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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.)
Location: 
United States

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.

Location: 
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.)
Location: 
United States

Latin America: Nicaraguan President Warns of DEA's "Unexpected Interests" and "Terrible Things"

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said Monday he does not trust the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because its operations hide "unexpected interests" and "terrible things." Ortega did not elaborate, but he undoubtedly has keen memories of the DEA and the Reagan administration attempting to portray his Sandinista government in the 1980s as major drug traffickers while the CIA and Oliver North were, at best, turning a blind eye to cocaine running operations funding the US-backed anti-Sandinista Contra rebels.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/daniel-ortega.jpg
Daniel Ortega (courtesy Wikimedia)
"You have to be careful with the DEA. You can't be blind," Ortega said in remarks during the celebration of the Nicaraguan Navy's 27th anniversary. "We have to wage the war against drugs, but don't come to us with stories about involving your Cobra helicopters and troops," Ortega said, apparently addressing the US government. "The best combatant is the Nicaraguan soldier."

The Ortega government has cooperated with the DEA. Nicaraguan soldiers seized more than 6,100 pounds of cocaine with DEA collaboration in the past year. Ortega said he would continue cooperating with the DEA in order take advantage of the agency's technology and experience.

But with one eye on Colombia, where hundreds of US soldiers and mercenaries are stationed as part of the US counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency effort there, and one eye on Mexico, which is apparently about to reach a major counter-narcotics assistance agreement with Washington, Ortega is signaling that such a massive US intervention would not be welcome in Nicaragua.

Feature: In Strategy Shift, US Troops to Join Battle Against Opium in Afghanistan

The United States military is melding counterinsurgency with counternarcotics missions in Afghanistan in what officials called "a basic strategy shift" in its Afghan campaign. Up until now, the US military has shied away from anti-drug operations in Afghanistan, leaving them to the DEA, the British, and Afghan authorities in a bid to avoid alienating Afghan peasant populations dependent on the poppy crop for an income.

But with Afghan opium production at an all-time high last year and predicted to go even higher this year -- Afghanistan accounted for 92% of the global opium supply in 2006 and will account for close to 100% this year--despite nearly a billion dollars in US anti-drug aid, officials in Washington have decided after long discussion that the Afghan drug war must be ratcheted up.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/opium_poppy1986_2006.jpg
(source: state.gov/p/inl/rls/rpt/90561.htm)
US officials are increasingly concerned about links between drug traffickers, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda militants, especially in southeastern Afghanistan, where both the insurgency and poppy production are most deeply rooted. Some 70 US soldiers, 69 NATO soldiers, and hundreds of Afghan police and soldiers, Taliban fighters, and Afghan civilians have been killed in fighting so far this year, the third year of the Taliban resurgence.

The new policy was announced in a new report US Counternarcotics Strategy for Afghanistan released last week and rolled out at an August 9 State Department briefing by Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP--the drug czar's office) head John Walters and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Thomas Schweich.

"We know that opium, maybe second only to terror, is a huge threat to the future of Afghanistan," said Walters. "The efforts by the Afghan people to build institutions of justice and rule of law are threatened not only by the terror, but the drug forces that are both economic, addictive and, of course, support in some cases terror, not only through money, but through influence and moving people away from the structures of government toward the structures of drug mafias and violence," he said.

The new strategy is a combination of carrots and sticks, heavily weighted toward the sticks. Out of the $700 million budgeted for anti-drug activities this year, only about $120 million to $150 million will go to alternative development, with the remainder dedicated to eradication, interdiction, building up the Afghan criminal justice system, and going after high-level traffickers.

Some $30 million will go to farming communities that agree to give up poppy production, but this is a pittance compared to the $3.1 billion the trade is estimated to be worth, or even the roughly $700 million estimated to end up in the hands of peasant farmers. While most of the incentive money will go to the north, where production is down, the more Taliban-friendly east and southeast will get forced eradication and increased efforts to go after high-level traffickers. Ambassador Schweicher qualified the tougher approach as "substantially harsher discincentives" for those areas. And the US military will be involved.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/opium-smaller.jpg
the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
"There is a clear and direct link between the illicit opium trade and insurgent groups in Afghanistan," the State Department report said. The Pentagon "will work with DEA" and other agencies "to develop options for a coordinated strategy that integrates and synchronizes counternarcotics operations, particularly interdiction, into the comprehensive security strategy."

What exactly that means remains unclear. At the August 9 briefing, Walters dodged repeated questions about the exact nature of US military involvement. "We expect a more permissive environment for these operations, given the plans and commitments here," Walters said. "Again, what -- your question was what counter-narcotics operations is the military going to do. That's not what this is doing, is saying the military is going to become the eradication force or the interdiction force. What we're going to do is create -- we've now created, we believe, the structures to allow counter-narcotics operations, whether they're arrests of people by Afghans, whether they're interdiction, whether they're eradication to be integrated into the security effort that's going on."

It might work, but there are gigantic obstacles in the way, said Raheem Yaseer of the Center for Afghan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Improving the security situation is critical, said Yaseer.

"The bombers and the Talibans are crossing the border from Pakistan with all these weapons and getting across the checkpoints and getting in among the villagers, where they shoot at the allied forces. Then the allies bomb the villages, and that creates a lot of resentment, and the people won't listen to the allies," he said. "The US can track a bullet crossing the border, but they can't find the Talibans," he said, a note of frustration in his voice.

