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Drug War Chronicle #532 - April 18, 2008

1. Editorial: Yet More Unintended and Impossible-to-Predict Harm Caused by Drug Prohibition

There are many unintended consequences of prohibition which have yet to be brought to light, and many impossible-to-predict harms from prohibition we have yet to see. This week we learned about a new one.

2. Salvia Watch: Two More States and One City Act Against the Plant, and North Dakota Marks First Bust

Salvia mania continues across the land, as state and city legislators pass laws without waiting for evidence and North Dakota makes its first-ever bust for the plant -- a felony.

3. The 2008 Presidential Campaign: On the Left, the Greens and the Nader Campaign

With the leading Democratic and Republican contenders hewing to the mainstream, on drug policy we take a look at what the alternatives have to say. Last week, it was the Libertarians; this week, it's the Green Party and the Nader candidacy.

4. Offer: New Clergy Anti-Drug-War Video

Clergy are speaking out against the war on drugs! Donate $16 or more (or whatever you can afford) and we'll send you a copy.

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

Problems in the crime lab in Tucson, a small-town Georgia cop gets caught redhanded, and a Georgia sheriff's deputy follows in his father's not so illustrious footsteps.

6. Marijuana: Barney Frank Introduces Federal Decriminalization Bill

Thanks to Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), there is a marijuana decriminalization bill before Congress. It would decriminalize up to 100 grams. But don't hold your breath waiting for it pass anytime soon.

7. Harm Reduction: More Than 300,000 HIV/AIDS Cases Linked to Injection Drug Use

Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, more than 300,000 people -- or 30% of all cases -- have contracted the virus through injection drug use. The good news is that in 2006, they only accounted for 17% of new cases; the bad news is that means 6,000 still caught the bug through dirty needles.

8. Marijuana: Nebraska Legislature Passes Stiffer Decrim Penalties, Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

Getting caught with under an ounce of marijuana costs you $100 in decriminalized Nebraska, but fines would triple under a measure just passed by the state legislature.

9. Addiction: Small Percentage of Drug Users Dependent One Year After First Use

Contrary to some popular narratives about drug use and its consequences, the vast majority of first-time drug users are not strung out a year after they first tasted the forbidden fruit -- no matter which drug it was.

10. Asia: Beijing Police Begin Pre-Olympics Drug Crackdown

With the Olympics coming to Beijing in August, Chinese authorities are beginning a crackdown designed to make the city "drug-free" for the sporting event.

11. Australia: South Australia Bans Bongs

Possession of bongs will be illegal under new legislation passed by the South Australia parliament. There may be unintended consequences.

12. Latin America: Brazilians Don't Say "Legalize It"

Support for marijuana legalization remains low in Brazil, although it is slowly rising, a recent poll has found.

13. Weekly: This Week in History

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

14. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"Drug War 101: Don't Let the Cops into Your House," "Barney Frank Introduces Marijuana Decriminalization Bill," "If Progress in the Drug War is Measured in Dead Bodies, It's Going Well," "The Drug War Exacerbates Deadly Brazilian Mosquito Plague," "Job Opportunity: Kill People For a Mexican Drug Cartel," "Job Opportunity: Grow Marijuana for the Canadian Government," "New Study: Most Money Has Cocaine Residue On It," "Clinton Proposes Fixing Stupid Crack Law, While Creating Stupid Meth Law," "Defenders of Paramilitary Policing Don't Know What They're Talking About," "Please Burn the Byrne Grants," "British Prime Minister Ignores Experts, Set to Increase Penalties for Pot Smokers," Phil Smith is "Headed Down Mexico Way (Again)."

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

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Editorial: Yet More Unintended and Impossible-to-Predict Harm Caused by Drug Prohibition

David Borden, Executive Director

David Borden
Four years ago, I opined about an issue that had come up in California, one affecting the schools and with which the legislature was grappling. According to NPR affiliate station KQED in Los Angeles at the time, many school systems had stopped providing locker space to students, because some administrators see lockers as facilitating the problems of guns and drugs. Of course, drug selling is a principle reason for carrying a gun to school, although only because drugs are illegal.

