Drug War Chronicle #533 - April 25, 2008

1. Feature: North Dakota Man Facing Years in Prison After Buying Salvia Divinorum On eBay

In what is most likely the first salvia arrest in the county, a North Dakota man with an interest in herbalism and spirituality faces years in prison for $32 worth of salvia leaves he bought on eBay.

2. Feature: Medical Marijuana Bill to Be Introduced in Mexico Next Week

A bill that would legalize the medical use of marijuana will be introduced next week in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies. It is part two of a three-part marijuana reform package; a decrim bill was introduced last fall, and an industrial hemp bill is pending.

3. 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.

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

A perverted Oklahoma sheriff gets indicted, an Atlanta narc goes on trial, an Indiana jail guard goes to jail, a Santa Fe narc doesn't -- and a cop who made these pages three years ago is found not guilty.

5. Salvia Watch: Florida Senate Votes to Criminalize the Diviner's Sage

Florida is about to become the next state to ban salvia divinorum as a bill to do so passes the state Senate and heads for the governor's desk.

6. Law Enforcement: Florida Judge Throws Out Most Charges in Tampa Latin Kings Case, Chides Cops for Sleazy Snitch

A Florida judge has thrown out racketeering and conspiracy charges against 23 defendants in the Tampa Latin Kings case, citing the FBI and Tampa police use of a snitch who committed crimes and basically created the conspiracy.

7. Latin America: Argentine Court Decriminalizes Drug Possession in Buenos Aires

An Argentine federal appeals court has ruled that simple drug use or possession should not be a criminal offense and has thrown out thousands of pending possession cases. The country's high court could still overturn the ruling, but it is line with the position of the Argentine government.

8. Southwest Asia: In Harm Reduction Move, Iran to Provide Condoms, Syringes in Vending Machines

The Iranian government may be widely viewed as Islamic hard-liners, but when it comes to drug use, they are taking an increasingly pragmatic approach. Now, it's syringes in vending machines for a nickel.

9. Europe: Head of Dutch Police Union Says Legalize Marijuana, a Dutch Mayor is on the Same Wave-Length

The head of the Dutch police union says it's time to just legalize cannabis, and a Dutch mayor wants to start regulating growing.

10. Death Penalty: More Executions in Iran and Saudi Arabia, Syrian Activists Criticize Saudis

Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have been busy executing drug offenders recently, but now the Saudis are taking some heat from Syria over their treatment of Syrian drug offenders.

11. Weekly: This Week in History

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

12. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"Virginia v. Moore: Just Another Dumb Ruling, Not a Full-blown 4th Amendment Crisis," "The Heroin Addict President Can't Save Us From the Bombs of Xyzistan," "Drug Czar Creates Handy Guide For Teens on Where To Obtain Prescription Drugs," "Police Admit Humiliation After 4/20 Celebration at UC Santa Cruz," "4/20 Gets Bigger Every Year," "How Can We Debate Them if They Don't Even Know What Decriminalization Means?," "A Great 4th Amendment Ruling in Alaska," "Mexico City: Goths and Rockeros and Jipis, Oh My!," "European Pressure: Turkey Must Fight Drug War, or Else," "Marijuana: Lead-Laced Pot Newest Prohibition-Related Disaster."

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1. Feature: North Dakota Man Facing Years in Prison After Buying Salvia Divinorum On eBay

In what is likely the first arrest for possession of salvia divinorum anywhere in the nation -- and definitely a first in North Dakota -- a Bismarck man now faces years in prison after he bought a few ounces of leaves on eBay. Kenneth Rau, a bottling plant worker with an interest in herbalism, altered states, and religion and spirituality, was arrested by Bismarck police on April 9 when they searched his home looking for his adult son, who was on probation for drug charges.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/kennethrau.jpg
Kenneth Rau
Police found a marijuana pipe, eight ounces of salvia leaf, a quantity of amanita muscaria mushrooms, and a number of other herbal products. Rau now faces multiple charges, said Burleigh County States Attorney Cynthia Feland.

"He is being charged with possession of salvia with intent to deliver, as well as possession of psilocybin with intent, and possession of marijuana," she said. Although Rau told the Chronicle he thought he would be charged with a school zone violation as well, which would have made his intent offenses Class A felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison, that is not the case, said Feland. "He is not being charged with a school zone violation," she affirmed.

