Drug War Chronicle #662 - December 9, 2010

1. Tax Deductible Donations Support Reform in 2011

Help bring about the brighter future that awaits us beyond prohibition, by making a tax-deductible educational donation or a non-deductible lobbying donation before year's end.

2. DEA, State Cops Raid Legal Michigan Medical Marijuana Grows [FEATURE]

The Detroit DEA doesn't seem to have gotten the memo. You know, the one from Eric Holder in October 2009 telling it to quit messing with medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

3. Obama Pardons Four Drug Offenders, But Commutes No Sentences

President Obama issued the first pardons of his presidency, including four for drug offenders. But he issued no commutations for people still doing time.

4. Senator to Place Floor Hold on DEA Nominee Leonhart

The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved the nomination of Michele Leonhart to head the DEA, but one senator has vowed to place a hold on it on the Senate floor over the issue of pain relief for seniors.

5. NJ Pols Strike Medical Marijuana Deal, Patients Unhappy

It's been nearly a year since medical marijuana passed the New Jersey legislature, and now Gov. Christie and an Assembly leader have cut a deal -- but the patients aren't real happy.

6. Mexico Drug War Update

As 2010 ticks down, Ciudad Juarez is on track to hit 3,000 murders this year, and that national toll for the year could hit 10,000.

7. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A bad narc in New York and a meth-loving deputy in Minnesota go down.

8. In a Rush, European Union Bans Mephedrone

The European Union has moved to ban the synthetic stimulant mephedrone, despite a lack of evidence for its harms or related fatalities.

9. Dutch Mayors Rush to Make Cannabis Cafes "Members Only"

The Dutch justice minister and some southern mayors are using the specter of organized crime violence to crack down on cannabis cafes and institute a "members only" system barring foreigners.

10. This Week in History

Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.

1. Tax Deductible Donations Support Reform in 2011

Dear StoptheDrugWar.org reader:
 

  

If you have been following Drug War Chronicle or our Speakeasy blog, you have a sense for why drug reformers believe that a brighter future beyond prohibition is ahead of us. We've reported on California's Prop 19 marijuana legalization initiative -- the positive media coverage it got, the new allies it brought in, the closeness of the vote in a year that favored conservative election turnout. We've talked about polling results showing national support for legalization approaching the 50% mark. And many other positive developments here and around the world as well. Our time will be here soon.

I've also written here about the phenomenal success that our newly-redesigned web site has had in its first few months. The improved site, our more up-to-the-minute publishing, and the excitement of Prop 19, all combined to bring more than half a million people to StoptheDrugWar.org during the weeks leading up to the election. We are taking the anti-prohibitionist message to more people than ever.

If you are doing tax-deductible, charitable giving in 2010, would you be willing to include our educational nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation, among the organizations you are supporting? If you're not doing tax-deductible donating at this time, would you instead make a non-deductible donation to our lobbying nonprofit, Drug Reform Coordination Network? Please consider making generous donations to one or both of these entities at this important time.

  

We are pleased to offer three new membership premium gifts, reflecting our optimism for the future:

 

  1. Cannabinomics: The Marijuana Policy Tipping Point, book by Dr. Christopher Glenn Fichtner, points the way to a brighter future beyond the current drug war. (See our review of Cannabinomics here.)
  2. Emperor of Hemp, a re-released memorial tribute edition of the classic video, honors the movement pioneer Jack Herer whose efforts enabled much more to follow. (See our review of Emperor of Hemp here.)
  3. My Medicine, by Irv Rosenfeld, tells his story as one of now only four patients in the federal government's medical marijuana program, and chronicles the history of medical marijuana as it's unfolded in the US to its incredible place today.

Donate $15 or more for Emperor of Hemp, $35 or more for Cannabinomics or My Medicine, $45 for the video and either book, $60 for both books, or $75 or more to get all three.
 

  

Resources are tight in the drug policy reform movement right now, despite the excitement of the election. At StoptheDrugWar.org we have therefore focused our efforts on the work that we're the best at -- high-quality, journalistic level, original publishing about the drug war; and using our web site and email list to grow and support the entire drug reform movement -- Prop 19, sentencing reform, medical marijuana in the many states, everything.

