Friday, April 30, 2004

The place formerly known as City Cafe

As predicted by Q crewperson Syn, the town was buzzing early on for the first NRBQ show. Tully O'Reillys was jamming when I got there at 6:00. It turns out Sonic Youth is also reuniting tonight on the other side of town at Smith's John Greene Hall so it's likely to get really lively later on. There's already been one huge rush of police and ambulance sirens earlier. The sidewalk crowds should start around midnight I figure. I'll be glad to watch that from safely on the stoop.

I know about the Sonic Youth gig because I had a great conversation with James, a very polite 23 year old guy from Pennsylvania who came up for the concert. It was odd to hear him speak as he did about bands that I've known only as local groups playing at the Baystate Hotel. I liked the kids in them, but not so much their music, so I lost track of them when they left town. I was surprised to hear they had become so famous.

I was glad to see Louise Driscoll, the former owner, on the way out. She was looking especially stunning in white tonight with that fabulous new tan. We made a date for some girl time. I'm looking forward to catching up on the gossip and to her upcoming party.

Meanwhile I'm especially excited to have a made a real bet on the Kentucky Derby. Mark the bartender is going to the OTB so I gave him five bucks to win on "Read the Footnotes." I'm splitting my winnings with Karen of course, since she gave me the tip. I'd forgotten it was Derby time and I loved the name of the horse. I hope he comes in as a long shot.

Marijuana Users Not Welcome Here; Neither is Anyone Else

Someone tell the Albuquerque police department that the phrase "public park" means a green space open to the public. According to this week's Drug Policy Alliance newsletter, the local police barred public access to the park for the second year in a row on 4/20 in order to prevent a small group of cannabis consumers from celebrating their holiday there.

Two officers on a hilltop surveyed Roosevelt Park with binoculars as five horse-mounted police patrolled its boundaries. Patrol cars lined the park's east and west borders and a mobile command van was parked nearby. Streets were blocked with orange cones.

The residents rightly questioned the expenditure of manpower and public money on such a trivial matter and neighbors accustomed to enjoying the space complained about the park being kept off-limits.

Cora Kammer who lives across the street from the park sums it up well.

"I'd like to cross the street and have lunch under the trees. If they want to prevent people from smoking pot, they can have a police presence. But this is ridiculous."

Indeed it is, particularly since cannabis consumers are good citizens and -- in contrast to drunken revelers after sports events -- do not riot and cause property damage.
Need a Job?

The Marijuana Policy Project is looking to fill some paid positions including:

E-mail petitioning: MPP is paying petitioners $1.00 or $1.25 for each valid e-mail address that they collect from marijuana policy reform supporters on MPP's official petition sheets.

Looks like a good opportunity to help the cause and maybe make a few bucks.

Celebrate Blogging

Running late again this morning, so we'll be looking at the drug war news later this afternoon, but let me take this moment to thank Trudy W. Schuett of WOLves for hosting this week's Carnival of the Vanities. She's got a fabulous site over there for writers looking to connect and promote their work and prolific soul that she is, posts on 6 blogs and has several books posted on line. Check out her stuff and the other fine bloggers at the Carnival.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of blogs, Detroit News has invited me to stay for another month so we'll still be spreading our LOS logic in the midwest through the end of May on our other blog at their site. I see the next two new bloggers are both Bush supporters. Should be interesting.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Dutch authorities oppose tougher cannabis laws

Following up on our earlier story, local authorities are protesting the plans of Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst, to reclassify Dutch grown cannabis as a hard drug and to otherwise crack down on the cannabis coffeehouses. The Association of Netherlands Municipalities said the move threatens to undermine 30 years worth of successful drugs control.

Lex Estveld, a policy adviser, said the government was trying to fix a system that was not broken. "The entire Dutch drugs policy of controlling and containing soft drugs has proven reasonably successful in recent decades. If you ask me, we haven't done bad when you compare us to other countries," he said yesterday.

In a joint statement 483 municipalities said the proposed measures would force the marijuana business underground.

"The tone of the letter is too influenced by foreign [opinions] and gives insufficient credit to the successes of local coffee shop policies," said the statement. "Concentrating the trade in soft drugs at coffee shops has the clear benefit of making it transparent and controllable."

Fortunately coffeeshop policy is controlled by local officials, not these meddling federal officials.

Meanwhile in Haarlem, Holland -- the city with the most cannabis friendly regulations in the country, Dutch coffeeshop guru Nol Van Schaik, says his Willie Wortels shops are flooded with customers and that high-THC Dutch cannabis is actually a harm reduction method that helps people get higher by smoking less, and that he and other coffeeshop owners will never accept a system that features testing of cannabis and bans on potent products.

Last word on the subject goes to Nol, who remarks on the influence the US and the United Nations with their absurd conventions is having on the conservative Dutch officials who are promoting this counterproductive scheme.

"They want to end the coffeeshop system which has become the model for cannabis use and distribution worldwide," he says. "But demand for cannabis is more and more, and if they eliminate shops, they will only create a black market dominated by organized crime that will mix the sales of cannabis with sales of hard drugs. Our coffeeshop system is the best system for managing the supply and demand of cannabis."

Amen to that.
Pot Block fire officially confirmed as arson

Updating our earlier story on the burning of Vancouver B.C.'s pot block, it appears our suspicions were correct.

"Police have found conclusive evidence that someone intended to torch the pot block with multiple set infernos," said Marc Emery, President of the BC Marijuana Party and the unofficial leader of Vancouver's pot movement.

The building housing Blunt Brothers Cafe was completely destroyed but Emery's BC Marijuana Party headquarters right next door although damaged was left essentially intact. Clean up proceeds apace and the store will be having a huge sale on all clothing once it's returned from the dry cleaner's to remove the smoky smell. These are likely to become collector's items for having survived the fire.

"We have suffered costs of about $10,000 or more," concluded Emery. "But we have received $520 US in donations through Paypal, thanks to all who donated! The key thing is that nothing about our activism is in any way changed or adversely affected. We have survived!"

Survived indeed and stronger than ever. Nothing like a little adversity to bring people together. We'll be watching to see if they see a spike in membership born of outrage over this dangerous and mean-spirited attempt to silence Emery's group.
GAO Green-Lights White House Interference in Elections

I'm running really late this morning so with apologies to those who are following both blogs, I going to cross-post this item on Dan Forbes excellent article, to be sure no one misses it.

The law of our country prohibits the use of "official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election." Nonetheless the General Accounting Office of the White House told drug czar John Walters he can campaign at will under ONDCP's congressional mandate of "taking such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize" drugs. They don't even care if he tells the truth.

The Office of Special Counsel ruled that ballot initiatives don't fall under Hatch Act restrictions on using an official position for electioneering; leaving the drug czar free to spend your tax dollars traveling around the country denouncing initiatives brought forward by the taxpayers. Their reasoning being -- since no person is actually elected, a ballot initiative is not an election, despite the thousands of citizens who show up at the polls to cast a vote.

Our government has already spent 2 billion of your tax dollars on this ad campaign . Money that could be spent on schools instead of lame commercials that don't work. Your elected members of the House have now authorized another 2 billion to cover false propaganda expenses through 2008. It's currently stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Don't think you're safe just because you don't care about drug policy reform. When they're done with us -- they will be coming after you. Contact your senators and tell them not to fund this exercise in anti-democracy. There's only two and you can find them in two clicks here.

