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

Issue #276, 2/28/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Video and audio footage from the Mérida conference, as well as photographs, interviews, reports and other information, are now online at -- visit now to get a glimpse of this historic event and to subscribe to the Out from the Shadows announcements e-mail list.

ACTION ALERT: Visit to support H.R. 685, the newly re-filed bill to repeal a law that delays or denies federal financial aid to students because of drug convictions.


  1. Peruvian Government Attacks Cocalero Movement -- Leaders Arrested, Others in Hiding as Protests Spread
  2. The Road to Vienna: International Narcotics Control Board Annual Report Attacks Reformers, Reformers Scratch Back
  3. Ashcroft's Pipe Dream, Bongmaker's Nightmare: Feds Arrest 55 in Paraphernalia Crackdown
  4. Parallel Power Flexes Muscle in Brazil: Rio's Drug Commands in Pre-Carnival Show of Force
  5. In Thailand, Clamor for Investigation Grows as Killings of Drug Suspects Continue
  6. Marijuana at the State House 2003: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  7. Alert: HEA Reform Legislation Re-filed, Needs Your Support
  8. Mérida Footage, Photos Now Online
  9. Newsbrief: Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Coop Head Gets Three Months in Jail for Trying to Inform Jurors
  10. Newsbrief: Belgium to Legalize Marijuana Possession, Use
  11. Newsbrief: Switzerland Marijuana Legalization Moving, Opposition Mobilizes
  12. Newsbrief: "Kiddie Meth" Legislation Spreads to Illinois, Missouri
  13. Newsbrief: MPP Releases TV Ads on Harms of Marijuana Prohibition in Third Phase of Group's "War on Drug Czar" Campaign
  14. Newsbrief: Utah Drugged Driving Bill is DOA in House
  15. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story
  16. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Peruvian Government Attacks Cocalero Movement -- Leaders Arrested, Others in Hiding as Protests Spread

Peru's resurgent coca farmers (cocaleros), who mobilized last week in an effort to block further eradication of their cash crops and to protest corruption in alternative development programs, are now under attack from the Peruvian government. On February 21, police in the city of Ayacucho arrested cocalero leader Nelson Palomino for "apology for terrorism," amid leaked reports that he was a "radical leftist" and was linked to the drug traffic. But Palomino's real crime appears to be that he is a leader of a combative and growing movement to end the Peruvian government's cooperation with a US-imposed anti-drug strategy that hurts Peruvian farmers while having no apparent impact on the global cocaine traffic. Palomino was chosen to lead the Peruvian Confederation of Coca Growers (CONCPACCP), representing some 40,000 coca growing families, at its founding meeting in late January.

Palomino was invited to attend the "Out from the Shadows" conference in Mérida, Mexico, earlier this month, but changed plans at the last minute as the conflict in Peru escalated. At least one Peruvian cocalero leader who did attend the conference, Nancy Obregon, subsecretary general of CONCPACC, is now in hiding, according to DRCNet's Peruvian sources.

Palomino's arrest came at the end of a week of protests, highway blockades, and mass mobilizations in the Apurimac and Upper Huallaga river valleys, the home to much of Peru's traditional coca cultivation. Protests began February 18 in the town of Aguaytia and have only spread in the days since police seized Palomino. Earlier this week, more than 2,000 cocaleros marched in Tingo Maria to demand Palomino's release and hundreds more were reported marching to Ayacucho, and cocaleros from the Apurimac and Upper Huallaga are now on an indefinite strike until authorities release their leader.

Marisela Guillén Casani, subsecretary of the Agricultural Producers Federation of the Apurimac and Ene River Valleys (FEPAVRAE) told La Republica (Lima) on Monday that there would be neither an end to the strike nor negotiations with the government of President Alejandro Toledo until Palomino is freed. "What is happening is that all the coca unions have risen, there is an agreement among the 14 unions that they will join the strike already underway in Padre Abad, Aguaytia and Tingo Maria," she said. "Today (Sunday), we began a march toward Huamanga [where Palomino is being held] to demand the freedom of our national leader. We have the support of potato growers and the Front in Defense of Apurimac and Huamanga," Guillen added. The arrest of Palomino is only strengthing unity among the cocaleros, she said.

Also arrested in the past week were professor Fernando Fuenzalida, a sociologist and anthropologist at the University of San Marcos in Lima, and cocalero leader Iburcio Morales. Fuenzalida was imprisoned after police found 70 ecstasy tablets and a quantity of marijuana in his 24-year-old daughter's room. Jorge Massa, who is representing Fuenzalida, told La Republica that although his client was being charged with drug trafficking, "there is not one bit of evidence" linking him to the drug trade.

The growing conflict over coca comes as Peruvian coca production continues to increase after bottoming out in the mid-1990s during the repressive regime of deposed ex-President Alberto Fujimori and his right-hand man, Vladimiro Montesinos. Under Fujimori, working hand in hand with the US, Peruvian coca production declined from 285,000 acres in 1995 to 84,000 acres in 2001, but increased to 90,000 last year. According to Peruvian economist and "cocologist" Hugo Cabieses, the return of coca is attributable to rising market prices and the failure of alternative development projects.

Cabieses told DRCNet the arrest of Palomino was unwarranted. "For the government to have arrested Palomino is a great injustice and act of stupidity," said Cabieses. "He's been locked up since Saturday and we are in the midst of a campaign to achieve his freedom. This act by the government will only increase his stature as leader of the cocaleros. All of the principal coca unions are now on strike and the situation is very difficult," he told DRCNet.

In an open letter to President Toledo released earlier this week, Cabieses denounced the trio of arrests. "These three unjust detentions are the consequence of an absurd drug policy that criminalizes the margins of the [drug trafficking] chain while leaving free the true criminals -- those who wear suits and ties, the mafiosos, those who dirty the uniforms of the police and the armed forces," wrote the former advisor to the government's anti-drug agency, DEVIDES.

"The government must not make the grave error of criminalizing the cocaleros and their leaders, as [current DEVIDES head] Nils Ericsson has done with his declarations," wrote Cabieses. In the days prior to Palomino's arrest, Ericsson, along with other government officials, accused Palomino of being linked to the drug traffic and to terrorism. "Nelson Palomino is a radical leader," continued Cabieses, "and in my opinion is mistaken is some of his plans and proposals, but I am certain that he is not a drug trafficker and neither does he have anything to do with them. Even less is he a terrorist, but quite the opposite. He was a fighter against the Shining Path in the Apurimac-Ene region. I know all the other coca leaders of the CONCCPAP, including Iburcio Morales, and they are leaders who represent their bases and have nothing to do with the drug trade or terrorism."

The problem, wrote Cabieses, is not farmers growing coca crops, but the Peruvian government accepting, under pressure from the US, a "zero coca" option in Peru. None of the previous agreements between cocaleros and the government have been fulfilled, he noted, "thanks to pressure from the US Embassy and the US Agency for International Development, which have dedicated themselves to inventing phantom menaces in the valleys and pressuring the Peruvian government in a thousand ways to adopt a "zero coca" strategy."

The Peruvian government's anti-cocalero propaganda and its actions against cocalero leaders "don't aid the dialogue but support confrontation, which is what the country, the cocalero leaders, and the population in the coca-growing valleys least desire," warned Cabieses. But for the time being, at least, the Peruvian government is headed down the path of confrontation. And the cocaleros will follow that path if necessary. "We will defend the product that permits us to feed our children," cocalero leader Guillen told La Republica.

