Friday, September 30, 2005

Whatever happened to serve and protect?

Well this about knocked me off my chair this morning. Detroit News reports,
The Detroit City Council on Wednesday delayed a vote on whether to buy "The Commander," a $743,000 urban assault vehicle that is resistant to anti-tank mines. It is unclear when the council will reconsider the issue; the police department intended to buy the tank with cash from its drug forfeiture fund.
You'll note that Detroit wants to pay for the assault vehicle with legalized highway robbery... um, I mean drug forfeiture funds. That's the irony of the forfeiture system. They get to keep the money they extort, ...oops, I mean seize, but they're not allowed to spend it on more cops, only stuff like gyms and assault vehicles, which only encourages them to make more marginal and unneccessary busts in order to get more money, to buy more tanks, with which to terrorize certain citizens of their cities. What a raquet.

[abbrievitated cross post from the Detroit News]

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Environment evaporates in the Andes

I speak of this often but it's been quite a while since we looked south of the border so here's an interesting piece from Pravda on the US backed herbicidal warfare against the coca plant in South America. It warns of impending environmental disaster.

The US backed fight against drugs in South America is affecting the rich biodiversity of its Andean region and may lead to a natural catastrophe if the permanent spraying of coca plant killers continues. According to an official report issued by Colombia's counter narcotics department, growers are leaving their usual territories and moving into national parks where spraying is banned.

Colombian authorities said that farmers are burning huge areas of virgin rain forests within the parks and poisoning rivers with chemicals to continue with the production. In the meantime, pesticides sprayed by authorities keep threatening productive lands and endangered species across the region.
It's unsurprising that the dirt poor farmers would be moving into the forest. The herbicides rendered their previous land unfit for anything and they have to eat. The only crop they can grow that will give them a bare living wage in for return for their work is coca. The drug lords pay them just enough so they can get by to the next growing season. These people are poor and uneducated. They have no other choice.

Bombing them with poisons victimizes the least culpable in the drug supply chain and it endangers the greater ecosphere. The land is left useless, species die from the poison and the deforestation caused by forcing the peasants into the rain forests will eventually disrupt our climate all the over the earth.

Colombia is home to about 15 percent of all the world's plant species and one of its most diverse arrays of amphibians, mammals and birds. Dozens of species that populate its jungles and Andes Mountains exist nowhere else on the planet.
There was a time when scientists spoke of the next generation of medicines coming from the thousands of plant species that exist only there - many of which have never been studied. We lose a lot of potential breakthroughs if we allow our government to bomb these undeveloped countries back into the stone age and destroy the lungs of our planet in the bargain. There's a huge synergy in weather patterns and ultimately, without the rain forest, you won't get rain in the rest of the world.

What good will it do to have a drug free planet if it becomes a desert?

[hat tip to Cliff]

Marijuana as asthma medicine

It sounds almost counter-intuitive but here's some evidence that vaporized marijuana is an effective treatment for asthma.
The news of marijuana as an asthma treatment is not new news, even though it is not usually mentioned alongside the others. It actually dates back to at least the early 1920s.

...A group in Hungary did research based on Taskin's research of the mid 1970s. The research team established a link between marijuana and asthma. This discovery could help develop new treatments in respiratory illnesses, says the group. Research indicates that cannabis is a bronchodilator (it opens up breathing passages).

"...the mixture of cannabinoids and essential oils in herbal cannabis has net anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant effects that are helpful," said Dr. Ethan Russo.
Much more research needs to be done before this could become an accepted remedy, nonetheless the research is promising and with new dangers being revealed, related to the use of currently available inhalants, it's long overdue.


Alert readers may have noticed I've been working on the template lately. I have this new system for adding links and I'm resolved to add a few at least once a week until I catch up with all the ones I've been meaning to get on the blogroll. Which of course means I'll be doing this for years since I keep finding new ones as well.

They're mostly in the Lean to the Left section, although you may note I got Dr. Tom's MMJ blog into the drug reform blogs and added a few to the other sections as well. Since many don't do drug reform, I may eventually move the whole politics section over to The Impolitic, but for now I encourage you to check them out anyway.

A lot of good writing going on there and I noticed as I was adding them in, that a lot of them are women bloggers. I didn't plan that but it goes to show, despite the myths, that women can so blog politics and do.

Legalized theft

I didn't get aroung to blogging this forfeiture case when it first came up but this excellent op-ed offers a good opportunity to weigh in.

The case is about a woman from a small town in Nevada who was arrested for six plants and assorted paraphernalia. The city attorney, Dave Olsen, immediately moved to seize her home on the basis of "sending a message" to drug dealers who endanger our children. He cited drug related deaths in the community as the motivation for this ill-advised seizure.

The trouble is, the defendant, Cynthia Warren, wasn't arrested for dealing and no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose in the history of mankind. However there is a perp in Boulder City who endangered the children in town and he remains free. That would be Mr. Olsen himself.
You see, in 2004, Olsen pled no contest to drunken driving, a crime that surely has taken more lives than marijuana ever will. Anti-DUI advocates are fond of saying that, with a drunken driver at the controls, a vehicle is a weapon, surely one more dangerous than Cynthia Warren's house.
Nonetheless, it's Ms. Warren who is now forced to defend herself in this civil action. Last word goes to the author of the op-ed.
Outrage barely covers it: Regardless of what the law says, Olsen is engaging in an act of theft. Warren committed a crime, and was punished for committing a crime. Olsen's exacting a punishment for something Warren never did in the eyes of the law, making wild and untrue claims in the process. He should drop this case immediately, and if he doesn't, Boulder City fathers should find the courage to order him to stop.

In the meantime, will somebody look at seizing that motorcycle? I think we'd all feel safer if they did.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Young Afghani women pay the price for US drug policy

Good piece in the Boston Globe today on the plight of women whose families grow poppies in Afghanistan. One of the more destructive little aspects of the eradication policy is that when they bust some small time grower, the man of the house is already indebted to the drug lord who loaned him the money to grow the crop.

Since these folks are not the ones making the big bucks and live from harvest to harvest, they can't repay the loan and in this society, the women are still chattel. Oft times a young daughter will be given to the drug lord in order to pay the debt.

It sounds barbaric but this is a custom long entrenched among the tribes and a man must honor his debt or die. Another reason to take the Senlis proposal to simply buy the crops under consideration.

Party time

Head over to the essential Talk Left and say Happy Birthday to Jeralyn. It's her birthday - not the blog's.

While you're there be sure to read the latest on confessed prescription drug addict and known hypocrite, Rush Limbaugh, whose doctors are to be questioned relative to his "doctor shopping" for drugs.

And don't miss this post with a pdf of the GAO report on the impact of denying financial aid to students with drug convictions.

Help reschedule marijuana

If you haven't contacted your Congressman yet in support of the UMASS application to produce marijuana for FDA-approved research, please visit Drug Policy Alliance who have an easy click and send letter.

The great meth debate

An update on this post and thanks to JackL and Steve Heath for jumping in over at Fox Gnaws to defend my point. I note in reading the comments there that I did mistakenly call the formerly legal amphetamines, methamphetamine which of course is a different drug and has never been legal.

I would note however, that I still believe the meth produced in the 60s with different precusor ingredients, I think it was ephedrine as opposed to psuedoephedrine for instance, was a less toxic drug than it is today. It was still addictive but not as harmful physically to the user. For instance you never heard about meth mouth in those days.

House Dems criticize new meth bill

It's unlikely to stop its passage, but it's a good sign that at least some high profile Dems are speaking out against the bill.
The hitching point in the bill is an expansion of the types of meth cases in which defendants could receive 10- and 20-year mandatory minimum sentences. For example, current law imposes a 10-year sentence for trafficking in 50 grams of meth. Under the bill, possession with intent to sell 5 grams of meth would draw a 10-year term. Five grams is about 50 doses of meth.

..."Whether it's crack or meth, we've got a drug problem in America, and it's not going to be solved with mandatory minimum sentencing," said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the committee's top Democrat, said Congress has repeatedly tried the punitive approach with meth and other drugs -- and failed.

Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., said punishment should be balanced by additional money to treat addictions. "There's no reference in the legislation about treatment," Delahunt said. "You've got to attack this on the demand side."
Meanwhile Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the committee's top Democrat, forced the DEA shill who was testifying to admit that mandatory minimums had done nothing to diminish crack use.

Head House prohibitionist Mark Souder isn't worried though. He says the bill has enough support to sail through the Congress (thus making his job secure).

