This Just In
(1)Bush Holdovers at DEA Continue Pot Raids
(2)Phelps Loses Endorsement Pact, Faces Suspension Over Photos
(3)In a Mexico State, Openness Is the New Order in the Courts
(4)Violence Will Escalate: Experts

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 THIS JUST IN  ( Top )


Pubdate: Thu, 5 Feb 2009
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2009 The Washington Times, LLC.
Authors: Stephen Dinan and Ben Conery

Drug Enforcement Administration agents this week raided four medical marijuana shops in California, contrary to President Obama's campaign promises to stop the raids.

The White House said it expects those kinds of raids to end once Mr. Obama nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers.

"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

Medical use of marijuana is legal under the law in California and a dozen other states, but the federal government under President Bush, bolstered by a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, argued that federal interests trumped state law.

Dogged by marijuana advocates throughout the campaign, Mr. Obama repeatedly said he was opposed to using the federal government to raid medical marijuana shops, particularly because it was an infringement on states' decisions.

"I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," Mr. Obama told the Mail Tribune newspaper in Oregon in March, during the Democratic primary campaign.

He told the newspaper the "basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate."

Mr. Obama is still filling key law enforcement posts. For now, DEA is run by acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, a Bush appointee.

Special Agent Sarah Pullen of the DEA's Los Angeles office said agents raided four marijuana dispensaries about noon Tuesday. Two were in Venice and one each was in Marina Del Rey and Playa Del Ray -- all in the Los Angeles area.




Pubdate: Fri, 6 Feb 2009
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Suzanne Vranica and Matthew Futterman

Kellogg Co. is severing its relationship with Michael Phelps after the Olympian was photographed smoking marijuana.

In addition, USA Swimming, the sport's governing body, took the unusual step of suspending Mr. Phelps for three months, not because he violated drug regulations, but because "he disappointed so many people," the federation said. He will not be able to compete until May. The world championship competition takes place in Rome in July.

USA Swimming suspended Michael Phelps for three months, not because he violated drug regulations, but because "he disappointed so many people," the federation said.

The Battle Creek, Mich., packaged-food company, whose brands include Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies and Pop-Tarts, said Thursday it wouldn't continue its endorsement contract with the gold medalist, which comes up for renewal at the end of the month.

In September, the company unveiled a special-edition line of packaging featuring the champion swimmer. His image appeared on Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal, Kellogg's Corn Flakes cereal, Club Crackers and Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats Marshmallow Squares.




Pubdate: Fri, 6 Feb 2009
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles Times
Author: Ken Ellingwood, Reporting from Chihuahua, Mexico

Mexico Under Siege

Closed-Door, Written Trials Give Way to U.S.-Style Proceedings in Chihuahua. The Overhaul Could Help Fight Corruption and Organized Crime, Analysts Say.

Silvia Guadalupe Perez burst into tears as she named the bitter ingredients of her new life as a widow: three children emotionally adrift, a mounting pile of bills and meager factory wages to pay them.

"I can't . . . " Perez, 36, said as she sobbed on the witness stand. She took a sip of water and dabbed her eyes with a tissue before turning again to the prosecutor's gentle questioning.

A few paces away, the man convicted of mowing down her husband with a big-rig truck gnawed his lip and stared a hole into his cowboy boots. By day's end, a three-judge panel would deliver his punishment.

Courtroom dramas such as this sentencing are standard fare north of the U.S. border. But what's happening in the northern state of Chihuahua amounts to a revolution in Mexican justice. Far-reaching legal reforms have brought U.S.-style trials to the border state, providing a glimpse of the kind of change that experts say is needed throughout Mexico to rescue an opaque and graft-laden justice system besieged by organized crime.

Chihuahua has overturned centuries-old legal traditions and opened courts to public scrutiny as never before.




Pubdate: Thu, 05 Feb 2009
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Susan Lazaruk

Crime Fueled By Soaring Price Of Cocaine

The explosion of violence -- fueled by the soaring price of cocaine -- that rocked Metro Vancouver this week will likely escalate, gang experts predict.

"You usually get a half-dozen events of this kind," said Robert Gordon, director of Simon Fraser University's criminology centre.

Sgt. Shinder Kirk of the Integrated Gang Task Force said the violence tends to erupt in waves.

"We know the violence occurs in cycles," said Kirk. "We also know that this violence can occur at any time."

Three people -- all known to police -- were shot dead early this week in Surrey and Coquitlam. Police said the three shootings -- of Raphael Baldini, 21, and a 21-year-old Port Coquitlam woman on Tuesday and James Ward Erickson, 25, on Monday -- aren't related.

There have been a further five incidents involving deaths and shootings since last January.