Unfortunately for California schoolkids, as a result of the locker closures, some young people had developed posture problems, with resultant chronic pain, as a result of having to carry all of their books around all day. KQED interviewed once such student from North Hollywood. He typically carried about 30 pounds of books with him, which was 19% of his body weight, nearly twice the maximum recommended by the American Chiropractic Association. As a teenager he had become a regular user of Tylenol in order to manage the pain.

The reason I chose that story for my editorial that week was the unpredictable nature of it. There are a lot of things that are easy to predict about drug prohibition laws, based on historical experience. We know that prohibition causes crime, and builds up organized crime entities, by putting a lucrative industry with its hundreds of billions of dollars of annual revenues into a criminal underground. We know that prohibition causes preventable deaths, especially of the addicted, by ensuring that users of the banned drugs obtain them from that underground, which lacks the regulation and quality controls that legal industries have. We know that prohibition has a corrupting effect on youth, and others -- the guns and the drug trade in the schools issue that legitimately concerned California administrators is a frightening example -- by providing job opportunities for those who are attracted to the those moneymaking opportunities and the associated glamour.

But who would have guessed the drug war would lead to teen back pain? Lest any should dismiss that issue as unimportant by comparison with the harms of drugs, and of guns in the schools, remember that the guns and drugs didn't go away as a result of the lock closures. Did anyone really think they would, for that matter? Back pain is an issue that can deeply affect the life of a sufferer, young or old, and which for many can go uncorrected for a lifetime. Lockers are part of a school's infrastucture. When drug policy leads us to start dismantling infrastructure, that is a sign of a policy problem.

This week our blog reported on another unpredictable public health problem from the drug laws, a more dramatic and gruesome one. In Brazil, the drug war is exacerbating a deadly plague carried by mosquitoes. The problem is that one in four people in the city of Rio de Janeiro live in the poverty-stricken "favelas," or shantytowns, where pools of water are common during the rainy season, which attracts the mosquito population. But access for authorities to the favelas is hampered by Rio's raging drug war, hampering efforts to contain the disease. Of course, these drug wars are happening only because drugs are illegal, prompting the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro to call for legalization last year.

After 14 years in drug policy, it's not so very often that I learn a new angle. Yet I have no doubt that there are many unintended consequences of prohibition which have yet to be brought to light, and many impossible-to-predict harms from prohibition that we have yet to see.

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Salvia Watch: Two More States and One City Act Against the Plant, and North Dakota Marks First Bust

Aroused by videos of young people using salvia divinorum on YouTube and spurred on by law enforcement eager not to miss an opportunity, legislators across the country have this year been raising the alarm about the fast- and short-acting hallucinogenic herb, despite the lack of any evidence that its use is harmful. In the latest outbreaks of salvia mania, the South Carolina and Florida Houses have passed a bill to criminalize the plant, a Massachusetts town has banned it, and police in North Dakota -- one of a handful of states where it is already illegal -- announced their first salvia bust.

salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid)
On Wednesday, the Florida House passed HB 1363, which would ban salvia possession and place it on the state's Schedule I, along with marijuana and other psychedelics as drugs with no accepted medical use and "high potential for abuse."

Salvia has experienced "growing popularity among teens and young adults," said Rep. Mary Brandenburg (D-West Palm Beach), the bill's sponsor. It is not clear what evidence she based that claim on.

A companion Florida Senate bill to ban salvia has already cleared committees and is ready for a floor vote. If it passes and is signed into law by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, possession or sale of the drug would become a third degree felony in Florida.

Six days earlier, the South Carolina House passed HB 4687, which criminalizes salvia and puts it in the same category as marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy. The bill passed with little discussion on a lopsided 101-4 vote. After one more routine housekeeping vote, it heads to the Senate.

The bill was pushed by law enforcement and drug prevention groups despite little evidence it is being used in the state. Neither local law enforcement nor the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) officials consulted by The State newspaper were aware of any reports of its use.

