Executive Branch

RSS Feed for this category

Pain Activist Facing Fines in Free Speech Case

The government's war against pain doctors hit a new low last spring, when federal prosecutor Tanya Treadway, busy prosecuting Kansans Steve and Linda Schneider, subpoenaed pain control advocate Siobhan Reynolds for information on the Pain Relief Network's (PRN) public advocacy in support of the Schneiders. Despite ACLU efforts to quash the subpoena as an attempt to shut down free speech, judge US District Judge Julie Robinson allowed it. Friday, according an update from Jacob Sullum on Reason, Robinson imposed a $200/day civil contempt fine on both Reynolds and PRN, to begin in 10 days if she does not comply with the subpoena. An appeal is planned -- stay tuned. Earlier in the week, Boston-based civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate criticized Treadway in a column in Forbes magazine. We reprint a few paragraphs, also via Sullum:
When Reynolds wrote op-eds in local newspapers and granted interviews to other media outlets, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway attempted to impose a gag order on her public advocacy. The district judge correctly denied this extraordinary request. Undeterred, Treadway filed on March 27 a subpoena demanding a broad range of documents and records, obviously hoping to deter the peripatetic pain relief advocate, or even target her for a criminal trial of her own. Just what was Reynolds' suspected criminal activity? "Obstruction of justice" is the subpoena's listed offense being investigated, but some of the requested records could, in no possible way, prove such a crime. The prosecutor has demanded copies of an ominous-sounding "movie," which, in reality, is a PRN-produced documentary showing the plight of pain physicians. Also requested were records relating to a billboard Reynolds paid to have erected over a busy Wichita highway. It read: "Dr. Schneider never killed anyone." Suddenly, a rather ordinary exercise in free speech and political activism became evidence of an obstruction of justice.
Location: 
Wichita, KS
United States

Is Obama a Flip Flopper?

View this message on our website: http://drugsense.org/fundraisers/2009/DS31Aug09.htm
31 August 2009 Is Obama a Flip Flopper??Take this quiz. You be the judge.
  1. Which Obama administration official called the War on Drugs "an utter failure"?
  2. What was President Obama's stance on marijuana decriminalization?
  3. Which Obama administration official called for ending the War on Drugs?
  4. Which Obama administration official oversaw the Seattle Hempfest in his capacity as the city's police chief?
  5. Questions concerning what topic emerged as the most popular on the Obama transition team's Change.gov website, whose purpose was to shape Obama administration policy?
  6. On what will the Obama administration base public policies, as reflected in a memorandum signed by the president in March 2009?
  7. Scientific cannabis research is still being blocked by the DEA at what prestigious U.S. university?
  8. How many cannabis-derived drugs are currently on the market as pharmaceutical agents?
  9. Consider the statements: "Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit," and "Legalization is not in the president's vocabulary, and it's not in mine." Who made them and were they by an appointee of the Bush administration or the Obama administration?
MAPThe answers to these and many more questions about drug policy can be found at DrugSense's Media Awareness Project ( mapinc.org ). We provide access to information that allows critical analysis of drug policy, its flips and its flops. We also help advocates for change get their message to the media and policy makers like the Bush and Obama administrations. We can now point out and track over thirteen years of disinformation and misdirection during the administrations of three U.S. Presidents. Donate Now!If you're as tired of drug policy flip flops as we are, why not donate to DrugSense and take a stand for honesty, truth, compassion and freedom? Donating is quick and easy. Just visit our donation page: www.drugsense.org/donate. Don't let the Obama administration drug policies back-peddle to the Bush Administration. Get involved. Join. Donate.
Mark Greer
Executive DirectorDon’t forget! You can spread your donation over the course of a year by automatically repeating it every month, quarter, or half year as noted on our donate page at www.drugsense.org/donate. Checks can also be made payable to DrugSense and mailed to: DrugSense
14252 Culver Dr #328
Irvine, CA 92604-0326 Or you can donate toll free by calling 1-800-266-5759. Again, donating is quick, easy, and secure online at www.drugsense.org/donate. P.S. On-line donations are secure, private, and tax-deductible. !Answers to quiz:
  1. President Obama. "Obama judged the war on drugs 'an utter failure' - - harsh words" >From OBAMA REBALANCES US DRUG POLICY, Source: Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 2009. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09/n314/a03.html
  2. He supported marijuana decriminalization in 2008 during his campaign. OBAMA HONEST ABOUT DRUG USE AS A YOUTH, "his campaign has since said that he supports decriminalization." Source: New York Newsday, February 11, 2008. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v08/n164/a03.html
  3. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' ... people see a war as a war on them ... We're not at war with people in this country." From WHITE HOUSE CZAR CALLS FOR END TO 'WAR ON DRUGS.' Source: Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2009. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09/n514/a02.html
  4. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. "As Seattle's police chief, Kerlikowske oversaw the city's annual Hempfest ( a giant and mellow smoke-in ) without bothering the celebrants." POT COULD BE GOLD FOR CALIFORNIA. Source: Detroit News, August 14, 2009. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09/n793/a12.html
  5. Marijuana. "After receiving nearly 100,000 total votes on more than 10,000 separate public policy issues, the most widely voted on question for Obama is: 'Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.'" WHAT WILL OBAMA DO ABOUT MARIJUANA? Source: CounterPunch, December 25, 2008. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v08/n1159/a03.html
  6. Science. "President Obama signed a 'scientific integrity presidential memorandum' and promised that his administration would base its public policies on science, not politics." THE SCIENCE OF POT. Source: Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2009. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09/n289/a08.html
  7. University of Massachusetts. "Drug Enforcement Administration rejected University of Massachusetts Professor Lyle Craker's request to become a marijuana manufacturer ..Craker, a horticulturist in the Department of Plant, Soil and Insect sciences submitted his application in 2001 to receive a license to grow large amounts of marijuana in a controlled environment to further study its effects for medical use." UMASS PROFESSOR LYLE CRAKER DENIED PERMISSION TO GROW AND STUDY MARIJUANA ON CAMPUS. Massachusetts Daily Collegian, February 1, 2009. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09/n121/a04.html
  8. Three: Cesamet, Marinol, Sativex. IS BIG PHARMA TRYING TO TAKE ALL THE FUN OUT OF POT? Alternet, July 25, 2009. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09/n737/a05.html
  9. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, Obama Administration. DRUG CZAR: FEDS WON'T SUPPORT LEGALIZED POT. Fresno Bee, July 23, 2009. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09/n000/a144.html
DrugSense/MAP
14252 Culver Drive #328 Irvine, CA, 92604-0326   (800) 266-5759
DrugSense is a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit. Donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.

