This Just In
(1)Police Prepare for New Pot Law
(2)New Sentencing Guidelines for Crack, New Challenges
(3)Lewiston's Acting Mayor Reports Vanished Documents, Drugs And Money
(4)Covina Arrests Mystify a Neighborhood

Hot Off The 'Net
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-2008 A Huge Year For Marijuana Reform / By Bruce Mirken
-The Top 10 Drug Policy Stories Of 2008 / Drug War Chronicle

 THIS JUST IN  ( Top )


Pubdate: Fri, 2 Jan 2009
Source: Herald News, The (Fall River, MA)
Copyright: 2009 The Herald News
Author: Grant Welker, Herald News Staff Reporter

The state District Attorney's Office and area police departments have been scrambling to prepare for the new marijuana possession law that goes into effect today a measure law enforcement officials strongly opposed.

Only days ago, the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security released an outline of the new law's citation process, potential legal issues and rules for dealing with minors. On Tuesday, the Bristol County District Attorney's Office met with area police chiefs to review the guidelines so officers can begin enforcing the law.

"We're professional police officers," said Swansea Police Chief George Arruda. "We're prepared to respond to Question 2."

In Massachusetts, those caught with an ounce or less of marijuana will be charged only with a criminal offense and fined $100. Minors will also be required to complete a drug awareness program. Question 2 was approved on Nov. 4 with 65 percent support.

Somerset Police Captain John Solomito said Somerset police "should be all set" to enforce the new law. On Wednesday, he sent out memos to officers with information he gathered from different state agencies. "I don't feel it'll be a major adjustment," he said.

But many questions remain unanswered as the law goes into effect, like what kind of citations to use, how to confirm that what is seized is marijuana, or what to do with those caught with pot who aren't required to identify themselves. "It's a little convoluted," said Fall River Police Chief John Souza.




Pubdate: Thu, 1 Jan 2009
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2009 The Washington Post Company
Author: Del Quentin Wilber, Washington Post Staff Writer

Michael D. Thompson, a former crack cocaine dealer, thought he deserved a break.

Sentenced in 2000 to 15 years and eight months in prison, Thompson asked a federal judge in the District to release him, arguing that he had received an unfair sentence and has turned his life around behind bars, earning a general equivalency diploma and completing a commercial driving course.

Federal prosecutors said that was a terrible idea. Citing Thompson's criminal past and prison disciplinary record, which includes threatening a prison official with a knife, prosecutors argued in court papers that the 37-year-old poses a danger to the community and should complete his sentence.

Thompson's case is one of thousands around the country in which crack offenders and their defense attorneys are sparring with federal prosecutors over how to interpret new sentencing guidelines for crack possession or sale. The guidelines were issued to right old wrongs. But they have led to time-consuming legal challenges dealing with the often long-forgotten consequences of the bloody crack wars in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Defense lawyers say they are correcting systemic sentencing flaws that removed their clients, mostly black men, from their communities for too many years. Federal prosecutors say they are working to prevent bad guys from returning to the streets to wreak more havoc. Both sides say they are seeking justice.




Pubdate: Thu, 1 Jan 2009
Source: Winona Daily News (MN)
Copyright: 2008 Winona Daily News
Author: Dustin Kass

LEWISTON, Minn. -- Money, drugs and documents are missing from the Lewiston Police Department's evidence locker; close to $50,000 sent to the city is unaccounted for; and a number of public records are missing from City Hall, acting Mayor Richard Ahrens said Wednesday.

Ahrens made the comments at the conclusion of his final city council meeting, saying that incoming council members should address the problems. "I hope they get everything straightened out," Ahrens said.

A new mayor and two new council members will be sworn in next week, but when contacted Wednesday afternoon, Mayor-elect David Sommer said he hadn't been told about the problems.

Police discovered that items, including an undisclosed amount of drugs and "a couple thousand bucks," were missing, after taking an inventory of the evidence locker shortly after Dan Walker was hired as interim police chief Jan. 31, 2008, said Police Chief David Kleinschmidt.

The locker, which can be unlocked only with a key, is stored in the police chief's office in City Hall, Kleinschmidt said.




Pubdate: Fri, 2 Jan 2009
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles Times
Author: Paul Pringle

Mexico Under Siege

After Two Mexican Federal Agents and Two Others Were Arrested in July on Drug-Related Charges, Little Has Emerged About the Case and Residents Are Puzzled.

The residents of North Monte Verde Drive, a stretch of oak-shaded suburban calm in the Covina area, normally would feel safe knowing that two off-duty police officers were visiting the neighborhood.

Not this time. These officers were far from home -- agents of the Mexican federal police -- and they ended up on the wrong side of a bust, with a fortune in cash that prosecutors say was tied to narcotics trafficking.

