The Week Online with DRCNet
Issue #294, 7/3/03

"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: Not Just in Texas
  2. US Appeals Court Kills DEA Interpretive Rule Banning Hemp Foods, But More Battles Remain
  3. British Cannabis Reform Delayed, Revised to Allow Arrests After Cops Complain
  4. Canada Approves Safe Injection Site for Vancouver
  5. Newsbrief: US Suspends Military Aid to Colombia, Others in International Criminal Court Scrap
  6. Newsbrief: Colombian Court Orders Fumigation Halt -- US, Colombia Say No Way
  7. Newsbrief: "No Legalization," Says Mexico Anti-Drug Official
  8. Newsbrief: Another Pain Doc in the Drug War's Sights
  9. Newsbrief: American Nurses Association Endorses Access to Medical Marijuana
  10. Newsbrief: Connecticut Lawmakers Call for Sentencing Reform
  11. Newsbrief: Delaware Cuts Sentences for Some Drug Crimes
  12. Newsbrief: Poll Finds California Latinos Oppose Jailing Low-Level Drug Offenders
  13. Bill Maher Benefit Event Monday Night, 7/7, Los Angeles
  14. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


 

David Borden

1. Editorial: Not Just in Texas

David Borden, Executive Director, borden@drcnet.org, 7/3/03

One of the greatest but least-discussed problems in modern medicine is the under-treatment of patients living with severe, chronic pain. More than 30 million patients suffer from chronic pain, and seven million of them cannot relieve their pain without opiates (narcotics), but only 4,000 doctors in the country are willing to prescribe them, according to the National Chronic Pain Outreach Association. A New England Journal of Medicine editorial stated that 56 percent of cancer outpatients and 82 percent of AIDS outpatients were under-treated for pain, as were 50 percent of hospitalized patients with a range of conditions.

Today's massive denial of pain medication is a consequence of the social, regulatory and law enforcement climate created by the war on drugs. Doctors can suffer loss of license or even incarceration, when the inevitable mistake of providing medicine to a real or pretend patient who may be misusing or diverting medication, or using it for non-sanctioned purposes, takes place. The climate has led to a situation in which most physicians are incorrectly trained in pain management and under- or non-treatment of pain is the norm. Doctors who treat pain correctly typically must exceed the usual prescribed dosages, and in so doing draw the scrutiny of state medical boards, the DEA and other agencies. Any overdose, any death of an ill or elderly patient, any billing of public health insurers (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid) to pay for opiates therapy, is a potential red flag, no matter how reasonable the prescription or how innocent the circumstances. And for the typical physician, the possible legal and financial ramifications, even if imposed only infrequently, tend to represent a greater legal and financial risk than they are willing or able to afford.

One of the most recent possible "witch-hunts" in this arena is that of Dr. Daniel Maynard, whose Dallas home, office and bank were raided by dozens of state and federal cops three weeks ago. The massive force of massively armed anti-drug agents handcuffed 30-40 of Maynard's patients while running warrant checks on them and seized Maynard's records, and the state of Texas has frozen his ability to be reimbursed by Medicare. Maynard is of course being tried in the media for his supposed crimes, and his former patients are scrambling to find new doctors who will take their pain treatment needs seriously. I'd bet money at least one of them gets treated for handcuff bruises.

The reason for the raid? Eleven of Dr. Maynard's patients had died subsequent to receiving opiate prescriptions from him. But it is unclear what relation some of the reported causes of death would have to opiate use -- hypertensive cardiovascular disease and chronic alcoholism, for example -- and in those cases where drug overdose was a possible cause, it is unclear whether the fault or responsibility would lie with Dr. Maynard as opposed to the patients themselves. And this is only based on the limited information that came out in the press. The real facts, once they are presented, may tell a different story yet.

I don't know enough about Dr. Maynard's case to say with certainty whether he is being persecuted for nothing or whether his prescribing practices did have problems. My guess is the former, but only the medical evidence, interpreted correctly, with the benefit of medical experience and knowledge and free from the mind-numbing grip of opiophobia, can tell for sure. At least one of Dr. Maynard's patients has spoken out publicly in his defense.

What I don't need the evidence to be able to say, with substantial confidence, is what will happen -- or rather what is already happening -- to those of Dr. Maynard's patients who live with painful, long-term conditions, and who need narcotics in relatively strong doses to be able to manage.

Those patients will go to their new doctors, and those doctors, regardless of their professional opinions, will decide -- or rather, have already decided -- that they would be crazy to write the same kinds of prescriptions, that doing so would be equivalent to asking a District Attorney to investigate them and the medical board to suspend their right to practice, or for comparable assaults on their practices, reputations and freedom.

