(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)
Issue #411 -- 11/18/05
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Table of Contents
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
It was a significant event for intra-movement dynamics. One of the complaints about conferences from some reformers in recent years has been that we don't talk about legalization anymore. Not so now. The debate over how best to approach the issue, how far to go and what language to use, will doubtless continue. Many reformers will not go as far as LEAP or DRCNet does, or do so in the same way, no doubt, and some of them probably shouldn't for the particular work in the issue that they are doing. Not all reformers are persuaded about fully ending prohibition, for that matter. But with dozens of former police officers putting it right out there -- a former big city police chief among them, Seattle's Norm Stamper -- the explicitly anti-prohibition crowd is feeling accepted and empowered.
Two past LEAP shirts have been phased out. One of them read "Cops Say End Drug Prohibition: Ask Me Why." It was dropped after an initial run because no one ever asked, quite unlike what happens with the "legalize" version. Another, more famous past LEAP t-shirt was the kind worn by Howard Wooldridge during a past cross-country ride with his horse Misty, "Cops Say Legalize Pot: Ask Me Why." But on his latest ride, though Howard still designed his own t-shirts, they bore the broader anti-prohibitionist message.
I like my LEAP shirt. It makes me feel tough; it has a badge on it. I realize that a drawing of a badge on a t-shirt that I'm wearing doesn't actually make me tough. Then again, the drug war "chicken hawks" in Congress who call for "tough" laws but don't have to actually go out to enforce them aren't necessarily "tough" either. But that doesn't stop them from indulging in the fantasy, so maybe I can indulge a little too.
Earlier this year, walking in my now former neighborhood, two women in a van pulled up at an intersection behind me and to my right. The driver stopped, rolled down her window, and called out to me a single word: "Why?"
After 12 years, I confess to still having difficulty crafting a sufficiently succinct answer. The problem is that the issue is a complicated one that doesn't lend itself well to sound bites. Indeed, there are so many reasons to oppose prohibition and the drug war that it's hard to remember them all, let alone decide which ones to talk about first with which people.
There are the extremities of the current drug war: mandatory minimum sentences, racial disparities, denial of access to medicines like marijuana or opiates for pain treatment, ever greater intrusions into privacy, ever more diverse attempts to control drug use through almost every area of government activity, half a million drug war prisoners and the world's highest incarceration rate. There are the consequences of prohibition itself: violence, spread of diseases by needle sharing, preventable overdoses or poisonings from adulterants or purity fluctuations, violence and instability in source and transit countries, addicts driven to desperate measures by the high prices of street drugs, popularization of more dangerous forms of drugs and drug-taking. There is the corruption of our institutions and the corrosion of the ethics and principles underlying our system of justice itself: compensated confidential informants (people who in effect receive "bribes" to help police arrest and imprison people), incessant violations and dilutions of constitutional rights, "testi-lying," inappropriate prosecutions. There are the skewed priorities, the diversion that drug enforcement represents from literally every other way we could use our money and personnel to make us safer, happier and better off. And of course, there is the loss of personal freedom, the right to choose what we put in our bodies, what we do with our minds, how we live our lives.
I got some interesting suggestions at the conference, but I remain unsatisfied. So I'm asking for your help. Please send me your thoughts and suggestions in this area -- you can reach me by e-mail at [email protected] -- tell me why, to help me tell others why. I will write about your responses here next week -- let me know whether or not I should identify you by name, and thanks in advance.
To be continued...
After months of posturing and finger-pointing over the demon drug du jour, methamphetamine, and literally dozens of meth bills introduced, Congress is now set to pass the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act. This year's anti-meth legislation will make the restrictions on over-the-counter cold medications containing the meth precursor pseudoephedrine adopted by some states the law of the land, but in a partial victory for reformers and their allies, the final version of the bill eliminates draconian enhancements of current mandatory minimum meth sentences that were originally part of legislation sponsored by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) and coming out Rep. James Sensenbrenner's (R-WI) House Judiciary Committee.
The meth bill is folded into the Patriot Act reauthorization measure, which is on a fast track to passage. The measure could have been voted on by the time you read these words or it could be passed over the weekend or early next week -- provided negotiations between House and Senate conferees over the Patriot Act don't derail everything. With Democrats and some Republicans deeply concerned over various Patriot Act provisions, there is talk of a possible filibuster.
"This bill was originally full of draconian mandatory minimums and contained no money for drug treatment," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "But after an exhausting fight, the mandatory minimums were killed and money for drug treatment was added."
But reformers can only claim a partial victory. Two provisions of the bill are bad news. One provision creates a new penalty of up to 20 years in prison for selling or cooking meth in a home where a child lives -- even if that child is not there at the time. The foreseeable result of this provision is the mass incarceration of meth-addicted parents, said Piper.
"Basically, if you have a kid and commit a meth offense you can get up to 20 years, and that's on top of the underlying offense," said Piper. "Most people who make meth in their homes or who are low-level sellers are meth addicts. Mothers are going to get long prison sentences and have their children put in foster care when treatment would be the appropriate response. At least it's not a mandatory minimum."
DPA also objects to the pseudoephedrine provision. Once the bill passes, law-abiding Americans will need to show identification and have their names entered on government logs in order to buy legal products such as Nyquil, Theraflu, Sudafed, and other cold remedies.
