Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Introducing: The Stop the Drug War Speakeasy

<?php print l('David Borden', 'user/2/contact'); ?>, Executive Director

[inline:borden12.jpg align=right caption="David Borden"]It's an auspicious moment at Drug War Chronicle -- the publication of issue #450, not only a nice, round number, but also an indicator of roughly nine years having passed since Drug War Chronicle's founding. Doubly auspicious, though, as I am 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.

[inline:dc-beer-raid-reduced.jpg align=left caption="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.

Sentencing: Illinois Drug War at Full Throttle, Study Finds

A study released Tuesday by Roosevelt University's Institute for Metropolitan Affairs in Chicago has found that Illinois is second only to California when it comes to locking up drug war prisoners. Some 13,000 drug offenders were sent to prison in Illinois in 2002, second only to California's nearly 40,000. Illinois trumped states with larger populations, such as Texas and New York.

It's not just raw numbers where Illinois ranks high, according to "Intersecting Voices: Impacts of Illinois' Drug Policies". When it comes to drug possession prisoners per capita, Illinois again ranks second in the nation, trailing only Mississippi and throwing people in prison for drug possession faster than "lock 'em up" states like Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Not in the least surprisingly, the study, authored by researchers Kathleen Kane-Willis and Jennifer Janichek (a member of the board of directors of Students for Sensible Drug Policy), found that although whites and blacks used illicit drugs at the same rates, blacks were imprisoned at a rate of six for each white drug offender. Here, Illinois can claim first place nationally in the per capita rate of African Americans imprisoned for drug offenses.

"The number of people who face incarceration in Illinois for drug possession -- and the racial disparity of those who are incarcerated -- is just staggering," said Kathleen Kane-Willis, lead author of the study and assistant director of the Institute for Metropolitan Affairs.

What is also staggering is the explosive growth in drug war prisoners in Illinois. In 1983, drug offenders made up 4.9% of the state prison population; in 2002, they made up 37.9%. The drug war prisoner population grew from a little over 400 in 1983 to almost 13,000 in 2002, a mind-bending 2,748% increase in two decades.

Also staggering is the cost of locking up thousands of nonviolent drug offenders. The study estimates that Illinois spent about $280 million to imprison drug offenders in 2002. There is a better way, said Kane-Willis. "Drug abuse is a public health problem, and our study suggests that treatment for drug offenders is more appropriate, more cost-effective and has better results than incarceration."

Feature: Seattle's Hempfest Going Strong at 15

Seattle's Hempfest turned 15 this year, and attendees at the world's largest marijuana "protestival" basked in the sun, sampled the delectibles, bought glass pipes by the truckload, listened to a stellar lineup of area and touring bands, and some even took in some serious drug policy reform speechifying. With attendance for the two-day annual event estimated at around 150,000 people, the physical space was cramped, but there was plenty of room for partying and politics.

Hempfest crowd shot (courtesy Hempfest)
Hempfest takes place in Myrtle Edwards Park, a long, narrow strip of land facing Puget Sound just north of downtown Seattle. To the south, the snowy bulk of Mt. Rainier looms. All day Saturday and Sunday, people by the thousands flooded into the park through a pair of narrow entrances only to confront miles of pipe sellers, hemp product hawkers, exotic food booths, various political organizations, and bands playing on multiple stages.

Among those bands was Los Marijuanos, the bilingual hip-hop group describing themselves as "Mexican pro-pot poets." Los Marijuanos' pro-pot repertoire ranged from Cypress Hill-inspired stylings to remakes of classic ranchera tunes, much to the amusement and sometimes bemusement of the crowd.

While it may take on the appearance of a giant rock concert, Hempfest is at root about legalizing marijuana. In a city like Seattle, where residents approved a "lowest law enforcement priority" initiative in 2003, the battle is half won -- but only half won. Still, the ranks of the pro-marijuana legalization forces are growing, and who better to demonstrate that than the city's former police chief, Norm Stamper?

Stamper, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, has emerged as a leading police critic of the drug war and certainly warranted the main stage speaking slot (among others) he got. Seattlites who remember Stamper primarily as the head cop during the World Trade Organization riots in 1999 were in for a surprise.

Stamper talked about police officers he knew or commanded who were killed or injured enforcing the drug laws, and he talked about the futility of that policy. "It's laughable when people say we are winning the drug war," he said. "We need to legalize all drugs. Police should be focused on violent crime," he told the crowd.

Stamper wasn't the only big name drug policy reformer attending Hempfest; in fact, it would probably be quicker to name those who were not present. They held forth in the Hemporium, a large tent strewn with carpets, where festival goers could wander in and get a taste of what leaders like Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project, Keith Stroup, the founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or DRCNet's David Guard are thinking these days.

But the crowds at the Hemporium were small. For most people, Hempfest is a party, a chance to see some bands, and yes, a celebration of cannabis culture, but that doesn't necessarily imply an especially elevated political consciousness. Structured as an all-volunteer event free to the public, Hempfest attracts many whose commitment to the cause could be seriously challenged if they had to pay an entrance fee.

"I'm here for the weed and the bands and the girls, man," laughed one red-eyed, shirtless young man sporting a top hat. "Pot is cool. Hempfest is cool," he told Drug War Chronicle. But when asked if he had put a dollar in one of the ubiquitous donation buckets being toted around by volunteers, he merely shrugged.

Indeed, if there were one constant at Hempfest other than the sweet smell of burning sinsemilla it was the unrelenting call from festival volunteers for donations. With a budget in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Hempfest relies on its crowd for support, but if the ominous rumblings from Hempfest director Vivian McPeak and the legion of volunteers are to be heeded, the crowd is not coming through with enough dollars to ensure Hempfest will be back next year. Is it time to start charging admission?

Editorial: Sempre Há Outro Cartel do Narcotráfico...

David Borden, Diretor Executivo

David Borden
Foi o dia de sorte da DEA y de azar para um narcotraficante. O famoso narcotraficante, Javier Arellano-Félix, chefe de uma das principias organizações do tráfico de cocaína do mundo, foi preso no mar perto do litoral mexicano pela Guarda Costeira dos EUA. Agora, ele pode pegar prisão perpétua por um indiciamento de 2003 por tráfico de cocaína.

Há muitos motivos além do tráfico de drogas para afastar este homem - o cartel dele é uma parte importante da violência do tráfico de drogas que assola a região de Tijuana e que já deixou 1.500 mortos. Alguns dos assassinatos foram inenarráveis na sua pura horripilância. A organização foi responsável pelo infame assassinato do Cardeal Juan Posadas Ocampo em 1993 enquanto aguardava para encontrar um funcionário papal que chegava ao aeroporto de Guadalajara.

Apesar de não lamentarmos a perda de liberdade de Arellano, há muito a lamentar no sistema que o tornou possível, um sistema que no seu impacto, se não nas suas intenções, tem deixado tantas mortes e continuará fazendo mesmo no futuro. Os traficantes de cocaína e seus sequazes não matam as pessoas porque estão doidonas com cocaína; as matam porque é parte do negócio - ganhar dinheiro - nesta empresa criminosa lucrativa. Sabemos de longa experiência que retirar um senhor do narcotráfico, até desmembrar uma organização do tráfico inteirinha, apenas leva ao crescimento ou ao estabelecimento de uma nova, sem redução nenhuma na quantidade de cocaína absorvida pelo mercado. Os funcionários da DEA reconheceram isto mesmo enquanto celebravam a captura de alta visibilidade deles - eles até previram que isso resultaria em violência, já que os traficantes rivais lutam para preencher o vazio que a captura criou.

O narcotraficante mais famoso foi talvez o construtor do cartel de Medellín, Pablo Escobar, morto numa chuva de balas das forças do governo que atuavam sob a liderança do procurador-geral Gustavo de Greiff. O comentário público de de Greiff foi muito mais esclarecedor do que o que se deveria esperar da DEA. De Greiff explicou na mídia que não aconteceria nada com o fluxo de cocaína, o cartel de Medellín apenas seria substituído por outro grupo de caracteres, a resposta é... a legalização. Claro que a DEA e os seus chefes no Departamento de Justiça não gostam disso. (Clique aqui para saber o que de Greiff disse na nossa conferência de 2003 no México.)

Então, enquanto os capitães da DEA continuarão celebrando os frutos por semanas ou meses, as vítimas da proibição das drogas seguirão sofrendo e morrendo desnecessariamente. Porque sempre há outro cartel, outro líder pronto e à espreita, outro vendedor ou atravessador disposto a disparar uma arma para conseguir a sua parte.

