Drug War Chronicle #515 - December 21, 2007

1. Appeal: DRCNet Has Made Amazing Progress in 2007 and We Need Your Help for 2008

An outline of DRCNet's plans and recent accomplishments and an appeal for your support to make it all happen.

2. Federal Budget: Drug Czar's Ad Campaign Takes a Hit, DC Can Do Needle Exchange, But More Funding for Law Enforcement

The 2008 federal budget is a done deal now. The drug czar's youth anti-drug media campaign takes a well-deserved hit and DC wins the right to spend its own money on needle exchanges. But the drug war juggernaut just keeps rolling on along as law enforcement wins big bucks.

3. Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice," by Ethan Brown (2007, Public Affairs Press, 273 pp., $25.95 HB)

Author Ethan Brown examines the rhyme and reason of the controversial "stop snitching" movement, and the abuses in drug law and enforcement that caused it to come to be.

4. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"Drug Dealers Open Fire on Santa Claus Helicopter," "Candy Flavored Meth is Safer Than Regular Meth," "Congress Just Says No to Anti-Drug Propaganda," "If You Oppose Harm Reduction, You Support AIDS and Death," "Dutch Police Insist on Smoking Marijuana Off-Duty."

5. 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!

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

Busy, busy this week, with miscreants in blue popping up all over the place. A New York City drug squad is under scrutiny, while a New Mexico drug squad gets back to work, a Boston cop goes to prison, and cops from Florida, Ohio, and Minnesota get busted for their shenanigans, as do a pair of Texas jailers.

7. Law Enforcement: Chicago's Courts Are in Crisis, and the Drug War Is a Big Contributor, Report Finds

Chicago's 26th Street Criminal Court Building handles more than 28,000 felony cases a year, more than half of them drug cases. That's too much, says a new report, which offers some recommendations for reducing the burden.

8. Sentencing: New Jersey Moves to Shrink "Drug-Free Zones," Cops Protest

New Jersey's governor, all 21 county prosecutors, and the state sentencing commission all want to reform the state's "drug-free zone" law, but some New Jersey cops like things just the way they are.

9. Drug Treatment: Federal Budget Provides Same Funding or Small Increases for Treatment, Prevention Programs, But Reduces Safe and Drug-Free Grants Program

As part of its massive omnibus appropriations bill passed this week, Congress has, for the most part, funded treatment and prevention programs at or slightly above previous levels.

10. Death Penalty: Malaysia to Execute Man for Marijuana, China to Execute Man for Meth

Even as the UN General Assembly condemned the death penalty this week, China condemned one man to death for methamphetamine trafficking and Malaysia condemned another to death for having less than two pounds of marijuana.

11. Europe: Finland to Set Guidelines for Medical Marijuana Use

After one patient successfully challenged an agency's stance that Finnish law absolutely forbids it, the Finnish government is moving to craft guidelines to allow for medical marijuana use.

12. Mexico: Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Introduced

An opposition deputy has introduced a bill that would "decriminalize" marijuana possession in Mexico. Instead of jail time, users would face "informative or educational" sanctions.

13. Canada: The Drug Business is Booming, Says Mounties Report

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has released its latest annual report on drugs and drug trafficking in Canada. It's sobering reading for anyone who thinks countries can enforce their way out of a drug problem.

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. 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!

17. 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.

18. 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. Appeal: DRCNet Has Made Amazing Progress in 2007 and We Need Your Help for 2008

Dear DRCNet reader:

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/borden-dupont-circle-cropped.jpg
David Borden
StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) is at a very interesting and promising point, and I am writing to seek your support for our organization at this time. If you are making charitable gifts to organizations before the end of the year, I hope you'll include DRCNet Foundation in that set. If you make non-deductible donations to support lobbying organizations, I hope you'll include Drug Reform Coordination Network. Donations can be made at http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate online, where information is also available on how to donate by mail. (Contact us if you'd like information on donating stocks.)

In brief, first, and then in more depth:

  1. We have enormously increased our web site visitation, with most of the increase being new people who don't read about drug policy or legalization on a regular basis. We have achieved this by capturing an audience share on the popular "Web 2.0" sites like Digg.com where readers nominate and vote on which articles should go to "the top," the only drug reform group to achieve this success on an ongoing basis.
  2. We have taken concrete steps to expand the range of issues in which we actively do advocacy including: the explosive issue of the overuse of SWAT raids in drug cases with the sometimes deadly consequences (visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/policeraids for further information); the penalties for drug offenders and their families in welfare and public housing law, expanding the major coalition we've already built on the similar college aid law; and continued work on the college aid law. Initial steps have been taken to engage the Afghanistan opium issue as well.
  3. We have expanded our public education efforts on the drug prohibition/legalization question itself, with more on the way (http://stopthedrugwar.org/legalization).
  4. We have continued the most important aspects of our program from before, including the Drug War Chronicle newsletter, and our leveraging of our programs to benefit the work of other groups.
  5. Further site work in the short- and medium- term pipeline should have additional major effects.

WEB SITE

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/monthly-views-web.jpg
As you may know from emails I've sent to the list, our web site underwent a major redesign during the summer of 2006, plus an expansion of our publishing (adding the daily content model – blogging, latest news links, daily posting of announcements and releases and so forth from other organizations) commenced in Sept. '06. The immediate result was a substantial increase in our site traffic, with a gradual increase in traffic continuing most of the time for the next several months following.

Around August this year, things started "going wild," with high profile links to DRCNet beginning to appear on major web sites, and more and more often ever since. We literally have had to have our server upgraded twice in order to handle the traffic, and are now negotiating a third upgrade. The chart appearing to the right, unique hosts by month on StoptheDrugWar.org (an estimate for the number of people), illustrates the trend.

