Drug War Chronicle #491 - June 22, 2007

1. Feature: Move to Undo Higher Education Act Drug Provision Passes Senate Committee

A key Senate committee voted Wednesday to remove the infamous "drug question" from the federal financial aid form. With a measure calling for outright repeal expected to pass the House, it could be the beginning of the end for Souder's Folly.

2. Feature: North Dakota Farmers Sue DEA Over Hemp Growing Ban

A pair of North Dakota farmers have been granted state permits to grow hemp, but the DEA has refused to act on their federal license applications. Now the farmers are going to federal court to ask that the agency be told to butt out.

3. Feature: ONDCP Kicks Off Annual Summer Marijuana Scare Campaign With Report Linking Drugs to Gangs, Violence

With the summer season now underway, the drug czar's office has released a scary new report linking youth marijuana and other drug use to gang membership and violence. Critics say there is less there than meets the eye.

4. Appeal: A Victory is In the Works, With Your Help

Our multi-year campaign to repeal an infamous law that denies financial aid to students because of drug convictions may soon ride to a successful conclusion.

5. 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.

6. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

It's ONDCP Ad Week at the Speakeasy, plus we have Giuliani's Cocaine Connection, China's UN-prompted drug war bloodbath, a response from a former ONDCP official to the China story, Creepy Drug Testing Science and more...

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

A Puerto Rican narc gets caught robbing an armored car, a Mississippi cop gets nailed for selling and using speed, and a Toledo cop who liked to party too much cops a plea.

8. Search and Seizure: Supreme Court Rules Passengers Can Challenge Police Stops

Passengers in vehicles stopped by police are effectively "seized" and may challenge the constitutionality of that seizure, the Supreme Court ruled in an unanimous opinion Monday.

9. Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Legislature Overrides Veto to Make Law Permanent

Rhode Island's medical marijuana law is here to stay. The legislature this week voted decisively to override a gubernatorial veto of a bill that would make it permanent.

10. Medical Marijuana: Connecticut Governor Vetoes Bill

A medical marijuana bill passes both houses of the Connecticut legislature, but Gov. Jodi Rell has now vetoed it.

11. Methamphetamine: With Meth Labs Plunging to Near Zero, Nevada Moves to Track Cold Remedies

Nevada's governor has signed an anti-meth lab bill that further restricts the purchase of over-the-counter cold and allergy remedies. Problem is, nobody is cooking meth in Nevada anymore.

12. Middle East: Iran Hangs Four for Drug Trafficking

Iran executed four convicted drug traffickers on Saturday. That makes at least 102 executions in Iran so far this year.

13. Middle East: Dubai Sentences Two More Westerners To Prison Over Infinitesimal Amounts of Drugs

The Dubai courts continue their harsh treatment of people possessing even tiny amounts of illicit drugs. This week, they sent a Canadian working for an Afghan anti-drug program to prison for four years for traces of hashish that he may have picked up in the course of his work.

14. Web Scan

Montel, Tony Papa on Veronica Flournoy, Incarcerex, NY Sun on prohibition, SlangTV on Afghanistan opium licensing, Transform on the drug policy reform debate, Vera Institute and Pew Charitable Trusts report, Alex Wodak

15. Weekly: This Week in History

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

16. 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!

17. Announcement: DRCNet RSS Feeds Now Available

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

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

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

1. Feature: Move to Undo Higher Education Act Drug Provision Passes Senate Committee

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) passed legislation Wednesday that among other things would remove the infamous "drug question" from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the form used by tens of millions of students each year to apply for college financial aid, leaving opponents of the drug conviction/financial aid ban optimistic of winning repeal this year.

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US Capitol
The Higher Education Access Act of 2007, budget reconciliation legislation that at the time of this publishing did not yet appear to have a bill number, includes language stating that "The Secretary shall not require a student to provide information regarding the student's possession or sale of a controlled substance on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or any other financial reporting form described in section 483(a)." While the drug provision itself would remain on the books, the mechanism currently used for enforcing it -- and the only obvious mechanism for enforcing it -- would be eliminated by order of Congress.

The provision, in effect since the 2000-2001 school year, bars students with drug convictions from receiving college financial aid for specified periods of time. Since then, more than 200,000 would-be students have been barred from receiving federal financial aid after answering "yes" to the drug question.

Until last year, the provision authored by ardent drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) applied to any drug conviction. But following a campaign by students and more than 330 health, civil rights, criminal justice, education, and religious organizations organized under the umbrella of the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR), and extensive criticism of the law in the mainstream media, Souder and others moved to have it scaled back to apply only to offenses committed while the applicants were in school and receiving federal Title IV aid. Buoyed by the Democratic takeover of Congress in last November's elections, which put repeal supporters in charge of key Congressional committees, reformers continued to lobby for outright repeal of the provision this year.