[hat tip Doug McVay]

23 hours and 59 minutes

I know you've all been waiting to hear about my odyssey in the ER so here it is.

I go through this anxiety phase every September. I usually just take tranqs for a few days and sort of shrug it off, but this year it was especially bad. I had been feeling terrible for a couple of weeks, tightness in the chest, dizzy spells, shortness of breath. I was convinced I was going to have a heart attack. It's not an entirely unreasonable fear. I have a family history.

What I've done for years when I reach this state of complete panic is go see Harvey, my doctor of 35 years, who has them run an EKG, which he looks at and tells me I'm fine and I go home and get over it. This time of course I had a new doc and he looks at the EKG and says he thinks it's showing a previous heart attack. He wants to send me to the ER in an ambulance.

Now I'm sitting there thinking he's wrong and I'm not going anywhere in an ambulance but I'm stuck now with dealing with it or leaving the office AMA. Then if I really have a heart attack, the insurance company probably won't pay. So I make him call in the doctor in my family for a second opinion. She shows up and takes charge. I already feel like an idiot for going in, in the first place.

She drives me to the hospital. I've never waited less than a couple of hours in an ER. This time I barely sat down, in a full waiting room, before I was called in. Minutes later I was having my first EKG in private little room where they made me put on a hospital gown. The tech left the stickers on me for future use and left me on a stretcher in the hall. I was attached to the wall with an automatic blood pressure sleeve, a heart monitor and an oxygen meter on my index finger that reminded me of the movie ET. It had a little light beam that makes your finger glow red at the tip. They slapped a nitroglycerin patch on my chest.

I was interviewed and charted by two nurses and two doctors in the first hour. By this point it was clear the intial EKG was flawed and I didn't have an heart attack. Nonetheless they were determined to rule out all possibilities. My main concern at this point was not to get admitted because then my $2,500 deductible would kick in. Not a problem. They can hold me for 24 hours for observation in the CEU but they don't have a room yet. It was really busy.

So I waited on the guerney in the hall for another three hours. Every twenty minutes a new nurse would come by, take my vital signs and ask the same questions. Symptoms, medications, age, weight, blah, blah, blah. In the interim I discovered I was lying under a huge poster that listed the symptoms of stroke. Not the best place for a hypochrondiac who imagines heart failure. Fortunately there was much to distract me from such deadly reading material.

While I was there they brought in a 50 year old guy who fell off a ladder, a couple of old ladies with undetermined maladies, a baby who was brought in inside some kind of enclosed pod attached to an oxygen tank and three elderly and very confused black men. One was a riot. When the doctor asked his name, he said Clint Eastwood. He was kidding.

I finally got moved a step closer to the CEU. They rolled me around the corner and stuck me in an examing room. It was divided in two by just a curtain. I spent another couple of hours there. I had another EKG. They took more blood. Yet another couple of nurses starting taking my vitals again and the PA came in to take yet another history. I got really tired of telling that story.

One of the elderly guys ended up in the other half of the room. He had a parade of nurses and doctors coming through as well. Somehow, the communication was breaking down between them because every new person started out talking to him as if he would understand before they realized he had dementia.

They needed to catherize him to get a urine sample. It was painful to listen to. In the end it took 4 nurses and a doctor to get it done. Poor old Ernie just wanted to go home and go to sleep. Meanwhile the hall was filled with ethnic mix of ambulatory patients. I realized I was the only white patient there. One big Asian guy kept pacing the halls on his crutches, begging for food. I hadn't eaten all day myself.

At about 9:00pm they finally wheeled me to a private room. It kind of felt like a cheap motel. It had sliding glass doors across the whole front with a curtain across it and a curtained off bathroom area. It even had a TV but the remote didn't work and I was hooked onto all these fixed monitors and couldn't reach it to try manually. At this point I was assigned one nurse and a LPN. They brought me this depressing meal. It was some kind of stew over noodles with overwarmed dried out peas and a tiny wilted salad. I ate the salad and was happy to have the juice and a gingerale. They came and did another EKG. They drew more blood.

The monitor in this room was so sensitive that every time I moved it would set the alarm off. Sometimes it just beeped for a while but sometimes it would wail until you touched the screen. I kept expecting the staff to come rushing in with a crash cart. No one ever even checked. It was like trying to sleep with the alarm on. Just as I first dozing off, yet another PA came in to intake me. She turned on the TV which did help mask the other noise but since the remote was broken I was stuck with one channel. I chose dumb old movies. I finally fell asleep watching Smokey and the Bandit.

I didn't sleep much with the perpetual alarm. The movie changed to Easy Rider. There were no windows so there no sense of day or night. When they took the next EKG I figured it must be morning. The Asian guy was still pacing around asking for food. I realized I had been bumped in front in of a lot of people to get the private room. I felt guilty.

They brought me French toast and a bowl of lumpy looking grits for breakfast. I took one bite of the toast and wanted to vomit. I was nervous about my stress test. Like I could fail it?

They took the echocardiograms and obviously I passed the stress test. When the EKG cart passed me by, I knew I was going to get sprung. It took hours before they released me and I was still a prisoner in my bed, being hooked onto all the monitors. I watched two more depressing movies. One was about a kid who had AIDS and one was about a guy whose father had a stroke or something. Ted Danson was in that one.

Meanwhile, in keeping with the motel feel, the LPN gave me a little questionaire asking me to rate my stay. The last question asked if anyone in particular had been especially attentive. They had to be joking. At least two dozen people had attended to me. I couldn't remember one name.

In the end I was there for exactly 23 hours and 59 minutes. I underwent every test known to man and they showed that every single major organ is fine but they added a prescription for nitro to my arsenal of medications.

This was only the third time I've ever spent the night in a hospital. I hope I never have to do it again. Next time I think I'm dying, I think I'll just take a tranq and wait and see what happens.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Traveling with tax dollars

I almost missed this one. John Walters is out traveling on the taxpayers dime and passing out your money for prohibition. He "presented $1.5 million in grant money for drug-free community programs in Lower Price Hill, Cincinnati and northwestern Hamilton County."
The grant money will go towards helping parents better talk with and persuade their children not to use illegal drugs.
One assumes that means they'll be paying someone to pass out little propaganda pamphlets with talking points. Or do you suppose they'll be hiring Andrea Barthwell through her Illinois Marijuana Lectures to coach the parents?

Privatizing law enforcement

Jeez, Canada is starting to sound more like America all the time. The Coquitlam RCMP announced they will be handing over the dismantling of grow-ops to a private company.

A disturbing development.

Legal medical marijuana user barred from regatta

Irvin Rosenfeld, one of the 7 people supplied marijuana by the US government, expects to be barred from participating in "one of the nation's top sailing events for the disabled."
Rosenfeld, who has sailed in three races of the North American Challenge Cup in 11 years, has asked the race's organizers and the U.S. Sailing Association to overrule the United States Anti-Doping Agency and let him sail in the 2006 regatta. He said an event that celebrates overcoming disabilities is in effect discriminating against a disabled person.

The USADA, the official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic sports, gave no reason for its rejection, Rosenfeld said in a Friday e-mail to the sailing officials.
There's clearly a procedure for issuing an exemption and Rosenfeld appears to qualify for it. As he points out, most of the disabled atheletes take medications and although WADA bans cannabis out of hand, he is taking the herb as a government allowed medicine.

Fortunately he has until 2006 to solve this dilemma. Perhaps some civic minded ADA attorneys will offer their services in the interim.

Prohibitionists still looking for pot-terrorism connection

Pete at DrugWarRant points us to
an article
I missed. The Saudis are claiming that marijuana is the new source of drug money to finance terrorism.
"In the space of one year, border police intercepted 10 tons of cannabis coming from Iraq," a Saudi source said. "In the past, the [smuggled] merchandise used to consist of alcoholic beverages and prohibited drugs."
One assumes the prohibited drug they reference is probably heroin. If it's true that smugglers have given up dealing in alcohol and smack, they should be happy about it. Marijuana is the least harmful intoxicant available to mankind and their population will be the healthier for it. But with only ten tons of cannabis being intercepted, it seems unlikely that this is true.

It may sound like a lot of pot, but you have to keep in mind that cannabis is a bulky item and a pound of it is worth much less a pound of heroin or cocaine since you use more weight of the product "per dose" if you will. Ten tons seized in a year is almost meaningless.

