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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #405 -- 9/30/05

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

    Can they afford a drug war?
    Intrepid DRCNet editor Phil Smith is on the scene reporting on the drug war and reform efforts in Afghanistan -- David Borden comments.
    Amidst a burst of publicity and news coverage ranging from Kabul TV to the New York Times, thinkers and officials from around the world mixed with Afghans and representatives of neighboring countries at a three-day conference in Afghanistan this week.
    Most Afghan opium ends up not in the west but in neighboring countries like Iran and Russia. Representatives of those countries attended this week's conference in Kabul and promised to bring the idea of buying the nation's opium supply for the medical market back to their bosses.
    Afghanistan has its share or more of drug addiction. But the nation of 25 million people has a mere 100 treatment beds, and a lone needle exchange program sitting on a dusty side street in Kabul relies mostly on volunteers to help stem a looming epidemic of HIV and Hepatitis in the city's injecting population.
    A western Massachusetts jury refused to convict 18-year old Kyle Sawin after prosecutors used enhanced "school zone" penalties to try to hit him with two years mandatory minimum in prison.
    Provisions in proposed federal methamphetamine legislation that would increase penalties for trafficking were challenged by some Democrats, foiling supporters' attempt to make the bill non-controversial and fast-moving.
    Spin-meisters in the press office of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration exaggerated the findings of the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use released last week.
    After two incidents of Los Angeles police interfering with city-authorized needle exchange programs in the last two weeks, the director of one of them has filed a formal complaint against four LAPD officers with the city Police Commission.
    With Vancouver's Downtown Eastside safe injection site now two years old and working as planned, Canada's Health Minister has green-lighted the opening of more of them.
  10. WEB SCAN
    GAO Report, Cascade and AAPS Blast Meth Madness, New Orleans Jail in the Flood, MedMj Legal Brief Bank, Charles Shaw on Alternet, DEA's Microgram
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    DRCNet is currently soliciting designs for new t-shirts to be made available on our web site and worn by people nationwide who want an end to prohibition and the war on drugs.
    The Open Society Institute's US Justice Fund will support individuals in 2006 through two Fellowship programs. But the deadline is October 14, so move fast!
    The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring a National Field Director to spearhead MPP's grassroots organizing efforts in targeted congressional districts and nationwide.
    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. Commentary: Direct from Kabul -- DRCNet on the Scene in Afghanistan This Week and Next

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

David Borden
The world's attention focused dramatically on Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, apparently motivated and financed by Al Qaeda leaders headquartered in the dusty, war-torn nation. Four years later, the tragedy continues -- perhaps accompanied by progress, or not, different people have different views on that -- as suicide bombings, warlordism, poverty, all continue to wreak a toll on Afghans and others. This week, a suicide bomb attack in Kabul killed at least eleven people -- the infamous Taliban have claimed credit -- and in the bombing's wake observers worry that the Afghan insurgency could follow the example of Iraq with Kabul going the way of Baghdad.

DRCNet condemned the Taliban in this newsletter in 1997, as US and UN officials moved to try to fund the rights-abusing pseudo-government to do opium eradication. We are proud to have been ahead of the curve, but also sad -- sad that our government was willing to sacrifice principles and risk hardening the grip on power of that oppressive, extremist regime for the sake of waging an ineffective drug war.

Opium is the mainstay of the Afghan economy, the provider of financial sustenance to a people who have little in the way of alternatives, and that alone makes the official position of eradicating the crop untenable. So it was foolish, if not outright irresponsible, for Afghan and UN officials to so quickly dismiss the proposal unveiled at this week's Kabul drug policy conference of licensing the opium crop instead of prohibiting it and buying it up for use in the licit medical market. What right do they have to deny struggling Afghans the chance to earn a simple living without the fear of government helicopters swooping down and poisoning their land and crops and perhaps their selves? (They haven't actually started using the helicopters yet. But they will, and they are eradicating.) Why shouldn't Afghan farmers be allowed to offer the fruits of their agriculture for the legal market in anesthesia and pain meds? Other countries' farmers are allowed to do so.

The statements were also irresponsible with respect to the needs of pain patients. A UN Office on Drugs and Crime official said that it was impossible because there was already enough legal opium being grown to meet the needs of medicine. That is as bad as what the DEA is doing to pain patients here in the United States, where physician prosecutions, even if small in number, have a chilling effect on the willingness of doctors to write opiate prescriptions to pain patients or to write them in the appropriate dosages. That needs to change -- denial of pain treatment is tantamount to torture -- and when it does change we will need more opium to be grown to make more of the medicines. But it's not just about us nor even primarily so. According to the 700-page report prepared by the organization sponsoring the conference, pain medicine is not available in sufficient quantities to serve the medical needs of Afghanistan and other developing countries.

That is important, and for the most basic of humanitarian reasons, the right to not be tortured by denial of pain medicine. But while talking about the medical market and the Council's clever proposal to help Afghanistan, it is equally important to bear in mind that drugs are not sold illegally simply because the people doing so lack other alternatives. Drugs are grown and sold because there are people who like or at least choose to use them -- and as long as people choose to use drugs and are willing to pay for them, someone will choose and find a way to provide them -- and there will always be people who choose to use drugs. Any give opium farmer might be willing to find a new crop or job if a decent one is offered. But someone else will take up the slack, if not in Afghanistan than elsewhere. Supply fills demand, certainly for a product as lucrative as drugs are.

So while buying Afghanistan's opium crop for medical uses may well help that country -- maybe a lot -- in the long term it won't reduce the global supply of opium for non-medical uses. Not because there's anything wrong with the proposal, but because in the long-term that is something that cannot be done -- supply fills demand.

