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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #407 -- 10/14/05

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

    awakening the heartland to the case against drug prohibition
    Opinion polls will reflect a change in attitudes about drug prohibition within the next six years.
    With cowboy boots and jeans and a big, shiny belt buckle, Howard Wooldridge looks the part of the stereotypical Texas lawman. But the message Howard and horse Misty took to the highways and byways of America for seven months this year was hardly typical.
    After a 2002 encounter with the law turned Alabama housewife Loretta Nall into an activist, now she is championing the drug reform message as the Marijuana Party candidate in the 2006 race for governor.
    DC defense attorney Chris Fabricant book is a veritable bible for drug users or people who know and care about drug users.
    A sticky-fingered Pennsylvania police chief pilfers pot, a trio of Texas cops gets caught running interference for traffickers, and yet another jail guard sells dope to inmates.
    President Hamid Karzai has warned that the country could fall back into the hands of terrorists if the Afghan opium crop is not stamped out. But with the crop providing livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of families and accounting for 40-60 percent of Afghanistan's GDP, eradication is what might help the terrorists win hearts and minds most of all.
    Medical marijuana activist and patient Steve Tuck was dragged from his bed by Canadian immigration officials last Friday and handed over to US authorities at the border -- catheter still attached.
    A mayoral candidate's proposal to increase marijuana penalties didn't go over well, but the issues continues to percolate in Cincinnati pre-election politics.
    Some FBI officials are seeking to loosen limits on past drug use by qualified job applicants. It goes to the Director's desk soon for a decision.
    Drug use in Iraq is rising steadily as war-weary Iraqis turn to hard drugs to take the edge off a bleak and terrifying existence.
    Findings reported by the Paris newspaper Liberation suggest that a "zero-tolerance" drugged driving law passed in the midst of a heated anti-marijuana campaign may be mistargeted.
    Imports from traditional suppliers of marijuana to the UK have plummeted in the face of competition by users wanting to disassociate themselves from criminality and violence linked to the black market drug trade.
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    Showing up at an event can be the best way to get involved! Check out this week's listings for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!

(Chronicle archives)

1. Editorial: Why I'm Still an Optimist

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

David Borden
On the surface, at least, there doesn't appear to be a lot of reason to be optimistic for the prospects of ending drug prohibition. Harsh drug laws stay on the books, new ones get added, "legalizer" is in some circles considered a term of derision. The social and political currents are running against us, no doubt. Only some elderly remember the days of Alcohol Prohibition, and only some of them make the connection to what is going on today with illegal drugs. On the surface, at least, the campaign doesn't seem to be going well. And despite much that has gone well in certain areas (medical marijuana, for example), on the surface that is still a fair assessment.

But in any social change effort, there is a lot of work that has to be done, largely before reaching the public's radar screen, to get things to a point where change currents are even noticeable much less dominant. And in my opinion, that work being done at that level is going well. We are making slow but discernible progress in the court of public opinion. If the currents are against us, the undercurrents run in our direction. Things are getting ready to change -- I don't know when or how long it will take them to be ready, but I strongly believe that they will and that things will then more visibly move in the right direction.

One of the reasons that 12 years into this I am still an optimist, is that while most people have heard our side get ridiculed, few have actually yet heard what we have to say. The case against prohibition -- or for some form of legalization, depending on how you prefer to express it -- is an overwhelming one. As I wrote in an August 2003 open letter to DC chief judge Rufus G. King (son of our movement's late great Rufus King):

Prohibition creates a lucrative black market that soaks our inner cities in violence and disorder, and lures young people into lives of crime. Laws criminalizing syringe possession, and the overall milieu of underground drug use and sales, encourage needle sharing and increase the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. Our drug war in the Andes fuels a continuing civil war in Colombia, with prohibition-generated illicit drug profits enabling its escalation. Thousands of Americans die from drug overdoses or poisonings by adulterants every year, most of their deaths preventable through the quality-controlled market that would exist if drugs were legal. Physicians' justifiable fear of running afoul of law enforcers causes large numbers of Americans to go un- or under-treated for intractable chronic pain. And frustration over the failure of the drug war, together with the lack of dialogue on prohibition, distorts the policymaking process, leading to ever more intrusive governmental interventions and ever greater dilution of the core American values of freedom, privacy and fairness.
In other words, it's a pretty bad scene. And prohibition created it. While a correct understanding of the consequences of drug prohibition can be counterintuitive to some extent, ultimately people can understand this, if they are given the chance. So the first step is to give them that chance. Retired lawman Howard Wooldridge, who recently completed a cross-country horse ride sporting his "Cops Say Legalize Drugs" t-shirts (see next article), reported something that I would have expected to and often do hear: "I'm not sure I agree with you, but you make some sense," was the typical reaction to his message. And Howard also reports observing a "sea change" in this regard from when he started doing this six years ago. Slowly, gradually, we are making our point. Give it a little more time, and more of those people who are "not sure" now will make up their minds -- I predict that within another six years opinion polls will reflect this. Those first conversations that people have, with Howard, with DRCNet readers, from an op-ed, however it happens, serve the purpose of letting them know that this is an actual issue with a well-reasoned and respectable other side. And the rest is history in the making.

