Drug War Chronicle #588 - June 5, 2009

1. Feature: New York Republicans, Prosecutors in Last Minute Bid to Block Rockefeller Reform Provision

New York Republicans and prosecutors lost the battle over Rockefeller drug law reform in April. They were back this week with a last-ditch effort to repeal one of the new law's key provisions. But with the governor and Democrats in the Assembly standing firm, it looks like it ain't gonna happen.

2. Feature: DC Moves Toward Stricter Penalties for Khat

Taxi drivers' wake-me-up or terrorist drug threat? The herbal stimulant khat is popular with elements of America's immigrant East African population despite being banned by federal law. Now, Washington, DC, home to one of the nation's East African immigrant communities, wants its law to be as severe as federal law. A battle is brewing.

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

Cops pocketing drug money, cops ripping off drug dealers, cops protecting drug dealers, cops stealing dope, and, of course, another dope-smuggling jail guard.

4. Medical Marijuana: Mid-Atlantic Movement as Delaware, New Jersey Bills Win Committee Votes

Medical marijuana legislation saw progress in two more states this week, as bills advanced in New Jersey and Delaware. But the New Jersey bill just got more restrictive, too.

5. Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Dispensary Bill Passes House, Now Goes for Final Senate Approval

The Rhode Island legislature is well on its way to passing the medical marijuana dispensary bill by overwhelming veto-proof margins. Take that, Gov. Carcieri!

6. Medical Marijuana: Veterans Administration Says Positive Marijuana Drug Screening Will Not Void Pain Contracts for Vets with Doctors' Recommendations

Is the Veterans Administration changing its tune on medical marijuana? Well, not exactly, but now it looks like at least they won't throw you out of their pain management programs if you're a registered user in a state where it's legal.

7. Drug Testing: Random Suspicionless Drug Tests Suffer Double Smackdown in Louisiana

Louisiana proponents of random, suspicionless drug testing are smarting after being handed a pair of defeats in the past 10 days.

8. Please: Don't Shoot!

The killing of Tarika Wilson, an unarmed mother holding her child, and the maiming of that child, is an inevitable consequences of the overuse of SWAT teams and the growing paramilitarization of the drug war.

9. Europe: Nice People Take Drugs, Says British Advocacy Group

A British drug reform advocacy group is bound to shock some sensibilities with its new bus-side ad campaign, but that's precisely the point.

10. Canada: New Heroin Maintenance Pilot Program to Get Underway Later This Year

Canada's Conservative government is hard-line on drug policy issues. It wants mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes and it is in court to try to block Vancouver's safe injection site. But now, it is funding a heroin maintenance pilot project--again.

11. Europe: German Parliament Approves Heroin Maintenance

Germany is about to become the latest country to move heroin maintenance from pilot program to permanent. In the US, we maintain our addicts behind bars.

12. Canada: Supreme Court Clarifies Asset Forfeiture Law, Allows Graduated Sanctions

In its first review of Canada's asset forfeiture laws, the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that judges must look at the circumstances of each case in deciding whether full, partial or no forfeiture orders should be issued. In the US, prosecutors make forfeiture decisions.

13. Weekly: This Week in History

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

14. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"Drug Smuggling Scientists Are Always Ahead of the Game," "If Pawlenty Wants to Be President, He Should Reconsider His Opposition to Medical Marijuana," "States Don't Need Federal Permission to Legalize Marijuana, Part II," "Top Anti-Drug Researcher Changes His Mind, Says Legalize Marijuana," "Rogue Philly Drug Cops Add Molestation to Their List of Crimes," "If There's No 'War on Drugs' Anymore, Then What's the Helicopter For?," "Yes, the Case Against Marc Emery is Political," "LAPD Raids Its Own Officer in Weird Botched Investigation," "Legalizing Drugs is an Idea That Speaks for Itself," "Orange County Seniors Demand Medical Marijuana Access."

15. Job Opportunity: Legal Coordinator, Americans for Safe Access, Oakland, CA

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research, is seeking a Legal Coordinator to work from its office in Oakland, California.

1. Feature: New York Republicans, Prosecutors in Last Minute Bid to Block Rockefeller Reform Provision

The losers in New York state's effort to reform its draconian Rockefeller drug laws, mainly district attorneys and Republican legislators, made a last-ditch effort this week to scuttle part of the reforms. But given a strong response from reform proponents, Gov. David Paterson (D), and Assembly Democrats, the effort appeared dead in the water as the week wound down.

New York State Capitol
The brouhaha erupted over a provision in the law that allows judges the discretion to conditionally seal some nonviolent conviction records when a person has completed drug treatment. The reason for the provision is simple: To make it possible for people who have successfully undergone treatment to be able to enter the workforce without having the albatross of their nonviolent, pre-treatment drug convictions hanging around their necks.

