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This Week in History

May 25, 1973: The NBC Evening News reports that 28 marines and 18 sailors handling the president's yacht were transferred and reassigned from Camp David due to marijuana offenses.

May 19, 1988: Carlos Lehder is convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 135 years. He had been captured by the Colombian National Police at a safe house owned by Pablo Escobar and extradited to the US.

May 24, 1988: The domestic hashish seizure record is set (still in effect today) -- 75,066 pounds in San Francisco, California.

May 20, 1991: The domestic heroin seizure record is set (still in effect today) -- 1,071 pounds in Oakland, California.

May 24, 1993: At 3:45pm, Juan Jesus Cardinal Posados Ocampo, the archbishop of Guadalajara, is assassinated at Hidalgo International Airport in Guadalajara by San Diego gang members hired by the Arellano-Felix Organization. As the archbishop's car arrives in the parking lot across the street from the terminal, a young man opens the door and opens fire, while half a dozen other gunmen spray the scene killing the driver and five bystanders, including an old woman, her nephew and a startled businessman with a cell phone in his hand.

May 20, 1997: Eighteen year-old Esequiel Hernandez, Jr., of Redford, Texas, becomes the first American to be killed on American soil by US soldiers in peacetime when he is shot on his own property by camouflaged Marines involved in a Joint Task Force-6 border drug interdiction operation. No drugs are found. Hernandez had never been suspected of or arrested for any criminal or drug-related activity.

May 22, 1997: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mayor John Norquist signs a measure into law decriminalizing first time possession of small amounts of marijuana after the proposal squeaks by the city council.

May 23, 2000: Eighty-five US troops arrive in Guatemala to participate in the two-week-long "Operation Maya Jaguar," intended to provide training for Guatemalan police, to carry out seizures of illegal drug shipments, and to facilitate joint counternarcotics operations.

May 21, 2001: Geraldine Fijneman, head of the Amsterdam branch of the ayahuasca-using Santo Daime church, is acquitted by a Dutch court. Fijneman had owned, transported and distributed a DMT-containing substance, but the court ruled that her constitutional right to Freedom of Religion must be respected.

May 22, 2003: Maryland becomes the ninth state to relax restrictions on medicinal marijuana use for seriously ill patients when Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. signs a bill reducing the maximum penalty to a $100 fine. The law goes into effect on October 1. Ehrlich, the first Republican governor to sign a bill relaxing penalties for medicinal use of marijuana, signs the measure despite pressure from the Bush administration to veto it.

This Week in History

May 15, 1928: Birth of Arnold Trebach, father of the modern drug policy reform movement.

May 14, 1932: "We Want Beer" marches against alcohol prohibition are held in cities across America -- 15,000 union workers demonstrate in Detroit alone.

May 18, 1971: Tapes released years later reveal that sometime between 12:16pm and 12:35pm, President Nixon says to entertainer Art Linkletter, "... radical demonstrators that were here... two weeks ago... They're all on drugs, virtually all."

May 15, 1988: Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke calls for a national debate on decriminalization of illicit drugs. Schmoke is quoted in the Washington Post: "Decriminalization would take the profit out of drugs and greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the drug-related violence that is currently plaguing our streets."

May 14, 1993: The New York Times reports that Judge Whitman Knapp said, "After 20 years on the bench I have concluded that federal drug laws are a disaster. It is time to get the government out of drug enforcement."

May 13, 1996: The Weekly Standard reports: "Coast Guard cocaine and marijuana seizures are down 45 and 90 percent, respectively, since 1991. In 1994, the Customs Service let two million commercial trucks pass through three of the busiest ports-of-entry on the Mexican border without seizing a single kilogram of cocaine. Between 1993 and early 1995, the estimated smuggling 'disruption rate' achieved by federal interdiction agencies fell 53 percent -- the equivalent of 84 more metric tons of cocaine and marijuana arriving unimpeded in the United States each year."

May 15, 1997: Conclusions from a comprehensive, long-term study by Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, CA) show no substantial link between regular marijuana smoking and death, but suggest that marijuana prohibition may itself pose a health hazard to the user.

May 12, 1998: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) places an ad in the New York Times Op-Ed section headlined, "Let me ask you something... If you had a choice, what would it be, Marijuana or Martinis?" Note: The ACLU has opposed marijuana prohibition since 1968, and overall drug prohibition since 1994.

May 15, 2001: Governor of Hawaii Ben Cayetano is quoted by the Associated Press: "I just think that it's a matter of time that Congress finally gets around to understanding that the states should be allowed to provide this kind of relief [medical marijuana] to the people. Congress is way, way behind in their thinking."

May 16, 2001: Regina McKnight is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in South Carolina for using crack during a pregnancy that resulted in a stillbirth. It is the first time in US history that a woman is convicted of homicide for using drugs during a pregnancy.

