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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #401 -- 8/26/05

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


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"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Table of Contents

    Stormtroopers Attack Utah Ravers in Desert
    DRCNet has reached an important milestone -- your support is needed for there to be more.
    The contrast between Seattle police at the Hempfest and paramilitarized Utah County forces at a rave in the desert could not be starker.
    What was supposed to be a night of dancing to electronic beats under the desert stars turned into a nightmare when 90 Utah law enforcement officers dressed in combat gear and carrying assault rifles attacked.
    In the midst of a media-driven legislative hysteria over methamphetamine, more than 900 people gathered in Salt Lake City for more reliable information on the drug and its links to HIV and Hepatitis.
    Stung by criticisms that it wasn't paying sufficient attention to the "methamphetamine epidemic," the Bush administration late last week responded with its own meth initiative. But it has failed to satisfy critics from either side of the debate.
    Argentina's capital city will be the location of a three-day conference next month bringing together anti-prohibitionists from across the hemisphere.
    A crooked police chief in Louisiana, a pair of crooked cops in Massachusetts, a quartet of crooked cops in Tennessee -- and one drug-dealing prison guard.
    Finding a customs official or border guard willing to violate prohibition by turning a strategic blind eye is an easy matter with so much drug money available to spend.
    A proposal to move small-time marijuana possession offenses out of district court and into city court in the college of town of Lawrence, Kansas, is winning initial support from the mayor and other elected officials.
    A second chip may soon be removed from New York state's Rockefeller drug law wall.
    Britain's outspoken former drug advisor has passed away, but her voice will live on in a forthcoming book called "Legalize Drugs."
    Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens agrees with medical marijuana, but by Congress, not the court.
    The nation's largest annual marijuana protest/festival has come and gone, again drawing record crowds and notably recording no arrests of any kind.
    A leading Scottish drug authority is preparing the case for his party to become the first mainstream political party in the United Kingdom to call for prescription heroin for addicts.
    Police in Kansas can already charge people with possessing, selling, or manufacturing drugs, but that isn't enough for some law enforcement officials and legislators.
  16. WEB SCAN
    U-Mass/DEA Hearings, JPI Report on Marijuana Enforcement's Non-Impact
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    Showing up at an event can be the best way to get involved! Check out this week's listings for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!

(Chronicle archives)

1. Appeal: Drug War Chronicle Still Needs Your Help

A special thanks to all of you who responded when we put out the word that your help was needed as we reached an important milestone -- issue #400, released last week, of Drug War Chronicle, our widely-read publication educating and empowering advocates, journalists, policymakers and others around the world while fomenting activism and change.

HELP IS STILL NEEDED: Readers like you make up a crucial portion of our budget without which this and all our other work will come to a stop. So please make a generous donation to support this important program that serves the entire drug policy reform movement -- click here to contribute online -- we need your support to be able to continue providing this service! Donate $35 or more and you are entitled to receive a complimentary copy of "Breaking Rank, A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing," a cutting new volume by former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper. (Click here for our interview with Stamper -- which also links to our review of his book -- among other things Stamper explains how his views have evolved even further toward ending prohibition than when he wrote the book -- more issue-advancing DRCNet reporting!)

Drug War Chronicle will not be able to continue much longer without your help. In a few months the grant that is paying 60% of the cost of producing it will run out, and we need your help to meet the other 40%. Each issue of Drug War Chronicle costs about $1,400 to produce -- please consider a donation in that amount if you can afford it. Without your help, not only with DRCNet be less able to produce the newsletter, we will have less left to carry out our advocacy campaigns as well -- ultimately DRCNet is not just a reporting organization, but an organization working to change the world -- there will be less for us to work with in changing laws like the Higher Education Act drug provision, the federal ban on medical marijuana, the awful mandatory minimum sentences, laws funding student drug testing and more.

So please visit our main donation page to support DRCNet -- or click here to sign up to donate monthly instead. In addition to "Breaking Rank," we continue to offer our full range of member incentives -- books, shirts, mugs, coasters, the video "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters," more -- as our thanks and to help you help us spread the word.

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Activist Tom Angell wrote the following letter of support for us earlier this month:

If you're a regular DRCNet reader, then you might know about me from DRCNet's Drug War Chronicle newsletter -- first as the founder of the University of Rhode Island chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and now as the campaigns director in the SSDP national office. Earlier this summer, Rhode Islanders scored a big hit: Our state Senate overwhelmingly passed a pro-medical marijuana bill, a mere one day after the US Supreme Court rejected states' rights to medical marijuana in the Raich case, and in the face of a veto threat by Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri. The bill was then passed overwhelmingly by the state House of Representatives as well -- and the governor did veto it. But the Senate overrode his veto the very next day. If things go as well in the House, it will be a great victory for medical marijuana that will help patients throughout the state and send a necessary message to Congress that they should act too.

While DRCNet played no direct role in the Rhode Island medical marijuana campaign, it very well may not have happened without them. The reason is that DRCNet's long-term movement-building, movement-empowering work laid a crucial portion of the groundwork for it. The Rhode Island medical marijuana campaign was founded by myself and an activist at the Brown University SSDP chapter. But SSDP might not have existed were it not for DRCNet's starting the Higher Education Act Reform Campaign in 1998 -- rallying students nationwide against a law that takes financial aid away from students with drug convictions -- and using its list and its funding to get SSDP off the ground as an independent national organization, which now has thousands of activists on more than 100 college and high school campuses nationwide. That's one of the reasons. The other reason is that I became an activist because of Drug War Chronicle. Reading the Chronicle week after week taught me just how serious and just how important an issue this is, inspired me to get involved, pointed me to opportunities for doing so, and then kept me informed and prepared to do the best job that I could. And I am just one of many people around the country who say the same thing.

I hope you will take a few moments today to make the most generous donation to DRCNet that you can. With everything that DRCNet does to support, build and get the word out about all the other organizations in the movement, there are many deserving places to send a check that come to your attention in Drug War Chronicle every week. But even if the issue that you care most about -- be it medical marijuana, sentencing, drug testing, etc.
-- is not one that DRCNet is leading, it would be shortsighted to not support DRCNet as well. Because without DRCNet, we would have a smaller movement less capable of taking all those things on; and who knows how much DRCNet will be able to do for the movement moving forward in the same way -- subtle, long-term, but powerful? In my opinion, a lot -- but only with your help.

DRCNet is so important, for the movement's present and for its future -- thank you for making the most generous donation that you can.

Tom Angell, Campaigns Director
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Washington, DC


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After we ran a story in June 2003 about the cancellation of a NORML/SSDP fundraiser in Billings, MT, following a threat by DEA agents to prosecute club owners under the controversial "RAVE Act," our story was forwarded by a constituent of a member of Congress to one of her staffers, who then contacted us for information. The staffer is working on monitoring the Act to prevent abuses, and subscribed to our list.

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When Ecuadoran former army colonel Lucio Gutierrez gave an interview to Chronicle editor Phil Smith at an anti-Plan Colombia conference, he didn't expect it to come back to haunt him when three years later as President of Ecuador, under US pressure, he denied attending that conference or ever opposing Plan Colombia. But El Universo, one of Ecuador's largest daily papers, found the interview online. The article ran on the front page -- click here to read it online (in Spanish).

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2. Editorial: A Tale of Two Cities

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

David Borden
The contrast could not be starker. In Seattle, 150,000 people gather for the two-day Hempfest, with no incidents and no arrests. Outside Provo, a smaller group of dance enthusiasts congregate for a late night rave in the desert, legally, but are literally attacked by a militarized, multi-agency police team.