Matéria: Iniciativa de Legalização do Porte de Maconha de Colorado Entra na Votação

O secretário de estado do Colorado anunciou na quarta-feira que uma iniciativa que legalizaria o porte de até trinta gramas de maconha para pessoas com 21 anos ou mais entregou assinaturas suficientes para entrar na votação de Novembro. Organizada pela SAFER Colorado, o grupo que alcançou uma vitória-surpresa com uma iniciativa pró-legalização no ano passado em Denver, a Iniciativa de Igualação do Álcool e da Maconha do Colorado [Colorado Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative] levaria o estado à linha de frente da reforma da legislação sobre a maconha simplesmente por mudar uma sentença nos estatutos estaduais.

O anúncio aconteceu menos de duas semanas depois que a SAFER Colorado entregou mais de 130.000 assinaturas, bem mais do que as 80.000 necessárias para se classificar para as urnas. A secretaria de estado certificou a medida para a votação com base numa amostragem estatística das assinaturas.

"Estamos felicíssimos", disse Steve Fox da SAFER Colorado. "Tivemos muito mais assinaturas do que precisávamos e isso nos permitiu conseguirmos esta classificação rápida ao invés de termos a secretaria de estado examinando as nossas petições linha por linha", disse ele à Crônica da Guerra Contra as Drogas.

A iniciativa, que será conhecida como Emenda 44 na votação, pede que os eleitores votem sim ou não na seguinte pergunta: "Deve haver uma emenda à seção 18-18-406(1) dos estatutos revisados do Colorado que legalize o porte de trinta gramas ou menos de maconha para qualquer pessoa com vinte e um anos ou mais?"

Segundo a lei atual do Colorado, o porte de até trinta gramas de maconha é uma contravenção de Classe 2 punível por multa de até $100. De acordo com os empregados legislativos que prepararam uma análise da iniciativa, uns 3.700 adultos foram condenados por porte simples de maconha no ano passado.

Agora, o Colorado se junta a Nevada como estados em que os eleitores decidirão neste mês de Novembro se reformarão radicalmente as leis sobre a maconha. Em Nevada, o Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) e seu afiliado local, o Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, estão fazendo pressão por uma iniciativa que não apenas legalizaria o porte de até trinta gramas, mas também permitiria as vendas reguladas de quantidades iguais.

O MPP não está envolvido no esforço do Colorado, mas espera que tenha sucesso, disse o diretor de comunicação Bruce Mirken. "Isto foi uma surpresa", disse ele à Crônica da Guerra Contra as Drogas. "Desejamos o melhor. Ninguém deve menosprezar esta gente - eles surpreenderam todo o mundo com o seu sucesso em Denver no ano passado".

Estranhamente, essa vitória instigou o esforço em todo o estado. Depois que os cidadãos de Denver votaram a favor do decreto-lei, os oficiais municipais da lei se recusaram a obedecê-la, escolhendo processar as pessoas de acordo com a lei estadual. A SAFER Colorado quer tirar essa opção. Se a medida for aprovada em Novembro, as comunidades no Colorado que queiram leis mais severas contra a maconha teriam que aprovar decretos-lei municipais e acusar os infratores de acordo com elas.

A campanha continuará enfatizando o seu tema provado de que a maconha é mais segura que o álcool e que, pelo menos, não deveria ser tratada com mais severidade. Esse tema ressoou com força junto aos estudantes na Universidade do Colorado e na Universidade Estadual do Colorado, ambas as quais aprovaram resoluções não-compulsórias que pedem a igualação das penas, assim como junto aos eleitores em Denver no outono passado.

O diretor de campanha da SAFER Colorado, Mason Tvert, tratava disso na quarta-feira. "A campanha dará destaque à hipocrisia das leis que proíbem o consumo de maconha enquanto que permitem e até encorajam o consumo de álcool, uma droga infinitamente mais nociva", disse numa declaração saudando o anúncio da secretaria de estado.

Agora, chegou a hora de ganhar a eleição, disse Fox. "Estamos realizando uma campanha de captação de recursos para que possamos distribuir os nossos materiais e divulgar a nossa mensagem", disse. "Temos muitos artigos divertidos - camisetas, broches, adesivos - que visam às pessoas que nos apóiam, mas que não necessariamente votam sempre. É nosso dever sair e votar e faremos o possível para incentivá-los".

Será uma batalha difícil de vencer em Novembro. Na única pesquisa sobre a medida feita até o presente momento, o Denver Post descobriu que ela perde por 51% a 37%. Mas Fox examinou esses dados e ficou otimista.

"Achamos que isso é muito bom enquanto entramos nesta campanha", disse. "Se apenas 51% apóiam a proibição da maconha antes que tenhamos começado a divulgar a nossa mensagem, achamos que temos uma chance muito boa de vencer. Ouça, a SAFER é o Barry Goldwater da maconha. Mesmo se não vencermos desta vez, estamos dizendo o que deveria ser feito com a confiança de que o povo sairá a favor da nossa posição. É uma verdade inegável que a maconha é menos nociva do que o álcool", disse. "A nossa campanha é aqui no Colorado, mas isto se trata de acabar com a proibição da maconha por todo o país, não apenas em um estado. Estamos metidos nisto para vencer com tudo a que temos direito".

Uma vantagem da campanha é a falta de qualquer oposição organizada até agora. "Temos uma senhora louca antidrogas que faz barulho, mas ela não é uma opositora sofisticada", disse Fox. "Nós vimos um guerreiro antidrogas estabelecendo um comitê aqui no Colorado e há rumores de que o procurador-geral planeja reunir um grupo de oposição possivelmente formado de oficiais da lei, mas isso ainda não aconteceu", explicou. "Esperamos que os oficiais da lei compreendam que eles são os impositores da lei, não os legisladores, e que eles devem permitir que as pessoas decidam quais serão as leis".

O apelido oficial do Colorado é o Estado Centenário [Centennial State], mas uma de suas alcunhas não-oficiais é a do Estado Mais Alto [Highest State], com base em suas montanhas gigantes e sua elevação média. Se os eleitores do Colorado aprovarem a Emenda 44 em Novembro, sem dúvida nenhuma muitos considerarão que ele merece muito mais esse apelido.

Matéria: Conferência “Além da Tolerância Zero” Visa a Proporcionar Novo Paradigma a Educadores

Durante as duas últimas décadas, as políticas de tolerância zero têm sido a lei em vigor nos colégios secundários por todos os Estados Unidos. Resultado das preocupações conjuntas do governo federal com as drogas e armas nas escolas, tais políticas são designadas para punir inflexivelmente as grandes ou pequenas infrações com suspensões, expulsões ou encaminhamentos às autoridades legais. Mas os críticos da tolerância zero a ridicularizam como se criasse uma "tubulação da escola á prisão" e por ser ineficaz. Agora, os educadores com uma abordagem pragmática ao consumo estudantil de drogas estão se preparando para uma conferência de Outubro em São Francisco para apresentarem alternativas operáveis, humanas e eficazes à abordagem duríssima popularizada no governo Reagan e até amplamente adotada nas escolas de todo o país.

A conferência Além da Tolerância Zero está marcada para o dia 25 de Outubro e objetiva professores, administradores e conselheiros escolares, disse Marsha Rosenbaum da Drug Policy Alliance, um dos grupos que patrocinam o evento. Os outros patrocinadores incluem a cidade e a comarca de São Francisco, o Departamento de Saúde Pública de São Francisco, a Sociedade de Medicina de São Francisco, o Departamento de Saúde e Serviços Humanos da Comarca de Marin e o International Institute for Restorative Practices.

Rosenbaum não é apenas mais outra reformadora das políticas de drogas, ela é pedagoga, pesquisadora e importante defensora de políticas mais sensíveis para lidarem com o consumo de drogas entre estudantes. O projeto dela, o Safety First, é um recurso fundamental para professores e administradores que procurarem meios mais eficientes de lidar com a questão. O projeto Safety First desempenhou um papel importante na preparação para a conferência de Outubro.

"Esta conferência é um resultado do trabalho que estivemos fazendo durante alguns anos", disse Rosenbaum à Crônica da Guerra Contra as Drogas. "Há três anos atrás, reunimos uma força-tarefa estadual aqui na Califórnia para sairmos com uma declaração sobre o que seria uma conscientização eficaz sobre as drogas e produzimos um folheto chamado Além da Tolerância Zero, que combina três elementos que não tinham sido combinados antes: a conscientização das drogas que é honesta e baseada na ciência, a abordagem a crianças de uma maneira interativa e participativa e o emprego de práticas restaurativas em vez de punição. Estávamos defendendo um processo pelo qual os estudantes são reunidos e aceitos pela comunidade escolar depois que se emendarem ao invés de serem suspensos, expulsos ou castigados de qualquer outra forma".

