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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #428 -- 3/24/06

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Table of Contents

    why so little change in federal sentencing?
    Fourteen months ago, the US Supreme Court upset the federal sentencing apple cart with a ruling finding the sentencing guidelines unconstitutional. But a Sentencing Commission study has now found that not much has changed.
    Advocates of ending marijuana prohibition have been wandering the desert of American politics for forty years and have yet to find the Promised Land. Now a new poll shows that in at least some parts of the country, the public is ready to say "legalize it."
    The Texas League of Women Voters has become the latest state chapter of the venerable civic action organization to adopt a position on drug law reform, if for now a limited one.
    Do you read Drug War Chronicle? If so, we need your feedback to evaluate our work and make the case for Drug War Chronicle to funders. We need donations too.
    Cops as drug dealers, cops preying on drug dealers, cops helping drug dealers, and of course, the requisite miscreant prison guard or two.
    In a lawsuit filed by the ACLU this week, students losing financial aid eligibility because of drug convictions are taking on the infamous Higher Education Act drug provision.
    On a 5-3 vote, the US Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police cannot enter a home and seize evidence without a warrant if one occupant refuses to consent -- even if another occupant gives permission.
    Alaska legislators have for two years declined to help Gov. Frank Murkowski get the state Supreme Court to undo rulings upholding the constitutional right of citizens to possess up to a quarter-pound of marijuana at home. A new poll gives them another reason to say no to Murkowski's anti-marijuana mission.
    Laws that create heightened penalties for drug offenses near schools, public housing, and other designated places were ostensibly designed to protect young people from drug-related activity. But they fail to do so, and non-whites are disproportionately targeted by them, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute.
    A Winsted, Connecticut, resident who was busted for marijuana growing will at least get to keep a mural he painted on his home in protest.
    With Afghanistan's opium crop expected to increase this year despite efforts to suppress it, the US State Department has a plan to convince the American and international public the policy nevertheless works.
    Bhang, or marijuana, is commonly used in certain Hindu religious festivals, and the government of the Indian state of Punjab is now selling it wholesale.
  13. WEB SCAN
    Slate on Student Drug Testing, Stats Truths of the Drug War
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    Communications Assistant, Marijuana Policy Project, Washington, DC
    Showing up at an event can be the best way to get involved! Check out this week's listings for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!

(Chronicle archives)

1. Feature: Despite Supreme Court Ruling Throwing Out Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Federal Drug Sentences Keep Getting Longer

Fourteen months ago, the US Supreme Court upset the federal sentencing apple cart when it ruled in US v. Booker that the sentencing guideline scheme in place for nearly two decades unconstitutionally allowed judges to sentence defendants based on facts not heard by a jury. As a remedy, the Supreme Court held the guidelines could no longer be mandatory, but only advisory. While some sentencing reform advocates hoped that more humane drug sentences would result, and conservative congressmen and the Justice Department worried that somebody somewhere would not do enough prison time, after a year of post-Booker sentencing, little has changed.

Southern Correctional Institution, Troy, NC
In a report on post-Booker sentences issued last week, the US Sentencing Commission found that most judges in most cases continued to sentence in accord with the now "advisory" guidelines. According to the report, about 67,000 people were sentenced in the federal courts in the past year, and their average sentence of 58 months was actually higher than the 57-month average of the previous year. Sentences below the guidelines have increased, but only minimally, from a little over 9% to just over 15%.

Prosecutors can and occasionally do appeal sentences below the guidelines. In the 21 appeals of lenient sentences filed by prosecutors in the past year, courts have reversed 15, the Sentencing Commission reported.

The main subjects of federal criminal sentencing procedures are convicted drug offenders. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2003, drug offenders made up 55% of all federal prisoners. By now, with the federal Bureau of Prisons reporting 180,000 federal prisoners as of last week, about 100,000 people are serving federal time for drug crimes. And they are serving longer sentences after Booker than before; the Sentencing Commission found the average sentence for a drug trafficking offense had increased from 83 months to 85 months.

"It is certainly telling that the average sentence has gone up -- not down -- even though we are seeing more below the guideline sentences," said Ohio State University law professor Douglas Berman, author of the Sentencing Law and Policy blog. "The big reality is things haven't changed that much, and that's somewhat surprising given there was so much complaining by judges when the guidelines were mandatory, but there is a judicial culture of guideline compliance."

"Booker hasn't caused lower sentences," said Nora Callahan, director of the November Coalition, a drug reform group that concentrates on freeing federal prisoners. "With mandatory minimum sentences and heavy reliance on the advisory guidelines, that ruling doesn't seem to make much difference. It looks pretty much like business as usual in the federal courts, but that's a problem because the status quo is injustice."

"The biggest advantage of Booker is that it allows the Court to sentence below the guidelines in cases in which it finds the guideline sentence to be unreasonably high," said Denver defense attorney Jeralynn Merritt, author of the crime and politics blog TalkLeft. "This can be particularly helpful to defendants in drug cases who did not cooperate with the government. In the cases I've seen where the judge has sentenced below the guidelines, the factors relied on most have been a disparity of sentences between others in similar circumstances and a finding that a lesser sentence will reflect the seriousness of the offense and provide just punishment for the offense," she told DRCNet.

But those cases are the exception, Merritt said. "In the sentencings I've been involved in or observed, courts are mostly sticking to the guidelines. Exceptions have been in cases of first offenders for whom the guidelines call for jail but the court thinks an alternative sentence is sufficient, and cases in which co-defendants with equal conduct got far lower sentences than the person about to be sentenced," she said.

At a hearing last week before the House Judiciary Committee, headed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), expert witnesses largely agreed that the Booker ruling had not produced a situation requiring a legislative "fix," although that did not stop Sensenbrenner from blustering about the need to do something to ensure that people stayed behind bars for long enough. In a statement released before the hearing, Sensenbrenner vowed to pursue new legislation.

