Sunday, February 29, 2004

Speed Kills

The UK Telegraph reports on a disturbing trend in Hollywood. It seems crystal meth has become the drug of choice for the glitterati. It's not good news that this drug is now fashionable in spite of its clear health risks.

At first, crystal methamphetamine increases productivity and elicits rapid euphoria, enabling the user to feel they can finish that script even if they have been up all night. The main high may only last six to 10 hours but it takes almost seven appetite-suppressing days for the final effects to wear off (thinness being an added virtue in this most image-conscious of cities).

The down side is at least one in seven get addicted - physically not just emotionally - and it quickly triggers a descent into the psychotic. It alters the dopamine in the brain, permanently changing a person's decision-making system. It is no accident that it got the name "trailer trash drug" as it pulls people into the gutter.

I know this to be true from personal experience. I experimented with it briefly in the early 70s but fortunately didn't really like it enough to get hooked. I knew others who weren't so lucky.

My college chum 'Rick', died of it and it was horrifying to witness his plunge into psychosis. He became delusional, prowling his property looking for DEA agents in the trees and at one point had scabs running the length of both his arms where he had been picking at imaginary bugs with forceps. By the end he was shooting it in alarming doses because he could no longer get the high by inhaling it. He denied his addiction right up to the end.

He had everything going for him. He was attractive, intelligent and came from a good family. His father was a physician. But nothing could save him. As I recall the reported cause of his death was heart failure; he was 22 years old. It may have even been true that his heart failed, but no one who knew him doubted that it was the meth that killed him.

Saturday, February 28, 2004
Emily Post was right

I went from the depths of disappointment to the heights of witnessing a miracle today and in between - I endured some three hours of really bad driving. I'm probably a little older than a lot of you, because I remember when the lanes on the highway meant something. In fact, I remember when they built the interstate in my town. The land taking took a cherry tree I used to climb; it had the sweetest fruit and I remember when driving on that road was a civilized interaction.

It used to be that the far right lane was for slow drivers, the middle was for speed limit drivers and the far left was for people who wanted to drive just a little faster. I used to love to drive when mostly everybody used that rule. It's a simple matter of courtesy, and it was safe.

Tonight as I was driving home in the dark, I had this epiphany about how road rage was born. It was when people stopped observing that rule. I was taught not to pass on the right but it's pretty difficult not to when there's someone going 55mph in the far left and there's two empty lanes to the right of them.

It didn't happen to me once, it happened at least five times tonight. I think people are so distracted by the electronics in their cars, that they just don't pay attention anymore or else they stopped teaching the rule in driver's ed. Either way, three out of five of those cars passed me within ten minutes later, going about 80.

In the larger context of my day, I'm more convinced than ever that if we are to restore civilized society - manners matter - not only on the road, but as we treat each other as human beings.

Road Trip

I'm off to see the family for the afternoon. I'll be back posting later tonight.

Friday, February 27, 2004
Public Safety or Surveillance?

Call me an alarmist, but I think RFID technology is one step away from Big Brother. Many have dismissed my concern but I find these tags to be one of the greatest potential threats to privacy that exists today. So far consumer resistance has kept the tags from wide use in hard goods like books and blue jeans, but now they've come up with a product that no one can boycott - prescription drugs.

(COMPUTERWORLD) - The Food and Drug Administration views radio frequency identification technology as the best way to track, control and identify prescription drugs and anticipates the widespread use of RFID tags to identify prescription drugs in the supply chain within three years.
Prescription drug manufacturers, in general, back the plan, with key manufacturers, distributors and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores settling on Accenture Ltd. to serve as their RFID program manager.

The FDA of course, is an agency in the Bush administration's pocket, and how very handy for the prohibitionists to have a way to track your private legal drug consumption. They spin it as inventory control.

The FDA, in a report released yesterday on combating counterfeit drugs, called RFID tags the most likely technology to bring about "mass serialization" of prescription drugs. The FDA defined mass serialization as "assigning a unique number (the electronic product code or EPC) to each pallet, case and package of drugs and then using that number to record information about all transactions involving the product." [emphasis added]

Think about that for a minute. That means that your private medical information will be recorded according to your prescriptions. A lot about you can be extrapolated from the medications you take and it's not difficult to see how that information could be abused.

The FDA's premise that the tracking insures chain of possession is a valid protection for the consumer but we should be insisting on the end of the chain being the pharmacist. The individual prescriptions should not be tracked. The time to be concerned about this technology is before it's assimilated as an industry standard or do you really want this company to be tracking your health needs?

Accenture Ltd., a consulting firm in Hamilton, Bermuda, said in a statement that it would act as the RFID program manager for a group of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and retailers. That group includes Abbott Laboratories, Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cardinal Health Inc., CVS Corp., Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Pfizer Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and Rite Aid Corp.

I don't know about you but I don't think I want some stranger in Bermuda to have that kind of information about my life.
Good Judgment

The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals continues to thwart the Feds persecution of medical marijuana patients. The three judge panel that issued a ruling in favor of two patients last December, refused to reconsider its ruling that allows Californians to grow and use marijuana to treat their illnesses.

Federal officials have been prosecuting terminally ill patients in California under the interstate commerce clause of the Controlled Substances Act in spite of the state having passed legislation in 1996 legalizing the use of cannabis as medicine.

In its 2-to-1 vote in December, the court found that medicinal marijuana "does not have any direct or obvious effect on interstate commerce" when it is grown locally for personal consumption under the advice of a physician and when patients do not pay for it.

Writing for himself and Judge Richard A. Paez, Judge Harry Pregerson said such use of the drug was "different in kind from drug trafficking." Judge C. Arlen Beam dissented.

This bodes well, not only for California patients but also those in the other six western states that allow medical use of our plant. We applaud the court's courage on this issue and wait with interest to see whether the Justice Department will take its case to the Supreme Court. So far they have declined to comment.

Talking Trash

This one is kind of amusing. A garbage truck carrying over two tons of marijuana was stopped in Arizona for driving erratically.

The driver, who identified himself as 28-year-old Brian Rivera Martinez, said he didn't know how to drive the truck.

When a drug-sniffing dog arrived, it alerted authorities to possible narcotics. DPS officers found 4,112 pounds of marijuana bundled in the area where trash would be carried.

The moral of this story is of course, if you want to transport that much marijuana at once, learn to drive the truck first.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Flex Your Rights

It's funny, I received an announcement yesterday from our emerging chapter of ACLU at UMASS about their new web site. It reminded me that I wanted to talk to Aron about organizing a screening of Busted - The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters.
Today I received a press release from the producers of the video, Flex Your Rights, announcing a mass screening campaign for late March through early April. I saw a premiere of this video last November where Ira introduced it and it lives up to its promo.

BUSTED is an extension of FYR's mission: To protect people from being searched, arrested, and jailed by training them how to assert their constitutional rights during police encounters.

Narrated by retired ACLU executive director Ira Glasser, BUSTED realistically depicts the pressure and confusion of common police encounters. In an entertaining and revealing manner, BUSTED illustrates the right and wrong ways to handle different police encounters, and pays special attention to demonstrating how you, the viewer, can courteously and confidently refuse police searches.

It's geared to a college age audience but it's a good refresher for viewers of any age, particularly in this time of Bush inspired Patriot Act infringements of civil liberties. You do have the right to refuse a police search without cause. The video reminds you how to make it stand up in court should they go ahead and do it anyway.

In any event, the student population in Amherst could benefit greatly from this screening and it's a natural fit for the new ACLU chapter don't you think? Kind of cosmic timing.

Little Known Facts About Well Known People

How about that, Atrios has a real name and a whole other life outside of blogging. I was cruising my own little blogiverse, trying for a moment to escape what passes for my personal life tonight when I chanced on his post.

I like Eschaton, partly because I had to look up the word. Loosely defined, it means return of the spirit and since the profile did not divulge his identity, the mystery of Atrios endures outside of the revelation he is an "educator".

