Sunday, November 30, 2003


It's been a quiet weekend in town so we're going to pick up the narrative on the DPA conference again today. The very first person I met there was Joe White of Change the Climate. Regular readers will remember that Change the Climate is responsible for all those controversial billboards and bus stop posters being displayed all over the country.

I was glad to connect with Joe, he's a neighbor being only 20 miles up the road, and it turned out - as is so often true in this little valley - we have many friends in common. Joe is not only a tireless activist against this war but also operates his own business and is raising three sons. He tells me one of his inspirations in joining the movement was when his young son came to him and asked,"Dad, why do grownups lie about marijuana?"

It was his concern for their safety that lead him to start the Change the Climate project. This poster/billboard idea is brilliant. I think it's the one of most effective campaigns bringing the legalization meme to the non-consuming public today. The website also has a good section on how to talk to your children about drugs and hosts a small but lively discussion forum. And while you're still working on your Christmas list, the on-line store has some intriguing and unique gifts for the open-minded on your list.

* * * * *

While I'm the subject of the 'L' word, there's another organization that I omitted in my earlier count of those willing to use it. The Marijuana Policy Project have been champions of this cause for many years and were also represented at the conference. Unfortunately, I didn't meet any of the members this time around, nor I did manage to get to any of the sessions that they participated in, although I would have liked to. My only complaint about the whole conference remains that there were too many good sessions to choose from and you couldn't attend them all.


The drug war has been pretty quiet in this country as well on this holiday weekend. Even my usual sources of information seem to all be on break at the same time so we've had to venture far afield to find the news for you today.

I've been meaning to check out the Cannabis Culture site for a long time. It's big, like an old trunk in the attic full of unexpected treasures and I haven't managed to negotiate the whole thing yet but I recommend it to anyone interested in the international politics of this war. There's hours of entertainment and information including large sections on growing, an ongoing column by a pioneer of the movement, Ed Rosenthal, archived programming from Pot-TV and a large and active forum with ongoing discussions on all things cannabis. Today's drug war news comes from the political section there.

Montreal police busted the opening of Chez Marijane, a new BYOB (Bring Your Own Bud) cannabis cafe. They arrested two people, out of the dozens who had come to celebrate the occassion. It seems the remaining patrons, held down the fort. According to the owner:

"To tell you the truth, I'm surprised," St-Onge said when reached on his cell phone at the police station where he was helping the two men, aged 26 and 51. "It's a waste of their time, a waste of money. But it's simple possession and it's illegal." One of the men arrested has multiple sclerosis, he added.

The cafe does not sell pot but people can bring their own to smoke, said St-Onge, who called the day a success despite the arrests.

"Only about two or three people left because of the police, the rest are still there."

Before police arrived, customers and cafe volunteers sipped coffee, passed joints and revelled in having a place they could congregate to smoke dope.

Nearby business owners think the cafe makes a good neighbor.

"Look at all the bars around here," said Yves Martel, owner of a nearby art gallery, as he waved his arm towards the street. "I'm more worried about the people who come out of them drunk, aggressive and vomiting all over the sidewalk.

"I've got no problem with (Chez Marijane) being there."

I love the Canadian's courage in the fight for sane drug policy. The summer of flux in the law is now over and cannabis is again illegal to possess, yet the cafes that opened in that time frame and are clearly still opening in defiance of the latest court decision, are relentessly asserting their right to operate.

A proposed federal bill that would decriminalize marijuana for small-time users caught with less than 15 grams died when Parliament shut down this month. The bill is expected to be reintroduced later.

The only way the non-consuming public is going to accept consumers is if they see us doing it and thus realize that we are regular responsible citizens, just like them. Thanks to these courageous trail blazers for risking arrest to do just that. I do have one problem with this story though.

Police said two children, aged between two and five, were present when they entered. Quebec's child-protection agency was informed.

I don't think children should be allowed in the smoking room, no matter what is being consumed.


They cover US news on the Cannabis Culture's forum as well, and a couple of related pieces on police presence in the schools came up. The good news is that the officers involved in the Goose Creek fiasco are facing potential charges. I'm not posting the link because it puts you into one of those irritating registration loops that won't close. From the Charleston Post.

The Post and Courier

Solicitor Ralph Hoisington said Friday that he will decide next week whether Goose Creek police broke any laws Nov. 5 when officers raided Stratford High School with guns drawn during a search for drugs.

The solicitor said he will make that decision after reviewing a 200-page report prepared by the State Law Enforcement Division that he received this week.

"If there was no legal justification for the police action, then what was done could be considered an assault and battery," Hoisington said.

"I will try to get some definitive resolution of it next week," said Hoisington, adding that he will share the SLED report with the U.S. Justice Department.

During the raid, which was recorded on the school's surveillance camera, 14 officers isolated 107 students in a main hallway and briefly restrained 12 to 14 students with plastic handcuffs as others cringed when three officers drew their weapons.

They're spinning this one hard, trying to find a soft way to get these overzealous cops off the hook.

Three days after the raid, Hoisington asked SLED to prepare a report. The report, which does not offer a conclusion, includes interviews with about 30 teachers and students. It also includes the video recording from the school's surveillance camera and a video recording made by a Goose Creek police officer, Hoisington said.

Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler, speaks of the fine line between justifiable action or not and hopes this investigation will not result in an actionable offense, however,

Heitzler said that a criminal charge against one or more of his officers is a "daunting possibility."

Having seen the tapes, I think they should be charged. There is no reason for teenagers to have been treated so brutally by grown men with guns.

* * * * *

And in a little publicized story, the bad news is that a similar sweep was conducted in a little West Virginia school under the guise of police training for a potential hostage situation. They learned the lesson of Goose Creek too well to call it a drug sweep, yet that's what they were sweeping for.

Police searched between 21 and 25 rooms, Board said, and students in those rooms were asked to leave their belongings in the rooms while they waited in the hallway.

"No person was searched," Board said, and students' lockers were not included in the police sweep.

The dogs alerted to five backpacks and two vehicles, said Board, though a later search found no drugs in the book bags or in one of the vehicles.

What is happening in this country when we allow cops and dogs to invade our children's privacy as some pre-emptive measure to stop drug use? Does anyone actually believe this will stop kids from doing drugs? It might stop them from bringing them to school for a while, and it will certainly dissaude them from asking an adult for help if they get into trouble with an addiction.

Board said the school-wide lockdown was a precautionary measure to protect students while the police dogs were being led through rooms and hallways.

The sweep was not prompted by any previous incident, he said.

The police dogs and their handlers came from Athens County, Ohio, Belpre Police Department, Marietta Police Department, Vienna Police Department, Meigs County, Ohio, and the Parkersburg Police Department. The Parkersburg S.W.A.T. team, Detective Bureau, Evidence Technician and Tactical Patrol Unit helped with the sweep.

That's a lot of money to fund a virtual terrorist act against a bunch of kids that resulted in one adult citation for possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana. I find this story more disturbing than Goose Creek, they admit there was no prior reason to suspect drug activity and the transparent attempt to cloak a drug raid under the guise of some higher mission is beyond the pale.

Principal Ralph Board said of the incident, "We thought it was important to send a message to students and the community that we are trying to have the safest environment possible here."

I find invading student's less than comforting and this comment rings rather ominously in my ears as well.

This is the first random sweep at PHS this year, Board said.

Is this to mean he might find more non-reasons to stage a second attempt? I hope this story gets some bigger legs in the next week.


Last word goes to George Orwell, eerie predictor of our present state of neo-liberal/ neo-con surreality, with this quote I found on another thread at the CC site.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

Saturday, November 29, 2003


There's a cold wind rattling windows in the Happy Valley today that smells of snow, so we're hunkered down at HQ and waiting for the holiday season to be over. I loved this time of year as a kid and still enjoyed it when I was raising my own, but I've come to loathe the whole consumption driven ordeal.

