The Week Online with DRCNet
Issue #293, 6/27/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Think Globally, Act Locally
  2. DRCNet Needs Your Help
  3. The Global Social Thematic Forum in Cartagena: Toward Global Drug Reform?
  4. DRCNet Interview: Dario Gonzalez Posso, cofounder of Mama Coca
  5. New Poll Shows Greatest-Ever Public Support for Legalizing Marijuana
  6. Karen P. Tandy DEA Confirmation Hearing
  7. Skate for Justice Raises Awareness of Opposition to the Drug War in Upstate New York
  8. Two-Year Court Fight over Hemp Foods in Final Stages -- Hemp Industry Association Files Brief to Keep Hemp Foods Legal
  9. Britain Backpedals on Marijuana Decriminalization Plan
  10. UN/Afghanistan: Hopes for Stability, Alternative Development and Economic Recovery Will Not Contain the Opium Renaissance
  11. This Week in History
  12. PBS Documentary to Explore Lockney Case Next Tuesday (7/1)
  13. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


David Borden at the European
Parliament "Out from the Shadows"
conference, October 2002
1. Editorial: Think Globally, Act Locally

David Borden, Executive Director, borden@drcnet.org, 6/27/03

As this issue's "This Week in History" feature notes, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, founded in 1930, was unaffected by the repeal of Prohibition three years later. The end of alcohol prohibition was an incredible historic event representing a massive rollback of government power, very much against the trend of the 20th century. But it was also a much simpler matter than what we are facing today in the campaign against drug prohibition.

Unlike alcohol prohibition, which was statutorily fairly simple and primarily a US phenomenon, drug prohibition is a many-tentacled beast reaching into virtually all areas of policy and which is bound around the globe to a complex web of laws and treaties that affect more than just recreational drugs. A large and well-monied range of special interests feed off the drug war's enforcement and related policies, at all levels of government, in most if not all departments of those governments, as well as private sector institutions promoted and subsidized by Congress, and in all countries.

Just keeping track of every drug war attack on our freedoms and fellow human beings is a dizzyingly difficult endeavor. There are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of ways politicians, drug-fighters and bureaucrats can ramp up drug war oppression, and equally many directions from which their attacks can come, all of which require energy and attention if they are to be stopped:

  • A farmer has to team up with the ACLU and sue his town, suffering personal and economic retaliation, to protect his son and others from school drug testing, as recounted in next week's PBS documentary.
  • Hemp food producers and their advocates have to file court papers in an ongoing battle to stop the DEA from shutting their legal industry.
  • An incoming DEA administrator promises "information sharing," not only with other law enforcement agencies, but with the private sector. What ominous civil liberties questions does that raise, particularly given the notorious dishonesty or poor judgment of many DEA agents and officials?


The popular activist expression, "think globally, act locally," applies well to our issue, but in two different ways. One way is to engage the drug issue in our nations, states and localities, to talk to politicians and officials in Congress and at the UN, but also with our city council members and our school boards and with our teachers and friends and neighbors. The other way is to take on the partial but important issues making up the many corners of drug policy -- drug testing, hemp, Andean crop spraying, sentencing, financial aid, forfeiture, medical marijuana, syringe availability, the list goes on -- but not neglect the overarching need, the philosophy and cause and moral and practical imperative for cutting off those tentacles at their root and making the world a safer, kinder, healthier, more just place -- ending prohibition. And both these meanings must be brought together.

The discussion in Cartagena last week did bring them together. As cocaleros and their supporters called for, we must make "peace with coca" and other plants. But as Dutch researcher Peter Cohen noted, we must also make "peace with the powder" -- prohibition itself must end, not just for coca or marijuana, but for drugs across the board, even the drugs that sometimes cause harm. Stopping the war against the coca growers requires cooperation among activists and officials in the producing nations of the Andes, but it also needs the work of advocates and supporters here in the US, where the lion's share of the international pressure causing the eradication campaigns and other repressive measures originates. And ending prohibition of drugs itself, not only the campaigns against plants like coca and hemp that can also serve as food and for other uses, will ultimately need to include a global component of many countries deciding together to restructure their policies and to amend or withdraw from international treaties. And advocacy toward that objective is a complex task to be pursued within the international halls of power at the UN but also in the political systems in capitols around the world.

But as complicated and huge and daunting is the task, that doesn't mean it can't be done. As large and diverse are the forces arrayed against us, much greater nevertheless are the human need compelling us to work for our cause, and the powerful truths that we speak. We need not achieve the impossible goal of matching the power of the drug war in its execution; we need only speak out and organize in the right ways, at the right times, to set larger forces in motion everywhere that will change the world. Though injustice and intrusion pervade our laws and courts, in the end the court of public opinion will turn our way and speak a new law.


2. DRCNet Needs Your Help

Dear Week Online reader:

Since we launched our latest book offer, Jacob Sullum's "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use," and appealed to our readers for to help us reach the fall when major grants are expected to be received, more than 250 of you have responded to the call with book orders and donations providing much-needed funds. Because of you, we continue!

