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The Speakeasy Blog

Can We Fix the Crack/Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Already?

Our good friend and occasional Speakeasy contributor Eric Sterling has a superb op-ed in the LA Times on the crack/cocaine sentencing disparity.

He says it’s about time to fix the darned thing. It’s an opinion to which Sterling is certainly entitled. He actually wrote the law.

Congress should do what it tried to do in 1986 — make the Justice Department focus exclusively on high-level cases because state and local law enforcement cannot. There are three elements to fix the problem: Raise the quantity triggers for all drugs to realistic levels for high-level traffickers, such as 50 or 100 kilos of cocaine, and end the crack/powder imbalance; Require the attorney general to approve prosecution of any case involving less than 50 kilos of cocaine; Analyze federal drug cases district by district to identify agents and prosecutors who waste their time and our money. If only high-level dealers were being prosecuted by the feds, no one would have cause to complain about the race of the defendants.

Drug policy reform would go a lot faster if there weren’t so many different harmful laws to be changed. I bet we could have fixed the sentencing disparity years ago if it weren’t for that stupid HEA Drug Provision.

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I'm sick and tired of begging my fellow citizens to not throw me in jail...

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...because I might smoke something of which they don't approve. Imprisoning people for drug use or possession is a violation of fundamental human rights, and I don't give a rat's ass what the law says. The US government and the governments of all the states are committing massive human rights violations with their drugs policies, and those Good Germans who allow it to continue are complicit. I try to be understanding of police, prosecutors, and judges. When they throw some guy in jail or prison because he uses the wrong substance, they're only doing their jobs, right? Sorry, I can't cut them any slack anymore. This country has HALF A MILLION people behind bars who didn't do anything to anybody. That's a goddamned crime. And all those criminal justice system professionals, from the cop on the beat to the judge on the bench, are guilty. When do we get our drug war Nuremburg? "Unjust laws exist," 19th century American Transcendentalist proto-hippie Henry David Thoreau once famously noted. "Shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them and obey them until we succeed, or shall we transgress them at once?" We know by his actions how Thoreau answered that question. He went to jail rather than pay taxes to support the US war against Mexico. I'm with him. I'm Phil Smith, and I wrote this message in solidarity with all the prisoners of the drug war. I'm with you, too, guys. I won't be blogging for a few days. I've got other things to do. I'll be thinking of what on earth we can possibly do to end this situation.
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Marijuana Delivery Services: They're Great

But I’m not sure we need newspapers writing about them. The Hartford Courant has a fairly positive take on New York City’s thriving underground marijuana industry. Let’s hope it doesn’t provoke the wrong people.

In a city where you can get just about anything delivered to your door - groceries, dry cleaning, Chinese food - pot smokers are increasingly ordering takeout marijuana from drug rings that operate with remarkable corporate-style attention to customer satisfaction.

An untold number of otherwise law-abiding professionals in New York are having their pot delivered to their homes instead of visiting drug dens or hanging out on street corners.

This enduring business is testament to the fact that marijuana’s popularity reaches far beyond the groups stereotypically associated with it. If you have your own address and can afford inflated prices, you can enjoy marijuana without being exposed to all the horrible outcomes made possible by prohibition.

So it should come as no surprise that the delivery service model is growing in popularity. Frankly, I doubt the authorities have much interest in getting involved, other than to seize a few million in assets here and there. And there’s surely more than a handful of powerful New Yorkers who definitely don’t want anyone interfering with this.

As a reformer, I’m intrigued by what’s been accomplished in New York. The specter of Amsterdam-style coffeeshops is still a bit much for voters, as we saw in Nevada this week. And medical clubs in California have had trouble with neighbors who sometimes can’t get comfortable with the idea of a local club, even if they’re supportive of Prop 215 in principle. Delivery might be the best way to address the needs of marijuana consumers without annoying other people.

We should regulate it.

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Forfeiture Insanity: Three Cars for Oxycontin Possession

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That’s right possession. Via The Agitator, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey has gone crazy, drug war style. They’re cracking down on prescription drug abuse, primarily by indiscriminately confiscating automobiles from all sorts of people, including a cop.


Parent Gerard Trapp, a Bloomfield police officer, said the seizure of three family cars is extreme, since neither he nor his wife knew of any alleged drug use by their son, and Trapp Jr. was charged with a relatively minor offense. He was never accused of being a dealer or supplier.

This sort of mind-numbing injustice comes naturally to many local-level drug warriors. I’m shocked, but only sort of, having been recently shocked over and over again by equally horrible tales of forfeiture abuse.