With the Rockefeller reform law set to go into effect next week, Senate Republican minority leader Dean Skelos headlined a Monday press conference to warn that allowing judges to seal the records of "dangerous criminals" was a threat to the safety of New Yorkers. "This is one that is potentially going to kill people if it's not repealed," said Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). "This is about life and death."

"It's just mind-boggling in terms of the impact of this provision," said Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) the primary sponsor of the effort to undo the provision. "This change in our state drug laws defies all common sense because it would effectively wipe the slate clean for criminals who will face necessary criminal background checks for positions of confidence and public trust."

"It means someone convicted of selling drugs on a school yard could be hired as a teacher," Skelos added. "Someone caring for toddlers, someone running a crystal meth lab could be delivering medications to your grandmother at a nursing home. And an individual convicted of forgery or grand larceny could be handling your money at the bank or taking your application for a loan or credit card."

DAs also joined in the attack. "If you look at the list of jobs and licenses that you are going to be able to get without having your criminal drug activity revealed to a potential employer is remarkable," Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who heads the state's district attorneys' association, told the Ithaca Journal.

Sounds pretty scary, and that scare tactic worked, at least to some degree. Senate Democrats initially wavered, saying they might take up the issue. On Wednesday, Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan), the Senate sponsor of the Rockefeller reform bill indicated he will try to delay the implementation of the record-sealing provision.

But on closer analysis, the Republicans' and the prosecutors' appeal to public safety appears threadbare, one might even say hypocritical, especially given that DAs have held the same power to seal conviction records for decades -- and have used it expansively with little scrutiny.

The new provision is much more transparent. Under this provision, a judge may order records to be conditionally sealed only after a person has successfully completed both a judicially-supervised drug treatment program and the court-imposed sentence for the offense, and after the judge considers, among other things, the circumstances and seriousness of the offense, the character of the defendant, his or her criminal history, and the impact of the sealing on public safety. A judge must also give the district attorney notice and an opportunity to be heard and may deny a sealing request even if the applicant has completed drug treatment.

Even while signaling he might be open to delay to discuss the provision, Schneiderman defended the bill. "A defendant should be able to go to a judge and say the prosecutor wouldn't do this for me," he said. "Now the judge can overrule the prosecutor," he added before going on to accuse the GOP of trying to "terrorize the citizenry."

If Schneiderman was intimidated by the Republican onslaught, some of his fellow Senate Democrats weren't. Senate Crime Committee Chairwoman Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Mount Vernon) said in a statement that the criticism "is an alarmist attitude of a few who refuse to accept the notion that many of these former addicts have served their time and proven themselves worthy of a second chance."

Nor were reform proponents taking the attack lying down. "The real issue here is not about sealing, but who gets to decide," said Gabriel Sayegh, project director with the Drug Policy Alliance. "Prosecutors have been sealing records for years, and so long as they held the discretion to seal records, they didn't mind sealing. But now that discretion has been returned to judges, the prosecutors have objections to the practice. This isn't about record sealing, which works when done right. It's about who gets to decide, and prosecutors don't want to lose control over the process."

"The right-of-center representatives and law enforcement officials, mainly DAs, are trying to make political hay out of this issue and are using fairly old-school tactics to bum rush the public into being scared," said Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, a member of the Rockefeller reform coalition Drop the Rock. "But I think our side has defended the sealing provisions very eloquently and forcefully."

"People with past criminal histories -- no matter how old or the nature of the record -- are often indefinitely denied access to many spheres of society including employment," said Anita Marton, vice president of the Legal Action Center. "This provision increases employment opportunities, so people can truly be given a second chance at succeeding in and contributing to society. This is smart policy."

"Prosecutors and some opportunistic elected officials want to set up road blocks and stigmatize people by prohibiting judges from sealing records for people who have successfully completed their drug treatment," said Anthony Papa, communications specialist at the Drug Policy Alliance, who served 12 years for a first time nonviolent drug offense. "We should be removing barriers for people who are reentering society so they can function as productive, taxpaying citizens, and access to employment is an important part of that."

By Wednesday, Gov. David Paterson (D) had weighed in, saying the law should stand as is. The reforms are aimed at giving judges discretion in diverting nonviolent drug offenders to treatment instead of prison, he said, and people who complete such programs should not be penalized when seeking work. "We feel it helps society to try to place them in homes and in jobs without putting the scar of their addiction on them," he said during a meeting with legislators to discuss the matter.

The governor's statement was on the money, said Gangi. "Sealing the records is actually a very good idea that doesn't increase the risk to public safety," he said. "People who have gone through treatment and avoided prison are going to continue to do well. We don't want to place obstacles in their path."

With Paterson standing firm and Assembly Democrats right there beside him, the issue should be dead now, said Gangi. "The Assembly Democrats won't even be considering looking at this," he said, "even if the Senate Democrats waiver. With the governor's support and if the Assembly Democrats hold the line, this is even more of a non-starter. It should be case closed, and let's move on to the next pressing matter."