I will continue to be optimistic so long as there are people out there to educate and advocates out there doing the educating. Though the fruits of our labors may not be clearly seen for some time, nevertheless this is an effective time to do work in this issue. The Berlin Wall of ideas protecting drug prohibition is doomed to fall. Can you see the chinks appearing in it? It's too late to repair them -- the word is getting out.

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2. Feature: Former Lawman's Coast to Coast Horse Ride to Legalize Drugs Concludes at Statue of Liberty

He looks the part of the stereotypical Texas lawman: long, tall, lanky, dressed in cowboy boots and jeans with a big, shiny belt buckle. But the message Howard Wooldridge took to the highways and byways of America for seven months this year was hardly typical. "Cops Say Legalize Drugs -- Ask Me Why" is the provocative message emblazoned on his t-shirt, and Wooldridge rode some 3,600 miles from California to New York City trying to get the anti-prohibitionist message out.

Howard and Adelphia Cable producer
Sandra Mann, Colorado Springs
From Los Angeles, Wooldridge and his horse, Misty, trekked across Arizona and New Mexico before heading north into Colorado along the Front Range of the Rockies and then roughly due east across the Great Plains and the Midwest, with some detours into Wisconsin and Michigan, before cutting across a corner of Pennsylvania and winding through New York state into Manhattan. About halfway across the country, in Iowa, Wooldridge picked up a relief horse, Sam, who shared duties with Misty.

Wooldridge's cross-country trek ended with a 15-mile saunter down New York City's Broadway before culminating in a final press conference in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. While a Texas lawman leading his horse down Broadway impressed the tourists, said Wooldridge, native New Yorkers kept their big city cool. "Most of them just pretended we weren't even there," he said. "'What horse? I don't see any horse,' they said. It was just bizarre, and it also reminded me of that whole big city thing. This is a city of eight million people and I felt alone. It was kind of spooky for a country boy like me."

A veteran of 18 years as a Texas police officer, Wooldridge, 53 and now retired, is a founding member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the fast-growing conglomeration of cops and ex-cops who have seen first-hand the futility of drug prohibition and who are now calling for the drug war to be replaced with a system of regulated access to currently illicit substances. While LEAP has made a name for itself through its members' strong presentations to law enforcement and service organizations, Wooldridge's was a unique effort to carry the message across the heartland, winning converts one by one out on the lonely highway, at rest areas, roadside cafes, camp sites, and watering holes.

But it wasn't all one on one. Some 11 to 12 million people had an opportunity to hear Wooldridge's message, given the size of the media markets he passed through, Wooldridge and LEAP spokesman Mike Smithson said. Wooldridge, his horse, and his provocative t-shirt were a natural draw for small town papers all along the route, more than 50 of which printed stories about him and his cause. Local radio and television outlets also bit, with Wooldridge reporting about 30 TV appearances and a like number of radio spots. The former Texas lawman also managed more than 50 appearances before groups like Rotary Clubs, and once the academic year kicked into gear last month, he also addressed numerous classes and other groups on college campuses.

Howard and DRCNet executive director David Borden
pose with Misty near the Ship Terminal in NYC,
second to last day of the ride (photo taken by LEAP
executive director Jack Cole)
If smaller circulation newspapers were eager to hear and publicize Wooldridge's ride and message, big city newspapers weren't nearly as interested, Smithson complained. "Every small town across the country was very interested in the ride and gave us front page coverage, but every single big city newspaper ignored us," he told DRCNet. "From Albuquerque to New York City, they just were not interested. In New York City alone, we spent $600 sending our press kits; we probably sent out more than 500 faxes; we made hundreds of phone calls, and all we got was a couple of radio shows."

An article did appear in the New York Times, but that was a fluke and the coverage was less than flattering, said Smithson. "We got that article only because a stringer happened to run into Howard and interviewed him, and the article treated him as if he were Don Quixote tilting after windmills."

Still, despite the failure of the big city press to pay much attention, Wooldridge is convinced the word got out and he is exhilarated by the responses he's received. "It was positive responses all across America," said Wooldridge. "A couple of cops got pissed off, and one even flipped me off, but the civilians of the country were very positive. People came out to invite us to their ranches, people stopped by to bring us coffee and donuts. Riding a horse across the country is hard work, but that saddle was a lot easier to sit in when you knew you were reaching out and being a positive force for change -- and getting such a positive response. It was really heartwarming," he said.

"America knows three things," said Wooldridge. "This war on drugs ain't working, prisons are worthless for doing anything about it, and nobody wants to spend tax dollars to put people in jail for personal amounts of any illegal drug. Beyond that, the most common reaction was 'I'm not sure I agree with you, but you make some sense.'"

