Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hundreds turn in marijuana users in Boulder

Summit Daily News

Boulder (AP) - Hundreds of people called University of Colorado police Friday to name people photographed at last week’s “4/20” marijuana smoke-out on Farrand Field.

Police posted 150 pictures online Thursday of people lighting up, exhaling and even streaking at the annual event. For each positive identification, CU is offering a $50 reward.

Tipsters, who will remain anonymous to the offenders but not to police, began calling early Friday, said CU police Lt. Tim McGraw.

“The phones have been ringing off the hook,” he said. “One person called in and ID’d five people.”

Andrea Hansen, 19, was among the estimated 2,500 people who gathered at 4:20 p.m. April 20. When she heard about the online photos Thursday night, she visited the site immediately. The CU freshman said she was relieved to see she had succeeded in avoiding the cameras, but some of her peers weren’t so lucky.

“There are two pictures of my friend,” Hansen said. “She got all freaked out.”
If police can’t confirm that those identified in the pictures were puffing marijuana, they still can be ticketed for trespassing on the closed CU field, officials said.

A person must be charged and cited for tipsters to be rewarded.

Hansen said she was surprised to hear that hundreds of people had responded to the police department’s reward offer.

“But $50 is a sack,” she said, referring to the price of marijuana. “So there’s your incentive.”

A Boulder-based group that advocates marijuana as a safer alternative to alcohol said Friday that CU’s attempt to punish the 4/20 revelers is “cowardly.” Mason Tvert, campaign director for Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, said CU is treating pot-smoking students like “child molesters” by “sticking their photos online.”

“I think this is unbelievable,” he said. “They’re using money to turn this campus into a culture of informants. If they asked students to call in every time they saw a student drinking, it would be an incredible mess.”

Tvert said CU should be focusing its efforts on alcohol abuse and encouraged anyone pictured online to call his organization.

“I’m sure there will be lawyers and other people upset about this,” he said. “I don’t know what we can do for them, but we’re hoping for some public outcry because this is clearly a waste of time and money.”

Lt. McGraw said alcohol abuse is a top priority but that CU has to discourage blatant marijuana smoking.

CU spokesman Barrie Hartman said he didn’t know how long it would take to identify and charge the pictured suspects. Students could face a $100 fine and a “strike” against their school record, CU officials said.

“But school is out very soon,” he said. “So the clock is working against us on this thing.”

The “4/20” smoke-out has been drawing crowds for years, but this is the first year CU police have tried to catch participants with online pictures. Hartman said he thinks CU will succeed in charging a “representative sample, to set an example.”

But Marc Muniz, 22, said he doesn’t think anyone will get in trouble.

“I just think the police are trying to appease the citizens and make it look like they’re doing something,” said Muniz, a CU senior. “But I don’t think they’re going to get anything done.”

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mexico Ready To Decriminalize Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroine

Washington Press

Mexico City (Reuters) - Possessing marijuana, cocaine and even heroin will no longer be a crime in Mexico if they are in small amounts for personal use under new reforms passed by Congress that quickly drew U.S. criticism.

The measure given final passage 53-26 by senators in a late night session on Thursday is aimed at letting police focus on their battle against major drug dealers, and President Vicente Fox is expected to sign it into law.

"This law provides more judicial tools for authorities to fight crime," presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar said on Friday.

He said the reforms, which were proposed by the government and approved earlier this week by the lower house of Congress, made laws against major traffickers "more severe."

The legislation came as a shock to Washington, which counts on Mexico's support in its war against drug smuggling gangs who move massive quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines through Mexico to U.S. consumers.

"I would say any law that decriminalizes dangerous drugs is not very helpful," said Judith Bryan, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. "Drugs are dangerous. We don't think it is the appropriate way to go."

She said U.S. officials were still studying the reforms, under which police will not penalize people for possessing up to 5 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of opium, 25 milligrams of heroin or 500 milligrams of cocaine.

People caught with larger quantities of drugs will be treated as narcotics dealers and face increased jail terms under the plan.

The legal changes will also decriminalize the possession of limited quantities of other drugs, including LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, amphetamines and peyote -- a psychotropic cactus found in Mexico's northern deserts.

Fox has been seen as a loyal ally of the United States in the war on drugs, but the reforms could create new tensions.

A delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives visited Mexico last week and met with senior officials to discuss drug control issues, but was told nothing of the planned legislative changes, said Michelle Gress, a House subcommittee counsel who was part of the visiting team. "We were not informed," she said.


Hundreds of people, including many police officers, have been killed in Mexico in the past year as drug cartels battle for control of lucrative smuggling routes into the United States.

The violence has raged mostly in northern Mexico but in recent months has spread south to cities like vacation resort Acapulco.

Under current law, it is up to local judges and police to decide on a case-by-case basis whether people should be prosecuted for possessing small quantities of drugs, a source at the Senate's health commission told Reuters.

"The object of this law is to not put consumers in jail, but rather those who sell and poison," said Sen. Jorge Zermeno of the ruling National Action Party.

Hector Michel Camarena, an opposition senator from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, warned that although well intentioned, the law may go too far.

"There are serious questions we have to carefully analyze so that through our spirit of fighting drug dealing, we don't end up legalizing," he said. "We have to get rid of the concept of the (drug) consumer."

By Noel Randewich

Friday, April 28, 2006

Cocaine in the water

Planet Chiropractic

It's the water - and a lot more

Fred Hoyle wrote: “Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.” His comment demonstrates a typically American, classically human, endlessly optimistic faith in the ability of new technology to solve all our problems like magic. The big problem remains all the new problems we create through using and developing the new technology.

Benjamin Franklin, for example, is credited with being among the first to develop waste management technology. “Drag the trash to the middle of the river before you let go of it. Don’t just throw it in the water from the riverbank!” He probably called out instructions just such as these to his slaves, perhaps even wading out with them in his excitement about this new technology.

The basic strategy of waste management, “Put that garbage somewhere we don’t have to see it or smell it,” has not changed over the years, although our technology for dispersing it has changed considerably. Do you suppose Franklin had any idea his technology would evolve to the point that today’s society’s toxic leftovers would be found over the entire surface of the planet, including the drinking water?

Archaeologists have always been known to check the waste of societies for important clues about life. Now they’ve got company. A recent news article, describing new activity by government scientists, caught my eye. These federal investigators in white coats have developed a taste for waste-testing. They have begun the fascinating task of studying America’s wastewater, intent on finding out just how much cocaine people might be snarfling up their noses.

Cocaine, of course, can pass through the human body and still end up as cocaine in the sewage. This can also be said of antibiotics, pain medications, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs, cholesterol lowering drugs, blood-pressure lowering drugs, anticonvulsants, cancer-fighting and hormone replacement drugs, and on and on.

Why do you suppose the government only wants to know about the cocaine, though? Why not compare cocaine levels to say, antibiotic levels? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to measure all the drugs, legal or not. How much used cocaine is safe in American waterways compared to used antidepressants?

Even after passing through water filtration plants, tap water in cities all over the world has been found to contain the entire array of modern pharmaceuticals. To the list of toxic heavy metals, PCBs, engine emissions and fluoride wastes in our municipal water, we must now add the entire pharmacopoeia.

The chlorine treatment of wastewater creates another layer of difficulty by splitting drug molecules into new molecules, some of them more toxic than their parents.

Do you find this troubling? Don’t worry, be happy! A spokesman from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) has wisely assured the public that there are no “appreciable impacts on the aquatic environment” that can be linked to low concentrations of pharmaceuticals in the water.

How about, “cumulative, insidious, adverse impacts” on aquatic ecosystems, including a decline in rates of reproduction and survival of animals in contact with the water, according to scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?

We have also been assured that there are “no appreciable human health risks.” This brings to mind the Ashanti proverb, “One falsehood spoils a thousand truths.”

The operative word in their statement is “appreciable.” Perhaps the definition of an appreciable risk to a drug company is simply a risk whose hemorrhaging of corporate profits due to legal death and damages claims can no longer be ignored.

Many scientists perceive real risks to humans posed by constant exposure to recycled drugs. These likely involve developmental and reproductive changes, just as we are seeing in other vertebrates around the globe.

“We're concerned [these pharmaceuticals] are not only having an effect on aquatic organisms, but on human populations, as well,” wrote scientist Rebecca Klaper of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

Despite all this, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seems in a big hurry to put its seal of approval on loads more drugs day after day. I don’t know, maybe it is time to turn the whole drug approval process over to the EPA and see if they can protect us any better. After all, shouldn’t the drug companies have to submit an Environmental Impact Report each time they apply for a new drug, just like the other gross polluters?

When used medicine gains entrance to your body every day, the price of admission is a loss of vital energy. Virtually all drugs, recycled or not, have the tendency to cause a power loss in every last one of the several hundred trillion cells you call home: your body.

Cells, you may recall, actually do the work of creating the life inside you. Each cell is a tiny factory with an important job to do. Each one carries its own power supply, called mitochondria. When chemicals come in contact with your cells, the ability of mitochondria to recharge is reduced, a loss of power and energy at the cellular level.

As Peter Newman correctly pointed out, “Power tends to connect; absolute power connects absolutely.”

