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November 7, 1996

California, Arizona Voters Approve Initiatives In Favor Of Medical Marijuana

Voters in both California and Arizona have approved initiatives endorsing marijuana's therapeutic value and allowing patients to use marijuana for medical purposes where its use has been deemed appropriate by a physician. The result came despite heavy campaigning by opponents and decades of anti-marijuana hysteria.

The passage of Proposition 215 in California and Proposition 200 in Arizona demonstrates that Americans can clearly distinguish between the use of marijuana as a medicine for serious ill patients and legalization for recreational use. It further shows that the country has reached a consensus on the former, even as it remains divided on the latter.

"This is a victory for medical marijuana as well as for patients and doctors," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. "It shows that Americans do not want the federal government to interfere with the relationship between a seriously ill patient and the recommendation of his or her physician."

Both state and nationwide polls taken prior to this election's vote have shown that a majority of Americans favor medical marijuana reform. The recent events in California and Arizona may finally push those on Capitol Hill to take a close and objective look at this issue. It may also encourage some of the 23 states that currently have laws regarding medical marijuana to modify their measures so that they can begin directly benefiting patients.

"These votes demonstrate that the public are ahead of the politicians when it comes to reforming our drug policies, specifically medical access to marijuana," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup. "Americans do not believe that denying medicine to the sick and dying should ever be a part of the drug war."

The California initiative says that "Patients or defined caregivers, who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician, are exempt from the general provisions of law which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana." It further provides that, "Physicians shall not be punished or denied any right or privilege for recommending marijuana to a patient for medical purposes." The Act does not supersede state legislation prohibiting persons from possessing or cultivating marijuana for non-medical purposes.

"Despite heavy opposition from federal politicians and law enforcement, the California medical marijuana initiative passed because individuals know by either their own personal experience or by the experiences of those around them that marijuana has medical utility," said St. Pierre. "The government has lost all credibility on this issue by claiming otherwise."

"With the passage of Proposition 215 in California, new legal protections will be put into place for patients who use marijuana under a doctor's order," said Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights (CMR), one of the primary proponents of the measure. The group also announced that they will offer a toll-free number, 1 (888) YES-4-215, to explain how 215 works, and for whom it is and is not designed.

Proposition 200 in Arizona, known as the "Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act," is broader than California's measure and would essentially "medicalize" Arizona's drug policy. The Act calls for mandatory, court supervised treatment and probation as an alternative to incarceration for non-violent drug users and provides expanded drug treatment programs. It will also allow doctors to prescribe controlled drugs such as marijuana to patients suffering from serious illnesses such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and AIDS. Arizonans voted in favor of the initiative by a vote more than two to one.

"These votes give a flashing green light to the American public that they have the power to change the course on American drug policy," said St. Pierre.



Regional and Other News

Body Count

Four of the nine felons sentenced by Multnomah County courts in the most recent week received jail or prison terms for controlled-substance offenses, according to the "Portland" zoned section of
The Oregonian, distributed in the central metropolitan area (Nov. 7, 1996, p. 8, 3M-MP-SE). That makes the body count so far this year 319 out of 588, or 54.25 percent.

More Details About Propositions 200 And 215

[From a press release by the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet) Rapid Response Team:]

Voters in California and Arizona led the nation this week in enacting long overdue changes in their drug policies.

In California, voters passed Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative, by 56-44 percent. Prop. 215 will provide a legal defense to patients who use marijuana for medicinal purposes at the written or verbal recommendation of a physician. 4870822 Californians voted for Prop. 215, as compared with 4,675,552 votes for Clinton and 3,444,493 for Dole. In a less noticed but highly significant vote, California voters overwhelmingly rejected Prop. 205, a jail and prison construction bond bill.

Arizona voters passed an even more sweeping bill, Prop. 200, by a nearly 2-1 margin. Prop. 200 legalizes prescription and medical use of marijuana and other controlled substances, and replaces prison sentences for drug possession with probation. The bill is retroactive, which means that some number of prisoners will be released. Prop. 200 was backed by numerous physicians and by prominent Arizona conservatives, including recently retired Republican Senator Dennis DeConcini and some former Reagan Administration officials.

Marijuana is still a banned drug under federal law, even for medicinal purposes, so the ramifications of the propositions are unclear. But most prosecutions are conducted at a state level, which means at a minimum that medical marijuana patients will have much less to fear than currently.

Join DRCNet! Visit our world-wide-Web registration form at (complete with credit card billing and encryption for your protection), or send e-mail to for more information. To subscribe to the rapid response team, send e-mail to with the line "subscribe drc-natl " in the message. We need your help to survive!
Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet) 4455 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008 (202) 362-0030 (voice) / (202) 362-0032 (fax) /

65% Support Arizona's New Drug Policy

PHOENIX, Nov. 6 /PRNewswire/ - Despite opposition from Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, three former U.S. Presidents, the Wall Street Journal, and most elected officials and law enforcement in Arizona, Arizonans overwhelming approved a "new plan of attack on drugs."

Proposition 200 will prohibit drug possession offenders from going to prison in most cases and invest cost-savings in drug prevention. The measure has been endorsed by both former Senators Barry Goldwater and Dennis DeConcini who were also featured in campaign commercials.

"Proposition 200 medicalizes marijuana, but most importantly it medicalizes our entire drug policy. Most possession offenders would receive probation and treatment as an alternative to prison. Money saved would be invested in drug prevention for our children," said Dr. John Sperling, who is a co-chair of the campaign.

Proposition 200 will prohibit prison terms for first-time and second-time drug possession offenders; allow doctors to prescribe Schedule 1 drugs such as marijuana; create a Parents Commission on Drug Education and Prevention; require violent drug offenders to serve 100 percent of their sentence; and make eligible for parole 1,000 people incarcerated in Arizona prisons.

With 96% of the precincts reporting, 65.2% of the ballots cast in Arizona were in favor of Proposition 200 and 34.7% were opposed.

The committee financing Proposition 200, Arizonans for Drug Policy Reform, is chaired by John Norton, a former Reagan official. The committee's treasurer is Marvin Cohen who served in both the Kennedy and Carter administrations.

For more details contact Sam Vagenas of Arizonans for Drug Policy Reform at (602) 285-0468.

Oregon Election Results May Impact Drug Policy - 25% Of State Budget For Corrections

Nothing happened in Oregon Nov. 5 that is likely to have as much impact as the passage of the medical-marijuana initiative in California or the complete overhaul of drug policy endorsed by two-thirds of Arizonans. However, several Oregon election victors and initiatives will likely influence regional developments. Here are some highlights:

  • Jim Bunn, Oregon's conservative Republican 5th District Congressman, was defeated by Democrat Darlene Hooley, previously a Clackamas County commissioner. Bunn recently co-sponsored the new bill from former pot smoker Newt Gingrich, H.R. 4170, which would mandate the death penalty for anyone caught smuggling "commercial" quantities of drugs into the United States - including as little as two ounces of marijuana. It's not certain if Hooley will turn out to be any more amenable to reason, but no evidence is at hand to suggest she will be as much of a know-nothing or demagogue as Bunn.

  • Oregon voters passed Measure 47, the "cut and cap" property-tax limitation measure, despite a major campaign by the law-enforcement community and the usual one-sided reporting by local mass media. According to "Kitzhaber vows to help if Measure 47 passes" in the Nov. 8, 1996 Oregonian (pp. A1 & A17), "Measure 47 cuts property taxes by about $500 million the first year, or about 20 percent."

    Let's see. That means the state's annual revenue is currently about $2.5 billion. According to the same report, the state's budget for corrections "could reach $953 million in the next biennium," almost $500 million a year - one-quarter of projected state revenue under Measure 47. Just a few months ago, the state was predicting a 158% increase in prisoners over the next 10 years. At that rate, corrections will soon devour well more than half the state's budget. Unless lawmakers change Oregon drug policy, and soon, the voters will likely do it for them by passing the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act in November 1998.

    [The previous two paragraphs include an error that is corrected in the Nov. 21 Portland NORML Weekly News Release.]

    After more than a decade of steadily rising state tax revenue and steadily falling expenditures for education, Oregon voters have finally figured out they've been played for suckers. Giving the state more money has not meant more funding for education or libraries or much else - just more money for more prisons primarily for more drug offenders. Oregon has been cannibalizing its educational system for years in order to build ever more jails and prisons. Oregon is the only state in the union that decreased funding for higher education last year. The constituency that traditionally supports education and other "butter" issues in Oregon has dwindled under the ceaseless expenditures for "guns" and prisons.

    The impetus most often but falsely blamed for the current round of prison construction, Measure 11 and its mandatory minimums, was really just a failed attempt to address the lack of jail space for real criminals caused by trying to arrest and/or lock up at least 7.8 percent of the population who violate the drug laws in any given month. Now that Arizonans have voted 2 to 1 to stop locking up first- and second-time drug offenders, the media, public officials, law-enforcement community, and lawmakers can no longer pretend there is widespread public support for such policies or that such policies are anything but an immense and worthless drain on the budget.

    Legislators, the educational community, media and others who want to salvage vital state programs should work to pass a drug-policy-reform bill such as the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, which would solve all the state's funding problems and more. OCTA would not just raise an estimated $500 million a year by taxing and regulating what is already Oregon's largest industry (as determined by the DEA in 1992 - see "America's #1 Crop," in Portland NORML's "Articles" section at It would also obviate the need to build any more prisons at all, while reducing minors' access to marijuana and hence harder illegal drugs. (Unlike beer, wine and cigarettes, marijuana would be sold only through state package stores. When was the last time anyone reported kids buying or selling hard liquor at school?)

