This Just In
(1)U.S., Mexican Drug Gangs Form Alliances
(2)Legal-Marijuana Advocates Focus On A New Green
(3)Medical Marijuana Push In U.S. Undercuts Drug War
(4)Michigan's Murky Marijuana Law Sows Arrests, Confusion

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 THIS JUST IN  ( Top )


Pubdate: Fri, 26 Mar 2010
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2010 The Washington Times, LLC.

Mexican drug cartels formed new alliances in 2009 with violent American street and prison gangs that helped tighten their stranglehold on the lucrative U.S. narcotics market, but competition among Mexican smugglers remains fierce and threatens more bloodshed in the United States, according to a Justice Department report.

The 2010 Drug Threat Assessment, released Thursday, also says Mexican drug cartels control most of the illicit cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine trade into the U.S., along with much of the marijuana distribution. The cartels' tentacles reach every state, including some unexpected rural areas of the U.S.

"The growing strength and organization of criminal gangs, including their growing alliances with large Mexican [drug trafficking organiza[JUMP]tions], has changed the nature of midlevel and retail drug distribution in many local drug markets, even in suburban and rural areas," says the National Drug Intelligence Center report.

"As a result, disrupting illicit drug availability and distribution will become increasingly difficult for state and local law enforcement agencies."

According to the report, the Mexican connection benefits U.S. street gangs, as they are able to buy drugs directly from the cartels, which enables the gangs to flood the streets with less expensive drugs by cutting out midlevel wholesale dealers.

As an example, according to the report, members of the Chicago-based Latin Kings gang in Midland, Texas, now purchase cocaine directly from Mexican traffickers for $16,000 to $18,000 a kilogram. Those drugs then can be shipped directly to Chicago, where it would have cost the gang nearly $30,000 more to purchase a kilogram of cocaine from a midlevel wholesaler.




Pubdate: Fri, 26 Mar 2010
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2010 The New York Times Company

SAN FRANCISCO - Perhaps only in California could a group of marijuana smokers call themselves fiscal realists.

And yet, faced with a $20 billion deficit, strained state services and regular legislative paralysis, voters in California are now set to consider a single-word solution to help ease some of the state's money troubles: legalize.

On Wednesday, the California secretary of state certified a November vote on a ballot measure that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, a plan that advocates say could raise $1.4 billion and save precious law enforcement and prison resources.

Indeed, unlike previous efforts at legalization - including a failed 1972 measure in California - the 2010 campaign will not dwell on assertions of marijuana's harmlessness or its social acceptance, but rather on cold cash.

"We need the tax money," said Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University, a trade school for marijuana growers, in Oakland, who backed the ballot measure's successful petition drive. "Second, we need the tax savings on police and law enforcement, and have that law enforcement directed towards real crime."

Supporters are hoping to raise $10 million to $20 million for the campaign, primarily on the Internet, with national groups planning to urge marijuana fans to contribute $4.20 at a time, a nod to 420, a popular shorthand for the drug.

The law would permit licensed retailers to sell up to one ounce at a time. Those sales would be a new source of sales tax revenue for the state.

Opponents, however, scoff at the notion that legalizing marijuana could somehow help with the state's woes. They tick off a list of social ills - including tardiness and absenteeism in the workplace - that such an act would contribute to.




Pubdate: Fri, 26 Mar 2010
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2010 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Tim Johnson

MEXICO CITY - As more U.S. states permit medical marijuana, and California considers legalizing cannabis sales to adults, Mexico is voicing irritation at the gap between drug laws north and south of the border and saying it undercuts the battle against Mexico's violent drug cartels.

Mexico Secretary of the Interior Fernando Gomez Mont last week called the U.S. medical marijuana trend "worrisome" and said it "complicates in a grave way" efforts to resolve Mexico's soaring drug-related violence.

The issue came to the fore earlier this week when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton led a high-level U.S. delegation to Mexico to discuss strategies to counter drug trafficking.

Clinton said law enforcement authorities are keeping close tabs on medical marijuana dispensaries in the 14 states where such sales are permitted. She added that she doesn't believe that the rising number of states that allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes was a major factor in marijuana flows into the United States from Mexico.

"We have not changed our laws, and we do not see this as a major contributor to the continuing flow of marijuana, the vast, vast majority of which is used for recreational purposes," Clinton said.

More states are permitting medical marijuana use, and New York may become the 15th to do so.

California, which pioneered medical marijuana use in 1996, is moving even faster. Supporters secured enough petition signatures to force a November vote on a ballot initiative to legalize personal marijuana possession and allow regulated sales of marijuana to those over age 21.

