This Just In
(1)OPED: U.S. Needle Policy Hurts Aids Sufferers
(2)Pot Dispensaries Closing Under Threat Of Feds
(3)Crack-Sentencing Reductions Decried
(4)Cannabis Bills Get Mixed Response

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 THIS JUST IN  ( Top )


Pubdate: Thu, 7 Feb 2008
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.
Authors: James E. Loyce Jr., Adrian Tyler, Malik Russell

Today, the African American community will gather under the banner of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to bring attention to this modern plague and its disparate impact on the black community.

While HIV/AIDS decimates our community, our nation has failed to implement a national health policy that addresses how this disease is spread. Nowhere is this discrepancy as great as over the issue of needle exchange.

Needle exchange remains a scientifically proven strategy to curb the spread of AIDS by providing clean needles and access to treatment for injection drug users. Unfortunately, for nearly 20 years Congress has maintained a no-longer-rational ban on the use of federal dollars for needle exchange programs. Congress thinks differently than health professionals and organizations such as the Black AIDS Institute, National Minority AIDS Council, NAACP, National Urban League, American Academy of Pediatrics; American Bar Association, American Medical Association and U.S. Conference of Mayors.

These groups see needle exchange as a viable means of slowing the spread of the virus. Nearly a quarter of the annual 40,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS in this country are either a direct or collateral effect of intravenous drug use. The failure to have access to clean needles has wide-ranging implications not just for drug users, but also for their families and entire communities. Up to 75 percent of new AIDS cases among women and children are directly or indirectly a consequence of intravenous drug use.


According to the Harm Reduction Coalition, more than 200 needle exchange programs exist in 36 states, and their impact on reducing the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C has been amazing. According to a 2005 study of New York City HIV trends, the number of HIV positive injection drug users dropped more than 75 percent from 1990 to 2001. Similarly, a 1997 study in The Lancet medical journal compared HIV infection rates among injection drug users in 81 cities around the world. In the 52 cities without needle exchange programs, the rates increased on average 5.9 percent annually; yet in those 29 cities with needle exchange programs, HIV rates dropped 5.8 percent annually.




Pubdate: Thu, 7 Feb 2008
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer

Medical marijuana in San Francisco may be going up in smoke.

In late December, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sent letters to landlords of buildings that housed medical cannabis dispensaries in the city, telling them they face the loss of their property and possibly prison if the businesses stay open.

Now, less than two months later, seven of the city's 28 dispensaries have closed or are on the verge of closing, according to medical marijuana supporters and activists. They fear more will follow.


San Francisco is the birthplace of the medical marijuana movement. The first major club opened in the city in 1994 and the number peaked at 43 in 2005, just before the city passed first-of-their kind regulations for the dispensaries.

All are supposed to possess city permits by March 1, though so far only one - a delivery service - has complied, according to the city's Department of Public Health.

The DEA sent letters to about 50 landlords in 14 Northern California counties, said Casey McEnry, spokeswoman for the agency.

In the letter sent to San Francisco dispensaries, DEA Special Agent in Charge Javier Pena wrote that the agency "has determined there is a marijuana dispensary operating on the property. This is a violation of federal law." Pena goes on to threaten landlords with the seizure of the property and other assets and up to 20 years in prison.

The notices are the first step in this new effort to shut down dispensaries, said McEnry, who described them as "courtesy letters" to landlords who might not know such a business exists on their property. Federal agents have for years been raiding dispensaries but had yet to go after landlords.

She said the agency has not determined its next step. "We're still evaluating the impact to see what kind of response we get," McEnry said.

The DEA sent similar letters to dispensaries in Southern California last summer and about 50 shut down, according to Kris Hermes, legal campaign director for Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland marijuana advocacy organization.

While that number is significant, Hermes said, "In no way is the DEA completely eliminating medical marijuana access in California."


Whatever happens, all eyes will be watching San Francisco for clues to the future of the movement.




Pubdate: Thu, 7 Feb 2008
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2008 The Washington Post Company
Author: Darryl Fears, Washington Post Staff Writer

Mukasey: Gang Members Would Be Let Go

The Bush administration wants Congress to thwart a plan to give thousands of federal crack cocaine offenders a chance to marginally reduce prison sentences that are a hundred times more severe than those meted out for powder cocaine offenses.

In a statement prepared for his scheduled appearance before the House Judiciary Committee today, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said that unless Congress acts, "1,600 convicted crack dealers, many of them violent gang members, will be eligible for immediate release into communities nationwide" under a decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

"Retroactive application of these new lower guidelines will pose significant public safety risks . . ." Mukasey said in the statement. "Many of these offenders are among the most serious and violent offenders in the federal system and their early release . . . would produce tragic, but predictable results."

