Breaking News:EVENT: No Time Like the Present: Drug Policy Reform is More Urgent Than Ever

Drug War Chronicle #472 - February 9, 2007

1. Feature: Arkansas Law Punishing Mothers Whose Newborns Test Positive for Drugs Accomplishes Little, Study Finds

As legislators in several states ponder legislation making drug use by pregnant women or the presence of drugs in the blood of their newborns a crime, an Arkansas report on that state's experience is sobering reading.

2. Feature: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- 2008 US Federal Drug Control Budget

The Bush administration released its 2008 federal budget Monday, and when it comes to drug policy, it looks a lot like more of the same.

3. Feature: The Conviction That Keeps On Hurting -- Drug Offenders and Federal Benefits (repeat)

For millions of drug offenders, punishment by the criminal justice is only the beginning. Drug offenders also lose access to a number of federal benefits thanks to laws a growing number of organizations are calling inhumane and counterproductive.

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

What a cornucopia of corruption the drug war generates. Week in and week out, law enforcement officers fall prey to the temptation to share in prohibition-generated illicit drug profits. This week is no different.

5. Law Enforcement: Atlanta Narcs to Be Indicted for Murder by State -- Federal Investigation Could Be Hurt

The Fulton County DA plans to indict three Atlanta undercover narcs for murder in the death of 92-year-old Katherine Johnstone during a botched drug raid. But will his move thwart an ongoing federal investigation?

6. Law Enforcement: Atlanta NAACP Calls for Tight Restrictions on "No-Knock" Searches

In the wake of the killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston during a "no-knock" drug raid gone bad, the Atlanta NAACP is calling for tight restrictions on such raids, as well as other police reforms.

7. Bad Bills: Drug Tax Dies in Virginia Legislature

A bill that would have imposed a tax on illegal drugs and required possessors to obtain it within 48 hours has died a timely death in the Virginia legislature.

8. Hemp: North Dakota Issues First Licenses to Grow Industrial Hemp, but DEA Roadblock Remains

North Dakota's Agriculture Commissioner signed the first two licenses for farmers to grow hemp on Monday, but they must still win approval from the DEA. Don't hold your breath.

9. Press Release: Vote Hemp Exposes ONDCP and DEA Lies about Hemp Farming

The DEA's ban on industrial hemp cultivation really does make as little sense as it seems.

10. Drug Use: Baby Boomers Most Likely to Have Shot Up

Who shoots drugs? Teenage black junkies? Middle-aged white guys? You might be surprised.

11. Africa: Proposed Draconian Drug Law in Namibia Runs Into Intense Opposition

A proposed draconian new drug law in the southwestern African nation of Namibia is running into intense opposition at public hearings this week. Some people think 20 years in prison for possessing a joint is too much.

12. Web Scan

Counterpunch, Huffington Post, Transform, Cannabinoid Chronicles, Drug Truth Network

13. Weekly: This Week in History

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

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

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1. Feature: Arkansas Law Punishing Mothers Whose Newborns Test Positive for Drugs Accomplishes Little, Study Finds

As legislators at statehouses across the country ponder laws that criminalize or civilly punish drug use by pregnant women, researchers in Arkansas have evaluated the working of a similar law there -- and found it wanting. Meanwhile, bills are pending in at least five states -- Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming -- that would do the same thing. Proponents of such laws portray them as aimed at "saving the children," but critics argue such laws do little for children and are really aimed at controlling drug use by punishing young, poor, and minority women.

In 2005, Arkansas legislators passed a bill popularly known as Garrett's Law, after a baby supposedly born with methamphetamine in his system. [Editor's Note: Be wary of any law named after a victim; they seem to pass easily in a rush of emotion with science and reason brushed aside.] Under Garrett's Law, the mothers of newborn infants who test positive for illegal drugs are presumed to be guilty of parental neglect under the state's civil code, and medical personnel can report them to police and child protective service workers.

Last fall, at the request of policy analysts studying the law, the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services commissioned a report on how the law had been implemented and what its impact had been. Among that report's key findings:

  • There were 412 referrals under Garrett's Law in the 12-month period examined. With some 38,405 births recorded during that period, Garrett's Law referrals amounted to a rate of 10.7 per every thousand births.
  • Marijuana was by far the most commonly found drug, mentioned in just over half of all cases, while amphetamines and cocaine were found in about 25% of cases and heroin, barbiturates, or prescription drugs were found in about 7% of cases.
  • In two-thirds of cases, "no health problems" were reported in the infants. On the other extreme, eight infants died, but there is no evidence that the mother's drug use was the cause of death. Marijuana was most likely to be associated with no health problems, while health problems were more likely to be associated with stimulant use by the mother. Instances of death appear to be most commonly associated with barbiturate use.
  • A finding of child neglect was found to be "substantiated" in two-thirds of all cases referred and a Protective Services case was formally opened in 62% of all cases.
  • Slightly less than one-fourth (23%) of children involved with referrals were removed from the family home. The drug most associated with removal of children was cocaine, followed closely by amphetamines.
  • Only 5% of children removed from parents received any medical treatment related to the alleged maltreatment, although the report says it does not have complete numbers.
  • Either 6.6% or 20% of mothers reported received drug treatment. Again, the report complains of sloppy reporting and does not resolve the different figures.
  • Some 64% of mothers reported received some sort of "service," but in most cases that "service" was only drug testing.

"This report basically says there is nothing in the data that supports the notion these kids have health problems," said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. "This law is not about children's health, but has everything to do with controlling drug use in certain populations. They say people who use drugs are bad parents, but I say show me some evidence-based research that documents the extent to which drug use and parenting ability are truly associated," she said. "You have 72 million people admitting to having used marijuana -- are they all bad parents?" Paltrow continued.

While some analysts supported the law because of the broad goals of protecting the health and welfare of infants and their mothers it is supposed to advance, even they had serious concerns about its impact. "While it is critically important that women who are pregnant and giving birth and have an illegal drug in their system need to be looked at closely -- it is an indicator that something is going on -- there are several problems with Garrett's Law," said Paul Kelly, senior policy analyst for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, who sits on the Garrett's Law advisory group. "One thing we have found is that there are a lot of women who are not being tested. That means we are relying on the judgment of the attending physician to decide who is and is not being tested."

Kelly raises an interesting question about who is being subjected to the law. The report on the law's working does not provide a race and class breakdown of who is being reported, although that information is presumably readily available. The report does provide a breakdown by age, and not surprisingly, most of the women reported under the law were in their twenties.