"The data is now in and the picture is not pretty," Sensenbrenner said. "The Sentencing Commission's report shows that unrestrained judicial discretion has undermined the very purposes of the Sentencing Reform Act, and jeopardized the basic precept of our federal court system that all defendants should be treated equally under the law," he argued, pointing to a small number of sex offender cases. "The sentencing data shows that Federal judges have not embraced, and in many cases, have undermined, Congress' specific intent in these areas. In response to the problems described in this report, the Judiciary Committee intends to pursue legislative solutions to restore America's confidence in a fair and equal federal criminal justice system."

But most observers don't see a problem requiring new sentencing legislation. "As most of the witnesses at last week's hearings noted, sentencing remains largely unchanged," said Mary Price, general counsel for Families Against Mandatory Minimums. "The courts are generally sentencing within the guidelines, and while some are sentencing below the guidelines, a number of those sentences have been reversed by appellate courts. If anything, what we have seen is a little troubling for people who think the guideline sentences are too harsh."

"The Sentencing Reform Act had two goals," said FAMM's Price. "One was uniformity, and that's what all the noise is about. But the other goal is proportionality -- the notion that the sentence should bear some relationship to the gravity of the offense -- and that has been completely forgotten."

"There has been no wholesale abandonment of the guidelines since Booker," said Merritt. "There is no need for a legislative fix. The system is working, defense attorneys and prosecutors have adapted, as have the courts. Booker is a blessing in that it restores some discretion to the sentencing judges, but in my experience they are using it quite judiciously and sparingly."

"On the whole, federal sentences have remained the same or are somewhat more severe."

"Congress need not be concerned that there is an epidemic of leniency in the federal courts,� said Carmen Hernandez, first vice president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a federal sentencing guidelines expert. "What should concern Congress is the vast sums of our tax dollars that are being spent to imprison nonviolent offenders by the numbers without regard to 'the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant.'"

"Congress should also be questioning why our federal prisons are filled with a disproportionate number of blacks, Latinos and young men from poor families,� said Hernandez. �In terms of protecting society, Congress' real concern ought also to be that every year we are releasing tens of thousands of persons back into the community without any real treatment or job training, and without their families, who have long moved on."

"It is easy political theater for people like Sensenbrenner to complain that sentences are too lenient," said Berman, "but the relative lack of national attention to their complaints suggests the issue isn't getting much traction. The Booker ruling has both made the story so complicated and made it seem less urgent that the political heat has died down considerably. The Justice Department is never happy when anyone besides prosecutors has significant discretion, and Justice is eager to see a mandatory minimum guideline system, but leaving the status quo as is makes more sense."

There are problems that pre-dated Booker waiting to be addressed, Berman said. "There is a range of flaws in the system that we have to endure because Booker hasn't changed things that much," he said. "Mandatory minimum sentences, the length of some drug sentences, the crack-powder cocaine disparity, the rigidity in criminal history rules -- all of these need to be looked at."

But attempting to address the injustice of the federal drug war through redressing harsh sentencing is intervening way too late in the process, said Callahan. "Sentencing is the back end of the problem," she told DRCNet. "We haven't fixed the problem of discretion in arresting and charging. Who has the power to throw people into this federal meat grinder? Is it the informant on the street who feeds somebody to the cops? Is it the officer who decides to make an arrest? Is it the prosecutor who sets the charges? We need to fix this system from the front end, and Booker and other sentencing reforms don't address any of that."

Meanwhile, Rep. Sensenbrenner and the Judiciary Committee, along with the Justice Department, are moving ahead with plans to tighten the sentencing screws. The committee has set two more hearings, one for later this month and one in May. Look for them to attempt new "fixes" to the non-existent problem of soft federal sentencing. And the federal drug war gulag continues to grow.

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2. Feature: Zogby Poll Says Both Coasts Favor Letting States Legalize Marijuana -- What Is It Going To Take?

Advocates of ending marijuana prohibition have been wandering the desert of American politics for forty years and have yet to find the Promised Land, but a new poll provides the latest evidence that at least in some parts of the country, the public is ready to say "legalize it," or more benignly, "regulate and control it." The new Zogby International poll of registered US voters finds that a majority of voters contacted on both the West Coast and the East Coast would support amending federal law "to let states legally regulate and tax marijuana the way they do liquor and gambling."

2005 Seattle Hempfest

Nationwide, 46% supported making marijuana policy a state option, while 53% did on the East Coast and 55% on the West Coast. In the South and Midwest, by contrast, 55% opposed it. In partisan terms, support was strongest among Democrats, with 59% in favor, while only 33% of Republicans favored letting states set their own marijuana laws. Independents split, with 44% in favor and 49% against.

Support for letting states tax and regulate marijuana also divides along religious and age group lines, sometimes in a surprising fashion. Protestants were least likely to support state marijuana reform (38%) -- and only 26% of "born again" people -- while 48% of Catholics, 60% of non-believers, and 70% of Jews approved.

More unexpected were the differences among age groups. While 18-29 year-olds unsurprisingly strongly favored state regulation (66%), the opinion of 30-49 year-olds was the reverse, with 58% opposed. Favorable opinion rose again in the 50-65 group before declining in the post-65 group. Commissioned by the NORML Foundation, the Zogby poll is based on interviews with 1,004 registered voters. It has a margin of error of 3.2%.

The Zogby poll is the latest to suggest that support for marijuana law reform is approaching critical mass, at least in some parts of the country. A Gallup poll released in November showed 36% of adults nationwide supporting marijuana legalization, an all-time high, with 47% of Westerners agreeing with freeing the weed. Support for reform can reach even higher, if the right question is asked. A 2001 Zogby poll asked respondents if they favored "arresting and jailing marijuana law offenders," and 61% answered no. In its soundings in Nevada, where it is backing an initiative to legalize the adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and create a system of regulated distribution, the Marijuana Policy Project reports a substantial difference in favorable responses when potential voters are asked if they support "legalizing marijuana" or "regulating and controlling marijuana."

"Public support for replacing the illicit marijuana market with a legally regulated, controlled market similar to alcohol -- complete with age restrictions and quality controls -- continues to grow," NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre said. "NORML's challenge is to convert this growing public support into a tangible public policy that no longer criminalizes those adults who use marijuana responsibly."

