Drug War Chronicle #529 - March 28, 2008

1. Editorial: Evidence Disparities in the Drug War

Drug warriors tend to apply high standards of evidence to things like medical marijuana or drug treatment, while giving policies of arrest and incarceration a pass. When all of the evidence is looked at evenly, the drug war will be seen as indefensible beyond any reasonable doubt.

2. No Evidence Needed? War on Salvia Divinorum Heating Up -- YouTube Videos Play Role

Using YouTube videos of young people under the influence of salvia divinorum as exhibit number one, legislators across the country are stepping up efforts to ban the intense, fast-acting hallucinogen.

3. They Won't Give Up -- Alaska Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in State's Bid to Overturn Legal Marijuana At Home

For more than 30 years, Alaska's courts have held that the state constitution's privacy provisions protect citizens who want to smoke and possess small amounts of marijuana in their homes. Last week, the Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the state's latest effort to undo the status quo.

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

Our corrupt cops are all southern-fried this week. An Atlanta narc cops a plea in fallout from the Kathryn Johnston case, a Mississippi cop heads for prison, a pair of Florida jail guards will be looking out from the other side of the bars, and a Florida sheriff has some problems in his department.

6. Marijuana: Barney Frank to Introduce Federal Decriminalization Bill

Saying marijuana policy should not be a federal issue, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) said last week he plans to introduce a federal decriminalization bill.

7. Search and Seizure: US Supreme Court to Decide Warrantless Search Case

The US Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether police need a search warrant to enter a residence after an informant has gone in and made a drug buy. Some federal courts have held that by allowing the informant in, the resident has consented to a police search.

8. Medical Marijuana: California Dr. Molly Fry Sentenced to Five Years

Dr. Molly Fry and her companion, attorney Dale Schafer, were sentenced last week to five years in federal prison as marijuana traffickers for providing marijuana to patients in compliance with California's Compassionate Use Act. At least -- and unusually -- the judge let them out on bail pending appeal.

9. Politics: New York Governor Admits Past Cocaine, Marijuana Use, Few Are Bothered

New York Gov. David Paterson admitted to using cocaine and marijuana in the 1970s, and for the most part, the silence has been reassuring. A few ardent prohibitionists complained, though.

10. Drug Treatment: Idaho Senate Overrides Governor's Funding Increase Veto, Battle Continues

Idaho legislators want to increase funding for drug treatment and prevention, but the governor vetoed their funding line-items. Now, the state Senate has overridden one veto, and it's time for the House to step up to the plate.

11. Europe: Dutch Smoking Ban Will Not Apply to Marijuana, Health Minister Says

A smoking ban in bars, restaurants, and yes, coffee shops, goes into effect in Holland on July 1. But the law only targets tobacco, so marijuana-smoking can continue in the coffee shops, at least as long as it's not those tobacco-laced Euro-style joints.

12. Latin America: Bloody Easter Weekend in Mexico's Drug Wars

Mexico's drug prohibition-related violence took no respite over the Easter holiday. At least 59 people were killed across the country, including cops, soldiers, drug dealers, used car salesman, an informant, and a US citizen.

13. Europe: Czechs Call for Legal Medical Marijuana

As the Czech parliament moves to decriminalize small-time marijuana possession and up to three plants, medical marijuana activists are calling for the legalization of the weed for medical purposes.

14. This Week in History

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

15. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"In the Future, the Drug War Will be Fought by Robots," "Netherlands Rated More Stable and Prosperous Than U.S.," "Poisoning the Drug Policy Debate in 8 Simple Steps," "1/3 of People Admitted to Marijuana Treatment Hadn't Been Smoking Marijuana!," "A False and Embarrassing Press Release from the Deputy Drug Czar," "Simple Farmers Bearing Brunt of Afghan Drug War."

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1. Editorial: Evidence Disparities in the Drug War

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David Borden
A legislative battle currently underway in Idaho illustrates an "evidence disparity" at work in US drug policy. The state's legislature, conservative but starting to favor different approaches to substance abuse, recently approved $16.8 million of funding for treatment programs, but Gov. Butch Otter vetoed it. Not that Otter opposes such programs in principle -- he says Idaho should have them -- but he wants to "ensure that taxpayer dollars are used carefully, responsibly and to the best possible advantage" in that context, according to reporting by the Boise paper New West.

I don't know enough about the details of Idaho's drug treatment programs to say whether they're well-designed or not. Odds are they are needed. But I wish such care would be put into the criminal justice side of drug policy. Is arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating drug law violators in large number a "careful" or advantageous use of tax monies? (Hint: Look at the availability of drugs and their prices, which have plummeted over these last most serious decades of the drug war. That means the answer is "NO.") Otter could at least claim consistency if he were also calling for an end to the drug war's imprisonment program, or even just scaling it back. But if he's doing so I've not heard that.

