Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Marijuana: DEA Steps in Deep Doo-doo in Denver With Abortive Bid to Defeat November Legalization Initiative

Jeff Sweetin, the DEA special agent in charge in Denver, probably wishes he had just kept his mouth shut. It was bad enough that the University of Colorado newspaper the Daily Camera reported Sunday that one of his special agents had sent out an e-mail on a Department of Justice account seeking a campaign manager for “Colorado’s Marijuana Information Committee,” an apparent astroturf organization being set up to defeat the Colorado marijuana legalization initiative. That initiative would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults.

But then Sweetin really stepped in it, telling the Daily Camera that the law "allows his agency to get involved in the process to tell voters why they shouldn’t decriminalize pot" and that the committee had raised $10,000 from "private donations, including some from agents' own accounts."

That was enough to draw out the initiative's sponsor, SAFER Colorado, which criticized the agency for unwarranted interference in a state electoral matter. "Taxpayer money should not be going toward the executive branch advocating one side or another," the group's executive director, Steve Fox, told the Daily Camera. "It's a wholly inappropriate use of taxpayer money."

But SAFER Colorado wasn’t alone in taking offense at the untoward DEA actions. The state's two largest and most influential newspapers, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post, both condemned the move in editorials. The News' position was clear from its headline: "DEA Should Keep Out of State Politics."

The Post took a more concerned approach, worrying that the DEA politicking might pass the bounds of propriety, if not legality. "Providing facts to people who want them is one thing," the Post wrote. "Using the agency as a platform to influence elections is another. Sweetin says he clearly understands the difference. We certainly hope that's the case."

If Sweetin hoped the story would just go away, he didn’t help matters any when he further clouded the waters when KMGH-TV in Denver Tuesday reported that: "Sweetin said, despite reports to the contrary, his office is not campaigning against it or fundraising. When asked about the committee and the $10,000 mentioned in the E-mail, Sweetin said, 'There is no $10,000 in money that I've ever heard of.'"

That led SAFER Colorado to raise a whole series of questions about which version of the DEA activism was true, which they kindly sent to Colorado media. "We think it's really fishy that the same DEA agent who made it clear the committee had funds from private donors and agents is now saying he's never heard of this money," said campaign coordinator Mason Tvert. "We think DEA thought they could actively campaign against us, but then got told by some sort of legal counsel it couldn’t happen that way. In any case, we're just trying to spin this into the biggest story we can," he told Drug War Chronicle.

Callout: Please Submit Blog Posts, News and Events on New DRCNet Web Site!

Among the features available on DRCNet's new web site are interactive possibilities for you to be a part of the web team. First and foremost are Reader Blogs, a section of the new "Stop the Drug War Speakeasy" blogosphere project. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/speakeasy/reader to check it out and start posting! (If you tried already and had trouble, please try again -- we have worked out some of the initial technical issues, though probably not yet all.) We will be devoting an increasing amount of attention over time to the Reader Blogs -- this is just the beginning!

You can now let us know about important or interesting news items of relevance by submitting them directly to our new Latest News section -- visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/node/add/content-recent_news to send your suggested news links to our moderators.

DRCNet continues to publish listings of events large and small that relate to the cause, but now we feature them in a listing that appears on most of the pages on our site and which links to a full calendar. If you are involved with or know of a relevant event, you can post it directly -- not just a short description as we have done previously, but the full announcement -- at our add event page at http://stopthedrugwar.org/node/add/event online.

Drug War Chronicle articles now have comments sections at the bottom of them, another way you can join in the discussion.

Coming soon: syndication feeds you can post on your web site, a substantial drug policy links database, and geographically-targeted content for your personalized web site view. To get that geographically-targeted content, though, you'll need to be logged to our new user accounts (same e-mail address you gave us previously, if you're a subscriber) and provide us with your location if you haven't already. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/user to log in or register or update your information. (Please let us know if you experience any error messages or problems with the user accounts -- we have gotten some of the issues fixed but we want to get it as close to perfect as we can.)

Introducing: The Stop the Drug War Speakeasy

DRCNet is pleased to announce a major upgrade to DRCNet's web site and the launching within it of "The Stop the Drug War Speakeasy." Please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org -- each day -- to check it out and for original writing on a range of tracks dealing with the issue in a blog format.

The Speakeasy, among other things, will serve as the launching point for a campaign, as our slogan expresses it, to raise awareness of the consequences of prohibition. Stay tuned for some calls to action on how you can be involved. The Speakeasy will also serve as our daily soapbox where we briefly address the latest important developments in drug policy (without waiting until Friday morning's in-depth treatments in the Chronicle) and in which we also extend our tradition of supporting the work of all the different groups in the movement. Speaking of the Chronicle, that will continue too, and Chronicle editor Phil Smith will also be blogging, sharing his "inside" insights on the drug war and the process of reporting on it as well as offering observations on the kinds of stories that don't usually make the Chronicle.

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photo of prohibition-era beer raid in the District of Columbia, from the Library of Congress archive
The Speakeasy can also be your daily soapbox, via our new "Reader Blogs" section. Start your own blog on DRCNet to help us preach to the unconverted via the blogosphere -- especially excellent posts will get displayed on the DRCNet home page!

If you take a moment to check out the new site -- again, http://stopthedrugwar.org -- you will see that there are many other new features and reasons to visit daily besides the Speakeasy. An extensive set of topical categories on drug war issues, consequences of prohibition and articles' relation to politics & advocacy; a "Latest News" feed; content in Spanish and Portuguese; links to the most popular articles or to articles that are similar to the one you're reading; pages to watch the important Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and BUSTED videos; a "tracking" page where you can remind yourself of pages you've visited before; an improved Reformer's Calendar; more. And even more coming soon.

Please send us your thoughts and suggestions as we continue to add to this new web site direction. Onward and upward, with your help!

Special thanks to Antinomia Solutions web site design for going above and beyond the call of duty on this project.

Announcement: New Format for the Reformer's Calendar

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With the launch of our new web site, The Reformer's Calendar no longer appears as part of the Drug War Chronicle newsletter but is instead maintained as a section of our new 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.

We look forward to apprising you of more new features of our new web site as they become available.

Announcement: ASA Seeking Patients Who Did Not Use Medical Marijuana Because of Government's Claims

Americans for Safe Access is conducting a nationwide research study and is looking for patients in the US (any state) who for some period of time did not use cannabis because of the federal government's claim that it's not medicine.

PLEASE REVIEW THE CRITERIA LIMITATIONS BELOW TO DETERMINE WHETHER YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW MEETS THE ELEGIBILTY REQUIREMENTS TO PARTICPATE IN THIS STUDY.

PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS MESSAGE UNLESS YOU SATISFY ALL OF THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA:

1. Did a patient NOT consume marijuana for some period of time within the past 5 years BECAUSE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SAID IT HAD NO MEDICAL VALUE?

2. Can patient demonstrate, THROUGH VERIFIABLE MEDICAL RECORDS, that after beginning medical marijuana use, it improved their health or relieved symptoms?

3. Patient MUST possess (or be able to obtain) DOCUMENTED EVIDENCE BY HEALTH PROFESSIONALS that shows harmful effects from their medical condition prior to using cannabis and evidence of relief or diminished effects as a result of cannabis use.

4. Their medical records must document a change in condition within the past 5 years.

5. In addition to DOCUMENTED MEDICAL EVIDENCE, it would be helpful, but not necessary, if their doctor were willing to testify to their improved health condition as a result of cannabis use.

A sample scenario would look something like this:

Jon Smith (who is HIV+) refused to use cannabis until two years ago because the federal government says it has no medical value. As a result, Jon suffered some physical harm (nausea, pain, weight loss, etc). Finally, Jon decides to use cannabis at the encouragement of his friend(s), doctor(s) or other individual. As a result of his NEW use of cannabis, Jon was able to demonstrate with MEDICAL RECORDS that his health has improved.

