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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #431 -- 4/14/06

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

    drugs and driving -- not what you'd guess
    A series of controversial prosecutions from busts of South-Asian convenience stores in Georgia have come under fire.
    Bills to allow for legal needle exchange programs in North Carolina have languished since 1997, but this year the push is on to get one through the legislature.
    Anthony Papa of "15 Years to Life" criticizes the Bay State's draconian "school zone" law.
    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.
    A busy week: A pair of big city narcs and a small-town drug task force commander go down hard, an FBI secretary is accused of aiding meth dealers, a cop in Florida grows pot and one in Indiana slings crack, evidence walks out of two small-town departments, another prison guard goes down and so does an associate warden.
    Alaska is the only state in the union where it is legal to possess marijuana -- up to a quarter-pound in the privacy of one's home -- and that is driving Gov. Frank Murkowski crazy.
    In a sting drawing widespread condemnation even from law enforcement and educators, police in Falmouth, Massachusetts, sent a young, blonde, female cop into the high school undercover with a sob story about a dead mother, an absent father, and a need to get high to ease the pain. Friday police arrested nine teenage boys for selling her small quantities of marijuana and ecstasy.
    The six-year-old California program that mandates treatment instead of prison for drug offenders is saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars while dramatically decreasing the number of drug offenders in prison in the state, according to new studies from the Justice Policy Institute and UCLA.
    Scotland's Strathclyde Police Federation, the county's largest police union representing some 7,700 Scottish police officers, is calling for the legalization of all drugs.
    A DEA agent whose videotaped, self-inflicted gunshot wound before a class full of school children has become the stuff of Internet legend is suing the agency for releasing the tape.
    The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that an initiative that would allow adult Nevadans to possess up to an ounce of marijuana without fear of criminal penalty is not finding strong voter support. But the group backing the initiative said its own polls tell a different story.
    A study released by the British Department for Transportation found that one-third of drivers who tested positive for illegal drugs drove well enough to pass roadside impairment tests.
    Stories of drug fighters seizing cars, homes, cash, and other assets from drug defendants are nothing new, but in Tacoma, Washington, federal prosecutors tried to seize the -- expensive, fancy dental work -- literally out of the mouths of two alleged drug dealers.
    A former army officer turned populist and indigenist, who says he wants to legalize the coca crop, has won the first round of Peru's presidential election with a plurality. Next is the run-off vote.
  16. WEB SCAN
    Delaware's Former Top Cop Asks the Legalization Question, Cato's Radley Balko on SWAT Dog Killings
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    Field Director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Washington, DC
    Showing up at an event can be the best way to get involved! Check out this week's listings for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!

(Chronicle archives)

1. Feature: ACLU Seeks Dismissal of "Operation Meth Merchant" Cases for Racial Bias

The American Civil Liberties Union Drug Law Reform Project moved last week to have charges dismissed against a group of South Asian convenience store owners and operators arrested in northwest Georgia in a controversial investigation called Operation Meth Merchant. That operation ostensibly aimed at stopping convenience stores from selling legal household products that can be used to manufacture methamphetamine, but the ACLU is making a strong case that it was racially biased.

Forty-nine people were charged with criminal offenses in Meth Merchant and 44 of them are of South Asian descent. While more than 80% of area convenience stores are owned by whites or other ethnic groups, 23 of the 24 stores targeted by the investigation are owned by South Asians. Meth Merchant targeted almost 20% of South Asian-owned stores, but less than 0.2% of stores owned by whites or other ethnic groups, the ACLU charged in its April 5 motion to dismiss the remaining charges because of racially selective prosecution. That means South Asian stores were 100 times more likely to be targeted than other stores, the ACLU pointed out.

photo appears courtesy Alka Roy

"Selling Sudafed while South Asian is not a crime," said Christina Alvarez, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "The US Constitution requires police to investigate people based on evidence, not ethnicity."

Meth Merchant, a joint operation of the DEA and state and local police, sent informants into the stores seeking to buy items such as cold medicine, cooking fuel, and matchbooks, all of which are legal products. The informants would mention that they needed "to cook," which, according to authorities, was sufficient to indicate the South Asian clerks, many with limited English-language proficiency and none familiar with meth manufacturing slang, knew they were selling items to be used in cooking the popular stimulant.

In its motion to dismiss the charges, the ACLU argued that the operation targeted South Asian stores, citing statements from the informants themselves. "They only sent me to Indian stores... they wanted me to say things like 'I need it to go cook' or 'Hurry up, I've got to get home and finish a cook,'" said an undercover informant in a sworn statement attached to the ACLU's legal papers. "The officers told me that the Indians' English wasn't good, and they wouldn't say a lot so it was important for me to make these kinds of statements."

The ACLU also presented evidence that police ignored numerous tips pointing toward at least 16 white-owned stores in the area. Meth makers arrested by police routinely identified this group of local stores as supply sources, yet police took no action. In fact, according to another witness statement cited in the motion, law enforcement officials even alerted one white store owner to the investigation and told him how to avoid trouble by removing particular items from the shelves.

The differential treatment of white and South Asian store operators in Meth Merchant and the targeting of South Asian stores without any evidence against them violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, the ACLU argued in the dismissal motion. That clause protects people from being selectively targeted by law enforcement based on their race and/or ethnicity.

US Attorney David Nahmias was unmoved. "With regard to the issue of alleged selective prosecution," he told the Associated Press, "several defendants raised such a claim before the deadline passed for filing pretrial motions. The selective prosecution motions have all been denied by the magistrate judge in a ruling affirmed by the District Court. We will reply to any additional motions in court."