My, how the mighty have fallen! Up until last year, DAs and their Republican allies in the state legislature were able to beat back reform with the clubs of fear-mongering and demagoguery. Now, they appear lonely losers, their appeals to fear scoffed at, their shrieks of discontent lost in the wind.

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2. Feature: DC Moves Toward Stricter Penalties for Khat

For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, residents of the Horn of Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula have partaken of khat, an evergreen plant native to the region. When the fresh leaves of the plant are chewed, they produce a mild stimulating effect. Friends of the plant liken the high to the buzz achieved from drinking strong coffee; foes, typically in law enforcement, are more apt to liken it to an amphetamine high.

khat wrapped in banana leaves and smuggled in suitcase (usdoj.gov)
But with decades of war and internal strife in the late 20th Century, an East African diaspora occurred, with Ethiopians and Somalis scattering and creating new immigrant population centers across Europe, Australia, Canada, and the US. Not surprisingly, these emigrants brought with them their khat chewing habit.

Khat is not illegal under international law, although two of its active compounds are. Cathinone, the more powerful, is a Schedule I drug under the 1988 UN Convention on Psychotropic Drugs, while cathine, the less powerful, is Schedule IV. Cathinone is found only in fresh leaf, degrading rapidly once the plant is harvested.

With growing awareness of khat in recent years, a number of countries, including the US, have banned the plant. Here, fresh khat containing cathinone is a Schedule I controlled substance, the same schedule as heroin or LSD. Degraded khat containing only cathine is a Schedule IV controlled substance, like Valium, Librium, or Rohypnol.

Alongside the federal government, 28 states have criminalized khat. Washington, DC, home to one of the nation's largest East African communities, is not among them -- yet. Under current DC law, cathinone is not a controlled substance and people caught in possession of fresh khat face no local penalties. Oddly enough, the less powerful alkaloid cathine is a controlled substance under DC law, and possession with intent to manufacture or distribute carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

Last fall, at the urging of DC US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor, Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) introduced a proposal to criminalize fresh khat as a Schedule I drug, as it is under federal law. The DC City council is currently considering the proposal as part of its 2009 Omnibus Crime Bill and is likely to act on the measure before its session ends July 15.

"It's sad that they want to put the resources of crime fighting against individuals from a different culture who don't have anybody except their community and try to punish them for doing what they have always done," said Abdul Aziz Kamus of the DC-based African Resource Center. "It seems like DC wants to punish hard-working immigrant taxi drivers who are law-abiding citizens."

Kamus related the tale of an immigrant taxi driver who sought help from his office a few months ago. "This guy was a father of four, and he was terrified because they caught him buying khat and he had to go to court," he said. "He said: 'I didn't commit any crime, I bought this leaf to chew while I work 16 hours to support my family.' Why should the government want to punish him?"

Good question. The answer appears to be a combination of reflexive prohibitionist responses to new drug challenges, concerns about the impact of khat use on family life among elements of the East African community, and so far unsubstantiated fears that profits from the khat trade may be flowing into the hands of Al Qaeda-linked Islamic radicals in Yemen and Somalia.

"Law enforcement has intercepted fresh khat coming into the city, and it made sense to change the statute to reflect the more serious drug," Assistant US Attorney Patricia Riley told the Washington Times when the measure was introduced last fall. District law should be consistent with federal law, she said, adding that the potency of cathinone warranted the schedule bump.

DC Metro Police Detective Lorenzo James, who works narcotics and special investigations, told the Times that while he had not been able to develop evidence of khat profits funding terrorists, he was still suspicious. Khat traders in DC are using hawalas, or informal money transfer systems common to South Asia and the Middle East that have been tied to terrorists in the past, James said. "The money is not being kept here," he said.

Detective James was all for toughening the khat laws. "Why lock them up when you get a slap on the wrist for a schedule IV that the attorney's office does not want to prosecute?" he said. "I can tell you when you get it to a Schedule I, a lot of things are going to change."

Those reasons are not good enough for opponents of the measure, who are mobilizing to block it. Various groups and individuals have submitted testimony in a bid to kill it in the council's Judiciary Committee.

"We've learned from past examples that prohibiting a drug doesn't necessarily change use patterns; it just ensures that more folks go to jail or prison," said Naomi Long of the Drug Policy Alliance DC Metro program. "The primary users of khat are the East African community, and the people who would be impacted would be people from the East African community, who used it in their home countries much as we consume coffee here," she added.

"There is no evidence that recreational use is spreading among non-East Africans," said Long. "The use is based in the East African culture, and the idea that we have to clamp down on it to prevent its spread when it's not spreading is just silly," she added, deflating one argument for increased criminalization of the plant.

Long also challenged the alleged terrorist connection. "I don't think there has been any documented direct link showing a connection between khat users in the US and funding terrorism," she said. "We need to take a thoughtful approach to how we criminalize drugs here, given past experience."

"The federal government is talking about whether terrorist organizations are using the khat trade for cash money," noted Kamus. "If they are really worried about that, they should make it legal and regulate it and tax the people who sell it."