Por volta do outono passado, estava ficando aparente que a abordagem estava granjeando um amplo interesse entre os educadores. "O projeto Safety First estava recebendo muitos pedidos de educadores que nos perguntavam qual seria a nossa abordagem à conscientização sobre as drogas no segundo grau", disse Rosenbaum. "Como seria? E você pode nos treinar nisto? Não sabíamos que a nossa abordagem teria tanta repercussão junto aos educadores. Esta conferência é uma resposta a essa demanda e isso objetiva de verdade os professores, administradores e conselheiros escolares. Visamos a combinar as políticas de educação com as práticas restaurativas e mostrar aos educadores como eles podem implementar a abordagem além da tolerância zero".

"As práticas restaurativas tratam de restaurar a comunidade em um mundo cada vez mais desconexo", explicou Ted Wachtel, diretor do International Institute on Restorative Practices, sediado na Pensilvânia. "As pessoas estão mais contentes, são mais produtivas e mais cooperativas e têm mais chances de fazer mudanças positivas quando a autoridade faz coisas com elas em vez de fazê-las para elas ou por elas. As práticas restaurativas se tratam de reconhecer isto".

Os leitores podem ter mais familiaridade com a justiça restaurativa, um movimento iniciado nos anos 1970 que busca colocar infratores e vítimas cara-a-cara para reparar o dano causado em vez de enfatizar apenas o castigo. "A justiça restaurativa é um subgrupo de práticas restaurativas", disse Wachtel. "A justiça restaurativa é reativa pela sua própria natureza, mas as práticas restaurativas são pró-ativas. São coisas que podem ser feitas nas escolas ou na família, pode-se construir capital social e um sentido de pertença e conectividade pró-ativamente. Isso não é algo que o sistema de justiça possa fazer", explicou.

"Expulsar os jovens da escola por delitos de drogas e uma ampla gama de outro mau comportamento simplesmente não é produtivo", disse Wachtel. "Não funciona. Nós tratamos as infrações por drogas e álcool como questões criminais quando são na verdade uma questão de saúde pública. Se falarmos de estudantes que consomem drogas ou álcool, falamos de gente que precisa de apoio e assistência no trato mais eficiente de suas vidas. Expulsá-las da escola ou entregá-las à polícia não ajuda a mudar o comportamento delas de maneira positiva".

O distrito escolar de Oakland dá uma idéia de como tais programas funcionam realmente. Durante os últimos nove anos, esse distrito tem operado um programa chamado Up Front, um programa de conscientização e prevenção às drogas baseado na redução de danos nos seus colégios secundários. O diretor do programa, Charles Ries, fará um discurso na conferência e explicará o que as escolas de Oakland estão fazendo.

"Somos um grupo de pessoas baseado nas relações e orientado rumo ao processo que acha que as melhores mensagens de tratamento e prevenção devem estar baseadas na ciência e ser informados com precisão", disse Ries. "Achamos que a única maneira de ajudar qualquer um a decidir o que é o seu melhor interesse é engajá-lo numa exploração das questões", disse ele à Crônica da Guerra Contra as Drogas.

As abordagens de tolerância zero simplesmente não funcionam, disse Ries. "As pessoas que realmente fazem este trabalho entendem como é ridículo doutrinar jovens com propaganda contra os perigos do consumo de drogas. Tentem isso com estudantes atualmente e serão ridicularizados", disse. "Há muitos educadores que já estão adotando uma abordagem similar à nossa, mas isso acontece por debaixo dos panos. O problema não é com os praticantes, mas com os administradores e legisladores que se sentem pressionados pelo governo federal a obedecerem à filosofia pragmática dele de que não existe consumo responsável de drogas e que a única resposta é basta dizer não. Os estudantes não aceitam isso e quando eles percebem que vamos nessa direção, eles se apaixonam pela gente".

O programa parece estar funcionando bem, disse Ries. "O avaliamos tanto através dos estudantes, que dizem que é eficiente e informam freqüentemente que é a primeira vez que puderam ter conversações honestas com adultos sobre o consumo de drogas, como através dos avaliadores de fora. Tivemos uma avaliação feita pelo estado e outra pelo distrito escolar e as duas definiram o programa como exemplar. Não é uma ciência aparatosa. Manter relações honestas e respeitosas com os jovens lhes ajuda a ouvir o que se diz. Está-se colaborando com eles no que é o seu melhor interesse. Assim se mudam as vidas das pessoas".

Embora a conferência esteja marcada em São Francisco e dirigida fortemente para as preocupações californianas, o seu alcance é mais amplo, disse Rosenbaum. "Não estamos apenas objetivando a Califórnia; este é um evento nacional e internacional. Reconhecemos que há um interesse de todo o país e estamos tentando disponibilizar algumas bolsas. Se você for um educador que gostaria de participar, mas não tem dinheiro, deve nos perguntar. O que retirará desta conferência é uma série de materiais e um argumento sólido em prol da implementação de tal abordagem na sua escola ou no seu distrito".

Feature: Pain Doctor William Hurwitz to Get New Trial

In a closely watched case with national implications, a federal appeals court has granted a new trial to a well known Northern Virginia pain doctor sent to federal prison for 25 years as a drug dealer. Pain patient advocates and medical associations praised the ruling in the case of Dr. William Hurwitz, who was convicted in late 2004 of 50 counts in a 62-count indictment, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

Hurwitz appealed his conviction, arguing that trial Judge Leonard Wexler erred by not instructing the jury that Hurwitz should not be convicted if he acted in "good faith." Typically in cases where the quality of medical care is in question, such matters are decided by medical boards or civil courts in the form of malpractice suits. Only doctors who are not prescribing in good faith that they are in line with accepted medical practices face criminal charges. In his jury instructions, Judge Wexler removed Hurwitz' only effective defense.

Dr. Hurwitz in 1996 (photo courtesy Skip Baker)
For federal prosecutors, who pointed to multiple examples of high-dose prescriptions Hurwitz had written and who claimed he should have recognized some of his patients to be addicts or dealers, Hurwitz was nothing more than a Dr. Feelgood, no different from -- or perhaps worse than -- the kid slinging crack on the street corner. But for patient advocates and a growing number of medical professionals, the case was the highest-profile example yet of a Justice Department and DEA creating a chilling climate toward doctors' willingness to treat chronic pain with opioid pain medications.

That is why even though even some questioned Hurwitz's prescribing practices, his appeal nevertheless won the support of professional organizations like the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Foundation, and the National Pain Foundation, all of which filed briefs in his support. Also joining the fray was the Drug Policy Alliance, which filed its own brief on behalf of pain specialists.

A three-judge panel in the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond agreed with Hurwitz and his allies in its opinion Monday. The panel held that Judge Wexler had erred when he told jurors they could not consider whether Hurwitz had acted in "good faith" when he prescribed large doses of opioid pain relievers like Oxycontin to patients.

"A doctor's good faith in treating his patients is relevant to the jury's determination of whether the doctor acted beyond the bounds of legitimate medical practice," wrote Judge William Traxler. "The district court effectively deprived the jury of the opportunity to consider Hurwitz's defense." That was a fatal error, the panel held. "We cannot say that no reasonable juror could have concluded that Hurwitz's conduct fell within an objectively-defined good-faith standard," wrote Traxler.

"We are very gratified by this decision," said Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the libertarian-leaning Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group that has been in the vanguard of the medical profession on the issue of protecting pain doctors and patients. "Overturning one of these verdicts is something that almost never happens, and we hope it represents a tipping point," she told DRCNet. "We hope that the courts will finally begin to pay attention to the fundamental issues of justice involved here. A doctor is not a drug dealer, and neither is he a policeman. Doctors cannot be held responsible for patient misbehavior."

"I'm delighted," said Dr. Frank Fisher, a California physician originally charged with five counts of murder over his prescribing practices by overzealous prosecutors and state agents, but who was eventually completely exonerated. "This means they will have to let Billy out. The appeals court was absolutely correct in its decision," he told DRCNet.

The appeals court decision is a victory for Hurwitz and his supporters, but it is only one battle in a larger war over who controls the prescribing of pain medications -- the medical profession or the cops -- and in the meantime, doctors and patients are the casualties.

"They are still harassing and investigating doctors," said Orient. "And that in itself can destroy your practice. There are still doctors languishing in prison because they tried to do their best for their patients and there are still patients having difficulty finding physicians willing to do the pain treatment necessary to make them functional instead of bed-ridden suicidal people in severe pain," she said. "More doctors are aware of the extreme risk they take in getting involved with chronic pain patients. The DEA wants them to treat patients like they were suspected criminals."

