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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #402 -- 9/9/05

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"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Chronicle editor Phil Smith is on site this week representing DRCNet at, and reporting on, a major Latin American drug policy gathering -- see our lead story for a preliminary report. Our full slate of multiple feature stories will return next week -- this week is mostly newsbriefs, but a lot of them.

Table of Contents

    Crackdown Fails to Deter Afghan Opium Growing
    Also This Issue --
    Crackdown Fails
    to Deter US Marijuana Use
    Dozens of drug reform activists from throughout Latin America and Europe joined with legislators, judges, lawyers, researchers and local activists in Buenos Aires Wednesday evening to kickoff the Latin American Meeting for Drug Policy Reform and the 1st Regional Syposium of Legislators and Judges on Drug Policy.
    Another mass bust of cops and soldiers in Arizona, a pair of DC cops having to explain why they had 90 pounds of coke in their luggage coming into Miami from South America, and a Honolulu cop busted for selling speed all make the Corrupt Cops feature this week.
    In remarks that will shock many Tories, a leading contender for the leadership of Britain's Conservative Party said Wednesday the United Nations should consider legalizing drugs.
    Afghanistan's opium crop, which supplies an estimate 87 percent of the global market, declined only slightly less opium this year despite a government crackdown on peasant poppy farmers and rapidly increasing international efforts led by Britain and the United States.
    A move afoot in the college town of Lawrence would save would-be students from losing college aid under a law punishing drug offenders convicted in state or federal court.
    At the last minute, New York's governor has signed into law a bill that will allow some 500 people imprisoned under the Rockefeller drug laws to appeal their sentences and perhaps get out of prison early. But the cases are complicated and the process is slow.
    Despite hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests each year, law enforcement has proven ineffective in curbing usage, the Justice Policy Institute reported in a study released late last month.
    In the wake of a Vancouver study finding users who have difficulty shooting up are more likely to contract HIV, a Vancouver drug users' group has begun a program to assist them -- potentially risking drug trafficking charges for doing so.
    The Virginia Nurses Association, the first in the country to come out in favor of medical marijuana, has reconfirmed its support for therapeutic cannabis and called for immediate legislation to legalize its medicinal use.
    Marc Craven of Portland was a pro at bringing in information needed to bust alleged drug users and dealers. Unfortunately, also has a long history of entrapment and a felony criminal record. Now the state has dropped more than 40 of his cases.
    Authorities in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia have embarked on an unprecedented effort to crack down on drug use and drug trafficking, and are employing tactics likely to promote vigilantism, according to drug reform activists.
    Proof that there is no conservative consensus in favor of harsh mandatory drug sentencing are remarks delivered by the late chief justice during a widely cited speech delivered in the 1990s.
    HEA in Boston Globe, Medical Marijuana in New England Journal of Medicine, Medscape, More
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    The Marijuana Policy Project has full- and part-time job openings for campaigns in states around the country.
    The Santa Fe Mountain Center is hiring a Street Outreach Worker to provide harm reduction outreach services to injection drug users in northern New Mexico.
    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. Feature: Regional Anti-Prohibitionist Conference Gets Under Way in Buenos Aires

Dozens of drug reform activists from throughout Latin America and Europe joined with legislators from Argentina, Bolivia, and Uruguay, as well as judges, lawyers, researchers, and local activists from across the continent in Buenos Aires Wednesday evening to kick-off the Latin American Meeting for Drug Policy Reform. Organized by the regional anti-prohibitionist grouping REFORMA, the conference is actually three-tiered. First, it is a meeting and strategizing session for REFORMA as it eyes modifying the UN drug conventions in Vienna in 2008. Second, the conference includes the 1st Regional Symposium of Legislators and Judges on Drug Policy. Last but not least is the general conference itself, which will extend through today.