Those generally positive reactions mark a sea change from just a few years ago, when Wooldridge first began publicly challenging drug war orthodoxy. "When I first started doing this six years ago, people would say I was a lunatic or an asshole, but now the overwhelming majority say 'I agree with you' or at least 'What you're saying makes sense,'" said Wooldridge. "America now accepts that prohibition is a failed policy. Everybody knows it."

That is a very encouraging sign, he said. "I'm starting to think we are actually going to do it, actually end drug prohibition. It may take another eight or 10 years, but I think America has taken the first step. It's like going to Alcoholics Anonymous. The first thing you have to do is admit you have a problem: 'Hello, my name is America, and I now realize I am addicted to a failed war on drugs.'"

"This has been a great tour," said LEAP's Smithson. "Howard did hundreds of interviews and spoke to thousands of people, and we were just as well-received in the red states as in the blue states. We got attention from the Associated Press. We got attention from Fox News, as well as local Fox affiliates. We got a whole hour on Wisconsin public radio. We got a lot of attention, although not as much as we would have liked."

The attention was also reflected in web site hits for LEAP, said Smithson. "It's been through the roof, averaging about 35,000 a day for the last few weeks and up to 60,000 our first day in New York. Now it's back down to 20-22,000 hits a day, but its been a real boon for LEAP, and now we've got other media sniffing around."

Of course, it wasn't just Wooldridge and his horses. In addition to the LEAP team that set up countless meetings and press interviews, Wooldridge also had the help of Oklahoma NORML's Norma Sapp ("NORML Norma from Norman"), who accompanied him in an RV provided by the November Coalition. And there were other volunteers across the country, some of whom provided food or lodging, others who merely joined the procession for a few miles.

While Wooldridge has spent the two out of the last three summers riding across the country with his anti-prohibitionist message, he's now hanging up his spurs and taking his show from the road to the halls of Congress. "I'm going to be a lobbyist for LEAP in DC," he said. "I'll put on my best cowboy hat and shiniest belt buckle, and do what I can to end the drug war. I'll draw from my experience in Austin, where I lobbied for Texas NORML. I expect the best I'll be able to do at first is to take a bad paragraph out of a bad bill here and there, but eventually I'll be able to build up trust and relationships with congressmen and their staffers and we'll be able to move to offense."

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3. Feature: Loretta Nall Enters Alabama Governor's Race

In 2002, after being buzzed by a dope-hunting helicopter and harassed by a pack of narcotics officers hungry for a bust, Alabama housewife Loretta Nall wrote a letter to her local paper criticizing the marijuana laws. That got Nall a visit by the local drug squad and an arrest for possession of 87/100 of a gram of pot. And that helped turn Nall into a drug reform dynamo, as a reporter for Marc Emery's Vancouver-based Pot-TV and as founder of the US Marijuana Party. Late last month, Nall took aim at her home state capital, announcing that she is running for governor of Alabama in 2006.

While Nall continues to support marijuana legalization, she is not running under the US Marijuana Party banner, but as an independent with an eye on picking up the state Libertarian Party nomination. And while "drug policy and prison reform" is a primary campaign plank, it is certainly not the only one. In fact, Nall is staking out some uniquely Alabama political territory with a platform that mixes the weed with anti-Washington sentiment, Second Amendment rights, libertarian social ideas, and an anti-Iraq war position. Her platform, published on her web site is fairly succinct:

  • States Rights - Washington DC OUT of Alabama!
  • Drug Policy and Prison Reform
  • Non-Compliance with the REAL ID and Patriot Act in Alabama
  • Alabama Out of Iraq -- Bring Alabama National Guard Soldiers Home
  • No Gun Control -- Gun control laws only affect law abiding citizens and do nothing to stop violent criminals from obtaining guns.
  • Check Box style governing system. (I believe the citizens of Alabama should have more control on how their tax money is spent. As Governor, I would strive to implement a program where we would list every state program for which tax money is collected from the citizens, provide description of each and place a yes or no box beside each. This would then be distributed to citizens to let them decide how their money is spent.)
  • Gambling - Make both casino and lottery gambling legal but not state run.
  • Initiative and Referendum for Alabama Voters
  • Ballot Access Reform
  • Guaranteed Quality Education Act. (All children will be provided with a credit to attend any school of the parents' choice within 10 miles of their home.)
"There is a strong tradition of states' rights here in Alabama," said Nall. "We resent government intrusion into our daily lives. We don't want the government telling us we can't produce biodiesel. We don't want the government doing sneak and peak searches under the Patriot Act. That kind of shit is anti-Alabama. If I am elected, Alabama will not comply with the Patriot Act and the Real ID Act. We don't want our National Guard getting killed in Iraq."

