Drug War Chronicle #570 - January 30, 2009

1. Editorial: Sometimes a Drug Warrior is a Little Too Honest

Every now and then a drug warrior is a little too honest. That was the case this week for the UN's anti-drug chief, who claims the illegal drug trade propped up the global financial system in 2008. If he's right, doesn't that mean we should stop persecuting drug users or even most sellers -- since we seem to need their help to get by?

2. Feature: Prisons Under Pressure -- Corrections Budgets in the Age of Austerity

As governors and legislators ponder deflated budgets at statehouses around the country, opportunities are emerging to move forward on long-stalled prison, sentencing, and drug reform issues.

3. Feature: New Mexico Issues Regulations for Nonprofit Medical Marijuana Grows

When New Mexico passed a medical marijuana law in 2007, that law allowed for nonprofit entities to provide medical marijuana for qualified patients. Now, nearly a year and a half later, the state Department of Health has issued regulations for those nonprofits. It is progress, but not enough for some.

4. Prohibition: UN Drug Chief Says Black Market Drug Profits Propped Up Global Banking System Last Year

Let's hear it for the global drug trade! It's been propping up the international financial system, said Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and crime.

5. Afghanistan: US Commander Orders NATO to Kill All Opium Dealers -- NATO Balks

The US general who commands NATO forces in Afghanistan wants to give NATO troops the authority to treat any drug traffickers as military targets. NATO is saying no, thanks.

6. Drug Testing: Chess Federation Caves, Ivanchuk Will Not Be Suspended

Faced with anger and ridicule over its drug testing policies, the World Chess Federation decided it didn't want to punish one of game's most popular figures for missing a drug test after all.

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

Another jail guard gets caught, a Michigan narc cops a plea, so does an Arizona cop, and a North Carolina deputy is going to prison.

8. ONDCP: Obama Appoints Edward Jurith Acting Drug Czar

President Obama has appointed a long-time federal drug war bureaucrat acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. It feels more like stay the course than change for the better, at least for now.

9. Salvia Divinorum: Nebraska Man is Acquitted of Sales Charge, But the Plant is Under Continued Attack There and Elsewhere

A Nebraska man prosecuted for selling salvia -- even though it isn't illegal there -- has been acquitted, but moves to ban the psychedelic member of the mint family are ongoing across the land.

10. Drug Task Forces: House Passes Economic Stimulus Bill with Byrne Grant Funds Intact, Reform Advocates Mobilize

The House passed the economic stimulus bill Wednesday, including $3 billion for Byrne grants and $1 billion for COPS. But as the bill heads to the Senate, more than a dozen national organizations are calling for the funding to be cut -- and replaced by programs that will actually do some good.

11. Search and Seizure: US Supreme Court Okays Passenger Frisks During Traffic Stops

The US Supreme Court has chipped away at the Fourth Amendment yet again, this time in a case involving the frisking of passengers in vehicles stopped for traffic violations.

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 Not to Legalize Marijuana," "Obama Appoints Temporary Drug Czar," "Mexican Drug Cartels Dissolve Corpses in Vats of Acid," "The World's Smallest Marijuana Joint," "Norm Stamper is Awesome," "Matt Fogg is Awesome," "Ryan Frederick Trial," "Video: Drug Tourism in the Netherlands -- Is It Really Only the Problem of the Dutch?," "Video: SSDP and LEAP Talk Drug Legalization at El Paso City Council."

14. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

Do you read Drug War Chronicle? If so, we need your feedback to evaluate our work and make the case for Drug War Chronicle to funders. We need donations too.

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

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

1. Editorial: Sometimes a Drug Warrior is a Little Too Honest

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden
The drug war is intellectually slippery business -- it's impossible to talk straight and effectively defend it. But sometimes a drug warrior is a little too honest.

That was the case this week when an interview with UN anti-drug chief Antonio Maria Costa was published in an Austrian magazine, in which Costa claims black market drug profits propped up the global banking system in 2008. That is, some banks that have survived would have failed, or might have, were it not for drug money laundered into the financial system.

This seems like a bold claim. But it makes sense -- drug money has to go somewhere -- and Costa isn't some local police chief exaggerating the value of a drug seizure to get headlines, he's an economist. The UN isn't always a reliable reporter of the drug situation, but it's worth something. I don't think there's a strong reason for Costa to want to make something like that up.

If the drug trade has saved the financial system, then, or helped to, this requires an evolution of thought. We're accustomed to regarding drugs and drug selling as bad things, but like everything they have their upside. Suppose the drug war magically started to work and the trade were wiped out, or people suddenly stopped using drugs. What would happen to the economy? What would happen to countries like Afghanistan or Colombia or Mexico where a lot of the money being made is in drugs and a lot of people are dependent on that money? Or in some sectors of US society, for that matter?

It would be a catastrophe. Eventually economies would rearrange themselves, to be sure. But the sudden implosion of a large sector of the economy would wreak havoc, not just on the people making a living in the drug trade now, but on the local, national and global economies of which they are a part.

Drug users and even sellers, then, are an integral part of human society -- the larger economic weal depends in part on theirs -- and so our evolution of thought should be about people too, not just economics. We need our drug users, and even our drug sellers, for the most part -- not because they use or sell drugs, but because they're here and we're connected to them, for better or worse.

