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September 19, 1996

Los Angeles Cannabis Buyers' Club Busted
Third Raid Since August Sparks Outrage Among Cannabis Community

September 16, 1996, West Hollywood, CA: Los Angeles county sheriffs raided the Cannabis Buyers' Club in West Hollywood and took four employees, including two cancer patients and an AIDS patient, into custody. The four individuals were later released on their own recognizance.

The raid was conducted behind the backs of city officials, who were reportedly outraged by the sheriffs' action. West Hollywood is one of several California communities to have adopted a resolution urging police to refrain from medical marijuana arrests.

Officers confiscated about one pound of marijuana, pills, some brownies, and liquid believed to contain THC, said L.A. County Sheriff's Sgt. Robert Stoneman. Witnesses to the raid said that items relating to Proposition 215, a ballot initiative that would allow Californians to cultivate and possess marijuana for medical purposes, were also seized.

This marks the third bust of a cannabis buyers' club since August and demonstrates a definite pattern among law enforcement to target medical marijuana organizations. "This [bust signifies] a new low in the war on pot," said California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer. "Our marijuana laws are clearly bankrupt when they let law enforcement authorities run amok arresting people for providing medicine to the sick. The time has come to protect Californians' right to medicine."

According to an article that appeared in the August 9 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the club served approximately 1,000 members and did not allow smoking to take place at the facility. Members were screened by club staffers and were only accepted if they were referred by local AIDS treatment organizations.

For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer of California NORML at (415) 563-5858 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML at (202) 483-5500.

(Meanwhile) Alternative Therapies Group Distributes Medical Marijuana To San Francisco's Sick

September 13, 1996, San Francisco, CA: A group that specializes in providing nontraditional remedies to AIDS sufferers worldwide has begun distributing marijuana to patients out of the Metropolitan Community Church in San Francisco.

"This was not an easy decision," said Curtis Ponzi of the Healing Alternatives Foundation (HAF), the organization responsible for the distribution. "It was very stormy, very emotional. But we're filling a void."

The foundation, founded in the early 1980s, provides a variety of herbal remedies and non-FDA approved drugs at-cost to seriously ill patients. The organization makes no therapeutic claims about its products and urges buyers to discuss therapies with a doctor.

Patients purchasing marijuana from the foundation must provide a note from their doctor stating that they have a legitimate medical need for cannabis. The foundation then double checks with the physician, a process that takes about a week. The verification process is thorough enough to discourage recreational users from attempting to purchase marijuana, stated Ponzi.

Community reaction to the program appears positive. "Both Mayor [Willie] Brown and I think this is a sound program," said Dean Goodwin, an aide to the San Francisco mayor. "They're concentrating on the people who really need [the marijuana.]"

In addition, the San Francisco Police Department seems ready to exercise a policy of benign neglect with regard to the renewed distribution. "We would only be interested in this if it became obvious that they were selling [marijuana] to people who weren't sick," said narcotics division Sgt. Kurt Bruneman.

Metropolitan Community Church pastor Jim Mitulski said is allowing his church to be used for the foundation's marijuana sales because medical cannabis is essential to the well-being of many congregation members. The current program is expected to operate on a weekly basis.

"We are not distributing it - the foundation is," Mitulski said. He notes that at least three additional churches may also participate in medical marijuana distribution in the near future.

In the meantime, state law enforcement officials claim they will watch and wait. "We're looking at it and we're aware of [marijuana being distributed by the HAF,]" said Steve Telliano, press secretary for state Attorney General Dan Lungren. "We're just keeping an eye on the situation to see what's happening."

For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer of California NORML at (415) 563-5858 or Californians for Compassionate Use at (415) 621-3986.

Washington State Supreme Court To Tackle Medical Marijuana Issue

September 19, 1996, Tacoma, WA: Cancer patient and medical marijuana activist Ralph Seeley will argue before the state Supreme Court on September 25 that the state's constitution requires marijuana to be available as a prescription substance.

