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The Speakeasy Blog

Hinchey Medical Marijuana Amendment Does Not Pass -- No Vote Count Yet

I just saw the following on the House Clerk's web site, posted at 8:31pm:
POSTPONED PROCEEDINGS - At the conclusion of debate on the Hinchey amendment, the Chair put the question on adoption of the amendment and by voice vote, announced that the noes had prevailed. Mr. Hinchey demanded a recorded vote and the Chair postponed further proceedings on the question of adoption of the amendment until later in the legislative day.
In plain English, this means that the amendment did not pass this time around. The question now is how many members of Congress voted for it and how many voted against, and which ones. Hopefully we will see an improvement over last year's totals. However, it is going to have to wait until later tonight, as they are continuing with to debate other amendments, before taking the time to record individual Representatives' votes on all of the amendments later. We are also awaiting reports on which members of Congress took part in the debate and what they said. Read the blog post I made just a few minutes ago for one good reason Congress really should have passed this amendment.
Washington, DC
United States

ONDCP's "Cocaine Shortage" Announcement is Pure Fiction

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This week, the drug czar's office has tricked several newspapers into reporting on a so-called "cocaine shortage":
EL PASO — White House drug czar John Walters said wholesale prices of cocaine have risen in more than a dozen major U.S. cities as supplies of the powerful drug have shrunk, including in high-volume markets like Los Angeles and New York. [AP]
The irony, of course, is that there's no such thing as a cocaine shortage. Really, cocaine is probably the last thing we'll ever run out of in America, and if you think otherwise, maybe it's because people aren't telling you how much cocaine they've got.

Fortunately, Associated Press at least had the commonsense to ask an actual expert about the supposed shortage:
Peter Reuter, a public policy professor at the University of Maryland who studies illicit drugs and organized crime, said prices of cocaine have long been declining and that brief price surges are not uncommon. He said gauging the future of the cocaine trade after just a few months is difficult.

"We see short term (price) increases that go on for three, or six months even," Reuter said. "They don't tend to be too long, and then the downward trend continues."
One could praise AP for including Reuter's comments, but I won't. If AP's Alicia Caldwell actually listened to what he said, she'd understand that the story isn’t accurate enough to be worth writing. Moreover, Reuter's revealing analysis -- which renders the entire report meaningless –- is relegated to the bowels of the article. The fact that cocaine prices have continually gone down for decades is treated as an afterthought, a mere side note, in a story that otherwise regurgitates ONDCP's claims about the effectiveness of its own work.

Distinguished members of the press, I beg you once again: whenever the Office of National Drug Control Policy approaches you and offers to describe how well the drug war is going, just look around. Has anything changed? It shouldn’t even be necessary to ask Peter Reuter if their claims make sense. The idea that we're experiencing a cocaine shortage is so plainly ridiculous, I don't see how anyone could report such a thing with a straight face.

I'm reminded of real journalist Ken Silverstein's recent comment about his colleagues in the press:
As a class, they honor politeness over honesty and believe that being "balanced" means giving the same weight to a lie as you give to the truth.
How true -- and depressing – that is.
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Letter from a Would-Be Medical Marijuana Patient

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Following is one of the many emails we got from people since beginning our Hinchey amendment medical marijuana effort last week. It speaks for itself -- actually, it speaks volumes:
I am one of thousands of people who need the medicine marijuana. In short, I had an accident in 1983 and fell 20 feet from a ladder. I went through 10 operations and now I have no ankles, my joints do not fuse or mend. Since I have joint arthritis, everything I do is painful. This is just a sample of the problems I have had. All the doctors I have seen tell me I would benefit from the use of marijuana. It won't replace the medicines I am taking now, but it would make life worth living. Some days I ask God to take me from this hell. I have tried the medicine marijuana once before, but just tried. My wife and I have too much to lose if somehow I were arrested for possession. So for now I say to myself, I wish and hope they would legalize the medicine marijuana before I die.
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Rumors of a DEA Blog Prompt Curiosity & Concern

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Adweek profiles The Adfero Group, whose VP Christopher Battle is helping the DEA Foundation improve its image and promote its ridiculous museum.
[DEA] has also asked Adfero to create an interactive Web site that will include blogs and virtual tours of the museum. Right now, the only Web site that exists is a page about the museum on the DEA Web site. Plans to include a blog and a speaker's bureau are also under discussion.

A DEA Blog, huh? Sounds just awesome. Let's hope it's more interesting than the compost pile that passes for a blog over at ONDCP. I wanna see candid posts like "If Potent Pot Doesn't Kill These Hippies, We Will," or "Top 10 Sick People We Don't Care About."

So far the only thing we know about this blog is that it will be completely devoid of any intellectual value. They're already prepared to promise us that much:

The group's strategy going forward is to take its slogan, "Hope through education," and "take the debate about drugs out of the realm of statistics and policy and move it into the realm of personal stories," says Battle.
Is this a tacit acknowledgement that the discussion of stats and policy inherently disadvantages them? Because, as true as that is, I certainly wasn't expecting them to admit it. That should be their blog motto for sure, and I'm so glad they're giving our tax-dollars to a fancy consulting firm to help them brainstorm these sorts of things.

How about this:

"DEA Blog: Replacing Stats and Policy With Anecdotes and Hyperbole"

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Even Anti-Meth Activists Oppose the Drug War

Tom Siebel is a multimillionaire philanthropist who funded terrifying anti-meth ads in Montana. His work has been praised by ONDCP, but now he's speaking out against the drug war.

