------------------------------------------------------------------- Health Care: Drinking and Voting (Willamette Week, in Portland, promotes Oregon Senate Bill 529, the Mental Health Parity Act, which would force insurance companies to deal with disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and alcoholism the same way they deal with chronic physical illnesses such as asthma and diabetes - without imposing arbitrary limits on the amount of money spent, the length of a patient's stay or the number of visits allowed. A poll commissioned by the Oregon Medical Association, released March 3, shows 85 percent of Oregon voters favor parity for mental illness, and 66 percent favor parity for chemical dependency. But SB 529 remains bottled up in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Chairman Bill Fisher, a Roseburg Republican, said he would not schedule a hearing.) Willamette Week 822 SW 10th Ave. Portland, OR 97205 Tel. (503) 243-2122 Fax (503) 243-1115 Letters to the Editor: Mark Zusman - firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.wweek.com/ Note: Willamette Week welcomes letters to the editor via mail, e-mail or fax. Letters must be signed by the author and include the author's street address and phone number for verification. Preference will be given to letters of 250 words or less. originally published March 3, 1999 Health Care: Drinking and Voting * Mental-health advocates and drug counselors have long wanted insurance companies to cover more treatments. Now they've got a chance, thanks to a legislator's battle with the bottle. BY CHRIS LYDGATE email@example.com For 16 long years, state Sen. Lenn Hannon, a folksy moderate downstate Republican, struggled with his alcoholism. At times he even clambered into his vehicle when he'd had a few too many, despite having voted to stiffen penalties for drunk drivers. His behavior was, he concedes, "the height of hypocrisy." Last year, Hannon checked into a residential alcohol rehabilitation program in Medford, where he spent several weeks coming to grips with his problem. But while he learned how to stay away from the bottle, Hannon, an Ashland insurance agent, was startled to discover that many Oregonians can't afford similar treatment. "I was very fortunate to have an insurance policy that covered 100 percent of the cost," he told WW. "Most people don't." As a result, Hannon is sponsoring a bill designed to put treatment for mental illness and chemical dependency on a par with treatment for physical ailments--a proposal that pits a broad coalition of health professionals and advocates against the state's powerful insurance and business interests. Although Hannon faces potent opposition inside the capitol, in the realm of public opinion he clearly is backing a winner. A poll commissioned by the Oregon Medical Association, which was released March 3, shows that 85 percent of Oregon voters favor parity for mental illness, while 66 percent favor parity for chemical dependency. In a particularly striking result, 75 percent say they would be willing to pay higher premiums for such coverage. The poll was conducted last month. Senate Bill 529, the Mental Health Parity Act, would force insurance companies to deal with disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and alcoholism the same way they deal with chronic physical illnesses such as asthma and diabetes--without imposing arbitrary limits on the amount of money spent, the length of a patient's stay or the number of visits allowed. "This bill is an effort to broaden that access," Hannon says. In recent years, parity has become a rallying cry for the growing number of people diagnosed with mental disorders or recovering from substance abuse, and legislation mandating equal coverage for mental and physical disorders has passed in 19 other states. A similar bill was introduced during the 1997 Oregon Legislature, but it died without a hearing. This time, however, the proposal has some new allies. Besides Hannon, backers now include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and advocacy groups representing the mentally ill, the elderly and the disabled. In addition, the influential Oregon Medical Association, which gave the bill lukewarm support last session, has agreed to put the proposal at the top of its agenda. "This is a very high priority for us," says Jim Kronenberg, associate executive director of the OMA. "It's an issue that keeps coming back." Oregon law already requires insurance companies to provide mental-health and substance-abuse coverage to the tune of at least $10,500 for adults and $12,500 for children over a two-year period. These minimums, set in 1983, were intended to provide a "floor," below which insurance companies could not sink. In practice, advocates say, the floor has become a ceiling, and individual insurance companies have become leery of offering expanded coverage, lest they attract subscribers with a history of mental illness and chemical dependency. As a result of galloping medical inflation, patients are increasingly bumping up against their insurance limits, precipitating a difficult dilemma: pay the bills out of their own pockets for as long as they can or cut short their treatment and risk relapse. "It's a huge societal expense, not to mention the personal costs," says Portland psychiatrist Connie Powell, an enthusiastic supporter of the bill. She has seen several patients get sucked into a downward spiral of terminating treatment, losing their equilibrium and losing their jobs. "It's very disturbing to watch," she says. Proponents argue that improving coverage for treatments of mental illness and substance abuse will save on other health-care costs, because these conditions tend to aggravate physical illnesses. In a 1997 OMA survey, Oregon doctors reported that 20 percent of their patients had a physical problem that was made worse by psychological factors. For example, a patient with an untreated anxiety disorder is at higher risk for high blood pressure, a heart attack or a stroke. "If you treat the underlying mental condition, the physical health will improve," says the OMA's Kronenberg. The bill's supporters think they can muster enough votes in the House and Senate to pass SB 529. But they're up against some tough competition: Insurance companies, Associated Oregon Industries and Oregon's conservative Republican leadership are all opposed to the bill. The argument against the bill is partly philosophical. "In general, we have historically been opposed to mandates," says Jan Van Dyke, assistant vice-president for corporate communications at Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon. But the argument clearly is also about money. While estimates vary, everyone agrees the proposal would increase insurance premiums. According to an actuarial report commissioned by the bill's backers, SB 529 would cause premiums to jump 1.2 percent, or $1.27 per member per month. Industry estimates are a bit higher. Regence actuaries, for example, reckon SB 529 would increase costs by 2 percent to 5.5 percent. At Kaiser Permanente, preliminary estimates suggest an increase of 1.5 percent to 2 percent, according to lawyer and lobbyist Bruce Bishop, who says very few subscribers exceed the current limits. A 1997 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health reported that states that introduced parity legislation have seen total health-care costs rise by less than 1 percent as a result. While insurance companies agree these are not catastrophic increases, they worry about piling any new costs on top of medical inflation already running at 15 percent annually. "Where does it end?" asks Van Dyke. The bill's opponents also say the parity bill could be the last straw for small businesses. "Kaiser is concerned that some employers will reduce benefits or drop coverage altogether," says Bishop. Other industry observers say that concern is misplaced. "[This threat] is always bandied about," says a local health-care insider. As WW goes to press, SB 529 remains bottled up in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Chairman Bill Fisher, a Roseburg Republican, told WW he would not schedule a hearing. "As committee chairman, I have to make some of the tough decisions," he said. "I believe I have the backing of the leadership." *** [sidebars:] The Oregon Medical Association made SB 529 a priority partly because of the efforts of three Portland-area doctors: physicians Frank Baumeister and Leigh Dolin, both past OMA presidents, and psychiatrist Connie Powell. Nineteen other states have passed similar "parity" bills: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont. In 1996, the federal government enacted legislation preventing insurance companies from imposing dollar limits on coverage for mental illnesses or substance abuse. But the federal law contains several loopholes.