I hope you'll agree that we are in a seriously different place now than before. To provide a flavor for how (in part) this has been accomplished, we here list "big hits" that StoptheDrugWar.org has had since fall 2006 – "big hits" defined as articles getting 4,000 "reads" or more. (These numbers were last updated on Nov. 26, so there have been new "big hits," as well as increases in the totals for the articles listed, especially the most recent.) The key point is not just how many times our stories have gone "big," but how much more often it is happening now compared with a year or more ago. Here they are:


9/29/2006 Feature: Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative Trails, But the Fight Is On (7,013 reads) 9/29/2006 Feature: Nevada Marijuana Initiative Organizers See Tight But Winnable Race Going Into Final Stretch (5,155 reads) 12/15/2006 Feature: Clamor Grows for Freedom for Texas Marijuana Prisoner Tyrone Brown (20,190 reads) 2/5/2007 Feature: The Conviction That Keeps On Hurting -- Drug Offenders and Federal Benefits (4,570 reads) 2/16/2007 The Anti-Dobbs: Winning the War Within Through Drug Legalization (5,781 reads) 2/23/2007 Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy," by Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen (13,143 reads between two copies) 3/23/2007 Feature: "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Free Speech Case Goes to the Supreme Court (4,354 reads) 4/13/2007 Feature: The War on Salvia Divinorum Heats Up (15,180 reads) 4/25/2007 ONDCP Admits Exaggerating Marijuana Potency (10,589 reads) 5/25/2007 Middle East: Opium Poppies Flower Again in Iraq (5,356 reads) 5/25/2007 Feature: Border Blues -- Canada, US Both Bar People Who Used Drugs -- Ever (4,046 reads) 6/1/2007 Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Bill Passes With Veto-Proof Majorities (11,959 reads) 6/8/2007 Feature: Canadian Mom Searching for Missing Daughter Denied Entry to US Over 21-Year-Old Drug Conviction (8,754 reads) 6/25/2007 Justices Stevens, Souter, & Ginsburg: Drug Policy Reform Sympathizers? (8,050 reads) 6/28/2007 Editorial: Two Good Reasons to Want to Legalize Drugs (6,185 reads) 7/10/2007 Rudy Giuliani Hates Medical Marijuana, But He Loves OxyContin (15,090 reads) 7/26/2007 Analysis: Who Voted for Medical Marijuana This Time? Breakdown by Vote, Party, and Changes from '06 (7,227 reads between two copies) 7/30/2007 San Francisco Orders Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Sell Fatter Bags (7,438 reads) 8/2/2007 New Study: Marijuana Does Not Cause Psychosis, Lung Damage, or Skin Cancer (49,721 reads) 8/6/2007 Press Release: Marijuana Dealers Offer Schwarzenegger One Billion Dollars (72,302 reads) 8/6/2007 Marijuana Dealers Offer Schwarzenegger One Billion Dollars (48,654 reads) 8/14/2007 Police Often Lack Basic Knowledge About Marijuana (21,612 reads) 8/15/2007 Who's Planting All That Pot in the Woods? (6,694 reads) 8/23/2007 Drug War Prisoners: 86-Year-Old Alva Mae Groves Dies Behind Bars (6,821 reads) 8/30/2007 Drug Testing Encourages Cocaine, Heroin, and Meth Use (20,291 reads) 9/26/2007 Why Do Police Really Oppose Marijuana Legalization? (20,994 reads) 10/5/2007 McCain and Giuliani Say Terrible Things to a Medical Marijuana Patient (39,636 reads) 10/10/2007 The Truth About Why Republican Candidates Oppose Medical Marijuana (4,801 reads) 10/16/2007 Digg & Reddit Users Want to Legalize Marijuana (16,576 reads) 10/22/2007 DEA Director Resigns, Says She Had an Awesome Time (11,182 reads) 10/24/2007 This Man Receives 300 Marijuana Joints a Month From the Federal Government (40,075 reads) 10/31/2007 Cowards: Democratic Front-Runners Reject Marijuana Law Reform (6,608 reads) 11/2/2007 Feature: Can Medical Marijuana Cost You Your Kid? In California, It Can (15,105 reads) 11/5/2007 Drug Scare: Kids in Florida are Getting High by Sniffing Feces (7,797 reads) 11/13/2007 Marijuana Evolves Faster Than Human Beings (27,144 reads) 11/23/2007 John McCain's Awful Response to a Cop Who Wants to End the Drug War (34,950 reads) 11/23/2007 Feature: On the Anniversary of Kathryn Johnston's Death, Poll Finds Most Americans Oppose Use of SWAT-Style Tactics in Routine Drug Raids (7,183 reads)

ISSUE EXPANSION

As mentioned briefly above, we have begun our first foray into the explosive issue of the overuse of SWAT teams in low-level drug enforcement, the kind of practice that led to the killing of 93-year-old Kathryn Johnston in Atlanta last year. In October we commissioned a set of polling questions (our first) in a likely voter poll conducted by the Zogby firm. One of them asked if police should use aggressive entry tactics in non-emergency situations. (The text of the question, which recounted the Johnston tragedy and listed a few specific tactics, along with other info about the issue including extensive recommendations of how policy should change appears on our web site at http://stopthedrugwar.org/policeraids, and our Chronicle article about it appears at http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/511/two_thirds_oppose_SWAT_raids_kat... – it has continued to get traffic since the data compilation listed above, and now has almost 10,000 reads.) We got 66% of respondents on our side, including a majority of conservative and very conservative voters, politically a strong result.

There's a lot more to say about our issue expansion and our activist plans in the raids issue -- please email David Borden at [email protected] for further info.

ANTI-PROHIBITION ADVOCACY

Another question included in the aforementioned Zogby poll asked, "If hard drugs like heroin or cocaine were legalized, would you be likely to use them?" A mere 0.6% of respondents answered yes. While the poll should be thought of as more qualitative as quantitative -- people don't always predict their future behavior accurately -- the results clearly show that almost all Americans have strong reasons for not wanting to use these drugs that are not limited to the laws against them. Therefore the prohibitionists' specter of massive increases in addiction and social implosion following legalization isn't a sound assumption to make.

The web page http://stopthedrugwar.org/legalization presents this result, as well as links to our many "consequences of prohibition" news category feeds. We have also had video footage from the aforementioned 2003 legalization conference formatted for the popular YouTube web site, so that people can run the videos from their own web sites. Videos available so far are linked from the same legalization main page. A major component of our strategy is the idea of promoting the voices of respected leaders who are pro-legalization, in order to use the persuasiveness of their reputations to shift public opinion. With the web site successes of the past several months, and certain technical issues being addressed by a web site designer over the next couple of months, we will also soon be launching our VIP blogger series, also fitting into this strategy. Other publishing is on the way too.

DRUG WAR CHRONICLE AND SUPPORT FOR OTHER GROUPS

One of the particularly gratifying aspects of our web site success is that at times we have been able to bring other groups along with us. By this I refer primarily to the use of YouTube video – as mentioned above, a way that different web sites can easily present the same video clips without having to host copies of the footage on their own servers. Among our "big hits" articles are blog posts running video footage from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (one of their speakers posing a tough question to John McCain that he answers in an unbelievable way), the DrugTruth Network (an interview conducted during the NORML conference with federally legal medical marijuana patient Irv Rosenfeld), and MPP's "Granite Staters" New Hampshire presidential candidates and medical marijuana campaign. YouTube's stats indicate that roughly a third of the people visiting our web pages running these videos actually click to watch the videos (though after a certain amount of time the YouTube stats start omitting older data).