Kamus added another point. "It is the terrorist link they are talking about. They are not trying to say it causes crime or violence. It doesn't."

But that's not stopping the push to more deeply criminalize the plant. Taxi drivers' wake-me-up or terrorist drug threat? If we leave it up to the law enforcers and their cronies in government, we know what the answer will be.

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

Cops pocketing drug money, cops ripping off drug dealers, cops protecting drug dealers, cops stealing dope, and, of course, another dope-smuggling jail guard. Let's get to it:

In South Memphis, Tennessee, a Shelby County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday for pocketing money seized in a drug arrest. Deputy Jeff McCall, who worked for the Shelby County Narcotics Unit, went down in a sting after the sheriff's office received tips he was stealing drug money he confiscated on the streets. The sheriff's office and the FBI set up a phony traffic stop where it was McCall's job to inventory the $4,200 in cash and marijuana seized. Only $3,800 made it to the evidence room. When confronted later that same night, McCall admitted he had taken the money, left work, gone to a local mall, and used the money to buy a Playstation 3. Officers found the game in his work vehicle. He is currently facing state charges of official misconduct and theft of under $500, but federal charges could follow.

In West Manchester Township, Pennsylvania, a former West Manchester Township police detective was charged May 27 with stealing drugs from the department evidence room. Former Det. Steven Crider, 54, has admitted to state police that he stole and ingested cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from more than a hundred cases since 2001. He allegedly replaced some of the stolen drugs with chalk and tampered with records to cover it up. The 32-year veteran was fired last month.

In Texarkana, Arkansas, a former Miller County jail guard was arraigned May 28 on charges he smuggled marijuana into the jail for inmates. Adrian Trevone Tate, 24, was arrested after another guard saw pot inside a soda cup from a convenience store that Tate had brought into the jail. He has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts: furnishing a prohibited item into a correctional facility and possession with intent to deliver marijuana into a jail. Tate is free on $50,000 bond.

In Los Angeles, a former Huntington Park police officer was found guilty May 27 of ripping off cocaine and methamphetamine from drug dealers. Former Sgt. Alvaro Murillo was convicted of two counts of drug conspiracy, one count of extortion, and one count of submitting a false tax return. Murillo was a member of a multi-agency federal drug task force and used his job to recruit informants, then used them to help steal dope from dealers and traffickers. He and his informants formed what they called the "black tactic group" to identify dealers they could rob. Among the thefts were five kilograms of cocaine in 2002 and two kilos of methamphetamine in 2006. Murillo went down after attempting to steal cocaine from a dealer who turned out to be an undercover DEA agent. He faces a mandatory minimum 10-year federal prison sentence.

In Lake City, South Carolina, a former Lake City police officer was sentenced May 27 to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring with drug dealers to help them avoid getting busted. Shanita McKnight had been convicted in October of drug conspiracy and extortion, tipping off local dealers to impending police actions. McKnight must also do five years of supervised release after finishing her prison sentence.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, two former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers were sentenced May 27 to nine years in prison for conspiring to distribute cocaine. Former officers Gerald Holas and Jason Ross admitted they protected a cocaine dealer's operation, but claimed to no avail that they did so in an effort to gain information they could use to arrest his suppliers and customers. Holas tipped off the dealer about police activities, and both officers helped him get revenge on a rival whose home was firebombed. Some 50 criminal cases in which the pair were involved had to be dismissed after they were arrested.

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4. Medical Marijuana: Mid-Atlantic Movement as Delaware, New Jersey Bills Win Committee Votes

Medical marijuana is on the move in the Mid-Atlantic region, as bills to legalize its use passed committee votes in Delaware Wednesday and New Jersey Thursday. The New Jersey bill is well-advanced, having already passed the state Senate, while in Delaware, Wednesday's vote was the first test of legislative sentiment.

In New Jersey, the Assembly Health Committee passed the bill, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, on a 7-1 vote, but only after making it dramatically different from and more restrictive than the version passed by the Senate. At the behest of committee chair Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), who was responding to criticism that the bill's distribution and oversight provisions weren't tight enough, the bill was amended so that only "alternative treatment centers" could grow, process, and distribute medical marijuana.

In the version passed by the Senate, patients could also grow their own or have caretakers grow it for them. In this latest version, there is no role for caretakers, because it also provides that only patients may pick up medical marijuana at a dispensary, or have a courier deliver it to them.

"This bill will be the most restrictive in the nation,'' said Sen. Joseph Scutari (D-Union), the bill's original sponsor. The bill may be too restrictive, he added.

The bill now heads for a floor vote in the Assembly. It also must go back to the Senate, which must approve the amended version.

One day earlier and one state to the south, the Delaware Senate Health and Social Services Committee approved Senate Bill 94, the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act, authored by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East), the committee chair.

That bill would allow people with serious diseases to use medical marijuana with their physician's approval. The bill sets up an ID card system and a dispensary network. Patients could also grow and possess their own medicine, up to 12 plants and six ounces.

