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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #448 -- 8/11/06

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"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Table of Contents

    It need not be a source of evil...
    In a time of global insecurity we need clearer thinking from our leaders about this issue.
    South Dakota's medical marijuana campaign has sued the state attorney general over ballot explanation they charge is illegally misleading.
    With the federal prison system stuffed with nonviolent drug offenders, activists are turning to the NASCAR circuit to rally support for a federal parole bill.
    A Portland effort to place a "lowest law enforcement priority" marijuana law reform initiative on the November ballot came up short this week.
    More problems in Memphis, a former cop goes down in St. Paul, and a Virginia deputy gets caught smuggling goodies into the local jail.
    Marijuana legalization could be on the ballot in Colorado in November. Initiative organizers turned in more than 110,000 signatures Monday.
    Local organizers in two Michigan communities submitted signatures for marijuana-related initiatives this week and are now awaiting official word on whether they will make the November ballot.
    The nation's largest public service employees union has joined the ranks of organizations backing the medicinal use of marijuana.
    Faced with a rising number of heroin overdose deaths, Boston is about to join the handful of cities that supply the heroin antidote naloxone to drug users.
    Tennessee prosecutors may have to go back to the drawing board after a circuit court judge ruled they were misinterpreting the state's new law restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine.
    Lebanese hash has long been a favorite with Israeli tokers, but now some are calling for a boycott, saying the trade helps fund Hezbollah.
    DRCNet's weekly compilation of interesting web links about the drug war.
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    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: Legalize the Drug Trade to Cut Off Terrorism Funding

David Borden, Executive Director

David Borden
A conflict that doesn't make the US radar screen as often as it merits is the civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. The Tigers are a nasty group that among other abuses uses children as soldiers. (I don't know enough about Sri Lanka's government to venture an opinion on its own human rights record -- a quick web search did not turn up anything quite so obvious or outrageous, though I'm slow to trust any government overmuch.) I'm not too familiar with the causes of the conflict or the issues that are driving it. Regardless, the Tigers are bad news. Naturally, media outlets located closer to the conflict cover it much more prominently.

An article in the Asia Times last weekend reported in detail on the buildup of arms on both sides and predicted intense resumed fighting. The drug trade came up:

The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly charged that the Tigers' ships transported illegal drugs from Myanmar, though no concrete evidence of this has been presented. However, the Tigers do seem to have close links to organized criminal groups in Russia, Lithuania and Bulgaria, as well as foreign terrorist groups.

Whatever their source, the Tamil Tigers appear to have ample funds to acquire weapons from anywhere and everywhere. Modern assault rifles, machine-guns, anti-tank weapons (rocket-propelled grenades), mortars and even man-pack SA-7 surface-to-air missiles from Russia, China and Europe.

Without concrete evidence, one should never fully trust any government's accusations of drug trafficking made against its opponents -- not only because the government has an incentive to make its opponents look as awful as possible, but also because there are drug-fighters within the government who want the money and crave the attention, and because it is a tactic governments use to try and get the international community and the US in particular more involved with their fights.

That said, it could certainly be true -- John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute, a Canadian think-tank concerned with organized violence and political instability, discussed the issue of terrorist groups using the drug trade to finance their activities in an interview with this newsletter in October 2001 -- it is a substantial factor for many such organizations, and something that tends to keep them around as mere criminal organizations once the political and ideological conflicts have faded.

An arguably more reliable information source than many governments on the issue -- the Orthodox Anarchist blog, published from Jerusalem -- has made a similar observation about the hashish trade in Israel, which is extensively if not primarily supplied by Hezbollah, according to sources quoted. Author Dan Sieradski wrote last month that, "with a heavy heart, I am officially boycotting hashish effective immediately," confessed to having unintentionally helped to fund Hezbollah rockets through his consumption of it, and urged "all my Israel-based readers to cease their consumption of hashish immediately, for the sake of Israel and for the sake of the Lebanese living under the yoke of Iran and Syria's oppression by proxy."

