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Latin America: Nicaraguan Leader Asks for $1 Billion in Anti-Drug Aid

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has asked the US government for $1 billion to help Central American countries fight drug trafficking. Ortega has sent a formal request for funds to buy helicopters, boats, radar equipment and anything else necessary to fight the drugs war in the region.

The request comes only two weeks after Ortega said he didn't trust the DEA because its operations mask "unexpected interests" and "terrible things." Ortega could well have been recalling his first stint at Nicaragua's leaders in the 1980s, when the US attempted to portray his government as drug smugglers while -- at the least -- turning a blind eye to cocaine running operations connected to the US-backed Contra rebels attempting to overthrow his socialist government.

But Nicaraguan governments since 1990, including Ortega's current government, have cooperated with the DEA in the face of cocaine trafficking organizations using the isthmus as a smuggling corridor.

Ortega said US officials had "reacted positively" to his request, although the US government has not commented officially on the matter. "If the United States government has the luxury of spending more than $400 billion on the war in Iraq, it can give $1 billion to Central America," he said.

The US government has provided several billion dollars to the Colombian government to fight drug trafficking and leftist guerrillas there, and is on the verge on announcing a large anti-drug aid deal with Mexico. Despite his concerns about the DEA and US dislike for his government [Ed: and despite the failure and injustices of the war on drugs and the harm the program will undoubtedly do to people in his country], Ortega seems to want a piece of the anti-drug aid money pie.

Medical Marijuana: WAMM Lawsuit Hits Bump

A Santa Cruz medical marijuana cooperative that was raided by the DEA in 2002 was dealt a setback August 28 when a federal judge granted a US Justice Department motion to stop them from suing it. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) and the city and county of Santa Cruz sought to sue US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to prevent his office from continuing raids on medical marijuana providers in California.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/wamm-march.jpg
2005 WAMM march, downtown Santa Cruz (courtesy santacruz.indymedia.org)
The lawsuit cited California's Compassionate Use Act, approved by voters in 1996, which makes the medical use of marijuana legal in the state. But the Justice Department successfully argued that marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, and US District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel agreed, granting its motion to block the lawsuit.

"Naturally, we're disappointed. I had hoped for something better," said Mike Corral, who, along with his wife Valerie, were cofounders of WAMM.

WAMM and Santa Cruz may be down, but they're not out just yet. Judge Fogel left two of the county's claims intact: a 10th Amendment argument that the states -- not the federal government -- have say over marijuana, and an argument that medical necessity trumps federal drug laws. The county's legal team says it will continue to argue those claims while trying to build a stronger case that the federal government is improperly intervening in areas that should be the purview of the states.

Asset Forfeiture: ACLU Sues DEA Over Trucker's Seized Cash

A trucker who lost nearly $24,000 in cash after it was seized by a New Mexico police officer and turned over to the DEA is suing the federal drug agency to get his money back. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) New Mexico affiliate is handling the case. It filed the lawsuit on August 23.

On August 8, truck driver Anastasio Prieto of El Paso was stopped at a weigh station on US Highway 54 just north of El Paso. A police officer there asked for permission to search the truck for "needles or cash in excess of $10,000," according to the ACLU. Prieto said he didn't have any needles, but he was carrying $23,700 in cash. Officers seized the money and turned it over to the DEA, while DEA agents photographed and fingerprinted Prieto despite his objections, then released him without charges after he had been detained for six hours. Border Patrol agents sicced drug-sniffing dogs on his truck, but found no evidence of illegal drugs.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU argues that the state police and DEA violated Prieto's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful search and seizure by taking his money without cause and by fingerprinting and photographing him. "Mere possession of approximately $23,700 does not establish probable cause for a search or seizure," the lawsuit said.

DEA agents told Prieto that to get his money back, he would have to prove it was his and not the proceeds of illegal drug sales. That process could take up to a year, the agents said.

But New Mexico ACLU state director Peter Simonson told the Associated Press Prieto needed his money now to pay bills. "The government took Mr. Prieto's money as surely as if he had been robbed on a street corner at night," Simonson said. "In fact, being robbed might have been better. At least then the police would have treated him as the victim of a crime instead of as a perpetrator."

