Environmental Harm

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Chronicle AM -- February 11, 2014

California's narcs are whining about Obama's marijuana remarks, Coloradans seem happy with legalization, a Good Samaritan overdose bill is filed in Maryland, an Israeli newspaper talks pot policy, and a Colombian FARC representative lays out the guerrilla's drug proposals, and more. Let's get to it:

Coca plants. The FARC has plans for them. (unodc.org)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Legalization More Popular Than Ever in Colorado. A year after marijuana possession became legal in the state and a month after retail marijuana sales began, Coloradans are more supportive than legalization than ever, according to a new poll. A Quinnipiac poll released Monday had support for legalization at 58%, three points higher than 55% who actually voted for it in November 2012. And 73% said they wouldn't mind if their neighbors grew marijuana in their homes.

California Narcs Unhappy With Obama Marijuana Comments. California's narcs are displeased with President Obama's recent remarks suggesting that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol. In an open letter Monday, the California Narcotics Officers' Association took "strong issue" with the president's statements and warned that marijuana poses "significant risks to public health." The full text of the letter is at the link.

Wyoming Activists "Walk for Weed" at State Capitol. Several dozen marijuana legalization activists demonstrated at the state capitol in Cheyenne Monday armed with signs reading "Legalize, Not Legal Lies" and "Turning a Red State Green in 2016." The protest was an action by Wyoming NORML, which aims to put a legalization initiative on the ballot then.

North Carolina Legislator Vows to Introduce Legalization Measure. Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) said Monday he will introduce a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment when the legislature reconvenes in May. "It's an inevitable thing," he said. "Trying to stop that movement reminds me of somebody marching out to the beach, holding up their hand and saying the tide will not rise."

Medical Marijuana

Washington State Bills to Fold Medical Marijuana into Legal Marijuana System Moving. A pair of state Senate bills that would end collective gardens for medical marijuana patients advanced last Friday, while a House bill that would reduce the amount of medicine and the number of plants patients or caregivers can possess moved on Monday. Senate Bill 5887 and Senate Bill 6178 each passed 6-1 in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor on Friday. Both were second substitute versions. House Bill 2149 passed out of the House Appropriations Committee Monday.

Georgia CBD Medical Marijuana Bill Needs Revisions, Sponsor Says. After a three-hour committee hearing Monday, state Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), the sponsor of the CBD medical marijuana bill, House Bill 885, said it needed significant revisions before it could advance in the House. The hearing included searing testimony from parents of children suffering seizures, but also from physicians who said the use of CBD cannabis oils needed more study. Another hearing is set for Thursday.

Drug Testing

Illinois Bill to Drug Test Food Stamp Recipients, General Assembly Candidates Filed. A bill that would require candidates for the state House and Senate to undergo drug testing and bar them from running if they test positive has been filed in Illinois. Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsythe) said he introduced House Bill 5292 with the political candidate provision because he thinks elected officials should be held to the same standards as food stamp recipients. The bill also calls for mandatory suspicionless drug testing of food stamp recipients. Requiring drug tests of candidates for office, and requiring drug tests of public benefits recipients without individualized suspicion, have both been held unconstitutional by the federal courts.

Harm Reduction

Maryland Good Samaritan 911 Overdose Prevention Bill Proposed. Delegate Jon Cardin (D-Baltimore) today proposed a bill that would offer limited immunity for nonviolent drug possession charges if that person contacts police or emergency personnel for reports of an overdose. "While I don't condone illegal drug or alcohol use or abuse, we should make sure overdose victims are brought to safety and not allow them die out of fear of being arrested," said Cardin in a statement. "There is strong evidence that overdose victims and their friends would often rather let someone die than call emergency personnel. This should never happen. This law is a common sense way to literally save thousands of lives." The bill was not yet on the legislative web site as of Tuesday afternoon.

International

In-Depth Interview with FARC Representative on Colombian Guerrilla Group's Drug Policy Proposals. The Voice of Russia has recorded an extensive interview with FARC peace delegation member Laura Villa on the FARC's drug policy proposals, which begin from the premise that drug prohibition has failed. FARC policies call for respect for the coca leaf, decriminalization of the coca crop (in the context of land reform), a public health approach to drug consumption, as well as demilitarization, an end to aerial eradication, and compensation for victims of eradication. The entire interview is quite illuminating and worth the read.

