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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #429 -- 3/31/06

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

    Still Fighting: Angel Raich Back in Court Challenging Feds
    Oakland medical marijuana patient Angel Raich was back in court Monday seeking an injunction to win protection from federal law enforcers who do not recognize her right to use her medicine, but skeptical questioning from a three-judge panel at the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals suggests she will have an uphill battle.
    In the face of a lawsuit, the Department of Education has backed down from a decision to charge the nonprofit organization Students for Sensible Drug Policy thousands of dollars to provide it with information about the number of students in each state affected by the Higher Education Act's drug provision.
    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.
    We've got a Texas twofer this week, as well as a horny DEA agent, a misguided magistrate, and, yes, another prison guard trying to supplement his income the wrong way.
    A SWAT-style "Tactical Apprehension Containment Team" didn't find any meth when they battered down the door to Arthur and Lillie Bostock's Horn Lake, Mississippi, home, but they did send the two octogenarians to the hospital.
    In a giant step backward, the Cincinnati City Council voted final approval Wednesday for a city ordinance that will recriminalize marijuana possession. The move came despite no public outcry or support and in the face of unanimous opposition from witnesses in several weeks of hearings.
    At the request of the US drug czar's office, Fairfax County in northern Virginia, has embarked on a bizarre program to test its wastewater for cocaine.
    The assault on doctors who treat chronic pain with opioids continues apace. But there is some small solace this week for a trio of South Carolina physicians who were convicted in federal court of illegally prescribing pain medications.
    London police have become enthused about using thermal imaging cameras to detect marijuana grow-ops, and report seizing a "significant amount" of the weed in the Haringey neighborhood last week.
    Leading congressional drug warrior Mark Souder is taking the Bush administration to task for not being tough enough against the Afghanistan opium industry and criticizing the Pentagon's reluctance to embrace aerial spraying of Afghan fields with herbicides.
    Prompted by recent large drugs seizures, officials at Iraq's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs told the UN's humanitarian news agency Monday drug trafficking and addiction are on the rise.
    In a March 22 press conference, the US attorney general and DEA chief announced cocaine trafficking indictments against 50 FARC leaders and an eight-figure reward for their capture.
    Tony Papa on Rockefeller Reform for Alternet, Ryan Grim Knocks Post on Meth Story for the City Paper
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform (a.k.a. Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative) seeks a paid summer intern to assist in reaching out to religious leaders on issues of drug policy reform.
    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: Angel Raich Tries Again on Medical Marijuana, But Judges Sound Skeptical

Oakland medical marijuana patient Angel Raich was back in court Monday seeking an injunction to win protection from federal law enforcers who do not recognize her right to use her medicine, but skeptical questioning from a three-judge panel at the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals suggests she will have an uphill battle.

Angel Raich leads demonstrators to the office of medical
marijuana opponent and arch-drug warrior Mark Souder, 5/4/05.
Raich and fellow medical marijuana patient Diane Monson filed suit in the 9th Circuit seeking relief from federal law enforcers. The appeals court ruled in their favor on states' rights grounds, but was overturned by the US Supreme Court in June. In that ruling, the high court held that the federal Controlled Substances Act, which designates marijuana as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical uses, trumped state laws in those states that have legalized medical marijuana.

But that decision left unsettled other issues raised by Raich and her attorneys, Randy Barnett and Robert Raich. (Monson has dropped out of the case.) Among them are how and whether the "medical necessity" defense might apply to medical marijuana patients and a closely related argument that the US Constitution guarantees them a fundamental right to make life and death decisions about their own lives. Those were the issues argued Monday.

The case file includes uncontested testimony that Raich, who suffers from a variety of ailments, including an inoperable brain tumor, would suffer greatly and die of starvation if deprived of marijuana. Raich's personal physician included a sworn statement to that effect.

"Doctors, not the federal government know what's best for their patients," said Barnett, a professor of law at Boston University, before the oral arguments. "If a state decides to allow doctors to recommend proven treatments for their patients, then the federal government has no rightful place in the doctor's office."

"This case implicates perhaps the most fundamental right of all, the right to preserve one's life," said Robert Raich. "It also implicates the fundamental right to alleviate unnecessary pain and agony and protect bodily integrity."

