This Just In
(1)Medical Marijuana Law Expanded
(2)Italy: Paramilitaries To Fight School Drug Abuse
(3)Liberal Or Conservative, Canada's Core Drug Policy Is Worthless
(4)Colombian Mayor's 2003 Death Detailed

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 THIS JUST IN  ( Top )


Pubdate: Fri, 01 Jun 2007
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2007 Burlington Free Press
Author: Nancy Remsen, Free Press Staff Writer

MONTPELIER -- Steve Perry of Randolph Center welcomed news Thursday that a bill expanding eligibility for the state's medical marijuana registry would become law -- even though the governor refused to sign it.

Perry copes with a degenerative joint condition that causes severe pain and muscle spasms. Traditional painkillers fail to provide relief, he said, but marijuana has helped. Now he will be able to register with the Department of Public Safety and have protection from state prosecution while using the otherwise illegal drug.

The bill broadened the eligibility established in Vermont's 2004 law by allowing those with chronic debilitating conditions, not just life- threatening diseases, to participate in the program. It also increases the number of plants that participants may grow at home and reduces the annual registration fee from $100 to $50.

The marijuana bill is the fifth piece of legislation Gov. Jim Douglas has allowed to become law this year without his signature. Jason Gibbs, the governor's spokesman, said that generally Douglas exercises this option when he doesn't agree with the policy but recognizes a measure has strong support in the Legislature.

In the case of the marijuana bill, Gibbs said, "The governor has compassion for people who are suffering from debilitating diseases, but he can't in good conscience sanction a violation of federal law."




Pubdate: Wed, 30 May 2007
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Author: John Hooper, in Rome, The Guardian

The paramilitary Carabinieri, a tough force which until recently was stationed in Iraq, could be sent into schools to search for drugs. The proposal follows widespread alarm in Italy at what is seen as rapidly growing drug use among the young.

Livia Turco, the health minister in Romano Prodi's centre-left government, said the consumption and trafficking of drugs by students had reached the point at which it was time to begin checks throughout Italy. Ms Turco, who has control of a Carabinieri detachment, said her initiative reflected "a sense of responsibility towards parents".

Parental concern has spiralled in recent months, largely because of photos and videos posted on the web that give an impression of widespread anarchy in the country's classrooms. Earlier this month, a video was posted on the internet, apparently showing a teacher rolling a marijuana "spliff" in front of his pupils. It was later shown on television.

Last month also saw the death of a 15-year-old pupil at a school near Milan. It was found that just prior to his death he had been smoking cannabis; and at the postmortem, traces of cocaine were also found.

Whether these high-profile incidents reflect a growing phenomenon is unclear. But official statistics indicate that drug use has become extremely common among urban youths.

A recent survey by the health authorities in Milan found that almost 70% of 15- to 24-year-olds had used cannabis. That compares with a nationwide average of 25% and a Europe-wide average of 17% in a survey for Drug Watch International in the 1990s.

In theory, the Italian authorities are enforcing a policy of zero tolerance. The previous, conservative government of Silvio Berlusconi introduced legislation that abolished the distinction between soft and hard drugs and made it illegal to be found in possession of even small quantities of narcotics.




Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2007
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Dan Gardner, The Ottawa Citizen

We Have Nothing to Show for Decades of Arrests, Punishments and Seizures

Have you heard the news? Stephen Harper thinks he's Ronald Reagan. "The Conservative government is set to launch a regressive war on drugs," a Liberal press release says.

The war is scheduled to start this week, when the government releases a new National Drug Strategy that will -- according to a report in this newspaper last week -- get tough on drugs. More law enforcement. More treatment and prevention.

But less "harm reduction" -- including the end of support for "Insite," Vancouver's safe-injection facility.

And so the lines have been drawn. On one side are those who say they are defending the liberal Canadian approach against a Reagan-era war on drugs. On the other are those who say the liberal Canadian approach amounts to government aiding and abetting drug use and must be replaced by a strong effort to stop use before it starts.

As emotionally satisfying as it would be to have a good bash at the Tories, I'm afraid I can't. It's not that they're right. They're not. Insite and other harm-reduction policies are supported by extensive peer-reviewed research. The government's preferred package -- more enforcement, tougher sentences, more treatment and prevention -- has failed ever since Richard Nixon's White House first assembled it back in the days when disco was cutting edge.




Pubdate: Wed, 30 May 2007
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times
Author: Chris Kraul, Times Staff Writer

A Paramilitary Boss' Testimony Underscores Militias' Grip on Political and Business Life in the Nation.

SINCELEJO, COLOMBIA -- This is the chronicle of a death foretold.

Mayor Eudaldo "Tito" Diaz knew he was a marked man. He had resisted right-wing paramilitary fighters in El Roble, a town in the northern state of Sucre, and the assassins had him in their sights. In a town hall meeting, he confronted Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, grabbing the microphone and warning that he was going to be killed.

Two months later, Diaz was seized by a dozen men in several cars, apparently betrayed by members of his personal security team.

He was taken to the notorious paramilitary "concentration camp," a ranch called El Palmar where several mass graves have been found. He was tortured for five days before being shot to death.

The assassination of Diaz, a 47-year-old doctor, affords a glimpse of the nightmare that war-torn Colombia has experienced for decades. The nation relived the nightmare this month with the testimony of paramilitary capo Salvatore Mancuso, as he confessed to drug trafficking, mass murder, extortion and usurping vast tracts of land - -- all with the help of corrupt politicians.

In the four northern states, including Sucre, that Mancuso controlled, politicos who resisted were ruthlessly cut down. Diaz became one of the victims in April 2003.

"My father died wanting a better country, where mafias can't traffic in drugs and loot cities, where innocent people aren't killed at the whim of politicians to perpetuate themselves in power," said Juan David Diaz, the late mayor's 28-year-old son, who also is a doctor and who now heads the local victims rights group Movement of Victims of State Crimes, based here in Sucre's capital.





