green NORML logo

SUITE 1010

T 202-483-5500 • F 202-483-0057 • E-MAIL NATLNORML@AOL.COM
. . . a weekly service for the media on news items related to Marijuana Prohibition.

January 16, 1997

Class Action Suit Blocking Federal Sanctions Against Physicians Who Recommend Medical Marijuana Filed In Federal Court

So there

January 14, 1997, Los Angeles, California:  A group of physicians and patients filed a class action suit in federal court in San Francisco seeking an injunction to prevent federal officials from taking any punitive action against physicians who recommend the medical use of marijuana to their patients in compliance with California law.
The lawsuit is a direct response to the Clinton administration's December 30 announcement of its plan to oppose the implementation of Proposition 215 by threatening California doctors with a wide range of punishments if they recommend medical marijuana.  The defendants in the suit are: Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Director of White House Drug Control Policy; Thomas Constantine, Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States; and Donna Shalala, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Representing the plaintiffs are the San Francisco law firm of Altshuler, Berzon, Nussbaum, Berzon & Rubin and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.
Graham Boyd, an attorney with the firm said, "Our view is that the federal effort to gag physicians is blatantly unconstitutional. Discussions between a physician and patient about the risks and benefits of medical marijuana constitute protected speech under the First Amendment."
Dr. Marcus Conant, a San Francisco specialist in AIDS treatment and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit said, "The federal government has threatened me and doctors like me with dire consequences simply for discussing medical marijuana with my patients.  My colleagues and I have seen marijuana work to relieve nausea and stimulate appetite where other drugs fail, and scores of studies support our observations."
The lawsuit was filed by Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights, a group of about 150 doctors who treat AIDS; Being Alive, an organization of people with AIDS or the AIDS virus; nine individual physicians, and four patients -- including former San Francisco police commissioner Jo Daly.
"The federal government has no right to interfere with the privileged relationship between a seriously ill patient and his or her physician," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.
For more information, please contact Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights (AMR) @ (310) 394-2952 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

New Hampshire Legislator Introduces Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

January 16, 1997, Concord, New Hampshire:  A bill has been introduced in the New Hampshire state legislature (H.B. 118-FN) that would reduce the penalty for possession of less than one and one-half ounces of marijuana from a class A misdemeanor to a violation.  The measure was introduced by Rep. Tim Robertson (18th-District) and four co-sponsors.
Under current state law, possession of marijuana is punishable by a one-year sentence and/or $1,000 fine.  Under this new measure, individuals possessing small amounts of marijuana would receive a ticket and a small fine.
NORML Legal Committee Member Michael Cutler, Esq. of Boston, Massachusetts, has been working with Rep. Robertson in support of the legislation.  Cutler said that he expects the bill to be referred to a study committee before being voted on by the legislature.
For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.  Rep. Robertson may be reached @ (603) 271-3529. Attorney Michael Cutler may be contacted @ (617) 439-4990.

California Doctor Threatens Drug Czar With Lawsuit

January 10, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  California physician Tod Mikuriya is demanding a formal retraction from Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey over statements made during a December 30 press conference.  At the conference, during which Clinton administration officials threatened to prosecute doctors who recommend or prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients under state law, McCaffrey falsely identified Dr. Mikuriya as the "Medical Advisor" for Proposition 215 and held him up to ridicule by implying that he had recommended marijuana for the treatment of a number of trivial ailments such as recalling "forgotten memories," "writer's cramp," and the "removal of corns."
Mikuriya denies that he has ever recommended that a patient use marijuana for those specific purposes and said that McCaffrey's statement's were derived from a draft of a proposed book he is writing on all of marijuana's possible and claimed uses historically.  On January 10, Attorney Rufus King of the Washington, D.C. law firm Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, L.L.P., delivered a letter to the Drug Czar's office asking for a clarification, apology, and appropriate retraction.  "Apparently you were referring to a draft of a proposed book I circulated for comment a few months ago, but every word of your reference, and your reference to me, was dishonest, and I charge knowingly so," wrote Mikuriya.  "You simply ignored the clear context of what I was saying, which you could not have overlooked in good faith.
"This gross damage to me, my reputation and my medical practice is obvious," Mikuriya continued.  "I demand a[n] ... apology ... in a venue and context equivalent to the initial publication."
If McCaffrey fails to respond to Dr. Mikuriya's request by January 20, Mikuriya says that he will take legal action against him.
For more information, please contact Dr. Tod Mikuriya @ (510) 843-0279 or Attorney Rufus King of Berliner, Corcoran, & Rowe, L.L.P. @ (202) 293-5555 ext. 340.

Court Ruling Allows San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club To Reopen

January 15, 1997, San Francisco, CA:  Citing the recent passage of Proposition 215, a Superior Court judge authorized the not-for-profit cultivation and sale of marijuana for medical purposes by the San Francisco Buyers' Club.  The club's founder, Dennis Peron, and five others still face felony marijuana charges stemming from the August 4 raid by state law enforcement on the nearly 12,000 member club.  Peron reopened the club, now known as the San Francisco Cultivators' Club, on Wednesday.
Judge David A. Garcia lifted a five month injunction on the club on January 8 despite objections from California Attorney General Dan Lungren.  The judge made it clear that his ruling applied only to the San Francisco Club and would have no legal force outside of the city.  He also mandated that the sale of marijuana be strictly non-profit for legitimate medicinal purposes.  Citing the passage of Proposition 215, Garcia stated, "The people of California have spoken [and] I don't think [Dan Lungren] or I are going to say that the people of California were ineffectual."
"This is the first time that a ruling permitting the cultivation of marijuana for medical patients has ever been handed down by a judicial officer," said Attorney David Nick, counsel for Peron.
"It feels like a victory," Peron told reporters during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held to mark the reopening of the club.  "I've never seen my name with marijuana that wasn't on an indictment."
Peron added that the new club is taking precautions to limit membership to only those who possess a doctor's recommendation for a legitimate medical illness.  The club says it will verify the legitimacy of the doctor by checking the state medical board's registry of Northern California physicians.  The club will also contact the doctor for an oral confirmation.  Members will also be given computer-generated ID cards with a photo and unique ID number.
Peron maintained that data on physicians who recommend marijuana to their patients will not be kept on the premises.  "No matter what happens, we're going to protect our doctors," said Peron.  "If the club is raided, our doctors will be safe."
For more information, please contact Dennis Peron of Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.



© copyright 1997 NORML NORML Home Page comments:

Regional and Other News

Body Count

Three of the five felons sentenced by Multnomah County courts in the most recent week received jail or prison terms for controlled-substance offenses, according to the "Portland" zoned section of
The Oregonian, (Jan. 16, 1997, p. 8, 3M-MP-SE). That makes the body count so far this year four out of 13, or 30.76 percent. The final tally for 1996 was 370 out of 675, or 54.81 percent.


Drug War Fails To Deliver - Oregon Deaths Reach Another Record

With its customary ignorance and bias, The Oregonian reported a record 205 people died in the state in 1996 from illegal drugs ("Drug deaths score a record," Jan. 12, 1997, p. A8).An objective report would have noted, among other things, that just about all the victims really died from the drugs' illegality rather than the drugs themselves.

The year before the total was 183, according to the same paper a year previously ("Oregon sets high in '95 for drug-related deaths," posted at

The Oregonian - and apparently medical examiners - continue to promote the myth that "overdoses" cause such deaths: "Most of the deaths - at least 155 - involved heroin, most of them overdoses." The "overdose" myth was debunked quite completely 25 years ago in "The 'Heroin Overdose' Mystery And Other Hazards Of Addiction," Chapter 12 from the Consumers Union Report on Licit & Illicit Drugs, posted at But the government, medical profession and media continue to sleep.

Some other vital statistics:

Oregon's 205 drug-related deaths last year included 37 people who died after using a combination of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.

About the only good news was a decrease in the number of deaths involving methamphetamine. The total of 31 methamphetamine-related deaths last year was a sharp decline from 52 in 1995.

But although methamphetamine deaths decreased, cocaine-related deaths rose just as quickly. The number of people who died after using cocaine rose to 57 last year. The highest toll previously was 34 cocaine deaths in 1992.

As usual, it was not mentioned that marijuana killed nobody, nor that alcohol killed about 1,000 Oregonians or that tobacco killed about 6,000. (See "Report says half Oregon '93 deaths premature," posted at Also omitted from the tally of drug deaths were all the people killed by drug warriors, for example, the Mexican grandfather shot by a drug task force that broke into his Salem kitchen one morning last August while he was cooking breakfast.

Gambling In Oregon - As Addictive As Cocaine

Ace of clubs, spinningThe financial manager of Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland's brick-covered downtown park, was arraigned Jan. 9 for ripping off part of a renovation fund amassed from public donations. According to "Square official owns up to embezzling $90,000" in The Oregonian of Jan. 10, 1997 (pp. D1 & D7), the 28-year-old, church-going "picture of youthful success .... Reportedly is addicted to blackjack and traveled frequently to Oregon coast casinos and Reno."

Perhaps surprisingly, no immediate call for a prohibition on playing cards was heard.

It's ironic that the state of Oregon advertises, promotes and profits from addiction to gambling while it arrests, prosecutes, imprisons and fines people for smoking or growing marijuana, which is demonstrably less addictive.

As editorial columnist David Sarasohn wrote in "Betting as civic duty" (The Oregonian, Dec. 15, 1996, p. D4), "...outgoing Attorney General Ted Kulongoski cites the lottery's own figures showing that 7 percent of players have a gambling problem. ... 'If the state promoted the use of alcohol the way we promote gambling,' Kulongoski remarked in Ashland on Thursday, 'we'd be outraged.' "

Well, actually, the state does promote the (safe) use of alcohol through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and countless other regulatory and police agencies. And probably spends a lot more on alcohol than gambling, too. But never mind that. The suggestion that 7 percent of all Oregon gamblers have a dependency problem should let one compare the addictiveness of gambling to the addictiveness of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. (In a very real sense, all "addictions" involve the same brain biochemistry. There is no real difference between chemical and self-reinforcing or "psychological" dependencies. Except, come to think of it, the editor is unable to recall ever hearing of a grown-up who stole in order to buy pot.)

