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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #425 -- 3/3/06

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

    deadly ritual
    Other countries like Canada seem to have greener pastures when it comes to drug policy reform. But inside those countries it's still a relative matter.
    Canadian marijuana entrepreneurs -- and their customers -- are worried after the Mounties busted what was arguably Canada's largest seed seller.
    Bill Clinton's five-year Plan Colombia is now in its seventh year, albeit under a different name, but has failed to make a significant dent in the flow of cocaine from Colombia, and human rights abuses persist. Still, all expectations are that the annual Washington ritual of Colombia drug war funding will end with little changing.
    Walter Cronkite, the legendary CBS news anchor widely dubbed "the most trusted man in America," has joined the legions of those who have earned the scorn of Fox News television host and commentator Bill O'Reilly -- and it's all about drugs.
    In a campaign that officially kicked off last month, organizers are continuing a five-year effort to enshrine the regulation and control of marijuana into state law.
    An Alabama prosecutor's investigator gets involved in a shootout with police over 40 pounds of cocaine, a Border Patrol agent pays for winking a truck-load of dope, two more Border Patrol agents are on trial for shooting a fleeing suspected drug courier, and a New Jersey cop's bad habit gets him in trouble.
    An new ordinance in the college town will protect students busted for first-time marijuana possession from losing their federal financial aid. But the city took the opportunity to hike fines.
    The "Safe Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation" is rolling along with most campus victories.
    The South Dakota legislature last week overrode a veto by Gov. Michael Rounds and enacted a law that will shorten a ban on extracurricular activities by students caught using drugs.
    A package of homelessness bills in California includes legislation that would create a zone in the heart of Los Angeles' Skid Row where people on probation for drug sales would be banned -- except to attend drug treatment programs.
    A chapter in a new book by top Scottish conservatives suggests letting individuals, not the state, make their own choices.
    Hindu holy men, devotees, and tourists by the hundreds, if not thousands, smoked marijuana this weekend outside a temple in Nepal to honor Shiva the Destroyer, the Hindu god of change and goodness.
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    The Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative is seeking an experienced community organizer who is a dynamic person of faith to build support among the religious community for taxing and regulating marijuana.
    Showing up at an event can be the best way to get involved! Check out this week's listings for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!

(Chronicle archives)

1. Editorial: A Basic Question of Fairness

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]


David Borden

Here in the United States -- the heart of the global drug war -- it's easy to look overseas and see greener pastures and take heart from where other countries and other parts of the world are going. Tolerance in the Netherlands; heroin maintenance in Switzerland; needle exchange in China and Iran; British Columbia in Canada turning a blind eye to most marijuana activity, with safe injection sites advancing in Vancouver and heroin maintenance getting a try there, and Canadian political leaders like Senator Claude Nolin and Member of Parliament Libby Davies publicly calling for legalization of drugs -- things are going better in other parts of the world, they have it relatively good overseas and across some borders, so it seems.

Overall that is probably still the case. But for reformers in those places it is all still relative. In Canada, for example, the government's stated intention to decriminalize marijuana never materialized, and the bills that were most likely to pass were a mixed blessing at best. Medical marijuana refugee Steve Kubby was sent back to California despite apparent danger to his life without medical marijuana in the prisons of a state that is supposed to allow medical marijuana. Now, with a conservative government taking the reins (for reasons unrelated to drug policy), reform has probably gotten as far as its going to get for a little while, though time will tell. Hopes that the government would refuse on human rights grounds to extradite marijuana seed entrepreneur/activist Marc Emery to the US seem a longer shot now. And criticisms of politicization in the Emery maneuver -- larger seed sellers who were not supporting the legalization movement had not been targeted -- may be blunted somewhat with the takedown late last month of the outfit Heaven's Stairway, though on Canada's own initiative, not the DEA's.

One could argue that Canadian seed vendors knowingly risked legal consequences, that laws even if bad ones were on the books and they knew about them, that people like Emery as well as the less ideological proprietors of Heaven's Stairway had to know there was a chance that sooner or later the government would move against them. But there's a basic question of fairness that is thereby missed. For years, almost a decade in fact, Emery and others have operated their businesses with no attempt at secrecy -- in Emery's case literally from open storefronts on Hastings Street in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Authorities' long-term inaction on that knowledge constituted a kind of consent to it, an implicit message that Canada really didn't have an interest in going after marijuana and that the hammer really wasn't going to come down on these people very hard if it did.

When Canada's political leaders and law enforcement agencies decided to take a different course, a more honorable way for them to do it would have been to tell Emery and others that things had changed, that it was time to stop, that past activities that everybody knew about wouldn't be used against them so long as they did stop. Instead, people are facing hard time in US and Canadian prisons. Law or not, that's an unfair manner of applying the law, because a law and its implementation (or lack thereof) are ultimately inseparable. Canadian authorities should grant an amnesty for the past seed selling that they green-lighted for so long, if the law is to operate with fairness. If not, then those same authorities who gave the green light should themselves be punished, and just as harshly, if the law is to operate with equality.

Canada's law recognizes that principles of human rights are not always black and white and that the letter of the law can sometimes conflict with them. Reformers have rightfully invoked that principle on this occasion. I believe that over time the drug war will be recognized as the massive violation of human rights that it is. Even with its politics changed, I hope that Canada will stand on that idea sooner rather than later.

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2. Feature: Canada Cannabis Seed Crackdown?

The rumors began circulating on Canadian marijuana-oriented web sites a month ago when people reported that the web sites related to what was arguably Canada's largest seed seller -- nobody really knows -- Montreal-based Heaven's Stairway suddenly went down. (The sites include,,,, and The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) made it official Tuesday when they announced that the company had indeed been busted in late January and that the owner, Richard Bagdadlian, his wife, and five employees faced serious charges and possible 10-year prison sentences. Other seed sellers and even buyers could face similar attention, the Mounties warned.

"This looks like an RCMP show bust," said Ottawa-based activist Tim Meehan, a long-time cannabis activist currently concentrating on municipal drug policy with the National Capital Reformers. "I think this was meant to put a chill in the seed business and give Prime Minister Harper's American friends the idea that we are doing something about the marijuana seed 'problem,'" he told DRCNet.