Sieradski went on to recommend, as "an imperfect solution," that the foreign trade be replaced with a domestically-supplied market through decriminalizing the growing of a small number of marijuana plants in the home. So while Sieradski has proferred this confession for himself and friends for their small part of the illicit drug trade with all its evils, he has also implicitly pointed out the blame that governments deserve for creating all of it through drug prohibition. On that idea, outright legalization would be closer to a perfect solution.

Not a perfect one, of course -- there is no perfect policy toward the permanent human issues and shortcomings that exist in relation to the use of mind-altering substances. But it is a better solution than any other. I can't say to what extent the illegal drug trade is helping Hezbollah, but clearly drug prohibition is a major contributor to violence, be it global, localized, political or economic. It is only because of prohibition that the world's underground economy is of such a size that it can help terrorist groups so very much, enough to literally cause civil wars to escalate in places like Sri Lanka or Colombia.

In a time for which political violence has become the defining issue, to continue to support it through ill-conceived laws when viable alternatives exist is senseless. It is time for some clear thinking on this issue from our leaders.

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2. Feature: South Dakota Medical Marijuana Patient Sues Attorney General Over Bad Ballot Summary Language

South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long (R) has his hands full this week as roughly half a million bikers cram into the small town of Sturgis for the 66th Annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally. The normally placid area has already seen two motorcyclist deaths in accidents, one murder, and a shootout between members of the Hell's Angels and Outlaws biker gangs that left five people wounded. And that's with things just getting underway.

But Attorney General Long has another problem this week, and he can't blame this one on the bikers. Medical marijuana patient Valerie Hanna, chief spokesperson for South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana, filed a suit against him Wednesday in the state capital, Pierre. The lawsuit charges that his description of the group's medical marijuana initiative is so unfair and inaccurate that it violates state law.

The tightly written measure, based largely on neighboring Montana's successful 2004 initiative, allows seriously ill patients to possess up to one ounce of usable marijuana and six plants if they have a doctor's recommendation and have registered with the state and obtained an identification card. Patients who comply with those rules would be protected from arrest and prosecution by state authorities. The measure also allows patients to designate a caregiver to grow marijuana for them. It creates protections for doctors who advise their patients that the benefits of using marijuana outweigh the risks, and it imposes restrictions on public use and driving under the influence.

Under South Dakota law, the state attorney general is charged with writing descriptions of all measures appearing on the ballot. Under the law, the ballot description must be an "objective, clear, and simple summary" of the measure. The attorney general's summary is the only description of the initiative voters will see when they cast their ballots in November.

Long didn't get off to a good start. Before he even got to the ballot summary itself, he decided to change the very name of the measure. Known from the beginning and filed with the state as "An act to provide safe access to medical marijuana for certain qualified persons," Long decided it would be better titled as "An Initiative to authorize marijuana use for adults and children with specified medical conditions." The complete text of his ballot explanation is as follows:

Currently, marijuana possession, use, distribution, or cultivation is a crime under both state and federal law. The proposed law would legalize marijuana use or possession for any adult or child who has one of several listed medical conditions and who is registered with the Department of Health. The proposed law would also provide a defense to persons who cultivate, transport or distribute marijuana solely to registered persons. Even if this initiative passes, possession, use, or distribution of marijuana is still a federal crime. Persons covered by the proposed law would still be subject to federal prosecution for violation of federal drug control laws. Physicians who provide written certifications may be subject to losing their federal license to dispense prescription drugs.

"This is just wrong," said Hannah. "The attorney general is making it sound like doctors could be prosecuted and children would have access to marijuana. We filed this lawsuit to force him to act within the law and treat this ballot measure fairly," she told Drug War Chronicle.

"The legal brief filed today lays out in chapter and verse how deeply messed up that ballot language is," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Washington, DC-based Marijuana Policy Project, which financed signature-gathering for the initiative and intends to protect its investment. "What the attorney general did in his summary is absolutely illegal. The state law is quite clear that he is supposed to prepare a brief, accurate, factual summary of an initiative, not provide a bunch of speculation and conjecture," he told the Chronicle. "For all practical purposes, this is an editorial against the initiative. That an inaccurate and misleading summary is the last thing voters will see is just outrageous."

