Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Prescription meds replacing coke and heroin as drugs of choice on college campuses

USA Today reports on prescription drug use among young people. It seems few take the drugs for the high. Mostly they take pain medication to relieve stress and in the case of Ritalin, to improve their concentration. It's interesting that universities with the highest academic standards have the highest rates of unprescribed use.

I'm actually not surprised to learn that greater numbers of college students are using Ritalin (without a prescription) to enhance academic performance, but only because I know a Smith student that did a paper on it. I was certainly surprised when she initially clued me in to the practice. I've always thought of it as a pretty evil and way over-prescribed drug. And the results of this survey were a real eye-opener.
Meanwhile, Boyd surveyed 1,017 middle and high school students in a Detroit-area public school district. Almost half the children had legitimate prescriptions for Ritalin and other medications. Ritalin is a stimulant used to treat attention deficit disorder.

Among the students surveyed by Boyd's group, one in four with legitimate prescriptions said other kids had asked them for pills. One in five said they had sold or traded away at least one pill. Most of the students who reported using such drugs without a prescription — 79% — said they had done so to relieve pain rather than to get high, Boyd says. About 11% said they took the drugs to get high.

Boyd says the survey indicates that "when we talk about this big boom in prescription-drug abuse, we have to talk about two different groups who are using the drugs for two different reasons."
Half a school system is prescribed drugs legally? And I blogged a few weeks back on children in kindergarten being disagnosed as bi-polar and being prescribed adult strength anti-psychotic meds. It's beyond me how they sell the war on some drugs as a way to protect our children when they're already being drugged out of reality on legally prescribed (and often school mandated) pharmaceutical poisons. It makes a mockery of the ONDCP's contention that they are reducing drug use among that age group.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Science and science fiction

NORML posts a short but scientific piece on research showing cannabis as containing compounds useful in the prevention of alcohol induced brain damage.

In other research, scientists have discovered that the ubiquitous (and I think frightening) Southern weed, kudzu, is useful in suppressing the urge to binge drink. Glad it's good for something.

Meanwhile, as predicted, GW Pharmaceuticals, license holder on Sativex, has launched its attack on drug policy reformers and natural cannabis with this press release. It starts like this.

If you are in the United States and are accessing this web page in response to a US advertisement funded by Common Sense for Drug Policy, please note that this advertisement is not endorsed by GW Pharmaceuticals. Indeed, GW disputes and rejects the contents of the advertisement.

GW believes that this advertisement deliberately attempts to obscure the clear distinction between Sativex® and crude herbal cannabis / marijuana. The advertisement ignores the critical role of our unique formulations, their delivery system and the rigorous requirements of the scientific method. Such statements, in our opinion, deliberately seek to create confusion, among members of the public and the medical profession, concerning the nature of Sativex® and the goals of the company's program.
You have to love the careful use of the word crude to describe a natural herb. I bet they paid someone a lot of money to think of that. Here's how they predictably end their propaganda piece.
Q: What type of cannabis-containing product should be made available to patients for medical use?

A: Only a scientifically-based cannabis-derived product, which meets the standards of modern pharmaceutical practice, and which has been approved by the appropriate regulatory agencies, would be suitable for distribution to patients as a prescription medicine.
In other words, cannabis is only good medicine if GW can gouge you for some big bucks to buy their synthesized version of the plant. Really now, how else do you expect the corporation to make an obscene profit?

How ironic that they're building their profits on the backs of the reformers who brought medical marijuana into acceptance as a medicine, while simultaneously attempting to destroy the movement's credibility. Guess they think they can get away with it because they have the High Priestess of hypocrisy, Andrea Barthwell, on board. What with shilling for Sativex while she's out lecturing on the "hoax" of medical marijuana, she's got working both sides of the fence down to an art.

Libby's world

For those of you who only come here to find out about my wildlife, it's been a big week for adorable rodents. The family homestead seems to have acquired a little brown rabbit. I've seen him twice now and he's a bold little guy.

The first time he was coming around the front of the house. He couldn't have been more than eight feet from me. I stood still on the porch and he stood still on the lawn - seemingly oblivious to the kids next door shouting about the bunny. We just looked at each other for a long time. I finally had to move and he scurried around the corner but I walked around to see where he went, he was waiting just a few feet away. He didn't run for cover until I moved to leave.

I saw him again as I was getting into my car the next afternoon. He saw me get back out of the car to get a closer look but didn't bound away until I moved off the driveway. Meanwhile, I came home to discover a chipmunk scampering around the yard. He was pretty brave too, sizing me up from maybe 12 feet away for a long time before he made a little zigzag circuit of the front yard. I can see why he wasn't worried. He's fast.

The deer in the meantime, which I haven't actually seen yet, have been visiting the yard. I found fresh hoof prints outside the office window and in the garden. It's odd that they don't eat the tastier plants, like the basil for instance, but they keep nibbling off the fresh strawberry leaves. It does however look like they may have eaten half the baby tomatoes off the plant. On the positive side, my spaghetti squash is throwing out its first flowers and my lilies are budding out. The one in front looks like it will be a tiger lily.

On the avian front, the bird population has exploded. I live near enough to a major road to hear the murmur of traffic but the cacophony of bird songs drowns it out until well past twilight. It feels like there's new ones every day. The cardinals still visit daily and the male serenaded me outside the office window for a long time yesterday. I also had a visit from three redheaded woodpeckers at the same time that afternoon. They spent a long time talking but not so much pecking at the tree. I hope that means that all the dead limbs have finally fallen off. The yard is full of them again already.

That aside, the best bird sighting of the week was in the family's neighborhood. I saw a female towhee for the first time in my life. Nice bird and she let me have a good look at her before she flew into the brush. I really have to get a camera.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Loretta livens up parole board hearing

Our pal and hero, Loretta Nall has been tearing up the tarmac on behalf of drug policy reform, as usual. Her blog is chock full of the customary horrifying drug war stories we've come to expect from the war and from her site, but she has an especially compelling personal account of an encounter with the Alabama Parole Board on behalf of her brother that you shouldn't miss. It makes for a sad and telling illustration of what ails our "Department of Corrections" agencies. A brief excerpt.
One would think that work release would be designed to help a person learn a job skill for when they are released. After all, we want to do everything we can to help them not return to prison.

We want to keep them away from the things that landed them in prison, not place them directly in the line of temptation when we are supposed to be "correcting" them and punishing them.

...But for some reason they placed my alcohol-addicted brother in a work release program where his job was to load 18-wheelers with cases of Budweiser.
Really, you should read the whole post. Nobody speaks truth to power like that girl does.

While you're at the blog, check out her links to the Loretta Nall Show at PotTV where she updates you on her latest exploits and has some great video of Montel Williams' remarks at the press conference in DC for medical marijuana.

Also, if you have some spare cash lying around and you're looking for that perfect gift for yourself or your loved ones, visit the Nall for Governor store. And of course, if you happen to be an Alabama voter, be sure to cast your ballot for Loretta Nall, Libertarian candidate for governor.

No more Tulias and more news from Texas

I've been so focused on DC beltway politics that I'm remiss on visiting my daily reads these days. I've missed a lot, and so have you if you're not visiting Grits for Breakfast daily. Scott reports on new federal legislation and policies that arise out of the tragedy that was Tulia.

First off, even John Walters is out there stumping for the abolition of federal drug task force funding such as the reprehensible Tulia task force that was responsible for the wrongful conviction of scores of poor black people in a tiny Texas town. Going Walters one better, Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee filed federal legislation requiring states that are currently receiving federal law enforcement grants to "have laws on the books requiring corroborating evidence for undercover testimony in drug stings."

Scott also reports on a bill in Texas on consent searches that would require police to obtain written or video consent before conducting a search. As he points out, this is a good bill. He says, "SB 1195 is your opportunity to keep judges from overturning the hard work of police officers on technicalities, at no cost but informing citizens of their rights. It's really a win-win all the way around." More background on the bill is posted here, here and here.

It's a great bill indeed and one that all states should embrace. Who would have thought the Texas legislature would have behaved so sensibly? Scott must be having a good effect on them.

Thinking out loud

When the heck will they announce the Raich v. Ashcroft decision. Now that my predicted deadline (based by the way on assurances from those more informed than me who said it was imminent) has passed and Pete's admonitions about it always happening on a Monday notwithstanding, my new prediction is June 30. I still think it will happen just before a holiday weekend.

I wouldn't mind being wrong however, and find they disclose their intentions next Monday. I just wish they would hurry up and do it already. The suspense is getting to me.

Update: Pete checks into the comments with well-reasoned remarks on why his prediction is more likely. My reply is in the comments as well. He has facts but I have my woman's intuition.

