The Week Online with DRCNet
Issue #298, 8/1/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Note: Effective issue #300, The Week Online will be known as "Drug War Chronicle."

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Kansas City Drug Fighting Tax Encounters Organized Opposition
  2. Prison Population Increase Accelerates, Up 2.6% Last Year
  3. Brazil's Lula Backslides on Drug Reform, Grants Military Continued Control Over Anti-Drug Agency
  4. This Week in History
  5. Newsbrief: Mozambique, Swazi Farmers Find Dagga Crop Lucrative, But Have to Adjust to Market Trends
  6. Newsbrief: Brazil Bans Viagra Ads
  7. Newsbrief: British Young People Using More Hard Drugs, Health Department Says
  8. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  9. Newsbrief: Another Pain Doctor Charged With Murder
  10. Newsbrief: Florida Ex-Cons to Get Voting Rights
  11. Mini Briefs: Illinois Syringe Deregulation, James Geddes Released
  12. Web Scan: OPN, HRC, Cultural Baggage, Salon.com
  13. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


1. Kansas City Drug Fighting Tax Encounters Organized Opposition

Jackson County, Missouri, which includes Kansas City and its suburbs, is the home of the nation's only local sales tax specifically dedicated to fighting the drug war. The Community Backed Anti-Drug Tax, or COMBAT, raises between $18 million and $20 million each year, with the funds collected going to treatment programs, a drug court program and law enforcement. First approved in 1989, voters renewed the tax in 1995, and it is up for a vote again on August 5.

The tax is supported by a formidable coalition of law enforcement, prosecutors, treatment providers, the Kansas City Council, and the city's only newspaper, the Kansas City Star, which editorialized in favor of it Tuesday. Supporters of the tax argue that the drug court it supports has a 90% success rate, that it has enabled the teaching of the DARE anti-drug education program in school districts throughout the county, and that it has helped reduce drug abuse in the area.

But not everyone is buying that. Two distinct groups came out last week in the first organized opposition to the COMBAT tax. Jackson County Taxpayers, a fiscally conservative group, attacked the tax as a waste of taxpayer money, and a group actually called Organized Opposition to the Jackson County Anti-Drug Tax sees the tax as an extension of a drug war it does not support.

"The reason we're against this is simple: It doesn't work," said Robert Gough, director of Jackson County Taxpayers. "We're the only county in the United States with a drug tax and we've spent a quarter-billion dollars in 14 years. You would think Jackson County would shine, but it's not particularly drug free," he told DRCNet. "Law enforcement loves it, of course; they say 'hallelujah, it's working,' but all this lock-'em-up stuff isn't working. It also funds D.A.R.E., and many people think of it as the D.A.R.E. tax, but D.A.R.E. doesn't work either. There isn't a single study that shows D.A.R.E. grads were any more drug free than other kids. D.A.R.E. is nothing more than police officers doing behavior modification therapy on our children."

The Organized Opposition to the Jackson County Anti-Drug Tax is more directly against existing drug policies. "Our opposition to this tax is a critique of the drug war, yes, but the drug war isn't on the ballot," said Robert Tolbert, one of the founders of what he described as an ad hoc coalition of black community residents, university students and drug reformers. "The drug war should be on the ballot -- it is a war directed at the black community and young people," he told DRCNet.

The group's name is a jab at local powers that be, said Tolbert. "This is a one newspaper town," he explained, "and the Kansas City Star has the bad habit of supporting these tax votes and saying there is no organized opposition. What they really mean is there is no opposition with a bunch of money. Well, we don't have a bunch of money, but we are the opposition and we are organized, and our name is a deliberate poke in the eye to the Star."

Tolbert agreed with Gough's critique of D.A.R.E., then launched into a blistering attack on the much lauded drug courts. "They claim a 90% success rate with the drug court," he said, "but anytime you hear numbers like that your bullshit detector should be going off. I looked into this and what I found was that they cherry pick. They only take first-time offenders, who are probably the most reachable. The real hard cases, the crack-heads and serious junkies, don't get in because they usually have criminal records already. These are bogus statistics," he said.

