Monday, February 27, 2006

Returned to sender? Alleged marijuana plan goes all to pot

Kansas City Star

MILL VALLEY, Calif. -(AP)- A man who allegedly mailed a half-pound of marijuana without an address label on the package was arrested after authorities returned it to its sender.

The 48-year-old Mill Valley man was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of drug possession for sale, and investigators found another 1 1/2 pounds of marijuana worth $10,000 at his home behind Tamalpais High School, said Detective Matt Lethin of the Marin County Major Crimes Task Force.

The private Corte Madera shipping company where the man tried to mail the package on Feb. 16 followed company protocol by opening the package to see whether the label was accidentally sealed inside, Lethin said.

“Once they opened it up and saw what was inside, they immediately called law enforcement,” Lethin said.

Investigators said they are not sure whether the man forgot to affix the address label or it fell off, but it had a return address on it that led to the man.

He was booked into Marin County Jail and posted bail. A court date was set for March 8.

Portable Cocaine Sensor Developed

The press office from the University of California, Santa Barbara explains that this "real-time sensor for detecting cocaine" is made from inexpensive and "off-the-shelf" electronics. The entire sensor can be fitted into a small hand-held device:
Co-author and Nobel laureate Alan Heeger said, "We have developed a method of detecting small molecules and proteins in a way that is not specific to cocaine -- a whole class of biosensors can be based on this concept. It can be applied to the prevention of bioterrorism. It is beautiful work; the sensor is fully portable." Heeger is a professor of physics and of materials and is affiliated with the Center for Polymers and Organic Solids at UCSB. He won the Nobel prize in chemistry in 2000...

To create the sensor, the researchers took a DNA molecule that converts from a floppy and unfolded shape into a structured, folded shape in the presence of cocaine. They then observe the change in the DNA by monitoring how electrons travel through it. There are DNA molecules available that bind to many different targets, so it follows that similar sensors can be easily made for other targets.

Currently the cocaine sensor that is widely used by police is the Scott test. When a chemical is added to the white powder it changes color. But there are many ways around this test, explained Plaxco, and some cocaine manufacturers add a chemical to block the color change. "Our sensor can detect cocaine no matter what they have cut it with: powdered sugar, flour, or the coffee that is sometimes used to mask the smell from dogs." [Kevin Plaxco is an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry -ed.]

At this point the new sensor detects cocaine in the blood or saliva to a degree of a few micromolars. This is equivalent to the concentration of cocaine that would result from dropping a kilogram of cocaine into an olympic-sized swimming pool. That concentration would be the equivalent of detecting three parts per million in blood. Still, this is not yet sensitive enough for use in the emergency room, since a person with .3 parts per million of cocaine in their blood would be considered "stoned on cocaine." So more work needs to be done to increase the sensitivity of the new test.

Brochure directs meth addicts to singles hotline

The Daily News

Washington (AP) - A brochure offering help and advice to those affected by methamphetamine addiction mistakenly listed a telephone number for an adult singles chat line instead of a drug help line.

About 60,000 copies of 200,000 planned mailers were sent to dozens of Tennessee counties before the error was caught.

"It was an unfortunate mistake," said Wally Kirby, executive director of the Tennessee District Attorney Generals Conference, which sponsored the mailing.

The mailer referred to a toll-free number for a drug hot line operated by the Tennessee Association of Alcohol and Drug Services.

But callers dialing that number heard a recorded message: "Talk to people just like you, 24 hours a day, seven days a week." A female speaker then gave another toll-free number, which offered "hot girls just waiting to talk to you" for a minimum charge of 99 cents per minute.

Heroin Jingles Jangle Nerves

The New York Post

Heroin chic is alive and well and still living on Madison Avenue — except instead of inhabiting waifish models, it has manifested itself as the background music of choice for TV commercials.

In the latest example, whiskey maker Jack Daniel's is featuring the Jane's Addiction song "Jane Says," which centers on the main character's losing battle with heroin addiction, in television spots that began running last year and will continue through March 5.

Volkswagen kicked off the latest heroin-themed music trend by using Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" for its hugely successful Cabrio campaign. Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" has become synonymous with cruise ships thanks to Royal Caribbean. And the maker of the women's contraceptive, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, expertly wove Sixpence None The Richer's catchy but drug-focused cover of "There She Goes" into its spots.

But unlike those examples, which advertise products completely disassociated from the song's content, the Jack Daniel's spot raises thorny issues of responsibility and taste, given that the brand and the tune's subject matter are intimately tied.

"It is both irresponsible and mind-blowing to advertise a product that is a drug itself with a song about drug addiction," said Joel Simon, president and CEO of commercial music production company JSM Music.

A spokesperson for Brown-Forman, the whiskey maker's parent company, claimed ignorance of the song's drug-related content.

"We weren't aware that this song allegedly deals with drugs," the spokesperson said.

This despite lyrics like, "I'm gonna kick tomorrow," not to mention the band's name, Jane's Addiction.

But to be fair, the only lyric heard in the commercial — "Jane says I'm done with Sergio" — is innocent enough. And at least one former musician and current ad exec doesn't view using the song as irresponsible.

"Brands are looking to borrow cachet from a song's sound as opposed to its message," said Josh Rabinowitz, director of music at Grey Worldwide. "They're going for the Jane's Addiction sound, not the message."

But others aren't as sanguine.

"I was utterly horrified by the commercial," wrote one blogger on a Jane's Addiction message board. "[Jack Daniel's] seems to be saying that the user should not even try to 'kick' alcohol, but to embrace the angst and despair of 'Jane.' Appalling."

by Peter Lauria

UK pays out for '50s LSD tests

CNN International

Britain has agreed to pay compensation to three servicemen given the mind-altering drug LSD during tests in the 1950s, the government said on Friday.

London, England (Reuters) - The UK's Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6, commissioned the experiments fearing that the Soviet Union was developing a secret substance to brainwash its enemies and force prisoners to make confessions with a truth drug.

The tests were carried out by scientists at Porton Down, the government's chemical and biological weapons research laboratory, in 1953 and 1954 during the height of the Cold War.

The men who took part in the tests claimed they were duped into taking the LSD, thinking they were taking part in research to find a cure for colds.

Don Webb, one of the volunteers who received an extra week's pay for the tests, said he and a colleague began to hallucinate after being given a clear liquid to drink.

"His face melted and opened so that I could swear that I could see his skull beneath the skin," he told BBC radio.

"The walls and floor of the room seemed to be covered by a clear liquid that was moving about and writhing.

"I was surrounded by a cell of moving writhing things inside an ordinary room."

A spokesman for the Foreign Office, which deals with MI6 inquiries, denied the men had been misled.

"Settlement offers were made on behalf of the three claimants and on legal advice ... the government thought it was appropriate to accept," he said.

"They weren't duped into taking the tests. It's history: No one knows precisely what happened 52 years ago."

The amounts paid to the men have not been disclosed, but the BBC said they were thought to be less than £10,000 ($17,500) each.

"I think they have grudgingly acknowledged they did something wrong," Webb said. "I think that's as near to an apology or an explanation as I'll get."

The LSD case comes after an inquest in 2004 ruled that a serviceman who died during experiments at Porton Down to test the effect of the lethal nerve gas sarin had been unlawfully killed by the Ministry of Defence.

Tune in, turn on ... evolve?

Scripps Howard News Service

On the walls of dozens of caves in southern France and northern Spain lie some of the most majestic works of art ever painted. Drawn 25,000 to 40,000 years ago, the paintings have puzzled anthropologists since they were discovered more than four decades ago.

Where did this astonishing display of talent come from? Why did these prehistoric societies decide to paint these scenes in such remote locations? And what inspired them to paint the strange array of bisons, horses and therianthropes (part animal, part man)?

A scientific consensus of sorts has finally emerged on one of those questions: Although there are still dissenters, a majority of anthropologists now champion the theory that the paintings in Europe were the work of shamans, and in part the product of trance states, likely induced by psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in some species of mushrooms).

Similarly, South African anthropologist David Lewis-Williams maintains that the remarkable rock art of the San people of southern Africa, also painted at least 25,000 years ago, is the result of shamanic trances created by drumming and ritual ecstatic dancing.

In his new book, Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, published by Random House, British writer Graham Hancock has taken Lewis-Williams's research as a point of departure to posit a theory as fascinating as it is provocative: If it's true that cave art derives from altered states of consciousness, then it constitutes a watershed moment in human history, marking the first visible encounter with the supernatural, the first expression of spiritual myth.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the paintings were begun just when, according to anthropologists, human civilization made a great leap forward in terms of social organization, hunting-and-gathering skills and general creativity.

Hancock (previously author of Fingerprints of the Gods and The Sign and the Seal) notes striking similarities between cave paintings produced by shamanic artists 25,000 years ago and the abundant descriptions of fairies, elves, angels and other fantastic creatures commonly reported in Europe from the medieval ages to the 17th century.