In this week, as in most other weeks I remember, the actions of governments all over exhibit this evidence disparity:

  • In Mexico, dramatic evidence in the form of nationwide, gruesome violence shows that prohibition is dangerous and that enforcing it is futile. But Mexico continues to fight the drug war and suffer that cost.
  • In California, the feds have garnered five year sentences against a couple who provided marijuana to patients, despite evidence that marijuana is helpful to patients.
  • Alaska politicians are trying hard to overturn the state's constitutional protection of private marijuana possession, despite a lack of evidence demonstrating that marijuana is any threat.
  • In states around the country, moves are afoot to ban the hallucinogenic plant salvia divinorum, despite a lack of evidence for danger or widespread use. One legislator wants to "help" salvia users by giving them five-year prison terms! Where's the evidence supporting that?

I support having policies that are based on evidence. But let's put all of the evidence, and all of the policies, on an equal footing. The drug warriors who are putting people in prison should bear the burden of proof for their policies, a burden under which their philosophy will undoubtedly collapse. Because it is the truth that is disparate -- the case for legalization is overwhelming -- and if measured evenly, that truth will indict the drug war beyond any and all reasonable doubts. Prohibition is indefensible, and the drug war is a failure and travesty. So let's really talk about the evidence, and do it right. The day on which happens will be ours.

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2. No Evidence Needed? War on Salvia Divinorum Heating Up -- YouTube Videos Play Role

Nearly a year ago, we reported on mounting efforts to ban salvia divinorum in states and localities around the country. Since then, the war on the hallucinogenic plant has only intensified, despite the lack of any evidence that its use is widespread or that it has any harmful physical effects on its users.

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salvia leaves (courtesy erowid.org)
Salvia is a member of the mint family from Mexico, where it has been used by Mazatec curanderos (medicine men) for centuries. Within the past decade, awareness of its powerful hallucinogenic properties has begun to seep into the popular consciousness. Now, it is widely available at head shops and via the Internet, where it can be purchased in a smokeable form that produces almost instantaneous intoxication and a freight train of a trip lasting a handful of minutes.

Fueled largely by the appearance of salvia-intoxicated youths on YouTube (there were some 3,500 such videos at last count), law enforcement's reflexive desire to prohibit any mind-altering substances, and legislators' wishes to "do something" about youth drug use, efforts to ban the plant are spreading. While some states have stopped at limiting salvia's use to adults, most recently Maine, more have banned it outright. Legislative measures affecting salvia have been filed in 16 more states too, as well as a number of towns and cities.

In 2005, Louisiana became the first state to ban salvia, making it a proscribed Schedule I controlled substance. Since then, Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Tennessee have joined the list. (Tennessee bans ingestion -- it's a Class A misdemeanor -- but not possession. All the others excepting North Dakota have placed it in Schedule I.) In Oklahoma, only concentrated salvia is banned. Salvia is also a controlled substance in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Spain and Sweden.

The press has also played a role in stoking fears of salvia and misstating its popularity. "Salvia: The Next Marijuana?," asked the Associated Press in a widely-reprinted story earlier this month.

Chris Bennett, proprietor of Urban Shaman Ethnobotanicals in downtown Vancouver, just laughed at the "salvia is the next marijuana" meme. "Anyone who says that is demonstrating their complete lack of knowledge of either salvia or marijuana," he said. "There is just no comparison. Cannabis is a mild relaxant and euphoric, while salvia is a very fast-acting visionary substance where some people report out of body experiences."

Researchers say that while salvia's effects on consciousness may be disquieting, the plant has not been shown to be toxic to humans, its effects are so potent is unlikely to be used repeatedly, and its active property, salvinorin A, could assist in the development of medicines for mood disorders. While action at the state level would unlikely affect research, a move by the DEA to put it on the controlled substances list could.

There are hazards to messing with hallucinogens, one expert was quick to point out. "It's an hallucinogen, and while its hallucinogenic actions are different from those induced by LSD and other hallucinogens, it has the liabilities that hallucinogens do," said Bryan Roth, a professor of pharmacology at University of North Carolina's School of Medicine, the man who isolated salvinorin A. "When people take it, they are disoriented. If you don't know where you are and you're driving a car, that would be a bad experience."

Still, said Roth, while it may make you freak out, it isn't going to kill you. "There is no evidence of any overt toxicity, there are no reports in the medical literature that anyone has died from it. The caveat is that there have been no formal studies done on humans, but the animal data suggests that it doesn't kill animals given massive doses, and that's usually -- but not always -- predictive for human pharmacology."