The nation's drug policy "is a little bit crazy," Montana Meth Project founder Tom Siebel said Thursday.
Pointing out that the skyrocketing rate of incarceration is mostly because of drug offenses, Siebel said, "it used to be that we put people in jail who we were scared of. Now we put people in jail we're mad at."

Prison doesn't work, he said.

"They just get a better education," Siebel added. "It's like a graduate school program in drug distribution." [Great Falls Tribune]

Tom Siebel absolutely hates meth, and yet he also opposes the drug war. How can this be? Maybe his aggressive anti-meth ads are actually some sort of drug legalization conspiracy, because everyone knows that only "pro-drug groups" would ever criticize the wisdom of trying to arrest our way out of the drug problem.

Of course, Tom Siebel's work and his words demonstrate that people who care about victims of drug addiction can simultaneously oppose drug abuse while advocating commonsense policies that emphasize public health and reject mass incarceration. Having previously heaped praise upon Tom Siebel, will ONDCP now accuse him of being "pro-drug"?

Regardless, it is becoming increasingly obvious that ONDCP couldn't alienate anti-drug activists, the U.S. Congress, and the academic community any faster if they were actually doing speed themselves.

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It's Time for the Drug Czar to Resign

News that ONDCP officials illegally campaigned for Republican congressional candidates has generated significant coverage this week, as well it should. Under the Hatch Act it is a crime for executive branch staff to engage in partisan political activity, which makes the drug czar a criminal if he wasn't already.

If you've been watching ONDCP for the past six years as I have, there's nothing surprising about any of this. Still, it's gratifying to see the drug czar's utter contempt for the law revealed for all to see.

Our friends at SSDP have created a petition demanding Drug Czar John Walters's resignation, which perfectly articulates how politics have guided Walters's actions throughout his tenure, and not just during campaign season:
* You've spent taxpayer money to campaign and lobby against citizen ballot initiatives and state legislation that would reform aspects of the ineffective War on Drugs.

* You've attempted to prevent Congress and the public from gaining access to a scientific evaluation of your "anti-drug" advertising campaign because you didn't like the results showing that the ads actually cause more, not less, teen drug use. Despite these alarming results, you've kept the dangerous ads on the air.

* You've spent millions of dollars a year spraying poisonous chemicals on the jungles and fields of Colombia in a failed effort to eradicate coca crops and prevent cocaine from entering or country. Yet while continuing to publicly advocate this eradication program, you admitted in a private letter to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) that cocaine prices on America's streets are dropping and its purity is increasing.

* You've actively pushed for the continued federal criminalization of seriously ill Americans suffering from cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis who use medical marijuana with their doctors' recommendations, even where it is legal under state law. In an affront to federalism and states' rights, ONDCP and the Food and Drug Administration released a politicized statement last year criticizing states with medical marijuana laws.
Frankly, it is an indictment of the press and the Congress that it took until July 2007 to discover that ONDCP is deeply corrupted. Only by stepping into the realm of partisan politics did ONDCP finally manage to earn the full-blown public relations crisis it has long deserved.

(This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)


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Sen. Coburn Thinks Police Should Shoot Drug Suspects in the Back

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), last seen trying to undermine state medical marijuana laws, seems to think that police should be allowed to shoot fleeing drug suspects:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Border Patrol agents should be allowed to shoot at fleeing drug traffickers, a Republican senator suggested Tuesday.

The patrol's deadly force rules were questioned at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing concerning the conviction of two agents who shot a fleeing, unarmed drug trafficker and covered it up.

"Why is it wrong to shoot the [trafficker] after he's been told to stop?" asked Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma.

Johnny Sutton, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, said the Supreme Court has ruled that using deadly force in that way is illegal. Agents also may not know if the fleeing person is a trafficker, he said. [CNN]
Um, yeah. The reason you don’t shoot people for running away is because they might not be worthy of getting shot.

These people could turn out to be innocent like Esequiel Hernandez, Jr., a goat herder who was shot from behind and killed by marines who thought he was a drug-trafficker.

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Clinton Promises to End Federal Raids on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Hillary Clinton continues to get the drug policy questions right:
During a visit to Manchester, New Hampshire on July 13, Len Epstein of Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana told the senator and presidential candidate: "Twelve states allow medical marijuana, but the Bush administrations continues to raid patients."

Clinton replied: "Yes, I know. It's terrible."

"Would you stop the federal raids?" Epstein asked.

"Yes, I will," she responded firmly. [MPP]
As I've said before, it's exciting to hear the democratic front-runner taking the right positions on our issues. Clinton has now pledged to fight racial profiling, reform the crack/powder sentencing disparity, promote treatment instead of incarceration, and now vows to end the federal war on medical marijuana patients and providers. That's a rock solid drug policy platform for a mainstream candidate.

Yes, I know there are long-shot candidates willing to go further (what's his name, Ron something?). But the willingness of front-runners – on the left, at least – to take common sense positions on drug policy reflects a growing awareness that reform is not political suicide.

Heck, given massive public support for medical marijuana, and Giuliani and McCain's refusal to defend patients, Democrats would be foolish not to step forward on this.

