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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #430 -- 4/7/06

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

    Good Riddance: Texas Drug Task
    Forces Ride Off Into the Sunset
    Homeland Security personnel just can't keep from fighting drugs. Too bad for America.
    Buried within the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act about to be considered by the Senate is a provision that would direct the drug czar's office -- against its own best judgment, amazingly -- to revive already-shelved research into the use of toxic fungal mycoherbicides to eradicate drug crops in places like Colombia and Afghanistan.
    For years, volunteers with Prevention Point Pittsburgh have been provided sterile syringes to injection drug users in Allegheny County to reduce the spread of Hepatitis C and HIV. Now the program has come under attack from a city councilman. PPP hopes to turn the situation to its advantage.
    Out of credibility and now money, the 18-year ride of the Texas drug task forces is crawling to an end.
    Get your copy of the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition video that Walter Cronkite called a "must-see for any journalist or public official dealing with [the drug] issue."
    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 have two stories out of Baltimore this week, as well as a pair of greedy air marshals, an upstate New York cop with a bad habit, a Florida deputy with sticky fingers, and a Memphis cop who thought he was protecting drug dealers, but is instead going to prison.
    The New York City Police Department put a big dent in Manhattan's Chelsea club scene last Friday night as hundreds of officers swarmed into seven clubs and shut them down because of alleged drug law violations.
    Goose Creek, South Carolina, became instantly infamous 2 1/2 years ago when 14 members of the town's police force got caught on videotape terrorizing a hallway full of predominantly black students at Stratford High School in an unsuccessful search for drugs conducted at the behest of the school principal. Now taxpayers are going to pay through the nose as a result.
    You would think the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division would be busy fighting terrorism and securing the borders, but you would be wrong. According to ICE, at least part of its mission is to keep America bong-free.
    Columbus physician William Nucklos, convicted on multiple drug trafficking counts for prescribing "unneeded" pain medications and sentenced to 20 years in state prison, has been granted bail and released pending appeal.
    Illicit drug use while pregnant does not constitute child abuse under New Mexico state law, the state's Court of Appeals ruled Monday.
    The Texas 7th Court of Appeals in Amarillo has overturned the drug dealing convictions of two Potter County women who admitted using illegal drugs late in their pregnancies.
    Long-time conservative consultant Lynn Nofziger died at age 81 in his Falls Church, Virginia, home March 27. Though a part of the Reagan administration who helped launch the heightened "war on drugs" in the 1980s, Nofziger later became an ardent advocate for the right to use medical marijuana.
    The Italian government has set quantity guidelines for illicit drugs that will determine whether drug offenders are subject to administrative sanctions as user "victims" or sent to prison as drug traffickers under the tough new drug law passed in February.
    With coca-growing one of the hottest sectors of Peru's moribund economy, an upstart former army officer who calls for the legalization of the coca crop is poised to win the first round of Peru's presidential election, set for Monday. If elected, Ollanta Humala would be the second openly pro-coca leader in the Andes, after neighboring Bolivia's Evo Morales.
  17. WEB SCAN
    WOLA at House Andes Hearings, Mycoherbicides Again, Broken Windows Debunked, CBC on Coca and Peru's Election, Denver Post, Meth Legalization
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring a system administrator in Washington, DC, and a grassroots organizer in Phoenix, AZ.
    Showing up at an event can be the best way to get involved! Check out this week's listings for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!

(Chronicle archives)

1. Editorial: Stopping Bongs, Not Bombs (Evidently)

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 4/7/06

David Borden
Americans hold a diversity of opinions on how best to fight the "war on terror." But we're just about unanimous in wanting to see it go well -- we want the next attack on our soil (and attacks elsewhere) to be prevented. We have differences in our views on immigration and the flow of the undocumented crossing our borders. But most of us, whatever we think about illegal immigration, would prefer to see actual "bad guys" -- people who are willing to kill other people and have a high probability of doing so -- get nabbed rather than get through.

How comforting, then to know that the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division (ICE, formerly the INS) has every danger to America as well under control as it possibly can, and has enough resources to spare to also raid Florida head shops (sarcasm). It's a higher priority, and rightfully so (additional sarcasm) to have at least some Homeland Security agents spend their time confiscating bongs, rolling papers and pipes, instead of doing a little more investigating of terror cells or searching a few more of the crates entering our wide-open ports.

I'm not surprised at all, and that's not cynicism talking. I am not surprised because I have heard firsthand reports about the situation. Last year I had a conversation with a former employee of the Customs office in a major US city that is a hub for international travel. Not surprisingly, the office was extensively involved in fighting drug trafficking, but too extensively -- even the counter-terrorism division, where this person worked, focused primarily on drugs.

To be fair, that was before 9-11. Surely they got their priorities back on track after the shocking attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, no?

No. The counter-terrorism division of this Customs office continued to focus primarily on drugs. Even after 9-11.

In my opinion, that demonstrates extraordinarily poor judgment, as does the choice by the ICE agents to spend their time looking for bongs, not bombs. Homeland Security does not exist to confiscate bongs. Homeland Security is supposed to be looking for bombs.

I do not, however, believe that all these agents and their supervisors are stupid. I believe that drug-fighting is so alluring to a large number of our police and investigators that they just can't help it. Even if they're supposed to be working on something other than fighting drugs, if they can find an excuse to drop what they're supposed to be doing and go fight drugs, they will! (If I'm right about that, it's another good reason to legalize drugs.)

The 9-11 Commission discussed this problem in its July 2004 report ( Evidently southern Florida's Homeland Security officials didn't bother to read it. Or maybe they just forgot. Or maybe they didn't want to hear it.

Too bad for America.

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2. Feature: Measure to Make Drug Czar Research "Frankenstein Fungus" to Destroy Drug Crops Heads to the Senate

Buried within the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Reauthorization Act about to be considered by the Senate is a provision that would order ONDCP, the drug czar's office, to revive already-shelved research into the use of toxic fungal mycoherbicides to eradicate drug crops in places like Colombia and Afghanistan. Authored by Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), head of the House Government Operations Committee and championed by leading drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), the provision passed the House last July.

"We spend millions of dollars every year on counter-narcotic efforts, including drug crop eradication and interdiction, especially in our joint efforts in Colombia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, yet the flow of illegal and lethal narcotics continues to be a major problem in our country," said Burton in a news release crowing about the measure. "The advent of mycoherbicides and other counter-narcotic alternatives offers us the possibility to cut off the source of these drugs literally at their roots."

fusarium-ravaged grain
"I am very hopeful that with the proper scientific research and testing, mycoherbicides can be utilized as an effective tool to help eradicate poppy and coca fields around the world and ultimately reduce the flow of drugs coming into our country," Burton concluded.

