Thursday, March 30, 2006

Smoking ban 'will lead to muggings and date rape'

Guardian Unlimited

Scotland's smoking ban, which came into force this morning, could lead to a rise in date rape and theft, campaigners claimed last night.

The warning came after several pub chains announced plans for a 'bar tag' that would let smokers leave their drinks unattended while outside having a cigarette. Critics condemned it as 'stupidity or insanity' and an open invitation to criminals who spike drinks with drugs such as Rohypnol, GHB or Ketamine.

'This is far more serious than many people might imagine,' said Graham Rhodes, founder of the Roofie Foundation, Britain's only specialised agency dealing with this issue. 'It is like putting on a flashing light. It might send a message to bar staff not to take the drink away, but it also alerts criminals to it, lets them know that the owner is away for a few minutes for a smoke.

'Anyone who uses this is basically asking to have their drink spiked. I find it hard to believe that pub owners are effectively encouraging their clients to leave drinks unattended.'

The enforcement and side effects of the ban are being watched closely in England, where similar, less stringent restrictions are to be introduced next year.

Several hundred venues in Scotland have applied for smoking shelters, canopies or beer gardens, but the vast majority of the country's 5,000 pubs have not because of planning restrictions, location or space. Most pubs will direct smokers outside to the pavement.

Because by-laws prevent al fresco alcohol consumption in Scotland, several chains have introduced other measures. Maclay Inns, which has venues across the country, will provide a V-shaped tag smokers can hang over the side of a glass or bottle. It is printed with the message: 'Please don't take my drink, it's spoken for. I've just popped out for a cigarette.'

Marketing manager Lynn Lovelock said: 'We decided to introduce these as a bit of fun for customers who wish to nip out for a cigarette.'

Pub group Wetherspoons said it was producing beer mats for smokers to place on top of unfinished drinks. But critics highlighted the growing problem of drink spiking.

'Only 30 per cent of all drinks that are spiked are related to drug rape,' said Mr Rhodes. 'Our research shows that the other 70 per cent are either a sick joke or to commit robbery. Men might not think twice about leaving their pint unattended, but more and more of the calls we get now are from people who have had their drinks spiked in bars or clubs and [are] then robbed of their cash, credit cards or mobile.'

There are other concerns the ban could be in disarray as early as Tuesday when council workers are expected to strike in a dispute over pensions. Local authority environmental health staff are responsible for enforcing the ban, which imposes a fine of £50 on any individuals breaking the law and up to £2,500 for licensees. Police chiefs have insisted that enforcing the ban is not a job for their officers.

Patrick Browne, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, predicted chaos on Tuesday. 'Enforcement officers have been given £6 million over the next three years to enforce the ban, yet go on strike two days after it is introduced. This means bar owners and staff are going to have to try to enforce it without any support.'

Health professionals and politicians, though, were hoping for a new dawn in a country that bears the 'sick man of Europe' tag and suffers some of the highest cancer and heart disease rates in the world. A BMRB study showed three-fifths of adults in Scotland and England wanted smoking banned in public places.

Jack McConnell, Scotland's first minister, said: 'In the years ahead people will look back on today as the day that Scotland took the largest single step to improve its health for generations.'

By Lorna Martin

Tougher penalties go into effect for steroids dealers


Washington (AP) - Drug dealers, coaches or athletes who distribute steroids could now face harsher sentences after the government made an "emergency" change to its federal sentencing guidelines.

The enhanced penalties apply to defendants who sell steroids or masking agents to an athlete and to coaches who use their positions of trust to entice athletes into using performance-enhancing drugs.

The change -- made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission on a temporary basis Monday -- would typically result in a 25 percent increase in sentences.

At Congress' direction, the commission bypassed the normally lengthy approval process for such a change, making what it called a "temporary, emergency amendment" so the penalties could go into effect immediately. Had it followed the usual process, that would not have happened until Nov. 1.

Commission members could decide at their April 5 meeting to make the change permanent or alter the penalties. In that case, the emergency rule would remain in place until Nov. 1.

The sentencing guidelines are advisory and provide federal judges with a complicated mathematical formula for determining punishment. The formula takes into account several factors, including a defendant's prior criminal record and the amount of drugs involved.

In 2004 and again in 2005, Congress ordered the sentencing commission to increase penalties for distribution of anabolic steroids in response to baseball's steroids scandal.

As a result, steroids are now considered a "Schedule III" drug, on par with the common painkiller Vicodin or the tranquilizer ketamine. Cocaine and heroin are considered "Schedule I" drugs.

UN adopts RP proposal curbing use of ketamine

Manila Standard Today

Putting itself in the international limelight again, the Philippines has spearheaded a global effort to regulate the use of ketamine, an anesthetic substance that is fast becoming the favorite of drug addicts.

The United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna has adopted a resolution filed by the Philippines and Thailand, urging the UN members to take steps to prevent the trafficking and use of ketamine.

With the CND’s approval, 20 other countries, including Japan, Malaysia and the United States, expressed their full support for the effort, Philippine Ambassador to Vienna Linglingay Lacanlale said.

The Philippine Embassy in Vienna also serves as the Philippine Mission to the CND, the drug policy-making body within the UN system. It consists of 53 states serving in four-year terms that meet annually.

Under the Philippine-Thailand resolution, the international community is encouraged to develop a system of import-export certificates to guard against diversion and trafficking of ketamine.

Lacanlale said the CND-approved resolution also urged governments to share information on ketamine abuse and trafficking.

The widespread abuse of ketamine in Asia and the Americas has already caught the attention of the International Narcotics Control Board and the World Health Organization.

Ketamine is a general dissociative anesthetic for human and veterinary use. Its excessive use results in severe hallucinations, which make it popular in raves and parties.

First synthesized in 1962, the drug was used on wounded American soldiers during the Vietnam War, but is often avoided now because it can cause unpleasant experiences. It is still used widely in veterinary medicine, and for select human applications.

The increase in illicit use prompted ketamine’s placement in Schedule III of the United States’ Controlled Substance Act in August 1999. In the United Kingdom, it became outlawed and labeled a Class C drug on Jan. 1.

Lacanlale said the Philippine Mission informed the CND that the country was among the first to recognize the dangers posed by the substance.

On July 19, 2005, the Dangerous Drugs Board issued Board Resolution 3 mandating the inclusion of ketamine in the Philippines’ list of dangerous drugs and subjecting it to all regulatory and control measures provided under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002).

By Ferdinand Fabella

Kids Snub Cigs for Cannabis and Coke

The Daily Record

Survey claims two-thirds smoke dope

Teenagers are more likely to smoke cannabis than cigarettes, it was claimed yesterday.

And nearly twice as many youths are using cocaine than ever before, according to a study.

The annual survey by Edinburgh sex-and-drugs advice group Crew 2000 said under-16s are most likely to take drugs at home or in a friend's house.

They found 67 per cent of those who took part in their questionnaire had taken cannabis while 52 per cent had used tobacco.

Crew 2000 manager John Arthur said: "Cannabis is so widely used now that people shouldn't really be surprised.

"Cannabis has been around in youth culture for more than 40 years and it's pretty much normalised in large sections of our society.

"I think the health messages around cigarettes have certainly got through to young people and it's not quite as cool to smoke."

Crew 2000 said 95 per cent of the 177 young people they quizzed had used alcohol or drugs in the last year.

Alcohol remained the most popular drug, taken by 92 per cent. But there was a dramatic rise in cocaine use, from 16.2 per cent last year to 28 per cent.

Crew 2000 believe cheaper cocaine and shortages of ecstasy last year have contributed to its soaring popularity.

John said: "What we've been seeing is a steady rise and it has given us cause for concern.

"Ecstasy not being so available was a contributing factor but cocaine is more readily available and its use far more widespread.

"It used to be contained to people who had more disposable income and, while it's not cheap, its price has come down.

"It's no longer thought of as exclusive and became normalised for a substantial wedge of our population."

More than half of all young drug users reported adverse effects including paranoia, feeling down, sleep problems and anxiety.

But John said: "We found that they continued to use substances and saw adverse effects as a part of the drug-taking experience.

"Just like people who suffer a hangover from drinking, it's part of the routine for drug users."

John added: "It is a small survey but it is useful in that it gives us a snapshot of what's going on.

"For us, legal and illegal drug taking is not a moral issue but a public health concern.

"We believe people who use drugs deserve the best possible information we can give them."

The Government yesterday vowed to curb drug use among children. A spokesman said: "Drugs can have a devastating impact on young people's lives, health and education.

