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October 17, 1996

Marijuana Arrests For 1995 Most Ever
FBI Data Confirm Clinton's Marijuana War To Be Toughest Yet

An estimated
* 588,963 total marijuana arrests were made by state and local law enforcement during 1995, according to the latest edition of the FBI Uniform Crime Report. This figure is an 18 percent increase above the 1994 level and pushes the total number of marijuana arrests under the Clinton administration to a staggering 1,450,751. The 1995 yearly arrest total for marijuana violations is the highest ever recorded by the FBI.

Of the 588,963 arrests made for marijuana in 1995, approximately 86 percent (503,350) were for simple "possession." The remaining 14 percent (85,614 arrests) were for "sale/manufacture," a category that includes all cultivation offenses - even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal use.

"This data confirms what NORML has been maintaining all along," states NORML's Deputy National Director Allen St. Pierre. "Despite criticism on Capitol Hill that this present administration is soft on drugs, the raw data clearly demonstrates that the federal government's war on marijuana smokers has gotten significantly tougher under Clinton's regime. These new FBI statistics indicate that one marijuana user is arrested every 54 seconds in America."

According to annual data collected by the FBI, Clinton's three year average of total marijuana arrests (483,548 arrests per year) is 30 percent higher than the average number of yearly arrests under the Bush administration (338,998). "These latest figures expose those who claim that America has abandoned the drug war under Clinton as the political charlatans they are," states NORML Publication's Director Paul Armentano. "The fact that adolescent use rates for marijuana are rising at the same time that law enforcement is arresting record numbers of users affirms NORML's long-held belief that marijuana prohibition is not an effective deterrent to marijuana consumption. Clinton hasn't abandoned the drug war; the drug war simply isn't working."

Additional statistics gathered from the Uniform Crime Report reveal that law enforcement made 1.5 million arrests for drug abuse violations in 1995, the most ever. This figure is a 7 percent increase above the 1994 level, 41 percent higher than in 1991, and 65 percent higher than in 1986. The FBI report further discloses that the number of individuals arrested for marijuana possession in 1995 virtually equaled the combined total number of individuals arrested for possessing heroin, cocaine, and/or their derivatives.

For more information on marijuana arrests, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.

* No arrest data for Kansas, Montana, and most of Illinois law enforcement agencies were available to the FBI for 1995. Therefore, arrest totals for these states were estimated by the FBI for inclusion in the overall total.

DEA Herbicide Under Fire From Hawaii Residents
Locals Complain Of Nausea, Other Ailments Due To Spraying

October 17, 1996, Hawaii Island, Hawaii: Residents of Hawaii's Big Island are complaining of nausea, headaches, and fatigue and some are pointing fingers at the federal government.

For nearly a decade, Drug Enforcement Agency-coordinated marijuana eradication efforts have targeted Hawaii Island, often spraying a glyphosate-based herbicide from low-flying helicopters over suspected marijuana patches. Recently, however, some residents are claiming that the pesticide, a chemical weed-killer similar to "Round Up," is killing wildlife and making some citizens sick.

"You can actually taste it in your mouth," said Roger Christie of the Hawaii Hemp Council, who alleges that diesel fuel is occasionally mixed with the pesticide. Christie claims that gusts of wind disperse the pesticide to outlying communities, where it collects in rainwater catchments. Rooftop catchments are a common source of residents' drinking water.

"In the last two weeks, hundreds of people have come to me with their complaints and said that's why I'm feeling this way too," said Ka'u resident Susan Smith in an interview with KGMB-TV earlier this month. "[Law enforcement] are flying over my house every other day. ... It's like a war zone out here."

"[Glyphosate] can do a lot of damage to our bio-diversity," said Noah Berry, vice president of EcoLaw Institute Inc., an Oklahoma organization that works to strengthen environmental laws. Berry cited a 1995 Journal of Pesticide Reform report that said glyphosate exposure was the third most commonly reported pesticide illness among agricultural workers in California.

DEA spokesman Sidney Hayakawa acknowledged the residents' concern and noted that the spraying procedure is currently under evaluation. He told KGMB-TV that the agency will issue an updated Environmental Impact Statement next year.

Lenny Terlip of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) told NORML that claims of glyphosate harming the environment and endangering the health of residents were "erroneous." He denied reports that the herbicide was mixed with any additives and said that the sprayings were not being conducted near houses or residential areas. The helicopter-mounted spray-guns have "pin-point accuracy," he added.

For now, however, the battle rages on and many residents remain unconvinced. This is an example of "law enforcement run amuck," claimed environmental activist and resident Jerry Rothstein, who recently attended a town meeting where numerous residents complained of health complications such as eye irritation, itchy throats, and bronchial problems due to spraying. Photographs on display at the meeting documented orange-sprayed foliage in forests and yards as well as dead bird carcasses. "From the response of the Ka'u community, th[ese] latest aerial herbicide attack[s] appear to be among the worst yet," noted Rothstein.

"Why do we have to wait [until] five years from now [for an answer?]" asked Smith. "Why do we have to wait ... till they tell us, okay, it's toxic and now it's outlawed?"

Currently, only one other state, South Dakota, engages in aerial herbicide spraying.

For more information, please contact either Roger Christie of the Hawaii Hemp Council at (808) 961-0488 or Jerry Rothstein at (808) 329-1568. Additional information is available from Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.

Drug Tax Ruled Unconstitutional By Texas Appeals Court

October 16, 1996, Austin, TX: A state law meant to penalize drug dealers by making them pay taxes on confiscated drugs violates constitutional guarantees against double jeopardy, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday. The decision is similar to a 1995 Arizona ruling that prohibited an individual who possessed marijuana from criminal prosecution "because the tax imposed prior to the prosecution served a punitive purpose."

