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The Week Online with DRCNet
(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)

Issue #235, 5/3/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: Return of the Drug Czars
  2. Former British Drug Policy Head Says Legalize it All
  3. Thai Police Death Squads Accused of Killing Drug Dealers
  4. South Dakota Amendment Would Give Criminal Defendants Right to Argue Merits, Applicability and Validity of Laws
  5. Summer Concert Bust Season Gets Early Start in Alabama -- Rockers Can Take Steps to Protect Themselves, Say Advocates
  6. It's National Drug Court Month -- Do You Know What You're Getting for Your Money? The Government Doesn't, Says GAO
  7. Newsbrief: Washington Says Colombian Military Meets Human Rights Conditions, Frees More Money
  8. Newsbrief: Japan to Outlaw Magic Mushrooms, Loophole Slams Shut
  9. Newsbrief: China Faces Plague of Yuppie Dopers as Disposable Income in Cities Rises
  10. Newsbrief: Prospects Dimming For Vermont Medical Marijuana Bill
  11. Newsbrief: Italian Legislative Body Asks for Medical Marijuana
  12. Newsbrief: BC Marijuana Party Head to Run for Vancouver Mayor
  13. Newsbrief: Eleven House Pages Fired for Marijuana Use -- NORML Offers Them Jobs
  14. Newsbrief: Connecticut Carpenters Strike Over Wages, Drug Testing
  15. Web Scan: De Greiff, Blumenson, Weitzel, GAO, Canada
  16. Errata: Drug War Race
  17. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Editorial: Return of the Drug Czars

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 5/3/02

One of the pillars propping up support for drug prohibition is the appearance that legalization is almost universally opposed, a scenario called for only by some on the fringe, or an impossible goal regardless of its support, and therefore not worth devoting serious consideration or discussion.

But as New Mexico's Republican governor, Gary Johnson, has pointed out, support for the drug war is a mile wide but an inch deep. The flaws in our prohibitionist drug policy are so stark, and so fundamental, that it is not hard to get people to begin to rethink their assumptions. For all the criticism Gov. Johnson received when he first came out publicly for legalization, some minds were opened as a result of his efforts.

They were not always the loudest voices. But repeal of drug prohibition suddenly became, to many who had previously regarded legalization dismissively, an option within the realm of the public debate. That doesn't mean they were all convinced. But they began to think about it; they became a little more receptive to the idea, a little more willing to think through some of the arguments. The same can be said for former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, respected publications like National Review and The Economist, many others.

During the past several days, two former "drug czar" types have returned to the public forum to add more fuel to the discussion. In an interview published last weekend by the London newspaper The Independent on Sunday, Mo Mowlam, who previously directed drug policy for the Tony Blair administration, called for legalization; the money in the drug trade, she said, is too powerful, and legalization is the only way to break the drugs-crime nexus.

The week before, in a speech delivered at the Colegio de Mexico, Colombia's former prosecutor general, Gustavo de Greiff, repeated his longstanding denunciation of the drug war. De Greiff had directed the operation that defeated the murderous drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose Medellin cartel had terrorized Colombia by assassinating literally hundreds of politicians, judges, candidates and others. But with the blood of Escobar and his victims still fresh in the public's mind, de Greiff proceeded to tell every audience he could, through US national television among other venues, that it wouldn't make any difference. The next drug cartel might be a little less confrontational than Escobar's organization, but they will produce just as much cocaine, and just as many people will buy it, said de Greiff.

Both Mowlam and de Greiff have taken the controversial, but logical and principled position that drug prohibition must be ended across the board, not only for soft drugs like marijuana. Such direct pronouncements make drug warriors terribly frightened that their rhetorical house of cards may be on the verge of collapse. Mowlam detractors have dismissed her as "daft." When former Secretary of State George Shultz was reported to have made similar remarks to Mowlam's, a spokesperson for the previous Bush administration claimed he was being "silly."

Worse, de Greiff opponents such as Sen. John Kerry and the US State and Justice Departments displayed brutal McCarthyism in their attacks on him when he began to speak out years ago; it literally reached the point where Colombian officials grew fearful of diplomatic and economic reprisals by the US government. That is the depth of the opposition to open debate on this issue of many, though fortunately not all, in the US political establishment that purports to stand for freedom and democracy.

The intellectual integrity of former European drug policy leaders like Mowlam and de Greiff stands in stark contrast to the performances of our own past and present drug czars. ONDCP directors from William Bennett to Lee Brown to Barry McCaffrey and now John Walters have indulged in an ongoing festival of propaganda and deceit. Each in their official capacity and continuing into private life have routinely distorted statistics, or even made them up entirely, in order to defend the most excessive outrages of prohibition, such as bans against medical marijuana and needle exchange.

Voices such as Mowlam's and de Greiff's are growing in strength and number, and will one day transform public opinion and change the world for the better. Though that rosy scenario may seem impossible, in fact the possibilities lie just beneath the surface. One only needs to know where to look. Truth ultimately defeats any evil empire, and the drug war is no exception.