The commission, an independent body created by Congress to set parameters for people convicted of federal crimes, voted in December to retroactively apply more relaxed sentencing guidelines to current inmates. The action was aimed at offsetting a disparity between prison time meted out to those convicted of possession or sale of crack cocaine and the sentences given for powder cocaine crimes.

Nearly 20,000 inmates could be released over a span of seven to 10 years after the plan takes effect March 3. Mukasey wants Congress to act in about three weeks.


The controversy over the sentence-reduction plan made its way into the presidential campaign trail when it was brought up during a Dec. 1 debate between Democratic candidates.




Pubdate: Fri, 8 Feb 2008
Source: Brattleboro Reformer (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Brattleboro Publishing Co.
Author: Paul H. Heintz, Reformer Staff

It was a mixed day for the cannabis plant in Montpelier Thursday.

The Vermont house of representatives came one step closer to passing a bill that would legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp, though the state law would have no practical effect unless a federal ban is repealed.

The senate judiciary committee, meanwhile, voted 4-1 in favor of a bill that would decrease some penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana -- though the committee sawed most of the teeth off the original, wide-ranging decriminalization bill, which was sponsored by sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham.

"To be honest with you, I'm glad we started the conversation. I Would rather it go farther than it does, but I know there are some issues that came up that were problematic and would have some unanticipated consequences," white said of the decriminalization bill. "Two months ago people would have thrown up their hands and said I was a crazy nut!"

White's original bill would have made the sale or possession of four ounces of marijuana or less a civil penalty with a fine, rather than a criminal offense. The amended version, however, simply removes the potential of jail time for those in possession of one ounce or less. If caught, a person with that amount could either submit to a diversion program or be charged a $500 fine for the first offense and a $750 fine for the second.

"The committee rejects the idea of decriminalizing the sale of any amount of any drug," said committee chairman sen. Dick Sears, D- Bennington. "If somebody sells something, that's going to be a criminal offense as long as I'm around. But I think we need to have a debate about our drug laws and whether they're working."


An unrelated bill that would legalize the cultivation of hemp had more success Thursday. In its second reading on the House floor, it passed with bipartisan support on 127-9 vote. The bill will likely be passed today and then move on to the Senate.

"I think it's a good step in the right direction," said Rep. Daryl Pillsbury, I-Brattleboro, a cosponsor of the bill.

Proponents of legalizing hemp say the plant, which is a cousin of that which produces marijuana, has just trace amounts of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. They argue that hemp is a tremendously versatile and valuable crop that can be used for food, clothing and even building.





After decades of anti-marijuana fanaticism in the U.S., it might seem that attitudes are thawing a bit, especially looking in from the outside, as a story printed in Australia suggests. However, other reports show that while the rhetoric from politicians may be changing, the actual signs of change are very limited, from the national scene to the very local scene.

Also, more local perceptions from law enforcement continue to contradict the idea that there is a cocaine shortage in the United States, a concept promoted by the federal drug czar.


Pubdate: Wed, 30 Jan 2008
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2008 The Sydney Morning Herald

A few years ago, U.S. politicians who dared to suggest anything other than jail time for marijuana users were considered pro-drug fringe candidates.

Not anymore. Now all the major Democratic presidential candidates are offering more lenient stands on medical marijuana, and White House hopeful Ron Paul, a Texas Republican, has made ending the federal drug war a centrepiece of his campaign.

"There has definitely been a change in the political climate for liberalisation," says Tim Lynch, a criminal justice expert at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based think tank. "I think the people are ahead of the politicians, especially of the Washington, DC, politicians, on this issue."

Polls have consistently shown that Americans support marijuana for medicinal purposes: a whopping 80 per cent said so in a 2002 Time/ CNN survey. In the same poll, about a third approved total legalisation, but 72 per cent said recreational users should be fined, not incarcerated.

Even in Texas, where medical marijuana legislation has never got off the ground, the legislature recently passed a law that allows prosecutors to bypass the jail booking process for certain marijuana offenses. It doesn't change the penalty, but the legislation marks Texas' first lenient approach to marijuana in years.




Pubdate: Sat, 02 Feb 2008
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2008 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Steve Chapman

Lately, Barack Obama has been quoting John F. Kennedy: "The world is changing. The old ways will not do." For a few hours the other day, I was starting to think he really meant it.