And if we need them, if in a somewhat flawed way they contribute to the economy on which all of us depend, then they also don't deserve to be persecuted, jailed, have their rights taken away and their lives scarred. If a participant in the drug trade engages in violence, that is one thing; but if a person's only "crime" is a drug offense, it's another.

Along with tolerating these members of society who are now persecuted, we should not ignore the corrupting effects that this situation of money laundering and drug money -- this situation created by prohibition -- can have. With care and planning, we should chart a path away from prohibition, to some form of global legalization instead. Only then will the flood of illegal drug money be stemmed, and the suffering prohibition has caused to individuals and society alike be addressed.

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2. Feature: Prisons Under Pressure -- Corrections Budgets in the Age of Austerity

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Arizona State Prison Complex at Douglas
If there are any silver linings in the current economic, fiscal, and budgetary disaster that afflicts the US, one of them could be that the budget crunch at statehouses around the country means that even formerly sacrosanct programs are on the chopping block. With drug offenders filling approximately 20-25% of prison cells in any given state, prison budgets are now under intense scrutiny, creating opportunities to advance sentencing, prison, and drug law reform in one fell swoop.

Nationwide, corrections spending ranks fourth in eating up state budget dollars, trailing only health care, education, and transportation. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, five states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Oregon and Vermont -- spend more on prisons they than do on schools.

The US currently spends about $68 billion a year on corrections, mostly at the state level. Even at a time when people are talking about trillion dollar bail-outs, that's a lot of money. And with states from California to the Carolinas facing severe budget squeezes, even "law and order" legislators and executive branch officials are eyeing their expensive state prison systems in an increasingly desperate search to cut costs.

"If you look at the amount of money spent on corrections in the states, it's an enormous amount," said Lawanda Johnson of the Justice Policy Institute. "If they could reduce prison spending, that would definitely have an impact on their state budgets. Now, a few states are starting to look at their jail and prison populations," she said.

Among them:

Alabama: The state Department of Corrections is facing a 20% budget cut in 2009. Alabama Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen is telling legislators he will try to "dampen down" the number of new inmates by working on sentencing reform, community corrections, new pardon and parole rules, and a supervised reentry program. The number of Alabama prisoners jumped from nearly 28,000 in March 2006 to more than 30,000 in December 2008, an increase Allen said was caused in part because the legislature had created 67 new felony crimes since 2001.

California: With a prison population of more than 170,000 and the state facing budget deficits of gargantuan proportions, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has suggested eliminating parole time for all non-serious, nonviolent, and non-sex offenders. His plan would cut the parole population by 65,000 people, more than half the 123,000 currently on parole. It would also reduce by tens of thousands the number of people behind bars in the Golden State by increasing good-time credits for inmates who obey the rules and complete rehabilitation. That move could cut the prison population by 15,000 by June 2010. Schwarzenegger's proposal is opposed by -- you guessed it -- the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, for which mass imprisonment is a job security issue.

Colorado: Gov. Bill Ritter (D) has proposed extensive cuts in the state corrections system, including closing two state prisons, delay the construction or expansion of two other prisons, and selling a department-owned 1,000-acre ranch. Those cuts would eliminate at least 71 jobs and save $13.6 million in the coming fiscal year.

Kentucky: Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and state legislators last year granted early release to some 1,800 prisoners, including some violent offenders, in a bid to take a bite out of the state's $1 billion budget deficit. Although Beshear and the legislature have protected the Corrections Department from budget cuts afflicting nearly all other state agencies and programs, the state's dire financial straits are making passage of a treatment-not-jail bill for drug offenders more likely this year. That could save the state $1.47 million.

Michigan: Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) will propose keeping prison spending near the $2 billion mark in 2010, 57% higher than a decade ago, but legislators are about to chew on proposals for reform from the Council of State Governments Justice Center to cut the number of state prison inmates by 5,000. That would save about $262 million by 2015, far short of the $500 million annual savings now being called for by the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, among others. The Justice Center proposals include cutting the average time above the minimum sentences inmates serve from 27% to 20%. Some 12,000 inmates have already served more than their minimum sentences. Deputy Corrections Director Dennis Schrantz said those proposals were only the beginning, noting that the state had closed nine prisons since 2003 and will close three more this year.

Mississippi: Faced with an emergency $6.5 million (2%) budget cut for the current fiscal year, the state Department of Corrections is moving to reduce the number of inmates in county and regional jails and private prisons. The state pays counties $20 per inmate per day to house them and pays private prison companies at least $31.70 per inmate per day. The state will remove 300 inmates from county jails and 50 from private prisons. Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps also has sent a list of 2,900 nonviolent inmates to the parole board for possible early release. The department may also grant early release to prisoners with severe medical problems, allowing the state to cut costs by not having to provide medical care for them.

New York: With a $15 billion budget deficit and a Department of Correctional Services eating up $2.5 billion a year -- more than any other state agency -- Gov. David Paterson (D) is seeking to release 1,600 offenders early and reform or repeal the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws. The prison budget has continued to increase despite a whopping 35% drop in crime in the last decade and a prison population at the lowest levels since the 1980s. Now Correctional Services Director Brian Fischer wants to close prison camps and correctional annexes sitting empty with a thousand beds, saving the state $100 million and cutting the 31,000 corrections department employees by about 1,400 through attrition. It's a start.

