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Drug War Chronicle #530 - April 4, 2008

1. Editorial: Should Philadelphia Be Excited About Its Big Drug Bust?

Three police agencies in Philadelphia teamed up to nab the largest stash of cocaine ever found there. But all impact on the market from the bust is bound to be gone in a matter or weeks if not less. Should we be excited?

2. Massachusetts Aims For Marijuana Decriminalization in November

An initiative that would decriminalize marijuana possession in Massachusetts has passed a number of hurdles and appears to be headed for the November ballot, where the prospects are good.

3. Michigan Medical Marijuana Initiative Well-Positioned for November

A Michigan medical marijuana initiative is now before the legislature, which will not act on it, clearing the way for a popular vote in November. The poll numbers are good.

4. Spring Special: "Stop the Drug War" Knapsacks from

Help promote the Stop the Drug War cause by buying this new DRCNet membership premium and using it to carry around your books or other belongings for work, school, or wherever life takes you!

5. Law Enforcement: Detroit Prosecutor Charged With Misconduct for Allowing False Testimony in Drug Case, Misleading Jury

Last week, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy was loudly pursuing criminal perjury charges against the mayor and his one-time paramour. This week, her chief drug prosecutor is accused of abetting perjury by cops and an informant in a drug case, but there's no talk yet of any criminal charges.

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

A Pittsburgh cop rips off the evidence locker, and four Metro Detroit cops get indicted for slinging steroids, helping a biker gang, and lying to the feds.

7. Search and Seizure: Vermont Supreme Court Throws Out Marijuana Conviction Based on Warrantless Aerial Surveillance

The Vermont Supreme Court has thrown a marijuana conviction based on a warrantless overflight by a military helicopter, saying the state constitution's privacy provisions protect residents and "the airspace above their homes and property."

8. Europe: British Drug Advisors Say Leave Marijuana Where It Is, But PM Brown Is Set to Ignore Them

According to the BBC, the British government's drug advisory panel will recommend that marijuana remain a Class C drug. But Prime Minister Gordon Brown is signaling he may overrule it in a move that would take British marijuana policy boldly backward.

9. Europe: Dutch Court Throws Out Maastricht Coffee Shop Ban on Foreigners

The Dutch border city of Maastricht cannot bar foreigners from its coffee shops, a district court has ruled.

10. Southeast Asia: Thailand Launches New "War on Drugs," But Promises No Killings (Maybe)

Five years ago, a bloody Thai "war on drugs" left an estimated 2,500 people dead at the hands of police and soldiers. Now, the Thai government has declared a new "war on drugs," but vows no killings... maybe.

11. Latin America: Ecuador Files Complaint Against Colombia for Spraying Coca Fields Near Border

The government of Ecuador has asked the World Court to order Colombia to stop spraying herbicides on coca fields within 6 miles of the border, saying the spraying harms crops, livestock, and people on the Ecuadorian side. The move comes as tensions with Colombia remain high in the wake of a Colombian raid on Ecuadorian territory that left 25 people dead.

12. Middle East: Israeli Anti-Drug Campaign Links Marijuana Use to Terrorism

American drug czar John Walters tried it a few years ago. Now, the Israelis are tearing a page from his playbook: If you smoke pot, a new campaign warns, you're helping out the terrorists.

13. This Week in History

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

14. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"New Study: Pot Smokers Aren't Drug Addicts, They Just Like Pot," "Even if We Succeed, The Drug Warriors Will Take All the Credit," "South Park Takes on Drug Prohibition," "Winning 'Em Over One at a Time," "Looking for a New Boogie Man," "Southpark: 11 Years of Exposing Drug War Fallacies."

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

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19. 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. Editorial: Should Philadelphia Be Excited About Its Big Drug Bust?

David Borden, Executive Director
David Borden
Should we be excited? Police agencies in Philadelphia have announced a record drug bust for the city. According to the press conference, held Wednesday by the Philadelphia Police Department, the US Attorney's Office and the FBI, the stash they nabbed consisted of 274 kilos of cocaine worth about 28 million dollars.

An FBI spokesperson told the press, "This significant seizure prevented these drugs from entering our community." But doesn't that depend on how one defines the term "these drugs"? If the term is meant to refer to that particular shipment, then yes, that specific pile of cocaine will (probably) not enter the Philadelphia community.

If, however, the term is meant to refer to cocaine itself, the type of drug, it's doubtful -- no, impossible -- that the seizure could reduce the amount of it in Philadelphia, at least not for very long. The problem is that drug traffickers are clever and industrious people, and they expect that some of the stuff that they ship to any given region is going to get intercepted. On any given day, they probably don't expect a record to get set, on that particular day. But that doesn't mean they aren't prepared if it does. Doubtless one or more batches are now moving up I-95 or some other artery, or are headed to Philly through some other means of transport, if they're not already there.