"We are taking action to reduce access to drugs, educate young people of the risks and clarify the misconceptions around the law.

"Some £65million has been made available to local areas in 2005/06 for young people's substance misuse services.

"All schools receive guidance on drugs to help them make decisions about the right approaches for them. Good progress is being made in many areas but there remains work to do."

By Cara Page

Drug Cops Foil Mafia Subterfuge

The Daily Record

Underwater cocaine plot

Drug cops have smashed a Mafia plot to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine into Europe on board a submarine.

Details of the amazing plan were released yesterday by Italy's top anti-Mafia investigator, Piero Grasso.

He revealed that an undercover operation in South America had discovered a half-built sub that would have been used to foil radar systems used by coastguards.

Grasso said: "The Mafia planned to use the submarine to ship tons of cocaine from Colombia to Europe.

"They have the money to build such expensive modes of transport.

"They were going to use it to avoid the radar used by the coastguards and navy to catch drug smugglers' ships.

"The submarine has now been impounded but the fact the Mafia were able to order and began building such a vessel shows the huge amount of money they are making from drug dealing."

He explained that a gram of cocaine in Colombia cost just £1.50 while in Europe it is sold for 30 times that amount.

In a joint operation by Colombian and Italian police, the submarine was seized at a shipyard in the town of Tumaco, in the south-east of the South American country.

Officials estimated that it would have been able to transport more than 10 tons of cocaine, with an estimated street value of more than £500million.

In recent years, the Mafia group based in the Calabria region of Italy, known as the Ndrangheta, have made millions from importing drugs from South America.

Experts believe the ruthless gang, who murdered top politician Francesco Fortugno last year and control dozens of corrupt local councils, are now more dangerous than Sicily's feared Cosa Nostra.

Officials estimate that the Mafia's turnover from drug dealing is more than £20billion a year.

By Nick Pisa

Whitney Houston Addicted to Crack Cocaine

The Deadbolt

Whitney Houston's sister-in-law, Tina Brown, has alleged that Houston is addicted to crack cocaine and is living in squalor. Brown claims that she knows this because she has used crack cocaine with Whitney.
The British tabloid, The Sun, has reportedly received photographs of Whitney Houston, depicting drug paraphernalia including a crack pipe, rolling papers and cocaine-covered spoons in the singer's bathroom.

Tina Brown, sister to Whitney Houston's husband Bobby Brown, was quoted by The Sun as saying "The truth needs to come out. Whitney won't stay off the drugs. It's every single day. It's so ugly. Everyone is so scared she is going to overdose."

The addiction is reported to have become so bad, Houston will hallucinate. Sky Showbiz reports that "Tina claims drugs have made Whitney so paranoid that she sees demons everywhere and once made a hole in the bathroom wall as a spy hole." Elaboration came from a quote on The Sun from Tina, which says "She'll point to the floor and say, 'See that demon. I'm telling you somebody's messing with Bobby'. She always thinks it's something to do with Bobby. But it's her, hitting herself."

The reports also claim that Whitney Houston is completely ignoring her own personal hygiene, is using copious amounts of crack cocaine at a time, and is using sex toys to pleasure herself. Houston is reported to have used an entire 8-ball (1/8 of an ounce) of crack at once, by emptying out a cigar, and filling it with the crack rock and marijuana. Habitual users will regularly break an 8-ball into several smaller pieces, using smaller doses at a time.

Reports also claim that Whitney Houston's mother, Cissy, had forced her to go to rehab clinics in March of 2004. It's reported that Whitney used crack in the car en route to the rehab session. Once at the clinic, she would do her best to dodge drug tests. The New York Daily News says she would tell workers at the clinic, "I'm not giving you no pee today. I don't have none right now."

The New York Daily News also reports " Whitney allegedly loses her $6,000 set of false teeth when she's high and once appeared toothless, scaring the kids at her niece's school." As well, " In 2004, a drug dealer called Bobby Brown and ordered him to remove the paranoid and out-of-control Whitney from his crack house. "Come get your wife. I'm sick of this b----," the dealer reportedly complained"

Other instances of how her addiction is ruining her life include The Sun's report of how "Whitney was also rushed to hospital in 2003 with blood gushing from her nose - and emerged with a bizarre bandage on it. A source said: 'Everyone wondered what happened to Whitney's nose.'"

All of this is a drastic departure from the Whitney Houston the world has seen in the past. Houston started singing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir of the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. She cut her first record deal with Arista in 1983. Her first album was released February 14th, 1985 and was self-titled. Songs like "You Give Good Love" and "Greatest Love of All" gave the album the strength to sell 24 million copies worldwide. Her follow-up album, entitled Whitney, launched on June 29th, 1987. #1 hits like "I Want to Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)", "Didn't We Almost Have it All" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" help the album to sell 19 million copies. I'm Your Baby Tonight, her 1990 album, did fewer sales, only selling 12 million copies worldwide, but her next album would be spectacular.

Whitney Houston would take the lead role in the movie The Bodyguard along with Kevin Costner. The commercial success of the movie wouldn't compare to the soundtrack, which exclusively featured Whitney. Songs like "I'm Every Woman" and "I Have Nothing" would do alright, but, based on the massively popular "I Will Always Love You", the album would sell an unprecedented 37 million albums worldwide. Houston would do two more soundtracks, for the movies Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher's Wife, combining for 17 million albums sold worldwide. My Love Is Your Love would manufacture 13 million more album sales. Her subsequent albums would not enjoy the same success as her earlier ones would.

It is rumored that the money she made from selling 100 million plus albums has most been squandered to her drug habit. Having apparently forgotten about her Diane Sawyer interview on ABC, where she stated "Crack is Whack!", concern for her well-being is the motivating factor behind the publicizing of her addiction. Tina Brown said, "I understand what she is going through. Addiction is a disease. Maybe this interview will help save her life."

By Doug Pendrell

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Lotto dope grower wins again


A first division Lotto winner has won his fight to keep a lifestyle block he bought with the winnings - and then used to grow 116 cannabis plants.

Mellish, 50, won $430,000 on Lotto and used the proceeds to buy a Northland property, on which he later grew drugs.

He was ordered to forfeit the 10-acre lifestyle block as part of his punishment. But his lucky streak has continued after the Court of Appeal ruled he could keep the property.

In 2001, Cooksley-Mellish spent his winnings on the dream property – but, six months later, a police raid at the address found thirteen 20-litre buckets full of cannabis, worth $47,000.

This was the product of 116 plants grown in a shade house he bought for that purpose. A sawn-off shotgun was also found.

Cooksley-Mellish, who maintained the cannabis was for his own use as pain relief, was jailed for two years.

An order for confiscation of the "tainted property" was made after Judge Michael Lance, QC, decided that no undue hardship would be caused by doing so. It would merely put Cooksley-Mellish "back in the same position he was and would have been but for his stroke of luck".

But the Court of Appeal overruled the judgment, saying there was no prospect of Cooksley-Mellish ever being able to own a property again if the lifestyle block was confiscated.

He had been unable to work since 1987, after a tree fell on him, injuring his back. "The impact of forfeiture on the appellant, 50-years-old and disabled, will be dire indeed."

By Sophie Neville

Drug-free hemp is focus of U of M study

The Minnesota Daily

A new University study on hemp and marijuana could pave the way for a drug-free industrial hemp plant.

The study identifies the genetic markers that differentiate hemp from marijuana and could have broader implications for the growing of industrial hemp and criminal cases involving marijuana distribution.

The technique, developed by University researchers George Weiblen and Shannon Datwyler,

has immediate applications in Europe and Canada, where it is illegal to grow marijuana but legal to grow hemp, Weiblen said.

In the United States, both marijuana and hemp are illegal to grow, but the research is useful in forensic science, and DNA fingerprints from the plants could be used to link marijuana growers to distributors, he said.

Weiblen said he became interested in the research after former Gov. Jesse Ventura formed a task force to assess the viability of hemp as an alternative crop for Minnesota farmers.

“A lot of things have changed since that task force made its recommendation,” Weiblen said. “In the current climate, the applications of this technology for the Drug Enforcement Administration seem more promising than the applications for the development of a drug-free industrial hemp plant.”

The research, published in the March issue of the Journal of Forensic Science, used three hemp populations and one marijuana population.

“This is a limited and preliminary sample, but what we have shown is that there is much genetic variation within the species Cannabis,” Weiblen said. “That information is useful for separating drug and nondrug plants.”

The researchers used DNA fingerprinting to identify differences in cultivars, or domesticated plant lines. Hemp and marijuana both belong to the species Cannabis sativa, but differ in levels of the psychoactive drug tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.