    It is a media-generated myth that voters will sacrifice everything in order to continue hassling a small portion of the black market - for example, no more than 13.8 percent in Multnomah County, according to government statistics cited in "Oregon and Multnomah County Arrests For Drug Offenses, 1986-1995 - 13.80 Percent of Multnomah County's Estimated 1995 Illegal Drug Consumers Busted," in the Sept. 5, 1996 Portland NORML Weekly News Release at The myths propping up failed drug policies perpetrated by the mass media and government and sustained by their refusal to acknowledge the evidence have been obliterated by voters in Arizona and California. The lesson from those states is: Ask the right question and the voters will give the right answer. The right question isn't about "legalizing" drugs. It's about regulating them to the advantage of public health and safety and the taxpayers' resources.

    Unlike most states that obtain revenue from property taxes, a sales tax and income taxes, Oregon does not have a sales tax.

    The local CBS affiliate, KOIN Channel 6 News, announced the close results of the Measure 47 vote by asking people on the street if they would now support a sales tax. When will regional media learn? At least five ballot measures proposing a sales tax have been roundly defeated by Oregon voters. Not a single such attempt has ever received as much voter support as the Oregon Marijuana Initiative in 1986, which collected 26.3 percent of the vote, even though OMI would have neither taxed nor regulated marijuana and would have legalized pot for minors aged 18 to 20.

    If Oregon media can seriously entertain the notion of a sales tax, they should first objectively examine the benefits of taxing and regulating cannabis for adults via legislation such as OCTA. The Nov. 5 election results indicate that drug policy reform is no longer a fringe issue. Media and public officials who pretend otherwise will only discredit themselves and lose credibility. For the most part, Arizona and California opted for reform in spite of the media, not because of them. Public officials who spouted the same old discredited lies and misinformation were simply ignored. You can't scare all the people all the time. The untruthful mass media and government can no longer stifle the debate. That is perhaps the biggest lesson of Nov. 5, 1996.

  • Also favored by Oregon voters was Measure 30, an initiative that amends the constitution to prohibit "unfunded mandates" to cities and counties by the state. Referred to the voters by the legislature itself, the measure unfortunately applies only to legislation enacted after Jan. 1, 1997. Otherwise, Measure 30 would have ended the drug war in Oregon all by itself, since there is not a single county in Oregon with enough money to lock up even the lowest estimate of illegal-drug users - or sellers for that matter. For example, as noted in the Aug. 29, 1996 Portland NORML Weekly News Release, figures from the various governments involved show that just building jails for all the illegal-drug users in Multnomah County would cost at least $5,694,885,200, almost $5.7 billion. With interest on new-jail bonds, the real cost would come to $14,898,165,000, almost $15 billion (check the methodology in "Let's Do The Numbers," posted at

  • The successor to Mark O. Hatfield's seat in the U.S. Senate will be Gordon Smith, the personable but ultra-conservative Republican who previously ran the Oregon Senate. Although Smith never responded to Portland NORML's queries during the campaign asking how many drug offenders he really wanted to lock up, and at what cost, the candidate endorsed such already-failed drug-policy strategies as using the National Guard to interdict illegal drugs at the border. Could someone in his office please get the Senator-elect to read his mail?

  • Another state initiative that passed was Measure 40, a so-called "victim's rights" bill that also amends the 244-kilobyte state constitution. (The 1995 version is posted at Measure 40 at this point is an expensive cypher - it seems unlikely the state supreme court would allow some parts to stand, and it's not clear what it all means, but it will certainly take a lot of attorneys' hours to find out. "Victims' rights issue might go to court," in the Nov. 7 Oregonian (pp. D1 & D7), notes that "David Fidanque of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon said the ACLU is exploring the possibility of asking to have the measure thrown out. ...
    Another part [of Measure 40] provides "the right to have all relevant evidence admissable against the criminal defendant," defining relevant evidence as that tending to prove the charge.

    Other sections say the measure's provisions shall be limited only to the extent required by the U.S. Constitution and that the Oregon Constitution cannot be interpreted more broadly than its federal counterpart.

    Considering that the state is the only "victim" in the majority of criminal cases, particularly controlled-substance offenses, Measure 40 may just exacerbate all the problems and costs such consensual crimes generate now for taxpayers.

    A story summarizing the various initiatives in the Nov. 6 Oregonian (p. C) also noted that Measure 40 "will also restrict judges' ability to order drug or alcohol treatment."

    Trail Blazers' Isaiah Rider Busted For Pot Again

    The Portland Trail Blazers' new star guard was cited by a Clackamas County Sheriff's officer Oct. 30 for possession of marijuana. He faces a minimum $500 fine in a Nov. 18 court appearance, according to "Blazers' Rider denies violation" in the Nov. 1, 1996 Oregonian (pp. A1 & A9). Rider denied possessing the pot, though police reported smelling burning pot emanating from the four-passenger vehicle and confiscated a pipe. Rider was previously arrested for possession by the California Highway Patrol on June 27, according to the same Oregonian report. The Trail Blazers neither benched nor penalized Rider.
    ...Wednesday night's drug allegations won't jeopardize Rider's career or his contract, which will pay him $17 million during the next four years. ...

    "As part of our collective bargaining agreement, the only two drugs specifically cited (in the [league's] substance abuse policy) are cocaine and heroin. Historically, marijuana has not been included," said Rod Thorn, the league's senior vice president, basketball operations.

    Gee, does that mean we can stop urine-testing high-school athletes for marijuana and give them back their constitutional presumption of innocence? This incident, like countless others involving celebrity pot smokers, should demonstrate how credible kids find the bald-faced lies of media and government that "only losers use drugs" - even discounting the obvious fact that beer and chewing tobacco are "drugs." Will such patent lies incite more kids to experiment with pot to see if it will make them less stupid than their elders, or as good at sports as all the busted sports celebrities they hear about from the sensationalist media? Will more kids smoke pot to express their solidarity with Rider or other esteemed sports figures? "What a tangled web we weave, when first we set out to deceive."

    Somebody should please tell Rider to show up with some of that $17 million at the next Portland NORML meeting, 7:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 20 at the Phantom Gallery, 3125 SE Belmont St. As Tom Paine, the American revolutionary, once put it, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."

    Class Action Medical Marijuana Lawsuit Announced

    Lawrence Elliott Hirsch, Counselor at Law, 1700 Sansom Street, Suite 501, Philadelphia, PA 19103; telephone (215) 496-9530; fax (215) 496-9532; e-mail, intends to file a national class action lawsuit against the United States government, seeking declaratory judgments and injunctive relief on behalf of all medical marijuana candidates. The litigation will be initiated in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, on or before November 22, 1996.

    In a national class action, one or more members of a class may sue as representative parties on behalf of all. There must be issues of law or fact which are common to the class. The claims of the representative parties must be typical of the claims of the class. The representative parties are bound to fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. Class actions were created to facilitate justice when the potential class is so numerous that individual joinder of all members is impracticable. A class action is the perfect vehicle for raising the federal, Constitutional issues surrounding the "medicalization of marijuana."

    In our case, the class action will be brought on behalf of all sick and disenfranchised citizens to enforce their constitutional rights to use cannabis to heal themselves without arbitrary government interference and criminalization.

    "Marijuana is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known. No one has ever died from an overdose, and it has a wide variety of therapeutic applications, including:

  • relieving nausea and increasing appetite;
  • reducing intraocular ("within the eye") pressure:
  • reducing muscle spasms and spasticity; and
  • relieving mild to moderate chronic pain.

    Thousands of patients and their doctors have found marijuana to be beneficial in treating AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic pain, and other serious conditions. For many people, marijuana is the only medicine with a suitable degree of safety and efficacy.

    However, only eight people in the United States are presently allowed to use marijuana as a medicine, through a federal program closed to all new applicants since 1991. People who need medicinal marijuana are left with two terrible choices: (1) continue to suffer, or (2) obtain marijuana illegally and risk the following consequences:

  • insufficient supplies due to prohibition-inflated prices or scarcity;
  • impure, contaminated, or chemically adulterated marijuana; and
  • arrests, fines, court costs, property forfeiture, incarceration, probation, and criminal records."

    Although cannabis has been demonized and used as a tool of political oppression, its known benefits have deep historical roots and almost universal acceptance.

    The class action is blessed to have Joan Bello as its National Director of Communications and Networking for the "Compassionate Class Action for Medicalization of Marijuana." Joan has recently published a book entitled "The Benefits of Marijuana," a phenomenal work based on years of extensive and thorough research. Any person interested in learning about the benefits of marijuana should read this book. Although we expect "The Benefits of Marijuana" to be a huge best seller and become a classic in its field, it is now available only by mail order. Each copy ordered directly from Joan will be personalized and autographed at a price of $18 per copy plus $3.60 (total) for shipping and handling on all orders. Checks or money orders should be made payable to: LIFESERVICES and addressed to Joan Bello at P.O. Box 4314, Boca Raton, Florida 33429.

    It is estimated that more than 30 million people are directly impacted by the marijuana medicalization issues. The initial named plaintiffs/representatives will be people from all over the country who suffer from a variety of sicknesses and disorders which make them candidates to receive marijuana as medicine.

    The "Compassionate Class Action for Medicalization of Marijuana" will be asking our federal judicial system for a declaration that the governments prohibition of medical marijuana is unconstitutional, and for a judicial decree, ordering among other things, that the government make marijuana available to those with a medical need, and to enable medical candidates to cultivate cannabis for their consumption and healing.

    The legal foundation for the suit will be predicated primarily on the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution which guarantees all citizens equal protection of the laws, and due process of law. Only eight people in the United States of America have the legal right to receive marijuana from the federal government. Arbitrary restriction of this right, when there are millions of candidates who need cannabis for their healing is unconstitutional. The Federal prohibition effectively nullifies the power of each state to fashion their own regulatory structure.

    Marijuana has been unjustly demonized by the government in concert with certain corporate interests with hidden and political agendas.

    With respect to the medical marijuana "body count," the government can score its "victims" in its war on drugs in the tens of millions.

    We are confident that after a full presentation of the evidence, the data and the literature in the "Compassionate Class Action for Medicalization of Marijuana", that the big lies of the government/big business conspiracy that has led to the deprivation of constitutional rights of all of the people affected by the class action will be exposed, and that justice will prevail.