COMBAT proponents have argued that the money has helped close down 7,200 "drug houses" and take $300 million worth of "narcotics" off the streets, but such numbers don't impress Gough. "I'm happy for them if that is true," he said, "but if this is such a great program, why don't the state and the county fund it? Why do we need a dedicated tax for this?"

Neither Gough nor Tolbert are optimistic that they will prevail next week, given that they have received little money to campaign with and less attention from the local media. "We're the little guys," said Tolbert. "I don't think we can win this time, but I am getting a better response than last time in 1995. It is not publicly acceptable to be against the war on drugs, but I sense a growing subterranean opposition. I think we'll get better numbers than have been predicted."

"I'm realistic," said Gough about the chances of defeating the tax. "The people who think for us all enthusiastically support it. We're up against the Star, the politicians, the treatment providers who get funded out of this, the labor unions, and law enforcement."

Whether they can pull it off this time or not, both Gough and Tolbert are finding they can work with strange bedfellows. "We had a meeting Sunday night and there were students and drug reformers and people from the black community. Most of them were pretty well on the left," said Gough. "They called the drug war Reagan's war, they said it was anti-black and anti-poor people. I told them I'm one of the Reagan guys, and I oppose this."

"It takes all kinds," said Tolbert.

And maybe they're not as different as they think. Gough, the white, suburban Republican, delivered a strong attack on the marijuana laws. "A joint in your pocket during a traffic stop could get your kids taken away and you thrown in jail. I don't think that is an appropriate response to a marijuana cigarette." And Tolbert, the black, inner city activist, agrees. "Yes, we ought to legalize marijuana. I think we could actually pass that if we got it on the ballot here."

Look for election results in the Week Online next week.


2. Prison Population Increase Accelerates, Up 2.6% Last Year

Despite a decade-long decline in the crime rate, the US prison juggernaut continues to roll and, after a slight slowdown in 2000 and 2001, the rate of increase is rising again. According to an annual report from the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), at the end of last year some 2,166,260 people were behind bars in the US, about one-fifth of them for drug offenses. That marks a 2.6% increase over the previous year, more than twice the 1.1% growth rate in 2001, but still less than the 3.6% annual average growth rate since 1995. And when people in jail are added in, the rate of increase is even higher at 3.7%.

While BJS attributes the bulk of the increase in state prisons to violent offenders, it found that drug offenders were responsible for 15% of the growth. In the federal prison system, which with 163,000 inmates is now larger than any state prison system, the situation is different. The continuing federal war on drugs is responsible for almost half the growth (48%) in the federal system since 1995, BJS found. And it is the federal government's war on drugs that is largely responsible for rate of growth in overall prison numbers. The federal system grew by 4.2% last year, compared to a 2.4% increase in the state prisons.

"I am alarmed about the continuing growth of the federal drug prisoner population," said Jason Zeidenberg of the Justice Policy Institute (http://www.justicepolicy.org), a think tank dedicated to alternatives to policies that rely on incarceration. "And there are still about a half million people in prison whose most serious offense is a drug offense, as well as a whole bunch of others for whom either prohibition or their own problems with drug use contributed to their being there," he told DRCNet.

Southern Correctional Institution, Troy, NC
"It is also bad news that despite all the money problems the states are having, we still see growth in the state systems. That means we have to get in there and sound the alarm bells. There is a huge sucking sound in the states, and it is the sound of education and health care programs going down the tube."

In the last two years, a number of states, including California, Kansas, Louisiana and Washington, have passed sentencing reform laws, but with the exception of California, resulting decreases are barely showing up in the annual numbers. "The good news is that the state drug prisoner population has dropped, thanks to policy changes in big states, particularly California," said Zeidenberg. "People are beginning to get the message that this particular set of offenders doesn't need to be in prison."

"What strikes me," said Marc Mauer, director of The Sentencing Project (http://www.sentencingproject.org), "is the fact that the prison population continues to increase even as crime goes down. There is no excuse for that," he told DRCNet. "This confirms that there isn't necessarily any relationship between crime and imprisonment rates. Imprisonment is a function of policy choices, and our policy makers have chosen to be very harsh. We see this increase because even though there is no real change in the number of people being sentenced to prison, people are serving longer sentences. We can thank mandatory minimums, three-strikes laws and 'truth in sentencing' laws for that," said Mauer.

