Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vote Yes On Prop 5

Below, A Success Story

Below, Former San Quentin Warden supports Prop 5

Below, Rewind.

Vote Yes On Prop 5, Save $Billions! Save Lives.


Drug Czar Attacks Prop. 5

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

President Bush’s Drug Czar and the powerful California prison guards' union are both turning their guns on the biggest U.S. drug policy reform since alcohol Prohibition was repealed 75 years ago.

Don’t let them get away with it. Tell everyone you know in California to vote YES on Prop. 5!

Proposition 5 on the California ballot would dramatically reduce the role of prison in dealing with drug offenders.

It’s also the only measure on the ballot in California that will save taxpayers billions.  (That’s not just our opinion).  It’s the conclusion of the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.)
But the Drug Czar and the prison guards' union don’t give a damn about soaking taxpayers to pay for a failed drug war.  And they could care less about giving people with drug problems a chance to get treatment and rehabilitation instead of a prison cell.

Now we just found out that the “lock ‘em all up” lobby is raising big bucks to defeat Prop. 5 from the casinos, beer distributors and drug war fanatics.

All that money is going for TV ads using the same old scare tactics that fueled the war on drugs in the first place. But on Election Day, we can show them how wrong they are -- if we get voters to the polls in support of Prop. 5.
No matter where you live, we bet you know at least a few Californians (or at least someone who does)! Will you help get out the vote for Prop. 5? Do it the easy way --
email this message
Check out our TV ads [above] and then share the link with your friends in California so they hear the truth about Prop. 5. Coming from you, the message will carry a lot of weight. You can help us counter the millions of dollars the prison guards’ union and their friends are spending on dishonest and scare tactic ads.
You’ll be in good company. Everyone from the League of Women Voters of California to the California Nurses Association to the California Federation of Teachers to the Consumer Federation of California supports Prop. 5.  So does former Secretary of State George Shultz.  They all know Prop. 5 will save money and save lives.

Ethan Nadelmann
Executive Director
Drug Policy Alliance Network

Monday, October 27, 2008

Key Figure In Mexican Drug Cartel Arrested

SAN DIEGO — One of Mexico's most wanted drug trafficking suspects was captured Saturday night at his Tijuana home after a fierce shootout with authorities, providing some good news amid the border city's raging drug war.

Eduardo Arellano Felix, an original member of the notorious Arellano Felix drug cartel, was arrested in an operation by more than 100 federal and state police and soldiers, according to U.S. and Mexican officials. They were acting on a tip supplied by U.S. authorities, who had offered up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of Arellano Felix, according to Eileen Zeidler, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Arellano Felix was a key figure in the early years of the cartel, which grew into one of Mexico's most powerful organized crime groups by smuggling tons of cocaine into the U.S., starting in the late 1980s.
The cartel has been decimated in recent years by arrests and killings, including the capture and deaths of four siblings of Arellano Felix. The suspected kingpin had been in hiding for several years and was living at his home under an assumed name, authorities said.
"He was the last of the brothers. This was another significant blow to what's left of the Arellano Felix organization," Zeidler said.
The U.S. attorney's office in San Diego named Arellano Felix in a 2003 indictment that charged him and 10 cartel associates with racketeering, drug trafficking, money laundering and several murders.
No injuries were reported in the shootout. The suspect was flown to Mexico City after his arrest, and U.S. authorities will seek his extradition.
The Mexican government claimed a major victory in its offensive against the country's organized crime groups. Facundo Rosas, deputy minister for strategy and police intelligence, called Arellano Felix a "historic and moral figure in the Tijuana Cartel" at a news conference in Mexico City.
But some experts and U.S. officials said his role in the organization had diminished in recent years and it's unclear whether his capture would have much impact.
Arellano Felix, nicknamed "El Doctor" because he was once a medical student, took a much lower profile after the 1993 murder of Guadalajara Archbishop Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, which was blamed on cartel gunmen.
"All of a sudden everybody was their enemy," said John Kirby, a former federal prosecutor

No Hiding From Drug War

["It's shocking," said Victor Rene, 14. "I saw four dead guys last week, but that was clean. Their heads were wrapped in tape."]

TIJUANA — The schoolchildren bounded up the rickety steps and followed the path of shattered glass into the two-story house on Laguna Salada Street. Two boys in neatly pressed gray pants flipped open their cellphones and took pictures of the pools of sticky blood. One teenager with a blue backpack pounced on a mangled brass bullet lying near a stained mattress.

In the living room, someone slipped on a pile of human entrails.
Downstairs, girls in blue skirts and white socks carefully avoided the blood dripping through the ceiling. The "Scarface" poster hanging on the pockmarked wall disappeared.
The day before, a shootout between Mexican soldiers and drug cartel suspects had left three suspects and a soldier dead in the safe house at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. Police had cleared the bodies, including the corpse of a kidnapping victim stuffed in a refrigerator. But someone had left the door open.
"Look, intestines!" yelled one teen, who was among dozens of children who streamed through the house between classes at nearby Secondary School 25.
"I think I'm going to be sick," said one boy, covering his mouth.
"It's shocking," said Victor Rene, 14. "I saw four dead guys last week, but that was clean. Their heads were wrapped in tape."
As Tijuana's latest flare-up in the drug war rages into its fifth week, with the death toll approaching 150, violence is permeating everyday life here, causing widespread fear, altering people's habits and exposing the city's youngest to carnage.
Civic leaders are calling for a 9 p.m. curfew for children. Archbishop Rafael Romo has asked the media to refrain from showing gruesome photographs. One priest halts his sermons every week to demonstrate proper shootout-safety behavior: He cues a drum roll, then throws himself to the floor.
But these and other measures haven't been able to shield children from the violence near schools, neighborhoods, busy streets and popular restaurants. Grisly public displays of death have been the hallmark of the killings since the latest violence between rival drug cartels started Sept. 26.
Bodies have been hung from overpasses. Twelve corpses, some with their tongues cut out, were tossed into a vacant lot across from an elementary school. Several men have been beheaded, and killers have left behind acid-filled barrels containing dissolved human remains.
The toll of innocent victims has also been rising. Gunmen burst into the El Negro Durazo seafood restaurant and killed two rivals and a photographer who tried to run away. A 24-year-old teacher was kidnapped outside her school. Gunmen wielding AK-47s killed two teenagers sitting outside their home after they witnessed a drug-related killing. A toddler died this week when his mother crashed her car trying to avoid a shootout between state police and suspected cartel hit men.
Tijuana has endured years of violence and waves of kidnappings that have led thousands of people to move across the border to San Diego suburbs.
Still, the recent violence is unprecedented in scale and brutality. More than 460 people have died violently so far this year, a record, according to the Baja California state attorney general's office.
"It makes your hair stand on end," said Rev. Raymundo Reyna, a radio show host who keeps a muertometro—death meter—tally. Reyna is the priest who demonstrates to parishioners how to duck when gunfire breaks out.
"We show people how to prepare for an earthquake," Reyna said. "Now we need to train them for a shootout."
Many people simply avoid public places. Families have cut back on going to restaurants. Some parents forbid their children from going to nightclubs. More parents pick up their children from school rather than letting them take public transit.
Cops, or anybody in a law-enforcement uniform, are avoided; at least 10 security personnel have been gunned down in recent weeks in the Tijuana metropolitan area. Teachers have twice had to evacuate Secondary School 25, where a razor-wire fence rings the playground. The first time, police had opened fire at the state prison a few blocks away, killing at least 20 rioting inmates. Two weeks later, a body was tossed in the street outside the school.
Last week's shootout at the safe house forced teachers and students to hit the floor again.
When the youngsters returned for afternoon classes after visiting the house, teachers had trouble getting their attention: They were showing off their cell phone pictures of the carnage.
A teacher asked an assistant principal to confiscate the kids' phones and give them to their parents, so they could lecture their children. The assistant principal, Marcos Alvarez Guardado, just shrugged.
"I'm sure they've already posted the images on the Internet," he said. "What more can we do?"

