Drug War Chronicle #523 - February 15, 2008

1. No Relief in Sight: Reynosa, Mexico, Military Occupation Yields No Let-Up in Drug War Violence

Mexican soldiers poured into Reynosa and other border towns in the state of Tamaulipas last month in response to a wave of drug prohibition-related violence. They haven't stopped the violence, but they have put the screws to some sectors of the local economy and committed some human rights violations. Few observers there or across the river think the answer lies in Washington's proposed massive anti-drug aid package.

2. Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the US Prison System," by Silja Talvi (2007, Seal Press, 356 pp., $15.95 PB)

With "Women Behind Bars," investigate journalist Silja Talvi has produced a tour de force that should shame every American who reads it -- and, one can only hope, help to propel them to take action.

3. Appeal: Three Exciting New Book Offers for Our Donating Supporters

We are pleased to offer the works "Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide for Managing Drugs and Alcohol," "Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the US Prison System," and "Cannabis: Yields and Dosage," as our latest membership premium gifts.

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

A Pennsylvania cop's bad habits get him in trouble, a Boston cop goes to prison for steroids and perjury, and a Texas Department of Public Safety technician goes away for a long, long time for ripping off the lab's cocaine stash.

5. Sentencing: Faced With Swollen Prisons, Idaho Ponders Reforms

With its prisons stuffed to the gills with drug offenders thanks to years of legislative "tough on drugs" initiatives, Idaho is now beginning to look for alternatives. One comes in a bill that would allow judges to divert "addicts" convicted of drug sales to treatment instead of giving them mandatory prison time.

6. Medical Marijuana: California Vending Machines Draw Ire of UN Narcs

Medical marijuana vending machines, oh my! The International Narcotics Control Board expresses its "concern."

7. Opiate Maintenance: Open Season on Methadone Clinics and Clients in the Indiana Legislature

Indiana's methadone clinics and patients are under attack in the Indiana legislature -- again. This time, pols want to make clinic patients have designated drivers and test them for marijuana. At least a proposal to bar them from bringing their children to the clinic has died -- for now.

8. Civil Rights: Pennsylvania Bill Would Allow Involuntary Commitment of "Drug Dependent" People

A bill that would allow families to petition courts for the involuntary commitment for drug treatment of their "drug dependent" family members has been filed in Pennsylvania. It is unlikely to go anywhere, but it is such a creepy example of drug war totalitarianism that it's worth noting.

9. Marijuana: Washington ACLU Wants to Start a National Conversation

The ACLU of Washington state is going on the offensive with a campaign unveiled this week designed to start a national conversation about marijuana policy. The multimedia campaign features Rick Steves in a 30-minute video and has lots of other goodies for would-be debaters, too.

10. Web Scan

Idaho, Plan Mexico, pain, Afghanistan, medical psychedelic use, stimulant regulation, "Making Pot Legal," more...

11. Middle East: Tel Aviv Seeks to Begin Heroin Maintenance Program

The city of Tel Aviv has proposed a pilot heroin maintenance program for recalcitrant older users. Now it is seeking approval from the Israeli Ministry of Health.

12. Canada: Smell of Pot No Grounds for Arrest or Search, Says Saskatchewan Appeals Court

Even if an officer smells the odor of burning weed coming out of your vehicle, that's not enough for him to arrest or search you -- at least in Saskatchewan. That's what the provincial Court of Appeals ruled recently, and the Crown isn't going to appeal that decision.

13. Weekly: This Week in History

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

14. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"On the Border in the Lower Rio Grande Valley," "Residents Rallying Around SWAT Raid Target Ryan Frederick," "Michael Mukasey's Cracked Crack Logic," and "Monsters Retake Thailand's Government and Vow to Resume Mass Drug War Murders," "Travel Expert Rick Steves Speaks Out Against Marijuana Laws," "Now That We've Forgiven Barack Obama's Drug Use, Can We Forgive Everyone Else Too?," "Protest Against Police Violence is Monitored From Above by Police Snipers," "Hey Barack Obama, Fixing Marijuana Laws is Smart Politics," "Drug Czar's $2.7 Million Super Bowl Ad Gets Terrible Viewer Ratings," "Quote of the Day," "Kevin Sabet Responds," "Drug Czar Speechwriter Requests Special Treatment at UN Forum."

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1. No Relief in Sight: Reynosa, Mexico, Military Occupation Yields No Let-Up in Drug War Violence

In the latest move in his ongoing war against Mexico's powerful and violent drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels -- President Felipe Calderón last month sent some 6,000 Mexican soldiers and federal police into the cities on his side of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, from Nuevo Laredo down to Matamoros. They disarmed the municipal police forces, who are widely suspected of being in the pay of the traffickers, established checkpoints between and within cities, and are conducting regular patrols in Reynosa and elsewhere.

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Reynosa/Hidalgo border crossing (courtesy portland.indymedia.org)
The crackdown on the Tamaulipas border towns came after a bloody year last year. According to the Reynosa-based Center for Border Studies and the Protection of Human Rights (CEFPRODHAC), drug prohibition-related violence claimed 67 lives in Tamaulipas border towns last year. But it was only after a violent shootout in Rio Bravo (between Reynosa and Matamoros) last month that resulted in several traffickers killed and nearly a dozen soldiers wounded, and the cartel's retaliatory attacks on army patrols in the center of Reynosa the next day that Calderón sent in the soldiers.

