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Paraphernalia: Florida Legislature Passes Bill Banning Bong Sales

In a move aimed directly at marijuana smokers and the vendors who supply them with their pipes and bongs, the Florida legislature has passed a bill that will make it illegal to sell drug paraphernalia in most head shops. The bong bill, HB 187, passed the Senate earlier and was approved unanimously in a House floor vote on Wednesday. It now awaits signature by Gov. Charlie Christ.
Under the bill, only shops where the sale of tobacco products and accessories constitute 75% of income or shops where the sale of pipes and bongs constitutes less than 25% of income will be allowed to sell a long list of smoking devices. These include pipes of any material, water pipes, carburetion tubes and devices, chamber pipes, carburetor pipes, electric pipes, air-driven pipes, chillums, bongs, and ice pipes or chillers.

Violation of the law would be a misdemeanor. Offenders could face up to a year in jail. If signed by the governor, the law would go into effect on July 1.

Head shop owners tried to organize to fight back, even creating a web site, Kill Bill 187, in a vain bid to block the bill. Jay Work, the owner of Grateful J's Grateful Deadhead Shop in Margate and a second shop in Boca Raton, led the fight.

"Shop owners, small-business owners are being thrown under the bus here," he told the Broward Palm Beach New Times. "They're saying that if I sell a $4,000 piece of art at my store, that I have to sell $12,000 worth of cigarettes. I'm not sure who that helps," Work says. "They're saying basically you can sell this stuff -- we're just going to make it really hard."

While drug paraphernalia is already illegal in Florida, pipes that could be used to smoke tobacco are legal to make, own, buy, and sell. They only become paraphernalia if they are used to do something illegal. But this bill attempts to circumvent the law with its restrictions on sales, Work said.

"The pipe itself is just a pipe," Work says. "The pipes I sell are harmless unless you take the pipe outside and beat someone over the head with it."

"I've been fighting the pipe industry for the longest, because it is all a part of the drug trade and the criminal enterprise that we know exists and destroys neighborhoods, families and order in our society," said sponsor Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-Tampa Bay) earlier this month. "When was the last time you stopped at a red light and saw someone smoking a hit of tobacco out of one of these one-shooters or water pipes?" he told NBC Miami.

Rouson, a self-described former crackhead, has gone after paraphernalia in the past, too. Last year, he proposed a bill that would have imposed an extra sales tax on smoking paraphernalia to pay for DARE programs that were facing cuts.

"Florida has a conscience and an awareness that marijuana and the smoking and ingesting of it is not healthy for an individual, nor is it healthy for public safety and the order in society," Rouson added.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 19,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 3,000 so far in 2010. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:
Minerva Bautista, wounded in recent Michoacan attack
Wednesday , April 21

In Monterrey, gunmen raided two hotels and kidnapped at least six people. The incident began when dozens of gunmen stormed the Holiday Inn at around 3:00am and went room to room looking for specific individuals -- taking at least four guests while allowing others to leave. The hotel receptionist and possibly a security guard were also abducted. Another receptionist was abducted from a hotel across the street. The gunmen were apparently being led to the fifth floor by a handcuffed man with whom they arrived. Before the attack, the gunmen blocked off access to and from the hotels by parking stolen trucks in the road.

Friday , April 23

In Ciudad Juarez, six federal police officers and a local policewoman were killed in an ambush. The incident took place after two patrol cars were flagged down for assistance by an unidentified man, only to be ambushed by several gunmen. On Monday (April 26), Mexican police arrested five suspects in the incident, all thought to be members of La Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juarez Cartel. In addition to the killing of the police officers, the gunmen confessed to 39 other homicides since 2009, and at least 21 extortions.

Saturday , April 24

In Michoacan, gunmen attacked the motorcade of a high-ranking public security official. Four people were killed and eleven were wounded, including the Michoacan State Security Secretary, Minerva Bautista. Gunmen wielding AK-47's and using fragmentation grenades attacked the convoy, sparking a firefight in which two bodyguards were killed, as well as two civilians who were caught in the crossfire.

Meanwhile, in Monterrey, a soldier was wounded and six gunmen were killed in a clash between the army and suspected drug traffickers.