We have made huge strides, and reform activists from the rank-and-file up through the leadership tell us what a difference our work makes for them.

But because the economy and funding situation is what it is, we need your help as this special year draws to a close -- please make a generous donation supporting StoptheDrugWar.org today.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
http://stopthedrugwar.org

P.S. We are grateful for your donation, whether it's large or small -- believe me, even the small ones add up to make a difference!

P.P.S. If you'd rather donate by check, select the "mail-a-check" option in our donation form, or send a check payable to DRCNet Foundation (tax-deductible for our educational work) or Drug Reform Coordination Network (non-deductible, supports our lobbying work) to P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

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2. DEA, State Cops Raid Legal Michigan Medical Marijuana Grows [FEATURE]

Once again, this time last week in Michigan, the federal DEA has teamed up with recalcitrant state and local law enforcement in a bid to negate the will of the public and the law of the land. Heavily-armed state and federal lawmen raided a pair of medical marijuana gardens in the town of Okemos, outside Lansing, breaking windows, throwing smoke grenades, and seizing thousands of dollars worth of equipment and medical marijuana plants -- all in a raid of a facility that is undeniably within the confines of Michigan's medical marijuana law.

Michigan marijuana activists take to the streets (courtesy Capital City Care Givers)
The gardens subleased to two individual caregivers by Capital City Care Givers in nearby Lansing contained a total of 40 marijuana plants. Under the Michigan law, caregivers can grow up to 12 plants each for up to five patients, as well as growing 12 plants for themselves if they are patients. That means the two caregivers should have been legally protected in growing up to 72 plants each, or 144 in total.

The apparent hole in the law that the DEA and the state police could be seeking to exploit is that the law does not directly address the issue of conjoined grows. It says only that caregivers can grow up to 12 plants for up to five patients and does not address more than one caregiver growing under the same roof. On the other hand, the law does not forbid such activities.

"This was an operation of the state police and the DEA," said Detroit medical marijuana activist Tim Beck. "The state police couldn’t even get a warrant from a local judge, so the DEA had to get one from a federal judge in Grand Rapids. The state police claim that they are captives of the local prosecutor, but in this case, the local prosecutor didn't cooperate with them, so they went around him to the feds."

"We were completely in compliance with the law," said Ryan Basore, proprietor of Capitol City Care Givers, whose grow was hit. "We had contacted the local, county, and state police, and they all gave the go ahead and said we were doing it legally. We had two different attorneys write up the leases and go through plant counts and make sure everything was correctly separated. Every caregiver was well under the limit."

That didn't stop the DEA, the state police, and the Tri-county Metro Narcotics Squad from behaving as if they were busting an Al Qaeda cell. Raiding agents threw smoke bombs in the building, paraded around with AK-47s, and stole the marijuana being grown by legally compliant caregivers. When asked about the Holder memo, the agents acted as if they were above the law. "Obama is not our president," Basore reported the agents saying."The people wanted change," Basore overheard another agent say as they effectively laughed in the face of their own superiors.

"All I can tell you is that this is an ongoing investigation in which we procured the search warrant," said Detroit DEA spokesman Special Agent Rich Isaacson. "Just because someone makes a claim that it is medical marijuana doesn't make it so."

When asked about the October 2009 Justice Department memo urging the DEA to quit going after medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal, Isaacson appeared to agree with the memo, but then suggested Capital Caregivers was somehow outside the state law. "If it's unambiguous that they're following state law, there would be better ways for the department to spend its resources," he said.

"Our mission is to target large scale drug trafficking groups," Isaacson said, but clammed up when confronted with the fact that the raids had seized only 40 plants. "That number may or may not be accurate," was all he would say.

Basore has been a prominent figure in the state's medical marijuana movement. He is a member of various cannabis patient groups and the Michigan Association of Compassionate Care Centers. He's been available to local and state media, and as a result, he has a very high profile. That could have been why he was targeted, his supporters suggested.

"This raid came about because Ryan Basore was in the media for the past few weeks talking about his desire to have regulated dispensaries," said Detroit attorney Matthew Abel. "He is a very successful businessman in this industry, and I think they just decided to take him down. They do that to anyone who goes public, and that's highly retaliatory against our First Amendment rights. He was talking to the press, so they took him out. That's pretty nasty."