The DEA has been evaluating salvia for several years now, but there is no sign that it is ready to take action. "Salvia is a drug we are currently looking at to see if it should or should not be scheduled," said Rogene Waite, a spokesperson for the DEA, which is tasked with evaluating potential drug "threats." The agency has initiated the process of evaluating the eight factors listed in the Controlled Substances Act in determining whether or not to schedule a drug, she said. "There is no time frame or limit on this process," she said, providing no further hint on when or if ever the DEA would move to add salvia onto the federal list of controlled substances.

But legislators across the land are not waiting for the DEA. In California, Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia) introduced a bill that would ban salvia for minors at the urging of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, he told the Riverside Press-Enquirer. "If you have the opportunity to get in front of an emerging drug, I think, geez, you should do that," said Adams, whose district includes San Bernardino and Redlands.

On the other side of the country, Massachusetts state Rep. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) is cosponsoring legislation that would criminalize salvia possession. "I believe by not making this drug illegal we are sending a message to our youth that it is okay, and there is no way that a drug that causes such mind altering effects on an individual should be considered legal," deMacedo told the Plymouth News.

Again, legislators took action after being alerted by law enforcement. DeMacedo said he agreed to sponsor the bill after hearing from Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph MacDonald. "I'd never heard of it before," deMacedo said. "It creates this psychedelic-type, mind-altering high, similar to LSD. I thought, 'You've got to be kidding. Something like this is legal?'"

In Florida, Rep. Mary Brandenburg wants to save the kids by sending anyone possessing salvia to prison for up to five years. "As soon as we make one drug illegal, kids start looking around for other drugs they can buy legally. This is just the next one," she explained.

While legislators attempt to stay ahead of the curve by banning any new, potentially mind-altering substances at the drop of hat, their efforts are misdirected, said Urban Shaman's Bennett. The YouTube kids may be the public face of salvia, but they are only a minority of users, he said. "It's all ages," he said, adding that his store does not sell to people under 18. "Every time there is some media attention, I get a bunch of middle-aged people coming in and asking for it."

Salvia is not a party drug, said Bennett. "The most serious users are people seeking a classic shamanic experience, seeking a visionary experience as part of their spiritual path. They feel they're accessing a higher level of consciousness," he explained. "And even they don't seem to use it more than once a month or so."

For all the commotion surrounding salvia, there is very little evidence of actual harm to anyone, said Bennett. "You'll notice you don't hear anybody talking about organic damage to the human organism," he said. "This is all purely fear and loathing of people having a visionary experience."

What little data there is on salvia use and its effects tends to bear him out. There are no reported deaths from salvia use, with the exception of a Delaware teenager who committed suicide in 2006 at some point after using it. (That unfortunate young man is widely cited by the proponents of banning salvia, even though there is no concomitant wave of salvia-linked suicides. Also, he was reportedly taking an acne medication linked to depression and had been using alcohol.) Users are not showing up with any frequency in mental hospitals or hospital emergency rooms.

While the YouTube kids may present a problematic public face of salvia use, there's not much to be done about that, said Bennett. "You can't control that," he shrugged. "And so what? Some kids are having a powerful visionary experience for five minutes on YouTube. Why is that somehow more threatening than watching someone in the jungle take ayahuasca or something on National Geographic?"

Bennett, for one, has no use for a ban on salvia -- or any other plant, for that matter. "We have a fundamental natural right to have access to all plants, and I don't care if it's salvia or marijuana or poppy or coca. That's just as clear-cut as our right to air and water," he said.

But Bennett's perspective is not one widely shared by legislators in the US. Instead, they reflexively reach to prohibit that which they do not understand. And the very "kids" they claim to be saving will be the ones going to prison.

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3. They Won't Give Up -- Alaska Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in State's Bid to Overturn Legal Marijuana At Home

For more than 30 years, Alaska's courts have held that the state constitution's privacy protections barred the state from criminalizing adults possessing and consuming small amounts of marijuana in the privacy of their homes. Although voters passed an initiative recriminalizing marijuana in 1991 and more than a decade passed before the courts found that measure unconstitutional, Alaska's courts have never wavered from the landmark 1975 decision in Ravin v. State that legalized home possession.

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propaganda show by Gov. Murkowski and drug czar Walters
That has never set well with prohibitionists, as evidenced by the 1991 initiative. Two years ago, after the courts restated their adherence to Ravin, then-Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) tried again to undo the status quo. Then, he managed to push through the legislature a bill that would once again recriminalize marijuana possession, and he stacked it with a series of "legislative findings" based on one-sided science designed to make the case that the nature of marijuana had changed so dramatically since the 1970s that Alaska's courts should rethink their position.