Medical Marijuana: First California DEA Arrests Under Obama Took Place Last Week

A massive DEA operation featuring dozens of heavily armed agents and at least four helicopters ended with the arrests of five people in California's Lake County last week. According to California NORML, the arrests are believed to be the first since the Obama administration announced it would not target medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal unless they violated both state and federal law.

The DEA seized 154 marijuana plants from Upper Lake resident Tom Carter, and arrested him, former UMCC dispensary operator Scott Feil and his wife, Steven Swanson, and Brett Bassignani. Carter is a registered medical marijuana patient and provider, and his wife, Jamie Ceridono, told the Lake County News he was growing for several patients and his grow was legal under state law.

The genesis of the bust appears to lie with an alleged May deal between a DEA informant and Bassignani to purchase marijuana. According to documents filed by Carter's federal defenders late last week, the informant claimed to have arranged to buy marijuana from Carter and to have left a voicemail message for Carter to set up the deal. That same informant allegedly made a deal to buy marijuana from Bassignani.

In the document, the federal defenders said prosecutors made no claim that Carter ever heard the phone message the informant allegedly left, and they set out no evidence linking Carter and the informant.

"All the complaint says is that another individual, Mr. Bassignani, called the informant, claimed he worked for 'Carter Construction,' and arranged a marijuana deal," Carter's defense attorneys wrote. "The deal later took place, and the only other reference to Mr. Carter is the conclusory claim that the informant 'had agreed on the price with Carter.' No context, no specifics, and no other information is provided in the complaint which indicates that Mr. Carter in fact talked to the informant, arranged a marijuana deal, and indicated that he (Carter) was knowingly involved in a marijuana transaction."

Moving that the two felony counts of marijuana trafficking against Carter be dismissed, the attorneys added: "This complaint is sadly deficient with regard to whether Mr. Carter has done anything to indicate that he conspired to break the law. It should be dismissed accordingly."

