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Drug War Chronicle #549 - August 29, 2008

1. Feature: California Attorney General Issues Medical Marijuana Guidelines -- Mostly Good But Some Problems, Say Advocates

After more than a decade of conflict and confusion over California's medical marijuana laws, state Attorney General Jerry Brown Monday issued a series of guidelines for patients, providers, and police designed to specify just what is and is not allowable under the law.

2. Feature: Afghan Opium Production Declines Slightly From Record Levels

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported this week that Afghan opium production has decreased slightly this year. While the West praised the findings, independent observers were much less sanguine.

3. Offer: Unique and Important New Book on Medical Marijuana

"Dying to Get High," by sociologists Wendy Chapkis and Richard Webb, is a groundbreaking work that provides an in-depth portrait of one of the country's most well-known medical marijuana collectives.

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

Apply for an internship at DRCNet for this fall (or spring), and you could spend the semester fighting the good fight!

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

A key Coast Guard anti-drug fighter gets caught doing cocaine, plus the usual array of miscreants in blue.

6. Medical Marijuana: Washington State Fight Over Allowable Quantities Continues

Washington voters approved medical marijuana a decade ago, but confusion over what constitutes an allowable quantity of medicine and plants continues. Now, the state health department is trying to set rules, and patients aren't happy with what it's proposing.

7. Harm Reduction: Funds Begin to Flow to DC Needle Exchange Programs

For a decade, Congress has barred the city of Washington, DC, from spending money to fund needle exchange programs in an effort to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS. That ban was lifted earlier this year, and now the money is beginning to flow.

8. Law Enforcement: LEAP Barred From Asian-American Cops Meeting in Virginia

Somebody at the National Asian Peace Officers Association conference this week didn't want their members to hear from anti-prohibitionist cops. LEAP wants to know who and why.

9. Europe: Scottish Heroin Crackdown Sparks Violent Crime Increase

Police in Scotland engineered a crackdown on heroin in Dundee, only to find they had created a crime wave.

10. Death Penalty: More Executions in Iran, Saudi Arabia

This month, Iran has once again led the way in executing drug offenders.

11. Australia: Strong Support for Medical Marijuana, Needle Exchange Programs, National Survey Finds

Australians showed strong support for medical marijuana and harm reduction measures in a national survey. Marijuana legalization? Not so much, at least not yet.

12. Weekly: This Week in History

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

13. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"How Much More Public Support Does Medical Marijuana Really Need?," "New Medical Marijuana Regulations Are a Good Thing," "Police Cannot Identify Good Marijuana," "'Extremely Small Amount' of Marijuana Causes Panic Throughout Massachusetts," "California Attorney General Tells Police to Uphold Medical Marijuana Laws," "Biden is a 'Moderate' on Crime Issues?," "Joe Biden's Awful Record on Drug Policy."

14. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

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

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

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Visit our new web site each day to see a running countdown to the events coming up the soonest, and more.

1. Feature: California Attorney General Issues Medical Marijuana Guidelines -- Mostly Good But Some Problems, Say Advocates

After more than a decade of roiling confusion over what California's groundbreaking medical marijuana law and subsequent enabling legislation do and do not allow, state Attorney General Jerry Brown sought to clarify matters Monday by issuing a long-awaited set of guidelines for patients, providers, and law enforcement. In addition to clarifying what is permissible under state law, Brown also hoped to damp down the ongoing conflict between state and federal authorities over medical marijuana in California.

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California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
Under the guidelines, medical marijuana dispensaries must operate as not-for-profit collectives or cooperatives, and are prohibited from buying marijuana from growers who are not themselves patients or registered caregivers. The only fees dispensaries can collect are those covering overhead and operating expenses.

The guidelines strongly urge patients to obtain state medical marijuana ID cards and advise police to accept such cards as proof of legitimate medical need. The guidelines also call on police to return seized marijuana to patients who are later proved to be legitimate. They prohibit medical marijuana patients from lighting up near schools and recreation centers or at work, unless employers approve.

Affirming that California's medical marijuana law is not preempted by federal law, the guidelines further direct "state and local law enforcement officers [to] not arrest individuals or seize marijuana under federal law" when an individual's conduct is legal under state law.

But while providing protections to patients and non-profit dispensaries organized as co-ops or collectives, the guidelines could provide a green light for law enforcement to go after the store-front dispensaries that have sprung up like mushrooms in some areas of the state. In ballyhooing a Friday raid against a Northridge dispensary by California Bureau of Narcotics Agents, Brown signaled Monday that a crackdown could be looming.

