Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Life as a road trip

I discovered this link in the referral logs today. Thanks to WeBeHigh for including me in a section called Blogs - Other Important Links. They say I have 76 pages, 191 links found.

I've never managed to learn how to track these things myself, but I like that I have that many links to a group of real travelers (as opposed to tourists). The main site bills itself as an online marijuana travel guide with marijuana prices & information around the world. They appear to live up to the billing. The city guide is impressive and they solicit reports.

Meanwhile, Pete Guither is commuting between blogs and is doing a guest stint at The Agitator. Radley Balko is apparently on the road and has assembled a great group to carry on at his excellent blog. Now that Pete's there, I'll remember to check in more often. And not to worry, Pete will be keeping up at Drug WarRant as well. Check out his roundup of opinions on the Raich v. Ashcroft hearing.

There's a lot of predictions flying around on the outcome which won't be known for weeks. I'm not making one except that I think the decision will be split. I'm hoping the court will recognize the danger in overturning precedent that limits the feds ability to interfere in state sovereignty but I'm not counting on it.

Day in Court

Well, as predicted I didn't get seated on a jury in spite of the fact that they had five panels and four trials going today. I almost had a shot at one of them. The plaintiff was pro se so he didn't recognize me. Unfortunately, the judge and the clerk did and they held my number until the seats were already filled. I might have been seated in the Superior Court case, it was a rape trial and a lot of people are uncomfortable with that, hence the large jury pool, but the guy pleaded out by noontime so they finally let us go.

Meanwhile, here's some good news. The US 1st Circuit court found in Change the Climate's favor and ruled that the MBTA violated their free speech rights by refusing to display ads from the group addressing the legalization of marijuana.

The 1st Circuit found that although the MBTA's advertising guidelines are "viewpoint neutral" and constitutional, its rejection of the three Change the Climate ads was unreasonable and amounted to "viewpoint discrimination."

"This suspicion of viewpoint discrimination is deepened by the fact that the MBTA has run a number of ads promoting alcohol that are clearly more appealing to juveniles than the ads here," the court said.

The court ordered the MBTA to run the ads. Congratulations to Joe White and his fine organization on the win.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Jury Duty

I can't believe they called all four pools tomorrow. I didn't even mention it at the office until after 4:00 today because I was so sure I wouldn't even be called during the holidays. Not that I'll get seated. There isn't a DA in the county who would put me on a jury. I'm always pre-empted.

Most inconvenient timing all the same. It's a bad week for it and now I have to be at the courthouse at 8:00 am. I am not a morning person. It's going to be a long day.

Morning update: It's dark this early in the morning. I see from the comments that I left the wrong impression here so I want to clarify for Patrick that I would love to seated on a jury. I'm been trying to do it for eighteen years but I never get seated. I'm simply too well known as a defense team member. It's not fulfilling my civic duty that I object to, it's losing an hour and half of sleep on a really busy week at work for this exercise in futility.

Low prices to get high

Today was not a good day for technology. The server at the office was glitching out when arrived this morning and Blogger was glitching this afternoon. This is what I tried to post then.

Well it's been as horrible a day as I expected so far and seems unlikely to get better when I return from lunch. I'm going to chill for while but check out this from Talk Left. The Independent reports that street prices have dropped so low for drugs in Britain that a line of cocaine is less expensive than a glass of wine, while a tab of ecstasy goes for as little as a dollar.

Ironically, I listened to the prohibitionist on CSPAN this morning declare that they are winning the War on Some Drugs. Get real. The only winner here is the black market, and even they can't be having an easy ride with prices so low. The numbers suggest that supply is so widely available, the dealers are forced to make their money on volume sales, meaning there are more illicit drugs on the streets, not less.

How can it be Monday already?

I'm watching Rob Kampia on CSPAN this morning. He of course he making perfect sense while the prohibitionist on the panel, whose name I didn't catch, is trotting out the same old infuriating misinformation. It makes you want to scream at the TV set...

I spent the weekend madly cleaning out drawers in preparation for the move. I'm determined to leave here light on worldly goods and I've already given away a lot. The fun part is finding stuff you forgot about. My best find so far was the photo of my Dad hand-feeding a chipmunk who had climbed onto his lap. Meanwhile, it's going to be a crazy week. Karen is off for her yearly jaunt to the Caribbean, (Anguilla this year), so I'm left to cover the office with only one secretary remaining on staff. It's bound to be ugly.

The big news in the War on Some Drugs today is of course, the SCOTUS review of Raich v. Ashcroft but since we've already covered that here and there's really nothing left to do but wait and see what happens, I leave you this morning with an interesting article on the drug of choice from a century ago, absinthe. It's making a comeback, especially among European youth.

I'd like to try that drink myself someday.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Politics of pot in the Philippines

I was meaning to get to this story but decrimwatch already has the news covered, so I'll simply send you to his post on legislation recently proposed by the President's son to allow the production of medical marijuana. This is a big deal in a country that routinely issues death sentences for 500 grams (a little over a pound). Needless to say his mom's not that happy about it.

Tomorrow is the big day for MMJ

Drug WarRant points us to an article on Raich v. Ashcroft by Fred Gardner, currently posted at Counterpunch. Pete and the author rightly pick up on the money quote (revealing the government's true interests), in the brief.

Among the feds' arguments is one usually left unspoken: prohibition serves the interests of the pharmaceutical corporations. As expressed in the Solicitor General's brief, "Excepting drug activity for personal use or free distribution from the sweep of the CSA would discourage the consumption of lawful controlled substances." It would also undercut "the incentives for research and development into new legitimate drugs." That's as close as the government has come to acknowledging that wider cannabis use would jeopardize drug-company profits..

There's been much speculation about the possible outcome of this hearing. I'm buying into the hope that the Interstate Commerce Act issues will persuade the court to rule favorably in order to protect the individual state's rights from unnecessary federal intervention. There's reason to hope. As the article points out:

Raich et al's arguments are designed to appeal to "conservatives." They point out that the Supreme Court, by ruling against them would, significantly extend federal power under the commerce clause (the last thing "conservatives" are supposed to want to do). "If the Court upholds Petitioners' claim of federal power, this case will supplant Wickard to become the most expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause since the Founding, and this Court's landmark decisions in Lopez and Morrison will become dead letters." No transaction would be too small to concern the federal government. Not even the cultivation of six plants.

Good argument I think. Let's hope the Supremes see the logic.

Media events

Tomorrow morning from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, Rob Kampia of Marijuana Policy Project will be appearing on CSPAN's Washington Journal to discuss Raich v. Ashcroft.

And for those in the Boston area, DRC Net in partnership with the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts (DPFMA), will be launching their national Perry Fund Campaign, a series of forum/fundraiser events in cities around the country to draw attention to the drug provision of the Higher Education Act by raising money to provide scholarship assistance to students who have lost their financial aid because of drug convictions.

Speakers include Rep. Barney Frank, well known author, attorney and ACLU-MA board member Wendy Kaminer; representatives of the Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators; Joe White of Change The Climate; Scarlett Swerdlow of Students for Sensible Drug Policy; DRCNet's David Borden; DPFMA's Whitney Taylor; with others to be announced.

The event will take place on Thursday, December 9, 2004, from 6:00-8:00pm, at the Omni Parker House, King Room, 60 School Street (corner of Tremont), in downtown Boston. Please RSVP to perryfund@raiseyourvoice.com, (202) 362-0030 or (617) 426-7979. Light refreshments will be served, suggested minimum donation $25, sliding scale or free admission available on request. (No one will be turned away.)

Worth your time if you're in the area.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Unknown herbicide bombers in Afghanistan

Thanks to Ben Masel for sending this item in, hot off the Turkish press. With absolutely no fanfare, herbicidal spraying of opium poppies has started in Afghanistan. And as in Colombia, the criminally negligent delivery of the poison is covering not just poppies, but also food crops and people.

Karzai's newly installed US puppet government is claiming no knowledge of who the perpetrators might be. It's clear it's not him. Afghanistan can't afford the proverbial pot to pee in, so it's unlikely the reported unidentified foreign airplane that delivered the payloads belonged to his government. The US - in spite of the fact that we control the airspace, are maintaining a military presence there and Bush just declared war on Afghani heroin - deny any responsibility.

