This Just In
(1)Advocates Seek Changes In Fla Felon Rights System
(2)Silver City Woman Faces Eviction Over Medical Marijuana
(3)Five Held After 'Cannabis Cafe' Raid
(4)Pot Advocates Turned Away At Chamber Forum

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 THIS JUST IN  ( Top )


Pubdate: Thu, 23 Oct 2008
Source: Florida Times-Union (FL)
Copyright: 2008 The Florida Times-Union
Author: Bill Kaczor, Associated Press Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Michelle Latimore fervently hopes Democrat Barack Obama is elected president, but she won't be voting for him.

That's because the Miami woman - the wife of a poll worker and mother of two, including a soldier who has served a tour in Iraq - once was convicted of a felony for buying marijuana. As a result, she lost her civil rights. She said she applied to get them restored two years ago, but that's still pending.

"I can't vote, but I can pray. So that's what I'll do," said Latimore, who works for a traffic signal and street light company. "I can pray for him. I can pray that he wins."

She'll join thousands of former felons - estimates range from 300,000 to more than 900,000 - who'll be staying home on Election Day in Florida because they haven't gotten their rights back. That's even after a rules change last year aimed at speeding up Florida's restoration process for those convicted of relatively minor crimes.

Many other ex-convicts have had their rights restored but remain unregistered because they don't know it. State officials say they've lost track of them and cannot notify them. On the other hand, thousands of ex-cons have been allowed to register and vote even though their rights haven't been restored.




Pubdate: Thu, 23 Oct 2008
Source: Silver City Sun-News (NM)
Copyright: 2008 Silver City Sun-News
Author: Sam Conn, Sun-News reporter

SILVER CITY -- A handicapped Silver City woman says she is being discriminated against because she has medical marijuana in her home and was told to move out of her apartment as a result.

Bobbie Wooten, who lives in the Silver Cliffs apartments in Silver City, said an apartment management representative performed a surprise inspection on Tuesday and discovered two marijuana plants. According to Wooten, the representative left and came back a short while later and gave her a notice telling her she had three days to move out.

"People like me who have to use this ( marijuana ) are being discriminated against," Wooten said. "I am doing this lawfully, not sneaking around the dark alleys looking for a drug dealer."

The eviction is within the terms of the lease, said a spokesman for the Arizona realty company that manages the property.

"My lease provides for a drug-free environment," said David Kotin of Kay-Kay Realty. "Obviously, she is in violation of my lease."




Pubdate: Fri, 24 Oct 2008
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2008 Newsquest Media Group

The suspected owner of a cannabis cafe was in custody last night after a series of raids designed at smashing the organised supply of the drug.

Police said Mike Allday, 43, was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of selling the Class C drug in the heavily fortified cafe in Freshbrook Road, Lancing.

He was being questioned last night along with a 39-year-old woman from Brighton. Both were arrested in Worthing.

Police also executed a warrant at the cannabis cafe and arrested three people on suspicion of supplying cannabis.

Officers used an angle grinder to gain access to the building and took three men - a 32-year-old, a 39-year-old and a 19-year-old, all from Worthing - into custody.




Pubdate: Fri, 24 Oct 2008
Source: Albany Democrat-Herald (OR)
Copyright: 2008 Lee Enterprises
Author: Bennett Hall, Albany Democrat-Herald

A confrontation with medical marijuana advocates briefly disrupted the start of a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum on workplace substance abuse this morning.

Half a dozen activists were turned away by chamber officials as they tried to enter the forum at the Central Willamette Community Credit Union headquarters on Supra Drive Southwest.

Inside, Portland construction company executive Dan Harmon gave local business people an hourlong presentation titled "The Economic Impact of Substance Abuse and the Need for a Legislative Solution." A large part of his presentation was given over to a critique of Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act, which he described as "a Trojan horse for those who want to legalize marijuana."

Outside in the parking lot, frustrated activists said they only wanted to voice a dissenting view on the issue.

"What are they so afraid of? I'm not disruptive," said Sandee Burbank, who drove to Albany from her home in Mosier to attend the event. She and other members of her organization have attended similar forums in the past.





More drug testing for teachers is possible in West Virginia, and more evidence of prehistoric drug use. In other extremes, a third-grader is cited for an elementary schools drug policy, and, in USA Today, a cogent argument against drug courts (placed next to the usual boosterism from USAT's editorial board).


Pubdate: Thu, 16 Oct 2008
Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
Copyright: 2008 Charleston Daily Mail
Author: Ry Rivard

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Over objections that it could damage teacher moral and drag the county into a costly legal battle, the Kanawha County school board has voted to randomly test teachers for drugs.

In the 4-1 vote, the board looked to the corporate world and decided its pre-employment drug screenings and its suspicion-based testing for all employees was not enough.

Board member Bill Raglin said he didn't understand why the education community "thinks they're so different" from companies that currently test employees at random like his former employer, the Bayer plant in Institute.

The new policy adds teachers to a list of "safety-sensitive" positions, like bus drivers, that already faced random testing.