Loretta Nall
Mentioning states' rights in Alabama, conjuring as it does the image of George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door to block black people from going to college, raises the obvious question: How do you expect to win any black votes? Perhaps the issue is not so black and white, Nall responded.

"There's a lot of black people in Alabama who understand states' rights is not just about George Wallace," she said. "They understand that the federal government is not their friend." And Nall does have some ties with black Alabama, having co-organized a march for prison reform with Montgomery radio personality Roberta Franklin, who went on to organize this year's national Journey for Justice to Washington. "I am known in the black community," she said. "I've been doing the morning radio show with Roberta for awhile, I've been working with black ministers in Montgomery, as well as folks down in Dothan, and I'm getting black people calling in volunteering to work on campaign literature distribution and ballot petitions."

Yes, ballot petitions. Alabama has one of the toughest ballot access laws in the nation, especially for independents and third parties. Democratic and Republican candidates for state office need the signatures of only 500 voters to gain ballot access, but independents need to garner 41,000 signatures just to get on the ballot. To keep that ballot access, independents or third parties must then win at least 20% of the votes in the next general election, or else its back to minor party purgatory.

With her campaign effort already gearing up and the three-month signature-gathering window not opening until early next year, Nall said she anticipated being able to pass that hurdle. "I am very confident I can the necessary signatures," she said.

In the meantime, Nall is looking forward to being part of the colorful cast of Alabama characters vying for the governorship. Former Democratic contender Don Siegelman, who was barely defeated by sitting Gov. Bob Riley, is being challenged by Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, while Riley is facing a fundamentalist insurgency led by former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore, who was kicked off the bench after refusing to obey a federal court order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from his courthouse.

"With Roy Moore in the race, that gives me the chance to be the sane one," laughed Nall. "The Republicans will be busy trying to out-Jesus each other and the Democrats will be trying to out-socialist each other, and while they're dicking around with each other, I'll be talking to the voters. I'm conservative, but not religious, and my base understands that. And unlike Roy Moore, my platform is radical, but sane."

And if early press attention is any indicator, Nall will be noticed. "I've gotten good coverage so far. My local paper, the Alexander City Outlook, didn't run my press releases, but they did finally show up last week and I got an excellent article out of that," she said. "The Montgomery Advertiser has been good, and I did an interview yesterday with the Auburn Plainsman. And I also did an interview with the Associated Press, which will run in various papers across the state on Sunday. I've also been doing radio shows."

While Internet polls are notoriously unreliable, often demonstrating nothing more than the ability to engineer an email campaign, Nall can still enjoy a solid victory in the first such poll matching her against the four other contenders. In that poll, conducted by NBC-13, Nall led with 31%, followed by Baxley at 22% and Riley at 20%, with Moore and Siegelman both trailing with 14%.

Nall's low budget campaign will feature a walking tour of the state. The idea has historical resonance in the South, where Lawton Chiles won the governorship in Florida after a similar months-long stroll. In Alabama in the 1980s, a politician named Fob James rode a bus complete with goats and chickens across the state. He was later known as Gov. Fob James.

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4. DRCNet Book Review: "Busted: Drug War Survival Skills From the Buy to the Bust to Begging for Mercy"

"Busted: Drug War Survival Skills From the Buy to the Bust to Begging for Mercy," by M. Chris Fabricant (HarperCollins, 384 pp., $13.95 pb.)

One's first response after finishing the final pages of Washington, DC, defense attorney Chris Fabricant's "Busted" is: "Wow, what a cynical, callous, cold-hearted son of a bitch this guy is." But that's unfair. It is not Chris Fabricant who deserves the list of alliterative pejorative adjectives, but the criminal justice system he is describing. Perhaps the rest of the criminal justice system is a beacon of truth and decency -- somehow I doubt it -- but Fabricant is describing the drug war criminal justice apparatus, and it certainly lives up to its billing as a crime against humanity.

Chris Fabricant wants to keep you out of that cesspool, and if you're too dumb to avoid that, he wants you to get through your encounter with institutional evil with the least pain possible. Fabricant covers all the bases in a snappy, informal style replete with scary but true illustrative anecdotes. What do you do if you're keeping dope in the house? What if your roommate is keeping dope in the house? What if your roommate is selling drugs? What if someone ODs at your party? What if your party is so loud and outrageous the cops are bound to show up? What if you are so loud and outrageous the cops are bound to pick on you? What if you're driving stoned?

Fabricant goes through all these scenarios and many more. Like a good defense attorney (or South Park's Mr. Mackey), Fabricant makes clear that drugs are bad, m'kay? You shouldn't use them. They are against the law. But, as a defense attorney, Fabricant knows full well millions of this people in this country aren't going to heed his sage advice, and this book is designed to make life more pleasant for those who do use drugs. To that end, he has created his own list of dopers' Ten Commandments:

Thou shalt not deal. Thou shalt not do dope with kiddies. If thou art a kiddy, thou shalt not do dope. Thou shalt not covet more than a misdemeanor buzz. Thou shalt not piss away thy rights. (In other words, shut up and never consent to a search!) Thou shall be calm. Thou shalt not piss off the police. Ye get busted, ye shall never get busted again. Thou shall leave thy dope at home. Know thy friends; mistrust thy enemies. Thou shalt check thy look in the mirror.

