Drug War Chronicle #578 - March 27, 2009

1. Feature: Failed Drug War Policies in Mexico? Let's Try More of the Same

As Mexicos's plague of prohibition-related violence continues unabated, Washington is moving to beef up the border and the Mexican repressive apparatus. But for the first time, US officials are openly admitting that some of it is our fault, possibly opening the way for the discussion of drug legalization to move in from the margins.

2. Feature: More Than A Quarter Million Marijuana Smokers in Drug Treatment Each Year -- Are We Wasting Valuable Treatment Resources?

The latest SAMHSA drug treatment statistics show that 288,000 people entered treatment for marijuana in 2007. Only one in six sought it; more than half were ordered there by the courts. Given continuing problems with cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs, is this how we want to spend our treatment dollars?

3. Sentencing: Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Deal Near, NY Times Says

Reform of New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws is almost a done deal, the New York Times reported Thursday. But the devil is in the details, and advocates are biting their nails.

4. Medical Marijuana: In Wake of Holder Comments, Federal Judge Postpones Sentencing of California Medical Marijuana Provider Charles Lynch

California medical marijuana dispensary operator Charles Lynch was supposed to be sentenced to federal prison Monday. It didn't happen, and Lynch can thank Attorney General Holder for signaling a change of federal policy toward such prosecutions.

5. Medical Marijuana: DEA Raids San Francisco Dispensary Despite Holder Vow

The Justice Department will/will not raid medical marijuana providers in states where it's legal. Who knows? Attorney General Holder said last week the DEA would only go after dispensaries violating state law, but this week, the DEA hit a San Francisco dispensary that appears to be operating legally. Confusion and concern abound.

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

Narcs gone wild, narcs cheating on their pay, narcs stealing dope, narcs lying on the stand, a perverted sheriff heads to prison, and that's just the half of it.

7. Criminal Justice: US Senator Introduces Bill to Create Commission for "Top-to-Bottom" Review of Criminal Justice System

Sen Jim Webb (D-VA) has become a hero for drug reformers in the short time he's been in the Senate. Now, his latest effort is sure to earn him more kudos.

8. Privacy: Kansas House Passes Bill Mandating Drug Tests for Public Assistance

A number of states are considering bills to require drug testing to receive public assistance or unemployment benefits. Kansas is the first one where such a bill has won approval in even one chamber.

9. Medical Marijuana: Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire Bills Advance

Medical marijuana is on the move in the statehouses -- bills advanced this week in Illinois, Minnesota, and New Hampshire.

10. Marijuana: Legalization Bill Introduced in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has become the second state in as many months to see marijuana legalization bills come before the state legislature. This one would tax by grade for commercial sales, but also permit untaxed personal cultivation.

11. Southeast Asia: Indonesia to Treat Drug Users, Not Jail Them

In a memo to judges, Indonesia's Supreme Court has ordered them to send small-time drug users and possessors to treatment instead of prison.

12. Europe: Italian High Court Okays Lonesome Shepherd's Pot Smoking

If a lonely shepherd wants to get high while out with his flock, that's no skin off the state's nose, the Italian Supreme Court has ruled.

13. Weekly: This Week in History

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

14. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"Obama Won't Say Why He Opposes Marijuana Legalization," "Obama Insults Online Community for Supporting Marijuana Legalization," "Uh-Oh! Medical Marijuana Raid in San Francisco," "Yet Another Chance to Ask Obama About Marijuana Laws," "Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced in Massachusetts," "If You Hate Gun Control, You Can Thank the Drug War for Causing it," "The Fine Line Between Drug Raids and Armed Robberies," "Sentencing Postponed in Charlie Lynch's Medical Marijuana Trial."

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

Apply for an internship at DRCNet and you could spend a semester fighting the good fight!

16. 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.

1. Feature: Failed Drug War Policies in Mexico? Let's Try More of the Same

Mexico and its wave of prohibition-related violence were front and center in Washington this week as the Obama administration unveiled its "comprehensive response and commitment" to US-Mexico border security and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Mexico to preach renewed support in the fight against the powerful drug trafficking organizations, but also to enunciate a mea culpa for the US role in the bloody situation.

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US Border Patrol
More than 9,000 people -- including more than 600 police and soldiers -- have been killed in prohibition-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon sent out the Mexican armed forces to subdue the cartels at the beginning of 2007, with the pace of killing accelerating last year and early this year. Now, some 45,000 Mexican army troops are part of the campaign, including more than 8,000 that are currently occupying Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, which has seen some of the highest levels of violence anywhere in the country. More than 1,600 were killed there last year, and more than a hundred so far this year.

Calderon intervened in ongoing rivalries between various trafficking organizations, helping to turn what had been turf wars for valuable drug smuggling franchises into a multi-sided battle pitching the cartels against each other and Mexican police and soldiers. The prize is a cross-border smuggling fortune estimated at anywhere between $10 billion and $40 billion and based on Americans' insatiable appetite for the drugs it loves to hate (or hates to love).

On Tuesday, the White House presented its plan to secure the border, including the disbursement of $700 million in previously authorized Plan Merida assistance to Mexico, ramped up enforcement on the US side of the border, and an increased emphasis on demand reduction in the US.

The Plan Merida aid will provide surveillance and information technologies, training for rule of law and justice reform, assistance to Mexican prosecutors in crafting effective witness protection programs, and five helicopters for the Mexican Army and Air Force and a surveillance aircraft for the Mexican Navy. Here in the US, the Department of Homeland Security is bringing its numerous resources to bear, including doubling Border Enforcement Security Task Forces, tripling the number of DHS intelligence analysts working the border, beefing up Immigration and Customs Enforcement staff in Mexico, bringing more surveillance technology to ports of entry, bringing more drug dogs to the border, and targeting flows of guns and money south as well as drugs north.

The DEA is adding 16 new agents on the border to its current 1,170 already there and forming four new Mobile Enforcement Teams to go after Mexican meth traffickers, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is moving 100 agents to the border and continuing its program of tracing guns used in drug cartel violence. Even the FBI is getting in on the act by forming a Southwest Intelligence Group to act as a clearinghouse for all FBI activities involving Mexico.

