This Just In
(1)Editorial: New York's 'Crack Tax'
(2)Vt. House OKs Hemp Farming Bill
(3)Lawmaker Addressing Medical Marijuana
(4)Delay Derails Police Corruption Charges

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 THIS JUST IN  ( Top )


Pubdate: Fri, 1 Feb 2008
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times

Gov. Eliot Spitzer has a plan to fill his state's budget hole, one drug dealer at a time.

There aren't many state governors trickier than Arnold Schwarzenegger when it comes to budget sleight of hand, but New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is Siegfried to his Roy. Spitzer's approach to his state's serious budget shortfall -- and it's so crafty that our pride is a little wounded because our governor didn't think of it first -- involves imposing a new tax on a group so universally despised that few voters could possibly object: drug dealers.

Spitzer's proposal, dubbed the "crack tax" by Gotham wags, is a sales tax on drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. Logicians and other wet blankets would argue that you can't tax an illegal product whose sales are of necessity off the public books, but that isn't quite true. After you've convicted a drug offender, you can seize his cash and other assets as taxes on the narcotics found in his possession.

Of course, that would be illegal if the dealer or addict never had an opportunity to pay the tax to begin with, and crystal meth profits aren't the kind of thing you can report on a 1040. New York has a solution for this: Dealers would be able to buy tax stamps from state authorities, costing $3.50 per gram of marijuana and $200 per gram of more powerful mind-melters such as cocaine and heroin, which they could then affix to their stash. If the cops raided a warehouse and turned up neatly stamped packs of crack, the dealer would still face drug charges, but at least he would be free of the tax bite. Of course, neither Spitzer nor anyone else actually expects drug dealers to buy the stamps; they're a necessary fiction.

The remarkable thing about the crack tax is that some version of it already exists in 29 states. Even more remarkable is that California, which never tires of piling new levies on social misfits like cigarette smokers, isn't one of them. Maybe that's because new taxes require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature in this state, and the crack tax is too wacky even for Left Coasters. Or because it's more than a little creepy to make the state reliant on drug sales to balance its books. Or perhaps it's that once one sets off down the road of taxing illegal activity, there's no telling where it will end. One New York assemblyman wondered aloud what kind of stamp authorities would affix to prostitutes if the governor decided to propose another kind of sin tax.




Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jan 2008
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Rutland Herald
Author: Peter Hirschfeld, Vermont Press Bureau

A controversial plant moved through the Statehouse without much controversy Wednesday.

Lawmakers in the House Agriculture Committee unanimously approved a bill that would allow Vermont farmers to grow hemp, a benign cousin of marijuana that boasts a variety of industrial applications.


"Eventually, the federal government is going to have to change its policy on hemp," said Amy Shollenberger, executive director of Rural Vermont. "We see this bill ... as making sure farmers in Vermont are on the front lines when it does."


Rep. David Zuckerman, a Burlington Progressive, chairs the House Agriculture Committee. He said Wednesday that testimony from law enforcement officials in Canada, where hemp is legal, indicate the two plants are easily distinguished.


Lawmakers in the Agriculture Committee said they hope to see the bill go to a floor vote soon.



Pubdate: Fri, 1 Feb 2008
Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin (HI)
Copyright: 2008 Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Author: Helen Altonn

Although marijuana for medical purposes is legal in Hawaii, patients authorized to use the plant are being hassled by law enforcement agencies and others, said Maui Rep. Joe Bertram III.

The major problem is patient access to marijuana, a gray area in the seven-year-old law, Bertram (D, Makena-Kihei) said yesterday, announcing legislation to "tighten it up with better management."

One of his measures (House Bill 2678), being heard today by the House Health Committee, would authorize the state Department of Health to develop a secure growing facility on Maui for medical marijuana. A facilitator would make space available to patients or caregivers for a total of as many as 98 plants at one time.

A second bill, HB 2675, would allow a qualified patient to use marijuana for medical purposes with written certification from another state instead of a certificate from Hawaii's Department of Public Safety.

Keith Kamita, chief of the state Narcotics Enforcement Division, which administers the medical marijuana law, said a growing facility would violate federal law.


As of Wednesday, Kamita said, 4,047 Hawaii patients had received medical marijuana cards, and 368 caregivers and 124 physicians are participating in the program.

Joining Bertram at a news conference at the Capitol were Alan Doherty, a Big Island disabled veteran; Joseph Rattner, diagnosed with HIV 15 years ago; and Brian Murphy, executive director, Maui County Citizens for Democracy in Action and Patients Without Time.

Doherty, 84, said he comes to Honolulu at times for treatment at Tripler Army Medical Center and brought some marijuana with him on a recent trip because of pain in an injured foot.