Robin Rector, the board's lone nay vote, argued that the testing policy did not treat teachers as professionals, would damage their morale and could invite lawsuits by teacher organizations and civil rights groups.

"We're really going to pay the price if we go forward with this," she said.




Pubdate: Sun, 19 Oct 2008
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

Stone Age humans could well have deserved the name. Scientists have found the drug paraphernalia used by prehistoric humans to cook up herbal mixtures to get themselves high.

Scientists have long suspected that humans have an ancient history of drug use but much of the evidence has been indirect, ranging from the bizarre images found in prehistoric cave art to the discovery of hemp seeds in excavations.

Now, however, researchers have found equipment used to prepare hallucinogenic drugs for sniffing, and dated them back to South American tribes.

Quetta Kaye, of University College London, and Scott Fitzpatrick, an archeologist from North Carolina State University, found the ceramic bowls, plus tubes used to inhale drug fumes or powders, on the Caribbean island of Carriacou.

The bowls appear to have originated in South America between 100BC and 400BC and were then carried the 400 miles to the islands. One implication is that drug use may have been widespread for thousands of years before this time.

Kaye's research, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, said: "The objects tested for this study are ceramic inhaling bowls that were likely used for the ingestion of hallucinogenic substances."

The use of such paraphernalia for inhaling drugs is well-known but the age was a surprise. What is less clear is exactly which drugs would have been used. Cannabis was not found in the Caribbean then.

There were, however, alternatives. Kaye believes one of the most likely was cohoba, a hallucinogen made from the beans of a mimosa species.

Archeological investigations in Mexico and Texas have found indirect evidence that as far back as 5,000 years ago humans were extracting mind-expanding drugs from mescal beans and peyote cacti, while opiates can be obtained from species such as poppies.




Pubdate: Thu, 16 Oct 2008
Source: Daily Inter Lake, The (MT)
Copyright: 2008 The Daily Inter Lake
Author: Kristi Albertson

A third-grader who admitted smoking marijuana recently at Muldown Elementary School became one of the first students disciplined under the Whitefish School District's new suspicion-based drug-testing policy.

No one saw the boy smoking pot in the boys' restroom, Superintendent Jerry House said, but teachers could smell the smoke. Because teachers keep close track of who they let use the restroom, it wasn't difficult to find a likely suspect.

Other students confirmed school officials' suspicions, House said; the boy allegedly asked some of his peers if they wanted to smoke, too. When officials recovered a pipe, which was hidden under a shed on the playground, the boy confessed.

Under Whitefish's drug-testing policy, which the school board approved Aug. 12, the district may test any student who exhibits signs of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A specially trained staff member - part of an intervention specialist team - judges whether reasonable suspicion exists.




Pubdate: Tue, 21 Oct 2008
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Morris Hoffman
Note: Morris Hoffman is a state trial judge in Denver and an adjunct
professor of law at the University of Colorado.

They Turn Neutral Judges into Cheerleaders, Substitute Parents.

There are only two problems with drug courts. They don't work, and they turn judges into intrusive agents of the Nanny State.

Independent evaluations of drug courts have been mixed, but many show that drug courts have no, or very little, impact on re-arrest recidivism. In Denver, for example, where I sit as a trial judge, an evaluation of our drug court done by the insiders who ran it claimed enormous reductions in recidivism. But when independent evaluators from the University of Denver looked at the program, they found that it reduced recidivism from a depressing 58% down to a still depressing 53%. Even that 5-point drop was well within the study's margin of error.

But it's not just that drug courts don't work, or don't work well. They have the perverse effect of sending more drug defendants to prison, because their poor treatment results get swamped by an increase in the number of drug arrests. By virtue of a phenomenon social scientists call "net-widening," the very existence of drug courts stimulates drug arrests.

Police are no longer arresting criminals, they are trolling for patients. Denver's drug arrests almost tripled in the two years after we began our drug court. At the end of those two years, we were sending almost twice the number of drug defendants to prison than we did before drug court.




More terror, incompetence and corruption this week.


Pubdate: Sun, 19 Oct 2008
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2008 The Observer
Author: Edward Helmore, in New York

Desperate Search For Six-Year-Old As Mexican Cartels Bring Bloody Vendetta To Las Vegas

Police in the United States are desperately searching for a six-year-old boy after he was taken from his home at gunpoint four days ago by three men posing as police. It is feared that the boy could be a pawn in the border drug war that has cost 3,700 lives this year alone and that he may have been abducted by a Mexican gang.

Cole Puffinburger was taken early last Wednesday after three armed men, described as Hispanic, went into the house in Las Vegas and demanded money. They then tied up Cole's mother and left with the boy.

Police believe he may have been taken because his grandfather, Clemens Fred Tinnemeyer, 51, owed Latino methamphetamine dealers between $8m and $20m ( UKP 4.6m-UKP 11.6m ). Last night Tinnemeyer was in custody being questioned by police; he is a legal bankrupt and was believed to be travelling in a beige-and-gold Winnebago motor trailer when he was arrested yesterday in Riverside over the Nevada-California border.

