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Marijuana: Daily 4:20 Protests Spark Saturday Arrest in Keene, New Hampshire

Daily marijuana legalization protests in the Central Square in Keene, New Hampshire, led to one arrest Saturday for marijuana possession and one Sunday—but the victim in that arrest was later found to be smoking chocolate mint in his glass pipe and released without charges. The demonstrations began last Tuesday with a couple of dozen people gathering at 4:20 p.m. to toke up as an act of civil disobedience and call for marijuana law reform. After Saturday's arrest, the protests continued, with about 100 people showing up Monday. By Tuesday, the protests had spread to Manchester. The protests are being led by Free Keene, a local affiliate of the libertarian New Hampshire Free State Project. The project's stated goal is to persuade 20,000 libertarians to move to New Hampshire in a bid to shift the politics of the low-population Granite State. Arrested Saturday was Richard Paul, 40, one of the protest organizers. Paul was arrested after police patrolling the square saw him smoking a joint. Protestors shouted at police, yelling "Leave him alone!" and "This is how they did it in Nazi Germany!" After the arrest, about 50 protestors followed Paul and police officers to the police station, where they shouted through the door and sat in a circle smoking marijuana. No more arrests were forthcoming, though. To confuse police at the protests at the square, some smokers smoked things other than marijuana. That was the case Sunday, when police arrested a protester identified only as "Earl" for puffing on a glass pipe. Embarrassingly for police, that substance turned out to be not marijuana but chocolate mint, and Earl was quickly released. Protests continued this week in Keene and have now spread to Manchester. In the latter town, protestors sparked up in the presence of police, but failed to provoke any arrests. Perhaps the cops have better things to do. And that's precisely the point.
Location: 
Keene, NH
United States
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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

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We've got two weeks worth of corrupt cops again: dope-peddling cops, dope-stealing cops, cops who rip off motorists, cops who rip off their departments, cops who take bribes, cops who squeal to dealers. Let's get to it (although a few more may dribble in by Friday): In Weston, Missouri, a Weston police officer was arrested September 22 on two drug-related charges. Officer Kyle Zumbrunn, 26, was arrested by officers of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at the request of the Atchison Police Department. He went down after selling a suspected controlled substance to a KBI undercover officer. Zumbrunn now faces charges of sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school and using a telephonic device to facilitate a drug transaction. In Watertown, Connecticut, a Waterbury police officer was arrested September 24 on a variety of drug charges. Officer Francis Brevetti, 29, was injured in a traffic accident the previous weekend, and when police towed his vehicle, they found drugs inside. He is now charged with possession of cocaine, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, possession of narcotics with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of a school, possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of marijuana with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of a school and possession of drug paraphernalia. In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer assigned to a federal drug task force was arrested September 24 on charges he stole money and jewelry from houses targeted in drug raids and embezzled funds used to pay snitches. Officer Mark Lunsford, a six-year veteran, had been assigned to the Baltimore DEA, which conducts large-scale drug investigations. Now he's been assigned to a federal detention facility pending a bond hearing. In West Columbia, Texas, a former West Columbia police detective pleaded guilty September 21 to five felony charges, including two counts of tampering with physical evidence and theft of a firearm by a public servant. Former officer Joseph McElroy, 33, admitted to stealing a gun and cocaine from the department evidence room, forging signatures on department checks, and falsely signing a collection book receipt saying he had returned money to someone when he hadn't. In exchange for pleading guilty, McElroy gets one year in jail and 10 years on probation. In Miami, a former Miami-Dade County police officer pleaded guilty September 24 to stealing marijuana and cash from a driver during a traffic stop. Jesus Rodolfo Hernandez will do 30 days in jail for pulling over a confidential informant, arresting him for a traffic offense, and stealing marijuana and $575 in cash he found in the driver's back pocket. He pleaded guilty to grand theft, possession of marijuana and tampering with evidence. He will also spend two years on probation and must pay back the nearly $25,000 it cost to investigate and prosecute the case. In Philadelphia, a former Philadelphia police officer was convicted September 24 of tipping off a friend about an impending drug raid. Former Officer Rickie Durham, 44, was found guilty of two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of lying to investigators for tipping off a cocaine kingpin hours before a raid four years ago, while he was working as a member of an FBI drug-gang task force. Durham now faces 12 to 15 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on January 6. In Springfield, Massachusetts, the former Holland police chief was sentenced September 18 to two years in prison for ripping off the town in various ways, including stealing seized drug money. Former Chief Kevin Gleason pleaded guilty to larceny by scheme of more than $250 and two counts of larceny of more than $250. He admitted to selling town-owned guns and rifles and pocketing the money, receiving $655 in reimbursements for a conference he never attended, and stealing $2,190 in seized drug money from a locker to which he had the only key. In Indianapolis, a former Indianapolis police officer was sentenced September 23 to 25 years in federal prison for using false search warrants or breaking into homes in order to steal drugs and cash. Former Officer Robert Long, 35, and two other now-convicted former officers were tracked by the FBI as they did their misdeeds. Long was found guilty in June of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 50 kilograms of marijuana, three counts of possession with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana and attempt to possess with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. One of his comrades in crime took a plea deal and got the minimum 10 years in prison. A third renegade officer awaits sentencing. In New York City, a former Customs and Border Protection supervisor was sentenced September 24 to 10 years in federal prison for turning a blind eye to drug trafficking through JFK Airport. Walter Golembiowski, 66, a former Supervisory Customs and Border Protection Officer at JFK, pleaded guilty in March to narcotics conspiracy and two counts of bribery conspiracy. He must also pay $10,000 in fines and more than $2.5 million in asset forfeiture.
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Free Marc Emery!! Canada's Prince of Pot Has Begun His Journey Into America's Gulag