(The psilocybin charges could go up in smoke. The amanita muscaria mushrooms that he possessed are not controlled substances under federal law and, while hallucinogenic, do not contain psilocybin. The active ingredient in amanita muscaria mushrooms is muscimole.)

Rau was being charged with possession with intent because of the weight of the leaves, she said. "We look at the typical use quantity," she said, "and it is similar to marijuana, with a typical use dose of .25 grams to .5 grams, and he had significantly more than that," she said.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/salvialeaves.jpg
salvia leaves (courtesy erowid.org)
Salvia divinorum, a member of the Mexican mint family, has been used by Mazatec shamans for hundreds of years. Smoking or chewing the leaves, or more commonly, concentrated extracts, can produce intense, albeit short-lived hallucinogenic experiences. While the plant has become notorious through YouTube videos of young people smoking it and behaving strangely, it is also of interest to "psychonauts," or people attempting to explore consciousness through herbal means.

Researchers say that while salvia's effects on consciousness may be disquieting, the plant has not been shown to be toxic to humans, its effects are so potent it is unlikely to be used repeatedly, and its active property, salvinorin A, could assist in the development of medicines for mood disorders.

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

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

The DEA considers salvia a drug of interest, but has yet to move to place it under the Controlled Substances Act. A DEA spokesman told the Chronicle recently that the plant is being reviewed to see if it meets the criteria for inclusion on the list of controlled substances.

But driven by little more than the YouTube videos and the story of one Delaware youth whose parents blamed his suicide on salvia, state legislators have not waited for the DEA's measured considerations to act. Since Delaware became the first state to ban salvia, a handful of others, including North Dakota, followed suit. Moves are currently afoot in a number of other states to join the club.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/salvia-ads.jpg
salvia (and criminal defense) ads on web version of ND news station report on Rau's bust
Salvia became illegal in North Dakota on August 1, after a bill sponsored by three Republican lawmakers, state Sens. Dave Oelke and Randel Christmann and state Rep. Brenda Heller sailed through the legislature earlier this year. None of the three legislators responded to Chronicle requests for comment this week.

After Rau was arrested earlier this month, Bismarck police warned that it could be only the beginning in the fight against the member of the mint family. "It sure looks like there could be a market, based on the amount he had", Lt. Bob Hass told reporters. "This is the first we've seen of it." Hass did not return Chronicle calls for comment this week.

While salvia information web sites like Salvia.Net do place a single dose of salvia leaf at between .25 gram and one gram, similar to County Attorney Feland's estimate, intent to deliver still seems a stretch. "I bought eight ounces of leaf on eBay by bidding $32 for it," said Rau. "Now they're charging me with possession with intent. That's silly. Nobody wants leaves. Everyone is buying those 10X and 20X and 30X extracts." [Ed: Not to mention that on eBay one buys what is being offered a sale, not half or a tenth or twentieth of it.]

Rau was also not impressed by the prosecutor's dosage estimates. "This is a clear ploy to exaggerate the number of saleable units," he complained. "These drug warriors have long used this ploy to make dealers out of everyone. Accepting those figures, an ounce of Salvia Divinorum would give 120 doses and make anyone holding an ounce of it a dealer. This is ridiculous since an ounce is clearly the standard saleable unit for leaf. Applying the prosecutor's standard marijuana dosage and saleable quantity would be the amount that would fit in the end of a pinch hitter. This standard would make anyone holding even an eighth ounce of marijuana a dealer."

Rau also scoffed at the notion that anyone is going to be buying fractions of an ounce of salvia leaf. "You can buy an ounce online for as little as $10," he pointed out. "Who is going to split that up into smaller quantities? Hell, you would probably end up spending more on baggies that you did on the leaf," he said.

"This is ridiculous legislative overreaching," said Rau of the new law. "They only based it on those wacky YouTube videos, and even on those, you see people trying to abuse the stuff as much as possible and ham it up, and it still doesn't hurt them. And why jump from selling it in stores to making it a felony," he asked, "don't they do misdemeanors anymore? I didn't even know it was illegal here, and with their first prosecution they go for the max."

The local TV station's web site has inadvertently supported Rau's point. At the time of this writing, an online version of the news report about Rau's arrest was still pulling up salvia ads by Google. Rau emailed the link to Drug War Chronicle, proving that the salvia ads are showing up on computers in North Dakota.