Latino Drug Lords Find African Allies.


Above Packs of cocaine are burnt by officials and members of United Nation Mission in Liberia in Monrovia. Emmanuel Tobey / Reuters


FREETOWN // An upcoming UN report will shed light on criminal gangs in West Africa that work with South American drug cartels in a murky alliance that threatens stability in the region.
“Besides foreigners there is a growing phenomenon of local criminal groups,” said Antonio Mazzitelli of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “This certainly creates obstacles to democracy, to good governance, to development.”

The UN estimates that US$2 billion (Dh7.3bn) worth of cocaine enters West Africa each year before being smuggled into Europe. Previous research focused on the role of South American cocaine cartels, which began operating heavily in the region about four years ago.
“We often talk about the Latinos, but what about the Africans involved? There are over 1,600 West Africans all over the world convicted for drug trafficking,” Mr Mazzitelli said in a telephone interview from his office in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

The new report will look at local criminal networks, which facilitate the passage of drugs through airports and organised human couriers to smuggle cocaine into Europe via commercial flights. These gangs take in about $450 million each year, according to Mr Mazzitelli. Antonio Costa, who heads the UNODC, will unveil the report at a three-day anti-drug trafficking conference that starts today in the island nation of Cape Verde, which has emerged as one of the main transit points for drug smugglers. The conference is being held by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

The title of the conference, Drug Trafficking as a Security Threat to West Africa, shows that West African countries now recognise drug trafficking as a serious danger to their stability, Mr Mazzitelli said. Previously, Ecowas members considered the cocaine trade a problem primarily for governments in South America, the source of supply, and Europe, where the demand lies.
“This overall attitude has characterised the issue,” he said. But the thinking changed as West African countries watched cartels infiltrate their security forces and other state institutions.

“It can cause destabilisation for the government,” said Francis Munu, the head of crime and intelligence in the Sierra Leone police.
In July, Sierra Leone police seized an aircraft loaded with 700 kilograms of cocaine, which landed at the country’s international airport after taking off from Venezuela. Kemoh Sessay, the transportation and aviation minister, was dismissed from his post and is now under investigation. Mr Munu said suspects also included airport officials, police officers and business people.

“They are individuals, but when you put the whole scenario together you find that it’s organised crime,” he said. Police also arrested three Colombians, a Venezuelan, a Mexican and a US citizen, he said.
The case illustrates some of the challenges West African authorities face in fighting traffickers. So far, suspects have been charged with relatively minor offences, but not with drug smuggling. In fact, it was only after the arrests that the government pushed through legislation dealing specifically with cocaine trafficking.

Previously, anti-drug laws carried a maximum 20-year sentence. Only softer drugs, such as cannabis, are mentioned in the law, reflecting the state of drug use when the laws were enacted. Under the new laws, traffickers can face life imprisonment.
Mr Munu said police plan to charge the suspects using the new laws.
But Cristin Edwards, a defence lawyer for suspects including the Venezuelan George Arisabella, said the Sierra Leone constitution stipulates laws could not be applied retroactively.

Mr Mazzitelli said international law also forbade countries from charging criminals retroactively, but he added that the suspects could be charged with other serious offences that carry stiff penalties, such as money laundering.
Mr Edwards said he was hopeful his clients would go free. He accused police of carrying out a sloppy investigation, which saw more than 60 suspects arrested within a couple of days.

“You can get someone off on a technicality,” he said.
Mr Munu scoffed at the suggestion. “Somebody brings in a plane that is full of coke – no technicality can deny those facts. Perhaps he is making a bluff.”
But Mr Munu admitted that authorities in Sierra Leone were ill equipped to fight international criminal networks that have access to hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Our police systems here are very weak,” he said, calling on European countries to support West African agencies on the front lines in the battle against cocaine trafficking. “It’s a global menace, therefore it deserves a global response.”

At the Ecowas conference in Cape Verde, member states will make the same argument. Ministers will sign off on a political declaration and a plan of action to fight cocaine trafficking in the region, Mr Mazzitelli said.
The plan will include initiatives aimed at reforming the security and justice systems, which are notoriously corrupt in many countries in the region. It will propose measures to fight money laundering and build up the capacity of police to collect data on the drug trade. The plan will also put a dollar figure on such initiatives, and it will set benchmarks and a timeline to accomplish certain goals.

Governments are now building anti-drug strategies into their budgets to prove to donors that they are serious about taking on the drug dealers, Mr Mazzitelli said.
Countries must “take ownership” of the problem before asking for money from international donors, he said.
“These are the new rules of the game.”

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Law Allows Website Hosts To Just Say No To Drugs.

Website hosting companies are moving swiftly to rid their servers of sites that advertise the illegal sale of controlled substances — including performance-enhancing drugs — even though legislation signed by  President Bush last week,  won't take effect for months.

The wide-ranging statute sets new standards for online pharmacies, including the requirement that a patient has to see a doctor and needs a prescription for a controlled substance, which can range from pain killers to some diet drugs, that would be part of a normal course of treatment. Online pharmacies also will have to register with the Drug Enforcement Administration, just like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, once the law goes into effect in April.

The impact of the new law is already being felt on sites that sell anabolic steroids and human growth hormone.

"Previously, we just left them alone," says Christine Jones, general counsel for, a popular web-hosting company and the world's largest website domain name registrar. "We didn't have any laws behind us that allowed us to take them down." has shut dozens of sites targeted by the new law, Jones says, although some remained functioning as of Thursday afternoon. Jones said isn't able to constantly monitor the 31 million domain names the company has registered or the thousands of websites it hosts, but it acts on tips from law enforcement, everyday web users and organizations that monitor such activity.

Other Internet hosting and registrar companies are moving in the same direction. Aaron Hollobaugh, spokesman for, says "illegal pharmaceutical companies will be added to our extensive list of organizations we deny service to." Steven Vine, deputy general counsel for, says he's still studying the details of the law, but believes it will enable his firm "to further help law enforcement while still providing for the privacy of our customers."

Federal and state authorities currently have to seek injunctions to get websites pulled, a process that could take months to wind through the courts. Once the new law is in place, state attorneys general or federal law enforcement can just give notice to a web-hosting or registrar company to shutter a rogue pharmacy.

"This is a law that will get implemented quickly," says DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney. "Most (web-hosting companies) are socially responsible, and they try to do the right thing."

Websites will still be able to advocate the use of controlled substances and provide pricing information. But once the site crosses into distribution, its operators will be violating the law. A person caught selling controlled substances over the Internet faces up to 10 years in prison — double the previous maximum penalty for unlawful distribution.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., drafted the legislation in response to the death of Ryan Haight, an 18-year-old high school honors student from California who overdosed on Vicodin in 2001. He purchased the painkiller from an online pharmacy without having met with a physician concerning an ailment for which Vicodin might have been a treatment.