Israel Hayom Debates Marijuana Legalization. Editors and contributors to Israel's largest circulation daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, debated marijuana legalization in the Holy Land. Check out the debate by clicking on the link.

Chronicle AM -- January 30, 2014

Big news on a couple of fronts regarding federal sentencing and federal prisoners, the DC council is set to approve decriminalization, Minnesota's welfare drug testing law gets some pushback, and more. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

DC City Council to Vote on Decriminalization Bill Tuesday. The District of Columbia city council will vote Tuesday on the decriminalization bill, the Drug Policy Alliance said Thursday in an email to supporters. The link above is to the bill itself.

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced. Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) Wednesday introduced House Bill 1659, which would allow adults to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana and set up a taxed and regulated marijuana commerce regime.

Latest Poll Has Arizona Voters "Narrowly Opposing" Legalization. Marijuana legalization had the support of 43% of voters, with 51% in a Scutari and Cjeslak poll released Wednesday. That's the fourth poll in the last year on the topic, all conducted by different pollsters. Two show majorities for legalization; two don't.

Medical Marijuana

Oregon Sees Conferences in Ashland, Portland This Week. Would-be marijuana entrepreneurs in Oregon have two conferences aimed at them this week. The two-day Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference began today in Ashland. The National Cannabis Industry Association is holding a one-day "Northwest Cannabusiness Symposium" in Portland on Saturday. An Oregon law allowing dispensaries goes into effect March 3.

Charlie Crist Will Vote for Florida Medical Marijuana Initiative. Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said Wednesday he plans to vote for the state's pending medical marijuana initiative. "This is an issue of compassion, trusting doctors, and trusting the people of Florida," he said. "I will vote for it."

Drug Testing

Minnesota Welfare Drug Test Law Draws Flak. Democratic Farm Labor (DFL) legislators, county officials and anti-poverty advocates are pushing back against the state's 2012 law mandating drug tests for welfare recipients with drug felonies. At a hearing Wednesday, Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul) said she would propose a bill that would effectively overturn the law by giving counties the discretion to decide whether to apply it or not. County officials complained that the law is expensive to implement and actually affects few people. In one county, one county was forced to spend $1,500 in staff time to search out and test the one person to whom the law applied.

Search and Seizure

NYC Mayor DeBlasio Drops "Stop and Frisk" Appeal. The New York City mayor's office filed papers seeking to drop an appeal of a judge's decision ordering major reforms to the police department's stop-and-frisk policy. A judge ruled last year that the New York Police Department had discriminated against blacks and Hispanics with how it went about stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking people on the street. The judge ordered major reforms to the department's implementation of the policy. Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg appealed the decision.

Sentencing

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Smarter Sentencing Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the Smarter Sentencing Act on a 13-5 vote. It now goes to the Senate floor. Similar legislation is pending in the House.

Justice Department Calls for Drug Prisoners to Seek Clemency. In an unusual move, the Obama administration Thursday told defense lawyers they should suggest more inmates serving time on drug charges who might be deserving of clemency. In a speech to the New York State Bar Association, Deputy Attorney General James Cole told attendees that the Justice Department wanted more names to forward to the White House -- and that the defense bar could be of assistance.

Synthetic Drugs

Minnesota Synthetic Drug Bill Wins Committee Vote. Minnesota's House Select Committee on Controlled Substances and Synthetic Drugs Wednesday approved a bill that would toughen laws against new synthetic drugs by expanding the definition of "drug" under the law to include any "substance or derivative… when introduced into the body, induces an effect substantially similar to… controlled substance regardless of whether the substance is marketed for the purpose of human consumption." The legislation would also empower the Board of Pharmacy to execute "cease and desist" orders on stores that sell the substances.