A Mexican historian and commentator, Lorenzo Meyer Cossio, said the government of President Felipe Calderon "feels offended" by the growing trend of U.S. states to allow medical marijuana, or perhaps go further, as California may do. Mexican laws against marijuana and narcotics remain tough, the result of U.S. pressure dating back more than half a century, he said.




Pubdate: Thu, 25 Mar 2010
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2010 Detroit Free Press
Author: Bill Laitner, Free Press Staff Writer

Police Raid Highlights Problems Many Face

Michigan's medical marijuana law has patients fearing arrest while police say they're unsure of who can legally possess or supply the drug.

In several instances, police have arrested patients, confiscated their marijuana, conducted searches that turned out to be improper and seized trailer-loads of cultivation gear because of gray areas in the state law that allows medical marijuana, Southfield attorney Michael Komorn said.

The legal problems spawned by the law are so great that defense attorneys have begun specializing in medical marijuana cases, with one top 10 Michigan law firm devoting an area of practice to it.

"Police across the state are either confused or resisting compliance with the medical marijuana law," staff attorney Dan Korobkin of the American Civil Liberties Union said.

Some medical users lack proper paperwork or have more plants than allowed, Roseville Deputy Chief James Berlin said. But mistakes are made, Berlin said.

"We may spend three weeks investigating, and then bust in and traumatize people, only to find out they're legal."

When narcotics investigators burst in last month on Richard Brace in Hazel Park, he didn't have the state card approving him to use medical marijuana that he'd applied for Jan. 9.

Brace, 66, said he was baby-sitting his 7-year-old granddaughter when he heard yelling outside.

"I was getting ready to put her to bed, and all at once, there's a bam-bam-bam, 'Police!' Just as I open the door, they shove that ram through and totally shattered my storm door, all over the living room floor -- even got some glass on my granddaughter," he said.

After being handcuffed and questioned, Brace said he finally talked police out of arresting him by bringing out the paperwork showing he'd applied for his official medical marijuana identification card. As of Wednesday, he still hadn't received it.





The Wall Street Journal reported a disturbing story about drugs, nursing homes and the DEA this week. It seems the DEA wants to separate the sick from their legal medicine yet again. And while the tragic futility of the drug war was only a subtext in that story, another Journal story was quite explicit.

In Georgia, one legislator wants the unemployed to pay for their own random drug tests. And, the Canadian government hands out money for drug war dummies.


Pubdate: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Evan PeRez

A crackdown by U.S. drug agents on the dispensing of prescription drugs in nursing homes is coming under industry fire and congressional scrutiny. The Drug Enforcement Administration last year began probing allegations that nursing staff at some nursing homes were illegally dispensing powerful medications without doctor authorization. The issue is the subject of a Senate hearing set for Wednesday.

Nursing-home and hospice-care trade groups say patients have been left to "languish in pain" while nursing homes and pharmacies try to find ways to comply with DEA regulations requiring physicians, in most cases, to write prescriptions. The industry groups are lobbying Congress to change the law. Because of the DEA's heightened scrutiny, "vulnerable patients have at times been left to languish in pain as nursing-home nurses and doctors strive to adhere" to federal regulations, Sen. Herb Kohl (D., Wisc.) said in a statement. Sen. Kohl called the Wednesday hearing, to be held before the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

A DEA spokesman declined to comment on the issue yesterday.

Recently, the DEA has intensified efforts to fight prescription-drug abuse, which some experts say may surpass the abuse of illegal drugs.

DEA officials say the diversion of legally prescribed pain drugs into a burgeoning black market is a major problem.

Last July, DEA officials armed with court orders visited several nursing homes and the offices of PharMerica Corp., a pharmacy supplier to the facilities. The agents were following an informant tip that drugs including the pain medications Fentanyl and Oxycontin were dispensed without proper authorization, according to a DEA affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee. A PharMerica spokeswoman didn't respond immediately to a request for comment. In a letter to lawmakers in December, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said the DEA, part of the Justice Department, was acting out of concern for patients.

Allowing nurses to issue prescriptions "trivialize[s] the doctor-patient relationship and weaken[s] the quality of care for the frail and infirm," Mr. Welch wrote.


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Pubdate: Mon, 22 Mar 2010
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Mary Anastasia O'Grady

Strong Demand and the High Profits That Are the Result of Prohibition Make Illegal Trafficking Unstoppable.

They say that the first step in dealing with a problem is acknowledging that you have one. It is therefore good news that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead a delegation to Mexico tomorrow to talk with officials there about efforts to fight the mob violence that is being generated in Mexico by the war on drugs. U.S. recognition of this shared problem is healthy.

