(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)
Issue #398 -- 8/5/05
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Table of Contents
Acting on behalf of US Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under a bilateral treaty, Canadian police last Friday arrested British Columbia Marijuana Party (BCMP) founder and head Marc Emery and two employees on US charges of conspiring to distribute marijuana and marijuana seeds and money-laundering. Emery is the owner of Marc Emery Direct, reputedly the world's largest seed sales operation, with annual revenues claimed at around $2.5 million US. It was profits from the seed company that allowed Emery to finance the BCMP, as well as publish Cannabis Culture magazine and operate Pot-TV on the Internet.
While DEA officials in Seattle focused on accusations on drug dealing in their public statement, a column by Joel Connelly in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer this morning quotes a statement by DEA chief Karen Tandy suggesting political motivations: " Today's arrest of Mark (sic) Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and the founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the US and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement... Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery's illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on."
According to US federal law, Emery faces a mandatory minimum ten year prison sentence with the possibility of life in prison if convicted on the marijuana charges. Emery is not accused of actually conspiring to sell marijuana. Instead, US prosecutors are holding him criminally responsible for all the marijuana grown by people they have arrested who bought seeds from Emery, either at his storefront or over the Internet.
But Emery is unlikely to see the inside of an American court room any time soon. Canadian law requires legal proceedings to approve his extradition and ultimately requires the approval of Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. That same law also allows Canada to refuse to extradite if it finds the charges are the result of political persecution or if the punishments faced would "shock the conscience." It is already clear that Emery and his attorney, John Conroy, will attempt to work both avenues in an effort to avoid falling into the clutches of the American drug warriors.
"Our first reaction is that this is a clear case of DEA-instigated political persecution," said BCMP spokesman Kirk Tousaw. "Marc is the leader of the BCMP, and anyone familiar with cannabis policy reform knows who he is. Every dime that has come through his hands goes back into his activism, and the DEA decided it was time to shut him up. And this over alleged crimes taken so seriously by the Canadian government that Marc has been doing it openly for nine years and no one has bothered to investigate or arrest him," Tousaw told DRCNet.
"What Marc is doing is legal in Canada, he's been doing it for years without problems. Our extradition treaty says we can refuse to extradite if the penalties he faces 'shock the conscience.' The prospect that Marc Emery could be jailed for life in America for selling cannabis seeds definitely shocks the Canadian conscience," said Tim Meehan of the Marijuana Party of Canada, who joined with other Ottawa activists Wednesday at a Parliament Hill press conference to protest Canadian cooperation with the Americans in arresting and preparing to extradite Emery. "We're demanding the government not hand him over to the Americans. This is as ridiculous as some Mountie going down there and arresting Charlton Heston because he promoted gun use. The US is not going to give up their guns, and we're not going to give up our bud," he told DRCNet.
Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd told DRCNet the case will highlight the stark differences between American and Canadian attitudes toward marijuana offenses. "We are not required to hand him simply because an extradition request has been made. The question that will be raised is whether it would constitute cruel and unusual punishment to send him back to the US to face at least 10 years in prison," he said. "Our courts have declared that a seven-year sentence for importing cannabis is unconstitutional. Are US penalties so out of line with Canadian penalties as to suggest we ought not extradite?" he mused.
Jeff Sullivan, US Attorney for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, where a grand jury issued the indictments, called a press conference the day of the arrests. Sullivan wasn't worried about such issues. Emery, he told the conference, was nothing more than a common criminal. "His activities resulted in the growing of tens of thousands of marijuana plants in America," Sullivan claimed. "He was involved, allegedly, in an illegal distribution of marijuana in the US. He is a drug dealer."
In the press conference, Sullivan and DEA official Rod Benson, whose Seattle office headed the 18-month investigation leading to the indictments, said three-fourths of Emery's seed sales went to the US and they had traced Emery's seeds to marijuana grows in Indiana, Florida, California, Tennessee, Montana, Virginia, Michigan, New Jersey and North Dakota. While Sullivan acknowledged Emery's marijuana reform activism, he did so only to assert the arrests had nothing to do with any of that. "The fact is, marijuana is a very dangerous drug," Sullivan said. "People don't say that, but right now in America, there are more kids in treatment for addiction to marijuana than every other illegal drug combined."
While US officials accused Emery of "arrogance" and "greed," the Vancouver entrepreneur has a long history of funneling his proceeds into activism, bankrolling not only his pro-pot mini-media empire, but also providing substantial sums for experimental ibogaine treatments for hard drug addiction, paying for political campaigns, and funding activists across Canada and even in the US. Loretta Nall, head of the US Marijuana Party was one beneficiary of Emery's largesse. "I'm out of a job now," she told DRCNet. "I've got $176 in the bank and no more money coming from Marc. He doesn't have any money. He gives it all away to activists and employees. He doesn't have bank accounts, and the only cash they ever have on hand is what came in from seed sales that day."
While the arrest of "The Prince of Pot" got little attention in the US outside outraged drug reform and pot-people circles, it threatens to become a cause celebre in Canada, where the news of his arrest was prominently featured on national news broadcasts and has already generated countless articles, op-eds, and editorials on both sides of the affray. Reaction on the street was also quick. Protests broke out on the Pot Block even before the raids were completed. Angry locals quickly gathered, defiantly smoking marijuana and making unkind suggestions about the United States. Four people were arrested for laying down in front of a Vancouver Police paddy wagon. A demonstration at the same location the next day drew several hundred angry Canadians, some holding signs saying "F*** the USA," who demanded that the Canadian government not bow to US demands to extradite Emery and the others to face justice American-style.
