Drug War Chronicle #525 - February 29, 2008

1. Crack Sentencing Gets a Hearing on Capitol Hill While Advocates Mobilize

With pressure mounting on Congress to do something about the disparities in sentencing for federal crack and powder cocaine offenses, a House committee held a hearing Tuesday, and activists took to the Hill to lobby for change.

2. Bush Drug Treatment, Prevention, and Recovery Budget Cuts Raise Chorus of Criticism

The Bush administration's proposed 2009 budget includes some significant cuts in drug treatment, prevention, and recovery spending. A chorus of critics, including some former federal drug fighters, say there has to be a better way.

3. In Memoriam: William F. Buckley, Conservative Supporter of Drug Legalization

The dean of contemporary American conservatism, William F. Buckley, died Wednesday at age 82. His was a pioneering conservative voice in favor of drug legalization.

4. 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.

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

A Texas court bailiff accused of peddling cocaine and selling guns to the Gulf Cartel, two TSA officials indicted for helping to smuggle drugs onto airplanes, and a California evidence tech with sticky fingers and a bad habit. Just another week on the corrupt cop front.

6. Money Laundering: US Supreme Court Skeptical of Government's Broad Interpretation

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in a case where the government is claiming that hiding money constitutes money laundering. The justices seemed skeptical.

7. Search and Seizure: US Supreme Court to Hear Case on Warrantless Vehicle Searches

The US Supreme Court Monday agreed to hear a case about whether police may search a vehicle after arresting a driver or occupant.

8. Sentencing: Vermont Bill Lowering Thresholds for Trafficking Charges Advances

Two weeks after it voted to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession, a Vermont Senate committee has voted to halve the quantities of heroin or cocaine necessary to trigger a trafficking charge.

9. Pregnancy: Arizona Bill to Force Meth-Using Mothers-To-Be Into Treatment Passes Committee

A bill that would allow child protective workers to order meth-using pregnant women into drug treatment against their will was approved by a state Senate committee Monday. It now moves to the Senate floor.

10. Europe: Denmark Parliament Approves Heroin Maintenance Pilot Project

Denmark could be the next European country to embrace heroin maintenance therapy. The Danish parliament approved a pilot program this week.

11. Latin America: Colombian Peasants Battle Police Over Coca Crops

As Colombian President Uribe attempts a massive manual eradication of coca plants, he is running into opposition from both angry peasants and armed rebels.

12. Weekly: This Week in History

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

13. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"Opponents of Marijuana Reform Constantly Contradict Themselves," "Save the Rainforest From the Drug War," "Should Candidates for Public Office Be Drug Tested?," "Thailand's Drug Strategy: Mass Murder Thousands of Drug Suspects," "Drug Czar Pledges to Finally Do Something About All These Pot Smugglers."

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

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15. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

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

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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. Crack Sentencing Gets a Hearing on Capitol Hill While Advocates Mobilize

With the early release of some crack cocaine prisoners set to get underway next week and pressure mounting to do something about the disparity between sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses, the House of Representatives this week turned its attention to the issue. A Tuesday hearing in the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security saw spirited discussion of both retroactive sentence reductions for current crack prisoners and a number of bills that seek to address the disparities between crack and powder sentences.

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Alva Mae Groves died in prison at age 86 while serving a 24-year crack cocaine sentence after refusing to testify against her children. (photo courtesy november.org)
Also Tuesday, as House members debated the merits of the various proposals, drug reform, civil rights, and civil liberties groups led a day of lobbying on the Hill. Key for the activists was maintaining retroactivity so that sentence reductions for crack offenders will apply to those currently imprisoned and persuading Congress members to come together behind a sentencing reform bill that will reduce disparities.

The day of lobbying was kicked off with a morning press conference featuring Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), and Chris Shays (R-CT), as well as former crack prisoners Dorothy Gaines and Michael Short, who was granted clemency in December by President Bush after serving more than 15 years. After that, it was on to the Hill.

"We were in meetings all day," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which joined forces with state delegations and national organizations including the ACLU, the Sentencing Project, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums in the day of action on the Hill. "There were a lot of good interactions, and there is a lot of optimism about the prospects for change on the Hill. There is a strong sense that legislation could move in the next week or two," he said.