"If proven to be successful, mycoherbicide could revolutionize our drug eradication efforts," said Souder. "Mycoherbicide research needs to be investigated, and we need to begin testing it in the field. The potential benefit of these fungi is tremendous. My Hoosier colleague should be commended for advancing this initiative, and I'm pleased that his amendment was adopted into the bill."

If the amendment remains intact during the rest of the appropriations process, the Burton provision would require the drug czar to present to Congress within 90 days a plan of action for a review of the science of mycoherbicides as a means of destroying drug crops. It also calls for controlled scientific testing of mycoherbicides in a major drug producing nation.

The provision passed the House despite an almost universal rejection of mycoherbicide experimentation by federal government agencies -- including the drug czar's office -- as well as widespread fears about the unintended consequences of any use of mycoherbicides in an effort to destroy coca or opium fields. Mycoherbicides are literally fungal plant-killers, small chemical factories engineered to destroy specified target plant populations.

But critics, some in surprising places, say they could get out of control. In response to a proposal by anti-drug officials in Florida to use mycoherbicides there, the head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, David Struhs, addressed the dangers of mycoherbicides like fusarium in a letter to then state drug czar Jim McDonough: "Fusarium species are capable of evolving rapidly. Mutagenicity is by far the most disturbing factor in attempting to use a Fusarium species as a bioherbicide. It is difficult, if not impossible to control the spread of Fusarium species. The mutated fungi can cause disease in large numbers of crops, including tomatoes, peppers, flowers, corn and vines and are normally considered a threat to farmers as a pest, rather than as a pesticide... Fusarium species are more active in warm soils and can stay resident in the soil for years. Their longevity and enhanced activity under Florida conditions are of concern, as this could lead to an increased risk of mutagenicity."

Now, with the Senate about to consider the ONDCP Reauthorization Act, opponents of the provision led by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) are gearing up to kill it. "The Senate will either take up the House bill or introduce its own bill," said DPA national affairs director Bill Piper. "If they introduce their own bill, we want to ensure they don't include the mycoherbicide provision, and if they adopt the House bill, we want this taken out in conference committee," he told DRCNet.

While House proponents of the measure are asking for more research, Piper said that wasn't necessary. "This has already been studied to death," he said. "Scientists know this is not a good idea. The idea of releasing something like this in the wild, whether you're talking about Afghanistan or Colombia, is frightening. There is no way you can control it, and while it may or may not wipe out drug crops, it will certainly wipe out legal crops and harm animal and human life as well."

coca believed to have been hit by fusarium
It is an infrequent occasion when DPA and ONDCP agree on an issue, but the potential dangers of mycoherbicides make for strange bedfellows. When the House was considering the provision last May, drug czar Walters clearly opposed it. "The controversy around mycoherbicides is such that it is likely to create an environment of -- when we already have an effective herbicide -- concern about other agents being introduced to the environment. The Colombian government has also said that it is not interested. Again, it is not clear that this particular organism is specific to coca," he told the House International Affairs Committee. "If you were to spray it -- and it is not specific to coca -- it could cause considerable damage to the environment, which in Colombia is very delicate."

As part of the campaign to defeat the bill, DPA released this week a report by journalist and mycoherbicide researcher Jeremy Bigwood that tracks 30 years of research and rising concern about the dangers of mycoherbicides. According to the report, "Repeating Mistakes of the Past: Another Mycoherbicide Research Bill," the use of mycoherbicides has been rejected by every US government agency that has studied the issue, including the Department of Agriculture, the State Department, the CIA and the DEA. And not only are they toxic and dangerous, they are not effective against resistant coca and poppy strains.

The use of mycoherbicides would be viewed globally as an act of biological warfare, said Bigwood. "If it becomes law, this bill will have very deleterious consequences for the United States and its relations with the rest of the world," he said. "The proposed unilateral deployment of mycoherbicides by the United States in foreign countries would be considered a violation of the Biological Weapons Convention, and would likely increase support for the insurgencies in Colombia and Afghanistan. We must hold ourselves accountable to the same standards regarding biological weaponry as we hold our allies and enemies alike."

Similar concerns led the Clinton administration to reject the use of mycoherbicides in Colombia even after Congress authorized spending $23 million for them in 1998. After the National Security Council expressed concern over possible responses to the use of mycoherbicides, Clinton waived their use.

"Essentially the entire US government has closed ranks against using mycoherbicides," Bigwood told DRCNet. "All of the research suggests it would be extremely dangerous to use them. They are toxic, and they are non-specific, and they mutate. They are little chemical factories that produce toxic chemicals, and they can mutate, they can attack other crops, and they can attack humans. Right now, for instance, we have a problem with fusarium oxysporum eating the eyes of contact lens wearers. When I go to Colombia and talk to the people who spray glyphosate, people who are walking around in that stuff all day long, none of these people will go near mycoherbicides, not the Americans and not the Colombians."

"The mycoherbicide cheering section is blind to the dangers -- both scientific and political -- of resorting to them," said Bigwood. "This is essentially biowarfare, and Burton and his friends are trying to force the executive branch to do this against its will. The US government doesn't want to go with this. Just think about how the FARC in Colombia could use this as a propaganda coup; the blowback would be instant and dramatic. Likewise, if they threaten to use this in Afghanistan, that would be really bad news. The Taliban doesn't have much sympathy in the Western world, but start spraying with that stuff and that will quickly change," he said.

"We hope the Senate will thoroughly consider the potentially disastrous effects of mycoherbicide spraying, and as they draft their version of the bill that they remove the mycoherbicide language," Bigwood said. "We urge the Senate to reject any bill requiring that the US government retest mycoherbicides for drug crop elimination, either in the United States or in other countries."

Now, said Piper, it is time to make sure the Senate heeds the warnings. "We are hoping to generate some media attention on this, and are preparing to work on the Hill to ensure this measure is either stripped from the Senate's version or killed in conference committee," he said.

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3. Feature: Pittsburgh Needle Exchange Under Attack, But May Come Out Ahead

For years, volunteers associated with the harm reduction group Prevention Point Pittsburgh have been providing sterile syringes to injection drug users in Pennsylvania's Allegheny County. Beginning in 1995, the group operated an open, if officially unsanctioned, needle exchange program (NEP) in Pittsburgh's Hill District, and in 2002, after the county health department declared a public health emergency over the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, it began a legal, privately funded, once-weekly NEP in suburban Oakland.

Although Pennsylvania state law prohibits the distribution of needles without a prescription and considers them drug paraphernalia, Allegheny County is one of two localities in the state where authorities have declared a public health emergency in order to allow NEPs to do their work. The other is the city of Philadelphia, where a publicly-funded program has existed since the city declared an HIV public health emergency under then Mayor Ed Rendell.

