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November 26, 1996

US Senate To Hold Hearing Regarding Medical Marijuana Initiatives

November 26, 1996, Washington, D.C.: The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on Monday, December 2, regarding the potential impact of and federal response to voter-approved drug reform initiatives in California and Arizona that endorse the use of marijuana as a medicine. The committee, headed by vocal medical marijuana opponents Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Joe Biden (D-Del.), has entitled the hearing: "A Prescription for Addiction? The Arizona and California Medical Drug Use Initiatives." Biden and others previously voiced their disapproval over the notion of medical marijuana at a September 4 hearing regarding adolescent drug use.

Among those who have reportedly been invited to attend the hearing are Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, California Attorney General Dan Lungren, Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates, Drug Enforcement Administrator Thomas Constantine, and Maricopa County Prosecutor Rick Romley, all ardent opponents of the initiatives. Reportedly, neither McCaffrey nor Lungren is likely to appear because of scheduling conflicts. It is expected that a physician opposed to medical marijuana will be brought in to testify as well.

In defense of the initiatives, NORML is currently working with Senate Judiciary Committee member Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to try to get Harvard Medical Professor, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, scheduled to testify at the hearing. Grinspoon is a member of NORML's Board of Directors and has authored numerous books and articles in scientific journals regarding marijuana's therapeutic value. At this time, the committee has yet to make a final decision.

Since the initiatives' passage, proponents have speculated as to whether the federal government will target physicians and patients who comply with the new state laws. So far, no specific recommendations have come from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Both McCaffrey and the Drug Enforcement Administration have issued statements affirming that federal law prohibiting cultivation and possession of marijuana remain in full force despite the states' actions.

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. California voters approved the measure by a vote of 56 to 44 percent.

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 also permits 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 of 65 to 35 percent.

"The voters of California and Arizona have given a mandate to Washington to address the issue of access to medical marijuana," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. "Unfortunately, by limiting the invitees to mainly law enforcement personnel, it appears that this hearing will be far from balanced. Hopefully, subsequent hearings will feature broader points of view and will allow both doctors and patients to testify."

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



Regional and other news

Body Count

Five of the eight 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. 28, 1996, p. 7, 3M-MP-SE). That makes the body count so far this year 337 out of 618, or 54.53 percent.

Portland Ranked 174th Most Dangerous City Out Of 202

Apparently last week's Portland NORML Weekly News Release item, "23% of Portlanders' Cars Prowled, 5% of Portlanders Burglarized," presented only one view of the evidence. In particular, the evidence commissioned at public expense which found that Portlanders' fear of crime is dropping, for the fifth year in a row. Just a few days later, however, the Dec. 2 Money magazine came out with its own survey rating Portland one of the most dangerous cities in America, ranked 174 out of 202. According to reports by Portland's CBS affiliate, KOIN Channel 6 News, the Money article found Portland to be more dangerous than New York, Los Angeles and many other burgs stereotyped as having high crime rates (6 pm Nov. 26, 1996).

According to an Associated Press report, Money asked a statistics firm to rank the cities by adjusting the FBI's 1995 crime statistics to give greater emphasis to crimes that a poll of 501 respondents found most threatening. Two-thirds of those who responded to the October poll said they feared burglary most.

Since Portlanders are probably less likely to bother reporting such crimes, the Money survey is possibly being generous. Residents of the Rose City learned a long time ago they won't see a police officer if they report a completed burglary or car theft or many other serious crimes. Such reports will generally get them only a form to fill out via the U.S. Postal Service.

In contrast to the survey of Portland residents commissioned by local officials, the Money article better illustrates how the war on drugs actually increases real crime rather than decreases it (given the evidence cited last week suggesting Portland and Oregon are devoting an extraordinary level of police resources to the drug war). For more details, see "New Study - War on Drugs Increases Violent Crime," on the research of economists Bruce Benson and David Rasmussen of Florida State University, in the Aug. 15, 1996 Portland NORML Weekly News Release posted at; and "A View From The Front Lines Of The Drug War," the account by Volney V. Brown Jr., a U.S. magistrate in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1995, about what happened when the ODALE program arrested every single hard-drug dealer in the cities of Phoenix and San Diego. Point your compass to

'Interview - Sandee Burbank'

Another valiant volunteer (thanks Leslie!) has typed up one more great Web page for the Portland NORML site, an interview with Sandee Burbank of Mosier, Oregon, the founder of the drug-education group, Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse. The table of contents in the original April 1984 High Times reads: "As the founder of MAMA (Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse) Sandee Burbank is fighting for a sane approach toward the problems of substance abuse by all age groups. While reefer-madness-variety parent organizations have focused almost exclusively on the demon weed and the threat it poses for today's youth, MAMA has consistently stressed the endemic nature of drug abuse in our society, calling for a total rethinking of this complex issue." Navigate your browser to

Help To Fully Inform Jurors

In 1986 in Oregon, the last time there was an election on the subject, 26.3 percent of the voters said it should not be a crime for people age 18 or older to possess or cultivate "personal use" amounts of marijuana. Twenty-six and three-tenths of one percent is not enough to change the law, but it would be enough to nullify it, if jurors weren't unconstitutionally forced to violate their own consciences. Those who would like to tell jurors about their right to judge the law as well as the facts in a case can distribute information 9 am to noon every Monday (Tuesdays if Monday is a holiday) at the Multnomah County Courthouse, 1021 SW Fourth Ave. For more details call Floyd Ferris Landrath at (503) 235-4524.

Israeli Doctors Seek To Avert Brain Damage With Marijuana Component

"A Brain Shield From - Well, Marijuana"
Business Week, Nov. 4, 1996, p. 199

The first drug to curtail the spread of brain damage resulting from strokes and head or spinal cord injuries has entered clinical tests at six hospitals in Israel. Its key ingredient is dexanabinol, a synthetic molecule based on the active agent in marijuana. Dexanabinol was discovered six years ago by Raphael Mechoullam, a researcher at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and developed by the Rehovot (Israel) research arm of Pharmos Corp. in Alachua, Fla.

Dexanabinol has two novel properties: It can cross the so-called blood-brain barrier that prevents foreign molecules from entering the brain. And once in, the drug appears to halt the brain-cell deterioration that follows a blow to the head or a stroke. In four years of animal testing, the drug produced "outstanding" results, says Michael Schickler, vice-president of Pharmos' Israel operations. Pharmos expects clinical tests to be completed by the end of 1997. If it works, dexanabinol could hit the market by 2000.

[Raphael Mechoullam, together with Yehiel Gaoni, is the scientist who first isolated the chemical structure of delta-9 THC in 1964, and first synthesized it a few years later. . - ed.]

Ohio Discovers It Has Already Legislated Medical Marijuana

"State smokin' over pot loophole"
Columbus Dispatch, Nov. 27, 1996, Page One.
By Catherine Candisky, Dispatch statehouse reporter

Ohio lawmakers quietly legalized the medical use of marijuana last summer, months before voters in Arizona and California did.

The little-known provision was tucked into a massive overhaul of the criminal sentencing system that became law July 1.

Among its more than 1,000 pages, the sentencing law gives an affirmative defense to someone charged with possession of marijuana if he is using the drug for medical reasons and has a written recommendation from a doctor.

Few lawmakers or supporters of the Republican-backed legislation apparently knew of the provision, which was the subject of months of debate in Arizona and California before voters Nov. 5 approved initiatives legalizing medicinal use of marijuana.

Gov. George V. Voinovich didn't know about it. Neither did Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery.

But after learning of the provision Montgomery said she will undo it.

"We oppose that loophole and we're working with House and Senate leaders to draft something to reverse it," said Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Weaver.

The provision recently was brought to light by judges across the state who have been studying the new sentencing guidelines imposed under the bill.

Regardless of how judges and other state officials feel about medicinal use of marijuana, most are critical of the lack of public debate on the issue.

"It was snuck into the bill, and the governor is opposed to an issue like this not being debated," said Mike Dawson, spokesman for Voinovich.

"How did it get in here?" asked Judge Dale Crawford of Franklin County Common Pleas Court. "They certainly did not talk to judges. They certainly did not talk to prosecutors. It just kind of happened."

Many practical aspects, Crawford noted, remain unclear. For example, how does someone get marijuana when it's illegal to sell the drug in Ohio? Also, a physician would be recommending a drug that he could not legally prescribe.

David Diroll, director of the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission, said the provision dates to 1994 when it was added by the House Judiciary Committee through an amendment to the original criminal sentencing bill, House Bill 624.

The legislation was reintroduced in 1995 as it had been previously approved by the House, this time as Senate Bill 2.

"We knew it was there and sometimes it was mentioned, but we were always dealing with something more important at the time," recalled Diroll, who helped lawmakers craft the legislation. "But here we have an illegal substance which we are legalizing in a back-door way. We probably need to debate this to decide if marijuana has some benefits."

John Hartman, president of the Cleveland-area chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, lobbied for the provision in 1994.

Many patients use the drug for relief from cancer, seizures, chronic pain and other ailments, Hartman said.

Unlike Ohio law, initiatives in Arizona and California give immunity to the caretaker and the physician of the person using marijuana. They allow eligible users to cultivate the drug for their own use.

"The hard part will be getting physicians to write the letter," Hartman said.

Physicians have reason to be apprehensive. The Ohio State Medical Association opposes the legalization of marijuana, and doctors who would recommend patients use the drug could lose their medical license, said Brent Mulgrew, executive director of the association.