The question is which legislation? At least four bills -- H.R. 79, H.R. 360, H.R. 4545, and H.R. 5035 -- that would address the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity have been introduced in the House, and there are more in the Senate. They mandate changes ranging from completely equalizing crack and powder sentencing to reducing the discrepancy to a ratio of 20:1.

Under current sentencing laws, written during the crack hysteria of the mid-1980s, it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine to earn a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, but only 5 grams of crack. That 100:1 disparity has resulted in the imprisonment of thousands of people, mostly black (even though most crack users are white), for lengthy periods of time.

"It appears that most members of Congress, as well as the public, agree that the current disparity in crack and powder cocaine penalties is not justified and that it should be fixed," said subcommittee chair Rep. Scott as he kicked off Tuesday's hearing. "However, there is not yet a clear consensus on what that fix should be."

The basis for the sentencing disparity between crack and powder was based not on science or evidence, "but political bidding based on who could be the toughest on the crack epidemic that was believed to be sweeping America several years ago," Scott said. "There is certainly no sound basis for a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the mere possession of five grams of crack, when you could get probation for possessing a ton of powder, because mandatory minimum sentences for powder only apply to distribution, not possession cases."

Scott then offered his bill, H.R. 5035, as the best fix. "It is a simple bill that goes the furthest in addressing the problems in the current cocaine sentencing laws," Scott said. "First, it eliminates the legal distinction between crack and powder cocaine, treating them as the same drug, which they are. The bill also eliminates all mandatory minimum sentences for cocaine offenses. And lastly, it authorizes funding for state and federal drug courts, which have both proven to be effective in preventing recidivism and saving money, when compared to longer periods of incarceration."

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), one of the architects of tough crack sentencing laws in the 1980s, was singing a different tune Tuesday -- as he has for some years now. "There's no question in my mind that those people who thought that people involved with possession of crack should be sentenced at higher thought that it would in some way serve the community better," he said. "Clearly, that is not the case, and we find that to take the discretion in determining who goes to jail and who doesn't go to jail is showing lack of confidence in our judges."

Rep. Jackson-Lee, whose own bill, H.R. 4545, also addresses the crack-powder sentencing disparity, said it was time to "finally eliminate the unjust and unequal" disparities and "right the wrongs" created by the harsh anti-drug laws of the 1980s. "For the last 21 years," said Jackson-Lee, "we have allowed people who have committed similar crimes to serve drastically different sentences for what we now know are discredited and unsubstantiated differences."

It wasn't entirely an anti-disparity, pro-reform love fest in the committee, though. Ranking minority member Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said that while he supported efforts to redress the crack-powder sentencing disparity, he was worried that the Sentencing Commission's decision to make changes in the sentencing guidelines retroactive would lead to the release of violent criminals. "As a former judge and chief justice, I am vigilantly reluctant to legislatively overturn the past judgment of judges or juries, who were in the best position to consider the offense and the offender," he said.

He was echoed by a Justice Department representative. "Any reforms should come from the Congress, not the US Sentencing Commission; and second, any reforms, except in very limited circumstances, should apply only prospectively, not retroactively," testified Gretchen Schappert, US Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, laying out the Justice Department position. "We continue to believe that a variety of factors fully justify higher penalties for crack offenses. It has been said, and certainly it has been my experience, that whereas powder cocaine destroys an individual, crack cocaine destroys a community." DOJ chief Michael Mukasey has been trying to stymie retroactive releases as well, and the DOJ home page currently devotes its top link to a speech he gave to the Fraternal Order of Police on the topic.

But the committee also heard from Michael Short, a Baltimore man who served nearly 16 years in prison for selling two ounces of crack before President Bush granted him clemency last year. "I know what I did was wrong," Short told the committee. "I sold illegal drugs, and I deserved to be punished. But what I did and who I was did not justify the sentence I received. And while today I am telling my story, it is also the story of many men that I know in prison, nonviolent offenders serving 10, 20 or 30 years for crack cocaine offenses. I did not need 20 years to convince me of the error in my ways, to punish me or to set me on a right path. My sentence was altogether too long. It was too long because of the way the law treats crack cocaine. Twenty years is the kind of sentence that drug kingpins should get -- big-time drug dealers. But I was not a drug kingpin. I was sentenced like one, because the drug I was convicted for was crack cocaine."

