Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]

Drug War Chronicle #624 - March 19, 2010

1. Drug War Chronicle Video Review: "10 Rules for Dealing With Police," from Flex Your Rights

Millions of people have viewed -- and benefited from -- the film "Busted: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters." The new Flex Your Rights film, "10 Rules for Dealing with Police," has taken things to the next level, in more ways than one.

2. Feature: SSDP Does San Francisco -- The 11th Annual National Conference

Students for Sensible Drug Policy held its 11th annual national convention in San Francisco last weekend. It was the biggest one yet, and they couldn't have picked a more inviting locale.

3. Offer and Appeal: Order "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" -- Free With a Donation to StoptheDrugWar.org

Millions of people have viewed -- and benefited from -- the film "Busted: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters." The new Flex Your Rights film, "10 Rules for Dealing with Police," has taken things to the next level. StoptheDrugWar.org is pleased to be the first drug policy organization to offer it to our members -- your donations will support our work of building the movement and fueling public debate, too.

4. Congress: Senate Passes Bill to Reduce, But Not Eliminate, Crack/Powder Sentencing Disparity

After nearly a quarter-century of federal crack cocaine laws that disproportionately affected black Americans with far harsher sentences than for powder cocaine, the US Senate has passed a bill that would take a step toward eliminating that disparity. Advocates aren't sure whether to be pleased by the progress or disappointed by the ways in which it falls short.

5. Incarceration Nation: Number of People in State Prisons Declines for First Time Since Nixon, New Report Finds

The number of people doing time in state prison declined last year for the first time since bell-bottom jeans were in fashion, although just barely. Could we be seeing the first rumblings of a seismic shift in prison population trends?

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

A lying narc, a horny narc, and yes, another crooked jail guard make the corrupt cop news this week.

7. Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

Mexico's prohibition-related violence took nearly another 300 lives this past week, including three US citizens connected to the US consulate in bloody Ciudad Juárez. That pushes the death toll since President Calderon sent in the army little more than three years ago over the 18,000 mark.

8. Law Enforcement: Drug Cops Kill Two in Drug Raids in Florida and Tennessee

America's war on drugs -- or, more precisely, suspected drug users or sellers -- claimed two more lives late last week, as police conducting drug raids in Memphis and South Florida shot and killed two people in their own homes. In both cases, police said the homeowners were armed.

9. Marijuana: Rhode Island Legislative Commission Endorses Decriminalization

Will Rhode Island be the next state to decriminalize marijuana possession? It just took a big step in that direction this week, as a special legislative commission endorsed the idea.

10. Prohibition: Illinois Bill to Ban Marijuana Blunt Wraps Passes State Senate

The Illinois legislature apparently doesn't have enough serious issues to deal with, so it's launched an attack on the dreaded blunt wrap.

11. Medical Marijuana: South Dakota Initiative Certified, Will Be on the November Ballot

In 2006, South Dakota voters won the dubious distinction of being the only ones in the nation to reject an initiative allowing for medical marijuana. This year, they will have a chance to make up for that. The Secretary of State has just certified an initiative for the November ballot.

12. Europe: Hash Crackdown in Copenhagen's Christiania Didn't Work

In the good old days, Danish hash smokers went to the counterculture enclave of Christiania, with its famous Pusher Street, to score. Now, after six years of police crackdowns on Pusher Street, you can still buy hash there, but the trade has spread throughout Copenhagen and the scene has grown more hard-edged. Can you say unintended consequences?

13. Europe: England to Ban Methedrone? Nutt Says Not So Fast

M-Cat is not a college entrance exam, but a nickname for mephedrone, an amphetamine-like drug derived from khat that is legal and increasingly popular in Britain. Now, after the deaths of two young men on Sunday were (indirectly) linked to its use, calls to ban it are increasing.

14. Did You Know? Felon Voting Pro and Con Info, from ProCon.org

FelonVoting.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 issue of felony disenfranchisement -- citizens losing the right to vote because of criminal convictions.

15. Weekly: This Week in History

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

16. 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!

17. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

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

1. Drug War Chronicle Video Review: "10 Rules for Dealing With Police," from Flex Your Rights

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

In 2008, the latest year tallied in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, more than 14 million people were arrested in the United States, and uncounted millions more were subject to "stop and frisk" searches either on the streets or after being stopped for an alleged traffic violations. Of all those arrests in 2008, more than 1.7 million were for drug offenses, and about half of those were for marijuana offenses. For both pot busts in particular and drug arrests in general, nearly 90% of those arrested were for simple possession.

10 Rules is available with a donation to StoptheDrugWar.org now!

"10 Rules" will help the both the entirely innocent and those guilty of nothing more of possessing drugs in violation of our contemptible drug laws reduce the harm of their run-ins with police. Not that it encourages the violation of any laws -- it doesn't -- but it does clearly, concisely, and effectively explain what people can do to exercise their constitutional rights while keeping their cool, in the process protecting themselves from police who may not have their best interests in mind.

Those stops and those arrests mentioned above, of course, were not random or evenly distributed among the population. If you're young, or non-white, or an identifiable member of some sub-culture fairly or unfairly associated with drug use, you are much more likely to be stopped, hassled, and perhaps arrested. The writers of "10 Rules," Scott Morgan and Steve Silverman of Flex Your Rights understand that.

Building on the foundation of their 2003 video, "Busted: A Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters," which featured mainly young, white people involved in police encounters, Morgan and Silverman have expanded their target audience. In three of the four scenarios used in the video -- a traffic stop and search, a street stop-and-frisk search, and a knock-and-talk home search -- the protagonists are a young black man, a young Latino man, and a black grandmother, respectively. In only one scene, two young men apparently doing a dope deal on the street, are the citizen protagonists white.

That's not to say that "10 Rules" is intended only for the communities most targeted by police, just that the writers understand just who is being targeted by police. The lessons and wisdom of "10 Rules" are universally relevant in the United States, and all of us can benefit from knowing what our rights are and how to exercise them effectively. "10 Rules" does precisely that, and it does so in a street-smart way that understands cops sometimes don't want to play by the rules.

"10 Rules" build upon the earlier "Busted" in more than one sense. While "10 Rules" is expanding the terrain covered by "Busted," it has taken the cinematic quality to the next level, too. While "Busted" was made using a beta cam, this flick is shot in High Definition video, and that makes for some great production values, which are evident from the opening scene. "10 Rules" was shot on a bigger budget that "Busted," it has more actors (including some drug reform faces you might recognize), and more professional actors, and it has more of the feel of a movie than most video documentaries.