To put it into context, our government seized almost 36 tons of cocaine in one week in Sept of '89. In 2000, 500 tons of marijuana were seized by the just by the Border Patrol (not the DEA or customs) at the Mexican border and 192 tons (I assume domestically grown) were seized in California alone. The data suggests that the cannabis coming into Saudi Arabia is small time dealing to a domestic cannabis consuming market.

But even taking it at face value, and believing that the cannabis market is now financing terrorist cells, this is simply another argument to end prohibition. Illegal drugs are still the commodity that offers the best return on an investment and will remain so, as long as prohibition supports artificially high profits. If anyone could grow it, legal market competition would force out the illegal dealers and the government would be getting the money in taxes and regulatory fees, instead having the profits circulate uncounted and untaxed in the underground economy.

And it doesn't say much for the effect our foreign policy of "democracy intervention" is having on these countries either. As Pete said,
So let's see, we go to Afghanistan and it becomes the largest source of opium in that part of the world. We go to Iraq, and it becomes the supplier of marijuana to Saudi Arabia.
Not to mention we've spent billions in Colombia fighting coca plants and cocaine has never been purer or more available despite the government's declarations of victory in the fight. A cynical person might think the war on some drugs is only meant to be waged but never really "won."

Jury refuses to convict in first Berkshire 18 prosecution

Pete at Drug WarRant is already all over this story but I'm going to add my two cents since the Berkshires are my old stomping grounds and we've been following DA Capeless' crusade against teenagers for a while.

I happy to report Capeless' ill-advised prosecution failed and Kyle W. Sawin is free because the jury at his second trial refused to convict him despite evidence that he did sell a tiny amount of marijuana to an undercover officer. The jury believed the defense's contention that Kyle was entrapped by the overly aggressive cop and probably was reluctant to send the young man to jail for years on the basis of a sloppy investigation. The prosecution failed to establish that the first sale even occurred and the conduct of the undercover cop stank of coersion.
Capeless said he was disappointed with the jury's verdict and indicated that he does not intend to alter the policy.

"I felt that the defense was a weak one. These are professional, well-trained, experienced narcotics investigators who would never stoop to engage in entrapment. I feel that today, and I feel that going forward with any of the cases that we have," the district attorney said. "I'm hard-pressed to think about how they can find him not guilty."
He better think a little harder then, because the community, as evidenced by the petition drive started shortly after the arrests, is clearly fed up with nonsenical prosecutions that contribute nothing to the public safety.
[Juror] Nix also criticized authorities for putting what he said was a disproportionate amount of time and money into pursuing the case against the defendant. "I am upset that the government put so many resources into such a trivial case with such meager returns," Nix said. "I think it's an outrage."
Indeed it is, one of many perpetrated every day in the money pit called the war on some drugs. But as Pete points out, this case is proof positive of the power of juries. We have the right to nullify bad law and this jury exercised that right even though they didn't invoke it specifically.

A few more cases like this and perhaps the prosecutors will think twice before bringing these matters forward. In Massachusetts at least, the DA eventually has to answer to the voters in order to keep his job. If Capeless persists in pushing in own agenda against the will of the public, he may find he doesn't have one anymore. Now that would be justice.

An archive of related stories in the Berkshire Eagle on this case is available here.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Seeing the sense in the Senlis proposal

The Senlis conference in Kabul gets another boost from John Simpson at the BBC. The highlights.
The Senlis Council is making a proposal which is receiving guarded but positive responses from many different governments and organisations. Suppose, it was suggested, the opiates which cause such trouble in the form of heroin were diverted to medical use instead?

The Senlis Council carried out a feasibility study with the help of several universities, and the idea stood up. The plan would be to buy the produce of the poppy-growers, instead of allowing it to go to the big drugs middle-men who operate in Pakistan and Afghanistan itself.

What tends to happen when an idea like this comes along is that people start to point out how far short of perfection it falls, instead of accepting that it might present, say, a 60% improvement on what exists already. Because it isn't a 100% solution, it gets discarded.

The Senlis Council certainly doesn't expect that its big new idea will solve the problem of the heroin trade, but it might do some good. And it will certainly redress the absurd position whereby the world has more heroin, proportionately, than it has morphine.

Not an awful lot of logic has been applied to the drugs trade over the years. It could do with some now.
Really. The Senlis plan certainly makes more sense than plying the same eradication policies that have already failed in the Americas.

No justice for Utah ravers

Salon has a good article on the Utah Rave. It features some new quotes from medical personnel and others on the field. Unfortunately, it also notes that the cops got away with this outrageous commando raid and will not be reprimanded in any way.

Worth waiting through the commercial to read in full.

Reuters report on Senlis conference in Kabul

Speaking to Reuters on Sunday, Afghani Counter-Narcotics Minister Habibullah Qaderi said the country "is not ready to adopt a controversial proposal to use its opium to help ease a global shortage of painkillers."
"As far as the licensing at this moment is concerned, I am saying no," he said. "I'm not in favour because it jeopardises the whole of our effort ... There would be anarchy in this country now. It would create a lot of problems."

..."We don't want to confuse the Afghan people, because the Afghan people would be confused, because while the government on the one hand wants to control and stop cultivation, we are talking about licensing.

"I think it's too early to talk about licensing."
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) isn't keen on the idea either, rejecting it out of hand. Of course they've been led around by the nose by the US prohibitionists since the UN Drug Conventions were first enacted.

Both the Minister and the UN cite the confusion farmers might have over the conflicting messages and claim their eradication efforts have been successful in eliminating the number of acres devoted to poppy cultivation. They make cursory notice that due to a banner year for poppies, production of the resin used to make heroin didn't appreciably diminish.

It doesn't sway their illogic thinking however. Both remain hopeful that with the new planting season about to begin, they can further reduce the areas under cultivation. That should work about as well as my hope to someday win a few million bucks in the lottery.

From the streets of Kabul

DRC Net's Phil Smith is in Afghanistan for the next two weeks attending the Senlis Council's drug policy reform conference and is posting blog entries and photos here. There's some great stuff up there already.

Bookmark the site. He'll be updating daily or as his internet connection allows.

Cold medicine restrictions doesn't stop meth use

The Oregonian reportson a story that should give our Beltway legislators an inkling of how ineffective restricting the sale of cold medicine is in stopping meth use. Looking at Oklahoma, where the sales of the formerly OTC drug has been restricted to behind the pharmaceutical counter, it did result in diminishing the number of home labs but was immediately countered by an increase in imported meth from Mexico and a rise in property crimes related to meth addicts.

"We took away their production," said Tom Cunningham, task force coordinator for the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council. "That didn't do anything for their addiction."

Two decades of government effort have failed to curb the availability of meth. A new analysis of federal data by The Oregonian shows that the drug's potency has hit levels not seen in a decade. Rising purity indicates the supply of meth is growing, and it means a $25 bag of meth will last a user longer.
While it's true that fewer labs are a good result in terms of public safety, for all practical purposes the public is still endangered by the addicts who now have to pay more for the drug and are forced into crime themselves in order to finance their fix. Furthermore, the organized criminals operating mega-labs outside the country are a ruthless lot and are unstoppable.

Our government is still playing their version of Whack-a-mole drug policy. Eliminating one source of the drug, only causes new and in this case, greater problems. Once again, the only fiscally responsible and socially sensible plan would be to legalize the drug, give it to the addicts and offer more treatment programs to get them off the drug.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Mass marijuana and the surprise return of the cannabis granny

I didn't even know Media Awareness Project has a forum but thanks to JackL who sent over this link. He was actually pointing out the discussion on impending drug testing in Massachusetts High Schools at the bottom, but I see the new material at the top has to do with the Cannabis Granny in the UK, Patricia Tabram, who we previously wrote about here, here and here.

It looks like she was busted again and word has it she is now cooking with cannabis for about 27 elderly or disabled people. They should be giving her an award for contributing the public health, not arresting her.

Meanwhile, I hope the Bay State doesn't cave into drug war madness and start testing kids and sending in drug dogs. They should know better than that. At least outside of Berkshire County which has always been somewhat backward anyway, at least in the North Berkshires. In North County they are just restarting the lamebrained trial of the 18 year old Great Barrington kid who was coerced into selling drugs to an undercover agent in a sting operation. The first trial ended in a hung jury but the DA is determined to put these kids into jail for years over a tiny amount of marijuana under the school zone enhancements.

Talk about your waste of tax dollars. I have some time off coming up. I believe I'll be writing to the Eagle about this case.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Justice delayed due to FDA departure?