In an article titled, "Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends On Whose Criteria You Use," in The New York Times of Aug. 2, 1994, posted in full at, "According to large Government surveys of alcohol users, only about 15 percent are regular, dependent drinkers. Among cocaine users, about 8 percent become dependent. ... About 90 percent of smokers are persistent daily users." (In the article, the federal government's top addiction experts, Dr. Jack E. Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco, rank six substances based on five criteria for addiction and find marijuana to be the least habit-forming.)

A dependency rate of 8 percent for cocaine (which presumably includes crack, just as the rate for alcohol includes fortified wine) is virtually identical to a 7 percent rate for gambling, assuming the 1 percent difference is statistically insignificant.

Although the U.S. government admits at least 70 million Americans have smoked marijuana, and 10 million have done so in the past month, the editor is unaware of any federal estimate - credible or otherwise - for the dependency rate of marijuana. If anyone knows of one, please forward it.

Note To Oregon Activists

A new Oregon legislative session is under way. This is where our real work is. Rep. George Eighmey, District 14, is introducing a medical-marijuana bill. Floyd Prozanski, District 40, is going to introduce an industrial-hemp bill. We need to keep on top of bills being introduced at the Web site Also, we need any inside information as we can get, so whoever has ears in Salem, listen up. To share your information or read other activists' messages, join the e-mail list-server "" by e-mailing the editor. Let's get the Legislative act together and start looking good. This newsletter will also attempt to mobilize reformers.

While you're at it, the 105th Congress is ready to act - and reformers should be too. An entire list of the 105th Congress can be accessed through Thomas at

90% Of Oregon High School Juniors Used Dangerous Illegal Drug

Ever notice how the government and mass media report on any alleged increase in youths' use of marijuana but downplay any comparison with how much more kids are drinking? So did this guy, who would probably be surprised find himself lauded here:
... we do indeed have an underage drinking problem in Oregon. Alcohol consistently ranks as the drug of choice among Oregon's youth, outranking drugs like cocaine and marijuana, which receive more attention.

According to the 1996 Oregon Public School Drug Use Survey, released a month ago by the [state] Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, 9 out of 10 high school juniors report they have used alcohol. Well over half have used it during the past month.

In the two years between 1992 and 1994, alcohol use among eighth graders increased by 13.7 percent.

- Nigel D. Wrangham, "Down the hatch: Pushing booze on TV puts society on downhill path," In My Opinion op-ed column, The Oregonian, Nov. 29, 1996, p. B9. (Wrangham is the drug education program manager for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and is project director for The Oregon Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking.)

If reformers could get people like Wrangham to look at the evidence proving marijuana is much less dangerous than alcohol, perhaps a new alliance could prevail on the mass media and government to quit basing news coverage and public policy on unfounded fears and widely promoted misconceptions. Like the "gateway" myth, for example.

Little-known fact: Drinking alcohol and throwing up is a drug overdose.

Of Course, You Don't Have To Pay The State Cigarette Tax

Zigzag papers If you can't keep drugs out of prison, how can you keep them out of a free society? According to an article in The Oregonian titled "Inmates make tobacco No. 1 on contraband list" (Jan. 14, 1997, pp. B1 & B7), "Prices vary, but a regular cigarette can cost upward of $200. The cigarette is then cut up and rerolled into thin 'pin joints' and sold for about $20 apiece." That would make the price of a cigarette behind bars higher than the price of marijuana or even heroin.

The article didn't say whether the demand for cigarettes was greater just after sex.

On a related topic, according to the Jan. 13, 1997 Oregonian:

Douglas prosecutor drops case against ex-jail officer

ROSEBURG - A prosecutor has declined to press charges against a former Douglas County sheriff's corrections officer accused of trading cigarettes to inmates for sexual favors.

Two women inmates said they agreed to strip off their clothes in exchange for cigarettes from Terrance Trout in the Douglas County Jail. Trout resigned Aug. 28 [p. B6].

'Books And Crooks' Not The Apt Slogan It Seemed

Back in
May 1996, Multnomah County commissioners, law-enforcement officials and local media got a record-low turnout of voters to endorse almost $300 million in bonds and levies (including interest) for new and old jails. At the same time, voters endorsed new bonds for libraries. The "guns" and "butter" measures were promoted jointly with the slogan "Books and Crooks."

Then the November 1996 election came along and state voters passed Measure 47, which is expected to reduce property-tax revenue about 20 percent. "Books and Crooks" is now out the window, or the "books" part of the equation anyway. As reported by The Oregonian in "Library plans cuts, layoffs, closures":

Less than eight months after Multnomah County voters approved two tax measures to expand and improve their libraries, more than half of the libraries' 14 branches are targeted for closure. ... The first hit will come Jan. 12, when 17 newly hired library workers will be "released." More than 20 other workers will shift back to prior duties and reduced hours. ... branch hours will be cut to pre-levy levels ... purchases of new books will be cut by $300,000 ... the renovated Central Library's operating hours will be reduced ... [and] the reference information phone service will be eliminated. (Jan. 4, 1997, pp. A1 & A10).
So far, however, all the new jails endorsed by Multnomah County voters in May are still on the fast track.

Measure 47 has not slowed the state's prison-building juggernaut, either. As one Tom McCarthy noted in a "Letter to the Editor" of The Oregonian titled "Priorities mixed up on prisons, schools" (Jan. 15, 1997, p. B11), "We are currently considering making cuts to just about every positive service the state provides for its citizens, while at the same time we are going forward with what may be the largest single investment the state has ever made, in building new prisons. ... There has been no discussion as to whether we actually need to build eight new prisons."

Portland Public Hearings Let You Speak Against Busting Pot Offenders

In a news article titled "The Big Chill," about impending cuts in Portland's municipal budget occasioned by property-tax limits in Measure 47, Willamette Week reported on Nov. 20, 1996, that "Public safety agencies account for 57 percent of the city general fund. If they were exempt from cuts, the other city bureaus would face 40 to 50 percent cuts in their budgets. 'I am the police commissioner and I will not hold them harmless,' [Portland Mayor Vera] Katz declared." The same article reports, "Faced with about $50 million in budget cuts . . ., Mayor Vera Katz and other commissioners want the public to be involved when they break out the knives" (p. 11).

If more than half the city budget goes to public safety and more than half the public-safety budget funds the drug war, as the "Body Count" item above suggests, then probably a quarter of your local taxes are being spent busting pot smokers and other "drug criminals." Are you getting your money's worth? Here's the schedule for those public hearings. You can make a pitch to both city and county commissioners at each event, except as noted.

  • 7-9 pm Thursday, Jan. 23, in Room C of the Portland Building, 1120 SW Fifth Ave.
  • 10 am-noon Saturday, Jan. 25, in the Southeast Asian Vicariate, 5404 NE Alameda
  • 2-4 pm Saturday, Jan. 25, at King Neighborhood Facility, 4815 NE Seventh Ave.
  • 7-9 pm Monday, Jan. 27, at the Multnomah Center, 7688 SW Capitol Highway
  • 7-9 pm Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Floyd Light Middle School, 10800 SE Washington St.
  • 7-9 pm Thursday, Jan. 30, at Mt. Tabor Community School, 5800 SE Ash St.
  • 10 am-noon Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Scottish Rite Center, 1512 SW Morrison St.
  • 2-4 pm Saturday, Feb. 1, Kaiser Town Hall, 3704 N. Interstate Ave.
  • 7-9 pm Thursday, Feb. 6, Troutdale Council Chambers, 104 SE Kibling St. (Multnomah County only)
  • 7-9 pm Wednesday, Feb. 12, Gresham Council Chambers, 1333 NW Eastman Parkway (Multnomah County only)

    Federation Of American Scientists Endorses Prima Facie Standard For Medical Marijuana Research

    WASHINGTON (UPI, Jan. 10, 1997) - A group of scientists supported by some 45 Nobel Prize winners suggests the White House is dragging its feet on research into medical uses for marijuana.

    White House anti-drug czar Barry McCaffrey this week announced a $1 million study by the Institute of Medicine, but the Federation of American Scientists call that "a study focused on a review of relevant literature" and say President Clinton should instruct the National Institutes of Health to carry out research on marijuana wherever there are "prima facie" indications of possible medical applications.

    Federation President Jeremy J. Stone says "marijuana research has not taken place primarily for political reasons," and "it will not occur without specific instructions from the president."

    Stone says a secondary reason for the shortage of scientific research "lies in certain cannabis related difficulties in designing appropriate experiments," however he contends "we have no doubt that these experiments can be developed if NIH is instructed to try."

    He criticizes the 18-month study commissioned by the White House, saying "the least important function is to search the literature" as called for in the review announced by McCaffrey.

    Don Maple, a spokesman for McCaffrey, says the study "will establish and be a resource that everybody interested in marijuana research will refer to when it is completed."

    Maple argues there is "no body of evidence" that substantiates "that marijuana is effective for treatment of any medical condition." He adds that with all the research into medical cures for an array of conditions "somebody has got to be the gatekeeper of which projects get funded and which don't."

    The review comes as the federal government is forced to deal with new, voter-approved medical marijuana laws in Arizona and California.

    Drug Convictions 33% Of State Court Cases

    Dallas Morning News, Jan. 13, 1997
    By Michael J. Sniffen, Associated Press Writer

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Drug offenders accounted for nearly a third of the 872,200 felony convictions in state courts in 1994, the Justice Department reported Sunday. Property crimes made up nearly another third.

    Violent crimes were responsible for less than one in five state felony convictions that year, the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics reported.

    The number of state felony convictions actually declined from the 1992 total of 893,600 but remained well above the 667,400 in 1988, the year the bureau began this biennial study.