Experts agree the violence is pushed by the drug trade, but they speculate it doesn't necessarily involve organized criminals, such as biker and Asian gangs. Instead, they say, smaller upstarts with loose and scattered networks are behind the shootings.





Anyone really expecting the Obama administration to change course from the Bush administration in regard to the drug war got some unpleasant surprises this week. Indeed, the new economic stimulus plan pushed by Obama contains new money for regional drug task forces - money that had been cut by the Bush administration. (I'm not missing Bush yet, but he deserves credit for that one.) And, as noted in the This Just In section above, Obama officials may be speaking out against the medical marijuana raids in California, but they're not really taking any action.

Anybody heard the news about Michael Phelps? Media reaction has been so strong and so widespread, we carry several stories about the incident in this DrugSense Weekly. While many sportswriters across the world chuckled and clucked at Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Phelps, fans who were consulted didn't seem troubled at all. Also this week: The capitol of Illinois is ready to begin writing ticket for minor cannabis possession; and a California sheriff's department finally acknowledges racial bias in the drug war, at least one instance.


Pubdate: Tue, 03 Feb 2009
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2009 The Dallas Morning News, Inc.

Money Would Resurrect Several Grants Cut By Bush White House

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama wants the government back in the policing business, big time.

Obama's huge stimulus plan includes about $4 billion to resurrect grants that put tens of thousands of police on the streets during the 1990s. The programs were all but eliminated during the Bush administration amid criticism that their results didn't justify the hefty price tags.

The grants are popular with Democrats, and restoring them was central to Obama's campaign plan to combat rising violence. By tacking the money onto the stimulus plan, Obama avoids having to defend the spending during the normal budget process.

The proposal allocates $3 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, a program that has funded drug task forces, after-school programs, prisoner rehabilitation and other programs.

An additional $1 billion in stimulus money is set aside for the Community Oriented Policing Services program begun under President Bill Clinton. The program, known as COPS grants, paid the salaries of many local police officers and was a "modest contributor" to the decline in crime in the 1990s, according to a 2005 government oversight report.

President George W. Bush slashed both grant programs over the past eight years, citing a series of reports questioning their efficiency and oversight.

But the programs remain popular among many lawmakers, who often used the grants to steer money to their home districts. Mayors and police chiefs love them, particularly during lean economic times.




Pubdate: Wed, 04 Feb 2009
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Sean Myers

A Calgary speaking engagement for record breaking Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps will go ahead as planned despite the publication of photos that appear to show the elite American athlete smoking pot from a bong.

Toronto-based Power Within, the group organizing the March 3 event, said a survey of its clients and sponsors showed there is now even more interest in hearing what Phelps, 23, has to say.

"We're not changing our position on it," said Power Within founder Salim Khoja. "His message and his accomplishments speak for themselves.

"There's a lot of excitement about him in Calgary. Parents are planning to bring their kids."

Khoja said the tickets, which are selling for$229, are nearly 70 per cent sold.




Date: Mon, 02 Feb 2009 Source: State Journal-Register (IL)
Copyright: 2009 The State Journal-Register
Details: Author: Deana Poole, The State Journal-Register

Possession Of Less Than 2.5 Grams Can Be Ordinance Violation

Getting caught with a small amount of marijuana or drug paraphernalia in Springfield won't automatically result in a criminal record anymore.

The Springfield City Council on Tuesday voted 7-3 to allow some offenses, including possession of marijuana less than 2.5 grams, to be prosecuted as ordinance violations instead of crimes.

Springfield will join other cities, including Joliet, Aurora, Bloomington, Champaign and Urbana, that give police officers the discretion to decide how certain offenses are handled.

Ward 2 Ald. Gail Simpson, who sponsored the ordinance, said her proposal originally began as a way to generate money for the city, which faces a $12.5 million budget shortfall.

"I feel certain it's going to generate additional revenues that we need," Simpson said after the meeting. "It's going to be good for those individuals who do silly things and get in trouble, but they're not going to be stigmatized."




Pubdate: Tue, 03 Feb 2009
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles Times
Author: Richard Winton

Department agrees to revise training and notify community college trustees after incident at L.A. Trade-Tech.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, settling a claim over detentions of minority students during a narcotics search at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, has agreed to revise its anti-bias training and ensure that its supervisors prevent racial profiling.

The Sheriff's Department, which patrols Los Angeles Community College District campuses, reached the settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California to resolve a claim alleging the department stopped and searched dozens of African American students based on their race. The incident occurred Oct. 17 on the campus south of downtown Los Angeles.

Attorneys for the ACLU said that under the settlement, the Sheriff's Department will implement changes, including examining current anti-racial bias procedures and revising its policy to state that department officials within their power "guarantee racial profiling and bias-policing are not practiced."

"Our Constitution and laws protect the community against law enforcement harassment based on skin color, and this settlement is one step toward ensuring that the Sheriff's Department never allows that to happen again," said Catherine Lhamon, racial justice director at the local ACLU chapter.

