Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]

Drug War Chronicle #501 - September 14, 2007

1. Editorial: Does Anything Go in the Drug War?

Drug taxes, loss of aid, mandatory minimums, pain prosecutions, no-knock drug raids, fumigation, forfeiture, death penalties -- If anything goes in the drug war, then where does it end?

2. Feature: Battlelines Forming Over 2008 Oregon Medical Marijuana Ballot Issues

Oregon's medical marijuana program is 10 years old and rolling along, but it looks like it will be contested terrain next year, with one initiative already filed to repeal it and others to expand it.

3. Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Drugs in Afghanistan: Opium, Outlaws, and Scorpion Tales" by David Macdonald (2007, Pluto Press, 295 pp., $35PB)

United Nations Afghan drug demand reduction specialist David Macdonald's "Drugs in Afghanistan: Opium, Outlaws, and Scorpion Tales" is probably the most profound and nuanced look at the role of drugs in Afghanistan ever published.

4. 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.

5. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"Wrong Door Drug Raid Disrupts Family Dinner," "Rising Cocaine Prices Don't Mean We're Winning the Drug War," "Bad Cop Caught on Camera," "More Fun With Numbers at ONDCP," DEA Agent Admits The Drug War Funds Terrorism," "DEA Agent Admits Medical Marijuana Laws Work," Bryan Epis, "Take this drug tax and...", more...

6. 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!

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

Another week's worth of law enforcement officers done in by the temptations created by drug prohibition, including a sheriff headed for prison for turning a blind eye, a prosecutor whose coke habit got him in trouble, a greedy Boston cop, and a pair of pill-peddling policemen.

8. Law Enforcement: Asset Forfeiture Funds Spent on Banquets, Balls, and Balloons in Atlanta

Georgia's Fulton County (Atlanta) district attorney has some odd ideas about how asset forfeiture funds should be spent, an audit of his books has found.

9. Drug Penalties: Tennessee Appeals Court Finds Drug Tax Unconstitutional

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has thrown out the state's illicit drug tax. The state will appeal, and plans to continue assessing the tax in the meanwhile.

10. Prohibition: Terror Groups Profit From Drugs, DEA Says -- Missing Forest For Trees

A high-level DEA official has again linked the illegal drug trade to the funding of terrorist organizations, but failed to note the role of drug prohibition.

11. Ghosts of Prohibition: Women's Christian Temperance Union Holds Indianapolis Convention

The Women's Christian Temperance Union lives -- barely -- and is meeting this week in Indianapolis to continue the battle against demon run and its contemporary counterparts.

12. Latin America: Colombian Vice-President Says Aerial Eradication is Failing

The Colombian government has offered its strongest criticism yet of US-backed aerial spraying of coca crops, saying it has been a failure.

13. Death Penalty: Two More Drug Offenders Executed in Iran, Six Sentenced to Die in Vietnam

The resort to the death penalty for drug offenders continues in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, with two executed in Iran last week and six sentenced to death in Vietnam.

14. Web Scan

Maher asks Chris Dodd about marijuana legalization, Retirement Living on medical marijuana, Balko on federalism, Cannabinoid Chronicles, Canadian Medical Association Journal on medical marijuana dosages, Australian National Council on Drugs, DrugTruth Network.

15. Weekly: This Week in History

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

16. 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.

17. 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!

18. 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.

19. 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: Does Anything Go in the Drug War?

David Borden, Executive Director
David Borden
Sometimes it seems like anything goes in the drug war. Is someone accused of selling drugs? Levy a drug tax! Is anyone using drugs during college? Take away their financial aid! Sell drugs near a school? Add on two or five or ten more years!

Hear there are drugs somewhere, in someone's house? Break down the door! Even if there's doubt as to the address -- this week we heard about a case where they didn't even have an address. If a kid who lives in public housing sells drugs, kick out the whole family! Kick out the grandmother! Doesn't matter if she knew about it -- doesn't matter if the kid wasn't even selling on premises -- we're talking about drugs! We have to fight drugs, any way we can think of! And once we've thought of it -- we have to do it! Why shouldn't we do it, if there are drugs?

Oh, let's take the house too, auction it off, spend the money on cop cars, or banquets and costumes. No matter if there's ever a conviction, or even a trial. And if we're in certain countries, just kill 'em!

