Monday, January 31, 2005

Makes me want to shout

Our friend Dean Becker hit another milestone this week, adding more affiliates to his Cultural Baggage network for a grand total of 23 towers at press time. "Cultural Baggage" is Becker's weekly half hour program which features interviews with US Congressmen, Canadian Senators, noted authors, working wardens, pharmaceutical pot providers and a host of others willing to speak on the policy of drug prohibition. Seven days a week, Becker offers up the 3 minute "4:20 Drug War News". In Houston, Becker also reports on Houston Access TV channel's "Drugs, Crime and Politics". (Broadcast on alternate Wednesdays' at 6:30 PM). Archives are available online at

Marijuana initiative revived in Nevada

I find it so galling that Bush pretends to bring democracy to other countries when his administration and its supporters consistently try to pervert the democratic process at home. Thank God for courageous jurists who won't let them get away with it. "U.S. District Judge James Mahan granted an injunction Friday that will force the 2005 Legislature to consider a petition calling for the legalization of marijuana ruling Secretary of State Dean Heller followed an unconstitutional procedure when he rejected the initiative petition in December."

Heller tried to kill the petition by "moving the goalposts" for accepting the signatures. He changed the guidelines a week before they were due. The state will not appeal the order.

That will give lawmakers 40 days to act on the initiative proposals. If they fail to do so, then the initiatives will be put on the ballot for the 2006 general election so voters can decide.

MPP worked hard collecting signatures for this initiative -- which would remove all penalties for marijuana use by adults aged 21 and older, as well as create a system for the legal cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana to adults. They need money to lobby the lawmakers now. If you have ten bucks to give this project, click here.

Congratulations to Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada for a job well done.


There's another friendly new face at D'Alliance. Welcome to the bloggerhood to Weefur, who looks into the future and shows us what it looks like when prohibitionists rule the world.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Sunday bird blogging

Well I'm not out of news but I'm out time. I'm on family duty and heading up to the homestead for the night but I did have an exciting sighting this morning. There was a half a dozen really big crows pecking away in my neighbor's yard this morning. I noticed one of them was the wrong color so I watched them for a while. It turned out the red one was really a Cooper's Hawk.

He hung around for a really long time and I'm not surprised he didn't bother the crows, they were about as big as he was but the robins were hopping around only yards away and a few wrens seemed unconcerned that he sitting on the telephone wires within striking distance watching them.

It was a funny morning. I also saw a dog that looked to be a golden retriever of sorts trotting down the street earlier. When she got to my driveway she turned in and trotted right down as if she might stop by and visit. I was ready to go to the door and let her in. She merely peed by the carport and kept going though.

New kid on the blogck

Welcome to Melissa Milam who slides into the blogger's seat recently vacated by Baylen at D'Alliance. We're still cryin' in our beer here and miss Baylen like crazy of course but Melissa has already won us over with her first post on a thrifty high school teacher who was growing his own cannabis to save money.

Sadly he was busted when the police entered his garage in hot pursuit of a suspected truant student but the story has a reasonably happy ending for a drug war tale.

Prosecutors dismissed the charge last week because police didn't have probable cause to enter his home. He might return to work as early as Tuesday, though he will be subjected to random drug tests by the school district for one year.

I've always said cannabis consumers make great teachers. It appears the school district agrees.

Agitating for your rights

This piece by Radley Balko at Fox News on how the war on some drugs is destroying our Bill of Rights has been well covered by Scott and Pete but it deserves wide distribution and besides I'm feeling kind of charitable towards Fox today.

Swallow your cynicism JackL, I received another email from the editor of Tonguetied. I made the first cut and miraculously am still in the running for a blogger spot there. We're to "audition" this week but don't start holding your breath yet folks. I seriously doubt I'll be invited in, nonetheless I like that I'm at least still under consideration. I'll keep you posted if anything develops.

Anyway, back to Radley, who makes some excellent points on how criminal justice has devolved into a two-tiered system where the rights of drug offenders (and that includes alcohol) have been abridged well beyond what would be considered constitutionally sufficient for other crimes. He notes,

Courts have carved out a "drug war exemption" in the Bill of Rights for multiple search and seizure scenarios, privacy, wiretapping, opening your mail, highway profiling, and posse comitatus -- the forbidden use of the U.S. military for domestic policing.

He counts the ways "substance-abuse hysteria" has provided an environment for the courts to allow these infringing practices and nothing escapes his notice.

The drug war has been eating at the Bill of Rights since its inception. Asset forfeiture laws, for example, allow law enforcement to seize the assets of suspected drug dealers before they're ever convicted of a crime. Even if the defendant is acquitted or the charges are dropped, the mere presence of an illicit substance in a car or home can mean the loss of the property, on the bizarre, novel legal principle that property can be guilty of a crime.

He's not optimistic about solving the problem, but nails the solution.

It would take a rare and brave politician to stand up and say that we need to roll back or reconsider our drug laws, or that it's unfair to give accused murderers or rapists more rights than we give DWI defendants. But that's exactly what needs to happen.

Indeed. So all we need to do is get more drug policy reformers to run for office.

Pete speaks

Pete at Drug WarRanthas been posting circles around me lately and has a lot you shouldn't miss. He covers the story on the latest drug victim Cheryl Noel, 44, who was shot and killed by police during a drug raid that netted so small an amount of marijuana the surviving defendants were charged for possession and released on their own recognizance. Oh and one guy was charged with black powder possession, whatever that is. I thought that was something they use in antique guns.

This whole police commando raid thing has got to go. What is it anyway with the ski masks and flash bombs? Pete notes they break down the door to make sure the evidence isn't flushed but if the evidence is small enough to flush, how does that justify sending in a freaking SWAT team? It's all so inhumane. As Pete put it, "To the drug warrior, evidence has a higher value than people's lives." Pete should know. He's been keeping track and the list grows longer every day.

Pete also has some thoughts on the Government's Free Ride on Prohibition. Prodded by everyone's favorite commenter Kaptinemo, Pete reflects on how the feds get away with outright lying about the "danger of drugs." He thinks the recent car dog sniff case, Caballes, will encourage the Supremes to uphold dog sniffs of houses. I think with or without Caballes - they were leaning towards that anyway.

He has more to say on the case here and reminds us, just in case you were thinking this might be good for homeland security, that dogs either sniff for drugs or bombs, not both.

Lone Star state of mind

I've been fooling around posting on the Iraq elections all day so we're getting really behind on the drug war news this weekend. Fortunately, while Libby fiddles, Scott at Grits for Breakfast is burning up the blogosphere with posts.

He gives us the lowdown on a new bill in the Texas Legislature "which would provide an affirmative defense to prosecution in state court for patients possessing medical marijuana and for doctors who prescribe it." For those readers who are not legal scholars this means that if an MMJ patient is busted they can present evidence of medical necessity at trial, doctors will be able to discuss the MMJ option with their patients with at least less fear of prosecution and law enforcement will have an option not to bust sick people in the first place. As Scott says, "Help out cancer patients and doctors, and save $11 million -- how can legislators go wrong?"

Scott also points us to some conservative support for another bill pending in Texas, that would "amend the state's drug laws to decrease the penalty of possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor. Such an offense is comparable to a traffic ticket, carrying a fine of up to $500." Columnist Mark McCaig of Texas A&M's school newspaper makes some heartening comments on the bill.

This bill does not legalize marijuana. All it does is prevent individuals from going to jail for making a personal choice that does not endanger others. ...Sadly, the war on drugs has also, in many ways, become a war on common sense.

The average marijuana user - as long as he isn't driving while high - poses absolutely no threat to others. While it can be argued that the government should prevent people from engaging in harmful behavior, marijuana is no more harmful than many other substances that are legal.

Marijuana decriminalization also frees up the resources of our police, courts and jails to deal with criminals who are committing offenses that actually harm society. By allowing the police to catch thieves instead of pot smokers, these scarce resources can be used for the benefit of society. We are not any safer or better off because a marijuana smoker is locked up behind bars.

We've all been saying that for years of course, and it appears we are finally getting through.