Sunday , April 25

In Sinaloa, hooded prisoners killed four men inside a prison. The four men had been at the prison for 15 minutes and were on their way to a medical checkup when they were attacked and stabbed by the assailants. It was later reported the four men who were killed had been under investigation in the murder of several police officials, including two police chiefs. Violence is common in Mexican prisons, and many local jurisdictions have complained of having to house violent federal inmates with ties to drug cartels alongside common delinquents.

Wednesday , April 28

In Ciudad Juarez, gunmen shot dead eight individuals inside a bar in the center of the city. At approximately 4:00am a group of 20 gunmen entered the bar and ordered most clients and staff to leave, before leading the eight victims to a parking lot where they were shot. At least two of the dead were adolescents. The bar where the incident took place is just two blocks from a hotel where a large contingent of federal police officers is housed.

In another part of Ciudad Juarez, three men were shot dead and another left seriously wounded after being attacked in a shopping center parking lot.

In Nuevo Leon, soldiers raided a ranch in Sabinas Hidalgo and found 16 hostages. After a brief firefight with approximately 10 gunmen, two of whom were killed, soldiers stormed the compound and discovered the 16 hostages, which included a mother and child. The other eight gunmen managed to escape into the nearby mountains. It appears that the ranch and the gunmen belonged to the Zetas Organization. At least three of the hostages had been taken at gunpoint from an improvised checkpoint on the Monterrey-Reynosa highway.

The incident was the second hostage rescue in 24 hours in Nuevo Leon. Earlier, soldiers had raided another location in the town of General Bravo and rescued seven hostages, most of whom were local farmers who were being held as part of an extortion plot.

In Acapulco, 26 local police officers were taken into custody by Mexican Navy personnel. The police were taken into custody on suspicion of being involved in illegal activities in the sectors to which they were assigned, and of being in possession of a large collection of automatic weapons that were not registered with the police department. Additionally, one of the vehicles searched in the operation was found to contain a large bag of marijuana.

Total Body Count for the Year: 3,349

Total Body Count for the Week: 208

Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 19,660

Total Body Count 2009: 7,724

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Medical Marijuana: NJ Patient John Wilson Freed on Appeal Bond, Lawmakers Call for Pardon

New Jersey medical marijuana patient John Wilson walked out of Southern State Prison Thursday, freed on bond while he appeals his five-year prison sentence for growing his own medicine. Wilson was convicted in December of manufacturing marijuana for growing 17 plants and possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms. The following month, New Jersey became the 14th state to approve medical marijuana. That law will go into effect August 1.
CMMNJ Wilson pardon campaign poster
Wilson, a 37-year-old with multiple sclerosis, had served five weeks of his prison sentence in a succession of local and state jails and prison when a court ruled Monday he could be freed on bond pending appeal. It took until Thursday for his family to come up with the $15,000 cash bail.

During his trial, Wilson was blocked from entering evidence about his medical condition or telling jurors he was growing marijuana to treat it. That is the issue that will be heard on appeal.

Wilson's case garnered media attention, thanks in part to its curious juxtaposition with the Garden State's move toward medical marijuana and thanks in part to supporters organized by the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, which organized demonstrations at the Somerset County Courthouse. "People with MS who seek cannabis therapy should not be in prison," said the group's Chris Goldstein.

Medical marijuana supporters Sens. Raymond Lesniak and Nicholas Scutaria have called for Gov. Chris Christie to pardon Wilson.

Until then, Wilson finds himself in something of a medical predicament. He told the Associated Press upon his release that he was not going to use medical marijuana until it becomes legal this summer. "Whenever they open the program, I would register and abide by the law," Wilson said. "You know what I mean." But in the meantime, he can't afford his $3,000 a month MS medicine.

Canada: Poll Finds Majority Still Want to Legalize Marijuana, But Not Other Drugs

Marijuana legalization continues to garner majority support in Canada, with 53% of respondents to a new Angus-Reid poll saying they supported legalization. That figure is unchanged from the previous Angus-Reid poll on the issue two years ago.

Support for legalization was highest in pot-producing British Columbia (61%), neighboring Alberta (59%), and Canada's most populous province, Ontario (57%). Legalization had less than majority support only in the Atlantic provinces (47%) and the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (34%).