"And the racial dynamics of this continue to be horrendous," he added, pointing to BJS' findings that more than 10% of black men between 25 and 29 are in prison -- four times the rate for Hispanics and eight times the rate for whites -- and that black men between 20 and 39 constitute a full third of all state and federal prisoners. "The consequences of these dramatic imprisonment rates for black males increasingly mean whole families and whole communities are being affected by this incarceration policy," Mauer pointed out. "There are children walking around with the stigma of a parent in prison, wives and kids who have to go on public support, and most ominously, a large number of young black people who see doing time as something that is likely to be part of their future."

"Wow, the feds have surpassed California in the ability to put people away," said Nora Callahan, director of the November Coalition (http://www.november.org), a drug reform group that focuses on prisoners and their families. "It is a system that is unchecked. In the states, sentencing reform is coming from legislatures that have to save money, but with the feds there is no accountability. They have a $400 billion deficit, but it's like it doesn't matter. The feds are like a rogue elephant."

And it is the federal government that most needs the pressure. "Congress and the Bush administration have been very resistant to any sort of change of perspective on drug policy, particularly with regard to sentencing," said Mauer. "Yes, the deficit is huge, but the cost per capita of incarceration is much less significant at the federal than at the state level," he pointed out. "They don't feel it quite the same way."

Still, said Callahan, policies at the federal level must be challenged. "People don't like to work at the federal level because it seems so huge and overpowering," she said. "We understand that everyone has their priorities, but we think it is critical that every state and national group hammer at the feds."

And, as Zeidenberg pointed out, the problem is not just the federal government. "The whole prison industrial complex grew, and even if we saw some declines in the number of drug prisoners in some states, this is still bad for drug reform because all of the fundamentals remain in place. The prison guards' unions, the federal agents, the construction companies and architects, all of those people who benefit from a system designed to incapacitate are still there," he said. "The system is still in place and it's growing."

Among the lowlights of the report:

  • State prisons held 246,100 inmates for drug offenses at the end of 2002, more than for property offenses (233,000) and public order offenses (129,900). Of the four categories of offenders used by BJS, only the number of violent offenders is greater at 596,100. Drug offenders in the federal system as of September 30, 2001, the latest data available, totaled 78,501. This report does not provide figures for the number of drug offenders in jail at the end of 2002.
  • Five states -- New Mexico, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming and Oklahoma -- each held at least a quarter of their prisoners in privately run facilities. Private prisons held almost 94,000 inmates, 5.8% of state prisoners and 12.4% of federal prisoners.
  • Incarceration rates are still climbing, with a rate of 476 state or federal prisoners per 100,000 US residents, up from 411 in 1995. When people in jail are included, the incarceration rate climbs to 701 per 100,000, up from 601 in 1995, and the world's highest.
  • One out of every 143 US residents was behind bars at the end of 2002.
  • There were some 72,000 more people behind bars at year end 2002 than a year earlier, or 6,000 per month, or 1,500 per week, or 200 every day.
  • There were 97,491 women in prison at year end 2002, or 6.8% of all prison inmates. Since 1995 the number of female prisoners has grown 42%, compared to 27% for men.
  • During 2002, nine states experienced prison population decreases, led by Alaska (down 3.8%), Illinois (down 3.7%), Delaware (down 3.2%), and Massachusetts (down 2.4%). Seventeen states had increases, led by Maine (up 11.5%), Rhode Island (8.6%), and Connecticut, Colorado and Minnesota (all 7.9%).
  • Among prisoners held at the end of 2002 by the US Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE), formerly the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), were more than 3,100 convicted of drug offenses.
  • Prisoners held by military authorities dropped 2.4% -- apparently they're not counting Guantanamo Bay.
To read the BJS report, "Prisoners in 2002," the press release and related statistical tables, visit http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/p02.htm online.


