(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)
Issue #442 -- 6/30/06
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Table of Contents
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) head Antonio Maria Costa joined forces with US Office of Drug Control Policy head John Walters and other American drug warriors Tuesday at a Washington press conference to announce the release of the UNODC's 2006 World Drug Report and mark the UNODC's annual International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Costa, Walters, and the rest took the opportunity to congratulate themselves on "progress" in the fight to eliminate drug use, and made some quite remarkable statements as they did. But drug policy analysts and reformers from around the world were quick to offer sharp and pointed critiques of what they maintained was a badly distorted view of the successes of global drug prohibition.
Opium production declined 5% worldwide, the report said, adding that production in Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle was on the verge of being wiped out with Laotian production down to 14 tons. Afghanistan, on the other hand, is now responsible for nearly 90% of global production, producing about 400 tons last year. Cocaine production and the global market for amphetamines and other stimulants is "stable," the report said.
But marijuana, used by 162 million at least once in 2004, is a serious problem, said Costa. In fact, he said it was no different than hard drugs like heroin and cocaine, and he chided some governments for failing to consistently crack down on the plant. "Today, the harmful characteristics of cannabis are no longer that different from those of other plant-based drugs such as cocaine and heroin," Costa said. "National policies on cannabis vary and sometimes change from one year to the next. With cannabis-related health damage increasing, it is fundamentally wrong for countries to make cannabis control dependent on which party is in government."
Marijuana is "out of control," Costa warned. "It's out of control in supply because it's a weed; it grows everywhere. It's out of control in demand because it's erroneously considered a light drug," he said. "But, and indeed, it is extremely problematic because of much-increased THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, content."
Oddly enough, Costa's overheated remarks about cannabis at the press conference did not agree with what the report itself noted: "Much of the early material on cannabis is now considered inaccurate, and a series of studies in a range of countries have exonerated cannabis of many of the charges leveled against it."
Marijuana is indeed "a massive global problem," agreed US drug czar Walters. "It's not just a gateway, it is a dead end as well as an opening for many other people who go on and use other things, and are polydrug users. It has been for a long time," Walters told the press conference.
Costa's comments on marijuana drew immediate reaction. "DrugScope is surprised and concerned by the UNODC chief's comments regarding cannabis," said Martin Barnes, head of the British drug policy analysis group. "The UK government, education system and charities have worked hard in recent years to ensure our young people are given factual information about the relative harms of drugs. International evidence is clear that cocaine and heroin cause much greater health and social harms than cannabis and it is misleading and irresponsible to suggest otherwise. Cannabis is a harmful substance but the greater harms caused by cocaine and heroin should not be downplayed."
The UNODC also came under broader attack from continental researchers. The World Drug Report "struggles to fabricate success stories about the effectiveness of the global drug control regime," said the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute (TNI) in a quick first response. The group accused the UNODC of "flawed comparisons" and "biased claims about cannabis."
The report is "full of scientific insults," said Martin Jelsma, coordinator of TNI's Drugs and Democracy Program. The UNODC should be looking at how to reduce the real harms associated with drug use, he argued, but "harm reduction policy developments are nowhere to be found. This means that the real existing success stories from the past decade, such as reduced numbers of overdose deaths and lower rates of HIV transmission due to harm reduction efforts, are left out completely."
"The report is biased and unbalanced," added TNI drug researcher Tom Blickman. "The use of inconclusive scientific evidence to demonize cannabis is identical to the preceding mistake that resulted in scheduling cannabis at the same level as cocaine and heroin," he said. "The report suffers from the tension between UNODC policy makers who want a strict control regime maintained -- and who are under huge US funding pressure -- and the experts willing to open an honest debate about the effectiveness of outdated aspects of the current policy framework," he says.
"Costa is the perfect man for the job!" exclaimed Joep Oomen, coordinator of the Brussels-based European NGO Council on Drugs and Development (ENCOD). "He lies about the so-called successes in the war on drugs, warns too permissive governments that they will get the drug problem they deserve and spreads panic about increasing potency of cannabis. He is a manipulator, using fear as a weapon to convince people, to make them switch off their common sense. But he is also a pathetic figure, like the captain of the Titanic, surrounded by officers who do not question the course even if the iceberg is in sight," Oomen told DRCNet.
Costa's remarks were aimed in part at the Netherlands, Oomen said. "Between the lines he is referring to European governments which tend to change their laws in favor of a more flexible approach to cannabis. In Costa's world, these governments will actually do what he asks them, although all the evidence they have obtained in the past 30 years is pointing the other way," he said.
"In the Netherlands, it has become clear that a system in which the access to cannabis for adults is legally regulated reduces criminality and favors quality and other health aspects," Oomen explained. "The current Dutch government is unwilling to defend the country's policies on cannabis, but this situation could change after the general elections that will be held in May 2007. Proposals to regulate the cultivation for coffeeshops have been circulating for quite some time among the Social Democratic Party, most likely the winner of these elections. This is Costa's nightmare, and therefore he insists on 'a consistent commitment across the political spectrum and by society at large' for cannabis prohibition. Right on," Oomen declared. "With these kinds of declarations, Costa is promoting drug policy reform."