And what is their modern equivalent? Hancock suggests the myriad accounts of alien abduction. His new book devotes several hundred pages to documenting these parallels, showing a surprising commonality of visions.

Although he does not rule out the possibility of extraterrestrial encounters, Hancock says the vast majority of these accounts are more logically explained by spontaneous entrance into trance states.

Because few of the alien abductees are users of mind-altering drugs, the most likely explanation, he believes, is that the brains of a small percentage of the population contain slightly higher levels of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) than already occur naturally in humans, as well as in other mammals, frogs, grasses, barks and flowers. Such people, he says, don't need to consume magic mushrooms or any other drug in order to enter trance states: Their hallucinogenic potential is more or less built-in.

Hancock insists that just because such events and encounters may not have occurred on a physical plane, it doesn't mean they never happened. His book quotes Albert Hoffman, the discoverer of LSD, who wrote that the brain, biochemically altered, tunes to "another wavelength than that corresponding to normal, everyday reality."

As part of his project, Hancock plunged himself into the netherworld of mind-altering drugs _ he ate psychedelic mushrooms, took the African drug ibogaine, drank ayahuasca tea 13 times and smoked DMT. His own drug experiences included multiple encounters with "spirit beings" that, he insists, have profoundly changed him.

"This life we look at is only a fragment of reality. ... What the physicists have arrived at with the notion of parallel dimensions, through their methods, is pretty much the same as what shamans are arriving at through their methods," Hancock says. "Except shamans are ahead of the quantum physicists, because they can actually get into those dimensions."

Going a few steps further than the late John Allegro, a Dead Sea scholar who suggested in the 1970s that early Christianity was essentially a mushroom-and-sex cult, Hancock maintains that all religions are "rooted and grounded in shamanic experiences."

In Toronto recently to promote his book, Hancock said organized religion as we know it is "the attempt to account for and explain those experiences. And then the bureaucrats come in, take it over, become the priesthood, impose themselves as the sole intermediaries, and eventually lose the connection to the spiritual life that once was at the heart of the religion. We've seen that again and again.

"I don't even know if God isn't one of those things that happen after the bureaucrats step in. Indeed, many monotheistic religions are very opposed to altered states of consciousness. And so we've lost contact with the origins of religion."

The use of most hallucinogens, of course, is outlawed in most Western nations. In that context, Hancock _ a former Economist correspondent in East Africa who gave up journalism to begin writing bestselling books about lost civilizations _ says most of us live under a repressive regime.

"If you pause to think about it," he says, "the essence of a human being is consciousness. Without it, we are nothing. So it's a transgression of my sovereignty as an individual that some other individual can rule on what experiences I may or may not have with my consciousness, doing no harm to others."

by Michael Posner

Marijuana ingredient useful in diabetes

United Press International

AUGUSTA, Ga., Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Medical College of Georgia researchers say a compound found in marijuana may help keep diabetics' eyes healthy.

Researchers led by molecular biologist Gregory Liou found cannabidiol works as a consummate multitasker to protect the eye from growing a plethora of leaky blood vessels, the hallmark of diabetic retinopathy -- the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults, affecting nearly 16 million Americans.

High glucose levels resulting from unmanaged diabetes set in motion a cascade ultimately causing the oxygen-deprived retina to grow more blood vessels. Ironically, the leaky surplus of vessels can ultimately destroy vision.

Liou, who recently received a $300,000 grant from the American Diabetes Association, and colleagues explain their work in the American Journal of Pathology.

Hundreds puff marijuana to mark festival

The Hindu News Update Service

Kathmandu, Feb. 27 (AP): Hundreds of Hindu holy men, devotees and tourists smoked marijuana near a temple in Nepal's capital on Sunday as part of festival celebrating the Hindu god Shiva.

Though possession and use of marijuana is illegal in Nepal, smoking cannabis is tolerated during the annual festival.

Ash-smeared holy men wearing loin cloths shared marijuana cigarettes with locals, and even some tourists, in a forested area near Pashupatinath temple, on the eastern edge of Kathmandu.

More than 150,000 devotees were expected today to visit the temple, one of the holiest shrines for Hindus.

Police arrest George Michael on drugs charges

Telegraph News

Police have arrested singer George Michael on suspicion of possessing Class C drugs after he was found slumped at the wheel of a car.

Michael was taken into custody at Hyde Park Corner in central London early yesterday morning, following a call from a member of the public.

The former Wham! star, 42, was checked by paramedics but did not need hospital treatment.

He was initially arrested on suspicion of being unfit to drive, but after being taken to a police station and examined by a doctor this offence was not pursued.

The substances seized by officers are suspected to be cannabis and GHB, a drug also known as liquid ecstasy which is popular with clubbers, according to the Sun newspaper.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed that a 42-year-old man had been arrested.

'A search of the man revealed what was believed to be controlled substances,' he said.

'He has been released on bail to return to a central London police station on a date in late March pending analysis of the substances recovered.'

This is not the first time Michael has found himself on the wrong side of the law.

In 1998 the star was arrested for lewd conduct in a public toilet in Los Angeles after being spotted by an undercover police officer.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Courtney Love's Father Threatens To Sue Over LSD Allegations


According to Britain's Sunday Times , Courtney Love's father, a former rock manager called Hank Harrison, is preparing to sue her and Faber & Faber, publisher of Love's upcoming book (entitled "Dirty Blonde") based on her "intimate" journals, if she alleges that he put her on the road to drug addiction by giving her LSD as a toddler.

"Courtney is a brilliant artist with a photographic memory and a mass of talent, but she can also be a mean bitch, although I put a lot of that down to her mother," Harrison said.

"I have been told she was given a $1 million advance for her book, and for that it will have to be pretty detailed. I know she has told other people that I gave her drugs when she was three years old, which she cannot possibly remember and is absolutely untrue as I was an anti-drugs counsellor in the 1960s. But I do fear what she might write now to make the book sell.”

"Dirty Blonde", due to be published in November, is based on Love's journals of life with late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, as a rock star with her own band Hole and her acting career, which peaked with her role in the 1996 film "The People vs Larry Flint".

Bolivia’s Catch-22 drug war

The Minnesota Daily

Bolivia is heavily dependent on US aid and American trading rights.

1vo Morales, Bolivia’s new president, is doing just what the United States expects of a democratically elected leader: Listen and respond to the needs of the Bolivian coca farmers who voted him into office. Morales pledged to end the hated U.S.-backed coca eradication program that destroys thousands of acres of coca and the livelihood of hundreds of Bolivian coca farmers each year. But to do so will lead Bolivia into a drug war trap, a Catch-22 set by none other than the United States.

For hundreds of years Bolivians have made tea with coca leaves, chewed them to fend off fatigue and used coca for religious and medical purposes. Bolivian farmers legally can grow coca on 29,600 acres for these traditional uses. However, illegal coca crops headed for the cocaine market are grown on another 31,000 acres. Morales is strongly committed to enforcing tough anti-cocaine laws and has said, “There will not be zero coca, but there will be zero cocaine” in Bolivia. He wants to end the political and social turmoil stirred up by the U.S.-backed search-and-destroy tactics used to eradicate coca, a traditional crop with strong symbolic meanings among the people. Instead, he wants to use economic development, crop substitution and financial incentives to entice farmers to voluntarily stop growing coca beyond what is needed for traditional uses.

Since 1997 the United States has spent about $2 on coca eradication and drug interdiction in Bolivia for every $1 spent on alternative employment of coca farmers. Morales simply wants to reverse this spending trend and implement a coca management program that makes sense for Bolivian farmers, and one that offers farmers income alternatives, not economic ruin as has often been the case in the past. Here’s the Catch-22: Bolivia, one of the poorest South American countries, is heavily dependent on U.S. aid and American trading rights. If Bolivia does not fully cooperate with the U.S.-led drug war, a 1986 act of the U.S. Congress calls for ending foreign aid to Bolivia and closing its access to U.S. markets.

How can Washington help Mr. Morales out of this box? One option is to replace the failed search-and-destroy strategy with a U.S.-style coca subsidy program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The department would treat excess coca production as a land use problem and prescribe financial incentives and technical support. The department’s motto, “Why use force when Yankee greenbacks can do the job?” relies on an army of Washington check-writers to lure farmers away from the unwanted crops — Morales could easily endorse this.

In the 1990s the United States paid Bolivian farmers as much as $1,000 for every acre of coca voluntarily abandoned, but the plan failed. Subsidy payments were less than the farmers’ coca crop incomes, and the government did not prevent farmers from taking the cash and planting a new coca crop elsewhere. The department, with Morales’ support, can overcome these problems. The secret? Pay the full value of the coca crop we are asking farmers to forego.

If Bolivia has 4,500 illegal coca farms averaging seven acres each and raising four crops per year, and if an acre produces $400 worth of coca per crop, the department would pay each farmer $11,200 a year to idle his land, or at least not to grow coca. This is more than 12 times Bolivia’s $900 per capita annual income, meaning these farmers can get rich — like American farmers — doing something we want them to do or, for that matter, doing nothing at all.

