Breaking News:Statement of ICC Prosecutor on Opening Preliminary Investigations in the Philippines and in Venezuela

Collateral Sanctions

RSS Feed for this category

SSDP HEA Week of Action

Within the next few months, the US House of Representatives will decide whether or not to continue denying financial aid to students with drug convictions. This is our chance to take this awful law off the books once and for all. We're being counted on by nearly 200,000 students who have been affected by the law, and by countless more who will be affected if we don't repeal it. That's why it's essential that every SSDP chapter band together and participate in the HEA Week of Action on October 15-19. Prior to the Week of Action, SSDP's national staff will send postcards and phone scripts that you can use to generate written communication and phone calls to Congress. But if you're feeling creative, we'd love for you to do something exciting to generate media around the issue. Visit http://www.ssdp.org/weekofaction for further information.
Date: 
Mon, 10/15/2007 - 10:00am - Fri, 10/19/2007 - 6:00pm
Location: 
United States

Students: Intern at DRCNet and Help Stop the Drug War!

Want to help end the "war on drugs," while earning college credit too? Apply for a DRCNet internship for this fall semester (or spring) and you could come join the team and help us fight the fight!

DRCNet (also known as "Stop the Drug War") has a strong record of providing substantive work experience to our interns -- you won't spend the summer doing filing or running errands, you will play an integral role in one or more of our exciting programs. Options for work you can do with us include coalition outreach as part of the campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, and to expand that effort to encompass other bad drug laws like the similar provisions in welfare and public housing law; blogosphere/web outreach; media research and outreach; web site work (research, writing, technical); possibly other areas. If you are chosen for an internship, we will strive to match your interests and abilities to whichever area is the best fit for you.

While our internships are unpaid, we will reimburse you for metro fare, and DRCNet is a fun and rewarding place to work. To apply, please send your resume to David Guard at [email protected], and feel free to contact us at (202) 293-8340. We hope to hear from you! Check out our web site at http://stopthedrugwar.org to learn more about our organization.

Certification: White House Says 20 Countries Are Major Drug Producing or Trafficking Nations, But Only Two Political Enemies Get Decertified

In an annual exercise of US prerogative, the White House Monday released this year's Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2008. While the document listed 20 countries as major drug trafficking or producing countries, only two political enemies of the US, Myanmar and Venezuela, were listed as having "failed demonstrably" to live up to US demands about how they fight the drug trade.

Under the US Foreign Assistance Act, countries that fail to live up to US drug-fighting expectations are barred from many forms of US aid. But the US government can waive such a bar if it believes it is in its interests to do so.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/leaves-drying-in-warehouse.jpg
Coca leaves drying in warehouse outside Shinahota, Bolivia. The sign reads ''Coca Power and Territory, Dignity and Sovereignty, Regional Congress 2006-08'' (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith, 2007)
The performance of the world's biggest drug consuming county and one of its leading marijuana producers, the United States, was not measured in the annual certification exercise.

The 20 countries on the "Majors List" are Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

While Afghanistan now produces 93% of the world's opium supply, President Bush praised Afghan President Karzai for strongly attacking the drug trade. Similarly, although Mexico remains a major conduit for drugs coming into the US, aggressive drug war efforts by President Felipe Calderón kept it on the US' good side.

The US remains concerned about high-potency marijuana coming from Canada. The problem, Bush said, is that "growers do not consistently face strict legal punishment."

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the certification exercise was the certification of Bolivia despite longstanding and loudly-expressed US concerns over the Bolivian government's "zero cocaine, but not zero coca" policy. Calling Bolivian cooperation "uneven," the document noted that "the Bolivian government has cooperated closely on interdiction, and operations and seizures have reached record levels. The government is on track to reach 5,600 hectares of eradication this year, surpassing its goal of 5,000 hectares."

Still, the Bush administration worried that Bolivia has "focused primarily on interdiction, to the exclusion of its other essential complements, especially coca crop eradication." It called on Bolivia to "eliminate permissiveness in licit cultivation."

Venezuela, whose President Hugo Chávez is a major irritant to Washington, was decertified for the third year in a row, a move that appears to be tied primarily to Venezuela's refusal to allow the DEA to operate in the country, although Washington also cited corruption and lax enforcement.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cocaine-and-precursor-search.jpg
US-funded FELCN (Special Force for the Struggle Against Narcotics) checkpoint between Cochabamba and the Chapare, Bolivia, search being conducted for cocaine and precursors (Phil Smith, 2007)
Venezuelan Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez denounced the US decertification as part of Washington's "psychotic" relationship with Caracas. Washington lies about Venezuela, according to Rodríguez, because, "They know that they are exposed to our process of change that... promotes multilateralism and that will put an end to the polarization that the US has maintained as the police force of the world."

The decertification of Venezuela would normally lead to sanctions in the form of reducing financial support to the country by half. However, citing "vital national interests," -- Venezuela is the fourth largest oil exporter to the US accounting for 1.1 to 1.5 million barrels per day -- the Bush administration said it would waive sanctions for a second year.

