Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bush and Uribe distort the realities of their drug war in Colombia!

Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) Research Associate Paul Adams: On Thursday, August 4, US president Bush hosted Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at his ranch in Crawford, Texas to discuss their joint war on drugs. The focal points of their meeting were anti-narcotics and anti-terrorism initiatives in Colombia, as well as the progress made in cracking down on Colombia’s outlawed leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries.

Discussing how to dismantle their drug networks, which are responsible for smuggling 90% of the narcotics ultimately found on US and European streets, was also on the agenda.

The two leaders were seen affably laughing throughout the day as Uribe toured the ranch and later met with the media to discuss their cooperative success against drugs cultivation and shipment.

Although Uribe and Bush painted a rosy picture of the war’s accomplishments, many observers familiar with efforts at ending Colombia’s civil war against illegal armed groups and the drug kingpins who finance most of the persistent violence, appraise the situation as far more grim than the two presidents were willing to acknowledge.

The meeting comes amidst growing criticism from the international community and the US Congress over the controversial measures Uribe has taken to end the violence in Colombia, such as his Justice and Peace Law signed on July 22. The measure grants light prison sentences and judicial immunity in Colombian courts for criminals who admit to drug smuggling and even massive human rights violations, in exchange for their demobilization.

Members of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), the right-wing group of vigilantes who have been pinpointed for most of the country’s on average 4,000 politically motivated killings per year and with whom Uribe has some personal and family ties, will be safe even from prosecution in US courts because the Bush administration surrendered its right to seek their extradition at the behest of Uribe.

Eighty-five US Senators are opposed to the new law, and threatened to cut off funds that the senate previously had committed for the AUC’s demobilization unless Colombia restores its commitment to extradite captured AUC criminals and drug lords to the US.

Nonetheless, the White House is pushing forward with its sanitized plans for Bogota.

When Uribe requested an additional US$147 million during his visit to fund the increased intelligence and operational costs of the war, Bush reportedly turned to a State Department official and said “every effort should be made to give Colombia whatever it needs.”

The harsh reality of the drug war

Congressional and international opposition aside, Bush and Uribe’s drug war has largely been a failure. In this year alone, five years after the implementation of Plan Colombia, the almost $4 billion long-term US aid program, more than 1,000 civilians have already been killed. Additionally, 400 Colombian soldiers have died in encounters with the leftist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia (FARC), which proportionally is equivalent to the number of deaths of US soldiers in the Iraq war since elections were held there on January 31.

Uribe optimistically insists that Colombia’s left-wing guerrillas are in their death throes ... but the FARC continues to bomb oil wells, power lines, pipelines and major roadways on an almost daily basis.

The buildup of hundreds of additional Colombian government forces and an increase in fumigation runs in southern Colombia’s coca-rich Putumayo State, which finances much of the FARC’s operations, have not forced the guerrillas to renounce their control over most of the region or the jungle border areas adjoining Ecuador. Not surprisingly, coca farmers and drug smugglers continue to thrive in these locales.

An alternative “war”

Needless to say, the Bush administration’s bankrolling of the Colombian armed forces’ anti-narcotics supply-side tactics and the demobilization process for the AUC’s notorious killers and drug lords, while simultaneously proclaiming its disdain for FARC “drug runners and terrorists,” comes at the expense of the lives of thousands of Colombians who died in AUC-sponsored massacres.

After spending $4 billion on fighting their drug war in South America’s Andean region, perhaps this administration might now find it prudent to direct its efforts to thwart the 1.4% increase in narcotics consumption by hundreds of thousands of US teenagers and long-time addicts last year alone.

While it is far from over, Bush and Uribe are already declaring the drug war a success, invoking rhetoric during their Crawford press conference similar to that which Bush has charmingly applied in Iraq: “We have made progress, and we are winning.”

CHP changes its medical marijuana policy

The Willitts News

By Josh Richman/ANG Staff Writer

Medical marijuana advocates declared victory Monday after the California Highway Patrol abandoned its policy of seizing marijuana from documented patients during traffic stops.

Kris Hermes, legal campaign director for the Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, called it one of the most significant law-enforcement developments since Californians approved a compassionate use law in 1996, as well as a vital clarification of that law following Junes U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the drugs federal ban.

Hermes said the CHPs change of heart not only should be instructive for all law enforcement in all corners of California, but might have a ripple effect beyond the Golden States borders. We are beginning to replicate our campaign in other states; probably the first will be Colorado.

ASA and six patients or caregivers filed an Alameda County Superior Court lawsuit in February to stop the CHP from seizing marijuana from people presenting city or county registry identification cards or doctors recommendations; the CHP was accepting only state-issued registry IDs, of which few had been issued. The plaintiffs claimed such seizures violated patients and caregivers right to due process of law and against unreasonable search and seizure.

In July, ASA asked the judge for a preliminary injunction against the policy, citing state Attorney General Bill Lockyers directives to law enforcement that Californias compassionate use law remained in effect despite the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the federal ban.

The CHP issued a bulletin to its field offices August 22 ordering officers to halt the seizures in cases in which the person has less than eight ounces of marijuana and presents a valid local government ID card or signed doctors recommendation. Officers can use their sound professional judgment to determine the documents validity or call the issuing agency or doctor.

CHP spokesman Lt. Joe Whiteford confirmed Monday that the change, which is effective immediately, resulted from the lawsuit and from Lockyers directives.

ASA legal affairs director Joe Elford called it a complete about-face... to a policy that we are very pleased with and a shift in attitude that will be replicated throughout the state.

He praised the CHP for doing the right thing and revising its policy to come into compliance with state law, but said the lawsuit isnt over yet--ASA will still negotiate with CHP for a final, court-approved settlement and for attorneys fees. And we expect other legal actions to follow, if need be, against other law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Hermes predicted the new policy should result in a dramatic reduction in the number of seizures and arrests, and if this doesnt happen, the CHP will find itself back in court.

Plaintiff Anthony Bowles, 28, of San Francisco said hes a caregiver for his mother--he wouldnt say for what illness or injury she uses marijuana, citing her privacy--who was stopped by the CHP in May 2004. Despite his San Francisco medical marijuana ID card, an officer seized an eighth of an ounce of marijuana from him and cited him for possession, a charge later dismissed in court.

This is a major win for all lawful medical marijuana patients and caregivers in California...a big victory, he said Monday.

Possession charges against the other five plaintiffs--James Haggard, 62, of Redwood City; Tiffany Simpson, 23, of Richmond; Mary Jane Winters, 54, of Ukiah; Kathleen Honzik, 42, of Whitehorn; and Shannon Stansberry of Nevada County--also were dismissed in court, but none got their marijuana back. They had all been stopped for violations such as speeding, expired tags, broken tail lights and the like.

Driving under the influence of marijuana remains a crime; none of this cases plaintiffs were ever accused of that.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Girlfriend Used Saudi Prince's Boeing 727 To Smuggle Cocaine

A Colombian man and the ex-girlfriend of a Saudi prince were each sentenced to more than 20 years in prison Monday for drug conspiracy, after prosecutors said they used the prince's Boeing 727 to transport two tons of cocaine from Venezuela to Paris.

Doris Mangeri Salazar, a Coral Gables real estate agent, was sentenced to 24 years and four months in state prison by U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez. Ivan Lopez Vanegas was sentenced to 23 years and four months, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

In May they were convicted of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and ordered to pay $25,000 in fines.

Mangeri was convicted for acting as a broker in a transaction between Colombian drug traffickers and Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz al-Shaalan, a Swiss banker who married into the royal Saudi family. Mangeri had been the prince's girlfriend at the University of Miami.

Lopez, who was extradited from Colombia for the trial, also was the middle man between several Colombian drug lords and the prince, according to trial testimony. One of those traffickers, Juan Gabriel Usuga Norena, was a key witness for the prosecution.

Alan Soven, Lopez's attorney, said they will appeal the conviction because of at least six errors during the trial. He did not elaborate on the errors, but said it could take six months or more the appeal.

Telephone calls to Lopez's sentencing attorney and Salazar's attorney after hours were not returned.

Al-Shaalan and a Spaniard, Jose Maria Clemente, were also charged in the case. Spain has refused a U.S. extradition request for Clemente and Saudi Arabia -- which has no extradition treaty with the United States -- has been unwilling to produce al-Shaalan.

According to trial testimony, the Colombians were looking for new ways to smuggle cocaine when Lopez suggested to Usuga that they approach the Saudi prince, who could travel the world in a Boeing 727 outfitted with extra tanks for long flights. He could also travel under diplomatic immunity, thereby avoiding most customs inspections.

The 2-ton shipment, valued at $30 million, was transported in May 1999 from Colombia to Caracas, Venezuela, where it was loaded onto al-Shahaan's jet, according to testimony. The aircraft flew to Saudi Arabia and then on to Paris, where the cocaine was stored in a suburban stash house.