    During 1988 through 1994, the average time from arrest to sentencing dropped from 7 months to less than 6 1/2 months. The proportion of guilty pleas, which take less time than trials, rose slightly from 89 percent to 91 percent of the convicted defendants.

    Over the six-year period, the percentage of state felons sentenced to prison time remained virtually unchanged -- at 45 percent in 1994 compared to 44 percent in 1988.

    The median age of convicted felons rose from 27 years in 1988 to 29 years in 1994, reflecting the rise in the average age of the population as the large baby boom generation grows older.

    But teenage murderers were an exception to that trend. Teenagers accounted for 10 percent of murderers in 1988 but 18 percent in 1994, as they were recruited into violent crack cocaine trafficking. Later government figures from a different survey show that the arrest rate of teenagers for violent crimes, particularly murder, declined in 1995 for the first time since 1987.

    People in their 20s remained more crime-prone than older people: They comprised about 20 percent of the 1994 adult population but 43 percent of the convicted state felons.

    Fifty-one percent of the convicted felons were white; 48 percent, black, and 1 percent, other races.

    Felons sentenced to state prison during 1994 had an average sentence of six years, but were likely to serve about 38 percent of that term -- or more than two years -- assuming the 1994 release policies remained unchanged during their incarceration.

    The violent crimes of murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and kidnapping accounted for 18.9 percent of 1994 state felony convictions. Property crimes of burglary, larceny, fraud and forgery accounted for 31.6 percent.

    Drug possession or trafficking accounted for 31.4 percent.

    Forty-eight percent of drug traffickers were sent to prison, slight above the 45 percent for all felons; another 23 percent were sent to a jail, where sentenced usually were less than one year, and 29 percent were given probation.

    Of those convicted of drug possession, 34 percent were sent to prison; 32 percent to jail and 34 percent given probation.

    Clinton Hypocrisy, Latest Edition

    On Jan. 12 Ralph Hodges wrote:
    I heard on the radio yesterday that Clinton has announced a new effort to help witnesses of gang activity to testify against the gangs, free of fear of retribution. Clinton decried the fact that people were being intimidated into not speaking up about what they know to be true.

    Is this the same Clinton whose . . . drug czar has formally used intimidation against doctors, keeping them in fear of speaking up about the pharmacological benefits of smoked marijuana? What's this about Clinton being against fear of retribution? About encouraging people to speak up about what they know to be true?

    Drug Warriors Lie Again - How 400 Chemicals Became '400 Carcinogens'

    This week's debunking focuses on another "big lie" popular with the opposition. For example, Carol Stone of the
    Regional Drug Initiative in Portland repeated the myth that cannabis has "400 carcinogens" during a KATU Channel 2 "Town Hall" discussion on medical marijuana broadcast Jan. 12.

    On Jan. 10, 1997, Neil Johnson wrote:

    Attached, article I posted to DIV28 on the issue 400 carcinogens/chemicals

    Sheryl Massaro
    Mona Brown
    National Institute on Drug Abuse
    5600 Fishers Lane
    Rockville, MD 20857

    Dear Ms. Massaro,
    Dear Ms. Brown,

    I am contacting you due to a possible error/typo in a Dec. 13, 1996 NIDA press release. This press release listed your name as the contact person. The text of this press release can be found in: NIDA Media Advisories at

    The text at issue I now quote "Marijuana cigarette smoke typically contains over 400 carcinogenic compounds."

    I believe there is a simple typo in the above statement. In an e-mail to me, Dr. Billy R. Martin explained the possible confusion, I now include Dr. Martin's statement:

    [Dr. Martin is one of the federal government's top marijuana research scientists - ed.]
    | To: Neil Johnson
    | From: Dr. Billy R. Martin
    | The statement of 400 carcinogens I believe is incorrect. We routinely
    | state that marijuana contains 60 cannabinoids and more than 400 other
    | chemicals. I believe that carcinogens was mistakenly substituted for
    | chemicals. A big difference but I doubt it was intentional. There
    | may well be 400 carcinogens in marijuana but no one has systematically
    | documented them.
    I look forward to your response in this possible error. I believe this to be an important matter which deserves resolution.

    Neil Johnson


    'Drug Czar: Marijuana OK If Proved Effective'

    Rocky Mountain News [Denver], Jan. 12, 1997, p. 50A
    By Constance Sommer, Associated Press

    LOS ANGELES -- American patients will have access to marijuana and other illegal drugs if scientists conclude those drugs have proven medical uses, White House drug czar Barry R. McCaffrey said.

    "If a scientific, medical process establishes that marijuana has a medical benefit, we will move ... to make it available in America," McCaffrey said Friday. "That's an easy one."

    But the retired Army general said the question is for medical professionals, not voters.

    Last Nov. 5, Arizona and California passed ballot initiatives that ease restrictions on the medical use of marijuana -- and in the case of Arizona, heroin, LSD, and methamphetamines as well. California voters approved their initiative 56%-44% and Arizona voted theirs 65%-35%.

    Some chronically ill patients say the drugs relieve their pain more effectively than legal medication, and some cancer patients maintain that smoking marijuana cuts the nausea brought on by chemotherapy.

    Both measures are at odds with federal law and are opposed by the Clinton administration.

    McCaffrey's latest statement was more conciliatory than one in Washington in late December when he called the measures "hoax initiatives" that were "not about compassion" but about "legalizing dangerous drugs."

    The remarks were made at a Clinton administration press conference called to say that the federal government would prosecute doctors who prescribed illegal drugs.

    On Friday, McCaffrey said: "There are some doctors -- respected ones -- who think smoking marijuana is beneficial. We need to look into it. We need to respect their opinions, too."

    Canada's First Marijuana Store Opens

    Dana Larsen of Cannabis Canada writes:

    On December 20th, 1996, the Vancouver Harm Reduction Club opened what must be North America's first modern marijuana storefront.

    The Harm Reduction Club opened the "Dutch Embassy Flower and Tea Room" at 420 Grove Street and have been selling pot out of the small store every day since then. They've got banners in the window with slogans like "Marijuana is Medicine" and they've even got a sandwich board out on the sidewalk. They do a brisk business and have not yet had any police hassles at this new location. (Note that 420 Grove Street is actually their real honest-to-goodness address. Cool, eh?)

    (As you might remember, the Harm Reduction Club was operating out of a private home, but were busted on December 4. The three main organizers of the club face charges of possession for the purposes of trafficking. See CClist posts #56 & #64 for more details.)

    What follows is the full text of the full page ad which the Harm Reduction Club bought in local weekly paper Terminal City, announcing the December 20 opening of the new location.

    To get in touch with the Vancouver Harm Reduction Club call their new number at (604) 291-7729, or call David Malmo-Levine at (604) 617-1169, or e-mail him at (He may take a while to answer e-mail.)


    In other words, this gig may be North America's first shameless, above ground, fully accountable to the public, fully stocked cannabis dealership. Unlike Holland, we will not be serving any tobacco, alcohol, caffeine or other physically addictive drugs.

    The whole point of the thing is to reduce the harm that comes with the inevitable use of drugs by 1) separating the hard and soft drug market and 2) educating everyone who chooses to use these drugs to minimize unwanted effects.

    We stand by the studies done in Holland, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Germany and Australia, that the harm reduction drug policy is effective. Considering the police state we seem to be quickly slipping into and the environmental collapse looming from using too many synthetics, we feel that Canada must lead the way to end global cannabis prohibition, or world may one day become one great big Singapore. Or worse.


    We know times are tough and no cop wants to lose their job over a bunch of whiny potheads. We don't want to make you look evil or stupid when we open our business. We just want you to cut us a bit of slack to experiment, let us put our money where our mouth is and see if we can't reduce social harm or not - if not completely satisfied, double your drug war back.

    This isn't some joke or prank. We are deadly serious. Many of us have been writing letters for years, patiently filing out each Access to Information request after Freedom of information request....only to find out that our government doesn't possess any evidence whatsoever that prohibition works! When we confront them with this, they hang up the phone, or cut us off at their extremely brief "town hall" meetings.

    The court system is taking too long. Bill C-8, as you know, is practically law, and it will give you as much power over us as German police had over Jews in, say, thirty-six or so - long before the gas chambers, but just keep in mind Newt Gingrich is now calling for "mass executions" of all drug smugglers.

    Under Bill C-8, you can now hire our friends as narcs, set us up, search us without probable cause, seize our property and if you happen to be one of those few "bad cops", you may now choose to plant stuff on us and get to testify by affidavit to avoid cross examination. We don't even get a jury trial for dealing any more. Forgive us if we feel a little desperate these days.

    You don't have to go along with what you know is a witchhunt. Here are some ways to avoid it: 1) Keep busy investigating real crimes where people were harmed or property was stolen or damaged. 2) Wait until someone complains to you of some harm we have caused before you investigate us. 3) Use the findings in the Ledain Commission, the BC Chief Coroners report, the National Task Force on Cannabis in Australia 1994 among others to back up your conscientious non-cooperation with what can only be called drugwar crimes.

    Still not convinced? Take this quote for example; from the Dutch government report titled "Drugs Policy in the Netherlands - continuity and change"

    The Netherlands' view that cannabis products entail less serious health risks than hard drugs and thus require a different approach, is not even shared by all the countries of the European Union. Recent reports from abroad by authoritative experts on drugs support the distinction made in Dutch law between soft and hard drugs. Criticism based on views about the heath risks for which no support can any longer be found in the scientific literature can of course not be grounds for amending Dutch policy.
    If you are ordered to close us down, request scientific data first to back up your use of force, in order to avoid looking like fools in the media. No one will be able to give you any, and that will buy us some time.

    If you absolutely must bust us, please don't have your guns drawn this time. Lets be civil about these things. We may be marijuana dealers, but we aren't dangerous.


    Let's face it - teens use and abuse pot. You can't stop them. Throw them in jail? They'll buy it there too. If there is a problem with teen pot use, it isn't because the pot is all that dangerous, it's because prohibition makes a relatively safe activity more hazardous, and carries serious side effects of it's own. What do we mean?

