Drug War Chronicle #489 - June 8, 2007

1. Feature: Congress Moves to End Ban on DC Needle Exchange Funding

In 1998, ideologically driven congressional Republicans barred the District of Colombia from using even its own money to fund needle exchange programs. Now, congressional Democrats are moving to end that ban.

2. Feature: Canadian Mom Searching for Missing Daughter Denied Entry to US Over 21-Year-Old Drug Conviction

Canadian Glendene Grant's daughter went missing in Las Vegas last year. Now, US officials won't let her entry the country to look for her because she has a two-decades old drug conviction.

3. Feature: Fireworks at Book Forum in Washington as "Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics" Authors Confront ONDCP Official

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) came under withering criticism at an event hosted by the Cato Institute last Thursday -- and hit back. Here's a taste.

4. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

Do you read Drug War Chronicle? If so, we need your feedback to evaluate our work and make the case for Drug War Chronicle to funders. We need donations too.

5. 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.

6. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

In addition to the weekly reporting you see here in the Chronicle, DRCNet also features daily content in the way of blogging, news links, redistributed press releases and announcements from our allies and more.

7. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Well, thank goodness for crooked prison guards! If it wasn't for them, all we would have is blank space here this week.

8. Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Governor Vetoes Bill, Override Expected

Gov. Donald Carcieri has vetoed a bill that would make Rhode Island's medical marijuana law permanent, but legislative leaders are vowing to override it -- as they did the last time.

9. Medical Marijuana: Connecticut Bill Passes Legislature

The Connecticut legislature has passed a medical marijuana bill. Now it's up to Gov. Jodi Rell (R) to sign it, veto it, or just get out of the way. If she does nothing, the bill becomes law.

10. Elected Officials: Baltimore Councilman Calls for Drug Legalization

Frustrated by endless drug war and associated crime and violence, a Baltimore city council member says it's time to talk about drug legalization.

11. Marijuana: Mendocino County Supervisors Say Legalize It

The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors has sent a letter to lawmakers urging the legalization of marijuana. It was a belated response to a ballot measure passed by local voters six years ago.

12. Racial Profiling: It's Getting Worse in Missouri

Driving While Black continues to be problematic in Missouri -- and it's getting worse.

13. Death Penalty: Two More Drug Offenders Sentenced in Vietnam, One Executed in Saudi Arabia

The nations of Southeast Asia and the Middle East continue to inflict the death penalty on drug offenders. This week, two Vietnamese peasants got the ultimate sanction and a Saudi got beheaded.

14. Latin America: Colombia Coca Production Up Again Despite Massive Eradication Efforts

The US government reported Monday that coca cultivation had increased in Colombia again last year -- despite a massive aerial herbicide spraying campaign and $700 million in US aid. The announcement comes as congressional Democrats attempt to cut anti-drug aid to Colombia.

15. Middle East: Don't Take Your Doobies to Dubai

Travelers beware! Having even the smallest detectable amount of hash or marijuana on you when traveling to Dubai can mean you'll be spending years in prison.

16. Web Scan

Canada safe injection sites study, new Sentencing Project briefing sheets on women in the criminal justice system, DrugTruth radio network update, Steve Kubby, Cannabinoid Chronicles, Playboy Mansion fundraiser

17. Weekly: This Week in History

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

18. Job Opportunities: Director of Federal Policies and Web Developer, MPP, Washington

The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring a Director of Federal Policies and a Web Developer for its office in Washington, DC.

19. Job Opportunity: Executive Director, Project SAFE, Philadelphia

Project SAFE, a harm reduction organization promoting human rights-based public health among women working in prostitution on the street in Philadelphia, is hiring an executive director.

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

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

21. Announcement: DRCNet RSS Feeds Now Available

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

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

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

1. Feature: Congress Moves to End Ban on DC Needle Exchange Funding

A nine-year-old measure barring the District of Colombia from spending its own funds on needle exchange programs (NEPs) instituted by conservative Republican lawmakers was removed from the DC appropriations bill Tuesday. Led by House Subcommittee of Financial Services and General Government chair Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the subcommittee voted to excise the language from the bill, a key step in allowing the District to enact the proven harm reduction measure in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne infectious diseases.

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Ron Daniels at PreventionWorks! van, Washington (screen shot of recent nytimes.com ''slide show'')
Although it has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the country, with as much as a third of it linked to injection drug use, Washington, DC is the only city in the country expressly prohibited from spending money for NEPs. According to the North American Syringe Exchange Association, more than 200 NEPs are currently operating in 36 states.

"My basic principle in this bill is that the federal government should not dictate to the city how to manage its own affairs or spend its own money," said Serrano in a Tuesday statement. "Therefore, you will find that we have removed or changed riders that have been in past bills that closely prescribed to the city what it should or should not do."

"This is a huge step in helping to reduce HIV and AIDS in Washington, DC," said Naomi Long, director of the Washington Metro office for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We are pleased that Congress decided to stop playing politics with the lives of intravenous drug users in DC."