Those doctors will assume that some of the very seriously ill patients formerly treated by Dr. Maynard will die during the period of time for which they are those doctors' patients -- due to their age or illnesses, in all likelihood, because they intend to be careful -- but they will assume that any such death will draw scrutiny with a greatly increased likelihood of prosecution, administrative sanctions or lawsuits, and that their colleagues as a group won't take a stand on their behalf.

I also don't need Dr. Maynard's records to determine what will happen -- or rather, has happened -- to doctors and patients in Dr. Maynard's county or state, indeed throughout all the United States. Cowboy drug enforcement isn't limited to Texas. Doctors will conclude -- long have concluded -- that prescribing narcotics beyond a certain dosage level, or to more than a certain number of patients, right as that may be, is far too risky an endeavor under the prevailing police state of medicine. Most won't write those prescriptions, and countless needless tragedies will take place -- have taken place -- every day. Or rather, day after day, for the suffering people whose palliative is known and available, yet not truly available enough.

So be Dr. Maynard without fault, or have he fault, the state's approach to him is wrong and works great destructive effect against the welfare of patients everywhere. The police state of medicine is the enemy of health, not the friend. Dr. Maynard has the benefit of my doubt, at least, but the state does not.


2. US Appeals Court Kills DEA Interpretive Rule Banning Hemp Foods, But More Battles Remain

The hemp industry Monday won another in a string of victories in its two-year-old legal battle with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) over the agency's effort to block the sale and possession of foods containing hemp products. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the DEA's interpretive rule barring hemp foods, ruling that the agency violated its own rulemaking procedures by failing to give advance warning or allow for public comment before it promulgated the rule in October 2001.

Writing for the majority, Judge Betty Fletcher said, "Because the DEA rule is inconsistent with the THC regulation at the time of promulgation, it is a procedurally invalid legislative rule, not an interpretive rule. The petition requesting that we declare the rule to be invalid and unenforceable is granted."

But while the ruling kills the DEA's interpretive rule barring an appeal to the Supreme Court, the agency's later Final Rule banning hemp foods still stands and the multi-million dollar hemp foods industry remains in danger. That rule is also being challenged by the industry via the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), which represents hemp manufacturers and retailers. Neither rule has actually been implemented because the HIA has successfully sought restraining orders to block them, and despite the DEA's best efforts, hemp foods remain legal and available to the public. [Ed: And tasty, too.]

In its 2-1 opinion, the 9th Circuit also made findings that are causing some hemp supporters to see signs of a favorable ruling on the DEA's Final Rule. The court found that that DEA itself in 1975 had published in the Federal Register a statement that non-viable hemp seed was exempt from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and that the listing for THC in the drug schedules only referred to synthetic THC. The DEA has argued that the CSA allows it to ban hemp-based foods with even trace elements of naturally occurring THC.

 

The Ninth Circuit encompasses the nine western states of Alaska,
Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon,
Washington, and Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. (Photo and
info from http://www.ce9.uscourts.gov.)

"This is definitely a huge victory," said David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps (http://www.drbronner.com), who heads the HIA's hemp foods war council. "First of all, the court struck down the interpretive rule, in which the DEA claimed that the CSA covered hempseed oil along with fiber and stalk, because the agency had not done proper rulemaking. But as important," Bronner told DRCNet, "the court also said that the CSA only covers synthetic THC. What's great about this is that the court made findings that speak to congressional intent to exempt hempseed and oil from the CSA. That means there is no room for agency discretion; it can't countermand congressional intent with its rulemaking, and that means it looks good for our case against the Final Rule. The court really handed us a nuclear bomb here," he added.

HIA lead attorney Joe Sandler was a bit more circumspect. "While this was about the interpretive rule, not the final rule, the majority opinion contains language indicating that two of the judges do understand that hempseed and oil are not covered by the CSA, trace elements of THC notwithstanding," he told DRCNet. "Those same judges will be hearing arguments on the final rule case," he said, "but I don't make predictions."

But one member of the three-judge panel that heard the case, Judge Alex Kozinski, issued a sharp dissent calling the ruling "moot" and "gratuitous" and predicted that the ban will stand. "The most likely outcome," he wrote, "is that we will uphold the regulation."