Scott has much more as always including a wry look at stupid drug war lies being made by the Austin police and prosecutors about heroin use. Check the rest out for yourself.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

A little personal time

It's a dismal day but spent in a cozy house. I of course frittered away most of the day on the internet. I got outside briefly before the sleet started though and was delighted to see I have a resident blue bird in the back yard. I saw the cardinal pair today as well. They actually came to visit, perching in the bush outside the window here above my desk. I swear they were looking in and talking to each other about me. And a wren of some sort just popped by a moment ago and took a peek inside.

I also got a lovely note from Chelsea Green Publishers thanking me for my posts on saying no to Gonzales and advising my free book was on the way. Since no one has ever sent cash, I believe this is our first "tip." Pretty cool and I really wanted the book. Thanks to the good folks at Chelsea Green for their generosity.

Meanwhile, I almost got a job blogging for Fox News. Their blog Tonguetied is diversifying into a multiple blogger format and they were taking applications from the public. I offered to put the balance in, as in their slogan - fair and.... I would have loved to do it, but needless to say I didn't get the gig. I did surprisingly receive a rather nice note from the editor however, telling me they weren't looking to shake up the format enough to include my point of view, but if they changed their mind (and I quote), "you're near the top of the list if we do." I've had worse rejections.

Answer please

M Simon at Power and Control has a few very good questions. In fact I have the same questions myself and they transcend political affliation.

What is the purpose of making a black market in abortion?

What is the purpose of making a black market for drugs?

What social purpose is served by creating and enriching a criminal class?

What is the lesson of alcohol prohibition?

What is the point of passing laws that will be widely flouted?

What is the difference between passing laws and solving problems?

In fact if passing laws works so good why didn't laws against crashing planes into buildings work on 9/11?

How does multiplying the number of people with experience with violating serious laws help create a civil society?

Is an experienced smuggler class a good idea?

How many agents per mile are required to seal a border?

Do laws against guns really work? (you see this kind of stupidity is not just on the right)

We're all still waiting for the answers.

Look out Rastas - No freedom of religion here

If you're planning to be in Ethiopia to attend the events celebrating what would have been Bob Marley's 60th birthday, authorities warn - leave your marijuana at home.

Found in the referral logs

I haven't had time to check the referral log much lately but here's a new blog I found there yesterday that I really like. Neurosynaptic explains the mysteries of synapses, a subject near and dear to my heart since I often suffer from what I call "synapse shorts."

Written in easily understandable terms, it makes the science palatable to laymen and who doesn't want to know more about the brain to booty connection?

New blog in town

Welcome to the bloggerhood to my old pal Elmer Elevator (aka Bob Merkin) who has finally started his own blog - Vleeptron. Check out his first post.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Cannabis Granny vows to keep cooking

Patricia Tabram, the 66 year old grammy who was busted for cooking with cannabis can no longer save her pension money by growing her own but has kept her cannabis cooking circle alive by delegating procurement of the herb to other members of her little group and using other kitchens to prepare her dishes. She tells the Hexham Courant "As well as myself, the group consists of three women who suffer from multiple sclerosis and a man who has terrible arthritis. We all feel the benefits of eating cannabis."

She has strong reasons for continuing to risk further incurring legal charges.
Suffering from a multitude of ailments that strike the elderly, she tells us after embarking on a cannabis regime, "I have been pain-free, pill-free and my hearing aid is redundant. I have also gone from smoking 20 cigarettes a day down to six a week." I assume she means tobacco there.

It's clear why she would continue risking her freedom for the plant. What doesn't make sense is that she was ever arrested in the first place.

Principal tips off target of drug investigation

As a mother, I find this story disturbing. Not because the principal alerted a 16 year old girl's mother that she was about to be busted for trafficking drugs - I think it was humane gesture to prevent her arrest - but because of this:

According to the affidavit, the girl told investigators she had carried about 10 kilograms of marijuana on the bus almost daily and for each delivery received $1,000 to $2,000 that she split with Jarosz.

That's over 20 pounds of pot. How on earth do teenagers get access to that quantity? Adults were clearly involved in this apparently major operation and when even cops are corrupted by that kind of easy money, how we expect a kid whose only other option is a minimum wage job as a clerk of some sort, not to be?

If we ended prohibition they wouldn't be able to turn our children into drug mules.

Prohibition creates corruption - again

These stories are becoming all too common. Four veteran police officers who "conspired with drug dealers to steal money, drugs and guns from competing dealers" were arrested in Chicago this week. Investigators say more officers were involved in the scheme and expect more arrests to be made. Evidence shows the officers were involved in making bogus traffic stops to conduct shake-downs and also broke into homes to steal from their victims.

None of this would happen if we ended prohibition of some drugs. Just as the end of Prohibition I closed down the speak-easies and dismantled the criminal networks that provided bootleg booze, so the end of this prohibition would close down the crackhouses and put the backstreet dealers out of business.

Think about it. When is the last time you heard of cops shaking down people for a case of Budweiser?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The rich are different - they have better lawyers

Here we are almost a year later and Operation Sandshaker defendants are still being tried and convicted. We talked about this here last April when the 3 year investigation led to the bust of 53 responsible citizens who had formed a cooperative of sorts to get cocaine for their personal use.

Most are seemingly ordinary, middle-aged people. They include two lawyers, a teacher, boat captain, bartender, insurance adjuster, homebuilder, hairdresser, plumber, chef and artist. The most prominent is a college foundation board member, millionaire Charles Lamar Switzer, 54, who is awaiting trial on state charges.

I told you here a few weeks later about the main defendant, Domingo Gonzalez receiving a 17 year sentence for his role. He was indigent and couldn't afford a decent lawyer. Some kingpin. He never made money at it.

Now the defendants who do have money or status are coming to trial. TChris at TalkLeft updates us on the latest conviction. David Collins co-owner of a real estate school, who also once served on the Florida Real Estate Commission, received a 3 1/2-year state prison sentence Wednesday. He was charged for trafficking only because the prosecutors added up each little personal weekend buy until they reached a weight where they could lodge the charge even though he never sold any.

Defense lawyer Drew Pinkerton said Collins will appeal but will probably serve about 18 months even if he wins because Florida's drug trafficking law prohibits appeal bonds.

"It's the most draconian law in the world," said Pinkerton, who insisted his client was a recreational user, not a trafficker. "This guy goes to prison for 42 months and half the burglars and robbers are walking around the street out there on probation."

True enough, but as TChris points out, when it's a prominent businessman it's called draconian. But where are these guys when poor blacks and Latinos are being sentenced even more cruelly for less?

Just say no to Gonzales

This is good news. I was afraid it we were going to go quietly from out of the Ashcroft frying pan into AG heir-apparent Al Gonzales' fire without a word of protest. Two days to go and finally the opposition has found a voice. I already have another post at the Detroit News on this but as Jules Siegel pointed out in his review of the book, "Guantanamo: What the World Should Know," the prison policy of the military closely mirrors what our own drug war prisoners endure in US "correctional facilities." Gonzales had a big hand in the making of that policy.

Human Rights First just released an excellent video illustrating the mentality of the man and also assembled a preponderence of evidence on why we can't allow his confirmation to go forward.

Meanwhile at Daily Kos, bloggers have issued a joint statement in opposition. I signed on in the comment section which at that time was close to 500 comments, many from bloggers. Kos also tells us Chelsea Green Publishing is giving away free copies of "Guantanamo: What the World Should Know" to all blogs who join the call to vote "no" on Gonzales. Email Margo Baldwin at with your blog name, URL of post urging the "no" vote, and address.

But don't wait for the bloggers to do all the work. Call your senators yourself and leave a message that Gonzales has got to go. [Via Talk Left]

Grandma Eats Cannabis

Patricia Tabram, age 66, of the UK discovered cannabis by accident. Suffering from depression, whiplash in her neck and back pain, she had noticed a marked improvement in her condition after unknowingly consuming cannabis as a friend's home. When told she could cook with the plant, Patricia being a former chef, started making biscuits, soups and casseroles with cannabis for her family and friends.

She's been raided twice, netting 31 plants and recently appeared in court where she pled guilty to possession with intent. She seems to be taking it all in stride.

She said: "When the police came to my door I invited them in. I told them to look in the loft and I offered them some tea and biscuits."

She's also written a book and is looking for a publisher.

(Thanks to Paul von Hartmann for the link. As he points out, folk remedies using various herbs have been utilized by grandmothers from the beginning of time. Patricia is clearly not a drug dealer but under the rules of prohibition she is still treated as such.)