On Thursday, The Washington Times reported that in 2004, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Obama came out for decriminalizing marijuana use. That usually means eliminating jail sentences and arrest records for anyone caught with a small amount for personal use, treating it more like a traffic offense than a violent crime. But in a show of hands at a debate last fall, he indicated that he opposed the idea.

When confronted on the issue by the Times, however, the senator defended his original ground. His campaign said he has "always" supported decriminalization. It's a brave position, and therefore exceedingly rare among practicing politicians. Which may be why it didn't last. Before the day was over, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying he thinks "we are sending far too many first-time non-violent drug users to prison for very long periods of time" but "does not believe that we should treat offenses involving marijuana with a simple fine or just by confiscating the drug." Recently, he had told a New Hampshire newspaper, "I'm not in favor of decriminalization."

This episode reveals that as a candidate, Obama is more fond of bold rhetoric than bold policies. But it also proves the impossibility of talking sense on the subject of illicit drugs during a political campaign. That course of action would mean admitting the inadmissible: that the prohibition of cannabis has been cruel, wasteful and fraudulent.




Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jan 2008
Source: Times-News, The (ID)
Copyright: 2008 Magic Valley Newspapers
Author: Cassidy Friedman

Three plaintiffs come from city government By Cassidy Friedman Times-News writer The attorneys could have gone on arguing forever.

The issue of marijuana reform, which has been on the mind of Hailey city officials since voters passed three initiatives in November, did not go away when the attorney general and the Hailey city attorney struck down the measures.

The two attorneys determined that the three initiatives - including legalization of medicinal marijuana and industrial hemp, and making the enforcement of marijuana laws a lower police priority - violate federal and state laws.

City officials said they expect to see marijuana advocates present four new initiatives for a special election in February.

So on Tuesday evening, Mayor Rick Davis, Chief of Police Jeff Gunther and City Councilman Don Keirn decided to take the contentious issue before a judge - hoping a gavel will settle the matter. Whatever the judge decides, council members will obey, Keirn said.

"We kind of could see this as an ongoing thing," Keirn said. "They are either legal, in which case we in the city have to enforce them or they are illegal in which case we will ignore them."

The paradox is how to get there.

To get a district judge to hear the case, the three plaintiffs are suing Hailey - the city they represent - for passing illegal initiatives. The city attorney, who has argued the initiatives are largely illegal, will have to switch sides.

"As far as I am concerned, Civics 101, the Legislature can pass a law and the court can decide if that law is legal," said the Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson. "It's the same process if people pass a law and let the judge decide if it's legal."




Pubdate: Sat, 02 Feb 2008
Source: Daily Press, The (Escanaba, MI)
Copyright: 2008 The Daily Press
Author: Mary Ann Cancilla

ESCANABA -- The Drug Enforcement Agency is reporting a national cocaine shortage, but local police officials say there's no such problem in this area.

According to data released by the DEA in September, the price of cocaine rose 44 percent, while purity of the substance is down 15 percent -- a fact DEA officials equate with a shortage.

Escanaba Public Safety Det. Sgt. Joe LeMire said there is definitely a cocaine problem locally.

He said levels of the amount of cocaine in Delta County has remained the same, or actually increased, while the price has stayed constant.

He said cocaine use has grown locally over the last three years.

In larger cities, police are reporting the price of cocaine has gone up by a third and there is less powder on the street.

Police in many larger cities are attributing the cocaine shortage to stricter enforcement, a point LeMire somewhat agrees with.

He said locally enforcement of harder drugs, such as cocaine, has increased.

"Enforcement has been stepped up and more focused on harder drugs, because they are available here," he said.




Even as federal drug war funds dry up, some legislators want the pork to keep flowing - will they succeed, or is this just about rhetoric too? In some states, meth laws apparently cannot be too harsh for legislators, even when the law has started going after people who buy too many packages of cold medicine. And, as an illustration of the long-term negative effects of these crack-downs, some victims of a dishonest informant have been released, but they wonder how much justice they'll find when they get home.


Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jan 2008
Source: Des Moines Register (IA)
Copyright: 2008 The Des Moines Register.
Author: Nigel Duara, Register Staff Writer

A drug-interdiction program devastated by funding cuts could be saved by a group of U.S. senators from both sides of the aisle who announced plans on Wednesday to tack on money to the federal omnibus spending bill.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, along with four other senators, announced plans to replace money cut from the federal Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program as part of an emergency supplemental funding bill.

They would return $660 million to the program, which was cut to $170 million in December by the Bush administration.

In Iowa, the cuts removed 70 percent of the $4.22 million that came to the state in federal anti-drug dollars.

