(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)
Issue #449 -- 8/18/06
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Table of Contents
David Borden, Executive Director
There are plenty of reasons besides drug trafficking for putting this guy away -- his cartel is a major party to the drug trade violence plaguing the Tijuana region that has already claimed some 1,500 lives. Some of the murders have been unspeakable in their sheer gruesomeness. The organization was responsible for the infamous 1993 assassination of Cardinal Juan Posadas Ocampo as he waited to meet an arriving papal official in Guadalajara airport.
Though we don't lament Arellano's loss of freedom, there is much to lament in the system that made him possible, a system that in its impact if not intentions has claimed so many lives and will continue to in the future. Cocaine traffickers and their henchmen are not killing people because they are high on cocaine; they are killing people because that is a part of business -- making money -- in this lucrative criminal enterprise. We know from long experience that taking out one drug lord, even dismembering an entire trafficking organization, only leads to the growth or establishment of a new one, with no reduction in the amount of cocaine getting taken to market. DEA officials acknowledged this even as they celebrated their high-profile capture -- they even predicted violence would result from it, as rival traffickers fight to fill the void the capture has created.
The most notorious drug lord, perhaps, was Medellin, Colombia cartel builder Pablo Escobar, taken down in a hail of bullets by government forces acting under the leadership of attorney general Gustavo de Greiff. De Greiff's public commentary was infinitely more enlightened than we should ever expect to hear from the DEA. De Greiff explained in the media that nothing would happen to the flow of cocaine, the Medellin will just be replaced by another cast of characters, the answer is... legalization. Of course the DEA and their bosses at the Dept. of Justice didn't like that. But he was right. (Click here to hear what de Greiff had to say at our 2003 Mexico conference.)
So while DEA's chieftains will undoubtedly continue to savor the afterglow for weeks or months to come, in the meanwhile the victims of drug prohibition will continue to needlessly suffer and die. Because there is always another cartel, another leader waiting in the wings, another vendor or middleman willing to sling a gun to get his share.
The Colorado secretary of state announced Wednesday that an initiative that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for people aged 21 and older has submitted sufficient signatures to make the November ballot. Organized by SAFER Colorado, the group that won a surprise legalization initiative victory last year in Denver, the Colorado Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative would push the state to the forefront of marijuana law reform by simply changing one sentence in the state statutes.
The announcement came less than two weeks after SAFER Colorado handed in more than 130,000 signatures, well more than the 80,000 needed to qualify for the ballot. The secretary of state's office certified the measure for the ballot based on a statistical sampling of the signatures.
"We are thrilled," said SAFER Colorado's Steve Fox. "We had well more signatures than we needed, and that allowed us to get this quick qualification instead of having the secretary of state going though our petitions line by line," he told Drug War Chronicle.
The initiative, which will be known as Amendment 44 on the ballot, asks voters to vote yes or no on the following question: "Shall there be an amendment to section 18-18-406 (1) of the Colorado revised statutes making legal the possession of one ounce or less of marihuana for any person twenty-one years of age or older?"
Under current Colorado law, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by a fine up of to $100. According to legislative staffers who prepared an analysis of the initiative, some 3,700 adults were convicted of simple marijuana possession last year.
Colorado now joins Nevada as states where voters this November will decide whether to radically reform the marijuana laws. In Nevada, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and its local affiliate, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana are pushing an initiative that would not only legalize possession of up to an ounce, but would also allow for the regulated sales of like amounts.
MPP is not involved in the Colorado effort, but hopes it succeeds, said communications director Bruce Mirken. "This was a little bit of a surprise," he told Drug War Chronicle. "We wish them well. Nobody should underestimate these folks -- they surprised the whole world with their success in Denver last year."
In an odd way, that victory spurred the statewide effort. After the citizens of Denver voted for the ordinance, local law enforcement officials refused to abide by it, instead choosing to prosecute people under the state law. SAFER Colorado wants to take away that option. If the measure passes in November, communities in Colorado that want tougher marijuana laws would have to pass local ordinances and charge offenders under them.