Marc Emery is no longer a free man. Canada's Prince of Pot was taken into custody today. He turned himself in at the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver, and is now jailed in Vancouver awaiting imminent extradition to the US, where he is set to plead guilty to one count of marijuana distribution for selling pot seeds over the Internet. Emery is expected to be sentenced to five years in federal prison in the US for his seed sales. He sold millions of seeds in the decade prior to his 2005 arrest and became a leading hemispheric advocate for marijuana legalization, using the profits from his seed sales to fund reformers across the continent. He also called out then drug czar John Walters for lying about marijuana and interfering in Canadian domestic politics, leading then DEA head Karen Tandy to issue this press release lauding his arrest as a blow to the legalization movement:
Today's DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and the founder of a marijuana legalization group -- is a signficant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement. His marijuana trade and propagandist marijuana magazine have generated nearly $5 million a year in profits that bolstered his trafficking efforts, but those have gone up in smoke today. Emery and his organization had been designated as one of the Attorney General's most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets -- one of only 46 in the world and the only one from Canada. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery's illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canda. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.
Can you say politically motivated? I knew you could. One American attorney familiar with his case told me this weekend that Emery could have fought the prosecution and sought to have shown that it was unlawfully politically motivated, but that Emery and his Canadian legal team didn't want to take that risk. That's understandable, given that Emery was looking at decades or even life in prison if he lost. Now, America's legions of unknown marijuana martyrs are being joined by one very big name. Let's hope that Emery's unjust imprisonment turns a spotlight on the hideousness of a US federal legal system that turns a blind eye to torture but cages a man for selling pot seeds. The Vancouver Sun's Ian Mulgrew sums it up nicely in an op-ed piece entitled Marc Emery's Sentence Reeks of Injustice and Mocks Our Sovreignty:
After two decades as Canada's Prince of Pot, Marc Emery will surrender himself today in B.C. Supreme Court and become the country's first Marijuana Martyr. Emery will begin serving what could be as long as five years behind bars as Uncle Sam's prisoner for a crime that in Canada would have earned him at most a month in the local hoosegow. It is a legal tragedy that in my opinion marks the capitulation of our sovereignty and underscores the hypocrisy around cannabis. Emery hasn't even visited America but he was arrested in July 2005 at the request of a Republican administration that abhorred his politics. He is being handed over to a foreign government for an activity we are loath to prosecute because we don't think selling seeds is a major problem. There are at least a score of seed-sellers downtown and many, many more such retail outlets across the country. In the days ahead, once the federal justice minister signs the extradition papers, Emery will be frog-marched south to Seattle where his plea bargain will be rubber-stamped and he will be sent to a U.S. penitentiary. For comparison, consider that the B.C. Court of Appeal last year said a one-month jail sentence plus probation was appropriate punishment for drug and money-laundering offences of this ilk. The last time Emery was convicted in Canada of selling pot seeds, back in 1998, he was given a $2,000 fine.
There's more at the link above, but you get the gist. Mulgrew, of course, is right on the money. The Canadian government has shamefully failed to protect one of its citizens from the crazed drug war machine south of the border, and the US government is shamelessly imprisoning yet another non-violent pot person--this time mainly to shut him up. We should demand that Marc Emery and all other marijuana prisoners be immediately released. Short of that, we should, as Emery requests, demand that he be allowed to serve his time at home in a Canadian prison.
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My Apologies, But There Will Be No Chronicle This Week

Some of you may have noticed that I have been in South Dakota quite a bit recently. That's because I was returning to my home town to be with my adult son, who had been in an eight-year battle with mesothelioma. He died at home on Friday evening. His name was Travis Bales. (To answer the questions of anyone scratching his head after reading the obituary, I was Travis's biological father, married briefly to his mother in an ill-fated teenage marriage. We divorced and both remarried and started new families. When I left South Dakota for Texas in 1979, I agreed to let his mom's new husband, Steve Bales, adopt him, but he was always part of my life, and vice versa.) Today is his visitation, tomorrow is his funeral, Wednesday I fly back to San Francisco, Thursday the NORML conference starts. I won't have the heart or the time to do the Chronicle this week. I will try to at least blog something from the conference over the weekend. Travis was always a supporter of the cause, and he enjoyed the kind bud as much as anybody. He and I walked the mean streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside together, and the mean streets of Mexico City. He made it to Jamaica and Bob Marley's grave with his friends--I still haven't done that. Travis would, I'm sure, cut me some slack this week, but then he would tell me to get back to work on making things right. I'll start doing that again next week.
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Harm Reduction: Pennsylvania Allows Syringe Sales Without Prescription, Effective Immediately