This is interesting.
WASHINGTON -- Embattled Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Lester Crawford abruptly resigned Friday, telling his staff that at age 67 it was time to step aside.
I wonder if it has anything to do with this? Perhaps Crawford was one of their experts. In any event, it's sure to further delay this action.

DEA delays UMASS research case - again

The hearings in the court case filed against the DEA for unjustifiably denying UMASS a license to produce research grade marijuana have been postponed at the DEA's request to the week of Dec. 12, 2005. The DEA was to begin presenting their expert testimony on Monday but asked for a continuance.

Perhaps they couldn't find any experts willing to sell out to their propaganda but more likely they simply aren't prepared and want to keep the case in limbo in any event, to prevent the research necessary to gain FDA approval for marijuana as a medicine. It would after all seriously screw up their arrest statistics if they weren't allowed to bust sick people anymore.

Media Awareness Project is sponsoring a letter writing campaign to our legislators about this issue. They have a letter you can and paste to your representative and a tool that will get you to the rep's contact information.

The bright side of this delay is we have plenty of time to lobby our Congresscritters, but don't let that delay you. Write early and often.

Hemp Throw Down

I'm sorry this get this up sooner but if you're reading this in South Dakota this morning and are looking for something to do, head on over to this event.
Keefe Green Productions announces the Hemp Throw Down -- the Black Hills’ new fall lost-harvest hemp festival – to be held this coming Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24, at the Elk View Campground, I-90 Exit 37, five miles southeast of Sturgis, South Dakota.

All ages are invited to come enjoy a beautiful private setting with indoor live music and entertainment and outdoor camping and fun. Admission is $10 per day, which includes camping. Proceeds are committed to the Alex White Plume legal defense fund and to the South Dakota Safe Access to Medical Cannabis petition drive.
There's still a full day of music from 11:00am to well past midnight and there will be a Hempire vending station selling everything from tshirts to paper products, the Organnabis Kitchen will provide organic hemp based meals featuring hemp flour pizzas and there will be Hemp beer available, provided by Dempsey’s Brewery who did a special brew for the event.

Sounds like fun to me.

Dumb and dumber

Howie Carr, in an insipid column in the Boston Herald, takes up a lot of bandwidth with adolescent insults against the kids who were arrested at the MassCann Freedom Rally last week. Carr, who seems to have a bizarre fixation about the tattoo placement on the bodies of young boys, intently tracks their arrest records and in some cases, follows them home to tattle on them to their mothers. And he calls them stupid.

Maybe it was a little dumb to blantantly spark up in the park, but not as dumb as it is to spend tens of thousands of tax dollars procressing the non-violent plant smokers through the system. Not that an ineffectual bully like Carr would think of that; but what can you expect from a guy who can only get published in a rag like the Herald?

Maybe someday he'll grow up and get to write for a real newspaper, but if this column is any indication of his talent for social analysis, I suggest his mother not start holding her breath. It appears it will be quite a while longer before she can be proud of her little boy Howie.

[hat tip JackL]

Sad Anniversary

It's been a year since he died and Jonathan Magbie is back in the news. You'll remember our previous coverage of this tragic case where the quadriplegic was effectively sentenced to death on a drug possession charge when Judge Retchin sentenced him to jail against the DA recommendation and he died from lack of necessary medical care.

The WaPo reports his family has filed a civil suit, "accusing the District government and Greater Southeast Community Hospital of failing to give him proper care." Meanwhile, Colbert I. King who has been following this case from the beginning had a good op-ed earlier this week that I missed, but fortunately is archived at the Media Awareness Project.

Our previous posts on the case are here, here, here, here, here and here.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More over blow

I don't know much about Quebecois politics. From what I remember, there's been an ongoing fight between them and other Canadians over French speaking peoples' sovereignty for many years. However I'm interested in this race because the leading PQ candidate's drug use became an issue.

There's a media frenzy going on about André Boisclair's cocaine use in the late 90s. He was 30 something at the time but already a minister in the government, having moved up from the national assembly. They his leadership skills into question. It seems to me, the time to have done that would have been when he was serving as minister. The coke proably made him a more focused legislator if he didn't abuse it and abuse would have been apparent then.

In any event the revelations don't appear to have hurt his support for party leadership. According to Susan Riley at The Ottawa Citizen,
Fortunately for him, the Quebec public has, apparently, "moved on." His approval ratings increased 11 per cent in the wake of the cocaine revelation. He is supported by 71 per cent of Quebecers, and 86 per cent of PQ members, far ahead of his closest rival, Pauline Marois (whose cocaine status isn't an issue). Whether he will stay on top after his prickly performance in the first of six leadership debates on Wednesday remains to be seen.
Apparently Boisclair has become a bit defensive in answering the press. Unless he has something else to hide about those years, he should chill out and stop explaining.

Brecher for Becker

Drug Policy Alliance is having their annual conference on November 10-12 this year in Long Beach, CA. I don't think I'm going to be able to make it myself. I only get my schedule one month in advance but in looking at the general pattern, it looks like my week off will not fall in the right place. Nonetheless, if you're free and you want to get more involved in drug policy reform, I would recommend you attend. You'll learn a lot and meet some really great people.

One of them might be Dean Becker of Drug Truth Network who I met in New Jersey at the 2003 conference. He's an amazing guy and a tireless advocate for reform. His 4:20 reports and Cultural Baggage interviews are not to be missed and he's grown his audience in the last few years to include 42 affliates with more pending.

He's up for an Brecher Award this year and although he's kind of a longshot, I can't think of anyone who deserves the recognition more. Give his work a listen, samples here and here and then drop a note to Robin Beck at in support of his nomination if you agree.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Defund the DEA

I have a brutal schedule this week and I'm too fried to blog but thanks to Tim Meehan, I have a link to this new blog in the hood, Frank Weed, who makes a very good argument for defunding the DEA in Maine. I'm too tired to excerpt so you'll just have to read it for yourselves tonight.

I have one more early call tomorrow. It's dark when I leave the house but there's joggers out all over the place. They wear little headlamps or carry a flashlight. I saw six this morning. How do they do it? I'm glad if I manage to take a shower without drowning at that hour.

More on Marc

Nice cover story in the LA City Beat on Marc Emery's case. It doesn't break any new information but it's an excellent overview of the case with a few new quotes by our own Prince of Pot and a denial, sort of, that the mysterious letters are a DEA sting.

[AUSA]Todd Greenberg laughs at the idea that this is a sting: "You've gotta think: His customers, many of them, are engaged in criminal activity," he says. "Would it shock you that they'd seize upon this as a way to make some money? I think he's paranoid."

Asked if this is a DEA operation, [agent]Jeff Eig says, "Not that I know of."

First of all, pot growers are not common criminals who cheat each other and secondly, if it was a grower, you can be sure they would have come up with a more creative letter than the lame one that was sent out.

You'll also notice that neither of these prohibition profiteers really flatly deny it, they imply it's not true. I'd say that's a pretty fair indication that it really is a DEA sting.

Over blow

It seems hard to believe the revelation that Kate Moss snorts cocaine is causing such a controversy. Don't these people know that virtually all models take some kind of drug to suppress their appetitie - even if it's just cigarettes? How do you think they stay so thin?

In any event, some grainy photos in a UK tabloid of the alleged use of the drug have just cost Ms. Moss at least three major contracts.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


It's been a long day and I've got to get up at 5:00am and do it all over again tomorrow so I'm just going to tell you about the praying mantis I saw today. The tyke wasn't interested. He wanted to play in the pool, but I was fascinated. I haven't seen one since I lived on the farm but I swear it was a different color and shape here.

I remember the ones on the farm being a lighter color and thinner. This was was almost fat and a very flat brown color with front feet like little clubs. It was just as bold as the northern ones were though. It's head was a perfect triangle with big eyes at either point. It looked right at me and stared me down.

Can't keep a good weed down

Sorry for the lapse in posting. I'm working this week and was having some technical problems with Blogger yesterday. I seem to back in business again, so I'm going to post this piece even though you have to be a subscriber to read it in full, because I love the story so much. Here's the highlights.
Pot plants sprout in storefront planter

Downtown coffee shop owner Mario Trejier says he was shocked when two laughing tattooed men informed him that marijuana plants were sprinkled among the flowers in his sidewalk planters. Trejier called the cops, and the receptionist said it wasn't a police matter.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

He admitted his business sometimes attracts suspicious types. "They're always stockbrokers," he said.

