Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Japan roasted for planting drugs to test airport sniffer dogs



Japanese customs officers were sharply criticised today for planting 142 grams of cannabis in the bag of a Hong Kong passenger to test a sniffer dog that then failed to find the drugs.

The unsuspecting Cathay Pacific passenger walked out of Tokyo’s Narita International Airport with the drugs after an officer stuffed it into the side pocket of a black suitcase to test the animal.

The unauthorized test on Sunday went embarrassingly wrong when the dog failed to detect the cannabis and the officer responsible forgot which bag he had put it in.

An appeal had to be issued asking the passenger to return the drugs. The official involved was reprimanded for planting the drugs.

Officials said today that the drugs had been recovered but did not give details of whether the passenger involved was traced or whether he or she contacted customs officers to return the cannabis.

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee said the incident was a breach of all customs protocol and said the government would express its concern to Japanese officials.

The executive director of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council, Joseph Tung, said such acts would endanger passengers and said a strong letter or protest would be written to the Japanese government.

“We are shocked at this,” Tung told the government-run radio station RTHK.

”Such training exercises should be stopped at once. It is totally unacceptable.”

A spokeswoman for Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd also expressed concern over the incident and said the airline should be informed of any such drill or exercise in the future.

The 38-year-old Japanese customs officer responsible for the planting of the drugs told reporters in Tokyo the dogs had always been able to find the drugs when similar exercises had been done in the past.

The officer was quoted by a television network as saying: “I knew that using passengers’ bags is prohibited, but I did it because I wanted to improve the sniffer dog’s ability.” - Sapa

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Molecular Fingerprint Of Cocaine Addiction Revealed


ScienceDaily (May 27, 2008) — The first large-scale analysis of proteins in the brains of monkeys addicted to cocaine reveals new information on how long-term cocaine use changes the amount and activity of various proteins affecting brain function.

The identified changes are more numerous and long-lasting than previously thought, which may provide a biological explanation for why cocaine addiction is so difficult to overcome, according to Scott E. Hemby, Ph.D. of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, senior author of the study.

Results from the study are reported online May 27 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry and detail the effect of long-term cocaine intake on the amount and activity of thousands of proteins in monkeys. Monkeys are an ideal animal for studying addiction because they share considerable behavioral, anatomical and biochemical similarities with humans. About 2.4 million Americans currently use cocaine, according to estimates.

The researchers used state-of-the-art "proteomic" technology, which enables the simultaneous analysis of thousands of proteins, to compare the "proteome" (all proteins expressed at a given time) between a group of monkeys that self-administered cocaine and a group that did not receive the drug. Leonard Howell, Ph.D., with Emory University School of Medicine, who conducted the monkey studies, was a co-researcher. The study provides a comprehensive assessment of biochemical changes occurring in the cocaine addicted brain, Hemby said.

"The changes we identified are profound and affect the structure, metabolism and signaling of neurons," said lead author Nilesh Tannu, M.D. "It is unlikely that these types of changes are easily reversible after drug use is discontinued, which may explain why relapse occurs."

Hemby said that the development of medications to treat addictive disorders is guided in large part by our understanding of the brain mechanisms that produce the euphoric effects of the drugs. It is equally important to understand the damage that long-term drug use causes to brain cells so medications can be developed to reverse those effects and restore normal cell function in the brain.

The changes identified in the current study point to significant and likely long-lasting damage to brain cells as a result of cocaine abuse. "The duration of use and the amount of drug consumed that lead to such damage is currently not known, but is critical for understanding the long-term health consequences of cocaine abuse and determining the necessary modes of treatment," said Hemby. "We hope that the information generated from the study will also serve an educational purpose as a deterrent to cocaine use."

Currently, there are no FDA approved treatments for cocaine addiction. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Cocaine on 94 Percent of Spanish Banknotes

The New York Times

Madrid (Reuters) - Traces of cocaine can be found on 94 percent of banknotes in Spain, a country that has one of the world's highest rates of users, according to a study published on Sunday.

The 100 notes tested were collected in gyms, supermarkets and pharmacies across Spain, where increased affluence and falling street prices have made the drug more and more accessible.

Cocaine now sells for as little as 60 euros ($80) a gram, or 5 euros ($7) a line, and it is regularly used by 1.6 percent of Spaniards, up from 0.9 percent in 1999, a government report said this month.

Law enforcement agencies say cocaine is getting cheaper and more popular in Europe because of efforts to boost production by Colombian paramilitaries and rebels who need money for weapons. Spain is a major entry point to Europe for the smugglers.

It was not clear how many of the notes had been used to snort cocaine and how many had picked up traces from other bills, according to the study by the Sailab laboratory, published in the daily El Mundo.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Afghanistan Opium Crop Sets Record

Opium production in Afghanistan, which provides more than 90 percent of the world's heroin, broke all records in 2006, reaching a historic high despite ongoing U.S.-sponsored eradication efforts, the Bush administration reported yesterday.

In addition to a 26 percent production increase over past year -- for a total of 5,644 metric tons -- the amount of land under cultivation in opium poppies grew by 61 percent. Cultivation in the two main production provinces, Helmand in the southwest and Oruzgan in central Afghanistan, was up by 132 percent.

White House drug policy chief John Walters called the news "disappointing."

The administration has cited resurgent Taliban forces as the main impediment to stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and the U.S. military investment has far exceeded anti-narcotic and development programs. But U.S. military and intelligence officials have increasingly described the drug trade as a problem that rivals and in some ways exceeds the Taliban, threatening to derail other aspects of U.S. policy.

"It is truly the Achilles' heel of Afghanistan," Gen. James L. Jones, the supreme allied commander for NATO, said in a recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. Afghanistan is NATO's biggest operation, with more than 30,000 troops. Drug cartels with their own armies engage in regular combat with NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan, he said. "It would be wrong to say that this is just the Taliban. I think I need to set that record straight," he added.

"They have their own capability to inflict damage, to make sure that the roads and the passages stay open and they get to where they want to go, whether it's through Pakistan, Iran, up through Russia and all the known trade routes. So this is a very violent cartel," Jones said. "They are buying their protection by funding other organizations, from criminal gangs to tribes, to inciting any kind of resistance to keep the government off of their back."

Any disruption of the drug trade has enormous implications for Afghanistan's economic and political stability. Although its relative strength in the overall economy has diminished as other sectors have expanded in recent years, narcotics is a $2.6 billion-a-year industry that this year provided more than a third of the country's gross domestic product. Farmers who cultivate opium poppies receive only a small percentage of the profits, but U.S. officials estimate the crop provides up to 12 times as much income per acre as conventional farming, and there is violent local resistance to eradication.

"It's almost the devil's own problem," CIA Director Michael V. Hayden told Congress last month. "Right now the issue is stability. . . . Going in there in itself and attacking the drug trade actually feeds the instability that you want to overcome."

"Attacking the problem directly in terms of the drug trade . . . would undermine the attempt to gain popular support in the region," agreed Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. "There's a real conflict, I think."

The Afghan government has prohibited the aerial herbicide spraying used by U.S. anti-narcotic programs in Latin America. Instead, opium poppy plants in Afghanistan are destroyed by tractors dragging heavy bars. But only 38,500 of nearly 430,000 acres under cultivation were eradicated this year.

Because of security concerns and local sensibilities, all eradication is done by Afghan police, and corruption is a major problem at every level from cultivation to international trafficking. Although the drug trade is believed to provide some financing to the Taliban, most experts believe it is largely an organized criminal enterprise. According to a major report on the Afghan drug industry jointly released last week by the World Bank and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, key narcotics traffickers "work closely with sponsors in top government and political positions."

The report drew specific attention to the Afghan Interior Ministry, saying its officials were increasingly involved in providing protection for and facilitating consolidation of the drug industry in the hands of leading traffickers. "At the lower levels," the report said, "payments to police to avoid eradication or arrest reportedly are very widespread. At higher levels, provincial and district police chief appointments appear to be a tool for key traffickers and sponsors to exercise control and favor their proteges at middle levels in the drug industry."

Opium cultivation was outlawed during Taliban rule in the late 1990s and was nearly eliminated by 2001. After the overthrow of the Taliban government by U.S. forces in the fall of that year, the Bush administration said that keeping a lid on production was among its highest priorities. But corruption and alliances formed by Washington and the Afghan government with anti-Taliban tribal chieftains, some of whom are believed to be deeply involved in the trade, undercut the effort.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently noted that "once we thought terrorism was Afghanistan's biggest enemy" but said that now "poppy, its cultivation and drugs are Afghanistan's major enemy."

Eradication and alternative development programs have made little discernible headway. Cultivation -- measured annually with high-resolution satellite imagery that is then parsed by analysts using specialized computer software -- is nearly double its highest pre-Karzai level.

"There is supposed to be a tremendous energy associated with this," Jones said of the counter-narcotics programs, "but it needs a fresh look because . . . we're losing ground.

Marijuana-like Drugs Help Treatment of Nervous System Diseases

Sofia News Agency

Many scientists believe marijuana-like drugs might be able to treat a wide range of diseases.

Researchers have already presented evidence that cannabinoid drugs can help treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS, Parkinson's disease and obesity. Other researchers are studying whether the compounds can help victims of stroke and multiple sclerosis.