International

Israeli Cops Keep Arresting Small-Time Hash Possessors, Despite Prosecutor's Instructions to Lay Off. Israeli police keep arresting people for small-time hashish and marijuana possession even though longstanding policy directives from the attorney general instruct them not to. The state prosecutor's office said Wednesday it hadn't instructed them to do so.

Bermuda Marijuana Reform Group Seeks Input. The Cannabis Reform Collaborative (CRC) is soliciting for public input and is inviting members of the community to submit their thoughts and research on the topic of cannabis reform. Click on either link for complete details.

Drug Prohibition Leads to Central America Deforestation, Study Finds. Drug trafficking threatens forests in remote areas of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and other nearby countries, according to a research report in Science magazine. Most media outlets have portrayed the finding as "Drug Trafficking Leads to Central America Deforestation," but as the authors of the article note, "Drug policies are also conservation policies, whether we realize it or not. US-led militarized interdiction, for example, has succeeded mainly in moving traffickers around, driving them to operate in ever-more remote, biodiverse ecosystems. Reforming drug policies could alleviate some of the pressures on Central America's disappearing forests." The article is Drug Policy as Conservation Policy: Deforestation; available to members or subscribers.

Federal Bill Would Up Penalties for Marijuana "Trespass Grows"

A bill introduced Thursday by Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) and bipartisan cosponsors from California and Colorado would create new penalties for marijuana growers who grow on federal lands or who trespass on other people's property to grow and who cause environmental damages. "Trespass grows" are a tempting alternative for growers who seek to avoid having their own properties seized under federal drug asset forfeiture laws.

Forest Service, National Guard members clean up marijuana grow site (ngcounterdrug.ng.mil)
Growing marijuana on federal lands (or anywhere else, for that matter) is already against federal law, but the cutely-acronymed Protecting Lands Against Narcotics Trafficking (PLANT) Act would instruct the US Sentencing Commission to establish new penalties for "trespass grows." The bill identified three environmental concerns: the illegal use of pesticides, rodenticides, or high-grade fertilizers; the "substantial" pilfering of water from local aquifers, and "significant" removal of timber or other vegetation.

Pressed by law enforcement, marijuana growers have increasingly moved onto federal parks and forests, as well as private properties. Last year, in the national forests alone, eradicators cut down nearly a million plants. Officials and landowners accuse growers of leveling hilltops, starting landslides on erosion-prone hillsides, diverting and damming creeks and streams, and using large amounts of pesticides to protect their crops.

"Throughout my district and increasingly throughout the United States, we're seeing trespass marijuana grows threatening endangered wildlife, contaminating fragile salmon streams, and making forests unsafe for working and recreation," said Congressman Huffman, who represents the "Emerald Triangle" of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties in northern California. "As we move toward more rational marijuana policies, which I believe should be left to the states, it's important that we address the immediate threat to our environment and public safety posed by trespass growing operations. Where it is lawful to grow marijuana, it must be done lawfully and responsibly."

"These illegal grow sites are threatening lives, destroying public lands and devastating wildlife," said bill cosponsor Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA). "There should be stiff penalties for the people whose reckless and illegal actions are causing this environmental damage. Our legislation will make sure these criminals are held fully responsible for the harm they cause."

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Washington, DC
United States

Anti-Meth Prescription Pseudoephedrine Bills Defeated

State level bills that would have required a prescription for popular over-the-counter (OTC) cold relief medications in a bid to make home methamphetamine cooking more difficult have run into roadblocks in several states this year. This week, prescription-only bills were killed in Oklahoma and withdrawn in Kentucky, and unhappy police and prosecutors are blaming the OTC industry.

The bills in Oklahoma were House Bill 2375 and a companion measure in the Senate, while the bill in Kentucky is Senate Bill 50. They are aimed at "shake and bake" meth labs, which use small amounts of pseudoephedrine and other easily obtained products to produce small amounts of meth, typically a two-liter soft drink bottle.

"Shake and bake" meth cooks are being blamed for an increase in the number of meth labs reported in the last few years. According to an Associated Press report this week, the number of labs reported was up 8.3% in 2011 over 2010.

