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Drug War Chronicle #468 - January 12, 2007

1. Editorial: Newark Deserves Better From Its Leaders

A new anti-drug department in New Jersey's largest city will bring everything the mayor and police chief say they don't want.

2. Feature: More Cops Died Directing Traffic Than Waging the Drug War Last Year

Police portray themselves as up against dangerous criminals as they fight the war on drugs, but you might be surprised...

3. Law Enforcement: DEA Lax on Handling Seized Cash, Audit Finds

DEA agents seize hundreds of millions of dollars a year in drug busts, but a Justice Department audit finds the agency is pretty lax in its handling of all that cash.

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

Hiding marijuana inside cannoli, taking cocaine from a murder scene, and peddling cocaine are all on the radar this week. So is an investigation into drug smuggling at a US Air Force base in England.

5. Law Enforcement: Faced With Rising Murder Rates, Newark and New Orleans Turn to Repressive Drug War Strategies

Faced with rising crime and murder rates, city officials in Newark and New Orleans are blaming drugs and using more of the same old same old to try to crack down.

6. Law Enforcement: Small-Time Drug Possessors No Longer Charged as Felons in Wichita -- Cops Grumble

Police in Wichita are no longer charging small-time hard drug possession as a felony -- less than a quarter-gram of meth or coke, and all you get is a misdemeanor paraphernalia charge, and you don't even go to jail!

7. Law Enforcement: Woman Arrested Over Flour-Filled Condom Wins $180,000 in Suit Settlement

Bryn Mawr coeds apparently liked to squeeze condoms filled with flour to fend off stress over final exams, but when one student tried to take one home for the holidays, she ended in jail for three weeks charged as a drug trafficker. Now the city of Philadelphia gets to pay for its mistake.

8. Medical Marijuana: Colorado Case Will Test State's Law

The arrest of a pair of registered Colorado medical marijuana patients last fall is setting off a legal battle that will help clarify the state's medical marijuana law. But if they lose, they face up to six years in prison.

9. Newsbrief: White House Announces Dates, Locations for 2007 Regional Student Drug Testing Summits

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy will once again sponsor a series of regional summits to encourage middle-school and high-school administrators to enact federally sponsored random student drug testing -- but you can go too.

10. Latin America: Mexico Considering Creation of "Drug Czar" Post

Early in his presidential term, Mexican leader Felipe Calderon has already called out the army to fight drug traffickers. Now, his government is pondering the creation of a "drug czar" to coordinate the fight.

11. Europe: European Union Funds Dialogue With Civil Society on Drug Policies

The European Parliament has budgeted $1.3 million to promote a dialog with civil society over its continent-wide drug policy review set for next year.

12. Weekly: This Week in History

Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.

13. Web Scan

Colbert Report, Tyrone Brown Support Letters, The Nation, In These Times, NCCD, Tasers, Drug Truth Network, Cannabinoid Chronicles, DOJ Study

14. Announcement: DRCNet Content Syndication Feeds Now Available for YOUR Web Site!

Support the cause by featuring automatically-updating Drug War Chronicle and other DRCNet content links on your web site!

15. Announcement: DRCNet RSS Feeds Now Available

A new way for you to receive DRCNet articles -- Drug War Chronicle and more -- is now available.

16. Job Listing: Outreach Director Position Available at Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Washington, DC

A great opportunity to work with students building the drug policy reform movement.

17. Job Listing: Program Coordinator, Public Health Program, OSI-Budapest

Work on harm reduction in Hungary!

18. Announcement: New Format for the Reformer's Calendar

Visit our new web site each day to see a running countdown to the events coming up the soonest, and more.

Editorial: Newark Deserves Better From Its Leaders

In a move reminiscent of Mexico's repeat struggles with the drug trade -- every so often an entire police agency gets disbanded (because it's been too corrupted -- Tijuana just last week) and then reconstituted (to contend with a crisis of crime and violence) -- the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, announced that the city has created a new narcotics unit in an effort to reduce the city's homicide rate.

David Borden
The announcement came a day after two teenagers were killed in a gun battle in a Newark housing project, according to an article Tuesday in the New York Times. In another sign that the nationwide drop in violence of recent years may be reversing, 2006 saw Newark's homicide rate reach its highest level in a decade -- 104 murders -- and the shootings of the two youths over the weekend were the fourth and fifth already this year.

Mayor Cory Booker expressed compassion for the victims, despite their participation in violence that led to it: "These men are not saints who have died, but they are our sons... Take away my tie, take away my suit, and about 10 years, and I fit that description: young black men dying in our city at rates that are unacceptable."

My question for the mayor is about the nature of the response. If the people doing the fighting are members of our collective family, to be rescued where possible from a negative environment that has lured them into a criminal lifestyle, why is the centerpiece of the new effort a law enforcement campaign that can only end with the long-term incarceration of many of "our sons"? Youthful confusion and feelings of desperation don't magically end after 17 years and 365 days, and New Jersey's drug laws for adults are harsh, as are federal drug laws. How many of "our sons" will end up in prison for long periods of time, sent there because of this new program?

Another telling comment came from Police Director Garry McCarthy, who according to the article explained that Newark had gone without a special narcotics unit for years because of fears that such work would corrupt the investigators. He went on to explain some safeguard measures they are putting in place to prevent this. I'm skeptical -- there's an awful lot of money involved in the drug trade, and as Drug War Chronicle readers know, reports of police corruption from around the nation abound every week. It's awfully hard to avoid it -- remember Mexico.