Accusing the Today's Healthcare dispensary and its operators of criminal behavior by operating a profitable business, Brown went on the offensive. "This criminal enterprise bears no resemblance to the purposes of Proposition 215, which authorized the use of medical marijuana for seriously sick patients," he said. "Today's Healthcare is a large-scale, for-profit, commercial business. This deceptively named drug ring is reaping huge profits and flaunting the state's laws that allow qualified patients to use marijuana for medicinal purposes."

California law enforcement pronounced itself pleased with the guidelines. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, praised Brown for promulgating them. "Since Proposition 215 was passed, the laws surrounding the use, possession and distribution of medical marijuana became confusing at best. These newly established guidelines are an essential tool for law enforcement and provide the parameters needed for consistent statewide regulation and enforcement."

Despite the apparent threat to non-compliant dispensaries and their suppliers, most medical marijuana advocates also pronounced themselves generally satisfied with the guidelines. The medical marijuana defense group Americans for Safe Access has been working with Attorney General Brown and his predecessor, Bill Lockyer, for several years in an effort to see guidelines promulgated. ASA spokesman Kris Hermes said this week that while the guidelines are not perfect, they are a step in the right direction.

"We've been urging them to come out with an official statement that can direct law enforcement and stop what has been rampant disrespect for state law in some areas," he said. "From that perspective, the guidelines are a huge step forward. They provide a blueprint for local law enforcement to develop sensible policies around patient encounters, and they recognize the validity and law-abiding nature of medical marijuana dispensaries in California. That's huge," said Hermes. "These guidelines are a boon for patients, police, and everyone else in the state and will greatly advance the implementation of state law."

"Given the vagueness of the initiative and the statutes, the guidelines are pretty good," said Bruce Mirken, San Francisco-based communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "They establish parameters within which the distribution of medical marijuana is to be treated as legitimate and legal. That's important because some prosecutors have been adamant that there is no legal authority for dispensaries -- period. This cuts the legs out from under them," he said.

"They were about what we expected," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "Most of the guidelines are consistent with what our attorneys have been saying and advising their clients to do all along. There are a few problem areas, but these guidelines will help fill the vacuum."

One problem Gieringer pointed out was that the guidelines say dispensaries may possess and distribute only lawfully cultivated marijuana, and that they cannot purchase from or sell to non-members. "There is nothing in either federal or state law against purchasing marijuana, so we don't see any legal basis for saying it's illegal to buy from outside vendors," he said.

Another potential problem is that the guidelines say that co-ops and collectives should document their activities and record the source of the marijuana they purchase, Gieringer said. "That is going to be problematic until we have some assurance of protection from being arrested by the DEA, and we don't want to see the cops come in and seize the records, and then bust the growers."

"While there is much about the guidelines that is positive, we also have some worries about some of the dispensary language," Mirken said. "Requiring dispensaries to be non-profit is just silly. Is Jerry Brown going to demand that Walgreen's and Riteaid become charities, too? If society thinks private enterprise and the profit motive are a logical way to distribute goods and services, why not medical marijuana?"

Still, said Mirken, the guidelines are a step in the right direction. "Given that we have all these issues here in California, anything that moves us in the direction of an orderly system with some legal clarity is a good thing. When you have local authorities who just don't like medical marijuana and are looking for an excuse to bust people, which some of them have been doing all along, this is going to provide protection."

But at least one Bay Area dispensary operator was not so impressed. "Let's see how it all plays out," said Richard Lee, proprietor of Oakland's Bulldog Coffee Shop and SR-71 dispensary and key promoter of the Oaksterdam scene. "Hopefully, it will help people in more repressed redneck areas and not hurt people in more progressive areas like Oakland and San Francisco."

Although Brown's guidelines call for dispensaries to be organized as co-ops or collectives, Lee has not incorporated in that manner and has no plans to. "We've been here eight years," he said. "We were here before they even passed SB 420. Oakland has a system that allows reasonable profits; it's set up for the clubs to run like any other business, and we are fine with that. Does Jerry Brown really want to come in and mess with Oakland's system that works?"

While the guidelines could result in a temporary decrease in the number of dispensaries as non-compliant ones either close their doors or have them closed for them by law enforcement, the end result will most likely be more dispensaries opening in areas of that state that are currently underserved because of local law enforcement or official hostility.