The suit stems from an incident in which 14 deputies went to the campus allegedly looking for drug dealers and detained 33 black students. A Latino student who attempted to take pictures of the raid was also detained. Two people were arrested.

An investigation by the college district, which oversees the trade school, concluded that the student roundup constituted racial profiling: using racial or ethnic characteristics to determine whether a person is likely to have committed a crime.




Canada is spending a ton of money to get serious about removing illegal drugs from prisons, and presumably, putting those drugs back on the street where they belong. In Florida, a proposed law to protect police informants from the fate of the late Rachel Hoffman is getting criticized by police - as usual, protecting the drug war appears to be a bigger priority than protecting people. A similar theme is at play in Texas where a star teacher is facing criminal charges after sniffer dogs (which are rarely trained to find Xanax) allegedly found unauthorized Xanax in her car at the school parking lot. And, straight from Jackson, Mississippi, the mayor's notoriety has made the Wall Street Journal.


Pubdate: Sun, 01 Feb 2009
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Gary Dimmock

Organized crime may be about to lose its grip on one of its most profitable markets as the Harper government moves to put an end to drug smuggling into penitentiaries.

In this war on drugs -- including marijuana -- the federal government will spend $120 million over the next four years to hire 80 teams of drug-sniffing dogs and 165 security intelligence officers.

The government has replaced or installed 30 X-ray machines and scanners in federal prisons, and plans to put extra staff on towers to stop drugs from being thrown over fences and walls into Canada's prisons, said Public Safety spokeswoman Jacinthe Perras.

The illicit drug trade in Canada's prisons is rarely heard about on the outside, but an internal security report provides a window into its workings.

Some inmates use their court appearances as occasions to act as drug mules. On the day of their sentencing, some convicted criminals place the drugs inside their bodies, pre-measured and placed in specific coloured balloons or condoms. Inside the prison, the dealers retrieve, check and weigh the drug packages. If a mule is thought to have tampered with a drug package, the punishment can be deadly, the report notes.




Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jan 2009
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 2009 St. Petersburg Times
Author: Sue Carlton

No one wants what happened to an inexperienced undercover informant named Rachel Hoffman to ever happen again.

Not police, who say using such informants is critical to making drug cases. Not prosecutors. And obviously not well-meaning legislators pushing for a "Rachel's Law" to set state standards for informants in criminal investigations.

But does this best-of-intentions bill in her name go too far?

Hoffman, a 23-year-old Florida State graduate, was murdered last year while working with Tallahassee police. She was in a supervised drug court program when officers found marijuana and pills in her apartment, and agreed to go undercover for consideration in her own case.

But Hoffman was inexperienced, untrained and unprepared for the dangerous path they set her on. A grand jury later called her immature and "way over her head." She was supposed to buy ecstasy, cocaine and a gun from two convicted felons. She went alone, carrying $13,000.

The sting could not have gone more wrong. Police lost contact. They didn't find her body for two days.

Now we have the pending Rachel's Law sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and fellow Republican Rep. Peter Nehr of Tarpon Springs. No question, the bill contains sensible requirements for using informants: among them, police training, mandatory consideration of an informant's age, stability and experience, a specific written agreement and a chance to consult a lawyer first.

But the law would also require the local state attorney ( and in some cases, judge ) to approve all deals ahead of time, a potentially bad blurring of the lines between the distinct roles of police and prosecutors. ( Contrary to your average Law & Order episode, the two have separate jobs and routinely disagree on, for example, the proper charges someone should face. )

Veteran police I talked with said in drug cases, things can move fast, catch a guy with drugs, flip him and get the dealer before everyone disappears.

"Some of ( the bill ) makes all the sense in the world," says Tampa police Chief Steve Hogue. "But some of it is a little problematic in that the bill wasn't written with real police work, particularly narcotics work, in mind."

Prosecutors have their own reservations. Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe says the law as is could reduce the number of confidential informants substantially.

"You're going to seriously curtail enforcement of our drug laws with this legislation," says Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober. "This is not a viable solution to this terrible event."




Pubdate: Mon, 02 Feb 2009
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Paulo Prada

JACKSON, Miss. -- Mayor Frank Melton got elected by wooing working-class blacks and upper-class whites with a promise to personally evict the "thugs" and drug dealers who plagued his crime-bedeviled city's streets. "Get ready," he told residents. "Because this is going to be different."

