Drug War Chronicle #506 - October 19, 2007

1. Editorial: The Arrogance of Stupidity

I'm not one to say that people who disagree with me about legalization are automatically unreasonable for it. But insult me for my legalization views, and I have a few things to say about the foolish arrogance that represents.

2. NORML Does LA: The 2007 National Convention

The 2007 National NORML conference took place last weekend in Los Angeles. Here's a report from the scene.

3. Europe: Britain's North Wales Police Back Chief's Call for Drug Legalization

The North Wales police chief's call to legalize drugs is stirring controversy, but his own department has now signed on to his stand.

4. Video: US Government Encourages Drug Offenders to Choose the Army Instead of College

A new YouTube video from SSDP gets the word out about hypocritical drug laws and looks for the victims of one such law in particular.

5. And Still More... Yet ANOTHER Big Digg Hit Last Week Increases Our Web Site Traffic

Massive increases to our web site traffic have increased our costs, and we need your help to pay for it.

6. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"New Study: Marijuana Might Cure Brain Tumors," "Someone Tell the Drug Czar That Hemp Isn't a Drug," "Digg and Reddit Users Want to Legalize Marijuana," "US Government Encourages Drug Offenders to Choose the Army Instead of College."

7. 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!

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

Sex and drugs! Sex and drugs! That's our law enforcement corruption theme this week as a gaggle of hormonally-challenged Southern cops let it all hang out above and beyond the call of duty.

9. Law Enforcement: With Violent Crime on the Rise, New Orleans Police Are Arresting Thousands of Drug Offenders, Traffic Violators

With violent crime on the increase in New Orleans, police are busy arresting traffic scofflaws and drug offenders, and prosecutors are spending more than half their time prosecuting drug offenders. A local watchdog commission says that's dumb.

10. Harm Reduction: San Francisco Safe Injection Site Discussions Underway

Could San Francisco become the first American city to host a safe injection site? The obstacles are many, but discussions are getting under way.

11. Marijuana: Pot Politics On Display in Local Races in Cincinnati and New York State

Marijuana policy is an issue in some local races this year. This week, it popped up in the Cincinnati mayoral campaign and a New York county district attorney race.

12. Australia: Drugs Are "Evil," Says Prime Minister

Australian Prime Minister John Howard is trying to dumb down the debate over drugs with simplistic sloganeering this week.

13. Drugged Driving: Experts Say Marijuana DUI Limit Should Be Similar to Alcohol, Not Zero Tolerance

A team of leading researchers on marijuana and impaired driving are recommending that governments not adopt "zero tolerance" drugged driving laws. Such laws ensnare many drivers who are not actually impaired, they found.

14. Weekly: This Week in History

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

15. 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.

16. Jobs at MPP: Michigan Campaign Manager, DC Membership/Grants/VIP Program Fellow

The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring a campaign manager for a 2008 medical marijuana initiative in Michigan, and a full-time fellow in its Membership and Grants & VIP Outreach departments.

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!

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

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1. Editorial: The Arrogance of Stupidity

David Borden, Executive Director

David Borden
As regular readers of this column are aware, I'm a legalizer, and I'm sure about it. I am absolutely convinced that on all counts prohibition does far more harm than good, and that the evidence for this is overwhelming.

For example, I consider the effects of sending hundreds of billions of dollars per year into the criminal underground -- only one of prohibition's many adverse consequences -- to be so serious in its impact on crime and violence and corruption as to be unfathomable. I cannot imagine how any realistically conceivable increase in drug use following legalization -- a hypothetical -- could come close in the harm it might cause to rivaling the incredible, well-demonstrated damage done today by just that one aspect of prohibition. Even if prohibition didn't make the drugs more dangerous themselves (which it does), I just couldn't see that happening. Not surprisingly, since I founded an organization devoted to working for legalization.

Still, I'm not so arrogant as to deny the possibility that people who oppose legalization might have legitimate reasons for holding the views that they hold. Not for marijuana -- support for marijuana prohibition is a truly bizarre aspect of our modern society, one that I believe will ultimately be viewed as such. But some of the other drugs that are illegal now do pose serious dangers for some of their users. Not for most of their users, despite popular belief; and the dangers have been greatly increased beyond what they would otherwise be by the conditions that prohibition has created. But there's enough potential danger connected with drugs like cocaine or heroin for the impulse to prohibit them to be understandable -- misjudged, in my opinion, but understandable -- it's not completely strange that many people agree with prohibition of those drugs, even though I think they're quite wrong.