But that's where the good news is likely to end.

Violence along the border has skyrocketed ever since Mexican President Felipe Calderon decided to confront the illegal drug cartels that operate there. Some 7,000 troops now patrol Juarez, a city of roughly one million. Yet even militarization has not delivered the peace. The reason is simple enough: The source of the problem is not Mexican supply. It is American demand coupled with prohibition.

It is doubtful that this will be acknowledged at tomorrow's meeting. The drug-warrior industry, which includes both the private-sector and a massive government bureaucracy devoted to "enforcement," has an enormous economic incentive to keep the war raging. In Washington politics both groups have substantial influence. So it is likely that we are going to get further plans to turn Juarez into a police state with the promise that more guns, tanks, helicopters and informants can stop Mexican gangsters from shoving drugs up American noses.

Last week's gangland-style slaying of an unborn baby and three adults who had ties to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez has drawn attention to Mrs. Clinton's trip. The incident stunned Americans. Yet tragic as they were, statistically those four deaths don't create even a blip on the body-count chart. The running tally of drug-trafficking linked deaths in Juarez since December 2006 is more than 5,350. There has also been a high cost to the city's economy as investors and tourists have turned away.




Pubdate: Thu, 18 Mar 2010
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2010 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Nancy Badertscher

A Toccoa legislator is sponsoring a bill to require random drug testing of recipients of unemployment compensation benefits and other government assistance.

HB 1389, sponsored by Rep. Michael Harden, would require that the cost of the drug test be paid by the recipient or deducted from his or her benefits. Failing the drug test could result in a loss of benefits.

Harden's proposal calls for the Georgia labor commissioner to conduct annual random drug testing of unemployment benefit recipients.

Those testing positive for use of "marijuana, dangerous drugs, or a controlled substance" would be tested a second time, according to the bill.

Anyone failing a mandated second test would lose their benefits -- and the ability to apply for benefits -- for two years.

Refusing to submit to drug testing also would make a person ineligible for benefits, according to the bill.




Pubdate: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Source: Prince George Free Press (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 BC Newspaper Group
Author: Teresa Mallam

Ode has a face and innards only a mother could love and his message is even more ugly. Do drugs and you too can look like me. The life-sized papier-mache mannequin, "sliced open" to reveal its unhealthy organs, is a Future Cents project aimed at drawing attention to the ills of illicit drugs.

Now fully assembled and painted, complete with blue jeans and running shoes, OD (his real name) is ready to face the public and be used as a teaching tool in the community.

He will be accompanied on his mission by a flow chart and power points describing the adverse effects of taking drugs like opium, heroin, ecstasy, crack cocaine, cannabis and methamphetamine.

Owen Bala is the mannequin's creator. From start to finish, the government-funded youth project took about six months to complete.

"I named him OD (pronounced Ode,) I thought it would be better to show him cut open but since I'm not a doctor, I had to guess at what things would actually look like inside. For instance, I didn't know if the organs might be overlapping. So I had to look that up. I also wanted it to look cool so people would take notice of it so I painted the parts so they'd stand out."

Bala used anatomy pictures and diagrams from a medical book to research and learn where the organs lay, he said. For the rest, he used his creative imagination.

"Ode will be displayed at Nechako Youth Detox Centre, beside the hospital. He'll be in a coffin but can be stood up. The idea behind this project was to let people know the damage that can be done to the body from drugs."




When individuals get caught money laundering, the penalties can be harsh. For banks, it seems mostly expensive. New details raise questions about the police involved in a botched drug operation that left an innocent minister dead in Georgia. And, some state legislatures continue to take baby steps toward prison reform.


Pubdate: Thu, 18 Mar 2010
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Authors: Evan Perez and Carrick Mollenkamp

Wachovia Bank reached a $160 million settlement with the Justice Department over allegations that a failure in bank controls enabled drug traffickers to launder drug money by transferring money from Mexican currency-exchange houses to the bank.

Under a deferred-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in Miami, Wachovia, which is owned by Wells Fargo & Co., "admitted failure to identify, detect, and report suspicious transactions in third-party payment processor accounts," according to the Justice Department. Prosecutors said the bank processed $420 billion in transactions without using proper money-laundering detection.

In a statement, Wachovia said it "has made significant enhancements to its [anti-money laundering] and [Bank Secrecy Act] compliance program that have strengthened its ability to guard against unlawful use of its system by wrongdoers." Wachovia has spent $42 million improving its compliance program, the bank said.