In Seattle, the official police line was that they were there, in modest numbers, to protect public safety in the event they should be needed. In Utah, the heavily-armed SWAT-like squadron went in with guns waving, brutalized a number of attendees, carted off dozens and shut down the party. Which approach makes more sense?

Observers of the drug war routinely note how raids using over-the-top police tactics can end in tragedy. Surely Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy is aware of this too. But that didn't stop him from using them. Someone could easily have been shot by the police, even killed, for no legitimate or useful purpose. One of the young people harshly shoved to the ground could have been injured, even seriously; those things happen sometimes too. But that didn't stop Sheriff Tracy either.

My recommendation is to fire Sheriff Tracy. There is too much overkill in policing these days, and too many cases of shockingly poor judgment such as he demonstrated. And it is not the first time Tracy has placed members of the public in danger in this way. It is dangerous to have such a person working in law enforcement, with the authority and legal power to use force, not just in a top position but at any level. Firing him would be a simple act of common sense and responsibility. But don't wait for it to happen.

Instead, lawyers and civil libertarians will work with the victimized ravers to punish the county with expensive lawsuits, and the point will be made that way. But civil rights shouldn't have to be demonstrated after the fact of their violation. They should just be respected. Seattle's police by no means have a spotless history in this regard. But they made a sensible choice this week at the Hempfest. Utah County police in the desert made a truly bizarre choice.

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3. Feature: PLUR Meets SWAT as Utah Cops Attack Electronic Dance Party

What was supposed to be a night of dancing to electronic beats under the stars in the Utah desert Saturday night turned into a nightmare for some 900 party-goers as they were suddenly attacked by 90 Utah law enforcement officers dressed in combat gear and carrying assault rifles. The PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect) kids proved to be no match for the paramilitarized SWAT teams that descended on them on the orders of Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy.

The event was shut down at gunpoint and some 60 people were arrested, although only 21 of them for drug or alcohol violations. Many more were brutalized, according to numerous eyewitness accounts. Sheriff Tracy claimed the dance party was an illegal gathering without a permit -- a claim vigorously denied by the promoter -- and that illegal drug use was observed by undercover agents at the party.

"It's not just a mass gathering, there's illicit use of drugs, distribution of drugs," Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Darren Gilbert told the Deseret Morning News early this week as questions began to be raised about the raid. "There was a lot of criminal activity just going on at the party itself."

Many early eyewitness accounts described the police as "soldiers" or "National Guardsmen" because of their rough tactics and combat uniforms, but no members of the armed forces were involved, according to Utah County authorities. Instead, the strike force consisted of Utah County Sheriff's deputies, Utah State Police members, a Utah Department of Corrections SWAT squad, and Provo city police. Police officers acted brutally and violently, pointing guns at some party-goers and assaulting others, eyewitnesses said.

Salt Lake City resident member Jonathan Meander, the Utah director of DanceSafe, a harm reduction group that works with the dance culture, was one of the hundreds who had arrived at the party before the big bust. "About 11:30, a helicopter circled the party and people started to scatter," he told DRCNet. "The cops started coming in with cammo gear and assault rifles and dogs and tear gas, and they were yelling and pushing and hassling people. If you tried to get your stuff, you got hit. I saw people get beaten to the ground. They were also trying to prevent people from filming them. The way we got the footage that has made its way to the Internet is that one guy was filming and a cop knocked the camera out of his hand, and one of his friends grabbed the camera and ran away," Meander said.

"I am disgusted. I saw a lot of stuff that just wasn't right," said Meander. "We wanted to go dancing in the desert, and they come with their assault rifles and beat us up."

The assault is being denounced by national organizations that support the dance culture, as well as by civil liberties and drug reform groups. "That raid was atrocious," said Marc Brandl, national director of DanceSafe. "This was harm maximization. If law enforcement had any concerns, they could have brought them up beforehand, instead of ruining these young people's lives," he told DRCNet. "This wouldn't have happened if it had been a Neil Young concert. This is an attack on rave culture, but the more they crack down, the more they drive it underground."

"Throughout American history, our government has attacked every new form of youth music, including jazz, hip-hop, rock and roll, and now electronic music," said Abby Bair, outgoing Outreach Coordinator for Students for Sensible Drug Policy. "A person is no more likely to use drugs at a 'rave' than at a Rolling Stones concert," she told DRCNet. "Fifteen years from now, Americans will look back on the rave laws to see them for what they really were: an absurd effort to criminalize youth culture and a direct violation of 1st Amendment rights."

In the meantime, said Scott Morgan, associate director for Flex Your Rights, a group devoted to teaching people how to effectively exercise their constitutional rights in police encounters, the only recourse may be the courts. "There isn't much we can do to prepare citizens for an experience like this," he told DRCNet. "When law-enforcement chooses to attack rather than protect citizens, the only thing you can do is keep suing them until they can't afford helicopters and camouflage battle-suits."

The attack on Versus II, a challenge of the DJs organized by promoter Salt Lake City promoter and record store owner Brandon Fullmer, is the latest escalation on what has become an all-out assault on dance music parties and the "rave culture" by authorities in Utah County. Located just south of Salt Lake City, the county prides itself on being the most conservative in the nation, and the Mormon-dominated county wants nothing to do with electronic dance music and the youth culture that enjoys it. The Utah County Sheriff's Office reported proudly that it had shut down two previous dance parties this summer. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah County cops wanted to "get their point across that such activity was not welcome in their area."

This is not the first time Sheriff Tracy and his SWAT team have been accused of excessive force. In May of this year, the Utah County SWAT team manhandled a Springville family when it erroneously raided their home. In documents filed as part of a federal lawsuit last month, the Lawrence Chidester family claimed their adult son, Larry, was tackled and his face shoved into the ground and rocks although he was standing with his hands in the air repeatedly saying "I am not resisting." The Chidesters also allege SWAT members threw homeowner Lawrence Chidester to the ground and pointed a gun at his head. While the SWAT team was aiming at the house next door, Sheriff Tracy justified the assault on the Chidesters by saying they became involved "as an ancillary issue." They were lying, anyway, he told the Provo Daily Herald.

The Utah County Sheriff's Department public relations machine was in high gear from the get-go. Sgt. Gilbert warned reporters that "raves" are a serious threat where drug use and underage drinking take place. "Reports of sexual assaults, overdoes, firearm violations, vehicle burglaries," also are to be expected, he said. At Saturday's party, a 17-year-old girl overdosed on Ecstasy, but was treated at the scene and released to her parents, he said. Gilbert also mentioned claims from women to have been sexually assaulted at an earlier party. An earlier party in nearby Little Moab had attracted 3,000 people, and the department wanted to avoid that, he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that this one could have been at 2,000 plus (people)," he said. "That's why we hit it so early."

Even in the wake of the raid and the rising clamor about Utah County assaults on the dance culture, Sheriff Tracy told the Salt Lake Tribune his office monitors the Internet, searches for party flyers, and sends up police helicopters in an effort to snuff out such gatherings. "If they're going to run one on a Wednesday night, we'll find it," he said. "We will ensure we find them and have them curtailed before they ever get to that point."

But the sheriff may have bitten off more than he can chew. The Utah dance party community is aroused, and no one more so than event promoter Brandon Fullmer, also known as DJ Loki. "The police were totally out of line," he told DRCNet. "What they did was totally uncalled for. There was no reason for them to use excessive force. They may deny it, but we have it on video. They came in without a warrant and manhandled people, including a 90-pound girl who got beat down. How are we supposed to respect the police when they come and treat us like criminals?"

Fullmer has hired noted Utah civil rights attorney Brian Bernard and plans to file a lawsuit, he said. "Our attorney is reviewing the case right now, and once we figure out how to proceed, then bam! We will take action. I've been doing this a long time and I make sure to cover everything. They've shut down other shows, and I understand that. But when I do everything needed to make this legal, they are not right to shut us down."

