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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #412 -- 11/25/05

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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Follow-up to last week's "Tell Me Why" editorial and readers responses will appear in next week's Drug War Chronicle.

Table of Contents

    despite federal interference, San Francisco
    continues to legitimize medical marijuana
    The city where California's medical marijuana movement was born has now regulated dispensaries, in a move that some lament but others see as providing further legitimacy.
    A majority in the Dutch lower house of parliament has proposed taking an experimental first step toward legalization of the supply side in the marijuana trade.
    A former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice has suggested drug decriminalization to reduce street crime and the prison population. But what he's describing sounds more like legalization.
    California's medical marijuana grows and dispensaries have long been the target of thieves and armed robbers, but now they suffered their first murder, Mendocino County activist and philanthropist Les Crane.
    This week we have more guilty pleas in the ongoing Arizona smuggling sting that wrapped up a bunch of cops, prison guards, and soldiers, another cash-hungry prison guard, and a Miami cop accused of selling information to drug traffickers.
    The Austin, Texas, police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Daniel Rocha during a minor marijuana possession bust has been fired, but another officer only suspended for 28 days.
    Though federal judges for the most part have not deviated significantly from sentencing guidelines since a Supreme Court rulings last year made them advisory, judges in Rhode Island have used the cases to reduce the infamous 100:1 disparity in crack and powder cocaine sentencing.
    The first man convicted of running a home meth lab in Indiana's Delaware County has been sentenced to 30 years in prison by a judge who compared him to a terrorist.
    In two states where efforts to legalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons have yet to bear fruit, legislators recently held hearings on the topic.
    The government of Colombia has announced it would suspend the aerial spraying of herbicides designed to kill coca and opium crops along its southern border at the request of neighboring Ecuador.
  11. WEB SCAN:
    EMCDDA, Cato on Mexico, Jews and Medical Marijuana
    Operations and Technology Coordinator, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, DC Area
    Showing up at an event can be the best way to get involved! Check out this week's listings for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!

(Chronicle archives)

1. Feature: San Francisco Regulates Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

San Francisco, the birthplace of California's medical marijuana movement, has passed an ordinance regulating the city's burgeoning marijuana dispensary scene for the first time. With more than 30 dispensaries currently operating in the city, San Francisco is home to one-fifth of all dispensaries in the state. Now, while almost all currently operating dispensaries will be allowed to stay open, it is going to be more difficult for new ones to open up, and the ones now open will face restrictions on the number of plants they can grow on site and the amount of pot patients can buy.

2004 SF medical marijuana protest,
signs attacking DEA public information officer Richard Meyer
courtesy San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center
While some may bemoan the end of the largely unregulated Wild West era of medical marijuana in San Francisco, others see the vote as a yet another step in the normalization of medical marijuana. "This has the value of putting the city's seal of approval on these establishments," said Marijuana Policy Project communications director and San Francisco resident Bruce Mirken. "The city has in effect said yes, medical marijuana dispensaries are a useful service that the city should license, regulate, and admit into our community."

The regulations approved by the Board of Supervisors last week were championed by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, but are substantially less restrictive than Mirkarimi's original ordinance, which would have shut down many of the clubs and imposed record-keeping requirements that some feared could be used against patients and providers by the feds. That put Mirkarimi at odds with pot club operators and Supervisor Chris Daly, who argued that Mirkarimi's original language would have unduly limited access for the city's 8,000 registered medical marijuana patients.

But after the board approved a series of amendments, including one that did away with the record-keeping requirement, the new ordinance was passed unanimously and Mirkarimi was loudly applauded in the chamber. Afterwards, he acknowledged the disparate voices and concerns of city residents over the issue and saluted those who worked long and hard to balance the needs of patients, providers, and neighbors. "At times, we've known the city doesn't speak with one voice," he said as the odor of pot smoke drifted through City Hall. "We should all be very, very proud -- you should all be very proud -- in what we were able to achieve today."

Under the ordinance, existing dispensaries must apply for licenses from the city and pay license and permit fees. They will also have to meet new health and planning standards. The ordinance limits the amount of marijuana a patient may buy to one ounce, and clubs can grow no more than 24 plants on-scene. Proposed new clubs will have to go through Planning Department public hearings, and cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school. Existing clubs within 1,000 feet of a school can stay at that location provided there is no marijuana smoking on the premises.