The Peruvian government must move to address the concerns of the cocaleros, warned Cabieses. "Social movements ignored by governments are like volcanos," he wrote. "They explode by themselves."

Visit for further information on coca in Peru.

2. The Road to Vienna: International Narcotics Control Board Annual Report Attacks Reformers, Reformers Scratch Back

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), enforcer of the global drug prohibition regime embodied in the United Nations Single Conventions of 1961, 1971, and 1988, issued its annual report this week, and it has clearly identified the enemy: the global drug reform movement. With an international movement to reform or repeal the UN conventions growing in breadth and strength, the UN narcocrats are clearly hunkering down for a battle in Vienna in April -- and beyond.

INCB President Philip Emafo came out swinging in the forward to the annual report, warning of "distractions" coming "from groups that advocate legalization or decriminalization of drug offences" and "groups that favor a crusade focusing only on 'harm minimization' or 'harm reduction.'" Such groups persist in proclaiming there are safe ways to do drugs, wrote Emafo, "contary to all available evidence."

"Supporters of such legalization pursue their goals through aggressive, well-funded campaigns and with missionary zeal," Emafo continued. "Their arguments, however, do not reflect the truth. The truth is that there are no safe ways to abuse drugs." Therefore, he concluded, "states should not give up and allow advocates of legalization to take control of their national drug policies. Governments should not be intimidated by a vocal minority that wants to legalize illicit drug use."

Just in case anyone should misunderstand the INCB's point, the annual report took pains to express "concern" about moves to legalize or decriminalize marijuana in Canada and warned of dire "worldwide repercussions" from Britain's rescheduling of cannabis. The INCB also expressed concern about medical marijuana in the Netherlands "before research into the medical properties of the drug is finalized." So, too, was the INCB "concerned" about Swiss safe injection and safe inhalation rooms, worrying aloud that such moves might be "contrary to international drug control treaties."

On the other hand, the INCB noted with approval that while "in several states of the United States discussions on liberalizing or legalizing cannabis continue, the Board appreciates that the Government continues to assure that national laws in line with the international drug control treaties are enforced in all states." In other words, kudos to Attorney General John Ashcroft for cracking down on medical marijuana in California.

Unsurprisingly, the INCB annual report went over like a paraquat-laced joint with drug reformers. From Britain, criticized by the INCB, the Transform Drug Policy Institute's ( Danny Kushlick, replied: "UN drug control policy reflects outdated and discredited US prohibitionist thinking. The INCB seem determined to stamp on any reforms that challenge this prevailing ideology, even when there is strong evidence that such policies can be highly effective. By contrast there is no evidence that the UN Drug Control Program's focus on enforcement and eradication has been successful. Despite the billions spent over the past four decades, illegal drugs are cheaper and more available than ever before. In the light of such striking failure we have to question the credibility of the entire UN drug control system.

"If the UK move on cannabis sends out a message it is that the UN treaties are outdated and in need of a major rethink," Kushlick continued. "The UN drug control agencies are being left behind by the innovative policy developments taking place across mainland Europe, as well as in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, all of whom have received criticism from the INCB."

From Amsterdam, the Transnational Institute seconded that opinion. "Mr. Emafo's attack reflects how out of touch the president of the INCB is with current developments in international drug control. If anyone is involved in a 'crusade' with 'missionary zeal', it is Mr. Emafo himself, trying to turn back accepted best practices in countering the adverse effects of problematic drug use," TNI wrote in a press release.

From Brussels, Member of the European Parliament and leader of Parliamentarians for Antiprohibitionist Action Marco Cappato joined the critical chorus. "The INCB Report for 2002 contains widespread criticism and attacks on Member States and alternative policies on drugs. The foreword is used to launch a crusade against those who support alternative policies on drugs, from harm reduction to legalisation. Governments that have established injection rooms are accused of 'aiding and abetting drug abuse (and possibly illicit drug trafficking),'" he noted in a statement responding to the report.

"INCB criticism and attacks are unreasonable, incorrect and ultimately illegal," Cappato continued. "Unreasonable because current Member States' policies on drugs do not contravene UN Conventions. Incorrect because the legal provisions of the Conventions are misinterpreted to attack any attempt by Member States to develop alternative policies on drugs. But most importantly illegal because INCB goes -- once more -- beyond its statutory duties, notably in attacking supporters of alternative policies on drugs."

And from Washington, NORML Foundation executive director Allen St. Pierre called the UN's comments "pure hyperbole," noting that the UK's pending pot law change would only apply to the possession of up to three grams of marijuana, and have no legal impact on marijuana cultivation. "To those who blindly support US-styled 'do drugs; do time' policies, any variance -- no matter how minor -- is seen as a threat to their longstanding blanket prohibition," he said.

Beyond laying into the INCB report, reformers are looking forward to the April meeting in Vienna, where the UN's Commission on Narcotic Drugs will evaluate progress at the halfway point in the UN's 10-year plan to make the planet drug-free by 2008 and set direction for the next five years.

"The UK now finds itself amongst the group of European countries that includes Holland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Portugal that are going to be getting flak at the Vienna meeting," said Transform's Kushlick. "In their eyes we have become a pariah state. It's a ridiculous situation since the UN drug agencies should be facilitating innovative evidence based policy developments, not hindering them."

For Marco Cappato, "the UN Vienna Conference of April -- charged with evaluating if the announced objectives of the current UN prohibitionist strategies have been met -- will demonstrate who is right and who is wrong." Cappato is heading an appeal to end drug prohibition and reform the UN conventions, already signed by more than 189 legislators and 3,000 global citizens.

"At the upcoming mid-term review of the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) on April 16-17, 2003 member states should use the opportunity to have the harm reduction approach accepted as a legitimate policy alternative within the UN Drug system," argued the Transnational Institute.

Events leading up to Vienna are scheduled for next week. The International Coalition of NGOs for a Just and Effective Drug Policy will launch its International Campaign "Spread the Seed for Another Drug Policy" aimed at reform of the UN conventions in Brussels on Monday by launching hundreds of balloons filled with opium, cannabis, and coca seeds. The following day, the coalition will hold a public hearing at European Parliament on prospects for change at Vienna. "The goal of the campaign is to convince European politicians of the need to present, at the forthcoming meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, a proposal for a new international agreement that should allow individual countries to regulate the production, distribution and consumption of drugs without necessarily maintaining prohibition as the basis for these measures," wrote the coalition.

Visit to read the INCB report.

Visit to read the Transnational Institute's critique of the INCB.

Visit to read the text of the International Appeal for the Reform the UN Conventions on Drugs and view the list of signatories.

Visit for further information about the NGO coalition campaign.

3. Ashcroft's Pipe Dream, Bongmaker's Nightmare: Feds Arrest 55 in Paraphernalia Crackdown

As the nation cowered under an orange terrorism alert, crack troopers of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) swooped down on bongmakers, pipe manufacturers, head shops and Internet sites across the country Monday, arresting 55 people and confiscating "tons and tons" of drug paraphernalia across the country.

"Operation Pipe Dreams" and "Operation Headhunter," as Attorney General John Ashcroft named the raids, used gung-ho paraphernalia specialists at US Attorneys' offices in Des Moines and Pittsburgh to cast a net snaring paraphernalia makers from Oregon and California to Texas, Michigan, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. The victims ranged from local headshops in the Pittsburgh area to nationally known manufacturers such as Tommy Chong Glass.