Short also took issue with the characterization by the Justice Department and some committee members of crack offenders as dangerous criminals. "I have heard some of the comments some people in positions of power have made about crack cocaine prisoners -- that we are violent gang members and that this is why our sentences have to be so much longer. I am not that person, and most of the people that I leave behind in prison aren't either," he said. "Although I made a terrible mistake, there was no violence in my crime. I was not a gang member. I was sentenced for such a long time because of a stereotype."

Now, with hearings having been held in both chambers of the Congress -- the Senate held one two weeks ago -- it is time to get those bills moving. And that is what is happening behind the scenes on the Hill, said Piper.

"Senators Sessions, Biden, and Hatch are sitting down and trying to work out a compromise," he said. "They're trying to come up with something they can all agree on that will also pass on the floor. My sense is that it will not be the complete elimination of the sentencing disparity, but somewhere in between Hatch's 20:1 ratio and Biden's 1:1. It will likely end up being 5:1 or 10:1," Piper predicted.

Reducing the crack-powder sentencing disparity would be a "wonderful development," said Robert Weiner, former public affairs director for drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey. "These sentences are just crazy, they're part of the gross distortion of the criminal justice system. If you're going to do the crime, you should do the time, but it should be the same time for the same crime," he said.

But the Justice Department's strident effort to roll back retroactivity could throw a wrench in the works, Piper warned. "That is a complicating factor," he conceded. "We hope to keep that out of any compromise bill. Thousands of families are waiting for their loved ones to come home soon, and we don't want to disappoint them."

Now, after years of inaction, Congress may finally act. But it's not a done deal yet, and there is many an obstacle between here and the passage of a bill that would restore a measure of justice to crack cocaine sentences.

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2. Bush Drug Treatment, Prevention, and Recovery Budget Cuts Raise Chorus of Criticism

The Bush administration's proposed Fiscal Year 2009 spending for drug treatment, prevention, and recovery includes significant funding cuts for some programs, and that has critics ranging from former federal drug warriors to the treatment and recovery community crying foul. While economic pressures may necessitate a lean budget, say the critics, cutting drug treatment, prevention, and recovery is not the way to do it.

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Bush administration drug strategy report and budget
Overall, substance abuse treatment and prevention funding within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the main conduit for such funds, will decrease from $2.35 billion this year to $2.27 billion next year. (See details of the SAMHSA budget here.) Other highlights and lowlights of the treatment, prevention, and recovery budgets include:

  • Funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program would see a small increase to $1.779 billion, but that increase would be earmarked for the most effective existing grant recipients.
  • The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) would receive $336.7 million, a decrease of $63 million from FY 2008, and a number of programs would be zeroed out, including the Recovery Community Support Program. Other losers include the Treatment Systems for the Homeless program (cut from $42.5 million to $32.6 million) and the Opioid Treatment Program/Regulatory Activities (cut from $8.9 million to $6 million). But funding for the Access to Recovery grant program would remain unchanged at $99.7 million, and drug court funding would increase from $15 million to $37 million.
  • The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) would receive $158 million, a decrease of $36 million from FY 2008.
  • Funding for the Center for Mental Health Services would be cut by $126 million.
  • The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities (SDFSC) State Grants program, which supports community-based prevention programming through the Department of Education, would receive $100 million, a decrease of $194.8 million.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) would receive $1.002 billion, a nearly $1 million increase over FY 2008.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) would receive $436.68 million, a $0.4 million increase over last year's funding.

"We're very concerned about these cuts and looking forward to working with Congress to restore the funding," said Pat Taylor, executive director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national organization advocating for those affected by substance abuse problems. "We're especially concerned about the elimination of the Recovery Community Services Program -- it's the only program that funds community recovery services," she said.

Even though the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report that accompanied the Bush budget claimed such programs are ineffective, thus justifying their being cut, Taylor said that report was wrong. "We know from the government's own data that these programs are highly effective at a relatively low cost," she said. "Funding has gone to organizations that have leveraged tens of thousands of volunteer hours in communities around the country."

"There's not a lot of money for treatment and prevention as it is," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Bush is also cutting law enforcement," Piper said, referring to proposed cuts in the Byrne Justice Action Grants program, "but we know which one Congress is more likely to restore."