It is important to understand that you will incur no financial obligations or benefits for your participation in this study.

If you or someone you know meets the criteria mentioned above and would be interested in participating in this very important and timely research study, please contact Americans for Safe Access (ASA) as soon as possible.

Please send all inquiries to [email protected] or contact ASA by phone at (510) 251-1856 ext. 306.

Job Listing: Administrative Assistant, NORML

Immediate opening at a progressive drug law reform nonprofit organization, full time, college graduate preferred, prior office experience, with computer skills (dbase) a must.

Duties include phones, daily data entry, processing mail & organize/maintain volunteers.

Salary $20-25K, send cover letter with resume to: NORML, c/o Executive Director, (202) 483-0057 (f), [email protected]. No calls or visits please.

Web Scan: Mark Fiore, Tony Papa, Dean Kuipers

Mark Fiore animation: The United States of Incarceration

former prisoner turned activist Anthony Papa knocks narcotics prosecutor for Rockefeller reform distortion in NYT letter to the editor

"Burning Rainbow Farm" author Dean Kuipers on "The Spirit of Tommy Chong," posted on Alternet's Drug Reporter

Weekly: This Week in History

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September 1, 2003: In an effort to save over $30 million in general revenue in five years, Texas implements a new law that requires mandatory community supervision for first time drug offenders adjudged guilty of possession of less than one gram of certain controlled substances or less than one pound of marijuana. Under previous law, such offenders were only eligible for state jail community supervision or incarceration in a state jail facility.

September 2, 1994: In Detroit, Judge Helen E. Brown sentences Lazaro Vivas to life in prison for possession of over 650 grams of cocaine. Judge Brown tells Vivas, “I don’t think it’s fair. It is not a sentence I would give you, if I had any choice. But I have to give you this sentence, because I have to follow the law. So, your sentence is life.”

September 4, 1991: US District Judge Juan Burciaga says, “The fight against drug traffickers is a wildfire that threatens to consume those fundamental rights of the individual deliberately enshrined in our Constitution.”

September 4, 2001: Two prominent Michigan marijuana law reform activists are shot dead, following a week-long standoff at their 34-acre "Rainbow Farm" compound in Vandalia, Michigan. The confrontation followed a two-year investigation into allegations of marijuana use at the campground.

September 5, 1989: In his first nationally-televised address from the Oval Office, President George Bush declares that narcotics are “the gravest threat facing our nation,” and that he is stepping up the war on drugs. Bush waves a packet of seized “crack” cocaine around on national television and declares, “This is crack cocaine, seized a few days ago by Drug Enforcement Agents in a park just across the street from the White House,” a claim that is later debunked. During the same address, Bush also demands the death penalty for kingpins like Pablo Escobar and calls for the largest budget increase to date in the history of the drug war by pledging $2 billion in aid to the Andean nations.

September 5, 1990: Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee that casual drug users should be taken out and shot. He does not mention his own son's casual drug use.

September 5, 2002: DEA agents arrest Valerie and Michael Corral of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) and destroy 150 marijuana plants intended for use by WAMM's members, most of whom are terminally ill.

September 6, 1988: After two hearings, DEA administrative law judge Francis Young recommends shifting marijuana to Schedule II so it can be prescribed as medicine. He says, “It would be unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.” Judge Young notes that marijuana is safe and has a “currently accepted medical use in treatment” and that “marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”

September 6, 1999: Jorge Castaneda, who later becomes Mexico's foreign minister during the Vicente Fox administration, writes in Newsweek: “In the end, legalization of certain substances may be the only way to bring prices down, and doing so may be the only remedy to some of the worst aspects of the drug plague: violence, corruption, and the collapse of the rule of law.”

September 6, 2000: The Ottawa Citizen reports that Jaime Ruiz, the Colombian president’s senior adviser, said, “From the Colombian point of view [legalization] is the easy solution. I mean, just legalize it and we won’t have any more problems. Probably in five years we wouldn’t even have guerrillas. No problems. We [would] have a great country with no problems.”

September 7, 2001: Thirteen current and former Miami police officers are accused by US authorities of shooting unarmed people and then conspiring to cover it up by planting evidence. The indictment is the latest scandal for the city's trouble-plagued police force. All of those charged are veterans assigned to SWAT teams, narcotics units or special crime-suppression teams in the late 1990s.

Feature: Living on Katrina Time -- Lost in Louisiana's Gumbo Gulag

New Orleans resident Pearl Bland was arrested and jailed on drug paraphernalia charges in August 2005, just weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. She pleaded guilty on August 11, and her judge ordered her released the next day for placement in a drug rehabilitation program. Recognizing Bland was indigent, he waived the fines and fees. But Bland was not released the next day. The Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) instead held her because she owed $398 in fines and fees from an earlier arrest. She had one more court hearing in August and a September 20 status hearing was set where in all probability the fines and fees would have been waived.

Pearl Bland never got her September hearing. Instead, once Katrina hit, she joined thousands of prisoners stuck in purgatory. After suffering beatings from her fellow inmates in the OPP as deputies shrugged their shoulders, Bland was evacuated, first to the maximum security state prison at Angola and eventually to a jail in Avoyelles Parish. In June, she desperately contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which in turn contacted attorneys with the Tulane University Criminal Law Clinic, who managed to win her release on June 28. Bland wasn’t there for her release hearing, just as she hadn’t been present at four previous hearings in the preceding weeks, because her jailers couldn’t be bothered to deliver her to court.

"Pearl Bland spent 10 months in prisons around the state because of $398 in fines and fees that her judge would most likely have waived if she had ever gotten to court," said Tom Javits, an attorney with the ACLU's National Prison Project. "But because of the storm and the the response to it, she didn’t get her day in court for months, and then only because she sought out help," he told the Drug War Chronicle.

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ACLU report
It would be bad enough if Pearl Bland were a fluke, but sadly, her case is typical of what happened to people unfortunate enough to be behind bars when Katrina hit or to be arrested in the storm's aftermath. As the ACLU National Prison Project and the ACLU of Louisiana documented in their early August report, "Abandoned and Abused: Orleans Parish Prisoners in the Wake of Katrina," thousands of New Orleanians in custody when the storm hit were left on their own as guards fled the rising waters. Since then, those prisoners have been scattered to the winds, left without counsel, abused by guards, and left to rot by a justice system that is seemingly content to forget all about them. And with post-Katrina reconstruction bearing a very heavy law enforcement imprint, they have been joined by thousands more, many of them imprisoned for trivial crimes like spitting on the sidewalk, public drunkenness and simple drug possession.

A year after Katrina, thousands of prisoners have never seen an attorney, never been arraigned, never appeared before a judge. Scandalously, no one has a firm count -- or if they do, they're not telling. "Nobody knows the numbers," said law professor Pamela Metzger, who heads the Tulane Law School Criminal Law Clinic and whose students have been going into Louisiana jails and prisons in search of the Katrina prisoners. "When we ask the district attorney's office to assist us with this, just so people can get lawyers, they say it's not their job. Just since June, my students have been able to track down and get released about 95 people," said Metzger. "But we just have no one of knowing how many are in jail."

When the Chronicle asked ACLU of Louisiana executive director Joe Cook the same question, he had a similar answer. "I don't know what the number is. Ask the district attorney," he said.

The New Orleans district attorney's office did not return repeated calls seeking information on the number of people arrested before or after Katrina who have yet to see a lawyer or have a court hearing. Similarly, and perhaps indicative of the state of affairs at the public defenders office, no one there even answered the phone despite repeated calls. (That's not quite true. On one occasion, a woman answered, but she said she was an accountant and no one else was in the office.)

