This Just In
(1)Random Student Drug Tests Banned
(2)Court Ruling Limits Employment Drug Testing
(3)Column: Show Creators Suggest New Approach to Drug War
(4)Column: Marijuana For Pain? It Should Be An Option

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 THIS JUST IN  ( Top )


Pubdate: Fri, 14 Mar 2008
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2008 The Seattle Times Company
Website: Author: Maureen O'Hagan
Note: The decision

Other states allow it. The U.S. Constitution allows it. But the Washington Supreme Court said Thursday that random drug testing of student athletes is not allowed under the state Constitution.

The decision involved athletes who sued the Wahkiakum School District in 1999 after the district began requiring students to undergo urine tests if they wanted to participate in sports. If the tests indicated drug or alcohol use, the student was suspended from sports but wasn't reported to police.

At the time, officials in the Southwest Washington school district felt there was a real problem with student drug use, especially among athletes. Public surveys named youth substance abuse as the No. 1 problem there.

That's not enough to allow drug testing of a student when there's no reason to suspect he or she is using drugs, the court ruled unanimously.

"We cannot countenance random searches of public school student athletes," under the Washington Constitution, Justice Richard Sanders wrote. "We require a warrant except for rare occasions which we jealously and narrowly guard."


But the Washington Constitution is different from the federal one, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Article I Section 7 reads: "No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law." That "authority of law" was lacking in the Wahkiakum searches, the state Supreme Court ruled. (It's also why sobriety checkpoints have not been permitted in this state.)

In addition, Sanders and three other justices concluded that Washington law does not recognize the "special needs" exception that is allowed under federal law.

"A student athlete has a genuine and fundamental privacy interest in controlling his or her own bodily functions," Justice Sanders wrote. "Even if done in an enclosed stall, this is a significant intrusion on a student's fundamental right of privacy."

To rule otherwise, the court concluded, would open the door to random drug tests for other extracurricular activities, and for the entire student body.




Pubdate: Fri, 14 Mar 2008
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Note: The decision

A city can't require all job applicants to be tested for narcotics and must instead show why drug use in a particular job would be dangerous, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled against the city of Woodburn, Ore., which argued it was entitled to maintain a drug-free workplace by requiring job candidates to be screened for drugs and alcohol.

The city was sued by Janet Lanier, whose job offer as a part-time page at the city library was withdrawn in 2004 when she refused a drug and alcohol test. A federal judge ruled the policy unconstitutional and awarded Lanier $12,400 in damages and $44,000 in legal fees, her lawyer said.

The appeals court said Thursday that the judge's ruling went too far, because the city may be able to justify drug-testing of applicants for some jobs. But the court found no basis to test applicants for library positions.

Federal courts have upheld mandatory drug screening for jobs in which performance "may pose a great danger to the public," the appeals judges said. They cited Supreme Court rulings allowing drug testing of railroad crews after accidents and of customs agents who search others for illegal drugs.

Another appeals court has upheld drug testing of applicants to teach school in Tennessee, noting teachers' duty to look after students' well-being.

But the Ninth Circuit court said Woodburn's rationale for universal screening - that drug use is a serious social problem affecting the performance of any job - was rejected by the Supreme Court in 1997 when it struck down Georgia's requirement that all candidates for public office undergo narcotics testing to show their commitment to the war on drugs.

The Supreme Court said the state was requiring testing for purely symbolic reasons, which was not enough to avoid the constitutional requirement that a search warrant be based on evidence of wrongdoing.




Pubdate: Thu, 13 Mar 2008
Source: Springfield News-Leader (MO)
Copyright: 2008 The Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Clarence Page

If you're called for jury duty, let the lawyers and judges know up front that you're not going to send nonviolent drug offenders to jail.

That provocative piece of advice comes from the creators of my all- time favorite television show, "The Wire," which ended its five-year run on HBO last Sunday (March 9).


Although I have some reservations, I've learned enough as an urban affairs journalist to know that they make a powerful and persuasive argument. The war on drugs too often has become a war against poor people.


In Baltimore, Simon and Company note, arrests for drugs have soared over the past three decades while arrest rates for murders have dropped in half. In other words, serious crimes against lives and property are going unsolved in a system that encourages police to spend time snatching cheap drug arrests off the nearest corner.


Jury nullification dates back in English law to the Magna Carta. It refers to a rendering of a verdict by a trial jury that refutes the judge's instructions as to the law or its application in a particular case. In a historic 1735 trial in the colony of New York, journalist John Peter Zenger was acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor.

If enough members of the public signal their disapproval of a law by refusing to enforce it, they might bring about its repeal. That's a happy thought, as long as it is not taken too far. As a rule, it still is better to pass laws in legislatures than in courtrooms.




Pubdate: Thu, 13 Mar 2008
Source: Kalamazoo Gazette (MI)
Copyright: 2008 Kalamazoo Gazette
Author: Jeff Barr

You may have seen them in front of stores or walking door to door collecting signatures. Perhaps you dismissed them as dope heads, or maybe hippies left over from the '60s looking for a nostalgic taste of the days of free just-about-everything.

But members of the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care have done what they set out to do. They have collected enough signatures to put a proposal before the state Legislature that would legalize the use of marijuana in Michigan for medical purposes.

You could call it a successful grass-roots movement.