"I think this is historic," patient Michael Aldrich told the San Francisco Chronicle after the vote. "San Francisco is the place where the medical marijuana movement started. It's a landmark piece of legislation. I am very proud."

"While it's not perfect, it is reasonably good -- as good as we could have hoped for," said MPP's Mirken. "While this city wears its liberalism on its sleeve, it's also the NIMBY capital of the world. It's as if people are saying, 'We love marijuana, but we don't want it moving in next door to us.'"

Green Cross dispensary graphic
"This ordinance basically ratified the status quo," said California NORML head Dale Gieringer. "It is better than what our opponents wanted earlier and I'm happy they didn't do major damage," he told DRCNet. "It makes it hard to open a new club, but it makes it possible for the existing clubs to continue operating."

While San Francisco has only about one-twentieth of California's registered medical marijuana patients, it has one-fifth of the state's dispensaries. "We have 33 or 34 clubs, and most will stay open," said Gieringer. "That's more than enough to cover the city itself, but San Francisco clubs are supplying surrounding cities as well. There will simply have to be more dispensaries in the surrounding area. Oakland is a real problem right now, and they're clamping down outside the city in Alameda County as well."

Problems there may be, but the medical marijuana movement that began to sprout when Dennis Peron opened his Market Street club more than a decade ago is now in full bloom. Dispensaries have spread from San Francisco across the state, beginning in Northern California and now reaching even places like San Diego. While different counties and municipalities across the state have approached the issue differently, the San Francisco ordinance may mark the beginning of the "routinization" of the dispensaries in California.

"There are at least 160 clubs across the state now," noted Gieringer, "and they are generally operated by entrepreneurial types who not necessarily politically active in the movement like before. Dispensing medical marijuana is becoming a routine business, and an occasional neighborhood nuisance. Regulation is an appropriate way to deal with this."

But regulating medical marijuana does not address the larger problem of marijuana prohibition, said Gieringer. "We have between two and three million pot smokers in California, and only a fraction of them are registered medical marijuana users. Recreational users who are well-informed and know about the movement have all gotten medical recommendations -- even though this is not what voters envisioned when the approved Proposition 215 -- but the arrests of pot smokers in California continue. It's the young and the poor and the uninformed who are being arrested."

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2. Europe: Dutch Parliament Ponders Experiment in "Legal" Coffeeshop Supply

special to Drug War Chronicle by John Calvin Jones, PhD, JD, Department of Government, South Texas College

Once again Dutch parliamentarians are seeking to make their domestic drug laws coherent, but Dutch government ministers want to maintain the schizophrenic status quo. According to the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, in early November a majority of the members in the Tweede Kamer (the Dutch lower house of parliament) proposed to take a first step toward legalizing domestic marijuana production -- through the implementation of an experimental "pilot project" that would supply cannabis for coffeeshops."

The Bulldog coffeeshop, Amsterdam
While only six months ago, a slim majority (comprised of the Christian-right parties with the strongly libertarian VVD) rejected the idea, the VVD members have now changed their opinion. As the Volkskrant said, "the change in course means a breakthrough in the 'soft drugs' policy."

Despite repeated claims to the contrary by American drug warriors, marijuana is generally prohibited in the Netherlands. Though since 1976, the official-unofficial policy of the Dutch national government, local police, and prosecutors has been to license and tolerate marijuana sales in so-called coffeeshops or hash bars (which cannot stock more than 500g at one time), it has always been illegal to grow marijuana in the Netherlands. (In 1996, the Dutch government began to allow people to grow up to five plants for personal use, while not legalizing the activity.)

Given the legal framework, the status quo has left the Dutch with what they call "the backdoor" problem.s Just where are coffeeshop owners supposed to get their stash? The colloquial answer is "the back door," that is clandestinely because it cannot come through the front door.

Hence current Dutch policy on cannabis has been a law enforcement headache and a boon to organized crime. With no large-scale legal source of their product, coffeeshop owners are forced to go underground, into subterranean networks where it can be all too easy to end up rubbing shoulders with other black markets and other forms of criminality.