The Trapp family’s lawyer calls it extortion, probably because of this:

The prosecutor's office seized in July the family's 1992 Cadillac SDV, a 1995 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and a 1994 Toyota Camry. Trapp said the prosecutor's office initially told him the three cars could be bought back for $3,000 and have since lowered the amount to $1,500 for all three vehicles. But the Trapps have not bought back their own vehicles.

Good for them. Most people would just cut their losses and get those cars back before they end up in the prosecutor’s garage. But apparently, the Trapps found their son’s minor indiscretion an insufficient justification for having police confiscate their property and demand cash for its return.

Alas, forfeiture thuggery and unscrupulous profiteering just go with the territory. Only by ending the drug war in its entirety can we do away with the daily injustices that too many Americans take for granted.

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Roger Goodman Race

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As of late last night but with only 36 out of 137 precincts reporting, Roger Goodman was leading with 55.7 percent in his race for state representative in Washington State -- despite his opponent quoting from DRCNet's interview in Drug War Chronicle with Roger published a few years ago in an attack mailing a short time before the election. For those of you who don't know who Roger is, he heads the King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project in Seattle, and the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers, a close ally of ours. Roger emceed our Perry Fund reception in Seattle in June of last year.

Of course it ain't over til it's over, but things are looking good for the Goodman campaign.


(This blog post was published by'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.)
Seattle, WA
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A Disappointing Night for Reform

The three most important drug reform initiatives have failed today. Question 7 to legalize marijuana in Nevada lost 56-44. Amendment 44 to legalize marijuana in Colorado lost 60-40. And Initiative 4 to protect medical marijuana patients in South Dakota lost 53-47.

I was optimistic, particularly about South Dakota, but overall, tonight’s outcome is more disappointing than surprising. Legalizing marijuana by popular vote is a huge challenge, and while it hurts to lose, these are necessary steps in order to move the discussion forward.

And it’s exciting to see so many votes for reform. Surely, marijuana prohibition is the only criminal law that’s opposed by such a large segment of the population. Even in defeat, the results in Nevada and Colorado show that an eventual victory on this issue is clearly within striking distance.


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Looking Bad for the Statewide Marijuana Initiatives

It's just after 1AM Eastern time, and it looks like the Colorado, Nevada, and South Dakota marijuana initiatives are all headed for defeat. It ain't over 'til it's over, of course, but it's almost over. The South Dakota medical marijuana initiative is losing by 52% to 48% with more than two-thirds of the votes counted. The margin has been similar all night long. There's a slim chance late votes from Rapid City could switch the result, but we are rapidly approaching the point where it becomes mathematically impossible. The Nevada "tax and regulate" initiative is losing by 56% to 44%. I can't tell from the Nevada secretary of state's web page what percentage of the vote has been counted, but it is substantial, and the numbers have been in this range all night. The Colorado legalization initiative is losing by 61% to 39% with 47% of the vote counted. Both CNN and the Rocky Mountain News have called this election already. If these results hold, that's a big disappointment, although not a big surprise. There are other drug policy-related issues and candidacies to report on, and if you don't see me blogging about them here this week, look for the full breakdown in the Chronicle on Friday.
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Big Loss for Ernest Istook

Rep. Earnest Istook (R-OK) went down hard tonight in the Oklahoma Governor’s race.

Istook was the author of the ridiculous "Istook Amendment" which banned transit authorities from selling ad space to drug reformers and was quickly shot down by a federal judge in a no-brainer first amendment ruling.

Istook vacated his seat in the House to run for Governor, so it looks like he’ll now have plenty of time on his hands to re-familiarize himself with the Bill of Rights.

(This blog post was published by'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.)


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Last Minute Lies in Nevada and South Dakota

Opponents of MPP’s ballot initiatives have resorted to making stuff up out of thin air. Not that they were telling the truth before, but they’ve achieved a new level of dishonesty somehow.

In Nevada, the ironically-named Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable has produced a radio ad saying that the law will prevent workplace drug-testing. That’s a great idea for a law, but Question 7 doesn’t do anything like that.

Check out this lively debate between Neal Levine of the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana and Todd Raybuck of the Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable. When Levine points out that marijuana revenues currently support criminals, Todd Raybuck, a police officer, retorts that in his experience marijuana is usually exchanged casually between friends and family members, not dangerous criminals. Really, Todd? You’re making it sound like marijuana users are normal everyday people.

Meanwhile, in South Dakota, MPP’s medical marijuana initiative is being attacked with stone-age rhetoric courtesy of Save Our Society From Drugs.