(This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)


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Showtime's "In Pot We Trust" is a Must-see

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Wow, man. There's lots of heady nugs in this movie. Just pack your favorite bong, zap some popcorn, and get ready for the ride of your life.

Actually, no. In Pot We Trust doesn't make you want to smoke pot. It will make you want to give all your pot to Jacqueline Patterson. Jacqueline has celebral palsy, which manifests itself most notably in the form of a severe stutter. When she uses medical marijuana, Jacqueline can speak much more quickly and clearly, because the drug relieves her muscle tension. The difference is so obvious, I don’t know how anyone could watch this and say marijuana isn't medicine.

In Pot We Trust tells the story of four medical marijuana patients, against the backdrop of last year's Hinchey-Rohrabacher vote. The filmmakers follow MPP's Aaron Houston through the halls of Congress, then join the DEA as they uproot marijuana plants in the hills of California. Marijuana experts such as Lester Grinspoon provide insight into the drug's benefits, while prohibitionists Joe Califano and Robert Dupont explain why they've dedicated themselves to criminalizing sick people.

The film is invaluable because patients themselves make the best spokespeople for medical marijuana. The ulterior motives so often attributed to the medical marijuana legalization effort become irrelevant here, as we meet the actual people whose health and wellbeing lies at the center of this controversy.

I won't ruin the ending, but in case you haven’t heard, patients who rely on medical marijuana to maintain their quality of life are still criminals under federal law.

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The Difference Between Pot Growers and Terrorists

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When Drug Czar John Walters announced last week that pot growers are terrorists, I thought he'd gotten a little carried away. But ONDCP's blog actually blockquotes the worst portion of the article in which these wild claims first appeared:
John P. Walters, President Bush's drug czar, said the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties.
Silly me. I thought maybe the reporter had taken Walters's statement out of context, but ONDCP calls it a "good story." Apparently, it is actually necessary to explain that pot growers aren’t terrorists and don’t want to help other terrorists kill lots of people.

Ok, let's begin. Basically, I think the difference between pot growers and terrorists is that pot growers grow pot and sell it to customers for profit, whereas terrorists build bombs and blow up innocent people for political and/or religious reasons.

Since pot growers are trying to make money and avoid law-enforcement, it isn’t in their interest to work with terrorists. Terrorists want to kill the pot grower's customers, and they also attract all sorts of unwanted attention from the military and various high-level federal agencies. Moreover, pot growers don't want to hurt or kill people. They sell pot, which is widely believed – correctly – to be relatively harmless. I've never heard of a pot grower who generally wanted to hurt people or who thought that what they were doing would cause mass casualties.

Some of the confusion here may stem from the fact that pot growers sometimes keep weapons around. This is actually to protect their valuable gardens from thieves, primarily wild animals. Incidents involving pot growers shooting people or fighting with police are incredibly rare. We know this, because if such a thing occurred, it would immediately be prominently displayed on the ONDCP blog and discussed endlessly by them. This has not occurred.

But perhaps the best evidence that pot growers don’t want to help terrorists is that pot growers never help terrorists. In the history of the U.S., no pot grower has ever been found helping terrorists get into the country or expressed any interest in doing so.

If Ed Rosenthal ever hijacks a plane and tries to fly it into the Sears Tower, I'll reconsider. But for now, I think it’s safe to conclude that pot growers and terrorists are two completely different things.

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Rudy Giuliani's Position on OxyContin and Pain Management Is Correct

John Riley at Newsday has an interesting piece on Rudy Giuliani's role in helping Purdue Pharma preserve its image after the painkiller OxyContin was linked to widespread abuse. When Giuliani spoke out against medical marijuana, I repeatedly cited his work for Purdue Pharma as evidence of his hypocrisy. While I stand by that position, it should be noted that Giuliani's stance on pain management is actually quite good, in and of itself:
The OxyContin debate has been part of a larger fight in which patient advocacy groups that are worried about historic undertreatment of pain have joined with drug companies to argue against regulatory and law enforcement restrictions on painkillers that might unduly restrict their availability.

Giuliani was a key ally in that debate. He cast himself as an expert because of his prosecutorial background and his experience with prostate cancer. As part of his work for Purdue, he agreed to chair a group called the Rx Action Alliance, which promoted a "balanced" approach that would address abuse but maintain access for patients…

As the DEA continues its misguided war on pain management specialists, it's really quite refreshing to know that a front-running presidential candidate understands the problem. DEA's overreaction to OxyContin abuse has been disastrous, resulting in the reluctance of doctors nationwide to prescribe pain-relievers to deserving patients. Whether it was his prostate cancer, or the money Purdue paid his firm, something has led him to stand up for patient access and there's nothing wrong with that.

The only remaining question is why Giuliani is so hostile to medical marijuana. The fact pattern is remarkably similar: the stigma resulting from widespread recreational marijuana use has created a climate in which legitimate patients are denied medical access to the drug.