Total subsidy payments would be about $50 million a year — a lot less than the $90 million American taxpayers spent in Bolivia in 2005 for coca eradication, drug interdiction and alternative development programs.

How about it, President Morales?

by Ronald Fraser

Another Year of Drug War, and the Poppy Crop Flourishes

New York Times

DA BOLAN DASHT, Afghanistan— Already the green shoots of poppy plants are showing in the fields of Helmand, the top opium producing province in Afghanistan, and this year everyone — government officials, farmers and aid workers alike — says there will be another bumper crop.

"Last year 40 percent of land was used for poppy cultivation," said Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, head of the anti-narcotics department in Helmand. "This year it is up to 80 percent in places."

"Three months ago I came and told these farmers not to grow poppy, but look, it's all poppy," he added, gesturing at the bright green crop now showing across the acres between the mud-walled farmhouses.

The farmers in this village just 20 minutes' drive from the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, did not seem the least bit embarrassed to be caught growing the illegal crop, which is processed into opium and heroin. One old farmer, Hajji Habibullah, even weeded his poppy crop while chatting with the anti-drug chief. "We have to grow it," he said. "We need the money."

Another farmer, Ahmad Jan, 62, agreed. He has planted 8 of his 10 acres with poppy. "We will not abandon poppy cultivation until the end of this world," he said. "If the government does not give us anything first, we will not stop."

The Afghan government and its international backers are suffering from a serious lack of credibility when it comes to curbing poppy cultivation here. Despite the strictures of the government and the police, and personal pleas from President Hamid Karzai for farmers not to grow it, they have carried on anyway.

Poppy growing is so uncontrolled that despite millions of aid dollars spent to train anti-drug forces and to help farmers grow other crops, Afghanistan is showing no sign of leaving its position as the world's biggest producer of opium. It accounts for almost three-quarters of global opium production.

Virtually all of the heroin sold in Russia and 75 percent of that sold in Europe originates in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Helmand Province, in Afghanistan's southwest, alone produces 40 percent of the country's poppy harvest.

The farmers in this village say they have little choice. They live on land reclaimed from the desert. Nothing grows in the salty earth except the hardy poppy plant. They have to pump water for irrigation from a well nearly 100 yards deep, they say, and only high-priced opium makes the effort cost-effective. They would lose money if they tried to grow wheat or melons, they said.

"If they destroy the poppy we will have to leave the country," said another farmer, Pahlawan, 24, who uses only one name. "What else can we do in the desert?"

But the farmers seem fairly confident that will not happen. "Even now they think the government will not destroy the poppy," Mr. Sherzad, the anti-drug chief, said of the farmers. "We even took people to Kabul for meetings to tell them, but still they think we will not cut it down."

Not without reason. Eradication last year was something of a joke, nearly all agree. The police brought in tractors to plow up the poppy fields, but much of it grew back and the farmers still managed to harvest a crop, Mr. Sherzad said.

The police can also be bribed to leave part of the crop, said the villagers, out of the hearing of the police. "We have money, so we are not scared," Mr. Pahlawan said.

They watched the neighboring provinces of Kandahar and Farah get away with increased cultivation last year, and even clashes with the eradication force from Kabul, trained by the United States contractor DynCorp, without repercussions.

"In Kandahar last year there was no pressure to stop growing poppy," said Steve Shaulis, who runs the Central Asia Development Group, which helps farmers develop alternative crops. "This is the rebound effect."

Two farmers from the Nawa district south of Lashkar Gah, where the police did destroy the poppy crop last year, said that this year the farmers were hedging in every way they could. Some are growing double the usual amount of poppy because they are calculating that half of the crop may be eradicated. Others are growing smaller amounts behind walled gardens to see if they can get away with it, said one of the farmers, Jamal Khan, 24.

The Taliban, too, are promoting the growing, as a source of income for their operations. They have spread leaflets ordering farmers to grow poppy.

In Helmand, the Taliban have forged an alliance with drug smugglers, providing protection for drug convoys and mounting attacks to keep the government away and the poppy flourishing, the new governor of Helmand, Muhammad Daud, said.

The threat of Taliban reprisals may be just another convenient excuse farmers have thought up, said Col. Muhammad Ayub, the deputy police chief of the province.

But there is little doubt that the Taliban and the drug smugglers have a strong influence in the villages. One agricultural worker employed on a program to develop alternative crops said he continued to grow poppy on some of his land, otherwise the other villagers would accuse him of working for the government.

The one bright spot is the work of agricultural aid organizations, which are quietly persuading farmers to plant fruit trees and vineyards on some of their land, drawing at least a percentage of cultivated land away from poppy and providing work in rural areas to ease widespread dependency on opium as the main cash earner.

But those efforts alone will not change things, said Muhammad Sardar, who runs a rural recovery program for Mercy Corps. "It is government policy and more local government involvement that is needed," he said.

Drug war claims two more police chiefs

Miami Herald

The President's office condemned the shooting deaths of two northern police chiefs.

President Vicente Fox on Tuesday promised to use all of Mexico´s might to battle drug traffickers, a day after two police chiefs in northern Mexico were shot and killed within hours of each other.

"All the force of the state, all of our might will be in this fight against organized crime and drug trafficking," Fox said in San Pedro Garza García, a wealthy Monterrey suburb whose police chief was ambushed and killed Monday.

Héctor Ayala, director of police in San Pedro, was driving in Monterrey, whose sprawling metro area is Mexico´s third largest, when a car overtook his vehicle and opened fire.

That killing came four hours after the kidnapping and shooting death of Javier García, who was named police chief two weeks ago in the town of Sabinas Hidalgo, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of the U.S. border at Laredo, Texas.

It wasn´t clear if the killings were related, but authorities say violence has spiked in Mexico´s northeast border region since the 2003 arrest of the area´s top reputed drug dealer set off a turf war for control of smuggling routes across the border.

"We´re not going to let our guard down and we will work more intensely until all of this is stopped, until all criminals are where they need to be," said Fox, who was distributing property titles to some San Pedro residents when he spoke.


García was arriving at city hall when he was intercepted, kidnapped, and driven off by an unknown number of armed assailants in at least two cars, police said.

Minutes after the abduction, investigators found his body next to a highway outside Sabinas Hidalgo, a farming town of about 30,000. He had been shot in the back of the head and had his hands tied behind his back.

García took over as Sabinas Hidalgo´s top police officer after his predecessor stepped down to join the political campaign of a local mayoral hopeful.

Last week, a state investigator was killed in Monterrey in an apparent road rage incident, but García´s slaying was the first attack of its kind in recent memory against an official in Sabinas Hidalgo.


The killings echoed the June slaying of Alejandro Domínguez, who died in a hail of gunfire eight hours after taking over as the police chief of Nuevo Laredo, across the Rio Grande from Laredo.

Ayala, 43, had been a state investigator for Nuevo León state, where San Pedro Garza García and Sabinas Hidalgo are located.

State prosecutor Luis Treviño said investigators had made no arrests and were still trying to determine a motive for the killings. He said neither police chief had reported receiving threats.

"We have to base our investigation on reality and at this point we cannot say whether either attack is linked to organized crime," Treviño told reporters.

Treviño said investigators were already collecting videotapes from surveillance cameras along the street where Ayala was killed.

Violence in this area has been on the rise since 2003, when reputed drug lord Osiel Cárdenas was arrested during a shootout in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

Authorities say the violence has intensified as another accused drug lord, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, has been fighting smugglers loyal to Cárdenas to gain access to drug smuggling routes in Nuevo Laredo and other border cities.


Also Tuesday, Fox spokesman Rubén Aguilar said the government expects more officials to fall victim in the ongoing battle against organized crime.

"In the frontal war against organized crime, the Mexican state will be victorious, but there will still be a long period of confrontation that surely implies the loss of functionaries´ lives," Aguilar told a news conference in Mexico City.

Let those dopers be

Los Angeles Times

A former police chief wants to end a losing war by legalizing pot, coke, meth and other drugs.

SOMETIMES PEOPLE in law enforcement will hear it whispered that I'm a former cop who favors decriminalization of marijuana laws, and they'll approach me the way they might a traitor or snitch. So let me set the record straight.

Yes, I was a cop for 34 years, the last six of which I spent as chief of Seattle's police department.

But no, I don't favor decriminalization. I favor legalization, and not just of pot but of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth, psychotropics, mushrooms and LSD.

Decriminalization, as my colleagues in the drug reform movement hasten to inform me, takes the crime out of using drugs but continues to classify possession and use as a public offense, punishable by fines.

I've never understood why adults shouldn't enjoy the same right to use verboten drugs as they have to suck on a Marlboro or knock back a scotch and water.

Prohibition of alcohol fell flat on its face. The prohibition of other drugs rests on an equally wobbly foundation. Not until we choose to frame responsible drug use — not an oxymoron in my dictionary — as a civil liberty will we be able to recognize the abuse of drugs, including alcohol, for what it is: a medical, not a criminal, matter.