Under Ohio's Medical Practice Act, physicians are prohibited from recommending drugs that do not have a recognized medical purpose.

"A person who would write a letter recommending marijuana use would be placing his or her license in jeopardy," Mulgrew said.

Physicians and their dope-smoking patients also could face federal prosecution. Neither the Ohio provision, nor those in Arizona and California, supersede federal drug laws.

Lawmakers Move Quickly to Fix Marijuana Defense Oversight

By Paul Souhrada, Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP, Nov. 27, 1996) - For five months, an obscure provision of Ohio law has made it legal for people to argue that they have medical reasons for possessing marijuana.

State officials say they didn't know anything about it, but they quickly set out Wednesday to reverse the law.

The law, which allows marijuana smokers to claim chronic illness or pain as a legal defense, was largely forgotten after it was inserted into a lengthy criminal sentencing bill two years ago.

"The provision was stuck in a bill that was 1,000 pages long," said Kathy Fleck, a spokeswoman for Gov. George Voinovich.

"There were a number of points that were hotly debated in the Legislature," she said. "This particular issue was not."

Since it took effect July 1, there's no indication anyone tried to invoke the law, which doesn't prevent people from being charged with possession of marijuana. A judge or jury, however, can take into consideration a defendant's written recommendation from a doctor to use marijuana.

Voinovich, Attorney General Betty Montgomery and former state Sen. Tim Greenwood - the sponsor of the sentencing bill - all said they had no idea the marijuana defense had become law.

"The attorney general tries to follow important pieces of legislation, but is not able to know what's on every page of every bill passed by the Legislature," Weaver said.

"Why not?," asked Bob Demuth, a Grandview resident getting an early jump on his Christmas shopping downtown. "They shouldn't put so much in them if people can't understand them,"

The issue didn't surface until Wednesday when it was reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Columbus Dispatch.

The attorney general's staff immediately began writing a new bill to override the marijuana law. Lawmakers are expected to introduce the bill when they reconvene in January.

"I think there's a fear that a doctor with particularly liberal idea of what an illness is may write prescriptions for marijuana willy-nilly," Weaver said.

People who suffer from cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and some rare genetic diseases say marijuana helps control nausea and muscle spasms, eases eye pressure and pain and stimulates appetite. Pot-using patients insist it works better than other drugs, including the expensive Marinol, a pill that contain's marijuana's active ingredient, THC.

California Prison Spending Hurts Schools And Black Students, Report Says

From the ACLU mailing list, Nov. 22, 1996 (

Assassin of youth LOS ANGELES - California has shifted its priorities from education to incarceration, according to a new study, a policy move that has disproportionately harmed African Americans, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The study by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a San Francisco-based policy group, said that political decisions have reduced funding for higher education while increasing spending on prisons.

For instance, the study found that in 1980-81, 9.2 percent of the state's general fund went to higher education and only 2.3 percent to corrections. But in 1996-97 budgets, prisons have the larger slice - 9.4 percent - while higher education got 8.7 percent, the study said.

California's prisons now have twice as many blacks as its four-year public universities, 45,000 versus 27,500, notes the report, called, "From Class Rooms to Cell Blocks: The Effects of Prison Building on Higher Education and African American Enrollment."

"The state is forcing tuition costs beyond the reach of young African Americans while at the same time dramatically increasing expenditures on a prison system that disproportionately incarcerates minority youth," said Jenni Gainsborough, public policy director for the ACLU's National Prison Project. "That is a deliberate choice on the part of the governor, and the results for California - as for other states making the same choice - will be disastrous. "

Among the report's other findings:

  • Fee increases at the University of California have far outpaced the growth in median household income, a disparity that has been a greater burden for black families than white families.

  • Between 1980 and 1995, the number of black men in prison has increased more than 500% - from 8,139 to 41,434. The number of black men in public higher education, meanwhile, has risen only 30%, from 8,066 to 10,479.

    The study was assailed as "mindless drivel" by a spokesman for California Gov. Pete Wilson, whose policies were criticized in the report as a major reason for the erosion in higher education funding.

    Los Angeles Seizures of Marijuana Soar in 1996

    Los Angeles Times, Nov. 25, 1996
    By Beth Shuster, Times Staff Writer

    Marijuana seizures in Los Angeles this year are on a pace that will double 1995's record haul, signaling the drug's growing popularity and widespread availability, according to city, county and federal law enforcement agencies.

    Since January, the Los Angeles Police Department has recovered record amounts of marijuana, even though it has undertaken no special efforts to target pot sellers or smokers.

    The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department reports a similar bonanza. And U.S. Customs inspectors seized a record amount of the drug at the Mexico border during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

    Authorities say a growing tolerance of marijuana use, stable prices and more potent strains are stimulating the public's appetite for the drug. The pot seized this year has been in small and large amounts, discovered during routine arrests and undercover operations targeting cocaine and heroin.

    Pot smokers are a diverse group, from young suburban teens to hard-core gang members to upscale professionals, police say.

    Passage this month of Proposition 215, the state medical marijuana initiative allowing doctors to recommend the drug for medical uses, has drawn harsh criticism from law enforcement officials already overwhelmed by illegal marijuana users.

    "I'm not trying to sound like 'Reefer Madness' but . . . the potential for abuse is clearly there," said Sgt. Rudy Lovio, who oversees the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's narcotics intelligence unit. He believes the ballot measure will make a losing battle even worse.

    The Sheriff's Department has made several large seizures in the Angeles National Forest, targeting pot growers. But local narcotics officers say the record marijuana seizures mostly have come without effort, largely because there is so much pot available in Southern California.

    From January through September of this year, the LAPD hauled in more than 37,600 pounds of the drug, compared with less than 25,000 pounds for all of 1995. That is an average of 4,177 pounds of marijuana a month this year, contrasted with a monthly average of 2,083 pounds in 1995.

    During the first nine months this year, the Sheriff's Department - helped by the forest raids - seized more than 8,000 pounds, compared to 9,000 for all of last year.

    Police estimate that about 70% of the marijuana consumed in Southern California comes from Mexico, following the same smuggling routes that bring cocaine and heroin.

    Border seizures in the past year support that belief. U.S. Customs inspectors at the California border with Mexico captured 272,000 pounds of marijuana during the 1995-96 fiscal year, almost a 50% leap from the 185,439 pounds seized the previous year.

    Customs officials say the large hauls are the result of a nearly 2-year-old program called Operation Hard Line, which has provided more investigators and other enforcement help to the Southwest border.

    In Los Angeles, narcotics officers targeting heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine traffickers have been stumbling onto marijuana almost by accident.

    To these professionals, and the public, marijuana seizures aren't as glamorous as cocaine or heroin busts, said Abel Reynoso, a spokesman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles. "When you seize a ton of cocaine, people think it's great and it gets a lot of attention," he said. "But pot?"

    The DEA office in Los Angeles also reports an increase in the amount of marijuana seized in California and Arizona. During the fiscal year that just ended, DEA agents seized 132,364 kilograms of the drug in Los Angeles - about 290,000 pounds - up 37% from the previous year.

    Drug policy experts say law enforcement should keep its focus on drugs other than marijuana.

    "What they should be targeting is the open markets and the drug houses that destroy neighborhoods," said Mark Kleiman, a professor at UCLA's School of Public Policy and Social Research. "I wouldn't turn enforcement around and ignore methamphetamine. That would not be a good use of law enforcement resources."

    Narcotics officers say they are unlikely to take any special steps to target marijuana, largely because they are able to seize so much during their routine duties.

    "It's just out there - everywhere," said Lt. Bernie Larralde of the LAPD's narcotics unit. "You can't get away from it."

    The amount of marijuana being seized in Los Angeles supports national studies showing an increase in marijuana use by teenagers. Those studies, as well as polls, show marijuana smokers are getting younger, including many whose parents smoked pot during the 1960s and 1970s.

    "It's everywhere," said a Los Angeles high school junior. "I know tons of places I could get it, if I wanted it. I don't think it's that bad for you - not as bad as drinking or smoking cigarettes."

    A recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey found marijuana use among teenagers has doubled since 1992. Marijuana use among 14- and 15-year-olds is up 200%; for 12- and 13-year-olds, it's risen 137%.

    White House drug czar Barry R. McCaffrey described the results as proof of "an explosion of drug use."

    A survey by Columbia University this fall found that teenagers and their parents are increasingly tolerant of marijuana use.

    Experts say that may be because many parents in their 40s and 50s do not realize how the potency of marijuana has risen since the 1960s.

    "There's a very big difference in today's marijuana," said Reynoso, the DEA spokesman. "It's not even close to what it used to be."

    Even the most inexpensive grades of marijuana have slightly higher levels of THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the plant's active ingredient. Police say the THC levels in Mexican-grown marijuana now range between 4% and 6%.

    But that the potency jumps as high as 20% in the domestically grown variety known as sinsemilla, the Spanish word for seedless.

    "Marijuana has always been the No. 1 drug consumed in this country," said Lovio, of the Sheriff's Department. "The thing that scares us, and many medical people, is that marijuana is considered a gateway drug to harder drugs. . . . What will we be seizing in two years from now?"

    The notion that marijuana leads to using other drugs is not accepted as fact, according to drug use experts. But typically, cocaine and heroin users begin with marijuana.