If legislators would take heed to Newton's Third Law of motion when creating drug policy, we would not spend so much time correcting the tragic "equal and opposite reaction" we so often find ourselves in. The U.S. Sentencing Commission has finally made a small step towards reforming the 1980's crack-cocaine laws which voraciously ripped through our black communities. Two midwestern columnists explore this issue concluding with the education/treatment solution which we are, hopefully, moving towards.

Another columnist, a recovering addict from Hawaii, turned the tables by insinuating addiction also lies on the side of the prohibitionist who must "first admit that we have a problem" before recovery can begin. He reveals that the UK has already taken this step and that we all should be following the Dutch model.


Pubdate: Sun, 27 May 2007
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2007 The Buffalo News
Author: Dan Herbeck, News Staff Reporter

Alters Guidelines For Crack Crimes

A federal commission has taken a small step toward eliminating a cocaine sentencing disparity that has upset civil rights advocates for almost two decades.


Since the late 1980s, federal sentences for crack cocaine crimes have been far more severe than those for crimes involving equal amounts of powdered cocaine. Because crack is a bigger problem in poor urban neighborhoods and powdered cocaine use is more prevalent among the wealthy, civil rights groups claimed the disparity was unfair to minority groups.


An amendment approved last month by the Sentencing Commission would not eliminate the mandatory minimums but would decrease the advised sentences for many crack cocaine crimes. Some sentences would be cut by 20 percent.




Pubdate: Sun, 27 May 2007
Source: News-Sentinel, The (Fort Wayne, IN)
Copyright: 2007 The News-Sentinel
Author: Sylvia A. Smith

WASHINGTON -- Looking for a way to improve the responsibility-taking among black fathers? Or to improve the economic standing and stability of black families overall? Or for confronting these statistics: One of every three black kids is being raised by a never-married mother; one of 20 white children is being raised by a never-married mom.

One step to addressing this complicated problem is to rewrite a law that forces federal judges to send people to jail for mere possession of one type of drug, a substance more commonly used in the black community than by whites. Crack cocaine is created by adding powder cocaine to baking soda and water and then baking the mixture. The result is broken into "rocks" and can be sold in very small quantities. In the mid-1980s crack became a significant problem in cities.

To try to get a grip on what some called the crack epidemic, Congress set the penalty for possession of a tiny amount of crack ( "tiny" being the size of two sugar packets, enough for 10 to 15 doses ) as an automatic five-year prison sentence. Possession of the same amount of powder cocaine generally gets probation; Congress has declared that judges don't have to send a powder cocaine possessor to jail until the amount of the drug reaches the 200-sugar-packet size, which produces 2,500 to 5,000 doses.

She [Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's House representative] said while Congress ignored what it had wrought -- not for racist reasons but in an attempt to get a grip on the crack problem of the 1980s -- "a whole generation of black people are condemned now to losing the family culture, and a whole generation of black children are being raised with no father."

There are so few black men for middle-class black women to marry -- men without a record, capable of getting a job -- that "there is a whole generation of black women who will never be married," she said.


[Rep. Mark ] Souder agrees that the statistics about black men in prisons are irrefutable. But he's unwilling to lay that all at the door of the crack-powder sentencing disparity.


What is not in dispute is that a disproportionate percentage of black men are in U.S. prison cells.

For reasons of fairness and to help lessen the mistrust in the legal system, Congress would be wise to tackle this.



Pubdate: Sun, 27 May 2007
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2007 The Sun-Times Co.
Author: Monroe Anderson


Their front-page tragedies put faces on debilitating statistics. Black American males between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest firearm homicide rate of any demographic group in our nation. Ten times more black males are shot to death in that age range than white males. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 52 percent of this nation's gun-murder victims are African American, even though we represent less than 13 percent of the total population. If all Americans were killed with firearms at the same rate as African-American males between the ages of 15 and 24, there would be more than a quarter of a million gun murders in the United States annually.

Make no mistake about it: This is still that same sad story of black-on-black crime. But the magnitude is new. I attribute it to the "war on drugs." Two decades ago, Congress went on a "get tough on drugs" rampage. The results have visited devastating collateral damage on the African-American community. Black men have unfairly and disproportionately been targeted as enemy combatants in this trumped-up war. A black man is 13 times more likely to go to state prison than a white man.

And while drug use is consistent across all racial groups, blacks and Latinos are much more likely to get busted, prosecuted and given long sentences for drug offenses, according to the latest report by Human Rights Watch. That explains why African Americans, who make up 13 percent of all drug users, are 35 percent of those arrested for drug possession, 55 percent of those convicted and 74 percent of those sent to prison.


One of my sons could be next -- or one of yours. We need to stop this cancer from further spreading. We need to scale down the raids and scale back the sentencing on nonviolent offenses. We need to put our energies into educating to prevent incarcerating.



 (8) COLUMN: LET'S GO DUTCH  ( Top )

Pubdate: Sun, 27 May 2007
Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin (HI)
Copyright: 2007 Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Author: Rich Figel

Unlike Ours, Their Approach to Drugs Actually Works

THE WAR ON DRUGS is a disaster. Just read the daily headlines: arrests and record drug seizures every week; worldwide violence related to drug cartels and gangs; new ( and deadlier ) drugs targeted to kids. The very fact that our government believes we need drug testing in schools is a tacit admission that the current strategy isn't working.

So what do we do about it?

The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem. That's something Great Britain recently did. Two months ago, the United Kingdom Drugs Policy Commission issued a brutally honest report that concluded Britain's own War on Drugs was "a total failure." The panel included a diverse group of experts, ranging from health professionals to law enforcement officials.

Their frank assessment found that decades of Brit-style "Just Say No" campaigns had little impact on deterring drug use. The report stated: "Whether we like it or not, drugs are and will remain a fact of life. On that basis, the aim of the law should be to reduce the amounts of harm caused to individuals, their friends and families, their children and their communities."


