Drug War Chronicle #623 - March 12, 2010

1. Feature: Senate Judiciary Committee Unanimously Passes Bill to Reduce Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

The Senate Judiciary Committee has unanimously approved a bill that would reduce -- but not eliminate -- the infamous sentencing disparity between federal crack and powder cocaine offenses. The House Judiciary Committee has already passed a similar measure that would completely eliminate the disparity. Now it is up to the House and Senate leadership to get those bills to a floor vote, and advocates say it is the House bill that should move.

2. Feature: Ibogaine Forum 2010 -- Mourning the Movement's "Tare," Celebrating New Hopes for Research and Development

Ibogaine is touted by a growing number of proponents as an addiction cure. The African herb still hasn't gotten mainstream respect, but that may be about to change, if the 2010 Ibogaine Conference is any indication.

3. Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction," by Dr. Gabor Maté (2010, North Atlantic Books, 468 pp., $17.95 PB)

Being a thoughtful, compassionate, and curious physician dealing with hard-core addicts in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside makes Dr. Gabor Maté especially well-placed to write an important book about addiction. He has done so. You should read it.

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

Bad cops, bad cops, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Although the Chronicle took a week off last week, corrupt cops didn't. Here are two weeks' worth of rogues and villains.

5. Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

It's been a hard couple of weeks in Mexico. At least 375 people were killed in prohibition-related violence, including many police officers.

6. Harm Reduction: Washington State "911 Good Samaritan Law" to Go Into Effect in June

Somebody overdosing, but his companions are afraid to call for help for fear of getting busted? You won't have to worry about that anymore in Washington state -- unless you're the dealer.

7. Prisoner Reentry: New Mexico Becomes Second State to Ban Criminal History Queries in Public Job Applications

Looking for a job, but have a criminal record? You'll find a little more forgiveness now in New Mexico.

8. Prohibition: Kansas Becomes First State to Ban K2

The Puritan impulse remains alive and well in Kansas. When confronted with the notion that someone had found a way to get high that wasn't illegal, Kansas responded by making it illegal.

9. Marijuana: Hawaii Senate Passes Three Different Reform Measures

The Hawaii legislature has overwhelmingly passed not one, not two, but three different marijuana reform measures -- two dealing with medical marijuana and one with decriminalization. Now, the Aloha State needs a strong showing in the House to avert a likely gubernatorial veto attempt.

10. Marijuana: New Hampshire House Passes Decriminalization Bill, But Without Veto-Proof Majority

For the third year in a row, the New Hampshire House of Delegates has passed marijuana reform legislation. But it looks like for the third year in a row, it will be killed by a gubernatorial veto -- if it gets that far.

11. Did You Know? Pharmaceutical Drugs Based on Cannabis, on ProCon.org

MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org, part of the ProCon.org family, is an in-depth web site presenting information and views from a variety of perspectives on the medical marijuana issue. The Chronicle is running a series of info items from ProCon.org over the next several weeks, and we encourage you to check it out.

12. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"Long-time Drug Warrior Changes His Mind, Supports Medical Marijuana and Decriminalization," "Six Groups Who Benefit From the Drug War," "Stupid Arguments Against Medical Marijuana, Part 1," "Stupid Arguments Against Medical Marijuana, Part 2," "Everything You Need to Know About Marijuana Legalization," "How Many Cops Does It Take to Bust a Marijuana User?"

13. Weekly: This Week in History

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

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

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

15. 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.

16. Job Opportunities: Drug Policy Alliance, New York and New Mexico Offices

The Drug Policy Alliance is hiring a state director in New Mexico, and a National Organizing and Field Director working from New York.

1. Feature: Senate Judiciary Committee Unanimously Passes Bill to Reduce Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

The US Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday unanimously approved a bill that would reduce -- but not eliminate -- the disparity in sentencing for federal crack and powder cocaine offenses. Under the bill introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), SB 1789, the disparity would have been completely eliminated, but the committee instead approved an amended version that reduces the ratio between crack and powder cocaine quantities from 100:1 to 20:1.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/capitolsenateside.jpg
US Capitol, Senate side
Under current federal law, it takes only five grams of crack to garner a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence, while it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine to earn the same prison time. Under the Senate bill, an ounce of crack will get you a five-year prison sentence while it would take more than a pound of powder cocaine to garner the same sentence. But even retaining the 20:1 disparity, advocates estimate that some 3,100 cases would be affected each year, with sentences reduced by an average of 30 months.

The amended bill also eliminates the mandatory minimum sentence for crack cocaine possession. But it also directs the US Sentencing Commission to increase sentences for aggravating factors such as violence or bribery of a police officer.

"This is an exciting vote, but also disappointing," said Julie Stewart, head of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). "We hoped the committee would go further in making crack penalties the same as powder. There was no scientific basis for the 100:1 disparity between crack and powder cocaine created 24 years ago, and there is no scientific basis for today’s vote of 20:1. However, if this imperfect bill becomes law, it will provide some long-overdue relief to thousands of defendants sentenced each year."

Stewart also noted with approval the elimination of the mandatory minimum sentence for simple crack possession. "If enacted, this legislation would repeal a mandatory minimum law for the first time since the Nixon administration," she said.

Stewart's sentiments were echoed by spokespersons for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which, like FAMM, has been lobbying on the Hill for years to undo the draconian and racially disparate impact of the federal crack laws. Although African-Americans make up only 30% of crack consumers, they account for 82% of all federal crack prosecution. Nearly two-thirds of all those convicted under the crack laws were low-level dealers or other minimally involved players.

"Today is a bittersweet day," said DPA's Jasmine Tyler. "On one hand, we've moved the issue of disparate sentencing for two forms of the same drug forward, restoring some integrity to our criminal justice system. But, on the other hand, the Senate Judiciary Committee, by reducing the 100:1 disparity to 20:1, instead of eliminating it, has proven how difficult it is to ensure racial justice, even in 2010."