    "That's where everybody starts," said Michael Rock, a drug counselor at the county-funded El Proyecto del Barrio, a public health clinic in Panorama City.

    Authorities say many drug users are now combining marijuana with stronger drugs. "Primos" or "chronics" are made from marijuana mixed with crack cocaine.

    Also sobering to authorities was the passage of Proposition 215 and a similar ballot measure in Arizona.

    State and federal officials met almost two weeks ago with drug czar McCaffrey to discuss what to do about the new marijuana laws. So far, the meeting has produced no recommendations, although McCaffrey has vowed to pursue federal charges against any California doctor who recommends or prescribes marijuana to a patient.

    Next month, California Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren will hold a forum for district attorneys and police to plan ways to enforce the state's marijuana laws in light of the new requirements imposed by Proposition 215. State law enforcement authorities have talked about challenging the proposition in court, but have yet to file any lawsuit seeking to nullify the initiative.

    Marijuana Upswing

    The Los Angeles Police Department seized more marijuana from January through September than it did in all of 1995. Marijuana seizures have been on the rise throughout Southern California since 1991. Shown are amounts of marijuana seized yearly by law enforcement officials. All seizure amounts in pounds

    The Los Angeles Police Department seized more marijuana from January through September than it did in all of 1995. Marijuana seizures have been on the rise throughout Southern California since 1991. Shown are amounts of marijuana seized yearly by law enforcement officials. All seizure amounts in pounds

    '96: 8,146 (LA County Sheriff's office, through October)

    '96: 37,633 (LAPD, through September)

    '96: 15,669 (U.S. Customs Dept.)

    (Years listed are fiscal, Oct. 1-Sept. 30)

    Sources: LAPD, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, U.S. Customs Department Note: Includes Los Angeles County, Inland Empire, and north to San Luis Obispo.

    'Drugs Threaten To Destabilise Central Europe - US'

    VIENNA (Reuter, Nov. 26, 1996) - Traffic in illegal drugs is threatening to destabilise Central and Eastern Europe, but the European Union is not taking the problem seriously enough, a U.S. drugs control official said on Tuesday.

    Brian Stickney, narcotics and transnational crime counsellor attached to the U.S. mission to the European Union, said newly-formed crime rings in the former Eastern bloc were increasingly turning to the lucrative drug trade.

    "We're particularly concerned about the impact drugs may be having in Central Europe as a strategic threat," he said. "We're seeing poly-crime, poly drug trafficking," he added.

    Stickney criticised EU nations for underestimating the scope of the drug threat.

    "In Europe one of the big issues is the lack of recognition of the seriousness of the problem of drugs, both on the part of officials and the general public," Stickney said.

    He said the so-called Schengen agreement, an arrangement on border controls currently implemented by seven EU countries, could help to control traffic from outside Europe but that the growing popularity of synthetic drugs like Ecstasy and their production within European borders posed a continuing problem.

    Laws on pharmaceutical production in the former Eastern bloc were not always as strict as in the EU, he said, and money-laundering and official graft was also of concern. "The corruption of public authority is a serious problem in Central Europe," he said.

    The Czech Republic, Poland, China and India are the main manufacturers among some 12 countries worldwide that produce synthetic drugs, he said.

    Stickney said progress was being made in the fight against drugs, noting the number of casual users in the United States had dropped to 12 million in the past 10 years from 22 million. [According to only one survey, the federally-funded National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Even the NHSDA shows the number of hard-drug addicts has not been reduced, and Oregon state figures show the number of deaths from so-called "overdoses" has steadily and steeply increased in the same period, up through 1995. Most other non-U.S.-government surveys put the number of illegal-drug users at 10 percent of ages 12 and older, which is consistent with the 22 million figure which has supposedly declined to 12 million. - ed.]

    "I don't think it's a losing battle. The long-term trend in the United States shows a decline," he said.

    But drug education programmes worldwide had to be stepped up and drug production by pharmaceuticals companies controlled, he said.

    The United States has some 20,000 drug-related deaths annually, costing the government around $70 million.

    In Europe 6,000 people died of drug overdoses in 1994, although the number of other drug-related deaths was not counted.

    [According to "The Swedish Experience," Chapter 39 of The Consumers Union Report on Licit & Illicit Drugs (1972), posted at "Because the United States has by far the largest heroin problem on earth, Americans also have the greatest number of heroin experts; at meetings of the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and other international agencies, the United States urges other countries to follow its lead in repressing the traffic in heroin. Other countries, looking at the results in the United States, are naturally loath to comply." - ed.]

    'If Marijuana Is Medicine, Rebels Will Look Elsewhere'

    by A. Clay Thompson
    The Oakland Tribune, Nov. 27, 1996

    The passage of California's Proposition 215 - the "medical marijuana" initiative - has generated dire warnings from anti-drug forces. Civilian and government drug warriors claim that sanctioning pot's medicinal qualities sends the wrong message to the public, especially young people. The state stamp of approval, they argue, will put a generation of kids on the path to potheadism - a path that inevitably leads to harder drugs.

    This argument misses a central aspect of marijuana's appeal to youth - the fact that it is illegal. Smoking pot is a pleasureful snicker at authority, a quiet ritual of defiance. the plant's new status as an accepted medicinal agent isn't going to send young people scurrying toward the nearest dealer. If anything, it will have the opposite effect.

    Marijuana has long served to split the hip from the square. So if marijuana becomes medicine, the hip may have to move on. I spent this summer working as a roadie for an American punk band in Amsterdam, where I caught a glimpse of one possible future. In Amsterdam, where marijuana and hash are legally available, pot is for straights. The German businessmen and American frat boys are the ones you'll find prowling the red light district, smoking in hash bars. While marijuana still circulates through the cultures of nonconformity, its accessibility and popularity throughout Dutch culture mean that pot has lost its appeal among those disdainful of the mainstream.

    So how do Amsterdam's anarchists distinguish themselves from straights? They occupy abandoned buildings and hang banners out the window declaring their autonomy; throw rave parties in forgotten warehouses; broadcast incendiary messages from pirate radio stations. But they're not looking for new drugs. In the basement speakeasies I frequented, conversation is the point, pot is old news, and hard drugs are actively scorned. The same Dutch dissidents who throw eggs at politicians make posters discouraging heroin use.

    One of the standard scare-stories about marijuana is that it is a "gateway" to other, more dangerous drugs. But here also, the anti's are missing the point.

    Pot has traditionally served as a "gateway" not to harder drugs but to harder questions about the illegitimacy of adult authority. Once a young inhaler realizes that pot doesn't induce the "reefer madness" so fervently described by anti-drug missionaries, a host of other questions often follow. What other drugs fail to live up to their reputations as agents of evil? What about the plethora of perfectly legal life-destroying substances available at the corner store? What other carved-in-stone truths are actually a matter of perspective?

    Ironically, the passage of Proposition 215 may serve anti-drug interests better than their own claims about the life-ruining qualities of all controlled substances. All illegal chemicals are not created equal, and a formal acknowledgment that smoking the occasional joint is not as risky as injecting heroin might foster some trust between those who make the rules and those who question them. The term for this is "honesty," and it's an undervalued commodity on the propaganda market.

    With pot inching its way toward mainstream acceptance, we can expect fringe dwellers to start looking for something else to do. But if Amsterdam is any indication, dissidents looking for new rights won't be turning to hard drugs. Marijuana use is a shared ritual of cultural defiance - not a self-destructive cry for help. And the movement toward decriminalization won't be a step away from a rabid paternalism that throws well-adjusted people into prison "for their own good."

    A. Clay Thompson, a former roadie with a punk band, is a reporter for YO! (Youth Outlook), a publication by and about young people published by Pacific News Service.

    'Group Says Alcohol-Related Deaths Rising'

    By Matthew L. Wald
    The New York Times, Nov. 27, 1996

    WASHINGTON - Drunken driving deaths are up and the push for stricter laws is faltering, Mothers Against Drunk Driving said in a report Tuesday.

    The group said the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities, which had been falling since 1986, rose last year, to 17,274 from 16,580. And it gave the states a grade of C for their efforts to reduce such fatalities, down from B-minus when the organization issued its last so-called report card, in 1993.

    The group also said that state legislatures were voting down strict new laws. MADD wants states to define intoxication at 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration or more; 36 states now use a more lenient standard, 0.10 percent. Legislation to adopt the 0.08 standard was defeated in the 11 states where it was introduced in the recent legislative session, the organization said.

    Ralph Hingson, the chairman of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department at the Boston University School of Public Health, said that if all states used the 0.08 percent standard, the number of fatal crashes would fall by 500 to 600 a year. Hingson, who helped prepare the MADD report card, published that finding in a paper in the American Journal of Public Health last month.

    Katherine Prescott, president of MADD, said Tuesday in a news conference, "The wheels of progress have slowed, and more people are dying."

    MADD also issued a special warning about Thanksgiving, when the proportion of fatal accidents that involve alcohol is unusually high.

    The organization calls drunken driving "the nation's most frequently committed violent crime."

    But Ms. Prescott said, "Police officers are being pulled off of DUI enforcement to deal with other violent crimes." She added, "Our experience around the country is that it is generally harder and harder to keep the interest of the news media in this issue."

    A spokesman for the restaurant and beverage industry, John C. Doyle of the American Beverage Institute, said in a telephone interview that the number of drunken driving fatalities was not rising any faster than the number of highway fatalities not related to alcohol and that both numbers were rising mostly because the annual number of miles traveled by car is rising and many speed limits are higher.