In a new wrinkle, the Justice Department also announced it was obtaining court orders to seize 11 web sites that sold paraphernalia, and would direct visitors to a DEA website that cites the law against the sale of such items. Attorney General Ashcroft claimed that the sale of paraphernalia had "exploded" on the Internet. "Quite simply," said Ashcroft, "the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge."

Federal law criminalizes the sale of products designed to be used for drug consumption, and despite the howls of those arrested and their sympathizers, that law is crystal clear. In a 2001 article on federal paraphernalia busts in Iowa (, attorney Robert Vaughan, perhaps the leading paraphernalia defense attorney in the country, told DRCNet, "It's simple. If you have a bong, you're violating federal law. You can get a license to own a tommy gun, but you can't get one to own a bong. Stores that have bongs are screwed," the Nashville-based lawyer said. "They can't win. The Supreme Court upheld its so-called objective standard in US vs. Posters and Things in 1994, and now whole categories of items are per se illegal."

In an article on the arrest of Florida-based Chills, Inc. owner Chris Hill in January 2002 (, another bust linked to federal prosecutors in Des Moines, Vaughan went even further. "I may not like the law as it is," said Vaughan, "but I can't lie to these people. You don't have a chance of winning unless you have a bad search and seizure. And if you challenge that and are unsuccessful, you'll really be pissing into a fire then. That means cutting a deal. And with these guys, you have to give up your mother, where she was born, and her maiden name," he said. "I am not taking any more of these cases," he told DRCNet. "You can't win."

"People selling drug paraphernalia are in essence no different than drug dealers," gloated acting DEA administrator John B. Brown III. "They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide."

"Today's actions send a clear and unambiguous message to those who would poison our children," chimed in drug czar John Walters. "We will bring you to justice, and we will act decisively to protect our young children from the harm of illegal drugs."

Advocates for drug reform weren't buying it. "At a time when the rest of the country is worried about terrorism, this attorney general is going after people who sell pipes," NORML ( founder Keith Stroup told the Associated Press. "Surely he has something better to do with his time."

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance (, suggested that the busts were aimed at scoring political points. Nadelmann told the AP, "It would be more logical -- although I'm not suggesting this -- to prosecute people who sell beer mugs, because of the poison consumed in them."

The paraphernalia industry has, as DRCNet has reported in the stories linked above, tried to pretend that its products really are not designed to be used with illegal drugs. Given this week's mass raids and arrests, that tactic appears to have exhausted itself. Perhaps now the industry will try another tack. Richard Cowan of Marijuana News ( has suggested one: Operation Peacepipe.

The headshop and paraphernalia industry should, wrote Cowan, "use legal herbs as a political statement and sell them in conjunction with bongs, rolling papers and other 'paraphernalia.' The herbs should be promoted at 'point of sale' with little placards, and displayed throughout the store side-by-side with the bongs and pipes and papers. People should be explicitly encouraged to buy the herbs to be used in such a way as to undermine the enforcement of the marijuana laws," Cowan suggested. "No subterfuge, no pretense. This is an explicitly political action. Indeed, smoking the herbs should be a form of political protest. Thus an herbal 'smoke-in' could be a perfectly legal way to protest the absurdity of marijuana prohibition."

Alright, paraphernalia industry. Anyone got a better idea?

4. Parallel Power Flexes Muscle in Brazil: Rio's Drug Commands in Pre-Carnival Show of Force

Rio de Janeiro's world-famous Carnaval celebration begins today, but partygoers will be greeted by more than 30,000 police and soldiers called in after the city's notoriously powerful organized crime "commands" went on a two-day rampage earlier this week. The commands, commonly referred to as "drug gangs" in mainstream media accounts, effectively govern huge swathes of the city -- the teeming favelas, or shantytowns, home to more than a million of Rio's inhabitants, where the Brazilian state is present only in the form of occasional police forays, and the well-armed commands have swept in to fill the vacuum (

Members of the powerful Red Command unleashed a wave of violence in the city on Monday and Tuesday, burning buses, throwing small bombs, engaging in running gun battles with police and attacking stores and shops that failed to heed the Command's order to close down. Led by imprisoned drug trafficker Fernando da Costa (known as Fernandinho Beira-Mar or "Seaside Freddy"), who gained international notoriety for his involvement in a guns-for-drugs deal with the Colombian FARC guerrillas, the Red Command's influence spreads from the country's overcrowded prisons to the favelas of Rio and, apparently, into famous neighborhoods like Ipanema whenever it wishes to flex its muscles. The Red Command is uniformly held responsible for the wave of strikes and violence that preceded the elections last fall that brought Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva to the presidency.

By Wednesday, police had carried the violence back to the favelas, arresting 20 and killing two in gun battles in the favela Jacarezinho. Also Wednesday, the governor of Rio state, Rosinha Matheus, announced the sudden commencement of "Operation Safe Rio," calling up 28,000 military and civil police members to impose a virtual state of siege on the city. They have been now been joined by another 3,000 soldiers of the Brazilian army at Matheus' request, according to Agencia Brasil, the Brazilian state news agency.

Explanations for the sudden show of criminal force varied. Rio authorities told Reuters the commands were reacting to police pressures on them, but other analysts contacted by the press agency reported that local police forces were in "disarray" after changes of government since the elections. "Criminals have acquired social control through the dissemination of fear," said Walter Maierovitch, president of Brazilian Giovanni Falcone Institute for crime research and Brazil's first anti-drug czar in 1999.

But also through the effective absence of the state. Incoming President da Silva has vowed to make cleaning up the favelas a priority, but the new government has yet to produce. "The big problem for the favelas is the long absence of the state," Sergio Magalhaes, Rio state's secretary for urban development, told the Chicago Tribune earlier this month. "The favelas have been abandoned. The state, in many favelas, does not provide public services, such as police security, cleaning, electricity," he said. "The absence of the government means the one who controls the favelas are the ones with the biggest guns."

For Luiz Paulo Guanabara of the Brazilian drug reform group Psico-Tropicus, the Red Command's rampages are tied to the treatment of imprisoned leaders like Seaside Freddy, who currently manages the Red Command from a prison cell in Rio state. "Freddy was doing time in a federal prison in Brasilia, but was transferred to a state Maximum Security Prison in Rio de Janeiro," he told DRCNet. "Rio is his home town and in no time he had control of the prison and of the drug trade in the city. Everyone points to him as responsible for last year's 'state of siege' imposed as a challenge to state authority due to undercutting of his group privileges -- the banning of cell phones, for example. They badly need cell phones to control the drug market from inside the prisons. And they want a lot of other stuff. And everyone is pointing to him again as the mastermind behind the vandalism which took place in Rio over the last two days and nights. Another big narco is also being pointed as coauthor of the order issued from the prison that triggered barbarism over the city. The Brazilian attorney general told the press he is considering transferring Beira-Mar to a federal prison in another state -- to try to clip his wings."

But to cut the commands down to size, said Guanabara, means going after their ranking members, and that sparks both reaction from the commands and the deaths of innocents. "To cut down on their privileges also means arresting or killing higher rank dealers who are physically present at the communities controlling the drug market. To raid the dealers, the police must enter the community, and often there is a firing with heavy weaponry on both sides. Then all around, there are what we call here 'lost bullets,' and often innocents are killed. The community then protests against the police, who in turn always deny responsibility for the killings."