Fullmer disputed the sheriff's office statement that he lacked a permit. "They are saying I didn't have my permits, which is a flat-out lie," he said. "I'm not some kid; I'm a businessman and I've been doing these events for 10 years. We were in complete compliance with the requirements of Utah County."

The Utah County Sheriff's Office claimed that the event was not properly permitted because under county ordinance, events with more than 250 people must receive a permit from the county commission. But the sheriff's office was being intentionally misleading, said Fullmer. "The county law says you need the permit if you're going to have more than 250 people and the event is going to last more than 12 hours, but our event was not scheduled for more than 12 hours, therefore we did not need that permit."

Versus II had done everything required of it, said Fullmer. "We had a permit from the county health department, we had emergency medical technicians on scene, we hired security licensed through the state of Utah. By the way, six of those arrested were our security people. They had confiscated drugs from party-goers and the cops arrested them for drug possession for the drugs they confiscated!"

Fulmer and his attorney aren't the only lawyers examining the raid. "We have a lot of problems with how that entire matter was handled. We are extremely concerned, especially about the excessive force issues, as well as about the apparent attack on free expression and free assembly" said Dani Eyer, executive director of the Utah American Civil Liberties Union. "We have received complaints and are gathering stories and are in internal discussions about how to proceed."

Utah County Sheriff Tracy managed to shut down one more party, but in doing so he was brought unintended and unwanted attention to the county and his department. Now the question is how much the taxpayers of Utah County will have to pay for his attacks on young Utahns.

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4. Feature: National Methamphetamine Conference Convenes Unscathed Despite Attack by Congressional Drug Warrior

oThe day after the Bush administration announced its latest initiative to attack the use and abuse of methamphetamine, more than 900 scientists, researchers, doctors, prevention and treatment providers, harm reduction workers, and law enforcement personnel came together in Salt Lake City for the country's first national conference on meth and its links to HIV and Hepatitis C. Organized by the Salt Lake-based Harm Reduction Project and the New York-based Harm Reduction Coalition, the conference provided a timely, science- and evidence-based response to the steady drumbeat of meth horror stories that are driving public policy today.

Attacks on the conference last week by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), who confuses harm reduction with drug legalization, not only failed to convince the Department of Health and Human Services to pull its token funding for the event -- HHS kicked in $3,000 -- they also failed to convince Utah state substance abuse and other officials to pull out, despite a flurry of phone calls from Souder's people urging them to do so. In fact, Souder's attacks paradoxically gained exposure for the conference, as newspapers across the county reported the tussle.

Salt Lake City is the scenic capital of one of the country's most conservative states, but Mayor Rocky Anderson is a prominent supporter of drug policy reform, and the healthy contingent of state and local officials who participated in the conference showed that for those in the trenches, good, solid information was more important that dogmatic rhetoric. Still, there were culture clashes. Mormon social workers, for instance, had a hard time coming to grips with gay speed freak sex (and no doubt the gay speed freaks were equally bemused by the Mormons).

conference organizer Luciano Colonna
While critiques of current US drug policy in general and policy around methamphetamines in particular were abundant, reforming the drug laws was not on the agenda, except for one impressive panel discussion. Organizers planned it that way, said Luciano Colonna, executive director of the Harm Reduction Project.

"Our agenda was to put together people from various disciplines who don't usually work together and try to create a new model for these conferences on drug policy and harm reduction and substance abuse in general," Colonna told DRCNet. "This was not really a drug reform conference or even a harm reduction conference. Most of the people here were direct service providers -- people doing prevention and treatment and law enforcement -- and it is primarily substance abusers they are dealing with."

Indeed, harm reductionists probably accounted for only 200 of the more than 900 people who showed up, Colonna said. Scientists and researchers accounted for another hundred or so. "The rest were from all different disciplines, from Indian reservations and small-town health workers, who we have never before seen commingling with the scientists and researchers," he said.

There was plenty of good, solid science presented at the conference, with researchers funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse or linked to the Centers for Disease Control having a heavy presence. But given the hostility toward the conference expressed by Rep. Souder, it is not surprising that those scientists were consistently careful to point out that their presentations represented their own views -- not those of the federal institutions.

Dr. John Grabowski, director of the Substance Abuse Research Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, raised more than one pair of eyebrows with his discussion of amphetamines as a treatment for cocaine dependence and even methamphetamine dependence. While the use of opiate agonists such as methadone is increasingly non-controversial, that can't be said about amphetamine therapy. Why not? asked Grabowski. "Along with behavioral therapy, medications can be therapies for drug abuse," he said, pointing to the example of methadone.

Citing a handful of studies on the use of amphetamines for cocaine dependence, he said the findings were positive. "If you look at these data sets from around the world, they all end up with the same result: some benefit from giving speed to coke users," he noted. "NIDA is really looking at agonist-type drugs now," Grabowski said. "There is a low abuse liability when they are used with a good treatment modality. Older clinicians realize these aren't such bad drugs, but we have to educate the public and depoliticize the issue," he said.

While there is "no magic bullet" for meth addiction, there are therapies that work and modalities that will motivate users, said Yves Michel Fontaine, the coordinator of Substance Abuse Counseling and Education for the Michael Palm Center at Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City. "Meth users seek care when they are most unstable," Fontaine said, "so treatment providers need to be flexible in early engagement with them. Create a safe space, have respect, be sex positive and non-judgmental -- you're going to see a lot of esoteric sex behaviors that might not appeal to you," he warned.

A panel of experts from Hawaii, where the current wave of methamphetamine use began more than a decade ago, shared their insights on its impact and treatment. Heather Lusk, Hep C Coordinator for the Hawaii Department of Health, said, "There is little hard evidence, but everyone agrees that injection drug users are at high risk for viral hepatitis."

Her department addresses the problem by offering harm reduction and prevention messages to all drug users, she said. "We need to provide Hep C education to all drug users, we need to offer immunizations for Hep A and B and testing for Hep C, we need to support the sexual health of meth users, and we need to pound home the message that they should use clean equipment at all times," she said. "Our message is: 'Don't share anything but aloha.'"

Another Hawaii panelist, Don Des Jarlais, director of research for chemical dependency at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, reported that needle exchange programs have been "quite successful" in controlling HIV among injection drug users in Hawaii. "We are seeing only 2% infected with HIV now, down from 5-8% when the program started," he said.

In there is one complaint that could be directed at the conference it is that there was simply too much, too many sessions, too many panelists. In the late afternoon time-slot Friday, for example, there was a session on "HIV and Active Drug Use," another entitled "We Don't Need a War on Methamphetamine," another on "Law Enforcement," another on "Methamphetamine Use and Pregnancy," one on "Native American Projects," one on "The Importance of Knowing About Injection Drug Use," one on "Social Marketing," one on "Innovative Internet Innovations," and last but not least, a discussion of "Stimulant Use in the MACS and WIHS Cohorts and Current Efforts to Understand the Effects of Methamphetamine Use on HIV Seroconversion and Natural History of Infection."

The scientists and researchers reported links between meth use and risk of HIV and other infections. One study funded by the Utah Department of Health last year found that injection meth users were more likely to have sex when high than the overall sample of more than 400 respondents. Other researchers reported on meth users' ability to engage in extended, rough sex, and the risks of infection deriving from it.

"Meth is everywhere, it's all over the country, but what we are hearing about is those godawful gay men who are taking speed and fucking like bunny rabbits," said Dr. Michael Siever, head of the Stonewall Project in San Francisco. "Although meth is in all populations, because of its connection with HIV, that's where the research is."