The evidence that the herbicidal bombing occurred is irrefutable. The surfactant still covers the ground and food crops are dying along with the poppies. There's been a huge increase of skin, eye and respiratory problems reported at the local medical center. The real crime (which I doubt will ever be prosecuted) is that inflicting such injury on the indigenous peasants is not only cruel, it accomplishes nothing to solve the problem of the heroin trade. As the article states:

Foreign aid workers said eradication drives such as crop spraying were only likely to drive opium prices higher by lowering yields -- putting more money in the hands of dealers and traders and hitting impoverished farmers at the bottom of the chain the hardest.

We'll be awaiting the results of the Afghani government soil tests with great interest. This incident has Monsanto written all over it. How simple a way is this to test a new version of Roundup, under the radar of public scrutiny? I won't be surprised to learn it's an unknown formula.

Gifts for $25 or less

I participated in National No Shopping Day yesterday. Frankly, outside of takeout food, most of my days are celebrated the same way. There must be something genetically wrong with me. As my limited wardrobe will attest, I'm a woman who hates shopping. Nonetheless, the reality is it's almost impossible to avoid buying gifts at this time of year. So while I have Christmas shopping on my mind, I have another suggestion to keep you out of the malls. Consider shopping the merchandise stores at drug policy reform sites.

Drugwar.com has an extensive collection of books on every aspect of the War on Some Drugs. I recommend editor Preston Peet's book, Under the Influence, an amazing compilation of fabulous writers who bust the myths surrounding the drug culture. I'd love to find this volume under my tree.

Drug Policy Alliance has a wealth of products in our price range. They even have t-shirts for dogs. I especially urge you to purchase from this site as they have just given up a $200,000 Ford Foundation grant rather than sign a contract that included a constitutionally objectionable clause. They could use the revenue to make up the shortfall in funding.

The Media Awareness Project has something for everyone and their logo is very cool but lowkey. You could buy that tote bag for your grandmother. I wouldn't mind getting one myself.

Meanwhile, The US Marijuana Party has a large array of useful items from t-shirts to stickers. Nothing subtle about their logo but it's really well done. Buy here for those who aren't afraid to wear the leaf with pride.

Change the Climate has a lot in the price range. I love the mouse pad.

NORML also has an extensive collection of practical goods with their logo. There's a funny bumper sticker there, "Honk if you inhale".

Cannabis Culture has a fine book department for the consumer. Interesting cookbook there.

For the young folks on your list, Students for Sensible Drug Policy has an affordable collection of very cool tshirts.

And of course, our friend Pete (who inspired our list today), has a store of his own at Drug WarRant that has some fabulous tshirts and sundry as well.

Finally, I'd like to make a special appeal that you shop at MASS CANN. They were financially wiped out this September when the hurricane destroyed the annual rally on the Boston Common and really need the money. For a donation of only $12 you can get a t-shirt from the rally that wasn't and help save an organization that has done tremendous work in the Commonwealth to promote cannabis reform. And if your budget is tight, their clearance section holds even greater bargains with books and tshirts for under $10. Save money and save MASS CANN.

Why I didn't I think of that?

Sometimes I feel like a real slug compared to Pete Guither. As if all those election and court case guides weren't enough, he now posts the ultimate Christmas shopping guide. Thanks to Pete you won't have to leave the comfort of your computer screen to find something great for everyone on your list. Check it out and if you have to buy something anyway, why not buy hemp?

And a hot tip for local Noho buyers, if you want to avoid the shipping charges there's a Hempest store right on Main Street. (Note that it's not affiliated with the Hempest site in Pete's guide). They have a wide selection of products and also educational materials on the benefits of this crop. I like their mission statement.

The Hempest is a one of a kind outlet for all things hemp and beyond. We have the largest selection of hemp clothing, accessories, gear, paper, food and body care products found anywhere in the world. We also carry a full line of educational books as well as hand-blown glass artwork. We invite you to visit any one of our stores or our website and find out more about the earth's most versatile and beneficial plant : Cannabis Hemp.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Read it while you can

News alert. I see Cannabis Culture is running a banner saying the site may go down today at 5:00 since their ISP is considering dropping all of Marc's sites because of ongoing denial-of-service attacks. Information will be posted at the NORML Canada forums.

It's a sign of how effective an activist Emery is, that he is enduring these vicious assaults. His assailants are fools if they think they can keep him down, even if they succeed in knocking off the site.

UPDATE: The site is still up and running and it appears Marc has already figured out how to thwart his would-be usurpers and has found a new server for the site that can withstand the scurrilous DoS attacks. A new banner on the site announces:

Site will be TEMPORARILY offline at 12:01 am Pacific (8:01 am UTC), Sunday morning the 28th of November 2004 for server relocation (anticipated downtime - 3h).

And you wonder why I admire this man?

Canadian consumers come out

The newly released Canadian Addiction Survey announces marijuana use in Canada doubled over the last decade. No surprise there, although I suspect the numbers likely mean that more people are willing to admit it, not necessarily that so many more are suddenly smoking it. Here's the statistics I especially liked though.

The survey also found that 52 percent of respondents with a postsecondary education used pot, compared to 35 percent of high school dropouts. Higher income was also linked to higher marijuana [use].

So much for the myth of pot-smoking waste cases. Not that there aren't any, but the obvious correlation is that cannabis consumption increases your intelligence and thus your capacity to generate income.

Bush and Uribe plot the future of Plan Colombia

We're late on the update to this story. Bush did indeed meet with President Uribe in Brazil on Monday, under the protection of some 15,000 Brazilian soldiers.

"Heavily armed guards lined his motorcade route from the airport. Helicopters hovered close, and armed patrol boats scoured the coastline for any sign of trouble."

It always astounds me that Bush thinks he is so important that he merits that kind of protection. I mean really, he's in a country that's receiving billions of dollars of US aid that they use to bolster a corrupt system under the auspices of a so-called war on "narco-terrorism" that will never end. Why would they kill the golden goose?

That aside, Bush offered the usual empty platitudes about how important and successful Plan Colombia has been, failing to account for the fact that cocaine is cheaper and purer than ever on the streets of US cities. I'll spare you the tiresome quotes. What catches this activist's attention however, is this little factoid.

The United States has invested more than $3 billion in Colombia's antidrug campaign since 2002, but the funding package, known as Plan Colombia, expires next year. Bush didn't say how much more he would seek from Congress next year.

Now is the time to start pressuring your own Congress creatures to defund this program. Email, call them, write or whatever, but contact them once a week from now until the funding expires and tell them to stop spending your tax dollars on this atrocity.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

About town

I've got to get out more. I didn't even know Dylan was in town but apparently he was here and was interviewed by 60 Minutes besides while he was staying at the Hotel Northampton. [via]

Meanwhile, I got on the phone so by the time I showered, I missed the warm part of the day. The cold front blew in and it's freezing out there now. I guess I won't get the walk in but while I was talking I noticed my favorite dogs in town live on the other side of the back fence. I've been seeing them a lot on the sidewalk, a mismatched, matched pair. One is a tall skinny greyhound looking dog and the other is this little tiny fluffy thing. The owners always walk them together and somehow the leashes never get tangled. They couldn't be more different looking but they are exactly the same color, a silver and cream brindle. Maybe I'm just easily amused or maybe it's because I can't even match my clothes and I'm impressed by the coordination, but it always makes me smile to see them.

I've been reading the holiday posts on what people are thankful for this afternoon. For myself, I'm thankful every morning when I wake up and find most of the parts are still working. Today however, with the impending move, I find myself more nostalgic than reflective. I leave behind a great job, a great apartment and a whole tribe of amazing and creative friends. It would take a book to tell all the stories.

So, I'm feeling lucky to have had these years while the place was at its peak. I've been fortunate to live so long in such small town camaraderie in a place that embraced my politics and my eccentricities with such fondness. I think I will never be so safe again as I have been here.

Nonetheless, I'm also thankful for the change and happy to be closer to my family. I've been way remiss and it's kind of appropriate timing. Now that the wool is turning silver, the black sheep of the family is coming home to the flock. At least we won't run of things to talk about.

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, I'm home alone for the holiday and indulging in my annual guilty pleasure, hanging around in my pajamas watching the Macy's parade. I love those silly balloons. It's gone a bit downhill over the years though. Too much Broadway, not enough kid stuff.

