Drug War Chronicle #633 - May 21, 2010

1. Feature: A Thousand Face Execution for Drug Offenses Each Year, Report Finds

At least 32 countries have laws on the books allowing for the death penalty for some drug offenses. The United States is one of them. And as many as a thousand people a year face execution for drug offenses, according to a new report.

2. Feature: California Marijuana Initiative Has Slim Lead

Less than six months from election day, the California "tax and regulate" initiative to legalize marijuana has the support of half the voters, according to two polls this week. But just barely, and it has to get those numbers up to be sure of a November win.

3. Law Enforcement: More Raids Gone Bad, Making May a Bad Month for SWAT

Two more SWAT raids gone bad leave a Detroit girl dead by police gunfire and a Georgia grandmother hospitalized with a heart attack. It's time to start thinking about how we can rein-in paramilitarized policing.

4. Congress: Drug Warrior Rep. Mark Souder Resigns over Affair

Ding-dong, the witch is dead! Congress's most prolific and energetic drug warrior has gone down in flames, and reformers are not missing him.

5. Canada: Marc Emery Extradited to United States

Canadian "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery is now a resident of the American drug war gulag. He was extradited from Vancouver yesterday. Don't we all feel a bit safer now?

6. Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

Mexican President Felipe Calderon visited Washington this week, but on the ground back home, it was business as usual as prohibition-related violence continues to wrack the country.

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

We've got a trifecta of dirty NYPD cops this week, as well as a snake pit full of crooked jail guards down in Florida, another one in St. Louis, and a pill-peddling court officer in Massachusetts.

8. Medical Marijuana: Oregon Dispensary Initiative Backers Turn in Signatures

It's starting to look more and more certain that the Oregon medical marijuana dispensary initiative will be on the November ballot. Organizers handed in 30,000 more signatures than they need Thursday, and they still have five weeks to get more if necessary.

9. Marijuana: Bill to Increase Possession Penalties Advances in Louisiana Senate

Marching boldly backward into the last century, the Louisiana Senate this week approved a bill that toughens the state's already harsh penalties for second-time marijuana possession offenders. Don't these guys have a budget deficit and an environmental disaster to keep them busy?

10. Appeal: 2010 is Important in Drug Policy -- And So Are You

2010 is a critical year in the effort to end prohibition and the war on drugs. The StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) "Changing Minds, Changing Laws, Changing Lives" campaign is asking for you to pitch in -- your support is more important now than it has ever been before!

11. Europe: Berlin Set to Increase Legal Marijuana Possession Limits

You can already legally possess up to 10 grams of pot in Berlin, but the city-state's health administrator thinks that isn't enough. She says, "I'll see your 10 and raise you 5."

12. Weekly: This Week in History

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

13. 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.

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. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"Forcing People into Treatment for Marijuana Doesn't Prove That It's Addictive," "Tim Pawlenty is a Drug War Idiot," "Accurate Media Coverage Upsets Drug Czar," "Top Drug Warrior Mark Souder Resigns from Congress After Affair with Staffer," "Elena Kagan and the Crack/Powder Sentencing Disparity."

1. Feature: A Thousand Face Execution for Drug Offenses Each Year, Report Finds

More than a thousand people face execution for drug offenses each year around the globe, according to a report released this week by the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA). The report, The Death Penalty for Drug Offenses: Global Overview 2010 marks the first country-by-country overview of drug-related death penalty legislation and practice.

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Death sentence is passed against a woman who was immediately executed with three other people on drugs charges. (UN International Anti-Drugs Day, 6/26/03, sina.com.cn via Amnesty International web site)
"'Hundreds of people are executed for drug offenses each year around the world, a figure that very likely exceeds 1,000 when taking into account those countries that keep their death penalty statistics secret," the IHRA said in the report.

That figure is similar to the numbers compiled by the anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain, which relies on press and other accounts to compile its data. According to Hands Off Cain board member and Italian Senator Marco Perduca, that group has compiled a list of hundreds of people executed for drug offenses last year, including 140 in Iran alone.

According to the report, the death penalty has been abolished in 139 countries, but 58 countries retain the death penalty and 32 of those retain the death penalty for drug offenses, mostly in Asia and the Middle East: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei-Darussalam, China, Cuba, Egypt, Gaza (Occupied Palestinian Territories), India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lao PDR, Libya, Malaysia, Myanmar, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Viet Nam and Yemen.

Of those 32 countries, at least 12 have carried out executions for drug offenses in the past three years and 13 retain mandatory death sentences for certain categories of drug offenses. Five of the 32, however, while retaining the death penalty for drug offenses, are abolitionist in practice.

The IHRA asked states that have death penalty statutes for drug offenses on the books, but that have an effective moratorium on use of the death penalty in place to go a step further and repeal those laws. "IHRA is calling on an immediate moratorium on all executions for drug offences, a commuting of all existing death sentences for drug offences and an amendment of legislation to remove the death penalty for all drug offenses," said Rick Lines, coauthor of the report. "Countries with the death penalty for drug offenses are not only violating human rights law, they are clinging to a criminal justice model that is ineffective and unnecessary."

The most execution-happy countries when it comes to drug offenders are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. According to the report, Iran executed at least 172 drug offenders last year and Malaysia executed 50. The report contains no firm figures from China, where the number of overall executions is believed to be in the thousands each year, but notes that "when China's notoriously harsh drug policies are considered along with the scale of its counternarcotics efforts, it is probable that drug crimes represent a sizable portion of those killed each year."