South Carolina: After running in the red for the last two years, the state's prison director, Jon Ozmint, told legislators he needed $36 million for the current fiscal year, leaving the solons with three choices: cut spending for health, education, or other services; finance corrections through the reserve, or close prisons. Legislators last year rejected Ozmint's suggestion that they save money by releasing prisoners early and closing prisons. This year, Ozmint is suggesting that the state reduce the requirement that serious felons serve 85% of their sentence to 70%. The prison crisis in South Carolina has prompted the normally pro-prison Charleston Post & Courier to call for "alternative sentencing that could keep nonviolent offenders out of prison" and "revising mandatory minimum sentences."

Virginia: Telling legislators "we want to lock up people we're afraid of and not ones we're mad at," Virginia corrections director Gene Johnson said this week Gov. Tim Kaine (D) wants to release some nonviolent offenders 90 days early to save the state $5 million a year. Nearly 1,200 inmates would qualify for early release, he said. Virginia has already closed five prisons employing 702 people, and may resort to limited lay-offs, Johnson told legislators.

This is by no means a list of all the states grappling with prison spending in the current crisis. Correctional costs are on the agenda at statehouses across the country, but as the list above suggests, the economic squeeze is providing openings for reform.

"In the handful of states that have already opened legislative sessions this year, the corrections budget is frequently raised in budget conversations," said Ryan King, an analyst for The Sentencing Project. "A number of governors have raised the issue. It will definitely be on the table. With the recession really taking hold this year, it will be a major, major issue," he said.

"With each passing year, there is a little greater acknowledgement that we are in a position where states are spending far too much money to incarcerate and can't build their way out of it, but the prison population is still increasing each year," said King. "If we want to talk about a sustainable reduction in the prison population, we need to revisit who is going and for how long, as well as a critical evaluation of sentencing laws, repealing mandatory minimums, and expanding parole eligibility. Those are the big steps that need to be taken."

There is still resistance to reform, King said, but things are changing. "There is now much broader consideration of amending parole and probation policies, along with diversion of drug offenders," he said. "Those are probably the two most widely achieved reforms in the last few years. We will probably see more of that, but if we're going to move this from diverting a few thousand people to really addressing the 1.5 million in prison, we are going to have to start asking whether people belong in prison for decades, whether life without parole is really necessary. The real engines of growth for the prison population are admissions and sentence lengths, and a lot of policymakers are still uncomfortable having that conversation."

After decades of seemingly endless sentence increases and prison-building, perhaps the wheel is beginning to turn. Politicians immune to "bleeding heart" pleas for humanity are not immune to pocket-book issues. But while change is starting to come, the US remains a long way from losing its crown as the world's leading jailer.

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3. Feature: New Mexico Issues Regulations for Nonprofit Medical Marijuana Grows

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Department of Health issued its long overdue regulations for state-licensed, nonprofit medical marijuana providers, making it the first state to do so. Advocates say the new rules will allow for expanded access to medical marijuana for qualified patients. Not everyone is happy.

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New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signing a bill into law
The process was long and involved, with numerous state agencies and law enforcement entities, as well as patients and advocates all trying to ensure that their interests and concerns were met. Originally mandated to be done by October 2007, the regulations were only finalized this month, with the Department of Health making late revisions based on public comments to earlier versions.

Under the newly promulgated regulations, nonprofit providers can grow no more than 95 plants, including both mature plants and seedlings, and can possess an amount of medical marijuana "that reflects current qualified patient needs." The nonprofits must sell medicine at constant unit prices and without volume discounts.

In order to apply for provider status, the nonprofits must provide copies of their articles of incorporation and bylaws, a list of all people involved in operating the facility, a list of all people who have a 5% or greater ownership in the facility, and have a board of directors that includes at least one health care professional and three qualified New Mexico medical marijuana patients. All of these people must also undergo a criminal background check.

But wait, there's more. As the regulations state:

All applicants must develop, implement and maintain on the premises policies and procedures relating to the medical cannabis program. At a minimum, the policies and procedures will include the following criteria:

  • Distribution criteria for qualified patients or caregivers appropriate for medical cannabis services.
  • Distribution criteria must include a clear identifiable photocopy of each registry identification card of a qualified patient and the patient's caregiver (if applicable) who are served by the nonprofit.
  • Policies and procedures relating to an alcohol and drug free workplace program.
  • A job description or employment contract developed for all employees, which includes duties, authority, responsibilities, qualifications and supervision.
  • A personnel record for each employee that includes an application for employment and a record of any disciplinary action taken.
  • On-site training curriculum, or enter into contractual relationships with outside resources capable of meeting employee training needs, which includes but is not limited to:
    a) Professional conduct, ethics and patient confidentiality.
    b) Informational developments in the field of medical cannabis.
  • Training in security measures and specific instructions on how to respond to an emergency, including robbery or a violent accident.
  • All nonprofits will prepare training documentation for each employee and have employees sign a statement indicating the date, time and place the employee received training and topics discussed, to include the name and title of presenters. The nonprofit will maintain documentation of an employee's training for at least six (6) months after termination of employment.

The new regulations also require patients who are growing their own to submit an application. Patients can grow up to four flowering plants and 12 seedlings. They can also possess up to six ounces of usable marijuana.

"We have worked hard to create a medical cannabis program that will be viable and meet the needs of patients in New Mexico," said Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo Vigil when the regulations were announced. "Now patients can get medical cannabis for their chronic health conditions in a way that is safe and legal under state law."