On Monday, Mr. Melton is scheduled to go on trial -- for the third time since taking office -- on felony charges related to his hard-line, gun-toting tactics. Mr. Melton is battling three counts in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on civil-rights and related weapons charges after he and two police bodyguards, and a group of young acquaintances wielding sledgehammers, allegedly destroyed a home where the mayor has claimed occupants used and sold crack cocaine. Mississippi has a long history of tough-talking local candidates. But the rise and potential fall of Mr. Melton, an African-American, have exposed a big rift among blacks, who make up more than 70% of Jackson's population. Some African-Americans here say the mayor has "talked down" to the black community and used the same kind of harsh words and tactics once used by club-wielding whites. In his zeal to fight crime, many add, he has ignored other city needs and led Jackson government astray.

While some residents still approve of his efforts to combat crime himself, others complain that his efforts haven't actually lowered the crime rate. "He means well and has a huge heart, but he's not an effective mayor," said Brad "Kamikaze" Franklin, a 35-year-old rapper and Jackson developer who once supported Mr. Melton.

In an interview Friday, Mr. Melton said his 2005 landslide, with over 80% of the vote, was "a mandate to get this place cleaned up." He declined to discuss the pending charges, but reaffirmed his innocence and said he plans to run for re-election, despite what he calls his "frustration" with bureaucracy.

"I'm from the private sector and used to ... having things done," he said, lamenting his inability, because of his legal problems, to conduct police activity himself since the incident in which a home was destroyed. Crime hasn't fallen, he argued, because "I'm not out there."




Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jan 2009
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2009 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst
Author: Lisa Gray

Students at Roberts Elementary School learned a harsh lesson Jan. 13. That was the day the Houston Independent School District dispatched its drug-sniffing dog to check the school's teacher parking lot.

The search at Roberts was part of a larger HISD crackdown. A month before, after a string of teachers were arrested on drug charges, Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra announced plans to have a dog sniff every teacher parking lot in the district -- never mind whether anyone thought the school had a drug problem.

And no one thought Roberts Elementary had a drug problem -- or, for that matter, any real problem at all. Roberts, near the Texas Medical Center, is a sweet, safe-feeling place, full of kids' art and parent volunteers.

Roberts is on Texas Monthly's list of the best public schools in the state and in 2008 won six Gold Performance Awards from the Texas Education Agency. An International Baccalaureate school, it teaches its kids to think in complex ways. It's a school that works.

But on that Tuesday morning, just before lunch, Roberts suddenly had a problem. After two false alarms, the dog pointed to the last car anyone at Roberts would have expected: the car belonging to beloved art teacher Mindy Herrick.

Teacher Of The Year

Herrick, 59, has taught at Roberts for 17 years. Parents describe her as "inspirational," "talented" and "loving."

She comes to work early so kids can finish projects they didn't have time to complete in class. So many kids wanted to join her after-school art club that it had to be restricted to fifth-graders. More than one parent tells how she dropped by a student's house, bearing art books that she thought might be of interest.

She's a ferocious doubles tennis player, nationally ranked, so fanatical about her game that she hesitated a year before taking cholesterol meds that her doctor prescribed.

In 1995 and 1999, Herrick was Roberts' teacher of the year. For 2005-06, she was teacher of the year for HISD's entire Central District. And in 2009, she was busted.

In the middle of a class, police escorted her from her classroom. After she unlocked her car, police found a baggie with two Xanax pills.

Herrick said she has no idea how the pills got into her car, which other people in her family drive.

But no matter. She was hauled away from the school she loves in the back of a squad car and charged with possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. If convicted of that third-degree felony, she could serve two to 10 years in prison.




We've been having a debate here at the Media Awareness Project as to whether we should enhance our services with low brow celebrity or high brow science. This week illustrates our dilemma.

Unless you live in a cloud of haze, you have heard of Michael Phelps. You know, the guy supposedly taking a bong hit whose photo was plastered all over the Internet. The hoopla almost matched the other fuss the media made over him - a record eight gold medals in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Not surprising, bloggers and columnists jumped all over the story, growing our archive and providing great fodder for LTEs.

Another celebrity pot smoker by the name of Obama made news this past week. No, not our 44th President as inevitable comparisons are drawn to highly competitive and accomplished people like him and Michael Phelps. This new found celebrity is the half brother of President Obama, who was arrested near his "ramshackle accommodations" in a Nairobi, Kenya, slum for possessing a single joint of "bhang." It is unclear as to why this arrest occurred, but the word "bribe" did end the article.

Taking the high road is Ohio State University where leading research has shown that cannabinoids slow the progression of brain cell death in elderly rats, potentially translating into a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Another notable accomplishment for all cannabis aficionados was reported in the school's Lantern newspaper, "The American Association for the Advancement of Science has recently elected [lead researcher, Dr. Gary] Wenk as a fellow for his contributions to Alzheimer's research. "

At another esteemed institution another researcher is looking into the medicinal properties of cannabis, but without as much success. Dr. Lyle Craker, a horticulturist in the Department of Plant, Soil, and Insect Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, has once again been denied a license to grow in his laboratory what grows wild worldwide. As reported in the UMass Daily Collegian, "If approved, findings from clinical studies, which would use the product [medicinal grade cannabis] created by Craker, could then be presented to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has the power to recommend medical marijuana as a legal drug." - perhaps for Alzheimer's?

