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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #414 -- 12/9/05

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


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"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Table of Contents

    more than marijuana reform is happening in Vancouver...
    2005 has been quite a year at DRCNet. In 2006 DRCNet will be able to advance the cause in a broader way and at a greater level than ever before -- but only with your help.
    The "Pot Block" is quieter these days since Marc Emery was indicted, and hard drug users a few blocks over are facing a police crackdown against public injecting. But Vancouver continues to lead Canada toward a post-prohibition future.
    The second and final day of Seattle's "Exit Strategy for the War on Drugs" conference saw dozens of reformers, academics and others confront a series of questions about how two drugs -- marijuana and methamphetamine -- should be regulated in a post-prohibition era.
    A coalition of professional and civic groups in Seattle are resuming their campaign to pass potentially paradigm-breaking legislation.
    This week, we turn our attention from the mundane corruption of dope-dealing prison guards and dope-stealing bad cops to the systemic corruption created by the reliance on informants in drug cases.
    Since Denver voters passed I-100 last month, officials police have ignored the will of the voters to prosecute at least 12 adults for simple marijuana possession. Now one of them is fighting back -- in court.
    A trio of physicians lauded by patient advocates but accused of drug distribution and money laundering by the government have lost their appeal. But a recent Supreme Court ruling has given them a new chance at sentencing.
    Federal prosecutors handed defense attorneys evidence of official misconduct as the resentencing neared of a celebrated medical marijuana provider who had served two years of a 10-year sentence.
    The San Diego County board of supervisors voted Tuesday to try to overturn California's Compassionate Use Act, which allows seriously ill people to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.
    A 79-year-old Brazilian woman with terminal cancer who weighs 88 pounds has been sentenced to four years in prison, sparking an international campaign to set her free.
    A Melbourne-based harm reduction organization that has been testing ecstasy tablets at raves is getting unwelcome attention from its state and federal governments.
    The Czech Republic's lower house last week approved a penal code revision that will decriminalize simple marijuana possession and allow for growing for personal use. It is likely to become law.
    Canadian Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper is hoping talking tough on drugs will win his party votes in next month's national elections.
    Dutch parliamentarians have reached an agreement on the details of a pilot program for a regulated supply of marijuana for the nation's famous "coffee shops" -- and warned the government it must act this week or they'll take further action.
  15. WEB SCAN
    After I-75 in Seattle, re-launched web site from Bolivia's coca country
    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. Update and Appeal: DRCNet in 2006

During the last year, nearly 1.5 million people have been arrested in the United States for drug offenses, and the number imprisoned here for drug offenses at latest count reached 530,000, both all-time high numbers. This is just one of the reasons our nation urgently needs to stop its ill-conceived “drug war.”

Ending the drug war is a reason I hope you will support our organization as we head into 2006. Many people don't realize just how important small- or mid-sized individual donations are at DRCNet – they make up a fourth of our total budget and half of our grassroots lobbying budget. That’s a lot of work that can get done or not get done, depending on how steadily and how generously people like you support us. Would you be willing to donate to DRCNet for our work in 2006 right now? Our web site for credit card donations is – mail-in information appears below as well.

David Borden and US Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
at our June 1 Seattle Perry Fund event
2005 has been quite a year at DRCNet, and with your help 2006 can be even more of one – we are poised to build on our steady work of the past 12 years in a way that will propel DRCNet’s impact in new and ever more significant directions – in 2006 we will use the achievements we’ve had in both our educational and lobbying programs as a platform for advancing the cause in a broader way and at a greater level.

First, some 2005 highlights:

  • A year of gaining access: Nine members of Congress and two celebrities spoke for events organized by DRCNet in 2005.
  • A year of affecting federal legislation: Pending likely changes to the Higher Education Act drug provision that may go further this year than anyone thought was possible.
  • A year in which DRCNet has been read: Roughly two million people will have visited DRCNet web sites this year by the end of it.
  • A year in which we’ve been in the media – such as an August article in The Washington Post, where David Borden was quoted criticizing the drug provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA); a July article and editorial in the St. Petersburg Times also quoting Borden, as a vote on the drug provision approached in a House committee; a December Boston Globe article (well, this one late last year, but it’s good) about our 12/9 Perry Fund reception featuring Rep. Barney Frank.
  • A year of cutting-edge journalism – such as Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith’s two-week stint in Afghanistan reporting on the impact of opium eradication and prohibition on the war-torn nation. With a month to go, the Chronicle has seen 44 issues so far this year, including more than 700 articles.
Now for 2006:

Drug War Chronicle's Phil Smith interviews former opium-
growing villagers in the countryside outside Jalalabad
On the educational side: You are probably aware that DRCNet is known for producing the most extensive, journalistic, in-depth publication on drug policy in the world, the aforementioned, acclaimed Drug War Chronicle newsletter. Numerous advocates around the world have told us how important this weekly report is to their work. (If you’re not getting Drug War Chronicle, I hope you’ll check it out – visit our web site to read the current issue or sign up for Drug War Chronicle e-mails.) Drug War Chronicle will continue, but that is not all we will be doing. In 2006 we will launch the “Stop the Drug War Speakeasy,” a concerted intellectual assault by anti-prohibitionists on the sphere of media, opinion leaders and communities involved with discourse on social issues. The way to do this in 2006 is via the blogosphere (with accompanying publishing and letter-writing), and the potential for affecting the public debate is greater than ever before. DRCNet’s status as the only full-purpose national membership and lobbying group that formally takes a broad, outright anti-prohibitionist stance, and our in-depth, original reporting via the Chronicle, places us in a unique position for doing this. With your support it will happen in a big way and the case for legalization will be taken to the media where it needs to happen.

On the lobbying side: As you probably know, the bulk of our legislative advocacy at DRCNet has been the spearheading of the campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, a law that has stripped over 175,000 would-be students of the college aid eligibility since going into effect 5 1/2 years ago. We have devoted as much of our resources to this campaign as we have because it is the only drug law that the US Congress in the current political climate is willing to scale back, because it is the drug law that has the singular most amount of support in Congress for repealing, and because it is a phenomenal issue for purposes of reaching out to mainstream organizations and beginning the process of getting them involved in drug policy reform. The Senate and the House of Representatives are currently considering different versions of partial reforms to the law, and soon a “conference committee” consisting of members of both chambers will pick one or the other or some combination of both. While the outcome this year will not be all that we want – we want the law repealed – it is still a victory, and an historic event – rollbacks of drug laws by Congress are few and far between.