Published estimates of the number of New Orleans prisoners denied their basic rights to counsel and speedy trial have ranged between 3,000 and 6,000.

Part of the problem is the nearly total collapse of the indigent defender system in the city. It was in terrible shape before the storm hit, and collapsed along with the rest of the criminal justice system in the storm's wake. But while authorities were quick to get law enforcement up and running, it took until June for the criminal courts to begin to operate, and the public defenders' office, which depends on revenue from fines to finance its operations, was running on fumes. Now, nearly three-quarters of the public defenders have simply left even though they are needed to represent about 85% of all criminal defendants in the city.

The situation aroused the attention of the US Department of Justice, which in a report released in April concluded that: "People wait in jail with no charges, and trials cannot take place; even defendants who wish to plead guilty must have counsel for a judge to accept the plea. Without indigent defense lawyers, New Orleans today lacks a true adversarial process, the process to ensure that even the poorest arrested person will get a fair deal, that the government cannot simply lock suspects [up] and forget about them... For the vast majority of arrested individuals," the study found, "justice is simply unavailable."

The situation is also beginning to grate on the nerves of New Orleans judges. In May, Chief Judge of the Criminal District Court Calvin Johnson issued an order requiring everyone charged with traffic or municipal offenses to be cited instead of jailed. The city has "a limited number of jail spaces, and we can’t fill them with people charged with minor offenses such as disturbing the peace, trespassing or spitting on the sidewalk... I’m not exaggerating: There were people in jail for spitting on the sidewalk," he complained.

Last week, another New Orleans criminal court judge, Arthur Hunter, made the news when he threatened to begin holding hearings this week to release some of the prisoners held for months without attorneys or court hearings. That was supposed to happen Tuesday, but it didn't. Instead, Judge Hunter postponed the hearing after prosecutors raised concerns.

While disruptions in the system were inevitable in the wake of Katrina, Tulane's Metzger laid part of the blame on the district attorney's office. "They have made some poor resourcing choices and they are hampered by a sort of knee-jerk response that everything has to be prosecuted to the fullest extent. They are not really looking to clear cases; instead they let people sit without lawyers until they're willing to plead guilty," she said. "It's a form of prosecutorial extortion."

It is not just people who were in jail when Katrina hit, but many of those arrested since who have vanished into the gumbo gulag, said Metzger. "Last week we found a man who had been jailed at the Angola maximum security prison since January. He was picked up for drug possession, his only prior was for marijuana, and he's been sitting in one of the meanest prisons in the country without even seeing a lawyer for eight months," she exclaimed. "We won an order for his release. He was supposed to get out Tuesday, but he's still in jail. We just don’t know how many more there are like him."

The district attorney's office is not only uncooperative, it is downright obstinate, Metzger complained. "We filed a right to speedy trial claim on behalf of a man named Gregory Lewis who had already served 10 months on a drug misdemeanor with a six-month maximum. The district attorney's office fought that, and their motion actually said, and I quote, 'It's not unreasonable to hold alleged drug addicts in jail longer than other people; it allows the deadly drugs to leave their system,'" she said.

The district attorney's office motion referred obliquely to detoxification, which is ironic given that there is now no such facility in New Orleans. "There is not a single detox bed in the whole city," said Samantha Hope of the Hope Network, a group that is seeking private funding to open a treatment and recovery center in the heart of the city. "Most folks in OPP right now are people who couldn’t get access to treatment for an alcohol or drug problem. That's the way it's been since day one," she told the Chronicle. "Rather than criminalize people with an alcohol or drug problem, we need to find a way to give them support. Confronting our money-eating corrections system, our good ol' boy network, and racism, that is hard to do."

The Tulane students have filed some speedy trial cases, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have a Tulane law student working his case so he can file a speedy trial claim. "In order to file a motion for a speedy trial, you have to have a lawyer, and thousands still do not have counsel,' explained ACLU of Louisiana's Cook. "The indigent defense system was broken long before Katrina hit, and now it is just a disaster," he told the Chronicle.

Drug war prisoners make up a significant but unknown number of those doing "Katrina time," said Cook. "It is definitely a significant proportion of them," he said, "but many of them have not even been formally charged. In New Orleans, as in most large urban areas, it's probably safe to say that a plurality of felony arrests are drug-related."

There are solutions, but they won't come easily. "We have to have a public defender's office that is funded with secure, predictable funding," Metzger recommended. "We have to get beyond relying on fines to fund that office. If we had had public defenders, there would have been someone watching to catch the abuses," she said.

"Second, we need to have prosecutors who understand their obligations to the community," Metzger continued. "Their job is not simply to get convictions but to do justice, and what that means will vary according to the individual facts and circumstances. What post-Katrina justice requires is not what justice required before Katrina. If you were living in New Orleans in the fall of 2005 and you weren’t drunk or high, there was probably something wrong with you. Everyone was medicated or self-medicating."

Cook had his own set of recommendations for a fix. "First, we turn up the heat. I just visited the DA this morning and asked him to speed up processing," he revealed. "We want to ensure there is a coordinated emergency evacuation plan for all the prisons and jails and we've asked the Justice Department's civil rights division to look at what happened at OPP and since. Part of that will be looking at why these people didn’t get defense counsel or have their day in court."

Turning up the heat is precisely what one recently formed community group is trying to do. And it's not just the prosecutors and public defender system it is targeting. "The police department has taken a new view of who belongs in the city now, and that view doesn’t include poor black people," said Ursula Price of Safe Streets, Strong Communities, a group organizing people who were in the jail or otherwise brutalized by police. Safe Streets, Strong Communities is running two campaigns, one to strengthen the indigent defender system and one about improving conditions at the jail itself. "They tell our members 'you shouldn’t have come back, we don't want your kind here,'" she told the Chronicle. "Race is an issue, economics is an issue, and our teenage boys are bearing the brunt of it. They are harassed all the time by the police."

It is a matter of choices, said Price. "We have as many cops as before the storm, and half as many people, and we just gave the cops a raise. The city finance department deliberately spends the vast majority of its money on public safety, and then there is nothing left for social services, which are deliberately being sacrificed," she said. "But I'm encouraged because the community is starting to take note. When people found out we were spending half a million dollars a week on the National Guard without it having any impact, they started to get mobilized."

Cook had a full list of needed reforms, ranging from downsizing the jail population by stopping the practice of using it to hold state and federal prisoners, to creating adequate programming for health care and treatment within the jail, to decreasing the number of people held as pretrial detainees. "We need pretrial diversion, bail reform, and cite and release policies to hold down the jail population," he argued. "There needs to be the political will to do this. It's a crime to jail a kid when there is a choice, and there are many other choices. And we ought to be treating drug abuse as a public health issue, not a law enforcement issue."

The prospects look gloomy. "It is going to take enlightened leadership, and I see only a glimmer of hope for that," said Cook. "But we are not giving up. The state juvenile justice system is finally undergoing reforms because of pressure from families and activists, and I think it will take the same sort of effort to fix things at the adult level and here in New Orleans, at the parish level. That is already happening here with the OPP Reform Coalition, the Safe Streets people, and all that."

But there is a long, long way to go in New Orleans.

Feature: Brazilian President Signs New Drug Law -- No Jail for Users

Brazilian President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva last week signed a bill creating a new drug law in South America's largest and most populous nation. Under the new law, drug users and possessors will not be arrested and jailed, but cited and offered rehabilitation and community service. The new law marks an important shift in Brazilian drug policy, with drug users now being officially viewed not as criminals but as people in need of medical and psychological help.

"A drug user is not a case for the police, he's a drug addict," Elias Murad, the congressman who sponsored the bill, told the Christian Science Monitor after Lula signed the bill into law. "He's more of a medical and social problem than a police problem, and that's the way thinking is going these days, not just here in Brazil but the world over. We believe that you can't send someone who is ill to jail."