Those of us who see things this way are in pretty good company -- there are legislators, judges, doctors, editorial columnists, former Cabinet members, even some heads of state, counted within our set of strong and fervent allies. In Britain over the past couple of weeks the set has grown larger. Richard Brunstrom, Chief Constable of North Wales, called drug prohibition "immoral" and recommended legalization in a report he submitted to the national "Home Office." His police force has backed him up on it. And this week the former prison chief added his voice to the supportive mix as well.

They are by no means the first Brits to say these things. For example, the current head of the Conservative Party in the UK, David Cameron, is a legalizer, as was the late Mo Mowlam, Britain's "drug czar" equivalent in her time. The UK-based Economist magazine, a widely-read global publication, used to opine for legalization almost non-stop, and still sometimes does so. So to reads the words of Brunstrom's opposition, the country's Association of Chief Police Officers, I have to wonder at the arrogance; ACPO president Ken Jones released a statement calling legalization "arguably a counsel of despair."

Despair? Really? Despite all the extremely smart people in the country who've expressed pro-legalization viewpoints to date, who have explained why they see it making things better, not worse? I completely recognize ACPO's right to take a prohibitionist position, and despite my views I'm not one to say that it automatically makes them unreasonable. But Jones' particular choice of words make me think he is either not familiar with the ins and outs of the issue, nor of the well known support that exists for legalization, or that he is unwilling to acknowledge them.

On this side of the ocean, upstate New York saw some similar illogic emanate from drug warriors in a District Attorney race. After the Democratic candidate, Jonathan Sennett, called for marijuana decriminalization -- not even legalization, just decriminalization, of marijuana no less, he said it's no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco -- his two opponents attacked him on it. One of them, a former Manhattan prosecutor named Vincent Bradley, actually said it was "inappropriate" for a DA to say that marijuana is no more dangerous than tobacco.

Well actually, if one judges by the mortality data, tobacco is enormously more dangerous than marijuana. Not that tobacco should be illegal either, of course. But the facts about what the two substances do are the facts about them, and acknowledging them is not irresponsible. I've already explained what I think about marijuana prohibition, and there are a number of blue-ribbon commissions whose findings back me up. So I think that Bradley's and Jones' comments are a clear-cut case of the arrogance of stupidity. Not because I disagree with them, but because they have taken their positions so arrogantly in the face of many impressive people who completely disagree with them.

We in the anti-prohibition movement can take a few insults. Indeed, the more of them get thrown our way, the more successful we know we are growing. Don't be too confident, Ken Jones, more Britons have heard of Richard Brunstrom now than have heard of you; and don't be too confident about your drug strategy, Vince Bradley. Our message is getting out, and it beats your message, hands down.

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2. NORML Does LA: The 2007 National Convention

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) held its 2007 national conference last weekend in Los Angeles, or more precisely, at the Sheraton hotel in Universal City. Hundreds of marijuana patients, activists, and aficionados from across the Golden State and the nation poured in to the upscale venue for a solid weekend of strategizing, educating, and acquaintance-making, not to mention medicating and recreating.

Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris on conference panel
Recreational pot-smoking is fine, but more tokers need to get off their couches and hit the barricades, said NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre as he greeted attendees at the opening session. "I'm working 70 hours a week at NORML because I'm an adult, I smoke cannabis and I don't want to be a criminal," St. Pierre said.

But he needs some help, he said, noting that only 0.1% of marijuana users get involved with reform efforts. Imagine what could happen if even 1% got involved, he said. "We need to come off that mountaintop ignited for change," St. Pierre said. "Not united, ignited for change."

That message was especially resonant in California, where marijuana is the state's number one cash crop and the state's broadly-written medical marijuana law has resulted in hundreds of dispensaries, and numerous medical offices, cropping up around the state to serve the medical marijuana market.

Indeed, the conference was fairly Cali-centric, which is little surprise given that it was held in LA, California is the nation's most populous state, and it is on the cutting edge of marijuana law reform. Still, there were broader discussions, with different panels addressing the national reform picture, tackling common questions about marijuana, and giving out advice on "cannabis consumer safety," among other topics.

Tommy Chong performs at the awards ceremony
Things are happening in other parts of the country besides California to be sure. For example, in one plenary session Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) executive director Rob Kampia announced that MPP will be involved in at least four statewide marijuana initiatives: Medical marijuana in Arizona, Maine, and Michigan, and decriminalization in Massachusetts. The organization is also involved in legislative medical marijuana efforts in Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York, Kampia said. On the same panel, John Sajo of the Oregon group Voter Power described their pending initiative to expand the Oregon medical marijuana law OMMA.

