Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Especial de primavera: Mochilas “Stop the Drug War” da StoptheDrugWar.org

Temos a satisfação de anunciar um “especial de primavera” da DRCNet: a nova mochila StoptheDrugWar.org . Promova a CAUSA da Stop the Drug War adquirindo este novo prêmio e utilizando-o para carregar seus livros ou outros pertences ao trabalho, à escola ou aonde quer que a vida te levar!

A mochila Stop the Drug War é sua a pedido com qualquer doação de $35 o más. Basta visitar nossa página de doação eletrônica em http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, onde você pode fazer seu pedido por cartão de crédito ou PayPal, ou, se preferir, imprimir um formulário para enviar por correio. Também continuamos com todas as nossas outras ofertas recentes - visite nossa página de doação on-line para ver todas as ofertas na coluna direita.


Sua doação ajudará a DRCNet enquanto fazemos progresso em nossa campanha para deter os perigosos reides da SWAT em situações de rotina; fazer frente a novas questões como as penas para as drogas na legislação sobre a previdência social e a moradia pública; avançar o diálogo acerca da legalização das drogas; fundarmo-nos em nossos sensacionais sucesso com a página no último terço de 2007, tudo isso enquanto continuamos publicando o nosso boletim aclamado e muito lido, a Crônica da Guerra Contra as Drogas.


Então, por favor, faça uma doação hoje para ajudar a causa! Sei que você vai sentir que o dinheiro foi bem gasto depois que vir o que a DRCNet tem preparando. Favor reparar que as contribuições à Rede Coordenadora da Reforma das Políticas de Drogas ou Drug Reform Coordination Network, nossa entidade lobista, não são abatíveis. Doações dedutíveis do imposto de renda podem ser feitas à Fundação DRCNet, nossa ala de conscientização. (Escolher um ou mais presentes reduzirá a parte de sua doação que você pode abater pelo preço do artigo no varejo.) Os dois grupos recebem a correspondência dos afiliados em: DRCNet, Caixa Postal 18402, Washington, DC 20036.


Obrigado pelo seu apoio e espero ter notícias suas logo, logo.


Atenciosamente,



David Borden, diretor-executivo
StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet)
Caixa Postal 18402, Washington, DC 20036
http://stopthedrugwar.org

Iniciativa pró-maconha medicinal do Michigan em boas condições para novembro

Com uma iniciativa conhecida como a Lei de maconha medicinal do Michigan [Michigan Medical Marihuana Act] a caminho da votação de novembro com forte respaldo popular, o Michigan está pronto para proporcionar um grande passo adiante ao movimento pró-maconha medicinal. Se a iniciativa for aprovada, o Michigan seria o primeiro estado no Centro-Oeste dos EUA a aprová-la e, com 10 milhões de pessoas, seria o segundo mais populoso a sancioná-la, atrás da Califórnia.

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o Capitólio do Michigan
Proposto pela Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care (MCCC, na sigla em inglês), a campanha já coletou as assinaturas necessárias e fez com que o conselho eleitoral do estado as aprovasse. Conforme a lei do Michigan, a iniciativa está sendo considerada pelo legislativo, que está no meio de uma janela de 40 dias que tem para tomar providências. Se, como esperado, a assembléia legislativa não agir, a iniciativa é submetida a votação em novembro.

De acordo com a MCCC, a iniciativa iria:

  • Permitir que pacientes em estado grave e terminal que encontrarem alívio com a maconha a consumam com a aprovação de seus médicos;
  • Proteger estes pacientes em estado grave contra detenção e processo pela simples ação de tomarem o remédio recomendado pelo médico deles;
  • Permitir que pacientes aptos ou seus fornecedores cultivem sua própria maconha para o consumo medicinal eles, com limites na quantidade que podem portar
  • Criar cédulas de identidade de registro, para que os agentes da lei possam diferenciar facilmente quem é paciente inscrito e estabelecer sanções para depoimentos falsos e documentos de identidade fraudulentos;
  • Permitir que os pacientes e seus fornecedores que forem detidos discutam o consumo medicinal deles na Justiça;
  • Continuar certas restrições contra o consumo medicinal de maconha, inclusive proibições para o consumo em púbico e dirigir sob os efeitos da maconha.

“Estou ficando sem tempo”, disse Diane Byrum de Lansing, quem dirige o MCCC. “Não esperamos que o legislativo tome providências. Quando isso não acontecer, então estamos automaticamente nas urnas”.

Embora Byrum se negasse a discutir táticas específicas de campanha para os próximos meses, ela deu sim algumas pistas dos argumentos que os partidários iam apresentar. “Vamos nos concentrar nos pacientes que está iniciativa protegerá contra o temor de detenção ou cadeia por consumirem maconha medicinal”, disse ela.

A campanha também se esforçará para tranqüilizar os eleitores, disse. “A lei é limitada em alcance, lida somente com a maconha medicinal, há um sistema de inscrição estadual obrigatória”, disse Byrum repassando a lista. “Não é o fim do mundo”.

Embora os eleitores do Michigan possam querer ficar um pouco tranqüilos, a maconha medicinal não é uma questão nada nova no estado. Eleitores em cinco municípios e cidades – Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint e Traverse City – já aprovaram a maconha medicinal e ela já esteve sendo considerada pela legislatura durante vários anos.

Rochelle Lampkin, uma moradora de Detroit de 49 anos de idade que consome maconha medicinal para aliviar a nevrite óptica causada pela Esclerose Múltipla, não quer esperar pela assembléia. Apesar de estar protegida pela lei de maconha medicinal de Detroit, ela disse que isso não era o bastante. “Me manifestei pela primeira vez sobre consumir maconha medicinal quando tentávamos aprovar o decreto-lei, mas acho que isto precisa ser feito no estado inteiro. Tem pessoas sofrendo pelo estado afora”, disse Lampkin. “As pessoas têm uma noção preconcebida a respeito da maconha e eu era uma delas, mas se você sente dor o bastante, tenta o que for”.

Ela a ajuda, disse. “A nevrite faz com que os nervos na parte traseira do meu olho fiquem inchados e doem muito”, disse. “A maconha dá certo. Me ajuda a relaxar os nervos para que a dor remita. Tive que ser convencida a experimentá-la, mas fiz isso e funciona. Eu não gosto de fumá-la, então aprendi a fazer chá com ela. É isso que consumo”.

Não se trata de maconheiros, disse Lampkin. “Quero que o pessoal entenda que todos não estão tentando ficar chapados”, disse. “Eu não fico chapada, não fumo, nem mesmo bebo. Eu era a careta”, riu. “Quando a experimentei, foi porque outras pessoas no meu grupo de EM me disseram que a consumiram e que deveria experimentá-la. Resisti, mas, enfim, experimentei-a sim e ela ajuda”.

Como demonstram as votações municipais em prol da maconha medicinal, há bastante apoio entre o eleitorado do Michigan. Uma pesquisa recente deu mais provas desse respaldo, com 67% dos eleitores dizendo que eram a favor da maconha medicinal e 62% dando aprovação a esta iniciativa em particular.

“É a geração do pós-guerra atingindo a maioridade”, disse Tom Shields do Marketing Resource Group, que conduziu a sondagem Inside Michigan Politics, em declaração no lançamento dela no mês passado.

Os eleitores que têm entre 34 e 54 anos de idade mostraram 75% de apoio à maconha medicinal e 63% dos aposentados fizeram o mesmo. Surpreendentemente, os eleitores mais jovens (de 18 a 34) foram os menos positivos, respaldado a medida por 61% contra 36%.

Contudo, a iniciativa está em boas condições iniciais junto aos eleitores, disse Shields. “É bom começar desse jeito para uma proposta eleitoral”, disse Shields. “É bom começar com 60% porque quando os detalhes são divulgados, perde-se apoio... É possível que isto ganhe”.

Mas, ainda falta muito, disse Byrum, quem vai passar os próximos meses construindo e fortalecendo a campanha. “Estamos construindo uma organização de base. Pedimos às pessoas que façam contribuições. Isto vai exigir muito trabalho”.

