Breaking News:Initiatives 2020 -- Legalization Sweep, Psychedelic Sweep, Medical Marijuana, Decrim

Drug War Chronicle #500 - September 7, 2007

1. Editorial: Why We Are Fighting to End the War on Drugs

We in the drug reform movement have so many good reasons to stand on, that it is hard to know where to begin when telling people about them. When we succeed in ending prohibition, the world will become a better place, in ways that are urgently needed.

2. Feature: As Afghan Opium Production Goes Through the Roof, Pressure for Aerial Eradication, Increased Western Military Involvement Mounts

The UN announced last week that Afghan opium production had increased yet again. Now, pressures to combat it with aerial spraying and increased Western military involvement are mounting, but the experts say that's a path to nowhere.

3. Feature: Stirring the Pot in Denver -- "Lowest Law Enforcement Priority" Marijuana Initiative to Go to Voters As Activists Bedevil Council, Mayor

A lowest law enforcement priority initiative for adult marijuana use is headed for the ballot in Denver, and local officials who oppose it are taking a beating from its proponents.

4. Review and Critique: Methamphetamine Mice Study Falls Far Short

The science of methamphetamine is contested terrain. Here, occasional contributor John Calvin Jones dissects a recent piece of methamphetamine research and finds it lacking.

5. Appeal: Massive Increases to Our Web Site Traffic Have Increased Our Costs...

Massive increases to our web site traffic, particularly during the last three months, have forced us to upgrade our web server -- not once, but twice -- and have increased our costs. We need your help to pay for it.

6. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

Marijuana critics who take beer company money, drug testing and hard drug use, Obama and New Orleans drug war, feds raid paraplegic, "Don't Smoke Pot in Your Car," John McCain and another lost war, more...

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

Busy, busy, busy. Take a week off, and look what happens: Cops peddling pills, guards stealing pills, cops shaking down housing project residents, jail guards smuggling drugs, a DEA agent giving information to suspected mobsters, and more.

8. Asset Forfeiture: ACLU Sues DEA Over Trucker's Seized Cash

The ACLU is challenging the seizure of nearly $24,000 dollars from a New Mexico trucker by the DEA as part of its asset forfeiture program.

9. Medical Marijuana: WAMM Lawsuit Hits Bump

A lawsuit filed by a Santa Cruz medical marijuana co-op and the city and county of Santa Cruz to try to block federal raids on providers in California is down but not out after an adverse ruling by a federal judge.

10. Harm Reduction: Pennsylvania Moves to End Prescription Requirement for Buying Needles

The Pennsylvania Pharmacy Board has unveiled a proposed rule that would allow for the purchase of up to 30 needles without a prescription. The move is a harm reduction measure intended to reduce the sharing of injection equipment by drug users and thereby reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

11. Europe: Czech Marijuana Users to Get Lesser Penalties

Legislators in the Czech Republic are preparing an amendment to the penal code that should lessen penalties for marijuana possession and growing.

12. Latin America: Nicaraguan Leader Asks for $1 Billion in Anti-Drug Aid

Despite his publicly expressed reservations about the DEA -- and the demonstrated failure of the war on drugs -- Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is bellying up to the counter-narcotics assistance trough. He wants a billion dollars from Washington to fight the Central American drug trade.

13. Africa: Guinea-Bissau Threatens to Shoot Down Drug Planes

Faced with a thriving cocaine trade using its territory as a stopover on the way to European markets, the government of the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau is threatening to blow drug planes out of the sky.

14. Conference: Drug Policy Alliance, New Orleans, December 2007

A major gathering of drug reform forces is planned for late this year, and special registration rates are available for those who plan early.

15. Web Scan

Tierney blog on legalization and pain prosecutions, Transnational Institute on Colombian coca and Afghan opium, drug offense death penalties as international human rights violation, net Asian Drug Users Network, DrugTruth Network update.

16. Weekly: This Week in History

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

17. 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.

18. Students: Intern at DRCNet and Help Stop the Drug War!

Apply for an internship at DRCNet for this fall (or spring), and you could spend the semester fighting the good fight!

19. Job Listing: Director of Government Relations, MPP

The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring for their Director of Government Relations position based in Washington, DC.

20. Job Announcement: Executive Director, Justice Policy Institute

The DC-based think tank is hiring a new leader as it moves forward seeking to end society's reliance on incarceration and promoting effective solutions to social problems.

21. Proposals: IHRD Providing Small Grants on Health and Human Rights, 2008 UN Drug Summit

The International Harm Reduction Development Program (IHRD) of the Open Society Institute (OSI) is offering small grants to support the collection and presentation of information that evaluate the health and human rights consequences, with regard to injection drug use-driven HIV infections, of the resolutions taken at the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.

22. Webmasters: Help the Movement by Running DRCNet Syndication Feeds on Your Web Site!

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

23. Resource: DRCNet Web Site Offers Wide Array of RSS Feeds for Your Reader

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

24. Resource: Reformer's Calendar Accessible Through DRCNet Web Site

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

1. Editorial: Why We Are Fighting to End the War on Drugs

David Borden, Executive Director
David Borden
On the frequent occasions when I am asked why I oppose the drug laws, I face a quandary -- where do I start? There are so many important reasons:

  • Half a million nonviolent drug offenders clog our prisons and jails. Mandatory minimum sentences, and inflexible sentencing guidelines, condemn numerous low-level offenders to years, even decades behind bars, often based solely on the word of compensated, confidential informants. With two million people behind bars, the US leads the world in incarceration, at a level radically beyond any time in our history before a quarter century ago.
  • Prohibition creates a lucrative black market that causes violence and disorder, particularly in our inner cities, and lures young people into lives of crime. Laws criminalizing syringe possession, and the overall milieu of underground drug use and sales, encourage needle sharing and increase the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. Thousands of Americans die from drug overdoses or poisonings by adulterants every year, most of their deaths preventable through the quality-controlled market that would exist if drugs were legal.
  • Our drug war in the Andes fuels a continuing civil war in Colombia, with prohibition-generated illicit drug profits enabling its escalation. Opium growing, and attempts to stop it, both hurt Afghanistan's attempts at nation building and help our enemies.
  • Patients needing medical marijuana, and the people who provide it to them, go without or live in fear of arrest and prosecution. Physicians' fears of running afoul of law enforcers causes large numbers of Americans who need opiates for chronic pain to go un- or under-treated.
  • Profiling assaults the dignity of members of our minority groups, and of the poor, denying them equal justice.
  • From drug testing in our schools, to SWAT teams invading our homes, privacy has been gutted.
  • Ethics in our criminal justice system are virtually the exception rather than the rule, with perjury, violations of constitutional rights, corruption and general misconduct endemic and largely tolerated -- all of it driven by the drug war.
  • Frustration over the failure of the drug war, together with the lack of dialogue on prohibition, distorts the policymaking process, leading to ever more intrusive governmental interventions and ever greater dilution of the core American values of freedom, privacy and fairness.

And that isn't even all of it, and it isn't a pretty picture. And so we oppose the drug laws -- so we fight for an end to prohibition, for legalization -- because of the harm and the injustice that prohibition is inflicting on so many different people in so many ways. And because we understand that freedom is not just the right to control our bodies and what we put in them, even though that ought to be enough. Because freedom is the right for all people on this earth, not having infringed the freedom of others, to walk down the street, to go about their business, to live as they choose not confined to a prison cell just because their personal behavior was not officially approved.

And so for so many reasons that I almost don't know where to start -- to save the lives of the addicted, so patients can be treated, for privacy, for peace, for safety, to restore ethics to government, to end the injustices large and small -- for all these reasons and more, we seek to end drug prohibition. Our views are correct, our cause is just, and we fight for it to make this a better world for all.

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2. Feature: As Afghan Opium Production Goes Through the Roof, Pressure for Aerial Eradication, Increased Western Military Involvement Mounts

To no one's surprise, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced last week that Afghan opium production had reached another record high. The announcement comes against a background of continued high levels of violence between Taliban insurgents reinvigorated in part by the infusion of drug trade money and combined US/NATO/Afghan forces as the insurgency continues to regenerate itself.