"Ryan is high-profile, he's politically active and on TV all the time, but he's also scrupulously honest," said Beck. "That operation was absolutely straight up," he said.

"We're very troubled by the continuing raids involving the DEA that are occurring around the country, and we've been saying this for a long time," said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. "It is not the purview of the federal government to enforce state or local laws. If the feds believe state or local law may have been violated, they should leave those cases to the state to prosecute. Only then we will find out if there were in fact violations of state or local law, because if those cases go to federal court, prosecutors will not risk opening the door to a medical marijuana defense," he said.

"The DEA conducts these raids and provides very little evidence of state law violations," said Hermes. "They rarely, if ever, produce any actual physical evidence of state law violations."

It's not just Michigan where the DEA is acting out, said Hermes. "We've seen well over 20 DEA raids since Justice issued its memo, and while that is for sure a less aggressive posture than the Bush administration, any raids are unacceptable if they are going to undermine the implementation of a state's medical marijuana law," he said. "That has been the effect in California and Colorado, where the DEA attempts to undermine the state medical marijuana law," Hermes argued.

"US attorneys have received notice that there was a change in policy, and that has filtered down to DEA agents across the country in medical marijuana states," Hermes continued. "Eric Holder and the Obama administration have given pretty broad latitude to use discretion in enforcing federal marijuana laws in medical marijuana states, and it's mostly US attorneys and DEA field agents who consider their targets to be violating state or local law. The shadow of the Justice Department memo is coloring enforcement actions, and hopefully we'll see fewer raids in the future, but it's that discretion that has resulted in the continuing raids."

"The DEA has been all over Michigan trying to subvert this law, running around recommending that municipalities pass laws saying that any activity which is contrary to state local or federal law is also illegal," Beck noted.  "That is being challenged in court by the ACLU."

For Basore, it's not just about picking up the pieces and starting over. "I'm thinking about suing the state of Michigan, said Basore. "I think I have an entrapment case. I would never have broken the law unless I was told it was okay to do, and some of those who told me it was okay were in on the raids."

And it is full speed ahead, recalcitrant state police and DEA be damned. "We haven't been charged with anything, we're legal to grow in Michigan, and our patients need their medicine," said Basore. "If they are going to rob us at gunpoint again, they're going to do it. But we'll keep doing what we're doing, we have the law on our side."

The feds don't even have to prosecute to have inflict severe pain, Abel said. "They clean you out, and then where are you?"

"There will be bankruptcies filed because of this," said Basore. "Most of our caregivers are in the their 60s, and they're not rich."

The DEA and reactionary state law enforcement officials are once again showing serious signs of thinking they are above the law. Someone needs to rein them in, whether through lawsuits, in the streets, or at the ballot box.

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3. Obama Pardons Four Drug Offenders, But Commutes No Sentences

In the first pardons of his administration, President Obama Friday set aside the sentences of nine people, including four drug offenders. None of the pardons came for offenses committed within the past decade, and none of the more than 100,000 people currently incarcerated in federal prisons for drug offenses had their sentences commuted.

mercy seasons justice, but just barely (whitehouse.gov)
Pardons grant clemency to people who have already served their sentences, while commutations are granted to people still serving sentences to allow them to go free early.

The non-drug offenses for which pardons were handed out were trivial: a Utah man who got probation for illegal possession of government property in 1972, a Georgia man who got probation for a federal liquor law violation in 1960, a New York man who got probation and a fine for conspiracy to defraud the US in 1988, a Pennsylvania man who got probation and a $20 fine for -- gasp! -- mutilating coins in 1963, and a Texas man who got probation for passing fraudulent securities in 1999.

All four of the drug offenses concerned cocaine. The pardoned drug offenders are:

  • Timothy James Gallagher of Navasota, Texas, who was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine in 1982 and sentenced to three years probation.
  • Roxane Kay Hettinger of Powder Springs, Georgia, who was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine in 1986 and served 30 days in jail and three years on probation.
  • Edgar Leopold Kranz, Jr. of Minot, North Dakota, who was convicted in a military court of wrongful use of cocaine, adultery, and writing bad checks in 1994 and who served 24 months of confinement.
  • Floretta Leavy of Rockford, Illinois, who was convicted in 1984 of distribution of cocaine, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and served a year and a day in prison and three years on special parole.