But when that law took effect in June 2006, the ACLU of Alaska sued the state, and Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins struck it down that summer, saying it conflicted with the state supreme court's decision in Ravin. The state appealed, and last Thursday, the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case.

Former Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli came out of retirement to reprise his old role as lead man in the Alaska law enforcement establishment's effort to undo the Ravin decision. It's not your father's marijuana, he argued, saying that it is far more potent than before, that pregnant women in Alaska are more prone to using marijuana than elsewhere in the country, and that 10% of users become dependent on the drug. All of this, he argued, is sufficient for the state high court to revisit and reverse its decision in Ravin.

The ACLU, representing itself and two anonymous plaintiffs, however, argued that the court should not bow to politically motivated findings that were tailor-made for the case. The court "needs to look with extreme skepticism at the legislature's findings" before overturning decades of decisions protecting Alaskan's rights to privacy, said ACLU attorney Jason Brandeis during the hearing.

The court will not issue a decision on the case for six months to a year, but it was being watched with interest by observers across the country. Marijuana law reform proponents in particular are hoping that Alaska will continue to be in the vanguard.

"Alaska currently has the best marijuana laws in the country -- it's perfectly legal to possess small amounts in your home -- and it would be a terrible setback if this court were to reverse a decision in place for more than 30 years," said Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "But so far, the courts there have held it is unconstitutional to attach penalties to the private use of marijuana."

"This is a very important case that deals with some fundamental legal principles," said Jason Brandeis, who argued the case along with Adam Wolf of the national ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project. "First, there is the matter of stare decisis, respect for precedent. What we are asking the court to do is respect the precedent of Ravin and continue to rule that absent a really good reason, the state can't invade the sanctity of the home and preclude adults from engaging in certain types of conduct," he said.

"The state says it has new evidence that marijuana is dangerous, and that justifies the state piercing the sanctity of the home, but our position is simply that they don't have the scientific evidence to support that claim," said Brandeis. "The question is whether adults using marijuana at home rises to a level of social harm that justifies abrogating their privacy rights. We don't think so."

While the Alaska ruling will be important as an example to the rest of the country, said Stroup, it will also have a practical impact. "One reason this case is so important is that so long as it is legal to have small amounts at home, even if the police smell marijuana, that's not probable cause for arrest or a search warrant," he pointed out. "That's important."

For Ravin to be overturned, said Brandeis, the court would have to find a "close and substantial" relationship between preventing an adult from smoking marijuana at home and the state's interest in protecting the public health and safety. A ruling like that would be "a big step backwards," he said. "It would be a big blow to our privacy rights, and we take our privacy very seriously up here."

Brandeis refused to predict the outcome of the case, but sounded confident. "It's pretty clear the court knows what the issues are," he said. "There were a lot of questions about what level of deference the court should give the legislative findings, and I think we presented strong arguments that the court should not defer in this situation."

Stroup was not quite as cautious. Despite what he described as Gov. Murkowski's "reefer madness" and the legislative findings it inspired, Stroup pronounced himself confident that Ravin will be upheld. "I don't think we'll lose this," he said. "I have no reason to believe the Alaska Supreme Court will do anything differently than it did in Ravin."

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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.


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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.


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

Our corrupt cops are all southern-fried this week. An Atlanta narc cops a plea in fallout from the Kathryn Johnston case, a Mississippi cop heads for prison, a pair of Florida jail guards will be looking out from the other side of the bars, and a Florida sheriff has some problems in his department. Let's get to it:

In Atlanta, an Atlanta police narcotics sergeant pleaded guilty Monday to a federal civil rights charge for searching a residence without a warrant and trying to make it look like a break-in. Sgt. Wilbert Stallings, 44, a 23-year veteran of the force, faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for an October 2005 raid where his unit had a search warrant for marijuana for one apartment, but failed to find any inside. The team then broke into an adjoining apartment, but failed to find anyone or anything, and Stallings told the team to leave the apartment and shut the door so it appeared there had been a break-in. Stallings' demise is part of the fallout from the shooting of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in 2006 by Atlanta narcs. One of the narcs involved in that killing, Greg Junnier, was part of Stallings' team and had obtained the apartment search warrant. Prosecutors said the break-in was part of a pattern of misconduct by Stallings and his team.

In Natchez, Mississippi, a former Vicksburg police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in federal prison for taking bribes to protect what he thought were drug shipments. Kevin Williams, 37, was convicted of extortion last October in federal court. Prosecutors said Williams took bribes totaling $3,000 from undercover officers between November 2002 and May 2003, when he was serving as a sergeant in the city's narcotics division. He was indicted in March 2007 and arrested in Hawaii, where he was serving as an Army military police officer.