"Smoking marijuana is not a crime," agreed Paulo Roberto Uchoa, who heads Brazil's National Antidrug Secretariat. "A drug user is... someone who needs counseling and information. The ones who traffic drugs are the criminals."

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Psicotropicus banner promoting marijuana (maconha) legalization
With 170 million, Brazil has emerged as a major drug market. Marijuana (or "maconha") use is common, and Brazil claims the dubious distinction of being the world's second largest cocaine market, behind the United States. Brazil has traditionally imprisoned drug users, but that is expensive and it raises the risk they will be exposed to and join the country's well-armed and violent drug trafficking gangs or "commands."

Previously, small-time drug possessors faced between six months and two years in prison, but under the new law, they face only one or more of the following: treatment, community service, fines, or suspension of their drivers' licenses. Penalties for drug traffickers and sellers, however, have been increased slightly. Under the old law, dealers face three to 15 years in prison; now they face five to 15. The law also creates a new crime of being a "narcotrafficking capitalist," punishable by between eight and 20 years in prison.

While Brazilian government officials congratulated themselves on their progressive approach, not everyone saw the glass as half full. "Let's not fool ourselves, drug use is still a crime," said Martin Aranguri Soto, a post-graduate political science student studying imprisonment at the Pontificia Universidade Catolica in Sao Paulo (and who also serves as DRCNet's translator). "Yes, the new mantra is that this has shifted from being a police matter to a public health matter," he told Drug War Chronicle. "But people are still being punished for the choices they made, and if they don’t comply with the 'socio-educational measures' the law mentions -- whatever those are -- they can still be imprisoned for six to 24 months. As if they owed society something for using drugs or needed to be 'educated' or 'corrected.'"

And while Brazilian officials are touting the alternative penalties as a better approach, Aranguri Soto suggested their primary motivation was to cool off Brazil's overcrowded and overheated prisons, home to some of the country's toughest drug overlords (who operate from behind bars) and the scene of repeatedly violent rebellions, most recently in May, when more than 160 people were killed in prison riots and street-fighting organized by the drug commands.

"The big argument supporting the alternative penalties is that it will alleviate overcrowding in the prisons," he said. "You also hear rhetoric about avoiding 'moral contamination' -- the same old formula repeated by criminologists for almost 200 years now."

Prosecutor Ricardo de Oliveira Silva, who advocated for the new law, supported Aranguri Soto's contention, telling the Christian Science Monitor the new law could mean judges send one-third fewer people to jail. That would greatly reduce overcrowding, he said.

"This law does not decriminalize drug use," complained Aranguri Soto. "It keeps punishing users, but now it treats them like sick people. It activates therapeutic justice and legitimizes the state's moralizing role when it comes to individual conduct," he argued. "The new law is a trap, a modern, compassionate, healing, therapeutic trap."

Soto and his Brazilian colleagues have now joined a debate that has swirled in US reform circles for years but which intensified with the campaign for, and passage of, California's Proposition 36 in the November 2000 election. A more hopeful view was taken in a 2003 interview with Drug War Chronicle by King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project chief Roger Goodman. "Reform is always two steps forward, one step back," Goodman said, "but now this whole idea of treatment over incarceration has been mainstreamed. It's no longer radical. The next step is government regulation of drugs instead of government regulation of human behavior. That's much more radical."

Either way, Brazil's new law has been a long time coming. First introduced by Congressman Murad in 1991, the bill took five years to pass the lower house and another five years to pass the Senate. It then languished for another five years before the Lula government got around to signing it.

Now, Brazil has taken a half-step forward. The question now is how the new law will be implemented and whether it will serve as a stepping stone to an even more progressive drug policy or an obstacle to an even more progressive drug policy.

Feature: Medical Marijuana Victory in South Dakota Court Battle Over Ballot Language

The South Dakota medical marijuana initiative and its organizers, South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana, won an important legal victory last Friday when a circuit court judge ordered state officials to throw out the ballot explanation drafted by medical marijuana foe Attorney General Larry Long (R). Initiative organizers had filed suit challenging Long's ballot explanation as hopelessly biased against the initiative, and in his ruling last Friday, Circuit Court Judge Max Gors of Pierre, the state capital, agreed.

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Can't even be left alone in South Dakota...
Under South Dakota law, the attorney general is charged with writing an "objective, clear, and simple summary" of ballot measures. But Attorney General Long's original didn’t even come close. Before he even got to the ballot summary itself, he decided to change the very name of the measure. Known from the beginning and filed with the state as "An act to provide safe access to medical marijuana for certain qualified persons," Long decided it would be better titled as "An Initiative to authorize marijuana use for adults and children with specified medical conditions." The complete text of his original ballot explanation is as follows:

Currently, marijuana possession, use, distribution, or cultivation is a crime under both state and federal law. The proposed law would legalize marijuana use or possession for any adult or child who has one of several listed medical conditions and who is registered with the Department of Health. The proposed law would also provide a defense to persons who cultivate, transport or distribute marijuana solely to registered persons. Even if this initiative passes, possession, use, or distribution of marijuana is still a federal crime. Persons covered by the proposed law would still be subject to federal prosecution for violation of federal drug control laws. Physicians who provide written certifications may be subject to losing their federal license to dispense prescription drugs.

In his ruling last Friday, Judge Gors ordered Attorney General Long to either rewrite the ballot summary or use language Judge Gors himself drafted:

This initiative will allow persons, including minors with parental consent, with a debilitating medical condition, to grow (not more than six plants), possess (not more than one ounce), and use small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes. "Debilitating medical condition" is defined to include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, or a chronic, debilitating condition that includes cachexia, wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, including epileptic seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those caused by spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, Chrohn's Disease, fibromyalgia, or any other medical condition approved by the Department of Health. Certification may be accomplished by submitting medical records to the Department of Health or by submitting a doctor's recommendation. A person may not drive while impaired by marijuana or smoke marijuana anyplace tobacco smoking is prohibited. Growth, possession, and use of marijuana will still be illegal under federal law, but certification is a defense to criminal prosecution under state law.

Sarah Raeburn, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office, told Drug War Chronicle Wednesday that Long had decided to accept the judge's version as is. "That is what we will use," she said. "The only changes were two misspellings that we have corrected."

"We were very pleased with the judge's decision," said Huron attorney Ron Volesky, who argued the case for lead plaintiff Valerie Hanna of South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana, a former army nurse who suffers neurological disorders related to exposure to chemicals during the Gulf War. "We feel it is a victory for fairness at the ballot box. The circuit court put forth a remedy with new language that is fair in its substance," he told the Chronicle.

Volesky, a former state legislator who is the Democratic nominee for attorney general this year, was the perfect man for the job. Not only is he among the few South Dakota politicians interested in medical marijuana -- he introduced a bill that went nowhere in the legislature in 2002 -- he had previous experience challenging Attorney General Long's ballot explanations in 2004.

Plantiff Hanna also pronounced herself gratified. "I'm very happy and pleased with the decision," she told Drug War Chronicle. "It's a good day for sick people in South Dakota."

The Washington, DC-based Marijuana Policy Project, which helped bankroll the signature gathering drive to get the initiative on the ballot, was also pleased. "Thanks to this sensible ruling, South Dakota will now have a fair description of the medical marijuana initiative on the ballot and South Dakota residents can make an unbiased decision about whether they want to protect South Dakota medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution for using the medicine that works best for them," MPP spokesperson Rebecca Greenberg told Drug War Chronicle.

Now, with the ballot language issue behind them, South Dakota medical marijuana proponents are turning their attention to winning at the ballot box in November. The socially conservative state will be a tough nut to crack, but organizers are optimistic.