Since then, the military occupation has put a damper on the economy -- and especially the nightlife -- of Reynosa and other valley border towns, but it hasn't stopped the killing. According to CEFPRODHAC, as of Tuesday, 18 more people have been killed in the Tamaulipas drug wars so far this year, accounting for the vast majority of the 25 killings overall. In Reynosa, a whopping 12 of the city's 14 homicides this year were related to the drug war, including one Sunday night.

If the army hasn't stopped the killing, it has brought the city's tourist economy to a near halt. Several bar and club owners in the Zona Rosa, the tourist zone near the international bridge said they had been ordered to close at 10:00pm by soldiers or police. They also said it barely mattered, because they weren't getting any business anyway.

"We used to have the Texans coming across to party," said one club owner who asked not to be named. "Now they don't come. They don't want to be harassed by the soldiers."

Workers in some of Reynosa's seedier industries -- prostitutes, strip joint workers, pirate taxi drivers -- even led a protest march two weeks ago, complaining that the occupation was making it impossible for them to earn a living. (A pair of Reynosa businessmen who absolutely declined to go on the record claimed that the march was backed by the narcos, but that is a charge that is yet unproven.)

While Calderón's resort to sending in the army -- more than 20,000 troops have been deployed to hotspots in the past year -- has won praise in Washington and even some support among Reynosans tired of the violence, it is also leading to a spike in human rights abuses, according to CEFPRODHAC. "We have had 11 complaints of abuse filed with us since the soldiers came," said Juan Manuel Cantú, head of the group's documentation office. "One in Rio Bravo and 10 here. People are complaining that the soldiers enter their homes illegally, that they torture them, that they steal things from their homes -- electronic equipment, jewelry, even food. The soldiers think they're at war, and everyone here on the border is a narco," Cantú complained.

CEFPRODHAC dutifully compiles and files the complaints, Cantú said, but has little expectation that the military will act to address them. The military opened a human rights office last month, but it has so far made little difference, he said. "Until now, there is no justice. When the complaints go to SEDENA [the office of the secretary of defense], they always say there are no human rights violations."

When the abuses come at the hands of the police or the military, victims or relatives will at least file complaints, even if they don't have much expectation of results. But when it comes to abuses by the narcos, the fear of retaliation is too great for the victims or their families to complain. "People don't want to talk about those crimes," said Cantú. "They won't talk to us or the official human rights organizations, they won't talk to the military, they won't talk to the federal police. They feel threatened by the narcos."

Paired with Brownsville and McAllen on the Texas side, Reynosa, Matamoros, and the other cities on the Mexican side are part of a bi-national conurbation with a combined population somewhere around three million. (Roughly 700,000 people in the McAllen area, 400,000 in the Brownsville area, 700,000 in Matamoros, another 500,000 in Reynosa, and a few tens of thousands scattered in between). Spanish is the most commonly heard tongue on both sides of the border. While the military occupation and the drug war violence (for the most part) is restricted to the Mexican side, the drug trade and the drug war are felt on both sides, albeit in different ways.

Mike Allen is vice-chair of the Texas Border Commission, a non-governmental entity that seeks to represent the interest of elected officials on the Texas side of the Rio Grande. Among the commission's primary concerns are facilitating cross-border trade and fending off what it sees as bone-headed responses to concerns about security on the border.

Number one on the commission's list of complaints is the planned border wall, which is set to cut across South Texas, forcing landowners to go through distant gates to get to portions of their property beyond the fence and, according to unhappy local officials, damaging the environment without serving its stated purpose of controlling the border. Local officials and landowners are now engaged in legal battles with the Department of Homeland Security as the department threatens to exercise eminent domain to seize property for the wall.

"The wall is a huge waste of money," said Allen. "Those of us living here know that. The Mexicans will go over, under, or around it. But you have to remember that 99% of the people coming across that border are trying to get jobs. They're not criminals or terrorists or drug traffickers."

But some of them are, he conceded, pointing a finger at his own compatriots. "The reason we have so much drug trafficking here is that we have so many American citizens taking drugs," said Allen. "It doesn't matter what we do -- the drug trafficking will continue one way or another because there is such a demand for it in the US."

The drug trade has not adversely affected local economies, said Allen. That is perhaps an understatement. While the Lower Rio Grande Valley has high indices of poverty, it also has gleaming office towers, numerous banks, high-end specialty stores, thrumming traffic, and gigantic shopping centers like La Plaza in McAllen, where the JC Penney's store stays open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and everyone -- customers and employees alike -- seems to be speaking Spanish.

"We have more banks here than we have 7-11s," former DEA agent and valley resident Celerino Castillo chuckled ruefully. "This is supposed to be a poor area, but everybody's driving Escalades."

But while the drug trade may not have hurt business along the border, the drug prohibition-related violence associated with it has -- on both sides of the border. "People hear about those shootings, and they don't want to cross the bridge into Mexico," said Allen. "A lot of Americans don't want to cross into Mexico, and that means some of them won't be coming here on their way," he said.