Further words of caution came from John Jay College of Criminal Justice sociologist Peter Moskos, who witnessed similar efforts during his time as a police officer in Baltimore. "No one has figured out a way for police to hold a neighborhood," he told the Times. I'd add to that, if they do, for even a very short time, shouldn't we just expect the profitable drug trade to move to a different neighborhood? There aren't enough troops (oops, police) to monitor every street corner throughout the city, and there never will be.

Moskos pointed out that "[w]hen narcotics squads bust into your house, it's not a pleasant experience." But McCarthy promises to treat the anti-drug fight as a "ground war" -- a sign that Newark's already beleaguered urban poor should expect more doors to be battered in on them. McCarthy and Booker should bear in mind the recent Atlanta and New York tragedies (killings of unarmed people by police that have prompted widespread outrage) before they tell their troops (oops, police, why do I keep doing that?) to fight a "ground war" that can only lead to more such carnage.

Forming a task force or division is a good way, politically at least, to be able to claim that you're doing something about the problem. But that doesn't justify ignoring overwhelming evidence, amassed over decades, that the strategy won't work, and that the reason it won't work is that it can't. Newark deserves better from its leaders than this.

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Feature: More Cops Died Directing Traffic Than Waging the Drug War Last Year

Last Saturday night, Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Calvin Jenks, part of the self-described "wolf pack" of troopers who prowl the highways looking for drug traffickers, found what he was looking for. But when he pulled over a vehicle with Texas plates late that night, its occupants shot him dead. When they were arrested soon after, police indeed described them as drug runners. Trooper Jencks thus became yet another law enforcement casualty of the drug war.

less dangerous for cops than inhabitants, apparently
That is not a surprise, right? Waging the war on drugs is dangerous and requires heroic sacrifices as police routinely go up against deadly drug dealers and deranged drug users. At least that's the official line, routinely promulgated by law enforcement officials who speak of lethal cartels and dealers using high-powered weapons. It is a notion reinforced by countless TV programs that glorify police as "the thin blue line" that, at great personal risk, protects us from those druggies. Indeed, the brave officer fighting the drug war is an essential part of the worshipful mystique that surrounds the men and women in blue.

It turns out that while enforcing drug laws is not exactly safe, statistically it's not especially dangerous either. According to Drug War Chronicle research based on reports at Officer.Com, which compiles a list of all line of duty police deaths nationwide based on press reports and reports from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), despite making nearly two million drug arrests last year, only four American police officers were killed enforcing the drug laws, and in only two of those cases was drug law enforcement the direct cause of death. One undercover officer was killed making a drug buy, one officer was killed serving a drug arrest warrant, one highway patrolman died in a crash on the way to a drug bust, and one officer was killed when he intervened in a clash between rival drug gangs.

Here's the complete list:

  • In March, Sgt. Jeremy Newchurch of Louisiana's Assumption Parish Sheriff's Office was shot and killed in a struggle with a suspect while serving felony drug warrants.
  • In May, Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Eduardo Chavez was killed in a single-vehicle traffic accident while racing to the scene of a drug bust west of Sullivan City.
  • In August, Beckley, West Virginia, Police Detective Cpl. Charles Smith, 29, was shot and killed while making an undercover drug buy.
  • In December, Puerto Rico Police Department Agent Juan Jose Burgo-Velez, 36, was shot and killed when he and other officers intervened in a shoot-out between rival drug gangs.

The number of officers killed in the drug war last year, is similar to, although slightly lower, than in recent years. While the NLEOMF has not yet released official figures on drug enforcement-related officer deaths for last year, it has for previous years. Seven officers were killed in drug-related incidents in 2000, 13 in 2001, 2 in 2002, 13 in 2003, 14 in 2004, and 10 in 2005.

According to the NLEOMF, 151 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, but more than half of them died from vehicle accidents (61) or job-related medical events such as heart attacks (18). One officer was stabbed to death, one was beaten to death and 54 were killed by gunfire. According to the Officer.Com compilation, more law enforcement officers were killed directing traffic than enforcing the drug laws.

Given that there are hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers in the US, that's not a high mortality rate for policing as a profession. In fact, being a police officer doesn't even make the US Department of Labor's top-10 list of the most dangerous jobs. (For the curious, the most dangerous occupation is logger, followed in order by aircraft pilot, fisherman, steel worker, garbage man and recycler, farmer, roofer, power line worker, truck driver, and taxi driver.)

Given the low mortality rate for police in the drug war -- 4 deaths in 1.8 million arrests -- critics of heavy-handed drug law enforcement tactics, such as the reliance on paramilitarized SWAT-style teams serving drug search and arrest warrants, have even more reason to wonder if they're really necessary. According to some estimates cited in civil liberties policy analyst Radley Balko's Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America, as many as 40,000 SWAT raids, most of them for drugs, take place each year now.

"This suggests that drug offenders aren't the violent criminals police often make them out to be, particularly the low-level people these SWAT tactics are so often directed against," Balko told the Chronicle. "It also backs up studies that say weapons are rarely found, and when they are, they're not the sort of high-power, high-caliber weaponry the SWAT advocates always say they will find."