Which brings us back to the core, the underlying problem hurting everything that if changed can help everything -- prohibition, and the need for some form of legalization to replace it and bring drugs within the control of law. If, as some policymakers claim, the opium trade is helping to fund terrorism, why haven't we legalized the trade to divert that money flow away from the criminal underground?

incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)
A report in Wednesday's Boston Globe shed light on a particularly unfortunate impact of the illegal drug trade on Afghanistan, the selling of daughters by farmers who owe opium debts to the drug traffickers. It is a sad thing for families to be put in a situation that binds their fates to the agendas of criminal organizations. But it wouldn't happen if opium weren't prohibited and they could grow it legally, with the support of legal investors or others. Prohibition harms our national security interests, but it is also harming the Afghan people.

Those of you who have met Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith know that he is adventurous. So, it was no surprise that, on hearing about the Kabul conference, he pitched the idea of attending it and spending a week or two doing investigative reporting in the area. Thanks to generous support from the company Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, Phil is there now. This week's issue of Drug War Chronicle features three special reports from Kabul and the conference -- an initial report on the conference (a much longer one will run in the Chronicle next week); a discussion of Iranian and Russian reactions to the Senlis proposal (they are intrigued); and a look at the Nejat Center, a harm reduction organization running out of a dusty side street working hard with little funding to stem the spread of HIV in Afghanistan, and some of its former clients turned volunteers.

The threads of prohibition link the streets of Kabul and the countryside of Afghanistan and its people to the marginalized, poor and imprisoned of the United States. In this special series -- and in Phil's daily web log written on the scene -- we attempt to shed light, not only on Afghanistan and its struggles, but on the ideas and ideologies at work in US and global drug policy and the impact they are having on people's lives. For all the importance we placed on Afghanistan four years ago after terror struck, we don't really think about it that much, and we don't really understand it. But a little understanding can go a long way. Minds met in Kabul this week, and Phil's Afghan adventure for DRCNet continues awhile longer. Stay tuned -- and read on.

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2. On the Scene I: European Think Tank Calls for Licensed Opium Cultivation at Afghanistan Conference -- Response Varied

Drug policy thinkers, researchers, and political figures from around the world mixed with Afghan government officials, treatment and addiction specialists, law enforcement representatives, interested Afghan citizens, and representatives of neighboring countries at a three-day conference in Kabul this week as the Senlis Council formally unveiled a plan to license Afghan opium crops and divert them from the black market to legitimate medicinal markets. Amidst a burst of publicity and news coverage ranging from Kabul TV to the New York Times, the European drug policy think tank kicked off the confab Monday with a press conference calling on the Afghan government, Western governments, and the United Nations to get behind the proposal, which is designed to increase the availability of opioid pain medications in the developing world while dramatically reducing the supply of Afghan opium and heroin in the global black market.

entrance to conference site
(Senlis Council banner to upper left -- click here for hi-res version
"The findings of our initial feasibility study give a clear green light for a licensing system," said Senlis executive director Emmanuel Reinert as he brandished a copy of the massive, 700-page tome. "This is a roadmap for stability in this country. There is currently a massive shortage of morphine and codeine in many countries, including Afghanistan. It is a tragic irony that the country that produces the most opium in the world doesn't have access to an adequate supply of pain medications. This plan would also provide an income for farmers under a legal system equivalent to what they now earn in an illegal system," Reinert told the audience of hundreds in the ballroom of the well-guarded Intercontinental Hotel overlooking the city.

"Based on the findings of the feasibility study, we are recommending a fast track action plan to develop a controlled opium licensing system," Reinert added. "We believe it is possible to do this under the current legal framework in Afghanistan."

Nearly four years after the United States invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban regime, the country continues as the unchallenged world leader in opium poppy cultivation, boasting nearly 90% of the global supply. Not only does Afghan opium and its derivative, heroin, supply a drug using population from Pakistan to Picadilly Circus and Teheran to Tashkent, the profits from that trade, estimated in the billions annually, are suspected of enriching the coffers of drug trafficking mafias across Eurasia, Afghan warlords and government officials, and their mortal foes, the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies.

While many of the international figures brought to Kabul for the conference offered hearty endorsements of the plan, initial reaction from Afghan and UN anti-drug fighters was much less positive. Monday morning, before the feasibility study was even released, Afghan Minister of Counter Narcotics Habibullah Qaderi dismissed the plan as unworkable given the country's parlous security situation. "As far as the licensing at this moment is concerned, I am saying no," he was quoted as saying in the local press. "I'm not in favor because it jeopardizes the whole of our effort. There would be anarchy in the country now. It would create a lot of problems."

Similarly, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has rejected the proposal, according to a Reuters report. There is already a sufficient supply of opioid pain medications to meet global demand, UNODC said. It also argued that buying farmers' crops in a legitimate market would not be economically viable and that such a scheme would "send the wrong message" to Afghan farmers.

The proposal runs counter to official Afghan drug policy, the position of the firmly prohibitionist UNODC, and the desires of the United Kingdom and the United States, which has committed $700 million to eradicating the poppy crop and developing alternative livelihoods for the hundreds of thousands of Afghan households that depend on the opium economy to put food on the table.

Still, the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai said it would consider the proposal. If initial indications from the top of the Ministry of Counter Narcotics were unenthusiastic, the head of the ministry's Demand Reduction Directorate, Dr. Mohammed Zafar, sounded a bit more open as he addressed the symposium. "Questions arose here about who is going to make the decisions on this, and I must say that the government of Afghanistan has the right to decide whether to legalize these fields or not," he said. "People within the government will be discussing this, and we want to thank the Senlis Council for their efforts."

The scheme may appear shockingly radical -- and it certainly did to many Afghans, who vociferously questioned every aspect of it (look for an extensive look at the fascinating give and take next week) -- but the series of UN Conventions on drugs of course makes space for licensed and controlled opium production for the medicinal market, and there is no reason why Afghanistan could not in theory join the handful of countries that supply that raw material for opioid pain medications.

One sticking point is the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the organization charged with determining the amount of opium needed to supply that legal medicinal market. The INCB says that global supply is adequate to meet demand.