"It's pretty amazing when you think about everything the Republicans and Democrats are fighting over -- health care, budgets, all that -- this is the one thing they can all come together on," said DPA national affairs director Bill Piper, noting the unanimous committee vote.

A similar bill passed the House Judiciary Committee during this same session of Congress last July. Introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), HR 3245 completely eliminates the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses by simply removing all references to crack cocaine from the federal statute.

Now it is up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to get the respective measures to a floor vote. Advocates are urging the White House to support the House bill.

"We're urging people to be very clear to the House, the Senate, and the president that the disparity should be completely eliminated and not just reduced," said DPA's Piper. "The House bill is the one that should ultimately be voted out of Congress. Our challenge is to get the full 1:1 bill approved, not the 20:1. That said, even 20:1 is a step in the right direction," he added, noting the glacial, multi-stage pace of Rockefeller drug law reform in New York state.

"While Democrats and Republicans bicker over healthcare, unemployment, education and other issues, it’s good to see that they unanimously agree that US drug laws are too harsh and need to be reformed," said DPA's Tyler. "While many will benefit from this change, more needs to be done. The disparity must be completely eliminated, and President Obama and Speaker Pelosi will have to stand up firmly on the issue to make that a reality."

Now it is a matter of political will in the White House and among the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate, said Piper. "It is totally up to the House and Senate leadership to decide when and what they will take to the floor, but we have to do it this year, or everything dies, and we have to start over again next year."

The first significant rollback of a federal drug sentencing law in decades is drawing tantalizingly near after almost a quarter-century of hysteria-driven federal crack laws. Will the congressional Democrats have the gumption to push either the House bill or the Senate bill to a floor vote? Stay tuned.

back to top

2. Feature: Ibogaine Forum 2010 -- Mourning the Movement's "Tare," Celebrating New Hopes for Research and Development

special to Drug War Chronicle by Doug Greene

Over a cold President's Day weekend, dozens of researchers, providers and activists converged on the Yippie Museum Cafe for the Ibogaine Forum 2010, the annual conference about the controversial African rainforest addiction interrupter. This year's event was held just downstairs from the lair of conference organizer, Global Marijuana March facilitator and Cures not Wars cofounder Dana Beal (who remains free on bail from his October 1st bust following last year's NORML conference). This year's Ibogaine Forum, like last year's, was streamed to hundreds of viewers.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/howardlotsof.jpg
Howard Lotsof
Tabernanthe iboga has been used for several centuries by practitioners of the Bwiti religion in equatorial Africa. But it wasn't until June 1962 that its principal alkaloid's effects on opiate dependence were discovered. Howard Lotsof (then a Fairleigh Dickinson University dropout with a heroin habit) took a dose that a chemist friend gave him, and after a 36 hour trip full of Freudian imagery, discovered that he didn't want to cop heroin anymore. That random trip started Lotsof on his life's work and led to thousands of people participating in "a vast uncontrolled experiment" (in the words of writer Brian Vastag) to treat drug dependence. However, its status as a Schedule I controlled substance, long duration of action and intense psychological and physical effects have kept it outside of the medical mainstream.

Ibogaine has been receiving more media attention and public interest in the past few months. It was featured in the plot of an episode of "Law & Order Special Victims Unit" in November and in "I'm Dangerous with Love," Michel Negroponte's new documentary about New York based on underground provider Dimitri Mobengo Mugianis. Although the buzz about ibogaine has been slowly building for decades, efforts to develop ibogaine as a medication for drug dependence in the United States have been stalled since 1995, when a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Phase I study in humans was halted after the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) spent $2,000,000 in pre-clinical and animal testing, due to financial issues and disputes among the study sponsors.

That may be about to change, since Dr. Walter Ling, the Director of UCLA's Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, has allegedly undertaken a review of current ibogaine research for NIDA. Dr. Ling's web page states that he is a consultant to NIDA.

According to conference presenter Dr. Anwar Jeewa, co-director of the Minds Alive life rehabilitation and treatment center in Durban, South Africa, he met Ling at Schering-Plough's launch of Suboxone in Durban on Feb. 2, where Jeewa asked Ling if he knew about ibogaine. Ling admitted that he did, having received many phone calls from Lotsof, but was not aware of the amount of treatment providers and published research. He then revealed that NIDA had contracted with him to reassess ibogaine. Ling's research is overseen by Dr. Cecelia (Cece) McNamara Spitznas, PhD, of the Behavioral and Integrative Treatment Branch at NIDA's Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research. Adult treatment research is part of Dr. Spitznas' portfolio for NIDA.

However, according to David McCann, Associate Director (acting) of NIDA's Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse, "nobody at NIDA knows anything about it. If [Ling] is in fact writing a review, he's apparently not doing it for NIDA."

Jeewa said this week that NIDA had not officially sanctioned Ling to reassess ibogaine, but had done so unofficially. Ling had not responded to requests for clarification by press time.

Despite that and other enormously positive news, conference attendees were still reeling from Lotsof's death on Jan. 31st after a long struggle with liver cancer. Lotsof was recognized as "[the] discoverer of ibogaine's anti-addictive effects, patient activist, president of the Dora Weiner Foundation and author of the Ibogaine Patient's Bill of Rights" last November, when the Drug Policy Alliance co-awarded him the Robert C. Randall Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action at their biennial conference. (The video is here).

At Ibogaine Forum 2010, Lotsof was posthumously honored by a large number of presenters and attendees during Sunday's memorial. "Ibogaine-Rite of Passage" producer and director Ben De Loenen showed footage of Lotsof he took at last March's Lotsof tribute First Ibogaine Providers and Facilitators Conference, in which Lotsof called ibogaine "a magnificent tool and road to freedom over slavery" and expressed his belief that ibogaine would eventually be used successfully in drug treatment, in contrast to his pessimism at the end of the film. That conference also marked the founding of the International Federation of Ibogaine Providers.