"Another problem with the law is that in many cases, the finding of substance use is the sole cause of the finding of mistreatment," Kelly continued. "They may have other children who are doing well, are well-cared for, doing well in school, yet they may be taken from their mother because of substance use without any consideration of other factors involved."

The report's low figures on treatment for women in the report -- either 6.6% or 20%--also raise concerns. "There is a terrible lack of treatment available to these women," said Kelly. "We take their children away from them, yet we are not providing appropriate treatment. Are we here to help or punish? This law has had some consequences that need to be corrected."

An effort to do just that is just getting under way early in the legislative season. "We're in the middle of trying to revise Garrett's Law to make it a little less punitive and more family-friendly," said Cynthia Crone, executive director of the Arkansas Center for Addictions Research, Education and Services (Arkansas CARES), which, among other things, runs the state's largest treatment program specifically aimed at mothers suffering from substance abuse.

Advocates are in the final stages of drafting reform language and now have a sponsor in the statehouse, Kelly said. "There are several things we are looking at. We don't want the fact that an illegal substance was found in the child's body at birth to be the sole determinant of whether there is child abuse going on," he said. "If the only finding is that these women have drugs in their system, they should not be placed on the child abuse registry, but given the opportunity to seek treatment. We don't want to ruin their ability to care for their children and have gainful employment because of making foolish mistakes."

"This report doesn't find a strong association between any kind of prenatal exposure to drug use and health problems in the infant," said Paltrow. "For legislators to focus on maternal drug use as the primary threat to children's health when there are eight million children without health insurance is absurd. If we focus on things like this, it distracts our attention from much larger issues, like the 46 million uninsured, the lack of treatment, no paid maternity leave, those fundamental problems. They say it's about the kids, but the result is not more funding or treatment; instead, we're out arresting mothers."

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2. Feature: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- 2008 US Federal Drug Control Budget

The Bush administration released its fiscal year 2008 budget Monday, and when it comes to drug policy, it's pretty much business as usual. According to an Office of National Drug Control Policy fact sheet, the overall federal drug control budget requested for next year is $12.91 billion, up $200 million from the $12.7 million requested this year.
same old, same old again
The budget includes $1.6 billion for prevention programs or, as the National Drug Strategy puts it, "stopping drug use before it starts," $3.1 billion for drug treatment ("healing America's drug users"), and $8 billion for law enforcement ("disrupting the market for illegal drugs"). This roughly two-to-one ratio between spending for law enforcement and spending for treatment and prevention is consistent with past federal drug control budgets.

ONDCP highlighted increases in controversial and unproven programs, such as an increase in funding for random student drug testing to nearly $18 million, up from $7.5 million in 2007. Another controversial program seeing a budget increase is the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, from $100 million in 2007 up to $130 million next year.

Also seeing significant increases are the Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral and Treatment (SBIRT) program, which aims to promote early diagnosis of drug use and intervention by health care providers, up $11.5 million to $41.2 million in 2008, and the Drug Courts program, with its funding more than tripled from $10.1 million this year to $31.8 million next year.

Funding for Plan Colombia, or as it is now officially known, the Andean Counterdrug Initiative will decline from $721 million in 2007 to $635.5 million in 2008. Funding for anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan, on the other hand, will increase from $297 million this year to $327.6 million next year.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will see its budget increase from $1.684 billion to $1.803 billion. Similarly, the Justice Department's Organized Crime and Drug Task Force will get $509 million, up from $485 million this year.

Some of the items ONDCP wasn't bragging about include cuts in funding for the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (down 20%), the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (down 12%), and state grants under the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, which were slashed dramatically from $346.5 million this year to a proposed $100 million next year. The budget also zeroes out completely state grants for Alcohol Use and Reduction programs. Those grants totaled $32 million this year.

Also facing continuing efforts to cut its budget is the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, with the Bush administration seeking to cut its current year budget of $224.7 million down to $220 million. And while it is not yet clear whether the Bush administration will continue its efforts to eliminate the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants program, a coalition of law enforcement lobbying groups is already urging Congress to fund it at $1.1 billion, more than double the $450 million it will get this year. The Byrne grants pay for the notorious multi-agency drug task forces running roughshod around the country, but they can also be used for prevention and treatment grants.

"This is the same approach they've been using for years," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "They continue to shortchange treatment and prevention and they spend most of the money on enforcement and interdiction. They continue to use sloppy accounting; for instance, ONDCP puts the overall drug budget at $12 billion, but they don't include the costs of imprisoning 100,000 federal drug offenders."

"This $12 billion figure is a sham, just as the federal drug control budget has been for the past few years" said Doug McVay, research director for Common Sense for Drug Policy. "It excludes the $3 billion we're paying each year to incarcerate drug offenders, and there are hidden, black budget intelligence and military funds that go to the drug war. I'd estimate the feds are really spending more like $22 billion in drug control across the agencies."

"I see they want more money for student drug testing and the anti-drug media campaign, which is a bit of a surprise given all the evidence of the failure of these programs," Piper said. "Given that they're talking about balancing the budget by 2012, it seems like they wouldn't be expanding failed programs, but they are."

Efforts to restore Byrne grant funding concerned Piper. "I'm worried that the Democrats are going to restore funding to that program that funds the drug task forces," he said. "Still, some states are using the funds for reentry programs, treatment, drug courts, things like that. The $500,000 grant we got in New Mexico was a Byrne grant," Piper laughed. That grant funds a methamphetamine prevention and education program.

"I think the Byrne grants should be done away with," said McVay, "and the money should be used to put police on the street to stop property crime and violent crime. As drug reformers, we have to be careful. We don't want to put ourselves in the position of telling the public we don't want enough police on the streets to keep them from getting mugged."

Time will tell with the Byrne grant program, as it will with the entire 2008 Bush budget. At this point, the budget is a fantasy document, a wish list that is sure to be hacked to pieces in Congress. But it also lays out the Bush administration's position on where the nation's drug policy should go and how much we should pay for it, and the answers are down the same old path and a few billion more.

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3. Feature: The Conviction That Keeps On Hurting -- Drug Offenders and Federal Benefits (repeat)

Because last week's Chronicle was issued a few days late, and because this feature article deals with issues that DRCNet is directly involved with or plans to be, we reprint it in this week's issue.