Although the chemicals work on the same area of the nervous system, the new drugs are much more refined and targeted than marijuana, with few of its side effects.Like all neurotransmitter networks, the cannabinoid system consists of a series of chemical pathways through the brain and nervous system.

Marijuana produces its effects by activating this pathway, primarily through the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the drug's main active ingredient.

Researchers have learned that endogenous cannabinoids play a role in tissue protection, immunity and inflammation, among other functions. The cannabinoid system also appears to exert wide influence, modulating the release of dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters.

Cannabinoids might slow down ALS, which destroys neurons that control muscles until victims become paralysed, research showed. Marijuana treatment delays disease progression by more than three years and may extend survival. That's a significant improvement over the only existing ALS drug, riluzole, which extends life by two months.

Researchers at the Institute of Neurology in London announced results showing cannabinoids have also helped some human ALS patients in one small trial. If cannabinoids can shield human neurons from harm, researchers say, they might prove useful against other neurological diseases, including mental illness. Scientists are looking at whether cannabinoids can treat multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and Huntington's disease.

Test Strips For The Rapid Detection Of Cocaine

Medical News Today

Saving the life of a poisoning victim is often a matter of minutes. It is best when the emergency doctor can perform a reliable diagnosis on the spot to determine which poison or what type of drug overdose a patient is suffering from. Complicated laboratory analyses and a complex apparatus are out of place in the emergency room. A team at the University of Illinois in Urbana has now laid the foundation for a new generation of rapid diagnostic tests that are as easy to handle as a pregnancy test: just dunk them in the sample and see if a colored band appears. These test strips are as reliable as laboratory methods. As a prototype, the researchers led by Yi Lu developed a test strip for the detection of cocaine in biological samples such as saliva, urine, and blood serum.

"Our method is based on tiny gold spheres and aptamers," reports Lu. Aptamers are single-stranded nucleic acid molecules that bind to certain target molecules with the same strength and specificity as antibodies. From a large number of DNA strands with random sequences (a library), it is basically possible to find a suitable aptamer for almost every target molecule. Says Lu: "The broad practical application of aptamers has thus far not realized its promise in practical diagnostics because the corresponding tests could not be made sufficiently user-friendly for the average user, who has not had laboratory training."

The new test strips for cocaine are different. When the end of the strip is dipped into a sample, the liquid travels along the strip to reach a zone with small gold-aptamer clumps. The trick lies in the special structure of these clumps: they are aggregates of nanoscopic gold spheres coupled to short DNA strands, some containing the biomolecule biotin. The DNA sequences are complementary to two regions of the cocaine-specific DNA aptamer. The aptamers bind to these strands, linking the gold spheres into larger aggregates. When the cocaine-containing liquid reaches these aggregates, the cocaine molecule instantly binds to the aptamers and removes them from the network; the aggregates fall apart into individual gold spheres. These free spheres are red. When the liquid travels further along the strip, it reaches a membrane. While the larger gold aggregates are stopped by the membrane, the red gold spheres are small enough to pass through it. They end up stuck to a narrow strip of streptavidin, a biomolecule that grabs onto the biotin on the gold surface like a hook onto an eye. The gold spheres get concentrated on the narrow strip and become visible as a distinct red stripe on the test strip.

"Our method is universal," stresses Lu. "Based on this principle, we should be able to develop rapid tests for the emergency diagnosis of a large number of drugs and poisons, as well as physiological molecules. The same method is also applicable to environmental monitoring."

Marijuana fan wants to roll the biggest joint


Los Angeles - A medical marijuana user plans to see in the new year on an all-time high - by rolling the world's biggest joint.

Los Angeles resident Brett Stone said he aims to usher in 2007 by rolling a 91cm cigarette using around 112 grams of marijuana.

Stone said he was inspired to try for a record after learning that the previous biggest joint was made with 100 grams.

"I thought the world's largest joint would have been a lot larger," said Stone, 48.

Medical marijuana use has been legal in California since 1996, when voters passed a law allowing the drug to be used as a pain reliever.

Stone said he would be careful to ensure that his record attempt would remain legal, indicating that the joint would be smoked in a local medical marijuana collective.

"We're probably going to do it as a fundraiser," he said. "And the mayor and police chief would be most welcome if they have a doctor's note to consume cannabis."

Stone said he plans to roll an even bigger joint to mark the US football final at the Super Bowl next February - and has asked companies if they can provide custom made rolling papers to help the attempt.

"I think a metre would be a good, smokeable size joint," Stone said. "I'm not looking to make a torpedo... I'm looking to make a smokeable joint."

Ecstasy study turns dance floor into lab

ABC Science Online

The idea of being followed around a nightclub by a researcher bent on taking a blood sample and measuring your temperature may not be your idea of a good time.

But 'field' studies like this may be the only way to get the full picture of the effects of the drug ecstasy, or MDMA, says University of Adelaide pharmacologist Professor Rod Irvine.

Irvine, whose unique recreation-setting study of ecstasy was presented at the Australian Health and Medical Research Congress in Melbourne today, says real-life studies of ecstasy paint a very different picture to conventional, controlled, low-dose laboratory studies.

"I'm not saying that we must go out into clubs and do naturalistic studies and that they're the only things to do, but those sorts of studies must be included in the spectra of what we're doing," he says.

"People out there will use much higher doses of the drugs than would ever be allowed ethically in a controlled clinical setting.

"So it gives you the opportunity ... to perhaps pick up data that you could never replicate in a laboratory."

Taking the lab to the club

Irvine's study, conducted with the PhD student Kate Morefield, analysed 10 people who took ecstasy in a party setting.

The subjects, aged around 27, had taken one to five pills.

Blood samples were collected just before taking the ecstasy and once an hour for the next four hours. Heart rate, temperature and blood pressure was also regularly monitored.

The study showed that using the drug in a recreational setting produced higher elevations in heart rate, blood pressure and skin temperature than previous laboratory studies had shown.

The concentration of MDMA, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine, in clubbers' blood also exceeded those reported in clinical research, Irvine says.

"In recreational settings, individuals experience or tolerate physiological effects of greater magnitude and achieve considerably higher blood concentrations of MDMA ... than those reported in controlled clinical studies," the research, contained in a poster presentation, says.

By Judy Skatssoon

Marijuana petition drive for 2008 ballot is under way


Lansing, Mich. Michigan residents could legally use marijuana on private property for under a measure proposed for the 2008 ballot.

The Board of State Canvassers today approved the form of a legislative petition proposed by an Eaton Rapids-based group backing the proposal.The measure would make it legal for those 18 and older to use marijuana on private property. Those found using the drug in public would be guilty of a civil infraction punishable by a 50-dollar fine.The measure also would allow people to grow marijuana at their residences.Supporters of the measure must gather about 304-thousand valid petition signatures to get on the 2008 ballot.
Previous signuture-gathering attempts failed in 2000, 2002 and this year.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

15 Arrested at Calif. Marijuana Clinics

Red Orbit

California (UPI) - Recent raids on marijuana dispensaries in the San Diego area have angered people who use the drug as medicine.

Federal and state law enforcement agencies arrested 15 people Thursday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. On Friday, protestors gathered at the San Diego County Courthouse.

How can you bust people for breaking the law when there are no rules? asked Dion Markgraaff, one of the organizers of the protest. That's what everybody wants -- regulation.

Marijuana became legal in California for people whose doctors recommend it, after voters approved a referendum. But the federal government has refused to recognize medical marijuana, and the state law and regulations remain confusing.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has said that she will continue to raid and close marijuana dispensaries.

Many people who are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer or who have AIDS say marijuana relieves pain and allows them to have an appetite for food.

ACLU Seeks to Intervene in Suit Challenging Medical Marijuana Use

Metropolitan News

The American Civil Liberties Union, Drug Policy Alliance and Americans for Safe Access moved Friday to be allowed to intervene in a state lawsuit brought by three California counties seeking to overturn Proposition 215, the alliance said Friday in a release.

Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act — which allows medical use of marijuana upon a doctor’s recommendation — was passed by California voters in 1996.

In the lawsuit, the counties of San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced sued the state and others, claiming that federal laws prohibiting marijuana use preempt state laws such as Proposition 215.

The suit cites the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and a 1961 U.S. treaty with 150 other nations outlawing marijuana.

The suit also challenges the state’s Medical Marijuana Program Act, which provides for an identification card program that would allow police to identify legitimate medical marijuana patients.

The groups believe Proposition 215 is not preempted by federal law and seek an order requiring San Diego County to begin issuing medical marijuana identification cards.

Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the alliance, said in the release,
“We are confident the court will require the state’s medical marijuana program to be implemented in San Diego, as required by law. Renegade politicians in San Diego are simply postponing the inevitable, while thousands of sick people suffer.”

The groups seek to intervene to represent medical marijuana patients, patients’ groups, caregivers and doctors. “Our motion to intervene will allow the court to recognize the harm done to patients by the county’s frivolous lawsuit,” Abrahamson said.

Wendy Christakes, a medical marijuana user represented by the groups, said in the release, “The county supervisors are playing politics while we struggle to survive. They should be ashamed.”