The truth is that there probably won't be a shortage of cocaine in Philadelphia for even a week, if there is any shortage of it even now. By the end of two weeks, there will be little evidence left at all that a record-sized drug bust ever occurred, other than the police records and the past media reports. Of course the authorities won't be particularly eager to inform the press that their record-sized drug bust has been completely undone by the force of the market. Ironically, media would probably not consider the lack of long-term impact from the bust to be newsworthy, because that's literally what has happened on every previous occasion.

Ultimately, the bust itself is the best proof that the bust won't make any difference. Arrests and seizures and prosecutions for drugs are the norm for the United States, in Philadelphia and everywhere else. Yet for all that effort, sustained and conducted aggressively for decades, the demand for cocaine is still so strong that the quantities in which it is found continue to set records. And that is a record of failure by any reasonable definition of the word.

So while I'm sure the press conference was exciting for the people involved in it, I'm not excited, and I don't see why I should be. When people decide that it's time to try something different, because they realize how much they've been throwing away in money and manpower and lives, that will be much more exciting than a pile of powder and a group of law enforcement brass behind a podium ever could be.

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2. Massachusetts Aims For Marijuana Decriminalization in November

Eleven states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, leaving those busted to face only tickets and fines instead of a criminal record and possible jail time. But most of them decriminalized in the 1970s, with Nevada being the most recent addition to the list in 2001. This year, thanks to a carefully-crafted initiative campaign by the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy (CSMP), which follows two years of groundwork-laying by local activists, Massachusetts may be the next state to take the step.

Last year, CSMP drafted a decrim initiative and gathered more than 80,000 valid signatures. Now, in accordance with Massachusetts law, the initiative is before the legislature, which can either pass it, offer a competing version up to the voters in November, or do nothing and let voters vote on the initiative itself in November.

According to CSMP, the initiative (read its full text here) would:

  • Amend the current criminal statutes so that adults possessing an ounce or less of marijuana for personal use would be charged with a civil infraction and fined $100. Currently marijuana possession can draw six months in jail and a $500 fine, plus a wide range of "collateral consequences" continuing long after.
  • Remove the threat of a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) report for minor marijuana possession charges. Criminal records can haunt people when applying for jobs for the rest of their lives.
  • Maintain current penalties for selling, growing, and trafficking marijuana, as well as the prohibition against driving under the influence of marijuana.
  • Save Massachusetts approximately $24.3 million per year in law enforcement resources that are currently wasted on low-level marijuana possession arrests, according to a 2002 report by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron.

While the initiative had a March 18 hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary with a number of high-powered proponents, it is unlikely the legislature will act on it, leaving the voters to decide. That may be for the best, said Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Middlesex), who sponsored decrim legislation on which the initiative is based. While the Jehlen-sponsored SB1121 managed to win approval in committee, it has not gotten any further, nor has a similar bill, SB 1011, supported by the local activists of MassCann, the local affiliate of NORML.

An initiative will fare better with the public than in the legislature for a couple of reasons, Jehlen said. "It's not a big issue for many legislators," she pointed out, "and members are reluctant to take votes they think might be misunderstood by the public."

But before that can happen, CSMP will have to go back to the voters for another round of signature-gathering as required by Massachusetts law, explained committee head Whitney Taylor. Under that law, no one who signed petitions during the first round of signature gathering can sign a petition during the second round. Still, Taylor predicted no problems.

"I'm very confident we can come up with the required number of signatures," she said. "We have a lot of public support, we've been doing a lot of volunteer recruiting, and we've been working closely with SSDP chapters -- a bunch have just opened in the Boston area. There is a really great synergy going on there," she said.

"But while we have the enthusiasm of youth, we are also seeing a lot of buy-in from the broader public policy and advocacy community," said Taylor. "Massachusetts has the largest number of nonprofits per capita of any state, and these people are very comfortable in their political roles. There are lots of criminal and juvenile justice people who think our money could be better spent. It's great to see the support we're gathering at this early stage. I know we will make the ballot," she flatly predicted.

The initiative did have some early hurdles to pass. Last fall saw disagreement over aspects of the initiative language, particularly around whether it was wise to include marijuana in one's bodily fluids in the definition of marijuana possession and whether that could create a fine where it doesn't exist now. Some activists, such as NORML founder and current legal counsel Keith Stroup, worried that the language could become a precedent for other states to follow. Currently only one of them, South Dakota, defines a criminal offense of internal possession.

Taylor and initiative lawyers countered that there is conflicting case law on whether internal possession is already a criminal offense in Massachusetts that could draw a more severe punishment, or collateral consequences such as loss of college aid or problems in custody proceedings, and said the purpose of that language was to plug those holes by setting the same $100 fine as for external possession. They also argued that police can't take a bodily fluid sample without probable cause, which they say makes an internal possession penalty theoretical. Ultimately, all the major marijuana reform forces in the state, including NORML and MassCann, decided to support the initiative.

