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OP-ED: This Is Your Brain on Drugs, Dad

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/03/opinion/03males.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Read Between the Lines: Why DEA Only Raids Some Dispensaries

Here's the Drug Czar's blog gloating over the DEA's raid of the Local Patient's Cooperative in Hayward, CA:

The DEA took down another illegal marijuana dispensary in California. The owners were selling pot for profit under the guise of "medicinal use." Police seized pot cookies and expensive cars. More here (with video).

Notice the careful language used here. We're told that this was an "illegal marijuana dispensary" that used medical use as a "guise" to make money. As dispensary raids have increased in recent months, DEA has claimed each time that they're targeting clubs that engage in recreational sales. Similarly, ONDCP's blog post clearly implies that LPC was uniquely criminal in its conduct.

In other words, DEA and now ONDCP are tacitly condoning dispensaries that only sell to patients!

In both word and deed they are suggesting that dispensaries which follow California State law will generally not be targeted, despite the fact that federal law draws no such distinction. Obviously, this informal policy is driven not by compassion for the sick, but rather an acceptance of the political reality that the public won't tolerate continued assaults on patient access itself.

Unfortunately, DEA's willful ignorance of the nuances of legitimate medical marijuana use continues to undermine the value of this apparent compromise. Here's a quote from the SFGate.com article linked by ONDCP, which ironically undermines their whole point:

In the Hayward case, an FBI agent said in a sworn affidavit that officers staked out the Foothill Boulevard location five times in October and November and saw healthy-looking men entering and leaving the building each time, carrying bags the officers believed contained marijuana.
The only other evidence the agent cited to show that the dispensary was selling drugs to non-medical patients was a newspaper article saying police had found 10 times as much marijuana on the premises as the city's rules allowed.

That LPC's customers appeared "healthy looking" is a red herring. Most of the people in any medical setting appear healthy and California allows caretakers to obtain medicine on behalf of sick relatives. Furthermore, the apparent "health" of certain patients could as easily be attributed to their access to effective medicine. Hayward area patients with limited mobility might not be looking so good today.

LPC's excessive supply appears to be the only legitimate issue here and even that falls far short of justifying the conclusion that extra-medical sales were being conducted. Friends at Americans for Safe Access have explained to me that recent DEA activity has resulted more from poorly drafted or non-existent local regulations than from gratuitous improprieties on the part of dispensary owners.

With that in mind, consider what patient and activist Angel Raich had to say in an email:

"I can tell you that Local Patients Group was a really good co-op,
they served a high number of patients, they gave back to the patient
community, and the City of Hayward. This was the first medical cannabis co-op as you come into the SF Bay Area and many patients from the Central Valley and surrounding areas would travel for hours to get their medicine there and this raid has created a hardship for hundreds of patients. They will be missed."

Thank you Angel. If LPC's substantial supply reflects the needs of patients in the region, rather than profiteering by the club's operators, then the effect of the raid is to dramatically undermine legitimate patient access. Morally, there's a big difference between exceeding supply limits for the purpose of supplying patients, as opposed to engaging in recreational sales surreptitiously. Yet LPC's conduct was presumed to indicate the later and not the former.

In sum, federal authorities are admitting a distinction between medical and recreational sales, which shows that their position has been weakened. But they're failing to draw this distinction accurately and their newfound enthusiasm for busting "illegal" dispensaries has led to a recent increase in raids.

Federal charges mean that dispensary operators will have no opportunity to defend their adherence to state and local laws anyway, so the DEA's public justification for the raid becomes irrelevant after the fact. Meanwhile, reduced patient access shifts the burden to the remaining dispensaries, increasing their chances of running afoul of local ordinances and becoming the next target.

Ironically, Congressional debate over the Hinchey Amendment, which would solve this problem entirely, still focuses on whether marijuana is medicine; a fact that the DEA has already tacitly admitted.