Number crunching

Regular readers know that I love these internet polls. Who knows if they do any good but I figure what the hey, they can't hurt and it only takes a few seconds to click through. Thanks to Michael Krawitz for the heads-up on this one in the UK - Should cannabis be legalized? (Poll appears in upper right corner under "Your Verdict"). Current results are 67% for, 33% against.

The end of democracy as we know it?

My friend Jules Siegel's credentials and accomplishments are so long even his own website doesn't list all of them. He favors us today with a new book review on Guantánamo: What the World Should Know, By Michael Ratner and Ellen Ray.

Jules has a lot to say on the brutal excesses of our government-sponsored torture, which taken as whole as detailed in the volume is, as he puts it, enough to "nauseate any sane human being." Of interest to drug policy reformers however, is the analogy he finds between the conditions at Gitmo and those of our own prison system in the US, especially as related to the war on some drugs.

While many well-meaning people on both left and right profess to be shocked by the stories that continue to pour out of Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and other detention centers, they usually fail to understand that these atrocities are well-rooted in American culture.

"None of what is known to have happened in Guantánamo is alien to American prisoners." says Paul Wright, Editor, Prison Legal News. Sexual assault, long term sensory deprivation, abuse, beatings, shootings, pepper spraying and the like are all too familiar to American prisoners. Coupled with overcrowding, this is the daily reality of the American prison experience."

Perhaps the only real difference is that the White House argues more forcefully than usual that no court can forbid it to arbitrarily detain and torture anyone it designates an unlawful enemy combatant, a definition that it has applied not only to foreigners but also to American citizens. We have seen how the drug exception to the Constitution has nullified basic American rights such a freedom from illegal search and seizure. But the war on drugs was merely a test run. Some rights remained intact. Now comes the permanent war against terrorism in which all human rights are annihilated.

And as we all know the Bush administration has been working overtime to form a nexus between terrorism and drugs with their continued references to narco-terrorists and the ONDCP's ads alleging smoking pot finances terrorism. Jules wonders if we are now bearing witness to the end of democracy in the United States. I have to wonder myself.

Kitchen magic

This will impress those of you who know me well. I've actually figured out to use the oven in my new house. Okay, so I only baked a frozen pizza but still, this is the first time I've used a real oven in ten years. Otherwise, I'm still moving in by degrees (I used tin foil under the pizza because I haven't unpacked my kitchen stuff yet) but I'm starting to really love this little house. It's lovely to have so much space.

The moon has been stunning the last couple of nights. It feels closer here for some reason and it's so bright, the trees cast moon shadows. The birdwatching has been slow with the chill weather but yesterday afternoon was relatively balmy and I saw my first bluebird. He was hanging out with a bunch of nervous little wrens who where hiding in the trees from the two hawks that were circling the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, I was stunned to discover in the local news that this little town actually has homeless people - they estimate there's probably a dozen of them. There's a big controversy about zoning for shelters going on. Somebody wants to start one and as always, nobody wants one in their neighborhood.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Take this job and shove it

I'm appalled at this story myself, but unfortunately it's not illegal for a private company to dictate the terms of employment. Employees are forced to take drug tests every day in America and nicotine is just one more drug. Whether the owner can apply the policy retroactively depends on a number of factors but our courts have already ruled these invasive tests constitutional. I do however find the owner's behavior distressing and distasteful. You couldn't get me to work for that boor for any amount of money. I find it infuriating that he thinks has the right to meddle in his employee's private lives and even more so that the law allows it.

Another source reports that "the company also has programs in place to get employees to eat right and get more exercise." Those programs are not mandatory - yet. Today tobacco, tomorrow the Kripsy Kreme addict?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity

Well it seems to be press release day and is pleased to announce the Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a new report on the industrial hemp marketplace and legislative efforts to allow hemp farming in the United States.

The report features background on the current situation, data on foreign hemp production and U.S. consumption, analysis of the legal situation regarding hemp foods, and a review of economic studies. "We are very pleased the Congressional Research Service has issued this report and hope that members of Congress will conclude from the research that the U.S. is falling behind other developed nations on industrial hemp cultivation and technology," says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. "I believe we will see federal legislation introduced this year to allow farmers to grow non-psychoactive hemp for the first time since the 1950s."

That would be really good news. The ban on agricultural hemp is one of most short-sighted and counter-productive aspects of this addle-brained war on some drugs. Let them grow rope.

Drug Question Scrapped on Student Aid Form

Tom Angell of Students for Sensible Drug Policy sends in some good news. Thanks to their efforts a Congressionally-appointed committee yesterday called for the removal of a question about drug convictions from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The question currently appears on the FAFSA because of a 1998 law that suspends financial aid eligibility for students with any drug convictions. Since the question was added to the FAFSA in 2000, it has affected more than 157,000 students.

The proposal to remove the drug question comes from a report issued today by the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, an independent committee created by Congress to advise on higher education and student aid policy. The report characterizes the drug conviction question as "irrelevant" and notes that its existence "...add[s] complexity to the form and can deter some students from applying for financial aid."

This group has been tireless in addressing the inequity of denying financial aid to students with even the most minor drug charges on their record and their work is an example to all reformers on how to change the system from within. Congratulations to SSDP for a job well done.

UPDATE: Tom Angell checks in with a comment to temper my enthusiam here. In his own words, "As a clarification, the committee's recommendation does not mean that the question will in fact be removed from the form. As we all know, the federal government has a history of not following its own recommendations. Remember Nixon and marijuana decriminalization in 1972?

In any case, this development is huge one, and it is very positive. Folks who want to contribute to SSDP's efforts to change misguided drug policies can do so here.

Burning down the house

Yet another innocent victim of a drug raid. An 18 year old woman suffered second- and third-degree burns on her chest and stomach when a device, known as a flash-bang was flung into an apartment by police officers conducting a raid. She was not a target of the investigation.

The actual target of the raid, a 24 year old charged with conspiracy (God they that love that charge) to possess and distribute marijuana, and with possessing a 9 mm handgun. One assumes that means they didn't find any marijuana on the premises either although the article claims the kid admitted importing 1000 pounds over three years. It may sound like a lot to nonconsumers but 300+ pounds a year is not a major operation that requires commando tactics to bring down.

And what is it with this penchant for breaking down doors and terrorizing people in their own homes these days anyway. These cops are watching too much television. There's no need for all this grandstanding and you read of these mistakes all the time. For all the prohibitionist's talk about drugs causing violence, it seems to me the ones causing the injuries to innocent people are the police, not the defendants.

This poor child will no doubt be scarred for life from this "unintended consequence" illustrating once again that drug policy enforcement is more dangerous than the use of the drugs.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Aerial eradication thwarted in Afghanistan

The US is backing off on its plan to force aerial eradication of poppy fields down the Afghani government's throat. With the illicit drug trade forming some 60% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product, it's clear why Karzai would want to tread lightly on the issue but what's striking to me is the way the $780 million US tax dollars was being allocated for the proposed counter-narcotics programs. $152 million had been earmarked for aerial eradication beginning this month.

And how much were they planning to spend to rebuild the economy with an alternate crops? $40 million. Oh and "in the meantime, the United States has given $500,000 for a one-time program to deliver wheat seeds and fertilizer to farmers in Nangarhar province, one of the major poppy-growing areas."

They don't say what they're going to do with the other 580+ million. My guess is that's all for military expenses. Further, "the administration will ask for up to $1 billion in aid for Afghanistan in a supplemental budget request in early February."

Thinking of the Senlis Council's press release, it seems to me there's a simpler solution. We should buy the crop, turn it into legal morphine and simply pay the farmers enough to grow legal crops to make it worth their while to give up poppies. It wouldn't take that much. The farmers are not the ones making the money on the drugs. They are by and large poor people who simply grow the crop that gives the best return. Individually they still barely make enough to survive.

As former U.N. advisor in Afghanistan Barnett R. Rubin tells the Pak Tribune, "opium prices that had plummeted because of the bumper poppy harvest last year quadrupled on the expectation that eradication would make for a smaller crop this year."

Because opium can be stored indefinitely and sold when the price is right, the traffickers "are big supporters of crop eradication right now," said Rubin, who argues that supporting other forms of rural development is a better investment.

"The net result of crop eradication will be a net transfer of income from opium growers to drug traffickers," he said.