"I've argued for years that it's a gross distortion of resources to deny as much funding as necessary for drug treatment, prevention, and education. That is how we stop the link between drugs and crime," said Robert Weiner, who as public affairs director under drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey frequently earned reformers' ire (on other issues). Weiner added that two-thirds of arrestees test positive for illegal drugs. "If we prevent it on the front side before forcing them into prison, we save literally billions of dollars and make productive citizens out of these people. The federal drug budget needs to be refigured to change its priorities," he said.

Weiner also had harsh words for the current drug czar, John Walters, for failing to protect his bureaucratic fiefdom. Under Walters, the drug budget under the control of ONDCP has declined from $19 billion to $13 billion.

"That's outrageous," Weiner complained. "Walters has his head in the sand and has been ceding authority. The point of his office was to create an overseer to ride herd on drug policy, but instead, Walters has just been a lackey to this politics of fear and terror and homeland security and has given away the store. It's not just individual programs, but an overall ceding of authority, and that's a shame."

Weiner isn't the only former federal drug warrior taking pot-shots at the Bush administration's drug policy spending priorities. John Carnevale, who served under four different drug czars and helped set federal drug budgets and strategies, ripped into the Bush administration earlier this month with a policy brief charging that it had consistently emphasized the least effective aspects of drug control policy.

According to Carnevale, supply reduction (law enforcement, interdiction, eradication) spending has grown 57% during the Bush years, while demand reduction (treatment, prevention, recovery) spending has increased by only 3%. The ratio between supply reduction and demand reduction spending is about 2:1, near where it has been historically despite repeated claims by federal drug fighters that they are shifting to a more balanced approach.

As Carnevale notes, "Research suggests that treatment and prevention programs are very effective in reducing drug demand, saving lives, and lessening health and crime consequences. It has demonstrated that attacking drugs at their source by focusing on eradication is expensive and not very effective. It has demonstrated that interdiction has little effect on drug traffickers' ability to bring drugs into the United States and on to our street corners where they are sold."

Perversely, however, interdiction funding increased the most during the Bush years, doubling from $1.9 billion in 2002 to $3.8 billion in 2009, while source country funding increased by 50%, law enforcement by 31%, and treatment by only 22%. Spending for drug prevention, on the other hand, actually declined by 25%.

"If research were our guide," wrote Carnevale, "then one would expect the opposite ordering of increases in budgetary resources for drug control. The failure to incorporate research into the budgetary process is a lost opportunity to produce results. The only positive news in this decade is the reduction in youth drug use, a trend which started in the previous decade. Today's discussion of drug policy performance overlooks the fact that adult drug use and rates of addiction remain unchanged in this decade."

The chorus of critics is not just complaining. Led by the treatment and recovery community, moves are afoot in Congress to seek a better mix when it comes to drug policy funding. Look for battles to come in committee hearing rooms and floor votes as advocates seek to restore funding to useful and effective programs.

"These cuts are very shortsighted and I don't think they will stand," said Taylor. "We are working with many allied organizations to support a different budget proposal that we will be distributing on Capitol Hill next week. There is a lot of interest there in moving forward instead of back."

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3. In Memoriam: William F. Buckley, Conservative Supporter of Drug Legalization

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William F. Buckley
William F. Buckley, the dean of American conservatism and advocate of drug legalization, died Wednesday at his home in Connecticut. He was 82.

Buckley, the scion of a wealthy Connecticut family, came to public prominence with the 1951 publication of "God and Man at Yale," a searing critique of what he saw as agnostic and collectivist tendencies among the faculty and curriculum of his alma mater. In 1955, he founded the National Review, the magazine that became the leading voice of post-war American conservatism and helped lead to the conservative renaissance that resulted in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

While Buckley spent much of his career fighting for main-line conservative causes like smaller government, he also used the National Review and his decades-long stint as the host of PBS' "Firing Line" to advance his views in favor of the legalization of drugs. Along with figures like Milton Friedman and George Schulz, Buckley was among the first conservatives to adopt an overtly pro-legalization position.

Writing in the National Review in 1996, Buckley made the case for legalization:

"A conservative should evaluate the practicality of a legal constriction, as for instance in those states whose statute books continue to outlaw sodomy, which interdiction is unenforceable, making the law nothing more than print-on-paper. I came to the conclusion that the so-called war against drugs was not working, that it would not work absent a change in the structure of the civil rights to which we are accustomed and to which we cling as a valuable part of our patrimony. And that therefore if that war against drugs is not working, we should look into what effects the war has, a canvass of the casualties consequent on its failure to work."