"We will keep pressing forward," said Hanna. "We are reaching out to the press, and I'm contacting clergy members right now. Hopefully, we will find some that have the gumption to stand up publicly, but it's pretty scary to advocate for this here. But I'm really hopeful people will respond positively to this initiative."

"It's time for the people to speak," said Volesky. "When the legislature fails to act, we do have the power of the people through initiative measures and referendums to get past the legislature. Instead of trying to win over a handful of legislators controlled by the administration, the people can make their own decision."

If the campaign is successful, South Dakota will become the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana and the ninth to do so through the initiative process.

Anúncio: Novo Formato para o Calendário do Reformador

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A partir desta edição, O Calendário do Reformador não aparecerá mais como parte do boletim Crônica da Guerra Contra as Drogas, mas será mantido como seção de nossa nova página:

O Calendário do Reformador publica eventos grandes e pequenos de interesse para os reformadores das políticas de drogas ao redor do mundo. Seja uma grande conferência internacional, uma manifestação que reúna pessoas de toda a região ou um fórum na universidade local, queremos saber para que possamos informar os demais também.

Porém, precisamos da sua ajuda para mantermos o calendário atualizado, então, por favor, entre em contato conosco e não suponha que já estamos informados sobre o evento ou que vamos saber dele por outra pessoa, porque isso nem sempre acontece.

Ansiamos por informá-lo de mais matérias novas de nossa nova página assim que estejam disponíveis.

Semanal: Esta Semana na História

27 de Agosto de 2002: A Canadian Press, o serviço nacional de notícias do Canadá, informa que a Ministra da Saúde, Anne McLellan, disse que o governo federal não vai descumprir o seu plano de oferecer maconha aos pacientes. Encolerizando-se com informes anteriores de que o projeto fora engavetado, McLellan disse, “Na verdade, longe de engavetá-lo, o que estamos fazendo é implementar o segundo estágio”.

28 de Agosto de 1964: Os Beatles são apresentados à maconha.

28 de Agosto de 1995: A Organização Mundial da Saúde (OMS) publica o "WHO Project on Health Implications of Cannabis Use: A Comparative Appraisal of the Health and Psychological Consequences of Alcohol, Cannabis, Nicotine and Opiate Use" [Projeto da OMS sobre as Implicações do Consumo de Cannabis na Saúde: Uma Avaliação Comparativa das Conseqüências Psicológicas e de Saúde do Consumo de Álcool, Cannabis, Nicotina e Opiáceos]. A versão original – não a oficial – declara, “... há bons motivos para dizer que [os riscos da cannabis] provavelmente não seriam [comparados] seriamente aos riscos do álcool e do tabaco sobre a saúde pública mesmo se muitas pessoas consumissem cannabis como bebem álcool ou fumam tabaco agora”.

29 de Agosto de 2001: O Dallas Morning News informa que Ernesto Samper, ex-presidente da Colômbia, disse, “O problema é que a lei do mercado está tomando a lei do estado... Temos que nos perguntar, a legalização é a saída para isto? Não podemos continuar lutando esta guerra sozinhos. Se os países consumidores não fizerem nada para diminuir a demanda, controlar a lavagem de dinheiro, deter o fluxo de químicos que são oferecidos aos laboratórios de produção de drogas, então, em poucos anos o mundo vai ver a legalização como a resposta”.

30 de Agosto de 1996: O Washington Post informa que o candidato à presidência, Bob Dole, golpeou o Presidente Clinton pelas políticas de drogas dele e tornou a guerra contra as drogas um dos seus temas principais de campanha. Declarando que o Presidente Clinton se “rendera” na guerra contra as drogas, Dole pediu a expansão do papel da Guarda Nacional e que os serviços militares e da inteligência combatessem as drogas.

América Latina: Brasileiros Se Opõem à Legalização da Maconha por Ampla Margem, Descobre Pesquisa

Uma pesquisa de adultos brasileiros conduzida pelo jornal Folha de São Paulo descobriu que esmagadores 79% acham que o fumo de maconha deveria continuar sendo crime. Apenas 18% favoreceram a legalização do consumo de maconha.

A maconha é cultivada no nordeste brasileiro e também é importada das plantações paraguaias. A droga é amplamente consumida no Brasil, com o Escritório da ONU Contra Drogas e Crime estimando que quase dois milhões de brasileiros fumaram maconha pelo menos uma vez no ano passado.

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out-door da Psicotropicus que promove a legalização da maconha.
Tem havido pedidos de liberalização das leis sobre a maconha do país, não apenas nas marchas anuais pró-maconha, mas também de alguns dos políticos importantes do país. No ano passado, o Ministro da Cultura (e músico extraordinário), Gilberto Gil, foi a público com o seu consumo de maconha, dizendo que a fumara durante anos. “Eu acho que as drogas deveriam ser tratadas como os remédios, legalizadas, embora sob as mesmas normas e supervisão que os medicamentos”, disse na época.

Mas parece que os brasileiros estão um pouco conservadores atualmente. A pesquisa pediu aos entrevistados que se identificassem politicamente e descobriu que 47% se diziam de direita, 23% de centro e 30% de esquerda. A tendência conservadora foi ainda mais forte nas questões morais e da justiça criminal, com 63% opondo-se ao aborto, 84% apoiando a redução da maioridade penal e 51% apoiando a pena de morte.

Os observadores brasileiros culparam bastante os Estados Unidos. O ex-secretário nacional antidrogas, Walter Maierovitch, disse à Folha que os resultados mostram “uma falta de informação generalizada” entre a população. “O brasileiro é muito mal-informado sobre esses temas polêmicos e acabam se alinhando com posições que emanam dos Estados Unidos, onde estas discussões são mais profundas e conservadoras”, disse ele à Folha.

O cientista político estadunidense, David Fleischer, professor na Universidade de Brasília, concordou com isso. “A televisão é a grande fonte de informação do brasileiro. O imperialismo estadunidense cultural e de costumes, que ficou muito conservador nos últimos 20 anos, é uma forte referência”.

(Os brasileiros que quiserem ajudar a mudar as coisas devem se unir à Psicotropicus.)

Ásia: China Começa Debate Sobre Primeira Lei Compreensiva Sobre as Drogas

Apesar da China ter declarado há muito tempo uma guerra contra os consumidores e traficantes de drogas, nunca teve estatutos que objetivassem especificamente o tráfico de drogas e o trato dos consumidores de drogas. Isso está prestes a mudar. Na terça-feira, os legisladores chineses começaram a debater um novo projeto que expandiria os poderes da polícia para realizar operações contra o tráfico de drogas nas fronteiras e estabelecer padrões para o tratamento químico, informou a agência de notícias do Estado Chinês, Xinhua.

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cartaz antidrogas chinês
“É importante apresentar tal lei já que a China enfrenta agora uma situação grave no controle das drogas”, disse Zhang Xinfeng, vice-ministro de segurança pública, ao presente comitê do parlamento da China. As drogas do Afeganistão e do Triângulo Dourado estão “se derramando” sobre a China e “apresentando uma ameaça grave aos esforços de controle das drogas da China”, acrescentou Zhang.

As autoridades chinesas estimam que o país tenha mais de 1.1 milhão de consumidores de drogas, incluindo 700.000 viciados em heroína. Além da heroína e do ópio, as autoridades relatam problemas com o consumo de metanfetamina e êxtase.

A parte do projeto proposto que trata do tráfico de drogas expandiria os poderes da polícia, de acordo com a Xinhua. “O projeto também dará permissão à polícia para que procure drogas ilegais nas pessoas e nas bagagens delas em lugares públicos importantes como as estações ferroviárias, rodoviárias de longa distância e fronteiras”.

