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draconian drug laws

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Cannabis Sacrament Minister
Cannabis Sacrament Minister

Joined: 12 Dec 2003
Posts: 3567

PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2004 2:22 am    Post subject: draconian drug laws Reply with quote


1. Editorial: Needless Danger

2. Nevada Voters to Get Second Chance to Legalize Marijuana

3. New York: Medical Marijuana on the Move in Albany and NYC

4. South Dakota "Internal Possession" Drug Law Upheld

5. Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Denies Federal Appeal in Medical
Marijuana Case

6. Newsbrief: Campaign Watch -- Nader on Drugs

7. Newsbrief: Utah Federal Judge Questions Mandatory Minimums

8. Newsbrief: South Carolina Urine Felon Jailed for Six Months

9. Newsbrief: Psychedelic Pioneer Humphry Osmond Dead at 86

10. Newsbrief: California Narcs Kill Wrong Man

11. Newsbrief: Hempster Becomes Local Hero in Icy Pond Rescue

12. This Week in History

13. The Reformer's Calendar


1. Editorial: Needless Danger

Countless drug war tragedies transpire every day across our
country. One from the most unfortunate variety was reported in
San Jose this week, the sad case of Rudy Cardenas, 43-year old
father of five, unarmed but gunned down by a narcotics officer
looking for another man.

As usual, the police and their allies have quickly trotted out
their mouthpieces to slander the dead. They should be ashamed of
themselves. It's true that even in situations such as this one,
the killer by law must be considered innocent until proven guilty.
But that doesn't justify the heaping of grave insult on top of
deadly injury. An attorney general's spokesman bizarrely claimed
that Cardenas "wasn't the wrong man" -- even though police weren't
looking for him -- and justified the shooting by saying that
Cardenas was running away.

I don't consider running away from police officers to be a
justification for the use by the police of deadly force, at least
not in and of itself. Running away is a natural and time honored
response to danger, and Cardenas was quite correct in his
perception that the police officers approaching did represent
danger. They killed him, after all; it doesn't get much more
dangerous than that. Cardenas' death suggests that running away
from police may be an inadvisable strategy. But people don't
always think clearly when confronted with threats to life and
limb. To blame an unarmed man for his own death by firearm,
because he was running away from the person who moments later
would end his life, and to cast such blame in the media no less,
is morally repugnant.

One of the strongest critics of the drug war is a former police
chief of Cardenas' own city, Dr. Joseph McNamara, now of Stanford
University's Hoover Institution. McNamara blames these kinds of
killings on drug policies, and he doesn't mince words. In a 2000
article on police killings published in this newsletter
McNamara opined, "This is a real ethical issue, and evidence of
the kind of callousness abroad in the land. It results from the
emotionalism surrounding drugs and the whole war mentality that
goes along with it. Things happen in war that we would not excuse
in a civilized society."

He also predicted more fatalities, one of the reasons being the
nature of the underground drug trade created by prohibition.
"These shootings are inevitable," McNamara said. "Police are
doing military operations in drug raids, not because dealers are
anxious to shoot it out, but because dealers are armed to avoid
being robbed."

If the past is any guide, Cardenas and his family are unlikely to
get justice, at least not in a criminal court. But that's not a
reason not to try. Nor, however, should the desire to hold his
killers accountable and have their possible culpability examined
by an impartial court of law, be allowed to distract from
discussion of the root causes: the political and law enforcement
leaders who've encouraged the paramilitarization of policing, and
the system itself -- drug prohibition -- that creates such
conflicts in the first place.


2. Nevada Voters to Get Second Chance to Legalize Marijuana

The Marijuana Policy Project ( hopes the second
time is the charm. In 2002, MPP attempted to make Nevada the
first state to legalize marijuana possession and regulate its
sales, but its initiative was beaten back after facing a strong
counterattack, and picked up only 39% of the vote. Now, MPP and
its Nevada affiliate, the Committee to Regulate and Control
Marijuana ( are set to try it

On February 18, CRCM filed papers with the Nevada Secretary of
State's office to get the signature-gathering process underway for
the Regulation of Marijuana Amendment. Proponents must now gather
some 51,000 valid signatures by June 15 to get on the November
ballot. If the measure passes in November, under Nevada law it
must be resubmitted to the voters for a second approval in 2006.

