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

Issue #278, 3/14/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Federal Judge Refuses to Block Potential Federal Arrests of California Medical Marijuana Patients
  2. No Comment: Antonio Maria Costa, Director-General of UN Office on Drugs and Crime Addresses Swedes on Marijuana
  3. Funding Crunch Hits Drug Reform Movement
  4. DRCNet Interview: Adam Jones, Teachers Against Prohibition
  5. DRCNet Book Review: "Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family," Charles Bowden (2002, Simon & Schuster, $27.00 HB)
  6. Alert: HEA Reform Legislation Re-filed, Needs Your Support
  7. Newsbrief: Mexican Anti-Drug Choppers Shot Down, Five Dead
  8. Newsbrief: Colorado Kiddie Meth Bill Passes, Awaits Governor's Signature
  9. Newsbrief: Colorado Legislators Ponder Plan to Cut Nonviolent Offender, Drug Sentences
  10. Newsbrief: Illinois DA Makes Woman Meth Poster Child
  11. Newsbrief: House Panel Goes After Federal Judge for Being Too Lenient on Drug Offenders
  12. Newsbrief: Who Wants Drug Testing? Not Pennsylvania Cops, Not Colorado Teachers
  13. Newsbrief: New Zealand Moves to Heighten Methamphetamine Penalties -- Life Sentences for Some Offenses
  14. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Federal Judge Refuses to Block Potential Federal Arrests of California Medical Marijuana Patients

A federal judge in San Francisco Monday refused to grant a preliminary injunction blocking the US government from prosecuting medical marijuana users in California. The plaintiffs in the case, patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson, sought an order blocking Attorney General John Ashcroft from prosecuting them for growing, smoking, or obtaining medical marijuana.

While US District Judge Martin Jenkins said he was sympathetic to the plaintiffs' plight, he ruled that federal law and the Food and Drug Administration prevented him from issuing the injunction. "Despite the gravity of the plaintiffs' need for medical cannabis, and despite the concrete interest of California to provide it for individuals like them, the court is constraining from granting their request," Jenkins wrote.

The case, Raich v. Ashcroft, was the latest in a number of legal efforts to block the federal government from enforcing its marijuana laws against medical marijuana users and providers in California. California voters in 1996 overwhelmingly approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, but since the Supreme Court ruled last year that the law provided no medical necessity defense, federal officials have raided and prosecuted numerous medical marijuana providers and users.

In a message to supporters Monday, Raich called the ruling "a travesty and a miscarriage of justice" and vowed not to give up. She also vowed to continue to use marijuana as medicine. "I have been asked if I would continue to use medical cannabis after the decision," she wrote. "The answer is yes! I will continue to use my medicine and if the government does not like it they know where I live, and they can come and get me. I will not have my own blood on my hands by stopping using medical cannabis, and I am not going to give up this fight."

Raich's husband, Robert Raich, who handled the medical marijuana case before the Supreme Court last year, told the Associated Press that he would appeal the ruling and that he is "laying the groundwork to go back to the Supreme Court again."

Although the Supreme Court ruled in the Oakland Cannabis Co-op case that there was no medical necessity defense, the decision left open several constitutional questions. In his opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas noted that while the court rejected the medical necessity defense, it did not address important constitutional issues, including Congress' ability to regulate intrastate commerce, states' rights to experiment with their own laws, and whether US citizens have a right to marijuana for pain relief. The court would not decide those "underlying issues today," Thomas wrote.

Now Angel and Robert Raich and Diane Monson are aiming to give the court another chance.

Visit to read Judge Jenkins' ruling online. Visit to read the complete pleadings in the case.

2. No Comment: Antonio Maria Costa, Director-General of UN Office on Drugs and Crime Addresses the Swedes on Marijuana

So that DRCNet readers may see what drug reformers are up against at the United Nations next month in Vienna, the Week Online here provides excerpts from a speech given by UN Office on Drugs and Crime head Antonio Maria Costa on March 7 at the International Cannabis Symposium in Stockholm.

Acosta praises the Swedes, who have one of the harshest drug policies in Europe: "Your invitation offers me the opportunity to commend the Government of Sweden for its long-term commitment to the prevention of drug addiction and its generous support to multilateral action to reduce illicit drug production, trafficking and abuse, worldwide. Your social and health policies are admired around the globe. They are a clear demonstration that the people of Sweden take seriously the welfare of the nation. Your example, a beacon to the world, has produced one of the highest standards of living, and a most egalitarian society where social inclusion has been more than just the usual slogan. Your success, mirrored throughout the Nordic region, should be carefully considered by other countries: It has brought health and wealth, making a difference in the prevention of drug abuse."

Acosta attacks the demon weed: "Cannabis Sativa is a most gentle looking, spontaneously growing plant with several practical applications already known in the ancient world. It contains, however, treacherously addictive substances that have turned the plant into an international problem. Like for other illicit drugs, cannabis is a global problem not simply because it is traded everywhere, but because it cannot be countered by any single nation. The reality of this evil business is such that consumers in one region provide for the supply elsewhere; similarly supply can generate its own demand across borders.

Acosta pats drug fighters on the back: "Our purpose is unassailable..."

Acosta hypes the drug menace: "[W]orld public opinion has become much more aware of, and involved in appraising the risks and the consequences of drug abuse, urging governments to place all attendant forms of uncivil behavior high on the public policy agenda. Indeed, almost universally, public opinion polls have listed the 'evil trilogy' -- drugs, crime and terrorism -- as the most potent threats to society."

