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The Border: US Begins Turning Busted Smugglers Over to Mexico for Prosecution

For years, getting caught trying to smuggle drugs across the US-Mexican border meant being handed over to US authorities for prosecution. Problem was, US Attorneys on the border were so swamped with marijuana smuggling cases, the general rule was they wouldn't prosecute for less than 500 pounds. Instead, local prosecutors got those cases, but they were swamped, too. As a result, thousands of Mexican marijuana smugglers never faced prosecution in the US -- they were simply deported back over the border to Mexico.

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Reynosa/Hidalgo border crossing (courtesy portland.indymedia.org)
But now, according to the New York Times, under an agreement reached last month, US authorities have begun returning captured Mexican pot smugglers to Mexico for prosecution by Mexican authorities. Late last month, Sonora, Mexico, resident Eleazar Gonzalez-Sanchez won the dubious distinction of being the first person turned over to Mexican authorities after he was popped with 44 pounds by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Nogales, Arizona, border crossing.

The border agreement is a sign of "our effort to enhance cooperation between the US and Mexico on prosecuting drug trafficking cases," said Arizona US Attorney Dennis Burke.

There is plenty of work to do. In the past year, ICE opened 646 smuggling cases out of busts at the Nogales port of entry. In the fiscal year ending in October 2008, ICE busted 71,000 pounds of pot on the Arizona border.

The program is a pilot program currently operating in Arizona. US officials will be monitoring the cases returned to Mexico, and if satisfied with the results, may extend it all along the border.

Southwest Asia: Three DEA Agents Among Dead in Afghan Helicopter Crash

Three DEA agents and seven US soldiers were killed Monday when their helicopter crashed as they were returning from a firefight with suspected drug traffickers in western Afghanistan. They were among 14 US casualties suffered in helicopter crashes Monday. An additional eight US soldiers were killed Tuesday, making October the bloodiest month for the US in Afghanistan since it invaded and occupied the country eight years ago.

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DEA memorial for agents Leamon, Michael and Weston
The DEA identified the dead agents as Forrest Leamon, 37; Chad Michael, 30; and Michael Weston, 37. Leamon and Michael were members of the DEA's FAST (Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Teams) and Weston was assigned to the DEA's Kabul country office. Their deaths were the first reported by the DEA since it initiated operations in Afghanistan in 2005 in a bid to thwart the country's multi-billion dollar opium trade.

Afghanistan supplies more than 90% of the world's illicit opium, the raw ingredient for heroin. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported last week that Taliban insurgents earn as much as $160 million a year from taxing poppy farmers, protecting drug shipments, and operating their own drug smuggling networks. Those funds help finance Taliban operations against US and NATO forces and their allies in the Afghan armed forces.

The helicopter crashed in the predawn hours Monday after returning from a raid in which US and Afghan soldiers attacked a suspected drug trafficking compound. The US military said a dozen insurgents were killed in the raid. The Taliban claimed credit for shooting down the chopper, but US officials denied that it had gone down because of enemy fire.

The incident came as Afghan officials fiercely criticized a US military hit list of about 50 suspected drug traffickers, saying targeting them to be killed or captured "on the battlefield" undermines the Afghan justice system and could trigger a backlash against foreign troops. It was unclear if the compound attacked Sunday night belonged to a trafficker on the hit list.

Anti-Western sentiment is already running high in Afghanistan. This weekend, police in Kabul clashed with anti-American rioters infuriated by rumors that American soldiers had burned a copy of the Koran. Several people were wounded when police opened fire on the angry crowd.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debussman Jr.