Now, the long legal and political battle to prevent his extradition begins. "Clearly, we will be arguing that this is political persecution, and even if it isn't, the penalties are completely disproportionate to what he would receive in Canada for the same offenses. We have courts here saying jail time for marijuana offenses is just not appropriate. And this eats at Canadian's sense of sovereignty," said BCMP spokesman Tousaw. "You will see Canadian independence asserted here. People who don't care about marijuana are saying if Canada thinks he's a criminal, we should deal with it here. If not, we shouldn't be letting the US use our justice system to fight its drug war. At the end of the day, the justice minister is going to have to make a political decision, and we intend to let him know that if he goes along with incursion on Canadian sovereignty, we will vote him out of office," Tousaw vowed.
"We will fight as hard as we can to deny the US the right to extradite and imprison our activist heroes," said Tousaw. "It will be a long and expensive legal process for Marc and Michelle and Greg, and for the Canadian taxpayer. Maybe we should send your drug czar the bill."
Those wishing to contribute to Marc Emery's legal defense fund can send them to: CC Magazine, Box 15 - 199 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H4, Canada. The magazine has also posted a list of things that people can do to help the campaign to keep Emery from being extradited.
News consumers on the US East Coast can be forgiven for nervously glancing over their shoulders in search of that 20-foot wave of crystal meth rolling toward them out of the Midwest, leaving in its wake a shattered landscape of trailer parks turned into toxic dumps, runny-nosed neglected toddlers clutching worn teddy-bears, and good parents turned into crazed, toothless tweakers who take time off from cooking more meth only to commit heinous crimes, steal more supplies, or have sex with their children. After all, this is, with only a little exaggeration, the message trumpeted by an ever louder cacophony of news reports about the "methamphetamine epidemic" sweeping the nation.
Fortunately, there is less here than meets the eye. A review of the standard indicators of drug use, such as the Monitoring the Future (MTF) surveys of students, the National Household Survey (now known as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health), and the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) of hospital emergency room reports, does not show any rapid increase in methamphetamine use in recent years. In the MTF surveys, 15.4% of 12th graders in 1991 reported ever using amphetamines. By 1998, that figure had inched up to 16.4%, but by last year the figure had declined back to 15.0%, indicating that amphetamine use over the past decade has remained essentially flat. When MTF looked only at methamphetamine, which it separated out from other amphetamines only in 1999, it found that the percentage of seniors who reported ever using the drug actually declined from 8.2% in 1999 to 6.2% in 2004.
Similarly, the National Household Survey actually shows a tiny decline in reported non-medical stimulant use in 2002 and 2003, the most recent years for which data is available. According to the survey, 5.3% of people over 12 reported ever using amphetamines in 2002, while that figure was 5.2% the following year. That same survey found that the number of people who had ever used meth was 1.24 million in 2002 and 1.23 million the following year.
A longer-term review of reported life-time stimulant use from the survey is even more surprising. Going back to 1965, it shows hundreds of thousands of people reporting life-time use each year, peaking in 1974 at 646,000 and then dropping gradually over the next 20 years before bottoming out at 219,000 in 1991. [The drug-taking counterculture of the 1960s caught on quickly. Bob Dylan's slightly exotic speed user with "her fog, her amphetamine, and her pearls" was replaced by the end of the decade by Canned Heat's Amphetamine Annie: "Her mouth worked like a grinding mill, her lips were chapped and sore, she saw things in the windows, she heard things at the door." Ironically, Canned Head main man and lead vocalist Bob "Bear" Hite died of a barbiturate overdose shortly thereafter.] Since the early 1990s, the number of reported life-time users has climbed back to just slightly more than in 1974, peaking at 707,000 in 1999 and declining slightly to 697,000 in 2003. [Again, the new mood was reflected in song, with the Bay area band Primus singing of "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweakers," whom they noted "are the backbone of this town." The tune is also notable for a swipe at then President Bush the Elder that applies again today: "And Curious George's drug patrol is still out there hunting snipe."]
A more direct measure of meth-related harm, the DAWN emergency room mentions, likewise paints a picture of flat -- not rapidly escalating -- methamphetamine use. According to the DAWN numbers, there were 17,537 methamphetamine mentions in 1994. Last year, that number was 17,696.
"There is no evidence of an increase in meth use. In fact, it's been flat for a decade or more or even declining slightly," said Craig Reinarman, co-editor of the groundbreaking "Crack in America," which debunked many of the myths surrounding that drug, and currently professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz. "To be fair, 2003 is the last year for which there is good data available, and this flood of meth stories appears to have really taken off in the last six months or so, so it is possible we are missing something. But most of these recent stories appear to be based on little more than anecdotes from law enforcement or social workers. It may be true that there is a small number of meth users who are getting in serious problems, but it looks like the press is falsely extrapolating to create a trend that is not supported by the aggregate numbers," he told DRCNet.
"This is the beginning of a classic scare where you have horrible anecdotes substituted for epidemiological evidence and the media going with those easy stories," Reinarman explained. "Story-based coverage can be very misleading. They pick the most dramatic story with the eye-catching headlines, but those sorts of stories distort the real picture. You don't want to mistake worst case scenarios for the norm, but that is what happens, and it's true of every drug scare. Instead of solid epidemiological evidence that can be tiresome and boring, you get these dramatic anecdotes."
"We in the field like to say that a Newsweek cover story is the surest sign the epidemic has ended," laughed Dr. David Duncan, chairman of the National Association for Public Health Policy's Council on Illicit Drugs and head of Duncan & Associates, a Kentucky-based epidemiological and statistical consulting firm. "We define an epidemic as an incidence significantly greater than the expected background level," he explained. "Five cases of bubonic plague in Chicago is an epidemic; 500 cases in Calcutta is not."
