Drug War Chronicle #479 - March 30, 2007

1. Feature: Drugs Should Be Classified According to Their Harms, British Experts Say -- And They're Not Now

A study by British drug experts calls for a science-based drug classification system based on the harm related to the use of each drug. It ranks drugs by harm, with alcohol and tobacco both ranked as more harmful than marijuana.

2. Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Beat the Heat: How to Handle Encounters With Law Enforcement," by Katya Komisaruk (2003, AK Press, 192 pp., $16.00 PB)

We don't usually review books except when they're hot off the press, but we're making an exception with attorney Katya Komisaruk's "Beat the Heat." This is the best legal self defense book we've seen in some time and we think our readers need to know about it.

3. Book Offer: Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics

An important new book debunks literally years of statistical legerdemain by the nation's central drug policy office -- and is DRCNet's latest premium for our members.

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

Two cops get busted, a jail guard pleads guilty, a Border Patrol agent is found guilty, and a sheriff's deputy is sent to prison. Just your typical week of drug prohibition-related law enforcement corruption.

5. Law Enforcement: Atlanta Police Change Policies in Wake of Fatal Drug Raid

When 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was killed by Atlanta undercover narcs in a botched drug raid last November, community outrage was palpable. Now, the Atlanta police are changing some of their practices and procedures.

6. Law Enforcement: The Drug War Dominates Grand Jury Action in One Ohio County

Last week's grand jury action in one Ohio county opens a window on the impact of drug prohibition on the criminal justice system.

7. Marijuana: Cincinnati City Council Votes to Extend Tough Ordinance

Last year, the Cincinnati city council voted for an ordinance that would make marijuana possession a criminal offense, saying it would reduce violent crime. It hasn't, but the council this week voted to extend it anyway.

8. Medical Marijuana: New Hampshire Bill Narrowly Defeated

A New Hampshire medical marijuana bill has been defeated in the House. Advocates are pointing to 2/3 public support and the closeness of the vote, and are promising to come back next year.

9. Marijuana: Bob Barr to Lobby for Marijuana Policy Project

Former Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr blocked the District of Columbia from enacting medical marijuana. That was then. Now, he has signed on as a lobbyist with the Marijuana Policy Project.

10. South America: Bolivia Moves to Block Coca Crop Expansion

The Bolivian government is moving to "rationalize" coca production in the Yungas region.

11. Middle East: Marijuana Not Kosher for Passover, Says Green Leaf Party

Marijuana is not kosher for Passover, Israel's Green Leaf Party warned this week. Does that mean it is kosher the rest of the time?

12. Weekly: This Week in History

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

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1. Feature: Drugs Should Be Classified According to Their Harms, British Experts Say -- And They're Not Now

A study published last Friday in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet has called for drugs -- licit and illicit -- to be classified by the harm they do rather than the artificial divisions embodied in Britain's Misuse of Drugs Act. With the US Controlled Substances Act set up in a very similar fashion, the study speaks to US drug policy as well.

The study, Development of a Rational Scale to Assess the Harms of Drugs of Potential Misuse, also sought to arrive at a science-based assessment of the comparative harms of various substances, both licit and illicit. The results will be surprising only to those who rely on the mass media for their drug knowledge.

The British researchers, led by Dr. David Nutt, professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Bristol, and Dr. Colin Blackmore, professor of physiology, anatomy and genetics at Oxford University, assessed the potential harms of the different drugs on three different scales: the physical harm to the user caused by the drug, the tendency of the drug to induce dependence, and the deleterious effects of drug use on families, community, and society.

When weighed on the basis of harm caused, the researchers found both alcohol and tobacco to be more harmful than marijuana or ecstasy. Heroin and cocaine topped the list as most harmful, followed by barbiturates, street methadone, and alcohol. Of the 20 substances evaluated, marijuana came in 11th, just behind the heroin substitute buprenorphine and just ahead of solvents. Interestingly, LSD and ecstasy both scored very low on the harm scale, coming in at 14th and 18th places, respectively. The mild Middle Eastern stimulant khat was scored as the least harmful of the substances evaluated.