The increase in poppy production is lending heft to increasingly shrill calls by the Americans to respond with a massive -- preferably aerial -- poppy eradication campaign. Now, there are signs the Karzai government's firm opposition to aerial spraying is weakening. But US foreign policy, Afghanistan, and drugs and conflict experts contacted by Drug War Chronicle all said such a campaign would be counterproductive -- at best.
the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
According to UNODC's Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007, the extent of the poppy crop increased 17% this year over 2006, with nearly 450,000 acres under cultivation. But opium production was up 34% over last year's 6,100 tons, a figure UNODC attributed to better weather conditions, with total opium production this year estimated at what the UNODC called "an extraordinary" 8,200 tons of opium.

Afghanistan now supplies around 93% of the world's opium, up just a bit from last year's estimated 92%.

The UNODC reported that the number of opium-free provinces had increased from six last year to 13 this year. It noted that production had diminished in center-north Afghanistan, where Northern Alliance warlords reign supreme, but had exploded in the east and southeast -- precisely those areas where the Taliban presence is strongest. Half of the world supply comes from a single Afghan province, Helmand in the southeast, where, not coincidentally, the Taliban has managed to "control vast swathes of territory" despite the efforts of NATO and Afghan troops to dislodge it.

"Opium cultivation is inversely related to the degree of government control," said UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa in a statement accompanying the report's release. "Where anti-government forces reign, poppies flourish. The Afghan opium situation looks grim, but it is not yet hopeless," he added.

Costa called on the Afghan government and the international community to make a more determined effort to fight the "twin threats" of opium and insurgency, including more rewards for farmers or communities that abandon the poppy and more sanctions on those who don't, as well as attacking the prohibition-related corruption that makes the Karzai government as complicit in the opium trade as any other actor. [Ed: Costa of course didn't use the word prohibition -- but he should have.]

He also called for NATO to get more involved in counter-narcotics operations, something it has been loathe to do. "Since drugs are funding insurgency, Afghanistan's military and its allies have a vested interest in destroying heroin labs, closing opium markets and bringing traffickers to justice. Tacit acceptance of opium trafficking is undermining stabilization efforts," he said.

But this week, NATO appeared unmoved. "We are doing the best we can, we would ask others to do more," NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary-General for Operations Jim Pardew told a Brussels news conference Wednesday. "The fight against narcotics is first and foremost an Afghan responsibility but they need help."

NATO spokesman James Appathurai added that: "NATO is not mandated to be an eradication force, nor is it proposed. Eradication is one part of a complex strategy."

NATO's reticence is in part due to rising casualties. So far this year, 82 NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, according to the I-Casualties web site, which tracks US and allied forces killed and wounded in both Iraq and Afghanistan. That's along with 82 US soldiers, at least 500 Afghan National Police, numerous Afghan Army soldiers, hundreds -- if not thousands -- of insurgents, and hundreds of civilians.

In all of last year, 98 US and 93 NATO troops were killed; in 2005, 99 US and 31 NATO troops were killed; and in 2004, only 52 US and six NATO soldiers died. The trend line is ominous, and with public support for intervening in the opium war weak in Europe and Canada, NATO reluctance to get more deeply involved reflects political reality at home.

It's not the same with the US government. Less than a month ago, and anticipating a record crop this year, the government released its US Counternarcotics Strategy for Afghanistan. The strategy called for integrating counterinsurgency and counternarcotics, a resort to mass eradication, and the increased use of the US military in the battle against the poppy.

"There is a clear and direct link between the illicit opium trade and insurgent groups in Afghanistan," the State Department report said. The Pentagon "will work with DEA" and other agencies "to develop options for a coordinated strategy that integrates and synchronizes counternarcotics operations, particularly interdiction, into the comprehensive security strategy."

Bush administration officials have long pushed for aerial eradication, and the UNODC report has added fuel to the flames. On Sunday, Afghan first vice-president Ahmed Zia Massoud broke with President Karzai to call for a more "forceful approach" to tackle the poppies "that have spread like cancer," as he and Karzai both have put it. "We must switch from ground based eradication to aerial spraying," he wrote in the London Sunday Telegraph.

But the British government begs to differ. Senior Foreign Office officials dismissed such calls, saying "it is difficult to envisage circumstances where the benefits of aerial eradication outweigh the disadvantages."

The Karzai government, while apparently now split on whether to okay aerial spraying, is turning up the pressure on the West to do more. On Monday, the Afghan government announced it had formally asked NATO and US forces to clear Taliban fighters from opium-growing areas before Afghan troops move in to eradicate.

"For a new plan for this year, we've requested that the foreign military forces go and conduct military operations to enable us to eradicate poppy crops," Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said at a Monday press conference. "In areas where there's insecurity, we need strong military support to be able to eradicate poppy fields. Police can't eradicate poppies and fight insurgents at the same time," he said.

That request came on the heels of criticism of the West last week from President Karzai himself. He accused the international community of dropping the ball when it came to counter-narcotics in Afghanistan, noting pointedly that where his government had control, poppy production had dropped.

UNODC head Costa Wednesday kept up the pressure, telling that Brussels news conference: "There is very strong pressure building up in favor of aerial eradication in that part of Afghanistan. The government has not decided yet and we will support the government in whatever it decides to do," he said.

But while aerial spraying and increased US and NATO military involvement in the anti-poppy campaign look increasingly probable, that route is paved with obstacles, according to the experts consulted by the Chronicle.

"The change in the Afghan position is a direct response to the US upping the pressure on the Karzai government to adopt a Colombian-style model of aerial eradication," said Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute. "Until very recently, the Karzai government really resisted that because they understood this will antagonize a good many Afghan farmers, but when you are the client of a powerful patron, the pressure is difficult to resist."

While massive eradication may indeed have some impact on the opium trade, it will come at a "horrific cost," said Carpenter. "That will drive farmers into the hands of the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies, which is absolutely the last thing we need in pressing the war against Islamic terrorism," he said. "Afghanistan was hailed as a great success as recently as two years ago, but now it's looking very dicey, the security situation is deteriorating rapidly, and a massive eradication campaign will only make it worse."

"Eradication was stronger this year than last, but it still amounted to almost nothing," said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in drugs, insurgencies, and counterinsurgencies. "So now, the pressure for aerial eradication is almost at fever pitch. But there is real debate about whether this would really achieve anything or end up being counterproductive. I think it would be a disaster," she said, citing the now familiar reasons of humanitarian problems and increasing support for the Taliban.

When asked to comment by the Chronicle, Barnett Rubin, Director of Studies and Senior Fellow at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, pointed to his blog posts at Informed Comment Global Affairs. Calling eradication "the most photogenic tool" in counter-narcotics strategy, Rubin wrote that he was often forced to point out that: "The international drug trade is not caused by Afghan farmers."

The key problem is not drugs, Rubin argued, but drug money, which finances the insurgency and corrupts government forces. Embarking on a campaign of eradication does not effectively go after the drug money, he wrote, because 80% of it goes to traffickers. And it will increase the value of poppy crops, making them more attractive to farmers.

"More forcible eradication at this time," Rubin wrote, "when both interdiction and alternative livelihoods are barely beginning, will increase the economic value of the opium economy, spread cultivation back to areas of the country that have eliminated or reduced it, and drive more communities into the arms of the Taliban."

US policy is being driven less by what will work in Afghanistan than by domestic political concerns, Felbab-Brown said. "With presidential elections coming up, Afghanistan is going to be a political issue. The question Democrats will ask is 'Who lost Afghanistan'? Thus, there is a real incentive for the Republicans to demonstrate results in some way, and the easiest way is with aerial spraying. This is a classic case of policy being dominated by politics," she said.

"Lost in all the politics is the fact that eradication has never worked in the context of military conflict," Felbab-Brown noted. "It only comes after peace has been achieved, whether through repression, as in the Maoist model, through alternative development, or through eradication and interdiction. Since the security situation in Afghanistan is not improving, it is very unlikely eradication will work. Karzai likes to talk about drugs as a cancer afflicting Afghanistan, but by embracing aerial eradication, we are prescribing the treatment that kills the patient," she said.