Because we are looking at more months, however, DRCNet's adverse financial situation unfortunately still remains. We need more of your help, from more of you, in order to continue to operate and get through this difficult time. The fall is likely to see exciting and groundbreaking new projects at DRCNet, along with the rest of our core work. So please help assure DRCNet can continue functioning until then by visiting http://www.drcnet.org/donate/ and making the most generous contribution you can afford -- $35 or more will still get you a free copy of "Saying Yes," or your choice of our other current membership premiums.

You can also send in your donation by mail -- visit http://www.drcnet.org/donate/ and click on the PDF link to print out a form to send in, or just mail your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036 -- and contact us for instructions if you'd like to make a contribution of stock. (Remember that donations to the Drug Reform Coordination Network are not tax-deductible. If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to support our educational work, make your check payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address.)

Please visit http://www.drcnet.org/wol/289.html#sayingyes if you haven't read Phil Smith's review of "Saying Yes" in the Week Online, including pictures from an author reception last month, and visit http://www.cato-institute.org/events/030529bf.html for video footage of Sullum's book talk at the Cato Institute.

Again, please visit http://www.drcnet.org/donate/ today so DRCNet can continue our crucial work toward stopping the unjust "war on drugs," including this newsletter.


3. The Global Social Thematic Forum in Cartagena: Toward Global Drug Reform?

The Global Social Forum Special Thematic Meeting on Democracy, Human Rights, Wars, and Drug Trafficking is now over, its participants have scattered to the four winds, and the search for meaningful results will now begin. According to event organizers, more than 4,700 people from some two dozens countries came to Cartagena for a week's worth of panels, workshops, roundtables and speeches on topics ranging from the micro (such as creating a space for women in village politics and the economics of small-plot coca cultivation) to the macro (such as the role of the United Nations in defending human rights and the impact of anti-drug policies on society, economy, and the environment).

As noted last week, much of the forum was informed by a harsh critique of US foreign policies, especially as they play out in Colombia. But participants also went beyond mere critique as, in panel after panel, people came together in search of solutions to the problems inflamed by the ongoing civil war cum drug war cum war on terrorism in Colombia. The backdrop was the gleaming beachfront high-rises and colonial-era fortresses of old Cartagena, but the subject matter of the forum was nuts and bolts activism, whether on how to organize youth in urban slums, how media activists could confront established news outlets with preordained agendas, or how to build authentically democratic social movements in an atmosphere of war and intimidation.

And old clashes sometimes generated new heat, most notably when Human Rights Watch director Jose Miguel Vivanco used the occasion of a panel on the UN and human rights to rip into Cuba's human rights record. Not only did Vivanco's denunciation of the recent execution of three hijackers and the imprisonment of nonviolent dissidents draw hisses and boos from some in the crowd, it also drew a stern rebuke from the Cuban ambassador to Colombia. Vivanco and the ambassador exchanged angry mutual accusations over whether Cuba allowed access to its prisoners, but much of the crowd was clearly on the side of the embattled Castro government.

The drug-related sessions of the forum were, for the most part, less controversial and less acerbic, as the critique of prohibitionism has gained increasing acceptance, even in the nominally Catholic and conservative countries of Latin America. For those with some experience with drug policy, there was little new in terms of global revelations; instead, there was a filling in of detail. A panel of Brazilian harm reductionists, to give one example, showed how prohibition and the drug trade work in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the cannabis fields of the Brazilian northeast, while Spanish Basque activist Martin Barriuso explained how drug reformers were able to make serious advances in Spain despite a regressive political atmosphere. Similarly, Dutch social scientist Peter Cohen, noting the loud calls for "peace with coca," told the audience it must also seek peace with cocaine instead of demonizing the powder.

While much, if not all, of the discussion at the forum focused on Colombia and the brutal conflict fueled by US military hardware and the illegal drug profits created by prohibition, it was the drug trafficking axis organized by the Mama Coca collective (http://www.mamacoca.org -- see the interview below with Dario Gonzalez Posso as well as last week's interviews for more) where drug reformers, peasants, organizers and academics from Latin America, Europe, Asia, and North America came together in an effort to move toward reform on a global level. Some 60 or 70 people met on Wednesday, June 18 to see whether they could reach a consensus on how to move forward.

"We would like to present a proposal to form a global commission on drug policy," said Mama Coca cofounder Dario Gonzalez Posso as he introduced the plan. "We need to evaluate these anti-drug policies. After three decades of drug war, it is time to present alternatives and come up with new models. There are precedents for this sort of commission," Gonzalez Posso added, "such as the meeting on human rights and international law in Colombia that took place in Costa Rica in 2001. This commission was to present its results to the UN, and we hope to do the same," he explained.

Now is the time, Gonzalez Posso said. "We are seeing important movements taking place around coca growing in Bolivia and Peru, as well as in Colombia, where last September people began looking at the problem of proscribed cultivation from within the context of agrarian reform," he pointed out. "There are also important initiatives in other countries, such as the efforts to get governments to ask the UN to repeal or amend the anti-drug conventions."

Gonzalez Posso also outlined some general criteria for any such commission. "We need an analysis based on human rights, not only relating to the health and well-being of consumers and producers, but also the defense of the environment and the rural milieu," he said. "We need to develop informed proposals to end the criminalization of growers, the demonization of plants and the penalization of consumers. We need to make known and vindicate the medicinal value of the coca, poppy and marijuana plants," he said. "And we need to ensure that the committees that help create this commission are formed by people from all over the world who are experts in their field, whether it is drug policy or harm reduction or agriculture."