Another presenter, NYU Langone Medical Center Associate Professor Ken Alper, pointed out that in addition to Lotsof's personal qualities, his work was directly responsible for NIDA's research into ibogaine, a slew of peer-reviewed publications and the First International Conference on Ibogaine, which was held in 1999. But perhaps Beal summed it up best when he told the audience the best way to memorialize Lotsof was to move ibogaine forward and help realize his dream.

The sheer diversity of the presenters, attendees and topics discussed would have heartened Lotsof. Among the attendees were Midge Potts, a Missouri US Senate candidate calling for ibogaine treatment as part of her platform, a nurse from New Jersey whose boyfriend was part of a Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) long-term outcomes study on ibogaine's efficacy for treatment of opiate dependence at Pangea Biomedics in Playas De Tijuana, Mexico, and LEAP's Matthew Fogg.

Presenters included:

  • MAPS' John Harrison, discussing the preliminary results of their ibogaine study (of 20 participants, 10 were confirmed as still not using), a revised study protocol, ibogaine's potential in treating HIV, HTLV, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and other personality disorders and "aftercare as an afterthought" among providers.
  • Robert Sisko of the Addiction Research Institute on efforts to produce ibogaine according to Good Manufacturing Practice for use in clinical trials and a proposed multinational study to have the FDA approve ibogaine for alleviation of opiate withdrawal symptoms.
  • San Francisco provider Krista Howard on tips for new treatment providers.
  • Sandra Karpetas of British Columbia's Iboga Therapy House and New Zealand activist and aspiring provider Marie Cotter on ibogaine's status in their countries (where it's not regulated, but also not officially legitimized for use), the need for further research, standardizing data from ibogaine therapists, defining best practices in ibogaine therapy, and the rationale for adopting language that defines ibogaine as a natural health product.

However, none of the ibogaine enthusiasts present believed that it was going to conquer the drug treatment world in the near future. The mainstream treatment establishment remains skeptical, if not outright hostile to ibogaine -- as witnessed by the comment of Dr. Herbert Kleber, director of the division on substance abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University in Lotsof's New York Times obituary, who cited a lack of controlled studies and a number of deaths to conclude that "it is [not] something that should be used in the absence of such evidence." Alper and others have attributed these deaths to factors such as cardiac risks that could have been detected by better screening and overdoses from taking opiates during or just after an ibogaine experience.

Naysayers like Kleber aside, with research, production techniques, initiates and providers experiencing rapid growth around the world, ibogaine's potential for transformation of the way drug dependence is viewed and treated seems boundless. The spirit of Lotsof, as the tare ("father" in the Fang language, which is spoken in Tabernanthe iboga's native equatorial Africa) of it all, must be pleased that so many believers are, as Krista Howard said at his memorial, "working together to finish this masterpiece, make it even more beautiful and legitimize it."

back to top

3. Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction," by Dr. Gabor Maté (2010, North Atlantic Books, 468 pp., $17.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

In the revised edition of his prize-winning Canadian best-seller, Vancouver's Dr. Gabor Maté has made an important contribution to the literature on drug use and addiction. For more than a dozen years, Maté has been a staff physician for the Portland Hotel Society in Vancouver's infamous Downtown Eastside, home to one of the hemispheric largest, most concentrated populations of drug addicts. The Portland is unique -- once just another shoddy Skid Row SRO, under the management of the Society it is now both a residence for the hardest of the hard-core and a harm reduction facility.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hungryghosts.jpg
As a medical resident at the Portland, Maté has seen it all. The first section of "Hungry Ghosts" is filled with descriptions of his patients and their lives. Much of this is quite literally horrendous: Coked-out women turning tricks in alleys for their next rock and contracting syphilis; suicidal, opiate-addicted women refusing HIV treatments; mentally ill and alcoholic men dying young of liver cancer from Hepatitis C infections; people strung out on crack scrabbling at pieces of gravel on the sidewalk in the hallucinatory hope it's another rock; multi-addicted men and women, blood oozing from festering sores as they search yet again for a vein to hit, people overdosing and then going right back at it, people overdosing and dying.

And yet, despite the misery they are in and the wrecks that are their lives, they keep on using. "Hungry Ghosts" is an extended meditation on why. The second chunk of the book is devoted in particular to addressing that question. Maté offers an extended tour of the latest research into the disease model of addiction, with succinct and understandable (to the layperson) explanations of reward circuits in the brain, dopamine and serotonin flows, and all that good neuro-bio-pharmacological stuff so beloved of NIDA grantees. Repeated use of a substance indeed "rewires" the brain, creating pleasure circuits demanding to be fulfilled and pleasure deficits demanding to be fixed... with that next fix.

But unlike the NIDA people, with what I consider to be their neuro-bio-pharmacological determinism and reductionism, Maté goes a step further. He points out, accurately enough, that no matter what substance we're talking about, only a fraction of users, typically between 10% and 20%, become addicts. The "chronic relapsing brain disease" model may have some utility, but it fails to explain why some people are susceptible to addiction in the first place and others are not.

Maté noticed something about his downtrodden, strung-out clientele in Vancouver. They were almost universally abused as children, and at best, neglected. And I mean abused: Not spanked too hard, but raped, beaten, raped again, exploited, sent into foster care, literally spit on by their parents. It's very ugly.

One story especially sticks with me. A First Nations woman whose mother lives on the Downtown Eastside was given up at birth by her addicted mother, and sent to live with relatives, several of whom repeatedly sexually molested her in especially disgusting ways. She grew up an angry, depressed kid who turned to drugs and drink early. Tired of her life, she saved up $500 when she was 14 and ran away to Vancouver to find her mother. She did find her mother -- too bad for her. Mommie dearest promptly shot her up with heroin, spent the $500 on drugs for herself, then turned her out to turn tricks on the street. And you wonder why this woman prefers a narcotized bliss?

Maté doesn't just rely on anthropology and anecdote. He takes the reader instead into an extended look at the research on early childhood development and identifies messed-up childhoods as the key indicator of future substance abuse (as well as many other) problems. It doesn't have to be as extreme as some of these cases, but Maté makes clear that a nurturing early up-bringing is absolutely vital to the development of mentally and emotionally stable human beings.