It's amazing to me how many bloggers are borne on the rarefied air of academia. I'm equally astounded that Atrios managed to keep his blog a secret not only from his parents but also from his employers.

I didn't keep Last One Speaks a secret for more than ten minutes. But then again, my life has always been an open book.

Got No Time

Sorry folks, my personal life and the day job are unexpectedly interfering with blogging today. Will be back and posting after 7:30 tonight. Cheers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

If It Wasn't For Bad Luck

This story is really too sad. By sheer happenstance I also saw footage of these two wretched souls being arrested. My gut reaction to seeing them being marched across the airport for 10 seconds was that the woman didn't have a clue about what she was picking up.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- A drug suspect who went to the airport to pick up 119 pounds of marijuana wound up with two boxes of human organs, federal authorities said Tuesday.

After realizing the mistake -- the boxes were labeled "PLEASE RUSH, HUMAN TISSUE FOR TRANSPLANT" -- a Canadian woman and New York man were arrested trying to make an exchange, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Dumb as it was to try to exchange the packages some 12 hours later, no one could be stupid enough to think 140 pounds of cannabis could fit into two organ transplant containers of a size that probably wouldn't fit more than six gallons of milk.

I read several conflicting reports on the fate of the organs, but the most repeated was the one destined for emergency surgery was ultimately used and the other was being held for future need. I would assume then that the seals on the packages weren't broken and the guy did know what he sent her to get.

I felt kind of sorry for her. I expect she succumbed to the temptation of easy money. She look like she needed it.

Metaphysical Connection

I had lunch with my dear friend Victoria yesterday. It was great to see her. I haven't seen her in months; she looked fabulous and is involved in a new project that sounds very cool. World Unity Festival is an evolution of the Drums Around the World. I never managed to get to one, but they have been staging an annual world drum circle on the Amherst Town Common for years.

I suppose there were some Five College students at the event where this vision was first revealed.

History of the Unity Festival

In the summer of 1994 thousands of people gathered on the sorthern rim of the Grand Canyon. This inaugural World Unity Festival culminated with the birth of the White Buffalo, a triple rainbow, and Drums Around the World. This event contained participants from 25 different countries and several various religions. All shared the vision of a peaceful and spiritually united humanity.

On their tenth anniversary they are now taking the vision on a world tour and everyone is invited.

If you represent a truth or have knowledge and talents that needs presentation, please join us! Help bring our World Unity Village to your event or wherever you live and/or help create it as we tour around America and the world.

Victoria and her family are very international and have been publishing a magazine and the best resource guides to working and learning opportunities outside of the US under Transitions Abroad for over 25 years. I can't imagine a bigger stroke of luck for the Unity Festival than to have snagged her for their international coordinator. Not only does she speak three languages with impeccable fluency, she can parallel park any vehicle in one shot with only a one inch clearance on either side.

To tell you the truth, I'm a little jealous. I hear they're going to stop at Burning Man on their way out west. I've always wanted to go watch that bonfire.

Speak Out on Bush's Dime

Okay fellow drug policy reformers, this is just too delicious. Talk Left has uncovered a way to Beat the Bush Campaign at its own Game. Many activist internet sites have these automated letter campaigns these days and Bush has jumped on the bandwagon. When you enter your zip code here, the site will bring up a list of your local newspapers and automatically send your letter to all of them.

The possibilities are endless but Last One Speaks suggests you take this opportunity to put some of that 412 million dollar war chest that Bush's Rangers have collected so far to good use and send letters promoting drug policy reform.

One expects they will take down the feature once they catch on to the scheme so there's no time to waste. If you need inspiration, check the Letters To The Editor archives at Media Awareness Project.

What's In a Name

Congratulations to Ed Forchion, who scored a major victory at the appeals court on Tuesday when a three-judge panel overturned a lower-court ruling preventing him from legally changing his name to The appeals court said the lower-court decision was flawed because Forchion, who was in prison on possession charges at the time, was required to submit his arguments in writing while an assistant prosecutor appeared in person.

Forchion said his proposed name change, originally intended as an "advertising gimmick" to promote his views and a Web site that he runs, has become a First Amendment issue.

"How can the government tell me what I can name my body?" asked Forchion, who argued his own case before the appeals court. A frequent political candidate, Forchion said he wants to be listed on ballots as

But Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi said the name change is intended to promote illegal drug sales via the Internet.

"We anticipate that, if Mr. Forchion's application is granted, our office will be besieged by applications promoting all manner of illegal professions," Sarubbi said Tuesday.

The DA's argument is absurd of course. Ed's site, as ours does, merely advocates the legalization of cannabis. He does not sell drugs. Furthermore, we doubt there are many people who would be willing to endure the trials and tribulations that Ed has in order to assert his First Amendment rights.

I mean really, is Mr Sarubbi thinking there will be a deluge of folks wanting to change their name to something like

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Proof Positive

Seems like I'm always thanking Pete at Drug War Rant and as usual, when my energy is at low ebb and I'm distracted by the pleasures and pitfalls on the path, he arrives like a knight in shining armor with the ultimate defense to my critic from South Haven.

I'm afraid I deleted Ms. O's email address, but if she's reading this, all I can say is - if this does not convince you Pat Conroy is psychologically unfit to be anywhere near children, must less a school administrator, then nothing will.

According to the police report, he freely admitted planting the drugs in a particular student's locker and " repeatedly steered the K-9 team past the bank of lockers, to no avail."

I loved Smoking Gun' s take on this story. I'm giving this line the quote of the week.

FEBRUARY 23--Here's a bit of advice for high school administrators everywhere: If a drug-sniffing police dog somehow misses the pot you planted in a troublemaker's locker, just let it go.
A Matter of Protocol

One of the most harmful effects of the War on Some Drugs has been the proliferation of home-based methamphetamine labs that arose to fill the demand when our government's interdiction/eradication campaign caused the price of cocaine to rise on account of the increased costs of producing and delivering it. Meth is relatively easy and cheap to make and there are now thousands of small time producers across the country. Many of these labs are housed in family homes exposing children to the dangerous conditions of its processing.

More than 2,000 children were found living in homes in the US with methamphetamine labs in 2002. Chemicals used in meth labs reportedly can affect respiratory and immune systems and can cause heart problems, brain damage, developmental difficulties and cancer.

In response to the situation, the state of Nebraska announced a set of guidelines for police, social workers and doctors, believed to be the most comprehensive set of protocols in the nation for responding to meth-exposed children.

Dr. Gregg Wright of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Center for Children, Families and the Law said police will have a form to fill out identifying what chemicals children may have been exposed to. Another form will aid police and social workers in assembling a medical history for the child. A third form will guide physicians in what to look for while examining exposed children. And a fourth will guide foster parents in caring for the child.

Nancy Martinez, state coordinator of a federal drug enforcement program, said the new protocols already have been used in four recent methamphetamine cases involving 12 children in the Omaha area.

We applaud Nebraska's efforts to protect innocent kids, however we would like to point out once again, that these meth labs would not exist if the black market for drugs were eliminated through legalization and regulation. The best way to protect these children would be to end this futile war.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Can I Get A Witness?

I love this. Doonesbury is offering a $10,000 reward for any witness that can, "put this tired, recycled AWOL story to rest once and for all."

For the past twelve years, George W. Bush has had to endure charges that he didn't take the final two years of his Guard service as seriously as duty required. And the two witnesses who have come forward in support so far haven't exactly cleared things up. We at the Town Hall believe that with everything he has on his plate, Mr. Bush shouldn't have to contend with attacks on the National Guard, which is serving so bravely in Iraq. And we're willing to back up our support with cold, hard cash.

We at the DTH&WP respect how inconvenient it can be to subject yourself to worldwide media scrutiny in general, and Fox News in particular, and are thus prepared to sweeten previous offers by a factor of five. That's right, we're offering $10,000 cash! Yours to either spend or invest in job creation. All you have to do is definitively prove that George W. Bush fulfilled his duty to country.

If you personally witnessed George W. Bush reporting for drills at Dannelly Air National Guard Base between the months of May and November of 1972 we want to hear about it.