    Doyle, whose group has lobbied against making the definition of intoxicated more stringent, said such a change would dilute the attention of the police from the people with much higher blood alcohol concentrations. He added: "The true agenda of MADD is not 0.08. What you have is a group that's intent on eliminating all drinking and driving."

    But other experts said complacency might be setting in on the issue. Richard Crabtree, president of Nationwide Insurance's Property-Casualty Insurance Cos., which underwrote MADD's report, said, "We can't be lulled into believing that drunken driving is a problem that has been solved."

    Still, the exact size of the problem is unclear. Only 68 percent of the drivers killed in automobile crashes are tested for alcohol, MADD said, and only 24 percent of the drivers who survive accidents in which someone else dies are tested.

    The amount a person would have to drink to reach a blood alcohol level of 0.10 or 0.08 depends on the person's weight and stomach contents and how rapidly the alcohol was consumed. Generally, a level of 0.10 is thought to be what an average man would have after consuming three to five drinks in an hour on an empty stomach. Hingson, of Boston University, said an average man would reach the 0.08 level by consuming four drinks in an hour on an empty stomach, but Doyle disagreed, saying it would take more than that.

    Doyle said the statistics on alcohol-related accidents were misleading, including, for example, a driver who had consumed one drink and was rammed by someone running a red light who had not been drinking.

    MADD favors a variety of laws to fight drunken driving, including the immediate revocation of drivers' licenses upon arrest for drunken driving, the prohibition of open alcoholic beverage containers in cars and escalating penalties for repeat offenders, including the confiscation of their cars.

    ["... human psychology is more complex than a basic analysis of reward and punishment. There is a large project, near completion, at the Rand Corporation, that is producing a lot of information and analysis, including a cross-national analysis of drug policies and outcomes and a historical analysis of pharmaceutical records from the period when cocaine was legal in the United States. Many of these studies challenge the empirical basis for using deterrence as a means of controlling drug use. For example, the Scandinavians imposed a severe penalty for having blood-alcohol levels above .08 per cent, regardless of a driver's behavior or demeanor. There was a transitory drop in road fatalities but then a return to baseline levels. This pattern is seen over and over again when severe penalties are imposed." - from the interview with Michael S. Gazzaniga, director for the Center of Neuroscience at the University of California at Davis, "Legalizing Drugs: Just Say Yes," from William F. Buckley's National Review of July 10, 1995, posted at

    As for the assertion that "Police officers are being pulled off of DUI enforcement to deal with other violent crimes," that is hardly true, especially in Oregon. If anything, police are being pulled away from DUI enforcement to deal with victimless drug offenders who pose no specified threat to anyone. The ranks of the state police, who do much of the traffic patrolling in Oregon, have dwindled as the state builds ever more prisons for illegal drug offenders. Finally, as noted in the April 4 Portland NORML Weekly News Release, Robert Landauer, a staff editorial columnist for The Oregonian, wrote a piece titled "The myths of the young give parents nightmares" on March 24, 1996 (p. E3), in which he reported that "Police in Multnomah County prefer not to arrest young people for booze-related infractions." In the same column, Landauer noted that "From 1986 through 1994, 439 Oregon youths under 21 were involved in alcohol-related fatalities. That's four dozen a year. The tricounty metropolitan Portland area had 129; Multnomah County, 70."

    The Portland NORML editor called the local chapter of MADD for a comment at the time but received no response. But according to the Portland-based Regional Drug Initiative's 1996 "Drug Impact Index," posted at, the number of "Alcohol-involved traffic deaths" in Oregon in 1995 was 228 - 43 more than the number of Oregonians - 185 - killed by all illegal drugs the same year. - ed.]

    Only 2.8% Of Federal Prisoners Violent

    The Bureau of Prisons "quick facts" Web page at says that 60.5 percent of federal inmates are doing time for "drug offenses" compared to 2.8 percent for "violent offenses."

    'Team Wants Fired Coach Back'

    HILLSBORO, NH (Associated Press, Nov. 23, 1996) - The high school girls' basketball team wants its coach back, saying he was more of a role model, not less of one, by standing by an employee accused in a drug case.

    The Hillsboro-Deering School Board fired Coach Alan Merrifield this week after he attended a court hearing to support an employee of his landscaping business who faces drug charges.

    School officials said Merrifield's appearance showed he wasn't a good role model. But in a public letter, team members say he was a great role model.

    "He emphatically stated his being against drug use," they wrote. "A good role model would never turn his back on an accused employee until he was convicted of something illegal."

    The girls have asked the board to reconsider, and say they are dedicating this season to Merrifield.

    "Mr. Merrifield possesses the qualities a coach should demonstrate," the team wrote. "He has taught us how important leadership, integrity, sportsmanship, honesty, and self-control are in not only athletics, but in life as well."

    Team member Hannah Browning said when the girls learned Merrifield had been fired, they considered sitting out the season.

    "We decided Coach Merrifield wouldn't want that," Browning said. "So we dedicated our season to him."

    They hope the school board will reconsider its decision, that perhaps the board didn't realize how much support there is in the community and at the school for their coach.

    "We feel our thoughts and many of our parents' have been overlooked," the team wrote. "This has made us feel very disrespected and hurt."

    'Rivers Becoming Drug Free'

    Rocky Mountain News [Denver], Oct. 22, 1996 p. 8A

    Park Service policy that requires testing called unnecessary by some raft guides

    MOAB (AP) - Several rivers in the West are now drug-free workplaces despite objections from some guides who view the new U.S. Park Service policy as unnecessary.

    Periodic drug testing began this past season for outfitters licensed in Grand Canyon National Park. River companies bidding for multi-year contracts in Utah's Cayonlands National Park and Colorado's Dinosaur National Monument also are being asked if they will conduct pre-employment and random drug-screening, and how they will eliminate subsance abuse.

    The directive was made to ensure safety in whitewater sports.

    "Whether boatmen like it or not, their job is a public safety position that is no different from being a bus driver or Amtrak engineer," said Canyonlands National Park Superintendent Walt Dabney.

    But guides say there have been few, if any, documented cases of commercial rafting accidents due to drugs.

    "No one argues the river should not be a drug-free workplace," said 25-year Colorado River veteran Tom Moody, former president of Grand Canyon River Guides Association in Flagstaff, Ariz.

    "But there is no indication this is even a problem. The safety record of commercial river-running in the canyon is exemplary."

    Despite its image as an extreme sport, river guides say whitewater rafting is suprisingly safe. They point to a 1993 study that compared the injury frequency of commercial Grand Canyon river-running to 17 other sports.

    Football was the most injury prone, billiards the least; taking a commercial whitewater trip came in third safest, between bowling and archery.

    "We've created a monster because we go 'Yippee-ki-yi-ay' down the river," Moody said. "But because of the modern equipment and professional training of the guides, its very safe."

    The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires federal contractors to adopt and maintain policies prohibiting possession or use of controlled substances. Because the law went into effect in 1989, it was too late to be included in the recently expired whitewater tour concession contracts in the three national parks.

    'Chinese Witness in Drug Case Gains Freedom After 7 Years'

    San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 20, 1996, p. A19.

    A Chinese witness who declared that his prosecution testimony in an international drug case was the product of torture and threats has won his freedom after spending seven years in custody and facing threatened deportation.

    Wang Zong Xiao's return to China was barred earlier this year by a federal appeals court, which said he faced possible execution if deported.

    After the U.S. Justice Department decided not to appeal the case further, Wang was granted an order of release Friday from U.S. District Judge William Orrick, Wang's lawyer, Cedric Chao, said yesterday.

    Wang was arrested in Shanghai in 1988 and brought to San Francisco to testify against three alleged co-conspirators charged with smuggling $700,000 worth of heroin found inside dead goldfish shipped from China. The case was the first cooperative U.S.-Chinese drug prosecution.

    During the trial, Wang testified that he had lied on the stand as a result of being beaten and tortured by Chinese jailers. The three defendants later pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

    Orrick found that federal prosecutors had concealed evidence that Wang had changed his story under interrogation in China.

    Following the trial, the federal government sought to return him to China, but Orrick issued an injunction barring his removal. A federal appeals court upheld Orrick's ruling in April.

    Bleach, Methadone Given To French Prisoners

    "French prisoners to get condoms to block AIDS"

    PARIS (Reuters, Nov. 23, 1996) - Inmates in French prisons will be given condoms and bleach to disinfect syringes in a bid to block the alarming spread of the deadly AIDS virus in jails, officials said Friday.

    The measures affecting a prison population of 52,000 people were announced by Justice Minister Jacques Toubon and Health Minister Herve Gaymard at a joint news conference.

    They said the steps were taken after publication of a report describing widespread illegal drug abuse in prisons and other health woes including AIDS, hepatitis and tuberculosis. ...

    Other measures included offering prison addicts methadone and other anti-drug treatments as well as vaccinations against hepatitis B, a debilitating liver disease that, like AIDS, can be spread through the sharing of tainted syringes.

    To cut down on drug supplies being smuggled into jails, prison guards will be asked to search all visitors, the officials said.

    Toubon also said he would consider expanding the current program of medical pardons so that inmates dying of AIDS could be released early.