Kozinski was miffed because HIA insisted that the decision on the interpretive rule be made because the DEA would not agree to acknowledge the rule was moot, said Bronner. "The DEA is so slimy and untrustworthy that it is conceivable that it could still come back and harass the marketplace even if its Final Rule is thrown out, and when the DEA failed to concede the interpretive rule was moot, we felt we had to cover all the bases."

As for Kozinski's bet that the rule banning hemp foods would stand, Sandler blamed judicial ignorance. "In his dissent, Judge Kosinski said in passing that it seemed likely the court would uphold the Final Rule because of the presumption that the courts should give great deference to the agency doing the interpretation of the law," he explained. "But as we explained in our brief for the court on the Final Rule case, which Kosinski has probably not yet had a chance to read, there is nothing to interpret here. The plain language of the Controlled Substances Act excludes hempseed and oil and does not bring them under its purview as THC," he told DRCNet.

Oral arguments before the 9th Circuit are set for September 17, with a ruling expected sometime before year's end.

Visit http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/HIAvDEA_9th_opinion.pdf to read the court's opinion online.

Visit http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/HIAvDEA_finalrules_petition.pdf to read the HIA brief and other documents in the Final Rule case.

Visit http://www.thehia.org to learn more about the Hemp Industries Association and their upcoming conference in Lakota Sioux country, South Dakota, next month.


3. British Cannabis Reform Delayed, Revised to Allow Arrests after Cops Complain

British Home Secretary David Blunkett's vow a year ago to reschedule cannabis from a class B to a class C drug by this month has fallen by the wayside in the face of opposition from British police commanders. Now the promised rescheduling will not take place until at least year's end, and only after the passage of the Labor government's Criminal Justice Act, which will include revised penalties for cannabis possession and sales.

The new penalties for class C drugs -- such as tranquilizers and anabolic steroids -- will be up to five years for possession and up to 14 years for sale or importation. That is a substantial increase from current penalties of two years for possession and seven years for sale or importation. But the five-year figure weighs heavily in the calculations of police because under British law they are not allowed to search persons whose suspected crime warrants a sentence of less than five years.

"The police complained that people would blow smoke in their faces," according to a spokesperson for DrugScope (http://www.drugscope.org.uk), a British drug policy think tank. "They said they must have the ability to stop and search people in aggravated circumstances, and they can't do that unless they have that five-year sentence," she told DRCNet.

David Blunkett

Indeed, in what the British newspaper the Independent called "a rebellion against the government," hard-line members of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) split with Blunkett and the London Metropolitan Police, which supports a no arrest policy, forcing Blunkett to retreat. Late last month, Blunkett's Home Office announced that the new penalties would be part of the Criminal Justice bill and that no rescheduling of cannabis would occur until those penalties are in place. "This is a long and complex bill, and the priority has been to ensure full discussion of its many provisions," said a Home Office spokesman. "Reclassification will take effect when the new penalties for cannabis possession are in force, which is likely to be in January," the Independent reported.

Still, the Home Office vowed that arrests of cannabis users and possessors would occur only in rare circumstances. "There will be a presumption against arrest, except where public order is at risk or where children are vulnerable," the spokesman said. "The police will also ensure that those who repeatedly flout the law are arrested and dealt with. Young people found in possession of cannabis will receive a formal warning at a police station."

But not everyone is sanguine about the Home Office's assurances. "There is a sort of Catch-22 here, isn't there?" asked DrugScope's spokesperson. "They will reschedule cannabis but increase the penalties for the Class C drugs. The police will still have the same power to arrest people, so the question is will they use it to harass people? Police say in most cases they will only stop and caution, but we will have to see."

Even some police commanders have expressed concerns about the retained sentencing powers. "Chief constables have said that parliament or the government cannot tell a constable when and why they exercise their discretion. It's a matter for the officer concerned," one police source told the Independent, warning that allowing different approaches in policing cannabis would send "all sorts of mixed messages" to users.

According to the Independent, Norfolk Chief Constable Andy Hayman, chair of the ACPO drug committee, was unable to persuade his fellows to accept guidelines with no arrests until a third offense. Now he will attempt to get a slightly tougher set of guidelines -- allowing for arrest in specific circumstances, such as smoking near a school -- pushed through ACPO at a meeting later this month.

Given that Blunkett's current cannabis package will retain arrest penalties, the ACPO guidelines will be crucial in determining how the law will be applied on the street. "We are waiting for the guidelines from ACPO," said the DrugScope spokesperson. "Then we will have an idea of how police will respond. Since there is no real legislative difference, the guidelines will be key."