Las Vegas police captain Vincent Cannito said the case involved significant amounts of money and drugs and that there was a definite link between the family and drug deals. Law enforcement agencies said they were searching several locations in north east Las Vegas, and that, having arrested a second man, they were now looking for a third, Jesus Gasterone.



Pubdate: Fri, 17 Oct 2008
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2008 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Ingrid Peritz

Nicolo Rizzuto, 84, Gets Suspended Sentence, Probation After Plea Bargain

MONTREAL -- He had been described as the patriarch of a Canadian crime clan with tentacles reaching around the world. But only two years after Nicolo Rizzuto was led from his columned mansion and locked up in jail, he is walking away a free man. In a plea bargain, the 84-year-old grandfather and stalwart in one of Canada's most infamous crime families received a suspended sentence yesterday and three years of probation.

A few minutes after hearing Judge Jean-Pierre Bonin proclaim the sentence, the aging figure rose from his seat in the glass-enclosed prisoner's box and waved cheerily to family and supporters gathered in the courtroom.

The crime lieutenants who received sentences along with him - their terms range from six to 15 years - rose from their seats around him, smiled, and waved too.

Counting for time already served, they will be eligible for parole in five-and-a-half years at most.

Yesterday's sentencing comes two years after police carried out a massive sweep alleged to be a blow to the heart of Canada's Mafia. As part of a plea bargain, six underworld bosses admitted their guilt last month to crimes including narcotics-related charges, bookmaking, operating illegal gaming houses, gangsterism and extortion.

A veteran organized crime watcher said yesterday's punishments were laughable. By plea bargaining and avoiding trial, the criminals have come out ahead, author Antonio Nicaso argued.




Pubdate: Wed, 22 Oct 2008
Source: Highlands Today (FL)
Copyright: 2008 Media General Communications Holdings
Author: Brad Dickerson, Staff Writer

Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton compared past issues with evidence handling to "a tidal wave that drowned us."

Everything from a facility standpoint to storage space to staffing was listed by Benton as helping compact the problem.

"I can't minimize at all, or excuse, the fact that items are not able to be located, that we should in fact have," she said. "Also, I can't minimize at all the human error."

Benton was responding to a letter sent by State Attorney Jerry Hill stating he still had concerns over their evidence. The correspondence came almost a week after the HCSO submitted an evidence inventory report on more than 20,000 items, which represented 73 percent of all catalogued pieces of evidence.


Issues of "continuing concern," according to the Oct. 17 letter sent from Hill to Benton, include a missing firearm that was possibly destroyed, missing drugs, items characterized as having no evidentiary value, such as narcotics and paraphernalia, and the roughly 80 grow house cases, some of which have been "compromised."

In February's original evidence inventory, completed by Stephen Newell, a 34-year police veteran, it stated that marijuana seized from 16 of 80 grow-house raids "were unable to be weighed or individually accounted for due to advanced spoilage."




Pubdate: Tue, 21 Oct 2008
Source: Florence Morning News, The (SC)
Copyright: 2008 Media General, Inc.
Author: Jamie Rogers

FLORENCE - A jury has convicted former Lake City Police Sgt. Shanita McKnight of drug trafficking and extortion charges after a five-day federal trial. The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about three and a half hours before handing down the verdict Tuesday evening. A male alternate juror was present during the trial but he was dismissed Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Terry L. Wooten after the 12 jurors said they were capable of deliberating.

McKnight will be sentenced later. She faces a maximum penalty of 10 years to life in prison and fines ranging from $4 million to $8 million. She also faces a maximum penalty of a $250,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison for the extortion charge.

After the guilty verdict on drug trafficking charge was read, McKnight put her head down on the defense table and cried.

After the second verdict was handed down, she was turned around several times to look at her family and supporters seated behind her in the courtroom. McKnight's attorney, Joseph Henry of Columbia, told Wooten his client has lupus and other physical ailments and asked that she be allowed to remain out on bond until her sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Debbie Barbier of the Columbia office, who prosecuted the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Alfred W. Bethea Jr. of the Florence office, said she had no objection to McKnight being taken to a medical detention facility.




Proposition 1, which would regulate medicinal cannabis in Michigan, is facing opposition from socially conservative public employees.

Question 2, a cannabis decriminalization initiative that will appear on Massachusetts ballots, is being opposed by district attorneys.

Yet another example of the ever-widening gap between the cultural acceptance of cannabis and antiquated cannabis laws that no longer reflect community values comes our way from Georgia.

In Canada, the Mounties go-to guy on cannabis crime, Dr. Darryl Plecas, faulted cumbersome courts and pesky privacy laws for preventing the RCMP from winning the war on grow-ops, calling for more imaginative ways to get around these impediments.