    A study made public this week by the Justice Ministry found that illegal drugs were rampant in French prisons and that the rate of AIDS infection was 10 times greater in prisons than among the population at large.

    The rate of hepatitis infection was 100 times to 200 times that of the population at large, the study found.

    The Downside To Moral Crusades

    "What Is Wrong With America?"
    By James Morone
    The Oakland Tribune, Nov. 22, 1996.

    The most influential men in America met in Boston. The nation, they agreed, faced a terrible moral crisis: rampant substance abuse, sex illegitimacy. Public schools were languishing, the pursuit of profits was appalling, the explosion of lawsuits completely out of hand.

    Worst of all, parents were doing a terrible job raising their kids. "Most of the evils" that afflict our society, reported the conference, stem from "defects as to family government." The gathering published a famous call for moral reform in 1679.

    More than 300 years ago later, the old jeremiad is still doing a brisk business. From every political quarter we hear the same story: moral failures vex the nation. But the moral diagnosis is wrong and its political consequences are pernicious. The moralizing divides Americans into the righteous "us" and a malevolent "them."

    Once those lines are drawn, you can forget about social justice or progressive thinking. Instead, the overarching policy question becomes, "How do we protect ourselves and our children?" Never mind health care or welfare - build more jails.

    Contemporary moralizing stands in a long, unhappy American political tradition. When economic and social problems are transformed into declining moral standards, the hunt is on for the immoral people who threaten the public good. There are always plenty of suspects (although the current list is particularly skewed toward single moms and drug abusers).

    The vice squad - which includes the likes of conservative politicians and writers, right-wing preachers and pundits - has constructed a simple story. Most Americans are good, but we are surrounded by rampant immorality. And that tide of misbehavior threatens America in fundamental ways.

    This lamentation has three effects:

  • First, the moralizing reassures us that, if we ourselves are decent, religious and moral, we are not to blame for social troubles or economic tribulations.

  • Second, we are drafted into a political fight in the great American cultural war. Battle fronts include illegitimacy, divorce, crime, welfare, educational discipline, affirmative action, teen pregnancy, Satan, moral permissiveness, abortion and drugs.

  • Third, we engage the enemy, which is ominous, cruel and depraved.

    The resulting social divisions become especially intense when these sins are projected onto racial and ethnic groups.

    American racial history is an example. White Southerners maintained former slaves were morally unprepared for freedom, beset with laziness, dishonesty and, worst of all, sexual lust. One popular historian of the time reported that when "the Klan began to ride . . . white women felt some sense of security."

    Fast forward to the war on drugs. African Americans constitute 12 percent of the population and an estimated 13 percent of American drug users. But they account for 35 percent of arrests for drug possession, 55 percent of convictions for drug possession and 74 percent of all prison sentences. The effect of the war on drugs is clear the streets of young black men.

    The story of moral depravity is well worn. American have survived their own unprecedented wickedness, many times. The moralizing routine has already old when the Synod of 1679 published its list of sins.

    The real threat is not moral decline. It is what Americans do to their own society in the name of arresting moral decline.

    James Morone, a professor of political science at Brown University, is working on a book about sin and politics, "From the Puritans to the Clintons."

    US Drug Money For Colombia Linked To Army Killings

    "Report Calls Aid Misused in Colombia: Accuses Colombian Army of Links to Killings"

    By Diana Jean Schemo
    The New York Times, Nov. 26, 1996

    BOGOTA, Colombia - Acting on advice from U.S. military advisers, the Colombian military reorganized intelligence operations in the early 1990s, tightening ties between the armed forces and paramilitary fighters who have been accused of killing civilians, a human rights report says.

    The report, released here on Monday by Human Rights Watch/Americas, chronicles a pattern of disappearances and killings by so-called "self-defense" groups, whose members are seldom prosecuted and are frequently protected by military units in areas where they operate.

    In some instances, the report said, Colombian military units that receive U.S. aid have physically barred government investigators or prosecutors from arresting those implicated in the killings of civilians, and military officers accused by law enforcement officials of directing paramilitary killings have continued to be promoted through the military ranks with unblemished records.

    The Human Rights Watch report is the second in two months to assert that U.S. assistance to Colombia may have been diverted from its stated purpose of fighting drug trafficking for use in the military's undeclared war against leftist guerrillas.

    Last month, an Amnesty International report asserted that equipment bought with U.S. assistance had gone to military units accused of direct involvement in the disappearance and killing of civilians, who the military presumably believed were assisting guerrillas.

    In Washington, Robert Gelbard, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said the United States did not work with paramilitary groups, and denied that American advisers would have recommended a partnership with the outlaw groups to the Colombian armed forces.

    "As a matter of policy, we oppose the concept of paramilitary groups, and we would take any and all measures to oppose assistance to them," Gelbard said. "We refuse to have any contact with paramilitaries. They're extralegal, do not come under government framework and are outside the rule of law. We feel very strongly about this."

    The U.S. ambassador to Colombia, Myles Frechette, who received a copy of the report early on Monday morning, met with the Colombian defense minister, Juan Carlos Esguerra. In a statement, Esguerra said that in recent years, leftist guerrillas had become increasingly involved in drug trafficking. He accused these "narco-guerrilla groups" of conducting a disinformation campaign among human rights organizations.

    "There is no policy, program, or practice on the part of the Colombian government or of the armed forces to support paramilitary organizations in the country," his statement said. "Such accusations are nothing more than slander against the long democratic tradition of Colombia.

    "To look for scapegoats and cut aid is not the solution.

    At a news conference on Monday afternoon, Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch/Americas, said the report showed a pattern of collaboration between the military and paramilitaries.

    "It is time to clear the smokescreen of official denial and identify the military-paramilitary partnership for what it is," Vivanco said. "This is a sophisticated mechanism, in part supported by years of advice, training, weaponry, and official silence by the United States, that allows the Colombian military to fight a dirty war and Colombian officialdom to deny it."

    Carlos Salinas, the government program officer for Latin America and the Caribbean for Amnesty International, said the belief that some guerrilla fronts may be involved in drug trafficking did not excuse the killing of civilians.

    "For us, the fundamental question remains: are we arming death squads, are we arming murderers, thugs and assassins?" Salinas said. "Regardless of how the United States chooses to confront the drug problem, the U.S. has to avoid repeating the mistakes of the Cold War, and that is justifying human rights violations in the name of a supposedly higher cause."

    The Human Rights Watch report, which relied heavily on testimony and documents contained in investigations done by the Colombian attorney general and prosecutors' offices, cites repeated instances in which paramilitaries have carried out killings with financial and logistical support from the local commanders.

    According to the Colombian Commission of Jurists, the report said, half of the political killings in Colombia are believed to be the work of paramilitaries. The guerrillas are believed to be responsible for most of the rest, often leaving civilians caught in the middle. "Although all of Colombia's guerrillas have issued proclamations in support of international humanitarian law, in practice, none have consistently applied these standards, even when it comes to measures that would protect noncombatants," the report said.

    Death Of A 'Crimefighter'

    Excerpts from The New York Times' article, "A fallen prosecutor's long goodbye," as printed in the Rocky Mountain News, Nov. 27, 1996:

    Nicholas Bissell, the former tough-talking prosecutor from Somerset, NJ killed himself Tuesday in a Nevada casino hotel room, where lawmen had caught up with him eight days after he fled his home to avoid a prison term for tax fraud, embezzlement and abuse of power...

    "I can't do 10 years," Bissell said finally. Then he put the pistol into his mouth and pulled the trigger...

    But beyond simple greed, Bissell was accused - and found guilty - of the most naked abuses of power. They included telling his underlings to destroy a drug suspect's written request for a lawyer and threatening to plant cocaine in the car of a gasoline wholesaler who had complained about a lack of cleanliness at the Bissell's service station.

    The prosecutor's downfall started with a relatively minor narcotics raid in 1990, but it swiftly dashed an image he had nurtured since his appointment in 1982, that of a hard-eyed, hard-driving crime-buster.

    The 1990 raid by Bissell's detectives was at the home of James J. Guiffre, an insurance agent and builder. A small amount of cocaine was seized.

    As Guiffre told it, in a civil suit and to investigators in the offices of the New Jersey attorney general and the U.S. attorney, Bissell pressured him, in exchange for leniency, to surrender the deeds to two undeveloped lots he had bought for $174,000.

    The lots later were sold at auction, with Bissell's approval, for a mere $20,000. The buyer was an aquaintance of Bissell's chief of detectives, Richard Thornburg.

    Although only two of the many charges against Bissell dealt directly with the Guiffre affair, it started the investigation that ultimately led federal authorities to conlcude that most of Bissell's 13-year tenure had been marked by "systematic and pervasive corruption."

    'The Other Prohibition - The Cigarette Crisis In Post War Germany'

    The Drug Text Web site has posted an interesting piece of research by Henner Hess about the most addictive of drugs, at

    Magazine Ranks Cities for Safety

    NEW YORK (AP, Nov. 26, 1996) - Large police forces don't necessarily make safe cities, Money magazine concluded in its survey that ranked Amherst, N.Y., as the nation's safest city and Newark, N.J., the most dangerous.

    Amherst, a Buffalo suburb with 107,000 residents, had the nation's lowest rates for overall violent crime and burglary. Amherst Police Chief John Askey attributed the safety to the city's suburban setting and affluent, well-educated population.