The commands rampaged through Rio last fall after then Gov. Benedita da Silva of Lula's Workers Party went on the offensive against them. But da Silva lost the gubernatorial election to the Brazilian Social Party's Matheus, whose husband had governed the state before da Silva. Whether the commands are sending a message to Matheus remains to be seen.

If they are, said Guanabara, it is a message "devoid of political content." Instead, he said, it is a message about "business." And business is good, with Brazil on the cusp of surpassing the US as the world's leading cocaine consumer nation.

More enforcement is not the answer, said Guanabara. While legalization is a policy whose time has not yet come in Brazil, he suggested, some sort of regulation and normalization of the trade -- perhaps even control by the state -- is the only logical answer. "The end of drug prohibition would surely be a hard blow on the narco economy here," argued Guanabara. "On the other hand if you put more police on the streets to repress drug distribution and drug dealers and their commandos, you end up only getting more violence and more corruption. The US has cleverly managed to export the drug war to all Latin American countries. It is a means of domination and a threat to national sovereignty, and it is an industry in which selected groups profit, such as the narcos, weaponry dealers, the anti-drug agencies, some politicians, etc. Meanwhile, the people and the drug users are suffering."

5. In Thailand, Clamor for Investigation Grows as Killings of Drug Suspects Continue

A nine-year-old boy may be able to achieve what human rights groups and international bodies have not: Bringing a halt to the reign of terror unleashed by the Thai government in the name of wiping out drug abuse in that country within three months. Since the beginning of February, as many as 900 suspected drug dealers have been killed in the crackdown. And while the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has throughout the month ignored a rising clamor against the killings, the shooting death on Monday of nine-year-old Chakkapan Srisard by drug police has crystallized opposition to the bloody purge and shocked even Thaksin.

Srisad was gunned down in a hail of bullets as his mother attempted to flee pursuing drug agents who had just arrested his father. According to reports in the Bangkok Post, his Tuesday funeral was a scene of "sadness and anger" at the government's unacknowledged "shoot to kill" policy directed at some 46,000 alleged methamphetamine dealers on a government black list. "The war on drugs is getting more violent every day," said Srisad's uncle Chalermpol Kerdrungruang. "Police kept shooting and shooting at the car. They wanted them all to die. Even a child was not spared," he told the Post.

"Officers are not authorized to simply kill people," said Prime Minister Thaksin, reacting to the shooting. "I will hold a meeting with senior officers to send a clear signal that whoever makes a mistake won't be protected." Indeed, the three police officers involved in killing the child have now been charged with manslaughter.

But while Thaksin reacted defensively to the Srisad killing, he has repeatedly reiterated his intention to move forward with the harsh antidrug campaign -- even in the face of international concern. On Wednesday, Asma Jahangir, special rapporteur to the UN Commission on Human Rights, issued a statement expressing "deep concern at reports of more than 100 deaths in Thailand in connection with a crackdown on the drug trade." Jahangir cited "allegations of excessive use of force resulting in extrajudicial killings." Thai officials should ensure that "the strict limits on the use of lethal force are followed rigorously and without exception."

Actually, Jahangir's numbers are low. According to Thai police officials this week, more than 900 have been killed since the campaign commenced on February 1, including young Srisad, a pregnant woman and a one-year-old baby.

"Never mind that the UN issued a statement of concern," Thaksin told reporters on Wednesday. "They are not condemning us, just showing concern. Actually, there are few cases of police killing suspects out of self-defense."

Thaksin may have inadvertently spoken the truth about self-defense killings. While police acknowledge killing a couple dozen of the more than 900 dead in self-defense, they blame the vast majority of the killings on battles between drug traffickers. But no one is buying that, especially since most victims appear to have been killed execution style and no one has been arrested -- except the unfortunate cops in the Srisad case.

Suspicions have also been raised by comments from government officials that suggest a "shoot to kill" policy exists. Interior Minister Wan Muhamed Nor Matha, for instance, said this week that drug dealers "might vanish without a trace." Wan Matha had earlier pledged to resign if he failed to eradicate drugs in Thailand by May 1.

"Mr. Wan Nor doesn't need to wait three months," Boonthan Tunsuthepverawongse of the Peace and Human Rights Resource Center told the Bangkok Post after the killing of young Srisad. "He should be accountable now for even one innocent life lost."

Tunsuthepverawongse represented only one of 11 Thai and regional organizations who demanded Tuesday that the government end its murderous crackdown. "Seeing reports about police shooting pregnant parents in front of their children, the murder of a woman eight months pregnant, and the latest killing of a nine-year-old, we can't help feeling that state officials have been overzealous and uncaring about innocent people," added Ticha na Nakorn of the Working Committee on Children, another member group in the newly formed coalition.

"This is a tragedy perpetrated by the state with no regard for human rights, a cruel justice that fails to distinguish decent people from villains," added Suriyasai Katasila, secretary general of the Campaign for Popular Democracy.

Interestingly, the comments from the coalition against the killings suggest that some killings are okay -- it is the excesses that have them disturbed. Indeed, polls conducted by the Bangkok Post show support for the anti-drug offensive at about 90%. At the same time, paradoxically, 70% of respondents feared that they, too, could be killed by police.

In remarks reported Sunday, Forum Asia secretary-general Somchai Hom-laor echoed those sentiments. He told the Thai newspaper the Nation (Bangkok) he was concerned that innocent people -- not just drug dealers -- had been killed. He also accused police of being behind the killings. "These were not just murders," he said. "People were handcuffed and massacred. It is almost impossible for ordinary citizens to execute such a mass action," he said.

Thailand will host the International Harm Reduction Association's (IHRA) annual conference in Chiang Mai on April 6 through 10. The association finds itself in a delicate position. In an e-mail to DRCNet received Thursday, IHRA wrote: "IHRA's position is that the urgent need to stem the spread of HIV and hepatitis among drug users in Asia as well as society at large will be best served by going ahead with the conference, which is cosponsored by the Ministry of Public Health. Countless lives depend on the implementation of evidence-based, cost effective and targeted interventions to address these problems in Thailand and the region."

In the meanwhile, drug users, sellers and uninvolved bystanders will have to dodge not only HIV, but Thai government bullets as well.

6. Marijuana at the State House 2003: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

With most state legislatures either now in session or about to begin proceedings, marijuana-related legislation is cropping up at state houses across the country. From hemp to medical marijuana to decriminalization, marijuana reform bills continue to pop up -- sometimes for the second or third year in a row -- while at the same time, the prohibitionists continue their now rearguard struggle to occasionally increase marijuana penalties.

According to information compiled primarily by the Marijuana Policy Project (, hemp bills have been filed in two states, medical marijuana bills in 10 states, bills to lessen penalties for marijuana offenses in eight states, and bills to increase penalties in six states.

"Overall, it's a mixed bag in the states this year," said MPP Communications Director Bruce Mirken. "We're still seeing strong support for medical marijuana, and there is no sign that the drug czar's anti-marijuana ad blitz has had any effect. Whatever John Walters is trying to do, it doesn't seem to be working," he told DRCNet.

Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (, agreed that medical marijuana is the issue that is moving this year. "If there is any identifiable trend, it is that we appear close to seeing state legislators embracing medical marijuana," he told DRCNet. "Only Hawaii has done it through the legislative process so far, and it's important we get to the point where we can pass this the old-fashioned way, because we don't want to have to rely on voter initiatives -- they don't even have them in half the states, anyway."