Ronald Sloan, director of the National Narcotics Officers' Associations Coalition, seemed bemused by the low police drug war fatalities numbers, but still defended aggressive police tactics. "My partner was killed in a drug raid," he told the Chronicle. "I was a narcotics officer for 20 years. It's the most dangerous work there is." As for the SWAT raids, said Sloan, "Those guys are trained for those situations. They're less likely to get shot than a bunch of narcs kicking in the door."

Jack Cole, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, has long experience as a narc, too. "I worked 14 years undercover in narcotics," the former New Jersey narc told the Chronicle. "I wasn't worried much about somebody trying to kill me. Not the drug dealers; they're business people, they'd rather get away from the cop than shoot him, because they know then there would be a thousand more cops coming after him."

But it was another prohibition-engendered predator that gave Cole the willies doing undercover work. "The one group we were worried about was not the drug dealers, but the rip off artists who think they're stealing money from just a drug dealer, they shoot the guy and take the money. They don't even know you're a cop."

For Cole, the heavy reliance on SWAT-style raids is unnecessary and dangerous, at least for the civilians involved. "When you factor in the number of people killed in SWAT raids, they are way over the top," he said. "Like that 92-year-old lady in Atlanta, Kathryn Johnston. SWAT creates that sort of situation."

While there are no firm numbers on the number of people killed in police drug raids, Balko's "Overkill" lists dozens of incidents where civilians, some innocent, some guilty of a drug offense, were killed or wounded, and more where police shot the dog. The same report also lists incidents where police officers died in drug raids. While, as we have seen, the number of police killed in the drug war is low, the raids do kill them sometimes, too.

It seems that in the drug war at least, the police are pretty good at protecting themselves. Now the question is who will protect us from them?

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Law Enforcement: DEA Lax on Handling Seized Cash, Audit Finds

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has rules in place to safeguard the hundreds of millions of dollars of cash seized or forfeited from drug suspects each year, but DEA agents largely ignore them, a review by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General has found. The lax handling of all that cash is an invitation to theft and corruption, the audit warned.

seized cash
The audit examined thousands of seizures between October 2003 and November 2005. During that period, DEA agents made more than 16,000 seizures totaling nearly $616 million. According to Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, author of the audit, DEA agents frequently failed to count the cash they seized, often didn't provide receipts, rarely bothered to record the seizures in agency ledgers, and frequently failed to have colleagues witness the counting and handling of the money.

"Failure to establish effective controls for safeguarding seized cash can lead to discrepancies, accusations of theft, or misappropriation of seized cash," Fine wrote in a fine display of bureaucratic understatement.

The lax procedures led to at least 12 instances where either the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) or the Office of the Inspector General's Investigations Division investigated allegations of missing or stolen cash, Fine noted. "The investigations showed that DEA personnel did not follow established controls for safeguarding the seized cash," he wrote. "Problems identified include agents not counting the seized cash, not providing a DEA-12 receipt to the suspect, and transporting the seized cash without a witness present."

Kind of makes you wonder just how much cash got up and walked away, doesn't it?

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Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Hiding marijuana inside cannoli, taking cocaine from a murder scene, and peddling cocaine are all on the radar this week. So is an investigation into drug smuggling at a US Air Force base in England. Let's get to it:

At Lakenheath and Mildenhall US Air Force bases in England, a dozen US Air Force members are under investigation for alleged drug smuggling. Air Force officials have denied British newspaper reports that military planes were used to smuggle drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy, in military planes. The investigation began in September and first came to light in October. No one has yet been charged, but 11 servicemen from Lakenheath and one from Mildenhall are being questioned by the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations. Two British civilians have also been questioned. Some 27 servicemen and women were arrested in a drug investigation at Lakenheath in 2002.

In San Antonio, a city police officer is under investigation for taking cocaine from a crime scene. Officer Eric Rubio is accused of taking a bag of cocaine from the scene of a shooting. Rubio told investigators he forgot he had the drugs and took them home, then flushed them down the toilet. He has passed a voluntary drug test, the department reported. But the department's Internal Affairs unit is investigating whether he should be charged with tampering with evidence. Rubio is on desk duty until the investigation is completed.

In Hempstead, New York, a Nassau County jail guard was arrested January 4 after he tried to smuggle marijuana stuffed into cannoli into the jail. Rocco Bove, 24, was arrested after he dropped off a box for an inmate. When officers checked it, they found marijuana, rolling papers, matches, and a flint pad inside. Bove had removed the cream filling from the cannoli, stashed the marijuana inside in plastic bags, then refilled the tube-shaped shells of fried pasta. Bove has been suspended without pay and charged with promoting prison contraband and unlawful possession of marijuana.

In Orlando, a Florida prison guard went on trial last week over his role in arranging a 13-pound cocaine deal. Michael Wright, 29, a lieutenant at the Indian River Correctional Facility in Vero Beach, was indicted along with one other man on one count each of conspiracy to distribute narcotics after agreeing to sell 13 pounds of coke for $20,000. The deal never went down because Wright and his accomplice fled when they noticed a law enforcement helicopter circling the area, but they were soon arrested. Wright faces a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence if found guilty.