Last time around, opponents of marijuana legalization hammered
hard and effectively at the quantity adults would be able to
possess (three ounces in 2002), the dangers of driving under the
influence, and the alleged deleterious impact legalization would
have on the youth. MPP and CRCM were listening, and this year
they have crafted an initiative that they hope addresses those

According to CRCM, the initiative would:

* eliminate the threat of arrest and jail for adults aged 21 and
older who use and possess up to one ounce of marijuana (which is
the equivalent of one-and-a-half packs of cigarettes);

* direct the state legislature to regulate the manufacture,
taxation, and sale of marijuana, whereby establishments that are
licensed to sell tobacco will also be permitted to sell marijuana,
provided that they neither sell alcohol nor are within 500 yards
of a school or place of worship;

* earmark marijuana-related tax revenues to alcohol and drug
treatment and education;

* maintain penalties for underage marijuana use, smoking
marijuana in public, using or possessing marijuana on school
grounds or in prisons, and transporting marijuana across state

* increase penalties for providing marijuana to minors, as well
as for motorists who kill someone while under the influence of
alcohol, marijuana, or any other substance; and

* take effect on December 5, 2006, if a majority of Nevada voters
pass the initiative in November 2004 and again in November 2006.
December 5 is the anniversary of the end of Prohibition in 1933.

"People said we lost and we should give up," said MPP executive
director Rob Kampia, "but our mission is to regulate marijuana
like alcohol, and to do that we are going to have to win in some
states. We want a state where people are sympathetic, and even
though we lost in Nevada in 2002, that doesn't mean we can't win
there this time."

MPP and CRCM had listened not only to opponents but to voters in
crafting this year's initiative, Kampia added. "We've changed the
language on the permissibility amount, lowering it from three
ounces to one ounce," he told DRCNet. "We've hard-wired in
penalties for vehicular manslaughter while under the influence,
we've hard-wired in penalties for selling marijuana to minors,
we've noted that tax revenues will be earmarked for drug and
alcohol treatment. Now people in Nevada who want treatment have a
35-day waiting list, and you know how tragic that can be for
someone who desperately wants treatment. With this measure, we
can bring that wait down to zero."

And in a move that is politically savvy though certain to rub some
youth rights advocates the wrong way, the campaign will hammer
hard at theme of teen pot use, Kampia said. "We have started
running a series of TV ads whose focus is to explain that
marijuana prohibition has not prevented teens from using.
According to the White House, 67% of Nevada teens have tried
marijuana. The ads compare that figure to the 28% of teens that
have used in Holland, where it is regulated, and suggest that
maybe it is time for a change," said the MPP head. "Running these
ads will change the tone of the debate, and we'll be running them
for months."

The campaign has even created a special web site
( to further the argument that
regulation is the best way to keep pot out of the hands of kids.

"In this campaign, we're targeting teens, we're saying current
laws aren't working," agreed CRCM spokeswoman Jennifer Knight.
"Anyone who is supporting the status quo is essentially saying
they want to keep teen pot use sky high. What kind of message is
that sending? This initiative actually allows for stricter
control of marijuana than we currently have for tobacco or
alcohol," she told DRCNet. "Under the initiative, no one under 21
can enter a shop where marijuana is sold, and anyone who sells
marijuana to a minor faces up to ten years in prison for a first
offense, life for a second. No one who sells alcohol or tobacco
to minors faces a penalty like that," said Knight.

The presence of Knight is another difference from 2002, said
Kampia. Along with Andy Anderson, the former head of the Nevada
Council of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, Knight will help bring a
strong in-state component to a campaign criticized last time for
being led and financed by outsiders. "Last time around, our man
on the ground in Nevada, Billy Rogers, was an out-of-stater, but
being an in-stater brings with it lots of political connections,"
he said. "So we have brought back Andy Anderson, who will be paid
by us to work full-time organizing police and tough guys around
the state and building a coalition of police leaders to support
the initiative. And we hired Jennifer Knight as our spokesperson.
She was a reporter for the Las Vegas Sun, which makes her hiring
particularly important because she knows reporters all around Las
Vegas and she knows opinion leaders at the state house. She is
really part of the community," Kampia said.

Knight may also be able to help bring her former employer to a
less hostile position. The Sun became especially vocal in its
opposition to the 2002 effort after one its editors was run down
and killed by a driver under the influence of marijuana.

Knight will also hammer at the issue of traffic safety, she said.
"The argument was that this is going to create more carnage on our
highways, but if you look at National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration numbers, you see that in 2001, we had 78 traffic
fatalities to due alcohol, but 121 due to speeding. Those people
are just as dead and their families just as bereaved, and there
are more of them, but no one is talking about that. If we want to
reduce highway fatalities, maybe we should just enforce existing
laws," she suggested.

Also, Knight pointed out, most of the alcohol traffic fatalities
are people coming home from drinking from bars and hotels. "The
initiative does not allow for smoking marijuana in a public place
or in your car, so there will be no driving home stoned," she
argued. "And coupled with the stronger language about DUI
fatality penalties, I think we will actually see a big deterrent
to people driving under the influence of alcohol."

