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As Peace Negotiations Advance, Colombia Revamps Drug Policy [FEATURE]

Marking the end of an era, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Tuesday unveiled a new policy for dealing with coca cultivation and cocaine production, one that will rely on crop substitution and alternative development, with manual crop eradication only to be used as a last resort.

harvesting the coca crop in Colombia (dea.gov)
Santos then flew to Havana, where he met with leaders of the leftist FARC guerrillas and Wednesday announced an agreement on a transitional justice deal that should lead to the end of the world's longest-running insurgency by March 2016. The agreement on how to deal with combatants in the nearly half-century long civil war is the latest in peace talks that have been going on in Havana since November 2012. Negotiators had already forged agreements on the thorny issues of land reform, the FARC's political participation after peace is achieved, and how to deal with illicit drug production.

Colombia's years-long policy of attempting to eradicate coca crops by spraying fields with herbicides will be history at the end of this month. That policy was backed and financed by the United States as part of its multi-billion dollar effort to defeat drug trafficking and, later, to defeat the FARC.

Despite the billions spent, Colombia remains the world's largest coca and cocaine producer, according to the US government. While production is down from record levels early this century, it rose 39% last year to about 276,000 acres. Figures from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime show a lower extent of cultivation (170,000 acres), but echo that it is on the increase. According to UNODC, the increase was 44% last year.

The plan announced Tuesday, the Integrated Plan for Crop Substitution, has as its goals reducing the crime associated with the drug trade by reorienting policing efforts toward processing, trafficking, and money laundering -- not harassing peasants -- improving state capacity through the improvement of social, economic, and political conditions in the countryside, and dealing with drug consumption with a focus on human rights, public health, and human development.

It sets out six foci:

  1. Social Investment. That will include state and private spending on roads, energy supply, water supply, and investment in public health and education.
  2. Crop Substitution. A phased-in plan with community involvement that will create socio-economic stabilization and create new income opportunities. Agreements will be made with whole communities, not individual growers. Once a community has agreed to crop substitution, voluntary coca eradication will begin. If there is no agreement to eradicate, the government will do it manually, by force.
  3. Interdiction. Interdiction will continue, but in concert with the priorities of local communities and farmers. The plan also envisions "strengthening the legal tools available to fight the illegal drug business."
  4. Investigations and Prosecutions. The government will give top priority to going after "intermediate and top links of the drug trafficking chain," not peasant farmers.
  5. Prevention and Treatment. The new plan will emphasize youth prevention, as well as drug treatment using "programs founded on evidence." The plan calls for an increase in the quantity and quality of drug treatment offered.
  6. Institutional Reforms. The plan will create a new agency for alternative development in illicit cultivation zones. The agency will establish metrics for success, which will be made public on a regular basis.

The government's plan is in line with the recommendations of its Advisory Commission on Drug Policy in Colombia, which in a May report, called for drug policy to be based on evidence and the principles of public health, harm reduction and human rights, with effective state institutions to coordinate policy implementation. Combating the drug trade should focus on trafficking organizations and money laundering, and peasant coca growers should be offered alternative development, not criminal prosecution, the report also recommended. (The report and the issues it addressed were recently discussed at this http://www.brookings.edu/events/2015/09/21-colombian-antidrug-policies-a.... " target="_blank">Brookings Institution event.)

Aerial eradication ends at the end of this month. (wikipedia.org)
"With this program we hope to have a twofold result: reducing the illicit cultivation and improving the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of peasants," Santos said in a speech from the presidential palace.

The plan will focus on the southern provinces of Narino and Putumayo, "where there are some 26,000 families that produce coca," Santos said. "Work will be done to construct roads, schools, health clinics, aqueducts and service networks," he added, noting that coca cultivation is most extensive in areas where the state is weakest.

While the government will seek agreements with communities to voluntarily eradicate their coca crops, "if an agreement is not reached, forced eradication will be resorted to," Santos warned. Forced eradication has led to conflict between farmers and eradicators in the past, with nearly 200 eradicators killed in attacks from unhappy peasants or guerrillas of the FARC, which has taxed and protected coca cultivation in areas under its control.

When Santos arrived in Havana Wednesday he was sounding optimistic, both about the new approach to coca cultivation and about the prospects for peace.