Some 3,000 people have enrolled in the Pittsburgh NEP since then and more than 550 have been referred to drug treatment, according to PPP. Drug injectors in the program report a 64% decrease in the sharing of needles, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the cause of 20% of HIV infections nationwide and more than 90% of all Hep C infections among dope shooters.

On any given Sunday, a hundred people will show up with their anonymous ID cards to exchange used needles for clean new ones. Prevention Point Pittsburgh also provides referrals to drug treatment and other social services, overdose prevention information, educational pamphlets, and other services for its clients. But now, despite years of successful operation, the program is under challenge from an Allegheny County councilman.

For Councilman Vince Gastgeb, the health department's permission is not sufficient to allow the program to be lawful, and on March 21, he introduced legislation to halt the program until and unless the county council adopts an ordinance approving it. He also raised doubts about the program's efficacy. "A state law is a state law, and the state looks at needles as being drug paraphernalia, same as a bong or a pipe," said Gastgeb, a Bethel Park Republican. "If we're going to do this program, we should do it right, which is one issue. The second issue is should we do it at all?"

In the meantime, the program can continue to provide weekly services, Gastgeb allowed.

"No one is attempting to shut it down in any fashion, but we're attempting to craft a better ordinance," Gastgeb said. "At least I am." Still, he added, the council could vote against the NEP after examining the issues.

The process could play out for months. The legislation has been referred to the council Health and Human Services Committee for review and hearings. If it survives a committee vote, it would then go before the county council as a whole. PPP plans to be directly involved.

"This really came out of nowhere," said PPP executive director Renee Scott, "but I'm pretty confident we won't get shut down. We enjoy significant community support for a harm reduction method that is proven to save lives," she told DRCNet. Even though we think the council shouldn't even have to deal with this, we will educate them and cooperate with them as well as with the Board of Health."

The NEP has the editorial support of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which this week asked: "What's the harm in allowing a privately funded needle-exchange program to continue? Taxpayers aren't paying for it now, but they might pay later with an overall increased threat to the public health and staggering costs to treat those sick with and dying from diseases they may not have contracted otherwise." The solution was simple, the Post-Gazette said: "Allegheny County Council should draft an ordinance giving the program its blessing or, better yet, state legislators should clarify state law specifically to allow needle-exchange programs."

The Pitt News, the campus newspaper at Pitt University, also came out strongly in support of the NEP. "What good can come of this?" it asked, referring to the program. "Actually, a lot," it editorialized.

The Gastgeb attack may end up improving the situation, Scott suggested. "We hope to end up with an ordinance that gives us firmer legal standing -- and funding would be nice! -- or at least says that Board of Health declaration is sufficient."

Opposition to NEPs includes people who find the very notion of supplying needles to drug users abhorrent, but they need to overcome that, Scott said. "This is going to be Needle Exchange 101. There are a lot of people who just don't fully understand the intent or the benefits of needle exchanges, not just for injectors, but for the whole community. We'll meet people where they're at, and I know some people object, but if we don't have sterile needles available, people will be using contaminated needles they find on the streets."

That translates into new HIV and Hepatitis C cases, both of which continue to rise, according to the county health department. New HIV cases increases from 82 in 2003 to 100 in 2004, with no 2005 figures available yet. New Hepatitis C cases increased from 238 in 2004 to 393 last year. The department estimates that 14% of the new infections through 2003 were associated with intravenous drug use.

The dispute may be as much about political power as opposition to NEPs. While Gastgeb argued that the program had gone on too long without a council-passed ordinance, Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dixon begged to differ. He told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last week departmental legal staff had concluded needle exchanges could operate as long as the Board of Health believes there is a public health emergency.

"I suspect what this is really about is a power struggle between the county board of health and the county council. There is a long history of them going head-to-head over who controls health policy in the county," said Scott. "Before this, they were fighting over bus idling clean air regulations."

The hope is not just that the NEP and the public health avoid becoming collateral damage in a bureaucratic struggle, but that the program actually come out of it with firmer legal standing and maybe even funding. As a well-established operation with a proven track record, science on its side, and friends in the community, Prevention Point Pittsburgh is in a good position to turn this challenge into an advance.

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4. Feature: As the Well Runs Dry, Texas Drug Task Forces Ride Off Into the Sunset

The 18-year ride of the Texas drug task forces is at an end. The task forces, composed of police from multiple agencies working together to wage the drug war, have run out of credibility after tens of thousands of arrests, mostly of small-time offenders, and endless scandals -- most notably, but by no means only, the Tulia affair. Now they are out of money, too. In a little noticed move, late last year Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) shifted the focus of state-controlled federal Justice Assistance Grants from the task forces to other areas, most notably to a program called Operation Linebacker, which will concentrate on stopping the drug traffic along the Mexican border.

good riddance to
this bunch of cowboys
"It definitely hurts," said Allen Helton, executive director of the Texas Narcotics Officers Association. "The task forces are no longer getting funding from the governor's office," he told DRCNet.

That was only the final blow to the increasingly beleaguered task forces. At their peak, Texas boasted 51 of the regional task forces, employing some 700 officers to wage full-time war on drug users and the drug traffic. But after Gov. Perry took control of the federal grant purse strings and centralized the disbursal of task force funds in the state Department of Public Safety in 2002, making task force commanders answer to Austin if they wanted the money, their numbers began to decline. By this spring, they were down to 22, and since then, commanders have been announcing the dissolution of task forces on what seems like a weekly basis. Only one, based in Wichita Falls, has publicly announced plans to continue.

"This should send a loud message to police and the public that we do have the ability to rein in law enforcement and hold police accountable and create significant reforms," said Will Harrell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, an organization that played a key role in the years-long battle to rein in the task forces. "In the beginning of this struggle, nobody thought we could do it, but we have, and this is just one example of the power we can wield."

"This represents the culmination of years of work and activism by more than a dozen groups and hundreds of people across Texas in response to the Tulia and Hearne debacles," said Scott Henson, director of the Texas ACLU's Police Accountability Project and author of the Texas criminal justice blog "Grits for Breakfast." "It is a victory for people who oppose abusive police practices and think the drug war is out of control," he told DRCNet.

While dismay around the task forces' cowboyish behavior and proclivity for arresting black and brown people for petty drug crimes had been festering for years, it was the Tulia scandal that got the ball moving. There, in a case that garnered national attention, a single lawman working for the Panhandle Narcotics Task Force managed to bust more than 40 people, almost all of them black, on powder cocaine distribution charges despite having no more evidence than his own word. Dozens went to prison after what were in effect kangaroo court trials before a state and national mobilization managed to turn the tables and expose the injustice. In the end, the Tulia defendants were pardoned, the agent was convicted of perjury, and the reputation of the task forces was irreparably damaged.

