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Mixed Result in Hurwitz Case

See NYT's John Tierney's initial post-Hurwitz trial blog post. Not the result we were hoping for by any means. On the other hand, the last time was far worse, and according to eyewitness accounts the prosecutors seemed really disappointed too. Judge Brinkema has the power to give a much less draconian sentence or even time served, and her handling of the case seemed pretty reasonable; we'll find out in July what she decides.
United States

Pleas won't end probe of Atlanta police

Atlanta, GA
United States
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Reuters Admits Flawed Marijuana Reporting

Given ONDCP's ongoing claims of 20-30 fold increases in marijuana potency, yesterday's announcement that potency has merely doubled feels more like a concession than the latest drug war scare tactic. Yet thanks to lazy reporting, this lukewarm story became the next great threat to public safety.

From Associated Press:
The government estimates that 4.1 million Americans use marijuana. Use by teenagers has declined recently, but federal officials worry that marijuana is being cited more often in emergency room visits.
From Reuters:
The marijuana being sold across the United States is stronger than ever, which could explain a growing number of medical emergencies that involve the drug, say government drug experts.

Neither story explained the concept of "emergency room mentions" from which these claims were derived. And these two reports were republished in major papers everywhere from Dallas to Sydney.

Importantly, people who mentioned marijuana to doctors weren't in most -- if any -- cases directly injured by it. Upon admission to the emergency room, you're instructed to report any drugs in your system in case they could interfere with your treatment (and it's really not marijuana they're worried about). Patients who mention marijuana include everyone from heroin users to gunshot victims to various people who fell and couldn't get up.

Marijuana is growing in popularity as a medicine, which could also help explain why sick people report having used it.

Fortunately, thanks to incredulous readers, Reuters was forced to clarify:

Lots and lots of readers asked for examples of these emergencies. We updated the story with an explanation which should have been made clear from the start, that medical emergency "means that the patient mentioned using marijuana and does not mean the drug directly caused the accident or condition being treated."

Is it any wonder that readers were confused? Statements such as "marijuana is being cited more often in emergency room visits" or "a growing number of medical emergencies that involve the drug" clearly imply that marijuana caused or contributed to the patient's hospitalization. That was ONDCP's intention, passed along uncritically by Reuters and AP with the inevitable effect of confusing the public.*

Like many things you read in an ONDCP press release, the statement on emergency room visits was so misleading that it becomes false if you change any of the words. "Mentioned" is simply not the same as "involved." Thus the media reports became more misleading than the press release they were based on, which was pretty bad to begin with.

Even when properly explained, "emergency room mentions" remain a vague and ultimately unhelpful measure upon which to base alarmist claims. ONDCP's reliance on such tenuous, circumstantial evidence speaks to the credibility of their position on marijuana policy in general.

*Reuters made a partial correction, but AP has not. Contact them here.

United States

2 Plead Guilty In Police Drug Raid Death

Atlanta, GA
United States
CBS News

U.S. estimates find no Bolivian coca increase under Morales

La Paz
San Diego Union-Tribune

Court Asked to Revive Challenge to Student Loan Restrictions

Pierre, SD
United States
Sioux City Journal

Feature: Drug Czar Reluctantly Admits Cocaine Prices Have Dropped in Quietly Released Report

On Monday, the US Coast Guard unloaded nearly 20 tons of cocaine it had seized last month off the coast of Central America, the largest maritime drug bust in US history. Will it make any difference? Not if the history of US cocaine interdiction efforts is any indication.

Two years ago, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), John Walters, proudly announced that interdiction and eradication efforts were working based on a rise in cocaine prices. But in a just-released study, "Connecting the Dots: ONDCP's (Reluctant) Update on Cocaine Price and Purity," the Washington Office on Latin America's (WOLA) John Walsh reports that Walters' loudly announced price increase was only a blip that has since been reversed. Unlike his earlier announcement, Walters has not trumpeted these findings.