The Senlis Council disagrees and challenged the INCB to prove its contention. Reinert told the gathering that the group's study showed a worldwide shortfall in pain relieving opiates, such as morphine and codeine, particularly in the developing countries. "The International Narcotics Control Board must fully disclose the structure of the existing global opium market to assess needs worldwide," he said.

The Council brought an army of experts to back its proposal, including Raymond Kendall, the honorary secretary general of Interpol, who told the audience that current global drug control strategies were an unmitigated failure. "The UN stated in the 1990s that its goal was to eliminate drug abuse and trafficking by 2008," Kendall noted. "Here we are in 2005, and it is clear that 2008 goal is a total illusion."

It is time to try a new approach, the senior lawman said. "We have to look at Afghanistan and understand that we need to try alternative approaches," he said. "The methods applied so far have not made a significant impact on the situation. We have to look at supply. We continue to apply the same policies, and there is almost an unwillingness to look at alternatives. But I defy anyone to look at this feasibility study and say this is not a serious, valid, and worthwhile document worthy of study."

The feasibility study is now officially on the table. The Afghan government is at least giving it lip service. And the Senlis Council is not wasting any time moving forward. "Today we also announce the launching of phase two of our feasibility study, which will be an important on-the-ground accompaniment to the first installment and will explore several elements of opium licensing," said Reinert. "These recommendations must be pursued as soon as possible; there is a small window of opportunity, the cartels are poised to take control of Afghan opium and this autumn may be too late."

This initial DRCNet report has only touched the surface of what went on at the three-day symposium, which was a full-blown, multi-sided attempt to come to grips with massive drug production in a poverty-stricken, violence-racked nation at the heart of the global drug trade. Look for much more on the conference next week, as well as more reporting from Kabul and, inshallah, the opium fields and markets of Afghanistan.

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3. On the Scene II: Afghanistan's Neighbors Look With Interest at Licensing Proposal

While the Western powers like Britain and the United States are making the most noise about Afghan opium production and throwing the most money into efforts to thwart it, experts at this week's Kabul symposium on the feasibility of licensing Afghan production for the global legitimate medicinal market said most Afghan opium and heroin is destined not for the West, but for the developing world, with neighboring Iran and Pakistan responsible for much of the market. That may come as a surprise to readers in the West, but it is old news to the countries most affected, some of whom sent representatives to the meeting to see whether the proposal could fly.

on the streets of Kabul...
Both Iran, which according to the United Nations has the world's highest opiate addiction rate, and Russia, where opiate addiction and injection-related HIV infections are also on the rise, had government officials present at the symposium this week. Officials from both countries told DRCNet they were watching with great interest and would report back to their superiors on the licensing scheme and its prospects.

While Afghan heroin is making its way into the veins of junkies across Western Europe, most accounts suggest little of it gets to North America, where most heroin comes from Colombia and Mexico. Russia and Iran, however, both lay astride major trafficking routes from Afghanistan to the West. In addition to problems related to the drug trade, both countries are seeing rising addiction rates because of the flood of cheap Afghan heroin, the officials said.

"People tend to think most heroin goes to the US and Europe, but the US and Europe combined consume only about 80 tons a year out of the estimated 400-plus tons produced annually," said Pierre Kopp, professor of economics at Paris 1 University in France. "The biggest heroin consuming countries are now the developing countries, which account for about two-thirds of global consumption, especially places like Iran and Pakistan. There are 1.5 million heroin users in Pakistan now," Kopp reported.

There are two distinct business models and price structures for the heroin industry, one aimed at the prosperous West and one targeting developing countries, said Kopp. "In the developing countries, you have many consumers and the price is very low, so you make your profit on the huge number of consumers. The gram of heroin that goes for $2 in Pakistan goes for $100 in the US, and the retail heroin market in the US is worth about $7 billion, but even at $2 a gram in Pakistan, there is a total retail market of $1.2 billion there," he said.

While the profits of the Afghan drug trade are huge, most of them take place at the retail level, said Kopp. "If you ask where the money is made, you see that the farmers don't make a lot of profit. Afghan growers made about $400 million, while the traffickers took in about $2.2 billion, with the rest accruing to operations retailing the drugs."

With Afghan heroin going for $5 a gram in neighboring Iran, it is becoming an increasingly attractive option for impoverished people seeking a little bliss. As a result, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that Iran now has roughly two million opiate addicts, although that number could be as high as four million according to some Iranian government estimates.

Thus the presence of the Iranian Embassy in Kabul Drugs Liaison Officer Hashem Zayyem at the Senlis symposium this week. "This is a big, big problem for us," he told DRCNet. "Addiction rates are rising, and more of more of the young people are using heroin, not opium."

Iranian authorities, who after the installation of the Islamic Republic in 1979 adopted a hard-line approach to illicit drug use, even publicly executing small-time drug dealers, are changing their approach in the face of a tide of opiate use. In a symposium presentation on the effectiveness of various treatment modalities and harm reduction measures, Professor Ambros Uchtenhagen, chair of the Swiss Addiction and Public Health Research Foundation, lauded Canada's embrace of the "four pillars" approach -- prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and law enforcement -- and said that, faced with the rise of opiate addiction, Iran had recently begun to embrace the same policies.

"In Iran, they have begun to adopt the same policy with the same objectives, and now we are seeing the first results," said Uchtenhagen. "I am deeply impressed with what is going on in Iran, with the rapid development of substitution programs for opiate dependent people and outreach programs in Teheran where former addicts distribute needles and tell users about drop-in clinics. There is also low-threshold anonymous treatment."

While in Iran, authorities are tackling demand, the Iranian Embassy's Zayyem works the supply side. "Our border with Afghanistan is long, and the smugglers are dangerous," he said. "We have had more than 3,500 border police killed fighting traffickers since the beginning of the Islamic Republic, he said. "And that's not counting soldiers and police."