Research by such a commission would have several concrete goals, Gonzalez Posso continued. "We need to analyze traditional policies in such a way as to create a database for the UN, and we need to be able to demonstrate the diverse impacts generated by prohibition policies in the long run. We also must design a mechanism for social oversight of drug phenomenon. We are not talking about a new bureaucratic infrastructure but about creating a new movement. The commission we envision is not something to be imposed, but something that is fed and strengthened by local social forums around the world."

While a general consensus in favor of the Mama Coca commission proposal seemed to emerge, it was by no means unanimous, and the discussion that followed showed clearly the differing perspectives of those in attendance. For Ricardo Soberon, coordinator of the Peruvian Frontier Programs Project Advisory Board, it was imperative that any commission look at drug production, consumption and trafficking worldwide. "We must go beyond the national level," he said.

Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt, a British drug users' advocate and editor of the London-based Users' Voice, warned that drug users must not be excluded from any such commission. "While we need to respect the diversity of this global movement, we also need to be inclusive. People who use drugs are too often excluded from participation. We must be included," she said.

Basque cannabis activist Martin Barriuso expressed enthusiasm moderated by concerns over the workability of a large project. "It will be difficult, and perhaps we should start with an annual report on people adversely affected by drug policies," Barriuso said. "Maybe we should also break it up into different parts of the world. For example, in the Basque country, we don't focus much on the environmental impact of drug prohibition, so there we might want to concentrate on other aspects. The first thing is to get the opinions of the people actually affected by these drug policies."

Francisco Thoumi, a Colombian academic and expert on the drug trade there, cautioned that the UN conventions may not be the insuperable obstacle many suppose. "I've worked with the UN on drug issues," he said, "and the current conventions can be interpreted in different ways. Coca, for example, was not prohibited by the 1961 convention; instead, Peruvian and Bolivian elites committed themselves to end coca chewing in 25 years." Still, said Thoumi, there is still a need for study of coca crops in the Andes, and there are a couple of questions any commission would need to address. "What will you do about plants not used for illicit uses, and how do you prevent leakage from the licit to the illicit sector?"

Peter Cohen
And while some academics repeated the call for more investigations, more research, not everyone agreed. The research is there already, some suggested. "Adding a document to a warehouse full of documents is not very useful," argued Peter Cohen, director of the Dutch Center for Drug Research in Amsterdam (CEDRO). "If we are going to do something, let's think about activities that will raise the profile of those groups who suffer most from prohibition. It is clear who those groups are in Latin America," Cohen argued. "But no one knows these people exist. At this point, our work is only partly intellectual -- that work has been done -- and we need to have a basically political focus. In order to save the seals in Antarctica, it was important that a French filmmaker filmed those little seals being killed to arouse public opinion. We need to do something similar now."

Still, said Marco Perduca, executive director of the International Antiprohibitionist League, given the United Nations' refusal to analyze the impact of drug prohibition, "if official organizations are not going to do this, perhaps civil society can. We need to do this at the global level, because everyone is affected by prohibition, and not just of drugs, but of sex, of information, of research." Nor should reform efforts limit themselves to the UN's anti-drug bodies, he added. "We can use the UN system to call attention to violations of economic, social and cultural rights protected by the UN Charter. The UN has a committee that deals with violations of these rights. It issues recommendations and proclamations that are sent to governments. This could be a first step, but we also have to work with deputies and parliamentarians in the various countries so we can get governments to raise these issues at the UN."

Luiz Paulo Guanabara
Not everyone signed on. North American Sanho Tree of the Institute for Policy Studies and Witness for Peace told the meeting he would continue to concentrate his limited resources on Colombia. And a delegation from Brazil consisting of antiprohibitionist and harm reduction groups also demurred. "We had meetings among ourselves about this," said Luiz Paulo Guanabara of Psico-Tropicus, "and the consensus we reached was 'fuck the UN.' We think our time and resources will be better spent influencing policy in Brazil, which could well lead the way to reform on a regional basis," he explained.

Others were unable to commit pending consultation with home offices. Sharda Sekaran of the US Drug Policy Alliance told DRCNet she would be reporting to her bosses and a decision on participation would come after that. Similarly, DRCNet's Phillip Smith, while eager to explain DRCNet's antiprohibitionist position to the audience, made no commitment to participate pending discussions within the organization.

At least one Colombian workers' and peasants' group had no such concerns. "We welcome this proposal," said Luis Carlos Alvaro of the Colombian National Confederation of Workers. "We have already created an agrarian mandate for reform here in Colombia, and we think that can be integrated into this proposal. Speaking as small farmers, we believe it is imperative to talk about the cultivation of illicit crops. The growing of such crops is related to the unequal distribution of land. The government wants to make us small farmers invisible. We want to be part of this proposal," Alvaro affirmed.

For Mama Coca and Gonzalez Posso, the general tenor of the conversation was enough to say, "I understand that it is a yes, we have a positive reaction to our proposal, and work toward this global commission needs to begin. It is now time to create a committee to push forward this global commission, but we don't want just another bunch of meetings. We must construct a process that creates a network of working groups, and we must start it now," he said. "We will propose some meetings; we will look for the best moments. We recognize there are other groups working on this, and we will seek to form a converging initiative."