Carolyn Cole LAT
The lure of drug money

The LA Times posts an interesting look at the age-old challenge to eliminating the drug trade - plain old fashioned corruption. It appears that we don't hear stories of interdictions of drug shipments in Afghanistan because they either don't get prosecuted or don't result in convictions.
One photo shows a prisoner wearing a flat, round pakol hat, standing in front of 10 pounds of opium packaged in plastic bags laid out on a table. Lt. Nyamatullah Nyamat took the picture on the February day he arrested the suspect. Hours later, the man was freed.

One of Nyamat's biggest catches, arrested with 114 pounds of heroin, a derivative of opium, hadn't even appeared in court when the local prosecutor let him go in late March.
Of course, it's our own fault.
U.S. troops forged alliances with warlords, who provided ground forces in the battle against the Taliban. Some of those allies are suspected of being among Afghanistan's biggest drug traffickers, controlling networks that include producers, criminal gangs and even members of the counter-narcotics police force. They are willing to make deals with remnants of the Taliban if the price is right.

The U.S.-backed Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has brought some of those warlords into his popularly elected government, a recognition of their political clout and a calculated risk that keeping them close might make it easier to control them.

"Drug money is absolutely supporting terrorist groups," said Alexandre Schmidt, deputy head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan. And regardless of their allegiance, Schmidt said, most suspects are released within 48 hours because of intervention by higher authorities.
Putting the warlords into positions of power probably wasn't the best strategy.
Nyamat carries a handwritten list, four neatly folded pages, to record his losing score. Reading it recently, he shook his head in disgust. Only three of 17 suspects arrested this year were still in prison. "We have the complete ID list of all smugglers Â? but we cannot arrest them because they have the power now, not us," he said.

The list of those suspected of involvement in the drug trade reaches high into Karzai's government. Nyamat and an Afghan trafficker singled out Gen. Mohammed Daoud, a former warlord who is Afghanistan's deputy interior minister in charge of the anti-drug effort.
This why they focus on the poor farmers, who make a few thousand more by growing poppies but still barely enough to make ends meet. Eradication makes for great photo-ops and these little guys don't have friends in high places - they just have hordes of young children freezing to death in dirt floor shacks.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter who they go after though. As long as prohibition props up the exaggerated profits of the black market, there will be dealers. Take it from this guy who claims the "industry leaders" have a backlog in storage that will keep them in business for the next ten years even if they eradicate every last poppy in Afghanistan.
"The more restrictions, the more the business will boom," the trafficker said. "The price will go high, the number of dealers will go down, and my income will go up. The professional businessmen will remain. They have good connections. Whoever works hard in a business wins."

And the work is indeed hard but when you're at the top, there's no business like drug business to make money and you don't have to declare your earnings for tax purposes. There's always someone willing to take the risk.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

In defense of hemp

Doug Yurchey and I are on the same discussion list. He recently posted this piece. I've been meaning to post his analysis of the war against plants that aren't even drugs. I thought it was one of the most impassioned arguments for industrial hemp I've ever read and I learned some things I didn't know. For instance:

* Rembrants, Gainsboroughs, Van Goghs as well as most early canvas paintings were principally painted on hemp linen.

* In 1916, the U.S. Government predicted that by the 1940s all paper would come from hemp and that no more trees need to be cut down. Government studies report that 1 acre of hemp equals 4.1 acres of trees. Plans were in the works to implement such programs; Department of Agriculture

* Henry Ford's first Model-T was built to run on hemp gasoline and the CAR ITSELF WAS CONTRUCTED FROM HEMP! On his large estate, Ford was photographed among his hemp fields. The car, 'grown from the soil,' had hemp plastic panels whose impact strength was 10 times stronger than steel; Popular Mechanics, 1941.

* Mechanical Engineering Magazine (Feb. 1938) published an article entitled 'The Most Profitable and Desirable Crop that Can be Grown.' It stated that if hemp was cultivated using 20th Century technology, it would be the single largest agricultural crop in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

There's lots more and Doug puts all the little pieces of history together into a big picture that well illustrates why industrial hemp and drug quality cannabis are so illogically illegal. Read it for yourself.

Welcome to the Bloggerhood

It's about time. Drug policy reform activist extraordinaire, Tami Halphen, has finally started her own blog - A Blue Activist in a Red State. She's just getting started so have a look and give her some feedback.

By the numbers

This is interesting. According to the worldometer, the world spends $114 million dollars an hour in the black market for illegal drugs. No stats on what they spend on interdiction.

Meanwhile, the world's governments also spend $60,000 an hour on the military but only $108 an hour on education. You have to wonder whether spending more on education might not change the abysmal numbers on hunger and poverty and thus reduce the need for such horrendous military spending.

Friday, May 27, 2005

New York Times on Afghanistan

NYT posts a good editorial in response to Bush's contention that Afghan president Karzai is not taking a leadership role in eradicating the heroin trade. Give me a break, the country's economy is completely dependent on the trade and as Karzai pointed out in response, the international community has not exactly been forthcoming in providing aid for alternatives to poppy growing.

The NYT takes on Bush's "breathtaking audacity " here.
...Washington waited almost two and a half years to heed Mr. Karzai's calls for help on this problem.

Even now, the Bush administration is disproportionately concentrating on the most visible, but least effective approach, forcible crop eradication, which merely moves the problem around and enriches traffickers by raising the price of their opium holdings. It is also creating turmoil in rural areas during the run-up to this year's crucial parliamentary elections.
Really. As if the revelations of prisoner torture by US troops isn't making it hard enough for Karzai to keep his government together. It gives you an idea of just how much trouble our government is in, when Bush touts Afghanistan as a success story.

"Justice" - Indonesian style

Australian Schapelle Corby has had her life spared by an Indonesian court on charges of smuggling 4 kilos of marijuana into the country. Unfortunately, the court still found her guilty and has sentenced her to 20 years of hell in an Indonesian jail. The prosecution was asking for the death sentence until recently, when it agreed to accept a life sentence instead. Both sides will appeal.

Corby has maintained her innocence throughout the ordeal. Evidence exists that would suggest she was indeed a victim of a botched plant by a smuggling ring of Australian baggage handlers. The Aussie government is currently conducting an investigation along those lines and will also provide Corby with counsel. Further, they are negotiating with the Indonesians to at least commute her sentence so that she may serve it in Australia.

One hopes they will succeed and quickly. Previous accounts advise that Corby is suffering physical and mental anguish under the abysmal conditions of the Indonesian jail.

[Hat tip to Ben Harris]

Legal at last!!!

What a relief. I've been here almost exactly six months and I just finally got my motor vehicle switched over. I think I was supposed to get it done within a month. It's a miracle I was never pulled over. Stiff fine for not having a sticker here.

It's not that it's a bad car but all those years of snow and salt took their toll on the undercarriage and the exhaust system was marginal. I was sweating the inspection but the little 94 Ford pulled through so I'm good for another year and I'm glad to have it over with now, as this state has just embarked on a "buckle-up" campaign where they'll be setting up checkpoints to check on seatbelts.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Media alert - Nadelmann on O'Reilly Factor Now

If you're reading this on the 26th, you can still catch Ethan Nadelmann's appearance on the Bill O'Reilly show tonight. As I recall Nadelmann, Executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, held his own against Mr. O the last time he appeared on the program. It should be good. The subject tonight will be Sensenbrenner's senseless mandatory sentencing bill - HR 1528.

Click here for times.

UPDATE: I tried to catch the 11:00 replay but didn't make it to the end. It took me ten minutes to figure out that I even had the right channel. It appears that the O'Reilly Factor doesn't acutally have Mr. O on it anymore.

Ethan of course was scheduled for the end of the show and the droning talking heads in the interim put me out like a Valium. Last thing I remember was some idiot "think tank genius" from the Heritage Foundation spewing Bushspeak. I woke up at 3:30am and turned off the TV.

Inmates overcharged on debt to society

I'm old enough to remember when they used to speak of rehabilitating prisoners instead of simply punishing them. Nowadays, nearly every government policy works against that concept. Media Awareness Project archived a really good Wall St. Journal piece on the difficulty ex-cons have in reintegrating into society. The deck is stacked against them, making it particularly difficult for women who have children.