As for methamphetamine, said Duncan, "By that standard, we have experienced a methamphetamine epidemic for the past 20 years, where we've seen more meth use since the 1970s. But we are clearly on the downswing of the epidemic. Usage has been declining since 1999 and arrests have been going down since 2000. Despite all the publicity, they are actually arresting fewer people than they did five years ago," he told DRCNet. "Technically, it is an epidemic, but it is one that appears to be fading."
But even if meth use isn't on the rise, it's still a highly addictive drug whose users are not amenable to treatment, right? Wrong. "The research shows it's pretty much the same as any other drug," said Duncan. "If you look at usage information, you see that of all the people who ever used the drug, one in 10 used in the past year. Of those, one in 10 used in the past week. And among those past week users, the majority only used it once." It's the same story with treatment, he said. "All the data show the same success rate with meth as any other drug dependence -- except for tobacco, which is by far the most addictive drug. It doesn't matter if you're talking about meth or heroin or alcohol -- in each case most of the people who become addicted wind up getting off the drug."
"The data always lags behind reality," agreed Doug McVay, an analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy. "By the late 1990s, feds and researchers were studying and publishing about rural meth use and talking about the escalation of the problem in the 1990s. Now, it seems to have leveled off. Instead of an increase in meth use, what we are seeing is an increase in the attention paid to it."
There are several possible reasons for this. While the numbers show that meth use is actually fairly flat in recent years, the wide dissemination of information about how to home-cook the drug, which began with books like "Secrets of Clandestine Meth Manufacture," by "Uncle Fester," and has now exploded via the Internet, has indisputably led to an increase in home meth labs. There appears to be some conflation of the rise in home meth labs with an actual increase in meth use.
"It is not meth use that we need to be so concerned about, but home manufacturing," said Duncan. "It is a serious environmental and public health problem, but it is one that is caused entirely by the war on drugs. If meth users could go to a pharmacy and get pure meth, not only would they be better off, but so would everyone else. This meth lab stuff helps feed the frenzy. It doesn't matter if it's just some guy with a Bunsen burner on his kitchen counter, you still get all these headlines about meth labs."
As for laws aimed at home labs, such as the ones either passed or under consideration in 40 states that restrict the sales of cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine, they are having unintended consequences, said McVay. "If you look at Oklahoma, which led the way with those Sudafed laws, what you are seeing is, yes, a 90% drop in lab busts, but the number of ice seizures has increased five-fold. Ice is the smokeable meth being imported by the Mexican gangs. In terms of overall meth use, these laws really do nothing except protect the market share of the Mexicans."
In addition to concerns over home meth labs -- which, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center account for only 20% of all meth consumed in the country -- the Bush administration's move to cut finding for anti-drug law enforcement task forces through proposed cuts in the Justice Assistance Grants program and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program has motivated law enforcement and elected officials to scream long and loud about how badly they need that money. For many of them, methamphetamine is exhibit one.
And the rhetoric has been remarkable. "Meth is the biggest threat to the United States, maybe even including al-Qaeda," warned Rep. Tom Osborne (R-NE) during a hearing last month where representatives ripped the Office of National Drug Control Policy over the proposed cuts and over its failure to sufficiently prioritize the "meth menace."
"We've got something right in our lap that is absolutely the worst kind of drug the nation has ever seen," said Umatilla (Oregon) County Commissioner Bill Hansell, president-elect of the National Association of Counties. "To not address it now would be a huge mistake." The association was the author of a much-hyped survey of sheriffs last month where 58% of sheriffs described meth as their worst drug problem.
What has been as remarkable as some of the overheated rhetoric has been the fact that the federal government has been a relative voice of reason compared to cops and congressmen. It is, after all, the Bush administration that initially sought the budget cuts that have excited such outrage. In that same hearing where meth was compared -- unfavorably -- to Al Qaeda, deputy drug czar Scott Burns steadfastly refused to call meth use an epidemic, telling the hearing that police in the Northeast "would laugh at me if I told them there was a meth epidemic." In deference to his congressional overseers, he did, however, call meth "the most destructive, dangerous, terrible drug that's come along in a long time."
There is one indicator that continues a steady climb, and that is the number of people receiving treatment for meth use. That number has increased more than five-fold in the past decade. "While the overall use figures are pretty much flat, we are seeing meth account for more than 20% of all drug treatment in some states, and I suspect that is what is fueling this," said Leah Young, a spokeswoman for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In 1993, there were 21,000 meth treatment admissions; a decade later there were 116,000," she told DRCNet. "Meth is taking up treatment resources like it never did before, and the states are paying attention to it because it seems to have burst on them out of nowhere."
But even the steady increase in the number of people in treatment for meth over the past decade does not necessarily mean more meth users are seeking treatment. Instead, alone with marijuana among all other drugs, a majority of meth users in treatment are there because a judge sent them there in a criminal proceeding. Nearly 51% of all meth users in treatment in 2003 were there as a result of criminal justice system referrals.
While the thrust of this article has been to deflate overstated claims of a "meth epidemic," there is clearly problematic use out there. "We have seen some increased use and we've seen an increase in HIV transmitted by male injection drug users who are having sex with men, and this public health issue is our real concern," said Luciano Colonna, executive director of the Harm Reduction Project, which is sponsoring the First National Conference on Meth, HIV, and Hepatitis C later this month in Salt Lake City. "But we have also seen increased law enforcement attention, more crackdowns, more arrests."
"We have to acknowledge there is enough of a kernel of truth in all these meth stories for people to be concerned," said Reinarman, "but instead of the big picture you get a rush to judgment."