"Busted" is full of horror stories about people who broke the commandments. While much of the book is devoted to stopping people from doing that and getting themselves arrested, Fabricant also devotes plenty of space to the hideous consequences of a drug arrest and conviction (which almost always follows), from the anal cavity search to the vomit and shit-filled holding cells to getting your head smashed in (and new charges added) for "resisting arrest." That section makes some particularly glum reading, as Fabricant shows how judges give a thumbs-up to all kinds of police thuggery and brutality under the "resisting arrest" excuse.

He also provides a look at suppression hearings, plea bargains, and trials whose breath-taking cynicism is matched only by the mindless cruelty of the drug war machine at work, relentlessly grinding human beings under its wheels. The title of his chapter on going to trial, "Your Quick and Painful Jury Trial," speaks for itself.

One of Fabricant's more fascinating chapters is "Fighting Your Drug Bust by Rush Limbaugh." No, it isn't really authored by the right-wing radio ranter, but for Fabricant, Limbaugh's aggressive (and well-financed) defense of himself in the face of potential pill-popping and doctor-shopping charges is a case study in how to do it right. While those from the left and some others may think of Limbaugh as a "fascist asshole" or "hillbilly heroin junkie," for Fabricant, the more appropriate sobriquet is "the Guru, the sage, the Drug War Buddha." Limbaugh, says Fabricant, played it smart by: choosing his dope wisely (prescription pills are not viewed as as evil as heroin), protecting his privacy, distancing himself from his dope supply (if only we all had maids to go out and score for us!), going to rehab, hiring talented legal help, abandoning principle, waiting it out, and angling for a deal. Ah, the lessons of Limbaugh.

Despite the book's sometimes flippant tone, Fabricant is extremely well aware that getting busted is a serious, life-changing event -- and not for the better. "Busted" is a veritable harm reduction bible for drug users or people who know and care about drug users. If you fit into one of those categories, you need to buy this book today. Not tomorrow. Not the day after you or your loved one gets busted. Before it's too late.

Oh, and did I mention that it has illustrations by none other than R. Crumb. Ah, to be back in the days of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, when the drug squad was more like Keystone Cops...

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5. Weekly: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingered Pennsylvania police chief pilfers pot, a trio of Texas cops gets caught running interference for traffickers, and yet another jail guard sells dope to inmates. Just another week of police corruption courtesy of the war on drugs. Let's get to it.

In Austin, Pennsylvania, police chief Shawn Foringer, 26, resigned Tuesday after being suspended from his job a day earlier and charged with stealing two pounds of seized marijuana from the department and falsely reporting it stolen, the Associated Press reported. According to the criminal complaint, Foringer had reported to state police last week that the weed was stolen in a burglary, but state police determined that the burglary never occurred. As of Tuesday, Foringer was sitting in the Potter County Jail under $50,000 bail.

In McAllen, Texas, three former Rio Grande Valley City police officers were indicted Monday on charges they took money to escort loads of smuggled drugs through the small border town, the AP reported. Victor Benitez, 33, Eddie Alvarez, 30, of Sullivan City, and Melissa Martinez, 30, of Roma, each face charges of conspiring to possess narcotics with intent to distribute and of using their official positions to protect vehicles loaded with narcotics in exchange for money. All three were arrested Tuesday morning. This looks like another case of a sting directed at cops. According to prosecutors, between September 2003 and May 2004, all three accepted bribes of between $500 and $1,500 to protect "what they believed to be drug loads." They face up to 60 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

In St. Martinville, Louisiana, a St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office jailer was charged Monday with distribution of marijuana and official malfeasance for allegedly selling marijuana to jail inmates. Tamika Alexander, 21, of Breaux Bridge, had been a jailer for less than a year. She is in jail on a $50,000 bond.

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6. Central Asia: Afghan President Publicly Links Drug Trafficking, Terrorism

As the Taliban insurgency, allegedly revitalized by an infusion of drug trafficking profits, shot rockets into the Afghan capital Wednesday and killed dozens in a week of bloody violence, Afghan President Hamid Karzai Wednesday for the first time directly linked his country's booming drug trade to the insurgency. The country could fall back into the hands of terrorists if the Afghan opium crop is not stamped out, Karzai warned.

victims of opium eradication
(photo taken by DRCNet's Phil Smith in Afghanistan)
Afghanistan produces almost 90% of the world's opium and its derivative, heroin, according to the United Nations, and the crop is responsible for providing a livelihood for hundreds of thousands of Afghan families. It is also responsible for somewhere between 40% and 60% of the national Gross Domestic Product, depending on whom you ask, and is protected not only by pro-Taliban drug traffickers but also by warlords and provincial governors affiliated with the Karzai government.