3. Brazil's Lula Backslides on Drug Reform, Grants Military Continued Control Over Anti-Drug Agency

The Brazilian government announced Monday that the Brazilian anti-drug office, known as SENAD for its Portuguese acronym, will continue to be headed by a general and will remain part of the national security cabinet. The announcement runs contrary to the official position of President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva's Workers' Party (PT) and Lula's own campaign pronouncements. It also further unveils a deep divide in the Lula administration between those, such as Minister of Justice Marcio Tomas Bastos and Minister of Health Humberto Costa, who argued for placing a harm reductionist in the post and moving SENAD leadership to the justice ministry, and advocates of a more doctrinaire approach to drug policy based on the US model.

During last year's presidential campaign, the PT called for SENAD, which is charged with prevention of drug abuse, to be placed under the justice ministry. The federal police force would be in charge of drug law enforcement. The campaign rhetoric was supposed to augur a shift in Brazilian drug policy toward a more tolerant, European-style approach, but that is now in question.

"This was a very bad decision," said Fabio Mesquite, head of the AIDS prevention program for Sao Paulo state and one of Brazil's leading harm reductionists. "It is a sort of accommodation with the military," he told DRCNet. "This is a very conservative position and it is not in line with the PT's program or Lula's position during the campaign. Instead, just like former President Cardoso, whose drug policy was very much based on US drug policy, he chose the military."

 

Fernando Gabeira

Deputy (congressman) Fernando Paulo Nagle Gabeira, a strong advocate of legalization, agreed. "I will criticize this decision in a speech in congress today," he told DRCNet Wednesday. "We had been expecting some change and hoping for a more progressive position, but the president has decided to keep a military man as head of drug policy. We would prefer to see the problem addressed in another context," he said. "This is a very conservative decision by Lula. Previous governments had copied the American point of view. First they decided to create a secretariat against drugs, but you can't be against an object! Then they decided to have a general lead it, and now Lula is doing the same."

Harm reductionists and drug reformers aren't the only ones criticizing Lula's decision. The Folha do Sao Paulo, the largest newspaper in the largest city in the largest country in Latin America, blasted the move in a Wednesday editorial. Referring to other moves the left-leaning Lula has made toward the center since his election, the Folha accused him of "making one more decision contrary to what his party promised before it took power."

Minister of Justice Marcio Tomas Bastos and Minister of Health Costa have both spoken out strongly in favor of a new approach to drug policy, but they were rebuffed by Lula. "The president felt free to take the decision," General Jorge Armando Felix, head of the national security council, told the Folha. "We judged that SENAD was working fine, and the president's decision was to keep it where it is," he said.

"There is a real debate within Lula's government about this," said Mesquite. "Tuesday the health minister issued a national invitation for a debate about caring for drug users. Also, there was a meeting in Brazilia Tuesday of 60 experts from all over the country, and the position of most of them supports anti-prohibitionism."

"It is indeed clear that there is a split in the government," concurred Gabeira. "Minister of Justice Soares is progressive on this issue and so is Minister of Health Costa. They want a more European-style approach. And the health ministry favors the decriminalization bill in the congress."

But despite support from the two ministries, the fate of the bill is in doubt. The official government position, presented by SENAD, is against decriminalization of drug possession. "The decriminalization bill is in congress, as is a bill that would allow safe injection sites," said Mesquite, "but because the government does not support those bills it will be difficult to pass them."

While some see the baleful influence of the US behind the decision, pointing to Lula's June trip to Washington, Gabeira dismissed that claim. "I don't think it was direct pressure from the US," he said. "Lula would not accept that. I think you need to look to the history of the left in Brazil -- it has always been conservative in all areas that don't deal with class struggle, like gay rights or drugs. The conservative faction won the first battle, but trying to criminalize and repress drugs is no way out."

Still, no one is calling it quits. "I think the drug policy can be changed," said Deputy Gabeira. "We are just beginning a national movement led by the Brazilian Harm Reduction Network to say that a new drug policy is possible. We are also trying to create movement inside the government to review this decision. They are not so comfortable with the response they are getting, especially with the condemnation from Folha. That is not just a liberal newspaper. We are now beginning to make the reaction."