Building on the dismay and disgust around Tulia, the Texas ACLU announced it had discovered "another Tulia" in Hearne, Texas, where a task force informant admitted lying in a case where the local task force had arrested 28 black men. In 2001, thanks to prodding from the Texas ACLU, the legislature passed a bill required civilian informants to have corroborating evidence in drug stings. The measure would not have prevented Tulia, but it would have prevented Hearne.

"In most places, these issues emerge around race, and that was certainly part of it in Texas, but the issues of police misconduct and bad police practices have been more central here in Texas," said Henson. "This really picked up steam after Tulia, when even the Texas legislature began viewing those tactics as indefensible."

In fact, the Texas House voted four different times since then to get rid of the task forces, but the Senate would not go along. It did go along with last year's bill that said the task forces had to comply with Department of Public Safety rules or lose their funding.

"Most of them chose to shut down at that point rather than comply," said Henson.

The end of the task forces does not mean Texas local law enforcement is going to ignore drug law violations. While the 700 task force members are gone from the task forces -- some laid off, some doing other police work, and some continuing to do drug law enforcement in single agency narcotics divisions -- the drug laws remain on the books. But where the task forces would do things like arrest crack smokers to drive up their numbers to ensure more funding next year, Gov. Perry's redirection of the federal funds means less emphasis on drug users and more emphasis on distribution rings.

"What this really represents is a shift in focus toward large trafficking organizations and away from low-level users and addicts," said Henson. "When you shift the money to the border, it's to go after the cartels, while the task forces would go after those low-level people. They would do things like send a confidential informant out to smoke crack with some other people, and when they would run out, he would pull out a $100 bill and say 'Let's get some more,' and when a friend takes it and brings back some rocks, he would get arrested as a drug dealer. That boosted their numbers and sent lots of people to prison, but did little to actually stop the drug trade."

"The end of the task forces puts 700 narcotics agents out of business. This will unquestionably have an impact on the ground," said Harrell. "Those task forces were responsible for thousands of arrests each year, 14,000 people last year alone."

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5. Offer: Important New Legalization Video Available

DRCNet is pleased to offer as our latest membership gift the new DVD from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). As Walter Cronkite wrote in a testimonial for the video, "Anyone concerned about the failure of our $69 billion-a-year War on Drugs should watch this 12-minute program. You will meet front line, ranking police officers who give us a devastating report on why it cannot work. It is a must-see for any journalist or public official dealing with this issue."

Donate $16 or more to DRCNet, and we will send you a copy of the LEAP video -- perfect for showing at a meeting, in a public viewing at your nearest library, or at home for friends or family who don't yet understand. Please visit to make your donation and order your LEAP DVD today -- consider signing up to donate monthly!

If you can't afford the $16, make us an offer, we'll get the video to you if we can. But please only ask this if you truly aren't able to donate that amount. Our ability to get the word out about important products like the LEAP DVD depends on the health and reach of our network, and that depends on your donations. Please consider donating more than the minimum too -- $50, $100, $250 -- whatever you are able to spare to the cause. The cause is important -- as former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper expressed it in the video, "The Drug War has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery."

LEAP executive director Jack Cole at the
European Parliament Out from the Shadows
conference, Brussels, Belgium, October 2002 --
invitation secured by DRCNet!
Again, our web site for credit card donations is -- or send a check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.

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

We have two stories out of Baltimore this week, as well as a pair of greedy air marshals, an upstate New York cop with a bad habit, a Florida deputy with sticky fingers, and a Memphis cop who thought he was protecting drug dealers, but is instead going to prison.

In Baltimore, Baltimore City Police Officer Walter Jackson-Hill, 35, was arrested Saturday on charges he took bribes from a drug suspect in return for failing to appear at the man's criminal trial. He is alleged to have agreed to try to get the suspect sentenced to probation instead of prison time in return for bribes totaling $1,150. Questioned in another investigation, the drug suspect told police Jackson-Hill had arrested him in September and told him he would let him go for $400. The suspect then got $750 more from investigators, which he gave to Jackson-Hill in return for the promise of probation. That transaction was recorded. Jackson-Hill is charged with theft, bribery, extortion, and obstruction of justice. A police spokesman told the Baltimore Sun Jackson-Hill would probably be suspended without pay this week.

In Baltimore, the trial of Detectives William King and Antonio Murray on charges they robbed drug dealers of dope and cash continues in federal court. King shocked the courthouse when he testified last week that he routinely supplied informants with drugs to sell and took money from informants who thought they were sharing their illicit profits with him. King said he had been taught such off-the-books measures during training from narcotics officers in New York City. King defended his practice of seizing drugs from one suspect only to pass them on to his informants to sell them on the street. "The more a snitch interacts with people, the more arrests I get," he testified.

In Houston, two federal air marshals pleaded guilty Monday to drug trafficking and bribery charges. Burlie Sholar III, 38, and Shawn Ray Nguyen, 32, admitted to charges they agreed to accept $15,000 to use their official positions to bypass airport security and smuggle 15 pounds of cocaine onto a flight to Las Vegas. The pair also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, raising the possibility that more air marshals could be under investigation. They were caught in a sting after a federal informant recorded conversations with Nguyen and delivered the cocaine to Nguyen's home. They face a minimum of 10 years in prison each and could get up to life.

In North Tonawanda, New York, former police officer Patrick Daly pleaded guilty March 29 to stealing $40,000 from the North Tonawanda Police Benevolent Fund in order to feed his crack and powder cocaine habit. Daly, 44, was the fund's treasurer. In his plea agreement, Daly admitted he bought and used drugs while on duty. Daly faces four years in prison when sentenced in July, and has agreed to make restitution for the stolen money.

In Punta Gorda, Flordia, Charlotte County Sheriff's Deputy was charged March 29 with petty theft for stealing money from the scene of a drug raid. Gerald Chapdelaine, 34, was part of a drug squad that raided a Port Charlotte home March 23. According to an internal investigation, Chapdelaine was searching a bedroom and another officer saw him place two stacks of cash behind a television. When the officer returned to the room, one of the stacks of money was missing. The investigation determined that Chapdelaine had stolen $60 in cash. He has been fired.

In Memphis, the last of three Memphis police officers convicted on corruption charges for accepting bribes to provide security for a drug deal was sentenced March 28. Now former Memphis police Officer John Vaughan was sentenced to 4 ½ years, but was allowed to defer beginning his sentence until January 2007 because his wife is pregnant and the judge wanted him to have an opportunity to bond with the child before he went to prison. The other former officers in the case, Billy Scott and David Tate, were sentenced to seven and 14 years respectively.