"This is extremely important," said Channing Wickham, director of the Washington AIDS Partnership. "About a third of AIDS cases here in the District are related to injection drug use. This is not a pro-drug move; it's a public health move," he told Drug War Chronicle. "There are numerous studies that show not only that giving drug users access to clean needles reduces the spread of HIV infections, but also that people in such programs get access to drug treatment and medical care. It's a win-win situation," he said.

"If they actually lift the ban, that'll be great," said Ron Daniels of Prevention Works!, a privately-funded NEP that arose in response to the 1998 federal ban on funding. "If they don't, our hands are tied. The people we are serving now are only the tip of the iceberg," he told the Chronicle from the mobile van the group uses to take clean needles to drug users. "We're only seeing about a third of the people we know are injection drug users. They have got to do something to stop this epidemic."

Even with the limitations imposed by having to seek out private funding, Prevention Works! managed to distribute more than 236,000 needles and had regular contact with some 2,000 injection drug users last year.

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popular needle exchange logo
While the DC appropriations bill is still in the early stages, the subcommittee vote this week was a critical step, said Bill Piper, director of government relations for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This was the key vote," said Piper. "Committee chairs pick their battles carefully, and the fact that Serrano went ahead and did this suggests he thinks he can take this all the way. In the full committee, the Democrats will generally get behind whatever the subcommittee decided, and on the floor, the presumption will be against amending bills against the wishes of the committee."

That doesn't mean ideologically driven opponents will give up without a fight. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KA), the man who inserted the ban in 1998, was still at it this week. Apparently ignorant of the mountain of scientific evidence establishing the effectiveness of NEPs in reducing the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, Tiahrt claimed that "needle exchange programs have been proven in many studies to be ineffective and a threat to the surrounding community, especially the children."

That prompted a Wednesday visit to Tiahrt's office by the Drug Policy Alliance, which hand-delivered numerous studies proving the effectiveness of NEPs. "Rep. Tiahrt's claims that syringe exchange programs don't work is similar to claiming the world is flat," said Piper. "We want him to have the information so he doesn't continue to embarrass himself and, more importantly, sabotage this life-saving measure."

With the subcommittee vote, DC is now closer than ever to being able to finance NEPs, and the measure will pass, Piper predicted. "I think this is one we will win," he said. "Not without a fight, of course, but the stars are aligned, everyone in DC wants this, and in the end, the DC syringe ban will be repealed."

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2. Feature: Canadian Mom Searching for Missing Daughter Denied Entry to US Over 21-Year-Old Drug Conviction

Glendene Grant, a 49-year-old resident of Kamloops, British Columbia, never had any interest in visiting the United States. That changed a little more than a year ago, when her daughter, then 21-year-old Jessie Foster went missing in Las Vegas in March 2006. Since then, she has made three trips to the US to talk with investigators and publicize her daughter's case on TV talk shows.

Jessie Foster traveled to Las Vegas in 2005, and became a prostitute working for an escort service -- a fact her mother did not know until she began investigating her disappearance. For more than a year, there has been no sign of her. Her case had been declared "cold" by the North Las Vegas Police Department, but on the suggestion of a US journalist, Grant contacted a new unit in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department dedicated to human trafficking cases, the ATLAS (Anti-Trafficking League Against Slavery). ATLAS agreed to take on the Foster case, saying it had the earmarks of a sex slavery case.

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Jessie Foster
Grant was set to travel to Las Vegas again last week to meet with investigators and local media about the case, but this time she was turned back by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Vancouver airport. The reason? She had a 1986 conviction for marijuana and cocaine possession.

As Drug War Chronicle reported just two weeks ago, both the US and Canada bar people who admit past drug use or have drug convictions from entering the country. Glendene Grant found that out the hard way, and she can't believe her ancient conviction even matters.

"I was supposed to fly last Monday night, but when I got to the airport, they told me to come back the next day," Grant told Drug War Chronicle. "I went early and spent three hours talking to one of the agents, and he finally said I would be denied and that I would have to get a waiver -- the same form they had given me the night before. I asked to speak to CBP supervisor Patricia Lundy, but I could tell she was not going to listen to anything I had to say. She asked if my daughter had chosen to go to Las Vegas, and when I said yes, she said 'Then I guess she made her own choices, didn't she?' When I asked 'Are you telling me my daughter chose to be kidnapped?' she threw me out of the office and called the RCMP to escort me away. It was the most unprofessional behavior I've seen in my life."

"They tried to say I couldn't cross because of that old drug conviction," Grant said. "I have never hid it, I had a valid passport, then, for some reason, it became an issue."

It was always an issue, according to the CBP. "She is automatically inadmissible for life because of the drug conviction," said CBP spokeswoman Cherise Miles. "We let her in before because it was an extreme circumstance. If she was coming on vacation, she would have been denied admission," she told the Chronicle.

Grant's only recourse is to seek a waiver allowing her to enter the US, said Miles. "A waiver is not automatic, but perhaps her circumstances would help turn it in her favor." The waiver fee is a non-refundable $265. The process takes "perhaps four to six weeks, maybe longer," said Miles.

"I don't have $265," Grant protested. "We have to fundraise for everything we do. I can't work very much, we can't afford to keep going, but we do. But I don't have $265." [Ed: There is a donation form at the Jessie Foster web site linked to above.]