If only medical marijuana patients could afford to hire Giuliani Partners, LLC to help improve their public image…

(This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)


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When Oversight Means Oversight: Waxman Goes After Walters for Politicizing His Office

"Oversight" is a funny word. It has two meanings, one the opposite of the other. "Oversight" can mean watching over, supervising, or reviewing an action, a policy, or a process. Or it can mean the failure to do so, as in: "I meant to keep an eye on those guys, but I didn't. I guess that was an oversight on my part." When it comes to monitoring the activities of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and its head, drug czar John Walters, six years of Republican control of the Congress meant the only oversight that was practiced was of the latter variety. That was especially true when it came to looking into charges that Walters and ONDCP were using their drug-fighting mission to unfairly intervene in state and local ballot issues or legislation, or to seek partisan advantage for the Republican Party. What a difference an election can make. With the opposition Democrats now in control of both houses of Congress, the drug czar's office is joining other large hunks of the Bush administration in coming under tough congressional scrutiny. Today, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), head of the House Oversight and Government Operations Committee, released the following statement charging Walters and ONDCP with coordinating with the White House to schedule events with some 20 vulnerable Republican incumbents in the months leading up to the November 2006 elections:
Politicization of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy At the request of Sara Taylor, the former White House Director of Political Affairs, John Walters, the nation’s drug czar, and his deputies traveled to 20 events with vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the months prior to the 2006 elections. The trips were paid for by federal taxpayers and several were combined with the announcement of federal grants or actions that benefited the districts of the Republican members. A November 20, 2006, memo from Ms. Taylor summarizes the travel Director Walters took at her request. An agency e-mail sent the following day describes how Karl Rove commended the historically nonpartisan Office of National Drug Control Policy and three cabinet departments – Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture – for “going above and beyond the call of duty” in making “surrogate appearances” at locations the e-mail described as “the god awful places we sent them.” Other documents include an e-mail from the Interior Department to Ms. Taylor’s predecessor stating: “these folks need to be reminded who they work for and how their geographical travel can benefit this President.” Chairman Waxman wrote to Ms. Taylor to request her attendance at a Committee deposition on or before July 24 and her possible appearance at a Committee hearing on July 30. He also wrote to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, the Republican National Committee, Director Walters, and the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture requesting relevant documents.
There's a complete set of links to the documents mentioned at the House Oversight and Government Operations Committee web site linked to in the title of the Waxman release. It makes some interesting--and damning--reading. Waxman looks like he will schedule some hearings on this soon. Gosh, it sure is fun when we have someone on the oversight committee who actually practices the first definition of the word!
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David Murray Lies About Steve Kubby's Position on Medical Marijuana

Via DrugWarRant, here's a glimpse at the brilliant methods of ONDCP Chief Scientist David Murray.

First, recall Steve Kubby's brief imprisonment last year. Due to his unique medical condition, many people were concerned that Kubby might not survive being denied access to medical marijuana while in jail. He survived thanks to Marinol and said this about the experience:

"During that time I experienced excruciating pain, a vicious high blood-pressure crisis, passed blood in my urine and I lost 33 pounds. However, there was also good news. I learned that Marinol is an acceptable, if not ideal, substitute for whole cannabis in treating my otherwise fatal disease. Now I am a free man and I am profoundly grateful to be alive and to have friends and supporters such as you."

Testifying before Congress last week, David Murray then twisted Kubby's statement into a pretzel, casting it as a complete reversal of his position on medical marijuana in general:

Founding proponents of medical marijuana in the United States have reversed their key positions of support for medical marijuana. [...] Steve Kubby, another Co-founder of medical marijuana in California stated in a letter to supporters on April 14th, 2006 that "Marinol is an acceptable, if not ideal, substitute for whole cannabis in treating my otherwise fatal disease."

Steve Kubby was just glad to be alive. He lost 33 pounds. He was pissing blood. If that sounds like an endorsement of Marinol as an alternative to whole cannabis, your name must be David Murray. The guy gets caught lying every time he opens his mouth, but this is obscene and disgusting, even by Murray's rock-bottom standards.

It would serve the U.S. Congress well to understand that David Murray does things like this. His claim that Steve Kubby changed his position on medical marijuana is a perfect example of the boundless dishonestly of which he is capable, and in fact specializes in.

This is the typical behavior that can be expected from the very Serious, Scientific, and Responsible people at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Don't bother asking why it is necessary for them to lie shamelessly about what Steve Kubby has said. They lie to our elected representatives only because they care about us. So we should be grateful that they are as good at lying as they are, lest we should be legally allowed to select medicines based on our experience rather than theirs.

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Drug Czar Says Pot Growers are "Terrorists"

The escalating lunacy of Drug Czar John Walters becomes more apparent all the time:
John P. Walters, President Bush's drug czar, said the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties.

"These people are armed; they're dangerous," he said. He called them "violent criminal terrorists." []
So when Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff warned of an imminent terrorist attack this summer, did he mean that someone was planning on planting some pot in the woods?

Hopefully not, but it should come as no surprise that the people responsible for U.S. marijuana policy actually believe that they're fighting terrorists. Nothing could better explain their behavior or more perfectly illustrate the sheer mania by which they are driven.

All we need now is for the national media to report on ONDCP's unsightly divorce from reality, which can be easily documented and displayed. When the drug czar hallucinates violently onstage, spewing unfathomably bizarre exaggerations, it should be fairly clear that something has gone terribly wrong and that his microphone must be turned off immediately before he speaks again.

This is truly a definitive moment in the drug policy debate; a crystal clear depiction of the limitless enthusiasm of the drug czar's office for saying absolutely anything. Even people with no sympathy for drug policy reform should be asking questions about the fundamental competence and sanity of our top anti-drug officials.

Unless, of course, this is all a cynical plot to send Ed Rosenthal to Guantanamo Bay.

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You know the drug war's been lost when they're growing marijuana right outside the DEA's office...