In opening remarks Wednesday evening, Argentine Deputy Eduardo Garcia, who has sponsored a bill calling for the depenalization of drug possession in his country, told attendees at the Argentine Senate chambers their presence was more than symbolic. "It is important that we are meeting here in the Argentine Senate," he said. "For some years now we have been trying to modify the drug possession law here, trying to reverse it." While his bill is pending, Garcia worried that it may not pass. "I am concerned that we may be going backwards, which will only aggravate the problem," he said.

As attendees chewed on coca leaves supplied by Peruvian coca grower leader Nancy Obregon, lead conference organizer Silvia Inchaurraga of the Argentine Harm Reduction Association welcomed her guests and provided an outline of what the conference will provide. "This is a meeting not only of individuals but also of organizations demanding the reform of the drugs laws," she said. "The question is how we can effectively involve the countries and organizations of Latin America in this process. We will be hearing diverse perspectives," said Inchaurraga. "We will hear from producing countries, we will hear from consuming countries, we will hear from senators, judges, and drug uses and coca growers alike. We will also discuss the relationship between harm reduction and anti-prohibitionism."

The UN General Assembly meeting on drug policy in Vienna in 2008 is the target, Inchaurraga said. "We are looking at Vienna in 2008 and we need to strengthen our movement. There is ample evidence that the war on drugs has failed, with tremendous cost to Latin America. We must have drug policies that are more just and effective," she said, hitting a theme repeated over and over again so far at the conference.

"The drug laws exist without justification," said former Colombian attorney general and honorary head of REFORMA Gustavo de Greiff. "In 40 years of drug war, they have not fixed the problem. To the contrary, they have created more evils. They are responsible for the corruption, the crimes of the drug traffickers, the deaths of innocents. And drug use has not diminished. In fact, it is easier to get prohibited drugs now than in the time of Richard Nixon, who began this war and imposed it on the world."

Continuing in his keynote address, De Greiff said that one social obstacle to legalization is the fears of parents that it will lead to an increase in drug abuse. "We need to answer this legitimate concern," he said. "We have to confront this and prepare convincing arguments to reduce these concerns. And I think we can if we look at Holland after the liberalization of its marijuana laws or if we look at the US after Prohibition. Legalization is not an invitation to consume or sell drugs indiscriminately," he warned, "but the regulation of the traffic and consumption accompanied by campaigns to reduce the harms of drug use. One way to do that is to reduce the harms associated with prohibition."

De Greiff described himself as "moderately pessimistic" about the prospects for positive change at the global level because of the vested interests who want to maintain the status quo, citing the DEA as a prime example. Even among the professional drug fighters, however, there is recognition that prohibition has failed. "The drug fighters in Mexico tell me it is a fruitless war, but they won't say so publicly," he complained. "I am pessimistic, but of course, I will not stop struggling."

But while De Greiff and others focused on politics and policy, some had messages that were more direct. One audience member, a Quechua-speaking woman, held up coca leaves, addressing the audience first in Quechua, then in Spanish, as she told it "coca has to do with life, with the future, with the past." Coca is "a great message from our ancestors," she said, as she blessed and sought blessing from the sacred leaves. "It is useful as a food, useful to fend off tiredness, useful to calm the people," she said. "Its use must be permitted."

The conference is in full-swing as these words are written. Look for an in-depth report on the proceedings and what comes out of them next week.

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2. Weekly: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another mass bust of cops and soldiers in Arizona, a pair of DC cops having to explain why they had 90 pounds of coke in their luggage coming into Miami from South America, and a Honolulu cop busted for selling speed all make the Corrupt Cops feature this week. Without further ado:

In Tucson, federal prosecutors announced last week they had snared another 16 current and former soldiers and law enforcement officers in Arizona for agreeing to help FBI agents posing as cocaine traffickers get their wares through the border. Just four months ago, those same federal prosecutors arrested 17 more police and soldiers on similar charges. All 16 of those arrested last week have agreed to plead guilty, the prosecutors said. They included two current and three former members of the Arizona Army National Guard, seven former corrections officers with the Arizona Department of Corrections, two former soldiers, an ex-Marine and a former Nogales, AZ, police officer. The conspiracy in which they were charged was responsible for transporting nearly 1500 pounds of cocaine, said acting Assistant Attorney General John Richter in a press statement. The defendants wore official uniforms, carried official ID, and used official vehicles to skate through border and Arizona Department of Public Safety checkpoints, and to avoid police stops, searches, and seizures. They face up to five years in prison on cocaine conspiracy charges, but prosecutor John Scott said all pleading guilty would probably only serve 34 to 36 months.