Location: 
United States

Bad Science: Congress Passes Measure Okaying Mycoherbicide Testing, But Limits It to US Labs

As part of last Friday's passage of the reauthorization bill for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Congress authorized the testing of mycoherbicides -- toxic, fungal plant killers -- for use against illicit drug crops in Latin America. But in what the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) called a "significant reform," the legislation was modified to restrict testing to laboratories in the United States.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/ravagedgrain.jpg
fusarium-ravaged grain demonstrates the danger
The brainchild of drug warriors Reps. Mark Souder (R-IN) and Dan Burton (R-IN), the measure passed the House in July 2005. Thanks to the efforts of Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Joe Biden (D-DE), it was attached to the ONDCP bill and passed last week.

As DRCNet reported earlier this year, government agencies are not jumping on the mycoherbicide bandwagon. Agencies including the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture, the State Department, the CIA and even the DEA, have rejected the idea as dangerous for health and the environment as well as likely to meet with resistant strains of poppy and coca against which it would be ineffective.

DPA began organizing against the measure this spring, and when it got fast-tracked this month, drug reform groups including DRCNet, DPA and others raised the alarm. "This a huge victory because it means the people and environment of Latin America will be protected," a DPA bulletin noted. "We have you to thank for this reform because so many of you called Congress asking for the provision to be changed."

Southwest Asia: US Drug Czar Announces Afghanistan Will Spray Opium Poppies

Office of National Drug Control Policy head John Walters announced Saturday at a Kabul press conference that Afghanistan's poppy crops will be sprayed with herbicides in an effort to put a crimp in the country's booming opium and heroin trade. But the Afghan government, which is not enthusiastic about spraying, has yet to confirm Walters' pronouncement.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/poppy2-small.jpg
opium poppies
This year, Afghan opium production increased 49% over last year, and the country produced 6,100 metric tons of opium, or 670 tons of heroin. That's 90% of the illicit opium supply, and more than the world's junkies can shoot, smoke, or snort in a year. This as the US spent $600 million on anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan this year.

Afghanistan will become a narco-state unless "giant steps" are taken to rein in production, Walters said. "We cannot fail in this mission. Proceeds from opium production feed the insurgency and burden Afghanistan's nascent political institutions with the scourge of corruption."

The problem for Walters and the US is that embarking on widespread eradication is also likely to feed the insurgency as farmers and traders turn to the Taliban for protection from the central government and the "infidels." The Taliban is already doing just that, and it is using opium profits to fund its resurgence. So far this year, 189 NATO and US troops and some 4,000 insurgents have been killed in fighting, by far the largest toll since the US overthrew the Taliban in late 2001.

On top of that, after decades of war, Afghans are very leery of chemicals being dropped from planes. President Karzai himself earlier rejected spraying, saying herbicides proved too great a risk and could contaminate water and kill crops growing beside the poppies.

But Walters said Karzai has agreed to spraying, which will use glyphosate, the herbicide in Roundup. "I think the president has said yes, and I think some of the ministers have repeated yes," Walters said without specifying when spraying would start. "The particulars of the application have not been decided yet, but yes, the goal is to carry out ground spraying."

The Associated Press reported that Gen. Khodaidad, Afghanistan's deputy minister for counter-narcotics, said the government hadn't yet made any decisions. But the AP also quoted an unnamed Afghan official who said the government was studying the issue.

"We are thinking about it, we are looking into it. We're just trying to see how the procedure will go," said the official.

U.S. Drug Czar Advises Canadian Officials On How To Destroy Canada

On the heels of reports that the U.S. is breaking its own incarceration records, The Vancouver Sun announces that Canadian officials are consulting with U.S. drug warriors in the hopes of revamping Canada's drug policy.

Canada's new Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who apparently doesn't read U.S. newspapers, seems to think we've got all the answers:

The strategy will focus on "a few key priority areas that the current government could focus and build on," such as "clandestine labs, marihuana grow operations, synthetic drugs," the document states. "Another key element of the proposed national strategy is the national awareness campaign for youth."

Yeah nothing scares kids away from drugs like government-sponsored propaganda. Possible ONDCP recommendations for a youth awareness campaign:

1. Switch it up periodically. Spend a few years telling kids that pot will make you shoot your friends, run over toddlers and get pregnant at parties. Then nail 'em with a "couch" ad claiming marijuana is "the safest thing in the world."