The Washington Post, August 15, 2005, reporting on the HEA drug provision:
“Going to school is their way of getting back on track,” said David Borden, executive director of the Drug Reform Coordination Network, an advocacy group. “This is a second punishment that can [interfere] with the process of recovery.”
“The government has done nothing to publicize it, other than include it on the financial aid form, but that's often too late,” Borden said. “And no one thinks they're going to get caught.”

A key component of our strategy that has helped accomplish this has been the building of a national coalition of organizations, the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, or CHEAR. Over 250 organizations to date have now called for repeal of the drug provision, at least 200 of them due to DRCNet’s outreach efforts. We believe that many of these groups will also be willing to speak up on other issues affected by the drug war, and next year we want to begin the process of bringing them further in. We will probably start with similar “drug provisions” such as those affecting eligibility for welfare or for public housing, but we will also look at what we can do to help medical marijuana, or sentencing, or relieving the undertreatment of chronic pain, etc. By continuing this work, and by broadening it to more issues, we envision building a national network of literally thousands of organizations, some of which will go further or do more than others, but all helping us chip away at one or more pieces of the drug war. Coalition building is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to change policy; we have made a great start of it, and with your help will do this in a bigger way than has ever before been done in this cause.

Though we are eager to see our advocacy branch out into more drug war issues, we also believe it is important to continue what we’ve started and that the financial aid issue has much more potential for building bridges and helping people now. Through this route, DRCNet will also expand in a significant way into the arena of state legislation and policy reform. It came to our attention over the last year that while most state legislatures have never voted to deny financial aid benefits to people with drug convictions, most such people are losing their state aid as well due to the intertwined nature of how federal and state financial aid systems work. One or two weeks from now DRCNet will release (again under the auspices of CHEAR) our first report, detailing the impact of this issue at the state financial aid level. State legislators have told us this will be the most important thing for enabling them to fix this problem. If we can’t repeal the drug provision in Congress this year, maybe next year we can gut or reduce its impact by getting people aid back at the state level. And in doing so, we will forge relationships with state politicians and organizers, some of whom will be willing to do more to stop the drug war in the future; and we will build the expertise needed to help them do it.

And a program that blends education with advocacy: our National Perry Fund Campaign, a series of events in different cities that raise funds for our scholarship program assisting students who have lost their financial aid because of drug convictions. In addition to being a charity, the Perry Fund is also an awareness campaign – it has been covered by BET, the Associated Press and the Boston Globe, among other outlets – and it is a way of establishing contact with a class of people who have been hurt by the drug war – hundreds of people who've lost their financial aid because of a drug conviction have registered with the Perry Fund through our "pre-application" form. The ACLU recently announced that it is seeking people affected by the drug provision for a pending national class action lawsuit – the Perry Fund database is the “big list” for finding such people, and we are calling it to find them plaintiffs. Also, because a scholarship fund is “respectable,” we have been able to bring political officials out in ways they had not done before. For example, our Seattle Perry Fund reception last June featured US Rep. Jim McDermott in his first public showing of support for ending the drug war. The Perry Fund campaign will continue at some level in 2006.

On a budget of a few hundred thousand dollars a year to get all this done, DRCNet is a bargain. But unless you step up to the plate it won’t happen – we can’t do this with grants alone. So please consider making a generous donation today, or by the end of the year. Again, our web site for credit card donations is – consider signing up to donate monthly – or donate by check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.

Thank you for your support. I hope to hear from you soon – please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments, and take care.


David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

P.S. The sooner we receive your donation, the sooner we can move forward on all these plans. Please donate today if you can!

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2. Feature: Vancouver Keeps Leading the Way on Drug Reform, Despite Bumps in the Road

Downtown Vancouver's famous Pot Block is a bit quieter these days with "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery's operations greatly reduced since his indictment on marijuana trafficking charges in the United States for selling seeds, and the glory days of brazen, media-grabbing retail pot sales at Da Kine Café on Commercial Drive are more than a year past. But the city's marijuana industry and the culture that supports it remain vibrant, if a touch more low profile, and now the city is pushing Ottawa to legalize the weed.


Vancouver's "Pot Block"

A few blocks east of the Pot Block, the corner of Main and Hastings remains the epicenter of Vancouver's hard drug scene, with an estimated 5,000 drug injectors sharing the 10-block Downtown Eastside with thousands more crack and powder cocaine users, alcoholics, and physically and mentally disabled who fill the dingy apartments and single-room-occupancy hotels of the gritty, skid row-style neighborhood.

As part of Vancouver's progressive Four Pillars approach to drug policy -- prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and law enforcement -- the Downtown Eastside is home to Insite, the first officially-approved safe injection site in North America, now in its third and final year as a pilot project. But people are still shooting up on the sidewalks and in the alleys, and the Vancouver Police Department last week announced a crackdown on public injectors -- law enforcement, after all, is one of the Four Pillars.

But the city is pushing the federal government toward moving beyond prohibition with the hard drugs of the Downtown Eastside as well. Early last month, the city released a 98-page report, "Preventing Harm from Psychoactive Substance Use," whose two recommendations on public policy changes keep the city on the cutting edge of drug reform worldwide.

The city's formal position on marijuana is now that the federal government should "create a legal regulatory framework for cannabis." Regarding all illegal drugs, the city's position is now that prohibition policies should be reviewed to examine their effectiveness and the federal government should "consider regulatory alternatives to the current policy of prohibition for currently illegal drugs." In other words, Vancouver is ready to legalize it -- all of it -- and is telling the federal government to get to it.

"We're really just trying to get this on the table. It's a discussion politicians don't want to have,” said Vancouver Drug Policy Coordinator Don McPherson. "When the council approved the strategy, it recommended that the mayor write to the prime minister and seek a meeting to discuss the issue. We've already succeeded with the local politicians; now we have to get the higher-level politicians to act," he told DRCNet.

"In every other field of endeavor, you're encouraged to think outide the box, but not with drugs,” McPherson continued. "We're under no illusions, but we are developing a national drug strategy in Canada and we want this to be part of the discussion."

Just two weeks earlier, the British Columbia Health Officers Council, representing public health officials from across the province, released its own highly-detailed report, "A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada," calling for a move away from drug prohibition. "Current conditions are right to enter into serious public discussions regarding the creation of a regulatory system for currently illegal drugs in Canada, with better control and reduced harms to be achieved by management in a tightly controlled system," the health officers wrote. "The removal of criminal penalties for drug possession for personal use, and placement of these currently illegal substances in a tight regulatory framework, could both aid implementation of programs to assist those engaged in harmful drug use, and reduce secondary unintended drug-related harms to society that spring from a failed criminal-prohibition approach. This would move individual harmful illegal drug use from being primarily a criminal issue to being primarily a health issue."