In Honolulu, Police Officer James Corn Jr. was arrested August 24 on charges of selling methamphetamine. The bust came in a joint operation involving the DEA and the local High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) team. His police powers had been suspended after another investigation last year and he had been working in the department's communications department. Now he will be working on preserving his freedom.

In Washington, DC, two veteran police officers have been placed on administrative leave in connection with a cocaine bust last week at Miami International Airport. Officer Thomas Stephenson, 51, a 20-year veteran, and Lt. Wayne Stevenson, 48, a 22-year veteran, were detained and questioned but not arrested after federal agents seized 90 pounds of cocaine in their luggage upon their return from Guyana, where they had a contract to train police officers. DC police and US border services are both keeping mum so far.

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3. Europe: Contender for British Tory Leadership Says Legalize Drugs

In remarks that will shock many Tories, who have taken a hard line on drug use and abuse, David Cameron, a leading contender for the leadership of Britain's Conservative Party told the British newspaper the Independent Wednesday he thinks the United Nations should consider legalizing drugs. He also said he wanted British drug addicts to be provided with legal safe injection sites and prescription heroin.

David Cameron
Cameron said he favored "fresh thinking and a new approach" toward British drug policy, adding "we have to let 1,000 flowers bloom and look at all sorts of treatment models" for heroin addicts.

While both Labor and Liberal parliamentarians or party leaders have made similar calls, Cameron's remarks are the first from a leading Conservative. Drug reformers welcomed Cameron's words, with the Transform Drug Policy Institute's Danny Kushlick saying, "David Cameron deserves our utmost respect and admiration for refusing the 'war on drugs' rhetoric in calling for a discussion of legalization with the UN body that oversees global prohibition. Too many politicians support the status quo because of careerism," Kushlick added.

The reaction from Cameron's fellow Tory contenders was less positive. "This is a grossly misled view that will have very damaging consequences for society," said Anne Widdecombe, the former Home Officer minister who is supporting rival Tory Kenneth Clarke. "Most Conservatives would make the case that legalization is misguided. If you legalize hard drugs you would effectively be making the state give first-time users their first experience. "It's just not an option. And the World Health Organization is against it."

"Drugs fuel crime," said leadership contender David Davis. "The fact that an ecstasy tablet can be bought for less than a can of Coke is a shocking indictment of Labor's absolute failure to tackle the scourge of drugs."

"The move to downgrade cannabis was wrong," said contender Sir Malcolm Rifkind. "The government retained possession as a criminal offense but it could not be treated as a crime. That makes the law look foolish."

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4. Asia: Afghan Opium Production Essentially Stable This Year Despite Crackdown

Afghanistan, by far the world's leading supplier of opium with an 87% market share, will produce only slightly less opium this year than last despite a government crackdown on peasant poppy farmers and rapidly increasing international efforts, led by Britain and the United States, to suppress the country's number one cash crop, the United Nations estimated late last month. UN officials crowed that the amount of land devoted to poppy crops had declined by 21% compared to last year, but Afghanistan will still produce 4,100 tons of opium, down only 2% from last year's 4,200 tons.

incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)
"We see a significant improvement in the amount of land cultivated in Afghanistan, a major reduction. One field out of five that was cultivated in 2004 was not cultivated this year," said UN drug control head Antonio Costa in an August 29 interview with the Associated Press. But while the acreage cultivated was down, productivity had increased, Costa said, explaining that "heavy rainfall, snowfall and no infestation of crops resulted in a very significant increase in productivity."