But while Nahmias remained steadfast in his effort to continue to prosecute the remaining cases -- 23 people and 10 corporations have already pleaded guilty and eight cases have been dismissed -- he is facing political as well as legal challenges. The targeted merchants and their supporters have formed the Racial Justice Campaign Against Operation Meth Merchant to end the racially biased prosecutions and build lasting alliances between immigrant communities and people of color in Northwest Georgia. The group has held protest demonstrations, urged Nahmias to end the persecution, and generally attempted to drum up support for the store owners and clerks.

photo appears courtesy Daniel Berger, ACLU
"Operation Meth Merchant is under attack in court and, just as importantly, in the community," said Alvarez. "The local community's ability to courageously speak as a unified voice in protest of the operation has been, and will continue to be, crucial to obtaining justice for the accused."

"Northwest Georgia is made no safer by police targeting a particular racial group while giving a free pass to those they have good reason to believe are actually making and selling meth," said campaign organizer Deepali Gokhale in a statement responding to the filing of the motion. "Families have been torn apart and lives have been destroyed by this racist investigation, and they aren't the only victims here. We all lose when law enforcement adopts irrational approaches that waste taxpayer money, undermine the public's trust, and leave us less safe in the process."

"Scapegoating a community based on their race will never make northwest Georgia safer," said Priyanka Sinha from Raksha, an Atlanta-based organization serving the South Asian community. "Law enforcement has a responsibility to investigate people based on evidence, not skin color. These people are human beings. They are hard-working and long standing members of the Georgia community. Because of these racially targeted and irresponsible prosecutions, their lives are ruined."

"We are fighting together, we are not alone, we knew we were treated unfairly and now here is the proof. Because we have come together ourselves, others are also coming forward to tell the truth and demand that the government treat us fairly," said Gita Patel, wife of one of the South Asian store owners arrested in the sting operation.

The ACLU is representing three defendants in the cases in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Those trials are set for May 1, unless the ACLU prevails in its motion.

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2. Feature: Marchers Take to the Streets to Demand Legal Needle Exchanges in North Carolina

Bills that would allow for legal needle exchange programs (NEPs) in North Carolina have been languishing since 1997, but this year, the push is on to get one through the legislature. Last Friday, in the most visible manifestation yet of that intensified effort, around 150 people marched on the governor's mansion to demand he make it a priority in this year's short legislative session.

courtesy North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition

Organized by the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition and the University of North Carolina chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign, the march was only part of a two-day series of events centered on campus and designed to highlight the issue and educate students and the broader community about the solid science showing that NEPs work to lower HIV and Hepatitis C infection rates among injection drug users. The effort is in support of a bill introduced by Rep. Thomas Wright (D), HB 411, which would create three community-based, pilot needle exchange programs; make participants, volunteers and employees of needle exchanges immune from prosecution for carrying syringes; and allocate $550,000 to fund the programs and a study of the program's effects.

"Rep. Wright introduces this bill every year, and it goes nowhere because it's a political hot potato, but now is the time to get it passed," said Thelma Wright of the NC Harm Reduction Coalition. "This is not about helping people take drugs, this is about helping them stay healthy until they can quit taking drugs. That's what needle exchanges and harm reduction are all about," she told DRCNet.

And that's why people marched, she said. "It was us and the Student Global Aids Campaign. It was supposed to be young people, but it turned into everybody's march. A lot of young people came out and let the governor and the legislature know how they feel about these issues, and I am really heartened by the turnout. I never dreamed we would have this many people."

Even if the bill passes, there are still obstacles to overcome. The bill requires that a county's board of commissioners, the local board of health, health director and director of mental health or substance abuse services all sign a letter of support to the state health director in order to get a pilot program approved.

So far, Guilford County is the only county to have the needed support for a pilot needle exchange -- and that's no coincidence. Guilford County is the home of one of the state's two unsanctioned NEPs, which Wright operated between 1999 and 2004 before turning it over to her successors. "It was underground but no secret," she said. "We never had a problem with the police, and the county sheriff said that while he would arrest us if he had to, he supported the program. And he never arrested us. I've been talking to the county health board about this issue since 1997, and they know the score, too," she said.

courtesy North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition

"Educating people about NEPs is about science versus ideology," Wright said. "Guilford County officials understand this, and now I'm going around the state trying to educate more people. Some people say they have a moral problem with it, but if you look at it in terms of morality, it wins there, too. Anytime you can stop someone from getting a disease and you don't, that's not just immoral, that's downright criminal."

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, HIV infections caused by injection drug use make up only about 6% of all new infections, but with some 18,000 HIV and AIDS cases in the state, that means about 100 cases could have been prevented by using clean needles. The number of infections caused by shooting up with dirty needles could be much higher; in nearly one-third of cases reported in the state, the means of infection is listed as unknown.

The department supports the NEP bill. "There is strong evidence nationally that needle exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV and in no way increase drug use," said Evelyn Foust, the department's state AIDS director. "In order to treat addiction, you have to meet people where they're at," she told DRCNet. "People are getting infected; we don't have any time to lose."

"Department of Health and Human Services Director Carmen Hooker Odom supports needle exchange, too," said Wright. "We have a letter from her saying she does. I'll be waving that around the legislature."

But Gov. Mike Easley (R) does not support it, and his support is critical to getting the bill included in this year's short session on the budget. While he is recommending increased funding for "comprehensive" HIV prevention, his budget request does not include needle exchange programs. His office did not want to talk about his position, instead referring DRCNet to Health and Human Services.

"The governor doesn't want this -- no needle exchange or harm reduction," said Wright. "That's why we marched to his mansion. We wanted to let him know loud and clear that you're not doing prevention unless you're doing it for everybody. Needle exchange is prevention and prevention is needle exchange," she said.

Support for the bill is building, with groups like the Women's Health Organization and the Minority AIDS Council putting it on their legislative agendas. But right now, the bill is parked in the House Appropriations Committee.

Still, Wright was confident this will be the year. "I certainly do think we can get this through, and it's about time. We need to help stop people from getting sick."

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3. Guest Editorial: Injustice in Massachusetts -- Two Years in Jail for One Joint

guest editorial by Anthony Papa of

The drug war reached the pinnacle of cruelty when Mitchell Lawrence, an 18-year-old Berkshire County teen, was sentenced to two years in jail for the sale of one joint worth of marijuana -- about a teaspoon.