Responding to years of agitation by harm reductionists and public health advocates, the Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy Saturday published new regulations that will allow pharmacies to sell syringes without a prescription. The change goes into effect immediately. The move was lauded by activists as a significant public health victory in the battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C via injection drug use. Under previous regulations, pharmacies could sell syringes only to people who obtained a doctor’s prescription. The new regulations carry no limit on the number of syringes that can be purchased at a time, nor do they have age limits. “This change is particularly important in Pennsylvania because we have only two locations--Pittsburgh and Philadelphia--in which legally authorized syringe exchange programs operate,” said David Webber, an attorney for the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania. “These two programs alone are simply not adequate to address this problem across the entire state, but syringe exchange programs continue to be crucial in providing sterile syringes as well as access to drug treatment and health care for injection drug users.” “This is a chance for every pharmacy to become part of HIV prevention in Pennsylvania,” said Scott Burris, professor at Temple University’s School of Law and a national authority on syringe regulation and HIV prevention. “The pharmacy board has taken an important step forward for evidence-based policy.” It didn’t come swiftly or easily. Activist organizations including the Pennsylvania Aids Law Project, Prevention Point Pittsburgh, Prevention Point Philadelphia, as well as legislators, HIV workers, and others had lobbied for the change for a decade. In August 2007, the pharmacy board proposed new regulations allowing for over-the-counter syringe sales and opened them up for public comment. Thanks to concerns expressed by harm reduction and public health groups during the comment period, the board removed age and quantity restrictions. The board rejected record-keeping requirements requested by the House Professional Licensure Committee, saying it “does not believe that maintaining a record and requiring individuals to provide a name or other identifying information would advance the public health and safety.” Similarly, it rejected a number of concerns from the Pennsylvania Medical Society that the rule change would increase drug use. The board’s action reflected well-established scientific evidence that access to clean syringes is a critical component of stemming the spread of blood-borne diseases such as HIV and Hep C among injection drug users. Now the number of states that do not allow syringe sales without a prescription is down to two: Delaware and New Jersey.
Location: 
PA
United States
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Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr. Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal 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 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 5,000 so far in 2009. 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: Thursday, September 10 Last Thursday morning, the body count for the year passed 5,000. Four people were killed in Guerrero, among them a rural law enforcement officer. Additionally, in Chiapas, a group of gunmen threw a fragmentation grenade at a municipal office. Several people were wounded and a vehicle parked outside was damaged. Friday, September 11 In Tijuana, authorities reported a spike in drug prohibition-related violence. Nineteen people were killed in the first eight days of September. Authorities have reported 405 homicides in Tijuana from January 1st through September 11th. This is less than half of the 843 homicides reported in 2008, but 68 more than the 2007 total. The Baja California attorney general’s office believes that much of the recent violence is due to reprisals against suspected informers following the arrest of several high-level traffickers. Saturday, September 12 In the resort city of Acapulco, five bullet riddled bodies were found dumped in a landfill. According to Mexican authorities, police found a note near the bodies which was signed “the boss of bosses”. It is unclear to whom the note refers. In Sinaloa,a municipal police commander was killed when his car was ambushed by four vehicles carrying an estimated twenty armed men. His 13-year old son and a friend of his were wounded. Two innocent bystanders, aged 14 and 17, were killed by stray bullets as they sat under a tree near the road. Meanwhile, four charred corpses were found in a burning car on the Mexico City-Oaxaca highway. In Ciudad Juarez, 12 drug-related murders were reported. Sunday, September 13 In Ciudad Juarez, eight people were killed in just a few hours. The eight people who were killed died in six different incidents. Among the dead was Jose Robles Ortiz, who was riddled with bullets on September 11th. His death is being investigated by the state prosecutor’s office for the state of Chihuahua. Monday, September 14 At the El Paso border checkpoint, over $1 million in cash was seized over the period of a few days. The largest seizure took place on Friday afternoon, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials found $802,720 in an SUV that was headed towards Mexico. Two Mexican nationals, aged 33 and 34, were detained and remain in El Paso County Jail. Two other seizures made during the week totaled $206,000. El Paso is just across the border from Ciudad Juarez, and is a lucrative drug trafficking corridor for Mexican drug trafficking organizations. It is a federal offense to not declare currency over $10,000 dollars upon leaving or entering the US. Tuesday, September 15 In Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, 21 people were killed on Tuesday. In Tijuana, firefighters found six bodies inside a burning car. Four of the men were seated in the car, while two were found in the trunk. In Ciudad Juarez, five people-including two brothers-were gunned down at a car wash. Ten people were killed in other acts of violence in the city. Five people were killed when gunmen opened fire at a hardware store, and five men in a pickup truck were killed when they were ambushed. Wednesday, September 16 In Ciudad Juarez, suspected drug cartel gunmen attacked a drug rehabilitation clinic, killing ten. This is the second such attack this month. Drug gangs have targeted rehab clinics in Ciudad Juarez, claiming that they are protecting members of rival trafficking organizations. A spokesman for the states attorney’s office said that the dead included nine men and one woman. Mexican independence day celebrations took place under extremely heavy security, due to fears of violence. Security was especially tight in Morelia, Michoacán, where a grenade attack by members of La Familia cartel killed eight people and wounded over 100 during last year’s celebrations. In many cities, traditional children’s parades and outdoor parties were canceled because of security concerns. Read last week's Mexico drug war update here.
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Law Enforcement: Facing Budget Woes, Minneapolis Axes Dope Squad

Facing a $5 million budget deficit, the Minneapolis Police Department responded Monday by disbanding its narcotics squad. That makes Minneapolis the only major city in the US without one. Last year, the 14-member narcotics squad investigated nearly 4,000 cases resulting in 519 federal and state charges. Officers seized about $300,000 in drug money, as well as 24 guns and 26 vehicles. Police Chief Tim Dolan said the department still has sufficient resources to handle drug cases. He said community resource teams in the department’s five precincts will handle street-level and mid-level dealing, while the Violent Offender Task Force will work on high-level cases. The department also has officers seconded to an anti-drug task force with state, local, and DEA members, and it has just started a gang unit, he said. "Are we going to be as good as we were before in dealing with drug cases? I don't know," he said. "Their stats speak for themselves." The former head narc, Lt. Marie Przynski, was not happy. "This unit has been highly productive, if not the most productive unit in the Minneapolis Police Department," Przynski said. "I'm disappointed, and so are my officers, about this decision." The 14 former narcs will be reassigned, with three of them joining the Financial Crimes unit, including an asset forfeiture specialist and a specialist in pharmaceutical investigations ranging from forged prescriptions to insurance fraud. Other members of the defunct dope squad will be assigned at least temporarily to street patrols. The department still needs to cut 50 positions to get under budget. It may also reduce the number of deputy chiefs from three to two. Still, Dolan said neither street patrols nor key units, such as homicide, robbery, sex crimes, juvenile, and domestic abuse would be reduced. One city council member, Ralph Remington, suggested that the department could have more money if its members quit misbehaving. Just three weeks ago, the city paid out $495,000 to a man slugged by a Minneapolis police officer during a drug raid last year. That was only the most recent high-profile settlement paid by the city for departmental misbehavior. "The department could save a lot of money if they corrected the bad behavior of a few bad cops," said Remington.
Location: 
Minneapolis, MN
United States
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Europe: Dutch Border Town Cannabis Coffee Shop Owners Lose Court Battle Against Ban--UPDATED, Shops Now Closed

UPDATE: Seven of the eight shops in the two towns are closed as of today. The eight remains open, but says it is selling only coffee. Six Dutch border town cannabis coffee shop owners seeking to block local authorities from shutting them down lost a court battle last Friday. A judge in Breda in the southern Netherlands ruled that the coffee shop owners had chosen the wrong judicial venue for their challenge of the ban. The coffee shop owners are challenging a decision by the mayors of Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Zoom, both near the Belgian border, to close all eight coffee shops in their communities in a bid to stop “drug tourism.” An estimated 25,000 foreigners pour into the two towns each week to take advantage of the Dutch policy that tolerates retail marijuana sales. They are blamed for causing problems ranging from public urination to traffic congestion to hard drug dealing. Under the ban, the coffee shops could stay open and serve alcohol, but could not sell marijuana. If they continued to sell marijuana, they could be punished with a five-year closure. The lawyer representing the coffee house owners, Harry Nieland, said Tuesday that his clients had not yet decided whether they would abide by the ban on marijuana sales or challenge it. The ban by the mayors comes as the Dutch government wrestles with how to reduce or eliminate the number of foreigners coming to Holland from more repressive neighboring countries to buy marijuana. Last week, a leaked letter from three Dutch ministers suggested the government would seek a “members only” policy for the coffee houses. Under European Union law, countries cannot discriminate by nationality, so the Dutch cannot ban foreigners from becoming coffee house members. But the Dutch government wants to subvert the law by requiring that marijuana be purchased only with credit cards issued by Dutch banks.
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Southeast Asia: Indonesian Parliament Enacts New Drug Law; Reformers Criticize it on Human Rights Grounds