"Putting mothers with substance abuse problems in federal prison for 20 years and requiring law-abiding citizens to give out personal information to buy cold medicine won't reduce the availability of methamphetamine or the harms associated with methamphetamine abuse," Piper added.
But if the bill still retains bad provisions, reformers and their allies can take heart in having managed to strip the mandatory minimum sentence enhancements from the House version of the bill. Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which lobbied against the provision, called the removal of the new, tougher mandatory minimums "a major victory."
"The Souder bill had this awful trigger that lowered the thresholds for mandatory minimum sentences," said Troy Dayton of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, which lobbied on the bill. "Currently, it takes 50 grams to earn a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence; under the Souder bill, it would have been lowered to five grams. Likewise, it currently takes five grams to earn a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, while the Souder bill would have lowered it to three grams," he explained.
"That is more draconian that what we currently have for crack," Dayton continued. "In response to that provision, we met with religious leaders and had them sign onto a letter denouncing mandatory minimums, and sent that and a list of all denominations that have taken a position against mandatory minimums to the committee. We also worked behind the scenes with some Evangelicals on this. When the committee met behind closed doors to strike a deal, the new triggers came out of the bill, and they were by far the most objectionable, really awful provisions."
The new mandatory minimum enhancements also came under sustained fire from Democrats in the House. "It's too much. It's too tough, and it destroys too many lives," said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) during debate on the bill.
Mandatory minimums for drug offenses have been around for 20 years now and have done little to reduce drug abuse and related crime, said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). "This bill won't reduce crime, and it's a waste of taxpayer money because it doesn't work," Scott said.
That reformers and their allies were able to put the brakes on ever harsher meth sentences is a sign of growing dissatisfaction with mandatory minimum sentences, Dayton said. "That we were able to put pressure on the Republicans and cause a break in the ranks, forcing them to take that out of the final bill and make everyone happy is a real victory."
DPA's Piper agreed that the terrain is shifting. "Yes, this bill will pass, but what you are seeing is that they are having to continually water down bills to get around opposition to them," he said. "They are afraid to even try to move some of the more draconian stuff anymore, like the Snitch Act and last year's Drugs and Terror Victory Act. I think there is a growing rebellion against mandatory minimums in general. Even a lot of Republicans are saying enough is enough."
If that is indeed the case, then perhaps it is time to go on the offensive against mandatory minimums. After all, according to the US Sentencing Commission, meth users in the federal system are currently serving an average of eight years.
"Who are we?" asked Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann as he surveyed the huge crowd at the Long Beach Westin Hotel's ballroom last week. "We are people who love drugs," he said to pleasantly surprised laughs and cheers. "They say we like drugs. It's true. Especially marijuana. Marijuana has been good for us. God put it here for a reason and we need to find a way to live with it in peace." Nadelmann paused. "But we are also people who hate drugs. We have suffered from overdoses and addiction. But we know that drugs are here to stay, and prohibition and the criminal justice system is not the way to deal with it. And we are people who don't care about drugs. People who care about the Constitution, who care about 2.2 million Americans behind bars, who care about fundamental rights and freedoms."
And so opened DPA's 2005 International Drug Policy Reform conference. Nadelmann was right. While the drug reform movement unsurprisingly contains a large number of people who love their drugs, from cannabis connoisseurs to meth-makers to psychonauts, it also contains people working in the trenches of prevention and treatment (people in recovery (provision was made for AA and NA sessions during the conference), and friends and relatives of overdose victims, as well as people who have never done a drug in their lives but are propelled toward reform by personal principles ranging from libertarianism to social justice progressivism, and sometimes by idiosyncratic mixtures of the two.
It was not only people from different fields, but people from different countries. Although attendees were predominantly American, the conference earned the "international" in its title. Not only were dozens of Canadians, Europeans, and Latin American reform leaders, academics, and government officials present, the conference devoted numerous sessions to what is going on in the rest of the hemisphere and across the water.
"I came here looking for coca, but it's all marijuana," laughingly complained Bolivian sociologist Silvia Natalia Rivera of the Coca and Sovereignty Campaign at a session on Latinos and Latin America. "Where's the real thing?"
But quips aside, Rivera gave a brief lesson on the dynamics of coca and cocaine in Bolivia, explaining the 1982 "narcogolpe" and linking it to the CIA. "There are two things you need to make cocaine," she said. "Coca leaf and precursor chemicals. But there is also a third thing: political power, the power of corruption, the power of complicity and blackmail. 'You minister, I know your daughter snorts coke -- we have photos.'"
Rivera also ripped into Bolivia's anti-coca law, Law 2008. "That law was written here in the north and had to be translated in Bolivia," she said. "It penalizes and criminalizes the coca growers, but leaves the traffickers free." The Coca and Sovereignty Campaign was born out of repression directed at growers in the Yungas in 2001, she said. "Our fundamental premise is that coca is not cocaine. One is plant, the other is a white powder that contains only one of coca's 15 alkaloids."
As a long-time coca-chewer herself, Rivera was not eager to urge the gringos to crack down at home instead of attacking Bolivian peasants. "The growers want to blame the consumers, but [coca grower leader and leading presidential contender] Evo Morales and other leaders believe in harm reduction. There is an understanding that there is a problem with approaching consumption as a crime. We need to de-penalize drug consumption, and we need to make a legal zone for coca. We have designed a legal strategy -- we say in transition, but we don't say in transition to what."