The researchers noted that the rankings by harm had little relation to the way substances were classified in the United Kingdom. While both LSD and ecstasy, for example, were found to be low in harm, they are classified as Class A drugs in Britain -- the most serious classification. Similarly, alcohol and tobacco, while ranking relatively high on the harm scale, remain legal substances.

The situation is similar with the US Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Under the CSA, marijuana, LSD, khat, and ecstasy are all Schedule I drugs, a designation they share with the much more harmful drugs heroin and cocaine. US drug law designates these soft drugs as more dangerous than drugs like barbiturates and amphetamines, which are Schedule II drugs, although the latter rank much higher on the Lancet's harmfulness scale.

Such mis-scheduling is a problem, said the researchers. "Drug policy is primarily aimed at reducing the harm to individual users, their families and society," said Dr. Blakemore in a statement accompanying the release of the study. "But at present there is no rational, evidence-based method for assessing the harm of drugs. We have tried to develop such a method. We hope that policy makers will take note of the fact that the resulting ranking of drugs differs substantially from their classification in the Misuse of Drugs Act and that alcohol and tobacco are judged more harmful than many illegal substances."

"Drug misuse and abuse are major health problems," said Dr. Nutt. "Our methodology offers a systematic framework and process that could be used by national and international regulatory bodies to assess the harm of current and future drugs of abuse."

While US drug reform activists generally lauded the study and its conclusions, they raised concerns about the ranking of marijuana squarely in the middle in terms of harms.
"It does seem eminently reasonable as we look at marijuana laws that we start from the well-documented fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "That being the case, our current laws, both in the US and Britain, would appear to make very little sense. The very concept that laws about drugs should bear some relationship to the actual dangers of the drugs is downright enlightening," he told Drug War Chronicle.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), welcomed the findings, but also raised concern about marijuana's ranking. "They've paved the way toward a better understanding of drug scheduling," he told the Chronicle. "At the very least, this should start the inversion process of pushing cannabis to where it should be on the drug schedules."

And where would that be? "We need to acknowledge that marijuana, alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco are all soft drugs," he said. "Anything above that would need scheduling or some sort of regulation on the substance."

The Lancet study's authors would disagree slightly. In their discussion of science-based drug scheduling, while they note there are no sharp break points on the relative harm scale, they suggest that even a three-tiered system like that now in place in Britain could be more equitably arranged. "If a three-category classification were to be retained," they wrote, "one possible interpretation of our findings is that drugs with harm scores equal to that of alcohol and above might be class A, cannabis and those below might be class C, and drugs in between might be class B. In that case, it is salutary to see that alcohol and tobacco -- the most widely used unclassified substances -- would have harm ratings comparable with class A and B illegal drugs, respectively."

Marijuana's ranking as more harmful than drugs like LSD and ecstasy grated somewhat on the marijuana movement spokesmen. "They ranked it pretty high for dependency, but marijuana dependency tends to be pretty mild," said MPP's Mirken. "You could make the case that dependence on a drug that isn't that harmful isn't as damaging as dependence on one that is more harmful. I don't know that these researchers made that distinction."

"They gave a little too much weight to the social harm they ascribe to cannabis and, more notably, the intoxication level," said NORML's St. Pierre. "They rank it as slightly more intoxicating than LSD, but smoking cannabis in even its most potent form can hardly be compared to a six-hour LSD experience. I suspect that the Lancet editors are giving too much deference to the notion that cannabis is now as powerful as those other drugs."

"I may have some quibbles with their methodology, but this is a reasonable step, and it's more than we're capable of in the US," said Mirken. "When you're crawling and others are walking, you don't criticize them for not running a four-minute mile."

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2. Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Beat the Heat: How to Handle Encounters With Law Enforcement," by Katya Komisaruk (2003, AK Press, 192 pp., $16.00 PB)

We don't usually review books except when they're hot off the press, but we're making an exception with attorney Katya Komisaruk's "Beat the Heat." This is the best legal self defense book we've seen in some time and we think our readers need to know about it.