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FAFSA form
That's not quite what happened in the Senate HELP Committee Wednesday. Instead of repealing the provision outright, the committee voted to remove the drug question from the FAFSA. The measure passed easily as part of the education bill sponsored by the chairman and ranking member of HELP, powerful Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Michael Enzi (R-WY).

"We're thrilled that the committee has acted to make sure that students with drug convictions will no longer be automatically stripped of their aid and will be able to stay in school and on the path to success," said Tom Angell, government relations director at Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an organization whose very existence was inspired by the HEA drug provision. "While it would be more appropriate to simply erase the penalty from the law books altogether, we support the committee's effort to make sure that students with drug convictions can get aid just like anyone else."

"CHEAR is ecstatic," said David Guard, a spokesman for coalition. "It's looking likely that our nine years of hard work are about to pay off in a big way." The HEA drug provision had always been Rep. Souder's baby and Souder's alone, according to Guard. "This has always basically been one moralizing man's crusade," he said. "While we've managed to put together a really broad-based coalition, Souder has mostly been out there alone on this one."

The Senate is one thing, but repealing or changing the law also requires action in the House of Representatives. According to SSDP's Angell, the prospects look very good there indeed.

"We fully expect the HEA reauthorization bill in the House will include full repeal," he said, citing the support of key committee members who support it led by House Education and Labor Committee chairman Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and including Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and Rob Andrews (D-NJ).

If repeal language survives the process in the House, as seems likely, it will still require action in a joint congressional conference committee. Such a committee will have to reconcile any differences between the House and Senate legislation, including the difference between repeal and mere removal of the question from the form. Also, repeal language on the House side is more likely to appear in the HEA reauthorization bill, not in budget reconciliation as happened in the Senate.

"It's a little confusing right now how all that is going to play out," said Angell. "Will there be one conference for the reauthorization bill and one for the budget? We don't know yet," he said. But in either case, Angell was fairly optimistic that outright repeal could be achieved. "We think the Senate HELP committee has expressed its intent to not see this penalty enforced anymore, so with full repeal language in the House, we'll be in a good position to really, finally achieve repeal."

But that's getting a little bit ahead of the game. While chances are good for HEA drug provision repeal this year, it isn't a done deal yet, and there is always Souder lurking in the wings. "There is still a lot of work to be done," said Angell. "We have to make sure there are no hostile amendments on the floor, and Souder is still on the committee. He's sure to offer an amendment, and we need to be arming our allies in Congress with the information they need to defeat that amendment."

Nevertheless, reformers consider the situation to be highly promising. If repeal happens this year, it will be the first time that a federal drug law has been repealed since 1970. Let's hope that's a harbinger of other good things yet to come.

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2. Feature: North Dakota Farmers Sue DEA Over Hemp Growing Ban

Two North Dakota farmers Monday filed a lawsuit in federal court in Bismarck seeking to overturn the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ban on growing industrial hemp in the United States. The lawsuit seeks a court order barring the DEA from charging the farmers with a criminal violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

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hemp being harvested (courtesy Wikipedia)
Hemp products are legal in the US, but the DEA ban prevents US farmers from growing it, meaning domestic hemp product makers must turn to suppliers in countries where it is legal to grow, including Canada, China, and most of Europe.

Hemp is a member of the cannabis family, but unlike the marijuana consumed by recreational and medical marijuana users, contains only tiny amounts of the psychoactive substance that gets marijuana users "high." But the DEA argues that hemp is marijuana and that the CSA gives it authority to ban it.

The farmers and their attorneys disagree, pointing out that the CSA contains language explicitly exempting hemp fiber, seed oil, and seed incapable of germination from the definition of "marihuana" and are thus not controlled substances under that law. That same language was used to allow the legal import of hemp into the US as a result of a 2004 federal court decision siding with the hemp industry against the DEA.

But while the language of the CSA appears clear, ambiguities remain, said Adam Eidinger, a spokesman for the hemp industry lobby group Vote Hemp. "There is a contradiction in the law when it comes to growing the plant, because you can't grow the plant without producing seeds and flowers, and the DEA claims the act gives it authority over those parts of the plant," he told Drug War Chronicle. "In this case, we have to look at Congress's intent in passing the law, and we think it is clear that Congress intended that hemp be excluded," he said.

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WWII-era federal film encouraging hemp growing for war effort
Monday's lawsuit is only the latest move in a decade-old struggle by North Dakota farmers to grow hemp. The state first passed hemp legislation in 1997, but things really began moving when state Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, a strong hemp supporter, issued the first state permits to grow hemp to farmers Wayne Hauge and Dave Monson (who is also a Republican state legislator) on February 6. One week later, Hauge and Monson sent a request to the DEA requesting licenses to grow their crops and noting that they needed a response by early April in order to get the crops in the ground this year.