But that process will take time, Gonzalez Posso told DRCNet. "I think it will be six months at least before we have a real framework. There is still much to decide, much to be done."

While panel after panel addressed various aspects of democracy, human rights, war, and drugs, for the purposes of drug reformers, it was the Wednesday session with Mama Coca that was the highlight of the conference. After all, for most of the people in attendance at that session, the ills of prohibition, as articulated at the forum, are old news. What is new and exciting is the prospect of forming a global movement for reform.

In that sense, for some in attendance, Cartagena was also a chance to renew friendships and expand networks established at the DRCNet-sponsored Mérida "Out from the Shadows" conference in February. Among those who attended both meetings were Peruvians Baldomero Cáceres, Hugo Cabieses and Nancy Obregón; Brazilian Luiz Paulo Guanabara; Colombian María Mercedes Moreno of Mama Coca; Dutch academic Peter Cohen; English user activist Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt; Don Wirtshafter from the Ohio Hempery; and the International Antiprohibitionist League's Marco Perduca. And while not all of them will be participating in Mama Coca's call for a global commission, the informal networks of global drug reform are growing as well.


4. DRCNet Interview: Dario Gonzalez Posso, cofounder of Mama Coca

Colombian social scientist Dario Gonzalez Posso has been working on issues of war and peace in his home country for more than 20 years. He founded the Colombian Institute for Peace and Development Studies (INDEPAZ in its Spanish-language acronym) in 1984, and was more recently a cofounder of the loose network of academics and activists known as Mama Coca (http://www.mamacoca.org). Along with María Mercedes Moreno, Henry Salgado and the Mama Coca collective, Posso played a critical role in placing drug policy on the agenda of the Global Social Forum's special thematic meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, last week. DRCNet spoke with Posso in Cartagena on Sunday.

Week Online: The Global Social Forum in Cartagena described its themes as being democracy, human rights, war, and the drug trade. Did that accurately describe what you and Mama Coca hoped to do at the forum?

Dario Gonzalez Posso: The organizers of the forum wanted to talk about the drug trade, but what we were really more interested in was specifically issues related to the cultivation of illicit crops -- what we prefer to describe as "proscribed cultivation." The theme of the drug traffic is, of course, important, but that is not what we wanted as a central focus, and that is not what the panels and workshops we organized focused on. Instead, we studied the problems related to proscribed cultivation, but we also looked at the role of consumers and, of course, human rights. Human rights is key; we are very interested in the rights of peasants to grow their crops and in the rights of drug consumers to be left in peace. This means we are against prohibitionism, and we believe we are seeing a growing anti-prohibitionist consensus. Not everyone is anti-prohibitionist, and it is not necessary that everyone be anti-prohibitionist, but that is where we stand.

WOL: Was the conference a success in your view?

Gonzalez Posso: I cannot talk about the forum in general. There were many, many events that we did not have the time to participate in, but organizationally, I think you have to say it was a success. More than 4,700 people registered for the forum. Still, I think it is too early to say how successful it was. We have to see what comes from it.

For us, there were very important practical results with potentially great political importance. We were able to forge agreement among diverse sectors to push for an international commission to evaluate current anti-drug policy and form alternatives. That commission will be formed by all who participated in the Mama Coca axis at the forum, or at least by all who want to participate. Not everyone sees the utility of working to reform the UN drug conventions, especially when some groups must measure how best to use their limited resources.

Still, I think we share a common base and a commitment to pluralism, and while there are different visions and different interests, these differences don't exclude groups if they don't want to participate in the commission. The Brazilians, for example, said they don't want to participate in the commission because they would rather focus their energies at home. I think I can understand that, given the Lula government's foreign policies, which are directed toward a sort of regional or sub-regional integration. That has implications for the entire continent, and our Brazilian friends can and will support anti-prohibitionism from that perspective. It is not necessary that we be homogenous; in fact, we seek pluralism.

WOL: Is there an identifiable common ground even within these differences?

Gonzalez Posso: Even if we have our differences, I think there are some basic criteria on which we all agree. First is human rights. We need to advance and support proposals based on the human rights, and in my view, that entails ending prohibition. We must confront the criminalization of peasant farmers who grow prohibited crops and the criminalization of drug users. This is a human rights issue of the most fundamental sort. Also, there is the strong interest in repealing or amending the UN anti-drug conventions. Toward this end, we have a proposal to revalorize, to explicitly recognize the virtues of prohibited crops in their cultural, medical, industrial, creative and alimentary uses. As far as the UN is concerned, crops like cannabis, coca and opium are simply prohibited substances, and that's that. The centers of world power think they can execute policies that will result in zero coca or zero cannabis, but I think this is very illogical; it cannot be done. It is absurd and arrogant to think you can eradicate a species; it is a gift from god.

We know that all of these crops have long and varied histories. Take cannabis, for example, since it is more familiar to North Americans and Europeans. It has been used for thousands of years. It has been used to make clothing, its seeds and oils are used in various products, and, of course, it has a long history of recreational use. In the Andes, coca is associated with the beginning of Andean agricultural civilization. The indigenous people of the Andes never had cocaine, but they used coca in its natural form as a food, and also as a substance with cultural significance for them. Chewing the coca leaf is incorporated into indigenous life in many ways and has many uses. And as Peruvian expert Baldomero Cáceres pointed out, each leaf you chew is one leaf that doesn't go into the drug trade.