Pubdate: Wed, 22 Oct 2008
Source: Northern Express (MI)
Copyright: 2008 Northern Express
Author: Rick Coates

When Dr. George Wagoner, a retired obstetrician/gynaecologist from Manistee, saw the suffering his wife of 51 years was enduring from her battle with ovarian cancer last year, he turned to marijuana to ease her pain. "During her chemotherapy she experienced intense nausea, and conventional anti-nausea drugs didn't help much. One drug cost $46.20 a pill and didn't help," said Dr. Wagoner. "Another made her hallucinate, so she refused to take it. Basically, pharmaceutical drugs were ineffective and the marijuana -- just a very small dose -- was most effective."

Dr. Wagoner and his wife are among many who have taken the path of using marijuana for medical purposes. However, in Michigan, they are breaking the law. On November 4, Ballot Proposal 1 will give Michigan voters the opportunity to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Currently, 12 other states have laws allowing the use of medical marijuana.

For Reverend Steve Thompson, chapter president of the Benzie County NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), the ballot issue is music to his ears.

"I have been an advocate for this for many years," said Thompson. "I have been using marijuana for the past 42 years of my life. I am not into alcohol and a prescription drug about killed me. I turn 61 on November 5 and I expect this to be the best birthday present ever."

Support & Opposition

Of course, Thompson is assuming that the ballot proposal is going to pass. The most recent survey of Michigan voters conducted by the Detroit News/WYXZ radio shows 66 percent of voters in support of the ballot issue.

However, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge and former congressman, state senator and Michigan Agricultural Director Bill Schuette has been leading the opposition fight against the ballot proposal. Schuette is part of the newly-formed organization Citizens Protecting Michigan's Kids that has been campaigning against the issue.

"Proposal 1 is flawed and full of unintended consequences which will be devastating to Michigan's kids and their families," said judge Schuette. "While there is a need to help people burdened with chronic pain symptoms, Proposal 1, which advocates legalizing marijuana, is carelessly written and opens the door to greater access to drugs for teenagers across Michigan."

But Thompson counters that the other side has been campaigning on half truths and not giving the voters all of the facts.




Pubdate: Mon, 20 Oct 2008
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2008 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: David Abel, Globe Staff

As a student at Stonehill College, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley found himself in a room with guys passing around a bong. "When it came to me, I inhaled so hard that it burned my lungs," he says. "I don't want to sound Clintonesque; I inhaled, but I couldn't handle it."

Gerry Leone, Middlesex district attorney, also admits to smoking pot. "It was years ago, when I was a young man," he said. "I tried it once, and it wasn't something I was ever into."

Michael O'Keefe, district attorney for the Cape and Islands, would only hint at his past: "Like a lot of people in my generation, we did a lot of things that were unwise, unhealthy, and illegal," he says.

The prosecutors - who would have faced obstacles to attaining their law enforcement positions had they been caught - are now among the leading opponents of a proposition on the Nov. 4 ballot that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. They argue that the initiative would send the wrong message and lead to a host of social problems.

Proponents argue, however, that if the question passed, possession of small amounts would remain illegal but would no longer tarnish someone's future.

Under state law, those convicted of possessing even a small amount of marijuana now face up to six months in jail, a fine of $500, and a lifelong criminal record that may be available to potential employers, housing agencies, and student loan providers. In 2006, 6,902 people were arrested in Massachusetts for marijuana possession - - more than 38 percent of all the drug arrests in the state that year, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports.

All arrests for marijuana possession are archived by the state's Criminal History Systems Board - even when there isn't a conviction. The board is obliged to disclose such Criminal Offender Record Information, known as CORI, to any employer seeking to hire a teacher, police officer, day-care center employee, school bus driver, or nursing home worker, as well as prosecutors.




Pubdate: Tue, 21 Oct 2008
Source: Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus,GA)
Copyright: 2008 Ledger-Enquirer
Author: Sonya Sorich

In 1938, the film "Reefer Madness" warned young people that marijuana would make them violent, promiscuous and insane.

Today, the message is a tougher sell.

"Reefer Madness" has become a cult classic among the pro-marijuana community and spurred a musical satire of the same title, which will be performed by the Chattahoochee Shakespeare Company in January.

Harold and Kumar, the title characters of two modern "stoner" films, smoke pot but also have skills for socially respectable occupations -- one's an investment banker, one has a knack for medicine.

"A general unspoken consensus among teenagers is that marijuana has fewer bad side effects than other drugs and therefore isn't as serious," says one 17-year-old male student from Columbus High School. "It is also, in some cases, easier to obtain and therefore some might think it to be less illegal."

Dan Rose is a psychologist who directs The Counseling Center at Columbus State University. "In the court of public opinion," he says, "marijuana has been judged and been found relatively innocent."

Then there's "Weeds." The Showtime series depicts a suburban soccer mom who becomes a marijuana dealer to support her family in the aftermath of her husband's death. She frequently must escape attempts on her life, and others aren't so fortunate.

So while teens get mixed messages about marijuana, many parents and teachers and anti-drug groups try to stress the dangers the drug poses to young lives. Contrast Harold and Kumar movies to an ad from Above the Influence that shows a young boy whose skin is burnt with fire every time a teenager, presumably his sister, smokes weed. "Smoking weed hurts more than just you," the ad concludes.


