Drug War Chronicle #639 - July 9, 2010

1. Feature: Race and Reefer -- the African American Vote in California's Marijuana Legalization Initiative

California's African American population is supportive of marijuana legalization, and the state NAACP endorsed the notion a few days ago. But anti-pot crusader Bishop Ron Allen, a black clergyman from Sacramento, is determined to stop legalization anyway.

2. Feature: Drug War a Devastating Failure, Scientists and Researchers Say in Vienna Declaration

With the 2010 World AIDS Conference in Vienna looming, researchers and scientists have authored an official conference declaration lambasting drug prohibition as a horrid failure and calling on governments, international organizations, and the UN to make fundamental, evidence-based changes in drug policy. They want you to sign it, too.

3. UNODC: The Russians Are Coming

The Russians want more appointments to high positions in the UN, and it looks like a Russian diplomat will replace outgoing UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa. Given Russia's retrograde positions on drug policy issues, alarm bells are going off.

4. 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.

5. Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

2010 is on the way to being the bloodiest year yet in Mexico's ever-escalating prohibition-fueled violence. In 2008, 5,000 were killed; last year, the toll was 8,000. This year, we're only at the half-way point, and the toll so far is closing in on 6,000.

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

A Texas cop hangs with meth dealers, a Utah cop rips-off the drug buy money, and a Florida trooper has the DEA on his case.

7. Marijuana Legalization: Oregon, Washington Initiatives Fall Short

Voters in Oregon and Washington will not have a chance to legalize marijuana this year after initiative signature-gathering campaigns came up short last Friday. See ya in 2012?

8. Medical Marijuana: ACLU Sues Wal-Mart for Firing Patient

In what could be a critical test case for medical marijuana patients in Michigan, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart for firing a worker who legally used medical marijuana.

9. Marijuana Legalization: California Pot Price Could Drop to $38 an Ounce, Rand Study Finds

$38 an ounce for kind bud?!?!? That's what RAND says could happen if California legalizes it. Tax revenue estimates are all over the place, depending on multiple factors. And consumption could go up dramatically, but it might not. Bottom line: Nobody knows for sure what's going to happen.

10. Synthetic Cannabinoids: K2/Spice Banned in Missouri

The knee-jerk prohibitionist impulse remains strong in America, especially in the South. Confronted with a synthetic cannabinoid, states are lining up to ban it.

11. Europe: Norwegian Committee Calls for Heroin Prescription Trials, Harm Reduction Measures

A blue-ribbon committee led by one of Norway's most respected political figures has called for heroin prescription trials, harm reduction measures, and expanded treatment options for hard drug users. But the government still has to agree, and the heroin prescription trial in particular is controversial.

12. Weekly: This Week in History

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

13. 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!

14. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"Will the Marijuana Vote Help the Democrats in November?," "The War on Marijuana = Federal $$$ for Local Cops," "A Scary New Drug Threatens Our Children: Nutmeg," "Marijuana Legalization is a Civil Rights Issue," "UN Drug Policy in the Dark Ages," "What's the Big Deal About Narco-Subs?"

15. 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!

1. Feature: Race and Reefer -- the African American Vote in California's Marijuana Legalization Initiative

With the clock ticking down toward Election Day in November, both proponents and opponents of California's Control and Tax Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative, now known officially as Proposition 19, are going after the African American vote. As things currently stand, the community is highly supportive of marijuana legalization in principle, but not necessarily of the initiative itself at this time.

A Survey USA poll done in April found that support for marijuana legalization among blacks was at 67%, the highest level of any major ethnic group in the state. Whites were second at 59%, followed by Asians at 58% and Hispanics at 45%. The findings are consistent with other polls that show similar high levels of support for pot legalization in the state's black community.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/sacramento-jan10-2.jpg
Bishop Allen and police lobbying last January against the Ammiano legalization bill, Sacramento
But demonstrating that nothing is a given in the wild word of ballot campaigns, a Field Poll released Friday morning showed Prop. 19 slipping from being slightly ahead to slightly behind (44%-48% this time), with African Americans giving it only 40%.

While African Americans constitute only 5.8% of the state's electorate, the November vote is shaping up to be extremely close, and holding onto key constituencies, even relatively small ones, could end up making the difference on Election Day.