The indigenous use of coca is not as important in Colombia as in Peru, but here we have a minority of indigenous people who use coca in the traditional manner and the culture is the same. Throughout the Andes, when the Europeans came, they brought with them the attitude that coca is something taken by backwards people, by Indians, by primitives. Even some indigenous people identified with this thinking. The plant was demonized, and it is still being demonized today. This is why we think it is so important to include the recuperation of the cultural role of coca as one of our goals. Our countries are multicultural and multi-plural, and I believe we have to accept that there are differences among cultures within a nation. Here in Colombia, for example, we are African, indigenous, European, mestizo, and none of these cultures is superior, just different from the others. The recognition of and respect for other cultures is the very foundation of human rights.

WOL: Is there a political base in Colombia for anti-prohibitionism?

Gonzalez Posso: In some of the more democratic sectors, for some time there has been a search for responsibility -- who is to blame for the proscribed crops? And the tendency is to say that it is the fault of the consumers, the North Americans and Europeans. This is a mirror image of the discourse from the North, which blames us, blames the producers. They say we must stop the supply at the source to eliminate demand.

Neither of these positions is valid. They both ignore the fact that the origin of all these problems is prohibition. Prohibition created the drug trade. Prohibition stimulates the creation of networks of organized crime. And ironically, these prohibitionist efforts to suppress plants like cannabis, coca and opium are one of the causes of the proliferation of synthetic drugs, which effectively implicate more people than the plant drugs.

Prohibition also generates a model of a criminal economy that is articulated with the international financial system. The crops are grown one place and in an underground economy, but in the end the profits are realized in the legal economy. I believe that an anti-drug strategy that struck effective blows against these capital flows and the money laundering would also wound the global financial system. This, of course, represents a big obstacle to change at the global level and is something we cannot deal with as one nation. We have to transcend the international mafia that profits off this and open an international debate. As yet, we have not progressed far in that direction in Colombia.

WOL: Undoing the UN conventions is a process that could take years to occur. What sort of intermediate steps are you looking at?

Gonzalez Posso: There are things we can do, but none of them will be easy. We have to go one step at a time at the same time we work on the conventions. We could begin with the non-criminalization of peasant growers and drug consumers. We already have the legalization of possession and use in small amounts in Colombia. But President Uribe wants to change this; it is part of a referendum he wants Colombians to vote on. This is a real step backward. We don't know if it will pass, but we fear it could.

The referendum deals with other things too, but it is a trick, a deception. Uribe is carrying Bush's mission to Colombia. They want to say there is a dilemma: You can have security or you can have human rights, but this is a false dilemma. They try more than ever to mix the issue of proscribed crops with the security issue. It is necessary to eliminate the funding for the guerrillas and the paramilitaries, they say, but what does this imply for us? It means the government will attack the peasants, it will ignore the internationally recognized distinction between combatants and civilians. The fumigation of peasant crops is not about alternative development, it is an act of war, a military objective.

Such actions violate both the Geneva accords and the United Nations' own charter. This has been documented by the UN and by the Colombian government. The fumigation of proscribed crops affects the villagers' rights to health and a clean environment. It also disrupts the social fabric, causing the decomposition of families and the creation of displaced people. But you must also understand that the cultivation most affected is that of food. The proscribed crops are often planted near food crops, and they are destroyed by the fumigation. This produces hunger and refugees. And those most affected, of course, are the children. This is fundamental, for the international community recognizes and values the need to respect the rights of children most of all.


5. New Poll Shows Greatest-Ever Public Support for Legalizing Marijuana

press release from Drug Policy Alliance, http://www.drugpolicy.org

A poll released Tuesday (6/24) by Zogby International found that 41% of Americans agree "the government should treat marijuana more or less the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it and only make it illegal for children." This represents a striking increase from previous nationwide polls on making marijuana legal.

"Over 40% of Americans basically think that marijuana prohibition makes no more sense than alcohol Prohibition, and should be repealed," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Nearly two years ago USA Today ran a front page story with the findings of a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll which found that support for legalizing marijuana was at its highest in 30 years, with 34% in favor, up from 15% in 1972. The jump over two years to 41% is similar to other rapid shifts in public opinion around marijuana decriminalization in Canada, Britain and elsewhere.

The poll released today interviewed 1,204 adults chosen at random nationwide. They were asked to agree or disagree with the following statement: "Some people say the government should treat marijuana more or less the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate marijuana, control it, tax it, and only make it illegal for children." The margin of error is +/- 2.9%.

"No other criminal law on the books in this country is enforced so vigorously, yet backed by such a small majority of Americans," said Nadelmann. "When two of every five citizens say it's time to make marijuana legal, the government's response should be to reduce penalties and reevaluate the law, yet the federal government is doing just the opposite: blocking the availability of marijuana for medical purposes, prohibiting the production of hemp for industrial purposes, and spending billions of dollars per year on the war on marijuana."