Até agora pelo menos, há poucos indícios de qualquer oposição organizada, embora os organizadores esperem que a força pública monte objeções um dia. Uma de que já se ouve falar diz que a maconha medicinal ainda seria ilegal conforme a legislação federal.

Quanto a esse argumento, Byrum disse que causaria pouco impacto para os usuários de maconha medicinal do Michigan. “Cerca de 99% dos casos de repressão a drogas são realizados pela força pública estadual”, apontou. “A aprovação desta iniciativa vai proteger efetivamente 99% de nossos pacientes. Podemos constatá-lo examinando os estados que já têm estas leis. Elas dão proteção sim”.

Cada estado que se somar à lista de estados com maconha medicinal apenas aumenta a pressão sobre o governo federal dos EUA para que mude suas políticas, argumentou Byrum. “Achamos que à medida que mais estados aprovem suas próprias leis isso exercerá mais pressão para ir além do debate político que domina Washington e passar às provas científicas e médicas com base para a confecção de políticas”.

Há trabalhos pela maconha medicinal em andamento em uma série de legislaturas estaduais nesse ano. Porém, o processo legislativo é terrivelmente demorado e dificultoso e não se sabe se alguma vai sancioná-lo. As campanhas por iniciativas, embora saiam caro, contam como benefício de contornar os políticos e permitir que os eleitores escolham diretamente. Com altos níveis de apoio popular a poucos meses, parece que o Michigan pode ganhar dos demais estados antes de começar.

Massachusetts visa a descriminalização da maconha em novembro

Onze estados descriminalizaram o porte de pequenas quantidades de maconha, deixando que os capturados enfrentem apenas multas em vez de antecedentes penais e possível pena de prisão. Mas, a maior parte deles a descriminalizaram nos anos 1970, sendo que o Nevada é a adição mais recente a lista em 2001. Neste ano, graças a uma campanha cuidadosamente tramada pelo Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy (CSMP, na sigla em inglês), que segue dois anos de preparação do terreno de parte de ativistas locais, o Massachusetts pode ser o próximo estado a dar o passo.

No ano passado, o CSMP redigiu uma iniciativa de descriminalização e reuniu mais de 80.000 assinaturas válidas. Agora, em conformidade com a lei do Massachusetts, a iniciativa está perante a legislatura, que ou pode aprová-la ou oferecer outra versão aos eleitores em novembro ou não fazer nada e deixar que eles votem na própria iniciativa em novembro.

De acordo com o CSMP, a iniciativa (lei seu texto na íntegra aqui) iria:

  • Emendar os atuais estatutos criminais para que os adultos que tiverem trinta gramas ou menos de maconha para consumo pessoal sejam acusados de uma infração civil e multados em $100. Atualmente, o porte de maconha pode acarretar seis meses de cadeia e multa de $500, mais um grande leque de “conseqüências colaterais” que continua muito tempo depois;
  • Eliminar a ameaça de um relatório do Registro de Informações do Infrator Criminal (CORI, na sigla em inglês) por acusações de porte de maconha de pouca gravidade. Antecedentes penais podem atormentar as pessoas quando se candidatam a empregos durante o resto da vida delas;
  • Manter as penas atuais por se vender, cultivar e traficar maconha, assim como a proibição contra dirigir sob os efeitos da maconha;
  • Poupar para o Massachusetts aproximadamente $24.3 milhões ao ano em recursos da força pública que são atualmente desperdiçados com prisões por simples porte de maconha, de acordo com um relatório de Jeffrey Miron, economista de Harvard.

Embora a iniciativa tivesse uma audiência no dia 18 de março perante o Comitê Conjunto Sobre o Judiciário dos EUA com uma série de defensores de nota, é improvável que a legislatura tome providências a respeito, deixando que os eleitores decidam. Pode ser para melhor, disse a senadora Patricia Jehlen (D-Middlesex), quem propôs a lei de descriminalização na qual a iniciativa está fundada. Embora o SB1121 proposto por Jehlen conseguisse aprovação no comitê, não prosseguiu, um projeto parecido também não, o SB 1011, apoiado pelos ativistas locais da MassCann, a filial da NORML no lugar.

Uma iniciativa será mais bem acolhida pelo público do que pela legislatura por vários motivos, disse Jehlen. “Não é importante para muitos legisladores”, apontou, “e os parlamentares relutam em fazer votações que acham que poderiam ser mal interpretadas pelo público”.

Porém, antes que isso possa acontecer, o CSMP terá que voltar aos eleitores para outra rodada de coleta de assinaturas exigida pela lei do Massachusetts, explicou Whitney Taylor, diretora do comitê. Conforme essa lei, ninguém que assinou petições durante a primeira rodada de coleta de assinaturas pode assinar outra durante a segunda. Contudo, Taylor não previu nenhum problema.

“Tenho certeza que podemos alcançar o número exigido de assinaturas”, disse. “Contamos com muito apoio público, estivemos realizando muito recrutamento de voluntários e estivemos trabalhando de perto com as sucursais do SSDP - muitas acabaram de ser inauguradas na região de Boston. Há uma sinergia verdadeiramente ótima”, disse ela.

“Mas, embora tenhamos a empolgação da juventude, também presenciamos muita aceitação da comunidade geral de políticas públicas e apoio”, disse Taylor. “O Massachusetts tem o maior número de organizações sem fins lucrativos per capita de qualquer estado e estas pessoas estão muito à vontade em seus papéis políticos. Há muitas pessoas trabalhando com justiça penal e juizados de menores que acham que o nosso dinheiro podia ser mais bem gastado. É ótimo ver o apoio que estamos reunindo nesse estágio inicial. Sei que chegaremos à votação”, previu plenamente.

A iniciativa teve sim que passar por alguns primeiros obstáculos. No semestre passado, houve desacordos por aspectos do texto da iniciativa, particularmente para saber se era sábio incluir maconha nos próprios fluidos corporais na definição de porte de maconha e se isso podia criar uma multa onde ela não existe no momento. Alguns ativistas, como Keith Stroup, fundador e atual assessor jurídico da NORML, temiam que o texto pudesse virar um precedente para outros estados no futuro. Atualmente, apenas um deles, a Dacota do Sul, define o delito de porte interno.

Taylor e os advogados da iniciativa replicaram que há jurisprudência em conflito para saber se o porte interno já é um crime no Massachusetts que pode acarretar um castigo mais duro ou conseqüências colaterais como a perda de ajuda universitária ou problemas em trâmites de guarda e disseram que o propósito desse texto era tapar essas lacunas estabelecendo a mesma multa de $100 para o porte externo. Eles também argumentaram que a polícia não pode colher uma amostra de fluido corporal sem causa provável, o que dizem que torna teórica uma sanção por porte interno. Em última instância, todas as grandes forças em prol da reforma das políticas de maconha no estado, inclusive a NORML e a MassCann, decidiram apoiar a iniciativa.

A MassCann esteve promovendo a causa da descriminalização no Massachusetts durante anos e pode indicar algumas realizações admiráveis. Às vezes trabalhando sozinhos, às vezes com o Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts, os ativistas locais conseguiram colocar questões não-compulsórias sobre a maconha medicinal ou a descriminalização nas urnas em dezenas de distritos eleitorais ao redor do estado. Os resultados dessas contendas demonstraram bastante respaldo à reforma da legislação sobre a maconha no Bay State.

“Nunca perdemos uma questão eleitoral”, disse Steve Epstein, tesoureiro da MassCann. “Fizemo-las em 2000, 2002 e 2004, nunca perdemos e tivemos uma média de 63%. Também estivemos convencendo o legislativo sobre a reforma lá, mas o progresso tem sido lento”.

Uma iniciativa pró-descriminalização serviria ao mesmo propósito que os projetos de descriminalização sendo considerados atualmente pela legislatura, disse Epstein. “Qualquer um deles fará com que a polícia não possa mais prender as pessoas por simples porte, todos fariam com que as pessoas não tivessem antecedentes e todos economizariam o tempo e o dinheiro da polícia. Aqui a polícia vai olhar para o outro lado. Já faz isso quase sempre”.

