schaffer. "I'm proud that our legislators passed the bill, and I'm going to keep fighting for it until it's on the governor's desk."
"We're thrilled the committee recognized the urgent need to protect our most vulnerable citizens," said Neal Levine, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project and a former Minnesotan. "Seriously ill people have enough to worry about without the threat of arrest and imprisonment. This victory will give the bill momentum as it moves through the Legislature."
RHODE ISLAND: One of the best chances for passage of a medical marijuana bill this year is Rhode Island, where more than 50 representatives have cosponsored the bill, including Majority Leader Gordon Fox (D-Providence). In the state Senate, Senate President Joseph Montalbano (D-North Providence), Majority Leader Teresa Paiva (D-Newport) and Judiciary Chairman Michael McCaffrey (D-Warwick) all support the bill.
The Rhode Island bill, SB710, the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act, would protect patients and caregivers from arrest if a doctor certifies with the Department of Health that the benefits of marijuana would outweigh any risks for treating specified debilitating medical conditions, including any "chronic or debilitating disease" that produces symptoms such as chronic pain, muscle spasms, nausea, seizures, or wasting. Patients could possess up to 12 plants or 2.5 ounces of "usable marijuana."
On Tuesday, the bill got a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where legislators heard from several patients, including Rhonda O'Donnell, 42, of Warwick. Rolling her wheelchair to the witness stand, O'Donnell told the committee she was a registered nurse who suffers from multiple sclerosis. While she said she had not used marijuana to relieve her "painful spasticity," she testified that others had found relief with it and asked the legislators not to stand in the way of medicine. "Please make this issue a medical one rather than a political one," she said.
While the bill has drawn impressive support, including AIDS Project Rhode Island, the Rhode Island ACLU, the Marijuana Policy Project, as well as respected scientists like Dr. David Lewis, former director of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, it has also generated opposition. The legislature has received letters critical of the measure from the Drug-Free Schools Coalition and Drug-Free Kids: America's Challenge.
TEXAS: Rep. Elliot Naishtat (D-Austin) has introduced HB658 "relating to the medical use of marijuana", which would allow for an affirmative defense for medical marijuana patients who are arrested. The bill had a hearing in the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Tuesday. At that hearing, a long list of patients backed by Texans for Medical Marijuana testified as to the utility of marijuana in easing their symptoms. With no vote yet scheduled, the bill remains in committee.
Rep. Naishtat was on the defensive in Austin, quickly pointing out that the bill would not legalize drugs. "It does not legalize anything. It creates an affirmative defense to let the jury decide if this is a legitimate medicinal use of medicinal marijuana," he said.
But Gov. Rick Perry (R) has signaled he would veto any such bill. Perry's office said the measure would encourage illegal drug use.
Still, medical marijuana is now officially on the political agenda in Texas, as well as Alabama and Minnesota. And more mature efforts in Connecticut and Rhode Island appear to have a chance of bearing fruit this year.
Industrial hemp advocates and supporters have been busy this legislative season, with bills to move toward legalizing the plant as a commercial product alive in three states. In North Dakota, the state legislature has already passed a hemp bill this year, while a New Hampshire hemp bill has passed one house. In Oregon, a senate committee held hearings on a hemp bill Wednesday, while hearings on a California hemp bill will come later this month.
While both hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis family, they are distinct cultivars, with different appearances and wildly differing THC levels. The Hemp Industry Association's Test Pledge program guarantees that trace THC levels in hemp products are so low they do not produce false-positives in drug tests. Despite the loud and oft-repeated concerns of police and prohibitionists, industrial hemp does not contain enough THC to get anyone high.
Still, hemp advocates face a tough road, with prohibitionists determined to fight any effort to regularize the world-renowned fiber and oil source for fear that it will somehow open the floodgates to the legalization of smokeable marijuana. But they push on ahead anyway, and have now won a victory on the High Plains and are close in New England.
In North Dakota, Gov. John Hoeven (R) signed into law HB 1492 on March 9. The bill does not legalize hemp production, but does direct the University of North Dakota to start storing "feral hemp seed" for the time when hemp production becomes legal under federal law. Supported by farmers, businessmen, and political leaders, the bill passed the House 87-3 and the Senate 46-0.
North Dakota has been a leader in hemp legislation, and the new law builds on a 1999 state law authorizing hemp farming�the first in the country. But the state has not acted on that legislation in the face of a federal ban on hemp production.
Sponsored by longtime hemp advocate Rep. David Monson (R-Osnabrock), who has been trying since 1997 to win federal government approval to grow hemp at NDSU research plots, the bill seeks to strengthen the state's feral hemp (also known as "ditchweed") stocks for the time when hemp production is legal.
In heavily agricultural North Dakota, farmers and politicians alike are seeing dollar signs in the hemp stalks. "I believe it would be a great cash crop for our farmers if that is what they choose to produce," Rep. Andy Maragos (D-Minot) told the Minot Daily News. "I hope this legislation improves that environment."