The case is about Raich's "fundamental right to life," Randy Barnett told the court. Both the 5th and the 9th Amendments, as well as the doctrine of medical necessity, protected that right, he told the three-judge panel, according to an on-scene report provided by California NORML director Dale Gieringer.

But panel member Judge Arlen Beam immediately challenged Barnett, asking whether Raich even had standing to bring the case. Beam noted that Raich had not been arrested or prosecuted or even threatened with prosecution. Judges Richard Paez and Harry Pregerson then jumped in, asking if any other patients had been prosecuted, a question for which Barnett did not have a ready answer. According to California NORML, dozens of people operating under the state's medical marijuana law have been prosecuted by federal authorities, but almost all of them involved growing or distributing medical marijuana for others, not mere possession by patients.

Judge Pregerson questioned whether Raich's medical necessity claim was even valid given that she had not been arrested or prosecuted. Perhaps, he suggested, the appropriate way for Raich to raise the issue would be to get arrested and then use the defense.

That a patient would be arrested solely for being a patient would be "incredibly unlikely," said Assistant US Attorney Mark Quinlivan, who argued the case for the government, although he refused to rule out the possibility, especially if patients "flaunted" their use. "The federal government has always focused on large-scale distributors and growers," he said.

Raich could have a winning case if she were arrested, suggested Judge Beam. "I'd be amazed if the Supreme Court didn't think the evidence would carry the day," he said. "The problem is, we don't have standing in my view on this particular question."

It is Raich's rights under the 5th Amendment's due process clause and the 9th Amendment's protection of an individual's ability to make life-shaping decisions, preserve bodily integrity, avoid severe pain, and even stay alive that are the primary issue, Barnett responded. The federal government's enforcement of the drug laws in a manner that unduly burdens Raich must be found unconstitutional, he argued.

"Medical cannabis is necessary for the preservation of Angel Raich's life," said Barnett. "If she obeys the law, she will die."

There is no right to use drugs the government has banned, Quinlivan retorted, leading Judge Pregerson to challenge him. "Supposing that a patient faced unbearable suffering that could only be relieved by a pill that was on the government's black list, would not that patient have a right to use the drug?"

Well, no, Quinlivan responded. In the end, he said, it comes down to a determination by Congress, and Congress had determined that marijuana had no medical use. An adverse ruling would open the floodgates to "people who want to use other substances," he warned. When Judge Pregerson asked Quinlivan if was okay to just let Raich die, Quinlivan responded, "Congress has made that value judgment."

While oral arguments are not absolute predictors of forthcoming rulings, they are generally good indicators, and the indications are the 9th Circuit panel has serious questions about Raich's latest legal argument. However the 9th Circuit panel rules, the case is headed for the US Supreme Court, which has so far shown little indication it is prepared to rule favorably in a medical marijuana case. But it has not yet heard the arguments raised by Raich.

As for Angel Raich, she remains hopeful. "I fear for my health, my safety and my family, but I am confident that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will again agree that I am in every way acting in accordance with the law," she said. "I just want the opportunity to be a mother to my children without having to live in constant fear that the federal government will raid my home or throw me in jail simply for taking the medicine that treats my pain and keeps me alive."

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2. Feature: Department of Education Backs Down in Face of Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit Seeking Drug Provision Data

In the face of a lawsuit, the Department of Education has backed down from a decision to charge the nonprofit organization Students for Sensible Drug Policy thousands of dollars to provide it with information about the number and location of college students affected by the Higher Education Act's (HEA) drug provision. The organization had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to seek a state-by-state breakdown of the number of college students denied financial aid because of drug convictions.

Dept. of Education logo
The HEA drug provision, authored by leading congressional drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), bars students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid for specified periods of time. In the face of vocal criticism, Rep. Souder last year authored a partial "fix" for the provision, limiting its applicability to students who were convicted after being enrolled in college.

While the Department of Education provided aggregate numbers of students affected by the drug provision -- nearly 200,000 so far -- SSDP asked for state-by-state numbers to more accurately assess the provision's local impact and to be able to more effectively lobby representatives by being able to present them with figures showing the impact on their districts. But Education balked at that request, demanding that SSDP pay $4,000 to obtain the data.

Under the law, federal agencies must waive fees for providing such information if it is in the public interest. But the department bizarrely argued that the fee should not be waived because providing the information was not in the public interest but could instead further the commercial interests of those who might profit from the legalization of drugs.