CBP's Miles said that Grant had been allowed in on a humanitarian "parole," but that she had been warned she would have to apply for a waiver. Grant said that the first she heard about a waiver was when CBP officers at the Vancouver airport refused her entry and handed her a waiver form.

Now, Grant is pondering her options. "I don't know what to do," she said. "I've contacted my Canadian representatives, but it doesn't look like there is any way around this. Maybe the provincial governor can give me a pardon."

In the meantime, Jessie Foster remains missing and a harsh and unyielding US immigration law is keeping her mother from trying to find her. "I just sit here and think about it," she said. "What happens if they do find Jessie or her body and I can't go get her?"

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3. Feature: Fireworks at Book Forum in Washington as "Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics" Authors Confront ONDCP Official

(DRCNet continues to offer this book as a membership premium -- read more here.)

The libertarian Cato Institute was the scene of drug policy confrontation last Thursday, as a leading Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) official and two of ONDCP's harshest academic critics traded barbs and flung statistics over ONDCP's goals, whether it achieves them, and how it handles -- or mishandles -- the data.

Dr. David Murray, chief scientist for ONDCP, was on the hot seat as Appalachian State University professors Matthew Robinson (criminal justice) and Renee Scherlen (political science), the authors of "Lies, Damned, Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy," subjected his agency to a sustained attack over what they called the misuse and manipulation of data used to evaluate whether ONDCP is doing its job.

Explaining that he and Scherlen had analyzed consecutive annual National Drug Control Strategies, the document where ONDCP sets its goals and measures its success at attaining them, Robinson went immediately on the offensive. "Our analysis suggests that the drug strategy is not an honest document, but really little more than a political document that does little more than reinforce the dominant ideology of the drug war and maintain the status quo," he said.

He and Scherlen then spent the next 30 or 40 minutes showing just how ONDCP manipulated data, changed goals, conflated statistics, and otherwise jimmied the numbers on drug use, on the cost of the drug war, and on the success of US drug policy in Latin America. "ONDCP shifts targets in its budgets and national strategies, making it impossible to evaluate how well it is meeting its drug war goals," said Robinson. "It focuses on good news such as short term declines and ignores the bad news, it selectively presents statistics favorable to its case, and sometimes makes claims that are just plain false."

"When it comes to statistics, they cook the books," Scherlen summarized.

"This is not Cato's finest hour," retorted Murray, after sitting through the sustained attack. "We've seen an attack on the integrity of me, my boss, and ONDCP. Wow," he exclaimed. "This is a devastating indictment... if it were true, but it's not. Instead, it's a series of confusions, misunderstandings, and ignorance on the part of the researchers, which they project onto us as our perfidy and willful deception."

Murray attacked Robinson and Scherlen for including drug use data from the 1990s and suggested that ONDCP and its current chief, John Walters, should not be blamed for what he described as the failures of the Clinton administration. "It wasn't this administration setting goals and being accountable then. We have seen progress since Walters took over in 2001," he said, citing recent downward trends in youth drug use.

Murray also made the unusual claim that rising emergency room mentions and drug-related deaths are "not current measures of drug use going up or down," but instead reflect decisions years earlier to commence drug use.

He also attacked the notion that ending drug prohibition would reduce harm, saying the idea that drug laws, not drugs, were the problem was "a delusion that grows out of late night dorm room discussions in college." But again, he used some unusual arguments. "Look at Mexico, the death and destruction of the drug trade," he argued, "is it the laws that made this happen or that these substances are profoundly dangerous?" A few breaths later, Murray sneered, "Do you think people wouldn't beat up their wives when they're stoned?" if drugs were legal.

Rhetorical excess aside, Murray also made the strongest prohibitionist argument: "We're saving lives and reducing social pathologies; when we diminish substance abuse, we make a difference. We have to try to reduce supply and demand."

It was a good event, said Timothy Lynch, director of Cato's Criminal Justice Project, who hosted the discussion. "Normally, you get turned down by ONDCP, so we were pleased they decided to send a representative," said Lynch. "This was the first time I've seen this guy. He came in and his presentation started out strong, but as it went on he started turning people off and became condescending and patronizing. I don't think he was winning anyone over to his position."

Listening to the discussion should prove useful for others, too. "This will be a good resource for people preparing for drug czar Walters or Murray coming to their areas," said Lynch. "They can hear the arguments and prepare their rebuttals."

"The authors did a pretty good job outlining a number of problems with how data is presented by ONDCP," said Eric Sterling, head of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. "Murray's response was not really very direct, and he engaged in ad hominem attacks. Still, he's a very effective PR person, he has a great voice and good presence, and he sounds very authoritative."

One thing that struck Sterling, he said, was Murray's change of title. "He used to be a senior policy analyst, but now he has the title of chief scientist. That's sounds very credible and authoritative, but for someone who is essentially a spokesperson and propagandist to take that title is a PR move," Sterling said.

"I respect Dr. Murray a lot for coming to these events and putting himself in situation where he is totally outnumbered," said Tom Angell, government relations director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy. "Of course, I disagree with 99% of what he says, but it's good that he is coming out to talk."

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." From Murray's presence and response to the critique, it appears we are now somewhere between stages two and three.

Watch or listen to the forum in the Cato web site archive, here.