The stats also indicate that our relative effectiveness for getting out the drug reform message in terms of number of people can actually be greater than the most widely visited web sites that cover lots of different issues. For example, of the 36,000+ readers we had on the aforementioned John McCain story, nearly 13,000 clicked to watch the video itself, accounting for more than half of the total views the video has gotten. An article about the encounter on the widely-read Huffington Post blog, by contrast, garnered not quite 1,400 views for the video. Our post with the Irv Rosenfeld video on DrugTruth, and our post featuring outrageous McCain and Giuliani footage responding to a medical marijuana patient with Granite Staters, both have garnered over 40,000 reads. Hence, our cooperative approach of promoting the work of other organizations has extended to the new web site format, and we are thereby in some cases getting them a lot of exposure.

Here are a few of the testimonials we've received recently for how readers put the Chronicle to use:


I read Drug War Chronicle assiduously to be up to date on the failing drug war.
- Gustavo de Greiff, former attorney general of Colombia, chair of Latin American drug reform network REFORMA

As LEAP [Law Enforcement Against Prohibition]'s representative in Washington, DC I read without fail the weekly Drug War Chronicle and have for years. This allows me to quickly and without wasted time know what events and people are shaping policy. To date I have met with staffers from half of the 535 offices on Capitol Hill. Years of reading the Chronicle have made me informed and able to speak knowledgeably on all facets of the New Prohibition. It is an invaluable tool I use constantly.
- Officer Howard J. Wooldridge (Retired)

The Drug War Chronicle is the first place I send people who want to know more about what is going on in drug policy today.
- Tyler Smith, Associate Director, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative

I'm an award-winning investigative journalist. I've heard about things on DRCNet that I then turned into articles for the likes of Rolling Stone and Wired magazines.
- Vince Beiser

Drug War Chronicle is useful for me and my staff to keep us up to date on issues around drug policy and practice. We hear from hundreds of DC prisoners caught up in this nightmare and have little time to keep current on the issues you report on.
- Philip Fornaci, Director, D.C. Prisoners' Project, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights

I find Drug War Chronicle very helpful in doing grassroots activism. I serve on my county's Substance Abuse Advisory Board and Substance Abuse Prevention Association and as the community co-chair for the Washington State HIV Prevention Planning Group. I have used information from Drug War Chronicle to bring others in my community to recognize the need for drug policy reform. As a member of the Substance Abuse Advisory Board I have been able to circulate materials to all members of county government.
- Monte Levine

I host a weekly radio program where we discuss issues related to the failed war on drugs and the prison industrial complex. We use the DRCNet as a resource every week. DRCNet makes this activism work so much easier, by providing a resource that is accessible, not only as a tool for research, but as an interpreter in this political world. Occasionally, a guest will need to cancel at the last minute. This hazard is part of live radio, and our way of being prepared is to have the DRCNet information in hand, ready to share with listeners.
- Sharon North, Shattered Lives Radio, KZFR, 90.1 FM, Chico, CA.

Here in the Netherlands we use a lot of your paper to write our own monthly "war in drugs journal" made by the Legalize! Foundation.
- Has Cornelissen, Stichting Legalize!

I use stories from Drug War Chronicle to lead high school juniors and seniors in an on-going inquiry into the Drug War as a model of failed public policy. DWC enables me to track current issues, update my materials, and stay connected to the drug policy reform community so I can continue my work of developing in young people a deep and critical understanding of the world in which they are coming of age.
- Jeanne Polk Barr, Chair, History Dept., Francis W. Parker School, Chicago

I am editor of The Liberator Online, a libertarian email newsletter. With almost 70,000 readers, it is as far as we know the largest-circulation libertarian publication of any kind. It is published by the Advocates for Self-Government, a non-profit non-partisan libertarian educational organization. I use Drug War Chronicle and DRCNet as a source for information on Drug War-related issues of interest to our readers. In fact, we have a story based on a DWC item (Sen. Mike Gravel's support for drug law reform) in our current issue.

I used information in an article to help form a scholarship for those convicted of a drug crime who have lost federal funding for school. Now, we are aiming to expand the scholarship to other universities and community colleges. Thanks for your help!

WEB SITE DEVELOPMENT PLANS

Plans in the works for StoptheDrugWar.org have the potential to achieve as much for the site's reach and impact as the work already done has achieved. Along with some needed improvements and fixes to our logon, commenting, and list subscription frameworks, we will be executing major improvements to how we promote our material to the aforementioned "Web 2.0" sites that have driven so much traffic to our site already. Right now, we are only doing a good job of promoting our material to the site Digg, and only for our blog posts. Our minor redesign will make the Digg links on our pages more prominent, will add them to our Drug War Chronicle pages and elsewhere, and will add links to promote articles to other important sites where we've had some success already, like Stumbleupon, Reddit and Netscape. This is a logical extension of a strategy that has already been very successful.

Plans are also underway to dramatically expand the background information we have available on all the different drug policy issues, using the technology available through our web site system to present it in some pretty powerful ways. (Here again, more later.)

I hope you can tell from the foregoing how excited we are about the state of DRCNet's work at this juncture, and how important we feel it is to continue to push forward at full strength. With your continued support, we will build on our successes reaching wider online audiences. We will take on the explosive issue of reckless police raids. We will expand the coalition opposing the college aid drug conviction penalty to include the similar laws in welfare and public housing. We will get the message out about the urgent need for legalization and the impressive people who support that viewpoint. We will continue to publish Drug War Chronicle to empower activists throughout the drug policy reform movement, and to educate the media, policymakers and the general public. And we will put in place new, important sections of our web site to increase the reach and impact of our educational work even further. Thank you for your support and for being part of the cause.

Sincerely,


David Borden, Executive Director

P.S. Contributions of $50 or more can be credited toward our first (not-yet-selected) book premiums of 2008. (You'll need to remind us after we send out the premium announcements next year.) Remember that tax-deductible donations should be made payable to DRCNet Foundation. (The amount that is deductible will be reduced by the retail price of any gift(s) you select.) Non-deductible donations for our lobbying work should be made payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network.

P.P.S. In case you would like to donate at this time, I am providing the information here for your convenience: DRCNet Foundation (for tax-deductible donations supporting our educational work) or Drug Reform Coordination Network (for non-deductible donations supporting our lobbying work), P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, or http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate online. (Contact us if you'd like information on donating stock.)

