Fwd: The Week Online with DRCNet, Issue #146

From: Technotranscendence (neptune@mars.superlink.net)
Date: Sun Jul 23 2000 - 23:45:26 MDT

The Week Online with DRCNet, Issue #146 - July 21, 2000
     A Publication of the Drug Reform Coordination Network

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1. Hemispheric Rights Group Intervenes in "Drug Kingpin" Death
    Penalty Case, Cites US Violation of International Agreements

2. Interview with Mike Farrell: Movie Payola, Death Penalty

3. California Medical Marijuana Moves Ahead on Two Fronts

4. Study Says Pot Doesn't Interfere with AIDS Drugs, Scientific
    First Comes After Years-Long Battle With Government Health

5. Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush Puts Decriminalization "On
    The Table"

6. Columbian Fusarium Conundrum: Colombia Accepts/Rejects
    (choose one) US Biowar Plan

7. All the News That Fits: The New York Times and Colombia

8. Peru Blows Suspected Smugglers Out of the Sky, Again

9. Boston Study Finds Racial Disparities in Drug Cases

10. Buprenorphine Bill Passes House

11. ALERTS -- Federal and State: Colombia, Meth Bill/Free
    Speech, Mandatory Minimums, California, New York, Washington

12. ALERT -- International: Russian Federation Calling for
    Expulsion of Radical Party from United Nations

13. Job Opportunity in Minneapolis: Women With A Point

14. Event Calendar

15. Do You Read the Week Online?


1. Hemispheric Rights Group Intervenes in "Drug Kingpin" Death
   Penalty Case, Cites US Violation of International Agreements

Juan Raul Garza could become the first person executed by the
federal government since 1963. The Brownsville, Texas, man was
sentenced to death under provisions of the federal "drug kingpin"
statute after he was convicted of operating a continuing criminal
enterprise, marijuana trafficking, and involvement in three drug-
related murders. But his execution is now on hold as President
Clinton and the Justice Department review federal death penalty
procedures and address complaints from the Organization of
American States (OAS).

A federal judge set an August 5th execution date for Garza,
apparently to the surprise of the Justice Department, which has
been studying racial and geographic disparities in federal death
penalty cases. On July 6th, President Clinton personally
announced the hold pending the results of the Justice Department

Garza's attorney, Gregory Wiercioch of the Texas Defender
Service, told DRCNet that the White House counsel's office
confirmed in a July 7th phone call that the execution was on
hold. But, said Wiercioch, he still has not been officially
notified and remains uncertain how long the hold will last.

"We would ask the president to wait until the Justice Department
commission rules before making his decision," said Wiercioch.

Garza has found an ally in the OAS, of which the US is a member.
The OAS's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (ICHR) has
intervened in the Garza case. "The issue we raised with the ICHR
is the government use of unadjudicated offenses in sentencing,"
said Wiercioch. This is inherently unfair and in violation of
international law," he maintained.

According to ICHR complaint, federal prosecutors violated an
international agreement when, in the penalty phase of Garza's
trial, they presented testimony about murders with which he was
never charged, let alone convicted, and which allegedly occurred
in a foreign country, Mexico.

Wiercioch told DRCNet that the US government has not responded to
the IHRC's complaints. "In January, the commission wrote to the
State Department, notifying the government of its concerns and
asking the government not to execute Garza while they reviewed
the complaint."

But, said Wiercioch, the Justice Department failed to reply to
the IHRC within the mandated 90-day period. The IHRC filed a
second complaint and then a third, the latest coming in May.
"The government still has not responded," said Wiercioch.

Wiercioch welcomed the IHRC's intervention, he said, but sees its
utility as more likely to come in the political realm rather than
the judicial. "The IHRC can have a strong impact on a
presidential clemency decision," he said. "The US has previously
looked to the commission for guidance in interpreting
international covenants, and for that reason the IHRC's complaint
could have an impact on Clinton's decision to grant clemency or

The prosecutor's use of unadjudicated crimes against Garza in the
penalty phase is not the only problem with the Garza case.
Garza's prosecutors got the go-ahead for the death penalty from
then Attorney General William Barr, who without any formal review
had given the okay for 19 out of 21 death penalty requests from
US Attorneys. Under Attorney General Janet Reno, who has
implemented an elaborate procedure for determining who is
eligible for a death penalty prosecution, authorizations for a
death penalty prosecution have plummeted. According to
Wiercioch, Reno has only approved one-third of the prosecutor's

Wiercioch also notes that cases where the facts were more heinous
than Garza's have not received the Attorney General's
authorization. "This leads to questions about whether racial or
geographical disparities are involved," he said.