The United States, the UN, and the Western powers are determined to stamp out the opium crop, despite the serious disruptions that could have on the Afghan economy and polity. The West and the government of President Karzai have recently rejected a proposal by a European think tank, the Senlis Council, to license some portion of the crop and divert it into the legitimate international medicinal market.

Speaking at a Wednesday press conference with US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Karzai hopped firmly on the eradication bandwagon. "We will have terrorism affecting us for quite some time," he warned, adding that there was "cooperation between the drug trade and terrorism. The question of drugs is one that will determine Afghanistan's future. If we fail to fight drugs, we will eventually fail as a state and we will fall back into the hands of terrorism."

Of course, if Karzai and the West continue down their single-minded path of destroying the opium economy, they will sow instability in Afghanistan while ensuring that black market drug profits continue to flow to the very people they wish to defeat.

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7. Medical Marijuana: Canadians Deport Activist/Patient Steve Tuck, Now Imprisoned Without Medical Care by US Authorities

California medical marijuana activist and patient Steve Tuck, who fled the United States to avoid prosecution as a marijuana trafficker, was handed over by Canadian immigration officials to US authorities last Friday. Canadian officials dragged Tuck, who suffers from injuries incurred as a member of the US armed forces, from his hospital bed in Vancouver and drove him to the border, catheter still attached, where US officials took custody of him.

Tuck had been hospitalized for prostate problems and was on a long-term morphine prescription for pain from his old injuries. He also uses medical marijuana to relieve the nausea from his pain medications. But the Associated Press reported he has been untreated in the US, first at the Whatcom, Washington, county jail and now at the King County Jail in Seattle, where he is being held pending transfer to Humboldt County, California.

Tuck faces charges in Humboldt County over marijuana grow busts in 2000 and 2001. He also faces federal charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Tuck and his partners said they were doing medical marijuana grows for a large number of patients, but Humboldt County prosecutors charged him as a trafficker anyway. He fled to Canada nearly five years ago, but his efforts to stay there to avoid persecution in the US have been rejected by Canadian immigration officials. Other American marijuana refugees, including Steve and Michelle Kubby and Rene Bojee face similar fates.

At a Wednesday hearing in federal court in Seattle, Tuck appeared still fitted with the catheter he was wearing when deported. "This is totally inhumane. He's been tortured for days for no reason," said his defense attorney, Douglass Hiatt, referring to Tuck's inability to get his medications. US Magistrate Judge James Donohue ordered Tuck released to go to a hospital for treatment, but King County Jail officials refused, saying they had received a hold from Humboldt County.

Marijuana activist and journalist Richard Cowan was present at the hospital in Vancouver when Tuck was taken. "I would not believe it unless I had seen it," Cowan told the AP. "They sent people in to arrest him while he was on a gurney. They took him out of the hospital in handcuffs, put him in an SUV, and drove him to the border."

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8. Marijuana: Pot an Issue in Cincinnati Mayoral Race

Under Ohio law, possession of up to four ounces of marijuana is considered a ticketable offense, punishable by no more than a $150 fine. That was way too lenient for Cincinnati mayoral candidate David Pepper, and back in June he briefly floated a proposal to make it a misdemeanor offense punishable by a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. While that proposal went over like a lead balloon, and Pepper soon backed away from it, the issue continues to play out in Cincinnati pre-election politics.

At a question and answer session with students at the Seven Hills Upper School last Friday, which was covered by the Cincinnati Enquirer, one of the students asked Pepper about his now abandoned proposal. "We have become the place in the entire region where drugs are dealt," Pepper said, pointing to Vine Street in the city's majority black Over-the-Rhine neighborhood as the area's worst "open air drug market." In most drug arrests in Over-the-Rhine, he added, neither the buyer nor the seller are from the neighborhood.

"They can have an enormous amount of drugs and only get a ticket," he complained. "If you do in San Diego what you do in Cincinnati, you get in a lot more trouble." Pepper did not make clear why exposing the city's marijuana smokers to "a lot more trouble" was a good thing, nor did he explain how increasing penalties for marijuana possession would stop drug dealing.

The pot question and Pepper's response left an opening for a rival, state Sen. Mark Mallory, who promptly took advantage of it. "I hope you all got an answer out of that, because I certainly did not," Mallory told the students. "Sometimes you don't have a lot of experience with things and you don't know what you're saying. If you have an ounce of marijuana on you, you're not considered to be dealing in marijuana. Drug trafficking laws are very different from drug possession laws," he said, and the focus should be on distribution.

Pepper, the scion of a prominent, wealthy Cincinnati family, has made a point of saying he has never smoked marijuana.

