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Weekly: This Week in History

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February 1, 1909: The International Opium Commission convenes in Shanghai. Heading the US delegation are Dr. Hamilton Wright and Episcopal Bishop Henry Brent, who both try to convince the international delegation of the immoral and evil effects of opium.

January 31, 1945: A New York Times article reports an increase in marijuana trafficking and mentions that an official at the Treasury Department says that traffic in some instances reaches "the proportion of well-financed national and international conspirators." One of the New York gangs which came under investigation was the "107th Street Mob," formerly headed by the notorious mobster "Lucky" Luciano.

February 3, 1987: Carlos Lehder is captured by the Colombian National Police at a safe house owned by Pablo Escobar in the mountains outside of Medellin. He is extradited to the US the next day. On May 19, 1988 Lehder is convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 135 years.

February 4, 1994: An unpublished US Department of Justice report indicates that over one-third of the drug felons in federal prisons are low-level nonviolent offenders.

January 30, 1997: New England Journal of Medicine editor Dr. Jerome Kassirer opines in favor of doctors being allowed to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes, calling the threat of government sanctions "misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane."

January 29, 1998: Judge Nancy Gertner, a district judge in Boston, criticizes the drug war for spending too much federal funds while depriving Americans of liberty at a forum organized by the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers.

February 4, 2003: Jurors who had convicted Ed Rosenthal on federal marijuana cultivation charges hold a press conference, saying they were deceived by the withholding of information about Rosenthal's involvement in medical marijuana, that they would not have convicted him had they known, and calling for a new trial.

February 4, 2003: The New York Times publishes an editorial defending Ed Rosenthal and medical marijuana. It says, in part: "The Bush administration's war on medical marijuana is not only misguided but mean-spirited. Doctors have long recognized marijuana's value in reducing pain and aiding in the treatment of cancer and AIDS, among other diseases. A recent poll found that 80 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana. The reasons the government gives for objecting to it do not outweigh the good it does. And given the lack of success of the war on drugs in recent years, there must be better places to direct law enforcement resources."

February 2, 2004: A congressional budget rider known as the "Istook Amendment," after its sponsor, US Rep. James Istook (R-OK), takes effect. The law penalizes any transit system that accepts advertising "promot[ing] the legalization or medical use" of illegal drugs such as marijuana by cutting off all federal financial assistance, which often amounts to millions of dollars. Four months later US District Court Judge Paul Friedman rules that Istook's law violates the First Amendment by infringing on free speech rights, and is thus unconstitutional.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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