"We have 12 states with effective medical marijuana laws now," said Kampia. "We could have 18 states in the next couple of years. Things are on a fast track."

Of course, it wouldn’t have been NORML without the appearance of movement luminaries. "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" author and founder of the modern day hemp movement, Jack Herer, manned a table as well as addressing the convention and urging support for a full-blown legalization initiative. Ed Rosenthal, the "guru of ganja," swept through the crowd in a wizard's robe and cap, and travel writer Rick Steves wondered aloud why Europeans were so much more civilized than Americans when it came to marijuana policy.

And Tommy Chong showed up Saturday night to address the dinner crowed. Among other things, Chong recounted how he got paranoid too late about being involved with the bong-making operation that got him nine months in federal prison. "About three months after I got to prison, I woke up one night and thought 'Man, I shouldn't have put my face on those bongs," he said to appreciative laughter.

LA-area medical marijuana dispensary price list
While the weekend had a full schedule of panels and speeches, many attendees spent considerable time schmoozing outside, where California's tough anti-smoking laws are not in effect and the medicating and recreating was going non-stop. Much of the buzz in those outdoor gabfests was about the state of affairs in California, which to goggle-eyed activists from other states appeared to be the Promised Land, with dispensaries popping up like mushrooms, billboards with huge marijuana buds saying "1-800-GET-KUSH," and ads featuring a sexy doctor in a mini-skirt alluringly claiming she wants to be "your medical marijuana doctor."

It's not that simple or that easy, Golden State residents were quick to point out, citing DEA raids, local busts, and difficult access for patients in many parts of the state. But it still looks pretty damned alluring to outsiders.

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3. Europe: Britain's North Wales Police Back Chief's Call for Drug Legalization

Last week, we reported on North Wales police chief Richard Brunstom's call to legalize drugs in a paper he released in response to a call from the Home Office for input on the direction the country's drug policy should take. Since then, Brunstrom's remarks have ignited a firestorm of controversy, but his force has stood behind him. On Monday, the North Wales Police Authority approved plans to send Brunstrom's paper on to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The North Wales Police Authority passed three of Brunstrom's recommendations:

  • That the Authority submits a response to the current Home Office consultation on drugs strategy.
  • That the Authority submits a response to the forthcoming Welsh Assembly Government consultation on the all Wales substance misuse strategy.
  • That the Authority urges the repeal of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its replacement with a Misuse of Substances Act, based upon a new 'hierarchy of harm' that includes alcohol and nicotine.

Independent legalization cover (courtesy Transform)
While Brunstrom's stand has excited criticism, he has also picked up at least one prominent supporter. Lord Ramsbotham, the former chief inspector of prisons, told The Independent Brunstom's prescription was on the money. "The present regime has failed in every way. If you look at prohibition of alcohol in the US, it failed. The Chief Constable's suggestions must be considered seriously. We've got to stop the dealers who cause so much misery for society."

He added: "I used to reckon that 80 percent of those people received into prison were misusing a substance of some kind when they came in. The amount of acquisitive crime connected to drug abuse is immense. That is why there needs to be a new approach."

A fourth Brunstrom recommendation, that the Police Authority affiliate with the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a leading British drug reform group, is on hold pending discussions between Transform and the authority. Transform is nonetheless quite pleased with the results so far.

"It is hugely significant that the call for a legal regulation and control of drugs has now been publicly supported by the North Wales police authority, and they are to be congratulated in taking a bold stand in this urgent and vital debate," said Transform executive director Danny Kushlick. "There are many high profile individuals who support this position, but this sort of institutional support really puts the debate center stage. We hope to see other police authorities following their lead, and we look forward to the Police Authority affiliating to Transform in the near future. The Government have tried their best to avoid this debate in the current drug strategy consultation and review process, not engaging with any policy alternatives despite the obvious failings of the current approach that the North Wales police highlight so clearly," Kushlick continued. "The call from the North Wales Police Authority makes the continued evasion from meaningful debate impossible: the Government must now engage with the significant and growing body of mainstream opinion calling for pragmatic moves away from prohibition towards evidence based regulatory alternatives."

While Transform is pleased, neither the government nor the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is smiling. In response to a question from a North Wales parliamentarian this week, Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said that strict enforcement of the drug laws was needed.