Puns aside, this is a serious issue. Chris Killian's marvelously informative story in this past Sunday's Gazette spoke of people with HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and other serious ailments who use marijuana illegally now to help them with their symptoms. Something's amiss when grandparents have to make dope deals to find relief from pain.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says science doesn't prove that medical marijuana helps. Well, guess what? Science doesn't disprove it, either, and if the sick are relieved, what is the harm?

Medical marijuana users in Michigan are lawbreakers, but they wouldn't be if they lived in one of 14 states where the medical use of marijuana has been deemed legal. Technically, federal law says it's illegal in those states, too, but the feds have for the most part so far instituted an unofficial don't-ask-don't-tell policy.

It's time for Michigan to allow those who are suffering to find some legal relief. It is estimated that about 50,000 Michigan residents -- or one-half of 1 percent -- would qualify to light up legally. It is a minuscule portion of the population, and it harms no one if a few sick folks are allowed a little bong therapy.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm doesn't agree, and if legislators don't vote the proposal into law in the next five weeks, the measure will be on the ballot in November. Legislators, fearing repercussions at election time for being viewed as marijuana mavens, seem unlikely to act.

So it appears the decision will be in your hands in November.

Opposition to the proposal seems silly to the point of being illogical. This is another example of people fearing what they don't understand. For some, it seems the fear of the unknown runs to the point of paranoia.





Many thoughtful commentaries critiquing the drug war were published last week. The creators of the critically-acclaimed television drama "The Wire" used the show's finale to ask more difficult questions about the drug war, and they managed to explicitly criticize the drug war in a number of forums, including a piece from Time Magazine's Online edition. Another insightful column came out of Indiana after a visit by the drug czar, who was touting more drug tests for students. Elsewhere in the country, other commentators asked if zero tolerance policies on drugs in schools were doing what they were supposed to be doing.

And despite all this enlightenment, some politicians are still using the same old scare tactics, on a smaller scale.


Pubdate: Sun, 9 Mar 2008
Source: Time Magazine Online (US)
Copyright: 2008 Time Inc
Authors: Ed Burns [et al.]

We write a television show. Measured against more thoughtful and meaningful occupations, this is not the best seat from which to argue public policy or social justice. Still, those viewers who followed The Wire -- our HBO drama that tried to portray all sides of inner-city collapse, including the drug war, with as much detail and as little judgment as we could muster -- tell us they've invested in the fates of our characters. They worry or grieve for Bubbles, Bodie or Wallace, certain that these characters are fictional yet knowing they are rooted in the reality of the other America, the one rarely acknowledged by anything so overt as a TV drama.

These viewers, admittedly a small shard of the TV universe, deluge us with one question: What can we do? If there are two Americas -- separate and unequal -- and if the drug war has helped produce a psychic chasm between them, how can well-meaning, well-intentioned people begin to bridge those worlds?

And for five seasons, we answered lamely, offering arguments about economic priorities or drug policy, debating theoreticals within our tangled little drama. We were storytellers, not advocates; we ducked the question as best we could.

Yet this war grinds on, flooding our prisons, devouring resources, turning city neighborhoods into free-fire zones. To what end? State and federal prisons are packed with victims of the drug conflict. A new report by the Pew Center shows that 1 of every 100 adults in the U.S. -- and 1 in 15 black men over 18 -- is currently incarcerated. That's the world's highest rate of imprisonment.

The drug war has ravaged law enforcement too. In cities where police agencies commit the most resources to arresting their way out of their drug problems, the arrest rates for violent crime -- murder, rape, aggravated assault -- have declined. In Baltimore, where we set The Wire, drug arrests have skyrocketed over the past three decades, yet in that same span, arrest rates for murder have gone from 80% and 90% to half that. Lost in an unwinnable drug war, a new generation of law officers is no longer capable of investigating crime properly, having learned only to make court pay by grabbing cheap, meaningless drug arrests off the nearest corner.




Pubdate: Wed, 5 Mar 2008
Source: Indianapolis Star (IN)
Copyright: 2008 Indianapolis Newspapers Inc.
Author: Dan Carpenter

It's supposed to be the dithering Democrats who stump for the nanny state, offering protection and nurturing for the price of our tax dollars and liberty.

So who came to town the other day wearing the flowered dress and clunky shoes?

None other than President Bush's drug czar, regaling local educators and The Star's Editorial Board as to the virtues of random substance testing in the schools.

I must say I conjured a different picture when John Walters rolled in with his Secret Service retinue. Maybe taking an ax to some meth lab, or kicking in a crack house door on a street where kids were afraid to walk to school for their tests.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy does do a lot of fighting on a lot of fronts. But this was more like Maximum Mom, touting new federal funding and encouragement for schools to work urine- and hair-sampling into their busy days.

Without warrants. Without probable cause. With, however, the permission of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has ruled that these baseless invasions of young captive bodies are OK so long so they are not "punitive" in nature. Say what?

Walters insists it's a way to help the kids -- "a public health screening tool." No moral or legal implications, just a practical effort to reduce the risk of getting started by raising the risk of getting caught.

It's like TB, for which everybody gets screened already without complaint. Drug abuse as a communicable disease, spread by peer pressure. "You get it from your boyfriend."

OK, I asked, does that mean the administration approves of condom distribution in schools? There's a clearcut public health regimen, morality, again, aside.

The big guy danced around that one like Mrs. Doubtfire in hard-rock housecleaning mode. While sex is not his department, he knows that, unlike drugs, it is a youthful activity about which his boss is much more ready to settle for "just say no."