We need look no further than the failed model in Colombia to see the truth in that. The US has poured millions of our tax dollars into coca eradication there and you all know what little effect that's had on the amount of cocaine on the streets of our cities.

Unfortunately, Bush doesn't get the lesson. The administration is currently reworking the proposal. They still want to go on with the eradication by hand. Don't ask what's that's going to cost.

SCOTUS drives another nail into Fourth Amendment's coffin

Well this really sucks. The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Illinois police in a case where the police brought in a drug sniffing dog during a routine traffic stop based solely on the fact the driver appeared nervous. Jeeez, who isn't nervous when they're stopped by the police. Hell, even when they are just following you on the highway and you know you're not doing anything wrong, don't you get nervous?

The court upheld this (in my opinion) Fourth Amendment violation by a vote of 6-2. "In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg bemoaned what she called the broadening of police search powers, saying the use of drug dogs will make routine traffic stops more "adversarial." She was joined in her dissent in part by Justice David H. Souter."

"Injecting such animal into a routine traffic stop changes the character of the encounter between the police and the motorist. The stop becomes broader, more adversarial and (in at least some cases) longer," she wrote.

Rehnquist unsurprisingly in his current state of health, was absent - not that it would have helped. It likely he would have voted with the majority anyway.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Shivering in the South

It's been so cold here the last couple of days that I feel like I never left New England. It's not quite the same without the snow however and I have to admit that I'm kind of sorry I missed the blizzard. Much I disliked the cold - I loved a big snowstorm. The actual event was beautiful to watch and when the snow ended, walking around for a while in frosty white downtown was always fun. It's not like you were ever far from a warm haven.

I have a whole new perspective on southern driving in bad weather. I used to sit up north and laugh at the videos on television of people sliding around but the ice here is no laughing matter. It's so damp that as soon as the temp goes down the place becomes a skating rink. It's not really bad driving, even in New England the black ice will spin any vehicle off the road.

Meanwhile, my bird watching has been somewhat curtailed with this cold weather. I did see the female of the cardinal pair though. Thanks to Scott for pointing out that they pair for life. I hope they make some babies in the spring. No sign of my gray flycatcher though. He disappeared when the temperature dropped a couple of days ago. The robins however are irrepressible. There's always a few at any time of day.

US v. Booker leaves too many in jail

The inestimable Nora Callahan of November Coalition posts a sobering essay on the recent Supreme Court decision in US v Booker, Understanding US Sentencing Laws - a layperson speaks. Nobody thought it was a panacea but Nora makes a moving case for what little effect it has on the past victims of the "tough on drugs" era of incarceration.

Nora lays it out in plain language with an easy to follow timeline. From Mandatory Minimum Sentencing to the so-called US Sentencing Guidelines that were softened by Booker, followed closely by a prison building boom where The United States "quadrupled the number of prison beds by building one prison a week" in less than a decade, she puts the pieces of the puzzle together on how this country came to become the world's biggest jailer.

One story she tells strikes an especially bitter chord that resounds throughout the non-violent substance consumer inmate community.

I think it was about that time when I read of a young woman who mailed some LSD for a boyfriend, hoping her willingness to ignore his illegal behaviors would bring him back to her lonely life. If I remember correctly, she plead guilty and accepted the Mandatory Minimum based on doses of LSD she mailed. If she had gone to trial, she would have faced not only the scheme of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing, but also the full range of US Sentencing Guidelines. By "copping to a plea," she could avoid one rail of sentencing.

While she was in prison, she called her mother and during one call three men broke into her mother's home, miles and miles away, and the young federal prisoner heard the rape of her mother begin. To make a long story short, the three rapists got out of prison before the young drug law violator did.

Nora reminds us that Booker didn't end the fight for sentencing reform and that without retroactivity many still pay with what could have been productive lives, wasted behind bars for this senseless war on some drug consumers.

Loretta Speaks

Our friend Loretta Nall has been tearing it up at the confab for the Progressive Dems in DC this week. She sends in her report from day two where she confronted the stuffed shirts and laid drug policy reform on the table. Unsurprisingly, they didn't have an answer so they ignored the question but it sounds like she found a lot of support among the rank and file.

She also points us to an enlightening statement from the The Senlis Council, "an international drug policy think tank said that President Karzai’s priority should be to tackle the drug problem in Afghanistan with new policy initiatives as the current situation risks undermining the fragile newly formed Afghan democracy."

“President Karzai is right in opposing the chemical spraying for crop eradication which has been proposed by the United States,” said Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director of The Senlis Council. “Any kind of action against Afghan farmers would be catastrophic, especially before the Parliamentary elections. Even manual eradication would have very negative effects on the community as it would discourage allegiance to the state and encourage deeper ties with war lords who would be seen by farmers as more understanding of their plight.”

The Senlis Council said that realistic solutions to the drug problem in Afghanistan need to be proposed by the international community and that measures such as forced eradication should not be considered as they would be very damaging to the fragile democracy.

Citing a global shortage of legal morphine for pain relief, the Council rightly notes that "putting the opium market in the hands of Afghan businessmen and farmers instead of in the warlords can only help build the Afghan state," said Emmanuel Reinert. "Drug production in Afghanistan is a global problem which demands global cooperation to find the solutions."

They go on to point out "this year’s 64% increase in Afghan opium production as illustrates a massive failure of the U.S.-led ‘war’ approach to drug control, and that the current strategy for drug control endangers the future of Afghanistan."

They understate the problem - from the coca plots of Colombia to the poppy fields in the East - the US war on some drugs endangers the whole planet.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Texas cops take easy way out

Talk about your fishing expeditions. Texarkana police using a K-9 dog discovered two suitcases that each contained 13 individually wrapped packets of marijuana at a Greyhound bus station. Authorities said, "The marijuana could not be linked to anyone on the bus and no arrests were made." But here's the money quote.

"It's part of our drug interdiction strategy to do regular patrols at the bus station on different days at different times. There are very few times we do it that we do not make an arrest or find some narcotics."

Guess they have never heard of the Fourth Amendment down there. God forbid they should some actual investigative work to make their arrests.

FT speaks: War on Drugs unwinnable

I missed this editorial last week. While it doesn't break any new ground in terms of the talking points, I find it notable that it originally appeared in the Financial Times. When the money mongers start paying attention, how far off can sensible drug policy be? I especially liked their closing statement.

The war on drugs has simply shown that drugs and the drugs markets cannot be wiped out. It is time to look at more realistic and less ambitious alternatives.

Makes sense to me.

Facts and folly in the war on some drugs

Loretta Nall has a whole raft of great stories this week and points us to some good press on a couple of our favorite reformers. First up is Peter Christ of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition who will be meeting with community groups and Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak in Pennsylvania. The county is willing to listen to Christ in an attempt to address the growing problem of prison overcrowding caused by the incarceration of non-violent substance consumers.

Peter has the talking points down to an art, telling the commissioner "To continue on the course we are on is futile and a threat to our society. We've created the obscene profit in drugs by making them illegal. Legalizing drugs and regulating them controls cost, access and drug profits." He goes on to point out, "This drug war has never been right and has never done what it has promised."

Meanwhile, our old friend Howard Wooldridge (another speaker for LEAP) is also making the rounds in PA and is interviewed in Pittsburgh. Howard, who will be undertaking another cross-country horseback tour soon tells the press,

"What grinds me up is the way law enforcement people perpetuate the lie that arresting drug dealers will make a difference in the availability and strength of drugs," he said. "The smugglers are smart enough to factor in a loss of maybe 20 percent of a shipment. So even when there's a big bust, they just ship more."

Keep in mind these guys are former cops who worked on the front lines of the drug war. If you can't believe them who are going to believe?

In other news, I hear Loretta was the first to post this and I'm probably the last, but this dunderheaded proposal should not go unremarked by any one of us. Republican state senator of Montana, Sen. Chuck Gross is proposing legislation to prevent public school sporting events from being held in cities that have enacted decrim resolutions for marijuana. Note that I said decrim, not legalize. Gross (appropriate name there) is targeting the city of Colombia specifically for lowering (but not eliminating) fines and penalties for possession.

Typical Republican response these days for any war, whether it be Iraq or drugs. Punish everyone collectively and severely for the possible infractions of a few. No wonder they're losing on every front.