The report notes that many governments are loath to provide statistics on the number of people they execute for drug offenses, so the numbers could be higher. In four countries, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan, there were no official data on drug-related death sentences, leaving the IHRA to rely on news reports and NGO sources for its data.

The movement to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses is advancing, albeit at a painfully slow pace, said report coauthor Patrick Gallahue. "There is progress among the states most committed to their capital drug laws but it has been slow, frustrating and often inadequate. Viet Nam, for instance, removed an offense related to 'organizing the illegal use of narcotics' from its death penalty offenses. The government did consider taking a number of other drug related offenses off its list of capital crimes but it never made it through the National Assembly. That's unfortunate but it shows that the government is giving thought to the area," he said.

"China also continually claims that it will reduce the application of the death penalty and various reports actually indicate such a reduction is underway. It's very hard to know if this is true given the secrecy that surrounds the death penalty but if we take the government at its word, then it represents modest progress," Gallahue continued.

"Similarly, the past five or six years has seen a real reduction in the use of capital punishment in Singapore. However, any gains made in this area were compromised by an extremely disturbing judicial decision in May that opted to retain the mandatory death penalty for drugs," Gallahue noted. "So even though Singapore may be moderating its use of the death penalty in practice, the decision by the Court Appeals leaves Singapore at an extreme fringe of drug policy."

The IHRA has been working to abolish the death penalty for drugs as part of its HR2 (Harm Reduction and Human Rights) campaign since late 2007, said Lines. "We have seen some significant developments since then," he told the Chronicle. "Certainly the issue is now one of prominence within the harm reduction and drug policy reform sectors, whereas before it had scant if any recognition within the sector. We have also seen major statements against the practice from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and others."

The release of the report this week has helped, he said. "It has been well received, including generating widespread media coverage. We believe we are making an important contribution to changing the thinking and discourse on the death penalty for drugs, the challenge now is to turn that into concrete policy changes. This new report marks the start of a new three year program of work on this issue at IHRA, so there will be much more to come as we advance our advocacy activities over that period."

The US made the list of states that include the death penalty for some drug offenses because of the 1994 Federal Death Penalty Act, which includes a death penalty provision for murders committed in the furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise involving large quantities of drugs. Although no one has been executed or is currently on death row under that act, it needs to go, said Lines.

"The first thing the US should do generally is abolish the death penalty full stop," he said. "The US can also remove the death penalty for drugs from its federal legislation. It is not a law that has been used, thankfully, and seems only in place as some sort of symbolic statement in order to appear 'tough' on drugs. The US should also be reconsidering its drug enforcement aid to countries that enforce the death penalty for drugs, as increasing law enforcement's capacity to arrest and prosecute drug cases in those countries inevitably lead to more executions."

That's just for starters, Lines said. "In the wider scheme of things, there is obviously much the US can and should be doing to reduce or end some of the wider human rights abuses related to the war on drugs, both within the US itself and internationally. While the Obama administration has made some positive statements of late about refocusing US drug policy towards a more health-based approach rather than a law enforcement-based one, unless those words are backed up by concrete policy and budgetary changes they won't have any real meaning or impact."

For more on the campaign to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses, visit the HR2 web site linked above.

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2. Feature: California Marijuana Initiative Has Slim Lead

According to two different polls released Wednesday, the Tax Cannabis California marijuana legalization initiative is ahead but not by much, making the path to victory in November a rough one. Both polls show the initiative winning, but just barely, and both polls show the initiative hovering around 50% support. On the other hand, polling also shows remarkably high support for the concept of marijuana legalization in some form -- especially when the word legalization is not used.

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initiative proponent Richard Lee, working with a student at the Oaksterdam University medical marijuana school
In an internal campaign poll, when voters read either the ballot measure's title or the attorney general's summary of it -- all voters will see when they cast their votes -- the initiative garners 51% and 52%, respectively, with opposition at 40%. In a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll, 49% approved of the initiative, while 48% opposed it.

The standard wisdom among initiative veterans is that campaigns should begin with support around 60%. They argue that once a campaign begins, opponents will find ways to shave off percentage points, and if you are starting with only half the voters on your side, losing any support means you lose.

With such a tight margin, expect both proponents and opponents to be energized in the six months between now and the November vote. Initiative organizers have to be concerned with the narrowness of their lead, especially given that attacks on the whole notion of pot legalization in general and on specific provisions of the initiative will only mount between now and then.

The initiative would tax and regulate marijuana much the way alcohol is now. It would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and allowing the growing of a 25-square-foot garden throughout the state, but would give counties and municipalities the local option of whether to allow taxed, regulated marijuana sales or not.

Additional findings from both polls provide further detail on where the initiative does -- and does not -- have support, and offer hints of where the campaign is going to have its work cut out for it. Among the PPIC poll's other findings:

  • Majorities of Democrats (56%) and independents (55%) favor legalization. Thirty-four percent of Republicans are in favor.
  • Most San Francisco Bay Area residents (56%) are in favor. Residents in other regions are either divided or opposed.
  • Most Latinos (62%) oppose legalization. A majority of whites (56%) are in favor.
  • Men (54%) are more likely to be in favor. Less than half (42%) of women favor legalization.
  • Support for legalization decreases with age. 56 percent of adults aged 18-34 are in favor, compared with 42 percent aged 55 and older.