Some cocaine was sold to buyers in Italy and Spain and about a ton was seized by French and Spanish authorities.

Art Garfunkel charged with marijuana possession

WOODSTOCK, N.Y. - Singer Art Garfunkel, who pleaded guilty last year to pot possession in upstate New York, was charged again Sunday after a marijuana cigarette was allegedly found in the ashtray of his car, state police said.

The 63-year-old Garfunkel, who lives in Manhattan, was charged after being pulled over for failing to stop his vehicle at a stop sign, The Daily Freeman of Kingston reported Tuesday.

Upon approaching Garfunkel's car, a trooper noticed a strong odor of marijuana and a subsequent search turned up a joint in the ashtray, the newspaper reported. He was issued a ticket and is due back in Woodstock Town Court on Sept. 22.

In January 2004, Garfunkel was charged with marijuana possession after state police stopped his limousine for speeding in the Ulster County town of Hurley, which is near Woodstock some 55 miles southwest of Albany. During that stop, police found a small amount of pot in Garfunkel's jacket.

The next month, he pleaded guilty and paid $200 in fines.

Garfunkel, who with Paul Simon made up the legendary duo Simon and Garfunkel, produced a string of hits in the 1960s, including "The Sound of Silence," "Mrs. Robinson," "Old Friends" and "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bush Officials Defend Drug Policy

A trio of Bush Administration cabinet officials held a meeting in Nashville, Tenn., this week to defend a national drug-control policy that has been blasted for paying too much attention to marijuana and not enough to methamphetamine, the New York Times reported Aug. 19.

Appearing together at the Davidson County Drug Court, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, drug czar John Walters, and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt announced $16.2 million in grants to treat meth abuse and responded to critics in Congress and elsewhere.

"We believe you can walk and chew gum at the same time," said Walters. "The issue here is not meth or marijuana. We're concerned about substance abuse generally. We are not ignoring problems."

The recent remarks contrasted to earlier assertions from Walters' office, which tended to downplay the threat posed by meth -- which has about 1 million users -- compared to marijuana, used by at least 15 million Americans. The Office of National Drug Control Policy sparked outrage in Congress when it responded coolly to a report from the National Association of Counties, which cited meth use as the nation's top drug problem.

Some members of Congress appeared unimpressed with the announcements made in Nashville.

"While this is an improvement, we still need a better national and international strategy to stop meth production, smuggling, and reduce usage," said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), founder of Congress' meth caucus. Added Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.): "While the administration should be applauded for recognizing the need for additional resources to fight meth and to provide additional funding for treatment, their plan is inadequate because it doesn't go far enough to restrict products containing pseudoephedrine."

Some outside experts said the administration was correct in focusing on marijuana as the top illicit drug of abuse. But drug-policy expert Mark A. R. Kleiman, professor of public policy at UCLA, noted: "It seems to be very unlikely that increasing attention to marijuana is going to greatly affect marijuana use, but getting out in front of meth while the epidemic is still in the nascent stages might."

Atlantic City Needle Exchange Denied

An attempt to launch a needle-exchange in Atlantic City has been blocked by the state courts, the Washington Times reported Aug. 16.

A state appeals court ruled that municipalities and nonprofit groups are all governed by a state law banning the possession and distribution of drug paraphernalia, including hypodermic needles. That law effectively bars the city from establishing a needle exchange program.

"Atlantic City is not exempt from the Code provisions ... simply because they adopted a needle exchange for beneficent reasons," the court said.

Only the state legislature has the power to change the law, the court said, rendering moot arguments that needle exchanges prevent the spread of AIDS and help steer addicts into treatment.

Attacks on Bush Meth Plan Continue

"Embarrassing" and "inadequate" were some of the words key GOP lawmakers used to describe the methamphetamine plan announced last week by the Bush administration.

The Gannett News Service reported Aug. 23 that Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) kept up a drumbeat of criticism despite attempts by three Bush cabinet members to tout a federal anti-meth strategy.

"If this is a cohesive national policy, it is embarrassing," said Souder, who chairs the primary House subcommittee on drug policy. Grassley said the plan left administration officials with "egg on their face."

Critics say the Bush plan doesn't do enough to control the chemicals used to make meth in small-time clandestine labs. Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) noted that the plan does not require stores to pull medicines containing pseudoephedrine -- used to make meth -- from store shelves and place them behind pharmacy counters. Grassley said the omission showed that the administration is "listening more to Wal-Mart than to the economic and social problems" caused by meth.

"Their plan is inadequate," Talent said. "If they are not in the dark (about meth), they are in the twilight. They need to come up with a strategy."

Ill. Lawmakers Defeat Medical Marijuana Bill

Hearings that featured testimony from the U.S. drug czar and the detention of one presenter for possession of marijuana led Illinois lawmakers to vote down a state medical-marijuana bill, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Feb. 18.

The Illinois House Human Services Committee voted 7-4 against endorsing the bill, despite testimony from supporters like Irvin Rosenfeld of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., one of a handful of Americans grandfathered into a short-lived federal program to provide medical marijuana to patients. During his testimony, Rosenfeld showed committee members his federally issued marijuana cigarettes; afterwards, court officers detained him until they checked out his story.

"This is a clear example of why we need this legislation," said state Rep. Larry McKeon (D-Chicago).

"Here I am a legal patient and look at the hassles I just went through," Rosenfeld told reporters later. "What if I wasn't a legal patient and had a crippling disorder and was being made a criminal to get the medicine I need?"

But federal drug czar John Walters and other medical-marijuana opponents said there is no evidence that marijuana is effective as medicine, with Walters calling marijuana a "gateway drug" to other kinds of drug abuse.

Students Asked to List Peers Suspected of Drug Use

Middle-school students at Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood, Colo., asked to make lists of students who might be using drugs, have called on the Jefferson County school board to investigate the incident, the Denver Post reported Nov. 20.

Jelena Woehr, 16, and Lily Bezuidenhot, 14, told the school board that teachers overreacted to fears that students may be using drugs. The students voiced concern that classmates who were inappropriately named on a list held by school officials could be punished unfairly.

"There's a lot of power in suggestion," Woehr said. "If they say, 'Try and think of someone who is doing drugs,' there is pressure to think of someone."

The action could makes the district vulnerable to lawsuits filed by parents of students whose names appear on the list.

Last year, there was one suspension and three expulsions for drug-related offenses at the school. So far this year, there have been two drug-related suspensions and no expulsions.

Drug Czar, Reformers Spar Over Tale of Marijuana Death

Drug-policy reform advocates criticized the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) for tying a Colorado youth's suicide on marijuana, but the boy's parents insisted that pot was to blame for the suicide, the Rocky Mountain News reported May 13.

In its recent campaign to link marijuana use with youth mental-health problems, ONDCP cited the July 2004 suicide of Christopher Skaggs, 15. Skaggs was sent to counseling and subjected to drug testing after his parents caught him smoking marijuana, and a counselor said the youth's depression was being exacerbated by marijuana use. A few months later, he hung himself.

But the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) faulted drug czar John Walters for blaming marijuana for Skaggs' death, noting that drug tests found no evidence of the drug in the teen's body when he killed himself -- only alcohol.

"The scientific evidence connecting alcohol to depression and suicide is much stronger than the evidence for marijuana," said MPP spokesperson Bruce Mirken. "Unfortunately, ONDCP has a political agenda here. They're on a crusade against marijuana. I don't think kids should be smoking marijuana. (But) to blame marijuana for his death and not even discuss the role of alcohol is really just wrong."

But Skaggs' parents denied being manipulated by ONDCP. "You can tell those dumb bastards up there I buried my 15-year-old son because of marijuana, and that's how I feel," Ernest Skaggs said. "Ain't no one using me at all."

"Mr. and Mrs. Skaggs have demonstrated tremendous courage and really are doing a public service to tell their very painful story in the hopes that other families and other parents won't go through the same thing," said ONDCP spokesperson Jennifer de Vallance said. "It truly is despicable to belittle their very courageous and important contribution to this public-health effort."

Denver Residents Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization

Denver residents will vote this November on a measure calling for legalizing marijuana use in the city, the Rocky Mountain News reported Aug. 23.

City Council members reluctantly voted to put the legalization measure on the ballot, saying they had no choice because backers had collected enough signatures in support of the referendum. But many council members condemned the measure: Councilwoman Jeanne Robb said smoking three marijuana joints was as bad as smoking three packs of cigarettes; Councilman Michael Hancock said marijuana use leads to harder drug use.

Councilman Charlie Brown said the measure would have little practical effect, since nearly all of the marijuana cases in the city are prosecuted under state, not local, law.

But all six people who asked to speak at the City Council meeting on the ballot item expressed support for the measure.