    Planning of support infrastructure for the "Compassionate Class Action for Medicalization of Marijuana" is being finalized. Many attorneys, sufferers, activists and organizations throughout the country have already lent their support to the implementation to the class action. It is anticipated that the class action will attract all of the vast support that it needs because of its inherent righteousness, and its legal, equitable and constitutional soundness.

    Further information may be obtained by contacting Lawrence Elliott Hirsch or Joel Ian Herzfeld or Ryan Perlman, assistants to Mr. Hirsch.

    Proposition 215 Boosters Include California Attorney General Dan Lungren

    Steve Kubby of Californians for Medical Rights and the Proposition 215 campaign (, writes about California Attorney General Dan Lungren:
    >(Note: Until the Lungren raid of the SF CBC, we had no money for these TV
    >ads. Everybody was turning us down and our numbers were falling. Jim
    >Gonzalez, our Deputy Campaign Chair complained that we were, "dead in the
    >water." After the raid, nearly $1 million poured into CMR - by outraged
    >citizens. Thanks Dan, we couldn't have done it without you.)

    Gary Webb Answers Questions About His Mercury News Series

    "Crack and the Contras"
    Gary Webb,
    San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 5, 1996

    "For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the US Central Intelligence Agency." So begins Dark Alliance, the controversial three part series, published last August, by Gary Webb in the San Jose Mercury News.

    The story makes the allegation that beyond selling drugs in America in the 1980's, the US-backed Contra rebels, fighting a Cuban-backed Nicaraguan regime, were largely responsible for introducing crack-cocaine into the US. This issue has raised interest to the point that a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has begun hearings on it.

    The story has been picked up by other news organizations, notably The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. These two papers question some of Mr. Webb's sources and his findings, especially regarding the introduction of crack into America, the targetting by Contra dealers of African-American communities and the involvement of the CIA.

    In his defense, Mr. Webb told The Washington Post that "this (series) doesn't prove the CIA targeted black communities. It doesn't say this was ordered by the CIA... Essentially our trail stopped at the door of the CIA."

    A 1989 Senate Foreign Relations Committee report that looked into this issue also stopped just short of implicating the CIA. It stated, "There are some serious questions as to whether or not US officials involved in Central America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the war effort against Nicaragua."

    Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of that sub-Committee, had this to say about the recent allegations raised by Mr. Webb and others, "There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, or on the payroll of the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the Contras, but it is also important to note that we never found any evidence to suggest that these traffickers ever targeted any one geographic area or population group."

    The CIA is investigating the matter further as is the Justice Department. In 1988 the Deputy Director of the CIA, Robert Gates, led a three day investigation into the affair concluding that "all allegations that the CIA condoned, abetted or participated in narcotics trafficking are absolutely false."

    With such differing views coming from within government, clearly some issues remain to be answered.

    Our Forum asks? Was the government involved in alleged drug sales by the Contras in the US? Are you satisfied that Mr. Webb's research supports his allegations of widespread Contra involvement in the American crack trade? Has the government been diligent enough in its investigation of this issue? What should happen if proof of CIA involvement arises?

    Gary Webb's answers are below.

    Questions asked in this forum:

  • A question about continued CIA denials.
  • Would there be a better investigation with a Republican or Democratic administration?
  • What about the evidence coming out of Costa Rica?
  • What were your biggest obstacles in covering this story?
  • Why have the major media outlets downplayed this story?
  • What are the connections between this case and the airstrip at the Hull Ranch?

    A question from Douglas Couvertier of FT. Lauderdale FL :

    The CIA has denied the selling of drugs to anyone. What proof is there that the government actual took part in the selling of cocaine?

    And if such proof exists, why aren't there any prosecutions going on?

    Gary Webb responds:

    The CIA has denied an accusation that was never made. What they have not denied is that men working for the CIA-run army were selling vast quantities of cocaine to American citizens and using some of the drug profits to arm and equip that army. The CIA has also not denied that the drug dealers were meeting with CIA-paid commanders during this time and getting fundraising requests from them.

    Return to question index...

    A question from Daniel Berg of Grand Rapids, MI:

    Do you feel there would be a better investigation with a Republican administration or Democratic one?

    Gary Webb responds:

    I think that both parties would be happy to blame the other for this. Historically, neither party has seemed particularly eager to delve into this can of worms.

    Return to question index...

    A question from Joe Horman of Houston, Texas:

    In 1989, after a Costa Rican Congressional investigation concluded that the Contra re-supply network in Costa Rica - that Oliver North coordinated from the White House - doubled as a drug smuggling operation, Nobel Prize winner, President Oscar Arias, banned North, CIA agent Joseph Fernandez, Ambassador Tambs, Admiral Poindexter, and Richard Secord from the nation. "These requests for Contra help were initiated by Colonel North to General Noriega," the commission reported. "They opened a gate so their henchmen could utilize [Costa Rican] territory for trafficking in arms and drugs." (Costa Rican Tico Times, 7/28/89) Were these activities connected to the Los Angeles distribution, and if so, why did you not include the Costa Rican findings in your report?

    Gary Webb responds:

    The Costa Rica angle is something that we are currently investigating. The reason it was not included in the original series, aside from space, is that we did not have a chance to investigate these allegations for ourselves.

    Return to question index...

    A question from Phil Wright of Concord, MA:

    What were your biggest obstacles in reporting on this story? I can only imagine that dealing with such a cloak and dagger issue, ie, involving the CIA and crack dealers, you had a lot to overcome. Did you ever feel threatened?

    Gary Webb responds:

    The biggest obstacles were the total lack of cooperation and candor for the US government. All but one of Freedom of Information Act requests were denied, often for the most absurd reasons, i.e., the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI didn't want to invade the privacy of these international drug lords. Not a single government official with personal knowledge these activities would agree to answer the questions. We had public records disappear from court files. We had a witness disappear from a Nicaraguan prison. I was told that I would endanger the lives of DEA agents if we disclosed certain matters. I never felt threatened personally, but as my Nicaraguan colleague, George Hodell, noted at one point, Things are moving all around us.

    A question from Pearl Gladstone of Bensalem, PA :

    Why are all the larger newspapers, pooh, poohing the story by shortchanging the information, and using the technique of failing to tell the story, just criticizing it, and also using name-calling techniques like Conspiracy theorist for anyone who dares to ask a question?

    Gary Webb responds:

    It helps to realize that, for the past ten years, the major media outlets have studiously ignored or dismissed this topic, with very few exceptions. Now that it has been proven that the Contras were indeed selling drugs to Americans, I think they are hard pressed to explain their lack of attention to a topic that millions of Americans care very deeply about. To accept this story now is a tacit admission that the biggest media outlets in this country have been asleep at the switch for a decade - or worse.

    A question from Bonnie Perry of Mundelein, IL:

    Does any of your research lead you back to the allegations raised in the past regarding flights late at night into the airstrip by the Hull ranch (was his name , David?) that were discussed on several reports during the end of the Bush era on NPR? They interviewed some local residents who became alarmed at all of these late flights and noise. Investigations showed that the activities were very hush, hush and local people were systematically reprimanded for asking questions. The report as I remember it, alleged that this was the drop-off point for the Contras and that the "payment" for the trips was actually free passage of cocaine to the US under the watch of our government, CIA, operatives, etc. Further, that Mr. Hull did very well by his little flying missions and was compensated by the CIA.

    I don't remember hearing any of this brought up in the Clinton years. Thanks for your work on this.

    Gary Webb responds:

    See the answer to #3. The Hull ranch was in northern Costa Rica.

    Ralph Seeley Gives The Lie To NBC Nightly News

    Washington attorney Ralph Seeley (, whose case may soon lead to legalized medical marijuana in that state, wrote on election night:

    I sent to following to Brokaw after watching in amazement the one-sided coverage tonight:

    Tom Brokaw:

    As a lawyer, terminal cancer patient and former journalist, I was disappointed in your unbalanced coverage this evening about the California initiative concerning medical marijuana.

    You interviewed McCaffrey, who goes by the title "czar," certainly an insult to anyone believing in a democratic form of government. For balance, you flashed a background photo of a scientific paper published by Harvard's Lester Grinspoon. Now I guess you can proudly say both sides were represented.

    McCaffery's reference to the DEA's approval procedure is disingenuous, at best. As the DEA's own law judge stated emphatically in 1988, the system is designed such that companies spend millions getting approval, and earn it back with the sale of patented drugs. You can't patent a plant.

    Further, a recent event is typical: a researcher at a California university spent two years getting DEA approval for a research protocol to examine the efficacy of smoked marijuana versus THC taken as a tablet. After the DEA approved it, the other branch of our caring and concerned federal government refused to provide him with the marijuana to do the tests. (Details available on request.)

    With a federal "czar" attempting to increase and prolong my suffering, I should be losing faith. I still hang on. I sued the state (Washington) for "declaratory relief," for a declaration stating that marijuana being unavailable by prescription is a violation of my rights. I won in superior court, and the Supreme Court heard argument Sept. 25. We expect an opinion sometime in the December - March time frame. Maybe the state's judiciary hasn't been as corrupted as federal agencies. Even with a terminal disease, a guy can still hope.

    Ralph Seeley
    Attorney at Law
    Terminal cancer patient
    Cannabis user

    Doctor's Orders - Treat Alcohol And Tobacco Addiction Before Illicit Drug Use

    PERTH, Oct 15, 1996 AAP - Legal drugs in Australia were responsible for more deaths and social problems than any illegal drugs, a doctors' conference was told in Perth today.

    A Perth GP who has studied drug use, Dr Moira Sim told the annual conference of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners that doctors should look at treating alcohol and tobacco addiction before illicit drug use.

    Alcohol was the most commonly used drug in Australia and tobacco caused the most deaths, Dr Sim said.