And while there is much noise about corruption in Mexico, that door swings both ways, said Castillo, who first came to public attention when he exposed US-linked drug-running out of El Salvador's Ilopango Air Base during the Central American wars of the 1980s in his book Powderburns.

"There is corruption on both sides of the border," said Castillo. "The drug war isn't about stopping drugs; it's about lining pockets. That's why this billion dollar aid package is just bullshit. We've been fighting this war for 30 years, and we're worse off than when we started."

Castillo regularly works gun shows in the area selling Vietnam-era memorabilia, and he said he regularly encounters cartel members there. "They're always showing up looking for weaponry," he said, "along with members of the Mexican military. It's very, very busy."

Some handguns are in high demand by cartel members, said Castillo. "They really like the Belgian FN Herstal P90 because they can easily remove the serial number," he explained. "These things retail for $1,000, but cartel buyers will turn around and pay $2,500 for them, and whoever takes them across the border gets $4,000 a weapon," he said.

Other, heavier, weapons and munitions are not available in the civilian gun market, but that just means the cartels use other networks, Castillo said. "The heavy weapons, the grenade launchers, the mass quantities of ammo are only available in military armories, here or in Central America. We sell tons of weapons to the Salvadoran Army, and it's my belief they're turning around and selling them to the cartels."

The drug trade thrives off poverty of both sides of the border, said one local observer. "In reality, you can put a lot of money into policing, but people have to eat, people have to survive," said Marco Davila, a professor of criminology at the University of Texas-Brownsville. "If there are no jobs, you have to do something. It's not just the drug trade, there is also prostitution, theft, and other forms of deviance."

What is needed on both sides of the Lower Rio Grande Valley is real assistance, not massive anti-drug programs for law enforcement, said Davila. "You can put that money wherever, but if the people are still hurting, it will be a toss-up whether it will work. The people who need money are not the cops and soldiers," he said.

CEFPRODHAC's Cantú agreed with that assessment. "That money isn't going to make us safe," he said. "It won't do anything good. If the soldiers get that US aid, it will only mean more violence. They are prepared for war, not policing. What we need are programs for drug education and prevention, even here in Mexico, but especially in the United States," he said. When asked about drug legalization, Cantú was willing to ponder it. "It might stop the violence," he mused.

On the Texas side, said Davila, a culture of poverty traps whole generations of poor Latinos. "Look at these kids in Brownsville," he said. "They have no hope. They've given up. They're not talking about trying hard. They're saying 'We're gangsters, we're gonna sell drugs.' People used to have tattoos of the Virgin of Guadelupe, but now she's been replaced by Scarface."

On the other side of the river, poverty drives the drug trade, too -- as well as illegal immigration. "The Mexicans are just broke, scared, and hungry. They have nothing else," said Davila. "If they don't want to go into an illegal trade, like drug trafficking, they come across the border any way they can. People are putting their lives on the line to cross that river," he said.

And many of them are paying the ultimate price. According to reports from Reynosa human rights watchers, 75 would-be immigrants drowned in the Rio Grande between Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros last year. Another five have drowned already this year.

And so it goes on the Mexican border. Just as it has for the past 20 years, when in yet another stark example of the law of unintended consequences, then President Reagan appointed Vice President George Bush to head a task force designed to block Caribbean cocaine smuggling routes. From that moment, what had previously been relatively small, local, family smuggling operations carrying loads of marijuana into the US began morphing into the Frankenstein monster known as the cartels.

Mexico and the United States are inextricably intertwined. A solution to the problems of drug abuse and the violent black market drug trade is going to have to be a joint solution. But few observers on the ground think throwing more money at Mexico's drug war is the answer.

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2. Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the US Prison System," by Silja Talvi (2007, Seal Press, 356 pp., $15.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

Forty years ago, some 11,000 women were imprisoned in the United States. By 2004, that number had skyrocketed to 110,000, and if you add in the women in jails on any given day, the number of women behind bars is around 200,000 -- many, many of them on drug charges.

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While the overall US prisoner population has rapidly increased over the past few decades, the growth in the number of women behind prison far surpasses the overall rate. Yet most studies of the US prison and jail systems focus on the much larger male prisoner population. That's something investigate journalist Silja Talvi hopes to redress with "Women Behind Bars," and she has done an outstanding job of it.

Visiting numerous prisons -- not only in the US, but also, for comparative purposes, in Canada, England, and Finland -- and conducting hundreds of interviews with prisoners, guards, and advocates, as well as perusing the academic literature, Talvi has constructed a portrait of the US criminal justice system's treatment of women that is a harsh indictment of not only our prisons, but also the culture that perpetuates the resort to mass incarceration as a response to social problems.

It is not easy reading. After all, who wants to read about women prisoners being sexually harassed and raped by guards, who wants to read about prison wings full of mentally disturbed women prisoners screaming incessantly or rubbing feces on their cell walls, who wants to read about women prisoners committing suicide after being locked into cell-like "suicide prevention" rooms seemingly designed to drive them over the edge? Who wants to read about some of the weakest and already most brutalized members of our society who turn to dope or prostitution (or, too often, dope and prostitution), only to be imprisoned for their "crimes"?

It's an ugly subject, and that's part of the problem. Nobody wants to think about our world-leading prison population or the agonies we inflict upon it. In fact, our prison system is geared to shutting them up behind grey walls hidden from the public eye and, hopefully, from the public consciousness. But Silja Talvi is determined to rip the scales from our eyes and force us to look at what we have wrought.

