Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Sentencing: California Governor Signs Bill Amending Proposition 36, Is Immediately Sued

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) Wednesday signed into law a bill that substantially alters the state's voter-approved Prop 36, the state's "treatment not jail" law. One of the authors of the measure, which mandates treatment not jail for first- and second-time drug offenders, immediately filed suit to block the law from going into effect.

The bill, which was tacked onto a budget bill and passed last month, allows "flash incarceration" of up to five days for people who have failed to participate in treatment programs. Championed by law enforcement and drug court professionals, the new law stands in stark contrast with the initiative approved by the voters, who approved Prop 36's "no jail" provisions by a wide margin. Under California laws, substantive changes in voter-approved initiatives must be done by the voters, not the legislature.

Prop 36 coauthor Cliff Gardner filed his lawsuit Wednesday afternoon in Alameda County Superior Court. He is being represented by Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) attorney Daniel Abrahamson. "Rather than veto SB 1137, the Governor opted to engage in a legal battle over what he knows is an unconstitutional law," said Abrahamson in a statement. "We have filed a complaint in Alameda County Superior Court, and are confident that Prop 36 and the will of the people will be upheld."

But Lisa Fisher, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, told the Associated Press the state would enforce the law unless a judge orders it not to. "We think that the reforms are furthering the purposes of Proposition 36," she said. "The one thing we have learned over the years is that jail sanctions need to be part of a whole package of sanctions that an individual can expect."

Law Enforcement: Goose Creek Agrees to Pay Up, Change Ways in Settlement of Notorious High School Drug Raid Case

A federal judge Tuesday gave final approval to a landmark settlement in the case of the heavy-handed 2003 police drug raid on students at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Under the terms of the settlement, the Goose Creek Police Department, the City of Goose Creek, and the Berkeley County School District will pay $1.6 million for violating the rights of nearly 150 students caught in the raid. The trio also signed a consent decree barring police from conducting law enforcement activities on school grounds absent a warrant, probable cause, or voluntary consent.

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early morning high school raid: no drugs or guns found
Caught by both school and police surveillance cameras, video of the raid helped make the case a cause celebre. The tapes show students as young as 14 forced to the ground in handcuffs as officers in SWAT team uniforms and bulletproof vests aim guns at their heads and lead a drug dog to tear through their book bags. Authorized by Principal George McCrackin because he suspected a student was dealing marijuana, the raid came up empty: no drugs or weapons were found and none of the students were charged with any crime.

"They hit that school like it was a crack house, like they knew that there were crack dealers in there armed with guns," said 14-year-old Le'Quan Simpson, who was one of the students forced to kneel at gunpoint in the school hallway and whose father served on a SWAT team.

Simpson's father, Elijah Simpson, a local deputy sheriff who has served on SWAT teams, said, "This was clearly a no-shoot situation no matter how you look at it. A school drug raid is not a SWAT situation, but that's how the Goose Creek police handled it." The police raid was unnecessarily dangerous, the older Simpson added. "It was crossfire just waiting to happen. If one door slammed, one student dropped a book or screamed, and then those guns would have gone off all over the place. Did you see the way they were swinging those guns around? That's not how you do it."

Following the raid, the ACLU brought a lawsuit on behalf of students' families charging police and school officials with violating the students' right to be free from unlawful search and seizure and use of excessive force. The lawsuit demanded a court order declaring the raid unconstitutional and blocking the future use of such tactics, as well as damages on behalf of the students. Joined by local attorneys, the lawsuit grew to include 53 of the affected students.

The American Civil Liberties Union represented 20 of them, including Simpson. "Goose Creek students now have a unique place in our nation," said Graham Boyd, Director of the

ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "They are the only students in the nation who have complete protection of their Fourth Amendment rights of search and seizure."

Marlon Kimpson, a lawyer with Motley Rice LLC, the firm that represented most of the students, said students involved in the drug sweep must file claims by July 28. A claims administrator appointed by the court will then evaluate each student's claim and determine which students are eligible for the funds, Kimpson said.

"Any student who was searched and seized on Nov. 5, 2003, is now eligible for compensation and they have received notice of that," Kimpson told the Charleston Post & Courier. "It is now incumbent on the students to take action and have their claim considered."

Under the terms of the settlement, the affected students will divide $1.2 million among themselves, while the lawyers will pocket $400,000. Depending on the number of students who agree to the settlement, each could walk away with between $6,000 and $12,000.

The powers that be have learned a lesson, said Kimpson. "McCrackin is no longer in charge, the police have agreed to additional training and school district has vowed to change its policies with respect to the way they conduct drug raids," Kimpson said. "You must conduct drug searches according to the US Constitution. This settlement and this class-action lawsuit is notice to police officers and school officials across the nation that students don't shed their constitutional rights merely by entering a schoolhouse door."

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Posted in:

Some New Jersey cops got too friendly with drug dealers, while a Pennsylvania park ranger and a New Mexico jail guard got caught trying to be drug dealers. Let's get to it:

In Newark, New Jersey, six police officers were indicted Tuesday on charges they warned a drug ring about police raids in exchange for drugs. The six were arrested over the last 18 months, but officials only took the case public upon their indictment. Passaic County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jay McCann said what began as "a social relationship" between the officers and their drug-dealing contemporaries escalated into law breaking and corruption. Those arrested were Pompton Lakes officers Dennis DePrima, 30, Robert J. Palianto, 29, and Michael Megna, 34; West Milford Officer Paul Kleiber, 26; West Paterson Officer Richard Beagin, 26; and Passaic County Sheriff's Officer Gerry Ward, 46. Each was suspended and faces charges including conspiracy to commit official misconduct; conspiracy to possess narcotics; official misconduct; witness tampering and hindering apprehension. The conspiracy unraveled after authorities figured out a suspect in a 2004 drug raid had been tipped off and investigated. The drugs involved included the prescription sleeping pill Ambien, cocaine, Oxycontin, and anabolic steroids.

In Altoona, Pennsylvania, a part-time state park ranger was arrested Saturday on meth dealing and related charges. William Ickes, 61, a ranger at Blue Knob State Park was charged with three counts each of possession and delivery of drugs, as well as additional drug and weapons charges. State officials allege that Ickes sometimes sold drugs in the park while in uniform. During an April raid on Ickes' residence, police seized a pipe bomb and various guns, plus methamphetamine, marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and drug paraphernalia. Ickes is jailed on a $150,000 bond.

In Albuquerque, a Metropolitan Detention Center guard was arrested Monday night on charges he conspired to smuggle heroin into the jail. Guard Marcus Urias, 19, went down after accepting a pack of tobacco, a gram of heroin, and his $150 fee from a man who turned out to be an undercover agent for the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department. Urias faces charges of drug trafficking, conspiracy to traffic drugs, and conspiracy to bring contraband into a prison. Urias was jailed and fired.

Feature: Methamphetamine as Child Abuse Laws Gain Ground, But Do They Help or Hurt?

When Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) signed a package of anti-methamphetamine measures into law last Thursday, Michigan became at least the sixth state to define either the use or the production of meth where children are present as child abuse. The trend is part of an all-out offensive against methamphetamine use and manufacture by law enforcement and child welfare agencies, but child protection critics and maternal rights advocates say it is a destructive and unnecessary response.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, at least 21 states and the District of Columbia define some drug use, distribution, or sales as child abuse or neglect. Among the various laws:

  • Manufacture of a controlled substance in the presence of child or on the premises occupied by a child (Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia).
  • Allowing a child to be present where the chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of controlled substances are used or stored (Arizona and New Mexico).
  • Selling, distributing, or giving drugs or alcohol to a child (Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, and Texas).
  • Use of a controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver's ability to adequately care for the child (Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas).
  • Exposure of the child to drug paraphernalia, the criminal sale or distribution of drugs, or drug-related activity (North Dakota, Montana and Virginia, and the District of Columbia, respectively).