But while supporting marijuana legalization, Canadians also indicated they support many of the Conservative government's anti-drug proposals. Most non-controversially, 83% supported introducing a National Drug Control Strategy with media campaigns aimed at stopping young people from using drugs. Even the government's draconian mandatory minimum sentence proposal for marijuana growers and drug dealers won 70% support.

What Canadians do not support is scrapping the previous government's marijuana decriminalization proposal or eliminating harm reduction programs, such as needle exchanges and the Vancouver safe injection site. Only 36% of respondents agreed with those measures.

While support for freeing the weed remains strong in Canada, support for legalizing other drugs, which was never very high, is declining. Only 6% supported legalizing ecstasy, 5% supported legalizing crack, powder cocaine or heroin, and only 4% supported legalizing methamphetamine. All of those figures represent a drop of a least three percentage points from the previous Angus-Reid poll on the issue in May 2008.

Declining support for drug legalization and support for government anti-drug measures may be a consequence of Canadians' fears that the country has a drug problem. Some 42% of respondents think Canada "has a serious drug problem that affects the whole country," while 40% said the problem is limited to certain locales and populations, and only 11% said Canada did not have a serious drug problem.

Public Opinion: California Support for Pot Legalization At 56% in New Poll

A SurveyUSA poll conducted this week for a consortium of California television stations showed majority support for marijuana legalization. An initiative that would do just that, the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, will be on the ballot in November.

The poll found that 56% of those surveyed responded affirmatively to the question, "Should the state of California legalize marijuana?" That's the same number as supported legalization in a Field poll a year ago this month. In this week's poll, only 42% answered negatively, with 3% undecided.

People under 35 supported legalization by a margin of three-to-one (74%-25%), with support declining to 46% among the 35-to-49 age group, rising to 49% among the 50-64 group, then declining again to 39% among those 65 and older. Among all voters under age 50, support was at 61%, while among those over 50, it dropped to 46%

The poll revealed a significant gender gap, with 65% of men supporting legalization, while a dramatically lower 46% of women supported it. That means legalization supporters will have to work to win over a key demographic.

There was majority support for legalization among all ethnic groups except Hispanics, of whom only 45% wanted to free the weed. Support was highest among blacks (67%), followed by whites (59%), and Asians (58%).

Somewhat surprisingly, there was majority support for legalization in all regions of the state, although only barely, except for the San Francisco Bay area, where support was at 65%. In Central California and the Inland Empire, support was at 54%, and in the Greater Los Angeles area, support was at 52%.

The poll was conducted Tuesday and involved interviews with 500 adults across the state. It has a margin of sampling error of plus/minus 4.4%.

Public Opinion: Battle of the Marijuana Polls

Only 33% of respondents in a new Associated Press/CNBC poll support legalizing marijuana, with a solid majority (55%) opposing it. Decriminalization fared similarly poorly, garnering only 34%, while support for medical marijuana was at 60%.

But the AP/CNBC is a low-end outlier compared to other recent national polls on marijuana legalization and/or decriminalization, finding levels of support about 10 points less than other polls conducted in the past year or so. More in line with other recent polls was a CBS News poll released Tuesday that had legalization support at 44%.

One reason for the low levels of support in the AP/CBC poll may lie in the apparent over-representation of the country's most conservative regions. Thirty-seven percent of respondents were from the South and 22% from the Midwest, while only 18% were from the Northeast and 23% from the West.

Unfortunately, the AP/CNBC poll does not provide a breakdown of support for legalization or decriminalization by region. That information could have provided especially useful insight on support for legalization on the West Coast, where a legalization initiative will be on the ballot in California and legalization initiative signature-gathering campaigns are underway in Oregon and Washington.

But the CBS poll does provide a regional breakdown, and the results have to be encouraging for reformers on the West Coast. That poll found majority support (55%) for legalization in the West, the only region where legalization has a majority. Support was at 44% in the Northeast, 40% in the South, and 36% in the Midwest.

The AP/CNBC poll also suggests that American attitudes toward marijuana legalization are a bit incoherent. While only 33% supported legalization and 34% supported decriminalization, 56% thought marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol (44%) or less strictly than alcohol (12%). Alcohol, of course, is a legal, regulated substance.