That's not to say that I don't hum a carol or two and watch the old standards on TV, but the essence of the season has been lost in the contest for presents as evidenced by this tragic story of a trampled Walmart shopper.

Authorities said that Patricia Van Lester arrived at Wal-Mart at 3 a.m. for an early sale on a DVD player for her mother. When the store's doors opened at 6 a.m., Van Lester grabbed the DVD player but was quickly overcome by hundreds of shoppers rushing into the store.

The woman was knocked to the ground, slammed her head on the ground and suffered at least one seizure, according to Local 6 News.

....When Orange City and EVAC paramedics got to the store they found Van Lester lying on her left side on top of the DVD player, surrounded by shoppers seemingly oblivious to the unconscious woman, said Mark O'Keefe, a spokesman for EVAC Ambulance.

In the retail bsuiness they call it Black Friday. If this is the meaning of Christmas, count me out.


There's apparently a high turnover among the park rangers at the Arizona National Parks. The job satisfaction level is reportedly low.

Working as a ranger these days for U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management or Fish and Wildlife Service along the U.S.-Mexican border is mostly about being a border cop.

.....One of the rangers spent five years as a Border Patrol agent, then joined the Park Service to do something different: writing speeding tickets, going out on medical calls, fighting fires.

It hasn't quite worked out.

"What I'm doing now," he says, "isn't very different from what I did for the Border Patrol."

Before he was a Border Patrol agent, the ranger was a cavalry scout for the Army.

"Come to think of it," he says, gunning the engine, "what I'm doing now isn't much different from what I did in the Army. It's the same language, the same equipment and the same tactics."

Just another example of the collateral costs of the WOSDU that is not counted in the Drug Czar's budget. These guys are being paid to safeguard campers from natural disasters not to be narco-cops and immigration agents.


Today's outrage comes from the Phillipines where a 34-year-old farmer was convicted by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) to a reduced penalty of life imprisonment and was ordered to pay a fine of P500,000 for planting marijuana in his farm in Buhangin, Davao City last May.

It could have been worse.

Melmida availed of the lower penalty when he pleaded guilty to the charges of violation of RA 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002), escaping the supreme penalty of death.

But not much. He received this sentence for 298.5 grams of marijuana plants. That's less than a pound and I assume they weighed it wet. It seems rather excessive to me but compared to Thailand's beheading of 4,000 drug defendants, I guess he got off pretty easy.


The bright spot in today's news has been unreported here, a US study will look at therapeutic value of the dancefloor drug, Ecstasy.

In what will be the first trial of its kind, the researchers want to see if the emotional closeness reported by clubbers taking the drug can help victims of rape and sexual abuse talk to therapists.

Supporters of the study, which has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, claim it marks an important milestone in the medical rehabilitation of ecstasy or MDMA, which was given to patients by some alternative therapists in the 1970s and was only made illegal in the 1980s.

"What we'd like to do is develop MDMA into a prescription medicine," said Rick Doblin, the founder and head of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which is coordinating and funding the new trial. "MDMA has a dramatic ability to help people express deeper emotions, to look at emotionally conflicted topics from their past and it promotes a certain catharsis."

Here's hoping MAPS will be able to overcome the bad press from the much touted and fatally flawed John Hopkins study with some good science. This organization has been engaged in the study of psychedelic drugs for long time and also send out an informative newsletter. You can register at their website.


Once again, I don't have a pithy quote for the last word today so I'm leaving you with this cheering bit of news.

The Sarasani Cafe, founded in 1968 just outside of Amsterdam, and claiming to be one of the oldest in the Netherlands, just celebrated 35 years of operation. The invitations to the party included a bogus joint.

While cannabis technically remains illegal in the Netherlands, its use and sale has been tolerated since the 1970s under strict conditions imposed by the government.

Today there are about 800 coffee shops in the Netherlands, drawing a booming tourist trade.

This may change under new new European Union drugs control law but no one is panicking yet. In spite of the recent controversy surrounding the restriction of tourists from the cannabis cafes in Amsterdam, word from those in the know say the new rule will at worst create a new job opportunities for locals to go in and make the purchases for them.

We'll keep you posted as developments arise.

Friday, November 28, 2003


Pete from DrugWarRant is an advisor to a student group, M.A.S.H. (Mobilizing Activists and Students for Hemp) who are holding a Hempfest on Thursday, December 4, at Illinois State University (Normal, IL). It sounds like a fun event, what with the music, speakers and other activities but alas too far away for me to attend. What raised my First Amendment hackles however, was the news that the flyers for the event are not allowed to be posted in the residence halls at the school. The administrator cites the rule - "Materials may not display profanity or alcohol/substance abuse products or advertisement" - and cites the hemp leaf illustration as her compelling reason because of it's similarity to a cannabis leaf.

An administrative appeal of the decision has resulted in the same answer, on the same constitutionally deficient, content-based grounds. Since hemp is not a drug but rather an industrial fiber with great ecological benefits, the decision fails even within the parameters of its own rules. There's a long standing US Supreme Court decision often cited in these situations that's dead on point.

Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969)

". . . In the absence of a specific showing of constitutionally valid reasons to regulate their speech, students are entitled to freedom of expression of their views."

Justice Fortas, speaking for the majority.

This administrator needs to be reminded that students do not shed their constitutional rights when they set foot on school grounds and no matter how well intentioned, she has no legal right to determine which political speech she thinks the students should be exposed to and which they will not.

(Ironically, I found the graphic for the following section on the U of Illinois website under a tour listed as Industrial Hemp: Its Properties and Potential as an Alternative Crop).

* * * * *

Photo - University of Illinois

The vilification of hemp is one of the greatest tragedies of this drug war. The prohibitionists have succeeded in linking this boundlessly useful fiber plant to drug use. According to About,

Hemp is the number one plant for producing clothing, paper, building materials, food, beverages, cosmetics, methanol fuel and an impressive array of cleaning and paint products

There is virtually no THC value to hemp. It would like smoking cotton rope. The only reason it's illegal is because its success as an agricultural product would threaten the timber and synthetic fiber industries - both large political contributors.

And in contrast to the nonsense going on at Illinois U over this potential product, the Australian Legislative Assembly introduced a law opening the way for the development of a commercial hemp industry.

Agriculture minister Kim Chance said substantial market opportunities existed for industrial hemp and WA farmers wanted the chance to become involved.

It was estimated the United States market for natural, fibre and plastic composites would exceed $1.4 billion a year by 2005. Other uses included biodegradable plastics, fibreboards, non-woven geotextiles for use in soil stabilisation, reseeding and erosion control and woven textils which could be blended with other natural materials such as cotton and wool.

I find it somewhat ironic that the Aussies have indentified a US market for it but our own struggling farmers are not allowed a chance to compete for that market. Hemp is an extremely easy crop to grow and could help our family farmers hold out against the relentless jaws of the corporate mono-culture goons currently gobbling up middle America while concurrently gorging on free trade subsidies.


While I'm on the subject of the free trade fiction, I ran across this Greg Palast piece on the Free Trade Area of the Americas meeting recently held in Miami. This is the only report I've seen on Venezuela's refusal to sign up for economic ruin. Every other Latin American country signed on to what Palast calls, "Miami’s treaty of the living dead economies."

I find people either love or hate Palast. I in the former group. I think he makes a lot of sense.

FTAA is far more than a trade document. It’s not just about fruit and cars that we sell across borders. It’s an entire new multi-state government in the making, with courts and executives, unelected, with the power to bless or damn any one nation’s laws which impede foreign investment, foreign sales or even foreign pollution.