Via Lew Rockwell, Dan Forbes examines this subversion of the public's will --paid for by our own money-- in painful detail. Keep reading to the end no matter how much it hurts. It's worth it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Federal Judge refuses to order drug tests for marijuana defendant

The residual effects of the 9th Circuit's precedent setting decision in Raich v. Ashcroft continue to ripple through the legal system. U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward M. Chen cited the case and noted that under the precedent, "courts must "tread very lightly" on medical marijuana issues."

Convicted of marijuana cultivation, Keith Alden was sentenced in December 2002 to 44 months in federal prison, but he went free April 1 after a panel of three 9th Circuit judges -- citing the Raich ruling -- ordered him freed pending an appeal of his conviction. He's the first person released from prison due to the ruling.

I love this kind of talk from the bench. It almost makes you want to move to California doesn't it?
A bad trip in NYC

Do these two look like dangerous deviants to you? Or even like someone who would be smoking pot in Central Park?

I don't think so either but that didn't stop Manhattan undercover officers from wrongfully arresting them, beating them up, strip searching them and holding them incommunicado for 24 hours for allegedly consuming cannabis in public. They could never sell this story to Hollywood. No one would believe it could happen in America.

Mr. Dehler, showing photos of his bruised face, said he was given a cursory medical examination by ambulance attendants five hours after his arrest and put into a cell with people smoking crack cocaine.

Ms. Gudz spent the night in a cell with 15 women -- and three mats.

"You don't go to sleep," she said.

Justice was eventually served but how do you compensate these innocent tourists for the injustice they suffered at the hands of our "public protectors?" We often think society has become much too litigious but in this case I hope they file a whopping wrongful arrest suit against the city.

All charges against the couple have been dropped, but the process has left them shaken -- and out $5,000 U.S. in legal fees and travel expenses, an amount equivalent to one-fifth of Mr. Dehler's annual take-home salary.

"I don't drink, I don't smoke, we have an organic garden in the back. We're as clean as they come," said Mr. Dehler. "We met nothing but wonderful people until this incident, and then we thought we were in a bad Hollywood movie."

It gives new meaning to the phrase, "Vacation from Hell."

Judges Against the Drug War

The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics and the Marijuana Policy Project launched a new website yesterday.

Judges Against the Drug War is a free online database of judicial opinions critical of the government's War on Drugs. These opinions, collected from state and federal jurisdictions since 1970 to the present date, contain first-hand observations of judges presiding over drug cases. The collection is the first of its kind and represents a unique historical record of judicial dissent against national drug policy.

Judges have been forced to impose draconian sentences under mandatory minimums and have witnessed the vindictive use of asset forfeiture for far too many years. Their voices are collectively raised in protest of these inane policies at the site.

This is destined to become an invaluable resource for lawyers, judges and drug policy reform activists everywhere. Please support this fledgling effort.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


The Q is in town for a reunion gig. They have been a phenomenon in the Valley for as long as I can remember although I've never seen them live and frankly never really listened to their music. I could not name one of their songs but I did meet the two guys on the left tonight at Tully O'Reilly's (formerly known as City Cafe). I found it charming that they gave me fake names. (I do it myself at times). They called themselves Ed the Idiot Drummer and Jeff.

Their tech Syn, tells me they are in town early for rehearsals and predicts an outrageous weekend for lovely downtown Noho since anyone who has ever played with the band intends to show up in the Happy Valley. They did sell out two shows at the Calvin Theater with no discernible press.

This could become interesting.....
Switzerland: Police officers for decriminalisation

Thanks to Paul von Hartmann for translating this press release.

The Association of Swiss Police Officers (Verband Schweizerischer Polizei Beamter) asked the National Council (Swiss Lower House of Parliament) to support the reform of the narcotics act approved by the Council of States (Upper House of Parliament), that would decriminalize cannabis. The association demanded a "speedy and courageous handling" of the measure and opposed "aggressive publications in the media on addiction and drug issues" intended to persuade the public "that the Swiss drug policy was a failure, that there was a need of more repression even against users."


I love it when law enforcement talks that way.

Monday, April 26, 2004

What Bush doesn't want you to see

I don't understand why people are not more outraged that the 700+ young Americans who died so far are being hauled back into the US in the dark of night like some shameful secret instead of being heralded as returning heros for having given their lives for Bush's vision for Iraqi freedom.

And why do you never see Bush visiting the injured who have been left permanently disabled by his war?
Nepal cashes in on cannabis

Nepalese authorities are blaming Maoist insurgents for a resurgence of cannabis cultivation in the country. Although the bulk of the herb is being grown in the mountainous regions where interdiction and eradication is difficult to impossible, the southern provinces also contribute to the crop totals. Further, the wild cannabis that thrives throughout the country is said to be the preferred ingredient used in the production of high grade hash.

Meanwhile, the cultivation of opium poppies is beginning take hold in the rural areas. Although the production is still at low levels in comparison to Afghanistan and Myanmar, authorities are concerned at the pace at which it is increasing.

Long renowned as a hippie haven and home of the legendary Nepalese temple balls, the industry once driven by tourists seeking hash is now underwritten by drug barons and grown for export. Since eradication is too difficult to accomplish in the mountains, the government has focused its efforts on intercepting the shipments in transit.

The Maoists deny they are behind the operations however, it cannot be denied they do nothing to stop it. Interestingly they do actively prohibit drinking.

The Maoists have imposed a ban on use of alcohol in areas under their control. This ban is hugely popular among rural women as it is said to have reduced alcoholism and domestic violence. But such attempts at moral policing do not seem to apply to the cultivation of cannabis.

The UN faults the government for not enacting stringent laws and signing on to their failed international conventions. I say, good for the Nepalese. Clearly they realize that the conventions will not work. Perhaps they will also come to realize the benefit to the country that would come if they legalize the trade.

Big Bust in Saudi Arabia

Five tons (11,464 pounds) of hashish was intercepted en route to a warehouse in the Riyadh region. Eleven people were arrested in what Saudi authorities are calling the kingdom’s largest ever drug bust.

They better find some good lawyers, since under Islamic law (or sharia), convicted drug traffickers can face beheading.
Pot block burns in B.C.

There was a major fire yesterday at the historic Gastown building in Vancouver, B.C. that housed the offices of Pot-TV. Blunt Brothers Bar and Cabbage and
Kinx – were destroyed while Marc Emery's BC Marijuana Party bookstore along with The Urban Shaman and B.C. Marijuana Party offices sustained heavy heat and water damage.

All told the damage is likely to run up to $25,000. Since no company would underwrite a policy, the building was uninsured, nonetheless Emery vows to reopen. If you can help, donations can be sent to the POT-TV or the BC Marijuana Party at 307 W. Hastings, Vancouver, B.C., V6B 1H6 as well as via PayPal to

Early reports indicate the fire started in a dumpster behind the bookstore. No one is saying but considering Marc's high profile on the legalization of cannabis and the recent opening of a DEA office in British Columbia, this writer finds the circumstances extremely suspicious.

Updates to follow as they become available.