According to the lawsuit, Prieto does not like banks and carries his savings as cash.

That's not a crime. But what the DEA did to him is, or should be.

Office of National Grub Control Policy

Milo Bryant at the Colorado Springs Gazette is so impressed with what the Drug Czar has accomplished, he wants to create a similar office to stop people from being so damned fat:
The country needs somebody qualified to help whip our butts into shape. That somebody would have the power to command, influence and draw resources from various aspects of the government to help us get in better shape.

This person, with our help, would lay out a comprehensive plan to help fight childhood obesity and, on a grander scale, obesity in general.

The United States needs an obesity czar, akin to John P. Walters, the director of the Office of the National Drug Control Policy — our drug czar.
Um, the drug war attacks people. It's unscrupulous. We need the government to attack less people, not more. I'm not sure Milo Bryant really understands what ONDCP advocates. Basically, it's a two-pronged approach:

1. Arrest as many people as possible
2. Exaggerate the government's role in activities other than arresting people

I'm just not sure any of this would carry over very well into the arena of trying to make people healthy. Would store clerks be deputized to identify customers suspected of planning unhealthy meals by flagging suspicious combinations of ingredients? Would students be subject to random non-punitive "weigh-ins," including parental notification and referral to a weight-reduction counselor? Would children found in possession of unapproved foods be denied access to federally subsidized athletic programs?

Let's get real. Childhood obesity is probably caused by the drug war somehow, so if we really want to make a difference, we must attack the problem at its roots. It's time these losers started worrying more about what comes out of their mouths than what goes into ours.
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Feds Raid Wheelchair-bound Paraplegic For Medical Marijuana [Updated]

The federal government is so desperate to undermine New Mexico's new medical marijuana law, they've started arresting harassing handicapped people:
MALAGA, N.M. — Agents with a regional drug task force raided Leonard French’s home in southeastern New Mexico on Tuesday and seized several marijuana plants [Ed., it was actually just 6 seedlings]
But the wheelchair-bound man said he’s certified by the state Health Department to possess and smoke marijuana for medical reasons. The 44-year-old lost the use of his legs about 20 years ago as the result of a motorcycle crash and now suffers from chronic pain and muscle spasms. [Santa Fe New Mexican]
Normally, the DEA would avoid this kind of bad publicity. But since New Mexico's medical marijuana program just started, they're trying to intimidate patients and confuse legislators in other prospective medical marijuana states:
A press release jointly issued by the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force illustrates the political nature of the raid, reading in part, "Citizens of New Mexico need to be aware that they can still be prosecuted on the federal level even though New Mexico has a law permitting marijuana for medicinal use." [DPA]

Drug warriors keep arguing that medical marijuana laws create conflict between state and federal laws, but all they have to do is stop arresting threatening patients and there'd be no problem. They're creating confusion and then citing that confusion as an argument against state laws that protect patients. Meanwhile, sick people like Leonard French are caught in the crossfire, and countless other patients are afraid to try medicine that could help them.

Revealingly, Mr. French has not yet been charged with a crime. You see, DEA is tough enough to arrest wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patients, and even boast about its authority to continue doing so. All of that serves their interest in scaring people and creating doubt as more and more states pass laws to protect their citizens from precisely this sort of foul treatment. But they won't actually try to put him in jail because that would be just hideous.

So the real message here, for those reading between the lines, is that the feds aren't always going to enforce federal law. And that tells you everything you need to know about the debate over medical marijuana. This is all a big stupid publicity stunt, and while there are casualties to be sure (getting arrested and losing your medicine does suck), the whole "conflict with federal law" argument is largely a hoax.

Regardless, we cannot tolerate any federal efforts to scare people out of treating their illnesses with doctor recommended medicine that is legal in their state. That is obscene, and it's no surprise presidential candidates are lining up in opposition to it.

Update: My mistake. Leonard French wasn't taken into custody, so "arrested" was the wrong way to describe what happened to him. I've updated the post accordingly. It's important, because patients in New Mexico should understand that you're not in any great danger if you choose to participate in the medical marijuana program. I should have been more careful about this, because I certainly don't want to perpetuate these intimidation tactics. The fact that he wasn't even arrested is significant.