As a cop, I bore witness to the multiple lunacies of the "war on drugs." Lasting far longer than any other of our national conflicts, the drug war has been prosecuted with equal vigor by Republican and Democratic administrations, with one president after another — Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush — delivering sanctimonious sermons, squandering vast sums of taxpayer money and cheerleading law enforcers from the safety of the sidelines.

It's not a stretch to conclude that our draconian approach to drug use is the most injurious domestic policy since slavery. Want to cut back on prison overcrowding and save a bundle on the construction of new facilities? Open the doors, let the nonviolent drug offenders go. The huge increases in federal and state prison populations during the 1980s and '90s (from 139 per 100,000 residents in 1980 to 482 per 100,000 in 2003) were mainly for drug convictions. In 1980, 580,900 Americans were arrested on drug charges. By 2003, that figure had ballooned to 1,678,200. We're making more arrests for drug offenses than for murder, manslaughter, forcible rape and aggravated assault combined. Feel safer?

I've witnessed the devastating effects of open-air drug markets in residential neighborhoods: children recruited as runners, mules and lookouts; drug dealers and innocent citizens shot dead in firefights between rival traffickers bent on protecting or expanding their markets; dedicated narcotics officers tortured and killed in the line of duty; prisons filled with nonviolent drug offenders; and drug-related foreign policies that foster political instability, wreak health and environmental disasters, and make life even tougher for indigenous subsistence farmers in places such as Latin America and Afghanistan. All because we like our drugs — and can't have them without breaking the law.

As an illicit commodity, drugs cost and generate extravagant sums of (laundered, untaxed) money, a powerful magnet for character-challenged police officers.

Although small in numbers of offenders, there isn't a major police force — the Los Angeles Police Department included — that has escaped the problem: cops, sworn to uphold the law, seizing and converting drugs to their own use, planting dope on suspects, robbing and extorting pushers, taking up dealing themselves, intimidating or murdering witnesses.

In declaring a war on drugs, we've declared war on our fellow citizens. War requires "hostiles" — enemies we can demonize, fear and loathe. This unfortunate categorization of millions of our citizens justifies treating them as dope fiends, evil-doers, less than human. That grants political license to ban the exchange or purchase of clean needles or to withhold methadone from heroin addicts motivated to kick the addiction.

President Bush has even said no to medical marijuana. Why would he want to "coddle" the enemy? Even if the enemy is a suffering AIDS or cancer patient for whom marijuana promises palliative, if not therapeutic, powers.

As a nation, we're long overdue for a soul-searching, coldly analytical look at both the "drug scene" and the drug war. Such candor would reveal the futility of our current policies, exposing the embarrassingly meager return on our massive enforcement investment (about $69 billion a year, according to Jack Cole, founder and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

How would "regulated legalization" work? It would: 1) Permit private companies to compete for licenses to cultivate, harvest, manufacture, package and peddle drugs.

2) Create a new federal regulatory agency (with no apologies to libertarians or paleo-conservatives).

3) Set and enforce standards of sanitation, potency and purity.

4) Ban advertising.

5) Impose (with congressional approval) taxes, fees and fines to be used for drug-abuse prevention and treatment and to cover the costs of administering the new regulatory agency.

6) Police the industry much as alcoholic beverage control agencies keep a watch on bars and liquor stores at the state level. Such reforms would in no way excuse drug users who commit crimes: driving while impaired, providing drugs to minors, stealing an iPod or a Lexus, assaulting one's spouse, abusing one's child. The message is simple. Get loaded, commit a crime, do the time.

These reforms would yield major reductions in a host of predatory street crimes, a disproportionate number of which are committed by users who resort to stealing in order to support their habit or addiction.

Regulated legalization would soon dry up most stockpiles of currently illicit drugs — substances of uneven, often questionable quality (including "bunk," i.e., fakes such as oregano, gypsum, baking powder or even poisons passed off as the genuine article). It would extract from today's drug dealing the obscene profits that attract the needy and the greedy and fuel armed violence. And it would put most of those certifiably frightening crystal meth labs out of business once and for all.

Combined with treatment, education and other public health programs for drug abusers, regulated legalization would make your city or town an infinitely healthier place to live and raise a family.

It would make being a cop a much safer occupation, and it would lead to greater police accountability and improved morale and job satisfaction.

But wouldn't regulated legalization lead to more users and, more to the point, drug abusers? Probably, though no one knows for sure — our leaders are too timid even to broach the subject in polite circles, much less to experiment with new policy models. My own prediction? We'd see modest increases in use, negligible increases in abuse.

The demand for illicit drugs is as strong as the nation's thirst for bootleg booze during Prohibition. It's a demand that simply will not dwindle or dry up. Whether to find God, heighten sexual arousal, relieve physical pain, drown one's sorrows or simply feel good, people throughout the millenniums have turned to mood- and mind-altering substances.

They're not about to stop, no matter what their government says or does. It's time to accept drug use as a right of adult Americans, treat drug abuse as a public health problem and end the madness of an unwinnable war.

By Norm Stamper, Norm Stamper is the former chief of the Seattle Police Department. He is the author of "Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing" (Nation Books, 2005).

New Documents Shed More Light on Alleged DEA Corruption in Colombia

Indy Bay

The revelations of alleged corruption in the Bogotá, Colombia, office of the Drug Enforcement Administration that surfaced last month in a memo drafted by a U.S. government attorney have been illuminated by yet another memo obtained by Narco News.

The new memo, along with information revealed in related documents and by Narco News sources, brings to light the identities of two of the DEA whistleblowers behind the corruption allegations in the Kent memo.

The recently revealed memo put into motion a major investigation targeting one of those whistleblowers, a DEA group supervisor in Miami. The investigation effectively thwarted the supervisor’s efforts to pursue the alleged connections between narco-traffickers and DEA agents in Colombia.

On Dec. 19, 2004, Thomas M. Kent, an attorney in the wiretap unit of the U.S. Justice Department’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs Section (NDDS), sent off a memo to his section chief. Law enforcement sources tell Narco News that a number of other high-level officials within Justice and the DEA soon received copies of the same memo.

In the memo, Kent raised a series of corruption allegations centering on the DEA’s office in Bogotá. The memo alleges that DEA agents on the front lines of the drug war in Colombia are on drug traffickers’ payrolls, engaged in money laundering and complicit in the murders of informants who knew too much about their nefarious activities.

Kent says his claims are supported by a number of DEA agents in Florida, whom he does not name in the memo. He further alleges that elements within the DEA worked to muzzle and retaliate against those whistleblowers when they tried to expose the corruption.

Mo. House bill filed to legalize medicinal marijuana


A bill filed in the Missouri House of Representatives reopens the debate about medical marijuana.

Rep. Tom Villa, D-St. Louis, is sponsoring the bill, filed Tuesday, that would allow doctors statewide to prescribe marijuana for patients with serious medical conditions. It is similar to medical marijuana proposals filed in Missouri’s General Assembly in years past. Eleven other states have passed similar bills.

Under the bill, Missouri patients, through their physicians, would contact the state health department to receive an authorization card, which would show that they have a doctor’s approval to use the drug.

“National surveys show a broad base of support for this type of legislation,” Villa said.

Columbia voters approved a proposition last year that allows the use of medical marijuana in the city.

Retired Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper and undercover narcotics officer Ed Moses said Wednesday that some groups, such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, want legalization of medical marijuana to act as a foothold in making marijuana legal.

“There is no scientific merit to sucking in toxic fumes and calling it medicine,” Moses said.

Doctors are authorized to prescribe other potentially harmful drugs — including opium, cocaine and methamphetamine — to patients for medical reasons, according to current Missouri law. Marijuana is not a recognized pharmaceutical drug.

by Josh Vince

Legislators propose lesser punishments for marijuana

The Daily Free Press

In a move that, in part, supports college students, a statehouse committee approved a bill to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.

"I do not believe that individuals' futures should be ruined for having a very small amount of marijuana and the loss of student loans and scholarships," said Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton), head of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee that passed the bill by a vote of 6-1.

The Committee sent to the House for a full vote a bill last Monday that would decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Instead of receiving a criminal charge, violators would only receive a civil charge, eliminating the possibility of jail time and reducing a potential fine under current law.

Under law, violators are subject to up to six months in jail or a $500 fine if convicted of carrying the drug. If the bill were to pass, violators would receive a maximum $250 fine and the parents of minors would be notified by police.

Although the bill passed in 11 other states, Massachusetts may be a different story. The committee is only the first step, with the motion still needing to pass through the house, senate and Gov. Mitt Romney before becoming a law.

"I'm not sure it is likely to pass into law," Balser said. "But we felt like it was important enough to pass."

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a pro-marijuana group trying to reform laws, expressed his support for the bill as well.

"Taking marijuana off the streets is the most important thing for the government," St. Pierre said. "A $100 fine is good money for the state, while detaining someone costs Massachusetts a lot of money each year. One hundred million Americans live under a state or district with the same laws."