This prohibitionists' radio ad — which is airing around the state — lies to voters, claiming, "Smoked marijuana is not medicine. In fact, every major medical association has rejected this notion." This is blatantly false: The American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Academy of Sciences, and many others recognize marijuana's medical value.

I don’t know why they’re even bothering to lie about a medical marijuana initiative. The results are in on MMJ laws: they’re harmless. Beyond that, teenage use has gone down in every state that’s passed one. SOSFD should save their energy for when we come around trying to legalize crack, since they’re so sure that’s what we’ll be doing.

I’ve had friends tell me I’m crazy if I think marijuana will ever be legal in this country, but honestly I’m surprised that it hasn’t happened yet. I’m surprised that with so many problems here and abroad, we’re still finding resources to target healthy people who aren’t causing problems. I’m surprised that our opposition remains so confident that a massive permanent international war is by far the best option.

Clearly, the tiny fraction of human history during which drugs have been illegal has been remarkably tainted by unprecedented drug-related social problems, and it takes a great fool to call it a coincidence.

Tomorrow brings the possibility of unlikely but important victories, so with high-hopes and low-expectations I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Stay tuned.

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Ted Haggard Scores Small Victory in the Meth War

There’s one less bag of meth on the street thanks to Rev. Ted Haggard, who apparently enjoys buying the drug and then throwing it away. Of course if Haggard’s partial confession is true, he at least helped fund the speed-dealing gay prostitute industry, and everyone knows those guys hate freedom.

On Chris Matthews Sunday morning, Andrew Sullivan suggested that the evangelical community might want to take a step back from power politics and do some soul-searching. That’s one option, but for Colorado’s most demoralized evangelicals, let me recommend legalizing marijuana. Hey, at least it’s not meth.

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Let's Not Forget Massachusetts

In our list of drug policy-related ballot issues last Friday, we neglected to mention Massachusetts. Voters in one district there will be voting on whether to instruct their representative to favor marijuana decriminalization, while voters in two other districts will be voting on whether to instruct their representatives to support medical marijuana. These local questions continue a process that began with the 2000 elections and have so far resulted in more than 420,000 Bay State residents voting to support marijuana law reform. Here is the info on the Massachusetts races: Plymouth, Massachusetts: In the 1st and 12th Plymouth Representative Districts, voters will be voting to tell their representatives to support decriminalization: “Shall the state legislator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would make the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil violation, subject to a fine of no more than $100.00 and not subject to any criminal penalties?” Middlesex and Norfolk, Massachusetts: Voters in the 7th Norfolk Representative District and the 3rd Middlesex Senate District will be voting on whether to tell their representatives to support medical marijuana: “Shall the state legislator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow seriously ill patients, with their doctor’s written recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use?”
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Manufacturer Advertises Marinol as "Legal Marijuana"

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Drug warriors such as Andrea Barthwell and David Murray have argued strenuously that cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals such as Marinol and Sativex are completely different from marijuana. They’ve bristled at Rob Kampia’s claims that Sativex is "liquid marijuana" and they’ve long used the availability of Marinol as an excuse to arrest patients who prefer cultivated marijuana instead.

Whether extracted or synthesized, THC-based medicines don’t include anything not present in the plant itself, so it’s ludicrous to argue that one can be medicinal and the other can’t. Yet they’ve done exactly that. Afterall, if this stuff is medicine, it sure as hell isn’t marijuana.

Thus I was rather surprised to come across this Google ad:

The link goes directly to the official Marinol website, sponsored by Solvay Pharmaceuticals. So while Barthwell is saying the stuff ain’t pot, Solvay is marketing their product as "legal marijuana."

Moreover, since Google ads are designed to offer products relevant to the web page on which they appear, Solvay’s ads target anyone interested in marijuana. Structured as such, this ad campaign will reach many recreational users and encourage them to become patients. I’m not saying that’s what they’re trying to do, but it's unusual to see a pharmaceutical company boasting that its product is legal.

Let’s assume Solvay is merely trying to inform the public that one needn’t break the law in order to enjoy the widely recognized medical benefits of marijuana. It’s perfectly understandable, and very smart from a marketing perspective. Afterall, if I had to choose between nausea medications, I’d pick the one that lists "exaggerated happiness" as a possible side effect.

The fun part is that by calling Marinol "legal marijuana", Solvay is basically mocking the very people who helped them get Schedule III approval in the first place. And they’ve got absolutely nothing to lose. Aggressively marketing Marinol at this time makes sense with Sativex on the horizon.