(DRCNet continues to offer this book as a membership premium -- read more here.)

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4. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

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5. 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 over 3,000 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.

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

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6. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

Along with our weekly in-depth Chronicle reporting, DRCNet has since late summer also been providing daily content in the way of blogging in the Stop the Drug War Speakeasy, as well as Latest News links (upper right-hand corner of most web pages), event listings (lower right-hand corner) and other info. Check out DRCNet every day to stay on top of the drug reform game!

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Speakeasy photo, with flappers (courtesy arbizu.org)

This week:

Scott Morgan roasts drug warrior propagandists, profiteers and politicos with: "If You Like CSI: Miami, You’ll Love the Westwood College of Criminal Justice!," "Joe Biden Gets Stuck on the Fence," "ONDCP: We Don't Care What You Dorks on YouTube Think," "Don't Tell Anyone About the Narc Ambulance" and "Rudy Giuliani Doesn't Care About Sick People."

Phil Smith bring us: "More Border Blues -- Canadian Mom Searching for Missing Daughter Denied Entry" and "Mexico's President is Half Right."

David Borden discusses how "Congress Should Let DC Fund Needle Exchange," posts an open letter from Canadian Member of Parliament Libby Davies, and links in various other tidbits.

David Guard has been busy too, posting a plethora of press releases, action alerts, job listings and other interesting items reposted from many allied organizations around the world in our "In the Trenches" activist feed.

Please join us in the Reader Blogs too -- your participation is encouraged.

Thanks for reading, and writing...

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7. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Well, thank goodness for crooked prison guards! If it wasn't for them, all we would have is a blank space here this week. Let's get to it:

In Michigan City, Indiana, a state prison guard was arrested Monday for bringing marijuana intended for an inmate to work in her lunch box. Indiana State Prison guard Joann Smith, 44, a 20-year veteran, was arraigned Tuesday in LaPorte County Superior Court on felony drug trafficking charges. Smith went down after a tip to the prison's Internal Affairs Department. When she was searched upon arrest, her lunch box contained a cell phone, rolling papers, and a package of pot hidden inside her food.

In Quincy, Massachusetts, a Suffolk County jail guard has pleaded not guilty to charges he was selling Oxycontin and steroids on the streets. Alexander Santarelli, 32, a two-year veteran at the House of Corrections, was arrested May 31 after Quincy police armed with a search warrant and drug sniffing dogs raided his home. In a locked safe in his living room closet, they found $7,009 in cash, 60 OxyContin pills, and three handguns and ammunition, according to Quincy police report filed in Quincy District Court. They also found "several types of steroids" and an unloaded .40-caliber Glock pistol in the closet. Santarelli's license to carry firearms has been suspended, and he has been placed on administrative leave without pay. Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral said police are investigating whether Santarelli also sold drugs inside the jail.

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8. Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Governor Vetoes Bill, Override Expected

As expected, Gov. Donald Carcieri Monday vetoed a bill that would make Rhode Island's medical marijuana law permanent. Now, supporters of the bill are urging the legislature to act swiftly to override that veto, and legislative leaders have signaled they will do just that. The measure passed both chambers with margins sufficient for an override if no members change their minds.

"As I said in my veto message in 2005," Carcieri reminded the legislative leaders in his latest veto mesage, "I support efforts to provide effective pain management to persons suffering from debilitating conditions, but not in a way that violates federal law and ignores the drug approval process as established by the Food and Drug Administration." Allowing medical marijuana would lead to an increase in criminal activity and drug use, he worried, and patients could still be arrested by the feds.

The "bottom line," Carcieri said, is that "this legislation would give vulnerable Rhode Island citizens a false sense of security regarding the legality and safety of producing, distributing and using marijuana, a substance which is neither legal under federal law nor regulated in any way by any government agency."

Legislative leaders are ready to attempt an override. House Majority Leader Gordon Fox issued a statement Monday saying, "I fully expect that we will place a vote to override the Governor's medical marijuana veto on the floor calendar before the end of our session. The vote on Rep. (Thomas) Slater's bill made it clear that there is an overwhelming majority in the House willing to remove the sunset clause on this compassionate legislation."

Senate leader Joseph Montalbano issued a statement saying: "The Senate will consider a veto override of Senator Perry's compassionate medical marijuana legislation prior to final adjournment of the 2007 session. The state has not experienced any problems during the law's trial period, and medical marijuana is in some cases the only treatment option that effectively alleviates chronic pain and nausea in terminally ill patients, which is why the measure is supported by health organizations such as the Rhode Island Medical Society, the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association."

That's exactly what patients and activists want. Michael Oliver of Barrington, who uses medical marijuana to relieve the devastating symptoms of Crohn's disease, said, "I don't understand why the governor wants to put me in jail for using the medicine that has given me back a normal life. I can only hope the legislature will override this cruel, pointless veto."

"We are disappointed and hope that the legislature will move quickly to override this veto," said Al Wroblewski, interim executive director of AIDS Project Rhode Island. "There is clear scientific data showing that medical marijuana can help people with AIDS, and the clients we serve shouldn't be forced to become criminals to get effective treatment. The medical marijuana law has worked well, and there is no reason to go back to the dark days of threatening sick people with jail."

