The Drug Policy Digest

Friday, February 28, 2003
Steroid/Amphetamine/Ritalin Abuse Common in Baseball According to Yankees Pitcher David Wells

An Associated Press Wire report says that the use of drugs by David Wells claims up to 40 percent of major leaguers use steroids and says amphetamines are readily available in baseball clubhouses. "As of right now, I'd estimate 25 to 40 percent of all major leaguers are juiced. But that number's fast rising," Wells wrote in "Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball," an autobiography scheduled for release next month.

As the controversy over the use of ephedrine-based products grows in the wake of Baltimore Oriole pitcher Steve Bechler's heatstroke death on Feb. 17, Wells says amphetamines are readily available in baseball clubhouses and that some players even use Ritalin as a stimulant.

For a more in-depth examination of New York Yankees Pitcher David Wells' revelations, see the Los Angeles Times report "Wells Throws the Book at Baseball" on the Los Angeles Times website.

Supreme Court to Consider Addiction Disability Case and "Break and Enter" Search Warrant Practices

Returning from a four week recess, the United States Supreme Court has announced several cases to be heard next term. According to The Washington Post: several cases "are appeals of rulings by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the liberal-leaning, San Francisco-based court whose interpretations of the law in recent years have been frequently reversed by this Supreme Court." Because the calendar for the current term, which ends in June, is full, they will be argued next fall and decided by July 2004.

The Post summarizes the two drug cases as follows:

The disability discrimination case -- which comes to the court after a series of decisions in which the justices have narrowly defined the Americans With Disabilities Act's protections against job discrimination -- involves Joel Hernandez, who was forced to quit his job at a California missile factory in 1991 because his employer, Raytheon, discovered he was using cocaine.

Hernandez, who had worked at the plant for 25 years and whose most recent job was calibrating guidance systems for missiles sold to the U.S. government, applied for a new job in 1994, saying he had completely beaten his addictions to cocaine and alcohol.

But the company rejected him, citing a "policy against rehiring former employees who were terminated for any violation of its misconduct rules." Hernandez sued in federal court, claiming that this policy discriminated against him because he had suffered from addiction in the past. The 9th Circuit sided with him.

In its petition to the Supreme Court, Raytheon argues that it had merely applied the same policy to Hernandez that it applies to all ex-employees with a history of misconduct, and that "a plaintiff does not secure ADA protection by saying 'a disability made me do it.' "

The case is Raytheon Co. v. Hernandez, No. 02-749.

In the criminal case, the Supreme Court will revisit the question of how and when the Constitution permits police to enter a private home in search of suspects and evidence.

The Justice Department is appealing a 9th Circuit decision to throw out LaShawn Lowell Banks's drug and weapons convictions because the SWAT team that broke down his door did not wait long enough for him to answer after they knocked and shouted, "Police! Search warrant!"

Under federal law, officers may break in to execute a search warrant if, after giving notice to the occupant of who they are and what they are there to do, they are "refused admittance." In this case, members of a joint state-federal drug task force used a battering ram to smash the door to Banks's Las Vegas apartment after waiting 15 to 20 seconds and hearing no response. Inside, they found Banks emerging from a shower, naked and dripping with water. They handcuffed him and took him to a kitchen table for interrogation while officers and dogs searched the apartment.

By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 9th Circuit ruled that, under the circumstances, police did not wait long enough to conclude that Banks, who said he didn't hear them, had refused to let them in. The drugs and other evidence the police found were therefore inadmissible in court, the 9th Circuit said.

But the Justice Department contends that, given the frequency with which police raid houses and apartments for illegal drugs, the 9th Circuit's rule would "create significant uncertainty in a recurring aspect of police practice."

The case is U.S. v. Banks, No. 02-473.

Thursday, February 27, 2003
Good News, Bad News - Afghanistan First in Opium Production

According to a report in the New York Times, Afghanistan, recently liberated from the Taliban regime, was the world's largest source of illicit opium in 2002. Citing a United Nations report released on Monday, the article states that opium revenues amount to $1.2 billion in that country while the average daily wage was only $2 per day. Read the Times brief report here.

Thursday, February 06, 2003
White House OMB Report "Harshly" Criticizes DEA on Performance and Abilities

According to the New York Times, the budget proposed for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) contains the smallest increase in fiscal support in 15 years. Of course, only in Washington would a smaller-than-expected increase be universally seen as a severe censure. If performance is judged to be sub-par in private industry, one would soon be unemployed.