When it comes to methamphetamine in particular, Michigan joins Iowa and South Dakota as singling out that drug and its users for special opprobrium in their child abuse statutes. Meanwhile, in Georgia, Idaho, and Ohio, the manufacture or possession of methamphetamine in the presence of a child is a felony, and Washington state provides for enhanced penalties for any conviction for the manufacture of methamphetamine when a child was present.

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controversial school meth cooking demo, Grays Harbor County, Washington, May 2005
Gov. Granholm sang a familiar tune as she announced the signing of the anti-meth package last week. "For the first time, we can now charge those who expose children to the dangers of methamphetamine production with child abuse – because that's what it is," Granholm said. "I'm proud to sign legislation that will help our law enforcement officers better protect children and give our communities additional tools to deal with the environmental damage caused by the production of this illegal drug."

But how big is the problem of meth-exposed children in Michigan? "I can't give you a specific answer as to numbers," said Michigan Department of Human Services Child Protection Services media relations specialist Maureen Sorbet. "We don't track that. We track child abuse cases by the type of abuse and the perpetrators," she told DRCNet.

The Michigan State Police were a bit more informed on the topic. Last year, 116 children were found in meth-related incidents, said Inspector Karen Halliday, who chaired a state meth task force subcommittee charged with dealing with children in homes with drugs present that drafted the meth child abuse law. "If you find one child in an environment like a meth home," that's a problem, she told DRCNet.

But even if every one of those 116 children were the subject of substantiated child abuse complaints, they would constitute less than one-tenth of one percent of substantiated child abuse complaints in the state. According to Child Protection Services, last year more than 128,000 child abuse or neglect complaints were filed last year in Michigan, more than 72,000 were investigated, and more than 18,000 substantiated.

Nationwide, similar results obtain. According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, child protective services agencies removed 1.19 million children from their parents between 2000 and 2003. During that same period, some 10,580 children were found to be "affected" by meth manufacture, with 2,881 placed in foster care. As the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform notes, "In other words, of all the entries into foster care from 2000 to 2003, at least 99.1% of them had nothing to do with meth labs."

"If the idea is to help children, these kinds of laws are extremely ineffective," said Richard Wexler, head of the coalition and a harsh critic of the nation's child protection services. "If the idea is to drive women underground and leave the children far worse off, it's extremely effective. These laws hurt the children they are allegedly intended to help. Listen, you can't be a meth addict and be a good parent, but further criminalizing them doesn't help anything. The key is to offer treatment. If you simply confiscate the kids, then they wind up in America's dreadful foster care system, bounced from home to home, unable to form lasting bonds with anyone," he told DRCNet.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women generally concentrates on the distinct -- but closely related -- issue of the plight of drug using expectant mothers (12 states and DC charge drug using mothers as child abusers, and 12 more have specific reporting procedures for infants who test positive at birth), but the group is also concerned about the meth as child abuse laws. "This completely misses the boat if we're talking about the public health angle," said Wyndi Anderson, national educator for the group. "We try really hard to get a lot of women access to a whole range of public health services. They need addiction treatment. Automatically labeling them child abusers doesn't help them at all, it only helps get them into prison and their children into foster care," she told DRCNet.

"These laws are an exercise in showboating," said Wexler. "The legislators want to look like they're cracking down on drugs and child abuse, but since it is already child abuse to commit an act that actually harms a child, these laws are redundant. All they do is frighten people away and take away one way to reach out to addicted parents and get the help that will help -- not hurt -- their children."

"When you equate meth use with child abuse, you create the possibility of a witch hunt," Anderson warned. "We want to keep communities healthy and families intact, and these kinds of laws will just bust up both. If you believe in family values, I don't see how you could be for something like this. Is this what conservatives mean when they're talking about compassion, forgiveness, and helping the downtrodden?"

Anderson did not minimize the problem of methamphetamine abuse, but argued that the answer is not more laws but more treatment. "What we should be doing is figuring out what treatment works, what family interventions work, what prevention efforts work. We are willing to spend big money on the criminal justice side, and if we really care about people's and families' health, we should be willing to spend on the public health side. But instead we've been spending on guns and prisons."

But it's more than just a "drug problem," said Anderson. "This is all much more complicated than just drugs or treatment," she said. "We need a comprehensive approach. People need jobs to go to when they get out. It is the community's responsibility to meet these people halfway."

Feature: Judge Throws Out Part of Alaska Marijuana Recriminalization Law, Up to An Ounce is Now Legal At Home

Gov. Frank Murkowski's two-year effort to recriminalize marijuana in Alaska hit a roadblock Monday when a Superior Court judge struck down the part of the law he pushed through the legislature earlier this year. Judge Patricia Collins threw out the section of the law that criminalizes the possession of marijuana for personal use in the privacy of one's home, but reduced the exempt amount from four ounces to one ounce. Collins also left intact portions of the law increasing penalties for marijuana offenses.

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propaganda show by Gov. Murkowski and drug czar Walters
In a 1975 decision, Ravin v. State, the Alaska Supreme Court held that the state constitution's privacy provisions barred the state from criminalizing the possession of personal amounts of marijuana in one's home. A 1991 initiative recriminalized marijuana possession, but when that law was eventually challenged in 2004, the Alaska court's upheld Ravin, saying the popular vote could not trump the state constitution.

Ever since, Gov. Murkowski has worked to undo those decisions. Last year, a determined lobbying effort financed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) managed to fend off action at the statehouse, but Murkowski managed to push the bill through earlier this year. Included in the law is a series of "findings" designed to demonstrate that marijuana is so much more dangerous now than in 1975 that the state Supreme Court will have to decide differently when it weighs the issue again.

"Unless and until the Supreme Court directs otherwise, Ravin is the law in this state and this court is duty bound to follow that law," Collins wrote in her decision as she granted summary judgment to the American Civil Liberties Union. The group had filed suit to block the law as soon as it became law in June.

"The drug war has wreaked havoc on the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution, but fortunately many state constitutions still shield individuals from drug war excess," said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "This ruling is incredibly significant from a national perspective, because there are a number of states with similar privacy rights in their constitutions that may afford protections to adult marijuana users."

"The state of Alaska has charted a different course from that of the federal government's failed policy on marijuana," said Michael MacLeod-Ball, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska. "This ruling affirms Alaska's commitment to fundamental privacy rights over reefer madness."

"We're certainly pleased we at least got a partial victory," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for MPP, which also chipped in on litigation costs. "And we're hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize the nonsensical nature of the findings the state wrote into the law in an effort to override the state constitution. But the court decision still left in place draconian new penalties for larger amounts and reduced the amount one can keep at home. The battle has begun, but it has a ways to go," he told DRCNet.

Alaska Department of Law spokesman Mark Morones told DRCNet the state would be quick to appeal the decision. "We are pleased the judge made an expeditious ruling," he said. "It's always been our position that the issue of the legality marijuana and the privacy debate really do have to go back to the Supreme Court for a final determination of the right to privacy and the state's safety interest in being able to prosecute marijuana cases. We plan to appeal expeditiously," Morones said.

In her decision, Collins explained that she limited it to the possession of less than one ounce because the ACLU argued that the only issue at stake in the case was the government's ability to regulate the possession of small amounts of marijuana. "No specific argument has been advanced in this case that possession of more than one ounce of marijuana, even within the privacy of the home, is constitutionally protected conduct under Ravin or that any plaintiff or ACLU of Alaska member actually possesses more than one ounce of marijuana in their homes," Collins wrote.

Department of Law spokesman Morones took heart in that portion of the ruling. "Our initial interpretation of this case at this point is that Judge Collins' decision makes it clear that the state has the ability to regulate marijuana use in amounts greater that one ounce," he said.

As things now stand in Alaska, possession of an ounce at home is okay, possession of up to four ounces is a misdemeanor, and possession of more than four ounces is a felony. Soon it will be time for the Alaska Supreme Court to definitively resolve the issue -- one more time. Both sides are already gearing up for the appeal, which will go directly to the Supreme Court. According to Morones, the process could take months or perhaps a year. In the meantime, Alaska once again stands as the only state in the nation where people can legally possess small amounts of marijuana.