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How many shipments are needed to pay for one drug smuggling tunnel?
Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people -- the body count passing 6,000 for 2009 so far this month. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Saturday, October 24

A high ranking federal police official was assassinated in Chihuahua. Jose Alfredo Silly Pena was a naval captain who served as a federal police intelligence official. He, along with three other men, had been kidnapped by heavily armed men some hours earlier. Additionally, 23 people were killed in violence in Chihuahua during a 48-hour period. 18 of these murders occurred in Ciudad Juárez. In Guerrero, four bodies were found in a hidden pit just meters from where seven bodies had been found last Tuesday. In other parts of Mexico, an unidentified gunman was killed by the army near Tlapehuala, and two more were killed and six captured after battling soldiers near Tamaulipas. The day before, four people, including two police officers, were killed after a firefight in Hidalgo; two people were killed in Michoacán, and three each in Durango, Coahuila, and Oaxaca.

Sunday, October 25

In Torreon, Coahuila, gunmen ambushed the convoy of the municipal public safety director. The official survived, but a nearby civilian was killed in the ensuing firefight. In another part of Torreon, a gun battle left two other people dead, one of whom was apparently homeless. Fifteen people were killed in Chihuahua, 14 of whom were killed in Ciudad Juárez. One of the dead was head of the police anti-theft unit, who was gunned down in a restaurant as he ate. At least three killings occurred in Sinaloa, and two women were kidnapped after being snatched from their car on the highway. At least three people were killed in Sonora, including a lawyer and a reputed gang leader.

The AP reported that dozens of ICE officials have been investigated for their handling of informants. Allegations include that ICE steered investigators away from a man who has since been charged with the El Paso murder of Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana. Galeana was a Juárez cartel manager and ICE informant. Additionally, ICE officials are being accused of allowing a man -- described as a "homicidal maniac" by the DEA -- to continue to be an informant even after having supervised the killing of a Juárez cartel associate.

Tuesday , October 27

In Puebla, four police officers were killed and a fifth wounded after being shot by gunmen. The officers were performing a traffic stop of a suspicious vehicle when another truck pulled up from which several heavily armed gunmen emerged and opened fire in an apparent attempt to "rescue" the passengers of the first vehicle.

In Nayarit, four men have been arrested in the videotaped and widely publicized torture of five teenagers. It appears the five boys had attempted to rob a house when they were captured by heavily armed vigilantes. In addition to being beaten and threatened with weapons, the boys were forced to kiss each other. The boys were later dumped naked on a street. There has been increased activity in recent months by vigilante groups thought to be linked to drug traffickers or members of the police.

Wednesday , October 28

Mexican soldiers have discovered an enormous, partially completed tunnel which ends just across the border from Otay Mesa, California. The tunnel, which was incomplete, came complete with electricity and an air supply system. Journalists in Tijuana were invited to tour the site, which is the latest of many similar discoveries in recent years.

Mexican police have arrested a man suspected of being La Familia's operations chief for the state of Michoacán. The man, Abel Valadez Oribe, 32, was on his way to a cockfight when he was detained by police after being tipped off by informants. Oribe, also known as "El Clinton," is also suspected of ordering multiple murders, including that of the mayor of Ixtapan de la Sal. His arrest comes a week after 303 suspected members of La Familia were arrested across the United States. In another part of Michoacán, the dismembered remains of an unidentified man were found by the roadside near Uruapan. Uruapan was the site of one of the most publicized incidents of the Mexican drug war in 2006, when gunmen threw five severed heads onto a dance floor in a local nightclub.

Total body count for the week: 157
Total body count for the year: 6,175

Medical Marijuana: "Truth in Trials" Bill Reintroduced, Would Allow Medical Testimony in Federal Prosecutions

US Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and more than 20 congressional cosponsors Tuesday introduced a bill that would allow defendants in federal medical marijuana prosecutions to use medical evidence in their defense -- a right they do not have under current federal law. The Truth in Trials Act, H.R. 3939, would create a level playing field for such defendants.

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Sam Farr
"This is a common sense bill that will help stop the waste of law enforcement and judicial resources that have been spent prosecuting individuals who are following state law," Rep. Farr said on Tuesday. "We need strict drug laws, but we also need to apply a little common sense to how they're enforced. This legislation is about treating defendants in cases involving medical marijuana fairly, plain and simple."