It is unclear why Feil and his wife were arrested. They are neighbors of Carter and his wife.

Carter and Feil are being held in Oakland, where they are set to have initial detention hearings this week. Federal prosecutors have asked that Carter be held pending trial "on the basis of flight risk and danger to the community."

Carter is a long-time resident of Upper Lake, prominent construction contractor, and community benefactor.

"California already has enough federal marijuana criminals," said CANORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, "It's time for concrete changes in federal law."

While the Obama administration has announced it would not go after law-abiding medical marijuana providers, the DEA has conducted at least two raids against providers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, although there have been no arrests in those cases. The administration has not announced any changes in federal laws or regulations around medical marijuana, and Bush appointees continue to serve in the DEA and the US Attorney's Office of Northern California, which is prosecuting the case.

Feature: Prince of Pot Marc Emery on Farewell Tour As US Prison Term Looms

Canada's Prince of Pot, Marc Emery, has less than a month of freedom remaining before he heads to the US border to be handcuffed and escorted to federal court in Seattle, where he will accept a plea bargain and probable five-year prison sentence for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet. But while he is resigned to years of imprisonment for his actions and beliefs, he is by no means giving up the fight and vows to reemerge stronger and more motivated than ever.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/emerytour1.jpg
Marc Emery, on the Farewell Tour
Emery rose to prominence in the marijuana legalization movement more than a decade ago, after moving from Ontario to Vancouver, where he set up shop as a marijuana entrepreneur, operating cannabis cafes, establishing Cannabis Culture magazine, and operating the Marc Emery Seed Company. Always a thorn in the side of repressive authorities, Emery tussled repeatedly with Canadian bureaucrats, spoke out frequently and loudly (and at length) about the injustice of pot prohibition, founded the British Columbia Marijuana Party (BCMP), ran for office repeatedly, and, using the profits from his enterprises, donated generously to the reform movements in both Canada and the US.

His outspoken activism brought him to the attention of US authorities, and in July 2005, he and two employees, Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, were arrested in Vancouver at the behest of the DEA on a US warrant charging them with marijuana trafficking for their seed sales. DEA administrator Karen Tandy crowed loudly at the time about shutting down a leading funding source for legalization eforts, but quickly backtracked when accused of undertaking a politically motivated prosecution.

After four years of legal tussles, Rainey and Williams accepted plea bargains that allowed them to serve probationary sentences in Canada. Now, Emery, too, has accepted a plea deal.

The agreement comes after Canada's Conservative government rejected a plea deal last year that would have allowed Emery to plead to a Canadian offense and serve his time in a Canadian prison. It was also clear that the Canadian government would not block his extradition to the US.

Faced with a possible life sentence if convicted on all counts, Emery agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to traffic marijuana, and will appear for sentencing in federal court in Seattle on Monday, September 21. But if he is to vanish into the American drug war gulag, it is going to be with a bang, not a whimper.

This summer, Emery and his young wife, Jodie, have been on a farewell tour, crisscrossing Canada to bid a temporary adieu to his legions of supporters. Emery is consistently drawing crowds in the hundreds and generating media coverage wherever he goes as he renews his longstanding call for marijuana legalization and urges supporters to agitate around getting him transferred to a Canadian prison to do his time.

And Emery is calling on his supporters to organize demonstrations on his behalf on Saturday, September 19, two days before his sentencing. Local demos are already set up in several dozen towns and cities, and more are welcome.

"There will be worldwide rallies for Marc," said Cannabis Culture editor Jeremiah Vandermeer. "There are already 50 cities on the list, and more signing up every day. We basically just want to show support for Marc and his cause and demand his freedom. We're also asking people to send respectful letters to the judge." (For more information on holding a rally or writing a letter, click here.)

"Marc is probably the most noted marijuana activist within the Americas," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "Much of that is due to his tremendous ego and publicity stunts, but that does not diminish the work he has done. He's always tried to use the political system to advance change, and he has certainly used his entrepreneurial talents as well, in publishing, seed sales, the hemp business, and his downtown Vancouver shop."