Among the 55% of people who said they oppose marijuana legalization in the AP/CNBC poll, 14% said they would support it if state governments could tax the proceeds and use the revenues to fund programs. That would bring support for legalization up to the 40-41% range, more in line with other recent polls, but it will not hearten legalization campaigners hoping that economic arguments will significantly increase support for reforms.

A plurality of respondents to the AP/CNBC poll (46%) did not believe that legalization would have any impact on the economy, although 32% thought it would a positive impact. One in five (21%) thought legalization would have a negative impact on the economy. Still, a solid majority (62%) were up for taxing marijuana if it were legal.

Respondents were evenly divided on the impact that legalization would have on crime. One-third thought crime would increase, one-third thought crime would decrease, and one-third thought there would be no change in crime rates. Respondents were also divided on whether the cost of enforcing marijuana prohibition was worth it. Forty-eight per cent said yes and 45% said no.

Some of the opposition to legalization in the AP/CNBC poll stems from health concerns and fears that marijuana use will lead to hard drug use. A plurality of people (46%) thought legalization would harm the overall health of the country, while 39% thought it would have no effect and 13% thought it would improve health. And while 49% of respondents thought that legalizing marijuana would have no affect on hard drug use levels, a sizeable minority (39%) still adheres to the discredited "gateway theory" that smoking pot pushes people to try harder, more dangerous drugs.

The AP/CNBC poll was conducted April 7-12, 2010 via phone interviews with 1,001 respondents and has a margin-of-error factor of plus/minus 4.3%. The CBS News poll was conducted March 29-April 1 via phone interviews with 858 respondents. It has a margin of error factor of plus/minus 3%. Both polls were conducted using both landline and cell phone numbers.

Congress: House Border Caucus Wants Half a Billion Dollars to Fight Mexican Narcos

Congressmen from districts along the US-Mexican border are asking for $500 million in emergency federal funds to fight the drug trade along the border. The request came last Friday in a letter from the House Border Caucus to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to include immediate funding in an emergency supplemental spending package.

The letter requested:

  • $202.2 million to hire hundreds of additional US Border Patrol agents and inspection agents at ports of entry to alleviate understaffing.
  • $200 million to go toward replacing communications infrastructure used by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along remote stretches of the border.
  • $50 million to go toward Operation Stonegarden, a federal program that assists local law enforcement in fighting violence and drug and weapon trafficking.
  • $39.6 million to screen all CBP agents to prevent infiltration and corruption efforts by cartels.
  • $10 million to compensate border region health care providers as they treat individuals wounded in Mexico who cross the border to seek treatment at US hospitals.

"The will of governments in communities in the US and Mexico to combat criminal elements is strong," said the letter written by Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso). "The United States Congress must continue to honor that resolve with needed funding to aid those serving on the front lines at this critical juncture."
Merida Initiative photo (from
The funding request comes as prohibition-related violence in Mexico continues unabated -- the official death toll now stands at more than 22,000 since 2006 -- and has attracted new concern in the US with attacks on US consulates in Mexico and the killing of three consular employees in Ciudad Juarez.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose decision in December 2006 to go to war against the so-called cartels unleashed the current wave of violence, is coming to Washington next month to meet with President Obama and address both houses of Congress.

"We are hoping to get this funding to the border soon, and we are urging our leaders and colleagues to make it happen," said Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX). "We want to make sure our federal agents on the border have everything they need to protect themselves, to protect us and to protect the border."

"We want to make sure that the border law enforcement get as much support as they need," said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX). "They understand we're doing as much as we can from Congress to help them supplement the work they do."

Congress has already allocated at least $1.2 billion for anti-drug assistance to Mexico via the 2008 Plan Merida. This additional funding would come on top of that. And there's no guarantee that would be the end of it.

"Our first shot at doing this of course is with the appropriation's emergency funding... if we (get) part of it (at that time) we can always go to the second part which is the regular appropriations," Cuellar said in a telephone Tuesday with the Valley Morning Star. "I feel one way or another we will get a good share of what we are asking for."

Feature: Mixed Reactions to DC City Council's Medical Marijuana Regulations

The District of Columbia City Council Tuesday unanimously approved regulations for a DC medical marijuana program, but some patient and provider advocates are concerned the measure is too restrictive. The measure must be voted on again next month, and then approved by Congress under DC Home Rule law.