Some 15 to 20 million people have been arrested on drug charges and subjected to the tender mercies of the criminal justice system in the past two decades. But, thanks to congressional drug warriors, the punishments drug offenders face often extend far beyond the prison walls or the parole officer's office. A number of federal laws ostensibly aimed at reducing drug use block people with drug convictions from gaining access to federal benefits and services. These laws have a disproportionate impact on society's most vulnerable or marginalized members -- the poor, people of color, and women with children -- and in some cases, do not even require that a person actually be convicted of a drug offense to be punished.
No conviction is needed to be evicted from public housing for drugs -- even someone else's.
A growing number of groups and individuals ranging from the American Bar Association to welfare rights organizations, public health and addiction groups, drug reform organizations, and elected officials have called for changes in these laws or their outright repeal, saying they are cruel, inhumane, counterproductive, and amount to "double jeopardy" for drug offenders trying to become productive members of society.

"We feel that these laws are discriminatory and tend to focus on an illness as opposed to a crime," said Alexa Eggleston of the Legal Action Center, one of the key groups in the movement to adjust those laws. "We also think that if you have a conviction, you should be able to serve your time and come out and resume your life. We say we want people to get sober, get treatment, get a job, get housing, but then we set up all these barriers and roadblocks that seem designed to stop them from moving forward. These lifetime bans are very destructive of people's ability to reintegrate into society and move forward with their lives as productive citizens."

"These discriminatory laws represent incredible barriers in terms of people getting on with their lives, which is why they are part of our platform for change," said Pat Taylor, director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national alliance of individuals and organizations committed to securing the rights of people with addictions. "If you can't get housing, can't get a job, it's really hard to get your life back on track."

"One of the problems we constantly face is helping people who have been convicted of a drug crime," said Linda Walker of All of Us or None, a California-based initiative organizers prisoners, ex-prisoners, and felons to fight the discrimination they face because of their criminal convictions. "Why do they ask about that on the student loan applications? Why do they face lifetime bans on public housing? These are people did their time, paid their restitution, they've moved on and matured, and now, because of something they did in their twenties, they can't get into senior housing."

Walker knows a bit about the plight of the ex-con. She was convicted not a drug offense, but for a crime committed in an effort to get money to buy drugs. While Walker's status as a non-drug offender means she is not barred from receiving food stamps or public housing, she still wears the scarlet letter of the ex-con. "I currently work for a county office, and each time I go up for a position or promotion, this becomes a problem," she explained. "I've been out of the criminal justice system for 14 years now, but I'm still being told that because of my criminal history I can't be considered for this job or that."

These "double jeopardy" laws have been formulated in the last 20 years as part of the ratcheting-up of the war on drugs and include:

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, under which local housing agencies and others who supervise federally assisted housing have the discretion to deny housing when any household member uses alcohol in a way that interferes with the "health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment" of the premises by other tenants, illegally uses drugs, or is convicted of drug-related criminal activity. People who are evicted or denied housing under the law are cut off from federal housing assistance for three years.

According to a GAO report on the working of laws designed to deny benefits to drug offenders, some 500 individuals or families were evicted under the act in 13 large public housing agencies GAO surveyed in 2003 and about 1,500 were denied admission by 15 agencies in the same year. The agency reported that public housing agencies nationwide evicted about 9,000 people and denied admission to another 49,000 because of criminal convictions in 2003, with drug convictions consisting of some unknown but significant subset of those. While concrete numbers are hard to come by, it seems clear that tens of thousands of people are adversely affected by laws barring drug offenders from receiving public housing or Section 8 assistance.

Subsequent changes in federal laws and accompanying regulations have enshrined housing authorities' discretion and it was further solidified in a 2002 Supreme Court decision. In that case, the high court upheld an Oakland public housing authorities right to use its discretion to evict 64-year-old long-time tenant Pearlie Rucker, her mentally disabled teenage daughter, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild after the daughter was caught with cocaine three blocks from the building.

Only one class of drug offender is specifically prohibited from obtaining public housing -- persons who have been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamines. They, along with society's other favorite demonized group, registered sex offenders, are the only groups of offenders singled out for prohibitions.

The 1990 Denial of Federal Benefits Program, which allows state and federal judges to deny drug offenders federal benefits such as grants, contracts, and licenses. According to the GAO, some 600 people a year are affected by this program in the federal courts.

Section 115 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (more familiarly known as the welfare reform act), under which persons convicted of a state or federal felony offense for selling or using drugs are subject to a lifetime ban on receiving cash assistance and food stamps. Convictions for other crimes, including murder, do not result in the loss of benefits. Section 115 affects an estimated 92,000 women and 135,000 children.

The welfare reform act contains a provision allowing states to opt out, although if they fail to act, the lifetime bans remain in effect. In 14 states where legislators have not acted, drug felons still face the federal ban, even though their sentences may be long-finished and their offenses decades old. But in 36 states, legislators have acted to limit the ban in some fashion, allowing drug offenders to get public assistance if they meet certain conditions, such as participating in drug or alcohol treatment, meeting a waiting period, if their conviction was for possession only, or other conditions.

Public Law 104-121, which blocks access to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) for people whose primary disability was alcohol or drug dependence. This 1996 law replaced a 1972 SSI "Drug Abuse and Alcoholism" program that allowed people in drug treatment, which was mandatory, to designate a payee to manage benefits to ensure they would not be used to purchase drugs or alcohol. The Social Security Administration estimates that more than 123,000 people lost benefits when this law went into effect, while another 86,000 managed to retain them by virtue of age or by being reclassified into a different primary care disability category.

The 1998 Higher Education Act's (HEA) drug provision (also known as the "Aid Elimination Penalty"), which states that people with drug convictions cannot receive federal financial aid for a period of time determined by the type and number of convictions. This law does not apply to others with convictions, including drunk-driving offenses, violent crimes, or other criminal offenses. Last year, the provision was reformed to limit its applicability to offenses committed while a student is enrolled in college and receiving federal aid. Since the law went into effect in 2000, some 200,000 have been denied student financial aid.

The Hope Scholarship Credit, which allows for income tax deductions for people paying college tuition and fees. The credit allows taxpayers to take up to a $1,000 credit for tuition and additional credits for related expenses. It specifically excludes the credit for students who were convicted of a drug offense during the tax year in question, or their parents paying the bills.

While GAO notes that "thousands of persons were denied postsecondary education benefits, federally assisted housing, or selected licenses and contracts as a result of federal laws that provide for denying benefits to drug offenders," it is low-balling the real figure, which, according to its own numbers, is in the hundreds of thousands. Additionally, the GAO report does not factor in the number of people who simply did not apply for housing, welfare benefits, or student loans because they knew or believed they were ineligible.