O CSMP prepara seus argumentos enquanto aguarda com ansiedade a campanha do semestre que vem. “Estamos gastando quase $30 milhões ao ano para prender e autuar infratores por porte de maconha”, disse Taylor. “E é um cálculo conservador. Esse dinheiro deveria ficar nos cofres da polícia”.

Além das custas econômicas, a campanha dará destaque às custas de uma condenação por maconha aos jovens. “Presenciamos cerca de 7.500 prisões por porte de maconha ao ano e isso quer dizer 7.500 antecedentes penais, e isso significa deixar as pessoas vulneráveis a serem recusadas por senhorios e empregadores, perder acesso a empréstimos estudantis e licenças profissionais e tudo o mais”, disse Taylor.

Embora os oponentes da reforma da legislação sobre a maconha reclamem freqüentemente de que isso vai “passar a idéia errada” às crianças, Taylor disse que acontece exatamente o contrário. “A idéia errada a se passar às crianças é a de que caso se cometa um erro, o puniremos pelo resto da sua vida”, disse. “Com nossa iniciativa, tanto faz se isto foi apenas uma experiência juvenil ou um sinal de problema real, as conseqüências por infringir a lei são imediatas e impostas e isso é mais justo do que a lei atualmente”.

Agora, está criado o marco. Os eleitores do Massachusetts tiveram quase uma década para se acostumarem à idéia da reforma da legislação sobre a maconha e o legislativo, apesar de sua inércia, está tomando providências marginais. Destacados cidadãos do estado estão aderindo, a captação de recursos está em andamento e os partidários estão impacientes por levá-lo às urnas porque acham que podem vencer.

“O público o apóia por uma margem de cerca de dois para um sempre que está em votação. Propus o meu projeto por causa de um voto assim no meu distrito”, disse a senadora Jehlen. “Também é o melhor jeito de gastar nossas verbas de segurança pública com mais sabedoria ao nos concentrarmos nas verdadeiras ameaças e previne o prejuízo causado aos que são pegos com ela. Sim, acho que isto pode ser aprovado sim”.

Editorial: Será que a Filadélfia deveria ficar empolgada com sua grande apreensão de drogas?

David Borden, diretor-executivo

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David Borden
Deveríamos ficar entusiasmados? Na Filadélfia, agências policiais anunciaram uma apreensão recordista de drogas para a cidade. De acordo com a coletiva de imprensa realizada na quarta-feira pela Polícia da Filadélfia, o Ministério da Justiça dos EUA e o FBI, a muamba que pegaram consistia em 274 quilogramas de cocaína estimada em cerca de 28 milhões de dólares.

Um porta-voz do FBI disse na entrevista coletiva: “Esta apreensão considerável impediu que estas drogas entrassem em nossas comunidades”. Mas, isso não depende de como se define o termo “estas drogas”? Se o termo visa aludir àquele carregamento em particular, então, sim, aquela pilha de cocaína em específico (provavelmente) não vai entrar na comunidade filadelfiense.

Se, não obstante, o termo visar aludir à própria cocaína, o tipo de droga, é duvidoso – não, é impossível – que a apreensão possa reduzir a quantidade dela na Filadélfia, pelo menos não durante muito tempo. O problema é que os traficantes são espertos e industriosos e esperam que parte da droga que embarcam para qualquer região vá ser interceptada. Em um dia qualquer, provavelmente não esperam que se estabeleça um recorde justamente naquele dia. Porém, isso não significa que não estão preparados se isso acontecer. Sem dúvida, há um ou dois lotes sendo transportados pela I-95 ou alguma outra artéria ou a caminho da Filadélfia através de algum outro meio de transporte, se é que já não estão ali.

Na verdade, provavelmente não haverá escassez de cocaína na Filadélfia nem sequer durante uma semana, se é que há qualquer agora. Daqui a duas semanas, haverá poucas provas restantes de que uma apreensão recordista de drogas já aconteceu, salvo os registros policiais e os informes midiáticos passados. Lógico, as autoridades não vão ansiar por informar a imprensa que sua apreensão recordista de drogas foi completamente desfeita pela força do mercado. Ironicamente, é provável que a mídia não ache que a falta de impacto a longo prazo seja noticiável, porque isso é literalmente o que tem acontecido em todas as ocasiões anteriores.

Em última instância, a própria apreensão é a melhor prova de que não causará impacto nenhum. As prisões, apreensões e processos por drogas são a norma para os Estados Unidos, na Filadélfia e demais lugares. Contudo, apesar de todo esse esforço, sustentado e conduzido com agressividade durante décadas, a demanda de cocaína ainda é tão forte que as quantidades em que é encontrada continuam batendo recordes. E isso é um histórico de fracasso por qualquer definição razoável da palavra.

Então, embora esteja certo de que a entrevista coletiva foi empolgante para o pessoal envolvido nela, não estou entusiasmado e não sei por quê deveria estar. Quando as pessoas decidirem que é hora de tentar algo diferente, porque percebem o quanto estiveram desperdiçando em dinheiro, força de trabalho e vidas, será muito mais empolgante do que uma pilha de pó e um grupo de manda-chuvas da força pública detrás de um pódio podem ser.

Weekly: This Week in History

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April 14, 1989: A congressional subcommittee on Narcotics, Law Enforcement, and Foreign Policy, chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), issues a report finding that US efforts to combat drug trafficking were undermined by the Reagan administration's fear of jeopardizing its objectives in the Nicaraguan civil war. The report concludes that the administration ignored evidence of drug trafficking by the Contras and continued to provide them with aid.

April 13, 1995: The US Sentencing Commission votes to equalize penalties for crack and powder cocaine quantities for trafficking and possession offenses, a proposal that would have become law on November 1 if Congress took no action. Attorney General Janet Reno urges Congress to reject it the next day.

April 11, 1997: Graham Boyd, an ACLU attorney representing a group of plaintiffs including eleven prominent cancer and AIDS physicians in San Francisco, presents to a federal judge the following statement: "The federal government has issued broad threats against physicians who might recommend marijuana to some of their seriously ill patients. These threats have gagged physicians and have impeded the responsible practice of medicine. We assert that doctors have the right to discuss medical marijuana with patients, and we are seeking clear guidelines for physicians who wish to do so."

April 15, 1998: California Superior Court Judge David Garcia orders Dennis Peron, author of Proposition 215, to cease operations of his Cannabis Cultivators' Club (CCC) in San Francisco. Judge Garcia writes, "The court finds uncontradicted evidence in this record that defendant Peron is currently engaging in illegal sales of marijuana." The illegal sales, the court said, were to "primary caregivers," not patients as defined by California's medical marijuana law. Peron agrees to resign as head of the CCC in an effort to keep the operation open.

April 16, 1998: The Iowa Legislature overwhelmingly approves a bill enhancing marijuana penalties for repeat offenders, and enabling police officers to conduct drug tests on drivers who appear to be operating under the influence of marijuana.

April 12, 2002: Canada's Toronto Sun reports that a recent report cites Ontario's indoor marijuana industry as the third largest agricultural sector in the province, a $1-billion industry surpassed only by dairy's $1.3 billion and beef cattle's $1.2 billion. Add to that the multi-millions being harvested from outdoor crops and marijuana cultivation in this province moves into the top spot on the list.

April 17, 2002: While under the influence of amphetamines issued to them by the US government in order to stay awake during the mission, two US pilots mistakenly drop a bomb that kills four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. The Air Force-issued "go pills" may have impaired the pilots' judgment, says David Beck, lawyer for Maj. William Umbach, adding that the pilots were given antidepressants upon returning from their mission. "The Air Force has a problem. They have administered 'go pills' to soldiers that the manufacturers have stated affect performance and judgment," Beck said.