DEA officials say they realize the law, which will alter the Controlled Substances Act, won't be a panacea: Those pushing drugs can have their site hosted outside the USA, putting them out of reach of federal authorities.

"Is this the overall solution? No," DEA spokesman Courtney says. "But this is definitely a tool. Other countries are working with us. A lot of them recognize that this isn't just a drug issue, but a health issue as well."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Please Contact Your Local and National Politicians...‏.....


Most LEAP members are asking for tasks they can accomplish to help achieve our goal. Here is one that will only take a few minutes and will have tremendous impact on our legislators and other politicians.

Copied below is a message we hope you will send out to every local and national politician you care about to see how they respond to your concerns about the war on drugs. A LEAP member recently sent out a similar set of email messages and was amazed by the responses he received! Please copy and paste the following message, fill in the politician’s name and your own contact information at the bottom, and send it via E or snail-mail to every candidate you are considering supporting on Election Day.

This is our chance to make LEAP known to many politicians at a time when they are likely to reply to you. Please include as a bcc on any messages you send so we can learn how many politicians we are contacting.

Thank you!

Dear (Politician)   :

Before I cast my vote in the upcoming contest for your election, I must first pose a question to you:

Do you support and agree with the following statements and principles, based on the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)

After nearly four decades of fueling the U.S. policy of a war on drugs with over a trillion tax dollars and 39 million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses, our confined population has quadrupled, making building prisons the fastest-growing industry in the United States. More than 2.3 million of our citizens are currently incarcerated, and every year we arrest an additional 1.9 million more, paralyzing our prison and court systems. Every year we choose to continue this war costs U.S. taxpayers another 70 billion dollars. Yet, despite all the lives destroyed and money wasted, illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and far easier for our children to access than they were 38 years ago at the beginning of the war on drugs. Meanwhile, people continue dying in our streets while drug barons and terrorists grow richer, bolder, and more heavily armed. This is the very definition of a failed public policy.

This is not a war on drugs—it’s a war on people: our children, our parents, ourselves.

The first thing we must do is admit that most of the deaths, diseases, crimes, and addictions attributed to drug use are actually caused by drug prohibition. Prohibition has paradoxically increased the number of people in the US above the age of twelve who use illegal drugs from 4 million (two percent of the 1970 population) to 112 million (46 percent of the 2005 population), according to DEA statistics. In June, 2007, the US Conference of Mayors unanimously called for an end to the war on drugs and for drug abuse to be dealt with as a health issue. Once we adopt that approach, we can stop the horrors associated with prohibition by removing the profit motive generated within the drug culture.

How do we do that? We end drug prohibition. We legalize all drugs so we can regulate and control them and keep them out of the hands of our children, who now report that it is easier for them to buy illicit drugs than cigarettes or alcohol. As long as these dangerous drugs are illegal, we relinquish control to the street thugs and international cartels, which have enormous monetary incentives to hook our children.

I look forward to your response on this important issue. If I do not hear back from you, I will assume that this issue is not important to you, or that you do not support the principles of LEAP, and I will act accordingly on Election Day.

Thank You,

Your name

Your address

Your phone numbers

Your email address

NORML 2008 Conference: “The War on Pot Is a War on Young People”


The War on Pot Is a War on Young People
NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano delivered this speech at NORML’s 2008 National Conference, “It’s Not Your Parents’ Prohibition” in Berkeley, California.

According to a 2005 study commissioned by the NORML Foundation, 74 percent of all Americans busted for pot are under age 30, and 1 out of 4 are age 18 or younger. That’s nearly a quarter of a million teenagers arrested for marijuana violations each year.

To put this bluntly, we now have an entire generation that has been alienated to believe that the police and their civic leaders are instruments of their oppression rather than their protection.

And the sad fact is: They’re right!

Why is this the case? And why, as a community, don’t we talk about it?

Young people, in many cases those under 18-years-of-age, disproportionately bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement.

Demographically speaking, the above statement is a “no-brainer.” Yet this is hardly a fact that we as a reform community like to admit or emphasize. Instead, you’ll hear reformers argue that the war on pot is a war on patients — and at some level, it is. Or you’ll hear advocates proclaim that marijuana enforcement disproportionately impacts African Americans and Hispanics — and to some degree, it does. Attend enough of these conferences and you’ll inevitably hear that our movement needs better representation from women and minorities, both of whom face unique hardships because of the drug war, and that criticism is appropriate too. But, one thing you’ll most likely never hear is that our movement needs greater involvement from teenagers and young adults.

But we should — because for the young people in the audience, the war on pot smokers is really a war on you.

According to a 2005 study commissioned by the NORML Foundation, 74 percent of all Americans busted for pot are under age 30, and one out of four are age 18 or younger. That’s nearly a quarter of a million teenagers arrested for marijuana violations each year.

To put this bluntly, we now have an entire generation that has been alienated to believe that the police and their civic leaders are instruments of their oppression rather than their protection.

And the sad fact is: they’re right!

Why is this the case? And why, as a community, don’t we talk about it?

There are several reasons why young people are far more likely, statistically, to be busted for weed than those over age 30. Most obviously, young people are more likely than their counterparts to smoke pot, and toke more frequently. They’re also more likely to indulge in places that will inadvertently attract law enforcement’s attention: in parks, dorm rooms, cars, dimly lit parking lots. Let’s face it, most teenagers aren’t going to go home and smoke weed in their room while their parents are home, though if they did, it’s far less likely they’d ever be arrested for it (of course, it’s possible that their parents’ might face legal repercussions, but that’s another story.)

Young people are also more likely to have frequent interactions with sellers of weed, an activity that also increases their likelihood of one-day being arrested. Of course, it’s not that young people enjoy hanging around drug dealers, but it’s that young people typically have less disposable income, which means they have to buy their pot in smaller quantities on more frequent occasions.

Young people are also more likely to take risks — and they’re also more likely to commit traffic violations. Both these actions, though unrelated to marijuana per se, greatly increase the likelihood that young people will have face-to-face contact with law enforcement, and this contact often ends in a pot arrest.

So why then, if more than 650,000 Americans busted for weed annually are under age 30, don’t we spend more time talking about it? Easy, because we’ve let our opponents hi-jack the ‘kids’ issue.

There’s a saying among reformers that drug law reform is the ‘third rail’ of politics. If that’s true, then talking about drugs and kids is the ‘third rail’ of drug law reform. But it’s a ‘rail’ we need to start talking about.

Those who favor the continued prohibition of cannabis base their arguments on the false premise that the continued enforcement of said laws “protects our children.” This statement is nonsense. In fact, just the opposite is true.

The war on weed endangers the health and safety of our children. It enables young people to have unregulated access to marijuana — easier access than they currently have to legal, age-restricted intoxicants like alcohol and tobacco. It enables young people to interact and befriend pushers of other illegal, more dangerous drugs. It compels young people dismiss the educational messages they receive pertaining to the potential health risks posed by the use of ‘hard drugs’ and prescription pharmaceuticals because kids say: “If they lied to me about pot, why wouldn’t they be lying to me about everything else too.”