Heaven's Stairway
web graphic,
archived on
Google Images
In the past fifteen years, Canada's cannabis culture and its commercial infrastructure -- grow ops, grow shops, fertilizer companies, seed companies -- have expanded largely unimpeded. According to knowledgeable observers, there are dozens of commercial seed producers operating in Canada and an equal number of stores and web sites offering the seeds for sale. While "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery and his Emery Seed Company, then Canada's largest, were shut down by the Mounties last year, that raid was at the behest of the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the charges Emery faces are in the US. (That story is being covered by Sixty Minutes this coming Sunday, DRCNet has just learned.)

Prior to the Heaven's Stairway bust, only three people had been convicted of seed offenses in Canada, and two of them were Emery. None of them got more than a slap on the wrist in the form of fines. Now, Canadian authorities have given notice that the cannabis seed business is fair game, and the Canadian cannabis industry is watching closely.

The RCMP announced it had seized 200,000 marijuana seeds, $200,000 US in cash, and gold, motorcycles, and cars in a series of raids in the Montreal area. The Mounties described Heaven's Stairway as "a Montreal based criminal organization involved in the trafficking, importation and exportation of cannabis seeds, as well as in conspiring for the purpose of cannabis cultivation via the Internet."

The Mounties were sending a clear signal to the cannabis seed industry. "It's an illegal business," said Staff Sgt. Andre Potvin of the RCMP's Montreal drug section. "There has been a general misconception for years even among law enforcement that cannabis seeds are not illegal to possess, and that was clarified with this operation. This has been going on for years and years," he told DRCNet, "and we realized that with the boom in the amount of growing operations that we had better start enforcing the law."

They are doing just that with a vengeance. The Heaven's Stairway arrestees face 49 charges and up to a decade behind bars under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and Criminal Code of Canada for processing what the RCMP said was 30 cannabis seed orders a day averaging $100 each. And since the possession of cannabis seeds is illegal under Schedule II of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, clients of the network could also receive a visit from the police, the Mounties said.

People who did business with Heaven's Stairway should be worried, Potvin warned. "We seized a huge amount of data in their computers and we will be tracing it," he said. "Here in Canada, people who bought seeds should worry. If we can trace customers and link them to the actual growing of marijuana plants, we will be looking at charges. We also received information from the DEA in regard to complaints they had from North Dakota and Wisconsin that kids were ordering seeds from Canada. We have transmitted all the information to all the other partners we have in the world."

"This is probably not a good thing for the industry," Emery told DRCNet. "If you're in the business, make sure you have a good lawyer on retainer, and be discreet! The police have the servers for Heaven's Stairway and all those other sites, and several hundred people are at risk at a minimum. Several thousand are feeling affected and their gardens have probably come down. If you had anything to do with them, you should take appropriate action," he said. "This will create a reduction in wealth and scarcity in our communities."


Up In Smoke Cafe rally poster

Although the Bagdadlian bust is creating jitters, not everybody is scurrying for cover.

It's business at usual in the Up In Smoke Café about 50 miles southwest of Toronto in Hamilton, Ontario. Seed sales continue, as do sales of cannabis foods, but customers must bring their own smoke. "We openly defy the law; our existence is an act of civil disobedience," said café owner Chris Godwin. "I don't really worry too much about it," he told DRCNet. "Most rational police forces don't prioritize marijuana offenses, and most cannabis seed outlets are small shops that quietly do their business and pay taxes."

Up In Smoke isn't all that quiet. "I put cannabis seeds on my advertising," Goodwin said, "and we've had cannabis giveaways." He's not alone in Hamilton, which boasts seven heads shops and at least one other seed purveyor. "We had a cannabis crawl where we went to six different cafes, some where they're openly selling pot, others that let you smoke openly. Canada is not utopia, but it's not so bad."

"I still think stores that sell seeds are not really at much of a risk," said Emery. "I think it's the import-export aspect that draws attention. I wouldn't send any seeds to the US, and I wouldn't sell seeds to someone who says he is from the US. But in Canada, the courts have never sent anyone to jail for seeds before."

But selling to the US and selling seeds in large volumes -- both of which Heaven's Stairway did -- can be a problem, Goodwin said. "Doing that is risky business, and things like this can happen. While I wish I could supply that demand south of the border, I don't sell to the United States."

One group that should not worry, said Meehan, was people providing seeds for medical marijuana patients. "Dealers supplying bona fide patients should have no problems with this increased enforcement, unless the police and the Conservative government want to get the 90% of the Canadian population that supports medical marijuana up in arms."

Providing medicine to patients is one thing; running a commercial seed operation for personal profit without supporting the community that supports you is another. Emery was somewhat critical of Bagdadlian and his crew on a couple of counts. "When we were busted, we were able to assure people we didn't lose any data and no one was at risk because we got the word out right away," he said. "In this case, they were busted a month ago and the police ordered them to keep quiet, and the mail kept coming. It is unfortunate that these folks are putting their own preservation above that of the community they served."

Emery also pointed out that Bagdadlian didn't contribute to the marijuana legalization movement, as he has. "They didn't have any political content," he said. "They did nothing to end prohibition; they were profiteers in an illegal industry, nothing more. When the police raided our bank accounts, there was no money, no drugs, no cash, no kilogram bars of gold, no wealth. We had $12 in one account, but they didn't bother to seize that."

On the other hand, said Meehan, Bagdadlian and his web sites were valuable for patients. "Those seeds were used by patients worldwide, and I know offhand at least a dozen legal Canadian medical marijuana patients who used the growing tips they provided," he said.

Movement politics aside, the Bagdadlian bust is an ominous signal early in the Harper administration. Although marijuana decriminalization or legalization is favored by a majority of Canadians, those are not the people represented by the minority Harper government. While the new Canadian government may be playing to the US, its views on drug policy also reflect an antipathy toward cannabis and a fear of drug-related criminality in sectors of the Canadian polity that now have a voice in Ottawa.

The Conservative victory in January's elections may signal a crackdown of sorts, Emery suggested. "I think the police are going to have a lot more money and political license, and they are emboldened to do more and more, from arresting drug users in Vancouver to going after the largest seed distribution organizations."