The groups also represent Dr. Stephen O’Brien, a physician who specializes in HIV/AIDS treatment in Oakland and believes that many of his seriously ill patients benefit from marijuana use, the release said.

San Diego County originally filed the lawsuit in federal court this January, but dismissed it and refiled, along with the other counties, in state court in February.

Last month San Diego Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt Jr. rejected the State’s contention that counties are precluded from challenging state law, and allowed the case to proceed.

The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project has reported that a January poll of San Diego County voters conducted by Evans/McDonough Company, Inc. showed that 67 percent said they support Proposition 215, while only 30 percent said they oppose it, and 80 percent agreed that the suit “is wasting taxpayers’ money.”

California is one of 11 states which allows the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Kenya: Why Fresh Cocaine Probe is Necessary

All Africa

Nairobi - Attorney General Amos Wako should immediately order fresh investigations into the Sh6.4 billion cocaine case.

The full significance of Nairobi Chief Magistrate Aggrey Muchelule's judgment in the case is yet to be appreciated by the public.

There should be no illusion that the police, on their own, intercepted the massive cocaine haul and made the subsequent arrests in December 2004.

At some point, the police even suggested that they had been tracking the cocaine shipments for some time before the televised interception. The fact is that the police intercepted the drug haul following specific information from Dutch drug enforcement agencies.

After receiving the information, police did not act for several days, during which the drug barons, who are believed to have been staying at the Rocky House in Malindi, calmly packed their bags, flew to Nairobi through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on December 11 where they spent the night at a city hotel, and the next day, left the country.

The drug barons left in circumstances that suggest they were given safe passage. Subsequent evidence indicated that some of the foreign suspects may have received preferential treatment at the Immigration Department.

After the barons' departure, it took a further two days for the police, accompanied by journalists, to move into the Embakasi and Malindi premises where the cocaine was found abandoned.

Questions remain unanswered as to what may have taken place between the time the police received the information and moved in, including whether all the cocaine intercepted was declared. After all, the stuff had been abandoned.

Shortly after the June 28 court ruling, Security minister John Michuki, in a speech at a United Nations function, stated that the drugs supply had increased tenfold in Kenya.

Mr Michuki may not have realised the significance of his admission in relation to the cocaine bust in December 2004, or noticed a report in the Daily Nation of March 4 in which a US State Department report is quoted as stating: "Official corruption is allowing international drug gangs to expand their operations in Kenya and also enabling greater use of narcotics by Kenyans."

Surveys indicate that the collapse in the street value of cocaine coincided with the seizures of December 2004.

The same reports indicate that the price of cocaine has remained at this depressed level, possibly due to oversupply. This might suggest that there could have been more cocaine than the 1.1 tons declared and or intercepted by the police on December 14, 2004.

Africa Confidential in its June 9 edition claimed that there are a further 1.8 tons hidden in the country that are being smuggled out to Europe and the USA in small parcels.

In the two subsequent prosecutions by the police, 15 people were hauled to court even before the investigation files were forwarded to the Attorney General's office for competent assessment on the adequacy of evidence.

The police rejected the appointment of a competent and specially trained prosecutor in anti-narcotics investigations and prosecutions.

Skeleton investigation files finally received reflected shoddy investigations with vital evidence missing.

At some point, police resisted an attempt to bring in experts from the United Nations to assist in the investigations and prosecutions.

The final open destruction of the narcotics should be credited to all those who fought to ensure the drugs were not re-routed into the market.

The Attorney General finally directed that the two cases be consolidated, after which all evidence be reviewed to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to sustain the prosecution.

Apart from driver David Mugo Kiragu, whom the court convicted of drug trafficking; all other suspects were acquitted. Mr Kiragu, who was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment and a Sh20 billion fine, does not fit the profile of a drug baron.

Therefore, it follows that the police are yet to arrest the kingpins of the cartel operating between South America, Kenya and Europe. Conclusion: The cartel remains intact and fully operational.

Mr Wako needs to take charge and order fresh investigations into the case this time with the assistance of international drug enforcement agencies. In addition, Mr Wako needs to ensure the urgent enactment of the outstanding Anti Money Laundering legislation to stop Kenya from becoming a leading money laundering centre.

Afghanistan reels under bumper harvests

Asia Times Online

Afghanistan boasts two bumper crops this season, and both could be lethal to the already fledgling authority of its government. Western officials expect the largest-ever opium crop in the face of a toothless US$1 billion eradication campaign. And contrary to earlier pronouncements by military officials, the Taliban are gaining steam in the volatile southern provinces, where fighting has raged at levels not seen since the US-led invasion that toppled the al-Qaeda-allied Islamic fundamentalist movement five years ago.

Forty thousand tons of narcotics were burned last week at a ceremony in Kabul to show the state's determination to stamp out illegal drugs that now account for nearly half of its gross domestic product. This came just one week after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a five-hour pit stop for a meeting with President Hamid Karzai to affirm Washington's full support of his efforts to steer reconstruction and defeat a reconstituted Taliban.

But if US President George W Bush's surprise visit to Baghdad last month to look the new Iraqi prime minister "in the eye" and give reassurances is held to measure, gestures of this scale are exceeded only by the turmoil they betray.

As the war in Iraq usurps the brunt of US military might, the insurgent and narco threats in Afghanistan have arisen at the flank. After diminished harvests under the Taliban, the country now produces about 90% of the world's opium, making it the number one global heroin producer and trafficker. Recent estimates indicate that the poppy crop in Helmand province, a militant stronghold, will more than double from last year, despite the presence of 3,300 British troops.

This comeback is trumped by that of the Taliban, which is waging a fierce campaign to destabilize the south as North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces complete a takeover of peacekeeping responsibilities there from the US by the end of July. Since mid-May, more than 700 people have been killed in sporadic clashes. Said Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, estimates there are 20-25 heavily armed militias operating in five southern provinces for a total of 3,000-5,000 men spoiling to test the resolve of Western security forces - hardly a "spent force" as some officials have described.

Lieutenant-General Karl Eikenberry, head of US forces in Afghanistan, said at a Pentagon news conference last month he was "confident the situation will improve by the end of this year". This view is not shared by retired General Barry R McCaffrey, who last week issued a troubling report after his second trip to inspect US military operations in which he argued circumstances would grow worse before they improved.

According to his report, the Taliban operated in small units three years ago; last year, they grew to company-sized units of 100-plus men; and for this year's summer fighting season they are maneuvering in 400-strong battalion-sized units. When fighting broke out May 18 in Helmand, 300-400 militants bearing assault rifles and machine guns reportedly attacked a police and government headquarters, killing 16 officers, an American civilian and a Canadian soldier. "They appear to have received excellent tactical, camouflage and marksmanship training," McCaffrey noted. The militants have become "very aggressive and smart in their tactics".

That month, Taliban commander in Helmand, Mullah Mohammed Kaseem Farouqi, bragged to The Times of London newspaper by satellite phone of having "between 2,500 and 3,000 men" with "thousands more ... in their homes waiting for [his] message to fight". He also claimed to have "hundreds" of volunteers ready to become suicide bombers, a method new to Afghanistan that, along with a 30% influx of roadside bombs compared to last year, denote imitation of the Iraqi insurgency. More than suicide bombings have been recorded in the past three months.

Karzai is sometimes called the "mayor of Kabul" since his authority is tenuous at best in regions outside the capital. The pro-Western leader nominally heads a democratic regime with a stable currency, but fault lines plague the country. "Afghanistan has never had a stable government," Marina Ottaway, an expert on democracy and rule of law at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Asia Times Online. "An extremely weak government in a large country with a $600 million budget is just not capable of doing enough for the country in the foreseeable future."

Unconfirmed coalition death tolls reveal roughly 20 insurgents are killed for every Afghan or Western casualty, but the frequency of Taliban attacks has increased as it seeks to expand its influence in the northern and western provinces. Eroding security has scaled back UN operations to just six out of 50 districts nationwide. There are further reports that militants have crept within 25 miles of Kabul itself, which has experienced unprecedented spasms of violence recent weeks.

For the second day in a row, multiple bombs exploded in the capital last Wednesday, killing one bystander and wounding 47. The latest attack took place during rush hour, targeting government workers and security forces, according to witnesses. Such emboldened tactics indicate Kabul is no longer an exception to the turmoil that has paralyzed vast swathes of the country, as Afghans frustrated with a corrupt government's failure to deliver on promises of security and economic development look elsewhere.

In the absence of viable economic alternatives, some NATO officials and experts say the war on drugs has reinforced the Taliban's power. Militants have offered to protect lucrative crops, using kickbacks from drug smugglers to fuel their campaign. "Like it or not, the opium trade is a huge part of the Afghan economy," Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, told Asia Times Online. "Warlords and farmers may support Karzai in the abstract, but not when he is compelled to target their only reliable source of livelihood.

"Even supporters of the war on drugs need to wake up and smell the coffee ... The anti-drug-effort needs to be put on the back burner at least until we can fight off the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces."

Jawad insists the Taliban relies on intimidation tactics to subdue Afghanis living in the countryside. They include killing moderate tribal leaders and clergy to create a climate of fear, and burning down schools and medical clinics. A United Nations report confirms that on average, a school is torched or a female teacher is killed every day somewhere in the country. In a recent bout of fighting near Kandahar, the US military said several insurgents "used innocent Afghan civilians as shields" to escape to nearby villages.