"US marijuana policy is increasingly out of step with our closest allies and neighbors," said Nadelmann, pointing to the decriminalization of marijuana in Canada, Switzerland, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy and elsewhere.


6. Karen P. Tandy DEA Confirmation Hearing

Mark Pearson for DRCNet, mpearson@drcnet.org

In a hearing marked most by uneventfulness and lack of passion or strong interest, the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned DEA administrator nominee Karen P. Tandy. The hearing lasted no more than 30 minutes, and was attended only sparsely attended by the committee's members. There were never more than five members present, and for much of the hearing only senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) were present. No difficult questions were asked, and at no time was Tandy pinned down on a particular issue. Sessions, a friend of Tandy, said she "has consistently shown great capabilities [in getting the job done]."

Responding to a question from Sessions on what Tandy considered her biggest challenges and goals, she stated that "after 9-11 the redirection of resources placed the responsibility of drug enforcement more squarely on the shoulders of the DEA than ever before," and outlined four goals:

  1. To ensure the protection of America and America's kids from drugs;
  2. To ensure widespread sharing of information from the federal level to the state and private sector level, which she claimed would ensure "maximum impact" as "the most effective means of reducing the 63 billion dollar illicit drug industry in the US";
  3. To dismantle the drug trade industry, which she called key for the DEA; and
  4. To streamline the DEA: "My pledge is if I am confirmed, I will ensure that those who succeed [in the DEA]... are those who are promoted."
Hatch then said that "there is a direct correlation between drug trafficking and terrorism," and asked how Tandy would respond, to which Tandy answered, "DEA has constructed a priority targeting system" to address threats within our borders and without, adding that she was particularly concerned about targeting the money, because "it is the money that funds this horrific preying on our children."

Hatch, the committee's chairman then gave a spiel about how Tandy and assistant attorney general nominee Christopher Wray (also present at the hearing) both are qualified candidates, and said "I'm sure that your confirmation will pass in short order."

According to a bulletin distributed by the Marijuana Policy Project, between three and five senators, including Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), will be submitting written questions to Tandy, thereby forcing her to put her views on medical marijuana on record. Medical marijuana patient Suzanne Pfeil, who suffers from post-polio syndrome, attended the hearing and waited to hand-deliver a letter. Tandy attempted to sneak away through a back door instead of approaching and speaking with Pfeil, but Pfeil chased Tandy down the halls in her wheelchair and delivered her letter. (Visit http://www.dontconfirm.org for pictures.)

Editorial Comment: Tandy may succeed in accomplishing her bureaucratic objectives, sharing more information with other agencies and streamlining the DEA -- though it isn't likely -- but it won't make difference. She won't succeed in, nor even make progress toward, her performance goals of dismantling the drug trade industry and protecting America's children from drugs, because she has already rejected the only strategy -- legalization -- that could accomplish them.


7. Skate for Justice Raises Awareness of Opposition to the Drug War in Upstate New York

Students for Sensible Drug Policy's "Skate for Justice" against the drug war made its way from Binghamton to Ithaca, NY, last Sunday (6/22), with approximately 10 activists skating some or all of the journey's 49 miles, according to the Ithaca News. Starting a little after 10:00am, the demonstrators rolled into Ithaca at approximately 8:00pm, then enjoying a dinner provided at half-price by the Lost Dog Cafe.

Tom Angell, a member of SSDP's national board of directors, who represented SSDP's University of Rhode Island chapter, called the Skate for Justice "a pilgrimage with justice as the destination." Angell told the Week Online that it was "an invigorating experience," even though he had to stop at 40 miles due to an ankle injury.

At one point the group walked up the largest hill of the route -- silently, according to Angell, "to take time to reflect on all the lives that have been shattered by the US drug war" -- and in Angell's case, on the life of Cheryl Miller, medical marijuana patient and famed activist from New Jersey.

"By being on the roads throughout the day and passing thousands of motorists and pedestrians," Angell said, "we were able to raise awareness that drug policy reform is an important contemporary issue." Skaters sported Skate for Justice t-shirts as well as StopTheDrugWar.org and SSDP stickers and signs -- visible to thousands of pedestrians and motorists during their 10 hour tour.

Skate for Justice was spearheaded by SSDP's Broome Community College chapter. Visit http://www.skateforjustice.org for pictures and further information.


8. Two-Year Court Fight over Hemp Foods in Final Stages -- Hemp Industry Association Files Brief to Keep Hemp Foods Legal

press release from VoteHemp, http://www.votehemp.com

On Tuesday, June 24, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), which represents the interests of the hemp industry and encourages the research and development of new hemp products, filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco) asking for a review of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) "Final Rule" regarding hemp foods. If this new "Final Rule" were to take effect, it would ban hemp seed and oil and consequently destroy the multimillion dollar hemp food industry.

Due to a Court ordered Stay, hemp foods remain perfectly legal to import, sell and consume while the Court hears arguments from the HIA and DEA and renders a decision.

The HIA brief charges that the DEA's "Final Rule" should be invalidated because the agency is exercising arbitrary and capricious authority by attempting to outlaw hemp seed and oil without holding formal hearings on the issue or finding any potential for abuse. Because trace infinitesimal THC in hemp seed is non-psychoactive and insignificant, Congress exempted non-viable hemp seed and oil from control under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), just as Congress exempted poppy seeds from the CSA, although they contain trace opiates otherwise subject to control. The brief also charges that DEA acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in exempting hemp seed mixed with animal feed, although Congress made no such distinction in the CSA.