  • The number one health consideration, impaired driving, happens more often in a prohibitionist system as 1) cars are used by teens to conceal their crime from their parents, and 2) the stigma connected to a criminal record prevents honest communication about a teen's need for help - in getting home from a party, for example.

  • The second most important health consideration, lung damage, occurs more in a prohibitionist system because 1) "safer smoking tools" like water pipes and glass pipes are banned, 2) there's no quality control on the cultivation methods, 3) "fake" pot and hash can be sold, with sometimes tragic results 4) prohibition deters some grow operations and drives up the price, which then prevents teens from cooking with ganja butter - a safer (no lung damage, no toxicity level) but more expensive way to get high.

    Prohibition also has some serious side effects:

  • To get to the soft drugs, teens often get exposed to hard drugs.
  • Some teens are also exposed to guns, gangs, and easy drug money.
  • Peaceful users, dealers and growers face a record, stiff fines and even jail time. In some countries they face much worse.
  • Young people are often direct victims of the drug war, be it in gang on gang violence or accidental shootings like Daniel Posse - accidentally shot dead by Vancouver Police during a marijuana raid (a raid which netted less than an ounce of pot).

    At the Harm Reduction Club, rather than be hypocrites (most of us started smoking in our teens) and turn kids away, we give teens access to safer "just pot" surroundings. They must promise to 1) smoke responsibly, 2) not operate any heavy machinery while impaired, and 3) respect our neighbors as they come and go. We give them a copy of the "safer smarter smoking guide", and we put 10% of our profits for free legal council in the event of a club activity bust.

    If anybody out there can show us that raising our age limit would reduce the harm further, we would be happy to bump it up to sixteen or eighteen or thirty-five or whatever.

    Consider this: the risks of caffeine are greater than THC in every way. Found in chocolate, soda pop, coffee, tea and aspirin, caffeine is physically addicting (with headache as the most often cited withdrawal symptom) and can cause unnecessary stress, lightheadedness, breathlessness and an irregular heartbeat - or much worse in larger-than-average doses. You can also die of overdose. Thousands do every year. Marijuana isn't even remotely as dangerous - no deaths by overdose, no physical addiction, and minimal health risks in a tolerant and open world.

    Now think about the real "wrong message" to give to your children. Remember, the little rugrats are often smarter than we give them credit for. They see through the reefer madness. Do you?


    Change isn't always bad. Sometimes, with a bit of forethought, one can take advantage of inevitable changes. Let's face it - this market is massive. We can all make tons of money going legit - and have lots left over to pay for schools and hospitals and turn Canada into what it could be - a land of peace, tolerance of alternative lifestyles and prosperity for everyone.

    An end to the drug war would take the economic power out of the hands of the drug corporations and put it in the hands of us farmers - right where it should be. The same thing could then happen with industrial hemp.

    If you aren't into any of this legalization stuff, at least leave us be. We are, after all, trying to make life a lot less stressful for you.


    This is it. Gotta draw the line somewhere. The witchhunt ends this Friday, December 20th, 1996 at two PM. At exactly two PM (not a moment sooner, for security reasons) phone your local hemp store and get the address of our cafe. Then get your (non-impaired) assess down there for a special, one day only sale on memberships and pot!!! For one day only, memberships will be half price! (5 bucks) and pot will be only 25 bucks for an eighth, or eight bucks for a gram sized joint (limit one joint and one eighth per member to avoid obvious problems).

    Now's the time. Either we risk arrest now (by the way, each club member's legal expenses are covered for all club activities, including this one) or we risk Singapore later, and not too much later by the looks of it. Bring cameras, warm clothes (this party may have to go late, like three or four days late) and all your Clay-o-quot courage, but please leave alcohol, aggression and weapons at home. All musicians, entertainers and videographers will be smoked up for free, as per usual.

    Now's the time. Everyone on earth knows prohibition is a scam. It's time to face the evil empire. The force of truth is with us.

  • Dana Larsen (
    Editor, Cannabis Canada, Canada's Magazine of Marijuana & Hemp

    Visit Cannabis Canada Online at:
    #504, 21 Water St., Vancouver, BC, V6B 1A1, ph 604-669-9069

    Join the Cannabis Canada News and Information E-mail List!
    Send an e-mail with a message of "subscribe" to

    Text Of The European Union's New Drugs Treaty

    The official English-language version of the treaty is now posted at

    Weird Science - 'Curse Of The Cocaine Mummies'

    On Jan. 17, 1997, R. Givens wrote:
    Subject: KING TOOT: Curse of the Cocaine Mummies

    Here are a few notes on "Curse of the Cocaine Mummies" [broadcast] 9 pm Jan. 13, 1997, on the Discovery Channel..

    1982 - Dr Svetla Balabanova discovered cocaine, hashish and nicotine in ancient Egyptian mummies.

    This raised considerable objections and criticism from the scientific community, but after several severely controlled tests Balabanova proved beyond doubt that the Egyptians had consumed cocaine, hashish and tobacco.

    Half of this show was spent disputing and confirming the accuracy of Balabanova's research which it turns out is impeccable.

    The second half of the show was spent speculating on how the Egyptians got their cocaine and tobacco. One expert after another either supported or denounced the idea of trade routes reaching to South America. This inane intellectual posturing ignored the proven fact that the Egyptians were using tobacco and cocaine and tried to re-argue the case on the basis that the Egyptians had no trade with cocaine and tobacco producers. This loony debate came after Balabanova's research had been confirmed seven ways to Sunday, so it was just plain stupid.

    After Balabanova extracted cocaine, hashish and tobacco from the intestines of the Pharoah Ramses mummy under close observation and on film, the accusations of error were stilled. Dr Balabanova extracted the cocaine from deep inside the mummies intestines to avoid any chance of outside contamination. Balabanova also did a hair shaft test which is considered proof positive that the individual consumed the drug rather than being outside contamination. Result: Ramses is a confirmed coke head!

    It is a great pity that the producers of this show chose to speculate on trade routes for half the show instead of commenting on how drug using Egyptians could have achieved such greatness. How did they manage to build the wonders of ancient Egypt if they were druggies???? (could there be a flaw in the prohibitionist vision of things) How did drug use affect everyday life? Who was using cocaine? These and similar questions were left unspoken.

    This sort of thing shows how deeply narcomania has affected scientific inquiry because the most obvious question after the drug use was confirmed has to be how they coped with it.

    In any case, repealers can add the ancient Egyptians to the list of unrepentant drug users. They used cocaine, hashish and tobacco among other drugs and that's a fact.

    R Givens

    [Givens later posted the entire text of the program, noting parenthetically:]
    This appears to be the text of "Curse of the Cocaine Mummies" before Reefer Mania changed the title from "mystery" to "curse." Needless to say, they didn't do a very good job of solving the "mystery" or explaining the "curse."

    Incidentally, I think the date was 1982 not 1992.....

    In any event,


    It was in Munich, in 1992, that researchers began a huge project to investigate the contents of mummies. When as part of their studies, they wanted to test for drugs, it was no surprise that they turned to toxicologist Dr. Svelta Balabanova for help.

    As the inventor of groundbreaking new methods for the detection of drugs in hair and sweat, she was highly respected in her field. Dr Balabanova took samples from the mummies, which she pulverised and dissolved to make a solution. As she'd done countless times before, she ran the samples through a system which uses antibodies to detect the presence of drugs an other substances. Then as a backup the samples were put through the GCMS machine which can accurately identify substances by determining their molecular weight. As the graph emerged with peaks showing that drugs were present, and as the printer spewed out the analysis of just which drugs, something seemed to have gone very wrong.

    DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:

    "The first positive results, of course, were a shock for me. I had not expected to find nicotine and cocaine but that's what happened. I was absolutely sure it must be a mistake."


    Balabanova ran the tests again. She sent fresh samples to three other labs. But the results kept being confirmed. The drugs were there. So she went ahead and published a paper. The reaction was a sharp reminder that science is a conservative world.

    DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:

    "I got a pile of letters that were almost threatening, insulting letters saying it was nonsense, that I was fantasizing, that it was impossible, because it was proven that before Columbus these plants were not found anywhere in the world outside of the Americas."


    From toxicologists to anthropologists - everyone thought the same.

    DR JOHN HENRY - Consultant Toxicologist, Guys Hospital, London:

    "The first thing you think of is that this is just mad. It's wrong. There's contamination present. Maybe there's a fraud present of some kind. You don't think that cocaine can be present in an Egyptian mummy."


    Yet Balabanova herself had been worried about contamination. First she checked all the lab equipment. But being a forensic toxicologist, that wasn't all she did. Balabanova had learned her trade from working for the police, and had been trained in the methods they use for investigating a suspicious death. She'd been taught how vital it is when an autopsy is carried out to know whether the victim has consumed or been given any drugs or poisons. And she had also been taught that a special forensic technique exists which can show that the deceased has consumed a drug and rule out contamination at the same time.

    So, anxious to ensure that her tests on the mummies were beyond reproach, she used this very technique - it's called the hair shaft test. Drugs and other substances consumed by humans get into the hair protein, where they stay for months, or after death - forever. Hair samples can be washed in alcohol and the washing solution itself then tested. If the testing solution is clear, but the hair tests positive, then the drug must be inside the hair shaft, which means the person consumed it during their lifetime. It's considered proof against contamination before or after death.

    DR JOHN HENRY - Consultant Toxicologist, Guys Hospital, London:

    "The hair shaft test is accepted. If you know that you've taken your hair sample from this individual and the hair shaft is known to contain a drug, then it is proof positive that the person has taken that drug. So it is accepted in law. It's put people into prison."


    The hair shaft test on a couple in Jersey [Channel Is.], showed their two sons had drugged them before killing them. And aside from the Newall case, the technique has been used in countless others over the last 25 years. Since it's also used for drugs tests on addicts, company employees and in sport, to suggest it could produce false results was for Balabanova unthinkable.

    DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:

    "There's no way there can be a mistake in this test. This method is widely accepted and has been used thousands of times. If the results are not genuine, then the explanation must lie elsewhere, and not in my tests, because I'm 100 percent certain about the results."


    If the fault was not in the tests, what else could lie behind the impossibility of mummies containing drugs from coca and tobacco, from a continent not discovered until over 1,000 years after the end of the Egyptian civilisation? In search of an explanation, we went to one of the UK's foremost authorities on mummies, a person who had spent years rummaging around in the bodies of ancient Egyptians, Rosalie David.

    ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:

    "When I was informed that cocaine had been found in Egyptian mummies, I was absolutely astounded. It seemed quite impossible that this should be the case."


    Skeptical of Balabanova's results, Rosalie David decided to get some samples from her own mummies and have them tested especially for 'Equinox.'

    ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:

    "What we shall do is to provide tissue samples and a hair sample from a number of mummies in the Manchester Museum collection. I shall be very surprised to find they had cocaine in them."


    It would be a while before the results came back from the lab. Rosalie David's motive was not only to independently check Balabanova's methods. She also wanted to run the same tests but on different mummies. For she had more than one idea about how Balabanova could have got a misleading result.

    ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:

    "There were two ideas that sprang immediately to mind. One was that possibly something in the tests could give a false result. The second was that possibly the mummies that had been tested were not truly ancient Egyptian, that they could be some of these false, relatively modern mummies, and traces of cocaine could be in those individuals."


    What Rosalie David was referring to happened in Egypt in Victorian Times. It was a gruesome operation to supply the antique dealers of Luxor.

    When 19th century travelers went to Egypt in search of mummies and other valuables, the dealers might not have the genuine article available. And so the crudely mummified body of a recently dead Egyptian might be procured instead. For a shriveled corpse would greatly increase the value of a genuine but empty sarcophagus.

    Sometimes collectors would buy only limbs or other mummified spare parts. These are doubly suspect for the trade in fake mummies, especially separate heads and limbs, has an even older origin.

    Eating the flesh of mummies was a common 16th century practice in Europe. People believed that mummies contained a black tar called bitumen, and so thought powder made from the ground up bodies would cure various illnesses.

    This is the very origin of the word mummy, from the Persian for bitumen, mummia, and although it made people sick a roaring trade in powdered mummia grew, supplied from body parts and tissue shipped in bulk from Egypt.

    The temptation to resort to fakes was high.

    ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:

    "Very soon, the demand outstripped the supply and certainly in the 16th century a French physician undertook a study of this trade. And he found that in fact they were burying bodies of convicted criminals in the sand. They were producing mummies, and these then became a source for the medicinal ingredient."


    Could it be that the mummies Balabanova tested were fakes? Carbon dating on mummies often produces incorrect results, so archaeologists often rely on the provenance - knowing what tomb and excavation the mummy comes from and on examination of the mummification techniques.

    So the only way for Rosalie David to check out here theory about fakes was to travel to Munich to see for herself the seven mummies that were the cause of all the fuss.

    The Munich mummies as they are known, belong to the city's Egyptian Museum, which is housed in the old palace of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who started the collection.

    Inside the museum, Rosalie David found the sarcophagus of Henut Taui - the Lady of the Two Lands. She discovered from the museum catalogue that the coffin was bought by King Ludwig from an English traveller called Dodwell in 1845. There was no record of an exact excavation, but Henut Taui was said to have come from a tomb reserved for the priests and priestesses of the god Amun in Thebes.

    But while being shown the other coffins Rosalie David discovered that apart from Henut Taui, most of the Munich mummies are of unknown origin, and some of the tested mummies turned out to be only detached heads. According to the museum, research had revealed inscriptions, amulets and complex embalming methods, which the museum claimed proved the mummies were ancient.

    DR ALFRED GRIMM - Curator, The Egyptian Museum, Munich:

    "The investigation shows clearly that the Munich mummies are real Egyptian mummies, no fakes, no modern mummies. They come from ancient Egypt."


    The obvious way to prove this was to show the mummies to Rosalie David, but all the museum would let her see were empty sarcophogi.

    DR ALFRED GRIMM - Curator, The Egyptian Museum, Munich:

    "On grounds of religious respect we don't show these mummies here in our galleries. That's one point. The other is we don't allow to film the mummies and to show them on TV."


    It wasn't always so, for the mummies had already been shown on television. But this German film [film showing mummified bodies without wrappings] announcing Balabanova's results has caused quite a fuss. And so now, even though giving access might defeat the accusation of harbouring bogus mummies, it seemed that the museum wanted nothing more to do with the research they politely pointed out was far from respectable.

    DR ALFRED GRIMM - Curator, The Egyptian Museum, Munich:

    "It's not absolutely proven and I think it's not absolutely scientifically correct."


    Rosalie had to make do with research papers and books from the museum. Were the Munich mummies fakes? Despite her initial suspicions she decided that on balance, they probably were the real thing.

    ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:

    "From the documentation and the research which has been carried out on the Munich mummies it seems evident that they are probably genuine because they have packages of viscera inside, some with wax images of the gods on them and also the state of mummification itself is very good. I would say that the detached heads we can't comment on, but the complete bodies probably are genuine."


    And if that wasn't enough, it turned out that the results from the Munich mummies were not the only evidence from the dead. The anthropologists who originally ordered the tests didn't continue the project. But Balabanova, alongside her normal research into the metabolism of drugs started requesting samples of other ancient human remains from universities. And it was then that she got more results from Egypt.

    She tested tissue from 134 naturally preserved bodies from an excavated cemetery in the Sudan, once part of the Egyptian empire. Although from a later period, the bodies were still many centuries before Columbus discovered the Americas. About a third of them tested positive for nicotine and cocaine.

    Balabanova was mystified by the presence of cocaine in Africa but thought she might have a way of explaining the nicotine. As well as Egypt and the Sudan, she tested bodies from China, Germany and Austria, spanning a period from 3700BC to 1100AD. A percentage of bodies from all these other regions also contained nicotine.

    [Graph showing presence of nicotine: Percentage of bodies with positive result - Egypt:89% Sudan:90% China:62.5% Germany:34% Austria 100%]

    DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:

    "I continued to work on it because I wanted to be sure of my results, and after 3000 samples I, was absolutely certain that the tobacco plant was known in Europe and Africa long before Columbus."


    Far from being solved, the mytery that began in Egypt was spreading. Balabanova was suggesting that an unknown type of tobacco had grown in Europe, Africa and Asia thousands of years ago. But every schoolchild knows that tobacco was discovered in the New World. She was asking for a substantial slice of botany and history to be completely rewritten. Would anyone back her up?

    Dr. Balabanova had told us that we might find the secret of the mysterious presence of nicotine and cocaine in Egyptian mummies in the ancient plants of Africa. Perhaps there had been drug plants which the Egyptians had used but had vanished along with their civilisation. This led to a much more basic question. Were the Egyptians, the great Pharaos and pyramid builders really users and abusers of drugs?

    The clues can be found hidden in the walls of the grand temple of Karnak. The entire building is covered depictions of the lotus flower from the tops of the vast columns to the pictograms on the walls. Until recently, Egyptologists took this most commonplace Egyptian symbol to have only a religious meaning. But according to some the true significance of the lotus has been overlooked.

    ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:

    "The lotus was a very powerful narcotic which was used in ancient Egypt and presumably, was widespread in this use, because we see many scenes of individuals holding a cup and dropping a lotus flower into the cup which contained wine, and this would be a way of releasing the narcotic.

    "The ancient Egyptians certainly used drugs. As well as lotus they had mandrake and cannabis, and there is a strong suggestion the also used opium.

    "So although it very surprising to find cocaine in mummies, the other elements were certainly in use."


    So the Pharaos clearly indulged in drugs. Hashish - which Balabanova also found in the mummies - is an Egyptian tradition which has survived for thousands of years, although nowadays, in public, pipes tend to be filled with nothing more than tobacco.

    By contrast, the narcotic blue lotus flower, once so essential at parties, is now on the verge of extinction. And if it could disappear, why not other drug plants? We decided to pursue Balabanova's unusual theory that an ancient species of tobacco might once have grown in the Old World.

    Small amounts of nicotine are present in a wide variety of plants and foods, but the high concentrations sought by smokers can only be found in tobacco.

    [Graph showing quantities of nicotine: Concentrations in bone samples - Modern Smoker in nanograms/gram :c40ng China:c55ng Germany:c65ng Sudan:c45ng Egyptian mummies: off screen!]

    The idea of a lost species of tobacco came to Balabanova because the concentrations in the bodies from Asia and Europe were similar to modern day smokers.

    But one thing had puzzled her. At 35 times the dose for smokers, the amounts of nicotine she had found in Egyptian mummies were potentially lethal.

    But first, Balabanova was baffled, but then she had a thought. The high doses of nicotine in Egyptian bodies could be explained if the tobacco - as well as being consumed - had also been used in mummification.

    Over their 3000 year history the Egyptian priests kept the recipe of spices and herbs used to preserve the thousands of people and millions of animals they mummified a closely guarded secret.

    The high levels of nicotine in tobacco can kill bacteria. Could it have been one of their secrets?

    Balabanova looked through old literature about the bodies of the great Pharaos and queens themselves. No longer under the care of the priests the fragile royal mummies are now kept in strict atmospheric conditions in the Cairo museum.

    But Balabanova discovered a story from the days when scientists could still tamper with them - a story that had almost been forgotten.

    Ramses II died in 1213BC, a few hundred years before Henut Taui. When he was mummified, every possible skill and every rare ingredient was used by the embalmers to try to preserve his body for eternity. For where Henut Tuai was only a priestess, Ramses was arguably the mightiest of all the Pharaos.

    His imposing image adorns most of Egypt's famous sites for he presided over the Golden Age of its civilisation, and as a skilled military commander, won the conquests that made it into a powerful empire.