May 17, 2001: Canada's House of Commons passes a unanimous motion to create a committee to examine the issue of non-medical drugs in Canada. Members of all five parties say they intend to discuss legalization, or at least decriminalization, of marijuana as part of a sweeping look at the country's drug strategy.

This Week in History

May 11, 2000: Mexican cartel leaders the Arellano-Felix brothers are charged with 10 counts of drug trafficking, conspiracy, money laundering and aiding and abetting violent crimes. The US State Department offers a $2 million reward for information leading to their arrest and conviction.

May 5, 2001: The United States is voted off the United Nations Narcotics Control Board, the 13-member commission that monitors compliance with UN drug conventions on substance abuse and illegal trafficking.

May 6, 2001: Sydney, Australia, opens its first legal heroin injection room in the Kings Cross Neighborhood, operated by the Uniting Church.

May 9, 2001: The Bush Administration announces its intention to nominate US Representative Asa Hutchinson, Republican of Arkansas, to the position of Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, replacing Acting Administrator Donnie Marshall.

May 9, 2001: At a hearing, Attorney General John Ashcroft testifies that the Justice Department has no higher priority than preventing terrorism. But a day later the department issues budgetary guidance for FY2003 to make reducing the trafficking of illegal drugs one of the two top priorities.

May 10, 2001: President Bush nominates John P. Walters as America's new Drug Czar.

May 8, 2002: The Black Ministers Council of New Jersey announces a campaign to inform minority drivers that they have a right to refuse to submit to automobile consent searches, which have been the focus of the fight over racial profiling. The ministers said at a State House news conference that they would begin their "Just Say No" campaign the following week, in the form of messages to minority churches and the news media.

May 6, 2004: The Houston Chronicle reports that Montel Williams threw his support behind legalizing medical marijuana in New York, saying pot helps him cope with multiple sclerosis. Williams, who was diagnosed with a neurological disease in 1999, says he uses marijuana every night before bed to relieve the pain in his legs and feet. "I'm breaking the law every day, and I will continue to break the law," said Williams, host of the syndicated Montel Williams Show.

This Week in History

May 1, 1972: Nobel Prize laureate for economics Milton Friedman is quoted in Newsweek: "Legalizing drugs would simultaneously reduce the amount of crime and raise the quality of law enforcement. Can you conceive of any other measure that would accomplish so much to promote law and order?"

April 30, 1984: Colombian Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, who had crusaded against the Medellin cartel, is assassinated by motorcycle-riding contract killers. President Belisario Betancur, who had opposed extradition, announces, "We will extradite Colombians." Carlos Lehder is the first to be put on the list. The crackdown forces the Ochoa family, Escobar, and Óscar Rodríguez Gacha to flee to Panama for several months. A few months later, Escobar is indicted for Lara Bonilla's murder and the Ochoas and Rodríguez Gacha named as material witnesses.

May 3, 1994: Dear Abby states publicly in her column that "Just as bootleggers were forced out of business in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed, making the sale of liquor legal (thus eliminating racketeering), the legalization of drugs would put drug dealers out of business. It also would guarantee government approved quality, and the tax on drugs would provide an ongoing source of revenue for drug-education programs."

April 29, 1996: At a speech at a Miami high school, President Clinton calls for a war on drugs -- for the second time. General Barry McCaffrey, the nation's drug czar, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer on May 1 that "everything the president has announced is already being done. There's nothing new here."

May 2, 2001: The Louisiana Senate, voting 29-5, passes sweeping legislation to bring relief to an overflowing state prison system, including ending mandatory prison time for possession of small quantities of drugs.

May 1, 2003: The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003 (IDAPA) is signed into law, among other things amending a section of the Controlled Substances Act to target rave organizers. It shifts the statute's emphasis from punishing those who establish places where drugs are made and consumed, such as "crack houses," to those who knowingly maintain "drug-involved premises," including outdoor events such as rock concerts. In addition to the criminal penalties in the original statute, the amended statute adds a civil penalty, thereby lowering the standard of proof from beyond a reasonable doubt to a preponderance of evidence.

This Week in History

April 25, 1894: The British Indian Hemp Drug Commission concludes that cannabis has no addictive properties, some medical uses, and a number of positive emotional and social benefits.

April 27, 1937: In a statement before the US House of Representative Ways and Means Committee, Clinton Hester testifies that a Washington Times editorial published shortly before Congress held its first hearing on the marijuana issue argued: "The fatal marihuana cigarette must be recognized as a deadly drug and American children must be protected against it."

April 23, 1998: The Ottawa Citizen reports that Canadians who tell US border officials the truth about their past use of marijuana will be denied entry to America indefinitely.