Supporters of the coffee shops are quick to point out that the shops themselves, most of them small enterprises, are not connected to criminal networks. "Coffeeshop owners have nothing to do with organized crime, guns, or human trafficking, said August de Loor of the Drug Advice Bureau. "About 95% of them are small businessmen running their local coffee shop, and they are buying relatively small amounts of foreign hash and home-grown Dutch weed for their customers, so their backdoor is small, he told DRCNet."

Paradise coffee shop, Amsterdam
Still, the Dutch are trying to address the problem of coffeeshop supply. In quintessential Dutch manner, instead of trying to pass legislation to create an absolute freedom to grow, a coalition of the progressives and libertarians in the parliament, made up of the PvdA (labor), VVD (the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), D'66 (the Democrats of 1966) and the GroenLinks (literally the Green-Left) proposed that municipal governments in Amsterdam and Maastricht start an experiment in legalized domestic cultivation to supply the coffeehouse market, though each party in the coalition has its own variation of the particulars on the table. One other explanation for the timid, "experimental" approach might be that such a move was tried in 2000, but through various parliamentary moves of then Prime Minister Wim Kok, never got to a vote.

Reaction to the proposal for some semblance of government regulation on the supply-side of the "marijuana question" by ruling coalition was swift and trite. The ministers of Justice and Internal Affairs have come out against a system of legalized domestic marijuana cultivation, claiming that international treaties do not allow it.

That claim is debatable. Articles III and XIV of 1988 UN convention governing "illicit" drugs offer provisions and caveats for domestic variations in law, policy, and domestic enforcement. In this way, the 1988 convention parrots and incorporates language of previous agreements including the 1961 Single Convention, the 1925 Agreement of Geneva and the "1912 Convention" signed at The Hague, which always permitted domestic production of opium, coca, and hashish, but sought to curb the international drug trade.

In a stronger statement during parliamentary debate November 14, Justice Minister Pieter Donner warned of legal consequences for cities if the Tweede Kamer authorized the cultivation experiment. "Local governments that cooperate in the experiment for regulated marijuana cultivation shall be in violation of the law," Donner said, adding that if they did, he would have to demand his prosecutors take legal action against them.

While elements of the conservative Dutch government remain firmly opposed to the "backdoor" proposal and in fact would like to further tighten restrictions on the coffeeshops, it looks like a parliamentary rebellion is underway. Meanwhile, Minister Donner is left with no alternative but scare tactics and worries about the United Nations. But the UN conventions might be more flexible than Donner is willing to admit, and if regimes like those in Afghanistan are granted waivers for opium exports, Dutch transgressions in re domestic cannabis production are not likely to raise any eyebrows.

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3. The Prohibition Debate: Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Sparks Controversy with Call for Look at Drug Decriminalization

A former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice's suggestion last week that the state should consider decriminalizing the drug trade to avoid swelling its prison population has stirred debate over drug legalization in the Tarheel State. Former Chief Justice Burley Mitchell spoke nine days ago today, and before the week was up, at least one North Carolina editorial board was rallying to the cause, while opposition to the notion also rapidly appeared.

Burley Mitchell
Mitchell, the state's top judge from 1995 to 1999, was addressing a Raleigh forum on prison reform organized by NC Policy Watch, a state reform advocacy group, with the participation of the North Carolina chapter of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Washington, DC-based, sentencing reform organization. With nearly 37,000 prisoners as of last week, the state suffers a chronic prison bed shortage. Nearly 5,400 North Carolina inmates are doing time for drug offenses.

Mitchell told the forum that the war on drugs in North Carolina and nationwide has been a "total failure" that filled the prisons. It was time to consider alternatives, he said. "What if we decriminalized drugs? Then you'd knock out all the profits of every dealer and more to the point, the big producers." Drug-related crimes such as robbery and murder would also fall, he said.

Such fundamental solutions to prison overcrowding may not even have been broached if legislators, who did away with parole and moved to a tough sentencing grid a decade ago, had acted on recommendations from the state sentencing commission to reduce sentences, but they haven't. At that same forum, former House Speaker Dan Blue, who helped passed those tough sentencing laws, said he didn't understand why the legislature had failed to act on the commission's recommendations.

