Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Editorial: Do We Really Want to Help Kids Find the Drug Dealers?

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden's usual Thursday evening editing session
One of this week's drug war news items is a legislative effort in the state of Maine to create a committee to study the possibility of a registry, accessible to the general public, of people who have been convicted repeatedly of drug offenses. Supporters have portrayed the idea as a way to help families protect their children from people in Maine who may want to provide drugs to them.

Even using drug war logic (generally a bad idea), this idea fails pretty decisively. Most kids don't start using drugs because they are offered them by professional dealers. Most kids start using drugs because they are offered them by other kids -- kids who are providing either for social reasons or because they have gotten involved in the criminal enterprise, but in either case not the repeatedly convicted adults who would pop up on the state's web site. It's also important to remember that most drug dealers never get caught, hence will never appear in the registry for that reason.

So while a registry would enable parents to be aware of some fraction of the serious drug dealers out there, it will miss (and perhaps divert attention from) the more common pathways through which drugs might get into the hands of their children. Furthermore, the same unstoppable economic process that turns any bust of a dealer into a job opportunity for new dealers, must also apply, at least partly, to any repeat dealers who lose business because some parents were able to keep their children clear of any given dealer -- if the kids are determined or even just willing, they'll wind up getting their drugs from someone else.

Most glaring, however, is an argument that was pointed out in a "practice" blog post by a member of our staff, Scott Morgan, on our soon-to-be-released new web site. Scott used a similar registry in Tennessee, limited to methamphetamine offenders, to show how usable it would be (perhaps is) to any young people, in any given county in the state, wishing to find leads on people in their county who might be able to sell them meth or other drugs -- an outcome exactly the opposite of what the registry purports to want to prevent.

The main difference (no pun intended) between Tennessee's registry and Maine's proposed registry, other than Maine's including all illegal drugs, is that Maine's is to be limited to "habitual" drug offenders, people who have been convicted of drug dealing multiple times. But repeat offenders are exactly the people who are the most likely to offend yet again -- the most usable listings for kids or others wanting to locate drug sellers conveniently narrowed down. But widening the registry to include all drug offenders won't help either -- because increasing the number of listings would also increase the registry's usability to kids wanting to find dealers. Either way you can't get around the idea that a drug offender registry is effectively a taxpayer-subsidized advertising campaign supporting drug dealing.

In the end, we must return to the issue that the primary way young people start to get involved in drug use is through the influence of other kids -- in many instances buying the drugs from other kids, in the schools. This is one of the factors that has led to an increased prevalence of handguns in schools -- where the underground market goes, so also tend to go weapons.

But it need not be that way. While use of alcohol by minors is a big issue (alcohol is just as much of a drug as any of the others, and a rather destructive one), at least kids are not buying it from other kids, in the school, from people who carry guns. That situation exists with the illegal drugs precisely because we have banned them. With drug legalization, the criminal problems associated with the trade in drugs would largely vanish -- no more armed drug trade in the schools, no more turf wars or open air markets.

And while the harm from the use of the drugs themselves will not simply disappear when prohibition is ended, the sheer level of destructiveness currently associated with addiction in particular would also drop substantially, as users would no longer be subject to the random impurities, and fluctuations in purity, that currently lead to poisonings and overdoses; and the high street prices drugs currently have would also drop, enabling many if not most addicts who are now driven to extreme behaviors like theft and prostitution to get the money to buy drugs to at least afford the habit through legal means of earning. Escalating the failed policy of prohibition won't accomplish this.

In the meanwhile let's at least cool it with these hare-brained ideas like drug offender registries. The continued stigmatization of people who have already been punished ought to be enough reason. But if it's not, the incredibly poor logic behind this idea ought to be. Do we really want to help kids find the drug dealers? I don't.

Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Please click here to submit listings for events concerning drug policy and related topics/

July 14, 5:30-8:00pm, Chicago, IL, cocktail reception with Judge James P. Gray, author of "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs." Sponsored by the Heartland Institute, at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, 163 East Walton Place, admission free, contact Nikki Comerford at (312) 377-4000 or nikki@heartland.org for further information.

July 15-20, Chicago, IL, "Freedom, Tolerance, and Civil Society," free summer seminar for college students, sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies. At Loyola University, visit http://www.i-liberty.org by April 10 for information or to apply -- apply before March 31 and receive a free book.

July 20-23, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "Fourth Biennial International Meaning Conference on Addiction," contact Dr. Paul T.P. Wong at ptpwong@shaw.ca or visit http://www.meaning.ca for information.

July 21, 7:00pm, Washington, DC, "Race to Incarcerate," book talk with The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer. At Politics & Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, visit http://www.politics-prose.com for further information.

July 22, 1:00-4:20pm, Laguna Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Main Beach, Pacific Coast Highway and Broadway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail kandice@ocnorml.org or mark@ocnorml.org or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

July 24, 7:30pm, Asheville, NC, fundraiser and art opening benefiting the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 20th Anniversary Celebration at Burning Man 2006. Space limited, tickets $45 minimum donation for first ten, $50 minimum for second ten, $50 for next fifteen. At the Flood Gallery, Phil Mechanic Building, 109 Roberts St., contact Logan MacSporren at (772) 708-6810 or glassbreather@hotmail.com to RSVP or for further information.

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org for further information.

August 26, 1:00-4:20pm, Huntington Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Huntington Beach Pier, 315 Pacific Coast Highway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail kandice@ocnorml.org or mark@ocnorml.org or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

September 1-4, Manderson, SD, Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At Kiza Park, three miles north of town, visit http://www.hemphoedown.com for further information.

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit http://www.MassCann.org for further information.

September 23, 1:00-4:20pm, San Clemente, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At San Clemente Pier, Avenida Del Mar, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail kandice@ocnorml.org or mark@ocnorml.org or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit http://www.madisonnorml.org for further information.

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ or contact Paula Santiago at santiago@harmreduction.org.

November 17-19, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference and Training Workshop. At the Georgetown University School of Law, including speakers, training sessions, a lobby day and more. Further information will be posted soon at http://www.ssdp.org online.

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit http://www.methconference.org for info.

Weekly: This Week in History

July 14, 1969: President Richard Nixon sends a message to Congress entitled "Special Message to the Congress on Control of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs." The message asks Congress to enact legislation to combat rising levels of drug use.

July 15, 1998: US drug czar Barry McCaffrey visits Switzerland to meet with officials responsible for drug policy and to see the heroin distribution program firsthand. McCaffrey makes clear the administration's concern about the program, noting that while such policies may bring short-term benefits, the US thinks they will in the long run prove detrimental to the well-being of Swiss society.

July 16, 2003: Philippine President Gloria Arroyo orders weekly public burnings of illegal drugs seized by the police, as well as the publication of mug shots of arrested drug dealers. "Let us put a face and identity to these people and get the public involved in hunting them down," says Arroyo.