High Times lists HSU as one of the Top 10 stoner colleges


The latest issue of High Times hit the newsstands Tuesday with its list of the “Top 10 cannabis colleges” and Humboldt State University was one of them.

The inclusion of HSU, given the reputation the county has, wasn’t a surprise, but the ranking of number eight was to some HSU students.

”Wisconsin? Come on, seriously?” doubted Kendra Ross.

But Ross was satisfied with one part of the list.

”Hey, we beat my sister’s school (Wesleyan University) this year,” Ross said.

One student is determined to get a higher ranking in the future.

”We’re taking No. 1 next year,” said Tyler Pearson.

Not all of the students embraced the ranking.

”I’m not surprised, but I don’t want to perpetuate the marijuana stereotype,” said Donavan Clark.

Clark and Nicole Hunt said they’re tired of people insinuating they go to HSU because of the marijuana reputation.

”It gets so annoying,” Hunt said.

Every other school listed has a paragraph explaining why it was on the list, but Humbodlt State only has one short sentence.

”Dude, it’s in (expletive) Humboldt,” the magazine states.

HSU was the only California school and the University of Oregon in Eugene was the only other West Coast school.

The complete list is:

* 10) University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt.

* 9) Wesleyan University, Middeltown, Conn.

* 8) Humboldt State University, Arcata.

* 7) New College of Florida, Sarasota, Fla.

* 6) University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.

* 5) Hampshire College, South Amherst, Mass.

* 4) University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore.

* 3) University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.

* 2) University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.

* 1) University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo.

Clash over Pot Research gets Personal

Sacramento Bee

Vasconcellos' long-ago self-esteem panel is derided by DEA lawyer.

By Michael Doyle

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Bush administration is using hardball and ridicule this week as it fights efforts to expand medical marijuana research.

Former California legislator John Vasconcellos caught the ridicule, with derisive inquiries into his past work on self-esteem. Others faced hardball, with questions about their pot smoking. It's all part of a high-stakes fight as a reluctant Drug Enforcement Administration reconsiders a researcher's application to grow high-quality pot.

"We're the only people in America who can't get 10 grams of marijuana," research advocate Rick Doblin testified Wednesday.

The DEA's administrative law courtroom is far from the limelight, and only about one-quarter of the spectator seats were taken Wednesday afternoon. Still, the hearing that's likely to last several more weeks is the most important legal proceeding on the issue since the Supreme Court ruled in June that federal authorities can pursue medical marijuana users in California.

That 6-3 ruling in Gonzales v. Raich did not overturn the medical marijuana provisions approved in California and other states, but it did expose users to potential federal prosecution.

It's still unclear how aggressively U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may pursue medical marijuana users. There's no question, though, that the administration disputes marijuana's potential worth as a medicine. That's what makes the new hearing so crucial, and it may also help explain some of the courtroom tactics.

After years of delay, the DEA's administrative law judge is being asked to help overturn the agency's rejection of a marijuana researcher's application first filed in 2001. University of Massachusetts plant physiologist Lyle Craker had sought approval to grow 25 pounds.

"We (look) at marijuana as we would do any other medicinal plant," Craker testified.

Craker said the limited marijuana now grown under federal supervision at a 12-acre University of Mississippi site is weak and filled with stems and seeds. Craker, the editor of the Journal of Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants, said his more potent pot would help test new vaporizers as a healthier means for patients to ingest the smoke.

The American Civil Liberties Union is supporting Craker's effort, as are several law firms working on a pro bono basis.

"We're not doing marijuana research because we can't seem to get marijuana," said Doblin, head of the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, "so we're spending money on litigation."

Drug enforcement officials reply that the University of Mississippi's inventory already contains some 1,500 kilograms of marijuana. Officials say that stash, combined with rolling machines that can crank out 1,000 marijuana cigarettes every minute, can more than meet existing research needs for a drug the government considers dangerous.

"Marijuana," the DEA said in court filings, "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

The government's existing marijuana stocks supplied scientists, for instance, at the University of California Medical Cannabis Research Center. While in the state Senate, Vasconcellos drafted the bill creating the research center.

That's why Vasconcellos was called to testify on Craker's behalf this week, but that's not what DEA attorney Imelda Paredes wanted to ask him about.

Instead, in an apparent effort to undercut the former Democratic legislator's credibility, Paredes pressed Vasconcellos on the California self-esteem task force that finished its work 15 years ago.

"Haven't research studies shown that in academic terms, self-esteem curricula are worse than useless?" Paredes asked.

Paredes also noted Vasconcellos' place in a conservative author's book titled "One Hundred People Who Are Screwing Up America."

Vasconcellos' testimony ended shortly after he defended the self-esteem programs.

On Wednesday, DEA attorney Brian Bayley took a different tack with Doblin, by pressing him repeatedly about his own marijuana use. Over his lawyer's objections, Doblin acknowledged he had begun smoking marijuana in the early 1970s and still smokes it recreationally about once a week.

Bayley then asked him who he bought his pot from; at that point, the judge said the DEA had gone far enough.

The hearing will continue through Friday and then resume next month. The administrative law judge will make a recommendation but cannot order the DEA to grant the application.

Speedball cocktail killed coeds

New York Daily News

The two college coeds who overdosed in an ex-con's Manhattan apartment were killed by a powerful mix of heroin and cocaine - not tainted drugs, the city medical examiner revealed yesterday.

The distraught mother of one of the teens, Mellie Carballo, could not bear to discuss the toxicology results yesterday.

"I just hope that parents get the message," Mariel Carballo said, her voice cracking in the family's West Side apartment. "You have to work hard to keep your children safe."

Police and health officials had warned the public that Mellie Carballo, Maria Pesantez and four others found dead in downtown Manhattan between Aug. 10 and Aug. 15 may have overdosed on the same batch of poisonous heroin.

A seventh potential overdose - a woman who collapsed Sunday in Roosevelt Park on Grand St. - also was being reviewed by the medical examiner's office.

But tests on Carballo and Pesantez, both 18, showed no signs of contaminates or additives in the drugs found in their bodies, officials said.

The teens' deaths were ruled an accidental overdose by heroin and cocaine - a combo known as a speedball. Toxicology results on the other victims had not been completed yesterday.

Carballo, a Hunter College freshman from Manhattan, and Pesantez, an NYU sophomore from Queens, had been partying Aug. 12 with two ex-cons - Alfredo Morales, 33, and Roberto Martinez, 41 - just before they died. The ex-cons are in police custody on drug charges.

Robert F. Moore and Alison Gendar

Officers Sue Over Use of Hair Drug Tests


The seven police officers swore they didn't use cocaine, yet their hair tested positive for the drug. The officers — all of them black — were promptly fired or suspended.

"I was in complete and utter shock," said Officer Shawn Noel Harris. "I know that I never used drugs a day in my life."

The Boston officers are now suing the police department, claiming the mandatory drug test is unreliable and racially biased. They say hair testing is unfair because drug compounds show up more readily in dark hair than light hair.

Their civil rights lawsuit is one of many legal challenges against hair drug tests, which are used by companies and police departments nationwide. Employers like the test because it can detect drugs up to three months after use; urine tests go back only a few days and can be easily altered.

But studies have found dark-haired people are more likely to test positive for drugs because they have higher levels of melanin, which allows drug compounds to bind more easily to their hair.

The Boston lawsuit says the officers may have had some kind of environmental exposure to cocaine, but that they didn't use the drug themselves. The former officers are seeking reinstatement to their jobs, back pay, and unspecified damages.

Six of the seven former officers had a second hair test conducted that came back negative within days of the positive result. Harris had another hair test, a urine test and a blood test. All were analyzed by a different laboratory and all came back negative.

"It was humiliating," he said. "People who I once considered friends or comrades in arms treated me differently. They looked at me differently."

Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole said the department believes the hair testing policy is sound.

"Our department's lawyers have certainly studied this and are prepared to go forward and defend the existing policy," O'Toole said. "To date, nobody has presented anything that's caused us to believe that we should abandon our current policy."

Boston police began testing hair in 1999, replacing urine tests. Their testing company, Psychemedics Corp., is the largest provider of hair testing for drug use, with clients including Fortune 500 companies and police departments in Chicago and Los Angeles.

William Thistle, Psychemedic's senior vice president and general counsel, said the company's tests are well-supported and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Each hair sample is thoroughly washed and soaked for an extensive period of time to remove any contaminants. If an initial test comes back positive, the sample is tested again, Thistle said.

"The fact is that the test is extremely reliable," he said.

But critics say it's far from perfect. Police are especially vulnerable because they can be exposed to drug residue on the job, they say.

Fort Wayne, Ind., narcotics detective Timothy Bobay tested positive for cocaine after a hair sample was taken from his forearm during a random screening last year.