Two weeks later, legislators in the New Hampshire House passed a hemp bill that would allow farmers to apply for a state license to grow industrial hemp. Under the bill, applicants must have no criminal record and plant at least five acres per year. The New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture would supply seed to farmers to ensure that only low-THC hemp plants are sown.
The New Hampshire bill now goes to the state Senate, with a hearing set for the Senate's Environment and Wildlife Committee on April 19. While the bill appears to have momentum, however, it still faces opposition. During the House hearings, for instance, Rep. Peter Batula (R-Merrimack) repeated a hoary canard favored by prohibitionists. Smoking hemp, said Batula, can cause hallucinogenic effects similar to marijuana and is bad for kids. "We don't need fields of this marijuana plant out there for picking at harvest time," Batula said.
"This is not marijuana," retorted Rep. Derek Owen (D-Hopkinton). "This is hemp. Hemp is one of the oldest, most useful plants known to man," he explained.
Meanwhile, in Oregon, the state Senate Environment and Land Use Committee held hearings Wednesday on a bill that would allow for the production, possession, and trade in industrial hemp products and commodities. Under the bill, SB394, the State Department of Agriculture would be authorized to administer a program of licensing, permitting, and inspection for hemp growers and processors. There were no reports on the hearing available at press time.
And in California, hearings are set for April 27 on a bill, AB1147, introduced by San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno. That bill would allow farmers to apply for state licenses to grow hemp and is similar to regulations on hemp production in countries where it is legal, such as Canada and the European Union. The bill would also instruct the University of California to conduct research on industrial hemp applications.
The battle for industrial hemp continues, and while progress is achingly slow, it has come -- at least in North Dakota. New Hampshire may be next, and while there are no guarantees in California and Oregon, the issue is at least on the table.
More than 500 marijuana activists gathered in San Francisco last weekend for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws annual conference. Meeting in America's marijuana Mecca, envious Midwesterners and denizens of the uptight East alike marveled at the laid-back attitude toward marijuana in the Bay Area. With the staff of the host Cathedral Hill Hotel reserving an entire hospitality suite for pot-smoking delegates and the scent of Northern California's finest strains wafting through the hotel, yet failing to excite a comment or raised eyebrow, with the state's pioneering medical marijuana law having led to the creation of a network of dispensaries across the Bay Area, and with non-medicinal, adult marijuana sales going on across the bay in Oakland (see story this issue), NORML's 2005 conference was set in a place far from what most Americans experience.
The setting was completely appropriate, as conference attendees were in a mood to make the San Francisco experience the norm across the land. And given the locale, the predominance of Californians in attendance and on conference panels was not unexpected; for activists from other parts of the country, it was a chance to learn from people on the vanguard of marijuana law reform.
Indeed, learning the lessons of California was much of the meat of the conference, whether it was discussing the looming Supreme Court decision in Angel Raich and Diane Monson's case seeking to bar the Justice Department from interfering with California medical marijuana users, examining the strategies of victims of federal persecution of medical marijuana users and providers, or plotting how to replicate the success of Oakland's Measure Z, which made pot the city's lowest law enforcement priority.
If California is a shining beacon for American marijuana reformers, they also look north to Canada. But a panel of Canadian pot experts warned their southern counterparts that while the country may appear a pot-lover's haven, reality is more complex. Canada's much lauded federal medical marijuana program is not working well, said Philippe Lucas of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society. "The law does not protect all medical marijuana users," he said. "Only 800 people have registered and we have an estimated one million medicinal users. The medical marijuana access regulations have done more to add to the suffering of Canadian medical marijuana patients than to help them." Canada's medical marijuana program is "a goddamned failing program," he said.
"Our mayor in Vancouver, Larry Campbell, is widely cheered by drug reformers," said Vancouver Sun reporter Ian Mulgrew. "He supports safe injection sites and free heroin, but last summer someone had the temerity to openly sell marijuana. The mayor turned that into marijuana people flouting the law. The police had been in there already, this is supposed to be a cannabis-friendly town, but here came a police convoy of 30 vehicles, a helicopter overhead, and a SWAT team yelling and screaming and arresting people. Even the people who appear to be our friends, the minute you start talking about implementing policy, wow, do they run in the other direction."
Americans enthralled with Vancouver might do better to look to Oakland, said Mulgrew. "Canadians are flabbergasted by Oaksterdam when you tell them about it," he said, referring to the over-the-counter pot sales going on across the Bay. "Oakland looks great. Let it grow in a responsible, accountable way. It's something the rest of the world can look at and learn from."
Oakland got a lot of attention at the conference, not only because of Oaksterdam, but because of the successful initiative that laid the groundwork for the city's current walk on the wild side. "Our initiative not only makes marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority, it urges the city to regulate and tax marijuana and it establishes an oversight committee to ensure that the city is in compliance," explained Cannabis Consumers' Campaign head Mikki Norris, one of the organizers who came together as the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance to push the measure last year.