July 17, 1984: The Drug War and Cold War collide, as the Washington Times runs a story detailing DEA informant Barry Seal's successful infiltration of the Medellin cartel's operations in Panama. The story was leaked by Oliver North and shows the Nicaraguan Sandanistas' involvement in the drug trade. Ten days later, Carlos Lehder, Pablo Escobar, Jorge Ochoa, and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha are indicted by a Miami Federal grand jury based on evidence obtained by Seal. In February 1986, Seal is assassinated in Baton Rouge, LA, by gunmen hired by the cartel.

July 17, 1980: Financed by wealthy ranchers and drug lords under Roberto Suarez Gomez, the "Cocaine Generals" of the Bolivian "cocaine coup" seize power. Within months it is learned that two of them, Pierluigi Pagliai and Stefano Delle Chiaie, are right-wing Propaganda Due (P-2) terrorists with suspected kills on three continents, and another, Klaus Altmann, is none other than fugitive Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyons. Barbie, who had sent hundreds of Jews to their deaths, had avoided prosecution when Americans in occupied Germany recruited him as an informer in 1947 and engineered his escape.

July 18, 1956: The Narcotics Control Act/Daniel Act is passed, establishing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.

July 20, 1995: The total number of marijuana arrests since 1965 passes the 10,000,000 mark, according to an estimate by NORML.

Web Scan: WOLA on Mexico Drug Wars, Sentencing Project and Others Report to UN Human Rights Committee, CURE on Prisons in OAS

"State of Siege: Drug-Related Violence and Corruption in Mexico," Laurie Freeman of WOLA on "Unintended Consequences of the War on Drugs"

Sentencing Project Statement to UN Human Rights Committee on Felony Disenfranchisement Violations of Article 25

Criminal Justice Section of Shadow Report on US compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, from Sentencing Project, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation Open Society Policy Center and Penal Reform International

Evaluation of Prisons in the Organization of American States, by the international branch of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants

Middle East: US Troops, Iraqi Police Seize Marijuana Plants

US troops and Iraqi police seized and destroyed a bumper crop of marijuana plants last week, according to a report in Stars & Stripes. Based on a military press release, the report said soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which has responsibility for most of northern Iraq, discovered the field in an unnamed location.

According to the military press release, the field contained "juvenile marijuana plants grown in a series of furrows. The owner claimed he was growing sesame." Police put the value of the field at $2 million. The crop was cut down and destroyed, and the man arrested.

While drug use and trafficking was rare under the repressive regime of Saddam Hussein, the chaos and violence into which the country has descended since the US invasion in 2003, has both increased drug use and made the country more attractive to smugglers. That is to be expected, complained Hamid Ghodse, head of the International Narcotics Control Board, the United Nations body charged with monitoring compliance with UN anti-drug treaties.

"Whether it is due to war or disaster, weakening of border controls and security infrastructure make countries into convenient logistic and transit points, not only for international terrorists and militants, but also for traffickers," Ghodse told the BBC in referring to Iraq last year.

"You cannot have peace, security and development without attending to drug control," Ghodse added, staying on point. But in Iraq, maybe we'd all be better off if everyone just smoked some herb and chilled out.

First Amendment: New Michigan Law Bans Methamphetamine Recipes on Internet

Little noticed among the package of anti-methamphetamine bills signed last week by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) was one that bans publication of recipes for cooking meth and provides civil sanctions for violating it. The bill does not specify that the web site be based in Michigan.

Under the new law, the state attorney general could bring a civil action against anyone who published such information on the Internet. Courts could order relief in various forms, including injunctions against the web site, actual damages sustained by the state or its residents, punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs.

The new law seems certain to be challenged on First Amendment grounds, a fact perhaps implicitly acknowledged by the state's fiscal analyst. "The bill would have an indeterminate fiscal impact on the judiciary," noted analyst Marilyn Peterson. "Any fiscal impact would depend on the number and complexity of lawsuits brought under the bill."

Harm Reduction: San Diego Reinstates Needle Exchange Program

The city of San Diego Wednesday rejoined the ranks of cities offering needle exchange programs as a public health service when the city council voted to reinstate the program. It had been dropped because of waning political support a year ago, but Wednesday it was re-approved on a 6-1 vote.

Needle exchanges were first approved in November 2001 and the program was launched in July 2002. It operated out of two centers, one in the East Village and one in North Park. During its operation, the program collected nearly 350,000 dirty needles and distributed more than 285,000 clean ones.

But until state law changed this year, cities or counties had to declare a public health emergency every two weeks to keep the programs operating. A year ago this month, the two-week vote failed, and the program was shut down.

Needle exchange programs are widely recognized to reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C by reducing the sharing of syringes. But some opponents accuse them of promoting or facilitating drug use.

Luana Stines, a pastor who addressed the council was one of them. "They don't need another needle," she said. "They need direction." Better to spend the money on faith-based counseling, she suggested.

No taxpayer funds are being used in San Diego. Alliance Healthcare, a local nonprofit that ran the program, has pledged $386,400 to fund it for the next two years.

Sentencing: Justice Kennedy Lashes Out at Harsh Prison Terms

US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy told a gathering of judges in Southern California Sunday US sentencing practices were harsh and troubling. US sentences are eight times longer than those in Europe, Kennedy said, adding that the public needed to be aware of the length of sentences in the US.

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Justice Kennedy
"If an 18-year-old is growing marijuana for a friend, that's distribution," said Kennedy in remarks reported by the Orange County Register. "If he has his father's .22 rifle, that's a firearm. That will get 15 years. Did you know what 15 years was when you were 18? I didn't when I was 18."

Kennedy, a Sacramento native who was recently designated Supreme Court justice for the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, also criticized state sentencing practices. He noted pointedly that California alone has more than 200,000 people behind bars.

Kennedy also complained that the people at whom the harsh sentences are aimed are largely unaware of them until they fall into the hands of the criminal justice system. "If sentences are to be a deterrent, what is the good of them if nobody knows how long they are?" he said.

Search and Seizure: Vermont Judge Says State Constitution Provides Protection Even if Federal Doesn't

The US Supreme Court ruled last month that police officers who violated "knock and announce" search warrant rules could use the ill-gotten evidence against defendants, but that's not good enough for at least one Vermont judge. In a Monday opinion, District Court Judge Robert Bent threw out the evidence in a "knock and announce" search where police rushed the home as soon as the door opened while they were gathering out front.

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warrant needed in Vermont
Under centuries-old common law and decades of US legal practice, most search warrants require police to knock and announce and allow the resident a reasonable time to answer the door. Police who can convince a judge special circumstances require them can apply for a "no-knock" warrant. Last month's Supreme Court ruling effectively gutted the "knock and announce" requirement -- at least in the federal courts.