"SLED hasn't seen this substance in South Carolina at this point, but we're certainly prepared to enforce this new law if it is passed," said Richard Hunton, SLED inspector.

North Dakota law enforcement had its chance earlier this month, when they arrested a Bismarck man for possessing eight ounces of salvia leaf. (The drug is most commonly ingested by smoking salvia extracts, which are significantly more potent than the leaf.) Kenneth Rau has been charged with salvia possession with intent to deliver in what North Dakota cops believe is the state's first salvia bust.

Now, they're looking for more, Lt. Bob Haas of the Bismarck Police told WDAY-TV6 News. "It sure looks like there could be a market, based on the amount he had. This is the first we've seen of it."

Even some towns and cities are getting in on the act. The most recent is West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, where city selectmen voted to ban the plant this week. Although Massachusetts is among the states considering action against the member of the mint family, the state was not moving fast enough for the West Bridgewater folks.

"What makes Salvia divinorum dangerous is that it has hallucinogenic properties like LSD and it can be purchased on the same Web site where you find Beanie Babies and baseball cards," Selectman Matthew Albanese said. "I can't imagine why the Drug Enforcement Agency has Salvia listed as a 'drug/chemical of concern' as opposed to a 'controlled substance,'" Albanese said.

Albanese might have asked the DEA. The Chronicle did three weeks ago, and DEA spokesperson Rogene Waite told us that the agency is following procedure by evaluating eight factors listed in the Controlled Substances Act in determining whether or not to schedule a drug. Unlike Massachusetts selectman or various state legislatures, (this time at least) the DEA seems to actually be waiting for evidence before it acts.

Since 2005, seven states have restricted use of the substance. And about a dozen other states have similar legislation pending.

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The 2008 Presidential Campaign: On the Left, the Greens and the Nader Campaign

With the Democratic Party presidential contenders offering little more than tepid reforms on the margin of drug policy and the Republican nominee largely promising more of the same old drug war (look for an article next week on major party contender crime and drug policies), people seeking radical reforms in US drug policy are looking beyond the two major parties. Last week, Drug War Chronicle examined the alternative on the right, the Libertarian Party, and its presidential campaign. This week, we turn our view to the left, to the Green Party and the independent campaign of Ralph Nader.

While third-party alternatives like the Greens or Libertarians have not succeeded in winning large percentages of the popular presidential vote -- the 2000 Nader Green candidacy garnered only 2.7% of the national vote, and the 2004 competing Nader and Green candidates combined for little more than half a million votes nationally -- in a close election, third parties could throw a state's electoral votes to one or the other of the major party candidates. Just to take one example, countless Democrats are still fuming that the 2000 Nader campaign cost them the election by garnering slightly under 100,000 votes in Florida.

"A third-party campaign could make a difference in a tight race," said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Action Network, the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. "In this election, it could come from either side of the political spectrum."

While conservatives and libertarians interested in drug reform have the Libertarian Party, for liberals and progressives, the Green Party comes closest to a palatable drug policy. In its most recent social justice platform, adopted at the 2004 national convention, the party calls for -- among other things -- repealing "Three Strikes" laws and mandatory sentencing, an end to asset forfeiture for unconvicted suspects, a moratorium on prison construction, the decriminalization of victimless crimes including marijuana possession, the legalization of industrial hemp, and "an end to the war on drugs."

"Law enforcement is placing too much emphasis on drug-related and petty street crimes, and not enough on prosecution of corporate, white collar, and environmental crimes," said the platform. "At the same time, we must develop a firm approach to law enforcement that directly addresses violent crime, including trafficking in hard drugs. Violence that creates a climate of further violence must be stopped. Police brutality has reached epidemic levels in the United States and we call for effective monitoring of police agencies to eliminate police brutality."

While the Green Party platform has its contradictions -- it calls for marijuana decrim and an end to the drug war, but also defines selling drugs as "violent crime" -- it is miles ahead of the major parties on drug policy. And the current crop of Green Party presidential candidates appear to be ahead of the party platform.