Acosta identifies the threat: "[T]he spreading of a permissive culture that stresses the right to choose individual lifestyles (including abuse), and that proselytizes differentiation among types of narcotics -- as if some among these were less dangerous to health than others. Cannabis, and synthetic drugs like amphetamine-type stimulants, are some of these... Occasional calls for the reconsideration (i.e. relaxation) of current drug control legislation are hardly consistent with member countries' stated objective of protecting present and future generations from the devastating consequences of nicotine addiction -- itself not an illicit substance. The priority the international community is attributing to promoting stronger tobacco-control legislation and the cessation of tobacco use is twin to global efforts to maintain strong counter-narcotics legislation -- which deals with substances under international control."

Acosta feigns confusion about medical marijuana: "I am not sure I understand the controversy about the medical virtues of cannabis: First, if and when they are ascertained, society should definitely make use of them. Who could oppose the advances of medicine? Who would stand in the way of reducing suffering? My concern is to prevent that, by proclaiming the (medical) virtues of cannabis, we open a back door to its wider (recreational) consumption. Society would end up regretting such abuse, just as we now regret tobacco addiction. If proven to be medically useful -- and this is my second point -- cannabis should be treated like any other medicine, namely as a pharmaceutical preparation to be prescribed for specific symptoms in accordance with properly determined dosages and standards. In other words, either we are serious about the medical properties of cannabis (and we, in this Hall, take the question very seriously) or it is just a matter of using such properties as a Trojan horse to reach other goals -- namely, the de facto decriminalization of its production and trafficking. In this case I would be strongly negative."

Acosta's riposte to reformers: "My Office in Vienna is considered the custodian of the international drug control treaties. These conventions are a world asset, negotiated to protect the health of our societies. Three centuries ago, when tobacco consumption started to spread and eventually became today's scourge, the sort of international consensus that eventually brought about the drug control treaties was not in place -- was not even conceivable. To those who would like to dispose of the UN drug conventions, I'd like to ask: If the United Nations had existed at the dawn of the tobacco era, would it not have been wise to produce a convention similar to the ones designed for narcotics? When I pose this question, the universal answer is always affirmative: In other words, while it is impossible to conceive of prohibiting the consumption of tobacco today, it would certainly have been wise to have banned it a few centuries back. So, may I ask, why do people try to put the clock back and weaken the UN drug control conventions, established to fight an even greater threat to our health?"

Visit to read Acosta's speech in its entirety.

3. Funding Crunch Hits Drug Reform Movement

(Disclosure: This article discusses funding sources that support this newsletter and other DRCNet programs.)

Lay-offs, deferred projects, canceled conferences -- these are some of the immediate consequences of a funding crisis now hitting the drug reform movement. While the funding squeeze is due in part to general economic and social factors, it also reflects shifting priorities for some major individual funders and institutional changes that have slowed the funding process. However one divvies up the responsibility, the impact is already showing up.

"There is less money available than last year," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (, an organization that, along with George Soros' Open Society Institute (OSI), helps decide on grants funded through the Tides Foundation Fund for Drug Policy Reform. "A number of things account for that. First, the economy is poor, and many people who contributed got hit by the stock market."

The money crunch is not limited to drug policy reform. Indeed, in its March 6 issue, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that even the nation's largest private foundations have seen their assets drop for the third straight year and that more than 100 of them are reducing or freezing their grant levels this years.

"Second," said Nadelmann, "there is growing competition for funding, not only within the movement, but between drug reform and other concerns," he told DRCNet. "Many contributors are Democrats and were focused on the elections last year, and since then they continue to focus on the composition of the federal government."

But also, added Nadelmann, OSI is reducing its share. "With OSI, there is a continuing commitment in the area of drug reform, but not at the level it was in 1999 and 2000." The move is part of a broader OSI retreat from operations in the US, he said. "OSI is going through an evolution toward a significantly reduced level of funding, and a number of US projects are basically being phased out in the next few years. Drug reform has fared well within OSI, but is not exempt from the overall reductions."

And Nadelmann pointed to one more reason for the funding slowdown. "Folks are stepping back and trying to reassess. We suffered various losses on ballot initiatives last year, and Washington is firmly in the hands of the drug warriors. There is a lot of questioning about what are the optimal strategies. Ballot initiatives loomed large for funders, and now there is some questioning of that."

That's not news to the Campaign for New Drug Policies (, the organization behind California's Proposition 36 and a slew of other successful initiative campaigns in the states. CNDP has just laid off three staffers for lack of funds. "We're down to bare bones," CNDP's Dave Fratello told DRCNet. "We don't have any funding commitments or guaranteed plans for next year, but we continue to throw ideas at funders."

Part of CNDP's problem, said Fratello, is the cyclical nature of its campaigns. "When you work in election campaigns, you don't expect to stay in business and automatically get funding for new campaigns," he explained. "Our staff goes up and down, and right now we're at the low point between election cycles. We're still trying to raise money, and we remain optimistic about the future."

Dave Purchase, executive director of the North American Syringe Exchange Network (, wishes he could wax as philosophical as Fratello, but he told DRCNet funding problems have already forced NASEN to cancel its annual conference -- and then some. "We had to cancel the conference because a grant we anticipated receiving never came," Purchase told DRCNet. "At first, we thought it was late, now we don't know when it will come or how much it will be. In addition to canceling the conference, we have reduced our staff time by 40%, effective February 15. Since we only have the equivalent of two full-time employees, no one has been laid off, but what this means is that no one will be in the office to answer the phone on Fridays, our responses to inquiries will be slower, and we are looking at what other programs we may have to cut."