If you follow this issue regularly, you know that I'm not making any of it up, and you know that the outrages keep on piling up. Today -- just today -- two people I know are facing sentencing. One of them is an innocent doctor who treated patients who needed opiates for pain, and got railroaded by prosecutors as happens to pain doctors so often. The other helped supply patients with medical marijuana, and a prosecutor overstated the size of his operation to get him ten years in his first trial. There's reason to believe the prosecutor may have deliberately destroyed evidence that could have exonerated him of the most serious charges. But even if they were guilty of everything, ten years?

Only if anything really goes, and these are only some things being done directly to individuals. There are a host of very reckless tactics that are putting large numbers of people in danger, like aerial fumigation -- or are distorting the perception of the issue, like biased research.

But if anything goes, where then will it end?

My vote is to end it all through legalization. In the meantime, let's try to help some of these people being unfairly victimized too. Thanks for reading.

P.S. Please check out my blog post this morning featuring a drug tax bill sent in by one of our readers.

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2. Feature: Battlelines Forming Over 2008 Oregon Medical Marijuana Ballot Issues

Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) will be ten years old next year, and with the nation's second largest number of registered patients -- some 16,000 of them -- it is certainly a success by some measures. But while the self-financing, state-regulated program rolls along, it looks as though it is going to be a hot issue in next year's elections.
Oregon petitioning (courtesy
On one hand, OMMA is under direct attack in a crime-fighting initiative filed by a powerful and well-connected Republican political figure who is a veteran and inveterate initiative campaigner. On the other hand, some of the same medical marijuana campaigners who organized the 1998 initiative victory that created OMMA have filed an initiative that would broaden the program by creating a state-regulated system of dispensaries. And that's got some patients and activists feeling caught between the frying pan and the fire.

It is very early in the game, with the filing of initiatives being only the first step in a long and sometimes Byzantine process, and it is not certain that either of these two initiatives -- or a number of others already filed -- will actually be going before the voters in November 2008. But the maneuvering has already begun.

Former Republican state legislator and 2002 gubernatorial nominee Kevin Mannix has made a political career as a moralizing, tough on crime politician. In 1994, he authored a successful initiative instituting mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of violent crimes. Other accomplishments he touts are a crime victims' rights amendment to the state constitution and an anti-stalking law.

Mannix is not one to rest on his laurels, and this year, he has already filed a dozen or so initiatives on topics ranging from regulating strip clubs to more mandatory minimum sentences -- this time for drug dealers -- to allocating a share of lottery profits to "CSI: Oregon" to requiring the state police to hire more officers. But the initiative that has the medical marijuana community on edge, the Oregon Crime Fighting Act, is a direct attack on OMMA and the medical marijuana regulation system it created.

Along with provisions calling for mandatory minimum 25-year sentences for some repeat sex offenders and making repeated drunk driving arrests felonies, the proposed initiative would "replace the 'Medical Marijuana Act' with the following Marijuana Derivative and Synthetic Cannabinoid Prescription Program," a strange Mannix concoction that would have the state of Oregon provide synthetic THC in the form of Marinol to any patient who needed but could not afford it.

Mannix told the Chronicle Thursday he filed the OMMA repeal initiative because of abuses in the program. "Law enforcement reports to me that the whole system is very loosely drawn in this state, so that they are running up against cases where people are found with a variety of drugs, including cocaine and meth along with marijuana, and they present cards saying they are caretakers for 50 people," he said.

OMMA regulations allow for caregivers to grow for only four people.

Also, Mannix argued, since Oregon has decriminalized marijuana possession, there is really no need for a state medical marijuana law. "If someone wants to possess and smoke marijuana for whatever reason, they're not subject to a criminal charge," he said.

Oregon medical marijuana activists who spoke with the Chronicle view the Mannix initiative with real concern. "Mannix is a real problem," said Madeline Martinez, head of Oregon NORML. "He has opposed OMMA from the beginning. He's always been a moral crusader, and we're very concerned about him, we're frightened he's going to take our program away from us."

"Some in the community take it very seriously, some don't," said Anthony Johnson, political director for Voter Power, the group that mobilized support for the successful 1998 OMMA initiative. "We take it very seriously, because Mannix has the backing of a lot of powerful interests, and with enough money, you can get on the ballot, and then you can run ads to campaign against OMMA," he said.

"OMMA is popular in Oregon," Johnson complained. "He must think the only way he can win the repeal of OMMA is by tying it to other provisions that crime-weary voters will find attractive, like longer sentences for sex offenders."

"It should be the primary focus of activists in Oregon to try to defeat the Mannix initiative," said Leland Berger, activist attorney, Oregon election law expert, and legal advisor to Voter Power. "If it were to pass it would be very problematic."