They promise to reply promptly to serious contestants. If you were one of the lucky few doing jumping jacks with George, there's a registration form at the link.

[Thanks to Jules Siegel for the link]
We've Got Mail

Pat Conroy, the South Haven principal who planted drugs in a locker in an attempt to set up a student for a bust, has a defender. A South Haven resident sends this in response to our earlier post.

i saw this article on or something and it said that you posted it. I'd like to request that you remove it. The south west Michigan media is notoriously bias and there is a great deal of controversy over the coverage of the event. If you reread the article, I'm sure you'll notice some very BIG holes. It says that he planted the drugs last year. If he were trying to frame a student, it would have been in that student's locker, correct? If it was planted last year, that student would have probably found it, don't you think? The fact that it was still there implies that it was a locker with no occupant. Also, the article says that the drug dogs didn't find anything. Why, then, would Conroy admit his crime?

When you consider these question it becomes clear what happened. South Haven High school is indeed saturated with drugs, especially marijuana. Approximately twice per year, drug dogs would go through the halls and continuously come up with nothing. He put pot (which he confiscates from students daily) in an empty locker to see if the dogs would find it. They didn't. He said, "Hey look, here's some, your dogs are not good sniffers." Cops get pissed that he made them look foolish and arrest him. Cops give the papers the story they want told. Conroy is only asked the question "how do you feel about what you did" "well, it was definitely stupid, but also unethical." But was there a single "fact" stated by that article that wasn't obviously taken from the police force?

If you want a martyr. Choose somebody who deserves it. Or at the least, a believable story.

I've withheld this woman's name out of respect for her privacy, however we did answer her:

Dear Ms. O----:

Thank you for your thoughts on my post. I appreciate your concern for your community and your schools, however, I am not willing to remove the post.

By your own observations, Conroy admitted he did a stupid and unethical thing. Why would he admit it if he was innocent? If Mr. Conroy was indeed framed, that will come out in court and I will certainly update the story, however as you observed yourself, Conroy admitted he planted the pot in anticipation that the dogs would find it, knowing full well the student in question would suffer severe consequences. This is not only unethical and stupid, it's a betrayal of his duty to protect and teach your children. What do you suppose the students will learn from this other than they can't trust the school administrators?

Further as you also observed, these drug sweeps (conducted by the way, at great expense to the taxpayer), are a useless invasion of the student's privacy, since they have had no effect in keeping drugs out of your schools and now Conroy would use this as a tool to wrongfully punish a student he 'suspected' of being a drug dealer.

We have maintained for months now, that these sweeps do more harm than good, and Mr. Conroy's actions prove that. If you want to keep drugs out of your schools, then you should be insisting your administrators stop wasting money on treating your children like criminals without due cause and demand the funds be used for direct educational aid such as restoring arts and music programs that I'm sure have been eliminated at your school as they have across the country as prison costs consume state budgets at the expense of not only education but other municipal necessities like police and firefighters.

Hope we got through to her.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Well That Was Cool

By the time I left for the office this afternoon, I had about given up on pinging. However, when I returned, I found boloboffin posted a comment in response to a question by upyernoz, that explained how to do it manually.

This is what I love about the community of internet posters. Thanks to the kindness of strangers I did learn how to ping today after all. Halo-scan is easy to navigate and it was pretty neat to see our comment on the trackback thing. A nice end to a long and somewhat unpleasant day.

Back Tracking

My long time readers know that although I've mastered some rudimentary html, I'm still pretty much a techno-idiot. Thus I've been wondering how this trackback thing works. Thanks to Atrios I think I sort of understand it now. I don't know how to ping exactly, but it would appear I just use the trackback URL to link to the post. Guess we'll just try it right now and see what happens.

Meanwhile, I've had a couple of requests that I install a comment function here. I haven't done it sooner because I wasn't sure people would use it and I couldn't find one that fit our $0.00 budget but thanks again to Atrios, we'll be checking out Halo-scan which appears to have a free service I can install. I'll be working on that later in the week.

Update: Well that didn't link to the actual post so I changed it and I guess I'll check the marginally helpful help menu at Blogger to see if I can figure out how to ping this thing.

Update: I can't figure it out. Waiting for a response from the Blogger help team.

Sold to the Highest Bidder

By the time you read this, the fundraising auction of this one empty USA federal medical marijuana tin may be closed but you can still attend the The Third National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics presented by Patients Out of Time on May 20-22, 2004 in Charlottesville, VA.

Co-presenters on the conference theme, “Cannabis Use Throughout the Life Span”, will be the University of Virginia School of Nursing, the Pain Management Center, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, the Virginia Nurses Association and the University of Virginia School of Law.

The organization was founded to re-introduce the clinical knowledge of therapeutic Cannabis applications to modern medicine and its leadership includes five of the seven remaining patients receiving federally supplied medical marijuana.

Their website hosts a wealth of links on Therapeutic Cannabis Reference Materials including an excellent rebuttal to the DEA's "Exposing the Myth of Medical Marijuana", (the cornerstone of the taxpayer- funded prohibition misinformation campaign) and a long list of other organizations that support the use of medicinal marijuana. It's worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the clinical applications of our herb.

[Thanks to Michael Krawitz for bringing this to our attention]

Saturday, February 21, 2004
United Nations

I've been thinking about the UN Convention on Drug Control, since the Washington Office on Latin America issued a policy paper on the subject this week. Numerous UN conferences and summits have been devoted to negotiating a global consensus on an approach to illicit drugs and achieve the convention's unrealistic mandate "to achieve significant and measurable results in reducing world drug supply and demand".

Cracks in the Consensus - The UN Drug Control Debate examines the flaws in the logic of this convention and the growing mutiny of the participating countries who are turning to more humane and pragmatic approaches in the face of the failures and harms associated with strict prohibition.

This comprehensive report written by Martin Jelsma and Pien Metaal of the Transnational Institute explains the complicated history of the UN involvement in the war on some drugs from the first drug control treaty enacted in 1961 to the disappointing reiteration of its unrealistic agenda to completely eliminate so-called illicit drugs at the convening of the UN Drug committee UNGASS at Vienna in 2003.

It makes clear how four decades of prohibition have been driven by US intimidation in the form of foreign aid, either offered or withdrawn, based on compliance with the eradication/interdiction model of drug control and renders in depressing detail the manifest ill effects of these policies around the globe.

However, the report also notes a growing "coalition of the willing" among member countries, who with the help of many committed NGOs, are cracking the armor of the US enforced prohibition consensus with harm reduction strategies and humanitarian policy reforms that are demonstrably working to alleviate the costs of drug abuse where the prohibition has failed.

Jelsma and Metaal cite the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Greece, the UK, Hungary, Slovenia, Canada, New Zealand and Australia as the willing who, with the source countries in the South such as Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica, Uruguay, Peru and many others, might band together to fight the domination of international consensus by US interests.

In a way it sounds almost too simple a solution to me for such a complicated problem, but I liked the logic and I'd recommend it for a lazy Sunday afternoon read.

[link via Paul von Hartmann]

A Matter of Principle

At a time when school administrators across the country are subjecting students to warrantless searches, this story simply boggles the mind.

SOUTH HAVEN (AP) - A west Michigan educator may face drug possession charges after police say he admitted to planting marijuana in a student's locker.

Pat Conroy has been placed on administrative leave as assistant principal at South Haven High School. Earlier this month, he told police he put the drugs in the locker last year because he suspected the student was a drug dealer, and wanted the boy expelled.

Understatement of the week goes to Mr. Conroy, whose plot to ruin this young man's life went awry when the drug dogs he called in failed to find the contraband. That this man was merely put on administrative leave instead of being fired, is inexcusable.

He says what he did was "stupid" and "unethical."

For those of you who want to Share Your Feelings, Principal Dene Hadden is at and Asst. Principal Pat Conroy is at

[Thanks to Jules Siegel and Elmer Elevator for the links.]


