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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #434 -- 5/5/06

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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

    Mexico Caves Under US Pressure
    US officials have now embarrassed us with both our immediate neighbors by interfering in their internal drug policies.
    For a few days this week, it looked like Mexico was going to decriminalize drug possession, but that ended Wednesday when President Fox rejected the bill under US pressure.
    Vancouver's well-deserved reputation for cutting edge drug law reform and harm reduction projects made it a natural fit for this week's 17th Annual International Harm Reduction Conference, attended by more than a thousand people from 93 countries.
    More than 100 activists representing at least 13 different drug user groups from around the globe met in Vancouver this week to form an international coalition.
    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.
    More soldiers cop pleas in a border smuggling sting, family ties bring down a records clerk and a former detective, and yet another prison guard gets busted for his entrepreneurial efforts.
    The DEA-sponsored annual hemispheric drug enforcement conference is meeting in Canada for the first time next week -- and also for the first time is encountering organized opposition.
    Rush Limbaugh can talk the talk about the drug war. But when it comes to taking a fall for his own drug-related misdeeds, he can't walk the walk.
    Republican and Democratic senators have called for drug czar John Walters to be fired because of his focus on marijuana instead of methamphetamine.
    Following a "4/20" marijuana rally at the University of Colorado-Boulder last month, CU police have posted photos of more than 150 attendees and are offering rewards to those helping identify them.
    Cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, went on a rampage last week in response to an unannounced drug dog search of their quarters.
    Three weeks ago, Scotland's largest police union called for the legalization of all drugs. At their conference last week a government official blasted the idea.
    A pilot program to see if heroin maintenance programs could reduce criminality, overdose and disease among hard-core addicts was successful, according to German officials. Now they are planning to expand it.
  15. WEB SCAN
    CounterPunch on Suppression of Marijuana Research, Gay City News on FDA and Medical Marijuana
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    Program Manager, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Washington, DC
    Americans for Safe Access, Oakland, CA
    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: Oh, Mexico (Oh, the Embarrassment)

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 5/5/06

David Borden in
Mérida, Mexico
Long-time readers of Drug War Chronicle might remember my December 2002 editorial, "O Canada! (Oh, the Embarrassment!)" The editorial was written at a time when marijuana decriminalization was a current legislative issue in Canada, and drug war comedians Robert Maginnis (Bush drug policy advisor) and John Walters (the drug czar) were in the Canadian media protesting. "O Canada" is the title of Canada's national anthem. "Oh, the Embarrassment" referred to my feelings as an American over the dire but ridiculous predictions made and threats leveled at Canadians by that dynamic duo.

Today I'm embarrassed by the role played by my government in quashing a decriminalization bill in Mexico. The legislation, which had passed Mexico's congress and which President Vicente Fox's spokesperson said he would sign, would have eliminated criminal penalties for low-level drug possession -- sort of, anyway -- though it was also a mixed bag that would have opened up drug enforcement to many more police officers than currently can participate in it. Probably it would have been a net gain for drug reform overall, perhaps a big one.

Though Mexican critics of the bill played some role, the heavy-handed influence of the United States was easy to spot. Quotes from San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders typified the reflexive, hysterical reaction from US officialdom: "I'm appalled. I'm in a state of disbelief," he told the Associated Press, "I certainly think we are going to see more drugs available in the United States. We need to register every protest the American government can muster." The US government wants Mexico "to ensure that all persons found in possession of any quantity of illegal drugs be prosecuted or be sent into mandatory drug treatment programs," commanded US Embassy spokeswoman Judith Bryan in a written statement. Media played a role too -- for example, an almost completely one-sided piece by CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, featuring minutes of raving by fellow CNN'er Lou Dobbs betraying his profound lack of understanding of economics and cross-border drug traffic. Fox caved under the pressure, and the bill is dead, at least for now.

I don't think I'm alone in believing the United States does not have the right to tell its fellow nations in the world how to handle drug policy. It's not as if our own policies have succeeded. For example, data released last month by the Office of National Drug Control Policy showed there is as much coca being grown in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, the major cocaine source countries, now as when the US-directed Plan Colombia/Andean Initiative got underway under President Clinton. Our own criminalization of users has led to terrible inhumanities, such as the dire spread of Hepatitis C and HIV among drug injectors -- a tragedy greatly increased by laws restricting syringe availability and the fear users have that possessing a syringe for longer than it takes to use it will increase their likelihood of arrest.

Three years ago, DRCNet hosted "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century," a Latin American legalization summit convened in Mexico's city of Mérida, in the Yucatan, that brought together numerous leaders and concerned citizens from throughout the hemisphere. Though reason is not wholly absent even north of the US-Mexico border, in Latin America it is plentiful, as a few of the comments made at the conference show:

"The only solution is legalization, but it will be a long, hard process... Just taking drugs in itself does not hurt the rights of others, and a democratic, pluralistic state cannot justify this. There is no worse dictatorship than that which seeks to impose its ideas over all others."
- Colombian senator and former chief justice of the Colombian Supreme Court Carlos Gaviria Diaz

"If we can't even discuss the alternatives, if we can't even admit the drug war is a failure, then we will never solve the problem."
- Mexican Congressman Gregorio Urias German of Sinaloa

"It is illogical to think we can suppress drug use or drug consumption. It is a big lie," and "the policy of legalization is not a policy of supporting drug use, but a strategy designed to ruin the business of the narcos and the corrupt, and to help the addict."
- former Colombian attorney general Gustavo de Greiff

Mayor Sanders should listen to de Greiff. Though Sanders and others of his ilk predicted drugs would become more available in the US and kids would cross the border to use them if the bill passed, he need only look to the high schools in his city -- or any US city -- to see how easily available drugs are now, under the current system. If drugs were legal and regulated, instead of prohibited (and therefore out of control), at least we could have age limits and at a minimum keep the drug trade itself off of school grounds. Not that the Mexico bill would achieve that -- mere decriminalization of use and possession cannot end illegal drug dealing unless there is also some legal supply route. But kids in the US can already buy the drugs they want, usually from other kids and with low probability of getting caught; and kids near the border can do so in the US or in Mexico, also with low probability of getting caught. So Sanders' fears are unwarranted -- or rather, they have already long since come true, but for different reasons that he doesn't want to understand.

Oh, the embarrassment! I'm sorry, Mexico -- sorry that many of your citizens will have their lives turned upside down when it could have been stopped were it not for our interference. Please, try again, and soon, we need you to help us by pointing the way.

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2. Feature: Mexico Moves to Decriminalize Drug Possession -- No, Wait, Nevermind

Lame-duck Mexican President Vicente Fox abruptly changed course Wednesday, sending back to the congress a drug decriminalization bill that only the day before his spokesman said he would sign. The move against the bill passed by the Mexican Senate last Friday came after heavy pressure from the United States, including a Monday ambassadorial meeting in Washington and a Wednesday statement from the US Embassy in Mexico City urging the Mexicans to rethink the bill.