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8. Law Enforcement: NYPD Shuts Down Chelsea Clubs Over Drug Violations

The New York City Police Department put a big dent in Manhattan's Chelsea club scene last Friday night as hundreds of officers swarmed into seven clubs and shut them down because of alleged drug law violations. Stunned revelers were herded into the streets as police padlocked doors and put up orange warning tape. In a press release, the NYPD said a nine-month investigation resulted in numerous drug sales to undercover officers inside the clubs popular with the city's "club kids."

The NYPD's Narcotic Division, Quality Assurance Unit and the Manhattan South Vice Enforcement Unit shuttered the following West Side clubs: Avalon at 40 W. 20th St., Spirit at 530 W. 27th St., Splash at 50 W. 17th St., View at 230 Eighth Ave. and Club Deep at 16 W. 22nd St. Two other clubs, Club Speed at 20 W. 39th St. and Steel Gym at 146 W. 23rd St., were hit with restraining orders that allow them to stay open, but they must refrain from illegal activity.

Police reported that they purchased marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin inside the clubs on various occasions. They also reported witnessing drug use, alcohol sales to minors, and prostitution inside the clubs.

The city used its nuisance abatement law, widely known as the "crack house law," to shut down the clubs. It is used to target properties with persistent criminal activity.

Ironically, one of the clubs, Avalon, is located in an old church that formerly housed the Limelight, a club notorious for similar activity. In operation between 1983 and 2002, the Limelight was shut down on three occasions between 1994 and 1996 by state and federal authorities who accused its owners of turning it into "a drug bazaar."

And before that was disco, cocaine, and Club 54. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

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9. Search and Seizure: Cops, School District to Pay Students $1.2 Million in Goose Creek Raid Settlement

Goose Creek, South Carolina, became instantly infamous on November 5, 2003, when 14 members of the Goose Creek Police were caught on videotape terrorizing a hallway full of predominantly black students at Stratford High School in a search for drugs at the behest of the school principal. The video, captured by school surveillance cameras, showed police yelling and ordering stunned students to the floor at gunpoint and subjecting them to a drug dog search. Police came up with no guns and no drugs.

early morning high school raid:
no drugs or guns found
Reaction to the raid was fast and furious as outraged parents were joined by national drug reform groups including Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR) and Alabama activist Loretta Nall, then carrying the banner of the US Marijuana Party (and now running for governor of Alabama under the Libertarian banner) in holding demonstrations, stoking media interest, and demanding that justice be done. Principal George McCrackin resigned and the Goose Creek Police modified their drug raid policies.

But that didn't satisfy the demand for justice, which crystallized in lawsuits filed by 59 students and their families against the Goose Creek police and the Berkeley County School District. On Tuesday, a federal judge gave his approval to a preliminary settlement of the case in which the police and the school district agree to pay $1.2 million for violating the rights of the students subjected to the drug raid.

Under the proposed settlement, there would be two classes of students awarded damages. The first class would be those who filed suit or required medical or psychological treatment, while the second class would be other students in the hallway at the time. Fritz Jekel, an attorney for the students, told the Associated Press he estimated students in the first group would get $11,370 and those in the second group $6,025. But those figures could change depending on the size of the two classes of awardees. Lawyers for the students will receive another $400,000, making the total pay-out $1.6 million.

SSDP's Dan Goldman and a Stratford High parent
"Part of it was about money, and the other was about what kind of court order they'd be subject to in order to prevent this kind of thing from happening again," said Graham Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project, which participated in the lawsuits. But money was only part of it, Boyd said in an interview with MTV News -- the case was about constitutional rights.

"In this case, the school principal had some sketchy information about a kid who was selling marijuana in the hallway of this school," Boyd said. "The information was that the kid was black, and the principal's response was to go to the city police and say, 'Let's do a police action on this thing.' The city police had just gotten trained on SWAT tactics for taking down a crack house, and so you had cops with bulletproof vests and guns hiding in stairwells and closets when students arrived at school. Whether the police or a school want to search or seize a person, it has to be done in a manner that's reasonable," Boyd said. "There was no reason to suspect any single person in that hallway, yet every single person in there was forced, with no choice, and seized by police in a completely unreasonable manner."

Now, it appears that the Goose Creek Police, the Berkeley County School Board, and the good taxpayers of Berkeley County will pay out the nose for ignoring the constitution.

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10. Paraphernalia: ICE Raids South Florida Head Shops

You would think the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division, formerly INS, would be busy fighting terrorism and securing the borders, but you would be wrong. According to ICE, at least part of its mission is to keep America bong-free.

Some of its special agents spent last Friday serving federal search and seizure warrants against five South Florida head shops, all located in the Coral Gables area. The raids resulted in the seizure of 5,500 drug paraphernalia items worth more than $250,000, ICE reported. The raiders didn't limit themselves to pipes and bongs, however; they also seized rolling papers and stash containers designed to look like commercial products, such as women's lipstick tubes and pagers.

"These shops sell a dangerous lie about drugs and drug use," said Jesus Torres, special agent-in-charge for ICE in Miami. "It is obvious they want people to think its okay to take drugs. This is simply unacceptable."

Under federal law, any bong and any pipe not made of briar or corncob is considered drug paraphernalia, whether or not it has actually been used for that purpose. Similarly, other items that appear to be intended for use in consuming illegal drugs can also be considered drug paraphernalia.

The raid is the latest in Operation Up in Smoke -- and what's with the cutesy name, anyway? -- a continuing ICE Miami initiative launched in December 2003 to go after businesses that illegally import, manufacture, and distribute drug paraphernalia in South Florida. It remains unclear why ICE has assigned itself the mission of enforcing paraphernalia manufacture and distribution offenses that are entirely domestic. Nonetheless, since the initiative began, ICE special agents have served about 25 federal search warrants and seized more than 85,000 items valued at more than $2 million, the agency boasted.

While no arrests have been made, businesses have been put out of business. More search and seizure warrants are coming down the pike, ICE said, noting that enforcing drug paraphernalia laws "is a top priority for ICE."

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11. Pain Medicine: Ohio Doctor Freed on Bail During Appeal of Drug Trafficking Conviction

Columbus physician William Nuckols, convicted on multiple drug trafficking counts for prescribing "unneeded" pain medications, including Oxycontin, and sentenced in February to 20 years in state prison, has regained his freedom after being granted bail while he appeals his conviction. Nuckols' motion for bail during his appeal was granted March 31. Now, he and his attorney are fighting to overturn his conviction.

Nuckols is only the latest in an ever-growing number of doctors convicted as drug traffickers by prosecutors who seek to criminalize medical decisions, but lauded by pain patients' advocates as caring physicians operating within the bounds of accepted medical practice. The tension between law enforcement and medicine over prescription pain relievers, primarily opioids, has only been exacerbated by the White House's declaration last year that prescription drug abuse was a rising menace.