MassCann has been promoting the decrim cause in Massachusetts for years, and can point to some admirable achievements. At times working alone, at times working with the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts, the local activists managed to get non-binding questions on medical marijuana or decrim on the ballot in dozens of representative districts around the state. The results of those contests have demonstrated strong support for marijuana law reform in the Bay State.

"We never lost a ballot question," said MassCann treasurer Steve Epstein. "We did them in 2000, 2002, and 2004, and never lost, and we averaged 63%. We've also been working the legislature on reform there, but progress has been slow."

A successful decrim initiative would serve the same purpose as the decrim bills currently before the legislature, said Epstein. "Any of them will result in police not being able to arrest people for simple possession, all would result in people not getting CORIs, and all would save the police time and money. The police here will look the other way. They do that half the time already."

CSMP is honing its arguments as it looks forward to the fall campaign. "We are spending almost $30 million a year to arrest and book marijuana possession offenders," said Taylor. "And that's a conservative estimate. That money should stay in police coffers."

In addition to the economic costs, the campaign will highlight the costs of a marijuana conviction to young people. "We are seeing about 7,500 marijuana possession arrests a year, and that means 7,500 CORI reports, and that means opening people up to being rejected by landlords and employers, losing access to student loans and professional licenses, and all of that," Taylor said.

While opponents of marijuana law reform often cry that it will "send the wrong message" to the kids, Taylor said that is exactly backwards. "The wrong message to send to children is that if you make a mistake, we'll punish you for the rest of your life," she said. "With our initiative, whether this was just youthful experimentation or a sign of an actual problem, the consequences for law-breaking are immediate and done with, and that's more fair than the law currently is."

Now, the stage is set. Massachusetts voters have had nearly a decade to get accustomed to the notion of marijuana law reform, and the legislature, despite its inertia, is nibbling at the edges. Prominent Bay Staters are coming on board, fundraising is underway, and proponents are itching to take it to the ballot because they think they can win.

"The public supports it by about a two-to-one margin every time it's on the ballot. I filed my bill because of a vote like that in my district," said Sen. Jehlen. "It's also a better way to spend our public safety dollars more wisely by focusing on real threats, and it prevents harm to those people who are caught with it. Yes, I do think this can pass."

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3. Michigan Medical Marijuana Initiative Well-Positioned for November

With an initiative known as the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act headed for the November ballot with strong popular support, Michigan is poised to provide a major breakthrough for the medical marijuana movement. If the initiative passes, Michigan would be the first state in the Midwest to approve it and, with 10 million people, it would be the second most populous state to approve it, behind California.
Michigan Capitol
Sponsored by the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care (MCCC), the campaign has already gathered the necessary signatures and had them approved by the state election board. Under Michigan law, the initiative is now before the legislature, which is half-way through a 40-day window it has in which to act. If, as is expected, the legislature does not act, the initiative goes to the voters in November.

According to MCCC, the initiative would:

  • Allow terminally and seriously ill patients who find relief from marijuana to use it with their doctors' approval.
  • Protect these seriously ill patients from arrest and prosecution for the simple act of taking their doctor-recommended medicine.
  • Permit qualifying patients or their caregivers to cultivate their own marijuana for their medical use, with limits on the amount they could possess.
  • Create registry identification cards, so that law enforcement officials could easily tell who was a registered patient, and establish penalties for false statements and fraudulent ID cards.
  • Allow patients and their caregivers who are arrested to discuss their medical use in court.
  • Continuing certain restrictions on the medical use of marijuana, including prohibitions on public use of marijuana and driving under the influence of marijuana.

"The clock is ticking," said Diane Byrum of Lansing, who heads the MCCC. "We don't anticipate the legislature will take any action. When that doesn't happen, then we are automatically on the ballot."

While Byrum declined to discuss specific campaign tactics for the coming months, she did provide some hints of the arguments proponents would be making. "We will be focusing on the patients this initiative will protect from the fear of arrest or jail for using medical marijuana," she said.

The campaign will also make efforts to reassure voters, she said. "The law is narrow in scope, it deals only with medical marijuana, there is a mandatory state registration system," Byrum went down the list. "The sky won't fall."

While Michigan voters may want some reassurance, medical marijuana is not exactly a brand new issue in the state. Voters in five towns and cities -- Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint, and Traverse City -- have already approved medical marijuana, and it has been before the legislature for several years.

Rochelle Lampkin, a 49-year-old Detroit resident who uses medical marijuana to alleviate optic neuritis caused by Multiple Sclerosis, doesn't want to wait on the legislature. Although Lampkin is protected by Detroit's medical marijuana law, she said that was not sufficient. "I first spoke out about using medical marijuana when we were trying to get the ordinance passed, but I think this needs to go statewide. There are people suffering all over the state," Lampkin said. "People have a preconceived notion about marijuana, and I was one of them, but if you have enough pain, you'll try anything."