"We've already started. And if we can move forward now, imagine how much we could move forward if we do away with the conflict," said Santos. "We've already talked with the FARC about joint plans for the substitution of crops. Imagine what this means. That the FARC, instead of defending illicit crops and the entire drug trafficking chain, will help the state in their eradication. As the slogan says, with peace we will do more," Santos said.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A strange tale out of Kentucky, and two New York cops get slapped on the wrist for their misdeeds. Let's get to it:

In Louisville, Kentucky, a Bullitt County sheriff's special deputy was indicted last Friday on charges he was a major drug trafficker and threatened to kill Kentucky narcotics officers. Special Deputy Chris Mattingly has been charged with conspiracy to distribute over a ton of marijuana. He went down after he surfaced on a wiretap of a drug cartel member in Riverside, California, and since then, police working with information developed from there have made repeated seizures of hundreds or tens of thousands of dollars in cash from vehicles associated with Mattingly.

In Troy, New York, a former Troy police officer was sentenced last Thursday to probation for telling a drug dealer he was being targeted in a raid. Brian Gross, 33, a member of the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, admitted to disclosing information contained in a wiretap warrant. He told a female friend the narcs were investigating her brother and planned to raid his home. The targeted dealer apparently spread the word, because police hit five houses that day as part of a drug investigation and came up empty-handed.

In White Plains, New York, a former Yonkers narcotics detective was sentenced last Thursday to spend eight weekends in jail for lying to get a search warrant for a drug raid in which a man fell to his death. Christian Koch had pleaded guilty to perjury charges along with his partner, former officer Neil Vera, who got six months of weekends in jail.

Chronicle AM: CA Cops Raid Indian Reservation Grow, Colombia Announces New Drug Strategy, More (9/23/15)

The era of aerial herbicide spraying of Colombia's coca crops is at an end, California cops raid an Indian reservation marijuana operation, medical marijuana bills are moving in Michigan, and more.

no more spraying Roundup on Colombia's coca fields (wikipedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts High Court Bans Traffic Stops Solely for Suspected Marijuana. The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that police can't stop motorists simply because they suspect the vehicle's occupants may possess pot. The state decriminalized possession of up to an ounce in 2008, and the court based its ruling on that. "Permitting police to stop a vehicle based on reasonable suspicion that an occupant possesses marijuana does not serve [the] objectives" of the decriminalization law, Justice Margot Botsford wrote for the majority. The case is Commonwealth v. Rodriguez.

Medical Marijuana

California Indian Reservation "Megagrow" Raided by Mendocino County. Mendocino County sheriff's deputies Tuesday raided a commercial marijuana cultivation operation on the Pinoleville Pomo Nation reservation in Ukiah, cutting down about 400 plants, seizing about 100 pounds of trimmed buds, and an undetermined quantity of cannabis oil. The county maintains the operation is illegal under the state's medical marijuana laws.

Michigan House Panel Advances Medical Marijuana Bills. The House Judiciary Committee Tuesday passed a package of bills aimed at legalizing dispensaries and edible forms of medical marijuana. The bills have tighter rules than similar measures that failed last year, and some patient advocates are grumbling. Seed-to-sale tracking is one new addition; an 8% excise tax is another. Now it will be up to the legislature's GOP leadership to advance the bills or not.

New Jersey Will Get a Fourth Dispensary. The state Department of Health has issued a permit for Compassionate Sciences in Bellmawr. It will becomes the state's fourth dispensary when it opens next month.

Pennsylvania Patients, Parents Demand Action on Medical Marijuana Bill. Supporters of delayed medical marijuana legislation rallied at the state capitol Tuesday to urge solons to act on a pending bill. A bill passed the state Senate in May, and House leaders earlier this summer created a group to draft a version that would pass in the GOP-led chamber. Protestors urged House leaders to just hold a vote on the Senate-passed bill.


Colombia Shifts on Drug Policy; No More Aerial Eradication. President Juan Manuel Santos Tuesday unveiled a new drug strategy for Colombia that will emphasize alternative development, with forced manual eradication of coca crops to be used as a last resort. There will be no more US-backed aerial spraying of crops with herbicides.

