Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category
John Bresnahan and Lauren French report in Politico:
Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration reportedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia, according to a new inspector general report released by the Justice Department on Thursday.
In addition, Colombian police officers allegedly provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties,” the report states. Ten DEA agents later admitted attending the parties, and some of the agents received suspensions of two to 10 days.
Story Continued Below
The stunning allegations are part of an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general into claims of sexual harassment and misconduct within DEA; FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshals Service. The IG’s office found that DEA did not fully cooperate with its probe.
The congressional committee charged with federal oversight is already promising hearings and an investigation into the allegations.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told POLITICO on Thursday he wanted the agencies involved to swiftly fire those involved and that his panel would immediately start digging into the allegations.
“You can’t ignore this. This is terribly embarrassing and fundamentally not right,” the Utah Republican said. “We need to understand what’s happening with the culture … anytime you bring a foreign national into your room, you’re asking for trouble.” . . .
James Joiner reports in the Daily Beast:
Willie Nelson takes a hit of the cigarette-sized vaporizer in his gnarled hand, exhaling a small cloud, before placing it on the foldout table in front of us. We’re seated in the cool enclave of his tour bus, at the entrance to his sprawling property just outside Austin, Texas, which he has dubbed the town of Luck. Up a hill and around a corner, people are rocking out at Willie’s own Heartbreaker Banquet, an annual fundraiser/music festival held concurrently with SXSW.
Now 81, Willie is biding his time before joining the festivities, and we’re talking about why he puts on the event every year. In the process, he lets slip that he has something else in the works: a new brand of weed, called, naturally, Willie’s Reserve.
Pressed on this, he’s either dismissive or coy, though he does indicate that the smoking implement he has again picked up is a part of the line. The PR person promises to connect me with Michael Bowman, a veteran hemp and pot lobbyist who serves as the fledgling brand’s spokesperson. Two days later, much colder, much more sober, and back in my native New England, Bowman and I connect by phone.
The discussion is below, but the rub is that the marijuana world is about to get its first connoisseur brand, edging it farther from an illegal substance and closer to the realm of fine wines.
So what exactly is Willie’s Reserve?
Well, you know, Willie has spent a lifetime in support of cannabis, both the industrial hemp side and the marijuana side. He wants it to be something that’s reflective of his passion. Ultimately, it’s his. But it was developed by his family, and their focus on environmental and social issues, and in particular this crazy war on drugs, and trying to be a bright light amongst this trail as we’re trying to extract ourselves from the goo of prohibition.
Really he wants it, at the end of the day, to envelop what his personal morals and convictions are. So from the store itself to how they’ll work with suppliers and how things are operated, it’s going to be very reflective of Willie’s life.
Wait, so there’s going to be stores?
Well, yeah, they’re in the making. I think it’s safe to say that there will be stores that roll out in the states where marijuana has become legal.
So will there be signature strains that you grow under Willie’s oversight? Or will you sell other people’s strains? . . .
The blundering interference of the US moves closer to home. From TomDistach.com:
One of the mysteries of our era is why there seems to be no learning curve in Washington. Over the last 13 years, American wars and conflicts have repeatedly helped create disaster zones, encouraging the fragmentation of whole countries and societies in the Greater Middle East and Northern Africa. In the process, such American wars, drone assassination campaigns, raids, and conflicts have acted as recruitment posters for and aided and abetted the growth of terror outfits. And here’s where the genuine strangeness begins to enter the picture: after all of this is absorbed and assessed in Washington, the response is regularly more of what hasn’t worked and a clamoring for yet more of it.
It turns out, as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon reports today, that the same kind of process has been going on so much closer to home — right across the border in Mexico, in fact, resulting in the kind of blowback that Chalmers Johnson would have appreciated. Yet while hysteria and panic reign over the barbaric acts of the faraway Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, U.S. involvement in the “war on drugs” in a neighboring country gets just passing attention here. Curiouser and curiouser, hysteria and panic over Mexico only seem to rise when ISIS is reputed to be involved (at least in the fantasy worlds of various right-wingers). Consider it all part of the true mysteries of our strange American age of repetitive war. Tom
Can You Say “Blowback” in Spanish?