In 1995, Seeley won a declaratory judgment from trial court Judge Rosanne Buckner that Washington's ban on medical marijuana violates the state's constitution's reliance on "fundamental principles." Under guidelines agreed upon by both Seeley and the state Attorney General's Office before the trial, the losing party would seek a direct review of the decision in the state Supreme Court.

An amicus brief in support of medical marijuana, prepared by Attorney Michael Cutler of Boston, Massachusetts, has been filed by NORML's Amicus Curiae Committee. Additional briefs on behalf of Seeley have been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF).

"A positive verdict in this case would further bolster the growing public support for access to medical marijuana both in Washington state and nationally," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. St. Pierre noted that on March 30, 1996, Washington State Governor Mike Lowry signed into law a state budget allocating $130,000 to medicinal marijuana research, including investigating ways of cultivating marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes.

For more information, please contact Attorney Michael Cutler of NORML's Amicus Curiae Committee at (617) 439-4990.

California Polls Show Voters Strongly Favor Medical Marijuana Initiative

September 19, 1996, California: Two separate California polls released today indicate that voters strongly favor Proposition 215, a statewide initiative that would allow patients with a physician's recommendation to possess and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes.

According to the results of a Field Poll reported by the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle, among those likely to vote, 62 percent said they would vote for Proposition 215 and 29 percent said they would vote against it; nine percent were undecided. Among all registered California voters, 61 percent favor the measure and 30 percent are opposed. The survey of 291 respondents has a margin of error of six percentage points.

In a separate telephone poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times, 53 percent of respondents said they would vote for the proposal and 31 percent said they would vote against it; 16 percent were undecided.

"This is overwhelming support," said Steve Hopcraft of Californians for Medical Rights. "California voters cannot accept that their doctors can prescribe morphine for cancer, AIDS, and other [serious illnesses] but not marijuana. This is great news."

"These findings, coupled with the results of similar polls conducted both in California and nationally, demonstrate that there is ample support for the legalization of medical marijuana among the voting public," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre.

The results of the two recent California polls are the latest in a series of surveys indicating strong support for medical marijuana. A 1995 survey conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demonstrated that 83 percent of the American public agreed that patients who find marijuana an effective therapeutic agent should be able to use it legally. In addition, nine state polls have shown that a strong majority of Californians support medical marijuana.

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre of NORML at (202) 483-5500 or Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights at (310) 394-2952.

Los Angeles County AIDS Commission Rebukes US Drug Czar, Endorses Proposition 215

September 12, 1996, Santa Monica, CA: Calling Proposition 215 a "conservative, common-sense solution," the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV Health Services passed an emergency resolution criticizing U.S. Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey for speaking out against the California Medical Marijuana Initiative.

The commission reaffirmed its support for Proposition 215 in today's resolution, joining the California Academy of Family Physicians, San Francisco Medical Society, California Nurses Association, and AIDS Project Los Angeles among the major medical groups and patient advocacy groups that have endorsed Proposition 215.

The AIDS commission's resolution urged McCaffrey, who on September 12 held a press conference in Los Angeles attacking the initiative, to "stop marginalizing people with AIDS and other seriously ill Californians in an effort to enhance President Clinton's image."

The resolution was passed by a vote of 31-0, with four abstentions.

For more information, please contact Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights at (310) 394-2952.

Sheriff May Have Violated Election Laws While Opposing NORML Ballot Initiative

September 19, 1996, Traverse City, MI: A state Attorney General official said Grand Traverse County Sheriff Harold Barr's decision to allow jail inmates to help put out flyers opposing a NORML ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession in Traverse City may have violated state election laws. The assertion comes nearly one month after Traverse City NORML President Bill Bustance, who helped to spearhead the initiative, filed a complaint with the secretary of state alleging that taxpayers dollars were used to influence a political campaign. According to Michigan law, an organization that knowingly violates campaign finance rules could be fined $20,000.