In that same article, Buckley expressed abhorrence at the degree to which drug war zealotry infected the criminal justice system:

"I have not spoken of the cost to our society of the astonishing legal weapons available now to policemen and prosecutors; of the penalty of forfeiture of one's home and property for violation of laws which, though designed to advance the war against drugs, could legally be used -- I am told by learned counsel -- as penalties for the neglect of one's pets. I leave it at this, that it is outrageous to live in a society whose laws tolerate sending young people to life in prison because they grew, or distributed, a dozen ounces of marijuana. I would hope that the good offices of your vital profession would mobilize at least to protest such excesses of wartime zeal, the legal equivalent of a My Lai massacre. And perhaps proceed to recommend the legalization of the sale of most drugs, except to minors."

Buckley's erudition, extensive vocabulary, and famously darting tongue, as well as his life-long commitment to conservative principles made him an iconic figure of the late 20th Century. His principled embrace of drug legalization made it all the easier for other conservatives to follow in his footsteps. Hopefully more will follow.

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

A Texas court bailiff accused of peddling cocaine and selling guns to the Gulf Cartel, two TSA officials indicted for helping to smuggle drugs onto airplanes, and a California evidence tech with sticky fingers and a bad habit. Just another week on the corrupt cop front. Let's get to it:

In Brownsville, Texas, a Cameron County court bailiff was arrested last Friday on charges he was dealing cocaine and selling high-powered weapons to Mexico's Gulf Cartel. Oscar Pena, 26, was one of two men arrested after a five-month joint investigation by local authorities, the FBI, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) known as Operation Dirty Pig. His charges range from weapons charges to operating a continuing criminal enterprise to possession of cocaine. In raids associated with the arrests, police seized 14 assault rifles, five semi-automatic handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, large amounts of ammunition, a bullet-proof vest, $3,000 in cash, and more than a kilo of cocaine.

In Atlanta, two Transportation Security Administration officers and a Delta Airlines employee were indicted Tuesday on charges related to an alleged drug-smuggling operation at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. TSA employees Jon Patton, 44, and Andre Mays, 24, and Delta employee Leslie Adgar, 42, are charged with conspiring to distribute narcotics and attempted distribution of cocaine and heroin. They went down after they agreed to let a man smuggle two kilos of cocaine past security and onto a Delta flight to New York in exchange for $8,000 in December. Unfortunately for the Atlanta trio, their smuggler was also a snitch for the DEA who set them up for two more runs, this time with fake cocaine and heroin. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $4 million. The trio are currently out on bond.

In Vacaville, California, a former Solano County sheriff's evidence technician pleaded no-contest last Friday to seven felony counts related to the theft of pharmaceutical drugs stored in an evidence room. Sean Colfax Wilson, 35, was facing a 179-count criminal complaint when he copped a plea to two counts of possessing Vicodin and Oxycontin for sale, three counts of burglary, one count of embezzlement of evidence and one count of falsifying evidence. Wilson, who had worked as an evidence tech for the county for two years, was arrested in December 2007 after investigators discovered a large variety of prescription drugs had gone missing. After his arrest, Wilson's attorney told the court Wilson had a substance abuse problem and had taken the drugs for personal use, but he still copped to possession for sale. He faces an April sentencing date and he sits in jail until then.

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6. Money Laundering: US Supreme Court Skeptical of Government's Broad Interpretation

In oral arguments Monday, the US Supreme Court displayed considerable skepticism about the Justice Department's broad interpretation of federal money laundering laws. The arguments came in Cuellar v. US, in which Mexican national Humberto Cuellar was convicted of money laundering for concealing some $83,000 under the floorboards of his car as he headed for Mexico.

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Cuellar was stopped on a Texas highway about a hundred miles north of the border for driving too slowly and veering onto the shoulder. Officers smelled marijuana on a roll of bills in his pocket, then sought and received Cuellar's permission to search his vehicle. During the search, they found the cash hidden away.