And it has legendary defense attorney William "Billy" Murphy, who plays the role of socratic interlocuter in the video. (You may remember him from appearances on HBO's "The Wire.") Appearing in a courtroom-like setting before a multi-ethnic group of very interested questioners, the pony-tailed lawyer begins with a basic discussion of the rights granted us by the US Constitution, especially the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendments dealing with the right to be free of unwarranted searches, the right to stay silent, and the right to legal counsel. His performance, folksy, yet forceful; scholarly, yet street-savvy, sparkles throughout; his natural charisma shines through.

From there, we alternate between Williams and his audience and the scenarios mentioned above. We see the young black man, Darren, get pulled over in traffic, produce a bit of bad attitude, and suffer mightily for his efforts. He gets handcuffed, manhandled, and consents to a search of his vehicle, after which the cop leaves his belongings strewn in the wet road and gives him a traffic ticket.

Then it's back to the courtroom, where Darren, angry and feeling disrespected, tells his tale. Murphy is sympathetic, but explains that Darren broke rule #1.

"Rule #1, always be calm and collected," the veteran attorney intones. "A police encounter is absolutely the worst time and place to vent your frustrations about getting stopped by the police. As soon as you opened your mouth, you failed the attitude test. Don't ever talk back, don't raise your voice, don't use profanity. Being hostile to police is stupid and dangerous."

Such advice may be frustrating, but it's smart, and it's street-smart. Murphy noted that things could have turned out even worse, as the video showed in an alternate take on the scene with Darren twitching on the ground after getting tasered for his efforts. He also threw in some good advice about pulling over immediately, turning off the car, keeping your hands on the wheel, and turning on an interior light just to reduce police officers' nervousness level.

Murphy uses the same scenario with Darren to get through rule #2 ("You always have the right to remain silent"), rule #3 ("You have the right to refuse searches"), rule #4 ("Don't get fooled" -- the police can and will lie to you or tell you you'll get off easier if you do what they ask), and rule #5 ("Ask if you are free to go"). This time, the cop still has a bad attitude and Darren still gets a ticket, but he doesn't counterproductively antagonize the cop, he doesn't get rousted and handcuffed, he doesn't allow the cop to search his vehicle, he doesn't get intimated by the officers' threat to bring in a drug dog that will tear up his car, and he does ask if he's free to go. He is.

Which brings us to a discussion of probable cause and and rule #6: "Don't expose yourself" and give police probable cause to search you. The video shows a car with bumper stickers saying "Got Weed?" "Bad Cop, No Donut," and "My other gun is a Tech-9" -- probably not a smart idea unless you really enjoy getting pulled over and hassled. More generally, "don't expose yourself" means that if you are carrying items you really don't want the police to see (and arrest you for), don't leave them lying around in plain sight. That's instant probable cause.

I'm not going to tell you the rest of the rules because I want you to see the video for yourself. But I will tell you about the heart-rending scene where the black grandmother lets police search her home in the name of public safety -- there have been some gang gun crimes, they explain pleasantly -- and ends up getting busted for her granddaughter's pot stash, arrested, and is now facing eviction from her public housing. Under Murphy's guidance, we rewind and replay the scene, with grandma politely but firmly exercising her rights, keeping the cops out of her home, and not going to jail or being threatened with losing her home.

In a time when police are more aggressive than ever, "10 Rules" is an absolutely necessary corrective, full of folksy -- but accurate -- information. "10 Rules" is the kind of basic primer on your rights that every citizen needs to know, it's well-thought out and well-written, and it not only is it full of critically important information, it's entertaining.

Go watch it and learn how to flex your rights. Better yet, watch it together with your friends, your family, or your classmates, then practice putting the rules into effect. Sometimes it's as simple as saying a simple phrase -- "Officer, am I free to go?" Do some role-playing, practice saying the magic words, and "10 Rules" can help you survive any police encounter in better shape than otherwise. When you're done, watch it and practice again -- familiarity is the best help when facing an intimidating police officer staring down at you.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to people who feel strongly enough about the rule of law in this country to help others learn how the law protects them and how to protect themselves within the law. A big thank you to the guys at Flex Your Rights is in order. And they would be the first to tell you the best way to thank them is to learn and apply the "10 Rules."

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2. Feature: SSDP Does San Francisco -- The 11th Annual National Conference

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plenary session
Some 500 student drug policy reform activists flooded into San Francisco last weekend for the 11th annual Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) national conference, "This is Your Brain on Drug Policy Reform." In a sign of growing momentum for drug reform, this was the largest SSDP conference yet.

There couldn't have been a more inviting place for it. The San Francisco Bay area is the epicenter of marijuana and medical marijuana activism, as well as being a counterculture mecca for decades. The students did their best to take advantage of the advantageous locale.

Friday was mainly a day of tourism and networking for the student activists from around the country and the planet. Hundreds of them signed up to head across San Francisco Bay to tour Oaksterdam University and Oakland's Oaksterdam neighborhood downtown. Many then headed to the nearby Harborside Health Center, a state of the art medical marijuana dispensary. The day of medical marijuana tourism gave students at up-close look at medical marijuana as it should be done -- and as it could be done in their home states.

On Saturday, it was just like being back at college as students spent the day in numerous panels around the theme "Drug War Education." Acting SSDP executive director Matt Palevsky opened the session with optimism, challenging the students to seize the day.

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El Paso city councilman Beto O'Rourke, Mexico session
"This is our biggest conference to date," he said. "Now we have as many chapters in California as we do in the Northeast" where the group had its genesis, he noted. "We're really a national organization now, more than 200 chapters large. The power we feel in this room is the power of a movement. And for the first time since SSDP was founded, we can really feel the wind at our backs," he said to loud applause.

Palevsky was followed by NORML policy analyst Paul Armentano, who urged students to get out and talk to people one-to-one about ending pot prohibition. "Talk to family, friends, faculties, neighbors, school advisors, people who know you, and with whom you have credibility," he advised. "Then start talking to people who can shape public opinion, and then become an opinion-shaper yourself. Become the editor of your newspaper, run for the student council, run for the city council. We want this failed drug policy to end before you fuck over another generation of young people like you fucked over our generation," Armentano said to loud applause, presumably aiming his latter remarks at prohibitionist politicians and opinion-makers.