Sunday, April 25, 2004
Long Term Care: Take two aspirin and call me in 25 years

Following up on our earlier story about Richard Paey, the wheel-chair bound MS sufferer who procured pain medication for himself when no doctor would treat him; Jacob Sullum has an excellent piece on his sentencing.

Despite never having sold one pill to anyone, Paey received 25 years in jail under mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for drug trafficking. It took prosecutors three tries to convict him and it appears they finally won a conviction by misleading the jury (with the help of the foreman) into thinking Paey would receive probation in lieu of incarceration.

A juror later told the St. Petersburg Times he did not really think Paey was guilty of trafficking, since the prosecution made it clear from the outset that he didn't sell any pills. The juror said he voted guilty to avoid being the lone holdout. He suggested that other jurors might have voted differently if the foreman had not assured them Paey would get probation.

Paey being a man of integrity, turned down plea bargains that would have kept him out of prison.

Paey's real crime, it seems, is not drug trafficking but ingratitude. "My husband was so adamant, and so strongly defending this from the very beginning, that it might have annoyed them," says Linda Paey. "They were extremely upset that he would not accept a plea bargain. They felt that anyone who had any common sense would....But he didn't want to say he was guilty of something he didn't do."

It appears to me, the only crime Richard Paey committed was being too honest a man. Hats off to his bravery in following his principles and throwing his fate to a "jury of his peers". It's a shame they didn't show his kind of courage and refuse to convict him on such obviously false charges.

One can only hope the next time that juror -- or any one of us who is called to duty-- is faced with holding up the deliberations by following his principles, he won't worry about embarrassment and will cast his vote for justice instead of expediency.
Farm fresh spread

Latvian farmer Dainis Lagzdins is a man with a plan. Using centuries-old recipe he wants to start marketing cannabis butter, which he calls a "miracle of taste and flavor," to the world.

The butter is made using soaked, roasted and milled cannabis seed, contains no milk proteins, or cholesterol, can be stored for half a year and is also a natural antioxidant. Unfortunately, although the nutritional value of cannabis seeds is well established, the dark green butter has about as much chance of making to US store shelves as Kdrink does under our current prohibitionist regime.

Too bad since Lagzdins does make it sound appealing.

"I love it, especially like my grandma used to make," he said. "Mmm, the taste is heavenly."

It's The Meme Game

I love games where everybody wins. I'll play.

"The advantages of river and wind transport were obvious in ages when transport otherwise meant the pace of men and beasts of burden."

Insight Guides: Waterways of Europe, APA Publications, 1989

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Left-Liberal Too

Thanks to Talk Left for this link. I love these things and it's hard to resist the World's Smallest Political Quiz. We're both left-liberals, a minority at 19.01% of the over two million who have taken it. Libertarians held the majority but the site also offered Libertarian literature. Read into that what you will.

Nonetheless it was my kind of quiz, fast, fun and with results displayed on a cool chart.

And while I'm thinking of it, I also took this "Which New York Times columnist am I" quiz that Talk Left posted a while ago. Those of you who know me will appreciate the humor in the description.

You are Thomas L. Friedman! You're the foreign
affairs expert. You're liberal on most issues,
except you're a leading voice in the pro-war
movement. You're probably the most popular
columnist at the Times, but probably because
you play both sides of the Iraq issue and
relish your devotion to what you call
"fanatical moderatism." You sure can
write, but you could work on your sense of

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

How funny is it that I tested out as a pro-war fanatical moderate?
Paradise Lost

Well as bad as things sometimes seem in this country, there are definitely worse places to be. Just ask US activist Matthew McDaniel who was arrested in Thailand shortly after he filed a human rights complaint with the UN on behalf of the Akha tribe there.

Activist hardly seems to cover his involvement. He has spoken out against irresponsible missionary activities that attempt to eradicate traditional culture and of the many atrocities perpetrated by the government against the Akha.

McDaniel produced "Akha Voices", a 270-page book which details disturbing allegations of abductions and extrajudicial killings by Thai army and police officers that it claims amount to "ethnic cleansing".

...He is also described as a staunch critic of the US 'war on drugs', which he says has resulted in thousands of Akha being imprisoned "at the hands of the DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency]".

He will be probably be deported which will leave his pregnant Akha wife and four other children living in the country in danger. The US Embassy looks unlikely to intervene.

Seeing a pattern here folks? The world over, the war on drugs does its greatest damage to the least culpable and in this case the innocent, indigenous people who live in poverty in the supply countries.

These are your legislators, using your tax dollars to support a foreign government's genocidal policies. I don't know this for a fact, but I feel certain the DEA maintains its own offices in Thailand. I know they do in the Philippines -- another country that executes drug consumers. It's good to remember in this presidential season -- depose the Bush regime, but also elect legislators that won't vote to fund these projects, starting from the local offices on up.

[Thanks to JackL for the links]
"Operation Sandshaker"

This week's award for most colossal waste of the taxpayer's money goes to the three-year investigation in the Panhandle of Florida that netted 53 low-level cocaine consumers.

For the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars that will be spent as a result of this operation, you are safe from these folks -- who probably consume it at home on weekends.

Most are seemingly ordinary, middle-aged people. They include two lawyers, a teacher, boat captain, bartender, insurance adjuster, homebuilder, hairdresser, plumber, chef and artist. The most prominent is a college foundation board member, millionaire Charles Lamar Switzer, 54, who is awaiting trial on state charges..

In other words, productive members of society who use the drug responsibly. And never mind the cost of the investigation and prosecuting the cases, some of these people will probably lose their jobs and worse as a result of the arrest and thus you the taxpayer will bear the burden of their reduced contributions to the tax base.

Law enforcement is touting this a major bust of a "kingpin." Yet although 50 year old lead defendant Mitchell "Jackie" Seale III lists his occupation as drug dealer, by the government's own admission,

"This was more of a cocaine cooperative than a cocaine conspiracy," Couch said, noting Seale spent everything he made on more cocaine. "This was not a kingpin who was living on the fat of others."

However, US District Judge Vinton made an upward departure in sentencing, adding additional prison time because, "... you are a nice, likeable guy." The US District Attorney meanwhile refused to recommend a lesser sentence in return for Seales cooperation in the case because, "Seale's only remorse is over getting caught."

And why should he have remorse for a victimless crime? He provided a service for consenting adults, contributed to the local economy and clearly was not a dangerous criminal who was ripping people off for the money. Judge Vinson ordered Seale pay a fine of $1,000 in $20 monthly installments because he lacked the resources to pay a higher fine.

So how can they call him a kingpin?

Friday, April 23, 2004

Friday Photoblog


I've had a such a bizarre week. My whole world has been like New England weather. Warm and sunny to cold and raw in the space of a few hours. I'm pretty burned out so I'm going to take the easy way out and just post a couple of pictures tonight.

I've become fascinated by computer enhanced photos in any event. I'm so low tech I don't even have a digital camera so I took these photos on my hundred dollar Minolta and ended up with mostly terrible shots. I'm astounded by the improvements you can make with the Kodak software.


I'm starting with two shots because they are cousins and are from a main line Northampton family. Mark is a bartender at City and I think he may be a little older than Brian who is an instigator. He's roped me into more than one political debate over there. He also laughs a lot more.