I'm alone by choice. I was invited to other celebrations but frankly I don't like turkey dinners and having to dress up and travel with a bunch of stressed out drivers on the road in order to get a stomach ache from eating too much is not the way I prefer to celebrate. I'm content to have a day to myself and I usually manage to catch up with my friends later in the weekend.

I've lived through Thanksgivings when it was below 0, but it's rainy but warm here today. They're predicting it will go up to 65 degrees. I may go for a walk later. It's always eerily quiet on holidays and I like the way the town feels without traffic.

Unlike yesterday when I ran across town to the local grocer. It took 30 minutes to make a round trip of five blocks. Some bad driving was going on out there, let me tell you. Had to do it though. I literally had nothing in the refrigerator but a six pack of beer. And by the way, those who know of my legendary cooking skills will be impressed to hear I plan on using my stove to make brussells sprouts and mashed potatoes to go with my turkey sandwich. Don't laugh, that counts as cooking...

Hope your holiday is a peaceful one as well and thanks for the company over the last year.

The politics of pot

Raich v. Ashcroft is on the docket for Monday at SCOTUS. Be sure to check out Pete's excellent and comprehensive guide to the case at Drug WarRant. Who knows how he finds the time to put these guides together but we're glad he does. He probably should have been a lawyer.

Meanwhile, Loretta Nall reports that Marc Emery's websites endured a denial of service attack this week. Fortunately, I checked Emery's site this morning and found it up and running again.

Interesting timing though, in that Bush is due to visit Canada on Tuesday and Marc has been organizing one of the protests related to US drug policy. Word has it that other groups opposed to the war and US human rights atrocities are also planning to protest. It would appear the rumors are true since Bush cancelled an appearance in front of the Parliament because he was afraid of being booed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Court rules privacy does not extend to hair

Thanks to Loretta Nall for sending in this atrocity. Seems the US 3rd Circuit court doesn't believe taking copious amounts of hair from your head and body, constitutes an unreasonable search.

Under Mills, the court of appeals explained, the taking of hair samples did not intrude upon any reasonable expectation of privacy and thus did not constitute a Fourth Amendment "search." Even the degrading manner in which his hair was taken -- in particular, the quantity and the fact that it left Coddington with prominent bald spots on his head -- did not make a constitutional difference.

If the Fourth Amendment did not apply, it followed necessarily that the police activity did not have to be "reasonable" (that is, based upon an adequate level of suspicion). Coddington was therefore left with no case.

The defendant, a state policeman accused of using cocaine by a confidential informant, by the way tested negative for the drug.

Jeesh. As Loretta remarks in her blog, guess we'll all have to go bald in order to protect ourselves.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Cross cultural etymology

Want to know what your name would look like in Japanese? Check here. I thought mine looked pretty cool.

LEAP of faith

I was pleasantly surprised to find an email from Mike Smithson, speakers bureau coordinator for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I'm sad to find out that they finally have a speaker in Northampton just as I'm leaving town for good but I'm glad to see the Smithies have finally discovered drug policy reform. They just started an active chapter of SSDP there this year. Hope they can spread that energy through the 5 college system. It's ridiculous really with something like a million students within a 15 sq. mile radius, that we don't have a stronger voice here for the cause.

That aside, if LEAP comes to your town it's well worth attending the event. These guys do more for reform in a day than I could hope to do in a year. Current dates on the calendar include,

Jan. 24th-May 1st, 2005 - Former police captain Peter Christ in the Scranton, Lancaster and Philadelphia triangle.

Jan. 31st to Feb. 12th, 2005 - Judge Eleanor Schockett tours central and southern Ohio.

Feb. 15th-17th, 2005 - Judge Jim Gray at Smith College in Northampton, MA, then Brown University in Providence, RI and then Wesleyan in Middletown, CT.

March 12th-17th, 2005 - Judge Gray in NYC.

Check the site for details.

Corrupt cop of the week

It's like I always say, you can't stop people from using drugs, not even the cops. Stephen Donnelly, a former Middlesex deputy sheriff who was also the Winthrop assistant harbormaster was jailed yesterday for allegedly running a cocaine business from his Winthrop apartment. Contrary to the usual press when law enforcement makes a haul of this size, although they admit he was a large volume dealer, they're not calling him a kingpin but but rather "a person who got involved with using drugs himself and dealing as well."

State police undercover officers began buying $100 packages from Donnelly in June, according to court documents. Police executed a search warrant at Donnelly's apartment at 91 Veterans Road and arrested him Friday. Among items seized were a crack pipe, numerous guns, a hypodermic syringe, various prescription pills and collection of sadomasochistic pornography and paraphernalia.

I wonder what they would be calling him if he was a poor black man.

War on Some Drugs doesn't solve crime - It causes it

Thanks to Sherri Secor for sending this link to The Independent Institute's remarks on Rolling Back Drug War Crime. The article points out the nexus between the War on Some Drugs and crime statistics, framing it within the context of Prohibition I.

Before Congress passed the National Prohibition Act in 1919, homicide rates in America were relatively low. In the 1910s, about 5 in 100,000 Americans fell victim to murder. At the height of Prohibition, the murder rate climbed nearly 60%. But after the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition sixteen years later, the rate steadily declined back to pre-Prohibition levels. The War on Drugs, from the 1960s to the present, brought the homicide rate back up to about 10 per 100,000?almost twice the rate before Prohibition and the Drug War.

Citing economist Jeffrey Miron's book, Drug War Crimes- The Consequences of Prohibition, the author goes on to explore the direct effects of the current criminalization of some drugs and public safety. His conclusion is hard to refute.

America?s War on Drugs has spawned massive corruption, violent crime, and the destruction of constitutional liberties. Half a million Americans are locked up for nonviolent drug crimes, often under federal mandatory minimums that often put them behind bars for longer prison terms than rapists and armed robbers. This is a major cause of the overcrowded prisons in the United States, which now has the highest per capita prison population in the world.

America?s Drug War has become an expensive subsidy for violent crime; very few political reforms would do more to reduce violent crime in America than ending it, once and for all.

Saving money and lives. So what's not to like?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Busting out of the blue bubble

I knew this would happen when I finally hung up curtains in the front windows after having lived in two of these fishbowl apartments on Randolph Place for 10 of the last 14 years. Lovely downtown Noho has finally outgrown me and the rumors are true - I'm leaving the Happy Valley and heading into "red state" territory. My family needs me and it's time to take my meme south.

It's been a big week. After 18 years with the same four partners, it's kind of like telling your family you're leaving home and you won't be coming back. It's never easy to leave your loved ones behind. We're a small law firm that made some big case law and the emotional ties aside, it's also hard to leave with cases pending. I started there when we were defending Abbie Hoffman in the CIA on Trial and it's been a long road of equally important First Amendment issues and more in the intervening years. But I'll save the sappy reminiscences for another day.

In the meantime, posting is likely to be somewhat irregular as I deal with tying up my loose ends here and make arrangements at the other end. Wish me luck.

Sub shops available for cool operators

This is cute. Forget about Subway, here's the place to get your grinders. There's a budding franchise out there called Cheba Hut - Toasted Subs, and they do mean toasted. Although they don't sell anything that actually contains the plant, except the hemp brownies that actually are topped with non-psychoactive hemp seed, the sandwiches and the shop all have a cannabis theme.

Two-foot-long papier-mâché joints rest above one of the restaurant's doors and TV set. The menu offers Thai Stick, White Widow and Northern Lights — sandwiches and salads, not strands of marijuana. Next to the cash register sits a 4-inch-high figurine of a man smoking a joint and a basket filled with "hemp brownies" and Rice Krispies bars.

Josh Lee, 23 years old and his mom Kim opened up the first franchised operation in Louisville, Kentucky of the business started by Scott Jennings in Arizona. Word has it the sandwiches are fabulous but will it fly in the south?

Even Josh wonders sometimes whether a marijuana-themed sandwich shop in what he calls "the outskirts of the Bible Belt" will work. "We try not to have it (the marijuana theme) overwhelming, so the average person who doesn't believe what we believe can come in and eat," he said.

Still, some customers, such as 20-year-old Mathieu Milton, say they come in because of, not despite, the theme. But like Clayton Sasse, 21, they plan to become regulars. Jennings, at least, has no doubt that Cheba Hut will work in Louisville.