April 16, 2004: Richard Paey, a wheelchair-bound pain patient, is sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Florida judge. Paey, who was convicted of forging prescriptions for pills to ease chronic, severe back pain dating from failed surgeries after an auto accident in 1985, was sentenced under Florida law as a drug dealer -- though even prosecutors conceded there is no evidence he did anything other than consume the opioid pain relievers himself. (Paey was later pardoned by Gov. Charlie Crist.)

Resource: Reformer's Calendar Accessible Through DRCNet Web Site

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DRCNet's Reformer's Calendar is a tool you can use to let the world know about your events, and find out what is going on in your area in the issue. This resource used to run in our newsletter each week, but now is available from the right hand column of most of the pages on our web site.

The Reformer's Calendar publishes events large and small of interest to drug policy reformers around the world. Whether it's a major international conference, a demonstration bringing together people from around the region or a forum at the local college, we want to know so we can let others know, too.

But we need your help to keep the calendar current, so please make sure to contact us and don't assume that we already know about the event or that we'll hear about it from someone else, because that doesn't always happen.

Resource: DRCNet Web Site Offers Wide Array of RSS Feeds for Your Reader

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RSS feeds are the wave of the future -- and DRCNet now offers them! The latest Drug War Chronicle issue is now available using RSS at http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/feed online.

We have many other RSS feeds available as well, following about a hundred different drug policy subtopics that we began tracking since the relaunch of our web site this summer -- indexing not only Drug War Chronicle articles but also Speakeasy blog posts, event listings, outside news links and more -- and for our daily blog postings and the different subtracks of them. Visit our Site Map page to peruse the full set.

Thank you for tuning in to DRCNet and drug policy reform!

Webmasters: Help the Movement by Running DRCNet Syndication Feeds on Your Web Site!

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Are you a fan of DRCNet, and do you have a web site you'd like to use to spread the word more forcefully than a single link to our site can achieve? We are pleased to announce that DRCNet content syndication feeds are now available. Whether your readers' interest is in-depth reporting as in Drug War Chronicle, the ongoing commentary in our blogs, or info on specific drug war subtopics, we are now able to provide customizable code for you to paste into appropriate spots on your blog or web site to run automatically updating links to DRCNet educational content.

For example, if you're a big fan of Drug War Chronicle and you think your readers would benefit from it, you can have the latest issue's headlines, or a portion of them, automatically show up and refresh when each new issue comes out.

If your site is devoted to marijuana policy, you can run our topical archive, featuring links to every item we post to our site about marijuana -- Chronicle articles, blog posts, event listings, outside news links, more. The same for harm reduction, asset forfeiture, drug trade violence, needle exchange programs, Canada, ballot initiatives, roughly a hundred different topics we are now tracking on an ongoing basis. (Visit the Chronicle main page, right-hand column, to see the complete current list.)

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Students: Intern at DRCNet and Help Stop the Drug War!

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Want to help end the "war on drugs," while earning college credit too? Apply for a DRCNet internship for this fall semester (or spring) and you could come join the team and help us fight the fight!

DRCNet (also known as "Stop the Drug War") 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 repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, and to expand that effort 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.

Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

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

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Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

Along with our weekly in-depth Chronicle reporting, DRCNet has since late summer also been providing 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: "Clinton and Obama's Positions on Medical Marijuana Aren't Good Enough," "Bush and the Drug Czar Want You to Pay For the Mexican Drug War," "SWAT Officers Brought Children Along on a Drug Raid," "You Can't Win the Drug War if Alcohol is Legal," and "You Have My Permission to Name a Marijuana Strain After Me."

Phil Smith previews: "Skunk Weed Causing Outbreaks of Mad Brit Disease."

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

Please join us in the Reader Blogs too.

Again, http://stopthedrugwar.org/speakeasy is the online place to stay in the loop for the fight to stop the war on drugs. Thanks for reading, and writing...

Spring Special: "Stop the Drug War" Knapsacks from StoptheDrugWar.org

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We are pleased to announce a DRCNet "spring special": the new StoptheDrugWar.org knapsack. Promote the Stop the Drug War cause by buying this new DRCNet membership premium and using it to carry around your books or other belongings for work, school, or wherever life takes you!

The Stop the Drug War bag is yours on request with any donation sized $35 or more. Just visit our online donation page at http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, where you can place your order by credit card or PayPal, or if you prefer, print out a form to send in by mail. We also continue all our other recent offers -- visit our donation page online to view all the offerings in the righthand column.

Your donation will help DRCNet as we advance our campaign to stop dangerous SWAT raids in routine situations; to take on new issues like the drug penalties in welfare and housing law; to advance the dialogue on drug legalization; to build on our stunning web site successes of the last third of 2007; all while continuing to publish our acclaimed and widely-read newsletter, Drug War Chronicle.

So please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing one or more gifts will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support, and hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,


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http://stopthedrugwar.org

Job Listing: Full-Time and Internship Opportunities at the Marijuana Policy Project

The Marijuana Policy Project has two full-time jobs and two internships available at its Washington, DC headquarters. The full-time positions available are Development Coordinator and Development Writer.

The Development Coordinator plays a key role in MPP's Membership Department and manages assorted membership programs (such as MPP's merchandise program and list rentals), conducts donor research, and assists in donor outreach. Strong proficiency with Excel is required.

The Development Writer writes proposals to individual philanthropists, grant applications to foundations, and mass fundraising communications. The Development Writer must be an unusually outstanding writer, with the ability to synthesize large amounts of information to produce compelling, inspirational appeals.

The internship positions available are Outreach Intern and State Policies Intern. These are unpaid, part-time internships, for 10-20 hours per week (class credit is available). Most MPP interns are current students or recent grads, although that's not required. The Outreach Intern assists with online outreach and video production. The State Policies Intern monitors news, formats and posts relevant articles on MPP's Web site, and assists with miscellaneous projects.

For all positions, please visit http://www.mpp.org/jobs for full job descriptions, salary information, and instructions on how to apply.

Sentencing: Supreme Court Passes on Chance to End Punishments for Acquitted Crimes

In a March 31 order , the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a man who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for an offense of which he was acquitted. In refusing to hear the appeal, the high court let stand the federal judicial practice of punishing defendants convicted of one crime by crafting sentences based also on "acquitted conduct" -- in effect punishing them for crimes in which they were found not guilty.

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Supreme Court sanctions supreme injustice
The case was that of Mark Hurn of Madison, Wisconsin, who was charged with possession of crack cocaine and possession of powder cocaine after a 2005 raid of his home in which police seized 450 grams of crack and 50 grams of powder cocaine. At trial, Hurn admitted to dealing drugs, but testified the crack belonged to other people living in the house. The jury convicted him of the powder cocaine offenses, but acquitted him of the crack offenses.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Hurn should have faced about three years in prison for the powder cocaine conviction. But federal prosecutors argued he should be punished for both offenses with a 20-year sentence, and US District Court Judge John Shabazz agreed. Saying there was good reason to think Hurn was guilty of the crack charges, he sentenced him to nearly 18 years.

"This was an extraordinary increase," said Elizabeth Perkins, a lawyer in Madison who filed his appeal. "Allowing a sentencing judge to disregard the verdict of the jury is very disappointing," she told the Los Angeles Times.

But it's business as usual in the Alice in Wonderland world of the federal courts. Nearly a decade ago, the Supreme Court endorsed sentencing for acquitted conduct in a California case, but only in a short unsigned opinion. Under the court's rule, judges can sentence defendants by "relying on the entire range of conduct" presented by prosecutors, not just the charges that resulted in guilty verdicts. That has given judges the freedom to send people to prison for years for charges of which they were not convicted.

Hurn had appealed to the appeals court in Chicago, which agreed that his sentence was "based almost entirely on acquitted conduct," but upheld it nonetheless, citing the earlier Supreme Court ruling.

Hurn appealed to the Supreme Court last fall, with his lawyers arguing that prosecutors shouldn't be able to "execute an end run" around the jury. They cited a series of Supreme Court rulings in recent years that severely limited judges' ability to sentence defendants based on conduct not proven before a jury, but the Supreme Court didn't want to touch it. Instead, it rejected without comment even hearing the appeal.