The OTC industry group the Consumer Healthcare Products Association has indeed lobbied mightily and spent heavily to defeat the bills, which would require prescriptions for such popular OTC medications as Sudafed, Claritin-D, Advil Cold & Sinus, which include pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the popular meth-manufacturing recipe. It isn't apologizing for its actions.

"We believe that requiring a prescription for these medicines containing pseudoephedrine will not solve this problem, but will only place new costs and access restrictions on law abiding Oklahomans who rely on these medicines for relief," association spokeswoman Elizabeth Funderburk told the Associated Press, "We have a shared goal in making sure these medicines do not end up in the hands of criminals, but we believe law abiding citizens should not be forced to bear the burden of a prescription mandate."

"The scare tactics used by the pharmaceutical companies have clearly worked," said Greg Mashburn, one of several district attorneys who urged Oklahoma lawmakers to approve the bill. "Shame on the pharmaceutical companies for knowing they're profiting off meth and pouring tons of money into this effort so they can continue to profit off of it."

But it wasn't just the cold medication trade association opposing the Oklahoma bills. State and local medical, pharmacist, and grocer groups also opposed the bills.

"You're making people come to the doctor for an office visit and pay a co-pay just to get a cold medicine," said Dr. Michael Cooper, a family practitioner in Claremore. "I already have patients who won't come to the office when they're sick because they can't afford the co-pay. We're going to clog the system and make things worse," he told the AP.

Now, it looks like in both Kentucky and Oklahoma, legislators will instead turn to bills requiring a real-time electronic tracking system for pseudoephedrine sales. In Oklahoma, such compromise legislation is underway, while in Kentucky, Sen. Tom Jensen (R), sponsor of SB 50, said he is working on compromise legislation, too.

"We've probably reached some consensus on where we want to go," Jensen told the Lexington Courier-Journal Thursday, but declined to discuss specifics of the compromise.

Similar bills are being considered in Alabama, Indiana, and West Virginia. Two states, first Oregon and then Mississippi, have already enacted pseudoephredrine prescriptions laws.

Oregon in particular has touted the success of its prescription law, but a study released this week by the Cascade Policy Institute scoffs at that claim. The report's findings are evidenced by its title, Making Cold Medicine RX Only Did Not Reduce Meth Use.

Chronicle Book Review: Hostage Nation

Hostage Nation: Colombia's Guerrilla Army and the Failed War on Drugs, by Victoria Bruce and Karin Mayes, with Jorge Enrique Botero (2010, Alfred E. Knopf Publishers, 315 pp., $26.95 HB)

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/hostagenation.jpg
Hostage Nation is a great read, but its title is something of misnomer. What the book is really about is the capture of four American contractors by FARC guerrillas after their plane went down on an anti-coca pesticide-spraying mission in 2003. One was executed by the FARC at the scene; the others spent more than five years in captivity in the jungles of Colombia before being rescued by the Colombian military in a stunning charade in which Colombian soldiers tricked rebels into delivering their hostages, who also included the famous former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, into their waiting arms.

In a sense, though, Hostage Nation is a synecdoche for Colombia's experience fighting its own leftist guerrilla insurgency -- the longest-lived insurgency in the hemisphere, now in its 47th year -- as well as fighting America's war on drugs. In a very real sense, Colombia has been a hostage nation -- held hostage by its own internal divisions and American drug war geopolitics, as well as seeing hundreds, if not thousands of its citizens literally held hostage, taken captive to be used as bargaining chips by the FARC in its relentless struggle against the Colombian state.

And while, until the very last chapter, Hostage Nation does not directly confront US drug policies in Colombia or their failures, its briskly paced narrative illuminates -- at times, starkly -- just what those policies have wrought. At the beginning, the book opens a window into the murky world of American defense contractors and subcontractors working for the State Department in its efforts to poison the coca crop from the air. Those contractors, like Northrup Grumman, were perhaps the primary beneficiaries of Plan Colombia, gobbling up hundreds of millions of dollars in lucrative spraying contracts at taxpayer expense.