Medical Marijuana Update

A sitting US senator addresses the marijuana industry, California cops raid an Indian reservation grow op, Florida signature-gathering for another initiative is well underway, and more.


On Monday, a US senator addressed an industry meeting and called for the feds to butt out. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) spoke at the National Cannabis Industry Association meeting in New York and told industry professionals she is pushing a bill she cosponsored last March with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) that would bar the federal government from interfering with marijuana in states where it is legal, either medicinally or recreationally. "There's a conflict between state and federal statute that confuses doctors, patients and providers alike," she said. "People aren't sure what's legal, what's not, and the gray area that resulted is hindering health care and the industry's development."


Last Thursday, a union organizer was indicted on federal corruption charges. Dan Rush, a pioneer in organizing marijuana industry workers for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), was indicted on federal corruption, attempted extortion, and money laundering charges in Oakland. Rush is accused of using his position "to obtain money and other things" over a five-year period. He is accused of taking kickbacks from an attorney for referring medical marijuana business clients to him and of accepting $550,000 in debt forgiveness from a dispensary operator (who was also acting as an FBI informant at the time). Rush and his attorneys have denied the charges.

Last Friday, a state monopoly medical marijuana initiative was filed. Foes of marijuana reform in the Golden State have filed an initiative that would eliminate private marijuana cultivation and privately-owned dispensaries "in the interest of public safety." They would be replaced by one "state-owned cultivation site," which would supply "state-owned dispensaries." The initiative would also raise the minimum age for patients from 18 to 21. The initiative's proponents include anti-marijuana campaigner the Rev. Ron Allen, Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, and the Take Back America campaign.

On Tuesday, California cops raided an Indian reservation grow operation. Mendocino County sheriff's deputies Tuesday raided a commercial marijuana cultivation operation on the Pinoleville Pomo Nation reservation in Ukiah, cutting down about 400 plants, seizing about 100 pounds of trimmed buds, and an undetermined quantity of cannabis oil. The county maintains the operation is illegal under the state's medical marijuana laws.


Last Friday, dispensaries came a step closer to reality. The state Department of Consumer Protection announced that it has received 19 new applications for dispensaries in response to its June request. Three dispensaries will be selected to operate in New Haven or Fairfield counties.


Last Friday, initiative organizers said they had half a million signatures. The United for Care campaign to put medical marijuana on the ballot last year reports that it has already gathered 500,000 signatures. They need 683,149 valid voter signatures by February 1 to qualify. This is the same group that was behind the 2014 medical marijuana initiative, which garnered 58% of the vote, but came up short because constitutional amendments require 60% to pass.


On Tuesday, a House panel advanced a package of medical marijuana bills. The House Judiciary Committee Tuesday passed a package of bills aimed at legalizing dispensaries and edible forms of medical marijuana. The bills have tighter rules than similar measures that failed last year, and some patient advocates are grumbling. Seed-to-sale tracking is one new addition; an 8% excise tax is another. Now it will be up to the legislature's GOP leadership to advance the bills or not.

New Jersey

On Monday, news came that the state will get a fourth dispensary. The state Department of Health has issued a permit for Compassionate Sciences in Bellmawr. It will becomes the state's fourth dispensary when it opens next month.


On Tuesday, patients and parents demanded action on pending medical marijuana legislation. Supporters of delayed medical marijuana legislation rallied at the state capitol Tuesday to urge solons to act on a pending bill. A bill passed the state Senate in May, and House leaders earlier this summer created a group to draft a version that would pass in the GOP-led chamber. Protestors urged House leaders to just hold a vote on the Senate-passed bill.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More jail guards gone wild, an Arkansas cop led a double life, a Pennsylvania state trooper was stealing drugs from motorists, and more. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, six Philadelphia jail guards were arrested last Wednesday for allegedly smuggling drugs and cell phones into city jails. City jail officials had asked the feds to investigate after seeing an increase in contraband, and the feds set up a sting. Using inmates as informants, the feds set up meeting with the guards, asking them to pick up drugs and phones from friends in exchange for cash payments of $500 to $1,500. The jail guards were not named.

In Baltimore, a state prison guard was arrested last Thursday on charges he tried to smuggle heroin, Oxycontin, and "synthetic marijuana" into the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown. Patrick Merson, 52, faces 11 counts related to trying to smuggle contraband into the prison.