"This is very disappointing," Douglas Berman, an Ohio State University law professor who is an expert on sentencing, told the Times. "They have dodged this for now, but eventually the Supreme Court will have to grapple with this again."

Latin America: Police in Rio Kill 11 in One Drug Raid, Three in Another

The endemic drug prohibition-related violence in Rio de Janeiro took another bloody turn March 3, when Brazilian police trying to catch members of the city's powerful drug-dealing enterprises killed at least 11 residents of a poor neighborhood, according to reports citing the Associated Press. Despite the death toll, the primary target of the raid, a suspected gang leader, apparently got away.

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favela neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro
That same day, police also reported killing three drug dealers and a car thief in separate shootouts in the Rio suburb of Nova Iguaçu, according to the AP.

Television footage showed bodies lying on the streets in the favelas of Coréia and Vila Aliança after the raids. Favelas are the shantytowns that rise on the mountainsides above the city proper. Chronically underserved by the state, favela residents and local quasi-governmental organizations are locked in a variety of symbiotic relationships with both the drug gangs, or "comandos," and the police who make a living combating them.

Often patrolled by police only at their entrances -- except for the occasional raid -- the favelas provide a geographic base for the comandos, as well as retail outlets, or "bocas," for retail drug sales to favela-dwellers, and residents of the city proper.

Conflict between police and the comandos has resulted in frequent outbursts of violence, including coordinated attacks by comandos on police posts and the urban transportation system. Last year, some 1,300 people were killed in Rio's drug wars.

Last week's killings come less than a month after President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva visited Rio favelas to inaugurate an infrastructure development project. At the time, he warned police to treat local residents with respect.

Southwest Asia: Iranian Police Kill 24 Drug Smugglers in "Shoot-Out"

Iranian police killed 24 drug smugglers in a Sunday night "shoot-out" near the Afghan border, the Associated Press reported, citing Iranian state radio. Curiously, there were no accounts of any killed or wounded police in what must have been a very one-sided "shoot-out."

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Iranian Anti-Narcotics Police, display at UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs summit, Vienna, March 2008
The incident occurred in the Taybad district about 600 miles east of the capital, Tehran. It is a rugged area where Iranian police have battled drug smugglers for decades. According to the Iranians, more than 3,000 police, soldiers, and border guards have died in the past three decades fighting smugglers.

While drug smuggling from neighboring Afghanistan has been going on for decades, the rise of Afghanistan to global preeminence in the opium trade -- it now accounts for up to 93% of global opium production, according to the UN -- has only heightened the flow of opium, and increasingly, heroin processed in Afghan labs, into Iran. Some of that commerce is destined for consumption within the Islamic Republic, which boasts the world's highest opiate addiction rate, while the rest is destined for markets in the Middle East and Europe.

Police reported seizing guns and drugs during the lethal exchange in Taybad. That's not surprising: Iran seized 330 tons of drugs, mostly opium and heroin, and some marijuana and hashish in 2006. Last year's figures, which have not yet been released, will probably be similar, if not higher.

Drugs, Libertarians, and the 2008 Presidential Campaign

It's a little more than six months to the November elections, and most observers are focused on the battle between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic Party nomination, with Republican nominee-in-waiting Senator John McCain garnering less attention. But there is life beyond the two major political parties, and it is the third parties, especially the Greens and the Libertarians, and the independent Ralph Nader candidacy, where radical drug policy platforms are the norm -- not the exception.

A few major party primary candidates did advocate ending drug prohibition -- Democrat Mike Gravel, Republican Ron Paul, and to a lesser extent Democrat Dennis Kucinich. But even the highly energized Paul campaign did not approach the vote count of the leading contenders for the Republican nomination. To find anti-prohibitionist campaign platforms in the general election, then, one must turn to third parties. This week, Drug War Chronicle will look at the Libertarian Party. Next week, it will be the turn of the Greens and the Naderites.

The Libertarians have traditionally been anti-prohibitionist, and their current drug policy issue statement and drug policy platform this year are no exception. In the latter, the party lays out its basic principle on drug policy: "Individuals should have the right to use drugs, whether for medical or recreational purposes, without fear of legal reprisals, but must be held legally responsible for the consequences of their actions only if they violate others' rights." In the former, it says simply the correct policy is "end prohibition."

With the party convention set for May 22-26 in Denver, the 19-man field in pursuit of the party's presidential nomination includes at least one prominent medical marijuana activist and long-time Libertarian, Steve Kubby, along with two high-profile party newcomers who have become instant front-runners, former Georgia Republican Rep. Bob Barr and former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska. Gravel joined the party last week and simultaneously announced his campaign for the nomination.

As would be expected among prospective Libertarian nominees, all three leading candidates take a strong stand for individual liberty, although only Gravel and Kubby explicitly mention ending the drug war. "It is time to end the drug war," Gravel says on his issues page. "The war on drugs: end it," says Kubby on his.

"Senator Gravel is using the drug war as a centerpiece of his campaign," said Gravel campaign field organizer Jose Rodriguez. "He talks about it often."

Gravel's departure from the Democratic Party was a long time coming, said Rodriguez. "If you go back to his Senate days, he was always viewed as a maverick, and over the course of time, the Democrats have gone from being the party of labor and FDR to the party of Wall Street," he argued. "The senator has come to realize his values are much closer to those of the Libertarian Party than the Democratic Party."

Although in a former incarnation, Barr was a staunch foe of drug reform, even going so far as to author the Barr amendment to the annual Washington, DC, appropriations bill barring the District from counting the votes in a winning medical marijuana initiative, he was otherwise a civil libertarian with a strong interest in privacy rights. After losing his House seat (ironically at least in part because his opposition to medical marijuana led to his being targeted by then Libertarian national political director Ron Crickenberger), Barr has slowly drifted away from Republican orthodoxy, even going so far as to work as a lobbyist for the ACLU and the Marijuana Policy Project.

"Bob Barr lobbied for us on medical marijuana on the Hill last year, particularly on repealing his own amendment and Hinchey-Rohrabacher," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Prior to losing his seat in Georgia, he was a civil libertarian with some notable exceptions, the drug war being the major one, but that has changed. When people come over from the dark side, they should be welcomed," he added.

Californian Steve Kubby isn't about to stand aside for the newcomers. With a long history in the party and wide name recognition among drug reform activists, he is mounting a serious campaign for the nomination -- and he thinks he can win.

"There is an epic storm brewing in the party," he said. "We have Gravel, a liberal Democrat who just announced as a Libertarian, and we have Bob Barr, former CIA agent and federal prosecutor, former drug warrior leader, telling us he's undergone a conversion. The party has really rallied behind him," Kubby said.

But, Kubby argued, both Gravel and Barr have made a fatal error by embracing the "fair tax" proposal, which would replace income taxes with a national sales tax. "Both these guys have screwed up in a major way and demonstrated their newbie status by embracing the fair tax. For Libertarians, this is like violating the Holy Grail. We hate the fair tax."

By bringing sufficient delegates to Denver (all you have to do to be a delegate is join the party and show up, about 750 are expected to attend), Kubby said, he could win the nomination. "In addition to the folks who are already going, we're trying to line up 75 new people to register and show up as delegates. Ed Rosenthal and Jack Herer have already committed to be there for the duration," he announced.

"The convention will be the single greatest media opportunity for this movement for the entire year, and I think as a medical marijuana activist, I can send a very loud message," adding that the party's ballot access in all 50 states means the media will follow it.

A Kubby campaign would also invigorate the party's anti-drug war wing, he argued. While ending drug prohibition was a high-profile issue for the party during Crickenberger's tenure, it has since faded somewhat. "The Libertarian Party hasn't gotten much traction with the drug war issue," he said. "But if the party saw 75 new delegates at the convention, I think it would be happy to jump back on the bandwagon."

While the Libertarian contenders slug it out for the nomination next month, drug reformers are once again engaged in the perennial, quadrennial debate over purity versus pragmatism.