It was seized at the airport, and six months later Hawaii County prosecutors charged him with transporting a detrimental drug, he said. He received a six-month suspended sentence and is on probation, he said.




Pubdate: Fri, 1 Feb 2008
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2008 Southam Inc.
Authors: Chris Wattie and Kelly Grant, National Post

Victory for Six Toronto Officers

A judge has thrown out corruption charges against six Toronto police officers, citing the 10-year delay in bringing their case to trial and sharply rebuking Crown prosecutors for what he called "the glacial progress of this prosecution."

Defence lawyers said it was a victory for the officers who were investigated as part of the longest and most expensive police corruption probe in Canadian history, at a cost of more than $3- million. Justice Ian Nordheimer, of Ontario Superior Court, yesterday stayed a total of 29 charges against the officers, all former members of the Toronto police drug squad, because of the long delay.

"I repeat that no explanation for the glacial progress of this prosecution has been offered," the judge said, reading his lengthy ruling. "In the absence of such an explanation, given the amount of time that has passed ... I have concluded that the delay in this case is unreasonable and constitutes a violation of each of the [defendants] rights under ... the Charter."

The officers had applied to the judge to throw out the charges, citing the Charter's guarantee of their right to be tried "within a reasonable time."

Their trials were set to begin this month, more than four years after they were charged and nearly 10 years after the investigation began into allegations of corruption on the Toronto police central field command drug squad.

Staff Sergeant John Schertzer, Constable Steven Correia, Constable Joseph Miched, Constable Raymond Pollard, Constable Ned Maodus and Constable Richard Benoit were charged after an RCMP-led task force conducted the investigation.

They were accused of obstruction of justice, attempt to obstruct justice, perjury, assault causing bodily harm, extortion and theft for allegedly falsifying their notes and internal police records, giving false testimony in court and to obtain search warrants and failing to account for evidence seized from crime scenes, such as drugs or money. All the allegations involved confidential informants and drug dealers, at least one of whom alleged he was assaulted by the police in an effort to obtain information.





The scare tactics over federal prison sentencing reforms continue. This week, the new U.S. Attorney General raised fears that people convicted of crack offenses who are now eligible for early release will run amok once they are released - so the administration is trying find more money to allegedly help communities deal with an influx of ex-cons, probably offsetting any savings offered by sentencing reform. And speaking of disconnected thinking, citizens of the United States will be paying a television network its highest ad rates on Super Bowl Sunday to be convinced that our medicine cabinets are evil entities.

And in state news, the Governor of Hawaii wants drug tests for teachers, but she doesn't want to pay for them; and a newspaper doesn't understand why an Alaska school district can't get over the whole Bong Hits 4 Jesus episode.


Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jan 2008
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2008 The Washington Post Company
Author: Darryl Fears, Washington Post Staff Writer

Possible Early Release for Crack Cocaine Offenders Is Cited as Rationale

The Bush administration announced yesterday that it is seeking $200 million to help cities fight violent crime, citing as one of its reasons, the U.S. Sentencing Commission's decision to give convicted crack cocaine offenders a chance for an earlier release.

Speaking before the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said that "a sudden influx of criminals from federal prison into your communities could lead to a surge in new victims as a tragic, but predictable, result."

"We need to do all we can in education, job training, drug treatment, housing and other reentry preparation for all of these offenders who could be released," Mukasey added. "We need time to develop all of that and to roll it out -- time that blanket retroactivity might not allow us."

Mukasey's remarks highlighted the rift between the administration and the commission, whose members scolded Justice Department officials last year for misrepresenting their decision in May to relax harsh sentencing guidelines for future crack offenders and a subsequent decision in December to make the new policy retroactive to current inmates.




Pubdate: Thu, 24 Jan 2008
Source: Advertising Age (US)
Copyright: 2008 Crain Communications Inc.
Author: Ira Teinowitz

Super Bowl Spot Cautions Against Prescription-Drug Abuse by Teens

WASHINGTON -- The White House drug office will use its first Super Bowl spot in four years to caution that the biggest teen drug danger could be the legal medicines stored in parents' medicine chests.

The White House drug office's Super Bowl spot features a drug dealer complaining that his business is down because teens are getting high from abusing drugs in the medicine cabinet.

The spot is part of a 12-week multimedia campaign that for the first time switches the focus from teens to their parents, and delivers a loud warning that it's no longer just illegal drugs that put teens at risk.

The $14 million push, which will get $28 million in airtime, was produced by Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Draft is the drug office's agency, but the creative is produced by a number of agencies.

The Super Bowl spot, to air at the close of the first half, features a drug dealer complaining that his business is down because teens are getting high from abusing drugs in the medicine cabinet. It ends with an announcer saying: "Teens don't need a drug dealer to get high, safeguard your prescriptions. Safeguard you teens."