He hasn't pulled the eight plants, one coming into bud, out of the two heavy cement planters because the unasked-for crop hasn't created any difficulties. "If this is any problem to me, I'll wheel them to Starbucks," he said.

Trejier said he wouldn't have recognized the plants, from eight-to-20-centimetres high, as marijuana. "I'm an old-fashioned guy," he said.

In some places in the US, the local law enforcement would probably form a task force over it. The Vancouver police are apparently unconcerned.
Someone may have dropped pot seeds into the planters, said Vancouver police Const. Tim Fanning. "It's fairly minor," Fanning said. "We don't have any suspects, we're not going to have any charges, so there's not really any need to tie up police resources."
When I first started LOS, I had this idea to form an inner-city guerrilla growers association. The idea is people would save their seeds instead of just throwing them out and start tossing them into planters and municipal lots. Although I planted a few myself that year, the plants all suffered disastrous accidents and never become noticeable. I enlisted a couple of people but the project never took off. I still think it's a great idea. Maybe I'll try to resurrect it again in the spring.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Beantown News

The Boston Phoenix published a "pot issue" in conjunction with last Saturday's MassCann Freedom Rally. You can find out what you missed plus read about 13 things to do in Boston when you're stoned. They sound like fun even if you're straight. Worth a look.

Attendance was reported to be down at the rally this year. I suppose it should have been expected with inclement weather and the price of gas so prohibitive but it's too bad. They could have used a good year since they barely managed to stage this one after last year's rainout.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Lunatic claims by the ONDCP

Via Amanda at Pandagon, the ONDCP's latest scare ad claiming marijuana causes schizophrenia.

We've already debunked this claim here about three times I think, but I'll point you to the latest Salon article that does it again. It's worth going through the required ads to read it even though there's not much new information for LOS readers.

Here's a few of the choicer quotes. First from NIDA.
"Our research provides most of the evidence undergirding the campaign and we certainly support its goals," says Dr. Wilson Compton, director of the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But Compton concedes that the findings cited in the ad are "not completely established" and that experts consider them "controversial" and worth further investigation.
Controversial my eye, they're considered flat out quackery as evidenced by this statistic.
Perhaps the strongest piece of evidence to cast doubt on a causal connection between marijuana and schizophrenia is a long flat-line trend in the disease. While marijuana use rose from virtually nil in the 1940s and '50s to a peak period of use in 1979 -- when some 60 percent of high school seniors had tried it -- schizophrenia rates remained virtually constant over those decades. The same remains true today: One percent or fewer people have schizophrenia, a rate consistent among populations around the world. This is in stark contrast to studies linking tobacco smoking with lung cancer, where rises in tobacco use were accompanied by rising rates of lung cancer.
Of course the prohibitionists are pretty desperate ever since the connection between cannabis smoking and lung cancer was proven to be false. They're lately trying to imply it's the stronger weed that is inherently dangerous and is allegedly causing mental illness in responsible users. Unsurprisingly, this is also a flat out lie.
UCLA public policy expert Mark Kleiman has pointed out that federally funded research by the University of Michigan shows that since the 1970s the level of high reported by high school seniors who smoked marijuana has remained "flat as a pancake." In other words, even if today's kids are smoking more potent stuff, they don't get higher than their folks did -- like drinking a few whiskey shots rather than multiple mugs of beer, they use less of the good stuff to achieve the same effect.
Looking at it logically, if this claim was true we would all be committed to insane asylums by now.

The bottom line is mentally ill people may be inclined to self-medicate with cannabis, but cannabis is not the cause of their illness. Furthermore, as it often mentioned by the experts, this lie-based campaign is infinitely more dangerous to teenagers than casual use of the herb would be.

When they see their peers using marijuana without suffering mental breakdowns, then they won't believe legitimate warnings about dangerous drugs. If anything comes of the 150 million the ONDCP plans to spend on these ads, it will the creation of more meth and heroin addicts because the drug czar insists on crying wolf in order to protect his salary, rather than disseminating facts that could actually protect our kids from drug abuse.

Buyers beware

I posted on this before but it's worth repeating. All indications are that the DEA is attempting to run a sting operation and perhaps round up more cannabis growers around the world. At least 60 people have reported receiving extremely odd letters purported to be from Emery Seeds.
Some of Emery's customers were stunned recently to receive a letter purportedly seeking support money for Emery's defence fund. "Smoke for freedom of choice! Smoke for our leader! Overgrow the government!" reads the notice, which asks for an additional $50 to fill seed orders and stipulates that donations be sent via money order through Wal-Mart or Western Union – both of which require I.D. It's from info given at the money-order stage that pot activists contend the DEA is amassing its hit list.

According to Emery, notices have turned up in 16 U.S. states, seven provinces and territories, as well as New Zealand and Australia.

Emery's sure it's the work of the DEA. He says info the DEA has so far disclosed to his lawyer, John Conroy, indicates that its agents scanned both the incoming and outgoing mail for his seed operation in the weeks prior to his arrest on July 29.
If you got one of these letters, you can be sure they didn't come from Marc and you might want to take some precautions if you actually do operate a grow.

Not so swift surrender

My email moves so fast that if I don't check it every couple of hours, mail gets buried three pages back so I almost missed this story. The police in Peel, Canada have a "Green Team" comprised of five officers whose sole job is to bust grow-ops. They're busy guys, averaging about 200 busts a year.

They say the growers are getting smarter, but you couldn't prove it by this one.

Ryan says there are some stranger tales to tell. He recalled the recent story of a hydro worker who was in a Brampton neighbourhood inspecting a line when someone came out of a house waving his arms in the air and calling out, "Okay, you got me."

The man confessed that he was growing marijuana in the house, then collected his family and drove away, leaving his crop for police to harvest.
I wouldn't think it would be so difficult to tell the guy wasn't a cop. The lesson being if you're so paranoid that you "give yourself up" to a water inspector, you probably shouldn't be in the grow-op business.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Heavy reading

A little gift from our friend Tim Meehan. A pdf of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Read it and pass it on.

From Terry Nall, yet another case of mistaken identity. You would think the least the cops could do is learn the difference between marijuana and sunflowers. Especially in Kansas - The Sunflower State!

A nice write-up on Marc Emery's case with a sweet picture of Loretta at the Missoula News.

In case you missed it. Another instance of forfeiture abuse. It's good to see the MSM taking a stand against this insanity.

How soon we forget. Jimi Hendrix died on this day 35 years ago. He was the greatest guitarist we've ever had. I sometimes wonder what he would have been playing today, had he lived longer.

Bridge over muddled waters?

Ben Cooper takes issue with this post on A&E's propaganda on behalf of the DEA. He says,
If by ‘logical’ she means ‘muddled’ then I have to agree with her.
Well, at least he got my gender right.

Unconscious consent?

A gunshot victim has been charged with heroin distribution following a search of his clothing that took place while he was unconscious on the operating table.

Scott Morgan reluctantly finds the search to have been reasonable under the circumstances, but has a remedy for heroin dealers who are constantly under gun fire so they can avoid a similar fate.

Girl talk

One of the really great benefits of blogging is that sometimes readers become cyber-friends. Often you don't ever meet them in person but sharing thoughts forms just as much a bond. Jamilah Alexander is a friend like that to me and thus I rejoice in the recognition she received for this beautiful poem.

Got a short little span of attention

This is interesting. The "use of prescription drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is growing at a faster rate among adults than children." It seems as their kids are being diagnosed with the disorder, the parents are thinking they have the same symptoms.

It always strikes me as ironic that we're the most pharmaceutically medicated society on earth, yet we spend billions every year "fighting" eight drugs that were arbitrarily declared illegal.

[hat tip to Jules Siegel]

Staying put

Well, I regretfully decided against taking the apartment in town. In the end, I have time to hold out for something more appropriate but I was sorry to give up the opportunity to get to know Ben and his sweetheart better.

Meanwhile, I called about another place that's just around the corner from me. It turned out it was owned by my current landlord. It made for an awkward moment but I guess it's good he knows that I'm thinking of moving on. I'm thinking if he comes up with something I like better than this house, I might be able to break this lease without losing my deposit. Maybe I could transfer it.