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Crime and Justice: The Snitch Switch (Willamette Week says a bogus police report circulating among gang members in Northeast Portland makes Isaac Harden look like an even bigger stool pigeon than Aaron Walker, who testified against Isaac and Danny Harden in their recent attempted-murder trial. As a result, when Harden enters prison, he'll be considered a snitch, a marked man.) Willamette Week 822 SW 10th Ave. Portland, OR 97205 Tel. (503) 243-2122 Fax (503) 243-1115 Letters to the Editor: Mark Zusman - firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.wweek.com/ Note: Willamette Week welcomes letters to the editor via mail, e-mail or fax. Letters must be signed by the author and include the author's street address and phone number for verification. Preference will be given to letters of 250 words or less. originally published March 3, 1999 Crime and Justice: The Snitch Switch * In an effort to avoid being being trashed as an opportunist informant, a Portland thug turns to creative writing. BY MAUREEN O'HAGAN email@example.com There's a strange new gang battle going on in Northeast Portland, but it doesn't involve guns, drugs or money. Instead, some Portland underworld figures are finding that the pen may be mightier than the sword. The root of the battle can be traced back to this gangster truism: There's nothing worse than a snitch. In December of last year a flier began circulating in certain Northeast Portland hot spots claiming Aaron Walker was going to testify against Isaac and Danny Harden in their attempted-murder trial. ["Rogue of the Week," WW, Jan. 20, 1999] "Guess who's snitchin??!!" begins the flier, which encouraged readers to attend the trial. "Don't miss this for anything! Help keep snitches out of our community." The idea, allegedly concocted by one of the Harden brothers, was that Walker might be intimidated from testifying in a packed courtroom. But Walker took the stand anyway. On Jan. 11 Danny Harden was sentenced to 90 months in prison; last week Isaac was sentenced to 144 months. Earlier this month, someone decided to turn the tables--and police think Walker may have had something to do with it. Copies of a bogus police report began making the rounds among gangbangers in Northeast Portland. In the eyes of some criminals, the report makes Isaac Harden look like an even bigger stool pigeon than Walker. The report was written in cop lingo ("At 1500 hours I read Mr. Harden his Miranda rights...") and riddled--for authenticity no doubt--with misspellings. It says that Isaac Harden broke the gangster code. In September, according to the report, Harden went to the police with information "that would take four known gang members off the streets." The report tells how Harden described to cops in detail a shooting last year at a Southeast Portland restaurant, in which four Portland Bloods, including Walker, were the culprits. "He said he was at a club called Monte Carlo on or around Aug. 6th, when four members of the 'Woodlawn and loced out Bloods' shot and tried to kill his two friends." It goes on to say that Harden even offered to wear a wire to record a conversation with Walker and provide other information regarding local "(Expensive Drug dealers) like T-Hog and Big Shawn." The phony report has been taken for the genuine article, reportedly causing quite a stir among people who thought they could trust Harden. The fact that Walker is indeed a suspect in the Monte Carlo shooting makes the document seem all the more credible. "I haven't seen anything like it before," said Deputy District Attorney Eric Bergstrom, who prosecuted the Hardens. "It's taking publicity to a new level of sophistication. It's pretty hilarious, really." It isn't so funny for Harden, who will now enter prison wearing a snitch jacket. "In custody it's worse if people think you're a snitch," Bergstrom said. "As hard as it was for Aaron Walker to testify in court, he's at least out [of prison]. Isaac is in, and he has to try to explain to people that he's not really a snitch." [sidebar notes:] If Isaac Harden is a snitch, he's not a very good one. The sentence he got last week was more than four years longer than the mandatory minimum. During the Harden brothers' trial in January, the courtroom was packed with a veritable who's who of Portland hoodlums.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Sidestepping Side Effects (A letter to the editor of Willamette Week, in Portland, says the newspaper's recent article on Ritalin failed to mention the serious side-effects children can suffer. Some have developed Tourette's syndrome after long-term use.) Willamette Week 822 SW 10th Ave. Portland, OR 97205 Tel. (503) 243-2122 Fax (503) 243-1115 Letters to the Editor: Mark Zusman - firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.wweek.com/ Note: Willamette Week welcomes letters to the editor via mail, e-mail or fax. Letters must be signed by the author and include the author's street address and phone number for verification. Preference will be given to letters of 250 words or less. originally published March 3, 1999 Letters Sidestepping Side Effects I was somewhat surprised when Nigel Jaquiss' otherwise fine article on Ritalin did not address the side effects this drug can cause ["Readin', Writin' and Ritalin," WW, Feb. 17, 1999]. Methylphenidate (Ritalin) produces short-term mood elevation, and, as a stimulant, it is a drug sometimes used by college students to finish papers on the night before they are due. More alarming are reports of children who develop Tourette's syndrome from long-term use of Ritalin. With more children taking Ritalin, one would expect more cases of Tourette's syndrome. Also, it has been shown that patients who already have Tourette's syndrome have had their symptoms worsened while taking Ritalin. Using drugs to manage the behavior students exhibit in the classroom demonstrates an inflexibility in the education system. The next obvious step is to use drugs to manage behavior in the workplace, if that isn't already being done (after all, who knows what they put in the drinking fountain?). Gerhardt E. Goeken North Halleck Street
------------------------------------------------------------------- Pot shots: Peron stages sit-in at Migden's office (The San Francisco Bay Guardian says medical marijuana activist Dennis Peron and a handful of supporters staged a 45-minute sit-in at the San Francisco office of state assembly member Carole Migden on Feb. 26 to protest Migden's refusal to sponsor a bill that would legally reschedule marijuana in California if and when it's rescheduled by the federal government.) Date: Fri, 05 Mar 1999 19:13:59 -0600 From: "Frank S. World" (email@example.com) Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Rx Cannabis Now! http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/7417/ To: DRCNet Medical Marijuana Forum (email@example.com) Subject: US CA SFBG: Pot shots Peron stages sit-in at Migden's office Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Source: San Francisco Bay Guardian Website http://www.sfbg.com Email email@example.com Pubdate: March 3, 1999 POT SHOTS PERON STAGES SIT-IN AT MIGDEN'S OFFICE By Randall Lyman Medical marijuana activist Dennis Peron and a handful of supporters staged a 45-minute sit-in at the San Francisco office of state assembly member Carole Migden Friday, Feb. 26 to protest Migden's refusal to sponsor a bill that would legally reclassify, or "reschedule," marijuana in California. The bill, which Peron had asked Migden to introduce in the state legislature, would reschedule marijuana