Costa probably doesn't think so, but the reaction to his over-the-top remarks on marijuana and the quick critiques of the report in general are making clear that the day of uncontested prohibitionist drug policies are history. Meanwhile, China marked the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as it usually does: by executing drug traffickers in obscene public rituals -- according to Chinese press sources, at least 27 people were executed for drug trafficking and 10 more sentenced to death Monday. Costa had no comment on that.
Summer is here and the time is right for checking out your favorite musical acts at the big musical festivals or package concert tours that help make the season so enjoyable. But where there is the prospect of rock 'n' roll and massive crowds, law enforcement can get downright twitchy, and summer-time concert-goers too often find themselves suddenly face to face with the law, sometimes with sad consequences. That's what happened to unsuspecting ticket holders arriving for the Wakarusa Music Festival outside Lawrence, Kansas. With some 70 acts, including such stellar performers as Gov't Mule, pedal-steel guitar wizard Robert Randolph and the Family Band, the Reverend Horton Heat, Michael Franti's Spearhead, and instrumental whiz Bernie Worrell and the Woo Warriors, the June 8-11 event drew thousands down the Kansas Turnpike. At the exit for the festival, however, the DEA, the FBI, the Kansas Highway Patrol, and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office set up a "driver's license and sobriety" checkpoint, netting dozens of people.
Interestingly, the "sobriety" checkpoint managed to net seven times as many people carrying their stashes to the show as drunk drivers. According to the US Supreme Court, it is unconstitutional for law enforcement to set up highway checkpoints to search for drugs, although the court has held that police agencies are within their rights to conduct such checks for highway safety purposes. But if there are clouds of pot smoke pouring out of your car, it isn't going to matter much what the legal justification for the highway stop is. You have just provided police with probable cause to search you and your vehicle.
What happened at Wakarusa this year has happened at other festivals in the past -- both music festivals and more politically-oriented Hempstock-type events -- and will undoubtedly occur again this summer at one or more festivals around the country. People who want to get out and enjoy the music need to be smart, said a group devoted to helping people exercise their constitutional rights.
"Even at one of these checkpoints, attending a summer concert does not give police probable cause to search you or your car. Don't give them probable cause and don't waive your rights," said Scott Morgan, associate director of Flex Your Rights (FyR), the 4th amendment education group whose "BUSTED: A Citizen's Guide to Police Encounters" video has become must see viewing for people interested in fending off overly inquisitive police officers. "Keep your private items out of sight and refuse any and all police search requests," he advised.
"You need to be in total control of yourself and your vehicle when approaching one of these summer venues," Morgan continued. "Because these events are often heavily policed and police are very suspicious, it's important for drivers to be calm and be prepared to intelligently assert their constitutional right to refuse unreasonable searches."
Law enforcement had drug dogs on hand, but the checkpoints were not drug check points, Eichkorn was careful to emphasize. "The primary concern was drivers' licenses and sobriety. If someone didn't have a license or if the officer had other indicators that suggested possible further criminal activity, the vehicle was pulled out of the line and off to the side, where we had narcotic canines available to walk around the vehicle." Drivers in the check lane who did not arouse suspicion were not subjected to drug dog sniffs, he added.
Eichkorn defended the use of drug dogs at what was ostensibly a license and sobriety check point. "We try to be as well rounded as possible in determining possible further criminal activity. We had the breathalyzer van on the scene, too. It's better to have our resources on site so we can quickly deal with people," he said. The courts have held the police can only detain people to await a drug dog sniff for an undefined "reasonable" amount of time. "The drug dogs are a good thing to have in situations where there could be further criminal activity."
FyR's Morgan wasn't buying. "The presence of drug dogs at a checkpoint that is supposed to be for traffic safety purposes strongly suggests law enforcement has another, unstated goal," said Morgan. "Any citizen who is busted by drug dogs at one of these checkpoints should consult an attorney about the possibility of it being an illegal, unconstitutional drug checkpoint."
Back in Lawrence, not everyone was happy with the checkpoint. Festival-goers grumbled to the local press about harassment and waiting for hours to get into the concert, and local civil liberties watch dogs were expressing concerns. But no one was ready to file a complaint, said Phil Minkin, head of the Douglas County ACLU in Lawrence. "I guess they were too busy trying to enjoy themselves at the festival to worry about their civil liberties," he told DRCNet.
The Douglas County ACLU has issues with the checkpoints, Minkin said. "One of the problems we have with this is it wasn't an all-inclusive traffic checkpoint. On the Kansas Turnpike, we have something called K-tags, which allow people to go through the toll booths without stopping. No one with a K-tag got stopped and searched. This looks like selective enforcement of the law," he said. "If they are going to have these traffic stops, they have to stop everyone, and letting people with the tags go through unimpeded violates the spirit if not the letter of the law."