That position was scorned by Freedom of Information Act specialists when it was announced. "This decision by the Department of Education sounds very imaginative. I guess that's the polite way to put it," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, which has long experience dealing with FOIA requests. "Another way to put it is that it sounds completely spurious. SSDP is not an entity poised to go into the drug dealing business, thus there will be no evidence to support that claim," he told DRCNet. "The decision to deny the waiver should be firmly appealed," said Aftergood. "It sounds like an abuse of the fee waiver provisions to avoid responding to the request, and the fee Education is demanding is prohibitively high for a nonprofit organization."

SSDP decided to fight back and turned to the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen to represent it in the lawsuit it filed. Faced with having to defend its determination in court, the Department of Education last week instead gave up. It agreed to waive the fee and provide the data by today.

"We're very glad they decided not to go forward with the litigation," said Public Citizen's Adina Rosenbaum, the attorney prepared to argue the case. "It was frustrating that we had to bring a lawsuit in order for SSDP to get the fees waived. We think the original fee denial was erroneous and now we see the Department of Education thinks it wasn't worth trying to defend their original determination in court."

"The department did the smart thing in giving up rather than facing us in a losing court battle," said SSDP communications director Tom Angell. "It was a pretty cut and dry case. Their position was indefensible, as evidenced by their giving up so easily. They thought they could bully a small nonprofit like SSDP into giving up, but once we took them to court they realized they had to change their strategy."

"Next time federal officials want to stifle a group whose message they don't like, they'll have to think of a much better excuse," said Kris Krane, executive director of SSDP. "Federal bureaucrats thought students would give up easily in our quest to reveal the disastrous impact this punitive drug war policy has on our generation. They were wrong."

SSDP should have the information in hand this week and will use it to issue a report on the local impact of the HEA drug provision, said Angell. "Until now, it's been easy for lawmakers to brush aside this national number of 200,000 people affected, but now we can show them how many of their own constituents are having their lives ruined by a policy they are doing nothing to fix," he said. "This is going to make it harder for them to continue to ignore the drug provision."

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

We've got a Texas twofer this week, as well as a horny DEA agent, a misguided magistrate, and, yes, another prison guard trying to supplement his income the wrong way. Let's get to it:

drug money corrupts...
In Progreso, Texas, US Customs inspector Lizandro Martinez is behind bars awaiting an April sentencing date after pleading guilty to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to import more than two tons of marijuana. He made more than a million dollars in bribes in return for waving drug-laden trucks from Mexico through the border checkpoint he guarded, and more than 50 tons of drugs made it across the border thanks to Martinez, federal prosecutors said. Martinez and his wife drew attention with their conspicuous consumption and their use of cash to buy things like diamond earrings, diamond-studded Rolex watches, a used car dealership in downtown McAllen, and $77,000 worth of muscle cars. In 2003, federal investigators said, Martinez spent $400,000 in cash while drawing an inspector's salary of $55,000. He faces up to life in prison.

In San Antonio, former San Antonio police officer Enrique Hinojosa was sentenced to 2 ½ years in federal prison last Friday after pleading guilty last fall to aiding the distribution of cocaine. He was arrested by his colleagues during a 2003 raid on an apartment that netted cocaine, heroin, and $23,000 in cash. The apartment belonged to a childhood friend, and Hinojosa claimed he was simply visiting. But a witness told police Hinojosa had driven the friend to a heroin deal and that the friend had boasted he had a friend on the force who would warn him when police were cracking down in his neighborhood. In September, Hinojosa copped the plea. He also faces three years of supervised release.

In Richmond, Virginia, former DEA agent William Harden, 46, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to lying to federal investigators about a sexual encounter with an informant. Prosecutors had alleged that Harden demanded oral sex from the informant in a Richmond-area motel room in July. The informant testified that she complied because she feared Harden, who said the sex was consensual. The woman later recorded a phone conversation with Harden in which he first denied the encounter, then tried to arrange a cover-up. He later confessed to investigators the encounter had occurred. He faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced in July.

In Florence, South Carolina, Florence County Magistrate Rena White was arrested last Friday on official misconduct charges for taking drugs from a relative who faced criminal charges and a witness in the same case. The Florence County sheriff's office said White repeatedly used her position to win favorable treatment for the relative, and it has evidence from snitches who caught incriminating statements on tape. She was booked into the Florence County Detention Center, where she usually sets bond for defendants, and was released on personal recognizance.