So, which do our readers prefer? Low brow celebrity or high brow science - or both? You can e-mail your thoughts to Mary Jane Borden at


Pubdate: Wed, 04 Feb 2009
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Copyright: 2009 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Author: Jill Porter, Philadelphia Daily News

Bo( i )ng! The photo that might change not just our image of Michael Phelps, but drug laws, too.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Michael Phelps smoking pot through a bong might indeed change attitudes.

Not toward Phelps - who'll survive this controversy swimmingly - but toward marijuana.

Instead of forcing him from his pedestal, Phelps' recreational use of marijuana will no doubt push the pendulum further along the road to liberalization of pot laws.

As well it should.

The very fact that the Olympian athlete hasn't been deep-sixed by some of his sponsors shows how tolerant our society has become of the recreational use of weed.




Pubdate: Sun, 1 Feb 2009
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited
Author: Xan Rice, in Nairobi, The Observer

President's Relative Denies Police Charge After Arrest for Possession of a Single Marijuana Joint

Tomorrow morning, President Barack Obama will sit down in the White House to receive his daily intelligence briefing from security officials. Thousands of miles away in Kenya, his half-brother will be facing a rather different audience in a Nairobi courtroom.

George Obama, 26, was arrested yesterday for possession of marijuana, after allegedly being caught with a single joint of "bhang" near his home in a Nairobi slum. There was no suggestion that Obama was trying to deal in the drug but, according to Joshua Omokulongolo, the area police chief, rules are rules. "He is not a drug peddler," said Omokulongolo, "But it's illegal, it's a banned substance."

According to CNN, George Obama disputed the charge. "They [the police] took me from my home," he said. "I don't know why they are charging me."




Pubdate: Tue, 27 Jan 2009
Source: Lantern, The (OH Edu)
Copyright: 2009 The Lantern
Author: Stephanie Webber

A puff a day might keep Alzheimer's away, according to marijuana research by professor Gary Wenk and associate professor Yannic Marchalant of the Ohio State Department of Psychology.

Wenk's studies show that a low dosage in the morning of a certain canavanoid, a component in marijuana, reversed memory loss in older rats' brains. In his study, an experimental group of old rats received a dosage, and a control group of rats did not. The old rats that received the drugs performed better on memory tests, and the drug slowed and prevented brain cell death. However, marijuana had the reverse effect on young rats' brains, actually impairing mental ability.




Pubdate: Sun, 01 Feb 2009
Source: Massachusetts Daily Collegian (U of MA, Edu)
Copyright: 2009 Daily Collegian
Author: Jessica Sacco

Unknown to most students, some of their professors have been advocating the growing of marijuana on campus since 2001.

This movement took a blow earlier this month when the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected University of Massachusetts Professor Lyle Craker's request to become a marijuana manufacturer on Jan. 12.

Craker, a horticulturist in the Department of Plant, Soil and Insect sciences submitted his application in 2001 to receive a license to grow large amounts of marijuana in a controlled environment to further study its effects for medical use.

At the time, he stated that the marijuana currently available for such research was inadequate, and that more uniform and better quality material would be needed.

If approved, findings from clinical studies, which would use the product created by Craker, could then be presented to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has the power to recommend medical marijuana as a legal drug.




Sure, Richard Holbrooke (Council on Foreign Relations board member, twice U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and currently, special envoy to Afghanistan for the Obama administration) says Bush's $1 billion per year counter-narcotics budget burn, "may be the single most ineffective policy in the history of American foreign policy". And true, "Karzai was playing us like a fiddle," admits Thomas Schweich -- indicating the new party line may be to shift blame to the Bush-propped Karzai. Some argue the cheapest way to stop Afghan opium would be to simply buy it up, or allow formers to legally sell opium for medicines. More likely, though, will be the preferred method of naked force. A leaked letter last week from U.S. General Craddock which suggests extra-legal killing of Afghan drug suspects was under investigation (for the leak) by the NATO secretary general, who insisted, "no illegal orders were given."

In Australia, police defended use of sniffer dogs in the wake of the overdose death of 17-year-old Gemma Thoms who swallowed MDMA pills "in a panicked attempt to avoid police detection." Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia chief executive Lisa Laschon denounced use of police dogs designed to make festival-goers feel "threatened, intimidated and fearful, in the hope that young people would decide not to consume illicit substances at the event or at future events".