Most importantly, the criminal laws are far more likely to result in having our children arrested and placed behind bars than they are likely to in any way discourage them to try pot.

These are the facts, and it’s about time we start shouting them from the rooftops.

For three decades now, our opponents have framed this issue from the standpoint that they care more about the health and safety our young people than we do — that we’re just a bunch of self-centered pot-heads that are willing to sacrifice the lives of our young people so that we can catch a buzz. Well, it’s time for us to respond.

Yes, we do favor changing the marijuana laws. We care about protecting the health and safety of our children too. And by changing the laws, we are protecting the health and safety of America’s young people. After all, under prohibition it’s America’s young people that are being lied to; it’s our children that are being approached by drug dealers; it’s our children that are smoking pot in cars and putting their lives and others at risk to try and avoid the detection of their parents or the law; and it’s our children that are being busted in unprecedented numbers.

Finally, let me close with one final reason why we as a community must begin acknowledging this reality and that is this. Even though young people suffer the most under our current marijuana laws, they lack the financial means and political capital to effectively influence politicians to challenge them. Young people also lack the money to adequately fund the drug law reform movement at a level necessary to adequately represent and protect their interests.

In short, if we ever want the marijuana laws to change, that we as a community have to better represent the interests of young people, and we must do a better job speaking on their — and their parent’s — behalf.

We must also do a better job allying with organizations that speak on behalf of youth, particularly urban youth — who are most at risk of suffering from the lifetime hardships associated with a marijuana conviction. We must do a better job reaching out, engaging, and recruiting students to continue to take this issue seriously after they graduate college — and that includes offering them internships and employment once they’ve received their degrees. Finally, reformers must do a better job reaching out to the parents of young people, and urging them to become active members and financial contributors of the cannabis law reform movement.

They say it’s the so-called “parents movement” that derailed the “pot-progress” of the 1970s. Well then I say that it’s high time we recruited our own “NORML Parents” movement to finish the job once and for all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Study: Drug Czar’s Billion Dollar Anti-Drug Ad Campaign is a Failure.

This from Scott Morgan at

The drug czar likes to claim that we criticize his ad campaign because we want more kids to use marijuana. Will he say the same about researchers hired by Congress?

Despite investing $1 billion in a massive anti-drug campaign, a controversial new study suggests that the push has failed to help the United States win the war on drugs.

A congressionally mandated study released today concluded that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign launched in the late 1990s to encourage young people to stay away from drugs "is unlikely to have had favorable effects on youths."

In fact, the study's authors assert that anti-drug ads may have unwittingly delivered the message that other kids were doing drugs, inadvertently slowing measured progress that was being made to curb marijuana use among teenagers.

"Youths who saw the campaign ads took from them the message that their peers were using marijuana," the report suggests as a possible reason for its findings. "In turn, those who came to believe that their peers were using marijuana were more likely to initiate use themselves." [ABC News]

Ironically, if reformers actually wanted more kids to use marijuana, we’d support the drug czar’s ad campaign. His propaganda appears to have encouraged use among those viewing the ads, even as marijuana use among America’s youth was decreasing overall. Based on the data, it's entirely possible that youth drug use would be even lower – and U.S. taxpayers would be $1 billion richer – if the drug czar had never run these ads in the first place.

Honduran President Calls For Legalizing Drug Use.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras: Honduran President Manuel Zelaya says drug consumption should be legalized to stop violence related to trafficking.

Zelaya says that "instead of pursuing drug traffickers, societies should invest resources in educating drug addicts and curbing their demand." He proposes establishing mechanisms for legalizing drug use.

Zelaya spoke Monday at a meeting of Latin American and Caribbean anti-drug officials. He did not say whether he would introduce legislation to legalize drugs in Honduras.

Rodolfo Zelaya, head of the Honduran congressional commission of drug trafficking, rejected the president's comments. He told meeting participants he was "confused and stunned by what the Honduran leader said."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Big Question: Why is opium production rising in Afghanistan, and can it be stopped?.

The Big Question: Why is opium production rising in Afghanistan, and can it be stopped?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Why are we asking this now?

Nato and the US are ramping up the war on drugs in Afghanistan. American ground forces are set to help guard poppy eradication teams for the first time later this year, while Nato's defence ministers agreed to let their 50,000-strong force target heroin laboratories and smuggling networks.

Until now, going after drug lords and their labs was down to a small and secretive band of Afghan commandos, known as Taskforce 333, and their mentors from Britain's Special Boat Service. Eradicating poppy fields was the job of specially trained, but poorly resourced, police left to protect themselves from angry farmers. All that is set to change.

How big is the problem?

Afghanistan is by far and away the world's leading producer of opium. Opium is made from poppies, and it is used to make heroin. Heroin from Afghanistan is smuggled through Pakistan, Russia, iran and Turkey until it ends up on Europe's streets.

In 2008, in Afghanistan, 157,000 hectares (610 square miles) were given over to growing poppies and they produced 7,700 tonnes of opium. Production has soared to such an extent in recent years that supply is outstripping demand. Global demand is only about 4,000 tonnes of opium per year, which has meant the price of opium has dropped. in Helmand alone, where most of Britain's 8,000 troops are based, 103,000 hectares were devoted to poppy crops. if the province was a country, it would be the world's biggest opium producer.

In 2007, the UN calculated that Afghan opium farmers made about $1bn from their poppy harvests. The total export value was $4bn – or 53 per cent of Afghanistan's GDP.

Is it getting better or worse?

There was a 19 per cent drop in cultivation from 2007 to 2008, but bumper yields meant opium production only fell by 6 per cent. Crucially, the drop was down to farmers deciding not to plant poppies, and that was largely a result of a successful pre-planting campaign, led by strong provincial governors, in parts of the country that are relatively safe.

Only 3.5 per cent of the country's poppy fields were eradicated in 2008. High wheat prices and low opium prices are also a factor in persuading some farmers to switch to licit crops.

In Helmand, one of the most volatile parts of Afghanistan, production rose by 1 per cent as farmers invested opium profits in reclaiming tracts of desert with expensive irrigation schemes. Opium production was actually at its lowest in 2001. The Taliban launched a highly effective counter-narcotics campaign during their last year in power. They used a policy of summary execution to scare farmers into not planting opium. Many analysts attribute their loss of popular support in the south, which contributed to their defeat by US-led forces in late 2001, to this policy.

How are the drugs linked to the insurgency?

The Taliban control huge swaths of Afghanistan's countryside, where most of the poppies are grown. They tax the farmers 10 per cent of the farm gate value of their crops. Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said the Taliban made about £50m from opium in 2007.

They also extort protection money from the drugs smugglers, for guarding convoys and laboratories where opium is processed into heroin. The UN and Nato believe the insurgents get roughly 60 per cent of their annual income from drugs. The Taliban and the drug smugglers also share a vested interest in undermining President Hamid Karzai's government, and fighting the international forces, which have both vowed to try and wipe out the opium trade.

What about corruption?

The vast sums of drugs money sloshing around Afghanistan's economy mean it is all too easy for the opium barons to buy off corrupt officials.

Most policemen earn about £80 a month. A heroin mule can earn £100 a day carrying drugs out of Afghanistan. Most Afghans suspect the corruption reaches the highest levels of government. President Karzai is reported to have called eradication teams to halt operations at the last minute for no apparent reason.