Among the key points in the report:

  • Preliminary US government data, quietly disclosed by ONDCP, indicate that cocaine's price per pure gram on US streets fell in 2006, while its purity increased. (Increasing purity effectively constitutes an additional price decrease.)
  • These latest estimates, continuing a 25-year trend, suggest that cocaine supplies are stable or even increasing.
  • This is so despite $31 billion spent on drug interdiction and crop control efforts since 1997, including $5.4 billion spent in Colombia -- the source of 90 percent of cocaine in the United States -- since "Plan Colombia" began in 2000.
  • The updated cocaine data fully reverse a short-lived price increase that the White House drug czar's office heralded in late 2005. That rise in prices and decline in purity, which received much media attention at the time, proved to be a less than impressive fluctuation, as skeptics at the time suggested would be the case.
  • The available evidence indicates that cocaine's continued low and falling prices are driven largely by ongoing robust cocaine supply, rather than by a slackening or collapse in demand.
  • The new cocaine price and purity estimates offer further evidence that the continued US emphasis on forced crop eradication, with "Plan Colombia" as its most visible and costly centerpiece, has failed to affect drug supplies at home.

America's supply-side efforts to reduce cocaine use by stopping it from getting to the US have failed. Or, as Walsh put it: "A perennial goal of US anti-drug policy has been to disrupt supplies enough to constrain availability... this effort, however, has consistently failed to achieve lasting increases in drug prices or reductions in drug purity levels. Rather, cocaine prices have been in general decline since 1982. And according to new estimates, which the White House drug czar's office quietly provided to a US senator in January, this decline continued apace in 2006."

And while Walters and his fellow drug warriors are always promising that progress is just around the next corner, the annual Drug Threat Assessments from the National Drug Intelligence Center show that little changes:

  • April 2004: "Both powder and crack cocaine are readily available throughout the country and overall availability appears to be stable."
  • January 2005: "Key indicators of domestic cocaine availability show stable or slightly increased availability in drug markets throughout the country..."
  • January 2006: "Cocaine is widely available throughout most of the nation, and cocaine supplies are relatively stable at levels sufficient to meet current user demand."
  • October 2006: Despite record levels of cocaine lost or seized in transit toward the United States, "there have been no sustained cocaine shortages or indications of stretched supplies in domestic drug markets."

Purity-adjusted cocaine price chart, prepared for ONDCP by the RAND Corporation. (See the WOLA report for full-size version.)
"It's way past time to bring our expectations for this kind of drug control policy in line with reality," Walsh told Drug War Chronicle. "That reality is that the record makes clear it is extremely difficult to drive up prices for any length of time. We need to put the supply control effort in proper perspective: Even if in its best case scenario, it is preventing cocaine from being much more readily available, it is marginal to the real issue, which is the question of demand and the consequences of drug use."

As Walsh shows in great detail in the report, ONDCP suppresses the cocaine price and purity numbers that hurt it politically and trumpets those that support its claims. That's no surprise to Matt Robinson, professor of criminal justice at Appalachian State University and co-author of Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

"This is more of the same from ONDCP; it's not surprising at all, although it's very disappointing," said Robinson. "What we showed in our book is that they selectively choose and present statistics that support their case and they ignore or downplay statistics that don't support their case, and that's what this report shows them doing as well," he told the Chronicle.

coca eradication operation
Robinson also noted that when Walters trumpeted a blip upward in cocaine prices in 2005, ONDCP was up to its old trick of cherry-picking short-term data that supported its case while ignoring the overall trend over time. "Once again, we see a very short-term focus on a specific time period while ignoring long-term trends. That's exactly what we found historically."

"Unfortunately, this is not a surprise, more like par for the course. As we found several times looking at ONDCP over several years, this is a real typical pattern," said Renee Scherlen, professor of political science at Appalachian State and Robinson's coauthor. "In the present case, ONDCP chose to look at a snippet that doesn't really reflect a trend."

Academics and analysts aren't the only critics of ONDCP's "truthiness," to cite a term coined by Steven Colbert. Also skeptical is Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who wrote Walters a year ago asking for clarification of his claims. ONDCP may be making selective use of statistics to "provide a rosier but not necessarily more accurate picture of the current situation." Grassley is still un-persuaded despite further correspondence with ONDCP. "When it comes to statistics, I think it's fair to say they cook the books," Sen. Grassley told National Public Radio in a recent interview. "They use whatever statistics fit their public relations program."

coca seedlings
The cure for ONDCP's mendacity lies with Congress, said Robinson. "The simplest thing is for Congress to hold them accountable," he said. "Congress could mandate annual performance evaluations, but it doesn't. Congress has a chance to reauthorize ONDCP every five years or so, and that could be another occasion, but Congress doesn't have to wait for that," he said.

"The idea of holding congressional hearings and asking for them to be held accountable through oversight is one path to follow," Scherlen concurred. "To analyze policy, we have to have accurate information. We want to know what works and what doesn't. You don't have to oppose the war on drugs to request that we have good information and that ONDCP present data that is truthful."