Your cells crave absolute power to get their job done. It is time to get on with life and filter out all this depressing news. I have faith in some of our current technology to help us out. As Ben Franklin also said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

With a bit of planning, we can filter out the recycled drugs and other nasty stuff from our water before we drink it, shower in it, and wash clothes, plates, forks and knives in it.

I’ll drink to that. Make mine a triple-filtered, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet-light exposed glass of pure water.

By Darrel Crain

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Don't believe the hype: study finds that few UK gay men use methamphetamine


Few gay men in the UK use the recreational drug methamphetamine(crystal meth), according the results of a large annual survey. The National Gay Men’s Sex Survey conducted by the Terrence Higgins Trust and Sigma Research found that 3% of gay men had used the drug at any time during the previous year, and that fewer than 1% of gay men were regular users of the drug. Greater usage of methamphetamine was found amongst HIV-positive men, with HIV-infected men with over 30 sexual partners reporting the highest level of use.

Methamphetamine use has been linked to risky sexual behaviour, an increased risk of HIV acquisition and faster HIV disease progression in US studies. Concern was expressed that use of methamphetamine in the UK was increasing when a study conducted amongst gay men using gyms in central London in 2004 found that 20% had used methamphetamine.

However, the results from this latest survey seem to show that these fears are unfounded. Over 15,000 men completed the National Gay Men’s sex survey in 2005, and the results show that 427 men (3%) used methamphetamine once in the previous year, and that fewer than 50 of these men were regular users of methamphetamine.

“These data give us a clear baseline of gay men’s use of this drug for the first time ever”, said Will Nutland, Head of Health Promotion at the Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s largest HIV charity. He added, “recent media portrayals have given the impression that crystal meth use is widespread as is driving the HIV epidemic in the UK. These data provide us with the first reliable snap shot of what is really happening.

Higher rates of methamphetamine use were, however, found amongst gay men living in London, with 7% reporting use of the drug at least once during the last year. In addition, HIV-positive men in London were even more likely to use the drug, with 20% (150 of 520 individuals) saying they had used it at least once during the previous twelve months.The highest level of methamphetamine use was found amongst HIV-positive men with multiple sexual partners, with over a third saying they had used the drug once (35%, 55 of 158).

Users of methamphetamine also used other recreational drugs, the most common being GHB, ketamine, ecstasy, LSD, crack and cocaine. Drug use amongst gay men has been the subject of intensive research and as Ford Hickson of Sigma Research explained, "their health promotion needs are well described."

On April 24th the television channel BBC3 broadcast a progamme, The Trouble with Gay Men, which highlighted the earlier gym-based study which found that one-in-five gay men in the capital had used methamphetamine. This study involved 750 men who used one of six central London gyms popular with gay men. Although the recent BBC documentary and other media reports seized upon this statistic, the reservations of the study’s investigators about their findings were not reported.

Prof Jonathan Elford of the City University, who conducted the gyms research, commented at the time of its publication, that although “it shows that while one in five gay men in London have used it, most are infrequent users.”

Further, Prof Elford’s research found that methamphetamine was only one of several drugs used by gay men taking part in the survey, with 90% reporting the use of other recreational drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine. Other cautions about his findings were also expressed by Prof Elford, “usage in [London] has remained static over the last three years and the levels reported here are nothing like on the scale of crystal methamphetamine usage in the US.”

It is also possible that methamphetamine is the latest of a series of unsubstantiated health fears for gay men, which are being linked to unprotected sex. Will Nutland commented, “crystal is increasingly, and simplistically, being linked in the eyes of the mainstream (and parts of the gay) press, to unsafe sexual behaviour amongst gay men. Just as with the net last year, a bunch of couldn’t-care-less bug chasers the year before and bathhouses in the 80s, crystal has become the casual explanation for HIV infections amongst gay men.”

Nurses 'need help over drug-rape'

BBC News

Nurses need help dealing with women who have been drug-raped, experts say.

Senior nursing strategist Dave Dawes said women were increasingly going to A&E units and sexual health clinics after such attacks.

He told the Royal College of Nursing conference nurses needed clear guidance and training on how to spot drug-rape cases and liaise with police.

Police deal with about 500 cases of drug-rape a year but the true extent of the crime is thought to be much higher.

Experts say many women do not report cases because the drugs, most cases involve GHB or Rohypnol, can leave them unsure of what has happened.

Mr Dawes, part of the RCN's body for nurses in senior management, said: "Women are turning up, not quite knowing what has happened to them and the problem is nurses have not been properly trained in how to deal with such cases.

"It is easy to think the women have just had too much to drink. What we need is clear advice on how to recognise cases, when to contact police and what else should be done.

"One of the things is that the drugs leave the person's body very quickly so if evidence is to be gathered nurses have to act quickly."

He said information about drug-rape should be included in nurse training or guidance be issued advising nurses how to deal with cases.

Mr Dawes said he did not have any figures on how many cases nurses were seeing, but he heard anecdotally that it was on the increase.

According to national figures, more than 60% of spiking takes place in pubs and clubs, and victims are most likely to be women aged between 18 and 30.

Experts say that unlike the effects of alcohol, which are gradual, a spiked drink will generally cause sudden dizziness, nausea, vomiting, uninhibited feelings and memory loss.

They say victims are left extremely vulnerable and at risk of sex attacks.

Attempts to hold pro-marijuana march are provocative - drug service


Moscow - Attempts by supporters of the legalization of marijuana to hold a march in Moscow in early May are a provocative act, head of the Federal Drug Control service's interdepartmental affairs and information department Lt. Gen. Alexander Mikhailov told Interfax on Thursday.

"Russia is growing hemp for economic needs. The produce is limited to economic needs and everything else is the work of the devil. Legalizing the plant as a narcotic drug is out of the question. The issue should not even be discussed," Mikhailov said.

Supporters of the legalization of marijuana have asked the Moscow administration for authorization to hold a march in early May. Similar requests were made in previous years, but all of them were turned down.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Life of LSD Maven Timothy Leary Coming to the Big Screen

The Book Standard

Miramax will be bringing to theaters the life of psychologist and acid-dropping icon of 1960s counterculture Timothy Leary. The film company has acquired the rights to Robert Greenfield’s upcoming Timothy Leary: A Biography, which Harcourt will release on June 5.

The biopic will be scripted and co-produced by Bill Wheeler. City Entertainment's Joshua Maurer will produce, with the book’s author serving as a co-executive producer.

The commune-living beatnik’s life has been chronicled onscreen only twice, in the documentary Timothy Leary Is Dead, in 1996, and Timothy Leary’s Last Trip, in 1997.

Leary (1920–1996) was an outspoken proponent of LSD and coined the mantra “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” With a Ph.D. in psychology, he became an assistant professor at Berkeley in 1950, then a lecturer in psychology in 1959. He was also the godfather of Winona Ryder and Uma Thurman.

Court Overturns Rosenthal's Marijuana Convictions

CBS 5 San Francisco/Bay Area

San Francisco (BCN) - A federal appeals court overturned the marijuana cultivation convictions of pot advocate Ed Rosenthal today, ruling that a juror engaged in misconduct by asking an attorney friend for advice during deliberations.

In a 3-0 ruling granting Rosenthal a new trial, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the female juror's unauthorized contact with the attorney, who told her to follow the judge's instructions or she could get in trouble, was "an improper influence" that denied Rosenthal a trial before an impartial jury.

In an opinion written by Judge Betty Fletcher, the court said, "Jurors cannot fairly determine the outcome of a case if they believe they will face 'trouble' for a conclusion they reach as jurors."

The court said, "The threat of punishment works a coercive influence on the jury's independence, and a juror who genuinely fears retribution might change his or her determination of the issue for fear of being punished."

Rosenthal, a 61-year-old Oakland man, was convicted in January of 2003 of three felony counts in connection with plants he was growing in 2002 for patients served by the Harm Reduction Center, a San Francisco dispensary.

He faced a sentence of at least five years in prison, but U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer gave him only a day in jail, finding unusual circumstances.

Breyer said Rosenthal had believed, mistakenly but reasonably, that Oakland had named him an official agent in its drug program.

In his appeal, Rosenthal contended he should have been allowed to argue in his trial that he honestly believed he was immune from federal prosecution because he was helping the city of Oakland carry out its medical marijuana program.

His attorney, Dennis Riordan, told the 9th Circuit at a hearing last September that the trial judge's refusal to allow that argument violated Rosenthal's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial.

But the Ninth Circuit said, "We reject the premise that an ordinance such as the one Oakland enacted can shield a defendant from prosecution for violation of federal drug laws."

It said Rosenthal "cannot avail himself of the immunity provision."

In a sworn declaration, the juror who called her attorney friend said she was "troubled" as well as "frustrated and confused" by the absence of evidence about medical marijuana and the judge's instructions that jurors must consider only federal law.

She said she telephoned a lawyer she knew and asked if she had to follow the judge's instructions or had any leeway for independent thought.

Federal prosecutors also filed an appeal in the case, arguing that Rosenthal should be sentenced to two to five years in prison.

But the Ninth Circuit said that since it is overturning Rosenthal's convictions the government's challenge of the length of his sentence is "moot."