Maté also has a startling confession to make: He, too, is an addict. The good doctor has been fighting a lifelong battle with his addiction to... wait for it... buying classical music CDs. He has behaved just like a junkie, he admits, spending thousands of dollars on his habit, lying to his wife, neglecting his kids, even leaving in the middle of medical procedures to run and score the latest Vivaldi. He's suffered the same feelings of compulsion, guilt, disgust, and self-denigration as any other addict, even if he doesn't have the scars on his veins to show for it.

At first glance, Maté's claim almost seems ludicrous, but he's making an important point: Addiction is addiction, whether it's to heroin or gambling, cocaine or shopping, he argues. The process of changes in the brain is the same, the compulsion is the same, the negative self-feelings are the same. We don't blame playing cards for gambling addiction or shopping malls for shopaholism; similarly, drugs are not to blame for drug addiction -- our own messed up psyches are the root of the problem.

And that leads to another important point: Those hollow-eyed addicts are like the rest of us, they are a dark mirror on our own inner problems, and most of us have some. (I'm reminded of a cartoon I once saw of a man sitting by all alone in an empty auditorium under a hanging banner saying, "Welcome to the convention of children of non-dysfunctional families.")

This is important because it stops us from dehumanizing drug addicts. They are not "the other." They are us, different only in degree. They deserve caring and compassion even if it is tough and seemingly fruitless work. Maté chides himself for falling from that saintly pedestal on occasion, and good for him.

Not surprisingly, Maté is a strong advocate of harm reduction and a harsh critic of prohibitionist drug policies and the US war on drugs in particular. By grinding drug users down even further, prohibition serves only to make them more likely to seek solace in chemical nirvana. It's almost as if prohibition were designed to create and perpetuate drug addiction.

In the final chapters of "Hungry Ghosts," Maté offers a glimmer of hope for beating drug addiction (or gambling addiction or sex addiction or whatever your particular compulsion is). It is a tough path of self-awareness and spiritual practice. I don't know if it will work -- I haven't tried it myself -- but it is important to remind ourselves that addiction is not necessarily a hopeless trap with no escape.

This is good, strong, compassionate, highly informed reading. I heartily recommend this book to anyone with an interest in addiction, addiction treatment, early childhood development, or drug policy. Thanks, doc.

back to top

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

Bad cops, bad cops, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Although the Chronicle took a week off last week, corrupt cops didn't. Here are two weeks' worth of rogues and villains. Let's get to it:

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/evidenceroom2-small.jpg
evidence room of opportunity
In Providence, Rhode Island, three Providence police officers were arrested March 4 on charges they helped in a cocaine-dealing operation. Narcotics Detective Joseph Colanduono, Sergeant Steven Gonsalves, and Patrolman Robert Hamlin have been suspended without pay. The trio went down after a four-month investigation whose primary target was Hamlin's brother, Albert, who is described as a major cocaine dealer. Robert Hamlin, a school resource officer at a Providence high school, is accused of helping his brother avoid arrest by giving him the names of narcotics detectives and descriptions of their cars. Hamlin is charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine, while Gonsalves is charged with soliciting another to commit a crime and Colanduono is charged with conspiracy to deal cocaine and compounding and concealing a felony.

In San Francisco, drug cases are being dismissed after a police department crime lab tech admitted stealing cocaine being tested there. Debbie Madden, 60, who recently retired from the job, is accused of stealing small amounts of cocaine from evidence containers, but she has not been charged yet. San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon announced this week that the crime lab's drug testing was temporarily suspended pending an internal investigation and an outside audit of the lab. Twelve cases involving evidence tested or reviewed by Madden were dismissed Wednesday morning, and many more could follow. Local news reports Thursday night put the number of cases dismissed at "near 100." New drug cases may also be dismissed because the evidence will have to be sent to outside labs and will not be returned within the 48 hours required for the filing of charges.

In Weston, Kansas, a former Weston police officer was charged March 3 with stealing drugs from the police department evidence room. Kyle Zumbrunn, 27, is accused of stealing a controlled substance. He's already behind bars, serving a 16-month sentence for selling drugs to a Kansas Bureau of Investigation undercover agent. The new charge came after an investigation into evidence handling procedures at the Weston police department. After Zumbrunn was originally arrested for selling pills, Weston police did an inventory of their evidence room and discovered 28 morphine tablets, 45 Oxycodone pills, and 37 morphine sulfate pills were missing. Zumbrunn faces up to seven more years in prison if convicted on the latest charges.

In Lubbock,Texas, a former Hockley County Sheriff's deputy was sentenced February 27 to 36 months in federal prison for his role in a massive motorcycle gang methamphetamine operation. Former Officer Jose Quintanilla admitted using his position to supply sensitive law enforcement information to the gang and to deter law enforcement efforts to investigate the ring. Another Hockley County deputy, Gordon Bohannon, pleaded guilty to similar charges in December. He awaits sentencing.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a former Benton Harbor Police narcotics supervisor was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in federal prison for conspiring to violate the civil rights of the residents of Benton Harbor. Bernard Hall, 33, was accused of a pattern of falsifying police reports, committing perjury, falsifying affidavits in support of search warrants, stealing money and property from citizens, and embezzling funds from the police department. Along with former Officer Andrew Thomas Collins, whom he was supposed to be supervising, Hall embarked on a "pervasive pattern of corruption." Collins is already doing 37-months for his role in the rogue operation.

In Crespatown, Pennsylvania, a dietary officer at the Western Correctional Institute was arrested February 12 after attempting to smuggle heroin in for an inmate. The arrest wasn't announced until late last month. Justin Wayne Smith, 27, went down after a drug-detecting dog alerted on his vehicle. During a subsequent search of his vehicle, officers found a balloon containing heroin and a syringe. Smith admitted to using heroin earlier in the day and said he was attempting to smuggle the rest to an inmate. He faces six charges, including intent to distribute, possession and intent to deliver drugs into an area of confinement. Combined, the charges could bring incarceration of more than 30 years and fines in excess of $65,000.