2. Former British Drug Policy Head Says Legalize it All

Former cabinet minister Mo Mowlam, who ran Prime Minister Tony Blair's drug policy until less than a year ago, has called for the legalization of all drugs. She said legalizing and taxing the drug trade was the only solution in an interview with the London newspaper the Independent on Sunday. During her tenure as the Labour government's minister responsible for drug policy, she sparred repeatedly with other ministers and her boss over medical marijuana, cannabis decriminalization, and whether even to study the possible benefits of legalization and taxation. After leaving office last summer, Mowlam called for the legalization of cannabis.

Mowlam's remarks come a week after Liberal Democratic Member of Parliament Dr. Jenny Tonge, her party's spokesperson on international development, called for the legalization of cocaine and government-managed heroin by prescription ( These are only the latest in a series of high-profile defections from Britain's drug war, a process that began about the time Mowlam pronounced for cannabis legalization last summer and has encompassed prominent figures from across the British establishment.

Speaking to the Independent on Sunday as her autobiography is set to hit the bookstores, Mowlam said: "I am arguing for legalizing all drugs because I don't think there is any other way. You have to take the financial nexus out of it. If you can do that, you can pay people to produce it, as they do with tobacco, and tax it. I think it's the most effective way because in the end, you can never stop it. If the kids get hold of it because it's a high, they will get hold of it. Why not regulate it, take the tax from it and deal with addiction?"

Taxation, with revenues directed to treatment would reduce harms, she said. "You'd have the money from the tax, which if it were ring-fenced [ear-marked] for working with addicts, whether cannabis, pills, barbiturates, coke or heroin, you'd have a chance of beating it," she added.

Mowlam, who like Member of Parliament Dr. Jenny Tonge last week, has seen first-hand the devastation wrought on Colombia by prohibitionist drug policies, said that Colombia had convinced her that British drug policy needed a dramatic redirection and that frontline workers in the drug war around the world agreed with her. "The thing that hit me was the money that drives it. I don't think we can stop it and there are a number of people in other countries, and police and social workers, who agree with me. We have to face up to the reality."

Mowlam's remarks are a step beyond her previous public statements, which had criticized Labour drug policy and called for cannabis legalization. Last July, after leaving politics, she ripped Blair's rigid line on marijuana, saying: "What I am concerned with is the hypocritical and confusing situation we are in at the moment. From my time with the government's drug policy I have come to the conclusion that we must decriminalize cannabis. It is a view I know that many in the police, social workers and others working with cannabis smokers fully agree with," she said.

Mowlam's mouthings have not endeared her to her former colleagues in government, already irritated by other blasts at them in her much-leaked autobiography. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, called her "daft Mo" -- and that was the day before her latest remarks. And while the government has announced the pending decriminalization of cannabis and is under pressure on numerous fronts, from prescription heroin to down-scheduling ecstasy, there is no sign the Blairites will give legalization any serious consideration. Still, the pressure mounts.

3. Thai Police Death Squads Accused of Killing Drug Dealers

The Thai government executed three drug traffickers in Bangkok on April 24, but according to activists in northeast Thailand, local police are not waiting on the approval of the courts to summarily execute people they believe are drug dealers. Thai officials last week declared Kalasin province in the northeast "drug free," but the feat was accomplished by a campaign of death squad murders, said members of two local human rights groups, the Kalasin Network and the People's Rights and Freedom Association.

According to reports in the Bangkok Post, local activists said at least two drug dealers in each of the province's 3,000 had been executed, their bodies sometimes left to rot in the streets. Anti-drug villagers organized by Thai authorities would mark the homes of death squad targets by placing sandalwood flowers -- used in cremations -- at their doors, the Post reported.

Angkhana Songsilp of the Kalasin Network told the Post the campaign wasn't limited to drug dealers. "Many addicts and dealers" were killed, she said. The situation in the province was "very tense," Songsilp added.

Pairoj Polapetch, the director of the People's Rights and Freedom Association told the Post that the extra-judicial executions were no way to deal with the drug problem. "We must not pander to the desire for street justice," he said.

Although Thai officials denied that the killings occurred, they appear to be an open secret in Kalasin. Phuan Wewikwan, headman of Som Sa-ard village, said the surrounding area was now drug free after three drug dealers were killed last year. Similarly, Son Sanghhathad of Na Rud Sim village told the Post local drug problems had lessened since police killed two dealers nearby. But villagers are now wary of revenge attacks, they said. "What we want now are guns for villagers who must man the checkpoints at night," said Wewikwan. "The volunteers are afraid of danger without arms," he said.

Villagers are manning checkpoints as part of the Thai government's efforts to enlist local populations in an anti-drug network that gathers intelligence for Thai anti-drug police. The scheme, now in its third year, has grown to include 200,000 people in Kalasin. Information gathered by this government-organized network aided police and Thai military units in a series of offensives aimed at drug traders and users, the Post reported.

Northeast Thailand sits astride major smuggling routes from Burma, where rebel groups such as the United Wa States Army produce methamphetamines and heroin. According to Thai government officials, some 100,000 people were involved in the drug trade in the northeast and as many as 300,000 were drug users. But in ceremonies last week declaring Kalasin province drug-free, Thai authorities said the province now had no drug dealers and only a thousand or so users, and vowed to extend the campaign to other provinces.

But the Kalasin Network's Songsilp called the claim "propaganda" by the government. She told the Post the operation had only displaced the trade and drug users to neighboring provinces. Many users moved from fear of arrest after police announced an imminent crackdown, she said. The Kalasin Network treated addicts in facilities in the province, but many had fled.