But it was the former chief justice's call to think about legalization -- and that was what he was actually describing with his talk about knocking out the profits -- that aroused state media attention. Mitchell spoke on a Monday night; by Thursday, editorial writers and columnists were beginning to react.

"It's one thing when a glassy-eyed spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws stares at the red light and makes an argument that marijuana is better for you than a glass of red wine, but it's something else when Burley Mitchell is making the case for legalizing drugs," declared the Lumberton Robesonian. Gratuitous swipes at the pot people aside, the newspaper endorsed Mitchell's call for thinking outside the prison cell. The paper agreed that the drug war was a total failure, and while it said questions remained, it concluded: "It seems to us that a new approach to defeating the drug menace is needed, and if the former chief justice of the state -- no stranger to the courtroom -- believes legalizing drugs is worthy of conversation, then we don't disagree."

But the Greensboro News & Record did disagree. In its editorial the same day, "A War Worth Waging," the newspaper looked at the same questions about how it might work that the Robesonian did and found them too daunting. Saying that former Justice Mitchell was frustrated by setbacks in the drug war, the News & Record responded: "But surrender is the ultimate setback. If drugs are harmful to society now, toleration will only worsen the problem." Even so, the News & Record called for less imprisonment, more drug treatment.

The latest contribution to the media discussion provoked by Mitchell came Sunday, when Winston-Salem Journal columnist Scott Sexton gave general support to Mitchell, but draw a sharp distinction between decriminalization and legalization, coming down in the former camp. Anyone arguing for legalization "would have to be on drugs," because of what Sexton argued would be an increase in drug use. Still, there's decrim: "Is decriminalization the answer? Would it reduce the number of crimes committed to finance a drug habit? Would it keep people like from dying?" he asked. "It's worth a try. What we've tried so far doesn't seem to be working too well."

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4. Prohibition and Violence: California Dispensary/Grower Robberies Claim First Fatality

Like any other enterprise with cash and/or valuable commodities kept on the premises, California's medical marijuana grows and dispensaries have been the target of thieves and armed robbers. Now, the string of attacks on the medical pot people has claimed its first fatality, with the murder last Friday night of Laytonville dispensary operator Les Crane during a home invasion robbery.

Les Crane
Layton, 39, was shot five times in his bedroom when several intruders burst in, attacked two other people with baseball bats, and ransacked a large safe containing cash and marijuana. Crane's girlfriend, Jennifer Drewry, who was in a separate bedroom, suffered a broken arm, and a friend, Sean Dirlam, in a third bedroom, suffered facial injuries. While some of Crane's friends told local newspapers they think they know who did it, no arrests have yet been made in the case.

Crane was a member of that sub-set of Cannabis Nation that considers marijuana a holy sacrament. While his operation, Mendo Remedies, catered to hundreds of medical marijuana patients, he referred to it as a church, not a dispensary, and referred to himself as a reverend. Marijuana is "the tree of life," given to mankind by God for our benefit, Crane would say.

Crane, who arrived in the area only three years ago, put himself on the map by opening the Hemp Plus dispensary in Ukiah and locating Mendo Remedies right on the side of US Highway 101, while Laytonville itself lies largely off the highway. He was also a loud and forceful proponent of both medical marijuana and the herb's religious stature. And he was a generous giver to the community, founding, funding, and equipping a Laytonville youth center, as well as delivering about 600 turkeys to the needy just last week.

While the marijuana culture of Northern California has seen violence before, incidents around medical marijuana operations have been rare in the area, Mendocino County Sheriff Tony Craver told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. "I am totally surprised we haven't had more robberies and violent crimes associated with these things because of the amount of money involved and the value of the product," Craver said.

Crane was no stranger to Mendocino County authorities. At the time of his death, he was facing trial on marijuana cultivation charges after police arrested him in May and seized several thousand plants.

Back in the 1970s, Jamaican reggae artist Junior Murvin sang about "Police and Thieves" as the twin banes of society, "scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition." The police wanted to rob Les Crane of his freedom, and the thieves robbed him of his life.