More than a hundred medical marijuana providers have been prosecuted for violating federal marijuana laws, and more cases are coming down the pike. More than two dozen cases are currently pending. While the Justice Department last week issued guidelines to federal prosecutors discouraging them from prosecuting providers who comply with state medical marijuana laws, that guidance does not require that courts or prosecutors allow testimony about medical marijuana, nor does it suggest that prosecutors drop those cases.

"The Truth in Trials Act will restore the balance of justice and bring fundamental fairness to federal medical marijuana trials," said Caren Woodson, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "This legislation complements the recent Justice Department guidelines for federal prosecutors and is now more necessary than ever."

While Farr has introduced the Truth in Trials bill in earlier sessions, supporters hope this time the bill will gain some traction. It has already been endorsed by more than three dozen advocacy, health, and legal groups, including ASA, the ACLU, the National Association of People With AIDS, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the AIDS Action Council.

Critics: DEA Crackdown Denies Some Patients Pain Medication

Publication/Source: 
Washington Post
URL: 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/28/AR2009102803146.html

Feature: Justice Department Issues Medical Marijuana Policy Memo -- No Prosecutions If Complying With State Law

In a new federal medical marijuana policy memo issued Monday to the DEA, FBI, and US Attorneys around the country, the Justice Department told prosecutors that medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal should not be targeted for federal prosecution unless they are violating state law. The memo formalizes statements made by Attorney General Eric Holder in February and March that going after pot-smoking patients and their suppliers would not be a high Justice Department priority .

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Madison, WI medical marijuana march, this month, by 'Is My Medicine Legal Yet?'
The memo marks a sharp break with federal policy under the Clinton and Bush administrations, both of which aggressively targeted medical marijuana operations, especially in California, the state that has the broadest law and the highest number of medical marijuana patients.

The announcement of the policy shift won kudos from the marijuana and broader drug reform movement. But some reformers questioned what the shift would actually mean on the ground, pointing to DEA raids and federal prosecutions that have occurred since Holder's signal this spring that the feds were to back off, as well as continuing controversies, especially in California, over what exactly is legal under state law. Others noted that for real protection to be in place, federal law -- not just prosecutorial policy -- needs to change.

Not everyone was pleased with the move. Comments critical of the move have come down from some conservative politicians and a handful of newspaper editorial boards. But they appear to be a distinct minority.

In the memo, federal prosecutors were told that going after people who use or provide medical marijuana in accordance with state law was not the best use of their time or resources. According to the memo, while the Justice Department continues to make enforcing federal drug laws a key mission:

"As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources."

But the memo also said that federal prosecutors should continue to target marijuana production or sales operations that are illicit but hiding behind state medical marijuana laws. It explicitly singled out cases which involve violence, the illegal use of firearms, selling pot to minors, money laundering or involvement in other crimes.

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," said Attorney General Holder.

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DOJ memo
Head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske was quick to point out that the memo didn't legalize marijuana or medical marijuana, and that prosecutions could continue. "It is important to recognize that these guidelines provide clarity for federal prosecutors regarding the appropriate use of federal resources," he said in a statement Monday. "They do not declare marijuana, whether 'medical' or not, as legal under federal law; nor do they preclude the appropriate prosecution, under federal law, of marijuana dispensaries in those states that allow them. The Department of Justice's guidelines strike a balance between efficient use of limited law enforcement resources, and a tough stance against those whose violations of state law jeopardize public health and safety. Enforcing the law against those who unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit will continue to be an enforcement priority for the US government," the drug czar warned.