Appeal/Book Offer: Race to Incarcerate, by Marc Mauer

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In "Race to Incarcerate," Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, explores the political, financial, and human toll of the "get tough" movement against crime and assesses why this policy has failed, making a compelling argument against the unprecedented rise in the use of imprisonment in the United States over the last 25 years. Race to Incarcerate also brings to light the devastating reality of disenfranchisement -- for example, 13 percent of African American men are ineligible to vote because of criminal convictions -- in ten states more than one in five black men are barred from voting because of their criminal records.

One of the main driving forces behind the US incarceration binge has been the "war on drugs." Please support DRCNet's efforts to "stop the drug war" by making a generous donation -- visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to do so online -- donate $30 or more and you will be eligible receive a copy of Race to Incarcerate as our thanks. (Click here to read our review of Race to Incarcerate published in Drug War Chronicle last month.)

We also continue to offer the DVD video Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the 5th edition of Drug War Facts -- add $5 to the minimum donation to add either of these to your request, or $10 to add both. Again, visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to make your donation and place your order, or send a check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.

Thank you for your support of these efforts.

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Editorial: Not Playing by the Rules, Not Making Sense

David Borden, Executive Director, 7/14/06

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David Borden
Call me old fashioned, but I like it when rule-makers play by the rules. I like it when the law corresponds to reality, both in wording and interpretation. I like it when laws make sense.

I don't like it when legislators thumb their noses at their constitutions to enact laws they know don't pass muster. Unpopular Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's marijuana re-criminalization bill, partially struck down by a Superior Court judge this week based on the state Supreme Court's standing word, is a good example. The bill signed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to change California's initiative-enshrined treatment-not-jail law in ways that contradict the voters' choice is another.

As worrisome as methamphetamine recipes floating around the Internet may be for some, the bill signed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm aiming at those almost certainly flouts the First Amendment. Are they going to sue publishers of online, academic chemistry texts that happen to include information on this legally-prescribable schedule II substance?

I don't like "legal fictions" -- definitions in the law that have to then be dealt with as if they were real when in fact they're not. The much criticized asset forfeiture laws, in many of which a mere object is the entity that gets accused of the crime (allowing the government to take property from innocent owners) rely on that fiction for their justification. Another such fiction is laws in 21 states, including another from Michigan, that categorically equate certain drug activity with child abuse -- whether a child was actually abused or not.

It's important to remember that child abuse laws are already on the books -- if a child is getting abused, some form of intervention by the law to address the situation is appropriate. But if a parent, for example, takes some methamphetamine while at home in order to stay up late to meet a critical work deadline, but without acting aggressively or neglecting the family's needs, how is that child abuse? Many people take meth or similar drugs on prescription from their doctors for very similar purposes. Doing so without a prescription is illegal, and can certainly be disconcerting. Some meth users do become unstable or violent. But are the two situations really so very different -- inherently, by definition -- for the latter to qualify as child abuse, even if no actual abusive acts ever take place?

Even when meth is being manufactured, it's fictional to equate it with abuse categorically, the legitimate dangers of meth manufacturing notwithstanding. If chemicals are being handled in a way that subjects children to harm qualifying as abuse, and if it's done intentionally or with clear, willful recklessness, then it doesn't matter whether it's meth or another drug or the stuff in those bottles underneath your kitchen sink, it's still abuse (or perhaps endangerment). But the fact that it's a drug being manufactured is purely incidental.

It's not legal hair-splitting to say that, because applying the label of "child abuse" creates an appearance that the accused is a monster who probably belongs in jail and almost certainly shouldn't be entrusted with children. But that may not at all be the case; the user may be a responsible user who takes perfectly good care of the kids. The user may be addicted and need help, but never raise a hand against a son or daughter or place them in danger. Even the dealer or manufacturer may only be trying to get by in difficult economic circumstances -- the illegal activity may be what one is doing in order to provide better for the children. That's a sad circumstance, but it's a circumstance faced by many. Disconcerting, yes, but child abuse?

The most offensive thing about the California development is that it was a coalition of law enforcement groups and drug court judges who pressed for the bill. They don't like the restrictions Prop 36 put on them. But so what? They have the right to field their own counter-initiative (with private money, of course), if they think they could win it. They lost pretty badly the first time. But the voters spoke, and the state constitution says that counts.

I don't think our law enforcers -- judges, of all people -- should disrespect the constitutions whose tenets are intended to stand over and bind them. Though they claim to hold law in reverence, in this they have trampled it. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think that's good for our country.

Feature: Wisconsin Drug Reform Activist and Senate Candidate Ben Masel Assaulted, Arrested By Campus Cops, Plans to Sue

Wisconsin's best known drug policy reformer, Weedstock organizer Ben Masel, was pepper-sprayed and arrested by University of Wisconsin-Madison police as he collected signatures for his senatorial campaign the evening of June 30. He was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting a police officer, trespassing, and remaining after being warned to leave, all misdemeanors.

Masel is running for the Democratic US Senate nomination against incumbent Sen. Herb Kohl. He is accepting only $1 donations and says he will have a web site up soon. He has until Tuesday to turn in his signatures and said this week he is confident he will make the ballot.

The long-time activist was at the UW Memorial Union collecting signatures during a hip-hop concert when two union managers told him he could not solicit signatures on the property and asked him to leave. Masel "politely declined," explaining that he is allowed to collect signatures on public property. The managers again asked him to leave and called campus police when he failed to do so. Campus police officers John McCaughtry and Michael Mansavage accosted Masel, pepper-sprayed him in the eyes, then pepper-sprayed him again while he was on the ground and restrained.

Masel -- whose is only accepting contributions of $1 -- said he never struggled with the officers and would have gone along willingly if the police had asked. "If they had said something along the lines of 'Mr. Masel, you're under arrest,' I would have put my hands behind my back and complied," he said.

The entire incident was witnessed by -- among others -- Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who told the Wisconsin State Journal Masel wasn't bothering anyone. "I didn't feel Ben was causing any disruptions," Cieslewicz said. "I certainly didn't feel he was disrupting my evening at all. I didn't see a reason to remove him from the terrace."

Wisconsin Union assistant facilities director Roger Vogts told the Journal the Memorial Union has a policy forbidding people from handing out literature, collecting signatures, or similar activities. "We don't want people coming in, going table to table, bothering people," Vogts said.

But the union has been inconsistent in enforcing its legally questionable policy. In the wake of the incident, the Capital Times contacted several politicians who said they routinely solicited signatures at the spot where Masel was arrested. They were never asked to leave, let alone assaulted and arrested, they said.

The UW Memorial Union and its cops picked on the wrong guy, as Masel is notorious for winning lawsuits against state and local officials for violating his rights. He has filed and won lawsuits against Dane County for blocking his leafleting at the Harvest Festival, against then Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) for denying permits for the festival and over the issue of amplification at the festival, against the city of Madison over leafleting the US Conference of Mayors in 2005, and against a community college and the city of Madison for being arrested while leafleting for an anti-drug war district attorney candidate. Masel's biggest win (and payout) came in Sauk County, where the county had to pay him $95,000 after illegally arresting him during the 2000 Weedstock festival.

He is also suing police in Kansas City over a 2001 incident on an Amtrak passenger train. Masel was traveling from Albuquerque to Chicago when police boarded the train and asked two young men to consent to a warrantless search of their belongings. Masel stood and informed the young men they had the right to refuse a search, after which police arrested him for obstruction of justice. He is seeking punitive damages for violation of his free speech rights and compensation for repeated trips to Missouri to fight the case against him, which was eventually dropped.

Now the university's Memorial Union will be the next to face a Masel lawsuit, he told DRCNet. "First, I'll be defending against the criminal charges, and then I will be bringing a countersuit on behalf of the campaign for violating free speech rights and against the officers for excessive use of force," he said. "There was not even a smidgen of justification for that second spraying when I was on the ground with the guy's knee in my back. The unnecessary force claim will focus on that one that they have no defense for. And I have some great witnesses," Masel laughed. "The mayor was sitting only eight feet away."