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5. Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Dispensary Bill Passes House, Now Goes for Final Senate Approval

Rhode Island is poised to become the first state to expand an existing medical marijuana law to allow for the operation of dispensaries after the House Wednesday gave final approval a bill that would do just that. The bill passed by a whopping -- and veto-proof -- majority of 64-4.

Rhode Island State House
The bill, SB 185, now goes back to the Senate for final approval. The Senate earlier approved its version of the bill by a margin of 35-2 and is expected to easily pass the final version next Tuesday.

Gov. Donald Carcieri, no friend to medical marijuana, is likely to veto the bill. But given the overwhelming vote in favor of the bill, an override vote seems destined to succeed.

The bill would allow up to three dispensaries to grow and sell marijuana to patients in the state's medical marijuana program. The 2006 bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state -- after the legislature overrode a Carcieri veto -- did not have any provision for providing marijuana for patients.

The push for the bill was led by the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition and the Marijuana Policy Project.

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6. Medical Marijuana: Veterans Administration Says Positive Marijuana Drug Screening Will Not Void Pain Contracts for Vets with Doctors' Recommendations

The Veterans Affairs watchdog group VA Watchdog reported last week that the VA will not remove veterans with medical marijuana recommendations who test positive for pot from its pain management programs. Just don't bring your medicine to a VA facility.

In recent years, vets who use marijuana medicinally have been thrown out of VA pain management programs as "drug abusers" after testing positive for marijuana. This policy shift will provide some solace, but only to those vets residing in states where medical marijuana is an option.

The VA has clarified its policy. While restating that it remains illegal to use or possess marijuana at VA facilities because of federal law, the agency will now accept medical marijuana use in states where it is legal:

"[I]t is acknowledged that testing positive for marijuana in a patient, based upon a random drug screening, will not serve as a breach of the current pain management agreement if the patient submits documentation in support of the marijuana being prescribed and dispensed in conformity with Michigan law," wrote Gabriel Perez, director of the Lutz Veterans Affairs Center in Saginaw, Michigan.

According to VA Watchdog, the policy appears to be the same in all states where medical marijuana is allowed under state law. But the VA has not released an official policy statement on the matter.

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7. Drug Testing: Random Suspicionless Drug Tests Suffer Double Smackdown in Louisiana

Two separate efforts to impose random suspicionless drug testing on different groups in Louisiana have failed -- one thanks to a court challenge, the other thanks to politics. The outcomes should mark an end to the hubbub over drug testing in the Bayou State in recent months, but, knowing Louisiana's political class, that may not be the case.

drug testing lab
In the first defeat, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board entered into a consent decree with the local Federation of Teachers and the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) agreeing not to subject teachers to drug testing without particularized suspicion. The teachers and the ACLU had earlier filed a lawsuit against the school board over its policy of requiring any teacher who suffered an injury on the job to take a drug test, regardless of any suspicion he or she was intoxicated.

The case revolved around one-time East Baton Rouge teacher of the year Peggy Reno, who was punched by a student in September 2008. Although there was no suggestion or suspicion that she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the school board required her to take an invasive drug test.

"The Constitution rightly requires that such invasive searches be based on reasonable suspicion," said Adam Wolf, an attorney with the ACLU. "Public servants, like all of us, cannot be made to prove their innocence when there is no evidence that they have done anything wrong."

"In this case, both common sense and the Constitution called for a change in course," said Katie Schwartzmann, an attorney with the ACLU of Louisiana. "It is a waste of time and money, not to mention a gross violation of educators' rights, to drug test without suspicion."

As if that weren't enough of a slap-down, a bill before the legislature that would have required the drug testing of welfare recipients was killed Monday on an 11-5 House Appropriations Committee vote. The bill's sponsor, Rep. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie), had argued that his proposal could save the state money from long-term health problems caused by drug abuse and would help families get addiction treatment.

Under the bill, people who received cash benefits from the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program would have been required to undergo drug testing in order to stay on the program. If they tested positive, they would have to undergo drug treatment or lose their benefits.

"We're testing to make sure those children are in a safe environment to where their parents aren't abusing drugs," LaBruzzo said in remarks reported by the Associated Press.

But other legislators attacked the bill on both fiscal and constitutional grounds. "You're targeting a specific group of individuals," said Rep. Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge).

Rep. Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro), the committee chair, questioned the cost of the bill, estimated at $625,000 the first year and $2.6 million over five years. The cash-strapped state couldn't afford costly new programs, he said, casting his vote against the bill.

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8. Please: Don't Shoot!

Dear Drug War Chronicle Reader:

The graphic to the left is from the web site of the Lima, Ohio, SWAT team. In January 2008, the team stormed the home of Tarika Wilson and Anthony Terry during an ordinary drug investigation. A member of the SWAT team shot and killed Wilson -- an unarmed 26-year old -- also blowing a finger off the one-year old son she was holding. Another member of the SWAT team killed two family dogs on a different floor. The police department removed the graphic from the web site following the incident. Wilson's killer was charged with two misdemeanors, acquitted, and continues to work for the Lima police department, though not for the SWAT team.