Author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson is one of those black people who are ready to free the weed. "I fully support legalization," he told the Chronicle. "The drug wars have criminalized a generation of young blacks, destabilized families, further impoverished communities, and wildly expanded the prison-industrial complex. It is costly, wasteful and ineffective. It drains precious tax dollars, public resources, and public policy initiatives from expansion and improvement of health, education, and businesses, social services and urban reconstruction. It's been well documented that for a faction of the billions spent on a racially-tinged wasteful drug war, if spent on skills training, drug counseling, prevention, job creation, and family support programs thousands of lives could be reclaimed."

Legalization backers have been working hard in recent weeks to solidify and even extend such sentiments. At the end of last month, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) issued a report, Targeting Blacks for Marijuana, demonstrating that African-Americans bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement in California. The report, authored by Queens College sociologist Harry Levine, examined marijuana arrests in California's 25 most populous counties and found a consistent, statewide pattern of racial disparities in who was getting arrested for pot possession.

Despite blacks using marijuana at a slightly lower rate than whites, blacks were more than three times as likely to be arrested for possession in the counties of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma, and more than twice as likely to be arrested in Contra Costa, Fresno, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernadino, Santa Clara, and Solano counties.

In Los Angeles, blacks make up 10% of the population, but constitute 30% of pot possession busts. In San Diego, blacks are 5.6% of the population, but account for 20% of arrests. In Sacramento, blacks get busted at a rate nearly four times one would expect based on the demographics. They make up 10.4% of the population in the state capital, but account for a whopping 38% of pot possession arrests.

"The findings in this report are a chilling reminder of the day-to-day realities of marijuana prohibition and the large-scale racist enforcement at its core," said Stephen Gutwillig, DPA's California director. "Racial justice demands ending this policy disaster and replacing it with a sensible regulatory system that redirects law enforcement to matters of genuine public safety. Proposition 19 is California's exit strategy from its failed war on marijuana."

"Patrol and narcotics police face enormous pressure to meet arrest and ticket quotas. Marijuana arrests are a relatively safe and easy way to meet them, but they don't reduce serious crime," said Levine. "However, these mass arrests can impact the life chances of young African Americans, who actually consume marijuana at lower rates than young whites."

The release of the report was accompanied by a political bombshell: the endorsement of Proposition 19 by the California NAACP, announced by state chapter head Alice Huffman at a June 29 press conference. Also attending the conference were other prominent black leaders, including Aubry Stone, head of the California Black Chamber of Commerce.

Citing the report, Huffman called ending pot prohibition a civil rights issue. Marijuana prohibition has criminalized many young people and hampered the ability of African-Americans to thrive, she said.

"This is not a war on the drug lords, this is a war against young men and women of color," Huffman told the press conference. "Once a person is arrested and brought under the criminal justice system, he or she is more likely to be caught in the criminal justice system again, further wasting tax dollars."

Not every West Coast African American agrees with Huffman, and one who pointedly doesn't is Bishop Ron Allen, head of the International Faith-Based Coalition, which claims to represent some 4,100 congregations worldwide, and which has emerged as a loud locus of opposition to legalization. Allen's commanding presence and stentorian oratory have become a fixture at the state house whenever marijuana is on the agenda, and he has become a go-to guy for reporters seeking opposition viewpoints. The CA NAACP's endorsement of Prop. 19 has Allen calling for Huffman's political head.

"We would like for Alice Huffman to step down as state president immediately," Bishop Allen told the Chronicle, adding that he was depending on the national NAACP to take action. "We think Alice Huffman is advocating getting the black man high. Let's decriminalize so the black man can continue to smoke without fear of arrest is not the answer. The NAACP is supposed to advance colored people, but how can you do that when you advocate continuing to have an illicit drug in their lives?"

Allen, a self-described former seven-year crack addict, is passionate, but his arguments tend to ring of Reefer Madness and the standard anti-pot playbook. "This isn't the same marijuana. The THC is so much higher," he said.

"Marijuana is still a gateway drug," he continued. "We are seeing more teens enter treatment because of marijuana," he added, neglecting to mention that a majority of them are there because they got busted and were ordered there by a court.

"Legalize a drug, and it will be more accessible to our youth," Allen said. "We will have more drug babies, more murders, more rapes. Legalization will lead to more incarceration of the black man, not less."

And sometimes Allen goes so far as to strain credulity. Attacking Huffman for associating with DPA, he said "you can't be in cahoots with the biggest drug dealers in the nation." Moments later he repeated the outlandish claim, saying "everybody knows the Drug Policy Alliance are drug dealers."