Take the case of Jacqueline Smith, a model employee at Applebees. After 9 years in prison, she managed to obtain the job, receiving promotions and awards but is forced to commute over an hour on public transportation with her young daughter because the only housing she can get is at a Manhattan shelter for female ex-convicts where she and her daughter have been living for more than a year. Even sadder is the case of Kellie Owens.
In 1993, Ms. Owens, who had just finished her sophomore year at Santa Rosa Junior College in Northern California, obtained LSD for her ex-boyfriend and mailed it to him in Georgia. He was caught and cooperated with authorities against those he had enlisted to secure drugs, including Ms. Owens. He was sentenced to two years while she received 10.
She was determined to learn a trade while on the inside and took up firefighting.
For more than five years, she slogged through classes and training, entering smoke-filled rooms with her oxygen mask blackened to simulate rescue situations and navigating the Appalachian mountain roads near the prison in a yellow fire truck. ...She eventually rose to the fire team's top rank of lieutenant, garnering 300 hours of training and 100 hours at the scenes of actual fires in the towns outside the prison.
She should have been a prime candidate for a good job when she got out but state law prohibits the hire of ex-felons in her home state. Other inmates can't get ID, thus can't get jobs and all are denied public housing and educational assistance. It's a recipe for recidivism.

The obstacles were largely enacted during the "tough on crime" phase of lawmaking which has filled our jails and fueled the growth of the prison-industrial economy. Unfortunately, while that may have rescued some rural counties who depend on the employment the prisons generate, overall it simply creates conditions conducive to reoffending which come at a greater social cost. Crime hasn't changed much but U.S. taxpayers spent $60 billion on corrections in 2002 at the local, state and federal levels, up from $9 billion two decades earlier.

We spend more on prisons than schools. Think about that. But there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
After years of pushing for tougher sentences, politicians in Washington are rethinking their approach. The Second Chance Act, hammered out by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and introduced last month, would provide more than $80 million in grants for programs to help ex-offenders re-enter society.

Here's hoping they get it passed. It could only help.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Radley tears up Tandy

Thanks to Ben Harris who points out a link I missed at the The Agitator in Radley's series about the DEA's war on some doctors. This one is the best of the lot so I'm giving it a separate post.

Radley posted this column at the Cato Institute site back in April. He exposes the DEA's selective methods of prosecution and their underhanded tactics in obtaining convictions. For example, the mysterious disappearance of the DEA guidelines, that would have provided exculpatory evidence for an accused doctor's defense, from the agency's website. The DEA then successfully argued against their admission on the basis they weren't bound by them, in effect reneging on a tacit agreement they made with the pain management physicians that following the guidelines would keep them safe from prosecution.

The DEA's Karen Tandy subsequently made a reply in print. In this post, Radley fisks the pants off her response. It's too long to excerpt but here's a few choice quotes from Balko.

The same page says that doctors are the "primary" part of the problem. If doctors are the main source of diversion, and the DEA is using "all available enforcement tools" to "disrupt these illegal operations," that sounds quite a bit like a campaign primarily directed at doctors, doesn't it?

You certainly don't solve the problem by arresting doctors who prescribe the drug, or by making the medication itself more difficult to obtain. Doing so means people who need the drug suffer, and the people who use it recreationally will merely move to something else.

So which is it? Are doctors a "very small part of the problem," or are they "the primary sources of diverted pharmaceuticals available on the illicit market?" I guess it depends on whether the agency is trumpeting its victories to Congress, or defending its tactics from critics in newspaper op-eds.

The DEA can harass doctors in a number of different ways, which is why the numbers can get so confusing. Tandy may be correct in asserting that the DEA arrested just 42 doctors last year, but how many did it investigate? How many did it charge? How many faced asset forfeiture? How many settled?

Tandy wrote in USA today a while back that the agency arrested just 50 doctors in 2003. But she neglected to mention that the DEA investigated more than 700. In 2001, it investigated 850.

As for what the public "deserves" from the DEA, well, Jesus. It would take several books worth of words to do adequate justice to the damage that agency has done to the people it "serves." I don't have much use for the DEA at all. But if we're going to have a drug war, it oughtn't interfere with the treatment of people who are sick and suffering. It shouldn't even come close.

It's a great fisk. Read it the whole thing.

Shrimp and Grits

Well it turns out the silver lining of my cloudy and cold vacation at the beach was meeting Greg. Funny I had to drive hours away from home to make a local friend but my life often plays out in such odd ways.

Greg kindly offered to acquaint me with the local cuisine and we met for dinner at the apparently world famous Crook's Corner. After reading the reviews on the website, I of course had to order the shrimp and grits which totally lived up to its billing. Beautifully presented and delicious with just the right amount of garlic. It was a fabulous meal and Greg is a great dinner companion. The time flew by and I was sorry when it was over.

I missed my turn on the way home and ended in the center of town so I stopped at the local blues club, which I've been threatening to do since I got here, now almost six months ago. They were having an open mike and it was surprisingly good and really well organized. The set changes went really quickly.

When I was bartending at the Baystate, I suffered some pretty horrible players so I was surprised at the caliber of the performers here. I ended staying much longer than I intended. A real standout was the acappella group of three women who did a couple of gospel songs with some heartrending harmonies.

The room was rather full for a Tuesday night, all but about six of us were musicians and I heard most of them play before I got out of there. They were a friendly bunch and I had a great chat with one of the acappella group and another woman singer-songwriter, Dolie and Sally. I understand they're sort of there every other Tuesday so I expect I'll try to get back there again in a couple of weeks. This may turn out to be my venue for human contact.

Meanwhile, continuing on the theme of meeting friends while miles from home, I also met John, a guy who lives here in town and it turns out he's a friend of Tom Lesser, my old boss of 18 years. We discovered we had many friends and acquaintances in common. Small world.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Agitator rips DEA a new one

This is why I love Radley Balko. He posts here, here and here on the DEA's alleged "not a war on doctors." Here's his best quote:
Preston L. Preston, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Tactical Diversion Squad, said the unit will continue to focus on doctors, pharmacists and other professionals who illegally traffic drugs.
Pretty straight-up rebuttal of DEA Administrator Tandy's claim that there is no campaign against doctors, isn't it?
Really. Don't these people have any real drug dealers to chase down?

Women in Chains

This is horrible. The Media Awareness Project archived this disturbing Salon piece on the treatment of pregnant inmates who are incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes.
Anna ( not her real name ), a prisoner at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, Calif., spent the last two weeks of her pregnancy in preterm labor, shackled to a hospital bed. If she needed to use the bathroom, or even turn over, she had to beg permission of the officer on duty.

...women who return to prison from the hospital days after having Caesarean sections are routinely denied pain medication and even antibiotics.
Furthermore, these women are denied proper pre-natal care and nutrition. You may say so what - they broke the law, but their babies didn't and it's those innocents who suffer the most under this hideous policy. As the article points out, once we incarcerate the mother, it's our responsibility to care for the child.

We have failed to do so and it's these same children who, lacking proper care and upbringing will form the next generation of addicts and inmates. If we seriously want to end this destructive cycle, here is a good place to begin.

Reuters via abc.net.au
Send them to Texas?

How embarassing. Drug detection dogs in Australia were having a hard time sniffing out cocaine. An investigation revealed they had mistakenly been trained using talcum powder instead of the drug when the Austrailian feds furnished the trainers with the bogus sample.
Assistant Commissioner Evans says the dogs involved will need to be re-trained.

"I'm sure our dogs have got very soft, nice smelling noses at the moment, but
they are in fact trained in detecting talcum powder so that means that they will have to be re-trained in detecting cocaine," he said.
However, as someone pointed out in an earlier story on this, the dogs could be useful in finding lost babies with their present training intact. It also occurs to me that town in Texas where they busted all those folks for wallboard chalk might be interested in them as well.

Drug couriers are victims too

Sorry I didn't make it to this blog yesterday. It's always something down here. I had power last night but the cable went out. In any event, here's a sad and interesting story on Mexican women behind bars who were caught serving as "drug mules" for local smugglers. All are single mothers living in poverty and were struggling to keep their families housed and fed.

Some might call them criminals, but I think these women are every bit as much victims of the war on some drugs as are those who become addicted and receive jail sentences instead of treatment. Without the profits engendered by prohibition, the smugglers would not have been able to corrupt these women with promises of "easy money."

It's easy to pass judgment and say they should have known better, but ask yourself if you were trying to get by on $50 a week, living in a squalid shack, your children hungry and/or sick, whether you would also be likely to cave in to the temptation when someone offers you thousands of dollars for a few hours work.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A quiet life

I suppose I should be lonely and I guess sometimes I am a little, like yesterday during the Preakness. Normally I would have gone to the bar formerly known as City Cafe and paid five bucks to get into the silly pool that I never win and cheered the horses with my friends. It wasn't quite the same being alone.

I still enjoyed watching the race though and wasn't it astounding? I had my imaginary money on Closing Argument but Afleet Alex is a hell of a horse. When he went to his knees I thought I was going to watch a tragedy but instead witnessed a near miracle. It would have been nicer to share that with other people.

Nonetheless, with the cyberworld at my fingertips, I don't feel isolated and living in the country again suits me. When I have my coffee in the morning on the screen porch and watch the squirrels eat my strawberries or have a beer there in the evening, listening to the frogs and watching the moon rise, I feel a peace I couldn't find in Northampton at the end.