According to Balser, Massachusetts spends $24 million a year prosecuting offenders, and that money could be put into better use.

"I would rather see the $24 million go to treatment and help people with serious drug issues," Balser said.

During the election years of 2000, 2002 and 2004, NORML put forth a ballot petition that asked whether Massachusetts citizens thought that "carrying less than an ounce of marijuana should be criminalized," according to St. Pierre.

"Voters across the board instructed the politicians to pass legislation such as this one," St. Pierre said. "This law would seem to reflect the will of Massachusetts voters."

Colorado recently passed a law stating that offenders carrying less than one ounce of marijuana will not face punishment, although the substance will be confiscated, according to St. Pierre. This indicates that typically conservative states, such as Colorado, are beginning to lighten punishment for those carrying small amounts of marijuana, he added.

"It's not just a liberal Massachusetts idea," St. Pierre said. "Reform is taking place all around the country."

However, many states and politicians are refraining from implementing more lenient laws, fearing complacency may lead to continued use. Balser refuted these claims.

"There is no evidence that drug use has increased as a result of this law," Balser said.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

New Meth Law Sometimes Difficult to Enforce

WISH Indianapolis

Police say the smoke drifting from roof of a home recently ended up being no ordinary house fire. They say the homeowners were brazenly cooking crystal meth - brazen because the location of their meth lab was next door to the Clermont police station.

Police say it’s an example of the scale of Indiana's meth problem, a problem that prompted legislators to pass a law limiting the sale of products containing ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine, common ingredients in cold medicines.

"It was an explosion that was hurting people and killing people of this illegal drug that they were commonly finding at our stores at a cheap cost and they were able to produce that at very little expense," said Sen. Michael Young (R-District 35).

The new law mandates that consumers must be 18, no more than 3 grams or about 100 pills can be sold in one transaction, the purchaser must show ID and complete a log and drugs with ephedrine and pseudoephedrine must be stored behind the pharmacy counter.

But what if the store has no pharmacy, like convenience stores? They can sell small packages containing 4 or fewer pills with fewer than 120 milligrams of ephedrine. Only one package per sale and the packages must be stored in sight of the clerk, be constantly monitored and a log must be filled out with each purchase.

In a recent bust in Johnson County, sheriff's deputies sited six clerks for violating the new law.
Trina Arthur was one of hem. She sold two convenience store packages to an undercover detective. She was supposed to sell only one.

"Well then, they’d better come up with a better system. A convenience store just can't do it. There's just no way," said Arthur, who adds that the law is confusing and that clerks are given little training.

"They showed us the paperwork that we had to fill out. That was July first," she said. Arthur said she’s received no training since.

Arthur is likely not alone. 24-Hour News stopped at a convenience store in Marion County. Our intern bought two packages of double action ephedrine, a total of 750 milligrams, more than six times the amount she should have been able to buy in one transaction.

Legislators believe the product needs to be available at convenience stores. "What do you do at 11:00 and you can't find a pharmacy that's open - rural areas especially? So we tried to take care of the problem and still make it accessible," said Sen. Young.

Although legislators admit the law needs some tweaking, they insist it's working. They say meth arrests are down 45 percent since the law was passed.

by Deanna Dewberry

Cops receive complaint of 'mediocre cannabis'

A cannabis smoker has been arrested after complaining to police that he was sold bad weed.

Hans-Juergen Bendt, 52, from Darmstadt, lodged a complaint about his dealer with police after he sold him seven ounces of "completely unenjoyable" hash.

Bendt complained the dealer refused to refund him the £270 (about R2816) he had paid for the drugs.

But despite the official complaint, in which Bendt described himself as a victim of "fraud" involving drugs of "absolutely mediocre quality", the officers failed to act upon the allegations and booked the complainant instead.

He is now being charged for the illegal purchase and possession of narcotic substances.

Guardian Goes Potty Over Cannabis-Schizophrenia Link

Stats at George Mason University

Guardian/Observer report takes its cues from U.S. drug czar not science

The quality British press doesn’t usually go in for American-style drug hysteria, but this article from last week’s Guardian/Observer could have been mistaken for a press release from the U.S. drug czar. It contained accounts of violent crimes committed by cannabis users and an essay by a thirteen-year-old about why she hates her brother who is “currently ill with squitsaphrenia [sic] due to taking drugs (cannabis) from an early age.”

The misinformation begins with the sub-head, which claims that “a series of new studies proves the link between cannabis dependency and mental illness,” implying that marijuana causes mental illness. In fact, the new research, like the previous data, does not prove that marijuana makes people mentally ill, but merely finds that people who are mentally ill are more likely to smoke pot.

The article also mischaracterizes a recent report by the British government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The UK recently “reclassified” cannabis possession as an offense so minor that users cannot be arrested simply for having small quantities in their possession. The ACMD was recently asked to determine whether the government should reconsider that decision, in light of a possible link between marijuana and mental illness.

The Guardian/Observer piece described the ACMD report as having argued “against reclassification,” and claimed that it “suggested for the first time that cannabis may not only cause schizophrenia in those with pre-existing mental conditions, but could also exacerbate a range of other mental health problems.”

The ACMD report actually said that marijuana should remain reclassified as a non-arrestable offense and here are some of its key points:

The high prevalence of cannabis use, as well as use of other controlled substances, among those with schizophrenia or psychotic disorders is not understood. It may be cultural or related to peer pressure; and it has been postulated that cannabis either helps deal with certain aspects of the condition, or that it even ameliorates some of the adverse consequences of medication …

Over the past few years, there has been growing concern as to whether cannabis use might precipitate chronic, or enduring, psychotic illnesses, including schizophrenia. In view of the ability of cannabis to precipitate relapse in individuals with established schizophrenia…it is clearly a biologically plausible hypothesis. However, research in this area is fraught with problems of both study design and interpretation.

…For individuals, the current evidence suggests, at worst, that using cannabis increases the lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia by 1%.

…The most recent data are not, overall, persuasive of a causal association between cannabis use and the development of depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety.

The Guardian/Observer claims that marijuana-related admissions to hospital for mental illness in the UK have almost doubled in recent years, citing 490 such admissions in 2001, compared to 710 in 2004 and the same number in 2005. But what it doesn’t cite is a source for those numbers, nor does it say how a “cannabis-related” hospital admission is defined.

When doctors go looking for an association, one is often found — so it’s quite possible that admissions that previously would not have been classified as “cannabis related” are now being linked with the drug.

Also, annual marijuana use rates by teenagers and young adults actually fell in the UK during that period — from 28% in 1998 to under 24% in 2005, a fact unmentioned by the newspaper. Nor is there evidence that marijuana potency suddenly skyrocketed in the 00’s. Claims about super-strong pot go back much further.

Finally, the article doesn’t mention the most compelling evidence against a causal link between marijuana and schizophrenia. Schizophrenia rates have been stable around the world at roughly 1% of the population for as long as they have been measured. Marijuana use rose in the West from virtually zero in the early 20th century to 50-60% of the adult population having tried it at least once in recent decades, with substantial proportions of the population taking it regularly at some point in their lives, often during adolescence. Schizophrenia rates haven’t budged.

by Maia Szalavitz

Medical pot passes Senate

Daily Illini

Bill moves to General Assembly; allows growth of up to 12 pounds
The Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed Senate Bill 2568 legalizing medical marijuana 6-5 on Feb. 15. If the bill passes the General Assembly, Illinois will become the twelfth state to protect patients from arrest for medical marijuana with their doctor's recommendations.

"It's an enormous step forward," said Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Similar legislation was brought to the committee before, but it went nowhere."

The medical marijuana act will allow people with serious illnesses, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS to use and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes with physician approval. It will also enable patients or their caregivers to possess no more than 12 cannabis plants, each producing up to one pound of marijuana.

Judy Kramer, president of Educating Voices Inc., a national not-for-profit volunteer drug prevention organization, is disappointed that the bill passed through the Illinois committee. Kramer believes that there are problems with patients growing marijuana in their back yard.

"You won't know what exactly is in (the marijuana) unless you send it in to some highly sophisticated lab," Kramer said. "You don't know how well it works with any other problems you may be having. You don't know the chemical composition or quality."

In 2004, there were 11,223 marijuana users admitted to treatment centers in Cook County and 32,961 marijuana treatment admissions in the state, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services, Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. No information was found for Champaign County.

"It represents a dramatic increase of marijuana admissions from 2001 to 2004," Kramer said. "If you tell people (marijuana) is medicine, they become addicted. Where are the resources in the state to fund for those with addictions?"

Compared to most other drugs, marijuana dependence is less severe, but it does exist, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, a non-profit science-based advice organization. Their studies also show that while other medications may be more effective in aiding those with serious illnesses, they are not equally effective in all patients.

However, studies also show that regular smoking lessens a smoker's defense system by weakening various natural immune mechanisms, according to the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. Their research shows that marijuana use can even accelerate the progression of HIV to full-blown AIDS and increase the occurrence of infections.