But if support for reform is nearing critical mass, that hasn't yet translated into significant victories at the state or federal level. While 11 states decriminalized marijuana possession in the 1970s, none have since, and the federal marijuana laws remain rock solid. Real progress has been made with medical marijuana, with 12 states now allowing it, but when it comes to recreational pot use, victories have been limited to the municipal level, as with the "lowest law enforcement priority" initiatives in Seattle and Oakland, and last November's stunning Denver vote to legalize the possession of up to an ounce. The organizers of the Denver victory, SAFER (Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation), are now working to get a statewide initiative on the ballot for November. It would simply legalize the possession of up to an ounce for adults.

To win victories -- to legalize marijuana -- will require identifying friends and foes and crafting messages aimed at both groups, as well as using new and old media to get out the message, and good, old-fashioned work in the trenches of electoral and legislative politics, reform leaders told DRCNet this week. It will also require continued efforts at the federal, state, and local levels.

"If you can address the fears about kids using marijuana, you can make some progress," said St. Pierre. "The poll showed that support drops off for people from 28 to 50, the ones who are getting married and having kids. But as soon as they get divorced or turn 50, the numbers start going up again. Apparently, when you get married or have kids you lose half your brain," he continued. "This makes it very clear why the Office of National Drug Control Policy is so obsessed with trying to communicate with parents; they're their key demographic. They take a subpopulation of adults who would otherwise be neutral or positive and try to whip up the fear."

Calming those fears is crucial, St. Pierre said. "We did a NORML road show out in Seattle last week where we gave folks like Rick Steves, Jeffrey Steinborn, and Dominic Holden 10 or 15 minutes to try to persuade the audience to endorse marijuana reform," said St. Pierre. "I think those audience members who went in opposed came out at least neutral. When you have a chance to work through this, you can leave your audience with the feeling that there is a pragmatic, non-scary way to regulate pot. You can point out that it is fear and paranoia keeping the status quo intact, even though it doesn't reduce teen marijuana use. You can point out that tobacco is legal, but we've reduced its use in half. You can reach these people."

Progress will require taking advantage of both traditional and new media, said St. Pierre. "I think there is opportunity in emerging technologies like podcasting and video blogging, but we also need a sustained and well-done advertising campaign in the traditional media. Most drug reform advertising has been ad hoc or geared toward particular events. I think even just an alternative newspaper ad campaign would be remarkably successful in reaching our stakeholders. There are 133 alternative papers in the US, and that demographic has no equal when it comes to our target audiences."

While NORML is hitting the hustings and plotting media war, MPP is working the corridors of Congress and, through its grants program, providing funding for the statewide Nevada initiative and a handful of local initiatives in the West. The Zogby poll shows that nearly half the nation is ready to let the states try their hand at alternative marijuana policies, and Congress should take note, said MPP's Kampia.

"If half the American people want this, why doesn't half of Congress support it?" he asked, carefully pointing out that the Zogby poll measured support for a state's right to regulate marijuana, not support for legalization itself. "Why aren't we seeing some movement in Congress?"

Kampia and MPP are doing all they can to create some movement, he said. "Right now, we are on the brink of getting a bill introduced in the House to let states do what they want on marijuana policy. It's got about 15 cosponsors. We don't expect to even get a hearing this year, but it's a start."

While action on the federal front is clearly a long-term prospect, high levels of support for marijuana law reform in the West make it the region to watch this year and in the near future. The reasons the West is so relatively pot-friendly are historical, cultural, and institutional, reformers speculated.

"The West is where it began," said St. Pierre. "If you are a middle-aged person in California, you've been hearing a public discussion about marijuana all your adult life. There was a legalization bill in 1972, the Moscone Act in 1976, Jack Herer talks about trying to get it on the ballot in 1980. And of course, there's Hollywood and the whole culture of deviancy. But the thing is, if you're an adult in California, you've already discussed this. Now the debate is moving away from legalization or not to whether marijuana should be organic or not."

"Things are clearly further along in the West, where there is more of a live and let live attitude," said Kampia. "Just as you see stronger support for medical marijuana, so you see stronger support for non-medical marijuana. But the reason the West is so far ahead politically is clearly because of the initiative process. That's the number one answer. In the East, where few states allow initiatives, you can find your hands tied very easily. All it takes is a committee chairman opposed to marijuana and you're stuck."

Tell it to Whitney Taylor. From her office in downtown Boston, Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts director Taylor is deeply involved in efforts to get a marijuana decriminalization bill moving in the Bay State. For Taylor, marijuana politics is largely a statehouse game subject to all the inertial forces of the legislative process, and she said that process would most likely kill the bill this year.

In the East, the initiative process is a rare thing, unlike the West, Taylor sighed. "The whole reason the West is so far ahead is the initiative process," said Taylor, who spent years in California working on that state's Proposition 36, the "treatment not jail" initiative and then monitoring its implementation. "We won that with 61% of the vote, and when I went to the statehouse after that it was like I had an 800-pound gorilla by my side. Win an initiative, and the whole legislative process gets a whole lot easier."

Dealing with legislators without that boost isn't as fun or easy, Taylor said. "You have legislators who have been getting elected on the 'tough on crime/tough on drugs' schtick for decades, and that's difficult to turn around quickly," she told DRCNet. "They are afraid of losing their job if they vote for marijuana regulation. I wish we had legislators and public officials who did what their constituents wanted and created policies based on science and efficacy. It is not so much a matter or educating the legislators anymore -- they will tell you privately they get it -- but of advocacy to persuade them to stand up and be brave. You have to give them cover when you can, or you need people whose impeccable law enforcement credentials provide them with that cover."

Part of the difficulty in winning marijuana victories in state legislatures has to do more with the legislative process than with pot itself. In New Mexico, for example, medical marijuana was stymied last year by an unrelated political dispute between its main sponsor and a key legislator. This year, the bill advanced rapidly during a frenetic short session only to die thanks to another legislative maneuver -- it was shunted to an unrelated committee headed by a hostile chairman, where it died.

The same sort of legislative politicking is an obstacle in Massachusetts, too, said Taylor. "Here we have a Democratic legislature that is dying to win back the governorship, and they're up against a Republican candidate running as a criminologist. This legislature wants to avoid offering her up any softballs, so our decrim bill is probably going to die in committee."