In Bartow, Florida, two Polk County Sheriff's Office detention deputies were arrested March 20 for smuggling marijuana into the Polk County Jail. Detention deputies Michael Redmond, 23, and Jarrett Brice, 34, are accused of accepting marijuana from the girlfriend of an inmate and delivering it to him. The girlfriend was also arrested. Cell phone text messages between the girlfriend and the inmate showed that six deliveries were made. Brice is also accused of altering inmate visitation records to cover up visits between the prisoner and the girlfriend and of warning Street that an investigation was underway. Both detention deputies have resigned, Street is in jail awaiting trial, and Brice is out on bail.

In New Port Richey, Florida, the arrests of two Pasco County sheriff's deputies on drug charges is leading the sheriff to evaluate hiring and drug-testing policies. Both deputies have been fired. Former Cpl. Donald Riggins is accused of conspiring to possess and distribute hydrocodone after using his patrol car to help steal $25,000 in drug money earlier this month. Former detention Cpl. Rodney Philon is accused of dealing anabolic steroids after getting caught selling 10 Dianabol tablets to an undercover informant. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office does not currently drug test its employees except when there is "reasonable suspicion," but may now consider random tests, the sheriff said.

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6. Marijuana: Barney Frank to Introduce Federal Decriminalization Bill

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) used a Friday night appearance on the HBO program "Real Time," hosted by Bill Maher, to announce that he planned to file a federal bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana this week. Frank, who has long been a supporter of marijuana law reform, said that federal law unfairly targets medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal. He also argued that decisions about whether to make marijuana illegal should be left up to the states.

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Barney Frank
Asked by Maher as to why he would push a pot decriminalization bill now, Frank said the American public has already decided that personal use of marijuana is not a problem. "I now think it's time for the politicians to catch up to the public," Frank said. "The notion that you lock people up for smoking marijuana is pretty silly. I'm going to call it the 'Make Room for Serious Criminals' bill."

Elaborating on his TV remarks in a Sunday interview with the Associated Press, the Massachusetts congressman said elected officials are lagging behind public opinion on the issue. "Do you really think people should be prosecuted for smoking marijuana? I don't think most people agree with that. It's one area where the public is ahead of the elected officials," Frank said. "It does not appear to me to be a law that society is serious about."

He seemed particularly irked by DEA raids and federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers in California. "I don't think smoking marijuana should be a federal case," he said. "There's no federal law against mugging."

A dozen states have already decriminalized marijuana possession, with the New Hampshire House voting to approve such a measure last week. But the Granite State bill is opposed by state Senate leaders and the governor.

Rep. Frank's bill had not appeared on the Congressional web site as of Thursday afternoon.

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7. Search and Seizure: US Supreme Court to Decide Warrantless Search Case

The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a case that could clarify limits on when police using an informant may enter a residence. The case is Pearson v. Callahan (07-751), in which five members of the Central Utah Narcotics Task Force are being sued by a man whose home was searched without a warrant after an informant bought methamphetamine inside.

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US Supreme Court
In 2002, a snitch working with the task force bought $100 worth of meth from Afton Callahan inside Callahan's trailer in Fillmore, Utah. Once the officers waiting outside received the snitch's signal via wire that the deal had gone down, they entered and searched the trailer and arrested Callahan for sale and possession of meth.

Callahan moved to have the evidence suppressed because a warrantless search is unconstitutional, but a state court trial judge rejected that motion. Callahan then agreed to a conditional guilty plea while appealing the Fourth Amendment issue. A state appeals court later agreed with him and overturned his conviction.

Callahan then turned around and sued the task force members for violating his Fourth Amendment rights. The officers then argued that they were immune under the doctrine of "qualified immunity," which holds that government officials cannot be held liable for violating a law that was not clear at the time. A federal district judge, Paul Cassell, ruled in 2006 that the police were entitled to immunity, even if the search was unconstitutional, but the US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overruled Cassell, holding that the Constitution was so clear on the need for a warrant that no reasonable police officer would have proceeded without one.

Lawyers for the police officers then appealed to the US Supreme Court, which will have to decide both the search and the immunity questions. But despite what the 10th Circuit held, the federal courts are divided on whether a warrant is necessary in those circumstances. Some federal circuits -- but not the 10th -- have created the strange notion of a "consent-once-removed" exception to the Fourth Amendment. Under that theory, someone who consents to the entry of an undercover police informant is also consenting to the entry of police as well -- even if he doesn't know it. Because the resident gives permission to the snitch to enter, he has also given permission for the police to enter, this novel doctrine holds.

Now, the US Supreme Court will decide if there will be yet one more addition to the holes in the Fourth Amendment created by the drug war. And whether police who conduct unconstitutional searches will have to pay for them.