Lawyers involved in the case said the 5-4 decision means the state can either impose a drug tax or prosecute an individual for illegal activity; it can't do both. "This [ruling] means the state only gets one chance to punish you," said Tom Moran, a Houston attorney representing the defendant.

The decision could lead to the review of nearly 1,000 of drug cases in which both criminal penalties and taxes were assessed. In cases which all or some of the state drug tax has been paid, this ruling could be "a pretty good get-out-of-jail-free card," said Dan McCrory, an assistant district attorney for Harris County. A spokesman for the state comptroller's office told the Dallas Morning News that counties had referred over 9,000 cases to their offices for collection of the drug tax.

In the recent decision, the court found that Texas' $98 tax on an ounce of marijuana and $200 per gram of controlled substance was so high as to conclude, "it ... is a penalty for criminal conduct." Therefore, the court ruled that because the defendant had already been punished by "imposition and partial collection of a tax," further prosecution would violate his Fifth Amendment protections against double jeopardy.

The case had initially been denied by Texas courts, but the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state courts to reconsider based upon a 1994 Supreme Court ruling on double jeopardy. In that case, Department of Revenue v. Kurth Ranch, the Supreme Court ruled that to collect a tax on the possession of drugs from defendants who had already been charged, convicted, and sentenced on criminal charges involving the same drugs was the functional equivalent of a successive criminal prosecution.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML at (202) 483-5500.

Drug Enforcement Administration Attacks California Medical Marijuana Measure

October 17, 1996, Washington, D.C.: The Drug Enforcement Administration has come out against a California ballot initiative (Proposition 215) to prevent the state prosecution of patients who use marijuana for a documented medical need.

In a press release issued by Thomas Constantine, chief administrator, the agency states that it is "firmly opposed" to the proposal. The agency cites rising adolescent drug use and an alleged lack of evidence regarding marijuana's therapeutic value as reasons for holding its position.

"How can we tell American children to refuse to use illegal drugs when medical practitioners are prescribing marijuana as casually as they prescribe penicillin or cough syrup?" he asked. "The children of America deserve to live a drug-free life, safe from the effects of drugs, and safe from the crime and degradation that drug-taking breeds. Proposition 215 sends the unequivocal message that we have surrendered to the legalizers and have relinquished our principles."

"This initiative is not about sending messages to kids, it's about reality," said Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights. "The reality is that marijuana is helpful as a medicine."

"Marijuana has a 5,000 year medical history and was declared to be 'one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man' in 1988 by the DEA's own Chief Administrative Law Judge," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. "Marijuana's medical utility has been endorsed by such well respected organizations as the American Public Health Association, National Academy of Sciences, and Federation of American Scientists. For the DEA to claim otherwise is fallacious."

Proposition 215 is currently endorsed by the San Francisco Academy of Family Physicians, San Francisco Medical Society, California Nurses Association, and others. It continues to have strong voter support and leads by 33 percent, according to an October 15 Field Poll.

For more information, please contact Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights at (310) 451-2522 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML at (202) 483-5500.



Regional and other news

Body Count

Only five 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 (Oct. 17, 1996, p. 9, 3M-MP-SE). That makes the body count so far this year 304 out of 555, or 54.77 percent.

According to the latest figures from the 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and the U.S. Census Bureau, there are still at least 30,873 illegal-drug users in Portland, at least 38,871 illegal-drug users in Multnomah County, and at least at least 194,858 illegal-drug users in Oregon. (As documented in the Aug. 29, 1996 Portland NORML News Release ("Let's Do The Numbers"), posted at

Harm Reduction Presentation In Hood River

"Harm Reduction - A Better Way," a computer-generated slide presentation comparing the harm caused by the use of various drugs to the harm caused by current drug policy, will be presented by Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse 7-9 pm Tuesday, Oct. 29 in Hood River, Ore., at the Hood River High School cafeteria. For more information contact MAMA at 2255 State Road, Mosier, OR 97040. Voice or fax (541) 298-1031, e-mail

Medical Marijuana Featured In Alpine World

Alpine World, which bills itself as "the online magazine of alpine sports, fitness, travel and the environment," has a special feature worth checking out this month at It includes more than 50 pages of photos, stories, and political cartoons, including the latest People and Newsweek stories about Dennis Peron and the raid on the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club. Alpine World is rated in the top 5 percent of all Web sites by "Point" and among the top 10 by Web Counter, with more than 1.8 million hits a month, verified by Linex Com. Alpine World is also rated No. 1 by Newsweek and Websight magazines.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums Monthly Meeting

The Oregon chapter of FAMM meets at an unspecified time and place in Portland on the first Tuesday of each month, including Nov. 5. For information, call Andrea Strong at (606) 746-FAMM or Lorraine Heller at (503) 292-5364.

Portland Cannabis Buyers Club Shuts Down

The former president of the Portland Cannabis Buyers Club wouldn't talk to the editor, but according to someone relatively close to the group, it has indeed gone out of business, as initially noted last week.

Established more than a year ago, the club consisted of people with AIDS, cancer and other illnesses for which their doctors had recommended cannabis. articles on the Portland CBC appeared in Just Out and Willamette Week, and past Portland NORML news releases reported on the club May 23, Aug. 1 and Aug. 15.

For a number of reasons, the club's president seems to have just reached the end of his rope dealing with all the frustrations and hassles. The office is shut, the phone is disconnected, and the president is now apparently too burned out from his fruitless efforts to contact members directly. However, the editor has been told with some assurance that all medical records have been destroyed.