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It's a sad commentary on our society that we need books that tell us how to protect ourselves from the police. But with the number of drug arrests each year climbing inexorably toward the two million mark, and with drug prohibition being, in our view, morally indefensible, those of us who use illicit substances (or have friends or loved ones that do) need all the protection we can get.

This book will help drug users avoid arrest. I won't be shy: I think this is a good thing. Call it applying the principles of harm reduction to the US criminal justice system. While we acknowledge the possible harms drug users can incur to themselves or inflict upon others, we think the harms of being arrested, and quite possibly imprisoned, far exceed those of drug use. People who harm others can be punished under other kinds of laws than those that criminalize drugs. Anything that can throw some sand in the gears of the drug war machine is something to cheer.

"Beat the Heat" throws sand in the gears of the drug war machine. It does so by teaching its readers how to exercise their basic constitutional rights. That's another sad commentary in itself. We have a prohibitionist drug policy that relies on citizens knowingly or unknowingly waiving their rights in the face of intimidating uniformed men with guns. After all, it's not like drug use or sales is a crime where there is a complaining victim. Nor do drug users or sellers normally flaunt their contraband items. The only way many drug arrests are made is by people letting the police browbeat them into doing something stupid -- like admitting they smoke pot or allowing the police to search their vehicle when they know there are illicit items within.

Katya Komisaruk shows you how to exercise your rights in an easy-to-read, down-to-earth fashion, complete with illustrated scenarios where she shows you what you did wrong and what to do instead. It's not rocket science: Never talk to the police, she advises, and never consent to a search. You've got nothing to gain and plenty to lose.

The police aren't talking to you to make idle chit-chat. They are investigating, looking for possible crimes, and the more you open your mouth, the greater the chances of ending up in jail. In response to police requests to talk, Komisaruk recommends this phrase: "Am I free to go?"

If the answer is "yes," then go. If the answer is "no," you are already being detained or arrested. The correct answer to all further inquiries from police is: "I'm going to remain silent. I'd like to see a lawyer."

And when it comes to requests to search you, your home, or your vehicle, the answer is always: "I do not consent to a search."

These are basic constitutional rights, and it seems simple to exercise them. But police are experts in getting people to waive their rights. A valuable portion of "Beat the Heat" is devoted to explaining just how police get people to waive their rights -- intimidation, false friendliness, lies -- and how to avoid falling into those traps.

But "Beat the Heat" is much more than just how not to get busted. It's also a primer for those who have been arrested and are now facing the tender mercies of the criminal justice system. Komarisuk covers it all, from getting out on bail to working with your lawyer to what to do if all else has failed and you're headed for prison. There's also a chapter on how to witness and accurately report police misconduct, as well as chapters on the legal rights of minors and non-citizens.

Don't get me wrong: "Beat the Heat" is not written as a book to help drug users stay out of jail. Nor is it a diatribe against the drug war. It merely teaches people how to protect themselves from unnecessary arrest by knowing their rights and how to effectively exercise them. And that makes it a book that helps drug users stay out of jail. I'm all for that.

There are 20 million drug users abroad in the land today. If you are one or know one, you need to get this book. Komisaruk will make it easy for you to understand what you need to do to protect yourself.

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3. Book Offer: Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics

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Normally when we publish a book review in our Drug War Chronicle newsletter, it gets readers but is not among the top stories visited on the site. Recently we saw a big exception to that rule when nearly 2,000 of you read our review of the new book Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Much of this reading took place during a week that had other very popular articles as well, so clearly the topic of this book, which was authored by respected academics Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen, has struck a chord. As well it should.

Please help DRCNet continue our own work of debunking drug war lies with a generous donation. If your donation is $32 or more, we'll send you a complimentary copy of Robinson and Scherlen's book to help you be able to debunk drug war lies too.

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging on our web site about things I've learned reading Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics. Stay tuned!