While MPP and CRCM appear to have their ducks in a row -- they've
done the polling and the focus groups, their ad campaign is
underway, their ground troops are mobilizing -- Kampia
acknowledged that factors external to the campaign could derail
it, as, he suggested, was the case in 2002. "Some things are out
of your control," he said. "One reason we lost was because in
2002 Republican voter turnout was heavy, while the Democrats and
independents stayed home. There were actually more votes for
legalizing marijuana than for any Democratic candidate except one.
This time around, everybody is going to be doing get out the vote
work. Democrats and independents are 57% of the Nevada
electorate, and if they come out in large numbers, unlike 2002,
they will trend in our favor. A big turnout will be good for us."

for CRCM's new text. Visit
to view the campaign's TV ads.


3. New York: Medical Marijuana on the Move in Albany and NYC

A bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in New
York state passed one of its first legislative hurdles Wednesday
at the state capitol in Albany, while two days earlier in New York
City a resolution expressing the city council's support for a
state medical marijuana bill also moved forward.

The medical marijuana bill in Albany, A0576, was okayed by the
Assembly's Health Committee on an 18-6 vote a day after dramatic
and sometimes wrenching testimony before the committee, including
some from surprising sources. "If you have ever seen anyone on
their deathbed, dying in agony, screaming in pain every day as I
had with my father who had cancer, the risks of smoking marijuana
are outweighed by the therapeutic benefits," conservative
Assemblyman Robert Prentiss (R-Colonie) told his colleagues.

The bill is rapidly picking up bipartisan support in the
Democratic-dominated Assembly, with 41 Democrat and seven
Republican cosponsors. It is now headed for the Assembly Codes
committee, then the Ways and Means committee before coming up for
a floor vote.

"We are on our way," said Vince Marrone, who is working the issue
as a paid lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project
( "We got through that first committee in
good shape, and the Codes committee, which must review all
legislation that impacts the criminal justice system, already
approved it once last year," he told DRCNet. "And we have
Republicans on the Ways and Means committee who will vote for
this, so I think it is safe to say we will have this bill on the
floor of the Assembly by the end of the year. The question then
becomes whether the leadership will act on it."

But Marrone is already looking forward to the next phase: the
Republican-controlled state Senate. "We do have a bill introduced
in response to constituent requests by a Democrat from Brooklyn,
but that doesn't really help in the Senate," Marrone explained.
"We need Republicans. I'll be meeting with some Republican
members next week. There are a number who say they will vote for
it, but they are nervous about getting out there and sponsoring
it. I hope to help them get over that."

Even though some of his colleagues are hesitant, Assembly Senate
Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick), said his chamber will
also consider the bill. "We're going to look at that," he told
the Albany Times Union Tuesday. "We're very aware that there are
addictive substances that have a medical value."

The broad support for the bill in the state's medical community
may help ease Republican fears. So far, the bill has been
endorsed by medical societies in New York, Westchester, Putnam,
Orange, Rockland and Duchess counties, and it is being supported
by the state Health Department's AIDS Advisory Council, the New
York State Association of County Health Officials, the New York
State Nurses Association, the Hospice and Palliative Care
Association of New York State, the Statewide Senior Action
Council, Gay Men's Health Crisis and the New York AIDS Coalition.

But despite those endorsements, Gov. George Pataki (R) remains
opposed. "The Health Department tells us, and many health experts
agree, that there are already approved legal medications in place
that treat symptoms like nausea and help deal with pain
management," a Pataki spokesman told the Times Union. He did not
identify those health experts.

Meanwhile, the city councils of Albany and Buffalo have passed
resolutions supporting a medical marijuana bill, and the New York
City council took steps in that direction this week as well.
After being besieged by Tom Leighton and his Marijuana Reform
Party ( for nearly a year on the
issue, the council's health committee took it up Monday.

"It went great," Leighton told DRCNet. "We already had 13
sponsors going in and we picked up four more during the hearing.
This is something we've been working on almost single-handedly,
with no movement financial support, for a long time."

The committee heard from a number of patients and doctors,
including testimony from National Review editor Richard
Brookhiser, who told of his struggle with testicular cancer and
chastised committee conservatives for failing to support the
resolution. Bronx resident Ann Wilson provided some of the
hearing's most moving moments, though, as she described how her
brother had used marijuana to ease the side-effects of
chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer before he died two years ago.
"How can we deny marijuana to our friends and loved ones when it
has the potential to ease their pain and possibly prolong their
life?" an emotional and tearful Wilson asked.

That was enough to prompt her councilmember, Madeline Provenanzo
(D), to ask then and there to be added to the list of the
resolution's supporters.

One important medical marijuana authority who was unable to give
oral testimony was Dr. John Morgan of the New York University
School of Pharmacology and coauthor of "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana
Facts." Although originally scheduled for the first panel of the
hearing, he was bumped from that group and the next panel as well,
at which point he left.

"That was a shame," said Leighton, who himself sat through hours
of hearings before getting a chance to address the council at the
end of the session. "There was a point when committee members
were raising questions about any downsides, and no one on the
panel was really prepared to address it. We needed a man with
Morgan's scientific and medical expertise up there then."