Although his primary practice was in Columbus, Nuckols was charged over his once-weekly visits to an office on the East Side of Springfield after local pharmacists complained to police about filling large numbers of Oxycontin prescriptions from his patients. Police sent in undercover agents who complained of pain and were prescribed pain pills by Dr. Nuckols. Prosecutors charged that Nuckols was running a "pill mill," and that he prescribed opioids without proper examinations or medical histories, as well as poor record-keeping.

But Nuckols and his defense argued that he was prescribing within the accepted bounds of medical practice and serving a poor, minority, underserved community. Many of Nuckols' patients attended the trial and his sentencing and testified on his behalf.

In his appeal, Nuckols and defense attorney John Flannery will argue that Nuckols would not have been convicted barring prosecutorial misconduct and improperly presented expert testimony. The state's expert witness at trial was Dr. Theodore Parran, an internist and addictionologist who "searches for reasons not to prescribe, rather than to ease pain," Flannery noted. As such he has no expertise in the field of pain medicine and the court and Nuckols' trial attorney should have challenged his testimony.

Prosecutors allowed one of their key witnesses, Raymona Swyers, to testify that she was had been doctor-shopping, or seeking prescriptions from multiple doctors, and that Dr. Nuckols knew it, when in Swyers' original statements to police, she said the doctors were not aware she was seeing other physicians. Prosecutors are bound to disclose such information to the defense, but failed to do so.

Another prosecution witness who gave damaging testimony against Dr. Nuckols was a Dr. Romano. Romano, too, had prescribed pain pills to Swyers, and the prosecution knew this, but failed to disclose that information to the defense. As Flannery dryly noted, that Romano had been suckered by the same person as Nuckols "would tend to impeach Dr. Romano's testimony."

Nuckols and Flannery will also challenge the judge's instructions to the jury, which they called more akin to a civil proceeding in a standard of care case than a criminal matter involving the crime of drug dealing.

Thanks in part to activists with the Pain Relief Network (PRN), which worked with Nuckols and Flannery on the appeal and the bail bid, Nuckols will now have a chance to seriously challenge his conviction.

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12. Pregnancy I: Cocaine Use is Not Child Abuse, New Mexico Appeals Court Says

Illicit drug use while pregnant does not constitute child abuse under New Mexico state law, the state's Court of Appeals ruled Monday in New Mexico v. Martinez. In so doing, it threw out the conviction of a Lea County woman who was convicted of child abuse after her daughter was born with high levels of cocaine in her blood. The woman admitted smoking crack and drinking alcohol late in her pregnancy.

The state legislature did not intend for a fetus to be considered a human being in the context of the child abuse law, the court held. "This court may not expand the meaning of 'human being' to include an unborn viable fetus because the power to define crimes and to establish criminal penalties is exclusively a legislative function," said the opinion signed by Appeals Court Judge Ira Robinson.

The ruling follows the precedent of a 1982 case where the court held that a fetus is not a human being in the context of the state's vehicular homicide statute. The court noted that the legislature has enacted laws that specifically include fetuses under a criminal statute, but that it had failed to do so in this instance.

Assistant Attorney General Arthur Pepin told the Associated Press he would appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. He argued unsuccessfully that the child abuse occurred once the baby was born "and the abuse was the continuing act of essentially having poisoned the child by introducing crack cocaine into its bloodstream."

But the court didn't buy it.

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13. Pregnancy II: Expectant Mothers Who Expose Fetuses to Drugs Can't Be Convicted as Drug Dealers Under Fetal Rights Law, Texas Appeals Court Rules

The Texas 7th Court of Appeals in Amarillo has overturned the drug dealing convictions of two Potter County women who admitted using illegal drugs late in their pregnancies. The cases were prosecuted by former Potter County District Attorney Rebecca King, who cited a newly passed state law granting fetuses the rights of individuals -- a reading of the law widely criticized at the time by a spectrum of groups, including the anti-abortion groups that pushed for the law.

In its March 29 opinion in Ward v. Texas, the three-judge appeals court panel overturned the conviction of Tracey Ward, who admitted smoking cocaine after it was detected in the blood of her newborn infant. In a companion opinion, it overturned the conviction of Rhonda Smith, who admitted to having used methamphetamine. But it did not rule on the scope of the law that defined a fetus as an individual.

Instead, the court held a pregnant mother's transfer of a drug to her fetus through ingestion did not constitute delivery of a controlled substance because the fetus never actually "possessed" the drug. "All agree that the 'actual transfer' contemplated here consisted of the ingestion by appellant of a controlled substance that eventually entered into the unborn child's body via conveyance through the umbilical cord," wrote 7th Appeals Court Chief Justice Brian Quinn in the unanimous opinion.

"Nowhere are we cited to evidence suggesting that the unborn child actually handled, touched, manipulated or otherwise exercised physical possession over the drug. Again, the substance was merely discovered in the unborn child's body. And, therein lies the rub, for the majority of jurisdictions that have considered the issue hold that the mere presence of a controlled substance in one's blood or urinary system does not constitute possession."

(At least one state, South Dakota, does make "internal possession" of a drug a crime.)

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14. Medical Marijuana: Reagan Aide Lyn Nofziger Dead at 81 -- Supported Patients' Rights

Long-time conservative consultant Lynn Nofziger died at age 81 in his Falls Church, Virginia, home March 27. Nofziger made his name as an aide to Ronald Reagan, first in California and then in the Reagan White House.

Lyn Nofziger with NORML's Keith Stroup and
patient activist Gary Storck, 2002 (courtesy NORML)
But while Nofziger helped bring us the "Just Say No" Reagan administration war on drugs, family tragedy brought him around on at least one drug policy issue: medical marijuana. When cancer struck and ultimately killed his daughter, Nofziger spoke out in support of allowing patients to use marijuana.

"When our daughter was undergoing chemotherapy for lymph cancer, she was sick and vomiting constantly as a result of her treatments," Nofziger wrote in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post in the late 1990s. "No legal drugs, including Marinol, helped her. We finally turned to marijuana. With it, she kept her food down, was comfortable and even gained weight. Those who say Marinol and other drugs are satisfactory substitutes for marijuana may be right in some cases but certainly not in all cases. If doctors can prescribe morphine and other addictive medicines, it makes no sense to deny marijuana to sick and dying patients when it can be provided on a carefully controlled, prescription basis."