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8. Medical Marijuana: California Dr. Molly Fry Sentenced to Five Years

A federal judge in Sacramento sentenced Dr. Marion "Mollie" Fry and her companion, attorney Dale Schafer, to five years in federal prison for conspiring to grow and distribute marijuana on March 19. Fry, who used marijuana herself in connection with radical breast cancer surgery, and Schafer, who used it for back pain and a dangerous form of hemophilia, also provided marijuana to patients under California's Compassionate Use Act.

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Fry, Schafer and family at August 2007 demonstration (courtesy indybay.org)
But the Justice Department prosecuted the couple under the federal marijuana laws, leaving US District Judge Frank Damrell Jr. no choice but to impose the mandatory minimum five-year prison sentenced required under the law because they had more than 100 plants.

"It is a sad day, a terrible day," Damrell said during sentencing, adding that if it were up to him, the punishment would have been less. But he also criticized Fry and Schafer for refusing to accept a plea bargain that could have left them free. "You had the opportunity to resolve this case, but you wanted to soldier on, knowing that your kid would be left behind," he told the couple.

In a departure from normal practice on the federal bench and to the delight of supporters who packed the courtroom, Judge Damrell granted the pair bail, so they will remain free while their case is appealed. Damrell, who is also presiding over the Bryan Epis case and has granted him bail too, said the exceptional circumstances of the case create "serious issues that need to be decided by an appellate court." Among those, he noted, are Fry and Schafer's claim they were entrapped.

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9. Politics: New York Governor Admits Past Cocaine, Marijuana Use, Few Are Bothered

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David Paterson
New York Gov. David Paterson unapologetically admitted to having used cocaine and marijuana in a television interview on NY1 News over the weekend, and for the most part, the revelation was greeted with a collective yawn. A handful of professional anti-drug advocates could be found to express their dismay, but otherwise, it appeared as if admissions of past drug use by politicians don't carry much negative weight anymore.

In his first TV interview since becoming governor in the wake of Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal and subsequent resignation, Paterson was asked by host Dominic Carter if he had ever used illicit drugs. Paterson responded that he had spoken publicly about the issue during the 2006 campaign:

Dominic Carter: You have?

David Paterson: Yes

Dominic Carter: Marijuana?

David Paterson: Yes

Dominic Carter: Cocaine?

David Paterson: Yes

Dominic Carter: You used cocaine, governor?

David Paterson: I'd say I was 22 or 23, I tried it a couple of times, yes.

Dominic Carter: When is the last time that -- is that the only time you've tried cocaine, governor?

David Paterson: Yeah, around that time, a couple of times and marijuana, probably, when I was about 20. I don't think I've touched marijuana since the late 70s.

Such admissions once marked a death knell for public office, as attorney Douglas Ginsburg found out early in the Reagan administration, when his admission of previous pot-smoking saw his nomination to the Supreme Court go up in smoke. But in recent years, politicians including former New York Gov. George Pataki, current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and, of course, former President Bill Clinton have all admitted to past marijuana use, with no apparent impact on their political viability. More recently, Sen. Barack Obama's admission of youthful cocaine and marijuana use does not seem to be dragging him down.

But that didn't stop Calvina Fay, director of the Drug Free America Foundation, from worrying that admissions like Paterson's "send the wrong message" to America's youth. Politicians need to accompany such admissions with anti-drug propaganda, she suggested in an interview with the New York Sun. "It's really their responsibility to take that extra step and to talk about how it's not something they are proud of. It's not something that is smart, that they were literally risking their life, and risking their future, so that our children don't get the idea that you can just do drugs and someday be governor," she said.

Joe Califano, head of the Center on Alcohol and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, echoed the thought. "I think they ought to be honest but I think they also have to say this is not something you should do," he said. "That other piece is very important."

But in an interview with Newsday columnist Ellis Hennican, Drug Police Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann said the number of drug users in America had reached critical mass and it was time for "a more realistic" discussion of drug use.

"With numbers like these, the notion that someone has to lie is ludicrous at this point," said Nadelmann. "Look at the cohort of people age 30 to 60," he said. "A pretty substantial minority has done cocaine. Despite all the drug-war rhetoric, the vast majority of people who used cocaine did not go on to develop a coke habit or end up in terrible states. Some did. But the addiction rate was probably similar to that of alcohol."

One more politician has come out of the closet. Not only is Gov. Paterson an example to other elected officials, he is also in a position to do something about New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws. Let's see if he can offer up something other than mere memories.