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5. Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

This week we have more guilty pleas in the ongoing Arizona smuggling sting that wrapped up a bunch of cops, prison guards, and soldiers, another cash-hungry prison guard, and a Miami cop accused of selling information to drug traffickers. Let's get to it:

In Tucson, Arizona, five more people pleaded guilty November 17 to helping smuggle what they thought was cocaine from Mexican border to cities including Phoenix and Las Vegas. Arizona Army National Guard Private Benjamin De La Garza, 22, former Arizona Army National Guard Specialist Dustin Huyck, 25, former US Air Force Sergeant Bennie Perkins III, 28, US Marine Corps Sergeant Jared Wright, 28, and civilian Daryl Harris, 27, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to accept bribes from people they believed to be drug traffickers. The five face up to five years in federal prison. They join at least 26 others who have pleaded guilty in the sting.

In Miami, Miami Police Officer David Lee Donaldson is under investigation for selling confidential information to drug dealers after one convicted dealer told authorities Donaldson had been doing so for years, NBC6-TV reported. The convicted drug dealer approached police with his story in February, and then police wired up him for a meeting with Donaldson at the Miami's Flagler Dog Track. The dealer told him he needed two license plates run because someone had taken cocaine from him and owed him $30,000. The cooperative Donaldson reported back that he couldn't find the plates in question, but the dealer paid Donaldson $200 for his troubles, and that was enough for Miami Police to swoop. Donaldson now faces up to 15 years in prison on charges of unlawful compensation, otherwise known as bribery.

In Lake Nazareth Township, Pennsylvania, a Northampton County Prison jailer was arrested Saturday morning after allegedly selling cocaine to an undercover agent in a Wal-Mart parking lot, the Easton Express-Times reported. Kevin Murphy, 49, a 24-year veteran prison guard has been suspended without pay after being nailed selling a gram of cocaine to a member of the Northampton County Drug Task Force. The transaction was recorded, and Murphy was arrested leaving the parking lot. He is currently in jail charged with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use, and tampering with physical evidence. The latter charge came after Murphy tore up the three $20 bills used to buy the coke when he realized he had been set up.

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6. Law Enforcement: Austin Police Chief Fires Cop Who Killed Daniel Rocha

Austin Police Officer Julie Schroeder, the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Daniel Rocha in June, has been fired by Austin Police Chief Stan Knee. Another officer involved in the incident, Sgt. Don Doyle, has been suspended for 28 days. Rocha was shot and killed as Schroeder and Doyle attempted to arrest him for possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Daniel Rocha
from Progressive Austin
Although the killing -- the 14th of a minority by Austin police in the last seven years -- aroused loud and angry protests, an Austin grand jury refused to indict Schroeder in the killing. Similarly, an Austin Police Department internal affairs investigation found that Schroeder had not violated departmental policy on the use of force. But an Austin citizens review committee recommended that Schroeder be fired. The committee also recommended that Doyle be demoted, but Chief Knee did not follow that recommendation.

While police shootings have roiled relations with Austin's black and brown community, Schroeder's firing is the first of any officer for an on-duty shooting in years. The local police union, the Austin Police Association, responded by calling for the firing of Chief Knee.

Rocha was shot in the back and killed on a southeast Austin street after he and two others were stopped during a police drug operation. A struggle broke out, Schroeder lost control of her Taser and, fearing Rocha would turn the weapon on herself or Sgt. Doyle, she shot Rocha. But in firing Schroeder, Chief Knee made it clear that Schroeder's stated belief that she fired because she thought she and Doyle were in danger was not justified.

While Schroeder has been fired, that's not quite the end of it. She has the right to appeal the chief's decision, and the Austin Police Association is ready to support her. The union has called for the chief to be fired for his decision in Schroeder's case. Meanwhile, an FBI investigation into the killing remains open.

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7. Sentencing: Rhode Island Federal Judges Not Waiting for Congress to Fix Crack-Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparities

Legal experts report that last year's Supreme Court decision in the Booker and Fan Fan cases that made federal sentencing guidelines advisory instead of mandatory have not, for the most part, resulted in significant deviations from previous sentencing practices. But federal judges in Rhode Island are using those cases to effectively rewrite the infamous 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. In cases this fall, at least two US District Court judges there have challenged the validity of the 1986 law, arguing instead that a more appropriate ratio is 20:1 and sentencing defendants accordingly.