Former Democratic Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney looks to be the front-runner for the party nomination at this stage, primarily because of her high name recognition and national reputation. On her web site, McKinney says bluntly, "We want to end the war on drugs now!"

In addition to targeting communities of color, "the War on Drugs has become a war on truth, taxpayers, civil liberties, and higher education for the poor and middle class, and sadly, it has also become a war on treatment, addicts, and reason," says her statement. It also "provides cover for US military intervention in foreign countries, particularly to our south, and that this increased militarization is used to put down all social protest movements in countries like Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and elsewhere."

"This is a big issue for Cynthia, especially as it impacts communities of color and regarding the prison industrial complex," said John Judge, a McKinney press spokesman.

It's also a big issue for other Green candidates. "Drug policy is a big issue for me, it affects my daily life," said contender Kat Swift, a San Antonio-based political activist and former co-chair of the Texas Green Party. "I work at a homeless center, and we deal with drug issues all the time. We're across the street from a park with a lot of illegal drug sales. I've also had friends and family members arrested for having a joint."

Swift said she is looking to long-time drug reform activist and former Connecticut Green Party gubernatorial candidate Cliff Thornton, and his group, Efficacy for guidance on drug policy issues. "Cliff has submitted an amendment to our drug policy plank that would call for legalizing and regulating all drugs, and I don't know that I differ with him on this at all," she said.

For Swift, drug policy is a pivotal issue. "This is an area where race and class and even how we treat women and children is at play," she said. "This is about the prison-industrial complex and keeping people in their class."

"I am opposed to the war on drugs," said contender Kent Mesplay, who came up in California Green Party politics and now serves as a delegate to the Green National Committee. Calling the drug war a "vestige of Puritanism," he added that "it is, in effect, a war on poor people with terror for us all when we realize how completely the US government attempts to micro-manage our lives. It would be far better to have governmental agencies put money and effort into actually educating people as to the science of drug use."

And just in case that wasn't clear enough, Mesplay added, "Yes, I have smoked marijuana and I favor its decriminalization."

Neither the other Green Party presidential contender, Jesse Johnson, nor the Nader campaign responded to Chronicle requests for information on their drug policy positions. Johnson's campaign web site does not mention drug policy, nor does Nader list it among his "Twelve Issues that Matter in 2008," although his web site says it is open for more issues and he has embraced drug reform in past campaigns.

According to the Green Party web site, McKinney stands alone at the head of the pack in the delegate count, but that's with only three states having decided. The contest for the party's nomination will be on until the party national meeting later this summer.

Once again, people for whom drug reform is a major issue will have a choice, whether on the left or the right. They can vote for parties and candidates who support their drug policy positions, but who have little to no chance of winning, or they can vote for a Democrat in hopes of obtaining reforms on the margins, or they can vote for the Republican despite their drug policy convictions.

[This article was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so. Writing staff attempted to craft this article with full journalistic integrity as we do with our 501(c)(3) publishing.]

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Offer: New Clergy Anti-Drug-War Video

We are pleased to offer as our latest membership gift: "Clergy Against the War on Drugs," a new DVD by our friends at the groups Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative and Common Sense for Drug Policy. The IDPI DVD is essential. As Rev. Scott Richardson of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in San Diego said in his interview, "One of the reasons that we as religious leaders need to speak out against [the drug war] is that we share responsibility for it." And speak out they do, in this two part video (9 minutes & 17 minutes). The voices of clergy opposing the drug war is a powerful tool that you and your friends can use to enlighten members of your community.

Donate $16 or more to DRCNet, and we will send you a copy of the IDPI video -- perfect for showing at a meeting, in a public viewing at your nearest library, or at home for friends or family who don't yet understand. Please visit to make your donation and order your DVD today -- consider signing up to donate monthly! If you haven't already seen the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) DVD, let us know and we'll include that in the package too -- or order some other premium for us, and add either or both videos for free! (Use the comment form at the bottom of our donation form for any special instructions.)