"The whole package we announced today is not only about enforcement and stopping the flow of drugs into the United States and helping Mexico against these very brutal cartels, but it includes money for more drug courts and reduction in demand," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in an interview Tuesday. "So, we look forward to working on the demand side as well as the supply side, but I'll tell you, where the Department of Homeland Security is concerned, it's all about border safety and security and making sure that spillover violence does not erupt in our own country."

Secretary of State Clinton sang much the same tune in Mexico this week, but also bluntly accepted US responsibility for the violence, saying that decades of US anti-drug policies have been a failure and that US demand for drugs drove the trade.

"Clearly what we've been doing has not worked," Clinton told reporters on her plane at the start of her two-day trip. "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," she added. "Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police, of soldiers and civilians."

Clinton's visit came as the chorus calling for change in US prohibitionist drug policies is growing louder. Last month, former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico called on the US to radically reassess its drug policies, and increasing concern over the violence in Mexico and its spillover in US border states is only turning up the volume of the calls for legalization.

Law enforcement on the border wants much more help -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has called for 1,000 more agents or even National Guard troops -- but Zapata County (Texas) Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, Jr., head of the Southwestern Border Sheriff's Association, said the administration move was a start. "The plan the president announced is a help," said Gonzalez. "But we still haven't seen the plan that was supposed to be in place last year."

Gonzalez's remote Zapata County has not seen much spillover from the violence across the river, but that's not the case elsewhere, the sheriff said. "As chairman of the association, I hear regularly from my colleagues that what we are seeing is spillover that has been going on for some time -- extortions, kidnapping, robberies. What we're concerned with now is that with the squeeze on in Mexico, there will be even more spillover here."

While security officials and law enforcement were talking more drug war, other observers doubted that the initiative would have much impact on the cartels and could make an intractable problem even worse. But they also saw an opportunity to advance the cause of ending America's reliance on drug prohibition as the primary approach to drug use.

"This is not a major departure from what was budgeted under the Bush administration," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The most important assistance the US can provide is intelligence-related assets, as in Colombia in the 1980s and 1990s -- CIA or NSA-type information that helps the Mexicans target the most violent and powerful of the traffickers. Providing financial assistance to help pay local police more is also helpful, but beefing up the border is largely symbolic and is responding to both legitimate concerns as well as media and political hysteria around this. This is not a departure, not a major new initiative."

"The biggest problem in all this is that Calderon's policies have thrown gasoline on the fire," said Sanho Tree, drug policy analyst for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. "It was utterly foolish of Calderon to get in the middle of a cartel turf war. Those people are all about making money, and the violence isn't going to decline until the cartels reach a modus vivendi among themselves. There are rumors they are trying to do that; they want the killing to stop so they can get back to business."

Neither should we take much comfort in Mexico's ability to occasionally kill or capture a leading cartel figure, said Tree. "It's like killing Al Qaeda's number three man," he laughed grimly. "All it means is someone below him is going to move up, or there will be a struggle to see who replaces him."

For Tree, the situation in Mexico is taking on the ominous aspect of Colombia in the 1990s, where the breakdown of public security led to vigilantism and death squad activity, the predecessors of the Colombian paramilitaries. "When people became to realize the state was powerless to stop prohibition-related violence, it opened the door for other criminal activities, including kidnapping, and what makes this really dangerous is that now the ability of the state to protect individuals comes into question."

But Tree also noted that the situation in Mexico is forcing American media and policymakers to at least address calls for drug legalization. "This is doing what Colombia and Afghanistan couldn't do, which is to bring the violence of prohibition right to our door step and rub our faces in it," said Tree. "Calderon got in between some hornets' nests with a fly swatter, and now people in both countries have to make a choice. Mexicans supported this at first, but when they realized this isn't ending but is instead getting worse, they asked why he picked this fight."

"I'm worried about the militarization of the border and the assumption that that will fix this," said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, DC. "On the other hand, it seems to be causing a growing crescendo of people wanting to talk about drug legalization. It's as if a critical mass has been arrived at. The recent statement by the three Latin American presidents was a voltaic shock to get the discussion going, and with the violence in Mexico, one has to acknowledge that a preponderance of the evidence shows the present model for drug control is not working. Even though there is a huge, formidable self-interested drug prohibition lobby, the logic of legalization is becoming so compelling it becomes all but impossible not to address it."

That political space to discuss legalization is changing things, Birns said. "Organizations like my own, which were timorous about taking on this issue now feel much more at ease with the clear recognition that everything else has failed. The possibility of legalization has to be seriously reviewed, inspected, and debated now."

Nadelmann suggested the current crisis could and should open debate about effective demand reduction strategies. "If we want to help Mexico by reducing demand, and want to give the notion more than lip service, then we have to remove the ideological inhibitions that limit our ability to effectively reduce demand," he said. "A small number of drug users consume a significant portion of all drugs. The traditional answer is to get more serious about drug treatment and rehab, but it could also mean providing addicts with legal sources of the drugs they are consuming. We know it works with heroin; the same approach deserves to be tried with cocaine and meth."

"The other thing we can do," Nadelmann argued, "is to move in the direction of legalizing marijuana. We know have 40% of Americans in favor of it, and it's approaching 50% out West. This is the first time a furor over drug-related violence has been so powerfully linked with marijuana prohibition. That mere fact that so many law enforcement people are saying it lends it credibility. This is putting the notion of marijuana legalization as a partial solution to prohibition-related violence on the edge of the mainstream political discussion in the US. With the Ammiano bill in California, Barney Frank's bill waiting to be introduced, Sen. Webb pushing for his commission, the conversation is really bubbling up now."

And so it goes. As the prohibition-related violence in Mexico continues and as the US appears to be heading down the reflexive path of fighting drug war failure with more drug war, the prohibitionist consensus grows ever more brittle. It's a shame that so many Mexicans have to die to get us to shift the direction of our dialogue on drugs.

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2. Feature: More Than A Quarter Million Marijuana Smokers in Drug Treatment Each Year -- Are We Wasting Valuable Treatment Resources?

