In the News

Bolivia in turmoil

Chapare coca growers set up roadblocks on the main highway between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz on November 6 in response to a heavy military buildup and fumigation campaign in this region. Although coca growers have not appeared in large groups along the main road, large concentrations and smaller groups gather on side roads. According to reports, security forces used tear gas and rubber pellets to disperse groups of campesinos, and human rights workers in the Chapare fear that widespread violence could erupt.

At present there are between 4,000 and 4,500 members of the security forces stationed in the Chapare. This is an increase of approximately 2,000 troops since the end of October. Although both US and Bolivian governments had stated that forced eradication should have eliminated the last illegal coca in the region by December 2000, widespread replanting of coca and active campesino resistance have impeded this goal.

Both governments officially state that a long-term sustained military presence in the region is indispensable to maintain eradication goals and prohibit resurgence of the coca crop. Initially, Bolivian military participation in anti-drug efforts was to last until the end of forced eradication. US commitment to funding a continued presence is both costly and damaging to Bolivia's fragile democracy. The permanent establishment of military action within antinarcotic efforts is therefore destructive of the nation's efforts to establish a credible civilian system of government.
Source: The Week Online with DRCNet

Canadians wise up to marijuana

It is now legal in Canada for terminally ill patients and those with chronic diseases from cancer to AIDS to MS to turn their back yards into their medicine cabinets. With the approval of a doctor, they can either grow marijuana or get it free from the government, which is paying a company to nurture the plants in an abandoned copper mine in Flin Flon, Manitoba.

Where does that leave us? U.S. citizens, who routinely cross the border for cheap prescription drugs, won't be allowed access to the Manitoba mother lode. If Canadians can't export their medical marijuana, is it time for us to import their policy?

The northern light on the subject comes in the wake of a Canadian Supreme Court ruling last summer that any patient suffering terminal or painful illness should be allowed access to marijuana when a doctor says it might help. Our own U.S. Supreme Court has moved in exactly the opposite direction. Last May, our Supremes ruled on narrow grounds that federal drug law allows no exception for medical marijuana.
Sources: Boston Globe and other wire service reports

Soap in a dirty drug war

Beware of lawless people carrying bars of soap. Alert officers of the drug war will not be fooled, and a person can go to jail for possession, as did Larry Hardy of Cooksville, Tennessee, according to a story in the town's newspaper, the Herald-Citizen.

Mr. Hardy was apparently standing around looking suspicious, according to Police Officer Brent Anderson who recognized the man from previous arrests. Thinking fast on his feet, the officer radioed headquarters for a quick warrant check. Sure enough, the officer's hunch was right. Hardy had failed to appear in court for not completing eight hours of community service on a public intoxication rap. The officer contacted the perpetrator, handcuffed and searched him.

"I found what appeared to be a crack rock (cocaine) in his left front pocket. Mr. Hardy stated that the object was only soap," the officer reported. Trained for situations like this, Anderson field tested the substance and discovered what indeed was a bar of soap wrapped in plastic. It is unclear whether the field test involved making bubbles. Determined to get his man, the officer arrested Hardy anyway for "possession of counterfeit Schedule II drugs." Mr. Hardy was jailed and bond was set for $1,000.

Peeing for the court

Robert K. Sanford was president of Adapt, Inc., a company that provides court-ordered urinalyses for people convicted on drug charges, and his business practices demonstrate just how adaptable he was. For as little as $500, clients could have their test results "adapted" to suit their particular needs. In most cases, clients chose to have evidence of all drug use eliminated.
The drug war was paying off very well for Mr. Sanford who was collecting both taxpayers' money for urinalyses and money from his clients to alter the results. Probation and parole officers became suspicious after noticing that the urine they collected in their own offices would send people to prison longer than the urine collected from Adapt, Inc.

Rodney K. Sanford, 49, pled guilty to federal charges of using an interstate facility to solicit bribes to alter court-ordered drug tests while operating Adapt Inc., reported The Courier Journal in Kentucky. The indictment stated that on October 1, 1996 Sanford collected a sample from a client who was about to be sentenced in circuit court. The judge said that if the test showed the person was on illegal drugs, a prison sentence would result. The test indicated the defendant had recently used cocaine, but Sanford accepted $500 to provide negative test results, according to the indictment. A probation and parole officer began questioning the integrity of the tests performed by Adapt in 1997. Mr. Sanford is scheduled for sentencing on December 14 and faces up to 30 years in prison, apparently to replace all those urinators he helped avoid detection.