Anthony Papa with self-portrait,
Lawrence was found guilty of distribution of marijuana, committing a drug violation within a drug-free school zone, and possession after he sold a 1.12 gram bag of marijuana to an undercover police officer for $20.

While this outrageous case happened in a sleepy burg in Massachusetts, the case of Mitchell Lawrence is one of countless tales of drug war madness that takes place on America's streets daily.

On June 30, 2004, Detective Felix Aquirre, employed by the Drug Task Force, was assigned the duty of buying drugs from kids who hung out in a parking lot in Berkshire County in Massachusetts. Merchants had complained to police about the groups of kids that hung out there. Lawrence was there with his pipe and a few marijuana buds of pot in a plastic bag. He had no idea the parking lot was less than 1,000 feet from a preschool located in the basement of a church, nor did he know this parking lot was the site of a police sting operation.

The undercover cop approached Mitchell and asked him if he had some weed. Lawrence pulled out a small bag of marijuana. The cop offered him a twenty dollar bill. Lawrence hesitated. The cop insisted. Lawrence, who had seen the cop hanging out with other kids, motioned the cop to follow him up the street where he intended to smoke with him. The cop waved the $20 in his face. Like a carrot dangling on a string, Mitchell, who was broke at the time, took the money. It was the only time Lawrence ever accepted money in exchange for marijuana.

In the months that followed, the cop approached Lawrence again for marijuana. This time, however, Lawrence refused. Weeks later, a crew of undercover cops stormed Lawrence's home and placed him under arrest. On March 22, 2006, Lawrence was sentenced to two years in prison.

This story was eerily familiar to me. In 1985, I was the subject of a police sting operation where I passed an envelope containing four ounces of cocaine to undercover offers in Mount Vernon, New York. I was set up by someone who offered me $500 to transport the package. The individual who introduced me to the cop was an informant facing life in prison. He was offered a deal -- the more people he got involved, the less time he would serve. He took the deal, set me up and I received a sentence of 15 years to life under New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The disproportionate sentence of Lawrence was handed down one day before the release of a national report by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI): "Disparity by Design: How Drug-free Zone Laws Impact Racial Disparity and Fail to Protect Youth," which includes research from Massachusetts.

The JPI study, commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance, found that drug-free zone laws do not serve their intended purpose of protecting youth from drug activity. The Massachusetts data on drug enforcement in three cities found that less than one percent of the drug-free zone cases actually involved sales to youth. Additionally, Massachusetts researchers found that non-whites were more likely to be charged with an offense that carries drug-free zone enhancement than whites engaged in similar conduct. Blacks and Hispanics account for just 20 percent of Massachusetts residents, but 80 percent of drug-free zone cases.

"School zone laws have remained unchanged in Massachusetts because the legislature has been promised that prosecutors use discretion," said Whitney A. Taylor, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts. "Unfortunately, the life of a young man has been sacrificed, proving that discretion is not being used and that the law must be changed."

Lawrence was not the only arrest made in an undercover drug operation in the summer of 2004. There were a total of 18 others, including five young people who are still awaiting trial for alleged sales that took place at the same Great Barrington parking lot.

District Attorney David F. Capeless is the man behind Berkshire County enforcement and entrapment. Capeless is a hard-nosed drug war zealot, who insists that these laws are effective in combating drug use -- even if it means ruining a young man's life in the process.

Lawrence was set to graduate from high school this spring. Instead, he will watch his fellow classmates graduate from his prison cell.

The common thread between my case, Mitchell Lawrence's case and drug free school zones nationally is the abuse of power from the prosecutors through the application of mandatory minimums. These laws handcuff judges and force them to impose harsh sentences.

Lawrence's conviction inspired a group of concerned Berkshire County residents to seek Capeless' ouster in the upcoming district attorney race. Defense attorney, Judith Knight answered the call to fill this role. Knight, a former assistant district attorney for Middlesex County said, "Lawrence's conviction was the tipping point" for her decision to run against Capeless in the upcoming Democratic primary election in September.

Knight says that "a tough prosecutor is tough on crime and also has the ability to demonstrate compassion and insight when the case calls for it."

Knight, with her "Judy for Justice" campaign hopes to follow in the footsteps of David Soares, who ran for district attorney and defeated Paul Clyne in Albany, New York in 2004. Soares ran a race primarily on the platform of Rockefeller Drug Law reform. He easily defeated the sitting district attorney who refused to change his views on the draconian drug law legislation of New York.

It is heartening that communities like Berkshire County are fighting back and attempting to hand reckless district attorneys and other politicians the pink slip if they chose to destroy lives and indiscriminately apply laws in a way does more harm than good, ultimately, without keeping our streets any safer.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom. He is currently a consultant with the Drug Policy Alliance.

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4. 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.

Thank you for your support of the work of DRCNet and of LEAP. We hope to hear from you soon. Special thanks to Common Sense for Drug Policy for funding the video and providing copies!

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

Whew! Busy, busy, busy. We've got something for everybody this week. A pair of big city narcs and a small-town drug task force commander go down hard, an FBI secretary is accused of aiding meth dealers, a cop in Florida grows pot and one in Indiana slings crack, evidence walks out of two small-town departments, another prison guard goes down and so does an associate warden. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, former Baltimore Police Detectives William King and Antonio Murray were convicted April 7 of multiple federal drug sales conspiracy and carrying a weapon during a robbery charges, the Baltimore Sun reported. The pair could spend the rest of their lives in prison. Prosecutors convinced a jury that King and Murray used their guns, badges, and unmarked cars to steal drugs and money from dealers and provide heroin, cocaine, and marijuana to their stable of snitches, who sold it on the streets and split the proceeds with the detectives. King and Murray both testified in their own defense, saying it was all part of their effort to collect information on powerful drug dealers, but the jury didn't buy it. King is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 305 years on 13 gun charges alone, and Murray is facing a mandatory minimum 130 years for six gun charges. Both were also convicted on multiple drug dealing conspiracy and robbery charges.