What galls Purchase as much as the lost funding is the lack of notice. "The real problem is we are in an unpredicted immediate fiscal crisis without warning," he said. "Nobody's funding cycle is set up to send us a check in two weeks. If something isn't worked out fast, we'll have to make really drastic decisions long before the granting process can be completed."

The funding crunch has also hit the Harm Reduction Coalition (, a New York-based harm reduction education and resource center, which announced two weeks ago that it could not publish its newsletter, the Harm Reduction Communication. But it's worse than that, HRC director Allan Clear told DRCNet. "It's not just the newsletter," he said. "We've all taken pay cuts. It's like standing on a table and having two legs kicked out from under you."

Clear wasn't happy with the way HRC's major funder had operated regarding the sudden loss of money. "To be told when you're already in your funding year and relied on the money to arrive at a certain time, then get a phone call saying the money has been cut and they don't know when it will come, is tough to deal with," he said. "We don't have to produce a newsletter, but we do have to pay the rent. Now I have to waste time figuring out how I can sublet the office. You know, maybe compared to active needle exchange programs, what we do is a luxury, but our money goes to interacting with people in the movement, and if you're going to be a movement for social change, you can't be getting undermined by your allies like this."

But Clear wasn't ready to let the Harm Reduction Communication die just yet, either. "I have to find the money to keep us going through the next few months," he said, "but if we can find the money to print and mail it, it will go out. In the meantime, this is a great time to be sending in submissions -- if we can put together a brilliant issue, maybe we can get someone to fund it. And we will continue to have it available on the web."

The two big institutional sources of movement funding are the Tides Foundation's Fund for Drug Policy Reform (, which administers grants formerly handled by George Soros' Open Society Institute (OSI) and the erstwhile Drug Policy Foundation, now part of the Drug Policy Alliance (; and the Marijuana Policy Project's grants program (

The MPP grants program is dedicated to supporting "efforts that foster measurable changes in US public policy that will lead to marijuana's being regulated similarly to alcohol and to marijuana's availability for medical use," according to MPP's web site. The program, which is funded by Progressive Insurance chairman Peter Lewis, one of the so-called "troika" of big individual drug reform funders along with George Soros and John Sperling, disbursed $950,000 last year, and is set to award $1 million this year, MPP executive director Rob Kampia told DRCNet.

The MPP grants program does fund some efforts that are broader than marijuana alone but have a significant marijuana-related component, said Kampia, citing recent grants to the Higher Education Act reform campaign (DRCNet received a grant of $39,000+ for non-student organizing in key Congressional districts) and to Flex Your Rights (, an organization that teaches young people how to respond to police encounters. "If we see that there is a project that will advance our goal of ending marijuana prohibition, such as HEA reform, then we can fund it," said Kampia.

MPP holds three grantmaking rounds per year, cutting checks in March, May and September. Tides has not yet announced a 2003 schedule, however, and this is what many organizations are watching and waiting on. Tides money, and its predecessor programs at DPF and OSI, have provided crucial support for groups ranging from the Austin Harm Reduction Coalition and the Puerto Rican Alianza Positiva (Positive Alliance) to the November Coalition and the Topeka AIDS Project, and many other organizations working in drug reform, harm reduction and related areas. (See for a listing.)

"Tides support for DRCNet work and projects in the last 14 months exceeded a hundred thousand dollars," DRCNet executive director David Borden said, "so obviously we like the places where Tides gives their money." DRCNet received $58,000 in general support from Tides plus $30,000 to hire a campus coordinator for the Higher Education Act reform campaign ( during that time, and Tides also awarded $20,000 to Narco News for travel costs of Latin American participants in DRCNet's conference last month, "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century" (, in the Mexican city of Mérida on the Yucatán peninsula.

"Two and a half months into 2003, 80 percent of our budget for the year is still up in the air, though not all of that is dependent on Tides. I'm not sure if I'll be able to pay my staff in two weeks, let alone two months or the rest of the year. Our key campaigns have been significantly affected by this situation," Borden continued. "Last year, we used a portion of our core funds to pay for direct lobbying and coalition work in the HEA campaign -- culminating in the pivotal May 21 press conference at the Capitol, where 10 members of Congress spoke out for full repeal of the HEA drug provision. But this year, we can't do that, because we don't have core funds. Students for Sensible Drug Policy is facing the same problem, without as large a set of financial supporters as DRCNet has to draw on, so they can't pay for it either. We're working together to find creative ways to make the things happen over the next month that urgently need to, and DPA is pitching in staff time too. But not much money plus not much money doesn't add up to sufficient resources to do the job." DRCNet and SSDP are mustering forces for a Capitol Hill press conference and Day of Action next month promoting Barney Frank's reintroduced bill, H.R. 685, to repeal the drug provision in full.

DRCNet's work has also been indirectly affected by the movement's larger financial woes. "We called every drug reform group in the country on the phone to pitch them on attending our conference," Borden said. "A few did show up, but the vast majority told us they'd love to go but were just too broke -- even if we waived the registration fee, they couldn't afford the plane tickets. That in turn meant fewer paid registrations and therefore less money with which to sponsor Latin American attendees. With 300 people there, the conference still turned out well -- in part due to Tides support -- but it could have been even bigger and better."

"Tides went through inevitable startup problems," acknowledged Nadelmann. "That happens whenever you reorganize or initiate a substantial grants program. And this program is handling grants to about a hundred organizations, along with three directed programs -- one on California's Prop. 36, one on reducing heroin overdose fatalities, and on one drug reform in Latin America. A lot of these problems should now be in the past." [Editor's Note: The three directed programs mentioned above were funded for 2002 and will not necessarily be the same ones funded for 2003.]