More news this week on the proposal in Jamaica to decriminalize the possession and use of small quantities of marijuana. NORML reports a resolution endorsed earlier this week by the Joint Select Committee on the Report of the National Commission on Ganja recommends, "That the relevant laws be amended so that the private, personal use of ganja be no longer an offense."

It appears the Parliament may be moving on this resolution quickly.

The Report of the National Commission on Ganja had previously recommended in 2001 that Parliament decriminalize marijuana for adults for personal and religious purposes. Members of Parliamentary committee evaluating the report have expressed interest in enacting the Commission's recommendations by March 2004.

You can read the entire report here.

The Jamaicans must stand up to the US inspired, zero tolerance based, UN Single Convention on Drugs and risk their good trade relations with this country, under the current administration, if they go forward with this sensible policy. One hopes they will find the courage in the growing number of drug policy reform measures being enacted from Canada to South America and all across Europe from the Netherlands to the UK, in defiance of the unrealistic and in fact impossible goal under the UN Convention of a drug free world by 2008.

Friday, February 20, 2004


Posting on the fly this afternoon. We're working on the appendix for an appeal brief and it's huge, so I'm just linking to a few good posts I've read lately.

Drug War Rant has an excellent post up on yet another irritating screed from our deputy drug czar, Andrea Barthwell. While you're there check out Pete's expanded coverage on the lawsuit filed against the D.C. transit system that we were talking about yesterday.

Talk Left has a great post up as well on a new alcohol test that measures your alcohol intake over a period of months.

The tests could let a GP know if someone is a light or heavy drinker and tell investigators if a driver or worker involved in an accident was drunk at the time, even if they were not tested until days later, reported the New Scientist magazine.

We also just noticed that Jeralyn has added Last One Speaks to Talk Left's blog-roll. We feel honored to be included on the site and to be on a list of such fine blogs. Two new ones (to me) that I really like are South Knox Bubba and Beautiful Horizons - which offers a gringo's perspective on Latin America among other things.

Enjoy and I'll be back later tonight.


Big developments in the Commonwealth this month. The Mass Cann newsletter reports that a marijuana decrim bill has finally been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature. This bill recommends that minor marijuana offenders in Massachusetts will face a maximum penalty of a ticket and a small fine in lieu of criminal arrest and prosecution. If you live in this state please contact your local legislators and ask them to support this bill. You can do this easily by entering your zip code on the take action now box at the link above.

This is the first I've heard about this high school drug sweep in Leominster last week. Yet another group of teenagers were terrorized by local law enforcement and drug sniffing dogs in a lock down that once again netted no drugs. The local ACLU warns the school to drop this tactic as it's a Fourth Amendment violation of the student's rights. Meanwhile the majority of the students have described the sweep as horrible, unnecessary and frightening.

We've said this before, but it bears repeating. These sweeps will not stop drugs from entering the schools. Take it from a student who endured one of these sweeps in North Carolina.

Casey Eggleston, 16, advises the raid may have slowed down the drug trade but has not eliminated it. "People are going to be more careful," he said. "There's not going to be drugs sold at school as much because the people who were stupid enough to bring them to school got caught." Another Williams student, 15-year-old Jon Tate, has some disturbing news.

"There's a lot of people left," he said. "They didn't catch hardly anybody."

In light of this information, do we really want to be wasting our tax dollars on alienating our teenagers and fomenting an atmosphere of fear and mistrust? I think not.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

While we've been occupied elsewhere, the Canadians have been quietly bringing common sense to the table and medical marijuana may soon be available in Canadian pharmacies.

Officials from Health Canada met behind closed doors yesterday with pharmacists, medical experts, police and medicinal pot users to discuss access to medicinal marijuana.

...Ray Joubert of the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacies said that there was a lot of support for bringing marijuana into local pharmacies.

...Richard Viau, an official with Health Canada's controlled-substances program, said the department has wrapped up a series of consultations on the issue. The findings from those meetings will be part of a series of recommendations to be published later this spring.

Viau expects the proposals to land in cabinet for final approval by the end of this summer. After that, a pilot project to get marijuana distributed through pharmacies could begin.

It would have to be enacted by each province separately. Nonetheless, I think it stands a good chance of being passed, if this quote is indicative of the mood of the committee.

"It would only seem reasonable that patients would want to avoid having to obtain access through an illegal source which brings with it all its inherent dangers," said Chris McNeil, who chairs the Canadian chief of police drug abuse committee.

Contrast this to our own government's singleminded mission to not only deny the dying this medicine but also arresting them in wheelchairs and hospital beds and persecuting their doctors for trying to alleviate their pain. Seems kind of barbaric and inhumane in comparison, don't you think?


Marijuana Policy Project is fighting against the war on some drugs on every front these days. They formed The Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, and filed an initiative petition to legalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana with the secretary of state's office in Nevada this week.

You may remember their 2002 initiative to legalize up to three ounces of cannabis was defeated soundly after a last minute PR blitz by drug czar John Walters himself, who toured statewide in opposition to the bill. I believe that little trip is currently the subject of litigation on a complaint that Walters violated the law by using the taxpayers money to campaign against a citizen's initiative.

The proponents meanwhile have put forward a less shocking and thoroughly reasonable plan this time around.

The proposal would allow private use by adults of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, and increase penalties for providing marijuana to minors or for causing a fatal accident while driving under the influence of the substance.

Sale of marijuana would be taxed, and revenue would be earmarked for drug and alcohol treatment and education programs.

Needless to say, the opposition forces are hoping to defeat it again.

[Sandy] Heverly said her coalition, Nevadans Against Legalizing Marijuana, will meet Feb. 26 to come up with a strategy to defeat the new initiative. She said she is hopeful John Walters, the federal drug czar, will again visit the state in opposition to the initiative.

Of course, we're hoping they won't. As I recall our beloved czar put forward a lot of misinformation that was revealed as being totally false after the ballot. I hope that the good voters of Nevada will remember that press and won't let themselves be fooled again.

"change the climate" via


Just received a press release from Ethan Nadelmann on this pending action.

Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU, Change the Climate, and Marijuana Policy Project are filing a lawsuit against the federal government and the Washington, D.C. transit system. Our lawsuit charges that the D.C. transit system rejected an ad by our coalition because of a new federal law, promoted by Representative Ernest Istook (R-OK), that suppresses free speech. The law prohibits federal funding to any local transit authority that accepts and displays an ad criticizing the government's drug policy. Our forbidden ad, which the D.C. transit system rejected last week, states the facts about the government's severe and wasteful marijuana laws.

...Istook's amendment, which was included in the huge FY 2004 omnibus spending bill, directs Congress to deny federal funds to local transit authorities that display advertisements promoting "the legalization or medical use of any substance listed in schedule I...of the Controlled Substances Act" - including marijuana. The same law also hands over $145 million in taxpayer money for pro-'War on Drugs' advertising - especially anti-marijuana campaigns.

You can check out the complaint here.

US citizens should not have to sue for their right to dissent on misguided public policy, but since the feds apparently don't see it that way, please do what you can to help these organizations protect our First Amendment rights.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

I love the Weekly Spin newsletter from PR Watch. For one thing it comes on a Wednesday when nothing else arrives and every issue is enlightening. If you're interested in how the public relations industry sells bad policy to the public at large, I recommend you subscribe. It's free.

This week's issue looks at the politics of the legal drug industry. One item made an good point on lobbyists. It's important to remember that not all of them are corrupt or work for multinational corporations. Many work for causes that benefit society and indeed the drug reform movement employs many people to haunt the legislators across the nation. We shouldn't blame the corruption on what they call the "government relations profession." More lobbyists probably function to keep your legislators honest than not.

Unfortunately the possibilities for corruption abound and the real players in the game are the politicians who use their political office as a gateway into lucrative salaries for influence peddling. For instance:

Rep. Billy Tauzin delivered a $540 billion prescription-drug benefit for Medicare. Now, the Louisiana Republican is leaving Congress for a $2 million-a-year job in the drug industry.