Dangers and risks

About 38 percent of the more than 14,000 high school students polled in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey said they'd used marijuana once or more during their lives.


Of course, marijuana is also illegal. In Georgia, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. For first offenders, the charge may be dismissed upon completion of probation. But possession of more than an ounce is a felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A person possessing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school faces the possibility of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.



Pubdate: Sat, 18 Oct 2008
Source: Langley Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Langley Times
Author: Monique Tamminga

To put a dent in grow ops and meth labs, it's time to consider the problem a public safety issue and get away from relying on a 'failed' court system, said Surrey fire chief Len Garis at a forum held in Langley City on Thursday.

"B.C. Bud is potentially a $12 billion industry. If we take away organized crime's ability to earn money, we win," Garis said to the more than 100 realtors, politicians, bylaw and police officers who attended the half-day forum put on by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board at the Cascades Convention Centre.

"We are turning the tide but as the drug industry adapts to our strategies, we must find new tools," said Garis. "If we sit back, the whole thing will re-energize itself."

Since the Surrey fire department began its public safety inspections, that look at B.C. Hydro consumption records to root out homes using high amounts of electricity, it has seen a more than 50 per cent drop in grow ops, he said. It was a problem the Surrey RCMP had a hard time tackling, hampered by the need for judge-approved warrants and other restrictions.

Because of what the justice system requires of police, processing of each criminal case has gone up two-thirds, says Dr. Darryl Plecas who is the RCMP research chair of the University of the Fraser Valley.

"It used to take [police] nine steps to process a marijuana grow operation. Today, it takes 64," said Plecas who was one of six experts to speak at the forum. "It used to take one hour to process an impaired driver. It now takes five hours," said Plecas.

"If we want to help efficiency, we must demand efficiency in the courts. They are not accountable and this tragedy has gone on too long."


While privacy issues are 'the enemy' of most of these initiatives, points out Plecas, there are ways to accomplish lofty goals like this.




The diplomatic row between Bolivia and the U.S. intensified last week as Washington suspended trade "preferences" with the tiny land-locked South American nation. U.S. officials are optimistic "between 20,000 and 30,000 Bolivians might lose their jobs as a result", according to a Washington Post report. "Washington pretends they are going to confront the national government through this textiles sector. If Washington was aware of some basic facts, they would know this sector was always in opposition to the national government," noted Juan Ramon Quintana, Bolivian minister of the presidency. The U.S. accuses the popular government of indigenous coca farmer Evo Morales of not sufficiently fighting the coca plant.

In Canada, the fallout continues from the exposure of cherry-picked anti-Insite reports commissioned by Canadian police. Prohibitionist columnists, like CanWest's Margaret Kopala, assailed those who would dare question RCMP reports as mere "special interest groups", suggesting government harass "all the service organizations in the Downtown Eastside" ... "why not open [their] books?"

Meanwhile, results from the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) have been released. The study, located in Vancouver, B.C., involved placing marginalized opiate addicts on either a heroin prescription, or a prescription for a heroin substitute. "The results were most promising: 88 per cent of those receiving heroin and 54 per cent of those on methadone stayed with the program." Illegal "heroin use dropped by nearly 70 per cent, the number of subjects involved in illegal activities fell by almost half, and subjects reported significant improvements in both their physical and mental health."

In Mexico this week, the prohibitionist Bush regime in Washington D.C. sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for meetings with Mexican officials amid a growing bloodbath there. Mexican President Felipe Calderon has escalated the drug war since he's been in office. This is pleasing to Washington, but at a terrible domestic cost as destabilized cartels battle for turf. Amid much fanfare earlier this week, Mexican officials arrested Jesus Zambada Garcia, alleged to be "a high-level trafficker" within the Sinaloa Cartel. Although thousands have been killed in the Mexican president's U.S.-pleasing drug war, drugs from, or passing through Mexico remain plentiful and inexpensive north of the border.


Pubdate: Sun, 19 Oct 2008
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2008 The Washington Post Company
Author: Joshua Partlow, Washington Post Foreign Service

Suspension of Preferences Raises Fears of Widespread Job Losses

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- The decision by the Bush administration to suspend trade preferences that benefit Bolivia has left workers here worried about the potential for widespread layoffs at a time when the nation is struggling to cope with the international financial crisis.

U.S. officials estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 Bolivians might lose their jobs as a result of the suspension of preferences, which are important for such Bolivian exports as textiles and jewelry.

"This decision is discriminatory and political," said Emilio Pinto Marin, vice minister of the budget department. "It's going to affect our productivity."

President Bush said Thursday that he signed the law suspending Bolivia's trade privileges because the country had "failed to cooperate with the United States on important efforts to fight drug trafficking." But many officials here see it as the latest step in an escalating feud between the two countries.