The ACPO, for its part, suggested that Brunstrom's ideas were a "counsel of despair." ACPO president Ken Jones issued a statement saying Brunstrom's views were "his personal views, to which he is entitled," and that ACPO disagreed. "ACPO does not agree with the repeal of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the legalisation of drugs -- this is arguably a counsel of despair," Jones said. "The reduction of harm caused by drugs to our neighborhoods is a priority for chief officers across the UK. According to the Drug Harm Index it has been reducing since 2001. This is a complex pernicious global problem. Moving to total legalization would, in our view, greatly exacerbate the harm to people in this country, not reduce it. It simply does not make sense to legitimize dangerous narcotic substances which would then have the potential to ruin even more lives and our neighborhoods."

But it is ACPO and its fellow prohibitionists who are on a path to nowhere, Brunstrom retorted. Three million people take illegal drugs in Britain, he noted, while 2.5 million are alcoholics and 9.5 million addicted to nicotine. "This is a real counsel of despair if one chooses to look at the evidence. Seizures of drugs in the UK are less than 1%. In 2003 the UK stopped 10% of heroin coming in and only 15% of cocaine."

Meanwhile, as the debate continues, so does Britain's drug war. The Home Office announced Thursday that the number of drug offenses police reported in the second quarter of this year was up 14% over the same period last year. That's another 55,000 drug arrests for the British police, courts, and prisons to deal with.

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4. Video: US Government Encourages Drug Offenders to Choose the Army Instead of College

(As part of an effort to find students who are currently losing their financial aid eligibility because of drug convictions, our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy have put together a viral YouTube video to raise awareness of the law, get supporters to lobby Congress about it, and to let them know about the Perry Fund, DRCNet Foundation's scholarship program that assists students who are in this situation. Scott Morgan blogged about it for us this week, and we reprint his posting here.)

We can now add to our long and growing list of drug war grievances that this terrible crusade has become a fully functional army recruitment tool. The US Military has changed its rules to make it easier for drug offenders to enlist. Meanwhile, the aid elimination penalty of the Higher Education Act denies federal financial aid to students with drug convictions. That's right, folks. The federal government thinks drug users don't belong in college, but has no problem sending them to die in Iraq.

Our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy have a great new video explaining the absurdity of all this:

Of course, we support the US Military's new hiring policy. Past drug use should never be a factor in assessing a person's qualifications. But making it harder for drug offenders to go to school, while making it easier for them to join the army, is shockingly barbaric and hypocritical.

One can only hope that this bizarre situation may expose the fraudulent logic by which drug offenders are denied college aid to begin with. After all, military service is widely considered an honorable profession; one which requires great courage, character, and intelligence. The very notion that past drug users can serve their country in combat destroys the myth that these Americans are somehow handicapped because they took drugs.

Now that the US government has acknowledged this principle in one self-serving context, it bears a powerful moral obligation to examine and abolish other forms of discrimination against drug users. Freedom, however one may choose to define it, cannot be defended so long as we arbitrarily injure and obstruct our fellow citizens over such petty indiscretions.

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5. And Still More... Yet ANOTHER Big Digg Hit Last Week Increases Our Web Site Traffic

Last week we bragged that DRCNet blogger Scott Morgan had again made it to the front page of the popular web site Digg, bringing in nearly 40,000 people to our site. This week Scott did it again, when a post titled Digg and Reddit Users Want to Legalize Marijuana made it to the Digg top ten, so far garnering over 12,000 readers and still going. Thanks to support provided by members like you over the last several weeks, our server was ready to handle the traffic both times.

As I'm sure you realize, the costs of the machine, while significant, are only part of the picture. Literally every staff member at DRCNet is involved in this web campaign, and that's a major devotion of resources that can only be sustained if you support us. Could you let us know that 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 as part of this campaign, 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 StoptheDrugWar.org gift items as member incentives as well.

Please visit our site if you haven't in awhile -- you'll find a professionally redesigned site, daily blog posts, mainstream news links, an "activist feed" of bulletins from other organizations, and of course the weekly Drug War Chronicle and many other interesting items. With your continued support we will take the message about ending prohibition to more and more people in more and more ways this year and next!

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


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 brings us "New Study: Marijuana Might Cure Brain Tumors," "Someone Tell the Drug Czar That Hemp Isn't a Drug," "Digg and Reddit Users Want to Legalize Marijuana" (over 12,000 hits!) and "US Government Encourages Drug Offenders to Choose the Army Instead of College."