Fox has been asking up to $3 million for a Super Bowl spot. Drug office officials declined to say what the government paid, but said the spot was purchased well in advance at a good price. Under the youth anti-drug program, media companies have to provide a free spot of similar media weight for every spot the government buys. Those free spots will occur in other Fox programming.

Newspaper ads and a second TV ad will follow, and the drug office is also buying ads on bags used by pharmacists to dispense prescription drugs.

Spending on the drug ad program has been declining. Only $60 million was authorized by Congress this year, less than half of the $130 million requested and less than a third of the spending in the campaign's early days. The cuts led the drug office to suspend a second campaign aimed at parents and influencers and to concentrate on teens. National ads are about marijuana and other illegal drugs; an anti-methamphetamine campaign also runs in some markets.




Pubdate: Sat, 26 Jan 2008
Source: Honolulu Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2008 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Author: Dan Nakaso

Pay raises promised to Hawai'i's 13,500 public school teachers cannot go into effect if the state Board of Education and Department of Education do not come up with $400,000 to $500,000 for a teacher drug-testing program that Gov. Linda Lingle insisted on, Lingle's spokesman said yesterday.

"If parts of the contract are not implemented, then the contract cannot take effect," Russell Pang said. "The drug-testing provision is part of the contract."

Hawai'i teachers last year ratified a two-year contract that calls for 4 percent raises at the start of the current school year, and a salary-scale step movement and another 4 percent raise at the start of the second semester this year.

In the final week of contract talks last year, union negotiators said Lingle inserted the random drug-testing provision into the contract, which split members of the Hawai'i State Teachers Association.

Thursday night, the state Board of Education voted unanimously to not fund the program.

"It's a matter of where the money's going to come from," BOE chairwoman Donna Ikeda said yesterday. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm not taking it from the kids."

Ikeda also said that teachers have already received their pay increases.




Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jan 2008
Source: Juneau Empire (AK)
Copyright: 2008 Southeastern Newspaper Corp

The Juneau School District's decision to go after former student Joseph Frederick to pay its court fees demonstrates how the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" saga has degenerated.

The district appears to be acting out of spite, especially if one considers that $5,000 is just a drop in the bucket compared to its overall operating budget.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the school district did indeed have the right to suspend Frederick from school after he unfurled a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a 2002 Olympic torch rally, a school-sponsored event.

Back in November, Frederick's attorney Doug Mertz offered to drop the case if the Juneau School District paid $8,000 to his client and $20,000 for legal fees. The Juneau School Board refused, and Mertz promptly filed an appeal over state constitutional issues with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

What started as a quest to ensure Alaska students' free speech rights - - a worthy cause - has fizzled. After losing twice in court last year - - and once in the nation's highest court - Frederick and Mertz should put this issue to rest. The school district shouldn't have to compensate Frederick for his failed lawsuits.




Prohibition-related corruption keeps rising to more elite levels - this week it's a group of Army Rangers, along with more run-of-the- mill corruption at other places around the country. And, in Texas, a student narrowly escapes prosecution for smelling a teacher's hand sanitizer - though the school district did mete out punishment for the offense.


Pubdate: Sat, 26 Jan 2008
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2008 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Bill Rankin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Three U.S. Army Rangers and another soldier were charged Friday with drug conspiracy after agreeing to an undercover scheme that involved the armed robbery of purported cocaine traffickers.

When three of the men --- Carlos Lopez, 30, Stefan Andre Champagne, 28, and David Ray White, 28, all staff sergeants --- were arrested Thursday, they had an assault rifle, semi-automatic pistols, 15 magazines of ammunition, a TASER, a ski mask and a medic kit. The soldiers, two of whom were armed, were taken by surprise and arrested by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' SWAT team and Sandy Springs police officers.

The other soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Randy Spivey, a 32-year-old Ranger instructor who has been in the Army since October 1997, was arrested Friday.

The four men were stationed at a Ranger training facility, Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega. Lopez, White and Spivey are Rangers, and Champagne is a medic. The men's hometowns were not available.

If convicted, all four face mandatory minimum 15-year prison sentences --- 10 years for the drug conspiracy plus five more years for the weapons charge.

"It is a sad day when members of one of America's most elite corps of soldiers, the Army Rangers, are alleged to have become involved in criminal activity," said U.S. Attorney David Nahmias. "These men were trained to defend the people and principles of this country, not to use their skills to steal cocaine from drug dealers at gunpoint."




Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jan 2008
Source: Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH)
Copyright: 2008 The Plain Dealer
Author: John Caniglia, Plain Dealer Reporter

One man was actually on a flight to Chicago when police said he sold them drugs on the streets of Mansfield.