"The focus of all of those provisions is punishing people who've made a mistake as opposed to helping people find treatment," said Donovan Kuehn, a spokesman for NAADAC, the Association of Addiction Professionals, the nation's largest grouping of counselors, educators, and health care professionals dealing with addiction issues. "As addiction treatment professionals, we're very hopeful that with a change in leadership in the Congress, we could move toward helping people find personal solutions to their problems as opposed to criminalizing them."

Kraig Selken, a senior studying history at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, would like to see that happen. He knows first-hand the sting of the HEA drug provision. After being arrested with a small amount of marijuana, Selken paid his fine and sat through court-ordered drug treatment. He thought he had paid his debt to society. It was not until Selken began reading up on the HEA drug provision after his conviction that he realized his punishment wasn't over. Because of his misdemeanor marijuana conviction, he became ineligible for student financial assistance for two years.

"Ironically, today was fee payment day at school. I had to write my own check instead of paying for it with student loans," Selken told the Chronicle last week. "The lack of access to student loans hit me hard," he said. "Last semester, the only reason I could afford to go to school without loans was because my great-grandmother died and left me a little bit of money. Otherwise, I would not have been able to attend."

Selken said he plans to go on to law school, but even though he will be eligible for financial assistance again, he will still have to pay a price. "I'm still going to have to answer 'yes' on the federal financial aid form and I will have to go through the whole rigamorale of providing documentation to show that I am again eligible."

The HEA drug provision, authored by leading congressional drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-I), may be the first barrier to drug offenders' reintegration to fall. The provision took effect in 2000, but in the face of rising opposition led by the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR), Souder retreated, and the act was amended last year to count only offenses committed while a student was in school and receiving financial aid. But that move failed to quiet the calls for outright repeal, and with a Democratic majority in the Congress, advocates hope to finally get their way.

"We are very optimistic that this harmful and discriminatory penalty will finally be repealed by this Congress," said Tom Angell, communications director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, one of the most active groups in the CHEAR coalition.

"There is so much wrong with the HEA drug provision, I hardly know where to begin," said Drug Reform Coordination Network associate director David Guard, CHEAR's coordinator. "The drug provision disproportionately hurts the children of low- and middle-income families -- the very people the HEA is designed to assist -- and it disproportionately affects minorities, who, even though they use drugs at the same rate as whites, are much more likely to be arrested. Students who are forced out of college by losing their financial aid are less likely to come back to school," Guard said. "Let's hope Congress moves to repeal it this year," he said.

The HEA drug provision also hurts students seeking state financial aid. While states are under no obligation to blindly follow the federal financial aid guidelines when it comes to drug offenders, many do so, often merely because it is convenient. In at least one state, Maryland, legislative efforts are under way end the state's reflexive echo of the federal penalty.

There is also a chance of progress this year on the food stamp program, which, as part of the passage of the food bill, will be up for consideration early this year. According to the Food Research and Action Center, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will soon begin hearings on Title IV of the food bill, which includes food stamps, and the center is preparing the way for renewed discussions on relief for states which have not opted out of the ban.

While it was politically expedient to attempt to further punish some of society's most despised individuals -- drug users and offenders -- serious studies of the impact of these measures have led to calls for their reform or repeal. In 2003, the Join Together coalition, which supports community-based efforts to advance effective alcohol and drug policy, prevention, and treatment, put together a prestigious policy panel, headed by former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke to examine ways of ending discrimination against drug users.

In its final report, that panel made a number of recommendations. Those included:

  • People with drug convictions but no current drug use should face no obstacles getting student loans, other grants, scholarships, or access to government training programs.
  • Persons with nonviolent drug convictions but no current drug use should not be subject to bans on receiving cash assistance and food stamps.
  • Public housing agencies and providers of Section 8 and other federally assisted housing should use the discretion given to them in the public housing law to help people get treatment, rather than permanently barring them and their families from housing.
  • People who are disabled as a result of their alcohol or other drug disease should be eligible for Social Security Disability Income and Supplemental Security Income.

The American Bar Association has also weighed in against doubly penalizing drug offenders and drug users. In a 2004 resolution, the group adopted recommendations based on those of the Join Together policy panel. Like Join Together, the ABA called for alcoholism and drug addiction to be considered as a chronic treatable disease and public health matter. It also urged that "people seeking treatment or recovery from alcohol or other drug diseases should not be subject to legally imposed bans or other barriers based solely on their addiction. Such bans should be identified and removed."

While a movement to undo federal laws and programs that doubly penalize drug offenders or users is growing and has significant support among some Democratic members of Congress, with the exception of the HEA, little progress has been made in cutting them back, although that could change now that Democrats are in control of the Congress.

For a sense of how previous Republican-led congresses have felt about rethinking these punitive laws and programs, one need only look at the fate of the bill filed by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and cosponsored by 10 other legislators, including sole Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. That bill, which would have temporarily waived provisions denying federal benefits to drug users or offenders in areas affected by the storm, went nowhere.

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

Ah, the drug war -- what a cornucopia of corruption it generates. Week in, week out, law enforcement officers fall prey to temptation. This week is no different. Let's get to it:

In New York City, a former NYPD officer was sentenced to 15 years in prison for plotting to rob a drug dealer of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Former officer Porfirio Mejia, 31, was part of a six-man group who planned to rob a man they thought was a Colombian dealer in the Bronx of 10 kilograms of heroin and $450,000 in cash. At the time of the planned robbery, Mejia was in uniform. Mejia and the others were arrested by members of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force. He was sentenced January 31.

In Roanoke, Virginia, the Henry County Sheriff's Department implosion into corruption-related scandal continues to work its way through the courts. In the latest news, a former department dog handler and two civilians charged in the case pleaded guilty to taking part in a scheme involving the sheriff and 11 deputies to re-sell drugs seized from dealers. That makes 13 out of 20 defendants who have now copped pleas in a case where deputies are charged with peddling tens of thousands of dollars worth of seized drugs, along with stolen guns and other evidence. Department dog handler Walter Hairston pleaded guilty February 2 to one count of racketeering conspiracy. He was accused of passing along drugs he used for drug dog training to deputies who would then resell them. Former Sheriff H. Franklin Cassell, who is charged with covering up his deputies' misdeeds, is seeking to have his trial moved outside the Roanoke area.