Fisher pointed to the case of Dr. Richard Heberle, an Ohio physician, of how devastating even defending oneself from such charges can be. "Look at what happened to Dr. Heberle," he said. "He won, but his practice is ruined, his reputation is ruined, his life is ruined. The only thing worse than winning one of these cases is losing one, or maybe coming down with a bad case of chronic pain."

Appeal: A Glowing Testimonial for Drug War Chronicle

Posted in:

With the launching of the "Stop the Drug War Speakeasy," DRCNet will now be publishing content on a daily basis -- visit our web site very day to check it out! That said, Drug War Chronicle will continue to be a central part of our educational program. On that note, I thought you might appreciate this wonderful note of support we received from long-time drug reform activist Troy Dayton, whom I first met in 1995 and who is currently doing amazing work as the associate director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative.

Troy wrote this in hopes that you would be inspired to make a donation to enable Drug War Chronicle to continue to be published. Member support makes up a critical part of our budget -- I hope we can count on your support this month! To donate online, please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate -- donation-by-mail info appears below.

I have at least skimmed every issue of the Drug War Chronicle since 1997 when it was called the Week Online. You know that sense of excitement when your favorite television show is about to come on? That's what I feel on Friday mornings when I see the Drug War Chronicle in my box. It's like an old friend.

Troy Dayton
Over the last 10 years I have spent about six of them working full time in drug policy. I definitely read it more closely when drug policy is my job, but I have still skimmed it and read one or two articles when I have had other professions. As associate director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative it plays a critical role in my work. We are a small organization that focuses narrowly on bringing the faith community into the movement and getting them to contact their legislators in key policy efforts.

That means we rely on MPP, DPA, MAP, and DRCNet for the knowledge that we act on and share with our community. MPP and DPA email alerts serve a vital purpose for us since our main goal is to help them with their legislative efforts. MAP is useful because it is an easy way to find out what is being reported in the major media. But the Drug War Chronicle serves a uniquely valuable purpose. It is original hard-hitting reporting that isn't skewed to the perspective of one drug policy reform group's perspective. When I tell people what is happening broadly in drug policy, I am mostly telling them what I read in the Drug War Chronicle.

Every week our views are challenged by the conventional wisdom. The editorial each week is an immediately relevant refresher on the big picture of why I get up every morning... to end the human suffering caused by drug prohibition.

If the Drug War Chronicle were to disappear, the obvious tangible value it brings would be lost. But one thing that might be overlooked is the inspiration it gives to people fighting the good fight and the morale boost that happens when people realize that great work is being done on this front by people of conscience all over the world.


Troy Dayton, associate director
Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative

Again, I hope we can count on your support this month! To donate online, visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate -- or send a check or money order to: DRCNet Foundation (tax-deductible donations supporting Drug War Chronicle) or Drug Reform Coordination Network (non-deductible donations for our lobbying work), P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.


David Borden
Executive Director

DRCNet on MySpace

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We of course used our long-time stop sign logo as our MySpace profile picture
Even though we have not publicly announced the existence of the Stop the Drug War (DRCNet) MySpace account (until today, of course), somehow 1,800 people have found it and signed up as "friends."

If you're a MySpace enthusiast, we hope you'll become a DRCNet MySpace friend too so your own friends and friends of theirs can find out about us that way and become part of the cause.

Visit http://www.myspace.com/drcnet to link DRCNet on MySpace into your MySpace!

Announcement: New Format for the Reformer's Calendar

Posted in:
Effective this issue, The Reformer's Calendar will no longer appear as part of the Drug War Chronicle newsletter but instead will be 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.

Marijuana: "Lowest Priority" Local Initiatives Make Ballot in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, and Missoula

It's official. Local initiatives that would make adult marijuana infractions the lowest law enforcement priority will be on the November ballot in three California cities -- Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica -- and the college town of Missoula, Montana. Missoula County officials certified that effort Thursday, and certifications of the California local elections came in over the summer.

Santa Monica
In Missoula, Citizens for Responsible Crime Policy used a grant from the Marijuana Policy Project to collect more than 20,000 signatures in three months, far more than are needed to make the ballot. Organizers there hope to build on the statewide medical marijuana victory in 2004.

In California, organizers in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica also succeeded in gathering sufficient signatures to make the ballot. The three California local initiatives contain almost identical language and describe themselves similarly. As the Santa Monica web site notes, the initiative "makes marijuana offenses, where cannabis is intended for adult personal use, the lowest police priority" and "it frees up police resources to focus on violent and serious crime, instead of arresting and jailing nonviolent cannabis users."

The Santa Cruz initiative goes one step further by establishing an official city position in favor of marijuana legalization. "Voters in Santa Cruz are tired of the failed and immoral federal war on drugs," said Andrea Tischler, chair of Santa Cruz Citizens for Sensible Marijuana Policy. "Let's move to a more reasonable marijuana policy, and make sure that our police and courts are not wasting their time and resources arresting and prosecuting nonviolent marijuana offenders. By passing this initiative, Santa Cruz can be a beacon of light showing the way to a more sensible policy that is compatible with the values of the majority of citizens."

Lowest priority initiatives have already passed in Seattle and Oakland, which was the model and inspiration for this year's local California initiatives, as well as a handful of college towns around the country.

Latin America: Brazilians Oppose Marijuana Legalization By Wide Margin, Poll Finds

A poll of Brazilian adults conducted by the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo found that a whopping 79% think marijuana smoking should remain a crime. Only 18% favored legalizing the use of marijuana.

Marijuana, known locally as "maconha," is grown in the Brazilian northeast, as well as being imported from Paraguayan pot plantations. The drug is widely consumed in Brazil, with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimating that roughly two million Brazilians smoked marijuana at least once in the last year.

Psicotropicus banner promoting marijuana (maconha) legalization.
There have been calls for liberalization of the country's marijuana laws, not only in annual marijuana marches, but also from some of the country's leading politicians. Last year, Culture Minister (and musician extraordinaire) Gilberto Gil went public with his marijuana use, saying he had smoked it for years. "I believe that drugs should be treated like pharmaceuticals, legalized, although under the same regulations and monitoring as medicines," he said at the time.

But it appears Brazilians are in a conservative mood these days. The poll asked respondents to identify themselves politically and found 47% saying rightist, 23% saying centrist, and 30% saying leftist. The conservative trend was even stronger on criminal justice and moral issues, with 63% opposing abortion, 84% supporting lowering the age at which juveniles can be charged as adults, and 51% supporting the death penalty.

Brazilian observers blamed too much influence from the United States. Former national anti-drug secretary Walter Maierovitch told Folha the results show "a lack of generalized information" among the population. "Brazilians are ill-informed on these polemical matters and generally align themselves with positions that emanate from the United States, where these discussions are more profound and conservative," he told the Folha.

American political scientist David Fleischer, a professor at the University of Brasilia, agreed. "The television is the great source of information for Brazilians," he said. "Cultural imperialism and North American customs, which have become more conservative in the past 20 years, are very relevant."

(Brazilians who want to help change things should join Psicotropicus.)

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We've got us a Southern trifecta this week, with missing evidence in Alabama, a rogue task force in Mississippi, and, of course, a drug-dealing prison guard in Louisiana. Let's get to it:

In Tuskegee, Alabama, agents with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation are sniffing around the Tuskegee Police Department to see what happened to drugs and money allegedly missing from the evidence safe. The cops were tight-lipped, but "sources close to the case" told WSFA-12 News $26,000 in cash and an unknown quantity of drugs seized from alleged drug dealers has gone missing. According to WSFA, at least four drug cases may be in jeopardy. The Alabama Bureau of Investigation told the station the investigation could take another month.

In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, at least 34 drug cases were dismissed last month because deputies with the Southeast Mississippi Narcotics Task Force planted evidence on suspects or otherwise planted evidence, the Hattiesburg American reported Tuesday. Those deputies have been charged with crimes and were expected to plead guilty this week to charges including assault, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy. According to Parrish and Jones County Sheriff Larry Dykes, while the task force has been shut down, the drug problem remains, so he is forming a drug enforcement division in his department.

In Columbia, Louisiana, a former Caldwell Correctional Center guard was arrested Tuesday on charges he sold marijuana to jail inmates, KATC-TV reported. Dennis Cartridge, 23, was charged with possession of marijuana, malfeasance in office, introducing contraband into a correctional facility, and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Cartridge, who had been a jail guard for only two months, is now sitting in a different jail trying to raise $15,000 to bond out.

Asia: China Begins Debate on First Comprehensive Drug Law

Although China has long waged war on drug users and traffickers, it has never had statutes aimed specifically at the drug trade and dealing with drug users. That is about to change. Chinese lawmakers Tuesday began debating a new bill that would expand police powers to crack down on the cross-border drug trade and set standards for drug treatment, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

Chinese anti-drug poster
"It is important to introduce such a law as China is now facing a grave situation in drug control," the agency quoted Zhang Xinfeng, vice minister of public security, as telling the standing committee of China's parliament. Drugs from Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle are "pouring" into China and "posing a grave threat to China's drug control efforts," Zhang added.