Let me remind you again friends that 51 of the top 100 of the world's economies are corporations, not countries. Think about it.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, US officials denied a visa to Evo Morales, head of Boliva's second largest political party. It's interesting that the cocalero Morales, a long time critic of both free trade and US sponsored eradication programs in his country was denied entry, while Oscar Eid and Carlos Saavedra Bruno, both closely tied to the disgraced regime of the recently deposed US puppet, Sanchez de Lozada, were granted visas to attend the FTAA meetings.

This the news you don't get on CNN my friends. There's a growing movement, bubbling up from the people in Latin America and led by Chavez, who is no more communist than JFK was, to take back the reins of power from the morally corrupt oligarchy that currently runs their world, and ours I might add. The US media is not reporting, and your government is complicit in, the suppression of this information.


Getting back on topic, if you find yourself with a little extra time this holiday weekend, thanks to Drug Sense Weekly, I have link to audio of the National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse Debate that was aired on CSPAN yesterday. It's a worth a listen.

I also have a link to some priceless footage of Rep. Mark Souder debating Shawn Heller, President of SSDP, from their site. You have to scroll down past half way to find the clip. These kids at Students for Sensible Drug Policy are some of the most effective activists in the country. Check out the whole site while you're there.


Leaving you on a somewhat lighter note, this newsbrief showed up in my local paper:

24 November 2003

Northampton Police
Police intercepted a package at the post office in Florence containing marijuana around 10 a.m. Saturday.

Post office workers detected the drug in a parcel they received for a Florence resident, police said. When the resident picked it up, police were called in. The man told police he gets a package of marijuana mailed to him every year on his birthday. He was not charged.

Bittersweet ending in that he probably didn't get to keep his birthday present but at least he didn't get arrested.

Thursday, November 27, 2003


Well I'm back after this unannounced hiatus. It's been a brtual week but the one bright spot was an unexpected visit from Howard Wooldridge who stopped by our HQ on his way through the area. He wasn't riding his horse but he was wearing the hat and the T-shirt. I took him around Noho and we shook up the downtown scene for a few hours. I'm hoping the Commonwealth will move some of the pending marijuana legislation out of committee in the next session so he'll come back with Misty in the spring to do a 'Paul Revere Ride'.

It was way cool to spend that much time with him, he turns out to be a tireless educator with a sharp mind but an easygoing manner. I learned a lot about horses, and he showed me the site for The Long Rider's Guild, who describe themselves as "the world's first international association of Equestrian Explorers and the largest repository of equestrian travel knowledge in human history". It's a pretty amazing society, there's a lot more people out riding horses over vast distances than I ever realized and an amazing percentage of the members are women. It's apparently a very dangerous sport as well. Howard tells me people die on these journeys all the time.

Of course we discussed drug policy reform as well. He was lobbying recently at the Texas Statehouse for legislation passed on Labor Day of 2003, that instituted sentencing reforms for drug defendants. In this little publicized fit of sanity, Texas now has a law stating that persons convicted of personal possession of 1 gram or less of the so called hard drugs, or (and get this) 1 pound or less of marijuana, cannot be imprisoned, but must go into a treatment-probation program. Howard tells me this translates into 80,000 Texans a year who will not be incarcerated for even one day.

Will Harrell, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, was instrumental in the passage of this bill and found two Republicans to sponsor it. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Will at the DPA conference, another cordial and unassuming guy, before I saw him speak at a breakout session. He looked so young that I thought he might be on his first speaking assignment. I was surprised to discover his credentials but it heartens me to think that if he's done so much at this age, think of what he'll accomplish in his lifetime. I think it bodes well.


More news on common sense sentencing came out of California this week. U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz in a dramatic downward departure, imposed the minimum allowable sentence on 3 officers of a defunct West Hollywood cannabis club and chastised the prosecution.

To allocate the resources of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. attorney's office in this case … baffles me, disturbs me," the judge said.

It disturbs me as well. We need more jurists like this that live up to the title Your Honor.

* * * * *


Meanwhile, here in the Commonwealth, The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a report this week showing our state government is spending more on prisons and jails than on public higher education.

Total state spending on public higher education has dropped from $1.109 billion in 2001 to $815.7 million this fiscal year, down $293 million or 26.5 percent, the report said.

In comparison, during the same period, state spending on state prisons, county jails and parole rose from $799.3 million to $830.5 million, up 3.9 percent.

State Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst had this reaction,

"There are no words to describe how shocking it is that we're spending more money to keep people in prison than we are to educate the next generation of leaders."

They shortchange the public education system, deny low income students loans under the HEA Act, cut social services to fund prisons and then wonder why kids are becoming anarchists? It doesn't surprise me. The system is failing this generation.

* * * * *


Talking about my generation, it seems an era is passing and High Times magazine is going mainstream. Not only is the new executive editor John Mailer going to transition away from its long standing focus on marijuana culture but will apparently be taking the magazine in the opposite direction.

"With the new High Times we're using [pot] as a metaphor," said Mailer. "So it's not a magazine about pot, it's a magazine about our civil liberties, and our tag line is 'Celebrating Freedom.' Our feeling is it's patriotic to be in High Times."

However, it seems as if Mailer might actually lead the magazine in the opposite direction than its current pro-pot stance. He told the New York Times that he will begin running stories opposed to marijuana use, including people who think pot has ruined their lives.

There's much speculation among the cannabis community on why Mailer, who admits he knows nothing about the history of the publication, is making this big shift.

Some insiders claim that the format change is being spurred by direct pressure and threats from the DEA. With the February 2003 raids on bong-makers hitting many of their biggest advertisers, the magazine is clearly deciding to target a more mainstream ad base.

Dana Larsen, editor of Cannabis Culture magazine notes this could spell trouble on his side of the border as well.

"If High Times has truly come under pressure from the DEA, then maybe that could happen to us too. We are based in Canada, so we are less easy to target directly, but the DEA could go after the stores and companies that distribute us. If they're going to go after people selling bongs, then why wouldn't they be going after the pot magazines?"

I expect it's because the prohibitionists haven't figured out how to circumvent our First Amendment protections yet. It's a point well taken though that destroying the bong industry did strip High Times of its greatest source of ad revenue and thus advance the Drug Czar's agenda of subverting our personal sovereignty.


It's not just the Drug Czar trampling our civil liberties these days. The Bush administration has destroyed in these three short years, protections that took generations of activism to win. Under the aegis of Homeland Security, we have never been in more danger from the intrusions of our own government. A few items of concern passed across the radar screen this week.

Although this first piece is about anti-war protests, these tactics are easily translated to drug reform rallies as well and I have no doubt are already being employed. The New York Times reports: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

The memorandum discussed demonstrators' "innovative strategies," like the videotaping of arrests as a means of "intimidation" against the police. And it noted that protesters "often use the Internet to recruit, raise funds and coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations."

....It also noted that protesters may raise money to help pay for lawyers for those arrested.

They call this a subversive threat? This could describe any organization's activities, including the Young Republicans recent racist bake sale.

* * * * *


The FBI does not want to stop there in their relentless pursuit to invade our privacy. For those of you who drive fancy cars with dashboard computing systems, take heed of this.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that the FBI is not legally entitled to remotely activate the system and secretly use it to snoop on passengers, because doing so would render it inoperable during an emergency.

In a split 2-1 rulingthe majority wrote that "the company could not assist the FBI without disabling the system in the monitored car" and said a district judge was wrong to have granted the FBI its request for surreptitious monitoring.