The currency-exchange houses, known as casas de cambio, serve as a legitimate method for immigrants to send money to relatives in Latin America. But authorities in the U.S., Mexico and Colombia have for years warned that drug-traffickers also use these exchange houses to launder the proceeds of their trade.

According to the Justice Department, Wachovia accounts took in at least $373 billion in wire transfers that were made from casas de cambio in Mexico between May 2004 and May 2007. In addition, more than $4 billion in bulk cash was shipped from Mexican casas de cambio to Wachovia accounts, prosecutors allege. Wachovia also operated a "remote deposit capture" service that took in another $47 billion, according to prosecutors.

Some of the money was used to buy planes for trafficking, according to prosecutors. U.S. investigators seized more than 20,000 kilograms of cocaine from the planes.




Pubdate: Thu, 18 Mar 2010
Source: Toccoa Record, The (GA)
Copyright: 2010 The Toccoa Record
Author: Jessica Waters

A civil lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court by attorneys representing Jonathan Ayers' widow, Abigail, claims "police officers who unreasonably and unconstitutionally create a physically threatening situation in the midst of a Forth Amendment seizure cannot be immunized for the use of deadly force."

Named in the civil complaint were Mountain judicial Circuit Narcotics Criminal Investigation and Suppression Team (NCIS) officers Billy Shane Harrison, Kyle Bryant and Chance Oxner, along with Stephens County Sheriff Randy Shirley and Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell, and the NCIS team as a separate entity.

Alleging that, "Under the circumstance existing at the time and place in question, no reasonable officer could have believed that the decedent's actions were unlawful or that the use of deadly force against him was justified," the complaint details 10 counts of alleged misconduct. They include:

Wrongful death against defendants Harrison, Oxner and Bryant in their individual capacities.

Survival action against defendants Harrison, Oxner and Bryant in their individual capacities. In her representative capacity, the Plaintiff claims damages for the conscious pain and suffering of her deceased husband and for necessary medical and funeral expenses incurred as a result of the unlawful and unauthorized actions.


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Pubdate: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Source: Post and Courier, The (Charleston, SC)
Copyright: 2010 Evening Post Publishing Co.

COLUMBIA -- A comprehensive plan to divert nonviolent criminals from prisons to the probation and parole system so South Carolina can avoid spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build new prisons was adopted Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 14-0 vote.

The bill calls for more drug users to serve supervised criminal sentences in the community as a way to free up beds in the overcrowded prisons. The measure, as written, deals with future offenders, although there are a few exceptions to parole some current prisoners.

Sen. Gerald Malloy, a Hartsville Democrat who led research and debate on the proposals for more than a year, said the legislation is not "soft on crime" but "smart." For instance, he said that it costs $14,500 for each inmate in prison compared with

$2,000 for an individual in an intense community supervision program.

"We're talking about a tremendous amount of savings," Malloy said. "And the ability to keep South Carolina safe was not compromised. ... We think this is landmark legislation."

The bill reclassifies 22 crimes as violent, including drunken driving that results in death. That change will trigger a rule that does not allow the violent offenders to qualify for parole until they serve 85 percent of their sentences. The bill also provides incentives such as "good time credits" for people on probation and parole to stay crime- and drug-free, gives judges more discretion for sentencing drug users, lets more inmates qualify for work-release and removes the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine possession.


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Pubdate: Tue, 23 Mar 2010
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Copyright: 2010 Boulder Weekly

DENVER-The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony and voted unanimously to support HB 1352, sponsored by Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, and Senator Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield. The legislation is based on recommendations approved by the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. Included in the legislation is the reduction in sentences for drug use and possession, reduction of penalties for some marijuana offenses and the creation of a new crime with enhanced sentencing for drug distribution by an adult to a minor.

Testifying on behalf of the bill were Tom Raynes, deputy attorney general; Maureen Cain, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Mark Randall; Colorado District Attorneys Council; and Paul Thompson, assistant director of Peer 1 and an ex-drug offender.

The legislation has widespread bi-partisan support, and has been endorsed by more than 50 community organizations including the Colorado Association of Police Chiefs, Colorado Sheriff's Association, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Drug Endangered Children, Prison Fellowship and the Independence Institute.




A new study suggests that cannabis consuming teens like to stay up late with other cannabis consuming teens, but determination of causality awaits another research grant.

A medicinal cannabis regime which takes effect in New Jersey this summer could not spare a man with multiple sclerosis from being sent to prison for five years for growing his own medicine.

We may finally be able to gauge what effect medicinal cannabis law reform has on broader efforts to legalize cannabis for unspecified purposes in California.