The additional findings from the initiative's internal poll are the surprising ones:

  • 76% say marijuana is already being used in the state and ought be regulated.
  • 74% say marijuana ought be regulated like tobacco and alcohol.
  • 69% say the initiative will bring the state needed revenue.
  • 61% say marijuana is easier for minors to obtain than alcohol.
  • 60% say it will save the state money.
  • 57% say it will put police priorities where they belong.

These number will provide the initiative campaign with a number of promising avenues of attack in the coming months, but they also speak to the disconnect between attitudes favorable to marijuana legalization in the abstract and actually voting for a concrete measure. To win, the campaign is going to have to close that gap, convincing voters that the initiative will do what voters themselves suggest they want.

"This is further evidence that voters remain eager to replace a failed policy with a more honest, commonsense solution that will control and tax marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes, generate critically needed revenue, and reduce crime by putting police resources where they belong, while ending the black market," campaign spokesman Dan Newman told the Chronicle.

"The numbers reflect what I've said all along -- it's going to be a tough battle," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "It's going to take a lot of work to maintain a lead. There is a tendency for voters to vote no on initiatives, and this is a nasty year with a nasty turnout of angry right-wingers not inclined to support these things. It's also an off-year, when students and progressives are less likely to vote."

"Depending on how Richard Lee is doing building a campaign organization, building support, and raising funds, this has a real chance," said long-time drug reformer Eric Sterling. "It would have a profound impact if it wins. It will have extremely important political consequences. It upsets the international treaties, it completely changes what the US can say to its foreign partners about drug policy," he argued, making the case for getting behind the initiative.

"Anyone who works in drug policy and underestimates the long-term impact of a victory makes a mistake," Sterling said. "People should really think about committing themselves to making monthly contributions by credit card and encouraging everyone they know to get on the list. This is really worth it. If activists all around the country committed themselves to raising some money for the campaign and started having bake sales and pot lucks and the like, that pool of money could be like the kind of contributions that brought Obama an electoral victory. It is certainly doable."

Democrats would be well-advised to embrace the campaign, said Sterling. "With the polling showing that Democrats and young people support this, it seems to me that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee interested in getting Sen. Boxer reelected and the National Democratic Governor's Association interested in getting a Democrat elected governor and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee would be interested in issues that appeal to Democrats and young people. They need to mobilize some fraction of the electorate that voted for Obama two years ago," he argued. "If they don't, they won't have the turnout and the success they seek."

It would be good politics for Democrats, Sterling said. "They need to encourage their candidates to support it when they can and think about their strategies to tamp down the opposition. They can make the necessary warnings that they're not pro-drug, but trying to regulate it and protect children and bring revenue into the public coffers."

But Democrats aren't known for their backbone on this issue, said Gieringer. "Democrats should like this on the ballot because it encourages turnout by young Democratic and liberal voters, so there is a lot of support in Democratic quarters for that reason," Gieringer said. "But the Democratic Party of California has never even endorsed medical marijuana; they are scared of the drug issue and scared of the crime issue. Anti-crime measures do very well here, and a lot of Democratic elected officials, like a lot of the public, regard the initiative as a 'pro-crime' measure," he pointed out.

The organized opposition, consisting of law enforcement groups, anti-drug community groups, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving coalesced into an anti-initiative coalition called Public Safety First, was quick to go on the attack. "These numbers certainly suggest a great deal of voter skepticism out there," noted group spokesman Tim Rosales in a Wednesday news release. "This is before voters have received any information about this measure's truly numerous flaws."

Citing the initiative's poll findings that large majorities want pot regulated like alcohol and tobacco and that the initiative would bring in needed revenue, Rosales continued his broadside, previewing opposition arguments likely to be fined honed by November. "Those numbers basically show that this measure cannot pass, once voters know what it does and doesn't do," said Rosales. "This measure doesn't regulate marijuana, it does just the opposite. Furthermore, the initiative specifically forbids the state to tax marijuana, so they are basically giving voters a huge reason to vote 'No.'"

In fact, the measure gives cities and counties the option of taxing and regulating marijuana sales. While leaving taxation and regulation to local authorities will not help the state government address its perpetual budget crisis, it will help cash-strapped local governments who desperately need increased revenues to avoid service cuts and lay-offs.

That the opposition is organized and ready to put up a fight is clear. What is less clear is the support the initiative will receive from California's large and multi-faceted marijuana industry. "Marijuana users are overwhelmingly in favor of the initiative, but most of the money in the marijuana lobby at the moment is in medical marijuana, and those folks are happy with things as they are and are not exactly jumping to open up competition like this. And some growers are seriously worried, so there are important parts of the movement that are not necessarily excited," the veteran California activist said.

We're less than six months from Election Day. Victory is in grasp, but so is defeat. These next few months are going to be very interesting indeed.

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3. Law Enforcement: More Raids Gone Bad, Making May a Bad Month for SWAT

Two more SWAT raids gone bad in the past couple of weeks have kept the spotlight on the aggressive police units and the tactics they employ. In Polk County, Georgia, an elderly Cedartown woman was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack as a local police SWAT team and DEA agents swarmed the wrong house. In Detroit, in an incident that drew national attention, a 7-year-old girl was killed by police gunfire in a SWAT raid at the wrong apartment in a house. The SWAT team was attempting to arrest a murder suspect, so there was arguably more of a case for SWAT than in the routine drug cases we normally track in Drug War Chronicle. But the incident tragically demonstrates the potential dangers arising from such aggressive police tactics.

