psmith's picture


Member for
12 years 49 weeks
View recent blog entries

Stories by psmith

Chronicle on the Scene Feature: In the Bolivian Chapare, Evo Morales' "Coca, Si; Cocaine No" Policy Brings Peace, If Not Prosperity

The "coca, si; cocaine, no" policy of Bolivian President Evo Morales has brought peace to a region long riven by conflict and repression. But while coca farmers need no longer worry about violent conflict with the state, they are still having a hard time making enough money to survive. Plans are underway to do something about that.

Free Speech: "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Case Heading to Supreme Court Next Month, with Ken Starr Supporting One Side and SSDP Another

The court that not so long ago heard a case brought by Anna Nicole Smith will soon rule on whether students using the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" are entitled to 1st Amendment protection. The stakes are a lot more serious than the bizarre title may suggest.

Latin America: Killing of Salvadoran Politicians By Police in Guatemala Opens Window on Drug Corruption in Central America, Killing of Killers Closes It

Three Salvadoran politicians were brutally murdered by Guatemalan anti-drug police outside Guatemala City 10 days ago. Now, the police killers have themselves been killed in a brazen assassination while being held inside a nasty Guatemalan prison. Many questions are being raised, but dead men tell no tales.

many pictures from the Chapare...

US-funded FELCN (Special Force for the Struggle Against Narcotics) checkpoint between Cochabamba and Chapare, search being conducted for cocaine and precursors Site of major landslide produced by ma

Back from the Chapare

I'm now back from the coca producing region of the Chapare.

This way to the Coca Museum...

pictures from La Paz, Bolivia: Calle Linares pedestrian mall, with Coca Museum sign (Click the "read full post" link or the title link for more pictures if you don't already seen them.

Extreme Politics: Vermont Mayor Calls for Death Penalty for Hard Drug Dealers, Legalizing Marijuana

The mayor of Barre, Vermont, is fed up with drugs and drug policy, and his frustration is showing as he calls for both the legalization of marijuana and the death penalty for heroin and crack cocaine dealers.

Europe: Britain to Provide Heroin to Addicts, "Restricted" Home Office Brief Says

A hush-hush Home Office briefing paper says Britain should begin prescribing heroin to hard-core users, a major London newspaper reports. It could happen as soon as next fall.

Europe: Legendary Irish Broadcaster Says Country Should Debate Legalizing Drugs

Long-time Irish talk show Gay Byrne is famous for tackling taboo subjects in Ireland. Now he's retired, but that hasn't stopped him from speaking out in favor of one of the remaining taboo subjects: drug legalization.

In Bolivia and Ready to Head for the Chapare

After an arduous two-day trek by bus from Cusco, Peru, across the Altiplano and over Lake Titicaca by ferry, I'm now sitting in La Paz, Bolivia, which is truly a spectacular city.

Newsbrief: Colorado Town Backs Away from Tougher Marijuana Penalties

City councilmen in Lafayette, Colorado, have backed away from an ordinance that would have increased penalties for marijuana possession after a judge resigned in protest and a strong grassroots efforts by Colorado activists scorched them.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy," by Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen (2007, State University of New York Press, 268 pp., $27)

At one time or another, all of us have sputtered into our coffee cops over some outrageous claim made by the drug czar's office. Now, a pair of academics have systematically deconstructed those claims, and the results are highly illuminating.

Chronicle on the Scene Feature: Bolivia's "Coca, Yes, Cocaine No" Policy is Beginning to Work

Just a little over a year into his term, Bolivian President Evo Morales is engineering a "coca, yes; cocaine, no" policy that is reducing tension there and leading to cooperative eradication efforts with farmers. Will the US government go along with it?

Southwest Asia: Afghan Opium Eradication Effort Sparks New Violence

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is attempting to appease his Western backers by eradicating the country's opium crop, but violence is flaring as a result.

Europe: British Top Cop Calls for Prescription Heroin for Addicts

The head of Britain's association of police chiefs is calling for prescription heroin to be made available to hard-core addicts in a bid to reduce street crime.