That drew a tart response from DPA's Tommy McDonald. "As someone who's never sold drugs or done hard drugs, I take great exception to Mr. Allen's characterization of Drug Policy Alliance employees and its members. And as a black man, I am particularly disappointed that Allen is doing the bidding of people who would love nothing more than to see our prisons filled with black and Latino youth," he said. "While his conviction is admirable, Allen's irrational and uninformed (and drug war financed, I might add) Reefer Madness propaganda is transparent and predictable. I wish him no ill will, but he might want to stick to the teachings of his Bible and not 'bear false witness against thy neighbor.' I would expect a so-called man of the cloth to know better."

Allen's views may be extreme, but they do reflect those of part of the black community, said Hutchinson. "Many blacks fear legalization could lead to greater drug use, crime and violence," he observed. "Others agree that legalization would do just the opposite."

While Allen declared himself confident Prop. 19 would be defeated in the fall, his role in the eventual outcome will probably be insignificant, said veteran scene-watchers. "I think the Bishop is basically a one-man band," scoffed Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "He's got his church there in Sacramento, and I've only ever encountered him at legislative hearings. I heard him give passionate but ludicrous testimony about how pot should remain illegal because he almost ruined himself with drugs in a market where drugs were illegal."

Gieringer doubted that Bishop Allen would have much impact one way or the other. "His stuff will resonate with his crowd and some religious people, but positions are already fairly fixed. People are either for or against, and the undecided vote is small," he said. "I don't think an angry black preacher is going to have much impact on them."

Will California's black population support Prop. 19? We will find out on Election Day, but the Bishop Allen notwithstanding, support for marijuana legalization in the community is strong. Whether more of it can be won over to Prop. 19 itself, the next few months will tell the new DPA report and the endorsement by the state NAACP are a good start.

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2. Feature: Drug War a Devastating Failure, Scientists and Researchers Say in Vienna Declaration

A decade ago, scientists, researchers, and AIDS activists confronted a sitting president in South Africa who denied that AIDS was caused by HIV. They responded by declaring at the 2000 Durbin AIDS conference that the evidence was in and the matter was settled. Now, with the Vienna AIDS conference coming up later this month, they are at it again -- only this time the target is the war on drugs.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/vienna2009demo1.jpg
HCLU-organized demonstration outside UN anti-drug agency, former SSDP executive director Kris Krane inside cage (drogriporter.hu/en/demonstration)
Their weapon is the Vienna Declaration, an official conference statement authored by experts from the International AIDS Society, the International Center for Science in Drug Policy, and the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. The document is a harsh indictment of the global drug war that calls for evidence-based policymaking. It demands that laws which criminalize drug users and help fuel the spread of AIDS be reformed.

The authors of the Vienna Declaration want you to sign on, too. You can do so at the web site linked to above.

"The criminalization of illicit drug users is fueling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed," they said in the declaration.

Arguing there is "overwhelming evidence that drug law enforcement has failed to meet its stated objectives," the declaration lays out the consequences of the drug war:

  • HIV epidemics fueled by the criminalization of people who use illicit drugs and by prohibitions on the provision of sterile needles and opioid substitution treatment.
  • HIV outbreaks among incarcerated and institutionalized drug users as a result of punitive laws and policies and a lack of HIV prevention services in these settings.
  • The undermining of public health systems when law enforcement drives drug users away from prevention and care services and into environments where the risk of infectious disease transmission (e.g., HIV, hepatitis C & B, and tuberculosis) and other harms is increased.
  • A crisis in criminal justice systems as a result of record incarceration rates in a number of nations. This has negatively affected the social functioning of entire communities. While racial disparities in incarceration rates for drug offenses are evident in countries all over the world, the impact has been particularly severe in the US, where approximately one in nine African-American males in the age group 20 to 34 is incarcerated on any given day, primarily as a result of drug law enforcement.
  • Stigma towards people who use illicit drugs, which reinforces the political popularity of criminalizing drug users and undermines HIV prevention and other health promotion efforts.
  • Severe human rights violations, including torture, forced labor, inhuman and degrading treatment, and execution of drug offenders in a number of countries.
  • A massive illicit market worth an estimated annual value of US $320 billion. These profits remain entirely outside the control of government. They fuel crime, violence and corruption in countless urban communities and have destabilized entire countries, such as Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan.
  • Billions of tax dollars wasted on a "War on Drugs" approach to drug control that does not achieve its stated objectives and, instead, directly or indirectly contributes to the above harms.

"Many of us in AIDS research and care confront the devastating impacts of misguided drug policies every day," said Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society and director of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. "As scientists, we are committed to raising our collective voice to promote evidence-based approaches to illicit drug policy that start by recognizing that addiction is a medical condition, not a crime," added Montaner, who will serve as chairman of the Vienna conference.