And a distorted picture of who is using the drug and how often. The laser-like focus on the stereotypical tweaker obscures both the reality of who is using meth (and how) and the larger social context of problematic use, said Reinarman. "I don't doubt that some people are ruining their lives with meth, but how representative is it and what else is going on in their lives that could account for extreme and dangerous drug use? This has been a largely rural phenomenon, and these areas have been economically hard-hit. We are looking at people who have lost real jobs that pay enough to get by because of deindustrialization, people who are part of a working class that is seeing its life chances evaporate before its eyes," Reinarman said.
"The white, trailer trash guy with tattoos and a t-shirt, drinking beer, chain-smoking and shooting speed with dirty kids crawling around being neglected is the poster child," said Reinarman, "but there are a lot of different use patterns out there. "There is the middle class white woman who gets it from a psychiatrist's prescription, there are people who binge as a couple every few months, there are students who use it to study. So how representative is the stereotypical speed freak? I don't think anyone knows."
Jason Zeidenberg, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, has been watching the meth numbers, too, and he added some perspective. "Meth is a real problem for some people, but it is an over-hyped problem. All you have to do is look at the use rates and look at sentencing. When 100,000 people a year die from alcohol, I'm still saying that's the most dangerous drug in America."
A grassroots call for a national rally for prison and sentencing reform will bear fruit eight days from now, as thousands of people are expected to descend on Washington, DC, for a demonstration next Saturday -- August 13 -- demanding an end to criminal justice policies that have resulted in the United States becoming the world's leading jailer. The brainchild of Montgomery, Alabama, radio personality Roberta Franklin, the Journey for Justice is gathering support from a broad range of prison, civil rights, social justice, and drug policy reform organizations, including a healthy sample of locally-based prisoner friend and family and ex-prisoner groups.
The Journey for Justice has been endorsed by national drug reform organizations, including DRCNet, Drug Policy Alliance, Harm Reduction Coalition, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, The November Coalition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the US Marijuana Party and the Women's Organization for Drug Prohibition Reform, as well as groups such as Critical Resistance, which seeks to "abolish the prison-industrial complex," Morris Dees' Southern Poverty Law Center, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
But equally important is the upswell of grassroots activism and small, local organizations coming together for the cause. In Montgomery, local women held fish fries to raise money for chartered buses. In New York and Boston, local groups have pulled together to charter more buses. It is a similar story in communities across the country, with prisoners' friends and families joining with activists and reformers to rent more buses and more vans.
People all coming by plane, train, and automobile, and at least one man, is coming by bicycle -- all the way from California. "My brother is serving a 26-year-to-life sentence in California under the three-strikes law," said David Losa, the Santa Barbara representative of Families to Amend California's Three-Strikes in Montgomery Wednesday. Losa's brother Doug is one of about half a million nonviolent drug prisoners doing time in America. He went down over trace amounts of methamphetamine. "I've been riding about a hundred miles a day across the country trying to get some coverage of these unjust laws," he told DRCNet. "We need national attention on this issue; we need to take the national stage."
Losa said he will be joined in Washington, DC, next weekend by about 25 fellow FACTS members who are making the trip from the West Coast. "It's quite an undertaking," he said. "It mirrors the struggle we face in reforming our sentencing policies."
"I'm going to DC because I know exactly what it's like to be incarcerated and there are no words to describe the degree of suffering that incarceration inflicts upon the soul of a human being," said Amy Ralston, a former drug war prisoner granted clemency nine years into her 24-year sentence by then President Bill Clinton. "Incarceration, in many ways is probably more painful than the death of a loved one because there is no solace or closure, knowing/believing that your loved one has gone to heaven or has found peace in another place/state of being," she told DRCNet. "But they are not gone and in fact they are living in a place that one can only compare to hell on earth. A phone call at Christmas is never a joyful one. Every time I called home to wish my parents 'Merry Christmas' my mother would break down in tears and I would choke tears back so as not to upset her more than she already was."
Someone has to speak for prisoners, said Ralston, who has formed a foundation called CAN-DO to press for clemency for more prisoners. "Except for our family members, no one seems to care about people in prison. I went to prison believing that if the people only knew how draconian our drug laws were, public outcry would demand that changes be made. The only way that can happen is through solidarity and for events such as this march in DC to occur. I am fortunate and privileged to have this opportunity to attend this march and would not miss it for the world."
Also making the cross-continent trek are November Coalition activists Chuck Armsbury, Nora Callahan, and Tom Murlowski, who start driving from Colville, Washington, early next week. "We're just really excited," said Callahan. "We're hearing from people all around the country saying they're going to be there. I think enough people will show up that this will mark the date of the first major protest against the prison industrial complex," she told DRCNet.
The time is right, said Eric Sterling, head of the suburban DC-based Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, who will speak at the event. "There are nationwide protests that come to Washington for all sorts of issues," he told DRCNet. "It's about time there are more national protests against the way our justice system has gone off track."
The August 13 protest should draw "a few thousand," Callahan predicted. "We've seen a lot of interest in the South, and of course, the closer to DC, the more interest. I've noticed a real outpouring in New York and New England as well."
The Journey for Justice is bringing together two forces for change -- prison activists and drug reformers -- whose interests are not completely congruent. While drug reformers naturally tend to focus on drug war prisoners, prison activists focus on all prisoners. "Some people are complaining this is all about drugs," said Callahan, "but if it seems there is an emphasis on drugs it is because there is an emphasis on drug offenders in the criminal justice system. Still, we are marching under one banner to demand that system be reviewed in its entirety."
"So far, things are moving along fine," said Journey for Justice organizer Roberta Franklin. "The response has been tremendous, and we now have organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance on board. We're going to create a mass movement just like in the 1950s and 1960s because the prison situation is just so rotten we have to create a mass movement," she told DRCNet. "We have to educate the people. When the people see it is going to require this kind of action, they will step forward."