The two raids come before the national outrage generated by the now infamous dog-killing SWAT raid in Columbia, Missouri, has had a chance to die down. In that raid, a videotape of which went viral on YouTube, a SWAT team executing a marijuana search warrant burst into a family home and shot two dogs, killing one, before ushering the suspect's terrified wife and young daughter out of the home. All police came up with was a tiny amount of pot and a pipe.

In the Georgia raid, Helen Pruett, 76, was home alone when nearly a dozen agents entered her property with guns drawn in search of drug dealers. They were actually looking for another residence on the same property, but mistakenly -- after two years of surveillance -- hit hers.

"She was at home and a bang came on the back door and she went to the door and by the time she got to the back door, someone was banging on the front door and then they were banging on her kitchen window saying police, police," said Pruett's daughter, Machelle Holl, adding that her mother was scared to open the door until the Polk County Police Chief convinced her she was safe. "They never served her with a warrant. At that point, she said the phones were ringing with the other men that were in the yard and they realized that it was the wrong address," said Holl.

Police Chief Kenny Dodd said police realized the subject they were looking for was not there. "She made us aware that she was having chest pains and we got her medical attention. I stayed with her and kept her calm and talked with her, monitored her vital signs until the ambulance arrived," said Dodd.

Bizarrely for a wrong address raid, police said the property had been under surveillance for two years. The DEA said it is investigating how the wrong address raid address raid occurred. That didn't mollify Holl.

"They have totally made a really bad mistake. You would think that with the officers and the SWAT team and the DEA they would make sure that all of their I's are dotted, all of their T's are crossed before they go bursting into someone's home like that," said Holl. "My mother was traumatized. Even the doctor said this is what happens when something traumatic happens. He said it's usually like a death in the family or something like that just absolutely scares them half to death, and that is what has happened," said Holl.

In the Detroit raid, the SWAT team was attempting to arrest a murder suspect, making the decision about whether to use SWAT potentially more complicated than in the routine drug cases we normally track in Drug War Chronicle. But the incident tragically demonstrates the potential dangers arising from such aggressive police tactics, and it resulted in the death of a seven-year-old Aiyana Jones.

According to a statement Sunday by Assistant Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, police had tracked the killer of a 17-year-old man the day before to the house. "Because of the ruthless and violent nature of the suspect in this case, it was determined that it would be in the best interest of public safety to execute the search warrant as soon as possible and detain the suspect if while we sought a murder warrant," Godbee said. "Our intelligence was accurate in this case. The suspect in Mr. Blake's death was found inside the home and arrested... But to locate him, we first had to make entry into the home. At approximately 12:40 this morning, members of the Detroit Police Special Response Team, or SRT, executed this high-risk search warrant," the assistant chief explained.

"According to our officers, and at least one independent witness, officers approached the house, and announced themselves as police. As is common in these types of situations, the officers deployed a distractionary device commonly known as a Flash Bang. The purpose of the device is to temporarily disorient occupants of the house to make it easier for officers to safely gain control of anyone inside and secure the premise," Godfree continued. "As the lead officer entered the home he encountered a 46-year-old female immediately inside the front room of the house. Exactly what happened next is a matter still under investigation, but it appears the officer and the woman had some level of physical contact. At about this time the officer's weapon discharged one round which, tragically, struck seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones in the neck/head area. Officers immediately conveyed Aiyana to St. John's Hospital while others apprehended the suspect and cleared the rest of the residence."

The SWAT team was accompanied by film crews for A&E's "The First 48," a reality TV show that follows police homicide investigators in the crucial first 48 hours after a murder has been committed. The network was taping the raid for a documentary. The videotape could play a crucial role in how this case plays out, and copies of the tapes were reportedly turned over to the state police later in the week. The state police are investigating the incident.

Prominent Michigan attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who is representing the family in a civil suit filed this week, has questioned the police version of events. Saying he had obtained video footage shot by the TV show camera crew, Fieger said it showed officers rushing the house and throwing a flash grenade through a window before an officer fired into the home from the front porch.

The police account was "entirely false," Fieger said. "Of course, I have seen the videotape and the videotape vividly portrays the fact that a percussion grenade device was thrown through the front window and a shot was fired immediately from the outside from the porch," he said.

"No murder suspect was found in Aiyana's house," Fieger added. "In fact, there's an upstairs apartment next door which the police did not have a search warrant for and that is where he surrendered, they went into that house too. But he was not in Aiyana's house."

This isn't the first time the behavior of Detroit area SWAT teams has generated lawsuits. According to the Detroit Free Press's archive of stories on the Aiyana Jones killing, a civil suit is pending against Detroit SWAT for a 2007 raid at a home where children were present and a dog was killed, and another lawsuit is pending against the suburban Southfield police for a 2004 raid in which a 69-year-man was brutalized. Police in that raid found a small amount of marijuana in an adult son's dresser drawer.

Such raids have consequences. The anger is palpable in Detroit. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has called for a federal investigation, the Rev. Al Sharpton will address Aniya's funeral, and the city council is preparing its own review. The anger is also still palpable in Columbia, Missouri, where the dog-killing pot raid continues to reverberate. On Sunday, demonstrators picketed the police station, and city council meetings for the past two weeks have been packed with citizens complaining about the raid and demanding that heads roll. The mood wasn't helped by the police department's announcement Thursday that it had investigated itself and found its actions "appropriate."

Neil Franklin is a former Maryland police officer with SWAT experience. He is also the incoming head of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). For Franklin, SWAT has limited legitimate uses, but aggressive, paramilitarized policing has gone too far. He blames the war on drugs.