If the Labor government of Prime Minister Tony Blair seems to be moving one step sideways on cannabis, at least it has dropped a Blunkett proposal that would have been a real step back. Blunkett had proposed extending the Britain's crack house law, which allows the government to shut down premises involved in the drug trade for up to three months, to include class B and class C drugs. But when correspondence between Blunkett and other ministers about the possibility of padlocking the homes of cannabis users was leaked to the Times of London two weeks ago, the ensuing uproar killed that misbegotten proposal dead.


4. Canada Approves Safe Injection Site for Vancouver

The hemisphere's first officially-sanctioned safe injection site, where hard drug users can shoot up under medical supervision, will open in September in Vancouver, British Columbia. While a safe injection site has been envisioned as a key part of the city's Four Pillars (prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction) strategy to deal with its Downtown Eastside, home to one of the hemisphere's largest and most concentrated hard drug-using populations, it has been held up for two years as local authorities struggled to win federal government approval. That finally happened on June 24, when Health Canada gave the go-ahead to the plan by exempting the site from the nation's drug laws as part of a pilot program to research its effectiveness in reducing HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other infectious diseases, as well as reducing overdoses.

"Under Canadian law and the international drug control agreements that Canada has signed, the only way a safe injection site can operate is to get an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act," explained Steve Leary, executive assistant to Mayor Larry Campbell, who championed the site. "This is officially a research program," he told DRCNet.

Mayor Campbell

"Everybody in here should take great pride in this," Mayor Campbell told a surprised city council as he broke the news. Campbell won election on the Coalition of Progressive Electors slate last year at least in part because former Mayor Phillip Owen was unable to make the safe injection site a reality. Campbell pledged to push for the site and to make the Four Pillars strategy work, but he also credited Owen with laying the groundwork. "It would be difficult if not impossible for me to imagine this initiative having come to this point without Philip Owen," Campbell said.

"There's a part of me that says I'm prepared to try anything to save people's lives and to help them overcome addiction," he added. "We're not going to get rid of drug trafficking and drug addiction in the city of Vancouver. That's not going to happen. What we will do is get it under control and those people who are addicted will be in a position to get the help they want."

According to the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which will manage the project, the site will offer injection supervision with emergency response for drug overdoses, injection-related first aid, access and referral to primary health care, addiction treatment service, mental health providers and harm reduction teaching and counseling. The site will offer 12 individual injection spaces and a "chill out" room, and could serve as many as 850 injectors each day. It will be open 18 hours per day and will be staffed at all times by a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse and an addiction counselor.

"We now have the authority to open, and renovations are underway at a building on East Hastings Street, said Leary. "We should be ready by Labor Day."

Some Vancouver activists couldn't wait that long. Frustrated by the seemingly endless delays in winning approval for the site and angered by a police crackdown on the Downtown Eastside, activists associated with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (http://www.vandu.org) opened an unsanctioned safe injection site in the neighborhood in late April (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/285/vancouverinjectionsite.shtml).

But now, they are applauding and welcome the chance to go out of the injection room business. "We're really glad to hear that the federal government has decided to get on board with the local government plan," said VANDU president Robert Weppler. "It makes me proud to be a Canadian to know that our federal ministers are looking out for the health and welfare of Canadians. Once the official safe injection site is up and running, we will close our doors," he told DRCNet.

And that depends on money that has not yet appeared. While Health Canada will provide US $1.1 million over the next four years to evaluate the program and the government of British Columbia is shelling out US $900,000 for renovations for the site, no one has yet stepped up to provide the estimated US million dollar annual cost of running of the safe injection site. "The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has a million a year operating budget for this," said Leary, "but the city doesn't have the money to fund it because of our small funding base. The responsibility lies with other levels of government to fund this initiative. We've been working with the federal and provincial governments on this, and we believe there will be funding in place in time. We're eternally optimistic."

VANDU's Weppler was less so. "It's sad to see this bickering over costs," he said. "It is a shame that they are playing numbers games with the health of Canadians. We worry that the different government levels are going to start hemming and hawing, but we hope the local, provincial and federal levels will arrive at consensus soon."

If Vancouverites are worrying over how to pay for the safe injection site, US officials are going ballistic over the very idea. Harm reduction is "a lie" and "there are no safe injection sites," US drug czar John Walters told the Associated Press last week. "Drug abuse is a deadly disease. It's immoral to allow people to suffer and die from a disease we know how to treat."