With 51 members on the health committee, committee chair
Councilwoman Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) is cautiously counting
votes before calling a vote. Although she congratulated the
committee for putting the issue "front and center," she said she
wanted to gauge support across the committee. No date is set yet.

Securing passage of the resolution would be an important signal to
Albany, said Leighton. "We're talking about 40% of the state's
population here. If you have a legislative body that represents
those people saying we want medical marijuana, that's not small

MPP's lobbyist, Marrone, who addressed the committee on one of the
early panels, pointed out that most New York City members of the
state Assembly already support the medical marijuana bill, but
still saw passage of the resolution as an important step. "It
would draw more media attention and it would convey a sense of
momentum," Marrone said. "It would show the politicians that the
issue is not as politically scary as they think it is."

Visit to read the text
and legislative history of the medical marijuana bill online.


4. South Dakota "Internal Possession" Drug Law Upheld

Dave Johnson was sitting in his Huron, SD, home minding his own
business last year when local police showed up at his door with a
search warrant alleging he was a marijuana trafficker. They
didn't find any evidence of drug dealing or even any pot on the
50-year-old disabled former meat-cutter living on Social Security
payments, but they did manage to come up with a used pipe. They
arrested Johnson on paraphernalia charges, and in most states that
would have been the end of it. But not in South Dakota. Dave
Johnson's ordeal was just beginning.

"The cops took me downtown and said if I didn't piss for them,
they'd stick something in my dick and take it by force," Johnson
told DRCNet. "They were going to take it forcefully -- that's
what they told me. So I said okay."

The Huron police weren't lying. Under state law, they could, with
probable cause, seek a warrant from a judge ordering an individual
to provide a urine sample, and if he refuses, forcibly extract one
from him. And under state medical ethics rules, medical personnel
are required to comply with state law.

But when Johnson's urine sample came back with traces of cocaine,
local prosecutors charged him with felony drug possession under a
state law that as far as DRCNet can determine is unique in the
United States. Johnson eventually pled guilty to the charge and
was sentenced to probation, but ended up serving 5 ½ months in
state prison after being caught in possession of about $10 worth
or marijuana. He is currently on parole.

Last week, the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld the state's
internal possession law. In a February 18 ruling, the court gave
a constitutional thumbs-up to the conviction of Joshua Schneider,
who was detained in a traffic stop after the arresting officer
found a scale in his car. Schneider was found guilty of drug
possession after consenting to provide a urine sample that came
back positive for methamphetamines. No other drug evidence that
could be used against him was found.

In appealing his case, Schroeder and his attorney, Don Covey of
Winner, argued that absent any other physical evidence, a positive
drug test was insufficient to obtain a possession conviction. But
in a unanimous ruling, the court held that a 2001 amendment to the
state's drug laws erased the dichotomy between laws that make it a
crime to ingest a drug and laws that make drug possession a crime.
"Possession may now occur if a person knowingly possesses an
altered state of a drug or substance absorbed into the human
body," wrote Justice Steven L. Zinter.

"What the state Supreme Court has done is to uphold the 2001 law
that defines possession as including ingestion," said University
of South Dakota law professor Chris Hutton. "It isn't like that
in other states," she told DRCNet. "In other states where
prosecutors have charged people with possession just for having
something in their urine sample, the courts have said no. Not

In fact, the South Dakota Supreme Court cited one such ruling, a
1998 Wisconsin Supreme Court case that found that a urinalysis
result alone is not sufficient to sustain a conviction for drug
possession. But because the South Dakota legislature explicitly
amended the law to define a controlled substance so that "[t]he
term includes an altered state of a drug or substance listed in
Schedules I through IV absorbed into the human body," the South
Dakota court found the Wisconsin precedent and Schroeder's appeal

"The court has traditionally held that once a substance is in your
body you can no longer exercise dominion and control, which are
key elements of defining possession," said Covey, who argued the
case at trail and before the Supreme Court. "This decision
obliterates those precedents," he told DRCNet. "This is the
result of an intellectually dishonest backdoor effort by the
legislature. They could have tried to make drug ingestion a
felony, but instead they just redefined what a controlled
substance is so they could get away with this sort of thing."

Defense attorneys and civil libertarians told DRCNet that the
correct thing to do is to refuse to consent to provide a urine
sample, but that few people exercise their rights. "I defend a
lot of drug cases," said Huron attorney Ron Volesky, "and I've
defended several of these urine sample cases, but I haven't yet
seen an instance where we could challenge a court order because
everyone has voluntarily consented," he told DRCNet. "As a
practical matter, when the police pick someone up they say, 'Look,
we can do it the hard way or the easy way; you can voluntarily
consent because we have probable cause, or we can wake up the
judge, have him sign an order, and take you down and have you
catheterized.' They basically threaten you," said Volesky.