In Baltimore, Maryland, a Baltimore City Detention Officer guard was arrested February 21 for trying to smuggle an ounce of pot and a cell phone in to the prison for an inmate. Officer Shanika Johnson went down when her bag was searched as she arrived at the prison. She admitted being paid $1000 to make the contraband delivery. She is now out on $35,000 bond, with trial set for later this month.

In Oklahoma City, an Oklahoma County jail guard was arrested March 4 on charges he smuggled contraband, including marijuana, into the jail. Detention Officer Okello Adenya, 25, went down after a confidential informant told the sheriff's office Adenya was providing contraband to inmates over a two-month period in December and January. Prison guards recovered tobacco, marijuana, and a cell phone charger. Adenya admitted to the crimes and said he earned $1,100 in bribes for his efforts. He faces three felony counts of bringing and possessing contraband in a prison.

back to top

5. Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 17,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 1,000 so far in 2010. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ciudadjuarez.jpg
Ciudad Juárez (courtesy Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia)
Sunday, February 28

In Ciudad Juárez, a eight people were killed in drug-related violence in various parts of the city. Among the dead was a three-year old boy who was killed when gunmen attacked a party at a ranch just outside the city. In another incident, a couple was gunned down outside their home. As of February 28, 380 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Ciudad Juárez in 2010. 2,635 were killed in the city of 1.5 million in 2009.

Monday, March 1

Mexican police announced that a Mexican journalist who has been missing since 2007 was murdered by drug traffickers. Rodolfo Rincon, 54, was a journalist for the newspaper Tabasco Hoy, and was last seen on January 20, 2007. Authorities say that a recently arrested member of the Zetas organization admitted to participating in the kidnapping and killing, and claimed that Rincon's body was dissolved in acid after being murdered.

In Sinaloa, four men were killed in the northern part of the state. In once incident, a man was shot dead after being involved in a high-speed car chase on a highway near Los Mochis. In another incident, a group of policemen were ambushed by a group of armed men near the town of Choix, leaving a municipal police official and one of his officers wounded.

Tuesday, March 2

In the state of Chihuahua, seven people were killed in several incidents throughout the state. In the city of Chihuahua, the brother of a local police official was shot and killed in his car, along with his girlfriend. After the car was riddled with bullets, both were apparently executed at close-range with shots to the head. In other parts of Mexico, seven people were killed in Sinaloa, and two men were killed after being ambushed on a highway in Guerrero.

Wednesday, March 3

In Guasave, Sinaloa, four young men were killed as they left a party. This brings to 15 the number of people killed in the small town of Guasave over the last 10 days, all of them between 15 and 26 years of age.

In other parts of Mexico, armed men killed three members of a trucking company in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, and one person was killed in a shootout between the Mexican army and suspected drug traffickers in Michoacan. Four men were killed outside a secondary school in Ciudad Juárez, and five people were killed in Guerrero, including a police official. One drug-related murder was reported in Queretaro.

Thursday , March 4

In Ciudad Juárez, a woman and her nine-month old daughter were killed after the vehicle in which they were traveling was ambushed by gunmen. A 23-year old man, the father of the child, was left unscathed by the attack. Following the incident, police discovered a handgun in his possession and detained him.

Friday , March 5

In Michoacan, a group of heavily armed men ambushed a police convoy. Two officers were killed and three were wounded in the attack, which took place near the port city of Lazaro Cardenas. Meanwhile, in Altar, Sonora, 28,000 kilograms of marijuana were seized by Mexican authorities, as well as 18 weapons and seven unspecified vehicles.

Saturday , March 6

Police officers held a protest in the Monterrey suburb of San Nicolas de los Garza after three officers were killed in an ambush by suspected drug traffickers. The policemen gathered outside police stations and demanded improved weapons, equipment and life insurance. A fourth officer was wounded and remains in serious condition.

Monday , March 8

In the Xochimilco area of Mexico City, four men were found murdered with a note beside the bodies which made references to drug trafficking groups. The four men had all been shot and left in a local parking lot. The note made reference to the ongoing struggle for leadership of the Beltran-Leyva organization which ensued after its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva , was killed in a raid by naval commandos on December 16th.

Tuesday , March 9

Police in Sonora discovered five partially buried bodies in an area near the border with Chihuahua. One of the dead was identified as being a municipal police officer. The men had been kidnapped the previous Sunday in a nearby area. In other violence across Mexico, a 13-year old boy was killed in the crossfire between two groups of armed men in the city of Nogales.

In Mazatlan, three police officers were killed after being ambushed near the home of a local police commander, who was among the dead. Three other drug-related murders were reported in Mazatlan, as well as one in Culiacan. In Sinaloa's main prison, two prisoners were assassinated by rivals in the gymnasium.

Five men were killed in a Chihuahua prison after a gun battle broke out between groups of rival inmates. Prison officials have stated that the battle was between two gangs, La Linea and the Mexicles. Both these groups provide enforcers to drug cartels. La Linea is considered by many to be the armed wing of the Juárez cartel, and the Mexicles are known to provide foot soldiers to the Sinaloa Cartel for its offensive in Ciudad Juárez.

Total body count for last two weeks: 375

Total body count for the year: 1,776

Total body count for 2009: 7,724

Total body count since Calderon took office: 17,981

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

back to top

6. Harm Reduction: Washington State "911 Good Samaritan Law" to Go Into Effect in June

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) Wednesday signed into law a measure that provides some legal immunity for people who report a drug overdose. That makes Washington the second state to enact a "911 Good Samaritan Law." New Mexico was the first in 2007.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/washingtonstatehouse.jpg
Washington State House, Olympia
Under the measure, if someone overdoses and someone else seeks assistance, that person cannot be prosecuted for drug possession, nor can the person overdosing. Good Samaritans could, however, be charged with manufacturing or selling drugs.