"It's a hip, little city down there."

Jennings is not looking to get too big but is willing to entertain the idea of more franchises, "If it is a cool fit."

SCOTUS hearing on the docket

The Washington Times, not exactly known for its liberal views, posts a remarkably impartial piece on the Raich v. Ashcroft case which is due to be heard by the Supreme Court next week. Although they trot out the tired and false refrain that medical marijuana is just a front for those of us who want to legalize the plant altogether, they end the article with a great quote addressing the Bush administration's declared war on MMJ users.

"There is simply no constituency in this country for arresting and jailing people with cancer, AIDS, [multiple sclerosis] or other illnesses who find relief from medical marijuana," said Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. "So, whatever the Supreme Court does, the Bush administration is on the losing side of history."


Saturday, November 20, 2004


I was half a block away yet didn't see it live myself, but thanks to Chris at the Space Crime Continuum for capturing the truck fire on film. More shots at the link.

Bush to visit Colombia

This kind of sloppy reporting drives me crazy. The AP reports that Bush will be in Colombia on Monday to assess the damage, er I mean "success" of the 3.3 billion US tax dollars we have poured into the country under Plan Colombia. The AP hacks gets this much right. Plan Colombia, has failed to keep cocaine off U.S. streets. However he (she?) goes on to say the country has become more stable with our 'help'.

The in-fighting among the paramilitary and military forces continues unabated, there's daily murders and kidnappings with thousands of indigenous displaced, homes and health ruined by relentless herbicide bombing and land rendered unfit for anything but the new supercoca plant. This is more stable? This remark is even more choice.

In the two years since [Uribe] came to power, crime rates have dropped, kidnappings are down and government forces have driven the rebels deeper into the jungle, drawing widespread support among Colombians and lavish praise from the White House.

The lavish praise is true but I guess Housego missed the 60,000 Colombians who marched for days in protest of the current policies. You want the real story about what's happening on the ground in Bogota and beyond, check out Colombia Week instead.

MMJ gaining ground

Seems those "red states" may not pick presidents very well but at least they have their heads on straight when it comes to drug policy. According to a Scripps Howard Texas poll question commissioned by Texans for Medical Marijuana, 75% of Texans favor the legalization of medical marijuana.

"I'm surprised support is that high," said Dr. Richard Evans, president of the Texas Cancer Center and medical adviser to Texans for Medical Marijuana. "That should help when we next testify before the Legislature."

Bills that would have legalized the medical use of marijuana have been introduced in the last four sessions of the Texas Legislature but have never passed. Evans said he expects legislation again will be introduced in 2005.

Sounds good to me.

Intoxication- It's only natural

The New Scientist publishes a piece on the Intoxication Instinct, (permanently archived at the Media Awareness Project) that analyzes the research and debunks the myths around why human beings seek to alter their consciousness. The authors take a long an interesting look at how the pleasure principle has driven sentient beings, including the animal kingdom, to ingest plants for their intoxicating effects since the beginning of time. They examine why we do drugs.

The answer is straightforward. We seek intoxication for a simple reason that we are almost too scared to admit - we like it. Intoxication can be fun, sociable, memorable, therapeutic, even mind-expanding. Saying as much in the present climate is not easy, but an increasing number of researchers now argue that unless we're prepared to look beyond the "drug problem" and acknowledge the positive aspects of intoxication, we are only seeing half the story - like researching sex while pretending it isn't fun.

...Ronald Siegel, a psychopharmacologist at the University of California, Los Angeles believes there is a strong biological drive to seek intoxication. "It's the fourth drive," he says. "After hunger, thirst and sex, there is intoxication." Whether we are seeking pleasure, stimulation, pain relief or escape, at the root of this drive, he says, is the motivation to feel "different from normal" - what has sometimes been called "a holiday from reality". Some people reach this state through travel, books, art, roller coasters, sport, religion, exploration, love, social contact or power. Others use intoxicants. "It's the same motivation," says Siegel. "We wouldn't live if we didn't seek to feel different."

They go on to point out the obvious limitations in current research on the subject.

Yet the mainstream debate on drugs, alcohol and tobacco seems unable to acknowledge that there is anything positive at all to say about intoxication. Instead it is locked into a sterile argument between prohibitionists and those who want to reduce the harmful effects by, for example, making heroin available on prescription. Both groups start from the belief that psychoactive substances are inherently harmful but disagree on what to do about it.

And they point out an alternative approach.

Some activists, however, are starting to argue for an entirely different attitude to intoxication. One prominent critic of the debate is Richard Glen Boire, director of the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics in Davis, California. He believes that intoxication is not just a part of human nature, it is a basic human right. "Why should it be illegal to alter your style of thinking?" he says. "As long as you don't do any harm to anyone else, what you do in your own mind is as private as what you do in your own bedroom." Boire advocates changes to the law that would allow people to experiment with psychoactive substances at home or in designated public places. "It's the right of people to explore the full range of consciousness, and our duty as a society to accommodate that," he says.

"According to the latest drug data from the United Nations ( World Drug Report 2004 ), about 185 million people worldwide have used an illicit substance in the past 12 months. That's around 1 in 20 of the adult population." Many more than that admit to taking an illegal substance at least once in their lifetime. If that doesn't suggest an inherent human desire to get "high", I don't know what does.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Simple logic in Memphis

Tennesee State Senator Steve Cohen says he'll make legalizing medical marijuana one of his priorities this upcoming legislative session. Unfortunately not everyone in Tennesee is on board with this sensible approach.

Dr. Johnetta Blakely of the West Clinic, says THC, the drug in marijuana does have medicinal purposes. It relieves nausea in cancer and AIDS patients and it does increase their appetite. It's the other things found in marijuana that concern her. "It has so many other things in it that can be potentially harmful. It has additives. It has the smoke. It can have pesticides or whatever. You don't know where it's come from. You don't know exactly what's in it," says Dr. Blakely.

But isn't that really another argument for legalization? You don't have have a medical degree to figure out that if it was legal and grown commercially under regulation, we would know where it came from and what was in it and the additives and pesticide problem could be eliminated.

Back door draft?

Here's one judge who thinks he's figured out the problem of overcrowding our jails with drug offenders. 24 year old Brian Barr of Salinas county in California was convicted of possession of marijuana. Now there was a gun involved since Barr shot a would-be robber in his home. The police contend that Barr was a dealer and the robbers were there to steal his cannabis and his money but it appears they didn't prove it at trial. Furthermore, Monterey County Judge Robert Moody said that the shooting was justified. Nonetheless Moody, in sentencing Barr, gave him the 'choice' between enlisting in the military or going to jail. (One wonders if Ashcroft added that to the sentencing guidelines while we weren't looking).

Hell of a choice. Rot in jail for years or accept a virtual death sentence. And they call this justice?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

New sentencing guidelines look like the same sorry mess

I don't know quite what to make of this. The Sentencing Commission, a federal panel that sets guidelines for federal judges who sentence about 63,000 people each year is working on new guidelines for sentencing federal criminals in anticipation that the Supreme Court will strike down a 17-year-old system that has been challenged as unconstitutional.

The DOJ has weighed in with an endorsement for an alternative that sounds worse. Minimum sentences would not change. However, judges would have flexibility to give longer sentences, up to the maximum defined by Congress.

Hard to see how they think that will make things better.

Eyewitness account on Plan Colombia

Loretta Nall has an excellent essay posted at Lew Rockwell based on her recent fact-finding tour as a Witness for Peace delegate in Colombia. She describes the picturesque surroundings of the jungle beautifully. Her description of US conduct in the country is not so pretty.

Plan Colombia, like the brutal tactics of the police in Alabama, involves aerial drug raids. In Putumayo, however, whenever a drug warrior pilot "thinks" he sees an offending plant, he pushes a button, effortlessly raining chemical hell onto families, homes, food crops, schoolhouses, livestock, water, and land. The mainstream media doesn’t report, however, that many times these pilots miss their intended targets. Plan Colombia destroys the livelihood of people whose only crime is poverty..

She discovers the real US interest in the area.

... the ugly metal pipeline snaking across the jungle, pumping oil, marring the scenery, and polluting the environment. The pipeline is the target of frequent guerrilla attacks. It is so frequently attacked, in fact, that more oil has been spilled in Colombia than in the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.