...Rep. Tauzin, facing the end of his term as chairman of the House Science and Commerce Committee, pushed through passage of the Medicare bill in December and announced his resignation in February.

This was good news for Eli Lily shareholders, but bad news for the elderly who depend on Medicare for their medicines.

Stock prices in drug companies surged on passage of the bill. The securities firm Goldman Sachs estimated the bill would increase spending on prescription drugs by about $13 billion a year. The law specifically bans the government from using its buying power to negotiate lower drug costs, which could have locked the industry into lower prices not just for Medicare drugs but for drugs for all Americans. To make it even more difficult for the elderly to obtain affordable medicine, it continues the ban on buying cheaper drugs from Canada.

I don't how someone like Tauzin sleeps at night knowing that he has caused such undue hardship to our elderly citizens.

Meanwhile, the FDA wants to celebrate 100 years of what they call, 'Protecting and Advancing America's Health', on June 30, 2006 by spending your tax dollars to hire a PR firm to promote the theme and justify its future existence.

However, as Weekly Spin adroitly points out:

...Before FDA knocks itself over patting itself on the back with its tax-subsidized PR campaign, let's look a little harder at its record versus its mythology. We have exposed many serious instances of FDA failing as protector of public health, including dragging its feet to ban silicone breast implants, caving to Monsanto by approving bovine growth hormone, ignoring public support for and right to the labeling of genetically engineered foods and failing even at this late date to ban the feeding of slaughterhouse waste to livestock, allowing the spread of mad cow disease. Come to think of it, no wonder they need to hire a PR firm!

These are your tax dollars at work folks. Considering the FDA has no competition, don't you think they should be spending them on actual food and drug testing instead of advertising?
IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? has a transcript of a speech Rep. Ron Paul, MD made on the House floor, where he takes on the DEA's meddling with pain doctors. I like Ron Paul, he's been a strong and articulate advocate for bringing sanity into our nation's drug policy. If all our legislators had his common sense the war on drugs would have been over yesterday.

For those of you who never read the whole thing, here are some excerpts from his eloquent appeal to his colleagues.

Mr. Speaker, the publicity surrounding popular radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s legal troubles relating to his use of the pain killer OxyContin hopefully will focus public attention on how the federal drug war threatens the effective treatment of chronic pain.

...In cases where patients are not high profile celebrities like Mr. Limbaugh, it is pain management physicians who bear the brunt of overzealous prosecutors. Faced with the failure of the war on drugs to eliminate drug cartels and kingpins, prosecutors and police have turned their attention to pain management doctors, using federal statutes designed for the prosecution of drug dealers to prosecute physicians for prescribing pain medicine.

...Many of the cases brought against physicians are rooted in the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s failure to consider current medical standards regarding the use of opioids[emphasis added], including OxyContin, in formulating policy.

...Prosecutors show no concern for how their actions will affect patients who need large amounts of opioids to control their chronic pain. For example, the prosecutor in the case of Dr. Cecil Knox of Roanoke, Virginia, told all of Dr. Knox’s patients to seek help in federal clinics even though none of the federal clinics would prescribe effective pain medicine!

...The American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), one of the nation’s leading defenders of medical freedom, recently advised doctors to avoid prescribing opioids because, according to AAPS, “drug agents set medical standards.”

....By waging this war on pain physicians, the government is condemning patients to either live with excruciating chronic pain or seek opioids from other, less reliable, sources – such as street drug dealers. Of course opioids bought on the street likely will pose a greater risk of damaging a patient’s health than opioids obtained from a physician.

...Mr. Speaker, Congress should take action to rein in overzealous prosecutors and law enforcement officials, and stop the harassment of legitimate physicians who act in good faith when prescribing opioids for relief from chronic pain.

His closing statement is brilliant.

Finally, I wish to express my hope that Mr. Limbaugh’s case will encourage his many fans and listeners to consider how their support for the federal war on drugs is inconsistent with their support of individual liberty and constitutional government.

Who would have thought a Republican member of Congress from Texas would show this much sense. If you're from Texas, please keep this man in office.

[Thanks to Vigilius Haufniensis for the link]

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


Hold on to your hats kids, Narco News blew back onto the internet and nothing is going to be the same again. The updated home page has a great new look and the addition of the neutral side bars on either side are much more restful for these overworked eyes.

Of course Al didn't stop there, he also threw a stick of dynamite into the blogosphere and blasted out a new space he's calling the Narcosphere. He taken the Dkos model of participatory journalism and exploded it into a new form that promises to be revolutionary. It will be interesting to see how such a large group of contributors will get along and what effect not allowing anonymous posting will have on the equation. I have to say, I'm intrigued and impressed.

Dan Feder has employed his usual genius in making the site easily navigable and I already love the early content. Charles Hardy's account of arriving in Caracas as a missionary priest in 1985 is exquisite and Al posted this translation of an amusing Spanish news item.

It's good to have the Narco News team back. I've missed them.


Thanks to Preston Peet at for forwarding this over.

"We have people running for president who say they were fooled by
George W. Bush. What a recommendation. You're running for president, and you can be fooled by George Bush."

Dennis J. Kucinich

Good point.


This is an odd piece of news. Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion's case seems to have disappeared from the federal docket. Ed was planning to cite the 1993 Freedom of Religion and Restoration Act in his defense against the charges related to his Liberty Bell press conference, at which he had announced his candidacy for public office and lit up a joint under the protection of said Act.

Ed was definitely arrested at the time, (he has it on video), but he advises the federal district court clerk claims to have no record of this "incident" and the Federal Park police have no comment.

Ed wanted this case to go forward in order to bring his challenge. It would seem the court fears the precedent and the press that would ensue when Ed prevailed in this case. Where's Ashcroft when you actually need him?

Our earlier coverage on Ed's legal battles can be found here, here, and here.


My battle against nicotine addiction hasn't ended in victory yet but I'm still gaining some ground. I've been concentrating on breaking my routines around cigarettes for the last few days. I can see the hardest ones to give up are going to be the morning one with my coffee and the 4:30 break I usually take at work.

I've already developed a tolerance for the wellbutrin to the point that I barely notice I've taken it anymore. I see now why they recommend using a nicotine replacement in addition to the drug. I don't want the patch and I'm not a gum chewer so I've decided to try the thing that looks like a little plastic cigarette holder, I think they might call it Nicotrol.

Coincidently I ran across an article this weekend that explains why some of us have such hard time quitting. Psychiatrist Steven Potkin of the University of California, Irvine, led a study that suggests some people were just born to smoke. While I don't fit the personality type, as I'm slow to anger, I'll bet my brain reacts in the same way to nicotine. I always seem to fall outside the normal parameters.

In any event, target date for my last cigarette is this weekend. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 16, 2004


This is an old article but the issue remains fresh. Kate Scannell makes a strong case for medical marijuana in this moving first person account of her own battle with cancer.

Kate is not just any patient, she is also a doctor and co-director of the Northern California Ethics Department of Kaiser-Permanente. Though eloquently stated, she has some harsh words for our attorney general.

I want John Ashcroft to leave his desk, come into the chemotherapy suite and participate in the real consequences of his choices. I want him to meet the bald, frail woman lying in the hospital bed next to mine in the chemotherapy suite. I want this 70-year-old woman to ask him the same medical question she asked me.

And she is no gentler with those in power who continue to deny the comfort of this plant to the dying.

The federal obsession with a political agenda that keeps marijuana out of the hands of sick and dying people is appalling and irrational. Washington bureaucrats - far removed from the troubled bedsides of sick and dying patients - are ignoring what patients and doctors and health care workers are telling them about real world suffering. The federal refusal to honor public referendums like California's voter-approved Medical Marijuana Initiative is as bewildering as it is ominous. Its refusal to listen to doctors groups like the California Medical Association that support compassionate use of medical marijuana is chilling.

For those who are interested in the medical applications of cannabis, it's well worth reading the article in full. For those who don't read it, I leave you with her closing words.