The latest counter-offensive waged by international troops, dubbed Operation Mountain Thrust, kicked off in mid-June to beat back Taliban forces. The effectiveness of the 10,000-man sweep has received conflicting reports, but Afghan Defense Minister Rahim Wardak recently said insurgents had been "coming out with bigger groups and confronting us directly" since the beginning of the operation. Afghan officials say the Taliban wanted to discourage the further deployment of NATO forces (now at 21,000 troops), spearheaded by Britain and Canada, as they take over security responsibilities from the US, which is drawing down its presence to 17,000 troops from 23,000.

Washington has spent $1.3 billion on reconstruction projects over the past four years and will remain Afghanistan's largest benefactor, but anti-Americanism continues to percolate at a grassroots level. The US military has relied heavily on air strikes to pound Taliban enclaves in rugged terrain, an approach experts say tends to backfire and foster support for insurgents in bombed areas. "Air power works against you, not for you. It kills lots of people who weren't your enemy, recruiting their relatives, friends and fellow tribesman to become your enemies," military analyst William S Lind wrote in a June 23 United Press International story. "In this kind of war, bombers are as useful as 42-centimeter siege mortars."

Fifteen innocent villagers were killed in a May air strike, setting the stage for mass riots that rocked the capital the following week when a US military truck hit civilians in a traffic accident. Official reports put the death toll as high as 20 people; aid agencies were burned and looted; and protesters shouted "Death to America" in the streets.

Karzai has long opined that the West has not provided enough resources to hasten economic and political reform in his country, while ignoring the alleged sanctuary given to Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives by Pakistan inside its lawless border region. Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, a key Washington ally in its global "war on terror", has been accused of allowing Islamist militants - including Osama bin Laden - to infiltrate and recruit from remote Pashtun tribal areas, a charge he denies.

Pakistan has already deployed more than 80,000 troops along its western border, adding 10,000 more during Rice's visit, and officials in Islamabad counter the Taliban are regrouping on the Afghan side.

According to McCaffrey's report, the Afghan Army is "miserably under-resourced" to be effective against a Taliban bent on "waiting us out" in the coming years. He said they possessed "shoddy small arms", if any at all, relaying that Afghan field commanders told him they tried to seize weapons from the Taliban for their own troops to use.

The national police, whose US-sponsored training program is three years behind schedule, is in tatters as well, "badly equipped, corrupt, incompetent, poorly led and trained, riddled by drug use" and without infrastructure.

The former Gulf War commander recommends the US provide "at least five years of continued robust ... military presence" or six ground combat battalions and extensive air and armored support, along with special forces permitted "unilateral action" in counter-terror operations.

"The Afghan national leadership," he writes, "is collectively terrified that we will tip-toe out of Afghanistan in the coming few years - leaving NATO holding the bag - and the whole thing will again collapse into mayhem.

"They do not believe the US has made a strategic commitment to stay with them for the 15 years required to create an independent, functional nation-state, which can survive in this dangerous part of the world."

Other experts are less sanguine about the future and argue the US has already paid dearly. Indeed, half of the 141 American servicemen killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion died last year, Defense Department records show. The BBC has also reported that Pakistan-based foreign militants with links to al-Qaeda have been offering large bounties to Afghans to kill US soldiers.

"This becomes increasingly expensive in terms of blood and treasure," said the Cato Institute's Galen Carpenter, urging a 10-15 month timetable for the Karzai government to take responsibility for its own national security. "Otherwise this could become an endless mission where we're slowly bled. We can't make Afghanistan into a model of stability."

By Jason Motlagh

Use of heroin and crack soars

Times Online

The number of people using crack cocaine and heroin has risen by more than a third over the past two years, according to a Home Office report, writes Daniel Foggo.

The study shows that more than 90,000 extra people are taking the drugs in England, which now has 340,000 crack and heroin users.

The report, by scientists at the Centre for Drug Misuse Research in Glasgow, which has yet to be published, has stunned drug-care professionals.

It has also provoked debate about whether the new figures reflect a recent steep rise in drug use, or whether they point to a high level of usage that had previously gone undetected.

Either way, the report indicates that the country has a much greater drug-abuse problem than was formerly considered to be the case.

The government claims that levels of hard-drug usage have been relatively stable over the long term, although figures released in February showed that drug-related deaths rose for the first time in six years. The number of injecting drug users with HIV has hit a 14-year high.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of Drugscope, the independent drug policy think tank, said the report was of “extreme concern”. He added: “We have seen record amounts of money going into drug treatments recently and would have expected that to have had some impact.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “There is no evidence to suggest the number of problematic drug users is increasing. ”

More Spiked Heroin in Delaware?


Newark, Del. (AP) - Five heroin overdoses in a 24-hour period are leading to suspicions that heroin laced with a powerful painkiller has resurfaced in Delaware.

State police spokesman Corporal Jeff Oldham says investigators are looking into whether the heroin involved was laced with fentanyl.

Police say there have been two single-vehicle crashes that appear to be the result of overdoses.

Last night, paramedics revived two men who overdosed on heroin outside a gas station on Christiana Road. The men were in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived. They told police they bought heroin in Wilmington and passed out shortly after they used it.

Oldham says another person overdosed today. None of the overdoses have been fatal.

Heroin laced with fentanyl has been linked to dozens of deaths in the Northeast this year.

Deadly heroin has likely hit area

Times Leader

County coroner says pain killer fentanyl mix is probably cause of Luzerne man’s death.

Wilkes-Barre - Fentanyl is the new rat poison for heroin addicts.

Spicing up heroin with rat poison, strychnine or other chemicals has long been a practice of dealers seeking to attract customers looking for an even greater high. But sometimes the mix can be deadly – especially if the cut is fentanyl.

Daniel Dominick, 27, died Friday at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital after taking what was likely a fentanyl-heroin mix, according to Luzerne County Coroner’s Office. The Luzerne man’s death placed Wilkes-Barre on a growing list of cities where the deadly heroin concoction has been circulating in recent months.

More than 70 people have died from fentanyl-laced heroin in the Philadelphia area since April, and it’s the same in other major cities. Officials in Detroit have reported more than 80 fentanyl-related fatalities and Chicago has had 60, according to respective law enforcement agencies.

In Pittsburgh, fentanyl-laced heroin is being sold on the street under the name “get high or die tryin’, ” and an increasing number of users are doing just that.

Just 125 micrograms is enough fentanyl to kill an adult – that’s the equivalent of five or six grains of salt. Law enforcement experts say lacing heroin with the painkiller has only come in vogue this year, especially in the past three months.

An undercover narcotics agent for the Philadelphia police said addicts will seek out brands of heroin reputed to be the most potent, and in recent months have been traveling to Philadelphia from all over the state to get heroin laced with fentanyl.

“If there’s an extra kick in it, they look for that brand,” said the agent, who declined to be identified for safety reasons. “They’ll ask for ‘Dracula’ or ‘Nike’ or another brand. The dealers know when it’s cut with fentanyl but they don’t care; not all the customers know.”

According to the agent, users from the Wilkes-Barre area have been getting fentanyl-laced heroin from Hispanic communities on the East side of Philadelphia. “They come from everywhere to get this stuff. They’ll get two or three bundles so they don’t have to make the trip again.”

Although heroin cut with fentanyl has been claiming lives in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh since April, law enforcement officials weren’t sure if it had hit the streets of Wilkes-Barre until a string of overdoses last week culminated in a death Friday. City police and medics responded to approximately 15 drug overdoses last week, including five Friday.

Luzerne County Coroner Dr. John Consalvo can’t prove it was fentanyl that killed Dominick until he gets back a toxicology test in a couple weeks, but he suspects it was.

Fentanyl, some strains of which are hundreds of times more potent than heroin, affects people differently when cut with other drugs. In Friday’s incident, Dominick shared a needle with another man, who took a hit from the same batch of heroin, police said. That man, whose name was not released, showed no signs of a negative reaction.

By John Davidson

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Marijuana use ‘is highest in 30s’

The Border Mail

Australia - Marijuana use is highest among those aged in their 30s, while teenagers are taking notice of advertising campaigns warning of the drug’s harmful effects.

The statistics were used by the Federal Government’s drug policy adviser to highlight the work still needed to be done in the Government’s war on drugs.

“The interesting thing is that there are fewer young people smoking marijuana now,” John Herron said.

“It’s an older cohort.

“In fact, the main cohort is the 30 to 39-year-olds ... the dominant ones, who I think escaped that sort of era of being concerned about it.”

He said one of the problems was the availability of marijuana and the number of people who used it in association with other illicit substances.

“There’s something like a 40 per cent overlap in the sense that not only are they on marijuana, they might be taking ecstasy or amphetamines, drinking alcohol as well, and all this is contributing to things like road deaths.”

Ineptitude rescues would-be LSD maker

Delaware Online

Wilmington - A former chemistry student's lack of skill in chemistry saved him from a harsh prison sentence Friday, according to a federal judge.

