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Will the Government's Drug 'Take-Back' Do Anything to Reduce Misuse? (Opinion)

Seeking to address the fact that in 17 states prescription drug combination overdoses kill more people than traffic accidents, and that prescription drug related treatment admissions have recently increased 400%, the DEA will collect your unused medications, no questions asked. But will this straightforward strategy really address the rise in addictions and death? The data suggest that the issue is more complicated than you think.
Publication/Source: 
TIME (US)
URL: 
http://healthland.time.com/2010/09/24/will-the-governments-drug-take-back-do-anything-to-reduce-misuse/

Court Blames DEA Agent’s Road Rage in 2003 Beating

Location: 
KS
United States
When Barron Bowling wouldn’t let a car pass him from the right seven years ago, it sparked road rage that left him beaten and lying on blistering pavement. Bowling’s attacker turned out to be federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent Timothy McCue, who was in an unmarked car with two colleagues.
Publication/Source: 
The Kansas City Star (MO)
URL: 
http://www.kansascity.com/2010/09/20/2238527/court-blames-dea-agents-road-rage.html

Federal Agents Raid At Least Five Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 8, 2010
11:25 PM

CONTACT: Americans for Safe Access
ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361

Federal Agents Raid At Least Five Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Advocates underscore need for dispensary regulations, end to federal enforcement

LAS VEGAS - September 8 - The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducted raids earlier today on at least five medical marijuana dispensaries in Las Vegas, Nevada, and reportedly seized patient and financial records, but made no arrests. According to the Associated Press, Natalie Collins, spokeswoman for the local U.S. Attorney's office said that the federal search warrants and "supporting affidavits stemming from what she called 'an ongoing law enforcement operation' were sealed by federal court order." The dispensaries raided today by federal agents and local police included: Happiness Consultant, Salvation Haven, Nature's Way, Organic Releaf, & Holistic Solutions.

The federal raids come nearly a year after an October 2009 Justice Department directive issued to U.S. Attorneys in medical marijuana states, deprioritizing enforcement against medical marijuana patients and providers. The Las Vegas raids occurred less than two months after another spate of federal raids in July against state-compliant patients in California and Michigan. "The federal government should never be called on to enforce local or state medical marijuana laws," said Caren Woodson, Director of Government Affairs with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "The federal DEA must abide by the Justice Department policy and stay out of the enforcement of local and state medical marijuana laws."

In July, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman stated publicly on local television that allowing dispensaries was "a very legitimate goal," and that, "If doctors say that it does a patient some good and gives relief to somebody that has a dire need for it, I'm all for it." Nevada failed to consider the issue of distribution at the time of adopting its medical marijuana law in 2000. Although the state allows "Designated Primary Caregivers" to supply medical marijuana to patients, the qualifications are stringent and require "significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a person diagnosed with a chronic or debilitating medical condition."

Nevada's effort to address the need of sick patients to access local distribution of medical marijuana mirrors the efforts in other states like California, Colorado, Michigan, Oregon and Washington. Both Maine and Rhode Island have amended their laws to include state-licensed distribution similar to the medical marijuana laws of New Mexico. The trend to ensure safe access to medical marijuana by establishing licensed distribution facilities has even extended to states currently deliberating new medical marijuana laws, such as Iowa, Kansas, Maryland and Wisconsin.

"A failure to regulate the much-needed distribution of medical marijuana by states such as Nevada should not be seen as a green light by the feds to conduct raids," continued Woodson. ASA has and will continue to work with both federal officials in the Obama Administration as well as local and state officials in Nevada to address the safe distribution of medical marijuana as a public health issue.

The DEA is currently being directed by Bush-appointee Michele Leonhart, who served as deputy under DEA Administrator Karen Tandy; both were responsible for more than 200 federal raids in California and other medical marijuana states during the Bush Administration. Against objections from medical marijuana advocates, President Obama nominated Leonhart to head the DEA under his Justice Department, but her Senate confirmation has yet to be scheduled.

Further Information: Justice Department memorandum from October 2009 regarding medical marijuana: http://blogs.usdoj.gov/blog/archives/19

###
Location: 
Las Vegas, NV
United States

Kentucky Republican Governor Candidate Supports Legal Hemp

Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffett has come out in support of legalizing industrial hemp production. That makes him the second gubernatorial candidate in the state to embrace the idea. Perennial independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith has called for its legalization for years.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/philmoffett.jpg
Phil Moffett
Moffett is one of at least three Republicans contending for the party's nod to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Steven Beshear. The gubernatorial election is set for 2011.

Moffett, who along with US Senate candidate Rand Paul is part of the tea party insurgency within the Bluegrass State's Republican Party, came out on the issue in response to a question during a meeting with libertarian voters last Thursday and reaffirmed his support in an interview with the Associated Press last Friday.

He is ready to "go to the carpet" to legalize hemp production, he told the AP. "We're going to have to challenge the federal authority to keep us from growing a legitimate crop," he said. "Industrial hemp is not a drug, so it shouldn't be regulated by the DEA or any other federal authority."