Franklin, too, was optimistic there would be a healthy turnout, and gave some credit to Drug War Chronicle. "We've got buses chartered from Birmingham and Mobile and Dothan and Selma, and that's just Alabama. We've got people driving vans and carloads. We're looking at good numbers of people coming from Texas and Mississippi and Georgia. We've got people coming from New York and Baltimore, and DC people coming out," she said. "After your article two weeks ago, things really started happening."
It's not too late to make plans to join the Journey for Justice in Washington next weekend -- visit their web site for further information.
This week, we've got cops stealing from drug dealers in Dayton and from the evidence locker in Detroit, and yet another prison guard caught trying to supplement his income. Without any further ado:
In Dayton, Ohio, Dayton Police Officer Rick Elworth and former Germantown Police Officer James Gregory appeared in federal court July 29 on charges of conspiring to possess and distribute drugs. The pair are accused of plotting to break into the homes and businesses of known drug dealers, steal their cash and drugs, and resell the drugs in Kentucky. According to the FBI in documents filed in the case, Gregory broke into a home in Dayton July 25 while Elworth, on duty and in uniform in his police cruiser, acted as a lookout. Gregory is out on house arrest, but Elworth was ordered held without bail after allegedly threatening to kill a man, a threat the FBI says it has on tape.
In Detroit, former Detroit Police Officer Donald Hynes was sentenced July 27 to 18 years in prison for helping civilian police employee John Earl Cole Sr. steal more than 220 pounds of cocaine and sell it for at least $480,000. Hynes was convicted in March of conspiracy to distribute cocaine; distribution of cocaine; conspiracy to steal, embezzle and convert police property; embezzling and converting police property; conspiracy to launder money; and making false declarations before a grand jury. Hynes used the police department's computer system to create false entries showing that cocaine no longer needed as evidence had been destroyed, then pointed Cole to the packages. Cole got 15 years after prosecutors lightened his 30-year sentencing guideline sentence because he cooperated in the case. Six others have also been convicted.
In Chicago, a former Cook County jail guard was sentenced to four years in prison July 29 after pleading guilty to smuggling drugs to prison inmates. Michael Long, Jr. was busted after an undercover sheriff's deputy urged him to deliver marijuana to an inmate and met Long to complete the deal. Prosecutors dropped nine additional charges in return for the guilty plea.
The House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act July 28. While debate focused on the larger issues of whether the act is necessary to defend freedom or an erosion of it, the House reauthorization also included a provision approved on a voice vote that would create the new offense of "narco-terrorism."
Offered by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), the successful amendment would make manufacture, sale, possession with the intent to sell Schedule I and II drugs, or conspiracy to do any of the above "narco-terrorism" if it "directly or indirectly, aids, or provides support, resources or anything of value to: (a) a foreign terrorist organization; or (b) any person or group involved in the planning, preparation for, or carrying out of a terrorist offense."
A "narco-terrorism" conviction would draw a mandatory minimum 20-year prison sentence, with the possibility of a life sentence. Under the provision, "the government need not prove that the defendant knew that an organization is a designated foreign terrorist organization,'" according to the House floor summary.
Under this wording, the statute's reach is unclear. Could the urban teenager selling $10 rocks of crack on the street be charged as a "narco-terrorist" if the cocaine he was retailing was proven to come from a shipment ultimately controlled by the Colombian paramiliaries or the FARC, both of which reportedly earn fortunes in the business? Whether the crack seller is transformed into a "narco-terrorist" could depend on nothing more than the ambition and ruthlessness of a young Assistant US Attorney somewhere.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has already passed a version of the Patriot Act reauthorization that does not include "narco-terrorism." The full Senate is scheduled to vote on reauthorization after this month's congressional recess.
The original Patriot Act was passed in great haste after the 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. It allowed expanded surveillance of "terrorist suspects" and loosened restrictions on government snooping, much to the concern of civil libertarians. This year's reauthorization would make the act permanent, but some of the most contentious provisions -- including roving wiretaps and spying on library records -- would have to be renewed after ten years.
A Patriot Act provision sold to the American people as a crucial tool in the "war on terror" was used by federal officials to investigate a marijuana-smuggling operation using a cross-border tunnel between British Columbia and Washington state, the Seattle Times reported. Law enforcement officials obtained a "sneak and peek" warrant, which allowed them to enter and bug the tunnel without informing the suspects that a search warrant had been issued. Traditionally in American jurisprudence, search warrants require that the subject be notified immediately when a search has been conducted.
"Sneak and peek" warrants were especially contentious during debates around passage of the Patriot Act in late 2001. They allow such searches to go unannounced for months after the fact. In its Patriot Act reauthorization bill, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved language that would greatly restrict their use. The House has already passed its version of the bill without those changes; the Senate will act when it returns after the August recess.
Civil libertarians criticize "sneak and peak" warrants as a fundamental insult to traditional American values. "I think that the power that the government has under the Patriot Act... is clearly contrary to the notion underlying the Fourth Amendment," said former US Rep. Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican who was a fierce drug warrior in Congress but who has otherwise been a staunch defender of the Bill of Rights. He currently heads a Patriot Act reform organization Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances. The "sneak and peak" warrants are "being used in cases that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism," Barr told the Times.
Doug Whalley, an assistant US attorney in Seattle, said the Patriot Act codified already-existing law, making it difficult to challenge the use of sneak-and-peek warrants in court. Rulings before the act were made on a case-by-case basis, Whalley said, and appeals courts could have ruled the warrants were improperly issued.
"The Justice Department decided to create a statutory right across the board to try and create a national right of law enforcement to create secret searches of businesses and homes, secret seizures of evidence," said Lisa Graves, senior counsel for legislative strategy for the American Civil Liberties Union. The warrants are an attempt to give law enforcement blanket ability to conduct such searches without being held accountable, she told the Times.