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3. Feature: In Annual Ritual, Bush Administration Seeks More Aid for Colombia Drug War

As springtime approaches, an annual Washington ritual is getting underway. Each year since late in the Clinton presidency, the US administration goes to Congress and asks it for a few hundred million dollars to prop up the US drug war in Colombia. This year is no different. Even though Clinton's five-year Plan Colombia is now in its seventh year, albeit under a different name, and has failed to make a significant dent in the flow of cocaine from Colombia, all expectations are that Congress will once again sign off on the Bush administration's $743 million Andean drug war budget request, most of which is headed to Colombia, where 80% will go to fund the war, while only 20% will fund alternative economic development.

coca eradication in Colombia
(courtesy SF Bay Area Indymedia)
Of course, now it's not just about drugs. In 2002, as the Bush administration embraced a global "war on terror" in the wake of the September 11 attacks, Congress okayed the merger of the drug war and the terror war when it comes to Colombia. Previously, US aid had been strictly limited to anti-narcotics efforts, but since then, US war aims have expanded to defeating the rightist paramilitaries and the leftist Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), the decades-old guerrilla army which, through semantic slight of hand, the Bush administration redefined as a "terrorist organization."

Seven years into the heightened US effort, Colombia remains embroiled in a multi-sided civil war. Negotiations with the FARC are at a stand still, and while the paramilitaries have agreed to demobilize, that process is plagued with problems, questions, and inadequacies. Years of forced eradication, including a massive aerial spraying program have, at best, managed to hold cocaine production at current levels, while wreaking havoc on the fields, livestock, and health of the Colombian peasantry. Years of spraying and buying equipment for the Colombian military and police seem to have had little effect.

The Colombian government of President Alvaro Uribe points to decreases in kidnappings and murders, but while security has improved in the cities, much of the countryside is either FARC territory or a contested no man's land, with coca-growing peasants caught in the crossfire. While US drug czar John Walters last fall pointed to a blip in cocaine prices as a sign of success, and coca growing in Colombia appears to have leveled off, both the United Nations and, this week, the US State Department have released figures suggesting that regional coca production is on the rise.


anti-Plan Colombia poster
(courtesy Colombia Indymedia)

But given the administration's focus on the Middle East, Bush's Colombia policy appears to be on cruise control. "There is no radical change in strategy this year," said Adam Isaacson, senior associate for Colombia policy for the Center for International Policy. "With President Uribe being one of the Bush administration's only friends in Latin America, it looks like they are going to try to just keeping funding at the same level through 2008 in what is essentially a continuation of Plan Colombia. After that, they are assuming that things will be much improved and the Colombians will be able to take on more of the fight, but that remains to be seen," he said.

"The administration seems to be losing a bit of interest in the drug war now that it has the war on terror, which doesn't help us much in Latin America because whether it's war on drugs or war on terror, the military funding continues," said Lisa Haugaard, executive director of the Latin America Working Group, an umbrella organization of organizations working for a more progressive policy toward Colombia. "But there is a real drop off in funding for alternative development everywhere but Colombia, and that's going to hurt, especially in Bolivia. It's unfortunate to see those cuts."

Funding for the drug war in Colombia has been a contentious issue for years, with critics charging that the US is funding bloody human rights violators in a chimerical effort to eradicate coca, but despite annual efforts by progressive Democrats, the funding typically gets through. This year looks to be no different.

Chances are the administration will largely get what it wants again this year, Isaacson said. "It's probably going to get through relatively unscathed. There may be a move to try to cut Colombia aid across the board to fund other things. There will also likely be another amendment to move money from military aid to economic assistance, and it will probably fail with the same number of votes as last year. The Republican majority is like a brick wall on this."

That doesn't mean opponents of the US drug war in Colombia have given up. They will continue to press for tighter human rights controls, a shift in funding from the military to economic development, and this year, close scrutiny of the paramilitary demobilization, which is raising eyebrows in both Bogota and Washington as rightist militia leaders linked to drug trafficking and atrocities appear to be escaping justice for their crimes.

The human rights record of the Colombian military is also -- again -- raising concern on the Hill, Haugaard said. "The reality is that the picture doesn't look good for the Colombian military's human rights performance," she said, "and people in Congress will bring that up." Last year, similar concerns resulted in seven-months delay in the release of some funds. While the money eventually got to the generals, Haugaard said, there was a plus side: "It was a significant delay, and the State Department did raise specific cases with the Colombian government, so that forced human rights issues further up the chain of command, and that's a good thing," she said.

FARC soldier
(courtesy Ecuador Indymedia)
In Congress, Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) are currently circulating a sign-on letter to their colleagues requesting that the State Department withhold its annual Colombia human rights certification until the Colombian government meets the human rights conditions laid out in US law. More than 50 representatives had signed onto the letter by midweek, said Haugaard.

The issue of paramilitary demobilization is a sore one, Isaacson said. Under a negotiated agreement with the Uribe government, the paramilitaries agreed to disband in return for limited legal exposure for their human rights and drug trafficking offenses. But many para leaders are worming their way into political power, and the Organization of American States reported this week that some 4,000 demobilized fighters were "remobilizing" in Guaviare province.

"The problem is," said Isaacson, "it doesn't seem to be getting rid of the paras. Instead, they are reorganizing as drug mafias with incredible political clout. This process won't make a dent in the drug flows, and it probably won't make much of a dent in the power of the paras," he predicted.

The issue is even bothering some Republicans, said Haugaard. "There is concern over the demobilization of the paramilitaries and the impact that is having on justice and drug issues. There is considerable unease not just among Democrats, but among some Republicans, too. They see the process as too lax and the paras gaining another kind of political power."

While the paramilitary leaders have been driven by good, old-fashioned greed and lust for power, the leftist rural guerrillas of the FARC seem to be driven more by ideology, are also proving undefeatable, and are unamenable to negotiations with the Uribe government. "The FARC leadership is rigidly ideological and they have always seen themselves as armed campesinos who want a piece of the pie and otherwise want to be left alone," said Isaacson. "If that means making common cause with the drug economy, so be it. But while the para leaders are no doubt spending their money on champagne and hookers, we have no intelligence suggesting the money the FARC makes off the trade is going to Swiss bank accounts, luxury swimming pools, or similar items. They're using their profits to buy guns."

Given US policy-making inertia, Uribe's probable reelection in May, the FARC's intransigence, and the continuing vitality of the cocaine trade in Colombia, prospects for short-team progress look bleak. "The FARC will not deal with Uribe," said Isaacson. "That bodes ill for everything between now and 2010."