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9. Employment: FBI May Revise Hiring Rules for Former Marijuana and Other Drug Users

The Associated Press reported Saturday that the FBI is considering loosening its rules about hiring employees with a history of marijuana use. Under current rules, the FBI cannot hire anyone who has used marijuana within the past three years or more than 15 times in their lives. The personnel policy also bans hiring anyone who has used other illegal drugs in the past 10 years or more than five times in their lives.

According to AP, some FBI managers are frustrated that the rules block them from hiring applicants who admitted to occasional use in college. In some cases, these persons are already performing top-secret work for other government agencies.

These officials want to loosen limits on past drug use for applicants for jobs such as intelligence analysts, linguists, computer specialists, and accountants. The rules would not be eased for FBI special agents, and the proposal would continue to ban people who currently use drugs.

"We can't say when or if this is going to happen, but we are exploring the possibility," spokesman Stephen Kodak told the AP. The final decision is in the hands of FBI Director Robert Mueller.

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10. Middle East: US Invasion, Continuing Insurgency Lead to Increasing Drug Use in Iraq

The United Nations news agency IRIN reported Tuesday that drug use in Iraq is rising steadily as war-weary Iraqis turn to hard drugs to take the edge off a bleak and terrifying existence. Security forces which would normally police the illegal drug trade are busy fending off a bloody insurgency now in its third year. A steady supply of opium and heroin from Afghanistan, site of another US military occupation, is contributing to the phenomenon, according to Iraqi officials.

According to the Ministry of Health, drug use is increasing among all age groups and both sexes, especially in Baghdad and the Shiite south. "There has a huge increase in the consumption of drugs since last year," Kamel Ali, director of the Ministry of Health's drug control program, told IRIN. "The numbers have doubled. In most cases the users are youths who have become addicted and are now working as drug dealers under pressure from the traffickers in order to keep themselves supplied," he said.

The number of registered drug addicts in Baghdad has more than doubled, from 3,000 to 7,000 since last year, said Ali. In the Shiite city of Kerbala, 160 miles to the south of Baghdad, the number has tripled. Addiction rates climb the closer you get to the Iranian border, officials said, noting that country's status as a key transshipment point for Afghan opium and heroin.

IRIN reported that many users say they have been traumatized by the US invasion and subsequent years of war and take drugs to ease the psychic pain of life in wartime. In Kerbala, IRIN talked to 22-year-old Khalid Hussein, a heroin user who finances his habit with drug sales. "In the beginning I found the idea strange, but today I feel comfortable doing it because at the same time I'm earning my own money, I'm also using the drug, and that helps me forget the terror that has descended on our lives since the foreigners took over our country," Hussein explained.

A Baghdad heroin seller, Abu Ali, told IRIN he did not fear arrest by the security forces. "They cannot do anything to us," he said. "Sometimes you even find members of the Iraqi army or the police looking for us to buy some of this great white powder which makes you fly to another planet," he added.

Some foreign troops are apparently getting in on the action, according to IRIN. The agency reported that dealers said they had a lucrative market among soldiers in the US-led occupation force. "They report strong demand from Italian troops in particular," IRIN noted.

Iraqi officials frankly acknowledge they have other priorities. "Unfortunately the intensification of the insurgency in Iraq and insecurity throughout the country has caused the government to neglect this important issue," said Saad Mehdi, a member of a newly-formed Interior Ministry anti-drug force.

"In the present circumstances we have to choose our priorities and the insurgency is killing more people than the drugs are," said Saruwad Haeezid, another Interior Ministry official.

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11. Europe: Study Calls Into Question France's Obsession with "Drugged Driving"

Two years ago, in the midst of a heated anti-marijuana campaign, the French government passed a "zero tolerance" drugged driving law that punished marijuana users with up to two years in prison if they were found driving with detectable levels of cannabinoids in their blood. But now, the Paris newspaper Liberation reports, a government-sponsored study of more than 8,000 fatal traffic accidents has found that marijuana use is much less likely to result in fatal accidents than alcohol use.

"The dangers of cannabis behind the wheel, while quite real, are much less than those of alcohol," said Liberation, citing the Highway Safety and Fatal Accidents (SAM) study. "The risk of being responsible for a fatal accident under cannabis alone is weak, though not zero. In any case, the risk isn't worse than that of a driver with between 0.02 and 0.05% blood alcohol content." French law presumes impairment above the 0.05% level. In the United States, that level is typically set at 0.08%.

The SAM study found that people with blood alcohol levels above 0.05% were responsible for 2,000 highway deaths, speeders for another 2,000, and cannabis users responsible for 220 deaths. That is about equal to the number of people killed by drivers who had blood alcohol levels of between 0.02 and 0.05%. But while pot-smoking drivers face two years in prison, alcohol impaired drivers below the 0.05% level face no per se penalties.