With momentum for replacing prohibition growing, Vancouver East Member of Parliament Libby Davies, long a drug reform champion, is now ready to take the message to parliament. Or at least she was until the Liberal federal government fell in a no confidence vote and elections were called for next month. "We had been working with the BC health groups and people like Creative Resistance and actually had a draft motion for people to look at," Davies campaign communications director Leanne Holt told DRCNet. "But for the next few weeks, it's going to be on the back burner."

"Libby wants to use the Health Officers Council paper to introduce both a motion and a bill calling on parliament to look at regulation," said Vancouver Coastal Health Authority Addiction Services clinical supervisor Mark Haden. "She says it pays to be repetitive."

But gaining ground in Ottawa means continuing to build a reform base in Vancouver, said Haden, who helped work on the city's prevention report. "A larger public education process is needed," he told DRCNet. "How do you engage the public to look at the issue? The prevention strategy was a discussion document, and we need to keep it alive in the public eye."

In the meantime, drug injecting in the Downtown Eastside is back in the public eye, as Vancouver Police announced their crackdown. Citing community complaints, Inspector Bob Rolls, District Commander of the Northeast section of Vancouver, said the department would begin arresting people shooting up in public and charging them with drug possession.

"We have very carefully set up our strategy for this initiative. We have met with our partners, such as VANDU and the Safe Injection Site. Our officers have been spreading the word among the drug users they encounter, warning them this is coming and to start using the Safe Injection Site."

The police may have met with VANDU, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, but that doesn't mean it has the group's agreement. "The crackdown is not helpful," said VANDU leader Ann Livingston. "They think they're helping people by forcing them to go to Insite, but Insite doesn't have an inhalation room, the nurses there can't help people inject, and it's already operating at capacity anyway. We need a network of sites, four or five of them, four or five blocks apart in the Downtown Eastside. There is a very intense need in this neighborhood, and with some 5,000 addicts injecting, say, three times a day, Insite can handle only about 5% of injections."

While Insite can point with pride to its accomplishments -- with an average of around 600 injections a day, published research shows it has reduced both needle-sharing among high-risk users and public shooting up and injection debris, and it has intervened in more than 300 overdoses, losing not a single life -- it recognizes its limits. "It's not realistic to think this one modest site could provide support for every injection drug user and every injection in the neighborhood every day," said Chris Buchner, HIV/AIDS Services Manger for Vancouver Coastal Health. "The next logical step would be to extend these services as widely as we can for people who might need them."

But that's not likely to happen until Insite's initial three-year trial is over next September, Buchner said. "We need to let the full pilot period run its course. While we've learned some specific things about what an intervention like this can offer in reducing HIV risk behavior, we still lack rigorous data on overdose prevention and on the actual impact on the HIV incidence rate," he explained. "We know we intervene in about 200 ODs every year, but we haven't yet quantified how many deaths we've prevented. And while we know we have modified HIV risk behavior, we don't actually know yet if people who use Insite have a lower incidence than those who don't. These are key goals, and our research team is working hard to get the data."

As for the police crackdown on public injecting around the site, Buchner was pragmatic. "The police support us from the highest levels on down, but they have a very specific culture, and all this talk about disease, health, and addiction is a stretch for them," he said. "But we can't be aggressive and adversarial, we need to be understanding and look at this as a learning opportunity."

"I was disappointed with the crackdown, but pleased with the language they used," said Haden. "When they announced it, it was all about support for the safe injection site, 'We're going to make people go to the safe injection site,'" he said.

In the de facto division of labor on the Downtown Eastside, that leaves VANDU to make a stink, and it has. The group has held two protests, one in front of Insite and one in front of police headquarters on World Aids Day. VANDU has a slightly different take on the police. "The police union has never supported the safe injection site, and now the police are testing the water, seeing if anyone will say anything if they violate these agreements they made. It's really trying," said Livingston.

"The public thinks this has been dealt with. They think we have safe injection sites now, but we don't -- we have one site that's not big enough to impact the health of addicts or the community by reducing public drug use. In that sense, at least, the loudly announced crackdown is a good thing because it is getting the public's attention. The people of Vancouver support safe injection sites, and they need to know we don't have enough of them."

And so it goes. While Vancouver is moving forward not only on Four Pillars but also on agitating for an end to the current drug prohibition regime, the nitty-gritty of crafting an enlightened policy in the twilight of prohibition continues.

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3. Feature: Seattle Conference on Drug War Exit Strategies Gets Down to Nuts and Bolts

Last Friday, on the second and final day of the "Exit Strategy for the War on Drugs: Towards a New Legal Framework" conference organized by the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project, dozens of drug reform leaders, academic specialists, and activists engaged in a rather unusual exercise. Led by Vancouver Coastal Health Authority addiction services clinical supervisor Mark Haden, who has been pondering such issues in the context of Vancouver's living experiment with cutting-edge drug policy reform, the group confronted a series of dozens of questions about how two drugs -- marijuana and methamphetamine -- should be regulated in a post-prohibition era.


KCBA's Roger Goodman emceeing the
Seattle Perry Fund event, 6/1/05

Should marijuana be sold over the counter? Should meth? Should there be restrictions on the hours of sale? Should the sales outlets be licensed? Should they be run by the state? Should there be limits on the quantities that can be purchased? Should medical approval be required? Should marijuana smokers be licensed? Meth users? Should information on health risks of the drug be posted at the site? Should there be restrictions on packaging of the drug?

And on and on. The group voted on each question with a show of hands, with Haden tallying the vote and assigning number values from one to five to signal the degree of agreement with the question. While Haden did not reveal the results of his informal survey, it was not the results as much as the exercise itself that was remarkable. On the second day of this groundbreaking get-together, participants had finally moved beyond the recitation of the familiar litany of drug war failures and harms and were beginning to confront the intricacies of what comes after prohibition.

And for a bunch of people presumably on the same side of the issue, the exercise showed a remarkable divergence of opinion about just how a post-prohibition regulatory model might work, with clear libertarian free market and public health models emerging. (One point of rough consensus came over UCLA scholar Mark Kleiman's pragmatic and provocative proposals for licensing of drug users. That went over with a fairly resounding thud, as it always seems to with the drug reform crowd.) It was an exercise designed to get people to think about regulation, and the fact that consensus was elusive is less important than the fact that reformers were finally looking at what comes next.