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exhibitor hallway
Linking with the previous day's medical marijuana tourism, one of the Saturday panels was on what the medical marijuana movement and business looks like. With panelists including Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center, Robert Jacob of Sebastopol's Peace in Medicine, Debby Goldsberry of the Berkeley Patients Group, and Aundre Speciale of the Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley, students got a well-informed earful. The panel was also a sign of an evolving symbiotic relationship between the medical marijuana movement and SSDP. The medical marijuana community's support for SSDP was evident by its heavy participation in the conference -- both in panels and at the vendors' booths -- and it has, in turn, become a career opportunity for more than one former SSDPer.

One of the most popular panels of the day Saturday was the one on psychedelics. It was headlined by Rick Doblin, head of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), who described the group's work researching the therapeutic uses of ecstasy (MDMA) and fighting for the ability of researchers to grow their own marijuana. It gave attendees a good enough sense of the group's work to ensure that at least some of them will show up for MAPS' upcoming conference Psychedelic Research in the 21st Century, set for April 15 -18 just down the road from San Francisco in San Jose.

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students and others wish Ethan Nadelmann a happy birthday -- also on panel: Steph Shere (ASA), Paul Armentano (NORML), Aaron Smith (MPP)
Saturday also saw panels on the Mexican drug war, what legalization could look like when it happens, and on the drug war's impact on women, communities of color, and the poor. For the SSDP activists, many of whom were attending their first national conference, Saturday was a definite eye-opener.

"It's really been exciting," said Melissa Beadle, attending her first conference as head of a brand new SSDP chapter at South Dakota State University in Brookings. "I've been learning so much."

One of the highlights of the day was the session-closing presentation by California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF), the author of California's marijuana legalization bill. Ammiano is not just a serious guy, he's a seriously funny guy, and his comedic talent was on full display Saturday afternoon. Mixing earthy language and humor, the openly gay Ammiano sketched the intertwined history of gay activism, the AIDS crisis, and medical marijuana in the Bay Area, and he didn't let party loyalty get in the way of telling it like it was.

"Bill Clinton was shit on this issue," he said. "He put out that edict that doctor's couldn't prescribe it," referring to the Clinton administration's effort to try to intimidate doctors by threatening to jerk their DEA licenses to prescribe drugs if they recommended medical marijuana to patients. "That's not an adult way to deal with an issue, and it's certainly not a statesman-like way." The would-be censors lost in the Supreme Court.

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Cliff Thornton of the Hartford, CT, based group Efficacy wants inner-city communities who have become dependent on the illicit economy created by drug prohibition to be indemnified from the economic effects of the job losses that will accompany legalization.
Ammiano was a bit kinder to the current White House occupant. "In terms of Obama," he said, "the messaging is good, but it's sometimes contradictory. Still, history isn't always linear. But I'm here to tell you this movement has never been stronger; we've never been on the cusp in such a pronounced way."

Mentioning the Tax and Regulate Cannabis 2010 initiative that will in all likelihood be on the California ballot in November, Ammiano said he was working closely with initiative organizers and that their efforts were not competitive, but complementary. He also unleashed a bit of pot humor, noting that 57 people had signed initiative petitions twice.

"You can imagine what they were doing just before that," he said before switching into a stoner voice. "Dude, let me sign this again to make sure it passes," he role-played to gales of laughter.

Regarding his bill's prospects in Sacramento, the dapper and diminutive Ammiano reported that there is a lot of sympathy, even among conservatives, but many are still afraid to say so out loud or to vote yes for the record. "If we voted in the capitol hallways, we'd be home free," he said, before engaging in a replay of dialogues he's had with other lawmakers.

"They come up to me and say, 'Man, I used to smoke that shit in college, let's tax the hell out of it.' And I'd say, 'Are you with me then?' and they'd say, 'Oh, no, man, I can't do that.'"

Ammiano also mentioned Barney Frank's federal decriminalization bill. "I guess it's a queer thing," he said, mincing mightily and pretending to swoon over Frank.

"You guys ought to get married," someone yelled from the audience to more laughter.

And then he was gone, leaving an appreciative audience reinvigorated and still laughing.

On Saturday night, SSDP announced new board members and honored well-performing chapters, then celebrated by rocking out to live music from Panda Conspiracy and Roots of Creation. On Sunday, it was up early despite the shift to Daylight Savings Time for a day of serious activist how-to panels. Then on Monday, it was back home to put the information and lessons learned to work on campuses across the country. Students departed San Francisco feeling like they were riding the crest of a reform wave, and maybe, just maybe, they were right. We'll have to check back next year.

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3. Offer and Appeal: Order "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" -- Free With a Donation to StoptheDrugWar.org

It's here. The "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" DVD. Donate $30 or more and get a free copy mailed within one week.

From the creators of the classic, Busted: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters (2003), our friends at the group Flex Your Rights are now releasing their new achievement, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. Because StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) members like you supported Busted, you've earned the first chance to see this important new DVD.

10 Rules for Dealing with Police, a 40-minute educational drama, is the most sophisticated and entertaining film of its kind. Narrated by the legendary trial lawyer William "Billy" Murphy, Jr. (from HBO's The Wire), 10 Rules depicts innocent people dealing with heavy-handed policing tactics used every day in the United States.

Through extensive collaboration with victims of police abuse, legal experts and law enforcement professionals, Flex Your Rights has developed a powerful multi-language (English, Spanish & Arabic) resource that provides proven survival strategies for dealing with racial profiling and police abuse.

Do you know what your rights are if you're stopped by police? Most people don't, and the consequences can be severe. From simple misunderstandings to illegal searches and excessive force, a bad police encounter can happen to anyone. But after watching 10 Rules for Dealing with Police, you'll be more confident and better prepared to handle every kind of police situation.

Get 10 Rules today!

Learn How To...

  • Deal with traffic stops, street stops & police at your door
  • Know your rights & maintain your cool
  • Avoid common police tricks
  • Prevent humiliating searches

Bonus Features

  • 10 Rules for Non-citizens (en Español)
  • Q&A with 10 Rules Creators
  • Spanish & Arabic Subtitles

We still offer Busted on DVD, too. Add $25 to your donation for a total gift of $55 and get both videos: 10 Rules AND Busted. Or get two copies of either DVD for $55. It's your choice. You can also add BOTH of our popular anti-prohibitionist t-shirts for your donation of $100 -- a terrific value while you support the important work of StoptheDrugWar.org. Get yours today!

