Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

In the News

British cops admit smoking pot

By Mark Harrison, November Coalition contributing writer

Answering questions about prior marijuana use on a police department job application form is much different than answering those same questions in an anonymous survey, the Joseph Roundtree Trust Foundation learned from interviews with 150 police officers. Being absolutely assured their true identities would never reach police headquarters, half of the officers admitted to smoking marijuana in the past. Repeat: 75 out of 150 randomly selected police officers have put other people in jail for doing what they, themselves, have done.

Understandably, 85 percent said they support increased tolerance towards marijuana smokers. Seventy-five percent believe that the drug laws criminalize people who would otherwise have no police record, and half believe that current drug laws alienate the police from young people and minorities who might otherwise offer help with more serious crimes.

So what city police department might these candid officers be from, you may wonder. Colville, Washington (local humor)? Crawford, Texas (national humor)? No, of course not. The cops who were honest about past drug use live in another country. In the USA, honesty like that would unleash the FBI, CIA, INS, EPA, FDA and John Ashcroft under the authority of our country's brand new Patriot Act that tracks down patriots just in case they are terrorists who are acting otherwise.

No, these outspoken cops work in South Yorkshire - not Texas, but England - where most officers support the cannabis decriminalization experiment that began last year in the South London district of Lamberth, where 'busted users' are warned, their pot is seized, and then sent on their not-so-merry ways.

The police survey and the success that officers are experiencing in Lamberth - where police resources are spent on solving real crimes with actual victims - provides hard evidence supporting the efforts of Home Secretary David Blunkett to downgrade cannabis from a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to a Class C, according to a report last spring in The (UK) Times.

(Editor: Mark underwent cancer surgery in December. He will have one more chemotherapy as part of his aftercare. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers.)

War on Drugs does boffo box office

In Training Day, Denzel Washington delivers an intense Oscar-winning performance as Alonzo Harris, a too-far-over-the-edge undercover cop on the elite LAPD inner city narcotics unit. Washington's character alternates between charming and chilling, and finally emerges as a worse threat to public safety than the criminals he's supposed to collar.

Ethan Hawke also received a best supporting award as new rookie partner Jake Hoyt; wide-eyed, idealistic, and wholly unprepared for the harsh reality of the drug war at street level. In the course of a single day, Hoyt learns the unvarnished truth about his partner's arrogance and corruption. The film is gritty and real, and serves as a perfect indictment of the inherent futility at the heart of drug policy enforcement. This film is rated R for coarse language, drugs and graphic violence.

This hard-hitting drama joins the ranks of such recent studio efforts as the now-classic Traffic, Brokedown Palace, and Johnny Depp's Blow. Popular entertainment, especially feature films, tends to reflect evolving public consciousness, and these movies, while still rare, demonstrate a growing dissatisfaction with America's criminal justice approach to substance use and abuse.

Seven-fold jump in parolees sent back to prison since 1980

The number of parole violators returned to state prisons exploded from 27,000 in 1980 to 203,000 in 2000, a 652 percent increase, according to a new analysis of U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics [BJS] data by the Urban Institute. The 2000 figure surpasses 1980's total prison admissions of 169,000, say Jeremy Travis and Sarah Lawrence, researchers from the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center. Parole violators, they note, made up 35 percent of prison admissions in 1999, double 1980's 17 percent. "Beyond the Prison Gates: The State of Parole in America" uses the latest BJS figures to document the declining role of parole boards in deciding whether prisoners are released, the increasing reliance on parole supervision, and the unprecedented growth in parole revocations leading to returns to prison.

DEA's Hutchinson moves to Homeland Security

Drug Enforcement Administration chief Asa Hutchinson will be leaving the never-ending drug war next month to help prosecute the never-ending "war on terror." He has been nominated to be Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security in the mammoth new Homeland Security Department, and appears to be a shoo-in for the job. He is expected to leave the DEA and prepare to take over that position in January 2003. The new department will not begin operations until March.

The Washington Times reported that DEA Deputy Administrator John Bert Brown III, in line to take over as interim DEA head, also has the inside track to permanently replace Hutchinson. According to the Post, Brown is a career drug warrior.

Wisconsin rave rebellion

Racine, WI, police must have thought they scored a major coup when they raided what they described as a "rave" organized by a local civic organization early in the morning of November 3. But only months after the raid went down, it is turning into a major embarrassment instead-one that could end up digging deep into the pockets of local taxpayers, according to the Racine Journal Press.

It all began when Racine police infiltrated a benefit for the Uptown Theatre Group. Officers allegedly observed people making drug transactions and arrested three of them. It was their next move that sparked outrage and controversy. They then barred the doors and cited everyone in attendance-some 445 people, some from as far away as St. Louis and Chicago-for being present in a "disorderly house," a $968 ticket. That was too much for the Uptown Theatre Group and for most of the ticketed attendees. As they complained loudly and vigorously, the word began to spread in the electronic music community and among civil liberties groups.

By December, groups including the Wisconsin ACLU, the national ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project and the Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund, an affiliate of the Drug Policy Alliance, had joined forces with local attorneys and angry show-goers to start making life miserable for the city of Racine.

After receiving numerous complaints, the Wisconsin ACLU investigated. "The city of Racine needs to drop those charges and apologize," said the group's lead attorney, Micabil Diaz. He said the same thing in a letter sent last week to the city of Racine. He hasn't yet received a response as of this writing.