Your donation will help DRCNet as we advance what we think is an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support, and hope to hear from you soon.

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P.S. You can read Chronicle editor Phil Smith's review of the book here.

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

Two cops get busted, a jail guard pleads guilty, a Border Patrol agent is found guilty, and a sheriff's deputy is sent to prison. Just your typical week of drug prohibition-related law enforcement corruption. Let's get to it:

In Indianapolis, an Indianapolis Police reserve officer was arrested for stealing drugs and money from undercover officers. Reserve Officer Chris Spaulding is accused of stealing $7,000 from one undercover officer during a sting and failing to turn in the evidence. He is also charged with using a Hendricks County hotel room to sell drugs, especially marijuana. Spaulding is in jail pending a bail hearing. His trial date is set for May 14.

In Deerfield Beach, Florida, a patrol deputy was arrested Tuesday for taking cocaine and prescription drugs from what he thought was an abandoned automobile. Patrol Deputy Robert Delaney is charged with possession of cocaine and oxycodone. Delanay came to the attention of superiors when a confidential informant reported that he bought and used cocaine. That led the sheriff's office to set up a sting, leaving four grams of cocaine and six oxycodone tablets in a vehicle, then calling Delaney to investigate. As officers watched, Delaney took the drugs for himself. He also admitted snorting some of the cocaine while on duty.

In White Plains, New York, a Westchester County corrections officer pled guilty March 21 for his role in a drug distribution network. Jail guard Michael Gray, 43, pled guilty to attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance and promoting prison contraband for selling cocaine to another jail guard and bringing the drug into the jail in August 2005. He was part of a trafficking ring operating in the Bronx and Westchester County that was busted in a series of raids in December 2005. He will be sentenced in June.

In Tucson, a former Border Patrol agent has been found guilty of making off with a 22-pound brick of marijuana during a border bust. Former Agent Michael Carlos Gonzalez, 34, was convicted by a federal jury March 20 of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense. Gonzalez went down after a December 2005 traffic stop. An Arizona state trooper stopped a pickup, the passenger and driver fled into the desert, and the trooper pursued them. Gonzalez arrived on the scene, grabbed one of the numerous bricks of weed in the truck, moved the remaining bricks to cover up his theft, and put the brick in his vehicle. Unfortunately for him, the trooper's patrol car camera caught it all. Gonzalez is looking at up to 10 years in federal prison, five on each count.

In Winchester, Kentucky, a former Clark County deputy sheriff has been sentenced to prison on firearms and drug charges. Former Deputy Brad Myers was originally charged with two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance and two counts of carrying a firearm during the offense, but pled guilty to one count of distributing Lortab pills and one count of carrying a semiautomatic pistol. Myers' attorney argued that he developed an addiction to pain pills after being injured on the job, but he's still going to prison for three years.

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5. Law Enforcement: Atlanta Police Change Policies in Wake of Fatal Drug Raid

The Atlanta Police Department has announced a series of policy changes in the wake of a botched November drug raid that left a 92-year-old woman dead and three undercover officers wounded. According to Chief Richard Pennington, the changes are necessary to protect both citizens and officers in cases where police are relying on informants.

In the November raid in which Kathryn Johnston was shot and killed after opening fire on undercover officers breaking down her door, police said a confidential informant led them to the home. The man police named as the informant has since denied leading them there and has said police asked him to lie about it after the raid occurred.

Fulton County prosecutors have said they will pursue murder indictments against the officers involved. The FBI is also investigating.

"I think a lot of times, some of these things could have been avoided" had the new reforms been in place, Pennington told a downtown press conference Tuesday.

While the federal investigation continues, Pennington said the department would not wait to implement reforms. "We're going to wait for the FBI investigation, but I thought it was incumbent on us to see what we can do to ensure this is not going to happen again," he said.

