Environmental Harm

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Press Release: Reformers Call For New Policy to Protect Forests From Marijuana Farms

OCTOBER 14, 2008

Reformers Call For New Policy to Protect Forests From Marijuana Farms
New Approach Needed to Curb Environmental Damage, Advocates Say

CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-668-6403 or 202-215-4205

SAN FRANCISCO -- Recent alarming reports of environmental damage caused by illegal marijuana farms in national forests and wilderness areas in California and elsewhere show that an entirely new approach is needed in order to solve the problem, officials of the Marijuana Policy Project said today.

    "Year after year we hear from law enforcement and U.S. Forest Service officials about growing environmental damage caused by these criminal operations, even as law enforcement seizures of marijuana plants set new records every year," said Bruce Mirken, MPP's California-based director of communications. "What we've been doing is plainly not working and has actually caused the problem in the first place. It's time to get off the treadmill and try a new approach."

    An Oct. 13 Associated Press story quoted Forest Service agent Ron Pugh describing the problem as "a crisis at every level."

    "California is a world-leading producer of two popular psychoactive drugs -- marijuana and wine," Mirken said. "California's wine industry is a huge asset to our state's economy and reputation, generating tax revenue, tourism and prestige, with no meaningful environmental problems. There is no reason marijuana should be different. They're both agricultural products, and there is nothing inherently dangerous about marijuana cultivation. The difference is that wine is legally regulated, while we consign marijuana -- the state's leading cash crop, based on government figures -- to the criminal underground where it is completely unregulated and untaxed, while all the profits go to criminals. In the process, we've effectively invited the violence from the Mexican drug trade over our borders. The problem isn't marijuana, the problem is dumb policy."

    "Last year the number of Americans who have used marijuana reached an all-time record of over 100 million. It's time to stop imagining that we can make this industry go away and time to start bringing it under responsible regulation just like our wine industry."

    With more than 25,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

United States

Save the Rainforest From the Drug War

U.S.-sponsored efforts to fumigate Colombian coca crops have utterly failed to prevent cocaine production. But they have been very effective at destroying Colombia's national parks:
Leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries, and narcos that control the billion-dollar cocaine trade have invaded the 2.5-million-acre Macarena, laying waste to much of it to plant coca. Most of Colombia's 48 other national parks and nature reserves are suffering similar fates. Chased from more accessible sites by U.S.-sponsored aerial fumigation, coca growers relentlessly clear forests knowing that they are beyond the reach of the U.S.-Colombian fleet of planes because spraying of the parks is prohibited by law. [Los Angeles Times]
So what's next? Are we gonna spray crop killers on this precious irreplaceable ecosystem? Doing that will just force the drug lords to burrow deeper, leaving an ever-expanding trail of flaming destruction in their tracks.

Let's face it, rainforests are awesome. They are filled with jaguars, anacondas, and large spiders that eat chickens. I don't know what kinds of animals live in Colombian forests specifically, but I'm sure there are some wicked cool creatures in there that are worth saving.

Unfortunately, there's nothing in this entire LA Times article that even vaguely resembles a plan for stopping drug traffickers from completely destroying everything. The Colombians' best idea is literally to ask that people please stop doing cocaine, a plan so useless it isn't worth the trees that died to print it out. We are on an irreversible trajectory towards the total permanent destruction of many of the world's most unique natural resources as long as current efforts to thwart illicit drug production continue. That is just a fact.

This would all be a terrible price to pay to get rid of cocaine, except that we haven't even come close to accomplishing that and we never will. Invaluable natural resources are being destroyed for nothing. Only by ending the drug war immediately can we even begin to address this rapidly expanding ecological crisis.
United States

Marijuana: Drug Czar Calls Pot Growers Dangerous Terrorists

In a bout of rhetorical excess unusual even for the nation's drug czar, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) head John Walters called California marijuana growers "violent criminals" and "terrorists" who wouldn't think twice about helping foreign terrorists enter the country to cause mass casualties. Walters made his remarks at a June 12 press conference in Redding, California as he lauded paramilitarized teams of law enforcement personnel conducting raids on marijuana grows on public lands in Shasta County.

People need to get over their "reefer blindness" and realize that drugs "fund terror and violence," Walters said in remarks reported by the Redding Record-Searchlight. As for pot growers tending crops on public land in the area: "These people are armed, they're dangerous," Walters said, calling them "violent criminal terrorists."

Upon reflection, the ONDCP noted the following day in its blog that Walter's comments were all good. "Do you have Reefer Blindness?" the blog post asked, qualifying the Redding Record-Searchlight story as "a good story" and displaying no second thoughts about Walters' incendiary rhetoric.

Unfortunately, no reporters present at the Walters press event challenged him on the role of marijuana prohibition in promoting violence or pushing marijuana growers onto public lands. Nor did anyone challenge him to present the least scintilla of evidence for his claim that marijuana growers would happily aid and abet Al Qaeda-style terrorists in attacking their fellow citizens. That is a good thing for Walters, because there simply isn't any.