In Youngstown, Ohio, a former Mahoning County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty last Friday to three counts of drug trafficking and three counts of drug possession. Michael "Beef" Terlecky, 51, was caught peddling Oxycontin tablets along US Highway 224 by undercover agents, and the cops found more Oxycontin and Valium at his home. Terlecky is in ill health and had been taking post-surgery pain medications, which prosecutors said could have affected his judgment. Prosecutors will recommend a two-year prison stretch at his March 29 sentencing. His defense attorney, who argued that Terlecky sold some of the drugs to pay his medical expenses, is urging probation.

In Saranac Lake, New York, a state prison guard pleaded guilty last Friday to trying to smuggle heroin into the prison where he worked. Michael Bradish, 34, pleaded guilty to attempted promoting prison contraband and attempted criminal possession of controlled substance, plus misdemeanor official misconduct. Bradish, who worked at Bare Hill Correctional Facility in Malone, is being held without bail at Franklin County Jail. He could receive up to four years in state prison when he's sentenced in March. He was caught on videotape in September being handed 37 bundles of heroin as part of an investigation into prison contraband by the state police, the state Department of Corrections, the Inspector General, and the Franklin County District Attorney's office. Police stopped Bradish on his way to work the next day and found the drugs. Two other prison guards, Lt. Timothy Flint, 40, and Daniel Oakes, 32, face criminal charges in the probe. An unknown number of other guards have quit or been fired.

In Council Bluffs, Iowa, a prosecutor has been fired after evidence from a drug case was "mishandled." Assistant Pottawattamie County Attorney Jeff TeKippe was put on paid leave last week, but got the ax this week as an investigation by the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation gets underway. They were called in by Council Bluffs police and County Attorney Matt Wilber after "they discovered evidence from a narcotics case appeared to have been mishandled," a terse DCI statement said. TeKippe was a 10-year veteran of the prosecutors office who handled primarily drug cases.

In Greenville, South Carolina, a former Anderson police officer has been charged with misconduct in office after making off with the evidence in drug cases. Former officer Clint Fuller, 31, was arrested Saturday for failing to log in evidence from twelve 2006 arrests he made where he seized "a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana." Some of Fuller's cases have been dismissed because of lack of evidence, others because he failed to show up for court, the department said. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

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5. Law Enforcement: Atlanta Narcs to Be Indicted for Murder by State -- Federal Investigation Could Be Hurt

Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Paul Howard is moving to indict three Atlanta narcotics officers on charges including murder in the killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, who opened fire on invading undercover officers executing an apparently bogus "no-knock" search warrant. But Johnston's family is not happy, fearing any state indictment could hamper an ongoing federal investigation and possible federal charges.

The proposed indictment accuses officers Gregg Junnier, Jason Smith, and Arthur Tesler of felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, burglary, making false statements, and violation of oath. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a defense attorney for one of the officers received an email from DA Howard Wednesday including the proposed indictment and saying prosecutors would take the matter to a grand jury on February 26.

The three officers sought and received a search warrant from a magistrate after Smith told him he and Tesler had a confidential informant buy crack at that house. But in the wake of the botched drug raid, which also left three officers wounded, it became evident that the officers had lied to the magistrate. There was no informant who had purchased crack at the house. After the raid, the officers attempted to get another informant to lie and say he had bought drugs there, but he instead told investigators about the request.

As community anger over the killing simmers, Howard has made efforts to let the Johnston family and the community know he was serious about doing justice in the case. "The death of Mrs. Johnston constitutes one of the greatest tragedies ever to occur in Fulton County," Howard wrote in a letter to the Johnston family spokesman Markel Hutchins. "I will not rest until every person responsible for her death is held accountable. When homicides occur in Fulton County, whether committed by a civilian or a law enforcement official, it is the obligation of the District Attorney's Office to take the appropriate legal actions."

While it would normally seem that indicting police officers whose lies led to the death of an elderly woman would be the appropriate legal action, by doing so Howard has broken with the ongoing federal investigation by the FBI. FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett told the Journal-Constitution, "We did not know this was taking place prior. The FBI has been charged with leading this investigation. And to date, this investigation has not been completed."

The Johnston family was also unhappy that Howard is moving to indict the officers. "The family of Kathryn Johnston is extremely unhappy and disappointed with today's turn of events," Hutchins said Wednesday. "Mr. Howard's move today of pressing charges would effectively limit the scope of and the potential charges of a federal investigation, and borders on tampering with a federal investigation."

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6. Law Enforcement: Atlanta NAACP Calls for Tight Restrictions on "No-Knock" Searches

The Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called Monday for tougher rules regarding the use of "no-knock" search warrants by Atlanta police. With regular search warrants, police must knock and announce their presence before entering a home, but with "no-knock" warrants, police may just kick the door down and enter.

The call for tighter rules around "no-knock" warrants was only one of a number of recommendations for reforming Atlanta's police compiled by the group in the wake of the killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston by police in November. Johnston was shot and killed during a "no-knock" drug raid when she opened fire on undercover narcotics officers bursting through her door. Three officers were wounded. The officers involved claimed a confidential informant had bought cocaine at the house, but no cocaine was found, and another informant has told the media and federal investigators the narcs asked him to lie and say he had bought drugs at the house after the raid went sour.

The NAACP recommended that judges reserve "no-knock" warrants for extreme cases. The group also called for police to conduct surveillance of homes prior to executing a "no-knock" warrant.

"This is of utmost urgency," said Atlanta NAACP head the Rev. RL White Jr., speaking to reporters at the chapter's Atlanta headquarters. "The situation that happened last year was only the tip of the iceberg."

The group also called for police to launch a goodwill initiative in Atlanta low-income, high-crime neighborhoods and for the department to require officers to receive sensitivity training. The NAACP also recommended that a citizens' review board be created to review incidents like the Johnston killing. Such a board currently exists, but it is toothless and has not reviewed a case in five years.

"I commend the NAACP for their input and involvement on how the Atlanta Police Department conducts business," Chief Richard Pennington said in a statement. "Even though we are currently reviewing our internal policies and procedures, I do not oppose any measure that will strengthen our relationship with the community. I look forward to working together to reclaim the public's trust in our hard-working men and women."

The NAACP's recommendations will be delivered to the Atlanta city council, Mayor Shirley Franklin, and Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, White said.