"I'm not too worried about a short term decrease in the dispensaries if it brings a little more rigor," said Gieringer. "Things have been fast and loose, and we have some rogue operators who wouldn't normally be operating in a legal market. We will lose some of those people, which could result in a short term decrease in availability, but in the medium term, this should be balanced out by the increase in availability in currently underserved areas."

While not everyone is happy with all aspects of the guidelines, the state of California has now taken a big step toward legitimizing its medical marijuana industry, reducing the confusion surrounding the state's medical marijuana law, and sending a strong signal to the DEA that it intends to police itself.

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2. Feature: Afghan Opium Production Declines Slightly From Record Levels

With the West's occupation of Afghanistan now nearing the seven-year mark and plagued by an increasingly powerful and deadly insurgency revitalized by massive profits from the opium trade, Western officials gained some small solace this week when the United Nations announced that opium production there had declined slightly from last year's record level. But the small decline comes as the Taliban and related insurgents are strengthening their grip on precisely those areas where opium cultivation is highest, and the light at the end of the tunnel is, at best, only a distant glimmer.

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2008 Afghan opium cultivation chart from the UN report
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Afghanistan Opium Survey 2008, released Tuesday, total Afghan opium production this year will be 7,500 metric tons, down 6% from last year's all-time record of 8,200 tons. Also, according to the survey, the amount of land devoted to opium production declined 19%. The UN said the total crop had decreased by a smaller number than the amount of land because farmers in key opium-producing provinces were producing bumper crops.

The UN attributed the decline in production to drought conditions and the efforts of a small number of Afghan governors and tribal and religious leaders to persuade farmers to give up the illicit crop. It also crowed that the number of opium-free provinces in the country had risen from 13 to 18, although it failed to mention that farmers in those provinces had, in many cases, merely switched from growing poppies to growing cannabis.

This year, almost all opium cultivation -- about 98% -- is now concentrated in seven provinces in south-west Afghanistan that house permanent Taliban settlements and are home to related trafficking groups that pay taxes to various Taliban factions on their opium transactions. The Taliban is making between $200 and $400 million a year off taxing poppy farmers and traders, Costa said earlier this year. In the report, Costa referred to Helmand province, one of the most Taliban-dominated in the country. "The most glaring example is Helmand province, where 103,000 hectares of opium were cultivated this year -- two thirds of all opium in Afghanistan," Costa wrote. "If Helmand were a country, it would once again be the world's biggest producer of illicit drugs."

The UN said that manual eradication played almost no role in the decline, affecting only about 3% of the crop. What manual eradication did accomplish was the deaths of some 77 anti-drug workers and police at the hands of insurgents and angry farmers. On Wednesday, Costa told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that he should abandon manual eradication as useless and even counter-productive.

While Afghan poppy production is down slightly, it still surpasses global demand for its illicit end products. And after several years of crops greater than global demand, it is likely that Afghan traders are sitting on huge stockpiles of opium, so even if production were to be slashed substantially, it would cause no significant disruption in the global markets for opium and heroin.

Still, with the war news from Afghanistan seemingly growing worse by the day, UN and Western officials were eager to jump on any good news they could find. "The opium flood waters in Afghanistan have started to recede," Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the Vienna-based UNODC, wrote in the report. "This year, the historic high-water mark of 193,000 hectares of opium cultivated in 2007 has dropped by 19 percent to 157,000 hectares."

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Chronicle editor Phil Smith interviewed former opium-growing Afghan farmers outside Jalalabad in fall 2005
The Bush administration welcomed the report, saying it provided vindication for its much-criticized anti-drug policies in the country. But a State Department spokesman told the Washington Post, "the drug threat in Afghanistan remains unacceptably high. We are particularly concerned by the deterioration in security conditions in the south, where the insurgency dominates."

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), in charge of efforts to provide alternative development for farmers as part of the broader US counter-drug and counter-insurgency strategy, also looked for the silver lining in the storm clouds over Afghanistan. Its efforts are "paying off for Afghanistan in the war against poppy production," it said in a press release Tuesday.

The British foreign office also joined the chorus, with FCO Minister Lord Malloch-Brown releasing a statement welcoming the report's findings. "This shows that the Afghan government's Drug Control Strategy is starting to pay dividends," he said.

Still, Malloch-Brown warned there is a long way to go. "However, there is no room for complacency," he said. "Afghanistan is still the world's biggest supplier of heroin. High cultivation levels are concentrated in the unstable south, where we are working with the government of Afghanistan, local governors, and international partners to build security and governance."