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Law Enforcement: Faced With Rising Murder Rates, Newark and New Orleans Turn to Repressive Drug War Strategies

With spates of murders early this year in Newark and New Orleans bringing public concerns about rising violent crime rates in both cities to the boiling point, officials in both are calling in reinforcements. But the responses by city and law enforcement officials in both cases are essentially more of the same old approach to the intertwined problems of urban poverty, crime and violence, and the drug trade under prohibition. And if Thursday's noisy mass march in New Orleans is any indication, maybe some citizens are beginning to say enough is enough.

New Orleans police (courtesy
In Newark, Mayor Cory Booker and his police director announced Monday they would try to attack the city's rising homicide rate by forming a new central narcotics division. With five killing already this year, all drug-related according to city officials, the city is on track to exceed last year's 104 murders, the most in a decade.

"It's clear we have a problem," Booker said as he announced the program. "This last seven days -- we cannot avoid it, we cannot apologize for it." His audience at the unveiling included high-ranking police officers, members of the Central Narcotics Division (as the new unit is called), and the local head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The bottom line is this: If we're going to reduce violence in this city, we have to affect the narcotics trade," said the police director, Garry McCarthy. In prose eerily reminiscent of President Bush's Wednesday speech on Iraq, McCarthy talked of a "ground war" to clear out drug dealers and related crime from city neighborhoods and keep them out. "It's important that we go and get the bad guys before they kill each other, and hurt other people in this city," Mr. McCarthy said.

Meanwhile, New Orleans, confronted by nine murders in the first eight days of this year, announced a crackdown on violent crime. "We are drawing a line in the sand, saying enough is enough," Nagin said Tuesday. "We're going to put all our resources to focus on murder and violent crime." Nagin's plan includes targeting violent crime by operating police checkpoints between 2:00am and 6:00am, when about one-third of the city's violent crime occurs. Despite a 2000 Supreme Court decision ruling unconstitutional checkpoints whose purpose is law enforcement rather than public safety (e.g. drivers license checks, sobriety checks), New Orleans officials have openly stated they will use the checkpoints to search for drug and alcohol violations as well as drivers license and insurance checks.

The city's criminal justice system overall remains broken down in the aftermath of Katrina, with jails overflowing and the courts backed up and still handling pre-Katrina cases. Since the storm, the New Orleans Police Department has shrunk from 1,700 to 1,400, but crime has been on the rise despite a city population that has shrunk from 455,000 before the storm to 200,000 now.

Today, some 3,000 New Orleans residents took their festering dissatisfaction with both the police and the criminals to the streets. "Dirty Cops Can't Clean Up Our City," read one placard.

The city is already being patrolled by some 300 National Guard troops and 60 state police. They came in last summer after five teenagers were killed in one night. Gov. Kathleen Blanco was reportedly in meetings Wednesday with National Guard and state police officials to discuss the situation.

The situation is as bizarre, if not quite as dangerous, across the river in Gretna. There, in suburban Jefferson Parish, Sheriff Harry Lee attributes a slowdown in killings there to his force's use of armored vehicles. "We have the money and we're going to spend it on the things that will help us fight this problem," Lee said Wednesday at a news conference in Gretna. He is also starting up a unit known for aggressive street sweeps that he had to disband in 2004 after allegations of steroid use and other offenses by its officers.

Armored vehicles, checkpoints, ground war, "clear and hold." Which war is this again?

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Law Enforcement: Small-Time Drug Possessors No Longer Charged as Felons in Wichita -- Cops Grumble

Under Kansas law, possession of any amount of hard drugs is a felony, but officials in Wichita, where the criminal justice system is shuddering under the weight of drug charges, have decreed that people caught with less than a quarter-gram of methamphetamine or cocaine are to be instead charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, given notice to appear in court, and released. Some Wichita police are grumbling about the change.

The latest step in a decade-long de-escalation of drug prosecutions in Wichita came in November, when police officials removed narcotics detectives, prosecutors, and the state forensic lab from the loop when presented with small-time drug possessors. Now, such busts are automatically treated as misdemeanor paraphernalia charges -- unless the arrestee has a criminal history or is a gang member -- and the arrestees are released instead of being booked into jail.

Before 1993, local prosecutors routinely charged people with felony drug possession if any testable trace of drugs could be found, as in residue on crack pipes. After that, they raised the threshold to "testable" amounts, which they held to be one-tenth of a gram. Two years ago, at the request of the police, the threshold was raised a quarter-gram.

"To be honest with you, there's so many paraphernalia cases that we could clog the District Court system if we charged them all as felonies," Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz told the Wichita Eagle. The city prosecutes some 1,600 to 1,700 drug cases a year.

While the Wichita police are officially behind the new standards, some beat officers are unhappy with the policy changes and think drug users are getting off too easy, Sgt. Chester Pinkston, president of Wichita's Fraternal Order of Police, told the Eagle. "There has definitely been some grumbling about it," he said, noting that the union has not taken a stance on the policy.

But Gary Steed, sheriff of surrounding Sedgewick County, whose deputies still pursue felony charges for small amounts of cocaine or meth, said he sympathized with Wichita officials. "You can't hardly blame them for using their resources the best way they can," he said.

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Law Enforcement: Woman Arrested Over Flour-Filled Condom Wins $180,000 in Suit Settlement

A Bryn Mawr college student who was arrested and jailed for three weeks on drug trafficking charges for carrying condoms filled with flour will be paid $180,000 by the city of Philadelphia in a settlement announced this week. Janet Lee was carrying the condoms, which women at the college used as toys to squeeze when they were stressed out, in her carry-on baggage as she boarded a Christmas season flight home to Los Angeles. Airport screeners found the condoms, and Philadelphia police said preliminary drug tests indicated the condoms contained opium and heroin.