The court did not reveal which brand of remote-assistance product was being used but did say it involved "luxury cars" and, in a footnote, mentioned Cadillac, which sells General Motors' OnStar technology in all current models. After learning that the unnamed system could be remotely activated to eavesdrop on conversations after a car was reported stolen, the FBI realized it would be useful for "bugging" a vehicle, Judges Marsha Berzon and John Noonan said.

When FBI agents remotely activated the system and were listening in, passengers in the vehicle could not tell that their conversations were being monitored.

I didn't know terrorists could afford Caddys.

* * * * *


This last piece doesn't really have anything to do with the drug war but it does illustrate the arrogance of our Misleader on his self-proclaimed mission from God and his complete disregard for the environment. In another foreign relations coup of extraordinary bad manners, Georgie managed to piss off the Queen of virtually the only country in the world willing to call themselves our ally by allowing his goons to trample her gardens.

THE Queen is furious with President George W. Bush after his state visit caused thousands of pounds of damage to her gardens at Buckingham Palace.

Royal officials are now in touch with the Queen's insurers and Prime Minister Tony Blair to find out who will pick up the massive repair bill. Palace staff said they had never seen the Queen so angry as when she saw how her perfectly-mantained lawns had been churned up after being turned into helipads with three giant H landing markings for the Bush visit.

The rotors of the President's Marine Force One helicopter and two support Black Hawks damaged trees and shrubs that had survived since Queen Victoria's reign.

And Bush's army of clod-hopping security service men trampled more precious and exotic plants.

...The Palace's head gardener, Mark Lane, was reported to be in tears when he saw the scale of the damage.

I loathe this kind of discourtesy. I mean what head of state comes here and ruins the Rose Garden at the White House. How embarassing that our President would be such a lousy house guest.


Last word goes to one of our most well mannered leaders, JFK. This excerpt, from a longer speech given in the last year of his life, kind of sums it all up for me today.

What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children - not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women - not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.

Amen and a happy and peaceful holiday to those who celebrate this day.

Sunday, November 23, 2003


I've been working on defining and refining this blog for about eight months now and I want to take a moment to thank my readers for the positive feedback you have lent to this project. I was reminded of how lucky I am to have your support yesterday when I found my first negative review on the Nacho Nation site.

I guess I should confess this is actually my second negative review, when I had the luck to meet Dan Forbes at the DPA conference, he told me I was too strident, but he at least said that to me privately and had read more than three paragraphs of my work.

But this was my first public panning. It pissed me off at first - I thought I had given Nachoman a pretty good plug - he called me self-informed, ill mannered and lukewarm, not to mention he misquoted my initial email. He left off the punch line.

But as my long term readers know, I don't hold a grudge and tell you the truth, I love to be challenged. It didn't take long to find it funny. Besides, on review I realized what we had here was a simple failure to communicate. We've since resolved our differences and I still recommend you check the site if you like nachos. I also still stand by the original post however - the major content of the site doesn't change a lot outside of the contests, but the archived pages do hold a wealth of information for the nacho afficionado that is worth checking out. I should also add though that are other interactive pages on the site and he does have a feature that updates daily called Something I Learned Today that is really a blog in disguise that offers a look inside the head of this 'nacho-master'.

He claims he going to apologize on it for being mean to me. I haven't seen anything posted as I write this. Do you think he's waiting to see what I said? If that's the case, this is what you get Mark, and I hope it's enough because there's still a war going on out there and we won't have time to dwell on culinary pleasures for a long time at the Last One Speaks HQ.


The WOSDU never sleeps but tonight we actually have a wealth of good news within our golden shores. In no particular order, Detroit will have a medicinal marijuana initiative on the 04 ballot.

Detroiters will have a chance to vote on the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes next August.

If the issue passes, authorities said users in Detroit would be exempt from marijuana-possession laws if they have a medical need for the drug.

Earlier this month, Detroit City Clerk Jackie Currie validated 7,779 of the signatures submitted by the Detroit Coalition for Compassionate Care, a group of metro Detroiters that has been fighting to get marijuana on the ballot for several years.

I'm telling you again, 04 is feeling the year for this movement to see the fruits of their long labors.

* * * * *

In Alaska, the case of Noy v. State, which resulted in Attorney General Gregg Renkes instructing all state law enforcement agencies not to arrest or cite adults for personal marijuana use in their home survived an appeal.

In an opinion released Friday, the court denied the Alaska attorney general's petition to rehear the case, which invalidated a 1990 voter initiative criminalizing all amounts of marijuana by calling the resulting ban on personal pot use in the home unconstitutional.

Definitely feels like time to visit my brother in Anchorage...

* * * * *

In Watauga County, North Carolina, prosecutor Jerry Wilson's misguided plan to prosecute meth labs as WMDs was shot down.

On November 12, Superior Court Judge James Baker dismissed 15 WMD charges against 10 people accused of cooking meth. Making meth in home labs does not rise to the level of possessing, creating, or using weapons of mass destruction, despite Wilson's novel arguments, the judge ruled.

Unsurprising, the DA appealed the ruling.

* * * * *

California Superior Court judge James Gray has announced that he will run for U.S. Senate in 2004 -- and said his campaign will focus on his signature issue, ending the War on Drugs.

He's running as a Libertarian and while I have some issues with this party's platform, their stance on the drug war is spot on. Gray has this to say.

"I want to make this clear: If we focus our campaign on the Drug War, people who agree with us will not worry about 'throwing away their vote' on a third-party candidate. Our campaign will convince them, because of our anti-war stand, that every vote will rightfully be seen as a vote to end the Drug War."

....he joined the LP because he "realized that the major parties will never begin the process of ending the War on Drugs. The Republican and Democratic parties are invested in the drug war, committed to it."

... Gray is the author of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs.

Published in April 2001 by Temple University Press, the book expounds on Gray's premise that "drug policy reform [is] the most important issue facing this great country, and our so-called War on Drugs [is] our biggest failure."

Makes me want to move to California just so I can vote for him.

* * * * *

Speaking of the golden state, The new administration of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Tuesday agreed to a settlement that will result in thousands of paroled California drug offenders avoiding a return to prison for "administrative" violations.

As long as the parolees don't have serious felonies on their record, they will no longer be re-incarcerated for simply faililng a urine test.

* * * * *

Meanwhile Senator Kennedy introduced a bill that contains a provision that would eliminate the federal student aid ban for individuals with drug convictions. It's about time that somebody made an effort to get rid of this dunderheaded HEA nonsense. Why anyone thought denying a young person an education would prevent drug abuse is beyond me.

* * * * *

Finally in a piece of especially cheering news, Congress is expected to cut funding for the Drug Czar's pet project, anti-drug advertising.

It's only a 5 million dollar cut, but a major psychological victory against the prohibition extremists who wanted a big increase.

$145 million would represent the “lowest budget level since the program launched.”

In addition to being a triumph for taxpayers, a cut in ONDCP funding would be a victory for the Drug Policy Alliance and its supporters – many of whom took action by flooding conference committee member offices with phone calls demanding a reduction in funding

I was one of those callers. Even a small victory feels pretty large in this war.

* * * * *


On that note, we're stealing the last word from Drug Sense Weekly's quote of the week.

"Who does not thank for little will not thank for much."

-- Estonian Proverb

Little by little, we will go far.

Saturday, November 22, 2003


Outside of the rumors swirling around the impending change of ownership at City Cafe, (and they're ugly folks - word has it they are changing the whole concept into one more boring upscale bar), nothing much is going on in the downtown scene this week.

Fortunately there's enough happening in the larger world to entertain us and I think I'll start with Dean Becker at Unvarnished Truth. Dean was gracious enough to spend some time with me at the DPA conference between a busy interview schedule for his radio program, Cultural Baggage. Check out the site, it holds a treasure trove of archived interviews with the biggest players in the anti-prohibition movement.