They always ask who I think is cuter. I can never decide but feel free to vote if you like. I'm sure they would be interested to know.

They like to watch

I hadn't heard about this case before so I'm posting the press release about a woman who was forced to strip naked in public as part of a bogus bust. She was compelled to do this by the officers as part of a bizarre and clearly unnecessary "decontamination" process.

The North Metro Drug Task Force, apparently acting on a faulty tip broke into this woman's home and after searching for a non-existent meth lab found only a small quantity of drugs for personal use. There was absolutely nothing in her apartment to suggest she was cooking up meth. Nonetheless, several male officers forced her to strip in the parking lot, in full view of her neighbors and themselves, and wash herself down with water to remove non-existent residual contaminants. To add insult to injury, they also brought in a private videographer with no law enforcement function to accompany them into her home and film the events

Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director, sums it up well. "This case presents one more example of how the War on Drugs has become a war on the Constitution and basic human rights."

The ACLU has filed a complaint on this victim's behalf. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the Plaintiff's right of privacy, right of bodily integrity, and her right to be free of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

It's times like these that I'm really proud to be part of the ACLU.
Ashcroft's Folly

Well I suppose it was inevitable. Hot on the heels of yesterday's victory in the US District Court (see post directly below), the Justice Department is challenging the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals decision that laid the groundwork for Judge Fogel's injunction to the US Supreme Court.

The State of California, Alameda and Butte counties, and the City of Oakland, as well as the California Medical Association and the California Nurses Association, all filed briefs supporting the injunction.

Our government contends there should be no medical exceptions to the federal anti-marijuana laws.

What a crock. Is there anyone outside of those who depend on the Prohibition for their living that believes we should be spending our tax dollars on prosecuting and imprisoning people like these?

Angel Raich has used cannabis for six years in her fight with an inoperable brain tumor, wasting syndrome, a seizure disorder and many other serious medical conditions. According to her doctor, Frank Lucido M.D., she is unable to use other medications and would risk death without cannabis.

In August 2002, federal agents raided the Oroville home of Diane Monson, who uses marijuana to relieve severe chronic back pain and muscle spasms. After a dramatic standoff with local law enforcement who attempted to stop the action, the federal agents seized and destroyed her six cannabis plants.

We're talking tens of thousands of dollars of your money spent before this case reaches its conclusion. Here's hoping the Supremes see the idiocy of continuing the Justice Department's vendetta against sick people and establishes a precedent against it once and for all by upholding the 9th Circuit decision.

Thursday, April 22, 2004
Big Win for the Little Guys

Good news for medical marijuana patients. The Wo/Men's Alliance asked US District Judge Jeremy Fogel to issue an injunction preventing future raids by federal agents on their group that grows and provides the herb to the chronic and terminally ill. In the first interpretation of the recent 9th Circuit decision, ruling such prosecutions unconstitutional if the plant remains within the confines of a state that has legalized its use, Judge Fogel did indeed enjoin the feds from further harassment and prosecution.

Needless to say the Alliance is thrilled.

The group's director, Valerie Corral, said the group had been receiving and growing marijuana in secret since the raid out of fear of being prosecuted. But with Fogel's decision, the group plans on immediately planting hundreds of plants at Corral's one-acre property.

"You better believe it we're gonna plant," said Corral, who uses marijuana to alleviate epileptic seizures.

Meanwhile a Justice Department spokesman, obviously disappointed, said the government was reviewing the decision.

I say, "What's to review?" The courts have ruled, the people's will is clear and it's time for our government to stop wasting our tax dollars tilting at windmills. Let the feds earn their keep by going out to solve some real crimes and leave the sick and dying in peace.

Carnival of the Vanities

Southern Musings is saying goodbye even as she hosts Carnival #83. Word has it she will be reappearing at a top secret location. You'll have to contact her directly for the details though.

Good luck and thanks for the party Anastasia.
Scared Straight to Hell

I'm been hearing a lot from survivors of the program Straight, Inc. Brainchild of Melvin and Betty Sempler, good buddies and large contributors to the Bush family campaigns, and now ambassador to Italy; it was founded at a time when the concept of tough love was the favored pop psychology of the moment.

The hair-raising accounts of those who lived through the horror of their methods still surface to the present day as its former inmates come to terms with the indignities they suffered. The program was eventually shut down amid a storm of lawsuits and bad press over the mistreatment of the children committed to its care.

Due to the bad publicity, the corporation changed its name in 1996 to the Drug Free America Foundation, which enjoys the strong support of the prohibition promoters and distributes its propaganda today under federal subsidies, including $400,000 in the year 2000 and $320,000 from the Small Business Administration. That would be your tax dollars folks.

The Semplers involvement in the current war on drugs doesn't end there. According to Radley Balko:

Today, Straight's founders, Mel and Betty Sembler, have enormous influence over U.S. drug policy. They serve on the boards of most every major domestic anti-drug program. They're behind efforts to defeat medicinal marijuana initiatives all over the country. They're also proud and unrepentant about Straight, Inc.; they mention their influence upon its founding in their official bios (here and here) -- despite the horrors that have surfaced about the program's history.

Sembler is now suing Richard R. Bradbury, 38 year old survivor of Straight, who has been agitating against the harms of the program since his release as a teenager. At issue is a penile pump that Bradbury lifted from Sembler's garbage, then posted on eBay last year for $300,000. However as fellow survivor Wesley Fager, 58 puts it, "The story is not about a man's penis pump -- it's about child abuse."

The Semplers call it Bradbury's trash picking, "an invasion into the sanctity of our home and our bedroom." His lawyer Thomas McGowan, said, "I see this as a First Amendment case. . . . There is no right of privacy in garbage." And there's the real point. Law enforcement tactics against cannabis consumers and other non-violent substance imbibers routinely include trash picking by investigators. The courts have long held that there is no expectation of privacy for the defendants, the same must hold for well-connected plaintiffs.

And while I generally do not rejoice in other's discomfort it seems just, that the Semplers now suffer some small measure of public humiliation in return for the private hell they imposed on thousands of our children.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

No Solution for Revolution

With the Bush administration's focus on "narco-terrorism" we can't seem to get away from Colombia these days. For one thing the term was invented for the paramilitary and revolutionary forces fighting the decades long civil war in the country.

PINR has a great analysis of how the Medellin and Cali drug cartels laid the groundwork for the corruption and continued drug operations that FARC and AUC ultimately inherited. The drug cartels under the leadership of men like Pablo Escobar paid off the government officials and law enforcement authorities and committed acts of terrifying violence, gaining enough control over their legislature to virtually buy a ban on extradition to the US. When those cartels were ultimately destroyed and their kingpins either jailed or murdered, the paramilitary organizations easily filled the void and continue funding their "armies" with the profits to this day.

You need a scorecard to keep up with the current quagmire going on there now. The only certainty is that the US backed war on drugs has fueled this so-called narco-terrorism to the point where the indigenous peasants live in fear of violence from all the factions and with their tiny farms poisoned by misfired eradication flyovers, are dying and being otherwise displaced by the thousands.