Moffett said he supported hemp production both for economic reasons and as a means of reducing the power of the federal government. "It's a farm product that can be used in a number of different ways to create jobs, but it's also a way to get the federal government farther off our back," Moffett said Friday. "Right now, the Drug Enforcement Agency does not allow hemp to be grown, and it would be a great test case for us to fight against the federal government to be able grow a completely legitimate crop that the federal government has decided they don't believe is worthy of planting."

Moffett doesn't favor marijuana legalization and he opposes medical marijuana "on an official level," he said. "But on a personal level, if someone were dying of cancer and marijuana was the only way they could find comfort, I'm not going to get in the way," he said. "There's a humanitarian aspect to this."

While industrial hemp may be imported for use in this country, American farmers are barred from growing it by the federal government. Nine states -- Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia -- have passed legislation removing barriers to its production or research, according to the industry group Vote Hemp.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

KY
United States

Marc Emery Prosecutor Now Says Legalize Marijuana

(Update: On Saturday, September 18, Emery supporters are organizing Free Marc Emery rallies worldwide. Read the listings and other information here. Supporters are also calling on the Canadian government to repatriate Emery into the Canadian justice system, a right they have under treaty.)

In a Seattle Times op-ed Saturday, former US Attorney for the Western District of Washington John McKay defected to the other side. As the federal prosecutor in Seattle, McKay oversaw the indictment and prosecution of Canadian marijuana seed seller and pot advocate Marc Emery, who now sits in an American federal detention facility awaiting the formal handing down of a five-year prison sentence later this month.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/john-mckay.jpg
better late than never: John McKay
But while he thinks Emery and most pot-smokers are "idiots," McKay has come to see the futility of continuing to enforce marijuana prohibition. "As Emery's prosecutor and a former federal law-enforcement official, however, I'm not afraid to say out loud what most of my former colleagues know is true: Our marijuana policy is dangerous and wrong and should be changed through the legislative process to better protect the public safety," he wrote.

Marijuana prohibition "has utterly failed," McKay concluded. "The demand for marijuana in this country has for decades outpaced the ability of law enforcement to eliminate it," he declared, ready to throw in the towel.

"Brave agents and cops continue to risk their lives in a futile attempt to enforce misguided laws that do not match the realities of our society," he wrote. "These same agents and cops, along with prosecutors, judges and jailers, know we can't win by arresting all those involved in the massive importation, growth or distribution of marijuana, nor by locking up all the pot smokers."

Pot prohibition fills the pockets of "Mexican and other international drug cartels and gangs," even though marijuana is nowhere nearly as harmful to users as other illegal drugs, McKay wrote.

"So the policy is wrong, the law has failed, the public is endangered, no one in law enforcement is talking about it and precious few policymakers will honestly face the soft-on-crime sound bite in their next elections. What should be done?" McKay asks.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/emeryprotest1.jpg
Marc Emery
It is a rhetorical question, of course, and McKay has answers: Recognize that the real public safety danger to Americans is not from marijuana but from prohibition, build policy on "sound science, not myth," and... drum roll please... "We should give serious consideration to heavy regulation and taxation of the marijuana industry (an industry that is very real and dangerously underground). We should limit pot's content of the active ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), regulate its sale to adults who are dumb enough to want it and maintain criminal penalties for sales, possession or use by minors, drivers and boaters."

Not to worry, though, McKay assures his erstwhile partners in the prohibition racket. There will be years to come of extirpating criminality from the former black market, and that means job security: "DEA and its law-enforcement partners must therefore remain well equipped and staffed to accomplish this task: to protect our families from truly dangerous drugs and to drive drug cartels, gangs and dope dealers from our society."

Still, a remarkably candid confession from a man who made a living prosecuting marijuana offenders. Too bad he didn't find himself on the road to Damascus when he still had the prosecutors' powers.

Seattle, WA
United States

Ponzi Scheme Strikes Drug Enforcement Agents

Michele Leonhart's nomination to head the Drug Enforcement Administration has been complicated by a ponzi scheme that has ensnared DEA agents and officials. "Given Leonhart's raids against medical marijuana dispensaries and her alleged role in covering up the House of Death scandal, it would be funny if what sinks her nomination is some retirement Ponzi scheme," said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/27/ponzi-scheme-strikes-dea-_n_697264.html

DEA Seeks Ebonics Translators to Decipher Black Peoples' Phone Conversations

Ever since NAACP endorsed marijuana legalization in California, there's been a raging debate over whether the drug war targets black communities. Looks like the DEA just settled it.

ATLANTA  — Federal agents are seeking to hire Ebonics translators to help interpret wiretapped conversations involving targets of undercover drug investigations.

The Drug Enforcement Administration recently sent memos asking companies that provide translation services to help it find nine translators in the Southeast who are fluent in Ebonics, Special Agent Michael Sanders said Monday. [AP]

But don't get the wrong idea. This has nothing to do with the drug war being racist. They just need expert testimony to help win drug cases:

"You can maybe get a general idea of what they're saying, but you have to understand that this has to hold up in court," he said. "You need someone to say, 'I know what they mean when they say 'ballin' or 'pinching pennies.'"