  

StoptheDrugWar.org is the #1 source for the latest news, information and activism promoting sensible drug law reform and an end to prohibition worldwide. With 1.8 million unique readers in 2009 and with leading news and commentary sources making use of our web site on a regular basis, StoptheDrugWar.org is advancing the drug war debate and growing the drug policy reform movement, helping to start or spark the creation of organizations like Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Flex Your Rights and many others. Our strategy is working, and your generous donation will make a difference during these economically challenging times. Thank you for helping -- we look forward to sending your copy of 10 Rules!

StoptheDrugWar.org is the #1 source for the latest news, information and activism promoting sensible drug law reform and an end to prohibition worldwide. Your donations support our work of building the movement and fueling the public debate!

10 Rules testimonials:

"The 4th Amendment has been on life support during both the Bush-Cheney and Obama administrations. The clearest and most constitutionally-grounded guide for all of us against this government contempt for our 4th Amendment rights is 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. It should be shown in schools, in local legislatures and in Congress.
Nat Hentoff

"10 Rules will educate all individuals about how to safely exercise their rights and protect themselves against abusive and illegal police behavior. It should be required viewing in high schools across the country."
Prof. Angela J. Davis, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law & former Director of the DC Public Defender Service, Author, Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor

"Chronic disregard for civil rights is tearing apart the fabric of America. Flex Your Rights has hit the nail on the head in this hard-hitting instructional video."
Mike Gray, Author of The China Syndrome and Drug Crazy

"I believe 10 Rules will make an extraordinary contribution to the cause of social justice. Only those police officers who disregard the law have something to fear from its message. As an ex-cop, I thank Flex Your Rights for all you’ve done and continue to do."
Norm Stamper, Ph.D., Former Chief of the Seattle Police Department & Author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing

"I read the 10 Rules screenplay and am thoroughly pleased. It is well written, and I believe it realistically and fairly grasps the issue of racial profiling. Go forward!"
Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, Executive Director, Black Ministers’ Council of New Jersey & Pastor, St. Matthew A.M.E. Church

"10 Rules is an outstanding screenplay that resonates with authenticity, ripples with humor, and draws blood with its pointed examination of law enforcement in our cities. America's urban youth will love this movie, which talks straight and provides crucial, relevant advice on how to use America’s unique Constitutional protections. Two thumbs up."
Eric E. Sterling, Esq., President, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation & Adjunct Lecturer in Sociology, George Washington University

"Good community policing is impossible when officers disrespect constitutional rights. 10 Rules will help citizens understand their rights and ensure that law enforcement is professional and accountable to the public."
Ronald E. Hampton, Executive Director of the National Black Police Association & former Community Police Officer for the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department

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4. Congress: Senate Passes Bill to Reduce, But Not Eliminate, Crack/Powder Sentencing Disparity

The US Senate approved on a voice vote Wednesday a bill that would reduce, but not eliminate, the disparity in sentences handed down to people convicted of crack versus powder cocaine charges. The bill championed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), S. 1789, would reduce the current, much maligned, 100:1 ratio to 18:1.

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Senate disappoints
Under current law, it takes only five grams of crack cocaine to earn a mandatory minimum five-year federal prison sentence, but 500 grams of powder cocaine to garner the same sentence. The law has been especially devastating in black communities, which make up about 30% of all crack consumers, but account for more than 80% of all federal crack prosecutions. Under the bill passes by the Senate, it would now take an ounce of crack for the mandatory minimums to kick in.

Durbin's bill originally called for completely eliminating the sentencing disparity, but was stalled until a Senate gym meeting between Durbin and opposition Judiciary Committee heavy-hitters Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL). After that informal confab, the bill was amended to 18:1 and passed unanimously last week by the committee.

A bill in the House by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) that would completely eliminate the disparity by the simple act of eliminating all references to crack in the federal statute, HR 3245, passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last July, but has not come to a floor vote. Now that the Senate has approved its bill, pressure will be on the House to just approve the Senate version.

Sen. Durbin told the Associated Press that while he had originally sought to completely eliminate the disparity, the final bill was a good compromise. "If this bill is enacted into law, it will immediately ensure that every year, thousands of people are treated more fairly in our criminal justice system," he said.

Durbin added that the harsher treatment of crack offenders combined with federal prosecutors' predilection for disproportionately going after black crack offenders had eroded respect for the law. "Law enforcement experts say that the crack-powder disparity undermines trust in the criminal justice system, especially in the African-American community."

But drug reformers and civil rights groups that had pushed for complete elimination of the sentencing disparity had a definitely mixed reaction to the Senate vote. It was progress, but not enough, they said.

"We strongly supported Sen. Durbin's bill, which would have completely eliminated the disparity," said Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Council for Civil and Human Rights in a statement Wednesday. Adding that the group was "disappointed" that disparities remain, Henderson said that "this legislation represents progress, but not the end of the fight."

"Today is a bittersweet day," said Jasmine Tyler of the Drug Policy Alliance in a Wednesday statement. "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, by reducing the 100:1 disparity to 18:1, instead of eliminating it, has proven how difficult it is to ensure racial justice, even in 2010."

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5. Incarceration Nation: Number of People in State Prisons Declines for First Time Since Nixon, New Report Finds

For the first time since President Richard Nixon won reelection in 1972, the number of people behind bars in state prisons declined last year, according to a new survey, Prison Count 2010, conducted by the Pew Center on the States. As of January 1, there were 1,403,091 people doing state prison time, a decline of 5,739, or 0.4%, from December 31, 2008.

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prison population at turning point?
The state prison population has increased seven-fold since 1972, driven by harsher sentencing laws, including drug laws, and an ever larger number of people under correctional supervision, who are eligible to be sent to or back to prison for violating the conditions of their probation or parole. People sentenced for drug offenses typically account for somewhere between 20% and 25% of state prison populations.

The drop was driven was by significant declines in prison populations in states like California, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, and Texas, where sentencing and parole reforms passed in recent years are beginning to take hold. California saw the largest decline in absolute numbers, shedding 4,257 prisoners last year, followed by Michigan (down 3,260), New York (down 1,699), Maryland (down 1,315), Texas (down 1,257), and Mississippi (down 1,233).

But there was also wide variation among the states. Twenty-seven states saw declines, while 23 saw increases, some significant. In the 23 states where the state prison population grew, more than half of the increase occurred in just five states: Pennsylvania (2,122), Florida (1,527), Indiana (1,496), Louisiana (1,399) and Alabama (1,053).

"After so many years on the rise, any size drop is notable. What's really striking is the tremendous variation among the states," said Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project."These numbers highlight just how much the decisions by state policymakers impact the size and cost of prison systems."