"There is no positive spin you can put on the war on drugs," said Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the International Center for Science in Drug Policy. "You have a $320 billion illegal market, the enrichment of organized crime, violence, the spread of infectious disease. This declaration coming from the scientific community is long overdue. The community has not been meeting its ethical obligations in terms of speaking up about the harms of the war on drugs."

Stating that governments and international organizations have "ethical and legal obligations to respond to this crisis," the declaration calls on governments and international organizations, including the UN to:

  • Undertake a transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies.
  • Implement and evaluate a science-based public health approach to address the individual and community harms stemming from illicit drug use.
  • Decriminalize drug users, scale up evidence-based drug dependence treatment options and abolish ineffective compulsory drug treatment centers that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Unequivocally endorse and scale up funding for the implementation of the comprehensive package of HIV interventions spelled out in the WHO, UNODC and UNAIDS Target Setting Guide.
  • Meaningfully involve members of the affected community in developing, monitoring and implementing services and policies that affect their lives.
  • We further call upon the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to urgently implement measures to ensure that the United Nations system -- including the International Narcotics Control Board -- speaks with one voice to support the decriminalization of drug users and the implementation of evidence-based approaches to drug control.

"This is a great initiative," enthused Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "It is the most significant effort to date by the sponsors of the global AIDS conference to highlight the destructive impact of the global drug war. It is nicely coordinated with The Lancet to demonstrate legitimacy in the medical community. And it is relatively far reaching given that the declaration was drafted as a consensus statement."

"This is aimed at politicians, leaders of governments, the UN system, and it's aimed at housewives. We are trying to do basic education around the facts on this. There are still politicians who get elected vowing to crack down on drugs," said Wood. "While the declaration has a global aim and scope, at the end of the day, the person who is going to end the drug war is your average voter, who may or may not have been affected by it," he said.

"This was needed a long time ago," said Wood. "The war on drugs does not achieve its stated objectives of reducing the availability and use of drugs and is incredibly wasteful of resources in locking people up, which does little more than turn people into hardened criminals," he said.

The authors are hoping that an official declaration broadly endorsed will help begin to sway policy makers. "It will be interesting to see what kind of support it receives," said Wood. "Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper has endorsed it, and we have a 2008 Nobel prize winner for medicine on the web site. There are high level endorsements, and more are coming. Whether we touch a nerve with the news media remains to be seen. I am hoping it will have a big impact since this is the official conference declaration of one of the largest public health conferences on the planet."

"We have reached a tipping point in the conversation about drugs, drug policy, drug law enforcement, and the drug war," said Stamper, now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "More and more, science has found its way into the conversation, and this is one step to advance that in some more dramatic fashion. I've heard much from the other side that is emotional and irrational. This is one effort to create even more impetus for infusing this dialogue on drug policy with evidence-driven, research-based findings."

That the AIDS conference is being held in Vienna adds a special fillip to the declaration, Wood said. "Vienna is symbolically important because it is where the infrastructure for maintaining the global war on drugs is located," said Woods, "and also because of the problems in Eastern Europe. In Russia, it's estimated that one out of every 100 adults is infected with the AIDS virus because Russia has not embraced evidence-based approaches. Methadone maintenance therapy is illegal there, needle exchanges are severely limited, the treatment programs are not evidence-based, and there are all sorts of human rights abuses around the drug war."

With the AIDS conference set to open July 18, Wood and the other authors are hoping the momentum will keep building up to and beyond. "It is my hope that now that the Vienna Declaration is online, large numbers of people will come forward and lend their names to this effort," he said.

The Vienna Declaration is one more indication of just how badly drug war orthodoxy has wilted under the harsh gaze of science. It's hard to win an argument when the facts are against you, but as the declaration notes, there are "those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo." The declaration should make their jobs that much more difficult and bring progressive approaches to drug policy that much closer.

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3. UNODC: The Russians Are Coming

[Update, 6:20pm EST: Peter Sarosi at HCLU just told me Ban Ki-moon has indeed picked Fedotov. Hence I have removed the question mark from the end of the title of this article. :( - DB]

Current head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Antonio Maria Costa is set to end his 10-year term at the end of this month, and according to at least one published report, a Russian diplomat has emerged as the frontrunner in the race to replace him. That is causing shivers in some sectors of the drug reform community because the Russians are viewed as quite retrograde in their drug policy positions.

