Media Racial Profiling
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search

Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #436 -- 5/19/06

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

subscribe for FREE now! ---- make a donation ---- search

Important New Legalization Video and Drug War Facts Book Now Available -- Click Here for Info or to Order!

Table of Contents

    Nine years later is it all starting again?
    The president says that sending 6,000 National Guardsmen to the border won't militarize it. But militarization can work in subtle ways, and the pull to use that many troops once they're there may be irresistible.
    More than 160 people, including at least 75 police and prison guards, have been killed in a series of prison uprisings and urban attacks led by drug trafficking organizations in South America's largest city.
    Efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill in the Garden State are moving at a glacial pace, but they are moving.
    Ireland is a country that is famous for drinking, but like everywhere else in the world, Cannabis Nation has a toehold in the Emerald Isle.
    For a parent, losing a child is one of the greatest and most bitter sorrows imaginable. Losing a child to a drug overdose or some other form of drug-related death is even worse. "Between Two Pages" tells the stories of some of those lost offspring and the suffering parents they left behind.
    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 missing evidence investigation in Delaware and a missing evidence sentence in California; more sticky-fingered cops in Tennessee; a would-be porn king with a bad temper in Denver, and some perverse traffic cops in Baltimore.
    In an unusual second oral argument before the US Supreme Court Thursday, justices sparred over a Michigan case that tests previous rulings generally requiring police to knock and announce themselves before entering a residence with a search warrant.
    Police in Sussex are broadening a program that requires people wishing to enter pubs to submit to random, on-the-spot drug tests -- and warning they'll detain people who refuse to take them.
    An American civilian anti-drug contractor was killed and two other Americans wounded in a suicide bombing in western Afghanistan Thursday.
    Member of Parliament Sandra Kanck is her party leader and only MP in the state legislature, but the party is moving to dump her after she stood up in parliament to say that Ecstasy "is not a dangerous drug" and could have been used to ease the trauma of victims of last year's killer bushfires.
    Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Health Christopher Pyne announced Monday that all state and territorial governments had signed on to a federal plan to create a tough, uniform set of marijuana laws as part of a crackdown on cannabis. In making the announcement, Pyne also made the bizarre claim that marijuana is "as dangerous" as hard drugs like heroin or cocaine.
  14. WEB SCAN
    Shipping Off Hawaiian Women Prisoners, Two Very Different District Attorneys, Drug Truth Network
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    Syringe Exchange Program Coordinator and Specialist, Harm Reduction Coalition, Oakland, California
    Program Manager, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Washington, DC
    Program Coordinator, Sensible Colorado, Denver/Boulder
    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: Border Fears

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

The big news item of the week is the president's new plan -- approved so far by the Senate -- to send thousands of National Guard troops to the border. "The United States is not going to militarize the southern border," the president and posted statements on the White House web site assure us. "National Guard units will assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems, analyzing intelligence, installing fences and vehicle barriers, building patrol roads, and providing training," not in direct law enforcement activities. At least they say this now. But what will the inevitable "mission creep" lead to further down the road?

Esequiel Hernandez
May 14, 1979 - May 20, 1997
victim of the drug war and the militarization
of the US-Mexico border
Nine years ago tomorrow (5/20), 18-year old Esequiel Hernandez was shot and killed while herding sheep on his family's property outside Redford, Texas, by US Marines on an anti-drug patrol. So border militarization is no light concern. It's important to remember that those Marines, strictly speaking, were also "not... involved in direct law enforcement activities" -- in theory at least, that would have violated the Posse Comitatus Act which forbids it. But those Marines' soldier training did not serve them well that day; rather it led them to perceive a threat where none existed. The militaristic, war-ready mindset, injected into a routine situation, led to the first peacetime killing by US military of a US citizen on US soil.

As a single-issue organization, DRCNet takes no position on the immigration issue itself. But the drug war and immigration wars (and now the terror war) intersect. We deplore the federal mandatory deportation policy for low-level drug offenders, many of whom have lived here most of their lives. We are concerned by the reinforcing effect that drug and border enforcement have had in upping the ante, so to speak, in terms of tactics -- on both sides, the government and drug traffickers alike. While drugs was not the focus of Bush's speech, it did get a mention: "We want the border to be open to trade and lawful immigration, and we want our borders shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals and drug dealers and terrorists." The drug war is affected by the recent developments in border policy, and vice versa.

It's important to remember, however, that while the border is the current topic of conversation, the problems that arise when military and police organizations become too close are at play throughout the nation as a whole. Surplus military equipment, for example, can get handed down to police agencies, and is often overkill -- one sheriff had to be stopped from procuring a tank -- and the differences between the military mission and the police mission can make the confluence highly dangerous.

Scholar Timothy Dunn addressed this topic in a 1996 book, "The Militarization of the US-Mexico Border, 1978-1992: Low Intensity Conflict Doctrine Comes Home." In an interview I conducted for this newsletter, Dunn pointed at training -- one of the Guard's border priorities enumerated this week by the president -- as particularly risky:

"In training, they're allowed to teach everything from first aid and map reading and rifle marksmanship, which sounds pretty modest, to things like suspect interrogations and the use of pyrotechnics and booby traps -- you know, some really gruesome stuff that law enforcement has no business in the world getting involved with."
A January 2005 raid in Niagara Falls, New York, stunned the community for its use of pyrotechnics, resulting in the burning and hospitalization of an innocent woman.

Dunn also worried about interrogation practices:

"[I]n suspect interrogations, law enforcement at least has to wave at the Constitution. Military, in their operations abroad, do not. And all the allegations that have been lodged about training of torturers, and so forth, at the military's School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, involve that kind of stuff, suspect interrogation."
And raid planning:
"... which is reminiscent of Waco, and all those kinds of things... [L]aw enforcement people have no business planning a raid to look like a military program, and the military certainly can't help plan a police raid, because that's not what they do."
Not that any of this ever went away, even after the Hernandez killing -- the relationships the Army and Guard had with the Border Patrol and state and local agencies are still in place, Dunn told Drug War Chronicle last week. Direct military patrols at least have taken a decided back seat. But while the administration professes not to want to bring them back, I suspect that with 6,000 more troops on the scene the pull will be irresistible, and it's not clear how "not involved in direct law enforcement activities" may get interpreted over time. And if history is a guide, drug enforcement may well be the poison pill that dilutes such restraints for everything -- when the next rash of drug trade shootings breaks out just a few miles south or bleeding over on our soil, will the commander or governor or defense secretary or president have the political will to say no, we're not deploying the Guard and further militarizing the border because we said that's not what we were going to do?