Chinese authorities estimate the country has more than 1.1 million drug users, including 700,000 heroin addicts. In addition to heroin and opium, authorities report problems with methamphetamine and ecstasy use.

The drug trafficking portion of the proposed bill would expand police powers. According to Xinhua, "The bill will also authorize police to search people and their luggage for illegal drugs at key public places such as train stations, long-distance bus stations and border crossings."

Police would also be granted the power to force suspected drug users to submit blood or urine samples -- a practice so far limited to primitive places like South Dakota -- and owners of bars and nightclubs would have to post anti-drug propaganda on their premises.

But while the proposed bill takes a tough line on trafficking, it strikes a softer tone when it comes to drug users and addicts. It includes provisions that would bar treatment centers from physically punishing or verbally humiliating addicts and demands they pay addicts for work they do. The bill also provides for people ordered into treatment to receive it in their communities rather than forcing them into treatment centers. Treatment center admissions would be limited to injection drug users, people who refuse community help, or people who live in communities without treatment resources.

"Drug takers are law violators, but they are also patients and victims. Punishment is needed, but education and assistance are more important," Zhang said.

Industrial Hemp: California Assembly Passes Hemp Bill, Will Schwarzenegger Sign It?

The California Assembly Monday passed a bill that would allow farmers there to produce hemp oil, seed, and fiber for nutritional and industrial purposes. The bill, AB 1147, was sponsored by Assemblymen Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), and passed by a margin of 43-28. It has already passed the state Senate and now awaits the signature of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

hemp plants
Hemp is a $270 million industry, but American farmers are at a disadvantage because federal law bans its production -- but not its importation. California law currently mirrors federal law in failing to differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana. If signed into law, the California bill would not mean farmers there could begin growing hemp, but it would add pressure on the federal government to revisit the issue.

Both hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis family, but are different cultivars within that family. Hemp contains only trace levels of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in recreational marijuana, but its fibers are used in paper, clothing, car parts, and building materials, and its seeds and oils are used as food products.

"Hundreds of hemp products are made right here in California, but manufacturers are forced to import hemp seed, oil and fiber from other countries," said Leno during debate on the bill. "When this bill becomes law, it will be an economic bonanza for California."

The bill passed on partisan lines, with only one Republican joining Democrats to vote for it. GOP lawmakers resorted to Reefer Madness-style posturing to explain their opposition. "As a conservative Republican, I can't have my name attached to hemp," said Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia). According to Mountjoy, the bill would make the fight against marijuana cultivation more difficult because hemp "sends off the exact same heat signal that is used to spot marijuana crops." Assemblyman John Benoit (R-Palm Desert) sang the same tune, claiming marijuana and pot plants are "indistinguishable."

But law enforcement officers in the 30 countries where hemp is grown legally seem to be able to tell the difference, a point that Assemblyman Leno made. The differences between marijuana and hemp are such that "a five-year-old could tell the difference... Law enforcement who have the gift of sight would have no trouble."

"We thank legislators from both parties that listened to the facts about industrial hemp and made an historic decision to bring back the crop," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, an advocacy group that supported the bill. "Passage in the California Legislature is a major accomplishment for the authors and sponsors of the bill, as well as for thousands of environmentally-conscious voters, farmers and businesses who wrote California legislators," says Steenstra.

No word yet on whether Schwarzenegger will sign or veto the bill.

Medical Marijuana: No More Prison Threat for Renee Boje After Feds Accept Symbolic Plea

One of the most prominent and poignant cases of federal prosecution of people involved in the medical marijuana movement has come to a relatively good end. Renee Boje, who fled to Canada in 1998 rather than face a 10-year to life mandatory minimum sentence for her peripheral involvement in a Los Angeles medical marijuana research grow, pleaded guilty last week to possession of ½ gram of marijuana, was sentenced to one year of probation and allowed to return to Canada. Boje's good news comes roughly four months after another well-known American medical marijuana refugee in Canada, Steve Kubby, saw his own case resolved with a relatively short amount of jail time.

Renee Boje
Boje, who did little more than water plants, was arrested when the DEA raided a garden maintained by author and AIDS patient Peter McWilliams and cancer patient and marijuana activist Todd McCormick. McCormick served a five-year federal prison sentence for his role in the operation, but McWilliams never got the chance to. He choked to death on his own vomit after being denied the ability to use marijuana while on probation awaiting trial.

Facing the tender mercies of the US federal criminal justice system, Boje fled to the more cannabis-friendly nation of Canada, where she was embraced by that country's marijuana movement. In 2001, she married activist and author Chris Bennett, and the following year gave birth to a son in Canada. Despite the pleas of people from around the world and her growing links with Canada, the Canadian government rejected all her efforts to stay in the country, and it appeared that she would be deported to face justice American-style.

But federal prosecutors in Los Angeles apparently lost interest in persecuting the young woman and sent word they were interested in resolving the case. On August 10, Boje reentered the United States and on August 14, she pleaded guilty before Judge George King, the same judge who presided over the McWilliams and McCormick hearings. When sentencing Boje to probation, he also gave her permission to return to Canada.

While Canadian border officials had threatened not to allow her back into the country -- after all, she had now pleaded guilty to possessing ½ a gram of marijuana and was thus eligible to be denied entry under Canadian law -- they ultimately granted her a six-month visitor's permit. Boje will use that time to obtain Canadian citizenship.

Asset Forfeiture: Federal Appeal Upholds Seizure of Cash Despite Lack of Drugs

A federal appeals court has held that police acted within the law when they seized nearly $125,000 in cash from a man's car during a traffic stop, even though no drugs were found in the car. A three-judge panel from the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals found in US v. $124,700 in US Currency that the cash may have been linked to the drug trade, overturning an earlier decision by a US Magistrate Court judge in Nebraska.

House of Evil: the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals
Emilio Gonzolez was pulled over for speeding on Interstate 80 in 2003. Gonzolez told the officer the car he was driving had been rented by someone named Luis, that he had never been arrested, and that he was not carrying drugs, guns, or large sums of money. Gonzolez then consented to a search of the vehicle, which turned up $124,700 in cash in a cooler on the back seat. Police also learned that Gonzolez had been arrested for drunk driving and that the person who rented the car was not named Luis. Police then sicced a drug dog on the vehicle, and the dog alerted on the cash and on the seat where it was sitting.

In court, Gonzolez testified that he had flown from California to Chicago and planned to use the cash to buy a refrigerated truck there, but when he arrived there, the truck had already been sold. He decided to drive back to California, but needed someone to rent a car because he had no credit card, he testified. Gonzolez said he lied about having the money because he feared carrying large amounts of cash could be illegal and he hid it in the cooler because he was afraid it might be stolen. He testified that he didn’t reveal the drunk driving arrest because he didn’t think drunk driving was a crime.

Gonzolez' tale may have been barely credible, but any positive evidence linking his stash of cash to drug trafficking was hard to come by. Still, the appeals court overturned the original decision. "We believe that the evidence as a whole demonstrates... that there was a substantial connection between the currency and a drug trafficking offense," the court wrote. "We have adopted the commonsense view that bundling and concealment of large amounts of currency, combined with other suspicious circumstances, supports a connection between money and drug trafficking."

That wasn’t good enough for dissenting Judge Donald Lay, who argued that there was no evidence linking the cash to drug trafficking. "At most, the evidence presented suggests the money seized may have been involved in some illegal activity -- activity that is incapable of being ascertained on the record before us," Lay wrote.

But what about the drug dog alerting on the cash and the car seat? "Finally, the mere fact that the canine alerted officers to the presence of drug residue in a rental car, no doubt driven by dozens, perhaps scores, of patrons during the course of a given year, coupled with the fact that the alert came from the same location where the currency was discovered, does little to connect the money to a controlled substance offense," Lay reasoned.

San Diego attorney Donald Yates, who represents Gonzolez, told the Associated Press they would appeal the decision. People who do not have credit or bank accounts and who must do business in cash are being treated unfairly, he said. "They do not allow for anybody to have a lifestyle different from the average person in Nebraska."

Semanal: El Calendario del Reformador

Por favor, haga clic aquí para enviar listados de eventos concernientes a las políticas de drogas y tópicos relacionados

De 19 a 20 de Agosto, Seattle, WA, Festival del Cáñamo de Seattle, visite http://www.hempfest.org para más informaciones.