Weiblen said the research is important because it is the first to unequivocally demonstrate the genetic difference between hemp and marijuana. Previous methods were able to show chemical differences between the plants, but the new research uses genetic markers.

The researchers used a technique called amplified fragment length polymorphism, which generates about 100 more genetic markers per unit effort than other research techniques.

“At this time we have a long way to go before we see a current change in policy, but this kind of work is a step in that direction,” he said. “Clearly there is a problem separating marijuana from hemp.”

Weiblen said more research will be necessary to create a drug-free and recognizably distinct cannabis plant that can’t be confused with marijuana.

“It could be accomplished through traditional breeding or genetic engineering,” he said.

Ulrike Tschirner, an associate professor in the department of bio-based products, studies hemp and flax fiber as paper alternatives. Tschirner said paper companies are looking for alternative fibers as wood becomes more expensive and difficult to get. Hemp offers a very strong fiber that is longer than fibers in straw or corn.

“Hemp is a crop like a lot of other crops; the oil has value, and the fiber is very strong, but it can be used for a lot of different things,” she said. “Papermaking fiber is just one of them.”

By law, hemp products in the United States are imported. Bruce Benson, owner of Know Name Records in Dinkytown, which sells hemp products, said most of his items come from Europe. Benson said hemp is an “amazingly tough fiber,” and that clothing made from it lasts “forever.”

Benson said he thought it was unlikely that industrial hemp would be grown in the United States.

“Good luck in this country,” he said.

Vote Hemp, an organization that lobbies for the legalization of industrial hemp in the United States, is working with some U.S. states that want to grow the plant.

Eric Steenstra, Vote Hemp president, said the market for hemp products is expanding. Canadian farmers grew 25,000 acres of the plant in 2005, with a large percentage of goods being exported to the United States, he said.

“It doesn’t make any sense that American farmers wouldn’t be allowed to compete in the market,” he said.

Steenstra said the group was encouraged by the new research.

“It’s further evidence of the distinction between hemp and marijuana,” he said. “We continue to be frustrated with the fact that the federal government refuses to recognize the distinction.”

By Lily Langerud

Medical cannabis user tries novel approach in federal court appeal

Inside Bay Area

Oakland patient invokes the Fifth and Ninth Amendments in marijuana case.

Less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against her, Oakland medical marijuana patient and advocate Angel Raich will go back before a federal appeals court Monday with a different legal argument.

Her lawyers will try to persuade a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Pasadena, that keeping her from using marijuana as medicine unduly burdens her fundamental rights to life and freedom from pain, as protected by the Fifth Amendment's due process clause and the Ninth Amendment.

The government argues there is no constitutionally protected fundamental right to obtain and use marijuana in defiance of the federal ban on the drug.

"Nor can plaintiffs establish that the use of any particular drug, free of a regulatory scheme designed to protect the public health and safety, is a fundamental right that is deeply rooted in our nation's history, legal traditions and practices," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Quinlivan wrote in his January brief to the appeals court.

Each side will have 30 minutes to argue its case. It will probably be months before the court rules.

Raich and Diane Monson of Oroville, plus two unnamed providers, sued the government in October 2002 to prevent any interference with their medical marijuana use, but this case's seeds actually were sown in the Supreme Court's May 2001 decision on the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative's case.

The court in that case ruled there is no collective medical necessity exception to the federal ban, which defines marijuana as having no valid medical use. But it didn't rule on constitutional questions underlying the medical marijuana debate, so Raich, Monson and their lawyers tailor-made a case raising exactly those issues.

A federal judge in San Francisco rejected their arguments in March 2003, but a 9th Circuit appeal panel reversed that ruling nine months later.

That panel believed the plaintiffs could prevail at trial on their claim that the Constitution's Commerce Clause lets Congress regulate only interstate commerce, and that Californians' medical marijuana use neither crosses state lines nor involves money changing hands.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2005 ruled 6-3 to uphold the federal ban, finding that even marijuana grown in back yards for personal medical use can affect or contribute to the illegal interstate market for marijuana and so it is within Congress' constitutional reach.

But the 9th Circuit panel and the Supreme Court dealt only with the commerce clause argument not the other constitutional issues. With the case remanded back to the 9th Circuit, Raich's attorneys now are pursuing the remaining arguments; Monson dropped out of the case late last year.

Besides the Fifth- and Ninth-Amendment arguments, Raich's lawyers also claim the common-law doctrine of necessity — the idea that it's OK to break the law when forces beyond one's control compel it and there's no reasonable, legal alternative — bars the government from applying the Controlled Substances Act to ban medically necessary activities. The government argues the Supreme Court's decision in the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative case already ruled out a medical-necessity argument.

And Raich's lawyers claim the Tenth Amendment protects against federal interference with state regulation of personal, non-commercial medical activities within their own borders — namely, medical marijuana laws. But the government says the Supreme Court's rejection of the Commerce Clause argument last year already covered that ground.

"I know we're going to win, I feel pretty good about the 9th Circuit," Raich said Friday.

Raich says without the drug's appetite boost, her wasting syndrome causes rapid, dangerous weight loss threatening her life. She also suffers from ailments including an inoperable brain tumor and nonepileptic seizures, and in November had a hysterectomy following her precervical-cancer diagnosis.

Meanwhile, she's planning a Capitol Hill lobbying blitz with renowned talk-show host and fellow medical marijuana user Montel Williams, perhaps to begin as early as May.

The House last June defeated an amendment which would've forbidden the Justice Department from using public money to raid, arrest or prosecute patients and providers in states with medical marijuana laws. The amendment got 161 votes — more votes than it had in 2003 and 2004 — but still fell 57 short of the 218 it needed for passage.

Raich's case documents are available on her Web site,

By Josh Richman

The Meth Problem in Montana: Are Meth Homes in Montana Getting Cleaned Up?

New West Network

You think you’re looking at your dream home. It’s affordable, needs a little TLC, but looks like a solid fixer-upper. But what you can’t see – the former residents cooked methamphetamine in the kitchen, and the house is thoroughly contaminated by the drug’s toxic residue.

Or you rent a nice hotel room for the night – with no knowledge that meth was cooked up in the drip coffee maker.

To many in Montana, meth use is largely invisible. Small-time manufacturers create the drug out of their homes, mostly for their own use. The rising meth problem is a crime story in the local newspaper, or a gritty, disturbing ad on television.

But for renters and home buyers, the drug can have a devastating impact long after it has been made and consumed. The toxic chemicals used to cook meth leave a home, motel room, or rental property unsafe for future residents – who often don’t know about the home’s past.

There are countless recipes for manufacturing methamphetamine, but most involve either over-the-counter cold medications or large quantities of agricultural chemicals. In the process, toxic chemicals, vapors and solvents are left behind.

According to a national law enforcement research agency, each pound of meth results in about five pounds of toxic waste, a deadly mix that often gets dumped outside, washed down sinks, or left as dangerous vapors and residue materials.

The health effects from exposure to these chemicals are significant: As the Washington state health department reports, the chemicals left by meth manufacturing can cause a wide range of health problems, ranging from dizziness or lethargy to long-term birth defects or organ failure, depending on the length of exposure.

Montana legislators haven’t ignored the problem – they tackled the issue in the last Legislative session, creating the Meth Cleanup Program under House Bill 60.

Modeled after similar bills in other states, it created a meth hot list – 250 residences busted by law enforcement for meth manufacturing since 1997.

The program also, for the first time, created verifiable standards for cleaning contaminated residences. In October, staff trained and certified a handful of Montana contractors to conduct cleanup work.

Under the law, in order to get their property off the list, owners of the contaminated properties must hire one of the state’s certified contractors, said Program Coordinator Deb Grimm.

Some landlords and property owners didn’t even realize their property was involved in a prior bust before they received notice they were on the list, Grimm said.

“A lot of times they bought the home and didn’t know there was a lab there,” she said.

Grimm hopes that the program will eventually expand to cover smoking meth – not just manufacturing it.

Samples in homes where meth was smoked have tested at 300 times the legal state contaimation limit, according to Grimm.

“The residue is not breaking down,” she said. “It doesn’t biodegrade, and it remains for years.”

The cleanup program is a good start, according to law enforcement officers and health officials. But it still has a long way to go to solve the issue of meth-contaminated homes in Montana – and to spread the word that the problem exists.

For one, property owners aren’t actually required to follow through with the cleanup – they also have the option of simply notifying future tenants that their home is listed as contaminated.