In Folsom, California, Department of Corrections prison guard Wallace Samuel Lafitte was arrested last Friday on a complaint charging he offered to "sell, furnish and give away a controlled substance... to a person held in a state prison." He is also accused of bringing methamphetamine and marijuana into the California State Prison, Sacramento, also known as "New Folsom." During Lafitte's arraignment Monday, prosecutors told the court he had admitted selling meth and pot to inmates and being strung out on crack cocaine. Lafitte faces up to 10 years in prison on six charges. He is on administrative leave from the department and out on a personal recognizance bond pending a hearing next month.

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5. Law Enforcement: Mississippi SWAT Team Injures Elderly Couple in Botched Methamphetamine Raid on Wrong Home

It was just business as usual when the Horn Lake, Mississippi, Police Department's SWAT-style special unit busted down the door of a suspected meth lab at about 4:00am on March 22. But it was the wrong house, and what happened to the elderly couple at the residence is leading to questions about just what constitutes business as usual in Horn Lake. The heavily-armed (and cutely-named) Tactical Apprehension Containment Team (TACT) didn't find any meth, but they did manage to send Arthur and Lillie Bostock, a couple in their 80s, to the hospital, she with a dislocated shoulder and he with a bruised rib.

SWAT Teams -- out of control and everywhere
The TACT team was looking for a different house on the same property. It was the home of the couple's son, who was arrested along with two others on meth charges when police finally got to the right house later that morning.

"We had good information from a reliable source that had been backed up by a purchase of narcotics linked to the address," said Police Capt. Shannon Beshears in remarks reported by the Associated Press. "However, when we arrived at the designated address, there were two houses on the lot. We hit the larger of the two houses. "It was the wrong house," Beshears said. "The house was totally dark and the TACT members went through to the bedroom looking for the suspects."

Beshears had little to say about what happened to the Bostocks except that they were injured as the TACT team secured the house. No drugs were found there. Horn Lake Police Chief Darryl Whaley was apologetic, but backed up his officers. "Obviously, a mistake was made and it was regrettable," he said. "But I stand by my officers. I think they acted properly."

Some neighbors didn't agree with the chief. "I don't think they had enough information, and I think they should have got their facts together and not broken in a house and beat up somebody," Cheryl Miller told WREG-TV News Channel 3 in Memphis. The chief's apology was insufficient, she said. "If you don't think before you react and you beat up old people, I don't think you belong in that job as a policeman," she says.

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6. Marijuana: Cincinnati City Council Votes to Recriminalize

In a giant step backward, the Cincinnati City Council voted final approval Wednesday for a city ordinance that will recriminalize marijuana possession. The move came despite no public outcry or support and in the face of unanimous opposition from witnesses in several weeks of hearings. A similar effort failed last year, but a new council has been elected since then.

Under an Ohio law in effect since the 1970s, possession of up to 100 grams (slightly less than a quarter-pound) is decriminalized and punishable only by a ticket and a $100 fine. Under the ordinance passed Wednesday, in Cincinnati at least, possession becomes a fourth-degree misdemeanor, with up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. Subsequent offenses would be a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Those arrested could be ordered into drug treatment programs as well.

The measure was pushed by Law & Public Safety Committee Chair Cecil Thomas, who argued that elevating marijuana possession to a misdemeanor would make it easier for police to arrest and search more people. But only certain people -- Thomas said he did not expect police to target medical users or college students. "That's not who they'll be going after," he said. "I'm not concerned about that because crime is occurring in our troubled neighborhoods."

The measure passed on a 4-2 vote, with Councilman David Crowley and Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell opposing. Tarbell called the ordinance "regressive." Mayor Mark Malloy said he would allow the measure to become law without his signature to express his disapproval, but that he would not veto it because the votes to override a veto were there.

Last year, Cincinnati police handed out 4,100 marijuana possession tickets.

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7. Drug Testing: Virginia County Drug Tested Sewage at Drug Czar's Request

Fairfax County, Virginia, has embarked on a bizarre program to test its wastewater for cocaine under a pilot program requested by the Office of National Drug Control Policy -- the drug czar's office -- the Washington Post reported Monday. The Bush administration is seeking to broaden the government's knowledge about illegal drug use, the drug czar's office said.