It's not just the special treatment of K-tag drivers that is fueling allegations of selective enforcement. "There was a much larger music festival last weekend in Manhattan, Kansas, but there were no traffic stops there," Minkin noted. "Of course, that was strictly a country music festival. It seems like this concert was targeted for special attention."
The Highway Patrol's Eichkorn denied the charges of selective enforcement based on musical genre, saying that law enforcement was also out in force at the country music festival for similar reasons. But he admitted that the country music fans had not been subjected to the highway checkpoint facing the rock fans. "Those check lanes take a lot of resources," he explained. "Hopefully, they should be used as a deterrent."
Minkin also raised concerns about the basis for selecting drivers and automobiles for special attention. "Another problem we have is what police are using to establish probable cause to search vehicles," Minkin said. "Having a tie-dye t-shirt is not probable cause for a search."
And despite the Douglas County ACLU's inability to come up with a complainant, a civil action may be coming down the pike, Minkin said. "I've been talking to the state ACLU executive director, and my understanding is there is an attorney in town who is pursuing a class action lawsuit," he said, adding that he was not ready to reveal the attorney's name. In the meantime, the local ACLU is girding its loins for the next Watarusa festival. "We're actively preparing to have attorneys poised for an injunction next year in the event of actions by law enforcement of questionable legality, and we've just printed some ACLU rights cards."
The Drug Policy Forum of Kansas (DPFKS) has also raised concerns over the operation, sending a letter to Kansas Bureau of Investigation Director Larry Welch questioning the legality of using federal funding earmarked for meth interdiction for these checkpoints. Welch responded with a letter saying that the KBI web site was out of date and that the funds could legally be used for this type of checkpoint. He also stated the drug sweep netted "significant drug traffickers."
"I don't know what the KBI Director's been smoking, but the checkpoint, and the cops inside the festival, arrested more people for minor-in-possession (MIP) than anything else." said DPFKS executive director Laura Green. "The county received more than $12,000 dollars in fines from people receiving MIPs and minor drug possession charges. We hope in the future people will remember that these convictions stay on their record, even though they may have plead no contest in court. Clearly, these checkpoints were a revenue-generating source for local and state law enforcement to keep the war on drugs machinery well oiled. If everyone who was arrested had fought their conviction, the courts in Lawrence would not have been able to handle the volume and more cases would have been dismissed."
DPFKS has filed Kansas Open Record Act requests with the local and state police and district attorney's office seeking the exact number of persons arrested, and the amount of money seized from the defendants."We believe once the people of Kansas know the amount of money that was seized from these festival-goers, and where the money went, they will agree this kind of highway robbery must not happen again."
That's how it went in Kansas. How it goes in the rest of the country depends not only on the degree to which law enforcement aggressively pursuers young concert-goers, but also on the concert-goers' awareness of the law and their rights and on the willingness of organizations devoted to defending those rights to step up to the plate.
Due to staff travel schedule, Drug War Chronicle's full report on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment vote is waiting until next week. However, we here report to you on the results and some highlights.
The biggest surprise is that one of the "ayes" was Dan Burton, a conservative Republican from Indiana who has generally been a pretty hard-line drug warrior, if not a virulent one -- more independent than some members of Congress, perhaps, but very hard-line on the issue. Burton did stun observers of a Government Reform and Oversight Committee in December 2002 -- his last before stepping down as chairman -- by implicitly raising the legalization question, talking about taking the profit out of drugs, even referring to Al Capone and alcohol prohibition. But he has nevertheless been a hard-liner on the issue in his actual legislating before and since. Burton's son was busted with large quantities of marijuana two times in 1994, receiving a light sentence the first time and none the second -- we can only speculate what effect if any this family experience has had on his views.
Also surprising was that Rep. Mark Souder, also an Indiana Republican, did not stand up to speak against the amendment. Souder, as Drug War Chronicle readers know, is one of the most ardent and vociferous drug warriors in Congress.
One of the highlights from the debate were remarks by Rep. David Obey (D-WI): "If I am terminally ill, it is not anybody's business on this floor how I handle the pain or the illness or the sickness associated with that illness. With all due respect to all of you, butt out. I did not enter this world with the permission of the Justice Department, and I am certainly not going to depart it by seeking their permission or that of any other authority. The Congress has no business telling people that they cannot manage their illness or their pain any way they need to. I would trust any doctor in the country before I trust some of the daffy ducks in this institution to decide what I am supposed to do if I am terminally ill... When is this Congress going to recognize that individuals in their private lives have a right to manage their problems as they see fit without the permission of the big guy in the White House or the big guy in the Justice Department or any of the Lilliputians on this Congressional floor? Wake up!"
Special thanks to the 2,500+ DRCNet members who used our web site to write to Congress during the lead-up to the vote, and commendations to the organizations who made heroic lobbying efforts -- check back with us next week for more of the story.
Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor, [email protected], 6/30/06
In 1973, I was 18 years old. Flower Power had faded, but the scent of marijuana lingered in the air. The revolutionary upsurge and rising counterculture of the late 1960s had peaked, but the country remained deeply divided. President Richard Nixon was fresh from reelection in a bitterly fought battle against Democrat George McGovern, having made political hay with a "Southern Strategy" whose angry rhetoric about being "tough on crime" was thin cover for a racial appeal to worried Southern whites and Northern ethnics.
After staying remarkably steady for decades, the US prison population was beginning to climb upwards as Nixon unleashed his politically popular "war on crime." The year I attained my adulthood, some 200,000 people were in state or federal prison in America. I am now well into middle age, and every year of my adult life, the number of people we imprison has gone up. According to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 1.4 million men and women were in prison in America last year.
Adding more than 700,000 people sitting in jails on any given day last year, the US -- the land of the free -- currently has a world record 2.2 million people behind bars. Through more than three decades of war and peace, economic good times and bad times, rising crime rates and falling crime rates, Republican presidents and Democratic presidents, domestic strife and domestic numbness, if not bliss, our prison population continues its seemingly inexorable growth. Not only do we imprison more people, we also lead the world in incarceration per capita. And we imprison our black citizens at a rate that would make the apartheid Afrikaners blush with shame.
In "Race to Incarcerate," veteran criminal justice analyst and reformer Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, explains what happened and why. He also makes a compelling argument as to why our embrace of mass incarceration as a response to social problems is not only cruel and inhumane but wasteful and counterproductive and very sensible suggestions about what we should be doing instead.
After demonstrating through comparative analysis that the US and other industrialized nations have relatively similar crime rates -- except for murder -- and thus our imprisonment boom is not explained by higher crime rates here nor by rises and falls in the crime rate in the US, Mauer begins by noting simply, but logically, that a nation's prison population is a function of two variables: the number of people entering prison and the amount of time to which they are sentenced.
Those variables are social and political choices -- a crucial point for Americans for whom it is to easy to think this is the only possible world and that mass imprisonment is the only possible way of dealing with social problems and even criminality. We choose to be the world's leading jailer. As Mauer puts it, "The degree to which a society engages in prison building, far from illustrating a direct correlation between crime and incarceration, is subject to a host of decisions made within and without the criminal justice system."
With the acquiescence, if not outright one-upmanship of Democratic politicians, Republican presidents from Nixon through Reagan and the Bushes played the "tough on crime" card (the Democrat Clinton was no different), and an increasingly important aspect of "tough on crime" was the war on drugs, begun under Nixon and sent into overdrive in the "Just Say No" Reagan 1980s. Hapless drug users and poor, inner city street-corner drug sellers, Mauer notes, began filling the prisons. In state prisons, the number of drug war prisoners jumped a whopping 546% between 1985 and 2000, and drug offenders were responsible for one-quarter of the overall increase in prison numbers. In the federal prisons, the numbers are even more dramatic, with a 643% increase in federal drug prisoners during that period. The federal drug war was responsible for almost two-thirds of the growth in the federal prison population.
As Mauer hammers home, both the tough approach to crime overall and the war in drugs in particular have had a devastating impact on the nation's black community. For example, he notes that 13% of black men are ineligible to vote because of felony records. "In those states that impose disenfranchisement on ex-felons, the figures are truly enormous," he writes. "One in four black men are permanently disenfranchised in Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Virginia, and Wyoming. Given current trends, as many as 30% to 40% of African-American males will lose the right to vote for some or all of their adult lives."
The rest of his figures on disproportionate imprisonment of blacks are depressingly familiar, and Mauer is perhaps too generous in not calling "racism" on the criminal justice establishment -- after three decades of "race neutral" crime polices that consistently generate racially biased results, who but a racist deliberately continues such policies? Mauer is perhaps more willing to believe in the good faith of the police, prosecutors, and politicians who wage this war than is this reviewer.
It is time for "a new direction" in criminal justice policy, Mauer concludes. To begin, we need to acknowledge that the criminal justice system plays a limited role in crime control. In fact, it would be more accurate to think of the level of imprisonment as a gauge of a society's punitiveness, not its crime rate. There are other ways, he suggests. "Problem-solving policing," where police acknowledge they can't arrest their way out of the problem and seek to build relations with their communities, is one way. Ending the drug war as we currently know it is another. The need for sentencing reform screams out as well. Prisoner reentry programs -- 600,000 men and women walk out of prison each year these days -- are also critical, and the embrace of "restorative justice" as a criminal justice model would be an improvement, too.
America's prison population is a national disgrace, and Mauer has done an excellent job of not only explaining why it got that way, but also where we can go instead. This book should be required reading for college criminal justice classes and lawmakers. Mauer was first moved to publish "Race to Incarcerate" in 1999, and while this new edition has updated information, its essential analysis remains as grimly cogent and incisive as when it first appeared. While some reforms, such as the limited Rockefeller law reforms in New York and California's Proposition 36, as well as sentencing reforms in other states, have begun to bite into the prison-industrial complex, our prison population continues to grow.