Additionally, the brief elucidates other major failures by the DEA -- namely, the lack of hearings on this issue and the failure to comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires assessing effects of the proposed change on small businesses. The brief and other court documents are available at http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/HIAvDEA_finalrules_petition.pdf.

Final Legal Schedule in Hemp Food Fight:

  • July 24, 2003: Deadline for DEA's response to HIA brief
  • August 8, 2003: Deadline for HIA's reply to DEA's response
  • September 17, 2003: Oral Arguments begin in San Francisco
The "Final Rule," issued on March 21, 2003, is virtually identical to an "Interpretive Rule" issued on October 9, 2001 that never went into effect because of a Ninth Circuit Stay issued on March 7, 2002. On March 28, 2003 the HIA, several hemp food and cosmetic manufacturers and the Organic Consumers Association petitioned the Ninth Circuit to once again prevent the DEA from ending the legal sale of hemp seed and oil products in the US, and on April 16, 2003, the Ninth Circuit again issued a Stay.

North American hemp food companies voluntarily observe reasonable THC limits similar to those adopted by European nations as well as Canada and Australia. These limits protect consumers with a wide margin of safety from any psychoactive effects or workplace drug-testing interference (http://www.testpledge.com). The DEA has hypocritically not targeted food manufacturers for using poppy seeds (in bagels and muffins, for example), even though they contain far higher levels of trace opiates. The recently revived global hemp market is a thriving commercial success. Unfortunately, because the DEA's drug war paranoia has confused non-psychoactive industrial hemp varieties of cannabis with psychoactive "marihuana" varieties, the US is the only major industrialized nation to prohibit the growing of industrial hemp.

Visit http://www.VoteHemp.com to read scientific studies of hemp foods and see court documents.


9. Britain Backpedals on Marijuana Decriminalization Plan

courtesy NORML News, http://www.norml.org

British officials have delayed plans to formally downgrade marijuana possession to a non-arrestable offense, according to statements made this week from a spokesman for the British Home Office. The legal change, which Home Secretary David Blunkett had previously promised would occur this summer, is now unlikely to be implemented until sometime after January 2004.

The Home Office maintains the delay is because Parliament must first reclassify marijuana under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act before any changes in penalties can take place. Under the proposed plan -- which has been endorsed by Parliament's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee and the Police Foundation, among others -- marijuana will be reclassified from a Class B to a Class C drug, the least harmful category of illicit drugs under British law.

Once reclassified, police will no longer have the legal authority to make arrests in cases involving the possession of small amounts of pot, unless there are aggravating factors present.

This week's announcement from the Home Office is a departure from statements made by the Secretary in October of 2001 when he announced that marijuana's reclassification would be enacted by an executive order, not legislatively. At that time, Blunkett implied the change could come within several months. Last summer, he revised that time frame, but reaffirmed plans to reclassify cannabis by this July.

Marijuana smokers are expected to receive a warning from police if they possess three grams or less of cannabis once the new law takes effect.


10. UN/Afghanistan: Hopes for Stability, Alternative Development and Economic Recovery Will Not Contain the Opium Renaissance

statement and information from the International Antiprohibitionist League, http://www.antiprohibitionist.org

On June 17, the United Nations Security Council held a special debate on Afghanistan, with most of the discussion focusing on the production of opium used for heroin, according to Marco Perduca, UN Representative for the Transnational Radical Party and executive director of the International Antiprohibitionist League (IAL). Among the speakers was Dr. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Perduca issued the following statement commenting on Costa's proposals:

Marco Perduca, in Mérida
In the report presented by the Special envoy of the Secretary General to Afghanistan and by Dr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, there is a grim picture of what Afghanistan has become after the "liberation" from the Taliban. Despite international attention and presence in the country (the UK fighting drugs, Germans taking care of police and security, Italians building the justice system and the US fighting terrorists), reconstruction, economic regeneration and prosperity are not in sight. Law enforcement is almost impossible outside the capital, and warlords are often chosen to act as local guarantor of stability.

And of course drugs are back on the map.

Mr. Costa, who in the past had delivered more optimistic statements on the issue, has today emphasized a series of measures [he claims] should be implemented in order to eradicate the evil crop that is again increasing and finally allow Afghani people to live a normal life. From alternative development, to micro-credit, from supply reduction to demand reduction abroad (80% of the heroin that reaches Europe is produced in Afghanistan) as well as tightened control of the borders are on UNODC's wish list. Nothing new.

In 1998, [Costa's predecessor] Pino Arlacchi wanted to make Afghanistan the example of how to reduce drugs through a series of measures stemming from a "zero tolerance approach" to the problem. Costa, who chaired the 46th session of the Commission on Narcotics last April, where the international community reaffirmed its prohibitionist credo, is trying to promote programs that resemble more those of the World Bank than those that an agency dedicated to the control of drugs should take into consideration.