Reassuring words have been spoken about what the Guard initiative is and is not intended to mean. But one must ask, with Esequiel Hernandez nine years gone, is it all now starting again?

return to table of contents

2. Feature: Dramatic Death Toll in Sao Paulo as Drug Gangs, Police Clash

More than 160 people, including at least 75 police and prison guards, have been killed in a series of prison uprisings and urban attacks led by drug trafficking organizations in South America's largest city. In a wave of violence that began last weekend, partisans of the First Capital Command (PCC), Sao Paulo's leading gang, rebelled in at least 80 of the province's more than 115 prisons, while their masked comrades on the outside attacked police posts, bars, banks, and burned at least 59 buses, according to figures current as of Thursday.

favela neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro
Police reported suffering at least 280 armed attacks from command members since the weekend. This week, Sao Paulo police went on the counterattack, killing at least 60 "suspects" in "confrontations" on Tuesday and Wednesday. Brazilian human rights campaigners have begun to complain that police are engaged in illegal revenge killings, not only of gang members but their families, too.

Paulo de Mesquita Neto, of the Sao Paulo Institute Against Violence, told reporters Wednesday a "strategy of retaliation" was taking root. "Initially the police seemed to have had some success and had the support of the population. In the last few hours, however, they seem to have gone looking for revenge... If the police force starts going down this path it will be showing it is unable to cope."

According to Brazilian press accounts, the uprising began when PCC gang leaders who run their enterprise from prison cells learned they and more than 700 of their imprisoned comrades were about to be transferred hundreds of miles away to maximum security prisons in an effort to break their hold over the command's operations. Using cell phones -- illegal in prison but widely available nonetheless -- PCC leaders ordered the wave of attacks. By last weekend, gang members were shooting up police cars, attacking police stations with hand grenades, and going after police in their homes and after work hangouts. On Sunday, they began burning buses.

By Monday, thousands of bus drivers refused to work, leaving nearly three million people dependent on public transport scrambling to find a way to get to work or school. The normally teeming city center was a virtual ghost town Monday afternoon. By Tuesday, the buses were running again, but again many people stayed home and many businesses and offices remained shuttered.

Bus driver Gilson Adei told the Associated Press Tuesday police should strike back hard -- an increasingly common sentiment in the shell-shocked city. "It's absurd -- the gang members can do whatever they want? They can just start a war? And why would they attack the transportation, normal people? Next it will be schools," he said. "We should get the military on every corner and kill them."

Instead, according to Brazilian press reports, authorities cut a deal with imprisoned PCC leaders to end the violence. The state would promise not to send in brutal "shock teams" to retake the prisons, would not transfer the leaders to distant prisons, and would restore other privileges for imprisoned PCC leaders. In return, PCC leaders reportedly made the phone calls that called off their fighters. But whether the agreement -- widely criticized as caving in to criminals -- will hold in the face of an apparent wave of revenge killings by police remains to be seen.

"It was all fucked up. There were no buses running, schools and colleges shut their doors, shops were closed, people were really scared," said Martin Aranguri Soto, a graduate student in political science at the Pontificia Universidade Catolica de Sao Paulo who is studying the history of prisons. "The city came to a halt. It was really weird to see all the people walking home Monday night because the buses weren't running," said Aranguri Soto, who also serves as Drug War Chronicle's Spanish and Portuguese translator. "I rent a room to some prison guards, and they are scared shitless" because of the outbreak of prison riots where guards have been held hostage, he said.

The "commands," as the criminal organizations are known, have grown fat off profits from the cocaine trade in a country that is now the world's second leading cocaine consumer, trailing only the United States. Based in the teeming slums known as favelas that are home to millions of Brazilians living in dire poverty, especially in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the commands have become a sort of parallel government. In vast urban areas left largely unattended by the Brazilian state, the commands provide not only drugs, but law and order, in essence replacing a state that lacks the will or the resources to serve the needs of its poorer citizens.

A peculiarly Brazilian mutation, the commands have roots going back to the military dictatorship of the 1960s and 1970s, when common criminals and political prisoners mingled in the dictatorship's prisons. By 1979, the first of the commands, the Green Command, was born under the motto of "Peace, Justice, and Liberty." But while the commands originally had a political tint, vestiges of which remains in vague allusions of support for Western bogeymen like the Taliban, they grew rich, and increasingly well-armed, from the drug trade. Now, for most Brazilians, the commands have a political role, but only as "the party of crime."

The PCC grew out of a split in the Green Command, which was based mainly in Rio, and now dominates Sao Paulo's criminal underworld with thousands of armed men and hundreds of thousands of indirect employees. The commands' wealth and largesse -- they organize cultural events like the "funk balls" that draw thousands of partiers into the favelas, as well as donating goods and services and providing security for favelas -- provides them with a large social base in the informal hillside communities.

"The commands gained influence in the favelas in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the black market drug trade became their main activity and also became almost the sole employment opportunity for favela inhabitants," said retired Sao Paulo Judge Maria Lucia Karam. "Their influence in the favelas says much about the Brazilian state," she told DRCNet. "It reveals the state's lack of concern for poor people. The only way poor teens, young adults, or even favela children can find to be recognized and respected is to work in the black market drug trade. They can have a big gun and stylish clothes. They know they will probably be killed or go to prison, but they don't mind because they believe it's better to lead such a dangerous life than to live under all kinds of oppression."

"The commands are very busy and very angry," said Karam of the wave of attacks and rebellions. "I don't approve of violence against people, but unfortunately this is the only way Brazilian prisoners and their friends find to react to the oppression and the inhumane conditions of prisons, especially the maximum security ones. Those prisons are sadistic places, and those treated with sadism tend to also react with sadism."

While a rising chorus of angry Brazilian politicians is calling for new, more severe measures to fight the commands, that is no solution, Karam said. "Violence in our drug markets is a result of illegality," said Karam. "The solution is to reform the UN conventions and the national laws to legalize the production, sale, and consumption of all drugs." But given Brazil's problems, that isn't enough, she said. "We have to radically change the way the state responds. We cannot confront the violence of the commands with state violence. We have to respect the rights of all Brazilians, including prisoners. Instead of proposing more severe laws, as almost everyone now wants in Brazil, we have to figure out how to reduce the intervention of the criminal justice system. And we have to recognize that all human beings deserve equal respect. We cannot demand respect and peace if we don't really respect all our people."