She does so with verve, grace, and humanity. Not only does Talvi bring a keen critical intellect to bear, she also gives voice to the voiceless, standing aside at times to let the women prisoners of America speak for themselves. Their tales of suffering are heartrendingly grim, sometimes seeming as if they were coming from the seventh circle of Hell. The treatment of mentally ill women prisoners is a scandal. The use of female prisoners as sexual playthings by corrupted prison guards is another.

All too many of those stories are because of the decades-long, relentless escalation of the war on drugs. For many reading these words, the story of the imprisonment juggernaut created by the drug war legislation of the 1980s and nurtured by political inertia ever since is an already familiar tale. But Salvi tells it again, eloquently and passionately. We meet women like Amy Ralston, who suffered in prison for more than a decade because she wouldn't rat out her estranged husband , and Regina White, a black woman from South Carolina doing 12 years after crusading pro-life prosecutors charged her with manslaughter for doing cocaine while pregnant -- even though there was no evidence linking her child's death to her drug use.

Talvi offers a harsh critique of the policies and practices that generate thousands of new women prisoners on drug charges, many of them only spouses or girlfriends of the law's actual targets. All too often, Salvi notes, these women end up doing more time than the real culprits even if they had little or no involvement in any drug conspiracies. Prosecutors routinely make conscious decisions to charge them as co-conspirators and send them up the river for years or decades despite knowing that the women are small change. It is a cruelty and cynicism that makes even the hardened heart weep.

Talvi isn't a prison abolitionist; she argues that there are indeed some people who need to be behind bars, but that that number is a tiny fraction of those who actually are, especially women. But she is ready to take on the drug war, sex laws, and other freedom-sucking laws and practices: "I personally would prefer to see the decriminalization or legalization of drug use, the legalization of all forms of consensual sex (including prostitution), far more opportunities for truly therapeutic intervention, prevention- and intervention-minded counseling, real vocational education, and a regular and fair parole review," she writes.

Her book, a cry from heart, will hopefully help hasten that process. We should all hope so, for as the Russian novelist Dostoyevsky once famously noted, "A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens, but by how it treats its criminals." As it should be, for we are all complicit in this by our silence.

In fact, as I ponder this, I am reminded of another quote, this one from a freedom-loving radical in our national past. "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." That was Thomas Jefferson. He's probably been spinning in his grave for so long, there's nothing left by now.

Maybe, just maybe, Silja Talvi will help save us from ourselves by forcing us to help those we victimize the most. Let's hope lots of people read this book and take its lessons to heart.

(Copies of Women Behind Bars are available as part of our latest membership offer.)

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3. Appeal: Three Exciting New Book Offers for Our Donating Supporters

We are pleased to announce our first membership premiums of 2008, three very different and important books:


Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the US Prison System. This work by Silja Talvi, one of the most active writers on criminal justice issues, draws on interviews with inmates, correctional officers and administrators, providing readers with a look at the devastating impact incarceration is having on our society.


Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide for Managing Drugs and Alcohol. Dr. Patt Denning offers a much needed guide to options for dealing with substance use issues that go beyond the conventional "all or nothing" approaches.


Cannabis Yields and Dosage, by court-certified cannabis expert Chris Conrad, is the authoritative study of the science and legalities of calculating medical marijuana.


Copies of Women Behind Bars or Over the Influence can be requested with donations of $30 or more -- donate $55 or more to receive both. Copies of Cannabis Yields and Dosage can be requested with donations of $20 or more -- donate $45 or more for Cannabis Yields and Dosages plus one of the others. Donate $70 and receive all three books as our thanks. We also continue all our other recent offers -- visit our donation page online to view all the offerings in the righthand column.


You can also preview Cannabis Yields and Dosage online at ChrisConrad.com -- the print copies we'll send you are thanks for your generous donations, and I hope you will donate. Your donations will help DRCNet as we advance our campaign to stop dangerous SWAT raids in routine situations; to take on new issues like the drug penalties in welfare and housing law; to advance the dialogue on drug legalization; to continue our stunning web site successes of the last third of 2007; while continuing to publish our acclaimed and widely-used newsletter, Drug War Chronicle.


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

A Pennsylvania cop's bad habits get him in trouble, a Boston cop goes to prison for steroids and perjury, and a Texas Department of Public Safety technician goes away for a long, long time for ripping off the lab's cocaine stash. Let's get to it:

In Erie, Pennsylvania, an Erie Police lieutenant was arrested Sunday night on charges he stole cocaine from the police evidence room for his personal use. Lt. Robert Liebel, 46, went down in a sting operation where investigators used surveillance equipment to watch him take 12 grams of coke out of a larger stash investigators had placed in the evidence room earlier in the day. When confronted, Liebel admitted having some of the cocaine in his hand and the rest hidden in the Erie police station. He told investigators he took it for his own use. We don't run corrupt cops stories about cops who merely use drugs, but in this case, the drug-using cop went bad when he stole from his employers, who in turn had taken the stash from private (albeit illegal) businesses. Now, he's trying to make a $100,000 bond.