Michigan Attorney General spokesman Chris Dewitt said the use of inmates "certainly would be questionable under Michigan's law."

"Marijuana law isn't any more important than election law and we are appalled that [those against the initiative] had to break the law to beat us," said Bustance, who is seeking a new election. "What would have happened if they hadn't used taxpayer's dollars against the taxpayers?"

Voters narrowly rejected the proposal this past August.

For more information, please contact Bill Bustance of Traverse City NORML at (616) 264-9565.

Mass/Cann NORML Rally Expected To Draw More Than 50,000

September 19, 1996, Boston, MA: Mass/Cann NORML will hold its seventh annual "Freedom Rally" at Boston Commons on September 21. The event is expected to draw at least 75,000 people.

"This is not a celebration of marijuana," said attorney and NORML board member Richard Evans. "This rally is about the preservation of American freedom."

Speakers at this years event include Evans, former Boston City Council member Mel King, Prison Life Magazine editor Richard Stratton, Steve Hager of High Times Magazine, and others. Musical acts include Letters to Cleo, Bim Skala Bim, Sam Black Church, and more.

Organizers note that the event has grown in popularity over the years and estimate that last year's festival was attended by nearly 50,000 people. A Boston radio station that helps to promote the marijuana reform rally, WBCN, is anticipating attendance in excess of 100,000.

For more information, please contact Bill Downing of NORML Mass/Cann at (617) 944-CANN.



Regional and other news

Body Count

Ten of the 15 felons sentenced by Multnomah County courts in the most recent week received jail or prison terms for controlled-substance violations, according to the "Portland" zoned section of
The Oregonian, distributed in the central metropolitan area (Sept. 19, 1996, p. 9, 3M-MP-SE). That makes the body count so far this year 276 out of 498, or 55.42 percent. The 10 drug prisoners include one guy whose term for "possession of a controlled substance" wasn't specified, but whose "Probation [was] revoked" and who was fined $5,101. The same convict was also sentenced to eight months on a forgery-related charge. Would a person convicted of "possession of a forgery device" have gone to jail without a drug charge? It seems reasonable to doubt whether the prisoner (and others like him) are included in the official statistics on how many people are supposedly in jail on drug charges. That may be a subject for future research and news releases, but the editor would appreciate it if anyone really knowledgeable would care to clue him in.

'Bootcamp Fails Grad'

The Oregonian printed a remarkable "In My Opinion" op-ed piece Sept. 17 on the August suicide of a former boot-camp prisoner. The author, James M. Kemp of Southwestern Oregon Community College, was the former prisoner's lead academic instructor at the Shutter Creek Correctional Institution.

An excerpt:

My own experience with the program is that it tends to infantilize inmates. It gives them a safe, supportive environment in which to change their behaviors. But the manner in which it is administered seeks to shield the inmates from many of the controversial social issues that the inmate will experience when he or she is returned to the streets.
Can you imagine an inmate with the temerity to argue with his drug 'counselor': "But according to Volume 346, Number 8985 of The Lancet, published November 11, 1995,
'The smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health'"? Of course not. Prisoners sit through the indoctrination sessions as willingly but as cynically as other victims of totalitarian re-education programs did in Vietnam and China.

Another excerpt:

My fear is that we have deeded over our rights to govern on the issue of crime and punishment to a government bureaucracy that has a vested interest in ignoring the defects of the programs which its employees design. Furthermore, I fear that the bureaucracy manipulates the statistics that it feeds to the news media in an effort to distort the true outcomes of these programs.
Kemp wasn't really writing about drug policy - his topic addressed more his perception that the state was giving up on reforming criminals in favor of just warehousing them. Nevertheless, the previous excerpts provide documentation from the horse's mouth for what's been noted here before.