The raid in July raised the specter that the often-brutal workings of the Mexican drug trade have reached deep into Southern California. But five months later, the fuller background of the case remains a mystery.

"We all just sort of went, 'Yikes!' " Susan Wood, a longtime Monte Verde resident, said of the possible link between her neighborhood and the mayhem a country away. "This isn't a drug-trafficky area at all."





A rare bit of questioning of the drug rehab movement from the mainstream media - the New York Times, even - was published right before Christmas. In West Virginia, a federal judge halts plans to widely test public school teachers for drugs. Note to state legislators in Hawaii who are trying to do the same thing: You might want to pay attention to this one. And, in Louisiana, teacher drug testing creeps into new realms, even though it wasn't supposed to.

Also last week, the Los Angeles Times takes a longer look at the dangers for the U.S. in assuming it can help Mexico defeat drug cartels while prohibition remains in effect; and the merging of the terror war and the drug war produces its first wasteful fruit, as a man from Afghanistan becomes the first sentenced under federal narco-terror laws.


Pubdate: Tue, 23 Dec 2008
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2008 The New York Times Company
Author: Benedict Carey

The Evidence Gap

ROSEBURG, Ore. - Their first love might be the rum or vodka or gin and juice that is going around the bonfire. Or maybe the smoke, the potent marijuana that grows in the misted hills here like moss on a wet stone.

But it hardly matters. Here as elsewhere in the country, some users start early, fall fast and in their reckless prime can swallow, snort, inject or smoke anything available, from crystal meth to prescription pills to heroin and ecstasy. And treatment, if they get it at all, can seem like a joke.

"After the first couple of times I went through, they basically told me that there was nothing they could do," said Angella, a 17-year-old from the central Oregon city of Bend, who by freshman year in high school was drinking hard liquor every day, smoking pot and sampling a variety of harder drugs. "They were like, 'Uh, I don't think so.' "

She tried residential programs twice, living away from home for three months each time. In those, she learned how dangerous her habit was, how much pain it was causing others in her life. She worked on strengthening her relationship with her grandparents, with whom she lived. For two months or so afterward she stayed clean.

"Then I went right back," Angella said in an interview. "After a while, you know, you just start missing your friends."

Every year, state and federal governments spend more than $15 billion, and insurers at least $5 billion more, on substance-abuse treatment services for some four million people. That amount may soon increase sharply: last year, Congress passed the mental health parity law, which for the first time includes addiction treatment under a federal law requiring that insurers cover mental and physical ailments at equal levels.

Many clinics across the county have waiting lists, and researchers estimate that some 20 million Americans who could benefit from treatment do not get it.

Yet very few rehabilitation programs have the evidence to show that they are effective. The resort-and-spa private clinics generally do not allow outside researchers to verify their published success rates. The publicly supported programs spend their scarce resources on patient care, not costly studies.

And the field has no standard guidelines. Each program has its own philosophy; so, for that matter, do individual counselors. No one knows which approach is best for which patient, because these programs rarely if ever track clients closely after they graduate. Even Alcoholics Anonymous, the best known of all the substance-abuse programs, does not publish data on its participants' success rate.




Pubdate: Mon, 29 Dec 2008
Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
Copyright: 2008 Charleston Daily Mail
Author: Ry Rivard

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal judge halted the Kanawha County school system's plan to randomly drug test teachers.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Robert Goodwin said the drug testing plan would force teachers to submit to an unconstitutional and unjustified search. He also gave a scathing rebuke of the policy and the school board that approved it.

Goodwin said the Kanawha school system's plan to randomly test 25 percent of its teachers and other school personnel each year was made even though it does not appear that there is a pervasive drug problem in the county.

He said that the school board's argument that something bad could happen while a teacher under the influence of drugs was supervising children was based on an unreasonable kind of worse-case-scenario thinking. Goodwin asked why the board had not also passed a policy to randomly test teachers for tropical diseases.

"Total security for us and our children is only possible - if unlikely - in a totalitarian state," Goodwin said.




Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 2008
Source: Advocate, The (Baton Rouge, LA)
Copyright: 2008 The Advocate, Capital City Press
Author: Bill Lodge

School Board Says It Has New Policy

A teachers' lawsuit over drug and alcohol tests should be considered moot because of changes to testing policy, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board said in a court filing.

But the document, filed Friday, does not specify what changes have been made to a policy that members of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers say is unconstitutional. The federation opposes mandatory tests for injured educators who are not suspected of abusing drugs or alcohol.

Two attorneys for the School Board said Monday a policy that mandated testing of teachers injured during work hours was suspended before the federation filed its suit Oct. 21.

"We've not completed the new policy, but we have suspended the current practice," said Domoine Rutledge, the board's general counsel.