The money goes to drug investigations, and slashing the program's budget could impede or end smaller Iowa counties' ability to chase "the real movers and shakers" in the drug business, said Gary Kendell, director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy.

"We're very pleased that they're taking this on," Kendell said. "With the previous year's funding cuts, we're pretty much bare bones right now."

Kendell noted that 85 percent of Iowa's drug cases originate from the multi-jurisdictional task forces that face extinction if the program isn't supplemented.

The cuts would become effective at the start of the fiscal year in July.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Ia., proposed a stand-alone bill in the House on Tuesday night that would replace the money.

"It's difficult for everybody to come up with resources, but for a Muscatine or Burlington or Keokuk to lose several tens of thousands of dollars, that means they lose an officer," Loebsack said.




Pubdate: Mon, 04 Feb 2008
Source: Daily News-Record, The (VA)
Copyright: 2008 The Daily News-Record
Author: Jeff Mellott

HARRISONBURG - The Virginia Senate on Friday passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain that would stiffen penalties for the manufacturing, possession, use and distribution of methamphetamine.

The Harrisonburg Republican said he introduced the legislation to bring penalties for meth in line with those for cocaine.

Over on the House of Delegates' side of the General Assembly, the Courts of Justice Committee passed an identical bill introduced by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock.

Gilbert's bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

Mandatory Time

The meth bills promise a minimum sentence of three years for offenses involving 28 grams - the equivalent of one ounce - or more. Offenses involving 227 grams or more would require a minimum of five years in prison, according to the proposed legislation.

Additionally, such sentences could not be served concurrently with sentences for other offenses, according to the bills.




Pubdate: Sun, 03 Feb 2008
Source: Wausau Daily Herald (WI)
Copyright: 2008 Wausau Daily Herald
Author: Jeff Starck

Pseudoephedrine Purchases Lead To Recent Busts

A 2-year-old state law that limits the amount of pseudoephedrine a person can buy has slowed manufacturing of methamphetamine in Marathon County, according to police and pharmacists.

Pseudoephedrine is a common ingredient available in over-the-counter remedies such as Sudafed or Advil Cold & Sinus. To buy products that contain it, however, a person must sign a log that tracks sales. The state allows a person to buy up to 7.5 grams of the drug within a 30-day period.

Pseudoephedrine is a common ingredient in the production of methamphetamine, an addictive and illegal stimulant that can harm the central nervous system. The restrictions make it difficult for people to manufacture the drug locally.

"We don't get the intel or see the labs like we used to," said Lt. Gary Schneck, who heads the Marathon County Sheriff's Department's drug investigation unit.

Drug investigators review the drug logs and rely on tips from the public, pharmacists and other officers to track large purchases of pseudoephedrine, Schneck said.

A Schofield man was charged with a felony last month after Everest Metro police saw his name repeatedly on drug logs at pharmacies in Weston, Rothschild and Wausau. The man bought 23.5 grams between Nov. 23 and Jan. 3, sometimes stopping at three pharmacies a day, according to a criminal complaint.

Another Schofield man was charged Friday after buying 11.4 grams from Nov. 18 to Dec. 28 in Weston and Rothschild.




Pubdate: Sun, 03 Feb 2008
Source: Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH)
Copyright: 2008 The Plain Dealer
Author: John Caniglia

Mansfield- They returned to the city where they were betrayed, feeling bitter and filled with hatred for the man who put them in prison.

In the past 10 days, a group of men have left prisons across the country and headed back to Mansfield.

They were convicted in a massive drug conspiracy that collapsed Jan. 25 when a federal judge dismissed 15 cases.

Each spent 2 1/2 years behind bars because of an informant's pyramid of lies. They call the time in prison "wasted years." As they struggle to mend their lives, their elation at being released is slowly giving way to the fear that they are marked men, easy targets for police who want to send them back.




It continues to amaze me that hemp is not playing a bigger role in the growing popularity of biofuel. Luckily there are still some citizens attempting to work hemp through the bureaucracy to gain legality.

A thoughtful and informative editorial found print this week in Manitoba while a BC RCMP officer displayed the opposite attitude concerning cannabis and cars.

SSDP members continue to encourage sensible drug policy and garner media attention. The Kalamazoo College chapter organized a debate on cannabis regulation and the Missouri Southern's chapter is gathering signatures for a decriminalization initiative.


Pubdate: Fri, 01 Feb 2008
Source: Grand Forks Herald (ND)
Copyright: 2008 Grand Forks Herald
Author: Kevin Bonham, Staff Writer

Two North Dakota farmers who want to grow industrial hemp probably will not plant the crop this spring, despite the fact that their applications have been renewed by the state for another year.