A lot has to do with the neighborhood. If Noho was a throwback to the 60s for so many years, then I'd have to describe this place as a throwback to the 50s. It's a quiet little neighborhood of mostly older couples in brick houses with tidy yards. Nothing at all like the family's hood which is very contemporary. They probably have rules against the stuff I do here.

I did some handwashing today just I could use my clothesline, which I hadn't done yet. How long has it been since you've had one of those? We always had one when I was a kid and I love hanging clothes outside but I was sorry I scared the bluebirds out of the garden when I went out to do it.

I also had a most satisfying bonfire and managed to finishing cleaning up the whole front yard of the old debris, and the new, that came down in the last storm. I had a huge pile of hot coals and just the elbow of the giant limb that fell last week when I came back inside. I left it smouldering because there's no wind again tonight and it's in a very safe place. I hope to find just a pile of ash in the morning.

I'm such a pyromaniac. I really do love a good fire.

Forfeiture forming the foundation for a police state

Let's look at forfeiture for a moment this afternoon. Of all the indignities perpetrated under the guise of the war on some drugs, this one is the worst. For the life of me, I'll never understand how making property guilty until it is proven innocent of being obtained by illegal profits, was judged to constitutional. Going back to Dan Forbes excellent piece, published almost three years ago to the day, this is DynCorp's role in this legalized highway robbery.
The Asset Forfeiture Black Hole

As to DynCorp's domestic drug-war boodle -- its five-year, $316 million contract helping the Department of Justice (DOJ) seize assets -- there's been little public notice of it outside National Defense magazine. DynCorp told the magazine that most of the 1,000 staffers involved in the program, funded through 2003, hold " 'secret' clearances and have been involved in more than 60,000 seizures in the United States. Among other things, they provide 'criminal-intelligence collection and analysis, forensic support and asset identification and tracking.' "

So this band of retired military honchos has 1,000 operatives with some sort of "secret" mojo, spying on the American public at the feds' behest and helping to hoover up vast sums of money in over 60,000 seizures. Assume, let's say, a modest $3 return for every dollar that the DOJ -- which, with 385 different sites, blankets the country with these folks -- invests. That's nearly $1 billion right there for everything from radios to shiny new patrol cars.

With their eyes on the prize, cops declare fancy cars "guilty" because someone's son smokes a joint in one. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "In 80 percent of forfeitures, in fact, charges never are filed." The paper put the total value of assets seized since 1985 by all levels of government at more than $7 billion. It's easy, when safeguards we take for granted in criminal proceedings are reversed: current law presumes that the property is guilty, and owners have to spend time and money proving that "it" wasn't involved in a crime.

The fact of the matter is, many innocent people lose their property because they aren't drug dealers with scads of money and the cost of fighting the forfeiture - thousands of dollars in legal fees - is greater than the value of the seized item.
Yet all those small items can be sold by law enforcement and as you see, along with seized cash, it adds up giving the police every incentive to seize under the flimsiest of excuses.

Now let's forward to last week. The Seattle Times reports on how every podunk police department in America is making millions on this scheme.

With the DEA's (and DynCorp consultant's) help, "small towns suffering from dwindling populations and shrinking tax bases have confiscated millions of dollars by forming highway-interdiction units." The DEA tells them how to link the forfeiture to drug money and they get to keep 80% of the haul. If they figure it out without the DEA's help, they get to keep it all.
Once barely able to buy police cars, towns along major thoroughfares used to transport drugs and cash are building new police stations and equipping officers with bulletproof vests as they patrol streets in sport-utility vehicles.
It works like this.
A police officer, aided by a drug-sniffing German shepherd named Bella, parks his cruiser on the side of the expressway three or four days a week, looking for any vehicle that seems suspicious — a broken taillight, an expired license plate or simply a car that changes lanes excessively.

That is all it takes to pull over someone who might be a drug courier. If the officer is lucky, he confiscates not only drugs but bundles of money.
In other words, for anything. I've blogged on one case where the officer pulled the guy over because he was driving too well. Another case cited here is a truck that pulls into a gas station at 1:30am. Need gas when you're traveling the highway? Real suspicious huh? It's a classic case of profiling for profit and they don't even bother to deny it.
Police acknowledge that, more often than not, people who are stopped are so eager to get out of town that it is unlikely they will return to go to court, not even to try to have their cars and money returned.

"When I'm out there, I'm looking for traffic violations and other things," said Officer Michael Red, who replaced Starnes in Hogansville. "If you are properly trained, you are looking for key indicators, and when the drivers get close to you, you can see it. It sticks out like a sore thumb."
And so does the inherent conflict of interest stick out like a sore thumb. A citizen should be able to the drive the highways and stop at a gas station in the middle of the night without being searched. If we can't abolish these unjust laws, then at least they should be amended to make the beneficiaries of the funds someone other than those who are doing the seizing. For instance, they could earmark the money for schools and treatment programs instead of brand new SUVs for the cops. One might suppose that they might be less zealous on these interdictions if there wasn't a fancy new ride in it for them.

Thank you Peter Lewis

Media Awareness Project posts an interesting profile of drug policy reform "angel," the reclusive Peter Lewis. It traces Lewis' recent rise to political prominence and offers an informative inside look at the alliance of Lewis, Soros and and John Sperling. Worth reading in full.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

When it rains, it pours

Well it was an unexpected hiatus yesterday. Spent the day collecting links and working on posts for now three blogs and had three drafts going at once. I had taken a break to go out and weed the garden while the rain had stopped. We've been having thunder storms here for the last couple of days. I expected it to take an hour and of course it took three. That little garden is bigger than it looks.

I just come back in from a quick grocery run and was getting ready to post the whole lot when the power went out. Of course, for the first time in ages, I hadn't saved a bloody thing and lost the whole day's work. The garden however looks terrific although I'm a bit concerned about the tomato plant. It had become so tall it was beaten down by the rain. The stalk doesn't appear to be broken but it's looking a little stressed.

Otherwise, it wasn't all bad, I had plenty of candles and knew exactly where they were. It was kind of fun to be hanging around in candlelight but boy don't you realize how much you depend on electricity when you don't have any. Fortunately I had my new birds to entertain me.

It was pouring rain and those two little baby sparrow types that have been visiting during the day while I'm working, came to the ledge early in the evening and started pecking at the window and I suddenly realized that this was the same scrabbling sound I've been hearing out there for the last week, only much later at night. I guess they came in early on account of the weather. There were several more of them flying in to sit in the shrubs around the window and they were chirping away at each other.

I had the feeling the other birds were telling my two that it wasn't safe to stay on the ledge while I was at my desk, but mine were defending their position. A couple more birds came and pecked at the window to test the theory. They left but my two quieted down and just sat there side by side, looking at the rain. They never moved even though I went often to window to check on them. As the light failed I could see they had tucked in and were going to spend the night.

I hope they decide to build a nest there and move in.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The profits of prohibition

Thanks to Dan Forbes for passing on this link to the latest news on drug war contracts. DynaCorp has just been awarded its third consecutive contract to provide eradication and interdiction services. This year's contract is worth 174 million which does not include cost overruns, performance bonuses nor a separate multimillion dollar contract for forfeiture consulting. The corporation and its predecessor companies has been providing these services since 1991 with the contract value adding up to the billion dollar ranges. Any wonder these same corporations underwrite such NGOs as Drug Free America?

I would analyze the relationship of these contracts to prohibition policies but Dan, along with Don Hazen already did it in piece from 2001 that is still unfortunately so timely, it could have been written yesterday.
One huge private company in particular is in the drug war up to its neck. According to National Defense (a trade publication for defense contractors), DynCorp, a $1.4 billion a year, 20,000-employee government contractor based in Reston, Virginia, "supports drug war operations at both the front and back ends -- from airborne crop-dusting in Colombia to asset forfeiture experts who work at 385 Justice Department sites in the United States." That's right, South America's favorite mercenaries help the feds seize property here at home.

...And now back to DynCorp, the $1.4 billion-a-year government contractor. Quoting a Government Accounting Office report, The Miami Herald noted that DynCorp "has been paid at least $270 million since 1991 to provide airplane and helicopter pilots and mechanics for the war on drugs in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Guatemala."

Jason Vest reported in The Nation that DynCorp oversees a fleet of 46 helicopters and 23 airplanes from an Air Force base in Florida. The Nation obtained a copy of DynCorp's contract, which states that along with "fumigation and search-and-rescue," DynCorp's other responsibilities include "flying local troops in to destroy drug labs and coca or poppy fields."

A nifty enabler, the guise of fighting drugs allows the U.S. to fly troops around in other countries' civil wars. This February DynCorp employees flew into the midst of a firefight to rescue Colombian police shot down by leftist guerillas.