After four years of debate, Indonesia’s parliament passed a new drug law Monday. It was immediately criticized by reformers on numerous counts. The new law maintains the death penalty for some drug offenses, criminalizes drug addiction, and makes it a crime for parents to fail to report their addicted children to authorities. The law also transfers responsibility for fighting drug trafficking from the government to civil society. "The drugs law will save our children and young generation. It will be essential in the fight against drug trafficking,” said Minister for Law and Human Rights Andi Mattalatta after the bill was passed. “Currently, drug dealing is not only conducted by individuals but by drugs syndicates that operate neatly," But the Indonesian Coalition for Drug Policy Reform (ICDPR) begged to differ. “This law classifies drug addicts as criminals and therefore subjects them to criminal charges, while doctors have said that drug addiction is a curable disease,” Asmin Francisca, the group’s coordinator told reporters outside parliament’s plenary session hall. “The law should have recognized that a proper solution to drug addiction is to empower drug addicts, not to punish them as criminals.” Asmin warned that the article in the law transferring responsibility for fighting trafficking from the government to civil society could lead to vigilante justice. “The article, however, does not clearly elaborate on what kind of civil participation is needed to fight the war against drug trafficking,” she said. “Without clear regulations, the law is open to many forms of exploitation by civil groups, including acts of vigilantism.” Asmin also condemned the retention of the death penalty for some drug offenses. “Death penalties are not in line with the purpose of modern criminal charges that aim to rehabilitate a person rather than punish them for their actions,” she said. “Basically, I believe this law is not in line with the basic principles of human rights.” According to the Indonesian National Narcotics Agency’s extremely precise figures, there are 27,000 drug users in the country, including 12,689 aged 30 or older, 6,790 between 25 and 29, 5,720 between 20 and 24, 1,747 between 16 and 19, and 109 users under the age of 16.
Location: 
Jakarta
Indonesia
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The Manhattan DA’s Race: The Princess of Darkness vs. Two Former Coke-Snorting Assistant DAs

Former Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder has made her career as a “tough on crime” prosecutor and “hang ‘em high” judge, reveling in the moniker "The Princess of Darkness." For years on the bench, she routinely sentenced low-level drug offenders to harsh Rockefeller drug law sentences without batting an eye. Now, in a tight race for Manhattan District Attorney against former Assistant DAs and self-admitted former cocaine users (more on that below) Richard Aborn and Cyrus Vance, Jr., in next Tuesday’s election, Snyder seems to be changing her tune. Citing her “progressive” vision, Snyder says : "For more than 20 years on the bench, I have supported alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent, first-time offenders by promoting programs that provide drug treatment, education, and job training. The most important work I did as a judge was finding young people who were not yet locked into the cycle of incarceration and violent crime, and working with all parties to find effective and appropriate sentencing that avoided incarceration and led to rehabilitation." Some Rockefeller law victims, though, aren’t buying what Snyder is peddling. Writing in the Huffington Post, former Rockefeller law prisoner Tony Papa blasted Snyder for sentencing countless low-level drug offenders as "kingpins," including Jose Garcia, who died in a prison cell at age 69, serving a life sentence under the Rockefeller laws. "Nowadays there is a new and improved Leslie Crocker Snyder," wrote Papa. "She is running for New York City District Attorney and, remarkably, now supports Rockefeller Drug Law reform. I almost fell off my chair when I heard this. She sounded nothing like the old "Princess of Darkness." Do I think Snyder really supports drug law reform? No, I don't. She knows that she needs the black and Latino vote. And she knows that public opinion has shifted, as the wastefulness and ineffectiveness of harsh sentences for drug law violations has been brought to light over the past decade. I guess running for a political office has a way of changing a person's thinking." Here’s another Rockefeller law victim who isn’t buying either: In a debate last week, Snyder admitted smoking pot, but both Aborn and Vance trumped that by admitting they had snorted cocaine as young men. Of course, both men did the mandatory ritual negation of their acts, with Aborn calling his coke-snorting “an error” and Vance saying his message to young people was that “drug use is something to be avoided.” Aborn sounds pretty progressive on drug policy reform: "It's time to stop ruining young people's lives because of a single mistake," he says on his web site. "It's time to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws and replace them with a sensible policy grounded in public health and common sense. Drug kingpins deserve prison. First and second-time non-violent offenders deserve an opportunity to rebuild their lives. And the families of offenders unfairly caught up in the draconian Rockefeller laws deserve to be reunited." And so does Cy Vance: "In April, Governor Paterson signed into law significant reforms to New York State’s draconian Rockefeller Drug laws,” he says on his web site. “As a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and member of the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform which provided the blueprint for these overdue changes, I welcome the progress that has been made on this important issue. During the more than two decades I have been involved in sentencing issues, I have always been an advocate for moving toward a treatment model that protects public safety through rehabilitation where possible as opposed to a punitive model based on incarceration….As District Attorney, I will continue to work with the Governor and State Legislature to ensure that our drug laws include statewide treatment options and re-entry programs that break the cycle of crime by changing behavior and strengthening families." But neither Alford nor Vance will come out and say that people should not be prosecuted for drug use or simple possession, like what they did in their youths. Maybe they don’t believe that. Maybe they think they should have been caught and punished for snorting a line or two. Maybe they think they should have been sent to drug treatment. But somehow, I doubt that. I think it’s more likely that just don’t think it would be politically expedient to say that absent harm to others, drug use should not be the state’s business. And that’s too bad. I don’t live in Manhattan, so I don’t get to vote on Tuesday. I wouldn’t presume to tell New Yorkers how to vote, and I’m not sure which candidate I would vote for. But I know which one I wouldn’t vote for. Got that, Princess? (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.)
Location: 
New York City, NY
United States
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Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr. Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal 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 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 4,000 so far in 2009. 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: Friday , September 4 Troops arrested three suspected cartel assassins in Ciudad Juarez. The three are thought to be part of La Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juarez cartel. Between them, they are accused of having participated in 70 killings. A high ranking police official was gunned down in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. The commander, Ubaldo Dominguez Grijalva, was shot by at least two gunmen outside his house at 6:30 AM. Fifteen days ago, he was involved in an operation in which three suspected cartel hitmen were arrested after a firefight in Los Mochis. Saturday , September 5 Mexican troops captured a suspect in the September 2nd killing of 17 patients in Ciudad Juarez drug rehabilitation center. The suspect, Jose Rodolfo Escajeda, is a high-ranking member of the Juarez cartel. He is also on the DEA’s list of most wanted fugitives on suspicion of being involved in marijuana and cocaine trafficking to the United States. A former high ranking official of US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US. The man, Richard P. Kramer, had previously been stationed in Mexico. He was apparently convinced by drug cartel members to retire and begin working for them directly. Kramer is accused of information from law enforcement databases concerning possible informants, and with being involved in a 660 pound cocaine shipment which traveled from Panama to the United States, before being finally seized in Spain in 2007. Sunday , September 6 Gunmen killed a state legislative candidate, his wife, and their two children at their home in Tabasco. Authorities originally suspected that the murders were carried out by drug traffickers angered by recent arrests. Jose Francisco Fuentes Esperon, 43, a former university professor, had begun his campaign just one day prior to his murder. Mr.Esperon and his wife were both shot, while the children, ages 8 and 10, were asphyxiated. Monday, September 7 An arrest was made in the killing of Juan Francisco Fuentes Esperon, the state legislative candidate murdered over the weekend (see above). Police arrested several young men in what apparently was a burglary gone wrong. Interestingly, however, the Zetas drug trafficking organization took the unusual step of publicly distancing itself from the murders. The Zetas hung a banner in Villahermosa, the state capital, saying they were not involved. Seven people were gunned down in several separate incidents in Ciudad Juarez. Four of the victims were killed at a motel, and included an ex-US soldier who lived in El Paso and worked for the Postal Service. The men were drinking when they were attacked by heavily armed gunmen. In another incident, a man was killed and five people wounded when gunmen entered a private party and began shooting. Tuesday, September 8 Mexico replaced its attorney general, Eduardo Medina Mora, who had held the position for nine years. President Calderon gave no reason for the move. He is slated to be replaced by Arturo Chavez Chavez, who had previously worked for the state attorney general’s office of Chihuahua, of which Ciudad Juarez is capital. He is likely to face a tough nomination battle in Mexico’s congress, as the decision has been criticized because of his work in Chihuahua. During his tenure there from 1992-1996, the Juarez cartel became much stronger and the murders of hundreds of women went unsolved. In Veracruz, police found a headless body along with a message from drug traffickers attached to it. The body was left in the same location where two bodies (and another message from drug traffickers) were found on August 26th. The note left with the body threatened extortionists and kidnappers, and may be the work of vigilante groups supported by drug traffickers or elements of the police. In Ciudad Juarez, a body with both arms severed was found dumped on a street. A spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office said that the victim was found with his severed arms crossed and placed on top of a cardboard sign that was left with the body. Additionally, the victim had plastic bags shoved into his mouth and his eyes were taped shut. On another subject, two journalists from the state of Tabasco were arrested on suspicion of working for the Zetas drug trafficking organization. Newspaper correspondents Roberto Juarez and Lazaro Abreu Tejero Sanchez are accused of taking thousands of dollars from drug traffickers to withhold stories and share information from police sources. Police learned of the payments, which totaled some $4,500 a month, from a captured Zeta lieutenant. Total reported body count for the week: 239 Total reported body count for the year: 4,955
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Europe: Dutch Government Wants “Members Only” Cannabis Coffee Shops