A cruel and inhumane approach on the United States' part to be sure. As the article notes:

[T]he U.S. strategy of supporting a repressive military in league with brutal paramilitaries ignores Colombia's economic realities that have forced the impoverished farmers to turn to coca and poppy production as a means of survival.
Search & Seizure

Jamaica and Cuba have signed a Memorandum of Understanding pledging to cooperate in combating drug trafficking and other transnational crimes. Years ago the island was pretty much just exporting some really fine cannabis but unfortunately over time became a major transfer point in white powder drug smuggling because of its geographic location.

The MOU pledges cooperation in intelligence gathering and combating money laundering. Reflecting US influence in their policy, Jamaica has embraced asset forfeiture as a weapon. Using The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) 2004, published by the U.S. State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, as a guide the big island apparently intends to embrace US style tactics.

To get at international drug traffickers (including those operating in Jamaica), who rake in millions of US dollars, law enforcement agents not only have to arrest the suspects and seize their drugs, but seize also the assets they buy with the money they earn from the drugs, whether the cash is laundered or not. The drug traffickers have to distance themselves from the money, so law enforcement won't catch them with it. So the seizure of laundered money can often lead to the 'Mr. Bigs' of drug trafficking, if the investigators are diligent and skilful enough to follow complex paper trails.

Sounds pretty good doesn't it, but when is the last time you've heard of a "Mr. Big" actually being arrested for money laundering or even for dealing drugs? Forfeiture has been used as a tool to punish small dealers and often results in the confiscation of legally acquired property. Ironically, the property once seized, goes on trial and must prove itself innocent. Thus you find cases such as "United States vs. 2002 Ford truck" clogging our court systems. More often than not it costs more to litigate for the return of the property than it would to replace it. Meanwhile you have law enforcement departments at every level enriching their coffers with millions of dollars of US citizen's property. Reports abound of police detectives driving around in seized SUVs and other luxury cars and of these funds being used to construct lounges and the like in police stations.

Unfortunately Jamaican officials seem to be buying this kind of US rhetoric.

As the US President's National Drug Control Strategy for 2004 states, "The drug trade is not an unstoppable form of nature but rather a profit-making enterprise that can be stopped." Two weapons that have proven most effective in weakening the drug trade have been forfeiture of assets and stiff laws against money laundering.

Absurd logic when black market for drugs is bigger than ever. Asset forfeiture is one of the greatest temptations for graft and illegal arrests in our law enforcement community. The only way it can be employed in a neutral and fair manner is if the proceeds were turned over to the state for other uses such as education and or other social services. As it stands, with the proceeds of the act being left in the hands of those who seize the property, it constitutes one of the greatest legalized conflict of interest in the history of civil society.

One hopes that Jamaica will realize the folly of the policy before it becomes entrenched.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Happy 4:20 to all the cannabis consumers out there. The sun is shining and it's warm in lovely downtown Noho this afternoon. Altogether a good day to feel good. If you're reading this blog I assume you already know what 4:20 is, but just in case, here's an explanation that I liked last year.

There's no celebrations planned here, however if you're at Niagara Falls our dauntless neighbors in Canada will be having a smoke-out at the US border in the middle of Rainbow Bridge. There will be speakers of course and one assumes the sweet smell of, as John Walters puts it, "the crack of cannabis" will be wafting over the water. Fair warning, possession is illegal in Canada again pending future decrim legislation and you can get busted for smoking. From what I hear though, it's worth taking a chance for a hit of that "White Widow" weed.

The rally starts at 4:20pm of course. We're sorry we can't be there but the May Day Million Marijuana March is right around the corner. Something to plan for.
High Times in Baghdad

Hard to believe High Times is 30 years old. It feels like just yesterday I was hanging with one of their first photographers, Johnny "Photon" Farrell, discussing potential centerfolds. Now three decades later, since "Operation Pipe Dreams" shut down their major source of advertisers -- bong makers -- the magazine is changing its focus this year, concentrating on a wider range of political subjects. However, they haven't forsaken marijuana news entirely. They report there's plenty of cannabis in the new liberated Iraq.

"There are few laws in Iraq right now," writes Dave Enders, High Times's man in Baghdad, "so although drug possession was punishable by death before, you can now pass a spliff openly in front of the cops."

The expanded coverage simply paints a bigger picture .

He also writes about U.S. soldiers and the nutty do-gooders who've swarmed into Iraq and about Hamid, "a 26-year-old translator/bodyguard/heavy-metal fan." Hamid was an Iraqi soldier until he deliberately shot himself in the leg to avoid fighting the Americans and now smokes weed and writes protest lyrics set to the tune of "The Wall" by Pink Floyd: "We don't need no occupation, We don't need no CPA. . . . "

"The desire to leave," Enders concludes, "is the only thing US soldiers and Iraqis have in common."

HT has kept the luscious centerfolds but to quell the complaints of their loyal readers who miss the old format, they have also spun off a new magazine, Grow America, for those who are only interested in cannabis-related issues.

For myself, I kind of like the new format. General politics are inextricably linked to drug policy reform and our work will mean nothing if we let the politicians destroy civil society in the interim. We're wishing High Times success with this new editorial policy. Who knows, if they keep this up we might start reading the magazine regularly again.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Kdrink Company Speaks

We were talking about this coca based beverage last week. It seems Kokka Royal Food & Drink Company saw Talk Left's post on the subject and sent her an email that they asked be published. She of course was happy to do so.

We remind you that Kdrink, contains energy from 15 vitamins and minerals, 12 amino acids and 14 to 16 alkaloids that are found naturally in coca leaves. There is no cocaine in this drink. In their own words:

One of the big mistakes about the coca leaf is to confuse it with the cocaine. Cocaine is one of the 14 alkaloids of the leaf and need to be procesed and mixed with other 15 chemical components to arrive firstable to cocaine sulfate and afterwards to cocaine cloridrate. Between the other alkaloids we can find globuline, pectine, engonine etc. that have such a good benefits for health that we cannot find it in other natural product. In fact Andine people is using it since precolombine period under hunger, extreme work and other unhuman situations.

...There is a social problem about the coca bush that cannot be solved by eradication of plantations. Only the alternative products will have the solution and this is a reallity that only knows who knows the Ande.

The language barrier notwithstanding, their letter makes a lot of sense and they at least are coming up with constructive suggestions. The reality is not much else but coca will grow in these regions and alternative uses could stop the endless cycle of jungle cocaine production.

The peasants growing the plant are not the ones making money on the black market. It would be easy to pay them a comparable amount for their crops by developing a commerical US market for legal uses of the herb.

See Talk Left for the full text of the letter.
Ship of Fools

This is rather amusing in a perverse way. Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo arrived in Cartagena to discuss anti-drug strategies with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Shortly before they were to meet on the Uribe's prize naval flagship, about 37 pounds of cocaine and 22 pounds of heroin were found in the engine room.

One wonders if it was for personal use of the crew. The Gloria, pride of the Colombian Navy was due to was to embark on a six-month trip to the United States and Europe. The trip will probably be delayed however, as Uribe has suspended the entire 75 man crew and arrested three sailors.

Toledo had come to discuss regional cooperation in combating cocaine production. He wryly noted that "drug trafficking is a problem and the events on that ship are evidence of that." Citing a need for a common strategy, Toledo suggested governments pool their resources and complained that consumer nations should be doing more to help. He also denied that the Shining Path was contributing to civil unrest in Colombian border areas despite this statement from a man claiming to be the last living leader of the group, threatening renewed violence.