St. Pierre pointed out that Emery's activism was not limited to marijuana law reform. "If you are a Canadian, you have to respect the man because for all intents and purposes, Canadians have the equivalent of First Amendment rights only because of the cases he brought as a bookseller in the early 1990s," he said. "His contribution to free speech and knowledge really marks his life, and his cannabis activism is sort of a metaphor for that. He provided unsanctioned information about how to grow marijuana, its therapeutic value, the religious component, all that. Before his challenges to Canadian censorship laws, the government would have said you don't have the right to know that."

Before his incarnation as Prince of Pot, Emery was a libertarian bookseller in Ontario, and it was there that he brought repeated successful court challenges to Canadian censorship laws, including a battle to win the right to sell High Times magazine in the country.

Emery's activism also included pumping money into the drug reform movement, both in Canada and the US. While he was raking in the dollars with his seed company, much of the profits were being plowed right back into the fight.

"I've witnessed him giving money to virtually every drug reform group in the US, which puts him in the top 1% in the Americas," said St. Pierre. "He is in the elite in that respect, and unlike George Soros and Peter Lewis, who picked people to choose where their money would go, Marc's philosophy seemed to be let all the flowers bloom. It wasn't huge money, like Soros and Lewis, but it was a lot of money, and that's pretty remarkable."

Among the beneficiaries of Emery's munificence was the Seattle Hempfest, which could count on him to come up with a couple of thousand dollars for last minute expenses, the Drug Truth Network, and the US Marijuana Party, among others. Loretta Nall was head of the US Marijuana Party.

"Marc alone funded my activities from September 2002 until his arrest in 2005," she said. "The total amount was something on the order of $150,000. Even after he was arrested he continued to try and send money when he could despite his own major need for cash to pay his lawyers."

Nall became an activist after her home was raided by police in helicopters. When she wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper to protest the raid, she was arrested shortly later.

"Marc stepped in and hired an attorney for me, gave me a job a Pot TV News anchor and roving activist in the US. He funded my trip to Goose Creek South Carolina, Colombia, South America, the first DPA conference I ever attended and everything in between," Nall recalled. "While working for him he also paid for my daughter to have ear surgery which cost over $6,000 and he provided me with whatever I requested. Marc taught me practically everything I know about drug policy reform. He was my rock when I wanted to run away from Alabama and not fight because I was scared. He was and is my mentor. I owe him a great deal," she said.

"Marc Emery has been as important to the movement as Martin Luther King Jr. was to the civil rights movement here in Alabama in the 1960's," Nall continued. "No one individual has done more to promote outright rebellion -- peaceful of course -- of the unjust marijuana laws than Marc. No one has put their ass on the line for this cause more than Marc."

"We gave away $4.5 million for the movement," said Emery Wednesday from a hotel in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where he and Jodie continued his farewell tour. "We paid for the defense of early compassion clubs, like Philippe Lucas's, we've been paying their lawyer for years to litigate for them, we were the chief funder of the 1998 Washington, DC, medical marijuana initiative, we helped Dean Becker's Cultural Baggage/Drug Truth Network stay afloat, and now he's on hundreds of stations."

"The farewell tour is going great," Emery said. "It feels good. I love talking to and meeting people all across the country and inspiring them to do a lot of activism. And Jodie and I are having a wonderful time in our last month together. I'm blessed to be with such an intelligent, lucid, and lovely wife."

Emery, of course, is agitating to the bitter end. "I tell my Canadian audiences that I fully expect them to have legalized it by the time I get back. With all that's going on in Latin America, we're starting to see a huge group of countries not in sync with prohibitionist drug policies, and I will be disappointed if Canada hasn't joined that group."

He is also urging supporters to act on his behalf. "I'm urging Americans to lobby the Bureau of Prisons and Canadians to lobby the Ministry of Public Safety to get me transferred back to Canada," he said. "I'm also urging people to vote out the Conservative government here. The US and Canada have a treaty allowing nationals to serve their time in their home country, but the Conservatives are not taking back weed prisoners. We need people to vote this government out. In the meantime, we'll be hitting them with phone calls and emails. We have the people to swamp them."

But Emery is also preparing for his time behind bars. "I'll be writing a book based on my life, and I'll be holding myself to finishing a chapter every two weeks," he said. "I also plan on learning French and Spanish, French because I intend to become a Member of Parliament and want to be able to speak with all my constituents, and Spanish because it is the most widely spoken language in the hemisphere."