    "Illicit drug use actually accounts for a very small percentage of drug use and mortality rates resulting from drug use," she said.

    "Australians are the second heaviest drinkers in the world, behind New Zealand."

    Dr Sim said while 62 per cent of drug-related deaths were caused by alcohol, only two per cent were caused by heroin, and a total of three per cent were caused by all illicit drugs combined.

    Cannabis, she said, although the most commonly used illicit drug, was also the least likely to cause death.

    "Most people who use cannabis don't have problems that are usually associated with drug use, and many of them stop using without the need for treatment," Dr Sim said.

    She spoke in support of a proposed heroin trial in Canberra, where registered addicts for whom methadone treatment was inappropriate were to be prescribed the drug in regulated doses.

    "The trial could be very good. Following a similar trial in Switzerland, criminal activity dropped by 60 per cent, and associated illicit drug use dropped by 31 per cent," Dr Sim said.

    "It should also be noted that heroin itself is a clean drug, with few side effects.

    "The negative effects associated with the drug are actually caused by the substances with which it is mixed to increase volume before street sale."

    She said despite popular opinion, statistically marijuana was no more of a gateway to "hard" drug use than alcohol and tobacco.

    "Marijuana has some unproven side effects, and is not advisable for people with a family history of schizophrenia or pregnant women, but there are some good effects as well," Dr Sim said.

    "It's been known to work well in the treatment of glaucoma, and is an effective appetite stimulant in AIDS patients."

    Similarly, she said, there was an uninformed public reaction to the designer drug ecstasy, which has been related to three deaths in Australia.

    "There is a low abuse potential with ecstasy, as there is a fairly rapid tolerance build-up, and in fact the drug is self limiting, with an average use of eight times only," Dr Sim said.

    "Ecstasy use is infrequent and not associated with crime. It has been branded as a bad drug without any evidence to support that."

    Dr Sim urged doctors to keep informed about illicit and legal drugs, and give patients unbiased scientific information.

    "We have to accept drug-use as an integral part of our society, as it has been throughout history, and we must learn to work with that," she said.

    AAP kbw/hu/

    Is Interdiction Working Yet?

    DUBLIN, Nov 5, 1996 (Reuter) - Illegal drugs are so freely available that they have halved in price over the past decade, the head of the European Union's police agency said on Tuesday.

    "The sad fact is that drugs have remained so abundantly available on the market that prices have even dropped to around 40 to 50 per cent of what they were 10 years ago," Juergen Storbeck, head of Europol, told a Dublin seminar.

    He said international drug trafficking since the 1980s has expanded so much that it now forms a powerful geopolitical force generating an estimated $500 billion annually, 30 per cent of which is being laundered.

    "Only a mutli-disciplinary approach can help to make the (drugs trafficking) problem manageable," the Europol chief told delegates on the first day of a two-day seminar on "EU Action Against Drugs," hosted by EU president Ireland.

    Storbeck said while police and customs authorities have been fairly successful in intercepting drugs over the past few years, even high seizure rates have failed to reduce consumption.

    Storbeck said new markets were opening up in Central and Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and China. He said cannabis and poppy cultivation was increasingly taking place in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Asian part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

    The rapidly growing production of and trafficking in synthetic drugs such as Ecstacy and amphetamines that emerged at the start of this decade has continued to flourish thoughout 1995 and into the first months of 1996, Storbeck added.

    He said they were produced in EU member states and increasingly in Poland, the Baltic States and other Central and Eastern European countries.

    He said Europol, which is currently empowered to help exchange information between police forces in EU countries via its national liaison officers, could not alone be successful in the fight against drugs criminality.

    "We have to establish an efficient law enforcement network with all the competent agencies in the EU and outside. And we need a common European strategy against drugs trafficking including prevention, demand reduction and medical assistance but also political and administrative measures."

    Ireland's minister for Justice Nora Owen told delegates of Ireland's determination to use its tenure as EU President to push for a crackdown on drugs trafficking.

    "Tackling drug trafficking and abuse is a major priority of the Irish Presidency and it is a very substantial element in our Presidency Work programme," Owen said.

    She said these were global problems and the Irish Presidency was striving to enhance cooperation between all regions affected by the various aspects of drugs trafficking and abuse.

    "It is only through effective action at a national level, complemented by wider measures at a European Union and international level that we can hope to tackle the drugs problem and give our citizens the quality of life and the security which they rightly deserve," Owen said.

    The Irish government is due to report on its efforts to coordinate the fight against drugs at an EU summit in Dublin in December.

    Billion Dollar Border Interdiction Effort Nets $291 Million In Drugs

    SAN DIEGO, Nov. 1, 1996 (UPI) - U.S. Customs Service officers seized more than $291 million in illegal narcotics along the California-Mexico border during the past fiscal year, officials said Friday.

    The number of narcotics seizures during the federal fiscal year ending Sept. 30 amounted to 3,842, with record heroin and marijuana seizures paving the way for the high figures, said Rudy M. Camacho, director of the Southern California Customs Management Center. The number of narcotics-related arrests and investigations was 3,627.

    Camacho credited Operation Hard Line, a program in place for two years, for the steadily increasing seizures.

    The $291 million figure represents the wholesale value of the drugs, not the street value, which would be many times higher, officials said.

    Among the seizures was more than 272,000 pounds of marijuana, far exceeding last year's record of 185,439 pounds. Also seized was 5,522 pounds of cocaine and 1,012 pounds of methamphetamine, 201 pounds of heroin and thousands of doses of anabolic steroids.

    Follow-up investigations of port seizures led to significant information about smuggling activities not available at the time of the seizures, leading to possibly more arrests, said Edward Logan, special agent in charge of the San Diego Office of Investigations.

    During the seizures, officers also found a wide variety of merchandise, including weapons, child pornography, currency, Freon, stolen vehicles, real estate and restricted agricultural products and wildlife. The value of the non-narcotic merchandise seized was $20 million.

    What Happens When Police Control Drug Policy

    NEW YORK, Oct 7, 1996 (Reuter) - A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent has been arrested for allegedly seeking a bribe from a doctor under investigation for diverting controlled substances for his personal use, prosecutors said on Monday. Neal Ebrus, 33, a diversion/compliance investigator with the DEA, is charged in a complaint filed in White Plains, New York federal court, alleging he demanded the $25,000 bribe in return for ending the investigation of the doctor.

    The one-count complaint alleges Ebrus told the doctor the $25,000 would be a charitable donation to a fund established for a friend who was paralysed in a sporting accident.

    Ebrus allegedly told the doctor to make the payment in cash so it could not be traced and in return Ebrus allegedly promised to send the doctor official government documents showing the case against him had been dropped.

    Pot Improves One Man's Memory

    As noted in the Introduction to Dr. Tod H. Mikuriya's "Marijuana: Medical Papers" (1839-1972), posted at, it has long been "known" that cannabis is an effective remedy for a variety of illnesses and injuries. The body of Western medical research and literature on cannabis is extensive and goes back to 1839. Unfortunately, the institutional and social memory of one of the most researched drugs in history has been systematically obliterated by generations of drug-warriors who have quietly worked to expunge the record.

    As Alan R. Silverman ( writes:

    Here's another note that came to me via the ACU Web site. It's been getting a bit of activity lately....-alan

    >As a child about six years old I had developed a severe nausea from some
    >form of germ or virus. My mother took me to see a Finnish doctor in New
    >York, he prepared some herbs [?] in a container, lit it and with a towel
    >draped over my head I was to breathe in the smoke. As I remember, it
    >cleared up the nausea and I recovered soon thereafter. This took place
    >about 1933, and I understood it to be an old practice in Finland. It
    >wasn't until one day I suprised my kids smoking "pot" that I recognized
    >that smell. There should be references to that medical use in Finland and
    >other european countries. Good Luck in your endevour.

    Battle Plan Of The Drug Warriors

    "Burtman: Just say no (to honest debate) in the war on drugs."

    By Bob Burtman
    Houston Press, Nov. 7, 1996

    "Legalization is not a debatable issue. It's like debating racism." - Calvina Fay

    Just Say No (to Open Debate)
    When it comes to alternatives to the drug war, some warriors would rather you not hear about it.

    To some of those fighting on the front-lines of the war on drugs, open discussion can be as dangerous as bad smack. Besieged by growing legions who favor the reform of zero-tolerance drug laws - including prominent conservative judges, police chiefs, physicians and businessmen - the say-no foot soldiers are increasingly employing their favorite tactic: discredit those who have opposing views.

    Alan Robison holds a few of those views. A distinguished professor of pharmacology and former department chair at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Robison is the kind of reform advocate drug warriors loathe, one with impeccable credentials. And as president of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, a group seeking to broaden the debate, the professor poses a special threat.

    "The war on drugs is designed to use the criminal justice system to make America drug free," Robison says. "It's a bad policy. It doesn't work."

    Beyond agreeing that the drug war has been a failure, members of the Forum and other advocacy groups hold varying ideas on what should replace it. Some focus on easing harsh penalties for simple possession. Others want to implement "harm-reduction" strategies for treating drug abuse that take a more realistic approach to addiction than zero tolerance. Still others would legalize marijuana and control its distribution. Robinson himself stops well short of calling for legalization, instead favoring a combination of decriminalization and greater emphasis on education and treatment.

    The Forum recently sponsored three debates at Rice University [minor correction: Rice, TSU, then U of H] to address the most pertinent questions on drug policy: Who should lead the war on drugs, doctors or the police? Has the war done more harm than good? Should drugs be legalized? To present a cross section of opinion, Robison pulled together law officers, public health officials and academics with widely diverging views.

    Prior to the first debate in late August, a number of panelists received phone calls asking them not to participate. Though most refused to back out, not all withstood the pressure. Leonel Castillo, Mayor Bob Lanier's education liaison, had agreed to moderate the second meeting but pulled out at the last minute.

    According to Castillo, several people suggested he not attend, though he wouldn't name names: "I'd rather not put anybody in a bind by suggesting they said I not do that."