    What interested Balabanova was what happened to Ramses 3000 years later, when he went on his final royal visit.

    "Les chercheurs francais ont realise de nouvelles descouvertes en etudient la momie du pharon Ramses II." [Excerpt from TV France]

    On September 26th, 1976, amid all the pomp and circumstance - due a visiting head of state - French TV cameras recorded the arrival of the mummy of Ramses II at an airport in Paris. An exhibition about him at the museum of mankind was planned.

    But the body was found to be badly deteriorated, so a battery of scientist set about trying to repair this damage.

    The bandages wrapped around the mummy needed replacing, so botanists were given pieces of the fabric to analyse what it was made of. One found some plant fragments in her piece, and took a closer look. Emerging on the slide, according to her experience, were the unmistakable features - the tiny crystals and filaments - of a plant that couldn't possibly be there.

    DR MICHELLE LESCOT - Natural History Museum, Paris:

    "I prepared the slides, put them under the microscope and what did I see? Tobacco. I said to myself, that's just not possible - I must be dreaming. The Egyptians didn't have tobacco. It was brought from South America at the time of Christopher Columbus. I looked again, and I tried to get a better view and I thought, well, it's only a first analysis. I worked feverishly and I forgot to have lunch that day. But I kept getting the same result."


    Amid a storm of publicity. people alleged - just as they did with Balabanova's results - that this must be a case of contamination. It's a view shared today by Ramses' keeper at the Cairo museum, who suspects there is a straightforward explanation.

    PROF NASRI ISKANDER - Chief Curator, Cairo Museum:

    "According to my knowledge and experience, most of the archeologists and scientists, who worked on these fields, smoked pipes. And I myself have been smoking pipes for more than 25 years. Then maybe a piece of the tobacco dropped by haphazard or just anyway and to tell this is right or wrong we have to be more careful"


    To combat the allegations of careless smoking Michelle Lescot extracted new samples from deep inside the body of Ramses' mummy and took care to document it with photographs. And as far as she was concerned, these samples again gave the same result - tobacco.

    So was Lecot's discovery the proof Balabanova needed for an ancient species of tobacco? For a second opinion, we went to the herbarium at the Natural History Museum to find an expert on tobacco who had seen Lescot's published work. She argued that Lescot's evidence would only identify the family from which tobacco comes, and not the specific plant.

    DR SANDY KNAPP - Natural History Museum, London:

    "I think that they had a certain amount of evidence, and they took the evidence one step farther than the evidence really allowed them. Sometimes you can only go so far down the road towards telling what something is, and then you come against a wall an you can't go any farther, otherwise you start to make something up."


    Sandy Knapp thought the plant from Ramses was more likely to be another member of the tobacco family, which is known to have existed in ancient Egypt, such as henbane, mandrake or belladonna.

    DR SANDY KNAPP - Natural History Museum, London:

    "I think it is very unlikely that tobacco has an alternative history, because, I think we would've heard about it. There'd be some use of it present in either literature, temple carvings, somewhere there would've been evidence to point and say 'Ah, that's tobacco', but there's nothing."

    DR MICHELLE LESCOT - Natural History Museum, Paris:

    "I'ts true that the official theory is tobacco originates in South America. It's also true that there are species in Australasia and the Pacific Islands. There could have been other varieties, ancient varieties that once existed in Asia. Why not Africa? Varieties that have now disappeared so it's not sacrilege to challenge the official theory."


    The jury was still out on the vanished species of tobacco though Michelle Lescot was convinced that her identification had been correct. But she couldn't help with the cocaine, for it seemed not even one botanist believed in a disappearing coca plant.

    DR SANDY KNAPP - Natural History Museum, London:

    "Finding cocaine in these Egyptian mummies - botanically speaking - is almost impossible. I mean, there is always a chance that there might be some sort of plant there, but I think there is some sort of mistake. There is something wrong there. I can't explain it from a plant point of view at all."


    For thousands of years people in the Andes have been chewing coca leaves, to get out the cocaine with its stimulant, anesthetic and euphoric properties. There are actually species of the coca family which grow in Africa, but only the South American species has ever been shown to contain the drug. Since cocaine is not in any other plants, Balabanova was completely mystified, but she thought she might have just one possible idea.

    DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:

    "The cocaine of course remains an open question. It's a mystery - it's completely unclear how cocaine could get into Africa. On the other hand, we know there were trade relationships long before Columbus, and it's conceivable that the coca plant had been imported into Egypt even then."


    An ancient Egyptian drug trade stretching all the way across the Atlantic Ocean? This was an idea so far-fetched it could only be considered once all the others had been eliminated, the idea that the Egyptians had been able to obtain imports from a place thousands of miles away from a continent supposedly not discovered until thousands of years later.

    Was it possible that coca - a plant from South America had been finding its way to Egypt 3,000 years ago?

    If the cocaine found in mummies could not be explained by contamination, or fake mummies or by Egyptian plants containing it, there appeared to be only one remaining possibility... An international drug trade who's links extended all the way to the Americas.

    To obtain incense, myrrh and other valuable plants used in religious ceremonies and herbal medicines, it's true, the Egyptians were prepared to go to great lengths.

    Even if traders, like today, made all sorts of exotic claims for the source of their products, there is, nevertheless, clear evidence of ancient contacts as far east as Syria and Iraq. The extended north into Cyprus, south into Sudan and Somalia and west into Lybia, but America? To the majority of archaeologists, the idea is hardly worth talking about.

    PROF JOHN BAINES - Egyptologist, Oxford University:

    "The idea that the Egyptians were traveling to America is, overall, absurd. I don't know of anyone who is professionally employed as an Egyptologist, anthropologist or archaeologist who seriously believes in any of these possibilities, and I also don't know anyone who spends time doing research into these areas because they're perceived to be areas with any real meaning for the subjects."


    But on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, where the moving current of the Gulf Stream arrives in Mexico directly from the west coast of Africa, there is a professionally-employed anthropologist who does seriously believe in such possibilities.

    PROF ALICE KEHOE - Anthropologist, Marquette University:

    "I think there is good evidence that there was both trans-atlantic and trans-pacific travel before Columbus. When we try to talk about trans-oceanic contact, people that are standard archeologists get very, um, skittish, and they want to change the subject or move away. They suddenly see a friend across the room - they don't want to pursue the subject at all. They seem to feel that it's some kind of contagious disease they don't want to touch, or it will bring disaster to them."


    Why was the mere contemplation of voyages before Columbus or the Viking crossings to America, thought to be some sort of curse?

    It was in 1910 that some early anthropologists began to theorise that the stepped pyramids in Mexico might not have been the invention of the American Indians. Could the technology have come from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, from Egypt, where there were also stepped pyramids?

    After spotting other trans-atlantic similarities, anthropologists began to argue that all civilisation was invented in Egypt and later handed down to what they regarded as primitive societies. The implication that Old World culture was superior was thought acceptable at that time.

    But the arrival of modern dating techniques showed that the similarities were far more likely to be independent developments. For example, the Egyptians abandoned pyramids with steps in favour of smooth ones 2,000 years before the first stepped pyramids occur in the Americas. What's more, the suggestion that American Indians couldn't build their own civilisations became highly unpopular.

    Despite a brief revival in the 1970's when anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic in a primitive reed boat, research into ancient contact with America was frowned on, even if connected with theories of cultural superiority.

    But the idea that the ability of the ancients to cross the oceans might have been underestimated continues to be quietly whispered about. Over the years evidence has grown which suggests it might be time to look again at such voyages. To imagine that the Egyptians, who apparently only sailed up and down the Nile or into the Red Sea, might get as far as the Americas perhaps sounds fantastical. But in science, what is one day thought absurd, can next day become accepted as fact.

    [Picture of a Norse settlement in Newfoundland]

    One senior academic thinks it's important to remember that before the discovery of this Norse settlement in Newfoundland in 1965 theories about Viking voyages to America were dismissed as nonsense.

    PROF MARTIN BERNAL - Historian, Cornell University:

    "What we've seen is a shift from the idea of Viking landings in America being seen as completely fantastic or partisan, to being accepted by every scholar in the field."

    NARRATOR: The fact that evidence of the Viking crossings was hidden has encouraged Martin Bernal to contemplate even earlier voyages that are likewise dismissed as impossible.

    PROF MARTIN BERNAL - Historian, Cornell University:

    "I have no reason to doubt that there were others - but what they were, and how much influence they had on American society is open to question. But that trans-oceanic voyages are possible - or were possible - seems to me to be overwhelmingly likely."


    A likelihood Bernal believes is reinforced by some Roman jars found in 1975 in a place called the Bay of Jars in Brazil. It's been suggested that a Roman galley could be buried under the sea. But he interpretation of such finds is heavily disputed.

    PROF JOHN BAINES - Egyptologist, Oxford University:

    "They would fit the possibility that there was the odd ship that by mistake ended up on the other side of the Atlantic. What they're not going to fit is the idea of sustained two way contact, because there is a huge amount of historical evidence from the Roman world, but there is nothing to suggest such contact existed."

    PROF MARTIN BERNAL - Historian, Cornell University:

    "They can't have been planted because the bay was known as the Bay of Jars since the 18th century, so that Roman jars had been turning up, and this links up with indirect Roman documentary evidence of contact."


    The Bay of Jars is only one of several oddities claimed as evidence of trans-atlantic contacts. Also in Brazil, there is an inscription said to be in an ancient Mediterranean language. Meanwhile, in Mexico, there are 3,000 year old figurines with beards, a feature unknown in native Americans plus colossal statues that are said to look African, and an apparent picture of a pineapple - an American fruit - has been found in Pompeii.

    But if tobacco from Mexico or coca from the Andes was carried across an ocean, it apparently need not have been the Atlantic. According to Alice Kehoe, a number of other American plants mysteriously turn up outside the "sealed" continent. But they are found on the other side of the Pacific.