Hostage Nation also presents a critical, but not completely unsympathetic portrayal of the FARC, a group now commonly caricatured as little more than drug trafficking terrorists. They do profit off the coca and cocaine trade, of course, as the authors show, and they have committed numerous acts that could be qualified as terrorism. But even though now staggering militarily and politically, the FARC continues to be a stolidly Marxist organization in a world where Marxism is dead (although someone might want to let India's Naxalites know that). The authors provide hints of the violence, injustice, and revolutionary fervor out of which the FARC emerged.

They tell the tale of the FARC in part through recounting the travails of the captured American contractors and others the guerrillas considered POWs -- latterly including elected officials -- in a deadly game where people were pawns whose lives and freedom were to be bartered. While mostly not sadistically cruel to their captives, the FARC was not very nice, either. And its policy was to kill captives on the first hint of an attempted rescue, something it did at least twice, once in a false alarm.

But prisoner exchanges had gone off successfully before, and the FARC wanted some of its people in exchange for the high-value Americans and the high-profile Betancourt. Unfortunately for FARC plans, the post-911 Bush administration had absolutely no interest in "negotiating with terrorists," and then Colombian President Uribe followed suit. Of course, that stance was also unfortunate for the American contractors, who quickly dropped from public notice.

As the war on drugs morphed into the war on terror in Colombia, the authors make clear that they see the other main beneficiary of Plan Colombia as the Colombian military. Thanks to training and military assistance from the US, the Colombian military under Uribe and then Defense Minister (now President) Juan Manuel Santos, improved its fighting abilities dramatically. More importantly, the Colombian military sharply improved its intelligence capabilities, leading it to achieve a number of lethal blows to the FARC leadership and enabling it to salt the FARC with spies when the rebels lowered their standards in a mass recruiting drive at the turn of the last decade.

The Colombian military has probably strategically defeated the FARC, but at great cost to the country's civilian population, which has seen tens of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands turned into refugees in their own country under onslaughts from the military and its erstwhile allies, the drug trafficking rightist paramilitaries. Hostage Nation only hints at that reality.

But its final chapter is a scathing attack on US drug policy in general and in Colombia in particular. The US has spent, and continues to spend, billions to repress the coca and cocaine traffic, and has had middling results at best, while sowing political violence, criminality, and environmental destruction, the authors assert. And they warn that the US is on course to embark on a similar drug war policy disaster in Mexico.

As an in-depth, sustained account of US drug policy in Colombia, the history of the FARC, or the politics of kidnapping, Hostage Nation doesn't quite make it. But it is an engaging read that does provide some real insights into Colombian reality and is a well-informed contribution to the popular literature on the subject.

State Drug Warriors Want Prescription Requirement for Sudafed [FEATURE]

Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicine consumers in a number of states could become unwilling participants in the perpetual war against methamphetamine as legislators consider bills that would require prescriptions for OTC preparations containing pseudoephedrine, a precursor chemical used in meth manufacture. But the moves are raising alarm bells among some economists and the OTC industry, which is touting its own electronic tracking system as an alternative.

By prescription only? Maybe in Kentucky, Nevada, and Tennessee.
The sale of OTCs containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed, is already restricted under the federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act, which went into effect in 2006. That act requires that such preparations be kept behind the counter, that customers must present ID, that purchases be entered into a logbook accessible to law enforcement, and that purchases be limited to 3.6 grams per day or 9 grams every 30 days.

A number of states have enacted their own precursor tracking laws, and they were at least temporarily effective at reducing the number of meth labs. But as the Associated Press recently reported, those laws are increasingly ineffective, as meth producers enlist armies of "smurfs" to purchase products containing pseudoephedrine within legal limits, then pay them black market prices for their cold pills.

Two states -- Oregon and Mississippi -- have enacted laws required prescriptions for such products and are able to point at reductions in meth lab busts as an indicator they are working. Oregon reported that meth lab busts dropped from 190 in 2005 to 12 in 2009.

Now, legislators in at least three states -- Kentucky, Nevada, and Tennessee -- want to enact similar prescription laws. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), which represents the multi-billion dollars OTC industry, is fighting back, and it's not alone in criticizing the measures.