"It was suspended," added Dennis Blunt, a Baton Rouge attorney hired to represent the School Board in the suit.

"I don't think anyone is tested ( now ) absent some reasonable suspicion," Blunt added.

But Yigal Bander, an attorney for the federation, noted that an exemplary teacher was subjected to mandatory drug testing in September after she suffered a minor injury while breaking up a fight between two students.

Bander added that some of the board's written policies and procedures still require mandatory testing for injured teachers.




Pubdate: Wed, 31 Dec 2008
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times
Author: Josh Meyer, Reporting from Washington

Mexico Under Siege

The U.S. has begun pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Mexico to help stanch the expansion of drug-fueled violence and corruption that has claimed more than 5,000 lives south of the border this year.

The bloodshed has spread to American cities, even to the heartland, and U.S. officials are realizing that their fight against powerful drug cartels responsible for the carnage has come down to this: Either walk away or support Mexican President Felipe Calderon's strategy, even with the risk that counter-narcotics intelligence, equipment and training could end up in the hands of cartel bosses.

Both nations agree that the cartels have morphed into transnational crime syndicates that pose an urgent threat to their security and that of the region. Law enforcement agencies from the border to Maine acknowledge that the traffickers have brought a war once dismissed as a foreign affair to the doorstep of local communities. The trail of slayings, kidnappings and other crimes stretches through at least 195 U.S. cities.

The rapidly escalating problem will probably present the Obama administration with hard choices on how to work with Mexico to combat the cartels and the gun-running, money-laundering and other illicit businesses that nourish them.

So far, the fight has largely been waged by the Calderon administration, which deployed thousands of federal troops and police to 18 states to take on the cartels, some of which have paramilitary forces protecting them and many police officers and politicians in their pockets.



 (9) LIFE IN PRISON  ( Top )

Pubdate: Tue, 23 Dec 2008
Source: Ogdensburg Journal/Advance News (NY)
Copyright: 2008 Johnson Newspaper Corp.

WASHINGTON ( AP ) An Afghan enemy combatant convicted on drug charges has been sentenced to life in prison.

Heroin dealer Khan Mohammed on Monday received two life sentences running concurrently from U. S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

In addiction to selling drugs, federal prosecutors said Mohammed also was an arms trafficker who targeted Afghans and U. S. personnel in Afghanistan. He was held as an enemy combatant before he agreed in 2006 to face trail in the United States.

A federal jury found Khan guilty of securing heroin and opium that he knew were bound for the United States and, in doing so, assisting terrorism activity.

His conviction on narco-terrorism charges in May was the first under new narco-terrorism laws, the Justice department said.




More violence and injustice in the drug war, and a slight bit of hope from the U.S. Senate of all places.


Pubdate: Sat, 20 Dec 2008
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2008 The Eagle-Tribune
Author: Jill Harmacinski

LAWRENCE, Mass. - Miguel Tavera came to Lawrence last March, living with relatives and working several jobs so he could send money back to his wife and two young daughters in the Dominican Republic.

But when the 27-year-old was laid off several months ago, he had to find another way to make money. He hooked up with two local drug dealers who offered to pay him to fly to the Dominican Republic and carry small, tightly-wrapped packages of heroin back into the country in his stomach.

But no one has seen Tavera since he flew back to Boston on Nov. 18. His family and police believe he is dead.

It's not an uncommon story. Last spring, Merlyn Gonzalez, 26, left Lawrence and flew to the Dominican Republic. She was paid $4,000 to ingest 47 tiny bags of heroin, which carried a street value of approximately $50,000.

Unlike Tavera, Gonzalez made it back to Lawrence. But when she got home, she became ill when some of the bags ripped open, causing an overdose. She was rushed to the hospital, and after the drugs had passed through her system, she was charged with trafficking heroin. She recently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years and a day in prison.




Pubdate: Tue, 23 Dec 2008
Source: Augusta Chronicle, The (GA)
Copyright: 2008 The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Johnny Edwards

Panthers Carry Guns, But Protest Is Peaceful

Pumping fists and chanting "no justice, no peace," about 200 people marched through Cherry Tree Crossing housing development Monday in a demonstration against police brutality, led by shotgun-toting members of the New Black Panthers Party's Augusta chapter. The march went off peacefully, but when it ended at the site where 23-year-old Justin "Jed" Elmore's SUV crashed after he was shot by deputies last week, officers in riot gear were waiting by a package store across 15th Street. Sheriff Ronnie Strength said Cherry Tree residents called the department complaining about Panthers members carrying guns.

"This created a major problem there, but it was not caused by folks living there," the sheriff said. "We were not going to let anyone be over there with weapons."