As for the three executed drug traffickers in Bangkok, hill tribesmen from the northeast who had been caught with 560,000 tablets of "crazy medicine," the Thai term for methamphetamine, in December, 1997, they were shot in the head at Bang Kwang Maximum Security Prison after being given a final meal and Buddhist prayers. They were Jai Songoh, age 38, Kulchanok Intesaraj, age 24, and Netnoi Sangkad, age 36.

Global human rights watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both professed ignorance of the situation to DRCNet this week.

4. South Dakota Amendment Would Give Criminal Defendants Right to Argue Merits, Applicability and Validity of Laws

This November, voters in South Dakota will have the opportunity to pass judgment on what could potentially be the most radical criminal justice reform seen in this country in decades. The potential amendment to the South Dakota constitution, known as the Common Sense Justice Amendment (CJSA-Amendment A), would allow criminal defendants in state courts the right to "argue the merits, validity and applicability of the law, including the sentencing laws."

The South Dakota legal establishment is less than enthused. South Dakota Attorney General Mark Barnett opposes the amendment, as does the South Dakota Bar Association, the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association and the Unified Judicial System.

Mike Day, head of the state bar, declared war on the amendment in an editorial in the April issue of the bar journal, but did so in a way that must have left readers scratching their heads. Calling the amendment a form of jury nullification, Day cited its use against unjust laws in the past, noting in particular the Volstead Act (alcohol prohibition) and the Fugitive Slave Act. He then noted that, "Advocates suggest that the jury has a role to play by refusing to enforce laws which do not command the support of its citizens."

But then Day argued that legislators are so infallible that jurors who would acquit defendants who attacked the justness of a law would be committing a sin against democracy. "Advocating the right of a jury of 12 non-elected citizens chosen at random to disregard a law passed on by our elected representatives and signed by our elected governor is almost as anti-democratic as one can get," Day wrote. "Amendment A must be defeated. We must preserve the rule of the law in South Dakota," he concluded. Day did not state whether he also considered jurors' resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act to have been anti-democratic.

Attorneys and legislators have reason to be worried, said University of South Dakota law professor Chris Hutton. "This is a form of jury nullification that allows jurors to get around mandatory minimums, drug laws, felony DUIs or any law that is being applied unjustly," she told DRCNet. "If this passes, it could be a political and legal earthquake," she said. "If this passes, it would be open season on the law."

Hermosa, SD, resident Bob Newland is working to make it so. Newland, a one-man wrecking crew who also heads the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Council and South Dakota NORML, told DRCNet the CSJA would allow South Dakotans to get bad laws off the books. "It's tough to get a bad law repealed," he said. "Every year, someone moves to repeal a law, and every year the police, the sheriffs, and the Highway Patrol come to the capitol and say 'yes, there are too many laws, but we really need this one,' and the law remains."

Law professor Hutton implicitly backed Newland. "The laws are not always applied justly," she said, "and our legislators should respond to popular concerns and enact laws that are fairly applied, but that doesn't always happen."

CSJA would force a response, said Newland. "If jury after jury refuses to convict people on certain charges, the prosecutors will eventually quit filing those cases, and they will go the legislature and tell it to fix or repeal those laws. That is hardly anti-democratic."

South Dakota's drug laws are the primary, but not the only, target of the CSJA. "There are a whole range of crimes that create no victims," said Newland. "Since the courts don't allow defendants to argue the merits of those laws at trial, that prevents people from saying 'yes, I smoked a joint, but there was no harm and thus no crime, and this is a stupid law -- you should not convict me.'" Drug offenders are the largest group who might take advantage of the CSJA, said Newland, because "that's the majority of arrests these days." But he added, there is a case in South Dakota of a woman accused of practicing midwifery without a license. There are home-schoolers whom some counties require to register their kids with the school district. There are naturopaths and homeopaths accused of practicing medicine without a license, he added. "Another possible class of defendant is people who don't believe citizens need a permit to carry a concealed weapon," he continued. "In fact, Gunowners of South Dakota has endorsed the CSJA," he said.

Although the campaign is being run on a shoestring and has not been able to pay for statewide polling, Newland evinces a fair degree of confidence. "We're getting support from everyone who isn't a cop, a prosecutor, or a lawyer," he laughed. "Even Rapid City businessmen who distrust me because of my marijuana advocacy understand they could be brought in on bogus charges. This is not a left-right issue," he said.

While opposition has so far been low-key, Newland expects things to heat up as election-day draws near. "We're looking to fund some radio advertising and raise our profile," he said. "And this will be the hottest issue on the ballot as we get close to the election, because no one will give a shit about the candidates by then," he said.

Visit to check out CJSA online.

5. Summer Concert Bust Season Gets Early Start in Alabama -- Rockers Can Take Steps to Protect Themselves, Say Advocates

A three-day concert last weekend by the Athens, GA-based band Widespread Panic, popular among college students, saw 200 fans arrested on drug charges by law enforcement authorities at the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Pelham, AL. One woman died after apparently taking ecstasy, according to Pelham police; another "spreadhead," as the band's fans sometimes refer to themselves, committed suicide at a nearby motel. But the deaths were not the cause of the arrests, which were part of an operation planned in advance before the shows.