In Plaquemine, Louisiana, the former commander of a drug task force is going to prison for 35 years for orchestrating a scheme to rip off an evidence room and then burn it to the ground, the Associated Press reported. Twenty-year Iberville Parish Sheriff's Deputy Gerald Jenkins and his cousin, John Jenkins, stole pot worth $130,000, cocaine worth $600,000, $150,000 in cash, 18 guns, and more than 700 case files. Cousin John pleaded guilty to possessing more than 400 grams of cocaine in March and got 13 years. Gerald Jenkins pled guilty to the possession charge and an arson charge. He won't be eligible for parole for 15 years.

In Honolulu, a federal grand jury has indicted an FBI secretary on charges she leaked sensitive information to drug dealers, the Honolulu Advertiser reported. Charmaine Moniz, the FBI secretary, was indicted with eight others, including her husband, Eric, on charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Moniz is accused of disclosing "sensitive" law enforcement information from FBI computers to help the meth ring avoid detection. One of the suspects in the meth ring was also under investigation for cock fighting, and four current and one former Honolulu police officers were indicted for protecting that operation. The meth conspiracy involved about two pounds of the drug in 2004, according to the indictment. Moniz and her alleged co-conspirators face from 10 years to life in prison.

In West Palm Beach, Florida, Lighthouse Point Police Officer Michael Bollon pleaded guilty in federal court April 7 to operating a marijuana grow house, the North Country Gazette reported. The guilty plea means Bollon faces up to 20 years in prison and will forfeit his house to the government. According to court testimony, Bollon grew about 20 pounds of pot before he shut down his operation after some of his co-conspirators were arrested by the DEA. Bollon resigned from the force earlier this year when he became aware he was about to get busted.

In Nashville, Indiana, a former police officer was indicted April 7 on seven drug-related charges, including dealing crack cocaine, possession of cocaine, attempted distribution and possession of psyilocybin mushrooms, maintaining a public nuisance, and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to the Martinsville Reporter-Times. Robert Easterday, 32, a seven-year veteran, was suspended for dereliction of duty in February after reporting his service revolver missing. He recovered it the next day with its serial number filed off. One of his neighbors was subsequently charged with being a violent felon in possession of a firearm. The same neighbor is mentioned in the indictment as the person Easterday asked if he knew anyone who would buy psilocybin mushrooms. Easterday was being held on $20,000 bond at last report.

In West Des Moines, Iowa, the Dallas County Sheriff's Office is the subject of an investigation by state authorities into what has happened to nearly $2 million in cash seized by the department in the last five years, the Des Moines Register reported Monday. The investigation came after a Dallas County deputy charged that part of $800,000 in suspected drug money seized last month never made it to the evidence room. State crime agents searched the home of Sheriff Brian Gilbert March 30, but have not said what, if anything, they found, and no arrests have been made. Ironically, control over the sheriff's department evidence room has temporarily been turned over to the West Des Moines police, whose former evidence room technician, Charles Graham, was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison for stealing drugs and $10,000 in cash from the evidence room.

In Greenwood, Mississippi, 90 pounds of pot has gone missing from the Greenwood Police Department, the Associated Press reported April 6. The chief is investigating, the mayor told the AP, and the Mississippi Narcotic Bureau and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation have been brought in as well. Keeping control of the goodies seems to be a perennial problem at the department. In January, "an undisclosed number" of guns went missing. They have yet to turn up.

In Columbia, South Carolina, state Department of Corrections Associate Warden Matthew Golden was charged April 5 with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and 50 grams or more of crack cocaine, the US Attorney's Office announced. Matthew Golden, 43, and his brother Alphonso, 47, were being held at the Lexington County Detention Center. They face a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence if convicted. Federal prosecutors said there was no evidence that Golden was distributing drugs into the prisons, but not to worry: At least three other Corrections employees have been arrested so far this year on drug charges.

In Denver, a former Denver County deputy sheriff was sentenced to four years in prison April 7 for smuggling marijuana and other contraband into the Denver County Jail, according to a report from TV 7 News in Denver. Solomon Mikael, 35, originally faced three counts each of bribery and introduction of contraband, but pleaded guilty to one count of each in January. The seven-year sheriff's department veteran had been under investigation since April 2005, when the department's internal affairs unit heard allegations inmates were buying contraband from a deputy.

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7. Marijuana: Alaska Governor's Effort to Recriminalize Marijuana Passes One More Hurdle

Thanks to a series of Alaska appeals court and Supreme Court decisions dating to 1975, Alaska is the only state in the nion where it is legal to possess marijuana -- up to a quarter-pound in the privacy of one's home -- and that is driving Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) crazy. For the second year in a row, he has pushed legislation that would recriminalize marijuana possession, and this year he is coming close to succeeding.

While the effort appeared to hit a bump when Murkowski and his legislative allies tied the marijuana bill to an anti-methamphetamine bill, the joint bill made it out of a joint conference committee Wednesday and now heads back to the House and Senate floors for final approval.

The conference committee fended off efforts to amend the bill or separate it into two separate bills. "Whether they're high on meth or stoned on pot, it's the same to me," said Sen. Con Bunde (R-Anchorage).

The committee rejected an effort by Sen. Hollis French (D-Anchorage) to strip from the bill a long list of legislative "findings" that today's marijuana is much more potent that the pot of the 1960s and 1970s and could be addictive. In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that, given the relative harmlessness of marijuana, the state constitution's privacy provision protected people's right to possess the substance in their own homes. The findings are an effort to set the stage for a new challenge to that decision, which the Alaska courts upheld again in 2004 and 2005.