Considering the company he keeps, I was surprised to find him to be such a down to earth and unassuming guy. This man gives new meaning to the words, tireless activist. He doesn't view his work as a job, it's a lifestyle and he appears to devote all his waking hours to this fight. He's not doing it for the money; he lives on a bare bones budget and puts all his resources into the website.

Ever alert for a source of independent funding, he has created a line of voodoo dolls at a reasonable price that would make great presents for the politically aware folks on your list in this gift-giving season. Please support this project and send the link to your friends.


Speaking of friends, my buddy Al Giordano at BigLeftOutside has issued one of his trademark challenges to the disinformation (read that outright lies) being circulated in a "Free Intelligence Briefing" by titled "Latin America: Racial Revolt in the Making."

I've never heard of this organization before, but Al's apparently been on their case for many months.

Stratfor is one of these snake-oil disinfo sales firms that traffics in "intelligence briefings" for people gullible enough to pay for them. Imagine that: you can get lied to for free all over this great land, but some people actually pay to be deceived!

....In my opinion, Stratfor engages in circulating disinformation into the datasphere through its free and paid email memos in ways that seem aimed to help the agendas of that very same corporate world that contracts its services.

Al surgically dissects the falsehoods, corrects the record, and as always assembles the pieces of the Latin American puzzle into a coherent picture of the current upheaval being caused by neo-liberal, free trade politics in the southern part of this hemisphere.

* * * * *

To the North where BigLeftOutside rarely treads, the news is not any better on the treatment of their indigenous population. While the US is busy frying the native populations to the south with fumigants, the Canadian police are literally freezing their own indigenous to death.

This disturbing story has nothing directly to do with the WODSU or corporate exploitation but I think it illustrates the danger of accepting implicit bigotry as a necessary consequence of law enforcement in any arena. We are all diminished as human beings when we allow any group of people to be marginalized in the name of public safety.

Left for Dead in a Saskatchewan Winter
A Survivor's Story Exposes Police Abuse of Indigenous Canadians
is a chilling illlustration of bigotry run amok.

Darrell Night, a member of the Cree Nation, recalls thinking the cops were going to throw him in the drunk tank, but they drove straight out of town. They took him to an isolated spot three miles outside Saskatoon.

....Night watched the car drive off, its lights trailing out of sight. The wind was whipping on the night of Jan. 28, 2000, in Saskatchewan, where there can be sudden blizzards and temperatures may drop to 40 degrees below zero. He was wearing a T-shirt, jeans, a jeans jacket and running shoes.

....Night's account of his survival transfixed Saskatoon and opened a window on what some have called the dark side of the city's police force, which may have imposed its own death penalty on the wind-whipped prairie. Over the years, at least five frozen bodies of aboriginal men have been found in the same area. There were always rumors the police had dropped them off, but there was nothing to prove it until Night made it back alive.

Unfortunately, justice was barely served in this case.

....constables Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson of the Saskatoon Police Service were convicted of unlawful confinement in September 2001 and sentenced to eight months in prison. The maximum sentence for an unlawful confinement conviction is 10 years. They are now free.

As my mother used to say when we travelled, "Oh look, just like back home."


But enough of the depressing stuff, there are actually some positive global developments to report. The Jamaican parliament may finally take up the issue of decriminalizing marijuana after 26 years of commission hearings and studies. Keith Stroup of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance are scheduled to testify at further hearings next week. Interestingly, in contrast to the chest beating that went on around similar Canadian legislation, the Bush administration and its narco-thugs have had little to say on the issue.

* * * * *

In the United Kingdom, Drug Policy News reports sensible, cost-effective treatment reforms are pending.

Caroline Flint, only four months into her term as Prime Minister Blair’s drugs minister, has formulated “a coherent drug treatment system” according to The Guardian. The plan rests on two pillars - throughcare, implemented after a drug arrest, and aftercare, designed to reduce recidivism “long after” incarceration or treatment are complete.

Sure sounds more sensible than the 'lock em up and throw away the key' mentality of the US gulag. I wonder if Tony Blair would trade her to us for John Walters?

And in other news, the UK Cannabis Party is fielding as many as 120 candidates nationwide in the upcoming general election. Can't wait for those election returns.

* * * * *

Finally taking a long hop over to the other side of the globe, I can't resist sharing this item from the Bulletin Antiprohibitionist.

Manali in Himachal Pradesh state is a Mecca for cannabis tourism. Product quality is very high and the stuff is sold under names like "AK47", "Russian Mist", "Dope Oil", "Space Ball" and "Malani Cream".

Any bets that the vendors also speak good English when they invite you up into their rooms? US consumers 'Americanize' these communities the world over. I've seen it in Jamaica, Belize, the Yucatan and Amsterdam. This is just another reason the premise of the WODSU is so absurd. US demand drives the market internationally.

Keep that in mind when you see statistics on foreign substance use. In reality, great numbers of US citizens travel to these countries, many of them lingering on as ex-pats precisely because they can get quality drugs at reasonable prices.


With that in mind, last word goes to Glenn Backes of Drug Policy Alliance who rightly urges the prohibition addicts to abandon the myth of a "drug free America'.

Federal and state governments flush about $40 billion a year trying to win the war on drugs. The lion's share goes toward busting, trying, and incarcerating nonviolent drug users and petty dealers. The federal prison bill for housing over 78,000 drug offenders exceeds $1.8 billion every year. Most of the men and women in federal prisons for drug offenses are first-time, nonviolent offenders.

...It's time for a new approach. First off, let's abandon the "drug-free" myth. Clinging to this impossible goal clouds our common sense and perverts our policy priorities. Instead, we should focus on implementing new drug policies that are fiscally responsible and have the goal of keeping Americans safe and healthy

It works for me.

Friday, November 21, 2003


Well much to my regret, I didn't make it to NYC and it's been a really long day so I'm only posting the pressing issues tonight.

First up on the short list is this poll at CJOH-TV, the self proclaimed News and Entertainment Programming Leader in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, on the legalization of marijuana. I love "freeping the polls", it proves we're serious, and so far it's running 65% in favor. Take a minute to cast your ballot.

* * * * *


For those of you living in the Commonwealth of Mass, there's another opportunity for timely action. A decision is pending on the UMASS Amherst request to be licensed as a FDA-approved research facility for medical marijuana. We need to remind Governor Romney that his constituents want this to happen. Take just one more minute to send a pre-written letter at the MASS NORML site.

* * * * *


I don't really have a last word tonight so I leave you with the first reported conviction that I'm aware of for web rage.

By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Call it spam rage -- a Silicon Valley computer programmer has been arrested for threatening to torture and kill employees of the company he blames for bombarding his computer with Web ads promising to enlarge his penis.

In one of the first prosecutions of its kind in the state that made "road rage" famous, Charles Booker, 44, was arrested on Thursday and released on $75,000 (45,000 pounds) bond for making repeated threats to staff of an unnamed Canadian company between May and July, the U.S. Attorney's office for Northern California said on Friday.

To be fair his computer had been rendered almost unusable for about two months by a barrage of pop-up advertising and e-mail and he had neither the means nor intention of following through on his threats. He probably should have just invested in a good spam filter but then again, the spammer should have taken him off the list the first time he asked.

He now faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. I think justice would be better served if they just sent him to a anger management class.

Thursday, November 20, 2003


I'm trying to figure out how to make it to NYC tomorrow to attend the NY NORML fundraiser at The Slipper Room, 167 Orchard Street, at the corner of Stanton Street. That's the lower east side just under 2nd and 2nd and just above Chinatown. I'm way overdue for a trip to the Apple but the timing as always is a little bit off. I sure would like to finally meet Preston Peet and hear his set though.