But Mayor Campbell, a former narcotics officer and coroner, was in no mood to take advice from the Americans. "I think all you have to do is take a look at your prison system and your law enforcement to see if the drug war is being won in the states," he retorted. "It's an unmitigated disaster and they know it, but they can't back out of it." And now, leaving drug war orthodoxy behind, Vancouver is about to embark on a hemispheric first. Maybe the Americans could learn something from their northern neighbors.


5. Newsbrief: US Suspends Military Aid to Colombia, Others in International Criminal Court Scrap

The imperatives of US exceptionalism collided with the imperatives of empire Tuesday as the US suspended military assistance to more than 50 countries, including Colombia, over those countries' refusal to exempt US citizens from possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Despite the Treaty of Rome establishing such a court, the US has fought any effort to bring US citizens under its purview, citing possible political prosecutions of US soldiers or commanders for war crimes. President Bush issued waivers for 22 countries, but Colombia, one of the largest recipients of US military assistance, was not among them.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a strong ally of the Bush administration and firm proponent of US military assistance to defeat drug traffickers and leftist rebels, found himself in the odd position of criticizing Washington. In a speech in Barranquilla Wednesday reported by El Tiempo, he told the audience that "a dialogue between friendly countries can't be a dialogue with pressure," and "what must be done is to examine the judicial order in both countries" to find a resolution. He added that he had not yet received any official notice from the US about the suspension of military aid and that his foreign minister was discussing the matter with Washington.

In March, the US froze the delivery of $5 million in military aid to Colombia over its failure to kow-tow to US demands on the international criminal court. According to El Tiempo, another $130 million in US aid is at risk before October if no accord is reached.

Colombia is not the only regional country to face a military aid suspension for failure to exempt the US from the international criminal court. Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru are all on the list, and all are reacting with displeasure -- although Ecuador made clear that while it must reconsider its military relations with Washington, the suspension would not affect the agreement that allows the US to use military bases on its territory.

Bolivia, on the other hand, has agreed to US demands and will reportedly sign an accord to that effect within two months, an action that generated a strong negative response from that country's Permanent Assembly on Human Rights. "This unequal agreement could lead to armed US intervention in the country under the pretext of terrorism or the drug traffic because the American soldiers can commit crimes against humanity, knowing that they will not be judged for them," said assembly vice-president Sacha Llorenti, according to Bolivian press reports.


6. Newsbrief: Colombian Court Orders Fumigation Halt -- US, Colombia Say No Way

A Colombian court has ordered the immediate halt of the aerial fumigation of proscribed crops in Colombia, a centerpiece of the US anti-drug strategy there, but both the Colombian and US governments have vowed to continue spraying anyway. The administrative tribunal of Cundinamarca on June 25 ordered the immediate suspension of spraying because the Colombian government had failed to protect the health and safety of its citizens by engaging in the spraying without examining its environmental and health impacts.

The Colombian government immediately announced that it would appeal the ruling and that the ruling would be suspended until the appeal is heard. And President Alvaro Uribe added that spraying would halt over his dead body. "Let's speak frankly," Uribe told El Tiempo, "while I am president of the republic I will not suspend the spraying. I don't want to deceive the people, I don't want to say one thing here and another thing there. We are going to defeat the drugs by whatever means, since they have brought nothing but violence and problems to the Colombian people."

US State Department spokesman Charles Barkley told El Tiempo that if Colombia suspended the anti-drug spraying, US funding for Colombia's war on drug trafficking and leftist guerrillas could dry up. "The eradication of drugs is the centerpiece of our effort in Colombia," Barkley said. "We do many things to help the country, but our central objective, because it affects us directly, is to slow the drug traffic. Without fumigation, which is the most effective method to confront the problem from the Colombian perspective, I doubt very much that Congress would want to continue spending resources."


7. Newsbrief: "No Legalization," Says Mexico Anti-Drug Official

Mexican President Vicente Fox and some of his top advisors may have made some noises about drug legalization in the early days of his beleaguered administration, but those days have gone. The Fox administration has slipped into the US drug war's warm embrace, trumpeting the arrests or killings of "cartel" leaders and bemoaning the resulting violence as the remaining players jockey for position. It has also embarked on a high-publicity campaign against the retail drug trade in Mexico City. And just in case anyone still had any mistaken ideas about drug reform in Mexico, the country's anti-addiction head spoke out last week to make the government's position plain.

On June 26, National Anti-Addiction Commissioner Guido Belsasso used the opening of a new youth center in Mexico City to nay-say any talk of legalization. "The government of the republic is very clear on one thing, and that is that we are not going to legalize drugs," said Belsasso, according to an account in el Periodico de Hoy. "We are signatories to the three conventions of the United Nations, and those obligate us to not legalize drugs. It is absurd that this theme is being politicized by some political groups, and there are serious studies of what has happened when they try to decriminalize the consumption of certain substances, and the political parties that involved in this can say what they want to try to attract people, but it won't work," he said.