Even as the demand for drug treatment slots continues to grow, an increasing number of people who enter drug treatment are being treated for marijuana as their primary drug of abuse, leading some observers to question whether scarce drug treatment resources are being wasted on people who don't need drug treatment. In its most recent set of drug treatment statistics released last week, the 2007 Treatment Episode Data Sets (TEDS), the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that some 288,000 people underwent treatment for marijuana that year, or 15.8% of all drug treatment episodes.

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marijuana -- sometimes but not usually a reason for treatment
The number is actually down slightly from its 2005 peak of 301,000 people in treatment for marijuana, but in line with trends for the past decade. Since 1997, the number of people getting treatment for marijuana each year has increased by roughly 50%, or about 100,000 people.

Former drug czar John Walters was fond of using the increase in the number of people being treated for marijuana to argue that it showed the increasing seriousness of marijuana use as a drug problem, but a closer look at the SAMHSA paints a different picture.

Of the people getting treatment for marijuana in 2007, 37.7% had not even smoked in the past month, raising questions about whether they even met the standard (but still arguable) definitions of marijuana abuse or dependence. When you add in the number who had smoked 1-3 times in the past month, the number rose to 53%. Other data set numbers raise similar questions. Only 14.8% of people in treatment for marijuana were self-referrals, as opposed to 56.9% getting treatment because they were ordered to by a court and another 28% in treatment because of referrals from family, schools, employers, or substance treatment or medical providers.

By way of contrast, the self-referral percentages for other drugs are much higher. Among alcohol users in treatment, 29% were self-referrals, for heroin, 58%; cocaine, 36%. Only methamphetamine users had a similar self-referral rate, with 20%.

People in treatment for marijuana are also younger than people in treatment for other drugs. For marijuana, 40% were under 19 at the time of admission, compared to 9% for stimulants, 11% for alcohol, 5% for opiates, and 3% for cocaine. A whopping 75% of people in treatment for marijuana were under age 30, compared to no more than 40% for any other of the major drugs.

The American Psychological Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) defines substance abuse as "a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one or more of the following occurring within a twelve-month period:

(1) Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g. repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use, substance related absences, suspension, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household).

(2) Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g. driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by substance use).

(3) Recurrent substance related legal problems (e.g. arrest for substance related disorderly conduct).

(4) Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by effects of substance (e.g. arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication, physical fights).

While it would appear questionable that all those people being treated for marijuana fit those criteria, a SAMHSA researcher said this is indeed the case. Deborah Trunzo, DASIS team leader for SAMHSA's Office of Applied Statistics, said that DSM diagnosis is not reported by all states, but in those states that did report: "Almost three quarters of marijuana admissions for whom DSM diagnosis was reported in 2007 had a DSM diagnosis of marijuana abuse or dependence. The remaining quarter had a DSM diagnosis of abuse or dependence on another substance or a psychiatric disorder. The data from 2006 were similar."

The no use in the past month figures for marijuana are not that shocking either, said Dr. Peter Delaney, Assistant Surgeon General and director of the Office of Applied Studies at SAMHSA. "You may have noticed that 29% of all admissions report no use of their primary substance in the 30 days prior to admission ranging from a low of 16% for heroin to a high of 50% for hallucinogens," Delaney pointed out. "There are a number of explanations for this including individuals coming into treatment may have been on a wait list and may not be currently using their primary drug of choice while preparing to enter treatment -- individuals enter treatment from the jail, other treatment settings, or are referred from court even though they have been abstinent for some time."

There are other explanations, too, Delaney said. "Some people may not be using marijuana presently but report it as the 'favorite' drug, others who are referred for marijuana problems may actually be reporting that alcohol is the problem but the referral trumps the report and finally, as one of the state representatives noted when asked about this phenomenon, many individuals entering treatment do not tell the truth about their use, and providers often see increases in reporting of use at discharge because treatment works."

Not surprisingly, drug reformers, academics and treatment professionals had significantly different takes on the SAMSHA marijuana treatment numbers and what they mean.

"There really is marijuana dependence, and there is an effective treatment for it, but, as the SAMSHA data reveal, it has little to do with what's going on in treatment programs around the US," said Dr. Mitch Earleywine, associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York -- Albany and author of "Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence."

The problem is with the way marijuana fits into the hallmark symptoms of dependence, which are tolerance and withdrawal, Earleywine said. "It is hard to document marijuana tolerance, but the Marinol (THC) studies show tolerance so everyone assumes there must be marijuana tolerance. Also, novice users are less good at knowing how much of a hit they can hold, so experienced users often look more sensitive to marijuana because they're really just more efficient about how they smoke," he said.

Marijuana withdrawal is so subtle it took 2,000 years to document, Earleywine added. "The symptoms are irritability, moodiness, disturbed sleep, craving for marijuana, and -- get this -- loss of appetite," he noted. "When withdrawal occurs, it appears to dissipate within about three weeks, at most." For Earleywine, marijuana withdrawal is about as serious as withdrawal from caffeine.

"The SAMSHA data's suggestion that folks in treatment haven't used marijuana in a month makes it pretty clear that they aren't really dependent at the time of treatment," Earleywine said. "That fact doesn't mean they couldn't benefit from some therapy, but it confirms that an inpatient stay is ridiculous. And yes, someone addicted to crack or meth is missing the chance if some marijuana user is in the program instead."

Noting that only about 15% of people in treatment for marijuana sought treatment themselves and more than half are there because of the courts, Earleywine suggested that most of the rest don't need to be there, either. "Usually, those remainder folks are in there because some family member found a joint and demanded treatment. As you can imagine, clinical work with these guys can be a complete waste of time."

He cited a case in point. "I remember one case that involved a woman in her early twenties in a wheelchair who lived with her parents," he related. "Her folks found her stash and sent her to a ritzy place filled with Betty Ford types. The poor woman had no negative consequences at all. The first week she kept stating this fact but it was interpreted as 'denial,' so she had to spend the next two weeks pretending she really had a problem so the staff would tell her parents that she was making progress."

Earleywine was similarly critical of the DSM-IV criteria for dependency that included repeated legal problems related to smoking pot. "Obviously, these are a confounding of drug laws and enforcement practices. If abuse statistics rise, it can have little to do with the drug or the rates of misuse and everything to do with how much the cops feel like busting people."