It helps her, she said. "The neuritis causes the nerves in the back of my eye to swell up and they hurt so bad," she said. "The marijuana works. It helps to relax the nerves so the pain subsides. I had to be convinced to try it, but I did, and it works. I don't like smoking it, so I learned how to make a tea out of it. That's what I use."

This isn't about potheads, Lampkin said. "I want people to understand everybody is not out here trying to get high," she said. "I don't get high, I don't smoke, I don't even drink. I was the square," she laughed. "When I did try it, it was because other people in my MS group said they used it and I might want to try it. I fought it, but I eventually did try it and it helps."

As the local pro-medical marijuana votes demonstrated, there is broad support among the Michigan electorate. A recent poll provided further evidence of that support, with 67% of voters saying they supported medical marijuana and 62% voicing approval for this particular initiative.

"This is the baby boomers coming of age," Tom Shields of the Marketing Resource Group, which conducted the Inside Michigan Politics survey, said in a statement on its release last month.

Voters between 34 and 54 showed 75% support for medical marijuana, and 63% of retirees did. Somewhat surprisingly, younger voters (18 to 34) were the least supportive, backing the measure 61% to 36%.

Still, the initiative is in good initial shape with voters, said Shields. "This is where you want to start at for a ballot proposal," Shields said. "You want to start over 60% because when the details come out, you lose support... This is a potential winner."

But there is a long way to go, said Byrum, who will be spending the next few months building and strengthening the campaign. "We're building a grassroots organization. We're asking people to make contributions. This is going to take a lot of work."

So far, at least, there is little sign of any organized opposition, although organizers expect law enforcement to eventually mount objections. One objection already being heard is that medical marijuana would still be illegal under federal law.

As for that argument, Byrum said that would make little difference to Michigan medical marijuana users. "About 99% of drug enforcement cases are done by state law enforcement," she pointed out. "Passage of this initiative will effectively protect 99% of our patients. We can see that by looking at states that already have these laws. They do provide protection."

Each state that joins the roster of medical marijuana states only increases the pressure on the federal government to change its policies, Byrum argued. "We believe that as more states pass their own laws it will apply further pressure to get beyond the political debate that dominates Washington and get to the scientific and medical evidence as a basis for policymaking."

Medical marijuana efforts are ongoing in a number of state legislatures this year. But the legislative process is excruciatingly slow and cumbersome, and it is unclear whether any will make it into law. Initiative campaigns, while expensive, have the benefit of bypassing the politicos and letting the voters choose directly. With high levels of popular support a few months out, it looks as if Michigan may beat the other states out of the gate.

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4. Spring Special: "Stop the Drug War" Knapsacks from

We are pleased to announce a DRCNet "spring special": the new knapsack. Promote the Stop the Drug War cause by buying this new DRCNet membership premium and using it to carry around your books or other belongings for work, school, or wherever life takes you!

The Stop the Drug War bag is yours on request with any donation sized $35 or more. Just visit our online donation page at, where you can place your order by credit card or PayPal, or if you prefer, print out a form to send in by mail. We also continue all our other recent offers -- visit our donation page online to view all the offerings in the righthand column.

Your donation 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 build on our stunning web site successes of the last third of 2007; all while continuing to publish our acclaimed and widely-read newsletter, Drug War Chronicle.

So please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing one or more gifts will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

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5. Law Enforcement: Detroit Prosecutor Charged With Misconduct for Allowing False Testimony in Drug Case, Misleading Jury

The head of the Major Narcotics Unit of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office has been charged with professional misconduct for allowing an informant and two Inkster police officers to lie on the stand in a 2005 cocaine case and for misleading jurors in her closing arguments in the case, the Detroit Free Press reported, citing the state Attorney Grievance Commission. The prosecutor, Karen Plants, was reassigned from her supervisory position Tuesday, after the Free Press called Prosecutor Kym Worthy's office seeking comment on the charges, which were filed Monday.

Worthy was in the news just a week ago announcing she would seek criminal charges against Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, for perjuring themselves in a police whistle-blower case. In announcing the criminal charges against the pair, Worthy said perjury cannot be tolerated in court proceedings.

But she was singing a different tune when it came to one of her prosecutors abetting perjury. Although Worthy conceded there was perjury in the 2005 drug case, she said Plants had properly notified the judge after the trial.

Still, Worthy had to reiterate her office's stance on perjury. "The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office does not condone perjury of any kind," Worthy wrote. "The office takes very seriously its obligations to the public, to the accused, and will continue to do so in the future."

Here's what happened: Informant Chad Povish gave police information leading to a 47-kilogram cocaine seizure in March 2005. During a preliminary examination, two evidentiary hearings, and the 2005 trial, Plants allowed Povish, Inskster Police Sgt. Scott Rechtzigel and Det. Robert McArthur to repeatedly deny they knew each other. That prevented defense attorneys from finding out Povish was a paid snitch and attacking his credibility, the commission charged.