On a sober note, Costa also predicted it would take 20 years to wipe-out poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. The crop is a mainstay of many small farmers, he said.

Meanwhile, Agence France Presse reported that foreign troops in the country as part of the UN's peacekeeping contingent view drug cultivation and smuggling as a bigger threat than Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, both of which remain active and are increasing their attacks four years after the US invaded and installed the regime headed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "The enemy's motivation is mainly criminal, not political," said Colonel Peter Baierl, the German commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in the northeastern city of Faizabad. "Smugglers and drug wars," not the Taliban, are the biggest problem for his troops, he said. His troops "are not particularly welcome" in drug producing areas, he added.

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5. Press Release: Lawrence, Kansas, Moving to Shift Marijuana Prosecutions to Municipal Court to Avoid HEA Drug Provision

press release from the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas, online

On Tuesday, September 6, the city commission of Lawrence, Kansas, heard a proposal by Drug Policy Forum of Kansas executive director Laura A. Green to move prosecutions of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia from District Court to Municipal court.

"Moving it to Municipal Court makes a lot of sense," stated Mayor Highberger. "I think the effect of the Higher Education Act is just too harsh. It's not three strikes and you are out. It is one strike and you are out."

In their proposal, DPFKS presented facts showing how municipal court prosecutions would cut costs, allow officers to stay out on the streets longer, and shield students and other aid recipients from losing access to financial aid and benefits under the Higher Education Act Drug Provision and the 1996 Welfare Act.

Leslie Eldridge, Community Affairs Director for the University of Kansas Student Senate, presented the commissioners with A RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF THE PROPOSITION OF A CITY ORDINANCE BANNING MARIJUANA AND PARAPHRENALIA POSSESSION. The resolution stated the Student Senate passed the ordinance specifically because it would "prevent students from losing financial aid."

The District Attorney, City Prosecutor, Mayor, Police Chief, and the majority of city police officers support the proposed ordinance.

The commission unanimously agreed to have their staff draw up an ordinance for their approval at the October 4th commission meeting.

DPFKS asked the commission to make marijuana a low priority to steer drug enforcement activities away from possession and toward sale to minors. It would also prevent a future commission from using the ordinance to build up revenue from the fines imposed. One commissioner objected on the grounds "marijuana is illegal."

Three of the five commissioners need to approve the low priority language for it to remain in the final ordinance.

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6. Sentencing: New York Governor Signs Another Partial Rocky Reform Bill -- Will Free at Most 500 Prisoners

At the last minute, New York Gov. George Pataki (R) signed into law a bill that will allow some 500 people imprisoned under the Rockefeller drug laws to appeal their sentences and perhaps get out of prison early. Pataki signed the bill in the evening of August 30, just hours before his deadline to act on it.

Pataki had publicly gone back and forth on whether he would veto the bill, and as late as the afternoon of August 30 he was sending signals he would veto it. But a last-minute telephone lobbying campaign by the bill's supporters appears to have swung the governor back in favor of signing it. The bill affects Class A2 offenders, the second most serious drug felons. Under a partial Rockefeller reform enacted last year that eliminated life sentences for both Class A1 and Class A2 offenses, only A1 offenders were allowed to retroactively appeal their sentences. Now, A2 offenders will get that opportunity as well.

But they shouldn't start packing their bags just yet. Under last year's bill, some 450 Class A1 offenders were granted the right to appeal their sentences, but the process has been slow and difficult, and many of them remain behind bars.

The law takes effect 60 days from Tuesday. Passed earlier this year by both the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-led Assembly, it applies only to felons convicted of Class A2 crimes, the second-highest drug offenses. They will be able to petition for resentencing under a new sentence structure Pataki and legislative leaders agreed on last year. The deal did away with life sentences for the highest-level Class A1 crimes and A2 crimes, but allowed only A1 offenders to retroactively appeal their sentences.