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4. Celebrity Mouth: Fox Bloviator Attacks TV News Legend Walter Cronkite over Drug War

commentary by Drug War Chronicle editor Phillip S. Smith, [email protected]

Walter Cronkite, the legendary CBS news anchor widely dubbed "the most trusted man in America," has joined the legions of those who have earned the scorn of Fox News television host and commentator Bill O'Reilly -- and it's all about drugs. Or is it? While Cronkite's views on drug policy were what set O'Reilly off, the talk show host strayed far from the issue, touching on everything from Cronkite's age and mental condition to the evils of secular humanism.


Bill O'Reilly

Cronkite appeared on O'Reilly's radar when he penned a fundraising letter for the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonpartisan group seeking a more sensible and human approach to drug issues. "Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home," Cronkite wrote. "While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its casualties are the wasted lives of our own citizens. I am speaking of the war on drugs."

In the letter, Cronkite explained his reasons for opposing the current drug war policies. "And what is the impact of this policy? It surely hasn't made our streets safer. Instead, we have locked up literally millions of people... disproportionately people of color... who have caused little or no harm to others -- wasting resources that could be used for counter-terrorism, reducing violent crime, or catching white-collar criminals.

"With police wielding unprecedented powers to invade privacy, tap phones and conduct searches seemingly at random, our civil liberties are in a very precarious condition," he added. "Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on this effort -- with no one held accountable for its failure."

For O'Reilly, attacking drug reform as part of the culture wars is a favorite past-time, and he was on Cronkite like a hungry dog on a favorite bone. On the February 24 edition of the Factor, O'Reilly began by portraying Cronkite as "a very far-left guy" who lives "in the same left-wing precinct" as Bill Moyers and Tom Brokaw. Not to put too fine a point on it, Cronkite is "more far-left, he's always been that way, but he masked it."

It sounds like O'Reilly is still sore at Cronkite for telling national TV audiences the Vietnam War was a failure back in the late 1960s. The fact that Cronkite is trying to help a group that has also received funds from current conservative bete noire George Soros probably doesn't help either. In addition to funding drug reform, the Hungarian-born currency speculator and financier who helped open up the East Bloc as the Soviet Union crumbled worked hard to defeat President Bush in 2004, infuriating O'Reilly and his cultural conservative colleagues, some of whom refer to him as that rarest of all creatures, the "left-wing billionaire."

"Anyway," O'Reilly continued, "he wants to legalize drugs." Of course, Cronkite didn't say that, but for the talk show host it's "truthiness" rather than truth that counts. Worse, said O'Reilly, Cronkite "lied" by saying the war on drugs had not made our streets safer.

"That's not true, the war on drugs broke the back of the crack that was out of control in major cities all across the country," he claimed.

What really happened to the "crack wars" is a matter of serious debate, with the role of law enforcement being only one of many factors. Researchers also point to learning curves -- a crackhead is not a very enticing role model -- and the consolidation of markets as key factors. And, of course, the crack trade is still going strong.

O'Reilly also attacked Cronkite for suggesting we have locked up millions who have done no harm to others. "Listen, violent crime is induced by hard drug use, Walter," O'Reilly lectured before adding, "I don't want to be too tough on you, you're 90." But then it was back to full O'Reilly attack mode for the grand finale: "This is the kind of crazy thinking that the secular progressive movement embraces. Now Walter Cronkite, the most trusted news broadcaster in American history... [is] embracing every left-wing, crazy theory there is and now says drug dealers cause little or no harm to others. I mean, it's staggering. It is staggering!"

Actually, drug-related violent crime is much more likely to be related to drug prohibition than the psychopharmacology of illicit substances. And police arrested more than 1.5 million on drug charges last year, half of them for marijuana, and, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were about half a million people behind bars on drug charges on any given day last year. O'Reilly would have us believe that they're all machine-gun toting Pablo Escobars, but for every drug kingpin, there are hundreds of low-level drug offenders doing years in prison for nonviolent, consensual crimes. Ask the kid from Washington, DC, doing a mandatory minimum five-year sentence for a few dollars worth of rocks. Ask the poor white guys in the Midwest doing three- or five- or ten-year sentences for a few flecks of methamphetamine. Ask the college student doing 30 days for a joint (and losing his financial aid) because he got caught in the wrong county.

It's not that O'Reilly hasn't had the opportunity to know better. In fact, dope is one of his hot-button issues, sure to get his fans all riled up as they ponder the decline of Western, Christian civilization. He has had DPA representatives on his show on several occasions, but doesn't seem able to hear what they have to say. In February 2003, he had on drug education specialist Marsha Rosenbaum, but used her mainly as a foil for his outrage over parents who had allowed teens to drink at a party they supervised.

A year earlier, in a bizarre segment with DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann, following the drug czar's cue, O'Reilly tried to paint marijuana and Ecstasy users as supporting terrorism. When Nadelmann explained that neither drug had much to do with Afghanistan or Al Qaeda and that Ecstasy was being manufactured in Holland, O'Reilly objected -- as he so often does when facts get in the way of his world view.

"No, but it's not run by the Dutch, it's run by Middle Eastern guys," O'Reilly exclaimed, challenging Nadelmann to a $100 bet when he scoffed. The next night, he gloated he had won the bet. "OK, here's what the Office of the National Drug Control Policy says, and we quote, 'Drug Enforcement Agency reporting demonstrates the involvement of Israeli criminal organizations in Ecstasy smuggling. Some of these individuals are of Russian and Georgian descent and have Middle Eastern ties.'"

So the presence of Israeli mobsters in the Ecstasy trade constitutes "Middle Eastern ties" that link ravers to Al Qaeda. Only in Bill O'Reilly's world. You know, the one where respected American newsmen and left-wing billionaires team up to wage "crazy" wars on the drug war, and undoubtedly, Christmas, too.

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5. Feature: The Push is On Again in Nevada

If the Las Vegas-based Committee for the Regulation and Control of Marijuana (CRCM) and its national backers, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) have their way, this is the year Nevada will vote to regulate and control marijuana. If it happens, the Silver State will be the first in the country to vote to undo marijuana prohibition. (Marijuana possession in the privacy of one's home is already legal in Alaska, but that was the result of Alaska court decisions, not the popular vote.)

In a campaign that officially kicked off last month, CRCM and MPP hope to finally get over the top after five years of working in the state. A more loosely written initiative lost by a margin of 39% to 61% in 2002, and due to a combination of organizer error and adverse ruling by Nevada authorities, a proposed 2004 initiative failed to make the ballot. Last year, reformers used a petition drive to dump the issue in the lap of the Nevada legislature, which unsurprisingly failed to act, instead choosing to dump it right back on the voters this year, which is just what CRCM and MPP were looking for in the first place.