Mexican anti-drug patrol
There was both more and less to the new drug law than meets the eye. Over the weekend, the US press reported simply and sensationally that Mexico was on the verge of decriminalizing the possession of small, specified amounts of drugs, which is true. The now aborted law would indeed have done that, but it would have also expanded the ability of state and local police forces in Mexico to enforce the drug laws, and created a new crime of retail or small-scale drug dealing aimed at street-level dealers selling drugs to Mexicans. It also remains unclear what the law would have meant in terms of actual practices.

And this week, even though a spokesman for President Fox reaffirmed Tuesday that Fox would sign the bill, its fate was settled Wednesday afternoon amid concern and outrage not only from north of the border, but also from law enforcement and political figures inside Mexico. By mid-week, prominent Mexican politicians were already talking about revising the law to restrict the bill's decriminalization provisions to apply to addicts only and the US government had made a rare public announcement about a domestic Mexican political matter.

The quantities adapted by the Mexican congress as constituting personal use amounts were generally, but not always, reasonable approximations of single-use or single-session amounts. Under the bill as passed by the congress, possession of up to five grams of marijuana, 25 milligrams of heroin, a half-gram of cocaine, two-tenths of a gram of methamphetamine or Ecstasy, and one-quarter gram of psychedelic mushrooms would be considered possession for personal use. And in a nod to Mexico's indigenous population, the measure would also decriminalize the possession of up to 2.2 pounds of psychedelic peyote cactus.

Despite the ambiguities and potential pitfalls, the passage of the law was greeted with cheers by Latin American jurists in Vancouver for the annual conference of the International Harm Reduction Association. "I of course support the decriminalization in Mexico," said former Colombian Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff, now head of that Latin American anti-prohibitionist umbrella group, REFORMA. "But legalization is better. Decriminalization is good for consumers, but it allows the drug traffickers and the corrupt to keep enriching themselves. The only way to destroy the business of the narcos and the corrupt is legalization," de Greiff said.

"Let us not forget that before he was elected, Fox said we need to discuss alternatives to prohibition," de Greiff, who currently resides in Mexico City and who formerly served as Colombia's ambassador to Mexico, added. "I hope he does not veto this bill."

By Wednesday evening, however, de Greiff's hope had turned to dismay. "This refusal by Fox to sign the bill is an act of political cowardice," he fumed.

"This is an advance, but a qualified one," said Brazilian jurist Maria Lucia Karam, discussing the bill before Fox announced he had killed it. "As a matter of judicial philosophy, the law tries to say that the act of possession remains illicit, but drug addicts and users are excluded from being held responsible, as if they were not free to choose, but drug possession should not be an illicit act because it is a private behavior that doesn't affect any rights or interests of others," she told DRCNet. "Even if the practical result is a good one, the legal philosophy behind it is bad."

Karam also criticized the bill for its lack of retroactivity and for its necessarily arbitrary setting of personal use quantities. "How do you say that 5 grams is okay, but 10 grams isn't? If you can buy a bottle of whiskey or a case of whiskey, you should be able to do the same with other drugs, especially if it's for your personal use," said the retired Rio de Janeiro judge.

President Fox caved under US pressure
"Mexico has really just followed the trend toward practicality that we've seen in Western Europe, Canada, and other countries in Latin America," said the Drug Policy Alliance's Dooley, again speaking before Fox's decision. "It is a decision to stop prosecuting individuals for drug use absent any harm to others because it is overwhelming the system. No one should be surprised; this is a very pragmatic response to the overwhelming of the Mexican criminal justice system." On Thursday morning, DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann was dismayed by the move. "This is a real disappointment," he said.

Confronted by internecine warfare between drug trafficking organizations that has left 1500 dead in the past year -- and was undoubtedly exacerbated by the Mexican government's latest effort to crack down on the "cartels" -- as well as by rising domestic drug use levels, the Fox government is under increasing pressure to do something about the drug problem. Within the last two weeks, four undercover drug agents were gunned down in Nuevo Laredo and two police officers were beheaded by drug traffickers in Acapulco. The country is also faced with growing drug use and a thriving trade to supply it, according to Mexican researchers.

This bill would have freed up criminal justice system resources currently devoted to dealing with drug users. It also would have given the government more ammunition in the form of stiffer sentences for drug trafficking and sales offenses and it would give it more boots on the ground in the drug war in the form of 400,000 state and municipal police officers who would now be allowed to take part in drug law enforcement. Under current law, only Mexico's roughly 100,000 federal police agents can enforce the drug laws.

Lost in much of the initial US coverage of the bill was the awareness that under existing Mexican drug law, people caught with drugs can already seek an exemption from punishment by claiming they are addicts. But that provision of existing law was arbitrary -- there was no definition of what constituted an amount for an addict's personal use -- and rife with possibilities for corruption and abuse of the legal system.

The new law would have been an advance for drug users because it extends the exemption from prosecution of addicts to "consumers." In other words, one would no longer have to argue that he is an addict in order to try to escape punishment. Instead, a person caught in possession of less than the specified amounts could simply claim that he is a consumer carrying drugs for his own personal consumption.

Despite the hyperventilating fears of some US politicians, Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes were not about to appear on the beaches of Cancun or in Boys' Town in Nuevo Laredo, given that there is no provision for the legal, regulated sale of illicit drugs. In the face of criticism this week, some Mexican politicians argued that people possessing small quantities of drugs will still be subject to police harassment and arrest and will have to appear before a judge to be released.

By late Tuesday, there were signs the Fox government was backtracking. Mexican Minister of Public Safety, the nation's "top cop," Eduardo Medina Mora, told the AP that the bill would have to be "analyzed" and "reconsidered" because legislators had gone beyond Fox's vision by laying out quantities to define personal use. He also warned that Mexican cities can -- and some already do -- enact municipal ordinances criminalizing drug possession and foreigners caught using or possessing drugs could be thrown out of the country, although they would not be formally deported or banned from returning. Unfortunately for the US government, Medina Mora conceded that while some offenders could be recommended for treatment, such programs are not mandatory.

Still, attempting to damp down US nightmare visions of legions of college students adding heroin or cocaine to their alcoholic spring break vacations, Medina Mora warned that Mexico would not be friendly to drug tourism. He said that "Mexico is not, has not been and will not become a refuge for those who wish to come to our country to use drugs indiscriminately," he said.

That's not quite how it sounded last Friday, when the Senate passed the bill. "The object of this law is to not put consumers in jail, but rather those who sell and poison," said Sen. Jorge Zermeno of the ruling National Action Party. "The government believes that this law represents progress, because it established the minimum quantities that a citizen can carry for personal use. The president is going to sign this law," said Aguilar, calling the legislation "a better tool... that allows better action and better coordination in the fight against drug dealing."

But the Americans were not assuaged by the Mexico's explanations of the law's nuances or the public safety minister's tip-toeing around the issue. After a low-key initial reaction from the State Department, Foggy Bottom stepped up. "US officials urged Mexican representatives to review the legislation urgently, to avoid the perception that drug use would be tolerated in Mexico, and to prevent drug tourism," US Embassy spokeswoman Judith Bryan said in a statement Wednesday. The US government wants Mexico "to ensure that all persons found in possession of any quantity of illegal drugs be prosecuted or be sent into mandatory drug treatment programs."