The report names Russia's current ambassador to the United Kingdom, Yuri Fedotov, as the top candidate to oversee UNODC and its $250 million annual budget. Other short-listed candidates include Spanish lawyer Carlos Castresana, who headed a UN anti-crime commission in Guatemala, Colombian Ambassador to the European Union Carlos Holmes Trujillo, and Brazilian attorney Pedro Abramovay. The final decision is up to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

If Fedotov wins the position, Russia would be in a far more influential position to influence international drug policy, and that is raising concerns because of Russia's increasingly shrill demands that the US and NATO return to opium eradication in Afghanistan, its refusal to allow methadone maintenance and its refusal to fund needle exchange programs even as it confronts fast-growing heroin addiction and HIV infection rates.

The concerns have crystallized in a campaign to block his appointment, including a Facebook group called We Don't Want A Russian UN Drug Czar!, which is urging people to send an email message to that effect to Secretary General Ki-moon. Group organizers the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union have also produced a video on the subject:

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4. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

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5. Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, 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 an estimated 23,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 5,000 so far in 2010. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of 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:

Monday, June 28
In Sinaloa, a well-known musician was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Sergio Vega, 40, was driving to a concert when he was intercepted and murdered just hours after having gone on the radio to deny reports that he had been killed. Vega was known to sing "narco-corridos" or drug ballads. Several other musicians of this genre have been killed in Mexico in recent years. Some are known to take commissions from drug-traffickers to write songs about them, or otherwise be involved in the drug business.

In Tamaulipas, a candidate for governor and four others were killed after his motorcade was ambushed. Borderlandbeat.com reported that the attackers used clone military vehicles and were dressed in fake Marine uniforms. Rodolfo Torre Cantu, 46, was the PRI candidate and a frontrunner. He was later replaced by his brother. The Torre killing is the most significant political assassination since the 1994 murder of presidential candidate Luis Colosio. There has been significant violence in Tamaulipas in recent months as the Zetas fight their former employers, the Gulf Cartel.

Thursday, July 1

In a remote area near Nogales, Sonora 21 people were killed during a battle between rival groups of drug-traffickers. The incident began after a convoy of 50 vehicles was ambushed by rivals near the village of Tubutuma. One of the groups was apparently allied to Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, while the other was comprised of a mixed force of gunmen loyal to Hector Beltran-Leyva and the Zetas Organization. It is unclear who ambushed whom, but BorderReporter.com has reported that the Sinaloa Cartel gunmen took the brunt of the casualties.

In Nogales proper, two burnt heads were found hanging on a fence near just outside a cemetery. A handwritten note from one gang threatening another was left at the scene, but it was unclear if this is related to the Tubutuma ambush.

Friday, July 2

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexican officials announced the capture of a key suspect in the March murder of a US consulate employee, her husband, and a third-Mexican national. The suspect, Jesus Ernesto Chavez, is reported to be a senior leader in the Aztecas gang, which provides enforcers for the Juarez Cartel. He has since claimed that he ordered the killing of the consulate employee because she provided visas to rivals. However, US authorities have disputed this claim, saying there are no indications that the killings were due to the employee's job, and that she did not even work in the section which provided visas.

Saturday, July 3

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 15 people were killed in incidents across the city. In one shooting, a 90-year old man was killed by a stray bullet as he stood near a house which was attacked by a group of armed men. Three others (apparently the targets) were also killed. In another incident, four people were killed at a truck repair company's offices.

Tuesday, July 6

In Sinaloa, three decapitated heads were found on the hood of a car near the town of Angostura. The bodies were found inside the car.

In Tamaulipas, police arrested a bodyguard who worked for the governor on allegations that he also worked for a drug cartel. The guard, Ismael Ortega Galicia, has been named by the US Treasury department as being a part of either the Zetas or the Gulf Cartel.

Thursday, July 8

In Los Mochis, Sinaloa, armed men stormed a police facility and took back several vehicles which had been confiscated by the authorities in recent operations. At least 10 gunmen took part in the raid, including some who drove a multi-level car-carrier to take the vehicles away. Hours earlier, gunmen in the area also raided a municipal police facility and rescued three men who were being detained there.

Total Body Count Since Last Update: 520

Total Body Count for the Year: 5,971

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

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

A Texas cop hangs with meth dealers, a Utah cop rips-off the drug buy money, and a Florida trooper has the DEA on his case. Let's get to it:

In Moab, Utah, a former Moab police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in jail and probation for stealing cash from the department. Edward Guerrero, 43, was charged with third-degree felony burglary and Class A misdemeanor theft for stealing about $900 from two envelopes stored in the office of a police lieutenant. The funds were to be used to make drug buys. Guerrero pleaded guilty last month to the theft count, and the burglary charge was dropped. He could have faced up to a year in jail, but instead will do just a month, with two years of probation. He also has to pay a $958 fine.