Giving credit where due, Norris pointed to Richard Lee, owner of Oaksterdam's Bulldog Coffeeshop as the "visionary" behind the initiative. "Oaksterdam is his idea," said Norris. "He has a vision of Oaksterdam as urban revitalization." Lee was not just a visionary, though, Norris said, "he also hired political consultants to do focus groups."
That investment paid off, said Norris. "We were able to test our language. Was Oakland ready for this? It cost $10,000 or $15,000, but it was worth it. We were able to craft our message based on our polling and focus groups." Money is absolutely necessary for initiative campaigns, she said. "Even the petition drive; you really have to have money for that, too. You have to pay people."
Initiative organizers found themselves in a pleasant quandary regarding media coverage, Norris told a rapt crowd. "We had to resist seeking out the press," she said. "With 65% support according to our polls, if you get too much attention, the newspapers will seek out your opponents to get the opposing message. The lesson is to control the media, control your message," Norris advised.
With cash an obviously critical component of a successful campaign, Marijuana Policy Project director Rob Kampia, who sits on one of the largest piles of drug reform grant money, got a very close listen when he addressed the conference. While Kampia pronounced himself pleased with the latest election cycle, citing numerous state and local initiative victories, he warned that the days of state-wide initiatives may be coming to an end. "In a series of discussions with major donors, the feeling is that people don't want to spend a ton of money running any more state medical marijuana initiatives," he said. "The best states are already taken, and there are probably only one or two where it would be a real slam dunk. But MPP has renewed its commitment to funding well-written local initiatives like Oakland, and we think we can start passing bills in state legislatures, which is much cheaper than running an initiative campaign," he said.
"But our big focus will be to pass the regulation and taxation bill in Nevada," Kampia said to loud applause. "It would remove all penalties for the possession and use of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults and set up a system of regulation so adults can buy it. There are two penalty increases," he explained to a now noticeably quieter audience. "We increased the maximum -- not the minimum -- penalty for killing someone while driving under the influence, and we increased the maximum penalty for selling to minors if there is a more than three-year age difference." Those changes help put the measure "right on the edge of having a majority," Kampia said. "We will be concentrating on Nevada, but we will issue grants to activists who want to run an initiative on the local level."
But while marijuana is naturally the focus of the NORML convention, attendees heard repeatedly from panelists that Cannabis Nation needed to broaden its focus. Marijuana is not the issue; drug prohibition is, said drug reform stalwarts such as former New Jersey narcotics officer and current Law Enforcement Against Prohibition head Jack Cole, who told the audience he was joining NORML, but he wanted the pot people to join him; Nick Eyle of ReConsider and Cliff Thornton of Efficacy who talked about ending drug prohibition; and Seattle's King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project head Roger Goodman, who explained his group's inside strategy to replace "the failed drug war" with a new, regulatory approach.
In that Thursday panel, NORML members got a triple-dose of eye-opening anti-prohibitionist rhetoric. But there was more to come, and from none other than perhaps the country's best known drug reformer, Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann. "Where are we going?" an energized Nadelmann asked his Saturday morning audience. "How many of you want to legalize marijuana?" he asked, to thunderous applause. "How many think it's a part of a bigger effort to end prohibition?" The applause was still loud, but less thunderous. "How are we going to connect marijuana to the bigger war on drugs?"
One way is by continuing to work the one issue where a majority of Americans agree with drug reformers: medical marijuana, Nadelmann suggested. "We support medical marijuana, we are working with allies in Alabama, for example, and even though many of us support legalization, this is about medical marijuana in Alabama," he said. "We don't have to hide the fact that we support legalization, but we have to use our good judgment."
Drug reformers need to embark on "a nonviolent guerrilla struggle for social and political justice," he said. "It will go step by step. You have to know when to pull back, when to watch your flanks." And drug reformers need to understand that "self-expression is not a synonym for effective political action," Nadelmann chided. We may want to talk legalization, he said, but tax and regulate plays better with voters. "Let's do this carefully, let's consolidate and build. It is when we overreach that our opposition has the best chance to hit us back. And if we are to grow as a movement, we have to organize and build big entities that are able to do this."
That is a work in progress. But with Allen St. Pierre taking over the NORML reins from founder and longtime director Keith Stroup, with the marijuana movement on the move across the country, and with hundreds of activists leaving San Francisco red-eyed but reenergized, it is a work that is well underway. And if this conference is any indication, the marijuana movement may be maturing enough to realize that the evils of drug prohibition extend well beyond pot.
When city officials last summer tightened the screws on Oakland's thriving "Oaksterdam," where medical marijuana dispensaries were multiplying and driving the revival of the neighborhood around the 19th Street BART station, it looked like Oaksterdam's fleeting glory days were already behind it. But nine months later, while the medical marijuana dispensaries have been reduced to four by city ordinance, at least one former dispensary has mutated into a place where pot can be bought and consumed by adults without the slightest medical marijuana pretense.