And then there is legislative business as usual. "In addition to trying to win back the governorship, there are perennial budget issues, there's the death penalty, and on and on," said Taylor. "When you're trying to work with legislators, you have to figure out what else is on their plates. Yes, their plates are full, but it's my job to get the troops lined up district by district, so I go see the key legislators for my issues and either educate them or support and push them. As reformers, we know we have the science, we have the polling numbers, but we have to understand the institutional obstacles and problems and find ways to deal with them."

It's a different ball game out West this year. Following the lead of Oakland, where Measure Z, ordering the city to make marijuana offenses the "lowest law enforcement priority" and lobby the state to regulate it, passed overwhelmingly in 2004, local initiatives bankrolled in part by the MPP grants program are underway in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. Victories there this fall could provide a big push for a statewide effort, said Kampia.

"A sweep this fall will hopefully create a statewide news buzz and plant the seeds of a statewide movement to entirely end marijuana prohibition," he said. "Also, these sorts of victories are the best way of persuading legislators their constituents are on our side on this issue. State legislators in these four jurisdictions will be solicited to introduce bills to tax and regulate at the state level. Victory in the fall could also attract the attention of major donors who could really help in a broader statewide campaign."

Voters in Nevada will have the chance to approve the adult use and regulated distribution of marijuana in November. If they do approve the measure, Nevada would be the first state to legalize marijuana in the voting booth (unless Colorado joins it on Election Day). Alaska, currently the only state to allow limited legal possession of marijuana (up to a quarter-pound in one's home), went that route through the state Supreme Court, not via popular vote or the legislature.

"If we can win in Nevada, it would be the biggest victory in the history of the marijuana policy reform movement," said Kampia. "While people may disagree about the likelihood of our winning, no one disagrees about that. It would change everything. Not only would it be a huge rebuff to the federal war on marijuana users, it should also cause a massive infusion of cash into the reform movement as we show victory is possible. It would immediately improve the lives of a couple hundred thousand Nevadans."

And it would provide a big impetus to move on to other states. "Alaska would probably be next, then states like Washington and Oregon," Kampia predicted.

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3. Feature: Texas League of Women Voters Adopts Drug Policy Positions -- Supports Needle Exchange, Medical Marijuana

The Texas League of Women Voters has become the latest state chapter of the venerable civic action organization to adopt a position on drug law reform. At the end of a year-long process jump-started by drug reformers within the Texas LWV, the state group adopted the proposals in January, but did not reveal them until this month.

According to the consensus position adopted in January, "the League of Women Voters of Texas considers substance abuse and drug addiction public health issues." Texas LWV specifically endorsed preventative education programs to keep kids from starting to use drugs and public education programs directed at adults, as well as needle exchange programs to reduce the incidence of blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

The Texas LWV also endorsed medical marijuana. Its position on the issue is: "Laws regarding drug abuse and drug addiction should include no criminal penalties for cannabis (marihuana) possession when recommended by a physician."

In the 1960s, radical activists who hoped to remake American society spoke of the need for a "long march through the institutions" in order to spread their position throughout society. Drug reformers of today face a similar problem: bringing not only the political system but the organizations that influence it on board with remaking the nation's drug laws. Thus, reformers have attempted to influence party platforms, get professional groups like doctors' and lawyers' associations to adopt positions, persuade unions and other and civic groups to come around, and otherwise bore their way into the heart of socially and politically influential organizations.

The League of Women Voters is one of those influential groups. Founded in 1920, the highly-respected nonpartisan civic organization has chapters in all 50 states. According to its web site, the LWV fights "to improve our systems of government and impact public policies through citizen education and advocacy," and it does so through a decentralized, grassroots organization that makes it ideally suited for allowing members to percolate new ideas up through the local chapters to the state and national level.

The Texas League didn't suddenly wake up one day and decide to study drug policy. Instead, it required individual League members to make it happen. "Noelle Davis from the Austin chapter and I got the state convention to adopt a study," said Suzanne Wills of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas and the Ft. Worth chapter of the LWV. "That's the way the League does things. We decide to study the issue, then all the leagues in the area, whether it's local or state or national, are supposed to participate in the study and come to a consensus. If we can't come to consensus on a particular issue, like, for instance, reducing the penalties for adult marijuana possession, we don't adopt a position on that issue."

Sometimes, League chapters or members have to take a more roundabout path to getting an issue studied, said Wills. "With drug policy, the Austin League requested a statewide study of the issue, but the state board didn't recommend it, so Noelle and I had to do some lobbying at the convention, and we managed to get two-thirds of the delegates to adopt it," she said. "That's not how it's typically done, but that's how we got it done."

The League did not adopt consensus positions on some of the more vanguard issues, but drug reformers in the League pronounced themselves satisfied -- for now. "I'm very pleased with the outcome of the study because these are issues that the League can start to advocate for now," said Noelle Davis, who also heads Texans for Medical Marijuana. "These are issues that the legislature is already dealing with, and the League will add a new voice in advocating for these issues."

It would have been preferable to arrive at a stronger drug reform statement, said Davis, but that can come down the road. "In time, more members of the League will be comfortable with broader reforms, but I'm very happy that they came to a consensus on education, medical marijuana, and needle exchange," she said.

What a Texas LWV consensus on certain drug policy issues means in the world of real politics is clout. "The League can now advocate on these issues at the statewide and local level," said Davis. That does not, however, mean the Texas LWV will decide that is the best use of its limited resources. "The League has positions on many issues," Davis said. "The state advocacy chair and advocacy committee will have to decide if drug policy reform is one they want to lobby on."

It's not just Texas. In Seattle, the local League, working with reformers around the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project, is playing a key role in pushing the drug reform agenda forward. And according to a survey of state Leagues conducted by Wills, Leagues in at least 13 other states and a handful of localities have reached consensus positions on one or more drug policy issues.