Ravalli County Undersheriff Kevin McConnell worries that cash-strapped residents will see a home with cheap rent and decide to take it – without finding out whether it might have been contaminated.

“If (renters) are looking for a bargain, they might move in,” said McConnell.

McConnell also believes there needs to be a way for tenants and contractors to report possible contamination, obtain samples, and eventually have a contaminated property listed.

One Darby resident reported symptoms of possible contamination – watering eyes, suspicious red stains that looked like iodine on the bathroom ceiling – but the tenant had no power to have the building tested under the new program without law enforcement stepping in, according to McConnell.

The undersheriff has asked the Ravalli County Board of Health to create an ordinance to allow certified inspectors and contractors to also report meth contamination, and they are currently looking at the issue, according to county officials.

“The state list itself doesn’t have a whole lot of teeth,” McConnell said. “You’ve got your landlords who just don’t want to hear about it. There aren’t resources for the public.”

Another challenge is the cost of cleanup.

After a meth lab gets busted, the program requires a $2,000-4,000 assessment, sampling tests for meth residue, an on-site screening to detect if vapors are present, and then remodeling or cleaning if possible.

Meth manufacturing is an extremely nasty business. If cooking goes on in a kitchen, appliances usually have to be tossed. Any porous surface – rugs, clothing, furniture – has to be tossed as well. If wall are painted, they might be able to be washed, otherwise they need to be torn out, according to Joe Laudon, a Bozeman contractor trained and certified in October under the state program.

“There’s no way to determine if they’re clean,” Laudon said.

Although some people cooking up meth in a home or motel room believe they can do it in the kitchen and it won’t spread to other rooms, such as children’s bedrooms, the vapors can move throughout the building’s ventilation system.

If a home can be cleaned, the cost is in the thousands. But if it needs to be gutted, the bill quickly skyrockets out of reach of many rural property owners.

Although Laudon was certified last fall, he has yet to go out on a job, he said.

“I received a few calls, but no one has hired me,” he says. “It’s a very, very costly project.”

When the remodeling exceeds the value of the property – which can happen in some economically depressed areas in Montana – Laudon honestly tells landlords they are better off starting over.

“Sometimes they’re best off bulldozing it,” he said. “I’ve advised some people to do that.”

The program’s sponsor in the state Legislature, Christopher Harris, D-Bozeman, said the bill was intended to create standards and train contractors to meet those standards. The cost of the cleanup can’t be the responsibility of taxpayers, Harris said.

The idea was never to hand out money (or) to create a huge subsidy,” Harris said. “It sounds harsh … (but) if I were stupid enough to rent to a meth (user), it’s my job to pay for it.”

In total, seven homes in Montana have been cleaned up through the state program. While many more remain unclean and unreported, Harris argues the meth cleanup legislation has set clear guidelines for homes to become safe and habitable after being contaminated.

“It doesn’t automatically mean there’s going to be a cleanup,” he said. “But if you want to get off the list, you better prove to DEQ there’s no contamination – or it has been cleaned up to our standards.”

By Dana Green

Coca poses election dilemma for Peruvians

Reuters AlterNet

PICHARI, Peru, March 27 (Reuters) - At the orders of their mayor, artisans in Peru's jungle recently put the finishing touches on a giant monument to the coca leaf, a defiant tribute to the plant that fuels the cocaine trade and provides a living for thousands of Peruvian peasants.

The concrete monument in the impoverished central jungle hamlet of Pichari, which the town hall aims to unveil next month, underscores growing rural support for coca leaf, which was declared illegal in a 1961 U.N narcotics convention.

Peru's coca output jumped almost 40 percent last year and U.S.-backed eradication policies are floundering -- developments that pose one of the biggest challenges for the winner of the country's April 9 presidential elections.

According to U.S. and Peru officials, coca eradication in Colombia, the world's top cocaine producer, has pushed up coca prices and production in No. 2 producer Peru, while Mexican cartels are becoming key players in moving multi-ton cocaine shipments from Peru's capital Lima to the United States and Europe.

"I'm pessimistic about the situation we're in. There's a very worrying rise in output and coca growers are increasingly hostile to eradication," said Juan Luna, head of Peru's anti-drugs agency DEVIDA in the country's central jungle coca area along the River Apurimac, a tributary of the Amazon.

Eradication is made all the more difficult because many Peruvians consider coca sacred and part of their traditions.

Since 2003, Peru's cocaine production capacity has risen by more than 25 percent to around 170 metric tons a year, with a U.S. street value of $35 billion. Coca fields are no-go areas for police, as Shining Path guerrillas holed up in the jungle offer protection to drug traffickers, who supply them weapons.

"The rebels are making the coca areas almost inaccessible and ambushes are deadly for us," said Juan Rojas, head of police in the River Apurimac region's main town San Francisco.

The guerrilla group that led one of Latin America's bloodiest insurgencies in the 1980s and early 1990s killed at least 19 police and military officers in 2005, officials say.

Coca on Campaign

Peru's coca problem has become one of the most sensitive issues in the April election as candidates seek votes in Andean areas, where the leaf is chewed by farmers to ward off hunger and drunk in tea to cure altitude sickness. There, any mention of coca eradication sparks often violent protests.

But front-runner Humala, an Andean former soldier who is seen as a protest vote against Peru's coastal business elite, has pledged to go further and legalize all coca production. This would create a legal market for coca in an effort to tempt farmers away from dealing with traffickers.

Coca crop substitution, backed by $330 million in U.S. aid since 2000, has so far failed to cut cocaine output.

"The solution to drug trafficking is to industrialize coca leaf products," said Humala, echoing plans by recently elected Bolivian President Evo Morales, a former coca grower, to export coca foods and health products on a large scale.

Coca is eaten in Peru for its calcium content, while its hunger-suppressant properties make it a potential diet product.

Industrialization of the coca leaf, which was considered more valuable than gold by the powerful Inca civilization in the 1400s, would be a dream come true for Peru's 50,000 coca farmers, who say they stick with coca partly because of low prices for traditional crops such as coffee and pineapple.

"Ollanta Humala can help us, because this is a plant that gives us four harvests a year, it is our children's future," said coca grower Walter Aquino, mayor of the remote town of San Antonio, standing among his shoulder-high coca trees.

Coca Flavored Toothpaste?

Such a policy could endanger anti-drug funding from the United States, the world's top cocaine consumer and an opponent of similar plans in Bolivia.

"Industrialization attempts have failed in the past and it's time to look to strategies, not political populism," said Omar Quezada, president of the central Ayacucho region where the Rio Apurimac coca region is located.

According to DEVIDA's Luna: "If there was a demand for coca toothpaste, someone would have met it by now."

More realistically, non-governmental organizations and drug experts say Peru needs an overhaul of its anti-coca programs, going beyond eradication.

To make alternative crops such as coffee profitable, coca farmers need larger landholdings than the current average size of less than 2.5 acres (1 hectare), meaning the government needs to redistribute land and grant land titles.

Paving roads is crucial because dirt tracks -- often made impassable by mountain rivers -- make it nearly impossible for growers to get fresh goods to market in Ayacucho or Lima.

A U.N.-financed food processing factory in the central jungle only works four mornings a month because of a lack of raw material such as hearts of palm and tropical fruits.

"There's a strong demand from Europe for hearts of palm, but a farmer needs at least 3 hectares (7.4 acres) to make it work," said Harold Tineo, the factory's general manager.

NGOs also blame the Peruvian government's decades-long abandonment of towns in the coca regions. In these places, farmers are forced to sell to drug traffickers so they can pay teachers and enable their children to go to school.

As a result, farmers argue that coca is the only way to survive. "They want to eradicate our coca, but then what? Do we die?" asked farmer Prospero Ore, dressed in muddy rags.

Indiana Officers Find Cocaine In Bra Strap

Laporte -- A Walkerton woman is charged with felonies after police found alleged cocaine in her bra.

Stacy Strawderman of Walkerton appeared Friday in LaPorte Circuit Court on allegations of selling the drug.

Strawderman, 21, of the 8000 block of North Bush Street, Walkerton, was charged with two counts of Class B felony dealing cocaine.

The potential sentence on each count is 6 to 20 years.

Wednesday night, Strawderman was observed by LaPorte County Police turning into the Junction City truck stop on U.S. 20 near Rolling Prairie.

She failed to use her turn signal, police said, and was approached by the officer.

During a computer records check, an outstanding warrant for her arrest on the two counts of dealing cocaine turned up.

Strawderman was then informed she was under arrest.

When asked if she was carrying any weapons, police said, Strawderman told the officer "I have cocaine in my right bra."