"Everybody is outraged and almost rabid, they want security," said Aranguri Soto. "But the PCC's fight is against the state, not civilians. There were only four civilians killed in the crossfire. I can condemn the means used by the PCC, but I refuse to be afraid because the state gains when the citizens are afraid. All governments are based on fear, and when the state says 'Don't be afraid, we will protect you,' that means it is going to extend its powers," he argued.

"One of my class mates was on one of the buses that were attacked," Aranguri Soto continued. "Do you know what she said? She said they were really polite. They only asked passengers to hand over their cell phones and asked them to cooperate and said they were going to burn the bus. So the people got off, and they burned the bus."

While event-driven Brazilian legislators are pushing to pass tough anti-gang legislation this week, the administration of Brazilian President "Lula" da Silva is appealing for more considered deliberations. Lawmakers "should not succumb to the temptation of panic legislation," Justice Minister Marcio Thomaz Bastos told Agencia Estado, the official Brazilian news agency. Brazil is reaping the results of low spending on social programs since the 1960s, he said. "Either we give these youths hope, or organized crime will."

This week's violent outburst was shocking, but no surprise, said penal scholar Aranguri Soto. "I can't say this wasn't predictable, because it was," he said. "The government of Sao Paulo has been building prisons like crazy, and with more than 100,000 prisoners, it has almost a third of the entire Brazilian prison population. Those prisons are filthy, overcrowded, and dangerous for prisoners and guards alike. It may be over now, but you can write this down: It will happen again, and next time it will be all of Sao Paulo's prisons. The state has been incubating its own cancer."

return to table of contents

3. Feature: New Jersey Medical Marijuana Bill to Get Hearing

Efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill in the Garden State are moving at a glacial pace, but they are moving. For the first time ever in New Jersey, medical marijuana will be the topic of a legislative hearing, which is set for next month. With this year's legislative session approaching summer recess, there is little chance of passage this year, but getting a state Senate committee hearing is a good start, supporters said.

"We're excited about this," said Ken Wolski, RN, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey (CMMNJ), the group leading the fight. "Just getting the issue out to the legislators and the public is good for us. We have logic, science, common sense, compassion, and fiscal responsibility on our side," he told DRCNet.

Sponsored by Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden), SB 88, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act and a companion bill in the Assembly would allow people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS wasting syndrome, chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures and persistent muscle spasms, among other conditions, to use and possess medical marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation. Patients and caregivers would register with the state and be provided ID cards. They would be limited to six marijuana plants and up to one ounce of dry marijuana.

Jim Miller at CMMNJ event launching Rep. Scutari's bill last session
(courtesy CMMNJ)
"This is a very conservative bill," said Wolski. "In it, we tried to deal with objections and problems that emerged with other programs around the country, such as California's initial failure to have a state ID card program. This bill is tightly drawn, but it is a good one and it will alleviate a lot of suffering in New Jersey."

The June hearing will be held in the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Care Committee chaired by Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), and proponents are in the process of firming up their roster of witnesses, said Wolski. "We get to have four people testify, and they will include Sen. Scutari, Dr. John Morgan from the City of University of New York, New Jersey State Nurses Association representative Sharon Rainer, and one doctor from a state where medical marijuana is legal to explain to members how it works there," he said.

The New Jersey State Nurses Association is among groups endorsing the measure. It also has the support of Gov. John Corzine (D), who has said he will sign a medical marijuana bill into law. Polls put public support for medical marijuana among New Jerseyites in the 80% range.

But it also has opposition, although at present that seems to be limited to a pair of professional drug fighters, Ocean County Deputy District Attorney Terence Farley and Drug Free Schools Coalition executive director David Evans. Farley, who is also director of the Ocean County narcotics strike force and spokesman for the New Jersey Narcotics Officers Association and the New Jersey Narcotics Commanders Association, is the leading anti-drug reform voice in New Jersey.

Farley did not return DRCNet calls for comment, but this week he told the Associated Press he opposed the medical marijuana bill. "This is how they're trying to get marijuana legalized," Farley said.

Evans, meanwhile, has been busy penning an anti-medical marijuana op-ed that appeared in the Asbury Park Press Wednesday in which he, too, accused medical marijuana of being a stalking horse for legalization. "We take no issue with people who are legitimately ill," he wrote. "We are against those who have manipulated sick people to promote the legalization of marijuana."

Marijuana is unproven, Evans wrote, citing the Food & Drug Administration's widely criticized one-page position statement issued last month, but ignoring the much more comprehensive 1999 Institute of Medicine study that found great marijuana has proven medical uses, as well as numerous others that have found medicinal merit in the herb. People shouldn't be allowed to use medical marijuana just because it makes them feel better, Evans wrote. "They may be feeling better, but they are not actually getting better. They may even be getting worse due to the detrimental effects of marijuana."

CMMNJ cofounder Jim Miller disagreed. "For many really ill people, marijuana is their best medicine," he said. Miller, whose wife, Cheryl died in 2003 after decades of struggling with Multiple Sclerosis, said she used it to relax her muscles enough to continue physical therapy.

Wolski and Miller wonder what other opposition will show up. "There are a few representatives who have said they do not support medical marijuana," said Wolski, "but anybody who doesn't support it is not supporting the will of the people. But other than those reps and Farley and Evans, we're waiting to see if the Office of National Drug Control Policy will send down some big guns from Washington. We know they've done that in the past."

While the committee hearing is informational only and will not result in a vote, proponents are gearing up to make the most of it. The coalition will do a joint press conference the day before the hearing with the Drug Policy Alliance and is calling on supporters to show up. "We need people to come out and show support, to let the legislature know this is an issue New Jersey citizens support," said Wolski.

Another way to show support, Wolski said, is by opening up wallets. While the coalition got a grant from the Marijuana Policy Project in 2003-2004, that grant was not renewed and the group is currently a low-budget, all-volunteer effort. "MPP is supportive and have offered help from one of their legislative analysts, but that doesn't pay the bills," Wolski said. The group is offering wristbands, pins, and t-shirts for sale via its web site for those who would like to contribute, he emphasized.