In the case of the tunnel, federal officials said they were concerned not only about marijuana-smuggling but also the possibility it could be used to smuggle terrorists or weapons. But that didn't wash with Seattle defense attorney Bob Mahler. "The tunnel has nothing to do with the war on terrorism... There's absolutely no reason why the authorities couldn't have availed themselves of the normal ways possible," Mahler told the Times. "They just didn't feel the need to use the normal, constitutionally mandated processes because they had this new tool that was given to them."
In a decision that went under the radar when it was issued in late May, the New Jersey Court of Appeals has blocked law enforcement there from examining power company records in an effort to catch indoor marijuana growers without a search warrant. The state of New Jersey has appealed, and the case is headed for the state Supreme Court. In the meantime, the state Supreme Court has issued a temporary order staying the appellate court decision and 31-year-old Keith Domicz, the man convicted in the case in lower court, remains in prison, two years into a 10-year sentence.
The case began when New Jersey State Police Marijuana Eradication Unit investigators subpoenaed the United Parcel Service delivery records from a Pennsylvania shop that sold the high-powered lights used in indoor gardening. Domicz was on the list. Police reviewed his criminal history, and a 1995 marijuana possession arrest increased their suspicions, so they used another subpoena to get his power usage records from Atlantic City Electric. (They also subpoenaed the records of two nearby homes for comparison purposes; the unknowing residents were not suspected of anything.) His power records showed a spike soon after the lights arrived, police said. They then scanned Domicz' home with a thermal imaging scanner -- again without a warrant -- but found nothing significant.
Subpoenas are issued by grand juries at the request of prosecutors, while judges issue search warrants. A search warrant requires probable cause that a crime has been committed, while a subpoena requires little more than a persuasive prosecutor.
Police then conducted a "knock and talk," where they simply knock on the door and ask the suspect questions. Police claim Domicz invited them in and consented to a search. Domicz argued in court that police told him they had a search warrant and forced him to sign a consent form without allowing him to read it.
In its blunt May ruling, the appellate court strongly suggested in believed Domicz' version of events, but saved its real scorn for the warrantless searches and the trial judge who allowed them to stand. Domicz' motion to have the evidence thrown out should have been granted "because the police entry into defendant's home and the search of his home violated the United States and New Jersey constitutions," the appeals court held. "The warrantless thermal-imaging scan of defendant's home constituted an unreasonable search. The warrantless seizure of defendant's electric bills was illegal. Defendant's consent to search his home was not voluntarily and knowingly made."
The court ordered Domicz' conviction reversed, his motion for suppression of the evidence granted, and a new hearing on the issue of Domicz' consent to the search, including whether previous police misconduct in the searches would require even the fruits of a consent search to be suppressed. Lastly, the court directed "that a different judge be assigned to conduct all future proceedings" in the case.
If the ruling is upheld, New Jersey law enforcement will have to convince a judge there is enough evidence a crime is being committed to get him to approve a search warrant for utility and other records. The ruling would also throw into doubt any convictions based on warrantless thermal imaging scanning done by police before the Supreme Court outlawed that practice in 2001.
"I was basically a normal citizen, except for the marijuana part," Domicz, a former roofer, told the Philadelphia Inquirer from his prison cell this week. "I worked and paid taxes and all that good stuff." He was pleased with the ruling, even though the stay meant he was staying put for the time being. "I think my case will help a lot of people," Domicz said. "It's going to force police to change their investigative measures, which means they'll have to follow the law."
It's not just the New Jersey appeals court Domicz has behind him -- his mom is there, too. She told the Inquirer marijuana ought to be legalized. "Pot is like this big tragedy," she said. "What's the big deal? Really? Who was hurt? No one but my son."
Both houses of Congress have approved legislation that will expand the use of methadone substitute buprenorphine as a treatment for heroin and other opioid dependency. While use of buprenorphine to treat opiate addiction in the doctor's office was okayed in the Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) of 2000, that act capped the number of patients a physician could treat at 30. But that same 30-patient limit was also applied to group medical practices, no matter how many doctors were part of the group. The bill passed by Congress lifts the limit on group practices.
Naturally enough, the move was greeted with enthusiasm by Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which manufactures Suboxone. Passage of the bill "will allow every qualified doctor within a group medical practice to prescribe Suboxone up to his or her individual physician limit of 30 patients," the company said. Group medical practices include large institutions such as hospitals and health-maintenance organizations, a Reckitt press release noted.
City health officials in New York City, home to about 20% of the nation's heroin addicts, were also pleased. The city health department estimates that only about a thousand people a month are currently getting the drug, but with the new legislation hopes to see that number climb to 100,000 -- half of the city's junkie population -- by the end of the decade.
Worth noting is the bill's sponsorship in the House. Pushing the bill in the lower chamber was none other than arch-drug warrior, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), who brought 44 co-sponsors on board. In the Senate, the measure was sponsored by heavy hitters including Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Joseph Biden (D-DE), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Richard Durbin (D-IL).
A voter initiative that would make Denver the first large city in the country to legalize marijuana possession is headed for the November ballot after the Denver City Council Safety Committee Wednesday gave its okay. That action came after initiative organizers submitted petitions containing the signatures of more than 10% of registered Denver voters. The 12,500 signatures submitted were twice the amount needed to make the ballot.
The initiative is organized by Safer Alternatives For Alternative Recreation, the group that won initiative votes at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University urging university administration's to equalize the campus punishments for alcohol and tobacco. The measure would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by people 21 or over under the Denver municipal code.
But Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell told the council committee Wednesday Denver police would arrest marijuana possessors under state law. Under Colorado law, marijuana possession up to an ounce is a Class 2 petty offense, punishable by a $100 fine. The city has successfully challenged the preeminence of state over municipal law in the past, particularly over a pit-bull ordinance tougher than state law, but Broadwell said the city would not challenge state authority on the marijuana law.
City officials were equally
unenthusiastic about the measure. They could have adopted it themselves,
but instead opted to take it to the voters. "I don't feel comfortable
enacting it," said Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann. "I just don't support
But Mason Tyvert, executive director of SAFER, said the city should listen to voters. "We would hope the city of Denver will respect the will of the city," Tvert said. "Does it mean they will? I don't know. I have a strong feeling that it would improve the quality of life for the city."
In the meantime, local media are all over the story, Tyvert told DRCNet. "It is already generating quite a stir. We had four local TV news stories, and I appeared on today's edition of Good Day Colorado on Fox News along with a DEA agent. The DEA and government are already playing the "it won't make a difference" card -- the typical response when they fear the winds of change -- in order to break support for the initiative," Tyvert noted. The story also got play in Denver's two major newspapers, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News.
Meanwhile, in the Rocky Mountain resort town of Telluride, the city council Tuesday passed a measure making marijuana offenses the "lowest law enforcement priority." It joins cities such as Ann Arbor, Oakland, and Columbia, Missouri, in having done so.
The New Zealand Parliament Thursday okayed the rescheduling of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), such as Ecstasy and methamphetamine from category B to category B1. It was a move sought by the New Zealand government in the wake of evidence of increasing ATS use in the South Pacific island nation.
The move will dramatically increase penalties. For example, possession with intent to distribute ATS drugs, which previously carried a maximum sentence of three months is now worth up to 14 years in prison. It also gives police greater search and seizure powers in ATS-related investigations.
Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton praised the move, saying the stimulants were extremely harmful. "By supporting this move, Parliament is saying that it is not in the public interest for them to be used as so-called recreational drugs," he said in a statement after the vote.
Concern about methamphetamine in particular has been on the increase in New Zealand since a police report last year warned that the drug was easily available. The vote came just two weeks after a well-publicized ATS bust involving white-collar managerial workers in Auckland.
The recent bust reinforced the findings in the police report, said local police commander Ted Cox. "The report indicated availability of these types of drugs as 'easy' or 'very easy' and that ATS drug use is prevalent across the community not just in the criminal world," he told the New Zealand Herald. "The study showed a percentage of ATS drug users had high levels of fulltime employment, came from a range of occupational backgrounds including professionals, earned mid-level incomes and had relatively high levels of educational achievement," Cox said.
So we should send them to prison for a few years?
A new resource for patients, advocates, and opiate agonist treatment providers has appeared on the world-wide web. The web site, Medical Assisted Treatment is a project of Advocates for Recovery through Medicine (ARM), a Georgia-based nonprofit organization devoted to education and advocacy of opiate agonist therapies. Opiate agonists are drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine (see related story this issue) that prevent opiate withdrawal, block the effects of illicit opiate use, and decrease opiate craving.
Both methadone and buprenorphine maintenance are proven treatments for heroin or other opioid addictions, but operate under tight restrictions in the United States. These treatments are also scorned by a significant section of the population as somehow coddling drug users or attracting drug users into neighborhoods.
ARM, led by director Deborah Shrira, seeks to change that. The organization, Shira writes, "is comprised of advocates working to end the discrimination and the stigma attached to opiate agonist treatment for over forty years. We function as mediators for patients to assure that quality treatment has not been compromised. We work to change the way the world looks at addiction. Addiction is a Disease! We are here to expose the truth and open people's eyes if they are open-minded enough to give us some of their time and let go of their tunnel-vision."
With links to discussion forums, academic research, legal pages, opiate agonist treatment information, news, and much, much more, Medical Assisted Treatment should serve as a valuable resource for people interested in the topic. Visit http://www.medicalassistedtreatment.org to check it out.
August 6, 1990: Robert C. Bonner is sworn in as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Bonner had been a federal judge in Los Angeles. Before he became a judge, Bonner served as a US attorney from 1984 to 1989.
August 6, 2004: The Ninth Circuit orders the release, pending appeal, of Bryan Epis, who had been convicted of conspiracy to grow 1,000 marijuana plants in a federal trial in which the jury was not allowed to hear that he was a medical marijuana activist.
August 7, 1997: The New England Journal of Medicine opines, "Virtually no one thinks it is reasonable to initiate criminal prosecution of patients with cancer or AIDS who use marijuana on the advice of their physicians to help them through conventional medical treatment for their disease."
August 8, 1988: The domestic marijuana seizure record is set (still in effect today) -- 389,113 pounds in Miami, Florida.
August 8, 2001: During his third term in Congress, Asa Hutchinson is appointed by President Bush as Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
August 9, 1990: Two hundred National Guardsmen and Bureau of Land Management rangers conduct a marijuana raid dubbed Operation Green Sweep on a federal conservation area in California known as King Ridge. Local residents file a $100 million lawsuit, claiming that Federal agents illegally invaded their property, wrongfully arrested them, and harassed them with their low-flying helicopters and loaded guns.
Prevention Point Pittsburgh is dedicated to reducing transmission rates of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other blood borne infectious diseases associated with injection drug use. PPP provides clean injection equipment and related services to injection drug users. By both practicing and advocating for harm reduction, PPP works to improve the lives of injection drug users by changing public health policy at local, state, and national levels.