Wait, is that drug slang? As dumb as all of this sounds, I'm beginning to envision a very real risk of the DEA bringing some jackass into court to randomly redefine words and incriminate people who could've been talking about anything. If they start asking for search warrants on the grounds that 'pinching pennies' means laundering money, that's a total nightmare and it's exactly the kind of crap we should probably expect from this.

Is Obama Planning to Allow More Medical Marijuana Raids?

In the aftermath of a couple very questionable DEA raids of medical marijuana providers, not to mention the nomination of notorious drug warrior Michele Leonhart to head the DEA, we're forced to question once again whether President Obama intends to abide by his pledge to tolerate medical marijuana in states that have legalized its use.

I'll be the first to tell you that the medical marijuana situation has improved considerably since Obama took office. The aggressive anti-pot posturing of the previous administration has largely subsided, and the DEA's hideous practice of raiding medical marijuana facilities has certainly declined. But in light of recent events, the future of federal medical marijuana policy is anything but certain.

Mike Riggs has a story in The Daily Caller today that isn't going to make anyone feel better about the situation:

But the White House and the Justice Department both told TheDC that Holder’s memo does not give dispensaries carte blanche to grow or sell marijuana, and that recent raids don’t conflict with what Obama expressed while campaigning.

“I wouldn’t say the memo ‘discourages’ certain raids,” a DOJ offical told TheDC. Rather, “it talks about prioritizing resources most efficiently.” And both the White House and the DOJ argued that the gist of the Holder memo was that the DEA would “not focus its limited resources on individual patients with cancer or other serious diseases.”

Admittedly, the Holder Memo does suck if you actually read it. Alas, we find ourselves confronted with the exact sort of shameless backtracking that the memo was so deliberately crafted to allow for.

Whether Obama is breaking the various vague promises he's made with regards to medical marijuana policy is debatable depending how one interprets events up to this point. But there's no doubt that he's positioning himself to horribly piss off the large majority of Americans who've long opposed federal harassment of patients and providers. To whatever extent to ugliness of Bush era medical marijuana policy is behind us, Obama would be wise to keep it that way.

The Forgotten Ban: Obama Sticks with DEA Nominee Michele Leonhart Despite Criticism of Raids

Michele Leonhart, a DEA deputy administrator appointed by President George W. Bush and the acting administrator since the resignation of Karen P. Tandy in 2007, has consistently ignored a Justice Department directive not to “waste resources” by raiding medical marijuana dispensaries and growers operating legally in states that allow the sale of medical marijuana. Now, seemingly backtracking on his marijuana policy, President Obama is sticking with the Bush appointee and DEA-head nominee Leonhart despite massive criticism.
Publication/Source: 
The Daily Caller (DC)
URL: 
http://dailycaller.com/2010/08/18/the-forgotten-ban-obama-stands-by-dea-nominee-michele-leonhart-despite-outcry-from-progressives/

Congress Approves $600 Million for More Cops, Drones on Mexico Border [UPDATED]

(This is an updated version, posted August 11, of an article originally published on August 7.)

Acting to fulfill a June request from President Obama, the Senate last Thursday approved spending $600 million to increase the law enforcement presence on the US-Mexico border. The House earlier approved a $701 million version of the bill, and Tuesday moved on a voice vote to accept the Senate version.

military drone planes
The Obama request was largely a response to the meltdown over immigration in Arizona and calls to "secure the border" from Republicans. It also reflected heightening concern about the prohibition-related violence bloodying the Mexican side of the border. Last year, Obama had vowed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but at this point, all that's left is more money for law enforcement.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) provides funds for purchasing more unmanned drone surveillance aircraft ($32 million), 1,000 new Border Patrol agents to form a rapid-deployment unit ($129 milllion), as well as another 250 agents each for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE ($50 million) and Border Protection ($29 million).

Then there's $10 million for investigators to stop corruption in the Border Patrol and ICE, $14 million for communications equipment for new officers, $6 million for forward operating bases near the border, $30 for border interdiction, $8 million for a federal law enforcement training center, $10 million for federal judiciary resources for increased caseloads, $196 million for the Department of Justice, $13 million for border area US Attorneys, $8 million for more US Marshals along the border, and $7 million for border processing of apprehended drug and human traffickers.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms gets $37 million in the border beef-up, the DEA gets $34 million, and the FBI gets $24 million. And then there's another $21 million for "interagency crime and drug law enforcement along the border," another $20 million for a federal prison system for immigration criminals, and, finally, $2.1 million to "expedite" the deportation of aliens along the border.

The Senate bill pays for the spending by imposing a new tax on companies that hire foreign workers. Companies affected would be those that hire more than 50 H1B or L visa foreign workers.

"What a relief that the Senate is still capable of passing measures that are really needed without playing political games," McCaskill said Thursday after the vote. "America must do a better job of securing our borders. This bill will help in a big way."

"This bipartisan effort shows we are serious about making the border more secure than ever. Now our attention must turn to comprehensive reform, which is the only way to fully address the problem of illegal immigration," said Schumer, the chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee.

And so the show goes on, just as the flows of drugs and immigrants go on.

Washington, DC
United States

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