The arrests in Alabama are a harbinger of increased police drug enforcement activity at rock concert, raves and other music venues as the summer concert season looms, but concertgoers need not remain defenseless before the narcs. They can instead educate themselves about how to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and then do so, said Steven Silverman of the newly-formed organization Flex Your Rights ( Other activists have suggested proactive responses as well.

At Oak Mountain, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Pelham Police Department carefully crafted "Operation Don't Panic" to target drug use and underage drinking at the concert. According to the Birmingham News, the operation "involved thousands of dollars, hundreds of worker hours and dozens of uniformed and plainclothes officers. It was one of the biggest ABC operations in recent memory," the newspaper noted.

Teams of undercover agents prowled the parking lots and concert grounds before and during the shows, attempting to purchase drugs from unwary vendors and to arrest distracted users. According to press accounts, the line-up of the arrested was a veritable cross-section of young, white America: a prison guard, a high school student, a criminal justice major, a Department of Energy employee, a construction worker, an itinerant vendor. Police reported seizing marijuana, cocaine, Oxycontin, nitrous oxide and ecstasy, among other proscribed substances.

"What they did to me was totally uncool," said Jason Bartlett, 30, a spreadhead and self-described ski bum from Colorado, who was arrested Friday and spent 20 hours in jail before a friend posted bail for his misdemeanor marijuana arrest. "We don't want to lose our scene. We are trying not to lose our vibe, but we are definitely scared."

Widespread Panic, a band that has taken up the mantle left first by the Grateful Dead and then by Phish as the band to follow across the country, was an obvious target -- or more precisely, its fans were. Widespread Panic shows saw 40 arrested at Valdosta State University in Georgia last October, 45 arrested in Charleston, SC, last November, and 53 arrested at Mississippi State University in April 2001.

But they aren't the only ones. With a bill in Congress targeting music event promoters for drug activity at their events (, the war on rave culture is already well underway, and with summer blockbuster tours such as Ozzfest and the Vans Warped Tour preparing to hit the road, rock and rave fans will be in the law enforcement crosshairs.

Many of them can avoid being arrested if they learn how to properly exercise their constitutional rights against unlawful searches and seizures, said Flex Your Rights' Silverman. "These folks need to understand that police officers see rock concerts as a target-rich environment," he told DRCNet. "People need to be in a self-preservation mode considering the zero-tolerance atmosphere in which we live," he said.

"Avoiding arrest on a drug charge is harm reduction," said Silverman. "We believe that the worst danger, especially with marijuana, is that of being arrested. If we can reduce the likelihood of people being arrested, we are doing harm reduction, from the perspective of both the individual and society at large," he explained.

"Do not do anything illegal in public," advised Silverman, who recently began taking his Flex Your Rights presentation before college student audiences. "Don't have contraband in plain view. If you are doing something illegal -- which we don't condone -- do it in the privacy of your own home."

But Silverman acknowledged that many people will possess and consume illicit drugs at concert events. In that case, Silverman said, if they encounter police, three rules should guide their conduct. "First, concertgoers do not have to talk to a police officer. If there is a problem, the question you always want to ask is, 'Officer, am I free to go? Or simply say 'I'm leaving' and then leave. If the officer prevents you from leaving, ask, 'Am I under arrest or being detained?' If not, you are free to leave. Do so. Immediately. And don't go back. Be courteous and non-confrontational, always call them sir or ma'am," he counseled. "We are not against the police, but we are trying to prevent police misconduct." That misconduct occurs any time police officers attempt to persuade or intimidate citizens into forfeiting their rights, Silverman said.

"Second -- and this is our single most important bit of advice -- never, ever consent to a warrantless search. Let me repeat: Never, ever consent to a warrantless search," Silverman emphasized. "If the police officer is asking your permission to search you, your car, or your property, that should be an alarm. He is telling you he does not have probable cause to search. He is saying, 'I can only search with your consent.' Do not consent. You have nothing to lose by not consenting and everything to lose if you do. Once you have consented to a search, you have waived your Fourth Amendment right to be free of unwarranted searches and seizures."

"Third," Silverman enumerated, "if you are arrested, keep your mouth shut. Don't think you can persuade the officer to let you go out of the kindness of his heart. Most likely, the officer will use anything you say to build a case against you. You have the right not to talk to the police without an attorney present -- flex that right," said Silverman.

Drug-using concertgoers need to pay attention to their surroundings, said Silverman. "You should plan for these places to be swarming with police and undercover officers," he said. "Watch out for them. And never give even a small amount of contraband to someone you don't know at a show," he said. "Your potential possession charge just turned into a possible felony distribution arrest."

Avoiding arrest is one thing. Helping others avoid arrest can also be done, often merely by alerting inattentive crowd members to the presence of police. The Birmingham News reported that at various points during police operations at Oak Mountain, operations were disrupted when undercover agents were loudly outed by cries of "narc" or "six-up" [an apparently distorted reference to "Hawaii Five-Oh"]. Spontaneous actions by the crowd at the 4th of July smoke-in in Washington, DC, last summer served a similar purpose. At that event, sharp-eyed and militant crowd members fanned out ahead of approaching police warning unwary tokers of the danger while other crowd members surrounded and loudly berated the woebegone -- and now quite ineffective -- narcs. The police gave up their forays into the crowd, instead limiting themselves to the event's fringes in hopes of picking off a young victim.