Arkansas is one of the states where the League has acted on drug policy, and again, a drug policy reformer who is also a League member played a key role. "The League here had done a study of sentencing issues several years ago," said Denele Campbell, director of the Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana and a member of the Washington County (Fayetteville) League. "That study recommended that medicinal marijuana use not be a crime resulting in a jail sentence, but when I asked whether that consensus could be used to support political action on the issue, the county leadership thought it needed to go forward as a statewide study on its own. So we did."

Now, the Arkansas LWV is on record supporting medical marijuana -- as well as supporting decriminalization of marijuana, the use of drug courts, and good drug prevention education. It is also on record opposing mandatory minimum sentences and prison sentences for drug possession offenses.

"This is important," said Campbell. "The League has an excellent reputation for nonpartisan, thorough investigation of the issues, and it has the credibility that a single interest group can't necessarily bring to an issue. Once the League reaches a consensus on an issue, it backs it up with press releases and even lobbying, depending on what other issues are on its agenda and how fervently it cares about your issue. Anyone who is interested in making his or her community a better place should view the League as a good vehicle for doing all sorts of things."

In Texas, Wills and Davis are waiting to see whether the state League will use some of its organizational resources to advance the drug policy consensus reached by local chapters. "The League has limited resources, so just because it adopts a position doesn't mean it will lobby for it," said Wills. "What we'll do is try to get medical marijuana or needle exchange bills before the legislature again, and then try to get the League lobbyist to work on it."

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

Cops as drug dealers, cops preying on drug dealers, cops helping drug dealers, and of course, the requisite miscreant prison guard or two. Just another week on the corrupt cops front. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, two police officers are on trial this week on federal corruption charges. Officers Antonio Murray, 36, and William King, 35, face a 33-count indictment charging them with conspiracy to steal cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and cash from drug suspects. Their civilian cohort, Antonio Mosby, who served as their lookout and snitch, has already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against them. After getting a tip that King was shaking down drug suspects, federal investigators wiretapped Murray's and King's cell phones and tracked the pair as they rounded up likely prospects, then threatened to hurt or arrest them if they didn't cough up the goodies, according to the indictment. Each could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted on the most serious charges. The trial is expected to last another couple of weeks.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, DEA agents last Friday arrested a former Baton Rouge police officer on an affidavit charging he was selling cocaine. Darryl Davis was a 13-year veteran when he was fired in 1999 for stealing evidence and later found guilty of obstruction of justice. Last Friday, Davis was pulled over for a traffic stop and police "conducted a further investigation from there, which led to the discovery of cocaine and a weapon he's charged with," said US Attorney David Dugas in a statement. In a search of Davis' home, the DEA found a .38 caliber handgun and more than 13 pounds of cocaine. He is charged with possession with the intent to distribute and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

In Memphis, a former police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to breaking into a hotel room last year and stealing $12,000 he thought belonged to a drug dealer. Former Officer Patrick Joynt, 36, and his civilian partner in crime Donald Lemm, 33, were actually the victims of a sting; according to an indictment, Joynt met with a snitch last August to discuss the rip-off, government agents planted the money in the room, and Joynt and Lemm went for the bait. The pair will be sentenced in June and face up to 10 years in prison. Joynt was fired last March after racking up more than 50 disciplinary charges in his nine years as a police officer, including wrecking patrol cars, going AWOL, sexually harassing women, and beating a suspect with a club. He also faces state and federal lawsuits from his victims.

In Murrysville, Pennsylvania, a former Allegheny Township police officer was arraigned last Friday on a charge that he alerted an alleged drug dealer to an upcoming raid last July, the Valley News Dispatch reported. Jerry Enciso, 47, had been a patrolman and sergeant for 15 years before resigning in September. In a police affidavit filed in court, Westmoreland County detectives allege that Enciso met the dealer at the dealer's trailer and told him he had sold drugs to an undercover agent and he should get rid of his stash. Enciso is also accused of asking the dealer to have the dealer's teen-age daughter "poke the eye out" of the son of one of Enciso's fellow cops. He is free on $10,000 bond.

North of Harlingen, Texas, a state corrections officer was arrested March 13 at a US Border Patrol checkpoint on US Highway 77 with 21 pounds of marijuana stuffed in the spare tire of the vehicle he was driving. Curtis Hinson, a veteran officer at the Texas Department of Corrections Stiles Unit in Beaumont, was charged with possession of marijuana and faces up to 10 years in state prison after a drug dog alerted on his vehicle. Stiles was driving a car registered to a Houston woman with a criminal record including drug possession and prostitution, but claimed he did not know it belonged to her and did not know the pot was on board. For unexplained reasons, Hinson was wearing his uniform when arrested. He has been placed on leave by the Texas prisons.

In Tucson, Arizona, a prison guard was arrested March 16 on charges of suspicion of conspiracy to possess a narcotic drug for sale, the Arizona Daily Star reported. Pima County corrections officer David Leyva, 24, was arrested at the jail after an investigation by the Counter Narcotic Alliance found that he was working on a large cocaine deal with another man, who was also arrested. Leyva is no longer employed by Pima County.

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6. Lawsuit: ACLU and Students Sue Feds Over College Aid Ban for Drug Offenders

Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the American Civil Liberties Union Drug Law Reform Project filed suit in federal court in South Dakota Wednesday seeking to overturn the federal law that bars students with drug convictions from receiving federal financial aid for specified periods of time. Some 35,000 students a year have been denied aid under the law, though that number will soon fall under a partial reform to the law passed earlier this year that would limit its application to students who are enrolled in college when busted.

The suit names Education Secretary Margaret Spelling as the defendant, but the real target is the Higher Education Act's (HEA) drug provision, authored by leading congressional drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) in 1998. Since the act took effect, more than 180,000 students have been denied financial aid for drug crimes as trivial as possession of a joint. No other criminal conviction�not murder nor rape nor robbery -- results in a similar federally-mandated loss of financial aid.

The ACLU argues that the law is unconstitutional because it penalizes students already punished by the courts, which amounts to double jeopardy. The group also argues that the law violates students' rights to due process and equal protection under the law because it has a disproportionate impact on black Americans, who are more frequently convicted of drug offenses than whites despite equal drug use rates.