In a letter leaked to Dutch media, three key Dutch ministers wrote that the government wants to maintain the country’s famous cannabis coffee shop system, but that they should be “members only” so they will no longer attract foreign “drug tourists.” The ministers of justice, home affairs, and health wrote that reducing drug tourism and reducing the number of coffee shops would help reduce crime and public nuisances associated with them. Border town coffee shops in particular have been inundated with pot smokers from neighboring countries with more repressive policies, hordes of which have led to complaints of everything from traffic congestion to public urination to other drug dealing. The other criminality associated with the coffee shops comes from Holland’s half-baked policy of tolerance of retail cannabis sales and possession while continuing to prohibit the licit growing of cannabis to supply those shops. While the government was expected to issue a position paper on changing the coffee shop policy later this fall, Tuesday’s leaked letter provides a clear indication of where the government is heading: toward “members only” coffee shops. While discriminating by nationality within the European Union would violate EU law, it appears the Dutch government will try to bar foreigners by requiring a Dutch bank card to purchase cannabis. According to the letter, the ministers are also open to experimenting with allowing coffee shops to stock larger quantities of the herb. Currently, shops can keep only 500 grams on hand, resulting in a network of drug runners scurrying about Dutch cities and towns with fresh cannabis supplies.
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Will Foster is Back in Prison in Oklahoma and Needs Your Help

Will Foster’s nightmarish saga continues. Foster, you may recall, is the medical marijuana patient who was sentenced to 93 years in prison for growing a few plants in 1997. Thanks in no small part to a publicity campaign by Stopthedrugwar.org, Foster’s sentence was eventually reduced to 20 years, and he was paroled to California. After three years on parole, California officials decided Foster no longer needed supervision, but Oklahoma officials disagreed. When Foster was arrested in California for driving on an Oklahoma drivers’ license, Oklahoma issued a parole violation extradition warrant, but Foster filed a successful writ of habeas corpus to quash that warrant. Then, last year, Foster was arrested on bogus marijuana cultivation charges--those California charges were dropped after he spent a year in jail--and Oklahoma again sought his extradition as a parole violator. Oklahoma officials took Foster from the Sonoma County Jail in California, and he is now residing in prison in Oklahoma until 2011--or 2015, as Oklahoma parole officials are now claiming. In Oklahoma, the governor ultimately decides on whether to revoke parole or not. Foster had an administrative hearing Tuesday, which unsurprisingly found he had indeed violated his parole (by refusing to sign paperwork agreeing that his sentence had been extended). An executive hearing will take place sometime in the next one to three months, then that decision goes to the governor for approval or rejection. Foster and his supporters are urging the public to write to the parole board to ask it to recommend pardoning him or commuting his sentence, and to write or call the governor asking for the same thing. Key points: * Foster is a non-violent medical marijuana patient seriously ill with rheumatoid arthritis; * Foster plans to return to California and never set foot in Oklahoma again; * The after-the-fact extension of his sentence from 2011 to 2015 is unfair and unwarranted; * It does not make fiscal or budgetary sense for the state of Oklahoma to spend thousands of scarce public dollars to incarcerate Foster again for this non-violent offense. I just spoke to the parole office in Oklahoma, and they don’t yet have the information in their system required to send letters to parole board members, so instead, fax your concise, respectful letters to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board at (405) 602-6437. Mention Foster’s full name, William Joseph Foster, and his prisoner number, ODOC #252271. Fax your letter to Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry at (405) 521-3353 or, better yet, call his office at (405) 521-2342. In either case, mention Foster’s full name and prisoner number, and be polite. Drug War Chronicle will continue following Foster’s saga. Look for a feature article on the latest twists and turns on Friday.
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Marijuana: Arizona Supreme Court Rejects Religious Freedom Claim