'Drug Use By Young Is Tragedy Not Football'

District 2 Multnomah County Commissioner Gary Hansen penned a brief "letter to the editor" of The Oregonian Sept. 16, 1996 that amply illustrates politicians' endless ability to come up with new ways of blaming others for drug policies they helped further.

Hansen wrote (much more succinctly than the editor):

Multnomah County is reducing its anti-drug programs by more than $1 million because of reductions submitted by the Republican-controlled Congress. Bob Dole is now blaming President Clinton for the increased drug use by our youth.

I would have more faith in Dole if he would ask House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R.-Ga., and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R.-Miss., to restore full funding for drug treatment and anti-drug education. Drug use by young people is a national tragedy that has affected too many families to be used as a political football. (p. B9)

There is a little myopia here, if not duplicity. In the first place, there has never been full funding for drug treatment. "Treatment facilities around Oregon are full and have long waiting lists," according to Jeffrey N. Kushner, former director of the Oregon Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, quoted in "Report Tallies State's Drug, Alcohol Toll" (The Oregonian, March 14, 1996, p. E5).

In the second place, Commissioner Hansen could have lobbied to fund more out-patient drug-treatment opportunities. Traditionally, public health has been the primary responsibility of the county and then the state rather than the federal government. But instead Commissioner Hansen endorsed the May 21 bond measure to raise $208 million (with interest) for new jails, including 150 drug- and alcohol-treatment beds, meaning people who want drug treatment now may have to commit real crimes in order to get it.

A study by the Rand Corporation, "Projecting Future Cocaine Use and Evaluating Control Strategies," posted at, notes that:

Each year, the United States spends large sums of money at all levels of government to battle cocaine use. By 1992, this annual sum had reached $13 billion.[1] Almost three-quarters of that was for domestic enforcement, most of the remainder for controlling the amount of cocaine coming into the United States, and about 7 percent for treatment. Is this the most effective way to spend the money? The answer is important, given the level of expenditures involved and the destructive effects of cocaine on individuals, families, communities, and society. ..."

One approach to achieving such an understanding is through integrative mathematical modeling. This is the approach taken in a recent DPRC study that provides a quantitative foundation for decisions on allocating cocaine control resources. On the basis of that analysis, it was possible to conclude that treatment is seven times as cost-effective (at the margin) as domestic enforcement--the best alternative to treatment that the study evaluated. Thus, if it were possible to vary the current allocation of funds over control strategies, cocaine consumption could be reduced substantially without increasing total spending.

In other words, Commissioner Hansen and other public officials might have offered the voters, instead of 150 coerced-treatment beds in jails, perhaps seven times that many slots - 1,050 - for voluntary drug treatment. (Since there have been few if any reported marijuana junkies stealing cars, committing armed robbery or drive-by shootings, we'll leave it to others to equate pot use with the worst cocaine, meth or heroin cases. Or for that matter government-sponsored alcohol or video-poker addictions.)

While drug use (especially alcohol and tobacco) by young people may be harmful, doctors prescribe "drugs" such as Ritalin, pain-killers and much more to young people all the time, so the commissioner would seem to be misstating the facts and turning the issue into the "political football" he eschews. While kids' illicit-drug use has affected many families, not many of such families seek to have a member imprisoned for a drug offense. Fewer still want to pay taxes to sustain the largest prison empire in history. What proportion of Hansen's "many" families go to the police to solve a member's drug problem? What proportion would prefer to try voluntary treatment first?

Is "drug use by young people" as much of a "national tragedy" as a country $5 trillion in debt borrowing from young people in order to incarcerate adults for using drugs which, because of prohibition, young people have better access to?