Povish actually tipped off the police to a drug buy, then took duffel bags full of cocaine from one defendant before police arrived. He later told jurors he had never met the cops before and he didn't know what was in the duffel bags. Plants knew the claims were untrue, but never corrected them, the commission said. Even worse, she tried to buttress those false claims during closing arguments to the jury, characterizing Povish and another witness as "dummies who were stupid enough to be the carriers, the mules."

According to the commission, Plants told Wayne County Circuit Judge Mary Waterstone twice that the cops and informant had lied, but neither Plants nor the judge notified the defense. "He knowingly committed perjury to protect the identification of the" informant, Plants told the judge in one instance. "I let the perjury happen."

Waterstone said she understood the perjury was committed to protect the snitch's life, a claim made by Plants. But the commission pointedly noted that prosecutors had produced no evidence that Povish's life was indeed in danger or would be if his role was disclosed.

Waterstone has since retired from the bench.

The prosecutor's office later filed a confession of error in the case of one defendant after he was convicted, but both defendants ended up taking plea bargains with significant prison time. But they also both appealed, and one of them, Alexander Aceval, saw his case sent back to the appeals court by the state Supreme Court to decide if the perjured testimony denied him a fair trial.

Aceval's lawyer, David Moffitt of Bingham Farms, told the Free Press the episode is "the worst instance of police, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct" he has seen. "Not only did they attempt to unfairly convict my client, they covered up and lied in the face of accusations about the scheme."

Legal experts consulted by the newspaper agreed the charges were serious. "If a prosecutor violates a legal or ethical duty, the criminal justice system is perverted," said Larry Dubin, an ethics professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

Farmington Hills lawyer Michael Schwartz, grievance administrator for the commission in 1979-88, said: "The normal everyday result should be disbarment. But the mitigation is that she wasn't doing it for herself. She was trying to protect a confidential informant."

Schwartz also faulted Judge Waterstone, who he said should have declared a mistrial or told jurors witnesses had lied once she knew. "A judge simply cannot sit by and do nothing," Schwartz said. She "has to make sure the rules of ethics are adhered to."

Whether Wayne County Prosecutor Worthy will prosecute the lying police and informant like she is the mayor and his one-time paramour remains to be seen. Meanwhile, prosecutor Plants, who abetted the perjury and misled the jury, has been demoted, but is still on the job.

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

A Pittsburgh cop rips off the evidence locker, and four Metro Detroit cops get indicted for slinging steroids, helping a biker gang, and lying to the feds. Let's get to it:

In Pittsburgh, a retired Penn Hills police lieutenant was charged last Friday with stealing thousands of dollars worth of heroin and cocaine from department evidence lockers. Former Lt. William Markel, 54, is charged with three counts of theft and three counts of possession of a controlled substance. Markel went down after narcotics detectives told the police chief 110 bags of heroin were missing from a locked evidence locker. Further investigation revealed that an additional $2,000 worth of crack and powder cocaine was gone, as was another heroin stash valued at between $200 and $2,000. According to an affidavit in the case, Markel first said he took the drugs to give to informants, but then admitted stealing heroin and cocaine for his own use on multiple occasions. He also came up dirty on a departmental drug test and was fired. Markel says he has completed in-patient drug rehab and is now undergoing out-patient therapy. He is due back in court June 2.

In Detroit, four Metro Detroit police officers were indicted last month on drug charges and for lying to federal agents and a grand jury in an FBI operation targeting the Highwaymen Motorcycle Club, the Detroit area's largest outlaw biker gang. The feds were going after the Highwaymen for alleged drug dealing, murder for hire, interstate theft, acts of violence, mortgage and insurance fraud and police corruption. Although the March 13 indictments served up only one Highwayman (for marijuana and prescription pill peddling), they did get since-fired Garden City Police Officer David Tomlan for perjury and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and steroids. He had joined the biker gang and lied to agents about his contacts with club members. Brownstown Police Officer Michael Ramsey and former Detroit reserve officer Dennis Abraham are charged with lying to agents and a grand jury, and are accused of informing club members of an informant in their midst. Hamtrack Officer Randell Hutchinson, who was assigned to the DEA's Metro Detroit task force, allegedly told the Highwaymen the FBI was wiretapping a club member. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids.

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7. Search and Seizure: Vermont Supreme Court Throws Out Marijuana Conviction Based on Warrantless Aerial Surveillance

In a decision handed down last Friday, the Vermont Supreme Court threw out the felony marijuana cultivation conviction of a man caught growing marijuana following a warrantless flyover of his rural property by a military helicopter. Vermont residents have a broad privacy right "that ascends into the airspace above their homes and property," the court held in State v. Bryant.
marijuana eradication helicopter, Nashville
The case began in 2003, when Stephen Bryant, who owned a remote Addison County home, told a local official he didn't want trespassers. That unnamed official "found defendant's insistence on privacy to be 'paranoid,'" the opinion noted, and suggested that a Vermont State Police team do a flyover to look for marijuana. Under the rules of the state's Marijuana Eradication Team, which uses Vermont Army National Guard helicopters and pilots, flights are supposed to stay 500 feet above the ground. But an August 7, 2003 surveillance flight dipped down to 100 feet and hovered above Bryant's property for half an hour.