The march followed Mr. Elmore's funeral Monday morning at Macedonia Baptist Church on Wrightsboro Road. Uniformed members of the New Black Panthers -- a militant black supremacist organization founded in Dallas in 1989 and not affiliated with the Black Panther Party that became well-known in the 1960s -- were on hand for that, too.

Augusta chapter Chairman Bobby Price said he wanted to give neighborhood residents a nonviolent outlet to vent against Mr. Elmore's Dec. 14 killing, which sparked civil unrest with residents hurling rocks, bottles and invectives at deputies.

Not wanting to spark another confrontation when police arrived, Mr. Price had his members put their guns away and, after an interview with a local television reporter, wrapped up the demonstration and left.



 (12) 101 AND LOSING HER HOME  ( Top )

Pubdate: Fri, 26 Dec 2008
Source: Post-Standard, The (Syracuse, NY)
Copyright: 2008 Advance Publications
Author: Sue Weibezahl Porter, The Post-Standard

Mamie Singleton, 101, and her granddaughter, Mary Reaves, 56, are being evicted from their home of 45 years.

They received a notice last week from Syracuse police Chief Gary Miguel, giving them five days to leave their two-family house at 114 Baker Ave. They were supposed to move out by Christmas Eve.

The property is being closed for six months under the city's nuisance abatement law because of drug arrests at the house, Miguel said.

The women's lawyer, Randi Bianco, appealed for an emergency stay to halt the proceedings until after the holidays and Onondaga County Judge Anthony Aloi granted the request Tuesday, moving back the case until Jan. 5.




Pubdate: Mon, 29 Dec 2008
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2008 The Washington Post Company
Author: Sandhya Somashekhar, Washington Post Staff Writer

Senator Proposes National Panel

Somewhere along the meandering career path that led James Webb to the U.S. Senate, he found himself in the frigid interior of a Japanese prison.

A journalist at the time, he was working on an article about Ed Arnett, an American who had spent two years in Fuchu Prison for possession of marijuana. In a January 1984 Parade magazine piece, Webb described the harsh conditions imposed on Arnett, who had frostbite and sometimes labored in solitary confinement making paper bags.

"But, surprisingly, Arnett, home in Omaha, Neb., says he prefers Japan's legal system to ours," Webb wrote. "Why? 'Because it's fair,' he said."

This spring, Webb ( D-Va. ) plans to introduce legislation on a long-standing passion of his: reforming the U.S. prison system. Jails teem with young black men who later struggle to rejoin society, he says. Drug addicts and the mentally ill take up cells that would be better used for violent criminals. And politicians have failed to address this costly problem for fear of being labeled "soft on crime."




Despite presenting a somewhat inaccurate and misleading interpretation of the recent Beckley Commission report, which advocated cannabis regulation and control, The New Scientist deduced the correct question to the Commission's answer; "What should we do to minimise the harm cannabis can cause to the health and welfare of users and to society at large?"

Sceptics of the new civil penalty regime in Massachusetts are proposing additional fines and sanctions for those found smoking cannabis in public, presumably reserving the smaller fines voters approved last November for smokers apprehended in their homes?

Tired of waiting for cannabis legalization, Torontonians are establishing cannabis-friendly cafes and social clubs in defiance of the law.

A botched paramilitary police raid in Missouri last December is causing some to wonder what these expensive and inherently perilous operations give us in return.


Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 2008
Source: New Scientist (UK)
Copyright: New Scientist, RBI Limited 2008
Author: Andy Coghlan

What should we do to minimise the harm cannabis can cause to the health and welfare of users and to society at large? The answer, according to a report by a group of prominent academics and government advisers, is to change the law to allow the state to prepare and distribute the drug for recreational use.

This controversial proposal comes from a commission assembled by the Beckley Foundation, a British charity dedicated to exploring the science of psychoactive substances. "The damage done by prohibition is worse than from the substance itself," says Amanda Feilding, the founder of the Beckley Foundation.

The Beckley commission's ideas will be aired in March at a meeting in Vienna, Austria, of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The UNCND will report to a meeting of the UN general assembly later this year that will set international policy on drug control for the decade to come.


The legalisation proposed by the Beckley group is likely to face strong opposition in Vienna both from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and from many governments. The fear is that easing up on cannabis will undermine the whole international effort to combat recreational drug use. "Cannabis is the most vulnerable point of the whole multilateral edifice," Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UNODC, said in a speech in March 2008.

The US has set its face firmly against any move towards legalisation, fearing that this would produce a nation of dope-heads. A document launched in July 2008 by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) declared marijuana to be "the greatest cause of illegal drug abuse".