"Don't consent. You just don't do it," said Covey. "You make
them get their warrant. Maybe they won't get it, or maybe by the
time they do get it the substance is metabolized," he said. But
his clients don't exercise their rights, he moaned. "They can't
wait to spill their guts."

"People should just say no to pissing in a cup at a policeman's
request," said Steve Silverman of the Washington, DC-based civil
liberties group Flex Your Rights (,
which recently released a video narrated by former ACLU head Ira
Glasser, "BUSTED: A Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police
Encounters," designed to educate Americans about exercising their
rights when confronting the cops. "BUSTED doesn't cover this
particular example -- because we've never heard of such a thing
before -- but the same message applies whether you're in your car,
your home, on the street, or even asked to pee in a cup: Do not
consent to a search, or in this case to giving a urine sample.
Never consent to police searches. You gain nothing. If you
consent, you have waived your rights. If they think they have
probable cause to get an order, make them get it," he told DRCNet.

"If you refuse to consent and they get a court order and take a
sample against your will, you can challenge it. You can file a
motion to suppress the evidence for lack of probable cause," said
Volesky. "Any good lawyer will try to suppress the evidence, but
you can't do that if your client voluntarily hands it over."

And don't count on medical professionals to let ethical qualms
about forcing unwanted medical procedures on unconsenting
individuals stop them from assisting the police. Under state law,
they have to, said South Dakota State University School of Nursing
Professor Lori Hendricks. "There are many things nurses may not
agree with, but we are bound by state law. If the law says the
state can order someone's urine sample against their will, we are
bound to follow the law."

Read the opinion in South Dakota v. Schroeder online at:


5. Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Denies Federal Appeal in Medical
Marijuana Case

If the US Justice Department wants to be able to harass medical
marijuana patients in the Western United States, it will have to
seek a victory at the Supreme Court. The US 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals Thursday denied the government's motion to rehear Raich v.
Ashcroft. In December, a three-judge panel of the court ruled in
the case that the federal government could not use the Controlled
Substances Act to move against medical marijuana patients if those
patients were not engaged in interstate commerce in marijuana.

"The intrastate, noncommercial cultivation, possession and use of
marijuana for personal medical purposes on the advice of a
physician is, in fact, different in kind from drug trafficking,"
Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the majority in December. "This
limited use is clearly distinct from the broader illicit drug
market, as well as any broader commercial market for medical
marijuana, insofar as the medical marijuana at issue in this case
is not intended for, nor does it enter, the stream of commerce."

Now, in a unanimous decision, the entire 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals has rejected the Justice Department's request to undo the
decision of its three-judge panel. Separately, the court also
turned down DOJ's request for a rehearing by that three-judge

The only recourse left for the Ashcroft Justice Department is to
seek a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court. It has 90 days to
file a petition for the court to hear its appeal. Justice has not
announced whether it will ask the nation's highest court to


6. Newsbrief: Campaign Watch -- Nader on Drugs

Long-time public interest crusader and 2000 Green Party
presidential candidate Ralph Nader announced Sunday that he is
running again this year, this time as an independent. While his
candidacy has created controversy among foes of President Bush as
to whether it would more help Bush or his Democratic opponent, one
thing is clear: Nader's position on drug policy is light-years
more advanced than either Bush's or any of the front-running
Democratic candidates.

Here is Nader's issue statement on drug policy, from the Nader
campaign's web site (

"Wants to end the war on drugs

"The drug war has failed -- we spend nearly $50 billion annually
on the drug war and problems related to drug abuse continue to
worsen. We need to acknowledge that drug abuse is a health
problem with social and economic consequences. Therefore, the
solutions are -- public health, social services and economic
development and tender supportive time with addicts in our
depersonalized society. Law enforcement should be at the edges of
drug control not at the center. It is time to bring some illegal
drugs within the law by regulating, taxing and controlling them.
Ending the drug war will dramatically reduce street crime,
violence and homicides related to underground drug dealing."

In a related position statement on civil liberties, Nader also
called for "the restoration of civil liberties, repeal of the
Patriot Act," and an end to draconian practices associated with
the "war on terror," but which seem to also have a way of leaking
into drug prosecutions. He also warned of a "perilous
diminishment of judicial authority in favor of concentrated power
in the executive branch," words that would warm the hearts of
embattled federal judges forced to mete out assembly-line harsh

And in his position statement on reforming the criminal justice
system, Nader emphasized crime prevention through education,
rehabilitation, and investing in neighborhoods and communities,
while criticizing the nation's swollen prison system. "To reverse
this, we need to invest in humane treatment, personal involvement
of youngsters, and job creation," said the statement. "We need to
restore sentencing discretion to judges by repealing mandatory
sentences and arbitrary 'three-strikes' laws. We also need to
restore due process, judicial discretion and constitutional
restraints on law enforcement that violate equal protection and
due process of law." And he opposed the death penalty for good

With Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the only Democratic presidential
contender with anything approaching a progressive drug policy,
failing to win support at the polls, with Sens. Kerry and Edwards
only grudgingly and hesitatingly moving toward a progressive
position on the most innocuous of issues, medical marijuana, and
with President Bush and his criminal justice apparatus prosecuting
the drug war full speed ahead, Nader is the only candidate headed
to the November ballot who says he wants to end the war on drugs.
The Libertarian Party traditionally has a strong anti-
prohibitionist platform, but it does not choose a nominee until
May. Aaron Russo (, perhaps the
best known of the candidates for the party's nomination, only
mentions support for medical marijuana on his web site.