We are pleased that Drug War Chronicle had two "scoops" last week -- we hope you'll click back on those articles if you haven't already read them.
One is that Rep. Hinchey (D-NY) spoke with Drug War Chronicle last week during the lead-up to the House floor vote on his medical marijuana amendment. Click here to see what he had to say.
The other was our interview with leading criminologist Samuel Walker, one of whose books was quoted by Justice Scalia in the majority opinion restricting 4th amendment rights last week. Walker explained -- for the first time in print anywhere, if we're not mistaken -- how Scalia twisted his words to mean basically the reverse of what they meant when Walker wrote them. Click here to read that story.
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A pair of crooked Baltimore cops are going to prison for a long, long time, while in two separate incidents down in Louisiana, two deputies get busted on drug and gun charges. Just another week of drug war corruption. Let's get to it:
In Maryland, two former Baltimore police officers received centuries-long prison sentences last week for robbing drug dealers, using their informants to resell heroin on the streets of the city, and running their drug dealing sideline from their squad car. Former officers Antonio Murray and William King were sentenced separately to 139 years and 315 years respectively and got most of their time for federal gun charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences, prompting US District Judge Frederick Motz to complain about mandatory minimum sentencing and call the sentences "grossly disproportionate to the crime." [Editor's Note: Just because the people committing these crimes are cops doesn't mean they deserve to spend literally the rest of their lives in prison, even if some of the crimes are serious in their own right. This weekly feature is not intended to be "anti-cop," but rather to raise awareness of the consequence prohibition has of corrupting our institutions.]
In Louisiana, an Orleans Parish sheriff's deputy was arrested June 21 in Harvey along with three other men in a car that also carried a four-year-old child, a high-powered rifle, and seven grams of heroin. Deputy Brandon Banks, 20, and the three other men were all charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute, possession of a controlled substance with a firearm, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. At the time of the arrest, Banks was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word "Sheriff," and law enforcement officials charged it was in an effort to ward off unwanted attention. But unfortunately for Banks and his cohorts, they were being watched by a new drug task force alerted to an impending heroin transaction. Banks has been suspended from his job.
In Louisiana, an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy was arrested June 22 for allegedly trying to shake down a federal informant for drugs and money. Deputy Larry Wright, 25, was in uniform and carrying his weapon when he took $2,500 and a half-pound of fake cocaine from the informant and promised to contact an FBI agent to "get rid of" charges pending against the informant (which is undoubtedly why the guy became an informant). Unfortunately for Wright, the informant was wired, and he was immediately busted by federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents. He now faces federal charges of attempting to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. He has been fired from the sheriff's department and at last report was being held in a jail outside the parish. He faces up to 20 years on the drug count and a mandatory minimum five years on the weapons count.
"Operation Lively Green," the federal sting operation aimed at military and law enforcement personnel in the Southwest who cooperated with supposed drug traffickers, has been providing grist for our Corrupt Cops feature for months. At least 46 cops, prison guards, and soldiers have pleaded guilty or been convicted so far in various schemes to help cocaine traffickers get their loads from the border to cities like Las Vegas.
It was a dalliance in Las Vegas that made the news this week, though, as the Arizona Republic published a sensational report revealing that an FBI agent was thrown off the case by federal prosecutors after he and other investigators neglected to tell them their informants had behaved badly on a visit there, including sexually abusing an unconscious prostitute. Based on federal documents given to a defense attorney as part of pretrial disclosure in a Lively Green case, the report tells a tawdry tale indeed.
According to the disclosure, on October 16, 2002, an FBI informant and 11 suspected traffickers delivered 132 pounds of cocaine from Tucson to Las Vegas, and the FBI paid for a presidential suite at the MGM Grand Hotel, where three informers partied down with the traffickers. Although their FBI handlers had warned them not to engage in any criminal acts, they joined six suspects in hiring prostitutes "to perform various sex acts with each other and themselves." Prostitution is illegal in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located.
And then comes the real sleaze: "In addition," the disclosure said, "another woman who was heavily intoxicated had possibly passed out and the CI (confidential informer) and others engaged in sexual acts with her, after which time the CI and others masturbated over her, spat on her and took photographs of themselves with her in sexually explicit positions."
While the suite was not under FBI surveillance, the following day agents recorded conversations among those involved that revealed detailed comments about the party, but FBI reports to prosecutors did not reveal the incident. When directly asked by a prosecutor about what happened at the hotel, the FBI agent in charge said only that the informants had hired hookers. It was not until March 2004 that one of the informers told prosecutors what had happened.
The FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility began an investigation and concluded that the agent had told -- or at least, hinted strongly to -- the informant to get rid of the incriminating photos. The agent said he did not tell the informant to destroy the photos, but acknowledged saying he "did not want to see them again." As a result of the internal investigation, the agent was "removed from any other involvement" in Lively Green, according to the disclosure.