To understand the nexus between meth and HIV, people need to get beyond distorted and demonized depictions of the drug, said Siever. "The drug is not unremittingly evil -- it's actually fun!" he said. "There are reasons people do this drug. It's a lot of fun, at least in the beginning, and it's the best antidepressant available on the street. To deny this is disrespectful of users. They are not crazy."

Siever's opinion was seconded by Weber State University professor Mark Biggler, who presented the Utah Department of Health study mentioned above. To fail to address the sexual pleasures available from meth is to fail to understand the problem, he said. "There is a pleasure that bridges meth and sex. To recognize pleasure as a central theme keeps us from lying about why it is appealing," he said.

There were also several history lessons, as conference speakers attempted to debunk the horrorific myths that make up so much of what passes for discourse on methamphetamines these days. In the conference keynote address, Patricia Case of the Harvard Medical School Department of Social Medicine provided an introductory lesson. Meth is not "epidemic" but endemic, she said as she charted the use of amphetamines for the past century. They were gobbled up by servicemen in major wars, used by housewives in the 1950s and 1960s ("mother's little helpers"), and popularized again in the late 1960s by a rising counterculture.

"America has always loved stimulants. People take stimulants to accomplish things. It's chemical software and plays perfectly to our shared American qualities: the desire to be perfect, work harder, be smarter, be thinner... and win at all costs," said Case. Case was one of several presenters at the conference who outed herself as a former amphetamine user, a move she said was necessary to demonstrate that not all users were the stereotypical tweaker.

Case also noted that in the laser-like focus on the chemical compound methamphetamine, we may be missing the larger point. "Is the intervention with the drug or with ourselves?" she asked.

That was a point reiterated by Dr. John Morgan of the City University of New York Medical School. Emphasizing the drug and not the social and personal circumstances of the drug user amounts to "pharmacocentrism," he said. "Eschew pharmacocentrism, the idea we should focus on the drug," Morgan advised. "The prohibitionists get much of their power by focusing on the drug. Every seven years we get a new horror drug. We need to focus on the people, not the drug. Pharmacocentrism is our enemy," Morgan said.

While the discussion of drug prohibition was limited, the panel that directly grappled with that question ripped into the notion that law enforcement is the answer. "The war on drugs is an absolute, unmitigated failure," said Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson. "It has failed by every benchmark. If this war had been successful, we would see fewer drugs on the street and higher prices. We would see fewer people incarcerated and fewer people taking drugs. We want to prevent substance abuse, but for those who do want to use drugs, we want to reduce the harm. We need to do that and not take the cowardly way out that is the war on drugs."

"We have seen this before, and it hasn't worked," said Corinne Carey of the US Program for Human Rights Watch, another presenter who outed herself as a former amphetamine user. The parallels with the crack hysteria of the 1980s are ominous, she said. "This isn't the first time people have experienced problems with stimulants, nor is it the first time political leaders have seized on the tragedies of drug users. Reprising Morgan's theme of pharmacocentrism, Carey noted that, with meth, like crack, "the government ignores the poverty, the racism, the feeling of civic and political powerlessness. Instead of alleviating that pain and providing therapeutic intervention, the federal government instead focuses on the effects of the drug on non-users and communities. We have to look to the public health system instead of the criminal justice system for a response to meth," she said.

The Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann was blunt. "Nobody deserves to be punished simply for what they put in their bodies if they don't hurt anyone else," he told the audience. "That's the bottom line."

"We've got thinkers here in Utah," said a pleased Colonna after the conference. "We've got Rocky Anderson, we've been working with Salt Lake City prosecutor Sim Gill for years, we get funds from the Division of Substance Abuse. These people believe in harm reduction," he said.

Rep. Souder's attacks on the conference backfired, Colonna said. "When people became aware we were being attacked and Souder claimed this was some sort of legalization strategy, it almost became a harm reduction conference. People were saying, 'Enough is enough. You can't lie to us about everything,'" he said. "People at the conference were not hearing what Souder told them they would hear."

Colonna is now seeking a meeting with Souder, he said. "I'm not going to argue with him about his belief system -- he can still be a fundamentalist Christian who has problems with some of the groups we work with -- but I would like him to understand that harm reduction is something he might be able to get behind."

Colonna's mentor and colleague Alan Clear was less charitable toward Souder. "If I want to find out how to deal with methamphetamine, I would rather listen to a treatment provider from Los Angeles or an epidemiologist from Harvard than to an ideologue from Indiana," he said.

Now, some 900 people have had the chance to do just that. Treatment providers and prevention specialists who had never really confronted harm reduction got to see how it works in various break-out sessions. Scientists and researchers provided a surfeit of good, hard data on how meth works and what works to help people get off it. And attendees left with a better understanding of meth and implications than they had when the conference began.

"The challenge now is the follow-up," said Clear.

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5. Feature: Bush Administration Methamphetamine Initiative a Bomb

Stung by months of criticism that it wasn't paying sufficient attention to what tabloid-style press reports and hyperventilating politicians call the "methamphetamine epidemic," the Bush administration late last week responded with its own meth initiative. But despite the presence of three cabinet level officials to publicly kick off the new campaign, the administration's initiative is so limited that it has failed to quiet the critics on the right while arousing scorn and dismay from harm reductionists and drug reformers.

As the resort to home methamphetamine manufacture spreads East -- while official statistics show meth use flat nationwide over the past few years, home labs have indeed proliferated -- concern about the drug has only grown more intense on Capitol Hill. Even conservative Republicans have taken to criticizing the Office of National Drug Control Policy and its head, drug czar John Walters, for their lack of emphasis on meth. Some have even gone so far as to accuse Walters and the White House of concentrating too much on marijuana -- amazing words indeed to hear from the likes of Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.

The congressional ire toward Walters over methamphetamine is inextricably tied to a grand battle being waged over proposed budget cuts in law enforcement programs dear to congressional drug warriors. The Bush budget zeroes out the $600 million a year Justice Assistance Grants program, which helps funds multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, and slashes the budget of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program (HIDTA), a program originally aimed at stopping smuggling across US borders but which has become a pork barrel, with HIDTA's operating in such "high intensity" drug trafficking areas as central South Dakota. The HIDTA funds also essentially pay for even more multi-jurisdictional drug task forces.

For staunch congressional drug fighters like Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), the "methamphetamine epidemic" has become a heavy stick with which he can pound Walters and the administration over the proposed budget cuts. "This committee is desperately trying to say 'Lead!' You're the executive branch," Souder said at a July subcommittee hearing. The White House must acknowledge that meth is "the most dangerous drug in America," he demanded.

While Walters and ONDCP had downplayed paying any special attention to methamphetamine as recently as last month, they were clearly feeling the pressure. Last Thursday, the administration responded, wheeling out Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, and drug czar Walters to detail the federal government's "comprehensive, balanced approach to the methamphetamine challenge."

"The methamphetamine challenge has touched communities across this nation differently, but its devastating consequences are borne by all Americans," said Walters. "Through the National Drug Control Strategy and the National Synthetic Drugs Action Plan, the Federal government has implemented a balanced approach to fighting meth. Together with our state and local partners, we are aggressively pushing back against the drug and our collaborative efforts are generating significant progress in several critical areas."

"The scourge of methamphetamine demands unconventional thinking and innovative solutions to fight the devastation it leaves behind," added Gonzales. "Over the past 10 years, the Justice Department has more than quadrupled the number of methamphetamine cases filed nationwide, and the new initiatives announced today by the administration will increase our efforts to target all aspects of the meth problem. By using expertise from across the federal government in one comprehensive plan, and by working with state and local officials, we will continue to prove that the methamphetamine problem can be beaten and lives can be saved."