Via I Was the State: DEA discovers marijuana growing a few hundred yards behind their Dallas office, the Dallas News reports. IWTS rhetorically asks if the Texas marijuana market has been shut down, and points out that marijuana is Texas' 6th highest grossing crop. This is almost right up there with the time a marijuana plant was found growing out of a crack in the New Orleans courthouse, or when a patch of marijuana was spotted growing in a traffic median in Israel. (I'd appreciate if anyone can provide links for these; I remember them but couldn't find anything online.
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Hurwitz Receives Lesser Sentence Second Time Around, Could Be Free in 17 Months

Via John Tierney at the New York Times, posted late last night... Judge Leonie Brinkema sentenced pain physician Dr. William Hurwitz to 57 months, more than pain treatment advocates were hoping for but considerably less than the 25 years handed down in the first trial by Judge Wexler. With time served, he could be out in 17 months. One paragraph in particular from Tierney's blog post encapsulates much of the backwardness inherent in the federal sentencing system, backwardness that affects many much more run-of-the-mill cases as well:
While there was no evidence that Dr. Hurwitz was profiting from the resale of his prescriptions -- and the jurors I interviewed said they didn’t think he intended the drugs to be resold -- he will still spend more time in prison than almost all the patients who admitting lying to him and reselling the drugs. Thanks to the deals they made to cooperate with prosecutors, seven of the nine patients got sentences ranging from 10 to 39 months. Only two got longer sentences than 57 months -- and one of them, who got 72 months, was also guilty of armed robbery and arson.
The other thing that is really troubling about this case is that jurors admitted to Tierney (previously) that they were not clear on what the law says about whether a doctor who screws up and prescribes to the wrong people, but isn't intentionally diverting drugs to the black market, should be held criminally responsible. But that is precisely the point of law on which the verdicts turned. If jurors don't understand the law they are judging, what is the justification for keeping the conviction and imprisoning someone for it? Despite the praise that has been given to Brinkema by Tierney and others for her handling of this case -- which admittedly was far better than other judges have done -- at the end of the day I have to say that I think she failed to do proper justice. I repeat, if the jurors admit that they did not understand the key point of law before them, I see no reasonable way for the verdicts to be considered legitimate, because the process itself is simply unsound. I could see an argument (theoretically) for having a third trial, but Dr. Hurwitz should be at home tonight with his family, and it's a crime that he's not -- not only for his sake, but for all the pain patients who effectively are being tortured by denial of pain medication because doctors don't want to take the risk of getting sent to prison. Lastly on this theme, think about the fact that the first set of convictions were invalidated, and this second set for the aforementioned reasons clearly should have been. That's an extraordinarily poor track record. A criminal justice system that imprisons people even when jurors admit they didn't know what they were doing is a system that is fundamentally corroded and has lost its way. Don't be proud of yourselves, feds! Despite all of the foregoing, I also have to say that I am relieved. 17 months is a long time to spend in prison, even if one hasn't already spent some years there already, but it could be much, much worse. Judge Brinkema could have given him the same 25 years, or life -- or 10 years, or 12 or 15. The trial also had a bright spot in that Brinkema saw through the misrepresentation about dosages that prosecutors had attempted:
Brinkema said she had read news accounts of the first trial and had seen some of the massive prescriptions Hurwitz had given out, including one patient who was given 1,600 pills a day. "The amount of drugs Dr. Hurwitz prescribed struck me as absolutely crazy," the judge said. But after hearing testimony from both sides, "I totally turned around on that issue," Brinkema said. "The mere prescription of huge quantities of opioids doesn’t mean anything."
In fact, there are known pain treatment cases in which the dosages were literally four times greater than the largest dosage prescribed by Hurwitz in the cases at stake (as I pointed out in a letter to Judge Wexler before the first sentencing, though obviously to no avail). Now lawyers in other pain cases (current and future) can read Judge Brinkema's comments to judges and jurors to explain why the apparently large doses may have been appropriate. The problem hasn't been a lack of experts willing to say that in trials; the problem has been that for some reason it just seems to wash over people in the face of the large number of pills. I think that having a quote like that from a federal judge will help to break through. I'm not a physician, and I'm not in a position to judge whether or not Dr. Hurwitz practiced good medicine in every case. But I'm completely confident that he did not engage any drug-dealing conspiracy. Perhaps the fact that I've met him several times in the past biases my view. But I've also met many of his former patients -- some of them I know well -- and it's a provable fact that he helped many people whom others doctors wouldn't help and who desperately needed the help, and that he gave them the benefit of thoughtful attention. A lot of these people were left in the lurch when the authorities moved against him, causing at least one suicide and arguably a few of them. Hopefully this outcome, while highly imperfect, has enough good points in it to help move things in the right direction; time will tell. You can keep with all of our pain reporting in our topical archive -- RSS is available here -- email us if you'd like to run our pain feed (or any other feed we offer) on your web site.
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Rudy Hates Pot Smokers (Especially Black and Brown Ones) More Than He Likes Effective Policing