States have gotten smarter -- as opposed to tougher -- on crime, Gelb said. "The decline is happening for several reasons, but an important contributor is that states began to realize there are research-based ways they can cut their prison populations while continuing to protect public safety," he said. "In the past few years, several states have enacted reforms designed to get taxpayers a better return on their public safety dollars."

The trend pre-dated the economic recession, he noted. "These types of policy changes are not simply a response to the economic downturn," said Gelb. "Before this recession began, states like Texas recognized that by strengthening their probation and reentry programs they could cut corrections spending, protect public safety and hold offenders accountable for their actions."

It's a different story with the federal prison population, the report found. The number of federal prisoners continued to grow, increasing by 3.4% in 2009 to an all-time record 208,118. More than 60% of federal prisons are doing time for drug offenses.

The increase in federal prisoners was enough to outweigh the decrease among state prisoners, and the combined state and federal prison population grew by 1,099 last year.

The state and federal prison numbers do not include jail inmates. When they are added in, said Pew, the nation's incarceration rate remains unchanged, with some 2.3 million people behind bars.

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

A lying narc, a horny narc, and yes, another crooked jail guard. Let's get to it:

In Garland, Texas, a Garland narcotics detective's credibility has been called into question, and Dallas County prosecutors say they are dismissing all his pending drug cases, a number that could go as high as 80. Garland police have also transferred almost everyone in the narcotics unit. Detective Dennis Morrow had been a "star" narc, who has testified in hundreds of drug cases, but now two of his colleagues have accused him lying about what happened in one drug case and testified in court last week that the misrepresentations were part of a pattern of misbehavior by Morrow. He has denied making fabrications, both to internal affairs investigators and in court. In the case that has opened the door to challenging Morrow's honesty, he is accused by police colleagues of falsely characterizing the behavior of a drug raid target in order to make charges stick. Morrow is now on paid administrative leave. No criminal charges have been filed against him.

In Daphne, Alabama, a Baldwin County Drug Task Force member has resigned after being accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a female confidential informant. Daphne Police Officer Jesus Villa stepped down after the FBI came forward with a complaint alleging the sexual contact. Under Alabama law, law enforcement officers are prohibited from having sex with those who are in custody, and the Daphne Police Department has asked the Alabama Bureau of Investigation to determine whether Villa should be charged under that law. The FBI continues to investigate as well.

In Chicago, a Cook County jail guard was arrested Monday after being caught bringing 10 grams of marijuana, a cell phone and charger, and several DVDs into the jail. Correctional officer Dwayne Jones, 25, was immediately fired since he was a probationary employee. He is charged with two counts of possession of contraband in a penal institution and one count of misconduct by an officer. He was released on $10,000 bail Tuesday.

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7. 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 18,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 2,000 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:

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Ciudad Juárez (courtesy Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia)
Saturday, March 13

In Ciudad Juárez, three people with ties to the US consulate in the city were murdered in two different incidents. In the first incident, a Mexican man, Jorge Alberto Sancido Ceniceros was shot dead by gunmen. Ten minutes later, a US consulate worker, Lesley Enriquez, and her husband, Arthur Redelfs, were chased down and killed by gunmen just blocks from the border. Two children were wounded in the first incident, and the seven-month old daughter of the couple was left unharmed in the second incident.

Initial reports suggest that the killings were carried out by the Aztecas gang, which is tied to La Linea, the armed wing of the Juárez Cartel. Although reports have been conflicting, it appears as though the killings may have been a case of mistaken identity. Additionally, the killings prompted another visit to Ciudad Juárez by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and more angry demonstrations against his policies.

Soon after the murders, the State Department urged Americans to delay all non-essential travel to parts of large swathes of Northern Mexico.

Monday, March 15

In the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, 17 people were killed in clashes over the weekend. At least four of the dead were found decapitated, two of them found near a busy strip of nightclubs and bars. In another incident, six police officers were killed when their patrol was ambushed in the outskirts of the city.

In a separate incident in the state of Guerrero (of which Acapulco is part), 11 people were killed in a ferocious gun battle between soldiers and gunmen. The incident began when soldiers knocking on the door of a home in the town of Ajuchtitlan del Progreso were met with gunfire, sparking the battle, which took place in broad daylight in the center of town. Of the 11 killed, one was a soldier and 10 were suspected drug traffickers.

In Nuevo Leon, eight men were killed in running gun battles between Mexican Navy commandos and suspected members of the Gulf Cartel. The incident began after the gunmen tried flee in several vehicles after detecting the presence of helicopters and the commandos. No sailors were reported wounded or killed in the battle.

In the town of Creel, Chihuahua, seven people were killed by suspected drug traffickers. The killings were carried out by a large group of gunmen traveling in at least 15 separate vehicles. Three of the dead were found outside a home, while the other four were found on a highway leading away from the city, after presumably being dumped there by the gunmen. In November 2008, Creel was the scene of a particularly violence incident in which 13 people, including one child, were killed after being attacked by gunmen.

Wednesday, March 17

In the state of Tamaulipas, across the border from south Texas, 10 people were murdered in several incidents. In one, a vehicle abandoned near the town of Llera was found to contain four bodies. Near the town of Jimenez, three gunmen were killed after a firefight with the army.

In other parts of Mexico, six people were killed in Sinaloa, three in Sonora, and three in Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua. In Nuevo Leon, a man was gunned down after attempting to flee from soldiers.

Total Body Count for the Week: 296

Total Body Count for the Year: 2,072

Total Body Count for 2009: 7,724

Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 18,277

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

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8. Law Enforcement: Drug Cops Kill Two in Drug Raids in Florida and Tennessee

At least two US citizens were killed in their own homes by American police enforcing the war on drugs in a 48-hour period late last week. One was a 52-year-old white grandmother; the other was a 43-year-old black man. Both allegedly confronted home-invading officers with weapons; both were shot to death. No police officers were injured.

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Brenda Van Zwieten
The combination of widespread gun ownership in the US and aggressive drug war policing is a recipe for tragedy, one that is repeated on a regular basis. Gun owners commonly cite protecting themselves from home-invading robbers as a reason for arming themselves, while police cite widespread gun ownership as a reason they need to use SWAT-style tactics, breaking down doors and using overwhelming force against potential shooters. That homeowners would pick up a weapon upon hearing their doors broken down is not surprising, nor is it surprising that police are quick to shoot to kill "suspects" who may pose a threat to them.