In recent months, cooperation between U.S. and Bolivian anti-drug authorities has deteriorated. In September, President Evo Morales expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg over accusations that Goldberg was conspiring with Bolivia's political opposition. Goldberg denied the charges, and the United States responded by dismissing Bolivia's ambassador to Washington. Amid roadblocks and outbursts of political violence last month, the Peace Corps pulled its volunteers from Bolivia.

"You have to say that the traditional relationship that Bolivia had with the United States . . . has come to an end," Bolivia's minister of the presidency, Juan Ramon Quintana, said in an interview. "I believe this is the worst moment for the relations between the United States and the entire world. The worst moment."


Quintana, the presidency minister, said that Bolivia is reorienting its textile exports to Brazil and Venezuela and that it would not be hurt economically by the loss of preferences.

"From the Bolivian perspective, this is an absurdity," he said. "Washington pretends they are going to confront the national government through this textiles sector. If Washington was aware of some basic facts, they would know this sector was always in opposition to the national government. What is this going to achieve?"




Pubdate: Wed, 22 Oct 2008
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Margaret Kopala

(CNS) The RCMP has its problems but nothing justifies cowering before special interest groups.

This time, it's "E" Division that's under fire from the Pivot Legal Society in a Vancouver battleground where electoral politics has nothing on the politics of supervised drug injection.


Still, if the Pivot Legal Society wishes to involve the auditor-general, so be it. Transparency is always a good thing.

While she's at it, why not open the books of all the service organizations in the Downtown Eastside. Why not reveal the names of board members, peer reviewers, their fees and salaries, spousal relationships, political connections and who, in what government department, motivated by what rationale, is authorizing payment for all this.




Pubdate: Wed, 22 Oct 2008
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Vancouver Sun

We Have To Overcome Our Squeamishness And Start Using What Works For Addiction

Although heroin maintenance might appear to be a daring new treatment for heroin addicts, it's neither daring nor new.

Indeed, the United States, of all countries, ran narcotic maintenance programs until 1925, and the United Kingdom engaged in opiate maintenance for much of the 20th century.

Given the success of Britain's programs, many other European countries, including Switzerland, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, have conducted scientific studies on the efficacy of opiate maintenance, and have found that it has had significant positive outcomes for both addicts and their communities.

And now the results of the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) are in. The initiative involved 251 volunteers (192 in Vancouver and 59 Montreal) who were chronic opiate addicts.


In other words, the subjects were among the most chronic and marginalized of addicts, the people who have failed to respond to other treatments and who often have the most trouble accessing health and social services.

The investigators, led by Martin Schecter, director of the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia, divided the subjects into two groups. The first group received heroin for a 12-month period, while subjects in the second were given methadone pills.

The results were most promising: 88 per cent of those receiving heroin and 54 per cent of those on methadone stayed with the program. These are impressive retention rates given the chronic nature of the subjects' addiction, and the results for the heroin group are especially promising.

Further, illicit heroin use dropped by nearly 70 per cent, the number of subjects involved in illegal activities fell by almost half, and subjects reported significant improvements in both their physical and mental health. And those in the heroin group did particularly well, often significantly better than those receiving methadone.




Pubdate: Thu, 23 Oct 2008
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2008 The New York Times Company
Author: Marc Lacey

MEXICO CITY -- The Bush administration signaled its alarm about Mexico's vicious drug war by sending the American secretary of state on Wednesday to a two-day meeting on improving cross-border cooperation in the battle against the country's powerful drug cartels.

The Bush administration increasingly sees the violent clashes in Mexico as a threat to American security, and the lawlessness was high on the agenda when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived on Wednesday in Puerto Vallarta for meetings with her local counterpart, Patricia Espinosa. The Mexicans had sought the high-level visit to press for greater coordination with the United States in their fight against the heavily armed cartels, but the world economic crisis was also discussed.


On Wednesday, Mexican authorities were touting the arrest of Jesus Zambada Garcia, a high-level trafficker from the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, after a shootout with the police in Mexico City.

The Mexican government's fight against traffickers comes with considerable risk, because cartel leaders have singled out for assassination numerous law enforcement officials engaged in the antidrug campaign. Mr. Calderon has said that he has received numerous threats since he started his antidrug offensive upon taking office nearly two years ago.



 HOT OFF THE 'NET  ( Top )


This three-day conference was held on Friday, October 17 through Sunday, October 19, 2008 with social events and an opening reception on the evening of Thursday, October 16. This was the 37th Annual Conference for NORML, held in Berkeley, California, at the Doubletree Berkeley Marina.


By Tony Newman, AlterNet. Posted October 21, 2008.

There is a raging battle in the treatment community over how much carrot vs. stick we should use to help people who need treatment.


by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

Like the Energizer bunny, Drug Czar John Walters' lies just keep on coming.


The military will carry out joint operations in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Sonora, Tabasco, Coahuila, and Campeche

by Jorge Alejandro Medellin Translation and notes by Kristin Bricker


Join MPP-TV's Noah Brozinsky as he reviews five of the 2008 presidential candidates' positions on marijuana policy.