It Takes A Village To Raise A Mob

The Oregonian published a characteristic article Sept. 10 about how the small town of Pilot Rock, in rugged Northeast Oregon, solved its perceived youth-gang problem. The deck headline for "Pilot Rock gangs up on youth gangs" (pp. B1 & B4) credits "Orthodox and unusual methods, but mostly just working together," with solving the problem. Only readers who waded through three-quarters of the story, however, found out that "working together" and "unusual methods" meant that:
A handful of locals quietly buttonholed the parents of the worst troublemakers and advised them to leave town. As one resident put it, "They were persuaded to immigrate. You don't cure gangrene, you amputate it." In all, about 40 students left before classes started last fall, said Darce Driskel, 48, superintendent of the Pilot Rock School District. Driskel said the departing parents he spoke with did not mention threats but said they were moving for their jobs. None complained to police.
A sidebar to the story titled "Trouble begins with Pendleton boy" (p. B4) noted that "the newcomer was Hispanic in a town with a comparatively small minority population."

Well now, shades of Vietnam. Let's destroy the village in order to save it. This is a success story? This is "working together"? How many of those who were banished were minorities? Poor vs. rich? How would such tactics work in Portland? Shouldn't the FBI be interested when people have their civil rights violated without due process by a mob using intimidation to achieve ethnic cleansing? With The Oregonian cheering small-town nazis on, don't expect the FBI to buck "public opinion" anytime soon.

Authorities Press Fox Broadcasting To Keep 'America's Most Wanted'

It seems the plethora of "police re-enactment" shows on television has saturated the market. According to a New York Times News Service article published in the Sept. 10 Oregonian ("Authorities press Fox to keep 'Wanted,'" p. C5):
Law-enforcement officials are asking Fox Broadcasting to reconsider its cancellation of "America's Most Wanted," arguing that the prime-time show serves as an all-points-bulletin beamed into millions of households and has helped capture more than 400 fugitives from justice in the past eight years.

Distress about the show's departure - which Fox attributes to low ratings and a need for comedies in that Saturday-night time slot - even prompted the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Thomas Constantine, to write an impassioned letter to Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Fox's parent company, News Corp., urging him to keep the show on the air.

"The loss of 'America's Most Wanted' will be devastating to American law enforcement efforts and the safety of our communities," Constantine said in his June 6 letter, which had previously been undisclosed. ...

Even William Bennett, co-director of the conservative policy group Empower America and a top adviser to Jack Kemp, said he intended to write a letter to Murdoch urging him to keep the show alive. ...

Begun in February 1988, the show has had an unusually long tenure for prime-time. Reality programming, which includes this and other police re-enactment shows, has fallen out of favor as a genre.

'Review Of Human Studies On Medical Use Of Marijuana'

Dale Gieringer of California NORML writes:

I have recently completed a survey of the literature on medical marijuana for my forthcoming book with Ed Rosenthal & John Morgan, "The Medical Marijuana Handbook." It includes an exhaustive summary of human studies on medical marijuana. Following is the summary. The full text may be found on the Cal. NORML Web site at

by Dale H. Gieringer, Ph.D.
August 1996


There have been hundreds of studies on the medical uses of cannabis since its introduction to western medicine in the early nineteenth century. A review of the literature reveals over 65 human studies, most of them in the 1970's and early 80's. Dale Gieringer (415) 563-5858 // 2215-R Market St. #278, San Francisco CA 94114

British Columbian Prisons Fight AIDS

The Vancouver Sun, Sept. 17, 1996, p. B1

B.C. leads in protecting convicts against AIDS, report says:
The province wins plaudits for offering free condom supplies and methadone treatment.

By Pamela Fayerman, Sun Health Issues Reporter

B.C. prisoners are more likely than other Canadian convicts to engage in practices that put them at risk for HIV and AIDS, but a new report says the province leads the way in preventative measures.

In the report by various AIDS organizations released today in Ottawa, B.C. is exempted from the criticism of federal and other provincial corrections officials who have delayed measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The report says B.C. stands out for offering free condom supplies, bleach for needles used by injection-drug users and methadone-maintenance treatment in special circumstances.