Arlacchi's obsession with eradicating crops in Afghanistan went as far as striking deals with the Taliban, while Costa's managerial style is running the risk to put the emphasis on all the aspects related to drugs and the possible (perfect) theoretical ways to address those issues and not to the cause of all those problems. Costa's economical background should help him understand what the added value of drugs is: Prohibition.

Perduca also reported that Costa's office found "a steady downward trend" in opium cultivation in Laos and Myanmar, 22% less land under opium cultivation since 2002 and 60% since 1996, but failed to draw the connection with the resulting (or causative) increase of opium cultivation in Afghanistan. Perduca charged that UNODC "had constructed a method of work to answer difficult questions with very easy answers."

Visit http://www.antiprohibitionist.org for further information and to read IAL's in-depth report on the use and misuse of cultivation numbers in the UN's world drug reporting.


11. This Week in History

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, "[I]n some districts inhabited by Latino Americans, Filipinos, Spaniards, and Negroes, half the crimes are attributed to the marijuana craze." This quote, which of course bore no resemblance to actual reality, illustrates the role of racial prejudice and tensions in the genesis of drug laws, a repeating historical phenomenon.

June 30, 1906: The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 is enacted, creating the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the power to approve all foods and drugs meant for human consumption. FDA's creation effectively puts the patent medicine industry out of business. The Act also requires that certain drugs only be sold on prescription, and launches the "Warning -- May be habit forming" label that is still in use today. Nevertheless, the Pure Food and Drug Act, while increasing government control, doesn't quite amount to drug prohibition as we know it today. That waits eight more years, for the Harrison Act.

July, 1998: US attorney general Janet Reno and Mexico attorney general Jorge Madrazo Cuellar sign the Brownville Agreement, pledging to inform each other about sensitive cross-border law enforcement operations. The agreement is made in the aftermath of Operation Casablanca, an 18-month investigation into drug money laundering at the US-Mexico border, which had sparked the most serious crisis in US-Mexico relations in recent years.

July 1, 1930: The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) is established, an agency preceding the DEA that is independent of the Department of the Treasury's Prohibition Unit, and is unaffected by the subsequent passage of the Twenty-First Amendment that repealed federal Alcohol Prohibition.

July 1, 1973: The Drug Enforcement Administration is established by President Nixon. It is designed to be a "superagency" capable of handling all aspects of the drug problem. The DEA consolidates agents from the BNDD, Customs, the CIA, and ODALE, and is headed by Myles Ambrose. It becomes known for its use of "cowboy" law enforcement tactics that stretch the limits of the Fourth Amendment, including "no-knock" warrants, IRS audits and wiretaps.


12. PBS Documentary to Explore Lockney Case Next Tuesday (7/1)

Next week, the PBS series P.O.V. (a cinematic term for point of view), partnership with Independent Television Service, will air "Larry v. Lockney," a documentary on Larry Tannahill's crusade to stop school drug testing in the small west Texas town of Lockney. Tannahill, a third-generation farmer, was the only one of 2,000 residents of Lockney to challenge the school's policy, which saw his son, an A and B student who had never been in trouble, suspended for 21 days for refusing to take a drug test.

Tannahill, who believed the policy violated his son's 4th Amendment right against unreasonable searches, sued to overturn the policy, with the help of the ACLU. Tannahill's campaign drew national headlines, but cost him his job and drew threats against his family. "Larry v. Lockney," which was produced by Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck, tells the story.

Visit http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2003/larryvlockney/ for information, pictures, resources for educators, and ways to get involved in P.O.V.'s campaign to increase public attention to the documentary and issue. "Larry v. Lockney" is scheduled to air at 10:00pm EST, Tuesday, July 1, check local listings.

Past DRCNet coverage of Tannahill and Lockney:

http://www.drcnet.org/wol/177.html#lockney
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/124.html#suspension

13. The Reformer's Calendar

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

July 7, 8:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, Students for Sensible Drug Policy/Marijuana Policy Project Benefit Show with Bill Maher, John Fugelsang and Pauly Shore. At The Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Boulevard, $20 regular admission, $35 preferred seating, $500 VIP party and front-row, two drink minimum, 21 and over. Visit http://www.ssdp.org/events/maher.htm for info or to purchase tickets, or contact SSDP at (202) 293-4414 or ssdp@ssdp.org.

July 23, "Drug Policy Reform 2003: The State of the Movement," forum with Ethan Nadelmann. At the San Francisco Medical Society, 1409 Sutter St., call (415) 921-4987.

July 24, "Can We Really Afford a (Failed) War on Drugs?", forum with Ethan Nadelmann. At the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, 595 Market St., visit http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/ctt.asp?u=3456&l=1908 for info.

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

September 18, Tallahassee, FL, "Innovations in European Drug Policy," the Richard L. Rachin Conference. Sponsored by the Florida State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, in conjunction with the Journal of Drug Issues, at the Center for Professional Development, contact (850) 644-7569 or register@cpd.fsu.edu to register or (850) 644-7368 or jdi@garnet.fsu.edu 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 http://www.drugpolicy.org for further information.

November 7-9, Paris, "Fourth Hemp and Eco-Technologies Exhibition." At the Cité de Sciences et de L'Industrie, call +33(0) 1 48 58 31 37, e-mail info@festival-du-chanvre.com or visit http://www.festival-du-chanvre.com for further information.

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