Despite rising tensions between Iran and the West over the country's nuclear program, Zayyem said his country is working with the West to combat trafficking across the Afghan border. "This is one area where we have good cooperation with the United States and the United Kingdom," he said with a rueful smile. "But we need more help," he shrugged.

"This proposal for licensing the opium crop is very interesting," he said. "I will be reporting on this to the ambassador."

Phil Smith
With the UNODC putting Russian opiate addiction rates at 2.1% -- among the world's highest -- an estimated two million Russians are strung out on dope, with about half of them using Afghan heroin. That's four times the number of the next biggest European heroin markets, in Britain and Italy, according to UN World Drug Report.

"We have a very severe problem with heroin and other opiates in Russia," said Timur Agemetov, second secretary at the Russian Embassy in Kabul, who attended the symposium. "I will be reporting back to my ambassador on this intriguing proposal," he told DRCNet. "I don't know if it is possible, but anything that would reduce the amount of heroin coming into Russia would be most helpful," he said.

Like Iran, Russia faces not only rising domestic use rates but also the consequences of black market drug trafficking, said Agemetov. "We have troops in Tajikistan to help stem the flow of narcotics," he said, "but it keeps coming -- not only through Tajikistan but all across Central Asia -- and the drug mafias are very strong."

If the reactions of Iranian and Russian representatives at the symposium are any indication, the Senlis Council's opium licensing proposal is going to be getting a careful hearing not only in Kabul, but in the region as well. If regional governments officially weigh in in support of the notion, that could only add to pressure for innovative solutions to the Afghan opium conundrum.

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4. On the Scene III: Beyond Treatment and Prevention -- Harm Reduction in Afghanistan

No one knows for certain how widespread drug use and addiction is in Afghanistan. A United Nations survey of drug use across the country has been completed, but its numbers are being crunched and have not yet been released. Afghan officials and experts cite a figure of 60,000 drug users in the capital city of Kabul (estimated population 3,000,000), but while the common conception is that that number reflects the number of opium or heroin addicts, reality is a bit more complicated.

Nejat Center, Kabul
When pressed on the issue at this week's Senlis Council symposium on the feasibility of licensed opium production, Dr. Mohammed Zafar, head of the Ministry of Counter Narcotics Drug Demand Reduction conceded that the 60,000 figure measured drug users, not drug addicts. The situation is further confused by the tendency here -- one of the ancestral homes of cannabis -- to consider it a "narcotic," a position that is neither medically nor scientifically defensible.

Dr. Jehanzeb Khan, international project coordinator for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Drug Demand Reduction Afghanistan country office, broke those numbers down further during his presentation at the symposium. According to Khan, the rough figure of 60,000 includes 24,000 hashish smokers, 13,000 users of pharmaceuticals, 11,000 opium users, 7,000 heroin users, and 7,000 alcohol users. There are at least 500 injection drug users in the city, according to the UN numbers, said Khan.

That said, for Afghan anti-drug and treatment officials, international experts, and common Afghan citizens alike, the problem of drug abuse and addiction looms large. "Drug use has definitely increased here," said Dr. Mohammed Zafar, head of the Ministry of Counter Narcotics Demand Reduction Directorate. "In some districts in Badakshan (a remote, isolated province bordering Tajikistan and China), 40 to 60% of the population is addicted. In Gardez, they don't grow the poppy there, but we have 250 people addicted to heroin and they are injecting together, which is a threat for HIV."

rehabilitation group at Nejat for hi-res version
One of the world's poorest countries, decimated by a quarter-century of war and foreign invasion, and home to nearly 90% of the planet's illicit opium supply, Afghanistan is ill-prepared to deal with a rising tide of drug use. But despite all the obstacles it faces, including the weakness of the central government and limited support from the international community, the country is taking steps to confront drug use and help its citizens who fell into addiction and abuse.

According to Dr. Shairshah Bayan, coordinator of the Project for Integrated Drug Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation in Afghanistan for the German non-governmental organization (NGO) GTZ, a major player in Afghan development issues, drug treatment and community awareness programs are ongoing in six of the country's 34 provinces to combat a tide of rising misuse linked both to the availability of opium and heroin and to terrible social displacement, unemployment, violence, trauma, and poverty arising from the country's sad and bloody history in the late 20th Century. Those programs include the standard repertoire of detoxification, group counseling, rehabilitation, outreach, and community awareness, he said.

Given the nature of Afghan society and the role of its women, GTZ and other drug treatment and prevention centers also include special programs for women and families who do not have access to in-patient treatment at the centers, Bayan added.

Still, Afghanistan's treatment and prevention efforts are in their infancy. Less than 100 treatment beds are available to serve a national population estimated at 25 million. (This fact prompted one Afghan woman audience member at the Senlis symposium to lash out at Afghan officials there. "We had more beds under the Taliban!" she exclaimed.)

anti drug posters at Nejat
But if the treatment and prevention effort is in its infancy, it is part of a National Drug Control Strategy elaborated by the ministries of Counter Narcotics and Public Health, both of which are working to expand the efforts as rapidly as possible given the lack of funding available. Those two entities earlier this year also signed a National Strategy for Harm Reduction for Injection Drug Users and the Prevention of HIV/AIDS, wrote Ministry of Counter Narcotics Demand Reduction Advisor David Macdonald in an e-mail to DRCNet taking us to task for a blog report this week in which we stated that a Kabul center was the only harm reduction project extant.

But by our definition of harm reduction, there is indeed currently only one such project. On the outskirts of Kabul, down a dusty side road, lies the Nejat Center, the only harm reduction center in the capital city, and indeed, the whole country. [A note on semantics: DRCNet differentiates between "harm reduction" and "treatment and prevention." The latter term refers to activities such as getting drug users off drugs or stopping them from starting in the first place, while "harm reduction" refers to programs that attempt to work with active drug users, such as needle exchange, condom distribution, and safe injection sites.]