22 de Agosto, 09:30-11:30, Chicago, IL, “Voces Cruzadas: Los Impactos de las Políticas de Drogas de Illinois”, foro del Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy. En el Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, Universidad Roosevelt, Salón del Congreso, 2o Piso, 430 Avenida Michigan S., llame al (312) 341-2457 hasta el día 18 de Agosto para confirmar presencia. Para más informaciones, llame a Kathleen Kane-Willis por el (312) 341-4336 o [email protected].

26 de Agosto, 13:00-16:20, Huntington Beach, CA, Marcha Contra la Guerra Fracasada Contra las Drogas, auspiciada por The November Coalition y por la NORML Comarca de Orange. En el Muelle de Huntington Beach, 315 Pacific Coast Highway, llame al (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] o [email protected] o visite http://www.ocnorml.org para más informaciones.

De 01 a 04 de Septiembre, Manderson, SD, Quinto Festival Anual de Cáñamo de Lakota. En el Parque Kiza, a 5km hacia el norte de la ciudad, visite http://www.hemphoedown.com para más informaciones.

07 de Septiembre, Londres, Reino Unido, “Avanzando la Reducción de Daños: Lecciones Internacionales para Prácticas Locales - Destaques de la 17ª Conferencia Internacional Sobre la Reducción del Daño Relacionado con las Drogas en Vancouver, Mayo de 2006”. Registro £47 (incluyendo VAT) con refrescos y almuerzo, para más informaciones, contacte a Michelle Vatin por el 0207 272 6902 o [email protected].

21 de Septiembre, 20:30, Los Ángeles, CA, “Extravaganja: Un Recital Cómico Sobre la Marihuana Medicinal”. Fiesta caritativa en la Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., visite http://www.greentherapy.com o mándele un correo-e a [email protected] para más informaciones.

23 de Septiembre, 13:00-16:20, San Clemente, CA, Marcha Contra la Guerra Fracasada Contra las Drogas, auspiciada por The November Coalition y por la NORML Comarca de Orange. En el Muelle San Clemente, Avenida del Mar, llame al (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] o [email protected] o visite http://www.ocnorml.org para más informaciones.

De 07 a 08 de Octubre, Madison, WI, 36o Festival Anual de la Cosecha de Cáñamo del Gran Medio Oeste, auspiciado por la NORML Madison. En Library Mall, centro, visite http://www.madisonnorml.org para más informaciones.

De 28 a 29 de Octubre, 11:00-19:00, San Francisco, CA, “Segundo Festival Anual de las Maravillas del Cannabis”, fiesta caritativa para la Cannabis Action Network y Green Aid, recibida por Ed Rosenthal. En el Salón de las Flores, parque Golden Gate, entrada individual $20, para mayores de 18 años, contacte a Danielle por el (510) 486-8083 o [email protected] para más informaciones.

De 09 a 12 de Noviembre, Oakland, CA, “La Salud del Usuario de Drogas: La Política y el Personal”, 6ª Conferencia Nacional de Reducción de Daños. Auspiciada por la Harm Reduction Coalition, para más informaciones visite http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ o contacte Paula Santiago por el [email protected].

De 17 a 19 de Noviembre, Washington, DC, Conferencia Internacional y Taller de Entrenamiento del Students for Sensible Drug Policy. En la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Georgetown, incluyendo a oradores, sesiones de entrenamiento, un día de presión y más. Más informaciones serán publicadas pronto en http://www.ssdp.org.

01 de Diciembre, 18:30, Nueva York, NY, Primera Cena/Fiesta Caritativa Anual para In Arms Reach: Parent Venid Bars: Children in Crisis, con el ex defensor del New York Giants, Carl Banks. En el Gran Salón de Actos de la Universidad Municipal, llame al (212) 650-5894 para más informaciones.

De 01 a 03 de Febrero, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, “Ciencia y Respuesta: 2007, La Segunda Conferencia Nacional Sobre la Metanfetamina, el VIH y la Hepatitis”, auspiciada por el Harm Reduction Project. En El Hilton City Center, visite http://www.methconference.org para más informaciones.

Semanal: Esta Semana en la Historia

18 de Agosto de 1989: Luis Carlos Galán, candidato a presidencia de Colombia que habló a favor de la extradición, es asesinado en un mitin de campaña cerca de Bogotá. Esa noche, el Presidente Virgilio Barco Vargas emite un decreto de emergencia que restablece la política de extradición. En respuesta a eso, los "Extraditables" declaran guerra total contra el gobierno colombiano y empiezan una campaña de atentados/asesinatos que dura hasta Enero de 1991.

18 de Agosto de 1996: En San Francisco, una iglesia municipal distribuye marihuana a pacientes que tienen la recomendación de un médico después del interdicto temporal que cerraba el San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club. "Yo creo que la posición moral [en esta instancia] es infringir la ley para volver esta marihuana disponible", dijo el Rev. Jim Mitulski de la Iglesia Comunitaria Metropolitana de San Francisco. "La vitalidad espiritual de nuestra iglesia siempre ha venido de la voluntad de actuar donde las personas han sido reluctantes en actuar. Ésta no es una iglesia observadora".

20 de Agosto de 1990: El Comité de Operaciones Gubernamentales de la Cámara de los Diputados Federales lanza un informe sobre los resultados de la Operación Capa de Nieve [Operation Snowcap], el programa del gobierno Reagan-Bush que visa detener al flujo de drogas que entran en los Estados Unidos en su fuente. La meta de la [Operación] Capa de Nieve había sido eliminar los cultivos de coca, los laboratorios de procesamiento de cocaína, las franjas de cultivos clandestinos y otras operaciones del tráfico en los países productores de coca de Sudamérica. El informe descubrió que menos de uno por ciento de la cocaína de la región había sido destruida por esta campaña y que las autoridades en Bolivia, Perú y Colombia estaban profundamente involucradas en el tráfico de narcóticos.

20 de Agosto de 1994: El Guardian (UK) informa que Raymond Kendall, secretario general de la Interpol, dijo, "El proceso criminal de millares de ciudadanos obedientes a la ley todos los años es tanto hipócrita como una afrenta a los derechos individuales, civiles y humanos... El consumo de drogas ya no debería ser una infracción criminal. Soy totalmente contra la legalización, pero a favor de la despenalización para el usuario".

22 de Agosto de 2001: La Associated Press y la EFE informan que la Senadora colombiana Viviane Morales presentó un proyecto en el congreso que legaliza y reglamenta las drogas bajo monopolio controlado por el estado, llamando la prohibición de "el gran aliado de los narcotraficantes" y que su objectivo es "crear acciones políticas para abrir el debate sobre la legalización porque la alternativa prohibicionista no es la solución para Colombia".

22 de Agosto de 2003: David Borden, Director Ejecutivo de la Red Coordinadora de la Reforma de las Políticas de Drogas, escribe una carta abierta al Juez Jefe de la Corte Suprema del Distrito de Columbia, Rufus G. King III, declarando su rehúsa a prestar servicio de jurado. "[...] He determinado que las leyes injustas contra las drogas y la corrosión ocasionada por la guerra a las drogas en el sistema de justicia criminal como un todo me compelen a rehusar conscienzudamente el servicio de jurado", dijo Borden. Lea la carta completa en http://stopthedrugwar.org/openletter/judge-king-letter.shtml (en Inglés).

Europa: Público Británico Apoya a Políticas Más Racionales de Drogas, Dice Sondeo

Un sondeo de la actitud británica con relación a las políticas de drogas ha descubierto que la mayoría de las personas está lista para despenalizar la marihuana o volverla una infracción equivalente a una multa por estacionamiento. Pero la encuesta también descubrió que una sólida mayoría hace una distinción entre drogas “blandas” como la marihuana y drogas “duras” como la cocaína y la heroína. La mayoría de las personas no quiere ver ninguna disminución de las restricciones sobre el uso o venta de las drogas duras.

El lanzamiento del sondeo esta semana ocurre con Gran Bretaña en medio de una batalla para redefinir sus políticas de combate a las drogas. Hace apenas dos semanas, un comité parlamentario que estudiaba las políticas de drogas lanzó un informe que llama el esquema de clasificación de las drogas de Gran Bretaña de no-científico. Las políticas de marihuana siguen atormentando los británicos, así como el alza en el consumo de cocaína y los altos niveles de consumo de otras drogas. El gobierno también está discutiendo las políticas de drogas ahora porque en dos años debe evaluar su estrategia actual de 10 años.

La marihuana es actualmente una droga de Clase C - la categoría de drogas menos serias - y los infractores por tenencia son típicamente multados, en tanto que las ventas de marihuana siguen siendo un crimen serio punible por hasta siete años de prisión. Apenas 38% querían que tanto la tenencia como las ventas siguieran siendo infracciones criminales, en tanto que 30% querían menos sanciones penales apenas para la tenencia, 13% querían la despenalización total de la simple tenencia y otros 15% querían ver tanto las ventas como la tenencia tratadas no como si fueran crímenes. En otras palabras, 58% de los respondientes fueron a favor de las políticas de marihuana más indulgentes que las políticas actuales.