Long-time drug reformer Kevin Zeese has given up on the mainstream parties as vehicles for fundamental change. In 2004, Zeese served as a spokesman for the Nader presidential campaign, and in 2006 he ran for the US Senate in Maryland under both the Green and the Libertarian Party banners.

"It's pretty stupid to look to the Democrats when it comes to the drug war," said Zeese. "Once they're in office, that will be a low-priority issue, and they will be loathe to risk being seen as soft on crime. It's going to take a political revolution to end the drug war, and you don't start a revolution by supporting the status quo."

While Steve Kubby may be trying to achieve a knock-out blow against Barr and Gravel, said Zeese, he is probably not going to be able to stop the Barr juggernaut. That could lead to a Barr-Gravel ticket, Zeese said, licking his chops.

"A Barr-Gravel ticket would be very strong and likely to hurt both parties, especially libertarian-leaning Republicans and anti-war/anti-intervention Republicans," said Zeese. "And, if the Ron Paul money machine, or part of it, goes toward them they could be a significant force."

Likewise, said Zeese, a Barr-Gravel ticket could siphon off some disaffected Democratic voters, particularly those with strong anti-war leanings. "If Obama continues to move to the right on the war," he said, "they could pull votes from the Democrats, too, or some of those voters could go for Nader or Cynthia McKinney and the Greens."

Unless and until Democrats are willing to take concrete actions to end the drug war, drug reformers shouldn't vote for them, Zeese argued. "I don't know why drug reformers keep voting for people who want to throw them in jail," he said. "The movement is asleep. You don't show your power by compromising and voting for people against you, even if that means John McCain gets elected. If Democrats want our support, they need to support our issue."

Not so fast, retorted Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance Network, the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. "When it comes to drug policy reform, there is a significant and growing difference between the candidates of the two major parties, between Clinton or Obama and McCain," he said. "There are real differences on a range of issues from incarceration to needle exchange to treatment and prevention, and it would be foolish to deny that."

Democrats now are better on drug reform than in the past, Nadelmann argued. "Look at Pelosi, Conyers, Kucinich, Bobby Scott, Waxman -- all of whom hold leadership positions -- and compare them with the Democrats of the late 1980s or 1990s, folks like Rostenkowski and O'Neill and Moynihan. We did the Shadow Convention at the Democratic convention in 2000 because we didn't see much distinction between the Democrats and the Republicans. We're not doing that this year in part because we do see real differences."

Still, even Nadelmann was willing to hold Democrats to the fire by voting third party -- as long as it didn't affect the ultimate outcome of the election. "If you're voting based on drug policy issues, my pragmatic advice would be to vote the Democrat in any swing state and vote for the third party candidate in any safe state," said Nadlemann. "That's how we can become most effective."

The Libertarians are fighting it out to see who will carry the party's banner in November. Now, drug reformers will once again have to fight it out over whether to support reformists or revolutionaries when it comes to our issue.

[This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so. Writing staff attempted to craft this article with full journalistic integrity as we do with our 501(c)(3) publishing.]

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

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A sticky-fingered Pennsylvania cop causes a DA to drop some drug cases, a pill-pushing Massachusetts cop resigns, and an unnamed New Mexico narc is under investigation for undeclared misdeeds. Let's get to it:

In Erie, Pennsylvania, an Erie police officer's theft of cocaine from the evidence locker has led to the dismissal of cocaine trafficking charges against four men. Erie County DA Brad Foulk dropped the charges April 3 after a police inspector testified that Lt. Robert Leibel had admitted stealing 28.5 grams of cocaine that was evidence in the case in November. Foulk said the charges should be dropped because the theft broke the chain of custody of the evidence in the case. Liebel, 46, has not been charged in the November theft, but is awaiting an April 29 preliminary hearing on charges he stole another 12 grams of cocaine on February 10. The disappearance of the cocaine in November led to the investigation that resulted in Liebel's arrest in the February case.

In Swampscott, Massachusetts, a Swampscott police officer facing federal drug charges has resigned. Officer Thomas Wrenn, 37, resigned Saturday, thwarting any disciplinary action by the town and leaving him entitled to resignation benefits, including pay for unused vacation and personal time. Wrenn had been placed on leave last month after he was arrested on federal charges he possessed oxycodone with the intent to distribute. Wrenn was busted after buying 50 Percocet pills from a snitch. He subsequently admitted to providing pills to five other people, including a former Nahant cop and four young women. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

In Albuquerque, a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department narcotics officer is on paid leave while the department investigates claims of misconduct. Neither the officer's name nor the specifics of the misconduct have yet been revealed. The investigation began April 4.

Medical Marijuana: Minnesota Bill Heads for House Floor Vote, Last Stop Before Governor's Desk

A bill that would allow some Minnesota patients to use medical marijuana is headed for a House floor vote after easily passing the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday. The bill, SF 345, passed the Senate last year, so the House vote is the only obstacle remaining before the bill lands on the desk of Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R).

But the governor remains an obstacle as well. Pawlenty has signaled he will veto the bill. A Pawlenty spokesman reiterated the veto threat Wednesday, saying the bill must include provisions to make it palatable to law enforcement.

The bill would allow qualifying patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and to obtain it from organizations created to dispense the drug. Those nonprofits can grow up to 12 plants per patient. Patients and dispensaries would be registered with the state.

"To me, this is the ultimate conservative issue," said Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover), a cosponsor of the measure. "It's about keeping the government out of the doctor-patient relationship."

While the bill passed out of committee with no debate, that will not be the case when it comes before the House as a whole. That should take place sometime in the next few weeks.

Preston resident Neil Haugerud, former sheriff of Fillmore County and a former state representative who suffers chronic pain from arachnoiditis (inflammation of the lining that surrounds the spinal cord), said, "I'm grateful to the committee for passing the medical marijuana bill, and I hope the full House and the governor will go ahead and make it law as soon as possible. Patients who are in pain shouldn't have to risk arrest and jail to get relief."

Twelve states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- presently allow medical use of marijuana. Medical marijuana bills are now under consideration in Illinois and New York, and an initiative is expected to appear on Michigan's November ballot.

Latin America: Mexican Catholic Church in Narco-Dollar Embarrassment

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Several Mexican bishops this week strongly denied that the Catholic Church accepts donations from drug dealers, backtracking furiously away from remarks by the president of the Mexican bishops' conference, who said drug traffickers have been "very generous" to the church.

Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Texcoco, president of the Mexican bishops' conference, made headlines last weekend when he acknowledged that the drug trafficking organizations responsible for murder and mayhem across the country provided money for churches and other public works in some of the country's poorest villages.

"They are generous and often they provide money for building a church or chapel," Bishop Aguiar said after the bishops' conference meeting April 1-4. "In the communities where they work... they will install electricity, establish communication links, highways (and) roads," he said in comments that received nationwide media attention. Aguiar said he was not condoning drug trafficking, just "saying how it is."

The drug dealers come to church officials seeking spiritual solace, Aguiar said. "There has been a rapprochement with them as it's known that discretion is going to be kept," Bishop Aguiar said. "What they want is to encounter peace in their consciences. What they're going to get from us is a sharp response: Change your life."

This week, Mexican bishops lined up to deny they took drug money. Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City said the church condemns drug trafficking as a social evil and that it never accepts drug money. "The money that comes from narcotics trafficking is ill-gotten and therefore can't be cleaned through charity projects," he said in a Sunday statement released by the archdiocese.

Auxiliary Bishop Marcelino Hernández Rodríguez of Mexico City and Archbishop José Martín Rábago of León, former head of the Mexican bishop's conference, also joined the chorus. Hernández said that narco-donations to the church were unacceptable, while Martín said that while the church preaches salvation, it does not condone drug trafficking and would not accept "dirty money."

Death Penalty: More Death Sentences in Algeria, Syria, Pakistan, a Reprieve in Vietnam

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The resort to the ultimate sanction against drug offenders continues this month, with courts in Algeria, Syria and Pakistan handing down death sentences. But yielding to pressure from the West, the Vietnamese government commuted the death sentence of a British citizen.