Pennington said the department would nearly double the size of its narcotics unit, from 16 to 30 officers, and will rotate them off the drug squad every few years to prevent complacency. [Editor: They're increasing the size of the unit after they killed a 92-year old woman?!?!? Doubling it?!?!?!?!?!?] The department will also drug test all 1,800 of its officers.

More to the point, Pennington announced that all applications for "no-knock" warrants, like that obtained in the Johnston case, must now be approved by officers with the rank of major or higher. Applications for regular search warrants must now be approved by an officer with the rank of lieutenant or higher. Previously, lower ranking officers could approve "no-knock" warrants and drug raids.

Also, police supervisors must now witness any payments to confidential informants, and informants must now undergo "integrity checks" to ensure their truthfulness. Police must now photograph informants as they enter a drug location to make a buy, Pennington added.

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6. Law Enforcement: The Drug War Dominates Grand Jury Action in One Ohio County

Ashtabula County, Ohio, sits in the far northeast corner of the state, adjacent to Cleveland. With slightly more than 100,000 people, 95% of them white, there is not a whole lot of criminal justice system activity going on. Without drug prohibition, there would be even less.

Last Friday, the Ashtabula County grand jury issued indictments for 15 people. One was a sex offender who failed to register, two assaulted a police officer, one was charged with attempted murder, one was charged with auto theft, and one was charged with felonious assault. That's six out of 15 indictments.

The remaining nine indictments were drug-related. The charges included possession of methamphetamine, possession of cocaine, possession of crack cocaine (2), possession of methadone, possession of meth precursors (2), marijuana distribution, and cocaine distribution.

In other words, people charged with simple drug (or precursor) possession accounted for nearly half of all criminal indictments in Ashtabula County last week, and drug-related charges constituted 60% of all indictments. With an end to drug prohibition, or at least an end to arresting drug users, the Ashtabula County court house would be a much quieter place. And while the figures may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it's pretty much the same all over.

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7. Marijuana: Cincinnati City Council Votes to Extend Tough Ordinance

The Cincinnati City Council voted Tuesday to renew a tough municipal marijuana ordinance it approved last year despite charges that it had not done what supporters said it would do: reduce violent crime. Thanks to strong local opposition to the ordinance when originally passed, it included a sunset provision and would have expired Friday if the council had not acted.

Under Ohio law, possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana is no more than a ticketable offense with a maximum $100 fine. That was too lenient for the city fathers in Cincinnati, who last year passed a municipal ordinance allowing police to arrest and jail people for up to 30 days for simple pot possession. The measure would reduce crime by removing guns from the streets, allowing police to target dealers, and scaring residents of nearby Kentucky and Indiana away from coming to the city to buy drugs, supporters said at the time.

Cincinnati police testified that marijuana arrests had removed 62 guns from city streets, but opponents, led by a coalition of groups organized as Citizens for a Safer Cincinnati, argued that crime rates had increased since the ordinance was passed. They have the numbers on their side.

As Safer Cincinnati member and Hamilton County Libertarian Party head Paul Green noted in an analysis of crime figures since the ordinance was passed, the ordinance has not succeeded in any of its three goals. There were fewer arrests of out-of-staters, but their total number was small in both years, and the reduction is a measly 0.7%. And while police bragged that they had seized 62 weapons, the number of guns reported to have been used in crimes was up 27%. The number of handguns -- the weapon most commonly carried by drug dealers -- reported to have been used in crimes was up 17%.

Violent crime has also increased since the ordinance has been in place. Murders were up 16% in 2006 compared to 2005, and armed robbery was up a whopping 44%. Overall, the serious crime index showed a 4.4% increase in 2006.

But despite the ordinance's failure to achieve its stated goals, the council reapproved it. That will make the ordinance a campaign issue, Safer Cincinnati warned.

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8. Medical Marijuana: New Hampshire Bill Narrowly Defeated

A bill that would have allowed ill New Hampshire residents to use medical marijuana was narrowly defeated Wednesday. The bill, HB 774, was killed on a 186-177 vote in the House.