"We think it will be very, very useful," drug czar John Walters' special assistant David Murray told the Post. While it is premature to suggest that levels of metabolized cocaine in sewage would offer better measures of consumption than traditional surveys, the idea "certainly has that potential," Murray said.

The drug czar's office is picking up on research last year in Italy, where scientists in Milan tested the waters of the Po River and concluded that the 1.4 million young adults in the river basin were snorting some 40,000 lines a day, more than twice the existing estimate. According to US drug surveys, about 25,000 Fairfax County residents used cocaine in the past year. If the wastewater testing suggests much higher consumption levels, drug fighters could use those figures to argue for heightened effort -- and funding.

If the drug czar's office was gung-ho to drug test Virginia sewage, Fairfax County officials were bemused. "It's a very strange request," Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald Connolly (D) told the Post. "We're ready to do anything and everything we can do to eliminate illicit drug use. But I'd want to know a lot more about what this will actually lead to."

The Post also talked to Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, who found the idea sort of silly. "It can't hurt to check," he said. "I'm skeptical that it can be a useful gauge for policy analysis."

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8. Pain and the Drug War: Sentence Cuts for Myrtle Beach Pain Doctors

The assault on doctors who treat chronic pain with opioids continues apace even if we don't report on it every week. This week, there is some small solace for a trio of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, physicians who were convicted in federal court of illegally prescribing pain medications. A federal judge has dramatically slashed their prison sentences.

Drs. Ricardo Alerre, Deborah Bordeaux, and Michael Jackson operated the Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Center in Myrtle Beach until a DEA raid shut them down and prosecutors charged them as drug dealers whose medical practice was "a front" for a criminal operation. They were convicted in 2003 and Alerre got 19 years in prison, Bordeaux got eight, and Jackson got 24.

But a federal judge Tuesday dramatically cut those sentences after an appeals court said he could use more discretion in setting sentences. US District Judge Weston Houck cut Alerre's and Bordeaux's sentences to two years and Jackson's to 2 ½ years.

The trio of doctors steadfastly maintained they were prescribing opioids such as Oxycontin for severely ill chronic pain patients in compliance with contemporary medical standards, as have many of the hundreds of other physicians prosecuted under the federal Controlled Substances Act. But they failed to sway the jury, and on appeal, they failed to get their verdicts overturned.

Meanwhile, Virginia pain specialist Dr. William Hurwitz remains in federal prison serving a 25-year sentence as a "drug dealer" after having been convicted in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, in November 2004. A federal appeals court heard his argument March 17 that the conviction should be overturned because the trial judge failed to instruct the jury that it should consider whether Hurwitz acted in good faith in prescribing large doses of opioids to patients, some of whom turned out to be drug addicts. A decision on his appeal is expected in a few weeks.

And in Fort Pierce, Florida, prosecutors were finally able to convict Port St. Lucie physicians Dr. Asuncion Luyao on drug trafficking and manslaughter charges. An earlier attempt had ended in a mistrial. Prosecutors charge that Luyao had stopped behaving as a legitimate medical doctor and was acting as a "drug dealer" by recklessly prescribing opioid pain medications from her "pill mill" office in the old Village Green. Prosecutors charged that Luyao was responsible for the deaths of six patients who allegedly overdosed on opioids, but Luyao's defense argued that at least two had died of natural causes, the others could have been suicides, and she had been prescribing lawfully.

In all three cases, the DEA and prosecutors have decided they know better than physicians what constitutes proper medical practice, and that disagreements over medical issues are grounds for major drug prosecutions, and they have managed to convince juries of as much.

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9. Europe: British Police Using Thermal Imaging to Catch Marijuana Growers

British police have begun using thermal imaging cameras in parts of London in an effort to detect indoor marijuana gardens. The hand-held devices detect and reveal the heat created by the powerful lighting systems used to grow weed indoors. Police reported patrolling residential streets in the capital's Haringey neighborhood looking for grow op heat signatures and seizing "a significant amount" of marijuana last week as a result.