Ultimately, the drug warriors’ goal of distinguishing cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals from the plant itself could prove a lost cause. Marijuana is popular among patients and a large segment of the general population. Claiming that these pharmaceuticals are totally different from marijuana may suit hardcore drug warriors trying to save face, but it’s not smart if you’re trying to win over patients who like marijuana or prospective patients who’ve heard good things about it. You’re better off saying your product is similar but legal and more potent.

So if Solvay Pharmaceuticals refers to its medicine as marijuana, and patients refer to their marijuana as medicine, it seems everyone’s on the same page except Barthwell and Murray.

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Coming Down to the Wire in Nevada and Colorado

We're getting down to the final days of this election season, and we're waiting with bated breath for that first marijuana legalization victory in Colorado and/or Nevada. I'll be doing a feature story on these two races on Friday for the Chronicle. I have calls in to both campaigns, but for some reason, these folks appear to be pretty busy right now. Although I was hoping to have something to report today direct from SAFER Colorado and/or theCommittee to Regulate and Control Marijuana in Nevada, neither has gotten back to me yet. Both campaigns have been very active, but the folks in Colorado have really been extraordinary. They have organized event after event, often in a highly imaginative manner, they have hammered away at the alcohol vs. marijuana comparison, they have ambushed their opposition—especially at a news conference last Friday where the drug warriors were met by an unexpected 100 or so protestors. The Nevada campaign, meanwhile, continues to hammer away with media buys and an innovative "new media" strategy that is getting its message out over the Internet. Still, it appears both campaigns are facing an uphill battle. In Colorado, a Denver Post poll a few days ago had the initiative losing by a margin of 57% to 34%. SAFER Colorado protests that the poll is biased an inaccurate, but that is a rather large gap. A Denver Post poll last month was much closer, with 29% in favor, 36% against, and a whopping 35% undecided. Has the opposition really gained 20+ points in a month? I guess we'll find out on Tuesday. It looks a little tighter in Nevada, where a Reno Gazette-Journal poll last week showed the measure losing by a margin of 41% to 52%. Those numbers are up from an earlier Gazette-Journal poll that showed only 37% supported regulating marijuana. The most recent Gazette-Journal poll tracks closely with a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll reporting 42% in favor, 51% opposed. But an poll conducted in late September by independent pollsters for the initiative organizers showed it leading by a margin of 49% to 43%. Again, I guess we'll find out Tuesday. For those who cannot wait until Friday to hear more about what is going on in these two campaigns, I suggest you visit their web sites, which are fairly comprehensive and quite up to date.
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What do They Know?

Tensions over Amendment 44 in Colorado have reached a fever pitch as self-appointed marijuana experts continue to emerge with absurb predictions.


A rally at the state Capitol on Friday morning turned into a shouting match between the groups for and against a proposed amendment that would legalize small amounts of marijuana in Colorado.

Gov. Bill Owens and the state's top law enforcement officers planned a press event on the west steps of the Capitol to urge voters to turn down Amendment 44, which would legalize adult possession of one ounce of marijuana.

Supporters of pot legalization tried to shout them down.

If Governor Owens is gonna say stuff like this, I can’t say I blame them:

"In addition to human costs, legalizing marijuana is sure to have an economic impact on every Colorado citizen. These costs include increased costs for substance abuse treatment and other social programs as well as lost revenue due to decreased worker productivity.”

Once again, legalizing marijuana won’t increase treatment costs. It will reduce them dramatically. Most people in marijuana treatment are enrolled against their will following an arrest, which won’t happen anymore if Amendment 44 passes.

As for decreased worker productivity, show me some data and we’ll talk. If the government had the guts to actually study this, they’d find that marijuana users who haven’t been hung out to dry by the criminal justice system are just as productive and successful as non-users; probably far more so than heavy drinkers. The data would then be buried and brought up only by us.

Next they gave the microphone to Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener:

Wegener, who is the president of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, said, "We are also concerned that legalizing marijuana will cause a spike in impaired driving fatalities and injuries caused by more motorists driving impaired on marijuana. The reality also exists that it is more difficult for law enforcement to detect impairment caused by marijuana and other drugs as compared to alcohol."

Clearly something’s got to be done about these mischievous stoners who are too sober to fail a sobriety test.

This is getting ridiculous. Is it so crazy that we want to try something different? We’re asking to step back from a policy that’s done nothing but piss people off for 70 years and these guys start giving prophesies of a great plague. What do they know?

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Have You Warned Your Kids About Schwag?

Next time you get "amped out" on "sextasy" and wind up in a "k-hole" don't tell your mom. has published a new drug-slang quiz for parents that totally lets the "cat" out of the "bag".