David Guard posts numerous 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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7. 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 http://stopthedrugwar.org to learn more about our organization.

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

Sex and drugs! Sex and drugs! That's our law enforcement corruption theme this week as a gaggle of hormonally-challenged Southern cops let it all hang out above and beyond the call of duty. Let's get to it:

In Lebanon, Tennessee, a state trooper fired for letting a dope-toting porn star go free in exchange for a sex act turned himself in at the Wilson County Courthouse Tuesday morning to face a series of criminal charges for his special deal. Trooper Randy Moss, 40, stopped porn actress Barbie Cummings (real name: Justis Richert) for speeding on May 7 and found illicit drugs in the car. He wrote her a speeding ticket, but Richert claimed on her blog that she negotiated the sex act to avoid drug charges. Moss resigned after Cummings went public, although it appears he was undone by his own urge to brag. Cummings did not name Moss in her original blog post, and says a day later Moss asked her permission to tell some of his co-workers about his exploit, which is how she believes the information got out. He now faces one count of tampering with evidence, four counts of official misconduct, and one count of official oppression from the May incident. It apparently wasn’t his first time. He also faces four counts stemming from a similar incident in September 2006.

In Atlantic Beach, South Carolina, an Atlantic Beach police officer was arrested last Friday for receiving a sex act from a woman in return for not arresting her on drug charges. Officer Terence Wiggins, 45, allegedly caught a woman with crack cocaine while on duty, did his thing with the woman, then gave her crack back. He was arrested after an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division and is now charged with misconduct in office. He is now out on bond with no court date yet set.

In Aiken, South Carolina, the last remaining Aiken County narcotics officer has resigned. Investigator Brian Owens quit Wednesday after five years with the agency. He had been suspended earlier this month at the same time his four fellow narcs in the squad were fired for taking a county-owned vehicle to bars and because one of them committed a sex act with a woman in the car on the way to a motel. The entire unit is now under investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division for possible misuse of government money, misconduct in office and improper destruction of evidence. Prosecutors said as many as 275 drugs cases could be jeopardized depending on what the SLED investigation finds.

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9. Law Enforcement: With Violent Crime on the Rise, New Orleans Police Are Arresting Thousands of Drug Offenders, Traffic Violators

A watchdog group has criticized the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) for wasting man-hours and resources by arresting thousands of traffic violators, drug users, and other low-level offenders even as the city faces a wave of violent crime. NOPD brass are defending their focus.

In a report released early this month, the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a private watchdog group, found that police made some 29,000 arrests during the first half of 2007, but more than half of them were for traffic offenses or failure to pay municipal fines or traffic tickets. Only 2% of arrests were for violent crimes. That percentage stayed roughly the same even as violent crime rose by 17% between the first and second quarters of the year.

The commission noted that of the 15,000 arrests for traffic violations or unpaid fines, only 6,000 were for offenses that required the offender be arrested. The remaining 9,000 petty arrests could and should have been handled by citations, freeing up officers to deal with more serious offenses, the commission recommended.

Meanwhile, figures from the New Orleans Parish District Attorneys Office compiled by the commission show that drug cases accounted for 62% of all felony convictions in the second quarter, up from 55% in the first quarter. This as the number of convictions for violent felonies declined by 17% in the second quarter.

Such policies are just wrong-headed, the commission said. "Although we do not advocate that the NOPD disregard their obligation to enforce traffic and municipal laws, the MCC respectfully recommends that the NOPD focus upon violent and repeat offenders rather than perpetuating their high-volume arrest practices," the commission said in its report, which was presented this week to committees in the state legislature.

But New Orleans Police Superintendant Warren Riley defended his department, warning that if it stopped arresting minor offenders, the city would descend into anarchy. "It is a recipe for chaos. It is not a recipe for reducing crime," Riley told members of the House Judiciary and Senate Judiciary committees at the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Orleans Parish DA Eddie Jordan, whose office is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases, also rejected the report's conclusions. Arrests of minor offenders were often justified because of their lengthy criminal records, he said. And, ignoring the role of prohibition in creating violence in drug markets, he defended drug arrests by saying drug trafficking was often linked to violence.

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10. Harm Reduction: San Francisco Safe Injection Site Discussions Underway

Vancouver is now the only city in North America with a safe injection site for drug users, but if some activists and public health officials have their way, San Francisco could be next. The city Public Health Department held an all-day symposium on the topic Thursday, and while public officials are keeping their distance, the symposium could be the first step in a push to bring the harm reduction measure to the US.

