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Schumer Wants to Ban Synthetic "Bath Salts" Drugs

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) told the Associated Press Saturday that he wants the federal government to criminalize the new synthetic stimulant drugs mephedrone and MPDV (methylenedioxypyrovalerone). Although he said he was announcing a bill Sunday, it had yet to be filed as of Monday afternoon.

mephedrone ad (image via Wikimedia)
Marketed as "bath salts" under brand names including Ivory Wave, Zoom, and White Lightning, and sold in head shops, convenience stores, and corner gas stations across the land, as well as on the Internet, the drugs have effects on users similar to those of cocaine or amphetamines.

The substances are already banned by emergency action in three states -- Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi -- and similar actions are likely in other states. Alarm-raising press reports are typically followed by hasty administrative or legislative action at the state house.

Now, Sen. Schumer wants to ban the substances nationwide. The bath salts "contain ingredients that are nothing more than legally sanctioned narcotics," he said.

The DEA is aware of the bath salts drugs and have them listed as drugs of concern, but it has so far not moved to enact a ban.

Drug War Chronicle has been following the mephedrone story for the past year. Read our recent overview here.

Washington, DC
United States

The Drug Prohibition Related War on Cold Medicine Isn't Working (Opinion)

Jim Hightower, the best-selling author of "Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow," opines on the drug prohibitionists' war against pseudoephedrine. He says restricting its sale has created a very lucrative black market for the pills, luring thousands of new peddlers, hustlers and opportunists into the illicit meth underworld.
Publication/Source: 
The Colorado Springs Independent Newsweekly (CO)
URL: 
http://www.csindy.com/colorado/the-war-on-cold-medicine-isnt-working/Content?oid=2024366

Sessions Should Re-Think Marijuana Policy (Opinion)

Location: 
AL
United States
Columnist Ron Crumpton exposes and discusses Senator Jeff Sessions' antiquated and unscientific approach to marijuana policy.
Publication/Source: 
The Kaleidoscope (AL)
URL: 
http://www.uab.edu/kscope/kaleidoscope-article-3017.html

Senate Unanimously Confirms Leonhart as DEA Head

The US Senate December 22 unanimously confirmed Michele Leonhart as DEA adminstrator. Leonhart, a long-time DEA veteran, had served as acting administrator since late in the Bush administration and was nominated to head the agency by the Obama administration.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/mleonhart.jpg
Michele Leonhart
Drug reformers and concerned others had attempted last this year to block her nomination, citing her supervision of numerous raids on medical marijuana providers when she was Special Agent in Chief in Los Angeles, her refusal to allow a Massachusetts academic permission to grow marijuana for research purposes, and her unsavory relationship with former DEA "supersnitch" Andrew Chambers.

But those efforts got no traction in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where senators failed to ask a single tough question raised by reformers. The only flak Leonhart got in the committee was from Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Herb Kohl (D-WI), who complained about strict DEA drug diversion programs that made it difficult for seniors in nursing homes to receive pain medications in a prompt and timely fashion.

Kohl went so far as to announce a hold on her nomination to block a floor vote because of the issue, but although Leonhart refused during her confirmation hearing to tell him when the DEA would respond on the issue, Kohl lifted the hold before the vote, allowing her confirmation to go ahead.

Washington, DC
United States

Last Chance for Prison Reform (Action Alert)

SSDP Action Alert

Tell Congress to pass the National Criminal Justice Commission Act!
Act now!

Dear Friends,

With the current session of Congress winding down, there isn't much time left to reform our broken criminal justice system.  So we've got to act now if we hope to achieve prison reform any time soon.

Senate Bill 714 will establish a National Criminal Justice Commission to "undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system ... and make reform recommendations for the President."  

I think we can all agree that such an evaluation is sorely needed.  The United States has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world, imprisoning a higher percentage of its population than any other country.  Our incarceration rate is five times the world's average incarceration rate, with a total of 2,380,000 people locked up.  

Please take time today to urge your senators to support Senate Bill 714. For your convenience, a prewritten letter will be e-mailed to your member of Congress when you take action through this page.

Your calls & letters to Congress have gotten us this far!  Please keep pushing! 

Sincerely,
Aaron Houston
Executive Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy

P.S.Appreciate our work?  Take a moment to support SSDP with a tax deductible end-of-the-year gift today. 

Connect with SSDP

 

Senators Introduce Bill to Create Western Hemisphere Drug Commission

US Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Dick Lugar (R-IN) last Wednesday introduced a bill that would create an independent commission to evaluate US policies and programs aimed at reducing the supply of and demand for illegal drugs in the Americas. Similar legislation sponsored by Reps. Elliot Engel (D-NY) and Connie Mack (R-FL) passed the House one year to the day earlier.

The bill, the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2010, also known as SB 4001, would also require that the commission recommend a multiyear anti-drug strategy to address what the members called "the escalating security crisis in the hemisphere fueled by the illicit narcotics trade." That strategy will "describe the assistance required to achieve regional counternarcotics goals and methodology for countering shifts in production and transit routes by producers and traffickers due to pressure from counternarcotics efforts."