Lee spent the next three weeks in the Philadelphia jail as authorities ignored her protestations of innocence. It was only when later drug tests failed to confirm the presence of drugs that she was released.

After her release from jail and the dropping of the charges, Lee filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city. It was scheduled to go to trial Thursday, but city officials announced Wednesday that they had agreed to pay Lee $180,000 to settle the suit.

"Under the circumstances, something went terribly wrong," Lee's lawyer, Jeffrey Ibrahim, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We're trying to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again."

Lee, a freshman at the time of her arrest, said she had no idea drug traffickers used condoms to carry drugs. "I was naive, really stupid," she said.

[Editor's Note: Condoms are used by "mules" who swallow them filled with drugs and have them in their stomachs when flying into the country; they are not a preferred packaging for drugs carried outside the body, say in one's carry-on baggage.]

Naivete, however, is not yet a criminal offense in this country, and neither is carrying flour in a condom. Now, the city of Philadelphia is paying for its drug war zealotry, although it refuses to admit to wrongdoing or liability.

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Medical Marijuana: Colorado Case Will Test State's Law

A Fort Collins couple will be the first in Colorado to seek to use the state's medical marijuana law as a defense to marijuana cultivation and distribution charges. James and Lisa Masters pleaded not guilty to the charges last Friday and face a March trial.

The couple was arrested last August when police arrived at their home to check on the welfare of their two children, girls aged four and six. According to a police affidavit, a police officer smelled marijuana in the house, and the couple told officers they had doctors' recommendations to use marijuana, which they were growing for that purpose.

The Masters and their attorneys filed a motion last fall to have the charges dismissed, arguing that they were protected by the state's medical marijuana law. The couple, both registered medical marijuana patients, said they grew the pot solely for themselves and other patients on the state registry. But in October, District Judge Jolene Blair rejected that motion, saying the couple did not have proper documentation showing they are caregivers for registered patients.

According to the Colorado criminal code, the state Department of Public Health and Environment is charged with creating "a confidential registry of patients," not patients and caregivers. But the code also charges the department with creating an application form for would-be patients, and on that form, patients are required to fill in information about caregivers.

Last fall, when the Masters were first arraigned, their attorney, Rob Corry, argued they were within the bounds of the state medical marijuana law. While there is no state registry card for caregivers, he said, the Masters were designated as such by properly registered patients. "The majority of voters in this state said medical marijuana should be available. My hope here is the jury will follow the law and show some compassion for patients who need help," Corry said.

But at least one Colorado official argued that in order for someone to have protection as a caregiver, patients must list that person on their applications. It appears that the Masters case will resolve that apparent ambiguity in the law. If the Masters lose, they face up to six years in state prison and the loss of their children, whom police seized after their arrest despite the lack of any evidence of abuse or neglect. It took the couple eight weeks to win the return of their children.

"The Masters are being targeted for helping sick people. This test case has the potential to increase vital access to medical marijuana by expanding the legal definition of 'caregiver' to allow those with significant responsibility for the care of seriously-ill individuals to cultivate and provide them with medical marijuana," said co-counsel Brian Vicente.

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Newsbrief: White House Announces Dates, Locations for 2007 Regional Student Drug Testing Summits

courtesy NORML News

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will once again sponsor a series of regional summits to encourage middle-school and high-school administrators to enact federally sponsored random student drug testing. The 2007 summits will mark the fourth consecutive year that the White House is funding the symposiums, which are scheduled to take place this winter and spring in Charleston, South Carolina (January 24), Newark, New Jersey (February 27), Honolulu, Hawaii (March 27), and Las Vegas, Nevada (April 24).

drug testing lab
Under newly revised federal guidelines, federal education funds may be provided to public schools for up to four years to pay for the implementation of random drug testing programs for students who participate in competitive extra-curricular activities.

Since 2005, the Education Department has appropriated more than $20 million to various school districts to pay for random drug testing programs. Federal grant funds may not be used to pay for separate drug education and/or prevention curricula, nor may any funds be used to train school staff officials on how to implement drug testing. Only federal investigators are eligible to review data collected by the school programs, which will be evaluated as part of a forthcoming federal assessment of the efficacy of random drug testing to deter illicit student drug use.

A previous evaluation of student drug testing programs conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded, "Drug testing, as practiced in recent years in American secondary schools, does not prevent or inhibit student drug use." Investigators collected data from 894 schools and 94,000 students and found that at every grade level studied -- 8, 10, and 12 -- students reported using illicit drugs at virtually identical rates in schools that drug tested versus those that did not.

Currently, only five percent of schools randomly drug test student athletes, and some two percent of schools test students who participate in extra-curricular activities other than athletics. Both the National Education Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose such student testing programs.

Visit to register online to attend any of this year's summits. Visit to download NORML fact-sheets on random student drug testing.

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Latin America: Mexico Considering Creation of "Drug Czar" Post

The government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon is considering the creation of a national "drug czar" position to coordinate its offensive against drug traffickers. The proposal comes as President Felipe Calderon wages a police and military offensive with thousands of troops deployed against drug traffickers in the state of Michoacan and the border city of Tijuana.