Under federal law, selling five grams of crack earns a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, but it takes selling 500 grams (more than a pound) of powder cocaine for the same penalties to kick in. While concern over the disparity has festered for years, the Booker and Fan Fan decisions have brought the issue to the fore once again.

According to a report this week in the Providence Journal, US District Court Judge William Smith rejected the 100:1 disparity in sentencing a Pawtucket man in September, saying he could not "blindly apply" guidelines that treat five grams of crack cocaine like 500 grams of powder. In that case, Joshua Perry was found guilty of selling more than five grams within 1,000 feet of a school. Because he had a previous drug felony, Perry was faced with at least a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. But while the sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of between 15 and 19 years, Judge Smith left Perry's sentence at the 10-year mandatory minimum.

Chief US District Judge Ernest Torres has substituted the same 20:1 ratio in a pair of similar cases. In one case, sentencing guidelines called for at least 235 months, but Torres sentenced the defendant to only 188 months. In a second case, the guidelines called for at least 87 months, but Torres sentenced the defendant to 64 months.

"The growing sentiment in the district courts is clear," Smith wrote in a 71-page sentencing memorandum in the Perry case. "The advisory guideline range for crack cocaine based on the 100-1 ratio cannot withstand the scrutiny imposed by sentencing courts when [sentencing goals] are applied."

Judge Smith's Perry sentencing memorandum is a clear challenge to the existing crack cocaine sentences. He noted that the US Sentencing Commission has urged Congress to redress the sentencing disparity for more than a decade, and cited the commission's findings that that crack penalties "sweep too broadly and apply too frequently to low-level offenders" and that the 100:1 ration "overstates the seriousness of most crack offenses."

"Finally, the commission found that the current penalty structure disparately impacts minorities," Smith wrote. "While the commission conceded that it is difficult to empirically study this issue, approximately 85 percent of the offenders sentenced for crack cocaine violations are black (in the year 2000) and that this leads to, at the very least, a perception that the crack/powder disparity is racially motivated." The commission's conclusions "are supported by an overwhelming amount of authority -- empirical, scholarly and otherwise," Smith wrote. "In fact, it is virtually impossible to find any authority suggesting a principled basis for the current disparity in sentences."

Unsurprisingly, federal prosecutors in Rhode Island are not pleased. They have appealed Smith's sentence in the Perry case, as well as Torres' decisions in the two cases mentioned above. While US Attorney Clark Corrente's office has yet to file briefs in the Perry case, earlier this month Assistant US Attorney Donald Lockhart filed a 50-page brief in the Torres cases that included a section called "Why Perry was wrongly decided."

"First, the bulk of the Perry decision is devoted to a policy discussion," prosecutors wrote. Policy matters should be handled by Congress, they argued. The issue is whether judges can "adopt their own across-the-board rules regarding the appropriate crack/powder sentencing ratio, when such rules override Congress' judgment on how severely crack offenses should be punished, and when the proliferation of varying ratios threatens to yield wildly disparate sentences as judges institute their own preferred schemes."

The Supreme Court threw a bomb into the federal sentencing structure when it decided Booker and Fan Fan in January. It may well have to clean up the resulting mess before too long.

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8. Sentencing: Indiana Judge Compares Meth Cook to a Terrorist, Gives Him 30 Years

The first man convicted of running a home meth lab in Indiana's Delaware County (Muncie) has been sentenced to 30 years in prison by a judge who compared him to a terrorist. Kevin Burgess, 30, pleaded guilty this fall to manufacturing meth, a felony carrying a possible 50-year sentence, but 30 years was the maximum allowable under his plea agreement. And that's what he got from a judge determined "to send a message."

Circuit Court 4 Judge John Feick told Burgess during a sentencing hearing last week that he would get the maximum possible sentence because he posed such a threat to the community. Had his meth lab exploded, the judge said, Burgess could have killed police, firefighters, and his own three-year-old son, who lived in the house above the lab. In fact, the lab did not explode and no one was injured.

"When you manufacture this, you are almost a terrorist," Feick told Burgess.