automatically once it is rescheduled by the federal government. Marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is legally considered to have no medicinal value and to have a high potential for abuse. "I thought she should be the one to sponsor it," Peron said. "I've been trying to convince her, but she refuses. People have to suffer more because she's stalling." Migden and her chief of staff in Sacramento, Alan Lofaso, told the Bay Guardian they fully supported rescheduling marijuana but believed that introducing a bill now would be ineffectual. "Of course we could do it now, but it wouldn't help, because federal law is the hurdle," Lofaso said. "Introducing a bill doesn't send a message to the federal government. The state of California taking action sends a message. That was what Proposition 215 did." "We don't need convincing," Migden said of Peron's bill. "If the federal government reschedules [during the current session], I'll sponsor a bill. I commit 100 percent to using one of my bills or someone else's bill to reschedule marijuana." Peron remained unconvinced. "She says, 'if and when.' That's exactly what we're trying to avoid. Just because the federal government reschedules doesn't mean California will have to." On the contrary, he said, federal rescheduling would only increase law-enforcement resistance to changing state law.
------------------------------------------------------------------- California State Sen. John Vasconcellos Has Just Touched The Tip Of The Iceberg (A letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times explains the mindset among federal judges caused by Congress killing the federal sentencing commission. As a result, judicial timidity is subverting the constitution and murdering medical marijuana defendant Peter McWilliams. California officials should storm the Bastille and protect their citizen from a federal government gone mad.) Date: Thu, 04 Mar 1999 16:08:47 +0000 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Peter Webster (email@example.com) Subject:  California State Sen. John Vasconcellos Has Just Touched The Tip Of The Iceberg Pubdate: Wed, 3 Mar 1999 Source: Los Angeles Times (CA) Copyright: 1999 Los Angeles Times. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: (213) 237-4712 Website: http://www.latimes.com/ Forum: http://www.latimes.com/HOME/DISCUSS/ Author: PAT ROGERS Related: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v99.n211.a08.html MEDICAL MARIJUANA California state Sen. John Vasconcellos has just touched the tip of the iceberg of the problems with our national drug prohibition policy (Commentary, Feb. 25). The dominant puritanical minority that controls the Congress with coercion, fear and the politics of personal destruction has also subverted our federal courts. After the federal sentencing commission proposed easing marijuana sentencing, the Congress responded by refusing to approve any more appointments to the commission. The result is that the federal courts no longer have the guidance of the commission and thus federal law and the nation's courts are effectively subverted. Most judges fear rendering constitutionally consistent decisions because these vindictive members of the Congress will censure them. While a censure won't remove a judge from the court, it will foreclose any upward mobility in the system. This is the judicial environment that Peter McWilliams is subjected to. If the state of California is to save the life of McWilliams, it should step in and take him into protective custody from the federal prosecutors and provide to him the lifesaving marijuana that he needs to stabilize and strengthen his body. The state should stand up to the federal persecutors and protect their citizen from a federal government gone mad. PAT ROGERS Allentown, Pa.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Brings Relief (A testimonial letter to the editor of the Bangor Daily News from a veteran caregiver who is currently watching her sister-in-law die "an inch at a time" from pancreatic cancer urges Maine voters to support a November ballot measure that would legalize marijuana for medical conditions.) Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 05:21:41 -0800 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US ME: PUB LTE: Marijuana Brings Relief Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: General Pulaski Pubdate: 3 Mar 1999 Source: Bangor Daily News (ME) Copyright: 1999, Bangor Daily News Inc. Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.bangornews.com/ Author: Patricia Tribelli MARIJUANA BRINGS RELIEF I came from another state to care for my ill sister-in-law in October. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I have watched her die an inch at a time. The medications prescribed for the nausea do not work, but marijuana does. The medical community knows this, but they realize this is a hot-potato issue. There is a marijuana pill, but it is not as effective as smoking. I have never tried pot and my sister-in-law is in her mid-70s, but after watching her retch more than 30 times, I felt it was time for her to try it, and it worked. For the moralists out there, I suggest you see what an end-stage cancer patient has to endure. I have worked in the health field and have seen first-hand the beneficial effects of marijuana for certain conditions. I implore you: Before you naysay, become informed. I am told the legalization of marijuana for medical conditions is going to be on the Maine ballot in November. Please vote yes. Help legalize something that will bring relief from the constant nausea and vomiting. Patricia Tribelli Union
------------------------------------------------------------------- Place Called Mena - Just Some Facts (Wall Street Journal editorial writer Micah Morrison clues in corporate America to what is probably the real Clinton administration scandal - the officially sanctioned smuggling of illegal drugs through Mena airport while Clinton was governor.)Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 05:05:48 -0800 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (MAPNews) To: email@example.com Subject: MN: US AR: Place Called Mena?Just Some Facts Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Reply-To: email@example.com Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: firstname.lastname@example.org (Tom O'Connell) Pubdate: 3 Mar 1999 Source: Wall Street Journal (NY) Copyright: 1999 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.wsj.com/ Author: Micah Morrison PLACE CALLED MENA-JUST SOME FACTS Reacting to the Juanita Broaddrick story, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said the Journal editorial page "lost me after they accused the president of being a drug smuggler and a murderer." We made no such charges, of course. But we'll give Mr. Lockhart a pass on the grounds of hyperbole; we have indeed reported stories about the seamy side of Bill Clinton's Arkansas. Most of our stories as opposed to gamier Arkansas tales traded on the Internet have revolved around Mena Intermountain Regional Airport in western Arkansas. Even as careful an observer as David Frum, writing in Commentary, criticizes "wild charges" including "drugsmuggling via Mena airport." Since drug smuggling at Mena is, established beyond doubt, a brief review of some facts seems in order: * Mena was a staging ground for Barry Seal, one of the most notorious drug smugglers in history. He established a base at Mena in 1981, and according to Arkansas law enforcement officials, imported as much as 1,000 pounds of cocaine a month from Colombia. In 1984 he became an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, flying to Colombia and gathering information about leaders of the Medellin cartel. He testified in several highprofile cases, and was assassinated in Baton Rouge, La., in 1986. * Two investigators probing events at Mena say they were closed down. William Duncan, a former lnternal Revenue Service investigator, and Russell Welch, a former Arkansas State Police detective. They fought a decade long battle to bring events at Mena to light, pinning their hopes on nine separate state and federal probes. All failed. And Messrs. Welch and Duncan were stripped of their careers. * In 