Dave Murray, head of research at the ONDCP, told New Scientist that strict enforcement of anti-drug laws had helped cut teenage use of marijuana by 25 per cent between 2001 and 2008. In the absence of prohibition, it would have been difficult to achieve that," he says.


Feilding accepts that there may be few takers in Vienna for her group's proposals. But the mere fact that an alternative to the strict prohibition of cannabis will even be considered is a breakthrough in itself, she says.




Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 2008
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2008 The Boston Herald, Inc
Authors: Dave Wedge, and Edward Mason

Pot smokers flying high over a new law providing simple tickets for possessing small amounts of weed could still find themselves in cuffs as city leaders weigh a state recommendation to get tough on public toking.

I'd sign it in a second," Lynn Mayor Edward "Chip" Clancy said. "I wasn't in favor of the ballot question. I don't think the expansion of marijuana use, or any other drug for that matter, is a good idea."

The soft-on-pot law just approved by Bay State voters takes effect Friday, making possession of less than an ounce of marijuana punishable by a $100 fine, rather than arrest.

But in guidelines issued by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security yesterday, state officials urged cities and towns to pass local laws to pile on additional fines and make it a crime to smoke pot in public.

I think communities would have to take a hard look at doing something like that," said Woburn Mayor Thomas McLaughlin, calling the state's recommendation "interesting."

Public toking laws were not previously needed on the books because simple possession was a criminal offense, albeit a misdemeanor.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, who opposed the pot power play overwhelmingly approved by voters in November, suggested towns tack on an additional $300 civil penalty as well as criminal penalties.

Decriminalization backers fear the proposed local crackdown amounts to an "end-run" around the spirit of the new law.




Pubdate: Thu, 01 Jan 2009
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 The Toronto Star
Author: Paola Loriggio, Staff Writer

Marijuana activist Matt Mernagh likes to show off Toronto's cannabis community, which he considers one of its untapped tourist attractions

When police raided the Kindred Cafe Nov. 20 for allegedly trafficking marijuana, it shone a spotlight on one of the city's biggest open secrets.

There are places where you can smoke weed with relative impunity, provided you don't make a scene.

With a couple of well-known pot cafes and a smattering of private smokers' clubs - not to mention a thriving network of bong shops and hemp stores - Toronto's marijuana scene rivals Vancouver's, according to some herb aficionados.

Most of the action centres on "Yongesterdam," a strip of Yonge St. near Wellesley St. nicknamed after pot-friendly Amsterdam.

Each summer, pot activist Matt Mernagh leads a weekly tour of the area's cannabis community, showing off what he considers one of the city's untapped tourist attractions.

The tour starts at Vapor Central, a vaporizer store and "tester lounge," then on to various seed and hemp stores. If the group feels particularly energetic, Mernagh says, they'll hit the Hot Box Cafe in Kensington Market, famous for its backyard "potio."

The cafe is among a handful of establishments in the city that allow customers to smoke weed, though owner Abi Roach stresses they don't sell it in any form.




Pubdate: Wed, 31 Dec 2008
Source: Springfield News-Leader (MO)
Copyright: 2008 The Springfield News-Leader
Author: Matt McSpadden
Note: Matt McSpadden lives in Springfield.

In the case against the Smith family, the police raided the home to find the four pounds of marijuana which they knew was in the house. They burst in, using flash bang grenades to disorient and confuse the people in the house, and hoped to safely remove the marijuana without anyone getting hurt. However, they were prepared to fight for the "pot" and do whatever was necessary to get it. No one got hurt, a miracle considering that shots were fired.

Now I ask you all, was it worth it?

The potential was here for loss of life, and I ask again, is that worth it? A 19-year-old girl could potentially go to prison for the best years of her life, so that four pounds of marijuana, an herb, is taken out of circulation.

At the end of this raid, did the police congratulate themselves on serving "justice"? How about if the worst possible scenario had played out? Had the girl accidentally killed the policeman, and I do believe that she had no idea what was going on in the house for her to have shot through that door (what do we think, that this girl was planning on taking out an entire SWAT team but stopped at the one shot?), and then the police responded by shooting her, would it still have been worth it? Had the other policemen decided to be rougher on the remaining suspects in the house, after seeing two people shot and killed, and a policeman decided to sit on the young pregnant girl, as officers do to stop a struggling suspect, and the baby been killed, would it still have been worth it?

For four pounds of marijuana?

That means that, to stop four pounds of herb from hitting the street, it is possible to have two people die and a baby killed in the womb and consider this an acceptable exchange. How far off have our priorities fallen to allow this?




In a gesture of mercy, the communist Chinese Supreme People's Court last week proclaimed that not all those selling drugs deserved the death penalty. Those selling drugs from the "lowest income group... have very little power and are not considered as 'harmful' to society" as gang leaders, said the court. As it stands, those in China caught with 50 grams or more of heroin are subject to the death penalty.