I want Attorney General Aschroft to wipe the vomit off this woman's chest, help lift her belly so she -doesn't hurt as much when she rolls onto her back, and explain straight to her grimacing face why she -can't try marijuana. I want him to tell me why it does not matter to him that almost every sick and dying patient I've ever known who's tried medical marijuana experienced a kinder death. Face to face, I want him to explain all these things to her and to me and to the heartbroken family who is standing by.

I want to see that too.

This has nothing at all to do with the war on some drugs but I'm posting it for its First Amendment implications and because it's kind of funny.

The town of Climax thinks town spirit belongs to adults only. Students are no longer allowed to wear town centennial tshirts to school.

Shirley Moberg, superintendent of Climax-Shelly schools, said T-shirts bearing the town's slogan "Climax -- More than just a feeling," are inappropriate because of the sexual innuendo.

...Climax, a town of 270 near the North Dakota border, adopted the "More than a feeling" slogan in 1996 for its centennial. The slogan was used in advertising and promotions, and the T-shirts have been around for years.

The new policy was recently enacted in response to a parent's complaint about a teacher wearing one to class. (I didn't know teachers were allowed to wear tshirts at all.) While I agree it is kind of creepy for a teacher to wear it around students, banning them from the school altogether hardly seems an appropriate remedy.


Here's yet another reason to boycott Walmart. Not because 30 million dollars worth of cocaine was found in a shipment of toys bound for a Walmart store, but because they are so intent on cornering the toy market and eliminating all competition that they obviously are cutting corners wherever they can. These truckers did not exactly sound like they came from a reputable shipping company.

Troopers said the truck's driver was cited for driving on a suspended license and that he and a passenger appeared nervous during the traffic stop, so officers asked for permission to search the rig.

...Aquilar-Corona was charged with permitting an unauthorized driver to drive and possession with intent to deliver drugs. Galvan is charged with driving on a suspended drivers license and possession with intent to deliver drugs.

Walmart will no doubt deny any knowledge, just as they 'didn't know' they were hiring illegal aliens to do janitorial work. I find their denials suspect considering their marketing tactics. The lost profits from their 'loss leaders' need to be made up somewhere and Walmart fights dirty. The toy industry is concerned.

Said Jim Silver, publisher of the Toy Book, an industry magazine: "Wal-Mart is a very important part of the toy business, but toymakers don't want its low-pricing strategies to devalue their brands and their business - and put more toy retailers out of business."

The price wars contributed to the bankruptcies last holiday season of FAO Inc., owner of the famed FAO Schwarz, and KB Toys Inc., which plans to close nearly a third of its stores.

...Manufacturers see several concerns about Wal-Mart's pricing on the toy business: its deep discounting makes toys unprofitable for other retailers, who are likely to order fewer products. They also fret Wal-Mart's strategy forces more traditional toy stores to close. Plus, toys may become a devalued product - permanently lowering margins and making toys that are never discounted seem far more expensive to shoppers.

The industry is worried enough to fight back by delaying shipments of the latest toys for several weeks and limiting total shipments to the deep discount retailers.

"Whether it is exclusive launches or controlled product shipments, they are going to do whatever they can to keep other retailers healthy," Silver said.

I understand the need to save money in today's economy but please think twice before you patronize this store. At Walmart you may save a buck today but you will pay the social costs tomorrow.

I don't do psychedelics myself. The way I figure it, I had more than my share in the 60s and besides you don't know what's in that stuff anymore. Nowadays they sell all these designer drugs. As The Guardian reports:

British recreational drug users are turning to a new generation of designer class A drugs from the United States as demand for ecstasy plummets.

In an ironic twist, they are illegal in the UK, but legally obtained here in the motherland of all prohibition.

...Unlike ecstasy, methamphetamine or other synthetic recreational drugs, the new compounds are not made in illicit factories or backroom kitchen laboratories. Instead, "research chemicals", as they are euphemistically known, are synthesised by commercial labs, often based in the US, which openly sell their products on the internet.

...Even in the US, despite some of the most draconian anti-drug laws in the world, the bulk of research chemicals are legal to manufacture, sell, possess and consume.

And unlike most white powder street drugs, you can be certain these are pure, but they are strong and the doses require precise calibration.

Psychedelic stimulants such as 2C-I and 2-CT-2 induce visual hallucinations, energy surges, and euphoria. The most powerful is 5-Meo-DMT, doses of which are smaller than a grain of salt. When smoked, its effects are nearly instantaneous, propelling the user into an alternate reality, described as like "being shot out of the nozzle of an atomic cannon". The experience lasts 10 minutes.

The potential for overdose in great with these drugs and further they are so new, no research exists on their long term effects.

Even their proponents are at pains to point out the unpredictability and danger involved in reckless experimentation. "It is not reasonable to assume that these chemicals are in any way 'safe' to use recreationally," states the FAQ at, the internet's biggest underground drug resource. "When you take a research chemical, you are stepping out into the unknown, and you could be the unfortunate person to discover a new drug's lethal dose."

One should not take a warning from Erowid lightly. You might also want to check with this guy as well before you try these drugs yourself.

Most research chemicals were invented by one man, Californian biochemist Dr Alexander Shulgin, 78. As an expert witness and adviser to the US Drug Enforcement Agency, he held a licence permitting him to study psychoactive drugs. Over decades, he created hundreds of new mind-altering compounds and then tested them on himself and a small coterie of fellow "psychonauts". The recipes for more than 170 of his materials were published in two biochemical cookbooks in the 1990s and now form the backbone of the research chemicals industry.

To me, it doesn't sound worth the risk to get the high, but with several companies competing for a large internet market, the demand clearly exists and further illustrates the futility of the war on drugs. People will go to great lengths to alter their consciousness. You can't stop that drive in human beings and I can't help but think it would be safer to simply make pure LSD available than allow young people to be endangered by these untested designer spin-offs.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

The DEA can't stop meddling in the practice of medicine. They are now working to reschedule one of the most widely prescribed pain medications in the US.

Top DEA officials confirm that the agency is eager to change the official listing of the narcotic hydrocodone -- which was prescribed more than 100 million times last year -- to the highly restricted Schedule II category of the Controlled Substances Act. A painkiller and cough suppressant sold as Lortab, Vicodin and 200 generic brands, hydrocodone combined with other medications has long been available under the less stringent rules of Schedule III.

The DEA claims this is necessary to thwart prescription drug abuse. An absurd argument to justify the undue burden it would impose on hundreds of thousands of patients with legitimate medical conditions, who do not abuse the medication.

Pain specialists and pharmacy representatives say that the new restrictions would be a burden on the millions of Americans who need the drug to treat serious pain from arthritis, AIDS, cancer and chronic injuries, and that many sufferers are likely to be prescribed other, less effective drugs as a result.

If the change is made, millions of patients, doctors and pharmacists will be affected, some substantially. Patients, for instance, would have to visit their doctors more often for hydrocodone prescriptions, because they could not be refilled; doctors could no longer phone in prescriptions; and pharmacists would have to fill out significantly more paperwork and keep the drugs in a safe. Improper prescribing would carry potentially greater penalties.

Drug addicts always find a way to get their drugs. Just ask Rush Limbaugh. Rescheduling will simply increase demand in the black market for that pharmaceutical and raise the prices; which will only further profit the dealers who trade illegally in them.

Those who will suffer are the most vulnerable patients, the elderly and disabled from rural areas who already must travel long distances to see their doctors and all those who truly suffer from debilitating pain and will be unable to find physicians willing to jump through the DEA's hoops in order to prescribe them.

Susan Winkler of the American Pharmacists Association voices her concerns. She said, "We urge the DEA to make sure their decision is based on science and will make the situation better, not worse."

We fear her plea will fall on deaf ears at Prohibition Central. This malicious manipulation of medical protocols, callously endangers the medical care of our most vulnerable citizens. The drug war warriors however, seem determined to raise their arrest statistics by persecuting these easiest of targets.

It's senseless and infuriating. If the DEA is so bloody intent on eliminating prescription drug abuse, why aren't they out there investigating in the back alleys and parking lots where these transactions occur, instead of haunting hospitals and doctor's offices hunting for offenders?