The DEA was also quick to point out that while it "welcomes" the new guidelines, it will continue to go after "criminals." "These guidelines do not legalize marijuana," the agency said in a Thursday statement. "It is not the practice or policy of DEA to target individuals with serious medical conditions who comply with state laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Consistent with the DOJ guidelines, we will continue to identify and investigate any criminal organization or individual who unlawfully grows, markets or distributes marijuana or other dangerous drugs. Those who unlawfully possess firearms, commit acts of violence, provide drugs to minors, or have ties to other criminal organizations may also be subject to arrest."

Despite the disclaimers and demurrals, patient advocates hailed the move. "This is a huge victory for medical marijuana patients," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, the nationwide medical marijuana advocacy organization, which had been in negotiations with the Justice Department to get written guidelines issued. "This indicates that President Obama intends to keep his promise not to undermine state medical marijuana laws and represents a significant departure from the policies of the Bush Administration," continued Sherer. "We will continue to work with President Obama, the Justice Department, and the US Congress to establish a comprehensive national policy, but it's good to know that in the meantime states can implement medical marijuana laws without interference from the federal government."

"This is the most significant, positive policy development on the federal level for medical marijuana since 1978," said the Marijuana Policy Project in a message to its list members Monday.

"It's great to see the Obama administration making good on the promises that candidate Obama made last year. These new guidelines effectively open the door to sensible collaboration between state governments and medical marijuana providers in ensuring that patients have safe and reliable access to their medicine," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "What remains unclear is how the Justice Department will respond to rogue state attorneys, such as San Diego's Bonnie Dumanis, who persist in undermining state medical marijuana laws in their local jurisdictions. Now is the right time for the Obama administration to move forward with federal legislation to end the irrational prohibition of medical marijuana under federal law."

While the policy memo was "encouraging," the "proof will be in the pudding," said California NORML head Dale Gieringer, who also cited the recent raids in San Diego, as well as the August federal indictment of two Lake County medical marijuana providers. "Note that the new Obama policy has a glaring loophole, emphasizing that 'prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and... it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law,'" Gieringer said. "The salient question is, who decides what is 'without a doubt' in compliance with state law? As shown by the recent statements of LA's DA and City Attorney, there exist significant doubts about the legality of most dispensaries in California. It remains to be seen how far the administration's new policy guidelines will go to prevent further abuses, when what is really needed is fundamental reform of federal laws and regulations."

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley was not concerned about the subtleties of the policy shift as much as he was about turning a blind eye to a violation of federal law. "I think that marijuana is a gateway to harder drug use," Grassley said in a Wednesday statement. "Medical marijuana brings a certain amount of legitimacy to an illegal drug, even though it attempts to do it in a legal way. We have a federal law that is intended to outlaw its use. That federal law ought to be enforced. It was enforced in the previous administration and I think having a national program against drug use is very, very important."

Demonstrating a lack of information about who is supplying California medical marijuana dispensaries, Grassley attempted to link them to Mexican drug cartels. While some medical marijuana providers may be acting legally under state law, he said, "most of the marijuana that flows into the United States comes from the drug lords."

But Grassley appeared to be fighting a lonely rear-guard action. In what may be a sign that even politicians in Washington understand the popularity of medical marijuana, the Obama administration move has generated little other critical comment from the right or from the mainstream media. While numerous newspaper editorial boards have come out in favor of the move, the Christian Science Monitor was nearly alone among major newspapers in condemning it.

And so opens the next chapter in America's long, twisted path to the acceptance of medical marijuana.