April 25, 2000: Despite the formal opposition of the Hawaiian Catholic Church, the Hawaii State Senate passes medical marijuana legislation, joining California, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Alaska, and Arizona in shielding medical marijuana patients from criminal prosecution.

April 24, 2001: In Oklahoma, Will Foster, 42, a medical marijuana patient who in 1995 was sentenced to 93 years in prison for growing 39 marijuana plants in his basement, is released on parole. Foster used marijuana to relieve chronic pain caused by acute rheumatoid arthritis. "My medical use of marijuana never interfered with my work, I ran a successful business," said Foster. He added, "I was minding my own business taking care of my health and my family. What was I doing to anybody that got me 93 years?"

April 21, 2004: US Circuit Court Judge Jeremy Fogel bars the US Dept. of Justice from interfering with Mike and Valerie Corral, heads of a medical marijuana hospice near Santa Cruz, California, with their 250 patients, or with their marijuana garden. Judge Fogel cites Raich v. Ashcroft, a 2004 Ninth Circuit decision which found the federal government has no jurisdiction over patients who grow their own plants.

April 22, 2004: The Pacific edition of the magazine Stars and Stripes reports that twenty sailors assigned to Commander, Naval Forces Marianas (Guam) were arrested on drug-related charges since late 2003 alone.

This Week in History

April 19, 1943: Albert Hoffman takes the first dose of LSD, in Basel, Switzerland.

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

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

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

April 18, 2001: Kenneth Hayes and Michael Foley are acquitted by a Sonoma County, California jury on charges of cultivating and possessing marijuana. The two were arrested for growing 899 marijuana plants for the 1,200 members of a San Francisco medical marijuana club called CHAMP (Cannabis Helping Alleviate Medical Problems).

April 20, 2001: American Christian missionary Veronica Bowers and her seven month-old daughter, Charity, are killed when their small plane is shot out of the sky by a Peruvian military jet as part of a CIA-backed program that patrols the Amazon Basin for drug couriers. The Senate Intelligence Committee investigates and concludes the missionary pilot did nothing wrong and should not have come under fire.

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

April 20, 2002: Robin Prosser of Missoula, Montana begins a hunger strike demanding access to government grown marijuana to help her treat symptoms of Lupus. Prosser says that marijuana helps combat the illness and relieves her pain and stress.

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

This Week in History

April 8, 1989: Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo is arrested in Mexico. Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni leads a team of Federal agents who arrest the drug lord in a residential suburb of Guadalajara. Gallardo is imprisoned on charges relating to the kidnapping and murder of Enrique Camarena. His nephews, the Arellano-Felix brothers, inherit part of his drug-trafficking empire.

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

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

April 9, 2002: NORML launches a $500,000 campaign featuring bus shelter signs and telephone booth posters carrying a quote from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who when asked whether he had ever tried marijuana said, "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it." NORML used Bloomberg as the centerpiece of its campaign to urge the city to stop arresting and jailing people for smoking marijuana. "Millions of people smoke marijuana today. They come from all walks of life, and that includes your own mayor," said NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup.

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

April 10, 2003: In the wake of the federal conviction of medical marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal, US Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and 27 other members of Congress introduce H.R. 1717 (the "Truth in Trials Act").

This Week in History

April 1, 1909: The Opium Exclusion Act takes effect.

April 3, 1953: With the support of Allen W. Dulles, director of Central Intelligence, Richard C. Helms proposes funding for a biochemical warfare research program named MKULTRA, which among other things administers LSD to its unknowing participants.

April 2, 1988: The Economist editorializes in favor of bringing drug users within the law by allowing them to purchase limited doses of drugs that have been manufactured and distributed legally.

April 6, 1995: ABC News airs a special entitled "America's War on Drugs: Searching for Solutions" in which legalization is presented as an alternative to the failing war on drugs.

April 6, 1998: Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum's six year study of 1,798 students, "Assessing the Effects of School-based Drug Education: A Six Year Multilevel Analysis of Project DARE," finds that "DARE had no long-term effects on a wide range of drug use measures," that DARE does not "prevent drug use at the stage in adolescent development when drugs become available and widely used, namely during the high school years," and that "DARE may actually be counterproductive."

April 1, 2000: Canada's premier national newspaper, The National Post, editorializes in favor of legalizing marijuana.

April 5, 2000: The Journal of the American Medical Association publishes "Trends in Medical Use and Abuse of Opioid Analgesics." The researchers conclude: "Conventional wisdom suggests that the abuse potential of opioid analgesics is such that increases in medical use of these drugs will lead inevitably to increases in their abuse. The data from this study with respect to the opioids in the class of morphine provide no support for this hypothesis. The present trend of increasing medical use of opioid analgesics to treat pain does not appear to be contributing to increases in the health consequences of opioid analgesic abuse."