The campaign will continue to emphasize its tried and tested theme that marijuana is safer than alcohol and, at the least, should not be treated more severely. That theme resonated strongly with students at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, both of which passed non-binding resolutions calling for equalization of penalties, as well as with voters in Denver last fall.
SAFER Colorado campaign director Mason Tvert was right on point Wednesday. "The campaign will highlight the hypocrisy of laws that prohibit the use of marijuana while allowing and even encouraging the use of alcohol, an infinitely more harmful drug," he said in a statement greeting the secretary of state's announcement.
Now it is time to win the election, said Fox. "We are doing some fundraising so we can distribute our materials and get our message out," he said. "We have a lot of fun items -- t-shirts, buttons, stickers -- that are aimed at people who support us but who don't necessarily get around to voting all the time. It is their duty to get out and vote, and we will do what we can to encourage them."
It will be an uphill battle to win in November. In the only polling done so far on the measure, the Denver Post found it losing 51% to 37%. But Fox looked at those figures and found the glass half full.
"We think that's pretty good as we head into this campaign," he said. "If only 51% support marijuana prohibition before we've even really begun to get our message out, we think we have a pretty good chance of winning. Listen, SAFER is the Barry Goldwater of marijuana. Even if we don't win this time, we are saying what should be done with the confidence that people will come around to our position. It is an undeniable truth that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol," he said. "Our campaign is here in Colorado, but this is about ending marijuana prohibition across the country, not just in one state. We are in this to win over the long haul."
One bright spot for the campaign is the lack so far of any organized opposition. "We have a crazy drug warrior lady who is making noise, but she is not a sophisticated opponent," said Fox. "We have seen one outside drug warrior set up an issue committee here in Colorado, and there are rumors that the attorney general is planning to put together an opposition group possibly made up of law enforcement officials, but that hasn't happened yet," he explained. "We hope that the law enforcement community will understand that they are law enforcers, not law makers, and they should let the people decide what the laws will be."
Colorado's official nickname is the Centennial State, but one of its unofficial sobriquets is the Highest State, based on its towering mountains and its average elevation. If Colorado voters approve Amendment 44 in November, undoubtedly many will consider it to be even more deserving of that nickname.
For the past two decades, zero tolerance policies have been the law of the land in high schools across the country. An outgrowth of the federal government's twin concerns over drugs and guns in the schools, such policies are designed to inflexibly punish infractions large or small with suspensions, expulsions and/or referral to law enforcement authorities. But critics of zero tolerance deride it as creating a "school to prison pipeline" and being ineffective to boot. Now educators with a pragmatic approach to student drug use are gearing up for an October conference in San Francisco to present workable, humane, and effective alternatives to the draconian approach popularized in the Reagan administration and still widely embraced in schools across the country.
The Beyond Zero Tolerance conference is set for October 25 and is aimed at teachers, administrators, and school board members, said Marsha Rosenbaum of the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the groups sponsoring the event. Other sponsors include the city and county of San Francisco, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the San Francisco Medical Society, the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, and the International Institute for Restorative Practices.
Rosenbaum is not merely another drug reformer; she is an educator, researcher, and leading advocate of more sensible policies for dealing with student drug use. Her Safety First project is a key resource for teachers and administrators seeking more effective means of addressing the issue. Safety First played a key role in laying the groundwork for the October conference.
"This conference is an outgrowth of work we have been doing for some years now," Rosenbaum told Drug War Chronicle. "Three years ago, we convened a statewide task force here in California to come up with a statement about what effective drug education would look like, and we produced a booklet called Beyond Zero Tolerance that combines three elements that hadn't been combined before: drug education that is honest and science-based, approaching the kids in an interactive and participatory manner, and employing restorative practices instead of punishment. We were advocating a process by which students are brought in closer and accepted by the school community after they make amends instead of being suspended, expelled, or otherwise subjected to punishment."