Driven by a combination of cultural zeitgeist, electoral victory, and entrepreneurial energy, and centered on an innocuous looking neighborhood cafe, which for obvious reasons wishes to remain unnamed, the quasi-legal sale of marijuana to adults has now begun on American territory. While the pot-shop operator has managed to establish a beachhead for open marijuana sales in Oakland, his legal situation is precarious.
Although Oakland voters last fall passed Measure Z, the Oakland Cannabis Regulation and Revenue ordinance, which directs police and city officials to make marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority, and although the city has a record of being friendly to medical marijuana, the non-medicinal sale of marijuana remains illegal under California law and federal law alike.
Not that the shop's owner seemed overly concerned. "The Oakland police hang out in front of the place and write parking tickets," he told DRCNet. "It's hard to say if they're aware of the adult sales going on because we don't ask them. But generally, the police tell us they don't have the time to bust open-air crack markets, so they worry very little about private marijuana sales."
By all appearances, they have little to worry about. On a Friday afternoon during last week's NORML conference, visitors found the shop tucked among a cluster of cannabis and medical marijuana-related businesses on a pleasant block economically revitalized by the Oaksterdam effect. Inside the clean, well-lit shop, visitors were greeted by a typical coffeehouse layout, with the establishment offering coffee, tea, other non-alcoholic beverages, and a limited selection of food.
But the real action was in the back room, whose entrance could be gained only upon providing proof of membership in the cafe's "private club." As the owner explained, "You need to be referred by somebody; we're not really set up yet for people to just fly in cold. With the law making private sales, use, and cultivation the lowest police priority, we just issue private membership cards," he said. That's how dozens of NORML conference attendees managed to gain entry to the back -- they gained "guest memberships" for the asking at a table set up at the conference.
In back, an enthusiastic, well-informed attendant displays a limited menu of marijuana, hashish, and cannabis foods ("Reefer's Peanut Butter Cups"). Upon purchase -- an eighth-ounce of Sweet Tooth kind bud went for $44 -- the visitors relaxed in the adjacent small smoking room as they tested their purchases and found them worthy indeed. Squinting in the bright sunlight outside, the visitors peacefully made their way back across the bay to San Francisco, while the cafe's patrons inconspicuously came and went.
"We're trying to promote Oaksterdam as a happening area," said the owner. "With the cannabis business and other businesses working together, we can make this a happening tourist area. While some cities see cannabis as a problem, Oakland sees it as providing jobs and taxes."
The over-the-counter sale of marijuana to adults has emerged as California grapples with the question of regulating medical marijuana dispensaries. At the end of March, San Francisco joined a growing list of California cities that have imposed moratoriums or otherwise restricted the dispensaries -- in part because they were growing like mushrooms in the foggy San Francisco air. At the same time, however, San Francisco radio stations are carrying advertisements from "full-service" medical marijuana operations that promise to get you inspected, registered, and pointed, card in hand, to a nearby dispensary.
With such operations, a blurring of the line between legitimate medical marijuana distribution -- legal under state law -- and the sale of marijuana to any adult who wants it for whatever reason is blurring. The Oaksterdam establishment semi-openly purveying pot, which has a history of supplying medical users, is further eroding that distinction.
"With all the medical marijuana permits here, local police don't worry too much about marijuana," said the cafe owner. "And with the feds, it is ironically more politically difficult for them to single out adult sales places, because then they would be implying that medical marijuana is okay, and for them, there is officially no such thing as medical marijuana."
Local activists and the cafe owner are torn between keeping a low profile and pushing the envelope, but in the meantime Oakland appears to be approaching an Amsterdam-style policy where marijuana laws technically remain on the books but are not enforced. What is going on is illegal under California law and federal law, but does anybody care? Perhaps no news from Oaksterdam is good news.
By the time you read this, there is a good chance that the US Supreme Court will have spoken on Raich v. Ashcroft, a major court challenge by medical marijuana patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson to the constitutionality of federal prohibition of medical marijuana use. The Court heard oral arguments on the case last December. (Click here and here for background.)
Last summer, Congress voted for the second time on an amendment that would have forbid the Dept. of Justice from using its resources to block state medical marijuana laws. DRCNet posted a tabulation of the votes online for our readers to find out whether their own Reps voted for or against medical marijuana. That information is still accessible and can be found online here -- click on the HTML, PDF, Excel or delimited text links. If your Rep. is still in Congress this session, you'll be able to see how he or she stands on the issue. Visit the House of Representatives web site and use the "Find Your Representative" tool if you're not sure who represents you in Congress.
Last but not least, visit the Angel Justice web site to learn much more about the Raich/Monson saga.