DEA anti-initiative advocacy graphic
Since the failed 2002 effort, organizers have sharpened their message and tightened their proposal to address concerns they have identified among Nevada voters. Instead of allowing people 21 or over to possess up to three ounces, the current measure would allow them to possess only one ounce. Addressing concerns about youth, the measure increases maximum penalties for marijuana distribution to a minor. Addressing concerns about driving while high -- an issue that hurt badly in 2002 when a Las Vegas newspaper editor was killed by a drug-intoxicated driver -- the measure increases maximum penalties for killing someone while driving intoxicated.

The Nevada measure is far-reaching; it would direct the state to set up a system of regulated marijuana distribution outlets. Organizers have attempted to address possible concerns about that by explicitly prohibiting convenience stores, gas stations, and night clubs from being marijuana outlets and by location restrictions that would keep such establishments far from schools and churches.

This time, the initiative will succeed, predicted CRCM head Neil Levine. "In 2002, that was the first time people here had the chance to think seriously about this, but now the idea of regulating marijuana has been part of the dialogue for awhile," he told DRCNet. "People understand we're telling the truth when we say our current laws don't work. They know that anyone who wants to smoke marijuana is smoking marijuana. The question is whether we will finance a criminal market or create a tightly regulated one," he said. "It's a very common sense argument. Our opponents will have to defend the status quo, which is a miserable failure."

Failure or not, marijuana prohibition still has its supporters in Nevada. It's little surprise that they seem to be concentrated in the ranks of law enforcement. "We don't believe the legalization of any kind of drug is a benefit to our community," said Las Vegas Police Detective David Kallas, head of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association. "Having worked in law enforcement for 27 years, I understand that there are thousands of nonviolent drug criminals in our prisons, but I don't see how legalization of marijuana will help anything," he told DRCNet.

Kallas' early talking points give some indication of why initiative organizers fine-tuned their measure. "One concern I have is that if it becomes more readily available, people who are weak in the mind will just be able to get it at the corner store," he said. "I am also afraid it will increase drug dealing because people will have easier access, and 21-year-olds will turn around and think what's so bad about selling a few joints to some kids."

Kallas also complained that approving the measure would be bad for Nevada's image. "Our state already has a bad enough stigma because of the legalization of gambling and what they say gambling does to people, and because prostitution is legal. Why add one more burden to our society?" he asked.

Funny Kallas should mention gambling and prostitution, because that's exactly what crossed the mind of late-night TV talk show host Conan O'Brien. In a bit last week, O'Brien noted the initiative, saying "A group of Nevada residents began a campaign to legalize marijuana in the state of Nevada. The group's slogan is: Whores and gambling aren't enough."

Levine and CRCM promptly and laughingly turned that into a media-generating poll about whether to make that the campaign's official slogan. "No, it doesn't make a very good slogan," Levine joked. "We won't be hiring Conan." But it did garner some publicity.

So far, the campaign has been getting plenty of publicity, said Levine. "We're getting all kinds of media attention. Our grand opening last month was covered on every single network's news -- even Telemundo -- it was on the morning and evening newscasts, we're getting a bunch of talk radio attention, there was an Associated Press story that went nationwide. There has been a constant stream of stories coming out, and those help us get our message out. And, of course, Conan. We had fun with that."

It won't be all fun and games. While Det. Kallas and his allies are not organized yet, the law enforcement spokesman said informal meetings to plot strategy are taking place. And there is always the specter of drug czar John Walters parachuting into the state to try to sabotage the effort, a technique he has used to great effect in recent years.

"We're very optimistic, but we're also aware of the fact there is going to be lots of opposition and it won't be easy," said MPP communications director Bruce Mirken. "We expect the drug czar to come charging into town and we expect local law enforcement to organize against this," he told DRCNet. "The fact they haven't been visible yet doesn't mean they won't be there. Particularly after the surprise win in Denver in November, we expect the prohibitionists to have their long knives out."

That municipal election, where Denver residents voted to legalize the possession of up to an ounce of pot under a city ordinance, was enough to bring Walters to Colorado a few weeks later to kick off his national drug strategy for this year. A state contest where regulated sales are on the ballot is almost certain to bring him back to Nevada, where he campaigned against the 2002 initiative.

CRCM's Levine said he was ready for whatever the opposition can bring. "We're going to run our campaign no matter what they do," he said. "We're getting our message out, and we'll deal with whatever comes our way. I think Nevada voters understand it is time to have a marijuana policy that works."

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

An Alabama prosecutor's investigator gets involved in a shootout with police over 40 pounds of cocaine, a Border Patrol agent pays for winking a truck-load of dope, two more Border Patrol agents are on trial for shooting a fleeing suspected drug courier, and a New Jersey cop's bad habit gets him in trouble. Just another week on the drug law enforcement corruption front. Let's get to it:

In Birmingham, Alabama, a former Fairfield Police Department captain was among three people charged February 20 after a shootout with police led to the discovery of nearly 40 pounds of cocaine, the Birmingham News reported. Donald Curtis Lundy, who is now employed as an investigator for the Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney's office, was being held without bond on charges of attempted murder and drug trafficking along with the two other men. According to police, at least one of the men fired on officers investigating a drug complaint at an apartment complex. When police searched the apartment, they found the cocaine, along with thousands of dollars in cash, in a nearby pick-up truck. Lundy's attorney told the News Lundy just happened to be visiting the other two men when the shootout went down, didn't know the drugs were there, and didn't fire his gun.

In Laredo, Texas, a senior US Border Patrol agent was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison last week for allowing drug traffickers to move cocaine and marijuana through South Texas checkpoints. Juan Alvarez, 36, had pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to bribe a public official and conspiracy to possess cocaine and marijuana with the intent to distribute. Prosecutors alleged that Alvarez and his brother, Jose Guadelupe Alvarez, 39, who got 17 ½ years, received more than $1.5 million from traffickers in return for letting 70,000 pounds of pot and an unspecified quantity of cocaine pass unmolested through the Hebronville checkpoint a few miles north of the US-Mexico border.

