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Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category

D.E.A. Misled Overseers on Deadly Honduras Operations, Watchdogs Say

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Disgusting story about the DEA, which seems to feature in a lot of disgusting stories. Charlie Savage reports in the NY Times:

The Drug Enforcement Administration misled the public, Congress and the Justice Department about a 2012 operation in which commando-style squads of American agents sent to Honduras to disrupt drug smuggling became involved in three deadly shootings, two inspectors general said Wednesday.

The D.E.A. said in response that it had shut down the program, the Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team.

Under the program, known as FAST, squads received military-style training to combat Taliban-linked opium traffickers in the Afghanistan war zone. It was expanded to Latin America in 2008 to help fight transnational drug smugglers, leading to the series of violent encounters in Honduras in 2012.

A scathing 424-page joint report from the inspectors general of the Justice and State Departments underscored the risk that Americans accompanying partner forces on missions in developing countries, ostensibly as trainers and advisers, sometimes drift into directly running dangerous operations with little oversight.

The report focused on the first shooting, on a river near the village of Ahuas on May 11, 2012. A boat collided with a disabled vessel carrying American and Honduran agents and seized cocaine. Gunfire erupted, and four people on the boat were killed.

The D.E.A. said at the time that the victims were drug traffickers who had attacked to try to retrieve the cocaine, but villagers said they were bystanders. The inspectors general found no evidence to support the agency’s version, disputing a claim that surveillance video showed evidence that the people on the boat had fired on the disabled vessel.

“Even as information became available to D.E.A. that conflicted with its initial reporting, including that the passenger boat may have been a water taxi carrying passengers on an overnight trip,” the report said, “D.E.A. officials remained steadfast — with little credible corroborating evidence — that any individuals shot by the Hondurans were drug traffickers who were attempting to retrieve the cocaine.”

The inspectors general also rejected the D.E.A.’s insistence at the time that the operation — as well as two others, in June and July 2012 — had been led by Honduran law enforcement officials. The review “concluded this was inaccurate” and said D.E.A. agents “maintained substantial control.”

In the shooting on the river, the report said, a Honduran police officer did fire a machine gun from a helicopter at the boat, but an American agent directed him to do so. In one of the later missions, American agents shot to death smugglers they said had refused to surrender who they feared might be reaching for weapon.

Indeed, the report said, only D.E.A. agents, not the Hondurans, had the necessary equipment to command the operation and had direct access to intelligence. Rather than taking orders from Honduran police, the agents gave “tactical commands” to the Hondurans during missions. Accounts of all three shootings, it said, showed that agency leaders “made the critical decisions and directed the actions taken during the mission.”

The D.E.A. refused to cooperate with the State Department as it sought to investigate what had happened in Ahuas. Michele M. Leonhart, then the agency’s administrator, told the inspector general she had approved that decision because subordinates told her there was no precedent for the State Department to investigate a D.E.A. shooting and it might compromise its investigations, the report said. . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2017 at 6:50 pm

Vermont’s D.I.Y. Approach on Marijuana

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The editorial board of the NY Times writes:

Vermont is on the verge of becoming the ninth state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but, being Vermont, it is taking an earthier, grow-it-yourself approach — one that could become a model for others.

Vermont is not asking voters to approve a ballot proposal and it is not allowing for-profit businesses to grow and sell the drug, at least not right away. Instead, its lawmakers passed a bill this month that would let people 21 and older keep two flowering and four young marijuana plants at home. In addition, people 21 and older could possess up to one ounce of the drug. The bill would also create an independent commission to propose legislation that could later be used to create a regulated market for marijuana with commercial growers and retailers.

Vermont’s path resembles that of the District of Columbia, where residents voted in 2014 to let people 21 and older grow up to six marijuana plants. Proponents of the home-grow model say it represents a third approach that falls somewhere between criminalizing use of the drug and creating a market in which businesses have an incentive to encourage marijuana use.

A big benefit of the Vermont bill is that it gives lawmakers time to study the effects of legalization before deciding whether to allow marijuana businesses. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2017 at 10:02 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

“My Family’s Slave”

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Jason Kottke writes:

When Alex Tizon was a small child in the 60s, he moved with his family from the Phillipines to the US along with the family’s domestic servant, Lola. It was not until Tizon was nearly a teenager that he realized that Lola was not employed as a servant by his parents…she was a slave.