But more than organizational problems at Tides, said Nadelmann, the primary problem is more good groups and projects competing for less money. "There's less than last year, but hopefully as much as two years ago, and the number of competing quality programs and organizations is only increasing."

"We thought we had a much larger pot to work with," said Michelle Coffey, the senior program officer for Tides who manages the Fund for Drug Policy Reform, "but OSI, which is our major source, is only providing approximately $2 million this year, about half of what it provided last year. We continue to seek additional funding sources, but they haven't yet come forth, so now we are reevaluating the cycle," she told DRCNet. "There is an internal evaluation about how to reduce the harm to the movement, so we have not announced the 2003 schedule, and that is probably where the tension and apprehension is coming from."

But things are moving, said Coffey. "We got this information about reduced funding at the end of the year, and it's been hard to move everything forward, but we hope to have everything announced in the coming weeks. Most of the delay has been about how to move forward in a healthy, responsible manner," she said. "I understand that folks are upset because they don't know what's going on, and we are trying ways to get this information out rapidly," Coffey continued. "Our first announcement for the 2003 funding cycle will go out in the mail, but we've cut back on mailings to decrease administrative costs, and we'll usually be communicating via e-mail. We don't yet have the funding cycle confirmed, and we don't know the amount we will be able to give away yet, but we will let people know as soon as possible."

But even when the Tides Foundation for Drug Policy Reform money comes, there will be less of it. That means beating the bushes, said Nadelmann. "We've had to make a contingency program for the Tides program having half the funding it had last year, and while we are hopeful that more funds will become available, it is incumbent on organizations to do whatever they can to raise additional funds." The matter is especially serious for needle exchange programs, some of which had succeeded in raising funds from state and local governments, said Nadelmann.

Borden is worried about the future, and not just payrolls. "With the initiative strategy up in the air after a tough election season, grassroots and legislative efforts are more important than ever. If our movement doesn't start to provide consistent and adequate resources in a timely manner to the most promising efforts, there's no way we will be able to sustain the force needed to change drug laws during a time of conservative ascendancy. We may instead suffer greater and greater setbacks, unnecessarily, which in turn will decrease the interest of funders -- and politicians -- in supporting drug reform. I'm not talking about less progress made five years from now than we'd hoped; I'm predicting a major train wreck in the next 12-18 months if things don't change in a big way."

NASEN's Dave Purchase isn't waiting around for the collision. When asked if NASEN was exploring alternative funding sources, he replied: "You bet your ass. Have you got $5 you can lend us?"

4. DRCNet Interview: Adam Jones, Teachers Against Prohibition

Adam Jones, a 21-year-old Education major at Montana State University in Billings, got a rude introduction to US drug policy when he was arrested last year for possession of psilocybin mushrooms. As a result of that arrest and subsequent experiences with the criminal justice system, Jones began to look for ways to challenge prohibitionist orthodoxy. He founded the MSU NORML/SSDP chapter before handing its leadership over to others, and as a teacher-to-be, Jones looked at his own profession and, with the help of others in the drug reform movement, decided to try to bring the struggle for drug reform to the education community. He has become the moving force behind a newly formed group devoted to taking that battle into the ranks of the nation's educators, Teachers Against Prohibition ( DRCNet spoke with Jones about the group and its goals on Tuesday.

Week Online: What is Teachers Against Prohibition, and what is its mission?

Adam Jones: This is an organization aimed at generating support for drug reform among educators. I have, to a large degree, modeled it after Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( because I think both groups have much in common. Both organizations are trying to appeal to professions whose members see the results of the drug war on a daily basis, but don't necessarily see that most of the ill effects derive from prohibition itself. We have several goals. We seek to educate the public, the media and policymakers about the failures of current drug policy. We are working to create a speakers' bureau of knowledgeable and articulate educators who can describe the impact of these failed drug policies on things like teacher safety, teacher/community relations, and the human and financial costs of current drug policies. We want to restore students' respect for teachers, respect that has been diminished by their role in imposing and implementing drug prohibition, by participating in programs such as DARE, for example. And our ultimate goal is to reduce drug war harms by ending drug prohibition.

WOL: How did you come up with the idea of Teachers Against Prohibition?

Jones: I was at the SSDP/MPP conference in Anaheim and was talking with Justin Holmes from SSDP SUNY-Broome about teachers and drug policy, and he said, "you'd think there would be an organization." The idea grew from there. I bounced the idea of something like TAP off various people, and I got a lot of good input and support from groups like DrugSense (; in fact, DrugSense's Richard Lake sits on our board of directors. Also, Nora Callahan of the November Coalition ( came through town and sat down with me. I have to give her a lot of credit. Lots of people helped. I should also mention Kevin Zeese of Common Sense for Drug Policy (, who contributed as well.

WOL: This is a brand new organization. What kind of start are you off to?

Jones: Our membership drive is just getting underway and we already have 35 members. We've put the word out on every drug policy mailing list we know of, though we haven't done mainstream education lists yet. Still, we're getting new applications by the hour, and we now have members in the US, Canada, and New Zealand. In fact, we have six members from New Zealand, which is something of a surprise.

We are going to try to gain some endorsements before moving into the education mainstream. We will try to get an endorsement from the National Teachers' Association, which has already endorsed alternatives to marijuana prohibition. Then there's the National Education Association; that's more of a long-term project. And drug education and prevention specialist Marsha Rosenbaum ( has been working with Parent-Teacher Associations. We will try to follow her lead on that.

We have some good people for our speakers' bureau; now it's a matter of getting that up and running, of connecting them with the potential audiences out there, and we're also hoping to engage the legislative process, but that is probably a year or so down the road, after we do this initial membership drive, then learn how to maintain those members and keep them active.