Las conductas fueron mucho más duras con relación a las drogas "duras", con 73% de los respondientes siendo a favor del estatus quo. Apenas 17% fueron a favor de menos sanciones penales para la simple tenencia y apenas 6% fueron a favor de la despenalización total de la tenencia. La encuesta ni preguntó si alguien sería a favor de legalizar el tráfico de drogas duras.

Los respondientes también concordaron en general que un nuevo esquema de clasificación de las drogas, que contenga quizá una Clase D para drogas como el alcohol, el tabaco y la marihuana, sería algo bueno por una margen de 56% a 30%. Cuando se trata de comparar los daños de varias drogas - lícitas e ilícitas - los respondientes clasificaron la heroína como la peor, seguida de cerca por la cocaína, los solventes, el éxtasis y el tabaco en orden descendiente. La marihuana fue clasificada como la menos nociva de cualesquiera drogas, excepto los tranquilizantes prescriptibles y el café.

La ciudadanía británica también demostró una conciencia de la noción de reducción de daños, con desconcertantes 89% de acuerdo con ella: "Ya nos guste o no, siempre habrá gente que usa drogas y las metas deben ser las de reducir el daño que ellas causan a sí mismas y a los demás".

Si este sondeo sirve como indicio, parece que el público británico está listo para algunas políticas de drogas más racionales. La pregunta es: ¿La clase política británica está lista?

Suroeste Asiático: Cultivo Afgano de Adormideras Alcanza Nivel Récord

“Oficiales occidentales” anónimos en Afganistán están diciendo que el cultivo de adormideras del país ha aumentado desconcertantes 40% durante el año pasado a pesar de centenas de millones de dólares en financiación antinarcóticos y de millares de efectivos estadounidenses y de la OTAN en las zonas de cultivo, informó la Associated Press el miércoles. Dado lo que ellos están diciéndole a la AP, es comprensible por qué nadie quiere ser nombrado.

opio afgano
De acuerdo con un "oficial occidental antinarcóticos" que citaba proyecciones preliminares de los cultivos, Afganistán va a superar el récord anterior de 324.000 acres bajo cultivo en 2004 con más de 370.000 acres plantados este año. Esto ha sido un alza con relación a los 257.000 acres plantados el año pasado, de acuerdo con el informe anual de la producción afgana de opio de la Oficina de las Naciones Unidas Contra Drogas y Crimen. Se espera el informe de la ONU de este año en Septiembre.

Afganistán ya responde por casi 90% de la producción global total de opio. Los lucros del cultivo y del tráfico son vistos generalmente como auxiliares en la financiación de los insurgentes del Talibán y de la Al Qaeda, quienes, junto con los narcotraficantes amenazados por la erradicación, están combatiendo las fuerzas afganas, estadounidenses y de la OTAN en una campaña cada vez más sangrienta centrada en las provincias sureñas cultivadoras de opio de Helmand y Kandahar. Los esfuerzos de erradicación también están surgiendo como espada de doble filo: Suprimir el cultivo avanza las metas de la guerra a las drogas, pero empuja los campesinos a los brazos de los rebeldes. De acuerdo con la ONU, el opio respondió por 52% del producto interno bruto de Afganistán el año pasado.

"Sabemos que si empezamos a erradicar toda la superficie de cultivo de adormideras en Helmand, aumentaremos la actividad de la insurgencia y aumentaremos el número de insurgentes", dijo Tom Koenigs, el alto oficial de la ONU en Afganistán y casi la única persona dispuesta a hablar oficialmente. Él le dijo a la comunidad internacional que necesita dar sustentos alternativos a los agricultores, pero hizo advertencias contra esperar resultados inmediatistas. "El problema ha crecido y el remedio tiene que ajustarse", dijo.

"Es un aumento considerable desde el año pasado... desdichadamente, es un año récord", le dijo un "oficial sénior del gobierno estadounidense sedeado en Kabul" a la AP. "Ahora, lo que ellos tienen es una narcoeconomía. Si no solucionan el problema de la corrupción, pueden volverse un narcoestado", advirtió. "Esperábamos un (cultivo) grande este año, pero desdichadamente Helmand excedió aun nuestras previsiones".

Metanfetamina: Tercer Juicio por Homicidio Doloso en Caso de Muerte Infantil por Intoxicación con Metanfetamina de California

Una mujer californiana cuyo hijo pequeño se murió con metanfetamina en su metabolismo se enfrentará a un tercer juicio por homicidio doloso, decidió un Juez de la Comarca de Riverside el lunes. Amy Leanne Prien fue condenada por homicidio doblemente cualificado en la muerte de su hijo en 2003, pero esa condenación fue revocada por un tribunal de apelaciones que citó a instrucciones defectuosas al jurado. Un nuevo juicio terminó en anulación en Junio después que los jurados empataron en 6-6.

Después de la anulación del juicio, los abogados de Prien hicieron los trámites para dispensar la acusación, pero el Juez Patrick Magers negó la moción. "Está abundantemente claro para la corte que la causa de muerte de la víctima fue intoxicación por metanfetamina", le dijo él a la banca mientras rechazaba la moción.

Lo que no está claro es de donde vino la metanfetamina en el metabolismo del niño. Los fiscales han debatido que Prien, una usuaria admitida de metanfetamina de largo tiempo, ocasionó la muerte de su niño al darle su leche de pecho cuando ella estaba usando el popular estimulante. Ellos debatieron que Prien siguió fumando metanfetamina mientras amamantaba, una acusación que ella ha negado consistentemente. Ella ha sugestionado que un invitado en su casa puede haberle dado la droga al bebe.

Un gran problema para la acusación es que la botella de leche encontrada al costado del bebe muerto fue dislocada por los agentes de la ley y nunca fue testada para saber si había presencia de metanfetamina. Y aunque Prien haya sido testada y haya sacado positivo para metanfetamina, la policía nunca examinó su leche de pecho. El abogado de Los Ángeles, Joe Reichmann, que está representando a Prien, debatió inútilmente que la acusación debería ser retirada porque estaba basada en "ciencia falsa" ya que los fiscales no tenían ninguna forma de conocer los niveles de metanfetamina en su leche de pecho.

Los fiscales californianos han probado varias veces que son incapaces de vencer casos de asesinatos con metanfetamina cometidos por la madre y no está claro por qué ellos están yendo detrás de Prien con tanto gusto. No es como si ella se hubiera escapado sana y salva. Además de perder su hijo, ella está cumpliendo actualmente una sentencia de 10 años de prisión por negligencia infantil criminosa en el mismo caso.

Metanfetamina: Un Mes en Palacio de Justicia de Comarca Tejana Abre una Ventana para la Versión 2.006 de la Guerra a las Drogas

Si usted desea una foto instantánea del estado actual de la guerra a las drogas en el territorio estadounidense, la Comarca de Grayson, Tejas, es tan buen lugar como cualquier otro. La Comarca de Grayson queda más o menos a una hora de Dallas en la Autopista Federal 75 al sur de la frontera con Oklahoma. De acuerdo con el Censo de 2000 de los EE.UU., la comarca tiene una población de 110.000, con unas 35.000 personas en Sherman, el centro de la comarca y municipio más grande. La economía local depende de la agricultura, de la industria, y, cada vez más, del papel de la comarca como centro de distribución de drogas para la región de la frontera Texoma de la cual es parte. Y si las disposiciones jurídicas de la 336ª Corte Distrital sirven como indicio, o tiene un gran problema con la metanfetamina o el aparato de represión legal está obcecado con encontrar uno.

calle tranquila, pero palacio de justicia ocupado, gracias a la guerra a las drogas
De acuerdo con una lista de disposiciones jurídicas para el mes de Julio compiladas por el Fiscal de la Comarca de Grayson, Joe Brown, y publicadas en el Sherman Herald-Democrat, 15 de los 31 reos cuyos casos fueron resueltos durante ese período se enfrentaban a acusaciones por metanfetamina. Un caso era de marihuana, en tanto que tres otros involucraban tenencia o distribución de cocaína. De los casos de metanfetamina, 11 eran por simple tenencia, tres por tenencia o transporte de químicos usados en el preparo de metanfetamina y uno por preparo de metanfetamina. De todos los 19 casos de delitos de drogas, ninguno fue por ventas de drogas y apenas uno ocurrió por tenencia con intención de distribuir.