The official US position appeared positively restrained when contrasted to the reactions of some border area politicians. "I'm appalled. I'm in a state of disbelief," said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, whose city is just across the border from Tijuana. "I certainly think we are going to see more drugs available in the United States," Sanders told the Associated Press. "We need to register every protest the American government can muster."

Mexican and other observers reacted a little more calmly to the bill as passed by the Congress. "This bill is the second of two drug law reform proposals Fox sent to the legislature in 2004, and both parts are designed to reinforce the fight against the retail drug traffic" explained Ricardo Sala of the Mexican drug reform organization Vive Con Drogas. "The first part was passed last summer and allows law enforcement and the judicial system at the state and municipal level into the fight. Before that, under Mexican law, drug trafficking was a federal crime, to be prosecuted only by federal officers," he told DRCNet.

The second act was the bill passed by the Mexican Senate last week. According to Sala, it was earlier actions by two committees in the lower chamber, which passed the bill earlier, that amended the Fox government's original proposal to include the language saying that criminalization does not apply to addicts or consumers, or to religious or medicinal use.

"This was curious because Fox's original proposal was quite the opposite: to allow the criminalization of the consumer," said Sala, noting that since 1994 Mexican law allowed for addicts to escape punishment for the possession of personal use amounts. "Fox's original proposal was to eliminate that language," he said.

"While the first headlines in the US press took a very simple line that Mexico was going to decriminalize small amounts of drugs, it appears that this bill was basically designed to change law enforcement priorities so Mexico can focus on the people who sell and traffic in drugs," said Margaret Dooley of the Drug Policy Alliance's Southern California office. "It wasn't legalization, and it may not even have been decrim, given that Mexican officials were saying this week if you get caught, you still have to go through the criminal justice system. At this point, it is still unclear what this all means," she said Wednesday.

While decriminalization would have been a step forward for Mexican drug users, it would have been unlikely to reduce the bloody violence, crime, and social disorder associated with the black market drug trade. "This will have no impact on the negative effects of the illicit drug trade," said Judge Karam, acknowledging the obvious.

But now that point is moot, at least for the foreseeable future. It is unclear whether the Mexican legislature will act quickly to revise the bill, and with national elections in July, it will be a whole new legislature and government that will probably address this unfinished business.

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3. Feature: Harm Reductionists Gather in Vancouver

More than a thousand activists, front-line workers, researchers, and civil and political officials from 93 countries gathered in Vancouver this week for the 17th Annual International Harm Reduction Conference sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Association. While famed for its stunning physical setting and Pacific Rim cosmopolitanism, it is the city's well-deserved reputation for cutting-edge drug law reform and harm reduction projects that makes it a natural for the IHRA.

While the conference supported the city's vanguard efforts, the city also supported the conference. "I see addiction as a disability," said Sam Sullivan, Vancouver's wheel-chair-bound mayor, who just two weeks ago stirred up a firestorm by suggesting the city should provide heroin and cocaine to its addict population. "I am committed to changing the appalling way we deal with our drug-disabled people," he said to loud applause at the opening session of the gathering. "This is an issue I am committed to die on."

conference panel including Canadian Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin,
Canadian researcher Patricia Erickson, Australia's Simon,
Lenton and Brazil's Monica Gorgulho (courtesy Dinamo)
Sullivan was followed by IHRA executive director Gerry Stimson, who congratulated the crowd on its size and vowed to make the conference more user friendly. "It's great to see how large this meeting is," Stimson said. "We've always put a great emphasis on user involvement. This is IHRA's conference, but it is also your conference," he said.

Indeed, the five-day conference was replete with sessions devoted to, led by, or including activist drug users, including a session on "Advancing Harm Reduction Through Human Rights." In that session, Dirk Schaeffer of the German user group JES explained how the "network of junkies, users, and methadone people" developed over the past 15 years to become a formidable presence in German drug policy. The group now operates 10 workshops a year organized by drug users for people in rural areas and advocates for the involvement of drug users in setting policy, as well as the standard harm reduction measures.

"Drug users cannot be ignored in Germany anymore," said Schaeffer. "Like all men and women, drug users have human dignity, and they don't need to obtain it by abstaining from drug use." While drug users can be seen as a threat to the social order, Schaeffer said, user groups and other harm reduction workers should work together. "All of us want to stop the criminalization of drug users and secure these people's human rights," he said.

But the drug users' organizations still feel to some degree like black sheep at a conference dominated by salaried workers with official positions. One of the many satellite activities at the conference was drug user groups' efforts to form an international network, a task on which members worked throughout the week before issuing a joint declaration.

Mayor Sullivan was only the first of a cavalcade of Canadians who addressed the conference on a dizzying variety of topics, sharing with the rest of the world the knowledge they had developed in years of ground-breaking work in the Great White North. In a Tuesday session on regulating drugs, Vancouver Coastal Health Addiction Services clinical supervisor Mark Haden laid out a painstaking grid of issues surrounded the regulated distribution of drugs: Should there be restrictions on sales locations or sales hours or packaging or advertising? Should buyers be licensed or required to pass a pre-test or unrestricted? Should sales be done by private enterprise or by government?

Haden, a public health specialist, did not explicitly recommend any one set of restrictions, but instead noted that these mind-numbing issues are the ones that will have to be dealt with if an end to drug prohibition is to be seriously considered.

Haden was followed by Vancouver drug policy coordinator Donald Macpherson, who explained the tensions among the different parts of the city's Four Pillars -- prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and law enforcement -- drug strategy. "The city has been very strong on promoting dialog on these complex, thorny issues," he said. "There is a tension here in Vancouver between the police and the other pillars, but we need law enforcement to come to the table."

Luiz Paulo Guanabara at the Psicotropicus booth
(courtesy Dinamo)
But for Macpherson, it's ultimately about getting the police out of the picture. "We need new laws and regulations for psychoactive substances," he said. "Our current laws create harm; prohibition does not stop sales and use. Instead, we need to incorporate public health principles."

Macpherson also seconded Mayor Sullivan's call for free heroin for addicts, adding that drug maintenance should not be limited to heroin. While noting that Sullivan had asked him to pull together research to support expanding the city's NAOMI heroin maintenance pilot program, Macpherson said there was already sufficient scientific support for such programs from other countries. The program could include treating crack users with amphetamines, he added.

Former Colombian Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff, now titular head of the Latin American anti-prohibitionist organization REFORMA, was characteristically forthright in his discussion of legalization and harm reduction on the same panel -- in fact he did not even speak the words "harm reduction" during his presentation. "Drug prohibition is a failure, not because I say so, but according to their own reports. What we need is legalization, which is regulation of the production, trade, and consumption of drugs," he said.