In a footnote, the court said new rulings on federal sentencing guidelines mean they would not have reviewed Breyer's decision on sentencing anyway.

U.S. Attorney's spokesman Luke Macaulay declined to say if prosecutors will seek a new trial for Rosenthal.

He said, "We're reviewing the court's decision and are considering the available options."

Riordan couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Opinion: Follow the drug war money

Rocky Mountain News

This is the story of two drugs. The first, dexfenfluramine, was the active ingredient in the weight loss drug Redux. Although it was available in the U.S. and Canada for only about 18 months, it killed hundreds of people, and severely injured thousands more.

The second is marijuana. Over the past several decades, tens of millions of people across North America have used this drug regularly. It has, as far as anybody knows, killed no one.

Anyone interested in the politics of science should study the Food and Drug Administration's treatment of these two drugs. Redux was originally rejected for approval by the FDA, because of laboratory studies suggesting it would cause primary pulmonary hypertension - a particularly gruesome and generally fatal disease - in a small number of users.

The FDA panel reviewing the drug considered it too dangerous, given that Redux produced an average of only seven pounds of weight loss when compared to a placebo. This seemed eminently sensible: after all, who could argue that a drug producing so little weight loss was anything other than a cosmetic product? And surely the FDA wouldn't approve a brand of lipstick on the grounds that it was likely to cause just a small percentage of its users to suffer horribly painful deaths.

Yet it turned out that a whole bunch of very well-paid obesity researchers were willing to argue for Redux's approval. Under enormous pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and its academic hirelings, the FDA reversed course in the spring of 1996, and approved the drug for sale.

The results were predictable: reports of primary pulmonary hypertension associated with use of the drug began appearing in the medical literature. In addition, some users were suffering heart valve damage, and needed major surgery. Redux was quickly pulled from the market, but the damage had been done.

Over the last eight years, hundreds of cases of primary pulmonary hypertension have been linked to Redux, while more than 1,200 of the drug's users have undergone major surgery for heart valve damage. Wyeth, the drug's maker, has paid out billions of dollars in damages, and faces possible bankruptcy as more claims are settled and go to trial.

Meanwhile, the FDA has just announced that it will continue to treat marijuana as a Schedule I drug. Drugs are supposed to be placed in this category only if they have a high potential for abuse and no medical value.

Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project points out that, under current federal law, doctors are free to treat their patients with cocaine, methamphetamine and morphine. All these drugs are far more dangerous than marijuana - a drug that 11 states, including Colorado, now allow doctors to prescribe to their patients they believe may benefit from it.

"I have friends who are alive today because of medical marijuana," Mirken told me. "These are people who suffered unbearable nausea from chemotherapy or retroviral drugs - nausea that only marijuana was able to bring under control."

I asked Mirken about the FDA's statement.

"The bottom line is that this is another sign that science at the FDA has given way to politics. They just pretend research evidence for the medical value of marijuana doesn't exist. But in fact quite a bit does - even though the federal government has done everything it can to keep this research from being conducted.

"They're terribly afraid of such research, because any serious scientific study of the subject is going to reveal how little basis there is for their claims. Continuing to demonize marijuana is the key to the drug war, and the drug war pays the salaries of a lot of people."

The same thing, of course, could be said about the war on "obesity."

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado.

Congress Not Seeing Drug War Waste

Citizens Against Government Waste

The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was established in 1988 to develop and coordinate policies and objectives to decrease illegal drug use, manufacturing, trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences in the United States. In May 2005, CAGW released Up in Smoke: ONDCP’s Wasted Efforts in the War on Drugs.

A core program of the ONDCP is the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign (“Campaign”), which was created to, “educate and enable youth to reject illegal drugs, especially marijuana and inhalants.” The Campaign has wasted more than $2 billion over five years on unsuccessful propaganda campaigns that have violated federal advertising laws.

In September 1998, a health survey company, Westat Inc., was competitively awarded a grant by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to conduct a “science-based evaluation” of the Campaign. Westat concluded that no significant changes in drug use among America’s youth have occurred that can solely be accredited to ONDCP. Westat reiterated this lack of impact by the Campaign in December 2003, stating, “[t]here is little evidence of direct favorable Campaign effects on youth, either for the Marijuana Initiative period or for the Campaign as whole.” Additionally, the report showed that the number of American youths that did not intend on trying marijuana was reduced by only 0.6 percent, going from 87.5 percent in 2000 to 86.9 percent in 2003.

The Campaign also violated anti-propaganda law. A January 4, 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that the ONDCP violated the Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998, which would have required ONDCP to disclose in any and all “news media outreach” ONDCP’s role in the production and distribution of its news stories. However, video news releases were broadcasted to 770 news stations on almost 300 television stations, without identifying the source of the ads, therefore being indistinguishable from real news releases.

Another cornerstone program of the ONDCP is the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program, which was designed primarily to curb drug trafficking across U.S. borders. Funding was originally distributed to the five “gateway” regions that had the highest rates of drug transfers, including Los Angeles, Houston, New York/New Jersey, South Florida and the Southwest border.

But the focus of the program has weakened over time, as members of Congress have lobbied to expand the number of areas that qualify to receive funding. Places in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain region are getting money that otherwise would have gone to border states. Non-border states claim that they need the money to combat local methamphetamine production.
However, only 20 percent of the methamphetamine in the U.S. is produced domestically, while approximately 80 percent is imported from Mexico. The dispersion of HIDTA funds leaves California especially hard hit. The state faces the dual problem of maintaining border control and accounting for 75 to 90 percent of the nation’s domestic meth production.

Congress appropriated $12.5 billion for ONDCP in fiscal 2006, including $99 million for the Campaign. The amount was $21 million less than the President wanted and a $20 million cut from the Campaign's funding level in fiscal 2005.

As for HIDTA, the Bush Administration's fiscal 2006 budget request cited that program's failure to demonstrate results and requested that HIDTA be transferred to the Department of Justice and consolidated with other drug trafficking programs. The budget asked for $100 million, a 58 percent reduction from the $226.5 million provided in fiscal 2005. Congress refused to enact this change; President Bush requested this reasonable reform again in his fiscal 2007 budget. Whether or not lawmakers agree on the proposed reorganization and spending cuts this year remains to be seen.

By Courtney Mickman

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

How Portugal dealt with drug reform

BBC News

Tory leader Michael Howard has pledged a future Conservative administration to reverse the government's relaxation of the cannabis laws, to take effect next week, dismissing the reform as "absurd" and confusing.

But in Portugal, where the possession and use of small quantities of any drug - hard or soft - was decriminalised by the then Socialist government in 2001, the centre-right coalition that took power a year later opted to leave the reform in place.

"The government came in thinking in terms of destroying these measures, but once such steps are taken, you don't go back," Socialist Party leader Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues told BBC News Online.

"However great the temptation to turn back, it won't."

Fernando Negrao, the former police chief whom the new government chose to head the IDT, Portugal's Institute for Drugs and Addiction, agrees.

"This government not only kept the reform in place, but reinforced the health aspect of it, by bringing the institute under the Ministry of Health," he said.

"There were fears Portugal might become a drug paradise, but that simply didn't happen."

Under the 2001 law, consuming drugs is still illegal, but anyone caught with up to 10 daily doses - defined for each drug, by weight - for their own use is not arrested and cannot go to jail.

Instead they are taken to a police station, their details noted, and they are ordered to attend a hearing at one of 18 regional "dissuasion commissions".

The commission can send an offender for treatment if he or she is an addict, impose a fine, or let him or her off with a warning.

"Portugal's experiment is unique," said Mr Negrao.

"It decriminalises drug use, but leaves administrative penalties in place."

Some police representatives have complained that dealers can easily get around the new law, by carrying just a few doses at a time.

The national director of Portugal's main urban police force, the Policia de Seguranca Publica, recently called for a lower cut-off point, to tighten the noose on dealers.

Supporters of the law counter that it does not stop someone being charged with dealing, even if they are carrying just one dose, because it is up to police and public prosecutors to decide whether there is sufficient evidence of dealing.

In any case, according to Dr Luís Patrício, director of the Taipas CAT, or rehabilitation centre, in downtown Lisbon, the figure of 10 doses has no medical basis.

Major problem

And while it might be normal for a consumer of hashish to have more than 10 doses in their possession, it would not be for a heroin user.

One major problem is that courts around the country are not applying the law consistently.

But those who framed it say this just means there is a need for greater coordination between the new dissuasion commissions and the judicial system.

Portugal's - and now the UK's - legislative reforms are part of a European pattern.

Substitution treatment

In its 2003 report, the EU's drug monitoring agency noted that member states are taking an increasingly pragmatic approach, adapting legislation to facilitate the treatment and rehabilitation of drug users and addicts - even as their security forces are given wider powers to crack down on trafficking.

The EU agency noted a 34% increase in the previous year in the availability of substitution treatment - principally methadone - across the continent.

Some 400,000 addicts now receive such treatment, with the biggest rise in countries with low initial provision, including Portugal.

There has been little systematic evaluation of the results of such measures, though.

Shooting galleries

In Portugal, a study of the impact of the reform has only just started.