Cuellar was subsequently convicted of money laundering, but appealed, arguing that the simple act of concealing money did not constitute money laundering under the 1986 federal money laundering law. Under that law, it is a crime to take the profits from "some form of unlawful activity" out of the country while hiding or disguising its nature, location, source, ownership, or control. The question the court must decide is whether merely hiding the money is sufficient to support a money laundering conviction.

While the Justice Department argued that concealing money as part of a plan to illegally take it out of the country indeed constitutes money laundering under the 1986 law, several justices suggested that it was simply going too far.

"I don't know why they call this statute 'Laundering of Monetary Instruments,'" Justice Stephen Breyer commented, wondering aloud if it would make it a crime to walk across the border with a few dollars hidden in a shoe. "Why didn't they call it 'shoe hiding'?"

"On the government's theory, anyone who transports hidden money to get it out of the country, who drives the car, just the driver, is a money launderer," noted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

"No matter how you see it, this was precisely the conduct that Congress was getting at," assistant solicitor general Lisha Schertler told the court.

But Cuellar's attorney, Jerry Beard, told the court it should interpret the law to mean something more than merely hiding cash. "The statute does not criminalize concealing money's existence," Beard said. Instead, he argued, it requires that someone must seek to minimize the criminal nature of the funds. While Cuellar "may have in fact concealed money itself, he did not conceal the 'nature, source, location, ownership or control' of the unlawful proceeds," Beard argued.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. challenged Beard on whether Cuellar was attempting to conceal the money, but later seemed to be equally skeptical of the government's position. When Schertler suggested that putting money in a suitcase in the trunk of car could be evidence of a "design to conceal," Roberts retorted: "When I use a suitcase, I'm using it to carry my clothes, not to conceal them."

Justice John Paul Stevens added that the government's broad position seemed to make the whole concept of money laundering irrelevant. "Is this just a total wild goose chase?" he asked.

The federal money laundering statute, most often used against presumed drug traffickers, carries a maximum 20 year sentence and fines of up to $500,000. Nearly a thousand people were convicted under the statute in 2006. But if Monday's oral arguments are any guide, the Justice Department may soon have to actually prove money laundering to gain a money laundering conviction, not just that someone was hiding cash.

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7. Search and Seizure: US Supreme Court to Hear Case on Warrantless Vehicle Searches

The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to rule on whether police may search a parked vehicle whenever they arrest a driver or passenger. Since a 1981 Supreme Court decision that held that police may search a vehicle for weapons when they arrest an occupant, most courts have held that police have ample authority to search vehicles after an arrest.

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police searching accused drug traffickers' car
But in a case from Tucson, the Arizona Supreme Court disagreed in the case of Rodney Gant. Police surveilling a suspected drug house arrested him on an outstanding warrant for driving without a license after he pulled up in his car. Gant was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car. Officers then searched his vehicle and found a gun and a bag of cocaine.

In a 3-2 decision, the Arizona Supreme Court threw out the evidence, saying that the post-arrest search of his car violated the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. With Gant handcuffed in the back of a squad car, police faced no danger from any weapons hidden in the vehicle, the majority said. Because police did not initiate contact with Gant before he got out of his vehicle, the search of his vehicle was not incidental arrest and thus unconstitutional. Police could have obtained a search warrant if they could convince a magistrate they had probable cause, the court noted.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard appealed to the US Supreme Court last fall, arguing that the Arizona Supreme Court decision sets "an unworkable and dangerous test" that would confuse police, prosecutors, and judges. He was backed by other law enforcement agencies and associations, including the Los Angeles district attorney's office and the National Association of Police Organizations.

The case, Arizona v. Gant, will be argued this fall.

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8. Sentencing: Vermont Bill Lowering Thresholds for Trafficking Charges Advances

A bill that would decrease the amount of drugs like cocaine or heroin necessary for people to be charged as presumptive drug traffickers was unanimously approved by the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee last Friday. The vote came two weeks after the same committee voted to lower the criminal penalties for people possessing small amounts of marijuana.

The bill, S-250, would reduce the amount of cocaine necessary to support a trafficking charge from 300 grams to 150 grams and the amount of heroin from seven grams to 3.5 grams. The amounts of the drugs needed to support conspiracy charges would also be halved, from 800 to 400 grams of cocaine and from 20 to 10 grams of heroin. People charged as traffickers would face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Sen. Richard Sears (D-Bennington), the chairman of the committee, said the bill is aimed at stopping the inflow of hard drugs into Vermont from larger, out-of-state cities in Massachusetts, New York and Canada. He cited violence around the drug trade and reports of drug dealers hooking young women on drugs and forcing them into prostitution.