The Failed War on Drugs in Mexico (and the United States)
By Rebecca Gordon
They behead people by the hundreds. They heap headless, handless bodies along roadsides as warnings to those who would resist their power. They havepenetrated the local, state, and national governments and control entire sections of the country. They provide employment and services to an impoverished public, which distrusts their actual government with its bitter record of corruption, repression, and torture. They seduce young people from several countries, including the United States, into their murderous activities.
Is this a description of the heinous practices of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria? It could be, but as a matter of fact it’s not. These particular thugs exist a lot closer to home. They are part of the multi-billion-dollar industry known as the drug cartels of Mexico. Like the Islamic State, the cartels’ power has increased as the result of disastrous policies born in the U.S.A.
There are other parallels between IS and groups like Mexico’s Zetas and its Sinaloa cartel. Just as the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya fertilizedthe field for IS, another U.S. war, the so-called War on Drugs, opened new horizons for the drug cartels. Just as Washington has worked hand-in-hand with and also behind the backs of corrupt rulers in Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, so it has done with the Mexican government. Both kinds of war have resulted in blowback — violent consequences felt in our own cities, whether at the finish line of the Boston Marathon or in communities of color across the country.
In Mexico, the U.S. military is directly involved in the War on Drugs. In this country, that “war” has provided the pretext for the militarization of local police forces and increased routine surveillance of ordinary people going about their ordinary lives.
And just as both the national security state and the right wing have used the specter of IS to create an atmosphere of panic and hysteria in this country, so both have used the drug cartels’ grotesque theater of violence to justify their demonization of immigrants from Latin America and the massive militarization of America’s borderlands.
The War in Mexico
If there was an official beginning to Mexico’s war on drugs, it would have to be considered the election of Felipe Calderón as the country’s president in 2006. The candidate of the right-wing Partido Acción Nacional, the National Action Party (PAN), Calderón was only the second Mexican president in 70 years who did not come from the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). His predecessor, Vicente Fox, had been the first.
It was Calderón who, with encouragement and assistance from the United States, changed Mexico’s war on drugs from a metaphor into the real thing, in which guns and grenades would fuel the deaths of more than 60,000 Mexicans through 2012.
The current president, Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI, admits that another 27,000 Mexicans were murdered in the first year of his presidency. At least another 25,000 have been disappeared since 2007. It was Calderón who brought the Mexican military fully into the fight against drugs, transforming an ineffective policing policy into a full-scale shooting war with the cartels. At least 50,000 military personnel have been deployed.
In addition to ordinary citizens, journalists and politicians have been particular targets in this war. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that murders of Mexican reporters have increased dramatically since 2006. Among those whose killers have been positively identified, 69% died at the hands of the drug cartels, and at least 22% were killed by government or military personnel.
Wikipedia lists over 100 politicians who have lost their lives in Mexico’s war on drugs. That list does not include a woman named Aide Nava González, whose headless body was dumped this month on a road in Guerrero state. Nava was contending for the Partido Revolución Democrática, the Democratic Revolution Party, slot on the ballot in the town of Ahuacuotzingo. Her husband, the former mayor, had been murdered there last year. A note from Los Rojos, a local drug gang, was left with Nava’s body. “This is what will happen,” it read, “to anyone who does not fall in line, fucking turncoats.”
Guerrero is the home of Ayotzinapa, a town where 43 teachers-in-training once attended a rural teachers college. All 43 “disappeared” last September during a demonstration in the neighboring town of Iguala. Their arrest by police, and apparent subsequent murder at the hands of a local drug gang, Guerreros Unidos, was one of the few stories of Mexican suffering to break into the U.S. mainstream media last year. The mayor of Iguala has since admitted that he instructed the police to hand the students over to the gang and has been arrested, along with his wife. The town’s police chief is still on the run.
Like the “war on terror” globally, Mexico’s war on drugs has created endless new pretexts for government repression, which has its own lengthy history in that country. That history includes the long-remembered police murders of some 300 students, among the thousands protesting in Mexico City’s Plaza de las Tres Culturas a couple of weeks before the Summer Olympics began in 1968. Juan Méndez, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, wrote in his 2014 mission report on Mexico: . . .
Very odd, considering that the Federal government steadfastly maintains that marijuana has no medical use—yet the Federal government supplies this man with marijuana for medical use. This sort of blatant illogic and outright contradiction drives me crazy, but the government is full of it (e.g., Obama’s sanctions against Venezuela for “human rights abuses” with absolutely no sanctions against Saudi Arabia, which has MUCH more outrageous human rights abuses: it seems that the Federal government is stupid, or else it thinks we are stupid and will accept whatever cock-and-bull story it makes up.
