The Speakeasy Blog
One undercover officer was held at gunpoint while attempting to buy $500 worth of cocaine during the operation, dubbed "Heat Wave" for the high temperatures recorded when the operation was started in July. "I was very scared," said the officer, who had previously arranged to buy 10 "jabs" of crack cocaine. The dealers knew he would have several hundred dollars on him, said the officer.Police then stepped in to make the arrests. The market -- reportedly operated by a gang known as "The Conservative Vice Lords" -- operated near a pre-K-8 school, Keller reported. Sgt. Carlos Mostek told her, "Had any gunfire erupted, the children who were attending school would have been in harm's way." That's a valid concern. I hope the bust was not done during school hours or anywhere near school hours, because gunfire could certainly have broken out as part of that. I also hope the undercover officer attempted his buy during non-school hours -- his activity also nearly prompted gunfire. This is a losing situation from beginning to end. Because of prohibition we have this open air markets, staffed by gang members who are willing to shoot at each other -- risking the lives of bystanders in the process -- in order to protect their turf or to capture turf from others and thereby increase their market share. A police raid, while shutting the market down, in the process increased the overall danger in the vicinity, at least for as long as the sting and bust were in process. Will the corner calm down? Perhaps, but the activity may restart even there, and if not it will certainly move to somewhere else. Sometimes these busts lead to more internecine violence as rival operators fight each other for the opportunity to be the new guys on the block. Sometimes the instability even draws in new drugs to the neighborhood that weren't common there before. Legalization, not raids and arrests, is what will clean the mess of the illegal drug trade off the streets. Click here to send a letter to the editor. Note: According to gangresearch.net, the Conservative Vice Lords started as a gang but transformed themselves into a community empowerment organization. I don't know enough about this topic to offer an evaluation; I just got the name of the reported gang from the article. If anyone is able to clarify this issue, please post your knowledge here for us. Thanks in advance.
More and more often, it seems, drugs that were widely thought to be effective against serious illnesses turn out to show little or no value when tested in large, impartial clinical trials insulated from drug company influence.Desperate need for effective new treatment, huh? Look no further. In fact, marijuana may eliminate the need for Alzheimer’s treatments altogether, since it seems to actually prevent the onset of the disease.
These discouraging results speak mostly to the desperate need for effective new treatments for Alzheimer’s.
I have enough experience with Alzheimer’s to know that families confronted with it will usually try anything. It’s ironic to think that the family values fanatics who arbitrarily oppose medical marijuana may soon find themselves shoving a bong in grandma’s mouth.
“The whole process of these marijuana plantations brutalizes the landscape,” said David Graber, Pacific West regional science chief for the National Park Service. The outdoor growing season for marijuana is coming to a close for the year, but some scars left by clandestine pot farms will take months to heal. Anti-drug agencies must deal with tons of trash, human waste, erosion and other forms of soil disturbance, loss of vegetation and chemical pollution that kills marine life. The illegal plots also increase poaching of wildlife, raise the threat of wildfires started accidentally at campsites and put outdoor enthusiasts in harm's way. For instance, the U.S. Forest Service recently warned deer hunters to avoid two areas in Mendocino and Glenn counties until authorities could evict the marijuana growers. Marijuana production on public lands in the United States has risen as the nation moves to further secure its borders and slow the movement of marijuana from Mexico. Mexican organized crime is behind the surge in such illegal plantings, according to law enforcement agencies. Growers favor public property partly because if their plants are discovered, they can flee without leaving behind traceable evidence. But there are other reasons for the popularity of forests and parks. “The nation's public lands have become a haven for this illegal activity due to the relatively few law enforcement personnel and the vast and often remote tracks of sparsely or uninhabited lands,” said the U.S. Forest Service's 2005 marijuana report.Lee talked to only National Forest and law enforcement sources, and even included a quote from drug czar John Walters, but failed to note the fundamental fact that is driving marijuana growers into the national forests: Marijuana prohibition. So I wrote him a letter:
Dear Mr. Lee: Interesting report on the damage done by illegal pot farming, although I’ve seen numerous variations of it before. But like most similar reports, your story begs a rather large question: Why are people growing pot in the forests in the first place? You alluded to increased border enforcement and a law enforcement learning curve, but again, that’s begging the question. Could it be because marijuana is ILLEGAL? Asking that questions sort of shifts one’s whole perspective: From the point of view of people who do not support marijuana prohibition—like me and nearly half of Californians, according to national polls—the environmental damage you describe is yet another unfortunate, unintended consequence of marijuana prohibition. When you write this story next year, I would respectfully suggest you include that perspective. I would be happy to provide you with contact information for California-based marijuana reform activists who are very informed and articulate on this issue. Thanks for your time. Phillip Smith Drug War Chronicle www.stopthedrugwar.orgTo which Lee replied:
Phil... thanks for your comments... i'd suggest you consider writing a letter to the editor. Regards, mleeNow, did I sway Mr. Lee? He gave no direct indication of that in his brief reply, but at least I was able to put the whole marijuana prohibition issue before him. He has been informed that at least one reader thinks he is missing part of the story. I guess we'll have to wait until next year, when he writes next year's version of this annual story. But in the meantime, the ants are working.
Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of marijuana plants 10 feet tall.
General Rick Hillier, chief of the Canadian defense staff, said Thursday that Taliban fighters were using the forests as cover.
Awesome! But it gets better:
"We tried burning them with white phosphorous -- it didn't work. We tried burning them with diesel -- it didn't work. The plants are so full of water right now ... that we simply couldn't burn them," he said.
Even successful incineration had its drawbacks.
"A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those [forests] did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," Hillier said dryly.
This sounds like a job for my college buddies. If the problem persists, I’d be willing to assemble a tactical unit with experience disposing of surplus cannabis.
Colorado ’s initiative would allow adults to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana. That might not seem like much, but, in reality it makes between 30 and 60 joints.
Whatever. An ounce is the same amount regardless of how many joints you intend to roll, and it’s not that much. If you’re rolling 60 joints out of an ounce, try smoking two or three of them. But watch out; large joints are two to three times more dangerous than small ones.
US Drug Czar John Walters says legalization will inundate our drug treatment centers.
No, it won’t. Most marijuana users who enter treatment programs are forced to do so by the criminal justice system. Ending misdemeanor marijuana arrests will dramatically reduce the number of people entering treatment for marijuana. And to the extent that fear of arrest is a primary motivation for some who decide to quit, legalization could reduce voluntary admissions as well.
On the other hand, as my colleague Tom Angell pointed out in conversation, legalized marijuana will carry less stigma and could lead to more voluntary admissions from people who are finally comfortable admitting they’re having problems. If Tom is correct, we’ll end up with more people in treatment for marijuana who want and need it, and less people forced into treatment based on arbitrary criteria such as an arrest. Sounds good to me.
It’s an interesting discussion, but one that John Walters can’t participate in because he’s busy misinterpreting various data:
“We have more teens in treatment nationwide for marijuana dependency and abuse as teens than for all other illegal drugs combined. We have more teens seeking treatment for marijuana dependency than for alcoholism.”
This one’s actually true, but it’s his fault. Thanks to prohibition, marijuana sellers don’t have to check ID, making it the easiest drug to get if you’re underage.
I just keep telling myself that this crap can’t go on forever. Whether we win in Nevada or Colorado next month, or somewhere else down the road, the war on marijuana is an ugly swelling pimple that’s almost ready to pop. Get it over with already. You know you want to.
The show tested 50 parliamentarians by applying what appeared to be make-up to their faces, telling them they were to appear in a debate on the country's budget, the ANSA news agency reported in a story soon taken up by other media.
The make-up actually consisted of chemicals that could detect the presence of drugs in sweat on the participants' skin. It detected cocaine in four of the politicians and cannabis in 12. Both the drugs are banned in Italy.
If there’s a surprise here, it’s that the stunt was successful. But Italian reformers were quick to cry “hypocrisy”.
A member of the Green party who favours decriminalising drug use, Paolo Cento, reacted to the news by slamming what he called the "hypocrisy" of the political class which he said "votes for anti-liberty laws while sniffing cocaine".