"We're not here to talk about what's wrong with the war on drugs," said KCBA Drug Policy Project director Roger Goodman. "We are talking about where to go from here."

The KCBA Drug Policy Project has some ideas about that. The group has spent the last few years bringing together the state's professional organizations behind a proposal -- now manifest in the form of legislation that will be reintroduced when the session begins in January -- for the state to examine alternatives to prohibition. That proposal is supported by a massive KCBA study, "Effective Drug Control: Toward a New Legal Framework" released earlier this year. While aimed at Washington state, the KCBA model is applicable elsewhere, and with this conference the organization is making clear its goals extend far beyond the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks to Efficacy's Cliff Thornton and Deborah Small of Breaking the Chains, two of the few black faces visible at the conference, the ugly issues of race, class, and the drug war were not ignored. "I am amazed that for three generations we have allowed a disparate administration of justice without an outcry," said Small. "At every single stage of the system, we have outcomes that favor whites at the expense of people of color. If we were talking about anything other than drugs, people would say hold on! By creating a system where anyone who has the money and the ability to play it out can escape, we show that we're not fighting a war on drugs, but a war on poor and vulnerable people."

Such issues are at play within communities of color as well, Small said. "Most minority communities believe drugs are bad, and the immorality of drug use is reinforced by the churches. The notion that people have a right to consume drugs flies in the face of the communal traditions in communities of color -- we don't believe it's all about you. While you do see a backlash to over-policing, that doesn't mean the community is eager to take the leap to no control at all. There is a fear among people of color that if you had regulated, controlled drug markets, that would lead to more use."

Class plays a key role, too, Small argued, even with the black community. "The use of drugs is associated with the lower classes," she said. "If you can pretend it's mainly those people in the projects, you can ignore the degree to which it is going on in your own house. It may not be crack or meth; instead, it's martinis or Paxil. To ignore the class aspect of the drug war is to ignore reality."

Small wasn't done yet. Drug policy doesn't exist in a social and political vacuum, she argued, and for would-be drug reformers to ignore the context is a grave error. "There is a strong sense that the regulation of alcohol and tobacco haven't worked because we live in a capitalist society where the bottom line is the bottom line," she pointed out. "If we don't have an approach that considers these economic issues, if we are not going to address the fact that the drug war has really hurt our communities, we are going nowhere. It really troubles me to think we are engaged in this policy debate without attaching it to the broader political, economic, and social problems we have to address in this country. Are the people in this room the ones who should be here? And who else should be here?" Small challenged her mainly white, mainly middle-class peers.

Efficacy's Thornton spoke of the need for "reparations" for communities of color devastated by the drug war. "We have got to acknowledge and repair the damage done," he said. Not only has drug prohibition wreaked havoc with minority communities, Thornton added, but regulation threatens to remove one of the few income-generating activities available in the nation's de-industrialized, low-opportunity inner cities. If we fail acknowledge and address that fact, he said, social injustice will only be perpetuated.

But "reparations" may not be the best word. "When people hear that, they automatically think we just want money," Small said. "But what we are really talking about is restorative justice, fixing the havoc we have wreaked on these communities."

A crucial obstacle to ending drug prohibition is the opposition of the law enforcement establishment, and the conference confronted the problem of police and prosecutors head on. "How do you shift the mindset of police officers?" asked Seattle Police Sgt. Robert Benson. "They're generally a pretty conservative lot, and they are going to have to shift their thinking 180 degrees from seeing drug users as criminals to seeing them as victims. A more appealing way of reaching out to police may be to talk about the fiscal benefits of shifting the war on drugs into a treatment model."

"You can't just talk about recreational drug use," said Dan Satterberg, chief of staff to King County's prosecutor. "We are focused on heroin and cocaine and meth, and we believe these drugs create victims among their users and a lot of trauma in the communities where they live. We believe treatment works," Satterberg said, as he explained how Washington has moved from imprisonment to the drug court model and on to more recent sentencing reforms. There is a role for law enforcement, he maintained. "We can try to use the criminal justice system as an effective intervention point," he said.

Drug law reform will require that law enforcement get on board at some point, and former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper made a hometown appearance. "Many police agencies have developed their own addiction to the revenue stream from asset forfeiture," he told a Thursday news conference. "I went to federal drug conferences a decade ago, and we were told out front that the topic of ending prohibition would not be broached. Period. That mentality still exists today. It is utterly un-American and undemocratic, but it characterizes the federal government's response to growing concerns that the war on drugs just doesn't work. It doesn't, and we need more law enforcement executives to be honest about that."

Stamper is working on precisely that through his association with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the rapidly growing group of police officers and prosecutors who have broken ranks with the drug war. But in a sign of how tight the public police drug war consensus remains, LEAP is almost entirely retired police officers. There is much work to be done on that front, Stamper conceded.

By the time the conference came to an end Friday afternoon, it was clear that no consensus for a single post-prohibition reform model had been reached. Free marketers faced off against public health proponents and the medical model. And perhaps for a topic as all-encompassing as US drug policy, that is to be expected. But it was also clear that the American drug reform movement -- along with its allies in Europe and Canada -- has reached a consensus that the work of delineating the myriad failures of drug prohibition has been done. While the failures of prohibition will still have to reiterated repeatedly, it is now time to move forward and begin to end the drug war.

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4. Feature: Washington Legislature to Consider Bill to Examine Alternatives to Prohibition

A coalition of professional and civic groups led by the King County Bar Association and its Drug Policy Project are planning to resume their campaign for a potentially paradigm-breaking bill directing the state of Washington to create a high-profile commission to study alternatives to drug prohibition. First introduced last year by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Adam Kline, SB6055, will be reintroduced for the legislature's 2006 short session next month.

Sen. Adam Kline, past and likely
continuing sponsor of
KCBA's legislation
The bill would create a "governor's commission on psychoactive substance control [to] provide specific recommendations for legislation to establish regulatory systems and structures for the state of Washington to control psychoactive substances that are currently produced and distributed exclusively through illegal markets, including:

(a) Regulation of manufacturing, transportation, storage, purity, and product safety;

(b) Limitations on sale and other transfer, labeling, pricing, and taxation;

(c) Requirements of medical supervision; and

(d) Limits on advertising."

The 24-member commission would include representatives from the Washington state addiction programs, pharmacy, psychiatric, psychological, and public health associations, the Washington Academy of Family Physicians, the state PTA, the state boards of health and pharmacy, and four members of the legislature. Law enforcement would get only three seats (the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, and the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys), while the state associations of cities, counties, and business also get representation. The last two seats would be filled by representatives of the Washington Defender Association and the state bar association.