If you can't afford the $16, make us an offer, we'll get the video to you if we can. But please only ask this if you truly aren't able to donate that amount. Our ability to get the word out about important products like the IDPI and LEAP videos depends on the health and reach of our network, and that depends on your donations. Please consider donating more than the minimum too -- $50, $100, $250 -- whatever you are able to spare to the cause. The cause is important -- as Rabbi Michael Feinberg of the Greater NY Religion Labor Coalition expressed it in the video, "the war on drugs has caused as much devastation to communities around this country, particularly low income communities, as the drug themselves."

online version of Clergy Against
the War on Drugs video

Again, our web site for credit card donations is -- or send a check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.

Thank you for your support of the work of DRCNet and our allies. We hope to hear from you soon.


David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network

Washington, DC

P.S. Special thanks to Common Sense for Drug Policy for funding the video and providing copies! Clergy Against the War on Drugs can also be viewed online here.

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Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Problems in the crime lab in Tucson, a small-town Georgia cop gets caught redhanded, and a Georgia sheriff's deputy follows in his father's not so illustrious footsteps. Let's get to it:

In Tucson, a police crime lab supervisor has resigned after being accused of stealing drug evidence. Steve Skowron, a veteran of the department for more than two decades, went down after requesting leave for personal reasons on February 27. When a fellow lab employee went to his work station to get items needed for testing, he discovered unsealed packages of drugs with the drugs missing. Tucson police said Skowron was taking the drugs for his personal use. Still, the Pima County Attorney's Office now plans to reopen up to 200 cases Skowron was involved in. He is currently accused of mishandling evidence in six criminal cases between December 2004 and January 2006. No charges have yet been filed.

In Homerville, Georgia, a Lakeland police officer was arrested April 10 for possession of powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and other drugs. Lakeland Police Officer Brian King, 25, will be charged with four counts of possession of drugs with the intent to distribute, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. King was fired last week.

In Rome, Georgia, a former Bartow County deputy sheriff faces sentencing next month after pleading guilty to federal embezzlement charges. Former Deputy Brenton Garmon stole $80,493 in money seized in drug busts between 2004 and 2007 while making a reputation for himself as the department's best narc. He is now working for an industrial services company while awaiting sentencing. Garmon is upholding a family tradition: His father, James Garmon, was a veteran Georgia Bureau of Investigation officer when he was arrested and ultimately convicted of bribery for collecting $1,600 in cash from a pawn shop that bought 81 guns seized by his son's drug unit. He did a year in a federal prison camp before getting out last fall.

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Marijuana: Barney Frank Introduces Federal Decriminalization Bill

Last month, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) announced he would file a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession at the federal level. Wednesday, Frank followed through, introducing the "The Personal Use of Marijuana By Responsible Adults Act of 2008," which would set a maximum $100 fine under federal law for possession or not-for-profit transfer of less than 100 grams of marijuana.

Barney Frank
Frank did not comment publicly this week on the proposed legislation, but in a statement last month on his marijuana legislation, Frank said it was a waste of federal time and resources to prosecute minor marijuana offenses.

"I think it is poor law enforcement to keep on the books legislation that establishes as a crime behavior the government does not seriously wish to prosecute," he said. "For highly-trained federal law enforcement agents to spend time prosecuting people for smoking marijuana is a diversion of scarce resources from their job of protecting public safety."

Marijuana laws should be left to the states, he suggested. "The norm in America is for the states to decide whether particular behaviors should be made criminal. To make the smoking of marijuana one of those extremely rare instances of federal crime -- to make a 'federal case' out of it -- is wholly disproportionate to the activity involved. We do not have federal criminal prohibitions against drinking alcoholic beverages, and there are generally no criminal penalties for the use of tobacco at the state and federal levels for adults. There is no rational argument for treating marijuana so differently from these other substances."

Even if the Frank bill were to pass, which seems unlikely any time in the near future, it would have limited impact on the 800,000-plus marijuana arrests each year since the vast majority of them are made by state and local law enforcement. But it would send a very strong signal to the states that the federal government no longer considered pot-smoking a serious problem worthy of the criminal justice system.