The measure is aimed at reducing drug overdoses by removing the fear of arrest as an impediment to seeking medical help. According to the state Department of Health, there were 820 fatal drug overdoses in the state in 2006, more than double the 403 in 1999.

The bill also allows people to use the opioid agonist naloxone, which counteracts the effects of opiate overdoses, if it is used to help prevent an overdose.

"We're going to save lives," Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) told Senate sponsor Sen. Rosa Franklin (D-Tacoma) after the bill signing.

"It might take the fear out of calling for help," Franklin said.

Washington is the first state this year to pass a 911 Good Samaritan bill, but it may not be the last. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island are considering similar measures.

back to top

7. Prisoner Reentry: New Mexico Becomes Second State to Ban Criminal History Queries in Public Job Applications

Gov. Bill Richardson (D) Monday signed into law a bill that removes one obstacle to employment for people with criminal convictions. The bill, SB 254, the Consideration of Crime Convictions for Jobs bill, will remove the question on public job applications about whether a person has been convicted of a felony, leaving such questions for the interview stage of the hiring process.

The bill applies to job application for state, local, or federal public jobs. It does not apply to private sector employers. It passed the Senate 35-4 and the House 54-14.

Known as "ban the box," such bills are designed to allow ex-convicts a better opportunity to reenter the job market. Having a job is a key means of reducing recidivism.

New Mexico now becomes the second state to pass such legislation. Minnesota passed a similar measure in 2009. Some cities, including Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco have passed similar measures as well.

"Lots of young people -- and old people, too -- have that one stupid mistake they made years ago," said Republican Sen. Clint Harden, a former state labor secretary who sponsored the bill. The bill gives them a chance to explain before they are shut out of the hiring process: "Yeah, I had a felony when I was 22, I got caught for possession with intent, I did probation, that was 15 years ago, and I don't do drugs now and yadda yadda," he told the Associated Press late last month.

"We thank Gov. Richardson for signing the 'ban the box' bill," said Julie Roberts, acting state director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico office. "The governor and the New Mexico legislature affirmed their support for people with convictions to be given this opportunity for a second chance. This bill will make our communities safer and keep families together by providing job opportunities to people who need them most."

One in five Americans has a criminal record, and Roberts is one of them. She had a drug bust at age 18. "Since then, I've gone to college, I have had internships, I haven't been in trouble for eight years but I still have to check the box," she said. "There's a lot of people like me. This new law will allow individuals who are qualified for a position the chance to get their foot in the door," she said. "As a person with a criminal conviction, this law will not only help me, but others around the state who made a mistake years ago and are now rebuilding their lives."

In addition to the Drug Policy Alliance, the bill was supported by the New Mexico Conference of Churches, the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of New Mexico, the New Mexico Public Health Association, the Women's Justice Project, and Somos Un Pueblo Unido.

back to top

8. Prohibition: Kansas Becomes First State to Ban K2

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson signed into law Tuesday HB 2411, which adds certain synthetic cannabinoids to the state's list of controlled substances. The bill is aimed directly at products containing a mixture of herbs and a synthetic cannabinoid, JWH-018, which was isolated by a Clemson University researcher more than a decade ago. The products are sold under a variety of names, including Spice and K2.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/spicedrug.jpg
''spice'' packet (courtesy wikimedia.org)
Kansas thus becomes the first state to ban K2, although a handful of localities in the region have already done so. A similar bill is working its way through the legislature in neighboring Missouri, and one is about to be introduced in Georgia.

Users report a marijuana-like high from the blends. Although there have been some isolated reports of adverse reactions, the number appears relatively small compared to the reported massive sales of the blends.

Under the new law, which goes into effect upon publication in the state register later this month, possession of K2 becomes a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2500 fine. That's the same potential punishment as awaits someone busted for small-time marijuana possession in the Jayhawk State.

"This legislation has received overwhelming support by Kansas law enforcement and the legislature," said Parkinson in a signing statement. "It will help improve our communities by bettering equipping law enforcement officers in addressing this issue and deterring Kansans from drug use."

The governor is certainly correct about who supported the bill. Testifying for it were representatives of the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association, the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, the Kansas Sheriffs Association, the Kansas Peace Officers Association, and the Kansas Board of Pharmacy.

back to top

9. Marijuana: Hawaii Senate Passes Three Different Reform Measures

On March 2, the Hawaii Senate overwhelmingly approved three separate marijuana reform measures, two relating to medical marijuana and one that would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce. The bills now head to the House.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/volcano-national-park.jpg
Volcano National Park, Hawaii Island
SB 2213 would allow counties to license medical marijuana dispensaries. It passed 20-4, with one member excused.

SB 2141 would increase the number of plants and amount of marijuana patients could possess. Under current law, they can possess three plants and one ounce; under this bill, they could possess up to 10 plants and five ounces. The measure would also increase the number of patients a caregiver can provide for from one to four. It passed 24-1.

SB2450 would decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Under current law, small-time pot possession is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1000 fine. Under this bill, there would be no criminal penalties for possession of under an ounce, but offenders would face a $300 fine for a first offense and a $500 fine for subsequent offenses. The bill also makes possession of less than an ounce by a parolee not a reason to force him into drug treatment or violate his parole.

"These votes show that Hawaii's Senate supports sensible marijuana policies that will serve the best interests of state citizens," said Eric McDaniel, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Hawaii's most vulnerable citizens deserve safe and reliable access to their medicine, and no Hawaiian deserves to go to jail simply for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. If House members agree, I would strongly encourage them to pass these measures as well."

In lobbying for the bill, MPP was joined by the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii and the Peaceful Sky Alliance.

The overwhelming margins of approval for the measures in the Senate is important because Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (R) is an avowed foe of marijuana and is likely to try to veto any reform measures coming out of the legislature. Now only if the House can pass these bills by similar veto-proof margins.

back to top

10. Marijuana: New Hampshire House Passes Decriminalization Bill, But Without Veto-Proof Majority

The New Hampshire House Wednesday voted 214-137 to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, but the measure faces an uncertain future after Gov. John Lynch (D) immediately threatened to veto it. The House tally leaves supporters about 20 votes short of a veto-proof majority.