DOJ Memo: Hands off medical marijuana users and caregivers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 20, 2009 CONTACT: Ken Wolski at (609) 394-2137 DOJ Memo: Hands off medical marijuana users WHO: Attorney General Eric Holder WHAT: Announced formal guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes WHEN: October 19, 2009 WHERE: Washington, D.C. WHY: For clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in medical marijuana states. For the first time federal authorities have been instructed not to arrest or prosecute medical marijuana patients or caregivers in the 13 states with legalized access. In a major reversal from Bush Administration policy, the Department of Justice issued a memo today to prosecutors that stated: “As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.” Full text of the memo is available on the Department of Justice Blog: http://blogs.usdoj.gov/blog/archives/192 CMMNJ welcomes this announcement from federal authorities recognizing the medical benefits of marijuana and upholding the rights of Americans to safely use marijuana under a doctor’s supervision. With New Jersey in the final legislative phase for The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act A804/S119 this memo may serve to alleviate any outstanding concern of federal interference with our proposed state law. While the DOJ memo puts in writing statements made by Attorney General Eric Holder in March, it does not change federal law in any way. The memo is targeted to federal prosecutors in the states that have passed ballot initiatives or legislation allowing safe medical marijuana access. It urges them to use their discretion and allocate their resources appropriately, taking into consideration an individual’s full compliance with their state law. The memo was copied to all United States Attorneys, as well as administrators in the DEA and the FBI. Current legislation: The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act A804/S119 has passed the Assembly and Senate Health committees and a Senate floor vote. The issue has received favorable editorials from most newspapers in the state. Now it must see an Assembly floor vote and may require an additional concurrence vote in the Senate. Recent polls show between 70% - 86% of New Jerseyans favor medical marijuana access. There is certainty bi-partisan political support for the bill, but passage this year remains far from assured. New Jersey would become the 14th state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana if it passes this legislation into law in the near future. More information at www.cmmnj.org CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) public charity, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public about the benefits of safe and legal access to medical marijuana. For more info, contact: Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org 844 Spruce St., Trenton, NJ 08648 609.394.2137 ohamkrw@aol.com media@cmmnj.org

Yes, we did: Obama ends medical marijuana raids in 13 states

Dear friends: Ready for some great news? The Obama administration is directing federal prosecutors not to arrest medical marijuana patients and caregivers who are complying with state laws. On Monday, federal prosecutors, as well as top officials at the FBI and DEA, will reportedly be told that it isn’t a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana, if they are complying with state law. This is the most significant, positive policy development on the federal level for medical marijuana since 1978. Under the Bush administration, the feds had continued to raid, arrest, and otherwise terrorize medical marijuana and their caregivers in the 13 states that have passed medical marijuana laws. This new policy is a major change. MPP was instrumental in obtaining a promise from President Obama during the presidential campaign that, if elected, he would halt these arrests. MPP was the only reform organization to testify on Capitol Hill urging the issuance of the guidelines and, later, was the only group to work with leaders in Congress to get a House committee to urge the administration to adopt the written guidelines. Our lobbyists have also been in contact with top officials at the Justice Department about the guidelines. We're thrilled to see this promise come to fruition, and I hope you’ll join me in celebrating this news -- some of the best we’ve had for medical marijuana patients in years. Thank you for helping to make this momentous change happen. And if you’d like to help keep pushing, please: 1. Use MPP's easy online action center to tell your members of Congress that you support this new policy. 2. Donate to MPP’s federal lobbying work here. Sincerely, Rob Kampia Executive Director Marijuana Policy Project Washington, D.C. P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $2.35 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2009. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Justice Department Issues Medical Marijuana Policy Memo; Says No Prosecutions If In Compliance With State Law