Troopers in the chopper saw marijuana plants, then used that information to obtain a search warrant. Bryant was arrested and charged with marijuana possession and cultivation. At trial, he argued that he used marijuana for medicinal purposes to treat an old work injury. Jurors acquitted him of possession, but convicted him of cultivation. In June, 2005, he was sentenced to 45 days. His appeal followed.

The Vermont constitution protects the privacy rights of residents even if it means some pot plants may go unseized, the court held in an opinion written by Associate Justice Marilyn Skoglund for the 4-1 majority.

"We protect defendant's marijuana plots against such surveillance so that law-abiding citizens may relax in their backyards, enjoying a sense of security that they are free from unreasonable surveillance. Vermonters expect -- at least at a private, rural residence on posted land -- that they will be free from intrusions that interrupt their use of their property, expose their intimate activities, or create undue noise, wind, or dust," wrote Skoglund.

"With technological advances in surveillance techniques, the privacy-protection question is no longer whether police have physically invaded a constitutionally protected area. Rather, the inquiry is whether the surveillance invaded a constitutionally protected legitimate expectation of privacy," she added.

"The decision is a boon to all Vermonters," said Middlebury attorney William Nelson, who represented Bryant at the Supreme Court. "It protects our privacy when we are out of doors, on our own property, and in our own yards," he told the Burlington Free Press after the decision.

The opinion serves as further evidence that the state constitution gives Vermonters greater privacy protection than federal laws do, Vermont law school professor Cheryl Hanna told the Free Press. "A lot of people feel the federal government doesn't respect privacy rights after Sept. 11," said Hanna. "Vermonters, at least at the state level, have that additional check on what the government can do."

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8. Europe: British Drug Advisors Say Leave Marijuana Where It Is, But PM Brown Is Set to Ignore Them

BBC News reported Thursday that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), the official body that advises the British government on drug policy, is recommending that marijuana remain as a lower category Class C drug rather than be rescheduled as a more serious Class B drug. That puts the ACMD at odds with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has clearly signaled that he wants to see marijuana rescheduled.

But rescheduling marijuana in the face of the ACMD's recommendations would put the Labor government in the awkward position of rejecting the findings of the 23-member panel of drug experts -- something it has never done before.

Marijuana was originally scheduled as Class B drug, with possession punishable by up to five years in prison, but was rescheduled as Class C (up to two years in prison) in 2004 after an ACMD review of the evidence. The ACMD again reviewed marijuana in 2006 and found no reason to reschedule it. Prime Minister Brown then asked the ACMD to again review marijuana.

The BBC is reporting that this third review will maintain the ACMD's position that marijuana should remain a Class C drug.

That will put the advisory panel in direct conflict with Brown, who has from the beginning of his tenure signaled he wanted marijuana to return to Class B. Earlier this week, at his monthly news conference, he was at it again.

He said that while he would consider the ACMD's report, he felt that changing the law was necessary. "I believe that if we are sending out a signal particularly to teenagers, and particularly those at the most vulnerable age, young teenagers, that we in any way find cannabis acceptable, given all that we now know about the changes in the way cannabis is being sold in this country, that is not the right thing to do," he said. "My personal view has been pretty well known for some time. Given the changing nature of the stock of cannabis that is coming into the country and greater damage that that appears to be doing to people who use it, there is a stronger case for sending out a signal that cannabis is not only illegal but it is unacceptable."

The ACMD has not released its official recommendation, but is expected to do so later this month. The Home Office will decide in May whether to take a bold step backwards on marijuana policy.

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9. Europe: Dutch Court Throws Out Maastricht Coffee Shop Ban on Foreigners

A district court judge in the Dutch border city of Maastricht Tuesday overturned a municipal ordinance ordering coffee shops to refuse to serve foreign clients, according to reports compiled by NIS News. The city had imposed the ban as an experimental measure in 2005, in part to appease the neighboring Belgian, French and German governments, who complain that their citizens go to Holland to score, and in part to appease conservative Justice Minister Peit Hein Donner.
downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
One coffee shop was shut down for three months in 2006 because it did not follow the ban on foreigners. But it reopened three months later.

In the meantime, a legal challenge to the ordinance wound through the courts. Now, a Dutch judge has ruled that because the sale of marijuana is legal in practice under Dutch law, ordinances barring foreigners from partaking in that legal activity amount to discrimination by nationality, which is banned by the Dutch constitution unless there are objective, reasonable grounds to justify it. The judge held that no such grounds exist in the present case.