"There were several dozen seed sellers the US could have gone after, but they focused almost exclusively on Marc and now they are making him a martyr," said NORML's St. Pierre. "Unfortunately for the US government, they chose to martyr someone who is keen on martydom, and all those years he will have to spend in prison is just going to further personify him, certainly in Canada but also in the US, as someone who is being treated incredibly unfairly."

For a sense of how unfairly, one need only recall the last time Emery was convicted of seed-selling in Canada. In that 1998 case, he was fined $2,000. BC appeals courts more recently have suggested a proper sentence for seed-selling was a couple of months in jail and a year or two on probation.

Between that 1998 conviction and his 2005 arrest on US charges, Emery paid in more than $600,000 in Canadian income taxes. Canadian authorities did not bother him again, nor did they have any qualms about accepting his tax monies.

Now, Emery is preparing to become America's best known marijuana prisoner. "When they're out to get you, they're out to get you. It doesn't matter that they can't point to a single victim of my 'crimes,'" he said. "After 20 years of work, I can be the one person everyone will be aware of who is in prison for marijuana."

And he remains adamant about ending prohibition. "What is the public benefit in prohibition? There is none. We get more drugs, more drug use, more gangs, the treasuries are empty, the jails are full, but they don't care about that. The only thing important to a prohibitionist is suffering. They think we must suffer because we have a moral failing. They have a puritanical hatred for what we represent."

The forces of prohibition may have won a temporary victory in their battle to shut up the Prince of Pot. But it may well be a pyrrhic one.

Medical Marijuana: First California DEA Arrests Under Obama Took Place Last Week

A massive DEA operation featuring dozens of heavily armed agents and at least four helicopters ended with the arrests of five people in California's Lake County last week. According to California NORML, the arrests are believed to be the first since the Obama administration announced it would not persecute medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal unless they violated both state and federal law. The DEA seized 154 marijuana plants from Upper Lake resident Tom Carter, and arrested him, former UMCC dispensary operator Scott Feil and his wife, Steven Swanson, and Brett Bassignani. Carter is a registered medical marijuana patient and provider, and his wife, Jamie Ceridono, told the Lake County News he was growing for several patients and his grow was legal under state law. The genesis of the bust appears to lie with an alleged May deal between a DEA informant and Bassignani to purchase marijuana. According to documents filed by Carter's federal defenders late last week, the informant claimed to have arranged to buy marijuana from Carter and to have left a voicemail message for Carter to set up the deal. That same informant allegedly made a deal to buy marijuana from Bassignani. In the document, the federal defenders said prosecutors made no claim that Carter ever heard the phone message the informant allegedly called and that they set out no evidence linking Carter and the informant. "All the complaint says is that another individual, Mr. Bassignani, called the informant, claimed he worked for 'Carter Construction,' and arranged a marijuana deal," Carter's defense attorneys wrote. "The deal later took place, and the only other reference to Mr. Carter is the conclusory claim that the informant 'had agreed on the price with Carter.' No context, no specifics, and no other information is provided in the complaint which indicates that Mr. Carter in fact talked to the informant, arranged a marijuana deal, and indicated that he (Carter) was knowingly involved in a marijuana transaction." Moving that the two felony counts of marijuana trafficking against Carter be dismissed, the attorneys added: "This complaint is sadly deficient with regard to whether Mr. Carter has done anything to indicate that he conspired to break the law. It should be dismissed accordingly." It is unclear why Feil and his wife were arrested. They are neighbors of Carter and his wife. Carter and Feil are being held in Oakland, where they are set to have initial detention hearings today and tomorrow. Federal prosecutors have asked that Carter be held pending trial "on the basis of flight risk and danger to the community." Carter is a long-time resident of Upper Lake, prominent construction contractor, and community benefactor. "California already has enough federal marijuana criminals," said CANORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, "It's time for concrete changes in federal law." While the Obama administration has announced it would no go after law-abiding medical marijuana providers, the DEA has conducted at least two raids against providers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, although there have been no arrests in those cases. The administration has not announced any changes in federal laws or regulations around medical marijuana, and Bush appointees continue to serve in the DEA and the US Attorney's Office of Northern California, which is prosecuting the case.

You Call That Change?

You Can Make a Difference

 

Dear friends,

Urge the Obama administration to clarify its position on medical marijuana. 