Berger has been putting his lawyerly acumen to work in preliminary skirmishes designed to slow the Mannix initiative's progress. He filed a petition to challenge the initiative's ballot title, arguing that it only said "replace" OMMA when the initiative would effectively repeal it. There could be more legal challenges coming down the pike, as well, he said.

But while Berger said defeating the Mannix initiative should be the "primary focus" of activists, he and his colleagues at Voter Power have already filed several initiatives themselves, including an initiative that would create the Oregon Regulated Medical Marijuana Supply System, or a network of state-sanctioned dispensaries.

Under the proposed dispensary initiative, the state of Oregon would set up a system of licensed medical marijuana growers who could provide marijuana to nonprofit dispensaries and be reimbursed for their production costs. The dispensaries would in turn be able to dispense medical marijuana to registered patients and be reimbursed for their expenses. The proposal calls for the program to be self-funding, paying for itself with fee revenues -- 10% of earnings -- and for it to fund the distribution of medical marijuana to indigent patients and further research.

While there is general agreement that something needs to be done about supply issues, the deepening of OMMA through the creation of a dispensary system worries some patients and activists, in part for fear of sparking DEA raids like those plaguing California's booming dispensary scene, in part out of disdain for the flashy -- some say greedy -- entrepreneurial style sometimes evident in California. But that is not stopping Voter Power from moving forward.

"We feel this is necessary for two reasons," said Voter Power's Johnson. "First and foremost, to get medicine to the patients who need it. The current law is very unfair to many patients who can't grow their own and don't have connections to a garden. They have to rely on the charity of others or go to the black market," he said. "But we also think our initiative will protect OMMA because it will generate millions of dollars in revenues for the state budget. Voters and politicians like programs that can fund other programs or make tax increases unnecessary."

Johnson pointed to yet a third reason for pushing a dispensary initiative. "Other ideas that have been floated, like state gardens or donation clubs, are good ideas, but they require legislative action, and the legislature has proven unwilling to solve the supply crisis. We think it's up to voters, activists, and patients to do it -- that's why we're called Voter Power."

But some important Oregon activists disagree. "I believe going forward with a dispensary initiative could in fact harm patients," said Oregon NORML's Martinez. "If we have a dispensary model like the California model, that will give ammunition to Mannix. We're very concerned about him. In fact, we're telling our members don't sign any petitions that mention medical marijuana. This cycle we don't want to do anything, and we don't want to sign anything," she said. "A dispensary initiative will distract us from fighting Mannix, and I think our priority has to be protecting the 16,000 patients who are now benefiting from the law."

That position brought a quick retort from Berger. "I find it very strange that the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is against reforming the marijuana laws," he said.

A lot of patient concern about a dispensary initiative has to do with "those terrible headlines from California" about dispensaries being raided, said Martinez. "We see things differently up here," she said. "We don't want corner dispensaries, and we are scared of being raided. That hasn't happened yet here, but when you start mixing this stuff up, then you have the DEA coming in, and we're very afraid that will happen with this initiative," she said.

Martinez also pointedly recalled that Voter Power had tried a similar initiative in 2004 that had received only 43% of the vote. "When this was tried before, the voters said no," she said. "Why do they think it can win this time? It hasn't even been polled," she said.

"The current initiative is much more tightly drawn than in 2004," responded Johnson. "That initiative was quite radical and expansive, like a wish list for activists, while this one is limited to trying to establish licensed and regulated dispensaries."

Johnson also disputed the idea the initiative would create a "California model." "There is no statewide regulation of dispensaries in California," he said. "Our statewide regulation adds legitimacy, as well as tighter structure and much greater control of what's going on."

As for potential DEA raids, Johnson pointed out that the initiative sets cultivation and possession limits under the levels that trigger federal mandatory minimum sentences, perhaps providing a disincentive for federal prosecutors to send in the SWAT teams.

Battle lines are being drawn in the Oregon medical marijuana community. While it is united its opposition to the Mannix initiative, there are deep strategic and philosophical divisions over how to move forward. While those are to be expected, the atmosphere can sometimes grow nasty, and that does the movement little good.

"Even though there is widespread agreement that the current system of supply is inadequate, there is disagreement among advocates in Oregon about whether to go forward with licensed and regulated dispensary proposals," Berger said. "Some of that is based on real concerns about dispensaries, but some of it has descended to personal attacks on the motivations of proponents, and that's really disappointing. Nobody circles the wagons and opens fire inward better than our movement," he said. "We need to support each other more; there are just too few of us."

