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Kootenay Cannabis Community Mobilizing Over Holy Smoke Bust

The powerful cannabis community in BC's Kootenay region is not taking the Holy Smoke bust lying down. Holy Smoke will undertake a strong legal defense, and supporters will hold what they promise to be the largest pot rally in the area's history on August 5. Here is an update from Holy Smoke co-owner Alan Middlemiss from the Cannabis Culture forums: This is an update about the situation here in Nelson... The "Imminent arrest" threats seem to have subsided to threats of "Imminent vacations", with the crown attorney and the lead officer on summer holidays for the next 2 weeks or more. Apparently they cannot get any warrents to search or arrest anyone caught up in "operation vista" until the crown gets back. So we wait, and work. We are moving the date of our community rally to Saturday August 5th. There are several reasons for this not the least of which is the forecast for heavy rains this saturday. We plan to go to the Spearhead outdoor concert in Kaslo the night before and spread the word to the masses. There is quite a lot of interest from a broad range of people in Nelson, so it promises to be the biggest pot rally ever held in the Kootenays. I will fill in the blanks shortly. Sorry about the changed date, but its all for the best.
Nelson, BC

Pressure Mounts on Karzai as Afghan Violence Surges

United States

Holy Cow, They Busted Holy Smoke! I wrote about the Holy Smoke bust for the Chronicle, but since it hits close to home, I have a little bit more to say about it. Holy Smoke is a Nelson, BC, head shop and activism hub. One of the owners, Paul DeFelice, was arrested last Saturday night and charged with marijuana and psilocybin distribution. Whatever was or wasn't sold at Holy Smoke, local police did nothing about it -- until now. DeFelice thinks the change has come because of the new conservative government of Prime Minister Harper. The Holy Smoke guys are dedicated activists, one of them is an attorney, and they look forward to challenging the marijuana laws again. Back in 1997, they humiliated local police when they tried to shut them down, and they look forward to doing it again. Holy Smoke is part of the Nelson experience. Situated at the end of Baker Street, the five-block heart of downtown Nelson, it perches beside a tiny park where most afternoons you can find a group of people smoking up and chatting. Holy Smoke ain't going away, but if they really were selling weed, for awhile, now, at least, you won't be able to buy it at a store like a regular human being. Of course, that doesn't mean it won't be available; it just means you'll have to buy it off the street dealers who have been loitering around Holy Smoke.
United States

Editorial: Do We Really Want to Help Kids Find the Drug Dealers?

David Borden, Executive Director
David Borden's usual Thursday evening editing session
One of this week's drug war news items is a legislative effort in the state of Maine to create a committee to study the possibility of a registry, accessible to the general public, of people who have been convicted repeatedly of drug offenses. Supporters have portrayed the idea as a way to help families protect their children from people in Maine who may want to provide drugs to them.

Even using drug war logic (generally a bad idea), this idea fails pretty decisively. Most kids don't start using drugs because they are offered them by professional dealers. Most kids start using drugs because they are offered them by other kids -- kids who are providing either for social reasons or because they have gotten involved in the criminal enterprise, but in either case not the repeatedly convicted adults who would pop up on the state's web site. It's also important to remember that most drug dealers never get caught, hence will never appear in the registry for that reason.

So while a registry would enable parents to be aware of some fraction of the serious drug dealers out there, it will miss (and perhaps divert attention from) the more common pathways through which drugs might get into the hands of their children. Furthermore, the same unstoppable economic process that turns any bust of a dealer into a job opportunity for new dealers, must also apply, at least partly, to any repeat dealers who lose business because some parents were able to keep their children clear of any given dealer -- if the kids are determined or even just willing, they'll wind up getting their drugs from someone else.

Most glaring, however, is an argument that was pointed out in a "practice" blog post by a member of our staff, Scott Morgan, on our soon-to-be-released new web site. Scott used a similar registry in Tennessee, limited to methamphetamine offenders, to show how usable it would be (perhaps is) to any young people, in any given county in the state, wishing to find leads on people in their county who might be able to sell them meth or other drugs -- an outcome exactly the opposite of what the registry purports to want to prevent.

The main difference (no pun intended) between Tennessee's registry and Maine's proposed registry, other than Maine's including all illegal drugs, is that Maine's is to be limited to "habitual" drug offenders, people who have been convicted of drug dealing multiple times. But repeat offenders are exactly the people who are the most likely to offend yet again -- the most usable listings for kids or others wanting to locate drug sellers conveniently narrowed down. But widening the registry to include all drug offenders won't help either -- because increasing the number of listings would also increase the registry's usability to kids wanting to find dealers. Either way you can't get around the idea that a drug offender registry is effectively a taxpayer-subsidized advertising campaign supporting drug dealing.

In the end, we must return to the issue that the primary way young people start to get involved in drug use is through the influence of other kids -- in many instances buying the drugs from other kids, in the schools. This is one of the factors that has led to an increased prevalence of handguns in schools -- where the underground market goes, so also tend to go weapons.

But it need not be that way. While use of alcohol by minors is a big issue (alcohol is just as much of a drug as any of the others, and a rather destructive one), at least kids are not buying it from other kids, in the school, from people who carry guns. That situation exists with the illegal drugs precisely because we have banned them. With drug legalization, the criminal problems associated with the trade in drugs would largely vanish -- no more armed drug trade in the schools, no more turf wars or open air markets.

And while the harm from the use of the drugs themselves will not simply disappear when prohibition is ended, the sheer level of destructiveness currently associated with addiction in particular would also drop substantially, as users would no longer be subject to the random impurities, and fluctuations in purity, that currently lead to poisonings and overdoses; and the high street prices drugs currently have would also drop, enabling many if not most addicts who are now driven to extreme behaviors like theft and prostitution to get the money to buy drugs to at least afford the habit through legal means of earning. Escalating the failed policy of prohibition won't accomplish this.

In the meanwhile let's at least cool it with these hare-brained ideas like drug offender registries. The continued stigmatization of people who have already been punished ought to be enough reason. But if it's not, the incredibly poor logic behind this idea ought to be. Do we really want to help kids find the drug dealers? I don't.

Web Scan: WOLA on Mexico Drug Wars, Sentencing Project and Others Report to UN Human Rights Committee, CURE on Prisons in OAS

"State of Siege: Drug-Related Violence and Corruption in Mexico," Laurie Freeman of WOLA on "Unintended Consequences of the War on Drugs"

Sentencing Project Statement to UN Human Rights Committee on Felony Disenfranchisement Violations of Article 25

Criminal Justice Section of Shadow Report on US compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, from Sentencing Project, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation Open Society Policy Center and Penal Reform International

Evaluation of Prisons in the Organization of American States, by the international branch of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants

Greens Call for Heroin Import Trial (Australia)

United States

Rumsfeld Says Drug Trade Aids Afghan Insurgency

New York Times

Fierce Clashes Around Afghan Opium Center

United States
Test Publication

drug war/terror war confusion in Afghanistan

The British online publication "Spiked" noted in a larger story, citing a March article in the Guardian, that there is confusion over whether NATO troops are fighting a "war on drugs" in Afghanistan" or a "war on terror." Philip Cunliff wrote:
[T]he British mission objective is further confused by the question of whether the British army is fighting a war on drugs or the war on terror. Former British defence secretary John Reid argued that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is "absolutely interlinked" with the war on terror (though in fact, it was the Americans who endorsed their local allies’ poppy cultivation after the Taliban curtailed it) (4). On the other hand, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General James Jones, has said: "You won’t see NATO burning crops, but you will see us gather intelligence and support the national effort as best we can."
Reid is ignoring the obvious realities of the situation. The opium trade is only linked to terrorism (to the extent that is actually the case, probably non-zero but less than Reid claims) because opium and the drugs derived from it are illegal. Legalization would bring opium out of the underground economy and allow governments to regulate it -- if Afghanistan couldn't control the money flow to keep it out of the hands of Taliban and Al Qaeda and other violent organizations, consumer nations in Europe and the Americans could simply require the stuff be bought elsewhere. Instead, we have a no win situation in which fighting the poppy will alienate the populace whose help we need, in which wiping out the crops (an impossible task) would generate economic catastrophe, but leaving them aids our enemies and hinders the goal of attaining political instability for that troubled nation. There's a reason why the medical opium crop doesn't cause violence or help terrorists -- because it's legal. The Senlis Council has organized at least two conferences in Afghanistan to propose licensing the crop for that market.

Afghanistan Set to Have World's Largest Ever Opium Crop (Financial Times)


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