The DEA failed to respond in a timely fashion. According to a March 27 DEA letter to Ag Commissioner Johnson, seven weeks was not enough time for the agency to arrive at a ruling on the request. That letter was the final straw for the North Dakotans.

"We are asking the DEA to do nothing, which is exactly what they have done for ten years," said Tim Purdon, one of the attorneys working for Monson and Hauge, at a Monday press conference announcing the lawsuit. "North Dakota's rules no longer require a DEA license, so we are basically asking the court to tell the DEA to leave our farmers alone."

"I applied for my North Dakota state license in January and was hopeful that the DEA would act quickly and affirm my right to plant industrial hemp this year. Unfortunately, the DEA has not responded in any way other than to state that it would take them a lot more time than the window of time I have to import seed and plant the crop," said Rep. Monson. "It appears that the DEA really doesn't want to work with anyone to resolve the issue," Monson added.

"I met with the DEA in February and presented copies of the licenses along with the applications from Hauge and Monson and the checks for the application fee and asked them to please review those applications as soon as possible," said Commissioner Johnson, who noted he had also met with the agency the previous year in an effort to smooth the way. "The DEA did not respond. It was a de facto denial of the applications, which led us to the point of filing this lawsuit," he said. "My strong opinion is that the DEA needs to get off this kick of viewing industrial hemp and marijuana as identical. They need to exercise their discretion to view them differently, like every other industrial country does."

In addition to its obstinate refusal to differentiate between hemp and marijuana, the DEA has also expressed concerns that lawmen would be unable to tell the difference between the two and that people would hide marijuana plants in the middle of hemp fields. That's all bunk, said California cannabis and hemp cultivation expert Chris Conrad.

"First off, this is not a problem for Canadian, British, German, French, and Spanish police, so why are American cops so incompetent compared to the rest of the world, and why should we coddle them for that rather than demand they do their jobs?" he asked. "Also, the fields are registered and police will have the power to enter and inspect at will, so it would be stupid to tell the cops where you're growing, then try to hide marijuana in the field," Conrad pointed out.

The two crops are grown differently for different ends, Conrad noted. "Marijuana is grown for flowering branches, whereas hemp is grown for either stalk or seeds. The stalk crop can be harvested before it flowers, so there would never, ever be any marijuana buds produced." Also, Conrad pointed out, hemp grows straight up and the plants are spaced only a few inches apart, while marijuana plants are shorter and bushier. "Marijuana plants look very different from hemp plants and would be conspicuous from the other plants, especially in an aerial flyover where you would see the area around the marijuana being cleared out from the hemp plants. It's very easy to identify a marijuana patch in a hemp field, and if there is a marijuana plant, it hempifies [is pollinated by the hemp plants] and goes away."

The science and agriculture of hemp probably have little to do with the DEA's intransigent insistence that hemp is marijuana, said Vote Hemp's Eidinger. "This is part of the culture war," he suggested. "When Jack Herer published "The Emperor Has No Clothes" in the early 1980s, the DEA began seeing the call for industrial hemp as part of weakening the links of the criminalization of marijuana." Publication of Herer's book led to a revitalization of interest in industrial hemp, but also associated hemp with the marijuana culture, rather than staid farmers like Hauge and Monson.

Regardless of the past, the state of North Dakota and its farmers are now tired of being collateral damage in the war on drugs, and now they have initiated the legal action that could resolve the issue once and for all.

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3. Feature: ONDCP Kicks Off Annual Summer Marijuana Scare Campaign With Report Linking Drugs to Gangs, Violence

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ONDCP TV ad ''flat''
Drug czar John Walters and his minions at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) have kicked off the summer season with a report on teens, drugs, gangs, and violence. The report, part of ONDCP's widely criticized National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, links marijuana use to gang membership and links teen drug use to higher rates of violence and other anti-social activities. But the ONDCP report is raising a storm of disapproval from critics who charge it is misleading and intentionally obfuscatory.

"Teens who use drugs are more likely to engage in violent and delinquent behavior and join gangs," the report declared. "Research shows that early use of marijuana -- the most commonly used drug among teens -- is a warning sign for later gang involvement." After next warning that summer is a risky time and that "teens who use drugs are twice as likely to commit violent acts," the report got to a series of bullet points including the following:

  • Teens who use drugs, particularly marijuana, are more likely to steal and experiment with other drugs and alcohol, compared to teens who don't;
  • One in four teens (27%) who used illicit drugs in the past year report attacking others with the intent to harm;
  • Nearly one in six teens (17%) who got into serious fights at school or work in the past year report using drugs;
  • Teens who use marijuana regularly are nine times more likely than teens who don't to experiment with other illicit drugs or alcohol, and five times more likely to steal.