The police chief moved to fire him, but Bobay vehemently denied using cocaine. He argued the positive test came from exposure to cocaine dust on the job three weeks earlier.

Bobay, who is white and has dark hair, had a hair sample taken from his head tested by a different laboratory and he also had a urine test. Both came back negative.

The petition to fire him was withdrawn after Psychemedics said it was unable to rule out environmental exposure to cocaine as the reason for his positive test, said Bobay's lawyer, Patrick Arata.

Under the substance abuse policy in Boston, officers who test positive for drug use are either fired or suspended for 45 days without pay and required to undergo rehab. Six of the seven police officers refused to sign rehabilitation agreements. The seventh officer signed the agreement so he could keep his job, but was later fired after testing positive in another hair test.

Dr. Bruce Goldberger, director of toxicology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, said he is more supportive of hair testing than he was five or 10 years ago because laboratory procedures have improved.

But the American Civil Liberties Union says the science is still questionable and discriminatory.

"Here you have police officers on the front line whose reputations have been horribly tarnished, if not destroyed, and who are out of a job because of a drug test that may have identified them for being guilty of nothing more than the color of their skin," said ACLU attorney Allen Hopper.

Colombian senator says cocaine dealers in congress


BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombian congressmen are not only using cocaine but buying it in the Congress building, a senior Colombian senator said on Wednesday.

"I know names of people who distribute cocaine here in Congress," Sen. Edgar Artunduaga told local RCN television.

"There are important officials who distribute and senators and representatives who consume," said Artunduaga, who is deputy speaker of the Senate.

Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine but the government has received more than $3 billion in mainly military U.S. aid since 2000 to stamp out the drug trade so Artunduaga's remarks are likely to set off a storm.

Asked whether he would name names, the senator said: "I'm thinking about doing that, with the concern that a number of members of Congress will have to testify to the authorities."

Although selling cocaine is illegal in Colombia, possession of small doses for personal use is not. But with the government's efforts to stamp out the drug, which generates the money to buy bullets for Marxist rebels and far-right paramilitaries, any politician caught using it would be engulfed in scandal.

As in many U.S. and European cities, cocaine is easy to find here and its use common. But it is much cheaper in Colombia.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Freedo Fries, Drug Czar Lies

Excalibur Online

Written by Paul Greer

Just say no to the US Drug War. Brace yourself Canada, annual $60 billion a year US prison-filling drug war has taken its first step into Canada.

On July 29, 2005 The Drug Enforcement Agency of the United States had Canadian law enforcement arrest Marc Emery and two associates to serve them with an extradition order so they can be tried in the United States.

Marc Emery is the leader of the Marijuana Party of Canada, a successful businessman and the leading cannabis activist in Canada. Marc has a thriving business of selling cannabis seeds online and over the counter in his shop in Vancouver.

In the last ten years he has paid over $600,000 in taxes to the provincial and federal governments declaring on his income tax form "marijuana seed vendor". Health Canada has even sent him customers to buy seeds to grow medication and does not get bothered by the police. The community accepts him and he has the backing of NDP leader Jack Layton as well as many other politicians.

Marc has made millions of dollars and yet he only owns the shirt on his back. The $3 million a year he is reported to make goes right back into his belief in freedom for the people. So why would our Canadian government consider extraditing a Canadian citizen that is not considered a criminal to a country where he could face a life prison or even the death sentence?

Let's make our politicians and law enforcement understand we the people will not tolerate it. We want to be free and we don't want more prisons. The US drug war has proven itself to be a horrendous failure, as the budget increases each year so does the drug problem. The US has more prisoners per capita than any other country in the world, seven times more per capita than Canada. This is in large part due to the drug war, a staggering number of the prisoners are there for marijuana offences.

Prohibition has created a huge high priced black market for a weed that could otherwise be grown anywhere by anyone for free. Ever since that ill-fated day in 1971, when Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs, the US has built and filled jails at a criminally insane pace. Most marijuana smokers are law-abiding family orientated people and putting them in jail for smoking a harmless herb is wrong.

Reefer madness is irresponsible and destructive. Children need their parents at home. Marijuana is not dangerous and is no more a stepping stone to hard drug use than breastfeeding is to alcoholism. Cannabis is the most useful plant on earth; it can be used as food, in fibre, paper, fuel, medicine and recreation. Holland is a country famous for its tolerance on drugs and has less drug use among the young than the US.

Truth and education is far more effective than lies, fear and propaganda. The money wasted on law enforcement and incarceration could be better spent on healthcare, education and treatment centres to help the unfortunate few who do slip through the cracks and wind up on hard drugs.

Please write to our justice minister Irwin Cotler at Parliamentary Office 312, West Block, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6. No stamp is required to tell him what you think.

September 10th is designated as a day of international protest. In Toronto, it will be held at the US consulate at 360 University Avenue at 3pm. Tell your friends this is an important day for Canadian freedom.

Crackpot Ideas

Mother Jones

News: The "crack-baby" scare filled the conservatives' need for scapegoats, the liberals' need for program funding, and the media's need for headlines. So what if it wasn't true?

By Katharine Greider

During the late '80s, Americans shook their heads in disgust at reports that poor black mothers were sacrificing the little ones resting in their wombs for the pleasures of crack cocaine, callously dooming a new generation to "a life of certain suffering, of probable deviance, of permanent inferiority," to quote columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Seizing on early studies that raised alarm over fetal damage from cocaine, scientists cited the same inconclusive data again and again. Local news organs spun their own versions of the crack-baby story, taking for granted the accuracy of its premise. Social workers, foster parents, doctors, teachers, and journalists put forward unsettling anecdotes about the "crack babies" they had seen, all participating in a sleight of hand so elegant in its simplicity that they fooled even themselves. They talked of babies shrieking like cats and refusing to bond, of children unable to focus on a task--and then they slipped in the part they should have tested, attributing these problems to prenatal cocaine use. Reporters went into hospital nurseries and special schools and borrowed the images of premature babies or bawling African-American preschoolers to illustrate their crack-baby stories. Carol Cole, who taught at the Salvin Special Education School in Los Angeles, remembers reporters asking if they could get pictures of the children trembling.

The crack baby quickly became a symbol for the biological determinism recently promulgated in its rawest form by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein in The Bell Curve: These (mostly black) bug-eyed morons weren't quite human--and no amount of attention could make them so. In the late '8os, some commentators predicted they would become America's "biologic underclass." By 1991, John Silber, president of Boston University, went so far as to lament the expenditure of so many health care dollars on "crack babies who won't ever achieve the intellectual development to have consciousness of God."

Early Dissent

Even as news of the "epidemic" swept across America, a few of the country's most knowledgeable research scientists were beginning to doubt the phenomenon. In Atlanta, Claire Coles, a developmental psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine, had graduate students watching infants for hours at a time: "You could not distinguish the cocaine-exposed babies from the other babies," she says. Nancy Day, an epidemiologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, stood up at a conference six years ago and admitted she thought the impairments researchers were observing were not caused by cocaine.

"People," she recalls, "were just aghast." At North Central Bronx Hospital, pediatrician and researcher Daniel Neuspiel looked at his own data on newborn behavior and concluded that the alarm over crack babies was misguided.

"It really got out of control," says Donald E. Hutchings, a research psychologist and editor of the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology, "because these jerks who didn't know what they were talking about were giving press conferences. I'd be sitting at home watching TV, and suddenly there'd be the intensive care unit in Miami or San Francisco, and what you see is this really sick kid who looks like he's about to die and the staff is saying, 'Here's a crack baby.'"

But what a few cautious scientists had to say did little to weaken the momentum of the crack-baby myth. In fact, researchers who found no or minimal effects from cocaine had a hard time getting their results before the public. In a 1989 study published in the Lancet, Canadian researcher Gideon Koren showed that papers reporting a cocaine effect in child behavior were likely to be accepted over those showing no effect, for presentation at an annual meeting of the Society for Pediatric Research--even when the no-effect studies were of sounder design. "I'd never experienced anything like this," says Emory's Claire Coles. "I've never had people accuse me of making up data or being an incompetent scientist or believing in drug abuse. When that started happening, I started thinking, This is crazy."

Myth in the Making

The earliest and most influential reports of cocaine damage in babies came from the Chicago drug treatment clinic of pediatrician Ira Chasnoff. His first study, published in 1985 in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that the newborns of 23 cocaine-using women were less interactive and moodier than non-cocaine-exposed babies. In the years that followed, Chasnoff was widely quoted and fawned over in the press ("positively zenlike," according to Rolling Stone) and became known as the rather pessimistic authority on what happens to babies whose mothers use cocaine.

Of course, Chasnoff wasn't the only researcher to report serious effects. They were legion, some publishing simple case reports that took a few cocaine-exposed kids and racked up their problems. Judy Howard, a pediatrician at the University of California, Los Angeles, piped up regularly, once telling Newsweek that in crack babies, the part of their brains that "makes us human beings, capable of discussion or reflection" had been "wiped out."