In the interim, I found a little house on-line that's for sale that I would love to buy but unfortunately, that's rather a pipe dream since I haven't got enough saved for a down payment yet. Of course, they're finally about to start a lottery here. Maybe I could win the money. Heh.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Newark alert

Take note if you live in New Jersey. This is scary.
The FBI and New Jersey officials have started a hushed but intensive search for three missing lab mice reportedly infected with deadly strains of plague. The mice were discovered missing from separate cages at a bioterrorism research facility in Newark more than two weeks ago, but the incident was only confirmed Wednesday by the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger.
Scientists say with modern antibiotics, plague can be treated if quickly diagnosed, but how are people going to know they should be diagnosed, if nobody tells them the little infected rodents are running around?

[hat tip to Paul Wright]

It's a war on plants

I missed linking to this one and it's a must read. In Smoked Out at Alternet, Silja J.A. Talvi takes us through the facts and fallacies on marijuana. Read it for yourself, but here's one excerpt.
Pointing to the fact that marijuana-related arrests added up to nearly half of 1.5 million drug-related arrests annually, the authors of this report noted that marijuana arrests actually increased by 113 percent between 1990 and 2002, while overall arrests in the nation decreased by 3 percent.

By way of spin control, the ONDCP has gone out of its way to say that the people being locked up are the real criminals: the money-making dealers and traffickers who operate in one of the nation's biggest and most lucrative underground economies.

The Sentencing Project's research refuted this easily. Of the marijuana arrests in 2002, nearly 9 in 10 were for possession, not dealing or trafficking. In addition, traffickers and dealers were actually getting shorter prison terms than those sentenced on possession charges: People sentenced for trafficking received a median of 9 months in prison, while those sentenced for possession received a median of 16 months in prison.
Prohibition is pointless and its only tangible accomplishment has been to create the largest prison system in the world. You wonder how they can still call this a free country.

Sniffing out the truth on drug dogs

A fascinating interview with Rex Curry, an attorney who has been arguing a Florida based case on the reliability of drug sniffing dogs all the way to the Supreme Court.

Bush family troubles

I don't really like posting this because in a way it feels like intruding on a private family problem, but when you take a public office, the tradeoff for power is that you are no longer a "private" citizen. Besides, considering his Dad had no problem publicly interfering in the Schiavo family's private concerns, I think Jeb Bush's son is fair game.

I wonder what's going to happen to the poor cop who arrested him for public drunkeness and resisting arrest? Considering his sister's ongoing problems with substance abuse, one would think this is not a happy family. People forget that rich kids can be neglected too.

It's sad really.

Cops mull over Marc's mountain of paper

The feds should have thought of this when they went after Marc Emery.
Police are analyzing piles of documents stretching 20 feet higher than the Empire State building from pot crusader Marc Emery's computer, court heard on Friday. Prosecutors say it will take until January for them to analyze. (How many reams is that I wonder?)
And that's just in Canada. Considering how slowly the wheels of justice turn in the US, at this rate, even if he's eventually extradited, the case is likely to outlive this White House and by the time it gets to trial - perhaps we will have legalized cannabis anyway.

Bush slaps Chavez for dissing DEA

The White House "decertified" Venezuela as a prohibition partner in its war on some drugs, however they're foregoing the usual punishment of withholding "foreign aid" payments since that would screw up their funding of the resident oligarch's opposition parties dedicating to overthrowing Chavez' popularly elected administration.

You have to wonder how they keep a straight face in DC when making these sort of charges.
The Bush administration has repeatedly expressed concern about the alleged deterioration of democratic institutions in Venezuela, citing Chavez's control of the judicial and electoral systems and threats to the independent news media.
As opposed to the current state of the US union? And then there's this.
The U.S. State Department's No. 3 official, Nicholas Burns, announced the Bush administration decision Thursday in New York City about the time Chavez was arriving there for a U.N. summit gathering.

Accompanying Burns, U.S. drug czar John Walters said that in the past Venezuelan cooperation on drugs was "quite successful" but that Chavez now "no longer wants a productive relationship."
If hypocrisy were money, we wouldn't have a national deficit.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Got blogs to remember

I'm overdue on welcoming some new blogs to my personal sphere starting with Letters from the Bostonian Exile, an old friend from Beantown who blogs law and politics. He doesn't post much on drug reform but click over and have a look anyway. He's a smart guy who has a lot of interesting ideas.

Don Surber doesn't blog on drugs either and unless you follow my political blogs, it would take too long to explain how I became so fond of him even though I disagree with most of what he says. Still he's a real common sense guy who has won me over and not just because I discovered that sweetie put Last One Speaks on his blogroll.

Now you'll notice that he does not have The Impolitic on that roll. His largess apparently doesn't extend so far as to encourage my Libbytarianism. And who knows, maybe he just likes the bird stories over here, but I think it more likely he's on the our side in policy reform. Anyway, thanks for the support Don. It means a lot coming from you.

Finally I'd like to introduce you to the Qatar crowd. I don't know how he found me but Rohit from the Quatar Diary took The Impolitic international when he linked to me. He's a 25 year old journalist/writer from India who moved to Qatar for the money. His quirky tales of angst on the Arab Street get addictive. He doesn't blog on reform either but he does happen to have a recent post on a big hash bust that offers some very interesting insights on vice in Qatar.

He also has a hell of a blogroll. I just started clicking it yesterday and discovered another couple of young bloggers of interest. Arroclint, a kid jaded beyond his years, is also living in Qatar and from the US comes Casual Friday. This kid apparently posts random bizarre thoughts once a week. He verges on sick, but his stuff makes me laugh. Don't go there if you're easily offended though.

Late start

It's a been a busy day so I'm late getting started. I've been tied up for a few hours on a little research project on airplane propellors for my old boss that was kind of fun. I also looked at an apartment this morning. I'm thinking about moving. I spent an hour or so just walking around my house afterwards, mulling over my options.

The place is cute, but it's much smaller than this house and it still has this vague mustiness to it. It's also not as nice. One of the bedrooms has an evil looking rug in it and the kitchen isn't as good. It does it have it upside however. It's comes with a washer and dryer, it's in a quiet neighborhood but it's close enough to the center of town so I could walk in if I felt like going to the blues club or having breakfast in the morning at the wifi cafe. It's much cheaper and I could get a discount for dogsitting when the landlord is on his selling trips.

The downside is, the landlord lives on the property. I've never had much luck with that arrangement. The apartment however is above the workshop and not in the actual house. The landlord also seems to be pretty cool. He and his girlfriend look to be a little younger than me, but not much. He's a jewelry maker and they're kind of earthy.

If the place was a little nicer, I would be feeling more enthusiatic about it. I think I need to go back and look at it again tomorrow with a more critical eye. I'm trying to remember whether the bedrooms had paneling. That would definitely be a minus. I don't think there was much storage either and I definitely remember the bathroom was teeny but it had a full size tub. I can't remember if it has AC.

I didn't ask a bunch of questions that I should have, like about the trash and water and heat sources. I don't know. I can't quite discount it but I also have the time to hold out for something better since my lease doesn't run out until January and moving is a such a drag, I won't want to do it again even though I have almost no stuff now. Then again there aren't that many rentals in town.

I hate these major life choices. I'm really terrible at this stuff.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Know your rights

Flex Your Rights is making a sequel to Busted, appropriately called Profiled.

Following BUSTED's basic formula, PROFILED will portray similar types of police encounters -- traffic stop, street stop, and home entry -- but will prominently feature black and Latino actors while highlighting the problems of racial profiling and the war on drugs. PROFILED will also pay close attention to showing how people who don't knowingly break any laws can benefit from asserting their constitutional rights.

To ensure that the video speaks with an authentic voice within communities of color, PROFILED will be created by an African-American or Latino director and will feature a prominent African-American or Latino narrator with a legal or law enforcement background.
It's just in the beginning stages and they could use some help, but it sounds like it's going to be another essential resource - particularly for communities of color.

Fighting the prison system - Undie update

For those readers who are following this story, I've been corresponding regularly with Mr. Corbett of the Alabama Corrections Dept. Our correspondence is somewhat long but I'm going to post it all as an object lesson in bureaucracy. So we left off here. Corbett replied.

Ms. Spencer,

I am not sure which facility in Elmore that you are referring to, in that, ADOC operates five facilities in that county. Please Keep in mind, visitation at any prison is a privilege for both the visitor and the inmate, it is not a right.

Any Administrative Regulation or facility SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that requires a visitor to wear underwear is necessitated for very common sense reasoning. Dress code for ADOC employees also mandates the wearing of underwear. Rules are prominently posted on signage at the facility entrance. Inmates are advised of visitation rules at orientation and expected to relay such information to their visitors. The visitor is oriented upon arrival at the facility.