The usefulness -- and the limitations -- of the North American Opioid Maintenance Initiative (NAOMI) were made clear in a moving address by Diane Tobin, head of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU). "I'm a 30-year heroin addict," she said. "I knew when I was 17 I needed heroin to get through the day. Recently enrolled in the NAOMI program, Tobin said it has helped stabilize her life. "I don't have to go out scoring to get drugs illegally," she said. But while life is better now, Tobin and the dozens of other NAOMI participants face the prospect of being gradually cut off when their one-year experiment ends.

It's not only access to drugs, but being able to use them safely, said Luiz Paulo Guanabara of the Brazilian drug policy, harm reduction, and virtual users' group, Psicotropicus. "Cocaine is deeply rooted in peoples' imaginary. We have to accept this fact," he said as he discussed a Psicotropicus program that distributed hepatitis prevention kits (a plastic straw and a condom enclosed in a package with health warnings) to cocaine users. In a study of the prevention kit program, Guanabara reported, he found that 88% of cocaine snorters shared straws and 50% snorted until their noses bled, while only 36% always used a condom.

Still, said Guanabara, users like and make use of the kits. Such efforts can increase the safety of cocaine users, he said. "It is a heresy to say you can take cocaine safely, but most users are unharmed," he said. "Yes, safe cocaine exists."

With its 112-page program appearing as big as a medium-sized book and hundreds of sessions, satellite sessions, and related events, it is impossible to do justice to the Vancouver harm reduction conference in one article. Suffice it to say that the array of topics covered ranged across the spectrum from the mechanics of dealing one-on-one with drug users to the big picture view of global drug and harm reduction policy.

As part of the big picture, the misguided efforts of the United States in the global sphere received repeated and critical attention. "US foreign policy on HIV is a hybrid religious-moral/scientific approach," complained Jonathan Cohen of Human Rights Watch's HIV/AIDS Project. "They prefer funding faith-based organizations, while they ban money for needle exchange programs, and they apply the misleading idea that abstinence is 100% effective." Still, said Cohen, the administration is uncomfortable appearing to stray too far from science, and there is room for harm reductionists to maneuver. "Demand guidance from them," he said. "Ask them just what their rules mean and how they apply. Make them justify them."

The US government also drew critical attention from Pedro Chequer, former director of Brazil's National AIDS Program, who accused the US of "subverting" the war against AIDS. "Religious proselytizing in the US fight against AIDS is back," Chequer complained, noting that Brazil had been forced to reject a $39 million USAID grant because it would require Brazilian groups to abide by "religiously-based policies crafted by pseudo-moralist politicians."

The conference officially ended Thursday afternoon, but related events continue through the weekend. The Vancouver-based Keeping the Door Open, a harm reduction and social justice organization, continued holding events past the official closing. Today, Canadian drug user groups will meet in an effort to form a national front. And tomorrow, Vancouver's cannabis nation will take to the streets as part of the Million Marijuana March, whose theme this year is "Free Marc Emery," the downtown Vancouver seed seller and marijuana activist now threatened with extradition to the US.

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4. Feature: Building an International Drug Users' Movement -- Activists Form Coalition, Issue Declaration

More than 100 activists representing at least 13 different drug user groups from Europe, North America, Latin America, Australia, and Asia took advantage of the International Harm Reduction Association conference in Vancouver this week to form an international coalition. At the first ever International Drug User Activists Congress on Sunday and in numerous sessions throughout the week, the groups and individuals involved managed to craft an initial declaration and lay the groundwork for increased coordination among user activist groups.

The user activist organizations intend to push for the universalization of harm reduction and an end to human rights violations against drug users. But the coalition has also formed with an eye on influencing the United Nations' General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drug policy set for Vienna in 2008 (or now, possibly 2009).

For years, user activists have complained that existing drug policy and harm reduction organizations run by non-using professionals fail to adequately represent their interests. The meetings and declaration this week in Vancouver are an effort by user activists to ensure that the subjects of drug laws and drug policy debates -- drug users -- have their voices heard loud and clear in the future.

"We want the chance to speak for ourselves, to be heard and to be treated with basic dignity and respect," said Andria Efthimiou of the John Mordant Trust. "Drug users are one of the most marginalized and stigmatized groups in the community. Even in the context of this event, one of our leading colleagues -- Bijay Pandey of the group Recovering Nepal -- was denied a Canadian entry visa. It is time to take a stand against the way that drug users are treated in society and we believe the congress and harm reduction conference is a great way to highlight the urgent need for action."

Drug user organizations currently exist in dozens of countries, including Canada, the US, Australia, Denmark, Britain, Thailand, among others, and have already contributed mightily to making drug laws and policies more humane and responsive to drug user needs. In the host city of Vancouver, for instance, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) established the first supervised safe injection site in North America, prompting the city and province to establish the first "official" safe injection site in North America. VANDU has also played a key role in the development of Vancouver's cutting edge Four Pillars drug policy.

Similarly, in Thailand, the Thai Drug Users Network has successfully worked to expand access to HIV prevention and treatment services for drug users and to document human rights abuses against them. And in England, several drug user groups are working with the government to produce a national Hepatitis C strategy.

"We have a large and growing international drug user activist network and the international congress was used to finalize a statement about this unique network's aims and members," said Grant McNally of the English National Users and Hepatitis C Foundation.

"We are people from around the world who use drugs," reads the consensus document released Tuesday. "We are people who have been marginalized and discriminated against; we have been killed, harmed unnecessarily, put in jail, depicted as evil, and stereotyped as dangerous and disposable. Now it is time to raise our voices as citizens, establish our rights and reclaim the right to be our own spokespersons striving for self-representation and self-empowerment."

According to the declaration, the International Drug Users Group will, through inclusive and democratic means, fight for universal access to drug treatment and appropriate medical care, the availability of safer drug use equipment and consumption facilities, and ultimately, "regulated access to the pharmaceutical quality drugs we need." As one of its goals, the declaration lists "to challenge the national legislation and international conventions that currently disable most of us from living safe, secure and healthy lives."

"I hope the international network and the declaration we crafted will be the start of our involvement as drug user groups in all kinds of institutions," said Stijn Gossens of the Belgian users' group STAD and the Breakline peer support group for the dance scene. "We are ready to be partners with the institutions."

The process this week in Vancouver has been excruciatingly democratic, with meeting after meeting and lengthy discussions around the wording of documents. "This is like the frigging United Nations," said Mauro Galineri, chair of the Global Network of People with AIDS, at one point during the seemingly endless proceedings.

"Ultimately," the declaration continued, "the most profound need to establish such a network arises from the fact that no group of oppressed people ever attained liberation without the involvement of those directly affected by this oppression. Through collective action, we will fight to change existing local, national, regional and international drug laws and formulate an evidence-based drug policy that respects people's human rights and dignity instead of one fuelled on moralism, stereotypes and lies."

"This arose out of a meeting of drug user groups at the last international harm reduction convention in Belfast," said Ann Livingston of VANDU, the de facto hosts for the international user groups event. "The consensus there was we needed to endure the process of setting up a legally registered entity and an international group of people who use drugs," she told DRCNet. "The sense was that this is the 17th international harm reduction conference about this problem centered on people who use illegal drugs, and it's about time the people who use illegal drugs have an organization for themselves. Users feel set aside or neglected, even by our allies," she said.