Keep an eye on our neighbors to the south. While we are all distracted by Iraq and the elections, from Venezuela to Bolivia and beyond, US meddling is creating a tinder keg that could blow up at any minute.

Sunday, April 18, 2004
Don't Get Mad...

Dwight Meredith at Wampum makes an important point on the correlation of Creekstone Farms' run-in with the USDA over mad cow disease testing and the Bush administration's protecting big business from free market competition with small companies.

I spoke of this testing last week. Dwight eloquently explains the larger failures of this policy, noting well how it threatens to destroy small entrepreneurial operations and ignores the best interests of the taxpayer both financially and in public safety. It's disturbing reading.

I mean can anybody tell me why the same test that the USDA contends would cost $325 tax dollars per head could be delivered by Creekstone at $18.oo? Political patronage is nothing new but our government is still bound by oath to serve its citizen's needs first; not to serve them up as a sacrifice to political interests.

Last word on the subject goes to Dwight's closing remarks.

It should be the job of the USDA to ensure a safe food supply, not to make choices for consumers among safe alternatives.

The large companies just want the government, in the form of the USDA, to insulate them from free market competition. The Bush administration, in the form of the USDA, is doing so

[Thanks to Atrios for pointing us to the link.]
Treatment over Incarceration

It seems even in the home of the draconian Rockefeller Laws, the alarming cost of imprisoning drug offenders is making alternative approaches attractive. Talk Left posted an interesting article this morning on the first prosecution-run program in the country to divert prison-bound felony offenders to residential drug treatment. The offender is convicted but the sentence is deferred pending the successful completion of a treatment program at which time the charges are dismissed. Failure results in fast track incarceration.

The program is only open to non-violent offenders but that should still help in prison overcrowding in New York State. According to the King's County AG's Office press release:

The number of offenders in New York State prisons for drug offenses has increased dramatically, from 3,000 at the onset of the crack epidemic in 1986, to more than 20,000 today. Almost one-half of all state prison inmates are drug offenders, many of whom committed non-violent crimes to support their drug habit.

The program shows great success both in rehabilitation and cost effectiveness. The numbers speak for themselves.

As of March 2004, 1950 defendants have been accepted into the program, 390 are still in treatment and 743 have completed the program and have had their charges dismissed..... Eighty-nine percent of DTAP's graduates who are able to work are employed.

....analysis of the savings realized on correction, health care, public assistance and recidivism costs combined with the tax revenues generated by the DTAP graduates reveals that diversion to DTAP has resulted in economic benefits of $28.8 million dollars per the 743 graduates.

....DTAP graduates had re-arrest rates that were 33% lower; re-conviction rates that were 45% lower; and were 87% less likely to return to prison than those of a matched comparison group.

The program actively seeks repeat offenders and provides assistance in obtaining and maintaining employment. A welcome contrast to the mindset that created the mandatory minimums and zero tolerance laws that caused the overcrowding in the prisons in the first place.

Saturday, April 17, 2004
Friday Newsletters

A lot of interesting items this week. DRC Net has a lengthy interview with pain management specialist Dr. Robert Kale, whose well-regarded clinic was shut down when the DEA wrongfully accused him of over-prescribing pain relievers and now refuses to return his license even though he has been cleared by the medical board.

Drug Sense Weekly has a related piece on Jeb Bush's crusade to document every prescription drug consumer in Florida.

DRC also has good news on the medical marijuana bill in Connecticut which has successfully advanced through one more committee while Drug Sense reports on a rarely used lesser harm provision invoked by U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz in sentencing medical marijuana defendants Lynn and Judy Osburn.

Meanwhile Drug Policy Alliance has developments on the efforts of Congress to pass the "drugged driving" legislation we have been discussing.

HR 3550, which the House passed as part of a massive transportation bill earlier this month, mandates that states adopt drugged-driving laws that criminalize driving with any unlawful detectable amount of a controlled substance present in the body, or when a person's mental or physical faculties are affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree. The bill would also allow states to punish those who refuse to submit to a drug test and increase penalties for first-time and repeat offenders.

Keep an eye on your local politicians. No telling how they might react to this federal mandate.
Thought Police

I'm back in Lovely Downtown Noho and the weather is finally warm. I'm about to go sit on the stoop for the first time this year and finish Jules' book. I'll be back later but first this troublesome report. We've talked before about the failure of the current prison system to provide rehabilitation services to the inmates.

Here's a case of a functioning rehab program dismantled on questionable grounds by prison officials.

York Correctional Facility in East Lyme, said Wednesday that 15 women inmates lost up to five years of work when officials at the prison's school ordered all hard drives used for the class erased and its computer disks turned over.

The reason for this dramatic action? One of the students in Wally Lamb's class had won the prestigious $25,000 PEN American Center prize for her writing. Since she was writing about her life inside, perhaps the prison feared the exposure the award will bring. For whatever reason the program was shut down. As Lamb said, "It flies in the face of the First Amendment."

In litigation commenced by the state, the inmates successfully petitioned the court to have their work and the program restored and will not be required to forfeit the prize nor the other royalties from the sale of the book. Further, prize winner Barbara Lane will not have to pay an invoice the prison had previously delivered for $339,505, charging for room and board at $117.oo per day.

Understatement of the week goes to Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal.

"....they ought to receive the benefits of genuine rehabilitative activity because we need to provide incentives for them to lead law-abiding and productive lives."

It's good to see some sense being shown by the AG however, I think charging $117.oo per diem for bad food and a cell in an overcrowded jail should also be a crime.

Thursday, April 15, 2004
The Drug Czar Misinformation Tour

John Walters is a busy guy these days. He's now in Florida lecturing Hispanic parents about the evils of that Canadian cannabis.

Recent government studies have shown that Hispanic youth are trying drugs in greater numbers than other ethnic groups but then again Hispanics are also the faster growing demographic in the country.

``Canada is exporting to us the crack of marijuana, and it is a dangerous problem,'' Walters said.

He goes on to say it is important to focus on marijuana because of its accessibility and the growing numbers of youths who are being treated for problems stemming from its use.

Let me remind you before I leave that number one, the only reason the number of youths going into therapy for alleged marijuana "addiction" is that juvenile offenders opt for treatment rather than jail. They have to say they are addicted. We addressed the misleading statistics coming from emergency rooms yesterday and again Canadian cannabis comprises 1.5 percent of the marijuana seized by federal agents.

Here's the money line:

Some factors that contribute to the rising numbers include a higher poverty rate and less education, as statistics show that more than two in five Hispanics who are 25 or older have not graduated from high school.

Cause and effect here folks. They are arrested and incarcerated for minor possession charges at a greater rate than white middle class kids and then are prevented from obtaining an education and/or decent employment on account of their criminal records.

Legalization would keep the drugs off the street and give these kids a better chance to avoid the pitfalls of drug abuse.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Sunset and Vine

The fabulous Boi from Troy hosts Carnival of the Vanities #82 with an oh so gay Hollywood theme. I'm always expecting these guys to kick me out -- they are so young and Republican and I am so not. But I hope they don't. I'm becoming rather fond of them and they do throw a great party. Besides, where else can you see stars like these?