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has gotten a lot of criticism this week for his comments rejecting medical marijuana and suggesting that its advocates are actually stalking horses for marijuana legalization. But his antipathy for marijuana goes far beyond simply rejecting its therapeutic applications and opens a window into what a Giuliani marijuana policy might look like. During Giuliani's years in office in the 1990s and into this decade, the number of marijuana arrests shot through the roof, rising from a few hundred before Giulani took office to more than 51,000 in 2000. At that point, thanks to Giulani's "zero tolerance" or "broken windows" approach to policing, New York City accounted for nearly 10% of all marijuana arrests in the country. But it wasn't that Giulani just hated pot smokers; the results of his marijuana policy show starkly that his ire was aimed at pot smokers of a certain color--and it wasn't white. As an analysis of city pot arrests between the early 1980s and the early 2000s showed, as marijuana busts shot upward during Rudy's reign, the arrests shifted from the wealthy, central areas of the city to the cities poor, black and Hispanic neighborhoods. As the authors of that study noted, "these arrests, which increased throughout the 1990's to reach a peak of 51,000 in 2000, do not seem to be primarily serving the goals of 'quality-of-life' policing - which aims to penalize even minor criminal offenses in highly public locations - anymore." Not only did the mass marijuana arrests not appear to be related to claimed decreases in violent crime, they appeared to be related to increases in violent crime, according to another researcher, Bernard Harcourt, commenting on the report:
New York City’s psychedelic experiment with misdemeanor MPV [marijuana possession violation] arrests—along with all the associated detentions, convictions, and additional incarcerations—represents a tremendously expensive policing intervention. As Golub et al. [authors of the original research] document well, the focus on MPV has had a significant disparate impact on African-American and Hispanic residents. Our study further shows that there is no good evidence that it contributed to combating serious crime in the city. If anything, it has had the reverse effect. As a result, the NYPD policy of misdemeanor MPV arrests represents an extremely poor trade-off of scarce law enforcement resources, imposing significant opportunity costs on society in light of the growing body of empirical research that highlights policing approaches that do appear to be successful in reducing serious crime. Our findings, building on those of Golub et al., make clear that these are not trade-offs in which we should be engaging.
So, not only did Giulani's mass marijuana arrest policy target racial minorities, it also hampered effective crime-fighting in the city. Can you imagine a President Giulani sitting in the White House and ordering something similar on a nationwide basis? It would certainly be a boon for the jail, drug testing, drug treatment, and other drug war-dependent industries, but I hope we are not at a point as a nation where we say "what's good for the prison-industrial complex is good for America." I'll be writing more about Giulani, his crime-fighting career, and what a Giulani presidency might mean for America's criminal justice system next week. But I have to wonder if what America needs now is a Prosecutor in Chief. (This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
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A better mayor, on drug policy at least...

Vancouver's former mayor, Larry Campbell (now a member of Canada's Senate) has an editorial in the Winnipeg Free Press criticizing both the Liberals and Conservatives in Canada for the increase in marijuana convictions -- the former for not introducing the decrim bill soon enough -- the latter for being, well, just wrong (Sen. Nolin excepted, of course.) Campbell writes:
It's about time that we get over the stigma associated with many of the false assumptions that dominate this debate, and pragmatically move forward on eliminating pot prohibition. As someone who has both walked the streets as a member of the RCMP's drug squad and examined legislation for passage into law as a Senator, I have a sharp understanding of what constitutes a criminal. Those that use pot just don't fit the profile.
Campbell's rational call for change stands in stark contrast to the strong anti-marijuana stance of another former mayor, New York City's Rudy Giuliani, who radically increased marijuana arrests and even opposes medical marijuana use. Campbell's actually for legalization across the board -- according to our 2003 interview with him, though not optimistic of it. Keep up with Canada drug policy news through our topics page here (or the RSS feed for it here). Or just read our newsletter...
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Ann Althouse Insults Medical Marijuana

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Popular law blogger Ann Althouse concurs with Rudy Giuliani's ignorant remarks about medical marijuana:

He takes a tough position:

"You can accomplish everything you want to accomplish with things other than marijuana, probably better. There are pain medications much superior to marijuana," he said.
"We'd be much better off telling people the truth. Marijuana adds nothing to the array of legal medications and prescription medications that are available for pain relief."
I think he's right. But perhaps marijuana should be legalized, not just for people who can portray themselves as sick enough, but for any adult.
I appreciate that Althouse is open to legalization, but her casual and unsupported affirmation of Giuliani's remarks is uncalled for.

The fact that medical marijuana advances the interests of the legalization crowd doesn't mean it's a trick. Legalizers were simply among the first people to speak up about the treatment of patients. That's changing rapidly now. Do these groups sound like key players in a marijuana legalization conspiracy, Ann?
* The American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM)
* The American Nurses Association (ANA)
* The American Public Health Association (APHA)
* The American Society of Addiction Medicine
* British Medical Association
* The National Association for Public Health Policy
* The National Nurses Society on Addictions
* The Episcopal Church
* The Presbyterian Church USA
* The United Church of Christ
* The United Methodist Church's Board of Church and Society
* The Union of Reform Judiasm
* The Unitarian Universalist Association

All of these organizations (and many more) have endorsed medical marijuana, and they're probably a bit more credible than OxyContin representative Rudy Giuliani.

Politics aside, why is it so hard to agree that people who don’t feel good should be allowed to feel better by using marijuana? Regardless of what anyone says, marijuana becomes a medicine when sick people successfully use it to treat their symptoms. That's what medicine is, by definition.