More reefer madness from Nigeria this week as NDLEA Director-General Chief Lanre Ipinmisho held forth on the "scourge" of cannabis ("popularly known as Indian hemp or ganja"). "The colossal seizures of cannabis in this region are beyond imagination," illustrated Ipinmisho. Police "made the single largest seizure ever of 80.53 metric tons of cannabis," claimed the chief. "The deadly weeds were concealed in two clandestine warehouses in a residential area of Ibadan." Reefer Madness, 1936: "It was concealed in an apparently harmless shipment of thirty-five barrels of olive oil. The deadly drug was burned in the incinerator of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing." Ipinmisho seems to know the part by heart.

And from Europe this week, not all drug policy professionals are happy with the British government's re-classification of cannabis to a more serious level - besides the advisors who advised against the recent reclassification, that is. They continue to point out stubborn facts like "There has been no rise in recorded figures for psychotic symptoms, or specifically, schizophrenia," as cannabis users grew more numerous and cannabis more plentiful and potent. And the Obama administration seems to be having trouble reigning in all the Bush policy holdovers, case in point, at the UN as the U.S. delegation charges full steam ahead with prohibition and zealous drug wars, "in contrast to the EU position which supports 'harm reduction' measures such as needle exchanges."


Pubdate: Tue, 03 Feb 2009
Source: Kuwait Times (Kuwait)
Copyright: 2009 Kuwait Times Newspaper
Author: Bernd Debusmann


Holbrooke, who was not in government service at the time, took particular issue with the counter-narcotics strategy the Bush administration pursued in Afghanistan. "The ... program, which costs around $1 billion a year, may be the single most ineffective policy in the history of American foreign policy," he wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post. "It's not just a waste of money. It actually strengthens the Taleban and Al-Qaeda, as well as criminal elements within Afghanistan.


"Karzai was playing us like a fiddle," Thomas Schweich, a former top anti-narcotics official in Afghanistan, wrote in the New York Times last summer. "The U.S. would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure improvement; the U.S. and its allies would fight the Taliban; Karzai's friends would get rich off the drug trade; he could blame the West for his problems; and in 2009 he would be elected to a new term.

In other words, Karzai is not part of the solution, he's part of the problem. As to solutions: One novel idea on opium-and-corruption comes from James Nathan, a political science professor at Auburn University in Alabama and former State Department official. He argues in a forthcoming paper that the most efficient way to tackle the problem would be for the United States or NATO to buy up the entire Afghan opium crop.

Purchasing the whole crop would take it away from the traffickers without cutting more than half the economy of Afghanistan," Nathan said in an interview. "Such a purchase would directly confront Afghanistan's most corrosive corruption. It would end the Taliban's money stream."


On a more modest scale than Nathan's buy-it-all idea, a European think tank, the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), is lobbying for an alternative to traditional counter-narcotics policies dubbed Poppy for Medicine. That involves granting international licenses to poppy farmers in Afghan villages, where the crop would be turned into opiate-based medicines such as morphine or codeine, and then shipped out to the legal market.

It would place Afghanistan alongside Turkey (where the United States helped to introduce a similar program in 1974), India and Australia as legal producers of opium. Could it work? When ICOS, formerly known as the Senlis Council, first came up with the idea, the State Department cold-shouldered it. But that was before Obama, who promised to listen to new approaches. Both the buy-it-all and the licensing concepts deserve a hearing.



Pubdate: Sat, 31 Jan 2009
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2009 The New York Times Company
Author: Judy Dempsey

BERLIN -- NATO's senior military commander has proposed that the alliance's soldiers in Afghanistan shoot drug traffickers without waiting for proof of their involvement with the Taliban insurgency, according to a report in the online edition of Der Spiegel magazine.

The commander, Gen. John Craddock of the United States, floated the idea in a confidential letter on Jan. 5 to Gen. Egon Ramms, a German officer who heads the NATO command center responsible for Afghanistan, Spiegel Online reported Thursday.


NATO officials declined to comment specifically on Friday about General Craddock's proposal or General Ramms's response. "We will not comment on the substance," said a NATO spokesman, James Appathurai. "What I will say is that General Craddock never issued final orders," he added.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO's secretary general, has ordered an investigation into how the general's letter was obtained by Spiegel Online. He also said in a statement announcing the investigation that "no illegal orders were given."



Pubdate: Tue, 03 Feb 2009
Source: West Australian (Australia)
Copyright: 2009 West Australian Newspapers Limited
Author: Gabrielle Knowles and Amanda Banks

Police have defended their use of drug sniffer dogs at music festivals after the suspected fatal overdose of teenager Gemma Thoms.

The 17-year-old apprentice hairdresser collapsed at the Big Day Out on Sunday after apparently swallowing several ecstasy pills in a panicked attempt to avoid police detection.


YACWA chief executive Lisa Laschon said the police operation was to make patrons feel "threatened, intimidated and fearful, in the hope that young people would decide not to consume illicit substances at the event or at future events".