By last fall, it was becoming apparent that the approach was garnering broad interest among educators. "Safety First was getting lots of requests from educators asking us what our approach to drug education at the secondary level would be," said Rosenbaum. "What would it look like? And can you train us on this? We had no idea our approach would resonate so much with educators. This conference is a response to the demand, and it is really aimed at teachers, administrators and school board members. We aim to combine education policy with restorative practices and show educators how they can implement the beyond zero tolerance approach."
"Restorative practices deal with restoring community in an increasingly disconnected world," explained Ted Wachtel, director of the Pennsylvania-based International Institute on Restorative Practices. "People are happier, more productive, more cooperative, and more likely to make positive changes when authority is doing things with them rather than to them or for them. Restorative practices are about recognizing this."
Readers may be more familiar with restorative justice, a movement that began in the 1970s that seeks to put offenders and victims face to face to redress the harm caused rather than merely emphasizing punishment. "Restorative justice is a subset of restorative practices," said Wachtel. "Restorative justice by its nature is reactive, but restorative practices are proactive. These are things you can do in the schools and in the family, you can build social capital and a sense of belonging and connectedness on a proactive basis. That isn't something the justice system can do," he explained.
"Throwing young people out of school for drug offenses and a wide range of other misbehavior is simply not productive," said Wachtel. "It doesn't work. We treat drug and alcohol offenses as criminal matters when they are really a public health issue. If we are talking about students using drugs or alcohol, we are talking about people who need support and assistance in dealing more effectively with their lives. Throwing them out of school or turning them in to the police does not help change their behavior in a positive way."
The Oakland school district provides an idea of how such programs actually work. For the last nine years, that district has operated a program called Up Front, a harm reduction-based drug education and prevention program in its high schools. Program director Charles Ries will address the conference and explain what the Oakland schools are doing.
"We're a relationship-based, process-oriented group of people who believe that the best treatment and prevention messages must be based on science and accurately reported," Ries said. "We think the only way to help anyone decide what is in his own best interest is to engage him in an exploration of the issues," he told Drug War Chronicle.
Zero tolerance approaches simply don't cut it, said Ries. "People who actually do this work understand how ridiculous it is to try to indoctrinate young people with propaganda against the dangers of drug abuse. Try that with students these days and you'll get laughed out of town," he said. "There are many educators already adopting an approach similar to ours, but it's under the radar. The problem is not with the practitioners, but with administrators and policymakers who feel pressured by the federal government to comply with its programmatic philosophy that there is no such thing as responsible drug use and the only response is to just say no. Students are not having that, and when they realize we are not coming from that direction, they fall in love with us."
The program appears to be working well, said Ries. "We evaluate it both through the students, who say it is effective and report that it is often the first time they've been able to have honest conversations with adults about drug use, and through outside evaluators. We had one evaluation by the state and another by the school district, and both of them defined the program as exemplary. It's not rocket science. Having honest, respectful relationships with young people helps them listen to what you're saying. You are collaborating with them on what is in their best interest. That's how you change people's lives."
While the conference is set in San Francisco and weighted heavily toward California concerns, its scope is broader, said Rosenbaum. "We're not just aiming at California; this is a national and international event. We recognize there is interest from across the land and we are trying to have some scholarships available. If you are an educator who would like to attend but there is no money, you should inquire with us. What you will take away from this conference is plenty of materials and a solid argument for implementing such an approach in your school or district."
For more than four years -- since the day of the first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks -- the US Drug Enforcement Administration and its museum have hosted an exhibit that attempts to link drugs and terrorism. Known as Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause, the traveling exhibition has aroused much grumbling and sneering from people who argue that it is not drugs but drug prohibition that generates the illicit profits sometimes used by violent political groups.
It all started with some home-town concern on the part of Illinois State University theater arts professor and Drug War Rant blog author Peter Guither. After publicizing the exhibit's impending arrival on his blog and creating a new web site, DEA Targets America, the response from readers galvanized Guither, and allies began to arrive. By the time the exhibit hit Chicago last week, activists were on hand to hand out flyers in front of the museum and Guither and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) had issued press releases in an effort to draw media attention.