In El Paso, Texas, US Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean are on trial this week for shooting an unarmed drug smuggler and then trying to cover up the crime. They face nearly a dozen federal charges, including assault with the intent to commit murder and tampering with an official proceeding. Ramos and Compean shot Mexican national Osvaldo Aldrete Davila in the back as he attempted to flee back into Mexico after a confrontation with the two agents, but did not report the shooting. A federal indictment charged that Compean "collected and disposed of spent casings" after the shooting. Aldrete, who was accused of driving a van with 700 pounds of marijuana the day of the shooting, has been given immunity and is expected to testify. The case only came to light when a relative of Aldrete told an Arizona Border Patrol, who forwarded the information to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General.

In New Orleans, former US Customs inspector Wanda Hopkins, 45, was sentenced last week to nearly eight years in prison for selling cocaine and using a weapon while engaged in drug trafficking, the Associated Press reported. Hopkins, her husband, Jerry Hopkins, and Ken Green, have now all received prison sentences in a bust that began in March 2005, when Wanda Hopkins sold a small amount of cocaine to an undercover agent with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Department. A week after that, Hopkins and her husband were pulled over in Jefferson Parish on their way back from Brownsville, Texas, with a half-pound of cocaine.

In Dover, New Jersey, a former Dover Police detective will do three years in state prison for stealing cocaine from the evidence safe, according to the Morris County Daily Record. Detective David Brennan ripped off a "small amount" of cocaine for his personal use, the Superior Court heard. He pleaded guilty to official misconduct for the theft and will seek early parole. Under the state's Intensive Supervision Program, he could be out in as little as two months.

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7. Marijuana: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back as Lawrence, Kansas, Adjusts Its Marijuana Laws

The Lawrence, Kansas, city commission Tuesday passed a new ordinance allowing first-time marijuana possession cases to be tried in municipal court instead of state court. The measure means University of Kansas students busted for pot will not be denied federal financial aid under the Higher Education Act's drug provision because municipal court convictions are not included in the federal statute.

But city commissioners threw something of a curve ball at reform proponents by amending the measure to impose a $200 minimum fine and a mandatory $100 "evaluation" fee on unlucky marijuana users. That means marijuana offenders are likely to end up paying substantially more than they would if tried in the state district court system, where, according to the Lawrence Journal-World, fines generally range from $25 to $100.

The law was approved after the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas called on the city to draft a municipal ordinance, but the forum was not exactly thrilled at the way things turned out. "I think the fine is too high," said Laura Green, executive director of the forum. "I'm opposed to the fees because I think this is more of a public health issue."

She was joined in criticizing the fines by City Commissioner Mike Rundle and Mayor Boog Highberger, with Rundle calling marijuana use "a victimless crime." Highberger added that most marijuana smokers "don't have any trouble with it. I'm not hearing any justification for a stiffer fine."

But Rundle and Highberger were on the short end of a 3-2 vote. While the remaining commissioners were okay with drafting the municipal law, they still wanted their pound of flesh from pot people. "This is just a line I have to draw," City Commissioner Sue Hack said. "I don't think $100 is significant enough to discourage people."

Green told the News the forum could live with the law because it would protect students from losing federal financial aid, but the group will be monitoring how the ordinance is implemented. "If it becomes a revenue-generating source for the city, with traps that are set up to catch people, we will be back to talk to the commission about that," Green said.

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8. Marijuana: University of Texas, Florida State Students Pass SAFER-Style Resolutions

The Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) bandwagon is rolling right along. The Colorado-based group won campus victories last year at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University with resolutions urging the schools to adopt equal penalties for alcohol and marijuana violations before winning an upset victory in Denver, where residents voted to legalize marijuana possession. Now, the campaign, which explicitly contrasts the harms of alcohol and marijuana, has won two more campus victories, at Florida State University late last month and at the University of Texas at Austin this week.

In Tallahassee, students were asked: "Should the university-imposed penalties for the use and possession of marijuana be no more punitive than the penalties currently imposed by the university for the use and possession of alcohol on campus?" More than 60% voted yes.

"We hope the Florida State University administrators will head the advice of the student body," said Alexander "Chek" Ewscychik, outreach director for FSU NORML and the coordinator of the SAFER campaign on the FSU campus. "There is simply no logical reason to impose disproportionate sanctions upon students for making the rational -- and safer -- choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol. The university is under no obligation to punish students for marijuana possession," Ewscychik continued. "If state and local authorities want to continue the irrational marijuana prohibition game, that is their business. But the university should no longer play a role in a myth-based system that is driving students, as well as adults, to drink."

In Austin, where students were asked a similar question, the referendum passed with 64.4% of the vote. While the resolutions are not binding on university administrators, they provide a clear indication of the state of student sentiment on the issue and provide powerful ammunition with which to seek changes in college disciplinary codes that punish marijuana violations more severely than alcohol violations despite clear evidence that alcohol use is linked to everything from overdose deaths to domestic violence to sexual assaults, while marijuana is not.

"This victory demonstrates that students clearly recognize the truth: Alcohol is simply more harmful -- both to the user and to society -- than marijuana," said Judie Niskala, UT Campus Coordinator for SAFER Texas. "Not surprisingly, given this truth, they agree it does not make sense to punish an individual more harshly for using the less harmful substance. This is a perfect opportunity to find out if the new student representative on the Board of Regents is going to represent the will of the students or not," Niskala pointedly added. "The university should have one clear priority: the safety of the students. Because marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, this safety issue should be the university's primary concern. It is time for the University to change its policies so that it no longer encourages students to choose alcohol over marijuana."

Now, to make administrators listen.

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9. High Schools: South Dakota Legislature Overrides Veto to Lessen Student Drug Penalties

The South Dakota legislature last week overrode a veto by Gov. Michael Rounds (R) to enact a law that will shorten a ban on extracurricular activities for one year by students caught using drugs. The state Senate voted 25-10 to override the veto, while the House voted 51-17 to override two days earlier. Both votes are more than the two-thirds required for an override.


South Dakota State House

Under a 1997 law, students caught using drugs were barred from participating in sports or other extracurricular activities as a means of discouraging drug use. Students caught a second time would be banned from activities for the rest of their high school careers. Under the bill introduced by Rep. Casey Murschel (R-Sioux Falls), that ban is reduced to 60 days on a first offense if the student agrees to submit to a chemical dependency assessment and follow its recommendations.

As early as 2000, administrators in the Sioux Falls School District, the state's largest, began discussing revising the law to allow students to rejoin non-classroom activities. But it took until this session to get a reform through the legislature, and Gov. Rounds, who was Senate majority leader when the tough law passed, tried to kill it with the veto.