Created for emergency or very high-intensity situations (snipers, hostages and the like), today SWAT teams deploy more than 50,000 times per year, mostly in low-level drug raids. This is dangerous and wrong, as the killing of Wilson, the maiming of her child, and the image the SWAT team chose to represent itself before things went bad all demonstrate. Please watch our online video, "SWAT Raids -- No One Is Safe," please forward it to your friends, and if possible please post it on your web site. When you're done, please sign the "Petition for Responsible SWAT Reform" to limit SWAT raids to when they're truly needed.

Please consider donating to this effort, and thank you for helping to stop the "war on drugs."


David Borden, Executive Director
Washington, DC

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9. Europe: Nice People Take Drugs, Says British Advocacy Group

In a bid to jump-start a campaign to move Britain toward more sensible drug policies, the drug reform advocacy group Release is posting advertisements saying "Nice People Take Drugs" on the sides of passenger buses. It is time to shift the debate, the group says.

The group notes that more people in Britain have smoked pot than voted for the governing Labor Party in the last election and that more than one-third of adults in England and Wales have used an illegal substance. It also notes that more than one million British citizens used Class A (the most serious class) drugs last year.

Although Britain down-scheduled marijuana from Class B to Class C in 2004, the Labor government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown returned it to Class B last year. Britain remains mired in a marijuana panic, with tabloid newspapers trumpeting skunk scare stories and the British constabulary busting pot growers on a more than daily basis. In addition to pot, Britons also enjoy their heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, reporting high use levels of all three drugs. The country's heroin users are thought to account for a high proportion of property crimes. But the British government has remained immune to a rising chorus of calls for a more effective drug policy.

"Politicians are afraid to take on a subject that governments have totally failed to bring under control," Release noted. "Breaking the taboo on drugs is the first step to reducing the harm that they can cause. We must shift the perception that drug users are 'bad' and that all drug use is 'evil'. Over one third of the adult population of England and Wales have used illegal drugs. By far the greatest risk to the majority of these people is criminalization and stigmatization. A focus on banning substances and arresting those who experiment with them has been at the expense of the absence of a robust and comprehensive public health campaign. Release believes there are more effective ways to manage drug use, ways that would make drugs much less dangerous and critically, less available to children."

It is time for a new approach, the group said. "Nice People Take Drugs" will advance that effort by beginning to counter the decades of propaganda that caricature and demonize drug users. "It will challenge politicians who use their ineffective 'tough on drugs' stance for political expedience. It will start a debate about the kind of drug policy that this country wants to see. The UK does not want drug laws that benefit massive drug cartels and are convenient for politicians, but ones that deal sensibly and maturely with drugs and make our society a safer place for our children."

If nice people take drugs, what does that make the people who want to throw those nice people in jail?

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10. Canada: New Heroin Maintenance Pilot Program to Get Underway Later This Year

Despite fighting in the courts to shut down Insite, Canada's only safe injection site, Canada's conservative federal government is providing funding for a heroin prescription pilot program in Vancouver and Montreal. The program will begin providing heroin to some 200 hard-core users later this year.

Known as SALOME (the Study to Assess Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness), the program builds on a similar multi-year program in Vancouver that ended last summer. That program, NAOMI (the North American Opiate Medication Initiative), was funded with $8 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research with the approval of Health Canada, but the government of Prime Minister Steven Harper has refused to publicly acknowledge research findings that participants' physical and mental health improved and that they committed fewer crimes.

Still, the Institutes of Health Research are quietly throwing in $1 million for SALOME. Josee Bellemare, press secretary to Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, told the Toronto Globe & Mail: "Our government recognizes that injection drug users need assistance. That's why we are investing in prevention and treatment, to help people recover from their drug addictions."

The three-year trial will offer heroin in both pill and injectable forms, and will also offer hydromorphone to see if it could be used as a substitute. The trial will seek to assess whether prescription heroin is a safe and effective treatment and whether users will accept the drug in pill form. Researchers are currently recruiting hard-core users who have not responded to conventional treatments and say they expect to have clinics operating in the two cities by this fall.

Canada joins Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland as countries where heroin prescription programs are in place either permanently or on a trial basis. The German parliament voted last week to join the club, too.

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11. Europe: German Parliament Approves Heroin Maintenance

The German parliament has voted to allow the prescription of heroin to addicts who have not responded to other treatments. The lower house of parliament approved the measure May 28.

Under the new law, heroin users who have been using for at least five years, are at least 23 years old, and who have failed to stop in other treatment programs will be able to receive pharmaceutical heroin in designated treatment centers. The law follows a German pilot program conducted in seven cities between 2002 and 2006 that showed impressive results in reducing crime, overdose fatalities, and HIV among hard-core users.