There are about 160 prisoners with AIDS in Canada, but thousands are HIV positive and many more carry hepatitis B or C viruses, contracted through risky sexual behavior and unsterilized syringes or tattooing equipment.

Studies show the rate of HIV infection in federal prisons is 10 times higher than in the general population. As well, the prevalence of hepatitis C is 28 to 40 per cent of the prison population.

But provincial and federal authorities aren't admitting to the reality of drug use, according to Ralf Jurgens, coordinator of the report published by the Canadian AIDS Society and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

"It is high time that Canada adopts a more pragmatic approach to drug use, acknowledging that the idea of a drug-free prison is no more realistic than the idea of a drug-free society," said Jurgens.

"Prisoners come from the community and return to it," said Russell Armstrong, executive director of the Canadian AIDS Society. "They are sentenced to prison, not to be infected.

"If we neglect to protect their health, this will have negative consequences for the health of all Canadians, and governments could be held morally and legally responsible. We can save lives and money by acting without further delay."

Dr. Diane Rothon, medical director of B.C. Corrections, said she is somewhat uncomfortable that B.C. is singled out in the report for its initiatives.

"I'm proud of our progress but I don't like to broadcast our major harm-reduction initiatives," she said.

Condoms, lubricants to avoid condom rips, dental dams for oral sex and 30-millilitre packets of bleach to disinfect needles have all been discreetly and freely available to about 2,500 prisoners in B.C. jails for a few years.

A survey of prisoners undertaken for the report revealed that 33 per cent of inmates in B.C. engaged in risky practices, compared to 26 per cent elsewhere.

A new policy on methadone maintenance has recently been implemented in B.C. Men and women whose lives or health may be endangered because of abrupt methadone withdrawal are considered for the treatment program while in jail.

Rothon said at any one time, there wouldn't be more than four prisoners in B.C. jails who would qualify for such a maintenance program.

To those who wonder why such initiatives are necessary when drugs aren't supposed to be in prisons to begin with, Rothon said: "People can wonder about this. But it's a fact of life.

"Security in jails ranges from maximum to open camps. It's impossible to guard every inmate every minute of the day. There are visitor searches and drug-sniffing dogs, but the public can't be naive enough to assume there are no drugs in jail," she said.

There is a pronounced cost-effectiveness argument to B.C.'s harm-reduction approach. For every case of HIV or AIDS that is averted, Rothon estimates it saves the health system $200,000 in drug and other health costs. She didn't know the cost of the prison initiatives, but said it is likely relatively small.

There are currently no plans to distribute free needles to drug users in jail, she said, but she added policies are constantly under review and they may eventually become available.

Guards have fought any such move out of fear needles could potentially be used as weapons.

Randy White, Reform MP for Fraser Valley West - where there are three federal institutions - said he resents the report's recommendations.

"If we say we have a zero tolerance on drugs, then there is a major contradiction [to supplying such things as needles] and I don't think we need to be cowering from lawyers and John Howard society prisoner advocates.

"Drugs are a major problems in prisons and the reason why there are beatings, drug lords, gangs, fights and killings. If those running our prisons can't control drugs behind the most secure walls, then why bother outside the walls?

"If we follow the reports recommendations, then it's the same old pandering to inmates. The message it sends is `we can't do anything about it, so we'll just give it to you.'"

Guatemala To Investigate Former DEA Agent's Charges

By Fiona Ortiz

GUATEMALA CITY, Aug 9 (Reuter) - Guatemala will look into allegations by a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent that link Guatemalan politicians, businessmen and the military to drug trafficking and murders, officials said on Friday.

"I turned over the investigation to the drug trafficking crimes prosecutor who will decide whether there are any new complaints that have real elements for a new investigation," Amilcar Velasquez Zarate, chief metropolitan district prosecutor, told Reuters through a spokeswoman.

For two years former DEA agent Celerino Castillo of McAllen, Texas, has publicised his story, which includes DEA and CIA corruption and complicity in drug trafficking in Guatemala.