For more than 20 years, surveys have consistently reported more than 50 percent of high school students say they could purchase marijuana if they wanted to. Prohibition is much more effective at blocking access to cannabis for medicinal users when they are in their 30s or older. That seems to have been the major problem for the Portland organization.

It should be noted that, early in the history of the Portland CBC, it printed the name of an alleged marijuana seller in its members-only newsletter, harshly criticizing him for his purported dealings with the club. Quite possibly, when word of that got out, marijuana growers and sellers became somewhat reluctant to deal with the Portland CBC, and the number of people supplying it seemed to shrink rather than grow. Moreover, the medical orientation of the Portland CBC seems to have led it to disassociate itself more and more from reform groups such as NORML whose agendas include decriminalizing "recreational" cannabis use. Indeed, the last time the Portland CBC president spoke with the editor, he said a vote among the membership indicated a majority opposed ending pot prohibition for non-medical users. It's also true that many medicinal cannabis users despise recreational users and proponents of decriminalization for recreational users, holding them responsible for marijuana's continued illegal status.

That said, there is plenty of blame to go around. At least a couple people involved in obtaining pot for the Portland CBC have said that few if any dealers ever gave them price breaks or any other favors. People who made commitments to the club almost invariably failed to meet them, and countless people were "fronted" money or cannabis which they failed to make good on. Other perennial problems included a lack of volunteers, pilfering of supplies, and at least one officer who embezzled thousands of dollars before being detected. Club members in search of supplies would sometimes learn the cupboards were bare for days, maybe weeks at a time. Finally, a significant price increase apparently occurred in the last few months, at least for the domestic seedless marijuana most useful to medicinal consumers. Whether because law-enforcement has had more success apprehending the vastly more numerous pot growers than those who traffic in cocaine, meth or heroin, or because of the increasing popularity of the non-toxic tonic, or just because of the traditional autumn "drought," several people familiar with the marijuana market have reported an ounce of sinsemilla has risen in price from about $250 an ounce in August to around $310 to $325. Whether that is a seasonal or permanent increase remains to be seen, but the increase and accompanying spot shortages seem to have been the last straw.

Somehow, other buyers' clubs around the country have overcome such problems. Stay tuned - if and when another group arises to meet the needs of medicinal cannabis users in Portland, it will probably be reported here first.

European Commissioner Praises Dutch Drugs Policy

EU Aide Argues for Legalizing Drugs
International Herald Tribune Oct. 10, 1996
Agence France-Presse

PARIS - The European commissioner for consumer policy, Emma Bonino, called Wednesday for certain drugs to be legalized after an EU report indicated that up to a million Europeans take heroin.

Mrs. Bonino reiterated her view that banning drugs led only to black market dealing and that legalizing them along the lines taken by the Netherlands would lead to a reduction in drug-related crime.

"If the trade became official, in a form which must be defined, it would deprive organized crime of an important source of revenue," she said in an interview in the Paris daily newspaper Le Parisien.

"And if drugs became available for a reasonable price, it would decrease violence by drug addicts to fund their habit," added Mrs. Bonino, a member of the Italian Radical Party.

She was speaking after the first report by the European Drugs Observatory about drug-taking across the Continent said that up to one million Europeans use heroin.

The report, published in Brussels on Tuesday, said that about l percent of the European Union's adult population had used heroin and that 0.5 percent were addicts.

The proportion of Europe's population that had used illegal drugs, mainly marijuana, varied from 5 percent to 16 percent in member states, the report added.

Mrs. Bonino argued that liberal Dutch legislation was a good example to follow. President Jacques Chirac of France, however, has objected to the Dutch drugs policy.

"Dutch legislation has produced excellent results," she said. "There is less crime and less delinquency. Drug addicts are registered, and there are far fewer people infected with AIDS than elsewhere in Europe."

She compared opposition to drug liberalization to the fight against abortion. "Everyone knows that the prohibitionists' legal arsenal is empty, but nobody wants to start the debate and consider alternative solutions," she said.

Mrs. Bonino insisted that she was against drugs, saying that she wanted to tackle the problem in a pragmatic way. "We are making it into a moral question. But I think the state is not there to save souls."

'Survey Lays Bare Society Of Everyday Drug Abuse'

The European (London), Oct. 16, 1996, p. 5:

Up to a million heroin addicts live in the European Union, according to the first survey of drug use in member states, but their number seems unaffected by national policy.

Although the fight against drugs is a priority for most governments, few have gathered comprehensive data on the extent of drug use and drug-related problems, making it nearly impossible to gauge the effectiveness of national policy.

In its first annual report published this week, the Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction for the first time answers the question: How many people take drugs?

The answer is a great many, and that will come as no surprise to professionals working in the fields of treatment, prevention and law enforcement. More striking is what the survey reveals about the impact of legislation on drug use: that repressive policies are no more effective in combating drugs use than more tolerant regimes.

The survey confirmed that drug use in general is rising, and that the age of users is falling. It found that while the proportion of people who say that they have tried an illegal drug ranges from about five to eight per cent in some countries to 11 to 16 per cent in others, only one to five per cent of the population admit to having taken drugs in the past year. Among younger adults the proportion of drug users rises to ten to 20 per cent or more, with five to 15 per cent having indulged in the past 12 months.

Cannabis remains the most popular drug in the EU, with ten to 20 per cent of people between the ages of 18 to 35 having taken it at least once. While ten per cent have taken cannabis in Belgium, Finland and Sweden, more than 20 per cent have in France, Germany and Britain and 40 per cent in Denmark.