MPP's Mirken told DRCNet the group is focusing on two states. "We're putting a lot of emphasis on Vermont and Maryland," he said. "Those are states where our bills got closer than ever last year, and in Maryland we now have a governor, Bob Ehrlich, who supports medical marijuana, while in Vermont, Gov. Howard Dean, who was our greatest obstacle, is no longer in office. The new governor, James Douglas, has made some comments against medical marijuana, but has not closed the door like Dean did."

"That's right," said Stroup. "At least Dean is off running for president, and while Douglas says he opposes it, he hasn't threatened to veto it."

A medical marijuana bill has already been defeated in one state this year. A first-time effort to pass a medical marijuana bill was defeated Wednesday by a 60-40 vote in the Montana House. Sponsored by Rep. Ron Erickson (D-Missoula) and drafted by Erickson, Montana NORML director John Masterson, and Missoula-based medical marijuana authority Dr. Ethan Russo, the bill would have provided patients certified by the state to grow or buy limited amounts of marijuana to help ease their pains.

The Montanans should not be discouraged, said Stroup, adding that such efforts often take two or three tries and that success could come this year in states that had laid the legislative groundwork in earlier sessions. "I think there is a reasonable chance of passing medical marijuana bills in Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, and Wisconsin, and probably New Mexico," he said. More medical marijuana bills could yet be filed, he said, pointing to possible efforts in Missouri and Texas as well.

Meanwhile, the cultural battle over marijuana continues to be played out in the legislatures, with bills calling for greater penalties, bills calling for lesser penalties, and sometimes both in the same state. "Drugged driving" initiatives modeled on the drug czar's national campaign have become a favored new venue for attacking pot-smokers, along with old standbys like revocation or suspension of drivers' licenses.

"Obviously we oppose bills like the drugged driving bills," said Mirken, "but, like everyone else in the movement, we have to decide how to allocate our limited resources, and we don't want to spend all our money fighting defensive battles." In other words, local people will have to pick up the challenge. But, as noted in a newsbrief (see below) this week, local efforts sufficed to block one of those bills in Utah. "These zero tolerance drugged driving bills are a legal atrocity," said Mirken, "they treat people who smoked a joint last week as if they were impaired and charge them like drunk drivers, and when people understand the implications of these bills, they understand that this is nuts."

If victories for marijuana reform at the state houses are few and slow in coming, it is at least a measure of progress for the movement that the battle has moved from the streets into the legislative chambers. Below we list the states where various marijuana bills are active.


  • Arkansas -- HB 1321: An act to permit the medical use of marijuana. The bill would exempt medical marijuana patients with doctors' recommendations from prosecution under state law. Current status: Referred to the Committee on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor; hearing set for March 11.
  • California -- SB 295: The California Marijuana Research Program. The bill would eliminate the three-year limit on California's medical marijuana research program at the University of California. Current status: Introduced; not set for action until after March 22.
  • Connecticut -- HB 5100: An act concerning medical use of marijuana. The bill would allow Connecticut residents to cultivate and use marijuana for medical purposes when a treating physician certifies that the patient's condition would benefit from the medical use of marijuana. Current status: Referred to Joint Committee on Judiciary; hearing set for March 3.
  • Hawaii -- HB 1218: An act to clarify statutory provisions relating to medical marijuana. The bill clarifies and restricts certain provisions of the state's medical marijuana law, includes penalties for physicians who violate certain provisions of the law, and raises the fee ceiling for program participants. Current status: Deferred by Committee; no action on calendar.
  • Maryland -- HB 702: Darrell Putman Medical Marijuana Research Act. This bill removes criminal penalties and threat of arrest for medical marijuana patients (and caregivers) who have doctors' recommendations. The bill also establishes a research program whereby doctors must report on the safety and effectiveness of medical marijuana treatment. Current Status: Passed first reading of Judiciary Committee; hearing set for March 4.
  • Massachusetts -- SB 676: An Act relative to the medical use of marijuana. This bill allows for the experimental use of medical marijuana. Current status: Referred to Committee on Health Care.
  • Montana -- HB 506: An act authorizing the medical use of marijuana by individuals diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions. The bill would authorize the medical use of marijuana by individuals diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions; provides for a registry for patients and caregivers; provides exemptions for medical use of marijuana; and restricts search and seizure related to the authorized medical use of marijuana. Current status: Passed House Judiciary Committee; defeated in House, 60-40.
  • New Mexico -- HB 242: The Lynn Pierson Compassionate Use Act. The bill allows patients who have their doctors' recommendations to use and possess medical marijuana. The bill also provides for a registry system and ID cards for patients and their primary caregivers. Status: Passed out of House Business and Industry Committee to House Judiciary Committee.
  • Vermont -- SB 76: An Act Relating to the Medical Use of Marijuana. The bill proposes to exempt seriously ill people from prosecution and prison for using medical marijuana under their doctors' supervision. Current status: Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Feb. 14. Also HB 111: An Act Relating to Medical Marijuana. This bill proposes to exempt seriously ill people from prosecution and prison for using medical marijuana under their doctors' supervision. Status: Referred to Health and Welfare Committee.
  • Wyoming -- SF 44: An act to create a medical marijuana program and registry system in Wyoming. The bill would exempt medical marijuana patients with doctors' recommendations from prosecution under state law. Status: Bill referred to Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • California -- SB 131: Marijuana possession penalty. This bill would make the possession of less than 28.5 grams a civil infraction rather than a misdemeanor on the first offense. Current status: Referred to Public Safety Committee; no action yet on calendar.
  • Connecticut -- SB 356: An act concerning the penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana. The bill would remove all criminal penalties for possession of less than four ounces of marijuana. Current status: Referred to Joint Committee on Judiciary, no action yet on calendar. Also, HB 5260: An Cct concerning the penalty for possession of drug paraphernalia or small amounts of marijuana. This bill reduces the penalty for possession of less than four ounces of marijuana or drug paraphernalia to a fine. Current status: Referred to Joint Committee on Judiciary; no action yet on calendar.
  • Massachusetts -- SB 207: To Impose a Civil Fine for the Possession of Marijuana. The bill would make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana punishable by a $100 civil fine. Current status: Referred to Committee on Criminal Justice.
  • Michigan -- SB 197: An act to amend the public health code. The bill would allow courts to mandate participation in and completion of an appropriate drug treatment program for first time drug offenses, including marijuana. The court may also impose, as a condition of probation, participation in vocational training, family counseling, literacy training, or community service, but may not impose incarceration as a condition of probation. Status: Referred to Judiciary Committee; no action yet on calendar.
  • Montana -- H.B. 510: An act abolishing imprisonment as a punishment for certain drug possession offenses and substituting home arrest and other sentencing alternatives for imprisonment. The bill would abolish jail time for marijuana offenses for possession of up to 60 ounces and replace that with not more than six months of house arrest. In addition, for any case involving drug treatment, current law would be amended so the defendant pay the costs of treatment and stay in the facility if found able to do so by the court. Status: Referred to Judiciary Committee; tabled.
  • Oklahoma -- SB 779: An act relating to the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. The bill would remove the threat of arrest for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Current status: Referred to Senate Appropriations Committee; no action on calendar.
  • Texas -- HB 715: An act relating to the penalty for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. The bill would reduce punishments for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor from a Class B misdemeanor. Current status: Referred to Criminal Jurisprudence Committee; no action on calendar yet.
  • Georgia -- HB 196: An act to reduce the quantity eligible for certain penalties under marijuana trafficking. The bill would apply enhanced penalties for "trafficking in marijuana" to quantities as low as 25 pounds. Current status: Introduced.
  • Illinois -- SB 456: An act in relation to drugs. The bill would add selling marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop to enhanced penalties under "drug free school zone" ordinances. For selling marijuana in prescribed locations at certain times, the charge of Class I felony would apply. Current status: Referred to Rules Committee; postponed, no action on calendar.
  • Mississippi -- HB 714: Controlled substances; would suspend certain state licenses for possession of. This bill would lengthen license suspension for a second conviction of marijuana possession to two years, and would also suspend a convicted individual's permits to hunt or fish. Current status: Dead, defeated in committee, February 4.
  • Nebraska -- LB 176: An act relating to controlled substances... to change provisions relating to possession of marijuana. This bill would recriminalize marijuana possession in a state where it has been decriminalized for 25 years, giving first-time marijuana offenders a criminal record and a maximum fine of $500. Current status: Referred to Judiciary Committee; hearing "indefinitely postponed" as of February 24.
  • New York -- A 2454: Relating to requiring revocation of driver's license or driving privileges upon conviction of drug or marijuana offense. The bill would amend the penal law and the vehicle and traffic law to require the revocation of the drivers license or driving privileges of persons convicted of controlled substance or marijuana related offenses. Status: Referred to Assembly Codes Committee; no act yet on calendar. Also S 1184: Relating to expanding the class E felony of criminal possession of marijuana in the third degree to include possession with intent to sell more than two ounces. The bill provides that any person who knowingly and unlawfully possesses two or more ounces of one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing marijuana with the intent to sell the same shall be guilty of the class E felony of criminal possession of marijuana in the third degree. Current status: Referred to Senate Codes Committee; no action yet on calendar. And finally, A 2038: Relating to imposing an additional five years of imprisonment for certain offenses. The bill would amend the penal law, in relation to imposing an additional term of imprisonment for the sale of a controlled substance or marijuana to a person under the age of sixteen and for committing a felony while possessing a loaded firearm. Current status: Referred to Assembly Codes Committee; no action yet on calendar.
  • South Dakota -- HB 1144: An act to broaden the application of drug free zones to include additional offenses and to provide for penalty enhancements. The bill enhances the penalties for repeat marijuana offenders by one degree. Status: Referred to Judiciary Committee; deferred to "41st day" (killed), February 12. Also HB 1153: An act to change South Dakota's laws on marijuana distribution to include "intent to distribute." The bill revises the current penalties for marijuana distribution to include "intent to distribute." Status: Passed House of Representatives, February 10; passed Senate, February 27; awaiting governor's signature.
  • Maine -- HB 61: An Act to allow experimentation in the cultivation of agricultural hemp. The bill authorizes, but does not require, the Director of the Maine Agricultural Experiment Station to obtain the appropriate federal permits to study the feasibility of growing industrial hemp. Current status: Referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry; no action on calendar.
  • New Hampshire -- HB 653: An act authorizing the production of industrial hemp. The bill provides for legal and authorized production of industrial hemp.