Neither the Mannix initiative nor the dispensary initiative are done deals, and Berger said that the latter must do well in polling if it is to move forward. In any case, it looks as if the voters of Oregon will once again be deciding the fate of medical marijuana in the Beaver State.

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3. Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Drugs in Afghanistan: Opium, Outlaws, and Scorpion Tales" by David Macdonald (2007, Pluto Press, 295 pp., $35PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

With Afghan opium production once again at record levels this year, United Nations Afghan drug control program advisor David Macdonald's "Drugs in Afghanistan" couldn't be more timely. A sociologist with a talent for journalism, Macdonald has spent much of the last eight years in-country, traveling the length and breadth of the land, reviewing the not so voluminous literature on drug use and production, and talking to everyone from Taliban figures to warlords to opium farmers, hash smokers, and heroin injectors. The result is probably the most profound and nuanced look at the role of drugs in Afghanistan ever published.

For most Westerners, even six years after the US invasion that toppled the Taliban, Afghanistan remains a mysterious and exotic place, barely comprehensible amidst the brief flashes of illumination occasioned by intermittent attention from the West. But with years on the ground doing drug work in Afghanistan, Macdonald displays a grasp of Afghan history, culture, and society, along with a keen sense of the complexities surrounding drug production and use, that is truly inspiring.
anti-drug artwork, Nejat Center, Kabul (photo by Phil Smith, fall 2005)
Getting at the truth about drugs in Afghanistan is not easy. Early on, Macdonald writes of an encounter with a Taliban anti-drug official in which that official mentioned tales of people cutting off the heads of snakes and the tails of scorpions, drying them, and smoking them to become intoxicated. Enticed by the perhaps apocryphal tale, Macdonald and his colleagues kept an eye out for proof of such stories. The search for scorpion tails became an encounter with "scorpion tales."

As Macdonald wrote: "What such a search for users of snake heads and scorpion tails signifies, however, is that the search for truth about drugs and their uses in Afghanistan, like many other topics in that country, is an elusive enterprise often clouded by exaggeration, rumor, innuendo, myth, half-truths, and sheer lack of reliable information. It is the Afghan equivalent of the contemporary urban legend spread by ancient Chinese whispers, or what can be referred to as the 'scorpion tale.'"

In "Drugs in Afghanistan," Macdonald takes on the scorpion tales, bringing considerable enlightenment from the too often murky realities of the topic. Particularly important for understanding contemporary Afghan drug use and production is the historical context, and here, Macdonald shines. He explains the role of intoxicants in Islam and the contradictory pressures that shape obedience (or not) to the religion's dictate that intoxicants are haram (forbidden). He also reminds readers of the more immediate historical context of the past few decades, where the social structures that bind Afghans together have been torn asunder by years of invasion, guerrilla war, warlordism, and renewed invasion.

Macdonald traces the history of opium production in Afghanistan, the arrival of heroin laboratories in the 1970s and their expansion in the 1980s under the twin pressure of a crackdown on the Pakistani side of the invisible border and the need for anti-Soviet mujahadeen backed by the US to finance their war against the Russians. He also clarifies the role of warlords, high-level drug traffickers, and corrupt government officials in the continuing and expanding opium (and heroin) trade.
But some of his most useful work is in picking apart the stereotypical image of the opium-growing Afghan peasant. Why do some farmers grow opium even when it is forbidden while others do not? Which farmers really benefit from the opium crop and which only find themselves driven deeper into penury and debt? Macdonald shines with his enumeration of the numerous economic, social, and even personal factors that impel a farmer toward growing poppies and determine how much he will benefit.

His work should hold strong cautions for Western governments, especially that of the US, calling for a massive campaign to eradicate poppies. As Macdonald shows, eradication so far has been uneven, corrupt, and detrimental to peasant livelihoods, while creating fertile recruiting ground for the Taliban. If some form of eradication is going to work, Macdonald suggests, it is going to have to be long-term, within the context of broader institution-building and development, and carefully designed to reduce the negative impact on farmers.

But while the West worries about Afghan opium headed in its direction, the other half of the story of drugs in Afghanistan is drug use by Afghans. As a drug demand reduction specialist, Macdonald is able to create a portrait of Afghan drug use that is unrivalled in anything I have ever read. From alcohol to hashish to opium to injectable heroin and a relatively new torrent of pharmaceutical intoxicants, drug use is part of Afghan culture and society. But while drug use historically took place within a structure of traditional social norms and practice, the decades of war, disruption, and dislocation that have plagued the country have produced a population that is extremely vulnerable to problematic drug use, and which is largely neglected.

