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Panel aims to stop drug-fueled `turf war'

Location: 
FL
United States
Publication/Source: 
Miami Herald
URL: 
http://www.miamiherald.com/460/story/73707.html

Federal prosecutors will retry Oakland, Calif., marijuana grower known as the 'ganja guru'

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Arizona Daily Star
URL: 
http://www.azstarnet.com/news/178376

Book Offer: Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/drugwarstatisticsbook.jpg
Normally when we publish a book review in our Drug War Chronicle newsletter, it gets readers but is not among the top stories visited on the site. Recently we saw a big exception to that rule when more than 2,700 of you read our review of the new book Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Much of this reading took place during a week that had other very popular articles as well, so clearly the topic of this book, which was authored by respected academics Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen, has struck a chord. As well it should.

Please help DRCNet continue our own work of debunking drug war lies with a generous donation. If your donation is $32 or more, we'll send you a complimentary copy of Robinson and Scherlen's book to help you be able to debunk drug war lies too.

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging on our web site about things I've learned reading Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics. Stay tuned!

Your donation will help DRCNet as we advance what we think is an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support, and hope to hear from you soon.

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David Borden
Executive Director

P.S. You can read Chronicle editor Phil Smith's review of the book here.

Feature: The War on Salvia Divinorum Heats Up

Middlebury, Vermont, this week declared a public health emergency to prevent a local business from selling it. It's already illegal in five states -- Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Delaware -- and a number of towns and cities across the country, and now politicians in at least seven other states have filed bills to make it illegal there. For the DEA, it is a "drug of concern."

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/salvialeaves.jpg
salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid)
It is salvia divinorum, a member of the mint family from Mexico, where it has been used by Masatec curanderos (medicine men) for centuries. Within the past decade, awareness of its powerful hallucinogenic properties has begun to seep into the popular consciousness. Now, it is widely available at head shops and via the Internet, where it can be purchased in a smokeable form that produces almost instantaneous intoxication and a freight train of a trip lasting a handful of minutes.

As law enforcement and politicians stumble across it and the phenomenon of its recreational use, they are reacting in the classic fashion with moves to outlaw it. In Delaware, grieving parents of a teenager who committed suicide after using salvia managed to push a bill through the legislature. In Ohio, police who stumbled across it while investigating counterfeit goods raised the alarm, even though they had never had any problem with it. The cops responded predictably. "It's something we feel should be outlawed," Lorain County Drug Task Force Capt. Dennis Cavanaugh told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

But researchers say the while salvia's effects on consciousness may be disquieting, the plant has not been shown to be toxic to humans, that its effects are so potent is unlikely to be used repeatedly, and its active property, salvinorin A, could assist in the development of medicines for mood disorders. While action at the state level would unlikely affect research, a move by the DEA to put it on the controlled substances list could.

Salvia is a popular item at the Urban Shaman Ethnobotanicals in downtown Vancouver, and media attention only spurs sales, according to proprietor Chris Bennett. "We're selling about 50 grams of the 10x every couple of weeks," he told Drug War Chronicle. "It's mainly young people -- although we don't sell to anyone under 18 -- but it's not limited to them. Whenever I get quoted in the media about salvia, I get a slew of new middle-aged customers who want to try it."

Once or twice is usually enough, said Bennett. "It's very powerful -- you can forget you even smoked it -- very intense, and the onset is very rapid," he explained. "There is also a lot of variation from person to person. Four people can be sitting in a room taking it, and one would be laughing, one would be afraid the world was ending, one would feel like he was two-dimensional, and one would say that everything seems to be made out of Legos. I hear a lot of people say that one."

Like many other purveyors of salvia, Urban Shaman provides an information sheet with each purchase. "We tell people they should have a sitter. If you're on salvia and end up on the balcony, you might think you can get downstairs by jumping," said Bennett. "You want to have someone there with you; it's irresponsible to use it by yourself," he said. "We also recommend a quiet environment. The experience can be influenced by background noise, which can be distorted or misinterpreted. Setting is important."

There are hazards to messing with hallucinogens, one expert was quick to point out. "It's an hallucinogen and while its hallucinogenic actions are different from those induced by LSD and other hallucinogens, it has the liabilities that hallucinogens do," said Bryan Roth, a professor of pharmacology at University of North Carolina's School of Medicine, the man who isolated salvinorin A. "When people take it, they are disoriented. If you don't know where you are and you're driving a car, that would be a bad experience."

Still, said Roth, while it may make you freak out, it isn't going to kill you. "There is no evidence of any overt toxicity, there are no reports in the medical literature that anyone has died from it. The caveat is that there have been no formal studies done on humans, but the animal data suggests that it doesn't kill animals given massive doses, and that's usually -- but not always -- predictive for human pharmacology."

"I'm unaware of any studies suggesting that salvia is toxic," said Thomas Prisinzano, assistant professor of medicinal and natural products chemistry at the University of Iowa. "Unlike other hallucinogens, it acts by stimulating opioid receptors, and basically produces an hallucinogenic experience that peaks in less than 15 minutes. It produces a subpopulation that finds it very unpleasant and never wants to do it again."

Nor, because of its intense effects, are you likely to get strung out on it. "There doesn't appear to be much potential for dependence or addiction, although no one has investigated this in any detail," Roth said. "The typical person I talked to didn't like the experience; it is too intense for someone looking for a mini-LSD-like experience. It's very rapid in onset and very intense, so it's not normally considered a party drug."