Health and social workers here say that years of official neglect - in which needle-exchange schemes were a rarity - are to blame for Portugal's soaring rate of HIV infection.

Once the lowest in the EU, it is now the highest, after Spain.

The Socialist government also pushed through legislation allowing for so-called shooting galleries - where addicts could inject drugs under the supervision of health professionals.

But it is up to local councils to take the initiative and none has.

By Alison Roberts

South Africa: Controversial Anti-Heroin Addiction Drug Ibogaine Hits Rehabs

All Africa

Cape Argus, South Africa - A controversial drug designed to combat heroin is being offered to patients around South Africa.

The drug, called ibogaine, is based on an active principle found in the iboga plant, found in Gabon, and reportedly eliminates the withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with heroin addiction by blocking brain receptors that have previously been affected by the drug.

This makes it different from conventional heroin addiction treatments such as methodone which are simply used to wean addicts off the drug by mirroring its effect.

While offering a glimmer of hope to addicts, ibogaine has a dubious history.

It is illegal in a number of countries, including the US, not least because it produces similar side-effects to other psychedelics such as LSD and mescaline. It has also been linked to a small number of fatalities.

Clinical research on the drug is in its infancy.

Dr Deborah Mash, a researcher at the University of Miami, has conducted limited trials on patients. She found that ibogaine can help those addicted to heroin, alcohol and other substances.

The drug has undergone no such studies in South Africa.

A Carte Blanche investigation into ibogaine included a mention that the University of Cape Town was interested in starting trials with the substance but yesterday UCT spokesperson Skye Grove said they "do not intend to start clinical trials".

Carte Blanche has admitted on its website that the statement was erroneous.

Pretoria pharmacist Charles Rossouw is confident of the drug's merits.

He runs a rehabilitation centre in the city where he charges R12 000 per treatment, claiming a 60% success rate among heroin addicts.

"I knew a couple of people who were using drugs," said Rossouw. "I heard about ibogaine but thought it was hogwash. But the more I read, the more I became intrigued."

Rossouw believes that the reason ibogaine is not widely available is simple: "Nobody knows about it."

Rossouw's clinic mainly treats patients from around Pretoria but he has looked after people from "as far away as Cape Town".

By Patrick Whyte

Chem major tries to make illegal drug to pay for school

The News Journal

Wilmington - A former chemistry student at Widener University pleaded guilty in federal court today to charges that he attempted to produce the drug LSD in an improvised lab at a state park.

Paul G. Little, 23, told District Judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr. that he did it to pay for college.

“I’m really sorry,” he said. “I was hoping to manufacture LSD and make extra money to go to school without working.”

His attorney, assistant federal public defender Christopher Koyste said it was a “mad scientist” effort by his client, with little chance of success. “He never had the capacity to do it,” Koyste said.

Little, who appeared in court in an orange prison jumpsuit, said he was having difficulty going to school and holding down a job at the same time, and this appeared to be the answer to his financial problems.

One of Little’s part-time jobs was at The Nature Center in White Clay Creek State Park, where he “did little chemistry experiments for the kids.”

During that time he was allowed to live at a farmhouse in the park, where other park employees were housed. He set up his LSD lab in a barn adjacent to the house in June 2005.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Safwat said Little had a recipe for the illegal hallucinogenic drug that he found either online or in a textbook, and he had acquired many of the chemicals needed to create the drug. Little said the chemicals that he could not purchase, he attempted to create himself.

Little said at the time of his arrest, he had transferred from Widener to Delaware Technical & Community College, where he said he was a “struggling” part-time student.

“I couldn’t make it to class all the time because of work and transportation issues,” he said.

Little, who is originally from upstate New York and had no previous criminal record, now faces up to 20 years in jail and a $1 million fine on the charge of manufacturing LSD when Farnan sentences him in July

By Sean O'Sullivan

Addicts Seek Out Drugs Blamed for Deaths


Camden, NJ (AP) - After Ellen Krips' cousin died of an overdose of extremely potent drugs last week, the heroin addict's first thought was not how she could avoid the bad junk.

It was more like: I have to get some of that stuff.

A bad batch of drugs for sale on the streets of Philadelphia and southern New Jersey has killed at least nine heroin users over the past two weeks. And while authorities are warning people to stay away from the stuff, they are afraid some junkies are drawing the wrong lesson.

Like Krips, 32, they are intrigued by the possibility of a powerful new high.

Investigators are trying to determine exactly what is in the stuff, which is being sold as heroin under such names as "Flatline" and "Capone." Since Friday, about 70 people have been hospitalized.

Tests done in one community show that what was sold as heroin was mostly fentanyl, a drug 80 times more powerful than morphine. It is used to treat chronic pain and as anesthesia for open-heart surgery. No heroin was in the batch.

Medical experts say fentanyl, which has been harming Chicago-area addicts for a few months and has shown up mixed with heroin in Cleveland and elsewhere this year, can cause breathing problems and make users feel as if they are suffocating.

William Gamble, 40, said he was sickened last week. Hours after a state trooper warned him that "Flatline" was dangerous, Gamble bought three, $10 doses of "Capone." He, his wife and another man shot up in an abandoned house. The men passed out quickly, but both survived and were not hospitalized. His wife was not affected.

Warnings from police, counselors and news outlets have had the opposite effect on some addicts.
"If I tell someone I OD'd, they're coming to find that bag," said Gamble, who goes through seven or eight bags of heroin a day.

Authorities arrested 11 heroin users in Camden last week in an effort to track the drugs back to the dealers and their suppliers. By Tuesday, those dealers had not been found.

Some public health officials estimate that 10,000 people in the Philadelphia area are addicted to heroin. With major airports and seaports nearby, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York dealers are known to sell heroin in highly pure forms.

Johnny "J.B." Brown, a drug counselor who cruises the streets of this impoverished city in an RV, offering HIV tests and other services for drug users and prostitutes, has been trying to warn users.

"You being careful out there? You know, there's some bad dope," Brown said Monday as a steady stream of drug users approached for snacks, condoms and bleach kits to clean their needles.

All of them said they have heard about the killer drugs. But they said stuff so strong that it kills is impossible to resist. And even if they wanted to avoid the bad stuff, they might not be able to, since it is never clear which bag might contain fentanyl or some other deadly substance.

"It's like Russian roulette," said addict Michelle Galante, 28, of Swedesboro, "just like any drug."

Stephen Marcus, medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center, said he hopes more publicity about the dangerous drugs will help uncover similar problems elsewhere. But he also knows that every news report might serve as a commercial for drug dealers.

"Will this make the drug abusers go out particularly looking for the stronger stuff?" he asked. "If it does, it's a double-edged sword."

By Geoff Mulvihill

Canucks turn blind eye to opium

The Calgary Sun

Sangin, Afghanistan -- When the commander of Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan's poppy-rich Helmand province gives his word to village elders his soldiers are not there to rip up their fields, he means it.

Maj. Bill Fletcher takes great care to ensure his armoured vehicles don't wreck the green pastures, or cause damage to the plants that feed drug addiction in the West.

"It's basically my word as a commander to them," he said at Forward Operating Base Robinson, in the heart of Helmand River valley.

"There's a code of ethics and honour around here. My word as a commander, and my platoon commanders give their word that Canadians will not be involved in these things, seems to be taken at face value."

So far, the farmers, whose livelihood depends on opium, haven't caught on to the fact that the Canadian, British and U.S. governments support poppy eradication efforts with money, training and alternative crop programs.

But uprooting the plant from which opium and heroin is derived is not the kind of image the military wants to cultivate as it tries to build trust among suspicious rural Afghans.

As commander of C Company, 1st Battalion, of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Fletcher is faced with the problem every time he looks at his perimeter: Poppies crowd the edge of the razor-wire defences.

Given the grinding poverty, the troops find it hard not to feel sympathy for the farmers.

"The reality for these guys is they grow poppies because they get enough money to live," said Fletcher.

"They're not drug barons, you know. They're not huge traffickers or anything else. They're just farmers trying to make a go in what is a pretty tough landscape."

The farmers earn an average of about $685 per year. A field of poppies fetches 27 times more than a field of wheat in this reasonably barren land, which at one time was bread basket of Afghanistan.

Drug gangs to blame for much of Afghan violence

Army Times

Casteau, Belgium (AP) - The commander of NATO’s operations insisted Monday that an increase in violence in southern Afghanistan did not indicate a resurgence of the Taliban, blaming much of the violence on drug gangs resisting efforts to cut opium production in the region.

“It’s tempting to label everything as Taliban, but I’m persuaded that is not the case,” said Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones.

Recent months have seen an increase in attacks on international and Afghan troops as NATO prepares to expand its peacekeeping force from the relatively stable north and west into the south, which includes former Taliban strongholds and major opium-producing areas.

About 6,000 mainly British, Canadian and Dutch soldiers have started deploying in the remote tribal-dominated southern region. The NATO force is expanding from around 8,000 to a total of over 20,000 as its peacekeepers fan out across the whole country.

Four Canadian soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing and unidentified militants also fired four rockets into the U.S.-led coalition base in Kandahar over the weekend.