On March 9, members of Congress introduced H.R. 1184, 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. 1184. 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 www.RaiseYourVoice.com 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.
With the number of both drug arrests and officially recognized "drug addicts" on the rise, Chinese authorities are responding with a call for more, better drug war. After a Tuesday meeting of the National Narcotics Control Commission, officials claimed great success in prosecuting drug users and the drug trade, but called for greater efforts to stem the rising tide of drug use in the planet's most populous country.
The announcement of a tougher drug war came even as Zhou touted the government's success in waging the war. Among the "major achievements" Zhou mentioned were a 5.1% increase in drug arrests to nearly 67,000 last year and seizures of 10.8 tons of heroin -- up 14% -- three million ecstasy tablets (or "head shaking pills") and 2.7 tons of methamphetamine. "Thanks to years of high-powered crackdowns, drugs have become more difficult to come by on the domestic market. Drug prices have risen significantly and the high incidence of drug-related crimes has generally been brought under control," Xinhua quoted an official as saying.
But amidst the "successes" were some more sobering numbers: The number of "drug addicts" was up 6.8% over 2003 to some 791,000. And while, according to officials, the consumption of traditional drugs, such as opium and heroin, is stable, there has been "a dramatic increase" in the number of users of "new" drugs, such as ecstasy and methamphetamine. Synthetic drug users as a percentage of all drug users have increased nearly four-fold since 2001, officials said.
As part of its "peoples' war" on drugs, the Chinese government will spend $120 million over five years to support the drug control infrastructure, as well as $12 million for Yunnan Province, which borders Southeast Asia's "golden triangle," and $60 million to support local anti-drug efforts across the country, Zhou said.
Sometimes we are hard-pressed to come up with material for this feature, but this week our cup runneth over with a veritable cornucopia of corruption. Long-running scandals are in the news again, along with coke-smuggling soldiers, a sticky-fingered drug task force, and the usual motley crew of crooked cops and amoral state agents. Let's get right to it:
In Detroit, former police officer Donald Hynes, 43, was convicted March 28 of being part of a ring that stole more than 80 kilos of cocaine from the Detroit Police evidence room. Hynes was accused of making more than $336,000 from his share of the stolen coke. In a plot that continued from 1995 to 2000, Hynes and civilian police employee John Earl Cole, who worked in the evidence room, stole the coke over the years. Hynes was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, distribution of cocaine, conspiracy to embezzle police property, conspiracy to launder money, and making false declarations to a grand jury. He faces a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison when he is sentenced June 19.
In Honolulu, Police Officer Robert Henry Sylva was arrested March 28 at the main police station and charged with selling 4 ½ ounces of methamphetamine. The charges came after a sting operation during which Sylva sold speed on three occasions to a police informant -- including one time when we was wearing his police uniform, the Honolulu Star Bulletin reported. Sylva, 49, a 22-year veteran of the force, is the second officer to go down on speed charges since December. Then, Officer Harold Cabbab was charged by the feds with trying to steal meth from drug dealers. Sylva faces a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence.
In Chicago, employees of the Illinois Secretary of State's office are accused of taking bribes from auto dealers who were selling cars to drug dealers and gang bangers, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The state employee would produce fraudulent titles for the cars, the paper said. At the Far South Side government office, auto dealers reportedly handed out bribes and even a new SUV to at least one manager who processed their paperwork, helping them avoid Internal Revenue Service reviews. The revelations come in a case that has already led the feds to shut down three dealerships, seize more than 100 luxury vehicles, and arrest five people in a wide-ranging investigation into heroin trafficking and international money-laundering. The auto dealers are accused of laundering money for drug dealers.
In Las Vegas, an ethically-challenged group of cops has survived departmental scrutiny, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Las Vegas Police canine officer David Newton has admitted to placing drugs in the vehicle of local resident Mark Lilly last July as he was being arrested on suspicion of selling fake drugs. Newton claimed he put the drugs in Lilly's vehicle as "a training exercise" for his dog. But Newton then "forgot" he put the drugs there and let fellow officer Kevin Collmar and David Parker arrest Lilly for drug possession. While Newton, to his credit, wrote in a report that Lilly should not be charged, that report never got to prosecutors, Lilly went to trial, and Colmar and Parker testified that he possessed the drugs. The case only collapsed after another officer notified prosecutors the bust was bad -- and after police had already auctioned Lilly's impounded car. While a civilian police review board determined that the officers should be fired, Sheriff Bill Young announced last week he will only suspend them.
Review-Journal editorial page writers were not impressed. Instead of asking whether contaminating a crime scene with drugs is an acceptable training exercise, the paper noted, "A better question might be what Officer Newton was doing carrying narcotics to an active crime scene in the first place. Has he been charged with possession of those narcotics? Were they of a quantity that would get anyone else automatically charged with 'possession with intent to sell'?" The newspaper had more questions: "How many other drug busts have officer Newton and his trained pooch helped facilitate? How many have served time after one of these little 'training exercises'? How large a stash of contraband drugs does the officer possess, where did he get it, and what's it for? How much will taxpayers end up paying to settle the promised lawsuit from the falsely accused Mr. Lilly?"