7. Alert: HEA Reform Legislation Re-filed, Needs Your Support

With the 108th Congress upon us and Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act being worked on now, we at the Drug Reform Coordination Network are writing to ask you to help turn up the heat on the student-led campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act's drug provision (

During the 2001-2002 school year, more than 47,700 students were denied access to federal college aid because of drug convictions, loans, grants, even work-study programs. This number doesn't account for people who didn't bother applying because they assumed they would be ineligible. The current academic year, the third in which the drug provision is in force and the second in which it is being fully enforced, is expected to see just as many young people forced out of school or they or their families plunged into financial hardship because of the HEA drug provision.

In February of 2003, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) reintroduced his legislation to repeal the drug provision in full. Last year, the bill had garnered 67 cosponsors, and 10 members of Congress spoke at a press conference at the US Capitol organized by the DRCNet-sponsored Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform. Already, the new Frank bill, H.R. 685, has picked up 40 cosponsors, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy now stretches across more than 200 campuses, with hundreds more in the works, a formidable force turning up the heat on this issue. Your help is needed to meet and exceed the support the bill had last year and to go on to get the drug provision repealed. The most likely opportunity for that is the Higher Education Act reauthorization process.

Please visit to write Congress, learn about the issue and download our newly-updated activist packet. (Hit reload or refresh on your browser if you get a "campaign expired" message.) When you're done, please call your Representative on the phone to make an even stronger impact -- you can use the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or visit to look up their direct numbers.

Students, visit to find out how to get involved with the campaign on your campus -- more than 100 student governments so far have endorsed our resolution calling for repeal of the drug provision. If you're already at work on this, please write us at [email protected] and let us know what's happening. Also, visit for an online copy of the newly-updated activist packet. Please leave us your e-mail address so we can send you occasional updates on the HEA campaign.

Please forward this alert to your friends or use the tell-a-friend form on, and please consider making a donation -- large or small -- to keep this and other DRCNet efforts moving forward at full speed. Visit to help, or mail your check or money order to DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Contact us for instructions if you wish to donate stock.)

Again, visit to write to Congress and get involved in the campaign! Here are some reasons why the HEA drug provision is wrong:

  • The vast majority of Americans convicted of drug offenses are convicted of nonviolent, low-level possession.
  • The HEA drug provision represents a penalty levied only on the poor and the working class; wealthier students will not have the doors of college closed to them for want to financial aid.
  • The HEA drug provision has a disparate impact on different races. African Americans, for example, comprise 13% of the population and 13% of all drug users, but account for more than 55% of those convicted of drug possession charges.
  • Access to a college education is the surest route to the mainstream economy and a crime-free life.

8. Mérida Footage, Photos Now Online

Video footage and photographs from Mérida are now online! Visit for these and for ongoing posting of resources and information on the Out from the Shadows campaign. Our thanks to Jim & Ellen Fields of Eclectech Media in Mérida, and to Radio Radicale, for their outstanding work documenting this historic event, as well as Jeremy Bigwood for photography.

Visit Eclectech for video or audio of most of the conference, English and Spanish versions. (The luncheon speeches by Mexican congressman Gregorio Urias German and Colombian senator and former supreme court chief justice Carlos Gaviria Diaz haven't been posted there yet but will be shortly.)

Visit Radio Radicale for video as well as interviews from the conference, in the original language of the presenters.

Visit through for copious photos from the conference, courtesy Jeremy Bigwood, and let us know if you need high resolution versions for publication.