The "other options" argument is ludicrous because it is vital that sick people be given as many options as possible. Medical marijuana patients include people who are allergic to other medicines. Many patients use other medications as well, but find that marijuana settles their stomach after eating a dozen pills. For some, marijuana relaxes the muscles and/or the mood in ways that other medicines do not. Many of these "other options" are more toxic and more addictive than marijuana, and that is just a fact.

Patients and their doctors are the first people one should consult for information on the efficacy of medical marijuana, and their experiences should always matter more than the politicized fulminations of an authoritarian former prosecutor on the campaign trail.

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We Want Pardons: Petition to Save Bush's Legacy by Persuading Him to Pardon Thousands of Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Don't just pardon turkeys, President Bush! We, the undersigned, ask you to save your legacy by releasing thousands of nonviolent drug offenders from federal prison before you leave office. Short of taking such a measure, you will be doomed to go down in history as a hypocrite. Unlike President Clinton, you cannot point to a record of mercy toward people caught in the criminal justice system. While the overall Clinton record in criminal justice was not lenient, he did commute the sentences of 63 people, most of them neither wealthy nor powerful, including 29 nonviolent drug offenders. You, by contrast, commuted only three prisoners' sentences prior to helping Scooter Libby, one every two years. You have pardoned four times as many Thanksgiving turkeys as people you've released from prison. Even worse, in 2003 your attorney general, John Ashcroft, issued guidelines requiring federal prosecutors to always seek the maximum possible amount of prison time for defendants, with only limited exceptions permitted. The measure we've called for will undoubtedly be controversial, but you will have defenders from across the political spectrum. Advocates will assist your staff in finding appropriate cases -- reopening cases you've previously rejected would give the project a good head start. Clemency petitions will undoubtedly start to pour in once you put the word out. You can answer critics by saying we need to redirect our resources toward national security instead. And it will be consistent with the sympathy you've expressed in the past, based on your personal experiences, for people who have struggled with substance abuse. In the nation that is the world's leading jailer, which incarcerates a far greater percentage of its population than any other nation yet calls itself "land of the free," the president who helps to reverse that pattern will ultimately be recognized for it. Indeed, the "tough-on-crime" laws that have led us to this situation were mainly enacted for political reasons. Please pardon or commute the sentences of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders; please rescind the aforementioned Ashcroft directive; renounce your support for the drug war (at least in its current form); and call on Congress to repeal mandatory minimum sentences and authorize downward revision of most federal sentencing guidelines. You have a year and a half left to prove that justice is for everyone -- not just for your friends. Will you rise to the occasion? History is watching.
Please click here to send a copy of this petition in your own name to President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and your US Representative and Senators if you live in the US.
Washington, DC
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DEA Pain Hearings Tomorrow

The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will be holding oversight hearings tomorrow on the DEA's Regulation of Pain and Medicine. This is long overdue. Our position is that DEA is effectively causing the torture by denial of opiate medication of millions of pain patients around the country, by prosecuting doctors and thereby frightening other doctors into not being willing to prescribe them. See our topical archive on the issue for further information. Among the presenters to the committee tomorrow is our friend Siobhan Reynolds, head of the Pain Relief Network. She has posted the prepared version of her testimony here. The Judiciary Committee makes live video feeds of all hearings available on its home page here.
Washington, DC
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They're Trying to Clone Drug-sniffing Dogs!

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It's horrible because it's true:

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean laboratory that produced the world's first cloned dogs is looking to get into the business of cloning canines, first by cloning drug-sniffing dogs, a lab official said on Tuesday.

The laboratory at Seoul National University, implicated in a scandal for fabricating data in embryonic stem cell studies, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Korea Customs Service to clone drug-sniffing dogs, said Kim Min-kyu, the researcher who heads the cloning project for the team. [Reuters]

You've gotta hand it to these guys. What better way to overcome the ethical dilemmas facing the cloning industry than by getting involved in the drug war, where ethics are all but unheard of.

There's something brilliantly Orwellian about armies of drug-sniffing dog clones chasing hippies and snarling at school children. It's just a matter of time until they build robots to do that, and when that happens I just don't know what I'm gonna do. The big-time crooks will have their own robots to commit crimes for them, so our prisons will be filled with poor suckers who couldn’t afford a Stash-Bot 6000 to take the rap.

For the time being, it's worth noting that cloning in the drug war is nothing new. Anonymous sources have informed me that the new ONDCP documentary Stoners in the Mist is actually cloned from the original Reefer Madness, and drug war mouthpiece Mark Souder is actually cloned from red-scare fear-monger Joseph McCarthy.

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Positive Drug Tests Don't Prove Impairment

Maybe you've heard the story: Worker gets injured on the job. Employer, anticipating hefty workers compensation claims, administers drug test. Wouldn't you know it, injured employee tests positive for marijuana and is denied compensation due to presumed impairment.

Of course, since marijuana remains detectable for weeks after use, it is just wrong to presume that a positive result indicates impairment at the time of the accident. Still, many companies continue to fire injured employees for marijuana, rather than compensating them for on-the-job injuries that had nothing at all to do with their off-the-job marijuana consumption. It is a morally-reprehensible and scientifically-fraudulent practice, but one which serves the financial interests of its practitioners and thus continues.

Finally, for the first time that I know of, this sickening practice has been challenged successfully in court:
The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that a worker whose hand was crushed by machinery at his workplace was not to blame for the accident despite his admitted marijuana use off the job.