Pubdate: Sat, 08 Mar 2008
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (WI)
Copyright: 2008 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Susan Lampert Smith

The biggest problem with "zero tolerance " policies is that they require zero thought.

A kid smokes pot or drinks on school property? Bam! They 're out for a year.

Simple, right? Even a kid could understand it. Except, sometimes, teenagers aren't so great about thinking through the consequences.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a group of Marshall Middle School girls expelled for a year for alleged marijuana use. The district offers no services to expelled students, and one family couldn 't find another public school that would take their daughter.

Since then, I've heard similar stories. In one district, the parents didn 't see the expulsion file until the hearing. It was full of errors, even calling their daughter by a wrong first name, but still the School Board used the "investigation " to kick her out for a year.

In another district, a middle schooler was expelled for a year for letting her friend try a prescription pill. Now, her mother writes, the girl is a "pariah " who must apply for permission to be on school grounds for special events.

In still another, the parents couldn't afford private school, and their young teen has been without any formal education for a year.

A teacher also wrote, questioning why I think the schools should be lenient to students who break clear rules.

Actually, I don 't. I 'm all in favor of punishment. But do we as a society really want teens out of school for a year?




Pubdate: Mon, 10 Mar 2008
Source: Journal News, The (NY)
Copyright: 2008 The Gannett Company, Inc.
Author: Noreen O'Donnell

Suspended For Nine Weeks For Smoking Marijuana

When I first read that a North Salem sophomore had been suspended for nine weeks for smoking marijuana, I thought I had misunderstood.

I hadn't.

That is the punishment given to Pablo Rodriguez, a 16-year-old at North Salem High School, and it seems too harsh. Many of his neighbors think so too and they have been signing a petition asking school officials to reconsider.

After all, the officials would never have known about the remnants of a joint found in Rodriguez's pocket had his father not alerted them. The elder Rodriguez, also named Pablo, said he thought the community should face the problem of drugs in the middle and high schools.

"I went to the school for help and I received punishment," Rodriguez told The Journal News' Elizabeth Ganga.

Now, he believes parents should keep quiet instead and if that happens, an opportunity to confront drug use among young people will be lost.

You can appreciate the school district wanting to take a strong stand against substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol are a problem, especially when teenagers drive drunk or high. The schools superintendent, Kenneth Freeston, told Ganga that he was concerned about a perception that the schools were not addressing drugs.

But nine weeks? A week or two seems appropriate. If the problem is more serious maybe officials should be talking about treatment not punishment.




Pubdate: Sat, 08 Mar 2008
Source: Hickory Daily Record (NC)
Copyright: 2008 Hickory Daily Record
Author: Andrew Mackie

HICKORY -- A disparity in the prison sentences of crack cocaine offenders vs. powder cocaine offenders spurred legislation recently to provide judges with more flexibility in reducing such sentences.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry said the move would mean disastrous results for North Carolina.

About 460 prisoners would be released in the state, according to a Justice Department report, McHenry said during a Friday conference call with news media, including roughly 100 inmates in the next year.

"This is something all Americans should be concerned about," he said.

McHenry cited several other statistics for his position. Eighty percent of crack cocaine violators have previous records, he said. The Justice Department reports higher recidivism rates among those prisoners. And about 65 percent had a criminal history involving serious crimes of assault or worse, McHenry said.

Supporters of the change, including former president Bill Clinton, say crack cocaine offenders were unfairly targeted under U.S. sentencing guidelines.




Another week in the drug war where failure is chalked up as success. In Atlanta, at least one federal agent suggests the drug war is going so well that violence is about to spike in the city. Rutland, Vermont officials are patting themselves on the back for taking a very Constitutionally questionable procedure to check for drugs, which was likely to shake up citizens, though few drugs were found. In Pennsylvania, one police department is happy about drug corruption as it offers an opportunity to formulate better procedures. And, perhaps most ironically of all, it is alleged that a man jailed as a small time drug deal ruled a violent empire while behind bars.


Pubdate: Sun, 9 Mar 2008
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2008 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Steve Visser

Metro Atlanta may get a little bloodier. Call it a sign of success.

Jack Killorin, who heads a federal narcotics task force, said his agents are rolling up drug-trafficking organizations to the point that they have decreased the quality and raised the price of drugs on the street.

He credits last year's spike in area burglaries, robberies and car thefts in part to criminals forced to pay more for their illicit drugs.

If law enforcement someday succeeds in breaking up established drug territories - the real sign of success from a metropolitan perspective - it could mean a similar spike in murders, as drug organizations vie for a larger market share.

"If the market here gets unstable down to the street, then the streets will get bloody," said Killorin, director of Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force ( HIDTA ). "I don't think we're there yet."

He isn't praying for bloodshed - even if it results in the bad guys only shooting each other. The last thing he wants is Atlanta to look like Miami in the mid-1980s.




Pubdate: Sat, 08 Mar 2008
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Rutland Herald
Author: Brent Curtis

Law enforcement officers from three agencies in Rutland County, along with aerial support from the Vermont National Guard, conducted a roving war on drugs in the city Friday afternoon.

Officers from Rutland police, Vermont State Police and the Rutland County Sheriff's Department patrolled the streets pulling over more than 100 motorists whose vehicles were subjected to cursory searches for illegal drugs.

Police were looking for any plainly evident signs of drug trafficking within the vehicles.

The stops appeared to be taking place all over the city, according to residents who noted the high volume of police activity on the streets.

"We find motor vehicle violations and look for drugs when the cars are pulled over," said city police Lt. Kevin Geno.