Last year, drug prohibition-related violence in Mexico reached record levels, with some 2,000 people killed in internecine struggles among the so-called cartels and in fighting between police and cartel gunmen. The business of supplying drug-hungry Americans is a multi-billion dollar enterprise for Mexico's drug trafficking organizations.

Mexican media reported last week that the Calderon administration was studying the proposal and consulting with the military high command and US authorities as part of the process. According to those reports, the "drug czar" would participate in formulating national security strategy and would be advised by high-ranking officials from the departments of defense, navy, finance, and public security, as well as the Attorney General's office.

The notion has the support of legislators in the ruling PAN party, as well as members of the left opposition PRD. PAN Senator Felipe Gonzalez Gonzalez told Formato 21 radio that creating a "drug czar" post is a "subject of national interest." He urged legislators from all parties to "responsibly analyze the feasibility" of creating such a post and to support legislation that would make it possible.

PRD Senator Graco Ramirez told the radio station he agreed with the need for a "drug czar" given the growing power of the drug trafficking organizations, adding, perhaps wishfully, that the position should be held by a military officer to "avoid the temptation of being corrupted" by the cartels.

The "drug czar" would undoubtedly be a busy man if the position is created. Calderon administration officials have told reporters that the military-police forays into Michoacan and Tijuana are likely to be expanded to the states of Guerrero and Sinaloa.

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Europe: European Union Funds Dialogue With Civil Society on Drug Policies

In the final budget measure it passed last year, the European Parliament approved an amendment allocating $1.3 million to support the dialogue process with civil society on drug policy. The move comes as the European Union prepares to review its continent-wide stance on drug policy in 2008.

The measure, which was proposed by groups like the European NGO Coalition for a Just and Effective Drug Policies, was defeated in September, but supporters managed to get another vote for it last month. The European Commission must now approve a final document on which the dialogue will be based. That is set for April, and if the existing schedule holds, a call for proposals to participate in the dialogue will go out in September.

"This means that we have succeeded in creating a separate budget for the dialogue process that the European Commission is planning to start this year," said ENCOD coordinator Joep Oomen. "We will have a clear view on how much money they have for this dialogue, and by consequence, we have a better check on how they will divide it."

While ENCOD's participation in the dialogue process is not guaranteed, it is likely given the group's key role in opening the European Union drug policy discussion to both civil society and the new ideas emanating from it. "One third of all participants in the January 2006 conference in Brussels were ENCOD members," Oomen told Drug War Chronicle. "Our response to their call for comments was one of the most extensive for sure, so it will be very difficult to deny us any access. We are very well known in the European Parliament as a civil society network around drug policy."

But Oomen maintained a healthy skepticism about the EU's willingness to engage in a true dialogue with opponents of the global drug prohibition regime. "In September, they will organize a call for proposals, and, of course, there are many ways to filter out candidates for participation."

ENCOD is supporting the European Parliament's 2004 set of recommendations for an emphasis on harm reduction instead of prohibitionism known as the Catania Report. While those recommendations represent the sentiment of the European Parliament, whether the governments that make up the European Union will accept it remains to be seen.

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Weekly: This Week in History

January 16, 1919: The 18th Amendment (alcohol prohibition) is declared ratified and is scheduled to take effect in one year.

January 16, 1920: At midnight, the 18th Amendment becomes law, making alcohol illegal.

January 12, 1929: The Porter Narcotic Farm Act is enacted, establishing the first two narcotics hospitals for addicts in federal prisons in response to addicts' crowding.

January 14, 1937: A private federal cannabis conference takes place in room 81 of the Treasury Building in Washington, DC, leading up to enactment of federal marijuana prohibition later that year.

January 15, 1963: President Kennedy establishes the Advisory Commission on Narcotic and Drug Abuse, with Judge E. Barrett Prettyman as chair.

January 16, 1980: Paul McCartney is arrested by Japanese customs officials at Tokyo International Airport when they find two plastic bags in his suitcases containing 219 grams of marijuana (approximately 7.7 ounces). Concerned that McCartney would be refused a US visa under immigration laws if convicted and be unable to perform in an upcoming Wings concert in the US, Sen. Edward Kennedy calls first secretary of the British Embassy D.W.F. Warren-Knott on January 19. McCartney is released and deported on January 25.

January 18, 1990: Mayor Marion Barry of Washington, DC, is arrested after hidden cameras record him smoking crack cocaine with ex-girlfriend Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore in her room at the Vista Hotel.

January 15, 1997: Milahhr Kemnah, an AIDS patient visiting the Cannabis Cultivators Club in San Francisco, becomes the first person to buy medical marijuana in California following passage of Proposition 215.

January 12, 2001: reports that the nephew of Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft received probation after a felony conviction in state court for growing 60 marijuana plants with intent to distribute the drug in 1992. This is a lenient sentence, given that these charges often trigger much tougher federal penalties and jail time. Ashcroft was the tough-on-drugs Missouri governor at the time.

January 15, 2002: The Associated Press reports that a federal appeals court ruled that, in Idaho, marijuana users can drive legally as long as their driving isn't erratic and they can pass a field sobriety test. A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that while it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, Idaho law doesn't list marijuana as a narcotic.