The first killing came Thursday morning in North Memphis, when a Bartlett, Tennessee, police narcotics squad serving a search warrant for drug possession -- not sales, manufacture, or possession with intent to sell -- shot and killed Malcolm Shaw, 43, after breaking into his home. Police said they knocked on Shaw's door several times and identified themselves as police before entering the home.

Police said Shaw emerged from a room and pointed a gun at plainclothes officer Patrick Cicci. Cicci fired once, killing Shaw. Cicci is on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

While the Bartlett Police investigation is ongoing, that didn't stop the Shelby County District Attorney's Office from announcing Monday that Cicci will not be prosecuted. Cicci's killing of the homeowner was "apparent justifiable use of deadly force in self defense," a spokesman said.

Bartlett police said that while the Bartlett narcs conducting the raid were not in uniform, their gear clearly identified them as law enforcement. They wore "high-visibility vests" marked "POLICE" in several spots, police said.

The killing of the well-known neighborhood handyman led to the formation of a crowd hostile to police outside his home. Bartlett police on the scene had to call Memphis police to do crowd control.

Memphis police complained that the Bartlett narcs had not followed law enforcement protocols requiring them to notify the local agency when they were operating in its jurisdiction. They said they were notified only as the raid commenced, and that moments later, they got a request for an ambulance at the address, and moments after that, they got a request that they send a couple of police cruisers for crowd control.

Timothy Miers, who said he was Shaw's brother, accused police of being trigger-happy. "How you gonna go in serving a warrant and shoot somebody?" Miers asked. "They already had their finger on the trigger."

The sense of disbelief over the killing was shared by members of the crowd gathered outside Shaw's home. Many complained about the officers' actions.

"My heart fell to the ground," one neighbor said.

"We can't believe it," said another. "Malcolm out of all people."

Family members expressed confusion about the shooting, saying Shaw was not a person they would have expected to threaten officers. "They say he had a gun," said Miers. "My brother doesn't have no gun."

Friends of Shaw said the same thing. "I ain't never seen him with no gun," said Arvette Thomas, a friend of Shaw.

Shaw never bothered anyone, neighbors said. "I think it's wrong to just kill him like they did," said a neighbor, "because he wouldn't hurt a fly."

Less than 48 hours later, members of a Broward County Sheriff's Office SWAT team and its Selective Enforcement Team in Pompano Beach, Florida, shot and killed Brenda Van Zweiten, 52, during a drug raid on her home. Police had developed evidence that drugs were being sold from the residence, and obtained a search warrant. After allegedly identifying themselves as police, they broke through a sliding glass door to a bedroom and arrested Van Zweiten's boyfriend, Gary Nunnemacher, 47, on charges of possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana. Van Zweiten was in a different bedroom, and was shot and killed by deputies when she emerged holding a handgun. According to police, she refused to put down her weapon, so they shot her.

Police reported finding one gram of heroin, four grams of crack cocaine, marijuana, marijuana plants, 40 generic Xanax tablets, $550 cash, two shotguns, and a rifle. Family members said Van Zweiten had a prescription for Xanax, but was not a drug dealer. But police had earlier in the day arrested three people leaving the home who they say had bought drugs there -- although police did not say from whom.

After Van Zweiten's killing, police were unrepentant. "When you approach a police officer with a loaded weapon and don't put the weapon down, there's going to be consequences," sheriff's spokesman Mike Jachles said. "It's unfortunate, but I'd rather be talking about a dead suspect than a dead cop."

Van Zweiten's brother, Bill George, said his sister had recently received threats and was afraid of break-ins. "It was an unlawful shooting," he said. "She's 98 pounds. She was just trying to protect herself. I would come out of my room with a gun too."

As news of Van Zweiten's death spread, friends, neighbors, and family members expressed dismay and disbelief. They called the incident a "set up" and said the blonde grandmother was affectionately called "Mom" by many who knew her for using her home as a neighborhood hangout to keep kids off the streets. Dozens of people gathered in her yard near a flower-bedecked cross put up as a memorial.

"Look at these people," said George. "She helped so many of these young people."

"She was like a second mom to me," said Michael Miller, 18. "She would take in anybody."

"There was no reason for this," said son Rob Singleton, 32.

Van Zwieten had no criminal history involving drugs or violence, state records show.

George said that Van Zweiten had reason to fear intruders because she had been threatened recently by a man accused of stealing watches and rings that were part of a shrine to two of her four sons, who had died within the past three years, one in a traffic accident, one of a drug overdose. She had just installed an alarm system last week, George said. "She was scared."

Singleton showed reporters inside the house, including the small bedroom where she was shot. A large puddle of blood remained on the floor, and the walls and ceiling were splattered with blood -- from his mother's head, he said. "She was probably running into the closet and trying to hide," he said.

As is all too typical in such raid, police also totally trashed the house. As the Sun-Sentinel reported: "Much of the interior of the three-bedroom house looked as if it had been hit by a tornado... Drawers were pulled from dressers, clothes were scattered, a bed was overturned, food and crockery had been knocked from kitchen cabinets." The shrine to her dead sons was also destroyed, Singleton said.

Two Broward County Sheriff's Office detectives are on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. They have not been named.

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9. Marijuana: Rhode Island Legislative Commission Endorses Decriminalization

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prohibitionist RI governor Donald Carcieri
A special Rhode Island legislative commission created to review and assess marijuana policy has endorsed decriminalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. The decision came Tuesday, when the Special Senate Panel on Marijuana Prohibition endorsed a report calling for decriminalization.

Led by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston), the panel concluded in the report that "marijuana law reform" could save the state valuable funds by ending "costly arrests and incarcerations due to simple possession of marijuana." Estimates of the savings ranged from $232,000 to $12.7 million.

Under current Rhode Island law, possession of less than an ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $500 fine. Although few people are actually jailed for simple possession in Rhode Island, some 399 have been since 2007, and have served an average of 3 1/2 months. Also, the consequences of even a misdemeanor criminal conviction can have an adverse impact on people for years.

The panel voted to approve the proposal by a vote of 11-2. The no votes came from law enforcement representatives, who warned that marijuana was "dangerous."

The report and its recommendations now go before the full Senate.

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10. Prohibition: Illinois Bill to Ban Marijuana Blunt Wraps Passes State Senate

A bill that would define blunt wraps -- tobacco leaves or processed tobacco designed to be wrapped around marijuana and smoked -- as drug paraphernalia was approved by the Illinois Senate Monday. A companion measure, HB 6234, has already passed the House Judiciary II Committee and awaits a floor vote. In a sign of momentum for the bills, the House bill picked up five more cosponsors Tuesday.