Nofziger continued to speak out on the issue, going so far as to address a 2002 Capitol Hill news conference supporting a federal medical marijuana bill introduced by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). He told the press conference about his daughter's struggle and how marijuana helped. "Based on this, I've become an advocate of medical marijuana," he said. "It is truly compassionate. I sincerely hope the administration can get behind this bill."

Nofziger, always a movement conservative, used the Frank bill to attack President Bush on both states' rights and compassionate grounds. "It seems to me that the very definition of compassionate conservatism should convince President Bush to support legislation that would allow states to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes," he wrote. "In fact, if the president understands the meaning of those two words ('compassionate conservative'), not to support Frank is to reject the philosophy for which he says he stands and on which he ran for president."

By helping to elect Ronald Reagan, Lyn Nofziger shares responsibility for unleashing the Reagan drug war on America. But when faced with family tragedy, he was able to see the light -- at least on medical marijuana.

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15. Europe: Italy Sets Quantity Guidelines for Tough New Drug Law

The Italian government has set quantity guidelines for illicit drugs that will determine whether drug offenders are subject to administrative sanctions as user "victims" or sent to prison as drug traffickers under the tough new drug law passed in February. Under the law, anyone in possession of more than the specified amounts is considered to be a drug trafficker and will be prosecuted accordingly, although the government said it could consider someone caught with just slightly more than the proscribed quantities to be a "victim," not a dealer, who could be sentenced to drug treatment instead of prison.

Italy's drug laws were relaxed in 1993, and this turn around was engineered by post-fascist politician Gianfranco Fini, a key lieutenant in the rightist government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. With Italy facing elections this spring, opposition politicians are vowing that undoing the new law will be one of their first acts if they win power.

The figures are supposedly based on the concept of average dose suitable for one to get intoxicated. In general, they reflect an amount based on between five and 10 "average doses."

Quantities that will trigger drug trafficking penalties are:
           Marijuana and hashish: ½ gram or more
           Cocaine: ¾ gram or more
           Ecstasy: ¾ gram or more
           Amphetamine: ½ gram or more
           Heroin: ¼ gram or more
           LSD: 1/8 gram or more

But these amounts do not refer to the actual weight of the drug, but instead to the weight of its active ingredient. Thus, in the case of marijuana, the law sets the quantity of THC at half a gram, but with marijuana averaging perhaps 10% THC, that would equate to 5 grams of pot. Similarly, one-quarter gram of 100% pure heroin would be considered the same as one gram of 25% pure heroin.

The quantities were set by the government's Ministerial Commission and presented by Minister for Parliamentary Relations Carlo Giovanardi. "Up until today there's been total arbitrariness and it can happen that a drug addict can be convicted or not only on the basis of the judge's discretion, setting aside the type of quantity of the drug. This way, however, there are valid scientific parameters and under the threshold is personal use for which the drug user will not be penalized, but seen as a victim who wants to reform," Giovanardi said in a statement. But above these thresholds, "we want the law to step in because the traffickers of death must be beaten," he added.

Under the new law, persons caught with less than the threshold amounts are subject to administrative sanctions such as loss of drivers' licenses or passports, those who are determined to be "small time" dealers face drug treatment, and "traffickers" face from six to 20 years in prison.

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16. Latin America: Pro-Coca Upstart Poised to Win First Round of Peruvian Presidential Election

With coca-growing one of the hottest sectors of Peru's moribund economy -- production jumped 40% last year, according to the United Nations -- an upstart former army officer who calls for the legalization of the coca crop is poised to win the first round of Peru's presidential election, set for Monday. If elected, Ollanta Humala would be the second openly pro-coca leader in the Andes, after neighboring Bolivia's Evo Morales.

coca seedlings
According to the latest poll by Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, Humala's popularity is steadily rising, and he is currently the choice of 31% of voters. He has overtaken former front-runner Lourdes Flores Nano of the Popular Christian Party, who has 27%, and former President Alain Garcia of the American Revolutionary People's Allilance with 20%. Other polls show similar standings and trends.

But under Peruvian law, if no candidate wins a majority of the vote, a run-off vote will be had. Here, Humala's doesn't fare so well, with the Universidad Catolica poll showing Lourdes defeating him in a second round by a margin of 55%-45%. Either Flores Nano or Humala would win against Garcia in a run-off.

The polls could be undercounting Humala's strength, however. By all accounts, much of his base is in the peasantry, which -- lacking telephones or easy access for pollsters -- tends to be less likely to be polled.

The US and Peruvian governments officially back coca eradication, but that policy is floundering in the face of resistance by increasingly sophisticated coca grower unions and increased demand resulting from larger-scale eradication efforts in Colombia. The US has pumped at least $330 million into crop substitution programs, to little effect. Since 2003, Peru's capacity to produce cocaine has grown by 25% to an estimated 170 metric tons a year.

Given the way coca is woven into the history and culture of the Andes, none of the three major candidates is endorsing forced eradication, but Humala is clearly the most pro-coca. He has pledged to legalize all coca production, arguing that the coca leaf could be used for legal products, such as tea, toothpaste, and even as a food-stuff, and he has vowed to work to remove coca from the list of plants proscribed by the UN's anti-drug treaties.

"The solution to drug trafficking is to industrialize coca leaf products," said Humala on the campaign trial. "Inexplicably, the state has signed an accord that it stigmatizes coca leaf worldwide and we will denounce that, because eradicating coca would be like eradicating Machu Picchu. That crop is part of our cultural identity, so we cannot eradicate that plant, which is not malignant," he added.

Humala's position on coca is part of a broader, populist, anti-Peruvian elite campaign that has excited surprising support in recent months. But for the hundreds of thousands of Peruvians dependent on coca crops for a living, it is his position on the leaf -- which many Peruvians consider sacred -- that is critical.

"Ollanta Humala can help us, because this is a plant that gives us four harvests a year, it is our children's future," coca grower Walter Aquino, mayor of the remote town of San Antonio, standing among his shoulder-high coca trees, told Reuters.

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17. Web Scan: WOLA at House Andes Hearings, Mycoherbicides Again, Broken Windows Debunked, CBC on Coca and Peru's Election, Denver Post, Meth Legalization

"Addicted to Failure," testimony of WOLA's Joy Olson to the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the House International Relations Committee (text and video of testimony by Olson and others)

Repeating Mistakes of the Past: Another Mycoherbicide Research Bill," by Jeremy Bigwood for the Drug Policy Alliance

University of Chicago Law Review article debunking the "Broken Windows" law enforcement theory

CBC News video footage on Coca and the Peruvian Election

Larry Pozner criticizes Denver marijuana enforcement for ignoring the will of the voters, in "Just Say No," editorial in the Denver Post

"Legalize Methamphetamine!," by Marc Victor for Strike the Root

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18. Weekly: This Week in History

April 8, 1989: Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo is arrested in Mexico. Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni leads a team of Federal agents who arrest the drug lord in a residential suburb of Guadalajara. Gallardo is imprisoned on charges relating to the kidnapping and murder of Enrique Camarena. His nephews, the Arellano-Felix brothers inherit part of his drug-trafficking empire.