In Dumas, Arkansas, a Dumas police officer was arrested last Thursday on drug conspiracy charges. Officer James Ivory Edgerson, 37, was among six people busted after investigators said they found cocaine and crack cocaine in his car, as well as $16,000 and several guns at his home. He is accused of making several deliveries of marijuana, cocaine, and meth to informants and is looking at up to life in prison. Agents seized 28 ounces of cocaine, an ounce of crack, a pound of pot, five firearms, and $222,000 in cash.

In New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, a Pennsylvania state trooper was arrested last Thursday on charges he stole drugs from people whose cars he pulled over. Trooper Glenn A. Vaughan, 33, went down after the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation received tips that he was pulling over drivers and confiscating their drugs. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance, tampering with evidence, theft, receiving stolen property, obstruction of justice, and misapplication of entrusted property. He is free on his own recognizance and suspended without pay.

In Cleveland, a Warrensville Heights police officer was arrested Tuesday on charges he stole guns, marijuana, and other evidence from the evidence room. Officer Andre Harmon, 54, who worked as an evidence technician, allegedly committed the thefts between 2010 and 2013. He is accused of stealing a handgun, at least two shotguns, and the pot. He is charged with theft in office, tampering with records, and drug possession.

In Chicago, a former Cook County sheriff's officer pleaded guilty last Wednesday to robbing drug dealers and re-selling the drugs. Robert Vaughan, admitted robbing eight drug dealers between 2011 and 2013 in a scheme with two other law enforcement officers. The trio raked in $300,000 from their illicit activities. Vaughan admitted setting up deals with dealers, then arresting them after the transaction, seizing their drugs, then releasing them without charges. He went down in a federal sting and was originally arrested trying to rip off 70 pounds of marijuana from an undercover federal agent.

Chronicle AM: CO Pot Sales Hit Another Record, Bolivia Pres Rejects US Drug Criticism, More (9/15/05)

Another month, another marijuana sales record in Colorado; Toledo votes on ending marijuana possession penalties today; Missouri activists eye a medical marijuana initiative, and more.

They're going to the polls over pot in Toledo today. (Facebook.com/SensibleToledo)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Sets Another Marijuana Sales Record. More than $96 million worth of marijuana was sold in the state's legal marijuana and medical marijuana shops in July, up from the previous record of $85 million in June. Recreational sales were a record $56.4 million, while medical sales were more than $39.8 million. Both figures are records for the legal marijuana era.

Toledo Votes Today on Ending Marijuana Possession Penalties. Voters there will have the chance to approve Issue 1, the "Sensible Marijuana Ordinance" supported by Sensible Toledo. The ordinance would eliminate jail time and fines for possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana. Current municipal ordinances make possession of up to 100 grams a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and possession of up to 200 grams a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Under Ohio state law, possession of up to 100 grams is decriminalized.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Activists Aim at 2016 Medical Marijuana Initiative Instead of Legalization. The activist group Show Me Cannabis has announced it will try to put a medical marijuana initiative -- not a legalization initiative -- on the November 2016 ballot. They will need to come up with 160,000 valid voter signatures by next May to do it.

Las Vegas Dispensary Forced to Close Over Shortages After Test Samples Come Up Dirty. The only dispensary in the city, Euphoria Wellness, was forced to close its doors for almost a week after it ran short on marijuana because too many batches failed state-required contamination tests. The state basically allows no pesticides to be present, and about one-third of samples have failed, mostly over the presence of pesticides, but some for microbial contamination. The dispensary planned to reopen today.

Law Enforcement

Wisconsin GOP Lawmakers File Search Warrant, SWAT Bills. A pair of Republican state lawmakers, Rep. Dean Knudson and Sen. Duey Stroebel, announced today that they have introduced bills that would require police to develop policies for executing no-knock search warrants and require every police department with a SWAT team to report on each call-out and reason for deployment. The bills aren't yet up on the legislative website.