She goes on to describe the devastation of the countryside by herbicide warfare.

"In March and May of 2004, the schools were fumigated."

"We had a school garden program where the children ate what they grew. It was very important because many of these children have had their food crops sprayed and their families cannot afford to feed them properly. The school garden was their only source of a balanced diet; for many, it was the day’s only meal. It was destroyed by the fumigation."

And the highlights of a Q & A session with a US official are most illuminating.
Here's what our government thinks of this atrocity being perpetrated with our tax dollars.

Another member of the delegation asked, "What are the farmers who have given up growing coca supposed to do when the U.S. sprays their alternative development crops and refuses to reimburse them for the damage and loss? Where are they supposed to go? What were they supposed to eat?"

The Official responded, "Plan Colombia is a science and we do not make mistakes. The farmers who say they were wrongly fumigated are liars. These people have bigger extended families than anyone in the U.S. can imagine. When something happens to one of them, they can always go and live with Uncle Fred."

Disgusting. Maybe someone should bomb his home with herbicides, rendering it unfit to live in and see how he likes losing everything and moving in with his Uncle Fred.

Loretta sums it well.

What does it say about America’s true moral values that we allow – and indeed pay for – this to occur?

How can we claim that we are saving lives from Colombian cocaine when more people are killed in Colombia every year trying to keep cocaine out of the U.S. than die in the U.S. from Colombian cocaine?

Good question.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

An answer to Afghanistan's heroin problem

Here's the most sensible solution I've seen on how to overcome the reliance of the Afghani people on poppy cultivation to make their living. The organization, Spirit Aid, has developed a plan to replace Afghan opium - 75% of the global supply - with industrial hemp. They make some great points in its favor.

Hemp is a fast growing, legal cash crop that presents a host of immediate benefits to Afghan society, including a potentially lucrative source of foreign exchange earnings. Hemp can be used to produce heating and cooking fuel, thereby ending the need for people to cut down and burn their remaining forests during severe winters. Using hemp in this way would also help prepare areas of land for future tree planting projects.

At the moment many Afghan children are malnourished. Hemp produces a fruit boasting the nutritional qualities of soya, oily fish and wheat combined. Hemp can produce quantities of wood equivalent to four times that of trees over a similar period of time. This biomass can be used in the production of clean, renewable energy, biodegradable plastics and building composites.

And this could be true for the whole planet.

Industrial hemp is perhaps the only economically and environmentally viable alternative to opium cultivation in Afghanistan. It presents an opportunity to satisfy the immediate fuel, fibre and monetary requirements of two million farming households struggling to survive in one of the most dangerous countries on earth. Hemp cultivation also presents a unique opportunity for environmental improvement in Afghanistan.

But here's the money quote.

Crucially the international community has a moral obligation to prevent a Colombian-style "war on drugs" from taking hold in Afghanistan because if this happens we can be certain the violence, and supply of opium, will never end.

It's a good point. The last thing we need is a Plan Colombia style operation that will not only fail to reduce the supply but would poison a whole new tract of Earth with herbicides.

More common sense from the bench

Yet another jurist speaks out against mandatory minimums. Judge Paul G. Cassell of the United States District Court in Salt Lake City reluctantly imposed a 55 year sentence on a 25 year old defendant who sold a few small bags of marijuana to an undercover agent. The sentence was enhanced because the defendant was carrying a gun during two of the transactions, although he was not accused of using it. The DA claims mere possession of the weapon proves he was prepared to use it to kill other human beings. I guess it didn't occur to him that perhaps the guy would carry it for simple self-defense. The black market is a dangerous place after all.

The judge gets it though. He encouraged the defendant to appeal noting that earlier in the session he had sentenced a man to only 22 years for aggravated second-degree murder for beating an elderly woman to death with a log. The judge also urged Congress to set aside the law that made the sentence mandatory.

During a court hearing in September, Judge Cassell posed a question to the opposing legal teams in the case: "Is there a rational basis," he asked, "for giving Mr. Angelos more time than the hijacker, the murderer, the rapist?"

Of course none of this would even be an issue if they simply legalized the plant and took it out of the black market altogether.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Gods must be Drunk as Stuntmen

Crazy stuff going on in the Valley today. I arrived at work to find they cut down two trees in front of my office. Then they found a dead guy in his car in the parking lot behind Eastside Grill, the decrepit truck that's been hanging the Christmas lights on the remaining trees burst into flames and burned to a cinder and there was a gang murder in Greenfield. Geeez, between the crime and the chi-chi stores springing up all over the place, I barely recognize this town anymore.

It felt like old times on Sunday afternoon though. I went to the show at the Academy of Music and it was gorgeous. I met up with the girls, after having had a family dinner with them the night before, and we got there late enough to sit in the balcony, which I had never managed to do before in all these 14 years. It was so good to spend time with them and I was sad to say goodbye. However, as I predicted, there were more unexpected encounters in store.

On the way home, I ran into my dear friend and former best next door neighbor in the world, Jamie with his partner Carol, who often host the band at the Roadhouse, and of course we all ended up at the celebration at Hugos - one time local dive now turned into destination of the young and hip. We stopped at my place on the way down. When we got there we found my new neighbor, who now lives in Jamie's old apartment, Natasha, was locked out. We brought her inside. Good thing she's from Manhattan because I think otherwise we would have scared her. It was a boisterous reunion and I believe I detected a politely suppressed wave of relief when her housemate came to rescue her.

We went on to Hugos. My association with the Stuntmen goes a back aways. We ushered out the end of the Baystate Hotel era together, a long story better told at another time. Suffice it to say I love them like my own kids and I was proud to see how natural they looked in that big house. Somehow, (I suspect it was the early hour and the staid crowd) I managed to give every one of them a hug and got them to sign the program, along with Tall Girl, Rob Skelton, a fine musician in his own right, who was stagehanding and Gerry, my former co-bartender at the Baystate. They wrote some sweet stuff in it and I'm glad to have my own personal record of the event to take with me down the road.

I haven't been to Hugo's for well over a year. The most charming moment of the evening was when I discovered they still had the castle pinball machine. It was pretty tired and had developed some serious quirks but I played a couple of games with someone's kid who was probably about seven. He beat me the first time. We were really close both games and I had to play my best to win the second game. We both had fun.

It took a while to escape through the crowd after that but it was great to see so many too long absent friends, however briefly. It felt like closing a circle while marking the beginning of a new era. I left feeling good.

Judge criticizes school-zone sentencing

More common sense from the bench in Massachusetts. Chief justice Judge Robert A. Mulligan said yesterday that "90 percent of the people who receive the mandatory sentences for possessing drugs within 1,000 feet of the school are minorities." As the good judge notes, "there are few areas in any Massachusetts cities that are not within 1,000 feet of a school." It's simple logic. Those who live in the inner cities are largely minorities.

"The purpose behind school zones is to keep drugs away from schools and that's a legitimate purpose," Mulligan said. "But school doesn't have to be in session, it can be at night, it can be during the summer. So it doesn't really achieve its goals."

The cumulative effect, Mulligan said, is that "it really increases skepticism in the fairness of the system."

The DA of course denies that the law is racist and claims drug dealers are equally punished. He doesn't explain of course how that happens to result in the large majority of drug offenders in jail being black men.

Action Alert

Drug Policy Alliance issues a new alert on pending legislation that would allow our government to track our medical histories and medications.

It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. In early October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 3015) to fund databases to track what prescription drugs Americans are taking. This information would then be shared among states, as well as with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies -- all without your knowledge or consent. If this law is enacted, the government will have all it needs to snoop into your personal medical records.

Take action with DPA's easy to use prewritten fax. All you have to do is sign your name and with one click, DPA will send a message to your legislators telling them to defeat this invasion of your privacy.

Furthermore, this will also help protect the rights of chronic pain patients who are clearly being targeted by the bill. The DEA already has pain management doctors running scared with prosecutions for medically appropriate pain management plans for their patients. The government will use the information allowed to be collected under this bill to further harass these physicians.

Don't wait. Take action now and stop H.R. 3015 in its tracks.