The state law establishing the drug-free workplace program presumes that any injuries to an employee found to have been using drugs or alcohol were caused by the drug use. But the court noted that the law also allows employees to enter evidence to rebut that presumption.

The co-worker and the shop foreman both testified that McIntosh didn't appear to be impaired by marijuana use before the accident.

McIntosh, who had worked at Interstate for five years, contended the injury was caused by the actions of an inexperienced employee. [Forbes]
So often in drug policy reform, we must celebrate victories of common sense that could be taken for granted if anti-drug hysteria had not permeated every aspect of our lives. How absurd is it that McIntosh even had to prove his lack of impairment? After all, it is perfectly clear and undeniable that a positive test for marijuana doesn’t prove impairment at all. There was never any evidence of impairment at any point throughout all of this, yet it had to be decided by the state's highest court.

While the Tennessee Supreme Court has certainly made the right decision here, one shudders to think how many marijuana users have been thrown to the dogs under identical circumstances. The premise that marijuana ruins lives – almost universally false though it is – somehow becomes a justification for profiteers seeking to validate the most despicable treatment of people who've used marijuana.

These events serve to remind us that prohibition is more than police, prisons and politics. It an idea – corrupt to its core – which infects everything, entering our schools and workplaces to spread false prejudice and obscure even the most obvious truths.

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Rudy Giuliani Hates Medical Marijuana, But He Loves OxyContin

Rudy Giuliani has again lashed out at medical marijuana on the campaign trail:
"I believe the effort to try and make marijuana available for medical uses is really a way to legalize it. There's no reason for it," the former New York mayor said during a town hall-style meeting at New Hampshire Technical Institute.

He also said there are better alternatives.

"You can accomplish everything you want to accomplish with things other than marijuana, probably better. There are pain medications much superior to marijuana," he said. [AP]
I've already written about the potent irony of Giuliani's opposition to medical marijuana, but if he won’t shut up about this, neither will I. If Rudy Giuliani won't stop talking trash about medical marijuana, and endorsing pharmaceutical alternatives, I won’t stop bringing up the fact that he worked as a hired consultant for OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.

Giuliani has less than no credibility on this issue because he worked for a company that is in direct competition with medical marijuana. It's really that simple. His claims that medical marijuana is part of a broader legalization conspiracy are also ironic considering that Giuliani played a key role in keeping OxyContin legal after it was linked with widespread abuse. Giuliani personally met with former DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson and persuaded him to leave Purdue alone. Meanwhile, abuse of pharmaceutical drugs, particularly OxyContin, has become the fastest growing drug problem among America's youth.

To be clear, I don't believe OxyContin should be illegal. Patients must be allowed to choose medicines based on what works for them, whether it be OxyContin, medical marijuana, or tree bark. But the transparent hypocrisy of Giuliani's behavior is so over-the-top that it is just impossible to ignore.

(This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)


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Home State Blues, or What's an Itinerant Activist To Do?

Your itinerant Drug War Chronicle has been bouncing around North America for the last few years, spending significant amounts of time in Washington state, British Columbia, Mexico, Northern California, and my home state, South Dakota. The traveling is nice, but I’ve felt politically homeless, as if my presence anywhere were too fleeting for me to be able to do local or state-level politics, and that’s a frustration. So, as much as I would rather be elsewhere, I’m thinking I need to hunker down here in Dakotaland and try to get something done. It is not friendly territory. South Dakota is the only state where voters rejected an initiative to allow the medicinal use of marijuana. Although it was a close vote, 52% to 48%, it was still a loss. Medical marijuana bills (introduced by an acquaintance of mine) early in the decade went nowhere. The state has one of the fastest growing prison populations right now, thanks largely to its approach to methamphetamine use. Marijuana possession is routinely punished by $500 fines, and there is a good chance of jail time, too. (In fact, you may be better off being convicted of drunk driving, if my local court records are any indication.) And, most hideously of all, South Dakota is the only state I know of that has an “internal possession” law. That means when the police arrest you with a joint, they make you submit to a urine test, then charge you with an additional offense if you test positive. South Dakota judges also routinely sign drug search warrants that include forced drug tests. I know one gentleman currently serving a five-year prison sentence for “internal possession” of methamphetamine metabolites, and no, it wasn’t a plea bargain. That was the only charge they had. South Dakota’s drug reform community (which can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand) seems beaten down, but I think I’m going to reach out and see if I can’t get anyone interested in a four-pronged drug reform legislative package: Hemp. Our neighbors in North Dakota have passed a bill allowing farmers to grow hemp and are currently suing the DEA to force it out of the way. South Dakota farmers would like to make profits, too. Medical marijuana. Yeah, we lost a close one last year, and it’s never been able to get any traction in the legislature. But I think we should make them deal with it again. Our neighbors in Montana seem to be surviving medical marijuana. Marijuana decriminalization. Does South Dakota really think pot possession is more serious than drunk driving? Does the legislature understand the lifelong impact of pot conviction on its constituents? Our neighbors in Nebraska decriminalized pot back in the 1970s, and the cornfields are still standing. Repeal of the internal possession laws. Criminalizing someone for the content of his blood or urine is just wrong. Winning any of these will be an uphill battle, and perhaps even linking hemp to broader drug reform issues would spell its doom here. But I think it’s every good activist’s responsibility to do what he can to slow down the drug war juggernaut, so I’m going to give it a shot. What are you doing in your state?
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