Marijuana: Colorado Pot Advocate Ken Gorman Killed Saturday, Days After Local News Station Did "Exposé" On Him

Prominent Colorado marijuana advocate Ken Gorman was gunned down in his home Saturday night. It appears he was targeted by robbers who may have watched a local news exposé on his medical marijuana garden.

Bad Bills: Nevada Legislation Could Send Parents to Prison for 15 Years for a Single Plant

A Nevada state senator wants to make people who grow even a single marijuana plant in a home where children are present subject to a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Medical Marijuana: Supporters File Federal Lawsuit Against HHS, FDA

After enduring two years of stonewalling by the FDA and its mother agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, medical marijuana supporters are taking the agencies to federal court over their continuing claims that marijuana has no medicinal benefits.

In the Rain on the Shores of Lake Titicaca---This Is a Potential Problem

I´m in Puno, Peru, on the shores of Lake Titicaca in heavy downpour.

Coca at Machu Picchu--Who Knew?

Yesterday, I visited the world class Inca ruins at Machu Picchu.

On the Gringo Trail, Getting Whispered Solicitations, and Sipping Mate de Coca

I'm not sitting in Cusco, the old Inca capital, where the Spanish invaders built their churches and houses on the ruins of the Inca city.

What a trip it's been, and it's only the end of week one!

Since last I blogged, I've gone by overnight bus from Lima to the Andean highlands city of Ayacucho, thence over the top of the Andes and down into the Amazonian selva (actually, the "ceja de selva,"

Medical Marijuana: Study Finds It Can Help With Pain

The first study of the efficacy of treating pain with marijuana in at least 20 years has found significant benefits for HIV/AIDS patients.

Medical Marijuana: DEA Judge Says Let Professor Grow Marijuana for Research Purposes

A DEA administrative law judge has ruled that a University of Massachusetts professor should be able to grow marijuana for research purposes, but the battle is not yet over.

Chronicle on the Scene Feature: In Peru, Coca Growers Struggle to Survive

On the eastern slopes of the Andes, as the mountains edge down into the jungles of the Amazon, hundreds of thousands of Peruvian peasants are growing coca as a cash crop to survive. But they face considerable obstacles. Here is a first report from the region.

Canada: Vancouver Mayor Pushes Stimulant Maintenance Plan

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan wants to start a pilot stimulant maintenance program for up to 700 hard-core cocaine and meth users in the city's Downtown Eastside. Now he has released a poll showing strong support for the idea among Vancouver residents.

Latin America: Mexico Moves to Decriminalize Drug Possession -- So It Can Concentrate on Drug Traffickers

Mexico's ruling party is pushing through a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs for first time offenders and "addicts" -- but may really be designed to facilitate that country's drug war by allowing state authorities to get more involved in it and lengthen sentences for traffickers.

Hemp: Ron Paul Introduces Industrial Hemp Bill in US Congress

A Texas Republican has reintroduced his bill that would legalize hemp farming in the United States. This time, a Democratic Congress will consider the measure.

Marijuana: Colorado Judge Resigns to Protest City's Tough New Ordinance

A Colorado town wants to increase the penalties for simple marijuana possession, but a local judge's public stand has thrown the move into doubt.

First Pictures from Coca Land

Mana coca foods (and other foods) store

Off to Ayacucho and the Valleys of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers

Oh, my situation is fluid.

With Baldomero Caceres in Miraflores

I´ve spent the last few hours with Baldomeo Caceres, the Peruvian psychologist and coca expert, walking around central Lima and talking about the politics of coca.

Pot Prisoners Cost America $1 Billion A Year


In Lima, the Cocaine is Cheap, High Quality, and Easily Available

Well, that didn't take long.

Law Enforcement: Atlanta Narcs to Be Indicted for Murder by State -- Federal Investigation Could Be Hurt

The Fulton County DA plans to indict three Atlanta undercover narcs for murder in the death of 92-year-old Katherine Johnstone during a botched drug raid. But will his move thwart an ongoing federal investigation?

Feature: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- 2008 US Federal Drug Control Budget

The Bush administration released its 2008 federal budget Monday, and when it comes to drug policy, it looks a lot like more of the same.

Feature: Arkansas Law Punishing Mothers Whose Newborns Test Positive for Drugs Accomplishes Little, Study Finds

As legislators in several states ponder legislation making drug use by pregnant women or the presence of drugs in the blood of their newborns a crime, an Arkansas report on that state's experience is sobering reading.

Atlanta Police Officers to Face Murder Indictment; Fulton DA Seeks Charges in Shooting of Elderly Woman in Her Home


Drug Use: Baby Boomers Most Likely to Have Shot Up

Who shoots drugs? Teenage black junkies? Middle-aged white guys? You might be surprised.

Bad Bills: Drug Tax Dies in Virginia Legislature

A bill that would have imposed a tax on illegal drugs and required possessors to obtain it within 48 hours has died a timely death in the Virginia legislature.

Hemp: North Dakota Issues First Licenses to Grow Industrial Hemp, but DEA Roadblock Remains

North Dakota's Agriculture Commissioner signed the first two licenses for farmers to grow hemp on Monday, but they must still win approval from the DEA. Don't hold your breath.

The Drug War Chronicle Andean Coca Tour 2007 is about to get underway

Friday night, I will be bedding down in Peru, after a day-long flight from Sioux Falls to Denver to Houston to Lima.

7 slain in Mexico police stations. The two Acapulco attacks are carried out by gunmen dressed as soldiers. Authorities see a link to drug cartels.


Africa: Proposed Draconian Drug Law in Namibia Runs Into Intense Opposition

A proposed draconian new drug law in the southwestern African nation of Namibia is running into intense opposition at public hearings this week. Some people think 20 years in prison for possessing a joint is too much.

Law Enforcement: Atlanta NAACP Calls for Tight Restrictions on "No-Knock" Searches

In the wake of the killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston during a "no-knock" drug raid gone bad, the Atlanta NAACP is calling for tight restrictions on such raids, as well as other police reforms.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

What a cornucopia of corruption the drug war generates. Week in and week out, law enforcement officers fall prey to the temptation to share in prohibition-generated illicit drug profits. This week is no different.

[Rhode Island] Medical Marijuana Act Up for Inspection


Medical Marijuana: Bills Introduced in Minnesota, Moving in New Mexico

A medical marijuana bill has been introduced for the third year in a row in Minnesota, and for the third year in a row, New Mexico advocates hope to get the bill there over the top. They're off to a fast start.

Sentencing: No Relief for Louisiana's Heroin Lifers

Louisiana's "heroin lifers" got no relief from the state Supreme Court last week when it ruled a 2001 law cutting sentences did not apply retroactively. But they still have one more avenue of redress.

Feature: The Conviction That Keeps On Hurting -- Drug Offenders and Federal Benefits

For millions of drug offenders, punishment by the criminal justice is only the beginning. Drug offenders also lose access to a number of federal benefits thanks to laws a growing number of organizations are calling inhumane and counterproductive.

More on the Meth Conference

Southwest Asia: British Conservatives Call for Afghan Opium to Be Licensed, Converted to Pharmaceuticals, Not Destroyed

Britain's Conservative Party has joined the call to license Afghan opium. The move comes just days after the British Medical Association called for it to be converted into diamorphine (heroin) for use by the National Health Service.

Law Enforcement: Jacksonville Narcs Kill Two Men in Separate Incidents Eight Days Apart

Narcotics officers in Jacksonville, Florida, shot and killed two men in separate incidents during undercover drug operations in late January. Both men were black, neither was a drug dealer, and calls for an investigation are increasing.

Methamphetamine: Epidemic, What Epidemic? Meth Use Down, SAMHSA Says

Despite the meth mania rampant in the media and among law enforcement and politicians, official numbers show meth use levels stagnant in recent years and beginning to decline in 2005.

Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis Underway in Salt Lake City

The 2nd National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV and Hepatitis got underway in Salt Lake City Thursday. Here's a report from the first day.

The Salt Lake Methamphetamine Conference Gets Underway

EDITOR'S NOTE: I tried to post this Friday morning from the Hilton in Salt Lake City, but due to some mysterious problem with the internets, it didn't get through. The

I'm hitting the road, heading for Salt Lake City

I'll pull out of South Dakota just after dawn, headed across the Northern Plains to Denver tonight, then over the high passes of the Rockies and on to Salt Lake City Wednesday night, so I can get up b

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

This week, we have a prison guard busted for smuggling drugs OUT of a jail, along with more typical drug-smuggling guard cases, a teenage military policeman in trouble, a retirement age former cop busted, and another Nashville police officer found guilty of drug corruption charges.

My Letter to a Crime-Beat Reporter

I've been brooding about an article in the Gary (Indiana) Post-Tribune about a drug raid where a police SWAT team badly

This Judge Is An Idiot

At the end of a Michigan murder case in which the victim was a marijuana dealer gunned down during a home invasion robbery, the judge railed against the "urban myth" that marijuana is harmless.

Canada: Vancouver Mayor Calls for Large-Scale Methamphetamine, Cocaine Maintenance Trials

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan has called for stimulant maintenance trials for more than 700 hard-core methamphetamine and cocaine users as part of a broad plan to improve the quality of life in the city before the 2010 Winter Olympics.

HEA: UC Berkeley Student Senate Approves Bill to Provide Scholarships for Students Denied Aid Because of Drug Convictions

The UC Berkeley student senate Wednesday night passed a measure that will provide $400 scholarships for students denied federal aid under the Higher Education Act's drug provision because they were convicted on drug charges.

Law Enforcement: SWAT Team Flash-Burn Grenade Assault Injures Drug Suspect

More SWAT team madness -- this time, Indiana cops doing a small-time drug raid manage to inflict serious burns on their man when they fired a flash-bang grenade into his home -- business as usual, according to their leader.

Feature: In Mexico, Now It's Calderon's Drug War

Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon, has unleashed a vigorous attack on that country's powerful and violent drug cartels. Washington is happy, but Mexico analysts wonder if it's just another bit of poltical theater.

Feature: Drug Policy Reform Group to Partner with State of New Mexico in Federally-Funded Meth Prevention Education Program

In a first for a drug policy reform organization, the Drug Policy Alliance's New Mexico office has been selected to administer a $500,000 federal grant to develop comprehensive methamphetamine education and prevention strategies aimed at youth in the state.

Europe: Moscow Mayor Calls for Harsh Drug Laws Including Death Penalty

Moscow's mayor called for Russia to adopt harsh, Singapore-style drug policies in a speech to Russian narcs this week.

Europe: British Cannabis Confusion Continues as Policing Policies Evolve

Amidst confusion and uncertainty among police, politicians, and citizens alike, British police announced new arrest policies for marijuana possession this week. But a study just released says police are a big part of the problem.

Latin America: Mexican Narco-Saint On the Move

A Mexican folk saint who supposedly protects outlaws and drug traffickers as well as the poor and defenseless has a new shrine in Mexico City.

Medical Marijuana: Vermont Bill to Expand Therapeutic Use of Cannabis Advances

A compromise version of a bill that would expand Vermont's two-year-old medical marijuana law has passed its first legislative hurdle.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Prison and jail guards gone bad! Evidence gone missing! Narcs gone to prison! Busy, busy, busy.

Is the Bush Administration Getting Nervous About Afghan Opium Licensing Schemes?

When the European drug policy and defense think-tank the Senlis Council in late 2005 unveiled its proposal to deal with illicit Afghan opium

Tyrone Brown is one step from freedom, and you can help today!

Last month, the Chronicle featured the story of Tyrone Brown,

Mayor proposes 'revolutionary' plan for addicts; Sullivan wants city exempted from federal narcotics laws


Colombia "good model" for Afghan drug war, US says


Medical Marijuana: Washington State Group Raided

Local drug enforcement agents raided the offices of CannaCare, an Everett, Washington, medical marijuana support and advocacy group this week, accusing of it providing marijuana to patients.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's been relatively quiet on the corrupt cop front this week, but we've still got a Newark police officer who made a bad choice of boyfriends, and the requisite pair of crooked jail guards.

Feature: DEA Makes Major Move Against Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

The DEA was at it again Wednesday, raiding 11 medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County, including five in West Hollywood. City council members there had only the night before introduced an ordinance to permanently regulate the dispensaries, and they aren't happy.

Feature: New Study Rips Canadian "Tough on Drugs" Policy, Funding

Even as Canada's Conservative government works on a tough, law enforcement-heavy new national drug strategy, a study released Monday says such approaches have failed.

Treatment Not Jail: California Governor Proposes Cutting Proposition 36 Drug Treatment Funds

In his new state budget, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has under-funded for the popular and successful treatment-not-jail program Proposition 36. He's in for a fight.

Law Enforcement: Florida County Will Pay for Manhandling Men in Errant Drug Bust Caught on Videotape

A video camera captured the brutality of a pair of wrongful arrests in a case of mistaken identity in Pinellas County, Florida. Now the county gets to pay up.

Europe: Scottish Labor Politician Fights for Harm Reduction as Party Turns Hard-Line on Drugs

The Scottish drug debate heated up this week as a Labor Party MSP attacked her party for heading in the wrong direction, and more than 250 senior police, health officials, academics, and others interested in drug policy pondered the future.

Medical Marijuana: Bills Introduced in Michigan, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Vermont and Soon in New Mexico

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 10 states, but that number could nearly double with bills already introduced in a handful of states this year.

Marijuana: Decriminalization Bills Filed in Massachusetts, New Hampshire

No marijuana decriminalization bill has passed since the 1970s, but legislators in Massachusetts and New Hampshire are ready to try this year.

Finally, Someone is Getting Serious About Marijuana

Why screw around arresting pot smokers when you can get to the root of the problem by simply eliminating marijuana?

US Weapons Fueling Mexican Drug Violence


Ending an Opium War; Afghan Poppies and Recovery Can Both Bloom


Ecuador's divided loyalties; Both fighter and front in the drug war, it chafes at U.S. presence on its soil.


The West Should Buy Afghanistan's Opium Crop


Law Enforcement: Faced With Rising Murder Rates, Newark and New Orleans Turn to Repressive Drug War Strategies

Faced with rising crime and murder rates, city officials in Newark and New Orleans are blaming drugs and using more of the same old same old to try to crack down.

Feature: More Cops Died Directing Traffic Than Waging the Drug War Last Year

Police portray themselves as up against dangerous criminals as they fight the war on drugs, but you might be surprised...

Law Enforcement: DEA Lax on Handling Seized Cash, Audit Finds

DEA agents seize hundreds of millions of dollars a year in drug busts, but a Justice Department audit finds the agency is pretty lax in its handling of all that cash.

Europe: European Union Funds Dialogue With Civil Society on Drug Policies

The European Parliament has budgeted $1.3 million to promote a dialog with civil society over its continent-wide drug policy review set for next year.

Report: Lies Involved in No-Knock Warrant [Kathryn Johnston killing]


Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Hiding marijuana inside cannoli, taking cocaine from a murder scene, and peddling cocaine are all on the radar this week. So is an investigation into drug smuggling at a US Air Force base in England.

Latin America: Mexico Considering Creation of "Drug Czar" Post

Early in his presidential term, Mexican leader Felipe Calderon has already called out the army to fight drug traffickers. Now, his government is pondering the creation of a "drug czar" to coordinate the fight.

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

Bryn Mawr coeds apparently liked to squeeze condoms filled with flour to fend off stress over final exams, but when one student tried to take one home for the holidays, she ended in jail for three weeks charged as a drug trafficker. Now the city of Philadelphia gets to pay for its mistake.

Medical Marijuana: Colorado Case Will Test State's Law

The arrest of a pair of registered Colorado medical marijuana patients last fall is setting off a legal battle that will help clarify the state's medical marijuana law. But if they lose, they face up to six years in prison.

Law Enforcement: Small-Time Drug Possessors No Longer Charged as Felons in Wichita -- Cops Grumble

Police in Wichita are no longer charging small-time hard drug possession as a felony -- less than a quarter-gram of meth or coke, and all you get is a misdemeanor paraphernalia charge, and you don't even go to jail!

South America trip back on again, and maybe a visit to the meth conference, too.

As readers of this blog know, I had to postpone my trip to Peru and Bolivia to report on coca doings because the Bolivian government announced on New Year's Day that US citizens would need visas to en

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School