Monday, November 15, 2004

From under the covers

Well as if aching bones and fading eyesight is not enough, it now appears I've developed an acute sensitivity to staph germs in my old age and endured yet another bout of mild food poisoning that kept me in bed today. Fortunately I felt fine yesterday and made it to the Drunk Stuntmen/Young at Heart gig. As predicted it was fabulous and reunions followed. I'll have more to say on that tomorrow when I expect to feel better.

Also on the bright side, I received a nice note from YaHooka saying they listed me in their links section. It took a while to find but it was nice of them to do it and I think it's kind of cool to be listed in the Articles and Editorials section. Thanks Lunaria.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Court upholds hallucinogenic tea for religious rites

In a victory for religious freedom, a preliminary injunction has been continued by the courts to allow a Brazilian based church to continue to use a concoction of Amazonian herbs in their religious ceremonies.

The U.S. attorney general, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other government agencies are trying to stop the Brazil-based O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal from using hoasca tea, which is brewed from plants found only in the Amazon River Basin.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower federal court's ruling granting the church a preliminary injunction, blocking the government from stopping the use of the tea while the church sues the government. The lower court said the use of the tea is likely protected by freedom of religion laws.

The government then asked the full court to consider the appeal, arguing that permitting the tea violates a 1971 treaty on psychotropic drugs. A majority of the court agreed the preliminary injunction should be upheld but some judges objected.

Sometimes the system works.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Blog roll

I know I should be updating my blogroll. I need to move a lot of stuff around and I'm way remiss in adding additional links to some really fine blogs, but instead I started reading them. So here's some highlights.

The song in her head is Jesus Christ Superstar and Annie Annuals prefers medical marijuana to pharmaceutical poisons.

The Calico Cat looks at junk science and teen age sex. It's not so different from junk science and teen age drug use.

Will Baude at Crescat Sentenia notices marijuana coming up in the Supreme Court.

Power and Control points out that marijuana is more popular in Montana than George Bush.

And Sister Geoff has the story on importing Afghani drug dealers into the US court system. Jeesh.

Sunday Fun

For our local readers, the musical event of the season will be Sunday afternoon at the Academy of Music. The Jack Daniels chugging, roots rocking wild boys Drunk Stuntmen and the aptly named Young at Heart Chorus will be staging a joint production, "Back to Back". The posters are fabulous and the show should be too. I understand Young at Heart actually covers some of the young Stuntmen's songs.

It's an early show at 2:00pm but it's sure to be a rocking gig even at that hour. Not to mention it looks likely to become old home week in the audience. Everyone I know and haven't seen in ages is going.

The bloggerhood

This may be a first, he called us highly respected. Baylen also posts an amusing story on the seating arrangements at a recent American Public Health Association conference in DC.

Decrimwatch has the latest on NJ Weedman, Ed Forchion and looks at cops who pretend to be students while students pretend to be dealers.

Grits for Breakfast notes Dallas cops should not have got off with just a lame apology for perpetrating the 'sheetrock arrests' scandal.

Jim at Vice Squad posts a list of interesting links.

And Drug WarRant has some interesting things to say about that 'dangerous' odor.

Unexpected visitors

I've been home sick with a little bug of some sort for the last couple of days and tend to go to bed early in any event at this point in life so it was kind of miracle I was even still up when the knock came at 12:00am last night. Ten years ago, this would not have been an unusual occurrence but nowadays it seemed unlikely to be for me. I heard a couple of girls giggling and didn't even go to the door, instead just hollering out that they probably wanted my neighbors. They persisted so I finally went to investigate and to my surprise and delight, there stood two of my dearest friends in the world, Amy and Maria, who I hadn't seen in at least 2 years.

We had a grand reunion until the wee hours of the morning. I love the kind of old friends that you can just pick up with as if no time had passed and I'm glad to report we'll have more time together as they will be around for the weekend.

Meanwhile, I woke up to a snow covered world. It's freezing but pretty and fortunately the sun is already melting the stuff off the cars. I have to go out later and I hate scraping the windshield.

Interview with Angel Raich

The LA Times has a great article on the plaintiff in Raich v. Ashcroft currently due to be heard by the US Supreme Court in the near future. Angel Raich tells the story of how she inadvertently became the 'poster girl' for the MMJ movement. The case will have far reaching implications for state's rights on medical marijuana but since Bush has declared war specifically on marijuana consumers, it hardly presents a conducive political environment for a favorable decision.

One hopes SCOTUS will show some cajones and uphold the 9th Circuit's ruling anyway.

[Permanently archived here.]

Friday, November 12, 2004

AG apparent Albert Gonzales - now what?

Does the lingering departure of John Ashcroft signal a new beginning for either sentencing reform or drug policy? I think not with Albert Gonzales as heir-apparent to the post. I haven't learned enough about the guy to decide if this is the best we can do with our 49% of the electoral muscle but like everyone else, I'm rather disturbed by his writing the now famous legal memo (that ultimately led to Abu Ghraib) for Bush, advising him that he could legally get away with torture.

To be fair, I did read one right-wing piece today that pointed out it shouldn't be a concern because it was an advisory memo, not a legal brief and even good lawyers sometimes write bad memos to please their client but I find it a pretty weak excuse. Knowing that the guy is willing to compromise his principles to accommodate his client's needs, does not comfort me.

No information on his positions of interest to reformers has emerged in the blogosphere but Grits for Breakfast has a charming ode posted for the departing John Ashcroft and a welcome rhyme for Albert Gonzales. Drug WarRant weighs in with the expected sensible and astute analysis on what we might expect and Talk Left offers many links to his detractors but expresses no firm opinion yet herself on the appointment.

So far, I'm sitting on the fence with Jeralyn until we see if this isn't some elaborate bait & switch to get someone even more ideologically aligned with Bush into the slot.

Dare Generation descends on DC

It pisses me off when people say that young people today are just self-involved consumers with no ambition. In truth, there are millions of kids out there working tirelessly to make this world a better place without receiving proper recognition. Just within the ranks of drug policy reform, the "Dare Generation" is not waiting around for us old folks to get the job done - they've picked up the banner and forged ahead to the forefront of the battle. But don't believe me, see for yourself.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy is hosting its 6th Annual National Conference at the University of Maryland at College Park on November 18-20. The conference includes a lobby day on Capitol Hill on Thursday and a DARE Generation Dance Party on Saturday night.

Invited conference speakers include Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, former Maryland state legislator Don Murphy, Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, and spoken-word artists Climbing PoeTree. There will also be a debate between Dr. Mark Kleiman of the University of California at Los Angeles and former Cook Country prosecutor Jim Gierach of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, regarding what a sensible drug policy looks like.

Registration (includes free dinner and dance party):
SSDP Students & Alumni - $50.
All others - $100.
Scholarships are available on a limited basis.

For details and registration, go to daregeneration.com.


They have the guns, we need the numbers

This has nothing to do with the War on Some Drugs but it is a chilling reminder of what we're up against now. This happened in America, three days ago at 8:00pm on the streets of LA.

Thanks to Indymedia, the attempted intimidation of political dissenters exercising their constitutional right to peacefully assemble and protest, by our own military using armored tanks, has been documented. Check it out before Bush's henchmen invent a reason to seize their server.

The suppression of political speech is a serious matter that affects our cause. I refer you to No. 4 in the 14 signs of fascism. Never has it been more important to come forward and make your own political voice known.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Sentencing reform makes fiscal sense

I don't like the shock program concept at all, it sounds like an excuse for abuse, but here stands a good example of how alternative approaches to sentencing save money. Corrections officials in Albany say the shorter sentences associated with this highly regimented, six-month stint for non-violent offenders have saved the state of New York at least $1 billion dollars over 14 years. And that was just for 31,200 inmates.

We currently have over 2 million, mostly non-violent inmates in this country under incarceration. Approximately 25% of federal prisoners are in on long sentences for marijuana violations. I leave it to you to figure how many billions (that could be spent on schools and municipal services)we could save if those folks were not incarcerated. One thing is clear. Our cities are strapped for cash and our states are spending more for prisons than they are for education. It's time to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing before it bankrupts us.

Ignoring the will of the electorate

I almost missed this editorial in Metrowest Daily News on the recent success of the marijuana initiatives in Mass. I'm always surprised when this paper, serving a rather conservative area of the state, comes up with such liberal views.