Meth production down in state, but use is not

United States
Spartanburg Herald Journal (SC)

Why Does DEA Teach Meth-Cooking to the Public?

This is just bizarre. I swear, every time I think I'm on the verge of understanding what motivates these people, they find increasingly strange ways to waste our money:

Cooking methamphetamine takes only a few hours and requires simple household ingredients, like striker plates from matchbooks, the guts of lithium batteries, drain cleaner.

"It's pretty gross," said Matt Leland, who works in career services at the University of Northern Colorado and who recently helped cook the drug in a lab. "If someone was truly interested in manufacturing meth, it would not be that hard."

The Drug Enforcement Administration invited Leland and other citizens - such as software engineers, a teacher, a pastor and a school principal - to make methamphetamine last week in a lab at Metropolitan State College of Denver. [Denver Post]

Ok. We understand that DEA is teaching private citizens how to manufacture meth, but why? Why the hell would they do that?

The class was held as part of the DEA's first Citizens Academy in order to give the public a close-up view of what the agency does to keep drugs off the street.

That's interesting, and I'm eager to attend, but it doesn't answer the question because cooking meth isn’t part of DEA's job at all. Their job is, of course, to stop people from cooking meth, which has now become the precise opposite of what they're doing.

The whole thing is mindlessly indulgent when you consider that no one really needs a chemistry lesson to infer that the constant explosions at their crazy neighbor's house might explain why he has so many strange visitors.

If you're gonna teach meth-cooking, teach it to immigrant store clerks before you arrest them for naively selling household items to undercover narcs.

United States

Can You Smell the Meth?

This story might take first prize in a week already marred by frivolous lawsuits and other stupid drug-related news:
A deputy U.S. marshal based in Charleston is suing the makers of the popular cold remedy Zicam over his lost sense of smell, which he says has put him in danger of being unknowingly exposed to methamphetamine labs.

As a federal law enforcement officer, he said his duties sometimes expose him to methamphetamine labs, which are considered dangerous to be in contact with. [Charleston Daily Observer]
Come to think of it, I too am deeply concerned about being exposed to highly-toxic meth labs. Who shall I sue? Perhaps the shortsighted legislators who've created a black market and ensured the continued illicit production of methamphetamine in our communities.

And before we get too excited about this cool drug that prevents cops from smelling things, note that Zicam's manufacturer says this is nonsense. They claim that allegations of smelling-loss occur because Zicam is a cold medicine popular among people with horrible pre-existing respiratory problems.

Sounds plausible enough, but good luck explaining "correlation is not causation" to a drug warrior.

United States

New species of hummingbird discovered in Colombia, endangered by drugs industry

Portsmouth Herald News (NH)

The Coveted ONDCP Hiking Award

Any police officer who's ever risked life and limb in the line of duty should be enraged. The Drug Czar is giving out awards to officers who hike around California forests pulling up marijuana plants. From The Willits News in Mendocino:
The Mendocino National Forest Law Enforcement team has received a national Director's Award from the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy for its outstanding service to the nation in combating marijuana trafficking on the national forest last year.

"More marijuana was taken by this team than any other group within the Forest Service in 2006," the citation from Director Walters reads. "In honor and appreciation to the individuals whose outstanding accomplishments greatly enhanced the results of the National Marijuana Eradication Initiative your remarkable efforts have helped protect America from crime, drugs and violence," the award continues.

That's simply not true. I don't recall hearing about a marijuana shortage last autumn. There's no evidence that this activity has prevented anyone from using marijuana, just as there's no evidence that stopping people from using marijuana would be beneficial even if it were possible. What we've got here are a bunch of well-meaning, highly-trained public servants whose talents are being wasted on a glorified easter-egg hunt. The only reason we don't send boyscouts to do this is that they can't be trusted.

Now to be fair, the task does involve rappelling from helicopters, which can get a bit dicey. But that's not the danger that tends be emphasized here. More typically, we're told that grow sites are booby-trapped (which is actually to thwart thieves), and that 22-caliber rifles are commonly found (which are to shoot rodents and other pests). In short, the real heroes of the forest are fire-fighters, which we could have more of if we ended drug prohibition.

Still, while I vehemently deny that there's any significant danger associated with marijuana eradication in national forests, I am prepared to acknowledge that there's a certain amount of skill involved in actually locating the plants. I've spent a considerable amount of time hiking myself, and despite my best efforts, I've never discovered a massive secret marijuana garden.

United States

European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies' Statement for CND Meeting in Vienna (March 12-16)

Dear delegates, On behalf of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, a platform of more than 150 citizens’ association from around Europe, we wish to ask your attention for the following. Ten years ago, during the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in June 1998, in New York, a political declaration was adopted mentioning two important objectives and a target date. In her 1998 declaration, the UN General Assembly committed itself to ‘achieving significant and measurable results in the field of demand reduction’ as well as to ‘eliminating or reducing significantly the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy’ by the year 2008. In the mean time the failure of these policies is witnessed every day by citizens, farmers living in coca and opium producing areas in South America and Asia, by people in jails, on dancefloors, in coffeeshops, in user rooms, and the many institutions fed by law enforcement of all kinds. According to figures recently published by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the annual prevalence of drug use (as percentage of population aged 15 and above) in the USA, the country with the largest investments in demand reduction has shown some increase with regards to ecstasy, opiates and cocaine. The annual prevalence of cocaine use increased from 2.6% in 2000 to 2.8 % in 2004, and we see an even larger increase in the use of cannabis , from 8,3% in 2000 to 12,6 % in 2004. With amphetamine use the same thing: from 0,9% in 2000 to 1,5% in 2004. Drug use and drug production is increasing everywhere, not only in the USA. Considering the global production of illicit drugs, the amount of produced opium has increased from 4.346 tons in 1998 to 4.620 tons in 2005, cocaine has increased from 825 tons in 1998 to 910 tons in 2005 and cannabis from an estimated 30.000 tons in 1998 to 42.000 tons in 2005 (a third of which is produced in North America, making it by far the largest producer of cannabis for its home market). It is obvious that the global efforts to ‘eliminate or significantly reduce drugs demand and supply’ before the 2008 deadline have not been successful. But,these efforts have caused considerable and increasing damage to human rights, public health, environment, the economy, sustainable development, the state of law and the relation between citizens and authorities across the world. In a year from now, you will have to take an important decision. Will you ignore the past? Will you continue going the same destructive but largely ineffective road? When you meet here in this room in March 2008, you need to have some sort of a story! Your government or organisation needs to present its conclusions of the past 10 years, as well as its recommendations for the future. Essentially you have two possibilities. You can either choose to ignore the evidence, and continue on this cruel, costly, ineffective and counterproductive affair called the War on Drugs. Or you can start to discuss how to introduce reflection and common sense, and start to modify our petrified international drug legislation in such a way as to allow countries to start with drug policies that will be more effective in reducing the many harms of drug policy. Reducing the harms of drug use itself is a relatively small affair comparing it to reducing drug policy related harms. Together with many others, ENCOD sees prohibition related harms as many times more extensive , pervasive and destructive than drug related harms. Global drug policy shows confusing elements. On the one hand, hundreds of millions of people around the world are a victim of drug policies. People are now killed, tortured, imprisoned, stigmatised and ruined for growing, trading or consuming substances that have accompanied mankind for thousands of years. Even those who practice public health types of harm reduction in the drug field are criminalised in certain areas of the world. On the other hand, ‘harm reduction’ has been embraced by many local and regional authorities as an effective approach to the most urgent health problems related to drug use. Harm reduction measures depart from the principle that health and safety are more important than moral judgements, but are seriously jeopardized by the burocratic frame work that manages and interprets the UN Treaties. In most European countries, the possession of small quantities of cannabis is no longer considered an offence. In countries where the distribution of cannabis for personal use is depenalised, such as the Netherlands, local authorities are increasingly in favour of organise a transparant circuit of cannabis cultivation, distribution and consumption by adults. Those authorities have started to understand that regulation is a way to reduce criminality and health problems, not blind prohibition. The government of Bolivia calls for the international depenalisation of the coca leaf as a way to recognise the great nutritional, medicinal and cultural value of coca. In fact, Bolivia would have the right to repeal the UN Convention of 1961, as the prohibition of coca leaves that is included in that Convention is not based on scientific evidence. Allowing the export of tea and other benefitial coca derivates would help to substitute the dependence of coca farmers of the illegal sector with a sustainable economy based on renewable agricultural resources. Likewise, the depenalisation of opium cultivation, allowing the use of this substance for the already existing legal purposes, could become an important option to increase living standards and human rights of people in Afghanistan, Burma and other countries. Will Vienna 2008 mark the start of a different era in drug policy? We doubt it. What is needed is the creation of the legal and political space for local, regional and national authorities to apply policies that are not based on total prohibition. However we see and deplore that the system of drug control -expanded and enlarged since 1910- has become a phenomenal and counterproductive obstacle in the way of innovation and harm reduction. The UN Conventions do not allow for any development and force upon the world an obsolete system of worldwide Prohibition that for alcohol has long been abandoned. Any regime change, however small, needs cooperation of almost 200 countries! This way the world has imprisoned itself inside this system, and thrown away the key. Will Vienna 2008 be an opportunity for all those who wish to find a sensible solution to drug related problems ? Will Vienna 2008 start to end the massive damage done by drug policies, damage that is many times larger than any damage even intense drug use itself ever created? We will be here again in one year. Best wishes, On behalf of ENCOD, Christine Kluge, Germany Marina Impallomeni, Italy Virginia Montañes, Spain Farid Ghehioeuche, France Jan van der Tas, Netherlands Joep Oomen, Belgium
United States

Op-Ed: Meth trade not gone, just evolving

United States
The News Tribune (WA)

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