The budding medicinal cannabis industry in Colorado flexed its political muscle last week, engineering some welcome changes to new dispensary regulations.


Pubdate: Sat, 20 Mar 2010
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2010 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Shannon Proudfoot, Canwest News Service

Sleep-deprived teens are more likely to smoke marijuana, a new study shows, and their friends -- and their friends' friends' friends' -- are more likely to be missing sleep and using drugs, too.

The study is the latest from researchers at the University of California at San Diego to find that behaviours like smoking, obesity and happiness spread through people's social networks, but it's the first to show that the spread of one behaviour influences others, too.

"It really means that we're all connected," says Sara Mednick, an assistant psychiatry professor. "All of our behaviours lead to other behaviours and when we think about treating one issue in isolation, we're missing the point that treating an entire milieu is probably more effective."

The study tracked 8,349 teens over eight years and created a snapshot of their social circles by asking each participant to name up to five male and female friends who were also in the study.

Within the social networks, the researchers found large clusters of sleep-deprived teens and groups of friends who had all tried marijuana. A teen was 11 per cent more likely to sleep seven or fewer hours a night if they had a friend who did so, they found. And if a friend started smoking pot, that more than doubled the chances that a teen would do the same, increasing their likelihood by 110 per cent.


The study is the first to demonstrate that sleep habits spread through social networks, Mednick says, and while conventional wisdom holds that sleep deprivation is a common result of drug use, they uncovered the opposite pattern.

"It goes from poor sleep to drugs," she says, adding that teens who are sleep deprived tend to have behavioural problems, quicker reactions and fewer inhibitions. "Maybe those are the kids who are more likely to do drugs because they'll probably make these poor decisions, and if they're really tired, they may just say, 'I'll use something to make me feel better.' "




Pubdate: Sat, 20 Mar 2010
Source: Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ)
Copyright: 2010 Newark Morning Ledger Co
Author: Jennifer Golson

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP (Somerset) -- The judge who sentenced a Somerset County man to five years in prison Friday for growing marijuana to treat his multiple sclerosis noted there are others who suffer from the disease who don't resort to illegal behavior.

"Many people who suffer from MS and other chronic diseases do not use it as justification to break the law," Superior Court Judge Robert Reed told a Somerville courtroom packed with supporters of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which takes effect in July and will give patients with debilitating diseases structured access to the drug.

In handing down the sentence, Reed noted the defendant, John Ray Wilson, began using marijuana at age 15, years before he was diagnosed with MS in 2002. The judge also said he took into consideration Wilson's four prior arrests, including a 2004 guilty plea for harassment.

Wilson, 37, of Franklin Township, was tried in December and a jury convicted him of second-degree drug manufacturing for growing 17 plants, and third-degree possession of psilocybin mushrooms.

Jurors acquitted Wilson of the most serious offense, first-degree operation of a drug-manufacturing facility.

In court Friday, Reed said he recognized the sympathy many had expressed for Wilson, but said there were not enough factors to justify giving Wilson probation or to sentence him for a lower-degree crime. Instead, he gave Wilson the lowest possible sentence for a second-degree crime and gave him a concurrent three years for possession of the mushrooms.

"For me to decide that Mr. Wilson is `morally blameless' and therefore should not be subject to criminal sanctions, is to decide that I am the arbiter of justice, guided by no more than my own view of what is morally right and wrong," Reed said.

During the trial, Reed barred Wilson from using his illness as a defense. Under the law, there is no personal-use exemption for the cultivation of marijuana and at the time of the trial, there was no law that permitted the medicinal use of the drug.




Pubdate: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 The Vancouver Sun
Author: John Hoeffell, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES - Fourteen years after California decided marijuana could be used as a medicine and ignited a national movement, the state is likely to vote on whether to take a decisive step into the vanguard of drug liberalization: legalizing the controversial weed for fun and profit.

Los Angeles elections officials today must turn in their count of valid signatures collected in the county on a statewide legalization initiative.

The number is virtually certain to be enough to qualify the initiative for the November ballot, according to a tally kept by state election officials.

That will once again make California the focal point of the long- stewing argument over marijuana legalization, a debate likely to be a high-dollar brawl between adversaries who believe it could launch or stifle another national trend.

The campaign will air issues that have changed little over the years.

Proponents will cite the financial and social cost of enforcing pot prohibition and argue that marijuana is not as dangerous and addictive as tobacco or alcohol.

Opponents will highlight marijuana-linked crimes, rising teenage use and the harm the weed causes some smokers.