About 68 percent of voters in towns represented by Sen. Richard Moore, D-Uxbridge, endorsed the idea of letting terminally ill patients possess or grow marijuana for medical use with a physician's permission. Moore was unconvinced, telling a Daily News reporter that "until there is some scientific evidence or the federal laws permit some kind of use of it, I don't see what we can do to implement the ballot question."

Hogwash. Moore, the Senate chairman of the joint Health Care Committee, could call a hearing at the drop of a hat and ask for the evidence. He could hear from top medical researchers and from terminally ill patients -- including some, we expect, in his own district -- who are now forced to break the law to get the only medicine that relieves their symptoms. He could find out how things have worked in the nine states that have already approved medical marijuana bills.

Metrowest also disses Jim Vallee, D-Franklin, House chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee, for wimping out on the issue after 57% of his constituents approved a measure to make marijuana possession a civil violation, like a traffic ticket, instead of a criminal offense. The editorial points out, as chair he could certainly take a leadership role if he had the bullocks for it. The editorial sums it up well.

The irony here is that politicians typically steer clear of marijuana laws out of fear that voters will think them soft on drugs. Moore's and Vallee's constituents have given them permission, by wide margins, to explore a touchy area of public policy, yet still they shy away.

State legislators aren't required to take orders from their constituents, and ballot questions carefully worded by advocacy groups for maximum effect don't necessarily translate to good laws. But the districts and the state are poorly served by lawmakers who go out of their way to ignore the clearly expressed wishes of their constituents.


Read all about it

There's two new books out that merit your attention. The first is one co-authored by Axel Klein of London, who I met last year at a conference. Along with Marcus Day and Anthony Harriott, Axel has released the volume Caribbean Drugs, "with a stimulating collection of essays by regional and international experts, provides refreshing insights on moving the enormous problem of drug abuse from 'criminalisation' to the challenge of 'harm reduction'."
The book analyzes the links between "illicit drug consumption and the HIV/Aids pandemic" and "overcrowded prisons where significant percentages of inmates are young people and women convicted for using or running marijuana and cocaine."

Other contributions that would also be of much interest to policy advisers and lawmakers, as well as members of the public with a general interest, would include: Howard Gough's "drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation in Jamaica and the Caribbean"; Jennifer Hillebrand's "ethical dilemmas in drugs research"; Philip Nanton's "rethinking privatisation-the state and drugs in the Commonwealth Caribbean"; and Catherine Chestnut's focus on "practising harm reduction in a zero-tolerance society".

Meanwhile, my old pal Barry Crimmins finally released his tome, Never Shake Hands with a War Criminal. While it focuses more on general politics than the War on Some Drugs, it also provides a look inside the head of an amazing and amusing satirist. Even if you don't follow politics, Barry's biting wit is a good read. According to Publisher's Weekly:

He also combines autobioghraphical glimpses of his youth in Skaneateles, N.Y. ("an Indian word that means 'beautiful lake surrounded by fascists'"), and his life in the 1980s managing the Ding Ho, Boston's first real comedy club, with more substantial attacks on George W. Bush's government.

Trust me on this, Crimmins' book will leave you rolling on the floor with laughter while you're crying over the truth in his incisive deconstruction of our government's follies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Cellucci spews the usual dreck

Well, this is irritating. That jerk, Paul Cellucci, former governor of Mass and now our Canadian ambassador trots out this alarm every six months or so, or at least every time Canada decides to take a more sane approach to cannabis policy.

He issues dire warnings about border blockades because droves of Americans will be running up to Canada to get pot if they decriminalize cannabis, and never mind that New York, California and at least eight other states have already decriminalized simple marijuana possession.

Cellucci of course is talking through his hat, as the saying goes. For one thing, it's been easier to get good herb in Canada for years now and no ensuing plague of potheads has descended on our northern neighbor and besides, the US in its current state of impending economic crisis cannot afford to screw around with the more than $1.2-billion in trade that crosses the Canada-U.S. border every day.

Oh and by the way, Bush forgives the Canadians for wishing he had tanked last week. After all, Cellucci says, Canadians are liberal and Americans are conservative. Guess he doesn't think it has anything to do with the fact that the Canadians know a madman when they see one. Little wonder he wants to keep the focus on pot rather than US foreign policy.

Supercoca - myth or reality?

Wired has a long and interesting article on the new supercoca plant that has been a matter of debate among drug policy reformers and prohibitionists alike. There's been a lot of speculation that the cocaine producers brought in a chemist who developed a new prolific and super-potent strain of coca that is also resistant to the herbicide Round-up that is being dumped by the thousands of gallons on the Amazon rain basin to eradicate the plants.

Joshua Davis went to Colombia to see for himself and makes a good case for the premise that these plants do actually exist, but are a result of simple natural selection and a particularly effective cloning program among the cocaleros. Well worth reading in full.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Empire State hears the reformers call

Nicky Eyle of ReconsiDer checks in with an update to this post about the first hearings in the country, held by a municipal government of their own accord, related to the failures of the War on Some Drugs.

The speaker's list was impressive.

Jack Cole, a retired New Jersey State Police lieutenant and undercover narcotics investigator and an international expert on drug policy.

Jeffrey Miron, a Boston University economist and author of a new book on the cost drug prohibition has had to state governments. He has served on the National Bureau of Economic Research and the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Drug Use and the Workplace.

Roger Goodman, director of the King County Bar Association in Seattle and the leader of a partnership of professional and community organizations that is examining alternatives to current drug policies.

Canadian Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin, of the Canadian Senate's committee on illegal drugs. Nolin recently completed a study of illegal drug markets and made recommendations to change Canadian drug policies.

I can't think of better spokespeople for reform. That the city of Syracuse would entertain their comments, on top of the David Soares upset victory in the DAs race in Albany, is very good sign for our cause - especially in New York.

British court cracks down on growers

Britain may have reclassified cannabis and taken a decrim approach on personal comsumption but the big island's top judge says there's no free ride for cannabis producers.

Judge Stanley Spence rejected arguments that the reclassification of cannabis from class B to C should reduce sentences as he jailed three men behind what is believed to be the biggest cannabis factory discovered in Britain.

Jed Murphy, the man described as one of the organisers, was jailed for seven and a half years while his two helpers Ian Rollinson and Keith Alexander were sentenced to five years and four and a half years. Police found 10,000 plants growing in an elaborate hydroponics set-up at the Belscott industrial estate in Finchampstead in April.

Rather hypocritical wouldn't you say and this illustrates the problem with decrim measures for personal use in general, they often come packaged with harsher penalties for those who actually provide the pot.

New blog on the block

Welcome Loretta Nall and the new US Marijuana Party blog to the hood. She's just getting started so there aren't many posts yet but we'll be watching to see how it develops.

More work to do

It's freezing here this morning and the leaves have almost all blown off the trees in the gale force wind of the last few days. The sun brightens the view but does little to alleviate the chill that works its way to the bone at this time of year here.

Meanwhile, since [I still can't believe I'm saying this] Bush was elected, it seems my work in Detroit not far from done. We're going to have to redouble our efforts to watchdog this administration. The good news is however, with the election over, I can focus on a wider range of subjects over there, including the War on Some Drugs.

My Libertarian co-hort (and prison industry supporter) over there, in fact gave me the perfect opening to begin a dialogue on the WOSD and prison reform. Check out my post on the subject from last night.

The good news in all of this folks is that drug policy reform survived as an issue beyond last Tuesday's debacle and judging from the amount of ink we're receiving in the major press, I think we'll keep building steam for the foreseeable future.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A sensible approach to "problem kids"

This is how the British are more civilized than Americans. Under the US law, tenants are routinely evicted from subsidized housing for misbehavior on the part of relatives and guests in their home. It makes no difference if it's a grammy who didn't know her grandchildren were taking drugs or if, as in one case recently, a woman's home health care worker entered her home when she was away and committed a drug violation there. These folks are out on the street in a few weeks.

In Britain, a similiar plan was recently proposed and firmly rejected by landlords and the public.

...the man responsible for taking eviction action against nuisance tenants in Barnsley, Paul Brannan, today said the policeman was wrong and no such action will be taken.

"We will - and we do - take action against tenants whose behaviour causes fear, alarm or distress to others," he said. "If people are using drugs in or around their home and their behaviour causes a nuisance to other residents we have a responsibility to act and we will do so.