In Boston, a former Boston police officer was sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison for distributing steroids and committing perjury and obstructing justice in an ongoing federal probe of police corruption. Former officer Edgardo Rodriguez, 38, went down after federal investigators in a 2006 case where three Boston cops were indicted for guarding cocaine shipments heard those cops mention steroid sales within the department on wiretapped phone calls. But it was the perjury and obstruction of justice by lying to a grand jury and trying to convince another Boston cop to do so that got the prosecutor and judge unhappy enough to give him jail time.

In Houston, a former Department of Public Safety technician was sentenced last Friday to 45 years in prison for stealing cocaine from the agency's Jersey Village crime lab. Former tech Jesse Hinojosa, Jr. had pleaded guilty in December to two counts of possession of more than 400 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute after he and three other men were arrested in a scheme to sell more than 50 pounds of coke stolen from the lab. The other three are doing 25, 25, and 45 years.

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5. Sentencing: Faced With Swollen Prisons, Idaho Ponders Reforms

With nearly 7,500 people behind bars in Idaho -- more than half of them for drug offenses -- the Idaho legislature is finally beginning to move away from the "tough on crime" posturing and infliction of mandatory minimum drug dealing sentences that helped create the current crisis. A bill with bipartisan support that would give Idaho judges the option to send people convicted of drug distribution offenses to treatment instead of mandatory prison terms if they are found to be addicts is on the move in Boise.

House Bill 516, sponsored by three Republicans and one Democrat, is in line for a full hearing at the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee this session. The bill would mark a departure for Idaho, which for years has responded to illegal drug use and sales by ratcheting up penalties.

But even the bill's sponsors are still playing to the punishment choir, if the Associated Press got it right. Rep. Nicole LeFavour (D-Boise), a cosponsor of the bill, told the committee Monday most people convicted of drug distribution offenses deserved harsh sentences. But, she said, those involved in small-time dealing because of their addictions should get a chance at treatment instead. "For these rare instances, this will allow for an alternative sentence by judges," she said. "If treatment is provided, that provides the best chance of recovering."

Under current Idaho law, most drug dealing convictions require mandatory minimum sentences of three to five years. Some methamphetamine and meth precursor offenses carry 10-year mandatory minimums, though.

The bill "ain't a bad idea," Rep. Dick Harwood (R-St. Maries) told the AP. "Our prisons are pumped full. It would be nice to give judges discretion about whether to send somebody to prison or to some other treatment program. In reality, they're the ones that are sitting on the front lines, not the legislators who are making the laws."

There is also a another bill aimed at sentencing reform in Idaho. Rep. Jim Clark (R-Hayden) has introduced a bill that would expand misdemeanor drug courts. It is aimed at stopping minor offenders from developing full-blown substance abuse problems. If these bills are truly harbingers of a new approach in the Gem State, it's about time.

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6. Medical Marijuana: California Vending Machines Draw Ire of UN Narcs

When medical marijuana vending machines appeared at a handful of Los Angeles-area dispensaries a couple of weeks ago, the press attention they received was enormous -- so enormous that it was heard deep in the bowels of the UN anti-drug bureaucracy in Vienna. Roused from its dogmatic slumber by the clamor, the UN's International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) issued a statement last Friday saying the machines violate international drug treaties and should be shut down.

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medical marijuana vending machine on CBS News
"The International Narcotics Control Board is deeply concerned about reports that computerized vending machines to dispense cannabis (marijuana) have been put into operation in Los Angeles," said INCB head Philip Emafo in the statement. "We know that the use of cannabis is illegal under federal law of the United States and we trust the authorities will stop such activities, which contravene the international drug control treaties," he added.

The federal government may not recognize medical marijuana, but it is legal under state law. So far, there is no indication that providing it via vending machines violates the state's medical marijuana laws, much less international treaties which only prohibit non-medical use. And so far, the DEA has not acted against them.

The machines have appeared in three Los Angeles dispensaries, and supporters say they are convenient for patients, secure, and could provide medical marijuana at lower prices. Qualified patients who wish to use the vending machines must provide documentation and fingerprints to the dispensary, which then issues them a card to insert in the machine.

While the INCB reiterated that marijuana is illegal under federal law, it also seemed to suggest that if marijuana was going to be used, its use should be controlled by a federal agency. "The control measures applied in California for the cultivation, production and use of cannabis do not meet the control standards set in the 1961 Convention to prevent diversion of narcotic drugs for illicit use," the INCB said. "Such standards require, inter alia, the control of cultivation and production of cannabis by a national cannabis agency, and detailed record keeping and reporting on the activities with cannabis, including reporting to INCB."

The INCB also took pains to note that it "welcomes sound scientific research on the therapeutic usefulness of cannabis," although it claimed that "so far, the results of research regarding the potential therapeutic usefulness have been limited." But in the same breath, it then complained that Canada and the Netherlands have authorized medical marijuana "without reporting conclusive research results to the WHO" and that "cannabis is used for medical purposes in some jurisdictions of the United States without having definitive proof of its efficacy."

Whether the INCB's "concerns" will spur action from either federal or state authorities remains to be seen. But with each new dispensary, each new delivery service, each entrepreneurial innovation like the vending machines, the medical marijuana industry is becoming ever more deeply entrenched in the social fabric of the Golden State. It may be too late for anybody to stop it -- even the UN.