Freedom should start at home

Stephen Young of decrimwatch wrote an excellent article in rebuttal to Bush's inauguration speech, Bring Freedom Home First. He points out that as inspiring as Bush's pledge to bring freedom to the world should be, the reality here on the ground in the US is that the war on some drugs violates those freedoms daily. His closing paragraphs sum it up well.

"We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty."

That last sentence is inspiring, in theory. Unfortunately, in reality, freedom, justice and human liberty are under assault by the drug war. Let's get it right here before insisting that everyone follow our lead.


Washington state lawyers call for end to war on some drugs

Is it me or is the drug policy reform movement picking up steam these days? As I recall, when I started this blog almost two years ago, you didn't see much in the mainstream press on the issue and non-consumers (or at least non-admitted consumers) ignored it completely. Feels like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon now, as evidenced by this recent resolution from the King County Bar Association in Washington state calling for "the Legislature to establish a special consultative body composed of public officials, civic leaders and experts to develop recommendations for legislation to create regulatory systems for the control of psychoactive substances."

Recognizing that prohibition is what drives the black market and causes the related crime associated with the use of illegal drugs, the KCBA is calling for a "new legal and regulatory model to undercut the illegal market for mind-altering substances." The talking points of the resolution read like it was lifted right off the page at Drug Policy Alliance or Marijuana Policy Project .

Some days it feels like you're just shouting into the wind as a reform activist, but it's projects like this that lead me to believe we're getting through to the public folks. Makes it easier to believe we'll see a change in government policy in our lifetimes.

[Hat tip to Dean Becker]

Friday, January 21, 2005

Weedman wins on smokin' defense motion

Our own NJ Weedman, Ed Forchion won a victory in federal court when earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell ruled in his favor on a pro-se motion.

In his Jan. 7 order, Dalzell wrote, "because staying Forchion's sentence will not endanger the public or seriously undermine any important public interest, the risk of irreparable injury to Forchion from being subjected to potentially invalid restraints on his liberty requires us to stay his sentence."

Ed is becoming quite a "jailhouse lawyer" both from inside and now, outside the cell. His legal troubles are far from over but for the moment, he's still free to practice his legal skills and his religion. Good work.

Drug Free America Foundation

That ill conceived organization run by the vile Semblers - who made a fortune on abusing troubled teenagers with their "scared straight" programs - is running a poll on their home page. Let's give those profiteering prohibition pushers something to think about. Poll on side bar here.

Current results with 987 voters are:

harmless: 35.6%

a viable medicine: 34.7%

an addictive drug / gateway drug: 9.7%

ten times more potent today than in the 60's: 10.0%

first step to drug addiction: 10.0%

Tell them what you think.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Snake in the glass

Excuse me but how exactly does a snake guard a marijuana crop, or anything else for that matter, from the inside of a glass cage?
Keeping the world safe from harmless flora

A hunting club owner in Mississippi filed suit in federal court for damages resulting from a raid where local law enforcement, assisting the DEA raided the club and destroyed 500 kenaf plants, "a look-alike for marijuana and used as feed to attract deer."

The owner, who was leasing the land from a timber company and was not charged lists negligence, trespassing, invasion of privacy and defamation as grounds for the complaint. According to the article,

Africans grew kenaf as early as 6000 B.C., and within the last century it has been grown in India, Asia, Africa, the Near East and Latin America. U.S. farmers devoted about 12,000 acres to kenaf in recent years, mostly in Texas, Mississippi and Georgia.

Kenaf comes in two varieties: One with leaves that resemble marijuana, the other with heart-shaped leaves similar to the hibiscus plant, a kenaf cousin.

Unsurprisingly the crime lab has not made the results of the chemical analysis public although the raid was conducted last September.

Your tax dollars at work.

You want that to go?

I've said this before but apparently it bears repeating. It's a really bad idea to conduct your marijuana deals on company time and on the premises of your day job. Especially if you work for a fast food restaurant.

He must have been a pretty good manager though because they only put him on a leave of absence pending the outcome of the criminal case.

New blog in the family

A big welcome to Stephen M. Couch of BlueStateRed. He's a rare item, a conservative (moderate but still a Republican) living in the blue bubble of the Baystate. I "met" Stephen when we were blogging together at the Detroit News and although our politics are often opposite on the issues, he always offers a reasonable and balanced argument for the "other side."

Keep your eye on this guy, he's wise beyond his years and he'll be going places. I'm predicting he'll end up as a federal judge someday.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Corporate Cannabis

Thanks to the Media Awareness Project this excellent piece on medical marijuana is now archived and available on-line. Award-winning Victoria-based journalist and the author Brian Preston looks at corporate interest in cannabis based medicines that deliver the healing without the smoke or the high. German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG has already paid $60 million for the European rights and $14 million for the Canadian rights to market Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine developed in Britain by GW Pharmaceuticals. Bayer in competition with Cannasat Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Toronto want to set up shop in Canada.

...Alan Young, Cannasat's legal adviser, a loquacious Osgoode Hall law professor who has fought a decades-long battle to liberalize marijuana laws, says because cannabis-based drugs have the potential to help people in a number of critical areas yet to be discovered, it could become one of the biggest pharmaceutical sectors ever developed. "There is going to be a revolution in the next decade in treatment options," says Young, his voice rising to emphasize the point. "People are sick and tired of synthetic products that are constantly being pulled off the market for undisclosed side effects. The time is right for herbal products."

Indeed the time has always right for herbal products which have long since gone mainstream. It's just this particular herb that remains exploited - so far. But don't be fooled by their talk of protecting the public. Although it's true that cannabis is a far superior medicine to chemical alternatives, the pharma are interested in profit, not in the public health.

Let's face it, without sick people they're out of business and if someone can grow a plant as an alternative to buying commercially processed products it threatens their bottom line. They're finally figuring out an end run against legalization of the plant in order to preserve the profit margins of a bottled substitute.

The Holy Grail for corporations trying to turn pot into a legitimate medicine is the vast U.S. market, which is ruled over by politicians who still see marijuana as an unspeakable menace. Euphoria masquerading as a medicine simply won't fly in the U.S. But GW may have found a solution. It has developed a tamper-proof dispensing system for the delivery of methadone that critics say could also be used for cannabis-based medicine. It looks like a cross between an asthma inhaler and a cellphone. The doctor keys in your allowable dose, and any attempt to spray a little more cuts you off cold turkey.

Corporations see it as a way to profits; smokers call it a Big Brotherish apparatus designed to appease America's anti-pot paranoia - what they call "euphoriphobia." One such critic is Hilary Black, founder of the B.C. Compassion Club Society in Vancouver, who recently joined Cannasat. "The fact is, any pharmaceutical company using prohibition as a tool to market a product - that's wrong," says Black. "I have major ethical concerns with that."

Sativex isn't the only game in town though. Irrepressible reform activist Phillipe Lucas of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society that "also produces a cannabis spray, albeit a much simpler version, a tincture of cannabis administered via a vapourizer called Cannamist", was issued a friendly threat by the developer of Sativex himself.

There is no question that GW plans to enforce its patents on Sativex, which is a precisely dosed medicine. Warns Guy: "To protect our extensive investment, we have sought to identify and patent certain inventions throughout the growing, extraction and manufacturing process. My comments to Mr. Lucas were made as a friendly and, hopefully, helpful gesture as I did not wish him to invest a great amount of effort into obtaining approval for a product as a prescription medicine only to find that he did not have the freedom to operate in the first place."

With the corporation's deep pockets, even Lucas reluctantly admits they are likely to win in the end and the author concurs.

Eventually Sativex could be introduced into the lucrative U.S. market. But with the war on illegal drugs going on, with much of it directed by the world's biggest consumer of illegal drugs, America, any substance that gets you giddy is guilty until proven innocent. GW and Bayer may be able to skirt that issue by emphasizing the fact that Sativex is taken in a dose so low that there's no high associated with it.

... By some estimates, 50 percent of prescribed medicines in the nineteenth century- designed to alleviate everything from migraines and menstrual cramps to the pain of childbirth - contained cannabis. Time will tell whether Bayer has latched on to the new Aspirin-whether Sativex will become the "take two and call me in the morning" drug of the twenty-first century.