Macdonald has written the book on drugs in Afghanistan. In so doing, he has provided a sterling example for anyone thinking of doing something similar with drug use and production in other countries. With its mix of economic, cultural, and historical analysis, ethnographic insight, and a humane vision of Afghans and their drug habits and problems, "Drugs in Afghanistan" should be required reading for all those policymakers sitting in Bonn or London or Washington and plotting their latest Afghan campaigns.

But anyone with an interest in the topic will be well-served indeed by Macdonald's effort. And, if you read it to the end, you will find out the truth about those scorpion tails.

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4. 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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5. 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 on: "Wrong Door Drug Raid Disrupts Family Dinner," "Rising Cocaine Prices Don't Mean We're Winning the Drug War," "Bad Cop Caught on Camera," "More Fun With Numbers at ONDCP," DEA Agent Admits The Drug War Funds Terrorism," "DEA Agent Admits Medical Marijuana Laws Work."

David Borden tells authorities to "Take this drug tax and...", and blogs about the Bryan Epis federal resentencing hearing.

Press releases, action alerts and other organizational announcements in the In the Trenches blog. And please join us in the Reader Blogs too.

Thanks for reading, and writing...

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

Another week's worth of law enforcement officers done in by the temptations created by drug prohibition, including a sheriff headed for prison for turning a blind eye, a prosecutor whose coke habit got him in trouble, a greedy Boston cop, and a pair of pill-peddling policemen. Let's get to it:

In Richmond, Virginia, former Henry County Sheriff Frank Cassell was sentenced to eight months in federal prison Tuesday for covering up widespread corruption in his rural department. Twelve Henry County sheriff's deputies were among 20 people indicted by a federal grand jury on charges they resold seized drugs, including ketamine, steroids, cocaine and marijuana, as well as guns, and engaged in money laundering. Cassell was not accused of participating in the corrupt activities, but of covering up for his deputies. He pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents investigating the case. Seventeen of the 20 arrested have now pleaded guilty, two are in diversion programs, and one faces trial next month.

In Council Bluffs, Iowa, a former Pottawattamie County prosecutor has been convicted of stealing drugs from the evidence room. After cocaine went missing, former Assistant DA Jeff TeKippe argued that he had lawfully flushed it down a toilet, but prosecutors presented evidence of cocaine residues found at TeKippe's house. Jurors convicted him on nine counts of theft, two counts of misconduct in office, and one count of cocaine possession. He faces 10 years or more in prison when he is sentenced October 24.

In Boston, a former Boston police officer pleaded guilty Monday to charges he hired himself out as protection for drug dealers. Former Officer Carlos Pizarro is one of three Boston cops caught in an FBI sting where agents posed as drug traffickers making cocaine shipments to Massachusetts. The feds had him celebrating a supposed successful run on videotape. He pleaded to two counts, including conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute, and faces up to 24 years in federal prison. Officers Robert Pulido and Nelson Carraquillo, who were arrested along with Pizarro, face trials in November.

In Cleveland, Ohio, a former Parma police officer was sentenced September 5 to three years in prison for peddling prescription drugs. Donald McNea, Jr., 54, was arrested in December 2005 by state and federal agents after repeatedly selling Oxycontin and other drugs to an informant and a federal agent. He had been at it since at least 2003, before he retired on disability with a $63,000 a year pension. McNea and his lawyers blamed his drug dealing on a mind fogged by addiction caused by the physical and psychological pain he suffered fighting crime, but his former colleagues painted a picture of a cop with a long history of disciplinary problems. In addition to three years in prison, McNea must pay $27,000 in fines and repay the city $2,000 he got from undercover agents in return for drugs.

In Clarksville, Tennessee, a Clarksville police officer already on paid leave as he faces drug peddling charges is in trouble again. Officer Franklin Mikel was charged in April with three felony drug counts after Indiana State Police arrested him April 4 after he allegedly sold 30 morphine tablets to an informant. Mikel was arrested again Monday morning for driving while intoxicated, public intoxication, and two counts of invasion of privacy after he violated a restraining order taken out against him by his estranged wife. Prosecutors may now ask that his cash bond be revoked pending trial later this year on the drug charges.