Having watched the federal drug control budget swell from about $3 Billion a year in the mid-1980s to about $20 Billion in the recent years, we might expect that some quantifiable results might be in order. Of course, the nation's prisons are swollen with drug offenders and arrests for marijuana use or possession for personal use ("simple possession") are now at all time highs. However, the price per milligram for drugs like heroin and cocaine is now lower than it has been in years. Let me say this again: If enforcement were making drugs more scarce and harder to smuggle into this country, basic economics would suggest that the price on the street for, say, a gram of cocaine might increase. This has not happened and, in fact, cocaine and heroin are both stronger and cheaper than they have been in recent history.

But, enough of my opinion, read the Times story or see Mark Kleiman's evaluation of the report and judge for yourself.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003
Some Current Views of Cannabis -- Its Legal Status and Its Medical Uses

Those who have visited this site before know that I think highly of Mark Kleiman and his views. His web site currently features a commentary on the laws restricting cannabis (marijuana) use and what we know about how to make them less onerous and more effective. It is must reading for anyone interested in drug policy. While Professor Kleiman says that it is true that "much of the damage done by cannabis results from its illegality, it's not true that it's harmless, or that the current laws don't reduce its use. The claim that the [cannabis] laws don't reduce use ... is thoroughly implausible, though the extent of the increase in use that would result from legalization would depend on the details (tax level, distribution system, marketing restrictions, age restrictions, potency and quantity restrictions) of the legal regime that replaced prohibition." View the piece here.

On a related note, the Sunday Magazine section of The Los Angeles Times has a cover story worth reading. Titled "Waiting to Inhale: The Drug War Refugees," the piece describes the trend among some Californians who use marijuana as a medication to flee the states for Canada's less restrictive policies. The author asks whether U.S. drug policies are "out of control." Read the L.A. Times piece here.

Saturday, February 01, 2003
Editorial Slams Federal Marijuana Policies

The Las Vegas Review-Journal is not on the "must read" list of most federal policy wonks. But our leaders might benefit from considering the editorial published in a recent issue of this generally conservative publication. In a piece called "Harassing Law-Abiding Citizens," the Review-Journal says that the feds' handling of a case targeting a medical marijuana club in California sends an alarming message.

The case at issue is being played out in a a San Francisco courtroom and concerns marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal who was arrested when was arrested after federal agents seized some 3,000 marijuana plants from his warehouse in Oakland, and charged him with violating federal anti-drug laws. Rosenthal, at the time, was growing the plants for the Harm Reduction Center, a local medical marijuana club, and was deputized by the city of Oakland as an officer authorized to distribute medicinal pot under California's 1996 Proposition 215 -- a statute that permits the production and distribution of cannabis (marijuana) for use by patients whose physicians have advised them that they might benefit from smoking marijuana. For his sins, federal prosecutors hope to lock up the 58-year-old for the rest of his life. That Mr. Rosenthal has been a vocal activist for legal marijuana and is the author of several books on growing techniques is said to have had no bearing on the charges filed against him.

The editorial states in unusually harsh terms that "This is a frightening example of a federal government that's hellbent on trampling the will of the people, the compassionate treatment of patients, and even local law enforcement agencies ... all for the purpose of prosecuting the drug war. The lesson here should be a chilling one for Nevadans as well as residents of the Golden State."

Those who are concerned about the federal government's over-reaching on the medical marijuana issue and in the Rosenthal case, in particular, should take a moment to read the entire editorial. If one were a believer in conspiracies, it would be easy to believe that those at the highest levels of our government must want to legalize all of the currently prohibited drugs. A strategy that seeks to wage a "War on Drugs" by locking up wheelchair-bound senior citizens and those who would provide them with a "medication" (which may actually provide some relief to those suffering from painful and often incurable disorders) seems to be an approach that will enrage and radicalize a lot of Americans who, themselves, are law-abiding and wish to believe that the government works to implement the will of the people.

A message to our "Drug Czar," John P. Walters, our DEA Administrator John B. Brown III (who just this week replaced Asa Hutchison) and our Attorney General, The Honorable John Ashcroft ---> the medical marijuana issue is a losing cause. It isn't even a "good fight" in the sense of a moral imperitive. It is foolish and ill-advised and your pursuit of harsh and disproportionate penalties for those who believe that the government ought to respect what California voters approved by ballot initiative several years ago will undermine any rational attempt to investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking and sale of heroin, cocaine, and truly scary drugs like PCP and other substances whose link to property crime and violence are exteb