"There is a strong, albeit minority, tendency within the congress that favors decriminalization," said Mesquite. "With some pressure from civil society, we may still be able to get these bills passed."

And Lula is finding that his honeymoon with drug reformers is over. "Lula is paying a price for this," said Deputy Gabeira. "He is losing the support of people who have historically supported him on this matter."

Visit http://www.gabeira.com.br to read Deputy Gabeira's Wednesday speech (Portuguese).

[Ed: Last Friday the newly-forming Brazilian anti-prohibitionist organization, Psicotropicus, held its General Assembly, a public and formal step in the legal launching of the organization. DRCNet will be collaborating with, and reporting on, Psicotropicus over the coming months.]


4. This Week in History

August 2, 1937: The Marijuana Tax Act is passed, enacting federal marijuana prohibition for the first time. Harry Anslinger commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, tells Congress during a remarkably brief hearing, "Marihuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death." A representative of the AMA testifies against the legislation, saying "The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug." A member of Congress (and future Supreme Court justice) later claims the AMA rep. said they support the legislation "100 percent," garnering Republic support and passage (http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/whiteb1.htm).

August 2, 1977: President Jimmy Carter tells Congress, "Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Therefore, I support legislation amending Federal law to eliminate all Federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana."


5. Newsbrief: Mozambique, Swazi Farmers Find Dagga Crop Lucrative, But Have to Adjust to Market Trends

Police in the southern African nations of Mozambique and Swaziland are complaining that they can't fight market forces. So are thousands of small farmers in the two countries. It's all about dagga, the local term for the ubiquitous marijuana plant. According to a report filed by Inter Press Service, police efforts to eradicate the plant are doomed to failure in a poverty-stricken nation where dagga is much more profitable than other crops. But the country's dagga farmers are having to adjust to changing European market tastes -- the Euros want hash and cannabis oil these days, officials told IPS.

Mozambican, Swazi and South African dagga is grown primarily for the export market and little is sold locally, said David Pritchard, president of the Mozambican Council Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse. "Most of the people of the region do not purchase marijuana, because they grow it themselves if they want it, despite the illegality," said Pritchard. "The farmers' interest is export, and their operations, such as the purchase of insecticide and irrigation equipment, are financed by the South African drug lords who purchase their crops."

Half of Africa's population lives on less than a dollar a day, but there is an upside to that, Pritchard said. "Perhaps the only 'advantage' to the endemic poverty of the region is that young people do not have the disposable income to buy drugs."

Mozambique and Swaziland are part of the 14-member Southern African Development Community, which has committed to joint anti-drug efforts in the region. Cooperation with South African police last year let Swaziland claim to have destroyed half of the crop, but it just keeps coming. Local farmers claim a cultural right to grow the plant, which they have done for centuries, according to IPS, but it is the money that is the main motivation. Some 70% of small farmers in the Swazi region of Hhohho plan to continue their dagga crops, the agricultural ministry reported.

Local drug warriors don't want to hear about economic or cultural reasons for dagga growing. "All SADC countries have signed anti-drug protocols, and these oblige them to stop drug trafficking in their nations, and cooperate with regional efforts to do the same," said Swazi police inspector Joseph Masuku.

But now local farmers have another problem: European demand for cannabis oil, or "chocolate." Local harvests are stacking up as farmers make deals with South African dealers to obtain extracting machines, police sources told IPS. "The demand for marijuana resin appears to be customer-driven, but it also assists drug lords who don't have to worry about shipping large amounts of bulk marijuana," the police source said.


6. Newsbrief: Brazil Bans Viagra Ads

The Brazilian government banned advertising of Viagra and similar substances on July 25, the Associated Press reported. The ban comes on the heels of a high-profile Viagra ad campaign featuring Brazilian soccer star Pele and amid reports that "young people were abusing the drug to improve their sex lives." Government officials did not specify how the drugs' use by young people differed from that by old people.

"The uncontrolled use of these medicines can cause health problems, such as heart attacks," Health Minister Humberto Costa said.

