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Law Enforcement: Woman Arrested Over Flour-Filled Condom Wins $180,000 in Suit Settlement

A Bryn Mawr college student who was arrested and jailed for three weeks on drug trafficking charges for carrying condoms filled with flour will be paid $180,000 by the city of Philadelphia in a settlement announced this week. Janet Lee was carrying the condoms, which women at the college used as toys to squeeze when they were stressed out, in her carry-on baggage as she boarded a Christmas season flight home to Los Angeles. Airport screeners found the condoms, and Philadelphia police said preliminary drug tests indicated the condoms contained opium and heroin.

Lee spent the next three weeks in the Philadelphia jail as authorities ignored her protestations of innocence. It was only when later drug tests failed to confirm the presence of drugs that she was released.

After her release from jail and the dropping of the charges, Lee filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city. It was scheduled to go to trial Thursday, but city officials announced Wednesday that they had agreed to pay Lee $180,000 to settle the suit.

"Under the circumstances, something went terribly wrong," Lee's lawyer, Jeffrey Ibrahim, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We're trying to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again."

Lee, a freshman at the time of her arrest, said she had no idea drug traffickers used condoms to carry drugs. "I was naive, really stupid," she said.

[Editor's Note: Condoms are used by "mules" who swallow them filled with drugs and have them in their stomachs when flying into the country; they are not a preferred packaging for drugs carried outside the body, say in one's carry-on baggage.]

Naivete, however, is not yet a criminal offense in this country, and neither is carrying flour in a condom. Now, the city of Philadelphia is paying for its drug war zealotry, although it refuses to admit to wrongdoing or liability.

Spare Us From Asparagus Tariffs (Or The Lack Thereof)

Eradication efforts in South America continue to find news ways of being counterproductive and unsuccessful.

From The Seattle Times:

The [U.S. asparagus] industry has been decimated by a U.S. drug policy designed to encourage Peruvian coca-leaf growers to switch to asparagus. Passed in 1990 and since renewed, the Andean Trade Preferences and Drugs Eradication Act permits certain products from Peru and Colombia, including asparagus, to be imported to the United States tariff-free.


Meanwhile, the Washington industry is a shadow of its former self. Acreage has been cut by 71 percent to just 9,000 acres.


Well at least something got eradicated. Perhaps Washington farmers will now turn to growing America's number one cash crop instead.

Notwithstanding divergent views on free trade among our readership, I'm sure we can all agree that tariffs shouldn't be arbitrarily lifted in support of a failed drug war policy in Peru. Any success achieved in South America (there hasn't been any, but bear with me) must be measured against the sacrifices American farmers are forced against their will to make impact of abandoning protectionism spontaneously. Factoring this against ONDCP's otherwise already pathetic claims of progress leaves a worse taste in one's mouth than that of canned asparagus.

This is what we're trying to tell you about the U.S. war on drugs. The people running this thing will screw over confuse American farmers while pretending to protect our nation's interests.

If they didn't anticipate this outcome, they are incompetent and should be permanently enjoined from drafting economic policy. And if they did anticipate this inevitable outcome, and took no action to mitigate it, they should be jailed for treasonous malfeasance and fed forever on the bitter canned fruits and vegetables of their hypocrisy.

Full disclosure: I don't like asparagus. Thus, it's humorous to contemplate the irony that we can now add asparagus proliferation to the growing list of undesirable drug war consequences. Our resident vegetable enthusiast Dave Borden might disagree, but I'm sure he'd trade all the asparagus in the world for an end to the ongoing international disaster of drug prohibition.

Update: In response to comments below and at Hit & Run, it's not my contention that U.S. farmers are entitled to protection against foreign competitors. My point is that drug war politics should rarely, if ever, be used as a justification to waive policies otherwise deemed appropriate by Congress.

Location: 
United States

Mexico drugs crackdown leaves cops without guns

Location: 
Tijuana
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
The Brunei Times
URL: 
http://www.bruneitimes.com.bn/details.php?shape_ID=16315

The message in Calderon's war on drugs; some view his use of military as a way to quickly gain support, show security a priority

Location: 
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/world/4452336.html

Tijuana Police Force Ordered to Turn In Guns

Location: 
Tijuana, BCN
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
San Diego Union-Tribune
URL: 
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/mexico/tijuana/20070104-1921-bn04tjcrime.html

Canine teams sniffing out drugs in prisons

Location: 
FL
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Gainesville Sun
URL: 
http://www.gainesville.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070105/LOCAL/70105009/-1/news

Medical Marijuana: California's Booming Market Offers Substantial Tax Revenues, Report Finds

Medical marijuana is a billion dollar a year business in California, according to a new report, and the state's bottom line could improve dramatically if it were taxed like other herbal medicines. The report, "Revenue and Taxes from Oakland's Cannabis Economy," was prepared for that city's Measure Z Oversight Committee by California NORML head Dale Gieringer and and Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance board member Richard Lee.

While the report focused on Oakland, which has seen medical marijuana revenues and the taxes derived from them decline dramatically since the city tightened regulations on dispensaries in recent years, it also looked at state and federal data to attempt to draw a state-wide picture of the size of the therapeutic cannabis industry. According to the data, the state's medical marijuana patients are currently consuming somewhere between $870 million and $2 billion worth of weed a year. That would translate to somewhere between $70 million and $120 million in state sales tax revenues, the authors estimated.

But currently, the state treasury is receiving nowhere near that because many dispensaries do not pay sales taxes or keep financial records that could be used against them in a federal investigation. Other dispensaries and patient groups argue that nonprofit collectives and co-ops should be exempt from taxes.

The study estimated the number of California medical marijuana patients at between 150,000 and 350,000. There is no firm figure, because unlike many other medical marijuana states, there is no comprehensive, statewide registry of patients. Those patients each smoke about a pound of pot a year.

Medical marijuana patients account for about 10% of California marijuana users, the study found, suggesting that tax revenues from a legal recreational marijuana market would skyrocket into the low billions of dollars each year. The state is currently spending about $160 million a year to arrest, prosecute, and imprison marijuana offenders, and not collecting any tax revenue from recreational sales.

State officials have a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens they represent. This report makes clear just how miserably California officials are shirking that responsibility.

Different Rules for Crime Victims with History of Addiction (RI)

Location: 
RI
United States
Publication/Source: 
Join Together
URL: 
http://www.jointogether.org/news/headlines/inthenews/2007/ri-different-rules-for-crime.html

Mexican troops take drug fight to Tijuana streets

Location: 
Tijuana
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
CNN
URL: 
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/01/04/tijuana.drugs.ap/

Latin America: Mexican Soldiers Occupy Tijuana in Fight Against Drug Trade

More than 3,000 Mexican soldiers and federal police were dispatched to the border city of Tijuana this week to fight the drug trade, Mexican officials announced Tuesday. That same day, convoys containing several hundred police clad in body armor rolled into the city, the headquarters of one of Mexico's most powerful and violent drug trafficking organizations, the Arrellano Felix cartel.

The move into Tijuana, where more than 300 people were killed in drug prohibition-related violence last year, is the second tough strike against the cartels by new Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Last month, he sent more than 7,000 troops into the state of Michoacan to eradicate marijuana and opium poppy crops and move against traffickers located there.

"The operations will allow us to reestablish the minimal security conditions in different points of Mexico so we can recover little by little our streets, our parks and our schools," President Calderon told the country in a New Year's message on Tuesday.

"We will carry out all the necessary actions to retake every region of national territory," Mexican Interior Secretary Francisco Ramirez Acuna said in a news conference the same day. "We will not allow any state to be a hostage of drug traffickers or organized crime."

Ramirez Acuna added that the Tijuana force would include 2,620 soldiers, 162 marines, and 510 federal police. They will be equipped with 28 boats, 21 planes, and nine helicopters to attempt to squelch the booming cross-border trade in cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines. The soldiers and police will patrol the coast, man checkpoints, and hunt down wanted traffickers in teeming Tijuana, just across the US-Mexico border from San Diego.

The federal intervention was welcomed by Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon, who, under attack from city business interests, late last year announced that he was placing the entire municipal police force under investigation for drug-related corruption. Rhon told reporters in Tijuana this week he hoped the soldiers and federal police would work with city police -- presumably ones who have already been vetted -- who are establishing random checkpoints.

"I hope this will make Tijuana a safer place," he said, while denying that the deployment means the city is being militarized.

Like his predecessor, Vicente Fox, President Calderon is making a big show of going after the so-called cartels, whose internecine battles left around 2,000 people dead last year. But Fox's blows against the cartels, which eliminated part of their previous leadership, are what led to the bloody violence as the cartels jostled with each to readjust. Given the lucrative nature of the business and the insatiable appetite for illicit drugs north of the border, there is little evidence to suggest the outcome will be any different this time.

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