"What worries me the most is whether or not this death could have been avoided if the relationship young people had with police was not one of fear and dread," she said.




Pubdate: Sun, 01 Feb 2009
Source: Punch (Nigeria)
Copyright: 2009 The Punch
Author: Ademola Oni

The scourge of Indian hemp cultivation in the South-West of Nigeria is a major problem for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, writes ADEMOLA ONI


At its third zonal awareness campaign on the prevention of the cultivation of illicit drugs, trafficking and abuse, in Abeokuta last week, the Director-General of the NDLEA, Chief Lanre Ipinmisho, expressed concern on the notoriety which the South-West had gained in the cultivation of cannabis, popularly known as Indian hemp or ganja in local parlance.


"The colossal seizures of cannabis in this region are beyond imagination.

This is unthinkable. The Ekiti State Command uncovered 53.7 metric tons of cannabis in a story building at Ise-Ekiti in February 2008. The Oyo State Command on May 29, 2008, made the single largest seizure ever of 80.53 metric tons of cannabis. The deadly weeds were concealed in two clandestine warehouses in a residential area of Ibadan."




Pubdate: Wed, 04 Feb 2009
Source: Huddersfield Daily Examiner, The (UK)
Copyright: Trinity Mirror Plc 2009


Frequent use often precipitates psychosis, schizophrenia, they say.

It is marked by a steady deterioration of social skills, memory, concentration, and can lead to depression, paranoia and suicide.

But Mike Linnell, of Lifeline Kirklees, a voluntary organisation that deals with the effects of drug dependence, says the evidence for all these horrors is minimal.

He described reclassification as 'awful'.

"We believe the Drugs Advisory Council's advice was wrong for a whole number of reasons," he said.


"There has been no rise in recorded figures for psychotic symptoms, or specifically, schizophrenia."


"There is no evidence that cannabis kills anyone.


"In terms of all the drugs available to young people, cannabis is the least dangerous. I'm not lobbying for the legalisation of cannabis. But I do want us to keep the drug's dangers in perspective."



Pubdate: Tue, 03 Feb 2009
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited
Author: Duncan Campbell and Afua Hirsch

A rift between the EU and U.S. over how to deal with global trafficking in illicit drugs is undermining international efforts to agree a new UN strategy. The confrontation has been heightened because of suggestions that the U.S. negotiating team is pushing a hardline, Bush administration "war on drugs", in contrast to the EU position which supports "harm reduction" measures such as needle exchanges.


At the heart of the dispute is whether a commitment to "harm reduction" should be included in the UN declaration of intent, which is published every 10 years. In 1998 the declaration was "a drug-free world - we can do it".

EU countries, backed by Brazil and other Latin American countries, Australia and New Zealand, say even with the best of intentions the world will not be drug-free in 10 years and some commitment to tackling HIV and addiction through needle exchange programmes and methadone and other drugs should be included.

The U.S. position, as maintained throughout the Bush years, is that such inclusion sends the wrong message and must be resisted. President Obama has already lifted the ban on federal funding for needle exchanges and is known to have a more liberal approach to the issue, but the U.S. negotiating team is opposed to varying the "drug-free" strategies of the past.



 HOT OFF THE 'NET  ( Top )



An online conversation with author April Witt and Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo at


By Radley Balko at


By Pete Guither at


By Stanton Peele

The sheriff's office in Richland County, S.C., is investigating a report -- prompted by a photo of the event published in a British tabloid -- that Olympic hero Michael Phelps smoked marijuana there. It's possible Mr. Phelps will be prosecuted. That's right: For those of you who don't know, marijuana is illegal.


The Drug Cops' Raids Continue

By Paul Armentano, NORML

What gives? Let's see Obama be the one who personally rains on the DEA's eight-year parade that has crushed the lives of thousands.


The following editorial by Danny Kushlick was published in The Journal; Addiction Research And Theory (15(2): 123-126) in April 2007, and is reproduced here as much of it seems relevant to current debates, both on this blog and in the wider drugs field.


By Jacob Sullum


Drug War Chronicle, Issue #571, 2/6/09

For more than 35 years, New York state has had the dubious distinction of having some of the country's worst drug laws, the Rockefeller drug laws passed in 1973.


Century of Lies - 02/03/09 - Cliff Schaffer

Cliff Schaffer of re financial impact on waging the drug war & Radley Balko on Michael Phelps, Doug McVay with Drug War Facts, Phil Smith on cartel support of banks & Winston Francis with the Official Government Truth.

Cultural Baggage Radio Show - 02/04/09 - Richard Mack

Former Sheriff Richard Mack now with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition & Philippe Lucas of Vancouver Island Compassion Society reports Canadians supreme court has once again declared marijuana laws unconstitutional.