A polícia também teria o poder de forçar os suspeitos de consumo de drogas a se submeterem a amostras urinárias ou sanguíneas – uma prática limitada até agora a lugares primitivos como Dakota do Sul – e os donos de bares e danceterias teriam que publicar propaganda antidrogas nas suas dependências.

Mas, embora o projeto proposto assuma uma linha dura contra o tráfico, é mais indulgente quando se trata dos consumidores e dependentes de drogas. Inclui disposições que impediriam os centros de tratamento de punir fisicamente ou humilhar verbalmente os dependentes e exige que lhes paguem pelo trabalho que fazem. O projeto também estipula que as pessoas em tratamento forçado o recebam em suas comunidades em vez de forçá-las a irem a centros de tratamento. As admissões a centros de tratamento estariam limitadas aos usuários de drogas injetáveis, as pessoas que recusam a ajuda comunitária ou às pessoas que vivem em comunidades sem recursos de tratamento.

“Os consumidores de drogas são infratores da lei, mas também são pacientes e vítimas. O castigo é necessário, mas a educação e a assistência são mais importantes”, disse Zhang.

Maconha: Iniciativas de “Menor Prioridade” Vão a Votação em Santa Bárbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Mônica e Missoula

É oficial. As iniciativas municipais que tornariam as infrações adultas da legislação antimaconha a menor prioridade legal estarão na votação de Novembro em três cidades californianas – Santa Bárbara, Santa Cruz e Santa Mônica – e a cidade universitária de Missoula, Montana. Os funcionários da Comarca de Missoula certificaram o esforço na quinta-feira e as certificações das eleições municipais da Califórnia foram feitas durante o verão.

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Santa Mônica
Em Missoula, o Citizens for Responsible Crime Policy usou uma doação do Marijuana Policy Project para coletar mais de 20.000 assinaturas em três meses, muito mais do que as necessárias para entrar na votação. Os organizadores esperam ganhar ali com base na vitória da maconha medicinal em todo o estado em 2004.

Na Califórnia, os organizadores em Santa Bárbara, Santa Cruz y Santa Mônica também tiveram sucesso em reunir assinaturas suficientes para entrar na votação. As três iniciativas municipais da Califórnia contêm um texto quase idêntico e se descrevem similarmente. Como observa a página de Santa Mônica, a iniciativa “torna as infrações da legislação antimaconha, onde a cannabis seja pretendida para consumo pessoal adulto, a menor prioridade da polícia” e “libera recursos policiais para se concentrar na criminalidade violenta e séria, em vez de deter e encarcerar usuários não-violentos de cannabis”.

A iniciativa de Santa Cruz dá mais um passo ao estabelecer uma posição oficial da cidade a favor da legalização da maconha. “Os eleitores em Santa Cruz estão cansados da guerra federal contra as drogas fracassada e imoral”, disse Andrea Tischler, presidente da Santa Cruz Citizens for Sensible Marijuana Policy. “Vamos nos mover rumo a políticas mais razoáveis de maconha e garantir que a nossa polícia e os nossos tribunais não fiquem desperdiçando os recursos e o tempo deles prendendo e processando infratores não-violentos da legislação antimaconha. Ao aprovar esta iniciativa, Santa Cruz pode ser o raio de luz que mostre o caminho rumo a políticas mais sensíveis que sejam compatíveis com os valores da maioria dos cidadãos”.

As iniciativas de menor prioridade já foram aprovadas em Seattle e Oakland, que foi o modelo e inspiração para as iniciativas municipais da Califórnia deste ano, assim como um punhado de cidades universitárias ao redor do país.

Condenação: Guerra às Drogas do Illinois Está a Todo Vapor, Descobre Estudo

Um estudo lançado na terça-feira pelo Instituto de Assuntos Metropolitanos da Universidade Roosevelt em Chicago descobriu que o Illinois está em segundo lugar apenas atrás da Califórnia quando se trata de enclausurar os presos da guerra às drogas. Uns 13.000 infratores da legislação antidrogas foram mandados à prisão no Illinois em 2002, atrás apenas dos quase 40.000 da Califórnia. O Illinois ganhou dos estados com populações maiores, como Texas e Nova Iorque.

Não é apenas nos números brutos que o Illinois está bem posicionado, de acordo com "Intersecting Voices: Impacts of Illinois' Drug Policies" [Vozes Cruzadas: Os Impactos das Políticas de Drogas do Illinois]. Quando se trata de prisioneiros por porte de drogas per capita, o Illinois está novamente em segundo lugar no país, apenas atrás do Mississippi e joga pessoas na prisão por porte de drogas mais rápido do que estados “encarceradores” como Oklahoma, Missouri, Geórgia e Carolina do Sul.

Sem surpresa nenhuma, o estudo, assinado pelas pesquisadoras Kathleen Kane-Willis e Jennifer Janichek (integrante da diretoria do Students for Sensible Drug Policy), descobriu que embora os brancos e negros tenham usado drogas ilícitas em índices iguais, os negros eram presos em um índice de seis para cada infrator branco da legislação antidrogas. Aqui, o Illinois pode reclamar o primeiro lugar nacional no índice per capita de afro-americanos presos por delitos de drogas.

“O número de pessoas que enfrentam a prisão no Illinois por porte de drogas – e a disparidade racial daqueles que estão presos – é simplesmente desconcertante”, disse Kathleen Kane-Willis, autora principal do estudo e diretora-adjunta do Instituto de Assuntos Metropolitanos.

“O que é desconcertante é o crescimento explosivo em presos da guerra às drogas no Illinois. Em 1983, os infratores da legislação antidrogas eram 4,9% da população prisional do estado; em 2002, eles eram 37,9%. A população de presos da guerra às drogas foi de pouco mais de 400 em 1983 para mais de 13.000 em 2002, um aumento incrível de 2.748% em duas décadas”.

O que também é desconcertante é o custo de prender milhares de infratores não-violentos da legislação antidrogas. O estudo estima que o Illinois gastou cerca de $280 milhões para prender os infratores da legislação antidrogas em 2002. Há uma saída melhor, disse Kane-Willis. “O abuso químico é um problema de saúde pública e o nosso estudo sugere que o tratamento para os infratores da legislação antidrogas é mais adequada, mais rentável e dá resultados melhores que o encarceramento”.

Cânhamo Industrial: Assembléia da Califórnia Aprova Projeto Sobre o Cânhamo, Será que Schwarzenegger Vai Assiná-lo?

Na segunda-feira, a Assembléia da Califórnia aprovou um projeto que permitiria que os agricultores produzissem azeite, sementes e fibra de cânhamo para fins nutricionais e industriais. O projeto, o AB 1147, foi defendido pelos Deputados Mark Leno (D-São Francisco) e Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), e aprovado por uma margem de 43-28. Já foi aprovado pelo Senado estadual e agora aguarda a assinatura do Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

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plantas de cânhamo
O cânhamo é uma indústria de $270 milhões, porém os agricultores estadunidenses estão em desvantagem porque a legislação federal proíbe a sua produção – mas não a sua importação. A lei californiana espelha atualmente a lei federal em não fazer distinção nenhuma entre cânhamo industrial e maconha. Se transformado em lei, o projeto da Califórnia não significaria que os agricultores podem começar a cultivar cânhamo, mas adicionaria pressão sobre o governo federal para revisar a questão.

Tanto o cânhamo quanto a maconha são membros da família da cannabis, mas são cultivos diferentes dentro dessa família. O cânhamo contém apenas níveis mínimos de THC, o principal ingrediente psico-ativo na maconha recreativa, mas as suas fibras são usadas em papel, panos, peças automotivas e materiais de construção, e suas sementes e azeites são usados como produtos alimentares.