Needless to say, all of this has been a disaster for the Colombian people but has had no effect on the availability or the price of street drugs. Their closing paragraph says it all and speaks for me.
And the newest piece of the picture is perhaps the most disturbing. It's the funding of private armies of ex-military warriors and drug cops -- exemplified by DynCorp -- to create a massive infrastructure of vested interests and military firepower. Along with the already bloated U.S. prison-industrial complex, such an enterprise creates a hungry, growing monster that can swallow hundreds of thousands of victims and lap up billions in asset forfeiture. This is the emerging picture of the corporatization of the drug war.

Fighting it successfully may well require the passion, smarts and commitment of a new anti-war movement.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Harm. Risk. Kids. Marijuana

Look at that poster behind John Walters and tell me you don't think of Big Brother.

ONDCP cooks the books

The ONDCP in its irresponsible and incomprehensible war on cannabis consumers has issued a new report (using your tax dollars) on Who's Really in Jail - pure propaganda. This of course was immediately debunked by NORML. They didn't have to work too hard to do it. It's like shooting ducks in a barrel. They already had all the facts and figures at hand.

It boils down to this. The ONDCP says marijuana consumers are not in jail in large numbers for cannabis possession and they have studies to "prove" it. NORML points out their stats are based on unpublished reports from 1997 that were later superceded by government published reports with contradictory information.

However you count the percentages, the fact remains that "annual arrests for marijuana offenses have more than doubled in the past decade, peaking at a record high 755,000 arrests in 2003, at the same time that overall criminal arrests have declined. Of those arrested for marijuana offenses, nearly 90 percent are charged with minor possession only, not cultivation or sale."
Furthermore, "[a]ccording to a recent analysis of marijuana arrest data by the NORML Foundation, the enforcement of state and local marijuana laws annually costs US taxpayers an estimated $7.6 billion."

It all adds up to a colossal waste of your money.

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse...

I'm a little late in posting this but it absolutely needs to be disseminated as widely as possible. Drug Policy Alliance, expanding on their earlier alert, reports on the most dangerous aspect of HR 1528 and this affects you whether or not you actually consume illegal substances.


Congressman Sensenbrenner's draconian mandatory minimum sentencing bill will have serious consequences for our democracy, requiring you to spy on all your neighbors, including going undercover and wearing a wire if needed. Refusing to become a spy for the government would be punishable by a mandatory prison sentence of at least two years.

If you "witness" certain drug offenses taking place or "learn" that they took place you would have to report the offense to law enforcement within 24 hours and provide "full assistance" in the investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of the people involved. Failure to do so would be a crime punishable by a mandatory two year prison sentence.

Here are some examples of offenses you would have to report to the police within 24 hours:

--You see someone you know pass a joint to a 20-year old college student.

--Your cousin mentions that he bought Ecstasy for some of his college friends.

--You find out that your brother, who has kids, recently bought a small amount of marijuana to share with his wife.

--Your substance-abusing daughter recently begged her boyfriend to find her some drugs even though they're both in drug treatment.

You can read the full text of the bill here. I urge you take action now and send the link to everyone you know. This is not about drugs, it's about turning this country into a police state. Don't let Senselessbrenner Sensenbrenner get away with it.

And if you have any ideas on how DPA can energize the public on this issue, email them.

On the mend

Sort of on the mend anyway. The cold is now full blown but I think by tomorrow it should be hitting the stage where it feels almost good - like a internal purging of bad stuff. In any event, I intend to rest up today since I'm already exhausted by the lawn mowing excitement this morning.

Ortega showed up bright and early before I had even had my coffee so I had to race out and try to stay ahead of him on getting the rest big sticks out of the way. He dispatched the jungle in an hour and charged me so little I tipped him ten bucks. I'm sorry I didn't a chance to rescue the coreopsis that had sprung up in the front but I'm hoping they'll come back and I'll be able to transplant them yet. Anyway, the yard looks so good now I can't stop going to the door and surveying it's beauty. Plus I can now go out to the garden without needing a machete to get there.

The garden is doing surprising well. I have flowers and one baby tomato already on my one vintage plant. It's a Brandywine, which I tried to grow in Noho with limited success. I also have flowers and one baby pepper on the Early Girl pepper plant. I'm wishing I had bought one more of each now but no matter, I have lots of other stuff. My six pack of really baby pepper plants, I don't know what these are, I think they're just ordinary green ones, are double in size and well established and my two squash plants are looking happy and sending out new growth. So far it appears the only casualty will be the one basil plant that got trampled by the deer. Hoping to get the weeding done this afternoon and complete the restoration of my respectability in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A short respite

Well I'm happy to report that I am not going to be a lifelong cripple. The back seems to have rebounded again and I'm back on the abled list except that I segued into this hideous head cold that the family brought back from their vacation. I feel like I'm wrapped in cotton candy.

Still it's all passing and I have a few days off to recover. Meanwhile, I've had a whole parade of birds come to the window this week besides the cardinals and Ortega might show up to mow my lawn tomorrow. I bet he has a drill too and I'll be able to get him to come back and get my window boxes to stay up. Overall life is pretty good and we're making progress.

Meanwhile I need rest and fluids for the night. I'll be back.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Pete Guither and Ben Masel check into the comments on this post with predictions on the timing of the Raich decision. I put up my bet but I would gladly give up my Kennedy half dollar as long as Angel wins.

On another note, I finally emerged from my drug induced fog and thought to ask the experts about this post. I found out that Plan Colombia is dead in name only as I suspected. I knew they had all that funding and Uribe just asked for millions more. Plan Colombia will hereinafter be known as the Andean Initiative. They're expanding it to cover more countries. Apparently the Bush prohibitionists won't be satisfied until they fumigate the entire continent of South Americas.

Uribe has his own Plan Colombia called just keep those US dollars coming...

Well I've been goggling around looking for confirmation that Condi Rice really declared an end to Plan Colombia. Haven't found anything yet but this development is interesting.

In response to the US request for extradition of key paramilitary "terrorist", the Colombian government is said to be putting the finishing touches on a plan to "sanitize" the criminal records of key figures in the organizations. The scheme will effectively allow them to keep their wealth and power without suffering more than a two year jail term. All they have to do to cut a deal is plead guilty - they don't even have to elocute their crimes.

Word has it that the Colombian figures they can do pretty much anything with the drug lords and still depend on US drug war funding. It's probably true since our soldiers are in there protecting oil pipelines anyway. The drug war has always been just a cover for this.

Bulgarians March for Marijuana

The million marijuana march reports keep trickling in. This short item on the event in Sofia, Bulgaria comes with a photo. It's hard to tell but it looks like they may have had a fairly decent crowd.

Can't be much longer...

Raich v. Ashcroft rumors abound this week as people impatiently wait for the SCOTUS decision to be released. Everyone's got a theory as to when it will happen and there's a surprising amount of optimism. A lot of folks are looking for a win here. I hope they're right but I'm afraid to get my hopes up too far so I won't be too disappointed. Still I'm visualizing good news. It couldn't hurt.

Thought I'd weigh in on the timing of the announcement though. So far of all the predictions I've seen I think the most logical is that it will be released as close to the end of the session as possible and definitely on a day that will allow the least exposure. Thus I've got my money with Ethan Straffin who thinks it will happen the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. In fact, though it's not customary, I wouldn't be surprised to see it released late on the Friday before in order to minimize its coverage.

Monday, May 16, 2005


The back is improving, I can move again but only because I'm still pretty heavily drugged. I guess that's a good thing because I discovered that the deer had eaten all my strawberries in the last two days. Not the berries themselves, but the plants. I might have been more upset if I wasn't so mellow from the muscle relaxants.

Oddly they didn't touch anything else although one of the basil plants got a bit trampled. Judging from the size of the hoof prints, I'd say it's young. This may also explain the scrabbling I've been hearing every night at about 10:30 right outside the window. I guess I should be glad it wasn't a peeping Tom.

On a brighter note, I finally found someone to mow my lawn. I've been asking around and the sweet young woman at the convenience store finally hooked me up with a local guy. Ortega is going to theoretically show up on Thursday. I have high hopes for him. He said he already drove by and looked at it so he knows what he's getting into. I'm pretty excited but I bet not as much as my neighbors will be when the lawn is cut.

The war on some drugs and doctors

The Agitator posts a disturbing story on a pain management doctor that was set up by the DEA. Several women came forward to claim that he was trading pills for sex. The trouble is, that according to letters one of the witnesses wrote to her boyfriend that surfaced after the doctor was convicted - they were all lying.

"They're saying he was bribing patients with sex for pills, but it never happened to me," she wrote in a Sept. 2, 2002, letter. "DEA said they will cut my time for a good testimony."