The South Dakota Attorney General's office did not return Drug War Chronicle calls asking for an explanation of the ballot language or comment on the lawsuit.

An accurate explanation of the measure will be critical in South Dakota, a socially conservative state dominated by conservative politicians who have never met a drug war they didn't like -- or a medical marijuana claim that they did. Medical marijuana bills have died a lonely, ignominious death in the state legislature, and the state courts passed on an opportunity to allow medical marijuana users to raise a medical necessity defense. South Dakota is a state where people actually are sentenced to jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and it has "internal possession" laws that allow prosecutors to pile yet another charge on anyone they catch.

"For medical marijuana users here, the fear is real," said Harper, a nurse and 10-year veteran of the armed forces who was exposed to nerve gas while serving in the Gulf War and has been using marijuana to alleviate her symptoms for the past six years. "I smoke three times a day, and my body can be used to convict me. It's already happened once. I was pulled over for speeding on the way to the VA hospital and I had enough marijuana for a two-day supply," she related. "They charged me with both possession and internal possession and I had to pay $500. That's how it is for patients around here. You take money from sick patients or you waste money throwing sick patients in jail."

Harper isn't the only medical marijuana patient who is afraid, but, given the repressive atmosphere in South Dakota, it is not surprising that she is one of the few willing to speak out. A Huron resident and cancer patient who is using marijuana to alleviate nausea related to chemotherapy told the Chronicle he would like to speak out, but feared drawing attention to himself. "I've already been busted for this," he said. "I don't want to get raided again."

If that patient is to win the protection that would be afforded by the South Dakota medical marijuana initiative, the least he deserves is a level playing field when it comes to the ballot language. South Dakota Attorney General Long has yet to demonstrate he is willing or able to do that. Now, initiative organizers and medical marijuana patients are looking to the courts to make him do his job.

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3. Feature: Federal Sentencing Reform Goes NASCAR

With the federal prison system stuffed to the gills and still growing, pressure for sentencing reform is building. One bill aimed at helping ex-offenders, the Second Chance Act, is moving in Congress and could pass this fall. Coming right behind it is H.R. 3072, a bill that would reintroduce parole into the federal system. And in a novel effort to broaden support for the parole bill, some of its supporters are bringing the issue to the massive NASCAR racing audience.

In the first of series of NASCAR events, on August 23 the Carter 2 Motorsports team will compete in the race at Bristol, Tennessee, using that opportunity to publicize the parole bill, as well as the organizations backing the effort, Federal CURE and FreeFeds. More than 160,000 are expected to attend, with a television audience estimated at 3 million. The effort will also be the focus of a PBS documentary with an audience estimated at between 10 and 14 million viewers when it reaches the air.

"I was a federal prisoner myself," said Carter 2 Motorsports main man Roger Carter II, who served nearly three years for a white collar offense. "I met a lot of wonderful people in prison, nonviolent drug offenders. I was able to go home after a couple of years, but these guys are serving 10, 20, 30 years or more," he told Drug War Chronicle. "Don't get me wrong. I believe people who break the law should be punished, but this is about fair and just punishment. What gets you six months in the state courts can get you six years in the federal system, and that's just not right."

While Carter's effort is relatively recent, he is encouraged by the reaction he is getting. "The support has been overwhelming," he said. "People are really susceptible to this and the press is eating it up. The whole idea is to get this before the public because people need to see where their tax dollars are going. Anyone who looks at H.R. 3072 is pleased to see it is a common sense approach to imprisonment instead of just throwing people away for no reason," he said, adding that he has H.R. 3072 messages painted on his NASCAR truck and stock car, as well as on his web sites and e-mails.

Since Congress abolished parole in the "sentencing reform" of 1986, the federal prison system has grown progressively larger, filled increasingly with nonviolent drug offenders doing lengthy sentences with no chance of more than highly limited early release for good behavior. As of this week, the federal Bureau of Prisons put its prisoner count at more than 191,000, with 54% serving time for drug offenses.