Another suspected dealer, a 6-foot-4 giant with a gap-toothed smile, was mistaken in a cocaine buy for someone nearly a foot shorter and 70 pounds lighter.

In another case, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent picked a woman out of a lineup who he said sold him drugs -- with the agent using a sixthgrade class picture that was more than 10 years old.

All of these deals were fiction, made up by government informant Jerrell Bray.

But in spite of what should have been obvious red flags in Bray's stories, federal prosecutors built a sweeping drug conspiracy against 26 people in Mansfield. Eighteen went to prison, collectively sentenced to more than 90 years in prison.

Last week, prosecutors were forced to take it all back. They went to a judge and asked that 15 men convicted in the case be released from prison. So far, 23 of 26 cases have been tossed out by judges or juries.

U.S. Attorney Greg White supervised the cases -- cases he now regrets. A review of the record raises numerous questions about whether the cases should have been pursued in the first place. The issues raised go to the heart of the fundamental fairness of the justice system.

Questions about the credibility of the case's star witnesses came up early, police agencies ran a haphazard investigation, and drug agents failed to monitor their own informant, according to court records and interviews.




Pubdate: Sat, 26 Jan 2008
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2008 Orlando Sentinel
Author: Jim Leusner, Staff Writer

Cigarettes, drugs and phones commanded a premium price behind bars, authorities say.

Even behind the walls of two high-security federal prisons in Sumter County, inmates can find the things they enjoyed on the outside -- cigarettes, cigars, cellular phones, drugs and even a knife.

On Friday, federal prosecutors and prison officials announced criminal cases that have quietly been filed against nine employees at the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman. An inmate and a correctional officer's girlfriend were also charged.

Most were accused of receiving bribes of up to $20,000 for smuggling forbidden items into facilities there since 2005, including marijuana and heroin. Much of the smuggling activity involved tobacco products, which were banned from federal prisons in April 2006.

"It was about money, all about greed," said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Adams, the No. 2 person in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida. "They could make $100 for a pack of cigarettes. It was about making what looked like easy money."




Pubdate: Sat, 26 Jan 2008
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2008 The Dallas Morning News
Author: Wendy Hundley, The Dallas Morning News

Lewisville: Case Involved Middle-Schooler Who Smelled Teacher's Sanitizer

Denton County prosecutors decided Friday to wash their hands of a case against a Lewisville middle school student accused of trying to get high by sniffing his teacher's hand sanitizer.

Three days after filing delinquency charges against the youth, prosecutors did a turnaround and decided that the common cleaning gel is not an abusive inhalant under the Texas Health and Safety Code.

"It's not a crime. Hand sanitizer does not fall within that statute," said Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney in Denton County. "The police agency brought it up mistakenly thinking it was."

Richard Ortiz, the father of the seventh-grader, welcomed the news late Friday but expressed frustration that the case, which began in October, went as far as it did.

"I'm glad the DA's office decided they made a mistake, but they didn't decide that until after I hired a lawyer and the media got involved," said Mr. Ortiz.

Mr. Ortiz, who asked that his 14-year-old son's name not be published, said the boy was embarrassed and humiliated by the charge. He described his son as a well-behaved teenager who makes good grades.




The City of Berkeley has declared itself a sanctuary from the DEA for medicinal cannabis patients and dispensaries. How their resolution will be implemented remains to be seen.

Drug policy reformers have long argued that cannabis legalization will not lead to vending machines. Oops. The device is armored, videotaped, guarded and secured by a magnetic ID card reader ... more like an ATM than a candy dispenser, but that hasn't prevented the media from having a field day.

Contradicting a large and robust body of epidemiological evidence, and an even larger and more robust population of geriatric hippies and Rastafarians, a team of researchers from New Zealand and Britain prophesied a pandemic of panting potheads.

A "Heads vs. Feds" debate between former High Times Editor Steve Hager and the former head of New York City's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) inspired students to get active, perhaps explaining why prohibitionists are so reluctant to appear at such events.


Pubdate: Wed, 30 Jan 2008
Source: Daily Californian, The (UC Berkeley, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2008 The Daily Californian
Author: Jane Shin

Berkeley City Council members unanimously approved a resolution last night to declare Berkeley a sanctuary for medicinal marijuana in the event of federal interference with dispensaries.

The resolution, which was received with overwhelming support and applause from the audience, opposes attempts by the Drug Enforcement Administration to conduct raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in Berkeley, and urges city, county and state departments to not cooperate in the event that a raid occurs.

By claiming itself as a sanctuary, Berkeley have committed to ensuring that residents are provided access to medicinal marijuana if dispensaries in the city are shut down.

"It's frightening when I go to a dispensary," said Berkeley resident Patricia Crossman, who said she has been using medical marijuana for more than ten years. "There's that fear we're going to be raided. .. We mustn't penalize everyone because of this."




Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jan 2008
Source: Los Angeles Daily News (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Author: Brandon Lowrey, Staff Writer

Vending machines have long been used to hawk everything from Skittles and sandwiches to juice and java, but now one is being used to offer a new product: medical marijuana.

Not just anyone can pop some coins in and get some bud. The machine, developed by Los Angeles medical-marijuana dispensary owner Vincent Mehdizadeh, gives up to an ounce of pot per week only to preapproved patients.

The specialized machine installed Monday at Herbal Nutrition Center - a medical-marijuana dispensary on La Cienega Boulevard - requires fingerprint identification as well as a special prepaid card.

"I wanted to take steps to benefit the industry," said Mehdizadeh, who owns two dispensaries. "We have legitimate patients that need us."

Mehdizadeh's machine is far from the standard potato-chip model. The black, armored box is bolted to the floor at the entrance to the dispensary.

It has a card swiper, a video camera that also takes a snapshot of any user and adds it to a database, and is protected by armed security guards.


But others are wary of the impersonal technology, including Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of NORML, a nonprofit, public-interest lobby that opposes marijuana prohibition.

Gieringer said personal interaction is a necessary part of the medical-marijuana buying process.

"The odor of cannabis often tells a lot about its qualities and also, if you inspect it closely you can sometimes tell whether it has mold and things like that," said Gieringer, a co-author of the state's Compassionate Use Law.




Pubdate: Wed, 30 Jan 2008
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 Reuters

Smoking a joint is equivalent to 20 cigarettes in terms of lung cancer risk, scientists in New Zealand have found, as they warned of an "epidemic" of lung cancers linked to cannabis.

Studies in the past have demonstrated that cannabis can cause cancer, but few have established a strong link between cannabis use and the actual incidence of lung cancer.

In an article published in the European Respiratory Journal, the scientists said cannabis could be expected to harm the airways more than tobacco as its smoke contained twice the level of carcinogens, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, compared with tobacco cigarettes.

The method of smoking also increases the risk, since joints are typically smoked without a proper filter and almost to the very tip, which increases the amount of smoke inhaled. The cannabis smoker inhales more deeply and for longer, facilitating the deposition of carcinogens in the airways.

"Cannabis smokers end up with five times more carbon monoxide in their bloodstream (than tobacco smokers)," said team leader Richard Beasley at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand.

"There are higher concentrations of carcinogens in cannabis smoke ... what is intriguing to us is there is so little work done on cannabis when there is so much done on tobacco."


"Cannabis use could already be responsible for one in 20 lung cancers diagnosed in New Zealand," he added.

"In the near future we may see an 'epidemic' of lung cancers connected with this new carcinogen. And the future risk probably applies to many other countries, where increasing use of cannabis among young adults and adolescents is becoming a major public health problem."



Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jan 2008
Source: Athens News, The (OH)
Copyright: 2008, Athens News
Author: Mike Ludwig, Athens News Campus Reporter

Hundreds of Ohio University students packed into Baker Center Theater to see the "Heads vs. Feds" debate Thursday night, and the size of the crowd alone was proof that the legalization of marijuana, four decades after the '60s, remains an issue of students' concern.

The debate pitted former High Times Editor Steve Hager against the former head of New York City's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The spirited presentation inspired some students to create a pro- cannabis group on campus.

"It's fun and empowering to be an activist, and it's fun and empowering to change bad laws," Hager told the audience during his closing statement. He suggested that students who are interested in legalizing marijuana should get serious and start a chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) or Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) on campus.

"When wars end, people celebrate in the streets," Hager said. "When this war ends, we will celebrate."

Despite their different perspectives, Hager and his opponent, former DEA agent Robert Stutman, agreed on the benefits of students getting involved in social and political issues.

"The day the majority of Americans vote to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, I will support it," Stutman said.

The agent encouraged young people seeking to change America's drug policy to realize that most people don't want to liberalize the laws and encourage marijuana use. They should try to change social attitudes and public policy. Students should put their opinions on the election ballot and "play by the rules" if they want to be taken seriously.

Hager and Stutman's advice did not fall on dead ears. Interested students stuck around after the debate to meet the debaters and discuss the issue. OU junior Bill Hein said he spoke with Hager about the prospect of starting an OU chapter of NORML or SSDP for about 20 minutes after the debate. Hager suggested starting an SSDP chapter as a way to build membership and bolster student support, according to Hein.


For more information on the debate series, visit



While Thailand enjoyed a brief respite from harsh extra-legal quota-driven police executions of drug suspects in recent years, it looks like that nation is headed back into yet another drug war as the new Thai government plans to take up where the Thaksin Shinawatra regime left off. "The Thaksin government's drugs war... was a failure because it violated people's rights and never brought any big-time drug dealers to justice," said Angkhana Neelaphaijit, chairwoman of the Working Group on Justice for Peace. Thai sources put the death toll at 2,500 drug suspects: "people suspected of dealing in drugs were shot dead; their bodies were found dumped along the roadside."