Canadian Cannabis Crisis?

I was wondering why Australia was outlawing hydroponic pot while decriminalizing plants grown by other methods. I thought I smelled John Walters' hand in that policy and now here he is chastising the Canadians for exporting the "crack of marijuana" to the United States." You guessed it -- hydroponic cannabis.

Walters urged Ottawa to recognize the problem of hydroponics, which employs nutrient-rich solutions rather than soil. "It is often grown inside under lights, and Walters said it sold for as much as cocaine." As if Ottawa doesn't already know that after the Barrie bust.

Walters counsels the Canadian government to show leadership in combating this "dangerously potent" plant which he blames for 120,000 emergency hospital admissions. That would include of course, those who say -- break their ankle playing sports and admit to having smoked a bowl three weeks prior.

Although he values US good will, Prime Minister Paul Martin is not falling for the rhetoric. Washington's own data shows that of all the illegal pot seized by U.S. agents only 1.5 percent came from Canada and he intends to press ahead with plans to end jail terms for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

And while Walters speaks of safety his true concern appears to be about the velocity of US dollars crossing the border. He said that Canadian producers had a multibillion dollar marijuana growing business and that 80 to 90 percent of revenues came from the United States. Revenues that could be staying inside the US if our legislators would stand up to the prohibition protectors and legalize.

In all the years I smoked cannabis, the only emergency I ever saw was when someone ran out of herb. Cannabis can't kill you and the kids today are OD'ing on Special K and other bizarre and unknown but low cost chemicals of doubtful origins, because they can't afford cannabis, which as Walters himself points out has become more expensive than gold under the prohibition.
In a Whirl

I've been crazy busy for the last 24 hours and I'm in a rage about an unpleasant encounter I just had with MCI. I'll be posting on that after I've contacted the AG and the Secretary of State and then I'm dumping that bullshit company as my phone carrier.

I was already cranky after days on end of rain and cold. Won't see the sun today either but at least it's warmer. I had my winter coat back out twice in the last week already. The bulbs don't seem to mind either way though and the crocus and rapidly budding daffodils are helping dispel the gloom.

Meanwhile the question of the moment is: Who was that attractive young man escorting Louise Driscoll around town? I stopped by their table to say hi but only got his name, Jason. I think it was a date since Louise looked so gorgeous in that blue tank top but neither one of them were saying. Can't wait to get the details but Louise is lying low. Could this a relationship brewing?

Meanwhile, I'll be going out of town tomorrow for a few days so posting will be lighter than usual but I expect to be able to check in occassionally. While I'm gone you can get the news that matters at Drug War Rant . In fact there's important news breaking on Afghanistan right now and as always when I'm over my head, Pete leaps into the breach and brings you the story.

Check out today's post. It's a long but comprehensive look at how the US supported the Taliban with millions of your tax dollars right up until mere days before 9/11, for allegedly eliminating opium poppy cultivation. The trouble with that is although they stopped cultivation, they were stockpiling opium to raise the price and not only refused to give up Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaida but were in fact supporting him and are now reaping the benefits of the hoarded dope.

Oh, and for those of you who have been following the saga of my smoking cessation, it's now six and half weeks without a cigarette. Although I may never feel really free of the desire, I think I can declare this a victory.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Down on the Farm

This is interesting. The poppy eradication started in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan this week. Government soldiers acting on orders from President Hamid Karzai intend to destroy eight to 10 per cent of the crops but the farmers will be allowed to harvest the rest.

Farmers bemoan the loss of income as poppy cultivation brings US$ 2,000 per half acre but are resigned to the partial destruction of their crops. One would think the remaining 90% would be enough to keep them from falling back into abject poverty and we also wonder what possible effect eradicating such a small percentage of the crop will have on the heroin supply. It looks like an attempt to create the illusion of cooperation with western anti-drug programs on the Afghani government's part.

In any event unless alternative crops and marketing are developed, the farmers do not appear to be planning to stop cultivating the flowers soon.

If the government could not find us other sources we will cultivate poppy again," one farmer said. "We know opium is 'haram' ( forbidden ) but in critical situations, Islam allows you to do every possible thing for your survival. When you are hungry nothing is haram."
Random Selection

We're running late this morning so just a quick but disturbing item from this week's Drug Sense Weekly. Louisiana State Judge Larry J. Green ruled that a drug-sniffing dog's random inspection of a Slidell parking lot didn't violate a motel guest's Fourth Amendment rights.

Detective James McIntosh of the St. Tammany Parish Drug Task Force, using a technique he learned at a law enforcement convention in Texas cruised the lot on a "fishing expedition" that eventually led to the discovery of heroin, cocaine and marijuana in the guest's room and car.

We are flabbergasted that the judge ruled this did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights and hope the defendant John Val Popoff appeals this ruling to a higher court. This would be dangerous precedent to leave on the books unchallenged.

Monday, April 12, 2004
Mad Mad World

To those of you are also following my Detroit guest blog, forgive the redundancy but this is important enough to cross post and thanks to my fellow DNews bloggers, Cox and Forkum, for the graphic. I only wish they were leaning more towards our side.

I don't get this. The Bush administration wants to test our hair, saliva and sweat before we can get a job. In his State of the Union address, Bush told us he wants to spend 23 million dollars to test our children's urine before they can receive a publicly funded education.

The White House Prohibition Protectors say "random drug testing of students can survive legal challenges and is 'dirt cheap'." And indeed the price has dropped as a drug testing industry mushroomed in response to the ill-advised policy of treating teenagers like criminals.

So explain this to me, if our government is so vitally interested in what we voluntarily put into our bodies, why did the Department of Agriculture refuse to allow a Kansas beef producer to test all of its cattle for mad cow disease, saying such sweeping tests as proposed by Creekstone Farms were not scientifically warranted?

Lobbying groups for cattle ranchers and slaughterhouses, who called 100% testing misleading to consumers because "it would create a false impression that untested beef was not safe", were pleased by the decision. Gary Weber speaking for the cattlemen's association said it was "absolutely not about the money."

Yeah, right. Speaking as a consumer who must trust the FDA to certify the safety of what I have no choice but to consume -- since I don't own a ranch -- I would rather be "misled" by 100% testing of my food than invaded by 100% testing of my bodily fluids.

The Pause that Refreshes

Talk Left has an interesting item up this morning on a new product being marketed in Peru. KDrink reportedly tastes pretty much like any iced-tea drink but contains a trace 0.6 milligrams of coca leaf. That's not enough to get you high folks, but it is enough to fail a drug test so keep that in mind if you're planning to bring any home from your next trip to the southern hemisphere.

The company wants to import the drink into the US, the problem being of course that notwithstanding the popular myth that Coca Cola contains cocaine, even such trace amounts in the ingredients are illegal in this country. Now Coke actually buys 100 metric tons of dried Peruvian coca leaves each year from which their "secret cocaine-free formula" is extracted. Interestingly, Stepan Co. factory in Maywood, N.J., the company that makes the mix also provides legal cocaine for the US pharmaceutical industry. Rumor has it some of that cocaine ends up on the black market.

In any event, the article notes the Peruvian's historic use and the health benefits of this plant.