    PROF ALICE KEHOE - Anthropologist, Marquette University:

    "The one that absolutely proves trans-pacific voyaging is the sweet potato. There are also discoveries of peanuts more than 2,000 years ago in western China. There is a temple is southern India that has sculptures of goddesses holding what looks like ears of maize or corn."


    And if American maize might have got as far as India, why couldn't tobacco or coca have reached Egypt? They could have come across the Pacific to China or Asia and then overland to Africa. The Egyptians need not have traveled to America at all, or known where the plants had originated, but could have got them indirectly, through a network of world trade. But any ancient trade route that includes America is unacceptable in archeology.

    PROF JOHN BAINES - Egyptologist, Oxford University:

    "I don't think it is at all likely that there was an ancient trade network that included America. The essential problem with any such idea is that there are no artifacts to back it up that have been found either in Europe or in America. And I know that people produce examples of possible things, but they're really very implausible."


    Yet discovery of minute strands of silk found in the hair of a mummy from Luxor could suggest the trade stretching from Egypt to the Pacific. For silk at this time was only known to come from China. Martin Bernal argues that it would be a pity to replace earlier cultural arrogance with an arrogant belief in progress.

    PROF MARTIN BERNAL - Historian, Cornell University:

    "We're getting more and more evidence of world trade at an earlier stage. You have the Chinese silk definitely arriving in Egypt by 1000BC. I think modern scholars have a tendency to believe rigidly in progress and the idea that you could only have a worldwide trading network from the 18th century onwards, is our temporal arrogance - that it's only modern people that can do these things."


    The evidence for ancient trade with America is limited, and most of it is disputed, but it can't be completely ruled out as explaining the apparent impossibility of Balabanova's results, results that at first seemed so absurd many thought they would be explained away by a simple story of a botch-up in a lab, results that still without firm explanation continue to crop up in unexpected places.

    For in Manchester, the mummies under the care of Rosalie David, the Egyptologist once so sure that Balabanova had made a mistake, produced some odd results of their own.

    ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:

    "We've received results back from the tests on our mummy tissue samples and two of the samples and the one hair sample both have evidence of nicotine in them. I'm really very surprised at this."

    DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:

    "The results of the tests on the Manchester mummies have made me very happy after all these years of being accuesed of false results and contaminated results, so I was delighted to hear nicotine had been found in these mummies, and very, very happy to have this enormous confirmation of my work."


    The tale of Henut Taui shows that in science facts can be rejected if they don't fit with our beliefs while what is believed proven, may actually be uncertain.

    Little wonder then, that a story that began with one scientist, a few mummies and some routine tests, in no time at all could upset whole areas of knowledge we thought we could take for granted.


    DEA Agent Shoots Man Trying To Protect His Own Property, Family

    "Sorrow Follows Fatal Shooting"
    Arizona Daily Star, circa Jan. 16, 1997
    by Benjie Sanders

    Neighbor Bonnie Moreno says she heard the shots fired by an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent that killed David Aguilar outside his home Friday.

    "Notes of condolence left by neighbors at the Aguilar home"

    The Arizona Daily Star
    By Hanh Kim Quachand John F. Rawlinson

    Five sympathy notes from neighbors were slipped between the bars of an iron gate at the Aguilar home yesterday.

    At about 2:30 p.m. Friday, David Aguilar, 44, was shot outside his Three Points home by an undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

    Aguilar died Friday night at University Medical Center. An autopsy conducted yesterday showed that he died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, said Sgt. Michael G. O'Connor, spokesman for the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

    Bonnie Moreno, Aguilar's neighbor in the rural community about 22 miles southwest of Tucson, was outside with her children hanging clothes to dry when she heard a popping sound and saw someone fall down. She then heard the "zing" of a .22 bullet, and pushed her children to the ground because she thought it was a drive-by shooting.

    At least some of Aguilar's five young children watched the shooting from their toy-strewn yard. Moreno said she saw them run down the road and heard them screaming that their daddy had been shot.

    Moreno said the children later told her that Aguilar had approached the DEA agent, who was parked in a car near the drive of the Aguilar home, and asked the agent whether he was lost.

    An argument developed, prompting Aguilar to go back into the house and return with a gun, Moreno said, adding that the children said their father was simply trying to scare the man away. Investigators did not say yesterday whether the agent identified himself.

    Numerous shots were fired through the agent's windshield at Aguilar, O'Connor said.

    Moreno said Aguilar's children told her that Aguilar fired back at the agent.

    The agent, whose name was not released yesterday, and his attorney will meet with investigators today to discuss the shooting, which occurred in the 15500 block of West Doyle Street.

    Cindy Dowell, another neighbor, said she was trying to put her 1-year-old child to bed when she heard several gunshots.

    Dowell said she was not surprised that Aguilar had a gun in his house. With the exception of life-threatening incidents, she said, the Sheriff's Department's response time to calls from the area is slow. Most neighbors, therefore, are prepared to protect their property, she said.

    "Out here," said Dowell, gesturing at the row of trailers in the Three Points neighborhood, "people just don't sit" in cars.

    The DEA agent was conducting surveillance with other agents in the Three Points area. O'Connor said Aguilar was not a target of the surveillance.

    Dowell said some neighbors were also gearing up to protect their children from a convicted sex offender who recently moved into the area. The Sheriff's Department notified neighbors Thursday that the offender had moved to Three Points. Dowell said the notification had created fear among some residents.

    "We look after each other," she said.

    Said Moreno: "We're not vigilantes. Everyone on the block has a weapon. It's more a feeling of safety."

    But O'Connor said when detectives interviewed Aguilar family members Friday night, no one mentioned concerns that Aguilar might have had about the sex offender.

    The Sheriff's Department was on the scene of the shooting almost immediately," O'Connor said. A deputy living in the area was "flagged down" to investigate the shooting shortly after it happened, he said.

    Dowell said Aguilar was "just protecting his property. There was someone on his property with his kids there. He was concerned about his family."

    The DEA is conducting its own investigation into the shooting, O'Connor said. They met with Sheriff's homicide detectives yesterday to discuss details of the shooting, he said.

    US-Mexico - The 'Drug War' Against The Zapatistas

    by Jeffrey St. Clair

    OREGON CITY, OREGON, Jan. 14, 1997 (IPS) - Drug interdiction is the official reason for the transfer of millions of dollars' worth of weapons from the United States to Mexico, but evidence shows that the arms have had another purpose.

    The first 20 of a planned transfer of 73 Huey helicopters to Mexico were shipped in cargo planes from Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas last November. The Hueys are part of a weapons and reconnaissance package worth 50 million dollars -- military equipment sold, or loaned or given by the Clinton administration to the Mexican armed forces.

    Under the administration of former President George Bush, the United States shipped to Mexico 212 million dollars' worth of military supplies -- a figure likely to be more than eclipsed under President Bill Clinton.

    The official pretext is that the arms are for use in the drug war. But the true purpose harks back to a famous recommendation first exposed in 1994, when Chase Bank circulated an advisory to its clients, saying that "the Zapatistas must be eliminated."

    Though an embarrassed Chase Bank later disowned that sentiment, the Clinton administration has seen no need to back off the urgent imperative. Any threat to the ruling elites in Mexico is by extension a threat to U.S. interests. Insurgency in Mexico is of the most urgent concern.

    Donald E. Schultz, professor of National Security at the U.S. Army's War College puts it this way: "A hostile government could put the U.S. investments (in Mexico) in danger, jeopardise access to oil, produce a flood of political refugees, and economic migrants to the north. And under such circumstances, the United States would feel obligated to militarise the southern border."

    In fact, the southern U.S./Mexican border is in the process of being heavily militarised.

    Since 1988, six years before the Zapatistas rose up out of the Lacondon forest in Chiapas on New Year's Day 1994, the Pentagon has been eager to dispatch arms and reconnaissance aircraft south of the border, using the same excuse of drug interdiction, a rationale accompanying similar shipments to the Colombian military.

    In addition to the 73 Huey helicopters, the list of supplies to be transferred includes four C-26 reconnaissance planes, 500 bullet-proof armored personnel transporters, 10 million dollars' worth of night vision and C-3 equipment (command control and communications), global positioning satellite equipment, radar, spare parts for 33 helicopters given to Mexico over the past seven years, machine guns, semi-automatic rifles, grenades, ammunition, flame throwers, gas masks, night sticks, uniforms, and rations.

    These arms have another purpose. A June 1996 report from the U.S. Congressional watchdog, the General Accounting Office (GAO), offers evidence that the Mexican government used U.S. arms meant for drug interdiction to suppress insurgencies.

    "During the 1994 uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas,'' the report says, ''several U.S.-provided helicopters were used to transport Mexican military personnel to the conflict, which was a violation of the transfer agreement.'' More than 150 indigenous peasants were killed in those operations.

    In the report, entitled 'Drug Control: Counter-narcotics Efforts in Mexico', The GAO places most of the blame for this on the U.S. government which, it suggests, connived in the misuse.

    ''The U.S. embassy (in Mexico City) relies heavily on bi-weekly reports submitted by the Mexican government that typically consist of a map of specific operational records -- U.S. personnel have little way of knowing if the helicopters are being properly used for counter-narcotics purposes or are being misused,'' says the GAO report. ''Embassy officials told us that helicopter operational records have been requested and received on only one occasion in the past eight months -- i.e. from November, 1995 to June 1996).''

    According to a May 1996 story in the Mexico paper, La Jornada, the U.S. State Department assured the Ernesto Zedillo regime that the arms shipments did not have to be exclusively used in anti- drug operations. The State Department informed the Mexican government that its ''aviation advisors'' would only inspect the location and condition of the helicopters once a year and would always give prior notice of his trips.

    Last summer, the uprising by the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) in Guerrero state prompted James Jones, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and formerly president of the New York Stock Exchange, to declare publicly at a Sep. 9 telecommunications conference in Cancun that the United States was willing to provide increased military aid, intelligence, and training to Mexico to the fight the rebels.