Local prosecutors were happy with the sentence. "It set the tone for what we're going to tolerate," Deputy Prosecutor Diane Frye told the Muncie Star Press. "We want to make a statement that we don't want people cooking up meth."

Indiana reported some 670 meth labs busted last year, three of them in Delaware County.

A judge calling a drug offender a terrorist is bad enough, but at least Burgess wasn't actually charged with terrorism for cooking meth. That's what happened to 10 defendants in North Carolina in 2003 when an overzealous local prosecutor described their labs as "weapons of mass destruction" and attempted to charge them under state terrorism statutes. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed, the prosecutor was overruled, and the charges were dropped a few weeks later.

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9. Medical Marijuana: Arkansas, Wisconsin Legislatures Hold Hearings

In two states where efforts to legalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons have yet to bear fruit, legislators held hearings on the topic recently. In Madison, Wisconsin, Tuesday, Rep. Greg Underheim (R) held hearings on a bill he is sponsoring. And five days earlier, Arkansas Rep. Lindsley Smith (D) held a presentation on medical marijuana for legislators in Little Rock. Smith told the Arkansas News Bureau she is considering filing a bill for the 2007 session.

Smith has suggested a medical marijuana bill that would include a registration program allowing terminally ill people to use, grow, and distribute marijuana for medical use, but some witnesses were leery of registering patients. California physician Dr. Phillip Denney, who has recommended marijuana for patients there, told the panel a registration program could lead to harassment and possible arrest of patients and providers.

Little Rock brain cancer patient Debbie Carter testified that she used marijuana while receiving chemotherapy. "It makes me feel good and it makes me eat a little bit. How can that be wrong?" she asked.

Several lawmakers expressed concern that marijuana is illegal under federal law, but Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research attorney Mike Feehan explained that the Supreme Court did not invalidate California's medical marijuana law; it only found that federal law superseded state law. The court did not throw out California's medical marijuana law, Feehan explained. While patients in states with medical marijuana laws could be arrested by federal agents, that was unlikely given that state and local police are responsible for 95% of all arrests.

In Wisconsin, the Tuesday hearing was related to a bill already filed, Rep. Underheim's AB740, which would bar the arrest and prosecution of qualified medical marijuana patients and would provide for a medical necessity defense in the case of arrest. The bill also provides for the creation of a registry of patients whose doctors have recommended marijuana for the treatment of debilitating medical conditions.

Among the witnesses the Wisconsin legislators were scheduled to hear was Irv Rosenfeld, the Florida stock broker who has smoked medical marijuana for the past 23 years under a federal government compassionate use program.

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10. Latin America: Colombia to Suspend Aerial Fumigation Along Border With Ecuador

The government of Colombia announced November 17 it would suspend the aerial spraying of herbicides designed to kill coca and opium crops along its southern border with Ecuador. Colombian officials said they were taking the action at Ecuador's request.

aerial fumigation in Antioquia province
from, by Javier Casella, Defense Ministry
"Paying attention to the request of the Ecuadorian government, of a friendly brother country like Ecuador, the Colombian government has decided to review this program and to suspend it beginning next January," said Colombian Vice-Chancellor Camilo Reyes during a meeting in Quito, the Ecuadorian capital, with his Ecuadorian counterpart, Diego Ribadeneira. But the respite could be temporary, Reyes warned. "I cannot define the duration because this is a complex problem that implies an enormous effort on the part of the Colombian government to confront the drug trade," he said in remarks reported by the Spanish news agency EFE.

According to Ribadeneira, instead of spraying along the border, Colombia will apply "a scheme of manual eradication of illicit crops." To ensure proper support for the new program, said Ribadeneira, "the Colombian government has increased financial and human resources through a larger police presence and the creation of new eradication teams in the border zone."

Like Colombian peasants, who have seen the aerial spraying of herbicides like glyphosate spread over hundreds of thousands of acres a year, Ecuadorians have complained the spraying has had negative effects on human, animals, and plants. While the Colombian government has denied any such effects, it has now yielded to Ecuadorian demands that it stop spraying in a zone extending 10 kilometers (6.25 miles) north of the common border.