April 9, 2002: NORML launches a $500,000 campaign featuring bus shelter signs and telephone booth posters carrying a quote from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who when asked whether he had ever tried marijuana said, "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it." NORML used Bloomberg as the centerpiece of its campaign to urge the city to stop arresting and jailing people for smoking marijuana. "Millions of people smoke marijuana today. They come from all walks of life, and that includes your own mayor," said NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup.

April 10, 2003: In the wake of the federal conviction of medical marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal, US Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and 27 other members of Congress introduce H.R. 1717 (the "Truth in Trials Act").

April 11, 1997: Graham Boyd, an ACLU attorney representing a group of plaintiffs including eleven prominent cancer and AIDS physicians in San Francisco presents to a federal judge the following statement: "The federal government has issued broad threats against physicians who might recommend marijuana to some of their seriously ill patients. These threats have gagged physicians and have impeded the responsible practice of medicine. We assert that doctors have the right to discuss medical marijuana with patients, and we are seeking clear guidelines for physicians who wish to do so."

April 13, 1995: The US Sentencing Commission votes to equalize penalties for crack and cocaine powder quantities for trafficking and possession offenses, a proposal that would have become law on November 1 if Congress took no action. Attorney General Janet Reno urges Congress to reject it the next day.

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19. Job Opportunities: System Administrator and Grassroots Organizer at MPP

SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR: The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring a Systems Administrator to be based in MPP's main office in Washington, DC. The position requires the ability to perform exceptionally in a fast-paced, high-pressure campaign environment -- and is an excellent opportunity for someone who is meticulous and hard-working to become immersed in the technology aspect of a successful and good-sized nonprofit advocacy organization. The position starts as soon as possible and runs through the end of November 2006.

MPP uses multiple server platforms -- Mac OS X and Linux -- as well as Mac OS X almost exclusively on the desktop. Experience administering UNIX/Linux servers is essential to this position; Mac OS X Server-specific experience is a plus. A willingness to learn and ability to pick up new systems quickly are essential.

The Systems Administrator will have the following responsibilities:

Data Management: General database management and development using FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Server, and MySQL; Coordinating and compiling various sets of data for data entry, mailings, analyses, and reports, ensuring data integrity and usability; Working with outside vendors on an as-needed basis to ensure MPP's data are up-to-date and to obtain applicable data such as compiled lists; Working with other MPP departments to ensure their data and database needs are met.

Networking: Ensuring daily back-ups of all MPP computers are conducted; Maintaining MPP's internal and external Mac OS X and Linux servers; Performing office networking and system maintenance; Setting up all new computers; upgrading all computers as necessary; implementing and maintaining all software; Providing help desk networking support for all MPP employees in the office and in the field; Ensuring installation and maintenance of office software, including but not limited to products requiring office-wide licensing; Ensuring all problems related to general office hardware, laser printers, fax machines, and video devices are handled.

Other: Aiding in managing the office-wide phone system, including handling the expansion of the system, performing maintenance, and handling any complaints; Providing inter-office solutions on a proactive and as-needed basis, including items such as an office-wide online calendar, etc.

The pay rate of the Systems Administrator is $40,000 - $48,000 annually, commensurate with experience. The Systems Administrator reports to MPP's Director of Information Technology, who in turn reports to MPP's Executive Director.

GRASSROOTS ORGANIZER: MPP is seeking an experienced community and/or political organizer to do grassroots organizing in Phoenix, Arizona through the end of June 2006. The organizer's goal will be to persuade area members of Congress to vote for medical marijuana legislation that will be brought up for a vote on the floor of the US House of Representatives in June 2006.

The grassroots organizer will need to execute the following tasks: Build a coalition of supportive community leaders and local organizations; Collect the names and e-mail addresses of hundreds of "rank-and-file" constituents who are interested in subscribing to MPP's e-mail alerts (which will ask the constituents to use MPP's Web site to e-mail or fax pre-written letters to their congressperson); Generate handwritten letters from constituents to the congressperson; Arrange meetings between medical marijuana patients, physicians, nurses, and other credible constituents with the congresspersons and/or his staff members; Organize "visibility" events, such as holding up placards at busy intersections or distributing brochures outside of the congressperson's local office; Promote the "visibility" events and other newsworthy developments to all local print, radio, TV, and Internet news outlets; Generate letters-to-the-editor, op-eds, and meetings with the editorial boards of all local newspapers; and Recruit and manage local volunteers to assist the grassroots organizer with all of the above activities.

Interested applicants must demonstrate exceptional oral communication skills, the ability to work independently, a high level of organization, and a professional appearance. Experience with managing volunteers is a plus. The grassroots organizer will receive a stipend of $2,000 per month and be paid as an independent contractor. As such, the position does not include health insurance or other benefits. The grassroots organizer will report to the National Field Director in MPP's office in Washington, DC. (Organizers who excel at their job will likely be offered other paid opportunities to work for MPP in their congressional district or another state after June 2006.) Application deadline is April 17.

Visit for information on applying for either of these positions. Note that interviews are being conducted on a rolling basis, so interested individuals are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

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20. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

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.

April 18, noon-1:15pm, Washington, DC, "The Case for Legalization Drugs: The Failed Creation and Enforcement of America's Drug Policy," forum featuring Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and federal marshal Matthew Fogg. Sponsored by Georgetown Law Students for Sensible Drug Policy, at the Georgetown University Law Center, Hotung Room 1000, 600 New Jersey Ave. NW, lunch provided, contact Shawn Heller at [email protected] for further information.

April 18, noon, Washington, DC, book discussion on mass imprisonment with authors John Irwin and Marc Mauer. Sponsored by the Open Society Institute and The Sentencing Project, at OSI, 1120 19th St., NW 8th Floor, lunch served, space limited. RSVP to Angela Boone at (202) 628-0871 or [email protected].

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].

May 10, 5:30-7:30pm, New York, NY, "PUMPED: A Truth-Enhancing Seminar on Steroids and the Law," discussion with Rick Collins, national legal authority on steroids. At the Drug Policy Alliance, 70 W. 36th Street, 16th Floor, limited spaces available. Visit for further information or RSVP to Stefanie Jones at [email protected] or (212) 613-8047.

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.

June 12, 6:00-9:30pm, New York, NY, MPP Awards Gala. At Capitale, 130 Bowery, featuring Medeski Martin & Wood, tickets $250 if purchased by May 22 or $300, $500 VIP. Visit for further information.

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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