"Counter-narcotics efforts will not be successful until security improves," said Felbab-Brown. "That's the priority, and that will require various components, one of which is inevitably more troops on the ground." But she said she sees no political will for such a move in NATO or in the US. "As a result of Iraq, there is no will to increase troops in this vitally important theater, so I am very skeptical about the prospects for that," she said.

"The situation is growing grimmer and grimmer, and the US response has been to move in the wrong direction," she summarized. "Now, it appears the train has left the station, and the voices that tried to stop it are falling by the wayside. American Afghan policy is being held hostage to domestic political concerns."

"Nobody has a good answer for Afghanistan," said Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann, who recently published an article calling for the creation of a global vice district there. "The question is what are the choices? One, we can keep doing what we're doing, which is not accomplishing anybody's objectives. Two, we could embark on an aggressive aerial eradication campaign, which would be a humanitarian disaster and push people into the hands of the Taliban," he said, summarizing the most likely policy options to occur.

"Three, there is outright legalization, but that isn't on anybody's political horizon," Nadelmann continued. "Four, there is the notion of just buying up the opium. That might work for a year or so, but it would almost inevitably become a sort of price support system with the country producing twice as much the following year. There's no reason why farmers wouldn't sell some to us and some to the underground; it would only inject another buyer into the market."

Finally, said Nadelmann, there is the Senlis Council proposal to license opium production for the licit medicinal market. "The Senlis proposal is an interesting idea, but there are a lot of issues with it, including the question of whether there really is a global shortage of opiate pain medications. It is good that Senlis put that provocative idea out there, but the question is whether it is workable," Nadelmann said.

There is another option, he explained. "Let's just accept opium as a global commodity," he said, "and let's think of Afghanistan as the global equivalent of a local red light district. It has all sorts of natural advantages in opium production -- it's a low-cost producer and there is a history of opium growing there. With global opium production centered almost exclusively in Afghanistan, as it is now, there is less likelihood it will pop up somewhere else, possibly with even more negative consequences," he argued.

"We are not talking about a place with a vacuum of authority that fosters terrorism, but a regulated activity serving a global market that cannot be eradicated or suppressed, as we know from a hundred years of history," Nadelmann continued. "We have to accept the fact that it will continue to be grown, but we should manipulate the market to ensure that the US, NATO, and the Karzai government advance their economic, political, and security objectives."

While the notion may sound shocking, the US government has historically been unafraid of working with criminal elements when it served its interests, whether it was heroin traffickers in Southeast Asia or the docks of Marseilles or cocaine traffickers during the Central American wars of the 1980s or Afghan rebels growing poppies during the war against the Soviets. "We've gotten in bed with organized criminals and warlords throughout our history when it served our objectives," Nadelmann noted.

Such a move would not require public pronouncements, Nadelmann said; in fact, quite the opposite. "Bush wouldn't come out and declare a policy shift, but you just sort of quietly allow it to happen, just as during the Cold War you made deals with strongmen because you were pursuing a more important objective. There have to be moral limits, of course, but to the extent you can semi-legitimize it you increase the chance of effectively regulating and controlling it," he said.

"You can call this suggestion Machiavellian," Nadelmann said, "or you can call it simple pragmatism, but given a lot of crummy choices, this could be the least worst."

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3. Feature: Stirring the Pot in Denver -- "Lowest Law Enforcement Priority" Marijuana Initiative to Go to Voters As Activists Bedevil Council, Mayor

The Denver city council agreed August 27 to put an initiative to make adult marijuana possession offenses the lowest law enforcement priority on this fall's municipal ballot. It's not that the council likes the idea; in Denver, the council must either send initiatives that have gathered the required number of voter signatures to the voters or approve them and put them into law immediately.

Unlike a number of other cities across the country that have lowest law enforcement priority marijuana ordinances, marijuana is actually legal under Denver's municipal code. Voters there voted to legalize it in 2005, but local law enforcement and political officials have refused to implement the will of the voters, instead arresting marijuana offenders under Colorado state law. Despite the clear signal from the voters, marijuana arrests actually increased last year.
SAFER rally, August 27, 2007
Although the council unanimously approved putting the initiative before the voters, various members lambasted it as mainly symbolic and its supporters for making "a joke" out of elections.

"You're trying to make a joke out of the electoral process in Denver," said Councilwoman Carol Boigan. "I think this is aimed at street theater and capturing media attention."

Even members who support drug policy reform, like Councilman Chris Nevitt, who supported the 2005 legalization initiative and the failed 2006 state legalization initiative, said the lowest priority initiative was the wrong way to go.

"The war on drugs is as misguided as the war on Iraq," said Nevitt, who compared the country's drug laws to the failure of Prohibition. "This issue needs to be taken to the state and federal level. Denver voters have already spoken."

The initiative is the brainchild of Citizens for a Safer Denver, the latest incarnation of executive director Mason Tvert's SAFER (Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation), which started off winning campus votes to equalize penalties for marijuana and alcohol, then moved on to the stunning legalization victory in Denver two years ago. SAFER's primary point, which it hammers at continuously, is that marijuana is safer than alcohol.

Tvert and his fellow activists have specialized in tormenting the Denver political establishment for its stand on marijuana, particularly targeting Mayor John Hickenlooper, who owns the Wynkoop microbrewery and who opposed the legalization initiative, the failed statewide legalization initiative (which won majority support in Denver), and the pending initiative. They once followed Hickenlooper around with a man wearing a chicken suit named "Chickenlooper" when he refused to debate them.

SAFER and its latest municipal incarnation have also specialized in innovative tactics designed to incite media attention to advance their cause. And they've been at it again in recent weeks. In an August 23 press release the group offered to withdraw its initiative if the city council and mayor would agree to enact a moratorium on marijuana arrests during next summer's Democratic national convention, agree to formally recognize that adult marijuana use is less harmful than alcohol use, and agree to explore marijuana policies that reflect the understanding that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.

"In order to demonstrate their commitment to a more rational approach to the use of marijuana and alcohol -- and to set an example for the rest of the nation -- our campaign respectfully requests city officials enact a moratorium on citations for adult marijuana use during the 2008 Democratic National Convention," said Tvert in the press release. "Tens of thousands of people will be flooding Denver for this tumultuous event, and visitors and city residents should not face the threat of arrest for simply making the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol, if that is what they prefer. After all, this is the first city in the United States that has voted to remove all penalties for private adult marijuana use," he noted.

"We understand the Denver City Council and Mayor Hickenlooper are extremely concerned about maintaining order during the convention. By allowing adults to consume marijuana instead of alcohol during this hectic time, they could potentially prevent the disorder that all too often accompanies the use and abuse of alcohol."

"The council was looking for ways to keep our initiative off the ballot, so we decided to help them out," Tvert told the Chronicle this week. "We also wanted to generate some attention as the spotlight is put on Denver for the Democratic national convention."

The council and mayor unsurprisingly didn't bite, but the offer received saturation press in Denver and Colorado, and even managed to earn a story in the Washington Times, "Pot Touted to Calm Denver Rallies."

"The council basically pulled a 180 trying to fight to keep it on the ballot in the face of our offer," Tvert said. "We weren't allowed to withdraw the initiative, but this just shows they're trying to void this any way possible."

Tvert also had some less than kind words for the mayor and the council. "The council has signaled they will oppose the initiative," he said. "There are three who say they are with us in spirit but against this particular law. Our city council has every right to tell the police to stop arresting adults for marijuana possession, but these people are acting like cowardly sell-outs," he said, singling out council members Chris Nevitt and Doug Linkhart, both of whom support marijuana legalization.

Neither Nevitt nor the mayor's office returned Chronicle calls seeking comment, but Linkhart did.

"I would like to see marijuana legalized in Colorado," said Linkhart. "Voters here in Denver have twice voted for that, and I supported those efforts. But I don't support this initiative. The police are sworn to enforce the law, and you either have the law or you don't," he said.

Linkhart also attacked Tvert over his tactics. "His stunts make some elected people angry, and that may hurt his cause," he said. "He is good at getting a lot of attention and getting the media involved, but I'm not sure that really helps his cause."