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7. Bad Bills: Drug Tax Dies in Virginia Legislature

A bill that would have required anyone possessing an illegal drug to get a tax stamp within 48 hours and affix that stamp to the drugs has died a timely death in the Virginia legislature. House Bill 2754, introduced by Delegate Robert Hurt (R-Chatham), was killed in House finance subcommittee on Tuesday.
Texas drug tax stamp, auctioned on ebay
Under the proposed bill, marijuana would have been taxed at the rate of $0.40 per gram for marijuana, $50 a gram for cocaine, $200 a gram for other controlled substances, and $20 a gallon for moonshine. But the tax would not be imposed on the first 1 ½ ounces of marijuana or the first quarter-ounce of hard drugs.

The Department of Taxation, which would have issued the tax stamps, would not have required identification from the stamp taxpayer, thus precluding criminal prosecution. But the tax could be applied to any substances seized by police and the bill sent to the drugs' possessor.

Delegate Hunt portrayed the measure as an effort to go after drug dealers, saying it was a "civil tax imposed upon those who require government services and aren't paying their fair share." Dealers should ante up, Hunt argued. "The big picture is that drug traffickers put a huge burden on all the rest of us who are law-abiding taxpayers," Hurt said. "This is simply to make them share in those costs."

Opponents of the bill, including Lennice Werth of Virginians Against Drug Violence and Michael Krawitz of Virginia NORML advanced unique arguments to thwart the bill. Krawitz told legislators the bill did not address the substance abuse at the root of the drug traffic and that the state would send a mixed message by profiting from criminal activity, while Werth warned that passage of the bill could lead people to think that drugs were now legal in Virginia.

"These stamps would be bought by collectors, they would be put on the Internet, they would be on eBay, and people all over the country would believe that these drugs are legal in Virginia if you pay this tax," Werth said.

Some 20 states have drug tax laws on the books, but they are unevenly enforced.

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8. Hemp: North Dakota Issues First Licenses to Grow Industrial Hemp, but DEA Roadblock Remains

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson Monday signed the first two licenses issued by the state to grow industrial hemp. According to an Agriculture Department press release, the first license was issued to state Rep. David Monson (R-Osnabrock), the assistant majority leader who is also a farmer and strong proponent of industrial hemp. One other license has been issued, and 16 more applications have been submitted by would-be North Dakota hemp farmers.
first ND hemp license signing ( )
Hemp is the fibrous cousin to marijuana, containing only trace amounts of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in pot. Its fibers are used to make clothing and a variety of other goods, ranging from paper to auto-body panels, while its seeds and oils are used in a rapidly increasing number of food products. While hemp products may be sold and consumed in the United States, federal law prohibits growing it here, so American farmers are forced to stand by and watch as imported hemp products cross the border from Canada and come overseas from Europe, where it is legally grown.

"Rep. Monson has been the leader in developing the necessary legislation for North Dakota to legalize production of industrial hemp," Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson said Monday. "It is fitting that he has the first license." The second license was granted to Wayne Hauge of Ray. "These two North Dakota producers have met all the requirements, including FBI background checks," Johnson said. "They have invested considerable time, money and effort to meet the letter and spirit of the law."

But although North Dakota has moved to make hemp farming legal, it remains illegal under federal law. Johnson and North Dakota would-be hemp farmers will seek registration from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), but given the agency's hostile attitude toward hemp, that seems unlikely. Just last week, the DEA refused to waive the non-refundable annual $2,293 registration fee, despite Johnson's request that it do so.

While Johnson and the would-be hemp farmers may be going through the motions of seeking DEA approval to lay the basis for a later legal challenge, for now Johnson said he wants to try to reason with the agency.

"The rules require that a state license is not effective until the licensee receives a registration from DEA to import, produce or process industrial hemp," Johnson said. "I will meet with DEA officials about this matter in Washington early next week. I will ask for DEA's cooperation with our state program, and I will ask DEA to implement a reasonable process to allow North Dakota producers to grow industrial hemp."

Johnson said he wants to have a decision from DEA on whether the agency will register farmers to grow industrial hemp, and if registration is forthcoming, what additional restrictions will be placed on growers.

"The controls placed on licensed industrial hemp farmers by North Dakota's laws and regulations include criminal background checks, identification of fields by satellite tracking, minimum acreage requirements, seed certification and mandatory laboratory tests," Johnson said. "The chain of custody for viable hemp seed must be fully documented."

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9. Press Release: Vote Hemp Exposes ONDCP and DEA Lies about Hemp Farming

(press release from Vote Hemp)

Canadian Govt. Can Tell Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana, Why Can't the US?

WASHINGTON, DC -- On January 28, 2007 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune story "Industrial hemp producer? Plan raises feds' suspicions," Tom Riley of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was quoted as saying:

"You have legitimate farmers who want to experiment with a new crop," Riley said. "But you have another group, very enthusiastic, who want to allow cultivation of hemp because they believe it will lead to a de facto legalization of marijuana." Mr. Riley continued with "The last thing law enforcement people need is for the cultivation of marijuana-looking plants to spread. Are we going to ask them to go through row by row, field by field, to distinguish between legal hemp and marijuana?"

"The ONDCP is wrong in its characterization of industrial hemp advocates, and there is no evidence that farmers who grow industrial hemp are hiding marijuana plants in their fields, whether in Canada or anywhere else," says Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra. "Because cross pollination of low THC industrial hemp and high THC marijuana is inevitable illicit marijuana growers avoid industrial hemp fields to protect the potency of their drug crop. It's simply illogical that a farmer's industrial hemp fields are ideal places to hide marijuana plants with all the extra scrutiny that comes with growing the crop. It's sad that, instead of a real policy debate on the issue of farming industrial hemp in the United States based on legislative intent and agronomic facts, the ONDCP and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) resort to false hyperbole and character assassination," says Steenstra. "Tom Riley is welcome to join me in Canada this summer for the Hemp Industries Association annual meeting and see for himself how our neighbors in the north can easily tell the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana crops."

Hemp farming in Canada is well regulated ensuring that only legitimate farmers are licensed and that they only grow government approved low-THC hemp. Requirements include applicant background checks, GPS coordinates of hemp fields, the use of approved low-THC seeds purchased from authorized seed vendors, and random inspections and testing. This licensing scheme ensures that farmers are only growing non-drug industrial hemp and not marijuana. Even though law enforcement is able to distinguish the difference between hemp and marijuana, the licensing process eliminates the need for them to visually distinguish between industrial hemp and its drug psychoactive cousin.