"I e-mailed our members in the Chicago area, and we were able to get some people to hand out flyers," said Angell. "We have some good people in the area."
The gambit paid off handsomely with a Washington Post story last Saturday titled "Drug-Terror Connection Disputed." That story, which was also picked up by newspapers in Knoxville, Indianapolis, and Tampa, quoted both Guither and SSDP's Angell, as well as Chicago teacher Jeanne Barr, who is also a member of SSDP. Congressional Quarterly also ran a story about the exhibit mentioning the contention that it is drug prohibition -- not drugs themselves -- that feeds terrorism, and even UPI ran a short piece mentioning the controversy on its international wire, a story that was picked up by the Washington Times.
The stories put the DEA on the defensive, with spokesmen Steve Robertson telling the Post: "We're a law enforcement agency -- we enforce the laws as they are written. Congress makes the laws. People say if we didn't have drug laws there wouldn't be a problem, but there was a problem before and that's why laws were established."
"I think we got the DEA flatfooted," said Guither. "You have that agent saying they just enforce the law, but they're out there lobbying for those laws. I don't think the DEA was ready for this."
"We did a little bit of judo on the DEA," said SSDP's Angell. "We took their message and spun it right back around on them. Reporters were intrigued by what we were saying. On the one hand, we were agreeing with the DEA's main point -- that profits from the black market drug trade can finance terrorism -- but we highlighted the fact that they are leaving out a large part of the story," he told the Chronicle.
"I was disappointed in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, though," Angell continued. "They just toed the DEA line. They didn't mention us by name or give us any quotes; they just had a line or two about 'critics say this.'"
Guither said he didn't really expect anything better from the local press. "Since both the Sun-Times and the McCormick Tribune Corporation were sponsors of the exhibit, I didn't expect either paper to do much criticizing. The mere fact that they mentioned critics saying the exhibit is propaganda is a victory in my view."
Activists were careful to target their ire at the DEA, not the Museum of Science and Technology. "We didn't want to protest the museum but the DEA," said Guither. "And we didn't feel like we could get into picking their implied falsehoods apart, so our focus was on the inappropriateness of the DEA connecting drugs to terrorism since it is prohibition that makes drug trafficking and its profits possible. Also, since this is Chicago, we have the whole Al Capone legacy. Mayor Daley invited this exhibit, yet he seems to have missed the whole connection between drug prohibition and alcohol prohibition and how the latter made Al Capone. What we have with this exhibit is a federal agency with a failing scorecard blowing its own horn and linking itself to the war on terror, when it is really the problem."
While the DEA lists no more cities on its traveling exhibit schedule, SSDP will be ready to go if and when the DEA show hits another city. "Since we already have the materials and the press releases, we'll just follow it wherever it goes," said Angell. "If we have people on the ground, we will organize them to pass out materials. They should know we're coming after them. If we annoy them enough, maybe they'll go away one of these days."
"I'm very pleased," said Guither. "This was fun. If we hadn't done what we did, it would have been the standard announcement: Here's a new educational exhibit. Bring your kids to learn about the dangers of drugs and how the DEA is saving you. But because of the work we did here, we've managed to turn this around on the DEA. That feels good."