Other, non-governmental observers were much less sanguine about what the slight decline in opium production signified. "I don't think there has been any real progress made at all," said Raheem Yaseer, assistant director of the University of Nebraska-Omaha Center for Afghanistan Studies. "But there has been so much money and pressure invested that they feel they have to justify their efforts. It's true that cultivation has ended in some provinces, but other areas are compensating for that."

A large part of the problem is that too many important players are involved and profiting from the trade, said Yaseer. "There are lots of strong, powerful people involved -- influential people in the Afghan government, governors, parliamentarians, provincial police commanders -- and unless they are suppressed, nothing will change. There is lots of concern expressed, but the business is hot and everyone is making money," he said.

Yaseer also pointed to the increasing ability of insurgents to wreak havoc. "Security is horrible, it's getting worse and worse precisely in those growing areas, and where the security gets worse, there are more opportunities for the drug business," he said. "Everyone takes advantage of the lack of security and the chaos."

The UNODC reports provides only "false hope," said the Senlis Council, the Paris-based drugs and security nonprofit that has long proposed buying up illicit poppy crops and diverting them into the licit medicinal market as a means of getting a handle on illicit production and the support for political violence it provides.

"Opium is the cancer destroying the south of Afghanistan," said Emmanuel Reinert, the group's executive director in a Wednesday statement. "Current counter-narcotics policies are failing to address the loss of the southern provinces to the dual scourges of poppy production and terrorism."

The decrease in poppy cultivation will have a minimal effect on the drugs trade, given the exponential growth in opium production since 2002. "This decrease is no more than a ripple in the ocean," Reinert added. "Without an urgent change of direction in the country's counter-narcotics policies, the international community will be unable to prevent the consolidation of opium production in the south of the country, and the consolidation of the Taliban which is financed by the illegal drugs trade."

Instead of pushing farmers into the waiting arms of the Taliban and related insurgent groups by pursuing crop eradication, the West and the Afghan government should revisit the Senlis proposal, which was rejected out of hand when introduced in 2005, said Senlis policy analyst Gabrielle Archer. "It is clear that a long-term, sustainable solution is required to solve Afghanistan's opium crisis -- and prevent the insurgency's funding by illegal cultivation," she said. "Poppy for Medicine would allow farmers to diversify their crops, and give Afghanistan an opportunity to be part of a legal pharmaceutical industry. We need the Afghan people on our side if we are to be successful there, and this initiative could go a long way to winning back much-needed hearts and minds, which would be highly beneficial for our troops fighting there."

The hearts and minds of the Afghan population are turning increasingly against the West and the country's occupation by foreign troops, warned Yaseer, ticking off a seemingly endless series of incidents where Afghan civilians have been killed by coalition forces, the most recent being the reported deaths of 90 civilians -- 60 of them children -- in a NATO bombing raid last week. That raid prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to call this week for a reevaluation of the foreign military presence in his country.

"Everyday there are new uproars in parliament and local councils," said Yaseer. "They say there is no difference between the Soviets and the coalition forces. They bombard whole villages in the middle of the night because they hear four or five Taliban are there. These killings keep happening all the time, and people are fed up with it. This is all developing very rapidly now. 'Why did you bring this war to Afghanistan?' the people ask. The gap between the people and the government is growing larger every day," Yaseer said.

With coalition military casualties on the rise, the Taliban grown fat off opium profits and ever more aggressive, and growing hostility to the West in the Afghan population, a minor down-turn in opium production doesn't look so impressive.

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3. Offer: Unique and Important New Book on Medical Marijuana

Dear friend and reformer,


In our current TRUTH 08 Campaign, we have featured the important and unique new book Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine, by sociologists Wendy Chapkis and Richard Webb. More than 1,300 people have read our review of the book by Drug Chronicle editor Phil Smith -- check it out here!

Please donate to the TRUTH 08 Campaign to support StoptheDrugWar.org's work providing this and other critical writing reaching hundreds of thousands of people every month. Donate $36 or more and you can receive a complimentary copy of Dying to Get High as our thanks.

book:

notepad folder:

Donate $60 or more, and we'll send you both Dying to Get High AND the new TRUTH 08 Campaign padded notepad folder with clasp. Or just select the notepad folder as your gift selection with a donation of $36 or over. (Use our regular donation page to browse the many other books and gift items that we continue to make available.)

Following are a few things that Chronicle editor Phil Smith had to say about the book Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine, in his recent widely-read review:

In "Dying to Get High," sociologists Wendy Chapkis and Richard Webb... trace the use of marijuana as medicine in the US... its removal from the pharmacopeia in 1941... the continuing blockage of research into its medical benefits by ideologically-driven federal authorities.

Chapkis and Webb deliver a resounding, well-reasoned indictment of the political and (pseudo) scientific opposition to medical marijuana.

"Dying to Get High" is also an in-depth portrait of one of the country's most well-known medical marijuana collectives... describing in loving detail the inner workings... of a group with charismatic leadership... more than 200 seriously ill patients, and the specter of the DEA always looming.

Your help is needed right now to capitalize on the tremendous progress we've already made getting the TRUTH out: the past 12 months nearly 150,000 people per month visited StoptheDrugWar.org. Several months the number of visitors topped 180,000 and the trend is continuing upward.

I am very excited about the new momentum we're generating together, and I'd like to thank you very much for your interest in changing this country's drug policies and for giving your support to the TRUTH 08 CAMPAIGN. Your contribution has never been more important.

David Borden
Executive Director, StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet)
News & Activism Promoting Sensible Reform

P.S. It's time to stop the senseless tragedy of the drug war and to bring an end to the countless injustices occurring every day. Your donation to the TRUTH 08 CAMPAIGN today will help spread the word to more people than ever and build the momentum we need for change. Thank you!

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

A key Coast Guard anti-drug fighter gets caught doing cocaine, plus the usual array of miscreants in blue. We don't usually mention cases that only involve drug use, but when it's a top Coast Guard commander in charge of fighting drugs, we think we should make an exception to the general rule. Let's get to it:

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Coast Guard drug bust, 2004
In San Francisco, a senior Coast Guard officer who supervised anti-drug trafficking efforts in the Western Pacific was arrested August 20 on cocaine charges. Capt. Michael Sullivan, a 26-year veteran, was charged under military law with wrongful use of cocaine and obstruction of justice, a step that sets up an evidentiary hearing and could prompt a court-martial. Officials gave no further details, but said he had been removed from supervisory duties. Sullivan, who was the Pacific area's chief of response since May 2007, supervised the operation of 20 major Coast Guard cutters and directed law enforcement units that protect ports and fisheries and fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration, according to his official biography.

In Benton, Louisiana, an already convicted ex-cop pleaded guilty Monday to seven additional charges. Former Shreveport police officer Roderick Moore, 53, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to trading drugs for sex with a stripper in Caddo Parish in June. Now he has pleaded guilty to an additional seven counts of possessing drugs with the intent to distribute. The pleas in the drug cases come two days after he pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated. Although Moore theoretically faces up to 145 years in prison, his sentencing judge said the sentences would run concurrently. The maximum he faces for any one count is 30 years.

In Jackson, Mississippi, a Jackson code enforcement officer was arrested Sunday after being found with six packages of marijuana and $19,000 cash during a traffic stop. Code officer Britanny Arnold was a passenger in a vehicle driven by another man, who was carrying $670,000 in cash. Both Arnold and the driver are now charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Both have bailed out of jail.

In Rutland, Vermont, a former Vermont state prison guard was sentenced August 20 to seven months in jail on drug charges. Former guard Sheri Ann Fitzgerald, 44, had pleaded guilty in March to felony possession and sale charges involving cocaine as well as a misdemeanor charge of possessing a narcotic. Fitzgerald had been a prison guard since 1989, but was fired after being arrested. She has until September 4 to get her affairs in order and report to jail.

In Saginaw, Michigan, a jail guard at the Saginaw Correctional Facility was formally charged August 20 with supplying drugs to prisoners. John Singer, 45, now faces one count of delivery and manufacture of marijuana and one count of operating a drug house. He went down after a two-month investigation by the Bay Area Narcotics Team, one of whose members posed as a drug dealer willing to supply him for sales on the inside. He was arrested as he met with the officer in what he thought would be a drug transaction.

In Houston, a deputy constable was arrested August 18 for accosting drug dealers and stealing their money. Precinct 4 Deputy Constable Terrence Richardson is charged with engaging in organized crime and robbery. Word of Richardson's exploits percolated up from underground to the ears of the Houston Police Department, which set up a sting operation that snared him as he tried yet another rip-off. At last word, he was still in jail on a $200,000 bond. He is also now a former deputy constable, having been fired the night he was arrested.