"However, on this occasion taking action to evict their parents would not be appropriate and would not be proportional to the misbehaviour.

Now that's civilized.

Jonathan Magbie's last hours

WaPo has yet another great editorial by Colbert King on the Magbie case. King undertook further investigation on the circumstances surrounding his death and talked to a couple of inmates who witnessed Jonathan's final hours. It is not a pretty story.

"Another inmate named Jason Foster and I were cleaning the floor around 11 or 11:30 at night when we noticed Jonathan was in his cell, and he was sweating. He could barely talk," said Darryl Carter in a phone call from the Youngstown, Ohio, jail where he is now assigned.

...Carter, a convicted felon, said he made sure Magbie got some water, then went to the nurse on duty, named "Binka," and told him that Magbie needed some help. "But Binka said, 'He's okay,' and never went to see him," Carter said. A little later, Carter said, "Jonathan was making some noise with his wheelchair, banging it into the door of his cell. . . . An officer named Singly wanted to lock Jonathan's cell door, but I told her, 'Don't do that because he can't push the button if he needs help.' " The officer locked the door anyway, Carter said, and he didn't see her check on Magbie anymore.

By the next morning, Magbie was so oxygen deprived he was hallucinating and hearing voices. Hours later he was dead.

Judge Retchin claims it was an unintended consequence of the sentencing but you would have to have been deaf, dumb and blind not to have foreseen this result since she was clearly warned beforehand, even by the DA himself, that the jail did not have the facilities to care for Magbie. Nonetheless she ignored the state's sentencing recommendation, threw out the plea bargain and essentially sentenced him to death for carrying a couple of grams of marijuana on his paralyzed person.

Even more tragic than Jonathan's death is that this woman is still on the bench, able to wreak further havoc on our justice system.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Caveat Emptor

If you're in a bodega in Miami's Little Havana, be careful what you drink. Although this intercepted shipment wasn't destined for the US, an ill-timed burglary in the past put something similar on the shelves and killed at least one person there in 1990.

Quote of the day

"We cannot simply suspend or restrict civil liberties until the war on terror is over, because the war on terror is unlikely ever to be truly over. Sept. 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country."

Judge Gerald Tjoflat - Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a ruling upholding the First and Fourth Amendment rights of protestors at the School of the Americas.

Around the bloggerhood

While I was busy blathering over in Detroit, Pete at Drug WarRant was doing the real work getting those elections guides together. Although I modestly point out that Detroit carried Kerry to a win in Michigan and perhaps I had some tiny part in that, Pete's blog made a huge impact for drug reform candidates in Illinois and beyond. He also has some sage words of advice for Aghanistan's new president, Karzai.

Baylen at D'Alliance is trying to look at the bright side of Tuesday's dismal presidential results and reminds us that at least there's still ganja soap in California.

It's my usual advice for Decrimwatch, just keep scrolling but don't miss the story on what may be the oldest decrim policy on the books in Niles, Illinois.

Grits for Breakfast brings us a story on the tragic death of a rookie police officer who was killed in Dallas when her partner ran her over with the cruiser during a police chase. They were chasing a suspect for lighting up one joint. Scott also posts a moving follow-up with some sober thoughts.

Speaking of sober, Vice Squad has the word on the impending re-legalization of absinthe in Switzerland and an excellent post on police fishing expeditions based on the pretext of minor traffic stops.

Sunday Reading

DRCNet's newsletter is full as usual of good reading. From a good editorial on former pot smoker, Republican Mitch Daniels, now governor-elect of Indiana, to a story on a jury in South Carolina who acquitted an addicted defendant caught with a pound of opium, the whole thing is well worth reading. While you're there, check out their coverage on the defeat of the three strikes referendum and the happy victory in Albany where drug policy reform candidate, David Soares handily won election as the new DA.

Lastly, they announce that DrugWarMarket.com, a new website set to launch in December that will follow the economy of the drug war, is seeking web sites for affiliations and link exchanges. Contact them drugwarmarket@hotmail.com.

Meanwhile, Drug Sense Weekly offers its fine weekly assortment of breaking news. Don't miss the story on a detective who turned his son into a drug dealer and an offer of hope that the defeated "three strikes law" initiative that sought to abolish the dunderheaded policy in CA will still produce some modifications to the law so a kid who steals a piece of pizza doesn't end up in jail for life. Meanwhile, that kid and thousands like him continue to fester behind bars instead of contributing to society.

DA just wants to be fair

This story on a local bust in the Berkshires wouldn't be worth remarking about except that it serves as an illustration of just how out of control this war on some drugs has become. What we have here is 18 young people, mostly under the age of 25 who got caught up in a drug task force sting.

To put it into context, the court is in Pittsfield, an aging and ailing mill town comprised of mostly blue collar residents. The bust occurred in Great Barrington, a fancy "South County" community of white collar execs that also houses a very expensive prep school.

We're talking about young adults selling drugs to each other here. This is no major cartel and outside of about four defendants the amounts were laughably tiny in light of the ensuing indictments. The DA has charged every single one of them in Superior court under school zone violations, where conviction carries penalties of at least two years in state prison. Let's look at this alleged 'major haul' the DA cites.

Police have said that there was no organized conspiracy behind the drug sales, which generally involved $20, $40 or $50 in a number of street sales. [Translation for non-consumers: this is cost for a few grams of pot at most or enough of the other drugs for one or two doses].

Nine defendants face marijuana charges only, and about a half-dozen have no prior records.

...an 18-year-old is charged with marijuana distribution, conspiracy and a school-zone violation because he allegedly put an undercover police officer in touch with a seller. The "middleman" never handled the drugs, his lawyer said. (He is now facing a minimum two years in jail.)

..."In a number of cases, these are first-time offenders, it's their first time in the system.

DA David F. Capeless says he is not about to drop any cases. Here's where the culture war aspect comes in. Capeless goes on to say,

"I'm curious as to why it is that a bunch of young adults from Great Barrington should not have school-zone charges brought against them, and no one says the same thing about young adults in Pittsfield. Why do they not complain about that?

"What we're doing is trying to be fair by treating people the same."

In other words, he wants to be fair by treating the rich kids just as unfairly as the poor ones. [insert heavy sarcasm]What a guy.

A peaceful approach to the war on some drugs

Polly Toynbee has a brilliant piece up at the UK Guardian this week suggesting Europe come to its senses and reject the ill-advised UN conventions while forming its own approach to the war on some drugs. She points out.

"A drugs-free world - we can do it!" is the slogan of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. It is, it says daftly, "on target to reach its goals". What goals? To eradicate drug abuse and the cultivation of coca, cannabis and opium by the year 2008. Yes, in just four years.
Prohibition not only hasn't worked, it makes things ever worse.

...Under the conventions, all countries are obliged to pursue growers, dealers and users in an expensive attempt to hold back an unstoppable tide. Prohibition has bred crime on an unimaginable global scale. Bravely, most countries have to pretend that they are winning - when it is painfully obvious there are only losers.

Polly goes on to examine the absurdity of the current policies and throws in a reality check.

Meanwhile, out there in the real world far from UN or Home Office fantasy targets, Time magazine reports that the revenue from opium grown in Afghanistan this year is $30bn already; 95% of the crop is destined for Europe, and it is the source of most of the heroin arriving in Britain. But how is Hamid Karzai supposed to prevent it? Who can stop the poorest country on earth from growing the only crop that brings in wealth?

...Drugs harm individuals, but it is not drugs that cause social calamity. It is their prohibition that brings a wave of criminality and corruption, chasing profits of up to 3,000%.

But here's the money quote,

There is now a free market in the most dangerous drugs - absurdly known as "controlled drugs" when the opposite is the case. Their availability is in the hands of the worst people on any street corner on the globe. A rational, evidence-based policy would seek to kill the market, put dealers out of business and put control of these drugs into the safe hands of pharmacists.

...Most citizens only care about stopping addicts committing crimes and rescuing inner-city zones that have become battlegrounds for drug gangs and pimps running drug-addicted prostitutes. No one is suggesting selling the stuff in corner shops, but destroying the market by making it easy to register for controlled drug use is the only hope left.

Our country meanwhile, is involved in more than enough losing wars already. It's time also for our legislators to admit this war has failed and to make peace with drugs and drug consumers.