The incident has aided his signature-gathering effort, Masel said. "It's been a lot easier to collect signatures since I got pepper-sprayed," he said. "And the state Democratic Party chair, who had promised me a speaking slot at the convention, but then didn't have me on the list very quickly, turned around and gave me a slot after my arrest."

Masel, whose activism has taken place under varying banners, said he was running as a Democrat because the incumbent, Herb Kohl, did little and because the party claimed it was open to grassroots activism. "There's been a lot of rhetoric from Howard Dean and the state Democratic Party here about how the party is more open now, so I decided to test them. They haven't quite passed with flying colors, but they haven't failed the test, either," he said.

While he is known primarily as a drug reformer, Masel is not emphasizing the issue -- because he doesn't have to. "I'm so known statewide on drug policy, I don't actually have to talk about it much. The reporters will always ask me about it." Instead, he is emphasizing concerns about the Patriot Act and related electronic privacy issues and says his first bill as senator would tighten the War Powers Act to make it more difficult for presidents to take the country to war. "I'm trying to break out of the one-trick pony thing on drug policy," he said.

Feature: Battle Over California's Proposition 36 to Head to Court

Last week, the California legislature voted to approve changes to Proposition 36, the state's "treatment not jail" law, that would alter the law's basic philosophy. This week, Prop. 36 supporters are waiting for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign the bill into law. Then they will immediately file suit to have the new law overturned.

Under Prop. 36, the state has saved $1.3 billion dollars, according to a study carried out by researchers at UCLA. But that study also found that nearly a third of Prop. 36 clients failed to complete drug treatment. Another study in 2004 found that nearly a third of people receiving drug treatment under Prop. 36 were arrested on drug charges within a year of entering treatment.

The bill passed last week, SB 1137, toughens Prop. 36 by allowing judges to sentence people who relapse into drug use to periods up to five days of "flash incarceration." Originally drafted by law enforcement and California drug court professionals -- the groups who opposed Prop. 36 from the beginning -- the bill ultimately introduced by Sen. Denise Ducheny (D-San Diego) managed to win bipartisan support at the statehouse in spite of warnings from the legislative counsel's office that it was unconstitutional.

"Legislation that would authorize a sentence of incarceration for a first, second, or third drug-related probation violation, if enacted, would constitute an amendment of Proposition 36 that would both not further that initiative statute and be consistent with its purposes," the office wrote last year. "Therefore, the legislation could not take effect without voter approval," the office concluded.

While Prop. 36 supporters argue that jailing people who relapse is counterproductive, Ducheny and her law enforcement allies disagree. "Fundamentally, this is not giving them jail time for the drug offense but to say, 'Look, we gave you that opportunity and you decided, for whatever reason, not to take advantage of it... You didn't meet your responsibility to us, so we need some accountability,'" Ducheny said as the bill was being debated.

But Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, disagreed. "I have long been opposed to this concept of flash incarceration," he said before voting against the bill. "There's no evidence at all that it works."

Another strong legislative friend of Prop. 36, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) criticized the legislature for backing changes that "fly in the face of the 61.5% of the people who voted for" the initiative.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which has fought to see that Prop. 36 is properly implemented and adequately funded and which bitterly fought the Ducheny bill, is prepared to go to court to stop what it sees as the legislature's unconstitutional attack on the ballot measure.

"In passing SB 1137, the legislature made changes to Prop. 36 that go against the intent of the initiative as passed by voters, and the legislature cannot do that. Under state law, the only changes the legislature can make to an initiative are changes that further its original intent, and this does the opposite," said Margaret Dooley of the Drug Policy Alliance's Southern California office. "They changed a treatment initiative into an incarceration program where people in treatment can be thrown in jail. That violates the initiative's intent, and we will be asking the courts to decide that constitutional issue," she told DRCNet.

SB 1137 also includes another constitutionally questionable provision. In an effort to block court challenges, the new law says that if any part of the legislation is found to be unconstitutional, the entire law will go to the popular ballot.

That clause should arouse the ire of supporters of the initiative process, which is widely used in California, said DPA head of legal affairs Dan Abrahamson. "Once the public begins to understand the radical and unprecedented nature of that clause, you're going to see a variety of organizations who've used the initiative process in the past come out of the woodwork and join the challenge of this clause," he told the Los Angeles Times. "It's not just DPA, but all sorts of organizations across the political spectrum who have used the initiative process over the last umpteen years coming out of the woodwork to challenge this ridiculous provision," Abrahamson said.

"If this provision is allowed to stand, we can kiss the initiative process goodbye," added Dooley. "Any politician who doesn't like an initiative could write a bill to change it, then if it goes to court and is found unconstitutional, he could take it to a public vote. Then another politician could repeat the process," she argued.

"It is really disappointing that our legislators would vote for something that is clearly unconstitutional," Dooley said. "We need the courts to decide these matters now and correct this legislative mistake."

Editorial: Is Ecstasy a Dangerous Drug?

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David Borden
South Australian Member of Parliament Sandra Kanck aroused some ire in her country, including from Democratic colleagues, when she told her fellow parliamentarians that "ecstasy is not a dangerous drug." This month she went on to say that she had attended a "rave" and that she felt much safer there than if she had been out at a bar. Again fellow politicos were neither enraptured nor amused.

Is ecstasy a dangerous drug? Certainly a lot of people say it is. Are they giving us the "straight dope" on that issue?

One way to decide this question is to look at the numbers. When former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman called for new mandatory minimum sentences for the drug in summer 2000, I took a look at the statistics, and was stunned to find that only eight deaths had been attributed to it by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) during 1998, the latest year for which the statistics were yet available. That was a national statistic, not New Jersey, and it was not clear in every case that ecstasy was the cause as opposed to just being present in the situation.

Compared this with the well over a hundred thousand dying each year from alcohol and the hundreds of thousands from nicotine -- well, I'm not sure what to say about it. Any preventable death is a tragedy. But is such a relatively miniscule number enough to justify calling ecstasy is a dangerous drug in the grand scheme of things? A study in the British Medical Journal made a similar finding, 81 deaths related to the drug between 1997 and 2000, 20 per year.

Certainly the numbers are larger now, as the drug's popularity has increased. But still we are looking at pretty small numbers. The DAWN mortality report for 2003 said that "clubs drugs were reported infrequently." Ecstasy is just one of the club drugs, so it was even less frequent when looking at ecstasy alone. Even adjusting for the larger number of users of those drugs, it is still night and day. And those numbers could be further reduced by ending prohibition of ecstasy to insure its purity and that users will know its potency, and by pill testing, safety information and other harm reduction programs operating in places like raves as Kanck suggested. Since neither ecstasy nor raves are likely to go away anytime soon, instituting those measures widely would be a good move. DanceSafe's web site is a good place to get information about that topic.

I would hesitate to say that any drug is completely safe, and the mortality numbers are greater than zero -- using ecstasy should by no means be done lightly without aforethought -- but the numbers also seem to say that ecstasy's dangers are radically less than many other widely used substances. So I would likewise hesitate to say that ecstasy is truly "dangerous," in the sense that most people think when hearing that word used.

Certainly the moves to enact draconian criminal sentences for ecstasy seem kind of bizarre in that light. In that light I would say that politicians are much more dangerous than ecstasy. The good Ms. Kanck and like-minded ones excepted, of course.

Medical Marijuana: Five Arrested, 13 Dispensaries Raided by DEA in San Diego

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Feds Hit San Diego Medical Marijuana Co-ops Again
Just a week after the US House of Representatives voted to continue funding Justice Department raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal, the feds struck again. Five people have been arrested in a series of DEA and local police raids Thursday hitting 13 medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego County. Some people are being charged under state marijuana distribution laws in the cooperative federal-local effort. More arrests are expected, local law enforcement officials said.

The raids and arrests came as federal officials unsealed two indictments, one charging the Purple Bud Room and Tender Holistics Care dispensaries with illegally distributing marijuana, the other laying similar charges against five people who owned and operated Co-op San Diego.