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8. Law Enforcement: Asset Forfeiture Funds Spent on Banquets, Balls, and Balloons in Atlanta

A routine audit of the Fulton County (Atlanta) district attorney's office has turned up questionable spending of money seized from drug suspects under asset forfeiture laws. Less than a month ago, similar apparent abuses were uncovered in the Austin, Texas, police department.

According to auditor's reports, almost one-third of the 376 checks written out of the asset forfeiture account in 2006 were either questionable or not allowed under federal guidelines. Those questionable expenses totaled more than $2 million.

Under federal asset forfeiture laws, money seized by the feds and handed over to state law enforcement may only be used for law enforcement purposes. But District Attorney Paul Howard has a very expansive view of just what that means. According to auditor's reports gathered by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state open records act, Howard's asset forfeiture fund spending included:

  • $1,500 to sponsor the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys;
  • $5,150 for benefits, dinners, football tickets, fundraisers, and balls sponsored by various civic organizations -- none of them directly related to law enforcement;
  • $5,500 spent on rent and catering for a staff Christmas party;
  • $89 for a Superman-style red cape with "Super Lawyer" printed on it that an assistant prosecutor was encouraged to wear at the Christmas party;
  • $150 for a dinner party to celebrate the conviction of a murderer; and
  • $9,100 for Howard's perfect attendance program for students in Atlanta's public elementary schools.

DA Howard defended the expenditures, saying they were tools for fighting crime and boosting office morale. "We cannot pay our employees bonuses. We can't pay overtime," Howard said. "I tried to come up with ways to increase morale."

But county auditors questioned the propriety of the spending, saying Howard may have violated federal asset forfeiture rules. Auditors also raised flags about Howard's mixing various types of funding in the same account.

"This account has several types of funds commingled," the auditor wrote. "These commingled funds include victim witness funds, federal equitable sharing agreement funds and regular operating funds. Commingling these funds is strictly prohibited since all these funds are for a specific purpose."

Howard said there is nothing wrong with putting money from different sources in one account. "We tracked the money," Howard said. "The money was not misused." But he has since created separate accounts for the different funds.

The auditor's reports are not final. They are now being reviewed by a private auditor.

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9. Drug Penalties: Tennessee Appeals Court Finds Drug Tax Unconstitutional

(See David Borden's blog post this morning on this topic.)

In a September 6 opinion, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled the state's tax on illegal drugs, widely known as the crack tax, is unconstitutional. The state cannot impose a tax on items it considers illegal, such as illicit drugs or moonshine, the court held.
widely-posted Tennessee drug tax stamp image
Under the law, which went into effect in 2005, Tennessee has collected more than $6 million from drug suspects. Much of the money came from confiscated property.

In the case before the court, Steven Waters of Knoxville was arrested in 2005 shortly after purchasing a kilogram of cocaine valued at $12,000 from an informant. A few days later, the Tennessee Department of Revenue sent Waters a tax assessment demanding more than $55,000. It also filed a tax lien against real property owned by Waters and seized $4,000 from his bank account.

Waters sued, charging the tax violated constitutional self incrimination, due process, and equal rights protections under both the state and the federal constitutions. A trial court found in Waters' favor, and now, the state Court of Appeals has agreed.

The state cannot impose an excise (or "privilege") tax on items it has criminalized, the court held: "Because it seeks to levy a tax on the privilege to engage in an activity that the Legislature has previously declared to be a crime, not a privilege, we must necessarily conclude that the Drug Tax is arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable, and therefore, invalid under the Constitution of this state," the opinion read.

The state of Tennessee has 60 days to file an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Department of Revenue says it plans to appeal and will continue collecting the tax in the meantime.

More than 20 other states have similar illegal drug tax laws.

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10. Prohibition: Terror Groups Profit From Drugs, DEA Says -- Missing Forest For Trees

Nearly half of the groups officially listed by the US government as foreign terrorist organizations fund their activities through drug trafficking, a top DEA official said Sunday. Nothing is more profitable for terrorist organizations than drugs, said Michael Braun, the DEA's assistant administrator, speaking at a conference on "The Global Impact of Terrorism" in Israel.
misleading DEA traveling exhibit on drugs and terrorism
The DEA has "linked 18 of the 42 officially designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) to drug trafficking activities of some sorts," Braun said. The resort to financing political violence through drug trafficking profits is a result of receding state support for terrorism, Braun said, as well as the fact that Al Qaeda has "shifted from a corporate structure to a franchise structure," making its affiliates pay their own way.

Money from the illegal drug trade is funding the FARC in Colombia and the Shining Path in Peru, Maoist rebels in India, and Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, while various Islamic groups on the terror list are also suspected of profiting from hash and heroin.