Vote Hemp Press Release: Eleven Farming States Introduce Hemp Legislation in 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 CONTACT: Adam Eidinger T: 202-744-2671, E: adam@votehemp.com or Tom Murphy T: 207-542-4998, E: tom@votehemp.com Eleven Farming States Introduce Hemp Legislation in 2007 Bills Change State Law to Allow Hemp Farming, Allow for Studies, and/or Resolutions Urging Action from DEA and Congress WASHINGTON, DC – Vote Hemp, the nation’s leading grassroots organization working to give farmers the right to grow non-psychoactive industrial hemp to be made into everything from food, clothing, paper, body care, bio-fuel and even auto parts, is pleased by the progress of hemp bills on the state level so far in 2007. The states that have introduced industrial hemp bills this legislative season are: California, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin. North Dakota leads the pack with five bills introduced in 2007, with two of the five, SB 2099 and HB 1490, having been signed by Gov. John Hoeven. Two of the bills were resolutions urging Congress to recognize the multiple benefits of industrial hemp and to direct DEA to differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana. The fifth bill, HB 1020, has passed both the House and Senate and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. California’s hemp farming bill, AB 684 has passed through two Assembly committees on its course to a floor vote. HB 1535, the hemp farming bill in Hawaii is in three committees and will be carried over to the next legislative session. Idaho’s resolution asking the U.S. Congress to legalize hemp farming was killed in the House Agricultural Affairs Committee earlier this year without gaining a bill number. New Hampshire hemp farming bill, HB 424, passed the House on a 190-76 vote earlier this month and had a hearing in the Senate Commerce, Labor and Consumer Protection Committee this week. New Mexico passed a hemp study memorial and Congressional resolution, HM 49, with an overwhelming 59-2 vote in the House. Minnesota had a hemp farming bill, HF 2168, introduced late last month and has been referred to the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs committee. South Carolina study bill, H 3305, was introduced in January and is stalled in the House Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs. In Oregon there is SB 348 which would allow farmers to grow hemp under state rules. Vermont’s hemp farming bill, H 267, is in the House Agriculture Committee and hearings will take place this week. Wisconsin’s hemp study bill, AB 146, just had a successful hearing last week in the Assembly Rural Economic Development committee. All state hemp bills and resolutions introduced since 1995 are listed in the chart at http://www.votehemp.com/state.html. H.R. 1009, the "Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007," was introduced in Congress in January. The bill excludes industrial hemp from the definition of "marihuana" in the Controlled Substances Act and gives states the exclusive authority to regulate the growing and processing of industrial hemp under state law. The full text of H.R. 1009, Rep. Paul's House floor comments, and the CRS Report "Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity" can all be read at http://www.votehemp.com/federal.html. “Under the current national drug control policy, industrial hemp can be imported, but it can’t be grown by American farmers,” says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “The DEA has taken the Controlled Substances Act’s antiquated definition of marijuana out of context and used it as an excuse to block industrial hemp farming. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007 will bring us back to more rational times when the government regulated marijuana, but told farmers they could go ahead and continue raising hemp just as they always had,” says Mr. Steenstra. # # #
United States