"They say this measure is only symbolic, but it will create a law that they will have to break if they want to continue doing business as usual," Tvert said. "We're forcing their hand on this."

Tvert and Citizens for a Safer Denver also managed to generate a story in the Denver Daily News the day of the council vote that outed at least four council members and the mayor as having smoked marijuana. Titled "Hypocrisy on Pot?," the piece could not have been more timely.

"We knew the mayor had partaken," said Tvert. "He says he had admitted it, but it was news to most people. This just shows how full of crap they are. We had a couple of council members saying marijuana is a gateway drug, but those council members who smoked, as well as the mayor, all seem to be functioning well," he snorted.

And while the fall vote is still weeks away, Tvert and the crew are keeping up the pressure on the mayor and the council. Their latest move is to demand a public hearing on a measure that would renew the city's partnership with the Coors Brewing Company, based in suburban Golden. The deal would allow Coors to sponsor events at the Colorado Convention Center, among other venues. The deal "sends the wrong message to children," said Tvert.

"Once and for all, the Council needs to explain why it is necessary to punish adults for using marijuana in order to send the right message to children, yet somehow it's no problem to have our city officially partner with an alcohol company to promote alcohol use to all who attend these events, including children," he said, adding that he is concerned that Coors could be sponsoring a circus next month where many children will be in attendance.

Maybe the Denver political establishment would be better off getting on board with its citizens' views on what the marijuana laws should be. At least then, it wouldn't have Tvert to hound it.

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4. Review and Critique: Methamphetamine Mice Study Falls Far Short

special to Drug War Chronicle by John Calvin Jones, Ph.D., JD

(Editor's Note: This article was submitted with full scholarly citations. We edited them out for reasons of brevity and style. Anyone wishing the fully annotated version of the article can request it by sending an email to [email protected].)

On August 14, both the newswires and the Society of Neuroscience announced that Dr. Jacqueline McGinty and her colleagues made some new, important, scientific findings about the "long-term consequences of methamphetamine use." McGinty found some of the neurological effects (i.e. brain damage) that methamphetamine causes, the society claimed. In a study titled, "Long-Term Consequences of Methamphetamine Exposure in Young Adults Are Exacerbated in Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Heterozygous Mice," researchers claim that after a mere four doses of methamphetamine, they could measure residual brain damage in mice over nine months later. The researchers then conclude, reasoning by analogy, that use of methamphetamine by humans will lead to brain damage that harkens Parkinson's disease.
NIDA brain scans
At a most basic level, there are methodological, political, and ethical questions about the validity and propriety of the study and the authors' conclusions. First, McGinty et al. injected the mice with mega doses of methamphetamine, not doses comparable to what recreational or addicted users take.

Second, after claiming that glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) protects dopamine neurons from the toxic effects of methamphetamine, McGinty depleted the GDNF in one set of mice, administered the meth to them and then concluded that the meth (not their chemical imbalance) caused brain damage. Given that the brains of humans are not altered to lower their GDNF, why should we believe the findings are applicable to people who use meth?

Third, for over a hundred years, the federal government has produced and/or supported research that parrots the government position to vilify certain drugs and those populations who use them. More poignantly, the state of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina where McGinty works has recently been on the frontlines of the prosecution of the war on drugs, as opposed to addressing drug use issues as a medical matter.

In this respect, this latest piece, funded by both the US Army (which compels soldiers to consume amphetamines) and NIDA, compels us to question the research project itself, let alone its supposed results and speculative conclusions.

McGinty and her co-authors purport to tell us that typical doses of methamphetamines can have serious, long-lasting, deleterious effects on brain function to the point of causing Parkinson's disease or Parkinson's-like neurological impairment and disorder. However, instead of giving mice comparable doses as consumed by regular or infrequent meth users, McGinty et al. gave one set of mice four mega doses of methamphetamine.

Four times, McGinty's team injected mice with 10mg of meth per kg body weight, the latter three injections coming at two hour intervals after the first. If a person followed the same regime, how much meth would she take following the McGinty binge? For a 110 pound woman (50 kg), at 10mg per kg, she would be injected with 500 mg of meth -- and then injected three more times over a period of six hours.

The obvious question is, "would four doses of 500mg of meth in six hours be a lot of meth for a 50kg woman?" McGinty fails to provide any mention on the propriety of their dosage and or how common it is for people to enjoy such mega doses. Though one might find a wide range of opinion as to what constitutes either a normal or mega-dose of methamphetamine, the evidence is relatively clear as to how much meth humans regularly consume.

The DEA references an un-cited NIDA report of 2006 which declares, "In some cases, abusers forego food and sleep while indulging in a form of binging known as a "run," injecting as much as a gram of the drug every 2 to 3 hours over several days until the user runs out of the drug or is too disorganized to continue." For some curious reason, the NIDA report has no citations or references to bolster its claim about superhuman meth addicts who need as much as a gram at a time.

Conversely, according to the drug information web site Erowid, a large dose of meth, taken intravenously, would be 50 mg. For even a regular user, 50 mg would generate a high from one to three hours and the user would have another two to four hours to come down.

Hence, if we follow the dictates of Erowid, where a regular meth user might go seven hours between hits, we see that McGinty and company gave mice 10 times what a regular user needs and then re-administered the mega dose three more times within less than seven hours.

The mice in McGinty's study were given unadulterated meth. There have been other documented cases of unadulterated meth use. During the time of the German Third Reich, German soldiers were given Pervitin (which had 3mg of methamphetamine) and later another drug which contained Pervitin called D-IX. D-IX had three significant psychoactive substances, cocaine (5mg), methamphetamine (3mg), and 5mg of a morphine extract. Soldiers and their commanders were advised to take only two pills (either the Pervitin or later the D-IX) per day as necessary to stave off sleepiness.

To compare then, while German soldiers weighing roughly 75kg (165 lbs.) were taking not more than 12 mg of meth (orally) per day (two pills with three mg each, twice a day), lab mice were injected with relatively 250 times as much, in one day. To ingest two hundred times too much water, coffee, aspirin, heroin, alcohol, etc. within a six hour period is enough to kill anyone. That some researchers found evidence that defective mice would show a sign of brain damage many months after what should have been a life ending meth binge is unremarkable.

And by no means were McGinty and her team without any guide as to how much meth other American scientists administer in their animal studies. In sharp contrast with McGinty et al., researchers at UCLA (2007) gave groups of monkeys a range from .2mg/kg to .06mg/kg of meth, no more than three times per day. But they did expose their animals to meth more often than McGinty did. The monkeys in the UCLA study were doped up 9-12 times per week for 6-8 weeks. What were the study's conclusions? The researchers concluded that while such meth exposure correlated strongly with behavioral changes, anti-social and more aggressive actions, the brains of the monkeys did NOT show extensive neurodegeneration. If one set of mammals were exposed to meth for a longer period, yet did not show the same types of disease as reported by McGinty et al., what can we conclude except that she poisoned her mice with mega doses of meth?

It is easy to argue that McGinty and colleagues simply have produced another junk-science, pro-government Drug War propaganda piece. Recent history is filled with examples of similar efforts, with equally dubious results:

  • In 1974 Dr. Robert Heath of Tulane University poisoned monkeys with carbon monoxide smoke produced by burning marijuana. Though Dr. Heath claimed that the marijuana itself produced brain damage, later investigation showed that Heath forced the monkeys to inhale the equivalent of smoke from 63 joints in five minutes and 30 joints a day for 90 days!

  • In 1989, without any scientific evidence, Dr. Ira Chasnoff published a "study" where he proclaimed to have found a new phenomenon, the "crack baby." Years later, however, when he and other neurologists approached the topic with some rigor and control, Chasnoff declared that there were no developmental effects from in utero cocaine exposure. Claiming that poverty, not crack, was the greatest determinant of brain development, Chasnoff wrote:

    "Their average developmental functioning level is normal. [In utero cocaine exposed children] are no different from other children growing up. They are not the retarded imbeciles [that] people talk about."