Belsasso was aiming his jab at the Mexico Posible Party, which has endorsed the legalization of marijuana and which participated in the Mexico City Million Marijuana March in May, but he also blamed "very strong economic interests behind the proposal to legalize marijuana and people in Canada and the United States who are promoting the campaigns to decriminalize its use for medical reasons," el Periodico de Hoy reported.


8. Newsbrief: Another Pain Doc in the Drug War's Sights

The litany of pain specialist physicians who have run afoul of the drug war continues to grow. The latest case is that of Dallas osteopath Dr. Daniel Maynard, whose home, office and bank were raided by dozens of state and federal law enforcement agents on June 11. Some 30 to 40 patients waiting for Dr. Maynard when the raiders arrived were detained in handcuffs while police checked them for outstanding warrants.

According to a police affidavit filed in support of the search warrants, Maynard was suspected of prescribing narcotic painkillers for no good medical reason and of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid. The police affidavit listed 11 persons who had died after receiving prescriptions from Dr. Maynard.

But Maynard, speaking through his attorney, Jim Rolfe, denied any responsibility for the patient deaths. "No patient death is the result of any negligence on the part of Dr. Maynard," he told the Dallas Morning News. "We've racked our brains trying to figure out where that came from."

Rolfe has reason to be bemused. While the local press has trumpeted Maynard's alleged link to the 11 deaths, the press accounts of those deaths leave many questions. Of the 11, six were reported as "unexplained," one as hypertensive cardiovascular disease, one as congestive heart failure, one as a methadone overdose, one as an unspecified drug overdose, and one as chronic alcoholism and a drug overdose.

Still, that was enough for the raiders to effectively shut down Maynard's popular practice and for the state of Texas to remove his ability to receive Medicare reimbursements. Along with the seizure of his patient records, these acts have effectively ended Maynard's practice. Alongside these official acts have come the now familiar aspects of character assassination, as local media outlets report on the shocking fact that the doctor owns a pair of expensive homes and encourage relatives of the dead patients to blame the doctor. Some family members have now filed lawsuits against Dr. Maynard.

Not every paragraph of press ink was anti-Maynard, however. According to NBC 5 in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Maynard patient Delores Womack said, "You didn't just go in there and you would see the doctor. There was no coldness. Dr. Maynard really cared for you." Womack added, "You have to read the prescription and take it right," she said. "A lot of the people, they did it to their own selves, not Dr. Maynard."

Unlike too many of his fellow pain practitioners, Dr. Maynard so far has escaped criminal charges. But given the patterns of persecution and prosecution that have emerged in cases across the country, those charges shouldn't be long in coming as state and federal prosecutors vie to make careers on prosecuting "dope dealers with a license." In the meantime, Dr. Maynard's pain patients are scrambling to find a replacement. That could be tough to do, with physicians around the country shying away from effective medical practices that put them at risk of a nasty visit from the DEA.

The issue of the under-treatment of pain in the United States is a growing one, largely because of DEA prosecutions of pain doctors. DRCNet will examine the problem in its most recent manifestations in detail in the near future. Stay tuned.


9. Newsbrief: American Nurses Association Endorses Access to Medical Marijuana

Nine years of work by Patients Out of Time (http://www.medicalcannabis.com), a nonprofit organization devoted to the medical marijuana issue, paid off last week when the American Nurses Association (ANA) adopted a resolution calling for safe access to medical marijuana for patients under appropriate doctor's supervision. The ANA now joins dozens of other health professional organizations, including the National Society of Nurses on Addiction and the American Public Health Association, in calling for eased access to medical marijuana.

Efforts to get the ANA to adopt such a position began in 1994, when Patients Out of Time president Mary Lynn Mathre, RN, MSN, CARN, began meeting with leaders of the Virginia Nurses Association to discuss the scientific merits of therapeutic cannabis. Expanding beyond Mathre's home state, Patients Out of Time managed to convince state nursing associations in 11 states to adopt positions supporting medical marijuana. In 1995, the New York State Nurses Association signed on and asked the ANA to adopt the Virginia policy. The ANA declined that year, but this year the New York nurses again submitted a medical marijuana resolution, and this time it passed.