George Martorano (courtesy We Believe Group)
That number includes George Martorano, the man who carries the unlucky distinction of being the longest serving nonviolent offender in federal prison to date, a fate he earned through a first-time marijuana offense. Martorano is now 23 years into a life sentence with no chance of parole. It was Martorano's plight that inspired Florida resident John Flahive to join the fight for sentencing reform.

"I was courting a young lady, and one night when I was at her house, the phone rang with a message. It was a call from a federal inmate," Flahive explained. "It was George, and the young lady was his sister. She told me he was doing life without parole and I asked her how many people he killed," he told the Chronicle. "He didn't kill anybody. He was involved in a deal -- around 2400 pounds of pot. After a while, I went to visit him, and found he was a pretty nice guy -- he writes books and teaches other inmates and has a perfect prison record. We figured we had to help him out somehow, so we created the We Believe Group to try to raise awareness of his plight."

It has been an education, said Flahive. "I started working on this five years ago. Before that, I wasn't involved, I didn't even vote," he explained. "I figured George's case was a screw up, but as I got more involved, I realized there were thousands of Georges rotting away in there." As a result, Flahive has broadened his activism and is now working to get sentencing reform legislation through Congress. He, too, will be heading to the NASCAR tracks along with Carter in an effort to bring the message to the masses of racing fans.

"I'm working with Federal CURE on this," he said. "They've got two motor homes that we will dress up with H.R. 3072 and we'll have lots of literature to hand out. People listen when you tell them if they pay federal taxes they are affected by the cost of the federal prison system. Federal parole could save $4 billion a year," Flahive claimed.

Rep. Danny Davis
The federal parole has been around for awhile and was originally sponsored by Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI), but since her unexpected death in 2002, Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) has taken up the gauntlet and is now the lead sponsor. Davis was traveling and unavailable for comment this week, but his communications director, Ira Cohen, told the Chronicle the bill could use all the help it can get. "Rep. Davis is proud of all that he has accomplished with the Second Chance Act and the parole bill, and he continues to look for support," said Cohen.

A source close to Davis told the Chronicle that Davis is concentrating this fall on the Second Chance Act as a means of opening the door to a serious discussion of sentencing reform in Congress. "The strategy has always been to press for another bill to pass first, and the Second Chance Act is very close now," the source said. "If it passes, the congressman intends to use that opportunity to have this broader discussion on the parole bill because it will open up the whole issue of broader federal criminal justice reform."

But Flahive, Carter, and 100,000 federal drug war prisoners aren't waiting for Congress to act -- they're pushing it to act. In addition to the Bristol race on the 23rd, Carter and his H.R. 3072 car and truck will be racing NASCAR tracks at New Hampshire, Martinsville, and Homestead and taking the message to the masses. "Like anything else, once this gets some momentum, once politicians see they can benefit from voting for this, it'll be all over. We're here to help the people get the politicians to that point."

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4. Feature: Signature Drive for Portland "Lowest Priority" Marijuana Initiative Falls Short

Voters in Portland, Oregon, will not be voting this November on an initiative that would have made marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority for city police and prosecutors. Despite spending nearly $100,000 in an effort to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, initiative organizers came up short.

Sponsored by Citizens for a Safer Portland with financial backing from the Washington, DC-based Marijuana Policy Project, the initiative would have created a city ordinance defining marijuana law enforcement as the lowest police priority and would have barred city law enforcement from accepting state or federal funds to enforce the marijuana laws. It would also have created a civilian oversight committee to monitor compliance by law enforcement and would have required Portland police and prosecutors to make periodic reports on marijuana arrests and prosecutions.

marijuana bust near the Portland suburb Wilsonville
Portland was to have been the largest of a number of West Coast cities to challenge the marijuana laws. Still, similar efforts are alive and well in four California cities, outright legalization is on the ballot in Nevada, and it looks like voters in Colorado will also have a chance to vote for marijuana law reform.

"It is a disappointment," said MPP communications director Bruce Mirken. "I haven't seen any sort of post-mortem that would say clearly what went wrong, but you can't be happy about investing in a project and not succeeding. The bright side is a number of these initiatives did succeed in getting on the ballot in other places," he told Drug War Chronicle.