In Syria, the anti-death penalty watchdog Hands Off Cain reported, a court sentenced four Syrian nationals, two Turks, and one Lebanese to death April 1 for drug trafficking. Two of the Syrians were arrested in Homs with five kilos of heroin and one of cocaine. The two Turks were convicted of selling prescription pain relievers to the two other Syrians, who in turn were to sell them to the Lebanese man.

Also according to Hands Off Cain, the Criminal Court in Algeria's southern Ghardaia province Tuesday sentenced three men to death for trafficking about 1,300 pounds of marijuana. While the three said they were only couriers who had been hired by another person, the judge said he did not believe them.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Daily Times reported District and Sessions Judge Iqbal Malik sentenced Awal Khan to death for possessing about 90 pounds of marijuana. To add insult to injury, the judge also sentenced him to pay a 5 million rupee fine. If he fails to pay the fine, he will have to do six months in jail (presumably before he is executed).

There is one bit of good news on the death penalty front this week. Again according to Hands Off Cain, Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet commuted the death sentence of Vietnamese-born British citizen Le Manh Luoung for heroin trafficking to life imprisonment. That announcement came from the British Embassy on April 4. Luong and three other Vietnamese defendants were sentenced to death in 2006 for trafficking 750 pounds of heroin. Lacking powerful Western governments to argue on their behalf, Luoung's accomplices have not been so fortunate. Their death sentences remain pending.

Beware the Dreaded Skunk: British Press Suffers Contact High, Contracts Bad Case of Reefer Madness

With British Prime Minister Gordon Brown poised to reclassify marijuana as a more serious drug subject to stiffer penalties, the United Kingdom appears to be in the grip of an outbreak of Reefer Madness that would make Harry Anslinger blush. Fueled by the country's widely-read tabloid press and used by opposition Conservatives as a club with which to beat Brown's Labor government, the marijuana moral panic is a key element in what appears almost certain to be Brown's retreat from marijuana law reform.

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1930's ''Reefer Madness''-style film poster
If, as is widely expected, Brown actually does order marijuana reclassified from Class C to Class B, which would mean a return to routine arrests for simple possession and an increase in penalties for trafficking, he will be ignoring the recommendation of the government's own drug policy-setting panel, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which has called for marijuana to remain Class C. Instead, Brown will be siding with law enforcement, concerned moms, and the mental health-drug treatment complex, all of whom are loudly howling that the drug is so dangerous it must be reclassified.

The British tabloid press, exemplified by the Daily Mail, has become a leading actor in the debate over reclassification, breathlessly reporting scary story after scary story about marijuana and its effects, particularly on youth. Here are just a handful of recent Daily Mail Reefer Madness headlines: "Son twisted by skunk knifed father 23 times," "How cannabis made me a monster," "Escaped prisoner killed man while high on skunk cannabis," "Boys on skunk butchered a grandmother," and "Teen who butchered two friends was addicted to skunk cannabis."

In another article, "How my perfect son became crazed after smoking cannabis," the Mail consults an unhappy mother whose child ran into problems smoking weed. Last fall, the Mail was warning of "deadly skunk."

While the Mail's preoccupation with skunk, a decades-old indica-sativa hybrid, is novel, it has also been hitting some more familiar themes. In an article headlined "Cannabis: A deadly habit as easy for children to pick up as a bag of crisps," after blaming marijuana for the problems of British youth culture and prohibition-related violence, the Mail breathlessly reports that skunk isn't your father's marijuana.

The other problem for the Government and others who urged the then Home Secretary David Blunkett to downgrade cannabis in the run-up to 2004, is that the drug on sale to young people on the streets today is very different from the one ministers thought they were downgrading.

Doctors believe that this new strain has the potential to induce paranoia and even psychosis.

Some of those we met who work with young criminals link the advent of the new drug with the growth and intensity of street violence.

Uanu Seshmi runs a small charity in Peckham, where gun crime is rife, which aims to help boys excluded from school escape becoming involved in criminal gangs.

He has seen boys come through his doors who are "unreachable" and he blames the new higher strength cannabis sold on the streets as "skunk" or "super skunk" for warping young minds.

"It isn't the cannabis of our youth, 20 or 30 years ago," he told me.

"This stuff damages the brain, its effects are irreversible and once the damage is done there is nothing you can do."

While such yellow journalism from the likes of the tabloid press is no surprise, even the venerable Times of London is feeling the effects of skunk fever. Under the headline Cannabis: 'just three drags on a skunk joint will induce paranoia', the Times managed to find and highlight a gentleman named Gerard who doesn't like that particularly variety of pot:

I smoke around six joints of regular cannabis every week, mostly at the weekends. What I like about smoking hash or weed is that it keeps me calm and gives me a more amusing outlook on life. With skunk, it's a completely different story. Just three drags on a skunk joint will induce paranoia on a massive scale.

As Britain's pro-cannabis reform media outlet Cannazine noted, "As a result of Gerard's personal experience with cannabis, The Times published a story to Google News which will ultimately go on to form part of the over-all anti-cannabis diatribe we are all subjected to daily. Is there any wonder at all why the world has such a confused view of what is really a hugely important social issue within the UK?"

Fortunately for British pot-smokers, smoking high-potency strains is not likely to turn them into mental patients or psycho-killers, said Dr. Mitch Earleywine -- and it may even be better for them than smoking low-potency weed. "The tacit assumption that increased potency translates into greater danger from the drug is untrue," he said. "In fact, marijuana with greater amounts of THC may is probably less hazardous than weaker cannabis. Stronger cannabis leads to smoking smaller amounts. Smoking smaller quantities could provide some protection against the health problems normally associated with inhaling smoke. Smokers may take smaller, shorter puffs when using more potent marijuana. Smoking less may decrease the amount of tars and noxious gases inhaled, limiting the risk for mouth, throat, and lung damage. Obviously, avoiding smoke completely would eliminate these problems," he said, suggesting that eating cannabis may be an alternative.

While marijuana potency has increased over the years, claims of dramatic potency increases "suffered from exaggeration or misinformation," said Earleywine.

The same could be said about claimed links between marijuana and schizophrenia, he suggested. "The obvious stuff, that pot doesn't cause schizophrenia but schizophrenics like pot, tends to apply here," he said. "The longitudinal studies often do a great job of assessing psychosis at the end of the period but a poor job of assessing symptoms at the beginning of the study. There are now about five longitudinal studies suggesting increases in 'psychotic disorders' or 'schizophrenic spectrum disorders' in folks who are heavy users of cannabis very early in life. There are also six studies to show more symptoms of schizo-typal personality disorder in cannabis users. Note that none of these are full-blown schizophrenia, the rare, disabling disorder that affects about 1% of the population," he said.

"The best argument against this idea comes from work showing that schizophrenia affects 1% of the population in every country and across every era, regardless of how much cannabis was used at the time or up to ten years before," Earleywine added.

For California court-certified cannabis cultivation expert Chris Conrad, the British obsession with skunk is somewhat mystifying. "Skunk is just another hybrid cannabis strain," he said. "It was developed by Dave Watson, and I believe it is 75% sativa and 25% indica with a strong aromatic flavor, hence the name. There is also 'Super Skunk' that adds more indica, which is what differentiates it from regular skunk. But the name and any alleged "skunk effect" are not related in any reality-based way, because that same effect is derived from all hybrid strains."

While scoffing at the sensationalized claims of skunk's powers, Conrad pointed to one real, but minor, risk associating with using high-potency marijuana. "Individuals with low blood sugar, low blood pressure and a tendency toward fainting may pass out after smoking a few hits of very strong cannabis, usually indica strains grown indoors. That's it. The only danger seems to be bumping your head if you fall over."