Arizona’s law protecting religious freedom does not apply to a man convicted of smoking marijuana while driving, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday. The ruling came in Arizona v. Hardesty. In that case, Daniel Hardesty was arrested while driving in Yavapai County and charged with marijuana possession. At trial, he testified that he was a member of the Church of Cognizance, an Arizona-based religion that says it embraces neo-Zoroastrian tenets and uses marijuana for spiritual enlightenment. He argued that Arizona’s 1999 law limiting the state’s ability to "burden the exercise of religion" meant he could not be prosecuted because he was exercising his religious beliefs. The trial judge disagreed, and Hardesty was convicted. He appealed to the state Supreme Court, and has now lost there, too. In a unanimous opinion, the justices held that while the state religious freedom law mandates restrictions on religious practices only if it shows a compelling interest and that the restrictions must be the "least restrictive means of furthering that interest," the state does have a compelling interest in regulating marijuana use and Hardesty’s claim that the Church of Cognizance allows him to use marijuana anywhere or any time, including driving, made it clear that the "least restrictive means" was an outright ban on marijuana. Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, who authored the opinion, made a distinction between federal laws that allow Native American Church members to use peyote without fear of prosecution under state law and the religious freedom claim made by Hardesty. There was an "obvious difference" between the two situations, Berch said. "Members of the Native American Church assert only the religious right to use peyote in limited sacramental rights. Hardesty asserts the right to use marijuana whenever he pleases, including while driving,'' she wrote. Monday’s ruling was the second defeat in as many years for the church. Last year, church founders Dan and Mary Quaintance were convicted of marijuana possession and conspiracy to distribute marijuana after being stopped with 172 pounds of pot in New Mexico. A federal judge in New Mexico rejected their religious freedom arguments. Dan Quaintance is currently serving a five year prison sentence, and Mary Quaintance is doing two to three years.
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Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr. Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal 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 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 4,000 so far in 2009. 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: Thursday, August 28 -According to a study released by Mexican non-profit group Citizen Council for Public Security and Justice, Ciudad Juarez has become the most violent city on earth. With 130 murders per 100,000 people in 2008, Ciudad Juarez was considerably more violent than other cities with a high murder rate, such as Caracas, Venezuela, Medellin, Colombia, and New Orleans. The murder rate has gone up in 2009, with an average of 250 people being killed in Ciudad Juarez each month. Friday, August 29 -Five police officers and possibly one gunman were killed during a running gun battle in the state of Jalisco. The encounter began when a convoy of seven vehicles carrying at least 30 gunmen approached state policemen on a local highway. Four policemen were killed in the initial battle and the fifth was killed as police chased the assailants. -The aide of a Mexican federal agent who had been investigating the death of a crime reporter was found dead in Ciudad Juarez. Pablo Pasillas, 33, was secretary to the federal agent appointed to investigate the November killing of Armando Gutierrez, a crime reporter for El Diario. The first agent assigned to the case was shot dead outside his home in Ciudad Juarez. Sunday, August 30 - The defense lawyer for a convicted drug trafficker was found stabbed to death in his home in Toluca. America Delgado, 80, was the defense attorney for Tijuana cartel boss Benjamin Arellano Felix, who is now serving a 22-year sentence in prison. Delgado was found with his throat slit and with several stab wounds. The killing comes less than the month after another attorney for high profile drug traffickers was killed. Lawyer Silvia Raquenel Villanueva was gunned down in Monterrey on August 9th. Monday, August 31 -Four men have been arrested on suspicion of having committed 211 drug-related murders. Authorities have said that the four hitmen are tied to the enforcement arm of the Juarez cartel. Three of the men were presented to the media on Saturday in Mexico City. Omar Castro Rivera, 28, is accused of 93 homicides. Edgar Flores Martinez, 30, is accused of 87 homicides, and Cristian Enrique Franco Franco is accused of 22. A fourth suspect, Hector Armando Alcibar Wong, aka “The Korean”, 21, was already in custody and is accused of 15 homicides. The men told authorities that most of their murder victims were involved in drug-dealing, extortion, and other crimes in Ciudad Juarez. Authorities also said that the three men confessed to the killing of five motorcyclists on January 25th in Ciudad Juarez. The five dead were reportedly killed because they were members of the “AA” or Assassin Artists, a rival to the Juarez cartel. The group also confessed to the June 11 killing of five men in a motel. -Eight people were killed in the seaside town of Navolato, in the state of Sinaloa. The killings occurred when at least four heavily armed gunmen in a pickup truck began to fire into a crowd of partygoers. The dead included two boys, aged 15 and 16, and two females, aged 18 and 25. The shootings may be part of a recent wave of apparent vigilante attacks by armed squads suspected of working for drug cartels or the police. Two of the victims of the attack had criminal records for car theft. More than 30 carjackers and other low-level criminals have been murdered in Sinaloa in the last few months, according to local journalists. Tuesday, September 1 -The United States has released $214 million of the $1.4 billion in anti-drug aid promised to Mexico in 2007. The money is intended to fund equipment and training of Mexican security forces. Some detection gear has already been sent to Mexico during the summer, and a delivery of five Bell helicopters is due to be delivered to the Mexican army in the fall. Separately, law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border announced an agreement to improve cross-border communications and the creation of cross-border voice and data transmission networks for law enforcement. -In Ciudad Juarez a body was found hanging from a fence in a nightclub parking lot. Eight people were murdered in the same location several weeks ago. Wedneday, September 2 - In his annual state of the nation report, President Calderon claimed that the Mexican government was making progress in the war against drug traffickers. His written report, which was presented to congress on Tuesday, said that the drug trafficking organizations have been hit hard by major seizures of drugs, cash, and weapons, and more than 24,000 arrests in 2009 through the month of June. Thursday, September 3 -17 people were killed when a dozen gunmen burst into a drug rehabilitation clinic in Ciudad Juarez. The 17 patients killed were lined up before being shot. Cartel gunmen have targeted drug rehab clinics several time in the past, accusing them of protecting rival gang members. In a separate incident, gunmen killed the deputy police chief of Michoacan. Jose Manuel Revueltas, 38, and two bodyguards, were killed after their vehicle was attacked by heavily armed gunmen just blocks away from his office in Morelia. Total reported body count for the week: 149 Total reported body count for the year: 4,736 Read last issue's Mexico drug war report here.
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Canada: In Marijuana Grow Case, Alberta's Top Court Rules Police Use of Power Recording Device Violates Privacy Rights