Canada's right-wing government led by Stephen Harper has no money for drug treatment for those in prison. But there's plenty of money for a prison building boom and spending spree on crown prosecutors for an expected tsunami of pot-arrests: a bonanza for police and prison industries. A report produced for Harper appointee Stockwell Day - which the Harper administration has been sitting on since October - painted a bleak picture. Funds "will be going into buildings and not programming. There's very little programming now and this means there'll be even less," Jane Griffiths, president of the Church Council on Justice and Corrections."My anxiety," adds Craig Jones, of the John Howard Society, "is that the government is preparing to build and fill -- to lock more people up, but not to treat them."

Once in prison, marijuana "offenders" are likely to be exposed to the very "harder drugs" prohibitionists piously claim they are protecting them from. "It's impossible to stop the flow of drugs into the jail," admitted one exasperated jail official in the Canadian city of Brantford, Ontario. Officials were scrambling to explain how Bernard McNeil died of an oxycodone overdose, while an inmate in the city jail.

In the UK, a similar story came to light this week when a Freedom of Information Act request pried loose the fact that there were some 450 drug "finds" discovered by authorities in one UK prison alone, over the past three years. "One 30-year-old former Holme House prisoner... claimed more than half of inmates used drugs."


Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jan 2008
Source: Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Copyright: The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2008
Author: Anucha Charoenpo

Focus / Narcotics Suppression

The new government's plan to launch its own "war on drugs" may please supporters of coalition leader People Power, a party believed to be the reincarnation of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra's disbanded Thai Rak Thai. But those opposed to the move - human rights defenders, community leaders and anti-drugs officials - are far from thrilled. The first war on drugs declared by the government of Mr Thaksin from Feb 1 to April 30, 2003 resulted in the deaths of over 2,500 so-called drug suspects. It caused an uproar among human rights activists, who viewed the crusade as giving law enforcement authorities a licence to kill, without allowing suspects recourse to due process of the law.

They now fear that if the campaign is to be revived under the same concept, it could lead to even more deaths.

"I never thought the Thaksin government's drugs war was successful. In fact it was a failure because it violated people's rights and never brought any big-time drug dealers to justice," said Angkhana Neelaphaijit, chairwoman of the Working Group on Justice for Peace.


Mr Thaksin declared the war on drugs in 2003 as part of a national policy, in the hope of wiping out widespread drug abuse. At first, the campaign was well received across the country as drug abuse was a real scourge many households could identify with.

After some time, however, the government began facing a barrage of criticism, as many felt the suppression part of the campaign was being carried out too heavy-handedly, with arrests being made - and extra-judicial killings being carried out - simply to attain pre-set goals.

Many people suspected of dealing in drugs were shot dead; their bodies were found dumped along the roadside. Police responsible for investigating these unnatural deaths simply told the public the deceased were likely to have been involved in narcotics and eliminated by drug gangs.




Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jan 2008
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Richard Foot, The Ottawa Citizen


Social agencies working in the federal prison system say the Conservative government is ignoring the stark warnings in two recent reports -- that public safety is at risk because inmates can't get the treatment or training they need before finishing their sentences.

The annual report of the correctional investigator, and a special review of the prison system commissioned by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, paint an alarming picture of Canada's failure to rehabilitate its convicts before they return to the street.

"It's a huge challenge for the Correctional Service of Canada to provide programming," says Hugh Osler, executive director of the Salvation Army's corrections branch in Toronto.

"I have no doubt that lack of money and resources are an issue."


"Our major concern is that any new money will be going into buildings and not programming. There's very little programming now and this means there'll be even less."

"My anxiety," adds Craig Jones, of the John Howard Society, "is that the government is preparing to build and fill -- to lock more people up, but not to treat them."

The government has said little about either the correctional investigator's report or that of the correctional service review panel, since receiving both studies last October.

Mr. Day says the government is still studying the reports and "sorting through the recommendations."


"There may be a situation or individual case where part of a program may not be immediately accessible," he said in an interview. "The far greater problem is when offenders refuse to take any kind of program because they know they're automatically going to get out (on statutory release), whether they show an interest in education or work or not. That's the larger problem."




Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jan 2008
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 The Brantford Expositor
Author: Vincent Ball

Illegal drugs make it into the city jail despite a thorough strip-search of inmates before they enter the maximum security facility, a coroner's inquest into an inmate's death heard Thursday.