Anzalone-Liszt Research Inc., a national public opinion polling firm, conducted a statewide telephone poll on Feb. 10-13, asking Illinoisans if they would support the legislation. The poll found that 62 percent would support the bill, 28 percent were opposed, and 10 percent were undecided. The Marijuana Policy Project, the largest non-profit marijuana policy reform organization in the United States, funded the poll.

"We wanted to confirm what the level of public support was," Mirken said. "We wanted to quantify something recent and solid to show elected officials. They think it's controversial. It's not. The recent data will show them."

Kramer said she feels that the telephone poll had little significance.

"If I phrase a question in a certain manner, I can get people to say what I want," Kramer said.

Sen. John Cullerton (D- Chicago) introduced the Medical Cannabis Act to the Illinois General Assembly in January.

"The more states that pass a law, the more likely others are to also pass the same law, as long as there are more benefits than disadvantages," said Jennifer Brown, senior in ACES.

Man said to offer uniformed deputy cocaine

KVOA Tuscon

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Deputy Ed Johnson was in uniform. He was also sitting in his marked patrol car. So he was a bit surprised when a man approached Friday and allegedly offered to sell him some cocaine.

Michael Garibay walked up to Johnson's car at a Mobil gas station and asked the Orange County deputy if he was "straight," according to arrest records.

When Johnson replied he was, Garibay responded "Do you know what that means? .... It means do you want to buy some cocaine."

When Johnson said "yes," Garibay pulled out a plastic bag containing "several pieces of flat white rocks substances" and asked for cash, records show.

The deputy took the bag and arrested Garibay after the contents tested positive for cocaine, the Orlando Sentinel reported on its Web site.

Garibay was being held Friday in the Orange County Jail on $7,500 bail for alleged possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Marijuana possums no dopes

Herald Sun

NEW Zealand police have an unusual ally in their annual crackdown on illegal marijuana crops -- possums.

"They love it, absolutely love it," Det John Nicholls, of Motueka, said after returning from a week-long police and air force helicopter hunt for marijuana plants at the top of the South Island.

He said one crop was "chewed to bits -- it was the worst I've ever seen".

Growers use electric fences, cyanide paste and traps to deter possums.

Court OKs Church's Hallucinogenic Tea


The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a small congregation in New Mexico may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God.

Justices, in their first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, moved decisively to keep the government out of a church's religious practice. Federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the hoasca tea of the Brazil-based church, Roberts wrote in the decision.

The tea, which contains an illegal drug known as DMT, is considered sacred to members of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal, which has a blend of Christian beliefs and South American traditions. Members believe they can understand God only by drinking the tea, which is consumed twice a month at four-hour ceremonies.

New Justice Samuel Alito did not take part in the case, which was argued last fall before Justice Sandra Day O'Connor before her retirement. Alito was on the bench for the first time on Tuesday.

Roberts said that the Bush administration had not met its burden under a federal religious freedom law to show that it could ban "the sect's sincere religious practice."

The chief justice had also been skeptical of the government's position in the case last fall, suggesting that the administration was demanding too much, a "zero tolerance approach."

The Bush administration had argued that the drug in the tea not only violates a federal narcotics law, but a treaty in which the United States promised to block the importation of drugs including dimethyltryptamine, also known as DMT.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Loud Music Prolongs The Effects Of Taking Ecstasy For Up To Five Days

Medical News Today

Loud music prolongs the effects of taking ecstasy for up to five days. A study published today in the open access journal BMC Neuroscience shows that the reduction in rats' brain activity induced by 3,4 -Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy) lasts long after administration of the drug - up to five days - if loud music is played to them simultaneously. The effects wear off within a day when no music is played.

Michelangelo Iannone from the Institute of Neurological Science, Italy, and colleagues from University Magna Graecia in Catanzaro, Italy, injected rats with a low dose (3mg/kg) or a high dose (6mg/kg) of MDMA or, in the control group, with saline. The rats were either left without acoustic stimulation or exposed to white noise - sound at a stable frequency that is used in many types of electronic music. The sound was played at 95dB, the maximum noise intensity permitted in nightclubs by Italian law. The electrocortical activity (EcoG spectrum) of the rats was monitored, using electrodes placed on their skull, from 60 minutes before administration of the drug and start of the music, to up to five days after the music was stopped.

Iannone et al.'s results show that low-dose MDMA did not modify the brain activity of the rats compared with saline, as long as no music was played. However, the EcoG total spectrum of the rats given a low dose of MDMA significantly decreased once loud music was played. The EcoG spectrum of rats in the control group was not modified by loud music. High-dose MDMA induced a reduction in brain activity, compared with both saline and low-dose MDMA. This reduction was enhanced once the loud music was turned on and lasted for up to five days after administration of the drug. In rats that had been given a high dose of MDMA but had not been exposed to music, brain activity returned to normal one day after administration of the drug.

LSD faces an acid test as a pain killer

The Weekend Australian

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and
marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer
quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,
The Beatles

PSYCHEDELIA sent a creative tsunami through the rock bands of the 1960s, but government concern over the recreational abuse of drugs such as LSD led to bans that killed off exploration of any legitimate medical uses.

But there is something of a resurgence of interest among researchers in the medical uses for LSD, psilocybin and MDMA. Clinical trials have shown promising results for relieving crippling "cluster" and other vascular headaches, as well as pain, suffering and anxiety in terminally-ill cancer patients.

The results of several studies into the use of psychedelic drugs for medical and therapeutic use were announced at a recent international symposium on LSD in Basel, Switzerland. The event, called "LSD: Problem Child and Wonder Drug", honoured the 100th birthday of Dr Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who discovered the mind-altering effects of LSD in 1943 while researching derivatives of ergot rye. Controversy still surrounds the medical use of lysergic acid diethylamide, known as LSD or "acid", and related substances like psilocybin, a psychedelic alkaloid the active hallucinogenic ingredient in so-called "magic mushrooms".

LSD was banned in America (with the rest of the world quickly following suit) in October 1966 at the height of the hippy era, after widespread recreational use and abuse overshadowed potential applications as a psychotherapy tool.

By the middle of the 1960s over 1000 peer-reviewed papers had been published detailing the successful treatment with LSD of more than 40,000 patients for schizophrenia, depression, alcoholism and other disorders. Some of the most startling results came from Dr Timothy Leary, who conducted his own psychotherapy experiments at Harvard with LSD and psilocybin to treat alcoholism over 40 years ago.

Now a new generation of psychedelic researchers are cautiously guiding Hofmann's "problem child" back to where it started – as a medication for migraine relief, eliminating anxiety and as a palliative for the dying.

Rick Doblin is the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a registered non-profit organisation in Sarasota, Florida, that assists researchers in facilitating government approval for psychedelic research in humans. MAPS has been instrumental in assisting many current psychedelic researchers to navigate the maze of regulations worldwide and allow researchers to study these compounds.

"These substances and these states of mind don't inherently make people drop out of society, or want to start a counter-culture – we can weave them into our culture as it is," Doblin said last year. "After several generations the culture is better able to accept and integrate these states of mind and the ways we're trying to help people with them."

John Halpern is the associate director of substance abuse research at Harvard University's McLean Hospital and has been sponsored by MAPS in his psychedelic research. He has previously received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to give MDMA – better known as Ecstasy – to terminally-ill cancer patients to relieve their pain and fear of dying.

With his colleague Andrew Sewell, a research fellow in psychiatry, Halpern and the Harvard team are pressing for a renewal of clinical trials with LSD and psilocybin for migraine relief, specifically cluster headaches.

A cluster headache, also known as "trigeminal autonomic cephalgia", is a severe migraine which can completely debilitate a victim, causing blood vessels in the brain to expand. The pain can be extreme.

Professor James Lance, one of the founding members of the Brain Foundation and Headache Australia, has been promoting the understanding and treatment of migraine and other headaches since 1965. He treats many cluster headache sufferers and one patient has told him that he takes psilocybin to ease his symptoms – carefully measuring a small dose that will ease pain without hallucinations.

Cluster headaches are rare, affecting about one patient for every 100 migraine sufferers, and Professor Lance points out that people shouldn't take the researchers' interest in psychedelic drugs as a carte blanche to try out illegal drugs.

"(Cluster headaches) commonly wake sufferers from sleep around 2am and seem to be connected to an internal clock that regulates attacks," Lance says.

"Where psilocybin comes into the picture nobody knows, but it could be a pointer to the mechanism of cluster headaches and it is well worth pursuing."

Current medical science can make the pain of cluster headaches more bearable, but cannot cure the condition itself. Traditional medicines can have severe side effects and are difficult to apply when sufferers are gripped with a crippling attack. Medications like Cafergot have proven moderately successful in aborting a single cluster headache attack, and other drugs like verapamil and lithium can prevent an attack from occurring as long as the levels of the drugs in a patient's system remain high. According to some reports, LSD and psilocybin, however, appear to terminate the entire cluster headache cycle for an extended period of time, even after trace elements have left the body.