Some claims of severe effects--that cocaine causes a sharp increase in sudden infant death syndrome, for example--were recklessly extrapolated from small samples. But the fundamental problem in interpreting the data was a failure to tease apart the effects of prenatal cocaine use from the effects of an array of other social and biological burdens that often come as a package deal.

The Real Science

As a group, women who use cocaine while pregnant--especially those who are likely to get noticed as addicts or be tested for drugs in the hospital--tend also to drink more booze, smoke more cigarettes, and dip into a greater variety of illicit drugs than other women. They generally have poorer nutrition and overall health, bear and rear their kids in conditions of more profound deprivation, and are more persistently exposed to violence than other women. Such burdens impact not only their pregnancies, but also the daily lives of their children. Cocaine or no cocaine, these kids are more likely than others to have medical, educational, and social difficulties.

No one suggests using cocaine in pregnancy is harmless. But unlike alcohol, which in heavy doses can cause a set of birth defects known as fetal alcohol syndrome, cocaine is not associated with any pattern of defects. Nor does it produce infantile withdrawal, like opiates. Today there is something approaching scientific consensus that cocaine increases the risk of low birthweight and perhaps premature delivery.

According to pediatrician Neuspiel, the birthweight decrement attributable to cocaine is roughly equivalent to that caused by cigarette smoking. Being premature or underweight is serious business for an infant, but the effects are by no means immutable; it's a truism in medicine that preemies of rich parents do better than those of poor parents.

While some studies have found abnormalities in behavior among cocaine-exposed newborns, others have contradicted them; it appears that neurobehavioral effects are subtle if they occur at all. In any case, newborn behavior does not predict what a child will be like at age 3 or 6 or 12. A 1992 commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association decried a "rush to judgment" about long-term effects of cocaine, concluding that the evidence was "far too slim and fragmented to allow any clear predictions about the effects of intrauterine exposure to cocaine on the course and outcome of child growth and development."

Even pediatrician Chasnoff began to temper his message as he saw his work used to fan public outrage against the very women and children for whom he considered himself an advocate--and as a large group of cocaine-exposed children whom he was following reached their third birthdays without apparent cocaine-related intellectual deficits. Now that these children are 6 or so, Chasnoff says, they appear normal in the smarts department, but display a "significant increase in rates of impulsive behavior, distractibility, [and] aggressive behavior." Is this deviance the result of biological damage? The prenatally drug-exposed kids live in the same neighborhoods and go to the same schools as the non-drug exposed controls. But their environments differ in this important respect: All the mothers of the drug-exposed children have relapsed at least once since delivering, and 60 percent are still using.

The Maternal Lifestyles Project, a major study enrolling thousands of women and their infants, will likely offer a deeper understanding of cocaine effects within a few years. But to date, no researcher, taking into account a child's life experiences, has ever demonstrated that cocaine-exposed children are more unruly or any less intelligent than other children.

Provide or Punish

The crack-baby myth was so powerful in part because it had something for everyone, whether one's ideological leanings called for enhancing public programs to meet the crisis, or for punishing the drug-addicted mothers seen as responsible for it.

For some, the assertion that crack babies were in dire trouble became a way of begging funds for substance-abusing mothers and their infants. In the late '80s both federal and state governments launched expensive projects to study the consequences of prenatal abuse and try out treatment strategies for mother and child. When, in 1992, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman wrote a piece questioning the basis of the crack-baby scare, Chasnoff got calls from alarmed program directors who worried they would lose funding. The public initiative had emphasized the need to help substance-abusing women only while pregnant--as "vessels," as Chasnoff put it. Perhaps it was feared that if those vessels no longer threatened to produce a damaged and burdensome generation, public interest would falter.

At any rate, it soon became clear that the major thrust of policymaking would be to punish mothers who smoked crack. In the late '80s, local prosecutors began busting women who used drugs while pregnant or whose newborns tested positive. Between 200 and 300 such women have been prosecuted, often under existing child abuse and neglect statutes, and mostly for cocaine. Attorney Lynn Paltrow of the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy in New York City points out the slippery slope: If you call it child abuse when pregnant women use cocaine, then you have to call it abuse when they smoke or drink or engage in any of a host of behaviors that are potentially just as dangerous.

Criminal convictions for prenatal drug use, when challenged, have generally failed to stick. Not so with actions by the civil child welfare system. Thirteen states require doctors to report drug use in pregnancy or positive drug tests in newborns. Nine states specifically define drug use during pregnancy as child abuse or neglect, triggering a range of responses from treatment and other services to an investigation and the possible removal of the child. The bulk of these policies were put in place between 1988 and 1991, as the crack-baby scare peaked.

Some of the policies ostensibly designed to protect cocaineexposed babies ended up isolating them instead. In the late '80s, the practice of automatically keeping newborns in the hospital if they tested positive for cocaine, now largely but not universally abandoned, contributed to an unmanageable population of boarder babies at some urban hospitals. In New York City, most of these babies eventually went home to their families--after languishing in a crowded hospital nursery for the dawning weeks or even months of their lives. Of those who stayed in the system, according to a study of one six-month period in the mid-'80s, 30 percent still didn't have a permanent home by the time they were 3 years old.

Self Full-filling Prophecies

Quite frequently, people present developmental psychologist Dan Griffith with a little person they call a crack kid. "Based on that," says Griffith, a private consultant in Park Ridge, Ill., who once worked with Chasnoff's group, "I have no idea of what I'm going to see. It tells me nothing about the child."

Developmental psychologist Claire Coles, who is also a clinician, has seen "crack babies" who were in fact colicky babies. Often, she says, the anti-social behavior attributed to crack-induced brain damage is a classic sign of neglect. In her work, for example, she has encountered children who ate from the garbage--not because of brain injury, but because they were not accustomed to being fed.

During the height of the crack-baby crisis, experts counseled caretakers to swaddle cocaine-exposed infants, keep them in a quiet, dark place, and avoid gazing into their eyes. This makes sense for any baby with a raw, easily overstimulated nervous system. But to apply these practices to babies who have no symptoms is, in Coles' words, "utter, utter folly."

Griffith, who has seen hundreds of cocaine-exposed children, believes only a few were developmentally delayed because their caretakers had deliberately understimulated them from infancy. Still one has to wonder, what can a child become when everyone around him braces for the worst? Being identified as drug-exposed sometimes gets a child special state-sponsored services, but it also carries the potential for stigmatization and self-fulfilling prophecy.

If a child was exposed to drugs in the womb, people now assume the worst. A June 1990 federal report explained that would-be adoptive parents were reluctant to take on "crack babies" because of their potential long-term problems. Teachers, too, were aghast to learn, as the '90s began, that they could soon expect the "crack babies" in kindergarten. "The arrival of those first afflicted youngsters will mark the beginning of a struggle that will leave your resources depleted and your compassion tested," warned an article in The American School Board Journal.

The Myth's Legacy

In recent years, the headlines about crack babies have trumpeted the good news: They've beaten the odds! There's new hope! But the odds should never have been laid so early, and those headlines should read, "Oh God, what have we done?" The publicity blitz that spread the crack-baby myth has not been matched by an attempt to unmake the myth--and many, many people still believe in it.

Leake and Watts, a large foster care agency in New York City, still refers drug-exposed babies and their foster parents to a special program where, even if a child seems just fine, he is closely watched. Last year, in a segment about an ongoing legal challenge to a South Carolina hospital that had newly delivered mothers hauled off to jail if their infants tested positive for cocaine, "60 Minutes" showed sick babies, implying that their problems were cocaine-related (while claiming legal considerations precluded identifying exactly which babies were cocaine-exposed). Only a few months ago in a New York Times Magazine piece entitled "It's Drugs, Stupid," Joseph Califano Jr., a former secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, wrote that "crack babies" can cost $1 million apiece to bring to adulthood, and suggested that the children of addicted welfare mothers who "refuse" treatment be put in orphanages or foster care.

In some professional circles, the term "crack baby" has given way to "drug-exposed baby." But even layered over with euphemism, however gently its promulgators protest their good intentions, the meaning of the crack-baby epithet is clear. It means we can blame the problems of the least privileged children on the unnatural conduct of their mothers. It means we can all rest easy in the futility of giving our time and money to feed, house, educate, and love these children, whose failings are inborn and past remedy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

SNP considers heroin on prescription plan

Times Online

The SNP could become the first mainstream party in the UK to advocate the legalisation of heroin, writes Marc Horne.

A leading member of the party, Brian Adam — co-convener of the Scottish parliament’s group on drug and alcohol misuse — is preparing a case for allowing addicts to be prescribed the class A drug by their GPs.