Currently, safe injection sites are operating in some 65 cities in eight countries -- mostly in Europe, but also in Australia and Canada. Such sites have been shown to reduce overdoses, needle sharing and the spread of blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, as well as petty crime and other social problems. They have also been shown to entice some clients into drug treatment without increasing overall drug use.

In San Francisco, drug overdoses are one of the leading causes of death and Hepatitis C is reaching epidemic levels, according to public health officials. The Public Health Department says it is not taking a position on safe injection sites, but merely wants to open a dialog on the topic.

"All we want to do is get input," the department's Grant Coffax told KGO News. "The department's goal is to get addicts, drug users, into treatment, to get them into treatment to reduce their harm, to get them ultimately to stop using," he said.

Still, the department sounds quite interested in the idea. "There are data that support the approach in terms of reducing overdoses and actually reducing discarded needles around the perimeter of these sites," Coffax pointed out.

San Francisco police are less enthused. "You would still have those people that are selling narcotics on the streets of San Francisco, that so often turn into violent confrontations, still being able to do that and facilitating that," said Deputy Police Chief Morris Tabak. As is so often the case with law enforcement officials, Tabak failed to note that the problems he described are a result of drug prohibition, not any quality inherent in the drugs or drug users themselves, or that the city already has to contend with street sales of those drugs now.

And the mayor's office is not exactly clamoring to get onboard with the idea, either. "The mayor is not inclined to support this approach, which quite frankly may end up creating more problems than it addresses, " spokesman Nathan Ballard told San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius, who has been writing about the topic for the past couple of months.

That's no surprise to activists like Hilary McQuie, Western director of the Harm Reduction Coalition. "Down the road there will be a lot of strong feelings," she said. "It's a big topic, and we hope to start a conversation."

That conversation officially got underway yesterday, too late for details to make the Chronicle this week. Look for an update next week.

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11. Marijuana: Pot Politics On Display in Local Races in Cincinnati and New York State

Local races across the country will be decided in next month's elections, and marijuana policy is popping up in some of them. In Cincinnati, pot policy is part of a mayoral campaign, while in Utica County, New York, which includes the towns of Woodstock and New Paltz, a candidate for district attorney is taking flak over an apparent pro-marijuana legalization stance.

In the Utica County DA race, Democratic contender and assistant Ulster County public defender Jonathan Sennett is taking flak for reportedly twice saying marijuana should be legalized and once saying it should be decriminalized during campaign events.

"The scientific evidence is pretty solid that marijuana is not more harmful than alcohol or tobacco," he said in an interview with the Daily Freeman. "I don't believe that a substance should be determined to be legal or illegal in inverse proportion to its lobbying effort. We don't prosecute people as felons for selling alcohol to kids," Sennett said.

While Sennett didn't use the L-word in that interview, his opponents, Republican Holley Carnright of Saugerties and Conservative/Independent Vincent Bradley Jr. of Kingston, say they heard Sennett call for legalization twice -- once in a public access interview program in Woodstock and once at a joint appearance earlier this month before the Ulster County Police Chiefs Association at the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center.

The pair of self-confessed drug warriors were quick to pounce. "I don't understand what (Sennett) means by 'decriminalization.' You can't get less than a violation. It's equivalent to an appearance ticket for jaywalking," said Bradley, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney.

"He can dance all around it and blow smoke, but I think his message is clear, intended or not, that he doesn't think marijuana is any worse than tobacco. It is totally inappropriate for a DA to say that," said Carnright, a former chief assistant district attorney for Ulster County. "I think it's a bad idea. You can't be the DA and send out that kind of message. The message, especially to kids, is (marijuana) is bad for you. Any other message is inappropriate."

Meanwhile, in the Cincinnati mayor's race, the council's passage last year of an ordinance criminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana is on voters' minds. In Ohio, possession of up to four ounces is decriminalized under state law, but Cincinnati council members approved the local ordinance as an anti-crime measure. The candidates were quick to stake out their ground.

"In March of this year I, along with Vice Mayor Tarbell, cast the two lone votes against an ordinance that criminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana... The reality is that many of them are let out of prison early because of a shortage of jail space. Given this problem it makes little sense to me to pass a law... which inevitably will crowd our jails with nonviolent offenders," said Democratic contender David Crowley.