But while Walters and Gonzales could tout the successes of the past, the new initiative was both paltry and conventional. HHS Secretary Leavitt announced $16 million in drug treatment grants in seven states over the next three years -- the single largest expenditure announced by the Bush administration trio. Walters also announced the administration's support for limits on over-the-counter cold and allergy remedies containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in a popular meth-cooking recipe, but the bill proposing to do that, the Combat Meth Act, was already moving under its own momentum. The DEA will also initiate a Federal Clandestine Lab Container Program next year, under which meth lab debris will be transported by "trained law enforcement personnel" to centralized containers that meet hazardous waste standards, Walters said. And they created a web site,

That didn't cut it with congressional drug fighters. "If this is a cohesive national policy, it is embarrassing," said Rep. Souder, who has used his position as chairman of the House subcommittee that handles national drug policy to consistently clamor for ever tougher anti-drug measures. He accused the administration of engaging in a public relations ploy.

The meth proposals announced last Thursday leave administration officials with "egg on their face," said Sen. Grassley in an interview with the Gannett Newspapers. Grassley, who cosponsored the Combat Meth Act, vowed to "jack up the pressure through more hearings" if Walters and the White House didn't get tougher on meth.

In an August 1 letter co-signed by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), Grassley actually broke with official US drug war orthodoxy by arguing that lowering drug use levels was not the only thing that mattered as he chided the drug czar over his obsession with marijuana. "Marijuana is a much more popular drug in terms of the number of people who use it," Grassley wrote. "However, methamphetamine causes much more destruction in a much shorter period of time than marijuana. We believe that reducing drug use is not just about reducing the number of users of a drug, but reducing the overall harm to society caused by the drug." Sen. Charles Grassley, harm reductionist?

The National Association of Counties, which contributed mightily to the uproar over meth and the battle over drug enforcement spending with its recent widely-cited survey of sheriffs, 58% of whom said meth was their worst drug problem, was a bit more charitable than the congressional drug fighters. The organization was "pleased" to see last Thursday's announcement, which it called "a good first step," but it added that "more action is needed to address this national problem." The administration should establish a task force of federal, state, and local officials to address the problem, the group said in a press release. Oh, the group also "hopes" the administration will fully fund the drug task force programs it cut in its budget proposal.

If Walters and company were getting slagged by the drug fighters, they were getting no solace from the other side of the spectrum, either. "The administration initiative is an insult to everyone who works around substance abuse issues, from treatment providers to law enforcement," said Luciano Colonna, head of the Harm Reduction Project, the organization that just finished hosting last weekend's First National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis C in Salt Lake City (see related story this issue). "The amounts of money they are talking about for treatment and research are piddling. Does Walters never discuss anything with anybody? Does he understand that if we can get people off meth, we can reduce demand?" he asked. "The amount of money they need is about a hundred times what Walters is offering, and 80% of that needs to go to treatment," Colonna said.

"If you break it down, there's nothing there," scoffed Allen Clear, head of the Harm Reduction Coalition. "They're talking about putting a little treatment money into seven states, but what about the other 43? It's completely inadequate," he said. "Gonzalez said they need a comprehensive, innovative response, but of course they left out harm reduction. And if they were really interested in innovative responses, they would have shown up at the conference, but they didn't have the gumption."

As for all the flak Walters and the administration were getting from the congressional drug warriors, Clear was bemused. "You have folks like Souder accusing them of being soft on drugs," he said. "They've never been soft on anything. This just shows how far to the right, how extremist, these people are."

"They want to proceed with business as usual and have law enforcement go after people -- and they're not even giving money to law enforcement," Colonna noted. "Law enforcement is tired of being the fallback strategy. We have a problem and we dump in the lap of the police and then we get mad at the police, but they're not making the laws."

"The Bush administration has been so obsessed with marijuana that they are seen as being AWOL on the meth front," said Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann. "That reflects their obsession with marijuana. For this drug czar, policy has almost nothing to do with the real consequences of drug use but is instead about pursuing ulterior political ends," he told DRCNet. "This is also caught up in the broader issue of federal funding for the task forces. The administration surprised everybody by proposing to eliminate those funds. The hype about meth is providing the justification for asking for more money," he said.

"Also, I'm fairly ambivalent about the feds getting involved,” said Nadelmann. "They tend to do more harm than good. Getting them involved in meth is not necessarily a good thing. The risk, though, is that we'll get members of Congress proposing federal versions of some of the dumber laws that have been enacted at the state level."

With Congress and the administration fighting over who is "tougher" on meth, the prognosis for a progressive response to methamphetamine use and abuse is grim. That is unlikely to change, said Colonna, without some innovative thinking from activists. "We will not be able to move forward on this until someone comes up with some decent framing around the issue," he said. "We activists are not going to create a civil rights movement to change the drug laws. Instead, I think the real impetus from change is going to have to come from the families of drug users. There is nothing stronger than hearing the parents of an overdose victim speak. Those are preventable deaths. So are the deaths of those people who get AIDS from dirty needles. As Donald Grove once noted, how much science do you need to show that HIV does not live in a sterile syringe?"

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6. Feature: Western Hemisphere Anti-Prohibitionists Set to Gather in Buenos Aires

Argentina's capital city will be the location of a three-day conference early next month bringing together anti-prohibitionists from across the hemisphere in an effort to strengthen a nascent movement to end the war on drugs. At the same time, conference organizers are bringing a handful of Latin America legislators to Buenos Aires and working with Argentine legislators to win interim battles between now and the end of drug prohibition.

The Latin American Anti-Prohibitionist Meeting for Drug Policy Reform and the First Regional Symposium of Judges and Legislators on Drug Policy will take place in the Argentine government's Senate chambers in Buenos Aires on September 7, 8, and 9, and organizers expect delegations from across Latin America to attend, as well as fellow anti-prohibitionists from the US and Europe. DRCNet will be there, with Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith scheduled to address the conference, as will the International Anti-Prohibitionist League and the European Coalition for a More Just and Effective Drug Policy.

Billboard advertisement in Rio de Janeiro by Psicotropicus, a founding member group
of REFORMA. Rough translation: "The drug traffic is against marijuana legalization."
(courtesy Psicotropicus.)
Latin American delegations will include Peruvian coca grower leaders and advisors such as Nancy Obregon and Baldomero Caceres, Jamaican marijuana activists including Paul Chang of Jamaica NORML, the Brazilian anti-prohibitionist organization Psicotropicus, the academics and researchers of Mama Coca, the Uruguyan drug user group El Abrojo, the Brazilian harm reduction group ABORDA, and the Argentine Harm Reduction Association (ARDA), which will host the meetings.

Legislators coming to the conference include Colombian representative Pedro Arena, Bolivian legislator Dionisio Nunez, and Uruguay's Margarita Percovitch. At the conference, they will be joined by at least two members of the Argentine congress who have been supportive of drug policy reform, Senator Diana Conti and Deputy Eduardo Garcia.

An outgrowth of earlier continental meetings on drug reform, such as the 2003 Out from the Shadows conference in Merida, Mexico, organized in part by DRCNet, and the Global Social Forum conference on drug policy last year in Cartagena, Colombia, the Buenos Aires conference will take on three tasks, said lead organizer Dr. Silvia Inchaurraga of ARDA.

"First, there will be meetings of REFORMA, the Latin American anti-prohibitionist network," she told DRCNet. "We are a new and very spirited grouping and we need to establish our network and set priorities with an eye toward the battle over the UN conventions in Vienna in 2008," she said.