She then said, "I have a few rocks (of cocaine) in the front pocket of my purse," according to police.

Police said the officer carefully tugged on the woman's right underarm bra strap and a baggie of the alleged cocaine fell out. All totaled, the cocaine recovered from the woman weighed more than 3 grams, police said.

Under the charges she faced in court Friday, it's alleged Strawderman was caught selling $40 in cocaine from a residence in the 1300 block of Federal Avenue in LaPorte.

According to court documents, the transactions occurred in mid-November, less than a week apart.

On both occasions, Strawderman handed the buyer cocaine that she had just pulled out of her shirt, police said.

When questioned, police said Strawderman revealed she obtains cocaine from Gary and South Bend.

Strawderman was given a Sept. 11 trial date.

She was then returned to the LaPorte County Jail and held on $2,500 cash bond.

By Stan Maddux

Sewage Tested for Signs of Cocaine

The Washington Post

Fairfax participating in federal program to assess drug use.

If government studies are a reliable guide, about 25,000 residents of Fairfax County -- 2.5 percent of its population -- have used cocaine in the past year. The same data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggest that about 9,000 have partaken within the past 30 days.

Those estimates, based on personal and computer-assisted interviews, rely almost completely on the candor of the respondents. The Bush administration, hoping to someday broaden the government's knowledge of illegal drug use, is probing the mysteries of Fairfax's sewage for a clearer picture.

Earlier this month, the county agreed to participate in a White House pilot program to analyze wastewater from communities throughout the Potomac River Basin for the urinary byproducts of cocaine.

"It's a very strange request," Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said of the White House program. "We're ready to do anything and everything we can do to eliminate illicit drug use. But I'd want to know a lot more about what this will actually lead to."

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said it is not seeking to single out specific localities. It also is premature, officials said, to conclude that levels of metabolized cocaine in sewage offer a more accurate index of consumption than traditional survey research.

But David Murray, special assistant to national drug czar John P. Walters, said wastewater testing, which has been tried in Europe, "certainly has that potential."

"We think it will be very, very useful," Murray said.

County workers collected five days' worth of water samples between March 13 and March 17 at the pollution control plant in Lorton, according to a March 20 memo from County Executive Anthony H. Griffin to the Board of Supervisors.

The plant, which processes about 67 million gallons of sewage a day, takes in commercial and residential waste from about half the county, including Fairfax City, Vienna and Fort Belvoir.

The samples, which totaled about 500 milliliters, were shipped to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville, where they will be analyzed for traces of benzoylecgonine, the main urinary metabolite byproduct of cocaine.

Murray said many other utilities in the region were cooperating but declined to name any. A spokeswoman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which provides water and sewer service in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, said she did not know whether the agency was participating in the study.

Griffin's memo to the board was not released to the public until the day after the Fairfax sampling was completed. He did not return a call for comment.

Critics of the administration's drug policies said the effort seemed harmless enough but also wondered what it would add up to.

"It can't hurt to check," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit group committed to ending the federal government's war on drugs. "I'm skeptical that it can be a useful gauge for policy analysis."

The wastewater research had its genesis in Europe. Last year, scientists of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan tested the waters of the Po River in northern Italy, to surprising results. According to the Times of London, they concluded that the Po carried the equivalent of about four kilograms of cocaine and estimated that the 1.4 million young adults living in the Po River Basin were consuming about 40,000 doses a day, more than twice the existing national estimates.

To confirm the findings, the researchers studied wastewater from smaller cities in other regions of the country, including Sardinia. After allowing for the difference between water from the Po and undiluted sewage, they said that the results were similar.

By Bill Turque

IRAQ: Officials note rise in drug trafficking, consumption

Reuters Alternet

Baghdad, 27 March (IRIN) - Officials at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs are concerned about a noticeable increase in drug trafficking and drug addiction, especially following the seizure of large quantities of "class A" narcotics by police.

"We estimate that more than 5,000 Iraqis are consuming drugs in the south today, especially heroin, compared with 2004, when there were only around 1,500," said Dr Kamel Ali, a senior official in the health ministry's anti-narcotics programme. "We fear the number could be as high as 10,000 countrywide."

According to Sinan Youssef, a senior official in the social affairs ministry's strategy department, addictions are mainly to heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Local prices for these illicit commodities vary from US $15 to $30 per gram of heroin, and from $10 to $25 per gram of cocaine.

In the past three months, Youssef explained, more than 40 cases of addiction were reported in the capital, Baghdad, and about 50 others in the south of the country. "Kerbala and Najaf are the biggest consumers of drugs," he said.

"We believe the drugs [heroine/marijuana] are brought into the country by visitors from Iran and Afghanistan every month." The cocaine is believed to be coming from South America, officials added.

Local police have carried out more than 50 raids in Kerbala, some 110km south of Baghdad, since September, in search of drugs and traffickers.

According to Maj Salah Hassan of Kerbala's crime unit, more than 100 kilos of heroin, 40 kilos of cocaine and 160 kilos of marijuana have been found by local police in Kerbala and in Najaf. "We're very concerned that the situation is getting worse, and the seizures on the borders are increasing," said Hassan.

"We arrested more than 20 Iraqis carrying drugs since last year and we're proceeding with careful investigations to discover the source," Hassan added. "Urgent action should be taken by the Ministry of Interior to prevent more drugs from entering Iraq."

Based on investigations in Kerbala and Baghdad, drugs are coming in from Afghanistan through Iran, creating what local officials are calling a major new drug route to neighbouring countries and Europe. Afghanistan is said to supply almost 90 percent of the world's opium, from which heroine is derived.

According to Youssef, the main reasons for increased rates of addiction among Iraqis are insecurity, lack of employment and terrorism, which has affected people psychologically.

Ali noted that the lack of specialised centres for the treatment of drug addiction also represented a problem for Iraqis. "The number of addicts is increasing, particularly among young people from conservative families, where there are more religious restrictions," he said. "This makes them look for another way to forget about the pressure that the society puts on them."

Renewed bid for medical marijuana back in court

WPRI 12: Eyewitness News

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The debate over medical marijuana comes before a federal appeals court in California today.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on whether marijuana should be allowed if it's the only viable option to keep a patient alive or out of excruciating pain. It would apply only to the sickest patients and their suppliers, regardless of whether they live in one of the 11 states authorizing medical marijuana.

Rhode Island in January became the 11th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana for medical reasons. The California case was brought by a 40-year-old mother who suffers from scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea and other ailments. She uses marijuana every couple of hours.

The Bush administration says the lawsuit is without merit.

Parents Arrested For Allegedly Growing Marijuana In Infant's Closet


Two St. Clairsville parents allegedly left their infant home alone while they went shoplifting - and when police found the baby, they discovered marijuana plants growing in the child's closet.

Toni Scott, 18, and the child's father, 21-year-old John Fekete, also of St. Clairsville, have been charged with the crimes.

Belmont County Sheriff Fred Thompson said the pair was detained for shoplifting at the Wal-Mart in Richland Township early Tuesday. At that time, officers overheard Scott saying she needed someone to watch her child. Police then asked her who was watching the child. Scott replied that a neighbor was caring for the boy, but stated she did not know the person's name.

Police went to her home, found the door open, and discovered the 3-month-old boy home alone.

Thompson said officers then checked the home for baby supplies so they could turn the boy over to Children's Services. They then discovered 12 marijuana plants growing in the child's closet.

During a court appearance Tuesday afternoon, the couple declined to make a plea until they had a chance to talk to a lawyer. After the hearing, Fekete said the whole case is a misunderstanding.

"The kid is taken good care of," Fekete said. "This is just a big misunderstanding. It'll be taken care of. We are good parents."

Scott and Fekete also denied the allegations of drugs growing in their child's closet.

"That isn't true," said Fekete. "Our child sleeps in our room."

"We had a sitter and she left," added Scott. "She left him alone while we weren't there so that's not our problem, that's her problem."

Sheriff Thompson said he does not believe the parents left their child in the care of a neighbor.

Police said a small amount of marijuana was found on a kitchen table near a diaper bag. Deputies also confiscated Xanax and Ambian from the home.

Scott and Fekete are charged with theft, child endangerment and cultivation of marijuana.

The child has been released to relatives.

By Renee Cardelli & Jill Del Greco

Bolivia: The Cocaine Conflict

The Week

Bolivia’s newly elected president, Evo Morales, has pledged to defy the U.S. by legalizing cultivation of coca, the primary ingredient in cocaine, and nationalizing his nation’s oil and gas industry. Are Bolivia and the U.S. on a collision course?