Reading, writing and shooting

The drug war was being fought at Osborn School in Turlock, California when officers opened fire in the parking lot. Alert teachers and administration officials locked children in classrooms and had them take cover under desks. Meanwhile, not so alert police officers opened fire at a school full of children. A strong message was sent to the children of our country: police in the drug war could kill young people.

An undercover officer said he had been trying to buy drugs from a suspected dealer for some time. When the opportunity arose, the officer approached the man in the school parking lot. Instead of 'making a buy,' the undercover officer was robbed, and backup police began firing to protect their comrade. Two suspects fled, and both were apprehended within an hour, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee in September.

Why pardon this dedicated flimflam man?

After serving seven months of a three-year prison sentence for mail fraud, perjury and tax evasion in a hair growth scam that duped millions of dollars from bald people, President Clinton pardoned flimflam man Almon Glenn Braswell just before leaving office in January. Braswell wasted no time returning to his swindling habit, and his all-new Journal of Longevity, a slick 50-page advertisement magazine, illustrates his new 'con' perfectly.

This time the medical evidence isn't retouched miracle photos and videos of improved male pattern baldness. Braswell now offers a range of remedies for ailments from cancer to heart attacks in his publication that reads like professional medical research and sells like snake oil. For a couple of hundred bucks a month ­ depending on how soon a person wants to die ­ seniors are promised more energy, fewer wrinkles, a steel-trap memory, and as one would expect, an improved sex drive.

Almon Braswell's clemency petition wasn't on Bill Clinton's desk in those waning hours of his presidency because 36,000 citizens petitioned for his release, but it was on the desk next to the millions Braswell gave to Clinton and near the $400,000 in legal fees. Hillary knew nothing about this, it seems, and since she was running for New York State Senator, she made brother Hugh return every penny.

The president could have released thousands of nonviolent drug war prisoners who had served five years of their sentences to "time served," as requested by more than 36,000 citizens during last year's Jubilee Justice 2000 campaign organized by the November Coalition. Unlike Braswell, the great majority of convicted drug users leave no victims, but, instead, they become the victims of failed prohibition policies.

Sadly, the president was only concerned about relief for a man like Almon Braswell who, according to his former chief financial officer, Michael O'Neil, bilks about $200 million a year from victims who purchase "natural" drugs from13 different companies. In September the Senate Special Committee on Aging subpoenaed Braswell. In preceding testimony, O'Neil told Senators, "the products are flawed and laden with lies and deception" and "could not possibly deliver what is promised in the advertising,'' as reported in an Associated Press story.

Teens gain in fight against new jail

Alameda County minority youth, using creative, nonviolent tactics, have forced reductions in the size and funding of a proposed 540-bed juvenile hall. In one tense scene last Spring, the hip hop, inner-city youth stormed the Board of Supervisor's meeting-adopting protest tactics their grandparents used during the civil rights movement. One by one, sometimes shouting over board members, the teens argued that California already had too many Superjails for young people and that the money would be better spent on prevention programs.

As a result of these actions, state officials voted in May to withhold $20 million of $50 million earmarked for the project. Alameda County Supervisors have also scaled down their jail expansion plan from 540 to 420 beds. The inspired youths will return to Sacramento to further question state corrections' officials on the funding they call a "big failed government program."
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said the youths convinced him that building such a large jail "was wrong. Until these kids got involved, this jail was a foregone conclusion, but no more." Organizers say the campaign shows how a generation of inner-city youths has found that it, too, can play politics.

Support for legalizing marijuana hits new high

The most recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of American attitudes toward marijuana found a record 34% favored legalizing it, the highest number since pollsters began asking the question in 1969, according to several reports dated August 24.

Support for legalization had hovered around 25% for the past two decades, reported USA Today, before rising to 31% in August 2000 and 34% most recently. Legalization supporters were most likely to be in the 18-49 age group, residents of the west, and independent voters. Opposition was strongest among the elderly, weekly churchgoers and Republicans, the poll found.

"This is the highest level of support we've ever registered," said Keith Stroup of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "The idea of a consensus in favor of the drug war has been demolished. That is an incredibly important point. We're spending $40 billion a year on something that flat-out is not working. Everyone understands that now."