Editor's Note: We wanted to get this important story posted today, but we will develop it further for the Drug War Chronicle on Friday. In a new federal medical marijuana policy memo issued this morning to the DEA, FBI, and US Attorneys around the country, the Justice Department told prosecutors that medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal should not be targeted for federal prosecution. The memo formalizes statements made by Attorney General Eric Holder in February and March that going after pot-smoking patients and their suppliers would not be a high Justice Department priority. The memo marks a sharp break with federal policy under the Clinton and Bush administrations, both of which aggressively targeted medical marijuana operations, especially in California, the state that has the broadest law and the highest number of medical marijuana patients. The announcement of the policy shift won kudos from the marijuana and broader drug reform movement. But some reformers questioned what the shift would actually mean on the ground, pointing to DEA raids and federal prosecutions that have occurred since Holder's signal this spring that the feds were to back off, as well as continuing controversies, especially in California, over what exactly is legal under state law. Others noted that for real protection to be in place, federal law—not just prosecutorial policy—needs to change. In the memo, federal prosecutors were told that going after people who use or provide medical marijuana in accordance with state law was not the best use of their time or resources. According to the memo, while the Justice Department continues to make enforcing federal drug laws a key mission:
"As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources."
But the memo also said that federal prosecutors should continue to target marijuana production or sales operations that are illicit but hiding behind state medical marijuana laws. It explicitly singled out cases involving which involve violence, the illegal use of firearms, selling pot to minors, money laundering or involvement in other crimes. "It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," said Attorney General Holder. "This is a huge victory for medical marijuana patients," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, the nationwide medical marijuana advocacy organization, which had been in negotiations with the Justice Department to get written guidelines issued. "This indicates that President Obama intends to keep his promise not to undermine state medical marijuana laws and represents a significant departure from the policies of the Bush Administration," continued Sherer. "We will continue to work with President Obama, the Justice Department, and the US Congress to establish a comprehensive national policy, but it's good to know that in the meantime states can implement medical marijuana laws without interference from the federal government." "This is the most significant, positive policy development on the federal level for medical marijuana since 1978," said the Marijuana Policy Project in a message to its list members today. "It's great to see the Obama administration making good on the promises that candidate Obama made last year. These new guidelines effectively open the door to sensible collaboration between state governments and medical marijuana providers in ensuring that patients have safe and reliable access to their medicine," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "What remains unclear is how the Justice Department will respond to rogue state attorneys, such as San Diego's Bonnie Dumanis, who persist in undermining state medical marijuana laws in their local jurisdictions. Now is the right time for the Obama administration to move forward with federal legislation to end the irrational prohibition of medical marijuana under federal law." While the policy memo was "encouraging," the "proof will be in the pudding," said California NORML head Dale Gieringer, who also cited the recent raids in San Diego, as well as the August federal indictment of two Lake County medical marijuana providers. "Note that the new Obama policy has a glaring loophole, emphasizing that 'prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and ... it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law,'" Gieringer said. "The salient question is, who decides what is 'without a doubt' in compliance with state law? As shown by the recent statements of LA's DA and City Attorney, there exist significant doubts about the legality of most dispensaries in California. It remains to be seen how far the administration's new policy guidelines will go to prevent further abuses, when what is really needed is fundamental reform of federal laws and regulations." And so opens the next chapter in America's long, twisted path to the acceptance of medical marijuana.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Has Anyone Seen Former Drug Czar John Walters Lately?

A post at the LEAP blog points out that John Walters has been conspicuously quiet recently. After beginning his new position as executive vice president at the Hudson Institute in January, Walters was producing pro-drug war editorials on a monthly basis, but we haven't seen anything from him since spring.

LEAP speculates:

Perhaps, toward the end of 2008, Hudson thought it a brilliant notion to bring on Walters to spearhead prohibitionist drug policy thought leadership for the conservative apparatus.

But after witnessing the amazingly anti-prohibitionist shift that the public discourse on drug policy has taken throughout 2009, it seems that Hudson and the larger conservative establishment -- or anyone, for that matter -- just don't have all that much use for what John Walters has to say right about now.

I'd love to think that Hudson told him to stop, or better yet, that he's been writing feverishly this whole time and newspapers just won’t print him anymore. Still, my first guess is that it's just a coincidence and Walters will resurface any day now to once again stink up the drug policy debate with his familiar brand of unhinged prohibitionist propaganda.

And you know what? I hope he does. John Walters's tenure as drug czar ushered in an unprecedented period of progress for the reform movement, as he traveled the nation alienating the media and terrifying small children. I swear, every time he opens his mouth, thousands of new people start questioning the validity of his beliefs. So please John, don't leave us now. Things are just starting to get interesting.

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