He’s right. But I’d draw the line there, because I don’t care at all which drugs politicians use as long as they extend to others the liberties they’ve taken for themselves.
Unfortunately, a representative of The Hyena Show, which administered the tests, says that those who tested positive will not be identified individually. The likely result therefore is a face-saving parade of anti-drug rhetoric among Italian Parliamentarians and at worst a full-blown witch hunt, as each of the 50 clamors to clear their name.
Instead, the information should be used as leverage to encourage sensible policy making. If I had this information, I’d offer to withhold it so long as these 16 individuals stopped supporting the drug war. If any of them voted for a harsh drug law or failed to support a sensible reform, that person’s drug use would be front-page news the next day.
Boy, that sounds like fun. If anyone has information on public officials who use illegal drugs I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Close to three years ago, state and local authorities shut down one of the largest ecstasy rings on the East Coast, but gauging the bust's impact on the local drug trade since then has proven difficult. Coming across ecstasy during a drug bust is routine for police, but it is found far less frequently than street drugs cocaine and heroin. So law enforcement officials cannot say for sure whether the biggest ecstasy bust in the history of Northampton County has put a dent in the dealing of the sometimes-deadly designer drug. "I don't think you could say one way or the other," Warren County Prosecutor Thomas S. Ferguson said. "I think it's out there and it's on the radar screen. I don't think we've seen it increase or decrease. I don't think there's any statistical difference since that time."When you get the people responsible for prosecuting the drug war admitting that their efforts don’t seem to make a difference, that is important. Here's another drug warrior admitting the same thing:
Chief Detective Joseph Stauffer of the Lehigh County Drug Task Force said law enforcement has no way of knowing whether the bust dealt a serious blow to the availability of ecstasy in the region. "I would hope that it impacted on it, but ecstasy is still, unfortunately, available in the community," Stauffer said. "I haven't noticed an increase (in ecstasy arrests), but I haven't noticed a significant decrease either. We wouldn't know how much ecstasy would be available had those arrests not taken place."If more local newspaper reporters asked the questions Russ Flanagan asked, their readers would be better served and have a better understanding of just what all those drug busts are achieving. If you just let law enforcement issue its standard self-justifying press releases, you get one picture of reality. But all you have to do is ask law enforcement the right questions, and a different picture emerges. Local reporters, do your jobs!
The “magazine” consists of five sections:
-It's just a plant. How could it be bad for me?
-Rx pot: a prescription for disaster.
-Totally lame (and dangerous and illegal) things to do on pot
-Extreme Grades: from A to D in six months
-Hey dude, where did my future go? Pot, motivation, and you.
They’ve dumbed-down the rhetoric here, which actually makes it more frustrating. Anyone who’s seen a drug warrior speak in public knows that it takes these guys over a thousand words to even approach the truth on any subject. “Stumble Weed” in contrast, is a series of one-sentence lies, too numerous to refute here.
Having read the whole thing so you don’t have to, I found only one surprise. This sentence appears in the “Totally Lame” section:
You can lose your student loan if you sell or grow marijuana while you are receiving educational assistance from the government.That’s powerfully misleading. It should read like this:
You can lose your student loan for any drug offense however minor. Most students who lose aid were convicted of misdemeanor possession.Given the controversy surrounding the HEA drug provision, I’m not surprised that they’re trying to make it sound as if the law only affects suppliers. But on the other hand, they’ve made an entire magazine about the consequences of smoking pot and they’re declining to mention a consequence that could affect many potential readers. The HEA drug provision is harmful enough without the government misleading young people about how it works.
And then there’s the question of why the DEA even has a magazine. Isn’t that what ONDCP is for? DEA is supposed to be busting drug cartels and instead they’re drawing cartoons about how smoking pot will give you a speech impediment. As my colleague Tom Klun pointed out, the CIA doesn’t make children’s magazines about why you shouldn’t be a terrorist.