P.P.P.S. Please feel free to call us at (202) 293-8340 if you'd like to discuss any of our programs or have other questions or concerns.

back to top

2. Federal Budget: Drug Czar's Ad Campaign Takes a Hit, DC Can Do Needle Exchange, But More Funding for Law Enforcement

The Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign took a major hit as Congress finalized the fiscal year 2008 budget this week, and the District of Columbia won the right to spend its own money on needle exchange programs, but when it comes to drug war law enforcement, Congress still doesn't know how to say no. Instead, it funded increases in some programs and restored Bush administration budget cuts in others.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ondcpad-small.jpg
less of this next year
The media campaign, with its TV ads featuring teens smoking pot and then shooting their friends or driving over little girls on bicycles, among others, saw its budget slashed from $99 million this year to $60 million next year -- less than half the $130 million requested by the Bush administration.

"It's a mixed bag for sure," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "They cut the anti-marijuana commercials, but at the same time they gave a lot of money to law enforcement. There was some trimming around the edges, but Congress didn't do anything about fundamentally altering the course of the drug war."

The Justice Department budget was the source of much, but not all, of the federal anti-drug law enforcement funding, including:

  • $2.1 billion for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a $138 million increase over 2007, and $53 million more than the Bush administration asked for.
  • $2.7 billion in state and local law enforcement crime prevention grants, including the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, which fund the legion of local multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task forces. That's $179 million less than in 2007, but the Bush administration had asked for only about half that.
  • $587 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, $45.4 million more than last year. The Bush administration had proposed cutting the program to nearly zero.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/capitolsenateside.jpg
US Capitol, Senate side
But the appropriations bill that covers ONDCP also had some money for law enforcement, namely $230 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, $5.3 million more than this year and $10 million more than the Bush administration requested. That program, which coordinates federal, state, and local anti-drug law enforcement efforts continues to be funded despite criticism from taxpayer groups.

"It seemed all year that the Democrats would try to restore some of the cuts from previous years, and they did," said DPA's Piper. "On the one hand, the Democrats say they want to quit locking up so many people, but at the same time, they're passing out money like candy to law enforcement, and that only perpetuates the problem," he added, citing the Justice Policy Institute's recent report showing that the more money that goes to law enforcement, the more people get arrested for drug offenses, and the greater the proportion of black and brown people locked up for drug offenses.

The funding cut for ONDCP's widely ridiculed media campaign was a bright spot for DPA, which, along with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has been lobbying for the past three years to kill the program. The two groups were joined on the Hill this year by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and all of them hailed the at least partial victory on media campaign funding.

In repeated federal studies, the media campaign has been found to be ineffective -- and sometimes even perverse, in that some studies have found exposure to the campaign make teen drug use more, not less, likely. Among those are a series of reports by Westat commissioned by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse and a Government Accountability Office review of the Westat studies.

"It's $60 million more than the program should be getting, but it is a significant reduction, and we're really happy with it," said Tom Angell, SSDP government relations director. "The federally funded evaluation shows it actually causes teens to use more drugs, not less. In the most objective analysis, the program is simply not working. We shouldn't be spending a dime of taxpayer money on that," he said.

"That's a step in the right direction," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for MPP. "The drug czar's ad campaigns have been largely based on misinformation and exaggeration, and anything that reduces that is a good thing. Since the drug czar has shown he has no interest in doing appropriate and factual drug education, the ideal funding level would be zero, but we're getting closer," he said.

"At its height, the ad campaign was getting $200 million a year, and now we've got it down to $60 million," said DPA's Piper. "Thankfully, Rep. Serrano and the other Democrats had the courage to cut this stupid and ineffective campaign. We've been lobbying to kill it outright, but it's really hard just to cut a program, let alone kill it in one fell swoop. We have to do it in baby steps," he said.

Congressional concern over ONDCP media operations also manifested itself in another section of the appropriations bill that restricts it and other federal agencies from producing video news releases (designed as "prepackaged news stories" for local TV news programs) unless they are clearly labeled as being funded by that agency. In a GAO report examining ONDCP video news releases, the government watchdog agency qualified them as "covert propaganda."

Also as part of the omnibus appropriations bill, the District of Columbia has won the right to spend its own money on needle exchange programs, which it had been barred from doing by congressional conservatives. But Congress did not go so far as to undo the 1998 rider authored by then drug warrior Rep. Bob Barr that blocked the District from enacting a medical marijuana law approved by the voters.

All in all, as Piper said, "a mixed bag." Drug reformers win a handful of battles, but the drug war juggernaut continues full ahead and federal money rains down on drug war law enforcement like a never-ending shower. And those federal funds seed the state and local drug war machine where most of the action takes place.

"Congress needs to stop paying the states to do bad things," said Piper. "The drug war perpetuates itself because the states don't have to pay the full costs; the feds subsidize it, so the states have little incentive to reform. But the vast majority of drug arrests are by the states, and they should have to pay the full cost for police and prisons and all those expenses associated with the drug war. Until that happens, it's going to be hard to get reform at the state level; that's why it's so sad the Democrats are undoing some of those cuts that Bush made."

back to top

3. Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice," by Ethan Brown (2007, Public Affairs Press, 273 pp., $25.95 HB)

When a Baltimore hustler clothing line manufacturer and barber named Rodney Bethea released a straight-to-DVD documentary about life on the mean streets of West Baltimore back in 2004 in a bid to further the hip-hop careers of some of his street-savvy friends, he had no idea "Stop Fucking Snitching, Vol. I" (better known simply as "Stop Snitching") would soon become a touchstone in a festering conflict over drugs and crime on the streets of America and what to do about it.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/snitchbook.gif
In a steadily rising crescendo of concern that reached a peak earlier this year when CBS' 60 Minutes ran a segment on the stop snitching phenomenon, police, politicians and prosecutors from across the country, but especially the big cities of the East Coast, lamented the rise of the stop snitching movement. Describing it as nothing more than witness intimidation by thugs out to break the law and get away with it, they charged that "stop snitching" was perverting the American justice system.

Not surprisingly, the view was a little different from the streets. Thanks largely to the war on drugs and the repressive legal apparatus ginned up to prosecute it, the traditional mistrust of police and the criminal justice system by poor, often minority, citizens has sharpened into a combination of disdain, despair, and defiance that identifies snitching -- or "informing" or "cooperating," if one wishes to be more diplomatic -- as a means of perpetuating an unjust system on the backs of one's friends and neighbors.

At least that's the argument Ethan Brown makes rather convincingly in "Snitch." According to Brown, the roots of the stop snitching movement can be traced directly to the draconian drug war legislation of the mid-1980s, when the introduction of mandatory minimums and harsh federal sentencing guidelines -- five grams of crack can get you five years in federal prison -- led to a massive increase in the federal prison population and a desperate scramble among low-level offenders to do anything to avoid years, if not decades, behind bars.