"I think the regulations will serve the patients of New Mexico well," said Melissa Milam, administrator of the Medical Cannabis Program in the state Department of Health. "I'm really happy that we are moving forward; I think that's better than to continue having this drawn-out debate over the regulations."

The first application by a nonprofit organization was accepted last week, said Milam. "We expect several more soon," she added. One hold-up, she said, was the requirement that all members of the nonprofit's board of directors pass a background check. "We're asking them to do that through the state Department of Public Safety, and those take about two weeks to process," Milam said.

Advocates are hoping the new regulations are a first step only. "We were able to get a lot of the changes we wanted into the regulations, so we're glad that the governor's office was receptive, but we didn't get everything we wanted," said Reena Szczepanski, head of the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico office, which worked closely with Gov. Richardson for years to push medical marijuana through the legislature. "There will be room in the future to look at things like the regulations on nonprofits and plant limits."

That's because the regulations call for an annual evaluation report, Szczepanski said. "We were able to get that yearly evaluation in there, and that will give us a chance to look at revisions in the future in light of how well the program is meeting the needs of patients. We also wanted state-run providers and didn't get that. That's another thing we can look at in coming years," she said.

Some advocates wish the department had gotten it right the first time around. Bernie Ellis, MA, MPH, an epidemiologist with more than 20 years experience in substance abuse-related research and administration, is one of them. Ellis has worked for medical marijuana in New Mexico for years, dating back to the days of Gov. Gary Johnson. Ellis also brings with him the bitter experience of a federal medical marijuana prosecution in Tennessee where he currently resides. He submitted detailed recommendations on the regulations during the public comment period last year, which interested readers can obtain by contacting him via the link above.

"The biggest frustration that I share with other medical marijuana activists nationally is that the New Mexico legislation could have been the gold standard for administering medical cannabis programs, but instead it has turned out to be just one more 'same old-same old' program with unrealistically low limits on the amount of cannabis patients can possess and providers can grow," said Ellis. "Limiting patients to no more than six ounces of medicine means that patients who grow outdoors will face arrest for possessing any more cannabis than their first six weeks supply. Limiting providers to 95 plants, including those in vegetative growth, means the producers will be able to produce medicine for no more than six patients apiece."

According to Ellis, there are at least 46,000 New Mexicans whose medical conditions currently make them eligible for the state's program, and the state is now considering adding more qualifying conditions. "With these regulations, we are talking about the potential need to license about 7,500 producers (or more) to serve a population like that, instead of licensing a smaller number of producers who could produce at a more realistic level," he said.

Ellis had argued for much larger state-licensed medicinal grows. "I have done preliminary cost and staffing estimates for providers growing an acre of cannabis, which would serve several hundred patients," he said. "There is no state better than New Mexico to do this right. The population there has centuries of medicinal use of this substance, the cultural climate is very favorable for success, and Gov. Richardson put a considerable amount of his own political capital to work to get this passed. But now, after a fifteen month delay releasing the program regulations, we have a program with unrealistically low limits on patients and providers, which will allow patents to be 'legal' only a few months of the year."

"The federal government doesn't seem to get involved with less than 99 plants or 99 pounds; that's where that number comes from," said Milam. "It is a measure to protect providers."

More importantly, said Milam, the patients seem satisfied. "No patients have complained to me about the plant limits," she said. "If they don't have a problem with it, I don't either."

The regulations contain a safety valve for patients, Szczepanski noted. "If a need is indicated by their medical provider, patients can apply to possess amounts over the limit," she pointed out.

The limits on providers also have another negative consequence, Ellis argued. "With those sorts of limits, producers will not have the ability to reduce the price for medical cannabis below the current illicit price, which would defeat the goals of a program like New Mexico's," he said. "If you tell a nonprofit it is limited to 95 plants and it has to set up an elaborate security system and staff the effort commensurate with the security and horticultural needs, I don't see how they will be able to reduce the market price doing that. A larger, properly staffed facility could bring those prices down. Right now, the few providers I've talked to in New Mexico say they're just buying cannabis for patients from the illegal market and paying $200-$500 an ounce for it. I think if it were done right, we could get the cost down to around $50 an ounce."

"We're a very poor state, and many of the patients are on Medicaid or disability," said Milam. "California may have dispensaries everywhere, but they're charging black market prices. Our patients can't afford to pay $400 an ounce on top of their other medications. We're trying to set it up so marijuana is an affordable medication," she said, adding that she was sure licensed growers could beat black market prices.

"The state of New Mexico said it wanted to make cannabis available on demand to patients," Ellis continued, "but the way they're treating medical marijuana patients is analogous to telling a patient with a major infection that she needs penicillin immediately, and then handing her a loaf of bread and instructions on growing her own antibiotics. If a cancer patient has to undergo chemotherapy soon after diagnosis, he needs access to medical cannabis then, not five to seven months down the road when his first harvest might be ready."

Milam didn't disagree. "I've had doctors call me saying their patient needed medical marijuana on an emergency basis, and I have had to tell them to tell their patients to go find it themselves. This is a prime example of why the federal government needs to get marijuana rescheduled as Schedule II. The patients need to be able to go to the pharmacy and pick it up when they need it."

Despite his litany of criticisms of the new regulations, Ellis took pains to emphasize he supports the New Mexico medical marijuana program. "I am a proponent of the New Mexico approach as outlined in their legislation, but an opponent of the current regulations. Martin Luther King once said he would not have had the success he did in the civil rights arena without [black radical] Stokely Carmichael and others agitating for change. I'm trying to be Stokely Carmichael on this. If we don't watch out, they can incrementalize us, and too many patients, to death."