Under the measure passed by the Senate, SB 3734, the following language is added to the state's statute defining drug paraphernalia: "Individual tobacco wrappers, known as wraps, blunt wraps, or roll your own cigar wraps, whether in the form of a tobacco leaf, sheet, or tube, that consists in whole or in part of reconstituted leaf or flavored tobacco leaf; however, the term 'wrap,' 'blunt wrap,' or 'roll your own cigar wrap,' as used in this Section, does not include a tobacco leaf wrap that is used in the manufacturing of a cigar intended for retail sale."

Blunt wraps come plain or in flavors, such as cherry or peach, and are widely sold in gas stations, liquor stores, and convenience stores. Because of their low cost, easy availability to urban youth, and "lack of legitimate uses," they have been targeted by lawmakers. The push against blunt wraps is being led by cops and clergy.

"Having this product in mainstream stores is like having drug pushers in our neighborhoods," Bishop Larry Trotter, the pastor at Sweet Holy Spirit Church, said Sunday. "Blunt wraps are an indefensible product marketed to children and entirely identified with illegal drug use."

Trotter is vowing to circulate petitions in 50 Cook County churches to gin up support for the legislation. He also said he plans to lead a group of ministers and community activists to Springfield to urge passage of the bills.

Trotter is also aiming at local merchants, including the liquor store across the street from his church. "If it is not removed from the store, then we will shut it down," he threatened during the Sunday church service.

Mike Mohad, the manager of the liquor store, said he would quit selling blunt wraps if asked by the church, but that it wouldn't make much difference. "We don't have (any) problems getting along with the community," Mohad said. "If I can't sell it, people will go down the street to a different store. It's popular in Chicago."

Another local businessman, Joe Patel, manager of a gas station said he had no issues with selling blunt wraps. "It's a profitable item and in this economy every penny counts," said Joe Patel, who manages a Mobil gas station on Garfield Blvd. "We sell cigars to be smoked as sold. How people use it when they get home I have no control over."

But if the bishop, the cops, and the lawmakers have their way, blunt wraps will become one item Patel will no longer be able to sell.

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11. Medical Marijuana: South Dakota Initiative Certified, Will Be on the November Ballot

The South Dakota Secretary of State's office Monday certified an initiative legalizing medical marijuana for the November ballot. The initiative, the South Dakota Safe Access Act, is sponsored by the South Dakota Coalition for Compassion, a statewide group of doctors, patients, law enforcement officials, and concerned citizens. It is being backed by the Marijuana Policy Project.

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South Dakota badlands
South Dakota has the dubious distinction of being the only state where voters rejected an initiative to allow the use of medical marijuana. Amidst concerted opposition from South Dakota law enforcement and the Bush administration Office of National Drug Control Policy, which sent officials to the state to campaign against the measure, voters defeated a 2006 initiative by a margin of 52% to 48%.

This year's initiative would allow qualified patients to possess up to an ounce of usable marijuana and would allow patients or their caregiver to grow up to six plants. Patients would register with the state and obtain a state registry ID card upon getting a physician's approval to use marijuana for conditions including some cancers, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and seizures, as well as specific disabilities, including wasting syndrome, chronic pain, severe nausea, and seizures.

"The coalition could not be more proud of this truly grassroots accomplishment," said Emmit Reistroffer, coalition communications director, in a statement. The group collected 32,000 signatures, nearly double the number of valid signatures needed. "Our members are united behind protecting the sick and the dying, and we now aim to educate the public about the various medical applications for cannabis before the election this November."

"We are excited that South Dakota voters will have another opportunity to make the medical use of marijuana legal for patients in the state," said Steve Fox, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Given the increasing level of support for medical marijuana across the country over the past few years, we are fully confident that a solid majority of voters in the state will support patients' rights this November."

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12. Europe: Hash Crackdown in Copenhagen's Christiania Didn't Work

In a classic example of the unintended consequences of prohibitionist drug policies, the Copenhagen Post reported Thursday that six years after the conservative Danish government began its crackdown on Christiania's famous Pusher Street, the hash trade not only still exists, but has spread throughout Copenhagen and has gotten harder-edged.

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entrance to Christiania, Copenhagen (courtesy Wikimedia)
Christiania is a neighborhood in Copenhagen that sits on the grounds of a former military base taken over by young radicals back in the 1970s. Over the decades, Christiania has fought to maintain its autonomy and self-rule, and has remained a bastion of counterculture values. But it is under unceasing assault by the Danish government. Part of that assault has been the crackdown on Pusher Street, where soft drug sales were long tolerated by the Christiania community, and where, according to the Post, they still take place, albeit in a more subterranean fashion.

"If the goal was to stop the trafficking of hashish in Christiania, then it has absolutely not succeeded," Peter Ibsen, president of the Police Officers Federation, told MetroXpress newspaper. "I think the best thing you can say is that the booths are gone in Pusher Street. But hash is still being sold as much as it ever was."

"Anybody can see that Pusher Street is alive and functioning," confirmed Kirsten Larsen, a Christiania resident and spokesperson. "I'd even say the trade is growing because there may not be enough funding available for the same massive police actions that began in 2004," she said.

But the atmosphere has changed for the worse, Larsen said. "Eyes nervously follow you around now," she said. "But that's because the police raids have left only the hardest criminals controlling the trade. And that inevitably means that we have to fight internally to keep the harder drugs out of Christiania."

Police concede that not only has their crackdown not stopped hash sales, it has benefited the hardest dealers, some with gang connections. Gang violence related to the trade in prohibited drugs has been on the increase.

While the conservative government continues to support the crackdown, politicians on the left said that things were better when the police left Christiania alone. There needs to be a new approach they said.

"So far a ban and a massive police operation have not produced any results," said Karina Lorentzen, legal spokeswoman for the Socialist People's Party. "We simply have to study the situation more thoroughly so we can get some better ideas of how we deal with marijuana trafficking and the increasing misuse of hash."

The primary accomplishment of the crackdown has been to spread the hash trade throughout Copenhagen, Lorentzen added. She has proposed the government create a hash commission to study the issue.

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13. Europe: England to Ban Methedrone? Nutt Says Not So Fast

Pressure to ban the "legal high" mephedrone is rising in the United Kingdom, especially since it was linked to the deaths of two teenagers on Sunday. But the former head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is urging the government to move with caution, and perhaps to create a new drug classification for new drugs whose effects and dangers are not well understood.