I'd say based on the tone of your email that you have already committed the cardinal sin of journalism., "In order to understand this uncivil, inhumane and I believe possibly illegal conduct on the part of your officers." you have seemingly drawn conclusions, biased yourself by taking sides and created an agenda based story idea for yourself. Per ADOC regulations bloggers are not considered valid media outlets.

Despite this however, please refer to the following attachment. This regulation is dated and under review. However, it should provide a basis for visitation rules.

Regards, Brian Corbett


The attachment is long, so I'm not posting it. Email me if you would like a copy, otherwise I referenced the pertinent parts in this reply.

Dear Mr. Corbett:

Thank you for your prompt response to my enquiry, although I'm afraid it doesn't address the specific questions I asked and I must take issue with your response.

To begin with, while we can agree that visitation is a priviledge extended to the inmate; the vistitors, by your own screening methods, are not criminals and as tax-paying citizens whose contributions fund the operation of your facilities, certainly have a right to visit their family members, unless and until some rule has been breached. Even your own guidebook makes only that distinction. "Visitation and most free world correspondence are privileges extended to inmates."

In the instant matter, the only persons breaching the rules, were your own officers. Again, I refer you to your own guidebook.

"For males: A Pat search is conducted – checking collars, sleeves, waist. Go down back with hand, Pat down pants legs, hems and check bandages. Shoes and socks are pulled off by visitors to be checked. Belts and all jewelry are checked."

"For females: Females are asked to pull out the bottom of their bra and shake it. If wigs are worn, they are asked to pull it off and it is checked. A Pat search is conducted – checking collars, sleeves, and waist. Go down back with hand. Pat down pants legs, hems, check bandages. Shoes and socks are pulled off by visitors to be checked. Belts and all jewelry are checked."

Nothing in this material defines specific attire that is forbidden and the procedure does not include checking panties. Indeed, since the main thrust behind the rules seems to be to prevent the importing of contraband, it would seem to me that common sense would dictate the lack of same is one less place for it to be secreted.

Your employee dress code is immaterial. They're also required to wear uniforms. So I repeat my request for an explanation as to why a visitor would be "required" to wear undergarments. I also see nothing in the rules that prohibits the wearing of shorts, yet I know of at least one case where a person was prohibited from entering the visitor's room for this reason.

I am told that no rules regarding such a dress code for visitors are visibly or prominently posted in any facility, nor have they been made available to the families in any other manner. Furthermore, no visitor recalls having been invited to an orientation.

It hardly seems sufficient to say you disseminated that information to an incoming inmate while he was being processed. One would expect that to be a rather traumatic moment in anyone's life and perhaps they may have all forgotten having received this rule. However, it does stretch credibility to believe that not one single inmate remembered to impart that information to visitors they earnestly want to see. So I repeat my request for some definitive proof that this "dress code" has been disseminated in a manner that would it make it reasonably available to those families.

I must tell you that I have received complaints from many people who were similarly mistreated at various facilities under the Commissioner's control but I am reluctant to be more specific because the guards have threatened repercussions to the inmates if any specific complaints are made.

I do however, have one family courageous enough to do so and is willing to file a formal complaint upon assurance that retribution will not be taken against their loved one.

I'm sure we can agree that if reducing recidivism and rehabilitating inmates in order to return them to productive society is still the goal of our corrections system, then facilitating family support should be a primary concern.

Thank you in advance for your continued attention to this matter.


Mr Corbett promptly answered,

Ms. Spencer,

I am afraid we must agree to disagree. In that, visitation is a privilege for the inmate it does not guarantee any visitor a specific "right". More so, that proposed visitor must understand that his or her visitation privileges are just that, a privilege. Therefore, they must obey ADOC rules during visitation, whether or not they agree with them. If they simply do not agree with ADOC rules of visitation, then of course they are free to leave without visiting. Family members to not have a right to visit, it is a privilege for both the inmate and the family member. Visitation may be suspended or canceled at anytime by ADOC. That being said, we do encourage visitation.

As sated in my previous response, the wearing of appropriate undergarments, including panties and bras is an ADOC standard operating procedure requirement. you may agree or disagree, like or dislike this requirement, however, it is an ADOC requirement for the privilege of visitation. Inmates are also required to wear appropriate undergarments and uniforms, just as our officers and support staff are. Why should such by immaterial? Its a very valid point. Why should inmate and staff have a requirement regarding appropriate dress but visitors should not? Yes, shorts are prohibited too.

My I ask were you the visitor in question? If not, how do you know the only persons breaching the rules were ADOC officers? Are you simply taking for fact the word of a visitor? Again, I must state that by the tone of your email you are breaching journalistic ethics by drawing inaccurate conclusions, which lead to bias and agenda driven story telling or "blogging". Blogging is certainly not an accepted journalist standard and is not recognized as valid media by ADOC.

What you have been told regarding the posting of visitation rules is inaccurate and/or false.

One of your readers sent a box of undergarments to the facility so that those who attempt to visit, yet are dressed inappropriately, might have something appropriate to wear and be allowed to visit. We certainly appreciate the donation. ;-)

Brian Corbett


Needless to say this irritated me and I sent this.

I am assuming your sniping at my journalist credentials indicates you are unwilling to furnish me with the information requested. While I am not a card carrying member of the main stream press, I do have a legal background and would expect a more responsive answer even as an ordinary tax-paying citizen.

Merely asserting that you have made adequate efforts to facilitate visits without proof of same does not meet the standard for accountability of a publicly funded office.

While it's true I have not personally endured the reported behavior of your officers, I do have sworn affidavits from those who have, and plaintiffs willing to forward in this matter. One suspects a suit in which your agency is a named party may draw the attention of journalists whose credentials you may respect more.

This is a serious matter. I, or our legal representative, will be back in touch after I have consulted with counsel on our available legal remedies to address your refusal to furnish the requested documentation.


And finally Mr Corbett replies,

Ms. Spencer,

I do not mean to snipe. However, I do take exception with your bias as a so called "journalist" since your first email mentioned the Detroit Free Press. I spent 17 years in the journalism field before coming to ADOC. I take bias, slander and other journalist ethics violations very seriously. I do enjoy the debate though. Still, ADOC will not continue to provide fuel for an opinion based "blog".

If you and or the visitors who are making these allegations are willing to file a lawsuit in this matter that is your right. However, visitation is not a right as stated. On those grounds alone I think you'd be wasting your time and money but that is up to you.

Because visitation is a privilege ADOC governs the rules thereof. One of the rules requires that visitors will be required to meet the following conditions: "Female visitors will not be permitted to enter the institution wearing shorts, halters and brief dresses. They will wear appropriate undergarments, including bras". This rule is in place for very common sense reasons, we do operate a prison system after all.

It is the visitors responsibility to make sure they are aware of all the rules and regulations regarding visitation before they attempt to enter. I agree this is a serious manner, therefore, your clients should obey the rules and wear underwear when trying to enter an ADOC prison facility as required.

Legal counsel should not be back in touch with me. Instead they should contact ADOC legal directly.


Brian Corbett


You'll notice Mr. Judge of journalistic standards got the name of my newspaper wrong and is suddenly signing respectfully. And that's where it stands. I haven't answered and what happens next is up to Loretta as the injured party. I'd like to pursue it though, not just for her, but for all the family members who are mistreated by the system.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New blog in town

Welcome in to NORML, who have launched a new video blog project and you tech savvy reformers can be part of it.
FREE video hosting communities that have sprung up on the web over the past six months will allow everyone with a marijuana story, a lament about marijuana prohibition or a suggestion to America's leaders to share it with the world in a way that was not previously possible.

Volunteer contributors to the NORML Video Blog will data mine these repositories as well as produce original programming. If you would like to be a NORML Video Blog contributor, post a paragraph about yourself with a link to your website, blog or videos in a comment of the most recent entry.
Check it out, it looks like it will become a great resource.

The myths of meth

I watched the most irresponsible and irritating program on A&E last night. It was called something like, Meth - A County in Crisis. It focused on a little county in Missouri that admittedly has a meth problem. It might as well have been written by the ONDCP. The rhetoric was alarming.

The cops were calling the addicts terrorists and the enemy here at home, equating it to a war. The called the meth "epidemic" a cancer on society. They found four of the dumbest crackers in the community and one success story and pumped the meme. All of them claimed they were hooked after one try, they all mentioned starting with marijuana and they all suffered greatly under their addiction. The lead story was about a guy who was blinded when his cooking tank exploded. The cops are pushing the theme that this is a new problem that just started in the late nineties and has now blossomed into a full fledged epidemic.