We haven't done any press releases yet or received any real media attention, but one of the members of our board of directors, addiction specialist Patrick Jones, is set to do an interview with the Internet newspaper Sierra Times ( It's supposed to be about addiction and kids, but Patrick will get some plugs in for TAP.

WOL: Are there specific areas of drug policy on which you focus? If so, what are they?

Jones: The board of directors has selected three primary agenda items: DARE, drug testing in the schools, and reforming the Higher Education Act (HEA). Right now, we're really focusing on the HEA campaign ( because it is so active. We're trying to pair our actions with what SSDP does, trying to coordinate members and speakers with SSDP chapters. We're also trying to provide more faculty advisors for SSDP, campus NORML groups, or other campus-based drug reform groups. With DARE, we view that as a failed program, the research shows it is a failed program, and we're seeing DARE begin to be replaced -- even in Los Angeles, where it was born. DARE doesn't work and it costs a lot of money. Like any other government program that doesn't work, it should be replaced. We believe it should be replaced with reality-based drug education. And we want to see drug testing completely abolished. We think it is counterproductive in the schools and destructive of our constitutional traditions.

WOL: What can you do to combat what seems to be a steady increase in student drug testing in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision?

Jones: Our campaign is only in the beginning stages, but we are taking a firm stance against it. We hope to be able to educate the community about the harms of drug testing, its negative impact. From a student's point of view or a teacher's point of view, there is little positive about drug testing students and then kicking them off of extracurricular activities. It seems counterproductive. We're hoping we can enlist teachers and other educators to explain to school boards and PTAs why they should not adopt drug testing, or abolish it if it has been adopted.

WOL: Who can be a member of TAP?

Jones: People who been granted the authority by state, local or federal government to be teachers, as well as administrators and anyone else involved in the educational process. This includes people at the college and university level as well, and it includes people who are working to become teachers. If you have an Education major, you're welcome to join, and if you're up to the arduous task of grant-writing, all the better.

WOL: You have been arrested and convicted of a drug offense. Are you concerned that your record will damage TAP's credibility?

Jones: I was busted for a half-gram of psilocybin mushrooms. I'm on probation for the next three years. It is something of a worry, but it depends on who I'm trying to appeal to. If I'm talking to someone in drug reform, they'll probably not hold it against me. If I'm talking to a mainstream audience, that could present more of a problem, but it's not something I'll necessarily emphasize. A lot of people, like Nelson Mandela, did time for living and fighting for what they believed in. In being persecuted, they discovered how important it was that they continue to work for what they believe is right. When I was in jail, it really solidified my belief that things needed to be changed. I would like to think there was something positive about that whole experience. Besides, I now have the credibility of my convictions.

5. DRCNet Book Review: "Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family," Charles Bowden (2002, Simon & Schuster, $27.00 HB)

"This unwritten history takes place down by the river, on the fabled banks where two nations meet. The official history is about the corruption of Mexico. The unwritten history, or the one that is almost instantly erased, is about the corruption of both nations." -- Charles Bowden, "Down by the River"

Charles Bowden has made a name for himself as a chronicle-oldr of life in the desert Southwest, first as a reporter for the Tucson Citizen, then as the writer and essayist responsible for works such as "Blood Orchid," a searing meditation on hope and hopelessness, natural beauty and environmental devastation, and, above all, the darkness at the heart of the American dream. But for the past few decades, to write about the Southwest is also to write about the drug trade, drug prohibition, and its devastating impact.

Bowden has touched on such themes in his previous writings; in fact, some would argue that he has become obsessed by them, his work filled with lugubrious portrayals of death, destruction, and degradation, his prose turning melodramatic as, like Cassandra, he warns of dire consequences awaiting us.

But the US drug war, as waged in Mexico and on the border, is a melodrama, generating horrific violence, fabulous wealth, and personal tragedies of all sorts on a daily basis. Evil villains abound -- traffickers like Pablo Acosta, Amado Carrillo Fuentes, former Mexican President Raul Salinas, and the nameless hit men whose "adjusting of accounts" has left bodies all over the place -- only to be fought by the forces of goodness, namely the brave men and women of the DEA, Customs, and the rest of the US drug-fighting apparatus.

At least that is the official narrative. But as Bowden admirably shows in "Down By the River," in the real world of cross-border drug trafficking, this sort of "moral clarity" is soon lost in the murk and the muck. If, as Bowden strongly argues, various Mexican administrations have been complicit in the drug trade, then what about the various US administrations that have largely turned a blind eye to bank deposits of drug trade profits? If the cross-border drug trade is immoral, what about the immorality of men who make a living befriending others and then betraying them to the authorities? If Mexico is a country often denounced for torture -- and it is -- then what about US enforcers who, with a wink and a nod, turn over drug suspects to be tortured? (This is a question that can be asked more broadly as, on one hand President Bush denounces Saddam Hussein as an evil torturer, while on the other, reports begin to filter out of Afghanistan that US troops there are up to the same nasty tricks.)

Bowden doesn't necessarily have the answers to these questions, but what is important is that he raises them. If "Down By the River" accomplishes anything, it is to show that drug prohibition and the drug trade are wrapped in a pathological embrace, both feeding off the other, and both corrupting and dehumanizing not only themselves but the societies that generated them.

