In the News
Guards accused of arranging attacks on prisoners
On February 24th when guards at Pelican Bay prison (California)
killed an inmate while breaking up a riot, two more guards at
the troubled prison were charged with arranging a series of attacks
on inmates, one of them fatal.
E. Michael Powers and Jose Ramon Garcia are the second and
third guards charged with civil rights violations in a federal
grand jury investigation of staff conduct at the maximum-security
prison near Crescent City.
On Feb. 14 former guard David G. Lewis was convicted of violating
the civil rights of an inmate he shot after a fistfight in the
prison yard in 1994. Federal prosecutors said Lewis deliberately
shot the prisoner because of a mistaken belief that he was a
A federal grand jury indictment, made public Wednesday, accuses
Powers and Garcia of targeting prisoners who were sex offenders
or ''otherwise disfavored.''Pelican Bay was also the target of
a civil rights suit by inmates that led to a federal judge's
finding in 1995 of systematic use of unjustified force by guards,
in violation of the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Louisiana's law requiring random drug tests for elected officials
is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled. The court
rejected arguments that citizens need protection from drug-abusing
lawmakers and upheld a lower court's ruling that the law violated
the U.S. constitution's protection against unreasonable searches.
Supreme Court To Clarify Termination
For Employee Drug Use
On March 20 the Supreme Court agreed to clarify when lower
courts can overrule arbitrators who require a company to keep
an employee in a safety-sensitive job despite testing positive
for illegal drug use. The Justices will hear a West Virginia
coal company's argument that an arbitrator wrongly refused to
let it fire a heavy equipment operator who twice tested positive
for marijuana use. [Eastern Associated Coal Corp. vs. United
Mine Workers of America, 99- 1038.]
Woman Charged Under Marijuana DUI Law
A Denver woman accused of running over and killing six teens
will be charged with driving under the influence of a controlled
substance under a new drug law. Under the Colorado law that went
into effect Oct. 1,1999 anyone driving with two nanograms or
more of marijuana per milliliter of blood is presumed to be under
the influence of the drug. Deputy District Attorney Bruce Nelson
said the tests showed Jessica Williams, 21, had 5.5 nanograms
of marijuana per milliliter of blood in her system within 90
minutes of the accident.
John Watkins, a Las Vegas defense attorney who has consulted
with Williams and who has specialized in DUI cases for more than
20 years, said earlier this week he believes the new law is unconstitutional.
"Just because someone may have traces of a prohibited substance
in their system does not mean they are impaired," Watkins
McCaffrey talkin' strong
On March 3, 2000 White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey addressed
the medical use of marijuana in Simi Valley, California. Speaking
during the final day of a national conference on addiction at
the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, McCaffrey
called medical marijuana "a crock." McCaffrey said,
"Ask a doctor if he really wants a big blunt stuck in a
patient's face as treatment." The drug czar did add there
"needs to be more studies", what he says after every
study that proves there are medical uses for the plant.
Amherst urges prohibition repeal
A non-binding marijuana initiative in the town of Amherst,
Massachusetts was passed by a majority of voters in March. The
initiative calls for government to "repeal the prohibition
of marijuana; and, in the interim, before repeal has been effected,
urges the Amherst Police Department to deprioritize the enforcement
of laws covering the possession of marijuana against persons
over the age of eighteen."
Colonel pleads guilty
As reported previously in The Razor Wire, Laurie Hiett,
wife of Col. James Hiett, who until recently commanded American
military anti-drug efforts in Colombia, was herself smuggling
cocaine and heroin back to the United States while her husband
fought the drug war in Latin America.
In April, it was reported by the Associated Press that
Col. Hiett himself not only was aware of his wife's trafficking
activities, but went to great lengths to hide and launder thousands
of dollars after her arrest.
DEA raid nets 2331 suspects
After a yearlong effort, the Drug Enforcement Administration
recently completed 'Operation Conquistador' by aiding in the
arrest of over 2000 suspects for drug trafficking in the Caribbean
DEA official Michael S. Vigil proudly strutted for The
"We really didn't target one specific organization. It
was anybody and everybody. We wanted to go in there like a hurricane
hitting the Caribbean."
Also according to the Tribune, absolutely no high level
dealers or traffickers were nabbed in the effort, and the disruption
to the drug trade will be minimal and temporary at best.
Colorado bows to political pressure
Sen. Jim Congrove, (R-Arvada) recently introduced legislation
to reform the type of no-knock police raids that resulted in
the shooting death of Ismael Mena in Denver last year. After
howls of protests from the state's prosecutors and police, Congrove
dramatically watered down his measures.
Sen. Ed Perlmutter, (D-Golden), questions whether police should
even use the extreme step of a no-knock warrant for non-violent
drug cases. 90% of the no-knock warrants issued last year were
for drug cases.
"How far are we going to go to go after drugs?"
Perlmutter asked in the Denver Post. "We're stepping
all over the Constitution for a really questionable goal."
Is it a drug war- or not?
Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey has repeatedly claimed that the
term 'war on drugs' is inaccurate, likening anti-drug efforts
to "fighting a cancer". He has even claimed that the
'drug war' is a term somehow conjured up by drug policy reform
organizations such as the November Coalition.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the guided missile
cruiser Valley Forge will be added to the United States arsenal
in 'treating this cancer' on the high seas.
"We're watching and we're going to get you," said
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Van Durick, executive officer of the 567-foot,
armed-to-the-teeth Valley Forge.
After 30 years of drug war hysteria, world record prison populations,
record overdose deaths, billions upon billions of tax dollars
wasted, countless lives disrupted and destroyed, rampant police
and prosecutor corruption, and the virtual evisceration of our
civil rights, things are only getting worse.
According to the latest report issued from the Office of National
Drug Policy Control, heroin and cocaine street prices are at
an all-time low, indicating widespread availability, while ecstasy
and methamphetamine are competing for the next 'drug epidemic'
facing our nation. At the same time, our Drug Czar and director
of the ONDCP testified before the House Appropriations subcommittee
in March saying, "For those who say this is a war, we are
SWAT raids high school
The Times Leader in Ohio reported that armed police in full
combat gear locked down an entire high school full of students
in March during a search for marijuana and other drugs. School
officials, who were notified only an hour before the raid, were
aghast at the heavy-handed tactics. Belmont County Sheriff Tom
McCort defended the raid, stating that the measures taken were
necessary to show the students that law enforcement has a "no
tolerance" stance on drug use.
Family values drug war style
An Ohio sixth grade boy held his class hostage with a semiautomatic
handgun until a teacher persuaded him to give up his weapon in
exchange for a tearful hug. No one was injured in the brief incident,
which took place in March.
When questioned by authorities, the boy said he wanted to
join his mother in prison, where she is serving a drug-related
sentence 150 miles from home.
"I don't know if he understood the magnitude of what
he had done. He just knew he wanted to go to jail and be with
his mother," local Police Chief John Higgins told the press.