1986, Dan Lasater, Little Rock bond daddy and an important Clinton campaign contributor, pleaded guilty to cocaine distribution. The scheme also involved Mr. Clinton's brother, Roger. Both Mr. Lasater and Roger Clinton served brief prison terms. Gov. Clinton later issued a pardon to Mr. Lasater. * On Aug. 23,1987, teenagers Kevin Ives and Don Henry were run over by a northbound Union Pacific train near Little Rock in an area reputed to be a haven for drug smugglers. Gov. Clinton's state medical examiner, Fahmy Malak, quickly ruled the deaths accidental, saying the two boys had fallen into a deep sleep side by side on the railroad tracks after smoking too much marijuana. A second autopsy concluded the boys had been murdered and their bodies placed on the tracks. Despite public outcry, Dr. Malak remained medical examiner until just before Mr. Clinton's presidential campaign. * In 1990 Jean Duffey, the head of a newly created drug task force, began investigating a possible link between the train deaths and drugs. Her boss, the departing prosecuting attorney for Arkansas's Seventh Judicial District, gave her a direct order: "You are not to use the drug task force to investigate public officials.' In a 1996 interview with the Journal, Ms. Duffey said: "We had witnesses telling us about low flying aircraft and inforrnants testifying about drug pick ups." * Dan Harmon, who had earlier been appointed special prosecutor for the train deaths, took office in 1991 as seventh district prosecutor. Ms. Duffey was discredited, threatened, and ultimately forced to flee Arkansas. In 1997, a federal jury in Little Rock found Mr. Harmon guilty of five counts of drug dealing and extortion, and sentenced him to eight years in prison for using his office to extort narcotics and cash. Mr. Lockhart to the contrary, we have never accused Mr. Clinton of a direct role in these events. Obviously, as governor for 12 years, he was ultimately responsible for Arkansas law enforcement. As president, he has commented only once about events at Mena. Asked about it during a 1994 press conference, he said that it was "primarily a matter of federal jurisdiction" and "they didn't tell me anything about it." * In 1984, Seal flew his C 123K to Nicaragua in a Central Intelligence Agency drug sting of Sandinista officials. The CIA rigged a hidden camera in the plane, enabling Sum to snap photos of several men - including a high ranking Sandinista - loading cocaine aboard the aircraft. In 1986, eight months after Seal's death, his plane was shot down over Nicaragua with an Arkansas pilot at the wheel and a load of ammunition and contra supporter Eugene Hasenfus in the cargo bay. * Three days after the 1996 presidential election, the CIA issued a brief report saying it had engaged in "authorized and lawful activities" at the airfield, including "routine aviation related services'! and a secret "joint training operation with another federal agency." The agency said it was not "associated with money laundering, narcotics trafficking, arms smuggling:, or other illegal activities" at Mena. The statement was issued in response to a probe by investigators for the House Banking Committee, directed by Chairman Jim Leach. His report has been often promised and often delayed. Yesterday Leach spokesman David Runkel said that Banking Committee investigators are "putting the finishing touches" on their report. "While there is an extraordinary story to be told, it's unlikely that the president is golng to be too severely embarrassed." Whatever Mr. Clinton's involvement as governor, something singular was going on at Mena. Perhaps Mr. Leach will yet shed some light on the mystery. Mr. Morrison is a Journal editorial page writer.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Report Due This Month On Medical Marijuana (An otherwise unremarkable letter to the editor of USA Today by Francis X. Kinney from the Office of National Drug Control Policy reiterates federal policy on medical marijuana - but notes the comprehensive review of existing research on marijuana's potential "benefits and harms" will be released by the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine "this month.") Newshawk: David Hadorn (firstname.lastname@example.org) Pubdate: Wed, 03 Mar 1999 Source: USA Today (US) Copyright: 1999 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. Contact: email@example.com Address: 1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA 22229 Fax: (703) 247-3108 Website: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nfront.htm Author: Francis X. Kinney, Director of Strategy, Office of National Drug Control Policy Washington, D.C. REPORT DUE THIS MONTH ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA Letter writer Peter McWilliams mischaracterizes the Clinton administration's policy toward marijuana ("War against medical marijuana causes misery," Letters, Friday). Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the provisions of the Controlled Substance Act, Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. It is classified this way because of its high potential for abuse and lack of acceptable medical use. In response to anecdotal claims about marijuana's medical effectiveness, the National Institutes of Health are supporting peer-reviewed research on the drug's safety and efficacy. The Office of National Drug Control Policy is supporting a comprehensive review of existing research on marijuana's potential benefits and harms by the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine. We look forward to receiving their report this month. We agree with the International Narcotics Control Board's recent conclusion that "Any decision on the medical use of cannabis should be based on clear scientific evidence. Political initiatives and public votes can easily be misused by groups promoting the legalization of all use of cannabis and/or the prescription of cannabis for recreational use under the guise of medical dispensation." Francis X. Kinney Director of Strategy Office of National Drug Control Policy Washington, D.C.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced (The Associated Press says U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts proposed legislation Wednesday that would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, meaning it could be prescribed by doctors under certain conditions, just as cocaine and other controlled substances are. The bill would set aside the federal ban on marijuana in those states where voters have permitted medical use of the drug, but would not affect states that have not permitted such use.) Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 05:06:00 -0800 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (MAPNews) To: email@example.com Subject: MN: US: Wire: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Reply-To: email@example.com Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: General Pulaski Pubdate: 3 Mar 1999 Source: Associated Press Copyright: 1999 Associated Press Author: Melissa B. Robinson Associated Press Writer MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL INTRODUCED WASHINGTON (AP) A Democratic congressman wants to lift the federal ban on the medical use of marijuana in states where voters have approved it as a treatment for pain, nausea or other problems. "What we need to do to get marijuana into the hands of people suffering is to set aside the federal controls on marijuana, so the states can determine this issue for themselves," Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts said Wednesday. Frank has proposed legislation that would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, meaning that it could be prescribed by doctors under certain conditions, just as cocaine and other controlled substances are. Prescriptions for such drugs are subject to federal and state review. The bill would set aside the federal ban on marijuana in those states Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Nevada where voters have permitted medical use of the drug. The bill would not affect states that have not permitted such use. Although marijuana users with a demonstrated medical need don't face state prosecution in those six states, they still face possible