A mild-mannered 46-year-old, Rau's interest in salvia derived from a broader interest in herbalism, religion and spirituality, as well as efforts to deal with his own inner demons. "I read that salvia facilitates lucid dreaming, so I tried chewing some leaves before bed time, and it was interesting because I would see faces and remember names I had long forgotten."

He also tried salvia as a cure for depression. "I have some childhood issues to deal with. They had me on Paxil," he said. "They want you to take their pharmaceuticals, but if you want to take an herbal remedy, they want to throw you in prison. Are they going to save me from myself by throwing me in prison for years?"

Now, Rau is fighting for his freedom, but there aren't many resources in North Dakota, and he doesn't even have a lawyer yet. "The ACLU doesn't even list anyone in the state," he said. "I've emailed the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, but I haven't heard back from them yet."

Still, he said, his arrest has motivated him. "Maybe this is an opportunity for me to join the fight," he said. "I've never been a drug user, never been arrested. I started experimenting with this stuff because I thought it was legal. I didn't want to get into trouble, but now they're treating me just like some meth dealer."

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2. Feature: Medical Marijuana Bill to Be Introduced in Mexico Next Week

Deputy Elsa Conde of the Social Democratic Alternative Party, or simply Alternativo, will introduce a bill to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Mexico next week. A press conference to announce the move is set for Monday, and the bill should be filed Tuesday, a day before the Mexican congress goes on vacation.

The bill would make medical marijuana available for seriously ill patients. It proposes a system of licensed dispensaries to handle supply. The text of the bill was not available by Thursday afternoon.

"I will introduce the bill on Tuesday," said Deputy Conde, "If marijuana helps sick people, we should not punish them for using it," she said Thursday.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/elsaconde.jpg
Elsa Conde
Alternativo is a small party with only four seats in the 500-member Chamber of Deputies, but bill supporters said the measure also has support from some members of the leftist Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), at least one member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and may pick up some support from a key member of the conservative governing National Action Party (PAN). (The three big parties in Mexico are the PRD, the PAN, and the PRI.)

While the number of supporters from major parties is currently small, it is a prestigious group. The three PRD deputies who have signed on are all doctors, and the PAN member expressing support is the chair of the health committee in the Chamber of Deputies, where the bill will get its first hearing.

Deputy Conde has been working with a small group of activists, academics, lawyers, and celebrities known as Grupo Cáñamo (the Hemp Group). Last fall, Conde introduced a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession in Mexico. The final bill in Conde's and Grupo Cáñamo's tripartite marijuana offensive, one that would legalize hemp production, is in the works.

Grupo Cáñamo came together to push for legislative reforms, said Mexico City activist Ricardo Sala, whose own organization, Convivencia, has been a leading voice for a more rational approach to drugs. "Deputy Elsa wanted to present some marijuana legislation, and she said we needed to show broad support, so we organized the group to help push that effort" he said. The group hopes to expand and broaden its mandate, but right now is focusing on marijuana issues, he said.

While Conde's decrim bill has gone virtually nowhere in the congress, the medical marijuana bill should have better prospects, said Jorge Hernández Tinajero, a member of AMECA (the Mexican Association for Cannabis Studies) and an advisor to Conde. "This measure is very attractive medically and scientifically," he said at a Grupo Cáñamo strategy session Thursday morning. "It will be easier to achieve than decriminalization."

Tinajero said he joined Grupo Cáñamo in a bid to move from street activism to the halls of power. "We do the global marijuana day marches," he noted, "but we have to do politics if we want to change the law."

For Dr. Humberto Brocca, a leading Mexico City drug treatment provider who specializes in acupuncture therapy and deals with the city's street youth population, making medical marijuana available to those who need it is paramount. "This is a human rights issue," he said at the Thursday meeting. "The right to health is fundamental."

There are challenges, said Brocca. "The government here is very moralistic, and what we need and want to do is move medical marijuana from the moral sphere to the scientific sphere. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug with no medical use, and we need to open the scientific and political space to move it to Schedule II. What we need is to move beyond policy based on moralism to policy that is evidence-based."

"Cannabis users should not be persecuted, either for medical marijuana or personal use," said anthropologist Sandra Tovar, who is married to Brocca and has coauthored several books with him.