The hang-up is not with North Dakota, but with the federal government. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has yet to act on their 2007 application, according to Rep. David Monson, R-Osnabrock.

Monson and Wayne Hauge, Ray, N.D., received state licenses for industrial hemp in 2007. At the time, they were required to submit their applications to the DEA as well. When the DEA failed to take action on the applications in time to plant last year, the two farmers sued the federal government.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland dismissed the lawsuit in late fall, saying federal law considers industrial hemp to be the same as marijuana, which is an illegal drug. In his ruling, Hovland suggested asking Congress to change the definition of industrial hemp to explicitly distinguish it from marijuana.

Monson and Hauge then appealed the ruling 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. They have argued the federal government should not be allowed to interfere in a state-regulated hemp production initiative.

In the meantime, the DEA informed Monson and Hauge that they failed to meet a Jan. 12 deadline for filing a response to questions about the application.

Monson said the paperwork was filed in the DEA's Chicago office by the deadline. But the DEA has said it was not received in the right office by the deadline, and therefore, the application is considered to be withdrawn, according to Monson.




Pubdate: Sat, 02 Feb 2008
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2008 Winnipeg Free Press

It is only natural that as attitudes towards marijuana loosen up, that police see more tokers behind the wheel. But unlike the jurisprudence on drunk driving, the law and science around drugs and impairment is not well developed. Proposed new powers to help police get drug users off the road, therefore, will produce minimal progress in keeping the streets safe.

Parliament is stepping into the final stages of debating a law to allow police to demand a blood, saliva or urine test of a driver they suspect is impaired by drugs. Until now, police could stop and demand that a driver take a field sobriety test ( touch your nose, count backwards, walk in a straight line and turn ) on suspicion he is impaired, but there was no test to prove drug consumption. A breathalyzer detects the presence of alcohol, only. Under the law now going to the Senate, refusing to take a test for drugs would be a criminal offence, as is refusing a breathalyzer.

But where alcohol has been proven to be toxic to driving, good science around the impact of drugs on driving can spin a judge's head. The same drug can affect different drivers in vastly different ways. A newbie with a reefer might be dangerous, indeed, behind the wheel; a veteran smoker can show his driving skills improve with a few puffs. A breathalyzer draws a line between higher consumption and impairment, but a blood, saliva or urine test for drugs is unlikely to do that.


Advertising by governments and interest groups have attached significant stigma to the practice of drinking and driving.

The better bet may be to spread the warnings of smoking weed, or taking an allergy pill, and getting behind the wheel.



Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jan 2008
Source: Kalamazoo Gazette (MI)
Copyright: 2008 Kalamazoo Gazette
Author: Lynn Turner

KALAMAZOO -- The question repeatedly asked at a panel discussion on the current state of the country's drug policy was, "Why not legalize marijuana and regulate it the same as alcohol and tobacco?"

The money it generates could be used for drug education and prevention programs as well as for treating addicts who want help for their substance-abuse problems, said two of the four panelists who debated the issue Wednesday night at Kalamazoo College.

The discussion, titled "A Sober Look at Drug Policy," was sponsored by the college's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

"I've seen more drug destruction than anyone," said Dan Bigg, director of the Chicago Recovery Alliance, which treats drug addicts. But he said marijuana use shouldn't be demonized.

Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Fink and retired Kalamazoo County Circuit Judge William G. Schma who also took part in the discussion, offered opposing viewpoints.


All four agreed that the "War on Drugs," declared in 1971 by President Richard Nixon, has been a bust or at least misnamed. Drugs are now cheaper, purer and more prevalent than before, Francisco said. And the cost has risen to almost $20 billion a year in this country.




Pubdate: Fri, 01 Feb 2008
Source: Chart, The (Missouri Southern State U, MO Edu)
Copyright: 2008 The Chart
Author: Parker Willis

With the first month of an election year coming to a close, one student is focusing on an issue he believes the Joplin public will be ready to vote on in November.

Kyle Maddy, freshman public relations major and president of Missouri Southern's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policies ( SSDP ), said he and other members of SSDP are prepared to see that the Sensible Sentencing Initiative will appear on the ballot in November.

The initiative would decriminalize marijuana within the Joplin city limits. To get the initiative on the November ballot Maddy and his brother, Kelly Maddy, president of Sensible Joplin, will need to have the signatures of 5,000 registered Joplin-area voters.

Currently the two, with the help of their friends, have been able to get 3,000 signatures. But their goal is 10,000 because of the chance of illegible signatures and unregistered voters signing the petition and getting thrown out later.