Mexican anthropologist and founder of the Tlachinallan Human Rights Center Abel Barrera outlined similar problems in the south-central Mexican state of Guerrero, where the Mexican government's militarization of the drug war impacts mainly poor peasants. "Opium is grown in the mountains and goes through Michoacan to the United States, but who grows it?" he asked. "It is the poor who cultivate it because they have no other option for survival. The war on drugs implemented by the Mexican government at the behest of the US is a war on the poor. The people who grow it, they don't grow large fields because they have to hide them from the helicopters, so they only get maybe one kilo of opium. That might be worth $300-700 dollars, but with that a family can live for five months -- if the father is not caught and jailed, or killed. These are the dramatic victims of the war on drugs."
That same panel also heard from Mexican academic Luis Astorga, perhaps the country's leading drug policy expert, who warned of the consequences of militarization of the drug war there. "Once the civilian political structure was the center of control, but with the militarization of anti-drug efforts in Mexico -- pushed by the US -- now the armed forces are involved," said Astorga. "Now, none of the political parties are keeping an eye on this. In the worst case scenario, the armed forces could concentrate the power that previously resided in the political sector. We could imagine a harm reduction policy in Mexico as withdrawing the armed forces from the fight."
"I am really concerned about the current situation in Holland," said long-time activist August de Loor, citing Dutch government experiments aimed at restricting coffee house access to foreigners and continued rumblings from the Dutch right to just shut it all down. "For the past 30 years, we have had the space to develop the coffee shop system, the smart shop system, mushrooms, needle exchanges, Ecstasy testing, safe rave campaigns, and heroin prescription," he said, reeling off Dutch achievements. "But that space is gone now, and it's not just the Yankees. It's coming from inside."
Especially from the conservative Christian Democratic government, and in particular from Justice Minister Piet Hien Donner, the strongest advocate of a reform rollback. But for Joep Oomen, head of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies and a Dutchman living in Belgium, Holland still looks pretty good. "From the European perspective, we are still very jealous of what is going on in Holland," he told the crowd. "This conservative government would shut down the coffee shops, but the local authorities won't go along. The people of Holland have embraced this system, and Minister Donner is like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. People in Holland want to regulate and be open about it, and with a progressive government in power, we will see for the first time a country where the people have overgrown prohibition."
And so it went, with attendees taking full advantage of a veritable plethora of panels and break-out sessions, with more than 100 different sessions being offered over the conference's three-day duration. From the religious use of ayahuasca to modalities of drug treatment, from psychedelic psychotherapy to drug testing, from cannabis culture to police roundtables, conference session topics covered a huge range. In fact, the main complaint about the program was that there was just too much for one person to take it all in.
And not just at the panels. Dozens of booths lined the hallways, with everyone from DRCNet to the California Marijuana Party to Narconon making their pitches. (The latter organization was the object of an anonymous flyer warning DPA members that it was linked to Scientology). As at all conferences, much of the action took place in those hallways, with many happy reunions and much impromptu debate.
The conference also served as a vehicle for other organizations' business. Students for Sensible Drug Policy held its national conference at the hotel at the same time, electing new non-student board members, while the Latin American and Caribbean anti-prohibitionist umbrella group REFORMA met informally to plot strategy for next year and beyond. Thanks to the largesse of the Angelica Foundation, which sponsored scholarships for Mexican attendees, REFORMA, which is based mainly in South America, was able to strengthen connections with allies and make new connections with potential allies to the north.
It was the gray-haired veterans of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition who made the biggest group impression in Long Beach. Dressed uniformly in their trademark t-shirts announcing "Cops Say Legalize Drugs, Ask Me Why," the LEAP people were determined both to make their presence known and to expand the group into a mass membership organization. In addition to educating the audience in panels like "Law Enforcement and Reform," LEAP members like group head Jack Cole, group inspiration Peter Christ, and former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper relentlessly worked the crowd between sessions, cornering people and insisting they sign up. And with the nifty gold LEAP police badges they were handing out, people were glad to join.
But while the conference was notable for its size, its internationalist complexion, and the strong (and for a change, friendly) police presence, if any overarching theme emerged it was the necessity of coming to grips with the role of race in the drug war. While those communities most victimized by drug prohibition are poor and black or brown, the drug reform movement is still -- if attendance at Long Beach is any indication -- overwhelmingly white and middle-class. Not only did DPA place the drug-race nexus firmly on the agenda with several panel discussions, it also gave the issue a plenary session pulled together at the last minute based on the currents coursing through the gathering.
Former American Civil Liberties Union head Ira Glasser led off the session with a civil rights history lesson, reminding the audience that Rosa Parks, recently buried with great honors, was not seen as a hero the day she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus in 1955, but was "reviled and resisted." Now, said Glasser, just as discriminatory Jim Crow laws replaced slavery, drug prohibition has replaced Jim Crow as a system of racial subjugation.
The drug reform movement needs to understand the legacy and contemporary reality of racism in the US, Glasser said. "What the movement has to focus on is that even with the drug war as a system of racial subjugation, given that prohibition has become the instrument of racial oppression, it is both strategically unwise and morally reprehensible not to refashion this movement as part of the movement for social and racial justice in this country. Not to do so is to become an accomplice to that long and unending racial nightmare."