  • In 2002, NIH sponsored researcher, George Ricaurte, announced to the world in an article published in Science magazine that recreational use of ecstasy (MDMA) leads to brain damage and that ecstasy use by teens would lead to Parkinson's or other neuropsychiatric diseases in later life. Like McGinty and Co., Ricaurte's team poisoned monkeys with massive doses of ecstasy that they claimed were standard doses -- in fact Ricaurte had no references as to define what a baseline dose should be. Voices opposed to the drug war responded immediately, attacking the methodology and conclusions of Ricaurte's work. One year later, after Ricaurte discovered that he had not actually administered MDMA (!), Science itself retracted the article.

  • In the early 1990s, at the same hospital whence McGinty and her team hail, the Medical University Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, doctors and nurses on the maternity ward elected to work as an arm of the state in prosecuting the drug war -- and perpetuated the crack baby myths and stereotypes about crack and African-Americans at the same time.

    The Medical University Hospital instituted a policy of reporting on and facilitating the arrest of pregnant, primarily African-American, patients who tested positive for cocaine. For four years, many African-American women were dragged out publicly from the hospital in chains.

    The medical staff, working in collaboration with the prosecutor and police, conducted an "experiment" to see if arrests would reduce drug use by pregnant women. All but one of the thirty women arrested pursuant to the policy were African-American. The white nurse who implemented and ran the program admitted that she believed that mixing of the races was against God's will and noted in the medical records of the one white woman they arrested that she "lived with her boyfriend who is a Negro." Despite claims to the contrary by hospital staff and the South Carolina Attorney General, most of the arrested mothers were never offered any drug treatment before being taken to jail.

So with this history, we must contextualize McGinty's study and what she claims is the serious social need both to study meth and to warn us of its ills. In recent interviews, McGinty told reporters that:

"Methamphetamine intoxication in any young adult may have deleterious consequences later in life, though [the consequences might] not be apparent until many decades after the exposure. These studies speak directly to the possibility of long-term public health consequences resulting from the current epidemic [sic] of methamphetamine abuse among young adults."

What is the basis for McGinty, a medical doctor and researcher, proclaiming that South Carolina, or the United States, is suffering from a "meth epidemic"? Let us start with a medical definition of an epidemic. As a baseline medical definition, an epidemic refers to the occurrence of more cases of a disease than would be expected in a community or region during a given time period. Included in the idea of an unexpectedly high rate of affliction, we expect to see abnormal or higher rates of mortality.

The threat of disease epidemics in crowded, densely populated or unsanitary conditions is particularly well illustrated in military history. On many occasions a germ has been as important as the sword or gun in determining the outcome of a war. The Spanish conquest of Mexico owes much of its success to an epidemic of smallpox that destroyed about half of the Aztec population. The typhoid bacillus killed thousands during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa. Further, the mortality rate from epidemic typhus increases with age. Over half of untreated persons age 50 or more die from typhus.

Other examples of epidemics include the Spanish flu and Bubonic plague. In 1918, some estimates find that 28% of all Americans were affected with the Spanish Flu. And the mortality rate associated with that flu outbreak was 2.5%. The Bubonic plague (or Black plague) has been responsible for great pandemics. The first spread occurred from the Middle East to the Mediterranean basin during the fifth and sixth centuries AD, killing approximately 50% of the population there. The second pandemic afflicted Europe between the 8th and 14th centuries, destroying nearly 40% of the population.

So while in the medical context, the use of the term epidemic is reserved for contagious diseases and or ailments associated with mortality, McGinty insists on using the inflammatory language in relation to a behavior that in no way is contagious -- though arguably addictive for some individual users -- and does not demonstrate excessive or high mortality rates.

According the 2006 edition of the annual study by the University of Michigan, Monitoring the Future (funded by the NIDA), less than 1% of American teens use meth monthly. Another recent NIDA report (2003) found that in some parts of Nebraska, nearly six percent of arrestees across five select counties tested positive for methamphetamine. But in raw numbers, that same study found that only 32 people out of a population of 644,000 were both arrested and tested positive for meth.

In December 2001, the federal National Drug Intelligence Center reported that meth use in South Carolina was far below that of other states. That said, in 2004, a total of 500 people sought treatment for meth addiction in South Carolina. That is, 500 people in a population of over 4.3 million -- or little more than 12 in 100,000 residents of the state.

To compare, in an area of the country where meth is supposedly a visible problem, the Midwest, not even a rural state like Nebraska can show meth use rates of over 1% for the general population. Similarly, given that South Carolina has meth use rates below the national average, and the nation does not show teen meth use at even 1%, where is the evidence of a meth epidemic? Given the federal government's own data on meth use, McGinty's insistence on a meth epidemic is simply not credible.

Similarly, the mortality rates in South Carolina have remained relatively steady over the past 15 years and trend lines show decreasing mortality. In 1998, the State of South Carolina reported zero drug deaths / overdoses in teens. The same was true in 2004 (the last year that data is available).

When McGinty cannot get the basics right, exaggerates or inflates claims, and repeats old drug war propaganda -- as applied to a new drug -- there is little reason to believe her research is credible.

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5. Appeal: Massive Increases to Our Web Site Traffic Have Increased Our Costs...

Massive increases to our web site traffic, particularly during the last three months, have forced us to upgrade our web server -- not once, but twice -- and have increased our costs. I'm writing to ask if you can help us manage this new expense. Would you be willing to make a donation to support this breakthrough work?

Things started picking up about a year ago, when we professionally redesigned the site and started publishing more than previously -- we don't just do the weekly Chronicle now, but also bring you daily blog posts, mainstream news links, an "activist feed" of bulletins from other organizations, and other interesting items.

Most recently we have had a series of big hits -- top links on sites like Reddit and Netscape where users vote for the stories they like -- and because it has continued, over and over for about three months, we have tentatively concluded that something is "going on" and that DRCNet has truly reached a new level sooner than we thought we would. Just this month, an item we posted made it to the #1 spot on the popular web site Digg, and that and another item paired with it collectively got almost 100,000 hits! On one day, had almost as many people visit it as the Huffington Post -- if our server had been prepared for the traffic in advance, we would have gotten more.

Of course the costs of the machine, while significant, are only part of the picture. Literally every staff member at DRCNet is involved in this campaign, and that's a major devotion of resources that can only be sustained if you support us. Could you let us know if you're "in," by making a donation today, or by sending us an email to let us know if you will be soon?

As an encouragement, our friends at Common Sense for Drug Policy have agreed to donate copies of their updated "tabloid" publication including over 40 of the drug policy reform public service ads they have run in major publications for the past several years. Donate any amount to DRCNet this week, and we will send you a copy of the CSDP tabloid for free! Of course we continue to offer a range of books, videos, and gift items as member incentives as well.

Visit 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.


David Borden, Executive Director
P.O. Box 18402
Washington, DC 20036

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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 -- huge numbers of people have been reading it recently -- 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!
prohibition-era beer raid, Washington, DC (Library of Congress)

Since last issue:

Scott Morgan writes: "Marijuana Charge From 25 Years Ago Prevents Man From Coaching Little League," "The Hypocrisy of Marijuana Critics Who Take Money from Beer Companies," "Office of National Grub Control Policy," "Drug Testing Encourages Cocaine, Heroin, and Meth Use," "If Medical Marijuana Patients Don't Exist, How Come They Keep Sending Us Letters?," "Just Because Criminals Use Drugs Doesn't Mean Drugs Cause Crime," "Feds Raid Wheelchair-bound Paraplegic For Medical Marijuana," "Obama: What New Orleans Needs is More Drug War" and "Don't Smoke Pot in Your Car."

Phil Smith comments: "Supporting One Lost War is Not Enough for John McCain."

The Reader Blogs have some really interesting posts too, and David Guard has continued to repost press releases, action alerts and other organizational announcements. in the In the Trenches blog.

Thanks for reading, and writing...