Fellow harm reductionists in Vancouver this week certainly had the opportunity to hear from drug users, as the International Harm Reduction Association hosted numerous sessions by members of user groups.

"The congress has provided a unique opportunity for drug users working in drug user self help networks from many different countries to meet face to face and share information and skills," said Annie Madden of the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League.

The organization is now seeking funding to continue and expand its work, said Mordaunt. "The speaker who represented the UN AIDS effort said here that drug user groups should be funded," she noted. "I believe this is the first time they have said that. We will be following up with the UN AIDS people and telling them to put their money where their mouth is," she told DRCNet. "We are also looking at the European Commission on Drug Policy as another potential donor," she said.

"If we can get off the ground, we will be working on issues surrounding human rights violations against drug users, whether it's being executed in China or murdered in Thailand or thrown in prison in the United States," said Mordaunt. "At the same time, we will push for the universalization of harm reduction practices, and yes, we will be lobbying for the reform of the drug laws at both the national and international levels," she added.

"This isn't some intellectual exercise about the right to use drugs," said VANDU's Livingston. "This is a social justice movement for people languishing in prisons and alleys around the world."

And it is long past due.

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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.

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. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

Do you read Drug War Chronicle? If so, we'd like to hear from you. DRCNet needs two things:

  1. We are in between newsletter grants, and that makes our need for donations more pressing. Drug War Chronicle is free to read but not to produce! Click here to make a donation by credit card or PayPal -- consider signing up to donate monthly -- or scroll down in this e-mail for info on donating by mail.
  2. Please send quotes and reports on how you put our flow of information to work, for use in upcoming grant proposals and letters to funders or potential funders. Do you use DRCNet as a source for public speaking? For letters to the editor? Helping you talk to friends or associates about the issue? Research? For your own edification? Have you changed your mind about any aspects of drug policy since subscribing? Do you reprint or repost portions of our bulletins on other lists or in other newsletters? Do you have any criticisms or complaints, or suggestions? We want to hear those too. Please send your response -- one or two sentences would be fine; more is great, too -- to [email protected] or just reply to this e-mail. Please let us know if we may reprint your comments, and if so, if we may include your name or if you wish to remain anonymous. IMPORTANT: Even if you have given us this kind of feedback before, we could use your updated feedback now too -- we need to hear from you!
Again, please help us keep Drug War Chronicle alive at this important time! Click here to make a donation online, or send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Make your check payable to DRCNet Foundation to make a tax-deductible donation for Drug War Chronicle -- remember if you select one of our member premium gifts that will reduce the portion of your donation that is tax-deductible -- or make a non-deductible donation for our lobbying work -- online or check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, same address. We can also accept contributions of stock -- e-mail [email protected] for the necessary info. Thank you for your support.

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

Another week, another batch of the seemingly endless supply of cops corrupted by the drug war. More soldiers cop pleas in a border smuggling sting, family ties bring down a records clerk and a former detective, and yet another prison guard gets busted for his entrepreneurial efforts. Let's get to it:

In Oklahoma City, two US Army soldiers stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, pleaded guilty to trying to accept bribes for transporting cocaine in uniform. Kevin Thomas, 26, and Terry Henderson, 24, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to accept a bribe in federal court April 25. They were among 13 soldiers charged in an undercover FBI sting operation in which the soldiers agreed to transport cocaine for "traffickers" who were really FBI agents. Each of the soldiers transported at least one 40 kilo load of cocaine from Wichita, Texas, to Oklahoma City while wearing their uniforms to fend off potential police searches, for which they were paid between $2,000 and $8,000. Six others have already been sentenced to between 17 months and five years in prison in the case, while one other soldier has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

In Murray, Kentucky, a former Murray Police detective and his son were arrested on various drug charges Saturday. Garnett Alexander, 56, a 20-year veteran of the force who retired in 1997, was charged with trafficking opiates, trafficking amphetamine, two counts of trafficking cocaine, firearm-enhanced possession of a controlled substance , firearm-enhanced possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a prescription controlled substance not in original container, according to arrest records. The bust went down after Alexander's son Wesley was pulled over last Friday night and arrested on charges of trafficking cocaine, opiates, and methamphetamines. The elder Alexander then called Calloway County Sheriff Larry Roberts that the cash and drugs found in the vehicle were his, not his son's. A search of the Alexander home followed, in which drugs, guns, and paraphernalia were found, and Alexander was then arrested.

In Asbury Park, New Jersey, a senior records clerk at the Passaic County Sheriff's Department was arrested Sunday on charges she tipped off her son that he was being investigated for drug dealing. Bonnie Fairfax, 47, is charged with official misconduct and faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. She was arrested the same day as her son, Karl Fairfax, 27, and another man, who both face charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics. She was also fired from her $50,000 a year job.

In Honolulu, a federal grand jury indicted a guard at the Federal Detention Center there on drug charges April 27. Federal corrections officer Akoni Sandoval Kapihe is accused of conspiring with inmates to smuggle marijuana and methamphetamine concealed in packages into the jail. He allegedly conspired with the wife of one inmate to pass the drugs on to her husband sometime before September 2005. Kapihe is free on bail and awaits a preliminary hearing, according to KHON-TV.

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8. The Movement: Annual DEA Event Generates Counter-Conference Next Week in Montreal

Since early in the Reagan administration, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has held hemispheric annual conferences of DEA agents and top narcotics officers from participating countries. This year, for the first time, the International Drug Enforcement Conference is being held in Canada on May 8 through May 11, and for the first time, it will be met by organized opposition.

In a bi-national organizing effort, the Alliance of Canadian Reform Organizations, the criminology department at the University of Ottawa, NORML-Canada, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition created the International Drug Enforcement Counter-Symposium: A Canadian Response to US Drug Policy Hegemony. The theme of the event is seeking alternatives to US-sponsored drug prohibition.

That the events should take place in Montreal is especially timely. The newly-elected Canadian government of Conservative Prime Minister Steven Harper is embracing US-style drug and criminal justice policy notions. The Harper government has said it will not reintroduce the Liberals' marijuana decriminalization bill, that it wants to more harshly punish marijuana growers, and that it is seeking to impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain serious offenses, including some drug crimes.

While the DEA and its allies are meeting behind closed doors by invitation only, the counter-symposium is free and all are welcome. Even those attending the DEA conference are welcome, organizers took pains to note.

The counter-symposium will feature a prestigious roll call of leading scholars and activists from across the hemisphere, as well as Eastern Europe, including Argentine Judge Martin Vazquez Acuna, Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament Libby Davies, and British Columbia Provincial Court Judge Jerry Paradis.