Vermont should hold itself to a higher standard, said Bent in the case of Ellen Sheltra, who was arrested on marijuana charges after the cops rushed her door. "Evidence obtained in violation of the Vermont Constitution, or as the result of a violation, cannot be admitted at trial as a matter of state law," Bent wrote, citing an earlier state case as precedent. "Introduction of such evidence at trial eviscerates our most sacred rights, impinges on individual privacy, perverts our judicial process, distorts any notion of fairness and encourages official misconduct."

In their dissent in the US Supreme Court case, four justices warned that allowing police to use illegally obtained evidence would lead to police officers ignoring the law. Bent agreed. "The exclusionary remedy should remain in full force and effect," Bent wrote, "at least in our small corner of the nation."

The district court decision is not binding on other judges, but they are likely to take it into consideration in deciding similar cases. Prosecutors have not decided whether to appeal Bent's ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court, where, if it is upheld, it would become binding.

Sentencing: California Governor Signs Bill Amending Proposition 36, Is Immediately Sued

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) Wednesday signed into law a bill that substantially alters the state's voter-approved Prop 36, the state's "treatment not jail" law. One of the authors of the measure, which mandates treatment not jail for first- and second-time drug offenders, immediately filed suit to block the law from going into effect.

The bill, which was tacked onto a budget bill and passed last month, allows "flash incarceration" of up to five days for people who have failed to participate in treatment programs. Championed by law enforcement and drug court professionals, the new law stands in stark contrast with the initiative approved by the voters, who approved Prop 36's "no jail" provisions by a wide margin. Under California laws, substantive changes in voter-approved initiatives must be done by the voters, not the legislature.

Prop 36 coauthor Cliff Gardner filed his lawsuit Wednesday afternoon in Alameda County Superior Court. He is being represented by Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) attorney Daniel Abrahamson. "Rather than veto SB 1137, the Governor opted to engage in a legal battle over what he knows is an unconstitutional law," said Abrahamson in a statement. "We have filed a complaint in Alameda County Superior Court, and are confident that Prop 36 and the will of the people will be upheld."

But Lisa Fisher, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, told the Associated Press the state would enforce the law unless a judge orders it not to. "We think that the reforms are furthering the purposes of Proposition 36," she said. "The one thing we have learned over the years is that jail sanctions need to be part of a whole package of sanctions that an individual can expect."

Law Enforcement: Goose Creek Agrees to Pay Up, Change Ways in Settlement of Notorious High School Drug Raid Case

A federal judge Tuesday gave final approval to a landmark settlement in the case of the heavy-handed 2003 police drug raid on students at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Under the terms of the settlement, the Goose Creek Police Department, the City of Goose Creek, and the Berkeley County School District will pay $1.6 million for violating the rights of nearly 150 students caught in the raid. The trio also signed a consent decree barring police from conducting law enforcement activities on school grounds absent a warrant, probable cause, or voluntary consent.

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early morning high school raid: no drugs or guns found
Caught by both school and police surveillance cameras, video of the raid helped make the case a cause celebre. The tapes show students as young as 14 forced to the ground in handcuffs as officers in SWAT team uniforms and bulletproof vests aim guns at their heads and lead a drug dog to tear through their book bags. Authorized by Principal George McCrackin because he suspected a student was dealing marijuana, the raid came up empty: no drugs or weapons were found and none of the students were charged with any crime.

"They hit that school like it was a crack house, like they knew that there were crack dealers in there armed with guns," said 14-year-old Le'Quan Simpson, who was one of the students forced to kneel at gunpoint in the school hallway and whose father served on a SWAT team.

Simpson's father, Elijah Simpson, a local deputy sheriff who has served on SWAT teams, said, "This was clearly a no-shoot situation no matter how you look at it. A school drug raid is not a SWAT situation, but that's how the Goose Creek police handled it." The police raid was unnecessarily dangerous, the older Simpson added. "It was crossfire just waiting to happen. If one door slammed, one student dropped a book or screamed, and then those guns would have gone off all over the place. Did you see the way they were swinging those guns around? That's not how you do it."

Following the raid, the ACLU brought a lawsuit on behalf of students' families charging police and school officials with violating the students' right to be free from unlawful search and seizure and use of excessive force. The lawsuit demanded a court order declaring the raid unconstitutional and blocking the future use of such tactics, as well as damages on behalf of the students. Joined by local attorneys, the lawsuit grew to include 53 of the affected students.

The American Civil Liberties Union represented 20 of them, including Simpson. "Goose Creek students now have a unique place in our nation," said Graham Boyd, Director of the

ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "They are the only students in the nation who have complete protection of their Fourth Amendment rights of search and seizure."

Marlon Kimpson, a lawyer with Motley Rice LLC, the firm that represented most of the students, said students involved in the drug sweep must file claims by July 28. A claims administrator appointed by the court will then evaluate each student's claim and determine which students are eligible for the funds, Kimpson said.

"Any student who was searched and seized on Nov. 5, 2003, is now eligible for compensation and they have received notice of that," Kimpson told the Charleston Post & Courier. "It is now incumbent on the students to take action and have their claim considered."

Under the terms of the settlement, the affected students will divide $1.2 million among themselves, while the lawyers will pocket $400,000. Depending on the number of students who agree to the settlement, each could walk away with between $6,000 and $12,000.

The powers that be have learned a lesson, said Kimpson. "McCrackin is no longer in charge, the police have agreed to additional training and school district has vowed to change its policies with respect to the way they conduct drug raids," Kimpson said. "You must conduct drug searches according to the US Constitution. This settlement and this class-action lawsuit is notice to police officers and school officials across the nation that students don't shed their constitutional rights merely by entering a schoolhouse door."

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Posted in:

Some New Jersey cops got too friendly with drug dealers, while a Pennsylvania park ranger and a New Mexico jail guard got caught trying to be drug dealers. Let's get to it:

In Newark, New Jersey, six police officers were indicted Tuesday on charges they warned a drug ring about police raids in exchange for drugs. The six were arrested over the last 18 months, but officials only took the case public upon their indictment. Passaic County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jay McCann said what began as "a social relationship" between the officers and their drug-dealing contemporaries escalated into law breaking and corruption. Those arrested were Pompton Lakes officers Dennis DePrima, 30, Robert J. Palianto, 29, and Michael Megna, 34; West Milford Officer Paul Kleiber, 26; West Paterson Officer Richard Beagin, 26; and Passaic County Sheriff's Officer Gerry Ward, 46. Each was suspended and faces charges including conspiracy to commit official misconduct; conspiracy to possess narcotics; official misconduct; witness tampering and hindering apprehension. The conspiracy unraveled after authorities figured out a suspect in a 2004 drug raid had been tipped off and investigated. The drugs involved included the prescription sleeping pill Ambien, cocaine, Oxycontin, and anabolic steroids.