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

Busy, busy, busy. Take a week off, and look what happens: Cops peddling pills, guards stealing pills, cops shaking down housing project residents, jail guards smuggling drugs, a DEA agent giving information to suspected mobsters, and more. Let's get to it:

In Cleveland, Ohio, a Cleveland police officer was arrested August 25 for his role in a cocaine distribution ring. Officer Zvonko Sarlog, a six-year veteran now faces a federal indictment for conspiracy to distribute cocaine along with six other people, none of them police officers. The arrests came after a nine-month investigation by the Cleveland police internal affairs unit, which eventually called in the FBI. Sarlog is accused of having a relative in Mexico smuggle cocaine into the country for sale in the Cleveland area.

In Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, 10 police officers have been arrested on charges they planted drugs as evidence against poor islanders. The Puerto Rican Civil Rights Commission is planning hearings into allegations these arrests are only the tip of the iceberg. Eight officers were arrested August 23, and raiding FBI agents found a safe containing drugs held in reserve to plant on people. Two more officers turned themselves in days later. They are accused of using marijuana, cocaine and heroin to frame residents of housing projects between 2004 and 2007. They also made up elaborate details on arrest and search warrants, according to police. If convicted, they face 10 years to life in prison.

In Detroit a Flat Rock police officer was among five people indicted August 29 on federal prescription drug distribution charges. Officer David Dewitt is accused of conspiring with a local physician, Dr. Paul Emerson, and three other people in a ring that allegedly circulated a million pills a year. Dewitt and the other three acted as Emerson's patients, filled the prescriptions he wrote, then allegedly sold them on the black market, according to the indictment. Dewitt, 37, is charged with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of drugs with the intent to distribute several controlled substances and with being an unlawful user of some of the drugs while possessing his department-issued firearm. His status with the department was not known. [Ed: The question has to be asked in cases like this whether the doctors knew what the patients were doing -- often they don't, and such prosecutions are a major cause of the national problem of under-treatment of pain.]

In Gulfport, Mississippi, a jail guard was arrested and fired after being accused of smuggling drugs into the county jail. Harrison County Adult Detention Center guard Laquita Allen now faces up to five years in prison if convicted of introducing contraband into a jail. No word yet on details of the allegations against her. She is free on $25,000 bond.

In Portsmouth, Virginia, the former head of the Portsmouth police drug squad was sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison for participating in a drug distribution conspiracy that prosecutors said brought more than $5 million worth of crack cocaine to the area. Former Lt. Brian Keith Muhammad Abdul-Ali was found guilty of warning his nephew, convicted crack distributor Gregory Elliott, of upcoming raids, thus allowing him to sell 110 pounds or more of crack cocaine in the area between 2001 and last December, when Abdul-Ali and his nephew were arrested. Abdul-Ali faced up to 10 years on drug conspiracy charges, but the judge suspended 5 ½ years.

In Worcester, Massachusetts, a jail guard was arrested August 22 for repeatedly stealing prescription pain medications from prisoners. Western Worcester District Court jail guard Francine Melanson, 46, faces one count of larceny under $250 dollars, even though jail officials have her on videotape stealing pills on several occasions. She came under suspicion when a woman arrested by Leicester police in October 2006 claimed some of her hydrocodone pills were missing. The prescription drug is used for pain management. State police installed a camera in the court's cell area and subsequently caught Melanson in the act. Her lawyer said she is in treatment for a "substance abuse problem." The 11-year veteran guard is on unpaid leave from her $64,000 a year job.

In Boston, a DEA agent admitted in federal court August 23 that he used a government law enforcement computer to help targets in a mob investigation learn whether they were being investigated. The admission from DEA agent Louis Angioletti came as he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of intentionally accessing a government computer in a manner that exceeded his lawful authority. Angioletti faces up to six months in federal prison. He also agreed to resign from the DEA. Angioletti got caught up in an FBI investigation of a conspiracy by mob-backed trash haulers to drive out the competition. While working at the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center, Angioletti was approached by an old friend who worked for the mob-connected trash haulers, and he agreed to run the friend's boss's name through the federal Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Information System database. He later reported that the boss's name didn't show up. He will be sentenced November 9.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania, a Scranton police officer charged with selling Oxycontin while in uniform pleaded guilty August 28. Officer Mark Conway told the presiding judge he had been addicted to Oxycontin. His attorney made the strange remark that Conway "wasn't a drug dealer… but he distributed." Corruption or addiction? In either case, he was peddling pills while in uniform. He faces up to five years in prison.

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8. Asset Forfeiture: ACLU Sues DEA Over Trucker's Seized Cash

A trucker who lost nearly $24,000 in cash after it was seized by a New Mexico police officer and turned over to the DEA is suing the federal drug agency to get his money back. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) New Mexico affiliate is handling the case. It filed the lawsuit on August 23.

On August 8, truck driver Anastasio Prieto of El Paso was stopped at a weigh station on US Highway 54 just north of El Paso. A police officer there asked for permission to search the truck for "needles or cash in excess of $10,000," according to the ACLU. Prieto said he didn't have any needles, but he was carrying $23,700 in cash. Officers seized the money and turned it over to the DEA, while DEA agents photographed and fingerprinted Prieto despite his objections, then released him without charges after he had been detained for six hours. Border Patrol agents sicced drug-sniffing dogs on his truck, but found no evidence of illegal drugs.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU argues that the state police and DEA violated Prieto's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful search and seizure by taking his money without cause and by fingerprinting and photographing him. "Mere possession of approximately $23,700 does not establish probable cause for a search or seizure," the lawsuit said.

DEA agents told Prieto that to get his money back, he would have to prove it was his and not the proceeds of illegal drug sales. That process could take up to a year, the agents said.

But New Mexico ACLU state director Peter Simonson told the Associated Press Prieto needed his money now to pay bills. "The government took Mr. Prieto's money as surely as if he had been robbed on a street corner at night," Simonson said. "In fact, being robbed might have been better. At least then the police would have treated him as the victim of a crime instead of as a perpetrator."

According to the lawsuit, Prieto does not like banks and carries his savings as cash.

That's not a crime. But what the DEA did to him is, or should be.

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9. Medical Marijuana: WAMM Lawsuit Hits Bump

A Santa Cruz medical marijuana cooperative that was raided by the DEA in 2002 was dealt a setback August 28 when a federal judge granted a US Justice Department motion to stop them from suing it. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) and the city and county of Santa Cruz sought to sue US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to prevent his office from continuing raids on medical marijuana providers in California.
2005 WAMM march, downtown Santa Cruz (courtesy
The lawsuit cited California's Compassionate Use Act, approved by voters in 1996, which makes the medical use of marijuana legal in the state. But the Justice Department successfully argued that marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, and US District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel agreed, granting its motion to block the lawsuit.

"Naturally, we're disappointed. I had hoped for something better," said Mike Corral, who, along with his wife Valerie, were cofounders of WAMM.

WAMM and Santa Cruz may be down, but they're not out just yet. Judge Fogel left two of the county's claims intact: a 10th Amendment argument that the states -- not the federal government -- have say over marijuana, and an argument that medical necessity trumps federal drug laws. The county's legal team says it will continue to argue those claims while trying to build a stronger case that the federal government is improperly intervening in areas that should be the purview of the states.

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10. Harm Reduction: Pennsylvania Moves to End Prescription Requirement for Buying Needles

Pennsylvania is one of the few states remaining that still require a prescription to buy a needle, but that could change soon. The Pennsylvania Pharmacy Board has submitted for public comment a proposed rule that would eliminate the prescription requirement.

The move is generally supported by Keystone State harm reduction organizations, who view it as a move that will help reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases among injection drug users.

The proposed rule would limit the number of needles one could purchase without a prescription to 30 at a time. Most other states have no limit on the number of needles that can be purchased. Syringes would remain stored in the prescription area of drug stores. People who wish to obtain a prescription to purchase needles (for insurance purposes) would still be able to do so.

The period for public comment will end September 25, after which the board will decide whether or not to move forward on the proposed rule.

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11. Europe: Czech Marijuana Users to Get Lesser Penalties

Czech deputies responsible for writing an amendment to the penal code are proposing much lesser sentences for pot smokers, mushroom eaters, and possibly, marijuana growers, the Czech daily Pravo reported August 27. There is a possibility the amendment will include no penalty for growing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, the paper said.