“Centenas de produtos de cânhamo são feitos aqui na Califórnia, mas os fabricantes são forçados a importar a semente, o azeite e a fibra de cânhamo de outros países”, disse Leno durante o debate sobre o projeto. “Quando isto virar lei, será uma bonança econômica para a Califórnia”.

O projeto foi aprovado em linhas partidárias, com apenas um republicano unindo-se aos democratas para votar a favor dele. Os legisladores do Partido Republicano recorreram a posturas alarmistas para explicar a oposição deles. “Como republicano conservador, não posso ter o meu nome relacionado com o cânhamo”, disse o Deputado Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia). De acordo com Mountjoy, o projeto dificultaria o combate ao cultivo de maconha porque o cânhamo “manda o mesmíssimo sinal de calor que é usado para localizar os cultivos de maconha”. O Deputado John Benoit (R-Palm Desert) disse a mesma coisa, afirmando que as plantas de maconha e cânhamo são “indistinguíveis”.

Mas os oficiais do aparato judiciário-legal nos 30 países em que o cânhamo é cultivado legalmente parecem capazes de distinguir, questão colocada pelo Deputado Leno. As diferenças entre a maconha e o cânhamo são tantas que “uma criança de cinco anos podia mostrar a diferença... O aparato judiciário-legal que tiver o dom da visão não teria problema nenhum”.

“Agradecemos aos legisladores de ambos os partidos que ouviram os fatos sobre o cânhamo industrial e tomaram a decisão histórica de recuperar o cultivo”, disse Eric Steenstra, presidente do Vote Hemp, um grupo que apoiou o projeto. “A aprovação na Assembléia da Califórnia é uma conquista importantíssima para os autores e defensores do projeto, assim como para milhares de eleitores, agricultores e negócios ambientalmente conscientes que escreveram aos legisladores californianos”, diz Steenstra.

Não se sabe ainda se Schwarzenegger assinará ou vetará o projeto.

Maconha Medicinal: Já Não Há Ameaça de Prisão para Renee Boje Depois que Federais Aceitam Acordo Simbólico

Um dos casos mais importantes e pungentes de processo criminal federal de pessoas envolvidas no movimento pró-maconha medicinal chegou a um fim relativamente bom. Renee Boje, que fugiu para o Canadá em 1998 em vez de enfrentar uma sentença mínima obrigatória de entre 10 anos e prisão perpétua pelo envolvimento periférico dela em um cultivo de pesquisa de maconha medicinal de Los Ângeles, se confessou culpada na semana passada de porte de meio-grama de maconha, foi condenada a um ano de liberdade vigiada e pode voltar ao Canadá. A boa notícia de Boje acontece pouco mais de quatro meses depois que outro refugiado estadunidense famoso pela maconha medicinal no Canadá, Steve Kubby, viu o seu próprio caso resolvido com uma quantidade relativamente curta de tempo de cadeia.

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Renee Boje
Boje, que cultivava pouco mais de plantas aquáticas, foi presa quando a DEA sitiou uma horta mantida pelo autor e paciente de AIDS, Peter McWilliams, e o paciente de câncer e ativista pró-maconha, Todd McCormick. McCormick cumpriu uma sentença federal de cinco anos pelo papel dele na operação, mas McWilliams nunca teve essa chance. Ele engasgou com o próprio vômito dele até morrer após não poder usar maconha enquanto estava sob regime de liberdade vigiada aguardando o julgamento.

Estando à mercê do sistema federal de justiça criminal dos EUA, Boje fugiu para o país mais amigo da cannabis, o Canadá, onde ela foi acolhida pelo movimento pró-maconha desse país. Em 2001, ela se casou com o ativista e autor Chris Bennett, e no ano seguinte deu a luz a um filho no Canadá. Apesar das súplicas de pessoas ao redor do mundo e de suas relações crescentes com o Canadá, o governo canadense recusou todos os esforços dela de ficar no país e parecia que ela seria deportada para enfrentar a justiça à estadunidense.

Mas, os procuradores federais em Los Ângeles aparentemente perderam o interesse em processar criminalmente a jovem e comunicaram que estavam interessados em solucionar o caso. No dia 10 de Agosto, Boje reentrou nos Estados Unidos e no dia 14 de Agosto, ela se confessou culpada perante o Juiz George King, o mesmo juiz que presidiu as audiências de McWilliams e McCormick. Quando condenou Boje a liberdade vigiada, ele também permitiu que ela voltasse ao Canadá.

Embora os oficiais canadenses de imigrações tenham ameaçado não permitir a volta dela ao país – afinal, agora ela se confessara culpada de portar meio-grama de maconha e podia ter a sua entrada negada segundo a lei canadense --, eles lhe concederam um visto de visitante de seis meses de validade. Boje usará esse tempo para obter a cidadania canadense.

Imposição da Lei: As Estórias de Policiais Corruptos Desta Semana

Temos um trio sulista nesta semana, com provas desaparecidas no Alabama, uma força-tarefa bandida no Mississippi, e, claro, um agente penitenciário traficante de drogas na Luisiana. Vamos ao que interessa:

Em Tuskegee, Alabama, os agentes da Agência de Investigação do Alabama estão investigando a Polícia de Tuskegee para ver o que aconteceu com as drogas e o dinheiro que supostamente desapareceram do cofre de provas. Os policiais não falaram muito, mas “fontes próximas ao caso”, disseram à WSFA-12 News que $26.000 em espécie e uma quantidade desconhecida de drogas confiscadas de supostos traficantes de drogas desapareceram. De acordo com a WSFA, pelo menos quatro casos de drogas podem estar em perigo. A Agência de Investigação do Alabama disse à emissora que a investigação pode durar mais outro mês.

Em Hattiesburg, Mississippi, pelo menos 34 casos de drogas foram retirados no mês passado porque os adjuntos que trabalhavam na Força-Tarefa de Narcóticos do Sudeste do Mississippi plantaram provas em suspeitos ou plantaram provas de algum outro jeito, informou o Hattiesburg American na terça-feira. Aqueles adjuntos foram acusados criminalmente e espera-se que se confessem culpados nesta semana de acusações que incluem agressão, obstrução da justiça e formação de quadrilha. De acordo com o Xerife Larry Dykes da Paróquia e Comarca de Jones, embora a força-tarefa tenha sido fechada, o problema das drogas continua, então ele está formando uma divisão de repressão às drogas no departamento dele.

Em Colúmbia, Luisiana, um ex-guarda do Centro Correcional de Caldwell foi preso na terça-feira sob acusações de vendas de maconha a internos da cadeia, informou a KATC-TV. Dennis Cartridge, 23, foi acusado de porte de maconha, improbidade no cargo, introduzir contrabando numa instalação correcional e conspiração para distribuir maconha. Cartridge, que fora um guarda durante apenas dois meses, está agora numa cadeia diferente tentando arrecadar $15.000 para sair sob fiança.

A DRCNet no MySpace

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Claro, usamos o nosso antigo logotipo da placa de pare como nossa foto no perfil do MySpace
Mesmo a pesar de não termos anunciado publicamente a existência da conta Stop the Drug War (DRCNet) no MySpace (até hoje, é claro), de alguma forma 1.800 pessoas a encontraram e se inscreveram como “amigos”.

Se você for um entusiasta do MySpace, esperamos que vire amigo da DRCNet no MySpace também para que os seus amigos e os amigos dos seus amigos possam nos descobrir dessa maneira e virar parte da causa.

Visite http://www.myspace.com/drcnet para relacionar a DRCNet no MySpace no seu MySpace!