Those concerns have merit. According to the Death Penalty
Information Center (http://www.essential.org/dpic/feddp.html),
three-fourths of inmates on federal death row are ethnic
minorities, and for those sentenced under federal anti-drug
statutes, 89% are African-American or Mexican-American. Of the
20 federal prisoners currently awaiting the death penalty, five
are white, 13 are black, one is Asian, and Garza is the sole

For Wiercioch and his client, however, the big question is what
President Clinton will do once the guidelines are in place and
the Justice Department's racial disparity study is finished.
Clinton will then make a decision on Garza's case.

"We'll have to wait and examine our options at that time."


2. Interview with Mike Farrell: Movie Payola, Death Penalty

Bloodied but unbowed, harassed yet heedless, drug czar Gen. Barry
McCaffrey last week rode off to open a new front in his roundly
criticized five-year, billion dollar mass media propaganda
campaign. The Office of National Drug Control Policy has already
cut payola deals with television programs and magazines, in which
those media produced anti-drug messages for cash prizes from the
drug czar's bounty.

Now, McCaffrey is targeting the movies. "We are making available
to the producers, directors, writers -- the creative community --
the resources, the understanding that the National Institute of
Drug Abuse gets out of $600 million a year of taxpayer dollars
studying this issue," McCaffrey told Congress. "As powerful as
television is, some experts believe that movies have an even
stronger impact on young people," said McCaffrey. While
McCaffrey did not produce a detailed plan for Hollywood's
participation, he said the process of enlisting filmmakers and
screenwriters had already begun through workshops, briefings,
roundtables and one-on-one conversations with industry leaders.

DRCNet spoke with Hollywood figure Mike Farrell about McCaffrey's
latest scheme as well as the Raul Garza death penalty case.
Farrell, a long-time TV and film actor and producer, is best
known for his portrayal of the BJ Hunnicutt character in the
long-running TV series MASH, and currently co-stars in the CBS TV
series Providence.

Farrell has also parlayed his celebrity status into a role as a
committed and effective activist, especially on issues related to
human rights and criminal justice policy. He is the Chairman of
Death Penalty Focus (http://www.deathpenalty.org) and the Co-
Chair of Human Rights Watch/California, and is a member of the
advisory board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death
Penalty. Farrell is also a spokesperson for CONCERN/America,
Good Will Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees and a member of California's Commission on Judicial

WOL: What do you make of Gen. McCaffrey's latest foray into the
entertainment business?

Farrell: He sought a way to make an effective end run around the
censorship issue and still put money into films that convey his
message. This is an example of the heavy hand of the government
intruding into an area of social policy and seems close to
government manipulation of public attitudes. That is a very
dangerous area.

WOL: Some industry figures have been quoted as saying that
Hollywood is such a money-driven town that the industry would
find the drug czar's financial blandishments irresistible. What
do you think?

Farrell: Oh, yes. This is a business of whores to a significant
degree, and it will perk up the ears of all of those people who
are money-driven. The effect could be relatively benign if the
movie already carried an anti-drug message, but if writers or
directors are skewing their work so its fits within certain
guidelines to get that money, then that would be very disturbing.

WOL: Hollywood has taken a lot of flack over portrayals of sex
and violence, and now Gen. McCaffrey is implicitly pressuring the
industry to portray drugs in a certain fashion. What sort of
responsibility does the industry have toward audiences or society
at large?

Farrell: We all need to aware of needs of society and the
vulnerability of the audience to whom we're speaking. I think
Hollywood has a big responsibility in terms of portraying life
realistically and appropriately. Like life itself, sometimes
these messages are life-affirming, but sometimes they are not.
That's not my business. In real life there is sex, there is
violence, there is indulgence in behaviors that some find
reprehensible. And although I'm not personally a fan of
entertainment that promotes or is irresponsible in promoting
wanton sex, or violence, or overindulgence, we cannot allow
ourselves to be bludgeoned into censorship. There's a tendency
toward self-censorship already, especially when artists go into
an area they fear will spark controversy or a hostile response.
That is a terrible insult to the artistic process.

WOL: So, what should or could the film community do in terms of
drugs as a social issue?

Farrell: In terms of drugs and drug policy, there are things my
community can do that would be much more beneficial to the
community at large than adapting our messages to fit some outside
guidelines. We could realistically show the impact of drug use,
we could show the positive, pro-social effects of drug education
and rehabilitation -- all of those things we wish the government
were promoting instead of filling our prisons.