Portland initiative organizers needed to turn in 26,691 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The group managed to gather just over 40,000 signatures, but by the time it scrubbed the list for duplicates and invalid signatures, they were down to 31,523. But then the city threw out several hundred sheets containing nearly 4,500 signatures because signature-gatherers had initialed the sheets instead of signing them with their full names. By then, the signature count had dwindled to 27,174, so when a city election office random sample of the remaining signatures showed about one-third invalid signatures, organizers conceded defeat.

"That matched with our internal validity checks," said Citizens for a Safer Portland's Chris Iverson. "That meant there was no way we could make it; we were only about two-thirds of the way there," he told Drug War Chronicle.

Iverson said the failure to get the required signatures was a combination of organizer error and a hostile local election machinery. "We made some mistakes along the way," he conceded right off the bat. "When we first started, we didn't budget for duplicates and out-of-Portland signatures because I had no idea there would be so many. If we had been through this before, we would have been aware of this," Iverson said.

"We had 4,500 signatures thrown out for what they call circulator error," Iverson complained. "Here in Oregon, we have very strict rules. If they can't read the circulator's signature on the page, they go to a voter registration database. If they can't match the signatures, they throw out the whole page. We had two people who each did hundreds of sheets, and their sheets were thrown out because they used shorthand versions of their names," he explained. "We thought because we had official documents, we would be okay, especially because they had allowed it in the past with other campaigns. But they said they would not count them because they weren't an exact match."

Such official inflexibility thwarts the democratic impulse, Iverson said. "These kind of rulings are unfair and anti-democratic," he said. "A lot of initiative campaigns here are having problems with this rule."

Iverson and Citizens for a Safer Portland may be bloodied, but they are unbowed. "This initiative helped bring together people who would never have sat foot in the same room before, and we are ready to get ready for the next project. I've been an activist for 15 years, and I consider myself a professional campaigner. Professional campaigners don't make the same mistakes twice."

Iverson wants to help others avoid making the same mistakes too -- he is putting together a package of questions that would-be initiative organizers should address before moving forward with a campaign.

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

Another week, another set of corrupt cops. More problems in Memphis, a former cop in St. Paul gets indicted in a major coke and meth haul, and yet another prison guard gets caught smuggling dope behind the walls.

In Memphis, three police officers have been indicted on charges they ripped off drug dealers and arranged to sell the drugs themselves. Memphis Police Officers Antoine Owens and Alexander Johnson joined with former officer Arthur Sease in setting up drug deals, then swooping in with uniformed officers, detaining the drug dealers, and stealing their drugs, cash, and jewelry. According to WREG-TV in Memphis, police are naming Sease as the ringleader. He faces a 50-count indictment with charges including conspiracy, extortion, possession of a controlled substance, and numerous civil rights violations. Officers Owens and Johnson are charged with two conspiracy counts.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, a retired police officer was indicted on federal drug charges Tuesday, KSTP-TV reported. Former officer Clemmie Howard Tucker, 51, was identified as the man who tried to pick up a suspicious package at a Minneapolis bus depot. That package contained 22 pounds of cocaine and eight pounds of methamphetamine. The 25-year veteran faces one count each of attempting to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine.

In Richmond, Virginia, a Henrico County sheriff's deputy was charged last Friday with smuggling drugs, cigarettes, cigars, and other contraband into the Henrico County Jail. Deputy Ronald Washington, 23, allegedly made more than $1,000 for his efforts. Washington is charged with felony delivery of a controlled substance to a prisoner and misdemeanor delivery of articles to prisoners, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. He is being held without bond at the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover County.

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6. Marijuana: Colorado Legalization Backers Turn in 110,000 Signatures in Ballot Bid

Organizers of an initiative that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in Colorado turned in more than 110,000 signatures to the secretary of state Monday afternoon. The initiative needs 67,829 valid signatures to make the November ballot.

If the measure makes the ballot, Colorado will join Nevada as states where voters will have a chance to decide on removing all criminal penalties for the possession of personal amounts of marijuana by adults. Currently, Alaska is the only state to allow adults to legally possess marijuana -- up to one ounce in the privacy of their homes.