Britain and the Nordic countries have witnessed a strong increase in the number of people taking amphetamines and synthetic "designer" drugs such as ecstasy, according to the report. It was welcomed by the Irish EU presidency, which has made the fight against drugs and organised crime its major objective.

By drawing together all the available information from 15 member states, the survey provides a snapshot of drug-taking trends throughout the Union which will be used as a foundation for developing a pan-European response to the continent's drug problems.

Harmonisation, however, is a word no longer heard in the corridors of Brussels. Following the aborted summit in the spring between Prime Minister Wim Kok of the Netherlands, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Jacques Chirac, progress towards a common approach in the border-free Schengen states has reached an impasse.

But the spokesman for the Irish presidency insisted: "Our ambition has not changed. We aim to unblock an Ecu30 million ($39m) drug prevention programme which was being held up by a disagreement with the European Parliament. We will ensure that the most serious drugs offences will be met with the highest penalties possible across the Union."

Police Corruption Blights Poor, Small Chicago Suburb

FORD HEIGHTS, Illinois, Oct. 14, 1996 (CNN Web news) - With most of the town's nine-officer police department yanked from their beats for alleged drug corruption, state troopers and county sheriff's officers are now on patrol in this town, some 30 miles south of Chicago.

Six current and former Ford Heights officers, including Police Chief Jack Davis, were charged last week with extortion and racketeering for allegedly protecting drug dealers.

The corrupt officers allegedly took bribes since 1988 in exchange for fixing cases and for information on police raids, according to federal authorities. The officers allegedly allowed bribe-paying dealers to operate, selling crack, heroin and cocaine, while forcing others out.


It may be the strictest policing the town of less than 5,000 has seen in years. Residents have long suspected crooked cops were working with the dealers, instead of against them. The crime rate gives evidence of that, jumping 78 percent from 1994 to 1995.

"Oh sure, right there in your face, right next door, but what can you say - you know, what can you do?" one young woman asked rhetorically.

"Who are we to go to?" another young woman said. "Who are we going to go to for help? If the police cannot protect and serve, they're not doing their job."

Crack dealers were hard at work averaging as much as $9,000 a day in profit, said Commander Carl West of the Cook County Sheriff's Department. By contrast, police officers earn as little $6 an hour and top out at $10.

The alleged bribes offered some easy money.

"Whether it's $6 an hour or $30 an hour, there's an amount of dedication that goes with that job, and unfortunately somewhere this community got off track."

Police corruption is not the only ill troubling this community. Ford Heights is one of the nation's poorest towns, with a median household income of $14,032.

Eager for a new image, the town even changed its name from East Chicago Heights in the late 1980s.

The acting police chief is warning remaining officers not to stray from the straight and narrow.

"The only thing I can tell them, and I advise them at the beginning, is to do their job," said acting Police Chief E.K. Haynie.

Many who live here agree, and are not afraid to say so.

"If they weren't doing their job," said one young man, "it's time to get some new police to do their job, you know what I'm saying - do their job for real."

Reporter Lisa Price contributed to this report.

US Jury Convicts Mexican On Drug Charges

The New York Times, Oct. 17, 1996

HOUSTON - A federal jury in Houston found Juan Garcia Abrego guilty Wednesday of 22 counts of money laundering, drug possession and operating a criminal enterprise, the Gulf drug cartel, which prosecutors say smuggled more than 100,000 kilograms of cocaine and 46,000 pounds of marijuana from his native Mexico into the United States over 16 years.

The verdict of guilty on all charges came after only 12 hours of deliberation. Twelve of the counts carry the possibility of a life sentence without parole. Garcia Abrego is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 31, 1997.

As the verdict was read, Garcia Abrego, 52, sat impassively, as he had throughout the four-week trial. But his lawyer, Tony Canales, a former U.S. attorney, said his client was devastated.

In an impassioned closing argument last week, Mike Ramsey, another of Garcia Abrego's lawyers, called the proceedings a "show trial," suggesting that his client was being sacrificed by the United States and Mexican government to give the appearance that they were accomplishing something in the war on drugs. He also argued that the government's witnesses were "bought and paid for." But his arguments failed to persuade the 12-member jury.

And Melissa Annis, an assistant U.S. attorney and the lead trial lawyer in the case, said at a news conference Wednesday, "I guess that's what you argue when you don't have anything else."

Immediately after the verdict was returned, the jury considered the federal request that Garcia Abrego forfeit $1.05 billion to the U.S. government, a figure that prosecutors said represented his share of the proceeds from the sale of nearly 87,000 kilograms of cocaine and 38,000 pounds of marijuana. A kilogram equals 2.2 pounds.

After another hour of deliberation, the jury determined that Garcia Abrego should forfeit $350 million. Canales said his client had no assets in the United States.

"This is a symbolic grab at nothing," Canales said. "The guy hasn't lived in this country, he doesn't have anything here. Now it goes on the government books, so they can balance the budget."

At a news conference after the verdict, federal agents hailed the decision as a great victory in the war against drugs. According to law-enforcement officials, the case against Garcia Abrego took more than 10 years to develop. It got a big boost in 1987, when Claude de la O, an FBI agent posing as a corrupt FBI official, insinuated himself into the organization.

Based on de la O's conversations with Garcia Abrego, as well as thousands of hours of wiretaps, U.S. law-enforcement officials indicted Garcia Abrego in Dallas in 1990. But for the next six years, he eluded the authorities in both countries.

"He basically had his own private army," said Mark McBride, the assistant U.S. attorney who obtained the original indictment. "He had ranches all over Mexico. We'd hear that he was here or there, but he was always one step ahead of us."