Even Bennett, whose clientele could be expected to contain some serious psychedelic adventurers, confirmed that it is not a drug that most people come back to again and again. "Even those who are interested in it don't use it very often, maybe once a week to explore head space, but those salvianauts are few and far between," he reported. "Most people try it once or twice and have no desire to try it again. It is the ones who use it with a purpose or for a spiritual quest or vision that seem to find it most useful," he said.

"There is a subpopulation using it for spiritual rather than recreational purposes," agreed Roth. "That seems to be the cohort that is using it more than once or twice."

While the DEA did not return Chronicle calls for comment on the current status of salvia, it has moved slowly. It has classified the plant as a "drug of concern" for several years now, but has yet to act to place it under the Controlled Substances Act. The plant's limited potential dependence could be one reason. Another could be that it is still relatively rare and unlikely to ever develop into a drug with a mass following.

That's fine with the scientists, who could see regulating salvia, but not prohibiting it. "The distribution of salvia should be regulated," Roth said. "We regulate nicotine and alcohol, and the effects of those compounds on human consciousness and perception is quite modest compared with salvia. That this is available over the Internet to young children is a bit irresponsible. They could engage in some dangerous behavior while taking it. We don't sell alcohol over the Internet."

But while Roth called for salvia to be regulated, he didn't want to see it added to the list of drugs proscribed by the Controlled Substances Act. "I'm against making it a Schedule I compound," he said. "Once you schedule something, it makes scientific research more difficult, and there is considerable potential for derivatives of the active ingredient to have great medical utility. Scheduling it makes it more difficult for those of us trying to relieve human suffering."

If salvia were prohibited, his work would suffer, said Prisinzano. "This would hurt clinical researchers more than me, and there is an effort underway to do clinical trials on humans before a review board now," he said. "But it would make it more difficult for me to get leaves. Right now we get them from head shops on the Internet."

Perhaps legislators in states like Iowa, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and Texas, where prohibition bills are on the table, should calmly reassess the scope of the salvia menace and place such legislation on the back burner where it belongs. Or replace them with reasonable regulatory measures. But that's probably asking too much.

DEA agents seize medical marijuana

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Billings Gazette (MT)
URL: 
http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2007/04/12/news/state/80-dea.txt

Dominican Republic is top ally against drug trafficking, the U.S says

Location: 
Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic
Publication/Source: 
Dominican Today (Dominican Republic)
URL: 
http://www.dominicantoday.com/app/article.aspx?id=23462

Ask Congress to Repeal Unjust Crack Cocaine Sentences (12/2/09)

URL: 
/crack_sentencing/

Nobody Likes The Drug Czar

Part 5 of NPR's disappointing series "The Forgotten War on Drugs" takes aim at Drug Czar John Walters:
During the course of research for this series, it became apparent that many prominent players in the war on drugs don't have many compliments for the current drug czar, John Walters.


Though President Bush appointed Walters to be the public face of the war on drugs, some anti-drug activists say he's been the invisible man.
What, is he supposed to go around racially profiling people and asking for consent to search?
Gen. Barry McCaffrey was drug czar from 1996 to 2001. He says, bluntly, that as far as he can tell, there is no federal drug policy at present.
Really? Tell that to the half-million non-violent drug offenders sitting in prison this evening. Yeah, we all miss the good old days when Barry McCaffrey was in charge and America was drug free.
Four members of Congress — all prominent drug warriors — have asked for the drug czar's resignation. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) says Walters, even more than his predecessors, manipulates numbers to inflate the Bush administration's successes in drug policy.

"When it comes to statistics, I think it's fair to say they cook the books," Grassley said. "They use whatever statistics fit their public relations program."

The drug czar's office says that Grassley was "badly briefed."
Badly briefed by whom? This is hilarious. But to be fair, the drug czar's office is a "public relations program." ONDCP's resident doctor/scientist David Murray explains:
"My sense would be you're talking to the wrong people," Murray said. "You are talking with people who have a partial and mis-clarified sense of what the office does."
Exactly. ONDCP's purpose is to claim that the drug war works. You've got a better chance of getting stoned on marijuana-flavored lollipops than expecting candor or humility from this organization.  ONDCP is like a weatherman that always predicts sunshine. If you get soaked, it's your own fault for watching the fake weather report.
Of the more than 100 anti-drug professionals across America interviewed for this series — in overseas operations, domestic law enforcement, treatment and prevention — very few share the rhetoric of this drug czar: that we are "winning the drug war."
Are we witnessing the beginnings of a major rift within the drug war establishment? ONDCP's fraudulent routine of claiming progress in the drug war is no longer impressing its core audience. As a result, confused drug war supporters like NPR's Burnett, along with Lou Dobbs and others, have found themselves in the awkward position of articulating the failure of our current policies while simultaneously demanding their expansion.

This is terrible reporting to be sure, but at least the "how to win?" crowd isn't proposing specific policy solutions. Dobbs and Burnett are amplifying the message that the drug war is failing, and turning to ONDCP for answers it can't give.

These frustrated observers might want to begin by learning that it isn't ONDCP's fault the drug war doesn't work. But I'm all for firing John Walters on the off-chance that he bugs out like Michael Douglas in Traffic and admits the whole thing is a sham. That would be grand.


Location: 
United States

Mexican alliance drives drug flow

Location: 
Ciudad Juarez
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
The Dallas Morning News
URL: 
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/world/mexico/stories/DN-heroin_08int.ART.North.Edition1.441bb93.html

Drug Czar Blasted for Lack of Leadership

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
NPR
URL: 
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9413890

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