federal prosecution, Frank said. Doctors, too, may shy away from prescribing the drug for fear of losing their right to prescribe other federally controlled substances, he said. The bill would also require the federal government to supply marijuana for research. Frank has pressed the issue twice before, and he is not hopeful that his latest proposal will pass the Republican-controlled 106th Congress. Last fall, the House adopted by 310-93 vote a resolution by Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., that said marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug and should not be legalized for medical use. Supporters said efforts to legalize the drug for medical use send the wrong message to teen-agers, and that scientific testing has not proved a medical use for marijuana. But the New England Journal of Medicine has editorialized in favor of medical marijuana, and the American Medical Association has urged the National Institutes of Health to support more research on the subject. On Wednesday, Canada's health minister authorized clinical trials to determine if marijuana is a useful medicine for people suffering from terminal illnesses and other painful conditions. And a report from the International Drug Control Board concluded last month that in-depth and impartial scientific studies should be conducted into marijuana's possible medical benefits. In addition to the six states that allow medical uses of marijuana, 11 states have reduced the possession of small amounts of the drug to a minor civil offense, similar to a traffic violation. They are Alaska, Oregon, California, Minnesota, Colorado, Nebraska, Mississippi, Ohio, North Carolina, New York and Maine.
------------------------------------------------------------------- DRCNet Newsflash (A bulletin from the Drug Reform Coordination Network alerts online activists to two developments - a "48 Hours" newscast on chronic pain, and opposing op-eds by U.S. Rep. Mark Souder and DRCNet's Adam J. Smith in the Cavalier Daily at the University of Virginia, regarding the Higher Education Act's ban on loans to student pot smokers.) Date: Wed, 03 Mar 1999 21:23:20 -0500 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: DRCNet (email@example.com) Subject: DRCNet Newsflash Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Dear DRCNet Readers: Usually we only write you once a week, with our weekly drug policy e-zine, The Week Online with DRCNet. Issue #81 of the WOL will be going out late tomorrow night as scheduled. This week, though, we're sending this quick note to let you know a couple of things in the meantime: 1) The CBS news program 48 Hours is doing a program on a very important issue to drug reformers, the issue of chronic pain. Under the war on drugs, patients who need opiate therapy to bring their pain within manageable levels, are often unable to get prescriptions, because the same drugs are illegal for non-medical use and prescriptions of them are monitored by the DEA and state medical boards. Read more about this problem on our web site at http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/pain.html, and much more at the web site of the American Society for Action on Pain, http://www.actiononpain.org. We don't know how much focus 48 Hours will put on this aspect of the issue, but we have been told they've interviewed a patient who had to fly across the country to find a doctor willing to treat his pain adequately. It's worth checking out if you're interested in this aspect of the issue. 2) DRCNet's Higher Education Action reform campaign is taking off! Last week, DRCNet Associate Director Adam J. Smith faced off with the HEA drug provision's sponsor, Rep. Mark Souder, in an op-ed in the University of Virginia's daily newspaper, the Cavalier Daily. Souder attacked DRCNet by name and attempted to rebut our arguments. But his own stats turned out to be highly misleading, and he even mischaracterized his own legislation! Read more about it online at http://www.u-net.org. Donations to support the campaign can be made at http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html, or checks can be mailed to: DRCNet, 2000 P St., NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20036. (It'll save us a lot of typing if you go to the online registration form first, though.) - David Borden Executive Director
------------------------------------------------------------------- US Criticism Of China Rings Hollow In US Prisons (Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson contrasts the U.S. State Department's report last week on human rights abuses in China with Sunday's New York Times article about human rights abuses in America attributable to the crack cocaine scare of 1986. It is increasingly difficult for the United States to demand that China be on the "right side of history" when you could take many parts of the State Department report, change only the location, and have the same report about the United States. For example, the State Department complains that China is in denial about racism against its ethnic minorities, yet nearly every serious study of the American criminal justice system has found that it profoundly discriminates against African-Americans and Latinos.) Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 17:26:40 -0800 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US MA: US Criticism Of China Rings Hollow In Us Prisons Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Alan Randell Pubdate: Wed, 03 March 1999 Source: Boston Globe (MA) Copyright: 1999 Globe Newspaper Company. Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.boston.com/globe/ Author: Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Columnist US CRITICISM OF CHINA RINGS HOLLOW IN US PRISONS It will be interesting to see how long the White House can recite China's abuses when its own moral threads are unraveling to the point that it has become the schoolmarm scolding the world in exposed lingerie. Last week the State Department issued a stinging report on human rights abuses in China. The report said, "Abuses included instances of extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy incommunicado detention and denial of due process. "Prison conditions at most facilities remained harsh. In many cases, particularly sensitive political cases, the judicial system denies criminal defendants basic legal safeguards and due process because authorities attach higher priority to maintaining public order and suppressing political opposition than to enforcing legal norms." To emphasize the point, President Clinton said last weekend in California, "I believe, sooner or later, China will have to come to understand" that it "cannot purchase stability at the expense of freedom." He said this as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was off to China, where she lectured Chinese officials on human rights. Albright said, "It is very important for China to be on the right side of history." It is increasingly difficult for the United States to demand that China be on the right side of history when you could take many parts of the State Department report about China, change only the location, and have the same report about the United States. The United States knocks China's courts, but the United States has the world's highest level of incarceration in the developed world. The report complains that China does not openly recognize racism against ethnic minorities, yet nearly every serious study of the American criminal justice system has found that it profoundly discriminates against African-Americans and Latinos. The latest example of this was Sunday's New York Times, which laid out (finally) the facts that allow one to conclude that the war on crack has been every bit as oppressive for black and brown people as the tanks rolling down Tiananmen Square. Filled with hysteria and absent of medical reasoning, Congress enacted laws in the 1980s that sent holders of 40 grams of crack cocaine to jail for 10 years while someone nailed with 400 grams of powdered cocaine could serve a year or less in jail. Though federal statistics show that up to 62 percent of crack users are actually white, 90 percent of the people jailed under federal laws for crack are