"The governor is out of step not only with Rhode Island voters, but with the state's medical community, including the medical society and nurses' association, which support this legislation," said Ray Warren, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, which has been working closely with local activists in support of the bill. "We are confident that legislators will continue to listen to science rather than superstition and override this ill-considered veto."

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9. Medical Marijuana: Connecticut Bill Passes Legislature

A bill that would make Connecticut the 13th state to enact a medical marijuana law passed the state Senate last Friday by a 23-13 margin. It had already passed the state House by a similar 89-58 margin. The bill is now before Gov. Jodi Rell (R), who can sign it, veto it, or take no action, in which case it becomes law without her signature.

The margin of victory in the two chambers does not appear to be quite enough to override a gubernatorial veto, so proponents of the legislation are pressing hard to persuade Rell to either sign the bill or just do nothing. Rell has said she is "torn" by the bill.

"This bill will help alleviate the feelings of helplessness that families face when their loved ones suffer," said Lorenzo Jones, executive director of A Better Way Foundation, a state non-profit organization dedicated to drug law reform, which, along with the Drug Policy Alliance, has led the fight for medical marijuana in the Constitution State. "We've believed all along that compassion and fairness would bring this bill to final passage. Now we need the governor to sign the bill so families and patients can have some relief. We know she'll do the right thing."

"Allowing for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is the right thing to do for the State of Connecticut," said bill sponsor, Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-District 52. "This issue is not about legalizing drugs. It's about keeping those who seek compassionate care for treating crippling diseases out of jail."

The bill, HB 6715, would allow adult patients with debilitating medical conditions to get a doctor's certification that they could benefit from using marijuana. Certified patients and their caregivers would be registered with the state Department of Consumer Protection, after which they could grow up to four plants not to exceed four feet tall.

"I am just 32 years old and yet due to my medical condition I feel as if, at times, I am 92," said Joshua Warren, a patient in Wilton who suffers from chronic neurological Lyme disease. "I did not ask for this condition nor would I wish any of my pain and other symptoms on anyone else. I hope Gov. Rell will have compassion for me and for others and sign this bill."

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10. Elected Officials: Baltimore Councilman Calls for Drug Legalization

A Baltimore City Council member is calling for an end to the war on drugs. Frustrated by prohibition-related violence, Council Member Bernard "Jack" Young (D-District 12), told the newspaper The Examiner Wednesday it is time to consider legalizing drugs and that he will ask the council to hold hearings on the idea.

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Bernard ''Jack'' Young
"We're losing the war on drugs," said Young. "When teenagers are getting gunned down on the street because of the drug business, then we have to rethink our approach. We need to take the profits out of the drug trade and consider legalizing all types of drugs," he said. "Many people are hooked on drugs, but others are hooked on the money from drugs, and they're doing all the killing," he said. "We need to make the drugs a public health problem, not a criminal problem."

The notion won kudos from former Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who proposed decriminalization nearly two decades ago. But Young's current colleagues in city government disagreed. "Mayor Sheila Dixon is opposed to the decriminalization of drugs," spokesman Anthony McCarthy said.

City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was also opposed, preferring to fob the solution off on the federal government. "She understands that the drug trade is 99% of the root cause of violence," said Shaun Adamec, her spokesman. "But it's an idea that needs to be addressed on a national level."

The drug laws are at the state and federal level, not the municipal level. But if it were serious, the city of Baltimore could pass municipal drug ordinances and instruct the police department to enforce only the ordinances and not prohibitionist state laws. The city could not prevent the federal government from attempting to enforce federal drug laws on the retail level, but that would require a large commitment of manpower by the DEA.

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11. Marijuana: Mendocino County Supervisors Say Legalize It

County supervisors in Mendocino County, California, part of the state's marijuana growing "Emerald Triangle," voted Wednesday to send lawmakers a letter urging them to legalize marijuana. The move is a belated response to Proposition G, a voter-approved initiative passed six years ago.

"Whether you love marijuana or hate marijuana, you can agree it's time for a change," said Supervisor John Pinches, who took part in a 4-1 board vote Tuesday in support of a letter asking lawmakers to legalize marijuana.

The letter, written by Pinches, is addressed to North Coast US Rep. Mike Thompson and copied to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to both US senators from California, and to other area members of Congress and President Bush.

"The time has come to call upon our leaders in federal government to initiate, sponsor and support legislation that calls for the legalization, regulation, and taxation of this multibillion dollar crop," states the letter, signed by Board Chairman Kendall Smith and approved by the board.

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12. Racial Profiling: It's Getting Worse in Missouri

Black drivers are nearly 50% more likely than whites to be stopped by Missouri police and twice as likely to be searched, even though police are less likely to find contraband than with white drivers, according to the state's annual report on racial profiling. Released May 31, the report also found that the problem is getting worse.

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enter at peril of profiling
The report showed that blacks were pulled over at rates 49% greater than their presence in the driving age population. The numbers were 34% in 2004 and 42% in 2005.

"As I have said in previous years, the disparity index for African-American and Hispanic drivers continues to be of concern," Attorney General Jay Nixon said in his written analysis of the report. "Law-abiding drivers have the right to travel throughout Missouri without the fear that they will be stopped based solely on their race or ethnicity."