An outgrowth of a program begun across the border in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1991 to deal with what would become millions of refugees fleeing factional violence in Afghanistan, Nejat opened its Kabul facility in 2003. It still deals primarily with refugees -- this time Afghans returning home who developed serious opium and/or heroin habits as they rotted in Pakistani refugee camps for years waiting for political violence to subside in their homeland.

At Nejat, Dr. Tariq Suliman leads a small team of doctors and social workers (many of them volunteers, some of the social workers graduates of his program) who bring addicts through a comprehensive rehabilitation program beginning with a one week detox followed by a second week of orientation and then a month-long rehabilitation program. During the program, clients are taught not only to resist the lure of opiates but also social and job skills, such as learning to weave carpets or make shoes, and some will even be able to get small loans to open small businesses. (Unsurprisingly, small businesses here often consist of a cardboard or wood shack, and whatever the product is, the overhead to open and operate a small business in Afghanistan is very small.)

It's not just drug treatment. Nejat also includes a harm reduction component, with an active needle exchange program, as well as condom distribution. With AIDS a rising problem, both are critical to the effort to get a grip on the epidemic. And while the inpatient treatment program is limited to men, the center's outreach programs also target women and children, a population typically neglected not only in drug treatment programs but by Afghan society as a whole. The silent, unseen part of the Afghan population, women are expected to be behind the walls of home and not out on the street.

"AIDS has been like the tsunami for us," said Dr. Suliman. "In addition to activities with injection drug users, we are also reaching out to sex workers in the Heribat district. We have a team there consisting of doctors, social workers, and volunteers that do outreach there. AIDS is a big shame, and it's getting worse every day," he told DRCNet.

The program is seriously underfunded, said Dr. Suliman. "While the Ministry of Counter Narcotics is trying to create programs, the government does not fund us; it says it's a local issue. The government is getting billions of dollars a year in assistance, and it needs to generate some funding for these programs. This is a very difficult situation, and we need long-term programs."

In the meantime, Dr. Suliman and the Nejat program do what they can with volunteers and a handful of ill-paid workers. Fortunately, Nejat is generating them with its treatment and rehabilitation program.

One group of brothers and sisters in their late teens and early twenties, the Yacubi family, is a sterling example. After the death of their mother in Iran, the family's father descended into heroin use, and the kids followed him. But as their money ran out, the Yacubi children realized they needed help and turned to Nejat. Now, three months later, the kids are not only clean, but helping at the center.

"We want the good life for our family," one of the Yacubi brothers told DRCNet. "Our big message is that we don't want to go the way of drug addiction again. That was a bad mistake. We are Afghans, and now we want to help the Afghan people."

That's the spirit. Despite the assistance of the international community -- and it is certainly deserved after the beating Afghanistan has taken from great power geopolitics -- the Afghan national will ultimately have to save itself. With drug treatment and prevention programs underway, with harm reduction programs gaining a toehold, and with the help of Afghan citizens like the Yacubis, the country is taking the first steps.

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5. Denied: Massachusetts Jury Slaps Down Overreaching District Attorney in "School Zone" Bust

A Massachusetts jury Tuesday refused to send Kyle Sawin, 18, to prison for a minimum of two years after he was caught selling small amounts of marijuana in a drug sting designed to allow prosecutors to use enhanced "school zone" penalties. The verdict, which came after nine hours of deliberation, was a slap in the face to Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless, who ignored a chorus of community complaints in seeking such stiff penalties for small-time pot law violations.

Sawin and six other Taconic High students were arrested after complying with repeated requests from an undercover police officer to sell them marijuana at a parking lot. The parking lot was within a thousand feet of a church with a pre-school program, which enabled Capeless to charge the local youngsters under the school zone enhancement. That enhancement carries a mandatory minimum two-year prison sentence. Sawin was, and the six remaining defendants are all first-time, nonviolent defendants.

This was the second slap-down for Capeless in his effort to send the young man to prison. An earlier trial resulted in a hung jury.

"I am so grateful that this young man and his family can finally return to their normal lives, and Kyle's plans for the future," said Judy Knight, Sawin's attorney, in a statement after the verdict. "Charges brought against an individual should fit the facts of the case and the goal of the criminal justice system is not to just blindly apply or stack sentences regardless of individual case circumstance. Nobody would have won if Kyle was found guilty of the school zone charges and sent to jail for two years."

The sting perpetrated against the Taconic High School students and Capeless' repeated statements that he would seek to bring enhanced school zone charges against all possible defendants resulted in a firestorm of criticism of the drug-fighting DA. It also sparked the formation of Concerned Citizens for Appropriate Justice, a local group that includes former prosecutor Ira Kaplan.

"A prosecutor's job is to seek justice, not to exact the maximum potential penalty," Kaplan told DRCNet in a June interview. "You are paid by the state and the taxpayers to do the right thing, and sending a 17-year-old to jail for two years for selling a couple of joints does not seem like the right thing."

It seems the jurors of Berkshire county agreed. No word yet on whether Capeless, in the face of citizen protests and juror rebellion, will continue to attempt to exact mandatory minimum prison sentences on small-time teenage defendants. But now he is on notice.

"Had the District Attorney prevailed he would have unnecessarily ruined a young man's life, splintered a family and achieved no benefit for Berkshire County in terms of addressing drug abuse," said Concerned Citizens spokesman Peter Greer. "DA Capeless should cease this outdated, ineffective wasteful policy and join the vast majority of his constituents and national trends to use his discretion and seek appropriate, rational and effective alternatives to prison. The jury has spoken, and we hope he heard them loud and clear."

If not, there's always the ballot box. Earlier this year, Concerned Citizens warned that if Capeless didn't change his ways, he could face an electoral challenge.

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6. Methamphetamine: House Democrats Challenge Harsher Penalties in Federal Methamphetamine Bill

Some House Democrats this week challenged provisions in proposed federal methamphetamine legislation that would increase penalties for trafficking. The tougher penalties were a reflexive response that had failed to work in the past, they said. They also criticized the measure's lack of provisions for drug treatment.