Bowden's narrative begins with a murder in El Paso in 1995 and expands outward from there like ripples in a pond. The death of Bruno Jordan was just another killing in a city that saw too many during the 1990s, except this time the victim was the younger brother of the incoming head of the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center, Philip (born Felipe) Jordan. Was the murder a thinly-veiled warning to Jordan not to mess with the Juarez Cartel? Philip Jordan thought so, and so did his El Paso-based family. Interspersed with plentiful digressions, Bowden details Jordan's descent into obsession and revenge as he spend the next few years trying to find who was behind his brother's murder.

Bowden explores the rise of Amado Carillo Fuentes ("the Lord of the Skies," a moniker he gained by buying 747s and using them to ship planeloads of cocaine from Colombia to Mexican airfields south of the border), almost casually noting the daily appearance of bodies in Ciudad Juarez as drug wars raged across the city and sketching the outlines of US efforts to thwart the trade. But he also takes the reader deep inside the Jordan family, an All-American Mexican-Italian clan deeply rooted in El Paso.

In the Jordan family, the ambiguities and tensions of the US war on drugs are encapsulated. Brother Tony, a nightclub singer on both sides of the border, tells Bowden of singing for the drug lords. Cousin Sal, another DEA agent, ends up in prison himself after attempting to arrange the murder of someone he thought was involved in Bruno's killing. And Philip Jordan, like an exemplar of US drug policy, loses his way, falling into a cycle of vengeance and depression, rage and despair.

So... did the cartels kill Bruno Jordan? By the end of "Down By the River," the reader is no more certain then at the beginning. And that, perhaps, is Bowden's point. In this man-made disaster called the war on drugs, truth is elusive, a plaything in the hands of those who would impose their agendas, and there is enough muck to dirty everyone involved. Charles Bowden may not have the answers, but readers interested in the effects of US drug policy on the border can go along for one hell of a ride as Bowden searches in the shadows.

6. 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 organized to repeal the measure. 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.

7. Newsbrief: Mexican Anti-Drug Choppers Shot Down, Five Dead

Two Mexican government helicopters on an anti-drug fumigation mission in the mountains of Guerrero, in southern Mexico, were shot out of the sky Monday. All five crew members of the two choppers died.

The helicopters were on a fumigation mission as part of Operation Mountains III, an ongoing eradication operation Mexico's Attorney General's Office that has fumigated some 330 hectares of marijuana and opium fields in Guerrero since the beginning of February, the attorney general's lead drug fighter, Estuardo Mario Bermudez, told reporters in Mexico City Monday afternoon. Guerrero is believed to be Mexico's leading producer of opium poppies and an important marijuana growing region. It has also been the site of sporadic guerrilla activity since at least the 1960s.

The choppers were shot down at the 6,000-foot level of the Tlapa Mountains, part of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range, near the remote village of Xitopontla, about 65 miles east of the state capital of Chilpancingo. Although Bermudez announced that elements of the Mexican Army and the Attorney General's Office were on the scene searching for the perpetrators, he acknowledged that their capture was "unlikely."

Bermudez added that the eradication campaign had provoked farmers and drug traffickers to a more active resistance. This resistance "has become a constant risk for this type of operations," he said, noting that farmers also hung cables over the fields to trap low-flying eradication choppers. Officials have had to cut 432 such cables, Bermudez said, "at great risk to the lives of policeman of the Attorney General's Office."

But Bermudez vowed no respite in the anti-drug effort. "Notwithstanding the lamentable loss of human life... the Attorney General's Office will not quit the permanent campaign against drug trafficking and will redouble its efforts to defeat it."

The permanent campaign is indeed permanent. This writer recalls being hauled out of buses in the middle of the night in Guerrero in the early 1980s as Mexican soldiers searched the vehicles as part of the "permanent campaign." Interestingly, those anti-drug roadblocks remained in the same location year after year, leading some observers to conclude that they were more part of a permanent public relations campaign than a permanent anti-drug campaign.

8. Newsbrief: Colorado Kiddie Meth Bill Passes, Awaits Governor's Signature

Colorado's "kiddie meth" bill, which expands the definition of child abuse and neglect to include manufacturing drugs in a home where children are present, has passed both houses of the Colorado legislature, and awaits only the signature of Gov. Bill Owens (R) to become law.

Under Colorado law, the governor need not sign a bill for it to become law, but Owens has been a strong supporter of the legislation and is expected to sign it. He has 10 days to do so once the bill reaches his desk, Colorado House staffers told DRCNet, but although the bill passed on March 3, the governor's 10-day clock doesn't start ticking until it officially reaches his desk. The bill has not done so yet, said the staffers.

HB1169, sponsored by Rep. Pam Rhodes (R-Thornton), carries penalties of up to 12 years in prison for violators. It is one of a package of three anti-meth bills introduced in the legislature this session. The other two remain alive ( and

On March 7, four days after the bill passed, Gov. Owens addressed the National Methamphetamine Conference, a symposium of police and prosecutors from across the country, where he called for tough prison terms for meth offenders. "Some say we can't afford to incarcerate people who prey on the public," Owens said. "I think we can't afford not to."

9. Newsbrief: Colorado Legislators Ponder Plan to Cut Nonviolent Offender, Drug Sentences

While moving last week to send more people to prison for more time for meth manufacturing in homes where children are present, the Colorado legislature is also considering a measure that would eliminate prison sentences for some nonviolent offenses (gambling, check fraud, and failure to register as a sex offender) and eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses.

State budget analyst Mark Valentine last week told the legislative budget committee the state could save nearly $30 million by eliminating prison sentences for the listed offenses and an additional $2 million by axing mandatory minimum drug sentences.

The legislative budgeters expressed interest, according to the Rocky Mountain News. "I think it's worth a try," said Sen. Dave Owen (R-Greeley), chairman of the budget committee.