Completely skewed and false propaganda of course. Meth has been around since the 50s and 60s and was widely used then. In those days it was a relatively safe pharmaceutical drug but the prohibitionists made it illegal and banned the ingredients that allowed it to be manufactured safely. Someone figured out how to make it with different ingredients, that were less safe to ingest and downright dangerous within the production phase. So logically, one should conclude that making it illegal in the first place put society in more danger than it would be in now .

In the 50s and 60s, the production didn't create toxic waste nor poisonous fumes. Leaving aside that it's futile to think you could get every single "cook;" if they had left it alone then and offered treatment to the addicts, we wouldn't be spending millions of tax dollars on hazmat teams today to dismantle home labs.

The program of course, did not reach that conclusion. More disturbing is that they have packaged it as a video for sale to the public. I think I'll write them a letter about irresponsible journalism.

Government puts prohibition over protection

Must read of the day is this one I almost missed at Cannabis Culture, Protecting Children. Ray Boyd gives us an excellent overview of the skewed priorities of our government and points out many examples of misplaced funds used to promote the war on some drugs rather than the public safety. Read it all for yourself, but here's one key graf that kind of sums up the whole problem.
"I am hearing there's a terrible shortage of police, helicopters, medical supplies, trucks – that New Orleans is in utter chaos and needs help from everybody everywhere," he said. "But you know what the police were doing here where I live? Flying their helicopters looking for marijuana growing in people's backyards. They swooped on a guy who ran out in his backyard and tried to burn down his four pot plants when he heard their copters coming. They sent in a huge squad to bust him. I think that every one of those police and all their equipment should have been helping out in New Orleans. But no, it's business as usual. They don't care about kids drowning in New Orleans. They just like to have their wars."
Can't think of a better way to protect the illegal market than to bust people growing a few plants in order to supply themselves outside of it and how many lives were lost that could have saved in order to destroy four plants and an otherwise law-abiding tax-paying citizen's place in civil society?

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

Canada moves forward on distribution of MMJ via pharmacies

Medical marijuana in Canada is one step closer to being distributed by pharmacies. The plan which has been held up by regulatory issues is again moving forward after almost a year.

Currently, 943 people are authorized to possess marijuana for medical conditions ranging from AIDS to multiple sclerosis, once a doctor has indicated that traditional remedies are ineffective.

Of these, 695 have permission to grow the plant themselves, while Health Canada has authorized 77 growers to produce it for other patients.
Not everyone sees the program as a solution however.
"What we're talking about is a potential multimillion-dollar, multi-year program that would only reach 13 to 18 people in this entire province," said [long time reform activist] Philippe Lucas in Victoria.
Also of interest is the change in production values at the government run grow in Flin Flon.
Prairie Plant Systems is also distributing a flowering-bud product that currently contains about 14 per cent THC, the main active ingredient. The company's five-year contract ends in December, but is expected to be extended by a year as Health Canada issues a request for proposals for a new long-term arrangement.

...Earlier versions of the Prairie Plant Systems product came under fire for being too weak and full of stems and leaves. The company has since boosted the THC content and restricted it to buds only.
The pricing appears to be reasonable as well which may help the program gain public acceptance. The biggest obstacle to a similar program in the Netherlands was the over-pricing of the herb as compared to what was available in the private market.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Alive and well

Thanks for all the good thoughts folks. It was a false alarm based on a faulty EKG for which I spent the last 24 hours wired to dozens of monitors and underwent every test known to man. The good news (sort of) is that I'm merely the same hypochrondriac I ever was and given my chronic conditions, a relatively healthy one at that.

This is the biggest hospital I've ever been in and in fact only the third time I've ever been in hospital overnight in my lifetime. Very impressive place and I have some good stories but while it's good place to be treated, the hospital is no place to get any rest. I haven't slept much between the noise and the constant monitoring and the food was the absolute worst, so I'm going to have a sandwich and take it easy today and the tales will have to wait until after I've had a nap.

I'll be back.

Monday, September 12, 2005

No posting

I'm afraid I'm on my way to the hospital for observation of some kind and will be off line for at least the next 24 hours. Send a good thought folks.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A day to remember

My post on 9/11 is up at The Impolitic. The part my Noho readers will be interested in, and I was there on that day, is the first paragraph.

On this day four years ago, like most of America and perhaps the world, I was riveted to my TV set, watching the planes crash into the WTC, over and over again in that endless video loop. Nobody got any work done in my office and I later stopped at what was then known as City Cafe because I didn't want to go home alone. For the first time in my life I was truly scared. My dear friend Harry McColgan spent the night with me. When he left in the morning I said, "Harry, the world as we know it ended yesterday."

The rest is here.

Home from Seattle Hempfest

Flex Your Rights has updated their website with a fresh new look and they're in such a good mood after their successful appearance at the fest, that they're running a special on the essential video Busted.

People were searched coming in with police confiscating alcohol and weapons only. They let folks keep their weed. As Steve notes,

About 150,000 people attended the annual event, which is located in a park with a beautiful view of Puget Sound and Mt. Rainer. I saw zero fights, zero people getting sick, and zero "freak outs". Police also made zero arrests. If all police behaved like the Seattle police at Hempfest, Flex Your Rights' work would be done!
Really we would all be out of business. Wouldn't that be a good thing?

Rave arrests stand

Just your usual miscarriage of justice.
A judge Thursday refused to dismiss charges against dozens of people arrested on charges of frequenting a drug house during a controversial raid on a Flint nightclub in March.

Flint District Judge Ramona M. Roberts said the arrests did not violate the free speech and free assembly rights of those who attended the rave party at Club What's Next and were not caught with illegal drugs.
The ACLU will of course be appealing this outrageous decision. This effectively means that anyone, in any club providing music can be arrested if a single person lights up a joint.

Abandoning the life savers

This is disgusting. Melissa at D'Alliance finds that traumatized firefighters from 9/11 who turned to drugs to self-medicate their ensuing pain from the memories have been fired after getting caught in random drug tests.

As Melissa says, nobody wants a drugged out fireman showing up to work but there's no proof they consume while on the job and besides wouldn't it be more productive to offer rehab services and perhaps a short suspension to remedy any problems their use might be causing?

Rant on a roll

Pete at Drug WarRant has the quote of the day which I'm going to "loot" in the interests of wide dissemination.
With police officers and federal law enforcement agents ratcheting up the pressure on [New Orleans] residents to leave, the holdouts worry that it is just a matter of time before they are forced out.

Ms. Harris said she did not want to leave. "I haven't even run out of weed yet," she said.
Like the old saying goes, weed will get you through times of no money, a lot better than money will get you through times with no weed.

Pete also points us to Radley Balko's latest strike against the war on some doctors with news of a conference our Agitator hosted in Boston.

Save Jabbar Gibson

I haven't posted on this here, but I've been very disturbed by the treatment of Jabbar Gibson who was arrested for saving evacuees of NOLA by confiscating an abandoned school bus and driving them out of harm's way. Thanks to a group of concerned citizens, perhaps he will receive the praise he deserves instead of the punishment he didn't. They have started a petition asking for Congressional intervention in order to honor his bravery, as it should have been honored from the beginning.

Please take a moment to read it and sign if you also agree that Jabbar was a hero - not a criminal.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Stupid ways to fight meth labs

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sales of over-the-counter cold remedies used to make methamphetamine would be restricted under a bill that passed the Senate on Friday.

The measure, approved by unanimous consent, would require stores to sell Sudafed, Nyquil and other medicines only from behind the pharmacy counter.
Those medicines contain ingredients that can be extracted to manufacture the highly addictive drug that has wreaked havoc in communities across the country.

Consumers would have to show a photo ID, sign a log, and be limited to 7.5 grams - or about 250 30-milligram pills - in a 30-day period.
Computer tracking would prevent customers from exceeding the limit at other stores...
Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. This will create yet another level of bureaucracy, the cost of the recordkeeping will be passed on to the consumer and it won't do a bloody thing to stop meth. This whole scheme has already driven the production into the hands of organized crime in Mexico.

Senators and other Congress creatures, pay attention here. If you want to stop drugs, legalization is the only practical, cost-effective method.

But don't believe me, read this from a think tank guy, Doug Bandow of Cato Institute who also strongly suggests we don't treat consumers with the sniffles as criminals.

[hat tip to sharon secor]