What's more, Green said, they all knew each other from the streets. The only one who wasn't in the clique was Schlemmer, who was also the one who said she didn't have sex.

The other four, Rottschaefer's attorneys say, simply told DEA and federal prosecutors what they wanted to hear.

"The government," Green said, "created the perfect storm to convict Dr. Rottschaefer."
The court ruled it wasn't enough for a new trial because another defense witness had already testified to the admission. As Radley says:
What a twisted set or priorities, here. Instead of targetting the people actually dealing the drugs, federal agents let them off in exchange for (probably false) testimony against a practicing physician.

No. This isn't a campaign against physicians at all.
Yeah, right.

Plan Colombia kaput?

This is huge. According to The UK Independent, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has announced the so-called Plan Colombia, which has cost the US more than $3bn in the past five years, is being abandoned.

With all the criticism lately, even from ultra-conservative sources, could it really be that the White House is about to cut the Colombians off just when Uribe is asking for an additional 130 million over the 600 million already pledged for 2006?

I haven't seen any US news accounts of this but then again, you didn't see any US press when the White House released this news earlier in the year either.
The appeal for emergency cash comes in the wake of the details quietly put out by the White House during the Easter holiday about last year's spraying débâcle. On 1 January 2004 US satellite pictures showed that 281,323 acres in Colombia were under coca. The target was to reduce that area by half, so nearly 340,000 acres were sprayed with poison. But in vain.

In January, the acreage of coca bushes had increased slightly to 281,694 acres. Consequently, as Congressman Bob Menendez, leader of the Democratic caucus in the US lower house and a critic of Plan Colombia, remarked last week, the international price of cocaine has stubbornly refused to rise - as it would have if the anti-drugs effort had dented its availability worldwide.

Meanwhile, the Independent reports corruption in Colombian government service is estimated to cost $4bn a year. Add that to the recently uncovered corruption among US forces currently stationed there, where soldiers have been arrested for selling ammunition to rebel forces and exporting kilos of cocaine on military planes and the end result looks like an insurmountable PR disaster to me, particularly at time when the US budget is in such terrible straits.

A major victory for reformers if it's true. We live in hope and will be looking for further confirmation this one over the next couple of days.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

On the disabled list

Sorry folks but I won't be blogging today. My back went out yesterday afternoon and I woke in screaming pain this morning. I'm copiously drugged with prescription pain killers and am to spend the day flat on my back in bed on doctor's orders. Hope to be recovered enough to be functional again tomorrow.

For your Sunday reading I give you these links without comment.

A damning assessment of the ONDCP by Citizens against Government Waste, a conservative think tank. This one is a must read and note our friend Dan Forbes figures prominently in the footnotes.

This week's Drug Sense Weekly chock full of the latest news as usual and also the always enlighteningDrug War Chronicle.

And finallyNJ Weedman reports he was attacked by state police while trying to enter Statehouse on business.

Have a pleasant Sunday.

More on HR 1528

Many thanks to JackL for summarizing the hideous provisions of this bill. I'm lifting it out of comments verbatim.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) has an excellent seven page *.pdf summary of H.R. 1528 which summarizes the bill in cogent bullet points here:

Here are a couple of excerpts from some of the scariest new provisions of the bill, Sections 425 and 426 (from the cited FAMM Summary):

"Sec. 425 of Part D of the Controlled Substances Act: Failure to protect children from drug trafficking activities (new section) (Sec. 2(m))

• Creates a new offense for persons who witness or learn about a variety of drug trafficking activities and do not report it to authorities within 24 hours and do not provide full assistance investigating, apprehending, and prosecuting the offender

o Triggering offenses include:

o Maintaining drug-involved premises affecting children

o Endangering human life while illegally manufacturing controlled substance

o Distribution to persons under 21

o Distribution or manufacturing in or near schools or colleges

o Attempt and conspiracy relating to employment or use of persons under 18 years of age in drug operations

o Drug trafficking in the presence of children

o Drug offenses near drug treatment facilities or targeting persons in drug treatment

• Adds new 2-year mandatory minimum for individuals and 3-year mandatory minimum for parents, guardians, or persons responsible for the care or supervision of minors who violate this provision; 10-year max for both

Sec. 426 of Part D of the Controlled Substances Act: Protection of persons in drug treatment (new section) (Sec. 4)

• Creates new offense of distribution, possession with intent to distribute, etc. or attempt or conspiracy to do so within 1,000 feet of real property containing a drug treatment facility

• Creates new offense of intentionally offering, soliciting, encouraging, inducing, etc. a person enrolled in drug treatment, under court order to enroll in drug treatment, or a person previously enrolled in drug treatment to purchase, possess or receive controlled substance (or conspiring or attempting to do so)

• Establishes five-year mandatory minimum for violation and ten year mandatory minimum in the event of serious bodily injury or death regardless of the maximum term of imprisonment. Second offense or offense after at least one prior felony drug conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years and, in the event of serious bodily injury or death, the sentence is a mandatory term of life in prison (first offenses involving five or fewer grams of marijuana are excluded from this provision).

The statutory maximum in all cases is life."

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Action Alert update: H.R. 1528

Thanks to JackL for unearthing this link to the House Judiciary hearings on H.R. 1528. It has a link to a RealPlayer video of the hearing and key transcripts of the testimony on the right hand sidebar.

The first three are the usual suspects using the customary language of the "save our children" segment of prohibition profiteers. The DEA guy leads with a statistic on 15,000 children going hungry because their parents were addicted to drugs. Of course he fails to mention that they form a small part of the 12 million children going to bed hungry at night in this country, many of them because their parents are in jail for being addicted to drugs.

Former MA Assistant AG and drug war warrior and now defense lawyer William Brownsberger's testimony is well worth reading. He analyzes the school zone aspect of the bill and the newly added enhancements of child care centers and treatment facilities and notes it would encompass such a large and amorphous area that any deterrent effect would be lost.

The bill as stands, would create a universal enhancement of drug crimes and Brownsberger's research shows that the zones have virtually no effect on the sales to children. In fact most "school zone crimes" happen outside of school hours and involve adults only.

This is an ugly bill folks. It practically means that anyone living in an urban or even suburban location, could be liable for serious criminal penalties just for smoking a joint with a friend. But it's even bigger than that. According to the letter you can send in two clicks, "it essentially creates a mandatory minimum for EVERY federal crime (not just drugs, but also environmental offenses, campaign finance violations, and other federal crimes). The bill also increases penalties for many non-violent drug offenses, and creates new crimes, such as a mandatory 2-year prison term for any college student that suspects someone is selling marijuana on a college campus and fails to report it to the police within 24 hours."

Please take action now. I just did and it took approximately one minute to send the letter even though I edited it some.

Business as usual in Colombia

Colombian authorities busted an underground storage facility in the jungle, netting 13.5 tons of cocaine.
We believe this is the biggest storage area of cocaine in the world," navy Capt. Jairo Pena said Friday.

The seizure - one of the largest in recent years - represents more than 3 percent of what the U.S. government says is Colombia's annual potential cocaine output of 430 tons.

Big whoop. Price of doing business in the drug trade. This is unlikely to be even felt on the street is my guess but here's the interesting part of the story.
Gen. Jorge Daniel Castro, chief of the Colombian National Police, said the cocaine belonged to right-wing paramilitary forces and leftist rebels. The groups are bitter enemies but have been known to occasionally cooperate in drug trafficking to earn huge profits.
It sounds like a bad sitcom doesn't it and goes to show you what a sham Plan Colombia really is. I mean can't you sort of picture the scene? The guys are all sitting around having a beer and someone comes running into HQ shouting the Americans are coming, quick everybody pick up your guns and start fighting. Nobody wants to solve the problem because then the US aid money would dry up and you can be sure everybody gets in on the take, including the rebels and the paramilitary. It's all a game and the real victims are the indigenous people who get caught in the middle of it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Task force follies

Talk Left points us to the latest story on cop misconduct. A drug task force investigator is under investigation himself for having sex with an informant. Not only that but he illegally denied her an attorney at the time of her arrest and coerced into becoming an informant in the first place.

Drug Czar lies about teen death

This just in from Bruce Mirken at Marijuana Policy Project. This story is so diabolical that I'm going to post the whole piece verbatim without comment. Supply your own outrage.

Drug Czar Misled Press on Teen's Suicide, Marijuana

Young Victim Tested Positive for Alcohol, Not Marijuana

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The parents of a teen suicide victim -- presented to the national media at a White House press conference as having been driven to suicide by his marijuana use -- have revealed that their son actually tested negative for marijuana and positive for alcohol at the time of his death, and that he never tested positive for marijuana in a series of four other drug tests given during the months leading up to his suicide.