About 20 officers were involved in the patrols along with a Vermont National Guard helicopter, which hovered over the city for much of the afternoon. Asked why the helicopter was requested, Geno said it was a precautionary measure "in case anybody runs."

None of the stopped cars had attempted to elude police as of 8:30 p.m. Friday, but two people had been arrested during the stops and an unknown amount of drugs were seized, Geno said.

The overtime operation, paid for by the three local agencies, was the second show of interagency cooperation this week in Rutland. On Tuesday, city police, State Police and federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives worked together to arrest three people on drug selling and weapon possession charge




Pubdate: Wed, 5 Mar 2008
Source: Erie Times-News (PA)
Copyright: 2008 Erie Times-News
Author: Kara Rhodes

An Erie police lieutenant betrayed a trust when he was accused of taking 12 grams of cocaine from the room that temporarily houses evidence at the police station.

But Robert J. Liebel's suspected theft has also created reforms, Erie Police Chief Steve Franklin said Tuesday.

A reduction of keys to the room and new tamper-resistant evidence bags are among the sweeping changes Erie police have made in how officers handle evidence, Franklin and Mayor Joe Sinnott announced Tuesday.

The changes were a direct result of Liebel's Feb. 10 arrest, they said.

"We've stepped it up," Franklin said at a news conference. "We have a whole lot more accountability."

The Bureau of Police consulted with the State Attorney General's Office, the Erie County District Attorney's Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police crime lab in Erie before introducing the stricter evidence-handling procedures, Franklin said.

Most of the changes affect how evidence is handled in the temporary-storage locker, the room from which Liebel is accused of taking the cocaine.




Pubdate: Sun, 09 Mar 2008
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2008 The Baltimore Sun Company
Author: Julie Bykowicz

Officials Say W. Md. Prison Inmate Ran Brutal City Gang

HAGERSTOWN - His mother says she sent him to this Western Maryland town as a teenager to escape the drugs and violence of their Bronx neighborhood. Instead, this is where he cut his teeth as a criminal.

Now 28 years old, Steve Lamont Willock has lived all but six months of his adult life behind bars. His home for the past four years, the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, is even farther from Baltimore - a place in which he might never have set foot. Yet authorities say they believe Willock commanded one of Baltimore's largest and most violent gangs, a set of the Bloods called Tree Top Piru.

From his prison cell, according to a federal racketeering indictment last month, Willock enforced the gang's rules and oversaw its activities, including violent initiations, witness intimidation and five murders. Twenty-seven other alleged gang members were indicted, including Willock's girlfriend, Diane Kline, a Hagerstown woman who relayed his messages to the streets of Baltimore, authorities say.

Willock could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the racketeering and drug conspiracy charges he faces. His defense attorney, Thomas Crowe, declined to comment on the specific charges but said his client "maintains his innocence" and will plead not guilty at an arraignment scheduled for March 21.

Authorities have not explained how they believe Willock ascended to the top of a Baltimore gang even as he remained behind bars in Cumberland. But the snippets of jailhouse letters and recorded phone calls included in the indictment portray him as a fearsome leader who called himself "Kanibal Lecktor." He instructed members, authorities said, to defend the Bloods' honor through violence.

"Understand that it's a violation to side with ... another set over Tree so make sure that y'all fully understand that anyone who does carry out that sort of violations will be sanctioned," he wrote in a letter to a gang member in Baltimore, according to federal prosecutors.

That gang lord persona comes as a surprise to those who knew Willock as "Chu," a seemingly low-level crack-cocaine dealer in Hagerstown - a small city that has become a magnet for big-city drug dealers. He was so nondescript that police officers who arrested him testified later that they couldn't remember him.

"Our relationship with him was pretty basic," said Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph S. Michael, who secured an 18-year-prison term for Willock in 2004. "He came here from New York, we arrested him, he went to prison. He got out, we arrested him, he went to prison. He got out, we arrested him, he went to prison."




The "BC3," Marc Emery, Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, appeared in B.C. Supreme Court on March 5th and the Crown requested another adjournment. They will return on April 9th, when all concerned will decide whether or not to accept a deal that would allow Marc to pay his debt to U.S. society by serving time in Canada.

Hemp advocates have an unlikely ally in former CIA Director Jim Woolsey, who called for industrial hemp regulation last week, in part because he thinks hemp may be "the single most effective way to cause trouble for marijuana."

A British mental health service provider is calling for more funds for mental health service providers to help spread the word that cannabis causes psychosis. It seems that roughly half of the young people who use their services report having tried cannabis. Of course, the correlation is consistent with lifetime prevalence in the general population.

Psychotic cannabis addicts may find relief with lithium. Common side effects include muscle tremors, twitching, ataxia, hyperparathyroidism (bone loss, hypercalcemia, hypertension, etc,), kidney damage, nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (polyuria and polydipsia) and seizures. Ask your doctor if lithium is right for you.


Pubdate: Wed, 12 Mar 2008
Source: Trail Daily Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Trail Daily Times
Author: Ian Mulgrew

Finally, a court ruling that puts in perspective the five to 10 years' imprisonment that B.C. cannabis crusader Marc Emery faces in U.S. prison for selling pot seeds.

In a judgment released Friday, B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Richard Low ( backed by Justices Mary Newbury and Anne Rowles ) said a one- month jail sentence plus probation was appropriate punishment for such an offence.

If anyone needed evidence, this decision exposes the fundamental unfairness of what is happening to Emery.