The feds also went after four doctors on suspicion of providing medical marijuana recommendations for people the officials claimed did not legitimately need marijuana. State and federal officials have filed complaints with the state Medical Board against the doctors.

The San Diego District Attorney's Office announced it was filing marijuana distribution charges against five dispensaries: Ocean Beach Dispensary and Utopia, both on Voltaire Street in Ocean Beach; Native Sun Dispensary on Rosecrans Street, in the Midway District; THC Dispensary, no longer in business, in Pacific Beach; and the California Medical Center, on La Jolla Boulevard in La Jolla.

In a statement announcing the busts, the DA's Office said it was not aiming at medical marijuana patients, but at retail pot outlets disguised as dispensaries. "Our office has no intention of stopping those who are chronically ill with AIDS, glaucoma and cancer from obtaining any legally prescribed drug, including medical marijuana, to help them ease their pain," said DA Bonnie Dumanis said. But the state's medical marijuana law is "being severely abused and it has led to the neighborhood pot dealer opening up storefronts from La Jolla to Ocean Beach to North Park," she said.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana defense group, announced in an e-mail Thursday afternoon it was holding an emergency meeting in San Diego that evening to craft a response.

Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].

June 23, 7:30-8:30pm, Lansing, MI, book talk with "Burning Rainbow Farm" author Dean Kuipers. At Schuler Books and Music, 2820 Towne Center Blvd., Eastwood Shopping Center, contact Laura Keefe at (646) 307-5580 or [email protected] for further information.

June 29, 7:00-10:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles CityBeat party in honor of "Burning Rainbow Farm." At Café-Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 W Adams Blvd., contact Laura Keefe at (646) 307-5580 or [email protected] for further information.

July 3, 8:00pm-1:00am, Portland, OR, benefit concert for Citizens for a Safer Portland marijuana low-priority initiative, featuring music State of Jefferson and The Buffalo Riders and guest Rob Kampia of MPP. At Lola's Room, 1332 W. Burnside St. (below the Crystal Ballroom), 21 and over, admission $15 at door, visit http://www.makeportlandsafer.org or call (503) 236-0205 for further information.

July 4, Washington, DC, Fourth of July Rally, sponsored by the Fourth of July Hemp Coalition. At Lafayette Park, call (202) 251-4492 or visit http://www.smoke-in.org for further information.

July 14, 5:30-8:00pm, Chicago, IL, cocktail reception with Judge James P. Gray, author of "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs." Sponsored by the Heartland Institute, at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, 163 East Walton Place, admission free, contact Nikki Comerford at (312) 377-4000 or [email protected] for further information.

July 15-20, Chicago, IL, "Freedom, Tolerance, and Civil Society," free summer seminar for college students, sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies. At Loyola University, visit http://www.i-liberty.org by April 10 for information or to apply -- apply before March 31 and receive a free book.

July 20-23, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "Fourth Biennial International Meaning Conference on Addiction," contact Dr. Paul T.P. Wong at [email protected] or visit http://www.meaning.ca for information.

July 21, 7:00pm, Washington, DC, "Race to Incarcerate," book talk with The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer. At Politics & Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, visit http://www.politics-prose.com for further information.

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org for further information.

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit http://www.MassCann.org for further information.

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit http://www.madisonnorml.org for further information.

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ or contact Paula Santiago at [email protected].

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit http://www.methconference.org for info.

Weekly: This Week in History

June 23, 1999: New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson tells an audience at the Cato Institute, "The nation's so-called War on Drugs has been a miserable failure. It hasn't worked. The drug problem is getting worse. I think it is the number one problem facing this country today... We really need to put all the options on the table... and one of the things that's going to get talked about is decriminalization."

June 24, 1982: During remarks about Executive Order 12368 made from the White House's Rose Garden, President Ronald Reagan says, "We're taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts. We're running up a battle flag."

June 25, 1923: During a speech in Denver, Colorado, Senator Morris Shepard of Texas who had helped install prohibition of alcohol says, "There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail."

June 25, 1987: Colombia officially annuls their extradition treaty with the US, following a barrage of personal threats from drug traffickers against members of the Supreme Court.

June 25, 2003: The Superior Administrative Court of Cundinamarca, Colombia, orders a stop to the spraying of glyophosphate herbicides until the government complies with the environmental management plan for the eradication program, and mandates a series of studies to protect public health and the environment.

June 26, 1936: The Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs is signed in Geneva.

June 26, 2001: China marks the UN international anti-drugs day by holding rallies where piles of narcotics are burned, and 60 people are executed for drug offenses, among hundreds killed by authorities since April 2001 in a crime crackdown labeled "Strike Hard" that alllowed for speeded up trials and broader use of the death penalty.

June 27, 1991: The US Supreme Court upholds, in a 5-4 decision, a Michigan statute that imposes a mandatory sentence of life without possibility of parole for anyone convicted of possession of more than 650 grams (about 1.5 pounds) of cocaine.

June 27, 2002: In Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls, the US Supreme Court decides 6-3 to uphold the most sweeping drug-testing policy yet to come before the Court -- a testing requirement for any public school student seeking to take part in any extracurricular activity, the near-equivalent of a universal testing policy.

June 28, 1776: The first draft of the Declaration of Independence is written on Dutch hemp paper. A second draft, the version released on July 4, is also written on hemp paper. (The final draft is copied from the second draft onto animal parchment.)

June 29, 1938: The Christian Century reports, "In some districts inhabited by Latino Americans, Filipinos, Spaniards, and Negroes, half the crimes are attributed to the marijuana craze."

Web Scan: Len Bias, UN Coca Survey, Oaksterdam News

perspectives on the death of Len Bias 20 years later, from the University of Maryland's Diamondback

UNODC 2005 Andean Coca Survey

summer 2006 issue of Oaksterdam News

Medical Marijuana: National Multiple Sclerosis Society to Fund Study

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In what could be the first sign of a course reversal by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which has scoffed at medical marijuana in the past, the group announced this week that it will fund a study on the effect of marijuana on spasticity in MS patients. While the Society acknowledges that up to 15% of MS patients use medical marijuana, funding the new study is the first time the group has indicated it is hearing what those patients are saying.

The society currently rejects the use of marijuana to relieve MS symptoms. As it notes on its web site, "Based on the studies to date, it is the opinion of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Medical Advisory Board that there are currently insufficient data to recommend marijuana or its derivatives as a treatment for MS. Long-term use of marijuana may be associated with significant serious side effects. In addition, other well-tested, FDA-approved drugs are available, such as baclofen and tizanidine, to reduce spasticity in MS."

The Society said it was moved by inconclusive earlier studies on the effect of marijuana on MS spasticity to fund a one using a new measure. The study is not a new one; the group is taking over funding for ongoing research at the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, which lost funding when the investigation was only partially completed.

The study, by Dr. Mark Agius and fellow researchers at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine, is scheduled for completion in March 2008.

Latin America: Venezuela-Funded Coca Factory Opens in Bolivia

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Bolivian President Evo Morales traveled to the town of Irupana in Bolivia's Yungas coca-growing region Saturday to preside over the opening of a factory where coca leaves will be made into legal products. Morales, who rose to power as the leader of a confederation of coca growers' unions has vowed to seek alternative legal uses for the plant as part of his anti-cocaine strategy.

"Manufacturing coca products doesn't do any harm because coca isn't a drug," Morales told hundreds of coca growing peasants in Irupana in an address that was televised around the country. "They're going to make flour, tea, soft drinks and other products in the first two plants," he said.

Earlier this year, Morales traveled the world, in part to seek markets for coca products, and that strategy may be paying off. The Associated Press reported Bolivian government officials saying that China, Cuba, India, and Venezuela have already expressed interest in buying coca products.

Morales has positioned himself alongside Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro as part of a leftist pole in hemispheric affairs. Bolivian Agriculture Minister Hugo Salvatierra told Bolivian state television that Chavez has pledged $1 million to fund two coca-processing factories.