All are strong anti-prohibitionists. As Paradis wrote recently: "Prohibition diminishes judges by requiring them to shut their minds off from the irrationality of what they are required to do. It diminishes the lawyers on both sides ,the prosecutors, by forcing them to pursue people and issues that they know full well belong in the field of health care; and defense counsel, by forcing them to play silly charter-of-rights games instead of dealing with real issues. And it diminishes the police by forcing them to see drug users as prey, not worthy of serious second thought."

Attendees will also include the International Anti-Prohibitionist League's Dr. Marie Andree Bertrand, and instructor Lionel Prevost, both of the criminology faculty at the University of Montreal, Dr. Diane Riley, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and founding member of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, and Dr. Balaz Denes, executive director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Association.

Law enforcement and the legal profession will also be represented, with LEAP members former police Chief Jerry Cameron and Terry Nelson, a former Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security counter-narcotics officer, as well as attorneys Eugene Oscapella, executive director of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy and Kirk Tousaw, acting director of the BC Civil Liberties Association Drug Policy Project.

In addition to a full day of sessions, the event will also include a noon rally. Many of the speakers will stick around to address drug policy issues at the University of Ottawa the following day.

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9. Celebrity Bust: Token Arrest as Radio Talker Rush Limbaugh Cuts a Deal on Pain Pill Charges

When challenged about the disproportionate number of black people sent to prison on drug charges, right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh once famously opined that perhaps more white people busted on drug charges should be sent to the slammer. Well, Limbaugh can talk the talk, but when it comes to taking a fall for his own drug-related misdeeds, he can't walk the walk.

After three years of legal wrangling aimed at avoiding punishment for using illicit methods to obtain the prescription narcotic Oxycontin, Limbaugh and his attorney, Roy Black, agreed last Friday that Limbaugh would be arrested on one count of doctor shopping, would plead not guilty, and would receive deferred adjudication.

In return, Limbaugh agreed to pay $30,000 in court costs. He must also submit to drug testing and stay in drug treatment with the doctor who has treated him for the last 2 ½ years for 18 months. If he can stay clean, the District Attorney will drop the charge.

"Mr. Limbaugh and I have maintained from the start that there was no doctor shopping, and we continue to hold this position," said Black in a statement announcing the agreement. "Accordingly, we filed today with the Court a plea of 'Not Guilty' to the charge filed by the State. This was a common sense resolution and the appropriate way the state should treat people who have admitted an addiction to prescription pain medication and voluntarily sought treatment," Black said.

He did not mention that Limbaugh did not "voluntarily" seek treatment until after his pill-popping and doctor-shopping came to light. Florida prosecutors accused him of illegally deceiving multiple doctors to satisfy his hunger for Oxycontin. After seizing Limbaugh's medical records, they learned he had received up to 2,000 painkillers prescribed by four different doctors in a six-month period.

"Do you think if there was any real evidence, we would have reached a settlement?" a gloating Limbaugh said Monday on his radio show.

But as his attorney noted above, the plea deal was "a common sense resolution" to a case of an admitted addict. Likewise, former US Attorney and Miami defense lawyer Kendall Coffey told the Associated Press that Limbaugh's deal was "standard" for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders in the area.

While Limbaugh may have developed a sensitivity about the need for treatment for drug dependent people (or at least for himself), he is substantially less generous to others seeking to use banned drugs like marijuana as medicine. Just two weeks ago, when the Food and Drug Administration declared there is no evidence of marijuana's medicinal value, Limbaugh was in typical form: "The FDA says there's no -- zilch, zero, nada -- shred of medicinal value to the evil weed, marijuana. This is going to be a setback to the long-haired, maggot-infested, dope-smoking crowd."

It looks like in Limbaugh's world, some patients are more equal than others.

Editor's Note: DRCNet's position is that no one, including Rush Limbaugh, should be subjected to criminalization for drug use or drug seeking, whether from an addiction, a medical condition or otherwise. We also think police departments probably shouldn't post booking web pages online as we linked to above.

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10. The Government: Drug Czar Under Attack From Right, Left

Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) head John Walters has been the target of pointed criticism in the past two weeks, with a pair of Iowa senators last week calling for him to be fired because of his failure to aggressively confront methamphetamine or effectively reduce coca production in the Andes. This week, a Colorado senator ridiculed Walters for his emphasis on marijuana.

In a Senate hearing last week, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) called for Walters to be fired. Grassley said his calls for more action on meth had been met with "basically bureaucratic mumbo jumbo." Grassley also criticized Walters' support of the Bush administration budget cuts in the Drug Free Communities program. "I think the president ought to fire the drug czar," said Grassley, chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, told reporters this week.

Grassley's colleague, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) agreed with him. "I believe Mr. Walters has dropped the ball, and he is not focused on the real problems we have, especially methamphetamine." Walters has been "a failure" as drug czar, Harkin told Radio Iowa.

Grassley also went after Walter's for the failed US anti-coca strategy in Colombia. According to a report released April 14 by the drug czar's office, despite several years of massive aerial herbicide spraying, the Colombia coca crop was largely this year than the year before.

In a letter to Walters demanding an explanation, Grassley called Walters' extolling the successes of the Colombia strategy as "premature and perhaps even unfounded." Grassley worried that ONDCP has been cherry-picking the numbers "to provide a rosier, but not necessarily more accurate picture" of the nearly $5 billion effort to eradicate the Colombian coca crop. Walters' rose-tinted view has "serious concerns within Congress about our ability to effectively combat narco-traffickers," Grassley added.

If the attacks from the corn belt weren't enough, Walters drew more flack this week from Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO), who criticized the drug czar for coming to Colorado to lobby against marijuana legalization. An initiative that would do just that is being promoted by SAFER and is now in the signature-gathering stage. Walters should be concentrating on methamphetamine instead of marijuana, Salazar said Monday.

A spokesman for Salazar told the Rocky Mountain News Salazar would not join in the calls to fire Walters, but would like him to see the damage from meth first-hand. "The rural sheriffs would say that meth is our biggest problem," said spokesman Cody Wertz. "We do need to focus more on the methamphetamine scourge than marijuana."

But as of last Friday, Walters was still on point. In a phone interview with the News, he warned that marijuana is a severe problem in Colorado. "There is a general feeling that people who use marijuana are harmless and kind of funny," Walters said. "There are people coming into the criminal justice system for marijuana and some are engaged in violent crimes," he said. "It doesn't just make you giggle."

Unlike the drug czar's pronouncements.

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11. Marijuana: University of Colorado Posts Pics of Students at Pot Rally, Offers Reward for Naming Them

University of Colorado police last weekend posted photos of more than 150 people at an April 20 pot rally and are offering a $50 reward to people who come forward to identify those in the photos. Editor's Note: We post the link only so you can see what the Boulder campus cops are up to -- not to encourage people to help them -- the offer has already been very well publicized in the community and we think whatever damage is going to be done is going to be done regardless. The university had blocked students from congregating at Farrand Field, the traditional site of the annual event, and said it sought to identify students so it could charge them with trespassing, but almost all of the photos showed people smoking something that could have been marijuana.

snitched out
About 2,500 people attended the event, which started at 4:20pm, but campus police said only about half of them were using marijuana.