In a 2-1 decision last Friday, the Alberta Court of Appeals ruled that Calgary police violated Canadian privacy protections when they persuaded a utility company to attach a device to create a record of electricity usage in a home where they suspected marijuana was being grown. The case is Crown vs. Gomboc. Daniel James Gomboc was arrested and convicted of marijuana cultivation after Calgary police on another call noticed his home showed signs that a marijuana grow was taking place. After spotting suggestive evidence, Calgary police then went to the utility provider Enmax without a warrant and persuaded it to attach a digital recording amp-meter (DRA) to Gomboc's home. The meter monitored Gomboc's power usage for five days, and police used the results to obtain the search warrant that resulted in his arrest and subsequent conviction. Gomboc appealed his conviction, arguing that the warrantless use of the DRA violated his privacy rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Alberta appeals court agreed, overturning his conviction and ordering a new trial. That new trial will take place without any of the evidence seized under the search warrant based on the DRA information. "It has been famously said that 'the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation,'" wrote Justice Peter Martin. "The actual prohibition is much broader: in our society, absent exigent circumstances, the state has no business in the homes of the nation without invitation or judicial authorization." Martin added that the expectation of privacy extends beyond the simple information-gathering on the timing and amount of electricity used to the behavior of utility companies. "It is also objectively reasonable to expect that the utility would not be co-opted by the police to gather additional information of interest only to police," wrote Martin. "Indeed, I expect that the reasonable, informed citizen would be gravely concerned, and would object to the state being allowed to use a utility to spy on a homeowner in this way." The decision could be a precedent that will lead to more reversals, Gomboc's attorney, Charlie Stewart, told the Calgary Herald. "It's interesting to think of all the people who have pleaded guilty or been convicted under these circumstances," said Stewart. "It's a question of the legitimacy of the search."
Location: 
Calgary, AB
Canada
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Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr. Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal 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 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 4,000 so far in 2009. 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: Friday, August 21 - The mother and brother of the reputed head of the La Familia drug cartel were arrested by Mexican authorities. This came despite explicit threats on television last month by Servando Gomez, the cartel boss, that any action against his family would bring retaliation. Gomez’s mother, Maria Teresa Martinez, was released two days after her arrest because of a lack of evidence. The brother, Luis Felipe Gomez Martinez, is still being held. -43 Mexicans were indicted by federal courts in Chicago and Brooklyn. The indictments, unsealed Thursday , charge the 43 Mexicans with operating a coast-to-coast distribution network through which drugs and money have flowed for the last 20 years. The three most high profile suspects--Joaquín Guzmán Loera, Ismael Zambada García and Arturo Beltrán Leyva-- are the current and former leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, although Beltran Leyva now operates his own, independent organization. 35 of the 43 suspects remain at large, while the other eight were arrested during the last week in Chicago and Atlanta. Saturday, August 22 -The Mexican government decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and meth. Under the new laws, people are now allowed to have 5 grams of marijuana, 50 mg of heroin, half a gram of cocaine, and 40 mg of meth. Mexican prosecutors believe that the new law will help in the war against drug cartels by allowing federal prosecutors to focus on combating large-scale traffickers and distributors rather than small-time users. This change in policy comes at a time when drug cartels are selling an increasingly large number of drugs domestically. A 2008 government study found that the number of drug addicts in Mexico had almost tripled in the past six years. -In Ciudad Juarez gunmen killed a Mexican army officer and another man in a bowling alley. Gunmen entered the Bol-Bol bowling alley and gunned down Captain Alejandro Aranda and an unidentified companion late on Friday night. Aranda was an administrator of a dining hall in a Ciudad Juarez military facility. Also, in Tijuana, three police officers were wounded when their patrol cars came under fire from suspected cartel gunmen. Monday, August 24 -The Mexican Army announced on Monday that it captured a leading member of the La Familia drug cartel in the Pacific coast city of Manzanillo. Luis Ricardo Magana, also known by the alias “19 1/2” (traffickers frequently use numerical codenames), is alleged to be responsible for the cartels shipments of methamphetamine to the United States. He is one of Mexico’s most wanted fugitives and is also thought to be involved in the planning of retaliatory attacks on federal police agents. Also on Monday, in the state of Sinaloa, a cooler containing four severed heads was found by the side of rural road. The headless bodies were found some 3 miles away. -16 people were killed during a 24-hour period in Ciudad Juarez. Among the victims was a police officer who wanted to resign after having previously received unspecified threats. In a separate incident, a group of heavily armed gunmen shot and killed a 15-year-old boy outside his home. The 16 killed now bring the death toll in Ciudad Juarez for the year over 1,100 killed. Tuesday, August 25 -Another 29 people were killed in drug-related violence across Mexico during a 24-hour period. Among the victims were a police commander and two of his officers in Nayarit who were killed when the car in which they were traveling was attacked by gunmen wielding automatic weapons. In Gomez Palacio, Durango two prison guards were found dead, while, in a separate incident, gunmen attacked a couple. The man died while the woman was left in serious condition. In Nogales, a cooler containing a dismembered human body was left at the entrance to a technical university. Additionally, six individuals were killed in Ciudad Juarez, three bodies were found at a ranch in Sonora, four people were murdered in Guerrero, and parts of nine human bodies were found across Sinaloa. -Recent court documents examined by the Houston Chronicle detail an ultra high-tech communications network employed by a Mexican drug trafficking organization. The federal court documents detail the testimony of Jose Luis Del Toro Estrada, 38, who is alleged to be a cartel communications expert. According to his testimony, his organization uses a string of hand-held radios on a network which stretches from Guatemala to the Mexico-Texas border. His team included an expert who specialized in installing radio towers and antennas, and another who researched new technology. Total reported body count for the last week: 155 Total reported body count for the year: 4,587
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Europe: Britain to Ban Spice, GBL, BZP