Paul G. Little had attempted to make LSD in a makeshift lab set up in a state park as a way to pay for college. But he failed in his effort to make the illegal hallucinogen and then was caught by police.

"It is only by the luck of your ineptitude that you are not going to jail for a long time," said District Judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr.

Little, 23, a former student at Widener University, was sentenced to time served -- 10 months -- and three years of probation. He pleaded guilty in April and could have faced up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Little, who was released to his family shortly after Friday's proceedings, apologized for his actions and said he was glad he did not succeed.

He said that while he was in prison, he saw the ill effects of drug addiction.

Little, who had no criminal record, told Farnan that his attendance and grades suffered when he tried to work and go to school at the same time. So while working at the Nature Center in White Clay Creek State Park near Newark, he hit on the idea of making money by making and selling LSD -- lysergic acid diethylamide.

He was never successful -- despite many attempts -- and was caught in September when a park employee discovered the makeshift lab in a park barn.

Sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of probation to six months in prison, but Farnan could have also imposed a fine or ordered restitution for the lab cleanup.

Farnan did not, however, tell Little he was giving him a break and that he should use this second chance to get his life back on track and work on improving his maturity and judgment.

By Sean O'Sullivan

Medical marijuana dispensaries charged with drug trafficking

The Mercury News
San Diego (AP) - Federal prosecutors accused six people Thursday of illegally trafficking pot under the cover of California's medical marijuana laws - in some cases processed into baked goods, "Reefer's" peanut butter cups and "Splif" peanut butter.

Federal and state search warrants were executed at more than 11 locations throughout San Diego in a morning raid, and at least five people were arrested, authorities said. Federal charges were expected to be filed Friday, according to U.S. Attorney Carol Lam.

"They made thousands of dollars every day," Lam said. "Their motive was not the betterment of society. Their motive was profit."

One federal indictment accuses John Sullivan, 38, of growing more than 100 marijuana plants for distribution and distributing marijuana or processed marijuana-based goods from his two dispensaries, the Purple Bud Room in Pacific Beach and THC in San Diego.

Five managers of the Co-op San Diego were indicted separately on similar allegations. Wayne Hudson, 42; Christopher Larkin, 34; and Ross McManus, 39, are alleged to have distributed marijuana products through the co-op. Scott Wright, 40, and Michael Ragin, 34, are accused of growing hundreds of plants for the co-op at their homes.

Messages left at the dispensaries were not immediately returned.

Also, the San Diego County District Attorney has filed state charges against one of the men named in the federal indictment and nine others for selling marijuana and possessing marijuana for sale.

State charges were filed against Sullivan's THC dispensary and four other independent operations in San Diego. Prosecutors alleged that these dispensaries sold marijuana or marijuana-based products with little concern for legitimate medical need.

"The party is over," District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said at a news conference with federal prosecutors. She added that Proposition 215, the ballot measure that legalized marijuana for medical purposes, has been "severely abused by neighborhood pot dealers opening up storefronts."

Complaints from residents living near dispensaries precipitated an investigation beginning in September 2005 by the San Diego police, the county sheriff's department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Dumanis said.

Dumanis said that her office has "no intention" of preventing people who suffer chronic illnesses like AIDS, glaucoma or cancer from using medically prescribed marijuana to ease their pain.

But San Diego County has fought an ongoing battle to limit the impact of the medical marijuana law, which was approved in 1996 by 55 percent of voters.

San Diego has ignored a state requirement that counties issue identification cards to registered medical marijuana users and maintain a registry of people who apply for the cards.

In December, county supervisors sued the state of California and its director of health services in federal court, saying federal law that prohibits marijuana use trumps the state law. The county moved that lawsuit to state court in February to avoid bringing the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has sided in recent rulings with medical marijuana supporters. That suit is still pending.

The men indicted by the federal grand jury face a maximum of 40 years in prison and $2 million in fines for each of the allegations listed in the indictment, authorities said.

The San Diego County District Attorney's office released a complaint sent last week to the state medical board against four physicians alleging that they wrote "recommendations" for medical marijuana use - doctor's notes required by state law - to apparently healthy individuals.

By Allison Hoffman

Namibia: Now Human Hair Joins Cocaine Smugglers' Bag of Tricks

All Africa

A joint operation by Namibian and South African customs authorities and the Namibian Police's Drug Law Enforcement Unit this week foiled an attempt to smuggle cocaine into Namibia inside a consignment of human hair.

A 21-year-old Angolan national who is studying at the University of Namibia was arrested at the Hosea Kutako International Airport on Wednesday in connection with the alleged plan to smuggle the suspected cocaine into the country, Detective Chief Inspector Barry de Klerk of the Drug Law Enforcement Unit said yesterday.

The suspect is set to appear in court today.

The method that he is accused of using to import cocaine into the country is the first of its kind yet to have been detected in Namibia.

De Klerk said the suspect was at the airport to pick up supposed excess luggage that was sent to his mother, who had visited the Brazilian city of São Paulo - a notorious link in the cocaine-smuggling route between Southern Africa and South America - a month ago.

Contained in the luggage were 76 packets of human hair, which is used as hair extensions in the hairstyling trade.

A test on the hair showed, however, that the packets also contained cocaine, De Klerk said.

According to him, one of the latest methods used by drug traffickers in a bid to escape detection is to dissolve cocaine and then to soak some other supposedly innocent product - such as human hair in this case - in it.

At the end destination of the smuggling journey, the cocaine is retrieved from the objects used to conceal the drug, De Klerk said.

He said it had not yet been possible to determine the weight or the value of the cocaine allegedly contained in the packets of human hair that were intercepted on Wednesday.

These have been sent to the National Forensic Science Institute of Namibia for analysis.

By Werner Menges

Flower power, love-ins - and lies

The Guardian

50-somethings embellish experiences in 1960s to impress children

History records that it was the Swinging Sixties. A decade that included the summer of love, the Beatles, hippies and outrageous drug-taking.

And if it ever seemed odd that everyone who was around at the time seemed to be indulging in all of the above, a survey today reveals why.

Fibs. Lots of them.

Parents who have been trying to impress their children have resorted to exaggeration and outright lies over what they did during the flower power decade. Claims of liberated teenage years at love-ins and being at live Beatles gigs have led to the coining of a new phrase - generational gazumping - to describe 50-somethings desperately trying to appear cool.

The number of false claims also raises wider questions about the supposed scale of drug taking in the 1960s, which emerges as almost innocuous by today's standards. Although a quarter of respondents admitted boasting that they had been "too stoned to remember the sixties", only 8% had actually taken cannabis and fewer than 1% acid or LSD.

The 60s generation also emerges as being as starstruck as any other, with large numbers pretending that they met famous figures of the decade. The favourite fantasy friends by far were the Beatles, with Paul McCartney top at 12%. The model Twiggy came next at 5%, followed by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones two points behind.

The survey questioned 3,000 adults including control groups who were teenagers in the 1970s and 80s, and whose flair for invention was notably more controlled. They were on average a third less likely to come up with whoppers comparable to "The 1966 World Cup Final - I was there" or "Sure I was at the Isle of Wight rock concert, and I took off all my clothes."

One of the 1960s respondents, Matthew Coughland, 59, said: "I have always told my family that during the 60s I was a bit of a mover and shaker. I had told them that I was an avid music fan, attending gigs and festivals, and even seeing the Beatles live.

"But a couple of years ago my son called my bluff when he bought me a ticket for the Reading festival. Apart from being the oldest person there, I was completely unprepared for the experience. It was loud, muddy and I hated the music. I'll be sticking to classical concerts from now on."

By contrast, 1980s teenager Elizabeth Evans, now 37, admitted that she airbrushed her youth because her children's generation would find it extremely uncool. She said: "Our family were all glued to the royal wedding in the 80s but my son wouldn't be too impressed with me if he found out I shed a tear at the time. The royals don't interest him at all."

The survey was carried out for UKTV History in advance of the channel's series on The Beatles Decade, which examines the divide between real and superficial social change at the time.

Professor Sheila Whiteley, who studies rock and pop culture at Salford University, said: "The reality of growing up in the 60s for many people would seem to be more akin to Cliff Richard than Keith Richards.

"It is common for people to look back on their younger, rock'n'roll days through rose-tinted glasses."

The legendary reputation of the decade, and the continued playing of much of its popular music, created irresistible temptations to embroider in just over a third of those surveyed. A quarter of the total admitted that their flexibility with the truth was prompted by wanting "to appear cool to my children and gain the respect of friends and family".

Chief exaggerations included supposed membership of the hippy movement - of the quarter who claimed to be hippies in the 60s, only 6% actually were - and meeting Beat Generation icons they had actually seen only on TV. A third have told their children that they shopped in London's Carnaby Street when only 5% actually did so.

The survey bore out the magic nature of the sixties, however, by finding that teenagers from the 1970s and 80s fibbed because they were ashamed rather than proud of their decades' fads. Seventies respondents privately regretted "ill-advised fashion decisions and a misguided love of indulgent prog rock". Eighties teenagers wanted to forget their dalliance with Thatcherism, shoulder pads and "an uncool fixation with the royal family".

"They clearly preferred to tone down their youthful antics, due to embarrassment at their fashion faux pas, political leanings and taste in music," said Prof Whiteley.