Though not a party to the lawsuit, the John W. Perry Fund, a scholarship program created by DRCNet Foundation that assists students losing their financial aid because of drug convictions, played a key role in the effort -- two of the three student plaintiffs were located by DRCNet as a result of their contacting the Fund last year.

Kraig Selken of Northern State University in South Dakota is one of them. Selken was arrested for simple marijuana possession last October after police found a joint in the home he shared with two other students. He did three days in jail with 57 days suspended if he sought treatment. Under the HEA drug provision, students can have their federal aid reinstated if they attend a treatment program that includes random drug tests, but Selken's program didn't offer that and the court didn't order it, so he is out of luck on keeping his student loan.

Selken, who is carrying a 3.0 grade point average as a history major, will have to delay his college education if he cannot receive federal financial aid, he told Bloomberg News Wednesday. "The thing that it ends up being aimed at is just to deter education," Selken said. "It's not about deterring drug use."

But Rep. Souder held firm, telling Bloomberg students "who are frittering away their educations by dealing or using drugs" shouldn't expect taxpayer handouts. "If students want to pay for their educations themselves and use drugs while doing so, that's one thing," Souder said in a written response to a request for comment. "If they expect to receive taxpayer funds while using drugs, that's something else."

While Souder may be standing tall, it is not up to him but the courts to decide this case.

In the meantime, the search for plaintiffs continues. If you or someone you know has lost student financial aid because of a drug conviction, visit click here for more information about becoming a plaintiff. Click Click here to read the SSDP v. Spelling complaint online.

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7. Search and Seizure: Supreme Court Rejects Searches When One Occupant Consents, But Another Does Not

On a 5-3 vote, the US Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police cannot enter a home and seize evidence without a warrant if one occupant refuses to consent -- even if another occupant gives permission. The court's most conservative members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, all dissented. Recently sworn-in Justice Samuel Alito did not vote because he was not on the bench when the case was argued.

home search enactment, BUSTED
In Georgia v. Randolph, the Randolphs were having marital difficulties when Janet Randolph called police to the couple's home because of a domestic dispute. She told police Scott Randolph had been using cocaine and that drugs were on the premises. When an officer asked for permission to search the house, Randolph, a lawyer, refused. The officer then asked Mrs. Randolph, who gave permission. Police found a straw and white powder residue. As a result, Randolph was charged with cocaine possession.

He sought to have that evidence suppressed as the fruit of an unlawful search, but a trial court held the search was lawful because the wife had equal authority with her husband to give consent to a police search. The Georgia Supreme Court disagreed, holding that when two people have equal use and control of a premises, one person's consent is not valid if the other is present and objects.

The state of Georgia appealed to the Supreme Court, where it was joined by the US Justice Department, which urged the court to overturn the Georgia decision. But in a 19-page opinion authored by Justice David Souter, the Supreme Court declined. It was not a tough call, Souter wrote, because the case involved "a straightforward application of the rule that a physically present inhabitant's express refusal of consent to a police search is dispositive as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant."

The case prompted the first written dissent by Chief Justice Roberts, who oddly argued that because the ruling would not protect all co-occupants -- only those who were present to object -- it should not protect any. Furthermore, Roberts worried, the ruling could hinder police in domestic abuse situations. "And the cost of affording such random protection is great, as demonstrated by the recurring cases in which abused spouses seek to authorize police entry into a home they share with a non-consenting abuser," Roberts wrote.

Roberts concern was "a red herring," Souter responded in the majority opinion. "This case has no bearing on the capacity of the police to protect domestic victims. The question whether the police might lawfully enter over objection in order to provide any protection that might be reasonable is easily answered yes."

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8. Marijuana: Poll Finds Alaskans Just Say No to Recriminalization

Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski has been trying for the last two years to undo Alaska Supreme Court and appeals court decisions upholding the right under the state constitution of citizens to possess up to a quarter-pound of marijuana at home. Last year, despite Murkowski's best efforts, his bill to recriminalize marijuana died for lack of legislative interest.

This year, Murkowski and his allies overreached, getting their hands slapped when they tried to tie the marijuana issue to a meth bill. That bill is still alive, however, and is being considered by a Senate-House conference committee despite solons' grumblings over Murkowski's maneuvers.

Now, legislators have even more reason to tell Murkowski to go away. According to a poll conducted by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research for the Marijuana Policy Project, 56% of Alaskans surveyed oppose any effort to recriminalize marijuana, while only 43% support it. One percent can't make up their minds.

Similarly, 50% of voters said they supported the Alaska Supreme Court ruling that the state constitution's privacy provisions allowing people to possess up to a quarter-pound at home for personal use. When asked if they would approve if smaller amounts of marijuana were permitted, support rose to 56%. "Alaskans strongly disapprove of the governor's marijuana legislation, and don't want our legislators rushing ahead with this cobbled-together, poorly thought-out bill," said Bill Parker, former Alaska state legislator and retired deputy commissioner of corrections. "The conference committee now has one more reason to put the brakes on this ill-conceived idea."

"Alaskans value the right of privacy in our own homes as guaranteed in our constitution," said Michael McLeod-Ball of the ACLU of Alaska. "Alaskans think it's wrong for the governor and legislature to do an end-run around our constitutional privacy protections. The mainstream believes there's a middle ground that the politicians are ignoring in the name of partisan politics."

If Alaska legislators need some backbone to oppose the governor on the marijuana recriminalization bill, this poll should provide a good shot of stiffener.

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9. Sentencing: Drug-Free Zone Laws Don't Work and Result in Racial Disparities, New Report Says

Laws that create heightened penalties for drug offenses near schools, public housing, and other designated places were ostensibly designed to protect young people from drug-related activity, but fail to do so, according to a report released Thursday by the Justice Policy Institute. At the same time, drug-free zone laws result in a disproportionate number of non-white Americans being subjected to stiffer penalties than whites engaged in similar conduct, the report found.

The report, "Disparity by Design: How Drug-Free Zone Law Impact Racial Disparity -- And Fail to Protect Youth" was commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance and examines drug-free zone laws in a number of states. The report looks at the intent and history behind the laws, as well as their results and the growing chorus of criticism of them.