Supporters of the bill argued that marijuana can be the only drug that works for patients with some conditions. Rep. Evelyn Merrick (D-Lancaster), who has suffered from cancer, said the treatments can be worse than the disease. "How many others must we allow to suffer needlessly?" she asked her colleagues.

But Rep. Joseph Miller (D-Durham), a retired doctor, and Rep. William Butynski (D-Hinsdale) scoffed at marijuana as medicine. "There is no such thing as medical marijuana," said Butynsk, who also worried aloud about allowing people to grow it.

Real medicine is injected, taken in pill form, or sprayed under the tongue -- not smoked -- said Miller. Besides, he added, it isn't needed. "We have ample therapeutic equivalents legally available," he said.

But while the arguments of opponents prevailed this year, chances are good that proponents of cannabis as medical will be back next year. Given the close vote this year and polling showing two-thirds support for medical marijuana in the state, the prospects are promising, said Stuart Cooper of the New Hampshire Marijuana Policy Initiative.

"This is sensible, compassionate legislation that protects our most vulnerable citizens," Cooper said in a statement after the vote. "But the close vote proves that it's only a matter of time before our elected officials give their constituents what they've asked for: an effective medical marijuana law that ensures nobody gets arrested just for battling life-threatening conditions."

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9. Marijuana: Bob Barr to Lobby for Marijuana Policy Project

My, how times have changed. Less than a decade ago, former Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr was the bete noire of the marijuana reform movement. Now, he works for it. That's right, Bob Barr, the man who single-handedly derailed medical marijuana in Washington, DC, has been hired as a lobbyist by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

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Jim and the late Cheryl Miller, with Gary Storck and Jacki Rickert, outside Bob Barr's office (
Ironically, Barr will now lobby for the rights of states to set their own medical marijuana policies without interference from the federal government. It was his 1998 "Barr Amendment" to the annual DC appropriations vote that blocked DC officials from counting the votes in that year's medical marijuana initiative, which won with 69% of the vote.

A former prosecutor in the Atlanta suburbs, Barr was always "tough on drugs," but otherwise showed civil libertarian tendencies. After being defeated in 2002 in a campaign that featured attack ads using medical marijuana patients, Barr parted ways with the Republican Party, joining the Libertarians in 2006. He also became a lobbyist for his former arch-rival, the American Civil Liberties Union.

In an interview this week with The Politico, the former arch-drug warrior explained that times have changed. "I, over the years, have taken a very strong stand on drug issues, but in light of the tremendous growth of government power since 9/11, it has forced me and other conservatives to go back and take a renewed look at how big and powerful we want the government to be in people's lives," Barr said.

Barr brings a "great deal of credibility, particularly among people on the Republican side of the aisle," MPP government relations director Aaron Houston told The Politico. "He certainly would not have been the first person I would have expected to sign off to us, but I'm very pleased that he has," Houston said. "I'm very pleased that he has come around, and I hope he serves as an example to his former colleagues."

As a newly christened MPP lobbyist, Barr is already talking the talk. There might be "legitimate medical uses of marijuana and we ought not have this knee-jerk reaction against it, and people ought to be allowed to explore," he said.

He will also lobby to kill the Office of National Drug Control Policy's youth anti-drug media campaign, which repeated studies have shown to be ineffective. "A lot of conservatives have expressed great concern over the taxpayer money that is being wasted on this poorly run advertising campaign," said Barr, who left Congress in 2003.

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10. South America: Bolivia Moves to Block Coca Crop Expansion

The Bolivian government announced Tuesday a new plan to confront the expansion of coca farming in national parks and areas protected under national law. Under the plan, aimed at growers in the traditional coca-producing Yungas area near La Paz, local coca grower unions will be responsible for ensuring that production does not spread.

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coca leaves drying by highway, Chapare
According to the Bolivian Information Agency, government officials had been visiting the Yungas since last month to announce the changes, which include banning new planting in fields that have been abandoned for two years or more.