"The president was moved by the strength of the applicants' post-conviction efforts at atonement, as well as their superior citizenship and individual achievements," said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin.

When it comes to pardons and commutations, President Obama is off to a slow start. President Bill Clinton pardoned hundreds and commuted the sentences of dozens, including prominent drug war prisoners Dorothy Gaines and Kemba Smith during his eight years in office. President George W. Bush pardoned more than 100 people and commuted the sentences of 11 more, including eight drug offenders, during his eight years in office.

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4. Senator to Place Floor Hold on DEA Nominee Leonhart

The nomination of acting DEA administrator Michele Leonhart was passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last Wednesday, but Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) said he intended to put a hold on her nomination on the Senate floor because of concerns over access to pain medications by nursing home residents. (Watch the hearing here; go to the 43:20 mark.)

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/mleonhart.jpg
Michele Leonhart
"I have continuing concerns about her nomination," Kohl told the committee. "I'm not going to hold her up here today, but I do intend to hold her nomination up on the Senate floor until we make more progress on our goal of ensuring nursing home residents get timely access to the prescription drug care that they need. The most recent suggestions we received from the Department of Justice require waiting for all 50 states to take action. That's not acceptable.  Everyday nursing home patients continue to suffer from agonizing pain, so we need to get a solution to this problem of getting them the prescriptions drugs they need to alleviate this pain when they need it, which is not happening today."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) also used the Judiciary Committee executive session to criticize the DEA. "DEA has been a real impediment to providing needed comfort and relief to seniors in nursing homes and far too bureaucratic," he said. "The agency has also been a real impediment to the expansion of e-prescribing -- only under real pressure have they tried to accommodate our very important concerns about developing the health infrastructure. I look forward to stronger signals from the DEA that they will take these concerns seriously."

"I suspect these comments will be heard loud and clear," said committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), before calling a vote on Leonhart's nomination.

Leonhart is strongly opposed by the drug reform and medical marijuana communities, which had urged senators to ask her tough questions about DEA raids on medical marijuana providers, her refusal to approve a Massachusetts researcher's request for permission to grow his own marijuana, and other grounds. None of the senators actually did ask about those issues during her confirmation hearings last month, although the senior pain relief issue was also aired then.

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5. NJ Pols Strike Medical Marijuana Deal, Patients Unhappy

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton), a key sponsor of Garden State medical marijuana legislation, have announced a deal to end the impasse over the implementation of the state's medical marijuana law. But the medical marijuana community and patient advocates are saying not so fast.

A deal in Trenton? Not so fast, patients say. (image courtesy Wikimedia)
The state legislature passed a medical marijuana law at the end of last year, and it was signed into law by outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine (D) days before he left office. Since then, Gov. Christie and his minions in state government have sought first to delay the implementation of the law and then to impose onerous and unnecessary restrictions on the way the program would operate.

That led to public hearings last month and passage of a resolution harshly critical of the proposed regulations on November 22. But now Gusciora has agreed to a compromise with the governor. Under the agreement, the state would see six growing and distribution sites instead of the two grows and four dispensaries that Christie had wanted.

New Jersey would also become the first medical marijuana state to impose potency restrictions on the medicine. Under the agreement, medical marijuana can contain no more than 10% THC. The agreement also requires patients with three nonfatal conditions -- seizures, glaucoma, and muscle spasms -- to exhaust all other treatments before receiving medical marijuana. And it requires doctors to attest that they have "provided education for the patients on the lack of scientific consensus for the use of medical marijuana." The agreement also undoes a provision that would have allowed for home delivery of medical marijuana to patients.

The agreement is "the best way to move forward on a responsible, medically based program that will avoid the significant fraud and criminal diversion that other states have experienced," Christie said. 

But patient advocates are not so sure. While welcoming the increase in the number of grows and dispensaries (back to the levels mandated by the law) and the removal of language requiring that all patients exhaust all other treatment options before using medical marijuana, the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey also had a long list of problems with the agreement hammered out by Christie and Gusciora.