In Venezuela, police said that alleged Colombian "Drug Lord" Wilber Varela was killed last week. Varela, identified through fingerprints, was found shot to death in the town of Merida. U.S. and Colombian officials say that from 1990 to 2004, Varela's Norte del Valle cartel shipped some 550 tons of cocaine north to eager consumers in the U.S. Varela's organization was said to at one point to have a Colombian Admiral on the payroll, who "gave coordinates of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels to the cartel so their drug shipments could avoid interdiction."

Colombian cocaine traffickers are avoiding detection in other ways, as well. A piece from the Washington Post last week gave an overview of undersea cocaine smuggling. Contraband-smuggling cargo-submersibles, estimated to cost around $2 million apiece, were uncovered by authorities 13 times in 2007. And they are disposable: intended for one profitable trip and that's it. But at up to $200 million estimated profit on one successful run, the U-boat makers (authorities aren't quite sure who they are) obviously find this business model acceptable. So much for almost 100 years of cocaine prohibition - cocaine is smuggled by the U-boat load, 10 tons at a time.

President Felipe Calderon ordered a "purge" of police officers according to reports this week. U.S. prohibitionists have heaped praise on Calderon for earlier efforts to use the army to "fight drugs", and this week President Bush used a phone call to Calderon as a PR event to do the same. Critics doubt this purge will work any better than the last five times Mexican "presidents have reorganized the federal law enforcement system". "After past crackdowns, many fired officers have been rehired in other districts... Others simply go to work full-time for the drug traffickers."

In Canada, there are few laws police could break that would get them convicted, especially if "drugs" are mentioned. A Toronto crew of cops accused of "stealing money from drug dealers and falsifying search warrants," charged with, "obstruction of justice, perjury, extortion and assault," in the "largest police corruption scandal in Canadian history" ended this week in dismissals of the accused officers, because "inept handling of the prosecution." Noted Justice Nordheimer "No explanation for the glacial progress of this prosecution has been offered." See how that works? Some little guy with a few plants in the basement: justice swift and sure (with long mandatory minimums if Harper gets his wish list). But if police lie, break the law, cheat and steal - to get a "dealer" - then different things happen. And slowly, too. The Toronto police corruption scandal first came to light over 10 years ago.


Pubdate: Sat, 02 Feb 2008
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times
Author: Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Cartel Leader, With $5 Million Bounty on His Head, Found Shot to Death in Venezuela.

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- Authorities in Venezuela said Friday that Wilber Varela, the leader of Colombia's Norte del Valle drug cartel, had been found shot to death in the Venezuelan resort town of Merida.

The location of the killing underscores the evolution of drug trafficking in the region. Increasing amounts of Colombian cocaine destined for U.S. and European markets flow through Venezuela, and as much as one-third of all the narcotic powder is now thought to transit there.


The Norte del Valle cartel, named after a farming region north of Cali, is among Colombia's most powerful cocaine trafficking operations.

In Varela's 2004 indictment, prosecutors alleged that the Norte del Valle cartel had shipped about 550 tons of cocaine worth $10 billion from Colombia between 1990 and 2004.

Last summer, reports surfaced that the cartel also had made inroads into the Colombian military. A Colombian admiral gave coordinates of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels to the cartel so their drug shipments could avoid interdiction, Colombian prosecutors said.




Pubdate: Wed, 06 Feb 2008
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2008 The Washington Post Company
Author: Juan Forero, Washington Post Foreign Service

Sophisticated Submersibles Are Raising New Challenges for Colombian Navy

BAHIA MALAGA, Colombia -- In the annals of the drug trade, traffickers have swallowed cocaine pellets, dissolved the powder into ceramics and flown the drug as far as Africa on flimsy planes -- anything to elude detection and get a lucrative product to market. Now, the cartels seem to be increasingly going beneath the waves, relying on submarines built in clandestine jungle shipyards to move tons of cocaine.

Last year, 13 of the vessels were seized on dry land or stopped at sea by Colombian or U.S. patrol boats -- more than in the previous 14 years combined, according to the Pacific fleet of the Colombian navy, which is responsible for interdiction efforts across 130,000 square miles.


Some of the new vessels, with whimsically shaped fins, and ducts and pipes sticking out, bring to mind Captain Nemo's Nautilus from Jules Verne's imagination. Others are cigar-shaped, narrow and hydrodynamic, not unlike the World War I German U-boats that prowled the North Atlantic.

Built under the jungle canopy, in camps outfitted with sleeping quarters for workers, the Colombian versions can cost $2 million and take nearly a year to build, said Capt. Gustavo Angel, commander of the 18-vessel flotilla that operates out of the naval base here in Bahia Malaga, Colombia's most important on the Pacific.