Take Action
Email the president

Earlier this month, we told the Obama administration to stop sending mixed messages on medical marijuana. The drug czar has responded, but he still has his facts wrong. Let's ask President Obama to set his drug czar straight on medical marijuana.

In a recent news interview, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske tried to amend his claim that "marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit,” saying that he was referring only to smoked marijuana.

That's not good enough, because it’s still not true. The science is clear: marijuana can be highly effective as a medicine when it’s smoked. For some patients, that’s the easiest and most effective way to consume it, and the harms of smoking it pale compared to the benefits.

The president has repeatedly said that science should trump politics. He’s also acknowledged that marijuana can be an effective medicine. We hoped this drug czar would be different from his predecessors. We still hope so, but he needs to abandon the falsehoods and rhetoric of the past.

Our job is to hold the White House and its appointees accountable both to fulfill the promises made by candidate Obama and to ensure that the lies of the drug war become a thing of the past. Write to the president today and ask him to make clear that politics will no longer trump science when it comes to medical marijuana.

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance Network

 

Federal Budget: Safe and Drug-Free Schools Funds Still Targeted for Zeroing Out

House and Senate appropriators have agreed to ax only 11 of 48 non-military discretionary spending programs targeted for elimination by the Obama administration, but funding for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools community grants program is one of them. That's what Congress Daily determined following an analysis of fiscal year 2010 budget documents and appropriations bills.

In May, the Obama administration compiled a budgetary hit list of 121 programs, military and non-military, that it recommended be cut or eliminated completely. The $295 million for Safe and Drug-Free Schools community grants was among those programs recommended for total elimination. The administration will continue funding the Safe and Drug-Free Schools National Program.

In recommending termination of the community grants program, the Obama administration argued that "while reducing violence and drug use in and around schools is a compelling goal, reviews by an independent evaluator and by a statutory advisory committee have demonstrated that this program is poorly matched to achieving that goal." It cited a 2001 RAND Drug Policy Research Center study that described the program as "profoundly flawed" and a 2007 Safe and Drug-Free Schools advisory committee study that affirmed the RAND findings.

"The program does not focus on the schools most in need and the thin distribution of funding prevents many local administrators from designing and implementing meaningful interventions," the White House said in its budget.

Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees agreed with the White House and zeroed out the program. The House education appropriations bill has already passed, but the Senate bill is still in process. Proponents of the program may still try to reinstate it in the Senate or during the conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate appropriations bills.

Feature: Hit List -- US Targets 50 Taliban-Linked Drug Traffickers to Capture or Kill

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/afghan-cache1.jpg
hidden drug cache, Afghanistan 2008 (from nato.int)
A congressional study released Tuesday reveals that US military forces occupying Afghanistan have placed 50 drug traffickers on a "capture or kill" list. The list of those targeted for arrest or assassination had previously been reserved for leaders of the insurgency aimed at driving Western forces from Afghanistan and restoring Taliban rule. The addition of drug traffickers to the hit list means the US military will now be capturing or killing criminal -- not political or military -- foes without benefit of warrant or trial.

The policy was announced earlier this year, when the US persuaded reluctant NATO allies to come on board as it began shifting its Afghan drug policy from eradication of peasant poppy fields to trying to interdict opium and heroin in transit out from the country. But it is receiving renewed attention as the fight heats up this summer, and the release of the report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has brought the policy under the spotlight.

The report, Afghanistan's Narco War: Breaking the Link between Drug Traffickers and Insurgents, includes the following highlights:

  • Senior military and civilian officials now believe the Taliban cannot be defeated and good government in Afghanistan cannot be established without cutting off the money generated by Afghanistan's opium industry, which supplies more than 90 percent of the world's heroin and generates an estimated $3 billion a year in profits.
  • As part of the US military expansion in Afghanistan, the Obama administration has assigned US troops a lead role in trying to stop the flow of illicit drug profits that are bankrolling the Taliban and fueling the corruption that undermines the Afghan government. Simultaneously, the United States has set up an intelligence center to analyze the flow of drug money to the Taliban and corrupt Afghan officials, and a task force combining military, intelligence and law enforcement resources from several countries to pursue drug networks linked to the Taliban in southern Afghanistan awaits formal approval.
  • On the civilian side, the administration is dramatically shifting gears on counternarcotics by phasing out eradication efforts in favor of promoting alternative crops and agriculture development. For the first time, the United States will have an agriculture strategy for Afghanistan. While this new strategy is still being finalized, it will focus on efforts to increase agricultural productivity, regenerate the agribusiness sector, rehabilitate watersheds and irrigation systems, and build capacity in the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock.