"This is such transparent nonsense that I'm almost speechless," said Bruce Mirken, the usually loquacious communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Marijuana doesn't cause violence and it doesn't cause criminality. Prohibition, however, does. That's the connection and that's exactly what they don't want to talk about. In that sense, this report is even more egregiously dishonest than most of what ONDCP puts out."

"It is incredibly ironic to see ONDCP simultaneously advancing the idea that marijuana causes laziness, which it has been doing for years, and then turn around and try to tell us that marijuana causes violence," said Scott Morgan, blogger for DRCNet. "It is also pretty shoddy to suggest a link between marijuana and gang membership. To whatever extent marijuana users are likely to join gangs, these relationships are facilitated by drug prohibition, which creates the black market in which these gangs thrive."

"That some kids join gangs has nothing to do with marijuana at all," agreed Mirken. "Our drug laws have handed the marijuana market to the gangs, and the association is a direct result of stupid laws. If we regulated marijuana like alcohol, those associations would disappear overnight."

In fact, the data linking marijuana use to gang membership is quite limited. ONDCP relied on one 2001 study of Seattle students to arrive at the conclusion that the two are linked.

"Walters and Murray seem to have their usual array of components at work here: an ad hominem attack against the 1960s, a bunch of supposedly pro-family pablum, an attack against those who take a different approach, and their typical twisting of data for the uninformed," groaned Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

"What ONDCP is in effect telling us is that its billions of dollars worth of propaganda does not stop young people from using marijuana, and secondly, that a very small percentage of them go on to experiment with other drugs," said St. Pierre.

Pete Guither at the Drug WarRant blog took issue with the claim that drug users were involved in 17% of fights. "It all sounds scary, unless you actually look at it," he wrote. "If you look at the 2007 Monitoring the Future report, you see that the percentages of any teens who used drugs in the past year are: 8th grade (14.8%), 10th grade (28.7%), and 12th grade (36.5%). So to say that 17% of teens who got into serious fights report using drugs is not a particularly alarming thing. In fact, it appears by these numbers that teens who use drugs are actually less likely to get into serious fights."

ONDCP also seems to have trouble with the notion of cause and effect, said MPP's Mirken. "If you look at the studies of kids, the ones who are smoking marijuana or using drugs or alcohol at a young age are the ones that are already having problems, already not doing well in school," said Mirken. "It is not surprising that this troubled group of young people is doing all sorts of bad behaviors, but trying to pin that on marijuana is just absolute nonsense."

The report's release may have more to do with ONDCP worries about budget cuts for programs proven not to be effective, like the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, than with actual cause and effect relationships between youth drug use and anti-social behavior, suggested Tom Angell, government relations director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).

"It would appear that ONDCP has nervously pushed this out because they are terrified that congressional leaders are moving to cut the funding for many of their so-called anti-drug programs," said Angell. "They're grasping at straws, trying to get as much ammo as possible to defend their much-loved big budget items."

"This is just another shock report that ONDCP feels it needs to put out to get any press at all," said St. Pierre. "Everything ONDCP has done for the last five years is about whipping up fear, anxiety, and emotional contagion among parents to try to maintain the status quo and keep some part of the media reporting on this ridiculous report."

Even there, ONDCP had limited success. Aside from reports in several Philadelphia media outlets, where drug czar Walters held a press conference to announce the report, a lone Associated Press story was picked up by 65 media outlets, most of them TV news stations in small to medium markets. Only a handful of print media ran the story, and that includes one outlet in marijuana-phobic Australia and one in Great Britain.

But that won't stop ONDCP from producing more sensational but misleading reports, said NORML's St. Pierre. "We can set our calendars and know that about a week before school starts in the fall, we'll get the next big scare effort from ONDCP," he predicted.

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4. Appeal: A Victory is In the Works, With Your Help

Years of work have brought DRCNet and our allies near to an historic victory in Congress. Since 1998 DRCNet has campaigned for repeal of an infamous law, authored by drug warrior congressman Mark Souder, that delays or denies federal financial aid to would-be students because of drug convictions. Yesterday a committee of the US Senate approved a bill that among other things would remove the "drug question" from the federal financial aid form -- not quite full repeal, but close -- the fight is not over yet, though, and we need your donations to help us finish the job.

DRCNet's most recent work to bring this about include organizing sign-on letters under the banner of the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR), including one sent to US Senators and signed by 120 organizations including many of the nation's largest advocacy groups. We founded CHEAR in 1999 -- a few months after the law was passed, but before it took effect -- and have built it up ever since -- just one part of the multi-faceted effort we've put in to bring things to this point. (Visit http://www.raiseyourvoice.com to learn more.)