There are currently 207 patients registered with the New Mexico Department of Health. Now, they will soon have the opportunity to procure their medicine through the nonprofits -- or at least a few months after one actually gets up and running. In addition to the one application already in process, said Milam, at least two more are going through the criminal background check requirement and should be applying soon.

Whether and how well the new regulations will serve the needs of patients remains to be seen. "We will be monitoring the implementation, and we've been doing that through this whole process," said Szczepanski. "As these nonprofits are going forward, we will be watching to see if they are approved and if not, why not, and making sure the regs are being followed."

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4. Prohibition: UN Drug Chief Says Black Market Drug Profits Propped Up Global Banking System Last Year

Profits from the global illicit drug trade helped keep the international banking system afloat during the crisis that swept the global financial system during the second half of last year, the UN's leading drug fighter said in an interview with the Austrian magazine Profil, which was made available Sunday. Drug money was almost the only available capital for banks, said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

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UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa
Costa's remarks came as the Profil interviewer questioned him about the size of the global drug market. "If you look at agriculture markets, it is the most important," Costa replied. "According to our calculations, the wholesale value of illegal drugs is more than $90 billion, in the range of world meat and grain trade. The street trade, we assess at a volume of over $320 billion."

While profits from the illicit drug trade fund political violence by the likes of the Taliban or Colombia's leftist FARC insurgents and rightist paramilitaries, they are also finding their way into the coffers of the world banking system at a critical time, Costa said. The drug business is one of the few global growth industries right now, he noted.

"The drug trade at this time could be the only growth industry, with little unemployment," Costa explained. "The money that is being made is flowing only partly back into illegal activities, in parts of Asia, Africa, and South America, where it is used to bribe politicians, buy elections, or finance insurgents, such as the Talibans in Afghanistan, the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, or the FARC in Colombia, for example."

The rest of the profit, Costa said, "is fed into the legal economic circulation through money laundering. We do not know how much, but the volume is imposing. As such, seen from the macroeconomic effect, this is simply bringing in investment capital. There are indications that these funds also ended up in the finance sector, which has been under obvious pressure since the second half of last year. In many instances, drug money is currently the only liquid investment capital, to buy real estate, for example," Costa continued. "In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor."

When pressed on just how this was accomplished, Costa responded: "It appears that interbank credits have been financed by money which comes from the drug trade and other illegal activities. It is naturally hard to prove this, but there are indications that a number of banks were rescued by this means."

Costa noted that money laundering controls put in place to stop drug trafficking have "ironically" resulted in drug traffickers sitting on large stashes of cash -- the ultimate liquid financial instrument. "To get around the electronic surveillance of bank transactions, now criminals stash their funds in cash sums which can be up to hundreds of millions of dollars. This is the way they try to hold these funds liquid."

There go those drug dealers propping up the global economy.

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5. Afghanistan: US Commander Orders NATO to Kill All Opium Dealers -- NATO Balks

According to the German news magazine Der Spiegel, top NATO commander in Afghanistan, US Gen. John Craddock, has issued a "guidance" allowing NATO troops "to attack directly drug producers and facilities throughout Afghanistan." But other NATO commanders do not want to follow that order, leading to a rift at the top of the allied war machine over who is a legitimate military target.

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the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
NATO has reluctantly embraced an expansion of its mission from fighting the Taliban and related insurgents to going after drug trade participants linked to the insurgents. But Gen. Craddock's directive broadens the mission to include any drug traffickers or drug production facilities.

According to the document, a copy of which Der Spiegel says it has, NATO troops can now use deadly force against drug traffickers even when there is no proof they are engaged in armed resistance to NATO/US troops or their Afghan government allies. But that's not what NATO countries bargained for in October, when they agreed to allow NATO soldiers to attack opium traffickers linked to the Taliban.

It is "no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker or narcotics facility in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective," Craddock wrote. The alliance "has decided that [drug traffickers and narcotics facilities] are inextricably linked to the Opposing Military Forces, and thus may be attacked."

Gen. Craddock sent his directive on January 5 to Egon Ramms, the German leader at NATO command in the Netherlands, and David McKiernan, commander of the NATO peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. But both commanders rejected it, arguing that the order is illegitimate and violates the laws of war. McKiernan sent a classified letter from Kabul claiming that Craddock was trying to create "a new category" in the rules of engagement that would "seriously undermine the commitment ISAF has made to the Afghan people and the international community... to restrain our use of force and avoid civilian casualties to the greatest degree predictable."

The topic of civilian deaths at the hands of NATO and US troops in Afghanistan is an increasingly prickly one with the people and government of Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has complained loudly and frequently about repeated US air strikes killing civilians. NATO was forced this week to defend itself by arguing that it had only killed 97 civilians last year, compared to nearly 10 times that by the Taliban.

It is unclear how the conflict between the NATO allies will be resolved. But if Craddock has his way and NATO declares open season on the drug trade, there will be a true drug war in Afghanistan. In a country where the drug trade accounts for around half the gross national product and where members of the government and independent warlords as well as the Taliban have a hand in the trade, it is difficult to see how that will help win hearts and minds.