If you're a parent, you might want to brush up on your drug slang to stay alert to possible drug use by your children, suggest addiction experts at the Menninger Clinic in Houston.

Slang terms for drugs constantly change and evolve, the researchers said. For example, while marijuana is still called weed or pot by some, it's also referred to by newer terms such as chronic or schwagg.

Are they serious? Dr. Dre’s marijuana-themed album "The Chronic" came out in 1992. And "schwag" of course is a derogatory term for really bad marijuana that’s been in use forever as far as I know.

More highlights:

2. The painkiller Oxycontin is also called: a) oxies; b) cotton.

They say only (b) is a correct answer. So if your child asks to borrow money so he can get some "oxies" go ahead and help out.

6. Combining the prescription drug Viagra with Ecstasy is called: a) 24-7 heaven; b) sextasy.

Answer: (b) Parents who’ve let their daughter go to "sextacy" parties will be shocked to learn the truth. But no, I don’t think we have to worry about Congress banning Viagra anytime soon.

8. Working Man's Cocaine is: a) crack cocaine; b) methamphetamine.

Answer: (b). Meth users have jobs? I heard all they did was rob gas stations and pluck out their eyebrows.

10. "Juice" is the slang term for: a) steroids; b) PCP.

Answer: both. So if you overhear your kid using the word "juice" they're either on steroids or PCP. The hard part is figuring out which.

This is the sort of useless information one can expect from "addiction experts" who regularly turn out to know less about drugs than everybody else.

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The Cartels Are Coming, the Cartels Are Coming! (Or A New Meme Emerges)

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No, not the Colombian cartels and not the Mexican cartels. Last week, law enforcement officials in two different federal drug cases on different ends of the country used the word "cartel" to describe local drug trafficking organizations. I'm not aware of previous usages of the word to describe such domestic groups, and I have to wonder if we're not seeing the orchestrated emergence of new meme from the drug warriors. In the context of the drug war, "cartel" certainly is a scary word, calling up images of Colombian "narcoguerrillas" (another term of propaganda) and Mexican mobsters, not to mention the subliminal image of swarthy Arabs stinking of petroleum. It is also an incorrect word. If you look up "cartel" in the dictionary, you get a definition along the lines of "a combination of independent business organizations formed to regulate production, pricing, and marketing of goods by the members." That is an apt description of OPEC, the organization of oil-exporting countries, whose members meet to set production quotas in an open bid to keep prices where they want them. It may also be an apt description of the big oil companies, although they would naturally swear there is no collusion among them. In American history, we have had experience with "cartels," but we called them "trusts" and we went after them as "trust-busters" back in the days when our government wasn't owned by corporate interests. But calling the Mexican drug trafficking organizations "cartels" is simply wrong. The "Gulf Cartel" does not cooperate with the "Juarez Cartel;" instead, the competing organizations are locked in a bloody war for domination of the illicit drug trade. Similarly, the "Medillin Cartel" and the "Cali Cartel," former Colombian drug trafficking organizations did not seek to limit cocaine production, nor did they act in collusion with other producers and traffickers except within their own organizations. If it is arguably incorrect to refer to major Latin American trafficking organizations as "cartels," it is just silly to use the term to refer to relatively small-time, local drug trafficking organizations. But that's what officials did in Colorado and Pennsylvania last week. In Denver, DEA special agent in charge Jeffrey Sweetin gets the credit for using the term to describe a methamphetamine trafficking ring bringing speed to the Front Range. All Headline News ran a story on the bust titled "Feds Bust Major Colorado Cartel" with this lead sentence: "A 13-month-long investigation has dismantled what Jeffrey D. Sweetin, special agent in with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Rocky Mountain division says, is a major drug cartel, headquartered in Greeley." This "cartel" consisted of 21 people, 12 of whom the story noted were "illegal." But despite the rhetorical effort, the story explains that the group was trying to corner the market, not collude with its competitors. The Pennsylvania "cartel" is even less compelling. A federal grand jury there indicted eight people—mostly members of one family—for trafficking crack and heroin into Johnstown. One media outlet, WJAC-TV, led its report thusly: "Eight members of a drug cartel called the 'Philly Mob' have been indicted by a federal grand jury on drug charges.'. The culprit in this case appears to be former Johnstown District Attorney David Tulowitz, who was quoted in a Johnstown Tribune-Democrat story as saying the Philly Mob was "the most violent group operating in the city since the Jamaican cartel was broken up in the early 1990s." When I first saw this pair of stories with "cartel" pop up, I suspected a Justice Department cabal might be behind it, but I have yet to see any evidence of that. Federal prosecutors' press releases didn’t use the word. Still, it seems odd that widely-separated law enforcement officials would misuse the term in the same deliberate fashion within a few days of each other. Let's keep an eye out for further abuses of the English language when it comes to describing drug trafficking organizations. The scarier the better, eh?
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You Can’t Spell ‘Potential’ Without Pot

They said marijuana causes cancer, but now we’ve learned that THC may prevent it.