The attacks came Tuesday in a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime hearing on House Resolution 3889, the Methamphetamine Epidemic Elimination Act (use to look up), which is being pushed by congressional heavyweights including House Government Reform subcommittee on narcotics head Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), new House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-MO) (replacing the freshly indicted Texas Rep. Tom DeLay), House Judiciary Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and the four co-chairs of the House Methamphetamine Caucus, which represents members of both parties.

While the measure concentrates on tightening restrictions on methamphetamine precursors used in home meth labs, it also lowers the threshold for mandatory minimum sentences for meth trafficking offenses. Existing federal law provides for a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking more than 50 grams of meth; the bill being considered by Congress would lower the threshold for the mandatory minimum sentence to five grams, and would include possession with intent as well as actual sales.

But in a change from years past, at least some lawmakers are expressing reluctance to simply go down the path of more prison time. "Whether it's crack or meth, we've got a drug problem in America, and it's not going to be solved with mandatory minimum sentencing," said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who added that the primary effect of such laws is to devastate poor communities.

While Walters said she had no problem with restrictions on pseudoephedrine, the precursor chemical widely used in home cooking, and even implicitly criticized Mexico for its massive importation of meth, she was having none of any increased sentences. "Come in here and talk to me about (Mexico's president) Vicente Fox and what you're going to do with them and trade if they don't do something about the transporting of stuff across the border from the superlabs in Mexico," Waters said. "But just to talk about young people who use this meth to get high going to penitentiaries, that's not doing anything to make me believe it's going to be helpful."

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), the top Democrat on the committee, said the punitive approach has been tried repeatedly without success. "Meanwhile, the epidemic has grown exponentially," he said.

Scott also went after DEA deputy chief for enforcement operations Joseph Rannazzissi, relentlessly quizzing him on the efficacy of harsh sentencing. "You did not reduce the incidence of crack use by having a draconian five-year mandatory-minimum sentence, did you?

"Putting it that way," Rannazzisi said, "I guess not."

While bill sponsor Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN) defended the legislation, saying Congress must send "a strong signal" to drug sellers, Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA), challenged him on that score. "We've been sending messages," Delahunt responded. "I think there should be now conclusive evidence that just simply enhancing penalties is in no way going to reducing the trafficking in a particular controlled substance."

While Tuesday's hearing is unlikely to derail the bill, sponsors had hoped it would be non-controversial, allowing it to move quickly. But House Democrats have already ensured that will not be the case.

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7. Methamphetamine: SAMHSA Says Meth Use Steady, Problem Use Increasing -- Data Says Yes But Not as Much as SAMSHA Implies

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) last week released the results of the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use. According to the federal agency, about 1.4 million people over the age of 12 reported using methamphetamine within the past year, a number "similar to the number of users in the prior two years." Of that number, some 600,000 reported using the popular stimulant within the last month, also "similar to the numbers in 2002 and 2003," SAMHSA said.

But the agency also reported that the number of past-month users who met the criteria for dependence or abuse had increased from 27.5% (164,000) in 2002 to 59.3% (346,000) in 2004. Oddly, however, SAMHSA reported that of those meth users suffering from "illicit drug dependence or abuse," only 130,000 had stimulants as their primary drug of abuse.

SAMSHA's national survey meth page trumpets the same finding -- the number of dependent or abusing meth users is up dramatically -- but the fine print tells a more nuanced story: "Respondents who acknowledged illicit drug use in the past 12 months were also asked to report symptoms of dependence or abuse they experienced during that period. Dependence or abuse is defined using criteria specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and includes such symptoms as withdrawal, tolerance, use in dangerous situations, trouble with the law, and interference in major obligations at work, school, or home during the past year. Questions about abuse and dependence symptoms are asked separately for each class of drugs used but not for each specific drug. As NSDUH does not include abuse and dependence questions on methamphetamine as such, this report provides information on abuse and dependence involving any illicit drug and any stimulant among current methamphetamine users."

In other words, when SAMHSA reports that 346,000 meth users last year qualified as dependent or abusers, it misleads those who do not read carefully. Roughly one-third of that number were described as mainly using meth or other stimulants, while the other two-thirds of abusing or dependent meth users may indeed use speed once a month but qualify as dependent because they smoke marijuana daily or are alcoholics or meet some other criteria for abuse or dependence on some other substance.

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8. Needle Exchange: LA Cops Hassle NEP Clients -- Complaint Filed

After two incidents of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) interfering with city-authorized needle exchange programs in the last two weeks, the director of one of them has filed a formal complaint against four LAPD officers with the city Police Commission. On September 15, police searched five clients of the Clean Needles Now as they waited in line for fresh syringes, arresting one.

"This was the second event of this kind in two weeks," Clean Needles Now executive director Shoshanna Scholar told the CNS news service. LAPD Chief William Bratton had issued a memo July 8 warning officers about unwarranted interference with the exchange, she added. "We want to know why that memo was overlooked."

In the earlier incident (which involved a different program), a staffer was handcuffed while police handcuffed and searched ten clients, Scholar told DRCNet.

Scholar told CNS when she tried to report the incidents at the nearby Hollywood Station she was told the station no longer had a community liaison officer and she "wasn't offered an opportunity to file a complaint."

Police Commissioner Shelly Freeman told CNS she would bring up the matter with Chief Bratton shortly. Bratton is currently in Miami attending a police chiefs' convention.

While Scholar said she sought good relations with the LAPD, such incidents endangered the work of the program, which is designed to reduce the rate of HIV and Hepatitis C infection among intravenous drug users. It is hard to convince clients they would not be arrested. "The biggest problem is they get busted for needle possession on the way to and from the exchange," she said.

Under California law, possession of syringes without a prescription is illegal. But legislation signed by former Gov. Gray Davis (before his recall) enables cities to legalize needle exchange by issuing declarations of emergency. The law requires the declarations be renewed every two weeks, however -- falling short of language passed by the legislature in an earlier bill that Davis blocked. Nevertheless, the declarations are current in Los Angeles and Clean Needles Now is in compliance with them, Scholar told DRCNet. Two bills relating to needle exchange are pending in the California legislature.