January 14, 2003: A high profile pain prosecution ends with a whimper when California prosecutors dismiss all remaining charges against Dr. Frank Fisher.

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Web Scan

Ethan Nadelmann on Colbert Report, part 1 and part 2 (1/8/07)

sample letters in support of marijuana prison Tyrone Brown, from the November Coalition

Incarceration Nation in The Nation, and Stunning Revelations (taser deaths) in In These Times, Silja Talvi

US Rates of Incarceration: A Global Perspective, report from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency -- plus new report on the over-representation of African American youths in the criminal justice, posting 12:01am.

National Drug Threat Assessment 2007

Drug Truth Network Update: Cultural Baggage + Century of Lies + 4:20 Drug War NEWS
Cultural Baggage for 01/05/07: Jack Cole, Dir. of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition + Terry Nelson of LEAP (MP3)

Century of Lies for 01/05/07: Herb Couch, board member of Educators for Sensible Drug Policy + Drug War Facts, Corrupt Cop Story & Poppygate (MP3)

January 2007 issue of Cannabinoid Chronicles, Victoria Island Compassion Society

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Announcement: DRCNet Content Syndication Feeds Now Available for YOUR Web Site!

Are you a fan of DRCNet, and do you have a web site you'd like to use to spread the word more forcefully than a single link to our site can achieve? We are pleased to announce that DRCNet content syndication feeds are now available. Whether your readers' interest is in-depth reporting as in Drug War Chronicle, the ongoing commentary in our blogs, or info on specific drug war subtopics, we are now able to provide customizable code for you to paste into appropriate spots on your blog or web site to run automatically updating links to DRCNet educational content.

For example, if you're a big fan of Drug War Chronicle and you think your readers would benefit from it, you can have the latest issue's headlines, or a portion of them, automatically show up and refresh when each new issue comes out.

If your site is devoted to marijuana policy, you can run our topical archive, featuring links to every item we post to our site about marijuana -- Chronicle articles, blog posts, event listings, outside news links, more. The same for harm reduction, asset forfeiture, drug trade violence, needle exchange programs, Canada, ballot initiatives, roughly a hundred different topics we are now tracking on an ongoing basis. (Visit the Chronicle main page, right-hand column, to see the complete current list.)

If you're especially into our new Speakeasy blog section, new content coming out every day dealing with all the issues, you can run links to those posts or to subsections of the Speakeasy.

Click here to view a sample of what is available -- please note that the length, the look and other details of how it will appear on your site can be customized to match your needs and preferences.

Please also note that we will be happy to make additional permutations of our content available to you upon request (though we cannot promise immediate fulfillment of such requests as the timing will in many cases depend on the availability of our web site designer). Visit our Site Map page to see what is currently available -- any RSS feed made available there is also available as a javascript feed for your web site (along with the Chronicle feed which is not showing up yet but which you can find on the feeds page linked above). Feel free to try out our automatic feed generator, online here.

Contact us for assistance or to let us know what you are running and where. And thank you in advance for your support.

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Announcement: DRCNet RSS Feeds Now Available

RSS feeds are the wave of the future -- and DRCNet now offers them! The latest Drug War Chronicle issue is now available using RSS at online.

We have many other RSS feeds available as well, following about a hundred different drug policy subtopics that we began tracking since the relaunch of our web site this summer -- indexing not only Drug War Chronicle articles but also Speakeasy blog posts, event listings, outside news links and more -- and for our daily blog postings and the different subtracks of them. Visit our Site Map page to peruse the full set.

Thank you for tuning in to DRCNet and drug policy reform!

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Job Listing: Outreach Director Position Available at Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Washington, DC

Students for Sensible Drug Policy is hiring an Outreach Director. Application Deadline: Friday, January 27, 2007

The responsibility of the Outreach Director is to expand SSDP's base by providing support to students starting chapters, as well as to promote SSDP on college campuses in an attempt to recruit new students to start chapters. Additionally, the Outreach Director must work with the Field Director to track and maintain information on all of the organization's chapters. To that end, the Outreach Director will:

Assist students starting chapters, as well as students trying to grow and strengthen chapters:

  • The Outreach Director not only responds to students who request to start chapters, but proactively inspires students to get involved in the organization as well. Accordingly, the Outreach Director must develop strategies and tactics that are forward-thinking and innovative in inspiring students to start new chapters, especially students at schools in districts and states important to SSDP's legislative campaigns, as well as legislative campaigns of allied drug policy reform organizations.

  • The Outreach Director is responsible for the development of trainings, materials, literature, and other resources that will benefit students working to start, grow, or strengthen chapters.

Track and maintain information on SSDP chapters, activists, and other supporters:

  • The Outreach Director tracks and maintains accurate and current information on the status of student attempts to start chapters, as well as on the status of newly formed chapters, including information on chapter programs and goals, membership, leadership, etc.

  • The Outreach Director works directly with the Field Director to track the progress of newly formed chapters on implementing campaigns on campus.

Help SSDP's Field Director execute SSDP grassroots campaigns and actions:

  • The Outreach Director works with the Field Director to execute various grassroots campaigns and actions. The Field Director will take the lead on creating grassroots campaigns and actions, while the Outreach Director will work with new and inexperienced chapters on implementation.

Assist in compiling stories for the SSDP newsletter:

  • The Outreach Director is responsible for identifying chapter projects that worthy of inclusion in the SSDP newsletter, summarizing these projects, and drafting articles for the newsletter.