"Back in the 1970s and 1980s, we didn't use SWAT teams to conduct search warrants unless it was a truly documented violent organization," he said. "As the drug war escalated, we started using SWAT to execute drug-related warrants. When I first started as an undercover officer, the narcotics team executed the warrant, along with two or three uniformed officers, but not with the high-powered weapons and force we use today. The drug war is the reason for using these teams and the driving force behind them."

"Whatever one thinks about using SWAT tactics when looking for a murder suspect, the results in Detroit show how dangerously volatile the tactics really are," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, who is also the moving force behind the Americans for SWAT Reform web site. "There is every reason to believe that conducting a late night raid and detonating flash bang grenades led to the physical contact between the woman and the officer in which the gun discharged, killing the girl. All the more reason to avoid those tactics wherever possible, certainly for routine drug search warrants."

As the Chronicle and others, most notably, Radley Balko at Reason and The Agitator blog have reported, these aggressive drug raids gone bad are not flukes, but occur on a regular, if unpredictable, basis. As they become increasingly routine, so do the risks associated with them -- for police and citizens alike. Next week, the Chronicle will be taking a look at what can be done to begin to rein them in.

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4. Congress: Drug Warrior Rep. Mark Souder Resigns over Affair

Family values crusader and drug war zealot Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) announced Tuesday he was resigning from Congress after admitting to an affair with a female staffer. The bombshell announcement came at a Capitol Hill press conference. (See Souder give his statement here).

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Rep. Souder conceding an amendment that would have limited his financial aid drug penalty to sales convictions, 2009. The amendment was stripped earlier this year as collateral damage in the health care reform battle.
Adding to the irony of the moralizing conservative's downfall, the staffer with whom he had the affair, Tracy Jackson, worked together with him on one of Souder's pet passions: promoting abstinence education. They even created a video in which the pair of them discuss his efforts to promote abstinence. The various copies of that video on YouTube have had more than 100,000 views as of Tuesday night.

"I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff," Souder said in the statement. "In the poisonous environment of Washington, DC, any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain," he said. "I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process."

Souder's enthusiasm for the war on drugs led him to the chairmanship of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources from 2001 to 2007, where he used his position to support harsh drug policies. He was, for instance, a staunch foe of medical marijuana and a loud voice against the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendments, which would, if passed, have stopped federal raids on medical marijuana patients and providers.

Even before attaining the chairmanship, Souder gained notoriety among drug reformers, educators, and civil libertarians for authoring a provision of the Higher Education Act that denied federal financial assistance to students convicted of a drug law violation, no matter how minor.

Souder's "smoke a joint, lose your federal aid" provision resulted in more than 200,000 students being denied college grants and loans. It also resulted in the formation of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which has played a key role in the ongoing Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform. A partial reform -- actually supported by Souder, whether sincerely or out of pressure -- in 2006 rolled back the provision to include only offenses while the student was enrolled in college. A reform this year that would have limited the provision only to drug sales offenses was derailed after the education package it was part of got added to the health care reform bill, getting deleted along with other provisions that Democrats feared could trigger a procedural challenge.

We will skip the schaudenfreude, although Souder richly deserves it, and merely take heart in knowing one of the most poisonous of the cultural conservative drug warriors has taken himself out of the game.

thanks for the memories:

former SSDP executive director Shawn Heller confronts Mark Souder after a financial aid forum in his district, aired on all the local news channels

somewhere in this documentary Mark Souder slams the door on MPP lobbyist Aaron Houston, refusing to discuss medical marijuana

Souder complains about student groups "harassing him across the country"

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5. Canada: Marc Emery Extradited to United States

Canada's "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery was extradited to the US Thursday morning. He had been imprisoned in Canada for the last 10 days after Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson signed extradition papers. He is now a prisoner in a federal detention facility, where he awaits a court hearing Monday in Seattle.

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Marc Emery, on his Farewell Tour last year
Emery faces five years in prison in a plea agreement reached with prosecutors last fall. He and two of his employees, Greg Williams and Michelle Rainey, had been indicted in 2005 by a Seattle grand jury for selling pot seeds over the Internet to customers in the US. Rainey and Williams earlier reached plea agreements that allowed them to serve probationary sentences in Canada.

Emery has been a relentless campaigner for marijuana legalization and, before his arrest, plowed hundreds of thousands of dollars into the movement. The DEA infamously gloated at the time that it had brought down a major legalization advocate, a move that allowed Emery supporters to plausibly argue his arrest was politically motivated.

Emery and his supporters continue to agitate for his freedom, but now, their more immediate goal is to get him transferred to Canada to serve his sentence. That was once a standard practice for Canadians imprisoned south of the border, but the Conservative government has limited its use in recent years.

Emery supporters Thursday demonstrated in downtown Vancouver and blocked traffic. The campaign is calling for global protests Saturday in a Worldwide Rally to Free Marc Emery. For more information about how to help Emery's campaign, visit the magazine he founded, Cannabis Culture.

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6. Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debussman, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling 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 20,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 3,000 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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shrine to San Malverde, Mexico's ''narco-saint,'' Culiacan, Sinaloa
Friday, May 14

In Tamaulipas, a mayoral candidate was shot and killed after having received repeated death threats. Jose Mario Guajardo was a member of the National Action Party (PAN), the conservative political party of President Felipe Calderon. Reports indicate that he had been threatened with death if he did not abandon his political campaign. Also killed in the incident were his son and an employee. Guajardo was running to be mayor of Valle Hermoso, a town 30 miles south of the border from Brownsville, Texas.