In some cases at smoke-ins, concerts, and political protests, people have "unarrested" others detained by police, physically wresting the detainee from police and allowing him or her to disappear into the safety of the crowd. This tactic, however, is rife with danger because it could lead to melees, police riots or felony assault arrests.

6. It's National Drug Court Month -- Do You Know What You're Getting for Your Money? The Government Doesn't, Says GAO

Even while drug czar John Walters and DEA head Asa Hutchinson were touting the virtues of drug courts as they kicked off National Drug Court Month at a ceremony at the Oregon State Capitol, Congress's accounting watchdog, the General Accounting Office (GAO), was wondering just what the federal government was getting for the $217 million dollars it has spent so far encouraging their creation and expansion. Drug courts, the schizophrenic offspring of an unholy marriage between medicine and the criminal justice system, were pioneered in Dade County, FL, under then prosecutor Janet Reno in 1989, and have now spread to 800 jurisdictions across the country. Of those, 560 have received some federal funding. Drug courts typically order offenders into drug treatment with judges coercing compliance with abstinence-based programs through an escalating series of penal sanctions, ranging from a few hours in jail for a first-time relapser to a prison sentence for a chronic relapser.

Based on anecdotal evidence and emotional accounts of success stories, drug courts have been lauded as a vital tool in the government's effort to reduce drug use. They have been particularly popular with drug war hardliners, such as Walters, who may have been forced to swallow drug treatment, but who are true believers in the power of coercion. He said as much in Salem on April 26, when he lauded Oregon as a leader in the drug court movement and praised drug court judges for their ability to use their legal clout to impose the path of abstinence on defendants.

"Unlike bureaucrats and administrators," said Walters, "judges have a particular ability to give directions and know that those directions are going to be followed." Both Walters and Hutchinson called for more federal support of drug courts, with Walters saying the courts are "something we can probably expand even more rapidly" through grants to the states.

Walters and Hutchinson might want to check out the GAO's April 22 report, "Drug Courts: Better DOJ Collection and Evaluation Data Needed to Measure Impact of Drug Court Programs" ( After studying Department of Justice compliance with earlier requests that it tighten its drug court reporting, the GAO last week found that Justice "continues to lack vital information on the overall impact of funded drug court programs."

In other words, Justice doesn't know little things like recidivism rates and relapse rates about the program it touts so highly, the GAO said. Among other things, the Department of Justice didn't know the number of federally-funded drug court programs, the number of drug court programs that responded to its Drug Court Program Office (DCPO) survey, and how many drug court defendants committed more crimes. According to the GAO, such data is available, especially through the Drug Court Clearinghouse, but "various administrative and research factors hampered" thorough use of information sources and completion of key studies.

As a result, the GAO concluded, the Justice Department cannot accurately "assess whether drug court programs are an effective use of federal funds." The GAO had similar complaints in a 1998 audit, but Justice has apparently made little progress.

The audit was requested by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who told the Birmingham News it was not designed to impugn drug courts, but to determine whether tax dollars were being spent wisely. Sessions was not encouraged by the report, but still held hope that a complete evaluation of the drug courts would bolster their case. "I believe it's going to show drug courts are effective and are cheaper than alternatives," he said, "but the federal government shouldn't spend $200 million on programs it doesn't have rigorous analysis of."

Now if someone would just clue in Walters and Hutchinson.

The pair got a clue about a different drug war reality as part of their swing through the Pacific Northwest. On April 25, as they talked with Whatcom (WA) County Sheriff Dale Brandland on the US-Canada border, he told them his jail was full because of drug prosecutions. Local judges and politicians are talking about easing up on marijuana offenders, the sheriff said. Walters replied: "I'm sorry to hear that... I will tell you that during this administration we will not give up."

7. Newsbrief: Washington Says Colombian Military Meets Human Rights Conditions, Frees More Money

Secretary of State Colin Powell certified Wednesday that the Colombian military has met human rights conditions mandated by Congress. The move frees up $62 million in US military assistance and comes in the face of harsh denunciations by human rights groups, who said that the Colombian military had failed to take "even minimal steps to meet the conditions."

The human rights conditions imposed by Congress had centered on ending impunity for military human rights abuses and breaking links between the military and the rightist paramilitaries of the AUC, which is officially designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department. "The decision to certify Colombia on human rights misrepresents the facts in order to keep the aid spigot open," Bill Spencer, executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America, told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch/Americas Director Jose Miguel Vivanco told AP that ties between the Colombian military and the AUC remain. "The administration is proposing millions in counterterrorism aid to Colombia even as the Colombian military refuses to break ties with a designated terrorist group," he said.

The Colombian military, on the other hand, was crowing in delight and counting its new money. "This is a recognition of the (military's) upright behavior," said Defense Minister Gustavo Bell.

US officials were unable to cite significant progress in reducing human rights abuses by the military. One official pointed to the case of the highest ranking officer in the Colombian Marines, who was accused of numerous human rights violations. He has been restricted to administrative duties as punishment.