THEY RECOMMENDED a shift from the current "criminal justice bias" to recognizing addiction as a health and social problem. The report also advocated "supervised drug consumption rooms" as a means of preventing overdoses, and getting addicts into treatment.

It's not as if these are radical new ideas. Other European countries have already implemented sensible policies, and the Brits themselves have some experience in this area. From the 1920s to the 1960s, heroin was routinely prescribed to U.K. addicts. The population of junkies remained stable at around 2,000 during that period. When the laws were changed in 1971, the black market for heroin exploded. The United Kingdom now has 300,000 addicts.


Does the Dutch way work? Thirty years ago, there were about 30,000 heroin addicts in the Netherlands. Today, the number of junkies is the same, even though the population has grown by 6 percent. That means fewer new users are becoming addicted.

By treating junkies with prescription heroin, they also found that addicts commit fewer crimes to support their habits -- which translates to less government spending, as well. Numerous studies show it's much cheaper to treat drug users than imprison them. For every dollar spent on treatment, taxpayers save more than $7 in prison costs, according to one analysis.


We are a nation in denial. Instead of taking responsibility for being the world's largest consumer of illegal substances, we blame other countries for supplying them. Parents would rather point fingers at schools or the media, when the truth is many kids are using "legal" drugs they can find in their own parents' medicine cabinets.

As a recovering addict, I've seen the damage done by alcohol and drugs. Some people ( like me ) cannot handle the stuff, and shouldn't touch it. Abstinence for all, however, isn't realistic or necessary. That's why I believe the best we can do is to lessen demand and reduce harm.



Let's hear a big Hallelujah for the great state of Texas! After years of topping the incarceration per capita charts, a bill is on the way to the Governor which will clear out jail cells by moving low-level inmates to supervised programs and enhance drug treatment programs. As we say down in these here parts, YeeHaw!!

Unfortunately, a county in the more 'enlightened' state of Washington cut it's Drug Court program in half last week due to budgetary constraints.

A Florida columnist used Memorial Day to honor victims of our Drug War. After recounting a few of the recent 'mistaken deaths" and reviewing the effects of training police officers as soldiers, he concludes that the majority of citizens now want treatment/education as an 'exit strategy'.

Two articles about the DEA caught my eye this week. Slate published an interesting article covering the method used to calculate costs of prohibited substances by the agency. And I'm sure few readers missed the Colorado article which calmly revealed that students of their Citizens Academy assisted local agents in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.


Pubdate: Mon, 28 May 2007
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2007 The Dallas Morning News
Author: Emily Ramshaw, The Dallas Morning News

Early Releases, Other Steps May Show New Lockups Not Needed

AUSTIN - A bill that permits early release for certain prison inmates and gives those on parole a chance to shorten their terms passed the Senate on Sunday, but it may not make it to a House vote today before the Legislature adjourns. The bill, crafted by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, aims to reduce prison populations and keep the state from having to build new lockups.


TDCJ [Texas Department of Criminal Justice] officials have argued that there's no avoiding the need for construction of three new prisons they predict a shortfall of 11,000 prison beds by 2011.

But Mr. Madden and Mr. Whitmire say they can cope with that shortfall by moving thousands of low-level or parole-ready prison inmates into supervised community programs, and by bolstering substance-abuse programs to free up beds used by minor drug and alcohol offenders.

The budget includes funding for many of these programs, including adding 8,000 prison beds in the next few years for drug treatment programs.

Despite the new programs, the budget does include funding for three new prisons, but only if the legislative budget board deems they are necessary. Earlier language forcing the TDCJ to evaluate the effectiveness of diversion programs before building new prisons was stripped from the budget.




Pubdate: Sat, 26 May 2007
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2007 The Daily Herald Co.
Author: Jim Haley

The Program Works, But It's Short On Staff - And Money


With the help of an intensive Snohomish County drug program commonly called Drug Court, the single mom put her life together, beat the addiction, got her kids back and is thriving with a job at a Lynnwood retail store.

Now, it's likely that the number of people like Forget who can be helped by Drug Court will steadily drop.

The county's judges have decided to reduce the number of people in the program from the current level of 150 to 75.


The decision to gradually reduce the number of people in the program was not an easy one, said Judge George Bowen, who heads the Drug Court program. He acknowledges that a client load of 200 or 300 could be met if enough money were available.

The program has one full-time coordinator who works a big caseload, including initial interviews, with the help of an intern.


Of the 257 people who have graduated from the program over the years, only 17 have committed new crimes, about a 94 percent success rate.

The judges made getting a second coordinator an emphasis in last year's county budget request, but the money was cut. Bob Terwilliger, court administrator, said the judges will make another attempt this year to get additional funding from the Snohomish County Council.




Pubdate: Mon, 28 May 2007
Source: Florida Times-Union (FL)
Copyright: 2007 The Florida Times-Union
Author: Tonyaa Weathersbee, The Times-Union

On this Memorial Day, I'd like to pause a moment to remember those who have lost their lives - or much of what's left of them - in a different sort of war.

It's a war that's fueled by a lust for a foreign product other than oil; a product whose distribution has become one of the only sources of commerce and power for people in poor, predominantly black communities.

It's a war that has packed prisons and desolated neighborhoods. A war which, after raging for three decades, has done little to curb people's appetite for the product.

That product is cocaine. The war is the War on Drugs. This war costs more than $40 billion a year. It's a war rooted in economics and addiction, but one that is being fought by police and prisons.

And there's no exit strategy in sight.


When police are made to feel that they are soldiers in a war, they're going to rally to each other. That's what warriors do - commend each other for staying alive. The problem, however, is that when police are made to feel like warriors, entire communities are liable to become battlegrounds.