With an illicit drug trade estimated at $322 billion annually by the United Nations, the black market dollars are an irresistible source of income for such groups, which may then morph into something resembling traditional drug trafficking organizations. Braun pointed to the FARC, which originated in the 1960s as a leftist guerrilla army as "the case study for this evolution," and estimated its annual revenue from the drug trade at between $500 million and $1 billion each year.

"That's what the Taliban are doing now in Afghanistan," said Braun. "They are taxing farmers, but we have indications that they started providing security. That's what happened to the FARC 15 years ago," he added. "We'll have to deal with more and more hybrid" organizations in the future, Braun told the conference in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya. "When your job takes you to the swamps to hunt snakes, you can end up taking crocs too -- they live in the same place."

What Braun did not say is that this lucrative source of funding for political violence around the world could be effectively dried up by repealing the current global drug prohibition regime enshrined in the UN drug conventions. It is, after all, illicit drugs' status as a prohibited commodity that both makes them extremely valuable and leaves them to be trafficked by violent criminals.

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11. Ghosts of Prohibition: Women's Christian Temperance Union Holds Indianapolis Convention

One of the leading forces behind alcohol Prohibition is still alive -- if enfeebled -- and meeting this week at its international convention in Indianapolis. The Women's Christian Temperance Union is bringing anti-alcohol activists from more than 30 countries to continue its 130-year struggle against demon rum.
WCTU booth, Canadian National Exhibition, c. 1945 (
The group's motto, derived from the Greek writer Xenophon, is "Moderation in all things healthful; total abstinence from all things harmful."

The organization, which describes itself as the world's oldest non-sectarian women's organization, began as a group for women concerned with alcohol abuse. Originally organized in upstate New York by women who marched on saloons to urge their owners to close them -- which didn't work very well -- the WCTU proved a workhorse in paving the way to Prohibition. Less than 50 years after its founding in 1874, it helped usher in the era of national alcohol Prohibition in the US.

While the WCTU continues to oppose alcohol, it has also modernized, now also opposing drug use and efforts to reform drug laws. It also opposes abortion, the use of fetal stem cells, gambling, and pornography.

The WCTU's issue page on marijuana uncritically repeats just about every negative claim made about the plant, but actually breaks outrageous new ground with the following, never before heard claim: "In a 1999 report of 664 drug-related deaths, 187 of them resulted from marijuana use alone."

Fortunately, the WCTU is a mere shadow of its former self and now appears to have little interest or ability in crafting new prohibitionist laws. It is, however, still willing to confront confounding issues. On Saturday, convention attendees will hear a lecture on "Wine in the Bible."

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12. Latin America: Colombian Vice-President Says Aerial Eradication is Failing

Colombia's vice president said Sunday that the US-backed efforts to wipe out Colombia's coca fields through aerial spraying have not stopped cocaine trafficking. He called for a change of emphasis in anti-drug efforts.
coca seedlings
"After a five-year frontal attack against drug trafficking, the results aren't the most successful or the ones we hoped for," Vice President Francisco Santos told a Bogota news conference. "While Colombia is committed to waging war on drug traffickers," he said, "at the end of the day, the benchmark is whether the street price of cocaine in New York, London or Madrid rises or the quality falls. So far, we haven't found any statistics that bear this out."

Despite years of aerial eradication using the herbicide glyphosate, the US drug czar's office conceded in June that Colombia is producing more coca now than when Washington enacted the $5 billion Plan Colombia five years ago. Coca production is estimated to be up 9% this year over last, despite massive spraying efforts both years.

Santos said Colombia would concentrate on manual eradication of coca crops, which is more dangerous and labor-intensive, but allows the plants to be pulled out by the roots. Manual eradication would require the presence of Colombian military or law enforcement to protect eradicators.

Colombia has historically been loathe to criticize any aspect of Washington's anti-drug strategy, but with both the House and the Senate voting this year to make hefty cuts in the annual anti-drug aid package to Colombia, Bogota may feel that the era of aerial eradication is about to come to an end. The Senate voted last week to cut almost $100 million in military aid, while the House earlier this year passed even deeper cuts. The two bills must be reconciled before going to President Bush, who opposes any reduction in military aid to Colombia, the largest US aid recipient outside of Afghanistan and the Middle East.

