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 child molester.

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.

Double Standard

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 said.

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 region.

DEA official Michael S. Vigil proudly strutted for The Tampa Tribune:

"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 winning,"

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.