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6. Medical Marijuana: Washington State Fight Over Allowable Quantities Continues

After being roundly chastised by more than a hundred medical marijuana patients and activists at an angry Monday meeting, the Washington state Health Department has extended the deadline for comments on its proposed medical marijuana quantity limits until 5:00pm PDT today. Assistant Health Secretary Karen Jensen made the announcement at the end of the meeting in Tumwater.

Washington voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 1998 that allowed patients to have a 60-day supply, but just what that constituted has never been specified. Last year, the legislature passed a measure directing the Health Department to spell out acceptable amounts.

In an earlier draft proposal, the Health Department suggested allowing patients 35 ounces of marijuana and a 100-square foot growing space. But after criticism from Gov. Christine Gregoire (D), whose office argued that the original draft was too generous and had not had sufficient input from law enforcement and doctors, the department came back with a more restrictive proposal: 24 ounces of marijuana, six mature plants, and 18 seedlings.

At the Tumwater meeting, patients, doctors, and activists harshly criticized the new draft as unfair, unrealistic, and unduly influenced by law enforcement. "We're not criminals. We're patients," said Melissa Leggee of Spokane in remarks reported by the Seattle Times. "We just want to be left alone to do what we need to do to survive."

"You're going to make everyone in this room a felon," if the proposed limit is adopted, Steve Sarich, of Kirkland, told the panel of Health Department officials. Sarich is director of CannaCare, which provides legal assistance and starter plants to patients.

Dr. Karen Hamilton, of Redmond, who has treated patients helped by marijuana, said the proposal would "effectively take treatment out of the doctors' hands," adding that there is no "one-size-fits-all" appropriate marijuana dose.

And speaker after speaker told the panel that six plants could not provide the amount of marijuana most patients need to alleviate their pain, nausea, and other symptoms of the more than a dozen diseases the drug can be used to treat. If patients cannot provide for themselves, they said, they will have to turn to the black market.

Gregoire's interference in the drafting process prompted Troy Williams of Clark County to urge the Health Department to stand up to the governor and protect the rights of patients. Department officials should "stand up, have some courage, and tell the governor to shove it," he said.

Assistant Secretary Jensen said that once the comments period ends today, the agency will take about a month to evaluate them and adopt a quantities rule. If substantial changes are made to the current draft, she said, a new round of comments will follow. Substantial changes are precisely what patients and their advocates want to see.

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7. Harm Reduction: Funds Begin to Flow to DC Needle Exchange Programs

Eight months after Congress voted to end a decade-long ban on the use of federal funds for needle exchange programs (NEPs) in the District of Columbia, money is starting to flow to the programs in the city with the nation's highest rate of HIV. District officials had announced almost immediately after the congressional vote that they would fund NEPs in an effort to control the spread of the disease among injection drug users.

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PreventionWorks! at work (screen shot from nytimes.com '''slide show,'' June '07)
Now, according to the Washington Times, funding is finally reaching the city's NEPs. The city will spend $700,000 a year on NEPs, with the city's largest program, PreventionWorks!, getting $300,000 a year.

According to a DC HIV/AIDS Administration 2007 report, injection drug use is the second most common mode of acquiring the HIV virus after unprotected sex, and the District has some 10,000 injection drug users.

DC NEP advocates have long argued that the federal funding ban left them starved for funds and unable to adequately address the injection drug using population. PreventionWorks!, for example, has had to scrape by on private contributions, limiting the work it has been able to do.

The need is obvious and so is the response, Ken Vail, the group's executive director, told the Times. "If you want to reduce the spread of HIV... you put more syringes out there," he said.

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8. Law Enforcement: LEAP Barred From Asian-American Cops Meeting in Virginia

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the 10,000-strong organization of police, judges, prosecutors, DEA and FBI agents, and others calling for an end to drug prohibition, was declared persona non grata at the conference of the National Asian Peace Officers Association (NAPOA) in Crystal City, Virginia, on Tuesday. LEAP member Howard Wooldridge--best known as the guy in the cowboy hat with the "Cops Say Legalize Drugs" t-shirt--was forced to remove himself and his booth from the conference after federal agents there complained about his presence, LEAP said in a Wednesday press release.

According to the press release: "Acting under pressure from unnamed federal officials, Reagan Fong, president of the NAPOA, insisted on the immediate removal of LEAP from the conference vendor roster. It appears that some of the event's other exhibitors took exception to the LEAP message and put pressure on the event organizer to expel LEAP from the event."