7. Newsbrief: Utah Federal Judge Questions Mandatory Minimums

The case of a Utah record company founder facing a series of
consecutive mandatory minimum sentences for carrying a gun while
in the marijuana business has inspired yet another federal judge
to question practices imposed by Congress that limit judges'
discretion in sentencing, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday.
US District Judge Paul Cassell has done so in a novel way,
ordering lawyers in the case of 24-year-old Weldon Angelos to
submit briefs on whether such a stiff mandatory sentence is
constitutional before he pronounces sentence on March 26.

"At first blush, this appears to be an extraordinarily long prison
term for Mr. Angelos," Cassell wrote in the order. "Indeed, it
would appear to effectively be a life sentence. Before imposing
such a severe sentence, the court plans to carefully consider all
relevant legal issues."

Angelos, who founded the hip hop and rap label Extravagant
Records, was convicted in federal court in December of 16 counts
of drug trafficking, weapons possession, and money laundering.
The three weapons charges of which he was convicted -- carrying
(but not brandishing) a weapon during two pot deals and having a
gun in his apartment while he was in the pot business -- carry
mandatory minimum sentences of five years on the first count, and
25 years each on subsequent counts, to be served consecutively.
As a result, Angelos is looking at more than 60 years in federal
prison without parole.

"It's ridiculous," his attorney, Jerome Mooney told the Tribune.
"This case is a perfect example of what's wrong with some of these
mandatory minimums. This is a 24-year-old kid who possesses, but
doesn't brandish, a weapon."

Judge Cassell seems to agree. In his order to lawyers in the
case, Cassell listed the lower terms given to violent criminals
who harm their victims and noted that without the mandatory
minimum sentences on the weapons counts, Angelos would be looking
at eight years maximum. And, Cassell added, if Angelos were
convicted in a Utah state court, he would probably be out on
parole in two or three years.

And the quiet rebellion of the black robes continues.


8. Newsbrief: South Carolina Urine Felon Jailed for Six Months

To protest the repeated drug tests that he, a non-drug user, was
forced to endure in order to get and keep work, South Carolina
resident Kenneth Curtis six years ago formed a company that sold
clean urine, along with tubing and a heating pack. In response,
the South Carolina legislature crafted a law directed solely at
Curtis, making it a crime to try to defraud a drug test. Then
after being pressured by the law's author, Senate Chairman David
Thomas (R), South Carolina authorities arrested and convicted
Curtis -- the only arrest and conviction ever made under that law.

Now, with his appeals exhausted, Curtis has begun serving a six-
month prison sentence. He was actually sentenced to six years,
but had all but the six months suspended, ensuring that Curtis
will be under the thumb of the state parole department for years
to come. He began serving the sentence last week, after the South
Carolina Supreme Court last month rejected his appeal arguing that
the conviction should be overturned because the charges were
vague, there was insufficient evidence he intended to defraud with
the kits, and the law constituted an unwarranted invasion of

"I wanted to show how ridiculous this whole urine testing law is
and what I got is a dramatic illustration of how far the
government is willing to go to prop up the war on drugs," Curtis
told DRCNet in an interview after being convicted in late 2001
And while Curtis said at the time he had no regrets, he quickly
amended that. "Never having been through a criminal proceeding, I
now regret my naivete in thinking I could find justice in the
criminal courts. I expect to be treated to the worst prison
conditions South Carolina has to offer if I lose on appeal, but I
will continue my course. I hope the courts will eventually uphold
me. I can't believe the Founding Fathers wanted the courts to be
doing what they did in South Carolina in my case."

And now he rots in prison, the victim of a political vendetta by
Sen. Thompson, his legislative allies, and the courts and
prosecutors who undertook to persecute him for what was in essence
an act of political theater.


9. Newsbrief: Psychedelic Pioneer Humphry Osmond Dead at 86

Dr. Humphry Osmond, a pioneer in the therapeutic use of
hallucinogenic drugs to treat alcoholism and other psychological
ailments, died at his home in Appleton, Wisconsin, on February 6.
But despite his groundbreaking scientific accomplishments, Osmond
is better known as the man who turned on Aldous Huxley, who in
turn became part of a cultural elite that helped introduce a whole
generation to LSD and a host of other psychedelics. And, by the
way, Osmond was the man who created the term "psychedelic."