"It's really difficult. It's impossible to stop the flow of drugs into the jail," Dave Wilson, the jail's deputy superintendent, said after explaining the numerous ways inmates get drugs.


syringe found

Investigators were also told that McNeil had not said anything that would suggest he was suicidal.

McGilvery testified that when he showed up for work on the night of March 17, he was told that a syringe with a line on it had been found.


Dr. Marie Elliot, of the centre, testified that traces of Oxycondone - - a narcotic painkiller - could be found on the syringe. The blood samples revealed high, fatal levels of oxycondone.


She said a lot of illicit drugs are brought into the jail.




Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jan 2008
Source: Northern Echo, The (UK)
Copyright: 2008 Newsquest Media Group

NEARLY 450 drugs finds have been discovered in a North-East prison in the last three years, it has been revealed.

Between November 2004 and 2007, there were 443 incidents in which drugs - both illegal substances and unlawfully held prescriptions - were discovered at Holme House Prison, Stockton.

In 2005, there were 191 drug discoveries at Holme House, compared to 98 in 2006 and 142 between January 1 and November 6 last year.

The figures, revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, include all drug discoveries made in the prison - on prisoners, visitors or in cells.

Recently fears were raised over the growing use of drugs such as heroin substitute Subutex as a recreational drug in jails.

One 30-year-old former Holme House prisoner, a recovering heroin addict from Stockton, claimed more than half of inmates used drugs.



 HOT OFF THE 'NET  ( Top )


For purposes of propaganda analysis, Doug Snead has transcribed the dialog from this film and added some direction to match the movie.


A protest and education site by drug policy researcher and educator Dr. Susan Boyd in partnership with Beyond Prohibition Coalition, a Vancouver-based group that promotes community health, safety and drug policy reform.


By Milagros Gamero, The Huffington Post

Recently, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made news in the United States when he made a statement indicating that his friend, Bolivian President Evo Morales, sends him coca leaves, which he chews on a daily basis, without any negative health effects. This raised many an eyebrow among members of the Bush administration.


By Dominic Holden

Scared you'll be hit by a procession of Hearses carrying hemp caskets? Don't be. You should be scared of articles like this one.


Operation Two-Fold

By Douglas Valentine

The DEA and its predecessor federal drug law enforcement organizations have always been infiltrated and, to varying degrees, managed by America's intelligence agencies.


By Paul Armentano

U.S. arrests for pot possession were up to 739,000 in 2006. And the cost to tax payers? $1 billion a year.


Century of Lies - 01/29/08 - Paul Wright

Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News discusses "Prison Profiteers - Who Makes Money From Mass Incarceration" the new book he co-edited.

Cultural Baggage Radio Show - 01/30/08 - Patrick McCann

Patrick McCann, President of Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association on his recent Op-Ed in the Houston Chronicle regarding jailing of mentally ill, prosecution of minor drug offenses, crime lab fiasco, second chances for first time offenders and the death penalty.


By Pete Guither

The idea is to develop the skill of being able to make an argument for drug policy reform quickly (in the time you might have riding with someone on an elevator). And not only that -- but to target your argument to the interests of your audience.


Ignore the Sleazy Pollsters Who Want You to Cave on Drug Reform

By Steven Wishnia

The Dem candidates have good positions on medical marijuana, but they need to stand up for comprehensive changes in our drug laws.


By Steve Rolles, Transform Drug Policy Foundation.

When the endlessly tedious cannabis classification debate makes one of its biannual return visits to the political landscape the media can't seem to help themselves but scout around for 'cannabis bad for you' stories.



DrugSense FOCUS Alert #361 - Sunday, 27 Jan 2008

In the latest blow to medical marijuana rights, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers can fire workers who test positive for the drug, even when it is used under a physician's advice.

Please write letters to the editor to your local newspapers giving your views about the decision.



By Charles Marxer

Re: Canada shirks its duty in Prince of Pot case, Editorial, Jan. 16

This editorial got the point exactly right: Canada has exposed its feckless and incoherent approach to drug enforcement. When laws are enforced inconsistently and therefore unfairly, citizens become contemptuous of the law and of the government -- very unhealthy for a democracy. Add to this the obvious fact that, in this case, the Canadian government has allowed another government to dictate judgment and ( overly harsh ) sentence, and we are all left with a very ugly taste in the mouth.

Marc Emery was allowed to carry on with his marijuana seed distribution business because the Canadian authorities know the public does not regard the activity as a crime nor the end use of the weed as particularly harmful. If it weren't for pressure from the U.S., Canada would have decriminalized pot possession and selling seeds years ago. It is time for Canada to reclaim its justice system, expel the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials from Canadian soil, pardon Emery, and proceed with long-overdue liberalization of its drug control laws.