The appeal grew out of a case heard in Courtenay last fall in which the Crown thought too lenient concurrent, 30-day sentences imposed on Daniel Anthony Kostantin for selling marijuana seeds. The 36-year-old Kostantin pleaded guilty Sept. 26 to possession a year earlier of cannabis for the purpose of trafficking and export.

The prosecutors thought nine to 15 months' incarceration more fitting. Kostantin was caught with a dozen zip-lock baggies of bud having a total weight of only 400 grams ( less than a pound ). By contrast, he also had 1,426 grams ( about three pounds ) of seeds - -- and he admitted he ran a seed-selling business. He compared his operation to a wine boutique offering different strains for marijuana connoisseurs.

Kostantin had incorporated a company, obtained a business loan to pay for advertising and placed regular ads in High Times, a bible among some in the marijuana subculture.

The judge noted police could have obtained a search warrant simply by reading the magazine.


Emery, by comparison, for more than a decade has published his own magazine advertising and celebrating the quality of his seeds. He runs an Internet site devoted to marijuana, too. If there is a difference in their operations, it is only one of scale.

I think what is most important is that neither Emery nor Kostantin are exceptional.




Pubdate: Tue, 11 Mar 2008
Source: Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
Copyright: 2008 Denver Publishing Co.
Author: Gargi Chakrabarty, Rocky Mountain News

Former CIA Director Jim Woolsey is scheduled to address a meeting today at the Canadian Consulate in Denver.

But he won't speak about terrorism.

Woolsey, who has served under former President Clinton and has been an adviser to President Bush, will hold court via telephone on another of his favorite topics: industrial hemp.

Commercial farming of hemp is banned in the United States for its apparent similarities to marijuana - a charge repudiated by hemp supporters. Developed regions such as Europe and Canada allow farmers to grow hemp for industrial purposes such as ropes or fabrics. The Canadian consulate in Denver supports the move to lift the ban.

Woolsey says hemp, if allowed in the U.S., could become a low-water- consuming and easy-to-grow feedstock for biofuels. Also, because of its biological properties, hemp could inhibit the growth of illegal marijuana through cross-pollination.

"Historically, the Drug Enforcement Administration has interpreted hemp to be in the marijuana band so as to include a ban on it," Woolsey said Monday during a phone interview with the Rocky. "In fact, what that is doing is undermining the single most effective way to cause trouble for marijuana."




Pubdate: Sun, 09 Mar 2008
Source: Kent on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: 2008 KOS Media Ltd.
Author: Jenna Pudelek

As many as 60 per cent of young people in east Kent suffering from their first episode of psychosis smoke or have a history of smoking cannabis.

The new figures, provided by the NHS, reveal that in mental health patients aged 14 to 35, half had taken or were taking the drug. For younger service users, aged 14 to 25, the rate is 63 per cent.

Karen White, medical director of Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, said: "That gives you an idea of the relationship between its use and psychosis.

"The youngest group that have psychosis are or have been cannabis users and they are not very old so it is in the recent past.

"I haven't got exact numbers [for west Kent] but it is safe to say it is the same."

A national charity that helps people with the most severe mental illness, Rethink, has launched a campaign urging the Government to spend more money raising awareness about the psychological dangers of cannabis among children.


The charity believes the Government is wasting time reclassifying cannabis instead of warning people about the dangers.

"We have got to educate and give young people the facts," Dr White said. "It is key to get it across in a way they will listen so they can weigh up the risks."


This year the Government is due to announce the results of a review into the reclassification of the drug.

The charity said: "Changing the classification won't stop people using cannabis. Our survey found only three per cent of people who had quit cannabis gave illegality as a reason for quitting.

"Jailing people will not solve the problem. The money spent on re- classifying cannabis again should instead be spent on health education, services for cannabis addiction and further research into the links with mental illness."




Pubdate: Fri, 7 Mar 2008
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2008 The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Kate Benson, Medical Reporter

A COMMON medication used to treat people with bipolar disorder could help cannabis addicts kick the habit without suffering withdrawal symptoms such as aggression and depression, a study has found.

Researchers at Corella Drug Treatment Services and the University of NSW studied 20 people who used cannabis every day for at least nine years, prescribing them 500 milligrams of lithium twice a day for seven days. They found that three months after the treatment most of the users were smoking cannabis less often, and many had given up completely.

Cannabis is the most commonly abused illicit drug in Australia, and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre estimates that one in 10 people who try it will become addicted.

Heavy users who try to give up usually experience marked disturbances in mood, sleep and hostility, which can cause them to relapse, making recovery more difficult, but the chief investigator of the study, Adam Winstock, said yesterday that the possibility of finding an effective treatment to manage withdrawal was exciting. "This was a very small trial, and it was carried out in hospital with people who were highly motivated and did not have mental health problems or used other drugs, so it had its limitations, but I'm hoping the results can be matched in a controlled trial next year because we were very impressed with the outcome." Dr Winstock said.

All the participants reported they had been abstinent for an average of 88 per cent of the days since their treatment, and 29 per cent had not used cannabis at all. Studies in rats had shown they experienced an increase in levels of the hormone oxytocin when given lithium during withdrawal from cannabis. Oxytocin is dubbed the "happy hormone" and is released during lactation, orgasm, childbirth, hugging and touching and can produce feelings of wellbeing.

"When the rats were made to go through withdrawal without lithium they appeared to be aggressive and moody, but when they were given lithium they were a little more chilled," Dr Winstock said.