Under the bill, HB 1653, adults caught possessing or transporting up to a quarter-ounce of pot would be subject to a $400 fine. Minors caught with a quarter-ounce or less would be subject to a $200 fine and their parents would be notified. Youthful offenders would also have to complete a drug awareness program and community service within a year or face an additional $1000 fine. Under current New Hampshire law, small-time pot possession is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

The House passed a similar measure in 2008, but it died in the Senate after Gov. Lynch threatened to veto it. Last year, the House dropped decrim and instead concentrated on passing a medical marijuana dispensary bill. Lynch vetoed that. The House overrode his veto, but the Senate came up two votes short.

Lynch was back in form on Wednesday. "Marijuana is a controlled drug that remains illegal under federal law. I share the law enforcement community's concerns about proliferation of this drug," Lynch said. "In addition, New Hampshire parents are struggling to keep their kids away from marijuana and other drugs. We should not make the jobs of parents -- or law enforcement -- harder by sending a false message that some marijuana use is acceptable."

"This makes three years in a row that the House has passed a bill attempting to reform New Hampshire's archaic marijuana policies," said Matt Simon, executive director for the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, which led the lobbying fight for the bill. "Unfortunately, Gov. Lynch has continued to show little interest in learning what the House has learned about these issues."

The bill now goes to the Senate. But unless advocates can pass it overwhelmingly there and come up without another 20 or so votes in the House, it is likely to meet the same fate as the 2008 decrim bill and last year's medical marijuana bill.

back to top

11. Did You Know? Pharmaceutical Drugs Based on Cannabis, on ProCon.org

Did you know that there are 13 approved pharmaceutical drugs based directly or indirectly on cannabis (marijuana)?

See Pharmaceutical Drugs Based on Cannabis, on the web site medicalmarijuana.procon.org, part of the ProCon family.

Follow Drug War Chronicle for more important facts from ProCon.org over the next several weeks, or sign up for ProCon.org's email list or RSS feed. To read last week's ProCon "Did You Know" blurb, click here.

ProCon.org is a web site promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format.

back to top

12. 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: "Long-time Drug Warrior Changes His Mind, Supports Medical Marijuana and Decriminalization," "Six Groups Who Benefit From the Drug War," "Stupid Arguments Against Medical Marijuana, Part 1," "Stupid Arguments Against Medical Marijuana, Part 2," "Everything You Need to Know About Marijuana Legalization," "How Many Cops Does It Take to Bust a Marijuana User?"

Phil Smith posts early copies of Drug War Chronicle articles.

David Guard posts numerous press releases, action alerts and other organizational announcements in the In the Trenches blog.

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 please join us on the comment boards.

back to top

13. Weekly: This Week in History

March 18, 1839: Lin Tse-Hsu, the imperial Chinese commissioner in charge of suppressing the opium traffic, orders all foreign traders to surrender their opium. In response, the British send expeditionary warships to the coast of China, initiating the First Opium War.

March 14, 1937: Setting a judicial precedent important to drug policy, the US Supreme Court rules that machine guns can be controlled by first taxing them, then using the tax act to prohibit them. One month later Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, introduces the Marijuana Tax Act to Congress.

March 12, 1998: Canada legalizes hemp production and sets a limit of 0.3% THC content that may be present in the plants and requires that all seeds be certified for THC content.

March 12, 1998: The mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz and West Hollywood write letters to President Clinton asking him to keep the cannabis buyers' clubs open. They tell the president: "If the centers are shut down, many of these individuals will be compelled to search back alleys and street corners for their medicine," and ask him to "implement a moratorium on enforcement of federal drug laws that interfere with the daily operation of the dispensaries."

March 17, 1999: A report by the Institute of Medicine for the Office of National Drug Control Policy states that "there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs" and "scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic values of cannabinoid drugs for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation."

March 16, 2000: Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed security guard, is shot and killed by undercover New York City police officers who had unsuccessfully tried to sell him marijuana in a "buy-and-bust" operation. [The shooting was the third time in 13 months that New York City police officers dressed in plainclothes shot and killed an unarmed black man. Under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, marijuana arrests rose from 720 in 1992, to 59,945 in the first eleven months of 2000.]

back to top

14. Students: Intern at StoptheDrugWar.org (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 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.

back to top

15. 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.

back to top

16. Job Opportunities: Drug Policy Alliance, New York and New Mexico Offices

Ten years ago, Drug Policy Alliance opened an office in New Mexico, which has had a history of major legislative, and regulatory successes, including legal access to medical marijuana, overdose prevention and harm reduction measures, and a statewide drug education project. Current areas of focus include the implementation of medical marijuana legislation, alternatives to incarceration legislation, youth drug education, and marijuana policy.

The State Director, New Mexico reports to the Managing Director for Public Policy in DPA's New York headquarters office and serves as DPA's primary strategist in the Southwest. Based in Santa Fe, the New Mexico State Director manages the work of three employees. In addition, the New Mexico State Director works closely with allies on the ground in New Mexico and throughout the Southwest, and oversees the work of the agency's Santa Fe-based lobbyists.

The New Mexico State Director oversees DPA's legislative agenda, and works with allies in New Mexico and throughout the Southwest to advance DPA's vision and agenda. Primary responsibilities include developing and articulating a vision for New Mexico and the region that is consistent with the organization's overall mission, philosophy, and strategic approach; seeking out and identifying opportunities to promote DPA's core priorities in New Mexico and the Southwest; implementing strategies to achieve DPA's goals and objectives throughout the state and region, particularly among Hispanic/Latino and Native American communities; seeking out and identifying opportunities to "push the envelope" in discussions of drug policy in New Mexico and the Southwest; creating and maintaining solid relationships with diverse partners, including state agencies, community-based organizations, elected officials, and local DPA members; supervising DPA's legislative, advocacy and program efforts in New Mexico, both statewide and in local jurisdictions; contributing to DPA fundraising activities, both locally and nationally; enhancing DPA's fundraising capacity in the Southwest; serving as DPA spokesperson in the media and at community events, conferences, and other forums; supervising and mentoring professional staff, student interns, and volunteers; and contributing to DPA management, oversight, quality control and internal communications.