    Assistant police chief Art Contreras, whose purview includes narcotics investigations for HPD, was likewise unwilling to identify those who asked him not to honor his commitment to be on one of the panels, but offered a clue. "The people that have a vested interest in keeping the policy as it is today are the ones to look at," says Contreras, who appeared as scheduled at the debate.

    Those vested interests include drug-testing companies and anti-drug consulting firms, the sprawling D.A.R.E. bureaucracy, private prison operators, police departments dependent on asset forfeitures and others with a financial stake in maintaining the war on drugs at current levels. "They don't want changes," says Contreras.

    One name among the just-don't-say-anything forces did repeatedly surface - Calvina Fay, executive director of Houston's Drug-Free Business Initiative, a nonprofit organization working to eliminate drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace. Fay phoned a number of the participants and tried to persuade them not to attend the Robison-organized functions. "Ms. Fay was pretty upset," Castillo says. She doesn't think the matter should even be discussed. She said that Robison and all them were legalizers."

    Calvina Fay appears suspicious, and her unease is somehow compounded by her incongruous pre-Halloween jack-o'-lantern earrings, black widow hose and "Cool Ghoul" pin. Before answering questions, she demands to know if the reporter does in fact work for the 'Press' or is simply masquerading as a journalist on behalf of the enemy.

    Fay organizes educational campaigns, speaks to employers, edits HDFBI's newsletter and otherwise oversees the group's anti-drug efforts. She joined the organization in 1990 after running her own drug-testing company for several years. During that time, she says, she experienced firsthand the horrors of controlled substances.

    Fay says HDFBI operates on a shoestring: Its office is donated, its programs are subsidized and much of its labor is volunteer. Despite several requests, however, she would not allow the 'Press' to see the organization's annual IRS Form 990s prior to our deadline - a violation of federal law governing disclosure for tax-exempt nonprofits. And while she says no one's making money off of the HDFBI, one of the group's charter sponsors is a drug-testing company, Drug Screens Inc.

    To Fay, all efforts to moderate the nation's tough drug laws, including such seemingly innocuous proposals as loosening restrictions on industrial grade hemp for cultivation, are part of a widespread conspiracy to legalize drugs. "It is very organized," she says with a knowing smile. "It is very deliberate. It is very well funded, too."

    As proof, Fay says she's compiled a library of videotapes of the movement's leaders openly advocating the use and legalization of drugs. She regularly monitors the Internet site of the Washington, D.C.-based Drug Policy Foundation, whose work parallels Robison's on a national scale, and has downloaded numerous incriminating documents, including a marijuana smoking instructional. "They have totally polluted the Internet," she says.

    Asked about such reform-minded conservatives as William F. Buckley and federal [minor correction: Superior Court] judge and former California prosecutor James Gray, Fay tars them with a big brush. "Since Buckley is a pot smoker, of course he'd like to see it legalized," she says. As for Gray, "I don't know who all he's tied in with."

    Locally Fay points to links between the Drug Policy Forum of Texas and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Ralph Hodges, a member of the Forum executive board, is a former [Houston] NORML officer and still active in the local chapter. She's got something on Robison, too, but she won't go into details. "There is something specific about him," she says. "I don't want to be the one telling you."

    Fay readily admits asking people to reconsider participation in Robison's debates. She herself was asked to sit on a panel but declined because she felt the format - 30 minutes for reform advocate Kevin Zeese followed by five rebuttal minutes from six different speakers - was a setup. But she denies that she pressured anyone to withdraw and says she only called to warn panelists of the true nature of the sponsors. She phoned former drug czar Lee Brown, for instance, to advise him on handling the tough questions. "I wanted participants to know who they were dealing with," she says. Besides, Fay adds, some things just aren't worth talking about. "Legalization is not a debatable issue," she says. "It's like debating racism."

    Calving Fay says she's got science on her side. Marijuana is addictive, causes schizophrenia and other mental disorders and has absolutely no medical value, she published in HDFBI's most recent newsletter. Asked the source of he schizophrenia claim, Fay cited an inconclusive 1987 Swedish study published in the prestigious British medical journal Lancet. But in an editorial last November promoting a more rational approach, Lancet concluded that "Cannabis per se is not a hazard to society, but driving it further underground may be."

    Fay also contends that needle exchange programs to reduce HIV infection and promote treatment for intravenous drug abusers are a failure. As proof, she cites statistics on a Canadian experiment that she just accessed from the Internet. (She promised to share those statistics, but didn't produce them before our deadline.) On the other hand, the federal Centers for Disease Control, in a 1993 report on the 33 needle exchange programs in the United States, argued for expanded services and research and recommended repeal of the ban on "the use of federal funds for needle exchange services."

    Short of conclusive evidence, Fay relies mostly on anecdotes. She's heard enough D.A.R.E. graduates say "no" to discredit any studies challenging the program's effectiveness. And she personally traveled to Switzerland and talked to a drug addict, returning with the depressing knowledge that the country's heroin giveaway and needle exchange experiments are a complete failure, even though the Swiss government has expanded the program to a number of cities since its inception. Fay's tales aren't enough to sway those who spend their lives studying chemical dependency and working in the field. "I think there is pretty much a consensus among the medical and public health professional communities," says Thomas Burks, executive vice president for research and academic affairs at the UT Health Science Center. "Our present national drug policy is not effective."

    But consensus apparently doesn't mean the freedom to speak out, and even the slightest deviation from the party line can be politically fatal. Castillo may have been the only scheduled debate participant to change his mind, but the heat has been felt in other quarters. After initially agreeing to host a meeting of health service providers and Kevin Zeese about harm reduction strategies, Covenant House executive director Phyllis Green had a change of heart when someone she won't name described organizers as "a legalization group."

    Being painted as a public enemy has proved frustrating for Robison, who says he'll continue his efforts to bring rational debate to the highly charged issue. But it won't be easy, as Barbara Weyland can verify. Weyland, who performs HIV/AIDS prevention education for the nonprofit Montrose Counseling Center and once worked for the city health department, says she's often been stymied trying to discuss the idea of needle exchange, let alone more sweeping reforms. "It's ridiculous to ask for political support for this," she says. "It's a political bullet in the head."

    "Nobody wants to talk about it," says Weyland. "They don't want to talk to each other about it. They don't want to talk to you about it. They don't want to talk about it at all."

    National Guard Snoops Through US Mail In 24 States

    Drug dealers turn to US mail for quick delivery
    by Pierre Thomas
    The Washington Post, Nov. 4, 1996

    WASHINGTON - On Feb. 8, 1992, a US Postal Service worker delivered a 13-ounce Express Mail package from Los Angeles to 222 W. 18 St. in Pine Bluff, Ark., home of Alfred Leotis Rogers.

    The package was indeed high-priority. Inside its crisp red, white and blue exterior was a cellophane packet filled with cocaine mailed by a Los Angeles street gang attempting to expand its market into a small city of 57,000 straddling the Arkansas River. Rogers is now serving a life sentence for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, some of it within 1,000 feet of a high school.

    With a regularity that federal law-enforcement officials say is unprecedented, drug dealers are attempting to make the venerable US Postal Service an unwitting cog in the country's massive illicit drug-distribution system.

    In the past two years, postal inspectors have arrested 3,763 people for shipping drugs through the mail and have confiscated more than 18 tons of marijuana, better than 1,500 pounds of cocaine, thousands of doses of other narcotics and at least $20 million in cash.

    Boldness bewilders officials

    While these numbers represent a fraction of the overall narcotics market, federal officials are convinced they are seizing only a small portion of what is actually being mailed. They are also confronting a distribution method they find particularly worrisome, not only because it is difficult to identify suspicious packages in a system that handles millions of pieces of mail every day, but because the sheer boldness of dropping illegal drugs into a US mail box is seen as indicative of how strong narcotics demand remains.

    To fight back, law-enforcement officials have formed special teams of Drug Enforcement Administration agents, postal inspectors and other policing units, and have devoted increased resources to detecting packages whose contents seem dubious. The more effort federal officials have made, the more drugs they have confiscated. For example, postal inspectors seized 964,000 grams of marijuana in 1992 but saw the amount rise to 8.3 million grams this year.

    "We view this surge as a direct assault on the integrity of the mail system," said Dan Mihalko, a US postal inspector.

    "It (the mail) is a viable method of moving drugs," said DEA spokesman James McGivney.

    The US mail's appeal to drug dealers is apparently the same as for most Americans: It's relatively cheap, timely and safe. The dealers, McGivney said, consider themselves business people, and sending their wares through the mail simply makes economic sense.

    Express Mail is quick

    Often, the dealers mail the drugs not directly to customers, but to intermediaries who in turn sell the product on the street and then ship the proceeds back to the home office. Express Mail or overnight delivery is the preferred method, primarily because the dealers are attempting to move their product quickly, covertly and then get the proceeds back in the same fashion. Such trafficking also gives dealers greater flexibility in setting up new markets in areas where they may have a few acquaintances or associates who could receive a mail package, but not enough of a network to buy and sell narcotics under a more traditional drug-dealing system.

    Among the cases that the stepped-up enforcement efforts have uncovered:

  • A six-month investigation, which concluded this year, resulted in the arrest of six people who allegedly mailed more than 160 parcels containing 1,200 pounds of marijuana from Los Angeles to locations in Detroit; Stamford, Conn.; Philadelphia; Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Binghamton, N.Y.

  • In May, a Los Angeles man was sentenced for cocaine and heroin possession, stemming from drugs he received in Express Mail deliveries. The investigation eventually netted $322,000 in currency.

  • In January 1995, the leader of an Oregon drug ring pleaded guilty to using Express and Priority Mail over at least a two-year period to smuggle cocaine and methamphetamine, grossing tens of thousands of dollars per month.