In any event, just in case I get there and don't blog tomorrow, I'm giving you a double dose today. I was thinking it was time to post some lighter fare.

First up out of the inbox is this game, Stoner Fluxx™, a new version of a game I've never heard of before but sounds like fun and the creators have pledged one dollar from every pack sold to the benefit of drug policy reform. I don't know these folks but I'll buy a deck of cards from a company who will post this on their website.

We believe the public is ready to start openly talking about the need to end the drug war, yet the topic of legalization has been so taboo that people have been afraid to bring up the subject," stated Andrew Looney, co-founder and Creative Director of Looney Labs. "We're hoping that a fun and easy card game will be a good way to break the ice. Party games usually are."

Groups benefiting from sales of Stoner Fluxx, which retails for $13, include NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), the Drug Policy Alliance, MPP (Marijuana Policy Project) and, among others.

Three of my favorite organizations and I have a feeling the among others are on my list too.


I subscribe to the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics newsletter. The science often goes over my head but they occassionally post something I can really relate to. This one is for the memory impaired on my reading list, Insufficient Memory - Can a pill boost your brain’s ability to hold information?

The article would suggest that the answer is yes.

Swallowing pills to make learning easier or to make memories stick is no longer pie-in-the-sky thinking. Scientists have learned so much about the way the human brain learns and remembers that they are fashioning the first generation of memory enhancers.

"It's no longer just about correcting an abnormality," said Steven Ferris, executive director of the Silberstein Aging and Dementia Research Center at New York University School of Medicine. "The idea that we only use drugs to treat disease is changing."

No one thinks twice, he said, about spending to correct age-related body changes affecting hair, the eyes, bones, skin, even erectile dysfunction. "Why should the brain be any different?" he asked.

Why indeed.


I don't remember how I found this site but I found it amusing enough to save the link. It's hasn't changed much in the last few weeks except for the contests. The archived content is good for a few entertaining moments however, after all, who doesn't love a good plate of nachos once in a while?.


One thing I really love about attending drug reform conferences is the opportunity to network with other activists. Fighting against this WOSDU from behind the computer screen can be a lonely business and it's energizing to meet your fellow warriors and hear of their successes in the greater struggle to enact sane policy.

One of the people I connected with in New Jersey was Norma Sapp of the Oklahoma chapter of NORML. Norma is an amazing woman and a tireless reformer who together with a group of courageous activists have made incredible progress in sentencing reform in their state.

I was glad to hear from Norma this week. They are blazing a trail for reform in the south. She reports having a heavily scheduled week of meetings on her return home and this encouraging news.

The best thing I heard there was one of our highest ranking Senators said "we have to get rid of Mandatory Sentencing". I have about 4 weeks to help him get out a good bill for the session!

You can bet the ranch she will deliver that bill. She also returned to find a new chapter of FAMM had organized in her short absence and she'll be lending her expertise to this effort as well. Keep an eye on OK. I have a feeling we are going to see some real progress coming from there in the weeks to come thanks to this human dynamo. You rock Norma.


Speaking of sentencing reform, one reason our prisons are filled beyond their intended capacity is the John Ashcroft inspired zero tolerance - give no defendant a break under any circumstances- practice of reincarcerating probationers for minor violations of their probationary conditions.

Robert Kroll's excellent piece on the impact of this practice on fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures just surfaced in the inbox recently. He makes an irrefutable case for reform in this process.

Any person convicted of ANY drug or other serious offenses who is put on probation, loses the legal right to refuse unreasonable, unwarranted, police searches.

...The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Those words are sacred in a free society, are among the precious liberties we have; the protection against oppression.

....Hundreds of times a day, throughout the United States, judges deprive persons of this protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, for periods lasting three to five years, depending on the crime. And, an untold number of times a day, throughout the country, police officers take advantage of the judges’ permission to search unreasonably, which is to say, without any probable or just cause other than perhaps their dislike for a person’s race, ethnicity, appearance, politics, status or attitude. Police have lists of Fourth Amendment waivers and use it as their cheat sheet for busting drug abusers and thieves without cause. Anyone who doubts this has not been keeping up with the stream of reporting of police misconduct nationally.

These policies amount to licensed bigotry and should concern us all whether or not we have loved ones lost to the prison-industrial complex.


Your favorite danger to civilized society and mine, the ever repugnant Mark Souder is up to his evil tricks and is attempting to introduce legislation to impose even more draconian sentences on "drug crimes". The alert is not even posted on the websites yet so I give you the basic info from Drug Policy Alliance in toto.

The so-called Drug Sentencing Reform Act has yet to be introduced, but
it will do the following:

** Tie the hands of judges by making it harder for them to reduce sentences for non-violent drug offenders. (It does this by expanding the so-called 'Feeney Amendment' to apply to drug offenses). This will mean longer sentences for non-violent offenses, with taxpayers like you picking up the cost!

** Mandates that most people on parole, probation or supervised release be subjected to random drug testing, even if their original offense had nothing to do with drugs. (If enacted, thousands of non-violent Americans could be sent to prison for years for smoking marijuana in the privacy of their own home and then failing a drug test.)

** Directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to no longer allow lower sentences for non-violent drug offenders that have certain mitigating circumstances (such as being addicted to drugs) or for non-violent drug offenders that made a mistake and are otherwise good citizens.

** Enacts new draconian penalties for growing, distributing, and providing 'high-potency' marijuana to others, including medical marijuana - which often has a higher potency to better relieve the suffering of AIDS, Cancer, and other patients. If enacted, this provision will allow the federal government to send more medical marijuana patients and their caregivers to federal prison for years, in some cases decades.

Don't wait for this proposal to get legs. Call your representatives now and tell them not to support this insane legislation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


The mood has been subdued in lovely downtown Noho this week. Nothing of any import has happened so far and there's a lot in the inbox, so we're going to jump right into the drug war tonight.

The corporate component of this war popped up in all too many places today. From last week's issue of Colombia Week, a breakdown of the funds the US Senate appropriated to fight the 'drug war ' notes that half of a $600 million package of aid to the country hinges on US State Department mandated reforms in their internal policies.

The interesting part however was this.

Some $300 million of the aid is slated for drug crop eradication, drug flight interdiction, and military aid, including training by U.S. personnel and support of brigades protecting a pipeline that carries 100,000 barrels a day for Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum.

Note the military aid. It's not the first time I've heard about the interdiction efforts being concentrated in the area of that pipeline. Seems the paramilitary groups like to sabotage it occassionally. In a little reported provision, the funding doesn't stop there.

In addition to the aid focused on Colombia, the bill would also fund the Andean Counter-Drug Initiative at $697 million. The initiative funds institutional development and human rights protection in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

...The bill proceeded to a conference committee for reconciliation with a version the House of Representatives passed in July. Both the Senate and House versions of the bill permit funding the fight against groups the State Department has labeled “terrorist.”

Funny we have a lot of corporate interest in mineral rights in that whole quadrant.

* * * * *

In a related piece, the defeat of Uribe's austerity referendum (initiated in response to an IMF directive), and the subsequent election of local leftists has energized Columbia's labor movement.

But Uribe still appears determined to slash the government budget, as required under an International Monetary Fund loan agreement that his administration signed in January. He’s contemplating a refinancing of government debt, harsh cuts in social programs, a sales tax hike, and new taxes on pensions. The measures would disproportionately hurt the nation’s working class, already burdened by a flood of privatizations during Uribe’s first 15 months in office.

Union president Juan Carlos Galvis said, “We must keep organizing to channel this new awakening of social consciousness.”

But such organizing won’t be easy. At least 58 Colombian unionists have been murdered this year.