In Altoona, Pennsylvania, a part-time state park ranger was arrested Saturday on meth dealing and related charges. William Ickes, 61, a ranger at Blue Knob State Park was charged with three counts each of possession and delivery of drugs, as well as additional drug and weapons charges. State officials allege that Ickes sometimes sold drugs in the park while in uniform. During an April raid on Ickes' residence, police seized a pipe bomb and various guns, plus methamphetamine, marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and drug paraphernalia. Ickes is jailed on a $150,000 bond.

In Albuquerque, a Metropolitan Detention Center guard was arrested Monday night on charges he conspired to smuggle heroin into the jail. Guard Marcus Urias, 19, went down after accepting a pack of tobacco, a gram of heroin, and his $150 fee from a man who turned out to be an undercover agent for the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department. Urias faces charges of drug trafficking, conspiracy to traffic drugs, and conspiracy to bring contraband into a prison. Urias was jailed and fired.

Feature: Methamphetamine as Child Abuse Laws Gain Ground, But Do They Help or Hurt?

When Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) signed a package of anti-methamphetamine measures into law last Thursday, Michigan became at least the sixth state to define either the use or the production of meth where children are present as child abuse. The trend is part of an all-out offensive against methamphetamine use and manufacture by law enforcement and child welfare agencies, but child protection critics and maternal rights advocates say it is a destructive and unnecessary response.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, at least 21 states and the District of Columbia define some drug use, distribution, or sales as child abuse or neglect. Among the various laws:

  • Manufacture of a controlled substance in the presence of child or on the premises occupied by a child (Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia).
  • Allowing a child to be present where the chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of controlled substances are used or stored (Arizona and New Mexico).
  • Selling, distributing, or giving drugs or alcohol to a child (Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, and Texas).
  • Use of a controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver's ability to adequately care for the child (Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas).
  • Exposure of the child to drug paraphernalia, the criminal sale or distribution of drugs, or drug-related activity (North Dakota, Montana and Virginia, and the District of Columbia, respectively).

When it comes to methamphetamine in particular, Michigan joins Iowa and South Dakota as singling out that drug and its users for special opprobrium in their child abuse statutes. Meanwhile, in Georgia, Idaho, and Ohio, the manufacture or possession of methamphetamine in the presence of a child is a felony, and Washington state provides for enhanced penalties for any conviction for the manufacture of methamphetamine when a child was present.

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controversial school meth cooking demo, Grays Harbor County, Washington, May 2005
Gov. Granholm sang a familiar tune as she announced the signing of the anti-meth package last week. "For the first time, we can now charge those who expose children to the dangers of methamphetamine production with child abuse – because that's what it is," Granholm said. "I'm proud to sign legislation that will help our law enforcement officers better protect children and give our communities additional tools to deal with the environmental damage caused by the production of this illegal drug."

But how big is the problem of meth-exposed children in Michigan? "I can't give you a specific answer as to numbers," said Michigan Department of Human Services Child Protection Services media relations specialist Maureen Sorbet. "We don't track that. We track child abuse cases by the type of abuse and the perpetrators," she told DRCNet.

The Michigan State Police were a bit more informed on the topic. Last year, 116 children were found in meth-related incidents, said Inspector Karen Halliday, who chaired a state meth task force subcommittee charged with dealing with children in homes with drugs present that drafted the meth child abuse law. "If you find one child in an environment like a meth home," that's a problem, she told DRCNet.

But even if every one of those 116 children were the subject of substantiated child abuse complaints, they would constitute less than one-tenth of one percent of substantiated child abuse complaints in the state. According to Child Protection Services, last year more than 128,000 child abuse or neglect complaints were filed last year in Michigan, more than 72,000 were investigated, and more than 18,000 substantiated.

Nationwide, similar results obtain. According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, child protective services agencies removed 1.19 million children from their parents between 2000 and 2003. During that same period, some 10,580 children were found to be "affected" by meth manufacture, with 2,881 placed in foster care. As the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform notes, "In other words, of all the entries into foster care from 2000 to 2003, at least 99.1% of them had nothing to do with meth labs."

"If the idea is to help children, these kinds of laws are extremely ineffective," said Richard Wexler, head of the coalition and a harsh critic of the nation's child protection services. "If the idea is to drive women underground and leave the children far worse off, it's extremely effective. These laws hurt the children they are allegedly intended to help. Listen, you can't be a meth addict and be a good parent, but further criminalizing them doesn't help anything. The key is to offer treatment. If you simply confiscate the kids, then they wind up in America's dreadful foster care system, bounced from home to home, unable to form lasting bonds with anyone," he told DRCNet.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women generally concentrates on the distinct -- but closely related -- issue of the plight of drug using expectant mothers (12 states and DC charge drug using mothers as child abusers, and 12 more have specific reporting procedures for infants who test positive at birth), but the group is also concerned about the meth as child abuse laws. "This completely misses the boat if we're talking about the public health angle," said Wyndi Anderson, national educator for the group. "We try really hard to get a lot of women access to a whole range of public health services. They need addiction treatment. Automatically labeling them child abusers doesn't help them at all, it only helps get them into prison and their children into foster care," she told DRCNet.

"These laws are an exercise in showboating," said Wexler. "The legislators want to look like they're cracking down on drugs and child abuse, but since it is already child abuse to commit an act that actually harms a child, these laws are redundant. All they do is frighten people away and take away one way to reach out to addicted parents and get the help that will help -- not hurt -- their children."

"When you equate meth use with child abuse, you create the possibility of a witch hunt," Anderson warned. "We want to keep communities healthy and families intact, and these kinds of laws will just bust up both. If you believe in family values, I don't see how you could be for something like this. Is this what conservatives mean when they're talking about compassion, forgiveness, and helping the downtrodden?"

Anderson did not minimize the problem of methamphetamine abuse, but argued that the answer is not more laws but more treatment. "What we should be doing is figuring out what treatment works, what family interventions work, what prevention efforts work. We are willing to spend big money on the criminal justice side, and if we really care about people's and families' health, we should be willing to spend on the public health side. But instead we've been spending on guns and prisons."

But it's more than just a "drug problem," said Anderson. "This is all much more complicated than just drugs or treatment," she said. "We need a comprehensive approach. People need jobs to go to when they get out. It is the community's responsibility to meet these people halfway."

Feature: Judge Throws Out Part of Alaska Marijuana Recriminalization Law, Up to An Ounce is Now Legal At Home

Gov. Frank Murkowski's two-year effort to recriminalize marijuana in Alaska hit a roadblock Monday when a Superior Court judge struck down the part of the law he pushed through the legislature earlier this year. Judge Patricia Collins threw out the section of the law that criminalizes the possession of marijuana for personal use in the privacy of one's home, but reduced the exempt amount from four ounces to one ounce. Collins also left intact portions of the law increasing penalties for marijuana offenses.

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propaganda show by Gov. Murkowski and drug czar Walters
In a 1975 decision, Ravin v. State, the Alaska Supreme Court held that the state constitution's privacy provisions barred the state from criminalizing the possession of personal amounts of marijuana in one's home. A 1991 initiative recriminalized marijuana possession, but when that law was eventually challenged in 2004, the Alaska court's upheld Ravin, saying the popular vote could not trump the state constitution.