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It's Time for Medical Marijuana "Plan B"

Did you know that along with raiding medical marijuana clinics and prosecuting people, the DEA is actually blocking research into medical marijuana too -- research that if allowed to take place could lead to marijuana's approval as a medicine through the FDA? Yet at the very same time, DEA hypocritically cites a lack of research as justification for keeping medical marijuana illegal! Most recently, DEA has stalled an application from the University of Massachusetts to grow research-grade marijuana in a secure facility for FDA- and DEA-approved medical studies. Though DEA's own Administrative Law Judge has said it should be approved, we expect them to show bad faith and reject it -- after waiting as long as they can -- unless they are pressured to do otherwise. A group of US Representatives is preparing to send a sign-on letter to the DEA, next month, for just that purpose. Please visit our web site to write your member of Congress asking him or her to sign on! We encourage you to personalize your email. When you're done, please forward this alert to everyone you know who might support it too. Thank you for your help on this -- and thanks to the thousands of you who used our site to lobby for the Hinchey medical marijuana amendment last fall too. With your help, we believe that this "Plan B" will help get us closer to the goal. (Click here to read the text of the Congressional sign-on letter on the MAPS web site, and click here to read the results of this summer's Hinchey medical marijuana vote on ours.)
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MPP: Help stop DEA obstruction of medical marijuana research

Would it surprise you to learn that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is refusing to allow medical marijuana research to move forward — despite a clear recommendation from its own administrative law judge to let such research happen?

If you’re like me, this will be just the latest outrage from the same agency that insists on terrorizing and arresting medical marijuana patients and providers who are complying with state law and their doctors’ advice.

Would you please take one minute to ask your U.S. House member to direct the DEA to permit medical marijuana research to move forward? MPP’s online action center has done all the work for you; just click a few buttons and your letter will be sent.

(Congress provides the DEA with 100% of its funding — all of it taxpayer money — so the DEA is more likely to listen to members of Congress than just about anyone else.)

In February of this year, DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Bittner recommended that Professor Lyle Craker and the University of Massachusetts be granted a license to grow research-grade marijuana that would be used in FDA- and DEA-approved clinical studies into marijuana’s therapeutic uses, noting that it would be “in the public interest” to do so. But the DEA has ignored her recommendation and continued to block the research.

And earlier this month, during a hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, DEA official Joseph Rannazzisi refused to commit to a timeline for ruling on the University of Massachusetts’ application ... even implying that the DEA might just wait until after a new presidential administration takes power in January 2009!

This is the height of hypocrisy. The DEA continually cites insufficient research as a reason for keeping medical marijuana illegal — while simultaneously blocking the very research that’s needed to persuade the FDA to approve marijuana as a prescription medicine.

How can the DEA hide behind the FDA in arguing against medical marijuana access, and then block any attempt to move marijuana through the FDA approval process?

Would you please take one minute to ask your U.S. House member to stop letting politics interfere with research into the medicinal value of marijuana?

Thank you,

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

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Washington, DC
United States

Obama: What New Orleans Needs is More Drug War

When Barack Obama speaks of "change," he's not talking about the war on drugs. He likes it just fine the way it is. Obama's faith in the drug war is so strong, he even thinks it can help revitalize New Orleans:
If elected, Mr. Obama said he would establish a Drug Enforcement Agency office in New Orleans that would be dedicated to stopping drug gangs across the region. [NYTimes]

Mr. Senator, the drug war causes crime, it doesn't prevent it. The problem is not, and has never been, a lack of drug law enforcement. New Orleans already has a DEA office and it has not made life any easier for anyone. It should go without saying that increased drug activity in the region is a result of economic disorder, which inevitably empowers the black market. Bringing in the feds might disrupt local drug networks temporarily, but that would merely increase violence as new dealers take over for their fallen competitors.

As we've documented in the Drug War Chronicle, Katrina revealed the frailty of Louisiana's drug war-ravaged criminal justice system. It is precisely in the aftermath of a great catastrophe like Katrina that the ridiculous quest to stop people from getting high is revealed as utterly wasteful and counter-productive.