Now, after nearly two years of legislative inaction, the battle for medical marijuana in the New Jersey is getting under way. Wolski is confident victory will come. "I'm not sure when we will win, but I know we will win in the end," he said. "You can only fool the American people for so long."

return to table of contents

4. Feature: Marijuana Reform Emerges in Ireland

special to Drug War Chronicle by K.M. Flanagan

Ireland is a country that is famous for drinking, but like everywhere else in the world, Cannabis Nation has a toehold in the Emerald Isle. While one may not expect to find marijuana reformers and activists in Ireland, it seems that no matter where you go in the world someone wants to end prohibition and Ireland is no different. While Irish culture may differ from that of the US or even England, the marijuana laws are similar, and there are marijuana reformers in Ireland with the same goals and solutions to prohibition that we have here in the States.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1977 and 1984, marijuana is considered an illegal substance in Ireland. However, the Irish police, An Garda Siochana, distinguish between possession for personal use and possession for sale or supply. Possession of cannabis or cannabis resin is treated less severely than other drugs. The punishment for the first and second conviction of cannabis possession is a fine and after the third conviction, a fine and up to three years in prison. The penalties for possession or trafficking of hard drugs are stiffer.

Ireland marijuana march poster
According to the 2002/2003 Drug Prevalence Survey, cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in Ireland, followed by magic mushrooms and Ecstasy. Twenty-four per cent of young adults (age 15-34) and 11.4% of older adults (age 35-64) have used cannabis in their lifetime. The lifetime use figure for adults is 17.4%, while 90.2% have used alcohol and 60.1% have used tobacco. With numbers like these and the traditional fondness for alcohol, Ireland would seem to be a prime spot to try and push a cannabis-alcohol equalization agenda -- and now some people are doing just that.

The Centre for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR) is the first cannabis policy reform organization in Ireland. While in some other countries, marijuana reform efforts have been going on for decades, they are relatively new in Eire. Prior to the founding of CCPR, Irish reformers gathered in online groups, but they say they hope to create more "official" groups in the near future. CCPR has identified three main issues within the broader topic of cannabis as key organizing points: cannabis-alcohol equalization, regulation not prohibition, and cannabis as a medicine.

On the marijuana-alcohol front, CCPR is working with the American reform group SAFER, based in Colorado. SAFER executive director Steve Fox told the Chronicle: "SAFER supports the efforts of CCPR to bring our 'marijuana is safer than alcohol' message to Ireland. We believe it is a message that will resonate across the globe, especially in places where alcohol consumption is high. Once the people realize that marijuana is a safer recreational alternative, we are certain that support for marijuana prohibition will crumble. We wish CCPR the best in its efforts to educate the public and change marijuana laws in Ireland."

On May 6, CCPR presented a legislative proposal, the Cannabis-Alcohol Equalization Initiative, to the Irish government. "We believe, as is the mainstream scientific opinion on the matter, that because cannabis is demonstrably safer than alcohol, both on the individual and on the community level, that it should be given the same legal status as alcohol; that it be taxed and regulated by the state authorities, being acknowledged as a safer recreational alternative," the group explained.

Since March, almost 100,000 people have heard CCPR's radio spots, and the group has also garnered print media coverage around Ireland. But CCPR's main audience is online and they say their site doing extremely well. The group has a huge propaganda campaign planned for the elections in 2007 and is determined to make cannabis an election issue.

There are political parties supporting legalization in Ireland, but most of those in favor are hesitant to vocalize their support. For example, Sinn Fein and the Greens, left-of-center parties, rarely mention cannabis. CCPR will be targeting these parties, encouraging them to speak up. CCPR's cannabis/alcohol equalization initiative may educate some politicians who weren't aware of the facts, and hopefully over the coming months the Initiative will be discussed in detail.

While CCPR does not actively campaign for the legalization of other drugs, the group concedes that regulation is the rational approach to all drugs and not just cannabis. While the group hopes to see marijuana downgraded as it was in the United Kingdom, CCPR sees it main task now as building up public support for the end of prohibition in Ireland. Kiel Nelson, the cofounder of CCPR had this to say: "We need to get the support of the majority of Irish people, which may be easier than it sounds," said Kiel Nelson, CCPR cofounder. "Everyone acknowledges that prohibition is a failure, for example, and that alternatives need to be explored. And with increased awareness of the facts of cannabis, for example its medical qualities, or that it is safer than alcohol, people will inevitably begin to seek change from their government. Plus, we have the truth on our side, which is all we need."

CCPR isn't the only game in town for marijuana reform supporters. As in around 200 cities across the planet, Dublin was the scene of a Global Marijuana March on May 6. Known in Ireland as J-Day, the event was organized by the Cannabis Ireland Alliance (CIA). The group worked for months to prepare for the global event, and while crowds were small, one must start somewhere.

The marijuana law reform movement has reached Ireland. Now it is time to see if the movement can move the lawmakers.

return to table of contents

5. DRCNet Book Review: "Between Two Pages: Children of Substance," by Susan Hubenthal and GriefNet Parents (2003, 1st Books, $22.95, pb.)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor, [email protected], 5/19/06

For a parent, losing a child is one of the greatest and most bitter sorrows imaginable. Losing a child to a drug overdose or some other form of drug-related death is even worse. It is one thing -- and no less tragic -- if your child dies in a highway crash or a recreational accident or fighting for empire in some distant land, but the parents of teenagers and young adults who die as a result of drug use carry an extra burden of guilt and shame. They feel guilt over what they see as their failures as parents and nurturers and they feel shame because their kids died the ignominous death of the doper.

"Between Two Pages" tells the stories of some of those lost offspring and the suffering parents they left behind. In fact, it is less about those for whom drugs became a fatal attraction than it is about their parents' agonized and heart-broken efforts to come to grips with their losses. It is not a fun or light read, but it is gripping, and readers may be forgiven the occasional teary eye as they are made witness to the suffering and torment of the parents.

In the contemporary United States, it is all too easy to suffer alone. In a society where people often don't even know their neighbor's name, community ties are a thing of the past, and family ties are attenuated by distance and the pressures of making a living, going it alone is how it is done. The parents involved in the writing of "Between Two Pages" were different. Taking advantage of the nascent Internet, they found GriefNet, an online resource for people suffering various sorts of losses founded in 1994, and began to talk among themselves.

"We are a collection of wounded parents whose children have died of a drug overdose or suicide related to drug use," writes Susan Hubenthal, whose son Kelly died of a heroin overdose in 1996. "We came together tenuously on a site called GriefNet, each one devastated by society's misplaced blame and guilt because we couldn't save our children, and filled with sorrow so deep we were unable to find life after death. Most of us have never met, yet we consider ourselves a family, crying together and comforting one another."