Marijuana has been a hot issue on the Boulder campus since last year, when the group Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) won the first of what has become a string of successful non-binding campus initiatives asking colleges to treat marijuana offenses no more harshly than alcohol offenses. SAFER also won a surprise vote to legalize up to an ounce of marijuana in Denver and is gathering signatures for a statewide legalization initiative now.

People identified face possible criminal charges and may also face campus penalties, campus police spokesman Lt. Tim McGraw told the Colorado Daily. Those identified as smoking marijuana could also face pot charges, he said.

"It's pretty hard to tell the smokers from the spectators," said interim CU spokesperson Barrie Hartman. "We're going after the trespassers." The university barred the annual celebration this year because of political pressure, he said. "It's the legislature and those alumni who think we should crack down on those who do this," said Hartman. "We feel some pressure there. The legislature can find all kinds of reasons to not approve money for us."

The initial response to the campus cops' call to ID those in the photos indicates that the University of Colorado has at least its fair share of snitches -- motivated either by misplaced civic duty or by mercenary greed. The department reported hundreds of calls offering assistance in nailing the miscreants. Fifty dollars buys a lot of beer.

But at least one Colorado activist called the action a waste of time and money and said it amounted to treating college students like child molesters. "I think this is unbelievable," SAFER's Mason Tvert told the Daily Coloradan. "They're using money to turn this campus into a culture of informants. If they asked students to call in every time they saw a student drinking, it would be an incredible mess."

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12. Military Matters: Angry West Point Cadets "Riot" After Drug Search

Cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, went on a rampage last week in response to an unannounced drug dog search of their quarters, according to records obtained by the Orange County Times Herald-Record. At least a thousand cadets set off fireworks and threw garbage from their barracks to protest the early morning search, a West Point incident report said.

West Point cadets
"Hundreds of cadets were hollering obscenities out of their windows and some were throwing objects," wrote an unidentified military officer in the report, which called the incident "a riot." "A team-size element of firemen responded to the scene as cadets were throwing objects that were on fire out of the windows in Bradley Barracks," the summary continued. "It was a shameful, pitiful day for West Point."

The outburst came the evening after cadets awoke to a 6:00am fire drill, where they were instructed to leave the barracks. While the cadets were still out of the barracks, military and local police aided by teams of drug-sniffing dogs entered and searching the living quarters of some 4,000 future Army officers. No drugs were found.

West Point spokesman Lt. Col. Kent Cassella told the Times Herald-Record the event was no big deal. He said no one was injured and no serious damage occurred. "It sounded like the cadets were blowing off a little steam," Cassella said. "Basically, there were some cadets voicing their frustrations, and there were some firecrackers going off. But in the end, there was nothing more than that."

About 10:30pm, cadets began yelling and throwing items into the courtyard. The melee lasted for about an hour before cadets and officers began cleaning up the courtyard.

The anonymous army officer who wrote the incident report was appalled. "About 2,000 cadets were involved and witness to this travesty," the report read. Officers on duty "could not believe what they were witnessing!"

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13. Europe: Scottish First Minister Slams Police for Drug Legalization Suggestion

Three weeks ago, Scotland's Strathclyde (Glasgow area) Police Federation, the county's largest police union, called for the legalization of all drugs. Last week, the Strathcylde federation's proposal was among the topics of discussion at the Scottish Police Federation conference, and that was too much for First Minister Jack McConnell, who pronounced himself "astonished" at the very idea.

"I think it would be a totally irresponsible step. I will not support it, and I do not believe it reflects the opinion of police officers the length and breadth of Scotland," McConnell said after the conference. "Every ordinary officer I have spoken to supports a tough approach to the legislative framework on drugs and a tough approach to enforcement."

McConnell must not have spoken to Inspector Jim Duffy, chairman of the Strathclyde federation, who said three weeks ago: "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."

Firmly holding his hands over his ears, McConnell said that legalization was not part of his agenda and that he couldn't believe police officers could say such a thing. "I think it would be a disaster. I'm totally against it and I'm shocked that any members of the Police Federation would want to support this."

Perhaps, as Inspector Duffy's remarks suggested, the police support legalization because they have witnessed a 300% increase in drug use in Scotland since the 1960s, despite decades of law enforcement efforts to suppress it.

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14. Europe: Germany Plans to Provide Free Heroin to Long-Term Addicts

The German government announced Tuesday that, given the success of pilot heroin maintenance programs in seven cities, it will expand the program to supply between 1,000 and 1,500 German heroin addicts. That is still a small percentage of the estimated 120,000 current heroin users in the country, but will be roughly twice the number receiving the drug under the pilot programs.

heroin injection
Germany began the pilot programs in 2001 in an experiment to see if they could help hard-core addicts get off the drug, reduce their levels of criminality, and reduce overdose deaths and disease. Now, the Germans have decided the experiment was a success.

"A heroin therapy is the last hope and provides help for survival for some of those who are addicted," said government commissioner for substance abuse Sabine Baetzing. "It can improve their health and stabilize their social situation," Baetzing told the newspaper Die Welt.

Baetzing said the pilot projects had shown that given hard-core addicts heroin at taxpayer expense was a more effective way of getting them off the drug than methadone and that heroin therapy also led to a reduction in criminal acts by participants.

Baetzing is a member of the center-left Social Democrats, who are junior partners in a coalition with the conservative Christian Democrats. But she said she thought the government would agree to the plan.

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15. CounterPunch on Suppression of Marijuana Research, Gay City News on FDA and Medical Marijuana

"More Suppression of Marijuana Research," Fred Gardner on the Dreher Jamaican pregnancy study, for CounterPunch

"Bushies Once Again Bury Science for Politics," Nathan Riley on medical marijuana and the FDA, in Gay City News

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16. Weekly: This Week in History

May 5, 2001: The United States is voted off the United Nations Narcotics Control Board, the 13-member commission that monitors compliance with UN drug conventions on substance abuse and illegal trafficking.

May 6, 2001: Sydney, Australia opens its first legal heroin injection room in the Kings Cross Neighborhood, operated by the Uniting Church.

May 8, 2002: The Black Ministers Council of New Jersey announces a campaign to inform minority drivers that they have a right to refuse to submit to automobile consent searches, which have been the focus of the fight over racial profiling. The ministers said at a State House news conference that they would begin their "Just Say No" campaign the following week, in the form of messages to minority churches and the news media.

May 9, 2001: The Bush Administration announces its intent to nominate Rep. Asa Hutchinson, Republican of Arkansas, to the position of Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, replacing Acting Administrator Donnie Marshall.

May 9, 2001: At a hearing, Attorney General John Ashcroft testifies that the Justice Department has no higher priority than preventing terrorism. But a day later the department issues budgetary guidance for FY2003 to make reducing the trafficking of illegal drugs one of the two top priorities.

May 10, 2001: President Bush nominates John P. Walters as America's new Drug Czar.