In the 1950s, Osmond led the way with studies of the effect of LSD
on alcoholism and had amazing success rates. By the late 1960s,
medical journals had published more than a thousand articles on
the therapeutic use of psychedelics. But since then, similar
research has been largely blocked as psychedelics became
identified with a youthful counterculture, and science has fallen
victim to the cultural war on drugs. Only a few courageous
individuals and institutions, such as Rick Doblin and the
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
(, have in recent years sought to pick up the
torch first lit by Osmond nearly a half-century ago.

Ironically, by providing British writer Huxley with his first
taste of psychedelics -- a healthy dose of mescaline in May, 1953
-- Osmond helped precipitate the very cultural phenomenon that
later made reseach into psychedelics difficult, if not impossible.
Huxley, already well-known as the author of the dystopian classic,
"Brave New World," where a totalitarian government rules a
populace controlled by drugs, soon produced the novel "The Doors
of Perception," based on his pleasant and impressive psychedelic
experiences. That book soon became part of a quickly expanding
psychedelic canon that both chronicled and helped forge the
massive, and in no small way drug-induced, cultural shifts of the
1960s and beyond.

Interestingly, Huxley took the title for his book from the poetry
of early 19th Century visionary anarchist William Blake. And as
Huxley borrowed from Blake, so 1960s LA rocker Jim Morrison
borrowed from Huxley, naming his band The Doors in honor of
Huxley's psychedelic tome. The counterculture may often be
hidden, but its subterranean currents flow down through the

Osmond publicly coined the term psychedelic at a meeting of the
New York Academy of Sciences in 1957. The word meant "mind-
manifesting," he wrote, calling it "clear, euphonious and
uncontaminated by other associations." And he offered up some
doggerel to explain: "To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a
pinch of psychedelic."

An appropriately Blakean suggestion from a man who would have been
proud to walk beside the great London Dissenter. Humphry Osmond
will be missed.


10. Newsbrief: California Narcs Kill Wrong Man

A California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement officer who was part
of a team looking for a fugitive parolee gunned down the wrong man
in San Jose February 17. According to a series of reports in the
San Jose Mercury News, 43-year-old Rudy Cardenas, a father of
five, was shot in the back by the state narc after leaving the
parolee's address in a van and attempting to elude police, first
in the van and then on foot. He was shot in a downtown alley.
Cardenas was unarmed. The fugitive parolee, whom law enforcement
had for unclear reasons described as "armed and dangerous," was
arrested without incident, and without weapons, two hours after
Cardenas was killed.

State law enforcement officials almost immediately sought to blame
Cardenas for his own death. "To say the wrong man was shot is
inaccurate," claimed attorney general's spokesman Nathan Barankin.
"A suspect was shot. It just wasn't why they were there. They
were there to serve a warrant, and then it became something else,"
he told the Mercury News, adding that, after all, Cardenas had
been running away from police.

Within a couple of days, the police offensive was in full gear as
unnamed "law enforcement sources" told the Mercury News that
Cardenas had "twisted around... was holding a digital scale as if
to simulate a pistol," making the narc in chase feel threatened.
This same source added that Cardenas had told relatives he would
rather die than go back to prison -- something Cardenas' family
vigorously denied.

And at least one eyewitness saw and heard something quite at odds
with the police version of events. Dorothy Duckett, 78, told the
Mercury News she looked out her fifth-floor window after hearing
one gunshot and saw Cardenas pleading for his life. "I watched
him running with his hands in the air. He kept saying, 'Don't
shoot. Don't shoot,'" Duckett said. "He had absolutely nothing
in his hands."

The killing of Cardenas has raised tensions in San Jose's Latino
community, with two vigils marking his death and demanding a
public grand jury investigation into the shooting since he was
killed. "All they did was shoot and ask questions later," said
Jesse Villarreal, Cardenas' nephew, at a February 19 vigil.

It could have happened to any member of the community, said Danny
Garza, whose Mexican American Political Association is calling for
an open investigation. "The concern is that it could have been
anybody who looked like him," said Garza. "It could have been me
-- I used to have a mustache and black hair, too. We shouldn't be
afraid of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"I just want them to give us an honest, open investigation into
what happened," said Cardenas' brother, Raul Cardenas, 59, who
wore a yellow jacket with a bull's-eye and "police target" written
on the back. "I just want justice for my brother."

Good luck. Grand jury or not, the prospects for justice for
Cardenas are bleak. In case after case of questionable police
shootings of civilians, grand juries fail to indict the police


11. Newsbrief: Hempster Becomes Local Hero in Icy Pond Rescue

Viewers of NBC local news in and near Washington, DC last Friday
night heard about two young girls who fell through the ice of a
thawing pond in Loudoun County, Virginia, and the neighbor who
rushed in and pulled them out. "Authorities thank Eric Steenstra"
for rescuing the girls, the news report concluded.