27% say they were hippies

20% say they experimented with soft drugs, but when questioned only 8% had tried cannabis and fewer than 1% had tried LSD

12% say they had met someone from the Beat Generation

11% knew someone who had taken part in a love-in

9% claim they saw the Beatles live

33% say they were regulars in the disco

17% wore platform shoes and boots

11% say they hated prog rock

11% said they had met someone famous

9% say they avoided orange or brown interior furnishings

35% say they didn't watch Charles and Diana's wedding on TV. Official viewing figures say 28.4 million of us did watch it

29% say they didn't wear shoulder pads

15% didn't vote Tory

11% owned a computer

2% say they attended Live Aid. This would have meant more than a million people crammed into Wembley stadium

By Martin Wainwright

State's meth lab drop tops nation


Oklahoma (AP) - A new federal study shows the drop in meth labs in Oklahoma from 2004 to 2005 was the largest decrease in the nation.

The report released by the Drug Enforcement Agency's El Paso Intelligence Center shows the number of meth labs decreased more than 67 percent during that time.The study shows the number of drug labs raided, found abandoned or found dumped dropped from one-thousand-58 in 2003, to 667 in 2004 to 217 in 2005.Oklahoma enacted a law in April 2004 restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine - a key ingredient in making methamphetamine. The law took effect in April 2004.

Half U.S. ecstasy comes from B.C.

The Tri-City News

Ecstasy smuggling across the B.C. border has exploded, according to a cross-border team of law enforcers.

“Blaine is a hotspot for ecstasy smuggling,” said Roy Hoffman, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement assistant special agent in charge. “We’re seeing a huge amount of ecstasy heading for points in the U.S.”

He was among the officers who briefed the Cascadia Mayors Council meeting June 30 in Surrey on the work of the Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET), which pools policing efforts from both sides of the border to bust smugglers.

Hoffman said it’s estimated 52 per cent of the ecstasy tablets smuggled into the U.S. arrive from B.C.

He said it’s a shift from the typical smuggling pattern of Canadian marijuana heading south and cocaine, guns and other chemicals going north.

Ecstasy is easier to transport than marijuana, Hoffman noted.

Methamphetamine component chemicals are increasingly arriving in Vancouver from China, he added.

IBET officials recounted major drug busts of recent years – from this year’s discovery of a tunnel crossing the border at Aldergrove to the break-up of a helicopter pot smuggling operation based in the Okanagan.

Smugglers sometimes drive stolen vehicles at high speeds across raspberry fields across the border, they said. Others use pleasure boats, kayaks or drop contraband from airplanes.

But most busts involve cars or trucks crossing at points like the Peace Arch crossing, where in 2003 officials seized 1,871 pounds of marijuana that had been smuggled into Blaine amid frozen raspberries.

The cargo isn’t always drugs.

Surrey RCMP Superintendent Bill Ard cited a human smuggling case a year ago where people landed in Toronto, were moved to safe houses in Vancouver and were then taken across the border, sometimes at Peace Arch park.

“That group is now out of business,” Ard said.

Better technology used to find illicit cargo is making a difference, officers said.

Scanners can now detect different densities of materials inside sealed trucks or containers, Hoffman said. But he said adept smugglers are finding ways to defeat the devices.

The challenge of getting the cargo across may be increasingly leading pot growers to shift operations south of the border, he added.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said IBET has been a success.

“They’re working very closely together, which is just tremendous for us because they’re sharing intelligence,” she said.

Judge hears arguments over new state marijuana law


A Superior Court judge heard arguments Wednesday in a constitutional challenge of a new law to recriminalize marijuana possession in the home.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska say the law usurps 30 years of Alaska Supreme Court right-to-privacy decisions and should be struck down.

Chief Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli counters that the new law includes findings by the Legislature on the dangers of marijuana that were not considered when the court made its past decision.

Guaneli and the ACLU presented their arguments to Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins. Both sides are asking for Collins for a summary judgment ruling in their favor. In addition, the ACLU wants Collins to issue an injunction blocking the new law, while the case is being decided and the attorney general's office has asked the judge to dismiss the case. Collins said she expects to issue a written order on those motions by Monday.

The law took effect on June 3. It makes marijuana possession of 4 ounces or more a felony. Possession of 1 to 4 ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail; less than 1 ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. The new law does not affect medical marijuana patients who are on the state's registry.

LSD Set To Remain Class A Drug


New Zealand - LSD is set to remain a Class A drug following discussion by the country's Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs.

Minutes from a March meeting of the Committee - released to Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act - show it will not make any recommendation on the number of Class A drugs.

Nor will there be any recommendation on LSD "at this time".

A report to the committee comparing LSD and Methamphetamine, which was made a Class A drug three years ago, showed the latter has more severe health effects and links to serious criminal offending.

It says no research has been done on whether a lower classification for LSD would lead to greater use or whether such a move would be "tolerated by society".

Russia Will Not Legalize Marijuana — Putin

“Russia is a member of international agreements under which marijuana is a prohibited drug. Russia will adhere to its international obligations in this sphere,” Putin said during a Web cast. He said the legalization of soft drugs in a number of countries had not reduced the use of hard drugs such as heroin.

Russian President stressed that drug dealers faced tough penalties under Russia’s Criminal Code.

“The question is not about tougher punishment but ensuring that punishment is inevitable,” RIA Novosti quotes Putin as saying.

About 100,000 Internet users voted for the question about legalizing soft drugs in Russia.

According to ITAR-TASS news agency Russian President Vladimir Putin has began news conference where he addresses audiences over Internet at around 17:00 hours Moscow time Thursday (13:00 hours GMT).

The global audience had an opportunity to send questions to him over the past seven days. Almost 160,000 questions came in.

Organizers of this web conference believe it will last for almost two hours, during which time the anchors representing the BBC and the Russian Internet portal will hand over to him the most interesting questions. He will personally select a few questions, too, and answer them.

Putin appeared in his first questions time event on the web in 2001, when the BBC and a number of Russian Internet portals received almost 10,000 questions for him.

Marijuana martyr

Toronto - It wasn’t the marijuana that made Tommy Chong paranoid. It was the jail time. The world’s most famous stoner figures he was busted by the U.S. government for being the world’s most famous stoner.

When half of the counterculture comedy duo Cheech & Chong had his Los Angeles–area home raided by the DEA in 2003, his first response beat the late-night comics to the inevitable punch line. Asked if there were any drugs on the premises, he replied, “Of course—I’m Tommy Chong.”

A/K/A Tommy Chong, Josh Gilbert’s documentary about the comedian’s trial and transformation into marijuana martyr and reluctant activist is more chilling than funny as it looks at the lengths the U.S. government went to set the comedian up and send him to jail.

Chong, wife Shelby, and their friend and video biographer Josh Gilbert, are sharing a couch in a corner of the bar at the Hotel InterContinental at the Toronto International Film Festival, and when they hear I’m from the Georgia Straight they smile like I’m a long-lost B.C. bud.

Chong drawls the name and laughs like he’s about to launch into a routine. Shelby turns to him and asks, “Didn’t Cheech try to get a job writing for them when he came to Vancouver?” Then she turns to me to make sure I know she and her husband are both from Vancouver and share a few stories about running nightclubs in the ’60s before we talk about the movie.

The first shock to anyone who followed Chong’s case is that he didn’t go to jail over drugs: he was busted for selling bongs to states where they’re illegal. It was less like charging Al Capone with tax evasion than nailing him for spitting on the sidewalk. Or going into Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction and finding…um, whatever it was they found.

In A/K/A Tommy Chong (playing Friday to Thursday [July 7 to 13] at the Vancity Theatre), Tommy says prison changed him but doesn’t talk much about how. When I ask in person, he starts with the standup response: “I saw God in prison. They say when you go to prison you will find God. And I found Him. Unfortunately, I left Him in prison.”

We all laugh as he continues the riff. “He’s still in prison. Well, they need Him in there. And God’s a stoner. It changed me; it made me more humble. In fact, I’m the most humblest guy you’ll ever meet. You can’t get any more fucking humble than me.”

Shelby’s continues with: “It made him better-looking, as you can see in the movie—before and after. That shows you what no drinking and a lot of sleep does for you.”

Chong chimes in that it made him “more needy”.

Shelby grins at him and doesn’t miss a beat. “No, you always were needy.” They both laugh, then Shelby stops laughing, her smile vanishes, and she switches gears. “I think it changes how we feel about America. That anybody can come and do whatever they want to you, it made us much more fearful.”

Chong nods. “Well, yeah, we’re rape victims basically.”

“Yeah,” says Shelby. “And we’re paranoid. I’m a lot more paranoid now.”

She and Chong share a look. Chong’s case is full of ironies. A much bigger one was that he wasn’t actually directly connected to the crime he was charged with.

Says Tommy: “First of all, it was my son’s company. So he was the one that actually committed the crime, his company.”

Then Shelby adds: “But I signed the cheque for the company.”

“She signed a cheque,” says Tommy with a sigh.

“So that means that I…” and Shelby’s voice trails off.

“That she was part of the conspiracy,” says Tommy. “I was actually the only one that could have walked because there was no paper on me.”