  • In 1994, a Birmingham, Ala., family, including a husband and wife and two sons, were sentenced for using Express Mail to transport drugs and currency between California and Alabama. Authorities reported that one of the group's parcels contained 50 pounds of currency.

    At first, it may seem less than brilliant for criminals to put their illicit wares into the hands of the federal government, much less an agency whose reliability is constantly being maligned by the public. Yet drug dealers know the sheer volume of work handled by the Postal Service works against detection.

    "You are talking about a massive number of parcels to even consider examining," Mihalko said. He declined to say precisely how many people are detailed to intercept drugs, but acknowledged that there are about 2,200 postal inspectors in all, and only a portion of those are assigned to drug units.

    Some of the dealers are so confident they won't be detected that they use their real names and addresses on the packages rather than aliases.

    The Postal Service relies on tips, drug-sniffing dogs and profiling methods aimed at identifying parcels with characteristics common to narcotics packages confiscated in the past.

    No matter what technique is employed, federal authorities say they are racing against time. Before any package can be opened, inspectors and agents must obtain a court-approved search warrant. But authorities must rush to get this paperwork completed, because if the packages do not arrive at the expected time, suspected dealers or smugglers often will not accept the parcel, surmising that an investigation might be underway.

    "The dealers are constantly adapting," Mihalko said.

    Postal officials are also increasingly concerned about the safety of their unwitting mail carriers, who face the prospect of being robbed at gunpoint if associates of a drug dealer become aware that the postal carrier is delivering thousands of dollars in drugs to a house.

    Aware that their service was increasingly being used by drug dealers, postal inspectors four years ago quietly joined forces with a number of National Guard divisions to help screen for contraband. National Guardsmen now are working with postal inspectors in 24 states to identify and interdict drugs and money trafficked in the mail.

    In addition, the Postal Service has established "parcel squads" with local police departments in several cities to more efficiently pursue the problem.

    Through these efforts, the mail service has identified the chief cities and areas from which most of the drugs are shipped, including towns along the U.S. border with Mexico, as well as Puerto Rico, New York and Southern California, particularly Los Angeles. The destination hot spots include Richmond, Detroit, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and New York.

    [End of article]

    [While it may not be all that interesting that the U.S. Postal Service is shocked, shocked to learn that people snail-mail contraband, note that paragraph third from the bottom:

    Aware that their service was increasingly being used by drug dealers, postal inspectors four years ago quietly joined forces with a number of National Guard divisions to help screen for contraband. National Guardsmen now are working with postal inspectors in 24 states to identify and interdict drugs and money trafficked in the mail.
    Somehow, it seems unlikely the cost of this effort will ever be made known. There are thousands of off-budget expenditures like this that are never included in tallies about the cost of the war on some drugs. Have you noticed how people can no longer mail packages except in person, at the postal service counter, where they can videotape you? The official explanation is to counteract terrorism. Yeah, sure. - ed.]

    Eugene Hemp Demonstrator Arrested At Free Speech Site

    From the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard, Nov. 2, 1996, pg 7B:

    A hemp-legalization demonstrator was arrested Freiday for illegal camping after spending 43 days and nights on the Wayne Morse Free Speech Terrace at the Lane County Courthouse.

    Emory Rodgers, 35, was arrested at about 7 pm and charged with prohibited camping after police gave him a verbal warning.

    Rodgers told police he wanted to be arrested.

    A dozen bystanders yelled and threatened the four Eugene police officers and two community service specialists who handled the incident, said Brian Terret, spokesman for the Eugene Dept. of Public Safety.

    Rodgers, who did not resist, was arrested without further incident, Terret said.

    On Thursday, a Eugene police officer posted a sign at the terrace notifying Rodgers and two other hemp-legalization demonstrators that the municipal camping ban would be enforced.....

    Rodgers was lodged at Lane County Jail, where he was being held on $90 bail.

    Earlier Friday Rodgers said that if taken into custody, he would challenge the arrest on grounds that it violates constitutional guarantees for free speech, free assembly, and religion....

    Lane County Administrator Bill Van Vactor said county officials became concerned that the encampment was interfering with access to the courthouse and public service building.

    He added that Rodgers had run an extension cord to the buildings electrical system without permission....

    [End of report]

    [Personal note by RC Stilwell of Eugene: This arrest comes on the same day that another beloved Timber "Salvage" Bill sale was conducted by the U.S. Forest Service. This brought in at least 100 demonstrators to a very emotional protest in front of the Fed. Bld., 1 block up & over from Lane County Courthouse.

    Last year a similar campout was held on the Fed. Bld. steps by an Old Growth activist protesting these timber sales. He was allowed to run the entire duration of his planned stay, and generated international attention to the issue.

    All who are unwilling to support the comprehensive reform approach to the Hemp/Cannabis/Marijuana issue, please notice the number of asses that are getting kicked without your help.

    When I lived at Page & Fillmore St. in SF, 1970-72 (the big Victorian in the middle of the block), we got to know our Black Brothers better than you who have not lived there. One thing they told me they hated most about White People was the way they would stand by and do nothing while one of their own was getting beat up...
    RC Stilwell]

    Medical Marijuana Day November 16 in Olympia

    Bob Owen writes:

    Medical Marijuana Day will be on Saturday, November 16, 1996, from 2 - 4 pm on the steps of the Capitol Dome in Olympia. It's official, I have the rally permit in hand.

    I expect this will be a day of hope and celebration if Referendum 215 in California (their medical marijuana initiative) passes on Election Day. It will be a day of comiseration if not. We may also lament our own version of a Washington State Drug Czar (groan) in our new Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.

    As of now, Joanne McKee of Green Cross will speak at 2:30. Ralph Seeley, Cancer patient, Medical Marijuana Lawyer, and medical marijuana user will speak at 3 pm.

    I have some other speakers in mind who will soon be announced.


    Bob Owen

    Todd McCormick Charges Dismissed

    Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Detained Motorist
    Associated Press, Nov. 2, 1996

    BRYAN, Ohio (AP) - Troopers had no right to stop and search a motorist who was transporting marijuana through Ohio, an appeals court has ruled.

    The 6th Ohio District Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a ruling by Judge Anthony Gretick of Williams County Common Pleas Court that suppressed evidence in a drug arrest on the Ohio Turnpike.

    Todd McCormick, 25, of San Diego, and his girlfriend, Natalie Byrd, 23, of Omaha, Neb., were on their way to Providence, R.I., to start a Compassion Club when a trooper stopped their van July 18, 1995. The club would provide the marijuana to people with AIDS, glaucoma and cancer.

    McCormick says he smokes marijuana to ease the pain of a rare childhood cancer.

    The appeals court said the State Highway Patrol violated McCormick's constitutional rights.

    A trooper said she stopped the vehicle because curtains on the back window obstructed the driver's view. The patrol said the trooper found 31 pounds of marijuana and a small amount of hashish in the van, and McCormick was charged with aggravated trafficking in marijuana.

    But the appeals court said there was no traffic violation for probable cause to stop the van. The court said state law does not prohibit curtains in vehicles.

    Patrol spokeswoman Sgt. Brenda Collins declined to comment Saturday because the agency had not had a chance to review the ruling. The patrol previously defended its vehicle stops and searches as constitutional.

    Annual Employee Drug Testing Statistics Released By APL

    LAS VEGAS, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire/ - Associated Pathologists Laboratories' (APL) Toxicology Department has published its annual employment related drug testing statistical information for 1995. APL is unique in that it is the only certified laboratory in the nation that provides both urine and hair testing for drugs of abuse.

    Drug testing in the workplace has continued to increase over the past seven years, resulting in permanent changes in national employment practices. APL's records show that drug testing has increased 440 percent over the last four years (1991 - 1995). Currently, 1,340 employers contract with APL to do employee drug testing. This testing can include pre-employment, random and/or post accident testing.

    Most frequently identified as a percentage of total positive samples, based on 1995 urine drug test results, are the following drugs or drug families:
    Dilbert cartoon

  • THC (Marijuana) 48.3%
  • Amphetamines 31.6%
  • Opiates 19.7%
  • Cocaine 14.6%
  • Alcohol 11.2%
  • Barbiturates 2.0%
  • PCP .3%

    1995 results show that hair testing is more effective than urine testing in identifying drug users. Hair testing has a larger "window of detectability" and is more resistant to manipulation or adulteration.

    Drugs in urine are detectable for three to five days after use. Hair testing, using one and one-half inches of hair, allows the detection of drugs for up to 90 days.

    Following are results obtained based on 4,500 pre-employment tests when performing both hair and urine testing:

  • Hair samples - 11.2% positive
  • Urine samples - 6.5% positive
  • Hair/urine samples - 14.4% positive

    "The newest challenge to laboratories and employers," said Dr. Raymond C. Kelly, Ph.D., D.A.B.F.T., Toxicology Director of APL, "is to stay on the cutting edge of drug testing technology and methodology to keep ahead of the drug abusers; they get increasingly sophisticated in hiding drug use."

    APL's Toxicology Department employs a staff of 59, including Ph.D. level toxicologists and chemists, toxicology specialists, highly skilled technologists and support staff. The department provides testing services nationally to employers, coroners' offices, law enforcement agencies, physicians and hospitals.

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the College of American Pathologists Forensic Urine Drug Testing Program (CAP- FUDT) certifies APL. In addition, the laboratory holds licenses from the State of Nevada and CLIA, a federal regulatory agency. The laboratory also participates in numerous external quality control studies (proficiency surveys) through the year. The Toxicology Department undergoes rigorous annual and bi-annual inspections by these agencies.

    For additional information, please call the Toxicology Marketing Department at 1-800-433-2750, Ext. 497.

    APL, one of the country's largest laboratories, has been providing medical laboratory services to clients for over 30 years. Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, it is a privately held, full service clinical laboratory with a reputation for quality. Founded in 1965, the laboratory has a staff of over 1000 professionals including 16 board certified pathologists and six doctorate level clinical chemists.

    [Contrast urine- and hair-testing with performance testing. - ed.]