"This is just stupid," said Jeffrey Tucker, an economist at the libertarian-leaning Ludwig von Mises Institute and a long-time critic of what he calls the "War on Sudafed." "It hurts innocent people and rewards the dealers. Requiring prescriptions for Sudafed will just increase the buy-sell spread between the retail price and the street price and provide an even greater incentive for people to traffic. Lawmakers may want to stop meth production, but it's not going to work. If lawmakers could snap their fingers and make everybody lead a good, healthy life, I'm sure they would, but they can't."

Not only are the efforts to control pseudoephedrine counterproductive, they also harm millions of innocent consumers, Tucker said. He pointed to the effects of already existing restrictions on purchases.

"Before the restrictions kicked in, people were buying it to make meth, but meth usage wasn't any worse when President Bush began this than it was a decade earlier," said Tucker. "It wasn't exactly a big crisis. Only after the restrictions did meth become a major national problem, because it then became an incredibly profitable enterprise. It was now scarce, producers had reason to involve even more people, and they could afford to do so. Now, there are large communities involved in collecting Sudafed to make meth, and there is a strong incentive for producers to find even larger markets. The whole thing has backfired," he said.

If governments insist on continuing down the path of trying to repress meth production by restricting access to precursors like pseudoephedrine, then requiring prescriptions is the logical next step, said Tucker.

"But that won't work either, because anyone can go to the clinic and get a prescription, but now the stuff will be worth its weight in gold. This is a classic case of a bad policy backfiring, with many innocent victims. There is just no end to this. We keep increasing the misery and the coercion in the name of the drug war, and it doesn’t help the drug war."

While Tucker questions the whole logic of drug prohibition, the CHPA accepts that logic, but is seeking to minimize harm to its members who peddle the remedies, as well as the tens of millions of consumers who use them to fend off cold and allergy symptoms. Those consumers face having to go and pay for doctor's visits in order to get something they are currently able to buy by walking up to a counter.

The CHPA is pushing NPLEx, an industry-funded, real-time, electronic tracking system. The system is already in place in 12 states, including Kentucky, where the CHPA says it is blocking the sale of about 10,000 grams a month of pseudoephedrine.

"NPLEx is the better alternative to prescription status for PSE [pseudoepehedrine] that results in no new barriers to consumers, imposes no new costs on the healthcare system, allows the state to keep sales taxes generated by OTC PSE sales, meets the law enforcement goal of preventing illegal sales of PSE, and is provided to states and retailers at no charge," the association argues.

But that's not stopping lawmakers, prodded by law enforcement, from proposing the precursor prescription bills. In Kentucky, the bill is HB 15 (with identical companion bill SB 45); in Nevada, Sen. Sheila Leslie (D-Reno) will push an as yet un-filed prescription bill, and in Tennessee, lawmakers are likely to file both a prescription bill and a competing electronic tracking bill in the next few days.

For economist Tucker, lawmakers are engaged in quixotic, fruitless, and even counterproductive effort. "There are 50 different ways to make meth, and the drugs get ever more dangerous," he said. "Meth is a dreadfully dangerous drug anyway, but when you relegate it to amateurs cooking it at stoplights, it's catastrophic."

America loves its stimulants, as a glance at any Starbucks filled with happy caffeine-guzzlers or convenience store aisle lined with "energy drink" products will demonstrate. Perhaps instead of trying to repress methamphetamine, we could try to regulate it. But that's a very hard sell for what is arguably the most demonized of America's demon drugs.

If Pot Were Legal, No One Would Grow it in the Woods

Can you even think of anything besides marijuana that is grown secretly in the woods? Of course not, because hiking over mountains through dense underbrush with pounds of fertilizer on your back is so stupid and crazy that no one would ever do it unless there were millions of dollars at stake. Unfortunately, there actually are people making millions off these operations and the U.S. Congress is so fed up with the situation that they've issued a resolution demanding that something be done about it.

Supporting the goal of eradicating illicit marijuana cultivation on Federal lands and calling on the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to develop a coordinated strategy to permanently dismantle Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating on Federal lands.