That wasn't news to Cliff Thornton, leader of the Connecticut group Efficacy and sparkplug behind last month's groundbreaking Hartford conference on reforming the drug laws, but Thornton was determined to see that the rest of us got the message, too. "If you do not understand racism, classism, white privilege, terrorism, and the war on drugs, everything else will only confuse you," Thornton said. "Ten percent of the African-American population is in the criminal justice system. The drug war has placed the black community in a devolutionary state, and by dealing with the drug war, we will solve a lot of the social problems that have been plaguing us for years."
But to deal with the drug war as Thornton suggested, we have to deal with each other. With this conference's emphasis on bringing blacks and brown into the movement -- or, as Glasser suggested, bringing the drug reform movement within the civil rights movement -- drug reformers have begun to take those first, belated steps.
The Drug Policy Alliance's International Drug Policy Reform Conference last week in Long Beach drew not only hundreds of Americans, but also dozens of reformers from Canada, Europe, and Latin America. Among them were representatives of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, an umbrella group representing more than 120 European drug reform and harm reduction groups. But not every ENCOD member successfully completed the journey to Long Beach. ENCOD secretariat Joep Oomen did, but the group's chairman, Farid Ghehioueche, didn't. Instead he was detained at the San Francisco airport, accused of possessing invisible amounts of marijuana, jailed overnight, and deported.
Coming directly from the Wembley Hemp Fair in London to San Francisco, Ghehioeuche was carrying materials related to the hemp fair, DPA conference materials, an old poster for a marijuana march, and CDs containing United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime documents, among other things. Still, in the land of the free, merely carrying such items should not be a problem, right?
Wrong. In an e-mail message sent to supporters upon his release, Ghehioueche related his run-in with American authorities. Federal and Santa Clara County documents provided by Ghehioueche corroborate his version of events. This is Farid's tale:
"I left London for San Francisco for two days to visit a French friend before the conference. Before I left, some of my friends in France teasingly told me, 'We hope you'll come back alive.' I couldn't have imagined what was about to happen. After the plane landed, Customs agents started to look deeply into my luggage. They asked many questions and interrogated me about my reasons for entering the US. I was sure it was a mere formality, since I was answering all their questions.
"As they searched my backpack, they found my computer, a lot of DPA conference documents, more material picked up at the hemp fair in London, and even some UNODC CD-ROMs -- 'A practical guide for competent national authorities under article 17 of the 1998 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in French, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian' -- as well as DVDs about ibogaine, ENCOD campaigns, and a Green Avalanche DVD about marijuana that I got in London. Folded away in a pocket of the backpack was a poster from the Global March for Cannabis Liberation from May 2004, which had been there ever since."
The Customs officers' suspicions aroused, they swiped the poster and UNODC CD cases and claimed to have detected marijuana.
"They said they found cannabis. Then they asked me to come with them in a little cell, for a complete overview and full body search and to test for pieces of marijuana. I didn't know there was any evidence of marijuana. I realized that I should have used a vacuum-cleaner.
"I started to get worried, as if I were in a Kafka nightmare. It reminded me of the film 'Midnight Express.' But I felt totally safe because I knew I had brought nothing with me -- all in my head, nothing on my body. Many different agents came by to look at me as if I were a beast in a zoo and kept asking me questions without explaining my rights. I didn't cause a scandal, I just kept breathing deeply and remained calm.
"After 45 minutes, one of the agents interrogating me confessed that he was 'a libertarian,' telling me, 'I can confess to you that even some of us would test positive.' But then, they determined that they had found 0.0001 gram of marijuana on my belongings and took me back to another office, where I was detained for six hours. For the first 40 minutes, I didn't know my fate, but after one agent said I would soon be released, Supervisor Lau told the agent to not allow my entry. I realized I was fucked and didn't know what to do. For 0.0001 gram of marijuana, I would not be allowed into America?"
Ghehioueche also had the little problem of a 14-year-old arrest for hashish possession in France. While under French law that arrest is expunged, Ghehiouche responded honestly to Customs questions about past arrests, and he paid a price for his honesty.
"During my long wait with the inspector, I heard one of her officers say, 'Yes, now we have him.' It was because I answered the question about my arrest in France. But French law is different from the US and I didn't want the US to consider me a criminal, because I am not now considered one in France.
Next, Ghehioueche got a taste of an American jail. Another strip search, photograph, fingerprints, and then behind bars with a motley crew of other rejectees. There, he was introduced to "24 Hours," the paranoid American anti-terror drama, on the jail TV. Ghehioueche's fellow inmates were bemused by the dangerous criminal with whom they were jailed.
"I told them I was being denied entry into the US on the pretext of possessing 0.0001 gram of cannabis, and they laughed a lot about my poor case. And you know what else? Ironically, while in the cell, I found a little vial containing a gram of cocaine. If only the Americans legalized pot, they could cut down on the hard drug epidemic. But we were in jail, so one of the prisoners made a straw out of his booking papers and snorted a line off the floor, then put the rest in his shoes."