It's not your typical week of corrupt cops this week. We've got the usual prison guard in trouble, but not in the usual way; we've got an LAPD officer arrested for making bad arrests; we've got an Alabama narc busted for stealing; and we've got an Alabama judge with an apparent bad habit. In regard to the judge, we don't typically run stories of cops facing simple drug possession charges, but when it's a judge who regularly sentences drug offenders, we think it's worth notice. Also this week, a pair of links to longer investigative pieces down by local newspapers about festering local corruption scandals. Let's get to it:
In Lowndes County, Mississippi, an Alabama judge has been arrested on methamphetamine possession charges, the Tuscaloosa News reported. Pickens County District Judge Ira Colvin was arrested Monday by Lowndes County sheriff's deputies at the same time they arrested a 36-year-old woman (not his wife) on the same charges, but in a separate vehicle. According to the Associated Press, Colvin was arrested as deputies investigated people driving from store to store to buy meth precursor materials. Precursors, a gram of powder meth, and two syringes filled with liquid meth were allegedly found in his car. Colvin's wife, Christy Colvin, was arrested on meth possession charges four months ago in Columbus, Mississippi, as she drove around town purchasing ingredients that could be used to make meth. Judge Colvin, who was appointed to the bench in December 2002 to replace a judge who resigned after being accused of improper contact with females involved in cases before his court, was indicted on federal bankruptcy fraud charges in May 2004 for allegedly hiding assets for a client in 2001, but those charges were dropped after Colvin apologized. He was awaiting a bail hearing Wednesday.
In Dothan, Alabama, a former Houston County narcotics officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges he stole property. Former Houston County Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Ducker was accused of stealing up to $30,000 worth of hunting equipment and accessories from Southern Outdoor Sports, where he once worked. Ducker pleaded guilty to first degree theft of property and faces from two to 20 years in prison when sentenced in October. According to WTVY-News 4, Ducker, a 25-year veteran of the sheriff's office, "hid behind his attorneys" as he entered the court house and "ran out of the courtroom after entering his guilty plea."
In Los Angeles, a veteran Ramparts Division LAPD officer was charged last Friday with making false arrests, the Los Angeles Times reported. Officer Edward Beltran Zamora was busted after he was caught in a sting by the LAPD Ethics Enforcement Section. The department says it has videotape of Zamora arresting two undercover officers posing as suspects on suspicion of drug possession when they did not possess drugs. Zamora, 44, has previously been accused of making false arrests, and the city of Los Angeles has already paid out $520,000 to settle two civil lawsuits filed against him. In one case, Zamora was accused of planting a rifle on a suspect, in the other, he was accused of planting drugs and a rifle. Zamora faces up to three years in prison on a felony count of filing a false police report. He also faces two misdemeanor counts of false arrest and false imprisonment. The 16-year LAPD veteran is free on bail.
In Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, a Texas jail guard was arrested Monday morning with 30 pounds of cocaine. According to KGBT-4 TV in Brownsville, Texas, Hidalgo County detention officer Pedro Longoria was arrested by Louisiana State Troopers and now faces charges of transporting cocaine. Longoria has now been fired from his job and is jailed pending a bond hearing.
For those interested in a more in-depth look at drug war-related police corruption at the local level, two recent newspaper articles are worth a read. In North Carolina, the Fayetteville Observer has a lengthy piece on "Operation Tarnished Badge," a federal investigation that has roiled Robeson County for the past few years, resulting in convictions of several officers and the dismissal or reversal of hundreds of drug cases. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, the Laurel Leader-Call has published an update on the ongoing investigation of the Southeast Mississippi Drug Task Force, which was shut down in April amid concern over "irregularities," with its story "Task Force Probe Nearly Complete".
Javier Arellano-Felix, a major player in one of Mexico's powerful and violent drug trafficking organizations, was arrested by the US Coast Guard in international waters off the coast of Mexico's Baja California. But even as federal law enforcement officials risked serious injury from all the back-patting going on at their celebratory press conference Thursday, they acknowledged that his arrest would amount to little.
"El Tigrillo" ("The Little Tiger"), as he is known in Mexico, was one of several organization members indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego in 2003 on charges they conspired to smuggle tons of cocaine into the US. He faces life in prison here.
"In the world of drug law enforcement, it doesn't get any better," John Fernandes, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's San Diego office, sat a mobbed news conference. "This is huge. The opportunity to capture a drug lord the caliber of Javier Arellano Felix is a unique event." His capture marks "the end of two decades of the most... powerful and violent drug-trafficking organization," he added.