    "Most cities with populations of more than 100,000 are urban settings where there is street crime, crowded living conditions and high levels of poverty," Askey told the magazine. "Amherst is more like a big quiet suburb than a city, so we don't have those problems."

    Amherst had 79 violent crimes and 201 burglaries per 100,000 residents, 88 percent and 80 percent below the national average.

    But its police force, at a ratio of 140 police per 100,000 residents, was more than tripled by the ratio of police to people in Newark, the nation's most unsafe city in the survey.

    Newark has 446 police officers per 100,000 residents, nearly twice the national average. But the city of 260,000 had the nation's highest violent-crime rate, with one in 25 residents a victim.

    All of the 10 safest cities on the list had police-resident ratios at least 25 percent below the national average.

    The magazine asked a statistics firm to rank the cities by adjusting the FBI's 1995 crime statistics to give greater emphasis to crimes that a poll of 501 respondents found most threatening. Two-thirds of those who responded to the October poll said they feared burglary most.

    The survey, appearing in the magazine's Dec. 2 issue, ranked Thousand Oaks, Calif., behind Amherst, followed by Irvine, Calif.; Simi Valley, Calif.; and Sunnyvale, Calif.

    The most dangerous cities were Newark, Atlanta, St. Louis, New Orleans and Detroit.

    The magazine said data were not available for Albuquerque, N.M.; Aurora, Ill.; Chicago; Rockford, Ill.; and Springfield, Ill.

    'Drive To Widen Medical Pot Law'

    Associated Press, as printed in the San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 21, 1996

    SACRAMENTO - Backers of California's new medical marijuana law said Wednesday they plan a $2 million campaign in 1998 to win voter approval of similar ballot initiatives in up to five other states.

    The coalition of health care advocates, nurses and AIDS activists that campaigned for Proposition 215 on the Nov. 5 ballot - Californians for Medical Rights - is changing its name to Americans for Medical Rights for the national effort, said spokesman Dave Fratello.

    Legalizes Cultivation

    The initiative makes legal the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. Despite critics who said the measure was vague and overly permissive, it passed on a vote of 56 percent to 44 percent, or about 4.9 million to 3.9 million votes.

    The initiative's supporters included an array of wealthy donors, among them New York billionaire currency dealer George Soros, Laurance Rockefeller and Chicago commodities broker Richard Dennis.

    East, South

    Fratello said the states had not yet been selected, but would most likely be in the East and South. The combination of financing and political support that led to passage of the initiative in California would work in other states, too, he said.

    "We can do the three to five states for just about the same ($2 million) as California, but if we do Florida it would cost more," Fratello said.

    Complaint Against 'No' Campaign

    The campaign also filed a complaint Wednesday with the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state's political watchdog, alleging that officials who opposed the initiative made use of public resources that should have been listed as in-kind contributions to the No on 215 campaign.

    Those events, among others, included an Oct. 1 news conference by Attorney General Dan Lungren in which he responded to material in the "Doonesbury" comic strip lampooning the state's raid on the San Francisco marijuana club founded by activist Dennis Peron.

    Lungren and law enforcement groups were among the principal opponents of Proposition 215. They said the initiative would essentially legalize widespread use and cultivation of marijuana, and lead to conflicts with federal statutes.

    The FPPC complaint also listed news conferences on Sept. 12, Oct. 29 and Oct. 30 by Clinton administration drug czar Barry McCaffrey.

    [End of article]

    [The press release and full text of the FPPC complaint will be up on the Prop. 215 Web site later this week.

    'No On 215' Financing Questioned

    Politics: The initiative's opponents may have reported contributions improperly.
    By Teri Sforza
    Orange County Register, Nov. 22, 1996, p. B2

    The main group opposing the Medical Marijuana Initiative - headed by Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates - failed to properly report in-kind contributions worth tens of thousands of dollars, the victors say.

    Californians for Medical Rights sent a letter of complaint to the Fair Political Practices Commission on Wednesday, saying the 'No on 215' group didn't report, among other things:

  • The cost of several press conferences in Los Angeles with Barry McCaffrey, National Drug Control Policy director, including the value of travel for McCaffrey and his staff from Washington, D.C.

  • The cost of a survey done by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, which was paid for by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That survey was circulated by Gates' committee and found the election was "up for grabs."

  • The true cost of Orange County-based consulting firm Forde & Mollrich, which managed the campaign and billed the "no" side only $1,500 in general operating expenses.

    Financing has been an issue in the wake of Prop. 215's passing. The "yes" side reported spending about $2 million; the "no" side reported spending only $30,000.

    "The true figure is probably closer to $100,000," said Dave Fratello, spokesman for Californians for Medical Rights.

    "It all just sounds pretty silly to me," said "no" spokesman Stu Mollrich. "It's not a reportable campaign expense every time an elected official gives a speech. I think they're trying to intimidate elected officials and prevent them from continuing to fight Prop. 215 and drug legalization."

    A Doctor Writes To The Drug Czar

    General Barry McCaffrey
    Office of National Drug Control Policy
    Executive Office of the President
    Washington, DC 20503

    Dear General McCaffery:

    I am a physician and, like you, concerned about our nation's drug policy and its impact. Therefore, I am using the occasion of your recently televised appearance at American University as an opportunity to address our differences.

    I appreciate the energy and enthusiasm you bring to your new job. Your visibility and availability to the media are in sharp contrast to those of your predecessor. I have followed your pronouncements in the press and recognize many ideas contained in your formal presentation at AU from earlier, piecemeal reporting. However, your televised address was my first opportunity to hear you present and defend a coherent overview of present policy; so what may have become a standard recitation for you was a signal event for me.

    A video of your appearance allowed analysis of present policy together with assumptions that policy makes about both the nature of addiction, and the proper role of government in dealing with both addiction and casual drug use.

    Let me say that I am in profound disagreement with the crucial assumption of our policy that substance prohibition a useful tool of government, and with the assertion that it is only permissible way to deal with the "drug problem." This disagreement would apply even if the two most dangerous psychoactives, alcohol and tobacco, were also prohibited, which, of course, they are not.

    The reason is simple. Substance prohibition laws inevitably create illegal markets endowed with potential for enormous profit. As you said:"..the corrupting power of money can absolutely pervert fundamental institutions in a democracy, the United States, Mexico, Panama, and any other country on the face of the earth." You also said (about coca raised by campesinos) in the next paragraph: "The drugs are essentially worth nothing." That statement applies equally to opioids.

    Thus, almost all an illegal drug's street value is conferred by prohibition law which created the violent illegal market in which it is sold. The social evils decried in your speech are, on careful analysis, all direct results of that black market and not the drugs themselves. In describing that market, you say further: "the drug business does not display the classic signs of a supply-demand driven product. This is an illegal operation........It is not based on a standard distribution system. " Therefore I fail to understand the logic of a policy which insists that the only possible way to approach the issue of psychoactive harm to society is by substance prohibition.

    In September 1945, the global market for illegal drugs, disrupted by six years of war, had nearly ceased to exist. Today, fifty-one years later, illegal drugs rival oil and armaments in dollar value. This growth has occurred despite a half century of continuous drug prohibition in the United States, a policy we successfully exported to the rest of the world via the Single Convention Treaty of New York in 1961.

    Comparing the laissez-faire world drug market which existed between the end of the Second Opium War in 1860 and passage of the Harrison Act in 1914, our modern domestic addiction problem is no less severe, yet drug related crime is worse by several orders of magnitude. I do not advocate a laissez-faire drug market; I only point out that we were better off when not under prohibition.

    Another unnecessary handicap imposed by prohibition: all economic data concerning illegal markets are suspect. Licit, regulated markets, such as alcohol and tobacco yield production and sales figures which are reliable, not only for measuring the market, but for determining patterns of use. An illegal market is obscured by a veil which renders most such figures completely unreliable, despite your citing them with seeming confidence. This inability to measure the illegal market allows institutionalized funding of the expensive panoply of interdiction techniques so prized by law enforcement.

    Also, we cannot credibly measure the effect of draconian measures employed to effect change. Historically, this has created a cycle of increasingly harsh punishments with disappointing results in which the only certain measurements have been skyrocketing corrections budgets and lengthening rolls of prison inmates.

    In that connection, your statement:"I am less concerned about a debate on how sad am I about 40,000 dollars a head for a federal high security prisoner than I am about the fact we spend an average of three dollars a head per child on drug education in America, " deserves comment. I agree more might be spent on drug education, but am saddened, as you should be, by diversion of 40,000 precious tax dollars into a futile, destructive effort and away from education or health care. The statement," We're going to have to incarcerate violent criminals, we all understand that, but right now we've got a system where of our 110 000 federal prisoners, 2/3 of them are in there for drug related offenses," hardly adds logical support for present policy.

    The statement, "you (we) cannot arrest your (our) way out of the drug problem." has gained wide publicity. I note with interest that you use it in this speech also. Then you say, "There are new techniques, new alternatives, We have some 89 federally funded drug courts in the United States nowadays. They give people an alternative to incarceration." I disagree, since one does not appear in drug court unless arrested, and the penalty for non-compliance with drug court is incarceration. Drug court is a device for extending the coercive power of law enforcement while holding down expenses. Studies of its application clearly show a disproportionate assignment of white arrestees to drug court and black prisoners to prison.