Her name was Eudocia Tomas Pulido. We called her Lola. She was 4 foot 11, with mocha-brown skin and almond eyes that I can still see looking into mine — my first memory. She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us. No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived. Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been. So many nights, on my way to the bathroom, I’d spot her sleeping in a corner, slumped against a mound of laundry, her fingers clutching a garment she was in the middle of folding.

An incredible and incredibly disturbing story. Heartbreaking, all the more because this sort of thing is probably more common than anyone realizes.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 11:34 am

Trump really does believe that he can do whatever he wants: Medical marijuana example

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Philip Smith writes in Drug War Chronicles:

Congress moved to protect medical marijuana by including in its stopgap federal spending bill a provision barring the Justice Department from using federal funds to go after the drug in states where medical marijuana is legal, but now, President Trump says that doesn’t matter.

Even though Trump signed the spending bill into law last Friday, he included a signing statement objecting to numerous provisions in the bill — including the ban on funds to block the implementation of medical marijuana laws in those states.

Despite those state laws, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which also does not recognize “medical marijuana.”

The president said he reserved the right to ignore that provision and left open the possibility the Trump administration could go after the 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico where medical marijuana use is allowed.

“Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories,” Trump noted in the signing statement. “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

The language suggests that Trump could give Attorney General Jeff Sessions his go ahead when it comes to enforcing marijuana policy. Sessions has vowed to crack down on marijuana and has scoffed at arguments for its medical use as “desperate.”

“I reject the idea that we’re going to be better placed if we have more marijuana,” Sessions told law enforcement officials in an April speech. “It’s not a healthy substance, particularly for young people.”

But the language also sets up a potential power struggle with Congress, which, under the Constitution, has the sole power to appropriate funds for federal government operations.

As Steve Bell, a senior adviser at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington told Bloomberg News, the signing statement signals a desire to usurp power from Congress. . .

Continue reading.

See also his article “Congress Will Give the DOJ Exactly Zero Dollars to Go After Medical Marijuana.” The concluding paragraphs of that article:

. . . In the meantime, medical marijuana is protected in the 29 states where it is legal. But adult-use legal marijuana, legal in eight states, is not under the purview of the budget agreement and is still theoretically at risk from a Sessions Justice Department.

But even Sessions, a fire-breathing foe of the weed, increasingly seems disinclined to make good on earlier vows to go after legal pot. Like Donald Trump discovering that health care reform is “complicated,” Jeff Sessions is apparently coming to understand, as he reportedly told Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s chief of staff last week, that the Obama administration’s toleration of state-legal marijuana legalization under specified conditions is “not too far from good policy.”

Written by LeisureGuy

11 May 2017 at 1:01 pm

A little cannabis every day might keep brain ageing at bay

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Michael Le Page writes in New Scientist:

In some cultures, it’s traditional for elders to smoke grass, a practice said to help them pass on tribal knowledge. It turns out that they might just be onto something.

Teenagers who toke perform less well on memory and attention tasks while under the influence. But low doses of the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, might have the opposite effect on the elderly, reversing brain ageing and restoring learning and memory – at least according to studies of mice.

“We repeated these experiments many times,” says team leader Andreas Zimmer at the University of Bonn, Germany. “It’s a very robust and profound effect.”

Zimmer’s team has been studying the mammalian endocannabinoid system, which is involved in balancing out our bodies’ response to stress. THC affects us by mimicking similar molecules in this system, calming us down.

The researchers discovered that mice with genetic mutations that stop this endocannabinoid system from working properly age faster than normal mice, and show more cognitive decline. This made Zimmer wonder if stimulating the endocannabinoid system in elderly mice might have the opposite effect.

Brain boost

To find out, the team gave young (2-month-old), middle-aged (12-month-old) and elderly (18-month-old) mice a steady dose of THC. The amount they received was too small to give them psychoactive effects.

After a month, the team tested the mice’s ability to perform cognitive tasks, such as finding their way around mazes, or recognising other individuals.

In the control groups, which received no THC, the young mice performed far better than the middle-aged and elderly mice. But the middle-aged and elderly mice who had been given THC performed as well as the young mice in the control group.

Further studies showed that THC boosted the number of connections between brain cells in the hippocampus, which is involved in memory formation. “It’s a quite striking finding,” says Zimmer.