 

Your donations will enable us to lobby hard the next few months to protect this victory and to push to turn it into something even bigger -- full repeal of a federal drug law, something that hasn't happened in the US since 1970. And your donations will turn this already successful campaign into a larger one taking on more "collateral consequences" of the drug war -- mobilizing the groups we've worked with already to repeal similar bans in welfare and housing and voting law, to get sentencing laws changed and more. We've been "pounding the pavement" going to the places we need to be to find the partners we need for this expanded effort, and we need your donations to pay for staff hours to continue and to put those connections to work.

 

So please make a generous donation to DRCNet today, to support this campaign, and to help us take it into the next stage. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate to make a donation online, or send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Donations to Drug Reform Coordination Network to support our lobbying work are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations to support our educational work can be made payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address. We can also accept contributions of stock -- email [email protected] for the necessary info. Thank you in advance for your support.

 

Sincerely,

 

David Borden, Executive Director

P.O. Box 18402

Washington, DC 20036

http://stopthedrugwar.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2002 press conference DRCNet organized for CHEAR, with ten members of Congress participating.

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5. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

Do you read Drug War Chronicle? If so, we'd like to hear from you. DRCNet needs two things:

  1. We are in between newsletter grants, and that makes our need for donations more pressing. Drug War Chronicle is free to read but not to produce! Click here to make a donation by credit card or PayPal, or to print out a form to send in by mail.

  2. Please send quotes and reports on how you put our flow of information to work, for use in upcoming grant proposals and letters to funders or potential funders. Do you use DRCNet as a source for public speaking? For letters to the editor? Helping you talk to friends or associates about the issue? Research? For your own edification? Have you changed your mind about any aspects of drug policy since subscribing, or inspired you to get involved in the cause? Do you reprint or repost portions of our bulletins on other lists or in other newsletters? Do you have any criticisms or complaints, or suggestions? We want to hear those too. Please send your response -- one or two sentences would be fine; more is great, too -- email [email protected] or reply to a Chronicle email or use our online comment form. Please let us know if we may reprint your comments, and if so, if we may include your name or if you wish to remain anonymous. IMPORTANT: Even if you have given us this kind of feedback before, we could use your updated feedback now too -- we need to hear from you!

Again, please help us keep Drug War Chronicle alive at this important time! Click here to make a donation online, or send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Make your check payable to DRCNet Foundation to make a tax-deductible donation for Drug War Chronicle -- remember if you select one of our member premium gifts that will reduce the portion of your donation that is tax-deductible -- or make a non-deductible donation for our lobbying work -- online or check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, same address. We can also accept contributions of stock -- email [email protected] for the necessary info.

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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 (courtesy arbizu.org)

This week:

It's ONDCP Ad Week in the Speakeasy, courtesy Scott Morgan: "Teens Who Use Drugs Are Less Likely to Get in Fights," "Marijuana Doesn't Cause Gang Membership, But the Drug War Does," "Pete Gets Off the Couch and Joins a Gang," "ONDCP's Emphasis on Marijuana is Incoherent on So Many Levels," "Pot, Aliens, and ONDCP"

Phil Smith informs us of "Advanced Drug Testing: Creepy Science, Creepy Scientists."

David Borden writes "Giuliani's Cocaine Connection," "Is another drug war bloodbath just around the corner?" (with a former ONDCP official's response that came in later), and many small items.

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.

The Reader Blogs this week have posts from Martin Holsinger and from a long-time member (posting anonymously) with two fascinating stories from his own personal experience. Join the Reader Blogs here.

Thanks for reading, and writing...

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

A Puerto Rican narc gets caught robbing an armored car, a Mississippi cop gets nailed for selling and using speed, and a Toledo cop who liked to party too much cops a plea. Let's get to it:

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, a Puerto Rican police officer working with the DEA was charged with robbing an armored car. Angel Fernandez Ramos, who worked as an anti-drug officer for the past four years, was one of five men arrested last Friday in the $515,000 heist. Among the others were Ramos' father and two uncles. The money has been recovered. FBI officials said they were looking into links between this robbery and other armored car robberies on the island.

In Gulfport, Mississippi, a former Moss Point police officer was sentenced June 14 to 41 months in prison for drug trafficking on the job. Wendy Peyregne was arrested in December 2006 and charged with six counts of methamphetamine trafficking after a two-year investigation by the FBI. She ended up pleading guilty to two counts. According to the FBI, Peyregne made drug deals while on duty at the Moss Point police station, dealt drugs from her patrol car, and used meth while on duty. She shared the meth she scored with, among others, an ex-boyfriend, who turned snitch and helped bring her down.