"The waiver allows us to continue to support some of their democratic institutions and their society," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counter-Narcotics, Christy McCampbell, told a press conference in Washington Monday.

The only reason for the waiver was to further subvert Venezuela, said Rodríguez. "The groups that receive dirty money from the US do it to put the brakes on the process of change and transformation that Venezuela has sovereignly decided to exercise," he said.

Take this drug tax and...

click on image to enlarge in separate window This week saw some good news, when a Tennessee judge ruled that the state's "drug tax" -- a drug war revenue collection scheme in which people involved with illegal drugs are required to incriminate themselves by paying taxes, and can be billed after the fact for the tax plus penalties -- is unconstitutional. The ruling came in the case of Steven Waters of Knoxville, who was billed $55,000 in 2005 for a kilogram of cocaine that had been valued at $12,000. Scurrilously, the state intends to continue enforcing the tax as if the ruling never happened, for as long as they can get away with it. The drug tax notice posted here, from which we blotted out the personal information, was sent to us by one of our readers. The state of Iowa is prosecuting him and trying to take his family's house that they've owned since building it in 1876 -- obviously not built with drug money, as he pointed out. The tax, as you can see, is well over $100,000. Because the tax action is civil, not criminal, the level of due process he has available to him is much less -- no judge approved this notice, the revenue agency is just saying he owes them 136K and he better pay up. He hasn't even gone to trial yet, and the notice doesn't even specify the quantity or value of the marijuana. It looks like they treat drug taxes more harshly than other kinds of tax dealt with on the form, as it says "If this assessment is for drug taxes, you have 60 days to appeal, but you cannot pay the amount shown and then file a refund claim after repayment." Our friend claims his innocence, and he made the following argument in one of his emails to me:

"The pot that I am being taxed on was found in containers on my property which I couldn't see from my house. I had less than an ounce in my house. You would think if I were going to keep that much valuable pot just laying in the weeds where anyone could help themselves to it, I would have at least put no trespassing signs on my place, which I didn't."
"You should see the list of damage they did to my things," he added.

widely-distributed Tennessee drug tax stamp image While I haven't independently verified our reader's account, I believe him, and will continue to unless I learn reasons why I shouldn't. But it almost doesn't matter, because the laws and the punishments are so unjust in any case. And there's no question, if you want to frame someone, in this case maybe even get his house, there's no easier way to do it than with drugs. As he put it, "Pretty good way to rob someone, just put some containers of hemp on his place at night where he can't see it, then take what you want." And while we don't know if that's what happened, again, it almost doesn't matter, from a policy level at least, because it couldn't be easier to do, and therefore it undoubtedly does happen. We run police corruption stories in our newsletter every week, and this week we have a piece of misspending of asset forfeiture funds too. This case involves multiple issues. It involves asset forfeiture, it involves the drug tax, it involves the always unjust prohibition laws, and it demonstrates the potential at least for framing and abuse. Back in Tennessee, it also seems to involve the arrogance of an agency that thinks it can ignore a judge's ruling with impunity, and sadly is probably right. Since the issue of the week is drug taxes (thanks to an enlightened Tennessee jurist), I will conclude this time by saying, "take this drug tax and..."

Location: 
IA
United States

Drug Penalties: Tennessee Appeals Court Finds Drug Tax Unconstitutional

(See David Borden's blog post this morning on this topic.)

In a September 6 opinion, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled the state's tax on illegal drugs, widely known as the crack tax, is unconstitutional. The state cannot impose a tax on items it considers illegal, such as illicit drugs or moonshine, the court held.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/tn-drug-stamp.jpg
widely-posted Tennessee drug tax stamp image
Under the law, which went into effect in 2005, Tennessee has collected more than $6 million from drug suspects. Much of the money came from confiscated property.

In the case before the court, Steven Waters of Knoxville was arrested in 2005 shortly after purchasing a kilogram of cocaine valued at $12,000 from an informant. A few days later, the Tennessee Department of Revenue sent Waters a tax assessment demanding more than $55,000. It also filed a tax lien against real property owned by Waters and seized $4,000 from his bank account.

Waters sued, charging the tax violated constitutional self incrimination, due process, and equal rights protections under both the state and the federal constitutions. A trial court found in Waters' favor, and now, the state Court of Appeals has agreed.

The state cannot impose an excise (or "privilege") tax on items it has criminalized, the court held: "Because it seeks to levy a tax on the privilege to engage in an activity that the Legislature has previously declared to be a crime, not a privilege, we must necessarily conclude that the Drug Tax is arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable, and therefore, invalid under the Constitution of this state," the opinion read.

The state of Tennessee has 60 days to file an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Department of Revenue says it plans to appeal and will continue collecting the tax in the meantime.

More than 20 other states have similar illegal drug tax laws.