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6. Drug Testing: Chess Federation Caves, Ivanchuk Will Not Be Suspended

As we noted three weeks ago, the chess world was in turmoil over drug testing in a simmering spat sparked afresh by the threatened suspension of a popular and well-known grandmaster for failing to stop to take a drug test after storming out of the chess hall upon losing an important match. Now, we can report that the chess federation has come to its senses.

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Vassily Ivanchuk (courtesy wikimedia.org)
In what most consider a quixotic bid to get chess included as an Olympic sport, the World Chess Federation, usually referred to by its French acronym, FIDE, began drug testing chess players. Such testing is required in Olympic sports. Players had grumbled about and ridiculed the policy in the past, but the issue blew up in FIDE's face at last year's Chess Olympiad in Dresden.

There, Ukrainian Grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk was leading his team to a medal, perhaps even the gold, in the last round. But instead of victory, Ivanchuk and the Ukrainians lost, and a furious and distraught Ivanchuk stormed out of the building -- right past a FIDE official waiting to give him a random urine test. Ivanchuk said he did not realize the man was an official, but FIDE decided to convene a hearing on his failure to take the drug test. Under FIDE rules, he could have been suspended for up to two years.

In a January 20 hearing conducted by FIDE during the Corus tournament in the Netherlands, in which Ivanchuk is participating, the panel heard testimony that there was no "designated doping control officer," validating Ivanchuk's claim he did not know the man was a drug testing official. The panel also noted that the FIDE official spoke to Ivanchuk in English, not his native language, and that Ivanchuk was upset at the time.

In its decision rendered the same day, the panel concluded: "The procedural error allied with Mr Ivanchuk's state of mind led him unintentionally to miss the test. The Hearing Panel therefore concludes unanimously that there should be no penalty."

Given the ridicule and anger generated in the chess community over the whole Ivanchuk fiasco, that was a very politic decision indeed.

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

Another jail guard gets caught, a Michigan narc cops a plea, so does an Arizona cop, and a North Carolina deputy is going to prison. Let's get to it:

In Boston, Texas, a Bowie County jail guard was arrested last Friday after she got caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the jail. Bowie County Correctional Officer Amber Nicole Hinds, 20, went down when jail authorities ordered a search of all employees entering the jail. Hinds moved to the back of the line, and her fellow guards ratted her out. Authorities found marijuana on her person when they searched her. The charges she faces are as yet unspecified.

In Tucson, Arizona, a former South Tucson police lieutenant pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $560,000 from the city and the police department. Richard Robles Garcia admitted taking funds from 2004 to 2008, when he was fired after an audit. He used his position as head of the department's evidence room and asset forfeiture program to turn the funds into his own personal bank, using them to pay off gambling debts, he admitted.

In Benton Harbor, Michigan, a former Benton Harbor narcotics officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge of drug trafficking. Andrew Thomas Collins, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of crack cocaine. He faces a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years, plus a fine of $2,000. Collins was arrested in February 2008 after being caught in possession of crack cocaine and other drugs. He admitted repeatedly failing to report seized drugs, instead keeping them for himself and falsely reporting he had made controlled drug purchases. Local prosecutors have announced they had to drop a number of drug cases because they were tainted by Collins.

In Yadkinville, North Carolina, a former Yadkin County deputy was sentenced to at least 34 months in prison Monday for embezzling funds from the department, peddling Oxycontin, and falsely telling people he had cancer in a bid to raise funds for his "treatment." Former Deputy Darrell Thornton pleaded guilty to 10 counts of embezzlement, two counts of attempting to traffic in opium and OxyContin, one count of obtaining property by false pretenses and common-law forgery. The pleas were part of a deal with prosecutor Fred Bauer in which eight counts of larceny by an employee were dropped and all the guilty pleas were merged into four charges for sentencing. Thornton stole $4,200 in drug buy money, as well as receiving $1,800 from a fundraiser for his nonexistent cancer and its supposed treatment. His attorney said the one-time narcotics officer had developed an addiction to Oxycontin in the course of treatment for medical problems.

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8. ONDCP: Obama Appoints Edward Jurith Acting Drug Czar

On his first day in office, President Obama named Edward Jurith, a long-time federal anti-drug bureaucrat, acting head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office). It's not Jurith's first time in the caretaker position; he was appointed acting director by President Clinton in January 2001 and served there until President Bush replaced him with John Walters in December 2001.

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Ed Jurith
According to his official biography, Jurith has served as ONDCP general counsel since 1994. That position's duties included acting as legal advisor to the director and ONDCP staff and ensuring the agency complied with all federal laws and regulations. Jurith also advised ONDCP on the operations of the much criticized National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, the Drug-Free Communities program (already more prominently displayed on the ONDCP web site), and the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center (CTAC).

Jurith served as counsel to the US House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control from 1981 to 1986 and as the committee's staff director from 1987 until he moved to ONDCP as the agency's legislative liaison in 1993. Jurith was "instrumental" in drafting the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988, which provide the current statutory framework for US anti-drug policy.

Jurith's appointment as acting drug czar ends the short-lived tenure of Patrick Ward, who was promoted from acting deputy drug czar to acting drug czar by President Bush earlier this month. While Jurith is no friend of drug reform, he is an attorney, not an interdiction advocate like Ward, an Air Force veteran who worked on "countering the nexus between illegal drugs and terrorism" in places like Mexico, the Andean region, and Afghanistan.