A qualified applicant will have succinct, persuasive, inspiring writing, plus a close attention to detail. The applicant will communicate orally with comfort and conviction, and exceptional interpersonal skills are essential. An applicant must be extremely comfortable with phone communication, as the Outreach Director will be required to spend a great deal of time on the phone communicating with chapter leaders and potential chapter leaders. An ability to be assertive and inspiring is a must, as is comfort working with people of all ages.

A qualified candidate will be a self-starter who is creative in developing outreach strategies and tactics. A demonstrated dedication to drug law reform is valuable, but not necessary. SSDP places a premium on experience working with and managing volunteers, especially in the context of student organizing and activism. The Outreach Director reports directly to the Executive Director.

Salary is $28,000-$33,000, commensurate with experience. Benefits include health care. Students for Sensible Drug Policy is an equal opportunity employer. The SSDP office is located in Washington, DC, near Dupont Circle.

Interested applicants should email a one-page cover letter and one-to-two page resume to Executive Director Kris Krane at [email protected]. In your cover letter, please indicate (1) how you learned about SSDP's job opening, (2) why you are interested in working with SSDP in particular, (3) whether you have any experience in drug policy, and (4) why you are interested in this particular position. Feel free to include any additional information you deem relevant, not to exceed one page.

Please do not call the SSDP office at this time. If you submit a cover letter and resume, SSDP will respond to you within two weeks with either a notice of rejection or a request for additional documentation.

SSDP is a national network of students committed to an open, honest, and inclusive dialogue on alternatives to our country's current approach to drug use, abuse, and addiction. Through youth involvement in the political process, SSDP works to reform drug laws and policies that have a negative impact on youth. Specific SSDP campaigns have included efforts to repeal the federal financial aid ban on students with drug convictions and to restrict federal funding for student drug testing. Visit for further information on SSDP's mission and campaigns.

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Job Listing: Program Coordinator, Public Health Program, OSI-Budapest

The Open Society Institute seeks a Program Coordinator to work in Budapest and report to the International Harm Reduction Development Program Officer in New York. The deadline to apply is January 24, 2007.

The Program Coordinator will provide administrative and program support for a three-year harm reduction advocacy grants program sponsored by the Soros Foundations Network and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), under the direction of a Program Officer and the IHRD Directors.

Operating in Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine, the program will support public policy reform and health services in four interrelated areas: drug treatment quality and access; women, drug use, and sexual and reproductive health; community organizing by people who use drugs and people living with HIV; and prison-based harm reduction services.

The Program Coordinator's work will encompass, but is not limited to preparing semi-annual narrative and quarterly financial reports for CIDA, and other program documentation as required; preparing annual workplans which guide grantmaking in the four program areas, in cooperation with other IHRD staff and external partners; administering and tracking all CIDA-related grants; regular communication with grantees and with IHRD and other members of the Soros network with regard to project development, implementation and reporting; ensuring that IHRD and the Soros Foundations Network consistently fulfill our funding and programmatic obligations according to the annual workplans; maintaining a database of all program expenditures; working with IHRD staff, grantees and other partners on cooperative advocacy and technical assistance projects, and to regularly evaluate and adjust ongoing programs; and upholding a positive, communicative relationship with CIDA staff. In addition, the Program Coordinator may be called on to contribute to other IHRD projects, as needed and at the discretion of the Deputy Director and/or Director.

Requirements include a BA degree, 2-4 years of experience in the health or human rights fields (preferably but not necessarily involving harm reduction and/or HIV), familiarity with the concepts and methods of harm reduction, comfort in working effectively and respectfully with people who use drugs and people living with HIV, fluent spoken and written English and Russian, a high level of organization, self-motivation, and attention to detail, flexibility and willingness to work on a range of concurrent tasks from the mundane to the more creative in a very fast-paced environment, and the ability to listen and communicate clearly and effectively with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Ideal candidates will have demonstrable writing ability, knowledge of issues central to the CIDA program, and experience managing budgets.

Compensation is commensurate with experience and an excellent benefit package is included.

To apply, e-mail a resume, cover letter, and salary requirements before January 24, 2007, to [email protected]. Please include Job Code: PC/BUD/IHRD in subject line. If e-mail is not available, fax to: 1-646-557-2494. No telephone inquiries, please.

The Open Society Institute is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Announcement: New Format for the Reformer's Calendar

With the launch of our new web site, The Reformer's Calendar no longer appears as part of the Drug War Chronicle newsletter but is instead maintained as a section of our new web site:

  • Visit each day and you'll see a listing of upcoming events in the page's righthand column with the number of days remaining until the next several events coming up and a link to more.

  • Check our new online calendar section at to view all of them by month, week or a range of different views.
  • We request and invite you to submit your event listings directly on our web site. Note that our new system allows you to post not only a short description as we currently do, but also the entire text of your announcement.

The Reformer's Calendar publishes events large and small of interest to drug policy reformers around the world. Whether it's a major international conference, a demonstration bringing together people from around the region or a forum at the local college, we want to know so we can let others know, too.

But we need your help to keep the calendar current, so please make sure to contact us and don't assume that we already know about the event or that we'll hear about it from someone else, because that doesn't always happen.

We look forward to apprising you of more new features of our new web site as they become available.

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