Whereas Mexican drug trafficking organizations have established robust and dangerous marijuana plantations on Federal lands managed by the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management;

Whereas the Office of National Drug Control Policy reported that 1,800,000 marijuana plants were eradicated from Federal lands in 2006, 2,890,000 marijuana plants were eradicated in 2007, and 4,000,000 marijuana plants were eradicated in 2008;

The list of grievances doesn’t stop there, and I can assure these morons that it will only get longer as we persist in looking to people like the drug czar for solutions. We've had a "coordinated strategy" for dealing with this mess for quite a few years now and it horribly sucks. Ironically, you couldn't design a better plan for causing pot growing in our forests than the government's so-called strategy for preventing it. That's why they keep finding more plants every year.

If you don't want Mexican gangsters growing marijuana in the woods, then it's time to allow people who aren't Mexican gangsters to grow marijuana somewhere that isn’t the woods.

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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California Endures Another Summer of Outdoor Marijuana Raids [FEATURE]

It's August in California, and that means the state's multi-billion outdoor marijuana crop is ripening in the fields. It also means that the nearly 30-year-old effort to uproot those plants, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), is once taking up its Sisyphean task of wiping out the crop. The choppers are flying, the SWAT teams are deploying, and the federal funds that largely feed CAMP are being burned through.

marijuana eradication helicopter
The raids are nearly a daily event in the Golden State at this time of year. CAMP spokesperson Michelle Gregory told the Chronicle Wednesday that the campaign had uprooted 2.27 million pot plants as of this week, slightly behind the 2.4 million uprooted by this time last year. Last year was a CAMP record, with 4.4 million plants seized by year's end.

"It's about the same this year," said Gregory.

In just the past couple of weeks, CAMP and associated law enforcement agencies pulled up 91,000 plants in Santa Barbara County, 48,000 plants in Sonoma County, and 21,000 plants in Calaveras County. So far this year, in Mendocino County alone, more than 470,000 plants have been destroyed.

The enforcement effort has also led to the deaths of at least three growers this year. A worker at a grow in Napa County was killed early last month when he pointed a gun at police. Another worker at a grow in Santa Clara County was killed two weeks ago. And last week, police in Mendocino County killed a third grower they encountered holding a rifle during an early morning raid.

While the number of deaths this year is high -- one grower was killed in Lassen County last year, one was killed in Humboldt County in 2007, and two were killed in Shasta County in 2003 -- there have also been other violent incidents. Last month, somebody shot out the rear window of a Mendocino County Sheriff's vehicle as it left a grow raid in the western part of the county, and police in Lake County encountered an armed grower there, but he fled.

CAMP and other law enforcement efforts may destroy as much as 25% of the state's outdoor harvest, but it is unclear what real impact the program is having. Prices for outdoor marijuana have been dropping in California for the past year, the availability of pot remains high, and use levels appear unchanged.

Bureau of Land Management agents recording a
marijuana field's location using GPS
"To point out the obvious, in almost 30 years, CAMP has been unable to reduce marijuana use or availability," said Mike Meno, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "All it does is pay for law enforcement officers to go out in the woods and pull weeds. Every year, they find more and more, and that just motivates illegal growers to plant more."

"CAMP is an enormous waste of money -- I've even heard law enforcement refer to this as helicopter rides," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli of the Drug Policy Alliance in Los Angeles. "It's fun for them, but spending this money on that doesn't do any good, and that's a shame when we're in such dire budgetary shape on all levels."

"I think we are making a difference," said CAMP spokesperson Gregory. "There are still plants out there, but at the same time, the way we look at it, they are willing to defend their grow sites, so we're obviously impacting them monetarily."

Gregory blamed Mexico drug trafficking organizations for much of the illicit production, but was unable to cite specific prosecutions linked to them. She also cited environmental damage done to national parks and forests by illicit grows.

"Nobody wants our national parks and forests to be turned into illegal marijuana grows," said Dooley-Sammuli, "but the question is what is the best approach. The more we spend on CAMP, the more helicopter rides and gardening projects we get, but marijuana prices don't go up, and there is no measurable impact on availability. What we do get is increased violence in the national parks. The government should be looking at how best to reduce illegal grows," said Dooley-Sammuli. "One way would be to allow lawful cultivation as part of a regulated market."