    Money Talks, Drug Warriors Walk

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - George Soros and Laurance Rockefeller are among the rich and famous who have contributed $1.4 million to support a ballot measure to legalize marijuana for medical use in California.

    With their help, supporters of Proposition 215 began airing TV commercials over the weekend - something the opposition couldn't afford.

    Campaign spending reports ending Oct. 19 show that the wealthy donors' contributions account for roughly three-quarters of the $1.8 million raised. Opponents have raised $28,128 against the measure, mostly from law-enforcement groups.

    Proposition 215 would allow Californians to grow and use marijuana for medical purposes for cancer, AIDS and other ailments if recommended by a physician.

    Soros, a billionaire currency trader living in New York, donated $550,000. He advocates "legalizing some of the less harmful drugs and devoting the money saved from the criminal justice system to treatment" in his book "Soros on Soros."

    Rockefeller, brother of former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, donated $50,000 after a request from New Age guru Ram Dass, aka professor Richard Alpert, who was exiled with Timothy Leary from Harvard in 1963 after using students in psychedelic drug experiments.

    George Zimmer, owner of the Fremont-based Men's Wearhouse clothing store chain, donated $50,000 and loaned the Yes campaign $210,000. Zimmer, whose mother died of cancer, said he had wanted to give it to her to ease the pain of chemotherapy.

    Other donors include:

  • Chicago commodities broker Richard Dennis, one of the nation's leading advocates of legalizing drugs as a way to reduce crime and save tax money, donated $100,000.
  • John Sperling, president of the University of Phoenix, donated $200,000.
  • Peter Lewis, president of the Progressive Corp., the nation's seventh-largest auto insurance company, donated $500,000.

    Other prominent donors include Gail Zappa, widow of rock musician Frank Zappa, with $5,000; former Reagan administration Secretary of State George Shultz, 1,000; Nobel-laureate economist Milton Friedman, $150; and former California Sen. Alan Cranston, $100.

    Brazil Rejects US Anti-Drug Money

    BRASILIA, Oct 2, 1996 (Reuter) - The United States on Wednesday said that a rejection by Brasilia of anti-drug money from Washington could hurt counternarcotics efforts in Brazil.

    The U.S. embassy in Brasilia said in a statement it had frozen all outstanding funds earmarked for Brazil's war against drugs until it had "a better handle" on the reasons why Brasilia refused $710,000 in funds for 1997.

    Brazilian officials said on Tuesday they had rejected Washington's offer of help because the sum was "laughable" and completely out of proportion with the problems of drug-smuggling faced by Latin America's largest country.

    "This could hurt valuable counternarcotics efforts by Brazilian law enforcement authorities as well as non-governmental organisations in Brazil seeking to reduce drug use," the embassy said.

    Brazilian officials said that in 1995 Washington gave $50 million and 15 airplanes to Bolivia, $30 million and six helicopters to Colombia and $30 million to Peru. On Tuesday, they originally put the value of the U.S. offer to Brazil at $600,000.

    The officials said U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency activity was cracking down on drug-smuggling in neighbouring countries, forcing more cocaine from Bolivia and Colombia to flow through the Amazon river basin.

    Brasilia believed that Washington should take Brazil's problems more seriously, the official said.

    But the embassy said the comparison of Brazil with the "serious situation" in major drug-producing countries was misleading.

    "The $710,000 we would have provided to Brazil was designed to fill gaps in priority areas," it said, adding that the sum exceeded money contributed to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela and other Latin American countries.

    Texas Professor Pushes Petition For Medical Pot

    By Mike Todd
    American-Statesman staff, circa Nov. 6, 1996

    SAN MARCOS - A psychology professor who supports allowing medical use of marijuana says his group is on the way to obtaining enough petition signatures to put the question on the city ballot in May.

    Meanwhile, a Houston doctor plans a similar move statewide. Voters in California and Arizona on Tuesday passed initiatives legalizing medicinal use of marijuana.

    Harvey Ginsburg, who teaches at Southwest Texas State University, called the San Marcos effort "a pretty good first step forward" but would not say Wednesday how many signatures organizers obtained during a petition drive outside San Marcos polling places.

    "I'd rather let the city guess. I will tell you we're well on our way, that's all," Ginsburg said.

    Placing the initiative on the ballot would require the signatures of 1,550 registered voters, which Ginsburg said he thinks his group can obtain by January.

    The proposed ordinance would declare it San Marcos policy not to enforce marijuana laws against people using the illegal drug to treat diseases such as cancer, glaucoma and AIDS.

    While the city attorney has said voters could enact such an initiative, pot would remain prohibited by state and federal law.

    Ginsburg, who has glaucoma, is among scientists who believe think marijuana has a wide range of medical uses and should be available legally to physicians and their patients. Two years ago, Ginsburg and his wife were arrested on charges of growing marijuana, which the professor said was for treatment of his eye condition. The charges later were dropped.

    Ginsburg said a broad range of people signed the petition, "from senior citizens to college students, from Democrats to Republicans to independents."

    In Houston, Dr. Richard Evans said the group Texans for Medical Rights is working with state legislators to introduce a bill in January modeled after the California and Arizona initiatives. Texas has no statewide initiative process.

    The proposal would be more restrictive than the California and Arizona measures, Evans said, defining allowable uses of marijuana to include only "real, legitimate" medical purposes.

    Getting the Texas Legislature to legalize pot for any purpose will be a tough job, Evans acknowledged.

    "The chances are not in our favor at this point," he said. "I do think this as much as anything is an educational process, not only for legislators but for the public as well."

    Marijuana is especially helpful in reducing the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy, Evans said. He is author of the book "Making the Right Choice: Treatment Options in Cancer Surgery."

    He would not say which legislator he's working with to draft the marijuana bill.

    The fact that it's being proposed is an encouraging sign, Ginsburg said. "What's happening is that physicians are beginning to come out of the closet on this issue."

    Woody Harrelson Urges Judge To Void Anti-Hemp Law

    By Allen G. Breed of the Associated Press, circa Oct. 30, 1996

    BOONEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Actor Woody Harrelson urged a judge Wednesday to strike down a law against growing hemp, arguing the weed is easily distinguished from marijuana and would be a boon to farmers.

    Prosecutors want the Kentucky law upheld, saying legalizing industrial hemp would worsen problems involving psychoactive varieties of the plant.

    Harrelson, who faces 12 months in jail, compared himself to the founder of "Hustler" magazine, who he is portraying in "The People vs. Larry Flynt." Harrelson said he's testing the limits of freedom the same way Flynt did.

    "I never would have probably tried some of this, you know the planting and everything, if it hadn't been for the influence of playing him," Harrelson said. "His was about freedom of the press. This is about freedom for the farmers."

    In June, Harrelson was charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana for planting four hemp seeds on a small plot of land he bought to challenge the law, which makes no distinction between hemp and marijuana.

    Harrelson, partner in a California company that makes clothes and other products from imported hemp, argued Wednesday that the two are distinct plants, and that treating them the same is unconstitutionally arbitrary.

    Marijuana is a byproduct of hemp, which was widely used during World War II in the manufacture of rope, cloth, paper, oils, cosmetics and other products. The plant is still legally grown in Europe, Canada and China.

    Hemp does contain trace amounts of THC, the potent drug found in much larger amounts in marijuana, but supporters say it doesn't have enough to make it profitable to drug dealers.

    Wednesday, Harrelson maintained hemp would be a viable alternative for Kentucky farmers facing hard times with proposed restrictions on tobacco, and also would be better than cutting down 50 million trees a year for paper.

    A police officer with the Governor's Marijuana Strike Force testified for prosecutors, however, that the two plants are indistinguishable from the air.

    "In about a year or so, you would be overrun by marijuana dealers," said Sgt. James Tipton. "We would have to test every plant in every field. It could not be done."

    But Varley Wiedeman, a retired University of Louisville biology professor, testified the two plants are distinct subspecies of cannabis and are easily distinguishable from each other at maturity.

    District Judge Ralph McClanahan II said he would rule within 90 days. Harrelson faces 12 months in jail.

    Several states have considered legalizing hemp to help struggling farmers. Vermont this year passed a bill allowing production as a test, while a similar bill died in the Colorado legislature after Drug Enforcement Administration agents complained.

    An Informed Legal Opinion On Proposition 215

    fire writes:
    The feds have said they might try to prosecute doctors for prescribing marijuana under CA's new 215 Compassionate Use Initiative.

    This is the opinion of an excellent San Francisco lawyer, Allen Hopper. He invites legal comment and criticism - his e-mail address (



    November 4, 1996

    Dave Fratello
    Communications Director,
    Californians for Medical Rights
    1250 6th St. #202
    Santa Monica, CA 90401

    Dear Mr. Fratello,

    I was contacted by Rick Doblin at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) regarding recent public statements by members of the Clinton administration threatening federal action against California doctors who, in compliance with Proposition 215, recommend that patients use marijuana to relieve or alleviate symptoms arising from a specific medical condition.

    Mr. Doblin asked me to research and analyze the legal basis for potential retaliatory action by the federal authorities and write the first draft of a standard recommendation form that would comply with Proposition 215 without exposing physicians to federal retaliation. This letter relates the results of this initial research.

    The opinions expressed in this letter are based upon a limited amount of research into the federal government's ability to press criminal charges against, or revoke the controlled substance registration of, California doctors who recommend that patients use marijuana, and upon my general knowledge of the relevant law as an attorney whose practice focuses upon criminal defense & appeals and civil rights. Further research regarding the specific statutes at issue here, as well as any other possible sources of federal government authority over the actions of California physicians, would be necessary to render a complete analysis and opinion.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, the same day that various Clinton administration officials made public statements condemning Proposition 215 and threatening retaliation against doctors, a front page article on this very issue appeared in the Daily Journal, the legal daily newspaper here in San Francisco (copy enclosed). In addition to researching the relevant law, I contacted the reporter who wrote this story, as well as one of his primary sources, Professor Marsha Cohen of Hastings School of the Law.