Read our Mérida conference report, from issue #275 of The Week Online, to learn more about what happened at the conference:

Visit to subscribe to the Out from the Shadows announcements e-mail list. Visit to make a donation to help us continue this groundbreaking campaign. And please check out our "Road to Mérida" interview series if you haven't already:

Mario Menéndez, Publisher of !Por Esto!, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico

Dr. Jaime Malamud-Goti, former Argentine Solicitor General

Dr. Francisco Fernandez, Anthropologist and Former Rector of Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán

Interview with Al Giordano, publisher of Narco News

Gustavo de Greiff, Former Prosecutor General of Colombia

Luis Gómez, Andean Bureau Chief for Narco News

Ricardo Sala, (Live With Drugs), Mexico

Dr. Silvia Inchaurraga, Argentine Harm Reductionist

María Mercedes Moreno of Mama Coca

Luiz Paulo Guanabara, Brazil, Executive Director of Psico-Tropicus

9. Newsbrief: Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Coop Head Gets Three Months in Jail for Trying to Inform Jurors

Jeff Jones, head of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Coop, was sentenced to three months in jail Thursday after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of jury tampering. Jones was arresting for distributing literature outside the federal courthouse in Sacramento during jury selection in the federal prosecution of medical marijuana provider Bryan Epis last September. Epis was convicted of federal marijuana distribution charges and is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence.

Jones was charged with attempting to inform potential jurors about the background of the Epis case, particularly the facts that Epis was a medical marijuana patient in compliance with California's Compassionate Use Act and that he was attempting to grow medical marijuana for a patients' group in Chico, CA.

The harsh jail sentence for Jones is only the latest indication that the federal government is scared that allowing federal juries in California to hear the complete story about its prosecutions of medical marijuana providers would result in failures to convict. Most recently, the federal judge in the Ed Rosenthal case took great pains to excise any mention of medical marijuana, California law, or Oakland ordinances allowing Rosenthal to grow medical marijuana -- an action that caused Rosenthal jurors to react with anger and disgust when informed of all the facts of that case.

Jones pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge rather than face felony charges of jury tampering. His sentence begins on March 3.

In a press release Thursday, California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer denounced Jones' sentence as an inexcusable misuse of law enforcement resources. "It's time that our federal government took action to reform the marijuana laws, rather than waste yet more taxpayers' money to perpetuate its blatantly unjust, bankrupt and unpopular policy," he said.

10. Newsbrief: Belgium to Legalize Marijuana Possession, Use

In late January, the Belgian government moved to legalize the personal use and possession of marijuana and earlier this month, the Belgian parliament gave preliminary approval to the move. In a 75-40 vote, parliament agreed that Belgians will be allowed to possess up to five grams of marijuana and grow one plant without criminal penalties.

Belgium will not follow the Dutch model and allow for the open sales of marijuana. Belgian authorities did, however, note that their citizens could travel to the Netherlands to procure the herb. Belgians who want to obtain marijuana could "grow it for yourself or buy it in the Netherlands," said Consumer Affairs and Health Ministry spokesman Paul Geerts.

The move comes nearly two years after the Belgian parliament formally called on prosecutors and judges to "no longer interfere in the lives of people who use cannabis on a personal basis and who do not create harm or do not show dependence."

Marijuana trafficking, public use of marijuana, and use in the presence of a minor will continue to be prosecuted. "This is a policy that is being followed in many of the countries in the European Union," said Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. "We are not penalizing individual users of cannabis, but we are concentrating on production, distribution or problematic use."

11. Newsbrief: Switzerland Marijuana Legalization Moving, Opposition Mobilizes

Switzerland's achingly slow progress toward marijuana law reform is once again inching forward, with hearings having taken place in parliament last week and a final vote scheduled for May. The Swiss Senate in December 2001 approved legalization of possession and production for personal use, as well as a limited trade in the herb. Under the Senate proposal, importing or exporting marijuana would remain illegal, as would advertising.

But now, with marijuana legalization on the verge of actually happening, opponents are mobilizing, according to reports from Swiss Radio International. Since year's end, the country's German-language media has been filled with reports warning of the psychological danger of marijuana use. The articles are part of an orchestrated campaign against legalization, said Christine Goll, vice-president of the parliamentary commission for health and social security, which is reviewing the legislation.

"These campaigners are hoping to influence the parliamentarians," she told Swiss Radio International, adding that the commission has received numerous letters that appear to be part of a coordinated campaign.

Opponents have gained support from the Swiss-German teachers' union, which in late January issued a statement criticizing legalization. "Unlike alcohol, cannabis has a direct and epidemic influence on school life," said the missive, adding that it did not want school to become "a therapy center, where people come to sober up or to catch up on their sleep."

The Swiss-French teachers' union also joined the anti campaign, asking, "Do we want a society full of dopey people, who take less and less responsibility for their actions?"

But with the Swiss government, the Swiss Senate, and the Swiss Institute for Drug and Alcohol prevention all supporting legalization, it appears that the opposition is too little too late. "It is a last-ditch attempt by a few diehards; the battle is already lost," said parliamentary commission member Yves Guisan. "Most importantly, the commission has not changed its stance on decriminalization."

Visit for information on anti-prohibition efforts in Switzerland.

12. Newsbrief: "Kiddie Meth" Legislation Spreads to Illinois, Missouri

In December, DRCNet reported on an effort afoot in Colorado to punish methamphetamine manufacturers who have children by charging them with felony child abuse and allowing state authorities to initiate civil child negligence proceedings to remove such children ( Now, similar moves are underway in Illinois and Missouri.

In Illinois, State Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), a member of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, announced on February 17 that he will introduce legislation to double prison sentences and fines for meth cooks "whose operations endanger children," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Haine did not explain whether his legislation would assume, as do the Colorado bills, that any meth cooking in a home where children live would constitute endangering children. The bill has not yet been filed, and Haine told the Post-Dispatch he was consulting with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on precise wording.

Haine, a former Madison County prosecutor, made the announcement at a joint news conference with Madigan. "It's greed run amok, and greed that preempts any concern for children," Haines asserted.

Madigan, for her part, recounted de rigeur meth horror stories while urging support for the as yet unwritten bill. "Criminals who cook drugs next to where they cook dinner simply do not care about the welfare of children," she said.

Across the Mississippi River in Missouri, state Sen. Steve Stoll (D-Festus) is vowing similar action, according to the Post-Dispatch. Stoll told a gathering of Midwest narcotics investigators and politicians at a February 21 meth summit in Pacific, MO, that he would introduce legislation making it a crime to cook meth where children live or within 2,000 feet of a school. Violators would face a minimum 10-year prison sentence, he said. "We need to convince people that there is a risk to making methamphetamine and they are going to go to prison for it," Stoll said.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, the kiddie meth bills are moving. House Bill 03-1040, which would make meth manufacture in the presence of a child prima facie evidence of child abuse, has passed the House and passed the state Senate Judiciary Committee. It awaits a vote of the full Senate. HB 03-1169, which would allow for civil child neglect proceedings in cases of meth manufacture has been sent from the House Judiciary Committee to the Appropriations Committee, where it awaits action.

13. Newsbrief: MPP Releases TV Ads on Harms of Marijuana Prohibition in Third Phase of Group's "War on Drug Czar" Campaign

The Marijuana Policy Project this week took its "War on Drug Czar" campaign to a new phase as it began running TV ads in Washington, DC, lampooning the drug czar's drugs and terrorism ad campaign. MPP has already asked for inquiries of drug czar John Walters' campaign against last year's marijuana initiatives at both the state level in Nevada and the federal level in Washington, DC.

Designed to parody Office of National Drug Control Policy ads linking marijuana use to terrorism, gang violence, teen pregnancy, and just about any other social ill the czar can imagine, the ad features two men -- the famous Nick and Norm of the ONDCP ads -- conversing in a bar. Nick tells Norm that the marijuana trade supports violence only because marijuana is illegal. "If I buy a beer, that doesn't support terror, because beer is legal, right?" Nick asks. When Norm agrees, Nick concludes, "So what you're saying is if we make marijuana legal and regulate it like beer, it wouldn't support violence."