Although Taliban extremists were widely blamed for the bombing, Jones said such roadside bombs were also used by other forces. “It’s not a religious weapon anymore,” Jones told reporters at NATO’s military headquarters in southern Belgium.

He downplayed any threat from the ousted regime and said the expanded NATO force would be able to handle it.

“We are confident that the upcoming expansion of NATO will more than answer the military requirements,” Jones said. “The number of (Taliban) fighters that we’re talking about in the southern provinces is still really low in terms of mounting massed attacks.”

The increase in violence was “predictable and anticipated” given the spring thaw and increased efforts by Afghan authorities to tackle the opium trade.

NATO is due take control of the southern region on July 31, taking over from U.S.-led forces there. Jones expressed confidence they would be able to “stabilize the situation rather quickly.” He hoped U.S. troops in the east of the country would be brought under NATO command soon after that, giving the alliance responsibility for peacekeeping across the whole of the country.

A separate U.S.-led force will remain to continue counterinsurgency operations and the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his allies.

Jones said NATO headquarters was following the growing tension between Iran and the West over that country’s nuclear program, but stressed “there is no NATO guideline to allied command ... with regard to the situation in Iran.”

“No capital has asked NATO to do anything with regard to Iran,” he added.

By Paul Ames

Wave of refugees shows weakness in Wa army

Nation Multimedia

Caught in Burma's politics of opium and insurgency, Wa villagers continue to be pawns in a game played by warlords.

Just when Thai officials thought they had some breathing space, another 2,000 ragtag Wa villagers arrived on the Kingdom's northern doorstep.

According to Chiang Mai-based Shan Herald Agency for News, they were transported in 39 trucks from a region along the Burma-Chinese border where Wa headhunters once roamed.

The forced relocation is supposed to be part of an ambitious plan to end opium cultivation by the 20,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA), a nominally pro-Rangoon outfit that operates independently in an autonomous region in the Burmese sector of the Golden Triangle.

However, Thai officials see the expansion as a potential security threat, as there have been numerous shootouts between Wa troops and Thai security forces over the years.

"We are concerned with the arrival of Wa peasants and the expansion of the UWSA. We will continue to monitor developments," said a senior narcotics officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Since 1999, some 60,000 peasants living in the UWSA's Special Region 2 (SR2) near the Chinese border have resettled in newly built towns near Thailand's northern border. The resettlement came to a halt in early 2005 because of intense fighting between the UWSA and the rebel Shan State Army (SSA). Rangoon claims the SSA acts as a Thai proxy.

The clashes lasted for eight weeks and ended in the deaths of hundreds of Wa and Shan soldiers whose bodies were scattered along the rugged foothills that zigzag across the Thai-Burmese border.

Thai security officials said the Wa army wanted to show the ruling junta that they were still a useful friend in spite of shaky relations between the two sides that have resulted from Rangoon's suggestion that the world's largest drug army turn over their arms to the government.

Few think the sacrifices made by the UWSA have translated into anything meaningful, because ties continue to be uneasy as Rangoon seeks to amend the 1989 cease-fire agreement.

While the UWSA maintains that the relocation is part of its plan to end opium cultivation in the northern Wa area along the Chinese border, and has made efforts to extend an olive branch to the Thai side, Thai officials are not buying any of it.

Opium cultivation indeed may have been reduced in SR2 due to the mass relocation. However, according to the anonymous narcotics official, Wa-owned heroin refineries have been popping up in the Chinese-Kokang area not far from Lashio, a major commercial hub of northern Shan State just to the west of SR2.

Moreover, the fact that eight of the UWSA's top leaders have been indicted by a US federal court on drug charges early last year makes it difficult for anybody to cut any kind of deal with the Wa.

Despite all these difficulties, the Wa continue to expand their turf southward to areas near the Thai border. They are hoping to open up a new front so they won't have to depend solely on China and Burma as their windows to the world.

But on the surface it seems that the Wa army is serious about kicking the habit. A small survey of opium fields conducted by the UN's Office of Drug and Crime in Wa-controlled areas near the Chinese border showed a sharp decline in cultivation.

The Wa leadership announced publicly last June on World Drug Day that cultivation had ceased in SR2. A ceremony was held in Panghsang, the Wa capital, and hundreds of invitations were issued. But the Burmese didn't like the fact that the UWSA was overshadowing them and denied permission for invitees to travel upcountry to witness what was supposed to be a historic day for the ethnic army, which are desperately trying to be seen as legitimate outfits in the eyes of the world community.

Whatever the future holds, observers of the Golden Triangle say the Wa army faces troubled times. Since the fall of former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, the man who engineered the 1989 cease-fire agreements with the Wa and other ethnic armies, Rangoon has sought to redefine their relationship with these groups with the ultimate aim of disarming them.

So far there is no indication that the Wa army is going to give up their arms, said an official in the Thai Third Army on condition of anonymity. "If anything, they are preparing for a worst-case scenario. Wa soldiers on the Thai border are doing push-ups everyday," he said.

Besides being at loggerheads with the Burmese, trying to be a good neighbour to Thailand has not produced the desired outcome. Efforts have been made to obtain technical assistance from Mae Fah Luang Foundation's crop substitution project, which is conveniently billed as a prime example of Thai-Burmese counter-narcotic cooperation.

But the project has failed to secure any money from the world community for the simple reason that nobody believes that the Thai or Burmese leadership has the interests of the Wa peasants at heart. And so they continue to be a pawn in this cut-throat world where warlords play for keeps.

Woman Uses Bibles To Smuggle Cocaine Into Jail

All Headline News

Huntington, IN – A women allegedly bought two bibles, hid cocaine in their spines, and tried to send them to her husband in jail, Indiana authorities say.

The cocaine was found in the bibles last month. Anthony Duckworth and his wife, Amy, were charged with two counts of trafficking with an inmate.

Amy admitted she bought the bibles but said someone else had supplied the drugs. She asked two people to bring the bibles to the jail, where Anthony was planning on selling the cocaine.

’Infomania’ worse than marijuana

International News Network

Islamabad - Many workers are always on standby to react to incoming messages Workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers, new research has claimed.

The study for computing firm Hewlett Packard warned of a rise in "infomania", with people becoming addicted to email and text messages.

Researchers found 62% of people checked work messages at home or on holiday.

The firm said new technology can help productivity, but users must learn to switch computers and phones off.

Losing sleep .

The study, carried out at the Institute of Psychiatry, found excessive use of technology reduced workers’ intelligence.

Those distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ - more than twice that found in studies of the impact of smoking marijuana, said researchers.

More than half of the 1,100 respondents said they always responded to an email "immediately" or as soon as possible, with 21% admitting they would interrupt a meeting to do so.

The University of London psychologist who carried out the study, Dr Glenn Wilson, told the Daily Mail that unchecked infomania could reduce workers’ mental sharpness.

Those who are constantly breaking away from tasks to react to email or text messages suffer similar effects on the mind as losing a night’s sleep, he said.

Editorial: Government must legalize marijuana

Daily Illini

War on Drugs a waste of resources.

Storrs, Conn. - This declaration, "Marijuana should be legalized in the United States," has long been a contentious issue. Social values, health concerns, economics and politics are all at work in the debate over legalizing marijuana.

The war on drugs has been a misguided and unfair attempt at regulating illicit drug use. During this campaign, which costs an estimated $35 billion a year, according to the Washington Post, marijuana was lumped into the same category as such hard drugs as cocaine and heroin and labeled as equally dangerous and addictive. Countless studies have refuted this and although chronically inhaling marijuana smoke is not unlike tobacco in potentially causing lung damage, marijuana has been linked to no deaths in the United States. Meanwhile, two completely legal and easily obtained drugs, tobacco and alcohol, caused 435,000 deaths and 85,000 deaths in 2000, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In 2004, there were 1,745,712 state and local arrests for drug abuse violations in the United States, 39.2 percent of which were for marijuana possession, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Washington Post reported that a study by the Sentencing Project estimated $4 billion a year is spent on these arrests and prosecutions. The study also found African Americans made up about a third of all marijuana related arrests, but represent only 14 percent of marijuana users.

Aside from locking up more minorities in already crowded prisons and using up valuable law enforcement resources, the leaders of the War on Drugs are now targeting college students. Students with drug convictions can now lose their federal financial aid according to a federal law on the books. Students For Sensible Drug Policy reports on their Web site that 200,000 students have already lost their financial aid as a result of this law.

Economically, it would benefit the government to legalize marijuana if it were taxed properly. The demand would increase in the short-term but could be controlled by the amount of tax. Worry about marijuana being a gateway drug is unsubstantiated. The San Francisco Chronicle, citing The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, estimates roughly 100 million Americans have tried marijuana at some point and 15 million use it regularly. For the majority, weed is no more a gateway drug to cocaine or heroin as beer is to hard liquor.

The legalization of marijuana is by no means a new or shocking concept. What does continue to be shocking, however, is our government's unwillingness to re-evaluate its drug policies and recognize the inefficiency and unfairness of imposing such unreasonable punishments. Decriminalization of the drug state by state is a start but it should lead to legalization.

Our society and government have wasted enough resources. It is time to solve this "drug problem" and focus on more important priorities.