And what that means in Mexico is a new round of violence as competing trafficking organizations fight to take advantage of the opening. Fernandes acknowledged as much, saying that violent jockeying for power is the likely result of Arellano's arrest.
Nor do authorities expect his arrest to make any significant difference. "In drug trafficking we're not naive enough to think that drug trafficking is going to stop," said FBI Daniel R. Dzwilewski, special agent in charge of the FBI's local office.
Still, it was a nice photo-op.
Representatives of 19 international and regional harm reduction organizations meeting in Toronto this week have issued a declaration calling for immediate action to address the spread of HIV through injection drug use. Known as the Declaration of Unity, the statement demands that governments and international anti-drug organizations stop impeding the adoption of harm reduction measures proven to reduce the spread of disease, such as needle exchanges and safe injection sites.
The groups urged governments to:.
Noting that UNAIDS cannot effectively slow the spread of HIV when forces within the UN system are creating obstacles to effective harm reduction measures, the groups demanded that:
The harm reductionists from around the globe were in Toronto for the International AIDS 2006 conference. "HIV is being spread increasingly -- in some parts of the world, chiefly-through the sharing of injecting equipment, said Dr. Diane Riley, who signed the declaration on behalf of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy and the Youth Network for Harm Reduction International. "Considerable evidence exists that harm reduction strategies such as needle exchange programs can effectively, safely and cheaply reduce the spread of HIV; yet very few such programs are in place. Governments are in effect spreading infection through their own drug control and enforcement policies which encourage use of non-sterile equipment, and marginalization and incarceration of users," Riley added in a press release announcing the declaration.
"The United States, the world's most important donor of international aid, restricts implementation of harm reduction strategies," Riley charged. "Political and social commitment, including commitment of the necessary resources, and an end to the US administration's embargo on harm reduction are needed now," Riley said. "If we fail to do this, further catastrophe is inevitable and the global economy will simply not be able to cope with the resultant burden."
If you want a snapshot of the current state of the drug war in the American heartland, Grayson County, Texas, is as good a place as any. Grayson County lies about an hour north of Dallas on US Highway 75 just south of the Oklahoma border. According to the US Census of 2000, the county has a population of 110,000, with some 35,000 people in Sherman, the county seat and largest town. The local economy is dependent on agriculture, manufacturing, and increasingly, the county's role as a drug distribution hub for the Texoma border region of which it is a part. And if last month's 336th District Court case dispositions are any indication, it either has a big methamphetamine problem or a law enforcement apparatus obsessed with finding one.
336th District Court judges generally came down hard on meth offenders. Of the 11 simple meth possession cases, four got probated prison sentences, three got state jail time (up to two years), and four got sent to prison for sentences ranging from thee to six years and averaging 4 1/2 years. The courts were especially tough on people seeking to buy chemicals to home-cook meth, handing out sentences of four, seven, and 10 years. The sole meth manufacturer got only 10 years probation, but he also got a two-year prison sentence for child endangerment.
The judges were also fairly tough on other drug offenders. The one gentlemen charged with marijuana possession in a drug free zone got two years in state jail, while one person convicted of cocaine possession got six years and the other got probation. The sole case of cocaine possession with intent to distribute garnered 10 years for the defendant.
The non-drug cases were a motley crew: One aggravated sexual assault of a child (15 years), one burglary of a habitation (nine years), one boating while intoxicated (three years), one credit card abuse (16 months), one endangering a child (two years), three evading arrest with a motor vehicle (two got two years each, one got probation), one failure to appear (three years), one forgery (two years), one retaliation (probation), and one theft over $1500 (15 months).
Without all those meth cases, the Grayson County Courthouse would be a lot quieter. In 13 of the 15 meth-related cases, there were no other non-drug-related charges, just people choosing an unpopular drug to ingest or try to make at home. Likewise with the other drug cases. Like good burghers everyone in America, the citizens of Grayson County are paying a lot of money to arrest, jail, convict, and imprison a lot of people who weren't doing anything to anybody.