Although current Bolivian law limits coca production to some 29,000 acres in the Yungas, unsanctioned production is occurring there, as well as in the Chapare region. According to US and UN figures, Bolivia is the world's third largest coca producer, after Colombia and Peru. US government policy is to eradicate unsanctioned coca, but Morales would rather find legitimate markets for it.

Africa: Nigerian Narcs in Losing Battle with Marijuana Farmers

Nigeria's booming marijuana trade is more than the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) can handle, the agency's commander in Edo state, a center of the trade, told a major newspaper last week. An undermanned, under-equipped, and under-budgeted anti-drug agency can't compete with rising domestic and international demand and few other economic options for northern farmers, he said.

But the narc is making the best of it by claiming that Nigerian bud is now "the best in the world." That claim is open to heated debate, but "Indian hemp," as the locals call it, is now showing up in European markets, where it competes with the best the rest of the world has to offer.

In its 2006 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, the US State Department noted that "marijuana/cannabis is grown all over Nigeria, but mainly in central and northern states. Cultivation is generally on small fields in remote areas. Its market is concentrated in West Africa and Europe; none is known to have found its way to the United States. However, domestic use is becoming more widespread. The NDLEA has destroyed marijuana fields, but has no regular, organized eradication program in place. There are no reliable figures to determine crop size and yields."

"The drug war in this part of the country is higher than any other place because, essentially, Edo state is a home for the cultivation of cannabis," state NDLEA commander Okey Ihebom told the Abuja Daily Trust. "They plant Indian hemp in large quantity in this state. The cannabis being produced in Edo and Ondo states is the best in the world. So, there is a ready market for it anywhere in the world. We also understand that the cannabis from those two states is more expensive. The producers and the peddlers are therefore willing to take any type of risk to produce and export the drugs."

The state only has one vehicle for marijuana law enforcement and no good jail, Ihebom complained, and farmers have been known to fight back. "You cannot get a vehicle that can carry you to such farms. The farms are not accessible by any form of vehicle. You will drive into the forest and stop about 20 kilometers away from the farm and trek to the place," he explained. "At the farms, the farmers are mostly armed. They know the area better than us. After an exchange of fire, when we overpower them, we make arrest and commence the destruction of the farms. It will take us days to destroy a large farm. At times, they will regroup and fight us back with sophisticated weapons. That was how the command lost two of its men recently."

It also lacks an effective prevention campaign. "People smoke cannabis out of ignorance," Ihebom said. "When we enlighten the public on the adverse effecting of smoking the drug, I am sure a good number of people will stop the habit and those that are not in the habit of smoking will report to us those they see smoking."

Smoking pot was a bad idea, Iheobom told the Daily Trust. "The ordinary smoker is also very dangerous to the society," he claimed. "The moment one smokes and starts thinking he is what he is not, you know there is trouble ahead. So we are out for both the smokers, those trading it, the dealers, the exporters, the producers and the distributors as well," he said.

While Ihebom emphasized violence linked to the marijuana trade, he conceded that wasn't always the case, but he worried that the inflow of money to the impoverished region would be harmful. "The perception that cannabis producing or consuming communities are violent, may not be entirely true. Look at Ondo, a leading cannabis producing state in the country and yet it is a peaceful state," he said. "But when you consider the inflow of cash from both within and abroad into cannabis producing communities, you realize that the cash flow encourages crime. That is exactly the case in Edo state. You know because of drug peddling and this international prostitution, there is also a lot of money here and so crime rate is also way high."

Ihebom implicity recognized he was fighting a losing battle, but the tide could surely be turned with some more resources, darn it! "You see, drug war is not a war that should be left for the NDLEA alone to fight," he said. "America, with all its sophistication, cannot be able to stop drug peddling. If you look at the volume of drug that enters America daily, you will be surprised. It is true that with better funding and equipping, we will do more in our struggle with these people."

Europe: Scottish Drug Czar Says Drug War Is Lost, Causes Big To-Do

Scotland's drug czar (or "tsar," as the Scots like it) has unleashed a week of furious debate by declaring that the war on drugs is lost and can never be won. The remarks by Tom Wood, chairman of the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action Teams, are only the latest in a series of similar declarations coming from Scottish politicians and law enforcement figures as the nation attempts to confront its intractable affair with illicit drugs. Despite decades of drug war, Scotland has some of the highest drug use rates in Europe and more than 50,000 heroin addicts.

"I spent much of my police career fighting the drugs war and there was no one keener than me to fight it," Woods said in an interview with Scotland on Sunday. "But latterly I have become more and more convinced that it was never a war we could win. We can never as a nation be drug-free. No nation can, so we must accept that. So the message has to be more sophisticated than 'just say no,' because that simple message doesn't work," said the man charged with advising the Scottish Executive on future drug policy. "For young people who have already said 'yes,' who live in families and communities where everybody says 'yes,' we have to recognize that the battle is long lost."

Wood said he was not advocating decriminalization or legalization of drugs, but a fundamental shift of priorities. "Throughout the last three decades, enforcement has been given top priority, followed by treatment and rehabilitation, with education and deterrence a distant third. In order to make a difference in the long term, education and deterrence have to go to the top of the pile. We have to have the courage and commitment to admit that we have not tackled the problem successfully in the past. It's about our priorities and our thinking," said Wood. "Clearly, at some stage, there could be resource implications, but the first thing we have to do is realize we can't win any battles by continuing to put enforcement first."

Scotland's main drug fighters, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA), unsurprisingly differed with Wood's analysis. "I strongly disagree when he says that the war on drugs in Scotland is lost," said SCDEA head Graeme Pearson. "The Scottish Executive Drug Action Plan acknowledged that tackling drug misuse is a complex problem, demanding many responses. It is explicit within the strategy that to effectively tackle drug misuse, the various pillars of the plan cannot operate in isolation."

While Pearson defended current policies, anti-drug crusader Alistair Ramsey, former director of Scotland Against Drugs, was fulminating against too much emphasis on treatment. "We must never lose sight of the fact that enforcement of drug law is a very powerful prevention for many people and, if anything, drug law should be made more robust," he told the newspaper. "The current fixation with treatment and rehabilitation on behalf of the Executive has really got to stop."

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell joined the attack: "I accept Wood's sincerity, but this is a very dangerous message to go out. I would never say that we have lost the war on drugs. Things are dire, but we should never throw up the white flag," she said.

On Monday, Scottish Health Minister joined the fray, comparing eliminating drug use to providing healthy school lunches. "If you'd said Scotland's kids would be eating more healthily in school, they would have said it couldn't be done, so I'm very positive about these matters. We need to be positive and there's different ways of doing this. We're working hard to make sure we're successful and I do believe we can win that war, but it's going to need a lot of hard effort," he insisted.

Wood's view did gain backing from groups like the Scottish Drugs Forum and the drug prevention and advice group Crew 2000. "I think Tom Wood is right. This is something our organization has been arguing for for a long time and it is good to see this is now coming into the mainstream," said Crew 2000 manager John Arthur.

Wood was unbowed Monday as he took pains to praise Scottish police. "The Scottish drugs enforcement agency is one of the best in Europe" he said. "However, we have to accept that police activity has not reduced supply. It has not made a difference to the price or the purity."

Canada: In Harm Reduction Bid, Vancouver Police to Stay Away From Overdose Calls

In a bid to reduce drug overdose deaths, police in Vancouver will no longer show up along with paramedics at drug overdose calls. That has already been unofficial practice for the past two years, but at a June 14 meeting, the Vancouver Police board voted to make it part of the department's official policy.

Citing Australian research that showed a police presence actually increased the likelihood of overdose deaths, Vancouver police suggested that if drug users do not fear arrest, they will be less reluctant to contact authorities in the event of an overdose, and in December 2003 began staying away from ODs. After a series of consultation with community groups, including the drug user group Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), the practice became established, if informal, policy by the end of the following year.

