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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.

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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How to Get Away with Growing 100,000 Marijuana Plants

Just plant them in the woods:

Nearly 100,000 marijuana plants were found growing at four illegal farms in the San Bernardino National Forest, authorities said Tuesday.

No arrests have been made, said officials with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Forest Service. [LA Times]

If we can't even catch the people who do this, do you think they're ever going to stop?

It should be obvious to anyone who's seen these same stories published every summer that the problem is just getting worse. These ridiculous pot wars in our national forests are profitable for both sides. The cops get to go hiking and collect their paychecks without even seeing an actual criminal, and the growers just plant more every year to ensure that the police never find it all. What fun.

That's why police and illegal growers are united in their opposition to the legalization of marijuana.

How Can We Stop Drug Gangs From Growing Pot in the Woods? Legalize Pot

One of the most embarrassingly mindless trends in the mainstream media's marijuana reporting is that of publishing one redundant story after another about the explosion of illegal outdoor cultivation in our national parks, while failing entirely to diagnose why it's happening and how it might be prevented: 

Pot has been grown on public lands for decades, but Mexican traffickers have taken it to a whole new level: using armed guards and trip wires to safeguard sprawling plots that in some cases contain tens of thousands of plants offering a potential yield of more than 30 tons of pot a year.

"Just like the Mexicans took over the methamphetamine trade, they've gone to mega, monster gardens," said Brent Wood, a supervisor for the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. He said Mexican traffickers have "supersized" the marijuana trade. [AP]

This Associated Press report is over 1,200 words long, yet does not contain one single idea for addressing the problem. Not even a stupid hopeless drug war idea like "we need more funding for eradication," or "we need to get everyone to stop using marijuana." Apparently, the AP is simply content to point out to us that our most precious natural resources are being slowly destroyed by Mexican marijuana cartels and there isn't a damn thing anyone can do about it.

But, of course there is. Illegal outdoor marijuana growing will immediately end the instant it becomes legal for Americans to grow their own marijuana on private property. People don't plant pot in remote wilderness because they like to go hiking. The reason they do it is obvious, but not so obvious that the AP should be forgiven for writing so much without mentioning it.

Marijuana is illegal and until that changes, the problems associated with it will get worse every year. Keep that in mind. As devastating as our marijuana laws are today, they are actually causing greater and greater harm the longer they continue.

Are Cocaine Users Killing the Rainforest?

The argument that cocaine users are destroying the environment is rapidly leading its proponents into a spiraling abyss of irony and incoherence:

If you're into charlie, snow, or a few lines of snort, Colombia's Vice President Francisco Santos Calderón has a message for you: your cocaine use is a "predator of the rain forest" and a serious threat to human life.

"Cocaine use requires a disposable income and during the week many users drive hybrid cars and recycle. Then, on the weekend, he or she destroys everything they believe in," Calderón said. [Huffington Post]

Wait, what!? Did he just say that cocaine users are successful and well-educated? Shall police start profiling Prius drivers for drug searches? I remember the good old days when cocaine was supposed to make you steal things and kill people.

I can’t even begin to imagine why you’d argue that cocaine is part of a healthy lifestyle if your goal is to make people stop doing it. If all this is true, then we can conclude rather easily that the problem with cocaine is how it’s produced and sold (which can be changed) rather than what happens when people use it (which cannot).

The two options are 1) illicit cocaine cultivation in the rainforest, or 2) regulated cultivation somewhere else. There is no third option in which everyone agrees not to do coke. If you wait for that to happen while the rainforests burn, you’re a bigger part of the problem than the party people who drive Priuses.

Save the Rainforest From the Drug War

U.S.-sponsored efforts to fumigate Colombian coca crops have utterly failed to prevent cocaine production. But they have been very effective at destroying Colombia's national parks:
Leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries, and narcos that control the billion-dollar cocaine trade have invaded the 2.5-million-acre Macarena, laying waste to much of it to plant coca. Most of Colombia's 48 other national parks and nature reserves are suffering similar fates. Chased from more accessible sites by U.S.-sponsored aerial fumigation, coca growers relentlessly clear forests knowing that they are beyond the reach of the U.S.-Colombian fleet of planes because spraying of the parks is prohibited by law. [Los Angeles Times]
So what's next? Are we gonna spray crop killers on this precious irreplaceable ecosystem? Doing that will just force the drug lords to burrow deeper, leaving an ever-expanding trail of flaming destruction in their tracks.

Let's face it, rainforests are awesome. They are filled with jaguars, anacondas, and large spiders that eat chickens. I don't know what kinds of animals live in Colombian forests specifically, but I'm sure there are some wicked cool creatures in there that are worth saving.

Unfortunately, there's nothing in this entire LA Times article that even vaguely resembles a plan for stopping drug traffickers from completely destroying everything. The Colombians' best idea is literally to ask that people please stop doing cocaine, a plan so useless it isn't worth the trees that died to print it out. We are on an irreversible trajectory towards the total permanent destruction of many of the world's most unique natural resources as long as current efforts to thwart illicit drug production continue. That is just a fact.

This would all be a terrible price to pay to get rid of cocaine, except that we haven't even come close to accomplishing that and we never will. Invaluable natural resources are being destroyed for nothing. Only by ending the drug war immediately can we even begin to address this rapidly expanding ecological crisis.
Location: 
United States

New species of hummingbird discovered in Colombia, endangered by drugs industry

Location: 
Bogota
Colombia
Publication/Source: 
Portsmouth Herald News (NH)
URL: 
http://www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070515/NEWS/70515003

The Coveted ONDCP Hiking Award

Any police officer who's ever risked life and limb in the line of duty should be enraged. The Drug Czar is giving out awards to officers who hike around California forests pulling up marijuana plants. From The Willits News in Mendocino:
The Mendocino National Forest Law Enforcement team has received a national Director's Award from the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy for its outstanding service to the nation in combating marijuana trafficking on the national forest last year.


"More marijuana was taken by this team than any other group within the Forest Service in 2006," the citation from Director Walters reads. "In honor and appreciation to the individuals whose outstanding accomplishments greatly enhanced the results of the National Marijuana Eradication Initiative your remarkable efforts have helped protect America from crime, drugs and violence," the award continues.

That's simply not true. I don't recall hearing about a marijuana shortage last autumn. There's no evidence that this activity has prevented anyone from using marijuana, just as there's no evidence that stopping people from using marijuana would be beneficial even if it were possible. What we've got here are a bunch of well-meaning, highly-trained public servants whose talents are being wasted on a glorified easter-egg hunt. The only reason we don't send boyscouts to do this is that they can't be trusted.

Now to be fair, the task does involve rappelling from helicopters, which can get a bit dicey. But that's not the danger that tends be emphasized here. More typically, we're told that grow sites are booby-trapped (which is actually to thwart thieves), and that 22-caliber rifles are commonly found (which are to shoot rodents and other pests). In short, the real heroes of the forest are fire-fighters, which we could have more of if we ended drug prohibition.

Still, while I vehemently deny that there's any significant danger associated with marijuana eradication in national forests, I am prepared to acknowledge that there's a certain amount of skill involved in actually locating the plants. I've spent a considerable amount of time hiking myself, and despite my best efforts, I've never discovered a massive secret marijuana garden.

Location: 
United States

Bogota Targets Europe in Cocaine-Awareness Drive

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Financial Times
URL: 
http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.asp?feed=FT&Date=20061027&ID=6145224

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