In Toledo, Ohio, a former Toledo police officer pleaded guilty June 14 to a drug misdemeanor. Former officer Bryan Traband was originally charged with felony drug possession, and three misdemeanors -- permitting drug abuse, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of drugs -- but was allowed to plead guilty to a single charge of permitting drug use. Toledo police raided Traband's residence after a snitch twice told them in February he was selling, possessing, and using cocaine and marijuana and that he would be having a party on March 16. Police raided the home that night. Traband received a suspended six-month sentence at the Correction Center of Northwest Ohio.

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8. Search and Seizure: Supreme Court Rules Passengers Can Challenge Police Stops

In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court held Monday that passengers in a car stopped by police have the same right to challenge the constitutionality of that stop as the driver. The court held that when police stop a vehicle, the passengers are "seized" and have the right to challenge the legality of that seizure in court.

The ruling came in the case of California resident Bruce Edward Brendlin, who was arrested on parole violation and drug charges after the car in which he was riding was pulled over for what turned out to be bogus reasons by police. Once police had stopped the vehicle, they ordered Brendlin out of the car, searched him, the driver, and the vehicle, and found a syringe cap, a small amount of marijuana, and ingredients used to home cook methamphetamine.

While the driver of the vehicle did not challenge the constitutionality of the traffic stop, Brendlin did. He filed a motion to suppress the evidence against him, arguing that the traffic stop amounted to "an unlawful seizure of his person."

A California appeals court agreed, but the California Supreme Court overturned the appeals court decision. Instead, the California high court agreed with the state that even though police "had no adequate justification" to stop the vehicle in which Brendlin was riding, only the driver -- not any passengers -- had been "seized." Passengers in a vehicle stopped by police "would feel free to depart or otherwise to conduct his or her affairs as though the police were not present," the court reasoned.

But the US Supreme Court begged to differ. Any "reasonable passenger" would not feel free to simply leave the scene of a traffic stop, wrote Justice David Souter in the opinion in Brendlin v. California. "A traffic stop necessarily curtails the travel a passenger has chosen just as much as it halts the driver," Souder wrote. "Brendlin was seized from the moment [the driver's] car came to a halt on the side of the road, and it was error to deny his suppression motion on the ground that seizure occurred only at the formal arrest."

To find in favor of California's position that passengers are not "seized" during a traffic stop "would invite police officers to stop cars with passengers regardless of probable cause or reasonable suspicion of anything illegal," Souter wrote. "The fact that evidence uncovered as a result of an arbitrary traffic stop would still be admissible against any passengers would be a powerful incentive to run the kind of 'roving patrols' that would still violate the driver's Fourth Amendment right."

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9. Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Legislature Overrides Veto to Make Law Permanent

Rhode Island legislators voted overwhelmingly this week to override Gov. Donald Carcieri's (R) veto of a bill that would make the state's medical marijuana law permanent. On Wednesday, the Senate voted 29-4 to override, and on Thursday, the House followed suit with a lopsided 58-11 vote.

Legislators last year passed a medical marijuana -- also vetoed by Carcieri and overridden -- but that law included a sunset provision. Without action by the legislature, it would have expired on June 30.

"The fact that this override passed by an even larger margin than the original override last year says everything you need to know about how well the law has worked, and how completely uncontroversial it's been," said Ray Warren, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

The national group worked with state residents organized into the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition to achieve victory in the legislature. "Our legislature has stood with the scientific and medical community to ensure that I and hundreds of other seriously ill Rhode Islanders don't have to live in fear," said Rhonda O'Donnell, RN, a multiple sclerosis patient who was the first to sign up for Rhode Island's program. "But the job won't be finished until every patient in every state who needs medical marijuana has complete protection. It's time for every state legislature and the US Congress to change cruel and unscientific laws that criminalize the sick."

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10. Medical Marijuana: Connecticut Governor Vetoes Bill

Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R) Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have allowed for the use of medical marijuana in the Constitution State. The Compassionate Use Act (HB 6715) passed the state Senate by a vote of 23-13 after clearing the House an 89-58 vote weeks earlier, both of which were wide -- but not quite veto-proof -- margins.

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Gov. Rell showed great cruelty to patients with her veto of Connecticut's medical marijuana bill.
To override the gubernatorial veto, bill supporters would need 24 votes in the Senate and 101 votes in the House. None of the bill's legislative sponsors have made any public noises about attempting an override. Lead backer Rep. Penny Bacchiochi (R-Somers) was quoted in an Associated Press article as saying she would work with the governor to seek compromise legislation next year.

In her veto message, Rell cried crocodile tears for Connecticuters who could benefit from the therapeutic use of cannabis. "While the bill seeks to provide relief to patients suffering from severe and persistent pain, the bill also requires that patients or primary caregivers engage in illegal activity to use marijuana."