Century of Lies - 10/21/08 - James Anthony

Pledge drive special with reports from the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws conference in Berkeley California with Steve Bloom, former high times editor and author of pot culture + attorney James Anthony

Cultural Baggage - 10/22/08 - Keith Stroup

NORML & Pledge Drive Special: Keith Stoup, former Dir of NORML, Dale Gieringer of CA NORML, Mason Tvert of SAFER, Los Marijuano's, Phil Jackson with Black Perspective on the Drug War & Winston Francis with the "Official Government Truth"


By Bob Curley

The federal Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) set up its own process for determining grant eligibility for the Drug-Free Communities Support Program that resulted in an inability to "show that only eligible coalitions received grants in accordance with the Drug-Free Communities Support Program's statutory framework," according to a recently released report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).



The Marijuana Policy Project is opening a new office and has many job opportunities.


A Benefit For NORML


Copyright: 2008 The Birmingham News  ( Top )


By Loretta Nall

This is in response to The News article "Busted indoor pot farm" ( Oct. 11), which was riddled with marijuana misinformation.

Authorities said growing marijuana hydroponically makes it more potent. Hydroponics is simply a growing method. It in no way increases the potency of marijuana or any other plant. Breeding and genetics can increase potency and quality, but the growing method itself has no bearing on the potency of the final product.

Authorities also claimed hydroponic marijuana is responsible for organized crime, home invasions, armed robberies, arsons and homicides. So, the growing method is responsible for all that? Now, I have heard it all. Why not throw child molestation and wife beating in there, too? Doing so couldn't possibly make that statement any less believable.

Prohibition is the reason for the majority of crime around any illicit substance. If you support prohibition, you support crime. You support the drug dealers. Refusing to control and regulate the drug market enables all of this crime.

If Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale wants to talk about gateway theories, prohibition is the gateway to crime.

Hale said of the operation, "It would be impressive if it was a legitimate business." So, why not legitimize it and collect taxes to build the dome, pay off the sewer debt and use police resources to go after all those murderers in the Birmingham area? Why not grow marijuana for those suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and a whole host of other painful conditions that marijuana is good medicine for?

Loretta Nall

Executive director Alabamians for Compassionate Care Alexander City

Pubdate: Sun, 19 Oct 2008
Source: Birmingham News, The (AL)


Take Handcuffs Off The Economic Recovery  ( Top )

By Eric Sterling

A month ago, who would have thought that the Bush Administration would order the partial nationalization of the nation's banks to fix credit markets and support the economy? Maybe other innovative, even "radical," ideas are in order. Unless we come up with new ideas to sell cars and durable goods to fire up the economy, collapsing domestic auto sales threaten tens of thousands of jobs.

In addition, the recession will cause shrinking government revenue at every level. Even last spring 18 states were predicting reduced budgets in FY 2009. Unless new revenues are found, we will soon see the furloughs and wholesale firing of teachers, nurses, and emergency first responders; closed schools, libraries and hospitals; crumbling roads unfixed; and broken bridges closed to traffic.

Cliches about the auto industry's problems blame workers' and retirees' health care costs and management for making the wrong kinds of cars. But to sell cars we need to abandon cliches, old myths, and the blame game.

Consider these facts. Last year we had 2.3 million Americans in prison and jail. How many American cars did these men and women buy last year? That's right, none. That 2.3 million is about ten times greater than the 250,000 prisoners in America during the auto industry's glory days of the 1960s and 1970s. There are another 8 million Americans who got a felony conviction for possessing or selling drugs in the last twenty years. With their convictions, these people rarely have jobs. They don't have a legal income and they don't have credit.

The economic effect of more than ten million American adults who can't buy cars, houses, furniture, appliances, or other durable goods is like 9-11, Katrina, and every other hurricane combined. Even with a job, many are without a credit card and are shut out of the marketplace. From Ticketmaster to to the local shore store, American businesses are losing sales. Economically, our criminal justice policies are cutting our throat.

Aside from the economic cost, is imprisonment of all of these 2.3 million Americans good anti-crime policy? Not according to the research. Effective crime fighting uses smart police strategies, adequate mental health care, good schools, recreation for youth, jobs and focused rehabilitation. The criminological consensus is that imprisonment has been responsible for about one-quarter of the crime decline in the past 15 years. Most of those in prison are there for non-violent offenses like drugs or theft, or because they violated probation by committing a "technical" violation like drinking or using drugs. Most of those in prison are there much longer than they need to deter crime, to justly punish them, or to protect society from future crime.

We certainly need to imprison dangerous offenders - to protect us and to punish them. But we need to get a lot smarter about why we imprison and who we imprison. Remarkably, in the last thirty years, the largest increase in imprisonment has been due to prohibition drug policy.

Even though drug enforcement leaders have warned for more than twenty years that "we can't arrest our way out of the drug problem," every year we arrest more people for drug offenses than the year before. Last year we arrested over 1.8 million Americans, more than three times the number arrested for all violent crimes combined. Now about one-quarter of those in prison are serving drug sentences. As the centerpiece of our anti-drug strategy, arrests and imprisonment have failed: high school seniors report that drugs are easier for them to get now than in the 1970s and 1980s.