There is little comfort to be found, only, for the most part, a gradual dulling of the pain. The loss of a child is a rip in the fabric of the universe that never goes away; an aching void always remains. Sometimes it turns a grieving parent into a bitter, misguided crusader, as is the case of Steven Steiner, whose son died of an Oxycontin overdose. After his son's death, Steiner formed Dads and Mad Moms Against Drug Dealers, got funding from Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the drug that killed his son, and began offering rewards for turning in street-level dealers and crusading against medical marijuana, of all things.

Steiner's reaction is extreme, but not uncommon. It reflects parental fears about drugs and the safety of their children, and it is those fears, craftily encouraged and manipulated by demagogic politicians, that have made parent anti-drug groups some of the most powerful players in setting a repressive, criminalized drug policy.

The parents in "Between Two Pages" have gotten beyond that. Yes, there is bitterness toward drug providers and toward the dead kids' drug-taking buddies, but the bitterness is leavened by an emerging understanding of the role of our drug policies -- from harsh drug laws to counterproductive drug "education" to an underfunded drug treatment system -- in creating the conditions in which their children lived -- and died.

Which is not to say that the parents of "Between Two Pages" have become a cabal of drug reformers. Some have, but others have not. Some grapple with their loss at a very personal level, while others seek answers in the society in which they live.

Jared Lowry died of a heroin overdose in Austin in 1997. His mother, Jennifer, recounted the circumstances of his downfall, his battle with drug use after his father's death, his eventual stint in rehab in Phoenix, and his death from an OD just weeks later. "Jared died because he made the mistake of experimenting with heroin and combining it with other drugs, and because he did so with people who feared repercussions if they sought help, and because he lives in the United States, which enshrouds itself in a false cloak of purity and turns its back on young people in search of answers," his mother wrote.

Jennifer Lowry is one of the parents who channeled her grief outward. "I read all I could about death," she explained, before cancer claimed her own life a few years later. "I examined my feelings and the reasons for what happened. I've joined two drug policy reform groups and work actively to make changes so others may not have to go through what I am enduring."

I think I can speak for all drug reformers when I say this is not the way we want to gain converts. But these parents have had to become acquainted with the issues surrounding drug policy, and it is only natural that some of them should find the status quo flawed and deadly. Why do the workers at methadone clinics treat their clients with such arbitrariness and disdain? one parent asks. Why wasn't treatment available? asks another. Why do we provide little but jail cells for drug users? asks yet another.

Some of the kids profiled in "Between Two Pages" were problem kids. They had health or emotional issues. They were self-destructive. Or they were lost. They are the kids who needed help the most. A better, more humane drug policy may or may not have saved them, but our current drug policy clearly did not.

"Between Two Pages" is not designed as a drug reform manifesto. It is instead a witness and testament to human tragedy and endurance, a compendium of pain and suffering, a therapeutic exercise. But while not a manifesto, reading it does make one want to change this cruel world.

return to table of contents

6. Offer and Appeal: Important New Legalization Video and Drug War Facts Book Available

Drug War Facts -- an important resource used widely in "the movement" -- is an extensive compilation of quotes, stats, charts and other info dealing with more than 50 drug policy topics ranging from economics to needle exchange programs to the marijuana gateway theory to environmental damage in the drug war, drug policy in other countries, race as it plays into drug war issues, even a "Drug Prohibition Timeline." Whether your goal is to improve your understanding, add force to your letters to the editor or prepare for a debate or interview, Drug War Facts, a publication of Common Sense for Drug Policy, is a valuable if not essential tool.

The 5th edition of the convenient print version of Drug War Facts is now available. Donate $17 or more to DRCNet, and we will send you -- or your specified gift recipient -- a copy of Drug War Facts. Or, donate $25 or more for Drug War Facts AND the essential DVD video Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.Please visit to make your donation and order Drug War Facts 5th Edition today -- consider signing up to donate monthly!

Testimonials for Drug War Facts:

  • "A valuable resource for anyone concerned with drug policy." - Ira Rosen, Senior Producer, ABC News
  • "Filled with hard numbers that shed much needed light on the drug war." - Lester Grinspoon, MD, Assoc. Prof of Psychiatry (emeritus), Harvard Medical School
  • "A compendium of facts that fly in the face of accepted wisdom." - David Duncan, Clinical Associate Professor, Brown University Medical School

We continue to offer 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."

DRCNet's ability to get the word out about important tools like Drug War Facts and 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 -- $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 LEAP video, "The Drug War has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery."

LEAP DVD promo

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 -- we hope to hear from you soon. Special thanks for Common Sense for Drug Policy for making these important resources possible.

return to table of contents

7. 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.

return to table of contents

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

Another week, another batch of crooked cops: A missing evidence investigation in Delaware and a missing evidence sentence in California; more sticky-fingered cops in Tennessee; a would-be porn king with a bad temper in Denver, and some perverse traffic cops in Baltimore, and the beat goes on. Let's get to it:

In Camden, Delaware, state police are busy auditing evidence storage rooms this week after allegations an unnamed state trooper had tampered with drug evidence. The trooper was suspended with pay April 23, but the investigation did not come to light until a trooper on the stand in a marijuana case responded "yes" to a defense question about whether there was an investigation into missing evidence. No word yet on what evidence is missing or where it went.

In Baltimore, three male strippers are suing the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Department for $5 million. The men were stopped for a speeding violation as they traveled from a show in Philadelphia to one in Washington, DC, and charged with misdemeanor drug possession offenses. But in their lawsuit, the strippers allege that transit police forced them to strip naked and pose for pictures. They also allege that police took nearly $10,000 in cash from them. The department had no comment.

In Cocke County, Tennessee, a former sheriff's deputy was sentenced to probation Tuesday for his role in stealing cash from a drug suspect. Former Deputy Christopher Smith had pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor count of deprivation of civil rights and could have faced six to 12 months in prison. He is one of at least eight Cocke County law enforcement officers to be arrested on corruption charges in an ongoing FBI investigation. Former Deputy Smith and former Deputy Larry Dodgin stopped a car and seized $4,815 in cash and some drugs. They turned in that cash, but pocketed more money found in the car. During the FBI investigation, Smith confessed that he would steal from any drug dealer if given the chance.