They said marijuana makes you forgetful, but it turns out that it might prevent Alzheimer’s too.

They said marijuana makes you sterile, but today I learned that it can increase fertility.

From Medical News Today:

This study involved eight volunteers - they were all heavy [tobacco] smokers. Four of them had normal sperm function, while the other four had reduced sperm function. Some of their sperm was washed in a regular medium and some was washed in a low-concentration cannabinoid solution.

They found that the sperm of the smokers who had reduced sperm function improved significantly after being washed in the low-concentration cannabinoid solution, while the sperm of the smokers with normal function did not.

Every time they study it, marijuana accomplishes something new and amazing. That’s probably where they got the idea to wash sperm with it. Right now I bet scientists are putting cannabinoid solution on all sorts of things to see what happens.

But the question remains: if you wash your sperm in cannabinoids will your baby be born a hippy?

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Survivor of the Arkansas bi-partisan corruption cesspool running for governor

Sam Smith's Progressive Review summarizes the beguiling story of Barry Seal, a major cocaine smuggler who operated undisturbed in Mena, Arkansas while Asa Hutchinson was the Republican United States Attorney and Bill "Vacuum Cleaner Nose" Clinton was Governor. Today Asa Hutchinson is running for Governor of Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe (D) is ahead by 13 points 51 - 38, in a poll conducted by the University of Arkansas published today. Hutchinson is running on his record as a Member of Congress -- helping to impeach Bill Clinton, Administrator of the DEA, and Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security of the Department of Homeland Security. The New York Times had a great story about how once Hutchinson went to Homeland Security, his brother, a former U.S. Senator was now looking for contracts from DHS for his law firm's clients. Look hard for much substance in that record. Hutchinson never seemed to understand the mission of DEA. He wrote a major defense of the drug war for the Washington Post arguing that the proof of DEA's success was that the number of drug users has gone down. Naturally he had to draw a comparison to 1979, for drug use had grown dramatically since George Bush the first was president -- from about 12 million to 16 million users -- now the total is almost 20 million current users. Stop the Drug War readers will enjoy Sam Smith's review of the numerous botched investigational steps by Hutchinson when one of the biggest cocaine smugglers in the nation's history was operating under his nose.
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13,000 Joints

That's what a South Dakota sheriff just told me you could get from one marijuana plant. Hmmm, if a joint is somewhere between one-half gram and one gram, that comes to somewhere between 6,500 and 13,000 grams, or 15 to 30 pounds. I would like to meet the grower who can produce such copious quantities. The indoor growers I know estimate they can get maybe one gram of usable marijuana per watt of light in a growing cycle. That means a person growing plants under a 1000 watt light will produce perhaps two pounds of smokable bud, but that typically comes from numerous plants under the light--and if the grower knows what he's doing and everything goes just right. I'm not sure where they're getting a 15 or 30 pounds from one plant. Maybe the sheriff know of some monster mutant strain indigenous to the Dakotas, but somehow I doubt it You can read more about this tomorrow in the story I'm preparing on the South Dakota medical marijuana initiative.
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Bush: Stay the Course in Colombia

President Bush never tires of spending our tax dollars losing not winning various wars. Now he wants to give Colombia another $600 million International Herald Tribune reports.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns calls it a strategy adjustment:

"In any counterterrorism or counter-narcotics campaign you sometimes have to adjust strategy to be effective as conditions change," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters in Bogota, announcing the White House was seeking to maintain current levels of support for its caretaker in the war on drugs through 2008. "We'll be open to any suggestions the Colombian government makes."

I think what he meant to say was that we refuse to adjust our strategy and we’re not open to suggestions. And what does he mean "as conditions change"? Nothing's changed since Plan Colombia began eight years ago . That’s the problem.

Meanwhile the police we trained with the last $600 million are getting killed systematically. Sound familiar?

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More Bad News: Shaq is a Cop

Radley Balko reports that Shaq has been going on SWAT missions. They let him carry a gun, and he’s already had his first wrong address raid and his first misconduct complaint.