What’s so special about Evo Morales?

An uneducated Aymara Indian, he is Bolivia’s first “native” president. His father was a tin miner in the Andean highlands that form the west side of the landlocked country. When the mines closed at the end of the ’70s, his impoverished family, like so many others, moved east to the Chapare region—in the headwaters of the Amazon—to farm coca leaves. Morales emerged as a radical leader of coca farmers in the late ’80s. This year, he sought the presidency as a populist after violent protests brought the country to a virtual standstill, forcing the resignation of president Carlos Mesa last June. In December, Morales won with a record 54 percent of the vote.

Why did he win?

It was a triumph for the indigenous “have-nots”—mainly Aymara and Quechua Indians, who form more than half the population—over the European-descended “haves,” who have run the country since independence in 1825. (The man Morales beat was Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, a Harvard-educated scion of the business elite whose wife is American.) The struggle between the white settlers who dominate the rich eastern provinces and the indigenous peoples concentrated in the west has formed the backdrop to Bolivian politics from the time of Spanish colonial rule. Not surprisingly, Morales’ speeches are littered with references to colonial exploitation. His victory caused considerable concern in the U.S., where critics accused him of being both a Che Guevara–style revolutionary and a narco-terrorist.

Why such a vehement reaction?

In his campaign Morales mixed socialist rhetoric with appeals to traditional “Indian” values. He would be a “nightmare for the U.S.,” he boasted, and form an “Axis of Good” with his socialist pals: Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Stirring bitter folk memories of Spain’s “rape” of Bolivia’s silver and gold reserves in the 17th century, he vowed to nationalize the gas and oil industries, and seize control from the multinational corporations. Above all, he promised to legalize production of Bolivia’s traditional national crop—coca—and get it removed from the U.N. list of controlled substances. “For us coca is a way of life,” as he put it. “I’m saying ‘no’ to zero coca but ‘yes’ to zero cocaine.”

What are coca’s uses besides cocaine?

Unlike in other coca-producing countries, such as Colombia, there is a genuine tradition of coca use in Bolivia, where it is revered for its curative properties and role in indigenous rituals. “Before you go to work, you’ll chew some coca leaf,” says Morales. “After lunch, after a nap, you’ll chew some. If you drive long distances, you’ll chew it to stay awake. It is used as tea to combat altitude sickness and made into herbal remedies. Popes have used it, kings of Spain, Fidel Castro.” Coca is used to make shampoo, biscuits, face cream, and soft drinks.

Is Bolivia a big coca producer?

One of the biggest. The growth of the international drug trade in the ’80s led to a meteoric rise in coca cultivation, notably in Chapare. By 1990, Chapare had become the principal supplier of coca used for cocaine in the U.S. market. (Colombia is the main manufacturer of the drug, but until recently, Bolivia and Peru supplied 90 percent of the coca leaves.) All that changed with the U.S.-backed war on drugs in Latin America. By 1997, most of the coca plantations in Chapare had been ripped up, at an estimated cost of $500 million to the economy. But peasants could find no crop that provided coca’s income, so the area under coca cultivation is now back to more than 70,000 acres. The truth—which Morales would be unhappy to admit—is that without coca’s role in narco-trafficking, large sections of Bolivian society would simply starve.

So will the U.S. and Bolivia become enemies?

Morales’ victory has been widely interpreted as a blow to the U.S. agenda for Latin America and part of a strong leftist trend on the continent. Yet it is doubtful that Morales can truly afford to alienate Washington, which is, after all, Bolivia’s biggest aid donor. And for all his pre-election rhetoric about the U.S. war on drugs being an excuse to intervene (“In Latin America it’s narco-terrorism, in Iraq, WMD”), he has taken a far more conciliatory line since then, professing himself open to negotiations to cut back on the production of coca for cocaine. On the gas industry too, Morales is said to be hinting at a pragmatic approach: Instead of expropriation, which would land Bolivia in the international courts, he would seek to renegotiate contracts with the multinationals to bump up Bolivia’s share of the profits, which are now just 18 percent. Washington, for its part, is also being more conciliatory. The Bush administration has agreed to consider allowing more coca farming for traditional uses, and last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid Morales a friendly visit. While in La Paz, she said that for the U.S. to cut off aid to Bolivia would be “like shooting yourself in the foot.”

Monday, March 27, 2006

Audit: Earmarks Dilute Anti-Drug Grants

Herald News Daily

Washington - Some states with significant methamphetamine problems have not received their share of federal money because the bulk of a grant program was steered by lawmakers to favored projects in their districts, the Justice Department inspector general said Thursday.

"As a result of the significant use of congressional earmarks in this program, funding is not always directed to the areas of the country with the most significant meth problem," Fine said report examining the grant program from 1998 to 2005.

One example cited by Fine: Missouri ranked second, behind California, in seizing 11,859 meth labs between 1998 and 2004. But it was tenth in grants received with $3.7 million.

Meanwhile, the Sioux City, Iowa, police department was given $10 million for a training program that Fine said was not focused on meth or any drug. Instead, "classes focused on enhancing general law enforcement skills, such as interviewing and self-defense," he said.

Fine also faulted Justice‘s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, for its oversight of the program. The audit said there was a lack of coordination between officials in the COPS office, weaknesses in the database used to manage and track grants and insufficient and inconsistent monitoring of recipients of the money.

"The COPS office rightfully looks to the individual grantee to identify what its most pressing needs are," Peed said.

By Mark Sherman

Chemical Company Will Stop Making Meth Precursors


Louisville, KY
- A Louisville chemical company has agreed to stop selling chemicals used to make meth.

Antec, which employs five people, signed a plea deal with federal prosecutors over a violation of the Clean Water Act from 2002. It includes an agreement to stop selling chemicals such as red phosphorous and iodine crystals, which have been found frequently in meth lab raids around the country.

Federal investigators say it was easy to buy the chemicals from Antec, and directions to the company's Bergman Street location have been found several times during raids on meth labs.

Student Helps Homeowners Detect Meth

Today's THV

No longer will new residents in a home or apartment have to tear out a piece of wall to find out if they're exposing themselves to potentially harmful residues from methamphetamine manufacture.

Jennifer Wu says you may have to remove a piece of wall to determine just how high the risk is, if you discover you're living in a former meth house. But she says it shouldn't cost much to determine if there's any risk at all. Exposure to the chemicals used to cook meth can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, eyes, nose, throat and skin.

Wu is a student at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs. She developed a chemical formula that can be brushed on a wall. If it turns a certain color, you've got problems.

Wu recently won the overall first prize at the school's West-Central Regional Science Fair with her testing formula. She is quick to point out the limitations of her formula. The color result can show if there's any residue at all, but she can only provide a range of toxicity.

She recommends a partnership with the state Crime Lab. If a test is positive, contact the Crime Lab for additional tests.

Jenni Perry, a forensic chemist with the Illicit Lab Section of the Arkansas State Crime Lab, has worked with Wu on her project. Perry said Wu had made a pretty significant breakthrough. She said there could be a nationwide market.

Wu, who has been accepted to attend Harvard University this fall, is working to get her process patented, and then market it to consumers.

Australians top global ecstasy users

ABC News Online

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre says ecstasy continues to be a popular recreational drug in Australia, while other drugs have gained more favour overseas.

The centre's spokesman, Paul Dillon, was commenting on figures collected by the United Nations that Australia's ecstasy use far outstrips any other country, including Britain.

He says that is despite the higher price paid here of around $35 a tablet, compared with about $2.50 overseas.

Mr Dillon says it is not that Australians are bigger drug users overall, but that people overseas have switched to other drugs.

"Ecstasy is not seen as being a quality drug, it's not seen as a 'good value for money drug'," he said.

"So what is happening is that people are not simply stopping taking drugs, and I think that's the important part here, they actually swapped to another substance, [which is] often much more dangerous.

"For example, in that case, they're moving to cocaine."

Ask This: Time to change cocaine sentencing minimums?

Nieman Watchdog

Q. Why do members of Congress and Department of Justice officials continue to oppose reform of federal crack cocaine sentencing laws, despite repeated calls for reform from independent organizations such as the American Bar Association?

Q. While it is estimated that two-thirds of crack cocaine users are white or Hispanic, 80% of persons convicted for a crack cocaine offense in the federal system are African American. Why is there a disconnect between drug use rates and prosecutions in the federal court system?

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Congressional passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which dramatically amended the Controlled Substances Act, most prominently through the broad adoption of mandatory minimum sentences.