Similar results have been reported in Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland. Last year, Swiss voters legalized prescription heroin in a public referendum.

The news was welcomed by drug reformers around the planet. "The success of the German heroin prescription projects, combined with similar results in other countries, leaves little question that heroin prescription could reduce crime, HIV and overdose fatalities in the United States as well," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "And [the May 28] vote in Germany, combined with similar evidence of public support in other countries shows that the public will support even controversial drug policies when they are given a chance to prove themselves. There is no question that heroin prescription programs are needed and long overdue in this country. All that stands in the way is politics and the backward assumption that it can never happen in the United States."

The Australian group Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform likewise used the German vote to agitate for similar policies Down Under. "The German decision challenges Australia to remove John Howard's veto of this medical treatment and put humanity and social well-being first," said Brian McConnell, President of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform. "The veto of the decision of the Australian Health Ministers in 1997 for a heroin trial must be reviewed in the light of the rising number of overdose deaths and the threat of a renewed flood of Afghan heroin," he said

"Excuses for not introducing it have become baseless given the overwhelming evidence that now exists in support of the measures," McConnell added. "Attracting the severely addicted into treatment, away from recruiting and selling to new users to support their habit, will surely allay parents' and governments' concerns about the provision of this treatment. It can undermine organized crime's profit from heroin, which is critical at a time when world production of heroin is increasing. Much is to be gained with this common sense measure: there are lives to be saved, individuals' health to improve and a huge potential for reduced crime and trafficking in illegal heroin."

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12. Canada: Supreme Court Clarifies Asset Forfeiture Law, Allows Graduated Sanctions

In its first review of Canada's asset forfeiture laws, the Canadian Supreme court ruled last Friday that the government could not seize the home of a Vancouver woman who grew marijuana there. In Craig v. Crown, the court decided 5-2 that Judy Ann Craig could keep her home even though she was convicted of growing more than $100,000 worth of marijuana there.

Canadian Supreme Court (Philippe Landreville, scc-csc.gc.ca)
But in two related cases, the high court ruled 4-3 to uphold a partial forfeiture order against a Quebec man and voted unanimously to uphold the seizure of a home belonging to a Surrey, BC, couple who bought it solely to grow marijuana. The trio of decisions means that Canadian judges must weigh the particulars of each case and can issue escalating forfeiture orders depending on the circumstances of each case.

"Full forfeiture may be anticipated, for example, in the case of a fortified property purchased for criminal purposes and solely dedicated to the commercial production and distribution of illegal substances, perhaps with a connection to organized crime," Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the court majority. "On the other hand, one might decline to order forfeiture in the case of an individual with no criminal record and no connection to organized crime who grows very little marijuana in her home."

The rulings also direct lower courts to consider asset forfeiture separately from jail sentences or fines so that defendants are not allowed to in effect buy their way out of jail. "Those without property should not be treated more harshly than those who have it," Abella wrote. "In my view, the loss or retention of liberty should not depend on whether an individual has property available as a sacrificial alternative."

Craig, 57, had no criminal record when she began growing for a friend with AIDS in 1998. But she admitted making about $100,000 a year off her operation and had 186 plants when busted in 2003. Still, she was considered a small-time player with no ties to gangs. She served a one-year probationary sentence and paid a $100,000 fine for unpaid taxes and a victim surcharge of $15,000.

Craig's attorney, Howard Rubin, told The Canadian Press that he was thrilled with results. "She's not a career criminal. She's not a Hell's Angel. She's a lady, 57 years old, who works really hard," he said, adding that she currently worked as a wholesaler. "This was a huge weight on her that has now been relieved. This tool of forfeiture can wind up being really oppressive if it's used against people who have small grow operations, no record and no involvement with organized crime -- which is Ms. Craig."

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13. Weekly: This Week in History

June 8, 1993: Leading conservative intellectual William F. Buckley says in an interview, "the amount of money and of legal energy being given to prosecute hundreds of thousands of Americans who are caught with a few ounces of marijuana in their jeans simply makes no sense -- the kindest way to put it. A sterner way to put it is that it is an outrage, an imposition on basic civil liberties and on the reasonable expenditures of social energy."

June 8, 1998: A well-publicized letter signed by more than 600 international leaders and high-profile, influential professionals from various fields is written to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urging him to reconsider "failed and futile drug war policies" as the signers believe the war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself. The signatories call for opening the debate to alternative approaches to drug abuse based on common sense, science, public health and human rights.

June 9, 2000: Human Rights Watch releases a study finding that Illinois is the worst state for racial disparity among jailed drug offenders. Illinois' black men are 57 times more likely than white men to be sent to prison on drug charges, and blacks comprise 90 percent of all prison admissions in Illinois for drug charges. Though federal studies show that white drug users outnumber black drug users 5-to-1, blacks make up about 62 percent of prisoners incarcerated on drug charges, compared with 36 percent of whites.