Prevention Point Pittsburgh is currently hiring a Crisis Interventionist/Cross Systems Specialist (CI/CSS) to provide risk reduction and crisis management services to injection drug users enrolled in the needle exchange program. The CI/CSS will assist participants in accessing other needed social services such as health/mental health care, drug treatment, housing, legal assistance, etc. Target population includes active injection drug users who may also have HIV, Hepatitis C, and mental illness, may be homeless, and require assistance in multiple areas of their lives.
The CI/CSS will screen and assess at-risk program participants in need of CI/CSS services; provide individualized crisis management and support, deliver appropriate referrals to participants, and provide assistance in accessing other necessary social services (HIV, Hepatitis, substance use, healthcare, housing, legal, other related services); conduct client centered HIV/HCV prevention, safer injection, and risk reduction interventions for injection drug users and other high-risk populations; develop relationships with local social service providers to maintain comprehensive referral system; administer the Pennsylvania Client Placement Criteria (PCPC) instrument; provide overdose prevention education and response trainings to populations at-risk; provide advocacy on behalf of clients; provide training to volunteers on recognizing client crisis situations and triaging to CI/CSS; coordinate with needle exchange staff and volunteers; coordinate with staff of other agencies; and carry out other related duties as assigned.
Minimum Requirements include one year experience in case management, risk reduction, or other related field; strong commitment to harm reduction philosophy; ability to provide individualized and client centered risk reduction outreach with open minded and nonjudgmental approach; thorough knowledge of issues related to injection drug use, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, safer injection, sexually transmitted diseases, human sexuality, and transgender issues; experience in HIV/Hepatitis C risk reduction; experience with injection drug users, ability to relate to active drug users, and understanding of issues related to drug use and addiction; ability to develop and maintain trust with program participants; ability to maintain confidentiality; ability to work independently with minimal supervision; familiarity with local resources in mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, homeless services, and other service providers; strong organizational, writing, reporting, and communication skills; valid PA Driver's License and access to reliable transportation; excellent documentation, record keeping, and computer skills.
The CI/CSS will be expected to have flexibility in work hours as they will be required to work at the needle exchange site during hours of operation. All Sundays and some evenings are required. Salary for full time position $25,000; send resume and cover letter to 907 West St. 5th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15221 or e-mail to [email protected].
Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].
August 10-11, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Third National Conference on Drug Policy, Auditorium, Chamber of Deputies Annex Building, Rivadavia 1853, 8:30am-6:00pm. For further information, contact Intercambios, the Civil Association for the Study of Drug-Related Problems at (011) 4954 7272, [email protected] or http://www.intercambios.org.ar online.
August 12-13, Washington, DC, "Over 2 Million Imprisoned -- Too Many!", March on DC, sponsored by Family and Friends of People Incarcerated (FMI). Reception Friday evening, march Saturday morning from 9:00am to noon. Contact Roberta Franklin at (334) 220-4670 or [email protected], or visit http://www.journeyforjustice.org for further information.
August 12-28, New York, NY, "Confessions of a Dope Dealer," solo performance by Sheldon Norberg. At the International Fringer Festival, visit http://www.adopedealer.com for further information.
August 13, Washington, DC, "Million Family Members and Friends of Inmates March," sponsored by Family Members of Inmates. Contact Roberta Franklin at (334) 220-4670 or [email protected] for further information.
August 13, 7:00-9:00pm, Missoula, MT, fundraiser to help low-income medical marijuana patients obtain state registry cards. Sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project, featuring MPP executive director Rob Kampia. At 240 East Spruce, suggested $50 contribution (contributions of any size accepted), RSVP to Michael Sanderson at (202) 462-5747 ext. 127 or [email protected] by August 12.
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.
August 28, 11:00am-9:00pm, Olympia, WA, Third Annual Olympia Hempfest. At Heritage Park, visit http://www.olyhempfest.com for further information.
September 14-17, Scottsdale, AZ, "Speaking Truth to Power: Vision, Voice & Justice," conference on racial and economic justice, sponsored by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association and the Project for the Future of Equal Justice. Contact Charles Wynder at [email protected] or (202) 452-0620 ext. 221 or visit http://www.nlada.org for further information.
September 23-25, New Paltz, NY, Students for Sensible Drug Policy Northeast Conference. At SUNY New Paltz, contact Jenny Loeb at [email protected] for further information.
September 25-29, Kabul, Afghanistan, "The 2005 Kabul International Symposium -- Drug Policy: Challenges and Responses." Sponsored by the Senlis Council, at Kabul University, visit http://www.senliscouncil.net/modules/events/kabul/ or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
October 1-2, Madison WI, "35th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival." At the UW Campus Library Mall, visit http://www.weedstock.com for further information.
October 18-19, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "Escaping the Chaos: A Public Health Alternative to Black Market Drug Distribution," conference and evening multi-faith session sponsored by the "Keeping the Door Open: Dialogues on Drug Use" coalition. At the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 W. Hastings St., visit http://www.keepingthedooropen.com 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.
November 13-16, Markham, Ontario, "Issues of Substance," Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse National Conference 2005. At Hilton Suites Toronto/Markham Conference Centre & Spa, visit http://www.ccsa.ca/pdf/ccsa-annconf-abstract-2005-e.pdf for info.
January 13-15, 2006, Basel, Switzerland, "Problem Child and Wonder Drug: International Symposium on the occasion of the 100th Birthday of Albert Hofmann." Sponsored by the Gaia Media Foundation, visit http://www.lsd.info for further information.
February 9-11, 2006, Tasmania, Australia, The Eleventh International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA), coordinated by Justice Action. For further information visit http://www.justiceaction.org.au/ICOPA/ndx_icopa.html or contact +612-9660 9111 or [email protected].
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.
April 30-May 4, 2006, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "17th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm," annual conference of the International Harm Reduction Association. Visit http://www.harmreduction2006.ca for further information.
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