The cap on THC levels is "arbitrary, capricious, and inappropriate," the group said. A requirement that physicians register with the state in order to recommend medical marijuana is "unnecessary, outside the scope of the law, and will have a chilling effect on the program," the group continued. The compromise also blocks out all pain patients except those suffering from cancer and HIV/AIDS.

"Tens of thousands of New Jersey pain patients who have waited for the Compassionate Use Act to take effect will now find that the very law that was passed to protect them and provide them relief still does not protect them," the group said. "Medical decisions about this program are being made not in the realm of science, but in the realm of politics. The Health Department should function for public health, not a political agenda."

It's not completely a done deal. While, thanks to Gusciora, the Assembly has signed on, the Senate has to vote on a resolution demanding substantive changes in the regulations. That vote is set for next week and could force a month-long reevaluation of the health department's proposed regulations. Look for advocates to continue to fight to get the best -- not the most restrictive -- regulations possible.

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6. Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 30,000 people, including more than 9,000 this year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Ciudad Juarez
Wednesday, December 1

In Ciudad Mier, Tamaulipas, a town official said that residents have begun to return to the town nearly a month after being forced to flee by groups of marauding gunmen thought to belong to the Zetas Organization. Army operations are ongoing in the area. The area has been hard hit by fighting between the Zetas Organization and their former employers, the Gulf Cartel.

Friday, December 3

In Morelos, authorities arrested a 14-year old boy accused of beheading and mutilated his victims while operating as a cartel assassin. Edgar Jimenez, aka "El Ponchis," was taken into custody as he attempted to fly to Tijuana, with the eventual goal of fleeing to San Diego, where it has been said he is originally from. He stands accused of operating as part of a unit of assassins which included his 19-year old sister. It has also been alleged that he cut off the heads of his victims and mutilated their genitals.

Saturday, December 4

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 16 people were murdered across the city. In one incident, four municipal police officers were shot and killed after being ambushed by cartel gunmen using automatic weapons and traveling in at least three vehicles. This brings the number of police killed in the city this year to 136, 61 of whom were members of the municipal police.

In another incident, six people were gunned down when armed men stormed an auto-repair shop.

Sunday, December 5

In Ciudad Juarez, four people were killed when armed men simultaneously attacked two drug rehabilitation centers, marking the latest in a series of bloody attacks on rehab facilities in the city.

In Tamaulipas, soldiers freed 16 hostages after shooting dead two gunmen near Ciudad Victoria.

Monday, December 6

In Ciudad Juarez, six people were killed in the city. Among the dead was Erika Elizabeth Silva Rivera, 31, a state investigator assigned to work sex crimes. A female partner of hers was wounded in the attack. In another incident, a bound man was shot dead and his body set aflame.

Tuesday, December 7

In Ciudad Juarez, five people were killed in the city. One incident was a triple homicide at a body shop. This brings the number of murders in the city to 2,932 for the year. About 7,300 people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez since January 2008.

Total Body Count for the Week: 102

Total Body Count for the Year: 9,507

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

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7. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A bad narc in New York and a meth-loving deputy in Minnesota go down. Let's get to it:

In New York City, a Queens undercover narcotics officer was indicted November 16 on charges he falsely accused five men of selling drugs to him. Detective Adolph Osback, 38, has also been indicted on separate charges from his days working a notorious Brooklyn South narcotics unit in which some officers were accused of trading drugs for information. In the Queens case, five men were arrested on drug sales charges based on Osback's word. Their charges were later dropped and their court records sealed. Osback is only the latest in a series of allegedly crooked narcs coming out of Queens.

In Chaska, Minnesota, a Carver County sheriff's deputy was sentenced December 2 to six months in jail for stealing methamphetamine from the department's evidence room. David Kahlow, 47, will also have to pay a $1,500 fine and do 90 days of home monitoring. After that, he will be on supervised probation for the next 20 years. Kahlow had been charged with second degree possession of six grams of meth or more in May after investigators executing a search warrant found a Carver County evidence bag with 15.5 grams of meth, as well as two smaller bags of meth, one weighting 5.1 grams and one weighing 2.8 grams, in his right front pants pocket.  Carver was an 18-year veteran of the force and was one of four officers authorized to enter the evidence room.

