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White House Moves to Fund Needle Exchanges As Drug Treatment

The Obama administration has designated needle exchanges as a drug treatment program, allowing federal money set aside to treat addictions to be used to distribute syringes to intravenous drug users. Two years ago President Obama lifted the 21-year ban on federally funded needle exchange programs as a necessary evil to reduce the spread of HIV among illicit drug users. The new position, determined by the surgeon general, is that the states can receive federal funding for programs that hand out the syringes as a treatment. A 11-year-old study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment that found that addicts who participated in needle exchanges were five times more likely to enter drug treatment. (Link to Story)

Poll: Montanans Overwhelmingly Oppose Repeal of Medical Marijuana Act

Poll results released today by Patients and Families United show that only 20 percent of Montanans support the outright repeal of the Montana Medical Marijuana Act. The findings conflict with the mood in Montana's Capitol. The Senate will soon take up a bill that could repeal the state's medical marijuana law. The House passed the measure on Monday by a vote of 62-37. Sixty-two percent of Montana voters approved the law in 2004. (Link to Story)

Guatemala Warns Belize of Drug Prohibition War Spillover

Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala, H. E. Alfredo Martinez, said there is already evidence that Guatemala’s drug prohibition war problems are trickling over the border. Not only is Belize’s western border with Guatemala infamously porous—Guatemala disputes its very existence, particularly the portion to the South of the Sibun, where anti-narcotics efforts are supposed to be concentrated. (Link to Story)

Kenyan Parliament Begins Drug Probe on MPs

Drug prohibition has been known to corrupt government officials all over the globe. Kenya's Committee of Parliament on Security has embarked on an independent investigation into allegations of drug trafficking leveled against four members of parliament. US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger disclosed that officials have banned several high profile individuals from visiting the US on the grounds of their involvement in drug trafficking. (Link to Story)

Money Is Gone, but Proposition 36's Drug Treatment Mandate Remains

Enacted by 61 percent of voters in November 2000 as Proposition 36, the law says first- and second-time nonviolent, simple drug possession offenders must be given the opportunity to receive substance abuse treatment instead of jail time. That "must" isn't a suggestion; it would take another voter-approved ballot measure to undo it. County officials who administer the state's treatment-not-jail program for certain drug offenders are struggling with a lack of funding that's not likely to improve, but advocates say ignoring the mandate simply isn't an option. (Link to Story)

Florida's New Corrections Head Pushing for Drug Rehab, Flexibility in Sentencing

More drug treatment, juvenile intervention and giving judges more flexibility in sentencing are the ways to improve Florida's correctional system, the state's newest prisons chief said. (Link to Story)

U.S. Agent's Killing Hints at Drug Prohibition War Tensions

Jaime Zapata's killing marks the first murder of an American agent in the line of duty in Mexico's drug prohibition war, which has raged relentlessly since President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006. As such, it adds extra pressure to the already strained U.S.-Mexico drug prohibition alliance. Publicly, the Calderón and Obama administrations have continued to paint a rosy picture of the U.S. and Mexico marching side by side to defeat the common adversary of drug trafficking organizations. But as revealed in WikiLeaks cables and offhand comments by officials on both sides of the border, tensions are growing. U.S. officials complain that they cannot rely on Mexico's institutions — and this concern is exacerbated when their lives are on the line. (Link to Story)

Crooked CoCo County Drug Czar Walks Out of Lockup on Discounted Bail

The corruption of police due to drug prohibition has been well-documented. Norman Wielsch, the former commander of the Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team who was arrested last week on suspicion of trafficking drugs his team had confiscated, saw his $1 million bail reduced to an easy $400,000. (Link to Story)
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Medical Marijuana Clinics Quietly Take Root in Oregon

Within the past three months, Central Oregon has seen at least five medical marijuana clinics or clubs set up shop. There was at first outcry, then indifference -- and now, it seems, acceptance. (Link to Story)

New York County Closes Crime Lab Over Massive Drug Test Errors

New York county officials shut down their crime lab because, they said, police officials knew that examiners were producing inaccurate measurements in drug cases even before a national accrediting agency placed the lab on probation. Nearly 9,000 drug cases dating to late 2007 are currently being reviewed for signs of errors after a spot check last week of nine cases involving ketamine or ecstasy revealed that six of them were inaccurately analyzed. (Link to Story)

Entire Villages Flee As Colombia Drug Trafficking Organizations Move In

Drug prohibition violence is growing across Colombia, and has reached particularly alarming levels in Cordoba. This latest incarnation of drug trafficking organizations has emerged following the demobilization of paramilitary soldiers. Between 2003 and 2006, after striking a peace deal with the government, more than 32,000 fighters belonging to the paramilitary group called the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) put down arms. But many mid-ranking paramilitary commanders slipped back into drug trafficking, starting up new organizations and recruiting ex-AUC fighters. (Link to Story)

Montana Lawmaker Asks That PTSD Sufferers Qualify for Medical Marijuana Use ‎

Democrat Senator David Wanzenried is asking Montana's legislature to authorize post-traumatic stress disorder as a debilitating medical condition qualifying a person for medical marijuana. "I don’t know how medical marijuana works, I can tell you it does work," said Senator David Wanzenried (D-Senate District 49). (Link to Story)

Congressman: Eliminate the War on Drugs

Colorado congressman Jared Polis wants to drastically reduce the federal government's funding of the war on drugs. He has introduced amendments to the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 that, if passed, would virtually eliminate money spent to fight drug crimes. The first amendment, No. 501, proposes to eradicate funding of the drug czar. The second amendment, No. 427, would prohibit the investigation and criminal prosecution for the possession, manufacture or distribution of marijuana. Polis believes that the drug czar's office is not only unnecessary, but has proven to be more harmful than helpful in the case of marijuana. (Link to Story)

Missouri Veteran Says He Should Be Allowed to Grow Medical Marijuana Instead of Becoming a Morphine Addict

A wounded Missouri veteran is gearing up for a courtroom battle he says he shouldn’t have to fight. Prosecutors have slapped Ken Unger with a felony charge of growing medical marijuana in his home. Unger says it's strictly for medicinal use to ease chronic pain cause by an accident he had in 1983 while on a tour of duty. "Yes I was growing marijuana, and I was growing it for my own personal consumption," he said. Unger was prescribed morphine to control his pain, which he says he's tired of. "I feel like I’m totally trapped," Unger said. "I’m not allowed to do anything for pain relief other than be a morphine addict, and I don’t want to be a morphine addict." (Link to Story)

Arizona Conducts Last Medical Marijuana Forum

The Arizona Department of Health Services has conducted three forums around the state this week to discuss rules for establishing medical marijuana dispensaries. The final rules should be released by the end of March. (Link to Story)

Drug Trafficking Organizations Also Involved in Sex Trade, Expert Says

The head of a company that provides security for American citizens traveling in Mexico says powerful drug trafficking organizations are branching out into the $40-billion-a-year sex trafficking industry. They kidnap children and young people, demand ransom, but in many cases never return the victims, according to Brad Barker with Halo Security. He said a family might pay $100,000 ransom, but the kidnap victim can be worth much more in the sex market. "This person can be held in captivity, they can be filmed doing sex acts, they can be sold on the Internet throughout the world and make 10 times that amount of money. So why would they return the person to their family?" (Link to Story)

Predicting Demand for Medical Marijuana in Rhode Island

Early next month, the state Health Department is poised to select from one to three proposals for dispensaries that will sell medical marijuana and related products to patients in the growing medical marijuana program. JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, and others seeking to open the centers have varying views on whether it’s financially feasible for the state to have three dispensaries. On Tuesday, there were 3,239 patients and 2,039 licensed caregivers, or medical marijuana growers, in the program. Many of the patients also have caregiver licenses, meaning that they grow their own medical cannabis to deal with chronic pain, nausea and other medical ailments. But just about everyone in the industry predicts that the establishment of one, two or three dispensaries will lead to an immediate surge in the number of patients, who must get approval from the Health Department to use medical marijuana for. (Link to Story)

Mexico's Refugees: A Hidden Cost of the Prohibitionist War on Drugs

President Felipe Calderon's four-year-old army-led campaign against drug trafficking organizations created by prohibition has shaken up the balance of power in Mexico's criminal underworld and sparked a wave of turf wars, sometimes trapping civilians in their midst. With more than 34,000 drug prohibition killings in the past four years, Calderon is coming under increasing pressure to help states burdened by drug war refugees. (Link to Story)

Legislation Filed to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Kansas

Legislation has been filed to legalize medical marijuana for people with debilitating conditions, such as cancer. House Bill 2330 would provide for the registration and operations of not-for-profit compassion centers, which would have the authority to possess, cultivate, manufacture and dispense medical marijuana. Patients would have to have a doctor’s recommendation and a license from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The license would permit them to possess up to six ounces of medical marijuana. (Link to Story)

Big Changes to Kentucky Drug Laws Advance in Legislature

Kentucky's House Judiciary Committee approved the most sweeping changes to the state's penal code in a generation in an effort to reduce prison and jail crowding. The committee voted unanimously to send House Bill 463 to the full House, where a floor vote is expected tomorrow. The result of much negotiation and compromise, the bill would steer many drug addicts into treatment and community supervision rather than prison. It drew praise from prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges and local leaders. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce endorsed it, warning that the state's incarceration costs are draining resources that could better be spent on education. (Link to Story)

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