Of course, government propaganda is harmless if no one reads it. According to DEA’s press release, the website justthinktwice.com, which houses “Stumble Weed” has received 49 million hits since August ’05. Yet the web-ranking site Alexa.com is unable to compute their hits because they’re not even in the top 100,000 websites. We are, and I’m sure we don’t get a million hits a month. Heck, look at this cool graph that compares their site to ours.
Once again, I can’t tell if they’re lying or just plain ignorant. But for what it’s worth, every dollar spent on propaganda is one less dollar spent killing the innocent.
From the Chicago Tribune:
When an exhibition sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration opened at the Museum of Science and Industry in August, Guither showed up with a sack full of pamphlets denouncing the government's anti-narcotics strategy.
But soon after he began handing the pamphlets out, museum officials confined him to what he said was an almost deserted stretch of sidewalk. Then a lawyer for the Chicago Park District told him the pamphlets were "commercial in nature" and that he needed a permit to distribute them at all.
Calling Guither’s pamphlet "commercial in nature" is such crap. But there are a few commercial interests at stake here:
- The museum has a commercial interest in silencing Guither’s valid claim that it has allowed itself to be hijacked by the DEA’s propaganda machine.
- The DEA has a commercial interest in justifying it’s existence by exploiting 9/11 with a ridiculous “exhibit” that attempts to obscure the obvious fact that prohibition funds terrorism.
- Terrorists have a commercial interest in the success of DEA’s propaganda since they get their funding as a result of the same policies DEA struggles to uphold.
Ironically, the only party involved with absolutely no commercial interests is Pete Guither, a college professor who writes about the failure of the drug war in his spare time.
Unless, of course, not wanting your tax dollars spent on a pointless war that kills innocent people and funds terrorism counts as a “commercial interest”.
Update 10/25/06: Hatch's office informed us that Dallas Austin's parents were instrumental in getting the Senator involved. We've now contacted the D.C. Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in the hopes of tracking down this latest victim's family. They've promised to look into it.
Yet another American has been imprisoned in Dubai on a pitifully small possession charge:
Dubai: An American visitor who said he was unaware that he was carrying marijuana with him, which was found in his luggage at airport, will spend four years in jail.Two months ago the same thing happened and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch jumped into action:
Dubai Court of First Instance found the suspect, identified as M.O. and in his late 30s, guilty of illegally bringing in and possessing 0.14 grams of marijuana.
The release of a music producer from a Dubai jail this week, quick on the heels of his conviction for drug possession, turns out to be a story of high-level string-pulling on the part of Mr. Hatch, the conservative Utah Republican and songwriter, along with Lionel Richie, the singer; Quincy Jones, the music entrepreneur; and an array of well-connected lawyers, businessmen and others, spanning cities and continents.
That case involved a music producer with a small bag of cocaine. This one involves some guy in his thirties with 0.14 grams of marijuana, which is about one puff’s worth. He says he didn’t mean to bring it, which makes sense because it’s not enough to do anything with.
But surely Orrin Hatch will come to this gentleman’s aid. Four years for a weak bong hit’s worth of pot is an even greater injustice than that which Senator Hatch so recently stepped forward to redress.
If Orrin Hatch and Lionel Richie gave them anything of value last time this happened, it could explain why Dubai authorities are going to so much trouble to string people up for pathetically small amounts of drugs.
Please help us by contacting Senator Hatch. If his office won't get directly involved, perhaps they'll at least give us some pointers on how to get an American freed from a foreign prison.
Obviously something’s got to be done about these crazy police in Dubai. In the meantime, if you must go there, buy new clothes and luggage first.
Long-time DRCNet collaborator and current Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative Associate Director Troy Dayton is organizing religious leaders in support of Question 7 to legalize adult marijuana use in Nevada.
The Reno Journal-Gazette now reports that 32 churches in the state have pledged to support the initiative:
Calls for reform from religious leaders may intrigue the media, but it comes as no surprise to us that religious leaders are taking a stand against the brutal violence, shameful hypocrisy, and unforgiving callousness that characterize our nation’s war on drugs.Protestants believe that laws should curb "gross outburst of sin," said the Rev. Ruth Hanusa, minister of the Campus Christian Association at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Instead of curbing use, she said, marijuana laws are causing more problems.