8. Newsbrief: Japan to Outlaw Magic Mushrooms, Loophole Slams Shut

While Japan has some of the toughest drug laws in the industrialized world, a curious gap in the Japanese legal code has for years allowed aficionados of the magic mushroom and their suppliers to go about their business openly. Although Japanese law banned psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in such hallucinogenic fungi as amanita muscaria, the mushrooms themselves were never banned. But the Japanese Health Ministry announced April 26 that the loophole will slam shut as of June 6.

In a land where some over-the-counter cold medicines are routinely seized by customs officials, head shop chains with names such as Whoopee! and Herb On Air openly and legally sell psychedelic substances that would be Schedule I in the US. Vendors hawk the 'shrooms from sidewalk stands and magazines advertise for "Hawaiian toadstools," Reuters reported.

The US had taken note of the anomaly. In its 2001 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released in March, the State Department noted that: "Neither the possession, distribution, nor the importation of certain hallucinogenic plants is illegal in Japan, but efforts are underway to close this loophole."

And now the Japanese have acted, claiming public health concerns. "There have been concerns of abuse," a Health Ministry spokesman told Reuters. "Cases of young people doing harm to their health have been on the rise," he said.

A branch manager at the Psychedelic Gardens head shop in Tokyo's Nishi-Shinjuju district was mellow. "There's been talk of this for some time," he told Reuters. "We'll end sales on May 20. It's disappointing, but it can't be helped," he said.

9. Newsbrief: China Faces Plague of Yuppie Dopers as Disposable Income in Cities Rises

China has opened a new front in its war on drugs. Although the nation of 1.2 billion people boasts nearly a million government-identified heroin addicts, a significant methamphetamine habit, and a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic linked to injection drug use, Chinese authorities are now cracking down on a new threat: the yuppie party animal. According to the Straits Times (Singapore), police in Beijing have since February infiltrated 21,000 bars, discotheques and karaoke lounges, doing spot checks for drug users, and have warned or shut down 882 nightspots.

Many white-collar workers are using and dealing in stimulants, such as "ice" (smokable methamphetamine) and "shaking head pills" (as ecstasy is popularly known), Chinese public security officials said. The problem is particularly pronounced in big cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou, they added.

A Chinese sociologist consulted by the Straits Times cited a sort of malaise familiar among upscale young professionals across the industrialized world. Work is the center of their lives, said Chen Lisi of the China Youth College for Political Sciences. There is a spiritual vacuum, she said, and the pressures of city life only ad to the mix. "Young people are stressed out at work, and drugs help them relax. They have money to buy them and they don't think there's any harm in that," she said.

10. Newsbrief: Prospects Dimming For Vermont Medical Marijuana Bill

A whittled-down medical marijuana bill passed the Vermont Senate Health and Welfare Committee unanimously on April 25, but a busy legislative calendar, committee chairs with questions, and a Democratic governor who opposes the bill are combining to make final passage this year highly unlikely. The bill has passed the Vermont House on an 82-59 vote, but still needs to be endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Richard Sears (D-Bennington), has said he is sympathetic but swamped with other legislative work, and that he has some questions.

"We're going to do our best to take a look at the bill, but we are extremely limited on time to look at any bills," said Sears. "I'm empathetic to the needs of people who are suffering," Sears told the Times Argus on April 26. "And I hope that prosecutors would be sympathetic to that as well." But Sears expressed concerns about sending messages to young people. "I don't want to send the message to them that we're making one more drug legal," he said. Sounding like the doctor consoling the family of a patient about to die, he consoled medical marijuana advocates in advance. Even if the bill didn't pass this year, he said, its progress would help when it was introduced again.

Even if the bill were to make it out of committee and past a floor vote in the Senate, Gov. Howard Dean remains a likely obstacle. Although he has been quiet on a veto for fear of offending key constituencies, he is exploring a run for the presidency and is unlikely to change his longstanding opposition to medical marijuana if forced to decide.

No Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on medical marijuana were scheduled this week.

11. Newsbrief: Italian Legislative Body Asks for Medical Marijuana

On Monday, the Regional Council of Lombardy, Italy's most important regional legislative assembly, passed a motion asking "the Government and the Parliament to regulate the medical use of cannabis and its derivatives." The move could draw Italy more deeply into the ongoing international debate over medicinal uses of cannabis.

Although the motion was presented by the Transnational Radical Party/Bonino's list legislative bloc, it was also endorsed by a broad spectrum of other parties, including Forza Italia (the party of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi), the Christian Democrats, the Italian Peoples' Party, the Retired Party, the Socialists, the Greens and the Communist Refoundation Party.

Yasha Reibman, physician and Member of the Regional Council for the Transnational Radical Party, released the follow statement after the vote: "It is an historic decision, and thanks to this vote we can continue to defend freedom of cure both for the physicians and for the patients. Each physician should be allowed to prescribe the cure and the medicines that he deems, according to science and conscience, the most useful to the patients. Thousands of patients need the regulation of the medical use of cannabis to improve their quality of life."

12. Newsbrief: BC Marijuana Party Head to Run for Vancouver Mayor

Pot-seed empresario Marc Emery, the millionaire head of the British Columbia Marijuana Party, has announced that he will run for mayor of Vancouver, the province's largest city. He told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on April 25 that he will emphasize marijuana legalization, police practices and civil liberties in his campaign, and that he will be backed by a full slate of Marijuana Party candidates running for seats on the city council and park board.