The result, Brown writes, has been a "cottage industry of cooperators" who will say whatever they think prosecutors want to hear and repeat their lies on the witness stand in order to win a "5K" motion from prosecutors, meaning they have offered "substantial assistance" to the government and are eligible for a downward departure from their guidelines sentence. Such practices are perverse when properly operated -- they encourage people to roll over on anyone they can to avoid prison time -- but approach the downright criminal when abused.

And, as Brown shows in chapter after chapter of detailed examples, abuse of the system appears almost the norm. In one case Brown details, a violent cooperator ended up murdering a well-loved Richmond, Virginia, family. In another, the still unsolved death of Baltimore federal prosecutor Richard Luna, the FBI seems determined to obscure the relationship between Luna and another violent cooperator. In still another unsolved murder, that of rapper Tupac Shakur, Brown details the apparent use of snitches to frame a man authorities suspect knows more about the killing than he is saying. In perhaps the saddest chapter, he tells the story of Euka Washington, a poor Chicago man now doing life in prison as a major Iowa crack dealer. He was convicted solely on the basis of uncorroborated and almost certainly false testimony from cooperators.

The system is rotten and engenders antipathy toward the law, Brown writes. The ultimate solution, he says, is to change the federal drug and sentencing laws, but he notes how difficult that can be, especially when Democrats are perpetually fearful of being Willy Hortoned every time they propose a reform. The current glacial progress of bills that would address one of the most egregious drug war injustices, the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity, is a sad case in point.

Brown addresses the quickness with which police and politicians blamed the stop snitching movement for increases in crime, but calls that a "distraction from law enforcement failures." It's much easier for cops and politicians to blame the streets than to take the heat for failing to prosecute cases and protect witnesses, and it's more convenient to blame the street than to notice rising income equality and a declining economy.

While Brown doesn't appear to want to throw the drug war baby out with the snitching bathwater, he does make a few useful suggestions for beginning to change the way the drug war is prosecuted. Instead of blindly going after dealers by weight, he argues, following UCLA professor Mark Kleiman, target those who engage in truly harmful behavior. That will not only make communities safer by ridding them of violent offenders, it will reduce the pressure to cooperate by low-level offenders as police attention and resources shift away from them.

Cooperating witnesses also need greater scrutiny, limits need to be put on 5K motions, cooperator testimony must be corroborated, and perjuring cooperators should be prosecuted, Brown adds. Too bad he doesn't have much to say about what to do with police and prosecutors who knowingly rely on dishonest snitches.

"It was never meant to intimidate people from calling the cops," Rodney Bethea said of his DVD, "and it was never directed at civilians. If your grandmother calls the cops on people who are dealing drugs on her block, she's supposed to do that because she's not living that lifestyle. When people say 'stop snitching' on the DVD, they're referring to criminals who lead a criminal life who make a profit from criminal activities... What we're saying is you have to take responsibility for your actions. When it comes time for you to pay, don't not want to pay because that is part of what you knew you were getting into in the first place. Stop Snitching is about taking it back to old-school street values, old-school street rules."

Playing by the old-school rules would be a good thing for street hustlers. It would also be a good thing for the federal law enforcement apparatus. It's an open question which group is going to get honorable first.

back to top

4. 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!

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/dc-beer-raid-small.jpg
prohibition-era beer raid, Washington, DC (Library of Congress)

Since last issue:

Scott Morgan brings us: "Drug Dealers Open Fire on Santa Claus Helicopter," "Candy Flavored Meth is Safer Than Regular Meth," "Congress Just Says No to Anti-Drug Propaganda," "If You Oppose Harm Reduction, You Support AIDS and Death," and "Dutch Police Insist on Smoking Marijuana Off-Duty."

David Guard posts numerous press releases, action alerts and other organizational announcements in the In the Trenches blog.

Please join us in the Reader Blogs too.

Thanks for reading, and writing...

back to top

5. 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.

back to top

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

In New York City, the Brooklyn South Narcotics Squad is again under investigation, this time after two undercover cops were taped referring to blacks as "niggers" and a third generated large numbers of civilian complaints. The foul-mouthed narcs, who posed as drug users for buy-and-bust operations in Coney Island, were chatting with each other and not assuming undercover personas when they made the remarks. They are now on desk duty pending further investigation. The third officer, a plainclothes detective also working the drug squad, was put on desk duty last month for receiving a high number of complaints from the Civilian Complaint Review Board. This is just the latest problem for Brooklyn South. Last year, 40 sergeants and lieutenants in the Brooklyn South vice squad were transferred after a handful of cops stole high-end electronics during raids on gambling dens and clubs and placed them in the station house. Three more Brooklyn South officers are accused of breaking into a massage parlor they had raided to steal surveillance tapes that may have cleared suspects. Four years ago, 26 detectives with the Narcotics Squad were demoted to patrolman after they were caught in an overtime scam, and that same year, a female lieutenant sued her narc supervisors for sexual harassment. The beat goes on.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Santa Fe police drug squad is back in business after operations had been suspended for a year while federal investigators looked into the department's narcotics and burglary division. Police Chief Eric Johnson stopped all city narcotics investigations in November 2006, when the FBI informed him of their investigation. It has so far resulted in the arrests of Sgt. Steve Altonji and Det. Danny Ramirez, who are accused of stealing money from drug dealers. Now, Chief Johnson says two Santa Fe officers have been assigned to the Region Three Narcotics Task Force, and they have already conducted their first undercover sting at a local park.

In Boston, a former Boston police officer was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison December 12 for protecting a cocaine shipment for what he thought were Miami drug dealers but who turned out to be undercover federal agents. Former Officer Carlos Pizarro, 37, was one of three Boston cops arrested last year after going to Miami to collect $35,000 from the "dealers" to escort a truck they thought was carrying 100 kilos of cocaine. Pizarro, and the other two cops, Roberto Pulido and Nelson Carraquillo, had all pleaded guilty to conspiracy and attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Pizarro is the first to be sentenced.

In Daytona Beach, Florida, a Daytona Beach police officer was arrested Saturday after being caught stealing cash and drug paraphernalia left as bait by investigators. Robert Rush, 29, a Crime Suppression Team member, is charged with official misconduct. Daytona Beach Police said they acted after repeated citizens' complaints about Rush. On December 13, they put $90 and a crack pipe in a van and set Rush and his partner to investigate for drug sales activity. As investigators watched, Rush returned to the station and entered the crack pipe as evidence, but never admitted to seeing or taking the cash. When he left duty, other officers pulled him over and found the $90, which he claimed he just forget to tag. He was suspended on Saturday and fired this Wednesday.