"They think they are doing something good for students, but they are not," Rounds said in a written statement issued after the override. "The change will cause two bad things to happen: There will be an increase in the number of students using drugs after their sport season is over because they will now be able to jump into 60 days of counseling so they can play in next year's sport season, and there will be an increase in the number of elementary, middle school and high school students trying drugs because they will see that they can game the system to both use drugs and still play in their sport every season."

But Murschel said the original law was counterproductive. "I don't think anyone disagreed, ever, with what we were trying to do -- in the original law or my bill," she said. "We all want to do what we can to discourage drug use in South Dakota. But the original law wasn't working. We needed to try something else."

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10. Drug-Free Zones: California Homeless Legislation Would Bar Certain Drug Offenders from LA's Skid Row

A package of bills aimed at comprehensively addressing homelessness in California includes legislation that would create a zone in the heart of Los Angeles' Skid Row where people on probation for drug sales would be banned -- except to attend drug treatment programs. State Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) introduced the "Narcotics Recovery Zone" proposal, Senate Bill 1320 last week. A companion bill, SB 1318, would add two years to the prison sentences of those convicted of selling drugs in the area.

With an estimated 5,000 denizens, LA's Skid Row area is the state's largest concentration of homeless people and a dumping ground for mentally ill, drug-addicted and other "problem" people by area law enforcement agencies and hospitals, the LA Police Department charged last fall. It is also the site of two recent massive police sweeps beginning in November that police touted as removing violent criminals from the streets. But an analysis by the Los Angeles Times found that most of those arrested were parole violators, and most of them were on parole for drug convictions.

"You don't focus on the condition of homelessness," said LAPD Chief William Bratton in November, "but on the behavior that is illegal or abhorrent, or if it is not illegal, is somewhat offensive to normal sensibilities."

Sen. Cedillo has a broader perspective. His package of bills include measures that would prohibit jails and other agencies from dumping people downtown, create a community courts system, and measures seeking to tamp down drug activity in the area.

In announcing the bills last week, Cedillo said changing the drug environment in Skid Row is critical. "We're going to solve this," Cedillo said last Tuesday from Sacramento. "This is going to get done."

But creating another layer of criminalization for an already marginalized population is not a answer that sat well with Casey Horan, executive director for the Skid Row social service provider Lamp Community. She told the Times increasing penalties will result in more homeless people being sent to jail. "Criminalization is counterproductive," she said. Instead, she advocates more affordable housing, additional shelters and an increase in supportive services. "We really and unanimously want to revitalize this community. We share that," she said. "But we know that increasing criminalization is not the answer."

The effort to bar drug offenders from certain areas is probably also unconstitutional. A similar measure in Cincinnati was struck by the Supreme Court not once, but twice.

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11. Europe: Scottish Tories Tip-Toe Toward Libertarian Line on Drug Policy

A new book edited Scottish Conservative Party deputy leader Murdo Fraser and endorsed by party head Annabel Goldie suggests that the Scots Tories are edging toward a more libertarian line on drug policy. "The Blue Book: Scottish Conservatism in the 21st Century" contains 17 essays on various aspects of party policy, but it is the chapter by attorney and former Edinburg councilor Iain Catto calling for legalized drug taking that is grabbing the spotlight.

Catto's chapter was about lessening state interference in people's personal lives and freedom. He urged Tories to accept a restricted role for the state; one where it bans or restricts activities only to prevent harm to others and where it recognizes that individuals are generally better placed than politicians or the state to determine what is best for them.

In his chapter, Catto took politicians of all stripes to task for pursuing "the complete prohibition line" out of fear of being seen as soft on drugs. "In line with our principles, if an individual is aware of the risks involved with taking drugs -- which makes education as to the effects of the particular drugs vital -- and if the individual has the capacity to consent, then surely it should be left to that individual to make that choice?" he asked.

Government assumes both that it must protect all from possible harm to a few and that it is better placed than common people to decide what is best, Catto argued. "The state choosing to ban, say marijuana, because of fears about possible health effects that might take place at some point in the future, in order to protect children from accessing it, is not the whole justification," he wrote. "So in reality it is the state deciding that it knows better than individuals what is right for themselves, and claiming to protect us from a so-called dangerous product."

Murdo Fraser, the editor, was careful to say the ideas in the book were not official Scottish Tory policy, which is currently very hard-line on drugs, but he insisted the showcased the "breadth of young talent" within the party. "The hope is that they will stimulate debate, not just about the future of Conservatism, but of Scotland."

Scottish conservatism could use some help. The Scots Tories are currently tied with the Scots Liberal Party with 17 seats each in the Scottish Parliament, trailing the Scottish Labor Party with 50 seats and the Scottish National Party with 25 seats.

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12. South Asia: In Katmandu, Hindu Holy Men Smoke Marijuana in Annual Shiva Festival

Hindu holy men, devotees, and tourists by the hundreds, if not thousands, smoked marijuana this weekend outside a temple in Nepal to honor Shiva the Destroyer, the Hindu god of change and goodness. The annual festival at the Pashupatinath temple on the outskirts of Katmandu is expected to draw 150,000 people, the Associated Press reported.

Holy men (or yogis) smeared in ash and wearing loin cloths shared marijuana, or charas, with worshippers, locals, and tourists as they chanted praises to Shiva. In Hindu tradition, the gods sent the hemp plant to man to help him attain delight, courage, and sexual powers. The plant is consecrated to Shiva and is known, among other names, as "vijaya" (victory) after the gods were able to wrest it away from demons. It is still widely esteemed in India and the subcontinent for its ability to endow users with mystic, supernatural powers.

While the use and possession of marijuana is illegal in Nepal, authorities do not interfere with pot-smoking at the annual festival. They also have not managed to do away with the world famous Nepalese hash.

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13. Weekly: This Week in History

March 3, 1905: The first Congressional anti-drug law is passed when the US colonial government prohibits opium in the Philippines.

March 4, 1992: George Bush's White House has bureaucrats terminate the federal government's Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) medical marijuana program, barring even approved patients from receiving marijuana and allowing only a small handful already receiving to continue.

March 6, 1907: Gov. James Gillett signs the Poison Act Amendments, launching California's war on drugs.

March 8, 1973: The US Coast Guard conducts its first Coast Guard-controlled seizure when the USCGC Dauntless boards a 38-foot sports fisherman boat, the Big L, and arrests its master and crew with more than a ton of marijuana on board.