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9. Harm Reduction: Canada Health Minister Says More Safe Injection Sites Should Open If Communities Approve

With Vancouver's Downtown Eastside safe injection site now two years old and working as planned, Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh said last week that more should open across the country provided they have the backing of neighborhoods, local politicians, and health officials. If local communities are willing to support them, they should be allowed to operate, Dosanjh said in remarks quoted by the Canadian Press.

"I'm a big proponent of harm reduction," Dosanjh proclaimed. "I believe that we need to make sure we provide assistance to people who are addicted."

Health officials in Vancouver report that in the two years the Downtown Eastside site has been open, hundreds of overdose deaths have been prevented and many injection drug users have been directed to counseling and addiction services. Officials reported that zero overdose deaths occurred at the site.

The Vancouver site is a three-year pilot project operating under an exemption from Health Canada. It will need to be re-approved next year. While Dosanjh refused to say whether he will grant renewed approval, he did hint broadly he was leaning in that direction. "I would be inclined to approve it," he told Canada Press.

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10. Web Scan: GAO Report, Cascade and AAPS Blast Meth Madness, New Orleans Jail in the Flood, MedMj Legal Brief Bank, Charles Shaw on Alternet, DEA's Microgram

Government Accountability Office report on denial of some federal benefits to people with drug convictions

Human Rights Watch investigates abandonment of prisoners in New Orleans jail as flood waters rise, discussed on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, transcript posted on Alternet

"Putting Pseudoephedrine Behind the Counter Won't Save Us from Meth," Jane Orient for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons

"How Not to Fight Meth," QuickPoint! by Steve Buckstein for the Cascade Policy Institute

"The Failed Drug War," editorial by Charles Shaw on Alternet

New medical marijuana Legal Brief Bank, from Americans for Safe Access:

DEA's "Microgram" intelligence bulletin

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11. Weekly: This Week in History

September 30, 1996: President Bill Clinton signs into law the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act for 1997. FY1997 totals provide increased drug-related funding for the two leading drug law enforcement agencies in the Department of Justice: the FBI ($2,838 million) and the DEA ($1,001 million).

October, Every Year: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issues its annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR) which provides drug offender arrest totals for the previous year. Nearly seven out of every eight arrests for marijuana continue to be for possession of the drug.

October 1, 1998: The increase in funding of prisons and decrease in spending for schools prompts protests by California high school students.

October 2, 1982: Ronald Reagan, in a radio address to the nation on federal drug policy, says, "we're making no excuses for drugs -- hard, soft, or otherwise. Drugs are bad, and we're going after them. As I've said before, we've taken down the surrender flag and run up the battle flag. And we're going to win the war on drugs."

October 2, 1992: Thirty-one people from various law enforcement agencies storm Donald Scott's 200-acre ranch in Malibu, California. Scott's wife screams when she sees the intruders. When sixty-one-year-old Scott, who believes thieves are breaking into his home, comes out of the bedroom with a gun, he is shot dead. A drug task force was looking for marijuana plants. Scott had refused earlier to negotiate a sale of his property to the government. DEA agents were there to seize the ranch. After extensive searches, no marijuana is found.

October 3, 1996: US Public Law 104-237, known as the "Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996," is signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It contains provisions attempting to stop the importation of methamphetamine and precursor chemicals into the United States, attempting to control the manufacture of methamphetamine in clandestine laboratories, to increase penalties for trafficking in methamphetamine and List I precursor chemicals, to allow the government to seek restitution for the clean-up of clandestine laboratory sites, and attempting to stop rogue companies from selling large amounts of precursor chemicals that are diverted to clandestine laboratories.

October 4, 1970: Legendary singer Janis Joplin is found dead at Hollywood's Landmark Hotel, a victim of what is concluded to be an accidental heroin overdose.

October 5, 1999: The war on drugs is "an absolute failure," says Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico at a conference on national drug policies at the Cato Institute. Johnson, who drew sharp criticism from anti-drug leaders for being the first sitting governor to advocate legalizing drugs, argues that the government should regulate narcotics but not punish those who abuse them: "Make drugs a controlled substance like alcohol. Legalize it, control it, regulate it, tax it. If you legalize it, we might actually have a healthier society." Johnson also meets with founding members of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

October 6, 2000: Former US President Bill Clinton is quoted in Rolling Stone: "I think that most small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in some places, and should be."

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12. DRCNet T-Shirt Design Contest

DRCNet is currently soliciting designs for new t-shirts to be made available on our web site and worn by people nationwide who want an end to prohibition and the war on drugs. If you are a talented graphic artist who cares about this cause, we hope you'll donate your time and take part.

T-shirt designs must include our web site, -- possibly in the form of our stop sign logo, though we are open to other design options and we are not necessarily looking to make the stop sign a centerpiece of our new shirts as it has been of our shirts so far. Note that DRCNet does not use the marijuana leaf or any other drug image on its products. Also, we recommend that you run your ideas or rough drafts by us first, before putting in a large amount of your time on a design that may or may not wind up getting used. (Designs that might be usable on other products too would be especially welcome.)

If we use your t-shirt design, now or in the future, you will receive ten free DRCNet t-shirts in any size, a book of your choice from our premiums list, a travel mug, a mouse pad, and one of our "flashy" stop sign strobe lights. You will also of course be recognized in Drug War Chronicle and on our web site. Runners-up will also receive a free choice of one premium gift. (Click here to see all of our current premium choices.)

Entries must be submitted by the competition deadline of Friday, November 4, 2005, and correspondence discussing concepts or presenting rough drafts should be sent by Friday, October 21. E-mail all of the above to David Guard at [email protected] -- faxes may be sent to (202) 293-8344 if needed as well, but please let us know they are coming.