The next morning, it was back to the San Francisco airport for Ghehioueche and other assorted deportees, where he waited until 7:00 p.m. to be put on a flight back to France. In the meantime, though, incorrigible activist that he is, Ghehioueche naturally attempted to convert his keepers to the cause, hammering away at "zero tolerance," the criminalization of youth, corruption, and other evils that accompany drug prohibition -- not the least of which was the ridiculous act of banning a person from the country over microscopic traces of marijuana.
"I tried to explain to him that this was a great injustice and totally disproportionate. Certainly, the ridiculous charge keeping me off US soil could be recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records! I also said that about 20 agents had worked on my case and asked him how many real smugglers and terrorists could have taken advantage of those agents being busy with my case. I told him I'm working for drug policy reform because I'd like them to be more efficient and actually achieve real control over risks on the border, not create them by empowering injustice."
Farid Ghehioueche is now back in France, but his troubles are not over. "I now have to apply for a visa to enter the US," he told DRCNet. "Homeland Security has given me a number and a file name; they have my fingerprints. I am on their lists now."
While Ghehioueche is not too happy with US authorities, he reports that he has received many messages of support and apology from Americans. "It is very good for moral support, and especially coming from US citizens. That shows a real difference between the US administration and its people, as well as a real difference between the US policies and those that people are supporting and expecting internationally."
Despite the injustice, Ghehioueche will not attempt to appeal the decision, he said. "I know I'm guilty under their law. They presented the evidence I was carrying such and such an amount of cannabis, although it was just because they said so. I had to tell them I quit smoking cannabis, but I'm not going to lie by saying I'm not a cannabis user."
This week we've got cops stealing drug dogs, cops cooking speed, soldiers running drugs, and soldiers who thought they were running drugs. Let's get to it:
In Monticello, Mississippi, a former Lincoln County Sheriff's Department auxiliary deputy was sentenced November 10 to one year of house arrest for stealing a Monticello Police Department drug dog and shipping it to Arizona to be sold. Claude Raymond Gatlin pleaded guilty two days earlier to making away with Orin, the drug dog. Orin disappeared on April 9 and was recovered a week later at a kennel in Bullhead City, Arizona. Kennel owners told the Southwest Mississippi Daily Leader Gatlin told them the dog had been eliminated from the K-9 program and he wanted to sell it. In addition to the year of house arrest, Gatlin was given a suspended four-year prison sentence and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
In Pittsburgh, former Ross Police Officer Michael Lance Baird, 37, pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges of conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. Baird was busted in February, when federal drug agents raided an apartment building in search of meth labs. When agents arrested a pair of men on the third floor, the men asked if the agents were aware that Baird was cooking speed a floor below. When they searched Baird's apartment, they found chemicals and other materials used to produce the stimulant, as well as commercial scales. During his plea hearing Monday, Baird conceded he had conspired with the others to make meth, but denied ever having cooked it himself. Baird has been jailed until his sentencing date in March.
In Tucson, Monahan-Davis Air Force Base police officer Senior Airman Jareese Jones, 26, was sentenced November 10 to 18 months in confinement and a dishonorable discharge after being caught in an FBI drug sting, the Associated Press reported. He was one of three base police officers who agreed to transport what they thought was 15 kilos of cocaine from a Tucson parking lot to a Phoenix hotel. The cocaine turned out to be sugar, the smugglers turned out to be feds, and Jones and his buddies turned out to be in big trouble.
In El Paso, a US Army sergeant was sentenced to eight years in military prison Tuesday for participating in a drug smuggling ring that transported large amounts of cocaine and cash between a US military base in Colombia and Fort Bliss, just outside El Paso, the Associated Press reported. Staff Sgt. Victor Portales, who pleaded guilty, also saw his rank reduced to private and was given a dishonorable discharge. DEA agents testified that Portales and three others worked with Angel Gutierrez, a Colombian paramilitary and drug trafficker. Portales admitted as much in court Tuesday.
Yielding to intense pressure from Congress in the wake of steroid use scandals, Major League Baseball agreed Tuesday to a tough new drug testing policy. The league and its players' union agreed to much stiffer penalties for using steroids. They also agreed for the first time to test for amphetamines, the dirty little secret of pro baseball.
Major League Baseball agreed to test for steroids only ten months ago as clamor grew over repeated revelations of steroid use by stars such as Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. Under that agreement, first-time offenders were suspended for 10 games, with a 30-game suspension for a second offense and a 60-day suspension for a third offense. It would take five repeats to earn a lifetime ban. Under the regime adopted Tuesday, a player testing positive for steroids would get a 50-game suspension, with 100 games for a second positive test, and a life-time ban for a third, according to a joint press release from the league and the union.
The move came as Congress was considering legislation co-sponsored by Senators Jim Bunning (R-KY), a famed past Major League baseball player, and John McCain (R-AZ), that would have made the drug testing policies of pro baseball, football, basketball, and hockey a matter of federal law. That bill would have mandated a half-season suspension for a first positive test, a full season for a second, and a lifetime ban for a third.
But if the new regime was designed to satisfy federal lawmakers, it only seems to have encouraged them. "I'm here to declare victory," said Bunning at a news conference. "It shows what Congress can do without always making a law." But Bunning is still threatening to do just that. He said he will not withdraw his bill until the agreement is signed by both players and management, and until the other pro sports league adopt tougher drug testing policies.