With a more liberal government in Jamaica, the idea of decriminalizing cannabis is again being seriously considered with support from many in the country.

In New Zealand, the meat industry wants to bring in workers from outside the country, as up to 80 percent applicants who are citizens have failed drug tests. In Vancouver, after enduring international criticism over innovative drug policy approaches, the mayor has some other new ideas.

Young people brutalized by police drug raids at clubs in South Africa are organizing to fight back. And, after the head of the U.N. Drug Control Board singled out celebrity drug users by name for punishment in order to set an example, Canadian columnist Dan Gardner explored the flaws in such proposals.


Pubdate: Tue, 11 Mar 2008
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2008 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Author: Robert Booth, in Kingston

Drugs Law Reform Could Free Courts Logjam - But The Issues Are Not That Simple

Rastafarian priest Headley Samuel holds up a stem of pungent marijuana and reveals his recipe for bliss: "Fast, breakfast, drink aloe vera and smoke ganja." His routine, which he says takes him to "the highest spiritual realm", makes him a lawbreaker. But soon that may change. Jamaica, the largest producer of cannabis in the Caribbean, is considering decriminalising use of the drug.

A seven-member government commission has examined possible reforms of the nation's anti-drug laws, which some police complain clog up courts and jails with marijuana-related cases.

Possession of ganja, as it is known in Jamaica, can be punished with imprisonment. Some Jamaicans consider that disproportionate and a recent newspaper poll revealed that Jamaicans rate smoking above drinking as a way to wind down.

It is widely used, with fumes wafting from Kingston building sites and across bars. Quantities are openly for sale in parts of downtown Kingston for as little as 35p for a spliff.

A previous government-appointed ganja commission proposed decriminalisation in 2003. That was never acted upon because the government feared it would cause the withdrawal of their country's U.S. anti-drug certification and trigger economic sanctions.

The new Jamaican Labour party government, which took power last year, has decided to think again.

"We are happy to know this has not been forgotten," said Paul Burke, president of the National Alliance for the Legalisation of Ganja. "It would release the police from the bind of an unjust and an unenforceable law.




Pubdate: Sat, 08 Mar 2008
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2008 New Zealand Herald
Author: Simon Collins

The meat industry wants to bring in seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands to meet a labour shortfall caused partly by up to 80 per cent of local applicants failing drug tests.

The industry has begun tripartite meetings with the Government and unions about a scheme similar to the new, recognised seasonal employer scheme for horticulture, which allows horticulturists to bring in up to 5000 workers from the Pacific for up to seven months a year.

Meat Industry Association adviser Robyn Deacon said the labour shortfall in the meat industry was smaller _ about 1000 in a workforce of 24,000.

But the industry faced the same challenges of finding seasonal labour in near-full-employment rural areas. The meatworks' recent shift to drug testing all job applicants had heightened the problem.

Hamilton-based Affco, which runs 10 meatworks from Moerewa in the north to Awarua near Invercargill, started testing three years ago and said the number of job applicants who failed the test varied from area to area.

"At times it can be as high as 80 per cent," said human resources manager Graeme Cox.

Christchurch-based Anzco Foods said the numbers failing its drug test were "on the increase". "It can get as high as 80 per cent ... " said human resources manager Heather Burton.

The country's biggest meat company with 25 works, Dunedin-based PPCS, reported a lower rejection rate of 24 per cent of job applicants and said some were rejected for reasons other than the drug test.




Pubdate: Sun, 09 Mar 2008
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Frances Bula

VANCOUVER - Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan is taking a new direction in his war on drugs.

The mayor has written to Health Minister Tony Clement to say he would like some of the federal government's anti-drug strategy money to go to street health-care teams, not just the drug-substitution experiments that he has been advocating for the last two years.

In a letter sent off March 6, Sullivan specifically asks that some of the $10 million he says has been promised to Vancouver be used for what are called "assertive community teams."

Those teams are a tool being used in various parts of the United States, Ontario and, recently, Victoria, as a way to try to cope with the rising numbers of mentally ill people who are heavy drug users and often living on the streets.

ACT teams, as they're called, focus on going out to where these people are, since they are often the kind of people who will not use regular clinic-based services that require showing up for appointments. As well, many standard addiction or health services have a hard time coping with such patients' multiple problems.

As a result, even when there are a lot of health services available, they typically end up not being helped by anyone except police and hospital emergency rooms.




Pubdate: Tue, 11 Mar 2008
Source: Cape Times (South Africa)
Copyright: 2008 Cape Times
Author: Karen Breytenbach

While the students and nightclub owners who were allegedly manhandled and assaulted by the police during raids in Stellenbosch on Friday night prepared to take joint action against the police on Monday, the MEC for Community Safety has called on the provincial police commissioner's office and the Independent Complaints Directorate ( ICD ) to investigate the raids.

The management of Bohemia, Die Mystic Boer and Springbok Pub were compiling statements from traumatised customers which they would submit to their lawyer for a civil and criminal case against the police.

The campus radio station MFM also encouraged students caught up in the raids to make statements.

At the time of the raids, after midnight, Bohemia and Die Mystic Boer each had about 250 customers and Springbok about 800.

Springbok Pub owner Julian Vermeer said he saw how customers were slapped, punched and sprayed with mace by about 30 officers, while the women had their bras searched for drugs in a separate room. He himself was pushed to the ground.

George de Beer of Honey Attorneys said he was consulting with several students and their parents and expected to have about 200 statements by the end of the week.