Under the measure approved by the council, DC residents who suffer from HIV, cancer, glaucoma, or a "chronic and lasting disease" will be able to possess up to two ounces of marijuana in a 30-day period after presenting a doctor's recommendation. Patients will not be able to grown their own medicine, but will be able to purchase it through one of five medical marijuana distribution centers. Patients, designated caregivers, and distributors will register with the city Department of Health and be provided with ID cards.

Distributors will be limited to growing no more than 95 plants and must be located at least 300 feet from schools. The original version of the legislation had a 1,000-foot location restriction, but that was reduced after advocates said it would make it nearly impossible to find suitable locations in the city.

"This legislation seeks to avoid problems while assuring the District moves forward with a medical marijuana program that is based on evidence and best practices," said council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), chairman of the Health Committee.

The Tuesday vote is one of the last steps in the more than decade-long struggle to bring medical marijuana to the District. Voters approved a medical marijuana initiative with 69% of the vote in 1998, but DC officials were blocked from implementing the will of the voters by the Barr amendment, named after then Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA). That amendment was only removed last year, after Democrats regained control of the Congress. DC officials are counting on Congress to look the other way when asked to approve the measure later this year since federal law does not recognize medical marijuana.

While many medical marijuana supporters are happy with the measure, others fear it is so restrictive it will defeat its purpose. "We're happy that they passed it -- some cities have yet to enact any legislation -- but we have some concerns with the language that is currently in there," said Nikolas Schiller, secretary for the DC Patients' Co-op and member of Americans for Safe Access DC chapter. "There is no home cultivation for patients. In 1998, District residents voted legal cultivation at home, but this measure removes that language," he said.

"Patients can only use or possess cannabis at home," Schiller went on. "The council is coming from a perspective where they don't want coffee shops or places where people can medicate together, but this will be an onerous restriction on patients. People who rely on medication for work will have to leave work and go home to medicate."

Patient advocate and assistant director David Guard took issue with the council's failure to include chronic pain in its list of allowable conditions. "Chronic pain isn't in there, and that's deplorable," he said. "In DC, 3% of the population suffers from HIV/AIDS, but according to national figures, 30% of the population suffers from chronic pain. I'm sick of people turning their backs on chronic pain."

Schiller also criticized the Council's decision to make distributors for-profit operations. "The original language allowed for nonprofit corporations, and Catania is on record as saying they only want to use best practices from other states, but only Colorado has the for-profit model included," he noted. "From a medical perspective, the for-profit model is seen as being part of the larger health care industry. People feel that for-profit distribution works against the best interests and needs of the patients and for the business's shareholders and boards of directors."

He also took issue with the 95-plant limit, saying it could prove insufficient for patient demand and that it could lead to distributors choosing fast-flowering strains instead of those best suited for patients. "The reality is that 95 plants will not be enough at the beginning because they won't know what the demand is," Schiller said. "If they can only grow 95 plants and it's a for-profit business, they will want to produce as much medicine as possible, leading to strains that grow quickly."

The council will vote again on the measure on May 4, and then Congress will have 30 days in which to approve it. That means DC could have a working medical marijuana system before year's end. It also means that advocates will have one more shot at getting a better program.

"We're thankful that the Council has been proactive and understands the need for medical marijuana," said Schiller. "We are hoping to influence the Council to change this for the better, and we are lobbying our elected officials to make those changes."

Medical Marijuana: Wisconsin Bill Dies as Session Ends

Medical marijuana advocates in Wisconsin have been working for a decade to get a bill passed there, and now they will have to wait at least one more year. The legislative session ended Thursday without the Assembly taking a vote on a bill that had already passed the Senate.
Gary Storck leading IMMLY march, October 2009, Madison
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), one of the main sponsors of the bill, issued a statement saying the bill would not go to the Assembly floor. "It is disappointing to many of us, myself included, that the legislature did not pass medical marijuana this session," he said. "But as I have assured the patient advocates, our efforts enjoyed many successes this year and we came closer to our goal than ever before. This fight is far from over because this issue is far too vital for too many people."

Medical marijuana patient and advocate Gary Storck of Is My Medicine Legal Yet?, the group leading the fight for the bill, told the University of Wisconsin independent daily The Badger Herald that while he was disappointed, he and others would be working through the summer to get referenda on local ballots in support of the issue and may even target specific legislators for defeat. "There's a lot of people in the legislature who just don't get it," Storck said. "We've come to the conclusion that if you can't change the law, maybe you have to change the legislature."