In Oregon, the Valley Interagency Narcotics Team, or VALIANT, has been disbanded after mishandling evidence in some 1,300 cases, according to the Oregon Department of Justice. Auditors were unable to find 345 firearms, $10,423 in cash, and various quantities of seized drugs. Although the cases were submitted to a Linn County grand jury, no indictments were forthcoming. According to investigators, VALIANT officers routinely destroyed evidence improperly and destroyed records that could have traced that evidence. In many cases, the investigators found, VALIANT officers disposed of personal property after cases were closed without notifying the owners. While the task force has been shut down, officers involved still face possible discipline within their respective departments. Of the more than 1300 mishandled cases, 219 were recommended for internal affairs probes. In the meantime, the task force has paid out $9,180 for lost property and $14,652 to replace money that was seized.
In Bogota, five US Army soldiers are being investigated for allegedly conspiring to smuggle 32 pounds of cocaine from Colombia aboard US military aircraft, the US Southern Command announced March 30. The five soldiers were detained and are being held "somewhere in the United States," military officials said. The US military has spent over $3 billion and sent some 800 troops to Colombia to fight the cocaine traffic.
In Dallas, the infamous "Dallas Sheetrock Scandal" came a step closer to winding down as a jury March 31 convicted former Dallas police officer Mark De La Paz guilty of lying to a judge in a search warrant application. De La Paz, whose numerous busts of Mexican immigrants on cocaine or speed charges fell apart when the substances actually turned out to be sheetrock or gypsum, now faces up to 10 years in prison. Three informants who worked with De La Paz have already pled guilty in the scheme that set up innocent people for arrest and imprisonment, and the city of Dallas has paid out millions to the wrongfully imprisoned. While De La Paz was acquitted in November of federal civil rights charges, he still faces 13 indictments in Dallas.
And last but not least, in Los Angeles, the city's Rampart police corruption scandal is coming to a close. City officials announced last week that the city has settled nearly all lawsuits related to the scandal, in which Rampart Division officers rampaged through the community robbing drug dealers, framing innocent people, and even shooting and paralyzing one man, then sending him to prison on perjured testimony. More than 100 criminal convictions have been overturned, more than a dozen officers forced to retire from the force, and eight officers convicted of corruption-related offenses -- although three of those convictions have been overturned. According to city officials, the city will settle some 200 remaining lawsuits with victims of the narcs gone berserk for around $70 million. But what the settlements mean is that the cases, in which people allege police beat, shot, or framed them, will never hear the light of day.
On Monday, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a Houston case in which police used a drug dog to sniff outside a man's garage. The non-ruling comes on the heels of the court's January decision ratifying the use of drug dogs in traffic stops. In that ruling, dissenting justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned that it could lead to more intrusive drug dog searches, and police in Houston are apparently prepared to test the limits of the law.
"The use of a drug-sniffing dog at the entrance of a private home to detect the contents of the dwelling strips the citizenry of the most basic boundary of personal privacy by gathering invisible information coming from the interior of the home," Smith argued in his appeal.
While the US Supreme Court has upheld the use of drug dogs, confusion lingers over the permissible extent of their use. Smith argued that the correct precedent in his case was not the January highway drug dog case but a 2001 case involving the use of thermal imaging, in which the court held that a warrant was necessary. "No distinction exists between a thermal-imaging device and drug-sniffing dog in that they are both sense-enhancing and permit information regarding the interior of a home be gathered which could not otherwise be obtained without physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area," Smith argued.
But by refusing to accept Smith's case, the Supreme Court both affirmed his conviction (and 37-year sentence for methamphetamine possession) and left unsettled the limits to drug dog searches.
While the US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that police do not need a search warrant to search people's trash once it has been placed outside for collection, two recent rulings in state courts will place limits on police in Indiana and Oregon. The Rehnquist Supreme Court has held that police do not need search warrants because people have no reasonable expectation of privacy for their trash once they have left it on the curb -- or inside a low fence, or even 18 feet away from the property line.
But the Indiana Supreme Court and the Oregon Court of Appeals have managed to find protections in their respective state constitutions that the Supreme Court could not find in the US Constitution. In Indiana, the state high court merely ordered that police must offer a specific reason for searching someone's trash that includes a reasonable expectation of turning up evidence, while in Oregon, the state's appellate court ruled that police must obtain a search warrant before going through the garbage.
In the Indiana case, Litchfield v. State Patrick and Susan May Litchfield were arrested after police digging through their trash found burnt rolling papers and marijuana stems, seed, and leaves. State police got their names from the DEA, which had come across them in records subpoenaed from companies advertising in High Times magazine. Armed with the evidence from the trash search, police got a search warrant and discovered 51 marijuana plants growing inside the couples' home. The state Supreme Court on March 24 threw out their conviction and returned the case to the lower courts to determine if the initial, warrantless garbage search was reasonable.