Obama's selection of a veteran drug war bureaucrat and key actor in crafting the laws that got us into drug war without end to be acting head of ONDCP suggests that when it comes to drug policy, for now, at least, it's stay the course, not change we can believe in. But Jurith is only acting director; whether Obama will take a bold step in appointing a permanent new drug czar, or when, remains to be seen.

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9. Salvia Divinorum: Nebraska Man is Acquitted of Sales Charge, But the Plant is Under Continued Attack There and Elsewhere

A jury in Lincoln, Nebraska, found a local man not guilty of selling salvia divinorum Monday. Although the psychedelic member of the mint family is not a controlled substance in Nebraska, creative thinkers in the Lincoln Police Department arrested shop owner Christian Firoz under a little used law against selling a substance for the purpose of inducing intoxication.

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salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid.org)
Police seized about eight ounces of salvia in a raid after an undercover agent purchased some there. Firoz admitted selling the herb, which produces a powerful but short-lived hallucinogenic effect. But his lawyer argued that the state had failed to show it was a dangerous narcotic, and the jury agreed.

By this time next year, though, police anywhere in Nebraska may be able to arrest people on salvia possession or sales charges. The day after Firoz was acquitted, the Nebraska legislature voted 44-0 to advance a bill, LB 123, making salvia a Schedule I controlled substance. Under the bill, salvia would be classified along with heroin, LSD, and marijuana as substances with no medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Salvia is not known to produce fatal overdoses, nor has it been shown to be addictive. In fact, for most users, the high is so overwhelming that they only use it once or twice. Salvia use has been linked -- but only indirectly -- to two deaths, that of a Delaware teenager who killed himself some time after using salvia and that of an Ohio teenager who was slain by a friend who had previously used salvia, but was not under the immediate influence.

But that didn't stop the Nebraska bill's sponsor, Sen. Russ Karpisek (R-Wilbur) from declaring that the legislature had to save Nebraska's corn-fed youth by sending them to prison for possessing a plant. "Please, think about our children when you think about this one. It's another gateway drug. I think that it will entice people to use the drug and see what it's like. Scary thought to me," said Karpisek.

Nebraska isn't alone in seeing efforts to ban salvia this year. Also on Tuesday, the Maryland House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HB 8, which would make salvia a Schedule I controlled substance in the Terrapin state. A similar bill has been filed in the state Senate. South Dakota legislators filed a bill, HB 1090 last week that would do the same, and declares the salvia threat so dire as to require emergency status, meaning the bill, if passed, would go into effect in 90 days. A Texas legislator has filed another salvia ban bill, HB 126, while another Texas bill, SB 257, would restrict its sale to minors.

That's what California did last year, although most of the dozen or so states that have moved against salvia have simply banned it for everyone. California's example is the correct response, said the Drug Policy Alliance Network's DC and Maryland office.

"We are very concerned about youth drug use, including the use of salvia, but by outlawing and prohibiting it legislators will make the problem even worse," said Naomi Long, DPAN's DC and Maryland Project director. "We can curb youth access to salvia by enacting age controls and placement restrictions similar to our strategies to reduce teenage smoking. We didn't have to criminalize tobacco or create prison sentences to achieve success. Criminalizing drugs makes it easier for young people to obtain them because the underground market doesn't check an ID to see if someone's an adult."

For salvia fans and civil libertarians, the one good sign in all this is that opposition is starting to appear. Not only did foes of criminalizing salvia make an appearance in Annapolis, they also objected in Lincoln. Opposition hasn't stopped any salvia bans yet, but at least it is finally showing up.

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10. Drug Task Forces: House Passes Economic Stimulus Bill with Byrne Grant Funds Intact, Reform Advocates Mobilize

The US House of Representatives Wednesday passed the $819 billion economic stimulus bill endorsed by the Democratic leadership and President Obama. The $4 billion in "public safety" funding in the bill includes $3 billion for the Byrne Justice Action Grant program and $1 billion for the Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program. (For detailed coverage of the Byrne grant program, which funds multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task forces, see our story last week here.) But reform advocates, including 15 national organizations, are calling for the funding to be removed or redirected and hoping the Senate will listen.

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In a Thursday press release, the groups warned that "a 'stimulus' directed at law enforcement is misguided and could be counterproductive by increasing costly arrests and imprisonments for lower-level offenses." Instead, the groups called for the $4 billion to be spent on "more comprehensive approaches" that will reduce incarceration rates and decrease spending on jails, prisons, and police. They called for spending to be refocused on education, job training, treatment, and other programs shown to boost communities and local economies.

"Economic security is a crucial element of an effective public safety strategy, but this funding will stimulate neither Main Street nor safe streets," said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a research organization that studies alternatives to incarceration. "Instead of placing our limited resources in the most expensive, deep end of the system -- police and prisons -- it's time we move more funding upstream, to the kinds of jobs and programs that are proven to promote safety and support communities."

Under the Bush administration, both the Byrne grants and the COPS program were slashed because they were "not able to demonstrate an impact on reducing crime," and the Byrne grants' "lack of long-term goals and measures inhibited targeting of resources to address crime needs," as the Office of Management and Budget put it.

"A $4 billion mistake now will be magnified in the future; jails and prisons will continue to grow at the expense of states and counties, which will be forced to find funds to imprison people by cutting critical community services," said Velázquez. "Let's seize this opportunity to move in the right direction by investing in a more positive future."

The bill now heads to the Senate.