A California woman whose infant son died with methamphetamine in his system will face a third murder trial, a Riverside County Judge ruled Monday. Amy Leanne Prien was convicted of second-degree murder in her son's death in 2003, but that conviction was overturned by an appeals court citing flawed jury instructions. A retrial ended in a mistrial in June after jurors deadlocked 6-6.
After the mistrial, Prien's lawyers moved to dismiss the charge, but Judge Patrick Magers declined. "It is abundantly clear to the court that the cause of death of the victim was methamphetamine intoxication," he said from the bench as he rejected the motion.
What is not so clear is where the meth in the child's system came from. Prosecutors have argued that Prien, an admitted long-time meth user, caused her child's death by feeding him her breast milk when she was using the popular stimulant. They argued that Prien continued smoking meth while breast-feeding, a charge she has consistently denied. She has suggested that a male guest in her home may have provided the drug to the baby.
A major problem for the prosecution is that the bottle of milk found beside the dead baby was misplaced by law enforcement and never tested for the presence of methamphetamine. And while Prien was tested and came back positive for meth, police never tested her breast milk. Los Angeles attorney Joe Reichmann, who is representing Prien, argued futilely that the charge should be dropped because it was based on "make-believe science" since prosecutors had no way of knowing the meth levels in her breast milk.
California prosecutors have repeatedly proven unable to make meth mother murder cases stick, and it is unclear why they are pursuing Prien with such a vengeance. It's not like she got off scot-free. In addition to losing her child, she is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for felony child endangerment in the same case.
Unnamed "Western officials" in Afghanistan are saying that the country's opium crop has increased by a whopping 40% over last year despite hundreds of millions of dollars in counter-narcotics funding and thousands of NATO and American troops in the zones of cultivation, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. Given what they were telling the AP, it is understandable why no one wanted to be named.
Afghanistan already accounts for almost 90% of total global opium production. Profits from the crop and the trade are widely viewed as helping fund Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents, who, along with drug lords threatened by eradication, are fighting Afghan, US, and NATO forces in an increasingly bloody campaign centered in the opium-growing southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Eradication efforts are also emerging as a double-edged sword: Wiping out the crop advances the aims of the drug war, but pushes peasants into the willing arms of the rebels. According to the UN, opium accounted for 52% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product last year.
"We know that if we start eradicating the whole surface of poppy cultivation in Helmand, we will increase the activity of the insurgency and increase the number of insurgents," said Tom Koenigs, the top UN official in Afghanistan, and about the only person willing to go on the record. He said the international community needs to provide alternative livelihoods for farmers, but warned against expecting quick results. "The problem has increased, and the remedy has to adjust," he said.
"It is a significant increase from last year... unfortunately, it is a record year," "a senior US government official based in Kabul" told the AP. "Now what they have is a narco-economy. If they do not get corruption sorted they can slip into being a narco-state," he warned. "We expected a large number (crop) this year but Helmand unfortunately exceeded even our predictions."
A survey of British attitudes toward drug policy has found that a majority of people are ready to decriminalize marijuana or make it an offense equivalent to a parking fine. But the poll also found that a solid majority draws a distinction between "soft" drugs like marijuana and "hard" drugs like cocaine and heroin. Most people do not want to see any lessening of restrictions on the use or sale of hard drugs.
The survey's release this week comes with Britain in the midst of a battle over redefining its largely drug war-style drug policies. Just two weeks ago, a parliamentary committee studying drug policy released a report calling Britain's drug classification scheme unscientific. Marijuana policy continues to bedevil the British, as does rising cocaine use and high levels of use of other drugs. The government is also discussing drug policy now because in two years it must evaluate its current 10-year strategy.
Marijuana is currently a Class C drug -- the least serious drug category -- and possession offenders are typical ticketed, while marijuana sales remains a serious crime punishable by up to seven years in prison. Only 38% wanted both possession and sales to remain criminal offenses, while 30% wanted lesser criminal penalties for possession only, 13% wanted simple possession totally decriminalized, and another 15% wanted to see both sales and possession treated as not a crime. In other words, 58% of respondents favored marijuana policies more lenient than current policies.