In Culiacan, Sinaloa, a series of raids by the Mexican military led to the arrest of Griselda Lopez Perez, the wife of Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Perez had been wanted on money laundering charges. In an interesting (and still unclear) twist, Perez was promptly released by the authorities and returned to her home near Culiacan. Several sources have reported that President Calderon played a role in her release, fearing reprisal attacks on the part of the Sinaloa Cartel. The Calderon administration has repeatedly been accused of favoring the Sinaloa Cartel and, at the very least, focusing its efforts on other cartels. Perez is the mother of Guzman's son Edgar, who was killed in 2008 after a feud between him and the Beltran-Leyva brothers. Guzman has had at least three wives, and is most recently thought to have married a 17-year old beauty queen in the Sinaloan countryside in an extravagant wedding secured by some 200 gunmen.

Saturday, May 15

Across northern Mexico, at least 18 people were killed in the states of Coahuila, Durango, and Zacatecas. In the city of Torreon, Coahuila, a group of men armed with high-powered rifles opened fire in a bar, killing eight. In Zacatecas, gunmen opened fire on a police vehicle, killing two officers and four civilians who were traveling with them.

In Durango, four decapitated heads were found placed on the hood of a truck. A note left at the scene suggested that the men had been killed by the Zetas Organization for being involved with the shooting in Torreon. The bodies of the men -- all apparently university students between the ages of 18 and 20 -- were found in the bed of the truck.

In Sinaloa, six men were found murdered in several parts of the state. Two of the dead were found on the side of a highway, each with 18 bullet wounds. Sinaloa has long been at the center of the Mexican drug trade, and the majority of traffickers in leadership roles in the Sinaloa, Tijuana, Beltran-Leyva and Juarez cartels hail from the state.

Tuesday, May 18

In La Union, Guerrero, the majority of the local police force quit two days after gunmen ambushed and wounded two of their officers. Six of eleven remaining officers resigned. State police have been deployed to the town until further notice.

In Ciudad Juarez, police arrested Juan Padilla Juarez, 28, on charges that he has participated in at least ten homicides. He is thought by Mexican police to be a member of La Linea, the armed wing of the Juarez Cartel.

Wednesday, May 19

In Gonzalez, Tamaulipas, a group of armed men attacked the local Federal Police headquarters with automatic weapons. One person was killed and two were wounded, although it is unclear whether the dead were civilians or policemen. Authorities are investigating the incident.

In Mexico City, a former general who had been tied to cartels was shot and wounded. Mario Arturo Acosta Chaparro was incarcerated in 2000 on charges that he had protecting Amado Carillo Fuentes, the former leader of the Juarez Cartel who died during a botched plastic surgery in 1997. Chaparro was released in 2007 after a judge ruled that the evidence against him was insufficient. Additionally, in 2002, Chaparro was accused and found not responsible for the disappearance of leftists during the 1970's. He remains in intensive care.

In the city of Chihuahua, at least eight people were killed including the uncle of a local political candidate. Hilario Lozaya was the uncle of Salcido Loyoza, a local PRI candidate.

In Washington, President Calderon made an official state visit and met with President Obama. Although the main topic discussed between the two was the Arizona immigration law, they pledged greater cooperation on drug and arms trafficking between the two countries.

[Editor's Note: We still have no explanation for last week's El Universal body count of 684, but are in contact with the Mexico City daily to try to resolve the issue.]

Total Body Count for the Year: 3,954

Total Body Count for the Week: 84

Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 20,281

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

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

We've got a trifecta of dirty NYPD cops this week, as well as snakepit full of crooked jail guards down in Florida, another one in St. Louis, and a pill-peddling court officer in Massachusetts. Let's get to it:

In New York City, an NYPD narcotics detective was arrested Tuesday for forcing the girlfriend of a drug suspect to have sex with him in a police station bathroom by threatening to lock her up. Detective Oscar Sandino, a 13-year veteran, allegedly arrested a drug suspect in Queens in 2008 and ordered the suspect's girlfriend to take off her clothes at the residence. Once at the station house, he told her she would be jailed and would lose custody of her children, but that he "would prevent those things from happening if she had sex with him.'' She complied, but reported him upon her release the next day. He is also accused of extorting sexual favors from two other women. He is charged with three misdemeanor counts of violating the civil rights of the three women. He is looking at up to three years in prison.

In New York City, a former NYPD officer pleaded guilty May 13 to robbing drug dealers at gunpoint and restraining them with his police handcuffs. Jorge Arbaje-Diaz, 31, admitted to being part of a crew that ripped-off dealers in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx. He even left his post patrolling the transit system to carry out one robbery while in uniform. Arbaje-Diaz resigned from the force after his 2008 arrest. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

In New York City, a fomer NYPD officer was convicted last Friday of conspiring to rob a drug dealer, attempted theft, and unlawful use of a bullet-proof vest, but acquitted of armed robbery charges. Hector Alvarez, 28, and his partner, Officer Miguel Castillo had received a tip that a drug dealer kept loads of cash at his Rutherford, New Jersey, home and decided to shake him down to the tune of half a million dollars. In May 2007, the pair drove to his home and flashed a fake search warrant in a bid to get in, but the dealer refused to let them in and scuffled with them. They left empty-handed, but not before attracting the attention of a neighbor who called police. They were picked up as they headed for the Lincoln tunnel. Castillo, 31, pleaded guilty in December to armed robbery and is now serving a seven-year sentence. Alvarez is looking at five to ten years, but he has already served three awaiting trial.