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7. Opiate Maintenance: Open Season on Methadone Clinics and Clients in the Indiana Legislature

Indiana's methadone clinics and their clients are the target of close scrutiny by the state House of Representatives. Last month, the state Senate passed a bill, SB 174, that would tighten state regulation of the clinics, where people attempting to wean themselves from dependence on opiates are administered or allowed to take home doses of methadone as a substitute opioid.

The Senate bill may represent reasonable regulation of an industry in which some 10,000 people participate in Indiana, but it's a different story in the House. While the bill as passed in the Senate restricted itself to requiring clinics to adhere to state and federal law, register with the state, and meet certain record-keeping requirements, the House is trying to micro-manage not so much the clinics, but their clients.

On Tuesday, the House Health Committee unanimously passed SB 157, but not before approving amendments requiring that patients be tested for marijuana and that they have a designated driver after appointments. The committee narrowly defeated another amendment that would have barred patients from bringing their children with them to the clinics.

According to remarks reported in the Louisville Courier-Journal, the sponsor of the designated driver provision, Rep. Steve Stemler (D-Jeffersonville), said he added it because the FDA considers methadone in the same class of drugs as heroin, Oxycontin, and other opioids. Hospitals and medical centers require patients taking these medicines after outpatient surgeries and other procedures have a designated driver.

One witness, John Dattilo, who lives near the Southern Indiana Treatment Center, told the committee he is concerned about the safety of his family as they travel down a road with hundreds of methadone patients each day. "It's all about safety to me," he said. "We need help. We do need to put some restrictions on this."

But Tim Bohman, regional manager for the health care corporation that owns that clinic, told the committee patients have a high tolerance for opioids and can function normally after treatment.

At least one committee member, Rep. Carolene Mays (D-Indianapolis), worried the measure could push patients away from the methadone clinics. "I'm concerned we'll lose people in treatment who are riding a bus or walking or don't have a designated driver," she said.

Marijuana testing of methadone patients is necessary because some neighboring states require it, said Rep. Stemler. Indiana should not be a magnet for addicts from elsewhere because of its loose methadone laws, he said.

Indeed, about half of the 10,000 patients served by the state's clinics come from out-of-state. But perhaps that's not so shocking given the state's geographic position. At its northwest corner is Chicago, to the near northeast is Detroit, to the near southwest is Cincinnati, and directly across the Ohio River to the south is Louisville.

At least the committee rejected one more attempt to micro-manage methadone patients, an amendment by Rep. Terry Goodin (D-Crothersville) that would have banned patients from bringing their children to clinics. It was supported by Clark County Commissioner Michael Moore, who testified that "too many" patients bring their children with them when they come in early in the morning for treatments. Moore, who owns a restaurant near a clinic, said that he often saw them dozing off or acting erratically before or after treatment. "This is the kind of behavior that would make most social-service agencies jump in and act," Moore said.

But Rep. John Day (D-Indianapolis) managed to blunt Goodin's amendment, saying he worried that a single parent might have to miss an appointment if she could not bring her children. "That's a very real dilemma," Day said.

While Goodin then withdrew his amendment, saying it did not have enough support to pass, he said he would offer a similar proposal later.

This isn't the first time opiophobia has reared its head in the Indiana legislature. Last year, the legislature voted to enact a moratorium on new clinics. But this is the first time the legislature has zeroed in on patients -- with measures ostensibly designed to protect the public safety but whose real world result would be to drive patients away from the clinics.

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8. Civil Rights: Pennsylvania Bill Would Allow Involuntary Commitment of "Drug Dependent" People

A bill introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature would allow judges to order "drug dependent" people into involuntary drug treatment, including inpatient treatment, upon petition by that person's family members. Introduced by Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland (D-Delaware), HB 1594 would allow for repeated 90-day commitment orders -- apparently without end.

The bill would allow the courts to order a drug and alcohol assessment by a psychiatrist, a psychologist specializing in drug and alcohol assessments and treatment, or a certified addiction counselor. If the assessors deem the respondent in need of treatment, the court could impose a 90-day treatment order. Before that period is up, another hearing would be held and another 90-day treatment order could be issued. According to the bill, "The court may continue the respondent in treatment for successive ninety-day periods pursuant to determinations that the person will benefit from services for an additional ninety days. The court may also order appropriate follow-up treatment. If the court finds, after hearing, that the respondent willfully failed to comply with an order, the court may declare the person in civil contempt of court and in its discretion make an appropriate order, including commitment of the respondent to prison for a period not to exceed six months."

In other words, if a court deems you a drug dependent person in need of treatment, you can theoretically be detained indefinitely in treatment or even be sent to prison if the court is not satisfied with your progress.

What makes the bill especially frightening is the broadness of the standard definition of "drug dependence," the most widely used of which is that in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV). Under its criteria countless marijuana smokers -- and even coffee drinkers -- could be considered "drug dependent." According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2000, some 14.5 million Americans fit the definition.

According to Keystone State observers, the bill is unlikely to go anywhere. It has been sitting in committee for months. But given that it represents such a frightening example of the drug war's totalitarian impulse, it is worth noting.