2. Don't answer the phone. It could be other branches of government calling for an update on your performance measures. Never let anyone measure your performance except you.

3. Make desperate appeals to pop culture. Start a blog, podcasts, online magazines and youtube videos. Find the Canadian Al Roker and get him to talk to the kids. Encourage people to use these resources by claiming they are popular.

4. Say awesome stuff. If government reports show that the program isn't working, try to confuse everyone by saying this: "It’s very difficult to tell whether Britney Spears bopping around on some Coca-Cola ad actually sold a single bottle of Coca-Cola. The groups that promote marijuana wouldn’t be criticizing it so much if they didn’t think it was effective."


To clarify, I'm in favor of discouraging young people from using drugs. But if I were implementing such a program, John Walters is the very last person on Earth whose input I would solicit. He voluntarily limited his ability to prevent real-world harms by focusing on the least harmful drug. And he demonstrated a lack of interest when results showed that the ads were counterproductive.

But it gets worse:

Harper also called for mandatory minimum sentences and large fines for serious drug offenders, including marijuana growing operators and "producers and dealers of crystal meth and crack."

Mandatory minimums
!? Even Drug Czar speech-writer Kevin Sabet is coming around on that. Mandatory minimums have nearly destroyed our criminal justice system. They take away judicial discretion, making grave injustices commonplace. They bloat our prisons with non-violent offenders and burden tax-payers with the costs. They empower bullying prosecutors and encourage innocent people to accept plea-bargains. And you just don't need mandatory minimums to send scumbags to jail.

Stephen Harper needs to slow down and familiarize himself with the problems we're having here before asking for drug policy advice from some of the most callous and willfully ignorant people to ever contemplate the subject. The problem with a terrible drug policy is that it's really hard to turn back the clock. Ever susceptible to drug hysteria, American politicians have repeatedly succumbed to the temptation of quick-fix lock-em-up solutions. Once implemented, destructive policies are sustained by the knowledge that a "soft on crime" label may await any legislator brave enough to question the status quo. Meanwhile, the world's wealthiest nation functions at a shrinking fraction of its potential.

And where will the Canadian people turn if the nightmare of American drug war barbarism is unleashed in their communities? They already live in Canada.

Location: 
United States

Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) Action Network Alert: Congress to Vote on Poisoning People

From our friends at Drug Policy Alliance: Congress to Vote on Poisoning People This Week Earlier this year we warned you about a bill in Congress that would revive controversial research on the use of toxic, mold-like fungi called mycoherbicides to kill illicit drug crops in other countries. This provision could unleash an environmental disaster of monumental proportions. But Congressman Mark Souder and Senators Hatch and Biden are rushing it to the House and Senate floors this week. Here are three things you can do: 1) Call your two U.S. Senators and one U.S. Representative today or tomorrow. If you don't know who they are, simply call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and give them your address. They'll connect you directly with their offices. You can also look them up online at the Senate website and the House website. When you get a staffer on the phone, politely say something like: "My name is [your name] and I live in [your city]. I'm calling to urge [the Senator or Representative] to oppose the ONDCP Reauthorization bill if it comes to the floor this week, especially its mycoherbicide provision. Please let me know how [the Senator/Representative] votes." If they ask, the mycoherbicide section is Section 1111. The bill being brought to the floor is a combination of a House and Senate bill, so it doesn't have a bill number yet. It will be brought to the Senate floor under a unanimous consent agreement and to the House floor under suspension of the rules--both of which limit debate. 2) Phone calls are the most effective way of stopping this bill. But if you don't feel comfortable making calls or you don't have the time, we urge you to fax or e-mail your elected officials instead. Contact your two Senators through the Senate website and your one Representative through the House website. 3) Please forward this alert to everyone you know. Unless thousands of Americans contact Congress, this bill could pass by the end of this week. Sincerely, Bill Piper Drug Policy Alliance Network More Information Mycoherbicides have already been extensively studied over the last thirty years--and the results make it clear that they are not an option for controlling crops of coca or opium poppies. They attack indiscriminately, destroying fruit and vegetable crops, and sickening animals and humans as well. The toxins mycoherbicides produce contaminate soil for years, so that nothing can grow where they have been. Mycoherbicides are so destructive that governments have even stockpiled them as weapons! Incredibly, the proposal now before Congress advocates using mycoherbicides in "field studies" in countries such as Colombia and Afghanistan--something the world would certainly see as an act of biological warfare. Office of National Drug Control Policy head John Walters spoke out against further mycoherbicide research last year, but this terrible proposal is now part of the ONDCP Reauthorization Act. Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this act, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall submit to the Congress a report that includes a plan to conduct, on an expedited basis, a scientific study of the use of mycoherbicide as a means of illicit drug crop elimination by an appropriate Government scientific research entity, include a complete and thorough scientific peer review. The study shall include an evaluation of the likely human health and environmental impacts of mycoherbicides derived from fungus naturally existing in the soil. Contact the Drug Policy Alliance Network: Drug Policy Alliance Network 70 West 36th Street, 16th Floor New York, NY 10018
Location: 
United States