African-American. Though white Americans are 76 percent of the population and consume 75 percent of the illegal drugs in the United States, African-Americans and Latinos make up 79 percent of drug convictions in state courts from 1990 through 1996 and 71 percent of the drug convictions in federal courts. This has not reduced drug use. Only 5 percent of federal crack arrests were for high-level dealers. Instead, the harsh laws ensnared the chumps of the trade and unwitting friends and family of dealers, sometimes resulting in five to 10 years for first-time offenses. It was ironic that Clinton chose California to urge the Chinese government to open up its political system and not to "limit the aspirations of its people." California is one of the nation's best examples of how the drug war has sucked aspiration out of the reach of the state's youth. There are now five times more African-Americans in California jails and prisons than in the state's universities. Spending on prisons in California has grown over twice as fast as spending for the state's public schools and has skyrocketed while college spending has been cut. The cuts are so parallel with prison spending that there is little doubt of a direct shift in spending, even though it costs $22,000 a year to incarcerate someone in the state while it costs $4,000 a year for college. Prison guards now make more than university professors. Clinton knows this. He knew that the crack laws were unjust from the start. He knows that vast numbers of the people being jailed for drugs are nonviolent offenders whom studies would say would more effectively reclaim their lives and the livelihoods of their families with education and other second chances. But he and his cowering administration have been unwilling for six years to challenge the gulag mentality of the Republicans. Clinton has waited so long that he has handed the Chinese government the spoon to feed him his own medicine. When the State Department released its report last week, Chinese officials wasted no time in firing back, in effect, "yes, and what about your prisons, your black people dying at the hands of the police, your widening gap between rich and poor and 41 million people going without health insurance?" Clinton has waited so long that each complaint about China only begs a harder look at home. He criticizes China for lack of due process. He cannot say anything until he moves to end the undue process of the crack laws and the undue procession of black men from hope into jail.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Dad lacks strength to read dead son's journal (A letter to the editor of the Province, in British Columbia, from a father whose son was poisoned in 1993 by adulterated street heroin, says prohibition also killed Allister Marselje, who weighed out gram bags of cannabis in a Vancouver smoke-easy. Bigoted and ignorant citizens are needed to maintain the war on drugs. Jean Chretien, the Canadian prime minister, could do something, but refuses to lift a finger to save the lives of our children. Allister's death must be laid at Chretien's door.) Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 16:49:31 -0800 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (MAPNews) To: email@example.com Subject: MN: Canada: PUB LTE: Dad Lacks Strength To Read Dead Son's Journal Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Alan Randell Pubdate: Pubdate: 3 March 1999 Source: Vancouver Province (Canada) Copyright: The Province, Vancouver 1999 Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.vancouverprovince.com/ Author: Alan Randell, Victoria Dad lacks strength to read dead son's journal My heart goes out to Gwen Robertson as she tries to come to terms with the tragic death of her son, Allister Marselje (Mom mourns son lost to mean streets, Feb. 28). Allister was one more casualty of the war on drugs and that ridiculous law that seeks to punish individuals for what they ingest into their own bodies. My son, Peter, who was poisoned in 1993 by adulterated street heroin, was another. Like Allister, Peter kept a journal, but I haven't yet summoned up the courage to read it myself, although his mother has read portions of it to me. However there is one group of Province readers who are presumably celebrating Allister's death. To judge from their angry, self-righteous letters back on January 6 in support of the Abbotsford police killing of the family dog in a drug raid, they feel that the only good drug dealer is a dead drug dealer, and Allister was, in their terms, a drug dealer. Bigoted and ignorant citizens are needed to maintain the war on drugs that's for sure. But a courageous and honourable Prime Minister could easily sway the howling mob if he had a mind to. It is Jean Chretien, who refuses to lift a finger to stop the drug war and save the lives of our children, at whose door Allister's death must be laid. Alan Randell Victoria *** Eleanor and Alan Randell 1821 Knutsford Place, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8N 6E3 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephones: Home 250-721-0356 Work (Alan) 250-952-2926
------------------------------------------------------------------- Canada To Study Medical Marijuana (The Associated Press says Canada's health minister, Alan Rock, has authorized clinical trials to determine if marijuana is a useful medicine for people suffering from terminal illnesses and other painful conditions. Rock stressed during debate in Parliament Wednesday that the decision did not mean the government was moving toward wider legalization of marijuana for non-medical purposes. Aside from gathering scientific evidence, The health minister also said he wants officials to examine how to provide access to a safe supply of medical marijuana for those who might need it.) Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 17:28:08 -0800 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: Canada: Wire: MMJ: Canada To Study Medical Marijuana Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: General Pulaski Pubdate: Wed, 03 Mar 1999 Source: Associated Press Copyright: 1999 Associated Press CANADA TO STUDY MEDICAL MARIJUANA OTTAWA - Canada's health minister has authorized clinical trials to determine if marijuana is a useful medicine for people suffering from terminal illnesses and other painful conditions. But the minister, Allan Rock, stressed during debate in Parliament on Wednesday that the decision did not mean the government was moving toward wider legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. "There are Canadians who are suffering from terminal illnesses, who are in pain or suffering from difficult symptoms, who believe that smoking medical marijuana can help with their symptoms," Rock said. "There's all kinds of anecdotal evidence. There's no scientific evidence," he said. "Clinical trials will help us develop that evidence in a calm, rational way." There were no immediate details about how long the trials might take or how they would be conducted. Aside from gathering scientific evidence, Rock said he wants officials to examine how to provide access to a safe supply of medical marijuana for those who might need it. "I think Canadians support, on a compassionate basis, if someone is dying, access to a substance that could alleviate their symptoms," he said. Several Canadian activists in recent years have been arrested and put on trial because of their campaigns to legalize the medical use of marijuana. Proponents say marijuana alleviates a wide range of medical problems, including nausea from chemotherapy and pressure on the eyes from glaucoma. There is no current provision for Canadians to possess marijuana legally for medicinal reasons.