Los jueces de la 336ª Corte Distrital les dieron duros golpes a los infractores de la legislación antimetanfetamina. De los 11 casos de simple tenencia de metanfetamina, cuatro recibieron sentencias de prisión con libertad vigilada, tres recibieron sentencias de cárcel (hasta dos años) y cuatro fueron mandados a la prisión por sentencias que varían de tres a seis años y tienen un promedio de 4 años y medio. Los tribunales fueron especialmente duros con la gente que buscaba comprar químicos para preparar metanfetamina en casa, dando sentencias de cuatro, siete y 10 años. El único preparador de metanfetamina recibió apenas 10 años de libertad vigilada, pero él también tuvo una sentencia de dos años de prisión por negligencia infantil.

Los jueces también fueron bien duros con otros infractores de la legislación antidroga. El único señor acusado de tenencia de marihuana en una zona libre de las drogas recibió dos años de cárcel estadual, en tanto que una persona condenada por tenencia de cocaína recibió seis años y el otro recibió libertad vigilada. El único caso de tenencia de cocaína con intención de distribuir le granjeó 10 años al reo.

Los casos que no trataban de drogas eran una mezcla heterogénea: una agresión sexual infantil con agravantes (15 años), un caso de robo de morada (nueve años), un caso de conducción intoxicada de barco (tres años), un abuso de tarjeta de crédito (16 meses), un caso de negligencia infantil (dos años), tres fugas de la detención con vehículo motorizado (dos recibieron dos años cada, uno recibió libertad vigilada), un caso de ausencia (tres años), un caso de falsificación (dos años), una retaliación (libertad vigilada) y un robo de más de $1.500 (15 meses).

Sin todos aquellos casos sobre la metanfetamina, el Palacio de Justicia de la Comarca de Grayson se quedaría mucho más tranquilo. En 13 de los 15 casos relacionados con la metanfetamina, no hubo ninguna otra acusación no relacionada con las drogas, apenas personas escogiendo una droga impopular para ingerir o intentar hacer en casa. Lo mismo pasa con los otros casos sobre drogas. Como los buenos burgueses en todos los Estados Unidos, los ciudadanos de la Comarca de Grayson están pagando un montón de dinero para detener, encarcelar, condenar y prender a muchas personas que no hacían nada a nadie.

Reducción de Daños: Reduccionistas Globales del Daño Emiten Declaración Urgente que Pide Acción Respecto del Consumo de Drogas y el VIH

Los representantes de 19 organizaciones internacionales y regionales de la reducción de daños que se encuentran en Toronto esta semana han emitido una declaración que pide acción inmediata para tratar de la diseminación del VIH a través del consumo de drogas inyectables. Conocida como la Declaración de Unión, la declaración exige que los gobiernos y las organizaciones antidrogas internacionales paren de impedir la adopción de medidas de reducción de daños que prueban reducir la diseminación de la enfermedad, como los trueques de jeringas y los locales de inyección segura.

Los grupos instaron a los gobiernos a:

  • proveer cobertura adecuada y acceso mínimo, incluso en establecimientos correccionales, a equipamientos esterilizados de inyección, condones, metadona y buprenorfina como componentes esenciales de la prevención y los cuidados comprehensivos del VIH;
  • asegurar que los consumidores de drogas y todas las poblaciones marginadas tengan acceso igual a la prevención al VIH, cuidados médicos y tratamiento antiretroviral altamente activo de calidad, que blancos nacionales y globales sean establecidos y que el progreso sea monitoreado;
  • proveer envolvimiento significativo de los consumidores de drogas en todos los niveles del planeamiento y las políticas y apoyo financiero a sus organizaciones;
  • poner un fin a la casación e infracciones de los derechos humanos de los usuarios de drogas incluyendo al encarcelamiento masivo, los programas punitivos y degradantes del tratamiento químico y el uso diseminado de la abstinencia como forma de coerción.

Notando que la UNAIDS no puede disminuir eficazmente la diseminación del VIH cuando las fuerzas dentro del sistema de la ONU están creando obstáculos para llevar a cabo las medidas de reducción de daños, los grupos exigen que:

  • la Oficina de la ONU Contra Drogas y Crimen, como agencia de la ONU encargada del liderazgo en la prevención al VIH entre usuarios de drogas, asegure que la proyección eficaz de la comunidad contra el VIH no sea ignorada en nombre del control y la represión a las drogas;
  • el Consejo Internacional de Control de los Narcóticos, como cuerpo encargado de la responsabilidad por monitorear la implementación de los tratados sobre las drogas, apoye y promueva la reducción de daños pública y francamente como abordaje consistente con aquellos tratados y monitoree el suministro global de tratamiento sucedáneo y medidas de prevención al VIH para consumidores de drogas;
  • la comunidad internacional y todos los cuerpos importantes de la ONU involucrados en la cuestión de las drogas y el VIH aborden al uso de drogas como problema social y de salud, que también requiere algunas intervenciones de la ley, en vez de ser principalmente una cuestión de justicia criminal.

Los reduccionistas de daños de todo el globo estaban en Toronto para la Conferencia Internacional del SIDA de 2006. "El VIH se está diseminando cada vez más - en algunas partes del mundo, principalmente a través de la partilla de instrumentos para inyección, dijo la Dr. Diane Riley, que firmó la declaración en nombre de la Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy y la Youth Network for Harm Reduction International. "Existen pruebas considerables de que las estrategias de reducción de daños como los programas de trueque de jeringas pueden eficaz, barata y seguramente reducir la diseminación del VIH; pero, hay muy pocos programas a puestos. En realidad, los gobiernos están diseminando la enfermedad a través de sus políticas de control y represión a las drogas que incentivan el consumo de pertrechos contaminados y la marginación y encarcelamiento de usuarios", añadió Riley en un comunicado de prensa que anunciaba la declaración.

"Los Estados Unidos, el donador más importante de auxilio internacional del mundo, restringe la implementación de las estrategias de reducción de daños", acusó Riley. "El compromiso político y social, incluso el compromiso de recursos necesarios, y el fin del embargo del gobierno estadounidense contra la reducción de daños son necesarios ahora", dijo Riley. "Si no logramos hacer esto, más catástrofes serán inevitables y la economía global simplemente no podrá arreglárselas con el peso resultante".

Latinoamérica: Federales Estadounidenses Arrestan a Traficante Mexicano Importante, Se Espera Violencia y la Continuación del Tráfico de Drogas Como Resultados

Javier Arellano-Félix, un poderoso jugador en una de las organizaciones más potentes y violentas del tráfico de drogas de México, fue arrestado por la Guardia Costera de EE.UU. en aguas internacionales fuera de la costa del Golfo de California de México. Pero aun mientras los oficiales federales de la ley corren el riesgo de sufrir serios perjuicios con toda la conmemoración en su rueda de prensa conmemorativa el jueves, ellos reconocieron que su arresto resultaría en poca cosa.

cartel de la DEA
La organización Arellano-Félix controla la franquía del tráfico de drogas de Tijuana, o "plaza" como es conocida en la jerga mexicana. En los años 1980, se transformó en un grupo importante del tráfico de cocaína, pero recibió un duro golpe en 2002 cuando el más viejo de los hermanos Arellano-Félix fue muerto y el otro arrestado. En los dos últimos años, desde las desordenaciones más recientes de la estructura del cartel mexicano, la organización Arellano-Félix ha sido un actor fundamental en las venganzas sangrientas entre traficantes que han dejado más de 1.500 muertos.

"El Tigrillo", como es conocido en México, fue uno de diversos miembros de la organización incriminados por un gran jurado federal en San Diego en 2003 bajo acusaciones de conspiración para contrabandear toneladas de cocaína para los EE.UU. Él puede recibir prisión perpetua aquí.

"En el mundo de la represión legal a las drogas, mejor imposible", le dijo John Fernandes, agente especial a cargo de la oficina de la Agencia de Represión a las Drogas (DEA) de San Diego, a una rueda de prensa. "Esto es importantísimo. La oportunidad de capturar a un señor del tráfico de drogas del calibre de Javier Arellano-Félix es un evento singular". Su captura marca "el fin de dos décadas de la organización más... poderosa y violenta del tráfico", añadió.

Y lo que eso significa en México es una nueva ronda de violencia mientras las organizaciones del tráfico en competición luchan para ganar ventaja de la brecha. Fernandes reconoció eso, diciendo que la disputa violenta por el poder es el resultado probable de la detención de Arellano.

Las autoridades tampoco esperan que su detención haga cualquier diferencia considerable. "En el tráfico de drogas no somos ingenuos lo suficiente para pensar que el tráfico de drogas va a detenerse", dijo el agente especial a cargo de la oficina municipal del FBI, Daniel R. Dzwilewski.

Pero qué buenas fotos.

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