If any hemp food enthusiasts or others following the issue
happened to be watching, they might have wondered if the hero of
Loudoun County was the long-time hemp activist by the same name.
Indeed, Eric Steenstra, best known to Drug War Chronicle readers
for his work with the organization Vote Hemp
(, was standing on the deck of his
Broadlands, VA, home when he noticed the two girls in an icy pond
nearby. One was already in the water. He took off, but by the
time he got to the pond both had fallen through the ice.

Steenstra, a 6'4" 40-year-old, jumped into the pond, finding the
water over his head, and managed to push the first girl to shore.
By then, the second girl had disappeared beneath the water, but
Steenstra dove in and found her and got her to shore. She coughed
up water, but neither girl was seriously injured.

Streenstra is a bit embarrassed by the media attention his
selfless act attracted, he told DRCNet. "I don't think I did
anything different from what anyone else would have done," he said
modestly. "There were a couple of kids in big trouble, and I
happened to be there at the right time. I have two girls of my
own," he explained.

The mother of the two girls, ages 6 and 8, called to thank him,
Steenstra said. "I'm just glad it turned out okay," he added.


12. This Week in History

February 29, 1996: In his State of the Union address, President
Clinton nominates Army General Barry McCaffrey, a veteran of
Vietnam and Desert Storm, as director of the Office of National
Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Two days later, the appointment is
confirmed by the Senate without debate. McCaffrey had been head
of the US Southern Command (SouthCom) which provides military
backup for US policy in Latin America -- a policy long linked with
chronically ineffective and corrupt drug enforcement.

March 1, 1915: The Harrison Narcotics Act goes into legal effect,
beginning prohibition of drugs.

March 1, 1999: The advice columnist Abigail Van Buren in her
popular column Dear Abby said, "I agree that marijuana laws are
overdue for an overhaul. I also favor the medical use of
marijuana -- if it's prescribed by a physician. I cannot
understand why the federal government should interfere with the
doctor-patient relationship, nor why it would ignore the will of
the majority of voters who have legally approved such

March 5, 1995: Lester Grinspoon, MD, one of America's leading
medical marijuana authorities, visited London and took part in a
live debate on BBC television. The topic was "Should marijuana be
legalized?" In less than half an hour, over 137,000 phone calls
came in, of which 90 percent were in the affirmative.


13. The Reformer's Calendar

(Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and
related topics to

March 1-2, Houston, TX, speaking tour by Bob Owens of Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition. Contact Mike Smithson at (315)
243-5844 or or visit for
further information.

March 3-11, Idaho, "Modern-Day Paul Revere calls America to the
Truth," speaking tour by Howard Wooldridge of Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or or visit for information.

March 27, noon-6:00pm, Sacramento, CA, Medical Marijuana Rally.
At the State Capitol, L & 12th, north steps, featuring
singer/songwriter Dave's Not Here, speakers, entertainment.
Contact Peter Keyes at or (916)
456-7933 for further information.

April 1-3, Houston, TX, "Breaking the Chains: Communities of Color
and the War on Drugs," conference of Drug Policy Alliance, contact, (888) 361-6338 or visit for further information.

April 18-20, Washington, DC, "America's in Pain!", March on
Washington and Chronic Pain Patients Leadership Summit. For
further information, visit http:// or
contact Mary Vargas at (202) 331-8864 or Siobhan Reynolds at (212)

April 20-24, Melbourne, Australia, "15th International Conference
on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm." Visit
or e-mail for information.

April 22-24, Washington, DC, NORML conference, details pending,
visit for updates.

May 18-19, New York, NY, "Break the Cycle: Tear Down the New
Slave Industry -- Criminal Injustice." Conference at Manhattan
Community College/CUNY, 199 Chambers St., for further info contact
Johanna DuBose at (212) 481-4313 or, or
Victor Ray or Umme Hena at the BMCC Student Government
Association, (212) 406-3980.

May 20-22, Charlottesville, VA, Third National Clinical Conference
on Cannabis Therapeutics. At the Charlottesville Omni Hotel,
visit for further information.

September 18, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 15th Annual Freedom Rally,
visit for further information.

November 11-14, New Orleans, LA, "Working Under Fire: Drug User
Health and Justice 2004," 5th National Harm Reduction Conference.
Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, at the New Orleans
Astor Crowne Plaza, contact Paula Santiago at (212) 213-6376 x15
or visit
for further information.


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Psalms 34:1 - I will bless Jehovah at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Psalms 16:7 - I will bless Jehovah, who giveth me counsel; even in the nights my reins instruct me
" I pass to you the torch that Christ once passed to me, others are still in the dark an need the light to see"
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