Wooldridge reported that federal agency representatives, including DEA, Federal Air Marshals, and the Coast Guard had vendor booths at the conference. On Monday, Wooldridge visited the DEA booth and described the DEA agent there as "decidedly unhappy" with having to hear an opposing viewpoint.

Although NAPOA head Fong has not yet responded to LEAP requests for clarification and rectification, LEAP believes he took the action at the request of the DEA agent. LEAP is asking for an apology and demanding that Fong reveal the identity of the agent who leaned on him.

"We ask that Mr. Fong identify the individual, agency or group that lobbied for our eviction from the event," LEAP said. "If this was an independent effort then he or she was acting outside the scope of authority and should receive administrative punishment for unprofessional actions. If this action was sanctioned by upper level management then the managers need to explain their behavior in an open forum. If this was sanctioned official action by the US government it is a serious matter which requires serious and immediate attention."

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9. Europe: Scottish Heroin Crackdown Sparks Violent Crime Increase

In an object lesson on the unintended consequences of drug prohibition enforcement, police in Dundee have admitted that their crackdown on heroin has led to an increase in violent crime. Police called it "an unfortunate side effect" of the crackdown, which they qualified as a success.

Tayside Police undertook Operation Waterloo earlier this year in an effort to target drug dealers and users in the Hilltown and Maryfield areas of Dundee. Assistant Chief Constable Clive Murray told the Tayside Joint Police Board 39 people had been arrested, and there was anecdotal evidence of price increases and disruption of the heroin market.

But he also conceded that the operation had driven up the number of assaults and robberies. In the first quarter of 2008, serious and violent crime in the area was at the same level as a year earlier, but by midsummer, as the crackdown raged, crimes began to increase.

"Most of the increase occurred in Central Division and more recent analysis indicates that out of 46 serious assaults recorded, 12 involved the use of a knife or bladed instrument," Murray told the board. "In 82% of robberies detected, we are dealing with people with heroin addiction," he said, adding that in many violent crimes both attacker and victim were addicts.

Prostitution had also increased since the crackdown, he said. But there was good news, too, Murray was quick to add.
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"Heroin overdoses are down," Murray said. "Over August there were only two drugs deaths in the Central Division. The good news for me is that intelligence suggests there are people going voluntarily to AD Action and other agencies for treatment. We have been told by addicts they welcome the operation because it gives them a chance to get off heroin."

Still, under questioning from the police board, Murray conceded that while he thought Operation Waterloo was a good model, it needed further development. "It is a good model and it will be developed further for areas that create this hostile environment," he said. "If you ask me, 'Did you get it all right on this occasion?', the answer is no. We have to learn from the experience. We have to involve and work with partners. Police are there primarily to deal with enforcement."

Although some addicts may have told police they welcomed the crackdown, the rising number of crimes attributed to addicts suggests that many more just want to do their heroin -- badly enough that they will rob others to get money to pay for it.

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10. Death Penalty: More Executions in Iran, Saudi Arabia

Even as a worldwide campaign to end the death penalty for drug offenses gears up, the resort to the ultimate sanction continues apace, especially in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. According to reports compiled by the anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain, this month Southeast Asia is reporting no drug executions, but it's a different story in the Middle East, especially in Iran.

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International Anti-Drugs Day drug burn, Tehran
But not just Iran. On August 21, Saudi Arabia got in on the action, executing two Pakistani nationals for smuggling drugs. The pair were beheaded by the sword after they were caught smuggling heroin in the eastern city of Damman. That was the 63rd execution this year in the country, with drug offenders accounting for between a third and one half of them.

Meanwhile, in the Islamic Republic, the executioner has been busy this month. On August 7, three men convicted of drug trafficking and murder were executed in a prison in the holy city of Qom. Authorities provided no details of the murder for which they were convicted, but said they were caught with 1,080 kilograms of opium. They were identified only by first names.

Four days later, three unnamed convicted drug traffickers were hanged in a prison in the southeastern city of Zahedan. They had been caught with 30 kilos of morphine and 22 kilos of heroin.

Things got really busy last week. On August 20, two men were hanged after being convicted of drug smuggling inside a Tehran prison. One of them had been sentenced to life in 2007 for smuggling, but was upgraded after being caught doing it again while imprisoned. That same day, yet another drug trafficker was executed in Zahedan. Bahrum Nikpur was hanged after being found guilty of possessing 14 kilos of opium and six kilos of heroin. Also that same day, four people were hanged for rape and drug trafficking in an unspecified prison in Iran.