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8. In a Rush, European Union Bans Mephedrone

The justice ministers of the 27 countries that constitute the European Union (EU) announced Friday that they had agreed to ban the synthetic stimulant mephedrone across the EU. The drug, which is comparable to ecstasy or cocaine in its effects, is already illegal in 15 EU countries.

Mephedrone, now available in Europe only via the black market (image courtesy Wikimedia)
Marketed under the name "Meow Meow" or "plant food," mephedrone is widely available at retail sales outlets in EU countries where it is still legal. It can also be purchased via the Internet. Mephedrone is derived from cathinone, a stimulant compound found in the khat plant.

The justice ministers' announcement comes about a month and a half after the European Commission proposed in October that governments act to stop the spread of mephedrone. Friday's decision bans the manufacture and marketing of mephedrone, making those acts a crime anywhere in Europe.

"It is good to see that EU governments are prepared to take swift action to ban this dangerous drug," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner in a statement Friday. "This drug is sold over the Internet, often behind innocent names like plant food or bath salts. Young people should not be fooled. These drugs are harmful. The EU has shown today that we can act quickly to stop this kind of drug from taking more lives."

The move comes after a wave of hysterical reporting about mephedrone, especially in the British press, and after a risk assessment by the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). That assessment found that while mephedrone can cause acute health problems and lead to dependence, there have been few verified fatalities reported across Europe.

Britain reported two fatalities in which mephedrone appeared to be the sole cause of death, but it later turned out that those two deaths had been caused by methadone, not mephedrone.

In fact, the EMCDDA risk assessment noted that despite health dangers, there is no direct causal link between mephedrone alone and any deaths. The risk assessment also warned against banning the drug. "Control measures could create an illegal market in mephedrone with the associated risk of criminal activity," the assessment warned.

The EMCDDA noted that 37 deaths had been "linked" to mephedrone, but warned against jumping to conclusions. "In some of these cases it is likely that other drugs and/or other medical conditions or trauma may have contributed to or been responsible for death," the assessment noted. "The inquests into the deaths are pending for the majority of these cases therefore it is not possible at this time to determine the contribution of mephedrone."

And while the risk assessment noted health dangers with the drug, including headaches, nausea, agitiation, palpitations, chest pains, paranoia, teeth grinding, and sexual arousal, it found that serious side effects such as seizures or abnormal heart rhythms were "rare."

"Taken as a whole, the scientific evidence base available for drawing conclusions is limited and this proviso should be borne in mind when interpreting the findings of the risk assessment exercise," the EMCDDA warned.

Too bad the EU doesn't listen to its own advisors, instead choosing to play to the sensationalist media peanut gallery.

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9. Dutch Mayors Rush to Make Cannabis Cafes "Members Only"

Using a spate of prohibition-related organized crime violence as a backdrop, the Dutch justice minister and the mayors of five southern Dutch cities said late last week that they will move quickly to implement a number of restrictions on the area's cannabis coffee shops, including a "members only" pass system designed to keep foreigners out. But critics said such a move would only increase crime and lessen public order.

Eindhoven city center (Wikimedia)
After five violent incidents in Eindhoven in recent weeks, the mayors called on Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten to get involved, saying their police forces did not have the manpower to "end the drug war in the south of the country," according to Die Telegraaf. After a Thursday night "emergency meeting," the mayors and the minister said they would send in detectives from the national police to fight the violence, and that they would shut down some cafes, use tax and accounting laws to seize criminal assets, and institute a pass system.

The rightist national government wants to institute the pass system nationwide, so its implementation in the south could be viewed as a pilot program for the rest of the country. But it could run into a bump in the road in Brussels. A court case questioning whether barring European Union citizens from Dutch coffee shops constitutes discrimination will be heard next week.

Tilburg University researcher Nicole Maalste told the newspaper Trouw Monday that creating a pass system that bars foreigners from the coffee shops would not reduce violence, but increase it. Tourists who want to buy drugs will simply go to the street dealers to buy them, and many Dutch nationals do not want to be registered marijuana users, she said.