Crowley was joined by one Republican candidate and independent candidate Justin Jeffre in vowing to overturn the measure, but another Republican candidate thought it had worked just fine. "The Marijuana Ordinance has been highly successful over the past 15 months. During this time, the police, using the ordinance, have been able to confiscate over 100 illegal guns and millions of dollars of illegal drugs such as cocaine, crack, heroin and methamphetamine," said Leslie Ghiz.

"Someone asked if (we) would have the 'spine' to repeal the ordinance," retorted Jeffre. "I have vowed to work in conjunction with Vice Mayor Crowley and Councilmember Qualls to do exactly that... Ghiz quotes a bunch of numbers out of context to scare voters into thinking this law does anyone any good... Ghiz says the law targets not recreational smokers, but dealers. Can we really believe that all these thousands upon thousands of people were dealers?"

"Whether you believe in smoking marijuana or not, this is just simply bad legislation which will have the foreseeable consequences of bogging down the court system and using up jail space that should be reserved for violent criminals," agreed Republican candidate Charlie Winburn. "I am not yet certain this is going to make our city safer, but I do know that council has no leadership agenda for reducing violent crime in Cincinnati."

It will be November before we know if candidates with progressive positions on marijuana policy have been helped or hindered by their stands. In Utica County, drug warriors are doubling up on the reformer, but we'll have to see if voters agree. In Cincinnati, three out of four council candidates want to undo the marijuana ordinance, and again, we'll have to see. But at least these days, the campaign discussions about marijuana policy are no longer one-sided.

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12. Australia: Drugs Are "Evil," Says Prime Minister

Australian Prime Minister John Howard launched a harsh attack on drugs and drug users as he campaigned in Brisbane Wednesday -- and he didn't spare marijuana. He also claimed that his harsh anti-drug stance has been vindicated by swings in Australian public opinion.

Howard has always been a drug war zealot and stalwart foe of any liberalization of drug laws, but what set him off this week was a scandal surrounding an Australian soccer star and an incident in New South Wales where young children at a school playground are suspected of having ingested ecstasy tablets. The problems could be at least partially addressed by semantics, Howard suggested.

"I think one of the things we have to do is stop glamorizing them by calling them recreational drugs or party drugs. All drugs are evil," the prime minister opined. "I have for 11 ½ years preached a policy of zero tolerance. It was ridiculed eight or nine years ago, even by people in my own party. They were wrong. And many people in the Labor Party were wrong."

Howard also patted himself on the back for standing up to a mysterious "they." "They wanted to legalize marijuana," he said. "I was always opposed to that. At long last the community, in some ways, has come to its senses on marijuana."

Australians need to change their attitudes about drugs, Howard chided. "They are evil, all of them, and there should be an uncompromising social condemnation of drugs," he said. "Why can't we have the same attitude towards drugs that a large section of the community has developed towards tobacco?" he asked.

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13. Drugged Driving: Experts Say Marijuana DUI Limit Should Be Similar to Alcohol, Not Zero Tolerance

An international working group of 11 researchers from six countries will recommend that Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) laws aimed at marijuana users adopt a limit of a set amount of THC in the bloodstream instead of relying on a zero tolerance approach that criminalizes anyone who has any THC or metabolites in his bodily fluids. Zero tolerance DUID laws are in effect in several countries and several US states.

But the group, led by prominent marijuana and driving impairment researcher Franco Grotenherman, found that zero tolerance laws are not science-based and wrongly classify many non-impaired drivers as being under the influence of marijuana.

The group suggested a limit of between seven and 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood serum to accurately indicate impairment. That would compare to a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, which is lower than the currently used 0.08% or 0.10%.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) senior policy analyst Paul Armentano told the national NORML conference in Los Angeles last weekend that the federal government is preparing to release a report containing recommendations on DUID laws later this year. The study will advocate zero tolerance laws, Armentano predicted.

Grotenherman and his colleagues published their findings in the October 2007 issue of the journal Addiction. An abstract is available online here.

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14. Weekly: This Week in History

October 24, 1968: Possession of psilocybin or psilocin becomes illegal in the US.

October 22, 1982: The first publicly known case of contra cocaine shipments appears in government files in a cable from the CIA's Directorate of Operations. The cable passes on word that US law enforcement agencies are aware of "links between (a US religious organization) and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups [which] involve an exchange in (the United States) of narcotics for arms." [The material in parentheses was inserted by the CIA as part of its declassification of the cable. The name of the religious group remains secret.]