Bolivian President Rejects US Criticism, Calls US Drug Policy "Failed." President Evo Morales rejected the US claim that it had failed to live up to its drug control obligations, saying that the major failure of drug control was the US's war on drugs policy. "I think this [the US designation of Bolivia as not in compliance with anti-drug goals] is a political action by the US State Department. But if we are sincere, the policy of the US is a failure in the fight to control the drug traffic," Morales said. "I could talk of many countries of the world where there is this problem and how it has grown with the presence of the United States. This makes us think that, in truth, they use the struggle against the drug trade for political ends."

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More cops with pill problems and more deputies with ethics problems. Let's get to it:

In Mogadore, Ohio, a Highland Hills police officer was arrested August 12 after a raid by the Summit County Drug Unit recovered large amounts of steroids, as well as oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, Xanax, Adderall, cash, syringes, and three handguns at a residence. The arrest was only announced last week. Anthony Borway, a part-time Highland Hills officer was charged with possession of and trafficking in drugs/anabolic steroids, aggravated drug trafficking, aggravated drug possession, and possession of drug instruments. His girlfriend, a nurse, was also arrested.

In Somerville, Massachusetts, a former Somerville police officer was arrested August 27 on drug and theft charges. Samuel Stanford went down after another officer reported that his service weapon had been stolen from his locker, and an investigation produced video showing Stanford jamming a door with a clock, preventing it from locking, then entering the locker area and leaving minutes later with what appeared to be the missing gun in his pocket. When he was arrested for the weapons theft, police found drugs, ammunition, another handgun, and cash in his home. He was fired from the department for opiate use a month ago and is now charged with possession and intent to distribute oxycodone, as well as the weapons theft charge.

In Jacksonville, Georgia, a Jacksonville sheriff's deputy was arrested last Thursday for helping her son elude police in a major drug investigation. Deputy Betty Pearson, 42, is charged with aiding escape after giving her 20-year-old son the heads up that he and her former husband -- her son's father -- were about to get popped in a bust that netted 70 pounds of cocaine and $479,000 in cash. Junior only got away for a few days, and now mom is out on bail.

In Gainesville, Florida, two former Hall County Sheriff's deputies were sentenced last Friday to federal prison time on corruption charges. David Treadwell, 33, got a year and day after pleading guilty to accepting bribes of $200 and $300 to warn a drug dealer if he was being investigating for marijuana possession, while jailer Austin Herring, 19, got six months for smuggling what he thought was cocaine into the county jail. He copped to attempting to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute after twice accepting $500 to sneak the fake dope into the jail.

Another Handful of Summer Drug War Deaths

The August 19 death of a black St. Louis teenager shot by police executing a drugs and guns search warrant got national attention and sparked local protests, but it was by no means the only drug war-related death in recent weeks.

At least five people have died in the drug war in the past month, bringing the number of people to die in the drug war so far this year to 42.

Most of those deaths went largely unremarked (except for the killing of a Memphis police officer, which sparked predictable outrage), but the killing of black teenager Mansur Ball-Bey by a white St. Louis police officer drew both protests and national concern as yet another example of police violence against black men. The fact that it happened in St. Louis, just minutes away from Ferguson, Missouri, where the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police a year ago sparked violent protests and helped lead to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement, only heightened attention.

According to Reuters, police were executing a search warrant for drugs and guns at a residence when two young men fled out the back door of the home. Police said Ball-Bey, 18, turned and pointed a gun at them, and officers then fired four times, killing him.

Police said Ball-Bey's gun was stolen and that they recovered crack cocaine at the scene.

Local residents didn't buy the police account, and dozens of people quickly blocked a nearby intersection, where police arrested three people. Later that evening, more protesters gathered, with some throwing rocks at police and police responding with tear gas. The protests have continued.

An autopsy showing that Ball-Bey was shot in the back has led to more distrust and suspicion, even though police have offered an explanation, saying that officers were in different locations, and that when Ball-Bey turned toward one officer, he turned away from another one who fired. The killing remains under investigation and intense public scrutiny.

Even though police and investigating prosecutors may be able to justify Ball-Bey's death -- he had a gun, he pointed it at police -- the race of the victim and the shooter made the killing especially combustible. Other drug war deaths deserve similar scrutiny, but they rarely get it. Most of the time there is merely the initial report of the death, typically based on police comments or press releases, then… nothing.