Getting Busted for Pot Can Cost Your Right to Vote

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
AlterNet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/58346/

Ex-cons' sentences don't always end with release

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
USA Today
URL: 
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-07-22-ex-cons_N.htm

Report: Life Sentences: Collateral Sanctions Associated with Marijuana Offenses

The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics has released an important new report, "Life Sentences: Collateral Sanctions Associated with Marijuana Offenses," detailing the range of extra penalties that people with marijuana convictions can continue to suffer even after their criminal punishment is completed, including state-by-state summaries. According to CCLE: "Our latest study examines the true impact of a marijuana conviction. A misdemeanor conviction for possession of marijuana can trigger automatic bars on educational aid, a bar on serving as a foster parent, denial of federal housing assistance, revocation or suspension of occupational licenses, suspension of one’s driver’s license, and much more."
Location: 
United States

Feature: Move to Undo Higher Education Act Drug Provision Passes Senate Committee

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) passed legislation Wednesday that among other things would remove the infamous "drug question" from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the form used by tens of millions of students each year to apply for college financial aid, leaving opponents of the drug conviction/financial aid ban optimistic of winning repeal this year.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/capitolsenateside.jpg
US Capitol
The Higher Education Access Act of 2007, budget reconciliation legislation that at the time of this publishing did not yet appear to have a bill number, includes language stating that "The Secretary shall not require a student to provide information regarding the student's possession or sale of a controlled substance on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or any other financial reporting form described in section 483(a)." While the drug provision itself would remain on the books, the mechanism currently used for enforcing it -- and the only obvious mechanism for enforcing it -- would be eliminated by order of Congress.

The provision, in effect since the 2000-2001 school year, bars students with drug convictions from receiving college financial aid for specified periods of time. Since then, more than 200,000 would-be students have been barred from receiving federal financial aid after answering "yes" to the drug question.

Until last year, the provision authored by ardent drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) applied to any drug conviction. But following a campaign by students and more than 330 health, civil rights, criminal justice, education, and religious organizations organized under the umbrella of the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR), and extensive criticism of the law in the mainstream media, Souder and others moved to have it scaled back to apply only to offenses committed while the applicants were in school and receiving federal Title IV aid. Buoyed by the Democratic takeover of Congress in last November's elections, which put repeal supporters in charge of key Congressional committees, reformers continued to lobby for outright repeal of the provision this year.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/fafsa.jpg
FAFSA form
That's not quite what happened in the Senate HELP Committee Wednesday. Instead of repealing the provision outright, the committee voted to remove the drug question from the FAFSA. The measure passed easily as part of the education bill sponsored by the chairman and ranking member of HELP, powerful Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Michael Enzi (R-WY).

"We're thrilled that the committee has acted to make sure that students with drug convictions will no longer be automatically stripped of their aid and will be able to stay in school and on the path to success," said Tom Angell, government relations director at Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an organization whose very existence was inspired by the HEA drug provision. "While it would be more appropriate to simply erase the penalty from the law books altogether, we support the committee's effort to make sure that students with drug convictions can get aid just like anyone else."

"CHEAR is ecstatic," said David Guard, a spokesman for coalition. "It's looking likely that our nine years of hard work are about to pay off in a big way." The HEA drug provision had always been Rep. Souder's baby and Souder's alone, according to Guard. "This has always basically been one moralizing man's crusade," he said. "While we've managed to put together a really broad-based coalition, Souder has mostly been out there alone on this one."

The Senate is one thing, but repealing or changing the law also requires action in the House of Representatives. According to SSDP's Angell, the prospects look very good there indeed.

"We fully expect the HEA reauthorization bill in the House will include full repeal," he said, citing the support of key committee members who support it led by House Education and Labor Committee chairman Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and including Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and Rob Andrews (D-NJ).

If repeal language survives the process in the House, as seems likely, it will still require action in a joint congressional conference committee. Such a committee will have to reconcile any differences between the House and Senate legislation, including the difference between repeal and mere removal of the question from the form. Also, repeal language on the House side is more likely to appear in the HEA reauthorization bill, not in budget reconciliation as happened in the Senate.

"It's a little confusing right now how all that is going to play out," said Angell. "Will there be one conference for the reauthorization bill and one for the budget? We don't know yet," he said. But in either case, Angell was fairly optimistic that outright repeal could be achieved. "We think the Senate HELP committee has expressed its intent to not see this penalty enforced anymore, so with full repeal language in the House, we'll be in a good position to really, finally achieve repeal."

But that's getting a little bit ahead of the game. While chances are good for HEA drug provision repeal this year, it isn't a done deal yet, and there is always Souder lurking in the wings. "There is still a lot of work to be done," said Angell. "We have to make sure there are no hostile amendments on the floor, and Souder is still on the committee. He's sure to offer an amendment, and we need to be arming our allies in Congress with the information they need to defeat that amendment."

Nevertheless, reformers consider the situation to be highly promising. If repeal happens this year, it will be the first time that a federal drug law has been repealed since 1970. Let's hope that's a harbinger of other good things yet to come.

Court Asked to Revive Challenge to Student Loan Restrictions

Location: 
Pierre, SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
Sioux City Journal
URL: 
http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2007/04/18/news/south_dakota/72ed44ec187db074862572c1000f281d.prt

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School