Thermal imaging gained popularity in American drug war law enforcement circles in the early 1990s, but faded as an investigative tool after the US Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that a thermal imaging scan of a house constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment. Under that interpretation of US law, warrantless thermal image scans like those being done now in London are an unconstitutional violation of the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

London police were understandably enthused. "This latest technology has allowed us to quickly identify houses in Haringey which have been turned into cannabis factories," said Sgt. Alan Pyles of the St. Ann's station. "The equipment means we can covertly film a line of properties and identify the factory when the thermal image glows white-hot," he told the Press Association.

"We work hard to make Haringey one of the safest London boroughs and will use all means to help us achieve that goal," said Haringey borough commander Simon O'Brien. "This type of technology is the way forward for the Met and will ensure that we stay one step ahead of the criminals and drug dealers.

And if it works in Haringey, it will be expanded, said O'Brien. "The camera, supplied to the Met by Devon-based Frontline Products, is currently being piloted in Haringey and is due to be used for several future operations."

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10. Southwest Asia: Rep. Souder Berates Administration as Soft on Afghan Opium, Confuses It with Heroin, Demands Aerial Eradication

Leading congressional drug warrior Mark Souder is taking the Bush administration to task for not being tough enough against the Afghan opium industry. Souder, head of the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, visited Afghanistan last week, and on Monday, he said the Pentagon's reluctance to embrace aerial spraying of Afghan fields with herbicides was creating an "an international disaster" because profits from the drug trade fueled terrorism.

war-torn Afghanistan
(photo by Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith)
Opium is the economic mainstay of Afghanistan, accounting for more than a third of the national economy, according to the United Nations. The country supplies nearly 90% of the world's opium, from which heroin is made. The UN estimates the trade generated more than $2 billion for traffickers and $600 million for Afghan farmers last year. By all accounts, powerful political figures -- from parliamentarians to warlords -- within the Afghan government are linked to the trade.

US and British policy is to eradicate opium poppies by hand -- a gradualist tactic that attempts to balance the conflicting imperatives of the war on terror and the war on drugs in Afghanistan. Massive eradication could drive peasant farmers and others who benefit from the trade into the waiting hands of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, whose insurgency based in safe havens in the no man's land of the Afghan-Pakistan frontier is becoming more violent.

But for Souder, agape after viewing the poppy fields of Helmand province, this year's opium leader, there was no room for such subtleties -- or, apparently, for a distinction between a plant and a drug derived from it. "I had no conception of this much heroin," he said. "Heroin as far as the eye can see. Miles. And miles. And miles. This is an international disaster." The manual eradication approach of the US and British governments is "an ill-conceived strategy predetermined to massive failure," Souder said. "They are losing control of the country -- rapidly."

Souder blamed the Pentagon for the US's "soft" no-spraying eradication policy. "Our State Department has been overruled by our military division," he said. "I think it's driven a lot by the fact that our military and the British military believe that we can't ever win drug issues, and it's not traditional a military battle." Souder said he told the chief of staff of the commanding US general the military was shirking its duty. "Americans and people all over the world are dying because you won't spray," Souder said he said. "Furthermore, our soldiers and people from my district are here right now fighting in a war" against people whose weapons are purchased with drug money.

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11. Iraq: Officials Complain of Rising Drug Use, Trafficking

Three years after the US invasion of Iraq, drug trafficking and addiction are on the rise, officials at the country's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs told the United Nations' humanitarian news agency, IRIN, Monday. The remarks were prompted by large drugs seizures in recent weeks.

Iraqi children sniffing glue -- photo from
IRIN, the UN's humanitarian news agency
The primary illicit drugs being used are heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, with grams of heroin or cocaine going for $20 to $30 dollars, ministry officials said. (Previous reports have noted widespread abuse of prescription drugs as well.) They said the heroin is coming from Afghanistan and Iran and the cocaine is somehow arriving from South America.

"We estimate that more than 5,000 Iraqis are consuming drugs in the south today, especially heroin, compared with 2004, when there were only around 1,500," said Dr Kamel Ali, a senior official in the health ministry's anti-narcotics program. "We fear the number could be as high as 10,000 countrywide."

Officials singled out the Shiite south as a problem area. It is unclear what effective authority the Baghdad government or its anti-drug ministries have in the restive Sunni parts of the country. Police have carried out more than 50 raids since September in Kerbala, 70 miles south of Baghdad, alone, they said.

"Kerbala and Najaf are the biggest consumers of drugs," said Sinan Youssef, a senior official in the social affairs ministry's strategy department. "We believe the drugs [heroin/marijuana] are brought into the country by visitors from Iran and Afghanistan every month."