Kirk is joined by Mathew Beren who was given a complete discharge after having a 900 plant medicinal and research grow and discuss the decision made by the judge.


By Dan Bernath

MPP's Bruce Mirken appeared on CNN Sunday night to discuss the news that a 23-year-old American male had been photographed using marijuana at a college party.



Executive Director, Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC)


Tell the new attorney general to end the DEA's raids on medical marijuana providers

Please keep the pressure up - a DrugSense FOCUS Alert


If Kellogg's Dumps Phelps, We Dump Kellogg's

By Ethan Nadelmann

Please take time today to contact the Kellogg Corporation. Tell them that you oppose their decision to drop Michael Phelps.



By Art Gallegos

Although I don't smoke pot, I do feel that decriminalization should be an item to be discussed.

Views by Mr. Robert Almonte and the name-calling by Mayor Cook on Channel 7-KVIA ( cable Channel 6) are nothing short of old wives' tales.

American farmers would benefit not only growing pot for smoking, but for the fiber of the stem, which is stronger than present-day nylon cords for parachutes and countless other uses, including clothing, shoes, paper, medicinal uses yet to be discovered -- and it's biodegradable.

If there's no demand from Mexico for marijuana, the cartels would cease to exist and the massacres would stop.

Besides, I'm against our tax money going over to a corrupt government. I want my tax dollars spent in America on health, veterans benefits, Social Security, homeless shelters and prescription drugs for the elderly.

Also, release the 70 percent of the incarcerated individuals who are in our prisons for consuming/possession of small amounts of pot. It's costing us a fortune to house them.

Lou Dobbs was out of place calling our council member a local yokel.

And threats of federal and state funding loss for El Paso by our lawmakers are childish at best.

Art Gallegos Canutillo

Pubdate: Tue, 27 Jan 2009
Source: El Paso Times (TX)


VICS Constitutional Challenge of Health Canada Medical Cannabis  ( Top )

By Philippe Lucas

Dear friends and supporters,

It is with great pleasure that I announce the successful outcome of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society (VICS) Constitutional challenge of Health Canada's medical cannabis program and practice. On Monday, February 2nd 2009 Justice Koenigsberg ruled that the federal regulations limiting the number of people who could grow cannabis in one location, and the rules limiting the number of patients that a producer could grow for were arbitrary, served no public interest, and were therefore unconstitutional. She stayed her decision for one year in order to allow the federal government to amend their medical cannabis regulations to reflect her ruling.

Although Justice Koenigsberg went on to find the defendant, Mr. Mat Beren - who was in charge of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society's production and research facility - guilty of cannabis possession and cultivation for the purpose of trafficking, she then immediately granted him an absolute discharge, essentially exonerating him of all charges. In granting Mr. Beren the discharge, the judge stated that "In my view, it would be contrary to public interest for Mr. Beren to have criminal record. If ever there was a case where an absolute discharge is appropriate, it's this one." She also urged Health Canada to establish regulations that would legally authorize organizations like the Vancouver Island Compassion Society that are legitimately helping medical cannabis patients through research and distribution to continue their good work without the ongoing threat of arrest and prosecution.

This important legal decision came about as result of a nearly five year Charter challenge which stemmed from a 2004 police raid on the Vancouver Island Therapeutic Cannabis Research Institute (VITCRI), a cannabis production, research and breeding facility owned and operated by the Vancouver Island Compassion Society. The judge has yet to issue a written decision, and we will make it available as soon as it becomes available. This marks the fifth time that this program has been found unconstitutional since 2001, and although it is a major victory for Canadian medical cannabis patients and those working to help them, the decision didn't address and remedy ongoing access problems. Judge Koenigsberg noted that Health Canada has only granted legal access to medical cannabis to about 2600 people so far, despite there being between 400,000 and 1 million medical cannabis patients in Canada, but failed to find the access regulations unconstitutional. However, as a result of her ruling patients will be able to benefit from the economies of scale in regards to the production of their medicine, and experienced cultivators will have more freedom and motivation to assist authorized patients.

The VICS and its 850 members would like to thank our amazing legal team for this historic victory. Lawyers Kirk Tousaw and John Conroy QC both worked tirelessly on this challenge at greatly reduced legal rates, and they deserve much of the credit for this win. We'd also like to thank our lay and expert witnesses, who gave so much of themselves and whose testimony formed the foundation for Justice Koenigsberg's historic decision. Lastly, a huge thanks to our supporters in both Canada and the U.S., particularly the Marijuana Policy Project, Robert Field, and the Drug Policy Alliance, without whose financial support this challenge would not have been possible.

Philippe Lucas is Founder/Executive Director of Vancouver Island Compassion Society; Director of Communications of DrugSense; and a member of the Victoria City Council.


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