Charles Marxer, White Rock

Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jan 2008
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)



By Stephen Young

I was mildly irritated as my State Rep. walked away from my driveway, but I didn't get really mad until I read the pink paper handout he left.

The pink paper congratulated the State Rep. (who has been a member of the Illinois House for about 5 years) for his efforts to force insurance companies to pay for breast cancer screenings. I'm not at all opposed to breast cancer screenings, but after the conversation I just had with the State Rep., I felt he was exploiting cancer victims more than he was willing to help them.

Since his ignorance did not seem totally calculated, I won't name him here. However, followers of Illinois politics may recognize him as the only Democrat in the House of Representatives who, less than a year ago, served as a Republican in that same Illinois House.

I was shovelling my driveway and ready to take a little break when a perky, bright-faced woman walked up and introduced herself as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. She said she was out talking to people about why they should support the incumbent State Rep. in my district, and that he would be along in a moment if I had any questions for him.

I asked the perky State Representative from another district if she was a Republican or Democrat. She said she was a Democrat and that the Democratic Party in Illinois was so glad to have a forward thinker like my State Rep. joining their ranks, so the Democratic Party can continue to strive for change to make Illinois a better place.

I asked how she voted on medical marijuana. That never got out of committee, she said. It took me a moment to remember, but it did get out of committee in the Illinois Senate, but then the Senate (Democrat-controlled, like most branches of state government in Illinois) voted it down. So she didn't get to vote on the bill herself. However, she said, as a former prosecutor she believed that the state should be supporting more treatment and less incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.

I said that wasn't a terrible idea, and I would have asked why her party doesn't do something about it, but since I have two friends who are dealing with the toxic side effects of cancer treatments right now, the medical cannabis issue was actually more important to me.

"How would you vote on medical marijuana?" I asked.

She was hemming and hawing about seeing details when my own State Rep. caught up with her.

"This is Steve and he has a question, I think, about medical marijuana," she told my State Rep. as he reached out to shake my hand.

My State Rep. said he would support the right of doctors to prescribe medical marijuana, without explaining how patients would get it.

I laughed a little and said that it was great of him to support the free speech rights already granted to citizens by the U.S. Constitution. I told him I had friends going to cancer treatments, and that many people going through such treatments report bad side effects being alleviated by cannabis.

I said that the medical marijuana bill rejected by his colleagues in the Illinois Senate last year wasn't even all that great, since it doesn't really have a quick supply mechanism, and people don't really plan in advance enough to grow plants in time for sudden chemotherapy.

But beyond that, I asked, don't you think people who are very sick should have every option? He didn't disagree, but he said he was concerned those who weren't really sick might get the opportunity to legally use cannabis. So he would have to carefully consider the details before committing one way or the other.

Likely sensing he had nothing more to gain from the conversation, he quickly changed gears, handed me a small stack of papers, and asked if he could count on my support in the upcoming primary.

I waved the papers and said I'd have to carefully consider the details before committing one way or another.

After he walked away, when I saw the pink paper, I got mad, particularly as I reviewed the conversation in my mind.

At this point, I should make it clear that I do not wish to suggest Illinois Democrats are worse on the issue of medical marijuana than Illinois Republicans. Indeed, there has been much more support from the Democrats. But, the Democrats control state politics right now, and they claim they want positive change that helps people. They could have settled the medical cannabis issue years ago, as it is not controversial with voters, but instead they pretend it's too controversial.

And then they play the pink card ( particularly ironic in light of recent research that showed some cannabinoids shrinking breast cancer tumors - see ).

This guy was touting his credentials as a cancer fighter, but he's wishy-washy about legally allowing people who are really suffering from cancer treatment to use something that has worked for many. And his concerns about people healthy people having a legal path to cannabis are ridiculous for two reasons.

First, right now, the cannabis control system in Illinois doesn't work. There's not a high school in the state where many kids don't know where to get it. To suggest that allowing sick people to use will somehow throw a very sound system out of whack is not only absurd, it is offensive. It seemed to me as if the State Rep. was placing the legislature's own failures on the backs of the sick, instead of simply acknowledging that the system of cannabis prohibition that they reinforce with new laws each year is a failure and a sham.

Second, it also sounded to me that the legislators thought it was more important to punish non-sick users that to help sick users. This shows traditional moral sensibility turned upside down.

Just as the legislators pretend marijuana prohibition works in Illinois, they seem determined to pretend that there is no medical marijuana in the state. It is the non-sick cannabis users and growers who are helping the sick users get through their ordeals, while the legislators stand as roadblocks to legal, effective medicine. In this story, the legislators are villains, not heroes.

Maybe my State Rep. thought he was showing how much he cared by passing out those little pink pieces of paper, but to me the whole episode showed precisely the contrary.

Stephen Young is an editor with DrugSense Weekly.


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