It is not clear if there were four drug trafficking rapists, whether it was rapists and drug traffickers executed together, or how many were rapists and how many were drug traffickers. All the same to anti-drug zealots, perhaps.

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11. Australia: Strong Support for Medical Marijuana, Needle Exchange Programs, National Survey Finds

Australia's 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, in which more than 23,000 people over the age of 12 were quizzed by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare about their drug use and attitudes toward various drug policy positions, has demonstrated broad support for medical marijuana and harm reduction measures aimed at hard drug users.

Regarding heroin use, the survey found that 67% supported needle exchange programs, 68% supported methadone maintenance, 75% supported the use of naltrexone for overdose avoidance, and 79% supported the use of rapid detox therapy. On the other hand, only 50% supported heroin injection sites, and only 33% supported heroin maintenance therapy.

Medical marijuana also won strong support. Some 69% supported legal medical marijuana, while an even larger number, 75%, supported clinical trials for medical marijuana. In all the policy choices cited here, support was at higher levels than the most recent national survey in 2004.

Marijuana legalization for personal use did not fare so well. Only 21% supported legalization, down from 27% in 2004. The intervening period has been one of Reefer Madness Down Under, with Australian authorities and a complicit media waxing hysterical about the alleged dangers of the weed.

When it comes to legalizing other drugs, support was in the single digits, and relatively unchanged from 2004.

Frighteningly, large majorities of Australians favored increased criminal penalties for drug sales offenses. More than 80% favored harsher sentences for hard drug sales, while even for marijuana, nearly two-thirds (63%) wanted stiffer penalties.

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12. Weekly: This Week in History

September 4, 1991: US District Judge Juan Burciaga says, "The fight against drug traffickers is a wildfire that threatens to consume those fundamental rights of the individual deliberately enshrined in our Constitution."

September 2, 1994: In Detroit, Judge Helen E. Brown sentences Lazaro Vivas to life in prison for possession of over 650 grams of cocaine. Judge Brown tells Vivas, "I don't think it's fair. It is not a sentence I would give you, if I had any choice. But I have to give you this sentence, because I have to follow the law. So, your sentence is life."

August 30, 1996: The Washington Post reports that presidential hopeful Bob Dole hammered President Clinton for his drug policy and made the war on drugs one of his top campaign issues. Declaring that President Clinton had "surrendered" in the war against drugs, Dole called for an expanded role of the National Guard, and for military and intelligence services to fight drugs.

August 29, 2001: The Dallas Morning News reports that Ernesto Samper, the former president of Colombia, said, "The problem is the law of the marketplace is overtaking the law of the state... We have to ask, is legalization the way out of this? We cannot continue to fight this war alone. If the consuming nations do nothing to curb demand, to control money-laundering, to halt the flow of chemicals that supply the drug-production labs, then in a few short years the world is going to see legalization as the answer."

August 29, 2001: ABC News' 20/20 Downtown features a comparison of US and Dutch drug policy, with an accompanying online interactive poll, asking "Should marijuana be legalized?" Seventy-eight percent respond "YES."

September 4, 2001: Two prominent Michigan marijuana law reform activists are shot dead, following a week-long standoff at their 34-acre "Rainbow Farm" compound in Vandalia, Michigan. The confrontation followed a two-year investigation into allegations of marijuana use at the campground.

September 1, 2003: In an effort to save over $30 million in general revenue in five years, Texas implements a new law that requires mandatory community supervision for first time drug offenders adjudged guilty of possession of less than one gram of certain controlled substances or less than one pound of marijuana. Under previous law, such offenders were only eligible for state jail community supervision or incarceration in a state jail facility.

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13. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

Along with our weekly in-depth Chronicle reporting, DRCNet has since late summer also been providing daily content in the way of blogging in the Stop the Drug War Speakeasy -- huge numbers of people have been reading it recently -- as well as Latest News links (upper right-hand corner of most web pages), event listings (lower right-hand corner) and other info. Check out DRCNet every day to stay on top of the drug reform game! 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 writes: "How Much More Public Support Does Medical Marijuana Really Need?," "New Medical Marijuana Regulations Are a Good Thing," "Police Cannot Identify Good Marijuana," "'Extremely Small Amount' of Marijuana Causes Panic Throughout Massachusetts," "California Attorney General Tells Police to Uphold Medical Marijuana Laws," "Biden is a 'Moderate' on Crime Issues?," "Joe Biden's Awful Record on Drug Policy."

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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14. 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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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