Current and former Drug Enforcement Agency officials say, though, that by the mid-1990s, Garcia Abrego's political influence in Mexico had begun to wane.

"He had become an embarrassment," said Phil Jordan, who recently retired as special agent in charge of the agency's El Paso Intelligence Center. "When that occurs, one of two things happens. You are killed in a shootout or arrested."

The end for Garcia Abrego came with his arrest by the Mexican authorities in January. During the trial, defense lawyers put on the stand four experts who testified that Mexican authorities had drugged Garcia Abrego to render him incapable of giving informed consent to medical treatment, let alone confessing to crimes.

Throughout the trial, Mexican officials waited anxiously in the courtroom to see if Garcia Abrego would divulge the names of high-ranking Mexican law-enforcement officials he is alleged to have had on his payroll. But while some of his former associates testified generally to widespread corruption in Mexican law enforcement, there were nearly as many references to Garcia Abrego corrupting officials north of the border.

And while several law-enforcement officials tried to paint the victory as the end of the Gulf cartel, a Drug Enforcement agent, Don Ferrarone, conceded that in all probability Garcia Abrego's business has simply been taken over by another of the five Mexican drug organizations U.S. officials say form the Mexican federation.

'Mexican Drug Cartel Chief Convicted In US'

Crime: In Houston, Juan Garcia Abrego is found guilty on 22 counts. He faces a possible life term in prison.
Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1996
By Mark Fineman, Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON - Juan Garcia Abrego, who headed one of Mexico's largest and most ruthless narcotics cartels, was convicted Wednesday of smuggling more than $1 billion worth of cocaine and marijuana into the United States.

After 10 years of investigation, a monthlong trial and 11 hours of deliberation, a federal jury here convicted Garcia Abrego, 52, on all 22 counts of drug-trafficking and money laundering - parts of a criminal conspiracy that witnesses said protected itself with millions of dollars in monthly bribes to officials on both sides of the border.

Jurors also ordered the seizure of up to $350 million of Garcia Abrego's assets - $75 million more than the prosecution requested.

After the verdict, prosecutors and defense attorneys indicated that Garcia Abrego - who fought back emotion as he listened through headphones to the Spanish translation of a verdict that could result in a maximum sentence of life in prison - has no plans to cooperate with U.S. and Mexican officials. They are investigating widespread corruption that they say continues to aid the drug trade in Mexico.

The trial drew wide attention from many in the U.S. and Mexico who believed that evidence might link Garcia Abrego to high-level corruption under former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

U.S. and Mexican officials have said they suspect ties between the drug lord and Raul Salinas de Gortari, the former president's elder brother.

Raul Salinas was charged with murder and illegal enrichment in Mexico after investigators traced to him more than $100 million in Swiss and other European bank accounts.

Garcia Abrego's former friends and associates testified that his cartel was paying one former Salinas deputy attorney general $1.5 million a month in bribes for protection.

The cartel was said to have paid off U.S. immigration officials, Border Patrol agents and even U.S. National Guard troops to escort their tons of cocaine across the border.

Asked whether the government could have introduced evidence linking the drug kingpin to top officials in the Salinas administration, chief prosecutor Melissa Annis said, "That is not something this government was investigating."

Future interrogation of Garcia Abrego on that subject also appeared doubtful, as Annis added, "I don't know that we'll ever have an opportunity to talk to Mr. Garcia Abrego."

Tony Canales, a defense attorney and a former U.S. attorney who said he will appeal Wednesday's verdict, said he knows of nothing his client could tell the government about high-level corruption to lessen his sentence, which will be imposed Jan. 31 by U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr.

"There's nothing on Carlos [Salinas] or Raul [Salinas] or anyone else, that I know of," he said. "Besides, I don't think it's going to happen. I don't think our government is interested in corruption in Mexico."

In rejecting Canales' defense that the U.S. government used Garcia Abrego to stage "a show trial" based on the "bought" testimony of other drug dealers, the jury also handed the Clinton administration a clear - if symbolic - victory in its war on drugs just weeks before the U.S. presidential election.

The burly, ashen-faced Garcia Abrego became a symbol of President Clinton's crackdown on the multibillion-dollar illicit border drug trade last year when Atty. Gen. Janet Reno placed the Mexican on the FBI's most-wanted list.

Gaynelle Griffin Jones, the U.S. attorney in Houston, stressed that Wednesday's verdict also serves as a model of "combined, coordinated cooperation" between the U.S. government and the government of Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.

Zedillo was sharply criticized in Mexico when he expelled Garcia Abrego and ordered him flown to Houston within 24 hours of his arrest near Monterrey in January.

Other senior U.S. law enforcement officials asserted that the verdict against Garcia Abrego, the leader of the Matamoros-based Gulf cartel, would help curtail Mexico's three other large drug operations, which the Drug Enforcement Administration says continue to supply up to 75% of the South American cocaine sold in the United States.

"This is going to send a chill through the trafficking community in Mexico," said Don Ferrarone, chief of the DEA's operations in Texas. "I look at this as a major victory. . . . You've got one of the top criminals in the world in jail in the United States for a long time."

As for Garcia Abrego's Gulf cartel, Ferrarone called Wednesday's verdict its "final chapter," though he acknowledged that the organization had been largely dismantled through prosecutions of more than 60 of its members before its leader's arrest.

But Ferrarone noted that the giant smuggling organizations - which his agency calls "the Mexican federation" of drug cartels - have regrouped since Garcia Abrego's January arrest and that another alleged drug lord has already taken his place along the porous, 1,200-mile Texas border.