Chronic sufferers have reported relief from cluster attacks for up to two weeks using the hallucinogens, and episodic sufferers report a single dose of LSD can cure cluster headaches for as long as a year.

Of course, without proper controlled trials, where patients are randomly allocated to receive different treatments, no one can be sure that these improvements are caused by the LSD or psilocybin – or even that the improvements are in fact as significant as the patients later seem to recall.

Much of the anecdotal evidence so far has been gathered by Clusterbusters, a grassroots public education and support network for cluster headache sufferers. Lobbying by Clusterbusters has helped spur legitimate research like that now being pursued at Harvard. Facilitating FDA-approved trials may offer a way forward for helping cluster headache sufferers, often frustrated by existing options.

Sewell has collated anecdotal reports suggesting that in 93 cases of patients who used psilocybin, almost 40 per cent found it completely effective in relieving a cluster headache or breaking the cycle that causes them.

A smaller test batch of subjects used LSD to treat their migraines and reported similar results, with 90 per cent expressing complete relief from cluster pain and 10 per cent saying they felt an improvement of more than 75 per cent. Almost half of these patients achieved therapeutic success with both chemicals at sub-psychedelic doses that did not trigger hallucinogenic effects. However, results can vary according to the bodyweight and physiology of the patient, and the source and potency of the psilocybin or LSD. Psilocybin and LSD are illegal in Australia, despite "a resurgence in the illicit market with younger people", according to Paul Dillon, information manager for the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Sydney. About 8 per cent of Australians have used hallucinogens, according to NDARC research. While hallucinogens are not drugs of dependence, Dillon says as with all drug use there are "still risks involved" with LSD and psilocybin.

Some legal drugs patients take to alleviate the pain have also been known to interfere with LSD, notably selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine and other antidepressants. These same drugs do not, however, interfere with psilocybin and its effects in reducing cluster headache pain.

Sewell and his colleagues are awaiting publication of this research in medical journals and once the Harvard MDMA study headed by Halpern is complete, the next step will be the renewal of controlled clinical trials with psilocybin and LSD, last done in the 1960s.

Studies continue at other research centres in America and worldwide, including Israel, Spain, Switzerland and Germany.

Marijuana Busts Continue to Increase in Northwest


So much marijuana was confiscated by authorities in Washington state last year that it ranks as the state`s number eight agricultural commodity. It marks the 7th straight year that marijuana seizures have risen in Washington state. $270 Million worth of the illegal weed was seized last year. That is good enough to rank pot just ahead of sweet cherries and just below the state`s nurseries.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hoffman Reveals Drug Past


"Capote" star Philip Seymour Hoffman nearly fell into a life of substance abuse, after battling a severe alcohol and drug problem early in his career.

The now-sober actor is the favorite to take home the Best Actor Oscar at next month's Academy Awards ceremony, for his performance as legendary author Truman Capote.

The star tells CBS show "60 Minutes," which airs on Sunday, about his descent into substance abuse following his graduation from New York University's drama school.

Hoffman says, "It was all that (drugs and alcohol). It was anything I could get my hands on ... I liked it all.

"You get panicked ... and I got panicked for my life."

The star decided he needed to change his ways and sought treatment for his problem.

He says, "I went (to rehab), I got sober when I was 22 years old."

The actor is grateful that he didn't achieve fame until he had cleaned himself up.

He adds, "I have so much empathy for these young actors that are 19 and all of a sudden they're beautiful and famous and rich.

"I'm like, 'Oh my God, I'd be dead.'"

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Federal Air Marshals Allegedly Tried Smuggling Cocaine

Two federal air marshals were charged Monday with trying to smuggle cocaine by using their ability to skirt airport security.

The two men are among the corps of armed officers who fly undercover to protect flights against terrorists. Air marshals are not searched as they enter an airport.

Shawn Nguyen, 38, and Burlie Sholar, 32, both of Houston, are accused of making a deal to smuggle 33 pounds of cocaine past airport security in Houston and fly it to Las Vegas, according to an affidavit unsealed in a hearing in federal court in Houston.

The two men were dealing with an informant who agreed to pay them $4,500 per kilogram, or $67,500, said the affidavit filed by an agent for the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's office.

Nguyen was recorded demanding he be given the chance to set up bigger smuggling deals, according to the affidavit.

"I don't care what's in the (expletive) package," Nguyen purportedly said in a conversation Jan. 4. "Just tell me how much it is and what I'm getting in money."

Nguyen, who worked for five years as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent before joining the marshals in 2002, allegedly demanded a fee of $5,000 to $7,000 per kilogram of cocaine he transported.

"I ain't being greedy, I've done this (expletive) before," he told the informant, according to the affidavit.

Sholar had worked as a police officer in Los Angeles and for the U.S. Capitol police in Washington.

The two were arrested Thursday as they drove from Nguyen's home hours after the informant allegedly had delivered 15 kilograms of cocaine and $15,000 to Nguyen.

Air marshal spokesman David Adams said the investigation into the marshals was continuing. He declined further comment.

The marshals had dwindled to a force of several dozen when terrorists struck Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, the service has hired thousands of agents.

by Alan Levin

Hidden Tunnels Under Fla. Home Used To Grow Pot

Local 6

A Florida man was arrested Tuesday after police found two elaborate tunnels loaded with marijuana underneath his home, according to a Local 6 News report.

Miami police said there was a secret passageway in the bedroom of Juan C. Arcaya-Gonzalez, which lead to an underground tunnel.When agents climbed underground through a hidden door, they found full-grown marijuana plants valued at several thousand dollars.

Another tunnel was found in the man's back yard.The tunnels were equipped with electricity and running water to grow the marijuana, police said.Gonzalez said he built the secret tunnels five years ago and it took him months and several thousand dollars to complete the project.Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

First grader goes to locker, finds bags of marijuana


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ Police said a first-grader found more than 20 bags of marijuana in her locker.

The 6-year-old Franklin Magnet School student "took her hat out of the locker to go home from school ... and when she went to put it on, the bags fell out," said school district spokesman Neil Driscoll on Monday.

The student made the discovery Thursday and immediately reported it to a teacher, Driscoll said.

It's unclear where the drugs came from, but they appear to have been in her locker throughout the school day, said police spokesman, Sgt. Tom Connellan. She apparently did not wear the hat to school that day.

Principal Frank Fiello said the locker is really more like a cubby space with a hook and a door. The lockers don't lock, he said.

"This is absolutely, no question, in all the years I've been in education, the most unusual thing I've seen," Fiello said.

Bolivian FM Wants Cocaine Plant Served In School

All Headline News

La Paz, Bolivia (AHN) - School lunches are routinely criticized for being too fatty or using low-grade meat. Imagine the uproar if the raw material for cocaine was offered in the lunchroom.

But that's just what Bolivia's foreign minister is recommending. He said coca leaves are so nutritious, they should be offered on school breakfast menus.

"Coca has more calcium than milk. It should be part of the school breakfast," Foreign Minister, David Choquehuanca, tells La Razon newspaper.

Bolivia's new leftist president Evo Morales supports legal uses of coca, the plant used to make cocaine. He has vowed to promote the cultivation of coca in the country.

Bolivia is the world's third largest producer of cocaine, after Colombia and Peru.

Sizemore gets probation for meth use

Tuscon Citizen

LOS ANGELES - A judge sentenced Tom Sizemore to three years of probation after the actor tearfully admitted he used methamphetamine last month.

Sizemore, 44, could have faced 16 months in prison after violating his probation stemming from a conviction for methamphetamine possession.

The judge's sentence Thursday came after a series of hearings to determine if probation should be revoked a second time.

Sizemore's probation was revoked in July after he admitted using a prosthetic device to fake a drug test and failing to be checked for drugs every three days. A judge reinstated probation in October after concluding Sizemore had begun to make "remarkable" progress in his battle with drugs.

Sizemore then tested positive for drugs Jan. 23.

The actor, who appeared in "Saving Private Ryan" and "Black Hawk Down," was convicted in 2003 of domestic violence involving his ex-girlfriend, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. He is free on bail pending an appeal in that case.

Sizemore gets probation for meth use.

When Maharishi threw Beatles out

The Times of India

NEW DELHI: This is a true story of love and bitterness, recrimination and reconciliation. It’s a story of glamour and spirituality, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s about four men whom the world worshipped, and the mentor they first adored, then abhorred. It’s a story that has never before been told in its entirety, though gossip and rumours have swirled around it for years.

Why exactly did relations between the Beatles and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi sour? Was there any truth to the allegations that the Maharishi had propositioned a friend of the Beatles? As an erstwhile disciple of the Maharishi, and a close friend of the Beatles, spiritual master Deepak Chopra is probably one of the few people who knew the real story.

He said after some prodding: "The Beatles — along with their entourage, which included Mia Farrow — were doing drugs, taking LSD, at Maharishi’s ashram, and he lost his temper with them. He asked them to leave, and they did in a huff. But when they went to the US, John Lennon gave an interview on the Johnny Carson show, accusing Maharishi of being a dirty old man. Later, Lennon also wrote a satirical song about Maharishi, which went: Sexy Sadie, what have you done/you made a fool of everyone."