In Victoria, Canada, mobile needle exchanges aren't getting nearly the same return rate on needles as the previous, fixed location. In 2006, before the storefront needle exchange location was replaced by outreach workers on bicycles, the fixed location needle exchange saw needle return rates of 99.8%. Now, the mobile needle exchange return rate has dropped to about 36%. A recent University of Victoria study notes, "when you make it difficult for drug addicts to get clean needles, they are more likely to reuse what they have, increasing the risk of infection and the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C."

In Argentina last week, opposition leader Elisa Carrio, publicly joined calls to decriminalize drug use. Police, ecclesiastical and anti-drug groups were quick to find fault with the idea, describing the move as "a huge favour for drug dealers," which "goes against human life." Federal Prosecutor Monica Cunarro (on a government committee to amend drug laws) disagreed, pointing the finger at prohibition. "The current drug law is the one that's been functional to drug trafficking."

And from Uganda this week, Nsaba Buturo, Minister of Ethics and Integrity holds forth in the Ugandan New Vision newspaper on the topic of Ugandan morals. While "human rights" may have caught the fancy of others, Buturo identified witchcraft, witchdoctors, and time mismanagers as the big problems in Uganda. Singled out as corrupters of the morals of Ugandan youth were drug-taking artists. "So called artistes were in the lead of popularising possession and taking of drugs. They elevated drug taking to a bizarre level which is harmful to our young generation. Such drugs include -marijuana, cannabis, cocaine and opium."


Pubdate: Wed, 24 Dec 2008
Source: China Daily (China)
Copyright: 2008 China Daily
Author: Xie Chuanjiao

The Supreme People's Court (SPC) said yesterday that people driven by poverty to join drug traffickers' gangs but not playing important roles may not be given the death sentence.

"Some of the people involved in drug trafficking are from the lowest income group or are unemployed they are paid small amounts (of money) to peddle or carry drugs," says an SPC guideline, issued to lower courts.

Unlike drug dealers and gang leaders they have very little power and are not considered as "harmful" to society.

"All courts should deal with them with leniency, instead of simply punishing them according to the quantity of drugs" they are found carrying or peddling, the guideline says.

While deciding on capital punishment, courts should consider comprehensively the quantity of drug carried by the accused, how he/she joined a gang and his/her subjective culpability.

At present, people found guilty of selling or carrying more than 50 g of heroin are given the death sentence, but if dealt leniently some of them could be spared capital punishment, the SPC said.


Qiu Baochang, dean of Beijing-based Huijia Law Firm, said such considerations make sentences more logical and humane.

"In remote, not-so-well developed areas where crime is high, some people are forced to peddle drugs to make a living. It would be unfair if they are punished as severely as those who organize such crimes," Qiu said.



Pubdate: Mon, 29 Dec 2008
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2008 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Justine Hunter


VICTORIA -- In the past six months, drug addicts in Victoria have misplaced more than 60,000 needles, proving the city's needle exchange program is, increasingly, a misnomer. Since public pressure led to the closing of a long-time storefront exchange site in May, AIDS Vancouver Island has tried to fill the gap with a mobile service, where outreach workers on foot and on bicycles roam the streets trying to find addicts in need of clean gear.


A report from the University of Victoria's School of Nursing confirms what Ms. Gibson already knows: The mobile service isn't as effective as a fixed site. There are fewer clean needles reaching the addicts, and even fewer dirty needles being safely returned.

In October, Ms. Gibson's crew from AIDS Vancouver Island handed out just over 22,000 new syringes. They recovered fewer than 8,000. In 2006, the agency was seeing a return rate on used needles of 99.8 per cent.


Mobile Site Not As Effective, UVIC Study Says

Joan MacNeil and Bernadette Pauly, of the University of Victoria's School of Nursing, were studying needle-exchange programs on Vancouver Island last year when the ground shifted under them: Victoria's main exchange site was shut down.

The fixed site was replaced with mobile needle-exchange services only. And it provided an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of the two models.

Not surprisingly, the study concluded that when you make it difficult for drug addicts to get clean needles, they are more likely to reuse what they have, increasing the risk of infection and the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. In November, close to one in five users reported reusing a syringe in Victoria, while the practice was unheard-of in the other communities they surveyed with fixes sites.




Pubdate: Sun, 28 Dec 2008
Source: Buenos Aires Herald (Argentina)
Copyright: 2008 S.A. The Buenos Aires Herald Ltd.

Anti-drug NGO Criticizes Move, Says It Will Favour Dealers

"This ruling would be a huge favour for drug dealers," said Claudio Izaguirre - head of the Argentine Anti-drug Association. "Until now, drug addicts who were arrested for possession of narcotics for personal use were sent to a rehabilitation centre, which was afforded by the state," added Izaguirre.