I was cleaning out the inbox this morning and finally discovered what I said that pissed off Jed Babbin. I was replying to his misguided screed in the American Spectator. I sent this letter to the editor and cc:ed it to our esteemed former under-secretary of defense.

After reading Jed Babbin's piece this morning, all I can say is at least he got this much right.

"Mr. President, your performance on Meet the Press on Sunday was simply awful."

Otherwise it's time for Mr. Babbin and all Bush apologists to admit that their guy is simply not fit to lead and his policy of pre-emptive military action has not only failed to protect us from terrorism but has ruined our previous, mostly cordial relations with the free countries of the world.

And by the way, the only reason the UN is failing Mr. Babbin, is because of the Bush administration's arrogant dismissal of the need for international consensus in making foreign policy.

I think Mr. Babbin overreacted, but it seems I did mention the UN after all. I still haven't figured out what "Dubya SGO" stands for though. If anyone knows, please email me.

UPDATE: Pete at Drug War Rant has come up with the answer to the SGO mystery.

Turns out Babbin likes to use it a lot. And he has a brief description in an earlier column:

There is a lot of SGO in the war. (SGO being the term invented by one of my ex-SEAL pals, Al Clark, for "s#@t goin' on.")

That was really bugging me and I'm so glad it's cleared up. Thanks Pete.


Tad Daley, National Issues Director and Senior Policy Advisor on Dennis Kucinich's campaign staff and I seem to be on the same wavelength. He published a top ten list that expanded on the theme of electability we posted about here last Monday. It's hard to argue with his reasoning, unless you're in the Kerry camp I guess.

His points out what political leverage the progressive movement could enjoy at the convention if we send Dennis in with a strong mandate. I particularly liked his analysis of why Dennis would actually be the most electable candidate against Bush.

What was the consensus verdict after the 2002 Congressional election debacle for the Democrats? That if Democrats run like Republicans, Republicans will surely win. That the Democrats need to present voters with a clear distinction, a clear choice, and a clear alternative vision. "It's Democrats above all who need big ideas," says former Clinton and Gore pollster Stanley Greenberg, "who need to create an election that is about something." The lesson of 2002 is that the candidate with the best chance to beat George Bush will be the candidate who offers the starkest contrast to George Bush. And no one can dispute that that candidate is Dennis Kucinich.

As I said last week, supporting Dennis will not hurt the Dems in November and it will help advance the progressive ideals that need to be restored to their proper place of importance in the platform of the National Democratic Party. And I'm sure I need not remind you he is only candidate who has taken a courageous stand on drug policy reform.

Besides wouldn't it feel good to vote for an honest politician for a change?Whatever else you think of Kucinich, he has walked his talk throughout his political career.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Talk Left is at a legal conference somewhere that sounded warm and has the inside scoop on what it cost to prosecute Tommy Chong for selling those empty bongs. For only 12 million tax dollars, the public is now safe from this nefarious purveyor of glass art objects. I'm sure the taxpayers are sleeping more soundly knowing they spent the money on putting a taxpaying sixty year old man safely behind bars, instead of paying for any frivolous municipal services.

Add to that the lost tax revenues from the destroyed business. As I recall, the bong industry contributed significantly to the economy and I think Chong was doing around a million or so in sales himself. He certainly employed artisans and craftsmen, paid rent on warehouses and salaries to shipping agents.

Operation Pipe Dream callously disregarded their economic security in order to get an easy bust and in today's economy I would call that - depraved indifference.


I kind of hate when heroin developments show up in my in-box. I would love to just ignore them because to tell the truth, I hate that drug. It's killed a few of my friends. I think it's dangerous and frankly I don't understand what anyone sees in it. I tried it myself once in 1970 - some really pure brown Mexican. I snorted it of course. I threw up a lot and then I sort of dazed out. I didn't think it was much fun.

Nonetheless, many are fond of the effects and heroin is part and parcel of the drug war. I've come to find out that there is such a thing as a responsible heroin consumer. I imagine they must be very self disciplined people. But of course there are also those who miscalculated their self-control and become its living victims, and are in need of help. We cannot make this problem go away by ignoring it, and we will not end it with strict prohibition and incarceration policies.

Take as example Sweden, which is reported to have the strictest prohibition policy in all of Europe. Their heroin deaths have more than quadrupled in the last nine years. According to associate professor Peter Kranz of the Forensic Medicine Institution in Lund, "these deaths are due to poisoning, overdoses and cases where abuse has caused damage to internal organs leading to death."

Then there are many who were never users, yet the drug touched their lives in some way and they became health care providers and researchers. Their studies should not be dismissed. One such organization is the California Society of Addiction Medicine. This report of their 2003 conference activities lists some of their many projects. I found the conference they attended in Copenhagen particularly interesting in that it was sponsored by heroin consumers unions. There is no perfect solution, but the acceptance and treatment strategies that these reform organizations put forward, sound a lot more reasonable to me than the prohibitionists' policy of punishing those who fail to meet their moral judgments.

It's time to cut our losses and run with the practical solutions. Europe is way ahead of us on this front. There are many trial programs being conducted all across the continent that are showing positive results and go almost unreported in the US, even among medical professionals. It's time to try the harm reduction model here.

Last word on the subject goes to Neil Young.

I hit the city and I lost my band
I watched the needle take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done.


Kevin Williamson, author of Drugs and the Party Line, published an excellent analysis on the real life costs of drug prohibition in Edinburgh, where heroin addiction has reportedly doubled in the last five years. He sums up the harms well.

...that property-related crime in Edinburgh - more than half of which is directly related to heroin addiction - will have increased accordingly.

It will have meant that an even greater number of addicts have ended up selling heroin, or other drugs such as cannabis, to fund their addictions, and this chemical version of pyramid selling will continue to cause an increase in the number of young people in our city coming into contact with heroin.

It will have meant more gangsters and criminals muscling in on the city's flourishing heroin trade - with the inevitable upward spiral of violence this will bring in its wake. This too has been well reported on in the News in the last few years.

It will have meant more drug deaths, more overdoses, more overstretched health and social services, and longer queues at chemists as more and more desperate addicts try to contain their craving with heroin substitutes such as methadone.

He also offers some astute observations on the link between the heroin and cannabis markets and the essential need to separate the two.

I also argued in 1999 that the heroin problem would get worse unless cannabis was removed from the black market. This sensible policy, such as they have enacted in Holland with their coffee shop system, would help drive a wedge between use of the two drugs. Addicts often sell cannabis to fund their addictions, the two cultures overlap, and therefore more young people have crossed over from smoking cannabis to smoking heroin off the foil. The Evening News story last week confirmed what most drug workers always feared would happen. Many of those who occasionally smoked heroin have ended up addicted, and have then moved on to inject because less heroin is wasted that way and the hit is stronger.

But regardless of the damage heroin is doing to our communities, the politicians continue to leave the huge black market in cannabis in the hands of violent criminals at the top, as well as many heroin addicts at street level, thereby exposing more young people to heroin, as well as wasting police time and public money in what has become nothing more than a cosmetic exercise in law and order posturing.

Williamson makes a strong case for the legalization and regulation of heroin as a solution to a growing problem of addiction in every country. For my newer readers, I'd like to reiterate that I do not encourage or advocate the use of heroin. What I do advocate is accepting the problem as a health and safety issue, rather than a law enforcement one. I agree with Kevin on the solution. If you read the whole piece, perhaps you will understand why I also have come to believe that legalization and regulation is the only practical and humane policy.

[Link thanks to Ben Masel]

Friday, February 13, 2004


A lot of people get engaged or married on this date, but tomorrow is not just a day for love and chocolate, it is also the 75th anniversary of a culminating moment in the failed attempt at alcohol prohibition. The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of six of "Bugs" Moran's henchmen by Al Capone's minions, was not the biggest mass killing in the history of the US, but the timing and the players made it notable.