Alternative development could attract peasant farmers if the security situation were stabilized, he said. "It's the bigger warlords and drug lords who are the problem," Yaseer argued. "And yes, there are some high government officials, big shots, involved in drug trafficking, too. All of them have been nourished by this money for years and don't want to see it go away. But ordinary people would be satisfied with a little money because they know growing poppies is condemned by their tradition and religion."

Endemic corruption is another problem. Even anti-drug aid and alternative development assistance is likely to be siphoned off, said Yaseer. "The corruption is very deep, and a lot of money will vanish into people's pockets. You have to watch the people at the top, too, or it won't be effective," he said. "You'll only be spending money uselessly."

Congressional leaders called the new strategy a "welcome recognition" that new initiatives had to be hatched to address the Afghan opium problem, but worried that it wasn't enough. "What the plan lacks is the recognition that Afghanistan is approaching a crisis point, and that immediate action is required to eliminate the threat of drug kingpins and cartels allied with terrorists so we can reverse the country's steady slide into a potential failed narco-state," said House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and ranking minority member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in a statement responding to the new strategy.

Lantos and Ros-Lehtinen aren't the only members of Congress concerned. Others have called for an entirely different approach. Following the lead of the French defense and drug policy think tank the Senlis Council, which has been calling since 2005 for licensing the poppy crop, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) has suggested licensing Afghan farmers to grow the crop for legal pain medications, similar to the way the international community diminished the drug trafficking problem in India and Turkey. Senator John Sununu (R-NH) has suggested the US buy opium crops from the farmers and destroy them. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) has suggested switching the focus away from poor farmers and toward disrupting the cartels that are moving the drugs.

But the drug czar and the State Department explicitly rejected licensing as an impractical "silver bullet" that would not work and have similarly rejected proposals to buy up the crop. And they will definitely be going after poor farmers as well as high-level traffickers.

But more of the same isn't going to do the trick, said the Drug Policy Alliance. "The so-called 'carrot and stick' approach has failed in every country it has been tried in, including our own," said Bill Piper, the group's director of national affairs. "As long as there is a demand for drugs, there will be a supply to meet it. Drug prohibition makes plants more valuable than gold."

More of the same may even make matters worse, Piper argued. "The US is dangerously close to turning Afghanistan into the next Iraq," said Piper. "Forced eradication of opium crops is driving poor Afghans into the hands of our enemies, strengthening the Taliban, and feeding the insurgency there. The war on drugs is undermining the war on terror and pushing Afghanistan to the brink of civil war."

The Bush administration has belatedly figured out it has a very serious problem in Afghanistan. The question now is whether this vigorous new strategy will calm the situation or only inflame it.

Feds Bust Former Portland Police Detective for Medical Marijuana

Location: 
Portland, OR
United States
Publication/Source: 
Salem-News.com (OR)
URL: 
http://www.salem-news.com/articles/august072007/federal_rogues_8707.php

A Peek Inside a Marijuana Dispensary

Location: 
CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
BusinessWeek
URL: 
http://images.businessweek.com/ss/07/08/0803_marijuana/index_01.htm

Illegal Crops Creep Into the Suburbs

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Washington Post
URL: 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/04/AR2007080401388.html

Feds strike medical pot growers

Location: 
Portland, OR
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Portland Tribune (OR)
URL: 
http://www.localdailynews.com/news/story.php?story_id=118609925649231700#comment_section_container

Opposition to Medical Marijuana is a Conspiracy to Prevent Broader Legalization

An important fact to understand about the medical marijuana debate is that the federal government knows perfectly well that marijuana is an effective medicine:

*They've been providing it for decades to a select group of seriously ill patients, and continue to do so.
*They've approved a synthetic drug with the same active ingredient (THC).
*They commissioned a huge study in 1999, which explicitly said it works.
*They've been blocking research, which makes no sense if they think the results will favor them.

So the debate over medical marijuana isn't even about whether it has medical properties. It is about something else entirely, stated perfectly by ONDCP's Tom Riley just the other day:
"…a lot of the people who are behind this aren't really interested in sick people who need medicine, they're interested in marijuana legalization and they're playing on the suffering of genuinely sick people to get it." [Reuters]
As silly as it is, this argument explains everything there is to know about why the government actually opposes medical marijuana. Though countless mainstream medical, legal,  and religious organizations support medical marijuana, the federal government remains fixated on drug policy reformers and our role in defending the rights of patients.

The simple truth is that they are afraid that medical marijuana could lead to full-blown legalization of marijuana for recreational use. And it's not an irrational concern. If you're struggling to prevent accurate information about marijuana's effects from reaching the scientific community and the public, the last thing you want is a huge user population that can speak openly about their experiences with the drug.

Ironically, it is ONDCP's obsession with legalization that has turned medical marijuana into a great controversy, not ours. Similarly, it is ONDCP that exploits patients for political purposes, not us. Opposition to medical marijuana is not championed by doctors or scientists. It is funded and carried out by political operatives who want to keep marijuana illegal for everyone. That's the real medical marijuana conspiracy.

Location: 
United States

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