About 450 A1-level offenders were eligible for resentencing under last year's changes to the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which mandated long to life sentences for those convicted of selling or buying relatively small amounts of narcotics. But the appeal process has proved more difficult than expected, and many A1 prisoners remain incarcerated.

"These are complicated cases," said Randy Credico, director of the Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, which is representing some prisoners pro bono. "We started one in February that's still going on... The Kunstler Fund has been bled to death by resentencing hearings," he told the Times-Union (Albany).

While drug reform advocates praised Pataki for signing the bill, they called for more, deeper reform of the Rockefeller drug laws. So far, the partial reforms passed by the legislature have not touched on Class B drug prisoners, who make up the vast majority of those imprisoned under those laws. "Last December, we took two steps forward, and this is another step forward, but we still have 10 steps to go," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has been a key player in working for the reform or repeal of those laws.

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7. Marijuana: Surge in Arrests Has Little Effect on Use Rates, Study Finds

Despite hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests each year, law enforcement has proven ineffective in curbing usage, the Justice Policy Institute reported in a study released late last month. The study, "Efficacy and Impact: The Criminal Justice Response to Marijuana Policy in the United States," concluded that despite a huge increase in drug control spending -- from $65 million in 1970 to $19 billion currently, and that's just at the federal level -- rates of marijuana use have remained essentially unchanged, no matter whether arrests rates go up or down.

The report shows that marijuana usage has remained relatively stable in the past 20 years, except for a dramatic decline in the 1980s, when arrest rates were also declining. While arrest rates jumped 127% in the 1990s, marijuana usage also increased, although by a much more modest 22%.

The report shows that throughout the past 20 years, marijuana usage has remained relatively stable, except for a dramatic drop of 61 percent during the eighties, when arrest rates declined 24 percent. When arrest rates increased 127 percent during the 1990's, the rate of usage remained stable climbing only 22 percent.

"Despite billions in new spending and hundreds of thousands of new arrests, marijuana use seems to be unaffected by the huge criminal justice response to this drug," said Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of JPI, and coauthor of the report. According to Ziedenberg, as law enforcement focuses marijuana, a significant number of people are suffering from the impact of policies that do not seem to be deterring drug use.

In seven out of 10 states, marijuana arrests make up more than half of all drug arrests. On the high end, in both North Carolina and South Dakota, marijuana arrests accounted for a whopping 74% of all drug arrests. While those two states had the highest percentage of marijuana arrests, the per capita arrest rate prize goes to Texas, which arrested pot people at the rate of 222 per 100,000. With an estimated 829,000 marijuana users in Texas, the Lone Star state managed to arrest almost 49,000 in 2003.

There are currently 1,215 people in prison in Texas for marijuana offenses, 1,189 in California -- with a surprisingly high per capita arrest rate of 171 per 100,000 -- and 408 in Alabama. In total, the study estimates that 30,000 are doing hard time for marijuana crime in the United States.

According to Jason Colburn, policy analyst at JPI and the report's coauthor, US drug policy is not only having very little effect on marijuana usage, but it also imposes hefty collateral consequences on those being locked up for marijuana use.

"There are 13 million people with former felony convictions in the US, and thousands of people have been convicted of a felony offense involving marijuana. The collateral consequences they will face will not only impact them but their families and entire communities," said Colburn. "Depending on what state they live in, they may be denied public assistance, face substantial barriers to employment, experience drivers' license suspension, and lose the right to vote. Our criminal justice response to marijuana is impacting their ability to take care of their families or contribute as normal taxpaying citizens," added Colburn.

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8. Canada: Vancouver Drug Users' Group Assists Users with Injecting in Order to Reduce HIV Transmission

In the wake of a study of Vancouver injection drug users that found users who have difficulty shooting up are more likely to contract the HIV virus, a Vancouver drug users' group has begun a program to assist them. While Vancouver has a government-approved safe injection site in the Downtown Eastside, workers there potentially face drug trafficking charges if they assist drug users in shooting up.