"I am not unfamiliar with the incredible pain and heartbreak associated with battling cancer and I have struggled with the decision about signing or vetoing this bill," Rell continued. "I completely sympathize with the well-intentioned goal of alleviating pain and suffering, but legal alternatives are available, the bill forces law abiding citizens to seek out drug dealers to make a purchase, and there is no provision for monitoring use or proof of its effectiveness."

Rell also worried that signing the bill would "send the wrong message" to young people and noted that few doctors prescribe marijuana because it is a violation of federal law. The bill would have allowed doctors to issue recommendations, not prescriptions.

The bill would have allowed adult residents suffering from diseases including AIDS, MS, and cancer to grow marijuana at home once they had a recommendation and had registered with the state.

While Bacchiochi expressed some sympathy for the governor's soul-searching on whether to sign the bill, State Senator Andrew J. McDonald (D-Stamford), the deputy majority leader, said after the veto was announced that Rell had not raised her concerns when the bill had been drafted. "In many ways, a gubernatorial veto represents a failure of leadership by the governor rather than an exercise of leadership," McDonald said. "The governor clearly stands apart from the vast majority of her citizens in opposing this legislation."

After the bill's passage, patients, doctors, family members and advocates mounted a massive letter and phone call campaign urging the governor to sign the bill. The governor was receiving hundreds of phone calls and letters every day in support of medical marijuana, including from medical, legal, and health experts from across the country.

"The governor's veto message shows that she's grasping for straws," said Lorenzo Jones, executive director of A Better Way Foundation, which rallied support for the legislation. "She said previously that she'd support the bill if it was only for terminally ill patients, because clearly other treatments are not sufficient. Now she says she's vetoing the bill because it's still illegal under federal law, even though over 99% of all marijuana arrests are under state law. She has been so evasive on this that it makes one wonder if she hasn't gotten a call from Washington. Is she taking the advice from the worst administration in history over the demands of 83% of Connecticut residents?"

"It's unconscionable that Rell would ignore all the science to veto this bill," said Gabriel Sayegh, project director at the Drug Policy Alliance, which also pushed for its passage. "The medical efficacy of marijuana is unassailable. As a result of this veto, are patients who use marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering still considered criminals?"

The answer is yes, at least until next year.

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11. Methamphetamine: With Meth Labs Plunging to Near Zero, Nevada Moves to Track Cold Remedies

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) last week signed into a law a bill designed to make it more difficult to home manufacture meth, even as meth lab busts in Nevada declined to near zero. In 2006, there were exactly three meth labs discovered in the state and none so far this year.
The bill, AB 148, removes non-prescription cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine, a meth precursor chemical, from convenience store shelves and requires that pharmacies put the products behind the counter. Customers who wish to purchase such items will have to produce identification and sign their names to a log, which law enforcement will be able to peruse in its hunt for the mysterious vanishing meth labs.

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Gov. Gibbons signing AB 148 -- at least he feels like he's doing something.
"These measure will assist in our efforts to fight manufacture and use of this dangerous drug," said Nevada First Lady Dawn Gibbons in the governor's signing statement. "Far too often, we see small home labs that produce meth from basic cold medicines that you can buy over-the-counter. This legislation will allow consumers access to the medicines they need while at the same time preventing meth producers from obtaining excessive amounts for their home labs," she added, apparently oblivious to recent meth lab bust statistics.

"This legislation tightens restrictions on the sale of over-the-counter products often used in the production of meth," said an equally oblivious Gov. Gibbons. "These safeguards will help to ensure that these products are used for their intended purposes."

Despite mutual congratulations between the governor and the legislature, where the bill unanimously passed both houses, Nevada law enforcement officials acknowledged that the vast majority of meth now consumed in the state -- and the nation -- comes from Mexican "superlabs." Carson County Sheriff Kenny Furlong admitted as much when asked if that wasn't the case by the Nevada Appeal. "That's very, very true," he responded.

"Legislation designed to make life harder on criminals who make methamphetamine is more symbolic than a practical tool for law enforcement," the Appeal noted.

But, hey, at least it feels like we're doing something.

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12. Middle East: Iran Hangs Four for Drug Trafficking

Iranian authorities hanged four convicted drug traffickers Saturday in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, according to a report from the ISNA news agency. The hangings bring the number of executions in Iran this year to 102. The Islamic republic executed 177 people last year, according to a report from Amnesty International.

The executed were Malek S., convicted of trafficking 2.3 pounds of heroin; Javad S., convicted of possessing 63 pounds of opium; and Qasem and Kavoos (no last name or initial provided), both convicted of possessing weapons and 339 pounds of opium.