White drivers were stopped at a rate slightly below their percentage of the population, while Hispanic drivers were stopped at a right slightly above it. Asians, American Indians, and people of mixed race were all stopped at rates well below what would be expected.

Blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely to be searched as whites, even though police were most likely to find contraband in searches of vehicles driven by white drivers. Police found contraband in 14.4% of searches of Hispanic drivers, 18.7% of black drivers, and 22.2% of white drivers.

Despite lower levels of successful searches among black and Hispanic drivers, they were still twice as likely to be arrested during a traffic stop than white drivers. Five percent of white drivers pulled over ended up going to jail, while slightly more than 10% of black and Hispanic drivers did.

The report was based on an analysis of more than 1.6 million traffic stops, 128,000 searches, and 94,000 arrests made by state and local police in Missouri in 2006.

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13. Death Penalty: Two More Drug Offenders Sentenced in Vietnam, One Executed in Saudi Arabia

Nations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East continue to impose the death penalty on drug offenders, with two more people being sentenced to death and another one executed this week.

In Vietnam, two ethnic minority villagers were sentenced to death for smuggling heroin Monday. Fourteen others were sent to prison in a case involving 1.7 kilograms of heroin being smuggled in a three-month period last year.

"All of the 16 convicted were from the same village, and many of them were related to each other," said Pham Van Nam, the court's chief administrator. "They were all drug addicts."

In Saudi Arabia, authorities beheaded a Saudi citizen for smuggling hashish Thursday. Jari al-Dossari was arresting while receiving a large quantity of hashish and executed in Riyadh's al-Sulail province.

Under Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic law, people convicted of murder, rape, armed robbery, and drug trafficking can be executed. And the Saudis are keeping busy -- 82 people have been executed so far this year, well ahead of the pace last year (38) and the year before (82).

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14. Latin America: Colombia Coca Production Up Again Despite Massive Eradication Efforts

The US government reported Monday that the amount of land under coca cultivation in Colombia had increased for the third straight year. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), cultivation increased 9% last year to some 388,500 acres despite a massive aerial herbicide spraying campaign.

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coca seedlings
While ONDCP did not report on the 2006 figures until Monday, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe announced the findings at the end of a long speech last Friday, in an apparent bid to inoculate both governments from criticism that US drug policy in the region is ineffective and counterproductive. Uribe arrived in Washington Wednesday, primarily to urge the passage of a bilateral trade agreement, but also to press for continued US assistance.

"Yesterday [last Thursday] they told me they were worried about revealing this number because of my upcoming trip to the United States, that the Americans should reveal it," he said. "But that's why I'm revealing it. We're not trying to put makeup on what is a serious matter. We've unleashed a battle with all our will and all our determination," Uribe said. "Could it be we've worked in vain? That all our work hasn't produced the desired results?"

The US has spent more than $5 billion and sprayed more than 2.1 million acres of Colombian farmland since 2000 in a failed effort to eradicate Colombian cocaine production. More precisely, Plan Colombia called for coca production to be halved within five years, but according to the latest estimates, Colombia is producing 27% more coca than in 1999, the year before the plan went into effect. The long-term trends toward decreasing cocaine price and increasing purity also suggest that all the billions have little impact on cocaine availability.

In its Monday press release, ONDCP did its best to spin the disappointing results. "Statistically, there was no change" in coca production, ONDCP claimed two sentences before noting a 33,000-acre increase in the area under cultivation. Coca growers' creative responses to eradication efforts -- moving to smaller plots, moving to areas off limits to the spraying program, rapidly reconstituting sprayed crops -- created "major challenges" for arriving at a reliable estimate, ONDCP explained.

"Rather than weaken farmers' reliance on coca, fumigation serves to reinforce it," said Washington Office on Latin America Senior Associate John Walsh. "To insist at this point that more spraying will somehow deter farmers from replanting is not just unrealistic, it's delusional."

That's a sentiment that is also being heard in the halls of Congress these days. On Tuesday, the House subcommittee that oversees foreign aid proposed major changes in US anti-drug policy in Colombia. Under that proposal, funding to the Colombian military would be cut by $150 million and an additional $100 million would be redirected to boost economic development and boost the judicial system.

If the proposal championed by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) succeeds, the military's share of US assistance would drop from 80% to 55%. But Colombia would still remain the third largest recipient of US foreign aid behind the Middle East and Afghanistan.

"I have long felt that our policies in Colombia were ineffective and misguided," Lowey told the Associated Press Wednesday. "My proposal would realign the funding to more of an even split."

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15. Middle East: Don't Take Your Doobies to Dubai

Travelers headed to Dubai should take a thorough inventory before heading for the airport. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is currently taking an extremely hard line on cannabis offenses. Last week, an Italian visitor was sentenced to years in prison for a microscopic portion of hashish, and this week, a British citizen faces a similar punishment for inadvertently carrying a similarly miniscule amount of hash and marijuana.

On May 31, the Dubai Court of First Instance found a 24-year-old Italian man identified only by the initials "A.D." guilty of smuggling and possessing 1/100th of a gram of hash after he arrived at the airport. The quantity discovered -- 1/2800th of an ounce -- is too small to be usable and so tiny that the fact it was detected at all is remarkable.