It passed after Mathre addressed the ANA convention in Washington, DC. "Nurses provide direct care to patients and we are above all else patient advocates," Mathre said. "This resolution is not a policy change that is in any form a departure from our professional goals and ethics. This resolution in fact validates our commitment to the patient and our communal commitment to providing the most appropriate care."

The measure overwhelmingly adopted by the nurses resolves that the ANA will:

  • Support research in controlled investigational trials on the therapeutic efficacy of marijuana/cannabis, including alternative methods of administration.
  • Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision.
  • Support the ability of health care providers to discuss and/or recommend the medicinal use of marijuana without the threat of intimidation or penalization.
  • Support legislation to remove criminal penalties including arrest and imprisonment for bona fide patients and prescribers of therapeutic marijuana/cannabis.
  • Support federal and state legislation to exclude marijuana/ cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.
  • Support and encourage the education of registered nurses regarding current, evidence-based therapeutic use of marijuana/ cannabis.

10. Newsbrief: Connecticut Lawmakers Call for Sentencing Reform

Connecticut legislators seeking to stanch the flow of taxpayer dollars into the state's prison system are urging the governor and the legislature to adopt a proposal calling for less prison time for some offenders and spending the savings on community-based drug treatment and job-training programs for offenders.

The proposal could save the state as much as $50 million annually, roughly 10% of the state's $513 million annual prison budget. It is being pushed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Rep. William Dyson (D-New Haven), head of the powerful appropriations committee. In an interview last week with the Hartford Courant, Dyson was careful to pitch the proposal as tough on violent criminals. "We're not interested in releasing people from prison who have been engaged in horrendous acts," Dyson said. "We don't want people going away with the notion that we are just going to open our doors."

But under the proposal, "Building Bridges: From Conviction to Employment," nonviolent offenders, including drug offenders, will face shorter sentences and other, non-carceral sanctions, such as halfway houses and drug treatment programs. Among other things, the proposal aims to reduce the number of parole and probation violators entering prison in Connecticut. Last year, more than 5,000 of 31,000 new prison admissions were for people who committed "technical" parole or probation violations, such as not attending a drug treatment meeting or failing to notify parole officers of a job or address change.

Dyson and other legislators told the Courant they hoped to get the measure included in any new state budget proposal. Dyson also said he had been in discussions with Gov. John Rowland (R) about the issue. Rowland is calling for more Connecticut inmates to be imprisoned out of state, a move traditionally opposed by Democrats, but Dyson suggested a compromise could be reached if the "Building Bridges" proposal is included.

Visit http://www.cga.state.ct.us/hdo/094/report-2-28.pdf to read the "Building Bridges" proposal online.


11. Newsbrief: Delaware Cuts Sentences for Some Drug Crimes

Delaware last week joined the growing list of states that have begun to trim sentences for drug offenses. On June 26, the Delaware Senate passed House Bill 210, which will reduce mandatory minimum sentences for cocaine sales and increase the amount of weight required to sustain a trafficking charge. The Delaware House had earlier passed the bill, and the Dover News-Journal reported that Gov. Ruth Ann Minner has said she will sign the bill.

The move came as legislators confronted an empty treasury and a ravenous prison budget, which had jumped from $66 million in 1990 to $179 million in 2002 as the state struggled to pay for the results of its resort to tougher drug laws and mandatory minimum sentencing schemes. Since 1990, Delaware's prison population has increased by more than 75%, driven precisely by that drug war legislation. And while the state spent an additional $186 million for new prison construction the last five years, the Department of Corrections had warned it would soon have to pay for more if current sentencing trends continued.

The successful legislation was negotiated among the state Attorney General's office, the Sentencing Accountability Commission, and Stand Up for What's Right and Just, a citizen group led by former Republican Gov. Russell Peterson (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/222/delawarestatehouse.shtml). And the bill itself reflects those competing agendas. It increases sentences for some violent crimes and some violent crimes committed by juveniles at the same time it reduces some drug sentences. Under the bill, the mandatory minimum sentence for cocaine trafficking will drop from three years to two, and the amount of cocaine needed to trigger a trafficking charge is doubled, from five grams to ten. It also includes a provision allowing judges to sentence drug offenders to spend the last six months of their sentences at low-security drug treatment facilities within the Department of Corrections.