"Research presented at a Heroin Overdose Prevention Conference in Seattle in 2000 revealed that despite the fact that half of overdose cases are witnessed by another person, the greatest barrier in obtaining emergency medical help was the fear that police would attend and lay charges for drug use," wrote Vancouver Police Inspector Ken Frail at the time. "Rather than face police intervention, many witnesses to a drug overdose would respond in an inappropriate way. Sometimes a victim would be dropped in a public place hoping they would be found, sometimes an incomplete phone call would be made and the caller would leave before medical help arrived. Sometimes the overdose victim would be abandoned," he noted.

"Vancouver Police recognize that drug overdose cases are primarily medical emergencies requiring rapid response," Frail explained. "The new policy tends to restrict police attendance at overdose calls except in cases where public safety requires police attendance. The police role at a drug overdose call is clarified as 'assisting with life saving measures and public safety.'"

It worked for Vancouver in 2004 and 2005, and now the Police Board has made it official policy. It is a harm reduction measure American cities would do well to consider emulating.

Drugged Driving: Michigan Supreme Court Upholds State DUID Law -- Now You Don't Even Have to Be High to Get Busted

If you smoke a joint Friday night and drive to work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Monday morning in Michigan, you can be arrested, charged, and convicted as a drugged driver because inactive chemical traces of THC, or metabolites, remain in your bloodstream. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that motorists can be convicted of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) even if they are not under the influence of drugs. According to the Supreme Court opinion in the consolidated cases Derror v. Michigan and Kurts v. Michigan authored by Justice Maura Corrigan, actual innocence of driving while impaired is "irrelevant."

In both cases, authorities charged the defendants under the Michigan DUID law based on the presence of cannabis metabolites, an inert byproduct of the body's breakdown of THC, in their blood. The presence of metabolites does not indicate impairment or being "under the influence"; it only indicates that someone ingested THC at some time in the past, as the state Supreme Court acknowledged in its ruling. Both trial courts held that the metabolite was not "marijuana" and thus a controlled substance under state law, a position upheld on appeal.

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Both a majority on the Supreme Court disagreed. Neither the DUID nor the controlled substances law "requires that a substance have pharmacological properties to constitute a schedule I controlled substance," the majority held. Neither does the DUID law "require that a defendant be impaired while driving. Rather, it punishes for the operation of a motor vehicle with any amount of schedule I controlled substance in the body."

Then, breathtakingly, Justice Corrigan wrote, "It is irrelevant that a person who is no longer 'under the influence' of marijuana could be prosecuted under the statute. If the Legislature had intended to prosecute only people who were under the influence while driving, it could have written the statute accordingly."

Now, any Michigan driver who has smoked marijuana in the last few days or, in the case of heavier smokers, up to three or four weeks, is subject to a DUID arrest based on the presence of inert leftover metabolites that do not actually indicate impairment. In a harsh dissent, Justice Michael Cavanaugh warned the court it would criminalize a huge class of people.

"Today's holding now makes criminals out of numerous Michigan citizens who, before today, were considered law-abiding, productive members of our community," he wrote. "Now, if a person has ever actively or passively ingested marijuana and drives, he is [unknowingly] breaking the law, because if any amount of [cannabis metabolites] can be detected -- no matter when [the marijuana] was previously ingested -- he is committing a crime. The majority's interpretation, which has no rational relationship to the Legislature's genuine concerns about operating a motor vehicle while impaired, violates the United States Constitution and the Michigan Constitution."

The ruling could have an impact beyond Michigan. Twelve other states have enacted laws making it a criminal offense to drive under the influence of drugs. They use standards similar to those upheld this week -- the presence of trace levels of drugs or metabolites -- to assume impairment. Unlike drunk driving laws, which assume a certain blood alcohol level after which one is considered impaired, the DUID laws assume that the presence of any metabolite or trace proves impairment.

Marijuana: West Hollywood Passes "Lowest Priority" Resolution

The West Hollywood, CA, City Council voted Monday night to approve a resolution calling on Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies to not "target adult marijuana users who consume this drug in private and pose no danger to the community." Although it is nonbinding, the resolution sends a strong message to LA County Sheriff Joe Baca about how the city of 35,000 wants its laws enforced.

West Hollywood now becomes the first Southern California city to adopt a "lowest law enforcement priority" measure toward marijuana similar to Oakland's successful 2004 Proposition Z initiative. But it may not be the last this year. Similar "lowest priority" measures are slated to go to the voters in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Santa Monica in November.

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medical marijuana poster from WAMM, Santa Cruz
The resolution was introduced by Councilman John Duran, and passed on a 4-0 vote. Duran and the council acted after local activists organized in the West Hollywood Civil Liberties Alliance filed a petition to put a lowest priority initiative to the popular vote. Given that city officials viewed LA County Sheriff Joe Baca as already not making marijuana law enforcement a high priority, and fearful of costs and "inflexibilities" associated with a ballot initiative, the council agreed to address the issue via a resolution after consulting with the Alliance.

The resolution says "be it resolved that the City Council of the City of West Hollywood hereby declares that it is not the policy of the City or its law enforcement agency to target possession of small amounts of marijuana and the consumption of marijuana in private by adults."

"Marijuana, you know, a joint or two is just so far down on the scale it doesn't seem worthwhile to allocate any sources to the enforcement of the marijuana laws," said Duran. "We've seen that marijuana use is certainly no more dangerous and destructive than alcohol use," Duran said. "The whole 'reefer madness' hysteria has worn thin."

While Sheriff Baca and his deputies may not be prowling West Hollywood for pot smokers, the agency is unsurprisingly not happy to be told how to do its job. Some Sheriff's Office officials were among the few public opponents of the resolution, and City Councilman Joe Prang, who is a high Baca advisor, abstained on the vote.

But Baca was being politic Monday afternoon. "We certainly in my office understand what pressure is," he told the Los Angeles Times, suggesting city officials were besieged by pot legalizers. "My belief is that the city needs to have its voice heard on the matter, and the question will remain to what extent is this resolution binding. We will look at it for all of our pluses and minuses and advise the City Council as to our position."

If the department decides it will not comply with the resolution, the city could terminate its $10 million annual contract to provide law enforcement services and seek another department to replace the Sheriff's Department. But that is unlikely, Duran told the Times. "That would put us in an awkward situation," he said."

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A federal prison contraband-for-sex scandal exploded into lethal violence Wednesday. And then there's the run of the mill: A one-time Wisconsin deputy goes down in a major marijuana bust, a former Mississippi deputy goes down for meth, a San Francisco prosecutor goes to prison for taking Ecstasy bribes, and a former Alabama deputy gets ready to go to prison for providing a gun and some crack rocks to an ex-con. Let's get to it:

In Tallahassee, Florida, a federal prison guard and a Department of Justice officer are dead, a second officer was wounded, and five more prison guards were arrested Wednesday when federal agents showed up to arrest the six guards on charges they smuggled contraband -- alcohol, marijuana, cash, and messages -- into the prison in exchange for sexual favors from inmates at the 1,400-woman facility. Federal Bureau of Prisons guard Ralph Hill opened fire when the feds arrived inside the prison, killing Justice Department Office of the Inspector General agent William Sentner and wounding an unnamed, uninvolved prison guard before being killed by other federal agents. Guards Alfred Barnes, Gregory Dixon, Ralph Hill, Vincent Johnson, Alan Moore and E. Lavon Spence face charges of engaging in a conspiracy to commit acts of bribery, witness tampering, and mail fraud; and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering. They could face up to 20 years in prison.

In Dunn, Wisconsin, a former Dane County sheriff's deputy was arrested June 14 on federal marijuana distribution conspiracy charges. Robert Lowery, 57, is accused in federal affidavits of employing a young Genesee, Wisconsin, couple to bring hundreds of pounds of pot to Wisconsin from Arizona. During a raid on his home by state Department of Criminal Investigation and Dane County deputies, the cops seized 15 pounds of pot, 25 ounces of cocaine, five guns, and $47,000 cash. They also seized 52 dogs, including 50 pit bulls, and arrested Lowery's wife on weapons and cocaine possession charges. Lowery was fired as Dane County deputy in 1981 after being accused of seeking information to provide to drug dealing associates, and charging documents allege he has been in the business ever since. The young couple has also been charged.