But the debate also will play out against a cultural landscape that has changed substantially, with marijuana moving from dark street corners to neon-lit suburban boutiques.




Pubdate: Tue, 23 Mar 2010
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2010 The Denver Post Corp
Author: John Ingold

Medical-marijuana advocates scored another win Monday at the state Capitol when a legislative panel approved a bill creating new dispensary regulations after making several industry-friendly changes.

A divided House Judiciary Committee removed a provision that would have allowed local governments to ban dispensaries in their communities. The committee also voted to allow consumption of marijuana-infused products at dispensaries, lower the amount of marijuana a dispensary would have to grow itself, eliminate a cap on the number of patients a dispensary could serve and loosen the rules for past criminal violations that could automatically disqualify someone from owning a dispensary.

House Bill 1284 would require dispensaries to be licensed with the state, grow 70 percent of the marijuana they sell and be subject to strict operational regulations. The committee passed the bill on a 7-4 party-line vote with Democrats in favor, though some votes on amendments were closer.

"This provides tremendous opportunities for this business and this form of medication to be used in a highly regulated environment," said Rep. Claire Levy, a Boulder Democrat who chairs the committee.

Brian Vicente, the executive director of the medical-marijuana patient-advocacy group Sensible Colorado, called the revised bill a "significant improvement."

"This bill is becoming closer to what patients need in this state," he said.

But not everyone is pleased.

Mark Radtke, the legislative and policy advocate for the Colorado Municipal League, said the organization would fight to restore the ability of local governments to ban dispensaries. Rep. Steve King, a Grand Junction Republican who sits on the committee, said the bill distorts the intent of Amendment 20, the state constitutional provision that legalizes medical marijuana.

"Amendment 20 in my mind was a compromise to help people in pain," King said. "Amendment 20 was not intended to have a pot shop on every corner."




More media reverberations from a British Columbia Canada Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS study which again showed "gun violence and murders are likely a consequence of drug prohibition - and laws aimed at breaking up drug gangs could unintentionally increase violence." Referring to mandatory-minimum-for-pot bill C-15, one of the study's authors, Evan Wood, noted last week "scientific evidence clearly shows that these types of legal manoeuvres will not reduce the flow of drugs into our communities, they will not reduce violence and if anything, they may actually increase violence." Justice Minister Rob Nicholson denounced the study, adding Bill C-15 is merely to help people: "we want to help that [drug taking] individual".

A excellent opinion piece from David Seymour in the Canadian Province newspaper this week asks, "if the cure prohibition has side effects that are worse than the drug disease." Even if more people took up cannabis use in Canada (unlikely), argues Seymour, "we would still be richer thanks to the tax revenue and enforcement reductions. It may just be time to kill the sacred cow of prohibition."

In Mexico this week, renewed calls for legalization, this time from an establishment source: Mexican TV mogul billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego. "They [the Mexican government] are not winning this battle," noted Claremont McKenna College professor Roderic Camp. But people see what they want to see, it seems. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Arturo Valenzuela says the killings are sign of how well the drug war is going. "As you bring down certain kinds of criminal organizations," explained Valenzuela, "you encourage a certain degree of conflict between them". Besides, U.S. government cooperation with the Mexican government took a "quantum leap" when Calderon decided to escalate the conflict, said Valenzuela.

And finally this week, buried in the Los Angeles Times newspaper (page A19) a piece authored by Jorge Castaneda, former Mexican foreign minister, (and currently professor at New York University and a fellow at the New America Foundation.) In it Castaneda offers up a solution to Mexico's "dead-end war": a "much more ambitious alternative would involve Mexico lobbying for decriminalization of at least marijuana in the United States." Because, says Castaneda, marijuana legalization "could leave Mexico in an untenable and absurd situation in which troops and civilians were dying in Tijuana to stop Mexican marijuana from entering the U.S. -- where, once it entered, it could be consumed, transported and sold legally."


Pubdate: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2010 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Meagan Fitzpatrick


The study released yesterday from the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS concludes that stepping up the enforcement of drug laws is unlikely to reduce gang violence tied to drugs or stop the circulation of drugs in communities.

On the contrary, the report notes that gun violence and murders are likely a consequence of drug prohibition - and laws aimed at breaking up drug gangs could unintentionally increase violence.

The researchers say violence emerges when organized-crime groups compete for the massive profits made in the drug trade on the black market.

"These findings obviously have direct relevance to recent bills that are being proposed, including C-15, in terms of their ability to reduce violence," said Dr. Evan Wood, one of the report's authors, at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

"The scientific evidence clearly shows that these types of legal manoeuvres will not reduce the flow of drugs into our communities, they will not reduce violence and if anything, they may actually increase violence."