"We don't live in a perfect world, and often we don't have ideal choices, but we look to find the lesser evil," Hanusa said. "Part of our call to be good stewards of our community's resources requires us to recognize that. The current policy is overkill and does not promote the common good. Controlling marijuana through regulations makes more sense."
The moral high ground will always belong to us; never those who continue to fan the flames of failure with deceitful rhetoric.
JALALABAD, Afghanistan -- With profits from this spring's record opium crop fueling a broad Taliban offensive, Afghan authorities say they are considering a once unthinkable way to deal with the scourge: spraying poppy fields with herbicide.
Apparently Karzai is opposed to the idea…
But U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington are pushing for it. And on Thursday the country's top drug enforcement official said he would contemplate spraying opium crops - even with airborne crop-dusters - if other efforts fail to cut the size of the coming year's crop.
So if these “other efforts” that have never worked in the history of the world don’t suddenly start working this year, we’ll be pouring poison on the problem. It’s an idea so bad it could cost us two wars at once.
But former Drug Czar and herbicide evangelist Barry McCaffrey is all for it:
We know exactly where these fields are. They're absolutely vulnerable to eradication. And it is immeasurably more effective to do it with an airplane," McCaffrey said by telephone from Virginia. "I've been telling the Pentagon, if you don't take on drug production you're going to get run out of Afghanistan."
But Lt. Gen. Mohammed Daoud Daoud points out that Afghanistan’s biggest opium producing region might be hard to hit:
"They have rockets," the bearded general said, fingering a string of prayer beads. "We can't spray there."
We’ll see about that. General Daoud might be underestimating us if he thinks our leaders are afraid to risk American lives in order to spray chemicals on poor farmers in a foreign country. We’ve done it before, and we seriously don’t care who gets hurt or whether it works at all.
Some people would argue that this law makes it even harder for minorities to get a college education. This argument is invalid because according to www.stopthedrugwar.com, there are no statistics indicating that African-Americans use drugs at a higher rate.
Croly’s interpretation of this statistic is just plain wrong. It’s true that drug use among African-Americans is equal on average to that of Whites. But arrests, convictions, and punishments such as the denial of financial aid for college are imposed upon people of color at alarmingly disproportionate rates.
Furthermore, I highly doubt that our site mentions drug use rates among African-American without also noting the disparity with regards to arrests, convictions, and sentencing. For example, here’s a statement from our HEA talking points page:
Minorities are disproportionately affected by the HEA drug provision. While African Americans make up 13% of the population and 13% of drug users, they account for 55% of all drug convictions. The disparate racial impact of drug law enforcement will inevitably spread into the realm of higher education via this law. Accordingly, minority groups have far higher percentages of their members who are ineligible for federal
financial aid than whites. Currently, more African American men are in prison than in college.
So yes, the HEA drug provision absolutely hurts minorities more than anyone else. But that’s just one of a whole host of problems created by this counterproductive law. Here’s ten more:
- College education is proven to reduce drug use. Therefore, forcing students out of college obviously and undeniably increases drug use overall.
- The HEA drug provision only affects good students. If you’re getting bad grades you can’t get aid anyway.
- Students arrested for drugs get punished in court. It’s not like they’re getting away with anything.
- Many students misunderstand the rules and give up on college even though they’re actually eligible. Their lives are changed forever.
- Taking away opportunities from students sends a message that we don't want them to succeed in life. All students must be encouraged, not pushed down.
- Regaining eligibility by completing rehab is often impossible because it’s more expensive than school. Nor does getting busted for drugs necessarily mean that you need rehab.
- Most HEA victims were busted for small time marijuana possession. Casual marijuana use has nothing to do with success in college. Trust me.
- The HEA drug provision fails to address the most significant drug problem on college campuses: alcohol.
- The HEA drug provision only targets low-income students. These are the very people the HEA is supposed to help.
- Judges already have the authority to revoke financial aid. If a judge meets the student in court and doesn’t want to revoke aid, we should respect that decision.
The HEA drug provision causes drug abuse by driving students away from school and towards drugs. If you support the HEA drug provision, you support drug abuse.