Staff Editorial - The Daily Campus - University of Connecticut

All Smoke

The FDA's statement on medical marijuana isn't about science.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration reported that it had definitively established that marijuana has no medical use or value. Definitively? Established? I don't think so.

The FDA's announcement begins by acknowledging the claim that smoked marijuana may be beneficial for some conditions. Then the agency points out that among drugs with a potential for abuse, marijuana is lumped in with the most dangerous drugs, the ones that have no potential medical benefits and the highest likelihood of misuse. The FDA next affirms that a collection of federal agencies have together concluded that marijuana is both dangerous and medically valueless, based on scientific studies in humans and animals. The announcement—actually, it's an "inter-agency advisory"—concludes by asserting, with a boldness that might belie a certain uneasiness, that it is the FDA's job to approve drugs. Take that, state legislatures and voters.

The FDA's statement implies that the agency reached its conclusion about marijuana after conducting a new serious analysis of the existing scientific literature on the drug. But of course no such analysis was reported in the medical literature and, in fact, no identifiable official at the FDA took responsibility for last week's advisory. It was just put out there as a statement of fact.

But it's not. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine, the medical arm of the National Academy of Sciences (an organization chartered by Congress to provide independent, nonpartisan scientific and technological advice) examined this same question in considerable depth and published a 288-page report of its findings. Put together by 11 distinguished scientists and physicians, the IOM report examined the known and potential harms of marijuana use and the known and potential medical benefits. The report is broad in its vision and thoughtful and cautious in its interpretations and recommendations. Its authors acknowledged that the medical uses of marijuana entail some risk of harm—for instance, it's pretty clear that inhaling marijuana smoke can't be good for the lungs, and who knows if there are significant psychological side effects for some users. But the authors concluded that these risks were not terribly high. They also found that other putative risks often attached to this drug—the potential for addiction, for instance, or for marijuana serving as a "gateway" to further drug abuse—were much overstated. The report urged further study to determine the real level of risk.

In examining the potential medical benefits of medical marijuana, the IOM report was equally cautious. It described relief from nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy, appetite stimulation for cancer and HIV patients, and treatment of muscle spasticity for patients with multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury. Though these benefits seem real, the authors of the IOM report point out that we really don't know yet if they are significant or valuable enough to warrant the use of medical marijuana. Again, the report urged further study to determine the real level of benefit.

However, in the seven years since the IOM report was issued, virtually no research on potential risks and benefits has been done, because the government has blocked such studies. So, we know neither more nor less about medical marijuana than we did seven years ago, whatever the FDA says. Why would the agency inaccurately claim that the science is settled when it isn't? I hardly need to say it: This isn't a medical or scientific conclusion. It's a political one.

This is certainly not the first time that politics has trumped science at the FDA. Another recent example: the agency's decision to block over-the-counter availability for emergency contraceptives in the face of overwhelming evidence that the treatment is safe and effective, and support for over-the-counter availability by the FDA's own advisory committee. From my standpoint as a doctor, the question is this: What do you do when federal agencies become so politicized that their recommendations can't necessarily be trusted? Do you have to treat other things they say as suspect? I depend on good advice and honest information from government agencies in the daily conduct of my work. I need to know what epidemic illnesses are circulating in my neighborhood even if that information might put a government agency in a bad light. I need to be able to trust government-sponsored research (especially because, goodness knows, I have learned not to trust manufacturer-sponsored research). I need to know that the advice I glean from government-sponsored agency Web sites will lead to the best care for my patients.

Marijuana as a medicine—whatever its risk and benefits are eventually determined to be—may turn out to be much less important than the question of whether we can count on agencies like the FDA to be honest in their dealings.

By Sydney Spiesel

Monday, April 24, 2006

Fewer teens realize dangers of 'huffing'


One in five admit getting high by inhaling household products, report finds

New York - About 20 percent of U.S. teenagers admit they have gotten high by inhaling common household products, and fewer understand the dangers of this practice compared with teenagers five years ago, according to a report released Monday.

The findings reflect a drop-off in educational efforts begun in the 1990s to combat the growth of inhalant abuse, says the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which is publishing the report.

Sniffing or “huffing” vapors from ordinary products like glue, spray paint, nail polish remover and gasoline was once a “fringe” activity, said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership.

But by the mid-1990s, the practice had “exploded nationwide,” he told Reuters Health, and even elementary school children were experimenting with the inhalants readily available under their kitchen sinks.

In 1995, the Partnership launched a large advertising campaign that was credited with boosting awareness of the dangers of inhalant abuse — which include damage to the brain, liver, kidneys, vision, hearing and even sudden death from suffocation or heart arrhythmias.

More importantly, surveys found an accompanying decline in the percentage of kids who’d ever tried huffing, from 23 percent in 1995 to 18 percent in 2001.

But the new findings, based on a national survey of more than 7,200 teenagers and 1,200 parents, suggest awareness has waned and abuse is on the rise.

Overall, the survey found, 64 percent of teens “strongly” agreed that huffing can be fatal, down 19 percent from 2001. And 77 percent strongly agreed that inhalants can cause brain damage, down 9 percent.

“It’s a lack of education,” Pasierb said, noting that parents and kids alike need more information.

Parents unaware
Only 5 percent of the parents in the survey thought their child had ever abused an inhalant, although 20 percent of teens said they had.

Some parents may simply be unaware of the practice, but many may believe that their child wouldn’t do it, Pasierb noted.

He said the Partnership is restarting its ad campaign warning against inhalant abuse, because today’s middle-schoolers weren’t exposed to the educational efforts of the 1990s.

“This is something we need to keep up,” Pasierb said.

The campaign includes advice on how parents can recognize signs of inhalant abuse, such as chemical odors on children’s hands or clothes, spray cans or soaked rags in their rooms, and physical and behavioral signs such as a dazed appearance, red and runny eyes or nose, irritability and problems at school.

Narcolepsy drug eyed for cocaine users

Washington - The hottest topic in cocaine addiction is another drug - a medicine already sold to wake up narcoleptics.

Hundreds of cocaine users are testing whether that legal pill, called modafinil, could help them kick the addiction, and there's early evidence that it may.

In addition to blunting cocaine's notorious cravings, modafinil might also counter the damage that cocaine wreaks on users' brain circuits - damage that in turn fuels the cycle of addiction.

The prospect of that double-whammy has the National Institutes of Health spending $10.8 million researching modafinil as a potential cocaine treatment. Results from the first of three key clinical trials could arrive by year's end.

Scientists are cautious: In a hunt spanning two decades, no one has found a medication to help treat cocaine addiction, and there's no guarantee that modafinil will pan out.

But for Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse, the narcolepsy medicine tops the list of promising potential therapies. It may help restore proper function of a crucial brain chemical, dopamine, that addiction hijacks.

And in describing why he's hopeful, one leading researcher recounts the man who accused his drug dealer of selling bad coke before realizing modafinil had kept him from getting high - and several other modafinil testers who told of flushing cocaine down the toilet.

"I've been treating cocaine-addicted patients for something like 25 years, more, and I've never heard of anybody throwing away cocaine," says Dr. Charles Dackis of the University of Pennsylvania, who led a pilot study that suggested modafinil more than doubled addicts' chances of going cocaine-free for at least three weeks.

That study enrolled just 62 people, but the results were significant enough for NIH to fund new research - at Pennsylvania, the University of Texas in Houston, Boston University and other sites - enrolling about 650 cocaine users to see if modafinil really does work.

The main side effect so far: insomnia, not surprising as modafinil is sold today to help narcolepsy patients fend off that neurologic disease's sudden sleep attacks.

Addiction specialists gave it a look because even though modafinil isn't a classic stimulant, it triggered something in the brain to also improve patients' mood, energy levels and ability to concentrate - effects that might counter cocaine withdrawal. Then came the surprises:

-Cocaine intensely stimulates the brain's pleasure centers, producing not just a "buzz" or a "rush," but outright euphoria. In a small safety study to ensure that modafinil didn't make cocaine worse, some users found the once-a-day pill blocked that high. "We didn't expect that at all," Dackis says.

-Potentially more important, he says, modafinil seems to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex, the brain's decision-making command center and the spot that allows reasoning to override impulse or emotion. Cocaine reduces activity in that key brain region, making it even harder for would-be quitters to ignore cravings and resist another hit.

-Modafinil also increases the ability to think strategically, a means of weighing variables and risks to make decisions, says Frank Vocci, NIDA's pharmacotherapy chief.

"The effects on cognitive processes are very subtle, and very interesting," Vocci says - and that's the reason that of half a dozen medications being studied as potential cocaine treatments, the government's biggest emphasis is on modafinil.

Cocaine is highly addictive: About 16 percent of people who try it become hooked, often rapidly. In 2003, the latest data, the government estimated that more than 1.5 million Americans were dependent on or abusing cocaine, and more reported recently experimenting with it.

Addictions in general rewire the brain, says Volkow, the NIDA director. Drugs cause a feel-good rush by increasing amounts of the brain chemical dopamine. The brain reacts by tamping down regular dopamine production, making users feel lousy between hits and setting up the cycle of addiction.