June 11, 2001: In a case relating to indoor marijuana-growing operations, the US Supreme Court rules that the use by the police of a thermal imaging device to detect patterns of heat coming from a private home is a search that requires a warrant.

June 6, 2002: The newly formed medical marijuana advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access holds a nationwide day of action with protests at more than 50 DEA offices around the country.

June 7, 2003: Cheryl Miller, a multiple sclerosis patient and leading medical marijuana advocate, dies from pneumonia and other MS-related complications at 57 years old. She is survived by her husband, Jim, who remains active in the movement.

June 10, 2004: The New York Times publishes an article about K-Drink, a new beverage containing coca produced by the Peruvian company Kokka Royal Food & Drink. The article reminds readers that "In this region of South America, coca tea is so common and so accepted that it has even been regularly served in the American embassy in Bolivia."

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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.

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

Since last issue:

Scott Morgan writes: "Drug Smuggling Scientists Are Always Ahead of the Game," "If Pawlenty Wants to Be President, He Should Reconsider His Opposition to Medical Marijuana," "States Don't Need Federal Permission to Legalize Marijuana, Part II," "Top Anti-Drug Researcher Changes His Mind, Says Legalize Marijuana," "Rogue Philly Drug Cops Add Molestation to Their List of Crimes," "If There's No 'War on Drugs' Anymore, Then What's the Helicopter For?," "Yes, the Case Against Marc Emery is Political," "LAPD Raids Its Own Officer in Weird Botched Investigation" and "Legalizing Drugs is an Idea That Speaks for Itself."

David Borden posts: "Video: Orange County Seniors Demand Medical Marijuana Access."

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. Job Opportunity: Legal Coordinator, Americans for Safe Access, Oakland, CA

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research. ASA works in partnership with state, local and national legislators to overcome barriers and create policies that improve access to cannabis for patients and researchers. ASA has more than 30,000 active members with chapters and affiliates in more than 40 states.

ASA provides legal training for and medical information to patients, attorneys, health and medical professionals and policymakers throughout the United States. ASA also organizes media support for court cases, rapid response to law enforcement raids, and capacity-building for advocates. ASA's successful lobbying, media and legal campaigns have resulted in important court precedents, new sentencing standards, and more compassionate community guidelines

The mission of Americans for Safe Access is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic uses and research.

The Legal Coordinator will answer and document calls from medical marijuana patients who have had law enforcement and other legal encounters and provide them with legal information, update legal materials, and be responsible for day-to-day support of the Chief Counsel. The position is supervised and accountable to the Chief of Staff and Chief Counsel. This is a full-time, salaried position based out of ASA's Oakland, California office.

Specific tasks and responsibilities include providing information in response to questions concerning criminal defense, housing, employment and other issues as they relate to medical marijuana patients; maintaining a legal database; supporting defendants and attorneys dealing with federal trials; researching and drafting a "California Legal Tip" monthly; managing content for a "brief bank" on ASA's web site (motions to dismiss, etc.); maintaining and updating the legal FAQ, medical marijuana prisoners page, landmark decisions page, pending federal cases web page, and other pages in the legal section of the website; maintaining existing "How to Become a Legal Patient" web pages as state laws change; coordinating the recruitment of potential plaintiffs (i.e. develop criteria, create and post e-alert/distribute flyer, interview candidates, create synopses); maintaining existing plaintiff base with updates as they occur; researching and advising staff; tracking status of federal defendants by maintaining relationships with defendants, attorneys, and supporters; advising staff regarding the legal ramifications of various state & federal legislation; researching and drafting language for various legislative efforts; advising organizers in medical marijuana states, including facilitating the creation of ASA's "How to Defend a Medical Marijuana Patient" attorneys' guide and trainings; interfacing with campaign staff; assisting with emergency response efforts when federal raids occur; recruiting and coordinating activities of any interns/fellows working in the legal department; administratively assisting in the preparation of legal documents for filing; communicating via email with grassroots regarding landmark decisions, ASA court filings, ASA legal victories, important criminal/civil cases, etc.; writing and editing articles on legal matters for ASA publications; attending and speaking at conferences in order to network and build a body of educated attorneys nationally; and placing legal manuals on legal websites and in law schools across the country.

Experience and qualifications include a commitment to the mission and goals of Americans for Safe Access; knowledge of the law desirable; computer literacy, and comfortable with acquiring new skills; exceptional time management and prioritization skills; remaining calm under pressure; flexibility regarding setting (and re-setting) priorities and managing multiple projects; exceptional communication, organizational and diplomacy skills with strong written communication skills; a sense of humor, high ethical and professional standards, and a multi-cultural perspective; working well in team environment; a flexible schedule, including availability to work occasional evenings and weekends, and to travel periodically; and dedication to working closely and cooperatively in a community-based organization with diverse staff, volunteers, and community members.

If interested, please submit a cover letter and resume to [email protected]. No phone calls or faxes please.

ASA is an equal opportunity employer. People of color and women are strongly encouraged to apply.

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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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