"The violence we've seen, from the problems in Rutland to the recent slashing in Bennington, reinforces the need for the justice system to have more tools," Sears said. "We are sending a message that we won't have this happening in our communities," Said Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland), the bill's sponsor. Anyone possessing the quantities of drugs listed in the bill is probably a dope dealer, he said. "With the amounts that are outlined here, we are still talking about a big business," he explained.

The bill has the strong support of Vermont's drug abuse bureaucracy and law enforcement, and will probably pass. No word yet on what the long-term costs of imprisoning violators for decades will be.

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9. Pregnancy: Arizona Bill to Force Meth-Using Mothers-To-Be Into Treatment Passes Committee

The Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee Monday approved a bill that would allow the state to detain pregnant women who use methamphetamine and hold them involuntarily in drug treatment programs. The bill also creates the crime of child abuse against a fetus. With a 4-3 "do pass" vote in the committee, the measure now heads for the Senate floor.

The bill, SB1500, is sponsored by Sen. Pamela Gorman (R-Anthem). In committee, Gorman said she is not normally a proponent of government interference in the private lives of citizens. "But I do think that the state has some very specific roles," she said. "And one of them is to protect people from harm from other people."

Under the bill, if state Child Protective Service workers know or have reasonable grounds to believe a pregnant woman is using meth and is not voluntarily seeking treatment, they must seek a court order requiring her to cooperate in a treatment program. If the woman refuses to cooperate, the bill would allow CPS to ask a judge to have sheriff's deputies pick up the woman and take her to a treatment facility. As the bill itself puts it:

"Allows a CPS worker to petition the court for an emergency custody order directing a sheriff or law enforcement officer to take the expectant mother into custody and transport the expectant mother to an institution or facility specified in the order, if either of the following applies:

a) the expectant mother refuses to comply with an issued order to cooperate.

b) the CPS worker reasonably believes that the expectant mother has previously failed or refused to comply with an appropriate prescribed course of treatment or monitoring and believes that emergency custody is necessary to protect the unborn child."

Such an unprecedented intervention is necessary given the "highly addictive" nature of meth, Gorman said. Even women highly motivated to stay clean could backslide, she warned. "I would propose that a child can't wait for a year for backsliding off good intentions to be released from being forced-fed methamphetamines by the mother," Gorman said.

Meth-using pregnant women had no advocates at the committee hearing. The three committee members who voted against the measure did so not out of concern for the well-being of those women, but out of fear that Gorman's measure could be a stalking horse for cracking down on abortion in the state. The portion of the bill that creates the crime of child abuse against a fetus could be used to halt abortions, they warned.

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10. Europe: Denmark Parliament Approves Heroin Maintenance Pilot Project

The Danish parliament Monday has given its approval for a heroin maintenance pilot project, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the Danish Health Ministry. The project will be aimed at the Scandinavian nation's most recalcitrant heroin users.

If it goes according to plan, the pilot project will begin this year and last through 2009. It will cost about $14 million dollars and some 500 of Denmark's most marginalized and most affected heroin users will participate. Heroin will be prescribed in combination with methadone. The aim is to rehabilitate problem drug users and reduce their criminal activity, the health ministry said.

Denmark will join a select group of European countries, including Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where such programs have consistently resulted in a decline in property crime, as well as improvements in clients' health and welfare. Also allowing experimentation with heroin maintenance are Great Britain, which restarted it last year well over a decade after the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher had shut it down, and Canada, where Vancouver hosts the North American Opiate Maintenance Initiative (NAOMI), the only such program in North America. Earlier this month, the city of Tel Aviv announced it was seeking permission from the Ministry of Health to initiate a pilot program as well.

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11. Latin America: Colombian Peasants Battle Police Over Coca Crops

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe's plan to manually eradicate 250,000 acres of coca plants this year ran into violent opposition last week as some 2,000 peasants blocked a highway outside Medellin, smashed a toll booth, and fought with police in protest of Uribe's campaign. The peasant farmers are demanding two years to shift to legal crops.