Latin America: Guatemala Imposes "State of Prevention" in Drug Crackdown

The Guatemalan government announced Tuesday that it was suspending some constitutional rights in municipalities along the Mexican border as part of an effort to uproot opium crops and drug trafficking in the region. Residents of Concepción Tutuapa, Ixchiguán, San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Tajumulco and Tejutla woke up Tuesday morning to find their towns and villages surrounded by 800 police who arrived in the middle of the night, the Guatemala City newspaper Prensa Libre reported.

Under an emergency two-week order called a state of prevention, the government has suspended the right to carry firearms or hold demonstrations or meetings in the affected area. The measure also expands the government's right to conduct searches. In addition, the government warned the news media "to not incite rebellion because on previous occasions radio stations have urged people to resist the destruction of drug crops."

On Tuesday, police checkpoints blocked access to the affected region and all vehicles were being subjected to searches. Police had also raided at least 22 locations by Tuesday afternoon, when Guatemalan officials held a press conference to announce the offensive.

"The idea of this high impact operation, at the end of 15 days, is to have eradicated the poppy crops, captured people linked to the trade, and confiscate heavy arms," Guatemalan President Oscar Berger told reporters. "We are trying to fight drug trafficking and organized crime," Interior Minister Carlos Vielman added.

For residents of the municipalities, all located in the department of San Marcos, the police operation is causing some nervousness. "The neighbors came to see me very worried, and the only thing I could tell them was that he who has nothing has nothing to fear," Jeronimo Navarro, the mayor of Ixchiguan told Prensa Libre.

ONCDP Media Campaign: Drug Czar's Anti-Drug Ads a Flop, GAO Says

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the $1.4 billion anti-drug advertising campaign aimed at youth and managed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar's office, ONDCP) doesn’t work. The title of the GAO report, "ONDCP Media Campaign: Contractor's National Evaluation Did Not Find That the Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign Was Effective in Reducing Youth Drug Use, pretty much says it all.

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evidently doesn't work...
The GAO report is at least the third to criticize the program in the past three years. In 2003, the White House Office of Management and Budget qualified the program as "non-performing" and lacking any demonstrable results. In 2005, Westat, Inc. and the University of Pennsylvania did a $43 million federally-funded study that again found the campaign didn’t work. That evaluation found that kids and parents remembered the ads and their messages, but that the ads did not change kids' attitudes toward drugs. It also suggested that reported drops in teen drug use came not from the ad campaign but from a range of other factors.

The GAO study released last Friday evaluated Westat's evaluation of the ad campaign and found it credible. "GAO’s review of Westat’s evaluation reports and associated documentation leads to the conclusion that the evaluation provides credible evidence that the campaign was not effective in reducing youth drug use, either during the entire period of the campaign or during the period from 2002 to 2004 when the campaign was redirected and focused on marijuana use," GAO said in its executive summary.

ONDCP has, unsurprisingly, attacked the GAO report. Spokesman Tom Riley told USA Today the report is "irrelevant to us. It's based on ads from 2 ½ years ago, and they were effective, too. Drug use has been going down dramatically. Cutting the program now would imperil its progress."

Drug czar John Walters also complained that Westat wanted proof of an actual link between the ads and figures suggesting lower drug use among teens. "Establishing a causal relationship between exposure and outcomes is something major marketers rarely attempt because it is virtually impossible to do," Walters said in a letter. "This is one reason why the 'Truth' anti-tobacco advertising campaign, acclaimed as a successful initiative in view of the significant declines we've seen in teen smoking, did not claim to prove a causal relationship between campaign exposure and smoking outcomes, reporting instead that the campaign was associated with substantial declines in youth smoking."

Unlike Walters, Congress may want to see some sort of causal relationship between the ad campaign and drug use figures before it funds it for another year. The Bush administration wants another $120 million for fiscal year 2007, but the GAO said that absent a better plan from Walters, funding should be cut. Congress will consider the issue this fall.

First Amendment: Kenneth Starr Joins Appeal of 9th US Circuit Ruling in "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Case

Former Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr is offering his services pro bono to the Juneau, Alaska, school district in a case pitting First Amendment rights against the district's tough anti-drug policies. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March that Principal Deborah Morse had violated the rights of Juneau-Douglas High School student Joseph Frederick when she suspended him for 10 days for holding aloft a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" during a January 2002 parade. School officials told Frederick he was suspended for advocating illegal drug use.

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Ken Starr's new target: t-shirts about bongs
The 9th Circuit was having none of that. In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel held that even high school students have a right to express themselves if they don't disrupt school or its educational mission. "A school cannot censor or punish students' speech merely because the students advocate a position contrary to government policy," wrote Judge Andrew Kleinfeld for the panel.

Starr, whose main claim to fame was investigating the relationship between President Bill Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky, filed a petition Monday urging the Supreme Court to hear the case. It's not a done deal; at least four of the nine justices must vote to hear it if it is to make it before the high court.

School district Superintendent Peggy Cowan told the Associated Press the district is appealing to seek clarity on the rights of administrators to impose discipline on students who break the district's drug message policy. "The district's decision to move forward is not disrespectful to the First Amendment or the rights of students," she said. "This is an important question about how the First Amendment applies to pro-drug messages in an educational setting."

It looks like someone needs to go back to school on the meaning of the First Amendment.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another week, another set of bad apples. We see so many bad apples, we're beginning to wonder if there isn't something wrong with the barrel. In any case, this week we have an encore performance by an Alabama judge with a serious bad habit, some Chicago cops copping pleas for robbing drug dealers, a pair of US air marshals being sentenced for acting as drug couriers, and a small-town Texas police chief looking for work after there were too many questions about where some drug money went. Let's get to it:

In Carollton, Alabama, speed-freaking Pickens County District Judge Ira Colvin is in trouble again. Regular readers will recall that Judge Colvin was arrested just two weeks ago on meth and meth precursor charges in neighboring Lowndes County, Mississippi. He was arrested again Saturday morning on Alabama meth possession charges based on the discovery of meth in his office at the Pickens County Judicial Center on August 15. His office was searched at the orders of Circuit Court Judge James Moore the day after his Mississippi arrest. According to the Tuscaloosa News, Pickens County officials said they had been investigating Colvin's alleged drug use since May. He has been suspended as a judge, and is out on bond on both the Mississippi and Alabama charges. In a late, but not unexpected, twist to the story, Colvin resigned Wednesday.

(This is not necessarily an example of corruption -- it's a tough call sometimes to decide if any given case of legal trouble involving law enforcers should make this column -- Judge Colvin presumably sits in judgment on others accused of drug use, so we decided to include it.)

In Chicago, two former Chicago police officers pleaded guilty this week to charges they robbed thousands of dollars worth of marijuana and cocaine from drug dealers, the Associated Press reported. Former officers Derek Haynes, a nine-year veteran, and Broderick Jones were part of a ring of five former Chicago police officers charged with stopping drug dealers and taking their drugs on the city's South Side. All five were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine; now Haynes and Jones two others who have already pleaded to those charges. They face between 15 and 40 years in prison.

In Houston, two US air marshals caught plotting to smuggle cocaine by using their positions to get around airport security were sentenced to prison Tuesday, Reuters reported. Shawn Nguyen, 38, and Burlie Sholar, 33, were arrested in February in an FBI sting after agreeing to carry 33 pounds of coke on a flight from Houston to Las Vegas. They were to earn $75,000 for their efforts. The pair went down after an informant told investigators Nguyen, a former US drug agent, was involved in trafficking. Nguyen got seven years, while Sholar got nine. They faced up to life in prison.

In Troy, Texas, Police Chief David Seward was fired at a Monday night city council meeting after being suspended July 11 because of an ongoing investigation into the handling of money seized after drugs were found in a vehicle during a traffic stop. According to KWTX-TV 10 in Waco, council members questioned how that money was spent. Seward admitted that some money was spent improperly, but argued he should not be terminated. The city council wasn’t buying, though. It voted unanimously to fire him.

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