Despite the perils, Galvis remains confident. “The referendum’s failure signaled for the first time to the people that the government could not crush popular protest,” he said. “We know now that it’s possible to win.”

The people are winning all over the Americas. If they can do it there, we can do it here.


Looking across the globe to the Middle East piece of this puzzle, Stephen Marshall posted an enlightening dispatch on Noami Klein's presentation at the Media Reform Conference recently held in Madison, Wisconsin.

Naomi distills the neo-con/multicorporate agenda to it's purest form. Her take on Iraq is much more articulate than mine.

I believe that the goal of this war was to bomb, into being, a new free trade zone. Precisely because of the enormous backlash against these economic policies by countries that have already adopted them. Capitalism functions like a drug addict. The drug is growth.

And if you believe, as I do, that that is actually the goal of the war: market expansion and growth... not just oil but water, roads, schools, hospitals, private jails, anything that can be turned into a commodity and sold, then you have to say: 'OK, if that's the goal, how's it going?'

It's going great.

It's not a mess. It's not a morass. It's not a quagmire. In fact, it's going so well that the Economist recently describe Iraq as a "capitalist dream." And the Financial Times described what Paul Bremer has managed to achieve in terms of economic reforms as "a wishlist for foreign investors." And he has done, in six months in Iraq, what it took three decades to achieve in Latin America. In a single day, on September 19, he passed a set of policies that literally usually take three decades to get.

...On September 19, Bremer introduced Order 39, which overturned Iraq's constitution. It allowed 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses and it put 200 Iraqi state companies up for privatization, up for sale. And it also said that companies coming into Iraq can take 100 % of their profits out of the country. It also gave them a massive tax break. Bigger than anything Bush has been able to achieve. The top tax bracket in Iraq before September 19 was 45%, which is what it is in Canada. It's now a 15% flat tax. So this is an economic overhaul. It is shock therapy. It has already led to 70% unemployment, as you know. And we're not hearing about it. All we're hearing about is this strategic discussion from the military side. It's a distraction from the truth... from the fact that the reason they went into the country was to achieve this structural adjustment... to open it up.

This is what Iraqi freedom looks like.

* * * * *

And while we're in the area, a quick look at the current conditions in Afghanistan does not paint a pretty picture for Iraq's future.

In the two years since the war in Afghanistan, opium production has soared 19-fold and become the major source of the world's heroin. Much of the profit will support warlords and the Taliban. And in Paktika and Zabul, two religiously conservative parts of Afghanistan, the number of children going to school has plummeted as poor security has closed nearly all schools there.

..An analyst in the U.S. intelligence community, who seeks to direct more attention to the way narco-trafficking is destabilizing the region, says that Afghanistan now accounts for 75 percent of the poppies grown for narcotics worldwide.

"The issue is not a high priority for the Bush administration," he said.

So if the Bush regime is so concerned about eradicating drugs why aren't they eliminating the source of 75% of the world's heroin supply? It's not like it would be hard to find. They've already bombed the entire country into rubble and the poppies are practically the only crops growing.

The answer is they don't really want to win this war folks, they just want to keep using your tax dollars to wage it.


Looking back within our own borders, the temptation of easy drug war money continues to seduce our police departments. I feel badly for the honest cops whose reputations become tainted by the betrayals of their co-workers, but with apologies to Howard, I think they have to be reported.

In New York, Narcotics officers are transferred on charges of overtime abuses.

Facing charges that they cheated the police department of thousands of dollars in overtime pay, 24 detectives and six sergeants have been transferred from the department's Brooklyn South narcotics unit.

...The 30 transferred officers reported between $45,000 to $50,000 in false overtime, O'Looney told The New York Times for the paper's Monday editions.

That would be your tax dollars being stolen in the name of the WODSU. They probably said they were doing surveillance on suspects.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, here in New England, recently deemed by drug czar John Walters to be the new gateway of heroin into the US, a report rips DEA enforcement efforts.

Three federal agents assigned to fight the drug trade in this port city mishandled evidence, lied to their bosses and were among the least efficient in the country, according to a report obtained by a Boston newspaper.

...The agents have been involuntarily transferred to the Mexican border and could not be reached for comment.

Interesting how these guys are never charged with fraud like civilian embezzlers, they are merely removed to undesirable assignments.


Last word goes to long time activist Mary Jane Borden who is inventing new language to frame this debate.

I'd like to introduce a new term into drug policy vernacular: chemical bigotry...the application of obstinate opinions, prejudices, and intolerance to those whose chemical profile appears one way versus those whose chemical profile appears another way.

Some might contend that chemical bigotry is justifiable because drugs themselves cause death and destruction. This might have a slight ring of truth if drug policies were evenly applied. But as a result of chemical bigotry, a substance like marijuana that is comparatively benign is banned while a substance like alcohol that is fairly dangerous is aggressively advertised. Further, since a regulated market approach to the distribution of what are now illegal drugs has never been tried, perhaps much of the death and destruction attributable to drugs actually finds its roots in drug prohibition. Bigotry will always try to prevent the introduction of new social policies.

The point is that we need to understand that what we really do in drug policy reform is fight bigotry. In doing so, we can develop better strategies and tactics to enable change. We may also find we have much in common with others who have fought in so many other ways to remove its shackles.

Monday, November 17, 2003

photo Mario Ossaba "Mama Coca 2002"

It's going to be about women tonight and continuing with the ongoing narrative I want to tell you about an extraordinary one, Maria Mercedes Moreno, co-ordinator of Mama Coca, who I met at the DPA conference. Her involvement in the international arena only begins here. She advocates for sanity in drug policy and basic human rights across three continents and does her work within influential political circles, yet she is unpretentious and approachable. We spent quite a lot of time together over the course of those three days. She's a charming intelligent woman and a tireless worker for many humanitarian causes.

Mama Coca is a project formed in reponse to the havoc that Plan Columbia specifically and US poitical intervention generally has caused to the indigenous societies of Latin America. The opening statement explains:

The publication of this journal is a manifest attempt at promoting a think tank through which we might exchange valuable information with our fellow academics, activists, analysts and journalists with the aim of furthering the understanding required to put forward collective, regional, feasible, peaceful proposals for the American Hemisphere.

The site also offers the best explanation of why the native populations continue to grow this nutritious and medicinal plant. Coca is not Cocaine offers clear reasons why the criminalization of coca leaf makes no more sense than the illegality of cannabis.

Let the people have their leaf.


One of the more overlooked statistics in the WODSU is the number of women, many of them mothers, who are currently incarcerated mainly for small time non-violent drug offenses. From an article in Press of Atlantic City,

The number of New Jersey women getting busted for drugs is skyrocketing - so much so that the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, built in 1913 as a reformatory for "wayward women," is bursting at its seams.

"It's like a mini city here," said William Hauck, associate administrator at the prison.

The prison's capacity is 825, but it currently houses 1,167 inmates. Seventy percent of them are in for drug-related offenses, Hauck said. Almost 80 percent of them are mothers, separated from their children, officials said.

"It's happening nationwide," said Jane Siegel, a criminologist at Rutgers University. "The war on drugs seems to have managed to sweep up a lot of women."

According to a recently released FBI report, 1.9 million women were arrested in the United States in 2002, 50 percent of them for drug offenses.

In 1979, one in 10 women in American prisons was serving time for drugs; by 1998, it was one in three, according to Meda Chesney- Lind, a women's studies professor at the University of Hawaii.

Other criminologists said laws such as the No Early Release Act and mandatory-minimum sentencing have had a greater effect on women.