The 10-member commission would consist of two members appointed by the executive branch and eight members appointed by the congressional leadership.

If the comments of Sens. Menendez and Lugar below are any indication, the commission's charge will not be to come up with an alternative to drug prohibition, but to find more effective means of prosecuting the drug war.

"While we have had some notable successes in the hemisphere, the plague of narcotics and organized crime has surged in Mexico and Central America and remains an intractable problem in much of the rest of the region," said Sen. Menendez on introducing the bill. "It is imperative that we assess our efforts at home and aboard to determine where we are succeeding and where we are not.  Despite the billions of dollars spent on counternarcotics efforts in the Western Hemisphere, hard data proves that the positive results have been limited and that we still face a very real challenge. We need a comprehensive and smart policy that looks at both the supply and demand side of the issue -- domestic prevention and treatment programs, as well as a long-term multi-year counternarcotics strategy -- and that ultimately succeeds in turning around this epidemic of drugs and crime that is destroying families, communities, and undermining the rule of law both at home and abroad."

"Though we still have a long way to go, it is clear that efforts to fight the common threat posed to the hemisphere by drug traffickers and organized crime are showing some positive results. It is also clear that many of these efforts should be strengthened," said Sen. Lugar. "As the creation of this commission suggests, the United States should undertake a broad review of further steps to determine what is working and reassess the implementation of those policies that are not. I am especially interested in efforts to bolster the role of the US military and the intelligence community to help combat cartels headquartered in Mexico with reach in Central American countries, Venezuela and throughout the region. New approaches might include ways to jointly deploy aviation, surveillance and intelligence assets where necessary. Ultimate victory in this war will require improving capabilities, adapting tactics to counter threats by cartels and building closer partnerships with the hemisphere’s willing governments," Lugar concluded.

The US government has poured tens of billions of dollars into fighting the hemispheric war on drugs in recent decades, but has little to show for it. After a decade of Plan Colombia and the expenditure of $7 billion, the US can point to reductions in coca production there (although some of it has simply moved to Peru, which is now arguably the world's number one producer). After three years of Plan Merida and the expenditure of $1.4 billion, prohibition-related violence in Mexico is worse than ever.

Washington, DC
United States

U.S. House Expected to Pass Resolution Today Calling for New Marijuana Strategy (Press Release)

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

DECEMBER 8, 2010

U.S. House Expected to Pass Resolution Today Calling for New Marijuana Strategy

Rep. Jared Polis, MPP Say It’s Time to End “Failed” Marijuana Prohibition, Regulate Marijuana Industry to Combat Drug Traffickers

CONTACT: Mike Meno, MPP director of communications: 202-905-2030, 443-927-6400 or mmeno@mpp.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass a resolution today declaring illegal marijuana cultivation on federal lands to be an “unacceptable threat to the safety of law enforcement and the public,” and calling upon the nation’s drug czar “to work in conjunction with Federal and State agencies to develop a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to permanently dismantle Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating on Federal lands.”

            Speaking on the House floor yesterday, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) agreed with the goals of H. Res. 1540, but said the only way to accomplish such objectives would be to eliminate “the failed policy of prohibition with regard to marijuana and replac[e] it with regulation.” 

            “I have no doubt that marijuana plantations, as the resolution states, pose a threat to the environmental health of Federal lands, that drug traffickers spray unregulated chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers, but I submit that the best way to address that is to incorporate this into a meaningful and enforceable agricultural policy for the country with regard to the regulatory structure for the production of marijuana,” said Polis, whose home state of Colorado has emerged as a national leader in the regulation of medical marijuana. “… As long as [marijuana] remains illegal and as long as there is a market demand, the production will be driven underground. No matter how much we throw at enforcement, it will continue to be a threat not only to our Federal lands, but to our border security and to our safety within our country.”

            Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, today joined Rep. Polis in endorsing the underlying rationale of the resolution and suggesting that accomplishing the goals detailed in legislation will require an entirely new strategy by the federal government.

            “Passage of this resolution will send a clear message to the drug czar and others that our current strategies for combating illegal marijuana production are not working and that a new direction is needed,” Fox said. “There are two choices here: continue the failed prohibitionist policies that encourage Mexican drug cartels to keep growing marijuana on federal lands, or embrace a new path that would acknowledge the reality that marijuana is not going away, but its production and sale can be sensibly regulated in order to reduce the harm caused by its illicit production on federal lands.” 

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

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U.S. House Passes Bill on Drug Cartels Growing Marijuana in National Parks, Cops and Border Patrol Agents Say the Only Real Solution is Marijuana Legalization (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 7, 2010

CONTACT: Tom Angell at (202) 557-4979 or media@leap.cc

U.S. House Passes Bill on Drug Cartels Growing Marijuana in National Parks

Cops and Border Patrol Agents Say the Only Real Solution is Marijuana Legalization

WASHINGTON, DC --  The U.S. House passed a bill today directing the White House drug czar's office to develop a plan for stopping Mexican drug cartels from growing marijuana in U.S. national parks.  A group of police officers and judges who fought on the front lines of the "war on drugs" is pointing out that the only way to actually end the violence and environmental destruction associated with these illicit grows is to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade.