"Which problem do we want to solve with the pass?" she asked. "Eindhoven does not have a problem with drugs tourism."

The coffee shops aren't just lying down, either, said cannabis cafe representative Nol van Shaik in an email to supporters. "The coffee shops of the cities involved in this scheme have spoken out against the pass and its consequences," he said. "Some of the mayors in the area are in favor of the pass, but half them are against it. There is a lot of criticism from opposition politicians and drug experts," van Shaik noted.

The criminality that would supposedly be reduced by the Weedpass has nothing to do with the cannabis cafes, van Shaik continued. "It is organized international gangs involved with Ecstasy," he said.

Van Shaik added that he did not expect the pass system to be implemented unless -- and until -- the discrimination case before the European Court of Justice is decided several months down the road. "As long as there is no verdict in this particular case, the Weedpass cannot be imposed upon us," he said.

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10. This Week in History

December 8, 1929: Col. Levi G. Nutt, Head of the Narcotics Division of the US Treasury Dept., declares, "I'd rather see my children up against a wall and see them shot down before my eyes than to know that any one of them was going to be a drug slave."

December 11, 1942: The Opium Poppy Control Act is enacted, making possession of the opium poppy plant or seeds illegal.

December 12, 1981: The report of the Task Force on Cannabis Regulation to the Center for the Study of Drug Policy -- Regulation and Taxation of Cannabis Commerce is issued, reading, "It has been observed that marijuana is one of the largest tax-exempt industries in the country today and regulation would end that exemption."

December 12, 1995: Director Lee P. Brown announces his resignation as head of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy.
 

December 13, 1995: In response to a December 1 rally held outside the offices of Boston radio station WBCN to protest the airplay of the NORML benefit CD Hempilation, the National Writers Union and the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression issue statements condemning the actions of rally organizers, the Governor's Alliance Against Drugs (GAAD). Both groups are highly critical of the overall nature of the protest and specifically of the alleged use of state power and finances to help institute the rally. Reports note that protesters arrived in state vehicles, attendees were encouraged to "bring their squad cars," and an individual identified as a Boston liaison to the DEA accompanied Georgette Wilson, Executive Director of the GAAD, as she entered the station. "These sort of actions, when performed [and sponsored] by government agents, are specifically [prohibited] by law," charges Bill Downing, president of NORML's Massachusetts chapter.

December 14, 2001: While signing a new anti-drug bill that expands the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, President George W. Bush makes his first official mention that the Administration would begin leveraging its political successes with the War on Terrorism back into the War on Drugs when he says, "If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terrorism... It's so important for Americans to know that the traffic in drugs finances the work of terror, sustaining terrorists, that terrorists use drug profits to fund their cells to commit acts of murder."

December 9, 2002: The Canadian House of Commons Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs releases reports that call for safe injection sites, pilot heroin maintenance programs, decriminalization of cannabis, among other reforms.

December 13, 2002: A disabled, deaf, wheelchair-bound British charity worker returns home after spending two years in a primitive Indian prison after being found guilty of trafficking drugs even though it was a physical impossibility. Stephen Jakobi, director of Fair Trials Abroad, described the case against him as absurd. "There are things that just scream out to you," he said. "I have never actually been presented with a case where the guy is physically incapable of acting in the manner suggested by police."

December 9, 2004: Rep. Barney Frank keynotes DRCNet Foundation's John W. Perry Fund reception in Boston, MA, delivering a humorous yet passionate address. He says repeal of the Higher Education Act's "drug provision" could be achieved, even in a Republican-controlled Congress, if his bill to do just that could actually get to the floor. He mentions, "This issue is ripe... My colleagues in Congress are ready to move on this and other issues." Also addressing larger national drug policy, Frank notes, "The damage done by this mindless assault on drug users is a terrible, terrible problem."

December 13, 2004: Hungary's Constitutional Court restricts the use of diversion to drug treatment for some drug offenders, narrowing the scope of reform legislation enacted in 2003. In so doing, it also explicitly rejects an argument that the laws against drug possession are unconstitutional.

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Permission to Reprint: This issue of Drug War Chronicle is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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