When an Afghan counter-narcotics chief found nine tonnes of opium in a former Helmand governor's compound, he was told not burn it by Kabul – but he claims he ignored the order.

President Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is widely rumoured to be involved in the drugs trade – an allegation he denies. The New York Times claimed US investigators found evidence that he had ordered a local security official to release an "enormous cache of heroin" discovered in a tractor trailer in 2004. Privately, Western security officials admit they suspect that a number of government ministers are drug dealers.

Where does that leave the international community?

Right across Afghanistan, the government is corrupt and Afghans are fed up. The police organise kidnappings. Justice is for sale. Violence is spreading and people don't feel safe. The progress promised in 2001 hasn't been delivered.

Education is a rare success. There are now more than six million children at school, including two million girls, compared with less than a million under the Taliban.

But the roads which link the country's main cities aren't safe. Taliban roadblocks are increasingly normal. UN convoys are getting hijacked.

A report published by 100 charities at the end of July warned violence has hit record highs, fighting is spreading into parts of the country once thought safe, and there have been an unprecedented number of civilian casualties this year.

General David McKiernan, the US commander of almost all the international forces in Afghanistan, insited to journalists at a press conference on Sunday that Nato isn't losing. The fact he had to say it suggest public perception is otherwise. He also said that everywhere he goes, everyone he speaks to is "uniformly positive" about the future. Those people must be cherry-picked.

Crime in the capital, Kabul, is rising. The Taliban broke 400 insurgents out of Kandahar jail this summer, and they attacked the provincial capital in Helmand last weekend. People are frustrated at the international community's failures and scared that the Taliban are coming back.

What does that mean for the future?

President Karzai has touted peace talks with the Taliban through Saudi intermediaries. The international community maintains it will support the Afghan government in any negotiations, but privately diplomats admit that if they opened talks tomorrow they would not start from a "perceived position of strength".

General David Petraeus is about to take command at CentCom, which includes Afghanistan, and he is expected to focus on churning out more Afghan soldiers and engaging tribes against the insurgents.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, it remains to be seen whether Asif Ali Zardari will rein in his intelligence service and crack down on the Taliban safe havens in the Pakistani tribal areas, which they rely on to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

There are also elections on the horizon. The international community is determined that they must go ahead, despite the obvious security challenges, and anything the Afghan candidates do should be seen in the context of securing people who can deliver votes.

Does the war on drugs undermine the war on terror?


*Working to eradicate poppies will remove farmers' best source of income and turn them against Nato

*Using resources to fight against the entrenched poppy trade diverts them from the war with the Taliban

*Corruption in government means that battling opium turns the mechanism of the state against our forces


*In the end, an Afghanistan without opium production will be much less prone to the influence of the Taliban

*Money from the international drugs trade may find its way to terrorists outside of Afghanistan

*Removing the source of corruption will strengthen the country's institutions in the long term

Support H.R 6680 End The Madness

Urge your member of Congress to support H.R.6680, a bill that repeals the national syringe funding ban. If enacted, it could save hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of taxpayer dollars.

Subject: Please Support H.R. 6680, which repeals the national syringe funding ban

Dear [Decision Maker],

Please personalize your message

I urge you to co-sponsor and support H.R. 6680, the bi-partisan "Community AIDS and Hepatitis Prevention Act of 2008." This bill repeals the federal prohibition that prevents states from using their share of HIV/AIDS prevention money on syringe exchange programs. If enacted, it could save hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of taxpayer dollars.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, American Public Health Association, and numerous other scientific bodies have found that syringe exchange programs are highly effective at preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. Moreover, seven federal reports have found that increasing access to sterile syringes saves lives without increasing drug use.

The lifetime cost of treating just one person who contracts HIV/AIDS can be as high as $600,000. This cost is often borne by taxpayers. In contrast, syringe exchange programs can prevent thousands of new HIV/AIDS cases at very little cost. Thus, funding syringe exchange programs saves both lives and taxpayer money.

As many as 300,000 Americans could contract HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C over the next decade because of a lack of access to sterile syringes. This essentially makes the national syringe ban a death sentence for drug users, their partners and children. I strongly urge you to co-sponsor and support H.R. 6680.

For your ready to fill in form please visit Drug Policy Alliance here

Monday, October 13, 2008

Journalists Targeted In Latest Mexico Drug Violence.

As drug-related violence continues to worsen across the border in Mexico, journalists are being increasingly targeted.

Mexico's widening war with drugs has claimed more than 3,000 lives this year alone. On Sunday, assailants opened fire on the US consulate in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, reports the Associated Press. Nobody was injured in that attack, but on Saturday gunmen killed six young men at a family party in the gang-plagued Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, reports AP.

Saturday night's mass shooting was the second in the border state of Chihuahua in less than a week. Just before midnight Thursday, gunmen opened fire in a bar in the city of Chihuahua, killing 11 people.

The most recent violence underscores yet another frightening dimension in the violence: the targeting of journalists, the San Antonio Express reports.

A newspaper editor, a columnist, police officers, and bar patrons were among those killed in separate acts of violence this week in the unrelenting drug war that has claimed 3,500 lives across the country this year.

Miguel Angel Villagomez, the editor of La Noticia de Michoacan newspaper in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific coast, was kidnapped late Thursday after leaving the newsroom, said a Michoacan police spokesman.

David Garcia Monroy, a columnist at El Diario de Chihuahua newspaper, was among the 11 people killed by gunmen in a bar in the northern city of Chihuahua late Thursday, said Chihuahua police spokesman Eduardo Esparza.

The killings were the latest acts of aggression against Mexican journalists, who are increasingly pressured by narcotics cartels to tone down coverage of the country's brutal drug war.

Behind the surging violence is a shift in the way drugs are delivered to the United States, away from Colombian distribution channels to networks in Mexico, the Atlanta Constitution Journal points out.

The transformation of narcotics trafficking to the Mexican networks started shifting in the 1990s.... Increased interdiction of the Colombian-Cuban delivery routes and the opening of the United States' border to trade handed the Mexicans an opportunity.

The Colombians realized they could hire them out [to transport drugs] and reduce the risk," said Jim Martin, a federal prosecutor in Atlanta who has handled drug cases for nearly 30 years.

Today, Mexico is the key to the Western Hemisphere's lucrative drug trade, the Atlanta Constitution Journal adds.

Mexican distribution rings supply about 90 percent of the cocaine, 80 percent of the methamphetamine and half of the marijuana used in the United States, estimates Rodney G. Benson, the agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration office in Atlanta. A huge proportion of the payload headed for the Atlantic seaboard, the Southeast and the Midwest flows through Atlanta's interstates, a federal report said this year.

And drug cartels are fighting viciously over that trade, Reuters adds.

Mexico's most-wanted man, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, head of the Pacific-coast Sinaloa cartel, has declared war on the local drug baron, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, and sent his foot soldiers to drive out the Juarez cartel. The Gulf cartel based around the Gulf of Mexico coast has joined the fight.

The Sacramento Bee points out that the wave of violence has "put the country at the top of some of the most infamous lists in the world: the country with the most kidnappings, the most violent crimes, the most journalists killed in the Western Hemisphere."

The Sacramento Bee adds that a widespread crackdown has done little to stop the violence.