REFORMA is designed as both a broad harm reduction network and an anti-prohibitionist network founded on human rights and social justice. Its coordinating committee consists of honorary president Gustavo de Greiff, former attorney general of Colombia, Maria Mercedes Moreno of Mama Coca, ARDA's Inchaurraga, Luiz Paulo Guanabara of Psicotropicus, Peruvian coca-grower advisor Baldomero Caceres, Jamaica NORML's Paul Chang, and Agustin Lapetina of El Abrojo.

"There will also be an open meeting where we can involve key actors from across Latin America to hear from others about the possibilities for change," Inchaurraga said. "The issues vary from country to country. In Jamaica, it's a movement for legal marijuana, in the Andean countries, it's about the legalization of coca leaf, in the consumer countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, it's about decriminalization and depenalization. But all of us are victims of prohibitionist thinking and policies, and we think we can all learn things from each other," she explained. "This is especially important in those countries where drug users are not organized," she added.

"Last but not least, we have the symposium with the legislators," Inchaurraga continued. "Legislators are key actors who can help develop new laws and new policies. We want to show them they are not alone, and we want to give them the chance to get to know and support one another to strengthen a continental reformist bloc." It won't be just legislators, but judges and government officials as well, including Argentine federal court judge Eduardo Freiler and Uruguayan drug minister Milton Romani.

For Inchaurraga and the Argentines, the legislative sessions at the meeting will hopefully have a more direct impact. "We have two depenalization bills pending, one authored by Sen. Conti, the other by Deputy Garcia, but neither is moving. They are dormant in the legislature, but we think this kind of event and the attention we hope it will generate will help push forward drug law reform here in Argentina."

The conference will concentrate on a number of themes common across the continent: Drug policy reform in the face of the failed war on drugs, the global and regional impact of drug prohibition, comparative legislative and criminal justice approaches, a critical approach to the UN drug conventions, harm reduction and its role in drug policy reform, peasant and social movements confronting prohibition, and legal and judicial aspects of decriminalization and legalization.

In Buenos Aires next month, the hemispheric movement for an end to drug prohibition finally gets under way.

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7. Weekly: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A crooked police chief in Louisiana, a pair of crooked cops in Massachusetts, a quartet of crooked cops in Tennessee. But it wouldn't be "This Week's Corrupt Cops" if we didn't have at least one drug-dealing prison guard. We do. Let's get to it:

In Boston, two Worcester police officers appeared in federal court Thursday to face federal drug charges. The pair, Heriberto Arroyo, a 10-year veteran, and Brian Benedict, a 9-year veteran, were arrested Wednesday along with sports supplement store owner Thomas Viglatura, TV NewsCenter 5 reported. The charges are unclear. Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme would not disclose the nature of the charges. "We didn't duck and say, 'No comment,'" Gemme said as he ducked and refused to comment.

In Memphis, federal prosecutors Monday indicted three Memphis police officers and a Shelby County (Memphis) sheriff's deputy on charges they stole money they thought belonged to drug dealers and conspired with undercover agents they thought were drug dealers. Memphis officer Charles Smith, 39, is accused of warning another officer he was about to be set up by the feds. He is charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a federal official. Officer Roderick Smith, 37, (no relation) is charged with theft and attempted cocaine possession. Officer Deshone Skinner, 32, is charged with conspiracy and theft. Shelby County Deputy Marvin Wilson, 40, faces two counts of theft.

In Orange, New Jersey, Essex County jail guard Jay Griggs, 35, a 10-year employee, was charged last week with official misconduct, conspiracy to violate state narcotics laws, and possession of marijuana, heroin, and cocaine with the intent to distribute, the Orange Transcript reported. Griggs was arrested August 11 after entering the jail with numerous garbage bags filled with dope and other contraband, including 30 plastic bags of marijuana, five glassine folds of heroin, three bottles of cocaine, two packs of rolling paper, one cell phone and charger, three boxes of cigarettes, 30 packs of cigarette tobacco, and three boxes of cigars.

In Lutcher, Louisiana, Lutcher Police Chief Corey Pittman was arrested August 17 on federal drug dealing charges after undercover agents told a federal grand jury they had bought drugs from him on at least five occasions. The chief made $5,200 selling them crack cocaine and hydrocodone, they testified. Pittman was selling powder cocaine by the ounce, as well as crack and hydrocodone pills, they said, according to reports on KATC-TV in Lafayette. Pittman may argue that he was conducting his own undercover drug operation, but witnesses called before the grand jury have so far failed to back him up, the station reported.

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8. Blogging: Airport Corruption

This week DRCNet's "Prohibition in the Media" blog dealt with a case of airport corruption -- a former Haitian police officer in charge of the airport in Port au Prince who allowed tons of cocaine to be flown into the US in exchange for payoffs. But the article in the Miami Herald didn't point out how this is an inevitable (indeed commonplace) effect of drug prohibition, which makes the drugs expensive and lucrative -- it's an easy matter which so much money involved to find the occasional customs officer or border guard willing to turn a strategic blind eye.

Click here to check it out and for letter to the editor info. (Temporary technical problems have prevented us from updating the blog main page.)

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9. Marijuana: Lawrence, Kansas, Ponders City Marijuana Ordinance -- Impact of HEA Cited

A proposal to move small-time marijuana possession offenses out of district court and into city court in the college of town of Lawrence, Kansas, is winning initial support from the mayor and other elected officials. The support comes at least in part because of the dire financial aid ramifications of even a simple pot possession bust for college students under the drug provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA). That law, authored by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), bars people with drug convictions from receiving financial aid for college for specified periods of time.

The proposal is the work of the newly formed Drug Policy Forum of Kansas, whose executive director, Laura Green, last week wrote a letter to city commissioners asking them to consider drafting an ordinance that would move simple possession and paraphernalia charges to city court and make marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority. If the commission adopts the move, offenders would be cited instead of arrested, their cases would be handled by city court, and convictions would not count under the HEA guidelines. The commission expects to discuss the issue at its September 6 meeting.

The notion of de-prioritizing small-time marijuana law enforcement is one that has already caught on the college town of Columbia, Missouri, as well as the cities of Seattle and Oakland.

"We're not proposing legalization," Green told the Lawrence Sentinel-Journal Tuesday. "I'm just asking them to consider making it part of the city code... Part of what I'm asking them to do is to make possession of marijuana a low priority. Don't seek it out. Don't go looking for it as if it's the Holy Grail."

The move would save money and it would help students, Green argued. "I don't want to see a young person denied the opportunity to go to college because they made a mistake," she said.

That's an argument that resonated with Mayor Boog Highberger, who thought students who get arrested for marijuana are punished enough. "I wouldn't bar a student from getting financial aid," Highberger said. "That's appropriate because I think that would be a pretty harsh penalty for getting caught with a little pot." Highberger also brushed aside suggestions from the University of Kansas that the anti-drug provision would not apply to many Kansas students. "How do they really know?" he scoffed. "How many students aren't applying at all because they know they won't get anything?"

The local district attorney also expressed provisional support for the idea, but support was by no means unanimous. Commissioner Mike Amyx told the Ledger-Journal we wasn't going to vote for anything that would lessen marijuana penalties. "I would never think of doing that," he said. Nor was he interested in making pot a lesser law enforcement priority. "I don't think those are my feelings at all. It is a crime, and that is what we do. We carry out laws... It is not something where you pass a law and then just wink at it," he said.

It's not a shoo-in by any means, but the de-prioritization movement has spread to Lawrence. Check back after the September commission meeting.

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10. Sentencing: Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Measure Awaits Gov. Pataki's Signature

Last year, the New York state legislature began chipping away at the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws by cutting the sentences for the most serious category of drug offenses, so-called A-I offenses. While that move brought relief to a small number of New York drug prisoners, a measure already passed by both houses of the legislature that would extend resentencing opportunities to the next most serious A-II offenders awaits the signature of Gov. George Pataki. He has until August 30 to sign the bill.