"These figures show that there are an awful lot of people in treatment for supposed marijuana abuse or dependency who, by everything we can glean from the numbers, don't look very much like addicts," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "They are disproportionately employed compared to people in treatment for other drugs, especially when you consider how young the population in treatment for marijuana is. Their lives have not been rendered unlivable by a drug problem, but because of an arrest, they are given a choice between treatment and jail when they actually need neither," he said.

"What is really striking is the extraordinarily high percentage of people referred by the criminal justice system versus the amazingly low percentage of self-referrals. These are not people who walked into the clinic saying 'I need help,'" Mirken said.

"These are people being coerced into treatment mandated by the courts," said Paul Armentano, Deputy Director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "Nationally, more than half have been referred to treatment by the criminal justice system. These are people who have been arrested, they're likely not regular users, they quit using while going through the court system, but are mandated to take treatment to avoid going to jail. You don't see this pattern when it comes to other drugs, where people are much more likely to seek treatment themselves."

"These figures reflect the obsessions and myopia of the Bush administration," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Part of it reflects the ideology of abstinence -- that once you're in the system you have to stay clean. But it means that people who are recreational marijuana users are unnecessarily put into treatment, wasting their time, money, and energy, and wasting valuable treatment resources. Most people understand that marijuana treatment programs are mostly silly, but everyone has to participate in the charade because possession or use of marijuana remains a criminal offense."

Patricia Greer, president of the executive committee of the Association for Addiction Professionals, was reluctant to downplay marijuana abuse or dependency, but did hint that perhaps some people in treatment did not need to be there. "If you are a chronic user, you could probably use treatment," she said, "but if you're a recreational user just smoking on the weekend, why not treat it like a DWI with a little counseling?" she suggested.

Greer was also hesitant to differentiate between problems with different drugs. "Empirically, they may look different, but in terms of psychological dependence, they are very much alike," she said. "The question is whether your life is unmanageable, are you experiencing employment, school, or relationship consequences. If so, you have a problem. Marijuana may not look that serious, but if it's serious to the people around you, then, yes, it's serious."

There is a small percentage of the marijuana using population who can fairly be identified as dependent, said Armentano. "The Institute of Medicine study said that among those who smoked marijuana, about 9% may exhibit some symptoms of dependency at some point in their lives. Other reviews have placed that number much lower," he noted. "Still, there are a small number who probably are, and those are the people who are voluntarily checking themselves in for treatment."

But there is dependency and then there is dependency, Armentano argued. "People become dependent on all sorts of things, but it's important to delineate marijuana from many other substances when we're talking about physical dependence," he argued. "If alcohol addicts try to quit cold turkey, they can die from withdrawal, and alcohol is not alone in that. But if we're talking about marijuana, we're not talking about serious withdrawal symptoms; we're talking about a little irritability and maybe a couple of nights of trouble falling asleep."

"The majority of our people are being treated for alcohol dependence," said Christine Jones, clinical supervisor for the Pennington County City/County Alcohol and Drug Program in Rapid City, South Dakota. "People with chronic alcoholism remain our biggest problem. For a few years, we had an awful lot of meth, but now it's OxyContin and prescription opiate abuse."

When asked specifically about marijuana, Jones said it is common as a secondary drug of abuse, but her facility was mainly treating alcoholism and meth and opiate dependence. "We have a few who are primary marijuana abusers, but the numbers are way higher for alcohol," she said. "Most of our clients are court ordered."

That led Jones to ask whether the treatment community was doing its job properly. "The question is how well does the substance abuse field do at gate-keeping so that it is addressing clinical needs rather than judicial concerns," said Jones. She said that treatment providers should be assessing clients through procedures such as the American Society for Addiction Medicine's patient placement criteria, which uses a six-dimensional matrix to assess treatment needs. "It is the responsibility of the drug and alcohol field to ensure that the level of treatment they are obtaining is appropriate for what their needs are," she said.

"If you have a marijuana smoker, and he is using occasionally and holding a job and maintaining his responsibilities, it's a misuse of money to send him to a treatment center," said Jones. "Use isn't an automatic indicator that someone needs treatment, but if someone is having repeated problems with marijuana and lots of other problems in his life, you might want to take a look at how the problems and the marijuana use are related," she said.

But drug reformers remained unconvinced, and had suggestions for what to do. "We need to change our marijuana laws," said Mirken. "There is probably a small percentage of people who have a genuine problem with marijuana, and treatment should be available for them, but not coerced treatment for marijuana possession, which is leading to a completely dysfunctional situation. In most states, there are waiting lists for treatment slots. You have to ask how many treatment slots are being occupied by court-ordered marijuana treatment when there are folks with serious problems with cocaine and heroin sitting on waiting lists and not getting help. If that's the case, it's an outrage."

"The single most important thing we can do is make treatment available for people who want it before they get arrested," said Nadelmann. "To the extent that people are being diverted to treatment in the criminal justice system, we have to insist on the primacy of treatment principles over criminal justice principles. When the criminal justice system is involved in drug treatment, that means coerced abstinence, and that's a fundamental problem. Abstinence may work for some people, but it is a mistake to apply that to entire populations of people with drug issues caught up in the criminal justice system," he said.

"There's a superb treatment for marijuana dependence developed by Roger Roffman at the University of Washington and his colleagues," said Earleywine. "It consists of about 12 sessions of outpatient meetings that focus on identifying why you want to quit, what situations usually lead to use, how to change your thoughts about use, how to prevent relapse, how to handle various life stressors, and great ways to plan alternative fun activities. Extremely few programs around the country use this approach. Most of the drug treatment centers around the country have inpatient stays and 12-step meetings with the occasional watered-down group version of some of the topics from the established treatment."

"It's absurd to mandate people attend treatment who don't need it, it's a waste of taxpayer and private dollars," said Armentano. "There are hundreds of thousands of people seeking treatment for real drug problems who can't get it because treatment slots are limited. To think that we are sending hundreds of thousands of marijuana users to treatment who don't need it at a time when treatment resources are so limited is just ridiculous. This is a policy that is purposefully endangering the health of those who most desire or need drug treatment."