Not all drug war deaths come at the hands of the police -- sometimes, though rarely, they are the victims -- and not all drug war deaths are homicides. Some are accidents. But the bottom line with these drug war deaths is that they would not have happened if we had a more enlightened response to drugs. These are people who have been sacrificed on the altar of drug prohibition.

Here are the others who died in the drug war in the past month:

  • In Midland, Texas, a teenage mother died on July 29 after swallowing four grams of methamphetamine during a traffic stop in a bid to protect her boyfriend, the father of her infant son. According to News West 9, Sandy Brooke Franklin, 18, and Zane Paul O'Neal, 22, were pulled over by Midland Police, and O'Neal, who was on probation, told her to swallow the drugs. She did, but ended up going to jail anyway over two traffic warrants. While in jail, she did not reveal that she had swallowed the drugs, but 36 hours later, guards noticed she was unwell. Only then did she admit ingesting the meth, but it was too late -- she died in the hospital.
  • In Memphis, a Memphis police officer was shot and killed after interrupting a small-time marijuana deal on August 1. Officer Sean Bolton had approached a parked vehicle, when a passenger got out and fought with Bolton, then shot him. Police later found 1.7 grams of marijuana and a set of scales in the car. Police said they normally wouldn't even arrest someone for that tiny amount of pot, but the accused shooter, Tremaine Wilbourne, was on parole and likely would have been jailed.
  • Near Chinook Pass, Washington, a state trooper died on August 6 while investigating a reported marijuana grow. According to the Yakima Herald-Republic, Detective Brent Hanger, 47, an undercover agent on a statewide drug task force was following a tip near the mile-high pass when he "suffered a medical condition and died." He had complained of chest pains and shortness of breath before collapsing. No word on whether they ever found that pot garden.
  • In Hobbs, New Mexico, a fugitive drug suspect was shot and killed by Lea County Drug Task Force officers on August 12. According to the Hobbs News-Sun, William "Wild Bill" Smith had been on the run since a drug raid the previous week and was killed after a high-speed chase. He was a passenger in the vehicle. A week later, the New Mexico State Police provided an update on the case, which added little information except to say that "a firearm was located in the immediate area of Mr. Smith." The State Police said the investigation was ongoing.
  • In North East, Maryland, a man on probation with a history of drug offenses and drugs in his vehicle was shot and killed as he struggled with a state trooper on August 21. According to Baltimore's CBS Local News, Charles Hall, 30, was in a Walmart parking lot when he was spotted by the trooper, who attempted to place him under arrest. "… The man refused to submit, resisted, and a physical altercation began between the wanted person and the trooper. This actually moved to the driver's side of the suspect's vehicle, a physical struggle was going on, the suspect was able to get his key into the ignition, get the vehicle started," Maryland State Police spokesperson Greg Shipley explained. "So the trooper during this struggle as the vehicle was accelerating fired his department issued pistol and fatally wounded this individual." AlterNet ran a story on this incident last week that included video of Hall's wife screaming "He wasn't fucking armed!" in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

Since Drug War Chronicle started tracking these deaths in 2011, they have averaged about one a week or 50 a year. But this year, we're already up to 42.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More jail guards in trouble, a DEA agent gets popped for child porn, and a Mississippi cop gets fired after getting caught in a major marijuana deal. Let's get to it:

In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a Hattiesburg police officer was fired last Wednesday amid allegations he is a target of a state and federal drug investigation. Officer Thomas Wheeler got canned after he was caught making a 600-pound marijuana deal earlier this month. Wheeler has yet to be charged, and his case will likely go before a grand jury in October.

In McAllen, Texas, a DEA special agent was arrested last Friday on child porn charges. Special Agent James Patrick Burke had been the subject of a February raid in which FBI agents seized his laptop and discovered he was viewing and downloading child pornography. It's not clear exactly what he's been charged with, but he's now on administrative leave from the DEA.

In Mobile, Alabama, a Mobile County jail guard was arrested Tuesday for allegedly selling drugs. David John Black Jr. is charged with four counts of distribution of marijuana, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The Mobile County Sheriff's Office said there was no evidence he was dealing drugs at the jail.