In a May 3 press conference sponsored by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Czar John Walters touted "growing and compelling evidence ... that regular marijuana use can contribute to depression, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia." One example presented to the media was Christopher Skaggs, whose parents spoke. Mrs. Skaggs described how her 15-year-old son was caught smoking marijuana in January 2004 and committed suicide seven months later. The national media were encouraged to report that his death resulted from use of "this very dangerous drug," and some media outlets did so.

But later that week, Mr. and Mrs. Skaggs appeared on the Peter Boyles Show on KHOW-AM in Denver. In response to Boyles' questions, they revealed that toxicology tests were run on Christopher while he was in the hospital, before he was pronounced dead. The tests found "nothing in his system but alcohol at that time," Mrs. Skaggs said. She further revealed that in the four separate drug tests done on the teen between January and July, no traces of marijuana were ever found, and that he was known to have been illicitly drinking at about the same time as he was caught smoking marijuana.

Boyles' interviews with Mr. and Mrs. Skaggs, John Walters, and ONDCP official David Murray are available here. (the site requires a free registration in order to access the recordings).

"John Walters should be ashamed for exploiting this family's suffering to perpetrate a fraud on the media and the public," said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "The evidence connecting alcohol abuse to suicide and depression is overwhelming, but he simply ignored it in order to further his obsession with marijuana. No evidence has been presented that Christopher Skaggs ever smoked marijuana again after he was caught, but we know that he had alcohol in his system when he killed himself. Research has shown beyond any doubt that alcohol abuse can lead to depression, reckless and impulsive behavior, and suicide, so how could the drug czar not talk about this? What kind of man puts a grieving family through such agony to perpetrate a fraud?"

Fox noted that because THC, the marijuana component that produces the "high," is fat-soluble, it and its chemical byproducts can be detected by commonly used tests for two to three days after use, while most drugs (including alcohol) are cleared from the body within 12 hours. In regular marijuana users, detectable (though minute and non-psychoactive) traces of THC are stored in fatty tissues, meaning a regular marijuana smoker can test positive for up to 14 to 30 days after his or her last use.

Research connecting alcohol to depression and suicide is overwhelming. A review of 42 studies published last year in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that those suffering from alcohol use disorders were at 979% greater risk for completing suicide than those who were not alcohol abusers. A Columbia University study of nearly 1,500 teens published in the Winter 2004 issue of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior reported, "Alcohol abuse and dependence appeared to be strongly associated with suicide attempt," while no such relationship involving abuse of illicit drugs was found. "The relationship between alcohol and suicidality may involve the disinhibitory effects of acute alcohol intoxication" as well as "the increase in vulnerability to depression," the researchers wrote.

"There are plenty of good reasons for kids not to smoke marijuana, but we don't help teens or their parents by lying to them," Fox said. "The drug czar's obsession with marijuana may actually be increasing young people's use of substances-like alcohol-that are far more dangerous. Mr. Walters owes the Skaggs family and the American people an apology."

For more information, please visit Marijuana Policy Project.

Law Enforcement and US Military caught in drug sting

It's all about the Benjamins folks. More proof that the obscene profits of the black market in drugs corrupts even those, or perhaps we should say especially those, charged with "protecting" us.
Pretending to be cocaine traffickers, undercover FBI agents in Arizona snared 16 current and former law enforcement officers and U.S. soldiers who accepted more than $222,000 in bribes to help move the drugs past checkpoints, the government said Thursday.

...All 16 agreed to plead guilty to being part of a bribery and corruption conspiracy, said Noel Hillman, a Justice Department official.
You'll notice a certain disparity in the government's treatment of these defendants.
Those who pleaded guilty were freed on their own recognizance. Justice Department prosecutor John W. Scott said all probably would start out facing sentences of 34 to 36 months for a single conspiracy count, but that the sentences could be less depending on the defendants' cooperation. He said he would ask for an indefinite delay in sentencing.
You can be certain that if the defendants were black or Hispanic civilians the court would not be inclined to be so lenient.

[Hat tip to Ben Harris]

Young reformers challenge old guard ONDCP lackeys

Our young hero, Tom Angell is at it again, throwing a wrench in the ONDCP's propaganda machine. Tom attended a drug testing summit in Pittsburgh, PA where he threw some cold truth on the hot lies of the ONDCP's drug testing scam.
Our objective was simple: prevent the ONDCP from being able to present itself as all-knowing and authoritative on the topic of student drug testing in front of an audience of open-minded educators and school officials who are rightly concerned with preventing substance abuse among their students.

Since summit attendees were truly concerned with keeping their students safe, our primary argument against drug testing was that it simply does not work. The largest study ever conducted on the topic looked at 722 schools and 76,000 students and found no difference in drug use between schools that test their students and those that don't. ONDCP is well aware of this study and has been attacking its methodology for some time now.
Armed with fact sheets and well honed talking points, Angell and his colleague Ross Wilson, put the ONDCP on the defense and Angell bravely crashed the deputy drug czar Mary Ann Solberg's press gaggle afterward offering to give interviews. He was kicked out of the room by the fact fearing prohibitionists but the journalist's sought him out later and he gave several interviews to major media including, The Beaver County Times , Pittsburgh Tribune Review and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Tom also offers some behind the scenes tidbits.
Later, when asked what she thought of drug testing opponents' arguments, I overheard Solberg telling a journalist she's "concerned" students are organizing against drug testing. Clearly, our efforts are meaningful when a federal drug official tells the media that she's concerned about us.

...Throughout the day. Ross and I had encouraging conversations with school officials who were opposed to or skeptical about student drug testing. At the conclusion of the summit, an official from the Department of Education asked how many folks were thinking of taking advantage of the federal grant money that's been made available for student drug testing. Only five or six people in the room raised their hands.
A good day's work for our youngest reformers. Thanks guys and if you want information or want assistance to confront the ONDCP when they come to a venue near you, contact:

Tom Angell, Communications Director
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
1623 Connecticut Ave NW; Suite 300
Washington, DC 20009
phone: (202) 293-4414
cell: (202) 557-4979
fax: (202) 293-8344

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Spring cleaning

I know I've been neglecting posting lately but alert readers will have noticed I've been working on the template. I'm long overdue in adding some new links to the sidebar and in thanking the bloggers who have been linking to me. Jeralyn at Talk Left has said some kind words about our blog a couple of times, Avedon at The Sideshow linked to me an embarrassingly long time ago and I want to especially thank Thehim from ReLoad who not only put us on the blogroll but often stops by to leave a comment. And thanks to all the commenters. I don't often respond but I read them all.

I've added ReLoad to the blogroll and I encourage you to visit that really fine group of bloggers. I also added Bob Merkin's inimitable News, Weather and Sports from Vleeptron. Check his planet out and don't be deterred if he's speaking a foreign language when you arrive. He eventually slips back into English. For those who are following my political rants, I've added Pennywit to my Swingers category. I often don't agree with him but I like the way he thinks.

Speaking of politics, I have confession to make. I started a new political blog of my own, The Impolitic. I'm still working on the template and trying to figure what exactly I want to do with it but I figure at worst, it will be an archive of the thoughts I can't express anywhere else. It's not at all ready to "go public" yet but I'm giving you, my dear friends and readers the first look. Feel free to send feedback.

The other reason I started it was to have a place to archive the Tongue Tied posts. They never appeared on the Fox site and you can't get them just by going to the archive section on the TT blog. In fact, the last couple of my posts were scrubbed and overwritten by Scott on the regular blog. The only reason I could retrieve them was that they somehow live in a numbered archive and I had the numbers on a couple of the posts. In any event, clicking on the TongueTied link on the sidebar will now bring you to a page with links to all nine day's worth of posts.

Finally, I am now coordinating media for LEAP so if you need a great speaker to explain why the drug war is misguided, email me.

Action Alert on Mandatory Sentencing

This just in from Drug Policy Alliance.

They want to increase penalties for every drug offense. They want a mandatory 2-year prison term for anyone who knows someone is selling marijuana on a college campus and fails to report it to the police within 24 hours. They want a mandatory 5-year prison term for someone at a party who passes a marijuana joint to someone who has been enrolled in drug treatment at some point in their life. They want to expand the federal "three strikes and you're out" law to include new offenses, including mandating life imprisonment (with no possibility of parole) for anyone convicted a third time under the RAVE Act.
We fought this same bill last year and managed to keep it off the floor. Now the Prohibition profiteers are bringing it forward again despite the fact that the high court struck down madatory sentencing guidelines recently as being unconstitutional and it contains even more odious provisions than before. They're bringing out the big guns on this one so we have to strike back hard right away.