He is concerned that the current methadone programme is creating a generation of zombies who never become clear of their opiate addiction.

The SNP leadership said it has an open mind on the issue and would support the legalisation of the drug if further research presented a compelling enough case. It would be a high-risk strategy as there is a cross- party consensus against such a move.

However, Adam, a biochemist and toxicologist, said the status quo was failing thousand of Scots addicts.

“Ministers should consider following the example of other countries and look at taking the radical step of prescribing heroin to addicts so that they can be gradually weaned off it and eventually beat their addiction,” he said.

“We need to look at the alternative methods such as treatment with heroin itself. The international evidence from Switzerland and the Netherlands suggests that heroin is more effective in getting people weaned off their addiction than methadone.”

An SNP spokesman said: “Heroin addiction is a serious problem in Scotland and the solutions that have worked overseas should be examined in a Scottish context.”

Hang-gliding heroin smuggler is shot down

Times Online

A hang-gliding heroin smuggler has been shot down by soldiers over the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, one of the world's busiest drug trafficking frontiers.

Tajik border guards shot the glider down with machine guns and recovered 18kg (39lb) of heroin from the vehicle, officials said.

There are conflicting reports about the nature of the glider, with some sources saying it was a hang-glider and others reporting that it was a para-glider with a small, improvised engine.

Tajik authorities said that the pilot escaped when the glider came down about 230km (142 miles) south east of Dushanbe, the capital of the former Soviet republic, whose landscape is almost entirely made up of mountains and deep, narrow gorges.

"The pilot was most likely injured and hid himself in a mountain area on the Tajik border," Sabza Sarkorov, the deputy chairman of the Tajik Committee for State Border Protection, told Agence France Presse.

"An investigation is under way to determine the country of origin of the paraglider and the citizenship of its pilot."

The airborne trafficker is thought to be a repeat offender. One border official said guards had been trying to shoot the vehicle down for three years.

The wild and rugged border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan is an important stage in the world heroin trade. Until the end of 2004, it was patrolled by Russian soldiers but since the beginning of this year, Tajik guards, most of them former Soviet troops, have taken over two thirds of the frontier.

Tajik authorities say they have intercepted more than 800kg of heroin this year, a fraction of the enormous quantities of the drug that are made in Afghanistan, which is thought to supply 90 per cent of the world's opium.

The current world record for para-gliding in a straight line is 423km. Hang-gliders can go even further. Manfred Ruhmer, an Austrian flier, flew 700km in July 2001.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

He dies of heroin OD after robbing a bank

New York Daily News

One of the six victims who may have died from overdosing on a batch of deadly heroin had robbed a Manhattan bank about two days before his death, police said yesterday.

The day before Charles Sickler died in a portable toilet at Pier 54 near W. 13th St., the 37-year-old boasted to friends that he paid for his drugs by holding up a bank, police said.

Cops checked out the tip and found a surveillance tape of a robbery at a Commerce Bank branch at 905 Fifth Ave. Sickler is clearly visible on the tape, ripping off the bank at 6 p.m. on Aug. 12. He was sporting the same white shirt and dark pants that he was wearing when his body was found surrounded by eight syringes, police said.

It was not clear how much money he stole from the bank. Sicker had told his friends that he planned to rob another bank after his drug binge, police said.

Toxicology tests on all the victims had not been completed as of last night.

The deadly smack may have been too pure or altered with a poisonous additive.

Cops have charged ex-con Alfredo Morales, 33, with giving drugs to two of the six victims, college coeds Mellie Carballo and Maria Pesantez, both 18.

The teens died in Morales' E. Houston St. apartment on Aug.12.

A convicted drug dealer, Roberto Martinez, 41, who was with the teens when they passed out, is in police custody.

He was hit with a parole violation after his urine tested positive for drugs. Cops are investigating if he gave the coeds drugs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bad heroin tied to 6 deaths

New York Daily News

Police taking aim at downtown scourge


Maria Pesantez
Mellie Carballo
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly
A deadly batch of heroin may have killed six people over five days in downtown Manhattan - including two college coeds found with fresh needle marks on their arms, police and health officials warned yesterday.

The tainted smack could be fatally pure or altered with a poisonous additive.

"We are taking steps to locate and isolate the source and arrest whoever might be behind it," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Alarmed by the number of deaths and the discovery that the fatalities were in such a narrow swath of Manhattan - below 14th St. - police urged expedited toxicology tests on the victims, including the 18-year-old students Maria Pesantez and Mellie Carballo.

"If I can save one life from the hands of these criminals who are doing this to young girls, my daughter did not die in vain," Mariel Carballo said just hours after burying her daughter.

Carballo raged at Roberto Martinez, 41, and Alfredo Morales, 33, the ex-cons who cops say were with her daughter and Pesantez when they overdosed Friday inside Morales' apartment at 484 E. Houston St.

Law enforcement sources revealed yesterday that Martinez was busted in the late 1990s for being a member of a notorious heroin gang the Cut Throat Crew, which earned $150,000 a week by selling drugs on the lower East Side.

"If these men were my daughter's and Maria's friends, why didn't they come to the funeral?" asked Mariel Carballo, 41, outside her West Side apartment.

"If they were my daughter's friends, I'd expect them to look me in my eyes like all of the rest of my daughter's friends."

Martinez was hit with a parole violation last night and was in police custody, according to sources, who said his urine had tested positive for drugs.

The first victim of the deadly heroin may have been Kristopher Korkowski, 24, a hairdresser from Minnesota. He was found dead Aug. 10 in an apartment at 223 Avenue B.

Two days later, Ivan Rivera, 24, overdosed in a hallway of 238 E. Seventh St. Carballo and Pesantez also overdosed that night. Carballo, a Hunter College freshman, died shortly after cops found her. Pesantez, a sophomore at New York University from Queens, died Sunday.

Cops grew concerned about a potential bad batch of heroin after the teens' deaths and the discovery Saturday of 37-year-old Charles Sicker, who overdosed in a portable toilet near W. 13th St.

"A detective called me Saturday to tell me there had been other overdoses," Korkowski's father, Pete, said from his home in Circle Pines, Minn.

But with roughly 900 drug-related deaths a year - almost twice the number of murders - police did not make the suspected connection public until Anatoli Silistovich, 42, was found dead Monday in a storage facility on Spring St.

Cops were questioning drug dealers, suspected addicts and confidential informants to track down the source of the drugs, and also were reviewing overdoses as far back as June.

Martinez and Morales have denied giving Carballo and Pesantez drugs. Martinez told cops he met Carballo, who dreamed of becoming a model or a psychologist, at the Dark Room, a club on Ludlow St.

Carballo's relatives said Martinez would sign his text messages to her with "K.C." - possibly a nod to his nickname Krazy Cat from his days with the Cut Throat Crew when he allegedly sold packets of heroin with brand names like Overtime, Raw Dog and Good News.

Residents on the lower East Side said a potent brand of heroin called Eden is popular in the area, primarily on Avenue D between E. Fourth and E. Fifth Sts. It costs about $15 a bag.

"People don't understand how dangerous heroin is," said Patti Kelly, 50, of the East Village. "This area is a playground for kids to do what they want to do. There are no boundaries."

U.S. keeps up help for Columbia aerial drug fight


CRAWFORD, Texas, Aug 17 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Wednesday authorized continued U.S. assistance for Colombia as part of a program to stop suspected drug-smuggling flights.

The Air Bridge Denial program became controversial after the Peruvian air force mistakenly fired on a small plane in April 2001, killing a U.S. missionary and her daughter.

After a two-year halt, the United States decided to resume the program with Colombia in 2003 following lengthy negotiations to ensure safeguards were in place to prevent future mistakes.

Bush's initial authorization for the help with the drug program would have expired on Thursday without a renewal.

White House Deputy spokeswoman Dana Perino said assistance to Colombia would be provided for the program to focus on interdiction of "aircraft reasonably suspected of trafficking in illicit drugs."

"In granting this authorization, the president has determined that Colombia has put in place appropriate procedures to protect against loss of innocent life in connection with interdiction operations," Perino added in a statement issued from Crawford, Texas, where Bush is vacationing.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe paid a visit to Bush's ranch earlier this month, where Bush vowed to sustain funding for Colombia's fight against drugs and violence.

The United States has provided more than $3 billion in assistance to Colombia over the past five years as part of an effort to wipe out cocaine and heroin production and crush the long-running leftist insurgency.

Colombia says intelligence from U.S. reconnaissance planes is key to stopping the flow of cocaine. Colombia is the world's largest producer of the drug and proceeds from the trade buy bullets for Marxist rebels and far-right paramilitaries fighting a war that claims thousands of lives a year.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Congress should butt out on medical marijuana : Opinion

Toby Nixon
State Representative

The balance between the powers of the states and the powers of the federal government was tipped toward the latter by the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on medical marijuana. As a state, Washington has the right to push back. And, as a state with a citizen-approved medical marijuana law, we should, if for no other reason than to assert our powers under the 10th Amendment to make our own decisions. We can begin by sending a formal message to Congress, and one is ready for my fellow legislators to consider.