"I think this can pass," said Tinajero. "The PAN needs to have a human face, and taking a bold stance on a health issue may help them do it."

Whether or not the bill passes, consideration of it will advance the cause, said Brocca. "We need to make this a public discussion so we can educate not only the public, but also the medical community and the politicians. This effort can only help," he said.

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3. 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 http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ 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.)

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

A perverted Oklahoma sheriff gets indicted, an Atlanta narc goes on trial, an Indiana jail guard goes to jail, a Santa Fe narc doesn't -- and a cop who made these pages three years ago is found not guilty.

We do try to follow these stories to their endings, but we don't catch everything. If there is anyone else out there who has an update we haven't mentioned, please send it on to us. In the meantime, let's get to it:

In Arapaho, Oklahoma, the Custer County Sheriff resigned April 16 as state prosecutors filed a 35-count indictment charging him with coercing and bribing female inmates to participate in sex acts. Now former Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess faces 14 counts of second-degree rape, seven counts of forcible oral sodomy, and five counts of bribery by a public official, among other charges. A federal lawsuit filed by 12 former inmates alleges that Burgess and his employees had them participate in wet T-shirt contests and gave cigarettes to inmates who would flash their breasts. He also allegedly had sex with a female drug court participant after telling her she would be sent to prison if she didn't satisfy his sexual demands. Another prisoner alleges she was given trusty status after agreeing to perform a sex act on Burgess, but lost that status when she later refused. He also faces two counts each of sexual battery, rape by instrumentation, and subornation of perjury. It being Oklahoma, Burgess now faces 467 years in prison.

In Atlanta, an Atlanta police officer involved in the November 2006 raid that resulted in the death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston went on trial this week in connection with her killing. Officer Arthur Tesler was one of three officers charged in the case, in which they ginned up a story to get a search warrant at her address, did a no-knock entry, then shot and killed Johnston after she opened fire on them as they burst through her door. They then planted marijuana in her basement and asked another informant to lie in an attempt to cover up their errors. Former officers Gregg Junnier and Jason Smith pleaded guilty to state charges of voluntary manslaughter and a federal charge of violating her constitutional rights and are now in federal prison awaiting sentencing. Tesler, the only one to go to trial, is charged with the lesser crimes of making a false statement to an investigator, violating his oath of office and unlawful imprisonment. He faces up to 15 years in federal prison if convicted.

In Pendleton, Indiana, a Pendleton Correctional Facility guard was arrested April 15 after police found 3.2 pounds of marijuana in his car. Tracy McGrady faces charges of bribery, trafficking with an inmate, official misconduct, and possession of marijuana over 30 grams. Police say she hid drugs in containers of frozen food to smuggle them into the prison. McGrady went down after another guard inside the prison tipped off authorities.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, a former Santa Fe police detective was sentenced April 17 to three years probation for stealing money seized from a drug suspect. Former Det. Danny Ramirez, 48, had pleaded guilty January 22 to one count of theft after being caught stealing $5,000 during the May 2006 drug arrest. He was also fined $1,000.

In Chicago, a former Maywood police officer was acquitted April 15 of charges he tipped off a local gang leader about a police drug raid in 2005. Former Officer Arian Wade, 36, had been charged with criminal drug conspiracy and official misconduct after an investigation by the Cook County state's attorney's office and Cook County sheriff's police. The misconduct charge was dropped before trial. During the two-week jury trial, prosecutors alleged that phone calls between Wade and a drug suspect were aimed at helping him evade law enforcement, but the defense successfully argued that Wade was grooming him as an informant and feeding him false information to ingratiate himself. The jury deliberated for four hours before delivering the not guilty verdict.

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5. Salvia Watch: Florida Senate Votes to Criminalize the Diviner's Sage

The Florida Senate Wednesday passed a bill, SB 340, criminalizing salvia divinorum, also known as "Diviner's Sage," among other nicknames. The Florida House approved a companion measure banning the fast-acting, short-lived hallucinogen last week. If, as expected, the bill is signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Christ, Florida will be the latest in what is a rapidly expanding list of states to take action against salvia.

The state of Florida will protect the youth by subjecting them (and adults) to up to five years in prison for possessing salvia, which would be classified in the same category as LSD and marijuana under Florida law.