According to Major Salah Hassan of Kerbala's crime unit, more than 100 kilos of heroin, 40 kilos of cocaine and 160 kilos of marijuana have been found by local police in Kerbala and in Najaf. "We're very concerned that the situation is getting worse, and the seizures on the borders are increasing," said Major Salah Hassan of the Kerbala police, citing the seizure of more than 220 pounds of heroin and 100 pounds of cocaine in recent raids. "We arrested more than 20 Iraqis carrying drugs since last year and we're proceeding with careful investigations to discover the source," Hassan added. "Urgent action should be taken by the Ministry of Interior to prevent more drugs from entering Iraq."

For Youssef, the reasons for the increase in drug use and trafficking are clear: insecurity, terrorism, and lack of employment. "The number of addicts is increasing, particularly among young people from conservative families, where there are more religious restrictions," he said. "This makes them look for another way to forget about the pressure that the society puts on them."

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12. Latin America: US Puts $75 Million Bounty on Colombia's FARC Leaders

In a March 22 press conference in Washington, DC, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and DEA administrator Karen Tandy announced cocaine trafficking charges against 50 leaders of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), the leftist guerrilla army that has waged war against the Colombian state for the past four decades. At the same time, the State Department put up a $75 million reward for their capture. The FARC was responsible for smuggling 60% of all cocaine snorted in the US in the past decade, or some 2,750 tons, according to the 54-page indictment.

"This is the largest narcotics-trafficking indictment ever filed in US history and fuels our hope to reduce narco-violence in Colombia and stem the tide of illegal drugs entering our country," Gonzales said.

"We're hoping the amounts being offered, up to $5 million each for some of the suspects, result in some arrests and in us being able to request further extraditions," Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said.

The US has spent more than $4 billion on Plan Colombia, its effort to wipe out coca and the cocaine trade in Colombia, without achieving noticeable reductions in the price or availability of cocaine. Congress is considering this year's tranche of $743 million.

The US has long accused the FARC of financing its operations through cocaine trafficking, and this indictment formalizes that suspicion. It alleges that FARC leaders collected millions of dollars in cocaine trafficking proceeds after switching from merely taxing the coca crop to being actively involved in the manufacture and distribution of cocaine. Those funds were used to buy weapons to wage its guerrilla war against Bogota, says the indictment. It also accuses the FARC of killing farmers who refused to cooperate and of ordering its troops to shoot down US planes spraying herbicides on suspected coca fields.

The indictment's impact on either the FARC or the cocaine traffic is likely to be insignificant. Only three of the 50 mid- and high-level FARC leaders indicted are in custody, and given their demonstrated ability at eluding Colombian security forces for the past 40 years, chances that the remaining 47 will be captured are iffy at best.

While the indictment's impact on the FARC leadership is doubtful, it could have an adverse impact on efforts to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict, some observers said. "You negotiate peace with a military organization that has a recognized political status," Colombian military analyst Alfredo Rangel told the Los Angeles Times. "If you reduce the FARC to just a drug cartel, you make the possibility of negotiating a political settlement more difficult."

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13. Media Scan: Tony Papa on Rockefeller Reform for Alternet, Ryan Grim Knocks Post on Meth Story for the City Paper

Awaiting Real Rockefeller Reform, by Anthony Papa for AlterNet

The Washington City Paper rewrites the Washington Post's recent meth expose in "The Next Crack Cocaine? No, Not Really"

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14. Weekly: This Week in History

April 1, 1909: The Opium Exclusion Act takes effect.

April 2, 2003: US Rep. Ron Paul asks the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate whether the Office of National Drug Control Policy violated the Congressional ban on spending funds on publicity or propaganda.

April 3, 1953: With the support of Allen W. Dulles, director of Central Intelligence, Richard C. Helms proposes funding for a biochemical warfare research program named MKULTRA, which among other things administered LSD to its unwilling participants.

April 6, 1995: ABC News airs a special entitled "America's War On Drugs: Searching For Solutions" in which legalization is presented as an alternative to the failing war on drugs.