The lies about industrial hemp are prevalent in the public policy of the DEA as well. Steve Robertson, a DEA special agent in Washington, has also weighed in on the North Dakota debate with similar statements:

"The DEA does not have the authority to change existing federal law," Robertson said. "It's very simple for us: The law is there and we enforce the law," he said Wednesday. "We are law enforcement, not lawmakers."
-- "State's first hemp farming rules aimed at clearing federal hurdle," Grand Forks Herald, May 3, 2006

"It's interesting that Special Agent Robertson pretends that the DEA is purely a law enforcement entity, as they are not," says Tom Murphy, National Outreach Coordinator for Vote Hemp. "Like many Federal agencies, the DEA has been granted broad authority by Congress to interpret the statutes in the United States Code, such as the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This includes re-scheduling substances and promulgating detailed rules and regulations. The DEA could easily negotiate industrial hemp farming rules with North Dakota under the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 USC 563. It is obvious that the current rules are not set up for farmers to grow an agricultural crop that has no potential for use as a drug" says Mr. Murphy. "Instead the DEA chooses to interfere in the legislative process by confusing legislators, reporters and the public with needless and misleading rhetoric."

Industrial hemp plants have long and strong stalks, have few branches, have been bred for maximum production of fiber and/or seed, and grow up to 16 feet in height. They are planted in high densities of 100 to 300 plants per square yard. On the other hand, drug varieties of Cannabis are shorter, are not allowed to go to seed, and have been bred to maximize branching and thus leaves and flowers. They are planted much less densely to promote bushiness. The drug and non-drug varieties are harvested at different times, and planting densities look very different from the air.

The last commercial hemp crops in the United States were grown in central Wisconsin in 1957, and these crops were purchased and processed by the Rens Hemp Company in Brandon, about 40 miles northwest of Milwaukee. The primary reason industrial hemp has not been grown in the US since then is because of its misclassification as a Schedule I drug in the CSA of 1970. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 had provisions for farmers to grow non-psychoactive hemp by paying an annual occupational tax of $1.00. The exemption for hemp products was contained in the definition of marihuana in the Act:

"The term 'marihuana' means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L. ... but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination."

The language of the exemption was carried over almost verbatim to the definition of marihuana in the CSA [21 USC. §802(16)] which superseded the 1937 Tax Act, but since there was no active hemp industry at the time the provisions for hemp farming were not included in the new Act.

There is also an exemption for hemp farming in the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol Amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. Article 28 states that:

"2. This Convention shall not apply to the cultivation of the cannabis plant exclusively for industrial purposes (fibre and seed) or horticultural purposes."

Laws allowing the farming of industrial hemp would not be in conflict with the Single Convention which the US is a signatory.

Seven states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have now changed their laws to give farmers an affirmative right to grow industrial hemp commercially or for research purposes. All require a license from the DEA to grow the crop. Only Hawaii has grown hemp in recent years, but its research program ended when the DEA refused to renew the license. California's AB1147 addressed the DEA's bad faith interference by providing that the federal government has no basis or right to interfere with hemp grown in California pursuant to AB1147.

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10. Drug Use: Baby Boomers Most Likely to Have Shot Up

An analysis of US drug use data shows that the Baby Boom generation (born 1946 to 1964) has the highest rate of injection drug use ever. That bubble in injection drug use continues to this day, with the authors of the study noting that "the mean age of injection drug users has increased substantially."

Study author Gregory Armstrong of the Centers for Disease Control analyzed data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse from 1979 through 2002. He found that 1.5% of people surveyed in 2000-2002, or some 3.4 million people, reported ever injecting drugs. Nearly 0.2%, or some 440,000 people, reported shooting up in the previous year. The highest injection drug use rate by age came among 35-to-49-year-olds, with 3.1% reporting having put the needle in the vein.

The findings "may challenge conventional stereotypes of injection drug users," Armstrong said. "Injection drug users are a heterogenous group and, on average, they are no longer young." Nor are they black. The analysis found that injection drug use rates "are now lower among young blacks than among young whites."

That contrasts with the pattern for people born before 1955. While whites are now twice as likely to have shot up than blacks (1.7% vs. 0.8%), it was the other way around for people over 50. Among that cohort, blacks were more likely to have injected drugs.

The figures should be heeded by physicians, said Armstrong. "Anyone who has ever used injection drugs, no matter how infrequently or how remotely in the past, should be appropriately counseled and offered testing for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C," he warned.

The full report, "Injection Drug Users in the United States, 1979-2002, An Aging Population," was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2007;167:166-173). It is not available online without paying a fee. An abstract of the report can viewed here.

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11. Africa: Proposed Draconian Drug Law in Namibia Runs Into Intense Opposition

A proposed tough new drug law in Namibia that would send any drug offender to prison for 20 years—no matter which drug nor how small the quantity—ran into a buzz saw of opposition at a public hearing in the national capital, Windhoek, this week. Rastafarians, the arts community, legal scholars, and legal aid groups alike used the first of three days of public hearings to condemn the proposed measure as unduly harsh, and many called openly for the legalization of marijuana, according to a report inThe Namibian.
Namibia coat of arms
The "Combating the Abuse of Drugs Act" sailed through the National Assembly last year, but was referred to a National Council standing committee after some members objected to the suggested sentences for convicted offenders. It calls for a 20-year sentence for a first drug offense and a 30-year sentence for a subsequent drug offense. It would also subject anyone who "imports, exports, manufactures, promotes, sells or in any other manner provides instruments or literature for illegal consumption of drugs" to a 20-year prison sentence.

But attendees at the hearing were not shy about criticizing the law or calling for the legalization of marijuana. "If lawmakers think that this law will bring the crime rate down, they know very little," argued local artist Elmotho Mosimane. "Why in 2007, while the rest of the world is moving in the opposite way, are we going this route? In Amsterdam, where it is legal, where I can smoke marijuana in a bar, the crime rate is very low. How do we know that this law was not just brought in because of someone's personal feelings and convictions?" he asked the panel.

Lawmakers should consider the large number of people in Namibia who smoke marijuana and whether it really wants to jail them for decades, said media practitioner Augetto Graig. "No study has been made to establish how many people consume marijuana ... If such a study is completed thoroughly, I'm sure you'd find that these are at all levels of society, from the lower levels all the way up to parliamentarians," he said. "Where will you house all these people? Jails are already overcrowded, and we know that our jails have a reputation for being factories that create criminals."

But it wasn't just Rastas and bohemian artists who objected to the proposed law. The punishments envisioned were disproportionate to the offenses, said attorney Kaijata Kangueehi of the Magistrate's Commission. "The sentences are just too extraordinary, in the sense that they are way too heavy," Kangueehi argued as he handed the panel a 29-page presentation. "Nowhere in the Act is it looked at the quantity a person is caught with. If you are found with an amount which fits in a match box, you're treated the same as if you were caught with two tons. You don't need Solomon's wisdom to understand the unfairness of that situation," he said.