Obama's drug war revitalization plan for New Orleans is the latest step in his successful bid to be the worst on drug policy among the democratic presidential contenders. He's lamented the "political capital" required to repair the despicable crack/powder sentencing disparity, a no-brainer racial justice issue that even drug war hall-of-famer Joe Biden wants to fix. At Howard University's Democratic Debate on minority issues, he stood there like an idiot while every other candidate managed to address some type of criminal justice reform. He was also the last democratic candidate to pledge an end to federal medical marijuana raids, and not because they're heartless and evil, but because they're "not a good use of resources."

Well, Barack Obama, you know what else is a poor use of resources? Creating a second DEA office in New Orleans when people still have holes in their roofs and mud in their basements.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
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FOX News Discusses Drug Legalization

Those liberal hippies at FOX News are at it again. This segment featuring DPA's Ethan Nadelmann confronts drug prohibition head on.

It's a great clip with solid soundbites from Ethan and a neutral, almost vaguely sympathetic-sounding tone from the FOX correspondents (surely baked after a lunchbreak at the CNN offices). Bonus points go to ONDCP's David Murray for calling Ethan Nadelmann a "good friend," even though Murray keeps a collage of Nadelmann photos by his bedside with the words "Die Hippie" smeared across it in pig's blood.

August has been a strong month for the legalization argument. Cliff Shaffer's "Marijuana Dealers Offer Schwarzenegger One Billion Dollars" story took over the web, crashing our servers and generating national headlines. Misha Glenny's "The Lost War" from The Washington Post excited bloggers and even prompted an incredulous response from former ONDCP mouthpiece Robert Weiner. Now Ethan Nadelmann's cover story in Foreign Policy magazine is keeping the conversation going.

Earlier this week, Pete Guither and I lamented the difficulty of taking the reform argument to a mainstream audience. It's a challenge we'll continue to face, but the longer this brutal war continues without results, the better our chances get of being called on if we keep raising our hand. Our opposition is forever stuck claiming that drugs are the most destructive thing in the world, while also arguing that their brilliant drug control strategies are highly effective. It sounds sillier every time, and David Murray's recent decision to start calling himself a "scientist" is just one example of his office's deteriorating credibility. Discussion of drug legalization on FOX News is another.

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"Marijuana Signature Project" Not as Cool as it Sounds

Watch out folks, the Marijuana Signature Project is not a legalization initiative. It's something far more sinister.

ONDCP's latest blog post, delightfully titled "Relying on Science to Craft Drug Policy," boasts of using our tax dollars to a finance a series of science experiments aimed at figuring out where marijuana is grown:
The drug control policy office is betting on stable isotopes to identify unique markers in marijuana, distinguishing it not just by geography but also by its cultivation method — for example, indoor versus outdoor.

"It’s an epidemiological and forensic public health investigation," said David Murray, chief scientist at the agency and director of its Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center. [NYTimes]
It is just hilarious that ONDCP is spending government funds to find out information that pot growers would gladly share if it wouldn't get them arrested. Dr. Murray, I know people that could tell you for free if your marijuana was grown indoors or out.

For an added touch of cuteness, here's the scientist behind the project feigning agnosticism about the marijuana debate:
Dr. West said his involvement in the project was not tied to any particular policy judgment. "I strongly believe that part of the picture in any policy development has to be the best possible science, and in cases where my work can contribute to that, I think that’s great," he wrote in an e-mail message.
Dr. West, you gullible dork, the point isn't to determine what our marijuana policy should be. They're trying to identify cultivation hotspots and send heavily armed narc-soldiers in there to slash and burn everything. If you're not trying to advance any "particular policy judgment," get the hell away from David Murray and stop collecting research grants from ONDCP.

Honestly, I'm hugely in favor of the feds wasting drug war dollars to discover that marijuana is grown basically anywhere you could think of. This ain't exactly drilling for oil. People grow pot wherever there aren’t a lot of drug cops around and make adjustments as necessary. It shouldn't take a laboratory in Salt Lake City to tell you this.

It is typical drug war hypocrisy that ONDCP sits around conducting forensic research, while they can't find so much as a gram to enable meaningful research into the drug's hotly contested medical applications.

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