April 6, 1998: Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum's six year study of 1,798 students, "Assessing the Effects of School-based Drug Education: A Six Year Multilevel Analysis of Project DARE," finds that "DARE had no long-term effects on a wide range of drug use measures," that DARE does not "prevent drug use at the stage in adolescent development when drugs become available and widely used, namely during the high school years," and that "DARE may actually be counterproductive."

April 6, 2000: The First National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics convenes at the University of Iowa.

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15. Paid Internship: Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform/Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative

Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform (a.k.a. Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative) seeks a paid summer intern to assist in reaching out to religious leaders on issues of drug policy reform.

The Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative is leading the drug policy reform movement's efforts to mobilize mainstream people of faith behind more compassionate and less coercive drug policies, paying particular attention to helping UU's give public witness to the UUA's 2002 Statement of Conscience on drug policy. IDPI works with clergy and denominational bodies from across the religious spectrum at both the state and federal levels to affect policy changes including repealing mandatory minimum drug sentences, supporting clean syringe access for IV drug users, allowing the medical use of marijuana, restoring college financial aid to drug offenders, diverting drug offenders into treatment instead of prison, and ending marijuana prohibition.

The internship will consist mainly of reaching out to clergy and lay leaders in key legislative districts to persuade them to call or meet with their state legislator or member of Congress about a particular piece of drug policy legislation. It will also involve finding UU congregations that would like to get more involved in advocating for drug policy reform and helping them do so.

Candidates should be able to learn quickly how to articulate the benefits of drug policy reform from a moral perspective that is persuasive to a wide range of people of faith. The ideal candidate would have experience in grassroots political organizing, cold-call sales, and/or working with the religious community.

Applicants must excel at quickly adjusting work activities to the ever-changing needs of various public policy campaigns, self-motivating, connecting with people who may have very different political and spiritual beliefs, cranking out massive numbers of persuasive phone calls and e-mail messages, and giving clear instructions to religious leaders on what needs to be done and how to do it; and must be results oriented, persuasive, focused, organized, meticulous, resourceful, motivated, and excellent at giving and receiving feedback.

A strong preference is given to candidates who can commit to working at least 30 hours per week. The internship pays $8 per hour with the potential for bonuses for great performance. Depending on availability, the internship will start as soon as possible in May and last as long as possible into August. UUDPR/IDPI's offices are a few blocks from a DC Metro station in Maryland.

Send cover letter and resume by e-mail or fax to [email protected] or (301) 933-7682. Make sure that "Internship" is in the subject line. Application deadline April 19, visit for further information.

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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 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, 7:00pm, Pittsfield, MA, countywide interfaith prayer vigil in response to the sentencing of Mitchell Lawrence. At the Superior Courthouse, contact John Whalan at [email protected] 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 4, 5:30-7:30pm, Hartford, CT, "The Drug War in Hartford: Where Do We Go From Here?", forum featuring Cliff Thornton of Efficacy, councilman Dr. Bob Painter and others. Visit and click on "Drugs" on the list of issues on the left side of the home page for further information.

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 10, 6:00pm, An Evening of Comedy and Music to Benefit the Drug Policy Alliance, celebrity event honoring Jodie Evans, Arianna Huffington and Max Palevsky. At the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., call (323) 314-7000 by April 1 or visit for tickets or further 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 12, 7:00-9:00pm, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, forum with former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, representing Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Sponsored by the Society of Living Intravenous Drug Users (S.O.L.I.D.), at 1947 Cook St., open to the public, contact [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, 8:00pm, Denver, Colorado, "Reefer Madness," medical marijuana comedy & music fundraiser for Sensible Colorado. At the Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th St., visit or call (720) 890-4247 for further information.

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

April 21, 7:30pm-midnight, San Francisco, CA, benefit party for "Measure Z"-style adult use marijuana initiatives in Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and elsewhere. Sponsored by California NORML and the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, at Pier 23 on the Embarcadero, admission $35, visit for info.

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 22, 8:00pm, Philadelphia, PA, 3rd Annual Candlelight Vigil for Victims of Medical Cannabis (Marijuana) Prohibition, sponsored by Philly NORML. Starting at Ben Franklin Parkway and 21st St., marching to the north side of City Hall for speakers and a moment of silence, followed by social gathering at the Nodding Head Brewery. Contacxt [email protected] or 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 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 2-4, Marysville, CA, music festival supporting the Dr. Stephen Banister Legal Defense Fund, California NORML and Americans for Safe Access. Tickets $60, 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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