In Memphis, four Shelby County jail deputies pleaded guilty last Thursday to trying to smuggle prescription drugs into the jail. Torriano Vaughn, Brian Grammer, Anthony Thomas and Marcus Green had participated in a scheme to smuggle what they thought were OxyContin pills into Shelby County Jail on multiple occasions between May and December 2014. But it was a sting, and the four have now pleaded guilty to attempted possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. They're looking at up to 20 years.

Chronicle AM: First Las Vegas MedMJ Shop, Peru Restarting Drug Plane Shootdowns, More (8/21/2015)

A Wisconsin tribe moves toward legal marijuana, Oakland's effort to back the Harborside dispensary gets shot down in federal court, Peru wants to shoot down drug planes again, both major Kentucky governor candidates want to drug test welfare recipients, and more.

Peru claims a ton a day of cocaine is being flown out of the country. (gob.es)
Marijuana Policy

California NAACP Files Legalization Initiative. The civil rights group has filed the Community Act to Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis, the latest addition to the growing list of legalization initiatives filed in the state. Reports are that the initiative is not designed to compete with the still long-awaited proposal from ReformCA, of which the California NAACP is a member, but to submit model language in support of the broader effort. The initiative would legalize up to an ounce and allow personal grows of up to 25 square feet, as well as allow marijuana commerce.

Wisconsin's Menominee Tribe Votes to Legalize Marijuana on Reservation. Tribal members overwhelmingly approved two advisory questions on whether the tribe should legalize marijuana on its reservation. Recreational marijuana was approved 677 to 499, while medical marijuana was approved 899 to 275. The matter now goes to the tribal legislature, which, given the vote, will likely approve ordinances allowing for marijuana.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Appeals Court Rejects City of Oakland Lawsuit Backing Harborside Dispensary. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling dismissing Oakland's lawsuit against the Justice Department and the Northern California US Attorney's office. The city had argued that closing the dispensary would deprive it of tax revenues and increase crime by creating a black market for marijuana. Then-US Attorney Melinda Haag moved in 2012 to seize Harborside, claiming it violated federal law by selling medical marijuana. The case continues even though the Justice Department has since said it generally wouldn't interfere with state marijuana laws.

First Las Vegas Dispensary Set to Open Monday. A spokesman for Euphoria Wellness said Thursday the dispensary had won final state and county approvals this week and would open for business Monday. It will be the first dispensary in Clark County. The first dispensary in the state opened last month in the Reno suburb of Sparks.

Drug Testing

Both Major Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidates Want to Do Welfare Drug Testing. Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway has joined Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin in calling for drug testing of some welfare recipients. "I don't want to see our tax dollars going to support drug addiction," Conway, the Democratic front-runner, said Thursday. But Conway called for suspicion-based drug testing, while Bevins called for random testing, and Conway rejects drug testing Medicare recipients, while Bevins is for it.


Peruvian Congress Approves Shooting Down Suspected Drug Planes. The Congress voted unanimously Thursday to allow military planes to shoot down suspected drug flights. Drug-fighting President Ollanta Humala is expected to sign the bill. Peru claims a ton of cocaine a day is flown to Bolivia. Peru used to shoot down drug planes, but stopped after one of its pilots in a CIA-run program shot down a small plane carrying US missionaries, killing US citizen Roni Bowers and her infant daughter, Charity.

Russia Threatens to Ban Wikipedia Over Drug "How To" Entry. Russia's online censor, Roskomnadzor, says it will ban the entire website from Russia unless it removes or blocks access to an article about how to make a marijuana preparation. The censor has also recently gone after Reddit and YouTube over similar postings. Click on the link for more.

Canada's NDP Would Decriminalize Marijuana "Right Away." New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair said Thursday that "the NDP's position is decriminalization the moment we form a government" and that "it's something we can do right away." The NDP is leading most polls in the elections set for October. The Liberals under Justin Trudeau have called for outright legalization, but they're polling third, behind the Conservatives, who have taken a hard line opposing any moves at drug liberalization.

Dusseldorf Moves Forward on Legal Marijuana Sales Plan. Councilors in the German city Wednesday approved a pilot project to sell marijuana to adults. The move was a joint effort by the three parties that form the city's governing coalition, the Social Democrats, the Free Democrats, and the Greens. A similar move is afoot in Berlin, Germany's largest city, where councilors in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district applied for a marijuana license in June.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays 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.)

Drug War Issues

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