WOL: Is there anything you like about McCaffrey's proposal?

Farrell: I'm pleased that he's being as overt as he is, because
then people are forewarned and thus forearmed. There are already
so many of what we used to call "hidden persuaders" that it is
frightening to think the government is getting involved. As if
they would be any better for us than the others, the private

WOL: Let's turn to the subject of Juan Raul Garza. In your
capacity as chair of Death Penalty Focus you've been deeply
involved in his case and in the broader issues surrounding the
death penalty. What is your reaction to President Clinton's
decision to put Garza's execution on hold?

Farrell: I was part of a campaign to inform the president about
our feelings on this issue and to help him understand that
killing Raul Garza would in many respects run counter to the
interests of the nation. I am pleased we were able to convince
the president to postpone the execution and start a review of the
whole federal death penalty process.

WOL: Opponents of Garza's execution have pointed to several
problems with how the decision to seek the death penalty in his
case was made. The OAS, for instance, has intervened, claiming
prosecutors violated international covenants when, in the trial's
penalty phase, they asked the jury to consider murders for which
Garza was never tried, let alone convicted. What is your
reaction to this argument?

Farrell: It was outrageous conduct. Using murders where he
wasn't tried or convicted was an extraordinary act on the part of
the prosecution, probably unprecedented and definitely unethical.

WOL: Garza's attorney has indicated that he will raise issues of
racial and geographic disparity in the administration of the
federal death penalty. What about such disparities?

Farrell: The preponderance of minorities on death row, the
institutional racism and corruption on the part of ambitious
prosecutors, and even the chance of human error, all are
increasingly disturbing to many people. To allow a man of
Hispanic origin to be the first executed without taking a serious
look at the history of death penalty prosecutions at the federal
level would be indiscreet, if not downright criminal.

WOL: What is it that drives politicians to so rabidly support
the death penalty?

Farrell: Not unlike the drug war, the death penalty is a
political tool that has nothing to do with justice and is not
good social policy. Both are the result of ambitious politicians
looking to push emotional buttons that can ensure their political
power. They're certainly more interested in that than in solving
social problems and ensuring the public safety.

WOL: The death penalty issue has achieved a high profile this
year with Gov. Ryan's moratorium in Illinois and the focus on
Gov. Bush's record in Texas, among other things. Is there reason
to think the tide is beginning to turn?

Farrell: Yes. President Clinton's action in calling for a hold
on Garza's execution while Justice completes its review of racial
and geographic disparities and establishes guidelines for
clemency petitions was a defensive action, as well as being an
appropriate action. The increasing prominence of the whole death
penalty issue is a sign that in this country we are seeing a
willingness to rethink our positions. At long last, because of
organizations like yours and ours with our continued insistence
on good, solid information to counter the official line, we are
now finding traction with people who might otherwise not know any
better. This is a hopeful sign, indeed. People are asking for
straight talk from their politicians and requiring them to
justify the outrageous statements they make in support of their
outrageous policies.

(Death Penalty Focus of California is a non-profit organization
dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment through
grassroots organizing, research, and the dissemination of
information about the death penalty and its alternatives. They
are a sponsor of "Committing to Conscience: Building a Unified
Strategy to End the Death Penalty," a conference taking place
Nov. 16-19 in San Francisco. Visit http://www.deathpenalty.org
to find out more.)


3. California Medical Marijuana Moves Ahead on Two Fronts

It's been a heady week for medical marijuana supporters in
California, where the city of San Francisco and a federal judge
took substantive actions that should make it easier for seriously
ill people to use marijuana.

In San Francisco, District Attorney Terence Hallinan announced on
July 14 that the city will issue ID cards for medical marijuana
users that will free card-holders from fear of local
prosecution. Three days later, US District Judge Charles R.
Breyer ruled that the Oakland Cannabis' Buyers Cooperative could
reopen and again begin serving its roughly 5,000 registered

The San Francisco program will require a doctor's signed
agreement to monitor the patient's medical condition. The cards
cost $25 and are good for two years. The cards, which include
the patient's photograph, card number and issue date, will also
be issued to minors who have their parents' or guardians'

"This represents another stone in the foundation we're building
to make people recognize that cannabis is a legitimate medicinal
agent," San Francisco DA Hallinan told the San Jose Mercury
News. "I'm not really worried we won't be able to work things
out with the federal government."

Jane Weirick uses marijuana to help alleviate pain from a back
ailment. She told the Mercury News that the ID cards will
"finally give us legitimacy."