"Amado Carrillo Fuentes is clearly the leader out there right now," he said, referring to the alleged head of the Juarez cartel.

Among the obstacles to halting the huge cross-border trade, Ferrarone and other officials said, is the mid-level Mexican police corruption that several witnesses close to Garcia Abrego described in detail during his trial.

Carlos Resendez, a friend and top Garcia Abrego aide, testified that his boss paid $1.5 million monthly to bribe Javier Coello Trejo, then the deputy attorney general in charge of Mexico's anti-narcotics efforts.

Coello Trejo, now in private practice in Mexico City, denies this claim.

After serving time in a Mexican jail in 1994, Resendez led Mexican police to Garcia Abrego - whom he said he "loved like a brother" - and helped set up his capture.

In return for his testimony, U.S. prosecutors dismissed a federal drug indictment against Resendez; he is among potential candidates to receive a $2-million U.S. reward for his aid in convicting Garcia Abrego.

Francisco Perez, a cousin of Garcia Abrego, testified that Garcia Abrego routinely spent up to $80,000 on expensive suits and watches for Mexican police and prosecutors during frequent shopping trips in Texas.

Perez added that Garcia Abrego gave one police commander a twin-engine plane from his cartel's private fleet.

'Mexico Drug Wars Advance Within Sight Of US Border'

The New York Times, Oct. 10, 1996
By Sam Dillon

TIJUANA, Mexico - The swaggering adolescent in cowboy boots shoved past a stream of American tourists and stepped into the nine lanes of traffic inching through the afternoon heat toward the United States border.

Suddenly, he pushed a 9-millimeter pistol through a car window and fired four times at the driver's head.

As the driver slumped bleeding to the seat, the San Ysidro border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego erupted in shrieks. The gunman slid his pistol under his belt, sauntered back to the sidewalk and climbed into a waiting van that sped away up a side street.

The shooting last Thursday of a Tijuana man who the police said was a minor drug trafficker was unusual, coming as it did just 50 yards from American soil, under the noses of U.S. customs officials. It even seemed to startle the jaded youths who stand at pay telephones, reporting to the Tijuana drug cartel on the carloads of cocaine moving north from the Mexican state of Baja California.

But it has been all but forgotten in the days since as several other Tijuana youths have been killed in a drug war that has also seen the slaying of several senior narcotics officials. The growing violence is rocking Mexico and threatens to spill over into the United States.

"This is the equivalent of what we experienced in Chicago in the 30s," said Alan D. Bersin, the U.S. attorney in San Diego.

"And given the increasing integration between Baja California and California, it affects us. We're not quite at the point where, when Tijuana sneezes, San Diego catches a cold, but the risks of cross-border violence are certainly perceived."

The violence also threatens Tijuana's economic boom. In recent years foreign businesses, attracted by a minimum wage of only $2.90 a day, have made Tijuana one of the hemisphere's fastest-growing industrial centers. But the drug killings here and the August kidnapping of a Japanese executive have aroused "a great deal of nervousness," Mayor Jose Guadalupe Osuna said.

"We're having to battle harder to get new industries," Osuna said. "They're asking a lot of questions, and they want us to boost our police presence in the industrial parks."

According to Mexican and American officials, the bloodshed is being driven by a turf war in which rival gangs are muscling in on the Arellano Felix family, whose drug organization has long controlled the Tijuana border, and a parallel conflict raging among corrupt factions within Mexico's Federal Judicial Police.

Seven Mexican officials who have worked on drug cases in Tijuana have been slain in as many months, along with more than a dozen state and municipal police officers and scores of minor traffickers.

The killings last month in Mexico City of two top Mexican commanders who worked closely with American agents in Tijuana to track the Arellanos has forced American officers to tighten security.

"When you work side by side with a comandante who gets killed, you have to be alarmed," an American official said.

The Arellano brothers - Francisco Rafael, Ramon, Benjamin and Javier, natives of the state of Sinaloa - settled in Tijuana in the late 1970s, according to documents filed with Benjamin's 1987 indictment on cocaine charges in San Diego. The family took control of the Baja border in 1985, when the trafficker for whom Benjamin was working, Leonardo Contreras, fled Mexico after killing two Mexican police officers.

The Arellano brothers bought Government protection and attained immense wealth, and although their narcotics activities were widely recognized, they mingled openly with the cream of Tijuana society and resorted to violence only infrequently, said Victor Clark, a human rights activist who has studied the narcotics trade here.

But a struggle that broke out in 1992 between the Arellanos and a rival trafficker, Joaquin Guzman Loera, grew into a vicious vendetta. It attracted widespread attention in 1993 after a Roman Catholic cardinal was killed at the Guadalajara airport when Ramon Arellano's gunmen fired on the churchman's car, mistakenly identifying it as Guzman's, prosecutors said.

In the crackdown that followed, the authorities arrested Rafael Francisco in December 1993 and confiscated Arellano family properties sprawling all across northwest Mexico, including five ranches, 91 vehicles and 118 houses. Over the years, the other brothers have eluded arrest, despite a reward of about $666,000 for their capture.

But this year, an aggressive federal commander, Ernesto Ibarra Santes, appeared to be closing in. Ibarra headed a 30-man mobile intelligence unit that with the help of Drug Enforcement Administration agents was focusing on the Arellano organization. On March 1, Ibarra's unit swept through Tijuana, confiscating 20 houses said to belong to Arellano associates. In another operation on Aug. 5, Ibarra arrested two top Arellano associates in the central state of Aguascalientes.

As Ibarra turned up the pressure, a string of current or former Mexican law enforcement officials based in Tijuana were killed.