In Austin, Minnesota, an Austin police captain was arrested Monday for stealing two prescription pill bottles of Oxycontin filed as evidence. Captain Curt Rude has admitted to taking the pill bottles and now faces charges of felony theft, felony 5th degree drug crime and gross misdemeanor interference with property in official custody. He was placed on administrative leave last month, after the theft was first reported. He is currently on paid administrative leave. Rude faces up to 10 years in prison on the theft count and five years on the drug count. [Ed: Corruption or desperation?]

In Zanesville, Ohio, a Zanesville police officer was among five people arrested on drug charges December 12. Officer Donald Peterson, 53, is accused of arranging cocaine deals and selling prescription drugs, some of which he confiscated during traffic stops, while in uniform. According to a criminal complaint unsealed the following day, Peterson said there were others in the department who could provide him with prescription drugs. He went down thanks to a "cooperating informant," who said Peterson arranged for him to buy eight $20 bags of crack on one occasion, sold him six morphine tablets and two painkillers on another, and offered to pay him in drugs if he would baby sit Peterson's children on yet another. Peterson wife, Serritha, 29, was also arrested on charges she sold morphine tablets and other painkillers to the informant. All five arrested are charged with distribution of a controlled substance and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and each faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted. Peterson's downfall came in the wake of the October arrest of Zanesville officers Sean Beck and Trevor Fusner, who were plotting a fake police raid to steal a cocaine shipment. During the investigation of that pair, Peterson's name came to light.

In Longview, Texas, a Gregg County jail guard was arrested Monday for bringing illegal drugs into the North jail facility. Eric Sanders, 21, is accused of delivering contraband to jail inmates and has now become one himself, at the main Gregg County Jail. He is charged with having a prohibited substance in a correctional facility, a third-degree felony. He has also been fired. No word on just what drug it was.

In La Grange, Kentucky, a Texas Department of Corrections guard was arrested December 15 and charged with bringing marijuana, alcohol, a pornographic DVD, and tobacco into the Roederer Correctional Complex in La Grange. Guard Joshua Bertholf, 26, faces two counts of first-degree promoting contraband for the pot and booze and two counts of 2nd-degree promoting contraband for the porn and smokes. He has now been demoted from working at the state prison to residing at the Oldham County Detention Center.

back to top

7. Law Enforcement: Chicago's Courts Are in Crisis, and the Drug War Is a Big Contributor, Report Finds

Judges in Chicago's main Criminal Court Building at 26th and California hear some 28,000 felony cases a year, with each judge hearing about 800, or about four per judge per work day. Nonviolent, drug-related charges make up more than half of them, according to a report recently released by the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Social Justice, a research and advocacy organization focused on social justice and governmental effectiveness, especially regarding the criminal justice system. The clogging of the courts with low-level drug offenders is a major factor in a gravely dysfunctional criminal justice system, the report concludes.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cookcountycourthouse.jpg
Cook County court house (chicagopc.info)
Based on more than 100 interviews with criminal justice system professionals, more than 160 hours of courtroom observation of more than 500 proceedings, interviews with victims, defendants, witnesses, and family members, and surveys of judges, prosecutors, and public defenders, A Report on Chicago's Felony Courts is a thorough, comprehensive, and eye-opening look at the way justice is served in one of the nation's largest cities.

"The sheer volume of cases in Chicago's felony courts overwhelms the judges,
prosecutors, and public defenders," the report notes in the first sentence of its executive summary. After enumerating the dimensions of the crisis, the report's authors go on to make a series of findings and recommendations aimed at everyone from the state legislature (it "has overburdened the criminal courts by passing criminal laws without regard to cost, impact, or resources" and should quit doing so) to the Cook County Board (quit using the courts for patronage, provide them with sufficient resources) to the 26th Street court administrators (increase professionalism, improve facilities).

But the bulk of the report's recommendations are devoted to dealing with nonviolent drug offenders. As the authors noted in describing the problem: "Non-violent, drug-related charges make up more than half of the cases. When asked to identify changes they would like to see in the criminal justice system, more than a third of the professionals focused on drug cases. There was nearly unanimous frustration: 'Drug cases have crippled the system,' said one prosecutor. Another prosecutor said: 'We've become a factory mill, just concerned with the disposition of the case. There's not enough consideration of if the person needs prison time or needs an extra attempt at rehabilitation.' The volume of drug prosecutions is dealt with through assembly-line plea bargaining. There is a feeling of grim reality among courtroom professionals about the system's inability to rehabilitate addicts, but there is no consensus about how to deal with drug abuse. Many judges believe that the existing alternative treatment programs are ineffective. Another prosecutor said that the system 'has no choice' but to ship offenders to prison.

"Because of the restricted sentencing options," the authors continued, "prosecutors and judges try to avoid treating these drug cases as felonies, especially for first-time offenders. 'People charged with small amounts of possession usually are dismissed because of the number of cases,' notes one prosecutor, 'and those are the cases that should be getting treatment alternatives.' There is also a strong incentive for defendants to plead guilty to drug charges to avoid harsh minimum sentences. Even though reduced charges in drug cases may allow for probation instead of jail
time, many offenders fail probation because the system does not provide the supervision and rehabilitation needed to return them to productive society. One former probation officer told us, 'adult probation that provides only one unsupervised check-in is useless as a way to give real services.' Judges vary as to whether they enforce the conditions of probation. Probation cannot work without a well-funded, consistently applied program."

Noting that many drug offenders can be rehabilitated and arguing that their potential value as productive members of society merits more flexibility, the report made the following recommendations:

  • Increase funding for and oversight of the probation system.
  • Expand the use of private, community-based organizations for supervised, rehabilitative probation.
  • Redefine young, nonviolent offenders as a "post juvenile" category of defendants.
  • Expunge criminal record after successful completion of probation.
  • Create up to four new drug courts with a focus on diversion/treatment programs.
  • Facilities are needed with courtrooms dedicated exclusively to narcotics cases in which the defendants are eligible for diversion and cases involving mental health issues.
  • Create, through legislation, a station adjustment model for dealing with possession of small amounts of controlled substances. [Editor's Note: A "station adjustment" allows police to handle a matter without involving the court system, i.e. with a warning or a referral to a treatment program.]
  • The drug school concept, operated on a deferred prosecution basis by the State's Attorney's Office, should be expanded. The Juvenile Drug School Program, eliminated due to budget constraints, should be re-established.
  • Increase training for defense counsel, prosecutors, and judges about the availability of diversion and treatment programs.
  • In creating legislation, attention should be paid to replacing mandatory minimum jail sentences with treatment and rehabilitation alternatives.