Bill C-15 seeks to impose mandatory jail time for certain drug crimes and to increase the maximum penalties for marijuana production. The proposed law was among the bills that died when Parliament was prorogued in December, but the federal government has said it plans to re-introduce it.


Justice Minister Rob Nicholson disagreed with Wood's assessment and added that Bill C-15 is aimed at organized-crime operations.

"It's not targeted at the unfortunate individual who has become addicted or is experimenting - we want to help that individual," Nicholson told reporters.

"We want to get the message out that this is not a way to live your life."



Pubdate: Tue, 23 Mar 2010
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: David Seymour


The price of prohibition

His comments were reinforced recently when the Saskatchewan media reported actual examples of government's failing to keep cannabis out of prisons. This news, given that prisons are purposely designed to be secure, should prompt us to ask whether we are being rational in our attempts to prohibit cannabis from an entire country that is the world's second largest and most sparsely populated.

We must further ask if the cure prohibition has side effects that are worse than the drug disease.


However, the facts say otherwise: In the U.S., famous for its war on drugs and with an estimated half million people in prison for drug offences, 12.2 per cent use cannabis, while in the Netherlands, where people are able to legally buy and smoke cannabis in public, 5.4 per cent are users.

Further, so long as cannabis is illegal but in common use, an industry exists in which people can't access the police and court system for the enforcement of contracts and protection of their property. You can hardly report to the police that your runner ran off with your cannabis, or tell a judge that your grower has breached his contract. As a result, contracts and property rights in the drug business are enforced in much the same way as they are in the wider economy of Somalia; by people taking the law into their own hands.


While legalizing cannabis could double usage (although this seems unlikely as Canada already has the highest usage rates in the industrialized world), the country would still be richer thanks to the tax revenue and enforcement reductions.

It may just be time to kill the sacred cow of prohibition.

- -- Seymour directs the Saskatchewan Office of the Frontier Centre (Troy Media)



Pubdate: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 The Vancouver Sun

Mexicans Call For President To Back Off Of Criminal Gangs

Mexico's drug-related violence is sparking demands that President Felipe Calderon drop his war on criminal gangs.

From Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego, who controls broadcaster TV Azteca and retailer Grupo Elektra, to the parents of bystanders killed in shootouts, criticism of Calderon's U. S.-supported crackdown is growing. Salinas urged Mexico and the U. S. in an interview Friday to legalize drugs. Soldiers on the streets have exacerbated the violence, he said.

"They are not winning this battle," said Roderic Camp, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., who has published more than 20 books on Mexico, including two on its army. " At best, they're maintaining the status quo with many more negative consequences."


" This isn't the way to fight it," Rosa Elvira Alonso, the mother of one of the slain university students in Monterrey, said in an interview aired by Milenio television.

" It's costing the lives of a lot of innocent people."

U. S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Arturo Valenzuela has portrayed the surge of violence as a sign Calderon's tactics are working.

' Quantum leap'

" As you bring down certain kinds of criminal organizations, you encourage a certain degree of conflict between them," Valenzuela told a U. S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on March 10.

Since the 1990s, there has been " a quantum leap" in U. S. cooperation with Mexico, he said.




Pubdate: Thu, 25 Mar 2010
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles Times
Author: Jorge Castaneda


A third, much more ambitious alternative would involve Mexico lobbying for decriminalization of at least marijuana in the United States.

There is a certain urgency to this. If, come November, California were to vote on -- and pass -- a popular initiative on cannabis legalization (and polls show this is possible), this could leave Mexico in an untenable and absurd situation in which troops and civilians were dying in Tijuana to stop Mexican marijuana from entering the U.S. -- where, once it entered, it could be consumed, transported and sold legally.

On Mexico's part, this would imply an about-face -- pulling the army out of the towns and off the highways and, up to a point, letting the cartels bleed themselves to death, while over a couple of years the above-mentioned national police force would be created and deployed.



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Unless You're Living It

By Charles Bowden, High Country News


New report finds drug prohibition, stricter law enforcement key sources of violence and gun crime

Proposed "tough on crime" policies such as mandatory minimum sentences will be costly for taxpayers and may actually increase violence in Canadian communities


Century of Lies - 03/21/10 - Christopher Pezza

Christopher Pezza, Pres of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Longmont CO + Richard Lee of Oaksterdam U., Irvin Rosenfeld on Sativex cannabis spray, Margaret Dooley Samuely of Drug Policy Alliance

Cultural Baggage Radio Show - 03/21/10 - Victor Trevino

Harris County (Houston) Constable Victor Trevino discusses need to examine drug laws, save money, prevent jail crowding, etc. + Neill Franklin, a working Baltimore cop & new head of LEAP discusses cannabis law


By Paul Armentano


By Fred Gardner

The Students for a Sensible Drug Policy conference in San Francisco was a major demonstration of youthful, activist energy to change the drug paradigm.