"Eliminating the mandatory minimums for drug cases, that is probably worth discussing," added Rep. Brad Young (R-Lamar), the committee's vice chair.

Now if someone would only clue in the governor.

10. Newsbrief: Illinois DA Makes Woman Meth Poster Child

Pekin, IL, is a small town, and Penny Wood is finding out the hard way. Last month, Wood, a long-time methamphetamine user with previous convictions facing up to 30 years for drug conspiracy, agreed as part of a plea bargain to allow before and after images of her to be used as part of Tazewell County State's Attorney Stewart Umholtz's personal war on speed. "It was to be used for drug education purposes only, to keep kids off drugs," Wood told the Chicago Tribune this week. "Because that picture would. If that picture doesn't shock a child, I don't know what will." (Visit to view the paired images.)

But while Wood thought her anonymity would be protected and the images not widely disseminated, that has not been the case. She has been the butt of jokes on local radio stations, her grandchildren have worried aloud that the photos will show up at their schools, and the enthusiastic Umholtz has had them posted at the local Boys & Girls Club, the probation office and on his web site. While Umholtz has abided by his agreement not to release Wood's name, local newspapers have not felt bound to honor that agreement.

Now Wood wants it stopped and is threatening a lawsuit, but Umholtz is unmoved. He told the Peoria Journal the plea agreement did not specify how the photos would be used, and besides, they effectively scared kids away from meth, he said.

"I have no problem trying to help keep people off drugs because it really ruined by life completely," said Wood, who is currently on probation. "But they went about it wrong. I've paid for my mistakes. I don't want my grandchildren paying for my mistakes."

While the before and after photos of Wood are certainly sobering, they are less so than the fact the State's Attorney Umholtz is able to threaten someone with 30 years in prison on a drug charge, then turn around and hand out probation in return for a pair of pictures.

11. Newsbrief: House Panel Goes After Federal Judge for Being Too Lenient on Drug Offenders

The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), is going after a federal judge who had the temerity to both challenge federal sentencing guidelines in testimony before the committee and to actually occasionally sentence low-level drug defendants to less time than federal guidelines require. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the committee will subpoena records from Chief Judge James M. Rosenbaum of Minnesota's federal district court. The move comes one month after the committee asked the General Accounting Office to review sentencing decisions by all federal judges in the state.

The Journal called the move against Rosenbaum "an extraordinary step" in the fight over the direction of the federal judiciary.

Rosenbaum appeared before the committee in May 2002 to testify against a bill to reinstate longer drug sentences after the US Sentencing Commission acted to lower penalties for some first-time drug offenders. In his testimony, Rosenbaum criticized federal sentencing guidelines that punish "minor and minimal participants" as if they were drug kingpins.

While that bill failed, Rosenbaum's testimony alerted the panel to his sentencing practices. Republican members of the committee told the Journal that Rosenbaum -- gasp! -- actually imposed sentences lighter than required by the guidelines on several defendants. In one case cited by the congressmen, Rosenbaum said that a defendant's involvement was limited to taking money for accepting a package, and sentenced her to six-months instead of the mandatory minimum four-year sentence. In a second case, Rosenbaum sentenced a drug defendant to 120 months, one month less than required by the guidelines. "Now that represents an illegal departure," Rosenbaum joked, but the House Republicans aren't laughing.

The committee and Rosenbaum have been squabbling for the last few months over whether he would provide committee investigators with access to sealed transcripts and other information. Now, it appears, the committee is tired of waiting. The senior Democrat on the committee, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-VA) called the move to subpoena Rosenbaum's records a "bizarre overreaction."

12. Newsbrief: Who Wants Drug Testing? Not Pennsylvania Cops, Not Colorado Teachers

Police officers in Allentown, PA, and teachers in Aspen, CO, are among the latest groups being pushed to submit to intrusive drug test regimes, and they don't like it one bit.

In Colorado, the Colorado Education Association (CEA) announced February 28 that it opposes a proposal by the Aspen school district to require random drug testing of teachers. The proposal for random drug tests, made by school superintendent Tom Farrell after an Aspen Middle School teacher was arrested on marijuana possession charges outside a local nightclub, would be unique in the state, said a CEA representative.

"In individual instances there is drug testing, but it's for reasonable cause," CEA spokeswoman Jeanne Beyer told the Denver Post, rejecting the random testing proposal. "There should be testing only if an administrator has a reason to believe a teacher is using drugs."

Meanwhile, in Allentown, PA, angry police officers took to the streets in a loud march led by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) protesting Mayor Roy Afflerbech's effort to rewrite the police department's policy on officers with drug involvement. Currently, that policy requires that officers who test positive for drugs be suspended without pay for 30 days, undergo drug counseling, and be subject to random drug tests for the next year. Afflerbach and Police Chief Stephen Kuhn are pressing for a policy that would mean dismissal for anyone testing positive.

Despite the protest, Afflerbach remained unmoved, accusing the FOP of creating "a potentially dangerous situation [for police] every time they have to depend on an officer who has demonstrated a weakness to use illegal drugs" in a statement issued after the march. "When the FOP leadership in this city and this commonwealth decides to stop supporting these lawbreaking officers and joins in our efforts to implement a zero-tolerance drug policy in the police force, I will commend them."

"Mr. Mayor, be careful of the bitter words you speak, for you may have to eat them someday," replied state FOP vice president Paul McCommons, adding that Afflerbach was tarnishing the police with "false gossip and accusations."

Welcome to the drug war, guys.

13. Newsbrief: New Zealand Moves to Heighten Methamphetamine Penalties -- Life Sentences for Some Offenses

The government of New Zealand is moving to reclassify methamphetamine from a Class B to a Class A drug, the New Zealand Herald reported Thursday. The change in status will significantly increase the penalties facing methamphetamine violators.