Emery told CBC he had no illusions about winning the office, but he wanted to draw public attention to police maltreatment of marijuana users and growers. With an estimated 10,000 marijuana grow-ops in the city, Vancouver police raid grows on an almost daily basis, arresting growers, seizing children and fining landlords. "I'll be running on a campaign expressly about police corruption and police abuse and the terrible subjection of our liberties that has gone on in [outgoing Mayor] Philip Owens' last three terms," said Emery.

Emery placed fifth out of 58 candidates when he ran for mayor in 1996. The BC Marijuana Party gained 3% of the vote in parliamentary elections last year, but suffered defections over Emery's unabashed desire to control the direction of the party because he controlled the purse-strings. His is perhaps the most prominent voice in the Canadian marijuana legalization movement. In addition to his seed company, he is owner of Cannabis Culture magazine and has a long history of run-ins with the police. Just weeks ago, his home was raided in the predawn hours by police carrying a search warrant for a grow operation. None was found.

Outgoing Mayor Owens came out for marijuana legalization last March (

13. Newsbrief: Eleven House Pages Fired for Marijuana Use -- NORML Offers Them Jobs

Eleven teens working as pages in the US House of Representatives have been fired from their jobs after being caught using marijuana, the Capitol Hill tipsheet Roll Call reported Wednesday.

"The trouble started when one female page whose family lives in the Washington, DC, area brought several other pages to the family home unsupervised," wrote Roll Call's Ed Henry. "The pages involved allegedly smoked marijuana in the basement of the house." The female paged then allegedly "brought some drugs back to the House page dorm on Capitol Hill, where her roommate turned her in to authorities. That led to everyone involved being disciplined."

Roll Call reported that all eleven pages were sponsored by Republican House members.

On Wednesday afternoon, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( issued a news release offering jobs to the newly unemployed teens. "If they're good enough to serve as congressional pages and their proclivity is to smoke marijuana," said NORML Foundation executive director Allen St. Pierre, "then they sound like intern material to us!"

14. Newsbrief: Connecticut Carpenters Strike Over Wages, Drug Testing

About 3,000 unionized Connecticut carpenters went on strike Tuesday after statewide contract negotiations foundered over wage increases and random drug testing. The New England Regional Council of Carpenters rejected the latest offer from management, which called for a wage increase of up to $8.05 and demanded random drug tests. The union wants a $10.05 wage increase and opposes random and pre-employment drug testing, union spokesman Bert Durand told the New York Times.

15. Web Scan: De Greiff, Blumenson, Weitzel, GAO, Canada

Colombia's former Prosecutor General, Gustavo de Greiff, who directed the operation against the violent Medellin Cartel drug lord Pablo Escobar, blasted prohibition and the drug war in a speech delivered in Bogotá on April 18. Visit to read the Narco News English translation.

Boston area law professor Eric Blumenson calls for Justice Kennedy to recuse himself from a drug testing case before the Supreme Court because of intemperate remarks illustrating bias. Visit to read it.

DRCNet reported last year on the case of Utah physician Robert Weitzel, an egregious example of the intrusion of the criminal justice system against legitimate pain treatment ( Weitzel was featured recently on 60 Minutes; visit to view the report.

The US General Accounting Office report has issued a new report, "Drug Courts: Better DOJ Data Collection and Evaluation Efforts Needed to Measure Impact of Drug Court Programs." Visit to download a copy.

The Canadian Centre on Substance has issued a nationally-commissioned report finding that alcohol is commonly linked to violence while illegal drugs are more commonly linked to break-ins and robberies -- standard findings that provide evidence supporting legalization, though the study doesn't say so. Visit to read it.

Also in Canada, the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs has issued a report on cannabis, which among other things states that it may be more appropriate to treat marijuana like alcohol and tobacco as opposed to current policies that lump it in with hard drugs. Visit to read it.

16. Errata: Drug War Race

DRCNet's report last week on the NYC Drug War Race was written at the last minute, and a few errors crept into it by mistake:

1) The correct event title was "DRUG WAR! Race and Party."

2) The line "stopping for the required marijuana and incense purchase" was incorrect. The DRUG WAR! Race did not involve illegal activity of any kind. The actual requirement was the purchase of a cheap tobacco cigar known as a "blunt."

3) Valerie Vande Panne's correct quote was "In 1988, Congress passed a law saying we would be drug-free by 1995." We accidentally typed "1998."

17. The Reformer's Calendar

(Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].)

May 3-4, Portland, OR, Second National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, focus on Analgesia and Other Indications. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time, the Oregon Nurses Association and Oregon Health Division, for further information visit e-mail [email protected], or call (434) 263-4484.

May 4, international, "Million Marijuana March," demonstrations in many cities worldwide. Visit or for information and local event listings.

May 6, noon-4:00pm, Seattle, WA, "Hepatitis C: The Epidemic With a Voice, Ours," 2002 Statewide Awareness and Educational Day. At the Langston Hughes Performance Center, 104 17th Avenue South, contact (206) 328-5381 or (866) HEP-GOGO for further information.