Organized by SAFER Colorado, the initiative is an effort to replicate the success the group had in Denver last year, where residents voted to legalize the possession of up to an ounce under city ordinance. Denver police and prosecutors, however, have ignored that vote and continue to ticket and arrest people under state law.

"This past November, the people of the city of Denver voted to make the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal for adults under city ordinances," said SAFER campaign director Mason Tvert. "Yet our cowardly city officials blatantly ignored the will of the people and have continued arresting and prosecuting Denver residents under state law for making the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol. We think that is wrong, and it appears more than 110,000 people in the great state of Colorado agree with us."

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7. Marijuana: Michigan Organizers Hand in Signatures for Two Local Ballot Initiatives

Tim Beck of Michigan NORML reported via email Wednesday that two marijuana-related local initiatives had met their deadlines for handing in signatures. One initiative would make marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority, while the other one is a medical marijuana initiative.

In Niles, Southwest Michigan NORML chairman Don Barnes and campaign coordinator Greg Francisco presented the Niles city clerk Tuesday with 596 signatures to place a lowest priority initiative on the ballot. Under the initiative, possession or use of up to 1.1 ounces of marijuana by adults on private property would be the Niles Police Department's lowest law enforcement priority. They need 440 valid signatures to make the ballot. The city of Niles now has one week to announce whether enough valid signatures were turned in.

Also Tuesday, the Flint Coalition for Compassionate Care handed in over 2,000 signatures seeking to put a medical marijuana initiative before the voters there in November. The initiative would create a city ordinance granting medical marijuana users an exemption from the marijuana laws. The coalition needs 1,150 valid signatures and expects to have a yes or no by the end of next week.

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8. Medical Marijuana: AFSCME Endorses Medical Marijuana

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the country's largest public service workers' union, passed a resolution endorsing medical marijuana at its national convention in Chicago Tuesday. AFSCME thus becomes the latest major civic organization to advocate for access to therapeutic cannabis.

Passed on an overwhelming voice vote by convention delegates, the resolution notes that marijuana has been shown to effectively treat illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Crohn's disease, chronic pain, and the side effects of medical treatments for these illnesses. And here's the bottom line: "Therefore, be it further resolved that AFSCME endorse and support legalization of medical marijuana for appropriate medically indicated ailments, including but not limited to AIDS, HIV, cancer, arthritis, etc."

AFSCME represents some 1.4 million American workers in both the public and private sectors, including bus drivers, child care providers, custodians, librarians, and other state, local, and federal government employees. Of particular relevance to drug policy issues, AFSCME also represents nurses and corrections officers. Some 6,000 delegates are meeting all week in Chicago for the union's 37th annual convention.

"Our efforts to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest are gaining new momentum every day," said Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, DC. "This year alone, we've seen such new supporters as the Presbyterian Church (USA), Citizens Against Government Waste, and now AFSCME. With support this broad and growing this fast, it's no surprise we saw record support in the US House of Representatives this year, and we expect to keep building this large and powerful coalition."

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9. Harm Reduction: Boston About to Move to Supply Addicts with Heroin Antidote

Boston public health authorities will likely approve a trial program providing heroin users with naloxone (brand name Narcan) next week, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday. If the Boston Public Health Commission indeed approves the program, it will join cities such as Baltimore, Chicago, and New York where authorities have already approved its distribution to drug users.

In many locales, only paramedics or hospital emergency rooms administer the drug, which can stop a heroin overdose from turning into an overdose death. But with Boston facing a high number of heroin overdose deaths -- fatal overdoses increased 50% between 1999 and 2003 -- city health officials want to put the drug where it can do the most good most quickly: in the hands of drug users.

"The number one hope with this is to save lives," Public Health Commission executive director Joel Auerbach told the Globe. "Our paramedics have said it's a miracle drug. They've seen people who are comatose who are then revived and perfectly fine."

The trial run is expected to enroll 100 heroin users, who would have to undergo training and evaluation, as well as listen to encouragements to quit. But if they were not prepared to stop using, they would be instructed in how to administer Narcan. Then they would be given a prescription for two doses.