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9. Marijuana: Washington ACLU Wants to Start a National Conversation

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU-WA) Wednesday launched a multimedia public education campaign designed to stimulate a national conversation on state and federal marijuana laws, their history, and their efficacy. The campaign, "Marijuana: It's Time for a Conversation," includes an in-depth web site, an informational booklet, and a 30-minute video on DVD with travel writer and public television host Rick Steves. Additionally, the material will be available to Comcast subscribers through that company's On Demand service.

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Rick Steves in ACLU-WA video
"I've traveled throughout Europe and seen how they handle marijuana use and enforcement. I've learned that more thoughtful approaches can work," said Steves. "We need the understanding to go beyond 'hard' or 'soft' on drugs and find a policy that is 'smart on drugs'."

"We spend billions every year and arrest hundreds of thousands of Americans simply for possessing marijuana. We need to ask whether our laws are really working. Are they doing more harm than good?" said Washington ACLU executive director Kathleen Taylor in a statement announcing the campaign.

Each year, roughly $7.5 billion is spent on marijuana law enforcement, and more than 800,000 Americans are arrested on marijuana charges, close to 90% of them for simple possession, the statement noted. Meanwhile, nearly 100 million Americans have used the popular plant.

"Enforcement clogs our courts and criminal justice system, diverting resources from more serious crimes against people and property," said Taylor. "At the same time, an arrest for just possessing marijuana has a life-changing impact on people. We heard of people losing jobs and financial aid for college, and of patients fearing that they may be unable to get medical marijuana even when their doctors recommend it."

"As a parent of two teens I care deeply about this issue," noted Steves. "I have seen how Europe has approached drug use as a public health issue instead of building more jails. I find it interesting that marijuana use in Europe among both teens and adults is actually less than it is here."

"We think this is one of those times and issues where the public knows things aren't working, people have talked about it privately, but there is little or no public discussion," said Taylor. "We intend to engage the public in a discussion. We're excited to see where it goes."

So... anybody want to start a conversation? The Washington ACLU is waiting to hear from you.

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10. Web Scan

Making Pot Legal: We Can Do It -- Here's How, Paul Armentano on Alternet

Despite Little Success in Colombia, Some U.S. Officials Continue to Push Crop Spraying in Afghanistan, Joseph Kirschke for World Politics Review

Marijuana Fact or Fiction interviews Ryan Davidson of Hailey, Idaho

Pain Relief Network petition for injunction against Kansas in Schneider case, and new PRN patient forums

Controlling Illegal Stimulants, a Regulated Market Model, Mark Haden in the Harm Reduction Journal, final version

BBC special on psychedelics in medicine, via Transform

World Bank/DFID Afghanistan report warns against aerial opium eradication in Afghanistan and cautions about manual eradication

The Culture of the Ban on Cannabis, Peter Cohen on CEDRO web site

Stop Plan Mexico public service announcement, on YouTube

Hillary and Obama, Ignore the Sleazy Pollsters Who Want You to Cave on Drug Reform, Steve Wishnia on AlterNet

Reflections: Bush Talks about His Own Drug Addiction Problems, Tony Newman on Join Together

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11. Middle East: Tel Aviv Seeks to Begin Heroin Maintenance Program

The Israeli city of Tel Aviv is moving to establish a pilot heroin maintenance program for older addicts who have proven resistant to recovery. Then the city's existing opioid maintenance programs, which now offer methadone and subutex, will have one more option in dealing with hardcore heroin users.

According to the Tel Aviv News, the city's social services division has formulated the program and the city has already drafted a position paper in support of the program. According to the plan, the heroin will be dispensed at carefully monitored clinics that will also provide medical and psychological services to their clients. Tel Aviv officials will soon present the proposal to the Israeli Ministry of Health for approval.

The program will cut crime, the city argued, citing statistics finding that 75% of property crimes are committed by addicts looking for their next fix. "Many addicts therefore lose control and find themselves unwitting criminals," stated the Tel Aviv Municipal Anti-Drug Authority's position paper.

The city also reported that only 20% of heroin users who entered a treatment program remained drug-free. "Fighting addiction demands immense mental and physical fortitude that many addicts simply don't possess," said Dr. Benny Avrahami, director of the anti-drug authority, who drafted the position paper.

The program could bring many advantages, including providing stronger support for addicts and their families, a reduction in the economic cost of treating them, a reduction in crime, and the use of clean, laboratory-produced heroin. If Israeli authorities approve the pilot program, Israel will join a select group of European countries, including Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where such program have consistently resulted in a decline in property crime, as well as improvements in clients' heath and welfare. Also allowing experimentation with heroin maintenance are Great Britain, which restarted it last year more than a decade after the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher had shut it down, and Canada, where the Vancouver North American Opiate Maintenance Initiative (NAOMI), is the only such program in North America.

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12. Canada: Smell of Pot No Grounds for Arrest or Search, Says Saskatchewan Appeals Court

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has ruled that the scent of burning marijuana emanating from a car window is not probable cause for an arrest and vehicle search. The decision came in the case of Archibald Janvier, who was pulled over for a broken headlight four years again in La Loche, Saskatechewan.

When the officer approached Janvier's truck, he said he could smell burnt marijuana. He arrested Janvier for marijuana possession based on smelling the burnt weed, then searched the vehicle and found eight grams and a list of names, which led to Janvier being charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking.