In Oakland, California, a former sergeant on the Berkeley Police narcotics squad who stole and used heroin and cocaine from the evidence room was sentenced to one year in jail May 10, but will not serve a day behind bars. Instead, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Don Clay gave former sergeant Cary Kent home detention. "I think he's earned it," Clay said, noting that -- other than ripping off dope -- Kent had "served the public very well." Kent, a 20-year veteran, pleaded guilty in April to grand theft, possession of heroin and possession of methamphetamine after an investigation revealed he had tampered with scores of evidence envelopes he'd taken from the drug investigation unit's evidence locker.

In Denver, a Denver Police undercover narcotics officer has resigned from the department and is facing arrest after threatening to hurt his ex-girlfriend when she refused to let him post pornographic pictures of her on the Internet. Former narc Damon Bolden made the imprudent move of leaving threatening messages of the ex-girlfriend's answering machine: "I don't even need the DPS! I'll have my motherfucking cousin come over there and cut your back through the motherfucking fat meat!" he said in one message. Bolden apparently wasn't busy enough working undercover as a narc; 7 News in Denver reported that he was also making nude photos for a fledgling porn site. He was angry because the ex and one of her friends had let him do a photo shoot, but then decided they didn't want their pictures on the Internet.

return to table of contents

9. Search and Seizure: Bush Nominees Could Provide Swing Votes in Supreme Court Search Warrant Case

In an unusual second oral argument before the US Supreme Court Thursday, justices sparred over a Michigan case where police with a search warrant rushed into a home and seized evidence without knocking. The case, Hudson v. Michigan, is a test of previous Supreme Court rulings that police must generally knock and announce themselves before entering a residence with a search warrant.

Previously, the court has ruled that police must give people at least 15 or 20 seconds to answer the door or they risk running afoul of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches. In the case of Booker Hudson, police announced their presence, but entered less than five seconds later. Hudson was convicted on cocaine charges as a result of the search.

When the case was first argued in January, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was still on the bench and appeared ready to rule in favor of Hudson. But her replacement, Justice Samuel Alito, appears much more sympathetic to the government. While he grilled Hudson's lawyers, he had no questions for government lawyers.

With the court evenly split on the issue, Alito's vote could make the difference. Justices favoring a less expansive view of police rights under the Fourth Amendment warned that the stakes are high. If the court rules against Hudson, said Justice Stephen Breyer, "We'd let a computer virus loose in the Fourth Amendment. It strikes me as risky and unprecedented."

"The police should not barge in like an invading army," said Justice David Souter.

On the other hand, Bush appointees Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Alito joined Justice Antonin Scalia, who has never met a search he didn't like, sharply challenged Hudson's claim the evidence was tainted by an improper search. Although for decades, US judicial doctrine has been to suppress the "poisonous fruits" of illegal searches, Scalia suggested that the government has a good argument that "the punishment for it should not be to let the criminal go."

Back in January, Justice O'Connor worried that a ruling in favor of police in this case would result in cops across the country bursting into homes. "Is there no policy of protecting the home owner a little bit and the sanctity of the home from this immediate entry?" she asked.

Given the current complexion of the Supreme Court, the answer is probably no. A ruling is expected soon.

return to table of contents

10. Europe: British Police Demand Bar Patrons Submit to Drug Tests

Police in Sussex are broadening a program that requires people wishing to enter pubs to submit to on-the-spot drug tests. They also say they will detain anyone who refuses to take a drug test. The tests will be conducted randomly at selected establishments, police added.

Sussex police last year purchased an ion tracker device, which works by analyzing a swab taken from a person's hand for the presence of a controlled substance. Results are available within 10 seconds.

The program is already underway, said Chris Ball, acting chief inspector for Mid Sussex. "We have been running pilot operations in the three towns of Mid Sussex -- Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath and East Grinstead -- since December 2005 and the reaction of the customers has been positive. We have now reviewed the way we will carry out the operations in future, and I want to reassure the licensees that my aim is to work with them and not against them. It's with this co-operation that we will succeed in making the towns even safer and combat the use of drugs."

Not surprisingly, few are buying Ball's cheery words. Pub owners' groups and civil libertarians are crying foul. "These plans are out of all proportion and to involve the trade in such an initiative without some form of national policy or legislation is a step too far," legal analyst Peter Coulson told the Morning Advertiser. "It places licensees between a rock and a hard place in terms of customers and the police, but I am particularly concerned about the queue drop-out scenario. People may wish to drop out of a queue on principle, but that shouldn't raise suspicion of drug carrying and it smacks of guilty until proved innocent," he said.

And while Ball said bar customers had reacted positively, pub owners in Sussex scoffed. "I can see this being exceedingly unpopular with any law-abiding citizen," said one pub owner from Lewes. "Customers will simply not turn up at a pub if they suspect they are going to have to go through this sort of testing. We want to work with the police in the fight against drugs, but we have to balance this with the effect that swab testing might have on business. I have grave concerns about the implications for my license and livelihood."

return to table of contents

11. Southwest Asia: US Counter-Drug Contractor Killed as Afghan Fighting Intensifies

An American civilian anti-drug contractor was killed and two other Americans wounded in a suicide bombing in western Afghanistan Thursday. The attack comes amidst a week of heavy fighting that has left at least 13 Afghan police officers, a Canadian soldier, and as many as 100 Taliban fighters dead. There are increasing reports of large numbers of Taliban fighters moving through southern and eastern Afghanistan.

westerners-only supermarket, Kabul, with security guard
photo by Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith
"We confirm that a US citizen contractor for the State Department Bureau of International Narcotic and Law Enforcement, working for the police training program in Herat was killed in a vehicle-borne IED attack," Chris Harris, an American Embassy spokesman, said, referring to an improvised explosive device. "Two other Americans were injured; one critically and one has minor injuries," Harris said.

The Americans were driving in a three-vehicle convoy on the main road north out of Heart when they were attacked, Afghan officials told the New York Times. The suicide bomber wore a long beard but was otherwise unidentifiable, the official said.

The Associated Press identified the dead American as Ron Zimmerman, 37, a former eastern Indiana police officer. Zimmerman quit his police job in March to join DynCorp International, which has a contract with the State Department to train police in anti-drug activities.

More than four years after American troops invaded Afghanistan to displace the Taliban, the group is back and stronger than ever. In fighting Thursday, hundreds of Taliban fighters clashed with Afghan and Canadian forces in Panjwai province. A day earlier, there was heavy fighting in Helmand province. Both are areas of significant opium production and are populated with Pashtuns, the same ethnic group as most Taliban.

return to table of contents

12. Australia: Lone South Australia Democrat MP Even Lonelier -- But Unbowed -- After Coming to Ecstasy's Defense

South Australia Democratic State Member of Parliament (MP) Sandra Kanck is her party leader and only MP in the state legislature, but the party is moving to dump her after she stood up in parliament to say that Ecstasy "is not a dangerous drug" and could have been used to ease the trauma of victims of last year's killer bushfires. Kanck remains unbowed and has vowed to serve out the two years remaining in her term even if given the boot by party honchos.