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3. Sentencing: Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Deal Near, NY Times Says

The New York Times reported Thursday that a tentative agreement, on principle, to reform New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws had been reached by Gov. David Paterson (D) and the state legislature. The state Senate has already passed its version of Rockefeller law reform; what remains to be done is to reach agreement with Paterson and Senate leaders, as well as wooing back Senate members if the final bill diverges too far from what they passed.

But it isn't a done deal yet, and reform leaders qualify their attitude as "cautiously optimistic" and holding firm for real reform. The devil is the details, they noted.

"This agreement is a good sign that progress is being made to enact real reform, but it is not final, and meaningful reform will be determined by the details," said Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The final deal must include the core components of meaningful reform: restoration of judicial discretion in drug cases including 2nd time offenses, sentencing reform, expansion of community drug treatment and alternatives to incarceration, and retroactive sentencing relief for those serving unjust, long sentences for low-level offenses."

Under the tentative agreement, judges would have considerable discretion in sentencing restored. They would be able to divert first-time nonviolent drug offenders to treatment instead of prison for all but the most serious drug offenses. Judges are currently bound by mandatory minimum sentences in the Rockefeller laws to send to prison people convicted of possessing small amounts of heroin and cocaine. Judges would also have the ability to send some repeat offenders to treatment, but only if they were found to be drug dependent.

The agreement does not represent repeal of the laws, but rather reform, and comes on the heels of a spirited protest outside of Gov. Paterson's New York City office yesterday where more than two hundred people, including Russell Simmons and Reverend Calvin Butts, called on the governor to keep his word and reform the laws. Another demonstration to pressure the politicians was set for today.

"I stood with the governor in 2002 when he was arrested protesting these laws, so I know he believes in meaningful reform," said Anthony Papa, communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance who served 12 years under the Rockefeller Drug Laws before then-Gov. George Pataki granted him clemency. "The deal has to be done, and done right. New York's experiment with this criminal justice approach has failed. It's time for the governor and Legislative leaders to take the first step toward a public health and safety approach to drugs."

Not everybody is happy about the presumptive deal. State district attorneys have fought hard to retain effective control over sentencing. Under current law with its mandatory minimums, prosecutors' charging decisions rather than judges' discretion effectively set sentences, and they want to keep that power. On the other side of the equation, some veteran reform activists are denouncing anything short of full repeal as a sell-out.

Stay tuned.

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4. Medical Marijuana: In Wake of Holder Comments, Federal Judge Postpones Sentencing of California Medical Marijuana Provider Charles Lynch

Charles Lynch expected to be sentenced to a mandatory minimum federal prison term Monday for operating a medical marijuana dispensary legal under state and local laws, but it didn't happen. Instead, US District Court Judge George Wu postponed the proceedings, telling prosecutors he wanted more information about what appears to be a Justice Department change of heart and policy regarding such prosecutions.

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Charlie Lynch (from friendsofccl.com)
Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would only prosecute medical marijuana providers who violated both state and federal law. Lynch's case is one where he was clearly in compliance with state law in operating his Morro Bay dispensary.

Under Bush administration policy, which did not recognize any distinction between medical and non-medical marijuana, California dispensary operators were targeted for DEA raids and federal prosecutions with no regard for their compliance with state laws. Prosecutions like those of Lynch, who was found guilty in federal court last August, generated loud and boisterous solidarity movements, protests, and scorn toward the federal government.

Judge Wu said he did not believe the apparent change in policy would affect Lynch's conviction, but he said he wanted to consider any new information about the policy change before he imposed sentence on the 47-year-old Lynch.

Federal marijuana law calls for mandatory minimum sentences in cases involving more than 100 pounds or plants, as was the case with Lynch. We can only hope, given the apparent turnaround in federal policy, that Judge Wu finds a way to make his sentence fit the new reality.

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5. Medical Marijuana: DEA Raids San Francisco Dispensary Despite Holder Vow

One week after Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government would not raid or prosecute medical marijuana providers unless they were breaking both state and federal law, DEA agents Wednesday evening raided Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco. The clinic is a cooperative operating under temporary city permits as it completes the city licensing process and thus, apparently legal under state law. Now, medical marijuana providers and activists don't know what federal policy really is.

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Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic (from bayareacannabis.org)
The raid on Emmalyn's was done by the DEA only -- no state or local law enforcement was involved -- and the DEA, typically tight-lipped, has not explained how or whether Emmalyn's was in violation of state law.

"Because so little information has been released thus far, we have more questions than answers," added Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. "But with an actual shooting war along our Mexican border, not to mention federal law enforcement there being so overwhelmed that traffickers coming through the border with up to 500 pounds of marijuana are let go, it's very hard to believe that this is the best use of DEA resources, especially in a city with an active program to license and regulate medical marijuana providers."

"It's déjà vu all over again at the Justice Department," said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The ink's barely dry on the Obama administration's kinder, gentler approach to medical marijuana, and the DEA is up to its old tactics. San Francisco sets the standard for medical marijuana dispensary regulation. Surely, state and local authorities are capable of policing their own system, just as the feds surely have more pressing issues to address."

"It is disturbing that, despite the DEA's vague claims about violations of state and federal laws, they apparently made no effort to contact the local authorities who monitor and license medical marijuana providers," said MPP California policy director Aaron Smith. "For an agency that for eight years said it couldn't care less about state law to suddenly justify raids as an effort to uphold state law simply doesn't pass the smell test."

Holder has twice made remarks suggesting a shift in federal policy toward medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal, but only in response to direct questions. He has not issued an unsolicited policy statement or issued any policy directives.

"Attorney General Holder needs to be specific about when federal law enforcement will and will not harass medical marijuana patients and their providers," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The Justice Department needs to prioritize. Even if a medical marijuana patient or provider is in technical violation of some state law or regulation, that doesn't mean the federal government should be wasting scarce resources arresting people over it. Doesn't the Obama Administration have more important issues to deal with right now?"