That means that instead of making those communities safer, they make them scarier. People like Johnston and Singletary wind up getting hurt or killed because they happened to get in the way of pursuits of penny- ante dealers; dealers whose presence will surely be replenished by others once they're sent away.

That's no victory. That's just running in place.


Sixty-one percent of people polled by the University of North Florida recently agreed that the crime rate should be tackled by more attention to social problems instead of devising more punishments.

More than half said Duval County wasn't spending enough money on crime prevention and intervention programs for juveniles. That's encouraging, because it means that people want the criminality to stop without people like Johnston and Singletary paying with their lives.

They want the War on Drugs to be fought with the right weapons.

And to finally end.



Pubdate: Thu, 24 May 2007
Source: Slate (US Web)
Copyright: 2007 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC
Author: Michelle Tsai


The Art And Science Of The Dea'S Drug Valuations

Federal prosecutors charged 44 people in a drug-smuggling ring Wednesday, having confiscated a stash that included 350 kilograms of high-grade heroin from Colombia, 220 kilograms of cocaine, 1 kilogram of methamphetamine, and 150 pounds of marijuana. The authorities pegged the value of the heroin alone at $35 million. How do law-enforcement officers put a price tag on seized drugs?

They check the DEA's own price list. The agency keeps tabs on local busts all over the country, testing drug samples and recording data like price, quantity, purity, where the stuff was headed, and how it was to be mixed with other substances. Informants and undercover agents also give regular updates on both retail and wholesale prices of illegal drugs. The information compiled by all 21 field offices goes into a quarterly report called "Trends in Trafficking," which is sent around to police departments. It's hard for regular citizens to get their hands on that useful report, but some of the same data appear in this detailed publication from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Based on word on the street, for instance, the DEA knows that an eight ball of cocaine-about 10 lines-goes for $125 to $200 in New York City, upward of $200 north of the city, and up to $300 in western New York state. The anti-drug agency also tracks how pure products are. A gram of coke in Georgia will cost $75 to $100 and is probably 38 percent to 86 percent pure. Better not to buy in South Carolina, however, where a gram will be of lower quality-25 percent to 55 percent pure-and more expensive at $50 to $170.




Pubdate: Mon, 28 May 2007
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2007 The Denver Post Corp
Author: Felisa Cardona, Denver Post Staff Writer


DEA Holds Awareness Class to Show Citizens How Easy It Is to Make the Drug.

Cooking methamphetamine takes only a few hours and requires simple household ingredients, like striker plates from matchbooks, the guts of lithium batteries, drain cleaner.

"It's pretty gross," said Matt Leland, who works in career services at the University of Northern Colorado and who recently helped cook the drug in a lab. "If someone was truly interested in manufacturing meth, it would not be that hard."

The Drug Enforcement Administration invited Leland and other citizens - - such as software engineers, a teacher, a pastor and a school principal - to make methamphetamine last week in a lab at Metropolitan State College of Denver.


The class was held as part of the DEA's first Citizens Academy in order to give the public a close-up view of what the agency does to keep drugs off the street.

Although meth remains a significant problem across the U.S., the number of clandestine labs has dropped because some of the ingredients are harder to obtain.


Jeff Sweetin, the DEA's special agent in charge of the Rocky Mountain region, says methamphetamine is now largely a smuggling issue. Most of the product comes from Mexican cartels that manufacture the drugs in "superlabs" where cooks are capable of quickly making pound after pound, he said.

Sweetin said Mexican authorities are trying to stop the manufacturing of meth in their country by implementing the restrictions on ingredients that exist in the U.S.

"They are a full partner in our meth issues right now," Sweetin said.




In a federal court government employees once again demonstrate their ethical bankruptcy. Will the feds allow University of Massachusetts agronomy professor Lyle E. Craker to grow research marijuana as the editorial, below, recommends? From Canada, a glimmer of common sense, or is it?

Last week I highlighted what I thought would be all the obituaries for Dr. Tod Mikuriya. Not so. This week saw versions of the New York Times obituary also printed in the San Jose Mercury News; the Chicago Tribune; and one of Canada's two national newspapers, the Globe and Mail.


Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2007
Copyright: 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

Ed Rosenthal was a free man, but not a happy one, after a jury convicted him Wednesday for a second time of violating federal drug laws by growing marijuana for medical patients.

Rosenthal, 62, of Oakland -- an authority on cannabis cultivation, former columnist for High Times magazine and longtime advocate of legalizing marijuana -- was fuming that the same federal judge who declined to imprison him had also refused to let him argue to jurors that his purpose was healing people, not dealing drugs.

"Once again, the jury was not allowed to hear valuable information it needed to make an unbiased and fair decision," Rosenthal said outside court after he was convicted of three felony charges. After the jurors learn that they were "compelled to make an immoral decision," he said, they will regret the verdict for the rest of their lives.

Jurors left the federal courthouse in San Francisco without discussing the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan declined comment. Rosenthal's lawyers said they would ask the judge to throw out the convictions at a hearing next week.


The charges normally carry a sentence of at least five years in prison, but U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer sentenced Rosenthal to only a day in jail, which he had already served. Breyer said Rosenthal had believed he was acting legally because Oakland had designated him as its agent in the city's medical marijuana program.


In both trials, Breyer barred evidence that the marijuana was intended for medical use under Proposition 215, the 1996 California initiative allowing patients to use the drug with their doctor's approval. He also excluded evidence about Rosenthal's designation as an agent by the city of Oakland.

Left without a defense, Rosenthal's lawyers called no witnesses at the retrial, and instead argued that the prosecution's case was tainted by the testimony of some of Rosenthal's former friends and business partners who had been granted leniency.

Defense lawyers also did all they could to remind jurors of the state law -- addressing them as "fellow Californians" during opening and closing arguments, and urging them to do the right thing without fear of repercussions. But prosecutor Bevan told jurors they were bound by Breyer's instructions, which required them to apply federal drug laws.



Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2007
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times


DISCUSSION OF medical marijuana has always been heavy on rhetoric, elisions and grandiose claims. What it has lacked is reliable research that might bring some of the discussion into line with reality. This is because access to the government's monopoly supply of research-grade marijuana is so restricted that the necessary research is effectively impossible. Now the Drug Enforcement Administration's chief administrative law judge is recommending that the federal drug police allow competition in growing marijuana for research purposes. The administration should follow her recommendation.

At issue is the supply of research-grade marijuana produced at the University of Mississippi and overseen by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This supply is supposed to be made available to DEA-registered researchers who have undergone a rigorous review and approval process by the U.S. Public Health Service. However, both medical marijuana advocates and scientists say the institute routinely refuses to make its supply available even to licensed researchers for properly authorized studies. There are at least two FDA-approved studies that cannot go forward because no research samples are available.

This leaves researchers -- and the 12 states that have so far approved marijuana for medical purposes -- in a Catch-22: Drug warriors object that there is no research demonstrating marijuana's efficacy while preventing such research from being done. Since 2001, a scientist with the University of Massachusetts Amherst has vainly petitioned the DEA for permission to produce, under conditions that even the DEA acknowledges present little risk of diversion for illicit use, another supply of research-grade marijuana.

In a recent ruling, Judge Mary Ellen Bittner agreed that that request would be in the public interest. Given its narrow confines, Bittner's recommendation makes sense. It has no bearing on the DEA's licensing of researchers, which would remain in place, nor would it remove the burden of proof on scientists who want access to research-grade marijuana. It would merely prevent situations in which, the judge noted, legitimate researchers who have completed all due diligence are still refused access to research samples.




Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Pubdate: Tue, 29 May 2007
Copyright: 2007 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Mike McIntyre

A Chinese immigrant from Toronto who was duped into working on one of Manitoba's largest-ever marijuana grow operations has been hit with a stiffer sentence by the province's highest court.

Fai Tan Ng was originally given a one-month penalty after pleading guilty to production of marijuana.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal has now agreed with the Crown's argument the penalty is too light and increased it to a full year.

However, Ng "poses no danger to the community" and will be allowed to serve his sentence in the community, the court ruled.

The arrest of Ng and 27 other accused in 2004 made national headlines and drew a large volume of support for their plight. They were found stacked like sardines inside a tiny home on a sprawling property near Sundown, Man., which housed a multimillion-dollar pot facility.

The accused had all been lured from Ontario to the Prairies with the promise of quick cash in exchange for some "farm labour".

In Ng's case, he had recently lost his job as a cook, had limited ability to speak English and was struggling to support his family.

He was told by a friend of a job that could pay upwards of $500 per day and was eventually put on a bus and driven to Manitoba. It was only upon arrival that Ng and the others realized they weren't going to be dealing with grain or dairy farming.




Source: New York Times (NY)
Pubdate: Tue, 29 May 2007
Copyright: 2007 The New York Times Company
Author: Margalit Fox

Dr. Tod H. Mikuriya, a California psychiatrist who was widely regarded as the grandfather of the medical marijuana movement in the United States, died on May 20 at his home in Berkeley. He was 73.

The cause was complications of cancer, his family told California news organizations.

Dr. Mikuriya, who helped make the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes legal in California, spent the last four decades publicly advocating its use, researching its effects and publishing articles on the subject.

He was an architect of Proposition 215, the state ballot measure that in 1996 made it legal for California doctors to recommend marijuana for seriously ill patients. He was also a founder of the California Cannabis Research Medical Group and its offshoot, the Society of Cannabis Clinicians.

As a result of his work, Dr. Mikuriya was considered a savior by some, a public menace by others. To his supporters, he was a physician of last resort: for years, a stream of patients with illnesses like cancer and AIDS made their way to his private practice in Berkeley. Dr. Mikuriya sometimes wrote a dozen or more recommendations for marijuana each day; at his death, he was reported to have approved the drug for nearly 9,000 patients.

Elsewhere, however, Dr. Mikuriya's work found little favor. In 1996, for instance, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Bill Clinton, publicly derided the doctor's medical philosophy as "the Cheech and Chong show."


Dr. Mikuriya saw his work, he often said, as a means of righting a historical wrong, namely the backlash against medical marijuana that began in the "Reefer Madness" era of the late 1930s.

"It had been available to clinicians for one hundred years until it was taken off the market in 1938," he told The East Bay Express, a Northern California newspaper, in 2004. "I'm fighting to restore cannabis."


Among doctors who support the therapeutic use of marijuana, many are publicly circumspect when asked if they ever take a taste of their own medicine. Not so Dr. Mikuriya. As The Los Angeles Times reported in 2004, "He willingly acknowledges, unlike most of his peers in cannabis consulting, that he does indeed smoke pot, mostly in the morning with his coffee."



We start off this week with an overview of the failure of U.S. drug policy in South America by Hugh O'Shaughnessy, in the Independent on Sunday newspaper. Prohibition has resulted in, "Production as high as ever, street prices at a low, and the governments of the region in open revolt." Some highlights: Evo Morales, a coca farmer, was elected president in Bolivia, while Hugo Chavez (president of Venezuela) has denounced U.S. DEA agents as spies, preventing them from operating in the country. In Ecuador, newly elected President Rafael Correa has barred the U.S. from using Manta airfield, and has refused to allow U.S. aerial spraying. In Colombia, president Alvaro Uribe "is in deep political trouble as his opponents dig up unsavoury evidence of his past," and the Colombian congress is dragged down by scandal. "Big business is also caught up in drug dealing. In March, Chiquita Brands International, a U.S. banana multinational, was fined $25m by the U.S. Justice Department for having funded the AUC, the principal Colombian death squad which is closely linked to international drug-smuggling." Cocaine at record low prices in the U.S.A. Bill to U.S. taxpayers? A bargain at only $25 billion. Concludes O'Shaughnessy, "drugs clearly can't be controlled by armies and police forces."