"The law left judges with no option but to incarcerate," said Drew Humphreys, another Rutgers University criminologist. "Before the judges were more likely to give probation to women with children, now the scope of both the police and the judges has been reduced. Women drug offenders are more likely to be picked up and once they are in the system they are more likely to be incarcerated."

Easy targets for all predators, and you can be sure the majority of these women are poor and received school zone enhancements to their sentences because it's almost impossible to live in the inner city and not reside in one.

What happens to their children? How will they feel about the law when they see their parents in jail for years for small amounts of drugs and Rush Limbaugh gets caught with thousands of pills and is sentenced to a month in an overpriced rehab spa and a triumphant return to the airwaves? Why wouldn't they want to use drugs themselves in order to escape the reality of that kind of injustice?


New Idea magazine editor Sue Smethurst, who travelled here for an exclusive interview with Olivia Newton-John was handcuffed and and detained for 12 hours before being deported yesterday. She was also body searched by Los Angeles airport security staff.

Ms Smethurst says she will lodge a formal complaint with US authorities after she was treated as a threat to national security and deported back to Australia after more than 12 hours of interrogation and detainment.

"I was marched through the airport with my hands handcuffed behind my back," she told Channel Nine news.

"I was body searched, I've had every part of me groped beyond belief.

Is this supposed to make me feel safer from terrorists? It doesn't. The airport security thing is out of control and somehow I don't think this incident will improve US foreign relationships with Australia.


Last word goes to Danielle Chynoweth, founder of the Urbana-Champaign IMC, that's become the indymedia project you find all over the world today. From a transcript from an excellent speech on how to foster local, independent

The IMC network was born out of the necessity to cover non-violent acts of resistance to corporate controlled globalization. If they won't cover it, we will.

Her advice works for any group effort.

Just start.
Keep it simple, decentralized, and low to the ground.
Empower those who work, not those who just talk.
Groups that have been shut out or misrepresented are your natural membership base.
Give folks the tools and training to report their own stories.
Help people realize the value of their stories.

Talking to each other is how we are going to reach a common understanding of the public good.

Sunday, November 16, 2003


I caught up with Michael and Irma this weekend. They fed me the best shrimp jambalya I've ever had last night and in appreciation, I took them on a road trip to Millers to the Rt 63 Roadhouse today.

When I was little we used to take Sunday drives. My Dad would pile us in the car, no matter what the weather, and we would drive into the country and see what we could see. He always found something fun to do along the way.

Today felt like that, we left remarkably early and the air was gray and smelled of snow but as we made our way the wind turned and the sun broke below the cloud cover and we had a magical journey into Franklin County - not to mention a lovely visit with Jamie and Carol.

It was a good day to celebrate Michael's induction as an official inhabitant of lovely downtown Noho. Mike has been coming here to see Irma every weekend for the last two and half years, ever since I helped to get them together. It took him a year and half to learn how to negotiate the two blocks to Thornes.

This weekend however, he found his way - all by himself - to the Student Union at Smith College. Not only that, on the way home he detoured to Serios and still found his way back home. He was pretty proud of himself, but no prouder than we were of him. We were amazed he found the college campus much less the room where the sale was. And he came home with a prize.

I called him at 1:00. I just happened to look at the local listings for the first time in weeks and saw a fundraiser for the Smith radio station that ended at 4:30. They were selling vinyl records. He collects them. He called me at 5:00 to thank me for the tip. He found three albums he wanted and they cost twenty cents a piece. He usually pays sixty dollars for three. The line in the story that really made me laugh though, (sorry, only the Valley readers will get this joke) was when he said, "I knew it was past Faces"....


So having frittered away the afternoon celebrating this milestone I still don't have a condensed narrative on the conference for you. In fact it occurs to me that it could take a very long time to tell this story since it seems it will take three tries to finish telling you about my conversation with Howard Wooldrige and that happened at the opening reception.

It's a funny thing. I'm from the 60s, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would feel so warmly about a cop but I really admire this man. I think he is extraordinarily brave to give up the good will of his brotherhood in order to speak out against what he saw as wrong in the system. And yet he defends the profession of law enforcement and his brethen who now avoid him.

We discussed the press focus on police corruption. He was genuinely concerned that sensationalizing these stories would adversely impact the work of honest officers. He noted the danger in creating a adversarial atmosphere between the citizenry and law enforcement professionals is counter-productive to the movement.

It's a point well taken. I don't think we can ignore the corruption but I also want to say that I believe most cops are decent human beings who joined the force out of a desire to contribute to the public safety. I know my local PD contributes greatly to the quality of life here and thanks to any of them that are reading our little blog.

Howard did check the blog out by the way and it appears I have to issue yet another correction this week. He actually did smoke the herb up until two weeks before he entered the police academy so he does know what he's fighting for.


All that being said, the corruption continues among those less honorable within the criminal justice system and cannot be left unremarked.

The 'shooting ducks in a barrel' busts of cancer patients growing small amounts to alleviate their suffering is inexcusable and contributes nothing to the elimination of major drug cartels.

Carter Singleton, who had a clean record except for two speeding tickets, was circumventing the black market delivery system by growing his own medicine.

He thus avoided buying on the street and contributing to the criminal market. He is dying of a terminal disease.

Carter says he was weak and lost 80 pounds in five months from cancer when he followed a friend’s advice to smoke marijuana, which helped him get back his appetite and gain weight.

Do you think your tax dollars are being well spent on arresting and imprisioning this man? Keep in mind it costs about $100,000 a year to take him out of his home and keep him in a cage for growing a plant.

He now is awaiting trial on a felony charge of growing marijuana — which he admits he grew in his basement for personal use. If convicted, the 65-year-old could go to prison for one to five years or be placed on probation.

Call me strident, but I call this irresponsible law enforcement against responsible consumption.

* * * * *

Then there's trickery. I held this article because it rankled in the same way as the last one. This bust could only further diminish any sense of civility left on the streets by taking advantage of this guy's inherent sympathy for someone apparently less fortunate.

As reported in, a Toronto police officer talked man into drug deal.

A judge has thrown out trafficking charges against a defendant who was arrested when he agreed to purchase $20 in crack cocaine for a man in a wheelchair who was actually an undercover Toronto police officer.

Fareed Ahamad, 41, was charged with trafficking in November, 2001, even though the drug transaction was not his idea, he did not make any money and he believed he was helping a disabled man who appeared to be in pain.

To the cop's credit however, he did 'fess up in court.

Mr. Ahamad's lawyer, David Berg, praised Const. O'Driscoll for admitting during the trial that he initiated the drug transaction. The officer also testified that at one point in the evening, his wheelchair was stuck in the streetcar tracks and he was unsure of how to extricate himself without blowing his cover.

Sure sounds like a lot of trouble for a $20 bust to me. The money they spent on this trial could have paid for at least one crack addict's treatment program.


We can't deny that a drug problem exists on our planet. There are people who abuse drugs but we shouldn't punish an entire class of responsible users for the sins of the uncontrolled any more than we should hold the entire police force accountable for the sins of their corrupt members.

We do however, need to consider how to best spend our finite resources on this infinite problem. Last word on this train of thought goes to Tim Meehan of OSARC, from a recently published piece.

It's time to stop listening to special interests like the police unions, ill-informed MPs bent on scoring political points and the United States, who we now know fight wars, be it drug or conventional, based on lies. It's time to legalize, regulate and gently tax marijuana.

It's also time for closet cannabis consumers - and there are many in Scarborough - to speak out for our community and put an end to the violence that organized crime brings to underground markets. More police resources and more intrusions of privacy are not the answer. A half-hearted decriminalization bill that makes it easier to bust people isn't either.

Personal consumption of this plant should not be a criminal act but it won't become acceptable until respectable citizens step forward and admit they have been using it responsibly.