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In the News

FBI Figures: One Drug Bust in US Every 18 Seconds

By Stephen C. Webster, Raw Story (US), 9/14/09

America is a nation at war, overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at home.

According to the newly released Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Report for 2008, every 18 seconds someone is arrested and charged with violating drug laws.

Another striking figure in the report: of the 1,702,537 drug arrests in 2008, 82.3 percent were for simple possession of a contraband substance. Nearly half, 44 percent, were for possession of marijuana. According to San Francisco Weekly's calculations, 2008 saw one marijuana arrest every 37 seconds.

"In our current economic climate, we simply cannot afford to keep arresting more than three people every minute in the failed 'war on drugs,'" Jack Cole, a former drug officer who oversees the activist group who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), said in a press release. "Plus, if we legalized and taxed drug sales, we could actually create new revenue in addition to the money we'd save from ending the cruel policy of arresting users."

The report noted that the figures are a slight dip from 2007, going from 1.8 million to 1.7 million.

"Those looking for a partisan pattern should note that drug arrests climbed under Bill Clinton as well as George W. Bush, and that last year's drop occurred during the latter's second term," wrote Jacob Sullum at "Since local police make the vast majority of drug arrests (especially pot busts), it's not clear how much difference the president's drug policy agenda makes, although federal priorities affect the behavior of state and local law enforcement agencies, especially when funding is attached to them."

The FBI also recorded a 1.9 percent drop in violent crime, and the smallest number of forcible rapes in the last two decades. The report additionally noted that 1.4 million arrests were made for drunk driving alone.

"Racial minorities suffered disproportionately as victims of some of the most violent crimes," added CNN. "Almost half of the country's 14,000 murder victims, for example, were African-American."

The Office of National Drug Control Policy had not commented on the FBI report at time of publication.

Use Pot? No Transplants

In a disturbing trend, another patient has died after being denied a liver transplant due to marijuana use.

Hawaii resident Kimberly Reyes was diagnosed with hepatitis in March 2008 and told she had less then a year to live. Her family claimed she had followed doctor's orders, but her insurance carrier denied the liver transplant she needed to survive because toxicology tests showed trace amounts of cannabis in her system.

According to Reyes' attorney, toxicology tests were the sole basis for denial of coverage for the 51-year-old mother of five.

Her family said Reyes had stopped smoking marijuana "years ago," but recently took a few hits of marijuana to relieve feelings of nausea, disorientation and pain. That moment of indiscretion apparently cost Reyes her life.

In May of 2008, Seattle musician Timothy Garon, 56, also died after being turned down for a liver transplant. He was rejected partly because he had used marijuana, even though he was an authorized medical marijuana user under Washington State law.

Sources: Hawaii Tribune-Herald and Los Angeles Times

Pain Clinics Policing Patients for Med MJ

There are a growing number of med mj patients who are being refused opoid medication because of their marijuana use. NORML has received a surge of complaints within the last six months. Many medical marijuana users report that they can't find a clinic willing to take them on, while others have been abandoned by clinics that suddenly adopted aggressive drug-screening policies.

"I must have heard of 25 cases this year," Doug Hiatt, an attorney in Washington state, told NORML. "It's Jim Crow medicine."

Many clinics and doctors claim that the DEA requires them to drug test all their clients, that " it is the law". In fact, there is no law requiring clinics to drug screen patients for marijuana. "It's BS," says Hiatt. "Not a single case is known in which pain doctors have been sued or prosecuted for allowing medical marijuana use along with opiates."

Another spurious claim is that mj and opoids are somehow more dangerous in combination. According to Dale Gieringer, Director of CA NORML, the opposite is actually true ­ supplementing pain meds with medical marijuana can actual reduce the dosages of the more dangerous opoid drugs, and studies indicate that "cannabis interacts synergistically with opioids in such a way as to improve pain relief ".

Source: NORML Blog (US) at

In Memoriam: Dr. Kenny H. Linn, 1939 -- 2009

Kenny Linn lost his fight with pancreatic cancer on May 28, 2009. For everyone who loved and worked with Kenny, he will be dearly missed.

Kenny was co-founder and chairman of FedCURE, and considered an expert on federal parole. He was co-author and the leading advocate of legislation to establish a hybrid system of parole and good time allowances for federal offenders. A tireless advocate for federal inmates and their families, Kenny was the model demonstrating that parole works.

Kenny was a former federal prisoner, released on parole through August 2004. Completing undergraduate degrees in political science and economics at Tulane University, he went on to study law at the Schools of Law at New York University and Loyola University (New Orleans). Linn received both a Juris Doctorate and Master of Laws from the University of Honolulu Law School.

To review one of Dr. Linn's final efforts in sentencing reform, see

The Good Time Bill (HR 1475)

Introduced by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) on March 2, 2009, HR 1475 is a bill to "restore the former system of good time allowances toward service of Federal prison terms, and for other purposes." The bill currently has 15 cosponsors, and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security as of this writing.

The Snitching Blog

Long time Razor Wire readers will recognize the name Alexandra Natapoff, considered by many the leading expert on the use of informants in American criminal justice. Natapoff now offers online activists the Snitching Blog, a "comprehensive resource on criminal informants: legal developments, legislation, news stories, cultural reactions, commentary and more...." You can find the Snitching Blog at Ms. Natapoff is also the author of Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice.

Afghanistan: Opium Haul Just a Hill of Beans

British soldiers engaged in Operation Panther's Claw, the huge assault against insurgent strongholds, discovered a record-breaking haul of more than 1.3 tons of poppy seeds, destined to become part of the opium crop that generates $400m a year for the Taliban. Ministry of Defense officials swung into action to extract the maximum benefit from this unexpected PR coup.