When President Felipe Calderón took office two years ago, he declared war on the drug cartels and made the fight against crime his No. 1 priority. He sent the army first to his home state of Michoacán, then to the states of Monterrey, Sinaloa and several cities along the US border. Virtually militarizing the country, however, has not brought about the expected results.

José Reveles, an investigative journalist with the Mexican newspaper El Financiero, claims the Calderón government has lost control of the situation. "The delinquents are organized, and the government is disorganized," he says. "Organized crime is challenging the government, and its only response is to react."

Not surprisingly, the spiraling violence has led to a sharp downturn in tourism to Mexico, NBC San Diego reports.

As the body count rises south of the border in the drug cartel war, businesses are also drained of their lifeblood.

Although the weakened economy has had an impact, many say the fear of violence in border cities is to blame. Tourism in cities like Tijuana and Rosarito is about 70 percent down since last year....

[The mayor of Rosarito, Hugo Torres] along with other Mexican mayors say usually the mainstream media does not report that violence in Baja, California is among drug dealers and not against tourists. The mayor said those who were killed in his city were either involved in the drug trade or had a criminal history.

Reports Link Karzai’s Brother to Afghanistan Heroin Trade.


Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s brother, in 2001. Both say accusations of drug trafficking are politically motivated.

WASHINGTON — When Afghan security forces found an enormous cache of heroin hidden beneath concrete blocks in a tractor-trailer outside Kandahar in 2004, the local Afghan commander quickly impounded the truck and notified his boss.

Before long, the commander, Habibullah Jan, received a telephone call from Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai, asking him to release the vehicle and the drugs, Mr. Jan later told American investigators, according to notes from the debriefing obtained by The New York Times. He said he complied after getting a phone call from an aide to President Karzai directing him to release the truck.

Two years later, American and Afghan counternarcotics forces stopped another truck, this time near Kabul, finding more than 110 pounds of heroin. Soon after the seizure, United States investigators told other American officials that they had discovered links between the drug shipment and a bodyguard believed to be an intermediary for Ahmed Wali Karzai, according to a participant in the briefing.

The assertions about the involvement of the president’s brother in the incidents were never investigated, according to American and Afghan officials, even though allegations that he has benefited from narcotics trafficking have circulated widely in Afghanistan.


Both President Karzai and Ahmed Wali Karzai, now the chief of the Kandahar Provincial Council, the governing body for the region that includes Afghanistan’s second largest city, dismiss the allegations as politically motivated attacks by longtime foes.

“I am not a drug dealer, I never was and I never will be,” the president’s brother said in a recent phone interview. “I am a victim of vicious politics.”

But the assertions about him have deeply worried top American officials in Kabul and in Washington. The United States officials fear that perceptions that the Afghan president might be protecting his brother are damaging his credibility and undermining efforts by the United States to buttress his government, which has been under siege from rivals and a Taliban insurgency fueled by drug money, several senior Bush administration officials said. Their concerns have intensified as American troops have been deployed to the country in growing numbers.

“What appears to be a fairly common Afghan public perception of corruption inside their government is a tremendously corrosive element working against establishing long-term confidence in that government — a very serious matter,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, who was commander of coalition military forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 and is now retired. “That could be problematic strategically for the United States.”

The White House says it believes that Ahmed Wali Karzai is involved in drug trafficking, and American officials have repeatedly warned President Karzai that his brother is a political liability, two senior Bush administration officials said in interviews last week.

Numerous reports link Ahmed Wali Karzai to the drug trade, according to current and former officials from the White House, the State Department and the United States Embassy in Afghanistan, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. In meetings with President Karzai, including a 2006 session with the United States ambassador, the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief and their British counterparts, American officials have talked about the allegations in hopes that the president might move his brother out of the country, said several people who took part in or were briefed on the talks.

“We thought the concern expressed to Karzai might be enough to get him out of there,” one official said. But President Karzai has resisted, demanding clear-cut evidence of wrongdoing, several officials said. “We don’t have the kind of hard, direct evidence that you could take to get a criminal indictment,” a White House official said. “That allows Karzai to say, ‘where’s your proof?’ ”

Neither the Drug Enforcement Administration, which conducts counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan, nor the fledgling Afghan anti-drug agency has pursued investigations into the accusations against the president’s brother.

Several American investigators said senior officials at the D.E.A. and the office of the Director of National Intelligence complained to them that the White House favored a hands-off approach toward Ahmed Wali Karzai because of the political delicacy of the matter. But White House officials dispute that, instead citing limited D.E.A. resources in Kandahar and southern Afghanistan and the absence of political will in the Afghan government to go after major drug suspects as the reasons for the lack of an inquiry.

“We invested considerable resources into building Afghan capability to conduct such investigations and consistently encouraged Karzai to take on the big fish and address widespread Afghan suspicions about the link between his brother and narcotics,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, who was the coordinator for Afghanistan and Iraq at the National Security Council until last year.

It was not clear whether President Bush had been briefed on the matter.Humayun Hamidzada, press secretary for President Karzai, denied that the president’s brother was involved in drug trafficking or that the president had intervened to help him. “People have made allegations without proof,” Mr. Hamidzada said.

Spokesmen for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

An Informant’s Tip

The concerns about Ahmed Wali Karzai have surfaced recently because of the imprisonment of an informant who tipped off American and Afghan investigators to the drug-filled truck outside Kabul in 2006.

The informant, Hajji Aman Kheri, was arrested a year later on charges of plotting to kill an Afghan vice president in 2002. The Afghan Supreme Court recently ordered him freed for lack of evidence, but he has not been released. Nearly 100 political leaders in his home region protested his continued incarceration last month.

Mr. Kheri, in a phone interview from jail in Kabul, said he had been an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration and United States intelligence agencies, an assertion confirmed by American counternarcotics and intelligence officials. Several of those officials, frustrated that the Bush administration was not pressing for Mr. Kheri’s release, came forward to disclose his role in the drug seizure.

Ever since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, critics have charged that the Bush administration has failed to take aggressive action against the Afghan narcotics trade, because of both opposition from the Karzai government and reluctance by the United States military to get bogged down by eradication and interdiction efforts that would antagonize local warlords and Afghan poppy farmers. Now, Afghanistan provides about 95 percent of the world’s supply of heroin.

Just as the Taliban have benefited from money produced by the drug trade, so have many officials in the Karzai government, according to American and Afghan officials. Thomas Schweich, a former senior State Department counternarcotics official, wrote in The New York Times Magazine in July that drug traffickers were buying off hundreds of police chiefs, judges and other officials. “Narco-corruption went to the top of the Afghan government,” he said.

Suspicions of Corruption

Of the suspicions about Ahmed Wali Karzai, Representative Mark Steven Kirk, an Illinois Republican who has focused on the Afghan drug problem in Congress, said, “I would ask people in the Bush administration and the D.E.A. about him, and they would say, ‘We think he’s dirty.’ ”

In the two drug seizures in 2004 and 2006, millions of dollars’ worth of heroin was found. In April 2006, Mr. Jan, by then a member of the Afghan Parliament, met with American investigators at a D.E.A. safe house in Kabul and was asked to describe the events surrounding the 2004 drug discovery, according to notes from the debriefing session. He told the Americans that after impounding the truck, he received calls from Ahmed Wali Karzai and Shaida Mohammad, an aide to President Karzai, according to the notes.