In Kemp, Texas, a Kemp police officer was arrested June 30 for stealing property from the department, exchanging it for drugs, and providing protection for local meth dealers in return for product, which he sold. Officer Damon Smith, 34, is currently charged with two counts of abuse of official capacity, but officials said more charges are pending. At last report, Smith was being held in the Kaufman County Law Enforcement Center and was awaiting a bail hearing.

In West Palm Beach, Florida, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper has been put on administrative duty while he is being investigated by the DEA. Trooper Gary Bach has not been arrested and officials would not provide details about the nature of the allegations against him. Bach has been on administrative duty since mid-May.

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7. Marijuana Legalization: Oregon, Washington Initiatives Fall Short

They will not be freeing the weed in the Pacific Northwest this November, at least not via ballot measures. Attempts to place marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in Oregon and Washington came up short as organizers were unable to gather sufficient signatures by last Friday's deadline.

In Oregon, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, sponsored by Oregon NORML and medical marijuana entrepreneur Paul Stanford, did not come close. It needed about 100,000 signatures, but only had 12,000 at the latest report.

In a message to supporters last Friday, Stanford said: "Unfortunately, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act initiative petition campaign in Oregon has fallen well short of qualifying for a vote this year. To all of you who gathered signatures, donated your hard earned money or supported OCTA 2010 in any way, we thank you for support! We are considering how to proceed in the future. If you have any ideas or concerns, please let us know."

In Washington, Sensible Washington, the sponsors of the I-1068 legalization initiative, conceded last week that they, too, would fail to make the November ballot. They needed 241,000 valid signatures, but estimated they would come up short by 40,000 to 50,000.

"It's my sad duty to inform you all that I-1068 will not make it," Sensible Washington's Philip Dawdy told supporters. "We're going to fall short. So I'm asking you all to stand down immediately, relax, regroup and let's all push on for the future. In the end, we couldn't overcome this spring's awful weather and the ACLU of Washington actively working against I-1068. [Seattle marijuana defense attorney] Douglas [Hiatt] and I and everyone else are all humbled by your efforts. The battle may be lost, but the war goes on."

The ACLU of Washington had refused to endorse the initiative because it contained no provisions for regulating marijuana -- it simply removed marijuana from the state's list of controlled substances and repealed penalties. Sensible Washington argued that Washington law prevented them from addressing regulation and that they sought to avoid conflict between the state and the federal government, but ACLU-WA disagreed.

The initiative suffered another mortal blow last month, when, after a brief courtship, the Service Employees International Union declined to help get it over the top. Washington SEIU spokesman Adam Glickman told Publicola last month the initiative would be "open to a lot of attacks -- attacks around law enforcement issues" and that "losing th[e] campaign wouldn't be very helpful."

[Ed: It's not clear to me why Washington law should have prevented Sensible Seattle from addressing regulation in the initiative text. The Washington medical marijuana initiative which passed in 1998, I-692, contained several pages of regulation, and it qualified for the ballot. Therefore Washington law does not disallow regulation within initiative language. The federal vs. state question is a more interesting one. - DB]

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8. Medical Marijuana: ACLU Sues Wal-Mart for Firing Patient

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against retail giant Wal-Mart for firing an employee who used medical marijuana. The lawsuit argues that firing an employee for lawfully using medical marijuana violates the provisions of the 2009 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/walmart.jpg
Joseph Casias, 30, is a cancer patient who began using medical marijuana on his oncologist's recommendation. Although he had been named Associate of the Year at the Battle Creek Wal-Mart in 2008 and had an exemplary employment record with the store, Casias was fired after taking a company-required drug test when he injured his knee at work.

"Wal-Mart made him pay a stiff and unfair price for his medicine," said Scott Michelman, staff attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. It isn't fair that any "patient should have to choose between adequate pain relief and gainful employment," he said. "And no employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical choices made by employees in consultation with their doctors."

Wal-Mart officials said it defers to federal standards in cases where the law is unclear. Michigan is an at-will employment state, meaning employers can fire an employee for any reason except those barred by federal law, such as discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. The ACLU will argue that Casias' firing amounts to medical discrimination.