The move was welcomed by drug reformers in the US, who hope it signals the eventual end of spraying across Colombia. "Colombia's aerial eradication campaign is a particularly egregious case of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, who recently returned from Colombia. "One can only hope that the temporary halt will soon become permanent, saving Colombian citizens even more grief from the disastrous Plan Colombia."

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11. Web Scan: EMCDDA, Cato on Mexico, Jews and Medical Marijuana

EMCDDA 2005 annual report on "the state of the drugs problem in Europe"

"Mexico is Becoming the Next Colombia," policy briefing from the Cato Institute

"Jews Lead the Charge for Medical Marijuana," by Joe Eskenazi for the Jewish News Weekly

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12. Job Opportunity: Operations and Technology Coordinator, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, DC Area

The Interfaith Drug Policy initiative, a small, fast-growing nonprofit, seeks a mission-driven office operations and technology coordinator to build and implement a technological and operational infrastructure so the organization can thrive through the challenges of expansion.

The office operations and technology coordinator will create, manage, and implement all aspects of the organization's work that involve technology, layout and design, and assist with work involving membership, administration and human resources; and will work with the associate director and the executive director to create a strong backbone to support the organization's proactive programmatic work. Duties and responsibilities will include:

Technology: Make decisions on anything technology related (e.g., buying and maintaining equipment and software, outsourcing technology needs when necessary, etc.); solve technological problems, including software, hardware, and internet glitches; help staff learn new and old software; maintain and expand the web page; lay out news releases, brochures, mailings, etc.

Membership: Lead the search process for new database software; process donations; enter data and manage the database and listserves; send thank-you letters, renewal mailings, etc.; keep track of list rentals and list performance.

Administration: Answer phones and process mail; assist staff with coordinating volunteers, making follow-up calls to grassroots organizers, photocopying and mailing information to our organizers and other allies, and faxing news releases; order supplies and products; handle the organization's relationships with vendors; lead the search effort for new office space; keep up-to-date digital and hard copies of our commonly used documents; do event and travel planning for meetings, news conferences, etc.; help set up a health insurance program and retirement plan for employees; manage the organization's relationships with part-time staff and consultants; coordinate with accountant and treasurer on the day-to-day financial activities.

The successful candidate will excel at: comprehending and following verbal and written instructions; multi-tasking; understanding both Mac and PC technology and being able to patiently help the staff with it; managing volunteers and part-time staff; personal organization and time management; and maintaining an amicable presence in working conditions that are often frantic and/or frustrating. She/he must be results-oriented, meticulous, resourceful, motivated, and excellent at giving and receiving feedback. He/she must be nearly flawless at data entry.

The Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative is leading the drug policy reform movement's efforts to mobilize mainstream people of faith behind more compassionate and less coercive drug policies. IDPI works with clergy and denominational bodies from across the religious spectrum at both the state and federal levels to affect policy changes including: repealing mandatory minimum drug sentences, supporting clean syringe access for IV drug users, allowing the medical use of marijuana, restoring college financial aid to drug offenders, diverting drug offenders into treatment instead of prison, and ending marijuana prohibition.

IDPI's office is currently just outside Washington, DC near the Glenmont Metro station in Silver Spring, MD. The office will be moving to a location somewhere between the Silver Spring Metro and the Glenmont Metro.

Application deadline is December 8, 2005, starting date is January 4, 2006; salary $30,000 to $36,000, commensurate with skills and experience, will grow with expansion of organization. Send cover letter and resume by e-mail or fax to [email protected] or (301) 933-7682. Visit or call (301) 933-7681 for further information.

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13. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 for further information.

December 2, Sacramento, CA, protest outside of California State's Secretary of Prisons office, contact Carol Leonard or B. Cayenne Bird at [email protected] or visit for information.

December 3, 8:00pm-2:00am, San Francisco, CA, Savoir Faire, fundraising party with the "Hotties of Harm Reduction," benefiting the Points of Distribution, NEED and SF/NE needle exchange programs. Admission $10-$25, no one turned away for lack of funds, those giving $25 receive the "Hotties of Harm Reduction 2006" calendar. At 672 South Van Ness (near 17th), contact [email protected] for 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 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 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 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 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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