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

Narcs gone wild, narcs cheating on their pay, narcs stealing dope, narcs lying on the stand, a perverted sheriff heads to prison, and that's just the half of it. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, a scandal over the behavior of the Philadelphia police Narcotics Field Unit keeps growing. Originally centered on narcotics officer Jeffrey Cujdik and accusations he lied in documenting drug arrests, the stench from the narcotics squad keeps getting more foul. Numerous convenience store owners have reported Cujdik and his squad members raided their shops, destroyed surveillance cameras in the stores, trashed the places, stole cigarettes, took thousands in cash while reporting much less, and then arrested them for selling small plastic bags that could be used to contain drugs. The Philadelphia Daily News interviewed seven store owners with remarkably similar stories, including several who said the narcs took food and slurped energy drinks, and others who said they stole cigarette cartons, batteries, cell phones, and candy bars. At least three of Cudjdik's snitches told the newspaper he gave them cartons of cigarettes. A special task force of FBI and Philadelphia police internal affairs was already investigating Cujdik over the earlier allegations; now that probe could spread to at least 17 other officers and three police supervisors involved in the convenience store raids.

In McKeesport, Pennsylvania, the entire McKeesport Police narcotics unit has been implicated in a pay scam. Seven officers were suspended last week after Chief Joe Pero discovered they were billing the city for court appearances they never made. Those suspended include two lieutenants and all four members of the dope squad. All have been reassigned. No word yet on any possible criminal charges.

In Alamagordo, New Mexico, an Alamagordo Department of Public Safety undercover narcotics officer was arrested last Friday after fellow officers noticed him acting erratically, took him to a hospital for drug testing, and received a positive drug test result. Richard Ramsdale then went down for trafficking by possession with intent to distribute after further investigation uncovered 1.3 pounds of unaccounted for cocaine in his cruiser. He was booked into the Otero County Jail and placed on administrative leave pending a termination hearing.

In New York City, an NYPD narcotics detective was indicted Monday on charges she perjured herself in a drug case. Detective Debra Eager was a little over-eager to make a collar stick when she told a court she and her partner watches two drug suspects carrying boxes into a building. She testified that she then followed the pair into the building, arrested them, and seized 33 pounds of marijuana. But she didn't realize the building was under video surveillance, which directly contradicted her testimony. The case was thrown out, and Eager was indicted on three counts of first-degree perjury, each worth up to seven years in prison. She is also suspended without pay.

In New Orleans, a rookie New Orleans police officer was arrested Saturday in a string of home invasion assaults originally thought to have been committed by someone impersonating a police officer. Officer Darrius Clipps faces numerous charges after admitting he had burst into the women's homes, demanded drugs and money, and forced his victims to undress. Clipps went down after a composite sketch of the suspect was released and several of his fellow officers recognized him. He faces charges of malfeasance in office, sexual battery, false imprisonment with a weapon, simple and aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling. He resigned upon arrest.

In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a Luzerne County Correctional Facility officer was charged March 18 with being part of a multi-million dollar drug trafficking ring run by the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. Guard John Gonda, 38, was one of 22 people arrested by SWAT teams belonging to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office in wrapping up a ring officials said was distributing a kilogram of cocaine every 10 days. Investigators seized 528 grams of cocaine, cutting agents, drug paraphernalia, more than $5,000 cash, rifles, shotguns, handguns, bulletproof vests, the gang's bylaws and a list of Outlaw associates in prison. Officials said they did not know if Gonda was peddling coke at the jail.

In Dallas, a Dallas County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty this week to plotting to rip off drug dealers. Standric Choice, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. Choice had plotted with two other men to steal cocaine from a dealer by having one of them pretend to be a snitch, then arresting the snitch and taking the cocaine from the dealer. He went down in a sting at a Dallas truck stop. He now faces 10 years to life in federal prison and a $4.25 million fine.

In Memphis, two former Memphis officers were sentenced March 18 in a federal corruption case in which they admitted stealing drugs from dealers and reselling them. Former officers Antoine Owens and Alexander Johnson were sentenced in federal court to five years and two years respectively after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights. They admitted conspiring with two other Memphis police officers to use their police authority to stop drug dealers, then steal dope and cash from them.

In Fairview, Oklahoma, a former Custer County Sheriff was sentenced Tuesday to 79 years in prison for sexually abusing female prisoners and drug court defendants. Former Sheriff Mike Burgess was sentenced on felony charges including five counts of second-degree rape. He was convicted of using his power over the women to force them to have sex with him.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former San Benito police officer was sentenced Tuesday to more than 13 years in federal prison for scheming with one other San Benito police officer and a local small business owner to rip off drug loads. Edgar Heberto Lopez and his partners in crime stole 200 to 300 pounds of pot during a February 2003 traffic stop, paid a tow truck driver $1,000 to haul the vehicle with the pot to a safe location in San Benito, and later sold 50 pounds of their stash to an undercover officer in February 2004. The two cops got $7,500 each in that deal. The next month, they stole six kilograms of cocaine during another traffic stop. They were supposed to get $10,000 for that heist; instead they got busted. Lopez pleaded guilty in July 2004, but fled before sentencing, only to be recaptured in April 2008. He has been jailed ever since, and he will be for a long time after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent marijuana, possession with intent to distribute more than 100 pounds of marijuana, carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime, and failure to appear.

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7. Criminal Justice: US Senator Introduces Bill to Create Commission for "Top-to-Bottom" Review of Criminal Justice System

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Jim Webb at 2007 incarceration hearing (photo from sentencingproject.org)
US Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) yesterday introduced a bill that would create a commission designed to overhaul the US criminal justice system. The bill would create a commission that would have 18 months to do a top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice system and come back with concrete, wide-ranging reforms to address the nation's sky-high incarceration rate, responsd to international and domestic gang violence, and restructure the county's approach to drug policy.

"America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace," Webb said in introducing the bill. "Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation's prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives. We need to fix the system. Doing so will require a major nationwide recalculation of who goes to prison and for how long and of how we address the long-term consequences of incarceration."