Attitudes were much tougher toward "hard" drugs, with 73% of respondents favoring the status quo. Only 17% favored lesser criminal penalties for simple possession and only 6% favored entirely decriminalizing possession. The poll didn't even ask whether anyone would favor legalizing the hard drug trade.
Respondents also broadly agreed that a new drug classification scheme, perhaps containing a Class D for drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, would be a good thing by a margin of 56% to 30%. When it comes to comparing the harms of various drugs -- licit and illicit -- respondents ranked heroin as worst, followed closely by cocaine, solvents, ecstasy, and tobacco in descending order. Marijuana was rated as less harmful than any drugs except prescribed tranquilizers and coffee.
The British citizenry also displayed an awareness of the notion of harm reduction, with a whopping 89% agreeing that: "Whether we like it or not, there will always be people who use drugs and the aims should be to reduce the harm they cause themselves and others."
If this survey is any indicator, it looks like the British public is ready for some more rational drug policies. The question is: Is the British political class ready?
August 18, 1989: Luis Carlos Galan, a Colombian presidential candidate who spoke in favor of extradition, is assassinated at a campaign rally near Bogota. That evening, President Virgilio Barco Vargas issues an emergency decree reestablishing the policy of extradition. In response, the "Extraditables" declare all-out war against the Colombian government and begin a bombing/murder campaign that lasts until January 1991.
August 18, 1996: In San Francisco, a city church distributes marijuana to patients who possess a doctor's recommendation in wake of the temporary injunction closing the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club. "I believe the moral stance [in this instance] is to break the law to make this marijuana available," said Rev. Jim Mitulski of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco. "Our church's spiritual vitality has always come from a willingness to act where people have been reluctant to act. This is not a bystander church."
August 20, 1990: The US House of Representatives Committee on Government Operations releases a report on the results of Operation Snowcap, the Reagan-Bush administration program aimed at stopping the flow of drugs into the United States at their source. Snowcap's goal had been to eliminate coca crops, cocaine processing laboratories, clandestine landing strips, and other trafficking operations in the coca producing countries of South America. The report found that less than one percent of the region's cocaine had been destroyed by this campaign and that authorities in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia were deeply involved in narcotics trafficking.
August 20, 1994: The Guardian (UK) reports that Raymond Kendall, secretary general of Interpol, said, "The prosecution of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens every year is both hypocritical and an affront to individual, civil, and human rights... Drug use should no longer be a criminal offense. I am totally against legalization, but in favor of decriminalization for the user."
August 22, 2001: Associated Press and EFE reports that Colombian Senator Viviane Morales introduced a bill in congress to legalize and regulate drugs under a state-controlled monopoly, calling prohibition "the great ally of the narco-traffickers" and that her objective is to "create political deeds to open a debate about legalization because the prohibitionist alternative is not the solution for Colombia."
August 22, 2003: David Borden, Executive Director of the Drug Reform Coordination Network, writes an open letter to the Chief Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Rufus G. King III, stating his refusal to serve jury duty. "...I have determined that unjust drug laws, and the corrosion wrought by the drug war on the criminal justice system as a whole, compel me to conscientiously refuse jury service," said Borden. Read the full letter at http://stopthedrugwar.org/openletter/judge-king-letter.shtml.
Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].
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 http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.
September 1-4, Manderson, SD, Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At Kiza Park, three miles north of town, visit http://www.hemphoedown.com 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 pounds (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 http://www.MassCann.org for further information.
September 21, 8:30pm, Los Angeles, CA, "Extravaganja: A Medical Marijuana Comedy Show." Benefit at the Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., visit http://www.greentherapy.com or e-mail [email protected] 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.
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 http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ 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 http://www.ssdp.org 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 http://www.methconference.org for info.
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