If the British press wanted to warn readers of real potential problems with high-potency marijuana, it would tell them to be careful around strong cannabis if they have low blood pressure and/or a history of fainting, said Conrad. "But instead of responsibly advising the public that certain individuals who are easily identified by their medical history should be careful to sit down when they smoke very strong cannabis -- the media instead uses this to fan fears, glamorize the drug war and sell newspapers without even bothering to give their readers the only useful information they need to know about the topic. Somebody should be fired for allowing them to publish lies like they have been doing. Shame on them."

"We are in the middle of a full-blown Reefer Madness moral panic," said Steve Rolles of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. "It is, of course, political -- opponents of the government are attacking it using the 2004 reclassification as a basis. Any bad things that happen involving cannabis can be blamed on the government, and any research that illustrates cannabis harms used to show how weak and irresponsible the government is. The government is on the verge of caving into the pressure, rather than arguing the case for the policy," he noted.

And while the Daily Mail is a tabloid (a rough American equivalent would be the New York Post), it is influential, Rolles said. "It influences the government because it is read by a large number of floating voters who switched from Tory to Labor and will potentially switch back," he argued. "The Mail has a disproportional impact on politicians because of its reader demographic and correspondingly has a disproportional impact on the news agenda and general popular political discourse. The memes about cannabis harms -- particularly mental illness and young people, the potent new 'skunk', links to violent crime -- and the fact that reclassification, and by implication the government, are responsible for it all are very much perpetuated by the Mail. It's the old story about the Government 'sending out messages' to young people," he said.

The Daily Mail is a political actor in opposition to the Labor government, Rolles noted. "The Mail despises the government for various reasons -- mostly to do with its editor who is a reactionary-right moral authoritarian with a classic conservative view of a traditional Britain under attack from various wicked modern cultural forces."

The Daily Mail's Reefer Madness reporting serves the political ends of the Conservatives, Rolles explained. "Their home affairs spokesman, David Davis, is like a drug war jack in the box, popping up at every opportunity and deploying one of a selection of set phrases linking all of the above; government being weak, sending out the wrong message, cannabis harms, reclassification being the cause of all the problems, and his solution -- ignore the ACMD, reclassify, and most absurdly; 'secure our borders'. It's fear mongering and sound-tough drug war idiocy on a quite epic scale."

But that idiocy will most likely be sufficient to sway the Labor government into moving resolutely backwards on marijuana policy. For American readers in particular, for whom such reporting seems like something out of the 1930s, the role of the reactionary British press in setting marijuana policy should be an object lesson.

Pain Treatment: Prosecutors in Case Seek to Shut Up Doctor, Critics

Federal prosecutors in the case of Haysville, Kansas, physician Dr. Steven Schneider and his wife, who were indicted for allegedly operating a "pill mill" by prescribing to pain patients, asked a federal judge last Friday for a gag order to keep Schneider and his supporters from making their case in the court of public opinion.

The case of the Schneiders has attracted the attention of pain treatment advocates critical of heavy-handed federal government attacks on pain doctors, including the Pain Relief Network. The network's leader, Siobhan Reynolds, has been instrumental in mobilizing Schneider's patients in support of their doctor and in opposition to the federal prosecution. Prosecutors sought a temporary injunction to bar Schneider, his wife, other family members, and PRN's Reynolds from talking to the media.

"We strongly oppose a gag order because we believe in the public's access to the justice system," defense attorney Lawrence Williamson told the court. "We think the request is overbroad and not supported by law at all." While prosecutors accused the defense of trying to taint the jury pool, Williamson said that was not the case. "We are often contacted by media to respond to allegations that are made by the government and if the public has questions to the allegations we should be able to respond to those within the rule," Williamson said.

Prosecutors had no problem with media coverage of the case when they trumpeted the arrests of Schneider and his wife back in December, and they remained quiet when local media ran stories supportive of the prosecution. But questions raised in the press by Reynolds and other supporters about the 34-count indictment of Schneider accusing him of a variety of crimes related to his prescribing of opioid pain medications have the feds seeking to silence their foes.

Prosecutors claimed Reynolds told a patient that if he was going to kill himself because of lack of access to pain medications, he should do it publicly -- a charge Reynolds angrily rejected, calling it "absolutely false."

"This is just a wild allegation," Reynolds said. "Basically it was put out there to try to smear me. The Pain Relief Network works very hard to try to stop the suicides going on across the country because of untreated pain, the epidemic of untreated pain," she told the Associated Press. "I'm shocked that the government would try to get a gag order against a political activist. I find that stunning."

Editorial: Justice Unhinged

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden
One of the basic elements of the US system of justice, a founding principle in fact, is that of the trial by a jury of one's peers. The jury is seen as a safeguard against tyranny, and has also been a matter of pride representing the strength and quality of our democracy.

No kangaroo courts, we say, no railroading by the system, and above all justice based on facts. If just one of the 12 jurors on a case feels that guilt has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, that juror should vote not guilty and then a conviction shall not be obtained -- another trial can be held, if the government thinks it's worth it, but a conviction is not obtained that time. If they all vote not guilty, then not guilty is the verdict, and the matter ends.

It is hoped thereby that the innocent will be protected from the overwhelming power of the state. Because another one of our founding principles is that it is better to let many guilty persons go free rather than convict and even incarcerate one innocent.

Unfortunately, while for many defendants in the courts those principles are still the law, for others they merely describe what once was. The wrench that unhinged justice was the "war on drugs." Within the '80s drug war, perversions were wrought that allowed those whose guilt was unproven to be punished, and in fact those who were acquitted of charges brought against them to also be punished.

One such perversion was civil asset forfeiture. In that corrupt practice, a charge is leveled not at a person, but at a piece of property. If the property is found to have been used in the commission of a drug crime (and some other kinds of crimes), it is "guilty," and the government can take it whether the owner knew about the lawbreaking or not. Some restrictions have been placed on this practice by states and even the feds from time to time, but they have been largely ineffective. The result of forfeiture is the disgusting spectacle of government agents stealing from members of the public -- the thefts ranging from dollars and cents on the street up to cars or even homes and retirement savings -- with the profits going to law enforcement agencies where they are spent on various purposes, many questionable.

An even greater perversion is what has happened to federal sentencing. Once upon a time, a conviction by a jury was needed to send a person to prison. That is still the case, if a defendant happens to be acquitted of all charges. But get convicted of just one charge that has been brought against you, if charges are brought together, and now you can be sentenced based on the others, even if there is no verdict or even if you were acquitted of them. In fact it's not even strictly necessary for the charges to be brought at all.

Though the Supreme Court has rendered some decisions in recent years to restrict this practice in certain cases, in others it is apparently wide open. In 2005, Mark Hurn was prosecuted in federal court in Wisconsin for possession of powder cocaine, and a larger amount of crack cocaine, was convicted of the former but acquitted of the latter. Federal guidelines specified about three years for the charge that was the subject of the conviction -- itself a grave injustice. But the prosecutor argued to the judge that Hurn was probably guilty of the crack charges too, the judge bought it, and hiked the sentence up to 18 years instead.

Late last month, the Supreme Court declined to hear Hurn's case. And so Hurn is stuck with 18 years behind bars, but the vast majority of it for conduct of which he was exonerated. Who are the true criminals here? Not Mark Hurn, as far as I am concerned. Justice has been unhinged, courtesy of the drug warriors, the judiciary complicit. What fine service they have rendered to the nation.

Recurso: Se puede acceder al Calendario del Reformador a través de la página web de la DRCNet

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Con el lanzamiento de nuestra nueva página web, El Calendario del Reformador ya no aparecerá como parte del boletín Crónica de la Guerra Contra las Drogas, pero será mantenido como sección de nuestra nueva página web:

El Calendario del Reformador publica grandes y pequeños eventos de interés para los reformadores de las políticas de drogas alrededor del mundo. Ya sea una gran conferencia internacional, una manifestación que reúna a personas de toda la región o un foro en la universidad local, queremos saber para que podamos informar a los demás también.

Pero necesitamos su ayuda para mantener el calendario actualizado, entonces por favor contáctenos y no suponga que ya estamos informados sobre el evento o que vamos a saberlo por otra persona, porque eso no sucede siempre.

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