Opening with an all too familiar litany of ills plaguing the US criminal justice system-- skyrocketing incarceration, the imprisonment of nonviolent drug offenders, the negative effects of drug prohibition -- the bill calls on the commission to make specific finding regarding:

  • Reasons for increase in the US incarceration rate compared to historical standards;
  • Incarceration and other policies in similar democratic, western countries;
  • Prison administration policies, including the availability of pre-employment training programs and career progression for guards and prison administrators;
  • Costs of current incarceration policies at the federal, state & local level;
  • The impact of gang activities, including foreign syndicates;
  • Drug policy and its impact on incarceration, crime and sentencing;
  • Policies as they relate to the mentally ill;
  • The historical role of the military in crime prevention and border security;
  • Any other area that the Commission deems relevant.

Sen. Webb is also looking for policy change recommendations on drug policy, reentry programs for ex-offenders, prison reforms, and how better to deal with international and domestic criminal organizations.

That Webb should introduce such a sweeping bill comes as little surprise given his history of interest in the field. In 2007, he led a Joint Economic Committee hearing on mass incarceration, and last year, he led another Joint Economic Committee hearing on the economic cost of drug policy, as well as returning to the theme on various other occasions.

The bill does not yet have a number.

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8. Privacy: Kansas House Passes Bill Mandating Drug Tests for Public Assistance

The Kansas House Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that requires Kansans who seek public assistance to undergo drug testing. The bill, HB 2275, passed by a margin of 99-26. It now heads to the state Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Kasha Kelly (R-Arkansas City), the bill targets the 14,000 Kansans who receive cash assistance from the state Department of Social Rehabilitation Services. Recipients of financial support in temporary aid for families, general assistance, child care support, and grandparents as caregivers programs would all be subjected to drug testing. It would not apply to non-cash benefits, such as food stamps and medical care.

The bill envisions testing one-third of the target population each year. A positive drug test would result in an evaluation and possible drug treatment. Failure to complete evaluation and/or treatment would result in the termination of benefits, as would a third positive drug test.

As the Chronicle reported last week Kansas is only one of a number of states where legislatoes are pushing similar bills. Drug testing public assistance recipients was okayed, but not required, under the 1996 federal welfare reform bill. But the only state to actually implement such a plan, Michigan, was shot down by the federal courts, which held that it violated the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Kelly, unconcerned about constitutional niceties, said the state should work to keep parents off drugs and advance the interests of children. "Shouldn't you be fearful if you're using?" she said on the House floor.

Social Rehabilitation Services Secretary Don Jordan testified that only 3% to 8% of clients would likely test positive for marijuana, cocaine, or other illegal drugs. That figure is slightly below overall nationwide drug use levels. The program would cost $800,000 a year, he said. The bill will not be implemented unless the legislature makes a specific appropriation to cover the cost, but in a fiscal note, legislative analysts suggested the possibility of using asset forfeiture proceeds to fund the program.

The bill was opposed by the Kansas Public Health Authority, but legislators proved receptive to arguments like those of Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita), head of the House Health and Human Services Committee, who said if the bill failed to pass it is as if the legislature would be declaring: "Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, we don't really care if someone buys drugs with your hard-earned money."

Rep. Marti Crow (D-Leavenworth) wasn't buying it. "Testing someone because they're poor? Where does that make any sense?" he asked. "This is crazy and mean."

But Crow was in the minority. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

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9. Medical Marijuana: Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire Bills Advance

Medical marijuana supporters won committee votes this week in two states and a full House vote in one more. Legislative committees in Illinois and Minnesota advanced bills, while the New Hampshire House passed its bill.

In the Granite State, the New Hampshire House approved HB 648 which would allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The bill passed by a vote of 234-138. The vote marked the first time a medical marijuana measure had won in a floor vote in either New Hampshire chamber.

"This vote proves that House members have taken this debate seriously, listened carefully to the testimony of patients who rely on medical marijuana for relief from terrible, debilitating conditions, and understand their duty as elected officials to provide for their needs with responsible, compassionate legislation," said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), co-sponsor of the bill. "Now it's up to my colleagues to do the same, and end the ongoing harassment of patients who have committed no crimes, and who only wish to be protected from arrest for using the proven, safe medicine their doctors recommend."

Now, the New Hampshire Senate needs to get to work. Matt Simon of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy is confident they will. "This vote shows New Hampshire is ready to protect patients by enacting a responsible medical marijuana law," he said. "Public opinion may soon become public policy," alluding to polls showing 71% support for it in the state.

That same day, the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee passed SB 1381 on Wednesday. A companion bill, HB 2514, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee March 4.

Sponsored by a former three-term state's attorney, Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), the bill would allow seriously ill patients with specified debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana without fear of arrest provided they have a doctor's recommendation. The favorable committee votes clear the way for possible floor votes in both houses, a first in Illinois.

"This is an important step for suffering Illinoisans who rely on medical cannabis because they, in consultation with their doctors, have determined it is the best treatment available to them," Haine said. "I'm grateful to my colleagues in the public health committee who listened to science and reason today and made the sensible, compassionate decision to pass this bill."

One day earlier, the Minnesota House Public Safety and Oversight Committee advanced that state's medical marijuana bill, HF 292, but only after amending it. The bill passed the committee on a 9-6 vote after it was altered so that it must be reapproved in two years and so it would be more difficult for patients to grow their own medicine.

State law enforcement testified in opposition to the measure Tuesday and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty continues to vow to veto any such legislation that crosses his desk, but former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper told the committee that despite hearing similar plaints in Washington state, the sky had not fallen. He suggested that police should leave doctoring to the doctors.

"The police, as important as our voice is in the conversation in the dialog about drug policy, are not physicians, are not care givers," Stamper said. "And that it is inappropriate for the police to substitute our judgment for that of physicians and those in need of the care of physicians."

The Minnesota bill is advancing in both houses, having now survived six different committee votes. It remains to be seen whether it will get floor votes in both chambers, and whether it will pass with enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.

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10. Marijuana: Legalization Bill Introduced in Massachusetts

And then there were two. Last month, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced the first marijuana legalization bill in state history. Now, on the other side of the country, Massachusetts lawmakers are joining in the action.