At the same time, the dopamine surge also creates memory circuits that eventually establish so-called "cue-induced cravings": If an addict passes the crack house or sees friends he did drugs with, his brain literally sends a strong impulse to use again.

"One of the strategies of course, in terms of treatment ... is how can we help recover the function of the dopamine system, so the person that's addicted can become sensitive to natural stimuli," Volkow explains.

Modafinil seems to affect chemicals that in turn regulate dopamine production, a different pathway than cocaine takes in altering normal dopamine, and thus one that might counter it, adds Dackis.

"You can't assume this is going to work," he cautions. But if it pans out, a drug that could help cognition instead of just numb cravings would be "a big benefit in treatment."

By Lauran Neergaard

Tommy Chong addresses NORML conference

The Times-Standard

San Francisco - Actor and comedian Tommy Chong entertained more than 500 National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws conference-goers Friday.

”If more people were stoned there would be less violence in the world,” Chong said.

Chong was introduced by NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre.

”It was Tom Chong the man that was wrongly sentenced to nine months in jail when everyone else paid a fine,” St. Pierre said. “I'm so proud and happy that Tommy is joining us today.”

Chong took the stage to a standing ovation.

”I would like to thank what's his name,” Chong joked.

He began by talking about his time in prison, saying the rumors about prison are wrong.

”It doesn't hurt,” Chong said. “But it does hurt when the government is doing it to you.”

He talked about politics, too.

”I know Dick Cheney's Secret Service guys smoke pot,” Chong said. “The reason I know that is I sold them bongs.”

He insinuated that President Bush was on methamphetamines.

”The dangerous thing about tweakers is they can take things apart but they can't put them back together again,” Chong said. “That's what George Bush has done to this country.”

Chong described when law enforcement officials raided his home as part of Operation Pipe Dreams.

”When they raided my home they asked me, 'Do you have any drugs in here?'” Chong said. “Of course I do.”

In prison he was enrolled in a drug education class.

”I signed up, I wanted to learn,” Chong said. “I ended up teaching it.”

Marijuana wasn't the only drug Chong talked about.

”Coke (cocaine) karma is the worst,” Chong said. “There's nothing worse than a coke-head talking to another coke-head.”

Chong appeared to get nostalgic when he talked about his former comedy partner Cheech Marin.

”When Cheech and I broke up it was weird,” Chong said. “I didn't know we were broken up for four years. I went to the last Cheech and Chong movie and I wasn't in it.”

At the conclusion of Chong's speech there was a showing of a new documentary about Chong called “AKA Chong.”

As soon as the lights were dimmed lighters started to spark and the banquet room at the Golden Gateway Holiday Inn began to fill with smoke. About half-way through the movie hotel security turned on all the lights and ordered everyone out of the banquet room because they were concerned that the smoke would set off the smoke alarms.

Medical marijuana was the topic of Friday's panel discussions.

Jeff Jones, executive director of the Oakland Cannabis Buyer's Cooperative, discussed dealing with federal law enforcement's involvement in medical marijuana dispensaries.

”We have to see it coming and we have to be able to move and shake,” Jones said.

He talked about the growing number of dispensaries and that it's overwhelming federal law enforcement.

”There's no way they can keep up with us,” Jones said.

People from all over the United States are attending the conference, like Tammera Halphen from Houston, who is part of the Texas medical marijuana effort and Rodolfo Rivera, a student from Florida Atlantic University who is part of the NORML chapter on his campus. Rivera's NORML chapter was recently featured in High Times Magazine as the “Freedom Fighters” of the month.

The conference was also attended by people from Japan.

Humboldt County was represented at the conference. A woman selling T-shirts and other merchandise trying to raise money for a Bayside resident who needs a medical procedure. The woman, who only wanted to be known as a family friend, said Miranda Kelly, 21, has a “serious lung condition” and needs a transplant. She raised $500 Thursday, the first day of the conference, and had her donation jar filling up Friday. A fund-raiser is planned for the Bayside Grange May 6. More information on Kelly can be found at .

The conference is scheduled to conclude today, with panel discussions focussing on the drug war.

By Chris Durant

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Polotics of Pot

International Herald Tribune

The Bush administration's habit of politicizing its scientific agencies was on display again last week when the Food and Drug Administration, for no compelling reason, unexpectedly issued a brief, poorly documented statement disputing the therapeutic value of marijuana. The statement was described as a response to numerous inquiries from Capitol Hill, but its likely intent was to buttress a crackdown on people who smoke marijuana for medical purposes and to counteract state efforts to legalize the practice.
Ordinarily, when the FDA addresses a thorny issue, it convenes a panel of experts who wade through the latest evidence and then render an opinion as to whether a substance is safe and effective. This time the agency simply issued a skimpy one- page statement asserting that "no sound scientific studies" supported the medical use of marijuana.
That assertion is based on an evaluation by federal agencies in 2001 that justified the government's decision to tightly regulate marijuana. But it appears to flout the spirit of a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences.
The institute was appropriately cautious in its endorsement of marijuana. It said the active ingredients of marijuana appeared useful for treating pain, nausea and the severe weight loss associated with AIDS. It warned that these potential benefits were undermined by inhaling smoke that is more toxic than tobacco smoke. So marijuana smoking should be limited, it said, to those who are terminally ill or don't respond to other therapies.
Yet the FDA statement does not allow even that much leeway. It argues that state laws permitting the smoking of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation are inconsistent with ensuring that all medications undergo rigorous scrutiny in the drug approval process.
That seems disingenuous. The government is actively discouraging relevant research, according to scientists quoted in Friday's New York Times. It's obviously easier and safer to issue a dismissive statement than to back research that might undermine the administration's inflexible opposition to the medical use of marijuana.
The Bush administration's habit of politicizing its scientific agencies was on display again last week when the Food and Drug Administration, for no compelling reason, unexpectedly issued a brief, poorly documented statement disputing the therapeutic value of marijuana. The statement was described as a response to numerous inquiries from Capitol Hill, but its likely intent was to buttress a crackdown on people who smoke marijuana for medical purposes and to counteract state efforts to legalize the practice.
Ordinarily, when the FDA addresses a thorny issue, it convenes a panel of experts who wade through the latest evidence and then render an opinion as to whether a substance is safe and effective. This time the agency simply issued a skimpy one- page statement asserting that "no sound scientific studies" supported the medical use of marijuana.
That assertion is based on an evaluation by federal agencies in 2001 that justified the government's decision to tightly regulate marijuana. But it appears to flout the spirit of a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences.
The institute was appropriately cautious in its endorsement of marijuana. It said the active ingredients of marijuana appeared useful for treating pain, nausea and the severe weight loss associated with AIDS. It warned that these potential benefits were undermined by inhaling smoke that is more toxic than tobacco smoke. So marijuana smoking should be limited, it said, to those who are terminally ill or don't respond to other therapies.
Yet the FDA statement does not allow even that much leeway. It argues that state laws permitting the smoking of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation are inconsistent with ensuring that all medications undergo rigorous scrutiny in the drug approval process.
That seems disingenuous. The government is actively discouraging relevant research, according to scientists quoted in Friday's New York Times. It's obviously easier and safer to issue a dismissive statement than to back research that might undermine the administration's inflexible opposition to the medical use of marijuana.

Vancouver May Deal Drugs

The Toronto Sun

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver's mayor is considering a plan to provide free drugs to addicts to help clean up the Downtown Eastside before the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Sam Sullivan said yesterday an anonymous donor has offered $500,000 to fund an innovative harm-reduction program, and he has asked experts and community groups to look at the proposal.

The mayor added that he's willing to risk his political career to bring in a drug-maintenance program.

The goal, he says, is to protect women addicts forced into prostitution and to deal with Vancouver's crime and social disorders.

Sullivan agrees enforcement, treatment and prevention are necessary, but the mayor is skeptical about the success of police roundups and treatment programs.

"At least three times during my time on council, we have sent the police in to clean up once and for all."

The mayor said that he also hasn't seen overwhelming evidence that treatment programs work.

"I've looked at mandatory treatment in the United States and still seen open drug use there."

Elite US anti-drug agency to set up office in Dubai

Khaleej Times Online

Washington - The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the US government agency charged with tackling the global drug trade, is to open a permanent office in the Emirates, it has been announced.

DEA chief Karen Tandy said the new office would open in 2006 as part of the agency's continuing war against drug traffickers and, their possible links to international terrorist organizations.

Based in Dubai, the office will be staffed by two fulltime DEA agents and two support staff who will serve as liaison between DEA agents in the US and those who operate in other areas, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The office would also assist police in the Emirates with drug investigations.

Until now, DEA investigations involving the region have been run from the administration's office in Islamabad, Pakistan. The DEA currently has 400 personnel stationed in 56 countries, including five special teams working in Afghanistan to destroy poppy crops, heroin laboratories and transportation networks.

Ms Tandy said by opening a permanent office in Dubai, the DEA would bolster its efforts "to take potentially billions in drug profits away from narcotics trafficking organisations and inflict enough damage to leave them unable to reconstitute their operations."

Because of its geographical position, booming economy and increasing importance as a world financial market, the Emirates is allegedly being targeted by drug gangs as a transhipment point for drugs on their way to Europe and the US. Last October, three Nigerian nationals were caught trying to smuggle 10 kilograms of heroin from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Europe via Dubai.