Sandra Kanck
Led by the national government of Prime Minister John Howard and abetted by a sensation-seeking press, Australia is in the midst of a drug hysteria that threatens to result in more severe legislation even for marijuana offenses. Ecstasy is a drug of particular concern among politicians and the press, especially since the Australian Crime Commission reported last year that Australians are the world's per capita Ecstasy use champions.

According to Substance Abuse Minister Gail Gago, 112 "Ecstasy-related" deaths were reported in the country between 2001 and 2004, and the Australian federal government spent $23 million last year in an advertising campaign warning against Ecstasy use. Last month, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty warned that young Australians believing Ecstasy was relatively safe was "by far the biggest drug problem" facing the country.

"Quite disturbed" by what she called "an emerging trend of conservatism in politics," MP Kanck let loose with a no-holds-barred counterattack in Adelaide. "I remind members who might think that all drugs are evil that Jesus partook of wine. He did not have any silly laws that said 'this drug is legal, and this one isn't legal'," she said. Turning to Ecstasy in particular, Kanck then committed political heresy. "We have been told that Ecstasy is a dangerous substance. We do not have the evidence," she said. "The original 1985 listing of Ecstasy, or MDMA, is still being contested. So more than 20 years later, the matter has not yet been resolved."

Alluding to the compound's aborted history as a therapeutic agent before its popularity among Texas frat boys in the 1980s led to its banning in the US and elsewhere, Kanck even suggested it could have helped people cope with last year's fire disasters. "In fact, I was saying to people last year after the bushfires on Eyre Peninsula, with all the trauma that was associated with it, that one of the best things you could probably have done for the people on EP who had gone through that trauma was to give them MDMA," she said. "However, one dare not advocate that, because we are all being tough on drugs, aren't we?"

The reaction from Australian drug warriors was predictable. Kanck's remarks were "beyond belief," conservative Family First MP Dennis Hood told the Adelaide Advertiser. Kanck had clearly "lost touch," he said. "It is very disappointing."

But reaction from her own party was also harsh. Prodded by party president Richard Pascoe, the state party executive has called a meeting of the party faithful to decide Kanck's future. There is "a lot of confusion and concern" among party members about Kanck's comments, he said.

Kanck doesn't seem to mind. She is "riding on a high" after receiving widespread support for her stance, she told ABC Radio. "I didn't receive a single phone call from a party member saying, 'What are you on about?' The calls I've had have all been incredibly supportive -- so much so I'm almost riding on a high at the moment." There had been calls "from former members saying, 'You've got my vote back -- I didn't vote for the Democrats last time and you've got my vote back now,'" Kanck said.

Kanck also took advantage of the hubbub to clarify her remarks. "My advice to people about illicit drugs is to stay off them, but it is my hope there will be a properly informed discussion about drugs," she said. She was not advocating the recreational use of Ecstasy, she said. "I am quite certain that once people read my speech in its entirety, they will have a different perspective," she said. "My comments related to the pure form of the drug, which is being trialed in the US. My view about drugs is, if you possibly can, to get a message across to all young people not to take any of them -- licit or illicit -- until you're well into your twenties when an adult mind is more able to cope with the decision," she said.

The Advertiser has posted the full transcript of Kanck's speech online.

return to table of contents

13. Australia: Health Minister Says Marijuana as Dangerous as Heroin -- Calls for National Toughening of Laws

Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Health Christopher Pyne announced Monday that all state and territorial governments had signed on to a federal plan to create a tough, uniform set of marijuana laws as part of a crackdown on cannabis. In making the announcement, Pyne also made the bizarre claim that marijuana is "as dangerous" as hard drugs like heroin or cocaine.

In recent years, some Australian states have reformed their marijuana laws, moving toward decriminalization or ticketing schemes. The national government of Prime Minister John Howard has opposed these moves and called consistently for a harsh law enforcement approach toward the county's estimated 1.8 million pot smokers. Now it appears nearer than ever to getting its wish.

The announcement came after a meeting of the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy, which also endorsed a national strategy on alcohol abuse and said it would over the next six months develop a plan to tackle amphetamine use. The council also declared war on "drink spiking," or the placing of drugs in beverages without the knowledge of the consumer.

But it was marijuana that was on Pyne's mind Monday. At a post-meeting press conference, he said the national cannabis strategy would target production, supply, and use, and would try to reduce public acceptance of the weed. But he acknowledged that the federal government cannot craft state marijuana laws; the states and territories must do it.

"The council has decided there should be a consistent approach to offenses," he said. "The commonwealth has a very clear view and it is up to each state to visit the subject of their offenses and penalties. I don't think any state right now has a perfect set of cannabis laws that send the message that the commonwealth thinks should be sent to the community. We have to treat it as an illicit drug as dangerous as heroin, amphetamines or cocaine," Pyne added.

The Australian government is trumpeting alleged links between marijuana use and mental illness despite the weakness of such findings. In fact, it is preparing to spend $21 million over the next four years "to alerting the community to links between illicit drugs and mental illness," Pyne announced.

A same day press release from the health ministry was at least up front about what wasn't being discussed under the new cannabis strategy: "The strategy was commissioned by the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy in November 2004 and has been developed within the existing legislative framework. As such, the medicinal use of cannabis and drug law reform has not been included," the release noted.

return to table of contents

14. Web Scan: Shipping Off Hawaiian Women Prisoners, Two Very Different District Attorneys, Drug Truth Network

"No Room in Prison? Ship 'Em Off," Silva Talvi on the plight of primarily Native Hawaiian women sent to the mainland to do their time, for In These Times

Good and Evil: Anthony Papa on David Soares vs. David Capeless in "A Tale of Two District Attorneys," for Counterpunch

Drug Truth Network radio interviews with Cliff Thornton, Kevin Zeese, Loretta Nall, Commissioner Willy Richmond, Canadians Kirk Tousaw and Diane Riley, LEAP's Terry Nelson, and more, this week

return to table of contents

15. Weekly: This Week in History

May 19, 1988: Carlos Lehder is convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 135 years. He had been captured by the Colombian National Police at a safe house owned by Pablo Escobar and extradited to the US.