The committee also rejected an amendment by French to allow small amounts of marijuana for personal use at home. The bill would make possession of more than a quarter-pound a felony, between an ounce and a quarter-pound a serious misdemeanor, and under an ounce a misdemeanor.

If signed into law, the bill would be in direct conflict with the court decisions, setting up a legal challenge to the new law. Murkowski and his allies hope the court will be swayed by their "findings" and overturn its previous rulings.

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8. Law Enforcement: In Widely Criticized Sting, Undercover Blonde Cop Snares Massachusetts High School Boys

In a sting drawing widespread condemnation even from law enforcement and educators, among others, police in Falmouth, Massachusetts, sent a cute, blonde, young-looking cop into Falmouth High School as an undercover agent with a sob story about a dead mother, an absent father, and a need to get high to ease the pain. Her three-month charade came to an end last Friday when police arrested nine teenage boys for selling her small quantities of marijuana and ecstasy.

Four 17-year-olds were charged as adults, while four 16-year-olds and one 14-year-old were charged as minors. They are accused of providing marijuana to the narc on 31 occasions and Ecstasy once.

Falmouth police told the Boston Globe they decided on the undercover operation because of complaints from some parents that drug use was rampant at the school. According to Falmouth school superintendent Dennis Richards, police had approached the school "before the first of the year" about placing a narc in the school. "Our principal, Paul Cali, had experienced a similar situation six years ago, so he was familiar with it. I listened to Paul and the police, and I supported it," Richards told the Globe. "Drugs are a concern in most communities around the country, and it's no different here. But I believe we're dealing with a small group of students," he said.

Other area educators told the Globe they were not so sanguine about such operations. Undercover operations are -- and should be -- rare, said Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. "It's done where there are serious concerns and they need to go deeper into the scope of the problem," he said. "I think it is done... [when] they don't have enough information. It is a decision made as a last resort."

"I don't think the community would accept that," said Paul Richards, principal of Needham High School.

"This is the kind of stuff you see in made for TV movies," said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.

Even a former Suffolk County assistant prosecutor criticized the undercover operation, saying it was "outrageous" to use such tactics in high schools. "What strikes me as odd is if it was so prevalent, why did an undercover police officer have to dig so deep?" he asked. "As a prosecutor I wouldn't be comfortable with this. Why should she have to make up a sob story? That's something you'll have to explain to a jury."

The sting also drew criticism from Eric Sterling, a former US House counsel who helped draft harsh federal drug laws in the 1980s and who currently heads the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. "This trust-destroying raid may well disrupt the school environment more than the marijuana use that existed in the school. Every student feels betrayed and suspicious. Every new student will enter that school under a cloud of potential distrust for several years," he wrote in his Justice and Drugs blog. "Couldn't this situation have been handled with more wisdom and compassion? If these boys had been called to a private interview in the principal's office with their parents present, don't you think that they would have been thoroughly deterred from future drug dealing, without making an arrest? The shock of being discovered, confronted with their parents present, and told of the risk of prosecution and its consequences, would be complete deterrence for most kids."

According to students interviewed by the Globe, the blonde narc worked hard to find people to score for her. She talked about drugs constantly, said sophomore James Heide, 16. "It seemed like she was trying to score from everyone."

"She would tell people that her mother was dead and that her dad was in the Navy and that she needed pot to cope," said Julia Massi, a 17-year-old senior who said she was in English class with the officer. "She made people feel bad for her. She would say 'Hey, if you see a party, give me a shout.'"

Parents of the students arrested were also unhappy with the police approach. "My kid was impressed by this pretty undercover drug officer," said one mother. "He has issues with low self-esteem, and this pretty girl gave him attention," she said. "He wanted to impress her by providing her with what she needed. The approach by the police was not justified. Drugs may be a problem at the school, but they have to change their approach."

Actually, drugs aren't that much of a problem at Falmouth High, at least relatively speaking. According to a recent student survey, 85% of students said they had not smoked marijuana in the last month, a figure roughly consistent with figures across the land. According to the latest Monitoring the Future survey, 15.2% of 10th graders and 19.8% of seniors nationwide reported smoking pot within the last month.

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9. Treatment Not Jail: California Saving Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Thanks to Proposition 36, Reports Say

California's Proposition 36, the six-year-old program that mandates treatment instead of prison for drug offenders, is saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars while dramatically decreasing the number of drug offenders in prison in the state, according to a new study from the Justice Policy Institute. The JPI report echoes a report released last week by UCLA that found taxpayers save $2.50 for every dollar invested in drug treatment and that the state saved $173 million in the first year of Prop 36's operation alone.

California prison

JPI's report said the rate of incarceration for drug possession offenses has decreased by more than a third. Since Prop 36 went into effect, the percentage of state prisoners doing time on drug charges has dropped from 27% to 21%, close to the national average.

"Since Proposition 36 came into effect, drug imprisonment in California fell, and this has saved Californian taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars," said Jason Ziedenberg, coauthor of the report, and executive director of JPI. "In a state that has struggled with corrections and sentencing reform, Proposition 36 stands out as a successful way to reduce drug imprisonment."

"The cost savings are dramatic, but with increased system accountability measures and improved offender management, as well as incentives to community programs for better treatment entry, retention, and completion rates, they could rise even higher," said M. Douglas Anglin, co-author of the UCLA study and professor-in-residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. "Our suggestions for boosting those savings include further improvements in the coordination of services and continuity of care within counties, better participant screening, improved matching of services to needs, and attention to special populations of drug offenders, including minorities and offenders with psychiatric problems."

The two reports will provide powerful ammunition for those seeking to increase funding for Prop 36 programs. Five years of voter-mandated funding run out this summer, and while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has earmarked $120 million to cover costs next year, that isn't enough, say reformers. Spending needs to be at least $200 million next year, JPI study coauthor Scott Ehlers told DRCNet last month.