As a Dutch city bordering neighboring countries where marijuana policies are not so relaxed, Maastricht has been the locus of numerous battles over marijuana sales. Just three weeks ago, courts ruled against its bid to set up coffee houses on a designated strip on the city's outskirts to mitigate congestion from foreign "drug tourists."

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10. Southeast Asia: Thailand Launches New "War on Drugs," But Promises No Killings (Maybe)

Five years ago, the Thai government of then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawtra launched a bloody "war on drugs" in which an estimated 2,500 people were killed. Now, his political allies have announced that its successor has gotten underway, but they say they will not resort to extra-judicial executions of suspected drug peddlers and users.
Thai officials attend NGO human rights panel slamming Thai government at UN drug summit in Vienna last month
"Drugs are a chronic problem," Deputy Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said at a ceremony launching the six-month initiative. "Whoever is involved, police and the army will decisively arrest and prosecute the traffickers. But we will not kill or hurt anyone; otherwise, people will say this is government policy."

But Interior Minister Chalerm Yoobumrung, who is in charge of the campaign, sounded more ominous. The government would follow the rule of law, he said, then added: "If anyone does not want to die, don't walk this road," he said.

Chalerm said he had a list of 10,000 drug users compiled by police. "I can assure you all in the media that you will not get bored -- you will witness new and bold measures in this campaign," he said.

During the last Thai "war on drugs," human rights organizations accused the government of allowing police and soldiers to murder drug suspects. Thaksin defended his repressive apparatus, saying the deaths were "bad guys killing bad guys," and an investigation of his government by his government claimed security forces were acting in self-defense.

Thai officials complained that drug abuse had increased in the past two years. According to the Thai Justice Ministry, there are an estimated 570,000 drug users, up from 460,000 in 2003. While heroin is available, the most significant hard drug is methamphetamine.

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11. Latin America: Ecuador Files Complaint Against Colombia for Spraying Coca Fields Near Border

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Maria Isabel Salvador announced Monday that her government has filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice (World Court) asking it to order Colombia to stop spraying herbicides on coca fields along its border. The court sits in the Hague.
eradication: much pain, no gain
The move comes as tensions between Ecuador and Colombia remain high over a Colombian military raid last month into Ecuadorian territory that killed a high-level Colombian guerrilla leader, several of his comrades, an unclear number of Mexican students, and possibly, one Ecuadorian citizen.

During a Monday press conference, Salvador said that Ecuador had tried for years to get Colombia to stop spraying near the border and "the diplomatic process was exhausted." There was "overwhelming evidence" that herbicidal spray has crossed into national territory, ''and as a result the health and economics of numerous Ecuadorians have been seriously affected.''

Ecuador will ask the world court to rule that Colombia violated its sovereignty. It seeks an ordered halt to spraying within six miles of the border, as well as damages from Colombia.

Colombia had agreed in late 2005 to suspend spraying near the border, but started up again in December 2006, saying the guerrillas had swarmed into the area. In February of this year, Colombia announced another suspension, saying it would eradicate plants by hand, but Ecuador says it is not sure Colombia would not start spraying again in the future.

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12. Middle East: Israeli Anti-Drug Campaign Links Marijuana Use to Terrorism

American drug czar John Walters would be proud. Tearing a page from his "pot smoking supports terrorism" playbook, the Israeli Anti-Drug Authority this week launched a new campaign featuring Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in hopes of deterring Israelis from smoking marijuana.
The campaign includes a poster showing Nasrallah emerging genie-like from a bong. Beneath the image, the text reads: "Hezbollah is clearly planning to flood Israel with narcotics. Narcotics pose a strategic threat to Israeli society. Whoever uses narcotics is giving a hand to the next terrorist attack."

The new campaign, with its linkage of marijuana and terrorism, comes just a week after senior Israeli security sources told Israeli media that Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a stand-off in the summer of 2006, is planning to flood the country with drugs in an effort to harm its citizens. That same day, Israeli police and IDF troops seized the largest shipment of heroin ever confiscated on the border with Lebanon, some 60 pounds.

Lebanese hash has been a staple of the Israeli drug scene for decades, but no one is growing opium there. The heroin most likely came on a long journey from the valleys of Afghanistan. But if Israel is really concerned about local potheads putting money in Hezbollah's hands, it could solve that problem by allowing domestic, regulated cultivation of cannabis.

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13. This Week in History

April 8, 1989: Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo is arrested in Mexico. Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni leads a team of Federal agents who arrest the drug lord in a residential suburb of Guadalajara. Gallardo is imprisoned on charges relating to the kidnapping and murder of Enrique Camarena. His nephews, the Arellano-Felix brothers, inherit part of his drug-trafficking empire.