The perverse misbehavior of the FBI's informants and the FBI agent's dereliction of duty in covering it up will not affect any of the Lively Green cases or convictions. But it does show that in the drug war, there is plenty of depravity to go around.
press release from Drug Policy Alliance
In a vote late Tuesday, the California legislature radically rewrote voter-approved Prop. 36, the state's treatment-instead-of-incarceration law passed in 2000, to allow jailing of nonviolent drug offenders. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) warned today that the trailer bill passed last night, SB 1137, will not withstand a court challenge which could begin as early as Monday, assuming the bill is signed into law by the Governor on Friday, along with the state budget.
Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, warns, "The Office of Legislative Counsel and probably even the Governor's own lawyers have told him that this bill is unconstitutional. We will ask the Governor to do the right thing and veto SB 1137. However, if the Governor allows the bill to become law, we will challenge it in court and are confident that it will be struck down."
The legislative undoing of Prop. 36 comes just days after the Governor announced a special legislative session to address the state's prison crisis. SB 1137 would alter Prop. 36 to allow the exclusion of many nonviolent drug offenders from the program (many of whom will instead receive jail or prison terms) and the incarceration of individuals engaged in Prop. 36 treatment.
Prop. 36 supporters are concerned that SB 1137 threatens not only the state's drug treatment law, but the entire initiative process in California. The bill includes language that would call for an "automatic ballot initiative", if any part of the legislation is found by a court to be "invalid," or unconstitutional.
Margaret Dooley, Prop. 36 outreach coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance said, "What elected officials did last night was reprehensible. They unlawfully overrode the expressed will of the people of California and did so despite the state's own studies proving that the program is working. SB 1137 reverses the state's only effective prison reform in a decade and sets a precedent that would allow legislators to rewrite any voter initiative they happen to disagree with."
In 2000, 61 percent of California voters approved Prop. 36, permanently changing state law so that all eligible nonviolent drug possession offenders must be given the option of state-licensed treatment. Since the initiative passed, over 60,000 Californians have graduated Prop. 36 treatment and taxpayers have saved $1.3 billion. And, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, numbers of nonviolent drug prisoners are down dramatically thanks to Prop. 36.
Visit http://www.Prop36.org for further information.
With Chicago among the major cities suffering a wave of overdose deaths from heroin cut with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin is proposing legislation to send federal funds to state-designed overdose prevention programs in a bid to cut the death toll. Hundreds of people have died since last fall, with major outbreaks in the past two months in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and the Mid-Atlantic Seaboard.
The Drug Policy Alliance had prodded Durbin to act and welcomed the bill's introduction. "Many policymakers have been sitting on their hands while people lose their loved ones to drug overdose, but Sen. Durbin has taken decisive action to save lives," said Bill Piper, DPA's director of national affairs."
AB 1147, the California hemp bill sponsored by San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno (D), has conquered another hurdle. The bill, which would permit California farmers to grow industrial hemp to produce hemp oil, seed, and fiber to sell to domestic and foreign manufacturers, passed the state Senate Public Safety Committee June 20 on a 4-2 vote.
"California farmers are missing out on a multimillion dollar market that already exists in California," said Leno in a statement. "Hundreds of hemp products are made right here in California, but manufacturers are forced to import hemp seed, oil and fiber from other countries. This measure will allow California to lead the way in tapping into a $270 million industry that's growing by $26 million each year."
Under current US law, it is legal to produce and sell industrial hemp products, but it is illegal to grow it here because the federal government has successfully argued that the hemp plant is under the purview of the Controlled Substances Act. Still, seven states -- Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia -- have changed their laws to give farmers an affirmative right to grow industrial hemp commercially or for research purposes.
The California bill was introduced in February 2005, and after a circuitous and torturous process passed the Assembly in January 2006. In the Senate, the bill now moves to the Rules and/or Agriculture committees before heading for a possibly floor vote.
In a bid to undermine federal intervention, the bill "would require industrial hemp to be cultivated only from seeds imported in accordance with federal law or from seeds grown in California, as specified" and would not authorize "the transportation or sale across state borders of seed or any variety of Cannabis sativa L. that is capable of germination." It also sets an upper permissible THC limit of 0.3% and requires laboratory tests of the crop to verify it.
The hemp bill has the backing of businesses selling hemp products and Vote Hemp, an industry organization, as well as farmers who can see dollar signs. "Industrial hemp is a bipartisan agricultural issue whose time has come," said David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps of Escondido, which imports hemp seed and oil from Canada and Europe for their soaps and snack bars, as he greeted an earlier vote on the bill. "We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars importing industrial hemp, so we think it is time to give California farmers a chance to grow it for us," added Bronner, who sits on the Vote Hemp board.
