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In the News

Kevin Zeese eyes US Senate seat

Many November Coalition members have written us to ask, "Where is Kevin Zeese? We miss his writng and sharing his experiences."

Well, our friend and reform colleague is launching a Unity Campaign that he hopes will bring together several minor parties to support his bid to become the US Senator from Maryland in 2006.

For many years Zeese headed the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and co-founded the Drug Policy Alliance. He later served as president of Common Sense for Drug Policy. In the 2004 presidential race, Zeese was Ralph Nader's press secretary.

Zeese is testing early support for his plan to win the US Senate seat soon to be vacated by retiring five-term Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D).

"Divide and conquer is a strategy well-used by the dominant powers to prevent the less powerful from joining together to move forward. If the people unify around our common goals, we can achieve great things together," Zeese wrote in a press announcement.

For more, see

In memoriam: Facing prison, MMJ activist takes own life

Friends say Steven McWilliams was sick and tired. He was in pain. And he was terrified of going to prison. The combination may be the reason the medical marijuana activist and patient took his life on July 11, they say. He was 51.

"His health was deteriorating," longtime friend David Bronner told The San Diego Union. "And he was experiencing some lows. He was in pain, a lot of pain."

McWilliams, a former candidate for city council, was an enduring thorn in the side of the local status quo, having been in trouble with the law on numerous occasions. Most recently, facing prison after a drug conviction, the judge ruled that he must abstain from marijuana, the one medicine that gave him relief.

New legacy of shame

According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the United States inmate population has grown by 2.3% as of mid-2004. The BJS report, Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004, indicated 900 new inmates per week from mid-year 2003. BJS reports that one in every 138 U.S. residents is now incarcerated.

While the crime rate has fallen over the past decade, the number of people in prison and jail is outpacing the number of inmates released, the report's co-author, Paige Harrison, told Associated Press. Harrison said the increase can be attributed largely to get-tough policies enacted in the 1980s and 1990s.

11-year-old girl imprisoned for throwing a rock

Associated Press reported on July 16th that, after throwing a rock to defend herself from several teasing neighborhood boys, 11-year-old Maribel Cuevas of Fresno, CA was wrestled to the ground by a gang of local police officers, cuffed from behind with a knee in the back, arrested and hauled off to juvenile hall for five days. She is facing felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

The rock throwing incident, in which one little boy was slightly injured, was Maribel's response to being pelted with water balloons. Police "apparently came prepared for gang warfare" when they sent three squad cars and a helicopter in response.

"This is a case where the police department overreacted and won't back down," Richard Beshwate, Jr., Maribel's lawyer, told the AP. "I don't know if they don't like Spanish speakers, if it's racism, or if they were having a bad day. But how can you defend this kind of behavior?"

Schapelle Corby update

As reported in the last Razor Wire, Schapelle Corby, an Australian citizen travelling to Bali in late 2004, was arrested and indicted by Indonesian authorities after 4.1kg of marijuana was discovered in her baggage. Under Indonesian law, Ms. Corby could have faced the firing squad. Corby's story became an international sensation, and enraged the Australian population, who took to the streets in her behalf.

Since that writing, Corby was indeed convicted and sentenced to 20 years. According to the Australian Herald-Sun, as of July 4, in a surprise move, her case has been re-opened so that new evidence could be presented, primarily allegations that the marijuana was stashed in her bags without her knowledge. The hearing is not a complete retrial; it will consider only new witnesses' evidence.

Iran adopts reasonable drug policy

Middle-eastern theocracy Iran has dropped a zero-tolerance policy against increasingly common heroin use and now offers addicts low-cost needles, methadone and a measure of social acceptance, according to the The Washington Post. Alarmed at a 25% HIV infection rate among heroin users, the ayatollah who heads Iran's conservative judiciary issued an executive order embracing "such needed and fruitful programs" as needle exchanges, and methadone/ opium maintenance.

Supporters of the government's new approach laud it as practical and devoid of the wishful thinking and moralism that they contend hampers policies on drug abuse and AIDS in some other countries, including the United States.

Azarakhsh Mokri, of the government's National Center for Addiction Studies, noted a bill pending in the US Congress calling for imprisoning Americans who failed to report marijuana dealers. "Sometimes I think the ayatollahs are more liberal," he told The Post.

Feds take over prisoner healthcare in CA

In July the San Francisco Chronicle reported that US District Judge Thelton Henderson has ordered immediate federal control of California's State Prison Health Care System, citing the "preventable deaths of inmates" and the general "depravity of [the] system".

The decision followed weeks of testimony from medical experts that Henderson described as horrifying in its depiction of barbaric medical conditions in some prisons, resulting in as many as 64 preventable deaths of inmates a year and injury to countless others.

The federally appointed administrator will answer to the US Court, not Gov. Schwarzenegger's administration, and will have the power to order improvements regardless of how much it costs state taxpayers.

Illegal drug trade outsourced to India

High-speed communications links, plus lower labor expenses than in the United States, is what led to the outsourcing of jobs to India. This now appears to apply to crime, too.

In what has been described as the biggest illegal bust involving Indians, a multimillion-dollar drug racket has been unearthed by US and Indian authorities, according to international news releases in late April 2005. Predictably, the illegal drug trade flourished courtesy of the Internet, lax law enforcement and norms in India, as well as the economies of lower prices. (Source: The Asian Times)

Jail beating victim wanted fresh start

Dennis Saban, 43, of Portland, OR, was beaten to death in his cell on June16 after he had turned himself into authorities for outstanding drug charges. Saban had told relatives he surrendered himself to "get his life straightened around", according to The Oregonian.