Take action now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A tale of two cannabis users

This is disappointing. Washed up actress Goldie Hawn is promoting her autobiography by announcing that two hits on a marijuana cigarette in the 60s ruined her life. What a joke. Without marijuana she wouldn't have even had a career. The piece identifies her as the star of Private Benjamin but ignores that she got her start on Rowan & Martin's Laugh In, a show unmistakably inspired by the psychedelic movement of the time. She was obviously stoned on that show.

In contrast, 57 year old cancer survivor Jeanie Rae says cannabis saved her life.

Rally rescheduled in UK

The seventh Cannabis March and Festival will be held in Trafalgar Square on Sunday. Organizers were denied a permit from last year's venue on the grounds that drug dealing had allegedly taken place at last year's event.

The march will begin in Russell Square at 1pm and continue to Trafalgar Square, where speakers will lead the rally from 3pm to 7pm. Thousands are expected to participate.

Fish tales

How come this never happens to me? You read about people finding bricks washed up on the beach all the time but this is first time I've heard of someone hooking a bale in a fishing hole.

It sounds like it was put there deliberately. I wonder how you hide a bale underwater anyway? I would think that would ruin the herb.

Proving pot relieves pain

A new study is being conducted by University of California, San Diego, where researchers at UCSD's "Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research" seek scientific answers to whether marijuana can really ease pain.

They also have a poll at this link asking whether medical marijuana should be legal. Unsurprisingly, this is a California news site, 86% of those who answered said yes.

More on Million Marijuana Day

I missed the local coverage of the Raleigh event. Sounds like a small but dedicated group showed up with the medical marijuana advocates being well represented.

Cannabis Culture has an excellent roundup of the events around the world with some great photos taken by on the ground correspondents from the forums.

Editorial: Less funding for drug courts is pennywise, pound foolish

The Herald Sun endured a lot of flack around here when it recently was taken over by a new publisher. They fired a lot of long time staff and reporters and changed the format significantly. I can't say I loved their tactics on that but the paper consistently delivers politically progressive editorials. Case in point is this one addressing the shortsighted proposal by the state legislature to defund local courts. The paper takes a strong position in favor of "drug courts" and treatment options over jailing non-violent offenders. Last One Speaks of course, agrees.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Why I like spiders

Now don't get me wrong, it's not like I'd want one as pet or anything but I tend not to kill them when I find them in the house. If at all possible, I catch them and throw them outside. I think they appreciate it. They catch bugs for me. Don't laugh -it's true.

We have a lot of bee and wasp type insects around here. I'm terrified of those. Just the other day some kind of giant wasp got into my screen porch. It almost got into the house but I managed to shut the door in time. Nonetheless there it was buzzing around and I had no idea how I was going to rid of it. It was walking on the inside of the screen trying to get out but it was nowhere close to the door. I was freaking out when a spider came down across the outside of the screen and started casing the wasp out. I left to do some yard work.

When I came back an hour later, the wasp was dead on the floor. I think the spider killed it for me. What other explanation could there be?

Trouble in the South Seas

Ebeye, a tiny remote island in the Marshall Islands chain would be the last place one might expect to see a cocaine problem. With only 12,000 inhabitants, it would hardly warrant notice from the major cartels, yet the island is awash in the white powder - thanks to prohibition. It seems the ocean currents favor the islands with packages of coke that wash up on the beach after being dumped from drug running ships who fear interception from the US Coast Guard.

Needless to say, if it were legal, there would be no dumping necessary but as it stands, cocaine is now commonly available on the streets of Ebeye for about five bucks a gram. I expect they sell some at the US military base on the next island as well, where many of the local residents work.
Since the cocaine washed ashore, 14 locals have been charged with possession of the drug and several have been jailed.
Neither is this a new problem.
Packages of cocaine have been washing up on remote, uninhabited parts of the Marshall Islands since the early 1990s.
Right about the time the US government became enamored of "tough on drugs" laws. The cause and effect is obvious and so is the solution but the prohibition profiteers are not going to put themselves out of a job by using common sense. It's up to us to demand our lawmakers start treating drugs as a health problem instead of wasting our precious tax dollars on a criminal (in)justice approach.

[hat tip to Vig]

Step right up in South Dakota
If you missed the Million Marijuana Marches last week, not to worry if you live in South Dakota. South Dakotans for Safe Access will be sponsoring one on May 14th in Rapid City.
At 3:30 marchers are invited to begin gathering near the bandshell in Memorial Park. The Safe Access Act petition will be available for those who want to sign. At 4:20 p.m., the March will begin, heading south on 6th St. to St. Joseph St., where it will circle the block between 6th and 7th Streets, then proceed back to Memorial Park.
Bob Newland, spokesperson for SDSA, said the march is intended to help raise consciousness about the initiated law petition being circulated. Titled "An Act to provide safe access to medical marijuana for certain qualified persons," the petitioned initiative will appear on the 2006 So. Dak. general election ballot if the group obtains the required 16728 signatures of South Dakotans registered to vote.

Newland adds, "Everyone is invited. Our only purpose in this march is to make the statement that it is immoral to prohibit access to a medicine, safer than aspirin, that has been shown to benefit people in pain or with debilitating and fatal diseases."

More info available at the SDSA site.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Back to the real world

Well driving the poor old 94 Ford feels like tooling around in a junker after two weeks with the 05 Cruiser. Of course, having adapted to the new car, I kept looking for the console shift and the window mechanism on the dashboard. It feels really low compared to the Cruiser as well. Oddly when you looked at them both in the driveway though, the Cruiser was really a much smaller car.

Anyway I'm readjusting and the weather of course turned hot now that I'm not at the beach anymore. Good for the garden, speaking of which, my latest transplants all look good. I'm going to plant nasturtium in the empty spaces and I'll be done except for dealing with the window boxes. The big one is just too warped to put back up so I think I'm going to put it up on bricks and grow morning glories up to the window instead to cover the second board. In the interim, I bought a planter for the stoop and filled it with white salvia, white vinca and variegated ivy. I'm hoping to have a digital camera by the time everything fills out so I can start posting some photos.

It's getting harder to see the birds lately since the trees leafed out but my cardinals have taken to visiting the window by the computer when I'm home working and yesterday a baby wren of some sort hopped around inside the ledge and looked in on me for quite some time. It was too young to be afraid when I moved. I think it's baby time in bird land because I'm pretty sure I saw a baby cardinal fly by the other day. But not all are small. Two days ago I saw a crow the size of a small dog sitting on the neighbor's fence.

Meanwhile, my inexplicable sunburn is slowly fading to a sort of tan. I'm becoming convinced this all had something to do with the hot tub at the hotel. I think I stayed in too long and the chemicals sensitized me to the sun. I've been in the sun a lot longer in the tropics without burning and at the moment, my chest is bring new meaning to the word peeling but it's not happening in the customary way. It literally feels like a chemical peel.

In any event, I got four hours of sleep last night so although there's a lot more to tell, it's going to be an early night. I'll be back tomorrow.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

International Marijuana Day

Geez, I forgot to celebrate. There wasn't anything going on very close by here anyway but thousands reportedly showed up in Tel Aviv to mark the occassion. Unforunately some arrests were made despite the organizers asking the participants to leave their pot at home.

In Colorado, the police took a hands off approach with their Million Marijuana March while in Toronto, 3,000 were reported to have assembled to celebrate the occasion.

Not much press so far but we'll be looking for on the scene coverage in the next couple of days.

Grammy knows best

This story has been making the rounds but since the Boston Globe is just getting to it today, I'll link to it because I love this quote.
Peering through owlish glasses, Hiatt fires up a cannabis cigarette with a wood-stem match. She inhales. The little apartment -- a cozy place of knickknacks and needlepoint -- takes on the odor of a rock concert. "It's like any other medicine for me," Hiatt says, blowing out a cumulus of unmistakable fragrance. "But I don't know that I'd be alive without it."
Whether it's because it really works or simply gives this 81 year old a reason to keep living is immaterial. It helps her cope with a myriad of chronic and painful medical conditions. John Walters of course has a reply.
"The standard of simply feeling different or feeling better" does not make pot safe and effective medicine, said Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. People who abuse illegal drugs such as crack cocaine feel a similar burst of euphoria, he noted, "but that doesn't make crack medicine."
By that reasoning then neither is the widely used medical morphine a legitimate medicine. That also brings a sense euphoria to it's users. More telling is Walters' new spin. For years he's been insisting there's absolutely no medicinal value whatsoever in cannabis. Now that his old lackey, Andrea Barthwell has been hired by Sativex however, he's modified his spiel.
Any beneficial compounds that do exist in the leafy plant, he said, should be synthesized, sent through the rigors of the regulatory process and packaged as a pharmaceutical, not smoked like black-market weed.
Now it's just smoked marijuana that's dangerous, not the plant itself. Pretty convenient no? By vilifying the delivery system instead of the substance, he gets to keep his job and his options as future spokesperson for Sativex open at the same time.