In a separate unsigned editorial, the Independent on Sunday added, "the world is finally beginning to realise that you can't beat narcotics with machine guns and policemen's truncheons... in parts of the world where the US is not the sole decider of the policy of the international community, more hopeful approaches are being tried. In Afghanistan, the British Government, responsible for security in the poppy-growing areas in the south, may be prepared to allow opium to be produced legally for medical purposes."

In Canada, moves by the minority conservative government of Stephen Harper to portray the supervised injection center in Vancouver as a failure in a pretext to close it, has drawn a firestorm of protest. Reports appeared in the Canadian press last week that top Health Canada officials ordered the debunking of "myths" about the safe injection center, Insite. But experts say the "myths" appear to be something the government just made up. "These 'myths' illustrate the poor understanding of whoever crafted these myths," said Dr. Julio Montaner, clinical director of the B.C. Centre of Excellence for HIV/AIDS. "We have never ever said anything close to this." And why were these straw-man "myths" cooked up in the first place? Admitted one Health Canada official: "the document was developed in reaction to the assertions of Vancouver activists." Ironically, a report in a British medical Journal (Addiction) this week "endorsed the benefits of Vancouver's controversial safe-injection site for heroin addicts," finding, "Insite increased the rate of addicts entering detox by 30 per cent."

Meanwhile, in what may be a first in the history of drug prohibition, "five leading scientists" in Canada publicly announced a "boycott" on "bidding for Health Canada contracts to conduct further research into Insite's operation... We wish to state our deep concern regarding the subversion of science for ideological ends, and express our commitment to speak out against this threat... This case is an alarming example of a recent trend towards the increased politicization of science." The scientists include Dr. Michael Hwang of the Centre for Research on Inner-City Health at St. Michael's Hospital, and Benedikt Fischer, a director of the B.C. Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria.


Pubdate: Sun, 27 May 2007
Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Hugh O'Shaughnessy

America has spent billions battling the drug industry in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. And the result? Production as high as ever, street prices at a low, and the governments of the region in open revolt.


The estimated $25bn (UKP13bn) that Washington has spent trying to control narcotics over the past 15 years in Latin America seems to have been wasted.

In 2005, according to UN guesses - and, amid merciless political spinning of what few facts there are- Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, the main producers of cocaine, had the capacity to produce 910 metric tons a year. As more productive strains of coca bushes appear, production has been increasing. Unsurprisingly, the price of cocaine on U.S. streets has tumbled, according to the White House drug tzar John Walters, to $135 (UKP70) a gram, a fraction of the $600 a gram it was fetching in 1981. The purity of cocaine has gone from 60 per cent in mid-2003 to more than 70 per cent last October. Like the conflict in Iraq, the US's other great war is now being visibly lost.


But the determination of Morales, the leader of a poor country of nine million people, is only a tiny part of Latin America's rejection of the "war on drugs". In a Venezuela enriched by high prices for its oil exports, President Hugo Chavez, himself a political and financial supporter of Morales and ally of Fidel Castro, is placing strict controls on his country's co-operation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The democratically elected Chavez sees the DEA as an arm of a government which was involved with the right-wing coup d'etat in 2002, which toppled him briefly.

He sees it as devoted as much to Washington's political and military strategies in Latin America as to the battle against narcotics. The plain-speaking Chavez, who has called President Bush "a devil", has accused the DEA of spying.

Pedro Carreno, Chavez's justice minister, has said that Venezuela would not allow the DEA to mount anti-drug operations on its territory. Chavez has also forbidden overflights by U.S. government aircraft. Carreno suggested that instead of Plan Colombia, the U.S. "should apply a Plan Washington, New York, or Miami, so that they fly over their own air space, and take care of their coast and border because 85 per cent of the drugs that are produced in Latin America go to the United States."

Now a third Latin American leader, the newly elected President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, has announced that his country will ignore U.S. instructions in the "war on drugs". He has announced that he will no longer allow U.S. forces to occupy a large base at the Pacific port of Manta, which was leased to them by a previous government and which the Pentagon says is used for aircraft monitoring cocaine shipments between Peru and Colombia.


But it is in the Colombian capital city, Bogota, that the "war on drugs" is seriously falling apart. Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe, is in deep political trouble as his opponents dig up unsavoury evidence of his past.


Earlier this month, the Vice President, Francisco Santos announced that "more than 40 members of congress" could go to prison because of their links to drugs and death squads. More than a dozen senators, congressmen and political insiders have been arrested. This month, two police generals were sacked.

The truth is also emerging about the Colombian army, beloved of the U.S. government but widely hated by many Colombians for its closeness to the death squads. Senator Patrick Leahy ordered a temporary freeze on tens of millions of dollars of U.S. military aid after the Colombian army commander, General Mario Montoya, was found to be deeply involved with the death squads.

Leahy condemned the waste of U.S. money in Colombia: "When Plan Colombia began, we were told it would cut by half the amount of cocaine in five years. Six years and $5bn later, it has not had any measurable effect on the amount of cocaine entering our country."

Big business is also caught up in drug dealing. In March, Chiquita Brands International, a U.S. banana multinational, was fined $25m by the US Justice Department for having funded the AUC, the principal Colombian death squad which is closely linked to international drug-smuggling.


The failure to stem the supply of heroin is illustrated by the fall in price of a gram, from UKP70 in 2000 to UKP54 in 2005. The annual number of drug offenders jailed more than doubled between 1994 and 2005 and the average length of their sentences went up. The courts handed out nearly three times as much prison time in 2004 as they did 10 years earlier.