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Harm Reduction: More Than 300,000 HIV/AIDS Cases Linked to Injection Drug Use

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300,000 people have been infected with the HIV/AIDS virus through injection drug use. That is roughly 30% of all the slightly more than one million cases reported in the US since the disease first appeared on the radar in the early 1980s. The figures are contained in Table 3 of the CDC's latest HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, covering cases through 2006.

According to the report, more than 170,000 men and nearly 75,000 women contracted the virus through sharing dirty needles. Another 68,000 men contracted the virus through a combination of injection drug use and male-to-male sexual contact.

If there is any good news on the HIV/AIDS drug injection front, it is that the percentage of new cases linked to injection drug use appears to be dropping. While over the history of the epidemic, roughly 30% of all cases are linked to needle-sharing, in 2006 that number was only 17%.

Still, that means that more than 3,000 men and more than 1,700 women contracted the virus in 2006 through injection drug use. Nearly 1,200 more men contracted the virus through a combination of needle-sharing and male-to-male sex.

Needle exchange and other programs designed to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS currently operate in around 200 US localities, but despite their proven record in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, they continue to face hostility in some communities and from some state and local officials. Under an amendment offered by then Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), the federal government is prohibited from spending federal funds on needle exchange programs. Both remaining Democratic Party presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton (NY) and Barack Obama (IL), have called for an end to that ban.

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Marijuana: Nebraska Legislature Passes Stiffer Decrim Penalties, Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

The Nebraska legislature Tuesday gave its approval to a measure that will increase the penalties for small-time marijuana possession in the Cornhusker state. Under Nebraska's current marijuana decriminalization statute, in place since 1979, first-time possession of less than an ounce of weed is punishable by no more than a $100 fine, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for a third offense.

Under Legislative Bill 844, the maximum fine for first-time possession of less than an ounce will be $300, $400 for a second offense, and $500 for a third offense. The measure would also increase the maximum penalty for possession of more than an ounce, but less than a pound. Under current law, violators face a $500 fine and up to a week in jail. Under the new law, the fine would remain the same, but the maximum jail sentence would increase dramatically to three months.

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilbur, who argued that fines should be increased because they are not as stiff as those facing minors caught possessing alcohol. In Nebraska, drinking under 21 can get you 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. The marijuana decrim penalties apply to both minors and adults.

Karpisek's reasoning must have appealed to his fellow legislators. The upward revision of decrim penalties passed on a 40-2 vote.

In 2006, there were 7,416 arrests and citations made for marijuana possession, sale and manufacture, according to the Nebraska Crime Commission. The commission did not break down those figures, but assuming roughly 90% of arrests and citations were for simple possession -- about the national average -- that means the state of Nebraska stands to see its pot fine revenues increase from somewhere around $600,000 a year to $1.8 million.

Nice racket.

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Addiction: Small Percentage of Drug Users Dependent One Year After First Use

Contrary to popular drug policy discourses that portray drug users as descending from first use into a hell of dependence and addiction, a new analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) suggests that most first-time users of most drugs were not using them a year later and that for nearly all illicit drugs, more than 90% of first-time users did not become dependent.

The research report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that only 1% of first-time users of inhalants and tranquilizers were dependent a year later. For hallucinogens and sedatives, the figure was 2%; for pain relievers and alcohol, 3%. The drug with the highest number of dependent users a year after first use was heroin (13%), followed by crack cocaine (9%), marijuana (6%), stimulants (5%), and powder cocaine (4%).

When it came to any use of the drug within a year after first use, only alcohol and marijuana broke the 50% barrier, with 71% and 52%, respectively. Less than 20% of first-time heroin or crack users were still using after a year without being considered dependent, while slightly more than one-third of stimulant and powder cocaine users were.

Such data may not fit some popular narratives about drug use -- particularly the widely-held notion that methamphetamine is "more addictive" than other substances -- but that's what the numbers say.

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Asia: Beijing Police Begin Pre-Olympics Drug Crackdown

Public security officials in Beijing, the Chinese capital and host city for this year's summer Olympics, announced a pre-Olympic drug crackdown Wednesday, according to Chinese state media. Beijing police will secretly search bars for drug traffickers and "addicts" in the run-up to the games, officials declared in a statement.