Among those was a traumatised 25-year-old female student who was allegedly sexually assaulted by police officers in Bohemia's office.

De Beer said independent witnesses who heard her screaming and begging the police to stop molesting her have come forward.

The DA's Lennit Max, former police commissioner of the Western Cape, condemned the raids "in the strongest possible terms" and compared them to similar raids in Lavender Hill and Hawston.




Pubdate: Sun, 9 Mar 2008
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Times Colonist
Author: Dan Gardner

According to what the media described as "a United Nations report released Wednesday" -- more on that description in a moment -- the soft treatment of celebrity drug offenders gives young people the impression that drug use is no big thing. Thus, it "could undermine wider social efforts at reducing demand for drugs."

So that's it. It's all because Robert Downey Jr. isn't in prison. If only a judge had done the right thing and sentenced Downey to life in San Quentin, young people would know drugs are bad. Chain Downey to five convicts and have him dig ditches all day and every young person in the western world will sit up straight, study hard and drink beer like decent folk.

It's an interesting theory. But not an original one. I first heard it several years ago.

I was in Istanbul, sitting on a patio with a federal court judge from California. The judge was certain that if the courts were to make an example of a few celebrities, our troubles -- as Colonel Kurtz put it in Apocalypse Now -- would soon be over.

Interesting, I said, and took another sip of a drug that has killed far more people than all the illicit drugs combined. But what about the Chinese?

The judge was perplexed. What about them?

Well, I explained, every year since 1990, the Chinese government has marked the UN's International Day Against Drug Abuse with show trials of drug traffickers which end, as show trials usually do, with the defendants being convicted and sentenced to death. Then they shoot a bunch. This is widely publicized in the state media.

One can accuse the Chinese government of many things but being soft on drug offenders is not one of them. And yet, trafficking and abuse are rising steadily in China.

It seems to me, I told the judge, that if mass public slaughter doesn't do the trick, neither will sending Robert Downey Jr. to San Quentin. You will have to be much tougher -- tougher even than the Chinese -- for your theory to have any chance at working.

Perhaps Downey's execution could be preceded by a little waterboarding? Thumbscrews? Electric shocks?

That would be excessive, the judge conceded. He promised to reconsider his hypothesis.



 HOT OFF THE 'NET  ( Top )


By Bill Conroy,


Warning from Otherwise Sane Senator

By Ron Fisher, NORML

Iowa constituent writes to Sen. Tom Harkin asking why medical pot is illegal, constituent gets off-the-wall fearmongering reply.


By Ethan Nadelmann

I am excited to announce that the Drug Policy Alliance Network (DPA's lobbying arm) is sponsoring a ballot measure in California that represents the biggest sentencing and prison reform in United States history.


How Americans Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Workplace Drug Testing

By Greg Beato, Reason Magazine

In the increasingly divided American landscape, where language, faith, and prime-time television no longer unite us as they once did, a thin golden line holds the nation together


By Steve Rolles, Transform Drug Policy Foundation

In a strange and disturbing turn of events here in Vienna at the UN CND, the UNODC director Antonio Maria Costa, who had seemed to be making positive rhetorical gestures to the concerns of the NGO community with his speech on Monday, has this morning managed to spectacularly embarrass the UNODC with some intemperate remarks insulting a large swathe of the very civil society he has been at such pains to claim meaningful engagement with.


A coalition of groups including the International Harm Reduction Association, Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, have published a report taking the United Nations drug control policies to task for not being in compliance with essential human rights principles -- principles which, by United Nations charter, take precedence over other United Nations treaties.

The report is: Recalibrating the Regime: The Need for a Human Rights- Based Approach to International Drug Policy


The Wire co-creator Ed Burns talks about failure in the drug war, public education, the war in Iraq, and police strategies.

By Radley Balko


The Comedy Central funnyman recently visited DPA's New York City office to shoot a segment of "Better Know a Lobbyist" for The Colbert Report.


Cultural Baggage - 03/12/08 - John Baeza

John Baeza with 24 years of law enforcement experience now a speaker for LEAP, (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) + Poppygate Report with Glenn Greenway and a call for the first ever "Friends of LEAP" meeting, to make a coordinated contact with elected officials.

Century of Lies - 03/11/08 - Virginia McDavid

Virginia McDavid, running for a congressional seat in the state of Texas dares to discuss the need for change to our drug laws + NPR interview of "The Wire" writer & extract from "Faces of Colombia"



As the presidential primaries get closer and closer, we need to know where all the candidates stand on important medical marijuana issues. Call, write, and ask the candidates in person on their campaign trail where they stand on medical marijuana.


The World Psychedelic Forum with over 60 seminars, lectures, and panel discussions, presented by more than 50 experts, and some 30 young researchers from all over the world, with a rich audio-visual supporting program, and a variety of external events during 3 nights offers a unique Easter weekend in Basel for the young and the young at heart, for the interested lay persons, as well as the professional, a gathering you will never forget!



By Linda Paey

That was a wonderful article about the dilemma of pain medication, however I am strongly against prescription drug monitoring. My husband is Richard Paey. He is a chronic pain patient who had a high need for strong pain relievers due to a car accident, a botched spinal operation and his MS. He was well-documented in having gone to numerous pain clinics and had not doctor-shopped. Yet he was still targeted by the police. They stubbornly dragged him through three trials, he spent 31/2 years in prison and then was miraculously pardoned in September.