With 170 million potential consumers, the Brazilian market has vast potential for US pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, the makers of Viagra. Last month, Pfizer announced plans to expand its ad campaign to the rest of Latin America and to Europe. The company had no comment on the Brazil ban.

In the previously ubiquitous Pele ads, the 62-year-old athlete, considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time, smilingly declares that he doesn't need Viagra, but would use it if he did.


7. Newsbrief: British Young People Using More Hard Drugs, Health Department Says

The British Department of Health reported Tuesday that young people in England and Wales last year used cocaine and ecstasy at record high rates. The finding came in an annual survey of British teen drug use, "Smoking, Drinking, and Drug Misuse Among Young People in England, 2002," parts of which were released in March. The increase in the use of Class A drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy comes as the British government is in the midst of a campaign to discourage their use.

The survey actually looks at two groups of British youth, 11 to 15 year olds in England and 16 to 24 year olds in England and Wales. Among the kiddie set, overall prevalence of drug use was down from 20% in 2001 to 18% last year, but the number of those who reported taking drugs within the last month remained steady at 11%. Cannabis was by far the illicit drug of choice for British middle schoolers, accounting for about three-quarters of all reported drug use. Some 4% of 11 to 15 year olds had used Class A (heroin, cocaine, ecstasy) drugs in the last year.

Not surprisingly, prevalence of drug use increased with age among the early teens. While only 6% of 11 year olds had tried any drugs, 36% of 15 year olds had.

Among the 16 to 24 year olds, 27% reported using cannabis in the past year, 7% had used ecstasy, 5% cocaine, 5% amphetamines, 4% poppers, and 1% had used crack cocaine. Overall, three out of 10 in this groups reported using an illicit drug in the last year, a prevalence level that has held steady for the past decade. What has changed is rates of use for cocaine, up from 1% in 2001 to 5% last year, and ecstasy use, up from 4% to 7%. In what could represent a substitution effect, during the same period the use of both amphetamines and LSD decreased, from 10% to 5% for the former, and from 6% to 1% for the latter.

Meanwhile, the study also found that the early teen group is pounding down the pints of beer at a record rate. The amount of suds quaffed by the youngsters has doubled in a decade to more than five pints a week. One out of four of this group reported drinking within the past week. The prevalence of smoking remains unchanged, with one in ten in this group lighting up.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction's latest annual report, the latest British survey figures indicate that Britain's level of drug use among young people is at the high end of those reported for European countries. English teen usage prevalence is near that of Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, while much higher than that of Portugal, Sweden, or Greece. Note that drug use levels do not appear to correlate with tougher or softer drug control policies.

Visit http://www.doh.gov.uk for this year's British survey and its predecessors.

Visit http://annualreport.emcdda.eu.int/en/home-en.html for the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction data.


8. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story

This week's corrupt cops story comes from Spokane, WA, self-described capital of the Pacific Northwest's "Inland Empire." (Some disillusioned locals refer to it as the "Ingrown Empire.")

In a case that has drawn considerable public attention in the area, former Spokane County sheriff's deputy James Crabtree is set to be sentenced this week on four counts of cocaine delivery, two counts of cocaine possession, and one count of aggravated vehicular assault. The charges stem in part from a December 2001 traffic accident in which Crabtree was found in possession of a crack pipe and a bag of cocaine. Ironically, the car he hit was driven by another Spokane County sheriff's deputy with whom Crabtree once worked. Then, in April, Crabtree was again arrested, this time for selling crack. Last month, he accepted an Alford plea, in which he conceded that there was sufficient evidence to convict him.

A cop gone bad in the drug war is hardly news. What has really stirred controversy is Spokane Police Chief Roger Bragdon's intervention on Crabtree's behalf before sentencing. Bragdon last week wrote a letter to the judge in the case asking for leniency for Crabtree, 42, whose career as a deputy stretched from 1982 to 1987. But Crabtree's connections run deeper than that brief stint. His father, Chuck Crabtree, was a longtime Spokane police captain who once supervised Bragdon.