Currently, persons convicted of meth manufacture, trafficking or distribution face a maximum of 14 years in prison; if meth is moved to Class A status, that penalty increases to a possible life sentence. Similarly, persons convicted of simple meth possession currently face up to three months in jail; under the government's proposal that sentence would be increased to six months and a $1000 (NZ) fine. Changing meth to a Class A drug would also enable police to conduct searches for meth labs without first obtaining a search warrant.

While New Zealand law enforcement officials said they had been pushing for the change for years, the government appears to have been prodded to act by an Auckland judge's decision earlier this week to throw out charges in a meth manufacturing case because police used an illegal search warrant.

Methamphetamine use is reportedly on the rise in New Zealand -- police shut down 147 meth labs last year, compared to eight in 1999 -- and has been linked in press stories to several sensational murders.

The parliamentary Health Select Committee recommended Wednesday that meth be upgraded, saying stiffer penalties would deter its use and adding that the upgrade was needed to protect "vulnerable" groups, such as Maoris and young people. An Order in Council to change the drug's classification will come before Parliament in a matter of weeks, the Herald reported.

14. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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.

March 15, 4:00pm-3:00am, Brickell, FL, "5th Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert Part II," fundraiser supporting Florida NORML and Florida Cannabis Action Network's medical marijuana campaign. Sponsored by Ploppy Palace Productions, at Tobacco Road, 626 South Miami Ave., admission $10, e-mail [email protected] for further information.

March 18, 12:15-1:45pm, Washington, DC, "The United States and Peru: Cooperation -- at a Cost," book talk by coauthor Cynthia McClintock. At George Washington University, Stuart Hall Room 103, 2013 G Street, NW, refreshments provided, feel free to bring lunch. Admission free, RSVP by March 17 to [email protected].

March 18, 7:00pm, Montgomery, AL, "Victims of the Drug War Candlelight Vigil," Journey for Justice event with The November Coalition and the Alabama Marijuana Party. On the steps of the Alabama State Capitol steps, 600 Dexter Ave., contact Loretta Nall at (256) 234-0342 or [email protected], or visit for further information.

March 19, 7:00-9:00pm, Astoria, NY, John Perry Fund Tribute, fundraiser by the Libertarian Party of Queens County, supporting scholarships for students who've lost financial aid because of drug convictions. Featuring David Borden of DRCNet and speakers from the Libertarian Party of New York, at Bohemian Hall, 29-19 24th Ave., call (718) 707-1421, e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.

March 19, 10:00pm-5:00am, Miami Beach, FL, Music Benefit for Drug Policy Alliance and Electronic Music Defense Fund. At Maze Nightclub, 1290 18th St., admission $15, visit for further information.

March 21, 10:00pm-5:00am, South Miami Beach, FL, "No to S. 226," party against the RAVE Act. At The Laundry Bar, 721 Lincoln Lane, admission free. Visit for further information.

March 22, 10:00am-3:00pm, New York, NY, Organizers' Training for anti-Rockefeller Drug Laws campaign. Sponsored by JusticeWorks Community, limited to individuals living, working or volunteering in East Harlem. Contact Jessica Dias at (212) 348-8142 or [email protected] for info.

March 23-24, Los Angeles, CA, St. Louis, MO, Atlanta, GA and Hartford, CT, Colombia Mobilization. Teach-ins and actions in each location, visit for info.

March 28-29, Mestre (Venice), Italy, "Un'Alternative Realistica ed Efficace Alla 'War on Drugs' in Nomi Dei Diritti Umani," seminar preparing for the Vienna UN drug summit, in campaign to reform the international drug conventions. Sponsored by Forum Droghe, at Centro Culturale Santa Maria delle Grazie, on Via Poerio, visit 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 4-6, New Orleans, LA, "Critical Resistance South Regional Conference and Strategy Session." Call Critical Resistance South at (504) 837-5348 or (866) 579-0885, e-mail [email protected] or visit 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 12-13, Chicago, IL, Students for Sensible Drug Policy Midwestern Conference. At Loyola University, contact Matt Atwood at [email protected] or visit for information.

April 15, 9:00am-6:00pm, New York, NY, "Current Trends in Drug Policy Reform," symposium by NYU School of Law Student Drug Policy Forum. Panels on collateral consequences of the drug war, alternatives to incarceration and enforcement, and impact of federal law, featuring law professors, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys and other criminal justice experts. At Greenberg Lounge, Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South, contact Adam Bier at adam.bier at for further information.

April 17-19, San Francisco, CA, "Back to Basics: Stop Arresting Marijuana Smokers," 2003 NORML Conference. At the Hyatt Regency, 5 Embarcadero Center, registration $150 or $100 for students. Call 888-67-NORML, e-mail [email protected] or visit for information.

April 22, 6:30-8:30pm, Berkeley, CA, "What D.A.R.E. Didn't Teach You: from Absolut to Zima," evening of education on alcohol. At the Drug Resource Center, UC Berkeley, cosponsored by University Health Services and the US Department of Education, contact Scarlett Swerdlow at [email protected] for information.

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

May 3-5, many cities worldwide, "Million Marijuana March." Visit for local contact info.

June 1-13, Witness For Peace Drug Policy Delegation to Colombia. Contact Alex Volberding at [email protected] or visit for info.

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

August 16-17, 10:00am-8:00pm, Seattle, WA, "12th Annual Seattle Hempfest." At Myrtle Edwards Park, call (206) 781-5734 or visit for further 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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