The British Home Office announced Tuesday that it is planning to ban several "legal highs," including "Spice," the club drug GBL, and the stimulant drug BZP. The substances will be added to the British list of controlled substances by year's end, said Home Secretary Alan Johnson. "There is a perception that many of the so called 'legal highs' are harmless, however in some cases people can be ingesting dangerous industrial fluids or smoking chemicals that can be even more harmful than cannabis," said Johnson. "Legal highs are an emerging threat, particularly to young people, and we have a duty to educate them about the dangers." "Spice" is a sort of synthetic cannabinoid which is currently sold legally as a spray to apply to herbal cigarettes. It has already been banned in France and Germany. It will become a Class B drug--in the middle tier of the British classification scheme--like amphetamines or marijuana. GBL (Gamma-butyrolactone) and a similar chemical, which are converted in to the Class C drug GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) in the body and often used as weekend party drugs, will become Class C drugs, the least serious drug classification. So will BZP (Benzylpiperazine) and related piperazines, which are stimulants taken as an alternative to amphetamine. Under Britain's Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, possession of Class C drugs can earn up to two years in prison, while possession of Class B drugs can earn up to five years. Dealing in either Class B or Class C drugs is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The Home Office has announced an education campaign around these newly classified substances. It is set to start at the beginning of the school year next month.
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Europe: Dutch Government to Fund Membership Card Scheme for Maastricht Coffee Shops

In a bid to stop the flow of tens of thousands of Belgian, French, and German marijuana consumers into Dutch border town cannabis coffee shops, the Dutch government announced this week that is investing 150,000 Euros ($213,000) in a pilot membership card program for coffee shop clients in Maastricht. The program was first proposed earlier this year by Maastricht Mayor Gerd Leers. The foreign marijuana consumers have caused various public safety and public nuisance problems, from congested automobile traffic to public urination and attracting street drug dealers. At least two other Limburg province border towns, Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom, have responded to the problem by saying they will close down all their coffee shops. Under the membership card scheme, only card-carrying coffee shop members could purchase cannabis, and purchased would be limited to three or five grams a day. Such a move would presumably deflate the number of "impulse" drug tourists. There are about 700 cannabis coffee shops in Holland. While the Dutch federal government is hostile toward them, it has committed not to act against them before the 2010 elections. That leaves efforts to reduce their numbers or otherwise restrict them in the hands of local officials. The federal government is also spending about $7 million for various local councils to address various problems associated with coffee shops, where users can purchase up to five grams of cannabis without fear of arrest. Ministers want to reduce the number of large coffee shops and reduce the involvement of organized crime. But that latter problem is largely an artifact of Holland's half-baked approach to marijuana. While the Dutch allow the possession and sale of small amounts of cannabis through the coffee shop system, they have made no provision for a regulated supply of cannabis for the coffee shops, leaving it to the black market.
Location: 
Maastricht, LI
Netherlands
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Medical Marijuana: First California DEA Arrests Under Obama Took Place Last Week

A massive DEA operation featuring dozens of heavily armed agents and at least four helicopters ended with the arrests of five people in California's Lake County last week. According to California NORML, the arrests are believed to be the first since the Obama administration announced it would not persecute medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal unless they violated both state and federal law. The DEA seized 154 marijuana plants from Upper Lake resident Tom Carter, and arrested him, former UMCC dispensary operator Scott Feil and his wife, Steven Swanson, and Brett Bassignani. Carter is a registered medical marijuana patient and provider, and his wife, Jamie Ceridono, told the Lake County News he was growing for several patients and his grow was legal under state law. The genesis of the bust appears to lie with an alleged May deal between a DEA informant and Bassignani to purchase marijuana. According to documents filed by Carter's federal defenders late last week, the informant claimed to have arranged to buy marijuana from Carter and to have left a voicemail message for Carter to set up the deal. That same informant allegedly made a deal to buy marijuana from Bassignani. In the document, the federal defenders said prosecutors made no claim that Carter ever heard the phone message the informant allegedly called and that they set out no evidence linking Carter and the informant. "All the complaint says is that another individual, Mr. Bassignani, called the informant, claimed he worked for 'Carter Construction,' and arranged a marijuana deal," Carter's defense attorneys wrote. "The deal later took place, and the only other reference to Mr. Carter is the conclusory claim that the informant 'had agreed on the price with Carter.' No context, no specifics, and no other information is provided in the complaint which indicates that Mr. Carter in fact talked to the informant, arranged a marijuana deal, and indicated that he (Carter) was knowingly involved in a marijuana transaction." Moving that the two felony counts of marijuana trafficking against Carter be dismissed, the attorneys added: "This complaint is sadly deficient with regard to whether Mr. Carter has done anything to indicate that he conspired to break the law. It should be dismissed accordingly." It is unclear why Feil and his wife were arrested. They are neighbors of Carter and his wife. Carter and Feil are being held in Oakland, where they are set to have initial detention hearings today and tomorrow. Federal prosecutors have asked that Carter be held pending trial "on the basis of flight risk and danger to the community." Carter is a long-time resident of Upper Lake, prominent construction contractor, and community benefactor. "California already has enough federal marijuana criminals," said CANORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, "It's time for concrete changes in federal law." While the Obama administration has announced it would no go after law-abiding medical marijuana providers, the DEA has conducted at least two raids against providers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, although there have been no arrests in those cases. The administration has not announced any changes in federal laws or regulations around medical marijuana, and Bush appointees continue to serve in the DEA and the US Attorney's Office of Northern California, which is prosecuting the case.
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