Last month, an inquiry for the UK Drug Policy Commission said: "The research suggests that the greatest reductions in drug-related harm have come from investment in treatment and harm reduction. However, the bulk of expenditure on drug policy in the UK is still devoted to the enforcement of drug laws".

In Britain, as in Latin America, drugs clearly can't be controlled by armies and police forces.


 (19) Editorial: YOU CAN'T FIGHT DRUGS WITH GUNS  ( Top )

Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)
Pubdate: Sun, 27 May 2007
Copyright: Independent Newspapers Ltd.

The worldwide "war on drugs" that relies on armies and police to destroy crops and arrest traffickers has failed. The attempt to suppress the Latin American drugs trade at source, first decreed by Richard Nixon in the 1970s, has achieved nothing. Despite the spending of $25bn(UKP13bn) of U.S. taxpayers' money, cocaine production in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia has increased, as has cocaine consumption in the U.S. and the rest of the rich world.

As Hugh O'Shaughnessy argues today, the world is finally beginning to realise that you can't beat narcotics with machine guns and policemen's truncheons. As this newspaper reported last month, in parts of the world where the U.S. is not the sole decider of the policy of the international community, more hopeful approaches are being tried. In Afghanistan, the British Government, responsible for security in the poppy-growing areas in the south, may be prepared to allow opium to be produced legally for medical purposes. If the price can be set at the right level, Afghan farmers would prefer the lower but more certain returns of growing a legal crop to those of an illegal one. It would bring a large sector of the Afghan economy within the law and make diversification and development more likely.

This is an increasingly urgent issue. As our sister newspaper, The Independent, reported last week, poppy-growing is spreading in the lawless badlands of Iraq. This reversal of the direction of causality from that found in Latin America, where illegal drug production leads to instability and lawlordism, only reinforces the argument against a punitive approach to tackling the sources of narcotics supply. Once illegal drug production is in the hands of gangsters it becomes difficult to prise open their grip.




Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Pubdate: Tue, 29 May 2007
Copyright: 2007 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun

Bureaucrat Gave Order Last Fall, Just Before Health Minister Refused to Extend Vancouver Facility's Permit

OTTAWA -- A top federal health bureaucrat ordered other officials to debunk five "myths" -- widely held but false public views -- about Vancouver's supervised injection site last fall.

The five myths were: That supervised injection sites are "commonly used" in other countries; that they operate "all across Canada;" that they are legal; that they present "a complete solution" to drug-use harms; and that the injection site "has the complete support of the community."

Jo Kennelly, senior policy adviser to Health Minister Tony Clement, ordered the debunking document just before Clement announced his refusal last fall to extend the permit for the site.


The document shoots down each of the so-called myths -- but there is no indication which individuals or groups were espousing these views.


Dr. Julio Montaner, clinical director of the B.C. Centre of Excellence for HIV/AIDS, said it was "stupid" to imply unanimous support.

"These 'myths' illustrate the poor understanding of whoever crafted these myths. We have never ever said anything close to this."


Clement spokesman Erik Waddell said Friday the myth-busting document was developed in reaction to the assertions of Vancouver activists.

"The five statements in that document are representative of statements made to our office by various community groups in Vancouver," Waddell, who didn't identify the groups, said in an e-mail.




Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Pubdate: Fri, 25 May 2007
Copyright: 2007, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Rod Mickleburgh

Use of Centre Increases Rate of Addicts Entering Detox 30%, London-Based Medical Journal Finds

VANCOUVER -- On the eve of the expected unveiling next week of the federal Conservatives' long-waited anti-drug strategy, a significant new study has endorsed the benefits of Vancouver's controversial safe-injection site for heroin addicts, a pilot project many fear Ottawa will end.

The study, published today in the London-based medical journal Addiction, found that use of the city's supervised injection facility known as Insite increased the rate of addicts entering detox by 30 per cent.

As well, the study determined users of North America's only safe-injection site were more likely to reduce their heroin intake and pursue formal treatment programs such as methadone once they left detox.

The dramatic findings appear to echo precisely what the ultimate arbiter of the facility's fate, federal Health Minister Tony Clement, has said Insite needs to demonstrate to prove its worth: lower drug use and success in fighting addiction.

They also fly in the face of an earlier RCMP report critical of the site, asserting there is "considerable evidence" that allowing addicts to shoot up safely increases the use of illegal drugs.


Underscoring widespread skepticism among many researchers over the government's alleged anti-harm-reduction agenda is a decision by five leading scientists to boycott bidding for Health Canada contracts to conduct further research into Insite's operation.

In an open letter to senior Health Canada policy analyst Tracey Donaldson, the group said the five-month time frame is too short, compensation is insufficient and successful bidders must agree to keep mum over their research for six months.

"In no way is that acceptable to any academic," one of the scientists, Benedikt Fischer of the University of Victoria, said yesterday. "And how can anyone produce anything meaningful in such a short time that goes beyond what has already been done by other researchers?




Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Pubdate: Sat, 26 May 2007
Copyright: 2007 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Frances Bula, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - Canadian scientists, doctors and public health researchers have started openly protesting against what they call the federal Conservative government's U.S.-style "politicization of science" in the controversy over supervised-injection centres for drug addicts.

Prominent addictions researchers from B.C., Ontario and Quebec have written an open letter to Health Canada criticizing the department's recent proposal call for new research on the centre in spite of four years of existing research at the site showing positive outcomes.

They say the terms for the new research ensure that it will be superficial, inadequately funded and subject to an unreasonable demand that researchers not be allowed to talk about it for six months after reports are submitted.

"Clearly what that does is to muffle people who might have something to say until after the curtain has dropped on this piece of political theatre," Benedikt Fischer, a director of the B.C. Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria, said in an interview Friday. "Overall, we get the feeling that what this is about is there's an attempt to instrumentalize science in a fairly cheap way for politics."