Chicago area judges, politicians, and legislators have expressed interest in the report and its findings. Whether that interest holds past the next news cycle remains to be seen. In the meantime, the wheels of justice grind on in the City of Big Shoulders, but just barely.

back to top

8. Sentencing: New Jersey Moves to Shrink "Drug-Free Zones," Cops Protest

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D), all 21 county prosecutors, and the state sentencing commission all agree that the Garden State's drug-free zone law is ineffective, racially unbalanced and should be amended, but some New Jersey law enforcement officials disagree. While Corzine and his allies want to cut back on the drug-free zones, these police officials are pushing for even stiffer penalties.

Under current New Jersey law, anyone caught selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school or 500 feet of a park, public building, or public housing is subject to increased penalties, including mandatory minimum sentences. Under the proposal presented by the state and embodied in a pending bill, A2877, the drug-free zones would be cut back to 200 feet, sentences would be increased for sales within the zones, but the mandatory minimum sentences would be dropped.

Drug-free zones became popular as a law enforcement tool designed to protect kids from drug dealers, but as the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing pointed out in a 2005 report and again in a supplemental report this year, the zones cover huge swathes of urban New Jersey, effectively submitting black and brown city dwellers to much more severe penalties than those faced by their white suburban or rural counterparts. According to the commission, 96% of people jailed under the law are black or Hispanic.

The drug-free zone laws had another pernicious effect as well: Although they did not stop drug dealing within the zones, they did result in stiff mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted. Selling a bag of weed in the zone got you a year in prison, while selling a rock of crack got you three years. As a result, more defendants fought their cases, clogging the courts with low-level drug dealers.

In addition to clogging the courts, prosecutors also complained that the mandatory minimums meant there was little wiggle room for plea deals, leaving them without cooperating witnesses to make further drug cases. As a result, prosecutors have effectively ditched the mandatory minimums for anyone who would accept a plea bargain. Now, only those who contest their charges in court and lose are hit with the mandatory minimums.

But while the governor, the prosecutors, and the sentencing commission want to further reform the drug-free zone law, some police want to go in the opposite direction. "Leave it at 1,000 feet," said Rahway Police Chief John Rodger. "And increase the penalty in the 200-foot zone," he told the Home News Tribune this week.

Still, Rodger conceded that he could not recall any drug deals taking place in or near schoolyards, a sentiment shared by veteran Middlesex County Prosecutor Caroline Meuly. The drug-free zone law has "a laudable goal," she said, "but I can't think of any (criminal case) file where people have sold to children or targeted them."

Reforming New Jersey's drug-free zone law as Corzine and crew suggest would be an improvement, but it would still be aimed primarily at low-level urban minority drug dealers. Better to limit it to cases of actual sales of drugs to youths, or repeal it outright.

back to top

9. Drug Treatment: Federal Budget Provides Same Funding or Small Increases for Treatment, Prevention Programs, But Reduces Safe and Drug-Free Grants Program

As part of the half-trillion dollar omnibus appropriations bill approved by Congress this week and expected to be signed shortly by President Bush, drug treatment and prevention funding was approved with small changes from last year. Most treatment and prevention programs saw level funding or small increases, with the exception of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities grants program, which took a significant hit.

Under the spending measure, drug and alcohol education, prevention, treatment and research programming will receive the following amounts:

  • The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant will receive $1.7587 billion, funding roughly level to FY 2007 and the President's budget request.
  • The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) will receive $399.8 million, $895,000 over FY 2007 and $52 million over the President's budget request.
  • The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) will receive $194.12 million, a $1.2 million increase over 2007 and $37.6 million over the President's request.
  • The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities (SDFSC) State Grants program will receive $294.76 million, a cut of $51.7 million from last year's funding but $194.7 million over the President's FY 2008 budget request.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will receive $1.001 billion, $2 million over FY 2007 and $1 million more than the President's budget request.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) will receive $436.26 million, a $674,000 million increase over last year's funding and approximately $700,000 less than the President's budget request.

While the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities grant program was slashed to just under $300 million, that is still almost $200 million more than the Bush administration requested. Other areas of the federal drug budget changed too -- see feature story this issue for further information.

back to top

10. Death Penalty: Malaysia to Execute Man for Marijuana, China to Execute Man for Meth

Even as the UN General Assembly voted this week for a death penalty moratorium, two Asian nations were once again exercising the ultimate sanction against drug offenders. In Malaysia, a man faces death for less than two pounds of marijuana, while in China, a man has been sentenced to death for trafficking in methamphetamine.

In Malaysia, Razali Ahmad, 33, was found guilty of trafficking marijuana Tuesday after police searched his house and found 858 grams. In Malaysia, the charge of trafficking carries an automatic death sentence.

Meanwhile, a Chinese court Monday sentenced Hao Chen to death for being a ringleader in a meth trafficking organization in southern Guandong Province. Five other ring members were sentenced to terms ranging from 15 years to life. The sentences were for trafficking about three pounds of meth.

In addition to the UN General Assembly's condemnation of the death penalty in general, the use of the death penalty against drug offenders has generated a campaign by harm reductionists to end such practices. Look for an in-depth report on all of this in the coming weeks.

back to top

11. Europe: Finland to Set Guidelines for Medical Marijuana Use

The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health announced Monday that it will draw up guidelines to accommodate the use and prescribing of medical marijuana. The move comes a year after the National Agency for Medicines granted its first special permission for a patient to use the plant.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/dutchmedmj.jpg
Dutch marijuana prescription
In that case, in which a man suffering chronic pain from a back injury obtained a prescription from a Dutch physician, the agency originally rejected his application, saying that under its interpretation of Finnish law, prescribing marijuana was absolutely prohibited. But the patient appealed to the regional Administrative Court, which overturned that decision.

The National Agency for Medicines then granted the permission for one year. It was recently extended for another year after reports that the patient's condition was improving.

But more broadly, the court ruling has forced the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to produce regulations to accommodate medical marijuana use and prescription. Those changes are expected to take place in a few months. According to YLE News, medical marijuana prescriptions will require the approval of the National Agency for Medicines.

back to top

12. Mexico: Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Introduced

A bill that would remove the threat of jail from marijuana consumers was introduced in the Mexican congress late last month. Introduced by Social Democratic Alternative Party Deputy Elsa Conde after being developed in working sessions with a group of marijuana experts and activists known as Grupo Cañamo, the copy of the bill presented to congress was written on hemp paper.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/elsaconde.jpg
Elsa Conde
The bill is the first of a proposed four-part package that will also include legislation on industrial hemp, medical marijuana, and the rights of consumers.