Then on Aug. 15, as part of a nationwide purge of the federal police, 30 of the 120 officers based in Baja California were dismissed on suspicion of accepting bribes from drug traffickers. Among those let go was the federal police's Baja California commander. Ibarra was elevated to the job.

On Sept. 13, Ibarra received a call from Attorney General Antonio Lozano's headquarters, ordering him to report immediately to Mexico City. When Ibarra arrived in the capital late the same day, no security detail was waiting to escort him, so he left the airport in a cab.

Minutes later, a car pulled alongside the taxi and gunmen sprayed it with automatic rifle fire, killing Mr. Ibarra, his two bodyguards and the driver.

The police later found $50,000 in the bullet-riddled taxi, giving rise to speculation that Ibarra might have been accepting payments from the Arellano brothers' rivals.

On Thursday, amid great fanfare, Lozano announced the arrest in Mexico City of two men he identified as Arellano lieutenants who had taken part in Ibarra's murder. Lozano also vowed to restore order in Tijuana, but American officials said they doubted that the killings would end soon.

"We're not going to get caught in the crossfire," one official said.

'Legalize It!' (FDA Blocks Herbal Medicine)

Mother Jones magazine, November-December 1994

Garlic reduces cholesterol. Ginger prevents motion sickness. Goldenseal is an antibiotic. Why do FDA regulations prohibit labels from saying so?

by Michael Castleman

If I were in the business of selling garlic, the following sentence could land me in a heap of trouble: "Garlic reduces cholesterol."

The statement is true. But no one who sells garlic is allowed to tout its health benefits.

Welcome to the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the Food and Drug Administration, a topsy-turvy realm where the agency responsible for protecting the nation's health winds up threatening it. "The FDA knows little, if anything, about medicinal herbs," explains Varro Tyler, Ph.D., the Lilly Distinguished Professor of Pharmacognosy (natural product pharmacy) at Purdue University. "As far as the public health is concerned, FDA regulations governing medicinal herbs do more harm than good."

The above claim is no lie: Garlic does reduce cholesterol. Earlier this year, the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London, a prestigious medical journal, analyzed 16 studies to conclude that, compared with people who took placebos, garlic users showed an average cholesterol reduction of 12 percent. A similar review of other studies last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that eating just one clove of garlic a day reduced cholesterol levels an average of 9 percent.

Few Americans understand garlic's value, but they should. A high cholesterol level is a significant risk factor for heart attack, the nation's leading killer. Heart attacks now hit 1.5 million Americans a year. Studies suggest that garlic might help prevent up to 360,000 of them - or 30,000 a month - an astonishing benefit for any therapy.

Garlic costs only pennies per clove. It requires no prescription, adds zing to low-fat diets, and causes no side effects (unless you're offended by garlic breath, in which case, another medicinal herb, parsley, can minimize it).

Doctors increasingly recommend a low-fat diet for cholesterol control. But instead of garlic, physicians promote prescription drugs like cholestyramine (Questran). Cholestyramine is effective, but it costs $1 to $2 a day, requires regular professional monitoring that adds to its cost, and may cause side effects, notably constipation, vomiting, loss of appetite, bleeding, and vitamin deficiencies. In addition, animal research hints that cholestyramine might accelerate tumor growth.

What we have here is a public-health no-brainer. Some people with superelevated cholesterol levels might still need cholestyramine, but everyone with high cholesterol should be encouraged to eat at least one clove of garlic a day.

Unfortunately, if growers or marketers attached this information to bags of the aromatic bulbs, the FDA could confiscate their garlic. Ditto if they reprinted it in a pamphlet and mailed it to consumers or supermarket produce buyers.

Why? Because under FDA regulations, using garlic to reduce cholesterol makes the culinary herb a "drug." To the FDA, the assertion that "garlic reduces cholesterol" constitutes a "new drug claim." The FDA has never approved this claim, and it is a violation of FDA regulations to make unapproved claims on drug labels or promotional materials.

U.S. drug regulations made their first modern appearance in 1906, when "The Jungle," Upton Sinclair's indictment of the meat-packing industry, convinced a grossed-out Congress to pass the Food and Drug Act. The law created what is now the FDA, but it gave the agency no enforcement authority. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 rectified that, giving the FDA the authority to set - and enforce - drug safety standards.

The FDA remained pretty laid-back until 1961, when about 8,000 babies worldwide were born with flippers instead of arms and legs. Investigators quickly found the causeathalidomide, an over-the-counter sedative sold in several European countries. The thalidomide scandal spurred the U.S. Congress in 1962 to direct the FDA to require safety and effectiveness testing for new drugs.

Those standards were so rigid that they threatened not only herbs, but also hundreds of over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceuticals. To address this issue, the FDA appointed panels of physicians, pharmacists, and pharmacologists to write monographs determining if drugs already on shelves were safe and effective. The OTC Review Panels mainly examined data submitted by manufacturers and other concerned citizens. The OTC monographs, which are being finalized now, incorporated hundreds of drugs and some medicinal herbs, including the active ingredients in many OTC laxatives (senna, psyllium seed, and cascara sagrada) and a few decongestants (peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil). But the approved herbs represented only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of botanical medicines with extensive historical and clinical evidence of safety and efficacy.

Despite America's long history of using herbs, herbalism had almost died between the 1930s and the 1960s, the victim of antibiotics' miraculous effectiveness. Only since the mid-1970s have Americans become skeptical enough of high-tech pharmacology to fuel today's modest Herbal Renaissance.