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10. Drug Treatment: Idaho Senate Overrides Governor's Funding Increase Veto, Battle Continues

The Idaho Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to override a gubernatorial veto of a bill that would have increased funding for drug treatment and prevention programs. Now, the House must vote to override by a similar "supermajority" to complete the restoration of funding against the wishes of Republican Gov. Butch Otter.

Last week, Otter vetoed line items in two bills that would have provided $16.8 million for Idaho substance abuse programs. The Senate override vote on SB 1458 restores $2.4 million in supplemental funding. But Otter also vetoed $14.4 million in treatment funding for the coming year in HB 608.

The twin vetoes would cut in half the funding for drug courts and treatment for probationers and parolees, as well as some community-based treatment programs. The tussle at the statehouse is the latest round in fighting over how best to continue a three-year, $21 million dollar anti-drug effort originally funded by a federal grant. The federal money ran out last year, and lawmakers replaced it with state funds. Otter complained that the programs were unproven and had been expanded beyond their original scope.

But the state Senate seemed determined to do something other than just pay for more prison cells, and for several senators, Idaho's drug war has hit close to home. "I don't believe there is a family represented in this body who has not been affected by drugs or alcohol or mental health problems at some point," said Sen. Chuck Coiner (R-Twin Falls) in remarks reported by The New West magazine.

Sen. Brent Hill (R-Rexburg), also speaking in support of the override, told of a family member "almost ruined" by methamphetamine. "Her teeth rotted right out of her head," he told his colleagues.

Sen. Lee Heinrich (R-Cascade) said his son had spent two and a half years in prison on drug-related charges. "He could have benefited from this program... I know what these drug-related things can do to families," he added, but then said he would vote against the override because he wasn't sure "we've looked at all the alternatives."

But it was Sen. Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) who was perhaps most perceptive, speaking of a "paradigm shift" among his conservative colleagues. "Doesn't it seem smart to get on the front end of these decisions? Doesn't it seem smart to try to affect them before they become incarcerated, so they don't offend in the first place?" he asked. "Cells alone are not the answer."

At mid-week, the governor was signaling he still sought compromise. "The governor has consistently indicated that he was willing to discuss this issue and reach a compromise as he has on other important issues," he said in a Wednesday statement. But the size of the increase in treatment spending "could not be justified in a year when we are asking so many others agencies, not to mention state workers, to do with less."

Now, the ball is in the House's court.

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11. Europe: Dutch Smoking Ban Will Not Apply to Marijuana, Health Minister Says

As of July 1, it will be illegal to light up a cigarette in restaurants, hotels, bars, and coffee shops in Holland, but the smoking ban does not apply to joints constructed solely of marijuana. According to NIS News, Dutch Health Minister Ab Klink sent a letter to that effect to the Lower House Wednesday.

Under the tobacco ban, smoking tobacco in bars and other public accommodations will be allowed only in closed off areas where no service is provided. But the Tobacco Act applies only to the smoking of products wholly or partially made of tobacco. Pot smokers who roll their joints without adding tobacco will be able to continue to toke in peace in Holland.

But many Dutch and other European marijuana aficionados are accustomed to rolling their joints with tobacco. In his letter, Klink said he does not expect that marijuana smokers will switch en masse to non-tobacco-laced joints, but he will arrange a study to see whether the smoking habits of coffee shop customers change as a result of the new law.

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12. Latin America: Bloody Easter Weekend in Mexico's Drug Wars

Prohibition-related violence in Mexico took no break for the Easter holiday, with 59 people killed in the three-day period between Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday, according to Mexican press reports compiled by New Mexico State University's Frontera NorteSur (FNS) news service. The victims included former and current policemen, four soldiers, street-level drug dealers, used car salesmen, and an American citizen, Cuban-born Humberto Flores, who was gunned down in Cancun.

The violence ran the length and breadth of the country, with killings occurring in the northern border states (Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas), the center (Guanajuato, Mexico state), the Yucatan peninsula (Quintana Roo), the east coast (Veracruz), and the Pacific Coast (Oaxaca, Guerrero, Sinaloa). As FNS noted: "Once again, the geographical pattern of killings demonstrates how organized crime has extended its violent reach to virtually every nook and cranny of the country."

But there are hotspots, and one of them is Ciudad Juárez, across the Rio Grande River from El Paso. Nearly two dozen killings took place there over Easter weekend, including four people found burned to death at Los Lamentos ("The Regrets"), Chihuahua, on the New Mexico border. The police chief there crossed the US border into New Mexico seeking asylum after his deputies quit, saying he feared drug traffickers.

Further down the river in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, the body of Araceli de la Cruz, a 47-year-old woman kidnapped March 13, was dumped in front of an army post blindfolded and with a mutilated hand stuffed in her mouth. Accompanying the body was a note addressed to a Mexican army general warning of the fate that befalls informers.