April 6, 1995: ABC News airs a special entitled "America's War on Drugs: Searching for Solutions" in which legalization is presented as an alternative to the failing war on drugs.

April 6, 1998: Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum's six year study of 1,798 students, "Assessing the Effects of School-based Drug Education: A Six Year Multilevel Analysis of Project DARE," finds that "DARE had no long-term effects on a wide range of drug use measures," that DARE does not "prevent drug use at the stage in adolescent development when drugs become available and widely used, namely during the high school years," and that "DARE may actually be counterproductive."

April 5, 2000: The Journal of the American Medical Association publishes "Trends in Medical Use and Abuse of Opioid Analgesics." The researchers conclude: "Conventional wisdom suggests that the abuse potential of opioid analgesics is such that increases in medical use of these drugs will lead inevitably to increases in their abuse. The data from this study with respect to the opioids in the class of morphine provide no support for this hypothesis. The present trend of increasing medical use of opioid analgesics to treat pain does not appear to be contributing to increases in the health consequences of opioid analgesic abuse."

April 6, 2000: The First National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics convenes at the University of Iowa.

April 9, 2002: NORML launches a $500,000 campaign featuring bus shelter signs and telephone booth posters carrying a quote from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who when asked whether he had ever tried marijuana said, "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it." NORML used Bloomberg as the centerpiece of its campaign to urge the city to stop arresting and jailing people for smoking marijuana. "Millions of people smoke marijuana today. They come from all walks of life, and that includes your own mayor," said NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup.

April 8, 2003: The US House of Representatives Government Reform's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources holds a hearing on the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas and Counterdrug Technology Assessment programs because, as Subcommittee Chairman Souder stated, "HIDTA has reached far beyond its intended focus on national drug trafficking. We will need to consider how best to streamline and increase accountability within the HIDTA program."

April 10, 2003: In the wake of the federal conviction of medical marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal, US Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and 27 other members of Congress introduce H.R. 1717 (the "Truth in Trials Act").

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14. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

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

Since last issue:

Scott Morgan writes: "New Study: Pot Smokers Aren't Drug Addicts, They Just Like Pot," "Even if We Succeed, The Drug Warriors Will Take All the Credit," "South Park Takes on Drug Prohibition," and "Winning 'Em Over One at a Time."

DRCNet intern Eric Wilhelm contributes: "Looking for a New Boogie Man," while intern Amanda Shaffer offers: "Southpark: 11 Years of Exposing Drug War Fallacies."

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

Please join us in the Reader Blogs too.

Thanks for reading, and writing...

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15. 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. 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 to learn more about our organization.

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17. Webmasters: Help the Movement by Running DRCNet Syndication Feeds on Your Web Site!

Are you a fan of DRCNet, and do you have a web site you'd like to use to spread the word more forcefully than a single link to our site can achieve? We are pleased to announce that DRCNet content syndication feeds are now available. Whether your readers' interest is in-depth reporting as in Drug War Chronicle, the ongoing commentary in our blogs, or info on specific drug war subtopics, we are now able to provide customizable code for you to paste into appropriate spots on your blog or web site to run automatically updating links to DRCNet educational content.

For example, if you're a big fan of Drug War Chronicle and you think your readers would benefit from it, you can have the latest issue's headlines, or a portion of them, automatically show up and refresh when each new issue comes out.

If your site is devoted to marijuana policy, you can run our topical archive, featuring links to every item we post to our site about marijuana -- Chronicle articles, blog posts, event listings, outside news links, more. The same for harm reduction, asset forfeiture, drug trade violence, needle exchange programs, Canada, ballot initiatives, roughly a hundred different topics we are now tracking on an ongoing basis. (Visit the Chronicle main page, right-hand column, to see the complete current list.)

If you're especially into our new Speakeasy blog section, new content coming out every day dealing with all the issues, you can run links to those posts or to subsections of the Speakeasy.

Click here to view a sample of what is available -- please note that the length, the look and other details of how it will appear on your site can be customized to match your needs and preferences.

Please also note that we will be happy to make additional permutations of our content available to you upon request (though we cannot promise immediate fulfillment of such requests as the timing will in many cases depend on the availability of our web site designer). Visit our Site Map page to see what is currently available -- any RSS feed made available there is also available as a javascript feed for your web site (along with the Chronicle feed which is not showing up yet but which you can find on the feeds page linked above). Feel free to try out our automatic feed generator, online here.

Contact us for assistance or to let us know what you are running and where. And thank you in advance for your support.

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

RSS feeds are the wave of the future -- and DRCNet now offers them! The latest Drug War Chronicle issue is now available using RSS at online.

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

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

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19. Resource: Reformer's Calendar Accessible Through DRCNet Web Site
DRCNet's Reformer's Calendar is a tool you can use to let the world know about your events, and find out what is going on in your area in the issue. This resource used to run in our newsletter each week, but now is available from the right hand column of most of the pages on our web site.

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

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

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

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