That gets to the biggest irony. Chong pleaded guilty to a crime he wasn’t involved with in exchange for his wife and son’s freedom. Says Gilbert: “When this was happening to him and when they were holding his wife and his son’s freedom hostage and weren’t allowing him to speak about what was going on I said: ‘I’ll speak for you. This story needs to be told.’ I was infuriated.”

The Chongs say they considered moving home to Canada after Tommy’s stint in jail but decided there was no point. “Look at Marc Emery and the seeds,” says Tommy. “You can run, but you can’t hide from these guys. If they wanna getcha, they getcha. I figured out if they wanted to off me, they would off me.”

Gilbert was given almost complete access to the Chongs’ life during the trial and jail term—but he’d had plenty of access before that too. They’d been friends for almost 15 years, meeting when Chong was working on Far Out Man.

“One of my quirks is that I collect weird but talented people, like Cheech,” says the comedian. “Cheech was up in Canada, dodging the draft and delivering carpets for a living and we met—it was like a very cosmic meeting. Josh, it was the same thing. I met Josh at a film company that we did a film with.”

Tommy’s most cosmic connection, though, has been with Shelby. He was playing in a band in White Rock when he first saw her. He almost blushes as he says, “When she walked in, my heart and my mouth fell open. I was literally stunned.”

Shelby’s eyes are locked on his as she adds, almost under her breath, “and he got me, and he got me.”

“It took a lot of years,” Chong says. “But what happened—we became friends. Because I was married, we were just friends. I owned a nightclub and her and her sister couldn’t get into any other nightclub and we were friends for years and the friendship just developed.”

Shelby continues the story. “He was so crazy. I liked him because he was as crazy as me.”

They both laugh before Chong adds: “She’s always been my guiding brain. I could be as crazy as I wanna be because she would encourage me.”

Then Shelby laughs again. “Yeah. Look where it ended up. You went right to jail.”

By Mark Leiren-Young

Drug stand angers Democrat

The Australian

Australian Democrats national president Richard Pascoe may quit the party over his South Australian parliamentary leader's controversial views on the illegal drug ecstasy.

In comments that have placed the floundering party in further turmoil, Sandra Kanck said on Wednesday she would rather attend a rave party where "happy people" consume ecstasy than go to a hotel where aggressive drunks were "puking all over the place".

Her statement has reignited anger within the party over her position on the drug and follows earlier comments in May that put her at odds with Mr Pascoe, who is the party's South Australian president and took on the job of national president last month.

Mr Pascoe is now considering quitting the party, which performed poorly in the March state election.

"I have not made a final decision on my future with the party yet," Mr Pascoe said. He refused to comment further.

Ms Kanck is to be hauled before an emergency state executive meeting on Monday night.
It will be the third time she has been asked to appear before the party hierarchy and explain her public statements on ecstasy.

In her latest comments, Ms Kanck admitted she had attended a rave party last weekend and that users told her if ecstasy was in a "reasonably pure form" there was no health problem.
Ms Kanck has been accused of endorsing a drug that can cause mental illness.

She previously told parliament in May that ecstasy was not a dangerous drug in its pure form of MDMA and could be used to treat victims of post-traumatic stress.

Ms Kanck gave two media interviews this week about the rave party she attended, saying it had "a lot of happy people".

"People get very talkative when they are on these pills and they almost won't go away sometimes.

"It's nothing like being in a hotel bar ... if I had a choice between being at a rave party and a hotel bar, I'd go to the rave party every time."

She had "no problems with it (rave parties) at all".

Ms Kanck is the sole Democrats MP in South Australia's parliament, after the party secured just 1.8 per cent of upper-house votes.

She has resisted pressure to stand aside, but has confirmed she will not run again when her current term expires in 2010.

The Democrats' state policy during the last election supported a trial to test pills at rave parties and harm-minimisation.

Her previous state colleagues have advocated marijuana coffee-houses and doctor-prescribed cannabis.

While party sources have complained Ms Kanck's stance breached party policy, the federal party does not specifically outline its drugs policy platform on its website.

Ms Kanck did not return The Australian's calls.

By Michelle Wiese Bockmann

Saturday, July 08, 2006

More marijuana and cocaine but fewer party drugs

Barbados - Marijuana and cocaine seizures have increased, but law enforcement officials have not seen any signs of party drugs like ecstasy recently.

That's according to Inspector Elliott Bovell of the southern division.

He made the disclosure at the Grantley Adams Airport during an operation to destroy a large quantity of marijuana and other contraband by incineration.

Drug enforcement officials in Barbados say they have not had any recent discoveries of party drugs like ecstasy.

However, they say they know it exists and are still keeping their eyes open for it in the same way they maintain their vigilance for marijuana and cocaine

Inspector Bovell admits though that ecstasy is a difficult product to spot.

Just over 26 hundred cannabis plants, about 16 hundred kilos of marijuana and nearly 20 kilos of cocaine were destroyed in the operation along with camouflage clothing.

The drugs were intercepted between October last year and 2006 at the island's beaches and airports.

Inspector Bovell says in the last five years there has been a major increase in the flow of drugs to Barbados from St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Jamaica.

He reveals that Barbados is also used as a transshipment point for drugs from Guyana and Suriname enroute to the United States and the United Kingdom.

Acting Police Public relations Officer David Welch says lawmen remain concerned about the incidence of people cultivating cannabis as well as the novel methods being used to import drugs to the island.

It is known that drugs and firearm use seem to go hand in hand nowadays.

Inspector Bovell says while lawmen have not encountered many gun battles in their drug operations they are always adequately prepared for any situation.

Drug smugglers 'getting more creative'

The Nation Newspaper

Drug smugglers are using ingenious ways to bring illegal drugs into this country.

This warning has come from acting Police public relations officer, Station Sergeant David Welch.

However, despite these measures, he noted police had been able to seize an increased quantity of the illegal drugs.

"We found them in artifacts, we found them in different suitcases, in personal luggage and in shoes. There are many ingenious ways that people are trying to get them into the country," he said.

His comments came yesterday at Seawell, Christ Church, where police incinerated over 1 500 kilogrammes of illegal drugs which consisted of 2 606 marijuana plants, 19.77 kilogrammes of cocaine and 1 629.2 kilogrammes of cannabis.

The illegal drugs represented seizures made at Grantley Adams International Airport, drug landings on beaches around the island, as well as cases adjudicated between 2003 to the present.

"We realise there is an effort by people to cultivate cannabis plants and we are quite concerned about this.

"We realise the seizures have increased over the period of last year. We will be moving to stop people from growing and try to eradicate these plants," he said.

Welch pointed out that police found a high concentration of cannabis plants in St John and St Peter, but added "they were not the main cultivation areas".

Inspector Elliott Bovell of the Drug Squad said they had seen an increase in marijuana and cocaine over the last five years "from Jamaica, St Lucia and St Vincent.

"We have also seen an increase of drugs coming from Guyana, Suriname and going up to the UK [United Kingdom], United States and Canada," he added.

By Tracy Moore

Opinion: Campos: Prohibition hangover colors view of all drugs

Rocky Mountain News

My office at the University of Colorado is a three-minute walk from the Coors Events Center, built by the makers of Coors beer. That this seems completely unremarkable illustrates the remarkable rehabilitation alcohol has undergone since the collapse of legal attempts to ban it. And that rehabilitation exemplifies the astonishingly arbitrary way in which we deal with mind-altering substances.

Consider, for example, that we reflexively speak of "drugs and alcohol," as if somehow alcohol was something other than a drug. But of course alcohol is a drug - a particularly, powerful, addictive, and potentially dangerous drug.

One measure of a drug's dangerousness is the gap between the typical effective dose and the typical fatal dose. By this measure alcohol, which is fatal at a dose about 10 times greater than that which produces the initial desired effect in users, is about as dangerous as cocaine and heroin, and vastly more dangerous than LSD or marijuana.

Several hundred Americans per year die from simple alcohol overdoses; perhaps 20,000 die in car accidents in which the drug is a contributing factor; tens of thousands die from diseases connected to alcoholism; and alcohol plays a role in enormous numbers of violent crimes, reckless sexual behavior, and other socially destructive acts.

Given such statistics, it's hardly surprising that alcohol was the first serious target of the war on drugs. Yet the standard story of why Prohibition failed itself fails to explain what was wrong with the attempt to make America an alcohol-free nation.

The standard story is that Prohibition was a bad idea because it couldn't "work." It's said the attempt to make America dry was doomed to failure because our legal system lacked the resources to stamp out alcohol use, at least at an acceptable price.

The problem with this story is it assumes that, if it were possible to eliminate alcohol use in America at an "acceptable" cost, then this would be a desirable thing. And that is a seriously wrongheaded belief.

The truth about alcohol is that, for all the damage it does, its net effect on society is strongly positive. Alcoholic beverages bring both simple and sophisticated pleasures to the 75 percent of American adults who drink them at least occasionally.

Alcohol encourages conviviality, making otherwise tedious social events palatable, and pleasant occasions even more enjoyable. Alcohol enhances meals, relationships, sporting events, and many other aspects of life. Human beings have recognized this for thousands of years. (For example, the ancient Greek dramas, which remain among the greatest artistic achievements of our civilization, were composed specifically for an annual festival to honor the god of wine.)