"We wish to state our deep concern regarding the subversion of science for ideological ends, and express our commitment to speak out against this threat," says the piece by Dr. Michael Hwang of the Centre for Research on Inner-City Health at St. Michael's Hospital. "This case is an alarming example of a recent trend towards the increased politicization of science."


Last month, Health Canada put out a request for proposals in six different areas of research on the site. Among the specifics asked for are the site's impact on overdose rates, users' progression to treatment, public injection and drug-related litter, among others.

There are also contracts for researching the staffing requirements and for comparing Vancouver's drug scene with other cities.



 HOT OFF THE 'NET  ( Top )


New Research in Canada Shows They Reduce HIV, Overdose Deaths, and Even Help Encourage Addicts into Treatment

By Tony Newman


By Bill Conroy,

Rarely do we get a front row seat in the theatre of power when the curtain is pulled back to reveal the set design as it is under construction.


Last: 05/25/07 - Celebration of the life of Dr. Tod Mikuriya with interview segments from the good doctor as well as thoughts and remembrances of his sister Beverly and his friends Michael and Michelle Aldrich and DrugSense's Richard Lake.




By Dr. Tom O'Connell

The flap over Public Health officials' inability to stop a honeymooner from flying round-trip to Europe with a rare, drug resistant form of Tuberculosis begs comparison with the tactics of the drug war, in which heavily armed SWAT teams routinely serve search warrants to look for drugs. The drug war can thus be thought of as merely a variant of Public Health-- one practiced by police in accord with Department of Justice standards -- a kind of Epidemiology run amok.

ON HARMONY ...  ( Top )

By Mary Jane Borden

"It's not necessary to be a government agent provocateur. Even the most well meaning among us can create chaos and division unless we consider our words and actions carefully..." Mike Gray, Common Sense for Drug Policy



Last Chance To Join NORML, Tommy Chong, Anita Thompson, And The Nation's Top Pot Law Attorneys At The 2nd Annual NORML Aspen Legal Seminar

The conference will take place on Friday, June 8 through Sunday, June 10 at the Gant Hotel in downtown Aspen, one of the nation's most marijuana-friendly cities.



By David Hutchison

For the most part, I agree with Alan Ferguson's columns. But at 60, I've also been around long enough to hear all the pros and cons on the subject of drugs.

Considering the size of B.C.'s marijuana industry, it seems the public has made the decision that it is going to take drugs.

I don't support drugs. I just recognize that, if the government abdicates its responsibility to control and distribute drugs, then criminals will take up the slack.

Any suggestion police can control the drug flow is ludicrous.

We have no choice but to begin to realize what America did in the late '30s with alcohol -- that it is better and safer to control distribution and remove crime from the industry.

Gangs like the Hells Angels are making billions, while we have homeless on the street, an over-taxed justice system and the death and destruction of families.

The war is over, and it's time to move on. I say this as a grandfather of four and I don't say it lightly. As families, we must set the best example possible for our children and grandchildren.

But we also have to recognize that prohibition doesn't work -- never has, never will.

David Hutchison New Westminster

Pubdate: Fri, 25 May 2007
Source: Province, The (CN BC)


The Witnesses Who Would Not Witness  ( Top )

By Jo-D Harrison

The only fairly comfortable "players" in any court room setting are the judge and the attorneys. Defendants, with their freedom on the line, usually carry the majority of the pressure. Jurors, who often hate the fact that they are even present, slowly realize that the defendant's fate is in their hands. This week, though, it was 7 citizens proudly refusing to participate as prosecutorial witnesses who reminded us that the full power of the court can strike all those who enter it.

The judge issued the following stern warning to each witness:

"I also want you to understand that should you refuse the Court's order, which is to testify in accordance with the -- in response to the prosecution's questions, I can hold you in contempt and if I hold you in contempt, you then will be subject to certain penalties, including the possibility of incarceration or fines -- and/or fines.

In addition, the Government has the possibility of seeking a criminal indictment against you for failure to follow the Court's order."

Fortunately all witnesses were set free in the recent Rosenthal re-trial, but, none of them knew this as they uttered the following statements:

ETIENNE HERSCH FONTAN: "With respect to the Court, Your Honor, I, as an American citizen and a veteran of this country, I see this as no reason to answer any of these questions. I completely disagree with this Court's actions with all respect to the Court. And I cannot proceed with any answering of any of your questions.

As a sovereign American citizen, I disagree with this Court's actions and I respect the Court, and I respect the words you have spoken toward me. But I stand firmly in my belief that I will not answer any of the questions. And I understand the repercussions that are available.

I've been a product of this system before in the military. I understand the incarceration and what the Government can do to me, and I've been the subject of its guinea pig as a Gulf War veteran and I've suffered because of that. And there is nothing you can do to change my mind. I stand firmly behind my belief."

BRIAN LUNDEEN: "I'm going to refuse to answer questions. I love to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and if I swear to do that, I'm going to by God get the opportunity."

EVAN SCHWARTZ: "I respectfully refuse to answer this question."

DEBORAH JOE GOLDSBERRY: "Sir, respectfully, again, I feel like this prosecution is against the will of my community, against the will of the voters of the United States, not just of California. I believe that it is causing imminent harm, potentially death to my friends, my family, the people that I love. I believe it would be immoral and illegal for me to participate.

And as much as I respect the Court, I can't wait until you guys are on our side of this thing. This thing is going to change, and I appreciate that, and I'm sure you all do. I have no idea why we are here. This is a literal joke.

And the truth is I can't participate. I have thought about the harm. I've taken the threats seriously. They have sent the DEA after me. I am living in fear and that is going to do nothing to break my will because I'm a good citizen. I support this community."

JAMES SCOTT BLAIR, aka JIM SQUATTER: "At this time, I guess I'm defying the Court's order."

CORY OKIE: "With all due respect to the Court, I refuse to answer that question."

Jo-D Harrison is our DrugSense Membership Coordinator and part of our Web Support Team.


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