In Hancock County, Mississippi, a former constable and Hancock County deputy sheriff was arrested June 14 on methamphetamine possession and sales charges. Danny Hamby, 38, was one of three men arrested in a drug raid that netted a half-ounce of speed following an eight-month investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Coastal Narcotics Enforcement Team, the DEA, and the Hancock County Sheriff's Department. Hamby was elected constable in 1999, but resigned two years later as part of a plea agreement in a domestic violence case. He then went to work briefly as a Hancock County deputy. He is being held without bond in a neighboring county jail.

In San Francisco, a former city assistant district attorney is going to prison for six months after pleading guilty to accepting drugs in exchange for leniency for two defendants he was prosecuting. Robert Roland, 35 was sentenced June 14 after a pleading guilty in February to three counts of Ecstasy possession and one count of using a telephone in a felony drug transaction. In one case, Roland dropped a felony drug count to a misdemeanor for a high school buddy, who repaid him with Ecstasy the next day. In a second case, another acquaintance supplied him with Ecstasy after he discussed diverting that case into treatment. Both of those cases occurred in 2002. Roland reports to prison August 1.

In Montgomery, Alabama, a former Houston County deputy pleaded guilty Monday to selling a gun to a convicted felon and supplying him with cocaine to sell. Michael Shawn Campbell, 27, who was working for the Houston County narcotics unit at the time, admitted selling the gun to Joshua Whigan, who he knew to be a felon, and to supplying him with crack. Whigan ratted him out. Both men await sentencing, and Campbell faces up to 40 years on the drug charge and another 10 for the gun charge.

Alert: Major Medical Marijuana Vote in Congress Next Week!

Since medical marijuana initiatives were first passed ten years ago, the DEA has conducted raids against medical marijuana clinics in California, recently with increasing frequency, forcing hundreds if not thousands of patients to procure marijuana in the black market instead. In a ruling issued on June 6, 2005, the US Supreme Court upheld the government's power to do this.

While this doesn't change anything -- state laws protecting medical marijuana patients and their providers still are binding upon state and local law enforcement authorities -- it is a missed opportunity for the Court to rein in federal overreaching and help some of our society's most vulnerable members.

Next week (as soon as Monday, June 26), the US House of Representatives will vote again on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment, which if passed will forbid the US Dept. of Justice from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. Your help is needed -- it is crucial that more members of Congress vote for medical marijuana this year than did last year. Please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ to e-mail your member of Congress today!

When you're done, please call him or her on the phone to make additional impact -- use the talking points appearing below to prepare for your phone call. You can reach your Rep.'s office through the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or you can find the direct number using our lookup tool online.

Please also tell your friends about this important action alert -- we need for everyone who cares about this to take action, and sending them to our web site to do so will also help to grow our list for the next time. Again, please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ to lobby Congress and help medical marijuana patients today!
Talking Points for Your Phone Call or Letters to the Editor:

The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment, which will come up during debate on the House Science-State-Justice-Commerce Appropriations bill this July, would forbid the Dept. of Justice from using funds to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

* More than three out of four Americans think medical use of marijuana should be legal, according to polls, and eleven states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington -- have all enacted medical marijuana laws in recent years.
* Despite such strong support, the federal government continues to block even research to determine marijuana's medical benefits. Yet the 1999 Institute of Medicine report determined that marijuana does have medical benefit.
* Medical organizations such as the American Nurses Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians support legal access to medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.
* Blocking patients from receiving needed medicine -- threatening them with arrest, prosecution and incarceration -- is senseless and cruel.

Congress should respect state's rights and not used armed federal agents to threaten patients and providers who are in compliance with state law.

Book Offer: Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went up in Smoke

Posted in:

Many DRCNet readers remember the heartbreaking tragedy of Rainbow Farm, the alternative campground and concert site outside Vandalia, Michigan, where marijuana activists Tom Crosslin and Rollie Rohm, driven to desperation by a relentless prosecutor, were killed by FBI and state police in fall 2001. Killed for no good reason -- as a local sympathizer expressed it to Drug War Chronicle's Phil Smith at the funeral, "[Prosecutor] Scott Teter said this was their choice, but it was his choice to hound them and try to take their land and their son. He's the one who chose to shoot and kill." Rohm and Crosslin before the end burned down their beloved buildings to keep the government from getting them.

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Journalist Dean Kuipers of the Los Angeles CityBeat has now written "Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went up in Smoke," a 304-page book being released by Bloomsbury USA this June 13. DRCNet is offering "Burning Rainbow Farm" as our latest membership premium -- donate $35 or more to DRCNet, and we will send you a copy -- donate $45 or more and we will send you one signed by the author. Your donations will help our work to end drug prohibition, while raising awareness of the recklessness and excesses of drug enforcers like prosecutor Teter -- click here to donate and order your copy.

Publishers Weekly writes of Kuipers' book, "Drawing on extensive interviews, government documents and news coverage, the author [who grew up 20 miles from the shootings] verges on portraying the prosecutor as evil incarnate. But Kuipers doesn't cross the line from sound journalism into advocacy, while letting the story unfold through superbly detailed characterizations and skillful pacing."

We also continue to offer the DVD video Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the 5th edition of Drug War Facts. Add $5 to the minimum donation to add either of these to your request, or $10 to add both of them. Again, you can make your donation and place your order online, or send a check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock. (Also note that copies of Rainbow Farm will be mailed out from DRCNet during the third week of June.)

Thank you for your support. If you want to read more about Rainbow Farm in the meanwhile, please see Phil's articles in the Drug War Chronicle archive: Michigan Drug Warriors Drive Marijuana Activists to the Brink, Then Gun Them Down on 9/7/01; Rainbow Farm Marijuana Activists Laid to Rest, Friends Not Resting on 9/21; and Phil's book review last week.

Offer and Appeal: Important New Legalization Video and Drug War Facts Book Available

Drug War Facts -- an important resource used widely in "the movement" -- is an extensive compilation of quotes, stats, charts and other info dealing with more than 50 drug policy topics ranging from economics to needle exchange programs to the marijuana gateway theory to environmental damage in the drug war, drug policy in other countries, race as it plays into drug war issues, even a "Drug Prohibition Timeline." Whether your goal is to improve your understanding, add force to your letters to the editor or prepare for a debate or interview, Drug War Facts, a publication of Common Sense for Drug Policy, is a valuable if not essential tool.

The 5th edition of the convenient print version of Drug War Facts is now available. Donate $17 or more to DRCNet, and we will send you -- or your specified gift recipient -- a copy of Drug War Facts. Or, donate $25 or more for Drug War Facts AND the essential DVD video Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.Please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to make your donation and order Drug War Facts 5th Edition today -- consider signing up to donate monthly!

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Testimonials for Drug War Facts:

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"A valuable resource for anyone concerned with drug policy." - Ira Rosen, Senior Producer, ABC News
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"Filled with hard numbers that shed much needed light on the drug war." - Lester Grinspoon, MD, Assoc. Prof of Psychiatry (emeritus), Harvard Medical School
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"A compendium of facts that fly in the face of accepted wisdom." - David Duncan, Clinical Associate Professor, Brown University Medical School

We continue to offer the new DVD from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). As Walter Cronkite wrote in a testimonial for the video, "Anyone concerned about the failure of our $69 billion-a-year War on Drugs should watch this 12-minute program. You will meet front line, ranking police officers who give us a devastating report on why it cannot work. It is a must-see for any journalist or public official dealing with this issue."

DRCNet's ability to get the word out about important tools like Drug War Facts and the LEAP DVD depends on the health and reach of our network, and that depends on your donations.Please consider donating more than the minimum -- $50, $100, $250 -- whatever you are able to spare to the cause.The cause is important -- as former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper expressed it in the LEAP video, "The Drug War has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery."

LEAP DVD promo

Again, our web site for credit card donations is http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ -- or send a check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.

Thank you for your support -- we hope to hear from you soon. Special thanks for Common Sense for Drug Policy for making these important resources possible.

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