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10. Europe: Scottish Cops Say Legalize It All

Scotland's Strathclyde (Glasgow area) Police Federation, the county's largest police union representing some 7,700 Scottish police officers, is calling for the legalization of all drugs, the Daily Mail Scotland reported Thursday. Even hard drugs like cocaine and heroin should be legal and available to be licensed for use by addicts, the federation said.

Current prohibitionist approaches simply are not working and waste millions of dollars in a futile effort, said Inspector Jim Duffy, chairman of the federation. The laws must be transformed to cut the death toll, he said. "We should legalize all drugs currently covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act -- everything from class A to C, including heroin, cocaine and speed. We are not winning the war against drugs and we need to think about different ways to tackle it. Tell me a village where they are drug-free," he said. "Despite the amount of resources and the fantastic work our girls and guys do, we are not making a difference. We don't have any control at the moment."

The federation plans to take its position to its fellow Scottish police officers. The group will present a discussion motion at a forthcoming national police conference to garner support from officers across Scotland.

The startling announcement was music to the ears of Danny Kushlick, director of the drug reform group Transform. "For a policy that aims to eliminate drug supply and use, it has failed in spectacular style," he said in a statement greeting the call. "Over the last 40 years illegal drug use has risen by at least 300%. Attempts to curtail drug supply have been equally ineffective, with drugs now cheaper and more available than ever before," Kushlick said.

"When high demand for drugs collides with laws that prohibit them, the result is a dramatic rise in drug prices, with low value commodities becoming, quite literally, worth more than their weight in gold," Kushlick continued. The hugely lucrative opportunities this creates attract the violent criminal entrepreneurs who now control the world's largest criminal market, worth $500 billion a year. Inflated drug prices mean that low income dependent drug users often resort to property crime or prostitution to support their habits. The government estimates that this relatively small population of dependent heroin and cocaine users is now responsible for 54% of robberies, 70-80% of burglaries, 85% of shoplifting and 95% of street prostitution. In addition, prohibition criminalizes millions of (otherwise law abiding) drug using adults, making it unparalleled in its contribution to prison overcrowding and the wider crisis in the criminal justice system. This is not a debate that invites fence sitters and Strathclyde police federation has courageously climbed down."

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11. Law Enforcement: Agent Who Shot Himself in Foot Sues DEA for Making Him Look Silly

A Drug Enforcement Agency agent whose videotaped, self-inflicted gunshot wound before a class full of school children has become the stuff of Internet legend is suing the agency for releasing the tape. Agent Lee Paige, 45, who shot himself in the foot while demonstrating weapons safety for the Florida children, claims his career has been ruined and he has become a laughingstock.

The shooting occurred only moments after Paige, a 15-year veteran, told the students he was the only one in the room professional enough to handle a gun. He filed suit April 7, charging that the videotape showing the shooting, which was filmed by an audience member, was turned over to the DEA. The drug agency subsequently "improperly, illegally, willfully and/or intentionally" allowed the tape to be disseminated, Paige charged.

He has suffered as a result, the lawsuit said. He has been the "target of jokes, derision, ridicule, and disparaging comments" from bypassers in public places and he is no longer "permitted or able to give educational motivational speeches and presentations." Nor can he work undercover any longer because of the tape's wide distribution, he complained.

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12. Marijuana: Nevada Initiative Faces Uphill Battle, Poll Says

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that an initiative that would allow adult Nevadans to possess up to an ounce of marijuana without fear of criminal penalty is not finding strong voter support. But the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, the group backing the initiative, said the poll findings didn't match its own internal polls.

In the poll of 625 registered voters conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, 56% said they opposed the initiative, 34% favored it, and 10% were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4%.

The ballot measure would also allow the state to tax marijuana and set up a system to sell it. If the measure passes, the state legislature would face the task of creating such a system. The measure includes restrictions on sales, and would also stiffen the sentences of people who provide marijuana to minors and people who cause fatal traffic accidents while high.

This year's effort is a refinement of a 2002 initiative that would have legalized the possession of up to three ounces by adults. That effort was defeated by a margin of 61% to 39%. Questionable rulings by state officials and errors by initiative organizers in 2004 kept the issue off the ballot that year, but the Committee and its backer, the Marijuana Policy Project, collected enough signatures that year to bring the issue before the legislature. But the solons punted, leaving it to the voters to decide in November.

Law enforcement opponents of the measure were gloating. "I think it shows the public is smart enough to realize they are being hoodwinked by a group that wants to legalize drugs," said Lt. Stan Olsen of the Metropolitan Police Department. "The state, the country, the community is tired of it," he told the newspaper.

But the Committee isn't rolling over and dying just yet. "While [the poll results] may look like a bad sign on the surface, we here at CRCM don't find it discouraging. Our internal polling has shown much higher than 34% support for the initiative, and November is many months from now," the group said on its web site. "After all, we've only just begun to get out our message to Nevadans. In contrast, the federal government spends millions of dollars every year on anti-marijuana advertising in Nevada -- think maybe that's had an impact on voters' initial opinions? We are going to reach out to every voter in this state with an effective, positive message, and we intend to win this campaign. What's clear is we are currently behind, although we are within striking distance of victory."

If CRCM pulls it off, Nevada will be the first step to legalize the adult possession of marijuana through the political process. In Alaska, adults can posses up to a quarter-pound in the privacy of their homes, but that is the result of state high court decisions interpreting the privacy provisions of the state constitution.

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13. Drugged Driving: British Study Finds One-Third of Drivers Who Test Positive for Drugs Pass Roadside Impairment Tests

A study released April 3 by the British Department for Transportation found that one-third of drivers who tested positive for illegal drugs drove well enough to pass roadside impairment tests. The study found that well-trained police doing Field Impairment Tests (FITS) -- where officers ask drivers to walk in a straight line, touch their fingers to their noses, and similar tasks -- were unable to detect any noticeable impairment in those drivers.