Evan Halper writes in the LA Times:
The interior of Irvin Rosenfeld’s Toyota 4Runner reeks of marijuana. A tin stuffed with hundreds of joints lies in the trunk, and a bag full of them is stored in the door pocket.
On a recent weekday, the 62-year-old stockbroker stopped at a red light and took a drag. His exhale filled the cabin with smoke. It was his fourth joint that day. It wasn’t yet lunchtime.
“This car has 80,000 miles on it,” Rosenfeld announced between puffs, stray ash landing softly on the battered towel he drapes over his pleated brown trousers and red tie. “I haven’t gotten into one accident.”
Rosenfeld would smoke five or six more joints by day’s end. In between, he would trade tens of thousands of dollars in stocks. Some days, the broker moves millions around, pausing occasionally to steal drags of marijuana from the smokeless vapor pen that tides him over indoors.
Clients have given their blessing to his 10-joint-a-day habit.
So has the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The federal agency at the forefront of the war on drugs is normally unyielding in its view that marijuana has no valid medical use. But it not only gives permission to Rosenfeld to light up any place cigarettes are allowed, but it also acts as his dealer.
Rosenfeld gets that special treatment because he has a rare bone disorder that gives him a lot of pain. He is one of only two people in the nation still actively involved in a federal program that supplies marijuana free to patients suffering from certain diseases.
The government harvests infrequently and Rosenfeld’s current stash came out of the ground six years ago. Not exactly prime bud. But good enough that in three decades he has consumed about 216 pounds — hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth — to ease his pain. . .
Via email from ProPublica:
It wasn’t shocking that he was beaten. It was shocking that the story got out. The most violent encounters at Attica, a maximum-security prison in New York with a brutal history, are usually handled internally, outside public view. So it was surprising when the severe beating of an inmate in 2011 went public. Three guards pulled George Williams from his cell for what they saw as talking back. By the end of the night Williams had two broken legs, a broken shoulder, a fractured orbital bone, blood in his sinuses and multiple lacerations and contusions. Prison protocol typically dictated that Williams be put him in solitary confinement. But that wasn’t the case. The officer running solitary confinement that night decided that Williams was too hurt to be thrown into “the box.” The three guards who beat Williams recently went to trial. They struck a deal, pleading guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of misconduct and quit their jobs. — The New York Times and The Marshall Project via @L_willen.
How $161 million turned into $1.8 billion. Last summer, the Texas Department of Public Safety began an enforcement effort in the Rio Grande Valley. A week before sending off its performance review to lawmakers, the value of the drugs seized increased dramatically from $161 million to nearly $2 billion, The Austin American-Statesman reports. The change is due to a shift in the methodology used to calculate the value of the drugs seized. DPS now looks at retail prices compiled by the White House, rather than wholesale prices specific to Texas. Criminologists believe that this skews the picture of the seizures since retail prices vary from region to region. And the change in methodology comes at a time when state leaders want to increase how much is spent on border operations. The proposed budget is more than the last seven years of state border spending combined. — The Austin American-Statesman via @JinATX and @ApprovedAmerica
Oil and gas companies don’t clean up after themselves. Oil and gas companies are required to restore all drill sites in Colorado once they have completed their work. This includes reviving-vegetation, erosion control, eradication of weeds, etc. Yet more than half of the nearly 50,000 inactive wells are not fully restored, and 72 percent of the work sites have been “in the process” for five years or more. The Denver Post also found Colorado’s laws are not as strict as laws in other states. Industry officials say restoration takes more time and is more costly than expected. Environmentalists say the state needs to work harder to make sure industry fulfills its obligations. “If land isn’t restored, it won’t be of use for anything else other than oil and gas,” says the director of an oil-and-gas accountability organization. — The Denver Post via @Brizzyc
All body parts are not equal when it comes to workers’ compensation. Over the past decade, legislators at the behest of businesses and insurance companies have dismantled a century-long compact between workers and employers. This week, ProPublica and NPR published several stories that looked deeply at the results of these changes. Reporters Michael Grabell of ProPublica and Howard Berkes of NPR found that your body parts, if lost on the job, are not worth the same in each state. Compensation for losing an eye in Alabama, for example, is 10 times less than compensation for losing an eye in Pennsylvania. We also uncovered that despite complaints from business that workers’ comp premiums are out of control, the rates are the lowest they have been in 25 years. — ProPublica by @MichaelGrabell and @hberkes
Radley Balko documents another drug war death: a man who came to the door wearing only basketball shorts and was instantly shot in the face by a police officer. It’s a good column, and he concludes by writing:
It seems likely that Cruice [the victim] was dealing pot. The police say they found a ledger book, a scale, about a half-pound of marijuana and some cash. It also seems likely that if the police had simply knocked on the door and waited, or apprehended Cruice as he was coming or going, Cruice would be still be alive. This insistence on serving drug warrants by barreling into homes creates needless violence, confusion and confrontation. They’re designed to do this. I doubt that Cruice knowingly decided to take on a raiding police team armed only with his basketball shorts. It seems far more likely that he thought they were criminal intruders and was either trying to confront them, or was trying to escape. But there is no room for errors in judgment for the people on the receiving end of these raids — even though sowing confusion and disorientation are the stated aim. But it is only the suspects, the targets of the raids, who are expected to do everything right. When the police screw up and kill someone, they’re generally forgiven, owing again to the volatility of the situation.