Alert: CALL CONGRESS Today to Stop Dangerous Mycoherbicide Bill!

UPDATE ON VOTE RESULTS HERE Earlier this year, DRCNet reported on a push by the drug czar and drug warriors in Congress to pass a reckless bill to research the use of mycoherbicides -- toxic, fungal plant killers -- as a means of attacking illicit drug crops. Even government agencies are unenthusiastic about this one -- our article cited the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture, the State Department, the CIA and even the DEA as agencies that have rejected the idea as dangerous for health and the environment as well as likely to meet with resistant strains of poppy and coca against which it would be ineffective. Unfortunately, some less prudent members of Congress -- Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) are attempting to pass the legislation by rushing it to the floors of the House of Representatives and the Senate as part of the Office of National Drug Control Policy reauthorization bill this week. Please call your US Representative and your two US Senators today to urge them to vote NO on this dangerous bill! You can reach them (or find out who they are) by calling the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can also use the House and Senate web sites at http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov to look them up. Also suggest that they vote NO on reauthorizing ONDCP itself -- a useless, agency whose functioning has been highly warped by its placing ideology over facts. The ONDCP bill does not have a number yet. So, when you speak to the staffers in the offices of your Representative and your two Senators, you should ask them to oppose the ONDCP reauthorization bill, especially the mycoherbicide provision, which is part of section 1111. Thank you for taking action. Please send us a note using our contact web form at http://stopthedrugwar.org/contact to let us know that you've taken action and what you learned about how your Rep. and Senators might vote.
Location: 
United States

How Did You Celebrate Meth Day?

Meth is the worst drug since marijuana, a fact worth considering on National Methamphetamine Awareness Day, which we’ll be celebrating every November 30th until everyone is aware, or we find something else to be hugely concerned about.

Meth was invented during the summer of 2004 by Al Qaeda bio-terrorists and quickly made headlines nationwide, mainly because it was cynically designed to only affect white people. When the Office of National Drug Control Policy got wind of the problem in 2005, they launched a three-prong strategy of creating a national holiday, arresting convenience store clerks who sell "cooking" materials, and campaigning against ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana, which causes meth use in children.

Bill Piper at the Drug Policy Alliance celebrated Meth Day with a great editorial. It’s kinda long though, so you might wanna pop an Adderall before attempting to read the whole thing.

 

Location: 
United States

Survey: Meth Use Climbs on East Coast

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Fighting-Meth.html?

Election 2006: Initiatives Defeated in Colorado and Nevada, But Hundreds of Thousands Voted to Legalize Marijuana

A Nevada initiative (Question 7) that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and provide for its regulated sale and taxation lost with 44% of the vote, while a Colorado initiative (Measure 44) that would have legalized the possession of up to an ounce lost with 40% of the vote. Both were bitterly opposed by local law enforcement and the federal drug war bureaucracy. In both cases, organizers are vowing to come back and try again.