Specific qualifications include experience building and leading coalitions in pursuit of an activist agenda with measurable results; demonstrated leadership skills, including 5-7 years progressively senior experience in public policy, legislative and/or governmental affairs, political campaigns or ballot initiatives; criminal justice and/or public health experience preferred; enthusiasm and motivation to lead on cutting-edge issues; entrepreneurial outlook; demonstrated ability to work with diverse partners, including community-based organizations and community members/constituents; familiarity with drug policy desirable; commitment to harm reduction philosophy essential; familiarity with issues and concerns of Hispanic/Latino and Native American communities highly desirable; understanding of New Mexico and/or Southwest politics a plus; demonstrated fundraising success, including cultivation and solicitation of major donors, foundations, and government funders; strong analytic ability and superior communication skills, including writing and public speaking; advanced degree in public policy/administration, public health, law or related field preferred but not required; availability to work occasional evenings and weekends and to travel periodically throughout the state, region, and nationally; fluency in Spanish a plus.

The ideal candidate will be a creative, entrepreneurial, self-motivated and collegial advocate who thinks conceptually and strategically. This is an organization that encourages initiative, and the successful candidate must be a self-starter and a risk taker, with a high degree of confidence and energy. Excellent interpersonal skills and a passion for social justice that includes fair and equitable drug policies are essential for success.

This position offers a competitive salary, commensurate with experience, as well as an excellent benefits package including health, dental, long-term disability and life insurance; a generous 403(b) plan; and 25 days paid time off. Applications will be reviewed immediately and will be accepted until the position is filled. Please submit a cover letter with your resume and salary requirements by email to [email protected]. Reference (State Director, New Mexico) in the subject line, or by mail to: Human Resources Manager, RE: (State Director, New Mexico), Drug Policy Alliance, 70 West 36th Street, 16th Floor, New York, New York 10018. All inquiries or referrals will be held in strict confidence.

The National Organizing and Field Director will oversee DPA's organizing efforts among drug policy reform organizations around the country, particularly in states where DPA does not have offices or staff. The Director will reach out to allies and potential allies who are working at the federal, state and local levels on issues that are aligned with DPA's organizational priorities, and will work with these organizations and individuals to coordinate a national strategy to end the drug war.

Reporting to DPA's Managing Director for Public Policy, and working closely with DPA's Policy Staff and Grants Program Director, the National Organizing and Field Director will be broadly responsible for identifying the states where DPA can work with local partners to impact drug policy issues; identifying organizations and individuals with whom DPA can partner to advance the cause of drug policy reform on a national level; working with existing DPA partners to coordinate advocacy efforts on drug policy issues; serving as a convener and connector of various individuals and organizations working on drug policy reform on the federal, state or local level; providing policy and/or communications support to DPA's partners to help them advocate more effectively; and working with DPA policy staff to maximize the effectiveness of DPA's partnerships in DPA states.

Based in DPA's New York City headquarters, the National Organizing and Field Director will be part of DPA's Policy team. Primary responsibilities include being familiar with DPA's national agenda and identifying allies whose work is or can be aligned with that agenda; working with the Grants Program Director and the Staff Grants Committee to bring the grants program in line with DPA's national goals, and identifying areas where the grants program can add capacity to DPA's national efforts; convening allies regularly by phone and in person, to discuss national drug policy issues, keeping the allies up to date on DPA's national efforts, and discussing how local and national efforts can be aligned and maximized; serving as a liaison between DPA's Office of National Affairs and allies, and facilitating the allies' work in support of DPA's federal agenda, working with ONA to identify federal elected officials who need to be contacted by constituents, and providing support to allies' federal lobbying efforts; serving as the liaison between the allies and DPA's media team, helping allies to align their local media efforts with DPA's national media efforts, and providing support and media training where appropriate; working with the State Policy Directors to maximize their ability to effectively partner with allies in support of local work in DPA state; providing training and capacity-building for allies; working with the Grants Program Director to provide training and capacity-building for DPA grantees where appropriate; identifying and working with contractors, where appropriate, to advance DPA's drug policy reform agenda; on behalf of DPA's affiliated 501(c)(4) organization, Drug Policy Alliance Network (DPA Network), identifying opportunities for political action in support of the organization's mission, vision, and goals; and keeping the Policy team apprised of the work of allies around the country, and aware of opportunities for collaboration.

The ideal candidate will have five-ten years experience in public policy advocacy, community organizing, and/or political campaigns; a track record of success in building coalitions in pursuit of a shared agenda to achieve concrete results; the ability to build and cultivate relationships with people and organizations of various orientations and backgrounds; a demonstrated passion for social justice and commitment to the issues DPA addresses; strong leadership abilities and experience managing complex advocacy projects; the ability to be a self-starter and to be detail-oriented; excellent writing, speaking and analytic skills; an advanced degree preferred but not required; and strong interpersonal skills, flexibility, creativity, curiosity and a good sense of humor.

DPA offers a competitive salary, based on experience, and a benefits package including health, dental, long-term disability and life insurance; a generous 403(b) plan; and 25 days paid time off. Applications will be reviewed immediately and will be accepted until the position is filled. Please submit a cover letter with your resume and salary requirements by email to [email protected]. Reference (National Organizing and Field Director) in the subject line, or by mail to: Lina Mingoia, Human Resources Manager, Re: (National Organizing and Field Director), Drug Policy Alliance, 70 West 36th Street, New York, NY 10018. All inquiries or referrals will be held in strict confidence.

Drug Policy Alliance is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Women, people of color, and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply. DPA is particularly interested in hiring those who have been adversely affected by the war on drugs. Visit http://www.drugpolicy.org/about/ to learn more about the organization.

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

Drug War Issues

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