The two-month campaign will apparently target bars and clubs popular with young people and foreigners, which police complain are becoming a popular venue for drug use and trafficking. If bar-goers or owners are found to be involved in drug-related activities, they will be investigated, said Zhao Wenzhong, head of the Beijing Municipal Security Bureau's drug control department.

The Chinese aim to create a "drug-free" environment for the August Olympics, Zhao said.

The crackdown has been underway for some time, but is being ramped up for the Olympics. According to Fu Zhenghua, deputy head of the bureau, more than 20 Beijing bars and clubs have been closed after being found to be involved in drug use or trafficking.

Less than two weeks ago, Beijing police raided two bars in the Sanlitun night-life district, detaining scores of young people, including numerous foreigners, covering their heads with bags, and taking them to police stations for drug tests. That led to complaints by the foreigners' parents of "Chinese torturing foreign teens in drugs bust." Chinese authorities reported they had arrested 20 people, including eight foreigners, for possession of drugs including ecstasy, marijuana, and unspecified "other drugs."

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Australia: South Australia Bans Bongs

The Labor government of South Australia has banned bongs as part of a bill that makes possession of drug paraphernalia a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in jail or a $50,000 fine. In addition to bongs, the law covers such implements as hookahs, "cocaine kits," and glass pipes used to smoke methamphetamine and crack cocaine.

The measure won final passage in the South Australian parliament on April 10. The government of Premier Mike Rann was quick to embrace it.

"The Rann Labor government has banned the bong," crowed state Attorney General Michael Atkinson in remarks reported by the Adelaide Advertiser. "Commercial outlets retailing drug paraphernalia in South Australia will now either have to shut up shop, or find another line of business," he said, pointing out that one shop had already closed.

The new legislation closes what drug warriors saw as a loophole in state law. Previously, courts had to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the person in possession of the item planned to use it for illegal purposes. Now, possession in itself becomes the basis for a guilty verdict.

"To my knowledge just a handful of cases have been brought against commercial outlets selling drug paraphernalia because of the difficulty of proving that the seller intended the equipment be used in connection with preparing or consuming an illicit drug," Atkinson said.

The bill was the brainchild of Member of the Legislative Council Ann Bressington, an alcohol and drug counselor who lost a child to a drug overdose in 1998, and sits on the board of Drug Free Australia and is a member of the Australian National Council of Drugs (ANCD), peak advisory body to the prime minister's office.

But while the state government portrayed the legislation as a blow against drug use, one local drug expert, pharmacology associate professor Rodney Irvine, told the Advertiser users will seek other ways to inhale smoke and that could be more dangerous. "When you close one loophole another one emerges, a different pattern of use emerges," he said.

"I would say that there's a possibility those alternative homemade ones will have some problems," Irvine added, suggesting that using a water pipe or bong could be less harmful than smoking a joint or pipe. "Intuitively, I would say that smoking anything through a water pipe is a better option than smoking it in a joint or a spliff," he said. "If you're smoking tobacco through a water pipe you've got cooler smoke. If there's cooler smoke, there are less volatile substances, therefore less tar."

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Latin America: Brazilians Don't Say "Legalize It"

A solid majority of Brazilians consulted in a recent poll think marijuana smoking should remain a criminal offense, the Angus Reid Global Monitor reported Tuesday. The poll was done by Datafolha and published in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo.

Psicotropicus banner promoting marijuana (maconha) legalization
According to the polling data, 76% of respondents agreed that marijuana smoking should remain a crime, while 20% said it should not. The number wanting pot criminalized declined slightly from a similar 2006 poll, where 79% agreed, while the number of those saying it should not be a crime increased slightly, up from 18%.

In 2002, Brazilian lawmakers approved legislation that created alternative punishments, such as community service or drug treatment, for use of the drug. At the time, Brazil's National Antidrug Secretariat defended the decision. "Smoking marijuana is not a crime," said Paulo Roberto Uchôa, head of the secretariat. "A drug user is someone who needs counseling and information. The ones who traffic drugs are the criminals."