The ads began running Thursday on ABC, CBS, and FOX affiliates in Washington, DC, and are scheduled to run through March 7, said MPP Communications Director Bruce Mirken. They cost $20,000.

Public interest groups that run issue ad campaigns count on media attention to amplify their message, and MPP is no exception. "We've managed to get some coverage from the Associated Press and from a local TV station," he said. "We're hoping for more, but it's tough these days, it's all Iraq all the time."

Still, the ads were needed because of ONDCP's anti-marijuana propaganda, said Mirken. "The drug czar has really gone heavily on the anti-marijuana binge with the campaign he's running," Mirken said. "The point is really that marijuana doesn't cause violence, prohibition does."

In response to the ad campaign, ONDCP spokesman Tom Riley said the ads were flawed because the same logic would support legalizing heroin or cocaine.

Visit to view the ads.

14. Newsbrief: Utah Drugged Driving Bill is DOA in House

A little opposition can go a long way. At least that's the lesson that can be learned from Utah, where a bill that would make drivers involved in fatal accidents guilty of vehicular homicide if they had even trace amount of illicit drug in their systems went down in flames in the Utah House after sailing through the Senate last month. SB007, the "Automobile Homicide Amendments," introduced by Sen. Carlene Walker (R-Halliday), would have allowed prosecutors to declare drugged drivers impaired without actually showing any evidence of impairment -- merely the presence of metabolites from a drug.

As with similar bills being considered at state houses across the country, SB007 is the outgrowth of drug czar John Walters' national "zero tolerance" anti-drugged driving campaign announced in November (

But while the bill sailed through the state Senate, according to the Salt Lake City Weekly, the efforts of three men helped kill it in the House. Mark Moffat, president of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, spoke out against the bill, calling it a "dangerous piece of legislation" likely prompted by a "particular case where there was someone who was loaded and somebody died but they couldn't prove he was impaired."

State Rep. LaVar Christensen (R-Draper) also played a key role, according to the City Weekly. He raised serious questions about the constitutionality of the bill, especially when it relied on a blood test to prove impairment when science did not support such a finding.

And common man Stan Burnett, who objected to the bill's provisions that would allow someone who use marijuana days or weeks earlier to be charged with drugged driving, wrote letters to the editor and contacted representatives to line up votes against the bill. It worked. "I have had a great time," Burnett told the City Weekly. "But I've been nervous. I've really been kind of obsessed about this. I'm just amazed by how accessible the process is. I've been really pleased, because as a citizen, you can engage the process."

With similar bills on the legislative agenda across the country, citizens of other states may want to follow Burnett's example.

15. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story

A federal jury in McAllen, TX, shot Valentine's Day arrows at two Rio Grande Valley police officers, finding them guilty of aiding and abetting drug traffickers, extortion and conspiracy on February 14. Former Donna, TX, police chief Marco Abel Partida and former Donna police officer Gerardo Vigil were found guilty of using police vehicles to escort hundreds of pounds of marijuana through their town.

The two were set to be sentenced Thursday. They face up to 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine.

The busts came after convicted drug dealer turned informant Rigoberto Quintanilla ratted out the pair. Quintanilla secretly taped meetings where he, Partida and Vigil worked out their deals, escorted what they thought to be loads of marijuana, and divided up the spoils from their dirty work. Quintanilla turned informer after being busted at a US Border Patrol checkpoint in a semi-trailer loaded with 6,000 pounds of pot.

"This is not the end of the process," assistant US Attorney Daniel Rodriguez told a press conference after the verdict was announced. "It's the beginning of what we're trying to accomplish, not only in the Valley, but in the whole southern district of Texas -- hold people and especially public officials accountable."

As readers of this feature undoubtedly realize, Rodriguez should count on being busy for the foreseeable future.

16. The Reformer's Calendar

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

March 1, Harlem, NY, inaugural breakfast of newly-forming coalition of people of faith working for repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Sponsored by JusticeWorks Community, at Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church, 1972 Madison Ave. (E. 126th between Park and Madison). Call Julie Mormando at (718) 499-6704 for an invitation.

March 1-2, Kingston, RI, 2003 Students for Sensible Drug Policy Northeast Regional Meeting. At the University of Rhode Island, featuring speakers, training sessions, break-out discussions, entertainment, e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.

March 2, 2:00-4:00pm, Laguna Beach, CA, November Coalition Vigil. Meet at Main Beach, contact Rachel at Rachel at (949) 494-5327 for further information.

March 4, Brussels, Belgium, public hearing on Europe's role in international drug policy reform. At the European Parliament, Room PHS 4B 01, sponsored by the International Coalition of NGOs for Just and Effective Drug Policies. For further information, visit or contact 00 32 (0)3 237 7436 or [email protected].

March 5, Antwerp, Belgium, meeting of European drug policy activists, sponsored by the International Coalition of NGOs for Just and Effective Drug Policies. For further information, visit or contact 00 32 (0)3 237 7436 or [email protected].

March 12, 5:00pm, Baltimore, MD, "Effects of the War on Drugs and our Current Drug Policies - It's Time to Begin a Discussion," hearing on Resolution #03-1024. At the Council Chambers, City Hall, Room 408, 100 N. Holliday Street, will be televised on City Cable, channel TV 21. Contact the Baltimore CityWide Coalition at (410) 728-8611 or [email protected] for further information.

March 12, 7:00pm, Charleston, SC, "Alternatives to Prison in the War on Drugs," featuring Dr. Gene Tinelli, Addiction Psychiatrist, Syracuse, NY, Probate Judge Irv Condon, Charleston Drug Court, and Mark Cowell, Director, Charleston County Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Services. At the College of Charleston, Education Center, Room 118, 25 St. Philip St., contact [email protected] for further information.

March 14, 1:00pm, Philadelphia, PA, "Drug War Reality Tour: The Philadelphia - Plan Colombia Connection." Meeting in front of the KWRU office, 2825 N. 5th St., seating limited. Registration $25-$50 or $10 for low income, register by fax to (215) 203-1950 or by e-mail to [email protected] and bring your check to the event or mail it to Drug War Reality Tour, c/o Kensington Welfare Rights Union, P.O. Box 50678, Philadelphia, PA 19132. Visit or contact Arun Prabhakaran at (215) 564-6388 ext. 16 or [email protected] for info.

April 4-6, Providence, RI, Medical Marijuana Symposium, organized by Brown University Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Contact [email protected] for further information.

April 6-10, Chiangmai, Thailand, "Strengthening Partnerships for a Safer Future," 14th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug-Related Harm, sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Coalition in partnership with the Asian Harm Reduction Network. For further information, visit or contact [email protected] or (6653) 223624, 894112 x102.

April 17-19, San Francisco, CA, 2003 NORML Conference. Details to follow, visit for information.

April 23-26, Manchester, NJ, 13th North American Syringe Exchange Convention. Visit for further information.

June 7-11, Denver, CO, 23rd National Convocation of Jail and Prison Ministry. Visit or contact Sr. Carleen Reck at [email protected] for information.

November 5-8, East Rutherford, NJ, biennial conference of Drug Policy Alliance. At the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel and Conference Center, 2 Meadowlands Plaza, visit for further information.

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