Shaq was cleared of any wrong-doing after being accused of excessive force by a drug suspect. Bear in mind of course that getting cleared of misconduct following a SWAT raid is incredibly easy. So one lucky suspect may very well have gotten his ass kicked by Shaq. That’s awesome, but it could also be a sign of terrible things to come.

The madness of it all left Radley Balko "speechless". Had it not, he would likely point out that this is yet another unintended admission by police that they actually feel quite safe during these raids. After all, if executing a warrant is so dangerous, why would you bring along a man whose body is worth millions? Seriously. He’s easier to shoot than just about anybody.

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Third-Party Candidacies vs. Voting for the Lesser Evil

Last week's < a href="" target=_blank_>feature article on the Zeese and Thornton campaigns (Zeese is running for US Senate in a tight race in Maryland and Thornton is running for governor of Connecticut—links in the article) included a discussion between Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance and Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation on the possible benefits and liabilities of third-party campaigns. That discussion provoked a lengthier (and continuing) exchange on a nomination-only list for leading drug policy reformers, and I think it should be a topic of serious discussion here among the unwashed masses as well. Both Thornton, running as a Green, and Zeese, running a "unity" campaign as the Green-Libertarian-Populist nominee, have clearly rejected the clarion call of the two-party system. From a pragmatic perspective, the fundamental question is whether working outside the two major parties will bring success on drug policy reform faster than attempting to bring either of the two major parties (most likely the Democrats, given the Republicans' social conservative base and penchant for the "war on" metaphor) around to a palatable position on the issue. For some reformers, defeating the Republicans is everything. What if Zeese pulls enough votes from the Democrat to throw the Maryland senate race to the Republicans and—nightmare scenario—the Republicans keep the Senate by one seat? There will be much howling and gnashing of teeth among Democratic loyalists, just as there was after the 2000 presidential elections, when much of the party faithful blamed Ralph Nader for costing Al Gore the White House. Zeese and Thornton and their supporters will undoubtedly—and fairly—respond that they are not beholden to the Democratic Party and are as entitled to seek peoples' votes as either the donkeys or the elephants. Besides, again echoing the post-2000 discussion, they will say, there's not that much difference between the two major parties. I guess that's a matter of perspective. If you look at the broad contours of drug policy, there is a broad, bipartisan consensus on the status quo. From that viewpoint, Democrats are no better than Republicans on drug policy. A particularly progressive congressional Democrat might work toward a kinder, gentler drug war, perhaps sponsoring a bill that reduces the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity, for instance, but none are saying we need to do away with the peculiar institution of drug prohibition in its entirety. But coming in for a closer look, there are significant differences between the two parties when it comes to nibbling away at the edges of the drug war. The congressional votes on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would bar the use of federal funds to raid medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal, and the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision both show Democrats much more likely to favor such reform at the margins. Is that difference enough to make independent or third-party campaigns that may weaken the Democrats a mistake? I'm not going to try to answer that question right now. Instead, I invite our readers to weigh in, and I hope that will include some of the people who have been discussing this already. Is Zeese a menace or a messiah? Is Thornton dashing after windmills or leading the way to a new politics? You tell us. (This blog post was published by'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.)
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Canada Grows Medical Marijuana for Its Citizens

In case anyone forgot. CBC News now reports that demand for government marijuana is increasing. Since this particular marijuana isn’t supposed to be very good, my guess is that Canadian patients simply prefer the convenience of not having to buy their medicine from criminals on the street.

So Canada spends tax dollars to provide medical marijuana to sick people, while here in America, we spend tax dollars trying to prevent sick people from getting medical marijuana.

If that doesn’t boggle your mind, consider that Canada provides marijuana even though Sativex is already available up there. Meanwhile our drug warriors want sick people here to wait indefinitely while the FDA figures out how to approve Sativex without admitting that marijuana plants are literally soaked in medicine.

And while Canadian patients are choosing between spliffs and sublingual sprays, Americans patients are choosing between suffering and breaking the law.

Even drug-fearing Americans generally agree that this doesn’t make much sense. But if our drug warriors are correct that marijuana can’t heal the sick without hurting kids, then we’ll be thanking them next year when all Canadian children become crack-addicted sex-workers.

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Is Willie Nelson mature enough to smoke marijuana?

(Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, joins us as a regular blogger in the Speakeasy.) “It's a good thing I had a bag of marijuana instead of a bag of spinach or I'd be dead by now,” Willie Nelson said recently. I almost fell out of my rocking chair, laughing. No sooner did the government report that the fastest growing population of drug users are aged 50 to 59 years, but 73-year old Willie Nelson was criminally charged with possessing marijuana, as well as four other men, aged 50 to 75 years old. Those are pretty mature ages. In January 2004 and again August 2005, Art Garfunkel, now 63 years old, was charged with marijuana possession in New York. Good grief. Look, we all agree that we have to keep drugs away from kids. That’s why drugs are illegal, of course, to keep kids from getting their hands on drugs. Seriously. Kids are just too immature to let have drugs, we all agree on that. But as I got my rocking rhythm back again, I wondered, “Can you ever be mature enough to use marijuana?” What kinds of things have minimum maturity requirements? A teenager can enlist in the United States military at age 17, with a parent’s consent (10 U.S.C. sec. 510). The Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the Constitution recognizes that you have sufficient maturity to vote for federal offices at age 18 (ratified in 1971). We know that Congress has told the states to make it a law that a person has to be at least 21 years old to purchase alcohol. And in family values loving America – where building strong families is one of our highest values, and being responsible for the care and nurture of little children – you can get married in most states if you are 16 years old if you have your parents consent. In freedom loving Mississippi, a girl can be 15 years old and get married without her parents consent. A girl age 12 can get married in Kansas or Massachusetts with parental consent. It seems that as a society, we recognize a high degree of maturity by the time you turn 21. But we recognize circumstances that require super-maturity – which highly risky circumstances apply. Our “Founding Fathers,” the framers of the Constitution, gave some thought to the maturity they believed was necessary in those to whom we would entrust the governing of America. What might require the highest degree of maturity? Deciding to declare war – that’s pretty darn dangerous. Or serving as Commander in Chief. A person cannot serve in the House of Representatives until he or she is 25 years old, and must be at least 30 years old to serve in the U.S. Senate (Article I of the Constitution, sections 2 and 3). So to vote to declare war (Article I, section 8, clause 11), you must be at least 25 years old. To be President of the United States (which includes being Commander in Chief of the Army, Navy and Militia), with all the power that risks everyone’s health and safety, you must be at least 35 years old, a natural born citizen, and have resided in the U.S. for 14 years (Article II, section 1, clause 5). Those are the only qualifications in the Constitution. Think about it. The framers of the Constitution recognized that once you have turned 35, you can be entrusted with the most serious and responsible job in the nation. You are mature enough! So now let’s think of folks fifteen years older than that. They aren’t impressionable youth. They know what mortality is. Many of them have raised families. They have seen and struggled with the immaturity of their children. Most of them have close friends and family who have died recently. They now attend funerals about as frequently as weddings. Heck, many of them now regularly read the obituary pages. Certainly most people who are 50 years old can be considered mature enough to smoke marijuana and do it responsibly. We can still punish the handful of oddballs who drive while impaired or use marijuana it in the surgical suite or airplane cockpit. Of course many prohibitionists will argue that if we legalize marijuana for 50 year olds youngsters – probably in their 40's – will get it illegally. Well that would be pretty serious, wouldn’t it? But surely, would any one over 50 in their right mind would share pot with immature “kids” under 35? No way. For gosh sakes, isn’t 73-year old Willie Nelson mature enough to smoke pot and to not have to worry about the police? When do you finally get to be recognized as a grown up in America?
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People are Getting Beheaded in Mexico

It’s horrible. But there’s nothing very surprising about it. The drug war promises endless violence and always delivers. Pablo Escobar killed three presidential candidates in the same election and blew up an entire passenger plane to kill two snitches.

This year beheadings are popular. I wonder what people would say if things like this were happening on American soil:

In the most horrendous instance, drug lord gangs busted into a nightclub, toting rifles, and rolled five heads across the dance floor, terrifying onlookers.

People were surprised, but I’m sure everyone knew what it was all about. This kind of thing has been commonplace ever since the drug war began.

Various anti-immigration bloggers are now citing these incidents as evidence that our borders must be secured, for fear that Mexicans will come to America and start cutting peoples’ heads off.

It’s a bit silly, because the worst drug traffickers have no reason to leave Mexico. They’ve got the run of the place. The people crossing the border are poor folks who come here for economic opportunities, less-overt corruption, and white picket fences that don’t have severed heads impaled on them.

If you’re concerned about immigration, note that our drug war incentivizes traffickers to dig tunnels and cut holes in the fence.

If you don’t want your tax-dollars spent educating foreigners, note that you’re footing the bill to train counter-narcotics police in Colombia that just get massacred ten at a time.

And if you’re troubled by all the beheadings near our border, note that our current policy ensures their continuation for the remainder of human history.

Stopping the drug war is our only chance to defund drug terrorists and bring a close to this global catastrophe.

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