Under the Rockefeller laws, persons caught with as little as a few ounces of drugs faced from 15 years to life in prison. Last year's first reform effort cut the minimum sentence to eight years and eliminated most life sentences. It also allowed A-I prisoners to apply for sentence cuts in line with the new sentences. The bill awaiting Pataki's signature this year would extend that privilege to some 500 A-II prisoners.

With public support for real reform of the Rockefeller laws running high -- one poll showed 80% in favor -- Gov. Pataki and legislative leaders have all claimed for years to be in favor of revamping the laws, but, with the exception of last year's first tiny step, have failed to do so. The Real Reform coalition, which advocates for repeal of the Rockefeller laws and which includes organizations such as the Correctional Association of New York, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the New York Mothers of the Disappeared, is pressuring Pataki to sign the bill.

"The Governor has talked a lot about Rockefeller reform, and now we expect him to walk the talk and sign this bill immediately," said Gabriel Sayegh, Policy Analyst at Drug Policy Alliance.

But Real Reform recognizes that the governor's signature on this year's bill is only a second tiny step. With more than 16,000 people doing time for drug crimes in New York, many of them first-time, nonviolent offenders serving years for simple possession, only those facing the most inhumanely long sentences have yet won relief, and this year's bill would leave more than 15,000 less serious offenders rotting in prison.

"This is a good next step, but it still doesn't help my son, or the thousands of people like him," said Cheri O'Donoghue, whose son Ashley, a class B offender, is serving 7-to-21 years for a first-time non-violent drug offense. "This affects tens of thousands of families."

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11. Europe: Former British Drug Czar Mo Mowlam Dead at 55 -- Called for Legalization, and Will Again in Forthcoming Book

Former British government drug advisor Mo Mowlam has died, but her voice calling for the legalization of drugs lives on. Mowlam died August 19 at age 55, felled by the side effects of radiation therapy for a brain tumor, but a book in which she calls for an end to drug prohibition, co-written with her husband, Jon Norton, will be completed by the end of the year, Norton told the London Times.

Mo Mowlam
A feisty Laborite who rose through the ranks to become Northern Ireland secretary during critical negotiations that led to the Good Friday truce agreement in 1999, Mowlam then became Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet minister in charge of drugs -- in effect, the British drug czar -- between 1999 and 2001, when she retired from politics. She scandalized the British tabloid press and mortified the Blair government by admitting during her term that she had smoked marijuana as a college student. "I tried marijuana, didn't like it particularly and, unlike President Clinton, I did inhale," she said. "But it wasn't part of my life."

Mowlam said her experience guiding British drug policy led her to the view that drugs should be sold at regulated outlets. She also argued for marijuana to be taxed and regulated like alcohol. But upon leaving office, her critique deepened.

Freed from the shackles of government service, Mowlam emerged as an influential advocate for drug legalization. In the spring of 2002, she called global drug prohibition "a failure," and that September, she linked prohibition and terrorism, although not in a way pleasing to President Bush or Prime Minister Blair. "It is clear that the present approach to drugs is not working, and if the war against drugs fails then we can be sure that the war against terrorism will also be unsuccessful," Mowlam wrote. "From my experience of being responsible for drug policy in the previous government, I came to the conclusion that the legalization and regulation of all drugs was the only way to reduce the harmful effects of this activity," Mowlam wrote, adding that she had "many reasons" for reaching that conclusion. "One of those reasons is that we need to detach the international drug business from criminality -- not least because it would further isolate international terrorism by removing the finance and other resources, such as places for training, and money laundering facilities."

"Drugs and terrorism are linked and are set to become more so," Mowlam concluded. "Legalization of drugs would stop this connection: It would begin to solve problems caused by drugs today and would isolate the terrorists."

Mowlam continued to argue for legalization in a series of speaking engagement called "Audiences with Mo Mowlam" until shortly before her death, and will make the argument posthumously in the book co-written with her husband, said the book's publisher, Polity Press. "We are very proud to publish this important book. I am delighted Jon has decided he does want to finish it," Louise Knight, Polity's editorial director, told the Times. "They are putting forward an argument for regulation, not just for a free-for-all. It is based on Mo's extensive experience."

Appropriately enough for the blunt-talking Mowlam, the book's working title is "Legalize Drugs," said Knight.

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12. Medical Marijuana: Supreme Court Justice Regrets Vote on Raich Case

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens regrets having voted to allow the federal government to enforce the marijuana laws against medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal, he told a meeting of the Clark County Bar Association last week in Las Vegas. A copy of Stevens' speech was obtained by the New York Times Thursday.

"I have no hesitation in telling you that I agree with the policy choice made by the millions of California voters," Stevens said. But given the broader stakes for the power of Congress to regulate commerce, he added, "our duty to uphold the application of the federal statute was pellucidly clear."

Since the court decided the Raich case in June, federal law enforcement officials have raided numerous medical marijuana patients and providers. Those people face stiff sentences under federal marijuana laws and will have no opportunity to argue in their defense that their use or production of the weed was for medicinal purposes.

Stevens was part of a narrow 5-4 majority in the Raich case, where medical marijuana patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson challenged the federal government's ability to prosecute them for acts legal under state law. If Stevens had voted his heart instead of his upholding a broad interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Clause, the legal and political landscape in California and beyond would look much different -- and much better. But he didn't.

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13. Marijuana: 14th Seattle Hempfest Draws 150,000 -- No Arrests

The nation's largest annual marijuana protest/festival has come and gone, again drawing record crowds and notably recording no arrests of any kind. The now venerable two-day Seattle Hempfest drew as many as 150,000 devotees of the herb to waterfront Myrtle Edwards park for music and political speeches blaring from multiple stages, not to mention a magical mile of glass pipes and bongs, hempy wares of all sorts, and the tables and booths of numerous political and social groups.

"The world's phattest protestival" featured numerous marijuana reform movement luminaries as well as friendly Washington state politicians, including Seattle city council member Nick Licata, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre, and recent Supreme Court plaintiff Angel Raich.

In the Raich case, the court upheld the federal government's right to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers even in states where it is legal. Since Washington is one of those states, the issue resonated strongly in Seattle. "This war is far from over. I'm not going to give up. I'm going to keep fighting until there's no fight left," Raich told a large center-stage crowd.

With the slogan "Don't Just Burn It, Learn It!" this year's Hempfest had an educational theme, with the "Hemposium" featuring exhibits, panels, and presentations on industrial hemp for food, fiber, and fuel, as well as presentations on medical marijuana and the health benefits of cannabinoids. That's in addition to the more than 90 speakers who addressed the multitudes over the two-day period.

David Guard
Chris Mulligan of DRCNet got a few moments on center stage, appearing right after headlining band Fishbone -- using them in part to pitch attendees to work for the repeal of a law that takes financial aid away from would-be college students because of drug convictions. "After leaving here today, if 150,000 people start telling Congress we're sick of them holding education funding hostage to drug war politics, things will change," Mulligan told the crowd before leading them into a chant-and-response "No More"..."Drug War." It was cheesy, Mulligan told DRCNet, "but you just have to do that when there are 150,000 people in front of you."

DRCNet associate director David Guard also addressed the crowds, although he didn't get center-stage. "This is as much a festival as a protest," he said after the event. "Maybe 10% of the people who come to this really care about the politics. But when it's 150,000 people, that comes out to a lot of people we want to reach." In addition to speaking, Guard reached the crowd through the booth DRCNet shared with Flex Your Rights, whose uniformed and sun-glassed Officer Friendly (Flex Your Rights executive director Steve Silverman) was a constant draw for curious passers-by.