Fulfilling a citizen petition, Massachusetts Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst) has filed House Bill 2929 and Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Northampton) has filed a companion measure, Senate Bill 1801, in the upper chamber. The citizen seeking the bills is Richard Evans, a former board member of StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet -- publisher of this newsletter) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

The proposals would "tax and regulate" the state's marijuana industry, with the tax assessed varying according to the potency of the pot. Class C schwag would be taxed at $150 an ounce, Class B smoke would be taxed at $200, and Class A kind bud would fetch $250 an ounce for the state. The taxes could raise nearly $100 million in revenue for the cash-strapped Bay State.

But the proposals also allow for tax-free personal home grows and "gratuitous distribution" to other adults. All commercial grows, importation, processing, and sales would be licensed by a new bureaucratic entity, the Cannabis Control Authority.

"Decades of whispered grumblings about the wisdom and efficacy of prohibition is rapidly giving way to a serious -- really serious public discussion about how to replace it," said Evans, who assisted in drafting the landmark legislation. "Those who consider themselves leaders in government and the media have the obligation to either show how prohibition can be made to work, or join in the exploration of alternatives."

Last November, Massachusetts voters approved marijuana decriminalization with 65% of the vote. Now, their legislators have the opportunity to see if they can advance to the Bay State vanguard by voting for outright legalization. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, let the pincer movement begin.

Visit http://www.cantexreg.com for further information.

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11. Southeast Asia: Indonesia to Treat Drug Users, Not Jail Them

In a surprise move, the Indonesian Supreme Court last Friday issued a memo to judges ordering them to send drug users to drug treatment centers, not prison. The memo is not retroactive, meaning people currently imprisoned for drug use or possession will not be eligible.

According to the memo, arrestees would be eligible for treatment only if the amount of drugs with which they were caught were below certain "personal use" quantities. For marijuana, the upper limit is 5 grams; for cocaine, heroin, and morphine, 0.15 grams, for methamphetamine, 0.25 grams.

In the memo, the Supreme Court said drug users in treatment must submit to drug tests on request, must obtain a letter of recommendation for treatment from a court-appointed psychiatrist, must not relapse, and must not be drug dealers.

While the move is arguably a step forward for drug users, it is causing concern in the Indonesian Judiciary Supervisory Committee, which worried that is could encourage corruption. "Drug suspects could easily pay investigators some money to change their status from drug dealers to drug users," the committee's Hasril Hertanto said Sunday. "Judges usually determine the status of drug case suspects based on the dossiers presented by police and prosecutors. So they are the ones who must be very cautious about this matter."

Southeast Asian nations are among the toughest in the world when it comes to punishing drug users. Even with reservations about coerced treatment, the Supreme Court's move is an advance in drug policy for the archipelago.

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12. Europe: Italian High Court Okays Lonesome Shepherd's Pot Smoking

For the second time in eight months, the Italian Court of Cassation, the country's highest court, has crafted a quirky exception to that country's laws against marijuana possession. In a ruling last week, the high court held that a shepherd's marijuana use was justified because he was alone with his flock.

The shepherd, identified only as Giorgio D., was convicted of possession after police found 38 grams of pot in his car as he drove off for an extended stay with his flock in the mountains of Alto Adige, in the country's far north. But the Court of Cassation upheld his appeal of the conviction, ruling that he was justified in possessing small amounts of the drug because of the "long and solitary period" he was about to spend "in the countryside and the mountains, due to the migration of his flock of sheep."

Back in June 2008, the same court overturned the marijuana possession conviction of a practicing Rastafarian, known only as Giuseppe G. In that case, the high court held that his use of marijuana was allowed because for him the herb "was a possible conveyor to a psychophysical state connected to contemplative prayer in the belief that the sacred herb grew on the tomb of Solomon, acquiring its potency from that wise king."

Well, that's a start. Now, if only Italy would get around to making it so you don't have to be a Rastaman or a shepherd to be able to smoke pot in peace.

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13. Weekly: This Week in History

April 1, 1909: The Opium Exclusion Act takes effect.

March 30, 1961: The UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is convened in New York City, the first of the three international treaties binding signatory nations into prohibitionist systems.

April 2, 1988: The Economist editorializes in favor of bringing drug users within the law by allowing them to purchase limited doses of drugs that have been manufactured and distributed legally.

March 30, 1992: Bill Clinton, during the 1992 presidential campaign, says, "When I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale."

March 29, 2000: CNN reports that a multination drug sweep known as Operation Conquistador nets 2,331 arrests, 4,966 kilograms of cocaine, 55.6 kilograms of heroin, and 362.5 metric tons of marijuana. The 17-day operation takes place in Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Martin, British Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Aruba, Curacao, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

April 1, 2000: Canada's premier national newspaper, The National Post, editorializes in favor of legalizing marijuana.

March 31, 2001: An editorial in The Lancet -- the United Kingdom's top medical journal -- criticizes the futility of drug prohibition and America's present anti-drug strategies.

March 28, 2002: Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan rules that the Barr Amendment, which blocks the District of Columbia from considering a medical marijuana voter initiative, infringes on First Amendment rights.

March 28, 2003: The Hemp Industries Association, several hemp food and cosmetic manufacturers and the Organic Consumers Association petition the federal Ninth Circuit to again prevent the DEA from ending the legal sale of hemp seed and oil products in the US.

April 2, 2003: US Rep. Ron Paul asks the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate whether the Office of National Drug Control Policy violated the Congressional ban on spending funds on publicity or propaganda.

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14. 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.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/dc-beer-raid-small.jpg
prohibition-era beer raid, Washington, DC (Library of Congress)

Since last issue:

Scott Morgan writes: "Obama Won't Say Why He Opposes Marijuana Legalization," "Obama Insults Online Community for Supporting Marijuana Legalization," "Uh-Oh! Medical Marijuana Raid in San Francisco," "Yet Another Chance to Ask Obama About Marijuana Laws," "Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced in Massachusetts," "If You Hate Gun Control, You Can Thank the Drug War for Causing it," "The Fine Line Between Drug Raids and Armed Robberies," "Sentencing Postponed in Charlie Lynch's Medical Marijuana Trial."

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

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

StoptheDrugWar 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 rein in the use of SWAT teams, to expand our work to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act 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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16. 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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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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