May 11, 2000: The Arellano-Felix brothers are charged with 10 counts of drug trafficking, conspiracy, money laundering and aiding and abetting violent crimes. The US State Department offers a $2 million reward for information leading to their arrest and conviction.

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17. Job Opportunity: Program Manager, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Washington, DC

The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation is seeking a Program Manager to work directly with the CJPF President. This is an ideal position for a detail oriented person who wants to work with a high degree of independence in a small office for social justice. CJPF is one of the nation's leading voices for drug policy and criminal justice policy reform, and collaborates closely with both movements. CJPF responds quickly to new events and frequently develops new projects. Visit for more information about CJPF's activities.

The Program Manager's responsibilities include:

Administrative: Provide general administrative support to foundation president; Pay bills, record and deposit checks using QuickBooks online; Advertise for, hire, and manage foundation internship program; Update website; Manage computer systems, software and technical support; Develop and maintain necessary relationships with vendors; Make recommendations for administrative improvements.

Program: Write miscellaneous correspondence; Manage the research, writing and production of the quarterly newsletter; Edit drafts written by foundation president; Provide research assistance to foundation president; Make recommendations concerning research and program activities.

Qualifications include: Minimum of one year work experience and Bachelor's degree; High competence with Office programs, including PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook; Experience with Dreamweaver and QuickBooks preferred.

Job Performance Criteria: Work is performed promptly, intelligently, self-confidently, accurately and thoroughly. Writing demonstrates a high degree of English literacy. Projects are not undertaken until the employee understands the project's objectives. Projects are carried out with self-confidence and the ability to solve problems. Work, work environment, and use of time are very well organized and respond to priorities as they change. Employee develops and maintains familiarity with issues addressed by the foundation, with the clientele with whom the foundation works, and with the political environment in Washington and other relevant jurisdictions.

The ideal employee will learn rapidly, require minimal supervision, is self-directed, and demonstrates keen problem solving skills. He or she has a high degree of curiosity, a passion for the mission of the organization, and an eagerness to serve and to learn. He or she is mature, professional and enthusiastic.

Salary mid-30's, depending on experience. Apply by fax to (301) 589-5056, or by e-mail with MS Word attachments to [email protected]. Before applying, visit to familiarize yourself with CJPF's work and the writing of the foundation's president. Send a cover letter, a resume, your best writing sample, and the names of at least three references. The position is open until filled.

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18. Summer Internship: Americans for Safe Access, Oakland, CA

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is seeking one paid intern for its Oakland, CA, office to assist both its legal and political campaigns in medical marijuana states. ASA is a dynamic grassroots organization working to ensure access to medical marijuana therapies and research. ASA is engaged in multiple legal and political efforts at both the state and federal levels, which will be reflected in the internship.

An internship with ASA is available to undergraduate and graduate with basic writing, communication, and organizational skills. Experience with or study of law or politics is a plus, but not a requirement. This internship includes a stipend of $750 for 15-20 hours of work per week. It runs from late May or early June through late August.

Projects ASA is working on in California and other medical marijuana states include: Wide range of civil lawsuits against cities, employers, and law enforcement for implementation of state law; Campaigns in legal medical marijuana states to ensure patients' rights; Coordinated lobbying by grassroots and staff to ensure the protection of medical marijuana dispensing in California; and Providing educational material to patients, physicians, advocates, and public officials.

The following is a sample of tasks for an ASA internship: Translate state medical marijuana law into lay terms; Draft political alerts to mobilize grassroots volunteers; Assist in helping patients with legal issues, including housing, employment and law enforcement encounters; Compile information for political and legal reports; Assist in the process of lobbying public officials on the medical marijuana subcommittee of the League of California Cities (a statewide city official association); Assist in periodic mailings to California public officials; Maintain correspondence with imprisoned medical marijuana defendants.

Location is Oakland, California. The position does not involve travel. It starts on June 1 and runs for 2 ½ months. For further information, contact Rebecca Saltzman at 1322 Webster Street, Suite 208, Oakland, CA 94612, (510) 251-1856 or [email protected]. To apply, send your work/school history with an explanation of why you would like to intern with ASA to Rebecca Saltzman at [email protected].

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19. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

May 5-6, Seattle, WA, "Bringing Us Together: First National Harm Reduction Therapy Conference," sponsored by the University of Washington Addictive Behaviors Research Center, the Harm Reduction Therapy Center and Harm Reduction Psychotherapy & Associates. At the University of Washington, South Campus Center, registration $200 visit to register or for further information.

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

May 8, 9:00am-4:00pm, Montreal, QC, Canada, "Welcome D.E.A., Can We Talk? -- International Drug Enforcement Counter Symposium: A Canadian Response to USA Drug Policy Hegemony," responding to a DEA-funded international drug enforcement officers' conference. At the Marriott Chateau Champlain Ballroom, 1050 de la Gauchetiere Street, admission free, noon rally in Dorchester Square at corner of Peel & René-Lévesque. Visit for info.

May 8, 4:00-6:00pm, San Diego, CA, "Have Our Drug Laws Failed?", debate between LEAP speaker Judge James P. Gray and Roger Morgan. Sponsored by SDSU SSDP, at the "Backdoor," Aztec Center, San Diego State University, contact Randy Hencken at (619) 865-3000 or [email protected] or Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for further information.

May 8, 7:00-9:00pm, West Hollywood, CA, "Crystal: The Good, the Sad, and the Ugly," first of a series of public forums on methamphetamine and harm reduction. Sponsored by AIDS Project Los Angeles, at the West Hollywood Park Auditorium, 647 N. San Vicente Ave., call (213) 201-1662 for information.

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.

May 11, noon-1:30pm, Washington, DC, "America's Race to Incarcerate: Locking Up Communities of Color," congressional briefing sponsored by The Sentencing Project. At the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2237, RSVP to Kara Gotsch at (202) 628-0871 or [email protected].

May 11, 7:00pm, Salt Lake City, UT, "Filling the Leadership Void: Where Are We Going? -- How Local Communities Respond to Substance Abuse," lecture by Deborah Small of Breaking the Chains. At the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, 410 Campus Center Drive, Dumke Auditorium, call (801) 688-6927 or visit for further information.

May 12-13, Sturgis, SD, 6th Annual Black Hills Hemp Hoe Down, geaturing music, workshops, hemp food, hemp beer, speeches, camping and more. At the Elk View Campground, five miles outside town, exit 37 off Interstate 90, visit or visit (605) 484-1806 or [email protected] for 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 4, 6:30pm, New York, NY, William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice Ten Year Anniversary celebration and Racial Justice Awards Ceremony, featuring hosts Danny Glover and Amy Goodman, and Lifetime Freedom Fighter Award recipient Harry Belafonte. At the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Synod Hall, 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 110th St., visit or contact (212) 924-6980 or [email protected] for further information.

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, call (202) 251-4492 or visit for further information.

June 8-9, Monterey, Fresno & Palo Alto, 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 20-23, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "Fourth Biennial International Meaning Conference on Addiction," contact Dr. Paul T.P. Wong at [email protected] or visit for information.

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].

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit for info.

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