In the past two years, as the Mexican government has undertaken massive offensives against the drug trafficking organizations, and the cartels have fought among themselves for control of lucrative franchises, the death toll has been around 2,000 a year. It looks as if 2008 is on, if not ahead of, the pace. And the killing continues: Nine more murders were reported in Ciudad Juárez by mid-week this week.

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13. Europe: Czechs Call for Legal Medical Marijuana

As deputies in the Czech parliament debate a proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and the growing of up to three plants (see story last week), activists from Cannabis Is Medicine called on them to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana while they are at it. The group is calling on the government to allow patients to grow up to three pounds of marijuana a year.

The call from Cannabis Is Medicine has been endorsed by a number of Czech personalities, including singer Marta Kubisova, former deputy Tana Fiserova, and film-maker Olga Sommerova. It comes less than a month after the Czech Supreme Court threw out a woman's cultivation conviction because she was using it medicinally.

Patients must be able to grow more than the three plants envisioned under the decriminalization proposal, said Jiri Richter, head of a grouping of nonprofit organizations working on drug prevention and treatment. "Only three cannabis plants, this is ridiculous," he told the Czech news agency CTK.

Richter added that he believed marijuana should be completely legal. But while support for decrim appears strong within the ruling coalition, proposals for legalization are not considered to have much chance.

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14. This Week in History

April 1, 1909: The Opium Exclusion Act takes effect.

April 3, 1953: With the support of Allen W. Dulles, director of Central Intelligence, Richard C. Helms proposes funding for a biochemical warfare research program named MKULTRA, which among other things administers LSD to its unknowing participants.

March 30, 1961: The UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is convened in New York City, the first of the three international treaties binding signatory nations into prohibitionist systems.

April 2, 1988: The Economist editorializes in favor of bringing drug users within the law by allowing them to purchase limited doses of drugs that have been manufactured and distributed legally.

March 30, 1992: Bill Clinton, during the 1992 presidential campaign, says, "When I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale."

March 29, 2000: CNN reports that a multination drug sweep known as Operation Conquistador nets 2,331 arrests, 4,966 kilograms of cocaine, 55.6 kilograms of heroin, and 362.5 metric tons of marijuana. The 17-day operation takes place in Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Martin, British Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Aruba, Curacao, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

April 1, 2000: Canada's premier national newspaper, The National Post, editorializes in favor of legalizing marijuana.

March 31, 2001: An editorial in The Lancet -- the United Kingdom's top medical journal -- criticizes the futility of drug prohibition and America's present anti-drug strategies.

March 28, 2002: Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan rules that the Barr Amendment, which blocks the District of Columbia from considering a medical marijuana voter initiative, infringes on First Amendment rights.

March 28, 2003: The Hemp Industries Association, several hemp food and cosmetic manufacturers and the Organic Consumers Association petition the federal Ninth Circuit to again prevent the DEA from ending the legal sale of hemp seed and oil products in the US.

April 2, 2003: US Rep. Ron Paul asks the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate whether the Office of National Drug Control Policy violated the Congressional ban on spending funds on publicity or propaganda.

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15. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

Along with our weekly in-depth Chronicle reporting, DRCNet has since late summer also been providing daily content in the way of blogging in the Stop the Drug War Speakeasy -- huge numbers of people have been reading it recently -- as well as Latest News links (upper right-hand corner of most web pages), event listings (lower right-hand corner) and other info. Check out DRCNet every day to stay on top of the drug reform game!

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

Since last issue:

Scott Morgan authors: "In the Future, the Drug War Will be Fought by Robots," "Netherlands Rated More Stable and Prosperous Than U.S.," "Poisoning the Drug Policy Debate in 8 Simple Steps," "1/3 of People Admitted to Marijuana Treatment Hadn't Been Smoking Marijuana!" and "A False and Embarrassing Press Release from the Deputy Drug Czar."

DRCNet intern Kalif Mathieu contributes: "Simple Farmers Bearing Brunt of Afghan Drug War."

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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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. 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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18. 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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19. 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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20. Resource: Reformer's Calendar Accessible Through DRCNet Web Site

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/appointmentbook.jpg
DRCNet's Reformer's Calendar is a tool you can use to let the world know about your events, and find out what is going on in your area in the issue. This resource used to run in our newsletter each week, but now is available from the right hand column of most of the pages on our web site.

The Reformer's Calendar publishes events large and small of interest to drug policy reformers around the world. Whether it's a major international conference, a demonstration bringing together people from around the region or a forum at the local college, we want to know so we can let others know, too.

But we need your help to keep the calendar current, so please make sure to contact us and don't assume that we already know about the event or that we'll hear about it from someone else, because that doesn't always happen.

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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