"I was taking prescription opiates and was stuck in bed all the
time," Weirick said. "When I started taking cannabis, I was
finally able to function. It was like night and day."

Across the bay from San Francisco, Judge Breyer modified an
injunction he had issued in September 1998 in US v. Oakland
Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative that shut down the club and four
others. The newly modified injunction effectively exempts the
clubs from prosecution under federal marijuana possession,
cultivation, distribution and conspiracy statutes.

Judge Breyer spelled out stringent criteria for patients who seek
such an exemption. In addition to suffering from a serious
medical condition and facing imminent harm without access to
cannabis, patients are required to have no reasonable legal
alternative to cannabis for treating or alleviating their
condition or symptoms.

Breyer's original injunction was undone by the US Ninth District
Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The appeals court ordered
Judge Breyer to revisit his earlier order and consider an
exemption for patients who faced imminent harm and who had no
effective alternative to marijuana. The Court of Appeals ruled
that Judge Breyer should consider an exemption since the
government had failed to rebut evidence that cannabis is the only
effective source of relief for a large group of seriously ill

In his July 17th ruling, Judge Breyer said the government had
failed to make any new arguments against medical marijuana,
instead repeating arguments already rejected by the Court of

Patients and supporters of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers'
Cooperative were ecstatic. "It's an historic day," Jeff Jones,
executive director of the co-op, told the Mercury News. "For the
first time in our nation's history, the Controlled Substances Act
has been pierced in a way that allows a controlled substance to
be given out in a federally exempt way."

Not everyone was so enthused. Some activists condemned the
eligibility restrictions Judge Breyer placed on patients,
particularly the provision requiring that patients try "all legal
alternatives to cannabis" in order to qualify. Others worried
that the ruling could be the preamble to a government appeal to
an unfriendly Supreme Court.

But most observers, while conceding that the ruling had its
flaws, contended that it constituted an overall victory for the
medical marijuana movement.

After the ruling was announced, Jones called on the federal
government to take the next step and reclassify marijuana as "an
accepted therapeutic plant," the New York Times reported. "The
medicinal properties have already been accepted at the local and
state levels," he said. "We're waiting for the federal
government to catch up."

Jones told the Times that the Oakland club, which was the only
one of the five to appeal the 1998 ruling that shut it down,
could reopen during the week of July 24th. He said his club was
working with attorneys to devise the best way to reopen. "We're
going to proceed cautiously," he added.


4. Study Says Pot Doesn't Interfere with AIDS Drugs, Scientific
   First Comes After Years-Long Battle With Government Health

Initial results are in from the first government-approved study
of marijuana's effects on people infected with the AIDS virus.
The research, done by a team headed by Dr. Donald Abrams of the
University of California at San Francisco, found that smoking pot
does not disrupt the workings of antiviral drugs that inhibit the
growth of the AIDS virus -- and the patients involved gained

Abrams announced the initial results at the 13th Annual AIDS
Conference in Durban, South Africa, last week. Further results
will be released soon, Abrams told reporters at the conference.

In an indication of the politically charged atmosphere in which
research on marijuana in the US currently takes place, Abrams'
research proposals dating back to 1992 could not win government
approval as efficacy studies (research that would demonstrate the
effectiveness of marijuana in improving the appetite, body
weight, and general well-being of AIDS patients and others
suffering from wasting syndrome).

Instead, Abrams' research was designed to see whether the
components of marijuana interfered with the body's ability to
break down the components of protease inhibitors, which are
antiviral drugs used by thousands of HIV-infected people to
maintain their immune systems.

Some 62 subjects participated in the study, and all were confined
in a unit of San Francisco General Hospital for the experiment's
21-day duration. Some were given marijuana from the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), some received marinol, and others
received placebos. The 20 patients who received marijuana smoked
it three times a day in a closed, ventilated room so that second-
hand smoke would not affect other participants in the study.
Each patient had a refrigerator stocked with snacks at bedside.
The fridges were locked at midnight.

In all three groups, the study showed that levels of the AIDS
virus either dropped or remained unchanged. Neither marijuana
nor marinol interfered with the breakdown of protease inhibitors.
Also, although the research was not designed as an efficacy
study, Abrams announced that patients gained weight under the
experimental regime, an average of 7.7 pounds for the marijuana
smokers and 7 pounds for those who took marinol pills.

The findings have been greeted with enthusiasm by both medical
professionals and medical marijuana activists.