    Prohibition is not a strategy of regulation, but of non-regulation. The ultimate sanction against a non compliant company in a regulated legal market is to bar them from that market, to make them outlaws. We start at that point with drugs. Present policy says in essence, that regulating drugs is so important to our well being that the only people we can entrust it to are criminals.

    The rationale used to justify prohibition is fear of addiction, especially among the young. Meanwhile scientific study of addiction has been severely hampered for the past eighty years by insistence on criminal prohibition as the only possible approach. Our model also confines enforcement theory to what is described in drug policy literature as the "free choice paradigm" which sees drug use and addiction as equally tempting to all citizens, and therefore, equally punishable under the law. We cruelly and stubbornly limit replacement therapy for addicts to one agent (methadone) through officially designated treatment programs, even while acknowledging the inadequate number of places in those programs.

    Paradoxically, a federal policy justified by claiming to protect society against the evils of addiction places nearly impossible burdens on the addict, risking his health and life while denying him humane legal treatment. He is literally consigned to the tender mercies of the illegal market or to untreated withdrawal in or out of jail.

    Even the emergence AIDS has not modified our callous marginalization of addicts. This results in unnecessary spread of HIV, not only to addicts, but their consorts, newborn children and the rest of us. The federal rejection of the value of needle exchange is at least as ethically reprehensible as the continued observation of untreated lues practiced in the infamous Tuskegee study, and because of the much larger numbers involved, far more destructive.

    In your address, you said preventing drug use and addictive behavior among the 68 million Americans under age 21 is the cornerstone of policy: "We know statistically that if you can get a young Americans between the ages of ten years old, and through the age of twenty-one without smoking cigarettes, without using illegal drugs, and I underscore this, abusing alcohol-that if you can get through the age of twenty-one without being involved in this addictive behavior, then the chances approach zero of you ever becoming one of the 3.6 million who are currently addicted."

    I would suggest that this is a simplistic and unjustified interpretation of valid data. Thus, it may be quite reckless to base an expensive national policy on this interpretation. A far more likely assumption is that those engaging in addictive behavior in high school are defining themselves as peculiarly vulnerable to the risk of addiction and thus in need of special attention.

    In support of that interpretation, I offer the following: there was an initial decline in daily cigarette use from about 2/3 of high school seniors immediately after World War II to present levels of about 30%. However, the percentage of new smokers has remained distressingly constant over the past several years, despite a well known and growing litany of adverse health effects of smoking.

    Recalcitrant junior high and high school smokers have thus become a focus of national attention for two reasons:

    1.) They are the replacements who make up the sales lost by tobacco companies when older smokers either die or quit. The charge that tobacco companies deliberately target this population with advertising has been unconvincingly denied.

    2.) These thirty percent or so of high schoolers who become tobacco addicts include nearly all who in smaller numbers, become alcohol abusers. Smoker-drinkers in turn, include almost all of those who later experiment with cocaine and heroin. Although you focused on alcohol as the drug marking those at risk for other addictions, it is equally true that juvenile smoking plays the same role in designating future alcohol abusers.

    There are two important correlates of these observations:

    1) Those who do not become cigarette smokers in junior high or high school are at very low risk to become other than moderate users of alcohol or ever to use illegal drugs, except for occasional marijuana. Extrapolating from the behavior of this compliant group to draw conclusions about those exhibiting addictive behavior is unjustified, yet such extrapolation forms the basis for current policy.

    2) The question of whether vulnerable students, as defined by cigarette addiction in high school, can be persuaded not to experiment with tobacco has never been translated into a valid experiment. This is an experiment which needs to be done, yet is almost impossible to design in a climate of criminal prohibition. If such a future cohort could be persuaded to eschew smoking until age 21, the further question of how that might affect their ultimate decision to smoke or their use of alcohol and other drugs is completely unanswered.

    Finally, a point, not specifically raised in your speech; the sustained reduction in both alcohol and tobacco consumption by Americans over the past 2 decades shows clearly that education and regulation short of prohibition can favorably impact patterns of psychoactive use. In other words, the favorable trends in consumption of legal alcohol and tobacco stand in stark contrast to the failure of prohibition to control illegal drug markets.

    I am suggesting that you have accepted a position as spokesperson for a policy which is grievously flawed, and although perhaps historically intended to benefit society, has clearly had the opposite effect. Neither long duration of, nor widespread support for, flawed national policy validate persistence in that policy. We have only to look at our national experience with slavery, made law by our Constitution and survivor as policy for about the same length of time as federal drug prohibition has existed. I urge you to reconsider your own endorsement of this national folly.

    Thomas J. O'Connell, MD
    195 Warren Road
    San Mateo, CA, 94401
    (415) 348-6841

    Editorial - US Hypocrisy On Pot

    San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 19, 1996, p. A22

    Disclosures that the federal government has been in the medical marijuana business for 20 years point up the hypocrisy of the Clinton administration's overblown opposition to Proposition 215, California's voter-approved version of the federal program.

    Even while drug czar Barry McCaffrey was railing against the vote as a "tremendous tragedy" and blasting the idea of medical marijuana as a "cruel hoax that sounds more like something out of a Cheech and Chong show," other federal employees were overseeing a "compassionate use" program in which the U.S. government supplies pot to qualifying patients. According to an Associated Press story, the government program has been in effect since the 1970s.

    People suffering from cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and rare genetic diseases are given marijuana for the purpose of controlling nausea and muscle spasms, easing eye pressure and pain and stimulating appetites. The program was discontinued for new enrollees in 1992.

    For two decades, the government was quite comfortable with the thought of marijuana as a palliative for the effects of a number of diseases. Such a conclusion makes McCaffrey's criticism of Proposition 215 as a "cruel hoax" ring a little hollow.

    'US Drug Chief Lauds Thais, Slams Burmese'

    BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuter, Nov. 22, 1996) - The top U.S. anti-drug chief lauded Thailand's advances in eradicating opium production Friday but said Burma still presented a problem.

    "Barry McCaffrey, White House Drug Control Policy director, said Thailand - part of the "Golden Triangle" drug zone that also incorporates Laos and Burma - had made great strides over the past two decades in getting rid of its opium poppies, the source for heroin.

    "There has been enormous progress in Thailand in drug education and prevention. In the last 20 years there has been enormous improvement in the eradication of opium production," McCaffrey told reporters.

    He said Thailand produces only about one percent of the region's opium. Sixty one percent of the world's opium crops are harvested in Southeast Asia.

    In contrast, neighboring Burma produces about 84 percent of the region's opium and presents a major problem, McCaffrey said. "It's all bad news," he said about production in Burma. "Burma is a great dilemma.

    The United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) estimates Burma produces 2,000 tons of opium a year.

    "Burmese opium production could generate 213 metric tons of heroin, 56 percent of the global production potential and more than 20 times as much as the total U.S. demand," McCaffrey told the American Chamber of Commerce earlier Friday.

    Burma's ruling State Law and Order Restoration Counci (SLORC) has said it is making strides in getting rid of opium production, often citing the fact that opium warlord Khun Sa surrendered to Rangoon troops earlier in the year.

    Khun Sa, who international narcotics officials say was responsible for about half of Burma's annual opium crop, gave himself up to government forces in January.

    SLORC officials say he is under interrogation and deny reports by diplomats and former members of Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army that the druglord was doing business out of a luxury lakeside villa in Rangoon.

    Khun Sa is wanted by the United States on an indictment for various charges of heroin trafficking. The SLORC has denied the request and said Rangoon would deal with him in its own way.

    'Essay - The Lost War'

    Los Angeles Times, Nov. 20, 1996

    By Robert A Jones

    Last week, PBS treated us to the spectacle of World War I, where the generals ordered soldiers to climb from their trenches and walk - slowly - into the sweeping fire of machine guns. The soldiers obeyed and were mowed down like blades of grass.

    The generals, you see, were using strategies developed for earlier wars when machine guns did not exist. Incredibly, they refused to change tactics even after witnessing the butchery, and continued throwing wave after wave of bodies at the flying lead. By war's end the bones of the dead covered the fields of western France, and the generals went home to their wives and children.

    We are now engaged in another sort of war but one where the generals pursue a strategy just as bankrupt. It is the war on drugs. Billions have been spent and many lives lost. Prisons without number have been built to hold its victims and participants. And still the war rages on, the drugs keep coming, and the victims keep falling.

    This time, however, a change in the script has emanated from an unexpected source: the scared, weary public. When California and Arizona approved medicinal uses of certain drugs on election day this month, the generals of the drug war said the public had been bamboozled and predicted that these measures would have a wider, deeper impact than the sponsors admitted.

    "The California proposition was a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing," James E. Copple, the president of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, said last week, and called the organizer's appeal for compassion a "brilliant diversionary tactic."

    In part, Copple is right. Proposition 215 in California and the even stronger Arizona measure will have effects far beyond the medicinal uses of drugs.

    But Copple also is wrong. The public was not bamboozled. Proposition 215 obviously represented a pullback in the scorched-earth policy toward drugs, and the voters were not so stupid as to miss that meaning. Along with their support for medicinal uses, they intended to send a message to the generals of the drug war, perhaps the most important message since the war was first declared by President Richard Nixon in 1972. The message is this: You are losing the war and costing us billions. Try something else.

    Recall that another drug war measure was on this month's California ballot. A prison bonds proposition would have sucked up more millions to build more cells to hold the captives of the war. Prison bonds have routinely been approved in recent years. This one failed.