The proposed move comes just a week after the Office of National Drug Control Policy -- the drug czar's office -- rejected the idea as somehow encouraging drug use. "We don't want to send the message out that there is a safe way to use heroin," ONDCP spokesperson Jennifer DeVallance told the AP.

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10. Methamphetamine: Tennessee Judge Throws Out Manufacture Precursor Cases

Last year, Tennessee adopted a law restricting the purchase of over-the-counter cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine as part of an effort to rein in home cooking of the popular stimulant methamphetamine. The law limited purchases to no more than nine grams of pseudoephedrine in a 30-day period.

meth lab
Police in East Tennessee's Marion County collected pharmacy records of pseudoephedrine purchases and compared them to lists of people previously arrested for cooking meth, then used those records to arrest more than 80 people in April on charges of promoting methamphetamine manufacture. At least 30 of them were accused of making multiple pseudoephedrine purchases that put them over the nine-gram limit. But now a judge has ruled that local prosecutors were misinterpreting the new law.

In an August 3 ruling, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Graham threw out cases against 30 defendants, saying that he read the law to mean that prosecutors cannot use multiple purchases to argue someone exceeded the nine-gram rule. "It is clear that since none of the purchases in these cases exceeded nine grams, the state simply cannot legally make a promotion case as to any of these defendants," he wrote. The law must apply to only a single purchase if it is to withstand a constitutional challenge for vagueness, he wrote.

Graham apparently listened to Public Defender Phil Condra, who argued in a June hearing that the law puts innocent consumers at risk because its vagueness allows police too much discretion in making arrests. Condra suggested that people could end up being arrested for buying match books or coffee filters or other common items that can be used in meth manufacture.

In an earlier filing, assistant Tennessee attorney general Preston Shipp scoffed at the notion. There was "no possibility of conviction of an innocent person who purchases, as the defendant suggests, two packages of coffee filters, with neither knowledge that it will be used to produce methamphetamine nor reckless disregard of its intended use," he wrote. But that wasn't enough to convince Judge Thomas.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Tennessee attorney general's office will challenge the ruling. According to David McGovern, an assistant district attorney general for the 12th Judicial District, prosecutors will argue that the law applies to the "aggregate amount. We think it reads a little broader."

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11. Middle East: Now, Israelis Call for Boycott of Hezbollah Hashish

Israeli drug users have long been happy to puff on Lebanese hashish, but now, as war between the two countries rages, some are calling for a boycott because the cross-border trade helps finance Hezbollah, The Jewish Daily Forward reported Thursday. Hashish is the most popular form of marijuana in Israel, and Lebanon is the number one supplier, according to Israeli law enforcement.

The boycott call came from activist and Jerusalem resident Dan Sieradski, who posted the idea on his Orthodox Anarchist blog. "A Persian-backed terrorist organization is the primary supplier of hashish to the Israeli market today," Sieradski wrote. "And this is why, with a heavy heart, I am officially boycotting hashish, effective immediately."

Persian smoking hashish
Hashish grown in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley has traditionally been smuggled into Israel by Israeli Arabs, Bedouins, and Druze nomads, but the Forward reports that since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah has taken over the trade -- and the associated profits. "Hezbollah is directly overseeing the entire operation," Police Captain Avi ElGrisi was quoted as saying in The Jerusalem Post. "They say where, when, and how much drugs are brought in."

Sieradski's call has met with mixed results. For some Israeli hash heads, the boycott is a way of expressing their dismay at the war and Hezbollah's relentless rocket attacks on Israel. "The thing is, if you buy your drugs from Lebanon, you could well be funding terrorism through Hezbollah against Israel," one user commented. "Who among us would want that on their conscience? Not me!" Another young boycotter commented: "It's bad enough that they're trying to blow up our country. I'm not going to pay them to do it."

Not everyone is on board. The Forward quoted one Jerusalem area dealer as saying, "It all comes from Hezbollah," but he could care less. His comment on the boycott? "Roll that shit, light that shit, smoke that shit."

The boycott call has also prompted some to argue that it is time to legalize the hash trade in order to weaken Hezbollah. As long as there are illicit profits to be made, it's money in the bank for the Shiite resistance organization, they noted.