Drug Policy Forum of Kansas: Action Alert April 25, 2007

Take Action! - Help Repeal Higher Education Act Drug Provision Take Action! - Ask Congress to Allow Medical Marijuana Research Take Action! - Support Second Chance Act for Drug Offenders ACLU Forum: Wakarusa '07 - Privacy Rights in Public Places Today, April 25, 2007, at the Lawrence Public Library, 7pm. Panelist include, DPFKS Executive Director Laura Green, Charles Branson, DG County DA, Skip Griffey, DG County Bar Association, and Lt. Kari Wempe, DG County Sheriff's Office. Wakarusa Music Festival Volunteer Sign-up DPFKS members interested in volunteering to work a few hours a day at the Wakarusa Music Festival should send go to the web site and click on Frequently Asked Questions for more information. The festival takes place June 7-10 at Clinton State Park outside of Lawrence. Next Volunteer Meeting April 28, 1 p.m. at the DPFKS offices, 941 Kentucky Street, Lawrence, first floor. We will discuss plans for the booths at Wakarusa Music Festival. Tell Senator Pat Roberts to REPEAL THE HEA DRUG PROVISION! The Higher Education Act Reauthorization bill being considered by the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee of which Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is a member. Repealing the Aid Elimination Penalty, also known as the "Drug Provision" would reinstate aid to aspiring students by removing the confusing drug conviction question from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, as recommended by Congress's own Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. Read our policy paper for more information on the HEA drug provision. In a letter to committee chair Senator Kennedy, the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas, along with more than 335 organizations around the country have called for a full repeal of the provision. Read the text of the letter on the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR) website. What you can do: Call Senator Roberts and tell him: The Higher Education Act Drug Provision harms otherwise well performing students in Kansas and should be repealed by his committee. Senator Robert's office number is 202-224-4774. Alternatively, you can send a form letter to Senator Roberts from the CHEAR website. DEA Resisting Own Recommendation to Allow Medical Marijuana Research! The DEA's own administrative law judge ruled last month that marijuana could be grown at the University of Massachusetts so it could be provided for legitimate medical research. (For more information on the ruling, go to the web site, http://www.maps.org/) So far DEA Chief, Karen Tandy, has not allowed the recommendation to go forward. A sign-on letter is being distributed to members of Congress urging Administrator Tandy to allow the marijuana to be grown and distributed to licensed researchers, so the confusion surrounding marijuana's benefits as a medicine can finally be settled. What you can do: Call your Representive and tell them: Please sign on to the letter Sponsored by Rep. John Olver (pron. Ol-ver) urging the DEA to allow marijuana to be grown for medical research! Rep. Boyda: 202-225-6601 Rep. Moore: 202-225-2865 Rep. Moran: 202-225-2715 Rep. Tiahrt: 202-225-6216 Don't know who your Representative is? http://www.house.gov/writerep/ Give Formerly Incarcerated Drug Offenders a Chance! From Kansas Families Against Mandatory Minimums: The Second Chance Act of 2007 has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and is moving quickly through the legislative process. Show your support for formerly incarcerated people by supporting these bills! Among other things, the Second Chance Act would provide reentry funding on the state and local level to support the needs of formerly incarcerated people for housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment, education, employment and rebuilding family and community ties. Every year, approximately 650,000 people leave prison unprepared for the transition into society. It is no surprise that nearly two-thirds of them will be rearrested within three years. They deserve a better second chance, and H.R. 1593 and S. 1060 will help give them that. Next Volunteer Meeting Saturday, April 28, 1 p.m. at the DPFKS offices at 941 Kentucky Street, Lawrence, KS 785-841-8278 for more information. Won't you help us research and promote cost effective drug policies in Kansas by sending your tax-deductible donation today? Become a member. Add yourself to our mailing list by going to our web site www.dpfks.org.
United States

AMMA Press Release: Mendocino's COMMET Grant Approved

Release Date: April 17, 2007 Contacts: Steve Kubby, National Director The American Medical Marijuana Association (AMMA) http://www.americanmarijuana.org/ 707-964-7743 Board of Supervisors Office bos@co.mendocino.ca.us (707) 463-4221 (707) 463-4245 Fax Mendocino's COMMET Grant Approved The Mendocino Board of Supervisors unanimously approved another COMMET Grant request for funding from the DEA. (Supes Delbar and Colfax were missing, but probably would have canceled out each other's vote.) After discussions with local citizens, patients, attorneys and activists, who were all present at the BOS meeting, The American Medical Marijuana Association has identified two key issues that urgently need to be addressed: 1. FRAUDULENT OPINION BY THE COUNTY COUNSEL REGARDING MEASURE G. The current Mendocino County Counsel insists that Measure G has no weight as a law. However, that is very different from what Mendocino County officially told the voters on June 5, 2000 in their legal opinion for the ballot. In an "Impartial Opinion" written by the previous County Counsel, voters were told that, if passed, Measure G would have very specific requirements for the Supervisors, Sheriff and District Attorney, especially with regards to funding any marijuana arrests or prosecutions. 2. COMMET USED STATE FUNDS TO WAR ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENTS IN MENDOCINO. This grant came from the DEA, but it was issued by a California State Agency, which was required by the California Constitution to obey state laws. So when local COMMET officers destroyed medicine belonging to bona fide patients and seized California State MMJ ID cards, they broke California state laws -- using funds from a California state agency. A number of activists at the BOS meeting expressed their opinion that Mendocino voters need new Supervisors who will take up Measure G as their sword and shield, not run and hide from it. ###
United States

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