Perhaps the most (in)famous element of the legislation applied to the penalty structure for cocaine, namely the imposition of a differential weight calculus triggering substantially divergent sentences based on the way the cocaine had been processed. If a defendant is convicted for the sale of 500 grams of powder cocaine, a 5-year mandatory minimum penalty is automatically triggered. However, if that cocaine has been processed with water and baking soda and cooked into a hard, smokable form, conviction for possession of only 5 grams will result in that same 5-year mandatory minimum. Crack cocaine is the only drug which mandates such a severe penalty for a possession offense.

This 100-to-1 weight ratio is one of the most contentious elements of the federal criminal code. It was passed under the aegis that crack cocaine poses a greater danger to society, relative to other narcotics, and must be addressed as such by statute. Public sentiment, fueled by media coverage describing crack cocaine as a “plague,” “epidemic,” and “crisis,” galvanized Congress to move swiftly and harshly.

In the intervening twenty years, much of what was previously believed about the impact of crack cocaine has been proven false. Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated no physiological difference between crack and powder cocaine users, no greater predilection toward violent criminality by people who use crack cocaine, and the oft-voiced warnings of a generation of children lost due to their upbringing as “crack babies” never materialized.

As the underlying rationale for the differential penalty structure eroded, the United States Sentencing Commission, charged by Congress to study the federal penalty structure and make recommendations for amendments as warranted by the evidence, has on three separate occasions (1995, 1997, and 2002), called for a reduction in the 100-to-1 penalty differential. The Commission noted that there is little difference between the two substances, and the overly punitive sentencing structure is not calibrated in such a way to target the most serious offenders.

In 2002, the Commission issued an unequivocal statement that it “firmly and unanimously believes that the current federal cocaine sentencing policy is unjustified and fails to meet the sentencing objectives set forth by Congress in both the Sentencing Reform Act and the 1986 Act.” However, both the Clinton and Bush administrations voiced opposition to reform.

The consequences of this sentencing differential have been experienced disproportionately by the African American community. Despite the fact that two-thirds of regular crack cocaine users are white or Latino, 80% of persons sentenced in the federal system are African American. Law enforcement patterns targeting communities of color are codified in the federal system through the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity, thereby exacerbating already system-wide racial inequalities. The average sentence for a crack cocaine offense (123 months) is three and a half years longer than the average sentence for a powder cocaine offense (81 months).

With such a concentration of convictions in the African American community, the impact is obvious. This reality has led the Commission to comment that amending the 100-to-1 ratio “would better reduce the gap [in sentencing between whites and African Americans] than any other single policy change, and it would dramatically improve the fairness of the federal sentencing system.”

Legislation to reform the crack cocaine penalty structure in this year’s Congress is being considered by both Democratic and Republican members. Rep. Rangel (D-NY) will be introducing an equalization bill, and Sen. Sessions (R-AL) has indicated that he will be proposing a reform measure as well.

By Ryan King

Transition from opium to tea a success in Huoi Tu

Vietnam News

Nghe An — Having abandoned drug cultivation, the Mong ethnic community from Huoi Tu area in central Nghe An Province has prospered from growing tea in recent years.

Huoi Tu in Ky Son District, covered by fog throughout the year, is ideally suited for growing tea, and following a project has now nearly 200 hills covered by tea plantations, fetching an annual income of VND20-30 million for each Mong household engaged in cultivation.

According to local authorities, the region grows well-known export-quality tea, including Bao Loc tea from Lam Dong Province in Central Highlands and Giang tea from the northern Yen Bai Province, famous for their taste and colour.

But the transformation of Ky Son, famous in the past for growing opium in about 3,000ha in 16 communes of the district, was achieved after local authorities and international organisations launched a campaign to eliminate drugs from the region.

The US$7 million campaign, funded and implemented by the drug prevention centre under the United Nations and local authorities, succeeded in uprooting opium cultivation from the district.

To stop people, who lost a regular source of income, from taking up opium again, local authorities promoted Nguyen Manh Cuong, former chief of the Nghe An Volunteer Youth Association, as the chairman of the Ky Son District, with the mandate to oversee the project to promote tea cultivation.

Cultivating Taste

Taking up the challenge, Cuong established a group, Team 8, consisting of Mong ethnic minority youth and headed by Nguyen Trong Canh, chairman of the Nam Xuan Agriculture Co-operative of Nam Dan District.

The group started persuading people to take up tea cultivation with little success, as the ethnic minorities feared losing their land. The team changed their strategy and encouraged growing rice and vegetables along with tea, achieving better results.

"Initially, it was very difficult to persuade Mong people to take up tea cultivation as they feared losing their land. But eventually, we prevailed as the people saw the benefit growing from wet rice and later tea," Canh said.

Other than growing tea, the minorities started growing wet rice, which gave them a yield of 18 tonnes for 3ha. Around 25 households, initially, started growing wet rice and tea, according to Canh, followed by others.

With the project deemed a success, the team is now planning to encourage people to invest in animal husbandry and growing fodder. "These will further help prosperity of the region and the people," Canh said.

Drug group warns of morning glory seed use

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Those morning glory seeds in your teenager's room might not be a sign of spring, but of drug abuse.

Last week, the Ohio Resource Network for Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities sent an alert to 2,000 school, health and youth workers warning that teens were reportedly eating the seeds for an LSD-like high.

Spokesman Eric Hall said the Clifton-based organization issued the alert after receiving calls from northern Ohio parents and school officials noting the activity.

"Kids can get so creative, whether it's chewing seeds like this or using an inhalant. There is so much out there," Hall said.

Hall said there was no indication of such activity in Greater Cincinnati, but the alert will warn parents of a potential danger they were likely unaware of.

"It's not just cocaine or marijuana you have to worry about," he said.

Dr. Loretta Novice, grant project director of the Northeast Community Challenge Coalition, which combats alcohol and drug abuse, said she didn't know of any statistics on the prevalence of teens eating the seeds to get high.

The little brown or black flower seeds of several varieties of morning glory contain a naturally occurring substance closely related to the hallucinogen LSD.

Although purchasing the seeds is legal, extracting and possessing the active ingredient, lysergic acid amide, is illegal.

Chewing the seeds can produce a hallucinogenic effect that is 5 percent to 10 percent as potent as LSD, according to the alert.

The most common active seed varieties are Hawaiian Baby Woodrose, Heavenly Blue, Pearly Gates and Flying Saucers. A pack of seeds can be bought for less than $2.

To prevent consumption, some are treated with chemicals that cause users to become ill if they ingest them. A high can be produced from 50 seeds or more.

The effects can last six to 10 hours. Nausea is a common side effect.

Eating the seeds can cause liver or neurological damage.

The Ohio Resource Network is asking the alert be distributed to local nurseries and flower seed outlets.

By Feoshia Henderson

Half of British teens use alcohol

United Press International

London, March 25 - One in five high school students have taken illegal drugs and 50 percent of 15-year-olds have had a drink in the past week, a government survey found.

The Information Centre for Health and Social Care surveyed 9,000 11- to 15-year-olds and also found that 25 percent of teens said they had been offered marijuana; 12 percent had tried other drugs; and 4 percent had taken cocaine, heroin, ecstasy or LSD, the Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

Ten percent of the girls said they smoked cigarettes, compared with 7 percent of boys -- but 1 percent of 11-year-olds said they smoked, compared with 20 percent of those age 15.

"The survey illustrates that the levels of drugs, drink and cigarettes used by children ages 11 to 15 have remained constant for the past five years despite increased attention to such behavior," said Denise Lievesley, the center's chief executive.

Teachers attack drug addiction book for primary schools

Ireland Online

Teachers today attacked the sale of a “totally unacceptable” book on drug addiction to primary schools.

The book, Issues 1, A Child Protection Handbook, provides details of drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) said the material was totally unacceptable for children at primary level.

Its general secretary, John Carr, said: “The books contain detailed information on drugs, particularly speed, cocaine, heroin, magic mushrooms, ecstasy, solvents and amphetamines. It’s geared totally for an older person and is not suitable for children at a primary school level.”

INTO has received a number of complaints from teachers in Roscommon, Leitrim and Donegal that businesses are being approached to sponsor the books for their local school at a cost of more than €250.

“That has happened in a number of cases in the North West, where teachers had received a batch of books,” said Mr Carr.

“When they looked at them, they found they were cheaply produced, there’s no acknowledged authorship, they appear to contain an amalgam of material lifted from everywhere and there’s no links with the curriculum,” he told RTE radio.

Primary and secondary school pupils are already taught about the dangers of drug abuse under the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum.