Age effect

But THC seemed to have the opposite effect in young mice: when they were given THC, their performance in some tasks declined.

Young people also perform worse in learning and memory tests in the hours and days after smoking cannabis, but a joint delivers far higher doses than the mice received. Claims that heavy marijuana use can permanently impair cognition are disputed.

Zimmer thinks his findings show that both too much and too little stimulation is harmful. The endocannabinoid system is most active in young mice (and people), so extra THC may overstimulate it. In older mice, by contrast, endocannabinoid activity declines, so a little THC restores it to optimum levels.

Human trial

The team’s findings aren’t that surprising, says neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt of Imperial College London. Animal studies have shown that the cannabinoids the body produces itself can have beneficial effects on the brain. And Nutt and his colleagues have also found that THC use protects alcoholics from alcohol-induced brain damage.

Zimmer’s team is now planning human trials to find out whether older people can benefit from low doses of THC too and, if so, from what age it is beneficial. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 May 2017 at 2:07 pm

More indications of our direction from Radley Balko

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Afternoon links:

Written by LeisureGuy

5 May 2017 at 9:37 pm

Another Trump U-turn into letting down the people who voted for him

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Jennifer Rubin reports in the Washington Post:

President Trump has brought Republicans and Democrats together — in opposition to what is surely among the most misguided budget decisions of his presidency. CBS News reports:

The Trump administration is looking to slash the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) budget by nearly 95 percent, according to a memo obtained by CBS News.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has proposed major ONDCP budget cuts for fiscal year 2018 that would cut 33 employees, nearly half the office staff, along with intelligence, research and budget functions at the agency, as well as the Model State Drug Laws and Drug Court grant programs.

The cuts were outlined in OMB’s “passback” document, a part of the budget process where the Office instructs federal agencies to draw up preliminary budgets that are subject to Congressional approval. It was uploaded to MAX Collect, the OMB’s budget database.

Trump’s crocodile tears about opioid abuse and professed concern for rural Americans who are in the throes of the drug epidemic mean nothing if he is unwilling to put resources into the ONDCP.

Democrats were furious. The Democratic National Committee put out a statement:

This is a cruel betrayal by Trump. Throughout the campaign, Trump promised communities ravaged by opioid addiction that he would come to their aid. That was a lie. Not only does Trump’s health bill jeopardize services for people in need of opioid treatment and once again allow companies to deny care by labeling addiction as a pre-existing condition, today he announced that he wants to cut nearly 95% of the funds for the main office in charge of fighting the opioid epidemic.

Coming the day after passage of the GOP health-care plan that provides huge tax relief for the very rich, the decision to virtually obliterate the ONDCP highlights the administration’s misplaced priorities.

Republicans were unhappy as well. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who co-authored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, released a statement:

I’ve known and worked with our drug czars for more than 20 years and this agency is critical to our efforts to combat drug abuse in general, and this opioid epidemic, in particular. This office supports the Drug Free Communities Act, legislation I authored in 1997 which has provided more than $1 billion to community drug coalitions around the country over the last 20 years as well as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, which has helped states like Ohio that are ground zero for this problem. We have a heroin and prescription drug crisis in this country and we should be supporting efforts to reverse this tide, not proposing drastic cuts to those who serve on the front lines of this epidemic.

It seems just weeks ago that Trump was meeting with addicts, pledging to take on the scourge of heroin and opioid abuse. On March 29, he held a “listening session” with former addicts and anti-drug activists and officials. He insisted that “we want to help those who have become so badly addicted. Drug abuse has become a crippling problem throughout the United States. … This is a total epidemic, and I think it’s probably almost untalked about compared to the severity that we’re witnessing.” He continued, “Today, we’re bringing together leaders from inside our government and outside of our government, and courageous people who have been affected — and really affected — by this terrible affliction. In a joint campaign, we want to battle drug addiction and combat opioid, and we have to do it — a crisis.” So much for that.

This issue reflects a more fundamental problem. While the president is insistent on a huge tax cut for the rich, increases in defense spending and no reform of our entitlement programs, worthwhile functions such as this are going to be slashed or eliminated. If permitted, it will amount to a huge transfer of wealth and abandonment of much of the safety net. The populist hero is turning out to be the enemy of the most vulnerable members of our society. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 May 2017 at 1:41 pm

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