The question isn't whether marijuana has medicinal value. Washington voters addressed that when a majority agreed with Initiative 692's position that "some patients with terminal or debilitating illnesses, under their physician's care, may benefit from the medical use of marijuana." For I-692 supporters and those who oppose all marijuana use, the real question is whether to resist the expansion of federal power the court ruling represents, on the grounds that states should decide what's best for the health and safety of their citizens.

If a state chooses to defer to the feds on medical marijuana, fine. But Washington chose to try a medical marijuana law, and it deserves protection from federal encroachment like any of our laws, such as the 1996 "Two Strikes" law for sex offenders. Do we want the feds telling us our penalties for murderers or rapists are too tough? The issue's the same.

The Supreme Court ruled in a California case that Congress' authority over interstate commerce lets the federal government prohibit Californians' use of medical marijuana even if it's grown inside the state in compliance with California law.

Maybe the justices were simply being consistent with federal drug laws, which allow for medicinal use of narcotics (think methadone) but not marijuana. Regardless, our recourse is not to appeal the court's ruling but instead appeal to Congress to amend the laws underpinning that ruling.

State legislators from around the country are in Seattle for their national conference this week, and they'll get to see a measure drafted for our 2006 legislative session. It asks Congress to let Washington and other states decide for themselves whether marijuana may be used for medical purposes, and perhaps it'll inspire more states to stand up for their 10th Amendment powers.

A great thing about our federalist system of government is that any state, with its citizens' consent, may experiment with liberty to test innovative new ideas, without putting the rest of the nation at risk. Marijuana has been used for seven years in Washington for medical purposes under specific conditions, yet no one is asserting it's caused social or criminal problems.

But no matter what you believe about marijuana, it's likely that given the choice between setting their own rules and deferring to authorities in the "other Washington," the people of Washington would prefer to exercise the powers reserved to us, as a state, under the Bill of Rights. It's time to send that message.

State Rep. Toby Nixon, R-Kirkland, represents the 45th District and is ranking member on the House State Government Operations and Accountability Committee.

Stone the cows? Russia uses pot as animal feed


MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's long winter will just fly by for a herd of Russian cows which, a newspaper reported on Tuesday, will be fed confiscated marijuana over the cold months.

Drug workers said they adopted the unusual form of animal husbandry after they were forced to destroy the sunflowers and maize crops that the 40 tonnes of marijuana had been planted among, Novye Izvestia daily reported.

"There is simply no other way out. You see, the fields are planted with feed crops and if we remove it all the cows will have nothing to eat," a Federal Drugs Control Service spokeswoman for the Urals region of Sverdlovsk told the paper.

"I don't know what the milk will be like after this."

Drug use in Russia took off with the decline of the Soviet Union and police have been fighting drug smugglers -- often shipping heroin from Afghanistan for years.

Such large hauls are relatively common, although they are normally burnt.

Houston given unwanted 'City of Syrup' label

Houston has become known nationally as the "City of Syrup" because the abuse of codeine-fortified cough syrup among the city's youth is so widespread, a local researcher says.

The reputation is reflected in a trial that begins Tuesday of six pharmacists charged with illegally dispensing the highly addictive prescription cough syrup codeine with promethazine.
About 30 percent of the teenagers in the Houston area have used the syrup at least once, said Ron Peters, a professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston.

The figures from Peter's 2004 study top his 2003 study, which showed 25 percent of teenagers at six alternative schools in Harris County had used the drug at least once. Peters did not name the schools.

"Anything over 4 percent in the last 30 days is a major drug problem," Peters said.

Troy Jefferson, who heads a drug treatment center for children and adolescents at Riverside General Hospital in Houston, said those figures may be too conservative.

Jefferson said that, out of more than 5,000 teens treated at the clinic in the past seven years, as many as 35 percent had tried prescription cough syrup more than once.

Jury selection begins today in the retrial of pharmacists John David Wiley III, 40, and Anthony Dwayne Essett, 38, co-owners of I-10 East Pharmaceutical Services; Otukayode Adeleke Otufale, 44, owner of Med Stop Pharmacy; Isaac Simeon Achobe, 50, owner of American Choice Pharmacy; and Chicha Kazembe Combs, 29, and Andre Dion Brown, 37, co-owners of Mason Road Pharmacy in Katy.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner ordered the retrial after a jury in May was unable to reach a verdict.

The six are charged in a 170-count indictment of illegally dispensing thousands of gallons of the cough syrup and thousands of tablets of hydrocodone, a synthetic narcotic used as a painkiller. They also are charged with conspiracy and money laundering.

Rap music developed by a Houston record producer D.J. Screw reportedly promotes the drug known on the street as "syrup, lean, purple, syzurp, drank or purple jelly."

The producer, whose real name was Robert Earl Davis Jr., developed a slowed-down form of rap called "screwed." He died in 2000 of an overdose of the drug.

Peters said screwed music and the abuse of the cough syrup has spread nationwide and into Canada. The popularity has given Houston nicknames such as "City of Syrup and City of Lean," he said.

"Now, Houston is setting the trend for the drug culture and it is being spread through rap," he said. "This is something that is a major problem throughout the United States."

Monday, August 15, 2005

Good News in the Drug War - Commentary

The Washington Times

Big victories in the drug war are seldom big news. Good news violates the old adage that "what bleeds leads," especially in competitive nightly news. But there is good news and it needs airing. It also leads to next steps.

You know, drug war stories are like castor oil. They might be good for you, but they are no fun to read. Yes, drug overdoses ended 20,000 young lives in 2003, crushing dreams, leaving gaping holes in families, schools and communities. But that stuff hurts to read. Don't you flip past that to the far away news?

Yes, drugs fund terrorism from Colombia to Afghanistan, but we are on that, aren't we? Surely that stuff is being handled by state and federal law enforcement. Do we have to be reminded -- again -- that we live in the midst of hidden dangers? Who needs that? Where's the sports page?

Slow down. Here are some facts for parents, grandparents, teachers, policy makers and the newsroom -- and then some good news. First, talking with kids -- even if it's a bit awkward -- about what you are about to read could save them -- or a friend.

Second, drug purities are outrageously high. Not long ago, heroin was 7 percent pure across the country. Today, it is between 70 and 90 percent -- everywhere. Emergency rooms are awash. A teen caught unaware and convinced to try it may not get a second chance. No kidding. Heroin can be popped, smoked, snorted or injected. They call it opium and other seductive names.

Ask your son or daughter if they know it can kill with one use. Have they seen it on school grounds, going, coming? Ever seen ecstasy, E, or butterfly? How about cocaine, or prescription drugs like oxycontin? Ask if they know marijuana is often laced with PCP. Know who the sellers are? You'll be surprised what they know. At some point, most kids are approached. The number one reason most say no -- is you.

Ok, so what about methamphetamine, or meth? You know about meth, right? If you don't, you are behind the times. One in 20 kids has tried it. Addiction rates are rising. In 16 states, there are now more kids in treatment for meth than either cocaine or heroin.

The East Coast is getting hit by a major wave of trafficking that started in California a decade ago, led by Mexican "super labs" and cheap ingredients. Those are (you knew this) over-the-counter pseudo-ephedrine and ephedrine. Rapid increases in use are being recorded in Illinois, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia, but Virginia, Maryland and the District of Colombia are vulnerable.

Meth purities doubled over the past decade. It is now 70 percent in many cities. Not many second chances there. A few dollars will buy enough meth for addiction; $25 dollars will buy several "rocks." Like the heroin, meth takes over, masked by increasing secrecy, kicking the unwitting teen into an abyss from which climbing out is often harder than escaping heroin addiction.

Down with that user goes her family -- parents and siblings, or children of the addict. From there radiate widening circles of pain. Yes, even "good kids" from "good families" get caught -- by the thousands. In major cities, between a quarter and a third of all arrestees test positive for meth.

Simple use induces unparalleled violence and depravity, as previous values get left curbside. Brain damage -- ugly stuff -- accompanies chronic use. That condition looks like Alzheimer's. Half of all states now consider meth the number one drug threat to kids. So, ask your son or daughter if they have ever heard talk of ice, speed, chalk, crystal, crank, glass, fire or poor man's cocaine. That's all meth.

So where's the good news? Well, this summer, the Senate Judiciary Committee finally approved -- with administration support -- a thorough-going anti-methamphetamine bill. This is more than talk.

While leaving tough state drug laws in place, the bill puts meth's primary ingredients -- pseudo-ephedrine and ephedrine -- behind the counter. It takes away easy access to these ingredients for those who were using them, and that is a big, good news story for kids, parents and families, not to mention law enforcement.