Current Czech drug laws make no distinction between marijuana and so-called hard drugs. Under that law, anyone producing illicit drugs is subject to five years in prison. But while the law makes no distinction, judicial practice does. In most cases, the possession of "quantities lesser than great" (in the case of marijuana, up to 20 cigarettes) is handled as an administrative offense, not a criminal one.

The proposed amendment would completely remove the possibility of a five-year sentence for simple marijuana possession, making the maximum sentence one year. The maximum sentence for small-time growing would most probably be six months.

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12. Latin America: Nicaraguan Leader Asks for $1 Billion in Anti-Drug Aid

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has asked the US government for $1 billion to help Central American countries fight drug trafficking. Ortega has sent a formal request for funds to buy helicopters, boats, radar equipment and anything else necessary to fight the drugs war in the region.

The request comes only two weeks after Ortega said he didn't trust the DEA because its operations mask "unexpected interests" and "terrible things." Ortega could well have been recalling his first stint at Nicaragua's leaders in the 1980s, when the US attempted to portray his government as drug smugglers while -- at the least -- turning a blind eye to cocaine running operations connected to the US-backed Contra rebels attempting to overthrow his socialist government.

But Nicaraguan governments since 1990, including Ortega's current government, have cooperated with the DEA in the face of cocaine trafficking organizations using the isthmus as a smuggling corridor.

Ortega said US officials had "reacted positively" to his request, although the US government has not commented officially on the matter. "If the United States government has the luxury of spending more than $400 billion on the war in Iraq, it can give $1 billion to Central America," he said.

The US government has provided several billion dollars to the Colombian government to fight drug trafficking and leftist guerrillas there, and is on the verge on announcing a large anti-drug aid deal with Mexico. Despite his concerns about the DEA and US dislike for his government [Ed: and despite the failure and injustices of the war on drugs and the harm the program will undoubtedly do to people in his country], Ortega seems to want a piece of the anti-drug aid money pie.

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13. Africa: Guinea-Bissau Threatens to Shoot Down Drug Planes

Responding to the increased use of Africa as a transshipment point for cocaine headed for burgeoning European markets, the government of the West African country of Guinea-Bissau announced last week it would shoot down any aircraft that enters its airspace without permission.

According to a report from Reuters, the threat came from Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Batista Tagme Na Wai, who promised a "crusade" against drug trafficking in the tiny, impoverished nation on the Atlantic Coast. "We will shoot down every plane that tries to violate our air space without previous permission from the authorities," Na Wai said. He added stores of aircraft fuel used by drugs smugglers had been found and seized.

Authorities in Guinea-Bissau say local police have repeatedly seized shipments of Colombian cocaine flown in small planes from Latin America to remote airstrips in the bush. Traffickers then fly or ship the drugs out of the country and on to Europe.

The government of Guinea-Bissau has faced international criticism for not doing enough to fight cocaine trafficking, but it has responded that it lacks equipment and technology and has demanded more foreign aid. While the shoot-down threats may please the international community, they may be only bluster. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, while the country's military is listed as having SAM SA-7 ground-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns, it is not clear that any of those weapons are operational.

The US government has supported the shooting down of suspected drug planes in Latin America, except for an embarrassed hiatus after Peruvian Air Force fighters shot down a plane carrying American missionaries over the Amazon in 2001, killing a US woman and her daughter. But that hiatus is now over, and the danger that the shoot-downs pose to public safety has hence returned.

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14. Conference: Drug Policy Alliance, New Orleans, December 2007

Registration has opened for the 2007 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, convening at the Astor Crowne Plaza in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference begins the evening of Wednesday, December 5, and runs through Saturday, December 8. Special rates are available to those who register early.

The International Drug Policy Reform Conference, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance, is a major international gathering of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. The conference, which this year is themed "Working Toward a New Bottom Line," and will be co-hosted by the ACLU, the Harm Reduction Coalition, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the Marijuana Policy Project and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

A new bottom line for drug policy would mean basing success on metrics such as prevention of overdose deaths and increased access to treatment rather than the current measure -- numbers of people arrested and incarcerated for drug use. The idea of working toward a new bottom line is particularly relevant in New Orleans, the site of the 2007 conference. Hurricane Katrina laid bare an array of problems, many of which are exacerbated by failed drug war policies. Furthermore, the state of Louisiana comes close to leading the nation in incarcerating people for drug law violations. Although the South remains a region where drug policy reform has yet to take a strong hold, choosing to hold the meeting in New Orleans could help to build momentum in an area that has the potential to make incredible progress.

Members and early-bird registrants will enjoy a significant discount off the regular registration rate:

Attendee Type Before Nov. 5 After Nov. 5 On Site Members $275 $375 $400 Non-members $325 $425 $450 Students $150 $250 $275 One Day Rate $125 $150 $175

For further information, including details about conference programming, travel and lodging, visit

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15. Web Scan

"Dispatches from the War on Drugs," John Tierney blog (New York Times), discusses Ethan Nadelmann Foreign Policy piece and Radley Balko discussion of new pain doctor case

"Colombia Coca Cultivation Survey Results -- A Question of Methods," Transnational Institute Drug Policy Briefing using 2006 data to evaluate fumigation strategy

"Opium Jihad," Martin Jelsma and Tom Kramer for Red Pepper, June 2007

"The Ultimate Price," death penalty for drug offenses as violation of international and human rights, DrugScope

launch of Asian Drug User Network, HaRdCOREhARMREdUCER Drug War Log

DrugTruth Network update:
Cultural Baggage for 08/31/07: Seattle Hempfest "Pot Pride" + Terry Nelson & LEAP report, Drug War Facts & BBC News re Afghanistan (MP3)

Century of Lies for 08/31/07: Seattle Hempfest Law Enforcement Panel + Poppygate (MP3)

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16. Weekly: This Week in History

September 13, 1994: President Clinton signs The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322), which includes provisions to enhance penalties for selected drug-related crimes and to fund new drug-related programs.

September 13, 1999: The US 9th Circuit Court rules that seriously ill patients should be allowed marijuana if the need is there.

September 8-9, 2000: Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader joins New Mexico's Republican Governor Gary Johnson in criticizing the nation's war on drugs, calling for the legalization of marijuana and reform of what Nader calls "self-defeating and antiquated drug laws." Rehabilitating drug addicts gives a far better payoff than "criminalizing and militarizing the situation," he said. "Study after study has shown that, and yet somehow it doesn't get through to federal policy."

September 13, 2000: Eleven-year-old Alberto Sepulveda of Modesto, California, is shot dead during a SWAT raid targeting his father, when an officer on the scene accidentally squeezes off a shot, killing the boy instantly. A year and a half later the family settles a federal lawsuit over the death.

September 7, 2001: Thirteen current and former Miami police officers are accused by US authorities of shooting unarmed people and then conspiring to cover it up by planting evidence. The indictment is the latest scandal for the city's trouble-plagued police force. All of those charged are veterans assigned to SWAT teams, narcotics units or special crime-suppression teams in the late 1990s.

September 12, 2002: In Petaluma, CA, the Genesis 1:29 medical marijuana dispensary is raided by the DEA, and Robert Schmidt, the owner, is arrested. Agents also raid a garden in Sebastopol, which supplied the Genesis dispensary.

September 10, 2004: news service releases an article entitled "Cannabis Truly Helps Multiple Sclerosis Sufferers," reporting on new research confirming marijuana's efficacy in treating pain and muscle spasms associated with sufferers of the disease.

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17. 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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18. Students: Intern at DRCNet and Help Stop the Drug War!

Want to help end the "war on drugs," while earning college credit too? Apply for a DRCNet internship for this fall semester (or spring), and you could come join the team and help us fight the fight!

DRCNet (also known as "Stop the Drug War") has a strong record of providing substantive work experience to our interns -- you won't spend the summer doing filing or running errands, you will play an integral role in one or more of our exciting programs. Options for work you can do with us include coalition outreach as part of the campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, and to expand that effort to encompass other bad drug laws like the similar provisions in welfare and public housing law; blogosphere/web outreach; media research and outreach; web site work (research, writing, technical); possibly other areas. If you are chosen for an internship, we will strive to match your interests and abilities to whichever area is the best fit for you.