While it didn't make the highlights, the following passage bluntly spells out the lengths to which the military is prepared to go to complete its new anti-drug mission: "In a dramatic illustration of the new policy, major drug traffickers who help finance the insurgency are likely to find themselves in the crosshairs of the military. Some 50 of them are now officially on the target list to be killed or captured."

Or, as one US military officer told the committee staff: "We have a list of 367 'kill or capture' targets, including 50 nexus targets who link drugs and insurgency."

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/afghan-cache2.jpg
burning of captured Afghanistan hashish cache, world record size, 2008 (from nato.int)
US military commanders argue that the killing of civilian drug trafficking suspects is legal under their rules of engagement and the international law. While the exact rules of engagement are classified, the generals said "the ROE and the internationally recognized Law of War have been interpreted to allow them to put drug traffickers with proven links to the insurgency on a kill list, called the joint integrated prioritized target list."

Not everyone agrees that killing civilian drug traffickers in a foreign country is legal. The UN General Assembly has called for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. In a 2007 report, the International Harm Reduction Association identified the resort to the death penalty for drug offenses as a violation of the UN Charter and Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

"What was striking about the news coverage of this this week was that the culture of US impunity is so entrenched that nobody questioned or even mentioned the fact that extrajudicial murder is illegal under international law, and presumably under US law as well," said Steve Rolles of the British drug reform group Transform. "The UK government could never get away with an assassination list like this, and even when countries like Israel do it, there is widespread condemnation. Imagine the uproar if the Afghans had produced a list of US assassination targets on the basis that US forces in Afghanistan were responsible for thousands of civilian casualties."

Rolles noted that while international law condemns the death penalty for drug offenses, the US policy of "capture or kill" doesn't even necessarily contemplate trying offenders before executing them. "This hit list is something different," he argued. "They are specifically calling for executions without any recourse to trial, prosecution, or legal norms. Whilst a 'war' can arguably create exceptions in terms of targeting 'enemy combatants,' the war on terror and war on drugs are amorphous concepts apparently being used to create a blanket exemption under which almost any actions are justified, whether conventionally viewed as legal or not -- as recent controversies over torture have all too clearly demonstrated."

But observers on this side of the water were more sanguine. "This is arguably no different from US forces trying to capture or kill Taliban leaders," said Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on drugs, security, and insurgencies at the Brookings Institution. "As long as you are in a war context and part of your policy is to immobilize the insurgency, this is no different," she said.

"This supposedly focuses on major traffickers closely aligned to the Taliban and Al Qaeda," said Ted Galen Carpenter, a foreign policy analyst for the Cato Institute. "That at least is preferable to going around destroying the opium crops of Afghan farmers, but it is still a questionable strategy," he said.

But even if they can live with hit-listing drug traffickers, both analysts said the success of the policy would depend on how it is implemented. "The major weakness of this new initiative is that it is subject to manipulation -- it creates a huge incentive for rival traffickers or people who simply have a quarrel with someone to finger that person and get US and NATO forces to take him out," said Carpenter, noting that Western forces had been similarly played in the recent past in Afghanistan. "You'll no doubt be amazed by the number of traffickers who are going to be identified as Taliban-linked. Other traffickers will have a vested interest in eliminating the competition."

"This is better than eradication," agreed Felbab-Brown, "but how effective it will be depends to a large extent on how it's implemented. There are potential pitfalls. One is that you send a signal that the best way to be a drug trafficker is to be part of the government. There needs to be a parallel effort to go after traffickers aligned with the government," she said.

"A second pitfall is with deciding the purpose of interdiction," Felbab-Brown continued. "This is being billed as a way to bankrupt the Taliban, but I am skeptical about that, and there is the danger that expectations will not be met. Perhaps this should be focused on limiting the traffickers' power to corrupt and coerce the state."

Another danger, said Felbab-Brown, is if the policy is implemented too broadly. "If the policy targets low-level traders even if they are aligned with the Taliban or targets extensive networks of trafficking organizations and ends up arresting thousands of people, its disruptive effects may be indistinguishable from eradication at the local level. That would be economically hurting populations the international community is trying to court."