April 6, 2000: The First National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics convenes at the University of Iowa.

March 31, 2001: An editorial in The Lancet -- the United Kingdom's top medical journal -- criticizes the futility of drug prohibition and America's present anti-drug strategies.

April 2, 2003: US Rep. Ron Paul asks the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate whether the Office of National Drug Control Policy violated the Congressional ban on spending funds on publicity or propaganda.

This Week in History

March 30, 1961: The UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is convened in New York City, the first of the three international treaties binding signatory nations into prohibitionist systems.

March 30, 1992: Bill Clinton, during the 1992 presidential campaign, says, "When I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale."

March 25, 1994: Retired minister Accelyne Williams dies of a heart attack when a SWAT team consisting of 13 heavily armed Boston police officers raids his apartment based on an incorrect tip by an unidentified informant. No drugs or guns were found in the apartment. An editorial in The Boston Globe later observed: "The Williams tragedy resulted, in part, from the 'big score' mentality of the centralized Boston Police Drug Control Unit. Officers were pumped up to seize machine guns in addition to large quantities of cocaine and a 'crazy amount of weed,' in the words of the informant."

March 24, 1998: House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) establishes the Speaker's Task Force for a Drug-Free America to design a World War II-style victory plan to save America's children from illegal drugs and achieve a Drug-Free America by 2002. Eleven years after the founding of the task force, in 2009, drugs continue to be widely available throughout the United States.

March 29, 2000: CNN reports that a multi-nation drug sweep known as Operation Conquistador nets 2,331 arrests, 4,966 kilograms of cocaine, 55.6 kilograms of heroin, and 362.5 metric tons of marijuana. The 17-day operation takes place in Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Martin, British Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Aruba, Curacao, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Drug availability is not reduced in the operation's wake.

March 25, 2002: The Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approves H.B. 1222, the Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act, which removes criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana.

March 26, 2002: A unanimous US Supreme Court rules that public housing tenants can be evicted for any illegal drug activity by household members or guests, even if they did not know about it.

March 28, 2002: Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan rules that the Barr Amendment, which blocks the District of Columbia from considering a medical marijuana voter initiative, infringes on First Amendment rights.

March 28, 2003: The Hemp Industries Association, several hemp food and cosmetic manufacturers and the Organic Consumers Association petition the federal Ninth Circuit to again prevent the DEA from ending the legal sale of hemp seed and oil products in the US.

This Week in History

March 18, 1839: Lin Tse-Hsu, the imperial Chinese commissioner in charge of suppressing the opium traffic, orders all foreign traders to surrender their opium. In response, the British send expeditionary warships to the coast of China, initiating the First Opium War.

March 22, 1972: The Richard Nixon-appointed, 13-member National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommends the decriminalization of marijuana, concluding, "Marihuana's relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it."

March 19, 1983: Best known for her role in Just Say No, First Lady Nancy Reagan appears on the NBC sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, declaring: "Let me tell you a true story about a boy we'll call Charlie. He was only 14 and he was burned out on marijuana... One day, when his little sister wouldn't steal some money for him to go and buy some more drugs, he brutally beat her. The real truth is there's no such thing as soft drugs and hard drugs. All drugs are dumb... Don't end up another Charlie."

March 23, 1983: Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush is placed in charge of the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System, which was supposed to staunch the drug flow over all US borders. Twenty-six years later drugs continue to be widely available throughout the United States.

March 17, 1999: A report by the Institute of Medicine – part of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences – for the Office of National Drug Control Policy states that "there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs" and "scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic values of cannabinoid drugs for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation."

March 19, 2001: Mexican President Vicente Fox is quoted in the Associated Press: "[T]he day that the alternative of freeing the consumption of drugs from punishment comes, it will have to be done in the entire world because we are not going to win anything if Mexico does it, but the production and traffic of the drugs... to the United States continues. Thus, humanity will one day view it [legalization] as the best in this sense."

March 20, 2002: Reuters reports that British scientists found that motorists who smoke a cannabis joint retain more control behind the wheel than those who drink a glass of wine. Research from Britain's Transport Research Laboratory showed drivers found it harder to maintain constant speed and road position after drinking the equivalent of a glass of wine than after smoking a "spliff."

March 21, 2003: President Bush announces his intention to nominate Karen P. Tandy to be the Drug Enforcement Administration's new administrator. Tandy served in the Department of Justice (DOJ) as Associate Deputy Attorney General and Director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. She also previously served in DOJ as Chief of Litigation in the Asset Forfeiture Office and as Deputy Chief for Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Earlier in her career, she prosecuted drug, money laundering, and forfeiture cases as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia and in the Western District of Washington.

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