Saban was placed in a cell with convicted murderer Thomas Allen Gordon, already known by jail personnel for his violent outbursts. When officials left the area to attend to a 'maintenance issue', Saban was brutally beaten by Gordon.

ONDCP ad consultant sentenced to 18 months in prison

A federal judge on July 14, 2005 sentenced Shona Seifert to 18 months in prison and ordered her to pay a $125,000 fine for her role in the Ogilvy & Mather scheme to overbill the government on its national anti-drug ad account. The judge also ordered her to develop a written code of conduct for the advertising industry.

Judge Richard Berman of the U.S. District Court made the ruling in a Manhattan, New York courtroom. Prosecutors sought a stiffer penalty for Ms. Seifert, who as executive group director at Ogilvy New York was the lead person on the Office of National Drug Policy account in its early days at the agency and the main focus of the trial.

In a brief statement that was barely audible over her sobs, Ms. Seifert said, "I regret that a campaign that was designed to do so much good was a source of pain and suffering for so many." A jury convicted her of one count of conspiracy to defraud and nine counts of submitting false claims. (Source:

More 'Reefer Madness'

While the drug warriors in Washington love to tout how many 'marijuana addicts' are in treatment, and how dangerous the 'new' strains of cannabis are, a report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), issued in early July, confirms that 58% of those folks in treatment for cannabis were sent there by the courts in lieu of prison, often for simple possession. (Source: Drug War Chronicle)

US prisons to get deadly fences

According to The Orlando Sentinel, two high-security federal prisons in Coleman, Florida and five others nationwide will be getting fences that can kill prisoners who touch them, a $10 million project intended to allow the prisons to operate with fewer perimeter guards (No, there isn't an escape problem). In addition to Coleman, the fences are being planned for Terre Haute, IN, Pine Knot, KY, Pollock, LA, Tucson, AZ and Hazelton, WV.

The so-called "Stun-Lethal" fences deliver electrical shocks to anyone who touches them once and fatal shocks if they are touched a second time. Stun-lethal fences were 'pioneered' in South Africa.

Turning Boy Scouts into drug informants

Easton, Connecticut Police Chief John Solomon is under fire for secretly using two teenage Police Explorers at Joel Barlow High School to uncover drug dealing activity there. Even the boys' parents were unaware of Solomon's questionable recruitment.

According to investigators, Solomon was recorded on tape telling a fellow officer "that he did not want the Police Explorers who provided information to be exposed or their safety compromised, that he did not want the parents of the Police Explorers to believe that the Easton Police Department was utilizing members of the Explorer Post for drug investigations."

Solomon denied that by using the Explorers to get information on drug dealing in the school he was putting them in jeopardy. (Source: The Connecticut Post)

Houston Police Lab faked results

An independent investigator has determined that, in at least four drug cases, Houston's already beleaguered Crime Lab faked results for tests that were never made. The report, released in June, casts doubt on the laboratory's largest division, controlled substances, which tests substances suspected of being drugs. The cases include one in which a scientist performed no tests before issuing conclusions that supported a police officer's suspicions.

The allegations of so-called "drylabbing" - concocting results without conducting analyses - may be among the most serious leveled thus far in more than two years since the crime lab came under scrutiny. One of the accused analysts resigned in March 2001, but the other still works at the crime lab. In a previous case, an analyst who performed tests that sent an innocent man to prison for more than four years for rape, was reinstated after the police chief recommended she be fired. (Source: the Houston Chronicle)

Another Tulia in Texas

The ACLU announced a settlement with Robertson County, TX in May, in a civil rights lawsuit over a narcotics raid that has been compared to the discredited drug busts in Tulia. The suit, filed in 2002 by the ACLU, accused Robertson County DA John Paschall and the South Central Texas Narcotics Task Force of engaging in racially motivated drug sweeps of Hearne's black community.

In November 2000, 28 people from Hearne, a town of 4,500 about 60 miles southeast of Waco, were arrested on charges of possessing or distributing crack cocaine. The arrests followed a six-month undercover investigation involving a confidential informant working with the task force. The ACLU contended that the defendants were targeted because of their race. (Source: Associated Press)

Scotland abandons prison drug tests

Scottish prison chiefs are to scrap the compulsory drug testing of inmates after admitting it had failed to tackle rising heroin abuse behind bars. Prison officers say mandatory random drug tests (MRDTs), which were introduced ten years ago at the height of the so-called "war on drugs", have actually encouraged the use of heroin in jails.

"The Scottish Prison Service did their best to implement what was a political decision. The drug problem is getting so huge, it would make more sense to test people to find out who hadn't taken drugs," Sir Clive Fairweather, former chief inspector of prisons, told The Scotsman newspaper in April.

Congress pushes plant-eating fungus

Drug warriors Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) and Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) have forced a provision into the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) 2006 appropriations bill mandating further testing on 'mycoherbicides'; pathogenic fungi designed to destroy entire crops of illicit plants such as coca, poppies, and marijuana.

In 1999 mycoherbicides were considered for crop eradication and quickly abandoned by the Clinton Administration, after experts in and out of government warned of the dangers. According to Jeremy Bigwood, researcher and co-author of Mycoherbicides: Biocontrol or Biowarfare?, "All of the research suggests it would be extremely dangerous to use them. They are toxic, they are non-specific, and they mutate. They are little chemical factories that produce toxic chemicals, and they can attack humans." (Source: Drug War Chronicle)

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