The FITS do not test for the presence of a specific substance in the body. Instead, they test a driver's ability to carry out tasks involving balance, judgment, and ability to follow complex instructions -- precisely the abilities needed to safely operate an automobile. Drug tests do not measure impairment, but the presence of a drug or its metabolites in the body.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in the United Kingdom has called for new laws that would make a positive drug test the only evidence needed to support a conviction for drugged driving, a position similar to that of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is pushing for drugged driving bills in states across the country. Proponents of such measures liken them to laws against drug drinking, where drivers are presumed to be impaired above a certain blood alcohol level. But unlike the drunk driving laws, drugged driving laws set that limit at zero.

The British police chiefs have the backing of the RAC Foundation, the charitable offshoot of the Royal Automobile Club, a rough British equivalent to the American Auto Association. In a Monday press release, the foundation said it "supports ACPO's suggestion that a positive road-side drug test should be the only evidence needed to take these drivers off the road."

Oddly for an organization that proclaims it is about "protecting the interest of the motorist," the foundation complained that police had to actually show someone was impaired to arrest him for driving while impaired. "The fight against drug-driving is also made more difficult by the need to prove not just that the driver has taken drugs but also that their driving is impaired as a result," the foundation said.

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14. Asset Forfeiture: Feds Try to Seize Drug Suspects' Dental Work

Stories about federal drug fighters seizing cars, homes, cash, and other assets from drug defendants are nothing new, but in Tacoma, Washington, federal prosecutors tried to seize the fancy dental work of two alleged drug dealers. Known as grillz, the customized tooth caps made of precious metals and jewels can cost thousands of dollars.

Last week, Flenard Neal Jr. and Donald Jamar Lewis were pulled from their cells at the Federal Detention Center and taken to the US Marshal's office, where they were told the government had a warrant to seize their grills, the Seattle Times reported. Fortunately for the pair and their smiles, they were able to call their lawyers before being driven to a Seattle dental office for the removal. Their lawyers were able to get a permanent stay of the seizure order from US Magistrate J. Kelley Arnold the same day.

"I've been doing this for over 30 years and I have never heard of anything like this," Richard Troberman, a forfeiture specialist and past president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the Times. "It sounds like Nazi Germany when they were removing the gold teeth from the bodies, but at least then they waited until they were dead."

Some grillz are removable and can be snapped onto the teeth, but others are permanently bonded to the teeth. Neal and Lewis have grillz of the latter variety. A spokesman for the US Attorney's office in Seattle said it did not realize the grillz were permanent. "Asset forfeiture is a fairly routine procedure, and our attorneys were under the impression that these snapped out like a retainer," said Emily Langlie.

Lawyers for the pair criticized what they called a clandestine effort to seize and remove the grillz. "It's shocking that this kind of action by the federal government could be sought and accomplished in secret, without anyone being notified," said Schwartz. "It reminds me of the secret detentions" in terrorist cases.

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15. Latin America: Coca-Friendly Candidate Wins First Round of Peru Presidential Election

Ollanta Humala, a former army officer turned populist and indigenist who says he wants to legalize the coca crop, has won the first round of Peru's presidential election. Under Peruvian electoral law, if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will compete in a run-off.

With 80% of the votes counted late Monday, Humala was leading with 29.9% of the vote, while former President Alain Garcia and conservative congresswoman Lourdes Flores were battling for second place. Garcia had 24.9% of the vote, and Flores had 24.8%, with minor candidates accounting for the rest.

In pre-election polls, Flores led Humala in a potential head-to-head vote, 55% to 45%, but Humala led Garcia by a like margin. Still, even if Flores wins second-place, the strength of the vote for Garcia, whose positions on most issues are closer to Humala's, suggests that Humala could rally to defeat her.

A Humala victory would be a blow to the Bush administration and US drug policy in the region. Humala was endorsed by Washington bete noire Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and embraces the pro-coca policies of newly elected indigenous Bolivian President Evo Morales. Humala said during the campaign that he would legalize the coca crop and seek to develop its commercial application in products such as soft drinks and gum. At one point during the campaign, he even suggested mixing coca with flour to make coca bread for school children.

With Peruvian coca production on the rise and coca grower unions flexing their muscles, US-backed forced eradication programs would most likely be doomed. Nor can Washington be happy with the prospect of another radical indigenous populist taking the reins of power in the regime. But sometimes you reap what you sow.

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16. Web Scan: Delaware's Former Top Cop Asks the Legalization Question, Cato's Radley Balko on SWAT Dog Killings

Delaware's recently retired chief prosecutor Peter Letang asks the legalization question in "Are We Losing the War?"

The Cato Institute's Radley Balko has been researching the rise in paramilitary drug raids for years. But it really gets to him when they kill the family dog.

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17. Weekly: This Week in History

April 14, 1989: A congressional subcommittee on Narcotics, Law Enforcement, and Foreign Policy, chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), issues a report finding that US efforts to combat drug trafficking were undermined by the Reagan administration's fear of jeopardizing its objectives in the Nicaraguan civil war. The report concludes that the administration ignored evidence of drug trafficking by the Contras and continued to provide them with aid.

April 15, 1998: California Superior Court Judge David Garcia orders Dennis Peron, author of Proposition 215, to cease operations of his Cannabis Cultivators' Club (CCC) in San Francisco. Judge Garcia writes, "The court finds uncontradicted evidence in this record that defendant Peron is currently engaging in illegal sales of marijuana." The illegal sales, the court said, were to "primary caregivers," not patients as defined by California's medical marijuana law. Peron agrees to resign as head of the CCC in an effort to keep the operation open.

April 16, 1998: The Iowa Legislature overwhelmingly approves a bill enhancing marijuana penalties for repeat offenders, and enabling police officers to conduct drug tests on drivers who appear to be operating under the influence of marijuana.

April 16, 2004: Richard Paey, a wheelchair-bound pain patient, is sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Florida judge. Paey, who was convicted of forging prescriptions for pills to ease chronic, severe back pain dating from failed surgeries after an auto accident in 1985, was sentenced under Florida law as a drug dealer -- though even prosecutors conceded there is no evidence he did anything other than consume the opioid pain relievers himself.