By Pete Guither

The Department of Justice just released the National Drug Threat Assessment 2010 and reading it is a Kafkaesque experience.

I started with the ironically titled "Impact of Drugs on Society." Ironically, because just about all of it was really about the impact of the drug war on society.


In Prime Minister's Questions yesterday Gordon Brown came up with this response to a question calling for a ban on mephedrone.




A DrugSense Focus Alert


The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's largest marijuana policy reform group, is hiring summer interns to work in one of four different areas: federal policies, state policies, video, and photo archiving.

For more information about all four internships and instructions on how to apply, please visit


A marijuana legalization initiative will be on California's ballot in November! Email your legislators and urge them to endorse the Control and Tax Cannabis initiative to end marijuana prohibition in California.



By Pete Guither

Our legislators continually shirk their responsibility by failing to regulate drugs like marijuana. Too many kids are smoking pot, but instead of taking charge and setting an age limit, our legislators have turned it over to the criminals who sell to any age. You don't even need a fake ID.

While alcohol sales are restricted to licensed locations at specific times, pot is sold on every street corner day or night, because we've put criminals in charge.

Hopelessly dependent on drug war funding, some public employees claim the drug war helps, but the reality is different.

Under prohibition, arresting a drug dealer is like advertising a lucrative job opening. Now you have two criminals, while we pay court costs, room and board for the first one.

It's not like the drug war reduces drug use -- countries with decriminalization have lower rates of use than we do, and we had much less use and less drug war violence when pot was legal.

What the drug war gives us, in addition to no results at great cost, is a jobs program for criminals, prison guards and law enforcement, plus drug war violence leading all the way to the deaths of thousands in Mexico.

It's time for legislators to stop giving in to the criminals and lobbyists at the drug war trough and begin the legal regulation of cannabis so we can take back control and de-fund the criminals. As a side benefit, we could also dramatically help the budget.

Pete Guither, Bloomington

Pubdate: Wed, 17 Mar 2010
Source: Pantagraph, The (Bloomington, IL)



By Pete Guither

It's been kind of nice the amount of attention my recent local letter to the editor received (including some very nice emails from acquaintances in the community).

The letter, ( ), has been in the top 10 most commented recent stories for the paper, with over 130 comments.

That doesn't necessarily mean that all the comments have been particularly intelligent - this is the letters to the editor section of a central Illinois newspaper. And a lot of the volume has come from some strange back and forth exchanges in the nature of "You need to prove why marijuana should be made illegal." "No, you need to prove why marijuana should be legalized."

What's interesting to me is that my letter had purposely avoided any discussion of the relative benefits or harms of marijuana and focused solely on the harms of prohibition versus the benefits of regulation. And yet, the discussion immediately was all about whether marijuana was bad or good. Several attempts in the discussion thread to force anti-legalizers to address prohibition were simply ignored.

It's as if they can't see past their. hatred(?) for marijuana (or marijuana users) to even reasonably discuss the facts surrounding prohibition.

I just found it interesting.

I think the most humorous moment for me in the comment thread was when one very vocal anti-marijuana legalization advocate decided to show how absurd legalization was by giving "ridiculous" similar examples.


"Then why not legalize prostitution? After all, it's between consenting adults, and one could make the argument that you pay for it anyway - dinner, entertainment, gifts, etc. This would put all pimps out of business, or at least regulate and tax them, require them provide insurance to their whores.

Why not legalize all drugs, including cocaine? After all, it's my body and I should be allowed to shoot up, snort, sniff, smoke, etc., as much as I want! The government could tax and regulate the drug dealers who would be required to provide insurance in their pre-teen lookouts and other junkies.

I'm sure none of this would cause any legal, political, moral, ethical, or medical issues in the least, and I'm sure that by having it taxed and regulated, there will be no cause for alarm for anyone abusing the system to get their fix, or have any sort of increase in crime as drug use increases."


Although completely unintentional, it was the most logical and reasonable argument he made in the entire thread. Other than some of the snark thrown in there, that's a fine argument for legalization.

Pete Guither is the author of Drug WarRant - - a weblog at the front lines of the drug war, where this piece was first presented.


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