In other words, to make America a completely sober nation, even if it were possible, would be a terrible thing. And this point applies to many other mind-altering substances as well, to greater and lesser extents. In particular, the socially harmful effects of marijuana are almost wholly a product of the fact that its use is prosecuted as a crime, while the drug's beneficial effects may well be comparable to those of its far more dangerous legal cousin, alcohol.

It's not even clear that it would be desirable to completely eliminate heroin and cocaine use, assuming such a thing could be done, which of course it can't (one of the dirty little secrets of the drug war is that many people use these drugs recreationally for years on end with little or no adverse effect).

All drugs have both good and bad effects. Alcohol, whose compulsive use plays a part in a certain amount of human self-destruction, enhances the lives of most people who use it. And what is true for alcohol is also true for substances that are no more (and often less) dangerous, but which our government now demonizes, just as liquor was demonized not that long ago.

By Paul Campos

Cannabis effects on MS trialled

BBC News

Patients are being recruited for a trial to determine whether chemicals in cannabis can slow the impact of multiple sclerosis.

Evidence suggests the drug may relieve symptoms but the three-year national trial is also to determine whether it slows the disease's progress.

It is estimated that 85,000 people in the UK have multiple sclerosis (MS).

Prof John Zajicek, of the Peninsula Medical School and Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, will lead the research.

Far-reaching implications

One component of cannabis, called THC, is now being tested in a trial, funded by a £2m grant from the Medical Research Council, along with charities the MS Society and MS Trust.

"This trial will build on our previous study which, coupled with our work in the laboratory, suggested that THC could have a protective effect on nerves," said Prof Zajicek.

"Multiple Sclerosis is a very unpredictable disease. Currently there are few medicines which are effective in treating MS and none have been shown to have any effect in the progressive stages of the disease."

MS is caused when the patient's own body damages the protective covering of the nerves - affecting signals from the brain.

Progressive MS is thought to be caused by damage to the nerves themselves.

"If this study demonstrates that cannaboids do have a longer term effect on the progression of disability, there are potentially far-reaching implications, not only for the health of people with MS, but also for those with other neurodegenerative conditions."

Prof Zajicek is trying to recruit 500 patients with progressive MS through 30 centres across the UK.

The research follows on from a previous trial carried out by the same team, which focused on testing the benefit of cannabis derivatives over a 15-week and 12-month period.

Derivatives of cannabis are known as cannabinoids.

The study is taking place in collaboration with Professor Alan Thompson at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (part of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) and Institute of Neurology, University College London.

Vicious drug war looms for Mexico election winner


Tijuana, Mexico - Hitmen strafe two women with machine guns, severed heads are dumped in garbage bags near the U.S. border and outside public offices in Acapulco, a police chief is gunned town in a Caribbean tourist resort.

The grisly murders, all in the past week, are among the latest in an increasingly savage and spectacular wave of drug gang violence sweeping across Mexico as the country heads to the polls in a presidential vote on Sunday.

The dead are victims of an all-out war between rival gangs for control of the multibillion-dollar cocaine, marijuana and amphetamine trade to the United States which has killed more than 1,000 people in the past year.

While jailing drug kingpins has been a main goal for outgoing President Vicente Fox during his six years in office, the issue has been placed firmly on the back burner during campaigning.

Mexicans are appalled by the violence but most of the deaths appear to be a settling of scores between rival gangs and corrupt police officers linked to them. That reduces the immediate pressure on politicians to fix the crisis, and the cartels are so powerful it is unclear how they can beaten.

Nowhere is spared. The butchers struck in the swank coastal resort of Acapulco on Friday, where two severed heads were dumped outside state offices, and in the tin-roofed shanty towns ringing gritty cities on the U.S. border.

This week, two women were killed in burst of assault rifle fire in Tijuana, south of San Diego, while days earlier 70 heavily armed enforcers lured three policemen and a civilian into an ambush and chopped off their heads.

"It's tough going out on the streets. You just don't know what's going to happen," said Tijuana dentist Maritza Salcido. "Almost every day there are robberies, kidnaps and executions like those of the policemen."

Leftist front runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and ruling party rival Felipe Calderon have sparred over job creation, graft and the economy, while plans to crack down on Mexico's rampaging drug outlaws have been left until later.


Fox himself vowed in March to extradite several jailed cartel bosses to the United States within weeks and warned that it could lead to a violent backlash. But he has yet to do anything as polling day looms.

As the killings mount, with the deputy police chief in the Caribbean playground of Cancun the most high-profile victim picked off in recent days, analysts say it is an issue that will confront whoever wins on Sunday.

"Even though drug trafficking violence hasn't figured large in the campaign, at some point in the next administration it will reemerge as a very urgent problem," analyst Jorge Chabat told Reuters.

Experts say the daily round of blood letting stems from Fox's success in jailing leaders of the powerful Tijuana and Gulf cartels, Benjamin Arellano Felix and Osiel Cardenas, which created a power vacuum on the U.S. border.

The ruthless Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman stepped up to the plate, winning control of much of the jailed drug lords' crumbling empires in a spiraling war that has left bullet-riddled bodies in the streets of cities nationwide.

As the battle rages on, analysts say Fox may have decided to put off extraditing the capos to avoid a repetition of the bombings and shootings that convulsed Colombia after it opted to send its cocaine barons to the United States in the 1980s.

"In Colombia, (the cartels) reacted very violently to extraditions, and if President Fox extradited these guys before the elections, the possibility of some kind of incident would be very high," Chabat said.

The man who replaces Fox as president will have to grasp that nettle, and also figure out how to curb the Sinaloa cartel, emerging amid a blaze of gunfire as the dominant force across the U.S.-Mexico border -- a region jealously watched by Washington.

"Whereas the Colombian cartels have lowered their profiles, and are less violent since the 1990s, the opposite is happening in Mexico," said Victor Clark-Alfaro an academic and analyst in Tijuana.

"We have one powerful gang emerging, and carrying out ever- more ruthless acts of violence right on the U.S.' doorstep, and that will not sit well with Washington," he added.

By Tim Gaynor

Press Release: New Radio Ad Calls Out Politicians Who Have Used Marijuana

Marijuana Policy Project

Washington D.C. - A potentially controversial new ad campaign from the Marijuana Policy Project names prominent public officials, including President George W. Bush, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Vice President Al Gore, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as having admitted to using marijuana. The ad then asks, "Is it fair to arrest three quarters of a million people a year for doing what presidents and a Supreme Court justice have done?"

The spot will hit the airwaves on July 3 on 141 radio stations nationwide, and will air through the summer during Jim Hightower's syndicated "Common Sense Commentary," carried by Air America and other stations, as well as the "Downsize DC" radio show. To listen to the advertisement, click here, or contact MPP Assistant Director of Communications Rebecca Greenberg at 202-462-5747 ex. 115.

"Nearly 100 million Americans, including the politicians named in the ad, have used marijuana -- and the vast majority have gone on to lead successful lives," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "Our government has spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars on ads claiming that the use of marijuana leads to addiction, illness, and destruction, but for the overwhelming majority of responsible, adult marijuana users -- just as for responsible, adult alcohol users -- that simply isn't true.

"Marijuana prohibition has completely failed to stop marijuana use, while giving unregulated criminals a monopoly on the marijuana market," Kampia continued. "Instead of continuing our failed system of marijuana prohibition, it's time to consider a new system of regulation and control that would generate tax revenues and take marijuana out of the criminal market."

Alcohol and tobacco, the two most commonly abused drugs in the U.S., have both been successfully taxed and regulated. Research shows that marijuana is safer than both of these drugs.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Afghans Bonfire Consumes 40 Tons of Drugs


Kabul - Afghan officials destroyed more than 40 tons of confiscated narcotics worth an estimated $500 million on Wednesday in a giant bonfire on the outskirts of Kabul.

Afghan counter narcotics police have also arrested more than 600 drug traffickers, including 19 government officials, over the last year, said Deputy Interior Ministry Gen. Mohammad Daud Daud. Some 63 traffickers have been given long-term jail sentences for drug smuggling, according to the ministry.

"This is a very big achievement, not only for us, but for the international community, too," said Daud.

Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin. Much of the drugs are thought to be smuggled through Iran and Pakistan to Europe and elsewhere.

The international community has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars (euros) into anti-drug campaigns to train police units to destroy laboratories, arrest smugglers and eradicate opium crops, as well as fund projects to help farmers grow legal crops.

The country's bumper crop of opium last year — enough to make about 450 tons of heroin — has sparked fears Afghanistan is becoming a "narco-state."

The drugs that were burned included 4.1 tons of heroin, 12 tons of opium, and 24 tons of hashish confiscated over the last year. Another 24 tons of chemical ingredients used to make illegal drugs was also destroyed.

Daud praised the work of counter narcotics officials, but said much work remains to be done.

"We eradicated 15,000 hectares of poppy land this year, which is three times more than last year," he said. "Still we have a long way to go before reaching our goal."

It is the third time that the government has staged an event this year to destroy confiscated drugs and alcohol. Last month, 1.5 tons of drugs and 7,000 liters of alcohol were destroyed. More than 20 tons of chemical ingredients were destroyed in May.