The Namibian Legal Aid Center also raised objections to the harsh sentences in the proposed law and even raised questions about its constitutionality. Namibians would find the sentences "shocking," especially when compared to alcohol, the group argued. "The effects of alcohol on neighbors and families are documented in our newspapers every day, yet it would appear that our legislature rightly accepts that it is a personal choice should one wish to use or abuse alcohol, insofar as the rights of others are not being violated."

The Legal Aid Center recommended that proposed sentences be drastically reduced. "If it is found that minimum sentences must be entertained in respect of certain drugs, the length of sentences should be considered, a period of six months to 12 months being suggested. This would coincide with most rehabilitation treatment periods," the organization said. The Center also called for drug sentences to be served "at a facility specifically designed for such rehabilitation purposes."

The Center objected to the language about promoting "instruments or literature for illegal consumption of drugs," arguing that it could lead to people being prosecuted for selling rolling papers or water pipes, or even for promoting any literature or video related to reggae music or Rastafarianism, where marijuana smoking is part of a religious ceremony. "This provision would almost certainly offend against religious freedom and freedom of thought, consequence and belief which is protected under article 21 of the Namibian constitution," the Center said.

Namibia's new drug law is not a done deal yet. If legislators are actually listening to the people at the public hearings on the law, they will go back to the drawing board.

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12. Web Scan

former Reagan administration official blasts paramilitary policing in "The Empire Turns Its Guns on the Citizenry," Counterpunch, 1/24

DPA's Asha Bandele and Tony Newman in "From New Orleans to Newark: How are We Going to End the Violence in Our Cities?," Huffington Post, 2/7

and just Tony on "Obama: We Will Support You Whether You Can or Can't Kick Your Addiction" to cigarettes, 2/8

History of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, UK

and bizarre army warning about hemp candy forwarded to Transform

February issue of Cannabinoid Chronicles

Drug Truth Network:
Cultural Baggage for 02/02/07: Methamphetamine Conference: Alan Clear, Prof Rick Curtis, +Terry Nelson of LEAP, Drug War Facts, Poppygate & Official Govt Truth (MP3)
Century of Lies for 02/02/07: Pledge Drive Special with Gatewood Galbraith, Norm Stamper, Carl Veley, Sanho Tree, Chuck Thomas, The"Marijuanalogues," Bruce Mirken, Ethan Nadelmann (MP3)

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13. Weekly: This Week in History

February 9, 1909: Congress passes the Opium Exclusion Act.

February 14, 1929: St. Valentine's Day Massacre symbolizes the mob violence of the Prohibition era.

February 12, 1961: In the first televised challenge to marijuana prohibition, Beat poet Allan Ginsberg uses an appearance on the John Crosby show to argue for the harmlessness of marijuana. By the end of the program, Crosby and guests author Norman Mailer and anthropologist Ashley Montague all joined Ginsberg in agreeing the current laws were too extreme.

February 11, 1982: Attorney General William French Smith grants an exemption sparing the CIA from a legal requirement to report on drug smuggling by agency assets. The exemption had been secretly engineered by CIA Director William J. Casey according to a letter placed into the Congressional Record by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., on May 7, 1998, which establishes that Casey foresaw the legal dilemma which the CIA would encounter should federal law require it to report on illicit narcotics smuggling by its agents.

February 11, 1988: The international heroin seizure record is set -- 2,816 pounds in Bangkok, Thailand.

February 14, 1995: The U.S. House of Representatives approves several drug-related bills, including H.R. 728, a bill that replaces the police ($8.8 billion), prevention ($4 billion), and drug courts ($1 billion) provisions of the 1994 Crime Act with a $10 billion block grant program.

February 14, 1996: Fairfax Police Chief Jim Anderson becomes one of the latest officials to speak out in favor of California's medical marijuana initiative when he says, "I believe there is adequate unbiased and scientific evidence that marijuana does have medicinal benefit."

February 10, 1998: The United Kingdom House of Lords announces an investigation into the recreational and medical use of marijuana to be conducted by the Lords Select Committee. Announcement of the inquiry follows a campaign by the UK's Independent to decriminalize marijuana, a report from the British Medical Association urging Ministers to consider allowing the medical use of cannabinoids, and a plea from Lord Chief Justice Lord Bingham of Cornhill, who says marijuana decriminalization deserves "detached, objective, [and] independent consideration."

February 11, 1999: Researchers in Boston, Massachusetts, announce they found no link between marijuana use by pregnant mothers and miscarriages. The study does document a strong link between tobacco consumption and miscarriages, and also shows an increased risk of miscarriage by mothers who use cocaine.

February 9, 2000: Deborah Lynn Quinn, born with no arms or legs, is sentenced to one year in an Arizona prison for marijuana possession and violating probation on a previous drug offense, the attempted sale of four grams of marijuana to a police informant for $20. Quinn requires around the clock care for feeding, bathing, and hygiene.

February 11, 2001: President Jorge Battle of Uruguay becomes the first head of state in Latin America to call for drug legalization.

February 12, 2002: The same day that President George W. Bush issues his National Drug Control Strategy, DEA agents raid the Harm Reduction Center, a medical marijuana club in San Francisco.

February 15, 2002: The ImpacTeen Illicit Drug Team releases a report entitled "Illicit Drug Policies: Selected Laws from the 50 States." The report says that state statutory drug laws vary significantly across the United States, contradicting a commonly-held assumption that state drug policies follow federal drug policy. For instance, depending on the state, a first time offender may be subject to anywhere from one year to lifetime imprisonment and $5,000 to $1 million in fines for the sale of one ecstasy pill. The report also shows that, as of January 1, 2000, 24 states and the District of Columbia enacted legislation allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, despite the federal government's objections.

February 10, 2003: South Dakota's HB 1153 passes the state's House of Representatives. The bill revises the current penalties for marijuana distribution to include "intent to distribute."

February 14, 2004: The Daytona Beach News Journal reports that Volusia County sheriff's investigators seized bricks of marijuana during several drug busts that were, in fact, bricks they had already seized before. As it turned out, half a million dollars' worth of drugs was stolen from their evidence compound by a former evidence manager. How many times it may have happened prior wasn't known.

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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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:

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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Permission to Reprint: This issue of Drug War Chronicle is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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