The Nevada result is a 5% improvement over 2002, when a similar initiative garnered 39% of the popular vote. In Colorado, where legalization had never before been on the statewide ballot, four out of ten voters were prepared to vote for it the first time around.

In both states, anti-drug activists joined forces with law enforcement to turn back the tide. In Nevada, where gambling is legal and so is prostitution in most counties, the ironically named Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable resorted to misrepresentations of the measure to insist it would prevent employers from doing drug testing, as well as arguing that allowing for the regulated sale of marijuana would somehow increase youth marijuana use. The Committee consisted of a number of community anti-drug coalitions, the Reno and Las Vegas Chambers of Commerce, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the Southern Nevada Conference of Police and Sheriffs, and the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association.

In Colorado, the organized opposition was headed by Gov. Bill Owens and Attorney General John Suthers, who held a late press conference denouncing the measure (and who were rudely surprised by a vigorous counter-demonstration by Measure 44 supporters during that press conference). In both states, representatives of the Office of National Drug Control Policy showed up to interfere with state ballot measures.

While initiative organizers in both states professed disappointment at the results, they have vowed to continue the fight. "Today, a record number of Nevada voters called for an end to marijuana prohibition, the highest vote ever to end prohibition," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the parent group for the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, the Nevada-based entity that led the campaign. "The momentum is with us. Major social change never comes easily, but change in our failed marijuana laws is coming because prohibition does nothing but harm. Prohibition funds criminals and guarantees that teens have easy access to marijuana, and voters have begun to see through the drug czar's lies. We've made huge progress since our 39% to 61% loss on a similar ballot measure in Nevada four years ago. We plan to try again with another marijuana initiative in Nevada in November 2008 or 2010."

"We are not disappointed at all with the results of today's election," said SAFER Colorado campaign director Mason Tvert. "This campaign, following on the heels of our successful legalization initiative in Denver last year, was just one step in a five- to ten-year battle to make marijuana legal in Colorado. Now we see that a number of counties support changing the state law regarding adult marijuana possession so that they have the right to set their own local policies."

Without significant outside funding, SAFER Colorado managed to reach out to hundreds of thousands of Coloradans with an "alcohol vs. marijuana" campaign that clearly resonated with voters. "One low-budget initiative campaign cannot overcome 70 years of government lies and propaganda," Tvert said. "If it were possible to make marijuana legal with a $60,000 campaign in a state with nearly three million voters, it would have been done long ago. But the writing is on the wall in Colorado and we will continue to educate the public while pressuring government officials and community leaders to explain why they think adults should be punished for using a substance less harmful than alcohol."

Although lost elections are never popular, other leading drug reformers looked for the positive. "Even though they lost, hundreds of thousands of people in two states still voted to legalize marijuana," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "I think that is very respectable, especially in Nevada, where the measure was so far-reaching."

Question 7 in Nevada would not only have legalized the possession of up to an ounce by adults, it would also have established a state-sanctioned system of regulated marijuana distribution. Colorado's Measure 44, on the other hand, was a simple marijuana possession legalization initiative that would have protected adults holding up to an ounce.

"These outcomes, while disappointing, were not unexpected," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), who traveled to Colorado to assist in the campaign's final days. "Despite these results, adults in Colorado and Nevada continue to live under state laws that authorize the medical use of marijuana and allow adults to possess and use small amounts of pot without the threat of incarceration or a criminal record."

That's good, but it's not enough, said SAFER Colorado's Tvert. "There will be a continuing effort in Colorado," he told Drug War Chronicle. "We were up against 70 years of marijuana prohibition, 70 years of lies and distortions about marijuana. This was the first time Colorado voters had to confront marijuana prohibition, and it won more votes than the Republican governor candidate. We got the message out and shocked the hell out of Colorado, even with no money and what some people would call a reckless campaign."

Nearly seven decades after national marijuana prohibition was enacted, no state has yet voted to end it at the state level. But the forces of reform are edging ever closer to victory. Will 2008 be the beginning of the end? Stay tuned.

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