There's worse things that could happen. As Lucas points out in the article, it could serve a purpose as a medication for those without the means to get cannabis, or who fear the stigma of asking for it from their doctors. It would make an good addition to the medicine cabinet but I certainly don't think it should serve as a substitute for legalization of the plant. Well worth reading in full.

A goodbye to the blogosphere

It's a sad day for the bloggerhood. Baylen is leaving D'Alliance and Drug Policy Alliance and is moving on to other projects. I expect he'll make the announcement tomorrow - his last day on the blog. Be sure to stop by and wish him well. Thanks for everything Baylen. I miss you already.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


I've identified my new bird friend. He was out there on the same tree this afternoon when I walked out to check the mail. I went another step closer to him today so I could get a good look and he is definitely a gray flycatcher. He was more animated today and turned around once on the branch when I took that step, but he stayed when I didn't move and settled right down again. It's like he's used to being scrutinized by bird watchers.

I also discovered a live nature cam of a bird feeder. Of course it's dark now but I'm going to check it out in the morning myself. Meanwhile I'm realizing I'm in desperate need of lamps. The down side of leaving all your worldly goods behind is that you spend a lot of time shopping when you arrive and it takes twice as long to figure out where to go. And I'm now in the driving lifestyle again, living just a little too far to walk to anything. On the plus side I now know where all the essentials can be found and I still have our lovely little downtown to explore. I think I'm making inroads in town already. The trash removal service didn't make me show ID or pay up front.

Unequal justice

Here we have a cop in New York state that beats his wife, gets caught with several cannabis plants growing on his property and what happens to him? Practically nothing. He loses one month's salary, which he is litigating to get back and will remain free and continue to draw $52,000 a year while his case is pending. If he was a poor black man from the ghetto, he'd already be cooling his heels on a long jail term under the still basically unreformed Rockefeller laws.

If they made corrupt cops who want to play both sides of the fence pay the same price for their infractions as everyone else, you can be certain there would be a lot more law enforcement people pushing for drug policy reform.

High tech and low tech busts

I haven't heard of this detection method before. US Customs agents at the Canadian border performed a gamma-ray scan of an inbound truck and found 34 plastic garbage bags filled with marijuana. It sounds suspicious to me but according to this paper it's a common practice.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana three men were arrested after a high speed chase during which they started tossing marijuana out of the car. It doesn't say how much but can you imagine driving down the highway and all of sudden a bag of cannabis hits your windshield? You would have to hope it was high grade buds and not some compressed brick of Mexican like we used to see in the "old days." Those puppies could do some real damage.

Another drug war victim

A father of six died as a result of police raid on his home searching for "several marijuana plants." The police say it was a major drug depot and marijuana distribution point but offer no details on what they seized beyond it was a "substantial amount." Right. And several plants probably means a dozen seedlings and couple of mature plants. Doesn't sound like a major drug ring to me.

Now granted, the guy allegedly struggled with the police officers - always a matter of debate - they always say that to justify beating the guy with their batons and pepper spraying him. He lost consciousness before they even got him into the squad car. Cause of death has not been established but regardless of how you spin it, this man died because of prohibition of a plant. Does anyone really believe that leaving six children without a father and breadwinner is less harmful than allowing people to smoke a plant in peace?

Prohibition creates crime

A Baltimore woman's home was firebombed yesterday by a group of teenagers. She's a prohibition activist and has been publicly speaking out against drug traffickers. The bombing comes hot on the heels of an underground DVD called "Stop Snitching" that's been circulating around Baltimore, "warning people they could 'get a hole in their head' for telling police about illegal drug activity."

The city of course is an uproar over this, remembering a family of five that was killed in 2002 for ratting out drug dealers in their neighborhood. The immediate call from the community is for stiffer penalties for such crimes but this is the wrong approach. As I've said many times, prohibition is what creates a market for the dealers. It's simple logic. If you legalized the drugs, you would put these criminals out of business and promote the public safety at the same time. The addicts wouldn't have to commit property crimes to afford their drugs and the dealers would have no customers. How much easier could it be?

Media Watch - Montel on being scared straight

Montel Williams was outed as a medical marijuana patient when he was busted last year. Since then he's done a lot for reform including interviews and a show on the subject. Today he looks at teen rehab programs, so called "boot camps" that are supposed to get wayward teens back on track.

I've heard a lot about these places from former "inmates" who have some horrifying stories to tell. Starvation, beatings, isolation - the list of cruel tactics is long. This is all part and parcel of the harms of prohibtion. Many of these kids are sent to these hell holes for smoking pot or taking drugs by hysterical parents who don't understand the difference between real problems and normal adolescent rebellion.

The truth is these interventions, don't do any good and in most cases do long lasting harm to its victims. Montel will interview several of them and a look at the preview suggests the slant will not be favorable. For viewing times in your area, click here.

Falling into place

It's been a long day. I got on a roll with the unpacking so I ran with it. I had a flock of robins in my yard this afternoon - it was odd to see them this time of year and they were quite bold. They didn't fly away when I came out on the stoop. They were hopping around the yard and five crows showed up after a while and sat in a tree watching them. I finally saw a cardinal as well. I always did like those.

Otherwise uneventful day but I do love my shower. It's the best water pressure I've had in 15 years. It's tough at the kitchen sink though. If you forget, you get a shower there as well when the water hits the sink. Nothing's perfect

Monday, January 17, 2005

Finding places

I'm settling into the new digs a little more each day but it's a slow process. This place is so much bigger and of course it's configured differently, so it's taking a while to figure out where things should go. It's weird to have a utility closet again for instance. Not to mention that I brought so little with me that I'm realizing I need a lot of furniture to fill this place up. I was however, excited to figure out that I can keep my electronic keyboard up here (It lived under my bed for years). I think it's going to fit perfectly on the white workbench (that wasn't worth shipping except for the sentimental value) and I have a chair that works with it perfectly. Maybe I'll even learn to play some music on it this time.

I sort of like this part of the moving-in process as you get used to the place and discover the little things. A closer inspection of the property reveals I have bulb like plants growing all around the foundation, although it's hard to say what they are except for the daffodils. My nature identification skills have deserted me here. Everything is sort of the same but different, and I don't know the name of anything, including the birds of course. The family has a lot of cardinals and what looks like a really big mockingbird that has a propensity for sitting on the deck rail and watching us through the window.

Here at my HQ, I seem to have mostly some kind of little nuthatch-like ones that cling to sides of the big trees and hop madly around in the bushes outside my window, furiously eating invisible bugs and a couple of larger birds that haven't come close enough to even try to identify. I saw a couple of crows yesterday as well. However, as long time readers know, I often have bird encounters of the strange kind and I did have one here already that almost qualifies.

I was walking out for the mail and I have to actually cross the road and walk the width of my neighbor's lot to get there. He has some dogwood trees planted close to the road and I passed by a few feet from the biggest fattest wild bird I've ever seen up close. Seriously, its chest looked to be the size of my fist and the feathers were so downy, he looked like a baby. I thought at first it might be a baby hawk, but the beak didn't look right. A preliminary investigation leads to me to believe it may be a Pacific Flycatcher but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

He didn't move or make a sound, he just hung on to the end of an impossibly small branch that managed to hold his weight even as it bobbed and swayed in the rising wind. Occasionally he would open and shut his mouth, but he made no noise and he looked a little stunned I thought as he watched me walk closer to his perch. I got within four feet before he even flinched, but when I stopped he didn't move again. I stood there for a long time in the cold dusk, until finally I became concerned my new neighbors would think me a nut case for standing there staring at a tree, so I left without disturbing him further. He never moved more than his tail feathers - he just sat there watching me walk back down the driveway.

Speaking of which, it's a long driveway and I was concerned to see someone had dumped a plastic bag at the end of it yesterday evening. I didn't know quite what to expect as I trudged out to inspect it. It crossed my mind that I'd find a brick with Yankee Go Home written on it or something but it turned out to be a phone book - not from Sprint, the company that installed my phone - but from Verizon whose book covers a larger geographic area but unfortunately its service doesn't. They apparently hired someone to deliver it on a Sunday night. You would have thought Sprint could have done that as well since they have a building a couple of miles away from here but I've yet to receive my local book. Perhaps in tomorrow's mail, probably mailed to me from their book center in Pakistan or something.