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13. Death Penalty: Two More Drug Offenders Executed in Iran, Six Sentenced to Die in Vietnam

The death penalty continues to be inflicted on drug offenders, primarily in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. According to Hands Off Cain, a Rome-based anti-death penalty organization affiliated with the nonviolent Radical movement, Iran executed two drug offenders last week, while Vietnam sentenced six others to death.

In Iran, two men identified only as Ali D. and Karim T. were hanged September 6 in the port city of Bandar Abbas for trafficking in heroin and opium. Under Iranian law, the death penalty can be inflicted for possession of more than 30 grams of heroin or five kilograms of opium. Iranian law also allows the death penalty for murder, armed robbery, apostasy, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, and plotting to overthrow the government. Iranian authorities say most executions are carried out against drug offenders, but human rights groups believe many people executed for drug crimes in Iran may in fact be political opponents of the regime.

Meanwhile, a court in northern Vietnam has sentenced six men to death and two others to life in prison for trafficking in heroin. The sentences were handed down in the People's Court of Thanh Hoa province in a case involving 4.66 kilograms of heroin. Under Vietnamese drug laws, among the toughest in the world, possession or smuggling 100 grams of heroin or five kilograms of opium is punishable by death. The Vietnamese People's Supreme Court issued slightly more lenient sentencing guidelines in 2001 -- capital punishment only for smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin -- but those guidelines are not strictly implemented.

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14. Web Scan

Bill Maher asks Sen. Chris Dodd for A Good Reason Why... Marijuana Should Be Illegal -- Dodd responds

Retirement Living medical marijuana special

"Federalism Should Extend to Marijuana Raids," Radley Balko in The Politico

Cannabinoid Chronicles, September 2007 issue

Canadian Medical Association Journal on medical marijuana dosages

Australian National Council on Drugs report calling for optional diversion to drug treatment rather than compulsory drug treatment

DrugTruth network:
Cultural Baggage for 09/07/07: Washington Post writer Neal Peirce + Drug War Facts, Poppygate & Hempfest heroes (MP3)
Century of Lies for 09/07/07: Russ Jones of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition + Hempfest Heroes 2, Phil Smith of Stop the Drug War & Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project (MP3)

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15. Weekly: This Week in History

September 18, 1969: In testimony before the Senate Special Subcommittee on Alcohol and Narcotics, Judge Charles W. Halleck of the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions explains why he no longer issues jail sentences to youthful marijuana offenders:

"If I send a [long-haired marijuana offender] to jail even for 30 days, Senator, he is going to be the victim of the most brutal type of homosexual, unnatural, perverted assaults and attacks that you can imagine, and anybody who tells you it doesn't happen in that jail day in and day out is simply not telling you the truth... How in God's name, Senator, can I send anybody to that jail knowing that? How can I send some poor young kid who gets caught by some zealous policeman who wants to make his record on a narcotics arrest? How can I send that kid to jail? I can't do it. So I put him on probation or I suspend the sentence and everybody says the judge doesn't care. The judge doesn't care about drugs, lets them all go. You simply can't treat these kinds of people like that."

September 19, 1986: Federal Judge H. Lee Sarokin says, "Drug testing is a form of surveillance, albeit a technological one. Nonetheless, it reports on a person's off-duty activities just as surely as if someone had been present and watching. It is George Orwell's Big Brother society come to life."

September 15, 1994: The Boston Globe prints the results of a reader call-in survey that asks, "Do you favor legalizing marijuana for medical use?" Ninety-seven percent of the callers say "yes."

September 14, 1995: The conservative, Reagan appointed judge described by American Lawyer magazine as "the most brilliant judge in the country," Richard Posner, Chief Judge of the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, is quoted in USA Today: "I am skeptical that a society that is so tolerant of alcohol and cigarettes should come down so hard on marijuana use and send people to prison for life without parole… We should not repeal all the drug laws overnight, but we should begin with marijuana and see whether the sky falls."

September 17, 1998: Ninety-three members of Congress vote yes in the first vote on medical marijuana to take place on the floor of the House.

September 20, 1999: The public is finally informed of the results of Washington, DC's Initiative 59, the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998, after Judge Richard Roberts orders the release of the tally previously suppressed by Congress. Voters had supported medical marijuana by 69-31%.

September 17, 2002: Santa Cruz, California officials allow a medical marijuana giveaway at City Hall to protest federal raids.

September 19, 2002: The Guardian (UK) reports that Mo Mowlam, the former cabinet minister responsible for drugs policy, is calling for the international legalization of the drug trade as part of a more effective drive to combat terrorism.

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16. 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:

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  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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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

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