The government of President Evo Morales, a former coca grower himself, has made progress in reducing conflict between coca growers and the government in the Chapare, his native region, but tensions have been rising in the Yungas. While Morales has expanded the amount of coca that can be grown in the Chapare, that has not been the case in the Yungas.

Under Morales' "coca, yes; cocaine, no" policy, the Bolivian government is seeking to end forced eradication of coca crops and replace it with "rationalization," or negotiated eradication of excess crops. The idea is to reduce social conflict by bringing coca growers into the decision-making process rather than imposing eradication on them.

"The farmers' unions, as the smallest units of social organization in the tropics of Cochabamba (Chapare) and the Yungas of La Paz, assume direct responsibility for preventing the cultivation of coca leaf in fields that have been abandoned by their owners for more than two years," said the proposal from the Deputy Minister of Social Defense and Controlled Substances, Felipe Caceres.

The plan also includes marketing the coca crop for licit uses and support for interdiction work aimed at disrupting the cocaine traffic.

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11. Middle East: Marijuana Not Kosher for Passover, Says Green Leaf Party

Israel's Green Leaf Party, the country's leading marijuana reform advocacy organization, warned Wednesday that marijuana is not kosher for Passover. Jews who observe the week-long holiday's dietary laws should lay off the weed, the group said.

According to Green Leaf, rabbis have grouped marijuana products along with a family of foods including peas, beans, and lentils that are forbidden to observant Jews during Passover according to the European tradition of rabbinic interpretation. Passover begins on Monday.

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Passover ritual 'seder plate' (courtesy Wikimedia)
"We are warning our people not to eat anything with hemp products if they follow the practice of kitniyot on Pesach," said party spokesperson Michelle Levine. "We are considering announcing a ban on everything containing hemp just to be on the safe side. We are going with the rabbis on this. People should remove all cannabis and hemp from their homes."

The Orthodox Anarchist blog disagreed, calling the rulings relating to separation of grains outdated and urging Ale Yarok to instead focus on highlighting halakhic (Jewish religious statutory interpretation) moral arguments such as those supporting medical marijuana or the Orthodox Union's support for religious ayahuasca use rights.

There is an upside to the rabbinical ban during Passover, said Levine. "Logic dictates that if the rabbis say cannabis is non-kosher for Passover, it is apparently kosher during the rest of the year."

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12. Weekly: This Week in History

April 1, 1909: The Opium Exclusion Act takes effect.

April 3, 1953: With the support of Allen W. Dulles, director of Central Intelligence, Richard C. Helms proposes funding for a biochemical warfare research program named MKULTRA, which among other things administered LSD to its unwilling participants.

March 30, 1961: The UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is convened in New York City, the first of the three international treaties binding signatory nations into prohibitionist systems.

April 2, 1988: The Economist editorializes in favor of bringing drug users within the law by allowing them to purchase limited doses of drugs that have been manufactured and distributed legally.

March 30, 1992: Bill Clinton, during the 1992 presidential campaign, says, "When I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale."

April 1, 2000: Canada's premier national newspaper, The National Post, editorializes in favor of legalizing marijuana.

April 5, 2000: The Journal of the American Medical Association publishes "Trends in Medical Use and Abuse of Opioid Analgesics." The researchers conclude: "Conventional wisdom suggests that the abuse potential of opioid analgesics is such that increases in medical use of these drugs will lead inevitably to increases in their abuse. The data from this study with respect to the opioids in the class of morphine provide no support for this hypothesis. The present trend of increasing medical use of opioid analgesics to treat pain does not appear to be contributing to increases in the health consequences of opioid analgesic abuse."

March 31, 2001: An editorial in the The Lancet -- the United Kingdom's top medical journal -- criticizes the futility of drug prohibition and America's present anti-drug strategies.

April 2, 2003: US Rep. Ron Paul asks the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate whether the Office of National Drug Control Policy violated the Congressional ban on spending funds on publicity or propaganda.

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13. 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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14. 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 http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/feed 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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15. Announcement: New Format for the Reformer's Calendar

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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 on our 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.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School