From CBS 4 in Denver:
"There aren't enough federal resources on the entire planet to handle ounce size marijuana possession," Jeffrey Sweetin, a DEA agent said. "Your viewers should understand if this passes, we're really legitimately legalizing an ounce of marijuana. They're not going to be prosecuted."
That’s the point, silly. If the citizens of Colorado decide to stop arresting each other for marijuana, you’re not supposed to show up and ruin everything. Thank goodness there aren’t enough federal resources to do it, but that’s beside the point.
His observation is helpful though, because it illustrates the impracticality of enforcing federal laws that conflict with state-level reforms. It’s an argument for our side, and I can’t imagine why he’s using it.
Give ‘em enough rope…
It's going to be a lot of pot politics in the Drug War Chronicle this week. With the November elections now little more than a month away, there are developments in both Colorado and Nevada, the two states where measures that would free the weed are on the ballot. In Colorado, SAFER Colorado campaign director Mason Tvert is debating Colorado Attorney General John Suthers today.
In Nevada, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana reported late last week that its internal polling shows its initiative leading by a margin of 49% to 43%. I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, this will be the breakthrough year where we actually win a legalize marijuana campaign. But now, organized opposition is starting to rear its ugly head in both states. This week, I'll be reporting on both states, and I'll be trying to talk to some of these opponents and some neutral observers as well as the usual suspects.
Pot Politics: Marijuana and the Costs of Prohibition is also the title of a new book edited by SUNY-Albany psychology professor Mitch Earleywine. It includes chapters by a number of folks who should be familiar to readers of the Chronicle, including Marijuana Policy Project communications director Bruce Mirken, the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative's Charles Thomas, and marijuana economist Jeffrey Miron. My review copy just arrived, but I intend to suck it down in the next couple of days and have a review ready for this pot-heavy issue.
My boss, Dave Borden, will grumble. We are the Drug Reform Coordination Network, not the Marijuana Reform Coordination Network, he will point out. He will want some balance, something about harm reduction or sentencing or treatment. Well, we'll get some of that this week, but it'll just be in the news briefs. This is a marijuana week.
Huge news from Radley Balko. Cory Maye’s attorney Rhonda Cooper was found incompetent during the sentencing phase, which means Maye’s death sentence is vacated, at least for now.
For anyone unfamiliar with the case, Cory Maye was sentenced to death in Mississippi after fatally shooting a police officer who he mistook for a burglar. Maye lived alone with his infant daughter and had no criminal record. The raid appears to have been a mistake, but Maye’s apparent attempt to defend his home and daughter led to a murder conviction and a now-vacated death sentence.
Balko’s article in Reason Magazine provides an in-depth look at the case, which I’d argue is one of the most compelling stories of injustice yet to emerge from our disastrous war on drugs.
Read the article, then check out Balko’s blog The Agitator for on-going coverage of Maye’s appeal. There's a lot happening with the case over the next couple weeks , so this is a great time to get caught up.
"The international drug control regime, which criminalizes narcotics, does not reduce drug use, but it does produce huge profits for criminals and the armed groups and corrupt officials who protect them. Our drug policy grants huge subsidies to our enemies. As long as we maintain our ideological commitment to a policy that funds our enemies, however, the second-best option in Afghanistan is to treat narcotics as a security and development issue. The total export value of opiates produced in Afghanistan has ranged in recent years from 30 to 50 percent of the legal economy. Such an industry cannot be abolished by law enforcement. The immediate priorities are massive rural development in both poppy-growing and non-poppy-growing areas, including roads and cold storage to make other products marketable; programs for employment creation through rural industries; and thoroughgoing reform of the ministry of the interior and other government agencies to root out the major figures involved with narcotics, regardless of political or family connections. "News of this year’s record crop is likely to increase pressure from the US Congress for eradication, including aerial spraying. Such a program would be disastrously self-defeating. If we want to succeed in Afghanistan, we have to help the rural poor (which is almost everyone) and isolate the leading traffickers and the corrupt officials who support them."What he actually said at the end of his testimony was even stronger. Check it out if that damned C-Span link ever actually works.