So judging from the many, many prior incidents similar to this one, it’s probably safe to say that this officer will be cleared of any wrongdoing. It’s also probably safe to say that any investigation will determine that there’s nothing wrong with the police department’s warrant service policies. At least that’s how these investigations usually go. And if it is determined that the cops in these cases are following policy, and that there’s nothing wrong with the policies themselves, then the only conclusion we can draw is that the police agencies believe unarmed men getting shot in the face is an acceptable consequence of the effort to stop people from getting high on marijuana.
Of course, even that is an illusion. If there’s one thing we can say with near-absolute certainty, it’s that it is no more difficult to buy pot in Volusia County, Fla., today than it was before Derek Cruice was gunned down in his own home. And so we add another body to the pile.
And here are some of the links from Balko’s post of links:
- An Iowa man is acquitted of a marijuana charge, but a court rules that the police still get to keep his cash.
- If you want to see a double standard in action, first read this blog post. Now read this news story. [Don’t miss this one. – LG]
- What it’s like to go to court in Ferguson, Mo. Related: Allegedly racist Ferguson employee fired after a Department of Justice report was actually the city’s court clerk.
- Spokane, Wash., initiates new policy of impounding the cars of people who merely park in areas known for prostitution.
Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:
At a news conference Monday, NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton blamed a slight uptick in violence in the city (45 homicides at this point last year, versus 54 this year) on marijuana.
“The seemingly innocent drug that’s been legalized around the country. In this city, people are killing each other over marijuana more so than anything that we had to deal with [in the] 80s and 90s with heroin and cocaine . . . In some instances, it’s a causal factor. But it’s an influence in almost everything that we do here.”
Hyperbole at its finest. Even if this year’s uptick holds through December (and it’s worth noting that we’re only dealing with eight weeks of data, here), New York would end the year with 383 murders. The city saw 2,245 murders in 1990.
I’m not exactly sure by what Rube Goldbergian chain of events Bratton thinks legalization in Colorado and Washington is causing homicides in New York City, but it’s clear that he thinks there’s a connection. Another NYPD official said the problem appears to be “ripoffs” — not turf battles, but attempted robberies gone wrong.
Of course, if we want a more direct examination of what effect legal pot might have on homicide, we can just look at the cities where it’s legal. Here’s what we know:
Homicides dropped 24 percent in Denver last year, the first full year of legalization in Colorado. Robberies were down 3 percent. Burglary was down 9.5 percent. The only crimes that increased significantly were larceny (a property crime, not a violent crime) and arson, which seems unlikely to be related to marijuana. Overall, violent crime dropped 0.7 percent, and property crime dropped 2 percent.
Homicides did increase slightly in Seattle (from 23 to 26), the largest city in the other state to legalize the drug. But it’s more difficult to draw conclusions there because the Washington law was quite a bit stricter than the Colorado law, and still left room for a thriving black market.
Of course, we only have a year’s worth of data from Colorado. But then, Bratton is drawing broad conclusions based on just eight weeks. . . .
I presume Bill Bratton must favor legalization of marijuana, since that would pretty much end people killing each other over marijuana: those who wanted it could simply go to the store and buy some, much as they do beer. (Very few shootings to get a six-pack.)