12. Newsbrief: Poll Finds California Latinos Oppose Jailing Low-Level Drug Offenders

A survey of Latino voters in California commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance (http://www.drugpolicy.org) has found overwhelming majorities in favor of less severe penalties for many drug crimes. The polling firm of Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin & Associates surveyed a random sample of 600 Californians who had both voted in recent elections and identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic, and found majorities opposed to jailing marijuana, other drug users, or even first-time marijuana dealers. Some 85% opposed jail sentences for simple marijuana possession, 65% opposed jail for first-time marijuana sellers, and 58% opposed jail for hard drug possession. Under current California law, sale of even small amounts of marijuana can garner a prison term of up to four years.

When asked what was the appropriate punishment for marijuana possession, only 9% thought jail sentences were desirable, while 50% said a fine or community service and 25% urged drug treatment. One out of ten respondents said no punishment was necessary at all. Similarly, with first-time marijuana sales, only 10% thought sentences of more than a year were appropriate, while 40% said a fine or community service, 22% said treatment, and 3% said no punishment at all.

"The conventional wisdom has been that neighborhoods that were slammed by drugs and gangs supported tough sentencing laws," said DPA's Alberto Mendoza in a press release announcing the poll results. "But after a 30-year drug war that has failed families and communities, the tide of popular opinion has turned. Latinos now overwhelmingly support alternatives to incarceration."

"The drug war prison boom has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, but failed to prevent drug use or drug sales," added Glenn Backes, director of DPA's Sacramento office. "Felony convictions, handed out like candy, have destroyed the economic life of hundreds of thousands of California families and communities. Voters have lost patience with these cruel drug war policies and are calling for reform."

DPA was scheduled to present the poll results to members of the Latino Legislative Caucus Wednesday, when the group will also brief the caucus on alternatives to current sentencing policy. Visit http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/ctt.asp?u=1458&l=2481 to read the entire poll online.


13. Bill Maher Benefit Event Monday Night, 7/7, Los Angeles

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) is holding its first major benefit this coming Monday evening (7/7). In Los Angeles, on the evening of Monday, July 7, 2003, Bill Maher, John Fugelsang and other guests will entertain drug reform supporters and help SSDP raise much-needed funds.

The event, which is being held jointly with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), will take place at 8:00pm at The Comedy Store at 8433 Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood. Regular seating is $20, preferred seating is $35, and $500 will get you admission to a one-hour VIP party with the celebrities and a front-row seat for the show (limited availability).

Please visit http://www.ssdp.org/events/maher.htm for further info and to get your ticket now before they run out! You can reach SSDP at (202) 293-4414 and The Comedy Store at (323) 650-6268. (Note: The Comedy Store is a 21-and-over club -- bring your ID or you won't be able to get in -- and guests will be charged a two-drink minimum.)


14. The Reformer's Calendar

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

July 4, noon-9:00pm, Washington, DC, "34th Annual Rally, Parade and Concert to End Marijuana Prohibition." Speaker and special guests from noon-3:00pm at Farragut Square (17th & Connecticut), parade from 3:00-4:00pm, music and speakers from 2:00-9:00pm at 23rd & Constitution. Sponsored by the Fourth of July Hemp Coalition, e-mail fjhc@hotmail.com for further information.

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 11-16, Seattle, WA, "Northwestern Exposure," speaking tour by Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or speakers@leap.cc for details of individual engagements.

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.

August 20-23, Pine Ridge Reservation, SD, 2003 Hemp Industry Association Convention. Registration $200, $150 for additional family members, includes meals, tipi camping and activities. Visit http://www.thehia.org/PDF/2003HIAConvention.pdf for further information or contact (707) 874-3648 or info@thehia.org.

September 4-5, Missoula, MT, "2nd Annual Montana Drug Policy Summit." At the University of Montana campus, contact John Masterson at john@montanadrugpolicy.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.

September 20-27, Phoenix, AZ, "Phoenix Rising: LEAP in Arizona," speaking tour by Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or speakers@leap.cc for details of individual engagements.

October 5-17, Deming, Silver City, Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces, NM, "Continuing Drug Policy Reform in New Mexico," speaking tour by Jack Cole and Peter Christ of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or speakers@leap.cc for details of individual engagements.

October 22, 7:00pm, Syracuse, NY, "Against All Odds: Cops Fighting the War on Drugs," forum with Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Sponsored by Reconsider: Forum on Drug Policy and Syracuse University Students for Sensible Drug Policy. At Syracuse University, for further information contact Gerrit Cain at caingerrit@hotmail.com or Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or speakers@reconsider.org.

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.

January 28-February 7, 2004, Hannibal, Columbia, Jefferson City, St. Louis and Kansas City, MO, "Special Delivery for John Ashcroft," speaking tour by Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Roger Hudlin. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or speakers@leap.cc for details of individual engagements.

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