Ever since, Gov. Murkowski has worked to undo those decisions. Last year, a determined lobbying effort financed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) managed to fend off action at the statehouse, but Murkowski managed to push the bill through earlier this year. Included in the law is a series of "findings" designed to demonstrate that marijuana is so much more dangerous now than in 1975 that the state Supreme Court will have to decide differently when it weighs the issue again.

"Unless and until the Supreme Court directs otherwise, Ravin is the law in this state and this court is duty bound to follow that law," Collins wrote in her decision as she granted summary judgment to the American Civil Liberties Union. The group had filed suit to block the law as soon as it became law in June.

"The drug war has wreaked havoc on the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution, but fortunately many state constitutions still shield individuals from drug war excess," said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "This ruling is incredibly significant from a national perspective, because there are a number of states with similar privacy rights in their constitutions that may afford protections to adult marijuana users."

"The state of Alaska has charted a different course from that of the federal government's failed policy on marijuana," said Michael MacLeod-Ball, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska. "This ruling affirms Alaska's commitment to fundamental privacy rights over reefer madness."

"We're certainly pleased we at least got a partial victory," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for MPP, which also chipped in on litigation costs. "And we're hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize the nonsensical nature of the findings the state wrote into the law in an effort to override the state constitution. But the court decision still left in place draconian new penalties for larger amounts and reduced the amount one can keep at home. The battle has begun, but it has a ways to go," he told DRCNet.

Alaska Department of Law spokesman Mark Morones told DRCNet the state would be quick to appeal the decision. "We are pleased the judge made an expeditious ruling," he said. "It's always been our position that the issue of the legality marijuana and the privacy debate really do have to go back to the Supreme Court for a final determination of the right to privacy and the state's safety interest in being able to prosecute marijuana cases. We plan to appeal expeditiously," Morones said.

In her decision, Collins explained that she limited it to the possession of less than one ounce because the ACLU argued that the only issue at stake in the case was the government's ability to regulate the possession of small amounts of marijuana. "No specific argument has been advanced in this case that possession of more than one ounce of marijuana, even within the privacy of the home, is constitutionally protected conduct under Ravin or that any plaintiff or ACLU of Alaska member actually possesses more than one ounce of marijuana in their homes," Collins wrote.

Department of Law spokesman Morones took heart in that portion of the ruling. "Our initial interpretation of this case at this point is that Judge Collins' decision makes it clear that the state has the ability to regulate marijuana use in amounts greater that one ounce," he said.

As things now stand in Alaska, possession of an ounce at home is okay, possession of up to four ounces is a misdemeanor, and possession of more than four ounces is a felony. Soon it will be time for the Alaska Supreme Court to definitively resolve the issue -- one more time. Both sides are already gearing up for the appeal, which will go directly to the Supreme Court. According to Morones, the process could take months or perhaps a year. In the meantime, Alaska once again stands as the only state in the nation where people can legally possess small amounts of marijuana.

Appeal/Book Offer: Race to Incarcerate, by Marc Mauer

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In "Race to Incarcerate," Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, explores the political, financial, and human toll of the "get tough" movement against crime and assesses why this policy has failed, making a compelling argument against the unprecedented rise in the use of imprisonment in the United States over the last 25 years. Race to Incarcerate also brings to light the devastating reality of disenfranchisement -- for example, 13 percent of African American men are ineligible to vote because of criminal convictions -- in ten states more than one in five black men are barred from voting because of their criminal records.

One of the main driving forces behind the US incarceration binge has been the "war on drugs." Please support DRCNet's efforts to "stop the drug war" by making a generous donation -- visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to do so online -- donate $30 or more and you will be eligible receive a copy of Race to Incarcerate as our thanks. (Click here to read our review of Race to Incarcerate published in Drug War Chronicle last month.)

We also continue to offer the DVD video Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the 5th edition of Drug War Facts -- add $5 to the minimum donation to add either of these to your request, or $10 to add both. Again, visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to make your donation and place your order, or send a check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.

Thank you for your support of these efforts.

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Editorial: Not Playing by the Rules, Not Making Sense

David Borden, Executive Director, 7/14/06

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David Borden
Call me old fashioned, but I like it when rule-makers play by the rules. I like it when the law corresponds to reality, both in wording and interpretation. I like it when laws make sense.

I don't like it when legislators thumb their noses at their constitutions to enact laws they know don't pass muster. Unpopular Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's marijuana re-criminalization bill, partially struck down by a Superior Court judge this week based on the state Supreme Court's standing word, is a good example. The bill signed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to change California's initiative-enshrined treatment-not-jail law in ways that contradict the voters' choice is another.

As worrisome as methamphetamine recipes floating around the Internet may be for some, the bill signed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm aiming at those almost certainly flouts the First Amendment. Are they going to sue publishers of online, academic chemistry texts that happen to include information on this legally-prescribable schedule II substance?

I don't like "legal fictions" -- definitions in the law that have to then be dealt with as if they were real when in fact they're not. The much criticized asset forfeiture laws, in many of which a mere object is the entity that gets accused of the crime (allowing the government to take property from innocent owners) rely on that fiction for their justification. Another such fiction is laws in 21 states, including another from Michigan, that categorically equate certain drug activity with child abuse -- whether a child was actually abused or not.

It's important to remember that child abuse laws are already on the books -- if a child is getting abused, some form of intervention by the law to address the situation is appropriate. But if a parent, for example, takes some methamphetamine while at home in order to stay up late to meet a critical work deadline, but without acting aggressively or neglecting the family's needs, how is that child abuse? Many people take meth or similar drugs on prescription from their doctors for very similar purposes. Doing so without a prescription is illegal, and can certainly be disconcerting. Some meth users do become unstable or violent. But are the two situations really so very different -- inherently, by definition -- for the latter to qualify as child abuse, even if no actual abusive acts ever take place?

Even when meth is being manufactured, it's fictional to equate it with abuse categorically, the legitimate dangers of meth manufacturing notwithstanding. If chemicals are being handled in a way that subjects children to harm qualifying as abuse, and if it's done intentionally or with clear, willful recklessness, then it doesn't matter whether it's meth or another drug or the stuff in those bottles underneath your kitchen sink, it's still abuse (or perhaps endangerment). But the fact that it's a drug being manufactured is purely incidental.

It's not legal hair-splitting to say that, because applying the label of "child abuse" creates an appearance that the accused is a monster who probably belongs in jail and almost certainly shouldn't be entrusted with children. But that may not at all be the case; the user may be a responsible user who takes perfectly good care of the kids. The user may be addicted and need help, but never raise a hand against a son or daughter or place them in danger. Even the dealer or manufacturer may only be trying to get by in difficult economic circumstances -- the illegal activity may be what one is doing in order to provide better for the children. That's a sad circumstance, but it's a circumstance faced by many. Disconcerting, yes, but child abuse?