Prosecutors asked for a five-year sentence, but Chief Bragdon asked the judge to temper justice with mercy. Citing his three decades of law enforcement experience, including three years as head of the department's drug unit, Bragdon wrote, "I have learned that it is not 'criminals' who are addicted. Addiction can capture anyone and destroy their lives and unfortunately, even the lives of family and friends who love them. We both know that strict enforcement efforts and incarceration have done nothing to affect the addicted individual."

While Bragdon did not mention Crabtree's time as a deputy in the letter, in public remarks defending the letter he told reporters Crabtree's years of service deserved some weight. He also added that Crabtree could be subject to violence from other inmates because he is a former officer. Bragdon's intervention did not sit well with the Spokane Police Guild, which issued its own statement on l'affaire Crabtree. "It is our desire that judgment be based on the facts, that no preferential treatment be given, and that punishment be fair and equal to similar cases," Guild president Cpl. Cliff Walker wrote.

That seems a reasonable standard. It could be maintained by Chief Bragdon sending similarly enlightened letters on behalf of all drug offenders his force arrests. Or, given his concession that busting and imprisoning drug users has "done nothing to affect the addicted individual," maybe he could just stop arresting those people.


9. Newsbrief: Another Pain Doctor Charged With Murder

The persecution of doctors specializing in pain management with opioids has claimed another victim. Dr. Spurgeon Green Jr., of Perry, GA, was indicted for murder July 22 in the April death of one of his patients. Green, a certified pain specialist who has been practicing since 1974, sits in the Wayne County Jail awaiting a bond hearing this week.

He is charged in the death of David Barbari, 41, who died of a drug overdose after being prescribed opioid pain relievers by Dr. Green. The indictment resulted from a combined investigation among the Houston County and Wayne County sheriff's offices and the Houston County District Attorney's Office. He is charged with felony murder, or murder resulting from the commission of another felony, in this case improperly prescribing opioid pain relievers.

Results from that investigation were apparently fed to the State Board of Medical Examiners, which used it suspend his license to practice medicine on July 24, the Macon Telegraph reported. The medical board said that six more of Green's patients died of drug overdoses or multiple drug intoxication. It also claimed that some 300 of Green's patients were "known drug users or persons with drug-related criminal histories," that some of them resold drugs he prescribed, and that he prescribed "in the absence of substantial justification."

Green's attorney O. Hale Almand Jr., told the Telegraph he suspected the allegations made by the board are based on the criminal investigations, which have yet to prove anything against Green. "This document is a travesty because it makes accusations but does not support them," said Almand. "I'm waiting for anyone to prove any of that because I don't think it can be proven." Green is innocent of all charges, Almand said. Doctors cannot control whether a patient abuses prescribed drugs, he added.

Dr. Green is but the latest of at least 30 physicians who have been prosecuted nationwide in recent years for their pain prescription practices. At least two other physicians, Dr. Frank Fisher in California and Dr. Robert Weitzel in Utah, were charged with murder in similar cases. In both of those cases, however, the criminal prosecutions collapsed after courts heard testimony from pain management experts who testified their practices were in line with contemporary medical standards. A Florida physician, Dr. James Graves, was convicted of manslaughter last year and is currently serving a 63-year prison sentence.

According to the Dallas Morning News, where a similar case against Dr. Daniel Maynard is underway, prosecutors across the country are networking with the prosecutors in the Graves case to find ways to make criminal charges stick against pain doctors. Similar investigations are under way in South Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona and California, the paper reported.

According to the Macon Telegraph, Dr. Green's patients have been calling the newspaper to offer their support. One of them, the Rev. Jeffrey Walker, an associate pastor at Bethel AME in Macon and a member of Fellowship Bible Baptist Church in Warner Robins, told the paper patients, not physicians, should be accountable for abusing prescriptions. "I believe in my heart that Dr. Green has never done anything wrong," Walker said. "I've got to believe in my heart that he's going to be exonerated."