April 17, 2002: While under the influence of amphetamines issued to them by the US government in order to stay awake during the mission, two US pilots mistakenly drop a bomb that kills four Canadians in Afghanistan. The Air Force-issued "go pills" may have impaired the pilots' judgment, says David Beck, lawyer for Maj. William Umbach, adding that the pilots were given antidepressants upon returning from their mission. "The Air Force has a problem. They have administered 'go pills' to soldiers that the manufacturers have stated affect performance and judgment," Beck said.

April 18, 2001: Kenneth Hayes and Michael Foley are acquitted by a Sonoma County, California jury on charges of cultivating and possessing marijuana. The two were arrested for growing 899 marijuana plants for the 1,200 members of a San Francisco medical marijuana club called CHAMP (Cannabis Helping Alleviate Medical Problems).

April 19, 1943: Albert Hoffman takes the first dose of LSD in Basel, Switzerland.

April 20, 2001: American Christian missionary Veronica Bowers and her 7 month-old daughter, Charity, are killed when their small plane is shot out of the sky by a Peruvian military jet as part of a CIA-backed program that patrols the Amazon Basin for drug couriers. The Senate Intelligence Committee investigates and concluded that the missionary pilot did nothing wrong and should not have come under fire.

April 20, 2002: Robin Prosser of Missoula, Montana begins a hunger strike demanding access to government grown marijuana to help her treat symptoms of Lupus. Prosser says that marijuana helps combat the illness and relieved her of pain and stress.

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18. Job Opportunity: Field Director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Washington, DC

Students for Sensible Drug Policy is hiring a Field Director. The responsibility of the Field Director is to expand SSDP's base by providing support to students starting chapters, as well as to students trying to grow and strengthen existing chapters. Additionally, the Field Director must track and maintain information on all of the organization's chapters. To that end, the Field Director will:

Assist students starting chapters, as well as students trying to grow and strengthen chapters. The Field Director not only responds to students who request to start chapters, but proactively inspires students to want to start chapters as well. Accordingly, the Field Director must develop strategies and tactics that are forward-thinking and innovative in inspiring students to start chapters, especially students at schools in districts and states important to SSDP's legislative campaigns, as well as legislative campaigns of allied drug policy reform organizations. The Field Director is responsible for the development of trainings, materials, literature, and other resources that will benefit students working to start, grow, or strengthen chapters.

Track and maintain information on SSDP chapters, activists, and other supporters. The Field Director tracks and maintains accurate and current information on the status of student attempts to start chapters, as well as on the status of active chapters, including information on chapter programs and goals, membership, leadership, etc. The Field Director oversees the organization's alumni network by tracking and maintaining information on members who graduate.

Help SSDP's Campaigns Director execute SSDP grassroots campaigns and actions. The Field Director carries out tasks created by the Campaign Director to execute various grassroots campaigns and actions.

Assist SSDP's Publications Coordinator in compiling stories for the monthly SSDP newsletter. The Field Director is responsible for identifying chapter projects that worthy of inclusion in the monthly SSDP newsletter, summarizing these projects, and putting the Publications Coordinator in contact with chapter leaders for more information.

A qualified applicant will have succinct, persuasive, inspiring writing, plus a close attention to detail. The applicant will communicate orally with comfort and conviction, and exceptional interpersonal skills are essential. An applicant must be extremely comfortable with phone communication, as the Field Director will be required to spend a great deal of time on the phone communicating with chapter leaders and potential chapter leaders. An ability to be assertive and inspiring is a must, as is comfort working with people of all ages.

A qualified candidate will be a self-starter who is creative in developing outreach strategies and tactics. A demonstrated dedication to drug law reform is valuable, but not necessary. SSDP places a premium on experience working with and managing volunteers, especially in the context of student organizing and activism. The Field Director reports directly to the Executive Director.

Salary is commensurate with experience. Benefits include health care. Interested applicants should email a one-page cover letter and one-to-two page resume to Executive Director Kris Krane at [email protected]. In your cover letter, please indicate (1) how you learned about SSDP's job opening, (2) why you are interested in working with SSDP in particular, (3) whether you have any experience in drug policy, and (4) why you are interested in this particular position. Feel free to include any additional information you deem relevant, not to exceed one page. Please do not call the SSDP office at this time.

If you submit a cover letter and resume, SSDP will respond to you within seven working days with either a notice of rejection or a request for additional documentation. Application Deadline is May 12. Visit for further information.

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19. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

April 17, 6:30pm, New York, NY, New York Drug Reform Meetup Group first meeting, visit for info.

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 of 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.

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]. 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] or visit for 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 19, 6:00pm-1:00am, San Francisco, CA, Americans for Safe Access 4th Birthday Party. From 6:00-9:00pm at the "Star Trek" home of Richard Wolfe, space limited, visit for info or to purchase tickets. From 8:00pm-1:00am at Cafe Cocomo, 650 Indiana St., visit for details or contact Abby Bair at [email protected].

April 20, noon, Boston, Educational Rally to Support the Public Safety Act of 2006, a criminal justice reform bill. At Parkman Bandstand, Boston Common, contact Whitney Taylor at (617) 335-1841 or [email protected] for further information.

April 20, noon, Washington, DC, "How the Trouble-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids," book talk with Maia Szalavitz, with comments by Rolling Stone contributing editor Evan Wrigher. At the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NE, luncheon following, admission free, RSVP to [email protected] or (202) 789-5229 by noon 4/19.

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 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.

May 10, 6:30pm, Washington, DC, "Race to Incarcerate," book talk with The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer. At Busboys & Poets, 2021 14th St. NW, Langston Room, visit for further information.

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.

July 21, 7:00pm, Washington, DC, "Race to Incarcerate," book talk with The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer. At Politics & Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, visit for further information.

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

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

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

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

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