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Rock agrees to pot trials (The Canadian Press version) From: email@example.com (Matt Elrod) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Canada: Rock agrees to pot trials Date: Thu, 04 Mar 1999 09:38:49 -0800 Lines: 103 Wednesday, March 3, 1999 Rock agrees to pot trials By JIM BROWN -- The Canadian Press OTTAWA (CP) -- Health Minister Allan Rock has asked his officials to draw up a plan for clinical trials on the medical use of marijuana --and to figure out how a safe supply could be provided to those who might need the drug to ease pain. "There are Canadians who are suffering from terminal illnesses, who are in pain or suffering from difficult symptoms, who believe that smoking medical marijuana can help with their symptoms," Rock said Wednesday. But before the government makes a final decision it wants scientific evidence, not just anecdotal testimony, on whether smoking pot can help relieve pain. "Clinical trials will help us develop that evidence in a calm, rational way," Rock said outside the Commons. "I think Canadians support, on a compassionate basis, if someone is dying, access to a substance that could alleviate their symptoms." Various lobby groups and individuals contend that marijuana can help ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, advanced AIDs and a range of other ailments. Some users have clashed with the law after being arrested for possession, trafficking or growing pot. But many convictions have resulted in lenient sentences, and in some cases absolute discharges that left the person with no criminal record. Rock, who has been wrestling with the problem for some time, announced his plan a day before the Commons was to debate a private member's motion by Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras advocating legalization of marijuana for medical use. The initiative has attracted two NDP MPs, Nelson Riis and Libby Davies, as co-sponsors. It is slated to be one of the few pieces of private member's business that will come to a formal vote in this session of the Commons. Liberal sources confirmed Rock's timing Wednesday was a matter of political calculation rather than coincidence. "Allan's been talking about this for a long time, he feels strongly about it," said one insider. "And it's always good to be ahead of an issue." It was not clear how long the clinical trials might take, though officials say research projects of this kind typically go on for two to three years. Only if the trials show marijuana is medically useful would the government go on to the next step -- a formal decision on whether to allow full-time legal access to the drug for medical use. In the meantime, Rock is looking at the possibility of issuing special permission for individuals to use the drug on a case-by-case basis, whether they participate in the research trials or not. "He doesn't want a restrictive process that would deny access in compassionate cases," said one senior official. Aside from gathering scientific evidence, Rock wants to examine how to provide a safe and controlled supply of medical marijuana for those who might need it. The minister was careful to specify that the trials do not mean the government is moving toward wider legalization of pot for recreational purposes. "I've asked officials to develop a plan for research," he said. "It has nothing to do with legalizing marijuana." Reform health critic Grant Hill said he favours clinical trials "to look at anything that will help people out." But he was uneasy that the move might widen into a campaign for legalization of marijuana for any purpose. "As a medical doctor I've treated young people who were habituated to marijuana, whose marks had suffered, whose lives were wrecked. That's my concern." Bigras, speaking for the Bloc, welcomed Rock's announcement but warned that the minister shouldn't use clinical trials as an excuse to postpone a political decision. There has to be a way for individuals to get access to the drug on a compassionate basis while the trials go on, said Bigras. Terrence Stewart, chairman of the Canadian AIDS Society, called Rock's announcement "a great step." But he quickly added the society will keep pressing Ottawa to take the next step and decriminalize the drug for medical use. "Just providing the drugs under a clinical trial is not going to be the answer. We have to have a commitment from the government that they will see it through to the end."
------------------------------------------------------------------- Canada Orders Clinical Trials Of Medical Marijuana (The Reuters version) Date: Thu, 04 Mar 1999 16:05:42 +0000 To: email@example.com From: Peter Webster (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject:  Canada Orders Clinical Trials Of Medical Marijuana Pubdate: Wed, 3 Mar 1999 Source: Reuters Copyright: 1999 Reuters Limited. CANADA ORDERS CLINICAL TRIALS OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Health Minister Allan Rock said Wednesday he has ordered officials to develop clinical trials for the medical use of marijuana and to determine how to grant safe access to the drug. Rock insisted, however, that this was not the first step towards legalization of marijuana but an opposition member of parliament, Grant Hill, a medical doctor, immediately questioned whether it would not lead to more than pain relief. ``There are Canadians who are suffering from terminal illnesses who are in pain or suffering from difficult symptoms who believe that smoking medical marijuana can help with those symptoms,'' Rock, a Liberal, told reporters. The debate has echoes in the United States, where voters in seven states and the District of Columbia have approved the medical use of marijuana over the strenuous opposition of the federal anti-drug czar, Barry McCaffrey. Dr. Hill, the health spokesman for Canada's opposition Reform Party, said he could go along with clinical trials but added: ''It's quite controversial, because it could lead to other things.'' Rock's formative years were in the long-haired, free-smoking sixties. Asked if he had smoked marijuana, the prime ministerial aspirant merely gave a broad smile.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Dope Inquiry Aside, Status Quo To Stay (The New Zealand Herald says that despite a parliamentary committee's report in December encouraging the Government to review cannabis policies, the Minister of Police, Clem Simich, has indicated that no changes are in the pipeline.) Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 21:40:42 -0800 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: New Zealand: Dope Inquiry Aside, Status Quo To Stay Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: David Hadorn
Pubdate: Wed, 03 Mar 1999 Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand) Copyright: New Zealand Herald Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.herald.co.nz/nzherald/index.html Author: Eugene Bingham DOPE INQUIRY ASIDE, STATUS QUO TO STAY Cannabis laws look unlikely to be relaxed, despite a parliamentary inquiry encouraging the Government to review its existing policy. Just weeks before the Government response to the health select committee report is expected, the Minister of Police, Clem Simich, has indicated that no changes to the cannabis laws are in the pipeline. The committee's report in December recommended that the Government reconsider the legal status of the drug because it was "clear that current policies do not deter cannabis use to any great extent." It stopped one step short of calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis. The Government's response is due on March 17, but Mr Simich told Parliament yesterday that no changes were planned. To a question from Mauri Pacific MP Tukoroirangi Morgan on whether there were any moves to alter the Government's cannabis policy, Mr Simich answered "no." "I am probably more aware than any other member in this House of the dangers of the use of marijuana, and I have always said that it's a matter that needs to be looked at," said Mr Simich, a former policeman. "We need to do a lot more, and we intend to do a lot more in terms of encouraging and counselling and all sorts of other measures to make sure that New Zealanders minimise the use of this awful drug." Mr Simich faced questioning over his stance in favour of decriminalisation, which is at odds with the position of the Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, and other National MPs. He said there was no split in the Government on the issue, and that his position was a personal one. The 10-member committee studied the effects of cannabis on mental health and concluded that these had been overstated and that moderate use of the drug did not harm most people.