March 9, 1982: The largest cocaine seizure ever to date raises US awareness of the Medellin cartel. The seizure of 3,906 pounds of cocaine, valued at over $100 million wholesale, from a Miami International Airport hanger tells US law enforcement that Colombian traffickers must be working together because no single trafficker could be behind a shipment that large.

March 9, 2001: William J. Allegro, 32, of Bradley Beach, New Jersey is sentenced to 50 years in prison for growing marijuana in his home. "The court imposed this sentence because the court felt obligated to do so under the law," says Judge Paul F. Chaiet, a former prosecutor. "Mandatory sentencing provisions can create difficult results. In the court's view, this is one of those times where the ultimate results are difficult to accept."

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14. Job Opportunity: Religious Outreach Coordinator, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative

The Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative is seeking an experienced community organizer who is a dynamic person of faith (ideally a clergyperson, seminary graduate, etc.) to build support among the religious community for taxing and regulating marijuana (similarly to alcohol).

The applicant must be able to articulate the merits of taxing and regulating marijuana from a moral perspective that is persuasive to the full spectrum of mainstream people of faith.

The religious outreach organizer's goal will be to persuade faith leaders and organizations to endorse a resolution calling for this public policy reform and then to cultivate relationships with those people in a way that maximizes their influence on elected officials and the general public.

Applicant must be willing to relocate to wherever organizing is needed to support specific public policy efforts underway at the state or local level.

Application deadline is March 20, starting date is April 17, ending date is September 17. Visit for the complete job description and application instructions.

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15. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

March 3-5, Columbia, MO, Students for Sensible Drug Policy Midwest Regional Conference. At the University of Missouri, contact Joe Bartlett at [email protected] for further information.

March 5, 8:00pm, Hollywood, CA, "F* the Oscars!", comedy benefit supporting medical marijuana. Screening of "Busted: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters," preceding the comedy show featuring Fear Factor's Joe Rogan headlining, with Rick Overton and others. At The Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., admission $20, 21+, two-drink minimum, cash at the door, or tickets available from Galaxy Gallery at 7224 Melrose Ave. or local compassion clubs. Visit for info.

March 9, 7:30pm, Ridge, NH, "Cops Say Legalize Drugs. Come Ask a New Hampshire Cop Why." Forum featuring LEAP speaker Bradley Jardis, at Franklin Pierce College, hosted by FPC SSDP. For further information, contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] Jonathan Perri at [email protected].

March 13-26, central New Jersey, speaking tour by LEAP spokesperson Peter Christ. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for further information.

March 14, Vienna, Austria, "7th International Symposium on Global Drug Policy: Bridging Security and Development," sponsored by the Senlis Council, contact [email protected] for information or visit for further information to register.

March 26, Kabul, Afghanistan, "Kabul International Symposium: Bridging Security and Development -- New Perspectives in Afghanistan." Sponsored by the Senlis Council, at the Intercontinental Hotel, visit or call +93 75 200 1176 for further information.

March 27-April 10, western Kansas, focusing on Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence & Kansas City, speaking tour by LEAP executive director Jack Cole. Contact Bill Schreier at [email protected] or Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for further information.

March 29, 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.

March 29-April 1, Cincinnati, OH, "Howard Wooldridge Returns to the River City" speaking tour by LEAP. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for further information.

March 30, 8:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, MPP Party at the Playboy Mansion, tickets $500, visit for further information.

April 2-8, St. Louis, MO, speaking tour by LEAP spokesperson Howard Wooldridge. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for further information.

April 5-8, Santa Barbara, CA, Fourth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time, details to be announced, visit for updates.

April 7, Charleston Beach, SC, launch of "Journey for Justice Number Seven: Cross Country Bicycle Ride for Medical Marijuana Safe Access," by medical marijuana patient Ken Locke. Visit for further information.

April 9, noon-6:00pm, Sacramento, CA, "Cannabis at the Capitol," medical marijuana rally sponsored by the Compassionate Coalition. At the California State Capitol, west steps, visit or contact Peter Keyes at (916) 456-7933 for info.

April 9-12, Vancouver, BC, Canada, speaking tour by LEAP spokesperson Norm Stamper. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for further information.

April 20-22, San Francisco, CA, National NORML Conference, visit for further information.

April 25, 4:00-6:00pm, Washington, DC, forum with recipients of the 2006 Keith D. Cylar Activist Awards for HIV/AIDS Activism. Sponsored by Housing Works, location TBA, contact Christopher Sealey at [email protected] or visit for further information.

April 25-27, Olympia, WA, speaking tour by LEAP spokesperson Norm Stamper. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for further information.

April 26, 6:30pm, New York, NY, the 2006 Keith D. Cylar Activist Awards for HIV/AIDS Activism. At the Prince George Ballroom, sponsored by Housing Works, contact Christopher Sealey at [email protected] or visit for further information.

April 27, 6:30pm, Portland, ME, "Patients, 'Potheads,' and Dying to Get High: the Challenge of Medical Marijuana," lecture by Dr. Wendy Chapkis. At the University of Southern Maine, Glickman Family Library, 7th floor special events room, admission free, call (207) 780-4757 for further information.

April 28-30, New Paltz, NY, SSDP Northeast Regional Conference. At SUNY New Paltz, contact [email protected] for further information.

April 29, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "Hear and Now: Harm Reduction in Nursing Practice," visit for information.

April 30-May 4, 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.

May 5-6, Seattle, WA, "1st National Harm Reduction Therapy Conference: Bringing Us Together," visit for further information.

May 6-7, worldwide, Million Marijuana march, visit for further information.

June 3, 1:00-11:00pm, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 10th Legalize! Street Rave Against the War on Drugs. Visit or contact Jonas Daniel Meyerplein at +31(0)20-4275626 or [email protected] for info.

July 4, Washington, DC, Fourth of July Rally, sponsored by the Fourth of July Hemp Coalition. At Lafayette Park, contact (202) 887-5770 for further information.

June 8-9, Monterey, CA, speaking tour by LEAP spokesperson James Anthony. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for further information.

July 15-20, Chicago, IL, "Freedom, Tolerance, and Civil Society," free summer seminar for college students, sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies. At Loyola University, visit by April 10 for information or to apply -- apply before March 31 and receive a free book.

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit for further information.

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit for further information.

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit or contact Paula Santiago at [email protected].

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