His 1994 book, Powder Burns, about working for the DEA in Guatemala from 1985-1990, made little impact here until the daily paper Siglo Veintiuno published his charges last month.

Siglo Veintinuno picked up the Castillo story after the former agent faxed to U.S. media his response to a July White House report about Central Intelligence Agency involvement with human rights abuses in Guatemala.

In his response, Castillo said the report "barely scratched the surface in revealing the depth to which the CIA has been involved in murders and other crimes."

Castillo told Reuters he knows of half a dozen cases in Guatemala in which the DEA ignored cases of government officials dealing drugs or of murders by army personnel.

Siglo Veintiuno published names of former congressmen, prominent businessmen and members of the government of ex-president Vinicio Cerezo whom Castillo said were involved in drug trafficking.

Cerezo responded with a scathing letter to the editor.

"I categorically reject as false what this guy has said about me, since I've never had the slightest contact with any so-called drug trafficking 'capos,"' Cerezo wrote.

Castillo said he is not optimistic about an investigation.

"It doesn't surprise me that they say they will look into this," Castillo said. "Like usual they're going to put on a show and either the judge is going to quit or get whacked (killed). They won't let them do a complete investigation."

'Probation Department To Try New Skin Patch Drug Test'

Los Angeles Times, September 15, 1996

Worn for up to 14 days, the device detects the use of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, PCP and other drugs through sweat.

By Greg Hernandez, Times Staff Writer

SANTA ANA--Drug offenders soon may be sweating out the results of their drug tests--literally.

A new skin patch, recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, detects the use of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and PCP through sweat. Worn for up to 14 days, it is then sent to a lab for testing.

Orange County's Probation Department plans to begin using the "sweat patch" on a limited basis within a few weeks, said department spokesman Rod Speer. It already has been used in some pilot programs throughout the country.

"We do urine testing as a straight course of business to check on people who are using drugs," Speer said. "This would be another way to do it. It gives you the ability to check for continuous use."

The window of detection with a urine test is roughly 12 to 72 hours. But the patch retains evidence of drugs for two weeks. It also is the only drug test that specifically detects heroin.

"There have been a variety of ways people have tried to detect the use of drugs through sweat, ranging from testing someone's sweaty clothes to putting them in a bodysuit and on to a treadmill, but none of that was practical," said Ed Collom, a vice president of PharmChem Laboratories in Menlo Park, which developed the product.

Since the patch cannot be removed from the arm without detection, it all but eliminates cheating, said Dan Verweil, chief executive officer of Sentencing Concepts Inc., an Anaheim company that works with the courts and probation departments on alternative sentencing methods for low-risk offenders.

"The only way to actually beat the sweat patch is to actually have the thing removed," he said. "They have a stake in making sure the patch stays on. Once it comes off, it can't go back on. It takes on a different shade. We know if it's come off and been reapplied."

While the Probation Department has not yet begun sampling the product, Orange County Superior Court Judge David T. McEachen has used it in a few cases in the county's drug court.

"One person volunteered to use it to prove to me that he wasn't using drugs," McEachen said. "He used it to keep himself honest."

McEachen said the biggest drawback to using the patch is its cost, which is currently three times more than a $6 urine test.

"I think in the future, the cost will come down," McEachen said. "There's some advantages to it. By using sweat, it absorbs everything. If you used heroin, you used heroin. You can't talk about poppy seeds," which can have identical results in drug tests.

The 2-by-3-inch patch, invented by Sudormed Inc. in Santa Ana, resembles a bandage and can be worn on the upper outer arm or the lower midriff. It consists of an adhesive plastic film that holds an absorbent pad against the skin. It is waterproof and can be worn during most normal activities, including swimming and bathing.