------------------------------------------------------------------- New Drug Army Rules Atop 'Golden Triangle' (According to an Associated Press article in the Seattle Times, the U.S. State Department calls the United Wa State Army, one of many ethnic groups not controlled by the central government of Myanmar, part of "the world's biggest armed narcotics-trafficking organization." A generation ago, the Wa were feared headhunters. Now, Thai officers monitoring the border say the Wa are becoming the masters of the Golden Triangle, where the frontiers of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand converge. Tensions have risen as the central government has demanded that the Wa head back toward their old strongholds near China. The Wa, unwilling to lose heroin gateways through Thailand, have ignored the order and begun preparing for war.) Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 05:05:09 -0800 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (MAPNews) To: email@example.com Subject: MN: Myanmar: New Drug Army Rules Atop 'Golden Triangle' Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Reply-To: email@example.com Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: John Smith Pubdate: 3 Mar 1999 Source: Seattle Times (WA) Copyright: 1999 The Seattle Times Company Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.seattletimes.com/ Author: Don Pathan, The Associated Press NEW DRUG ARMY RULES ATOP 'GOLDEN TRIANGLE' LOI SAM SAO, Myanmar - Cradling an assault rifle, a teenage rebel sits at a guard post watching trucks hauling consumer goods and construction material into northeastern Myanmar over the dusty road from Thailand. Across the border sits a Thai army command post that overlooks the hills of Southeast Asia's "Golden Triangle," the region where experts say nearly half the world's heroin is produced and then smuggled out to the streets of America and Europe. The young rebel is the first line of contact between outsiders and the United Wa State Army, one of the numerous ethnic groups not controlled by the central government of Myanmar, or Burma. "Welcome to the land of the Wa," Capt. Sadorn Sae-chang, the taciturn commander of the Wa army battalion in this area, tells a journalist allowed a rare, brief visit. A generation ago, the Wa were feared headhunters. Now, they are the world's largest producers of heroin and a major supplier of amphetamines in East Asia. But a cozy arrangement with the Myanmar military government that allowed their rise is fraying, and the Wa are preparing for war. Sadorn and the 1,000 Wa soldiers positioned along this part of the border are part of what the U.S. State Department calls "the world's biggest armed narcotics-trafficking organization." Thai officers monitoring the border say the Wa are becoming the masters of the Golden Triangle, where the frontiers of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand converge. "They are definitely moving in that direction, establishing a sound network with outsiders," said Thai Maj. Gen. Chamlong Phothong. "The pressure is on us to do something about it." Thai officials and the State Department estimate about 1,900 tons of raw opium were cultivated in the Triangle last year, down from 2,300 tons the previous season, partly because of bad weather. About 10 kilograms of opium are needed to make a kilogram of heroin. "The Wa are responsible for nearly half of this amount," said Sorasit Sangprasert, deputy chief of Thailand's Office of the Narcotics Control Board. The Wa filled a vacuum left by Khun Sa, the warlord who once ran the largest narcotics outfit in Myanmar at the head of an army of ethnic Shan. Khun Sa surrendered to the government three years ago in exchange for amnesty and now lives in the capital, Yangon. Wa fighters were once the foot soldiers of the now-defunct Communist Party of Burma, whose insurgency sputtered out a decade ago. Soon after, they formed the United Wa State Army and worked out a cease-fire with the military government. For Myanmar's army, the truce neutralized a rebel group that had a weapons inventory large enough to last 10 years. For the Wa, it was a green light to expand heroin activities southward from their stronghold in Panghsang on the Chinese border, gaining additional smuggling routes across the Thai and Chinese borders. Along the way, they clashed with Khun Sa, hastening his surrender. But with Khun Sa out of the picture, the truce is losing appeal for the government, which would like to extend control over the troublesome border territory and the ethnic groups it has fought for decades. Tensions have risen over the past year, with the government demanding that the Wa head back toward their old strongholds near China. The Wa, unwilling to lose heroin gateways through Thailand, have ignored the order and begun beefing up their supplies. The Myanmar government insists it is working with the Wa to bring development to the area. Some Wa, however, suspect the roads being built in the hills will eventually bring Myanmar troops against them. The government may think twice about tangling with the Wa. The United Wa State Army is believed to be able to field 20,000 fighters. Myanmar's army approaches 500,000 men, but its troops are committed throughout Myanmar. Some corrupt Myanmar troops are also believed to profit from letting the drug traffickers do business. Westerners see heroin as the biggest threat emanating from the Golden Triangle, but for Thais and other Asians, it's something else - cheaply produced amphetamines. Use is exploding, from 250,000 amphetamine users in Thailand in 1995 to between 500,000 and 1 million today. But as the fall of Khun Sa demonstrated, putting the Wa out of business might just open the way for another armed group. -------------------------------------------------------------------
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