Felbab-Brown pointed to the Colombian and Mexican examples to highlight another potential pitfall for the policy of targeting Taliban-linked traffickers. "Such operations could end up allowing the Taliban to take more control over trafficking, as in Colombia after the Medellin and Cali cartels were destroyed, where the FARC and the paramilitaries ended up becoming major players," she warned. "Or like Mexico, where the traffickers have responded by fighting back against the state. This could add another dimension to the conflict and increase the levels of violence."

The level of violence is already at its highest level since the US invasion and occupation nearly eight years ago. Last month was the bloodiest month of the war for Western troops, with 76 US and NATO soldiers killed. As of Wednesday, another 28 have been killed this month.

Press Release: Obama in No Position to Dismiss Any Solution to Mexican Drug Trade Violence, Even 'Legalization'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
AUGUST 7, 2009

Obama in No Position to Dismiss Any Solution to Mexican Drug Trade Violence, Even 'Legalization'

On Eve of President's Trip to Mexico, Marijuana Policy Reformers, World Leaders Want All Options Open

CONTACT: Dan Bernath, MPP assistant director of communications, 202-462-5747 ext. *2030

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama will travel to Mexico this weekend to confer with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts on the violence associated with the illegal drug trade that has killed 4,000 this year alone. However, if recent statements made by him and his drug czar are true, he's unlikely to address the solution a growing chorus of U.S. and Latin America leaders are calling for: removing marijuana from the illegal market.

     Earlier this year, the former presidents of Brazil, Columbia and Mexico called on the United States to decriminalize marijuana, which comprises an estimated 60 percent of Mexican drug cartels' business, as a way to curb U.S. demand for illicit drugs. Then, in April, Terry Goddard, attorney general for Arizona, where at least 5 tons of marijuana have been seized since October, called for a reevaluation of the war on drugs with all possibilities – including ending marijuana prohibition – to be on the table.

     Nevertheless, when asked in an online forum in March about the possibility of removing marijuana from the underground market and regulating the drug like alcohol, Obama laughingly dismissed the suggestion. And just last month, his drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske told reporters in Fresno that "[marijuana] legalization is not in the president's vocabulary, and it's not in mine."

     "Considering the devastating explosion of violence related to the illicit drug trade and the scars our policy of marijuana prohibition has left on the Mexican people, it's silly for President Obama to refuse to discuss any viable option, let alone one supported by leaders on both sides of our border," said Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Just as we did when we ended alcohol Prohibition, we could cut these violent cartels out of the market for their most lucrative product by regulating marijuana's production and sale here in the U.S., thus removing the financial motive that fuels the violence in the first place. But instead, the president appears devoted to making things worse by throwing more money, guns and bodies at the problem, despite clear evidence of our current policy's futility."

     With more than 27,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

####

More Change, Please

You Can Make a Difference

 

Dear friends,

Urge President Obama to clarify where he stands on medical marijuana. 

Take Action
Email the President

"Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit,” President Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, told an audience in California last month.

That’s some pretty classic drug war rhetoric for someone who announced just a few months earlier that the United States is no longer fighting a war on drugs.
 
The Obama administration is sending mixed messages on medical marijuana.  The president has repeatedly said that science should trump politics and has advocated regulating medical marijuana like any other prescription medicine. Did he forget to tell his drug czar?

Ask President Obama where he really stands.

Obama’s Attorney General has said the federal government will not arrest patients and providers following their state’s medical marijuana law. Yet, his drug czar continues to say marijuana has no medical value, and those who own or work in medical marijuana dispensaries still live in fear of being raided by federal law enforcement simply for providing doctor-recommended medicine to sick people.

The administration owes us an explanation.  Where exactly does the White House stand on medical marijuana?  

A key House committee recently urged the administration to finally define its medical marijuana policy in no uncertain terms.  Now, the White House needs to hear from you too.

Write to President Obama today and urge him to make a clear statement on medical marijuana.  Tell him that people shouldn’t be denied the medicine they need because of backwards drug war politics.

If President Obama is serious about putting science before politics, he needs to make clear that his administration won’t fall back on the same old drug war lies about medical marijuana. And he needs to make sure his drug czar gets the memo.

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance Network

 

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School