The bill is currently being tweaked to try to satisfy grumblings from prosecutors, said KCBA Drug Policy Director Roger Goodman. "I just got out of a meeting about setting up a meeting with legislators and other stakeholders so we can sit down and figure this out," he told DRCNet. "Prosecutors have had a sort of knee-jerk response that we've already decided to legalize drugs, but what we're asking for is the creation of a commission to look at regulatory alternatives," he said.

"There is language in the bill about rendering illegal markets unprofitable, and that's been a problem for them," he said without a hint of irony. "We're willing to talk about the language," Goodman continued. "We don't want to try to give too much direction; we just want to get people around the table and then we have an idea where it will go."

That's because Goodman and the KCBA have been laying the groundwork for the past five years. KCBA's Drug Policy Project issued a major report on the failures of prohibition and alternatives to it in 2001 and a comprehensive new report hitting the same theme this year. The group has also carefully crafted a network of "grasstops," or major players and opinion leaders, including most of the state's health professional associations, and the Seattle League of Women Voters. This year, the Washington State Bar Association and the Washington State Medical Association both passed a KCBA resolution calling on the state to create the commission on alternatives to prohibition.

"This is an important new development," said Goodman. "With the state bar and medical associations endorsing the resolution, we have something we didn't have last year: Now we have their lobbyists. We've finally got doctors and lawyers going to Olympia together on this, and that should help."

Goodman was guardedly optimistic the bill would make progress, but remained doubtful of passage next year. "It is a short session next year, mainly supplemental budget requests, so I'm not sure we can push it through, but we are continuing to look for cosponsors and we are reaching across the aisle for them," he said.

In the mean time, there are other battles to be waged in the short session. "We're trying to get $3 million in money for drug sentencing alternatives," he explained. "The legislature passed a bill for treatment as an alternative to prison, but there's no money. And we have to work against continuing efforts to crank up meth penalties. We're for family support and treatment of folks suffering from meth abuse, but not proposals like snatching kids from their families. The meth train has already left the station, but maybe it's not too late to switch tracks."

The KCBA Drug Policy Project and its allies continue to work to broaden support for the bill and the drug reform agenda. "We have 10 trained speakers in our speakers' bureau who can go out and talk about our findings and recommendations to groups like the local chambers of commerce, Rotary Clubs, PTAs, church groups, and the like," said Goodman. "We've had a lot of media coverage, and of course, the conference helped. We are also involved in some behind-the-scenes meetings with judges, prosecutors, and city and county councils. It's very important to get the opinion leaders if you want to move forward," he said.

If not next year, the year after or the year after that. Thanks to the KCBA Drug Policy Project, Washington has the chance to pass the most potentially far-reaching drug reform legislation ever considered in this country. Between Seattle's pot-friendliness as demonstrated by its playing host to the massively-attended Hempfests and its vote to deprioritize marijuana arrests and the state's willingness to pass progressive drug reform legislation as it did in 2002, Washington is clearly playing a vanguard role in the evolution of American drug policy.

"There's already a lot of progressive stuff going on," said Goodman as he savored a gelato Wednesday afternoon at the Pike Street Market. "We try to lead the nation, and the sky isn't falling. Prohibition isn't working." Goodman suddenly laughed. "I'm watching a heroin dealer right here in the market as we speak."

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

This week, we turn our attention from the mundane corruption of dope-dealing prison guards and dope-stealing bad cops to the systemic corruption created by the reliance on informants in drug cases. The Los Angeles Times has unraveled the story of a rogue DEA snitch and the handlers who let him run free. Let's get to it:

In 2003, Yemeni immigrant Nabil Ismael met fellow Yemeni Essam Magid, who told Ismael he worked for the DEA. If Ismael could help him locate some cocaine connections, Magid could help him get in line for a federal job and a better life. The notion of helping his adopted land proved enticing, and Ismael agreed. Although Ismael had no drug history or connections, he started asking customers at his auto dealership where he could score. A year later, he was arrested on drug trafficking charges, but instead of copping a plea and taking four years in prison, he fought back. In doing so, he shone a light on an informant who was out of control and had sent a least a dozen other people to prison.

It's not that the DEA didn't know it had a problem controlling snitches. The 2001 Andrew Chambers "supersnitch" scandal had blown the lid off DEA informant misbehavior, and a Justice Department inspector general's report earlier this year found that the problems continue.

Magid's promises of a federal job were out of line, and his supervisor DEA Agent Duane Bareng should have known. It is unclear whether he did, although he partnered with Magid in drug deals at the auto dealership and insisted on paying Ismael $600 for the contacts he provided.

When Ismael decided to fight, his attorney, Ian Loveseth, began digging and was soon able to find a long criminal rap sheet for Magid, including a 1996 forgery charge and an assaulting an officer charge a year later. Two years after that, Magid was busted trying to sell 50 cases of pseudoephedrine, a key precursor in the home manufacture of methamphetamine. The feds offered him a deal: rat out others and avoid prison.

Magid was so good at wrapping up fellow Yemenis -- all of whom he apparently saw as potential targets -- that he collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from the DEA, FBI, and IRS. All of those agencies ignored DEA documents that showed Magid had lied on the stand in small claims court at Bareng's direction. He also threatened witnesses and used his position for personal gain, Loveseth found. And he revealed the names of two FBI agents to the targets of a terrorism investigation, after first denying doing so.

The FBI notified Bareng about Magid's troubles, but Bareng wanted him back, although he should have gone to prison for violating his plea agreement by lying to authorities. US prosecutors even dropped the remaining drug count hanging over his head.

Bareng also knew that Magid was using his informant status to start federal investigations of people to whom he owed money. In one case, he told the feds one man was dealing drugs and planning a terror attack, all in an apparent attempt to get out of a $4,000 debt.

When Ismael went to trial in August, Bareng testified he was never told why the FBI had stopped using Magid as an informant. But US District Court Judge Charles Breyer recalled FBI agents testifying they had told Bareng his snitch was crooked. An angry Breyer called Bareng on his testimony, and after a brief recess, Bareng changed his story.

"So the fact that an informant comes in, lies to the FBI, you find out about it, Magid comes and tells you that he lied to the FBI -- that's just nowhere in the DEA records; is that right?" asked an incredulous Breyer. "And you had conversations with the DEA and there are no records of that; is that right?"

Bareng and others had knowingly relied on a "lawless" informant, Breyer told prosecutors, and Bareng had probably perjured himself. At that point, Bareng lawyered up and refused to testify any further. Minutes later, the charges against Ismael were dropped.