October 25, 1997: Regarding Colombia, the New York Times quotes US Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey as saying, "Let there be no doubt: We are not taking part in counterguerrilla operations." Less than two years later, on July 17, 1999, the Miami Herald reports: "McCaffrey said it was 'silly at this point' to try to differentiate between anti-drug efforts and the war against insurgent groups."

October 19, 1999: Taking a states' rights approach to medical marijuana, candidate George W. Bush says, "I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose." As president, Bush instead escalates prosecutions of medical marijuana providers by the US Dept. of Justice and opposes states' rights arguments in court proceedings.

October 23, 2001: Britain's Home Secretary, David Blunkett, proposes the reclassification of cannabis from Class B to Class C. Cannabis is soon decriminalized in Great Britain.

October 23, 2002: Time/CNN conducts a telephone poll of 1,007 adult Americans over two days (October 23-24). The result: Nearly one out of every two American adults acknowledges they have used marijuana, up from fewer than one in three in 1983.

October 20, 2004: A groundbreaking coalition of black professional organizations comes together to form the National African American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC). NAADPC "urgently seeks alternatives to misguided drug policies that have led to mass incarceration."

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15. 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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16. Jobs at MPP: Michigan Campaign Manager, DC Membership/Grants/VIP Program Fellow


The Marijuana Policy Project, the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the US, is hiring a Campaign Manager to work on the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care's ballot initiative campaign to legalize the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for patients who are using marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The position is based in Michigan and runs through November 2008.

The Campaign Manager must have a thorough understanding of politics and public policy, excellent oral and written communication skills, and experience working with reporters and doing media interviews. In addition, candidates should be highly organized, self-motivated, professional in both appearance and presentation, and able to accomplish a defined and ambitious set of goals without daily or direct supervision. Candidates with previous and existing ties to Michigan are preferred.

The overarching goal of the Campaign Manager is to successfully implement the campaign strategy from the campaign's inception through Election Day and ensure that every possible measure is taken to win the campaign. All aspects of the campaign will be overseen by MPP's Director of State Campaigns, with the Campaign Manager playing a key supporting role to the Director of State Campaigns and the campaign consultants.

The Campaign Manager's responsibilities include overseeing all day-to-day campaign operations; acting as first point of contact for the general public and the local activist community; ensuring that the local activist community is happy and engaged; identifying, training, and successfully managing/utilizing regional volunteer spokespeople; overseeing the distribution of all written campaign materials, such as campaign literature, Web site updates, etc.; working closely with MPP's State Campaigns office in Minneapolis to ensure that the campaign complies with all applicable campaign laws and successfully files all campaign finance reports; working closely with the campaign's in-state consultants; assisting MPP's Membership Department with fundraising opportunities upon request, from coordinating events in the state to assisting with donors; assisting consultants with coalition-building efforts as requested, resulting in a substantial number of community leaders and organizations publicly backing the campaign; and assisting consultants with media operations, as requested.

In addition to a competitive salary, the position includes full health insurance and an optional retirement package. For more information about the application process, see http://www.mpp.org/site/c.glKZLeMQIsG/b.1086577/k.C059/Jobs.htm.


MPP is also hiring a full-time fellow to assist its Membership and Grants & VIP Outreach departments. The fellowship is available immediately, pays $9 per hour, and requires a minimum four-month commitment.

This position is a chance to play a crucial and responsible role in two different areas of the nation's largest marijuana policy reform organization. Candidates should expect a fast-paced, professional environment.

The Grants & VIP Outreach department coordinates MPP's events, including celebrity fundraisers and an invitation-only activist training workshop, and manages MPP's grants program, which dispenses $2 million annually in support of efforts that foster measurable changes in marijuana policy.

The Membership department coordinates MPP's fundraising, conducts donor research, oversees communications with members, maintains MPP's member database, processes donations, and submits grant applications.

The fellow's time will be divided between the two departments. Responsibilities include researching donors; conducting outreach and promotion for celebrity fundraisers; maintaining inventory; working within MPP's member database; providing logistical and administrative event support; and other tasks as required.

Candidates should have excellent written and oral communication skills, strong analytical ability, strong initiative and work ethic, and fastidious attention to detail. Interviews are being conducted on a rolling basis, so interested applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

To apply, please see http://www.mpp.org/site/c.glKZLeMQIsG/b.1811031/k.357E/Internship_Applic....

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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 http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/feed online.

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

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

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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.

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