Mr. Jan later became a political opponent of President Karzai, and in a 2007 speech in Parliament he accused Ahmed Wali Karzai of involvement in the drug trade. Mr. Jan was shot to death in July as he drove from a guesthouse to his main residence in Kandahar Province. The Taliban were suspected in the assassination.

Mr. Mohammad, in a recent interview in Washington, dismissed Mr. Jan’s account, saying that Mr. Jan had fabricated the story about being pressured to release the drug shipment in order to damage President Karzai.

But Khan Mohammad, the former Afghan commander in Kandahar who was Mr. Jan’s superior in 2004, said in a recent interview that Mr. Jan reported at the time that he had received a call from the Karzai aide ordering him to release the drug cache. Khan Mohammad recalled that Mr. Jan believed that the call had been instigated by Ahmed Wali Karzai, not the president.

“This was a very heavy issue,” Mr. Mohammad said.

He provided the same account in an October 2004 interview with The Christian Science Monitor. Mr. Mohammad said that after a subordinate captured a large shipment of heroin about two months earlier, the official received repeated telephone calls from Ahmed Wali Karzai. “He was saying, ‘This heroin belongs to me, you should release it,’ ” the newspaper quoted Mr. Mohammad as saying.

Languishing in Detention

In 2006, Mr. Kheri, the Afghan informant, tipped off American counternarcotics agents to another drug shipment. Mr. Kheri, who had proved so valuable to the United States that his family had been resettled in Virginia in 2004, briefly returned to Afghanistan in 2006.

The heroin in the truck that was seized was to be delivered to Ahmed Wali Karzai’s bodyguard in the village of Maidan Shahr, and then transported to Kandahar, one of the Afghans involved in the deal later told American investigators, according to notes of his debriefing. Several Afghans — the drivers and the truck’s owner — were arrested by Afghan authorities, but no action was taken against Mr. Karzai or his bodyguard, who investigators believe serves as a middleman, the American officials said.

In 2007, Mr. Kheri visited Afghanistan again, once again serving as an American informant, the officials said. This time, however, he was arrested by the Karzai government and charged in the 2002 assassination of Hajji Abdul Qadir, an Afghan vice president, who had been a political rival of Mr. Kheri’s brother, Hajji Zaman, a former militia commander and a powerful figure in eastern Afghanistan.

Mr. Kheri, in the phone interview from Kabul, denied any involvement in the killing and said his arrest was politically motivated. He maintained that the president’s brother was involved in the heroin trade.

“It’s no secret about Wali Karzai and drugs,” said Mr. Kheri, who speaks English. “A lot of people in the Afghan government are involved in drug trafficking.”

Mr. Kheri’s continued detention, despite the Afghan court’s order to release him, has frustrated some of the American investigators who worked with him.

In recent months, they have met with officials at the State Department and the office of the Director of National Intelligence seeking to persuade the Bush administration to intervene with the Karzai government to release Mr. Kheri.

“We have just left a really valuable informant sitting in jail to rot,” one investigator said.

The Drug Czar’s Legacy of Failure, by the Numbers.

Two new reports by public policy expert Jon Gettman, a senior fellow at George Mason University, highlight the ineptitude of U.S. marijuana policy during the Bush Administration.

The reports – one analyzing marijuana use rate statistics and the other examining the explosion in court-ordered marijuana treatment admissions – directly contradict the White House drug czar’s office’s frequent claims of success in reducing marijuana use rates.

There’s little question that this administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy has spent its tenure consumed with a singular obsession with marijuana and marijuana users, but the breadth of their failure to make any meaningful impact in this area is stunning.

The drug czar, John Walters, likes to claim that teen marijuana use rates have declined 25 percent under his watch – which, lo and behold, is exactly the benchmark his office set in 2002 – but it simply doesn’t hold up, as Gettman’s analysis shows.

If you look at overall marijuana use rates, you see that the number of monthly marijuana users barely even budged from 14.6 million users in 2002 to 14.5 million users in 2007. In other words, Walters created 127 separate anti-marijuana TV, radio and print ads, 34 marijuana-focused press releases, 50 reports detailing the dangers of marijuana – while marijuana arrests ratcheted from 697,000 in 2002 to 872,000 in 2007 – and all us taxpayers have to show for it is a tiny decline in frequent marijuana users.

Gettman’s second report examines the startling rise in marijuana treatment admissions – a trend the drug czar frequently points to as evidence that contemporary marijuana is dramatically different and magnitudes more dangerous than the comparatively harmless stuff baby boomers enjoyed in their youths.

Again, Gettman’s analysis proves what most of us suspected – the drug czar’s claim is nonsense. There has been a marked jump in marijuana treatment admissions over the past 15 years or so, but it has been fueled almost entirely by referrals from the criminal justice system. In fact, only 45 percent of these admissions even met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) criteria for marijuana dependence. Marijuana users, presented with a choice between jail or treatment, logically choose treatment, and then the drug czar turns around and uses that as evidence that marijuana is prohibitively dangerous. But these folks never had a problem with marijuana. They had a problem with getting arrested for marijuana.

For those who follow marijuana policy reform closely, Gettman’s conclusions may not be so earth shattering – there’s already a general consensus among experts that the Office of National Drug Control Policy operates in a realm divorced from reality. The significance of Gettman’s contribution here is in quantifying the failures of this administration’s marijuana policies. Thanks to a heated culture war and an inattentive press, this drug czar got away with a lot of this nonsense, but his replacement should take note: Americans are sick of this war on marijuana users, and they’re sick of the tortured logic, manipulated statistics and bald-faced lies used to justify it.

The next drug czar will be held accountable for her actions; Gettman’s work offers a blueprint for how we should judge her success.

US Officials Fear Terrorist Links With Drug Lords

By CURT ANDERSON       MIAMI (AP) — There is real danger that Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qaida and Hezbollah could form alliances with wealthy and powerful Latin American drug lords to launch new terrorist attacks, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Extremist group operatives have already been identified in several Latin American countries, mostly involved in fundraising and finding logistical support. But Charles Allen, chief of intelligence analysis at the Homeland Security Department, said they could use well-established smuggling routes and drug profits to bring people or even weapons of mass destruction to the U.S.

"The presence of these people in the region leaves open the possibility that they will attempt to attack the United States," said Allen, a veteran CIA analyst. "The threats in this hemisphere are real. We cannot ignore them."

Added U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operations chief Michael Braun: "It is not in our interest to let that potpourri of scum to come together."

Their comments came at a two-day conference on the illegal drug threat in the Americas hosted by the U.S. Southern Command and the 35,000-member AFCEA International, a trade group for communications, intelligence and national security companies.

Much as the Taliban tapped Afghanistan's heroin for money, U.S. officials say the vast profits available from Latin American cocaine could provide al-Qaida and others with a ready source of income. The rebel group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has long used drug money to pay for weapons, supplies and operations — and is also designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

"We've got a hybrid that has developed right before our eyes," Braun said.

Latin America's drug kingpins already have well-established methods of smuggling, laundering money, obtaining false documents, providing safe havens and obtaining illicit weapons, all of which would be attractive to terrorists who are facing new pressures in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Allen, of the Homeland Security Department, said there was currently a "low probability" of cooperation between terrorists and drug organizations, but the "fertile ground" of Latin America — where government corruption is common and institutions often weak — means that the possibility deserves renewed U.S. attention.