But that wasn't enough for Breyer. He felt compelled to order an investigation of the witness misconduct and possible perjury, he said. Now the Justice Department inspector general and federal prosecutors from San Diego are digging deeper, including how far us the DEA ladder knowledge of Bareng's and Magid's tag-team misdeeds went.

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6. Marijuana: Denver Man to Challenge Pot Arrest After Legalization Ordinance in Effect

When Denver voters passed I-100, the SAFER initiative making possession of up to an ounce of marijuana legal for persons 21 or older, Denver officials vowed to ignore the will of the voters and continue to prosecute people under the state marijuana law. They have lived up to their word, filing state charges against at least 12 adults for simple marijuana possession since then the ordinance went into effect on November 16.

Now, one of them is fighting back. On December 1, Eric Footer appeared in court in Denver to plead not guilty and demand a trial. Footer was cited a day after the ordinance became city law, and he accuses city officials of "thumbing their nose" at voters. A three-man legal team led by Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente will provide his defense.

"I was just angry and confused," the 39-year-old Footer told the Rocky Mountain News. "I didn't understand how the [voter-passed] law could be in effect and not be enforced," he said. "It doesn't make sense. It either is or it isn't the law."

"This is about forcing the Denver police and the Denver DA to enforce this law and respect the will of the voters," said Vicente during the same interview. "Based on the passage of I-100, Mr. Footer made a reasonable assumption that adult marijuana possession was protected in Denver... that law enforcement and the DA would follow the will of the people. "This is a city ordinance now; it's not theoretical."

Assistant City Attorney Vince DiCroce disagreed. "The state law is still in effect and cases will be prosecuted now, just like they were before ( I-100 ), under the state statute," said DiCroce, director of the city attorney's Prosecution and Code Enforcement Section, which prosecutes marijuana cases. "We're going to just continue to do what we've done," he told the News.

The Colorado courts will sort this out. A first hearing is set for January 18.

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7. Chronic Pain: South Carolina Pain Doctors Lose Appeal, But Get New Sentencing Hearings

Three South Carolina physicians convicted of drug distribution and money-laundering conspiracy charges for what the federal government described as unwarranted prescribing of opioid pain relievers at their pain management clinic failed to get their convictions overturned, but will be entitled to new sentencing hearings.

Drs. Deborah Bordeaux, Ricardo Alerre and Michael Jackson ran the Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Center in Myrtle Beach until they were arrested in 2003. Prosecutors described the practice as "a front" for drug dealing. Bordeaux was sentenced to 24 years, Alerre to 19 years, and Jackson to eight years.

While the doctors argued on appeal that attorneys for both defense and prosecution had confused the standards for civil malpractice and criminal liability, a three-judge US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Richmond rejected that claim. "The jury entered its deliberations armed with ample admissible evidence and with proper instructions on the applicable legal principles," Judge Robert King wrote in the unanimous opinion.

But the court ruled that they were entitled to be resentenced after even the prosecution acknowledged that the Supreme Courts' ruling earlier this year in the Booker and Fan Fan cases required it. In that ruling, the Supreme Court threw out mandatory federal sentencing guidelines.

The doctors for their part have maintained that they were following accepted medical practice for prescribing opioids for chronic pain management -- as have advocates, including the Pain Relief Network. Bordeaux and others are among a growing number of physicians across the country who have been prosecuted or investigated as the DEA attempts to clamp down on prescription drug abuse.

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8. Medical Marijuana: Judges Growls at More Possible Prosecution Misconduct in Bryan Epis Resentencing Hearings

Bryan Epis became a cause celebre after being sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for a medical marijuana grow. He served two years before being released on appeal, and is now in court for resentencing in the wake of the Supreme Court's Booker and Fan Fan decisions, which threw out mandatory sentencing guidelines.

Epis' attorney, Brenda Grantland, had already charged prosecutorial misconduct in the case for the government's attempt to portray pipe-dream sketches of a major medical marijuana facility as an actual event. In a hearing this week, Assistant US Attorney Samuel Wong handed her evidence of even more misconduct, and while Grantland described herself as "livid," she must also have been pleased.

David Borden & Bryan Epis at the April 2005 NORML conference
According to Grantland, as she awaited the start of the hearing, Wong walked over and handed her a document reading: "DEA Special Agent Brian Nehring is the new DEA agent assigned to the Bryan Epis case. Special Agent Nehring informs me that one of the agents assigned to this case after DEA Special Agent Ron Mancini's departure mistakenly allowed the documents seized from Bryan Epis' home to be destroyed. I am awaiting my receipt of reports on the destruction of the documents and will forward them to you upon my receipt. On behalf of the United States, I sincerely apologize for this error. For your information, the United States Attorney's Office has maintained custody of the prosecution's trial exhibits."

The documents included potential exculpatory evidence showing government wrongdoing as well as medical records that could back up his claim he had a legitimate need for marijuana. When Grantland told Judge Frank Damrell what had happened, Damrell couldn't believe it.

"I've never in my career known that to happen," he said, scoffing at Wong's claim it was inadvertent. "Somebody has to give this order to destroy evidence. I'm not accusing you, Mr. Wong, but I don't see how this could have happened inadvertently."

Judge Damrell gave Wong two weeks to explain what happened and provide an inventory of the destroyed evidence. That will be reviewed at the next hearing.

All the government wanted to do was send Epis to prison again for growing pot for sick people, but its efforts threaten to be tripped up by its own "lies and corruption," Grantland wrote. Let's hope so.

(Click here to read Drug War Chronicle's interview with Bryan Epis last July. Scroll to the bottom of it for information on how to send Judge Damrell a letter of support for Bryan -- there's still time!)

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9. Medical Marijuana: San Diego County to Sue to Overturn California Law

The San Diego County board of supervisors voted Tuesday to try to overturn California's Compassionate Use Act, which allows seriously ill people to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. While many California counties are grappling with ways to implement the loosely-written law, San Diego County is the only one seeking to turn back the clock on it.

The formal vote came after supervisors last month announced they wanted to sue the state instead of creating registries and identification cards that would help medical marijuana users. At that time, they did not say they would try to overturn state law.

But that's what they did Tuesday on a unanimous vote. "It just seemed logical to us," Supervisor Bill Horn told the North County News Tuesday afternoon. "Why Mickey Mouse around about it?"

Horn and the other supervisors don't like the law. Horn has called it "a bad law," and argued that supporting it would "send the wrong message" to kids. The law would also increase drug abuse, supervisors argued.