But enough of minor inconveniences, I've had another good omen. I found a marble yesterday. I love marbles, always have since I was a kid and this is another one of spooky little things about my life. Whenever I move, I always find a marble in the first few days. This one is a beauty, a pale green cat's eye in translucent green glass.

So it's back to the unpacking for a few hours for me. I expect to return after dark to catch up on news.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Strange customs

I don't know what to make of this. Despite the assurances, it sounds a little inhumane to me to keep wild birds locked up for 20 days, feed them some concoction (that probably includes marijuana to reduce the toxic effects of the other ingredients) and when they're really hyped up on the stuff, tie them to a string and make them fight each other. They have to be goaded into it, probably because the marijuana mellows them out.

It's some Hindu ritual but it's on the decline since the birds are beginning to disappear. Rather unsurprising. Half of them are no doubt injured and the other half probably move out once they're released. Who would stick around to have that happen to you twice?

Your turn to rack...

Let this be a warning to you. If you're planning on using a pool hall as a cover for a drug dealing operation, it might be a good idea to keep a few pool sticks around. They say the pool tables are handy for quickly ditching bags of marijuana though.

More from the bloggerhood

I saw a lot of chat about this on the discussion lists a couple of days ago, but D'Alliance posts the first link I've seen to the actual news stories on this dunderheaded proposal by Texas State Representative Ruth Jones McClendon to create "druggie free zones" in San Antonio. Under her plan, anyone convicted of a drug offense would be prohibited from entering certain parts of the city. You can let her and the rest of the Texas legislature know what you think of this idiocy by clicking here.

Baylen also posts reviews of various drug themed programming on television and points us to coverage on a matter that could become the next big medical marijuana case under Supreme Court review in the future. And I was happy to find out that I'm not the only one who gets sleepy on a full stomach.

Back to the blogosphere

Well, I'm moving slow this morning as I've already managed to put my back out while I was unpacking but I'm feeling more on track now that I've got my computer back and finally started catching up on my reading. Pete at Drug WarRant has been busy while I was slacking off. He points us to an excellent editorial on how the feds are sabotaging any meaningful research into the effectiveness of medical marijuana, and he tells us how he managed to get drug czar John Walters to answer his question at the recently held White House cyber-chat. He also posts an interesting op-ed that makes a good argument for decrim in Texas and news of a heartening decision in Colorado upholding the 4th Amendment in ruling a search was illegal. And there's much more of course. Best advice as always is to start at the top and just keep scrolling.

Rehnquist could benefit from MMJ

The New York Post reports on an unexpected encounter with ailing Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist. It doesn't look good for the judge to be continuing on in his post past the end of this term. The details are sad and shocking. Sounds to me like someone should give the poor guy some medical marijuana to ease his discomfort. Besides, since he's still likely to render a decision in Raich v. Ashcroft, he should at least investigate its curative properties for himself.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Change is good

Well I think I'm home at last. I got the internet installed today and apparently picked the perfect spot for my desk. I'm sitting here typing this in the dark while the room pulses with the most astounding sunset pouring in through the window above my screen. The view is of a dozen tall thin trees in the foreground backed by an expanse of sky striated in blue, purple and white clouds glowing with red light. It just keeps getting more and more intense...

Even as it dies down to shades of gray at the very bottom of the cloud cover, the last light paints a hot flat river of yellow across the horizon line and an angry crimson cumulus threatens to engulf it from above. Wow. It felt almost supernatural.

It was good to have a whole day here and I made some real progress on moving in before the Time Warner guy got here. (I have to say I'm liking the Roadrunner connect so far.) It was raining all morning so I still don't know where the light comes in for the plants but I discovered a good reason for parking in the carport. I was wondering what that crashing noise was that I heard last night. Apparently it was some of the rotten branches falling off the trees onto the driveway. There's 15 of them in my front yard alone and my neighbors on both sides have as many. Guess that also explains the bonfire pit out back.

On the brighter side, I have a daffodil blooming in my front yard and I talked to the guy who used to live here today and found out he's not taking away the shed so it's mine to use. You can't have too much dry storage. But this is my favorite discovery today. They put up a clothesline for me while I was "up on the hill." Like everybody, I mostly use the dryer but there's nothing I like better than sheets and towels that have been dried outside. It's a smell thing.

Also on the upside, I discovered the local pizza joint will deliver side of orders of perfectly sauted baby spinach and garlic. The pizza is not bad either and the guy who owns it is a riot on the phone. Very New York and he kept calling me madame. Life could be worse.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Catching up is hard to do

I finally have some time off and am heading to my new house to start settling in tonight. Again, I won't have internet access until tomorrow afternoon so I'll be off screen until then. Keep your fingers crossed for me that all goes well and I'll actually get connected. I can't wait to get back to serious blogging and I'm missing my daily reads which I haven't had time to check out in weeks now. Here's hoping the next time you read this, I'll be blogging from home.

There's no place like home...

You have to love living in the country. My dear friends from Noho sent me a surprise package and of course I wasn't home when it arrived. In Noho the UPS driver would have left a form to sign and it would have taken two more days to actually receive the parcel. In this little town the driver simply left it on my screen porch.

Even the post office is more informal. The postman and I exchanged hand written notes over what to do with the former tenant's mail. I of course didn't have a clue as to how to find him, but apparently the postman finally did because I found a note from Troy stuck in the door when I arrived for my daily "bake the paint" session last evening. The paint, I'm happy to report, after five days of running the heat at insane temperatures, seems to have finally cured. They painted the entire place from the ceilings to the doors down to the trim around the floors. The fumes were absolutely toxic for a while.

I have to figure out what to do about an answering machine this week. I used to have the voice mail service from Verizon, but now that I'm stuck with Sprint again, I don't think I'll get it from them, meaning of course I have to go out and buy a machine. I loathe Sprint - I've had nothing but trouble with the company when I've been forced to use them in the past and it doesn't seem to be any better now. It took me three tries and 15 minutes on phone trees to get a live human being on the telephone to find out why I didn't get a phone book when they installed the phone. It seems rather than have the tech who flips the stupid switch or whatever they do that takes them a week to organize and thirty seconds to execute, doesn't leave the phone book. They mail you the phone book, which arrives seven to ten days later. I find that kind of stupid corporate inefficiency particularly irritating. And I might mention, the only reason I know my telephone number is that I called someone with caller ID to find out what it was. They didn't even leave me a note with that information.

However, the phone at least seems to work. I've received two phone calls already. A wrong number and a recorded message from Sprint purporting to be checking my service but in reality, it was merely one more pitch to attempt to sell me additional services. Mind boggling.

Meanwhile, I'm expecting to have a few days off and I'm looking forward to unpacking and settling into my new digs. Well okay I'm not actually looking forward to the unpacking part but I will be glad when it's done and it will be good to actually spend some daylight hours in the house so I can figure out where to put my house plants. I have a lot of windows but also a lot of trees and the house faces east so it's a little tricky. And of course, I can't wait to have my own computer back and some extended time to myself so I can catch up on the cyber-side of my life. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Here's hoping I'll be blogging from home tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Oh what a lovely surprise

My dear girls, that was possibly the most thoughtful and beautiful birthday present I have ever received and you've given me some splendid ones over the years. I wouldn't have even found it had I not brought the recycling out to the screen porch.

I miss you both like crazy. Thanks for such a truly brilliant surprise.

SCOTUS cuts some Federal Sentencing Guidelines

This is good news. Bloomberg reports The U.S. Supreme Court struck down aspects of the federal criminal sentencing guidelines. "The justices, ruling in two drug cases, said the guidelines unconstitutionally call on judges to increase the range of possible sentences based on their own factual findings, rather than those of a jury. Today's decision said that practice violates the constitutional right to a jury trial."

"The court said the guidelines will no longer be mandatory on federal judges and instead will be 'effectively advisory'."

Thanks to all the brave souls on the federal bench for making enough noise on this issue to drown out Ashcroft and his minions' insistence that these ill-advised guidelines were necessary. I'm sure it had at least some effect on the Supremes decision.

Progress report

I spent another couple of hours at the new place last night and am feeling more comfortable there every day. Also in keeping with my resolution to get back to a healthier lifestyle, I managed to dig out enough cutlery and stuff to actually heat up a can of soup for dinner. (Long time readers know this counts as actual cooking in my book.) And I made a salad (well okay I bought those bags of already made salad but I put in a bowl and poured dressing on it myself - It still counts as cooking.)