While our internships are unpaid, we will reimburse you for metro fare, and DRCNet is a fun and rewarding place to work. To apply, please send your resume to David Guard at [email protected], and feel free to contact us at (202) 293-8340. We hope to hear from you! Check out our web site at to learn more about our organization.

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19. Job Listing: Director of Government Relations, MPP

The Marijuana Policy Project, a fast-paced, well-respected lobbying organization, is seeking a seasoned Director of Government Relations.

The Director of Government Relations should have strong political instincts and solid political or government relations experience, be an excellent manager, 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. The Director of Government Relations' responsibilities are:

1. Managing MPP's direct lobbying efforts in Congress (40% of the job). This includes acting as MPP's primary congressional lobbyist; advising the Executive Director on legislative strategy and tactics; and advancing MPP's congressional priorities, which are:

  • passing the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment (to the US Justice Department's spending bill);
  • securing a hearing and vote for the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health;
  • getting the first-ever marijuana de-federalization bill introduced;
  • repealing the Barr amendment, which has been blocking a local medical marijuana ballot initiative from taking effect in the District of Columbia since DC voters passed the initiative in November 1998;
  • eliminating the White House drug czar's office (or at least eliminating its ad campaign);
  • working in coalition with other organizations to repeal the federal civil asset forfeiture laws;
  • maximizing the number of members of Congress who are pressuring the DEA to grant a permit to a proposed medical marijuana production facility at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and
  • monitoring other relevant legislative opportunities, such as eliminating the ban on federal financial aid for certain students who are convicted of drug offenses.

2. Working in coalition with (1) approximately 50 medical and religious organizations to persuade them to take action on federal medical marijuana legislation; (2) property rights groups to prevent the DEA from seizing the properties of California landlords who rent to medical marijuana dispensaries that are legal under state law; and (3) environmental organizations to call for the repeal of marijuana prohibition (40% of the job).

3. Overseeing the work of two full-time paid -- and an undetermined number of part-time volunteer -- field organizers who are working to build local "grasstops" coalitions in targeted congressional districts for the purpose of increasing the vote total for the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment on the House floor (20% of the job).

The Director of Government Relations manages MPP's national field coordinator, as well as two field organizers (one MPP employee and one MPP grantee).

Through January 2008, the Director of Government Relations also manages 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. (That position ends with the New Hampshire primary election on January 22, 2008.)

The Director of Government Relations reports to the Executive Director.

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

To apply, please see MPP's application guidelines. Interviews are being conducted on a rolling basis, so interested candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. MPP is not taking phone calls; rather, all interested candidates should apply by using the process described at the link above.

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20. Job Announcement: Executive Director, Justice Policy Institute

The Justice Policy Institute is a Washington, DC-based research, policy and communications advocacy organization whose mission is to end society's reliance on incarceration, and to promote effective solutions to social problems. JPI is seeking a dedicated and experienced leader to move the organization forward. Candidates must be committed to and respect JPI's historic mission, and understand the organizations place within the larger field working for more sensible sentencing and correctional policies, and juvenile justice reform, have a background in juvenile and criminal justice research, understand and have implemented research and communications strategies to achieve policy reform goals, and know how to harness both research and communications strategies to support policy reform. Specific responsibilities include project oversight and project management, research and public administration, communication and public relations, fundraising and budgetary responsibilities, personnel, board and organizational development.

To apply, please first visit to review the full position announcement and the organization's work. Interested candidates should email a cover letter or resume to Julie Peterson, JPI Executive Director Search Consultant, [email protected]. No phone calls.

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21. Proposals: IHRD Providing Small Grants on Health and Human Rights, 2008 UN Drug Summit

The International Harm Reduction Development Program (IHRD) of the Open Society Institute (OSI) is offering small grants to support the collection and presentation of information that evaluate the health and human rights consequences, with regard to injection drug use-driven and HIV infections, of the resolutions taken at the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.

This project will provide grants of up to $12,000 USD for organizations or networks able to produce a report in English on how law enforcement and drug control have impacted HIV prevention and treatment efforts for drug users in their country or region. The reports, to be gathered from developing/transitional countries with injection-driven HIV epidemics (either majority of cases of HIV due to injection, or significant, concentrated IDU epidemic), will be edited and compiled in a booklet to be published by IHRD during activities leading up to the high-level ministerial meeting in Vienna in 2009 at which countries will reflect on progress since the 1998 UNGASS. Preference will be given to proposals that have a regional, rather than country specific, focus.

This document serves as a formal invitation to submit a letter of intent (LoI). This brief concept paper allows you the opportunity to both demonstrate your understanding of the aim of this project and your perspective of how it can be realized in your region. While there are many aspects to health, policing, and drug control, applicants must demonstrate a particular connection to policies and practices tied to HIV and drug use, particularly injecting drug use.

The LoI must:

  1. be received by Wednesday, September 15, 2007 (NY time), electronically as an attachment;
  2. be addressed to Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, IHRD Program Director, [email protected] , with a subject line of UNGASS+10 LoI, with a copy to [email protected];
  3. be submitted in English, not to exceed three pages, double-spaced, that outlines key issues, existing evidence, and potential sources for more detailed information;
  4. contain a two-sentence introduction and contact information on each of the individuals submitting the grant.

IHRD will review your LoIs and notify you by the end of September. If accepted, you will be invited to submit a slightly expanded proposal and budget. We hope to have final proposals by mid-October, and decisions by November. Any questions about the application process of applying should be addressed to Fabio Mesquita ([email protected]).

Your Letter of Intent should address the following questions:

1. Concept of the Report

How can your organization or network contribute to evaluate and describe the health consequences (particularly HIV/AIDS epidemic related to the use of injectable drugs) as a consequence of the decisions made at UNGASS (United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs) in 1998? Start describing the problem in your region, then the conditions which make this an issue of national or international relevance in the developing world.

2. Report Goals and Objectives

Please describe your proposed activity, including timeline, capacity and potential partners or sources of information to document:

  1. the number of estimated people who inject drugs in 1998 and in 2008;
  2. the number of HIV cases related to people who inject drugs in 1998 and in 2008;
  3. numbers of people imprisoned on drug charges, as absolute numbers and share of total, in 1998 and in 2008.
  4. reports on injection inside of the prison system, HIV or HCV epidemic in prisons in 2008;
  5. substitution therapy and sterile syringe programs in prison, and where relevant, possible waiting lists status;
  6. drug treatment in "closed settings" in your country/region, numbers in such treatment facilities, and means for introduction and release of drug users into these institutions;
  7. barriers to access treatment (particularly substitution treatment);
  8. availability of HIV prevention for IDUs -(such as needle exchange, outreach work and condom distribution among others) with estimated coverage and some detail about what is meant by coverage;
  9. barriers to access prevention or drug treatment;
  10. ARV treatment given to those with a history of drug use, and to active users, or regulations regarding such treatment, and informal practices that might impact its provision;
  11. violations of human rights of drug users by police and health care providers.

3. Other relevant information

4. Implementation

How long would you take to get this information and write your report? What is the scope (regionally speaking) of your possible report (one country, one entirely region, one piece of the region)? How does your country or region match the profile of one where IDU-driven HIV is a significant issue?

5. Capacity and Resources

Describe how the organization applying for this grant is in a position to undertake this project. Who would the organization designate to take care of this report? What existing sources of information might you draw on? What partners might assist in provision of information?

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22. Webmasters: Help the Movement by Running DRCNet Syndication Feeds on 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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23. Resource: DRCNet Web Site Offers Wide Array of RSS Feeds for Your Reader

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

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

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

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24. Resource: Reformer's Calendar Accessible Through DRCNet Web Site
DRCNet's Reformer's Calendar is a tool you can use to let the world know about your events, and find out what is going on in your area in the issue. This resource used to run in our newsletter each week, but now is available from the right hand column of most of the pages on our 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.

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

Drug War Issues

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