Scientists and drug treatment specialists - even police chiefs, judges and prosecutors - agree that drug addiction is a disease. But in almost every city it is hard for people to get good treatment for their addictions. Waiting lists - often very long ones - to enter programs are the rule. According to the White House, about 20 million Americans need substance abuse treatment but don't get it. Why put drug addicts in prison for using drugs when what they need, and deserve, is good drug treatment? Why do we tolerate the police arresting drug addicts for using drugs? Isn't the definition of the disease of addiction that you can't stop using drugs? When you think about it, isn't it wrong to prosecute a person because of their disease?

But in fact, most drug users are not addicts, they are adult marijuana smokers. Why do we arrest them? To tell them that marijuana is harmful? To "send a message" to children that they should not use drugs or that drugs are dangerous? Isn't that the job of parents, schools, and public health authorities?

Drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years. The rate of drowning has declined, but we not because we jail swimmers, or swimming pool contractors and operators, to warn children about the hazards of swimming. Of course, in most parts of the country the government hires life guards at beaches and pools to save swimmers in the face of the ever-present danger.

In fact, we don't arrest anyone to warn about most dangerous behaviors. To teach the safer use of dangerous behaviors involving firearms, alcohol, tobacco, automobiles, motor cycles, private airplanes, or ski resorts, we use education, insurance, regulation and taxation to reduce injuries and save lives. With most activities, we recognize that doing dangerous things is not "wrongful" and does not deserve punishment. Why is arresting people a good way to send a message about health and public safety when it comes to drug use?

Almost everyone agrees that our "convict-the-users" anti-drug strategy is a costly failure. According to the government's studies of drug use attitudes and trends, millions of criminal convictions have had little to do with the decline in drug use.

Naturally, a compassionate society has "to do something" about drug abuse, but a century ago we got misled that drug abuse is a crime problem. As we have seen repeatedly in our history, by adopting the prohibition approach we have made it more of a crime problem. Sadly, the idea that the danger in drug use is "bad" and "wrongful," and is therefore fundamentally different from the sometimes lethal dangers of skiing, sky diving, auto racing, hunting or many other activities remains a deeply embedded and very expensive myth. Can we justify why we punish drug users on any terms other than it is against the law? This law is unjustifiable and only survives on the myth that drug use is "bad" as opposed to risky.

It is now time to think about the opportunity cost of this myth. Even in the smallest town or county, drug arrests generate thousands of dollars in police overtime pay. In a big jurisdiction, it costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to arrest drug users. About one-third of the time of prosecutors, judges and court personnel is spent handling drug cases. Housing, guarding and feeding 500,000 drug prisoners pays prison employees and contractors. These folks benefit, but for the rest of us, these millions of drug cases mean unemployed workers and lost customers that bleeds our jobs out of the economy.

Police need to focus on violent offenders, child molesters, DUI cases, and the white collar frauds who steal millions. Prison needs to be reserved for the dangerous.

Non-violent drug offenders need to be let out of prison. Those who are addicted need treatment, which is much less expensive than prison. Their drug-related criminal records need to be sealed so they can get jobs. Thieves and burglars who are drug addicts need abstinence-based supervision to prevent re-offending.

Seventy-five years ago, on Dec. 5, 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, we amended the Constitution to abandon alcohol prohibition to generate jobs and to tax alcohol to fund the government. It's time to end the marijuana prohibition. Non-commercial, home growing of marijuana should be regulated like hunting. Hunters are killed accidentally every year, including minors, but licences are easily obtained, not terribly expensive, and largely self-enforcing. Non-commercial marijuana growing license ought to be sold at garden centers, with prohibitions on commercial sale and distribution to minors. Commercial marijuana growing and selling should be licensed and taxed like alcohol, with its panoply of local regulatory varieties, and evolving cultural controls.

In 2005, federal, state and local taxes collected on tobacco and alcohol totaled $35.1 billion. America's 20 million marijuana smokers paid no taxes on their marijuana. Depending on rates, $5 to $15 billion could be raised from marijuana taxes. America's illegal marijuana sellers are the beneficiaries of both a government subsidy (no taxes) and a government price support mechanism. That's absurd! We need to tax the underground marijuana commerce. As we study state and local budgets that will fire teachers, police and firefighters, reduce care to the ill, the blind, and the handicapped, and shutter hospitals, recreation centers and schools, we can ask if we want to keep throwing away the potential marijuana taxes.

One way we could sell a million American cars is to get drug users out of prison, freed of their crippling criminal records, and back into the economy.

How hard are these choices: Lay off school teachers or stop subsidizing the illegal marijuana business with a billions of dollars in tax breaks? Lay off workers and close factories or let non-violent offenders out of prison and provide treatment to drug addicts?

Eric E. Sterling, president of the non-profit Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in Silver Spring, MD, was counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, principally responsible for anti-drug legislation, from 1979 to 1989. This piece first appeared at Huffington Post.


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