Although it was illegal at the time, the police pulled Rich's prescriptions from pharmacies and decided he was taking "too much" pain medicine; that was the sole basis of their actions against my husband. Therefore, I don't trust the police to act appropriately with information obtained from the pharmacies. I do not believe our case is isolated. In most cases, the pain patient accepts a plea agreement so no one ever hears about it.

I wish prescription monitoring would be the silver bullet that could solve some of these problems. Unfortunately it will solve some and create others.

Linda Paey, Hudson

Pubdate: Sun, 2 Mar 2008
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)



By Paul Armentano

On Tuesday, January 29 -- three days prior to the publication of a forthcoming study assessing marijuana use and cancer -- Reuters News Wire published a story under the headline: "Cannabis Bigger Cancer Risk Than Tobacco." Mainstream media outlets across the globe immediately followed suit. "Smoking One Joint is Equivalent to 20 Cigarettes, Study Says," Fox News declared, while Australia's ABC broadcast network pronounced, "Experts Warn of Cannabis Cancer 'Epidemic.'

If those headlines weren't attention-grabbing enough, one only had to scan the stories' inflammatory copy -- much of which was lifted directly from press statements provided by the study's lead author in advance of its publication.

"While our study covers a relatively small group, it shows clearly that long-term cannabis smoking increases lung-cancer risk," chief investigator Richard Beasley declared. Beasley went on to speculate that pot "could already be responsible for one in 20 lung cancers diagnosed in New Zealand" before warning: "In the near future we may see an 'epidemic' of lung cancers connected with this new carcinogen."

The mainstream press, always on the look out for a good pot scare story, ran blindly with Beasley's remarks. Apparently not a scribe among them felt any need to confirm whether Beasley's study -- which remained embargoed at the same time it was making worldwide headlines - -- actually said what was claimed.

It didn't.

For those who actually bothered to read the study's full text, which appeared in the European Respiratory Journal days after the global feeding frenzy had ended, they would have learned the following. Among the 79 lung cancer subjects who participated in the trial, 70 of them smoked tobacco. These individuals, not surprisingly, experienced a seven-times greater risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer compared to tobacco-free controls. As for the subjects in the study who reported having used cannabis, they -- on average -- experienced no statistically significant increased cancer risk compared to non-using controls.

So how'd the press get the story so wrong? There are several reasons. First, beat writers based their stories on a press release rather than the study itself. Unfortunately, this is a common practice used by the mainstream media when writing about cannabis-related science. More often than not, media outlets strive to publish their reports prior to a study's publication -- a desire that all but forces reporters to write about data they have never seen. ( Likewise, as a marijuana law reform advocate I'm also frequently asked by the press to comment on studies that are not yet public, though I typically choose not to. )

Second, the media chose to selectively highlight data implicating cannabis's dangers while ignoring data implicating its relative safety. In this case, the study's authors ( and, by default, the worldwide press ) chose only to emphasize one small subgroup of marijuana smokers ( those who reported smoking at least one joint per day for more than ten years ). These subjects did in fact, experience an elevated risk of lung cancer compared to non-using controls. ( Although contrary to what the press reported, even the study's heaviest pot smokers never experienced an elevated comparable to those subjects who reported having "ever used" tobacco. ) By contrast, cannabis consumers in the study who reported light or moderate pot use actually experienced a decreased cancer risk compared to non-using controls. ( Bottom line, the sample size in all three subgroups is far too small to draw any sound conclusions. )

Finally, the mainstream media failed to employ its own institutional memory. For example, some 18 months earlier The Washington Post and other newspapers around the world reported, "The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer." That study, performed by researchers at UCLA, assessed the potential association between marijuana smoking and cancer in over 2,200 subjects ( versus only 324 in the New Zealand study ), and determined that pot smoking was not positively associated with cancers of the lung or upper aerodigestive tract -- even among individuals who reported smoking more than 22,000 joints during their lifetime.

Prior large-scale population studies have reached similar conclusions. For instance, a NIDA ( U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse ) sponsored study of 164 oral cancer patients and 526 controls determined, "The balance of the evidence does not favor the idea that marijuana as commonly used in the community is a causal factor for head, neck or lung cancer in adults" and a 1997 Kaiser Permanente retrospective cohort study of 65,171 men and women in California found that cannabis use was not associated with increased risks of developing tobacco-use related cancers -- including lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, or melanoma. In fact, even the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine says definitively, "There is no conclusive evidence that marijuana causes cancer in humans, including cancers usually related to tobacco use." ( Tellingly, when I referred various reporters to these prior studies, I was consistently told that this information was irrelevant because they were assigned to write "only about this study." )

In short, had the mainstream media even taken the time to consult their own prior marijuana coverage, they would have immediately begun asking the sort of probing questions that the public normally expects them to. Of course, such hard and steadfast rules governing professional journalism seldom apply to the media' coverage of pot -- where political ideology typically trumps accuracy and where slipshod reporting hardly ever even warrants a public retraction. Writing in the journal Science nearly 40 years ago, New York state university sociologist Erich Goode aptly observed: "[T]ests and experiments purporting to demonstrate the ravages of marijuana consumption receive enormous attention from the media, and their findings become accepted as fact by the public. But when careful refutations of such research are published, or when latter findings contradict the original pathological findings, they tend to be ignored or dismissed."

How little has changed.

Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML and the NORML Foundation.

Pubdate: Mon, 10 Mar 2008
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2008 Independent Media Institute


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