VANDU, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, announced last week that it had created an "injecting support team" to "provide education and support" for people who need help shooting-up. The group, which has been a model of user activism for years, acted in response to a study from the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS that shows people who need help shooting up are twice as likely to contract the HIV virus. Some 40% of users at the safe injection site reported needing such assistance. According to the study, women and youthful drug injectors are most likely to need help in shooting up. Some users are paralyzed, some are blind, some need help finding usable veins, and others need help because they chose to shoot in their jugular veins.

According to VANDU, which is seeking a change in the regulations governing Insite, the city's safe injection site, drug injectors who need help shooting up are forced into the city's alleyways and often have to pay others -- in drugs or cash -- to help them inject. "We are tired of waiting for something to be done about this problem," said Diane Tobin, a member of the VANDU injecting team. "These people are at extreme high risk for HIV infection, and they have no where to go to get helped in a safe way since they cannot get help at the safe injection site. This also means that these people are often the victims of predators who take advantage of people who need help with injections."

While VANDU is calling on Health Canada to revise its regulations regarding the safe injection site, in the meanwhile they are, in typical VANDU fashion, pushing the envelope. "We are going to do what VANDU has always done, which is provide support and care to the drug users who most need our help," said VANDU member Alex Burnip. "We know that people who need help with injections are in a desperate situation with little support, so we will support them until Health Canada starts allowing these people to use the safe injection site." The report suggests that Health Canada revisit those guidelines, according to a press release posted on the Centre's web site summarizing the report's findings.

Needle sharing, which has a proven link to the spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C, is more common when users need help shooting up, Dr. Thomas Kerr, one of the study's authors, told the Vancouver Sun. "In Vancouver it helps explain why women are at increased risk for HIV infection, because they're twice as likely to engage in this behavior, and if you engage in this behavior you're twice as likely to become HIV infected," said Kerr.

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority's Dr. David Marsh told the Sun the committee in charge of the safe injection site will review the study's findings this month and may recommend that Health Canada review its regulations. In the mean time, VANDU is both taking up the slack and turning up the heat on the authorities by ignoring the law and doing what needs to be done.

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9. Medical Marijuana: Virginia Nurses Association Reiterates Its Support

The Virginia Nurses Association the first in the country to come out in favor of medical marijuana, has reconfirmed its support for therapeutic cannabis and called for immediate legislation to legalize its medicinal use. Representing some 80,000 Virginia nurses, the association declared last week that it "will continue" to seek the regularization of medical marijuana as a therapeutic substance.

"The Virginia Nurses Association will continue to support legislation that would legalize the medically prescribed use of cannabis/marijuana for the purpose of relieving pain and distressful symptoms of acute, chronic, or incurable illness," the group proclaimed.

Thanks to the efforts of people like Mary Lynn Mathre, a central Virginia nurse and addiction specialist who helped form the medical marijuana advocacy group Patients Out of Time, the VNA was the first state nursing association in the country to call for recognition of medical marijuana. Since then, 13 more state nursing associations have joined the call, as has the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, and dozens of other medically oriented groups.

"Nurses are the most respected profession in the US and their opinion counts, or certainly should count, more than the absurd to ignorant statements made by US government officials, most of whom are attorneys or law enforcement specialists that have no true understanding of medicine or the medical use of cannabis," said Mathre. "Nurses, medical doctors, social workers and all other health care professionals have spoken with resolve through their professional organizations and they have said patients need cannabis now. These are the experts politicians should be guided by in this demand for compassion and reason," she noted.

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10. Crooked Snitches: Oregon Drops More than 40 Cases Tied to Bad Informant

Professional snitch Marc Craven of Portland was a pro. He could bring in the information needed to bust alleged drug users and dealers. The problem, as noted in an investigative report published by the McMinnville News-Register last month, was that Craven has a long history of entrapment and a felony criminal record.