"If possession is legalized, only those who have the money to pay for the treatment will have a chance to recover from drug addiction," warned Izaguirre. "This will only favour drug dealers, but not the addicts," he concluded.

A Catholic Church leader yesterday rejected the decriminalization of drug use.

"The Church will continue to oppose anything that goes against human life, our rejection is drastic" said Eduardo Serantes, head of the National Commission of Justice and Peace of the Argentine Synod. Serantes called on the authorities to fight the "narco-business in politics." He criticized the government for "tolerating drugs instead of focusing on consumer treatment and chasing drug traffickers and producers."

In September, Serantes and San Isidro bishop Jorge Casaretto handed out to lawmakers a the draft of a plan for drug use prevention.

In November 2007, the head of the Argentine Synod, Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, said the "narco-business is prospering in our country, destroying many families. Argentina has ceased to be a mere path of drug trafficking."

Federal Prosecutor Monica Cunarro - a member of the Justice Ministry committee working to amend the drug law - disagreed with Izaguirre's criticism and claimed it is the current drug law what favours drug trafficking.

"The current drug law is the one that's been functional to drug trafficking," said Cunarro. "For the past 28 years, people has been arrested on the streets for possession of small quantities of drugs while shady deals were made with drug-traffickers," she added.




Pubdate: Mon, 29 Dec 2008
Source: New Vision (Uganda)
Copyright: 2008 New Vision
Author: Nsaba Buturo, Minister of Ethics and Integrity

UGANDA deserves a social audit for the year 2008. For the first time in her history, the ugly side of human behaviour reared its ugly face on the conscience of Ugandans as never before. Attempts to dress this ugly face in popular catch phrases such as human rights and freedom were made by advocates of immorality with some degree of success.

Promoters of homosexuality, pornography and witchcraft, etc. were on the offensive seeking to market their philosophies contrary to tenets of Uganda's laws as well as nature. The venom of embezzlement, poor time management and drug abuse, too, had their toll on public service.


Practitioners in witchcraft continued to wreck havoc on many Ugandans. As a result, many of them are living in round the clock fear for their lives. Those who chose to live in fear were 'pleased' their gods by selling or offering their possessions. Witchdoctors whose pastime is to fleece unsuspecting Ugandans of their money and possessions were responsible for some of the rampant poverty in the country.

In other cases, individuals masquerading as traditional healers or herbalists but in reality they are witchdoctors and criminals contributed to the high spate of murders and child sacrificing in the country.


Failure to keep and manage time marked every activity or transaction of most Ugandans. If the time lost during the year were to be valued in monetary terms, the cost would dwarf the money which is lost through theft that are associated with abuse of office.


Drug abuse was a growing problem. So called artistes were in the lead of popularising possession and taking of drugs. They elevated drug taking to a bizarre level which is harmful to our young generation. Such drugs include -marijuana, cannabis, cocaine and opium. Rather than being entertainers, they such artists have become a social problem.


The Government will renew its efforts against law breakers. It recognizes that enforcement of laws on witchcraft, embezzlement or theft of public funds, drug abuse, homosexuality and pornography has been weak.


The Government is appealing to the public to report all criminal individuals cum witchdoctors in their communities.



 HOT OFF THE 'NET  ( Top )


By Stephen J. Gertz, Feral House

Famed for their campy kitsch, gloriously bad writing and outlandish misinformation, drug paperback books embodied seductive cultural taboos.


By Kristin Bricker

A record-breaking 5,612 people were executed in Mexico's drug war in 2008, making the drug war more deadly than the drugs.


Century of Lies - 12/30/08 - Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum editor of Reason magazine, Russ Bellville producer of NORML's audio stash, Harvey Stein producer of new movie RX Cannabis

Cultural Baggage Radio Show - 12/31/08 - Redford Givens

Redford Givens regarding drugs and the Bible, High Times focus on Drug Truth Network + Terry Nelson of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition


2008 saw 11441 new news clippings added to the Media Awareness Project archives.

Over a half million different readers from about 125 countries accessed the clippings during the year. Selections of the 600 most read clippings by area of the world can be found at the following links: 2008 in Review - Australasia 2008 in Review - Asia 2008 in Review - Canada 2008 in Review - South America 2008 in Review - United Kingdom 2008 in Review - United States


by Bruce Mirken

Since this is the season for year-end reviews, "best of" lists and the like, it seems like a good time to take note of why 2008 was one of the most successful years ever for marijuana policy reform.


Drug War Chronicle Feature


There are currently more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States. What does that look like, exactly? That's equivalent to putting the combined populations of Miami, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis behind bars.