In West Palm Beach, Florida, 11 state prison guards and five others have pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and conspiracy charges after a two-year state and federal investigation into corruption in Palm Beach County prisons. The defendants were caught in an FBI sting operation in which they were recruited to run loads of what they thought were cocaine out of Miami-Dade County. The guards worked at the Glades Correctional Institution, South Bay Correctional Institution and the Florida Road Prison. Another, parallel probe by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office resulted in the arrests of six more prison guards on charges of bribery, introduction of contraband into a correctional institution and conspiracy.

In St. Louis, a former jail guard was sentenced last Friday to 30 months in prison for smuggling what she thought was heroin for an inmate who was working with authorities. Peggy Lynn O'Neal, 49, had pleaded guilty in August to a felony charge of attempting to distribute heroin and admitted accepting money to smuggle it into the jail. O'Neal is one of three guards originally charged in the sting; all have pleaded guilty. One got two years, another awaits sentencing.

In Andover, Massachusetts, a former Massachusetts Trial Court officer was sentenced May 13 to three years in prison on federal drug distribution charges. Eric Bevilacqua, 28, was arrested in October when DEA agents searched his home and found $40,000 in a safe. He admitted selling a thousand 30-milligram oxycodone tablets a week to various customers and pleaded guilty to distributing it in February.

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8. Medical Marijuana: Oregon Dispensary Initiative Backers Turn in Signatures

Hoping to beat an "early turn-in" deadline today, backers of I-28, an initiative that would allow for a regulated system of dispensaries, turned in signatures at the secretary of state's office Thursday. Under Oregon's current medical marijuana law, only patients or their designated caregivers can produce their own medicine.

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Oregon petitioning (courtesy voterpower.org)
Organized as the Coalition for Patients' Rights 2010, backers need 82,769 valid signatures to make the November ballot. They have collected more than 110,000 signatures, leaving a significant cushion to account for possibly invalid signatures, though not a comfortable one in the world of initiatives. But even if I-28 doesn't come up with enough valid signatures after this week's hand-in, initiative backers still have another five weeks to gather more before the July 2 deadline. It now appears extremely likely that the dispensary initiative will go before Oregon voters this fall.

"We think we are pretty close to having enough valid signatures." said John Sajo, director of Voter Power, the group organizing the petition drive. "When we drafted the original Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, we didn't include provisions for dispensaries because federal law prohibited that. But now that the Obama administration has indicated that they will allow states to regulate medical marijuana, Oregon needs to create a regulated system so every patient can access quality controlled medicine," he said.

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program now has more than 36,000 registered patients, but unless they can grow themselves or know someone who can, they must resort to the black market. I-28 would allow regulated dispensaries to sell medical marijuana to patients.

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9. Marijuana: Bill to Increase Possession Penalties Advances in Louisiana Senate

Faced with an environmental disaster that could grow to epic proportions and a budget crisis that never seems to stop, the Louisiana legislature this year has decided it needed to take up other important issues, such as the voluntary drug testing of state legislators (also testing for their mental health was offered up, half-jokingly, as an amendment -- it passed) and criminalizing the possession of synthetic cannabinoids.

The legislature took another step in the same wrong direction this week. On Tuesday, the state Senate passed a bill, SB 576 that would stiffen Louisiana's already draconian statute for second offense marijuana possession. While first offense possession -- of any amount -- is a misdemeanor, a second offense is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and up to five years of hard labor.

That wasn't tough enough for Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), the bill's sponsor. Under Claitor's bill, the maximum fine and prison sentence would remain the same, but a new, $250 mandatory minimum fine would be added. So would a mandatory minimum 48 hours in jail -- unless the offender attends drug treatment and does four eight-hour days of community service.

Louisiana doesn't break down how many of the drug offenders in its prisons are there for marijuana offenses, but according to the state Department of Corrections, 30.2% of inmates are drug offenders, about 50% higher than the national average. This at a time when budget cuts are paring state agencies to the bone.

The bill now heads to the House Criminal Administration Committee.

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10. Appeal: 2010 is Important in Drug Policy -- And So Are You



Dear friend of drug policy reform:

I am writing today to ask you to step up for drug policy reform. 2010 is a critical year in drug policy, with great opportunities for changing minds, laws, and lives:



There is a long, hard road still ahead, but things are definitely moving our way. Like every nonprofit, our funding has been affected by the troubled state of the economy, and we need your help. Can we count on your support in this important year? Please make a generous donation to StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) today!

The support of our generous members has been part of a winning combination that saw us draw nearly two million annual visitors to our web site last year -- the most yet! -- and which saw opinion leaders in the blogosphere using our work on a regular basis. (See links about this below.) StoptheDrugWar.org, thanks to you, is the #1 source for news, information and activism promoting sensible drug law reform and an end to prohibition worldwide. The more we do at StoptheDrugWar.org, the faster the reform movement will grow and the sooner that minds, laws and lives will change.

Your support counts now more than ever -- please join our 2010 "Changing Minds, Changing Laws, Changing Lives" campaign by donating to StoptheDrugWar.org today.

I would like to send you some free gifts to show our appreciation. For a contribution of $30 or more, choose either the important new DVD, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police, or its classic predecessor, Busted: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters -- or choose either of our popular StoptheDrugWar.org t-shirts -- "alcohol prohibition/drug prohibition" or "consequences of prohibition." For a gift of $55 or more, you get to pick any two... for a gift of $80 or more, pick any three... for a gift of $100 or more you can get all four! (Want to substitute? No problem. Choose any item from our inventory of books, videos and StoptheDrugWar.org items.)