Under Iranian law, capital crimes include not only murder, treason, and espionage, but also rape, armed robbery, apostasy, blasphemy, repeated sodomy, adultery, or prostitution, and serious drug trafficking offenses.

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13. Middle East: Dubai Sentences Two More Westerners To Prison Over Infinitesimal Amounts of Drugs

The Dubai Court of First Instance has sentenced two more Westerners to four-year prison terms for possessing tiny amounts of illicit drugs as they transited the Dubai airport. Four years is the minimum sentence for drug possession in the United Arab Emirates.

In the first case, a 25-year-old Britain, identified only as W.H., was sent to prison last week for possessing 0.07 grams of marijuana and two tiny slivers of hashish. The unfortunate Briton told the court he did not intend to bring drugs to Dubai, but merely forget the drug remnants were in his pockets. He will be deported after serving his sentence.

This week, a Canadian citizen employed as a consultant for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and an advisor to the Afghan Poppy Elimination Program was sent to prison for possessing 0.06 grams of hashish. The Dubai courts do not identify defendants, but Canadian press reports named him as Herbert William Tatham of Vancouver.

Tatham's attorney, Saeed Al Gailani, said during an earlier hearing that Tatham was returning from taking part in a drug eradication campaign and that he must have picked up the drug traces in the course of his work. "His trousers must have mistakenly picked up the tiny quantity of hashish," the lawyer had said.

But Dubai's Court of First Instance did not care.

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14. Web Scan

Montel Williams discusses medical marijuana, on The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, KTTV-11, Los Angeles

Tony Papa writes about Veronica Flournoy's Dying Wish to Gov. Spitzer, Counterpunch

DPA animation, "Incarcerex," politicians' drug to reduce "election-related anxiety" -- that has side effects (for the country).

Up from Prohibition, commentary in the New York Sun, prompted by new book "Dry Manhattan"

SlangTV, video on Afghanistan opium licensing proposal currently posted

Where is the drug policy reform debate up to today?," excerpt from upcoming Transform publication

Reconsidering Incarceration: New Directions for Reducing Crime, new report from the Vera Institute

Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America's Prison Population 2007-2011, report from the Public Safety Performance project of the Pew Charitable Trusts

Can individual countries legalize drugs?, video with prominent Australian physician Dr. Alex Wodak, "HaRdCOREhARMREdUCER" web site

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15. Weekly: This Week in History

June 28, 1776: The first draft of the Declaration of Independence is written -- on Dutch hemp paper. A second draft, the version released on July 4, is also written on hemp paper. The final draft is copied from the second draft onto animal parchment.

June 25, 1923: During a speech in Denver, Colorado, Senator Morris Shepard, a wily old Texan who helped install prohibition of alcohol, says, "There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment [which prohibited alcohol] as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail."

June 26, 1936: The Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs is signed in Geneva.

June 24, 1982: During remarks about Executive Order 12368 made from the White House's Rose Garden, President Ronald Reagan says, "We're taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts. We're running up a battle flag."

June 27, 1991: The Supreme Court upholds, in a 5-4 decision, a Michigan statute imposing a mandatory sentence of life without possibility of parole for anyone convicted of possession of more than 650 grams (about 1.5 pounds) of cocaine.

June 23, 1999: New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson says, "The nation's so-called War on Drugs has been a miserable failure. It hasn't worked. The drug problem is getting worse. I think it is the number one problem facing this country today... We really need to put all the options on the table... and one of the things that's going to get talked about is decriminalization... What I'm trying to do here is launch discussion."

June 26, 2001: China marks a UN international anti-drug day by holding rallies where piles of narcotics are burned and 60 people are executed for drug offenses. Chinese authorities execute hundreds of people since April in a crime crackdown labeled "Strike Hard" that allowed for speeded up trials and broader use of the death penalty. [The macabre ritual has been repeated each year since.]

June 27, 2001: A Newsday article titled "Census: War on Drugs Hits Blacks," reports: Black men make up less than 3 percent of Connecticut's population but account for 47 percent of inmates in prisons, jails and halfway houses, 2000 census figures show.

June 22, 2002: The General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association passes an "Alternatives to the War on Drugs" Statement of Conscience.

June 27, 2002: In Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls, the Supreme Court decides 6-3 to uphold the most sweeping drug-testing policy yet to come before the Court -- a testing requirement for any public school student seeking to take part in any extracurricular activity, the near-equivalent of a universal testing policy.

June 25, 2003: The Superior Administrative Court of Cundinamarca, Colombia orders a stop to the spraying of glyphosate herbicides until the government complies with the environmental management plan for the eradication program and mandates a series of studies to protect public health and the environment.

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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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