The boycott call may also be an expression of the reality on the ground inside Israel. With the Lebanon-Israel border the scene of heavy fighting, it is questionable just how much Lebanese hash is getting through right now.

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12. Web Scan: New Video from "Emperor Of Hemp" Creator, Jim Hightower on Marijuana War, Spitzer Flakes on Medical Marijuana

Get Off the Pot, George!," new video from Emperor of Hemp creator Jeff Meyers -- currently ranked #2 in the Huffington Post Contagious Festival

Jim Hightower blasts "The Government's Sick War on Marijuana"

Geoffrey Gray on "Eliot Spitzer Chokes on Pot Deal," New York magazine

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13. Weekly: This Week in History

August 11, 1991: Following ten months of research, the Pittsburgh Press begins a six-day series on asset forfeiture abuse, chronicling what it calls "a frightening turn in the war on drugs." The Press reveals that seizure and forfeiture have done enormous collateral damage to the innocent.

August 12, 1997: The US Justice Department announces there will be no indictments issued in the killing of Esequiel Hernandez, Jr., an 18-year-old American citizen killed by US Marines on an anti-drug patrol while herding goats near the border town of Redford, Texas. Lt. General Carlton W. Fulford, who conducted an internal military review of the incident, said the killing might not have happened at all had civilian law enforcement agencies been patrolling the border.

August 14, 2002: Twelve hundred medical marijuana patients, many suffering from life-threatening illnesses, lose their supply of medicine when Ontario police raid the Toronto Compassion Centre.

August 15, 1988: In his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention, George Herbert Walker Bush states, "I want a drug-free America. Tonight, I challenge the young people of our country to shut down the drug dealers around the world... My Administration will be telling the dealers, 'Whatever we have to do, we'll do, but your day is over. You're history.'"

August 16, 1996: While visiting San Francisco, US drug czar Barry McCaffrey claims to media, "There is not a shred of scientific evidence that shows that smoked marijuana is useful or needed. This is not science. This is not medicine. This is a cruel hoax and sounds more like something out of a Cheech and Chong show." Advocates later point out that there is scientific evidence supporting medical marijuana.

August 17, 1999: CNN reports that federal authorities say they are sweeping up the last few indicted members of a major drug trafficking network that shipped tons of mostly Colombian cocaine and marijuana throughout the United States. Nearly 100 suspects have been indicted in "Operation Southwest Express" and 77 have been arrested in raids in 14 cities.

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14. Weekly: the Reformer's Calendar

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

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

August 22, 9:30-11:30am, Chicago, IL, "Intersecting Voices: Impacts of Illinois' Drug Policies," forum by the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy. At the Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, Roosevelt University, Congress Lounge, 2nd Floor, 430 S. Michigan Avenue, call (312) 341-2457 by August 18 to RSVP. For further information, contact Kathleen Kane-Willis at (312) 341-4336 or [email protected].

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 for further info.

September 1-4, Manderson, SD, Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At Kiza Park, three miles north of town, visit for further information.

September 7, London, United Kingdom, "Advancing Harm Reduction: International Lessons for Local Practice -- Highlights from 17th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm in Vancouver, May 2006." Registration £47 (including VAT) including refreshments and lunch, for further information contact Michelle Vatin at 0207 272 6902 or [email protected].

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.

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 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 for further information.

October 28-29, 11:00am-7:00pm, San Francisco, CA, "Second Annual Wonders of Cannabis Festival," benefit for the Cannabis Action Network and Green Aid, hosted by Ed Rosenthal. At the Hall of Flowers, Golden Gate park, individual admission $20, 18 and over, contact Danielle at (510) 486-8083 or [email protected] 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].

November 17-19, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference and Training Workshop. At the Georgetown University School of Law, including speakers, training sessions, a lobby day and more. Further information will be posted soon at online.

December 1, 6:30pm, New York, NY, First Annual Charity Dinner/Fundraiser for In Arms Reach: Parent Behind Bars: Children in Crisis, with former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks. At the Great Hall of City College, call (212) 650-5894 for further information.

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

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