Although lawmakers could cite little data about use of the herb, especially among teenagers, they said they were increasingly worried about children buying it online.

The bill passed the Senate by a margin of 39-0 after limited debate. The House version passed by a 109-4 margin a week earlier.

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6. Law Enforcement: Florida Judge Throws Out Most Charges in Tampa Latin Kings Case, Chides Cops for Sleazy Snitch

A Florida judge Monday threw out charges against nearly two dozen defendants in the Tampa Latin Kings drugs, racketeering, and conspiracy case, citing FBI and Tampa Police use of a confidential informant with a lengthy criminal record who threatened nearly two dozen people into participating in the "conspiracy." While he rejected defense assertions of prosecutorial misconduct, Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Daniel Sleet excoriated law enforcement as he dropped charges against 23 of the more than 50 original defendants in the highly-publicized case.

While some of those arrested have been jailed, unable to get bail since the August 21, 2006 raid on the Caribbean American Club in South Tampa, others have already accepted plea bargains to probation or prison sentences. Charges remain against only a handful of key players in what was described at the time as a "close-knit, well-organized" gang.

Judge Sleet was particularly appalled by the role played by confidential informant Luis "Danny" Agosto, who cut a deal with the FBI and the Tampa police to "take down" the Latin Kings, but had to resurrect the moribund local chapter to do it. He used threats and intimidation as part of his scheme. And on the side, he stole motorcycles, plotted drug deals, and threatened women while working as a paid snitch.

According to a detailed account of the case in the Tampa Tribune, Agosto, who already had a long record of felony convictions, was in jail facing armed burglary and grand theft of a motor vehicle charges when the FBI and the Tampa police hired him to investigate possible drug and weapons activity among the Latin Kings. In return, the burglary charge vanished and Agosto got 10 years on probation for the car theft, according to testimony and Sleet's written order. He also got a rent-free apartment, a cell phone, $2,400 hundred a month living expenses, and the promise of a $100,000 bonus upon conviction of Latin Kings members.

But, as the order noted, "A little over a month after he was employed by law enforcement, [Agosto] ventured back into his previous life of crime." After listing a litany of criminal acts by Agosto while being paid by law enforcement, Sleet called him "an out-of-control convicted felon abusing his role as an informant." Law enforcement should have arrested Agosto, Sleet wrote, instead it "excused" his crimes.

Worse yet, Agosto used beatings, threats, and intimidation to compel people to attend meetings he called, which in some cases were the sole basis for the racketeering and conspiracy charges they faced. In essence, Sleet found, Agosto created the conspiracy, and law enforcement abetted that behavior. "A court should not allow this illegal and impermissible conduct to snare criminal suspects," Sleet wrote.

"This court finds that law enforcement's conduct, by and through [the confidential informant], was so outrageous toward those defendants... as to violate the Florida Due Process Clause," Sleet wrote. "Dismissal is an extreme sanction; however an extreme sanction is warranted to punish extreme conduct."

Lyann Goudie, a defense attorney in the case who wrote a 114-page motion to drop the charges, congratulated the judge on his decision in her favor. "Most of these defendants should not have been charged at all," she said. "That offended all of us."

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7. Latin America: Argentine Court Decriminalizes Drug Possession in Buenos Aires

A federal court in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires Tuesday decriminalized drug possession in the capital in a ruling that could be altered by the country's high court, but which is in line with the position of the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. In issuing its ruling, the federal court threw out thousands of drug possession cases pending in the federal district.

The ruling from the federal court of appeals came in the case of two young people arrested for possession of marijuana joints and ecstasy tablets at an electronic music concert in 2007. In those cases, the court held that the 1989 drug law that punished simple drug possession or consumption is unconstitutional .

Under that law, drug users were seen as the base of a chain that led directly to drug traffickers. But the appeals court held that that law generated "an avalanche of cases against users without managing to ascend the links of the chain to the drug traffickers."

The current government is in favor of reforming drug laws. During a recent UN session, Argentine Justice and Security Minister Aníbal Fernández called the policy of punishing drug users "an absolute failure."

Now, a federal appeals court has ratified that opinion.

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8. Southwest Asia: In Harm Reduction Move, Iran to Provide Condoms, Syringes in Vending Machines

Officials of the Iranian government announced last week that they are embarking on a pilot program to provide syringes and condoms to drug users in an effort to prevent the spread of AIDS and hepatitis. The items will cost the equivalent of a nickel.