At trial, the judge found that the scent of marijuana created a suspicion it had been smoked, but did not provide "reasonable and probable" grounds for either the arrest or the search. To arrest him based simply on the scent of burnt marijuana violated his right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, the judge ruled as he declared him not guilty.

The Crown appealed the verdict, but the appeals court upheld the judge's verdict. That was the correct decision, said Ronald Piche, Janvier's attorney.

"Until now, police have used the smell of marijuana as reasonable grounds to arrest someone for possession of marijuana," he told Canwest News Service after the decision. "It always struck me as a little thin, frankly. It's frankly a lazy officer's way of giving out a warrant, and getting to check a vehicle out, and oftentimes finding some evidence."

It's hard to possess something that's already been smoked, Piche continued. "The smell alone can't constitute the grounds, because the smell of burnt marijuana -- as opposed to raw marijuana -- gives an inference that the material is gone, it's dissipated into the atmosphere. So how can you say you're in possession of something that doesn't exist?" Piche said. "There may be suspicion that the person is in possession of marijuana, but that's not enough to base an arrest."

Crown prosecutors, unsurprisingly, were not happy. Crown lawyer Douglas Curliss told Canwest the court's decision was based on the lack of any additional evidence to justify an arrest and search. "The court was of the view that all he had was the smell of burnt marijuana alone; he couldn't act." Still, he said, the Crown will not appeal the decision.

Is there a continental trend here? Last March, the Utah Supreme Court held that the smell of burning marijuana is not enough evidence for a warrantless home search. And just last month, a California Appeals Court ruled that even seeing someone smoking pot inside a home was not sufficient grounds for a warrantless entry.

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13. Weekly: This Week in History

February 21, 1971: The United States joins with other countries in signing the international Convention on Psychotropic Substances, in Vienna, Austria.

February 16, 1982: During a speech in Miami, Florida, George H. W. Bush promises to use sophisticated military aircraft to track the airplanes used by drug smugglers. By June, airborne surveillance time was running a mere 40 hours per month, not the 360 hours promised by Bush, prompting Rep. Glenn English to call hearings on this topic. By October, the General Accounting Office issued an opinion in which it found "it is doubtful whether the [south Florida] task force can have any substantial long-term impact on drug availability."

February 17, 1997: Legislation to repeal an 18 year-old state law permitting physicians to prescribe marijuana for patients suffering from cancer or glaucoma is voted down by a Virginia Senate committee in a 9-6 vote.

February 20, 1997: CNN reports that a prestigious panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health said there is promising evidence that smoking marijuana may ease the suffering of some seriously ill patients.

February 18, 1999: Dr. Frank Fisher, a pain doctor from Northern California, is arrested and charged with five counts of murder. After about six years of legal wrangling and having more charges levied against him, he is determined to be completely innocent.

February 18, 2000: President Clinton signs the "Hillary J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Drug Prohibition Act of 2000," categorizing GHB as a Schedule I drug.

February 21, 2001: The New York Times reports that a recent study released at a World Health Organization meeting found that American teens are more likely to smoke marijuana and use other illicit drugs than their European counterparts. While they are more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, only 17 percent of European 10th graders reported marijuana use, compared to 41 percent of American 10th graders. The study is interesting considering the US implements a zero-tolerance approach while many European countries tend to employ harm-reduction strategies and are generally more tolerant.

February 15, 2002: The ImpacTeen Illicit Drug Team releases a report entitled "Illicit Drug Policies: Selected Laws from the 50 States." The report says that state statutory drug laws vary significantly across the United States, contradicting a commonly-held assumption that state drug policies follow federal drug policy. For instance, depending on the state, a first time offender may be subject to anywhere from one year to lifetime imprisonment and $5,000 to $1 million in fines for the sale of one ecstasy pill. The report also shows that, as of January 1, 2000, 24 states and the District of Columbia enacted legislation allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, despite the federal government's objections.

February 19, 2004: Veterans and medical marijuana activists in San Francisco hold a protest/rally in front of San Francisco's Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic and ask doctors working for the Veteran's Administration to help provide better access to medical marijuana.

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14. 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!

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prohibition-era beer raid, Washington, DC (Library of Congress)

Since last issue:

Chronicle editor Phil Smith is "On the Border in the Lower Rio Grande Valley."

DRCNet executive director David Borden writes: "Residents Rallying Around SWAT Raid Target Ryan Frederick," "Michael Mukasey's Cracked Crack Logic," and "Monsters Retake Thailand's Government and Vow to Resume Mass Drug War Murders."

Blog editor Scott Morgan pens: "Travel Expert Rick Steves Speaks Out Against Marijuana Laws," "Now That We've Forgiven Barack Obama's Drug Use, Can We Forgive Everyone Else Too?," "Protest Against Police Violence is Monitored From Above by Police Snipers," "Hey Barack Obama, Fixing Marijuana Laws is Smart Politics," "Drug Czar's $2.7 Million Super Bowl Ad Gets Terrible Viewer Ratings," "Quote of the Day," "Kevin Sabet Responds" and "Drug Czar Speechwriter Requests Special Treatment at UN Forum."

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...

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15. 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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16. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

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

  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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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

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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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