Meanwhile, my good luck streak came back I guess because just as I was pulling into my driveway there was a big accident on the main road, right at the end of my street. Had I come home thirty seconds later, I would have either been in it or at best been stuck in traffic for an hour just half a block from my house. I'd say that was pretty darn lucky.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

No party on Carnival

This falls under the heading of what were they thinking? Carnival Cruise Lines sets up a Jam Cruise with four days at sea on a ship with non-stop bands, music and dancing. Of course they issued the standard caveat against bringing drugs on board but come-on, did they really think no one would? Seems to me to be kind of nasty trick to subject the passengers to drug dogs before they boarded.

Word has it, after the first 12 busts the rest of the passengers tossed their stash into the terminal trash cans. I would bet except for a couple of entrepreneurs they were all for personal use only. And all the cruise line is doing in the end is encouraging people to get drunk and belligerent on alcohol instead of mellow on marijuana. Counter-productive all the way around and I would bet money they won't be able to sell out another one of those cruises now.

Loretta Live

Alright, it's live on archive, but here's the update on Loretta Nall's debate with the local police chief in North Carolina. She tells us it wasn't much of an argument - he was pretty much on our side - but it sounds like it was a great event.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Moving in by degrees

I haven't had time to unpack beyond the bare necessities but I'm finally starting to feel like I'm moving into the new house. My phone was hooked up today (and continuing the uncanny coincidences, there's a double number in my new phone number) and I got some mail for the first time. I won't have internet access until Friday but little matter since I won't have time to spend there until then anyway.

Meanwhile I'm taking care of the things I won't get to once I'm back on-line and seriously blogging again. I scrubbed my desk with steel wool and lemon-oiled it, something I've wanted to do for a long time and trimmed the dead wood out of my Costa Rican houseplant.

Thanks to all for the birthday greetings and for hanging with me through this adjustment phase.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Counting my blessings

Spending my birthday in a strange place without my friends to celebrate with left me a little homesick today, so I decided to take some time for myself to look around and focus on what I love my new place. It's actually a lot.

I have a strawberry patch in the back yard that looks like it will produce fruit in the spring. I also have some kind of spring bulbs already coming up in the yard. It looks like they might be crocus or snow drops. There's a lot of little chickadee kind of birds and there's a little cat that comes by to visit me when I'm outside star gazing. It won't be true in the summer, but right now you can see the Milky Way from my front porch and Orion is dead overhead all night.

I took a walk tonight at 5:30 around my neighborhood, saw a fabulous sunset and still got home before it was completely dark at 6:00. I wasn't wearing thermal underwear. One of my neighbors has a pink 57 Chevy with a black vinyl top that's faded to a dark charcoal color. Gorgeous car. Another neighbor never took down their Kerry/Edwards campaign sign. The neighbor across the street has a wishing well. People are friendly, even the convenience store clerks and people wave at you, including the state cop that cruises the fancy hood my family lives in.

It takes my house about 30 seconds to get warm when you turn the heat on. It takes my car a half a block to do the same. There's apparently a good blues bar in the center of town and a good pizza joint a couple of blocks away that delivers.

But the best thing. I haven't had a bad hair day since I got here. The damp environment keeps my hair from going all straight and flat like it does up north. My "do" stays perky all the time here. It surprises me every time I happen to see myself in a mirror.

Guest spots
I'm working my way through the backed up email and I'm glad I discovered a note from Loretta Nall saying she will be a guest on Free Speech Radio at Western North Carolina University tonight. She'll be debating Western Carolina University Police Chief McAbee live at 8:00pm. But not to worry if you can't tune in then (unfortunately, I won't be able to) as she promises to update us later with a link to the archived show.

And thanks to Loretta for pointing us to Grits for Breakfast where Rev. Alan Bean is guest blogging live from the trial of disgraced former undercover agent Tom Coleman - the scumbag who perpetrated the fraud that was called Tulia. I met Alan at a drug policy conference and he's an unassuming guy who played a big role in bringing justice to the Tulia defendants. I can't wait until I have a day off so I can catch up on this and of course Scott's usual stellar take on the goings on in Texas.

But don't wait around for me to summarize. Read it today for yourself.

Sniffing around

I've been spending a lot of time in airports in the last few months and I've been seeing a lot more cops with dogs than I used to within the US - presumably sniffing for bombs. Used to be they only sniffed for drugs. I've been wondering myself if the same dogs now sniff for both. Thanks to JackL who discovered this research paper paid for by the feds entitled "K9 Units in Public Transportation: A Guide for Decision Makers," we all know that the answer is no. In fact, the trainers say it's impossible to train for both as then they are not able to find either item.

Public pays for drug czar lies

I try not to rely on cross posting in consideration of those readers who actually read both my blogs but the baby woke up early and this is an important story that I want to be certain no one misses, so I'm going to cross post this irritating piece about the ONDCP this morning.

The Bush administration is still hard at work deceiving the American public. Having suffered little more than a slap on the wrist for using illegal covert propaganda while promoting their robbery of our senior citizens' pensions with his Medicare drug "reforms", they did the exact same thing again with Office of National Drug Control Policy promotion pieces designed to look like a real news reports. The Government Accountability Office of course censured them but I guess they don't care as long as they don't get into any real trouble. The bad press dies before most people even see it, so essentially they get away with it anyway.

The ONDCP of course has been lying all along in the propaganda pieces they are publicly willing to admit producing and it's not surprising that they resort to such underhanded tactics in an attempt to justify the $40 billion of your hard earned tax dollars they squander annually on this failed war on some drugs - particularly since they shifted their focus from intercepting "hard drugs" to persecuting terminally ill medical marijuana users and pain management doctors.

It just goes to show how badly they have failed when they must spend even more of our money to attempt to fool the public with fake news. But again, since it costs them nothing to lie and they desperately want to protect their hefty salaries and cushy positions as prohibition profiteers, they are willing to knowingly break the law in order to do it, while they call honest pot smokers criminals.

Seems to me they should let all the non-violent drug offenders out and put John Walters, Mark Souder and the rest of their prohibition-pushing liars in jail instead. Maybe then the remainder of Bush's media manipulators would stop lying to us on our dime.

PS: Thanks to Louise for remembering my birthday. It's been so hectic here I lost track of the days. I might have forgotten to celebrate. I'll miss our annual celebration as well Louise and a very happy B-day to you tomorrow as well.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Anarchists in the making

This is inexcusable and outrageous. Really, 12 year olds searched down to their socks over a missing ten dollar bill? And by the way the money was not found on the "suspects".

I find this sort of thing to be a symptom of the war on some drugs. Once the precedent for such searches was set in the name of protecting our children from drugs, the authorities feel free to use these tactics for such mundane matters as this and I fear that children treated with such disrespect as teenagers will not grow up to feel or show respect for the system that abused them.

Friday, January 07, 2005

I suspect they're right

Thanks to Kevin for leaving the link to this corrupt cop of the week story. A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking after authorities found 750 pounds of marijuana in his squad car following a high-speed freeway chase, according to a criminal complaint filed in San Diego.

Suspicion of trafficking? Even with my most generous perspective, it seems hard to believe it was his personal stash.

Set backs

Well my run of good luck appears to have run out. I had hoped to have my internet installed tomorrow but my schedule fell apart and I'll have to wait another week before I can get back to what passes for normal in my life. I did get water this morning, so it wasn't a complete loss. When I arrived last night they didn't turn it on because I wasn't home and there was a faucet open in the house. They take their water very seriously here.

I had to spend the night anyway because they were coming so early to turn it on. It felt like camping at the beach, using baby wipes to wash with and bottled water to get by. I was feeling like a pretty great traveler though. I had packed all the things I needed right away in all the right places so I able to get comfortable and was even able to make coffee in the morning.

Meanwhile, without regular access my email is out of control and I haven't cruised the blogosphere in days but this little absurdity comes in through the inbox. A judge in Pittsburgh ruled a convicted drug offender who violated his probation must "appear regularly over the next eight weeks wearing a sign telling students about the negative consequences of drugs."

You think he really believes making the guy a laughingstock at the high school is going to have a deterrent effect? To their credit, the school has not yet given permission for the stunt. One hopes they tell the court to rethink the sentence.