The bill would reform the penal code so that, while marijuana use remains illegal, it would be punished not by jail time but with "informative and educational" sanctions that would protect the health and freedom of users without exposing them to "our deficient penitentiary system," Conde said.

The limit proposed for possession is a relatively stringent two grams. The bill would also allow for up to three plants.

The bill, said Conde, would also "contribute to the battle against organized crime by focusing on those who profit from the trade," not consumers.

"We are looking to decriminalize a debate largely suppressed in our society and we appeal for a critical, scientific, and unbiased examination of a plant that, without being innocuous, has never represented a serious public health problem and that nobody, ever, has suffered a grave harm to his health by consuming it occasionally or habitually, not even by abusing it -- a quality that many other substances, including legal ones like alcohol and tobacco, lack," said Deputy Conde as she introduced the bill. "To sum up, we recognize that, eventually, the use or abuse of marijuana could represent a public health problem, but what is most harmful to our society is the policy of absolute prohibition. Keeping this in mind, we call on the legislature, the executive branch, and our society to assume the task of reducing the harm as a shared responsibility."

While proponents of the bill claim it has public backing, the prospects for rapid passage appear to range from slim to none. Conde is one of only four Alternative members seated in Mexico's 500-member congress, and while members of all of the big three political parties have expressed interest in marijuana law reform, that is still a minority position within those parties. Still, as the government of President Felipe Calderon prepares to gear up its war on drugs with an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars in US assistance, it is heartening to see some evidence of a counter-current.

back to top

13. Canada: The Drug Business is Booming, Says Mounties Report

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) issued its annual report on the state of the drug fight on Monday, and the report shows that prohibitionist Canadian drug policies have largely failed to make illicit drugs more expensive or less available, but have fostered the growth of organized crime. The RCMP doesn't quite put it like that, though.

"The involvement of organized crime has significantly expanded the Canadian illicit drug trade, posing a major threat both domestically and internationally," the RCMP noted. "In fact, criminal organizations that previously specialized in one drug commodity type have now branched out into multi-commodity trafficking, importation and exportation. These organizations are powerful, well-connected and are dealing in high profit-yielding illicit ventures across the globe."

The report, Drug Situation in Canada -- 2006, provides an overview of the Canadian drug trade and highlights new and emerging trends. It is based on drug arrest and seizure statistics compiled by the RCMP.

No matter which illicit drug the report examines, it is difficult to find success at suppression. Although marijuana grow busts have declined in British Columbia, production remains stable in Ontario and Quebec, Canada supplies almost all its own marijuana, smugglers over the US border have grown increasingly sophisticated, and organized crime groups involved are branching out, the report found.

The Mounties reported seizing 1.7 million plants and 13,000 kilograms of marijuana in 2006, but noted the estimated size of the Canadian marijuana crop is between 1,400 and 3,500 metric tons, suggesting that enforcement efforts have had marginal impact. "Marihuana production remains an evolving and very lucrative industry, which continues to attract the attention of organized crime groups," the Mounties noted.

As for other drugs, "cocaine remains readily available across the country," the ecstasy situation was characterized by "wide availability and steady use," with "elevated levels of domestic production and distribution," while "methamphetamine availability continues to expand eastward," with Canadian "super labs" increasing even as overall meth lab busts declined. As for heroin, "There have been marginal changes in the supply and demand for heroin in Canada over the past year. The availability and purity of heroin have not declined and prices remain mostly stable."

Overall, the RCMP said the value of drugs seized in 2006 was $2.3 billion, with marijuana seizures accounting for nearly $2.2 billion of that. Still. with an illicit drug economy the RCMP estimates at somewhere between $11 and $45 billion annually, drug law enforcement is as failed in Canada as it is in the US.

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to address this failure with what is essentially more of the same and has introduced legislation that would increase penalties for drug trafficking offenses and introduce mandatory minimum sentences for some of them. But the RCMP report should throw cold water on the idea that one can reduce drug use or availability through enforcement.

back to top

14. Weekly: This Week in History

December 24, 1912: Merck patents MDMA. Its psychoactive effects remain unknown for more than 60 years, but the drug eventually becomes popularized under the slang term "ecstasy."

December 25, 1994: The Buffalo News reports, "Troubled with three long-term sentences he felt forced to make in recent weeks, US District Judge John T. Curtin says he will stop hearing drug cases in the coming year rather than continue to be part of a system of punishment that 'just isn't working.'" Curtin says he would rather see the federal government spend more money on education, counseling, and drug prevention programs, rather than towards putting people in prison. "You don't even have to think of it in moral terms. In financial terms, it just isn't working," Curtin said.

December 23, 1995: A British Medical Journal editorial entitled "The War on Drugs" states, "The British government's drug strategy for the next three years states baldly 'There will be no legalisation of any currently controlled drugs.' But some legalisation would help."

December 26, 1997: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that San Francisco Supervisor Gavin Newsom said it is time to treat heroin abuse less as a crime and more like a medical problem. He added that efforts to halt drugs at the border or to "Just Say No" have failed.

December 24, 1998: The Times (UK) reports that the Prince of Wales expressed an interest in the effectiveness of cannabis in relieving the pain of diseases such as multiple sclerosis. During his annual visit to the Sue Ryder Home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, he asked MS patient Karen Drake: "Have you tried taking cannabis? I have heard it's the best thing for it." Drake, 36, said afterwards: "I was surprised but I think I would like at least to try it. Anything that can help relieve the pain can only be for the good."

December 24, 2001: The North Carolina Lexington Dispatch reports the dismissal of 65 criminal cases investigated by three county narcotics officers charged in a federal indictment with conspiracy to distribute drugs. According to a federal affidavit issued in the case, law enforcement officers abused their authority in one or more ways, including writing fake search warrants, planting evidence and fabricating charges, keeping drugs and money seized during arrests, attempting to extort more money from the people arrested, and intimidating suspects and potential witnesses.

December 22, 2003: The Annenberg School for Communication (ASC) at the University of Pennsylvania releases a report on the Office of National Drug Control Policy's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. ASC was contracted by ONDCP to analyze the campaign as a whole and their work on marijuana specifically. ASC found there is little evidence that the tens of millions being spent every year are having any discernible impact on use of or attitudes toward marijuana among the nation's youth.

December 25, 2003: The Philippine Star reports that the campaign to rid the island of drugs by 2010 has resulted in cramming jails and paralyzing the justice system.

December 27, 2004: The Washington Post runs an article about FDA approval of MDMA/cancer anxiety research and the general renewal of research into the therapeutic potential of MDMA and psychedelic compounds.

back to top

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.

back to top

16. 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.

back to top

17. 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!

back to top

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

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/appointmentbook.jpg
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.

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

Drug War Issues

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