"It would be an unprecedented act. But we cannot rule it out," he said.

The officials said the key to preventing such an alliance is increasing cooperation between government agencies and with nations in the region. They singled out for praise the governments of Mexico and Colombia for making huge strides against drug groups, while criticizing Venezuela for its failure to do so.

Braun said the DEA can be a particularly critical component because of its wide use of human informants and telephone wiretaps to track those in the drug trade. Those sources often provide tips about other types of crime and could be key to identifying terrorists in Latin America.

"They use the same money launderers, the same document forgers," he said. "You are naturally going to bump up against terrorist organizations."


L.E.A.P Use the link for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition 

Mission Statement:-leap_billboard

Founded on March 16, 2002, LEAP is made up of current and former members of law enforcement who believe the existing drug policies have failed in their intended goals of addressing the problems of crime, drug abuse, addiction, juvenile drug use, stopping the flow of illegal drugs into this country and the internal sale and use of illegal drugs. By fighting a war on drugs the government has increased the problems of society and made them far worse. A system of regulation rather than prohibition is a less harmful, more ethical and a more effective public policy.

The mission of LEAP is to reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition.

LEAP's goals are:

  1. To educate the public, the media, and policy makers, to the failure of current drug policy by presenting a true picture of the history, causes and effects of drug abuse and the crimes related to drug prohibition and
  2. To restore the public's respect for law enforcement, which has been greatly diminished by its involvement in imposing drug prohibition.

LEAP's main strategy for accomplishing these goals is to create a constantly enlarging speakers bureau staffed with knowledgeable and articulate former drug-warriors who describe the impact of current drug policies on: police/community relations; the safety of law enforcement officers and suspects; police corruption and misconduct; and the financial and human costs associated with current drug policies.

The drug war in Mexico is going so horribly wrong that the State Department is warning Americans who may be thinking about traveling there:

Travel Alert

Bureau of Consular Affairs

This information is current as of today, document.write(Date()+".") Fri Oct 10 2008 19:36:27 GMT-0400 (EDT).


April 14, 2008

This Travel Alert updates information for U.S. citizens on security situations in Mexico that may affect their activities while in that country.  This supersedes the Travel Alert for Mexico dated October 24, 2007, and expires on October 15, 2008.

Violence Along The U.S.-Mexico Border

Violent criminal activity fueled by a war between criminal organizations struggling for control of the lucrative narcotics trade continues along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Attacks are aimed primarily at members of drug trafficking organizations, Mexican police forces, criminal justice officials, and journalists.  However, foreign visitors and residents, including Americans, have been among the victims of homicides and kidnappings in the border region.  In its effort to combat violence, the government of Mexico has deployed military troops in various parts of the country.  U.S. citizens are urged to cooperate with official checkpoints when traveling on Mexican highways.

What a disaster. If there were anything remotely effective about the war on drugs, don’t you think that trying this policy for several decades would have produced a better outcome than this? I mean, look at it. Seriously, just watch what’s happening. Is this the result you’d get from a drug policy that worked?

Ever since President Calderon took office a year and a half ago and began trying to crack down on drug trafficking, everything has gone to hell. It gets worse everyday because using war to attack the drug supply is a terrible policy that destroys everything except the drug supply. What other conclusion could you possibly reach given what’s taking place right before our eyes?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mexican President Proposes Decriminalizing Small Amounts of Some Drugs, Including Marijuana and Cocaine despite U.S. Opposition


New Law Would Prioritize Going after Major Drug Dealers and Violent Crime, not People who Use Drugs
International Drug Policy Expert Ethan Nadelmann Available for Comment on Significance and Impact of Proposal
For Immediate Release: Friday, October 3, 2008.Contact: Tony Newman (646)335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann (646)335-2240

President Felipe Calderon on Thursday proposed decriminalizing small amounts of some drugs, including cocaine and marijuana. The legislation would offer treatment instead of incarceration for people who are struggling with drug addiction. A recent survey found that the number of Mexicans addicted to drugs doubled in the past six years to more than 300,000.

President Calderon has made a crackdown on Mexico’s drug cartels a cornerstone of his administration since taking office. He has sent 30,000 troops around the country to try to stop the violence. But armed attacks and executions have only increased with more than 3,000 people dying from violence related to drug prohibition this year alone.

The United States is already criticizing the new proposal. One official who did not want to be identified said they oppose the policy because it “rewards the drug traffickers and doesn’t make children’s lives safer.” Mexico’s Congress passed a similar decriminalization bill in 2006, but the bill was eventually dropped because of  U.S. opposition and pressure.

Statement from Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (see description below).

“President Calderon’s proposal to decriminalize personal possession of illicit drugs is consistent with the broader trend throughout Western Europe, Canada and other parts of Latin America to stop treating drug use and possession as a criminal problem.  But it contrasts sharply with the United States, where arrests for marijuana possession hit a record high last year – roughly 800,000 annually – and now represent nearly half of all drug arrests nationwide.

“Mexico is trying to make the right choices on law enforcement priorities; it’s time for the United States to do the same,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“The White House Drug Czar John P. Walters should think twice before criticizing a foreign government for its drug policy, much less holding the United States out as a model. Looking to the United States as a role model for drug control is like looking to apartheid South Africa for how to deal with race. This country leads the world in per-capita incarceration rates, with less than five percent of the world’s population but almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. About 500,000 people are in U.S. prisons and jails today simply for violating a drug law; that's almost 10 times the total in 1980,” said Nadelmann.


27 Bodies Found After Suspected Drug Attacks In North Mexico


Above :-The corpses of men in Tijuana, Baja California, northwest Mexico.

TIJUANA, Mexico (AFP) — Mexican police found eight bodies, two of them decapitated, in the northwestern border city of Tijuana, and 19 others after separate attacks further east in the border state of Chihuahua in the past 24 hours.

Border areas where rival drug cartels are battling for control of key routes into the United States are among the worst hit in escalating violence across Mexico this year in which almost 3,500 have died, according to local media.

Attacks have increased despite a government crackdown on drug-related violence including the deployment of 36,000 troops across the country.

Police in Tijuana found five bodies with their hands and feet tied and heads wrapped in tape on Friday, as well as two headless bodies and one other body, making a total of 42 dead in one week.

Gangland-style murders have escalated this week in the city across the border from San Diego, including the discovery of eight bodies Thursday, and a pile of 12 bodies found in a nearby area on Monday, local officials said.

In Chihuahua state a former district attorney and four local police were killed, including a woman, out of a total of 19 dead, officials said Friday.

In state capital Chihuahua, several armed men fired from a car on the former district attorney late Thursday, state authorities said.

"On seeing his attackers he tried to run away, but they followed him and shot him several times in the back," a state official said.

In Casas Grandes, north of Chihuahua city, police found the bodies of five men, each with a bullet in the head.

Meanwhile in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, where more than 1,000 have been murdered this year, two local police were shot dead as they patrolled a residential area, state authorities said.

Four others, including two police, were also killed there on Thursday, and a former soldier and five others were killed in separate incidents in the past 24 hours.

A US resident of Ciudad Juarez, who last year put up signs calling on hitmen to avoid leaving bodies outside his house, was killed in his home Friday, police said.