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coca seedlings
A few days later, the violence over coca cultivation spread to the Venezuelan border, where two soldiers and three leftist rebels were killed in clashes over coca fields. The soldiers and rebels died in a Monday clash in Santander province.

The US and Colombian governments have spent billions of dollars in recent years in efforts to eradicate coca crops there, but the country remains the world's leading coca and cocaine producer. The protests by peasants and shoot-outs between soldiers and rebels illustrate the obstacles faced by Uribe and his allies in Washington.

For the peasant farmers outside Medellin, protecting their coca crops is a matter of survival, said local officials. "They are asking for solutions to their food security and sustenance," the mayor of the town of Tarazá, Miguel Ángel Gómez, told Reuters.

"We're protesting because if they finish off the illegal crops, which we all know are illegal and damaging, then they finish off our way of sustaining our families," one farmer told local television.

The Colombian government has blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country's largest guerrilla group, with fomenting the protests. Like many other actors in the Colombian conflict, the FARC profits from the coca and cocaine trade.

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12. Weekly: This Week in History

March 3, 1905: The first Congressional anti-drug law is passed when the US colonial government prohibits opium in the Philippines.

March 6, 1907: Gov. James Gillett signs the Poison Act Amendments, launching California's war on drugs.

March 1, 1915: The Harrison Narcotics Act goes into legal effect, beginning federal prohibition of drugs.

March 4, 1992: George Bush's White House has bureaucrats terminate the federal government's Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) medical marijuana program, barring even approved patients from receiving marijuana and allowing only a small handful already receiving it to continue.

February 29, 1996: In his State of the Union address, President Clinton nominates Army General Barry McCaffrey, a veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm, as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. McCaffrey had been head of the US Southern Command (SouthCom) which provides military backup for US policy in Latin America -- a policy long linked with chronically ineffective and corrupt drug enforcement.

March 1, 1999: The advice columnist Abigail Van Buren in her popular column "Dear Abby" says: "I agree that marijuana laws are overdue for an overhaul. I also favor the medical use of marijuana -- if it's prescribed by a physician. I cannot understand why the federal government should interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, nor why it would ignore the will of the majority of voters who have legally approved such legislation."

March 1, 2004: The State Department releases its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) revealing that Afghanistan produced a larger poppy crop in 2003 than ever before. Some 61,000 hectares of land were cultivated with poppy in 2003 -- up almost twofold from about 31,000 hectares in 2002.

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13. 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:

Scott Morgan brings us: "Opponents of Marijuana Reform Constantly Contradict Themselves," "Save the Rainforest From the Drug War," "Should Candidates for Public Office Be Drug Tested?," "Thailand's Drug Strategy: Mass Murder Thousands of Drug Suspects," and "Drug Czar Pledges to Finally Do Something About All These Pot Smugglers."

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

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

  1. We are in between newsletter grants, and that makes our need for donations more pressing. Drug War Chronicle is free to read but not to produce! Click here to make a donation by credit card or PayPal, or to print out a form to send in by mail.

  2. Please send quotes and reports on how you put our flow of information to work, for use in upcoming grant proposals and letters to funders or potential funders. Do you use DRCNet as a source for public speaking? For letters to the editor? Helping you talk to friends or associates about the issue? Research? For your own edification? Have you changed your mind about any aspects of drug policy since subscribing, or inspired you to get involved in the cause? Do you reprint or repost portions of our bulletins on other lists or in other newsletters? Do you have any criticisms or complaints, or suggestions? We want to hear those too. Please send your response -- one or two sentences would be fine; more is great, too -- email [email protected] or reply to a Chronicle email or use our online comment form. Please let us know if we may reprint your comments, and if so, if we may include your name or if you wish to remain anonymous. IMPORTANT: Even if you have given us this kind of feedback before, we could use your updated feedback now too -- we need to hear from you!

Again, please help us keep Drug War Chronicle alive at this important time! Click here to make a donation online, or send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Make your check payable to DRCNet Foundation to make a tax-deductible donation for Drug War Chronicle -- remember if you select one of our member premium gifts that will reduce the portion of your donation that is tax-deductible -- or make a non-deductible donation for our lobbying work -- online or check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, same address. We can also accept contributions of stock -- email [email protected] for the necessary info.

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16. 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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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!

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18. 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.

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