"For two decades, policymakers have mistakenly assumed that these statutes shield children from drug activity," said report author Judith Greene. "We found no evidence that drug-free zone laws protect children, but ample evidence that the laws hurt communities of color and contribute to mounting correctional costs."

Drug-free zone laws provided heightened penalties, and often, mandatory minimum sentences for offenses that occur within designated areas around schools, parks, playgrounds and other locations -- whether or not the offenses had anything whatsoever to do with children. When such laws are enacted in densely populated urban areas, they often result in a crazy quilt patchwork of heightened punishment zones that cover huge swathes of cities while failing to inform residents where their boundaries are.

In New Jersey, for example, three-quarters of Newark and more than half of Jersey City and Camden are included in drug-free zones, while only 6% of rural Mansfield Township is covered by them. The result, said the New Jersey Sentencing Commission, is "a devastatingly disproportionate effect on New Jersey's minority community."

"The school zones laws don't work the way we want them to -- we are not actually giving criminals an incentive to stay away from schools," said William Brownsberger, a drug policy expert and former Assistant Attorney General for Narcotics for Massachusetts. "If we reduced the size of the zones, we would actually protect kids better."

Among the report's key findings:

  • Drug-free zone laws do not serve their intended purpose to protect youth from drug activity.
  • Drug-free zones do not deter drug sales.
  • Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by drug-free zone laws.
  • Unequal enforcement contributes to sharp racial disparities in incarceration rates.
  • Drug-free zone laws erode the constitutional right to trial by forcing defendants to plead guilty or risk long prison terms.
"The findings in this report confirm what we've known for years -- that the current drug-free school zones don't deter illicit drug sales or use in our communities," said Connecticut State Rep. Marie Lopez Kirkley-Bey (D-Hartford), Deputy Speaker of the House. "Where the laws have failed to increase public safety, they've been wildly successful in promoting terrible racial disparities. This is why I've introduced legislation to reform these laws, because effective drug policies will bring us safer communities, safer schools, and safer kids."

Coincidentally, the day before the report was released, a case from Massachusetts demonstrated how drug-free zone laws result in wildly disproportionate penalties. In Berkshire Superior Court, Mitchell Otis was found guilty of selling 1.2 grams of marijuana to an undercover police officer in a zone that was drug-free because it was near the urban parking lot for a high school. District Attorney David Capeless included a drug-free zone sentencing enhancement in the charge, meaning that Otis must now serve a mandatory two years in prison without parole.

"School zone laws have remained unchanged in Massachusetts because the legislature has been promised that prosecutors use discretion," said Whitney Taylor, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts. "Unfortunately the life of a young man has been sacrificed, proving that discretion is not being used and that the law must be changed. There are violent and serious criminals across Berkshire County that are going un-prosecuted because DA David Capeless is choosing to use precious law enforcement, judicial and prosecutorial resources to send a first-time offender to jail for over two years for the crime of selling a very small amount of marijuana to an adult who repeatedly requested it. This is the wrong message to be sending to our youth and communities," concluded Taylor.

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10. Free Speech: Giant Marijuana Leaves Painted On House Okay, Connecticut Town Says

After being arrested and charged with growing marijuana in his Winsted, CT, home, Christopher Seekins decided to make a political statement by spray-painting giant pot leaves on the outside of his home. Neighbors complained, but town officials showed they understood the First Amendment. They told the complainers the marijuana leaf image violated neither the law nor local property codes.

The city got that right, Seekins told the Waterbury Republican American last week. "There's no reason anybody should have a problem with it," Seekins said, adding that the leaves are a show of support for marijuana legalization. The cannabis plant can also be used to produce hemp fibers and other products, he said. "People have the wrong impression about it."

Local police certainly had a bad impression of Seekins' home grow, where they found 100 plants, along with grow lights, fertilizers, and portable heaters last October. They charged him cultivating marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia for his efforts. He is free on $10,000 bond.

By the way, Seekins lives on High Street.

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11. Southwest Asia: State Department Seeks Afghan Opium Victory Through Public Relations

Although opium production is expected to increase this year despite efforts by the West and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to suppress it, the US State Department has a plan to turn defeat into victory. Well, not actual victory, but one almost as good: convincing the American and international public the policy is working.

incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)

According to a Wednesday report in the Washington Times, the State Department has developed a public relations plan that seeks to convince "US domestic audiences as well as the international community" that the West and the Afghans have come up with a way to stop the march of the opium poppy across Afghanistan, home to nearly 90% of the global poppy crop.

The nine-page "Strategic Communication Plan" obtained by the Times seeks to specifically target Congress members, religious leaders, state elected officials, think tanks, media outlets, university students and officials, and the business community, both inside and outside the US. "All of us recognize that security in Afghanistan ultimately affects the stability of the countries surrounding it and eventually the international community as a whole," the plan said. "The strategy is based on the well-established premise that criminal enterprise in Afghanistan, left unchecked, undermines all worthy goals the country has set up for itself so its people may prosper and live in a peaceful society."

The plan calls for big efforts to ensure that journalists are given every opportunity to figure out and report the official line. It calls for journalists to be escorted on eradication missions, regular bulletins for the press "assuming poppy eradication goes well," and "professionally designed" press kits with fact sheets "that can last for several months." The department would also provide "on call" experts to hit the road in the US and abroad to "deliver the Afghanistan messages on Afghanistan."

Taking journalists on eradication missions would "foster awareness that without effective narcotics control," Afghanistan's social, economic, political and cultural objectives "are threatened and cannot be properly implemented." The plan would demonstrate that Afghanistan and the West have "an integrated and coherent counter-narcotics strategy."

Even if they don't.

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12. South Asia: Indian State Government Sells Cannabis

The government of the Indian state of Punjab is in the wholesale cannabis business, the Times of India reported Monday. The state government sells bhang, an intoxicating preparation made from the leaves and flowers of the marijuana plant, known locally as "sukha."

The Times reported that next week, the state's Excise Department, which is responsible for allocating liquor licenses, will also allocate a wholesale "vend" of bhang in Hoshiapur district. The state government has set a price of about $7,000 US to a New Delhi vendor, a senior department official told the newspaper.