It's not just the Senate that wants to mandate drug testing in pro sports. US Reps. Tom Davis (R-VA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), who held hearings on the issue this spring in the House Government Reform Committee, saw the agreement as a signal for further intervention in pro sports. At the news conference, they said they would now turn their attention to other sports.
Davis congratulated pro baseball on having an amphetamine policy that is "the toughest in any sport right now." That is something of a surprise given baseball's long love affair with "greenies," as the popular stimulants are known in the locker room.
"We all know amphetamines have been around for a long time," commissioner Bud Selig said. "I've been meeting with doctors and trainers for a long time. We knew we had to get something done. We wouldn't have solved the (doping) problem if we ignored amphetamines."
New York Daily News sports writer TJ Quinn elaborated in a column this week: "Players first started taking them in the 1960s, and most clubhouses have had separate coffee pots labeled 'coaches' and 'players,' with the 'players' brew offering an extra kick. Several players have said the season and its travel are too tough on the body, and that they need something to get them going every day. Others said they felt the stimulants gave them heightened energy and awareness. They were an open secret, however, and players felt free to joke about the pills with reporters when a stray one might show up on the clubhouse floor. One GM even joked with reporters after a rain delay that his players were upset that the umpires waited until they had taken their 'beans' to call out the tarps.
Major League Baseball and its players' union have caved in to threat of congressional action. It remains to be seen if their surrender lessens the congressional impulse to impose its drug-testing wishes on whole sectors of the economy.
Initiatives to allow medical marijuana use in two Michigan towns passed by comfortable margins in elections held November 8. The Michigan cities of Ann Arbor and Detroit approved similar measures last year.
In the northern Michigan town of Traverse City, voters approved Proposal 3, an ordinance declaring medical marijuana use or delivery "the lowest law enforcement priority of the city," by a margin of 63% to 37%. In suburban Ferndale, just north of the Detroit city limits, Proposal D, which would remove the threat of arrest under city law for medical marijuana patients, passed with 61% of the vote.
Both ordinances differ from state law, which prohibits the possession and use of marijuana with no medical exception. Law enforcement and elected officials have vowed to continue to enforce state law. "We would charge under the state law rather than city ordinance in cases where there is a medical marijuana defense," Ferndale Police Captain Timothy Collins told the Royal Oak Daily News the day after the vote.
Similar attitudes were on display in Traverse City. Former police chief and current city commissioner Ralph Soffredine pooh-poohed the impact of the vote. "I don't think it means anything," he told the Traverse City Record-Eagle," pointing out that state law supersedes local ordinance. "We'll take it to court."
But Ferndale resident and University of Michigan student Donal O'Leary III, head of the Ferndale Coalition for Compassionate Care said the ordinance would send a message to police. Officers who arrest medical marijuana patients "would be going against the will of Ferndale residents who say that we don't want our neighbors prosecuted just for using the medicine they and their doctors agree is right for them," O'Leary said.
Under Michigan state law, marijuana use is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, possession by up to a year, and possession in a park by up to two years. Penalties for cultivation and distribution run from four to 15 years, depending on the amount.
In 2001, Georgia resident Scott Fitz Randolph was having marital problems. At one point, his wife called police and told them he was using cocaine and there were "items of drug evidence" in the home. When police arrived, Randolph refused to allow them to search the house without a warrant, but Mrs. Randolph did consent to a search and took officers to a bedroom where a straw with cocaine traces was found.
The case went all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, which sided with Mr. Randolph. The court held that under the Fourth Amendment "the consent to conduct a warrantless search... given by one occupant is not valid in the face of the refusal of another occupant who is physically present at the scene."
The state of Georgia appealed to the US Supreme Court, where it was joined by 21 other states and the Bush administration in urging the high court to overturn the decision. In oral arguments on November 10, the justices hinted they may do just that.
While Randolph's lawyer, Thomas Goldstein, argued that the decision should be upheld because Mrs. Randolph had okayed a search in "an area where her husband had a legitimate expectation of privacy," the justices were skeptical.
"It's academic to talk about his individual right to privacy when he's sharing a house with someone else," said Chief Justice Roberts.
Justice David Souter noted that the court had upheld the constitutionality of a spouse consenting to police searches when her partner was not present even though it was likely the absent spouse would object.
"Why does he have more of a right to keep the police out than she has the right to have them come in?" asked Justice Stephen Breyer. Breyer said he was worried that if the court upheld the decision a battered wife would be unable to ask a police officer to speak privately with her in a bedroom without her husband's consent.
Only Justice Sandra Day O'Connor appeared especially sympathetic to Randolph's argument, and she may be gone from the bench before the case is decided if the Senate approves Judge Samuel Alito as her successor. When Georgia Attorney General Paula Smith said the state's position was supported by past Supreme Court cases allowing searches with the consent of only one spouse, O'Connor retorted: "Even when the husband is present and says no?" Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben, who argued the case for the Bush administration, got a similar response when he supported Georgia's position. "How can you override the expression from a co-tenant when the co-tenant says no?" she asked.
A decision in the case, Georgia v. Randolph, is expected sometime in the spring.
The chief of Guatemala's anti-drug police, his deputy, and another senior official were indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington, DC, Wednesday on cocaine distribution conspiracy charges. Head narc Adan Castillo, his assistant Jorge Aguilar Garcia, and police official Rubilio Orlando Palacios were arrested Tuesday after arriving in the United States.