At the time of the OTC review, however, the resurrection of herbal medicine had barely begun. The herb companies that did exist in the 1970s and early 1980s, when the review panels did most of their work, were run by mom-and-pop herbalists who sold medicinal teas at local health food stores. While these people knew the review was taking place, for the most part they lacked either the money or the political will to participate.

When they did organize, it was already too late. "We would have tried to submit data to several OTC Review Panels," says Lynda Sadler, president of Traditional Medicinals, an herb company in Sebastopol, Calif. "But the public comment period was already over, and that was that."

Having missed the review process, herbal missionaries now have to file a new drug application (NDA). Drug companies claim the process costs $230 million per drug approval.

The FDA contests that figure, saying that drug companies add in the cost of testing drugs that fail the approval process. So let's assume that the approval process costs less than half of what the drug companies claim, say only $100 million. And let's pick garlic to push, since persuasive studies already exist showing that garlic reduces cholesterol; we'll assume that an herb marketer wouldn't have to finance much, if any, new research. So the NDA process for garlic could conceivably cost as little as 1 percent of the $100 million figure, or $1 million, an amount a large herb company or garlic grower might be able to afford.

Here's the catch: When a drug company wins approval for a new drug, it also gets a patent with exclusive rights to market the drug. "But who in their right mind would spend $1 million on a new drug application for garlic?" asks James Duke, Ph.D., a senior botanist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "They could never recoup the investment, because they could never hold exclusive rights to an herb anyone can grow and use themselves."

In 1990, Congress passed the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act, allowing foods, including vitamins and herbs, to carry approved health claims. So far, the FDA has allowed claims that fiber helps prevent certain cancers, that calcium prevents osteoporosis, and that folic acid helps prevent spinal birth defects.

The FDA claims to be "very open" to NLEA petitions for medicinal herbs. But Loren Israelsen, a Utah attorney specializing in natural-product regulation, says that the NLEA regulations make it "difficult, if not impossible, for herbal products to win approval."

And, unfortunately, an NLEA petition poses the same sticking point as an NDA: No herb company will pay for the approval when it can't win the exclusive marketing rights that will allow it to recoup its investment.

Germany has a different drug-approval process, one that's considerably more open to herbal medicines. Like the FDA, Germany requires preapproval testing for all new synthetic pharmaceuticals. But it does not hold herbs to so high a standard.

In 1978, the former West Germany's FDA-equivalent agency began to study the enormous scientific literature on medicinal herbs. Over the last 15 years, the agency has published 285 monographs that Tyler calls "probably the best information available today on [herbs]." Today, an estimated 70 percent of German physicians routinely prescribe herbal medicines, with their cost generally covered by German government health insurance. At a German pharmacy, right next to brands like Sominex and Nytol, you find OTC herbal sedatives containing valerian.

Canada has a similar process. In Canada, medicinal herbs fall under the regulatory authority of the Health Protection Branch. In 1986, recognizing the increasing popularity of herbal medicines, the HPB created a new drug category, now officially termed "Traditional Herbal Medicines." They have yet to approve many herbal claims. "But at least," says Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council, a nonprofit that sponsors herb research, "Canada is moving in the direction of allowing herbal medical claims."

Herbalists wish the United States would adopt a similar system. But mention Germany, and FDA officials cringe: "Most of the thalidomide babies were born in Germany," says FDA Public Affairs Specialist Janet McDonald. "The Germans let drugs on the market with much less preapproval testing than we insist on. When problems develop, as they often do, they withdraw them."

German drug-approval standards may not be as strict as ours, but the results have been quite similar. In fact, from 1976 through 1985, more than half of the new prescription drugs approved by the FDA (102 of 198) were later found to cause unanticipated reactions serious enough to warrant relabeling or withdrawal.

The current state of medicinal herb regulations leaves most U.S. consumers confused about how herbs might help - or harm - them. In an effort to get information, some consumers turn to medicinal herb guides ("herbals"), but many contain inaccuracies, and few mention possible side effects or discourage use by pregnant women (see sidebar: "Potentially Hazardous Herbs").

Others turn to health food store personnel, who may not know much - at least according to the FDA. Last year, the agency asked staffs at 129 health food stores to recommend natural therapies for a variety of ailments. Employees at 120 of the stores made recommendations the FDA considered improper. But health food store personnel are not responsible for safeguarding the public health; the FDA is. And the main reason that health food store personnel don't know as much as they should is that the FDA prohibits informative labeling of medicinal herbs.

The World Health Organization estimates 80 percent of the world's population currently use herbal medicines. More than one-third of Americans now use non-mainstream approaches to meet at least some of their medical needs, and the number is growing. American health care costs have soared, and the Clinton administration has identified drug industry profits as a significant part of the problem. Today seems like a perfect time for the FDA to move forward into our medical past.

It's time to rethink the regulation of herbal medicines as Germany has done and as Canada is doing. The FDA should create a "traditional herbal medicines" category and appoint experts to draft monographs on the effectiveness, safety, cautions, and labeling of herbs. Just as they are free to take vitamins, Americans should be able to choose what they take for such conditions as motion sickness, indigestion, anxiety, insomnia, immune deficiency, and urinary tract infection.

P.S. If you have elevated cholesterol, consult a physician and reduce the fat in your diet. In addition, eat more garlic. I have no financial interest in any garlic product, so I can urge people to use this herb. FDA officials may call me irresponsible in a future Letter to the Editor, but research clearly shows that a clove of garlic a day might help you live long enough to see this country adopt a more enlightened policy toward traditional herbal medicines.

San Francisco-based health writer Michael Castleman is the author of "The Healing Herbs" (Rodale, 1991), a best-selling scientific investigation of 100 plants used in traditional herbal medicine.



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