"The police can no longer, out of curiosity, come out to see what's in your trash," Indianapolis defense attorney Robert Hammerle told the Indianapolis Star after reviewing the ruling. "We now require more of police officers than we do of raccoons."
In Oregon, the Court of Appeals decided a pair of cases, Oregon v. Hoesly and Oregon v. Galloway, where defendants argued that police illegally searched their trash. One of the cases is locally infamous, featuring Portland police searching the trash of fellow officer Gina Hoesly and cataloguing her used tampons as well as traces of methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy. The other case involved a Clatskanie couple, Thad and Amy Galloway, who were arrested after police found a small amount of marijuana in their garbage and used that as evidence to support a search warrant search that found a marijuana grow and methamphetamine.
In both cases, circuit court judges ruled that police had violated the Oregon constitution's protections against unreasonable searches. Unlike the US Supreme Court, the Oregon Appeals Court agreed, holding that people did not give up their "privacy or possessory interests" in their refuse simple by leaving it out for the trash man. The defendants put their garbage "in a particular place in order to facilitate a limited purpose... pickup and disposal by a designated collection company," the unanimous three-judge panel ruled March 30. "Defendants did not implicitly authorize anyone else to paw through their garbage and view or take items of garbage."
After an 18-month study of prison and sentencing policy in Iowa, that state's chapter of the nonpartisan national civic organization, the League of Women Voters (LWV), has called for serious sentencing reform, citing a huge increase in the number of drug offenders jailed in the Hawkeye State since 1990. Other local LWV organizations have also proven to be friends of drug reform, most notably in Seattle and the state of Texas.
In a letter to the Iowa legislature, Iowa LWV sentencing and corrections committee member Johnnie Hammond and Iowa LWV president Pat Jensen put lawmakers on notice that the group is seeking dramatic changes in a state criminal justice system that has seen the number of prisoners nearly double in 10 years, from 4,077 in 1991 to 8,108 in 2001. Much of the surge in prisoners is a result of drug law enforcement, the pair noted. The number of drug prisoners had tripled in that 10-year period, with the number imprisoned for methamphetamine -- the heartland's demon drug du jour -- increasing by a whopping 662% in less than a decade, from about 100 per year in 1995 to about 800 per year in 2003. That growth in drug prisoners was "of particular concern," the Iowa LWV told legislators.
In January, the pair noted, the Iowa LWV adopted a position on criminal justice issues that criticized mandatory minimum sentences as having "an adverse impact" on the justice system and supporting an indeterminate sentencing structure. Judges, the corrections department, and the parole board need "greater flexibility," the organization concluded. It also called for "proportionality" in sentencing.
"We found that mandatory prison sentences often denied the judicial system the ability to look at offenders' risk assessment and impose probation or a shorter term of incarceration," wrote Hammond and Jensen. "Iowa's budget is threatened with being swallowed up by Department of Corrections costs."
NORML senior policy analyst Paul Armentano, an expert on drug testing policy, this week issued a sobering new report on an effort crafted by drug war bureaucrats and drug testing entrepreneurs to criminalize drug users who drive -- even if they're not under the influence. Known as "Driving Under the Influence of Drugs" or DUID laws, the laws are already on the books in 11 states, with efforts underway to pass them in more.
But as Armentano notes in the introduction to his report, You Are Going Directly to Jail, while the laws are billed as an effort to crack down on "drugged driving," such laws -- and the "zero-tolerance" per se laws in particular -- "have little to do with promoting public safety or identifying motorists who drive while impaired." Instead, such laws incorrectly and improperly define drivers as impaired solely because a controlled substance or its metabolites were found in their bodily fluids.
"Zero-tolerance" per se laws are similar to those laws governing driving while drunk, with one huge difference: While drunk driving laws set a scientifically established standard at which intoxication is presumed to occur -- typically 0.08% blood alcohol level�the "zero-tolerance" laws set that standard at zero. In other words, any drug or metabolite found in a driver's bodily fluids would be sufficient to charge her with drugged driving.
"These laws are not about promoting public safety or stopping motorists who drive while impaired," said Armentano at least week's NORML conference, where he unveiled the study. "They're really about people like you. They want to stop you from smoking pot, and this is the way they've come up with to do it. They want to create a new crime, they want laws that say if you use an illicit substance and we can identify that substance, you are guilty of drugged driving."
The report is a comprehensive examination of the push for DUID laws, the science (or lack thereof) behind it, and how to combat it. With the blessing of drug czar John Walters, who declared a national crusade against drugged driving in December 2002, the battle is likely to come to a statehouse near you. With "You Are Going Directly to Jail," you can arm yourself and your legislators for the battle.