DEA head Karen Tandy personally announced the bust at a Washington press conference. "More than corrupting the public trust, these Guatemalan police officials have been Trojan horses for the very addiction and devastation that they were entrusted to prevent," she said.
Guatemala has been a major conduit for Colombian cocaine headed for the United States for years. The US dropped Guatemala from its list of anti-drug allies during the presidency of Alfonso Portillo because of his government's lack of cooperation. His successor, President Oscar Berger, who took office nearly two years ago, promised to do better, but has had little success.
Just last week, Castillo told the Associated Press he planned to resign next month, saying he felt like he was fighting a losing battle. Guatemala has as many as 4,000 drug smugglers who take advantage of the latest technologies, he said. "They have speedboats with up to four motors, modern technology, the most modern communication systems and contacts all over the American Isthmus," he said. "It's easy for them." The traffickers pay well for "information sources that are absolutely excellent," he said. "So they realize how the state is working. They monitor the state and the authorities and then do analysis on how to handle the drugs," Castillo explained.
"There are moments when you start to think you're swimming against the current," he said. "At those times, it's easy to think, 'If there aren't other institutions that can support me, if the government itself is weak in its responses, there's nothing left to do but leave it in God's hands.'"
GW Pharmaceuticals has announced that its marijuana-based drug Sativex will be available on a limited basis to patients in England and Spain. The tincture, applied through a sublingual spray, is currently available by prescription only in Canada. The primary market will be Multiple Sclerosis and cancer patients, although it will be used for other diseases and conditions as well.
Last week, GW announced it had reached an agreement with the Regional Government of Catalonia in Spain to supply Sativex to 600 patients, with initial shipments going out within weeks. 130 of the patients will be MS sufferers, 130 more are neuropathic pain patients, 300 are cancer patients suffering nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, and 40 more are patients suffering from AIDS wasting syndrome.
The move came at the initiative of the Catalan Health Department, which was responded to patient and doctor requests, and was approved by the Spanish Ministry of Health. The department has already budgeted funds to pay for the drug. The compassionate access program will be evaluated for safety and tolerability
Dr. Rafael Manzanera, General director of Health Resources of the Catalan Health Department, said, "This is a direct response to the wishes of patients with a significant unmet medical need. The Catalan administration believes that a non-smoked prescription cannabis derived medicine, such as Sativex, represents the optimum solution for these patients, without in any way promoting the use of herbal cannabis," said Dr. Rafael Manzanera, general director of health resources for the department.
This week, GW announced that England would become the second European country to make Sativex available to some patients. According to GW, the British Home Office has decided that the drug may be imported from Canada as an unlicensed medicine for prescription to individual MS patients by their doctors. Sativex is yet to be licensed in Britain, but under the Medicines Act, such products may be prescribed if doctors decide it is in the best interest of a particular patient. The government acted in response to inquiries from doctors and patients, GW said.
"This is a move in the right direction," Mike O'Donovan, head of the British MS Society told the BBC. "We believe there is now good evidence that cannabis-derived medicine can relieve distressing symptoms like spasticity and pain in MS. Many people do not find available treatments effective and will now have the opportunity to try a new drug which could significantly improve their quality of life. "We very much hope it will not be long before it is licensed for NHS prescription."
So does GW. The company says it continues "to seek full regulatory approval... for Sativex in the UK." It is conducting Phase III clinical trials and plans to submit an application for marketing authorization next year.
The 43-year-old actress first made her mark in a series of Grade-B adult movies in the 1980s, including "Madame Aema, Part III," and has more recently starred in Park Chan-wook's "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" and Yu Ha's "The Cruel History of Maljuk Street."
Korean law makes no distinction between marijuana and other drugs. In her appeal, Bu-son argued that was unconstitutional. "Current law prescribing marijuana as a narcotic is unconstitutional, and banning marijuana is in violation of the right to pursue happiness," she said last year as she launched her appeal.
No word yet on when she will serve her sentence.
Silja Talvi reports on the DPA conference for In These Times in "Cops and Harm Reduction Hotties, Oh My!"
In These Times senior editor Salim Muwakkil says "Give Me Cognitive Liberty"
Visit the "DARE Generation Diary," a new blog site from Students for Sensible Drug Policy
John Gorenfeld writes about Mel Sembler, now-former ambassador to Italy appointed despite his past as the founder a cult-like teen drug rehab center closed down after multiple lawsuits, for Alternet in "Ambassador de Sade"
November 18, 1986: A US federal grand jury in Miami releases the indictment of the Ochoas, Pablo Escobar, Carlos Lehder, and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha under the RICO statute. The indictment names the Medellin cartel as the largest cocaine smuggling organization in the world.
November 19, 1993: A DEA helicopter crashes while conducting surveillance of suspected drug activity, killing a St. Louis police officer and hospitalizing the pilot in critical condition.
November 19, 2001: Former West Vancouver (Canada) school superintendent Ed Carlin becomes furious with North Vancouver RCMP after a blunder during which the emergency response team raids a basement rental suite occupied by Carlin's son and three others in search of drugs and guns. Red-faced police take down the four young men at gunpoint but find only Nintendo controllers.