Deputies prepare to repel out of helicopter into a marijuana grow (Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office via SB Independent Weekly)
The US Justice Department is spending nearly $3.6 billion this year to augment budgets of state and local law-enforcement agencies. In addition, the federal government last year set aside close to $4 billion of the economic-stimulus package for law-enforcement grants for state and local agencies. The White House also is spending about $239 million this year to fund local drug-trafficking task forces. In California, many of those task forces work with CAMP.

One approach to defanging CAMP is to work to cut off the federal funding spigot. Since it is largely dependent on federal dollars, attacking federal funding could effectively starve the program, especially given the perpetual budget crisis at the state and local level in California. But that runs into the politics of supporting law enforcement.

"There are many federal funding streams that go to state and local law enforcement, and there is a lot of politics around that," said Dooley-Sammuli. "CAMP really has little to do with marijuana and a lot to do with funding law enforcement."

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko is a case in point. He told the Wall Street Journal last month that although he is having to lay off employees, reduce patrols, and even release inmates early because of the budget crunch, he's spending more money on pot busts because "it's where the money is."

He has spent about $340,000 since last year on eradication in order to ensure that his department gets $492,000 in federal anti-drug funds. That is "$340,000 I could use somewhere else in my organization," he said. "That could fund three officers' salaries and benefits, and we could have them out on our streets doing patrol."

Sheriff's Deputies transporting larger marijuana plants
from site (SBSO via SB Independent Weekly)
"We're giving law enforcement resources, but not allowing them to put them to the best use," said Dooley-Sammuli. "With all the cuts we're having, I don't know any Californians who would rather spend federal law enforcement on helicopter rides and pulling plants out of the ground. Why are we forcing our law enforcement to prioritize something that for most of the public is at the bottom of the list?"

It's the law of unintended consequences that provoked the boom in growing on public lands in the first place, said Meno. "Around 2002, law enforcement said they started seeing a dramatic shift toward outdoor grows on public lands, but that's because they were raiding people growing indoors and on private property. Prohibition and law enforcement tactics drove those people out into those federal lands. Now, some of our most treasured resources are overflowing with marijuana because they were pushed there by law enforcement."

For CAMP, the endless war continues. "The laws are what they are," said Gregory. "Whether it's marijuana or meth or heroin, we're going to enforce the law. If the law changes, that's different," she said, responding to a query about the looming marijuana legalization vote. "But we're always going to have something to enforce."

CA
United States

How Can We Prevent Pot Growing in Our National Forests?

There is some seriously messed up stuff going down in the woods:

LOS ANGELES — A juvenile arrested for tending marijuana crops in California told investigators he had been forced to work for illegal pot growers to pay off his debt to an immigrant smuggler, authorities said Monday.

Ventura County sheriff's Sgt. Mike Horne said he was concerned such forced labor of young migrants could become a trend on marijuana plantations.

[Detective] Wagner said suspected growers often tell him they were picked up outside a day labor center or from a street corner and whisked into the forest with no idea where they were headed.

When they get to the grow site, usually in a remote location, they are unable to make their way back into town and have little choice except to look after the crop in hopes of getting paid at the end of the season, Wagner said.

"They are kind of stuck," he said. "They kind of are just dumped out there." [AP]

This is ridiculous. Just think for a second how crazy it is that people are being stranded in remote forests and forced to cultivate marijuana, and yet the people who actually want to grow marijuana on their own property aren't allowed to.

I just continue to be amazed that there remain so many among us who actually think we're handling the marijuana situation correctly. I mean, really, just look at what's going on here and tell me what it is about any of this that makes sense to you. The gangs are getting rich, the stoners are getting stoned, the cops are off in the woods with weed-whackers instead of solving crimes in our communities, and all of this persists despite the billions we've spent and the decades we've been fighting this war.

It's a lesson some people won't learn until after legalization takes effect and the hundreds of stupid prohibition problems that surround us finally begin to come unraveled for all to see.

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