More than 20,000 Michigan residents are registered medical marijuana patients. The case could have broad implications, not only in Michigan, but in other medical marijuana states that are grappling with the issue.

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9. Marijuana Legalization: California Pot Price Could Drop to $38 an Ounce, Rand Study Finds

If marijuana were legalized in California, prices could drop dramatically, consumption would increase (although how much is anyone's guess), and tax revenues could either wildly exceed published estimates or come in much lower, according to which sets of assumptions hold true, the RAND Drug Policy Research Center said in a report released Wednesday.

The report, Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets, assumes the cost of indoor marijuana production at no more than $300 to $400 a pound. Under legalization, the retail ounce price could drop to as low as $38 pre-tax, the researchers found.

"There are several reasons to anticipate such a sharp decline," the report said. "First, we anticipate that workers' wages will fall because employers will not have to pay a risk premium to employees for participating in an illegal activity. Second, there will be greater ability to use labor-saving automation, especially in the manicuring stage. Third, production at the level of an entire grow house, or several houses operated together, permits economies of scale not available to grows kept small enough to avoid attracting the attention of not just federal but also local law enforcement. Fourth, assuming that growers avoid attracting federal law-enforcement attention, they will face minimal risk of arrest and forfeiture."

The authors caution that pricing estimates depend on a number of variables, including whether an excise tax is imposed, the degree to which it is collected or evaded, and the degree to which regulatory burdens impose economic costs on producers.

Current retail pot prices in California are from $250 to $400 an ounce for high grade weed, so a $38 ounce is about an 80% price reduction. Such a reduction is assumed to increase the rate of consumption, but as the authors note, "the magnitude of the consumption increase cannot be predicted because prices will fall to levels below those ever studied."

Consumption could also increase because of non-price factors, such as loss of stigma or advertising campaigns. The authors said they "could not rule out" consumption increases of 50% to 100%, which would bring consumption to levels not seen since the late 1970s, the heyday of pot smoking in America.

The state Board of Equalization estimated that legalization could generate $1.4 billion a year in tax revenues, based on the $50 an ounce tax envisioned in legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). The marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 19, however, does not include provisions for taxation at the state level, only at the local level, and only if those localities decide to allow taxed and regulated marijuana production and sales.

Those considerations, as well the abovementioned factors of level of taxation and tax evasion and the response of the federal government mean revenue estimates vary wildly and could be dramatically lower or higher than the board's $1.4 billion a year estimate.

"There is considerable uncertainty about the impact that legalizing marijuana in California will have on consumption and public budgets," said Beau Kilmer, the study's lead author and a policy researcher at RAND. "No government has legalized the production and distribution of marijuana for general use, so there is little evidence on which to base any predictions about how this might work in California."

But a fella can dream, can't he?

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10. Synthetic Cannabinoids: K2/Spice Banned in Missouri

Missouri has become the latest state to ban products containing synthetic cannabinoids, with Gov. Jay Nixon signing into law this week a bill making them and products containing them controlled substances in the state. The law goes into effect August 28.

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''spice'' packet (courtesy wikimedia.org)
Products under names such as K2 and Spice contain the synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018, synthesized by a Clemson University scientist more than a decade ago for research purposes. While the products are marketed as incense, most people buying them use them to achieve a marijuana-like high. Their use has been linked to adverse effects, including vomiting, hallucinations, and agitation.

K2, Spice and similar products began appearing in Europe in 2006 and started showing up in this country last year. They are now banned in most European countries, but not in the US, although the DEA has labeled JWH-018 a "drug of concern."

An increasing number of states are not waiting for the feds to act. This year, K2 was criminalized in Alabama (the same law also outlawed salvia divinorum), Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana (effective August 15), North Dakota, and Tennessee. Similar legislation has been proposed in several more states, including Florida, Illinois, and New York.

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11. Europe: Norwegian Committee Calls for Heroin Prescription Trials, Harm Reduction Measures

A blue-ribbon committee in Norway has called for heroin prescription trials and expanded harm reduction measures, such as expanding safe injection sites. The Stoltenberg Committee presented its findings in a 49-page report (sorry, Norwegian only) issued last month.

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Norwegian fjord (courtesy Erik A. Drabløs via wikimedia.org)
The committee was created last year by then Health Minister Bjarne Hakon Hanssen to review the situation of hard drug users in Norway. It was tasked in particular with evaluating whether the government should allow a trial heroin prescription program because the notion was so controversial in Norway. The committee did not address soft drug use.