    "Those two votes were twins," says Joseph McNamara, the former police chief of San Jose who has long preached that the drug war cannot be won. "The people approved a less harsh response to marijuana and they refused to build more prisons. That's why you see the other side in something of a panic."

    Panic is right. President Clinton's latest drug czar, Barry McCaffrey, declared that he would use federal powers to hunt down the terminally ill in California who smoke a joint and called Proposition 215 "a hoax" on the voters. He was joined in his dyspepsia by Atty. Gen. Janet Reno and Joseph Califano, now head of one of many foundations lapping up anti-drug dollars as fast as they can.

    Notice a small irony here. All of the above have solid Democratic and even liberal connections. On the other hand, the most visible proponents for a changed policy are now Republicans and wealthy businessmen.

    In Arizona, the drug initiative was supported by former Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater. In California they are joined by Milton Friedman, the conservative economist, and George P. Shultz, the former secretary of state, both at the Hoover Institution. William Buckley, the conservative columnist, also qualifies as a member of the new anti-war crowd.

    Most interesting of all is the small group of multi-zillionaires who financed the initiatives. George Soros, the New York currency trader, contributed half a million in California. George Zimmer, founder of Men's Wearhouse, plunked down $160,000. Peter Lewis, who runs an Ohio insurance company, sent an additional half-million.

    In other words, we have left the era when dope smokers and High Times magazine led the charge against the drug war. These new advocates hate drugs and everything they represent. They wish the drug war could be won but recognize that it cannot.

    John Sperling, the 75-year-old education entrepreneur who sponsored the Arizona measure, puts it this way: "Arizona will save $100 million on incarceration costs over the next three years from this proposition. It's a matter of costs and benefits. We said, look, the drug war is bankrupting us, things are just getting worse, and 66% of Arizona voters agreed with us."

    So, if the California and Arizona voters have now said they want to try something else, what's the "else"? The antiwar crowd says it simply wants to explore the options without being demonized by the drug warriors. As former Police Chief McNamara puts it, "Most people think that abandoning the drug war means we will have drugs on supermarket shelves. In fact, there's a huge range of possibilities."

    One such possibility involves the use of drug maintenance clinics that would supply drugs to users at low cost as long as they remain crime-free. This approach has been used in the Netherlands and Switzerland with considerable success. Would this increase the number of users? It might. If it does, is that cost worth the benefit of the reductions in drug crimes, in the corruption brought by the international cocaine cartels, in the huge drain on the public treasury?

    The answer is unknown because that debate has never taken place. The antiwar group believes we should have it. And now it appears the voters in California and Arizona just might agree.

    Soros Responds To Rosenthal

    "Our Cures for the Drug Problem Make It Worse"
    Letters to the Editor,
    The New York Times, Nov. 22, 1996

    To the Editor:

    A.M Rosenthal has attacked me repeatedly as a drug legalizer (columns, Nov. 15, Nov. 8 and Oct. 22). I am not for legalization but for a saner drug policy.

    Some form of addiction or substance abuse is endemic to all societies. The way they deal with it has considerable bearing on how healthy they are. A drug-free America is unattainable. We should aim at minimizing the ills connected with drugs.

    Our policy of treating drug abuse as a crime exacerbates the problem. The adverse effects of our policy are more severe than the adverse effects of addiction. Our policies have increased drug-related disease, death and crime, and incarcerated hundreds of thousands of Americans. Focusing resources on interdiction ignores basic economics. As long as profits are so high, there is no way to cut off supply. The profits provide ample resources for generating additional demand by drug pushing.

    There are no final solutions to our drug problems, but we do know at least some of the steps we should be taking now: making methadone and sterile syringes readily available to addicts; removing criminal prohibitions on the ability of doctors and patients to treat pain with whatever medications work; saving jail and prison cells for violent criminals and predatory drug dealers (not nonviolent addicts willing to undergo treatment), and exploring new means of reducing the harm done by drug use and our prohibitionist policies.

    Above all, we need a free and open debate on all alternatives to current drug policies.

    George Soros
    New York, Nov. 21, 1996

    'Getting Real About The War On (Some) Drugs'

    Wired magazine, December 1996
    "The Netizen" column, by John Heilemann

    If Washington ever did have an honest conversation about federalism, it would immediately reveal one of the Big Lies of American politics: that Washington has much to do with fighting crime.

    Every election, this fiction consumes - i.e., squanders - a massive amount of airtime. This year, both Dole and Clinton talked about how brutal they've been to violent criminals and how many thugs they'd happily put to death in the future. But since presidents have authority only over the federal courts, and since more than 90 percent of violent crimes are prosecuted at the state level, the candidates' braggadocio was pure hooey. Meanwhile, Clinton's persistent boast of putting 100,000 cops on the street was both false (the actual figure was around a third of that) and, placed in the proper context, a bit pathetic. For as Adam Walinsky pointed out last year in an article in The Atlantic Monthly, restoring the cops-to-violent-crime ratio of the 1960s would require 5 million new boys and girls in blue.

    Fortunately, there is one area of crime-related policy over which the federal government exerts control: drugs.

    Unfortunately, drugs also happen to be the only topic in the campaign ranted about at greater length or to less helpful effect than crime itself. The whole thing was appalling. Every day in America's big cities, the continued demand for cocaine fuels a business that leads to routine manslaughter. Yet neither Dole nor Clinton fretted about that. What really worried them was the "dramatic" rise in drug use among teenagers, which turned out to be driven largely by an increase in marijuana use and which, in raw numbers, wasn't very dramatic anyway.

    No doubt, at this moment in history, it's asking a lot of a president to defy a political culture that treats speaking reasonably about the pros and cons of legalizing drugs as if it were on a par with speaking reasonably about the pros and cons of pedophilia. But it certainly isn't too much to expect - or, at least, to hope - that he might be courageous enough to talk forthrightly about the fact that the drug problem has less to do with suburban teens smoking some grass (let alone with Pulp Fiction) than with the core group of adult drug addicts, mainly poor, whose custom spurs so much violence and mayhem. It isn't too much to expect that the president would be courageous enough, then, to propose a set of demand-side policies to deal with this problem, and to explain to voters that, though prevention and treatment may sound timid, they will do a great deal more to improve the situation than William Bennett's bromides have ever done.

    [End of article]

    (Also in this month's "Tired - Wired" (i.e., "boring - cool") column in the computer magazine: Cigars - Khat; Marinol - Medical Marijuana.)

    'Venezuelan General Indicted In CIA Scheme'

    By Tim Weiner
    The New York Times, Nov. 23, 1996

    WASHINGTON - A federal grand jury in Miami has indicted a Venezuelan general who led a CIA counter-narcotics program that put a ton of cocaine on the streets of the United States in 1990, government officials said Friday.

    After an investigation that lasted more than five years, the grand jury handed up a sealed indictment earlier this week against Gen. Ramon Guillen Davila, the officials said. The general was the chief of a program set up by the CIA in the late 1980s in conjunction with the Venezuelan National Guard, which sought to infiltrate Colombian gangs shipping cocaine to the United States.

    The CIA, over the objections of the Drug Enforcement Administration, a branch of the Justice Department, approved the shipment of at least one ton of nearly pure cocaine to Miami International Airport as a way of gathering information about the Colombian drug cartels.

    But the cocaine ended up on the street because of "poor judgment and management on the part of several CIA officers," the intelligence agency said. One CIA officer, Mark McFarlin, resigned after an internal investigation, and the agency's station chief in Venezuela was recalled to Washington.

    The case of the Venezuelan cocaine is the only known instance in which the agency has acknowledged that its actions led to drugs being imported into the United States.

    When news of the cocaine shipment broke in November 1993, Kent Harrington, then the chief spokesman for the CIA, called the matter "a most regrettable incident," and characterized it as a serious accident. No CIA official has been charged in the case, and there is no evidence that anyone at the agency profited from sales of the drugs.

    An agency spokesman said he had nothing to add Friday.

    The Venezuelan National Guard unit headed by Guillen and sponsored by the CIA was one of several anti-drug units set up by the intelligence agency in the late 1980s with the cooperation of Latin American and Caribbean armed forces.

    From 1987 to 1991, the years Guillen was in charge, the unit placed a spy in the ranks of a Colombian drug cartel and began trying to win the confidence of drug lords by handling shipments totaling 22 tons of cocaine being shipped through Venezuela. The Venezuelan National Guard is a paramilitary force that controls the nation's borders.

    In December 1989, McFarlin and the CIA's station chief, Jim Campbell, who is now retired, met with the DEA's attache in Venezuela, Annabelle Grimm, to discuss an "uncontrolled shipment" of cocaine to the United States that the CIA said would help it learn more about the Colombian cartel.

    The DEA strenuously objected, refused to have anything to do with the operation and tried to have it canceled. But McFarlin and Guillen went ahead with the operation, agency officials said.

    Since the indictment is sealed, the precise nature of the charges against the general are not clear. But one law enforcement official said that the CIA had not exercised control over the Venezuelan National Guard unit, and that the amount of cocaine that reached the United States might well have been much more than a ton.

    Since its inception in 1947, the CIA has been accused of forming alliances of convenience with drug traffickers around the world in the name of anti-communism.

    This year the agency has tried to allay suspicions arising from a series of articles in The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News suggesting that the CIA had made a pact with cocaine traffickers in California to help finance the Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s. Other newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, have found the accusations in The Mercury News to be seriously flawed.



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