During debate on the drugged driving law in 2003, rightist legislators warned of "the hallucinogenic left, which would have us think that only alcohol is dangerous. Drugs behind the wheel are responsible for more deaths than speeding," said rightist deputies. As recently as this January, current Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, then minister of the interior, claimed without foundation that "17% of fatal accidents were associated with drug use." And Dominique Perben, the new minister of transportation, was also among those making unwarranted claims.

"He wanted to make it [the drugged driving law] a battle horse against cannabis," one source told Liberation. "Now the study shows that the government put the cart before the horse; they should have awaited the results before legislating."

As for that 17% figure cited by de Villepin, "These figures are false," said one expert. "They are those of the lobby of toxicologists with a vested interest in sale of drug detection tests. Ministers and deputies spouted so much nonsense for two years that they're quite embarrassed."

Pot-crazed politicians pose more of a danger to public liberty than pot-impaired drivers to do public safety, said Liberation, lamenting what it called "a double standard" and an "incoherent repressive arsenal." The hypocrisy is so evident that "The anti-pot deputies will be hard-pressed to wave the flag of safety and yet recall that cannabis is illicit and prohibited, while alcohol is freely sold," the left-leaning newspaper noted.

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12. Europe: Most Marijuana in United Kingdom Now Home-Grown By Socially Conscious Users

The United Kingdom's Independent Drugs Monitoring Unit, a non-governmental research organization, reports that more than two-thirds of all marijuana consumed in the UK is now home-grown, while imports from traditional suppliers such as Morocco, India, and the Netherlands have plummeted.

Some experts believe the move to do-it-yourself marijuana supplies is a result of smokers wanting to disassociate themselves from criminality and violence linked to the black market drug trade. Phil Kilvington, editor of the British Weed World magazine, told the Scotsman newspaper a "fair-trade ethos" is behind the spike in home grows. "Home-growing is a multi- billion pound industry in the UK -- 10 years ago 90% of cannabis smoked in this country was coming from overseas, now it is more like 30%," he said. "There is a 100% link between imported cannabis and criminal networks, many of whom are involved in other types of crime such as prostitution, trafficking, or class A drugs. Home-growers do not want to be associated with that."

Home growers also hope to avoid the detritus of commercial weed and hash, said Kilvington, citing plastic, wax, coffee, or other drugs discovered in imported hash. By growing their own, consumers can produce strong, untainted, organic strains.

"It is almost the equivalent of home-brewing beer � home-growers are almost invisible. If you can grow cannabis at home, why go out and engage with a dealer or supplier?" agreed Professor Neil McKeganey, director of the Center for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow, who added that he was not surprised by the finding. McKeganey expressed concern that the turn to home-growing could lead to an increase in high-potency marijuana use, using some positively Reefer Madness-style language. "There is a possibility that consumption of often very high-strength cannabis will increase considerably [because of home-growing]. At the moment, a quarter of teenagers consume cannabis -- would that go up if growing at home is seen as normal and increases further? The high strength strains being cultivated can give the same hallucinogenic effects as LSD, and may result in an increase in mental illness and diseases such as throat cancer."

DRCNet is unaware of any weed that has "the same hallucinogenic effects as LSD." Please let us know if you come across any.

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13. Weekly: This Week in History

October 14, 1970: President Nixon spearheads the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), legislation establishing today's "schedules" as a means of classifying drugs strictly by their medical value and potential for abuse.

October 14, 2003: Supreme Court justices reject the Clinton administration's request, continued by the Bush administration, to consider whether the federal government can punish doctors for recommending or even discussing the use of marijuana for their patients. The decision by the High Court clears the way for state laws allowing ill patients to smoke marijuana if a doctor recommends it.

October 15, 1986: Assistant Attorney General Mark Richard testifies before the Kerry Committee that he had attended a meeting with 20 to 25 officials and that the DEA did not want to provide any of the information the committee had requested on the Contra involvement in drug trafficking.

October 17, 2002: Florida Governor Jeb Bush's daughter is sentenced to 10 days in jail and led away in handcuffs after being accused of having crack cocaine in her shoe while in drug rehab. In a statement, the governor says he realizes his daughter must face the consequences of her actions.

October 19, 1999: Taking a states' rights approach to medical marijuana, candidate George W. Bush says, "I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose." As president, Bush escalates prosecutions of medical marijuana providers by the US Dept of Justice.

October 20, 2004: A groundbreaking coalition of black professional organizations comes together to form the National African American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC). The NAADPC urgently seeks alternatives to misguided drug policies that have led to mass incarceration.

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14. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 18, 12:15-1:45pm, Washington, DC, "The Victims of War in Colombia, the Negotiations for Peace, and Implications for the 2006 Elections," seminar sponsored by the George Washington University Seminar on Andean Culture and Politics and the Washington Office on Latin American. Room 415 in "Old Main," 1922 F St. NW, contact [email protected] 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.

November 19-20, London, United Kingdom, "Liberty 2005: The Annual London Conference of the Libertarian Alliance and the Libertarian International. At the National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place, visit http// for further information.

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 visit or 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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