"We supply the bhang to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and certain other states in the country," the bhang vendor told The Tribune on the phone from Delhi. "We have set up a huge infrastructure, including a cleansing system, to collect bhang from hemp plants in the Hoshiarpur belt and to supply it to MP, Rajasthan and other areas in the country", he added.

Cannabis is generally prohibited in most Indian states, but is commonly used in religious ceremonies such as the Holi festival in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and other states. It is also used for religious purposes in the Punjab. On the other hand, the Indian government's Narcotics Control Bureau has uprooted large tracts of marijuana plants in Kulu and Manali, where they are a favorite of foreign tourists, and has filed criminal charges against those found growing the herb illegally.

No word yet from the UN's International Narcotics Control Board.

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13. Web Scan: Slate on Student Drug Testing, Stats Truths of the Drug War

Ryan Grim explains "why random drug testing doesn't reduce student drug use" for Slate magazine in "Blowing Smoke"

Brian Bennett takes on the data of the drug war in -- "meth monster" blog entry here

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14. Weekly: This Week in History

March 24, 1998: House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) establishes the Speaker's Task Force for a Drug-Free America to design a World War II-style victory plan to save America's children from illegal drugs and achieve a Drug-Free America by 2002.

March 25, 1994: Retired minister Accelyne Williams dies of a heart attack when a SWAT team consisting of 13 heavily armed Boston police officers raids his apartment based on an incorrect tip by an unidentified informant.

March 25, 2002: The Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approves H.B. 1222, the Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act, which removes criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana.

March 26, 2002: A unanimous US Supreme Court rules that public housing tenants can be evicted for any illegal drug activity by household members or guests, even if they did not know about it.

March 28, 2002: Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan rules that the Barr Amendment, which blocks the District of Columbia from considering a medical marijuana voter initiative, infringes on First Amendment rights.

March 28, 2003: The Hemp Industries Association, several hemp food and cosmetic manufacturers and the Organic Consumers Association petition the federal Ninth Circuit to again prevent the DEA from ending the legal sale of hemp seed and oil products in the US.

March 29, 2000: CNN reports that a multination drug sweep known as Operation Conquistador nets 2,331 arrests, 4,966 kilograms of cocaine, 55.6 kilograms of heroin, and 362.5 metric tons of marijuana. The 17-day operation takes place in Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Martin, British Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Aruba, Curacao, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

March 30, 1961: The UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is convened in New York City, the first of the three international treaties binding signatory nations into prohibitionist systems.

March 30, 1992: Bill Clinton, during the 1992 presidential campaign, says, "When I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale."

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15. Job Opening: Communications Assistant, Marijuana Policy Project, Washington, DC

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is hiring a Communications Assistant, to be based in the organization's main office in Washington, DC. The Communications Assistant works in MPP's Communications Department, which is responsible for effectively communicating MPP's message to the media and the public through written materials and media relations.

Applicants should have excellent oral communications skills and strong writing and should be meticulous, organized, and detail-oriented.

The Communications Assistant is not a spokesperson position; rather, he or she is responsible for maintaining MPP's media database, including making corrections or additions to existing press lists and developing new lists as needed; monitoring all marijuana-related news and research, disseminating such information to relevant MPP staffers, and posting key news stories to MPP's web site; tracking MPP's news coverage, including locating and/or ordering certain print articles, radio interviews, and TV interviews; making follow-up calls to media outlets to ensure receipt of MPP's news releases; locating and obtaining copies of reports or studies that are of interest; preparing press kits; tackling small research projects aimed at identifying potential media opportunities or obtaining useful data; organizing and filing press clips and other documents; and tackling other tasks as assigned. Proofreading ability would be a plus, but is not required.

The Communications Assistant reports to the Assistant Director of Communications, who in turn reports to the Director of Communications. The annual salary of the Communications Assistant is $30,000. Full health insurance and an optional retirement package are included. Visit to apply for the Communications Assistant position.

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16. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

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, eastern 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.

March 31, Buffalo, NY, "Overview of Harm Reduction," seminar by the Harm Reduction Training Institute, visit or call (212) 683-2334 ext. 18 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 3, 9:00pm, Oneonta, NY, "Dynamics of American Drug Use," lecture by Sheldon Norberg. At the Hunt Union Ballroom, SUNY Oneonta, visit for info.

April 5-8, Washington, DC, "Drugs, Poverty, and Ethnicity: Enhancing Treatment, Eliminating Disparities, and Promoting Justice," second annual summit of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition. At the Marriott at Metro Center, 775 12th Street NW, registration $500. Visit or contact (202) 806-8600 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 18, Buffalo, NY, "Overview of Crystal Methamphetamine," seminar by the Harm Reduction Training Institute, visit or call (212) 683-2334 ext. 18 for further information. p>April 18, 6:00-8:00pm, Washington, DC, Americans for Safe Access cocktail reception, at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Contact Abby Bair at [email protected] for further information.

April 19, 8:15am-12:45pm, New York, NY, "Saving Lives with Naloxone" overdose prevention symposium. At Penntop North, Hotel Pennsylvania, 401 7th Ave., admission free, visit for further information.

April 19, Buffalo, NY, "Motivational Interviewing," seminar by the Harm Reduction Training Institute, visit or call (212) 683-2334 ext. 18 for further information.

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

April 21, San Francisco, CA, Americans for Safe Access Fourth Birthday Reception and Bash, location TBD. Contact Abby Bair at [email protected] for further information.

April 22, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, "3rd Annual Highway 420 Rally for Regulation," visit for info.

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 27-May 7, western Montana, speaking tour by LEAP spokesperson Jay Fleming, starting 7:00pm at Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell. Contact Jean Rasch at (928) 768-3082 or [email protected], or Ron Ridenour at (406) 387-5605 or [email protected] for further information or to schedule a presentation.

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.

May 4-14, eastern Iowa, speaking tour by LEAP spokesperson Captain Peter Christ. For information or to schedule a presentation, contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] or Iowa tour coordinator Beth Wehrman at [email protected].

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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Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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