"No matter how many grow operations are eradicated or cartel leaders are arrested, there will always be more people willing to take the risk to earn huge profits in the black market for marijuana," said Richard Newton, a former U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who is now a speaker for the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "My years of experience in federal drug enforcement tells me that only when we legalize and regulate marijuana will we put a stop to this madness.  After all, you don't see too many Mexican wine cartels growing grapes in our national parks, and that's because alcohol is legal."

The bill, H. Res. 1540, which was passed by the House via voice vote, points out many of the harms of the current prohibition policy that leads to drug cartels growing marijuana in U.S. national parks, including that

* drug traffickers spray considerable quantities of unregulated chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers; 

* drug traffickers divert streams and other waterways to construct complex irrigation systems;

* it costs the Federal Government $11,000 to restore one acre of forest on which marijuana is being cultivated;

* drug traffickers place booby traps that contain live shotgun shells on marijuana plantations;

* on October 8, 2000, an 8-year-old boy and his father were shot by drug traffickers while hunting in El Dorado National Forest;

* on June 16, 2009, law enforcement officers with the Lassen County Sheriff's Department were wounded by gunfire from drug traffickers during the investigation of a marijuana plantation on Bureau of Land Management property; and

* Mexican drug traffickers use the revenue generated from marijuana production on Federal lands to support criminal activities, including human trafficking and illicit weapons smuggling, and to foster political unrest in Mexico.

The bill points out that law enforcement efforts to date have only brought about "short-lived successes in combating marijuana production on Federal lands" but offers no suggestions for solutions that would actually hurt the cartels in the long-term.  The law enforcement officials at LEAP believe that legalization is the only long-term solution, and if the bill is enacted into law they will be working to make sure that the White House drug czar's office seriously weighs ending prohibition as part of the strategy called for by the legislation.

The full text of the bill can be found at: <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.RES.1540:>

Speaking on the floor today, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), said the bill "serves to perpetuate this failed policy of prohibition which has led to rise of criminal production of marijuana on federal lands."

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. More info at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.

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You Did It (Action Alert)

We Are the Drug Policy Alliance.

Senate leadership is sitting on a bill that would pave the way for criminal justice and drug policy reforms. Urge your Senators to support this bill!

Take Action!

Email Your Senators

Dear friends,

Thanks so much for your emails and phone calls to the U.S. Senate! We're very close to creating an independent commission to urge Congress and President Obama to reduce incarceration and improve public safety. This commission is a great opportunity to put the failed war on drugs on trial. I'm optimistic we can finally make this happen, but we need your help again.

Please contact your Senators today before Congress adjourns for the year. Tell them to pressure Senate leadership to pass the National Criminal Justice Commission Act.

If we can get this commission established, we hope to force Congress and the President to consider important ideas like making marijuana legal, treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue, and eliminating failed drug war programs that waste taxpayer money.

Senator Jim Webb (D-Va) and others have a plan to pass the bill, but in order for the plan to work we need to show enormous support. The best thing you can do is email your Senators. And then forward this email to friends and family.Please contact your Senators now and help pass this critical legislation. Together we can march this bill over the finish line. We're very close.

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance

Senator to Place Floor Hold on DEA Nominee Leonhart

The nomination of acting DEA administrator Michele Leonhart was passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last Wednesday, but Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) said he intended to put a hold on her nomination on the Senate floor because of concerns over access to pain medications by nursing home residents. (Watch the hearing here; go to the 43:20 mark.)

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/mleonhart.jpg
Michele Leonhart
"I have continuing concerns about her nomination," Kohl told the committee. "I'm not going to hold her up here today, but I do intend to hold her nomination up on the Senate floor until we make more progress on our goal of ensuring nursing home residents get timely access to the prescription drug care that they need. The most recent suggestions we received from the Department of Justice require waiting for all 50 states to take action. That's not acceptable.  Everyday nursing home patients continue to suffer from agonizing pain, so we need to get a solution to this problem of getting them the prescriptions drugs they need to alleviate this pain when they need it, which is not happening today."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) also used the Judiciary Committee executive session to criticize the DEA. "DEA has been a real impediment to providing needed comfort and relief to seniors in nursing homes and far too bureaucratic," he said. "The agency has also been a real impediment to the expansion of e-prescribing -- only under real pressure have they tried to accommodate our very important concerns about developing the health infrastructure. I look forward to stronger signals from the DEA that they will take these concerns seriously."

"I suspect these comments will be heard loud and clear," said committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), before calling a vote on Leonhart's nomination.

Leonhart is strongly opposed by the drug reform and medical marijuana communities, which had urged senators to ask her tough questions about DEA raids on medical marijuana providers, her refusal to approve a Massachusetts researcher's request for permission to grow his own marijuana, and other grounds. None of the senators actually did ask about those issues during her confirmation hearings last month, although the senior pain relief issue was also aired then.

Washington, DC
United States

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