Situated next door to Afghanistan, home of 90% of the world's opium and heroin production, Iran now suffers one of the world's highest opiate addiction rates. Iranian officials generally estimate that 2 million of the country's 71 million people are addicted to opiates, now mainly heroin.

"Five of these machines which have been made will be installed in five of Tehran city's welfare shelters for addicts," the deputy head of Iran's anti-narcotics organization, Mohammad Reza Jahani, said in remarks reported by Agence France-Presse. "Condoms, syringes, bandages and plasters will be easily accessible just by inserting a coin. This protects addicts from acquiring AIDS and hepatitis."

Look for more syringe and condom vending machines, said Jahani. "The machines will be used for a three month trial period and if the scheme is successful then we will upgrade them and increase their distribution to other shelters," he said.

The harm reduction measure is the latest in a series of moves in the Islamic Republic's approach to drug use and addiction. While it still hangs traffickers and guns down smugglers, it now tries to treat users as "people who need help," or at least is starting to, rather than throwing them into already overcrowded jails.

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9. Europe: Head of Dutch Police Union Says Legalize Marijuana, a Dutch Mayor is on the Same Wave-Length

Hans van Duijn, head of the Dutch police union, told Radio Netherlands Wednesday that the struggle to arrest marijuana growers and providers was pointless and that marijuana should just be legalized. Under Dutch practice, the sale and consumption of small amounts of marijuana are illegal but tolerated, while police continue to seek to arrest the people who supply the coffee shops where the weed is sold, as well as people who are growing or selling outside the coffee house system.

But attempting to arrest growers and suppliers detracts from police ability to deal with other, more serious, crime issues, van Duijn said. Unfortunately, the retiring union head added, Dutch politicians are reluctant to consider that possibility because of international pressure. They are "sticking their heads in the sand," he said.

Van Duijn also called for letting hard-core drug addicts use drugs under supervision. He said that is the only effective way to fight crime.

Meanwhile, the substitute lord mayor of Terneuzen, a city of 60,000 close to the Belgian border, has called for a pilot program for legal marijuana cultivation. Access to a legal supply of marijuana would solve the "backdoor problem" for the Dutch, wherein coffee shops can sell the weed, but no one can legally provide it for them. Substitute Lord Mayor Co Van Schaik told the Dutch news source PZC it was time for such a program.

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10. Death Penalty: More Executions in Iran and Saudi Arabia, Syrian Activists Criticize Saudis

The resort to the death penalty for drug offenses continued apace in recent days. According to reports compiled by the anti-death penalty organization Hands Off Cain, both Iran and Saudi Arabia were hard at it again. Meanwhile, the Saudis have come under fire from Syrian activists complaining that large numbers of their countrymen have fallen under the executioner's sword in Saudi Arabia.

According to recent reports, Saudi citizen Abdullah al-Qahtani was executed for trafficking in tranquilizers in Riyadh on April 11; two Nigerians caught smuggling cocaine into the kingdom inside their bodies, Mohammed Qaddus Suleyman and Idris Abdel Ghani Mohammed, were beheaded in the western Mecca region on April 13; a Saudi man, Ayyed al-Dousary, was executed for selling drugs in the southwestern city of Abha on April 15; and a Jordanian, Mohammed bin Awadh al-Khalidi, was executed for trafficking in tranquilizers in Al Qarah on April 17. Four days later, Iran got back into the game by hanging four people convicted of drug trafficking in the country's southeast.

Meanwhile Syrian human rights activists said that Saudi Arabia has sentenced at least 30 of their compatriots to death on drug charges and jailed hundreds more. "This arbitrary punishment is based on wild interpretations of the Koran. Trials lacked any modicum of justice," lawyer Mohannad al-Hassani said after meeting Syrian officials to raise the plight of the inmates. The activists expressed concern that the Syrian citizens could be suffering from the political tensions between Syria and Saudi Arabia. "I hope regular citizens do not end up paying the price for bad relations between two Arab countries," Hassani said.

Hundreds of Syrians were in Saudi jails for drug offenses, he said, many of whom had spent years awaiting trial. They are mostly young truck drivers and unskilled workers, he said.