In its 14th year, Seattle Hempfest is a smooth-running, well-oiled, cannabis-fueled machine that is the most public manifestation of Seattle's cutting edge position on drug policy reform. And it happens without problems. "This is a successful social experiment in legalizing marijuana, and it works," said Mulligan. "All those people, and there were no arrests, no fights, not one crime worth busting," he marveled.

It's not that pot-smoking wasn't present or that the Seattle police weren't present. They were on-scene, but appropriately laid-back. "Marijuana enforcement is one of our lowest priorities," said Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb. "Keeping the public safe is our No. 1 mission at Hempfest," he told the Seattle Times.

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14. Europe: Scottish National Party Considers Prescription Heroin

A leading Scottish National Party (SNP) drug authority is preparing the case for his party to become the first mainstream political party in the United Kingdom to call for the prescription of heroin to addicts, the London Sunday Times reported. Brian Adam, co-covener of the Scottish parliament's committee on drug and alcohol use, said the use of methadone is creating a generation of zombies who never get off opiates.

According to the Scottish Executive, as the executive branch of the Scottish government is known, there are some 20,000 people receiving government-supplied methadone in Scotland. The announcement of those figures last week provoked attacks on the government by the Tories and doubtless influenced the timing of Adam's remarks to the Times. Tory spokesmen said the numbers showed "the true extent of Scotland's drug crisis" and complained about junkies getting their "daily fix" of methadone in perpetuity at government expense.

But the Scottish Executive responded tartly. "It is time we ended the unhelpful obsession in trying to prove whether abstinence or harm reduction strategies are best," said a spokesman. "The most effective treatment will always depend on the circumstances of the individual addict; there is no 'one size fits all' solution."

The Executive's position suggests an openness to ideas like prescription heroin, and the SNP leadership told the Times it has an open mind on the issue. The SNP's Adam is prepared to put both to the test. A biochemist and toxicologist, he said the status quo was failing thousand of Scots addicts. "Ministers should consider following the example of other countries and look at taking the radical step of prescribing heroin to addicts so that they can be gradually weaned off it and eventually beat their addiction," he said.

"We need to look at the alternative methods such as treatment with heroin itself. The international evidence from Switzerland and the Netherlands suggests that heroin is more effective in getting people weaned off their addiction than methadone."

In response to Adam's suggestion, the SNP said it would consider it. "Heroin addiction is a serious problem in Scotland and the solutions that have worked overseas should be examined in a Scottish context," a spokesman told the Times.

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15. Sentencing: Kansas Lawmakers Want "Internal Possession" Charge

Police in Kansas can already charge people with possessing, selling, or manufacturing drugs, but that isn't enough for some law enforcement officials and legislators. A three-year effort to make it a crime to have drugs in one's bloodstream or urine is moving in the Kansas legislature.

The notion got a hearing Wednesday at a meeting of the legislature's Special Judicial Committee, where proponents argued it would be another tool for police in their endless war on drug users. "If someone is caught having ingested or injected, they can be charged with possession," explained Rep. Kathe Decker (R-Clay Center), who is pushing the proposal. "It just gives more teeth to law enforcement."

Why should drug possession be a crime but not having taken drugs? asked Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. "If it's illegal for one, why not the other?" Even if the measure passed, Smith said, he doubted there would be a rash of drug arrests because possession is seen as a low priority crime. "Don't assume there will be thousands of cases," he said.

But civil libertarians and criminal defense attorneys raised numerous objections to the proposal. People who fail work or school drug tests could be subject to prosecution, they worried. Using drug tests in an effort to bring criminal charges could violate Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination, said Sen. Phil Journey (R-Haysville).

The proposal will "lead to more prison time and more people being prosecuted, not treated," warned Sal Inagliata of the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

While the Topeka Capitol-Journal reported that Kansas would be the "first in the nation" to pass such a law, the newspaper was wrong. South Dakota has had a similar law in effect since 2001. It was upheld by the South Dakota Supreme Court in a February 2004 ruling.

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16. Web Scan: U-Mass/DEA Hearings, Seattle Weekly on Hempfest, JPI Report on Marijuana Enforcement's Non-Impact

Online transcripts of the U-Mass/DEA medical marijuana hearings

Justice Policy Institute report, Efficacy and Impact: The Criminal Justice Response to Marijuana Policy in the United States

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17. Weekly: This Week in History

August 28, 1964: The Beatles are introduced to marijuana.

August 28, 1995: The World Health Organization (WHO) publishes "WHO Project on Health Implications of Cannabis Use: A Comparative Appraisal of the Health and Psychological Consequences of Alcohol, Cannabis, Nicotine and Opiate Use." The original version -- not the official one -- states, "... there are good reasons for saying that [the risks from cannabis] would be unlikely to seriously [compare to] the public health risks of alcohol and tobacco even if as many people used cannabis as now drink alcohol or smoke tobacco."

September 1, 2003: In an effort to save over $30 million in general revenue in five years, Texas implements a new law that requires mandatory community supervision instead of incarceration for first time drug offenders adjudged guilty of possession of less than one gram of certain controlled substances or less than one pound of marijuana.

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18. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

August 26-28, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD, 4th Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At the "Horse Camp," one mile west of BIA Highway 33, at the Kiza Park turnoff three miles north of Manderson. Suggested donation $50, camp or stay in Tipi for small fee, contact Vic White Plume at (605) 455-1122 for further information.

August 28, 11:00am-9:00pm, Olympia, WA, Third Annual Olympia Hempfest. At Heritage Park, visit for further information.

August 30, noon-3:00pm, Chicago, IL, "Opiate Overdose Intervention," training by Dr. Sarz Maxell on naloxone use for peer educators, outreach workers, case workers, and injectors/users looking to reduce heroin overdose fatalities. At 4753 N. Broadway, registration $30, payable to Chicago Recovery Alliance. Contact Shira Hassan at (773) 818-8512 or [email protected] for further information.

September 7-9, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Latin American Drug Policy Reform Meeting (in preparation for the Latin American Anti-Prohibitionist Conference, Brazil 2006), and First Regional Symposium of Legislators and Judges on Drug Policy. Sponsored by REFORMA, in the Salón Manuel Belgrano, Honorable Camara De Senadores de la Nacion (Senate Chambers), e-mail [email protected] for further information.

September 9, 8:30am-1:30pm, Washington, DC, "Drug Cops and Doctors: Is the DEA Hampering the Treatment of Chronic Pain?," forum featuring officials, academics, physicians, patients, and advocates, luncheon follows. At the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW, visit 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 for further information.

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

September 25-29, Kabul, Afghanistan, "The 2005 Kabul International Symposium -- Drug Policy: Challenges and Responses." Sponsored by the Senlis Council, at Kabul University, visit or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

September 30, 5:00-8:00pm, Madison, WI, Third Annual IMMLY/Madison NORML Benefit. At the Cardinal Bar, 418 E. Wilson, contact Gary Storck at (608) 241-8922 or visit for information.

October 1-2, Madison WI, "35th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival." At the UW Campus Library Mall, e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.

October 3-4, Washington, DC, "Rally for Rescheduling: Demand HHS Reschedule Marijuana Now!" Demonstration for medical marijuana at the US Dept. of Health & Human Services -- training 10/3 from 10:30am-6:30pm, rally 10/4 at 10:00am. Visit 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 for further information.

October 21-22, Hartford, CT, "Hartford's Drug Burden -- Where to Put Our Resources," sponsored by the City of Hartford and Aetna Insurance. For further information visit or contact (860) 657-8438, (860) 522-4888 ext. 6112, or [email protected].

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

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 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 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 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 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 for further information.

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