Ministers from the freshly elected government of Premier Romano Prodi said Monday they would move quickly to reform a harsh drug law passed in the waning days of the previous Silvio Berlusconi administration. Known as the Fini-Giovanardi law after the neo-fascist politician who sponsored it and the Berlusconi minister who pushed it, that law erased the distinction between hard and soft drugs and set personal drug use quantity limits so low as to render many drug users subject to prosecution as drug sellers.
Health Minister Livia Turco isn't waiting for legislative action, she told the conference. Turco said that while Ferrero's bill worked its way through parliament, she was acting immediately to take administrative measures to ease enforcement of the law. One such measure would be to raise the amount of marijuana a person can possess, she said. Under the Fini-Giovanardi law, people holding more than about five grams of marijuana can be charged as drug dealers. (The law actually specifies ½ gram of the active drug, THC; with pot at 10% THC content, it would take about 5 grams to come up with a ½ gram of THC.)
Turco also proposed a renewed emphasis on prevention, drawing the support of Minister for Youth Policies and Sports Giovanna Melandri. "The minister for youth policies is ready to play an active part in the work of drawing up such a plan", stated Melandri. "I am convinced that it is necessary to oppose the repressive culture of the Italian right, of which the Fini-Giovanardi law is a sign, with a culture of prevention and a strategy of social welcoming for the person and the families who live through the drama of drugs. It is the intention of this government to put an end to the era of demagogic proclamations and to start an era of serious policies in the struggle against drugs," she said in a statement quoted by the Italian news agency AGI. "From this point of view, I share the intention of Livia Turco to raise the maximum quantity of cannabis detainable without incurring the presumption of dealing, decriminalizing the consumption -- also for therapeutic purposes. Turco is moving in full harmony with the Union manifesto, agreed by all the parties in the current majority. The full commitment of the state needs to be directed towards the fighting and repressing traffic in drugs and towards the breaking up of criminal interests connected to this."
Both Ferrero and Turco have already raised the hackles of the rightist parliamentarians responsible for the current law. Earlier this month, Ferrero suggested Italy might follow the example of several of its European neighbors and introduce safe injection sites for hard drug users, and Ferrero caused a stir of outrage by suggesting that many professional people, including politicians, had used cocaine.
Ferrero was "pandering" to far-leftists who want to legalize drugs, rightist deputy Alfredo Mantovano of the National Alliance (AN) told ANSA. "Ferrero sees free pot and shooting-up as the one alternative to the centre right's reform," he claimed.
AN's Daniela Santanche struck out at Health Minister Turco, saying her decision to ease enforcement of the Berlusconi drug law pending the passage of legislation was "extremely serious" and "it sends a terrible message to young people."
But those are the people who lost the election. They don't have the votes to stop this, unless moderates in the governing coalition crumble.
Iranian officials used the occasion of the United Nations' global anti-drug day to criticize the lack of Western help in their effort to stop the tons of opium and heroin crossing through their country on its way from Afghanistan to Europe and warn they could turn a blind eye to the traffic if the UN doesn't come up with a massive increase in its anti-drug assistance.
With a long border with Afghanistan, the world's leading opium producer, Iran is being flooded with heroin and opium. While much of it is destined for European markets, enough is falling off the truck to make Iran the country with the world's highest rate of heroin addiction. Iranian border guards, police, and armed forces regularly do battle with armed smugglers from Afghanistan and Pakistan. More than 3,500 Iranian law enforcement and military personnel and 10,000 smugglers have died in the chronic low-level conflict in the past two decades.
This year, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provided $13 million to Iran for anti-drug efforts. But in remarks reported by the Fars News Agency, Iranian Anti-Drug Headquarters Secretary General Fada-Hossein Maleki said the UN needs to kick in $500 million for anti-smuggling, prevention, and treatment efforts inside Iran or Iran could just look the other way as Europe is flooded with Afghan heroin.
"For the moment, we do not allow drugs to transit, but if they do not aid us we will naturally reconsider," he told reporters on Sunday. "The West should have a lot to fear if Iran changes its policy," Maleki said, adding that Iran "cannot tolerate a selective attitude in contributing financial aid" to the war on drugs.
Iran has made tremendous efforts to block the traffic from Afghanistan, but with an 800-mile border across some very rugged and remote terrain, its efforts are more or less in vain unless somebody does something to rein in Afghan opium production, the drug czar complained. "All these US and British forces could stop poppy cultivation in Afghanistan if they wanted to," said Maleki.
Maleki's shot across the bow of the West was echoed by Iranian Prosecutor-General Ghorban-Ali Najaf-Abadi, also speaking at the global anti-drug day ceremony. If the West refuses to help Iran in its efforts to stop the traffic, he said, Iran would have to reprioritize. The Islamic Republic is struggling without enough resources and "in the meantime, we always review our policies and try to make optimal use of our experiences," he said. "If Western countries refuse to render assistance to Iran, we will not allocate such a large volume of our human and financial resources to a task which inflicts losses on Iran, but yields profits for the world."
Najf-Abadi also criticized the West for not striking harder against the trade that helps finance Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Today, some world powers allege that they are fighting terrorism, but actually they are not fighting its roots, because the financial resources of terrorism are provided through the drug production industry and money laundry, which are both ignored by the said powers."