By joining today, you will make an immediate impact by helping StoptheDrugWar.org:

We are truly seeing more good things happen than ever before -- and the road ahead while challenging is also promising. Please donate to StoptheDrugWar.org today - with your help, we can win this.

Sincerely,

David Borden
Executive Director, StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet)

P.S. Prohibition does not work -- and more and more people know it. Now is the perfect time to galvanize support for the cause. Please send in your donation and get your thank-you gifts today! Thank you for your support.

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11. Europe: Berlin Set to Increase Legal Marijuana Possession Limits

Berlin has been a fairly cannabis-friendly city for some time now. It's about to become even more so. The city-state's top health official has told Der Spiegel magazine that she intends to raise the amount of marijuana or hashish a person can possess from 10 grams to 15 grams.

Under German federal law, possession of all but "small amounts" of marijuana is illegal, but the law leaves it up to the states to determine what a "small amount" is. Most states define it as six grams, including Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin. The current standard in Berlin is 10 grams.

Berlin health administrator Katrin Lompscher told Der Spiegel she would soon sign a new regulation increasing the amount. She said the success of the 10-gram rule merited the increase, although she declined to answer the magazine's queries about what constituted success.

Lompscher is a member of the Left Party, which is the junior partner in a coalition city-state government with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). While the Left Party has long advocated for marijuana legalization, the SPD is not so enthused with the herb, and a party spokeswoman, Stephanie Winde, grumbled to Der Spiegel that the SPD had not been consulted before Lompscher went public.

Berlin already has some of the most liberal pot possession laws on the continent. In Holland, you can possess only five grams without fear of prosecution, in Belgium, three grams. In the Czech Republic, you can have 20 joints. Soon, if the SPD doesn't block it, in Berlin you will be able to possess more than a half ounce.

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12. Weekly: This Week in History

May 27, 1963: President Nathan M. Pusey of Harvard University announces that an assistant professor of clinical psychology and education has been fired. The man dismissed was Dr. Richard Alpert, later known as "Ram Dass."

May 26, 1971: In tapes revealed long after his presidency ended, President Richard M. Nixon says, "You know it's a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob, what is the matter with them? I suppose it's because most of them are psychiatrists, you know, there's so many, all the greatest psychiatrists are Jewish."

May 25, 1973: The NBC Evening News reports that 28 marines and 18 sailors handling the president's yacht were transferred and reassigned from Camp David due to marijuana offenses.

May 24, 1988: The domestic hashish seizure record is set (still in effect today) -- 75,066 pounds in San Francisco, California.

May 24, 1993: At 3:45pm, Juan Jesus Cardinal Posados Ocampo, the archbishop of Guadalajara, is assassinated at Hidalgo International Airport in Guadalajara by San Diego gang members hired by the Arellano-Felix Organization. As the archbishop's car arrives in the parking lot across the street from the terminal, a young man opens the door and opens fire, while half a dozen other gunmen spray the scene killing the driver and five bystanders, including an old woman, her nephew and a startled businessman with a cell phone in his hand.

May 22, 1997: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mayor John Norquist signs a measure into law decriminalizing first time possession of small amounts of marijuana after the proposal squeaks by the city council.

May 23, 2000: Eighty-five US troops arrive in Guatemala to participate in the two-week-long "Operation Maya Jaguar," intended to provide training for Guatemalan police, to carry out seizures of illegal drug shipments, and to facilitate joint counternarcotics operations.

May 21, 2001: Geraldine Fijneman, head of the Amsterdam branch of the ayahuasca-using Santo Daime church, is acquitted by a Dutch court. Fijneman had owned, transported and distributed a DMT-containing substance, but the court ruled that her constitutional right to Freedom of Religion must be respected.

May 22, 2003: Maryland becomes the ninth state to relax restrictions on medicinal marijuana use for seriously ill patients when Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. signs a bill reducing the maximum penalty to a $100 fine. The law goes into effect on October 1. Ehrlich, the first Republican governor to sign a bill relaxing penalties for medicinal use of marijuana, signs the measure despite pressure from the Bush administration to veto it.

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13. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

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

  1. We are in between newsletter grants, and that makes our need for donations more pressing. Drug War Chronicle is free to read but not to produce! Click here to make a donation by credit card or PayPal, or to print out a form to send in by mail.

  2. Please send quotes and reports on how you put our flow of information to work, for use in upcoming grant proposals and letters to funders or potential funders. Do you use DRCNet as a source for public speaking? For letters to the editor? Helping you talk to friends or associates about the issue? Research? For your own edification? Have you changed your mind about any aspects of drug policy since subscribing, or inspired you to get involved in the cause? Do you reprint or repost portions of our bulletins on other lists or in other newsletters? Do you have any criticisms or complaints, or suggestions? We want to hear those too. Please send your response -- one or two sentences would be fine; more is great, too -- email [email protected] or reply to a Chronicle email or use our online comment form. Please let us know if we may reprint your comments, and if so, if we may include your name or if you wish to remain anonymous. IMPORTANT: Even if you have given us this kind of feedback before, we could use your updated feedback now too -- we need to hear from you!

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

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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.

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15. 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: "Forcing People into Treatment for Marijuana Doesn't Prove That It's Addictive," "Tim Pawlenty is a Drug War Idiot," "Accurate Media Coverage Upsets Drug Czar," "Top Drug Warrior Mark Souder Resigns from Congress After Affair with Staffer," "Elena Kagan and the Crack/Powder Sentencing Disparity."

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.

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

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