Committee head Thorvald Stoltenberg is a well-known and well-respected political figure in Norway, having served in the past as foreign minister. He is the father of the current prime minister. He is also the father of an adult daughter who is a former heroin addict.

Current Health Minister Anna-Greta Strom-Erichsen agreed with the committee's call for more harm reduction and expanded treatment services, but wasn't ready to sign off on prescribed heroin just yet.

"I agree with the committee that services for the most vulnerable drug addicts must be better," she said in a press release. "The committee wants greater degree of coordination of services. This is a task that is central to the work of collaborative reform, which is especially important for people with drug problems," she added.

But heroin prescribing is "a difficult question" on which the government must move carefully, Strom-Erichsen said. "The government has not reached a conclusion on the question of heroin assisted treatment. Regardless of the conclusion to this question, there is a need for an intensified effort for people with drug problems, including medical treatment, "she said.

The committee report will now form the basis for a broad dialog on its recommendations among government officials, local officials, drug users, relatives, and other interested parties. After that, the Health Ministry will send a proposal to parliament.

While the committee report is quite moderate by international standards, it represents a major break from traditional Norwegian responses to hard drug use and an embrace of the harm reduction philosophy.

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12. Weekly: This Week in History

July 13, 1931: The "International Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs" is convened in Geneva.

July 14, 1969: President Richard Nixon sends a message to Congress entitled "Special Message to the Congress on Control of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs." The message asks Congress to enact legislation to combat rising levels of drug use.

July 11, 1979: A deadly shootout between Colombian traffickers in broad daylight at Miami's Dadeland Mall brings the savagery of the Colombian cocaine lords to the attention of US law enforcement.

July 10, 1992: Manuel Noriega is convicted on eight counts of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering, and sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.

July 13, 1995: The New York Times reports the FDA has concluded for the first time that nicotine is an addictive drug that should be regulated.

July 9, 1997: Thirty-seven leading physicians including Dr. Joseph B. Martin, the new dean of Harvard's Medical School, Dr. Lonnie Bristow, past president of the American Medical Association, Dr. David C. Lewis, director of Brown University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, and several former Reagan and Bush administration health officials, announced the formation of Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy. Declaring that "the current criminal justice-driven approach is not reducing, let alone controlling, drug abuse in America," they called for the US to explore "harm reduction" approaches to substance use and abuse which rely more upon medical science and public health than on public hysteria and incarceration.

July 10, 1997: Researchers at the Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich release the final report on Switzerland's three-year heroin prescription trial. They conclude that the carefully supervised provision of heroin to long-term addicts with a history of failure in other treatment modalities resulted in a significant decrease in crime, mortality, disease transmission, treatment failure, and unemployment, at a substantial savings over other, less successful treatment methods.

July 13, 1998: The Associated Press reports that US drug czar Barry McCaffrey has created a controversy in The Netherlands over his erroneous claim that "The murder rate in Holland is double that in the United States," which he explained by saying "that's drugs." In actuality the Dutch homicide rate is less than one fourth the US rate. The Dutch ambassador responds, "I must say that I find the timing of your remarks -- six days before your planned visit to the Netherlands with a view to gaining first-hand knowledge about Dutch drugs policy and its results, rather astonishing."

July 15, 1998: ONDCP Director Barry McCaffrey visits Switzerland to meet with officials responsible for drug policy and to see the heroin distribution program firsthand. Drug Czar McCaffrey makes clear the administration's concern about this program, noting that while such policies may bring short-term benefits, the US thinks they will in the long run prove detrimental to the well-being of Swiss society.

July 12, 2002: The Wall Street Journal reports that former president Bill Clinton acknowledged, "I was wrong" to not lift the ban on federal funding of needle-exchange programs.

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13. 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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14. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

Along with our weekly in-depth Chronicle reporting, DRCNet also provides daily content in the way of blogging in the Stop the Drug War Speakeasy -- huge numbers of people have been reading it recently -- as well as Latest News links (upper right-hand corner of most web pages), event listings (lower right-hand corner) and other info. Check out DRCNet every day to stay on top of the drug reform game! Check out the Speakeasy main page at http://stopthedrugwar.org/speakeasy.

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

Since last issue:

Scott Morgan writes: "Will the Marijuana Vote Help the Democrats in November?," "The War on Marijuana = Federal $$$ for Local Cops," "A Scary New Drug Threatens Our Children: Nutmeg" and "Marijuana Legalization is a Civil Rights Issue."

David Borden contributes: "UN Drug Policy in the Dark Ages" and "What's the Big Deal About Narco-Subs?"

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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15. 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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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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