The local DA, hoping to make the hubbub go away, offered to reduce the fines to $100, but that wasn't good enough for the busted music fans. As the first batch of ticketed partiers appeared for their first hearings on the charges, legal teams outside the courthouse provided them with information about their legal options and the possible consequences of their choices. At the end of the day, 166 people had appeared for their hearings. Only 19 took the $100 "no contest" plea offer, while a whopping 147 people pled not guilty and demanded jury trials. Almost 300 people have yet to make an appearance, but advocates expect to see a similar percentage demanding their day in court.

Local attorney Eric Guenther, who is representing the Uptown Theatre and several of those ticketed that night, stated, "The police conduct was an outrageous violation of First Amendment rights to freedom of assembly and speech.

"Racine will pay a price if it attempts to prosecute these cases", said Guenther. "The city is saying it will have to hire a special prosecutor to handle the caseload, and it will have to pay huge overtime costs for police officers to testify in hundreds of trials."

This is in addition to a possible civil suit against the city, filed by theatre director Gary Newman, who claims the raid and arrests damaged the group's reputation and ability to raise funds for the theatre's renovation, a two-year-old project. "We have been harmed by this," he said. "They (police) decided they did not want this party to happen... the police blunder may end up costing the taxpayers."

And the Racine police still don't get it. "When we see probable cause to make an arrest, we do it," said police spokesman Sgt. Macemon. "The courts may disagree, but I don't think we would do anything different."

Racine taxpayers might have something to say about that when the bills start coming in.

Drugs allegedly used to buy votes in "Methville USA"

According to a report in the Oklahoman, a two-year investigation into a Haskell County sheriff runoff election has resulted in charges in what is alleged to be the state's first drugs-for-votes scandal.

Four arrests were made after an investigation into claims that Haskell County residents were offered either money or drugs for their absentee ballot packets, said Kym Koch, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The agency routinely investigates voter fraud, but this is the first investigation suggesting that drugs were exchanged for absentee ballots, Koch said. Questions about absentee ballots-an unusually high number-led to an OSBI investigation into Haskell County elections, District Attorney Jim Bob Miller said. "Oklahoma law says that one to one-and-a-half percent of absentee ballots in an election is normal," Miller said. "In Haskell County in the last election, absentee ballots made up 20 percent of votes cast."

According to court documents voters were offered either $20 or a "quarter paper of crank" for their absentee voter packets. Authorities said "a quarter paper of crank" or methamphetamine is equivalent to a quarter ounce of the drug.

MPP sues the Drug Czar

In last November's elections, for the first time in recent years more drug reform initiatives lost than won. Why those defeats occurred is the subject of much debate, but there are few who would fail to include the role of an energized and organized opposition spearheaded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and its director, drug czar John Walters. Walters crisscrossed the country in the months leading up to the elections, making stops in states such as Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio to campaign against reform efforts. Now the Marijuana Policy Project is fighting back, charging Walters with violating federal and state election laws.

MPP executive director Rob Kampia drew a bead directly on Walters' forehead in a press release preceding a press conference on Thursday, December 5. "During the fall campaign, John Walters declared war on the law and war on the truth," Kampia said.
"Today, on behalf of US taxpayers -- including the 5,000 who contributed to our campaign -- we are declaring war on the drug czar for his illegal and dishonest activities. In filing this official complaint, we are calling for the removal of John Walters from office for gross violations of the Hatch Act." The Hatch Act, originally enacted in 1887, bars federal employees from carrying out certain campaign-related activities.

"Walters has committed numerous crimes against the taxpayers," Kampia added. "He used his official authority to affect the outcome of the Question 9 election (marijuana legalization in Nevada), as well as other state drug policy initiatives, in plain violation of the Hatch Act. Because none of this activity was properly reported as campaign contributions, he is in equally plain violation of Nevada campaign finance laws. Walters conducted a campaign of lies against Question 9, using the taxpayers' money to spread misinformation."

Study says "gateway theory" is bunk

The RAND Corporation's Drug Policy Research Center released a study in December that casts grave doubt on the validity of the "gateway theory," the intuitive but unproven notion that the use of marijuana leads to the use of harder drugs. The "gateway theory" has guided US drug policy for a half-century and has been used by prohibitionists to justify imposing tough penalties for even the possession of small amounts of marijuana. In recent months, drug czar John Walters and others of his breed have seized on the "gateway theory" to campaign against relaxing marijuana laws in the states.

According to the study's lead author, Andrew Morral, "We've shown that the marijuana gateway effect is not the best explanation for the link between marijuana use and the use of harder drugs. An alternative, simpler and more compelling explanation accounts for the pattern of drug use you see in this country, without resort to any gateway effects. While the gateway theory has enjoyed popular acceptance, scientists have always had their doubts. Our study shows that these doubts are justified," he said.

"If our model is right, it has significant policy implications," Morral continued. "For example, it suggests that policies aimed at reducing or eliminating marijuana availability are unlikely to make any dent in the hard drug problem. When enforcement resources that could have been used against heroin and cocaine are instead used against marijuana, this could have the unintended effect of worsening heroin and cocaine use."

The study is getting attention from drug specialists. "This is a very important study with broad implications for marijuana control policy," said Charles R. Schuster, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and now director of the Addiction Research Institute at Wayne State University. "I can only hope that it will be read with objectivity and evaluated on its scientific merits, not reflexively rejected because it violates most policy makers' beliefs."

Visit the Journey for Justice archive!

The Razor Wire is a publication of The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform. Contact information:
795 South Cedar - Colville, Washington 99114 - (509) 684-1550


Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact