Sunday, July 31, 2005

Jury nullification as civic duty

I'm late in posting on this but it's a timeless piece and well worth wide exposure. Radley Balko posts a brilliant column on jury nullification. This is the check on the balance of power available to ordinary citizens. I urge you to read the whole thing, it's not long, but here's the money quotes.

The doctrine of jury nullification (search) rests on two truths about the American criminal justice system: (1) Jurors can never be punished for the verdict they return, and (2) Defendants cannot be retried once a jury has found them not guilty, regardless of the jury's reasoning. So the juries in both the Rosenthal and Paey cases could have returned a "not guilty" verdict, even though Paey and Rosenthal were undoubtedly guilty of the charges against them.
The first point is not entirely true. I'm aware of at least one case in Massachusetts where a lone juror was arrested on other charges after having evoked nullification. While she wasn't directly punished for exercising that right, the arrest was clearly linked to her decision. I'm also reminded of arrests made outside of courthouses of pamphleteers who attempted to distribute information to incoming jurors on the subject. The court clearly doesn't relish having it's authority undermined.

Nonetheless, although it takes courage to employ this tactic, it is our right as citizens to do so.
Here in America, the Founding Fathers understood the importance of allowing juries to determine not just the guilt or innocence of the man on trial, but the justice and fairness of the law he's charged with breaking. John Adams said of jury nullification, "It is not only [the juror's] right, but his find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court." John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, said "The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy."

...Now that the Supreme Court ruled that federal prosecutors can continue to arrest medical marijuana patients, and given the Drug Enforcement Administration's continued prosecution of pain patients and the doctors who treat them, we're likely to see more outrages like those perpetrated against Ed Rosenthal and Richard Paey.

A common question I get from people disturbed by these kinds of cases is, "What can we do?" Well, here's one thing the average citizen can do: Serve when you're called to jury duty, and while there, refuse to enforce unjust laws. If a defendant is guilty of harming someone else, certainly, throw the book at him. But if he's guilty of violating a bad law, or if you feel the law has been unjustly applied to him, by all means, come back with "not guilty," no matter what the judge, the prosecutor, or the evidence says.

Not only is this your right as a juror, some would say it's your obligation.
We have the power, it's up to us to use it.

A million points of fright

British think tank Foresight warns that "the number of hardcore heroin and crack cocaine addicts in the UK could treble in the next 20 years, putting an overwhelming burden on the nation's health and criminal justice systems."
If current trends continue the numbers addicted to class A drugs could reach the one million mark by 2025, with the associated economic and social costs soaring to more than £35bn.
UK harm reduction agencies earlier advised that addicts needed to be steered to early treatment rather than sent to psychiatric facilities and returned to the communities without addressing their addiction.
Other research published last week found that ex-prisoners run a significant risk of death in the two weeks after they are released from jail because they lose their tolerance to heroin while inside jail. The National Addiction Centre, part of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, found they are 40 times more likely to die than the average person during that timespan because of the risk of a drugs overdose.

According to a report by the drugs charity Turning Point, 79,000 people admitting to using the crack in the past year. This means that more people now admit to using crack than to using heroin, which stands at 64,000.
One thing is clear, the current strategy in Britain isn't working any better than the US focus on interdiction and incarceration.
Earlier this month a leaked government document delivered a scathing verdict on efforts to disrupt the drugs supply chain. Profit margins for major traffickers of heroin are so high that seizure rates of between 60-80 per cent are needed to have any impact on the flow of drugs into the country, it warned. At present nothing greater than 20 per cent has been achieved.
The US has had no greater success. Foresight is right. You can't beat the problem, but you can treat it.

Off duty or undercover?

Odd, it never occurred to me that DEA agents take vacations, but I suppose even drug war warriors get tired and need a break. Strange decision to spend his time off in a drug producing country though. One would think he would have preferred to laze around on a beach in some neutral place than be wandering around in Tegucigalpa.

In any event, it appears to have been an unfortunate choice.
Honduran police said on Saturday a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent was shot to death as he visited a local religious shrine and that they arrested two young gang members in the killing.

Two assailants shot the vacationing DEA agent in both legs on Friday near the Virgen de Suyapa shrine in the capital, Tegucigalpa, police said.

The victim bled to death from gunshot wounds in what authorities said was probably an attempted robbery.
Local media reported he was in the country to help train anti-narcotics forces, a charge the government denies, but you have to admit you don't often hear of robbery victims being shot in both legs. Not to mention it would take a while to bleed out from those wounds unless they hit a major artery.

Tegu is a big city. You would have thought someone would have helped him before he bled out. Sure sounds like a drug related hit to me.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The life of the mathematically challenged

Okay, so in my sputtering fury over the Emery bust, I overstated the number of marijuana consumers in the US. Hey, if I was good with equations, I would have become a rocket scientist.

Thanks to disgusted vet for pointing out my error and to Terry Nall for explaining privately why he was right. Now I get it. 100 million is not the same as a billion. It just feels like it should be.

I always did have this problem with the absolute value of numbers. In any event it's still about a third of the population.

Around the Bloggerhood

Scott at Grits for Breakfast is serving up his usual array of distasteful drug war atrocities. Don't miss his disturbing posts on pretexual traffic stops in the charmingly named Dogwood Trails and yet another senseless death sentence by Taser, exacted against a small time drug user.

Flex Your Rights is off and running with a bunch of great posts. They're talking about quota sytems for traffic stops that allegedly aren't illegal because they don't have quotas for arrests, only for the stops. Scott also discovers a weird new cult of New Yorkers who are volunteering to have their bags searched on the subways.

Meanwhile, my thoughts are with Loretta Nall. She has all the latest news on the Canadian front, start at the top. She is also directly affiliated with Marc Emery through the Marijuana Party and as a correspondent on PotTV.

With the destruction of Marc's business interests, she is out of a job at the moment and as leader of the USMP and an outspoken advocate for legalization, is perhaps in some danger of being arrested herself. Send a kind thought her way.

Happy Happy Blogiversary

I've been down with a little bug this week so I missed my rounds and just discovered that we missed Pete's 2nd blogiversary at Drug WarRant. We send our best wishes of course and direct you to his post on Mark Souder, who's found a new drug. It's interesting to see Souder on the drug czar's case for his misplaced priorities and the question of the moment is - has meth replaced marijuana as his drug war meme?

Although it's too weird to be agreeing with Souder on anything, we live in hope.

Pete also reports on a new player at the ONDCP and an important ruling in Michigan on driver impairment and stupid zero tolerance laws.

An appeal for assistance

This just in from the BC Marijuana Party.

We need financial help. Please, please find it somewhere inside your heart to send some money to us.

The BCMP Bookstore needs business. Emery Seeds is gone. They shut it down entirely. Pot-TV is shut down for now. No money for it. CC magazine is going to have some trouble, just when things were really looking great for us.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO: Send donations in any form to me at this address:

Jodie Giesz-Ramsay
2102-1155 Seymour St.
Vancouver BC V6B1K2

I beg of you all, help us now after all of these years. Marc started Emery Seeds in 1994 to fund the marijuana revolution, and now that business is gone.

After helping others in their worst times for years and years, it's our turn to seek aid. Please tell everyone that we need all the help we can get. This is truly our most desperate hour. Do NOT let them take Marc to the USA...

An Open Letter to Cannabis Activists

While many of you don't realize it now, today, Friday July 29th, 2005, will go down in history as one of the most important moments in the history of cannabis liberation, nay, one of the most important days the history of Canada.
When one of us is threatened with extradition to the U.S.A. or in this case, three of us, ALL of us are threatened.

Less than twelve hours after the disgusting violation of our culture's focal point -- the British Columbia Marijuana Party -- people from all walks of life, many of whom have never even smoked cannabis, are coming to the aid of the Party. The gross violation of Canadian Sovereignty has awakened the giant and this will have major political repercussions for years to come.

To be honest, I long expected this day, and prepared for it as best I can. Watching the smug words of Jeff Sullivan and Rodney Benson in their barely concealed glee have only galvanized my resolve that this is the moment that we need to Stand Up for Cannabis, indeed, Stand Up for Canada.

Keep the faith. Don't give up. This is our finest hour!

Standing on guard for thee,

Tim Meehan Ottawa,
Ontario, Canada
+1 613 230 1937

Candidate, Ottawa South, Marijuana Party of Canada

I hadn't realized until just now that our friend Tim Meehan has declared his candidacy for office in South Ottawa. If you live in his district, you couldn't elect a better representative.

More on Marc Emery

Tim checks in at comments on last night's post with links to Canadian coverage at the major broadcast networks.

The Seattle Times posts some new quotes from the DEA.
Rod Benson, the DEA's Seattle special agent in charge, said in Seattle that Emery showed "overwhelming arrogance and abuse of the rule of law."

Some of Emery's seeds went to people growing pot for their own use, said Jeff Sullivan, chief of the criminal division for the U.S. attorney's Seattle office.

"However, a substantial amount was going to commercial marijuana operations, and we think they'll be significantly affected once he's out of business," Sullivan said.
Like we said yesterday, that logic is so wrong as to be idiotic. The only effect will be to rob Canada of the tax revenues created by a thriving business.

The Globe and Mail adds more details.
“I am pleased to announce that he is out of business as of today,” [Special Agent Rodney] Benson told a Seattle news conference. “His overblown arrogance and abuse of the rule of law will no longer be on display. Like other drugs, marijuana harms the innocents.”
Unfortunately, The DEA's arrogance and abuse of the rule of law go unpunished. Benson should been struck senseless by the hand of God for spewing such self-serving propaganda.

What pure laziness to go after a sitting duck when the truly dangerous problem of meth labs goes unaddressed. A problem that arose and continues to grow as a result of their insupportable vendetta against otherwise law-abiding herbal consumers.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

Friday, July 29, 2005

Rain came

Well the storms danced all around me but the rain came and it's markedly cooler but the air didn't really improve after all. It's so much humid as moisty. It feels like walking inside a mushroom when you go outdoors. I already have a couple of impressive specimens in the yard by the way and expect many more when it heats up again.

Nonetheless I find it preferable to freezing in artificial air and I like the sound of the tree frogs. They were so loud last night, right before the rain started, it was almost like they were calling it in unison. It was deafening - you almost couldn't hear the rain start. They're happily chirping away now as well, but they're back to their usual call and reply mode.

Meanwhile, I saw my first humminbird a couple of days ago. I should put up the feeder I guess. Maybe I'd get more.

Oh Canada!!!

What are they thinking, allowing themselves to be browbeat by US DEA agents into taking such an ill-advised action? Did they forget they are a sovereign nation?
This morning, Canadian police, acting on a request from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration raided the British Columbia Marijuana Party Bookstore and Headquarters in Vancouver, BC. Several BCMP employees have been arrested.
The Cannabis Culture forums will have the breaking news but here's some details as the story develops.

Marc Emery has been arrested. He wasn't in the store when it was raided. They went clear to Nova Scotia to get him. But this is beyond the pale.
At a news conference in Seattle, U.S. authorities announced they've asked for Emery to be extradited to the U.S. to face drug charges.

Chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office, Jeff Sullivan said the charges are based on what Emery allegedly does in the U.S. and not what he does in Canada.

The charges are:

Conspiracy to manufacture marijuana;
Conspiracy to sell marijuana sell marijuana seeds;
Conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Known as "The Prince of Pot", the leader of the B.C. Marijuana Party has been a vocal advocate for the legalization of marijuana.

Two other people were also arrested on the same charges. Reuters has BCMP reaction to this astounding turn of events.

Loretta Nall of USMP, is of course, on top of the story and raises the very pertinent question of selective prosecution and notes other purveyors of seed were open for business while public tokers watched the raids unfold.

Video on the raid is available here. Video of the Halifax police statement on Emery's arrest is here.

Meanwhile, you can watch a USAG make a multimillion tax dollar excuse for this dunderheaded investigation here. Note how he carefully pre-denies that Emery's political activities have anything to do with the bust.

What absolute bull. They are at least dozens of other seed purveyors, but none as outspoken as Emery on the legalization issue. And every morning he wakes up as living proof that everything the ONDCP has told you about BC Bud is a lie. He smokes the stuff every single day and has managed to build and run a 3 million dollar empire and organized a political party that has successfully promoted candidates to office. Hardly sounds like it's done him any harm.

And this three million dollar empire raises an interesting question. I wonder if our intrepid prohibition troops have their eye on forfeiture? What are the cross border rules on that I wonder? But even if they manage to take his property, this is still singularly the most ill-advised and wasteful investigation our DEA has undertaken.

It will cost more than they can get and there's absolutely no purpose to it in terms of actually eliminating US grows or in terms of public safety. There are a hundred other ways to get seeds and equipment and most grows are small operations that pose no danger to the public. Almost a billion Americans smoke marijuana. They're mostly responsible and otherwise law-abiding citizens. As is Marc Emery. Don't you think if they were going to cause mayhem, they would have done so by now?

Shame on Canada for allowing the harassment of a legitimate and contributing Canadian businessman to satisfy petty and unjust US concerns. And shame on us for allowing our government to waste our tax dollars on such buffoonery. Shouldn't they be concentrating on the meth problem instead?

[Sweep of the hat to Tim Meehan for all the links]

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Drug czar on tour

Our big boss prohibitionist is on the road again making a stop in Hawaii to survey the damage his drug war is doing.
He says Hawaii's stepped up efforts to intercept methamphetamine, as well as its 18-year program of aerial spraying of marijuana fields offer lessons for the rest of the country.
However, if he really wants to learn something, perhaps Mr. Walters should be visiting Oregon instead. They're not so thrilled with his pronouncements there.
Here's a tip for members of Congress who are frustrated over the White House drug czar's shaky understanding of the methamphetamine epidemic: Make him read The Oregonian's Metro section every morning.

...The common denominator in these depressingly frequent stories is not marijuana use, which Walters' office regards as an epidemic and the nation's No. 1 illicit drug problem. The connecting link is meth use, which Walters' office does not view as an epidemic.

No wonder Congress is riled. When the national drug czar's priorities clash so harshly with a majority of American sheriff's departments, which consider meth the leading drug problem in their counties, something is seriously amiss.

This disconnect has given rise to a House Methamphetamine Caucus, composed of more than 100 members of Congress, including the entire House delegations of Oregon and Washington. Its goals include securing adequate funding for local law enforcement efforts against meth and educating the federal bureaucracy about the scourge.

Funny, but you'd think that would be the drug czar's job. The fact that it isn't suggests that the White House has been out of touch, even as the meth epidemic has spread eastward from the West Coast to afflict almost every state.

Part of the problem is that Walters' office measures its success by reductions in use of all illicit drugs. That means meth automatically gets less attention than marijuana because millions more people are using pot.
Not to mention consuming it responsibly. It's not that difficult to figure out how he gauges his priorities. If the ONDCP was actually targeting dangerous drugs, he'd have to spend his time touring inner cities and trailer parks instead of Hawaiian islands.

Sun so hot, I froze myself

I finally broke down and turned on the AC this morning, not because I was too hot, but because I couldn't breathe. It was over 100 degrees three days running. I was comfortable enough with just the fans. Although I was leaving the doors open all night long, by two in the morning, I was still reaching for a blanket but this morning I woke sick as hell from bad air.

The air quality is so bad it makes August in lovely downtown Noho look refreshing. The air is not so wet and thick as it was up north but it's a 100 times more unbreathable.

I'm happy to report the AC unit works very well. I have it on the lowest setting and I'm sitting here at the computer wrapped in a Mexican blanket. How ironic, to live in such a warm place that you have little choice but to freeze in the summer.

The good news is I hear a rumble of thunder in the distance. The weatherman has been promising a thunderstorm for the last two weeks. Hope he's right tonight. It would be nice to be able to open the doors again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sensible sentencing

The British Columbia Appeals Courts overturned a plea bargain made in a "prarie court" in another district and reduced a two year sentence for a first time grower with a small operation to eighteen months of community service.

Ignoring the sticky political issues, the court ruled on the side of reason.
Although the Crown argued Shaw was manipulating the system, the judges saw a young couple trying to make ends meet who moved to Victoria to care for his ailing father and rescue the dad's second-hand store.

"In my view," Donald concluded, "a fit sentence [in this case] would be two years less a day to be served in the community. . . No useful purpose will be served by maintaining a custodial sentence. Because the appellant has already spent three months in custody, the actual sentence is 18 months less a day."
The court will endure an abundance of criticism from the Canadia version of US prohibition promoters, but it's a good decision that rightly reflects the non-seriousness of the crime. BC is light years ahead of the rest of North America on this issue.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

Three football fields in length

This may be taking the old adage that the best place to hide something is in full view just a little too far.

The other lesson is, if you're going to do something like this, for God's sake, polish up your woodsman skills and bring a compass.

Word has it the grow was busted when one of the guys "actually got lost in the woods after visiting his plantation, panicked and called 911 for help. When they were searching for him they also found the plants."

Supply your own joke.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Site Update

Alert readers will note I updated the daily reads. Sadly, some of our favorites are on hiatus but as compensation, the fabulous new blog at Flex Your Rights has stepped forward to fill us in on the latest about our right to refuse to be bullied by the government.

They're leading off at the moment with the timely topic, Your right to refuse NYC subway searches. Start there and keep scrolling. This blog is going places.

We get mail

Our friend Paul von Hartmann, keeps tabs on the UN and sees an opportunity to ask for global common sense consensus on cannabis leading up to their meeting in September, in New York, around the issues of Development, Security and Human Rights.

Check out his newly revised formal complaint and his other thoughts at Project PEACE.

I hear he's now into heroin ...

Well this is why I haven't snorted any cocaine in the last 25 or 30 years. If you don't personally know where it come from, there could be anything in that shit.

[hat tip to Doug McVay]

Monday, July 25, 2005

We get mail

I rarely open something like this but I have to admit I was curious.

The guy who sent this is trying to start a cafe. Colorful home page but he probably shouldn't be spamming for suppliers. Hello Eric Friend but I blog about policy here, not the latest strain of pot and it would probably help if he learned to spell Cannabis.

Marijuana consumers make good business

The biggest misconception standing in the way of legalization is the ONDCP's false contention that you take one hit and you're an instant waste case. Ridiculous contention when 97 million people are willing to admit having consumed the plant at least once. You can be certain there's millions more who are afraid to admit it.

New York Business posts a profile piece on Executives who Inhale. These guys don't exactly sound like slackers to me.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Gone swimmin'

Unexpected hiatus today. I went on a family outing to the beach. As usual the packing and unpacking took forever and we had to stop to get beach chairs, but it was a lovely afternoon on the water.

It was hotter than Hades though. God bless those hearty souls that can sit out on the sand in the blazing sun. We staked our claim on a piece of shade. The tyke had a grand time. Loves the water and I expect the little darling will be sleeping well tonight.

It's been hot here for so long, the lake, and it's miles long, was just short of bathwater. Just the way I like it. It's easy to jump in and felt refreshing enough when you get out into the breeze. I actually did some swimming. It felt good to exercise, I so rarely get away from the computer these days.

I expect I'll sleep as well as the little one tonight myself. Good thing because I'm back on duty at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Another rotation change coming up. It will be pretty much back to evening posting for the next few days.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Handcuffing medicine

If John Tierney wasn't already married, I'd probably propose to him after this followup to his last op-ed about the war on pain management doctors.

Read it all for yourself. It's short but here's the money grafs anyway.
The current zeal for sending doctors to jail for writing painkiller prescriptions may seem baffling, especially to the patients who relied on the doctors for pain relief. But if you consider it from the perspective of the agents raiding the doctors' offices, you can see a certain logic.
You see it became so painfully apparent that the DEA is losing the war on some drugs, they had to find some way to bring up their arrest numbers and what better target than this?
As quarry for D.E.A. agents, doctors offered several advantages over crack dealers. They were not armed. They were listed in the phone book. They kept office hours and records of their transactions. And unlike the typical crack dealer living with his mother, they had valuable assets that could be seized and shared by the federal, state and local agencies fighting the drug war.

I don't mean to suggest that the doctors were all blameless, or that OxyContin wasn't being diverted to the black market and being abused. But the problem wasn't nearly as bad as federal and local authorities made it out to be.
Indeed. More people die of complications due to daily aspirin use than can be attributed solely to Oxycontin. In fact, there may be almost no deaths that could be attributed solely to the drug. A drug by the way that is extraordinarily effective and safe if used properly.

It's not a war on drugs. It's a war on Americans.

Killing time in the war zone

No surprise here. US troops in Iraq are turning to drugs to relieve the stress of combat.

According to US army figures, out of the 4,000 men of the 256th Brigade Combat Team, 53 faced alcohol-related charges and 48 were charged with drug offences.
Those of course are only the ones that got caught. One would expect the actual number of users is much greater.
In another case, Pte Emily Hamilton told a court martial that she used a hashish pipe belonging to a colleague because "it helped me go right to sleep". She was given a year's confinement and a bad conduct discharge.

"Some of these young soldiers just can't handle the stress," said Capt Christopher Krafchek, a military defence lawyer.

The majority of drug-users are in their teens or early 20s, and sometimes get their drugs from local Iraqis while on patrol in Baghdad.

Troops caught in possession of illegal substances are either jailed, demoted or discharged from the forces.
Certainly an easier way to get out of the army than shooting yourself in the leg. Oddly, the one drug they don't test for is steroids, a well known cause of erratic behavior commonly called "steroid rage."

[hat tip to JackL]

DA thwarted in first stab at school zone scam

This is somewhat good news. In a setback for the malevolent DA David Capeless, the first of the Great Barrington 18 trials has ended in a mistrial. We followed this story previously, here, here and here. A jury of twelve deliberated for only nine hours before calling it quits.

"No one on the jury wishes to continue deliberations," Judge John A. Agostini said, reading from the final note from the panel, which twice declared themselves deadlocked.

...Two jurors who were approached outside of court declined to discuss the deliberations, other than to say that the panel was not "split down the middle."

..."It was a really hard case, and everyone tried really hard, but in the end, it just didn't work out," one of the jurors said.
According to a note to the judge earlier in the day, debates in the jury room centered on issues of "beyond a reasonable doubt," and "strong feelings around harassment and entrapment."

"Some jurors have strong feelings on this," the note read. "All jury members feel that we cannot come to a final verdict."
The defense states the mistrial was evidence based and not a result of jury nullification but considering jury nullification is a hot topic on any drug policy forum and the fact that jurors have actually been arrested for exercising it, it certainly hints at a nullification without the risk.

It's not a great solution for the defendant who remains in legal limbo and must face a retrial but consider the impact if his next trial and the subsequent defendant's cases also deadlock. It is one way to nullify the dunderheaded school zone provision without getting arrested themselves.

In any event it's good to see Capeless thwarted in this witch hunt at least for the moment. The longer this remains in the public eye, the better the chances are that he'll be voted out of office despite his family connections.

Common sense versus nonsense

NORML just released its 2005 "Truth Report", refuting for the what feels the millionth time, the biggest government lies about marijuana. Among the myths exploded are:
* "Nationwide, no drug matches the threat posed by marijuana."

* "The addiction to marijuana by our youth exceeds their addiction rates for alcohol ... and all other drugs combined."

* "Marijuana and violence are linked."

* "Marijuana is a gateway drug."

* "As a factor in emergency room visits, marijuana ... now surpasses heroin."

* "Marijuana is not medicine, and no credible research suggests that it is."

* "Smoked marijuana leads to changes in the brain similar to those caused by the use of cocaine and heroin."

* "Marijuana legalization would be a nightmare for America."

NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said, "It's time to begin an honest public education campaign about the minimal risks presented by marijuana. Let's allow science, not rhetoric, to dictate America's public policy regarding marijuana. As you will see, the facts speak for themselves."
Sounds like a plan to me.

Feds beat contempt charges

This stinks. We've been following Don Nord's case [scroll down] for a couple of years. Don was arrested and then exonerated for having three marijuana plants because he's a medical marijuana user.

The judge ordered the feds to return his plants and other equipment. The feds refused and the judge held them in contempt. Unfortunately, in this post-Raich climate, the feds just got away with it. A US District Court judge ruled that federal law enforcement officers cannot be held in contempt for failing to follow a state judge's order.
"I find that (the agents) were performing acts that were authorized or that they reasonably believed were authorized by valid federal law," US District Court Judge Walker Miller decided.
No surprise but disappointing all the same. It serves as a reminder that if we're going to get any meaningful policy reform, we're going to have to put more pressure on Congress to change the laws.

Friday, July 22, 2005

NYC spends millions to search every fifth passenger

[Corrected and expanded post]

Well this was inevitable I suppose but it's one of those 2 million dollar boondoggles. That's what it cost a week just since 7/7, when they doubled the police force in response to the London bombings. Yesterday's overtime salaries will only add another set of zeros to that account. Money that would be much better spent on simply improving security on the platforms and maybe in the tunnels. I mean for God's sake, aren't there homeless people living under Grand Central. You think a terrorist is going to even bother going through the gates?

But then the transit authority doesn't appear to care about spending its money wisely. They had 600 million to spend on security improvements. Only 30 million of that was used in real services. The rest was spent on studies and consultants.

As it stands, the searching of one in five people in random stations gives the illusion of increasing safety but accomplishes virtually nothing in terms of actually preventing a London style attack on our mass transit systems. It's unlikely that the other four they miss couldn't someday be carrying a bomb. It is likely to catch quite a few drug possessors though and no doubt will cut down on say, marijuana dealers use of the subway. Guess it will balance out for the cab driver's though - I expect they might see more business out of this. Glad that someone will see a silver lining out of it.

Today NYC is doing random checks at mass transit stations. Other large cities are expected to follow suit once they see whether the constitutional challenges that are sure to be mounted, hold up or not. At this rate, you won't be able to go to the corner store for a soda without being searched and the irony is you still won't be any safer from terrorists but you just became a whole lot less safe from your own government.

And they wonder why I've started to believe in conspiracy theories. Looks like a shorter walk to the police state long desired by the Bushites every day.

No green thumbs here

I'm on duty again today so just a quick update on the garden this morning. It's pretty pathetic so it won't take long. The nasturtiums are a complete loss. The sole plant that came up still only has two leaves. The spaghetti squash is a goner. Still alive but barely hanging on.

One of my first two tomatoes disappeared completely without a trace. Maybe the deer do like them because the plant has severely trimmed in the last couple of days. There almost no leaves left and the latest flowers were eaten as well. The remaining tomato is growing nicely however. More exciting is the Brandywine finally set fruit and has four baby tomatoes on it.

The peppers are growing fine but aren't really setting fruit either, although they keep flowering and looking like they still might. Meanwhile two bean plants some how escaped the first deer foraging and I now have eight tiny beans. Michael you're a shoe-in on that contest.

Meanwhile the basil has gone to seed and some tiny birds come in the mornings to eat them. I'm surprised they don't break the stems when they sit on the plant but that's the only thing that actually thriving in the whole garden.

It appears my only success story this year will be the window boxes and the planter which is finally thriving and actually quite nice.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Underground operation

The big story of the day is the tunnel.

A tunnel longer than a football field built to ship drugs under the U.S. border was shut down by law-enforcement officials yesterday. A source close to the investigation said the tunnel was being used to smuggle marijuana between Aldergrove and Lynden, Wash.

"This thing was under surveillance for the last eight or nine months," said the source.

...Built with timber walls and ceilings and lined with a cement floor, the tunnel is about 150 metres long, said the source.

...Separated by a ditch and a road, it ran from a private residence on the U.S. side to a quonset hut on the Canadian one in the 26700-block Zero Avenue, he added.

...[Neighbor] Luke said she never suspected anything illegal but often wondered why the house on the U.S. side was vacant. "It's a nice house. I thought that it was strange that there was no one living there for so long."
That's probably what tipped the cops off as well but it does go to show how cannabis importers make good neighbors. If they had been able to do that legally, that little town could have been making some serious money.
The trade in marijuana "is estimated to be worth over nine billion dollars Cdn a year. In fact, Forbes magazine called marijuana Canada's most important agricultural export.

The update is very interesting. Take this for instance.
Using a delayed notice search warrant, agents entered the home on July 2 to examine the tunnel. A short time later a U.S. District Court judge authorized the installation of cameras and listening devices in the home to monitor activities in the home. Using these devices, agents from various federal, state and local law enforcement authorities saw the three suspects carrying large hockey bags or garbage bags through the tunnel.
It stinks of the Patriot Act. That was supposed to keep us safe from terrorists, not cannabis dealers right? Interestingly the two accounts differ on the upkeep of the lawn.

This piece says tunnels are not uncommon and offers this odd bit of info on a bust at the Mexican border.
Investigators used a machine that can "see" underground, a video-equipped robot, a drug-sniffing dog and an air horn to find it..
Why the air horn, I wonder.

This flash video doesn't answer that question but does have it's own amusing take on the story.

[hat tip as always to Tim Meehan]

Late posting today

On family duty. I'll be posting here this evening.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scotty won't be beaming back down

This is sad.
Actor James Doohan, best known as Scotty, the feisty, Scottish-accented chief engineer on television's original "Star Trek" series, died on Wednesday at his home in Redmond, Washington, his manager said. He was 85.
He was one of my favorite Star Trek characters of all time. The original series - and I was watching when it originally aired - was the best. I liked Second Generation okay, although I never loved Picard like I did Kirk. I warmed up to DS9 after a while. I have to admit I lost interest when they got to Voyager. The characters just didn't work and they finally ran out of story lines.

Scotty was likely to say, "A can nae change the laws of physics. I've got to have thirty minutes." His character will defy those laws and live on forever in reruns but the man who brought him to life cannot and paid the earthly price.

Rest in peace James.

Ain't the 60s anymore

The lesson in this story is, do not try to score pot in New York's Washington Square Park.

Time was when you could sit on a bench and smoke it there. God knows I did, but those days are over.

I get no respect

The Agitator thinks the left doesn't care about the war on some doctors. Too bad Radley doesn't read me more often. I'm a lefty and I've been writing about the war on pain doctors since 2003.

Need a new drug

Israeli biotech company Pharmos is hot on pot, well make that chemically produced synthetic pot. Despite failed trials of its last drug, dexanabinol, in the treatment of traumatic brain injury, the company is still enthusiastically pursuing cannabinoid research.

It's unsurprising that Pharmos is undaunted by earlier failures with the stakes this high. The global pain market is said to be worth $26 billion and there's a dearth of appropriate drugs after the recent scandals around the safety of Vioxx and related pain meds and the alleged dispersion of addictive narcotic painkillers like OxyContin into the black market that the DEA is using to justify with it's war on pain doctors. The company has already come up with a new drug.
Pre-clinical studies carried out by Pharmos show that Cannabinor is as potent as morphine and other pain killers in providing pain relief and has a longer duration of action.

"But unlike morphine and other drugs on the market today, Cannabinor does not show any of the side effects, including constipation, drowsiness and addiction, associated with these drugs," says Kindler.

The development of Cannabinor comes at a time when there is extensive interest in cannabinoids in the pharmaceutical world. Dozens of companies are developing cannabinoid drugs for medical uses that include the treatment of cancer nausea, spastic disorders, epilepsy and sleepwalking.
It's like I've always said. The pharma corps were going to willing to acknowledge the medicinal properties of cannabis as soon as they figured out how to make enough money on it. It just took them a while to figure out how to vilify the evidence of 5,000 years worth of successful use of a natural herb that anyone can grow, in order to sell us a synthentic drug that only they can produce.

[hat tip to Michael Krawitz]

Seeds of MMJ movement were first planted in CA

The LAT is on a roll. Today's edition carries a good overview of the history of the medical marijuana movement in California.

Not a lot of new info but an interesting and pretty comprehensive review. Well worth reading.

For what it's worth

California has resumed issuing medical marijuana ID cards after "AG Bill Lockyer's office said state employees operating the program would not be at risk for federal prosecution."

However there's not much incentive for patients to sign up. Lockyer's review also indicated "federal officials could use information from card applicants to prosecute them."

Just another perfectly good and effective program ruined by the Raich decision.

Strange Bedfellows

It couldn't be a more unlikely pairing. Medical marijuana activist and head honcho at Americans for Safe Access Steph Sherer has teamed up with legendary Beltway lobbyist Jim Tozzi, author of the Data Quality Act, long reviled as a tool corporate America uses to blungeon public safety regulations.

They both have their own axes to grind. Sherer, a MMJ patient herself, wants to get her medicine into the hands of the suffering and Tozzi wants to save his Act from an untimely demise at the hands of Congress. Fortunately, for drug policy reform, their goals meet in the middle and the two are working together to challenge the scheduling of marijuana as a Class I drug along with heroin and LSD.

The ONDCP is predictably not buying it.
Although there have been "suggestions" that some elements of the herb might be developed into prescription drugs, potential benefits are outweighed by a "manifest risk" of widespread abuse, said David Murray, a White House Office of National Drug Control Policy analyst.

Even if new marijuana-based drugs were approved, Murray said, they would not likely have "the character of the raw crude leaf."
Notice the change in rhetoric now that Andrea Barthwell is pitching for Sativex. All of sudden it's the "raw crude leaf" of natural marijuana that's not an acceptable medicine but pharmaceutically extracted derivatives are no longer villainous.

The consensus seems to be that the pair won't be able to crack the Bush administration's war on the plant itself and that it doesn't stand a chance to be reregulated. As one pundit puts it, "This has nothing to do with the medical debate. I think it's simply politics."

He's probably right, at least as long as Bush is in office, but I'm not willing to count this new dynamic duo out of the running yet. U.S. Health and Human Services officials have until Tuesday to respond to their request for reconsideration. I can hardly wait for their answer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I beg your pardon

Quote of the day goes to a major victim of the war on some drugs.

"We've become mad in our pursuit of drug-law violations. Generations to come will look back and scarcely believe what we've done to sick people." -Richard Paey
We've been following Paey since he was arrested for allegedly forging pain med prescriptions just about the same time as Rush Limbaugh. Rush went rehab. Paey, rather than cut a deal and admit to a crime he didn't commit, went to jail. The NYT picks up the story.
Mr. Paey, who is 46, suffers from multiple sclerosis and chronic pain from an automobile accident two decades ago. It damaged his spinal cord and left him with sharp pains in his legs that got worse after a botched operation.
He couldn't find a doctor who would prescribe enough medication to allow him to function so he did see several doctors. Unfortunately, one of the doctors, who was obviously afraid of DEA retribution, testified he didn't prescribe medications that he in fact, had prescribed. In spite of pharmacist's testimony in support of Paey, he was convicted under Draconian laws in Florida and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Ironically, he receives better medication in prison, where they have furnished him with a morphine pump instead of the pills that landed him there in the first place. Had he been able to obtain that logical treatment on the outside without DEA intimidation of pain management physicians, he would be home with his family and contributing to the tax base instead of wasting away alone in a jail cell at the expense of your tax dollars.

There is no evidence he ever sold a single pill yet he was convicted of trafficking. It took the DA three tries to convict him. I think they only managed it because Rush's arrest had sent the media into a feeding frenzy about doctor shoppers and the black market in pain meds.

Rush, to remind you, had procured a great deal of medication on the black market. Paey had not. Yet Rush, who could afford lawyers to delay his case forever, is still free and receiving copious amounts of money to spew White House rhetoric.

The prosecution and incarceration of Richard Paey serves no purpose. This wheelchair bound man is clearly no danger to society and his sentence does not serve justice. He should be pardoned immediately. Unfortunately there's fat chance of that with Jeb Bush at the other end of the pen.

[hat tip to Preston Peet]

US and Dutch drug czars find common ground

In what appears to be largely a symbolic gesture, John Walters and his counterpart in Holland signed an agreement for reducing drug use.

Holland's permissive drug policy has long been a source of friction between the two countries. Holland's success was making our prohibition policies look bad. However, Walters finally managed to get the "crack of marijuana" meme going on the federal level in Holland with this agreement. The two drug czars bonded over a new strain of high potency Dutch home grown marijuana being plied in the cafes there called THC.
"But on a visit to Holland earlier this year, I was struck by how much commonality there was over the issue of marijuana THC and high-potency cannabis," he said. "Their research showed that 20 percent of homegrown marijuana was THC, and they were having significantly greater problems with this. Dutch government agencies have been saying this almost ought to be treated as a different drug."

Having identified an area on which they could work together, Walters and Hoogervorst drew up a joint statement. The agreement paves the way for a summit this fall between U.S. and Dutch researchers, information sharing between drug addiction experts and the assignment of a Dutch researcher to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
This isn't exactly news. We've heard these rumblings of discontent among the Dutch feds for probably a year or so now. The mayors and local legislators have so far managed to block any significant attempts to shut down the cafes or their suppliers though. It would be stupid when their tourism depends to such a large degree on the so-called drug tourists.

Nonetheless, it doesn't pay to underestimate a prohibition profiteer of Walter's caliber. We'll be watching for developments to see if anything more comes of this.

[hat tip to JackL]

Rand Corp Study on Imprisoned Low Level Drug Offender

Rand did this study to judge the effects of drug policy reform on sentencing.
The study drew samples from California and Arizona prison inmates imprisoned for "low level" drug offenses, and reviewed them with these objectives in mind:

To characterize the prosecution resulting in prison sentences of drug possession offenses relative to drug sales and other nonpossession offenses.

To examine how marijuana is treated relative to other drugs.

To explore the racial implications of drug sentencing and plea bargaining practices.

To examine what factors influence plea-bargaining behavior and plea-bargaining outcomes.

To analyze whether Arizona's Proposition 200 has brought about changes in drug prosecution patterns that result in prison sentences.

The findings refute the wild claim that "the prisons are filled with marijuana offenders." At the same time, they provide a rich description of just who the typical imprisoned offender of this type is, actually providing ammunition for those who make more reasonable claims, but questioning some deeply held beliefs as well.
A quick perusal of the summary by an admittedly mathematically challenged layman here finds the conclusions a little vague and suspiciously presented to substantiate a foregone conclusion on behalf of the prosecutors. I don't think they did anything unethical but I don't like the way they quantified the data.

I note for instance, the use of prior convictions as determining whether the "dangerous offender" is being targeted rather than the casual user. It means little to say they had extensive priors without detailing what those charges were.

For instance if you're arrested for taking a leak behind a gas station because the restroom was locked, you're charged with public indecency - a serious charge that in MA requires you to register as a sex offender but hardly makes you danger to society.

Cops also have a proclivity to add A&B on an officer and resisting for instance and often it's not really true. In the statistics wouldn't that count the same as say an A & B on your neighbor in the stats? If it does, and I think that makes a difference, then I think it kind of renders the data meaningless.

The increase in paraphernalia charges is also interesting. It suggests to me that they are indeed skirting the intent of the reforms by charging them at drug offense levels when they aren't caught with actual drugs in order keep those warm bodies filling the cells. Gotta pay for that prison construction somehow.

Using weight as a criteria to judge severity of the offense is also ridiculous when comparing marijuana to other drugs. Big difference between an ounce of pot and ounce of coke in terms of how many "highs" a consumer will get from it. That of course is a problem with the way our government sets up the penalties and not a failing on the part of the researchers.

Nonetheless, it still renders the study meaningless in terms of evaluating whether violent criminals rather than non-violent drug consumers are being unreasonably incarcerated.

Still it's a fascinating study and worth a look.

A lesson in prohibition

For a number of reasons I'm cross posting this from DetNews this afternoon.

At first glance this bust may seem like a success story in the war on some drugs. Sounds pretty impressive doesn't it. Thirty two people busted, $13 million in cash and millions in private property seized. Law enforcement estimates the group did $178 million in trade. So what did Detroit and society in general gain from this bust. Absolutely nothing.

Start first with the cost of a 16 month long investigation involving 19 different law enforcement agencies. How many millions of dollars do you think that cost? I don't have a clue but assuming a conservative 2 agents from each agency, and a mean salary of $50,000 a year that's almost 3 million in salaries alone. That doesn't account for the expenses. Gas and upkeep for their vehicles, weapons, significant travel expenses and probably at least some payoffs to informants. Pretty soon you're looking at spending as much or more to catch the guys as the bust was technically worth.

Add in the court costs to prosecute the defendants and the cost of incarceration and before you know it, the taxpayer is a hole. Some may point to the forfeiture assets as a setoff to those expenses but that money does not go to the general welfare. It's given to the law enforcement agencies that seize them in order to continue funding more busts that leave the taxpayer holding the bag.

What have you gained for your money. Safety? Don't count on it. It should be clear from this bust alone, that breaking a rival organization only led to the currently busted group becoming bigger, more powerful and more violent as they had more to protect as they grew. Believe me when I tell you, that this bust may reduce the supply of drugs temporarily but in a matter of weeks some other enterprising entrepreneurs will be filling in the gap left by this bust. There's simply too much money to be made not to tempt another player into the game and shutting down the supply does not quell the demand. If punishment worked, we wouldn't have almost 2 and half million people incarcerated in what has now become the biggest prison gulag in the world.

Consider also that without prohibition, the $178 million in trade would have generated business tax income instead of law enforcement outlays. The moral of the lesson being, the least efficient and most destructive method of dealing with illegal drug consumption is prohibition. It's time to cut our losses in this war and start applying some common sense by legalizing and employing the same model of law enforcement we use in the regulation of the legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol.

[hat tip to John French]

Monday, July 18, 2005

Weedman back in the running

The NJ Weedman, Ed Forchion is back on the ballot. He's planning to run for Governor of New Jersey.
"I am not that high that I think I am going to win. I just want to give the finger to the system and rally others who feel the same way.," Forchion said.

His platform is that "Cannabis smokers are the only segment of the population begging to be taxed. "We believe in taxation not incarceration," Forchion said.
The biggest challenge he faces of course, is the police. They tend to arrest him regularly. But he has built something of a base among the constituency.
"The US Marijuana Party" got 7,000 votes in Burlington County. That was the most for any 3rd party candidate on the card according to Forchion.

"Take a toke and vote for the weedman," Forchion said.
We wish him luck on his latest foray into the political arena.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Souder proposes bioterrorism

Our intrepid prohibition pusher Marc Souder is at it again. Joined by his compatriot in Congress, Dan Burton, they have proposed restoring funding for renewed testing of mycoheribicide, a dangerous biological agent.

For a detailed scientific analysis of this stuff is, see Jeremy Bigwood's article, but let me it boil it down for you into layman's terms. It's basically a spore for a fungus that reproduces quickly and unlike chemical agents, never breaks down. Centuries from now, it could still be causing crop failures if run amok. And no one can really predict what it's going to do. It tends to mutate.

Our government, all the back to the Clinton administration has recognized mycoherbicide for what it is, a public relations liability and an environmental disaster. It's not allowed to be used in the United States and most Andean countries also prohibit its use. That doesn't bother the Congressmen however. They want it to be tested soon in a major drug producing country near you.
"I am very hopeful that with the proper scientific research and testing, mycoherbicides can be utilized as an effective tool to help eradicate poppy and coca fields around the world and ultimately reduce the flow of drugs coming into our country," concluded Chairman Burton.
Of course, it could also ultimately reduce the flow of corn, wheat and cotton since there's no way to control it, but these guys don't really care about some future world famine when they need some "winning" statistics in the war on some drugs right now.

The amendment was adopted into the bill. One hopes our more sensible legislators will head it off before it's actually funded.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Long way from the YMCA

This is kind of sad.

Victor Edward Willis, the original policeman in the 1970s music group the Village People, was arrested by real police who allegedly found a gun and drugs in his convertible.

Willis, who co-wrote disco hits such as "Macho Man" and "In the Navy" before leaving the Village People in the late 1970s, was taken into custody Monday after an officer stopped his Chevrolet Corvette.

Police said Willis didn't have a valid license or identification and at first lied about his name and residence. Inside the car, the officer found a .45-caliber handgun as well as rock cocaine and drug paraphernalia, police said.

Traces of cocaine and other paraphernalia were also found his home at a mobile home park in Daly City, just south of San Francisco, police said. Willis also had an outstanding felony warrant for possession of narcotics.
Too bad. The guy has to be in his 60s by now and they'll probably seize his car too. I'd guess it might be the last thing he has left from his "glory days."

[image borrowed from Lew Rockwell]

Unequal justice

Cookie Jill at skippy's place points us to yet another story illustrating that drug use reaches into every level of society.
California City Councilwoman Stacey Jo Murphy was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession after her boyfriend told authorities they had used the drug together and he had associated with a notorious street gang and sold guns to a member.
A search of their homes turned up cocaine, guns and ammo in both residences. "Murphy, who has three children, also was accused of child endangerment."

The story also illustrates how punishment and condemnation of drug use is not equally meted out.
"Stacey Murphy has been a friend and a colleague. To the extent we can help her family and her, we'll stand next to her," Burbank Mayor Jef Vander Borght said.

Murphy has been on the Burbank City Council since 1997 and served as mayor in 1999-2000 and in 2003-04.
It's too bad such sympathy and support by city fathers is not extended to drug defendants such as Bryan Epis.

Friday, July 15, 2005

"Great Barrington 18" trials begin

We've been following this case since last fall.

The first trials have started and the local press is not sympathetic to the DA. Capeless is way out on a limb with this one and I think he may find himself in freefall before this is over. I certainly hope so. He deserves it for this irresponsible and inhumane breach of prosecutorial discretion. The whole case stinks of entrapment besides. The kids say the undercover cop hounded them for drugs and not only smoked with them, but also bought them beer.

We're talking high school kids here and nonsensically small amounts of marijuana. Capeless wants to send these kids to jail for two years over as little as one joint. He used the enhancements to move the case up to Superior Court when the customary choice across the state is to send the kids into rehab programs via the District Court and issue community service sentences.

Public sentiment is against Capeless. A group of parents formed Concerned Citizens for Appropriate Justice and gathered 2000 signatures on a petition protesting Capeless' tactics. Even former federal prosecutor, Carl Stewart, who served under Nixon, Ford and Carter, weighed in with a killer LTE on school zone enhancements in general.

Hopefully the beginning of these ill-advised trials will signal the end of Capeless' tenure in the DA's office.

Thanks to Mass Cann for providing the updates. By the way, these guys are still really hurting for money after being wiped out last year by the hurricane so please help them if you can.

Weekly roundup - Part II

The DRC Net newsletter is also packed with news this week. There's an interview with medical marijuana patient Brian Epis as he awaits resentencing after having been released last year pending the Raich decision. In light of the dismal decision, Brian could use some support. There's a call out for letters to the judge. Details at the end of the post.

They also report on cops in W. Pennsylvania who want to decriminalize marijuana and Phil Smith has the last word on those pot flavored lollipops. It turns out they weren't a hemp food at all. Although they don't contain enough THC to register on the DEA scale, the pops really do contain an essence of marijuana flowers which hemp food doesn't contain.

The agricultural hemp movement is pretty pissed off about the product. Since it's being touted in the press as hemp candy, it's giving healthy hemp products a bad name and making their job a whole lot harder. I have to admit we were guilty of making the mistake here and we apologize to Vote Hemp and set the record straight.

Weekly roundup

It's newsletter day and we made the "Hot off the Net" section in the Drug Sense Weekly this week. Thanks to the fine folks at Media Awareness Project for the encouragement.

The issue is also chock full of the latest news as always. Must reads of the issue are British think tank predicts pharmaceutical pleasure drugs are the wave of the future, a court ruling preventing employers from secretly spying on their employees and a forfeiture scheme in tax stamp clothing.

Around the bloggerhood

D'Alliance has a bunch of stuff up this week. Start at the top and keep scrolling. Of note is a post on "An expert in eating disorders collapsed in a supermarket after inhaling propellant from whipped cream cans." Another post on The editor of Newtopia who is in jail for drug possession and a post on a possible change in Afghanistan eradication policy.

Also welcome to the bloggerhood to medical marijuana researcher Dr. Tom O'Connell. It's a pretty brainy blog but understandable to regular folks like me. This for instance doesn't need any parsing.
In other words, pot had been treating what Prozac treats before Prozac even existed- only more effectively, more safely, and more durably. I explore this rationale in my article in the Spring edition of O'Shaughnessy's, the Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical Group.

Analysis of patient responses-still incomplete- has now progressed to a point where it allows some very pejorative conclusions about pot prohibition itself and raises serious questions about whether any substance prohibition can ever be responsible public policy.
And that's just the first post. Good blogging Dr. Tom.

Hurricane Emily to hit Mexico

If you're planning a trip to Cancun in the next week, be advised that Mexican authorities are advising tourists that there is a 90% chance that Hurricane Emily will make landfall and are urging travelers to cancel their plans. More details and updates available here.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Narcs with a change of heart

Pete of Drug WarRant is in Chicago doing his summer theater thing, mounting another showing of his fabulous, The Living Canvas 2005. On his way out the door, he leaves a link to this interesting NPR special on undercover cops who have changed their minds about the war on some drugs as a result of their work. Pete tells us:
Very powerful words from two former undercover drug cops. One talks about how he discovered that many of the people he was working undercover to bust were honorable, good, family people and how they wouldn't even give his name up to the cops. The other former drug cop talks about coming to the conclusion that drugs should be legalized.
Hope someone sent these guys information on joining Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Ogilvy & Mather’s fraudster sentenced

You have to go through a long winded free reg to get this article but it's worth it to view the final chapter of the fraudulent billing uncovered in 2002 in the agency's anti-marijuana campaign that was mounted for the ONDCP. These were those famously ineffective ads equating marijuana use with terrorism and teenage pregnancy.

The first to be sentenced out of the group of defendants is former finance director Thomas Early who received 14 months in prison and a $10,000 fine, to be followed with two years of supervised release, for his part in the fraud.

The judge downwardly departed the recommended sentence of 51 months being sought by the prosecution, "citing in addition to other factors, Mr. Early’s image as a "family man and a community-conscious individual."

The same could be said for many drug defendants currently incarcerated on much longer sentences for simple possession. Too bad the judges can't take that into consideration in their sentencing as well.

Doesn't say much for our justice system when lying and defrauding the government of millions of tax dollars carries less of a penalty than smoking a plant.

Update: Another defendant, Shona Seifert is sentenced to 18 months and $125 G fine. She was also ordered to develop a written code of conduct for the advertising industry.

...Seifert, who as executive group director at Ogilvy New York was the lead person on the Office of National Drug Policy account in its early days at the agency and the main focus of the trial.

As with Mr. Early, Judge Berman took into account her previously clear record, the fact that a senior ONDCP official hailed both her work and Ogilvy & Mather’s, and her involvement in the community, which includes post-conviction volunteer work with victims of domestic violence. He also said that she obstructed justice by lying while testifying in her own defense. Her denials that she ordered Ogilvy staffers to revise timesheets to reflect hours not worked on the account were contradicted by credible witnesses, Judge Berman said.

In a brief statement that was barely audible over her sobs, Ms. Seifert said, “I regret that a campaign that was [designed] to do so much good was a source of pain and suffering for so many."

She also, as a British citizen, faces deportation but we won't be holding our breath over that. That only happens to poor people who shoplift or get caught with tiny amounts of drugs and such. She'll probably get out of jail and write a best selling book about her "ordeal."

Doctors accused of making up data in medical studies

This is not about drug research per se, and I don't really have anything to say about this article, but it's good to keep in mind when faced with the studies the prohibitions use to justify their war on some drugs, that charges of fake research have hit a new high.

I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. It does bring new meaning to the phrase, "Publish or perish," though.

A prescription for trouble

This is interesting.

The number of Americans who admit abusing prescription drugs nearly doubled to over 15 million from 1992 to 2003, with abuse among teens tripling, according to a new study released on Thursday.

The report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University suggested that more Americans were abusing controlled prescription drugs than cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants and heroin combined.

..."New abuse of prescription opioids among teens is up an astounding 542 percent," Califano said. "The explosion in the prescription of addictive opioids, depressants and stimulants has, for many children, made the medicine cabinet a greater temptation and threat than the illegal street drug dealer, as some parents have become unwitting and passive pushers."
Disturbing statistics that prove the war on some drugs has failed. These numbers show you can't stop drug consumption. For all the billions spent on trying to do so, the only practical result is the drug of choice keeps changing. Unfortunately, I fear the DEA will use this study to justify escalating their war on pain management doctors.

[via Preston Peet]

Birmingham Mayor bans tasers

Loretta Nall checks in with a post on tasers and for a change it's good news, well sort of good since unfortunately another person died in circumstances that suggest taser use at least contributed to an untimely demise. The good news is that shortly thereafter the Mayor of Birmingham has ordered Birmingham police officers to halt the use of Tasers, saying more studies are needed on the impact of the stun guns. This follows a previous order suspending their use in schools.

The local cops predictably complain that they need the stun guns in order to avoid using lethal force. As Loretta points out, that argument rings a little hollow since another prisoner is dead from the use of this "non-lethal" weapon.

Birmingham used the tasers 137 times in the last year. One wonders if they would really have drawn their guns that many times, or whether they would have used other methods to subdue suspects? I can't think of any police department that would have shot 137 suspects without them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

By the numbers

I was just thinking today that I hadn't done an absurd overvaluation of marijuana eradication operations post in a while when Sister Geoff checked into comments. The Sis crunched some numbers for us at a local bust of significance.

The story is always the same. Overvalued busts to justify the waste of resources. But I'm noticing I'm seeing less of these stories than last year. It's early in the season but I also think the occupation in Iraq is taking it's toll on the National Guard availability.

Rest in Peace

Prohibition took another victim when long time medical marijuana activist Steven McWilliams took his own life yesterday. Friends say he was tired, in pain and afraid of going to jail.

He was charged with two felonies and faced 40 years in federal prison. Federal law enforcement officers confiscated 25 plants he was growing in his front yard.

McWilliams suffered a number of ailments after several car accidents and used marijuana for pain relief – until his most recent conviction, when the judge ruled that he must abstain. Friends say he relied on other pain-relieving drugs, but they caused negative side effects.

One would think the recent string of prosecutions unleashed by the Raich decision had an effect on his state of mind. How far we have fallen from civil society, when we are willing to allow our government to drive a man to despair for using a God-given herb to relieve his symptoms?

Let a Thousand Licensed Poppies Bloom

This Senlis Counsil proposal resurfaces in the news every once in while, and I've blogged it before, but it's always worth a review. The NYT posts an op-ed in support of this very simple and elegant solution to Afghanistan's opium problem.
...the developing world is experiencing a severe shortage of opium-derived pain medications, according to the World Health Organization. Developing countries are home to 80 percent of the world's population, but they consume just 6 percent of the medical opioids. In those countries, most people with cancer, AIDS and other painful conditions live and die in agony.

The United States wants Afghanistan to destroy its potentially merciful crop, which has increased sevenfold since 2002 and now constitutes 60 percent of the country's gross domestic product. But why not bolster the country's stability and end both the pain and the trafficking problems by licensing Afghanistan with the International Narcotics Control Board to sell its opium legally?
It's entirely sensible. You solve a shortage, you give the farmers, who are at the very bottom of the trafficking chain, a living wage, the crop goes to legal pharmaceuticals and you remove the black market's source of funding all in one swoop.

I don't see a down side, do you?

[hat tip to Preston Peet]

Wish that it would rain

I'm still on family duty today so posting is likely to be late again, but we'll be catching up in the next few days that I have off. Meanwhile it's hotter than Hades here already at 6:00am. Like they used to say up North, it's not the heat - it's the humidity. Oddly it doesn't seem to generate rain as much as it should.

The garden is limping along. The deer came back early this week and wiped out the bean plants again, which had been struggling to come back. They're feisty little things. They keep trying again, every time and are already sending out new leaves. I think I see a fruit finally setting on the weird Italian squash thing - hopefully deer don't like baby squash. I would love to at least see one of those. Meanwhile, the deer also trimmed the Brandywine for me. It was so overgrown and I couldn't quite to decide where to nip it. Good old Bambi figured it out and it fits into the cage better anyway. The other tomatoes are still growing, now the size of giant golf balls.

The big success story is definitely the window box. The torenia are blooming nicely again and you just can't keep a good morning glory down. The elaborate string system is working well. The vines are already at the top and the leaves are finally starting to get bigger. I may see some flowers on that puppy yet.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Underground grow-op unearthed

Here's something you don't see everyday.
An electrical contractor working on a Long Island college campus stumbled upon an elaborate underground marijuana farm Monday morning, police said. The contractor working at the State University of New York at Old Westbury discovered PVC piping containing electrical wiring that led to three water tanks three feet underground.

The 10-foot by 60-foot tanks were used in succession for seedlings, transplants, and -- finally -- adult plants, police said.

The tanks, which police believe hadn't been used in several years, were dismantled. The 300 plants were in a state of decay and were removed for disposal, police said.
Authorities think the farm, whose growing area covered 1,800 square feet, may have been active for as many as five years.
No arrests are pending and this certainly illustrates that cannabis consumers are nothing if not creative.