The most offensive thing about the California development is that it was a coalition of law enforcement groups and drug court judges who pressed for the bill. They don't like the restrictions Prop 36 put on them. But so what? They have the right to field their own counter-initiative (with private money, of course), if they think they could win it. They lost pretty badly the first time. But the voters spoke, and the state constitution says that counts.

I don't think our law enforcers -- judges, of all people -- should disrespect the constitutions whose tenets are intended to stand over and bind them. Though they claim to hold law in reverence, in this they have trampled it. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think that's good for our country.

Feature: Wisconsin Drug Reform Activist and Senate Candidate Ben Masel Assaulted, Arrested By Campus Cops, Plans to Sue

Wisconsin's best known drug policy reformer, Weedstock organizer Ben Masel, was pepper-sprayed and arrested by University of Wisconsin-Madison police as he collected signatures for his senatorial campaign the evening of June 30. He was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting a police officer, trespassing, and remaining after being warned to leave, all misdemeanors.

Masel is running for the Democratic US Senate nomination against incumbent Sen. Herb Kohl. He is accepting only $1 donations and says he will have a web site up soon. He has until Tuesday to turn in his signatures and said this week he is confident he will make the ballot.

The long-time activist was at the UW Memorial Union collecting signatures during a hip-hop concert when two union managers told him he could not solicit signatures on the property and asked him to leave. Masel "politely declined," explaining that he is allowed to collect signatures on public property. The managers again asked him to leave and called campus police when he failed to do so. Campus police officers John McCaughtry and Michael Mansavage accosted Masel, pepper-sprayed him in the eyes, then pepper-sprayed him again while he was on the ground and restrained.

Masel -- whose is only accepting contributions of $1 -- said he never struggled with the officers and would have gone along willingly if the police had asked. "If they had said something along the lines of 'Mr. Masel, you're under arrest,' I would have put my hands behind my back and complied," he said.

The entire incident was witnessed by -- among others -- Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who told the Wisconsin State Journal Masel wasn't bothering anyone. "I didn't feel Ben was causing any disruptions," Cieslewicz said. "I certainly didn't feel he was disrupting my evening at all. I didn't see a reason to remove him from the terrace."

Wisconsin Union assistant facilities director Roger Vogts told the Journal the Memorial Union has a policy forbidding people from handing out literature, collecting signatures, or similar activities. "We don't want people coming in, going table to table, bothering people," Vogts said.

But the union has been inconsistent in enforcing its legally questionable policy. In the wake of the incident, the Capital Times contacted several politicians who said they routinely solicited signatures at the spot where Masel was arrested. They were never asked to leave, let alone assaulted and arrested, they said.

The UW Memorial Union and its cops picked on the wrong guy, as Masel is notorious for winning lawsuits against state and local officials for violating his rights. He has filed and won lawsuits against Dane County for blocking his leafleting at the Harvest Festival, against then Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) for denying permits for the festival and over the issue of amplification at the festival, against the city of Madison over leafleting the US Conference of Mayors in 2005, and against a community college and the city of Madison for being arrested while leafleting for an anti-drug war district attorney candidate. Masel's biggest win (and payout) came in Sauk County, where the county had to pay him $95,000 after illegally arresting him during the 2000 Weedstock festival.

He is also suing police in Kansas City over a 2001 incident on an Amtrak passenger train. Masel was traveling from Albuquerque to Chicago when police boarded the train and asked two young men to consent to a warrantless search of their belongings. Masel stood and informed the young men they had the right to refuse a search, after which police arrested him for obstruction of justice. He is seeking punitive damages for violation of his free speech rights and compensation for repeated trips to Missouri to fight the case against him, which was eventually dropped.

Now the university's Memorial Union will be the next to face a Masel lawsuit, he told DRCNet. "First, I'll be defending against the criminal charges, and then I will be bringing a countersuit on behalf of the campaign for violating free speech rights and against the officers for excessive use of force," he said. "There was not even a smidgen of justification for that second spraying when I was on the ground with the guy's knee in my back. The unnecessary force claim will focus on that one that they have no defense for. And I have some great witnesses," Masel laughed. "The mayor was sitting only eight feet away."

The incident has aided his signature-gathering effort, Masel said. "It's been a lot easier to collect signatures since I got pepper-sprayed," he said. "And the state Democratic Party chair, who had promised me a speaking slot at the convention, but then didn't have me on the list very quickly, turned around and gave me a slot after my arrest."

Masel, whose activism has taken place under varying banners, said he was running as a Democrat because the incumbent, Herb Kohl, did little and because the party claimed it was open to grassroots activism. "There's been a lot of rhetoric from Howard Dean and the state Democratic Party here about how the party is more open now, so I decided to test them. They haven't quite passed with flying colors, but they haven't failed the test, either," he said.

While he is known primarily as a drug reformer, Masel is not emphasizing the issue -- because he doesn't have to. "I'm so known statewide on drug policy, I don't actually have to talk about it much. The reporters will always ask me about it." Instead, he is emphasizing concerns about the Patriot Act and related electronic privacy issues and says his first bill as senator would tighten the War Powers Act to make it more difficult for presidents to take the country to war. "I'm trying to break out of the one-trick pony thing on drug policy," he said.

Feature: Battle Over California's Proposition 36 to Head to Court

Last week, the California legislature voted to approve changes to Proposition 36, the state's "treatment not jail" law, that would alter the law's basic philosophy. This week, Prop. 36 supporters are waiting for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign the bill into law. Then they will immediately file suit to have the new law overturned.

Under Prop. 36, the state has saved $1.3 billion dollars, according to a study carried out by researchers at UCLA. But that study also found that nearly a third of Prop. 36 clients failed to complete drug treatment. Another study in 2004 found that nearly a third of people receiving drug treatment under Prop. 36 were arrested on drug charges within a year of entering treatment.

The bill passed last week, SB 1137, toughens Prop. 36 by allowing judges to sentence people who relapse into drug use to periods up to five days of "flash incarceration." Originally drafted by law enforcement and California drug court professionals -- the groups who opposed Prop. 36 from the beginning -- the bill ultimately introduced by Sen. Denise Ducheny (D-San Diego) managed to win bipartisan support at the statehouse in spite of warnings from the legislative counsel's office that it was unconstitutional.

"Legislation that would authorize a sentence of incarceration for a first, second, or third drug-related probation violation, if enacted, would constitute an amendment of Proposition 36 that would both not further that initiative statute and be consistent with its purposes," the office wrote last year. "Therefore, the legislation could not take effect without voter approval," the office concluded.

While Prop. 36 supporters argue that jailing people who relapse is counterproductive, Ducheny and her law enforcement allies disagree. "Fundamentally, this is not giving them jail time for the drug offense but to say, 'Look, we gave you that opportunity and you decided, for whatever reason, not to take advantage of it... You didn't meet your responsibility to us, so we need some accountability,'" Ducheny said as the bill was being debated.

But Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, disagreed. "I have long been opposed to this concept of flash incarceration," he said before voting against the bill. "There's no evidence at all that it works."

Another strong legislative friend of Prop. 36, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) criticized the legislature for backing changes that "fly in the face of the 61.5% of the people who voted for" the initiative.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which has fought to see that Prop. 36 is properly implemented and adequately funded and which bitterly fought the Ducheny bill, is prepared to go to court to stop what it sees as the legislature's unconstitutional attack on the ballot measure.

"In passing SB 1137, the legislature made changes to Prop. 36 that go against the intent of the initiative as passed by voters, and the legislature cannot do that. Under state law, the only changes the legislature can make to an initiative are changes that further its original intent, and this does the opposite," said Margaret Dooley of the Drug Policy Alliance's Southern California office. "They changed a treatment initiative into an incarceration program where people in treatment can be thrown in jail. That violates the initiative's intent, and we will be asking the courts to decide that constitutional issue," she told DRCNet.

SB 1137 also includes another constitutionally questionable provision. In an effort to block court challenges, the new law says that if any part of the legislation is found to be unconstitutional, the entire law will go to the popular ballot.

That clause should arouse the ire of supporters of the initiative process, which is widely used in California, said DPA head of legal affairs Dan Abrahamson. "Once the public begins to understand the radical and unprecedented nature of that clause, you're going to see a variety of organizations who've used the initiative process in the past come out of the woodwork and join the challenge of this clause," he told the Los Angeles Times. "It's not just DPA, but all sorts of organizations across the political spectrum who have used the initiative process over the last umpteen years coming out of the woodwork to challenge this ridiculous provision," Abrahamson said.

"If this provision is allowed to stand, we can kiss the initiative process goodbye," added Dooley. "Any politician who doesn't like an initiative could write a bill to change it, then if it goes to court and is found unconstitutional, he could take it to a public vote. Then another politician could repeat the process," she argued.

"It is really disappointing that our legislators would vote for something that is clearly unconstitutional," Dooley said. "We need the courts to decide these matters now and correct this legislative mistake."

Editorial: Is Ecstasy a Dangerous Drug?

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David Borden
South Australian Member of Parliament Sandra Kanck aroused some ire in her country, including from Democratic colleagues, when she told her fellow parliamentarians that "ecstasy is not a dangerous drug." This month she went on to say that she had attended a "rave" and that she felt much safer there than if she had been out at a bar. Again fellow politicos were neither enraptured nor amused.

Is ecstasy a dangerous drug? Certainly a lot of people say it is. Are they giving us the "straight dope" on that issue?

One way to decide this question is to look at the numbers. When former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman called for new mandatory minimum sentences for the drug in summer 2000, I took a look at the statistics, and was stunned to find that only eight deaths had been attributed to it by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) during 1998, the latest year for which the statistics were yet available. That was a national statistic, not New Jersey, and it was not clear in every case that ecstasy was the cause as opposed to just being present in the situation.

Compared this with the well over a hundred thousand dying each year from alcohol and the hundreds of thousands from nicotine -- well, I'm not sure what to say about it. Any preventable death is a tragedy. But is such a relatively miniscule number enough to justify calling ecstasy is a dangerous drug in the grand scheme of things? A study in the British Medical Journal made a similar finding, 81 deaths related to the drug between 1997 and 2000, 20 per year.

Certainly the numbers are larger now, as the drug's popularity has increased. But still we are looking at pretty small numbers. The DAWN mortality report for 2003 said that "clubs drugs were reported infrequently." Ecstasy is just one of the club drugs, so it was even less frequent when looking at ecstasy alone. Even adjusting for the larger number of users of those drugs, it is still night and day. And those numbers could be further reduced by ending prohibition of ecstasy to insure its purity and that users will know its potency, and by pill testing, safety information and other harm reduction programs operating in places like raves as Kanck suggested. Since neither ecstasy nor raves are likely to go away anytime soon, instituting those measures widely would be a good move. DanceSafe's web site is a good place to get information about that topic.

I would hesitate to say that any drug is completely safe, and the mortality numbers are greater than zero -- using ecstasy should by no means be done lightly without aforethought -- but the numbers also seem to say that ecstasy's dangers are radically less than many other widely used substances. So I would likewise hesitate to say that ecstasy is truly "dangerous," in the sense that most people think when hearing that word used.

Certainly the moves to enact draconian criminal sentences for ecstasy seem kind of bizarre in that light. In that light I would say that politicians are much more dangerous than ecstasy. The good Ms. Kanck and like-minded ones excepted, of course.

Medical Marijuana: Five Arrested, 13 Dispensaries Raided by DEA in San Diego

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Feds Hit San Diego Medical Marijuana Co-ops Again
Just a week after the US House of Representatives voted to continue funding Justice Department raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal, the feds struck again. Five people have been arrested in a series of DEA and local police raids Thursday hitting 13 medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego County. Some people are being charged under state marijuana distribution laws in the cooperative federal-local effort. More arrests are expected, local law enforcement officials said.

The raids and arrests came as federal officials unsealed two indictments, one charging the Purple Bud Room and Tender Holistics Care dispensaries with illegally distributing marijuana, the other laying similar charges against five people who owned and operated Co-op San Diego.

The feds also went after four doctors on suspicion of providing medical marijuana recommendations for people the officials claimed did not legitimately need marijuana. State and federal officials have filed complaints with the state Medical Board against the doctors.

The San Diego District Attorney's Office announced it was filing marijuana distribution charges against five dispensaries: Ocean Beach Dispensary and Utopia, both on Voltaire Street in Ocean Beach; Native Sun Dispensary on Rosecrans Street, in the Midway District; THC Dispensary, no longer in business, in Pacific Beach; and the California Medical Center, on La Jolla Boulevard in La Jolla.

In a statement announcing the busts, the DA's Office said it was not aiming at medical marijuana patients, but at retail pot outlets disguised as dispensaries. "Our office has no intention of stopping those who are chronically ill with AIDS, glaucoma and cancer from obtaining any legally prescribed drug, including medical marijuana, to help them ease their pain," said DA Bonnie Dumanis said. But the state's medical marijuana law is "being severely abused and it has led to the neighborhood pot dealer opening up storefronts from La Jolla to Ocean Beach to North Park," she said.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana defense group, announced in an e-mail Thursday afternoon it was holding an emergency meeting in San Diego that evening to craft a response.

Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to calendar@drcnet.org.

June 23, 7:30-8:30pm, Lansing, MI, book talk with "Burning Rainbow Farm" author Dean Kuipers. At Schuler Books and Music, 2820 Towne Center Blvd., Eastwood Shopping Center, contact Laura Keefe at (646) 307-5580 or laura.keefe@bloomsburyusa.com for further information.