The murders are said to remain unsolved and there are apparently many reported theories. I was pretty impressed with this site's virtual Al Capone museum, offering a wealth of information on the subject. The vintage photos alone are worth the scroll through.

I think these killings may have been a turning point in the abolition of Prohibition I. It was such a graphic illustration of what violence the black market breeds that the public demanded their legislators change the laws. And they did and the majority of the consumers imbibed their gin responsibly, then and now. More importantly, the violence and health dangers associated with the underground delivery of the product were virtually eliminated.

The re-legalization of alcohol has not been totally without problems. It didn't solve alcohol abuse, nor it's accessibility to children, but neither does anyone die in a beer deal gone bad. Civil society developed social and medical solutions to address the needs of addicts and still retained a penal solution for the criminally irresponsible abusers of that substance.

There's no reason that the legalization of cannabis could not fit within this same model. The majority of cannabis consumers are good neighbors who contribute to their communities and use the plant responsibly. There is no reason to make criminals of otherwise law abiding citizens, and there's revenue to be had here.

I leave you with the words of Al Capone.

[protesting IRS claiming big sums of unpaid back tax]
They can't collect legal taxes from illegal money.


Here's interesting piece from Fast Company magazine on the Cannabis Conundrum. Author Bill Breen, who reportedly did no product sampling in reporting this story, takes a look at the research and development of medicinal uses of our plant in other countries. He speaks of the work of Ethan Russo, a physician specializing in child neurology and one of the world's pioneering investigators into the therapeutic uses of pot.

[Russo] noted that the plant's effects on the mind and body were first recorded by the ancient Assyrians in 2200 BC. These days, cannabis is used, mostly illegally, to relieve the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy, stimulate the appetites of AIDS sufferers, prevent blindness induced by glaucoma, suppress migraine headaches, and reduce the pain and muscle rigidity that accompanies multiple sclerosis.

Although nonprescription medications such as aspirin kill thousands of people every year, not a single death has ever been attributed to a cannabis overdose. The "therapeutic ratio" of marijuana is estimated to fall somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000--meaning it would take that many times a normal dose to kill you. If the drug is delivered as a pill or a spray (smoking just about anything is bad for you, after all), then Russo is unequivocal: "Cannabis is a safer medicine than almost all of the standard pharmaceuticals available today."

Russo also notes the inconsistency of US policy on the plant.

The United States has at times embraced the cannabis plant and its products: From the mid-19th century up until the mid-20th century, cannabis was a mainstream medicine, listed in the U.S. pharmacopoeia. The company that marketed the bottle of [cannabis] tincture was none other than Eli Lilly, the $11 billion behemoth that today is best known for another mood-altering drug, Prozac.

Russo recently signed on as a adviser to GW Pharmaceuticals, a British biotechnology company that is conducting clinical trials of cannabis-based medicines. GW in turn has contracted with German pharmaceutical company Bayer Healthcare AG to market Sativex. The rewards are potentially great for the first vendors in this market.

Bayer, which agreed to market Sativex in the UK and Canada--and optioned rights for Europe--is betting that in the next few months, the first modern medicine made entirely of cannabis will pass muster with British regulators. GW estimates that the European market for Sativex could total $300 million to $400 million. "We're finding that cannabis medicines have enormous pharmacological capabilities and a unique capacity to attack, in a disease like MS, an entire range of symptoms," says Dr. Geoffrey Guy, GW's founder and chairman. "If it wasn't called marijuana, by now there would have been an entire biotech industry built around this plant."

We always said cannabis would become legal once the pharmaceutical companies figured out how to make money on it. This prediction is now coming true in many European countries. The article is well worth reading in full.

In any event, it sure does sound like GW would be a fun place to work.

At a secret location in southeastern England, GW Pharmaceuticals has built what might well be the most high-tech pot palace on the planet. Surrounded by electrified razor wire, video cameras, and motion detectors, the greenhouse sprawls across more than an acre of land. At any one time, more than 15,000 marijuana plants are growing under its 14-foot ceiling, with its banks of lights. Inside is a sea of green, comprised of some of the world's most potent strains of pot: Hindu Kush, White Widow, Skunk, Northern Lights. Outside of the Netherlands, GW is the only commercial organization in Europe licensed to cultivate cannabis on this scale.

Maybe I'll send them my CV.


Our pal Jeremy Bigwood, in his pursuit for the truth about Latin American policy through relentless FOIA requests, has uncovered the ugly truth about Plan Colombia. He and James Henry published a disturbing piece that proves our government callously instituted their inhumane eradication policies, ignoring CIA admonitions that Plan Colombia was not only likely to fail in its goal of reducing coca production but would contribute to political instability in the region.

These are your tax dollars being used to foment civil unrest under the guise of the 'war on drugs' and we're not talking about 'chump change' here.

....$3.13 billion of US military and economic aid, including $743 million this year alone, and up to $688 million for 2004, more than half of all US total aid to Latin America. Indeed, Colombia now ranks third in world among all US foreign aid recipients, behind only Israel and Egypt.

Since the Clinton administration, our government has been selling this to the public as a humanitarian program to:

...reduce coca production and curb cocaine trafficking, and also to help defeat narco-terrorism and bring peace, economic development, and social justice to Colombia, where an increasing proportion of the population -- up to 60 percent -- dwells in poverty.

The CIA reports unearthed by Bigwood would indicate our leaders ignored the intelligence reports that contradicted this scenario and kept this information secret from US taxpayers all these many years.

That conclusion supports those critics who have long maintained that the supply of coca is very elastic, so that it defies any simple 'supply-side' cures like eradication or interdiction. As the conservative magazine The Economist noted recently, there may well be a "balloon effect," with increased eradication in one area just expanding production elsewhere - especially in more remote, mountainous, and cloudier regions where crop spraying is harder, or in nearby countries where the police and military are weaker or even more corrupt.

Moreover, as this CIA study notes, wholesale coca eradication may just destroy large amounts of ordinary food crops like cassava, which are much less robust than coca. That, in turn, would alienate thousands of local farmers, creating new recruits for radical movements like the FARC, and helping to spread their influence to new regions of Colombia and other countries.

All told, the study indicates, it is hard to make Plan Colombia out to be anything less than a high-risk gamble with the future of the entire Andean region.

This is indeed what has happened. Plan Colombia has succeeded in poisoning thousands of acres of the Amazon rainforest, which has merely spiked coca production in neighboring countries. In the words of the CIA report:

Already, Peru's cocaine trade - dealt a significant blow by a potent combination of interdiction, eradication, and alternative development successes in the late 1990s - is showing signs of recovery; and Colombian traffickers are making increased use of Ecuadorian, Venezuelan, Brazilian, and Panamanian territory to reach the US and European cocaine markets. Although less likely, rising coca prices resulting from Colombian supply shortages could put at risk Bolivia's significant accomplishment in dramatically reducing its illegal coca supply.

The article details other negative consequences of this program and if you read the whole thing, you can only reach one conclusion. The only way this plan would work in its stated goal of eradication would be to poison the entire continent with herbicides. As Bigwood and Henry note:

Given all this instability, it now appears likely that Plan Colombia's 'success' will depend on whether it is followed up by a Plan Ecuador, a Plan Peru, and a Plan Venezuela, and a Plan Bolivia. This is a recipe for endless civil wars, not for peace and the kind of economic development that is the only real solution to the "coca farming problem."

I can think of one more. Legalizing coca leaf and developing markets for its traditional uses as an agricultural product.

[Link via BigLeftOutside]

Thursday, February 12, 2004


I've been on wellbutrin for week now and I have to say it's starting to work already. I'm getting used to it, and although I do still feel a little slow-mo, I feel functional again and it's actually kind of mellowing out my natural agitation. It's also starting to work on the nicotine cravings. They are definitely getting farther apart. Cigarettes are still winning, but I'm gaining some more ground.

I'm told it takes two weeks for the medication to take full effect. If it keeps going this well, I figure I stand a fighting chance of really kicking the addiction this time. I'm starting to believe in my post-hypnotic mantra.

Quitting is easy. I don't know why I didn't do it before....