The next step is simple. If we apply international pressure to the ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine producers in India, China, the Czech Republic and Germany -- there are only nine -- we might be able to stop at the source a major scourge. Of course, that's another good news story you won't hear. But it is worth trying all the same. Now, back to the sports page.

Robert Charles, former assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, 2003-2005, is currently president of The Charles Group, Gaithersburg, Md.

Pot found in teddy bear: 2 arrested

Police have arrested a Rohnert Park man and his girlfriend after the owner of a 24-hour shipping store opened a package the man was sending and found a teddy bear stuffed with nearly a pound of marijuana.

Gilberto Perez Pereira, 43, and Susan Janette Roark, 48, were arrested Friday on drug and related charges.

The owner of the store told police he had grown suspicious of Pereira because he had been sending overnight packages every two weeks to different addresses in Wisconsin for the past several months.

The owner would have casual conversations with Pereira, who was paying top-dollar to ship items overnight using DHL, said Rohnert Park police Sgt. Art Sweeney.

"He thought something didn't fit," Sweeney said.

The owner contacted police Thursday after he opened one of the packages and found a teddy bear with crude stitching covering a cut in the fabric and a heavy object inside.

Sweeney said that as the proprietor of the store, the man had a right to inspect customers' goods in order to ensure they weren't dangerous or illegal before shipping them.

Officers from the Special Enforcement Unit opened the stuffed animal and found a ball consisting of 30 feet of cellophane layered with yellow mustard and powdered carpet deodorizer surrounding a heat-sealed package of marijuana, according to police.

Police said such packaging commonly is used by drug dealers to put drug detection dogs off the scent. Meanwhile, Pereira had been tracking the package on the Internet and on Friday called the store to ask why the shipment was still in Rohnert Park. The owner --as instructed by police -- told Pereira that he needed to return to the store and pay a few more dollars in shipping costs.
A few minutes later, Pereira and his girlfriend arrived and gave the owner more money. Officers stopped the car as Roark drove away and allegedly found her and Pereira to be in possession of 1/2 gram of methamphetamine each, police said.

Roark is on probation in Sonoma County for a drug possession conviction. Officers searched the couple's apartment at 6500 Country Club Drive and allegedly found evidence linking Pereira to the shipment at issue as well as previous shipments. Police also found shotgun shells and a small quantity of methamphetamine, police said.

Pereira, who has served several prison terms for drug convictions, told police that he had been shipping the packages for a friend. He said he didn't know what was in them, or how to reach the friend.

Pereira was booked into Sonoma County jail on $25,000 bail for possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, shipment of drugs over state lines, transportation of marijuana and being a felon in possession of firearms ammunition.

Roark was being held without bail and was charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, violation of probation and driving with a suspended license.

U.S. Threatens to Pull Venezuela Drug War Certification

Narco News Bulletin

By: Dan Feder

United States “anti-drug” policy faces a major setback in Venezuela this week, and the drug warriors are loosening their ties as the heat rises. At the State Department’s press briefing yesterday, Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli responded to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s warnings on Sunday that Venezuela would no longer work with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Chávez said that, far from abandoning efforts to combat trafficking and money laundering in his own country, his government had decided that – as Narco News has reported for over five years – the DEA’s war on drugs has nothing to do with actually shutting down the business, but is rather part of a strategy of political intervention in Latin American affairs.

Ereli’s limp response was to charge that Venezuela’s statements about DEA crimes are merely noise designed to distract from what he said was the country’s own increasingly poor performance on drug control, a claim which the U.S. government’s own past statements and reports show to be untrue. Ereli furthermore revived one of the U.S.’s oldest political weapons in the drug war, threatening to end Venezuela’s certification as a country participating in anti-drug efforts.

Ereli told the press in Washington:

Well, first of all, the accusations that somehow the Drug Enforcement Agency is involved in espionage are baseless. There’s no substance or justification for them. And as for reports that Venezuela is going to end cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Agency on fighting drug trafficking, those are certainly regrettable.

First of all, cooperating in the fight against illicit drug trade is beneficial to both United States and to Venezuela and failure to cooperate only benefits narcotraffickers.

Second of all, we, for our part, want to continue counternarcotics cooperation but I would note that over the past several months, we’ve seen a steady deterioration in the Government of Venezuela’s commitment on this front.

Looking ahead, I mean obviously, a decision—if Venezuela did indeed go forward with severing this or ending cooperation, that would obviously have an impact on deliberations concerning our annual decision-making process regarding Venezuela’s counternarcotics cooperation efforts under the International Narcotics Control Act.

If Venezuela has been “steadily deteriorating” in its anti-narcotics work, why are we just hearing about it now? U.S. officials jump at the chance to disparage the Venezuelan government, consistently repeating allegations with “no substance or justification,” by any standard, that Chávez funds Colombian rebel groups or engineers protests in Bolivia or any number of other claims. So why wasn’t the U.S. making a stink about this earlier?

The fact is that the U.S. has repeatedly, though without much fanfare, recognized the success of the Chávez government in this area, despite some law enforcement corruption problems similar to those that affect all countries through which narco-dollars move. Some key excerpts from the State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) for 2005:
Cocaine seizures during the first six months of 2004 equaled the amount seized in Venezuela during all of 2003, thanks in large part to two multi-ton seizures made by Venezuelan task forces that worked closely with USG and UK law enforcement. The GOV also carried out some 400 cocaine and heroin seizures during the first half of the year. Several important cocaine and heroin trafficking organizations were effectively attacked during 2004, and several important extraditions were made.

The GOV recognizes that drug consumption is high in Venezuela and is working hard to reduce it. There are dozens of private, state, and NGO demand reduction and treatment groups in Venezuela. These are organized into larger associations that meet and cooperate on a regular basis. By law, all private companies employing more than 200 workers must donate one percent of their profit to public awareness and demand reduction programs. There is no shortage of resources in Venezuela for demand reduction.

DEA and British law enforcement work closely with vetted GOV counternarcotics units. These units continue to be very successful, not only in seizing multi-ton loads of cocaine, but also in breaking apart the organizations that traffic drugs in and through Venezuela. The GOV affords complete operational latitude to these vetted units.

And as Gregory Wilpert reports in

According to the 2003 annual report of the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, drug interdiction efforts in Venezuela increased dramatically when Chavez came into office. For example, the interdiction of cannabis more than doubled in the first four years of Chavez’s presidency, relative to the four years prior to his presidency. Also, the interdiction of heroin more than tripled in this time period.

The U.S. Embassy stopped posting annual drug control reports on its website in 2003. According to this last report, the Venezuelan government managed to improve its drug control work despite the political upheavals that took place in 2002. “the number of interdictions was high, to a large degree thanks to the implementation of a variety of new programs.”

As for the certification process that Ereli alluded to, the record is pretty clear that “certification” from the U.S. on either drugs or human rights is essentially a political exercise, meant to reward countries cooperating with U.S. interests and pressure those from whom the U.S. wants certain concessions. Colombia is a perfect example of this; see this interview with former Colombian Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff in the Mexican newspaper Por Esto!:

The government most interested and invested in the policy of the drug war and at the same time is its grand promoter, he said, is the United States government, which has used the policy to subjugate the countries of Latin America. On one end they use the “de-certification” process. De Greiff notes: “They’ve used this on multiple occasions as a threat when U.S. conditions that have nothing to do with the drug war are imposed, as was the case in 1995 when the U.S.

Ambassador in Colombia conditioned that country’s certification on changes in a banana export agreement with Europe.” On the other end they use political and military intervention, more and more, to try and maintain domination and protect the warehouse of cheap natural resources for the United States.

(See also this 2002 report by Al Giordano on a typical case of certification hypocracy in Mexico.)

In fact, coincidentally enough, Colombia’s “human rights certification” has just been approved after nearly a year-long holdup (see this report at the Center for International Policy for more details). And after those chummy moments between Bush and Uribe in Crawford, Texas, you can bet Colombia ain’t gonna have too many problems with its drug war certification for a while either. Never mind that, among other things, the new “peace and justice law” in Colombia is essentially encouraging paramilitary traffickers to sell off their cocaine stocks, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to hold on to their profits while they legally reenter society.

On the one hand, the “de-certification” threat is a pathetic one, as it appeals to the old logic that a country had to bend over backwards to win approval from the U.S. in order to maintain international legitimacy. Chávez has been one of the principal people to break that trance, and such a move won’t faze him or his supporters. But read between the lines and there is the further threat of violence that Chávez has so often denounced and U.S. officials so indignantly dismiss. The United States has only ever denied counter-narcotics certification to two Latin American countries. One is Colombia. The other is Panama, and that certification denial was quickly followed by a bloody U.S. invasion.