A.D. told the court he did not realize the hash was there. "I didn't intend to bring the drugs," he told presiding Judge Abdul Majid Al Nezamy. "I forgot it in the inner pocket of my jacket."

That didn't matter to Judge Al Nezamy, who sentenced the unfortunate Italian to four years in prison to be followed by deportation.

Now a 25-year-old Briton known as "W.H." faces the same fate. He was busted coming in with 0.07 grams of marijuana and "two barely noticeable slivers of hashish," as the Gulf Times put it. Again, the hapless traveler said he had forgotten the drugs were there.

"I wrongly forget them in my pockets," W.H. told the court.

W.H. goes back to court next week. A.D. is already serving his sentence.

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16. Web Scan

new Sentencing Project briefing sheets on women in the criminal justice system

Supervised Drug Injection Sites? New Research in Canada Shows They Reduce HIV, Overdose Deaths, and Even Help Encourage Addicts into Treatment," Tony Newman on the Huffington Post

DrugTruth network radio update:
Cultural Baggage for 06/01/07: Ed Rosenthal & medical marijuana persecuted... Again + Brian C. Bennett (MP3)
Century of Lies for 06/01/07: Ryan King of the Sentencing Project on disparity, discrimination and failure in US drug policy + Philippe Lucas of Vancouver Island Compassion Society (MP3)

Steve Kubby at WEHO Medical Marijuana Fest

June issue of the Cannabinoid Chronicles

photos from MPP Playboy Mansion fundraiser

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17. Weekly: This Week in History

June 8, 1993: Leading conservative intellectual William F. Buckley says in an interview, "the amount of money and of legal energy being given to prosecute hundreds of thousands of Americans who are caught with a few ounces of marijuana [1ounce = 28g] in their jeans simply makes no sense -- the kindest way to put it. A sterner way to put it is that it is an outrage, an imposition on basic civil liberties and on the reasonable expenditures of social energy."

June 13, 1994: The RAND Corporation releases a study finding that drug treatment programs are seven times more cost effective for reducing cocaine use than law enforcement efforts, 11 times more effective than border interdiction and 23 times more effective than source country efforts.

June 12, 1998: US drug czar Barry McCaffrey announces at the United Nations his plan for drug warriors to dominate the Internet by adding a massive number of web sites.

June 9, 2000: Human Rights Watch releases a study finding that Illinois is the worst state for racial disparity among jailed drug offenders. Illinois' black men are 57 times more likely than white men to be sent to prison on drug charges, and blacks comprise 90 percent of all prison admissions in Illinois for drug charges. Though federal studies show that white drug users outnumber black drug users 5-to-1, blacks make up about 62 percent of prisoners incarcerated on drug charges, compared with 36 percent of whites.

June 14, 2000: Bestselling author, cancer and AIDS patient, and high profile medical marijuana activist Peter McWilliams is found dead in his home in Los Angeles, California. McWilliams, barred by a federal court order from using marijuana to counteract the extreme nausea caused by his AIDS drugs, is found choked to death on vomit, slumped on his bathroom floor. Prosecutors in the case say they are "saddened by his death."

June 11, 2001: In a case relating to indoor marijuana-growing operations, the US Supreme Court rules that the use by the police of a thermal imaging device to detect patterns of heat coming from a private home is a search that requires a warrant.

June 10, 2004: The New York Times publishes an article about K-Drink, a new beverage containing coca produced by the Peruvian company Kokka Royal Food & Drink. The article reminds readers that "In this region of South America, coca tea is so common and so accepted that it has even been regularly served in the American embassy in Bolivia."

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18. Job Opportunities: Director of Federal Policies and Web Developer, MPP, Washington

The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring a Director of Federal Policies and a Web Developer for its Washington, DC office.

The Director of Federal Policies must be an outstanding and hands-on manager, have strong political instincts and solid political or government relations experience, and be able to persuasively promote MPP’s policy goals.

The overarching goal of the position is to pass medical marijuana legislation in the US Congress, while preventing bad bills from being enacted. Specifically, the Director of Federal Policies’ responsibilities are as follows:

  • Overseeing and effectively managing MPP's direct lobbying efforts in Congress, which includes managing the Director of Government Relations, who is MPP's primary congressional lobbyist; and advising the Executive Director on legislative strategy, including tactics for moving bills forward and fighting bad bills.
  • Overseeing the work of two or more MPP grantees who are working to build intra-district coalitions to pressure targeted US House members to vote for MPP's medical marijuana legislation on the House floor.
  • Overseeing and effectively managing MPP’s New Hampshire Campaign Manager, who is working to get all Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to take public, positive positions on medical marijuana access.
  • Building relationships with "grasstops" figures among MPP's supporter base, and facilitating contacts between these grasstops and members of Congress.
  • Managing MPP's "War on Drug Czar" campaign, which includes coordinating legal efforts against the White House drug czar's meddling in local- and state-level marijuana policy reform efforts.

Additionally, the Director of Federal Policies manages the workload for the four-person department (which also includes one full-time intern in addition to the employees mentioned above), writes content for MPP's web sites relating to federal legislation, and writes sample letters for e-mail subscribers to send to their members of Congress.