"Any good clinician with his eyes and ears open has known for a
long time that cannabis is very useful in the treatment of AIDS
reduction syndrome and does not harm patients," Dr. Lester
Grinspoon told the Associated Press. Grinspoon is a professor of
psychiatry at Harvard and author of "Marijuana: The Forbidden

"When all the dust settles and when marijuana is admitted into
the US pharmacopoeia, it will be seen as one of the least toxic
drugs in the whole compendium."

"I guess this refutes Gen. McCaffrey's statements about 'Cheech
and Chong' medicine," snorted Dale Gieringer, leader of
California NORML. "It confirms common sense. AIDS doctors have
been using pot widely in the Bay area and California in general
for years now," he told DRCNet.

Still, said Gieringer, "medicine has to confirm common sense,"
but the study's greater significance may lie in the fact that "it
got done."

"This is the only study on medical marijuana initiated and
completed since Proposition 215 (legalizing medical marijuana in
California) passed," Gieringer noted. "It shows the outrageous
slowness of the government's response to the mandate of the

"It's astounding that we could only get one study done, and not
even an efficacy study at that," he added. "In a sense, we are
not one step closer to winning government approval of medical
marijuana because it was not an efficacy study."

Gieringer's complaints about government inaction are understated;
the attitude of the federal government could fairly be described
as obstructionist. The saga of Dr. Abram's research helps
explain why.

Abrams had to overcome a series of politically motivated
bureaucratic obstacles, beginning with the DEA's 1994 refusal to
allow Abrams to import Dutch marijuana for a study of AIDS
wasting syndrome. The study had been designed with help from the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and had already won approval
from the university and the California Research Advisory Panel.
None of that mattered to the DEA.

Next, Abrams applied to the National Institute on Drug Abuse
(NIDA), requesting to use some of its marijuana supply for his
study. After nine months, NIDA Director Dr. Alan Leshner turned
him down, saying Abrams' FDA-approved study was unscientific.

"I wrote him back and said, well, gee, it's been approved by a
number of august bodies, and for you to tell me it's not
scientific was a little bizarre," Abrams told the Chronicle of
Higher Education in a June interview.

When Leshner then suggested he might approve a request that had
"favorable peer review," Abrams dutifully applied for a grant
from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). His proposal,
modified to address Leshner's concerns, was rejected.

NIH reviewers expressed concerns about marijuana's toxicity --
which is far lower than that of many approved prescription drugs
-- and about patient risk from high cholesterol levels due to
increased appetite. "That is really not something people with
AIDS wasting have the luxury of worrying about," Abrams told the

By then, Abrams told the Chronicle, he was willing to concede
that the obstacles in his path were more political than
scientific. Belatedly wising up, Abrams changed his research
proposal to examine marijuana's potential negative effects. This
must have been just what the NIH doctors ordered, as Abram's
revised research project to study whether marijuana interferes
with the body's processing of protease inhibitors was finally
approved, some five years after he presented his original
research proposal.


5. Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush Puts Decriminalization "On The

On the eve of a conference on black-on-black violence set for
Chicago this weekend, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) has called
decriminalization of drug offenses a "possibility worth
exploring," the Chicago Sun-Times reported this week.

Calling a spate of killings on Chicago's South Side "a turf
battle over drugs," Rush said the problem could not be dealt with
by concentrating on guns and gun legislation "in isolation from
the drug wars that are occurring in our streets."

Rush, a four-term veteran who represents Chicago's South Side,
has been active in some aspects of criminal justice policy, such
as juvenile justice and police brutality, but has not previously
broached the topic of decriminalization.

The former South Side alderman entered electoral politics via the
civil rights movement and was a co-founder of the Illinois Black
Panther Party in 1968. He is now chairman of the Congressional
Urban Caucus.

"There should be some open discussions pro and con about this
issue," Rush told the Sun-Times. "I believe that somehow we've
got to look at, at least have a discussion about how do we take
the profit out of drug use. And we've got to be bold about it."

Rush's press secretary, Robin Wheeler, told DRCNet that although
Rush had not spoken out on drug policy before, his comments were
not a departure.

"It may not have been an issue he touted before," she said, "but
he's been prompted to put it on the agenda because of the
violence issue. All too often, drugs are at the center of the
violence, so you've got to look at drug policy."

Wheeler, however, was careful to emphasize that the congressman
called only for putting decriminalization on the table for
discussion and he was not taking a stance in favor of
decriminalization as a policy position.

Rep. Rush will host the Emergency Black Leadership Summit in
Chicago on July 22nd. According

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