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13. OSI Offering Justice Fellowships in 2006 -- Deadline Next Month

In 2006, the Open Society Institute's US Justice Fund will support individuals through two programs: the Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowships and the Soros Justice Media Fellowships. Similar in many respects to previous OSI initiatives, the newly launched program will fund outstanding lawyers, advocates, grassroots organizers, activist academics, journalists and filmmakers to implement innovative projects that address one or more of the US Justice Fund's criminal justice priorities. Projects should seek to accomplish one or more of the following:

  • advance death penalty reform and abolition efforts;
  • improve public defense services;
  • combat racial profiling;
  • promote leadership in progressive justice reform efforts among people who are or have been imprisoned;
  • encourage systemic reforms that create incentives for community based solutions over parole and probation revocation;
  • challenge unreasonable civil and legal barriers to the reintegration of people returning from prison;
  • redirect criminal justice monies to strengthen community resources and responsibility for public safety and justice;
  • advance sentencing reform efforts;
  • curtail prison expansion;
  • empower communities most affected by mass incarceration to develop and advocate for alternative policies that address underlying social, racial and economic inequality.
Projects may also emphasize the intersection of the above priorities with the particular needs of communities of color, immigrants, GLBT communities or women and children.

Guidelines and application information are available at online. The application deadline is Friday, October 14, 5:00pm. Contact Nidia Cordova-Vazquez at [email protected] for further information or to share ideas.

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14. Job Opportunity: National Field Director, Marijuana Policy Project

The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring a National Field Director to spearhead MPP's grassroots organizing efforts in targeted congressional districts and nationwide. This is an excellent opportunity to play an exciting role in a fast-paced, well respected lobbying organization.

The National Field Director, based in MPP's main office in Washington, DC, is the primary liaison to grassroots supporters and allied organizations for MPP's Federal Policies Department. The National Field Director is responsible for inspiring and organizing these individuals and groups to take action in support of legislation such as the upcoming Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment.

Applicants should have political, legislative, or campaign experience and excellent oral and written communications skills, and be hard- working and highly organized.

The National Field Director is charged with the following tasks:

1) Build long-term relationships with national and local organizations, with an eye toward:

  • establishing coalitions favoring marijuana policy reform;
  • encouraging representatives of supportive organizations to meet with or contact members of Congress, as well as to energize their grassroots bases;
  • encouraging organizations to use the MPP grants program to advance or initiate their work on issues relating to marijuana policy reform; and
  • encouraging organizations to develop positive position statements on marijuana policy issues.
2) Serve as the online link between MPP and its grassroots supporters by:
  • writing alerts that urge MPP's e-mail subscribers to take action in support of pending federal legislation;
  • writing sample letters for subscribers to send to their members of Congress, as well as sample letters-to-the-editor; and
  • maintaining and updating the content on MPP's web pages that relate to federal legislative activity. (No web or programming experience is necessary, as the process is automated and user-friendly.)
3) Manage field organizers and coordinate grassroots lobbying activities by:
  • managing seven remotely-based field organizers who conduct campaigns to pressure members of Congress to support medical marijuana;
  • recruiting community leaders, medical marijuana patients, and other individuals whose lives have been harmed by marijuana prohibition to lobby their elected officials; and
  • helping to arrange meetings between MPP supporters and their members of Congress in their home district offices or in DC.
4) Inspire grassroots activism in target congressional districts for the purpose of focusing extra pressure on select members of Congress to support MPP's medical marijuana legislation. Specifically, the National Field Director encourages MPP supporters to:
  • distribute flyers outside of congressional offices and elsewhere;
  • coordinate the writing and placement of op-eds and letters-to-the- editor in local newspapers in the district;
  • attend town hall forums and other events where members of Congress are featured; and
  • organize protests or demonstrations when appropriate.
The annual salary of the National Field Director is $40,000 to $45,000, depending on experience. Full health insurance and an optional retirement package are included. The National Field Director reports to MPP's Director of Government Relations, who in turn reports to MPP's Executive Director.

See MPP's application guidelines at for information on how to apply. Applications are due by October 20. Note that interviews are being conducted on a rolling basis, and interested individuals are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as the position may be filled before the deadline.

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15. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

September 29-30, S�o Paulo, Brazil, "Drugs -- Controversies and Perspectives," symposium sponsored by NEIP -- Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives, with Psicotropicus, D�namo, Aborda and IHRA. At the University of S�o Paulo, History Department Amphitheater, Av. Prof. Lineu, Prestes n� 338, for further information visit or contact (55 + 11) 3091 2364 or [email protected].

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 15, 8:30-11:30am, Vancouver, BC, Canada, Mayor's Forum on Vancouver's Draft Prevention Strategy, forum hosted by Mayor Larry Campbell. At the Mount Pleasant Community Centre, 3161 Ontario St., visit for information.

October 4, 8:00pm, New Brunswick, NJ, "Dynamics of American Drug Use," lecture by Confessions of a Dope Dealer author Sheldon Norberg. At Rutgers University, Livingston Campus, College Hall, visit for further information.

October 18-19, Vancouver, BC, CA, "Beyond Drug Prohibition, A Public Health Approach," symposium sponsored by the "Keeping the Door Open: Dialogues on Drug Use" coalition. At Simon Fraser University, Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 West Hastings St., Vancouver (enter on Seymour St.), visit to RSVP or 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 5, 10:00am-6:00pm, Ithaca, NY, "The Latest Developments in the War on Drugs," hosted by the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, discussing Supreme Court decisions on medical marijuana and sentencing guidelines and the intersection of the war on terror and the war on drugs. At Cornell Law School, Room G90, Myron Taylor Hall, contact Ellis M. Oster at [email protected] or 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.

December 1-2, Seattle, WA, "Exit Strategy for the War on Drugs: Toward a New Legal Framework," KCBA Drug Policy Project 2005 conference. At the Red Lion Hotel, 1415 5th Ave., registration opening 11/1. For further information contact KCBA at (206) 267-7001 or [email protected].

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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