November 20, 1982: Legal medical marijuana patient Irvin Rosenfeld begins receiving a monthly tin of about 300 pre-rolled medical marijuana cigarettes from the United States government under the Compassionate Investigative New Drug Program.
November 21, 1987: Jorge Ochoa is arrested in Colombia and held in prison on a bull-smuggling charge for which he was extradited from Spain. Twenty-four hours later a gang of thugs arrive at the house of Juan Gomez Martinez, the editor of Medellin's daily newspaper El Colombiano, presenting him with a communique signed by "The Extraditables," which threatening execution of Colombian political leaders if Ochoa is extradited. On December 30, Ochoa is released under dubious legal circumstances. In January 1988, the murder of Colombian Attorney General Carlos Mauro Hoyos is claimed by the Extraditables.
November 22, 1975: Colombian police seize 600 kilos from a small plane at the Cali airport -- the largest cocaine seizure to date. In response, drug traffickers begin a vendetta known as the "Medellin Massacre" -- forty people die in Medellin in just one weekend.
November 23, 1919: Mescaline is first isolated and identified by Dr. Arthur Heffter.
November 24, 1976: Federal Judge James Washington rules that Robert Randall's use of marijuana constitutes a "medical necessity."
Earlier this year the Senlis Council, a European think-tank that has relocated much of its efforts to Afghanistan, released a report on the feasibility of licensing Afghan opium for the legal production of opiates used in medicine, such as morphine. The study was released on September 26 at an international symposium held in Kabul.
Phase two of the Senlis research will examine how the results of the first study can be practically applied, and the Council is seeking tenders from persons/institutions wishing to participate in a range of research projects in the disciplines of development economics, international and comparative law, agronomy, pharmacology, sociology, and healthcare systems, particular from those with demonstrated experience inside Afghanistan.
Visit http://www.drug-policy.org/modules/invitations_to_tender/ for further information, or contact David Spivack at [email protected].
The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring web site administrators for its office in Washington, DC, and for the Campaign to Regulate and Control Marijuana in Nevada -- visit http://www.mpp.org/jobs/webadmin.html for information on the former and http://www.mpp.org/jobs/2005Nevada/webmaster.html for the latter.
The application deadline for both positions is December 5, but interviews are being conducted on a rolling basis and could be filled before the deadline. So if you are interested, apply fast!
The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation is seeking (paid) interns for research and writing assistance on the impact of drug prohibition on the economy. Visit http://www.cjpf.org/intern/intern.html for the full listing -- the application deadline is December 9.
Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].
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//www.libertarian.co.uk/conf05.htm for further information.
November 21, 7:00-9:00pm, Lawrence Township, NJ, first public meeting of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey. At the Lawrence Township Library, room #3, Darrah Lane at Business Rt. 1, light refreshments available. For further information visit http://www.cmmnj.org or contact Ken Wolski at (609) 394-2137 or [email protected].
November 26, 10:00am-5:00pm, Washington, DC, book discussion and prison art exhibit with "15 To Life" author Anthony Papa and others. At First Trinity Lutheran Church, E & 4th Streets, call (202) 393-1511 or visit http://www.prisonfoundations.org for info.
November 26, Portland, OR, Fourth Annual Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards, including an educational conference, seminars and vendor activities from 10:00am-5:00pm, and banquet with music and awards presentations from 6:30-10:00pm. Daytime events tickets $10, available at door or online via PayPal; banquet tickets $35, must be reserved three weeks in advance. Visit http://www.OrNORML.org or contact Oregon NORML at (503) 239-6110 for information or reservations.
November 29, 7:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, "Dynamics of American Drug Culture, lecture by Sheldon Norberg. At the University of Southern California, Taper Hall Auditorium, visit http://www.adopedealer.com 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 http://www.kcba.org/druglaw/ or contact KCBA at (206) 267-7001 or [email protected].
December 1-30, San Francisco, "Confessions of a Dope Dealer," solo performance by Sheldon Norberg. Thursday, Friday & Saturday evening performances except Christmas and New Years, at Climate Theater, 285 9th St., visit http://www.adopedealer.com for further information.
December 15, 7:00-9:00pm, Lawrence Township, NJ, public meeting of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey. At the Lawrence Township Library, room #3, Darrah Lane at Business Rt. 1, light refreshments available. For further information visit http://www.cmmnj.org or contact Ken Wolski at (609) 394-2137 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 http://www.lsd.info for further information.
January 21, 2006, 4:00pm-3:00am, Brickell, FL, "8th Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert," benefit for Florida NORML hosted by Ploppy Palace Productions and Tobacco Road. At Tobacco Road, 626 South Miami Ave., admission $10, 21 years or over with ID, visit http://www.ploppypalace.com or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
February 9-11, 2006, Tasmania, Australia, The Eleventh International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA), coordinated by Justice Action. For further information visit http://www.justiceaction.org.au/ICOPA/ndx_icopa.html or contact +612-9660 9111 or [email protected].
April 5-8, 2006, Santa Barbara, CA, Fourth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time, details to be announced, visit http://www.medicalcannabis.com for updates.
April 30-May 4, 2006, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "17th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm," annual conference of the International Harm Reduction Association. Visit http://www.harmreduction2006.ca for further information.
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