When legal drugs are bad medicine

This is strange. For all the talk about the so-called dangers of medical marijuana, it's useful to remember that legal drugs are not without their own pitfalls.
Researchers have identified a strange side effect to a treatment for Parkinson's disease: excessive gambling. Some patients taking medications known as dopamine agonists developed the problem within six months of starting treatment, even though they had previously gambled only occasionally or never at all. "This is a striking effect," remarks J. Eric Ahlskog of the Mayo Clinic, a co-author of the new study. "Pathological gambling induced by a drug is really quite unusual."
Fortunately it only affects a small number of patients and can be easily remedied by changing medications.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Quick hits

I'm on duty again tomorrow so some lazy linking.

More Raich fallout. California Suspends Photo ID Program That Serves Patients. The Health Dept has asked the state's AG for a written ruling.
The attorney general's office has agreed to consider the health department's request, but spokeswoman Teresa Schilling pointed out that "...Raich does not impose a mandatory duty to enforce the federal controlled substances act against people who are using medical marijuana legally under California law."
This stale ONDCP meme has been making the rounds. Picked up in Des Moines this week, Teens more likely to try marijuana in summer. And the point is? They're also more likely to try alcohol, cigarettes, unprotected sex and driving too fast.

Finally, Willie Nelson has a new album out that has his marketer's "'covering all the bases,' Nelson joked."
While the music on "Countryman" might raise the eyebrows of country purists, so will the cover, with its green marijuana leaves on a red and yellow background.

The marijuana imagery reflects Jamaican culture, where the herb is a leading cash crop and part of religious rites, but it also reflects Nelson's fondness for pot smoking.
Always did like Willie.

What a difference a dateline makes

Unlike my last post on shopowners who get busted for making a living, in Canada at least you have to be actually selling drugs to get busted for drug trafficking. Porn shop owner William Perry finds himself in that predicament.

He plans to fight the charges and run for office. And he appears to have support in his district.
Charlotte Thom, who owns the coin laundry next door to Guilty Pleasures, was shocked to hear on Thursday that Perry had been arrested. She had never had a problem with him or his store, she said, and didn't know there were drugs on sale there.

"Will's a real stand up guy," Thom said. He has called the police numerous times to report vandalism and theft in the area, and broke up a fight in April.
He has also been an otherwise law abiding, tax paying citizen of the community. In America he would end in prison for many years under mandatory minimum drug laws. In Canada, because he was only selling cannabis, he is still free to operate the legal end of his business and he might even get elected mayor.

At the moment he has a sign in front of his store saying, STAND 4 SOMETHING OR FALL FOR ANYTHING. He's got my vote.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

PLEASE Click for Skippy

Extended until the thirteenth - the hit counter's birthday. I'm moving this back up to the top because Skippy still needs 60,000,56,500,45,000,38,000 28,000 hits to make it to the million mark. You don't have to listen to the radio interview if you're pressed for time. But please do something nice for a friendly marsupial and click on skippy the bush kanagroo right now and wish him a happy anniversay.

Thanks. You're making a difference.

It's a war on - plastic bags?

If I read one more story like this I'm going to lose it. It's just too much. I mean, am I still in America?

Pennsylvania's highest court ruled that a clothing store owner who sold alleged drug paraphernalia could be charged under racketeering statutes. And we're not even talking pipes here. The alleged paraphernalia consisted of legally obtainable products.

During the search, detectives seized more than 250,000 clear plastic bags of different sizes and colors, thousands of silver and gold smoking screens, 156 vials of Inositol, 57 cakes of Mannitol that is also used as a cutting agent and two bottles of a substance that is ingested by drug users in an attempt to prevent a positive drug test result, according to court records.
The ruling arises from an appeal after the storeowner was convicted and was "sentenced in June 2001 to five years of probation, fines totaling $1,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service."

The prosecutions glee is enough to make you gag.
Kevin R. Steele, the county district attorney's trials chief, said he welcomed the decision.

"This lets businesses, particularly mom-and-pop stores that are trying to make some extra dollars by selling drug paraphernalia, know that they are committing a major crime," Steele said. "Hopefully, this sends a message that these businesses just can't put their heads in the sand.

By further defining corrupt organizations, the Supreme Court has given prosecutors another weapon in our arsenal to combat drug trafficking," Steele said.
Is this some new specialty called Contortionist law? How far can you stretch prohibition to punish small businesses that try to stay afloat by selling a product legally available anywhere and turn them into drug kingpins? The DA is apparently able to turn logic into silly putty in order to twist it around this bust.
"Involvement in the drug trade has enormous consequences," Steele said.

"Mrs. Dellisanti played a significant part in drug-trafficking operations in Norristown, supplying drug dealers with the tools to increase their profits and to package their illegal products," Steele said.
Note: There were no actual drugs harmed, or found, in the making of this travesty of justice.

Beyond Belief - Sensenbrenner strikes again

This is so over the top that I'm sputtering as I write this.

In an extraordinary move, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee privately demanded last month that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago change its decision in a narcotics case because he didn't believe a drug courier got a harsh enough prison term.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), in a five-page letter dated June 23 to Chief Judge Joel Flaum, asserted that a June 16 decision by a three-judge appeals court panel was wrong.

He demanded "a prompt response" as to what steps Flaum would take "to rectify the panel's actions" in a case where a drug courier in a Chicago police corruption case received a 97-month prison sentence instead of the at least 120 months required by a drug-conspiracy statute.
Who the hell does he think he is, the sole embodiment of the US justice system? The judge, "sent a letter back to Sensenbrenner saying it was inappropriate to comment on a pending case. But the panel amended its ruling to cite a Supreme Court case that showed Sensenbrenner was wrong."

Senselessbrenner violated every rule in the book with this interference, from failing to copy the defendants with the letter, to congressional interference, to just plain criminal waste of the taxpayer's money on pursing a personal vendetta on drug offenses. The court rightly made a downward departure on the sentencing in light of the facts.
Evidence at the trial showed that Rivera, who had no criminal record, was personally involved in handling less than 5 kilograms.
Hardly sounds like a drug mastermind that should warrant the attention of the Judiciary Committee. But then Sensenbrenner is the author of the Snitch or Go to Jail and Five Years for One Joint bill now currently pending in Congress.

The guy makes Marc Souder look sane. I feel like moving to his congressional district just so I could vote against him. I certainly hope his constitutents feel the same by now.

[hat to Talk Left who has many more links]

Quote of the Day

Karl Marx famously called religion the opiate of the masses. Today, he might point out that hysteria has become the heroin of talking heads.

Radley Balko The New Heroin

Blogger roundup

I'm late because I've been lost in politics on my other blogs. I'm telling you it's a good thing I have no life anyway because I don't have time for one. In any event, I'm going to start by making some overdue rounds of the daily reads to see what we've missed.

Drug War Rant has a must read on Drug Czar: We don't care about problems, just numbers. He also has a couple of great op-eds. Just keep scrolling.

At D'Alliance, don't miss UK Nixes National Student Drug(s) Testing Plan and Andean Strategy Failing, Bush & Congress Still Wasting Money.

Grits for Breakfast has a the usual bunch of great posts. Don't miss DEA snitch data lost, cops who handcuff unwilling sex partners and Overcrowding in Texas prisons.

Mark August 13 on your calendar. Loretta Nall has the details on the 2 Million March, a grassroots gathering in DC to protest the treatment of the 2 million incarcerated in the US gulag - the largest prison system in the world. This is likely to be the largest gathering of activists in the history of policy reform. Sponsors are pledging from across the country. I hope to be able to go myself.

Loretta has a bunch of other stuff up as well. Always worth a scroll and don't miss the unsurprising news that Drug firms spend the most on lobbying.

And The Agitator has his usual assortment of hot links including, the war on pain patients in Lousiana, a link to a letter from 30 state attorneys general sent to the DEA regarding their absurd war on doctors and "meth" as the new heroin. Like Radley says, that would a good thing if it transferred their focus from marijuana prosecutions but I won't be holding my breath waiting.

I won't give up hope either though, since Scott Burns, the White House deputy drug czar, while in Portland, declared methamphetamine the nation's most insidious drug problem and blamed it for destroying about 1.5 million lives. A public statement in direct contradiction to the ONDCP party line. Burns also said his agency's drug policies may be shifting.

I'll believe it when I see it, but it would be a step in the right direction.