For traffickers, the payoff -- reaching Central America, the first stage in a circuitous route to the United States -- is well worth the trouble. A 10-ton load can fetch nearly $200 million wholesale in the United States.




Pubdate: Wed, 6 Feb 2008
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Authors: Chris Hawley and Sergio Solache, USA TODAY

Effort Part of Big Anti-Drug Campaign

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's federal government and army are intervening in local police forces to purge their ranks of corrupt officers as part of President Felipe Calderon's broad crackdown on drug trafficking.

Similar initiatives to clean up Mexico's police have failed in the past, although Calderon has earned strong praise from the U.S. government for the effectiveness of his year-long campaign against the country's powerful and well-armed drug lords. President Bush called Calderon on Tuesday to congratulate him on his anti-drug efforts and pledge more U.S. help.


Some analysts doubt the crackdown on local police will produce lasting results. After past crackdowns, many fired officers have been rehired in other districts because Mexico has no national blacklist for police, said Maureen Meyer, an analyst with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Others simply go to work full-time for the drug traffickers.


Since 1982, Mexican presidents have reorganized the federal law enforcement system five times and created at least four elite forces in an attempt to form new units that are free of corruption, according to a November report by WOLA.

However, new police forces have often succumbed to the influence of Mexico's deep-pocketed drug traffickers. In perhaps the most notorious case, agents from the U.S.-trained Special Airborne Force Groups deserted in the late 1990s and formed the Zetas, an elite group of hit men for the Gulf cartel.




Pubdate: Fri, 01 Feb 2008
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 The Toronto Star
Author: Nick Pron , Courts Bureau

The case that has been called the "largest police corruption scandal in Canadian history" began more than 10 years ago.

Yesterday, in a downtown courtroom, the prosecution of six former Toronto police drug squad officers came to an abrupt and surprising teary end when Justice Ian Nordheimer stayed the charges, blaming the Crown for its inept handling of the prosecution.

"No explanation for the glacial progress of this prosecution has been offered," said Nordheimer, in his 54-page ruling. "The vast majority of the time that has passed in this prosecution resulted from the crown's inability to make full and complete disclosure (of the evidence)."


"My life has been hell for the past 10 years," said Miched, who quit the force in frustration as the case dragged on in the courts, and is now selling cars. Like the others, he had an unblemished police record before he was accused of stealing money from drug dealers and falsifying search warrants.


The six veteran officers had been charged with obstruction of justice, perjury, extortion and assault after allegedly falsifying notes, not getting search warrants, beating up drug dealers and stealing their money while investigating Toronto street gangs.


 HOT OFF THE 'NET  ( Top )


Cultural Baggage Radio Show - 02/06/08 - Paul Armentano

Century of Lies - 02/05/08 - Edwin C Sanders


If you're bored of endless drug policy debate, here's a distracting and fascinating curio from the BBC archives that has cropped up on Google Video; the legendary Horizon edition on the use of psychedelic drugs in medicine:


War on drugs leads to explosion of female incarcerations

By Silja J.A. Talvi


Fanny Kiefer interviews LEAP founder Jack Cole in Vancouver, Canada, February 5, 2008


Whether you are a student member or an alum of one of our chapters, or simply a nonstudent who is fed up with the War on Drugs, we think that you'll find yourself at home on Students for Sensible Drug Policy's brand new website:


Aired: February 5, 2008 on BBC2

A team of leading scientists has spent two years analyzing the effects of twenty widely used drugs. BBC ... all asks what is Britain's most dangerous drug?



We have less than ONE week left in the legislative session, and we really need your help to keep the treatment instead of incarceration bill moving through the legislature. It took us nearly one week to get this important treatment bill out of the House Judiciary Committee, but Wednesday night the committee unanimously passed the bill!


Mar 21, 2008 - Mar 24, 2008

Basel, Switzerland

The "World Psychedelic Forum" will expand upon this renewed interest, presenting a unique opportunity for experts, researchers, and interested persons from all around the globe, to exchange views and hear presentations of the latest research on the value of these remarkable psychedelic substances in medicine, psychology, science, religion, culture and the arts.



By Alison Myrden


Thank you first and foremost for giving MS sufferer and medical cannabis patient James Kerr the opportunity to say his side of what happened in a local cannabis raid at his home recently.

James suffers from multiple sclerosis like I do and the people of the country need to accept that cannabis is one of the few treatments available that actually "halt the progression of MS" and is non- addictive, according to the many studies we have on our website at The Medical Marijuana Mission.