The conservative American Enterprise Institute asks, Are We Losing the War on Drugs? An Analytic Assessment of US Drug Policy, report by prominent drug policy analysts David Boyum and Peter Reuter:
Tina Rosenberg opines on Weighing the Difference Between Treating Pain and Dealing Drugs for the New York Times:
Christopher Hallam writes on Afghanistan: New Front Line in the War on Drugs for the British organization RELEASE:
The Other Side: Edmund Hartnett of the NYPD Narcotics Division argues on Drug Legalization: Why It Wouldn't Work in the United States for Police Chief Magazine:
April 8, 1989: Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo is arrested in Mexico. Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni leads a team of Federal agents who arrest the drug lord in a residential suburb of Guadalajara. Gallardo is imprisoned on charges relating to Enrique Camarena's kidnapping and murder. His nephews, the Arellano-Felix brothers, inherit part of his drug-trafficking empire.
April 9, 2002: NORML launches a $500,000 campaign featuring bus shelter signs and telephone booth posters carrying a quote from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who when asked whether he had ever tried marijuana said, "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it."
April 10, 2003: In the wake of the federal conviction of medical marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal, US Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and 27 other members of Congress introduced H.R. 1717, the "Truth in Trials" Act.
April 11, 1997: Graham Boyd, an ACLU attorney representing a group of plaintiffs including eleven prominent cancer and AIDS physicians in San Francisco, presents to a federal judge the following statement: "The federal government has issued broad threats against physicians who might recommend marijuana to some of their seriously ill patients. These threats have gagged physicians and have impeded the responsible practice of medicine. We assert that doctors have the right to discuss medical marijuana with patients, and we are seeking clear guidelines for physicians who wish to do so."
April 13, 1995: The US Sentencing Commission votes to equalize penalties for crack and cocaine powder quantities for trafficking and possession offenses, a proposal that would have become law on November 1 if Congress took no action. On April 14, Attorney General Janet Reno urges Congress to reject it.
April 14, 1989: A congressional subcommittee on Narcotics, Law Enforcement, and Foreign Policy, chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), finds that US efforts to combat drug trafficking were undermined by the Reagan administration's fear of jeopardizing its objectives in the Nicaraguan civil war. The report concludes that the administration ignored evidence of drug trafficking by the Contras and continued to provide them with aid.
Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [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 10, 8:00pm, Princeton, NJ, screening of "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters." Sponsored by Princeton University SSDP, at Terrace Club, 62 Washington Rd., admission free. Contact Reona Kumagai at [email protected] for further information.
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 15, 11:00am, Washington, DC, screening "The Chilling Effect: Pain Patients in the War on Drugs." At the Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2257, visit http://www.painreliefnetwork.org for further information.
April 18, 8:00am-4:00pm, Salem, OR, "Education Day" with Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, contact Sandee at (503) 233-4202 or
April 19, 8:30am-3:00pm, "The Colombian Conflict: Regional Impact and Policy Responses," one-day conference sponsored by the Washington Office on Latin America. Visit http://www.wola.org/colombia_conf_agenda_april05.pdf for further information, RSVP to [email protected] by 5:00pm, April 12.
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 http://www.ips-dc.org/salsa/signup.asp 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 http://www.drugpolicy.org/events/event.cfm?eventID=500 for info.
April 20, 7:30pm, Falls Church, VA, Reignite-It concert and fundraiser for the 35th Anniversary July 4th Smoke-In. At the State Theater, 220 N. Washington St., admission $12 in advance or $15 at the door, visit http://www.reignite-it.com for information.
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 http://www.adopedealer.com for info.
April 21-23, Tacoma, WA, 15th North American Syringe Exchange Convention. Sponsored by the North American Syringe Exchange Network, visit http://www.nasen.org 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 http://www.ips-dc.org/salsa/signup.asp or call (202) 234-9382 for info or to register.
April 30, 11:00am-3:00pm, Washington, DC, "America's in Pain!" 2nd Annual National Pain Rally. At the US Capitol Reflecting Pool, call (662) 247-1471 or visit http://www.AmericanPainInstitute.org 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 http://www.mpp.org/galas/ for further information.
May 4-6, Columbus, OH, "COPE Corrections: Opportunity for Professional Excellence," 4th annual conference of the Ohio Community Corrections Association. At the Marriott Renaissance Hotel, 50 N. 3rd St., visit http://www.occaonline.org/event_conference2005.asp for further information.
May 7, numerous locations worldwide, "Million Marijuana March," visit http://www.cures-not-wars.org 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 http://www.mpp.org/galas/ 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 http://www.raiseyourvoice.com/perryfund/ 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 http://www.harmredux.org/conference2005.htm 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 http://www.hempfest.org or (206) 781-5734 or [email protected] for further information.
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 http://www.drugpolicy.org/events/dpa2005/ 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 http://www.medicalcannabis.com for updates.
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