Thousands of years before the existence of processed cocaine, highland Indians chewed coca to ward off hunger and fatigue. Considered an integral part of Peruvian culture, coca is offered to Andean gods and sold in packaged tea bags in grocery stores.

Silvia Dongo, a pharmaceutical chemist who helped develop Kdrink, says the beverage provides energy from its 15 vitamins and minerals, 12 amino acids and 14 to 16 alkaloids that are found naturally in coca leaves.

"Drinking coca beverages is a way to seek a natural and healthy stimulation," she says.

Thousands of years of use haven't harmed and in fact have helped the Andean people to survive and could be of benefit to Americans as well, being a healthier alternative to coffee. However, as Talk Left notes, "somehow, we think Drug Czar John Walters and AG Ashcroft will find a way to keep it from coming to America."
Do The Math

The April issue of Econ Journal Watch reports that the majority of economists believe that current drug prohibition strategies are an expensive failure and favor drug policy reform.

In 1995 only 58% concurred, but that has reportedly grown to a broad consensus with most economists agreeing that the current policies do not work and should be changed in the direction of some form of legalization. There is disagreement about the degree of change but all agree the War on Drugs is simply not a cost effective program.

In fact, NORML News reports:

A 2001 economic analysis of American drug policy by the National Resource Council determined that America spends twice as much money annually to combat illegal drugs as it spent fighting the Persian Gulf War, yet there is no evidence indicating that existing policies are either working or cost-effective. "It is unconscionable for this country to continue to carry out a public policy of this magnitude and cost without any way of knowing whether, and to what extent, it is having the desired result," the study's author concluded.

Of course there have been studies done that prove the War on Drugs is a failure but our government's answer to that is to suppress the results and order a new study done by a "friendlier" company that will deliver the numbers they seek.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Eyes on You

I've been fascinated lately with how easily we dismiss our privacy these days. Take how casually we accept being video-taped dozens of times a day on public web cams for instance. How many patrons at the ElboRoom in Ft. Lauderdale realize or even care that they are being watched right now?

That's not to say that I don't love being able to see the beach there or in Maui in real time. For a traveler like me, being able to see London, or New York or Amsterdam or Brazil is priceless but it comes at a cost that we don't really think about paying.

Earthcam is just one company offering hundreds of sites of public surveillance. The possible viewers are endless and it's not much of stretch to imagine this kind of network being used to track individuals. I wonder for instance how many people at the Anchorage Alaska DMV or on this street in Miami realize they are being watched by thousands of strangers on the internet?

The same satellite technology that brings us the convenience of cell phones and GPS systems in our cars, leaves us increasingly vulnerable to unreasonable scrutiny for political reasons. Just something to think about.

And speaking of public scrutiny, check out the Loftcube Project. These guys from Berlin came up with a great concept -- kind of a portable penthouse, but the view cuts both ways. Talk about living in glass houses... Go through the whole menu. It's well worth a walk through. I especially loved the swivel showerhead that also watered the plants.

Work In Progress

My friend Jules Siegel can only be called a Renaissance man. He's an extraordinary artist and writer with a checkered past, a restless spirit and a new project. In his words:

I am a Yellow Dog Democrat. Even so, as a graphic designer and former political public relations consultant, I am dismayed by the Kerry Flash ads running on the New York Times website. I haven't seen any of his TV spots, but if they are as bad as this, we are in trouble.

Kerry should attack the medium, not the message. He doesn't have enough money to respond to every Bush ad on its merits. He has to attack the obscene trick of trying to buy the election.

.... I tried my hand at some rudimentary web animation, and came up with Get used to it, a 284k QuickTime movie.

.... I will appreciate your comments. This is a first try at defining a concept. It can go anywhere. Once I have something that really works, I plan to distribute it as widely as possible.

I loved it. Email your comments here.
Going Dutch

Holland appears to have its own version of our prohibition pushing Souder and Walters. Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst, under pressure from outside governments including the US, have been messing around with Holland's 30 year old defacto legality of cannabis coffeehouses.

Nol van Schaik, owner of "Willie Wortel Cannabis Shops"; and its Hempcity website sent out a translation of the latest news. Donner and Hoogervorst attempted and failed to get the cannabis cafes shut down by promoting legislation restricting smokers to outside the establishments, and then by restricting them to local consumers only.

Their latest scheme is to ban cannabis with high content THC called Nederweed in the cafes and reclassify the plant as a hard drug. At the same time the Amsterdam City Council is calling for legalizing the production of Nederweed to get it out of the hands of criminals.

Donner and Hoogervorst propose further US style provisions such as increased penalties for possession, school zone enhancements and eliminating all cultivation of the plant, which is now allowed by licensed growers. These proposals are promoted as based on health and safety concerns of course, however their practical effect would be to put supply into the hands of a few big criminal organizations and create a prison gulag of non-violent consumers, not unlike our own.

The good news is the Amsterdam City Council will present it case to the legislature a day before Donner and Hoogervorst push their prohibition plans. One hopes the contrast in logic will continue to be apparent. Meanwhile the Willie Wortel's Sativa Shop is still in business and is building a bed and breakfast on top of the shop.

Saturday, April 10, 2004
Happy Holiday

I think there must be some kind of crazy celestial energy going on, because the town is kind of silly but at least everybody is laughing tonight. I've been unexpectedly waylaid all afternoon, and now I'm off to see Michael and Irma, it's her birthday, so I won't be blogging again today.

I'll be spending this Easter home alone this year, although I have a date to watch some of the Red Sox game with Darren, who is working at City tomorrow. I have some interesting news on Amsterdam that I'll be blogging in the a.m. but meanwhile, a happy Holy Saturday to all of you who celebrate the Ascension.

Peace be with you and with your spirits.
Souder's War

I haven't read all of this yet, it's a lengthy five part series but it's great reading so far. The Media Awareness Project has archived the entire April Fool's hearing transcript of Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources hearings on medicinal marijuana. Although led by our "favorite" Prohibition Fool -- Mark Souder -- they were no joke.

Souder stacked the committee with his favorite House jesters but many of the participants did not perform as Souder would have liked. I doubt he expected such a strong argument on the Anti-prohibition side.

Rep. Eleanor Norton ( D-DC ) came out of the gate blazing making some strong points.

I would think, though, that the fact that we have eight to 10 states moving ahead to legalize medical marijuana would have caused far more vigorous federal research and leadership than we have seen thus far.

...When it comes to medical marijuana, we are about a serious matter and one that, frankly, I think our government could have found the answer, one way or the other to, long before now. But the greatest objection I have is not about this medical controversy.

...It is putting young people in jail for smoking pot. Wherever you stand on these matters, it doesn't seem to me that we ought to ruin a kids life by giving him a record for smoking pot.

There's plenty more of that kind of talk while Souder can only whine. "We fought a war and said federal law prevails. You don't have a right to nullification. Now, how we enforce those is another question," he said.

The trouble with that statement is, it's a lie. You do have a citizen's right (that was established at the formation of our government) to nullification. Souder's War is a war on you and me folks. It's a war on your personal sovereignty.

We cannabis consumers are not criminals. It's time to vote Souder and those of his prohibitionist ilk out of office so we stop being treated as such.