According to San Diego county attorney John Sansone, the lawsuit will be filed in federal court sometime this month and will argue that federal law should supersede state law.

Although California voters approved the law by a 10-point margin in 1996 and have shown no signs of wishing to return to the pre-medical marijuana days, San Diego County has proven recalcitrant. Supervisors turned aside pleas from patients and health practitioners to leave the law alone.

"It's totally political," said local nurse practitioner Claudia Little, who sits on the medical advisory board of Americans for Safe Access. "The population is in favor of medical marijuana. The politicians are so far behind the curve here, it's ridiculous. The politicians aren't representing the people, they are just representing a handful of outspoken opponents," she told the News.

Hmmm... can anyone say "recall campaign"?

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10. Latin America: Prison Sentence for Dying Woman, 79, Sparks International Appeal

A 79-year-old Brazilian woman with terminal cancer who weighs 88 pounds has been sentenced to four years in prison, sparking an international campaign to set her free. Iolanda Figeuiral was convicted Tuesday of drug trafficking after 17 grams of crack cocaine were found in the house she shares with her adult son, who was also charged. Figeuiral and her son, Carlos Almeida, cannot be bailed out on appeal because under Brazilian law the crime is considered "hideous."

The case was first taken up by former Rio de Janeiro Judge Maria Luisa Karam, who penned an open letter to Brazilian authorities seeking freedom for the woman. "Keeping in jail a person under such conditions immediately reveals senselessness and, therefore, unfairness, and also reveals a violation of fundamental rights as proclaimed in the universal declarations and in the Brazilian Constitution," wrote Karam. "No law could justify the senselessness, the unfairness and the violation of fundamental rights that are clearly revealed in the detention of a 79 year old person, suffering of cancer in a terminal phase and weighting less than 40 kilos."

But Karam also took the opportunity to lambaste Brazilian drug laws for requiring imprisonment during criminal proceedings, and the United Nations drug conventions that "impose the criminalization of actions related to production, distribution and consumption of psychoactive substances and raw materials for their production." (Karam was one of a small number of Latin American judges and political figures who attended the Buenos Aires hemispheric anti-prohibitionist conference in September.)

"We trust that Brazilian judicial authorities will put an end to the senseless, unfair and serious violation of fundamental rights enjoyed by Mrs. Iolanda Figueiral," wrote Karam. "And we hope that the irreparable pain that is imposed to her at least may help the Government and the Parliament of Brazil to measure the harms caused by the worthless politics of criminalization, to review the laws that are opposite to the universal declarations of human and civil rights and to the Brazilian Constitution, and to mobilize themselves to make the United Nations start a process of reform of their conventions in order to establish a system of legal control and regulation of production, distribution and consumption of all psychoactive substances and raw materials for their production."

Winning freedom for the dying woman is a cause now taken up by ENCOD, the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, which is asking readers to both spread the word and write to Brazilian authorities to seek her release. "Authorities in countries like Brazil tend to be sensitive to protest signals coming from abroad," ENCOD notes.

Click here to read and sign the letter.

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11. Australia: Australian Government Goes After Rave Ecstasy Testing Group

A Melbourne-based harm reduction organization that has been testing ecstasy tablets at raves is getting unwelcome attention from the South Australia state government and the federal government of Prime Minister John Howard. Last week, faced with threats of arrest by South Australia state police, Enlighten Harm Reduction, the group that tests pills for content and purity, agreed to quit doing the tests. This Tuesday, the federal government got in the act, with parliamentary health secretary Chris Pyne demanding the group reveal its funding sources and its drug testing protocols.

Although Enlighten has been doing pill-testing at raves for five years, South Australia's Controlled Substances Act requires that the group have a permit. The South Australia government refused to issue a permit and threatened the group with arrest, Enlighten told the Sydney Morning Herald at the end of November.

The issue has been coming to a head for months, since Enlighten went ahead with pill-testing at July's winter Enchanted Rave party despite the opposition of the police and the state government. At that party, the group tested 50 pills, and one young woman discarded hers after it was found to contain ketamine.

Enlighten founder Johnboy Davison told the Herald last week the group would be at last weekend's Summer Enchanted Rave, but it would not do pill-testing. Instead, party-goers would have to run their own tests. "We'll be selling the testing kits, we always sell the testing kits because there's nothing illegal about them," he said. "We just simply won't be demonstrating their use and offering advice on the tests we usually perform for people on their pills."

Enlighten had the support of Enchanted organizer Daniel Michael, who told the Herald testing helped ensure the safety of his clientele. "Ecstasy consumption is on the rise not just at things like dance parties but very significant consumption in other areas pubs, clubs, people's homes, etc.," he said. "So the kind of research that we get and the kind of knowledge that the professionals gain from pill testing is really important, but we don't have that because of political and moral issues."

The national government evidently has some of those issues, too. After the Winter Enchanted Rave, which went on with no pill-testing by Enchanted and resulted in three overdose emergencies, parliamentary health secretary Chris Pyne sent his letter to Enlighten demanding the group reveal its finances. Pill-testing sends "mixed messages," Pyne said, adding that drug dealers could be exploiting the group to sell drugs.

Johnboy Davison was having none of it. He told the Herald private donors funded his group and accused Pyne of engaging in "lazy politics." While the national government has rejected pill-testing, Davison said that was bad public policy. "It's a public health issue and we're trying to reduce harm," he said.

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12. Europe: Czech Lower House Passes Drug Reform Measure, Including Decriminalization of Marijuana Possession and Personal Grows

The Czech Republic's lower house last week approved a penal code revision that will decriminalize simple marijuana possession and allow for growing for personal use. The measure is likely to pass the Senate and be approved by President Vaclav Klaus, reports Czech activist and journalist Bushka Bryndova.

Czech marijuana reform demonstration
courtesy Michal Vlk
The proposed new law draws a distinction between soft drugs (cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms) and hard drugs. While penalties for hard drugs remain practically unchanged, possession of small amounts of marijuana or a limited (the number is yet to be set) number of plants will no longer merit prosecution.

Potential sentences for larger quantities of marijuana would be set at up to one year in prison, while the penalties for "very large" amounts would be set at up to five years. Marijuana or mushroom growers cultivating quantities larger than those defined as personal use face maximum sentences of six months and one year, respectively. Growers of "very large" amounts could face up to three years.

Under the old law, while small time marijuana possessors faced only a fine, those caught in possession of amounts larger than 20 joints faced up to five years in prison. "Thus, the new legislation will considerably reduce sentences for cannabis," writes Bryndova. Similarly, the old law treated any growing of marijuana or mushrooms as a serious offense punishable by years in prison.