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11. Weekly: This Week in History

April 25, 1894: The Indian Hemp Drug Commission concludes that cannabis has no addictive properties, some medical uses, and a number of positive emotional and social benefits.

April 27, 1937: In a statement before the US House of Representative Ways and Means Committee, Clinton Hester testifies that a Washington Times editorial published shortly before Congress held its first hearing on the marijuana issue argued: "The fatal marihuana cigarette must be recognized as a deadly drug and American children must be protected against it."

May 1, 1972: Nobel Prize laureate for economics Milton Friedman is quoted in Newsweek: "Legalizing drugs would simultaneously reduce the amount of crime and raise the quality of law enforcement. Can you conceive of any other measure that would accomplish so much to promote law and order?"

April 30, 1984: Colombian Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, who had crusaded against the Medellin cartel, is assassinated by motorcycle-riding contract killers. President Belisario Betancur, who had opposed extradition, announces "We will extradite Colombians." Carlos Lehder is the first to be put on the list. The crackdown forces the Ochoa family, Escobar, and Óscar Rodríguez Gacha to flee to Panama for several months. A few months later, Escobar is indicted for Lara Bonilla's murder and names the Ochoas and Rodríguez Gacha as material witnesses.

April 29, 1996: At a speech at a Miami high school, President Clinton calls for a war on drugs -- for the second time. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the nation's drug czar, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer on May 1 that "everything the president has announced is already being done. There's nothing new here."

April 25, 2000: Despite the formal opposition of the Hawaiian Catholic Church, the Hawaii State Senate passes medical marijuana legislation, joining California, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Alaska, and Arizona in shielding medical marijuana patients from criminal prosecution.

May 1, 2003: The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003 (IDAPA) is signed into law, among other things amending a section of the Controlled Substances Act to target rave organizers. It shifts the statute's emphasis from punishing those who establish places where drugs are made and consumed, such as "crack houses," to those who knowingly maintain "drug-involved premises," including outdoor events such as rock concerts. In addition to the criminal penalties in the original statute, the amended statute adds a civil penalty, thereby lowering the standard of proof from beyond a reasonable doubt to a preponderance of evidence.

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12. 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 http://stopthedrugwar.org/speakeasy.

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

Since last issue:

Scott Morgan offers: "Virginia v. Moore: Just Another Dumb Ruling, Not a Full-blown 4th Amendment Crisis," "The Heroin Addict President Can't Save Us From the Bombs of Xyzistan," "Drug Czar Creates Handy Guide For Teens on Where To Obtain Prescription Drugs," "Police Admit Humiliation After 4/20 Celebration at UC Santa Cruz," "4/20 Gets Bigger Every Year," "How Can We Debate Them if They Don't Even Know What Decriminalization Means?," "A Great 4th Amendment Ruling in Alaska."

Phil Smith writes from Mexico: "Mexico City: Goths and Rockeros and Jipis, Oh My!"

Intern Kalif Mathieu contributes "European Pressure: Turkey Must Fight Drug War, or Else" and intern Shane Trejo authors "Marijuana: Lead-Laced Pot Newest Prohibition-Related Disaster."

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, http://stopthedrugwar.org/speakeasy 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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13. 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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14. Students: Intern at DRCNet and Help Stop the Drug War!

Want to help end the "war on drugs," while earning college credit too? Apply for a DRCNet internship for this fall semester (or spring) and you could come join the team and help us fight the fight!

DRCNet (also known as "Stop the Drug War") has a strong record of providing substantive work experience to our interns -- you won't spend the summer doing filing or running errands, you will play an integral role in one or more of our exciting programs. Options for work you can do with us include coalition outreach as part of the campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, and to expand that effort to encompass other bad drug laws like the similar provisions in welfare and public housing law; blogosphere/web outreach; media research and outreach; web site work (research, writing, technical); possibly other areas. If you are chosen for an internship, we will strive to match your interests and abilities to whichever area is the best fit for you.

While our internships are unpaid, we will reimburse you for metro fare, and DRCNet is a fun and rewarding place to work. To apply, please send your resume to David Guard at [email protected], and feel free to contact us at (202) 293-8340. We hope to hear from you! Check out our web site at http://stopthedrugwar.org to learn more about our organization.

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

RSS feeds are the wave of the future -- and DRCNet now offers them! The latest Drug War Chronicle issue is now available using RSS at http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/feed online.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School