The Director of Federal Policies reports to the Executive Director.

In addition to a competitive salary, the position includes full health insurance and an optional retirement package.

The Web Developer position requires the ability to perform exceptionally in a fast-paced, high-pressure campaign environment -- and is an excellent opportunity for someone who is meticulous and hard-working to become immersed in the technology aspect of a successful and good-sized nonprofit advocacy organization.

The Web Developer's primary responsibility is to maintain MPP's presence on the web. This includes, but is not limited to planning, implementing, and maintaining MPP web sites (including setting up the sites on a server, working with MPP staff to design the front-end interface (including graphics and interactive elements), and integrating the sites with MPP's content management systems); general web site maintenance for mpp.org and all other MPP-related sites (using XHTML and CSS standards-compliant technology); researching, recommending, and implementing cutting-edge Web technologies to help MPP achieve its goals; monitoring and regularly reporting on Web activity for all MPP web sites to the Director of IT, Chief of Staff, and Executive Director; carrying out ad hoc projects as assigned in order to relieve department-wide workload; and occasionally providing back-up help-desk support for MPP's staff when other IT staffers are unavailable.

MPP is a heavily Apple-based organization, so extensive experience with Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server is a huge plus. Ideally, the candidate will be comfortable working with and supporting Mac OS X systems, servers and applications.

Familiarity with and experience developing web sites and applications using JavaScript (W3C DOM, not specific to any browser), PHP, Perl, Python, and other Web-enabled scripting and programming languages are a plus; candidates who can demonstrate skills in this area are strongly desired.

The salary of the Web Developer is $40,000 to $50,000, depending on experience. Health insurance and an optional retirement package are included.

The Web Developer reports to MPP's Director of Information Technology, who in turn reports to MPP's Executive Director.

To apply, visit http://www.mpp.org/jobs/process.html and follow the instructions there. Interviews are being conducted on a rolling basis, so interested individuals are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

With more than 21,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, MPP is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP works to minimize the harm associated with marijuana -- both the consumption of marijuana and the laws that are intended to prohibit its use -- and believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is imprisonment. MPP has 23 staffers in its DC office, three staffers in California, five in Minneapolis, and one in New Hampshire.

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19. Job Opportunity: Executive Director, Project SAFE, Philadelphia

Project SAFE is an all-volunteer grassroots organization providing advocacy and support for women working in street prostitution. SAFE's mission is to promote human rights-based public health among women working in prostitution on the street in Philadelphia. SAFE is an organization dedicated to ensuring the health, safety and survival of women on the street by providing advocacy, education and support using a harm reduction model. SAFE seeks to reduce the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among working women, promote health and safety by arming women with relevant information and resources, and connect women to programs and services which are appropriate to their needs and interests.

Sought after is a brave and energetic person who is dedicated to harm reduction philosophy and social justice to take on the position of Executive Director in this new and exciting grassroots organization. The ED will be responsible for the management, direction, and coordination of all activities and will maintain primary responsibility for fundraising, program development and evaluation, program oversight and management, staff supervision and implementation of SAFE's strategic plan. The ED will report to the Board of Directors, and will supervise a staff of three volunteers. The ED's salary is guaranteed for the first three months. The successful candidate will be expected to begin fundraising immediately in order to raise her/his own salary as well as to maintain the program's basic operating expenses.

Primary responsibilities in the area of financial management include working with the staff and the board in preparing a budget, and seeing that the organization operates within budget guidelines; ensuring that adequate funds are available to permit the organization to carry out its work; serving as the primary contact for financial management for the government, foundation, corporate and individual donors; and providing regular financial reports to the Board of Directors.

Primary responsibilities in the area of fundraising and development include working with the Board of Directors to develop/revise the annual fundraising and development plan, identifying new funding opportunities, and developing and maintaining relationships with existing financial supporters.

Primary responsibilities in the area of community and public relations include working with the community to identify local client issues in order to improve programming and build community connections to improve service delivery; working with staff and board to promote the programs and efforts of the organization; and building and managing collaborations and relationships with other community based organizations and government agencies.

Primary responsibilities in the area of governance and organizational development include assisting with the development and implementation of an organizational strategic planning process; maintaining a dialogue with the board of directors to ensure board members have adequate information to address and deliver organizational needs; and ensuring SAFE's policies are kept up to date.

Primary responsibilities in the area of program development and oversight include working with staff to ensure programs are culturally and linguistically competent and relevant to the target population, and working with staff and board of directors to evaluate programs.

Primary responsibilities in the area of relations with staff include recruiting, hiring, and releasing staff and volunteers; encouraging staff and volunteer development and education, and assisting program staff in relating their specialized work to the total program of the organization; and maintaining a climate which attracts, keeps, and motivates a diverse staff and volunteers.

The position requires knowledge of nonprofit management, harm reduction and sex work issues. Experience working with sex workers, harm-reduction philosophy, social justice, anti-discrimination strategies, and community organizing is preferred. Individuals with industry experience are encouraged to apply.

To apply, please forward your resume and cover letter by June 15, 2007 to [email protected].

Project SAFE is an equal opportunity employer.

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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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.

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