That didn't stop the Yamhill County Interagency Narcotics Team from employing him this year in a four-month undercover operation, although to be fair, the county now claims it had no knowledge of his past exploits. But it is enough for Yamhill County District Attorney Bard Berry to drop the charges in some 40 cases ginned up by Craven. Most of them involved the sale of small amounts of marijuana. Berry announced at the end of last month that he is abandoning those cases.

"Today the Yamhill County district attorney is dismissing all cases based primarily on the involvement of informant Marc Craven," Berry said in a news release. "This office will continue to pursue prosecution on approximately five cases that involve Mr. Craven tangentially or that involved the delivery of a large quantity of illegal drugs."

In the 1980s, Craven enticed young people into selling him small amounts of pot with promises of high-paying jobs in construction or landscaping. Those tactics led to the dismissal of at least 33 cases. He was up to the same old dirty tricks in the current round of busts, which netted some 47 people in June, most of them suppliers of small amounts of weed at Craven's repeated request.

According to the Associated Press, the move to dismiss the charges against more than 40 defendants was supported by Yamhill County Sheriff Jack Crabtree, who serves on the policy board on the narcotics team. No word yet on why the team hired this discredited snitch in the first place.

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11. Europe: Crackdown in Georgia

According to reports from drug reform activists in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, authorities there have embarked on an unprecedented effort to crack down on drug use and drug trafficking. In a message to the Central and East European Harm Reduction Network, Georgia drug reformer Levan Jorbenadze reported that the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has taken to posting the names of alleged drug dealers on the walls of neighborhoods in the capital city, Tblisi, and is calling for citizens to turn in drug dealers and users.

This vigilante-style move against the drug trade began in the middle of last month and was foreshadowed in an August 17 news conference where Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili announced rewards of up to US $555 for the capture of drug dealers. That news conference took place the same day police seized 10 pounds of opium in the village of Ponichala -- the largest drug bust in Georgia history.

"We hope to see mass arrests of people involved in drug trade... but we need help from society," said Merabishvili. "The Ministry of Internal Affairs cannot do the job by itself. Yes, maybe the ministry will seize many drugs in the future as well, but unfortunately, the amount of drug users and dealers has not declined in Georgia," he said. "We have to make drug users unpopular people and treat them as dangers to the public so that they feel uncomfortable in Georgian society. Over the recent years, drug use has become fashionable and popular," he complained. "It is necessary to change the attitude towards social problems throughout Georgia."

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12. Quote: William Rehnquist on Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Proof that there is no conservative consensus in favor of harsh mandatory drug sentencing are remarks delivered by the late chief justice during a widely cited speech delivered in the 1990s:

These mandatory minimum sentences are perhaps a good example of the law of unintended consequences. There is a respectable body of opinion which believes that these mandatory minimums impose unduly harsh punishment for first-time offenders -- particularly for 'mules' who played only a minor role in a drug distribution scheme. Be that as it may, the mandatory minimums have also led to an inordinate increase in the federal prison population and will require huge expenditures to build new prison space...

Mandatory minimums... are frequently the result of floor amendments to demonstrate emphatically that legislators want to 'get tough on crime.' Just as frequently they do not involve any careful consideration of the effect they might have on the sentencing guidelines as a whole. Indeed, it seems to me that one of the best arguments against any more mandatory minimums, and perhaps against some of those that we already have, is that they frustrate the careful calibration of sentences, from one end of the spectrum to the other, which the sentencing guidelines were intended to accomplish.

Passage appeared in "Prison Blues: How America's Foolish Sentencing Policies Endanger Public Safety," report for the Cato Institute by David Kopel, quoting from a US Sentencing Commission publication.