The region is allegedly being used by narcotics traffickers as an endpoint for hundreds of millions of dollars in illegally earned cash, much of it laundered using hawala.

The DEA's increased presence in the Emirates is part of continuing effort by the U.S. government to cripple gangs running heroin from Afghanistan, which produces around 80 per cent of the world's total heroin supply. The region is frequently used as a 'gateway country by gangs moving the drugs on to Europe and the U.S, as per allegations.

The DEA aims to tackle the region's drug problem by targeting both individual smugglers and, by identifying and seizing assets linked to them and the organisations that control the global drug trade. The new Dubai office will also offer support to the Bush administration's 'war on terror'. Ms Tandy said 21 of the 44 groups considered 'foreign terrorist organisations' by the U.S. had possible ties to the narcotics trade. She also revealed DEA agents had supplied intelligence to U.S. Special Forces operating in Afghanistan.

Although the Emirates has a relatively low number of drug addicts, authorities are recording increased seizures of drugs intended for consumption in the UAE.

More than 8,000 drug dealers have been arrested in the UAE since 1999. In June last year undercover police arrested three men in Deira who tried to sell nearly a kilogramme of heroin. The men two Nigerians and a Pakistani were sentenced to life (25 years) in jail. Four months later two women were apprehended at Dubai International Airport and found to be hiding heroin in their sanitary towels. They told officers of Dubai's AntiNarcotics Department they were to be paid $2,500 each to deliver the heroin to a dealer in the Emirates.

And in December, five men were sentenced to 15 years each for smuggling three kilograms of heroin into the country. The Dubai Court of First Instance heard they were planning to sell the drug in Dubai.

Michael Braun, DEA Chief of Operations, said recently increasing quantities of cocaine were also being shipped to the region from the notorious Tri-Border Area of Latin America, a region where the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. Braun said 'immense profits were being made by the region's drug traffickers, who could buy a kilogram of cocaine in the Tri-Border area for $6,000 and sell it for up to $150,000 in the region.

As well as the DEA, UAE authorities are also working closely with Interpol and the United Nations on the issue of international drug trafficking and, in May, the Emirates will be an observer at the International Drug Enforcement Conference being held in Montreal, Canada.

Marijuana Prohibition Doesn't Work

The National Ledger

In an age when so many politicians pander to popular opinion, why is it impossible to imagine Washington restoring so much as an ounce of sanity to the so-called war on drugs?

A Zogby poll in 2002 found that 61 percent of Americans oppose arresting and jailing nonviolent marijuana smokers. Yet there isn't a major politician in America who would support decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. Many may have used it -- some even inhaled -- and still they want marijuana to be illegal.

The folks from NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), which commissioned the Zogby poll, met at the Holiday Inn on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco last week in their quixotic bid to legalize marijuana. There were the expected male ponytails and counterculture clothing, but no contraband wafted through the lobby.

Marijuana activists can't smoke even cigarettes in California hotels. NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre archly noted, "You (Californians) are great at ostracizing the tobacco user." Implicit is his message: Let social sanction, not the heavy arm of the law, deal with marijuana abuse. Not that St. Pierre equates marijuana use with abuse.

St. Pierre is a 40-year-old Republican who readily acknowledges the "bipolar" nature of his constituency -- Green Party members and Libertarians who think "drug reform is a big deal." Alas, they are up against heavyweight Democrats and Republicans -- "people who couldn't be in a room together" on other issues, says St. Pierre -- who are united in the cause of outlawing a substance tried by 40 percent of Americans.

As St. Pierre sees it, few pols talk about legalizing marijuana because they don't want to cross parents who naturally want to protect their children from marijuana -- who don't want to see the kids' education suffer or for them to fall in with the wrong crowd. Legalize marijuana, many fear, and its use will increase.

"Use will go up," St. Pierre says. At the same time, the government won't be turning hundreds of thousands of users into criminals. (In 2004, 684,319 people were arrested in America for marijuana possession alone, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.) Legalize pot, and there will be economic savings in the criminal-justice sector, as well as less wasted human potential.

How do you protect your children from marijuana? To answer, St. Pierre asks, "How do you protect your children from tobacco?" Teen smoking in America has seen a big decline, even though tobacco is legal, thanks to high taxes, nonsmoking rules and social ostracism. And yet not one person has gone to jail for smoking a cigarette.

So what will it take to change Washington? As St. Pierre sees it, politicians won't reassess the drug war until law enforcement challenges drug laws. That's where Norm Stamper, former Seattle police chief and NORML's new advisory board member, and LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) come in.

In his book, "Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing," Stamper lays out a case for decriminalizing drugs. That's the wrong choice of words, he told me Thursday: America should legalize, tax and regulate marijuana and other drugs.

In sum: "Prohibition doesn't work," he says. Legalize drugs, and there will be fewer overdoses, as government regulations would make dosages uniform and safer, said Stamper. Users would be less marginalized, and hence more likely to find productive jobs. Most important, police would be able to focus on violent crime, not petty crimes that hurt the abuser more than society.

Stamper recognizes there are addicts leading miserable, chaotic lives. He believes -- although he can't prove it -- that addicts might seek help sooner if there were no legal sanction. While I would not jump onto the legalize-everything-now bandwagon, decriminalizing marijuana and not incarcerating users -- unless they break other laws -- seems like a sensible start in reassessing what works. It's time for Washington leaders to admit that if prohibition isn't reducing abuse significantly, then drug laws are not compassionate.

LEAP argues that after spending more than a trillion dollars, and arresting millions of users, "drugs are cheaper, easier to get and far more potent than they were when we started this war (on drugs) in 1970."

Or, as Stamper said of prohibition, "It's not working because it can't."

By Debra Saunders

Friday, April 21, 2006

Nomadic Amazon tribes in crossfire of drug war


Sitting in a hammock, Wembe uses a knife to sharpen palm tree branches into arrows. He greases each point with poisonous curare and attaches a wad of wild cotton on the nocks. A 6-foot blow gun rests nearby.

Altos de Agua Bonita, Colombis (AP) - He should be performing the hunting ritual in the Amazon rain forest. Instead, he is forced to do it in a makeshift camp on a riverside plain outside San Jose del Guaviare, the provincial capital.

Eighty Nukak-Maku Indians settled here two weeks ago, emerging from the jungle malnourished and fearing for their lives.

After hunting and gathering for centuries and surviving only by avoiding most contact with outsiders, the nomadic clan has been caught in the crossfire of Colombia's violent drug war.

Their fate is representative of the Amazon's once-flourishing tribal population. The United Nations estimated in 2003 that 300 indigenous tribes live in the Amazon basin, but only about 60 remain in isolation, most of them in Brazil and Peru.

The first members of Wembe's clan arrived in the Guaviare area, 170 miles southwest of the capital, Bogota, in 2003. In recent months, the refugees' numbers have doubled as leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries have battled in their territory.

Coca, the base ingredient of cocaine, flourishes naturally in their lands, and provides the warring groups with huge revenue.

"Go, walk there ... guerrilla very angry," Wembe, who uses only one name, offers in broken Spanish.

The Nukak are a branch of the Maku family of nomadic Indians who have journeyed the northwest Amazon River basin of current-day Colombia, Peru and Brazil for thousands of years. The Maku branches are tied by a common ancestral language.

When settlers began to encroach on the area in the 1960s, influenza killed most of the Nukak. Deforestation has cut their food supply and led to malnutrition.

Only 500 tribe members are believed to survive. About half live in settlements such as the one near Guaviare, said anthropologist Jorge Restrepo. A smaller group has settled in a nearby village built by missionaries.

"There's no precise testimony or evidence about why the groups fled, but without a doubt it was precipitated by the colonization of the jungle by armed groups and coca growers," Restrepo said.

Traditionally, the Nukak live in small clans of 15-40 people who pick up and relocate every few weeks, gathering fruits and seeds and hunting monkeys and other mammals, the anthropologist said.

Now sedentary, the group depends entirely on the government, aid workers and individual donors, who arrive daily bearing clothes, bread and other gifts.

"The disconcerting effect of being away from their territory is softened a little by their curiosity for the people who've come to help," Restrepo said.

Javier Maldonado, a doctor who is helping the group, worried that the Nukuk will never be able to return to their nomadic lifestyle.

"They're trying to adapt themselves to a new life, but they're tired," he said. "They're accustomed to long treks in the jungle, but now that they've stopped walking they're adopting Western habits that are impossible to reverse."

Still, even here, the clan maintains many of its traditions.

Around a pit of dying embers, naked children play under the watchful eye of their mothers, whose foreheads, noses and cheekbones bear a decorative lined pattern made of red dye from the spiny red fruits of the achiote shrub.

Restrepo recommends relocating the Nukak to a safe jungle area, holding out hope they can resume their traditional way of life. But that's possible only if the guerrillas promise to leave the Indians alone.

Etero, a younger member of the tribe, thinks that's unlikely. Crafting a flute from tiger bones and adorning it with colorful feathers, he vowed "never to return ... the guerrillas kick us out."