Why, I ask, wouldn't you choose cannabis for relief if you needed it?

To date we have had over 13 million visits to our website from all over the world because people want to know! People who do know better are tired of those who question cannabis as medicine who don't know any better.

Please drop by our website to become more familiar with this incredibly diverse plant.

You can eat it in cookies, drink it in tea and smoke it too.

Please educate yourselves.

Our world depends on it.


The Medical Marijuana Mission

Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jan 2008
Source: Sun Times, The (Owen Sound, CN ON)


BEYOND 2008  ( Top )

On February 4-5, 2008 in Vancouver, BC, the second of two "Beyond 2008: North America Regional Consultations" took place in preparation for a 4th International NGO Forum on UN Drug Conventions. It was held at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue,, a venue extremely conducive to this type of event with it's circular seating arrangement and clear audio system.

I represented the Canadian Cannabis Coalition - an umbrella group founded in 1999 that now has over a 130 national cannabis advocacy organizations and stakeholders along with some international affiliates, including 16 other attendees.

The Forum had an unwavering agenda to highlight achievements; review the practice and collaboration of NGOs, governments and UN agencies; and to adopt a series of high order principles to serve as a guide for future deliberations on drug policy matters. The slogan, "A Drug Free World - We can do it!" adopted as the 1998 UNGASS motto with a target date of 2008 was noticeably absent and replaced with 'the achievement of "significant and measurable results."

Participants represented NGO's with a diverse range of interests in the health, treatment, prevention, criminal justice, human rights, alternative development, prohibitionist and consumer sectors, and spoke with passion and eloquence about their concerns.

What I found so unique about this particular dialogue was for the first time (at least for me), instead of the usual preaching to the choir, there were several front-line U.S. and Canadian civilian drug warriors sitting in the same room.

This gave the "legalizers" faces, voices and a strong message their foes had to listen to in a respectful manner. The "drug warriors" also had faces and voices - Kelly Corcoran of Drug Free America, an organization which would be laughed out of existence in Canada, along with former Senior Speech Writer and Spokesman for Office of National Drug Control Policy Kevin Sabet of SUNDIAL (Supporting United Nations Drug Initiatives and Legislation).

They heard Dale Gieringer of California NORML express dissatisfaction with having to travel to another country just to have his voice heard because the conference which took place in Florida was only open to those who advocate prohibition.

Someone else asked if forums held on racism were only attended by whites, or women's issues attended only by men - and if not, where were the voices of those affected by this issue included? In Vancouver, the voices of drug users were heard along with those who champion for and against them.

A representative from one of the levels of the UN was observing and participating when asked, whereas I think he had the option of just reading the report. He heard our concerns, and also communicated a very clear message to us - the people who attend the UN meetings are government representatives from our countries, and those are the voices the UN hears. If we want those voices to sing a different tune, then our work is to change the representatives to ones who speak our language.

There was discussion about NGO's gaining Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations like Drug Free America Foundation has, but Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) mentioned his NGO made a request three years ago and are still waiting for a reply.

There was so much to absorb - and unless I missed something, it seemed to end abruptly without notifying us of a cut off for speakers (like they did during the breaks), so I never made a couple of quick points not mentioned yet, but will be included in a written report which participants can submit for a short period afterwards.

The next step will be to combine all the reports from these regional consultations for a final meeting in Vienna in July 2008: "Beyond 2008 - A Global Forum on the 1998-2008 Review of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Illicit Drugs". I understand they are hoping to have 300 delegates from North America in attendance, so fund-raising is a big concern.

There were so many good points made, and so many quality speakers, so be watching for other reports that have or will be posted. An official report will be released on the UN NGO website, along with the reports from the other regional consultations.

DrugSense hosts a section for material related to the United Nations Conventions so participants or other interested parties can contribute and share resources and material at:

On the evening of the first night, the mayor of Vancouver, Sam Sullivan, hosted a reception for all participants at the Ocean View Suites in the Pan Pacific Hotel at Canada Place which provided an excellent way to network along with delicious food and beverages.

Many thanks to local factivists [sic] Rielle Capler, David Malmo- Levine, Kirk Tousaw and Michelle Rainey who hosted events and assisted in many ways to make participants comfortable and the stay enjoyable. There were great and random acts of kindness going on everywhere.

It was exciting to meet so many kindred spirits from eastern Canada and the U.S. who live so far away and whom I can never cross the border to see! I look forward to meeting and hearing from you all again soon.

Debra Harper Canadian Cannabis Coalition DrugSense


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-- James Galsworthy

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NOTICE:  ( Top )

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