June 29, 7:00-10:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles CityBeat party in honor of "Burning Rainbow Farm." At Café-Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 W Adams Blvd., contact Laura Keefe at (646) 307-5580 or laura.keefe@bloomsburyusa.com for further information.

July 3, 8:00pm-1:00am, Portland, OR, benefit concert for Citizens for a Safer Portland marijuana low-priority initiative, featuring music State of Jefferson and The Buffalo Riders and guest Rob Kampia of MPP. At Lola's Room, 1332 W. Burnside St. (below the Crystal Ballroom), 21 and over, admission $15 at door, visit http://www.makeportlandsafer.org or call (503) 236-0205 for further information.

July 4, Washington, DC, Fourth of July Rally, sponsored by the Fourth of July Hemp Coalition. At Lafayette Park, call (202) 251-4492 or visit http://www.smoke-in.org for further information.

July 14, 5:30-8:00pm, Chicago, IL, cocktail reception with Judge James P. Gray, author of "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs." Sponsored by the Heartland Institute, at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, 163 East Walton Place, admission free, contact Nikki Comerford at (312) 377-4000 or nikki@heartland.org for further information.

July 15-20, Chicago, IL, "Freedom, Tolerance, and Civil Society," free summer seminar for college students, sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies. At Loyola University, visit http://www.i-liberty.org by April 10 for information or to apply -- apply before March 31 and receive a free book.

July 20-23, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "Fourth Biennial International Meaning Conference on Addiction," contact Dr. Paul T.P. Wong at ptpwong@shaw.ca or visit http://www.meaning.ca for information.

July 21, 7:00pm, Washington, DC, "Race to Incarcerate," book talk with The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer. At Politics & Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, visit http://www.politics-prose.com for further information.

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org for further information.

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit http://www.MassCann.org for further information.

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit http://www.madisonnorml.org for further information.

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ or contact Paula Santiago at santiago@harmreduction.org.

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit http://www.methconference.org for info.

Weekly: This Week in History

June 23, 1999: New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson tells an audience at the Cato Institute, "The nation's so-called War on Drugs has been a miserable failure. It hasn't worked. The drug problem is getting worse. I think it is the number one problem facing this country today... We really need to put all the options on the table... and one of the things that's going to get talked about is decriminalization."

June 24, 1982: During remarks about Executive Order 12368 made from the White House's Rose Garden, President Ronald Reagan says, "We're taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts. We're running up a battle flag."

June 25, 1923: During a speech in Denver, Colorado, Senator Morris Shepard of Texas who had helped install prohibition of alcohol says, "There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail."

June 25, 1987: Colombia officially annuls their extradition treaty with the US, following a barrage of personal threats from drug traffickers against members of the Supreme Court.

June 25, 2003: The Superior Administrative Court of Cundinamarca, Colombia, orders a stop to the spraying of glyophosphate herbicides until the government complies with the environmental management plan for the eradication program, and mandates a series of studies to protect public health and the environment.

June 26, 1936: The Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs is signed in Geneva.

June 26, 2001: China marks the UN international anti-drugs day by holding rallies where piles of narcotics are burned, and 60 people are executed for drug offenses, among hundreds killed by authorities since April 2001 in a crime crackdown labeled "Strike Hard" that alllowed for speeded up trials and broader use of the death penalty.

June 27, 1991: The US Supreme Court upholds, in a 5-4 decision, a Michigan statute that imposes a mandatory sentence of life without possibility of parole for anyone convicted of possession of more than 650 grams (about 1.5 pounds) of cocaine.

June 27, 2002: In Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls, the US Supreme Court decides 6-3 to uphold the most sweeping drug-testing policy yet to come before the Court -- a testing requirement for any public school student seeking to take part in any extracurricular activity, the near-equivalent of a universal testing policy.

June 28, 1776: The first draft of the Declaration of Independence is written on Dutch hemp paper. A second draft, the version released on July 4, is also written on hemp paper. (The final draft is copied from the second draft onto animal parchment.)

June 29, 1938: The Christian Century reports, "In some districts inhabited by Latino Americans, Filipinos, Spaniards, and Negroes, half the crimes are attributed to the marijuana craze."

Web Scan: Len Bias, UN Coca Survey, Oaksterdam News

perspectives on the death of Len Bias 20 years later, from the University of Maryland's Diamondback

UNODC 2005 Andean Coca Survey

summer 2006 issue of Oaksterdam News

Medical Marijuana: National Multiple Sclerosis Society to Fund Study

Posted in:

In what could be the first sign of a course reversal by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which has scoffed at medical marijuana in the past, the group announced this week that it will fund a study on the effect of marijuana on spasticity in MS patients. While the Society acknowledges that up to 15% of MS patients use medical marijuana, funding the new study is the first time the group has indicated it is hearing what those patients are saying.

The society currently rejects the use of marijuana to relieve MS symptoms. As it notes on its web site, "Based on the studies to date, it is the opinion of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Medical Advisory Board that there are currently insufficient data to recommend marijuana or its derivatives as a treatment for MS. Long-term use of marijuana may be associated with significant serious side effects. In addition, other well-tested, FDA-approved drugs are available, such as baclofen and tizanidine, to reduce spasticity in MS."

The Society said it was moved by inconclusive earlier studies on the effect of marijuana on MS spasticity to fund a one using a new measure. The study is not a new one; the group is taking over funding for ongoing research at the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, which lost funding when the investigation was only partially completed.

The study, by Dr. Mark Agius and fellow researchers at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine, is scheduled for completion in March 2008.

Latin America: Venezuela-Funded Coca Factory Opens in Bolivia

Posted in:

Bolivian President Evo Morales traveled to the town of Irupana in Bolivia's Yungas coca-growing region Saturday to preside over the opening of a factory where coca leaves will be made into legal products. Morales, who rose to power as the leader of a confederation of coca growers' unions has vowed to seek alternative legal uses for the plant as part of his anti-cocaine strategy.

"Manufacturing coca products doesn't do any harm because coca isn't a drug," Morales told hundreds of coca growing peasants in Irupana in an address that was televised around the country. "They're going to make flour, tea, soft drinks and other products in the first two plants," he said.

Earlier this year, Morales traveled the world, in part to seek markets for coca products, and that strategy may be paying off. The Associated Press reported Bolivian government officials saying that China, Cuba, India, and Venezuela have already expressed interest in buying coca products.

Morales has positioned himself alongside Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro as part of a leftist pole in hemispheric affairs. Bolivian Agriculture Minister Hugo Salvatierra told Bolivian state television that Chavez has pledged $1 million to fund two coca-processing factories.

Although current Bolivian law limits coca production to some 29,000 acres in the Yungas, unsanctioned production is occurring there, as well as in the Chapare region. According to US and UN figures, Bolivia is the world's third largest coca producer, after Colombia and Peru. US government policy is to eradicate unsanctioned coca, but Morales would rather find legitimate markets for it.

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