May 6, 7:00pm, New York, NY, "Mothers Behind Bars: Incarcerated Women and Their Children." Forum at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, 42 W. 44th St, call (212) 382-6600 or visit for further information.

May 6-9, Madison, WI, "Global Perspectives: Weaving the Web of Recovery" 36th annual WAAODA conference. At the Sheraton Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, registration $50, contact WAAODA at [email protected] or (800) 787-9979 for further information.

May 7, 11:00am, Los Angeles, CA, "The Harm Reduction Approach to Drugs and Drug Users: Lessons for Health Care Providers." Forum hosted by the Dorot Foundation and the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, featuring Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann. At Louis Jolyon West Auditorium, UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute & Hospital, 760 Westwood Plaza, visit for further information and a webcast the day of the event.

May 7, 6:00pm, Washington, DC, educational reception for the Harm Reduction Coalition, featuring Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and HRC director Allan Clear. At the offices of Common Sense for Drug Policy, 1327 Harvard Street, NW, RSVP to [email protected].

May 7, 7:00pm, Washington, DC, "Psychedelic Zion," video on the rave culture in Israel and its legal battle with the authorities. Presented as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival. At the DCJCC, Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater, 16 & Q Streets, $6 members, $8.50 general, $1 student or senior discount, call (800) 494-8497 for tickets or visit for info.

May 7, 7:30pm, Santa Monica, CA, "The Drug Scare: McCarthyism in the 21st Century, Persecution in the Name of Patriotism," forum with columnist Arianna Huffington and Ethan Nadelmann and Deborah Small of the Drug Policy Alliance. At Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bldg. C-1. RSVP requested, call (310) 827-3046 or visit for further information.

May 8, noon, New York, NY, Mothers of the New York Disappeared rally against the Rockefeller Drug Laws. At 40th St. & 8th Ave., across the street from Gov. Pataki's office, call (212) 539-8441 or visit for further information.

May 9, 5:00-7:00pm, New York, NY, meeting of the Criminal Justice Alliance for the Drop the Rock Campaign. At the Correctional Association, 135 E. 15th St., contact Tamar Kraft-Stolar at (212) 254-5700 ext. 306 or [email protected].

May 13, 10:00am, New York, NY, meeting of the Coalition for Women Prisoners. At the Correctional Association, 135 E. 15th St., contact Julie Kowitz at (212) 254-5700 x314 or [email protected] for further information.

May 16, 8:00pm-2:00am, Charleston, SC, fundraiser for Charleston NORML. At Cumberland's, downtown, featuring five separate bands, admission $5. For further info visit or contact Stephen Levine at (843) 559-8985 or [email protected].

May 21, 6:00-9:00PM, Menands, NY, Criminal Justice Soiree. Italian buffet dinner with no speakers, at the Schuyler Inn, 575 Broadway, admission $12. For further information, contact Allison Coleman at (518) 453-6659 or [email protected].

May 23, Portland, OR, noon-1:30pm, "Rethinking the War on Drugs," luncheon forum with New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Sponsored by the Cascade Policy Institute, at the Benson Hotel, Mayfair Ballroom, 309 SW Broadway. RSVP to (503) 242-0900 or [email protected], or visit for further information.

June 8, 1:00pm, DeWitt, NY, ReconsiDer Annual Meeting. Featuring Jack Cole, retired New Jersey state undercover detective, at Memorial Unitarian Universalists Church, 3800 E. Genesee. Contact Jim Schofield at (315) 471-2514 or [email protected] for further information.

June 8-9, St. Petersburg, FL, The Second Annual Conference on Adolescent Drug Treatment Abuse. Sponsored by The Trebach Institute, with survivors of abusive treatment programs and other concerned parties. Early registration $100, visit for further information.

June 15, New York, NY, Drop the Rock march and concert/rally, location and time to be announced. Contact Tamar Kraft-Stolar at (212) 254-5700 x306 or [email protected] for further information.

June 22, Philadelphia, PA, "Mid-Atlantic Criminal Justice Colloquium: Fostering Compassion, Dignity and Hope," colloquium organized by the Drug Concerns Working Group of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). For further information or to get involved, contact Melissa Whaley at (856) 303-0280 or [email protected].

July 5-7, Bryn Mawr, PA, "Liberty & Crisis," student seminar with the Institute for Humane Studies. Participation free, application deadline March 29, visit or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

September 26-28, Los Angeles, CA, "Breaking the Chains: People of Color and the War on Drugs." Conference by the Drug Policy Alliance, e-mail [email protected] to be placed on mailing list for when details become available.

September 30-October 1, Washington, DC, "National Symposium on Felony Disenfranchisement," conference sponsored by The Sentencing Project. Admission free, advance registration required, visit or call (202) 628-0871 for further information.

November 8-10, Anaheim, CA, combined national conference of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Marijuana Policy Project. Early bird registration $150, $45 for students with financial need, visit for further information.

November 9, Anaheim, CA, Bill Maher benefit show for Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Marijuana Policy Project. Admission $50, or $1,000 VIP package including front-row seat and private reception with Bill Maher. Visit for further information.

December 1-4, Seattle, WA, "Taking Drug Users Seriously," Fourth National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General. For information, e-mail [email protected], visit or call (212) 213-6376.

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