The groups calling for eliminating the Byrne grant and COPS funding are: the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Humane Association, the American Psychological Association, the Center for Children's Law and Policy, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, the Justice Policy Institute, the Open Society Policy Center, the National Black Police Association, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, the Sentencing Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the United Methodist Church, and Youth Represent.

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11. Search and Seizure: US Supreme Court Okays Passenger Frisks During Traffic Stops

The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers have the right to frisk passengers in cars stopped for traffic offenses even if they have no evidence the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so. The ruling marks the latest in a now long line of high court decisions since the end of the Warren court -- many of them in drug cases -- that have eroded the Fourth Amendment's proscription against warrantless searches.

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In its decision, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected an Arizona appeals court ruling that threw out the evidence in one such search as unconstitutionally obtained.

The ruling came in Arizona v. Johnson, in which Lemon Johnson was the back seat passenger in a car pulled over by anti-gang police in Oro Valley. After questioning Johnson in the car and being informed that he was from "a place [the officer] knew was home to a Crips gang" and that he had served time for burglary, the officer, the officer asked him to get out of the car for further questioning. Noting also that Johnson wore a blue bandana and had a scanner in his pocket, the officer "patted him down for officer safety."

During the pat-down search, the officer found a pistol and a small bag of marijuana. Johnson was charged with weapons and drug possession offenses. He was convicted at trial, but that conviction was overturned by the appeals court, which held that although Johnson had been lawfully detained when police stopped the car for the traffic violation, during the course of the encounter before Johnson was frisked, the detention had "evolved into a separate, consensual encounter stemming from an unrelated investigation by [the officer] of Johnson's possible gang affiliation." Without "reason to believe Johnson was involved in criminal activity," the court ruled, the officer "had no right to pat him down for weapons, even if she had reason to suspect he was armed and dangerous."

That's not right, the Supreme Court said in a ruling authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Citing case law going back to Terry v. Ohio (1968), which established that police may constitutionally stop and interrogate people if they reasonably believe a crime has been or is about to be committed and that police can then frisk them to search for weapons, Ginsburg and the court ruled that such pat-down searches are allowable if police "harbor reasonable suspicion that a person subjected to the frisk is armed, and therefore dangerous to the safety of the police and public."

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12. Weekly: This Week in History

February 1, 1909: The International Opium Commission convenes in Shanghai. Heading the US delegation are Dr. Hamilton Wright and Episcopal Bishop Henry Brent, who both try to convince the international delegation of the immoral and evil effects of opium.

January 31, 1945: A New York Times article reports an increase in marijuana trafficking and mentions that an official at the Treasury Department says that traffic in some instances reaches "the proportion of well-financed national and international conspirators." One of the New York gangs which came under investigation was the "107th Street Mob," formerly headed by the notorious mobster "Lucky" Luciano.

February 3, 1987: Carlos Lehder is captured by the Colombian National Police at a safe house owned by Pablo Escobar in the mountains outside of Medellin. He is extradited to the US the next day. On May 19, 1988 Lehder is convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 135 years.

February 5, 1988: A federal grand jury in Miami issues an indictment against Panamanian General Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking. Noriega had allowed the Medellin cartel to launder money and build cocaine laboratories in Panama.

February 4, 1994: An unpublished US Department of Justice report indicates that over one-third of the drug felons in federal prisons are low-level nonviolent offenders.

January 30, 1997: New England Journal of Medicine editor Dr. Jerome Kassirer opines in favor of doctors being allowed to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes, calling the threat of government sanctions "misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane."

February 4, 2003: Jurors who had convicted Ed Rosenthal on federal marijuana cultivation charges hold a press conference, saying they were deceived by the withholding of information about Rosenthal's involvement in medical marijuana, that they would not have convicted him had they known, and calling for a new trial.

February 4, 2003: The New York Times publishes an editorial defending Ed Rosenthal and medical marijuana. It says, in part: "The Bush administration's war on medical marijuana is not only misguided but mean-spirited. Doctors have long recognized marijuana's value in reducing pain and aiding in the treatment of cancer and AIDS, among other diseases. A recent poll found that 80 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana. The reasons the government gives for objecting to it do not outweigh the good it does. And given the lack of success of the war on drugs in recent years, there must be better places to direct law enforcement resources."

February 2, 2004: A congressional budget rider known as the "Istook Amendment," after its sponsor, US Rep. James Istook (R-OK), takes effect. The law penalizes any transit system that accepts advertising "promot[ing] the legalization or medical use" of illegal drugs such as marijuana by cutting off all federal financial assistance, which often amounts to millions of dollars. Four months later US District Court Judge Paul Friedman rules that Istook's law violates the First Amendment by infringing on free speech rights, and is thus unconstitutional.

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13. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

Along with our weekly in-depth Chronicle reporting, DRCNet also provides 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: "How Not to Legalize Marijuana," "Obama Appoints Temporary Drug Czar," "Mexican Drug Cartels Dissolve Corpses in Vats of Acid," "The World's Smallest Marijuana Joint," "Norm Stamper is Awesome," "Matt Fogg is Awesome," and "Ryan Frederick Trial."

David Borden posts: "Video: Drug Tourism in the Netherlands -- Is It Really Only the Problem of the Dutch?" and "Video: SSDP and LEAP Talk Drug Legalization at El Paso City Council."

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:

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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. 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 spring or summer semester 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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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.

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