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13. Media Scan: HEA in Boston Globe, Medical Marijuana in New England Journal of Medicine, Medscape, More

"Drug War Mistargets Students," by Amos Irwin of Amherst College SSDP, in the Boston Globe

"Medical Marijuana and the Supreme Court," by Dr. Susan Okie, New England Journal of Medicine

"It Is Time for Marijuana to Be Reclassified as Something Other Than a Schedule I Drug," editorial (text and video) by Medscape editor Dr. George Lundberg

"Medical Marijuana Research Should Be Legalized," Michael Krawitz in Collegiate Times

new South Dakota medical marijuana blog

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14. Weekly: This Week in History

September 12, 2002: In Petaluma, CA, the Genesis 1:29 medical marijuana dispensary is raided by the DEA, and Robert Schmidt, the owner, is arrested. Agents also raid a garden in Sebastopol, which supplied the Genesis dispensary.

September 13, 1994: President Clinton signs The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322) which includes provisions to enhance penalties for selected drug-related crimes and to fund new drug-related programs.

September 13, 1999: The US 9th Circuit Court rules that seriously ill patients should be allowed marijuana if the need is there.

September 13, 2000: Eleven-year-old Alberto Sepulveda of Modesto, California, is shot dead during a SWAT raid targeting his father, when an officer on the scene accidentally squeezes off a shot, killing the boy instantly. A year and a half later the family settles a federal lawsuit over the death.

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15. Job Opportunities: Marijuana Policy Project

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is currently hiring for the following positions:

  • A web developer for MPP's campaign to pass a ballot initiative that would tax and regulate marijuana in Nevada. The initiative is already certified to appear on the November 2006 ballot. Visit for more information about the campaign.
  • A California statewide organizer to pressure California's Republican members of Congress to vote for medical marijuana legislation that will be brought up for a vote on the floor of the US House of Representatives in June 2006.
  • Six part-time organizers in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin, to persuade targeted members of Congress to support the aforementioned medical marijuana legislation.
  • Seven organizers to build statewide coalitions to tax and regulate marijuana in Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon.
  • A campaign manager to run a local ballot initiative campaign in Hawaii between now and November 2006.
All positions require outstanding communications skills, the ability to work independently, a high level of organization, and a professional appearance and demeanor. Visit for detailed job descriptions and instructions for applying. MPP is not taking phone calls about these positions; rather, all interested candidates should apply by using the process described at the links above.

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16. Job Opportunity: Harm Reduction Position in New Mexico

The Santa Fe Mountain Center is hiring a Street Outreach Worker to provide harm reduction outreach services to injection drug users in northern New Mexico, including needle exchange and HIV/Hepatitis and overdose prevention services. The Street Outreach Worker should be an open-minded, responsible person with cultural competency skills, knowledge of harm reduction and chemical dependency, a clean driving record, willing to work flexible hours, bilingual preferred.

Training/supervision will be provided, pay scale $11-$15 per hour depending on experience, 25 hours per week. Application closing date September 30, 2005, contact Anji Estrellas at (505) 983-6158 ext. 26 or [email protected] for further information.

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17. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 10, various cities worldwide, "Smoke Out America," protests to stop the extradition from Canada of Marc Emery by the US DEA, visit for information.

September 14, 5:00-8:00pm, Washington, DC, Fundraiser for Louisiana's Juvenile Justice Advocacy Organizations, at H.R. 57, Center for the Preservation of Jazz & Blues, 1610 14th Street NW. Suggested donation $20, contact Liz Ryan at (202) 558-3580 or [email protected] 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.

POSTPONED: October 3-4, Washington, DC, "Rally for Rescheduling: Demand HHS Reschedule Marijuana Now!" SEE OCTOBER 26 LISTING.

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].

October 21-23, Chicago, IL, "Partnering for Peace: Colombian and North American Communities in Solidarity," and "Encounter of Communities," sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and others. Visit or contact Natalie Cardona at (215) 241-7162 or [email protected] for further information.

October 26, Washington, DC, "Rally for Rescheduling: Demand HHS Reschedule Marijuana Now!" Demonstration for medical marijuana at the US Dept. of Health & Human Services, visit 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 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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Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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