May 20, 1991: The domestic heroin seizure record is set (still in effect today) -- 1,071 pounds in Oakland, California.

May 20, 1997: Eighteen year-old Esequiel Hernandez, Jr., of Redford, Texas, becomes the first American to be killed on American soil by US soldiers in peacetime when he is shot on his own property by camouflaged Marines involved in a Joint Task Force-6 border drug interdiction operation. No drugs are found. Hernandez had never been suspected of or arrested for any criminal or drug-related activity.

May 21, 2001: Geraldine Fijneman, head of the Amsterdam branch of the ayahuasca-using Santo Daime church, is acquitted by a Dutch court. Fijneman had owned, transported and distributed a DMT-containing substance, but the court ruled that her constitutional right to Freedom of Religion must be respected.

May 22, 1997: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mayor John Norquist signs a measure into law decriminalizing first time possession of small amounts of marijuana after the proposal squeaks by the city council.

May 22, 2003: Maryland becomes the ninth state to relax restrictions on medicinal marijuana use for seriously ill patients when Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. signs a bill reducing the maximum penalty to a $100 fine. The law goes into effect on October 1.

May 23, 2000: Eighty-five US troops arrive in Guatemala to participate in the two-week-long "Operation Maya Jaguar," intended to provide training for Guatemalan police, to carry out seizures of illegal drug shipments, and to facilitate joint counter-narcotics operations.

May 24, 1988: The domestic hashish seizure record is set (still in effect today) -- 75,066 pounds in San Francisco, California.

May 24, 1993: At 3:45pm, Juan Jesús Cardinal Posados Ocampo, the archbishop of Guadalajara, is assassinated at Hidalgo International Airport by San Diego gang members hired by the Arellano-Felix Organization. As the archbishop's car arrives in the parking lot across the street from the terminal, a young man opens the door and opens fire, while half a dozen other gunmen spray the scene killing the driver and five bystanders, including an old woman, her nephew and a startled businessman with a cell phone in his hand.

May 25, 1973: The NBC Evening News reports that 28 marines and 18 sailors handling the president's yacht were transferred and reassigned from Camp David due to marijuana offenses.

return to table of contents

16. Job Opportunities: Syringe Exchange Program Coordinator and Specialist, Harm Reduction Coalition, Oakland, California

The Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) is hiring a Syringe Exchange Program Coordinator for its Oakland, California, office, to direct a statewide syringe access technical assistance and training program. Duties include program design and development, coordinating needs assessments of syringe exchange programs, local health jurisdictions and community-based organizations, and generating syringe access program models and policy approaches suited to local conditions. Duties also include communicating with elected officials, policy-makers and local service providers, and coordinating responses to emerging policy issues. Other duties may include contributing to HRC's national conference, materials production, training activities, fundraising, office operations and special projects as needed. Must have background in community-based syringe access, training and technical assistance, managerial skills, and comfort with multicultural staff. Knowledge of HIV, drug use and harm reduction required. Ability to travel and valid drivers' license required. Masters level or exceptional experience required. Experience in fundraising and grants management desired. Salary is $53,000-57,000, commensurate with experience. Starts July 1. Send resume and cover letter by June 7 by fax to (510) 444-6977, or e-mail to [email protected]. No phone calls.

HRC's Oakland office is also hiring a Syringe Exchange Program Specialist, to respond to the technical assistance and training needs of California syringe exchange programs and local health jurisdictions. Duties include coordination of activities related to expanding and supporting syringe access, intake of training and technical requests, working on individual level plans for syringe exchange programs in need, and providing technical assistance on implementation. Duties also include promoting the project, maintaining relationships with contract consultants, and assisting in coordination of conference activities. Must possess organizational skills, training and technical assistance expertise, and hands on experience with community-based syringe access. Knowledge of HIV, drug use and harm reduction required. Ability to travel and valid drivers' license required. Experience with community organizing, fluency in Spanish, and familiarity with local service providers and communities preferred. Salary is $43,000-46,000, commensurate with experience. Starts July 1. Send resume and cover letter by June 7 by fax to 510-444-6977, or e-mail to [email protected]. No phone calls please.

return to table of contents

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.

return to table of contents

18. Job Opportunity: Program Coordinator, Sensible Colorado, Denver/Boulder

Sensible Colorado has a position open immediately. The Program Coordinator will work with the Executive Director and other staff to organize and empower Colorado's state-licensed medical marijuana patients and caregivers, administering all aspects of Sensible Colorado's medical marijuana rights campaign including outreach, limited lobbying, and serving as a point of contact for patient inquiries. Individuals with experience working with sick or dying patients are strongly encouraged to apply.

The position is located in the Denver/Boulder area of Colorado, and is part-time with 20 hours per week and the potential to go full-time, $11-15 per hour depending on experience. To apply, send a cover letter and resume by June 2 to [email protected].

Visit or to learn more about Sensible Colorado.

return to table of contents

19. Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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

May 21, 1:30pm, Costa Mesa, CA, Libertarian Luncheon with featured speaker Steve Kubby. At Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 901A South Coast Drive, visit for further information.

May 24, London, United Kingdom, Day of Medical Cannabis Action, organized by Cannabis Education Trust. Demonstration in Parliament Square 10:00am-5:00pm, petition to Downing Street 1:00pm, lobbying of MPs and press conference at Westminster, 3:00pm on. Visit for further information.

May 26, 7:00-9:00pm, Vancouver, BC, "The Devastation of Prohibition: Bearing Witness to the Personal and Social Harms of the Drug War," sponsored by Creative Resistance, the Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, and the Community Arts Council of Vancouver. At the Unitarian Church, 49th & Oak St., admission free.

June 2-4, Marysville, CA, 4th Annual California Music that Matters Festival, benefit for Americans for Safe Access, California NORML and the Dr. Stephen Banister Legal Defense Fund, featuring music, camping, health fair, vendors and more. At the Mervyns Riverfront Pavilion, admission $60 for three days with camping or $30 for one day with no camping. Visit or call (530) 346-2763 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.

June 13, 7:00-9:00pm, Lawrence Township, NJ, Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey Public Meeting. At the Mercer County Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike (corner of Darrah Lane & Business Route 1), room #3, light refreshments served, all welcome. For further information visit or contact Ken Wolski at (609) 394-2137 or [email protected].

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.

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, 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.

return to table of contents

If you like what you see here and want to get these bulletins by e-mail, please fill out our quick signup form at

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

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

Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]