Orange County officials said a potential roadblock is the fact that the product has not yet been challenged in court in a Kelly-Frye hearing, which determines the admissibility of scientific evidence. The 1923 Kelly-Frye ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court found that scientific evidence had to have "general acceptance" by scientists. Urinalysis has met that criteria.

"Urinalysis is the test of choice, and we want the same thing to happen to the patch," Verweil said.

'Company Drug Test Illegal, Agency Finds'

Toronto Star, September 17, 1996

By Tracey Tyler - Toronto Star Legal Affairs Reporter

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has dealt a blow to drug testing in workplaces, finding the program at one of the country's biggest oil companies illegal.

Drug abuse and drug addiction are ``handicaps'' within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code and testing employees is discrimination on the basis of this disability, the commission said in a ruling released yesterday.

The decision affects most companies in Ontario and, though not binding on other provinces, can serve as a guide to their human rights commissions.

The case involves Imperial Oil's alcohol- and drug-testing policy, considered to be among the most comprehensive and rigorous in Canada and developed following the 1989 crash of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez, piloted by a recovered alcoholic. He was acquitted of drunkenness charges over the spill.

Imperial Oil says its testing policy was developed to minimize safety risks posed by employees who may be impaired by drugs or alcohol on the job.

But the commission says the program - which includes mandatory tests as a condition of employment, random drug tests thereafter and automatic discipline for anyone testing positive - is too broad.

Imperial has ``failed to prove'' a positive drug test is directly connected to job performance because drugs can remain in the body for several days after the impairing effects wear off, the commission says.

Marvin Huberman, counsel to the commission, said yesterday the ruling has ``enormous implications'' for other employers, ``particularly those with employees in safety-sensitive positions.''

Imperial is considering an appeal and believes its program is vital to public safety, spokesperson Barbara Hrjduk says.

While the corporation will be discussing possible amendments to its policy with the commission, it will continue to test its approximately 7,500 employees in the interim, she said.

The case stems from a human rights complaint laid by Martin Entrop, a senior operator on the control board at Imperial's Sarnia Refinery, who was reassigned from his high-risk duties after revealing in 1991 that he had overcome an alcohol addiction eight years earlier.

The ruling marks the first time a provincial human rights commission has looked at whether drug testing programs violate its laws.

The ruling does not apply to federally regulated industries such as banking and transportation, which have been pushing for the right to test employees for drugs.

But it will most certainly be read carefully by a Canadian Human Rights Commission tribunal, which will soon be asked to rule on whether drug testing will be permitted in industries under federal control.

And Huberman says the ruling may influence United States transportation authorities, who have so far refused to exempt Canadian truckers and other cross-border carriers from strict new drug and alcohol testing laws.

In considering the complaint at Imperial, commission chairperson Constance Backhouse said that both alcoholism and drug abuse generally are handicaps within the definitions of Ontario's human rights code.

That is, they are illnesses or disease ``creating physical disability or mental impairment and interfering with physical, psychological and social functioning,'' she said.

Under the Code, the company could refuse to employ people with drug or alcohol problems if it could prove that a legitimate occupational requirement was the need to be free from impairment by drugs.

An oil refinery accident could cause a ``catastrophic incident'' endangering workers, the public and the environment, she said.

However, Backhouse said, there's no direct connection between the key components of Imperial's policy and the actual prevention of on-the-job impairment so the company cannot use this defence.

The company can legally administer drug tests if it has reasonable cause - for example, if a worker appears to be impaired - or following an accident, she said.

Similarly, she said, testing can also be done in the course of certifying an employee for a safety-sensitive job and when deciding whether or not to they should be re-instated.

But Backhouse found almost every key component of the company's program unlawful, including:

A requirement that employees in safety-sensitive positions disclose any current or past substance abuse problem.

Automatic removal from safety-sensitive jobs for anyone with a substance abuse problem.

Mandatory drug testing as a condition of employment and random drug testing while employed.

The commission says the drug tests are an inadequate means of assessing a person's ability to do the job.



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