    The only possible statutory basis for federal criminal action against doctors would be the Controlled Substances Act (discussed below). The only statutory basis I have been able to locate for any other retaliation by the federal government against doctors in this context relates to the ability to prescribe scheduled drugs. Federal law requires government authorization to do so, as described in several sections of title 21 of the United States Code, 21 U.S.C.  823, 824, 828 and 829. These sections provide that only doctors who are registered with the U.S. Attorney General's office may prescribe Schedule II drugs. These sections further provide that this "registration" may be suspended or revoked by the Attorney General (who has delegated this authority to the D.E.A.) in certain specific situations. Of these specified situations, only two appear relevant here:

    1) 21 U.S.C.  824(a)(2) provides as grounds for suspension or revocation, "[the doctor] has been convicted of a felony under [the Controlled Substances Act] or any other [state or federal law] relating to any substance defined in this subchapter as a controlled substance."

    2) 21 U.S.C.  824(a)(4) provides as grounds for suspension or revocation, "[the doctor] has committed such acts as would render his registration under section 823 of this title inconsistent with the public interest as determined under such section."

    Professor Cohen, one of the sources relied upon by the Daily Journal article, stated to me that her opinion that the government could revoke a doctor's registration under these circumstances was based upon number 1), above. When I asked what violation of the Controlled Substances Act would be committed by a doctor recommending marijuana use, Professor Cohen replied "conspiracy to use or purchase" a controlled substance. (While marijuana is decriminalized in California, such that simple possession of an ounce or less may be charged as a simple infraction, and in no event can be more than a misdemeanor, under federal law, possession of even the smallest amount of marijuana is a felony).

    While I cannot rule out the possibility that the D.E.A. might try to use such a theory, it is my opinion that they would have virtually no chance of success. They would first need to obtain a conviction in federal court; I know of no case in which a conspiracy charge has been sustained on such completely inadequate facts. In my opinion, a doctor stating that in his or her professional and medical opinion, marijuana would be beneficial for a specific patient's condition, without suggesting a source, has not agreed, implicitly or explicitly, with any other person to engage in any illegal activity; that is the crux of any conspiracy charge.1

    Though not cited by Professor Cohen, nor anyone else as far as I am aware, situation number 2), above, might be more problematic. I can imagine the D.E.A. arguing that registration is "inconsistent with the public interest" when the registered physician has recommended that patients use marijuana.

    The "public interest" in this context is defined in 21 U.S.C.  823(b), which lists 5 specific factors to be determined:

    1) maintenance of effective control against diversion of particular controlled substances into other than legitimate medical, scientific, and industrial channels;

    2) compliance with applicable State and local law;

    3) prior conviction record of applicant under Federal or State laws relating to the manufacture, distribution, or dispensing of such substances;

    4) past experience in the distribution of controlled substances; and

    5) such other factors as may be relevant to and consistent with the public health and safety.

    Of these, only numbers 1) and 5) seem to be relevant. I would argue that number 1) is intended to protect the public against doctors who prescribe controlled substances without sufficient or legitimate cause. This is distinguishable on several bases from a doctor recommending the use of marijuana. First, a prescription is an instruction to a registered distributor to release to a patient the controlled substance; the distributor is forbidden by federal law from releasing such a substance to anyone who does not have a prescription from a registered doctor or pharmacist. An improper prescription therefore truly constitutes "diversion" of the substance from a legitimate and legally recognized source, the registered distributor, to an "illegitimate channel." This furthermore constitutes an obvious and direct use of the doctor's ability to prescribe controlled substances to further illegitimate use of the substance.

    By contrast, a doctor's professional opinion regarding the efficacy of marijuana, or even a recommendation to a patient to try marijuana if they can obtain it, does not instruct a registered distributor of controlled substances to release the drug to the patient. Such a recommendation does not involve or rely upon the doctor's license or ability to prescribe controlled substances; there is no nexus between the doctor's registration and the recommendation sufficient to warrant suspension or revocation.

    As to number 5), above, this appears to be a sort of "catch-all" provision. That provision must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the intent of the statutory scheme as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that doctors be able to discern from the statutory language exactly what conduct is prohibited, and the First Amendment requires that statutes limiting the expression of opinions be narrowly construed so as to prohibit only speech that is not constitutionally protected.

    The First Amendment issues here really go to the heart of the matter. I strongly believe that the federal government cannot legally prohibit a doctor from stating his opinion as to whether or not a particular drug or treatment would be helpful; the implementation of Proposition 215 and the possible reliance upon that doctor's opinion in a subsequent criminal proceeding against the patient cannot eliminate the protection afforded by the constitution. I am virtually certain that there is no current federal law to the contrary, and I further believe that any attempt to construe federal law otherwise would be rejected by the courts. In this context, and particularly in light of the fact that, if Proposition 215 is adopted by the voters, the People of the State of California have determined that it is in the public interest to permit medicinal use of marijuana, I believe that any attempt to use the "public interest" provisions of the above statutes to punish doctors by revoking their controlled substance registration privileges would be arbitrary and capricious, and would also be rejected by the courts.2

    I would further note that the statutory scheme discussed above does not allow the D.E.A. to arbitrarily revoke a doctor's controlled substance registration. 21 U.S.C.  823(c) requires the government to issue and serve an order to show cause containing a statement of the basis for revocation, and the doctor is permitted a full administrative hearing in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act. The results of any such proceedings would be appealable in federal court.

    Finally, I believe that a standardized form for doctors to use might be beneficial in responding to any eventual federal government action taken against the doctor. I believe that language similar to that in the attached "Proposed Standard Recommendation Form," might be beneficial. I submit the proposed language, however, with the following caveats:

    1) I have conducted only limited research into this issue, and this language should be considered only a preliminary opinion based upon that limited research. I would strongly recommend additional research by myself or other attorneys before suggesting this language to physicians. At this point, I cannot say that it is my professional opinion that this or similar language would protect a physician from federal government action.

    2) Any written recommendation might help to protect a doctor recommending the use of marijuana in the event of federal action against the doctor, because there can be no misinterpretation or mistake about exactly what the doctor said. By the same token, however, memorializing the recommendation might make a doctor more susceptible to federal action in that the government would have irrefutable evidence that a recommendation to use marijuana was indeed made by the doctor. This is an element that the government would have the burden of establishing in any action against the doctor, and a written recommendation would lessen the government's overall burden. (I assume that this concern played some role in the decision by drafters of Proposition 215 to permit oral recommendations). As a practical matter, however, if a physician has recommended that a patient try marijuana, denying that any such recommendation even took place would probably be unrealistic, and would result in the loss of the patient's defense to criminal charges under Prop. 215. I believe that in most cases, written proof as to exactly what the doctor recommended would be beneficial.

    3) This language was drafted with the narrow intention of providing a recommendation that will qualify under Proposition 215 while at the same time limiting possible exposure of the physician to retaliatory action by the federal government. A final version of a standardized recommendation form should obviously consider other factors as well, such as malpractice liability. Possible additional language might provide a time limit after which the recommendation is no longer valid, as opposed to allowing a single recommendation to last forever. Physicians may also wish to condition their recommendation upon the patient reporting back for follow-up consultation, to assess efficacy, side effects, etc. Finally, the proposed language is intended to comply only with Proposition 215, not to provide a broader "medical necessity" defense. Physicians may wish to add, in appropriate cases, language indicating that marijuana is a drug of last resort, and listing other drugs that have beentried unsuccessfully.

    You will notice that Proposition 215 is not referred to at all in the proposed recommendation language. I believe that a doctor's exposure to retaliatory action by the federal government may be less if the recommendation is more an expression of a professional medical opinion than an instruction or encouragement to the patient to violate existing drug laws. Explicit reference to Proposition 215 might be construed as telling the patient that the doctor's intent is to provide a defense for the patient from criminal prosecution; this in turn might result in the recommendation being viewed less as opinion and more as instruction or encouragement. Since compliance with Proposition 215 does not require an explicit reference to the Proposition, there is no reason to increase the potential exposure by including such an explicit reference.

    Please call me if you have any questions regarding this letter, or if you wish to discuss these opinions further. I would welcome the opportunity to conduct further research into this issue. I am personally and professionally offended that the federal government would resort to the scare tactics evidenced by the latest flurry of pronouncements and threats of dire consequences to doctors for providing their professional opinions as to the efficacy of a particular treatment.

    Very Truly Yours,

    M. Allen Hopper
    Attorney at Law

    Proposed Standard Recommendation Form

    To: [patient's name]

    It is my medical opinion that your health may benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of [condition], and, from a purely medical perspective, I therefore deem such use appropriate and recommend such use for treatment of your condition.

    This is not a formal prescription, but is merely a statement of my professional opinion that use of marijuana could be medically beneficial in your case. You should understand that marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug by the federal government, and that under federal law possession, use, cultivation and sale of marijuana is illegal. While medical necessity might sometimes provide a defense to violation of federal criminal laws, I do not know if this would apply to your situation. Because of the uncertainty of the application of federal law to the facts of your situation, I cannot suggest to you where you might obtain marijuana, and I do not by this recommendation intend to encourage you to engage in illegal activity. I am only providing you with my opinion, based upon my understanding of the currently available medical and scientific evidence, of the potential efficacy of marijuana use for your condition.



    [Doctor's name, address, phone number]

    1 Note, however, that if a doctor, through prior arrangement with a Buyer's Club, recommended that patients obtain marijuana from that Buyer's Club, a stronger case for conspiracy might be made. Further research in this regard would be necessary for me to render an opinion as to whether these circumstances could result in a viable conspiracy charge.

    2 Of course, Congress could amend the language of the statutes to explicitly add a Proposition 215-type recommendation as one of the bases for revoking a doctor's controlled substance registration. Further research is required to determine whether or not such a legislative change would violate the constitution.



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