'It's A War' - A DrugSense Focus Alert

CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN?  ( Top ), the official website of President-Elect Obama, has reopened its online polling page, "Open for Questions."

Please take a moment and log onto the site to voice your support for questions pertaining to drug policy reform.



By Lennice Werth

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Thank you for your article on alcohol prohibition, including the observation that it was "a tremendous failure."

Nothing has changed in human nature since the 1930s. As the historian pointed out, "the distribution of liquor was turned over to a whole group of criminal entrepreneurs." And while the premise of our current drug war is that we must be protected from dangerous substances, drugs are sold, unregulated, by this criminal class to its extreme enrichment. The ensuing game of cops, robbers, and snitches is painful to watch.

Nobody thinks this is working, yet our political leaders offer only longer prison sentences. We have 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of its prisoners. So many men and women are in prison that their children are stressing our foster-care system. When they get out, their opportunities to get on the right track are blocked by laws that bar them from receiving help such as housing and education aid. In this regard, the stigma of a drug offender is worse than that of a murderer or thief, as they are eligible for such benefits.

Today, illegal drugs are cheap and easily available, even though we spend millions -- maybe billions -- on our current failed prohibition, and we have alienated our allies in South America due to the drug war.

Why can't we figure out how to have a better policy even with the vivid historical example of alcohol prohibition?

Tobacco is a very additive substance, yet we are having great success discouraging use without putting anyone in prison.

Regulation is an option under which we could require that folks buying drugs would be asked to prove that they are adults. We could identify those with the most severe problems and gently guide them toward treatment. Regulation is the answer we found for alcohol. It is not perfect, but it would be a tremendous improvement over the violent, adversarial, and terribly harmful policy of drug prohibition.

Lennice Werth Crewe

Pubdate: Mon, 15 Dec 2008
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)


DrugSense recognizes Stan White of Dillon, Colorado for his twenty letters published during December, bringing his career total that we know of to 536. DrugSense recognized Stan with its Gold Award for reaching 500 published letters last May.

You may read Stan's published letters by clicking this link:


New Marijuana Law Shouldn't Pose Problems  ( Top )

On Nov. 4, a majority of voters in Massachusetts chose to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Those in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana are no longer charged with a criminal offense, but instead face a $100 fine.

Today, the new law takes effect. Yet some local police departments, as well as others across the state, say they are uncertain about how to enforce it. The state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security just Monday issued guidelines for police departments on enforcement of the law.

"We're ringing in the new year with a new law not everyone knows how to enforce," Lawrence police Chief John Romero told our reporters.

Nearly two months have passed since 65 percent of Massachusetts voters changed the law. Despite their lack of enthusiasm for the law, state and local law enforcement agencies have had time to prepare.

Under the new law, people caught with a small amount of marijuana will be forced to hand over the drug and pay a $100 fine. Those under 18 will be required to complete a drug awareness program or face a stiffer $1,000 fine. They can either pay a fine to a clerk or request a District Court hearing.

To be sure, the new law on marijuana possession does raise questions. Police are now required to issue civil citations, essentially tickets, to violators. Police have pre-printed books of citations to issue to those who violate motor vehicle laws. These are carefully worded to conform to the existing laws and explain the violator's rights and responsibilities. What should the citations for the marijuana violations say?

For some departments, the citations themselves pose no problem. Those police departments are more concerned about what happens next.

"We already have the citation paper. It's like any other civil infraction," Andover police Lt. James Hashem said. "It's what happens after, that is what's up in the air. The majority of headaches will be after the citation is issued."

Hashem said the law is ambiguous and its scope will have to be settled by the first cases that make it to the courts.

The appeal process leaves police wondering how much of their limited resources they should commit to marijuana cases.

Groveland police Chief Robert Kirmelewicz wondered if departments will still have to send all confiscated marijuana to the drug lab to be tested as if it were a criminal case.

"If this is the case, it's going to require a lot of time, money and energy for what, a $100 fine?" he said.

This should not be so difficult. Massachusetts is not the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Eleven other states have done so. Is there no experience from those states that Massachusetts law enforcement officials can draw upon?

It's apparent that the will of the voters, for good or ill, was that simple possession of marijuana should be treated as a trivial matter. Pay a small fine and be done with it. The best course for police is to enforce the law as written and expend as few resources as possible doing so.

The public doesn't see small amounts of marijuana as a problem. Neither should police.

This unsigned editorial appeared in the Jan. 2 edition of the Eagle-Tribune newspaper of North Andover, MA. - see


"If addiction is judged by how long a dumb animal will sit pressing a lever to get a 'fix' of something, to its own detriment, then I would conclude that netnews is far more addictive than cocaine." - Rob Stampfli

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