The company behind the book, Carroll-Dillon Publishing, has said that some of the material is not appropriate for young children. It has invited responses from school principals and will take these into account if a revised edition of the book is published.

Pink: I Did Heroin Because I Was "Bored"


Punk/Pop singer 'Pink' revealed that she did heroin back in her teenage years, and started doing the drug again at age 16 while trying to focus on becoming a singer, according to a published report.

The singer has witnessed with her own life experiences the tragedies heroin can cause, and three of her good friends died because they overdosed on the narcotic.

She explains, "Heroin is a horrible thing. I've seen first hand what it can do to people and it's not pretty. I was never that much into it to need treatment."

By Tashi Singh

China to catch drug takers with new test


Kunming, March 26 - Chinese scientists have invented a device that can easily detect a drug taker simply from the way his pupils react to certain rays.

The technology, developed by scientists in southwestern Yunnan province, has proved successful in six pilot projects in local villages, and have passed the assessment of the Ministry of Public Security, according to a source with provincial Department of Science and Technology.

In the tests, 891 cannabis smokers were mixed with 826 non-drug takers. The device was able to catch 93.94 percent of the addicts if they smoked the drug the day before the test, and 88.52 percent of them if they did it six days before.

No non-drug takers were mistaken for smoking the drug in the tests, scientists with the department said.

For addicts to opium or its related drugs, lights of certain wavelength and intensity make their pupils expand and contract, they said, adding that the new device can find out "how much a person is addicted to drugs."

The technology is obviously more advanced than similar detection techniques applied by police across the country, and it will be a good help if promoted nationwide, the scientists said.

Drugs are rampant in Yunnan, which is close to the notorious opium-producing "Golden Triangle" region.

The province has been designated as a target area for cracking down on the influx of drugs

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Herbal Products Linked to Cocaine Use in Teens

Consumer Affairs

A new study suggests adolescents who used herbal supplements are six times more likely to have tried cocaine and almost 15 times more likely to have used anabolic steroids than teens who have never used herbal products. The findings are in a University of Rochester Medical Center study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

More than a quarter of the high school students in the sample reported having used herbal remedies and of those, the heaviest herbal users were more likely to use illicit drugs.

Teen responders decided for themselves what would be considered "herbal or other natural products, either to make you feel better, or to help you perform better at sports or school," as asked in the survey. Herbal remedies could include products from dietary supplements such as vitamins or St. John’s wort to natural performance enhancers, such as creatine.

"The study points to the need for parents and health care providers to ask if teens are using herbal remedies and from there probe deeper for possible drug use," said study author, Susan Yussman, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the university’s Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong.

"Children who are open to experimenting with herbal products may be more open to trying illicit drugs."

However, Yussman cautioned against directly linking herbal product use with drug use: "This was a cross-sectional study that examines an association, not a causal link. Health care providers should ask all adolescents about potential substance use, regardless of herbal product use."

Yussman said that counseling should be provided to those teens found to have a substance abuse problem and to all patients regarding proper use of any type of medication, including herbal products.

The study found that teens who have ever used herbal products are:

• 4.4 times more likely to have ever used inhalants
• 4.4 times more likely to have ever used LSD, PCP, ecstasy, mushrooms, and other illegal drugs
• 5.9 times more likely to have ever used cocaine
• 6.8 times more likely to have ever used methamphetamines
• 8.1 times more likely to have ever used IV drugs
• 8.8 times more likely to have ever used heroin
• 14.5 times more likely to have ever used steroids

than teens who have never used herbal products.

"Those numbers could go higher with a survey that includes students who don’t attend school regularly or who have dropped out. Those teens are considered at higher risk for drug use," Yussman said.

The study was based on the 1999 Monroe County, N.Y., Youth Risk Behavior Survey which provided data on a random sample of 2,006 high school students. Herbal product use was defined by lifetime use of "herbal or other natural products--to feel better, or perform better in sports or school."

Overall, 28.6 percent of teens reported using herbal products. Herbal product use increased with age (25 percent of 9th graders to 30 percent of 12th graders) and varied by ethnicity (33 percent of Hispanics, 31 percent of Caucasians, 29 percent of Asians, Native Americans, or Pacific Islanders, and 12 percent of African Americans), but not by gender.

Yussman said further studies are needed to determine which herbal products may be associated with use of which specific drugs.

"A teen using a sports-enhancing product probably has a very different substance use pattern than a teen taking echinacea for a cold," she said.

By Mark Huffman

Poll: Alaskans Oppose Marijuana Re-Criminalization 56%-43%

Marijuana Policy Project

Juneau, Alaska - A new poll of Alaska voters reveals strong opposition to Gov. Frank Murkowski's bill to re-criminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the home. In the survey, conducted March 6-11 by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, only 43 percent supported the measure, which the Senate recently tacked onto an anti-methamphetamine bill now being considered by a Senate-House conference committee. 56 percent opposed the bill, with just one percent undecided.

Fifty percent of voters said they supported the Alaska Supreme Court ruling that the privacy provision of the state constitution allows adults to possess up to four ounces of marijuana for personal use in their homes, with 47 percent opposed. When those opposed were asked how they would feel if possession of a smaller amount of marijuana were permitted, support for the decision rose to 56 percent.

"Alaskans strongly disapprove of the governor's marijuana legislation, and don't want our legislators rushing ahead with this cobbled-together, poorly thought-out bill," said Bill Parker, former Alaska state legislator and retired deputy commissioner of corrections. "The conference committee now has one more reason to put the brakes on this ill-conceived idea."

"Alaskans value the right of privacy in our own homes as guaranteed in our constitution," said Michael McLeod-Ball of the ACLU of Alaska. "Alaskans think it's wrong for the governor and legislature to do an end-run around our constitutional privacy protections. The mainstream believes there's a middle ground that the politicians are ignoring in the name of partisan politics."

Goodwin-Simon surveyed 500 voters in a scientific, randomly- selected sample by telephone March 6-11, 2006. The poll, which was commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3%.

With 20,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

Afghan child addicts bring the heroin problem home

The Times Online

Kabul, Afghanistan - Soaman is like any other four-year-old — except that she used to be a heroin addict.

The child’s 27-year-old mother, Najia, said from behind her stained blue burka: “My husband used to smoke in the house when she played and she breathed it in. One day he couldn’t afford his drugs and she was sick and crying — we realised she was addicted too.”

In a poor country, Najia is the poorest of the poor. She lives with her husband and daughter in Kabul’s old city, an area of winding dirt lanes, tumbling mud huts and drug addicts who openly smoke their goods.

The smell from the open sewers is overpowering.

To pay for their addictions, Najia and her husband sold their furniture, their carpets and even their clothes, leaving them destitute.

Najia, who like many Afghans is known by one name, said: “My husband became addicted when he returned to Afghanistan from Iran. He couldn’t find a job and became depressed. When I married him I didn’t know he was an addict. He got me addicted.”

Afghanistan has long been the largest heroin-producing nation, responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s supply.

The abundance of the drug has led to a sharp increase in the number of Afghans using it.

The Nejat Centre, which treats child and female drug addicts in the old city, has more than 900 women and 110 children on its books.

The latest United Nations report estimates that more than 2 per cent of the country’s female population are drug users and about 1 per cent of under-15s use drugs. For the male population, the figure is even higher, at 12 per cent.

Muhammad Aman Roufi, supervisor at the Nejat Centre, said: “The problem of drug addiction has increased hugely since the fall of the Taleban, especially among the women.”

Balqis Kabir, 29, a social worker in the old city, said: “People get desperate for drugs; they will do anything to get money. I’ve even heard of addicts stealing shoes from outside a mosque to sell for drugs money.”

According to Mr Roufi, the reasons for addiction are varied. Many people picked up drugs in the refugee camps of Iran and Pakistan, having fled there during the civil war. Others are depressed about unemployment and many are war widows who lost husbands in the years of strife.

Shajina, 45, lost her husband nine years ago when he was killed fighting the Taleban. She told The Times: “I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t tolerate the loneliness. I was poor and my children were crying for food. I started to take opium to numb the pain.”

Shajina, who was addicted for more than seven years and says that she is now free from opium, lives with her daughter Nooria, 30, also a former addict and a war widow.

Their house is dusty, there is little furniture and a burka hangs on the wall. Their lives illustrate the pain and suffering that Afghanistan and its people have had to endure during almost three decades of war.

Nooria said: “My husband was killed the same year as my mother; they never found the body. The pain for us was too much. We both started using soon after and then became addicts.”

By Tim Albone