    ''Whatever they need,'' Jones said, ''we will certainly support.'' Jones added a comparison: ''The United States has much experience tracking rightwing militias, which could be of great use to Mexico. Like armed militias, (the ERP) has weapons and munitions capabilities. Terrorist groups operate much the same all over.''

    The war on drugs has become a high-profile military concern, as recent appointments on both sides of the border attest.

    Gen. Barry McCaffery, formerly head of U.S. Southern Command, is now the White House's drug czar, and on Dec. 3, President Zedillo appointed Jose Gutierrez Rebollo, a member of the elite presidential guard, as McCaffery's opposite command.

    Cross-border collusion extends, naturally enough, to intelligence services. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) maintains a huge border force and one of its largest foreign offices in Mexico City, where the agency actively trains Mexican police and intelligence forces.

    The U.S. military has also spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past five years in increased surveillance and interdiction efforts in Mexico, with less than stellar results in terms of halting the flow of drugs, according to a recently released Inspector General's report written in 1994.

    ''Although the Pentagon has significantly expanded U.S. monitoring and detection of cocaine smugglers, this expanded capability has come with a hefty price tag and has yet to reduce the flow of cocaine onto American streets,'' the report concludes.

    ''The portion of the federal drug budget earmarked for military surveillance has quadrupled during the past five years, without measurable goals or results to show that the increases were warranted... The fact that cocaine remains affordable and readily available in the United States strongly suggests that surveillance is not producing results commensurate with its costs,'' according to the report.

    But surely the U.S. military is putting the surveillance information to use. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that the Pentagon anticipates having to intervene in Mexico sometime in the near feature. Its analysts have drafted worst-case scenarios.

    In 1994, a year which ended with the collapse of the Mexican currency, a Pentagon briefing paper, declassified under the Freedom of Information Act, said it was ''conceivable that a deployment of U.S. troops to Mexico would be received favorably if the Mexican government were to confront the threat of being overthrown as a result of widespread economic and social chaos.

    In such a scenario, the intelligence and security services would probably cooperate with U.S. intelligence forces to identify threats to Mexico's internal stability.''

    As outgoing Defence Secretary William Perry put it in a speech in Oct. 1995, ''When it comes to stability and security our destinies are indissolubly linked.''

    Cecelia Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Zapatistas in the United States, sums it up aptly: ''U.S.-provided helicopters have been used in the past by the Mexican military to attack unarmed populations. The Mexican armed forces have been accused by human rights monitors of murders, disappearances, kidnapping, and rape.

    Nonetheless, she adds, ''their requests for military equipment and expertise have been granted time and time again. Under the guise of fighting drug traffickers, the U.S. government has bolstered an anti-democratic and corrupt Mexican government with a laundry list of high-tech military equipment that has been used to violate the basic human right of the people of Mexico.''

    Posted from the OneWorld News Service. More daily IPS articles are available free on the Web from

    'Junk Science- What You Know That May Not Be So'

    On Jan. 10, 1997 Pamela G. Lichty wrote:
    Hello Friends -

    Last night ABC aired a special narrated by John Stossel (sp.?) called "Junk Science: What You Know That May Not Be So". I missed the beginning, but the final segment was on crack babies and the hype surrounding that in the late '80s. Featured was an interview with psychologist Claire Coles, whose research first debunked the issue, explaining that these were "poverty babies." If I'm not mistaken she's the one who had the article "Quieting the Crack Kid Alarm" in the DPF newsletter a year or so ago. She was of course roundly condemned and vilified by the mainstream press.

    They interviewed Ira Chasnoff of NAPARE in Chicago whose research started the whole outcry, and they embarrassed him by showing clips of an old interview where he talked about how these kids could never relate to people, would have severe problems for the rest of their lives, etc; they noted that his original research (which to be fair was picked up and sensationalized further by Rolling Stone, People, etc.) was done on a sample of 23 mothers! Chasnoff, who has since softened his line considerably, tried to backpedal, but Stossel wouldn't let him off the hook noting that follow-up stories never achieve the airplay of the originals.

    They then interviewed an overachieving African American teenager who had been one of those "crack babies" and asked her what she thought. Stossel opined that it was politics which drove the crack baby story not science (duh).

    Anyway this was encouraging in light of Kevin's posting about how ABC is going to start a new anti-drug campaign.

    Okay, but here's the kicker. Chasnoff and his staff are going to be the featured (in fact the only) speakers in a big conference here (Honolulu) this spring sponsored by the March of Dimes on drug-exposed infants. Guess there are still plenty of people who want to believe what he has to say.

    Aloha you all.

    Pamela G. Lichty
    Honolulu, Hawaii

    Prohibitionist Taxes On Cigarettes Spur Crime, Violence

    "Smuggled Smokes"
    The San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 13, 1997
    by Jonathan Marshall

    When the laws of politicians run afoul of the laws of economics, economic laws usually win.

    A recent study of cigarette taxes makes the point. The zeal of many states to ratchet up cigarette excise taxes, in the face of strong incentives to cheat, is unintentionally promoting smuggling and organized crime around the country.

    The study, by economist Patrick Fleenor at the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C., estimates that smuggling has grown 250 percent in the United States from 1980 to 1994. Crooks are buying cigarettes in low-tax states, Mexico or untaxed tribal reservations and military bases and diverting them to consumers in high-tax states.

    Cigarette taxes range from 2.5 cents per pack in Virginia to 82.5 cents in Washington, according to CCH Inc., an Illinois tax firm. California is in the mid-range, charging 37 cents per pack, on top of a federal tax of 24 cents.

    Cigarettes are light and easy to smuggle. A trailer truck can carry more than 200 cases, each containing 600 packs. Smugglers sell either to crooked retail stores, which don't report the sales to taxing authorities, or directly to consumers on the street. Smugglers can make as much as $100,000 on one full run from North Carolina to Michigan, Fleenor estimates.

    The State Board of Equalization, charged with enforcing excise taxes, estimates that California loses $50 million to $125 million a year in cigarette taxes due to illicit sales.

    In 1995, Glendale police broke up a smuggling ring that evaded an estimated $8 million in federal and state taxes over a two-year period. The ring, supplied out of Mexico, sold as many as 12,000 cartons a week in Southern California.

    The board's excise tax administrator, Monte Williams, testified to the Legislature in 1994 that smuggling in California soared after 1989, when the tax rate jumped from 10 cents to 35 cents per pack, following passage of Proposition 99.

    Williams reported that annual taxed sales of cigarettes fell by 665 million packages from 1988 to 1993, far faster than could be explained by falling demand.

    Basic economic principles say that when prices rise, demand falls. But higher prices are also a signal for entrepreneurs to find better, but not always legal, ways of supplying the market.

    High state taxes also encourage smokers who live near bordering states with lower taxes to cross state lines to buy cigarettes. They usually do lots of other shopping at the same time, thus denying their home state considerable business and revenue beyond just cigarette sales.

    The evidence from Michigan, which raised its cigarette tax from 25 cents to 75 cents on May 1, 1994, is striking. Over the following year, taxable cigarette sales plunged nearly 27 percent, while merchants over the Indiana border enjoyed a sales jump of 40 percent, according to a Price Waterhouse survey. The tax rate in Indiana is only 15.5 cents per pack.

    Washington state authorities have estimated that 14 percent of all cigarettes smoked in the state -- which has the nation's highest tax rate -- were bought from tribal reservations. In Hawaii, widespread diversion of cigarettes from military bases undercuts the legal market.

    In 1994, Canada finally cut its own high cigarette taxes and enjoyed significant relief from U.S.- based smuggling and cross-border shopping.

    Ever since the 18th century, when Americans smuggled tobacco into England to evade high tariffs, economists have warned that excessive taxes may be counterproductive.

    In his famous treatise "The Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith pointed out that high customs duties often reduced revenues "below what more moderate duties would have afforded," by encouraging smuggling.

    Economists say the same logic applies to income and other types of taxes. The higher you make them, the more people evade them and the less some people may be inclined to work or invest. Both reactions cost the government money.

    Recent research by Martin Feldstein, an economist at Harvard University, suggests that high marginal tax rates on the rich encourage many spouses to stay at home rather than go to work, giving the government very little extra revenue for the economic pain it causes.

    Similarly, a new study by Mark Rider in the Treasury Department and three other economists argues that high tax rates discourage hiring by entrepreneurs, shifting some of the burden of taxes to lower-income workers and potentially costing the government money.

    None of these claims is undisputed. But California's Department of Finance responded last year to such studies by changing its revenue estimates to take greater account of the "dynamic" effects of tax policy on work and investment. Politicians need to follow their lead by acknowledging the power of economic incentives.

    'Let Concern For The Suffering Rule On Marijuana'

    The New York Times, Jan. 10, 1997
    Letters to the Editor

    To the Editor:

    Anthony Lewis, who in his Jan. 6 column writes about voter initiatives approving medical use of marijuana, might be interested to know that my father, Francis L. Young, who was an administrative law judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma within four months of retiring in 1990. This was within two years of handing down an opinion on the medical use of marijuana that said, in part: "Marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for D.E.A. to continue to stand between sufferers and the benefits of this substance."

    My father underwent radiation and chemotherapy for two years before dying in 1992. The agony he suffered from the treatment could have been relieved by marijuana as discussed in his opinion. No doubt it took a great deal of thought for him to reach this conclusion -- as a teenager, I was given clippings on the horrors of drug abuse. Yet, he rejected as "specious" the argument that therapeutic use of marijuana sent a signal that recreational use was O.K.

    It is outrageous that the paranoid politicians Mr. Lewis refers to cannot put the public interest ahead of personal inclinations, as my father did. If they did so, suffering would be avoided.

    Valerie A. Young
    Metairie, La., Jan. 7, 1997



    Comments, questions and suggestions. E-mail

    Reporters and researchers are welcome at the world's largest online library of drug-policy information, sponsored by the Drug Reform Coordination Network at

    Back to the News Releases page.

    This URL: