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This Just In
(1)More Places Turning To Drug Courts
(2)L.A. Police Panel Requires Financial Disclosure For Some Officers
(3)Open Borders Raise Concerns In W. Europe
(4)Panama Declares U.S. Invasion Date Day Of Mourning

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 THIS JUST IN  ( Top )


Pubdate: Fri, 21 Dec 2007
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2007 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: David Unze, USA TODAY

Instead of Jail, Addicts Can Be Sentenced to Treatment Programs


There are now 2,016 drug courts in about 1,100 counties, according to the National Drug Court Institute. That number, the institute says, is up from 1,048 five years ago and is nearly 1,800 more than existed 10 years ago.

According to West Huddleston, CEO of the institute, a 2005 study -- the most recent available -- showed 70% of drug court participants graduate from the program and reoffend at a rate of 17% on average, compared with the 66% recidivism rate of drug offenders who do time in prison.

That study also showed the annual average cost of a drug court participant is $3,500, compared with annual prison costs that range from $13,000 to $44,000 per inmate, Huddleston said.

Alternative drug courts are funded by a combination of federal, state and charitable dollars. There is $15.2 million for the Department of Justice Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program in the 2008 budget that awaits President Bush's signature. In addition, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has $10.2 million in the 2008 budget to add treatment beds within operational drug courts.

Supporters say more is needed. "We're scratching the surface. I think it's critical that a drug court is in every county in America," said Huddleston, who estimates that 120,000 people are served annually by drug court alternatives, but potentially 4 million more people could benefit by such programs. The program is mocked by some as adult day care or handholding for addicts, Huddleston said.


Among the areas of growth:

Missouri, which had eight drug courts in 1998, has added 100 courts since then, according to Ann Wilson, coordinator of Missouri's drug courts. Missouri has more drug courts per capita than any state and as of Sept. 1 boasted 108 operational drug court programs, Wilson said. Of those, 75 are adult programs, 19 are for juveniles and 14 are family programs.

New York, which has a drug court in each of its 62 counties and has integrated its funding into its overall judicial budget, according to Drug Court Institute research.

Oklahoma, where a Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services report shows that from July 2005 to July 2006, the most recent period for which data was available, prison population expansion was slowed by 2,300 inmates because those offenders were admitted into drug court. The report shows that there are 52 drug courts in 59 counties. It lists the annual cost for a drug court participant as $5,000, compared with at least $16,000 annually for a prison inmate.

Florida, where the first drug court was created in 1989, now has more than 109 active drug courts and six more in the works, according to Jennifer Grandal, court operations consultant in the office of state courts administrator.



Pubdate: Fri, 21 Dec 2007
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times
Author: Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The Commission Is Trying to Get Out From Under a Court Order for Reform. Critics Say the New Policy Is Invasive and Won't Work.

The Los Angeles Police Commission approved a plan Thursday to require hundreds of anti-gang and narcotics officers to disclose detailed information about their personal finances, triggering an immediate court challenge by the police officers union and a debate at City Hall over whether to overrule the panel.

At issue in the rapidly intensifying dispute is what LAPD Chief William J. Bratton and the five-member commission hope will be one of the final pieces of a broad reform campaign that began after the Rampart corruption scandal and has kept the department under federal oversight since 2000.

Bratton and his civilian bosses are eager to get out of the federal consent decree, which calls for some sort of financial disclosure rule for officers in specialized units who frequently handle cash, drugs and other contraband. The issue has proved to be the most contentious sticking point as union and city officials have struggled for years to strike a compromise between officers' privacy rights and the need to satisfy the decree.

The reform is intended to help supervisors detect an officer who is taking bribes or involved in other illegal conduct. Under its terms, about 600 officers would be required to disclose to department officials any outside income, real estate, stocks, other assets and debts every two years. They would also have to reveal the size of their bank accounts and include any holdings they share with family members or business partners. Officers already assigned to the units would be granted a two-year grace period before having to complete the records.

"It's important that we use every tool available to make absolutely sure that even if it's just one officer who is potentially inclined to go down this path, that we do everything within our . . . authority to make sure that doesn't happen," said Commissioner John Mack. "We cannot forget the Rampart incident."




Pubdate: Fri, 21 Dec 2007
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2007 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Leander Schaerlaeckens

Nine new countries joined the passport-free Schengen travel zone today, easing trade and travel but raising fears in some quarters that crime syndicates and terrorists will find it easier to reach Western European capitals.

The expansion creates a vast region of 1.4 million square miles and 400 million inhabitants in which residents can move freely from country to country much as Americans move from state to state.

Membership will be an economic boon to the eight formerly communist countries of Eastern Europe plus Malta, which will find it easier to sell goods or seek jobs in the wealthier West.

But police and other officials worry that because many of the new countries lie on important crime, human trafficking and illegal alien routes, the Schengen expansion will make those activities harder to curb.

"The easier we make it for people to get in, the more we will help to promote human trafficking and drug trafficking," said Roger Helmer, a British Conservative member of the European Parliament.

Large parts of the new outer border, which will stretch from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic, are unfenced. Hungary, one of the countries that will be joining, estimates that it catches less than a third of the people trying to enter its country illegally from Ukraine, according to the London Telegraph.




Pubdate: Fri, 21 Dec 2007
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 2007 The Associated Press

The anniversary of the 1989 U.S. invasion was declared a day of "national mourning" by Panama's legislature on Thursday, and it established a commission to determine how many people were killed when U.S. troops stormed the capital.

The measure was unanimously approved as Panama commemorated the 18th anniversary of the day thousands of troops landed to arrest dictator Manuel Noriega on drug charges.

"This is a recognition of those who fell on Dec. 20 as a result of the cruel and unjust invasion by the most powerful army in the world," said Rep. Cesar Pardo of the governing Democratic Revolutionary Party, which holds a majority in the legislature.

The measure, which requires the approval of President Martin Torrijos, also calls for a monument to honor the dead.

U.S. officials downplayed the issue. "We prefer to look to the future," said U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall. "We are very satisfied to have a friend and partner like Panama, a nation that has managed to develop a mature democracy."

Polls at the time indicated that Panamanians overwhelmingly welcomed the invasion that rid them of Noriega, but there have been increasing feelings that the invasion was a blow to the nation's dignity.

The government estimates that 472 to 500 Panamanians were killed, but human rights organizations say more than 1,000 died. About 25,000 U.S. troops participated in the invasion, 23 of whom were killed.

Thursday's measure establishes a "truth and reconciliation" commission with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and attorney general's office to determine the exact number of civilian and military deaths.

It also will try to list the names of those killed from October 1968, when military rule began in Panama under the current president's father, to December 1989, when Noriega was ousted.

Noriega, an ex-CIA collaborator, was sentenced to 30 years on U.S. drug trafficking charges in 1992. His sentence, reduced for good behavior, ended Sept. 9, but he remains in custody until the resolution of an extradition request by France, which wants to try him on money-laundering charges.




Our drug war, as with all wars, provides profit to a few while causing suffering to many. Drug testing positives are few while causing offense to many. Columbus, Mississippi is currently considering purchasing their very own drug testing lab to save costs and eventually turn a profit.

A Florida article reveals confidential rehab programs which allow doctors to continue practicing while fighting their demons. I, for one, would prefer the surgeon who is about to use a scalpel on me be of sound mind and steady hand.

A column in The Louisiana Weekly provides excellent coverage on a recently released study by the Justice Policy Institute. The column summarizes the disparity being shouldered by African-Americans.

The Los Angeles Daily News introduced a powerful friend to drug policy reform with an article about David Fleming. There is no doubt that we can use many more of this type of supporter.

Closing with the "must read" of the year is Rolling Stone's fantastic "How America Lost the War on Drugs".


Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2007
Source: Commercial Dispatch, The (Columbus, MS)
Copyright: 2007 The Commercial Dispatch
Author: Kristin Mamrack

Moving the Columbus Police Department one step closer to a having a fully functional crime lab, the City Council Tuesday night unanimously voted to take bids on $24,000 of drug testing equipment.

Initially, the equipment will enable the city to have its own lab for testing city employees.

But as the capabilities are increased, the equipment likely will generate some income for the city.




Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2007
Source: Ledger, The (Lakeland, FL)
Copyright: 2007 The Ledger
Author: Marcus Wohlsen

SAN FRANCISCO -- Troubling cases in which doctors were accused of botching operations while undergoing treatment for drugs or alcohol have led to criticism of rehab programs that allow thousands of U.S. physicians to keep their addictions hidden from their patients.

Nearly all states have confidential rehab programs that let doctors continue practicing as long as they stick with the treatment regimen. Nationwide, as many as 8,000 doctors may be in such programs, b y one estimate.

These arrangements largely escaped public scrutiny until last summer, when California's medical board outraged physicians across the country by abolishing its 27-year-old program. A review concluded that the system failed to protect patients or help addicted doctors get better.


Most addiction specialists favor allowing doctors to continue practicing while in confidential treatment, as does the American Medical Association.

Supporters of such programs say that cases in which patients are harmed b y doctors in treatment are extremely rare, and would pale next to the havoc that could result if physicians had no such option.

"If you don't have confidential participation, you don't get people into the program," said Sandra Bressler, the California Medical Association's senior director for medical board affairs.




Pubdate: Mon, 10 Dec 2007
Source: Louisiana Weekly, The (New Orleans, LA)
Copyright: 2007 Louisiana Weekly Publishing Company
Author: George E. Curry

As one who has written extensively on disparities in the criminal justice system, I am familiar with assorted statistics associated with selective prosecution. On Tuesday, the Justice Policy Institute released a comprehensive study on the issues of race, poverty, unemployment and selective prosecution within the context of the so-called war on drugs.

The report's conclusion was blunt: "The drug war is primarily being waged against African American citizens of our local jurisdictions, despite sol id evidence that they are no more likely than their white counterparts to be engaged in drug use or drug delivery behaviors."

The study is titled, "The Vortex: The Concentrated Racial Impact of Drug Imprisonment and the Characteristics of Punitive Counties." It examined detailed data from 198 large counties ( with a population of more than 250,000) that contains 51.2 percent of the U.S. population.


"According to the Monitoring the Future ( MTF ) survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, African American adolescents have slightly lower illicit drug use than their white counterparts - whether f or illicit drug use generally or for use of a wide variety of specific drugs , including crack cocaine...However, in 2003, African Americans youth were arrested for drug abuse violations at nearly twice the rate of whites."

All of these factors contribute to the fact that the U.S. imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world.


A report from the Justice Policy Institute in 2000 showed that Whites admitted to prison for drug offenses increased by 115 percent between 198 6 and 1996. Over that same period, the rate for Blacks increased by 465 percent.

Increased imprisonment has been accompanied by increased prison expenditures. According to the American Association of Correctional Association, the cost of housing drug offenders in state and federal prisons totals $8 billion a year.




Pubdate: Mon, 17 Dec 2007
Source: Los Angeles Daily News (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Author: Brent Hopkins, Staff Writer

As a friend of presidents and hobnobber with governors, David Fleming makes an unlikely insurgent against the War on Drugs.

He's been dubbed by a local business weekly as "The Valley's Most Powerful Person," chairs the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and doles out dollars to charity by the millions.

He works for one of the world's largest law firms. He can preach for hours about business tax, government reform and transportation.


Fleming and his wife, Jean, put thousands of dollars of their considerable personal fortune into producing "Smoke Screen," a 90-minute docudrama promoting the medical marijuana movement.

They've previewed it for local politicians and powerbrokers and are looking for film festivals.


That's the libertarian side of him talking - he's also a board member of the Reason Foundation. But while Fleming can go on at length about drug stats from a policy standpoint, he's also got a personal stake.

His wife, a former Miss Illinois turned actress, suffers debilitating pain from post-polio syndrome. Several months ago, she obtained a prescription for medical marijuana. At night, she takes a few drops of liquid THC or snacks on a pot brownie to ease the pain.


"This War on Drugs is a disaster, and it has been for years," he said. "It's financed gangs for years. If a thinking person washes their mind of all the things they've been brainwashed with, they'd have to come to the same conclusion."

But that's a conclusion that neither Fleming would have reached on his or her own. It took a personal tragedy for each to get their minds to change.


Her son got busted with coke in a duffle bag in New Zealand. He got some prison time and then somehow managed to escape, only to get busted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and extradited back to New Zealand.

A decade later, David Fleming saw tragedy of his own, when he lost a son to a cocaine overdose.


He began reading up on the subject and arrived at his present position: The government should not only legalize drugs, it should license and sell them. The tax money generated from sales could then fund medical and educational initiatives to help people kick unwanted addictions.




Pubdate: Thu, 13 Dec 2007
Source: Rolling Stone (US)
Copyright: 2007 Straight Arrow Publishers Company, L.P.
Author: Ben Wallace-Wells

After Thirty-Five Years and $500 Billion, Drugs Are as Cheap and Plentiful as Ever: An Anatomy of a Failure.

1. After Pablo

On the day of his death, December 2nd, 1993, the Colombian billionaire drug kingpin Pablo Escobar was on the run and living in a small, tiled-roof house in a middle-class neighborhood of Medellin, close to the soccer stadium. He died, theatrically, -ridiculously, gunned down by a Colombia n police manhunt squad while he tried to flee across the barrio's rooftops, a fat, bearded man who had kicked off his flip-flops to try to outrun the bullets. The first thing the American drug agents who arrived on the scene wanted to do was to make sure that the corpse was actually Escobar's. The second thing was to check his house.


Coleman and other agents began to work deductively, backward. "We had always wondered why his guys, when we caught them, would always go to tri al and risk lots of jail time, even when they would have saved themselves a lot of time if they'd just plead guilty," he says. "What we realized when we saw those binders was that they were doing a job. Their job was to stay on trial and have their lawyers use discovery to get all the information on DEA operations they could. Then they'd send copies back to Medellin, and Escobar would put it all together and figure out who we had tracking him."


Man by man, sixteen red X's eventually went up over the faces of the cart el leaders: KILLED. EXTRADITED. KILLED. Jose Santacruz Londono, a leading drug trafficker, was gunned down by Colombian police in a shootout. The Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, the heads of the Cali cartel, were extradite d after they got greedy and tried to keep running their organization from prison. Some U.S. drug warriors believed that the busts were largely public-relations events, a showy way for the Colombian government to look tough on the drug trade, but most were less cynical. The crack epidemic was over. Drug-related murders were in decline. Winning the War on Drugs didn't seem such a quixotic and open-ended mission, like the War on Poverty, but rather something tangible, a fat guy with a big organization and binders full of internal DEA reports, sixteen faces on a poster, a pinata you could reach out and smack.

Richard Canas, a veteran DEA official who headed counternarcotics efforts on the National Security Council under both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, can still recall t he euphoria of those days. "We were moving," he says, "from success to success."

This is the story of how that momentary success turned into one of the most sustained and costly defeats the United States has ever suffered. It is the story of how the most powerful country on Earth, sensing a pinata, swung to hit it and missed.




Last week a LA Times editorial gave a realistic view of the condition of inmates when they are released. They suggest using money to lessen the impact of the recent Sentencing Commission. Also in LA, police are trying to squirm out of the deal they made several years ago. They had agreed to prove legit income to avoid a federal lawsuit from a huge scandal. I bet they're thinking that "guilty until proven innocent" don't feel so good, eh?!

In Connecticut, lack of decent mental health care and failure of jailers to pay attention to a mother's warning lead to a marijuana charge turning into a death sentence. Faulty jail policy also contributed to the tragedy by allowing shoe laces to pass through the check-in process. A Minnesota columnist brings attention to the "overkill" use of police SWAT teams and no-knock raids - many based on incorrect information from a snitch.

Thankfully, we can always count on LEAP to provide a positive bit of news to close on. A former Miami judge spoke at a Florida college about their mission to end prohibition.


Pubdate: Mon, 17 Dec 2007
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times

Federal and State Lockups Will Release Perhaps Thousands of Inmates Next Year. L.A. County Should Prepare.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission corrected a subtle injustice last week when it decided to retroactively reduce the sentences of inmates imprisoned for using or selling crack cocaine, making those terms correspond more closely with powder cocaine sentences. When justice is vindicated, even late in the process, it's a victory for everyone. But the victory isn't free.

Several thousand federal inmates currently behind bars on crack convictions will be eligible for release beginning in March -- and some of them could be coming to a street near you. It is pleasant to imagine those people arriving home free of their addictions, fully trained for readily available jobs, rehabilitated by prison and ready to contribute to their communities. It is pleasant -- but a fantasy.

Many will come home with addictions intact, unprepared to take their place in society and further damaged, rather than reformed, by their stay in prison. States, counties and cities must choose now between ramping up programs for drug treatment and job training or paying a steeper price later as they deal with untreated addicts replenishing the population of skid rows or jails. Police, at least, must prepare for the influx of released addicts -- but what a foolish waste of resources and lives it would be if cops were the only ones ready to greet the inmates on their return to the streets.


Meanwhile, inmates aren't getting sufficient mental health or other support, meaning that when they do come out, they are all too likely to take their places on the costly and crazy county merry-go-round: hospital , skid row, handcuffs, court and back to jail.

Los Angeles County may be hit hard by the housing slump and will have little "extra" tax money to spend on the returning addicts and ex-cons. But if supervisors fail to cobble together money now to provide needed care for those soon-to-be discharged prisoners, taxpayers most certainly will be paying a much higher bill later.



Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2007
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times
Author: Celeste Fremon

Gang and Narcotics Officers Won't Stand for a Financial Snooping Requirement.

Violent crime is down in L.A. by 7.8%, property crime by 3.4%. That's t he good news. The bad news is that, as of this morning, up to 800 gang and narcotics officers who helped make that drop possible are deciding whether to leave their jobs -- all because of the inability of a federal judge to make a sensible decision.

Here's the deal. According to the provisions of the federal consent decree, LAPD officers at the rank of lieutenant or below who work in either gang or narcotics details have to sign disclosure agreements documenting all their personal finances and giving the department access to their financial records. The idea is to ensure that these officers are not stealing money, drugs or other "valuable contraband." The provision has never been enforced -- until now.

In reaction, the Los Angeles Police Protective League says that about 500 of the officers directly affected will either request transfers out of the gang and narcotic units or will simply retire. Plus, the union plans to sue.


So, what about the financial disclosure requirement? Is it a good idea?

In a word: no. For one thing, if an officer is doing what now-infamous Rampart Division bad apple Perez was doing -- namely skimming large amounts of high-ticket narcotics from police busts and reselling the stuff through proxies for a tidy profit -- do we really believe that he or she would deposit that ill-gotten loot in a Bank of America checking account? .


The heart of the Rampart scandal was never about stealing drugs or money. It was about use of force, planting evidence, picking up gang members and dropping them in "enemy" territory, "testilying." The result was wrongful convictions, millions of dollars in civil rights lawsuits an d the long-term alienation of the communities most in need of the LAPD's protection and service.

Even in the worst old days, financial graft has never been the LAPD's problem. For that you'd want to look eastward to Chicago or New York.

Or as one upper-level officer said to me, "Historically, we may beat you up, but we don't take your wallet."



Pubdate: Sun, 16 Dec 2007
Source: Day, The (New London,CT)
Copyright: 2007 The Day Publishing Co.
Author: Karen Florin

Family of Inmate Who Committed Suicide at Corrigan Receives Settlement but Not Peace

Michael Newlan left a suicide note on the bed in his cell at Corrigan Correctional Institution and hanged himself with the laces from his sneakers on March 14, 2002.

The 29-year-old Newlan, who grew up in Groton but was living in New London most recently, was taken off life support three days later, after doctors at The William W. Backus Hospital declared him brain dead.

The state recently awarded $550,000 to Newlan's mother, Nancy, to end a wrongful death lawsuit against the Department of Correction.

"We brought a lawsuit on the basis that his mother had repeatedly warned people, including the psychiatric staff, that he was suicidal," said New London attorney Robert I. Reardon.

Newlan, who had been arrested on marijuana charges, had a drug problem an d mental illness due to a traumatic brain injury he received in a 1990 car crash. He had no history of violence and was, his mother said, "the most mellow guy." He was working as a pizza deliveryman and living in an apartment on Brainard Street in New London, under the supervision of the First Step community mental health program.


Newlan initially was placed on suicide watch at the prison but was taken off cautionary status and given his clothing after he intimated he was OK and complained about the hospital gown he had been made to wear, Reardon said.


Nancy Newlan went to court with Michael's social worker with the intent o f posting his $10,000 bond. Assured by a bondsman that she had plenty of time to get the money before her son would appear, the mother left the courthouse to get the money. She returned a short time later with the money, only to be told her son had already appeared before the judge, who had raised his bond to $25,000.

She talked to a prosecutor and a public defender, who told her there was nothing they could do. Michael was taken to the Montville prison, and he was not allowed to have visitors.

"That was it," the mother said. "He was gone. I couldn't do anything. I never saw Michael again."



Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2007
Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Copyright: 2007 St. Paul Pioneer Press
Author: Ruben Rosario

Homeowner Vang Khang and two cops could have left a North Minneapolis home in body bags early Sunday morning instead of by their own power.

But they didn't. Praise the Lord, I say. But, hey, stuff happens during apparent "no-knock" police raids of private residences.

No harm, no foul. Right?


What occurred inside a two-story home in the 1300 block of Logan Avenue North should concern us all, whether we live in crime-plagued areas or low-crime and idyllic-sounding places like Golden Nirvana or Apple Pie Way.

Vang Khang escaped serious injury after he grabbed his hunting shotgun an d reportedly fired through his bedroom door at a swarm of heavily armed strangers who burst through the back door of his home while he, his wife and his six kids - ages 3 to 15 - were sleeping.

Two still-unidentified cops - part of a SWAT-style team that raided the wrong home - returned fire but were struck by shotgun blasts. Thankfully , the pellets struck their bulletproof vests. Vang Khang's sons had to get involved, yelling at their father, who speaks little English, his brother said, that the intruders were actually police.




Pubdate: Mon, 03 Dec 2007
Source: Central Florida Future (U of Central Florida, FL Edu)
Copyright: 2007 Central Florida Future
Author: Max Behrman

Don Jones, a former municipal judge from Miami, spoke to members of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws at UCF on Wednesday regarding the necessity to change drug prohibition laws.

He was introduced by Justin Martineau, the president of NORML at UCF, as "the first man to serve in an integrated, post-Brown v. Board of Education court in the South," along with several other accomplishments.

Jones spoke on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and said it is an international nonprofit organization that gives voice to law enforcement.


"We can't begin to deal with the problem unless we face it squarely," Jones said. "There is rampant, unbridled discrimination and drug prosecution in this country to discriminatorily put scores of [black] young men in jail and keep them there for long periods of time."

He went on to say that the prison population has doubled in the past 15 years and has done so "on the backs of young, [black] males."


Jones said another benefit to softer drug laws is that fewer citizens will want to start using drugs because the enticement factor will be lacking. Another benefit he mentioned is the avoidance of diseases by reducing needle-sharing in the use of drugs such as heroin.

Jones said that in Europe, especially in Holland, drug users tend to begin using at a later age. The reason for this, he and others believe, is the age-old belief that someone who is forbidden to do something will only want to do it more, while someone who's allowed to commit that act freely find s no excitement or risk in the behavior and is less likely to engage in it.

Jones said that harsh laws on drugs like marijuana seem nonsensical when "alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the country."




A judge has ordered Colorado police to return a veteran's medicinal cannabis plants, but it is unlikely the plants are still alive after eight months in police custody. Let us hope the vet sues the police for his garden's "street value."

The Wall Street Journal has taken notice of the proliferation of cannabis dispensaries in California, and continuing efforts there to stem the economic tide.

You wouldn't glean from the breathless reportage that a Canadian study comparing cannabis and tobacco smoke revealed more about the poor quality of the government's medicinal cannabis supply than about the health risks real cannabis smokers face.

Canadian cannabis activists visited their members of parliament last week to gage their enthusiasm for proposed mandatory minimum sentences and, if their MPs support stiffer sentences, to ask them why they support cannabis prohibition.


Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2007
Source: Army Times (US)
Copyright: 2007 Army Times Publishing Company
Author: Andrew Tilghman, Staff writer

A Colorado judge ruled Wednesday that police should return dozens of marijuana plants to a former Marine and 1991 Persian Gulf War veteran who is a licensed medical marijuana user.

"It's great -- I need my stuff back," said Kevin Dickes, 39, a Denver- area construction worker who left the Marine Corps as a lance corporal in 1993.

Aurora, Colo., police raided Dickes' home in April and seized plants growing in his basement. He was handcuffed, arrested and charged with a felony count of cultivating marijuana, which carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

But last week, prosecutors dropped the charge after confirming that Dickes is licensed to grow the plants under the Colorado state medical marijuana laws that voters approved in 2000.

In early 1991, Dickes was with 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, in Kuwait helping to transport Iraqi prisoners of war when one of them detonated a grenade that sprayed him with shrapnel.


Arapahoe District Judge John Wheeler granted Dickes' motion requesting return of his plants, but Dickes and his attorney are skeptical that police have maintained the hydroponically grown plants for eight months.

"I doubt they have the resources to have a grow room at the police station. Are they going to pay some guy to sit there and take care of my marijuana?" Dickes said in a telephone interview.

Growing marijuana takes time, care and expertise, he said, adding that he may seek financial damages if police fail to deliver the plants in good condition.




Pubdate: Thu, 20 Dec 2007
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Heather Won Tesoriero

For years, when Janet Seaboyer sought relief from her frequent bouts of anxiety, she went to the Compassionate Center of Santa Barbara and ordered from a marijuana menu that featured chocolate pecan truffles and cannabis strains with names like Purple Urkle and Sweet and Sour. But the Compassionate Center shut down at the end of October, and the 54-year-old Ms. Seaboyer -- who says she has suffered from epilepsy since childhood -- is considering going back to clandestine street purchasing. "I wouldn't want to, but if I have no other choice that's what I'd have to do," she says. Californians legalized marijuana for medical use in 1996 when they passed Proposition 215. But a recent crackdown in this Southern California enclave and elsewhere in the state by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has forced a number of dispensaries out of business and highlighted the awkward tension between state and federal laws.

California has an estimated 300 medical-marijuana dispensaries, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit group that backs medical use of the drug. Their number rose sharply after a 2003 state Senate bill strengthened the 1996 law. Initially confined to big cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, the dispensaries cropped up in smaller communities across the state.


Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum says 10 new dispensaries sought licenses to operate in town, which brought the total figure to about 15 for a population of just 90,000. But the sudden sprouting caused some problems, and they got worse a few months ago, when an incident outside a dispensary drew a public outcry. Linda Vega was teaching a flamenco class when a gang fight erupted in front of a dispensary two doors down, forcing parents strolling by with their children to seek refuge in the courtyard of her dance studio.

Appalled, Ms. Vega and more than 100 other concerned residents gathered for a neighborhood meeting to air their complaints.

The incident increased the tension between people like Ms. Vega, who want the dispensaries closed, and patients and their doctors, who say the sites offer a safe, appropriate environment in which to purchase cannabis to alleviate various ailments.




Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2007
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Author: Ian Sample

Cannabis smokers are exposed to more toxic chemicals in each puff than those who smoke only tobacco, scientists have found. Earlier research shows cannabis smokers are more prone to lung damage than cigarette smokers.

In tests, directly inhaled cannabis smoke contained 20 times more ammonia than cigarette smoke, five times more hydrogen cyanide and five times the concentration of nitrogen oxides, which affect circulation and the immune system.

Researchers led by David Moir at Health Canada investigated after noting there are 4,000 chemicals and toxins listed for tobacco smoke but no such list for cannabis.

They set up machines that "smoke" the plants and collect the fumes.

The scientists first analysed smoke that would be inhaled directly, but later examined "sidestream smoke", which accounts for 85% of the fumes you inhale if you sit next to a smoker. This smoke contained higher levels of almost every toxin measured, except for compounds known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which were more concentrated in directly inhaled cigarette smoke.

The chemicals combine to cause harmful health effects. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been linked to reproductive disorders and cancer, while, at high levels, ammonia can cause asthma.




Pubdate: Tue, 18 Dec 2007
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2007 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Stefan Schussler, The Leader-Post

A group of protesters gathered at the provincial legislature Monday to protest amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act proposed by the Harper government.

Bill C-26 would see the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences for possession of drugs with the purposes of trafficking.

The protest was part of the National Day of Demonstration protesting marijuana prohibition and Bill C-26. Protesters all around the country were urged to lobby local politicians to demand they end support for the proposed amendments.

Under the proposed bill, mandatory minimum sentences would be imposed where previously there were none. For example, anybody caught producing less than 200 marijuana plants with the intent to traffic would be sentenced to at least six months in jail. The bill includes "aggravating factors" which may increase the minimum sentence. For example, if the offence was committed on or near a school, or any place frequented by people under the age of 18, the minimum sentence would increase to nine months.

Other aggravating factors include the use or threat of use of a weapon, and involving anyone under 18 years in the commission of an offence.

"Our strategy to get tough on illegal drugs really concentrates on the traffickers, on the elements that have relationships with organized crime, with violent offenders, or with youth," said Andrew Scheer, Conservative MP for Regina-Qu'Appelle. "It's not anything out of line with what Canadians want."

Scheer said he believes the bill would make it more difficult to produce and traffic drugs and be associated with organized crime.

However, protesters said that the bill would do little to prevent the darkest parts of the criminal world from dealing marijuana, and punishes small-time dealers and users.




In Ireland, following the cocaine-related death of model Katie French earlier this month, a spate of articles has appeared there looking at the toll the use of prohibited drugs has taken. While Irish Justice Minister Brian Lenihan claims that police are winning the "war", death by a prohibited drug is increasingly commonplace in the Emerald Isle. What to do? Lenihan suggests 'public responsibility' - which is to say, that people should inform police about those who sell drugs.

Canadian officer Bert Tatham, arrested eight months ago in Dubai for possessing two poppy bulbs and a miniscule amount of hashish, and then sentenced to years in prison there, was released this week and flew back to Canada. Tatham's release was ordered by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum as belated part of a mass amnesty of prisoners there in November. Tatham was nabbed passing through Dubai as he returned home to Canada from Afghanistan, where he was "helping advance the country's anti-narcotics program."

Cops in Amsterdam are upset over cannabis. Because cannabis is a killer drug which is corrupting the youth? Is this why Dutch cops are up in arms? No, it is because they (like anyone else) like cannabis and want to be able to use a little after work. New regulations for police in Amsterdam will ban even off-duty use of marijuana. Police Union chairman Hans van Duijn: "Many of our members are opposed to this. They are not paid for 24-hours a day so what they do in their free time should be up to them."


Pubdate: Tue, 18 Dec 2007
Source: Irish Independent (Ireland)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd
Author: Ralph Riegel

JUSTICE Minister Brian Lenihan vehemently rejected claims that Ireland is losing the war on drugs, but warned that the gardai and courts cannot win the battle without public responsibility.

His warning came as he expressed "grave concern" at drug-related crime and the tragic deaths of a number of people due to suspected drug taking over the past month.

The minister warned that alcohol remained "the gateway drug" for many Irish addicts and confirmed that, in the New Year, he would introduce tough new regulations on alcohol availability.

He flatly denied that the courts were too lenient on drug offenders or that gardai were slowly losing the battle against increasingly heavily-armed drug gangs.

He also appealed for information from the public about drug dealers, and warned that individual moral responsibility was a huge factor in the battle against drug crime.




Pubdate: Mon, 17 Dec 2007
Source: Irish Independent (Ireland)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd
Author: Paul Melia

DEATHS from drug abuse are rocketing in Ireland with heroin still the main killer, despite the popularity of cocaine.

Soaring death rates are outstripping the horrors of the 1980s when heroin gripped Dublin.

Almost 630 people have died from drugs in the six years since 2000, compared with 542 in the previous 20 years.

Officials fear warnings about the dangers of drugs are not hitting home.

Model Katy French's death, which has been linked to cocaine, came shortly after she publicly denounced the drug.


Katy French was buried last week and her death has also been linked to cocaine. Medical tests found traces of cocaine in the model's system as autopsy results revealed she died of brain damage.

Deaths recorded in Ireland affect all social classes and ages, although more men than women are killed by drugs. Most of the deaths occur in Dublin, Leinster and Munster.




Pubdate: Thu, 20 Dec 2007
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2007 Southam Inc.
Author: Steven Edwards

NEW YORK -Canada performed diplomatic gymnastics to persuade the Dubai government to release Bert Tatham, the Canadian anti-narcotics officer who spent almost eight months behind bars for a drug-possession conviction.

Insiders say officials of the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a part, continue to keenly list things its government wants from Canada.

Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE Foreign Minister, had Ottawa officials afraid he was setting conditions for Tatham's release at a closed-door meeting in September at the United Nations with Maxime Bernier, the Foreign Minister.

At that meeting, Bernier brought up Tatham's case and the UAE minister expressed his country's interest in a prisoner-transfer agreement.

The same month, Tatham's jailers led the 36-year-old Canadian to believe he would be part of a mass amnesty ordered by Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

After sending him under escort to collect his baggage, they later told him it was all a "mistake," and Tatham ended up the only prisoner on his floor.


Canadian officials quietly told Sheik Ahmed the Tatham issue had become a "significant irritant" to UAE-Canada relations, and he said he would speak with his nephew, insiders say.


Dubai authorities arrested Tatham on April 23 after he arrived from Afghanistan to wait for a connection to Canada the next day.

He had just spent 13 months in Afghanistan, helping advance the country's anti-narcotics program. But he was carrying two poppy pods, and Dubai authorities found a tiny amount of hashish in the pocket of his jeans.

Tatham said he planned to use the plants as lecture props, while his lawyers said the hashish was a remnant of his eradication work.

Lobbying on Tatham's behalf in Canada may have worked against him by indicating he had some "value."




Pubdate: Fri, 14 Dec 2007
Source: Daily Mail (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Associated Newspapers Ltd

Police in Amsterdam are complaining at new rules that ban them for smoking cannabis while off-duty.

Officers have been told they need to set a good example to the public in the Dutch capital famous for its liberal drugs laws and red light district.


"But now we are telling officers they should also behave like the police at all times, and that means not taking drugs and not getting excessively drunk whether on of off duty."

But Dutch Police Union chairman Hans van Duijn said the new rules were an infringement of personal liberty.

He said: "Many of our members are opposed to this.

"They are not paid for 24-hours a day so what they do in their free time should be up to them."


 HOT OFF THE 'NET  ( Top )


Does the Merida Initiative Represent a New Direction for U.S.-Mexico Relations, or Does It Simply Refocus the Issue Elsewhere?

By Laura Starr, research associate, with Maria Delle Donne, research associate, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, December 19, 2007


Fixing the unjust disparity in punishment between crack and cocaine powder

By Jacob Sullum


This year, the Drug Policy Alliance joined with five co-host organizations, the ACLU, the Harm Reduction Coalition, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (who also hosted their 9th annual conference within the larger International Drug Policy Reform conference) as well as dozens of other partner groups, to bring together a stronger and more diverse population of people and issues.


DPA Drug Conference Panel III, Ethan Nadelmann of DPA, Deborah Chapman, Katelyn Padgett, Dr. Carl Hartt, Terry Nelson of LEAP, Drug War Facts, Matt Elrod & Drug War "Carols



By Jacob Sullum


Prepared by the RCMP's Criminal Intelligence Program, the report describes the illicit drug trade in Canada in 2006. It is based on information and intelligence from investigations and seizures conducted by the RCMP and various Canadian agencies and departments involved in drug enforcement.


Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime AND Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, International Harm Reduction Development Program Dir., Open Society Institute



By Matt Simon, Huffington Post



The war in Iraq, immigration, the economy and California's wildfires are topics that captured much of the nation's attention in 2007. As this year comes to an end, USA TODAY would like to hear what stories you thought were most important and why. Letters sent by Dec. 27 will be considered for an upcoming issue. Please include contact information and send to or fax to 703-854-2053. Submissions will be edited for accuracy, clarity and length.



By Gary Storck

The Dec. 7 letter headlined "Tobacco a bigger danger than pot" makes great sense in urging an end to marijuana prohibition.

An America where marijuana possession and distribution for personal use was legal was actually envisioned 35 years ago in a report by a Republican former Pennsylvania governor, Raymond Shafer, appointed by no less than President Nixon to head his National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. In 1972, the Shafer Commission recommended to Nixon and Congress that the "possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense, ( and that the ) casual distribution of small amounts of marijuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration no longer be an offense."

Although our leaders have yet to heed the Shafer Commission's sensible recommendations, it's never too late to turn around and begin regulating marijuana like we have long done with alcohol and tobacco.

A system of regulated sales would create a new tax revenue stream that could help fund needed programs while eliminating expenditures in law enforcement, the courts and the prison-probation system. It would also create an entirely new legal industry with untold potential for job creation and economic development.

In these days of economic uncertainty, unending war and global warming, t he lifting of marijuana prohibition would likely produce a collective uplifting of our bruised and battered national spirit unseen since the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1933. Removing criminal penalties would also allow the medical use of cannabis to reach its full potential, reducing health care costs. Millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans are already using marijuana today. It's time to admit marijuana prohibition has only made things worse, and bring America's and Wisconsin 's biggest cash crop above ground.


Director, Madison Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws


Pubdate: Fri, 14 Dec 2007
Source: Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)



By Matthew Robinson, PhD

The 2007 report of the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study has been released ( ). MTF is a survey of American 8th, 10th, and 12th graders pertaining to their illicit drug use. Recent claims by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) with regard MTF data are misleading and do not tell the whole story about youth drug use.

First, ONDCP's online summary of the MTF findings focuses on a very short period of time -2001-2007 ( ). As in its annual National Drug Control Strategy reports, ONDCP downplays long-term drug use trends among young people. In fact, the ONDCP website depicts only four figures, all showing declines. ONDCP does acknowledge increases in some drugs (e.g. Oxycontin), but it does not depict these increases in figures. Instead, as in its Strategy reports, ONDCP visually depicts declines in drugs like meth and steroids.

Second, some of ONDCP's claims are deceptive. For example, it says Ecstasy use among young people is down 54% since 2001. While this is true, it is also true that Ecstasy use is essentially unchanged since 1997. Ecstasy use increased from 1997 to 2001, then declined since. Overall, the trend is unchanged.

ONDCP offers a slideshow on its website which summarizes some of the main findings from MTF ( ). The slideshow proves that the drug war has not been effective at reducing drug use among young people over the long term. This is important because ONDCP's Performance Measures of Effectiveness demonstrates that ONDCP intends to consistently reduce drug use, something it has simply not done.

Figures in the slideshow also show that use of prescription drugs is consistently up among 12th graders since 1991. While other drugs are down (e.g., LSD), this raises the possibility that young people have not stopped using drugs but rather have just switched to drugs that are lying around in their parents' homes. Ironically, these prescription drugs are more addictive and potentially dangerous to young people.

Third, ONDCP takes credit even for reductions in alcohol and tobacco. It says: "When we push back against illegal drug use, youth abuse of other substances decrease as well [sic]." ONDCP offers no evidence that reductions in alcohol use and tobacco use among young people have anything to do with the drug war, and that is because they don't have any.

In fact, the most consistent declines among all drugs depicted in the slideshow are for tobacco, a drug against which we are not waging a war; instead we are using honest educational campaigns combined with efforts to restrict legitimate businesses from selling tobacco products to kids. It is dishonest and wrong for ONDCP to take credit for these declines.

The bottom line is that we've been fighting the modern drug war since the 1970s. ONDCP's slideshow proves that illicit drug use trends are virtually unchanged since 1975 among 12th graders - drug use increased from 1975 to 1979, declined consistently until 1991, and then increased since then. Recent declines in illicit drug use are quite small and have not negated the increasing trend since 1991. Illicit drug use among 8th and 10th graders has also not declined since 1991. The slideshow also shows that drugs are just as available now as they were in 1992, in spite of increased spending every year on the supply side portion of the drug war.

In other words, during the tenure of ONDCP (1988-2007), drug use among youth is not down, and drugs are no less available to young people. This is just further proof that ONDCP is failing to meet its drug war goals of reducing use and availability of drugs.

The President of the United States responded to the data, saying the war on drugs is fought against an "unrelenting evil that ruins families, endangers neighborhoods, and stalks our children" ( ). If this is true, ONDCP's drug war is failing to keep this evil at bay. In spite of the spin, its own data prove it.

Matthew Robinson is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. He is co-author of Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, State University of New York Press, 2007.


"Santa Claus wears a Red Suit, He must be a communist. And a beard and long hair, Must be a pacifist. What's in that pipe that he's smoking?" -- Arlo Guthrie

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