The reduction in marijuana sentences and the ability for people to grow their own are the primary benefits of the drug law reform, writes Bryndova.

While the experience of drug law reform in Russia, where law enforcement attempted to sabotage reform by insisting on ridiculously low definitions of "personal use" quantities, leads to questions about whether the same thing could happen in the Czech Republic, Bryndova told DRCNet that would not be the case. "Unlike Russia, the effort to achieve decriminalization is sincere here," she said. "Cannabis use is becoming so widespread that the government has no other choice."

The vote in the lower house came just a week after the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) released its annual report on drug use on the continent. In that report, the Czech Republic was found to have the highest rates of marijuana use among young adults in all of Europe, with 22.1% reporting past year use.

According to proposed quantity guidelines now being considered, people would be allowed to grow up to three plants without penalty, while between three and 30 plants would be considered larger than personal and 30 to 300 plants would be considered "very large" and punished more severely. Likewise, personal use quantities of mushrooms would be up to 25 pieces.

The guidelines are not set in stone, but decriminalized home growing is certain, Bryndova writes. "These quantities still might be subject to change, but one plant is for sure!"

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13. Canada: With Elections Looming, Conservatives Talk Tough on Drugs

Canadian Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper is hoping talking tough on drugs will win his party votes in next month's national elections. While the Conservatives have traditionally advocated a harsher drug policy, Harper put the issue front and center in a Vancouver area appearance Saturday, saying the ruling Liberals had sent dangerous mixed messages with their effort to decriminalize marijuana and that tougher drug laws would protect Canadian "values"

"A Conservative government will not reintroduce the Liberal plan to decriminalize the possession of marijuana, and we will never endorse the NDP [New Democratic Party] idea of legalizing it outright," Harper told reporters. "I don't think it's a coincidence that we have seen a rapid expansion of the drug trade since this government first tabled its marijuana decriminalization legislation. It sent a signal to society, to police officers and to the drug industry that they were simply not serious about enforcing drug laws. Some people want to deal with the problem by simply surrendering."

Harper's Conservatives would deal with the problem by creating a two-year mandatory minimum sentence for distribution of hard drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, as well as the same two-year sentence for trafficking large amounts of marijuana. Under current Canadian law, any drug trafficking offense is punishable by up to seven years in prison, but few small-time drug dealers or even fairly big-time marijuana growers or traffickers actually serve significant time.

Marijuana growers, crack dealers, and meth cooks "have to know that if they are caught, they will not get a slap on the wrist. They will go to prison," Harper told a suburban Burnaby crowd. "It is a serious crime, and they will do serious time."

The Conservatives would also eliminate conditional sentences such as house arrest and increase fines for growing or trafficking drugs. In his comments Saturday, Harper also suggested a Conservative drug policy would not include funding innovative harm reduction programs like the Insite safe injection site and the NAOMI heroin maintenance program. "We as a government will not use taxpayers' money to fund drug use," Harper said. "That is not the strategy we will pursue."

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14. Europe: Dutch Political Parties Call for Regulated Pilot Program to Supply Marijuana to Coffee Shops

Two weeks ago, John Calvin Jones reported in Drug War Chronicle that Dutch parliamentarians were pondering a pilot program to allow regulated marijuana grows to supply the country's famous coffee houses. Last Friday, the political parties involved reached agreement on the details. The conservative government of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is balking, but the legislators have warned that if the program is not in operation by December 14, they will pass a bill designed to force it to act.

The Bulldog coffeeshop, Amsterdam
The trial approach to regulated pot production would address what the Dutch call the problem of "the back door." Under Holland's pragmatic approach to soft drugs, marijuana and hashish remain illegal, but possession of less than an ounce is not bothered with and retail sales through regulated coffee houses are allowed. But marijuana growing remains a crime, so coffee house owners are forced to obtain their product in the illicit market -- through the back door.

Under the pilot program, which will take place in the southern border city of Maastricht, growers will no longer be subject to arrest or prosecution, but they will have to comply with existing health and safety standards. Participating coffee shops will have to keep records of where they obtained their supply and they will be required to provide customers with information about the chemical content of their product and the health risks of inhaling smoke.

While the pilot program is supported by more liberal members of the Dutch parliament, it has also picked up defectors like conservative lawmaker Frans Weekers. "It will be possible to trace where cannabis is grown, and where it's sold," Weekers said. Current policy is "leading to increasing problems," he told the Associated Press. "There comes a moment when you say, 'Now we have to take the next step,'" he said. "If this pilot program works, and we can show to everyone that it's an improvement, then you have a good argument to take to foreign governments."

But Balkenende and his Christian Democrats have opposed further liberalization of Dutch drug laws (or practices), arguing that it would open the door to complete legalization and it would be in violation of the United Nation anti-drug conventions. "The experiment would be at odds with Dutch law, and there's a legal problem internationally," Balkenende told the AP.

Anti-cannabis Justice Minister Piet Donner announced he had ordered an investigation into whether the program would violate the conventions. Findings are expected within days. That is probably a good thing, because the Dutch parties have made it clear they are going to wait no longer on the government.

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15. Web Scan: After I-75 in Seattle, re-launched web site from Bolivia's coca country

Seattle's "The Stranger" newspaper asks what will happen "After I-75"

major web site update by the Andean Information Network in Cochabamba, Bolivia

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16. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

December 10, 9:00am-5:00pm, Alexandria, VA, "Children Doing Time -- Children of Incarcerated Parents and in the Juvenile Justice System," Virginia C.U.R.E. Annual Conference, featuring panels on "Is the Juvenile Justice System Working?" and "Parents in Prison -- The Real Child Left Behind." At Alfred Street Baptist Church, 301 South Alfred Street, rear entrance, e-mail [email protected], call (703) 765-6549 or visit 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 or contact Ken Wolski at (609) 394-2137 or [email protected].

January 4, 2006, 7:00pm, St. Paul, MN, screening of the ABC/Johhn Stossel report "The War on Drugs: A War on Ourselves," sponsored by the Freedom Movie of the Month Club. At The Liberty Center, 799 Raymond Ave., admission free, RSVP at online.

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].

March 29, 2006, 6:00pm, New York, NY, "Drug Policy for the Union Man," forum for members of the Local 375 District Council 37, presented by LEAP, DPA, CJPF and ReconsiDer. At 125 Barkley St., two blocks north of Old World Trade Center, contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for further information.

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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