10. Newsbrief: Florida Ex-Cons to Get Voting Rights

An agreement between the Florida Department of Corrections and a coalition of civil libertarians, black legislators and grassroots groups could lead to as many as 30,000 Florida felons being able to vote in time for next year's elections. The agreement would resolve a lawsuit brought two years ago by the American Civil Liberties Union and others that charged the corrections department with failing to help inmates on the verge of release get their rights restored. The department is required to do so under Florida law.

Florida is one of seven states where voting rights are not automatically restored to felons upon completion of their sentences. Instead, prisoners must apply through the corrections department to the state's Executive Clemency Board, which ultimately decides who gets his rights restored. That process is cumbersome and benefits few, according to ACLU attorney Randall Berg, who argued the case. "You virtually have no chance," he told the Miami Herald.

The impact of ex-con disenfranchisement is greater in Florida than any other state, according to Human Rights Watch and the Sentencing Project. In a 1998 report, the two groups estimated that more than 525,000 felons in Florida had completed their sentences but were still unable to vote. More than 200,000 of those, or 39%, were black men. And this is the state where George Bush won the presidency with a mere handful of votes.

But the agreement affects only prisoners released between 1992 and 2001, about 125,000 people, and three-fourths of those will still have to go through the clemency process to determine whether they qualify for restoration of their rights. The remaining 30,000 inmates who, in the judgment of the corrections department, already qualify for restoration, will have their names sent to the clemency board for action without a hearing.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, drug offenders make up the single largest group of prisoners, accounting for 18% of all inmates. Florida had 73,000 prisoners at the end of 2002.


11. Mini Briefs: Illinois Syringe Deregulation, James Geddes Released

A few stories we didn't have time to write up this week that you should know about:

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has signed legislation allowing adults to purchase and possess syringes without a prescription. Visit http://www.aidschicago.org for further information.

James Geddes, sentenced by the state of Oklahoma to 150 years for five marijuana plants, has been paroled after 11 years in prison. Visit http://www.hr95.org/geddesj.html to read his story.


12. Web Scan: OPN, HRC, Cultural Baggage, Salon.com

Dr. Ethan Russo will join the Ohio Patients Forum this Thursday, August 7, 7:30pm EDT, to discuss "Marijuana and Migraines." Visit http://www.ohiopatient.net/Paltalk_Instructions for instructions on how to participate.

Discussion with Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann, online at cultural-baggage.com:
http://www.cultural-baggage.com/ethan.ram or
http://www.cultural-baggage.com/Audio/FDBCB_0729.mp3

Discussion with Cliff Schaffer, creator of druglibrary.org, at cultural-baggage.com, this Tuesday, August 5, 6:30pm CDT

New HCV pamphlet for injection drug users, from the Harm Reduction Coalition:
http://ww.harmreduction.org/hepCbrochure.pdf (online copy)
http://www.harmreduction.org/brochure.html (order form)

X'ed Out, salon.com on ecstasy:
http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2003/07/30/ecstasy_part1/


13. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 [email protected] 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 [email protected]

August 22, 10:30am-5:30pm, Hot Springs, SD, Public Industrial Hemp Seminar, featuring speakers, exhibits, vending, benefit auction and complimentary hemp food lunch. At Mueller Civic Center, admission free, visit http://www.HempIndustries.org, e-mail [email protected] or call (707) 874-3648 for further information.

August 23-24, Vancouver, BC, Canada, CannabisExpo.com, exposition on medical cannabis applications. E-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.CannabisExpo.com 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 [email protected] to register or (850) 644-7368 or [email protected] 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 [email protected] for details of individual engagements.

September 21-28, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, "2nd Darwin International Syringe Festival and 1st International Conference on Using Direct Action to End the War on Drugs." Sponsored by the Network Against Prohibition, visit http://www.angelfire.com/oz/syringefestival/ or http://www.napnt.org for further information or contact [email protected] or +61 (0) 8 8942 0570.

September 22-23, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, "First National Seminar on Drug Users' Rights." Sponsored by ABORDA, visit http://direitodeuso.dk3.com for further information.

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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] or Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected].

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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] for details of individual engagements.

April 20-24, Melbourne, Australia, "15th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm." Visit http://www.ihra.net or e-mail [email protected] for information.

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