Major Rupert Whitelegge, the commander of the company in charge of the area, tugged at one of the enormously heavy white sacks on camera.

"They are definitely poppy seeds," he said emphatically.

Whoops. Analysis of a sample carried out by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization in Kabul for the Guardian has revealed that the soldiers had captured a giant pile of mung beans, a staple pulse eaten in curries across Afghanistan. Embarrassed British officials have now admitted that their triumph has turned sour and have promised to return the legal crop to its rightful owner.

The haul also fooled Colonel General Khodaidad, Afghanistan's minister of counter-narcotics, even though the spherical black beans, about the size of small ball bearings, looked nothing like poppy seeds. When shown the mung beans by the Guardian, he said they were a strain of "super poppy".

The sacks totaled 1.3 tons of mung beans, with an estimated street value of $1,300.

Source: The Guardian (UK)

US Targets 50 Afghani Traffickers for Death

A congressional study released in August reveals that US military forces occupying Afghanistan have placed drug traffickers on a "capture or kill" list. The list of targets had previously been reserved for leaders of the insurgency.

The addition of drug traffickers to the hit list means the US military will now be capturing or killing criminal -- not political or military -- foes without benefit of warrant or trial.

The following passage bluntly spells out the lengths to which the military is prepared to go to complete its new anti-drug mission in Afghanistan: "In a dramatic illustration of the new policy, major drug traffickers who help finance the insurgency are likely to find themselves in the crosshairs of the military. Some 50 of them are now officially on the target list to be killed or captured."

Source: Drug War Chronicle (US)

"Traffic" Actor's Son Could Face Life in Prison

The Academy Award winning film Traffic starred Michael Douglas as the US Drug Czar, a man who struggled with the futility of the drug war and his own child's drug addiction. Now, in an example of life imitating art, Douglas' real-life son Cameron, 30, could be facing life in prison on drug charges.

Cameron Douglas was arrested at a Manhattan hotel on July 28, and faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum period of life for two counts of possessing and distributing forms of methamphetamine. His "accomplices" were cooperating with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to the complaint filed in a Manhattan federal court.

It was not the first brush with the law for Cameron, who has several arrests for cocaine possession and a 1996 bust for drunk driving. Reports also point to the good possibility that he has a severe addiction problem.

Source: Reuters News Services.

FL Gov. Signs Rachel's Law on Informants

With the parents of a slain police informant looking on, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed a law in May that will require police departments to adopt policies to protect people like their daughter.

The bill was named after Rachel Hoffman, a 23-year-old Florida State graduate who was coerced into helping the Tallahassee police after being caught with some marijuana and pills. She was shot to death in a botched drug sting that began May 7, 2008, and two men are now charged in her death.

Her parents pushed for the legislation. The new law will also require police departments to: train officers who recruit confidential informants, tell informants they can't promise a reduced sentences in exchange for their work, and allow informants to consult with a lawyer if they ask.

Hoffman's parents had wanted even stronger language in the bill, including barring police departments from using people in substance abuse programs as drug informants, and/or using nonviolent offenders in work involving suspects with violent histories. Police departments opposed those provisions.

Both provisions would have excluded Hoffman -- a nonviolent offender in treatment -- from the undercover operation she participated in.

Source: Associated Press (US)

Mexico Decriminalizes ALL Drug Possession

A bill that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use in Mexico is now the law of the land, although it will not go into effect for one year to give states time to adjust their laws. It was published Thursday in the Official Daily of the Federation, the Mexican equivalent of the Federal Register.

According to the new law, the amounts of various drugs decriminalized for personal use are:

  • opium -- 2 grams
  • cocaine -- 1/2 gram
  • heroin -- 1/10 gram
  • marijuana -- 5 grams
  • LSD -- 150 micrograms
  • methamphetamine -- 1/5 gram
  • ecstasy -- 1/5 gram

The decriminalization measure is part of a broader bill aimed at reducing "narcomenudeo," or retail drug sales. The bill would allow states and localities to prosecute small-time drug dealing offenses, a power that currently resides only with the federal government. It also allows police to make drug buys to build cases, a break with precedent in Mexico.

Whether the overall bill is a step forward or a step back is open to debate.

Source: Drug War Chronicle (US)

Breath Mints Land Florida Man in Jail

Donald May is suing the Kissimmee, Florida Police Department for a 2009 false arrest and three months imprisonment over breath mints. When officers pulled him over for an expired tag, they thought the mints he was chewing were crack cocaine and arrested him. May told Central Florida's WFTV News they wouldn't let him out of jail for three months until tests proved the so-called drugs were candy.

"He took them out of my mouth and put them in a baggy and locked me up [for] possession of cocaine and tampering with evidence", May said.

The officer claimed he field-tested the evidence and it tested positive for drugs.

"While I was sitting in jail I lost my apartment. I lost everything," May explained. While May was behind bars, the Kissimmee Police Department towed his car and auctioned it off. He also lost his job and was evicted. Now May wants to be compensated for the loss of his car and job.

No Risk in Hiring Ex-Offenders

A study funded by the Justice Department concludes that non-violent ex-offenders pose no greater risk to employers than job candidates in the general population.

In a review of 88,000 arrestees in New York state, Carnegie Mellon University investigators found, for example, that after about 7 1/2 years the "hazard rate" for an 18-year-old first-time arrestee for robbery declined to the same rate as an 18-year-old in the general population.

Hazard rates are calculated based on the time the suspect remains free from re-arrest.

The study says ongoing research could ease employers' concerns about hiring former offenders. With more than 600,000 people expected to be released from prisons this year, some criminal justice analysts say the research marks an important step to changing the perception that the criminal justice system is a revolving door.

Source: USA Today (US)

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