Samuel Walker Says Scalia Twisted His Words in Opinion Cite, LA Times
Citizens Against Government Waste report, "Wasted in the War on Drugs: Office of National Drug Control Policy's Wasted Efforts"
Eric Sterling and Julie Stewart, "Undo This Legacy of Len Bias's Death," Washington Post
Ira Glasser on "Drug Busts=Jim Crow," for The Nation
Zogby Poll on "Attitudes of US Voters toward Prisoner Rehabilitation and Reentry Policies," commissioned by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency
John Stossel in the New Hampshire Union Leader on ""
ASA's Steph Sherer on tompaine.com about the Hinchey vote
Nathan Riley on Albany DA David Soares, for the Gay City News
June 30, 1906: Congress enacts the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, creating the FDA, limiting certain drugs to sale by prescription, and requiring the potentially habit-forming drugs be identified as such on their labels.
July 1, 1930: Congress passes the Porter Act, establishing the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), an agency independent of the Department of the Treasury's Prohibition Unit. The infamous Harry Anslinger is named Acting Commissioner, supposedly a temporary assignment but one which he retains for the next thirty years.
July 1, 1973: President Nixon establishes the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), intended to be a "superagency" capable of handling all aspects of the perceived drug problem. DEA consolidates agents from the BNDD, Customs, CIA and ODALE, and is headed by Myles Ambrose.
July 1, 1998: DEA Chief Thomas Constantine states on CSPAN2: "[In] my era everybody smoked and everybody drank and there was no drug use."
July 1, 2001: Portugal introduces Europe's most liberal drug policy to date with the implementation of new laws establishing no criminal penalties for using and possessing small amounts of not only cannabis but also heavy drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines.
July 4, 1997: Amado Carrillo who, according to the DEA, is the number one drug trafficker on the planet and chased world-wide, dies in a Mexico City clinic of post-surgery complications. He was attempting to change his face through plastic surgery by having excessive fat removed.
July 4, 2001: The Guardian (UK) reports that Sir Keith Morris, Britain's former ambassador to Colombia, said, "It must be time to start discussing how drugs could be controlled more effectively within a legal framework. Decriminalization, which is often mentioned, would be an unsatisfactory halfway house, because it would leave the trade in criminal hands, giving no help at all to the producer countries, and would not guarantee consumers a safe product or free them from the pressure of pushers. It has been difficult for me to advocate legalization because it means saying to those with whom I worked, and to the relatives of those who died, that this was an unnecessary war. But the imperative must be to try to stop the damage. Drug prohibition does not work."
July 5, 1999: In response to Governor Gary Johnson's call for a debate on drug legalization, organizations in New Mexico form an alliance to examine alternative options to current drug policies.
July 6, 1919: A Los Angeles Times article entitled "Officers Object to 'Dream Weed' Crop," includes an account of a woman believed to be the state's first medical marijuana arrestee, a Mexican maid who insists that she was raising marijuana to make tea for stomach trouble.
Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].
July 3, 8:00pm-1:00am, Portland, OR, benefit concert for Citizens for a Safer Portland marijuana low-priority initiative, featuring music State of Jefferson and The Buffalo Riders and guest Rob Kampia of MPP. At Lola's Room, 1332 W. Burnside St. (below the Crystal Ballroom), 21 and over, admission $15 at door, visit http://www.makeportlandsafer.org or call (503) 236-0205 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 http://www.smoke-in.org for further information.
July 14, 5:30-8:00pm, Chicago, IL, cocktail reception with Judge James P. Gray, author of "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs." Sponsored by the Heartland Institute, at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, 163 East Walton Place, admission free, contact Nikki Comerford at (312) 377-4000 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 http://www.i-liberty.org by April 10 for information or to apply -- apply before March 31 and receive a free book.
July 21, 7:00pm, Washington, DC, "Race to Incarcerate," book talk with The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer. At Politics & Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, visit http://www.politics-prose.com for further information.
July 22, 1:00-4:20pm, Laguna Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Main Beach, Pacific Coast Highway and Broadway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.
July 24, 7:30pm, Asheville, NC, fundraiser and art opening benefiting the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 20th Anniversary Celebration at Burning Man 2006. Space limited, tickets $45 minimum donation for first ten, $50 minimum for second ten, $50 for next fifteen. At the Flood Gallery, Phil Mechanic Building, 109 Roberts St., contact Logan MacSporren at (772) 708-6810 or [email protected] to RSVP or for further information.
August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org for further information.
August 26, 1:00-4:20pm, Huntington Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Huntington Beach Pier, 315 Pacific Coast Highway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.
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 http://www.MassCann.org for further information.
September 23, 1:00-4:20pm, San Clemente, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At San Clemente Pier, Avenida Del Mar, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.
October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit http://www.madisonnorml.org 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 http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ 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 http://www.methconference.org for info.
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