In 2005, Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil, an internationally recognized musician, went public with his marijuana habit, saying he had smoked for years. "I believe that drugs should be treated like pharmaceuticals, legalized, although under the same regulations and monitoring as medicines," he said then.

Now, if the Brazilian people can only catch up with their government. Usually, it's the other way around.

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Weekly: This Week in History

April 19, 1943: Albert Hoffman takes the first dose of LSD, in Basel, Switzerland.

April 23, 1998: The Ottawa Citizen reports that Canadians who tell US border officials the truth about their past use of marijuana will be denied entry to America indefinitely.

April 18, 2001: Kenneth Hayes and Michael Foley are acquitted by a Sonoma County, California jury on charges of cultivating and possessing marijuana. The two were arrested for growing 899 marijuana plants for the 1,200 members of a San Francisco medical marijuana club called CHAMP (Cannabis Helping Alleviate Medical Problems).

April 20, 2001: American Christian missionary Veronica Bowers and her seven month-old daughter, Charity, are killed when their small plane is shot out of the sky by a Peruvian military jet as part of a CIA-backed program that patrols the Amazon Basin for drug couriers. The Senate Intelligence Committee investigates and concludes the missionary pilot did nothing wrong and should not have come under fire.

April 24, 2001: In Oklahoma, Will Foster, 42, a medical marijuana patient who in 1995 was sentenced to 93 years in prison for growing 39 marijuana plants in his basement, is released on parole. Foster used marijuana to relieve chronic pain caused by acute rheumatoid arthritis. "My medical use of marijuana never interfered with my work, I ran a successful business," said Foster. He added, "I was minding my own business taking care of my health and my family. What was I doing to anybody that got me 93 years?"

April 20, 2002: Robin Prosser of Missoula, Montana begins a hunger strike demanding access to government grown marijuana to help her treat symptoms of Lupus. Prosser says that marijuana helps combat the illness and relieves her pain and stress.

April 21, 2004: US Circuit Court Judge Jeremy Fogel bars the US Dept. of Justice from interfering with Mike and Valerie Corral, heads of a medical marijuana hospice near Santa Cruz, California, with their 250 patients, or with their marijuana garden. Judge Fogel cites Raich v. Ashcroft, a 2004 Ninth Circuit decision which found the federal government has no jurisdiction over patients who grow their own plants.

April 22, 2004: The Pacific edition of the magazine Stars and Stripes reports that twenty sailors assigned to Commander, Naval Forces Marianas (Guam) were arrested on drug-related charges since late 2003 alone.

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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! Check out the Speakeasy main page at

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

Since last issue:

Scott Morgan writes: "Drug War 101: Don't Let the Cops into Your House," "Barney Frank Introduces Marijuana Decriminalization Bill," "If Progress in the Drug War is Measured in Dead Bodies, It's Going Well," "The Drug War Exacerbates Deadly Brazilian Mosquito Plague," "Job Opportunity: Kill People For a Mexican Drug Cartel," "Job Opportunity: Grow Marijuana for the Canadian Government," "New Study: Most Money Has Cocaine Residue On It," "Clinton Proposes Fixing Stupid Crack Law, While Creating Stupid Meth Law," "Defenders of Paramilitary Policing Don't Know What They're Talking About."

David Borden says "Please Burn the Byrne Grants." DRCNet intern Shane Trejo contributes: "British Prime Minister Ignores Experts, Set to Increase Penalties for Pot Smokers." Phil Smith is "Headed Down Mexico Way (Again)."

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.

Again, is the online place to stay in the loop for the fight to stop the war on drugs. Thanks for reading, and writing...

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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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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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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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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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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.

  • Visit each day and you'll see a listing of upcoming events in the page's right-hand column with the number of days remaining until the next several events coming up and a link to more.

  • Check our new online calendar section at to view all of them by month, week or a range of different views.
  • We request and invite you to submit your event listings directly on our web site. Note that our new system allows you to post not only a short description as we currently do, but also the entire text of your announcement.

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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