Storck speculated that many solons have errant perceptions of marijuana's harmfulness. "They've been so brainwashed that marijuana is some kind of dangerous, illegal drug, that it's hard for them to think outside the box," Storck said. "Cannabis won't kill you; it won't cause permanent damage. It's definitely something that should be out there."

Look for Storck and IMMLY to be back at again next year, and busy in the meantime laying the groundwork.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 19,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 3,000 so far in 2010. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:
DEA Mexican drug cartel map
Thursday, April 15

In Acapulco, six people were killed during a shootout between federal police and drug traffickers suspected to be tied to Edgar Valdez Villareal. At least three of the dead were bystanders caught in the crossfire, among them a mother and her 8-year old child. One 26-year old individual was taken into custody.

Sunday, April 18

In Tepic, Nayarit, three men were killed at a funeral home. The men were paying respects to a suspected retail-level drug dealer that had been executed on Friday. In the previous few days, three other people thought to be involved in the Tepic drug trade had been gunned down. The killings are thought to be a power-struggle following the capture of several local bosses.

Monday, April 19

In Tamaulipas, a shootout occurred between the army and suspected drug traffickers. At least three gunmen were killed and at least four soldiers were wounded. Seventeen individuals were taken into custody. The battles began when gunmen attacked soldiers on a recon patrol in the city of Ciudad Aleman. The three gunmen were killed in the return fire. Thirty-two rifles were seized, as well as 7,000 rounds of ammunition and six vehicles.

In the city of Chihuahua, a former TV anchor was gunned down as she bought food from a street vendor. An unidentified young man that accompanied her was also killed. Isabella Cordova had previously been the main anchor on the Cada Dia television program, and more recently worked as the PR director for the Mexico City Chamber of Commerce. The two were attacked by gunmen wielding automatic weapons.

In Culiacan, Sinaloa, an inmate in prison for federal crimes was shot dead in his cell by at least two gunmen. In Guamuchil, Sinaloa, two people were murdered, including a female school teacher. Two people were killed in Mazatlan, and a police commander was killed in Michoacán. In Tijuana, one man was shot dead by customs officers, and in Jalisco, a police official was killed when assailants raked his home with gunfire.

Wednesday, April 21

In Cuernavaca, two men were found dead outside a bar. A note left at the scene claimed that 25 members of a group allied to Hector Beltran-Leyva are currently being held and interrogated in the city of Acapulco, after which they are to be executed. Cuernavaca has seen a rise in drug-related violence as US-born drug trafficker Edgar Valdez Villareal battles Hector Beltran-Leyva for control of the Beltran-Leyva organization, which was left without a leader following the December killing of Arturo Beltran-Leyva by Mexican naval commandos.

In Nuevo Leon, four police officers were wounded after the checkpoint they were manning was attacked by gunmen. In Leon, Guanajuato, two families were attacked by gunmen, leaving four dead and another wounded. In Michoacán, at least three people were killed, including a gunman who died during a clash with the army. At least four people were killed in Jalisco, three in Sinaloa, two in Tijuana. A union leader was gunned down in Guerrero, and two people were killed and another wounded after an incident in Acapulco.

In Monterrey, gunmen kidnapped six people from two hotels. Initial reports indicate that between 20 and 30 gunmen were led by a handcuffed captive to the fifth floor of the Holiday Inn, where they went room-to-room looking for specific individuals. Three male guests and a receptionist were taken, and another receptionist was taken from the Hotel Mision across the street. A private security guard who was posted outside the Holiday Inn is also reported missing, but it is unclear if he was kidnapped as well.

In the suburbs of Mexico City, gunmen clashed with soldiers, leaving two gunmen dead and another wounded. The incident came after soldiers launched a raid to capture Gerardo Alvarez Vasquez, a presumed member of the Beltran-Leyva Cartel. Vasquez, who was captured, is thought to be partly responsible for the wave of violence which has struck the states of Guerrero and Morelos recently.

Total Body Count for the last two weeks: 420

Total Body Count for 2010: 3,141

Total Body Count for 2009: 7,724

Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 19,452

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

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