Missing woman 'captive' in cannabis nursery


AMSTERDAM — Police dismantling an illegal cannabis cultivation operation in the west of Rotterdam discovered a woman missing since 2003, it was revealed on Tuesday.

The woman, 28, was found in the house on 1 February and she said she had been held captive in a hidden room there for years. A man, 59, who lived above the cannabis operation was arrested.

The man and woman were known to each other prior to her disappearance. The Public Prosecutor's Office (OM) could not say on Tuesday whether the man had been investigated when the woman vanished.

The woman said she was confined to the hidden room and the area where the cannabis was grown.The hidden compartments were buit at the same time as the cannabis operation was begun.

The OM declined to describe the room or say what street the house was on. The woman has been brought to a safe location and has been re-united with her family. She is a good physical state but the authorities would say nothing else about her health.

Her family reported her as missing on 1 May 2003 but later retracted this after receiving occasional phone calls from her.

Toddlers used to take drugs into prison


TODDLERS are being used to smuggle illegal drugs to inmates at Saughton Prison, bosses at the high-security jail claimed today.

Mothers have been caught using their own children as drug mules to get heroin, cannabis and other illegal substances to addicts locked up inside.

Video footage, which has been seen by the Evening News, shows a series of deals made in prison waiting rooms involving children in the last few months.

One typical clip shows a father wearing the navy blue clothing of Her Majesty's Prisons pretending to embrace his son, who is just one or two years old, before dipping into the boy's pocket to retrieve a wrap of drugs.

Once they have the drugs, prisoners often swallow them as quickly as possible, without attracting the attention of a guard, so they can be flushed out and used later.

Prison chiefs today said the use of young children and babies to sneak drugs past tight security was a growing problem.

To protect the identity of some of the people involved, the CCTV images cannot be published.

But politicians today called on visiting times to be subject to a much tighter security regime.

The news comes as figures released to the Evening News under freedom of information legislation reveal the extent of drug smuggling and use in Saughton.

Last year alone, there were five drug seizures a week inside the jail, an increase on previous years. Prison governor David Croft said: "The amount of drugs found sounds like a lot but we're actually talking about five a week from 800 prisoners and the most minute quantities of drugs.

"The reason the amounts of drugs are so small is so they are easier to smuggle or post."

Prisoners and visitors are constantly coming up with ways of smuggling small amounts without being noticed, such as in cigarette butts, he said. Mr Croft added: "You could get enough heroin in the seal of an envelope, or in a book or magazine with pages cut out. Desperate people will do anything [to get drugs] and dealers will do everything."

In the past year, prison chiefs logged a total of 281 incidents where prisoners were found to be carrying drugs. There were 271 finds in 2003 and 261 in 2004.

The news prompted shadow justice minister Kenny MacAskill to call for tighter controls over prison visits. But union officials today defended prison officers, claiming it was often difficult for them to intervene at visiting times.

One of the largest finds between October and December last year, saw 48g of cannabis with a street value of around £120 seized in a bin area along with 39 morphine sulphate tablets (MST), and 68 temazepam tablets worth £100.

Prison chiefs are currently investigating allegations made in November last year that a guard smuggled up to £1.5 million worth of drugs hidden in microwave meals to prisoners.

SNP Lothians MSP Mr MacAskill, said: "It is a perennial problem in all prisons but we need to make it clear that it is just not acceptable. Family visits are a vital part of prisoner rehabilitation and you don't want to deny anyone contact with their children. But we do need to look at ways of improving security at Saughton because this is an abuse of the children being used as pawns."

One CCTV clip shows a woman removing drugs from her bra, before slipping it to her partner. Another woman puts a wrap in her mouth which is then exchanged through a kiss. Another prisoner pretends to bend down to talk to his child, but is actually angling his head to block the view of the CCTV camera as his partner puts drugs in his lap. If drugs exchanges are spotted and the prisoner apprehended before he can swallow them, the police are called and the visitor is charged. The prisoner is also punished by being put on closed visits - preventing physical contact with loved ones.

Derek Turner, assistant secretary of the Prison Officers Association Scotland, said: "The difficulty for us is that various legislation means that we need to wait for the police to come and search or charge prisoners."

by Gareth Rose and Andrew Picken

Doherty: 'Fame made me an addict'

Ireland On-line

Troubled rocker Pete Doherty blames his celebrity status for his drug addiction, despite claiming he isn't "much of a junkie".

The Babyshambles frontman, who was sentenced to a 12-month community order and a drug rehabilitation programme last week after a drug possession conviction, maintains he will stay clean with an anti-heroin implant.

But he admits that the task would be easier without the pressures and privileges of fame.

He says: "If I was not famous then I would not have the extremes, the corruptness and fortune that led me there in the first place.

"I'm not going to make light of the fact that I've been given a great chance, and take crack and heroin.

"But I want to start a drugs-free life. I wasn't much of a junkie anyway."

Laos declares opium poppies thing of the past

Sign on San Diego

VIENTIANE – Laos, the world's third largest heroin producer only 10 years ago, declared itself free of opium poppies on Tuesday after a six-year campaign against the raw material used to make the narcotic.

'Tuesday is a very important day for the people and government of Laos, as we are declaring to the world the eradication of opium poppy cultivation,' Prime Minister Bounnhang Vorachit told a conference in Vientiane.

Praising the efforts of the communist-run southeast Asian nation, United Nations anti-drugs officials said the days of the infamous 'Golden Triangle' and its 160-year history of making heroin from opium poppies were numbered.

'Who would have predicted that opium cultivation would be progressively wiped out in the Golden Triangle?' said Antonio Maria Costa, head of the U.N.'s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

'China was the first country to do so, then Thailand, and now Laos,' he said. 'It is not a Golden Triangle. It is a deadly triangle.'

Military-ruled Myanmar, which had an estimated 44,000 hectares (110,000 acres) of opium poppies in 2004 – making it the world's number two producer behind Afghanistan with 131,000 hectares – says it is working with the UNODC to eliminate poppies by 2014.

However, diplomats and rebel leaders in opium-rich areas such as the Shan state question the accuracy of U.N. estimates, as well as the faith of a military junta thought to be providing protection to Golden Triangle drug supremo Khun Sa.

Far greater credibility is attached to the efforts made by Laos, a landlocked country of only six million people and heavily dependent on Western donor support.

According to U.N. and government estimates, there were 27,000 hectares under opium poppy cultivation in Laos in 1998, producing around 120 tons of heroin. About 63,000 opium addicts compounded both the domestic and international problem.

Besides announcing the elimination of poppy cultivation, officials said the government had also managed to reduce the number of opium addicts to just 12,000, largely through treatment and education.

Despite his optimism, Costa said risks remained that opium cultivation could creep back if donor countries axed support and if former opium farmers, now growing cash crops such as cabbages or asparagus, were not given fair access to international markets.

'The opium farming communities are the poorest of the poor, and as a consequence they deserve our assistance,' Costa told foreign diplomats at the conference.

Even as heroin production has dropped off in the Golden Triangle, the region appears to have switched to production of synthetic stimulants, such as methamphetamine, fast becoming the 'drug of choice' for youngsters in southeast Asia.

Much of the methamphetamine hitting the streets from Manila to Kuala Lumpur is believed to be manufactured in large drug plants in the jungles of Myanmar.

by Ed Cropley

Maoists take to opium farming

DNA India

KOLKATA: In a desperate bid to raise funds, Maoist forces in West Bengal, have taken to opium farming in a number of districts in the state.
Subsidiary Intelligence Branch (SIB), the intelligence wing of the Union ministry of external affairs, has cautioned the West Bengal government on this.
State government sources said that the central intelligence wing has expressed concern over the increase in opium farming mainly in Bankura and West Midnapore districts of West Bengal, both considered to be Maoist strongholds.
“In fact, the Maoist guerrillas in these pockets are forcing the farmers to resort to opium cultivation. They are then demanding a major share of the harvest. They are then smuggling this opium to other states as well as the neighbouring country of Nepal,” a senior state government official said.
Jharkhand was the first state where the Maoists resorted to opium cultivation and intelligence agencies suspect that encouraged by the success there, the Maoist forces here are using the same model.
According to intelligence sources, the flow of funds to the Maoist forces in Jharkhand and West Bengal has dried out substantially, as the intelligence and security agencies have become active in this part of the country. The Maoist forces in West Bengal and Jharkhand get their funds from the Maoist forces in Andhra Pradesh, as well as from the parent Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
While the intelligence agencies in India have blocked the route-contact between Maoist forces in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Nepal, the Royal Army of Nepal has blocked the route between the Nepali and the Indian Maoists.
The expenses of Maoist organisations have increased substantially for ensuring safe hideout. “Probably that is why they are desperately going for opium farming,” a state government official said.