Mephedrone is an amphetamine-type stimulant derived from cathinone, the active ingredient found in khat. When chewed, as is the custom in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, khat delivers a mild stimulant buzz that has been likened to drinking a cup of coffee or strong tea. But mephedrone, which has exploded in popularity in the last year or so in Great Britain, delivers a high that users liken to ecstasy or cocaine.

Known as M-Cat and meow-meow, among other nicknames, mephedrone is reportedly becoming a favorite alternative to ecstasy on the British club scene. It is available online and in head shops in tablet, powder, or liquid form, with a dose running between $20 and $30. It has been linked to three deaths, including the two on Sunday, but it is not clear that any of those deaths were directly caused by mephedrone.

The 18- and 19-year-old men who died on Sunday, for instance, ingested alcohol and methadone, as well as mephedrone, during a night of clubbing. And the cause of death for a 14-year-old girl who died last year after taking mephedrone was listed as bronchial pneumonia, not mephedrone overdose.

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, Home Office drugs minister Alan Campbell has said he will move to take "immediate action" after receiving advice from the ACMD at the end of the month. The ACMD already has mephedrone on its radar, having held an evidence-gathering meeting on the drug on February 22.

Campbell spoke amidst a rising clamor for an immediate ban from anti-drug campaigners and school head teachers. Campbell insisted that the Home Office was ready to "act swiftly," but not too swiftly. "It is important we consider independent expert advice to stop organized criminals exploiting loopholes by simply switching to a different but similar compound."

But former ACMD head David Nutt, who was sacked last year after repeatedly criticizing the government for valuing politics over science and evidence in its drug scheduling decisions, said mephedrone should stay legal for now and that Britain should consider adding a new category to its drug scheduling scheme.

"To make it illegal without proper evidence of harm would be wrong and might have unwanted consequences, such as a switch to more dangerous drugs or alcohol," Nutt said. There is an alternative, he added. "One approach would be a new class in the Misuse of Drugs Act -- the class D model, adopted in New Zealand to deal with BZP. This is a holding category where drugs can be put in place before they are well understood: sales are limited to over-18s; the product is quality-controlled so users know what they are getting; and it comes with health education messages."

Knowing the Labor government and its record when it comes to drug scheduling, however, chances are that mephedrone will be banned by summer.

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14. Did You Know? Felon Voting Pro and Con Info, from ProCon.org

Did you know that more than 10 million US citizens have lost the right to vote because of felony convictions, and more than five million are currently not allowed to vote because of justice system involvement?

The past several weeks Drug War Chronicle has presented tidbits from the ProCon.org family of web sites, mostly from MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org. In this last of six installments, we highlight FelonVoting.Procon.Org, which explores the question, "should felons be allowed to vote?" through an exhaustive set of background documents and arguments presented in a pro/con format.

See the page, Disenfranchised Totals by State for the above-cited statistic and state figures, or visit FelonVoting.Procon.Org.

Follow Drug War Chronicle for more important facts from ProCon.org over the next several weeks, or

To read last week's ProCon "Did You Know" blurb, click here. You can also sign up for ProCon.org'semail list or RSS feed.

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.

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15. Weekly: This Week in History

March 22, 1972: The Richard Nixon-appointed, 13-member National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommends the decriminalization of marijuana, concluding, "Marihuana's relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it."

March 19, 1983: Best known for her role in Just Say No, First Lady Nancy Reagan appears on the NBC sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, declaring: "Let me tell you a true story about a boy we'll call Charlie. He was only 14 and he was burned out on marijuana... One day, when his little sister wouldn't steal some money for him to go and buy some more drugs, he brutally beat her. The real truth is there's no such thing as soft drugs and hard drugs. All drugs are dumb... Don't end up another Charlie."

March 23, 1983: Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush is placed in charge of the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System, which was supposed to staunch the drug flow over all US borders. Twenty-six years later drugs continue to be widely available throughout the United States.

March 25, 1994: Retired minister Accelyne Williams dies of a heart attack when a SWAT team consisting of 13 heavily armed Boston police officers raids his apartment based on an incorrect tip by an unidentified informant. No drugs or guns were found in the apartment. An editorial in The Boston Globe later observed: "The Williams tragedy resulted, in part, from the 'big score' mentality of the centralized Boston Police Drug Control Unit. Officers were pumped up to seize machine guns in addition to large quantities of cocaine and a 'crazy amount of weed,' in the words of the informant."

March 24, 1998: House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) establishes the Speaker's Task Force for a Drug-Free America to design a World War II-style victory plan to save America's children from illegal drugs and achieve a Drug-Free America by 2002. Eleven years after the founding of the task force, in 2009, drugs continue to be widely available throughout the United States.

March 19, 2001: Mexican President Vicente Fox is quoted in the Associated Press: "[T]he day that the alternative of freeing the consumption of drugs from punishment comes, it will have to be done in the entire world because we are not going to win anything if Mexico does it, but the production and traffic of the drugs... to the United States continues. Thus, humanity will one day view it [legalization] as the best in this sense."

March 20, 2002: Reuters reports that British scientists found that motorists who smoke a cannabis joint retain more control behind the wheel than those who drink a glass of wine. Research from Britain's Transport Research Laboratory showed drivers found it harder to maintain constant speed and road position after drinking the equivalent of a glass of wine than after smoking a "spliff."

March 25, 2002: The Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approves H.B. 1222, the Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act, which removes criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana.

March 21, 2003: President Bush announces his intention to nominate Karen P. Tandy to be the Drug Enforcement Administration's new administrator. Tandy served in the Department of Justice (DOJ) as Associate Deputy Attorney General and Director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. She also previously served in DOJ as Chief of Litigation in the Asset Forfeiture Office and as Deputy Chief for Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Earlier in her career, she prosecuted drug, money laundering, and forfeiture cases as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia and in the Western District of Washington.

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16. 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.

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17. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

Do you read Drug War Chronicle? If so, we'd like to hear from you. DRCNet needs two things:

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Again, please help us keep Drug War Chronicle alive at this important time! Click here to make a donation online, or send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Make your check payable to DRCNet Foundation to make a tax-deductible donation for Drug War Chronicle -- remember if you select one of our member premium gifts that will reduce the portion of your donation that is tax-deductible -- or make a non-deductible donation for our lobbying work -- online or check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, same address. We can also accept contributions of stock -- email [email protected] for the necessary info.

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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