September 21, 1970 Bill Murray celebrated his 20th birthday by getting arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for carrying five bricks of marijuana (valued at $20,000) in his luggage.
by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be
enforced." — Albert Einstein
The legacy of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured in a new documentary that premiered at the South by Southwest festival over the weekend. The modern-day Public Enemy Number One emerged from over a decade in hiding at his climactic arrest two weeks ago.
The film, Legend of Shorty, a collaboration between filmmaker Angus MacQueen and Peruvian journalist Guillermo Galdos, follows MacQueen and Galdos on their journey in search of Chapo. According to Guardian film critic Henry Barnes, the pair demonstrated “extraordinary access to the cartel” as they explored Mexico’s Golden Triangle, where they witnessed “batch loads of cocaine, meth and marijuana being prepared for transport” and “surreal meetings with Chapo’s inner circle, including a lunch date with his mum.”
The last line of the film is Galdos saying, “They got to him before he agreed to give us an interview.” The world’s biggest drug dealer was captured by authorities before the pair could sit down with him.
After over a decade of hiding, the notorious leader of the Sinaloa cartel — the biggest cartel in history, an operation responsible for trafficking an estimated 25% of the illegal drugs that enter the U.S. — was finally put behind bars in February.
Like everything else about him, the details about Chapo’s capture are pretty outlandish. The notorious drug pin, who has been ranked one of the most powerful people in the world by Forbes, has been living it up while Mexican authorities and the DEA were busting their buns trying to find him since he escaped from a high security prison in 2001.
He was captured at Mazatlán, a beach resort outside of Sinaloa, where authorities discovered he had spent his massive drug fortune on 16 houses, 43 vehicles, and four ranches. He was also packing major (and pricey) heat — with 97 long arms (like rifles and such), 36 handguns, two grenade launchers and a rocket launcher.
How did one of the world’s most wanted people manage to evade authorities for over a decade, despite living in such extravagant means? Tunnels — burrowed between seven of his houses, with steel doors connected to the shower of each of the homes. The first photo above shows one of these secret entrances to the tunnels.
Check out this video of a CNN reporter walking through Chapo’s underground tunnels
Watch a clip from Legend of Shorty
If Brooklyn’s new district attorney has his way, marijuana will effectively be decriminalized in the borough. In his inaugural address on Sunday, Ken Thompson vowed to end the prosecution of low-level marijuana arrests.
“I not only want to keep Brooklyn safe, I want to protect the future of our youth,” Thompson, who is the borough’s first black district attorney, said. “That means we must change the policy regarding those who are arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.”
“In 2012, over 12,000 people in Brooklyn were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana, mostly young, black men,” he said, referring to a 2013 report that found that in Brooklyn, black people are nine times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana in New York is only a crime if it’s in public view. New York City averaged fewer than 2,000 marijuana arrests a year up until 1993. But under Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, police would stop and frisk people on the street, bringing marijuana into “public view” and arresting them. By 2011, there were over 50,000 such arrests citywide, more than all the marijuana arrests from 1978 to 1996 combined.
“Every year, thousands of these cases are clogging our criminal justice system and require that we devote substantial resources in time and in money that we could use to put toward other initiatives to keep us safe,” Thompson said. “And so if these defendants are given criminal records instead of violations, it would make it harder for them in the future to live productive lives. We in Brooklyn can, and must, do better.”
During his run for district attorney, Thompson pledged not to prosecute people arrested for under 15 grams of pot, issuing a $100 fine instead. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is on board with Thompson’s plan.
“He can’t pass legislation to legalize marijuana but he can decide who will be prosecuted for it, and I think it’s an excellent way to use his office,” Adams said.
Hemp is making a comeback in the United States, and it’s about time. Last Friday (Feb. 7, 2014) President Obama signed the new farm bill into law, in which there is a provision that would allow hemp to be cultivated for research in states where it is legal.
Ten states have passed laws enabling hemp cultivation — Colorado, Washington, California, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia. But federal policy, which sees no difference between hemp and marijuana, has stifled cultivation in these states.
The U.S. is the only remaining developed nation where the production of industrial hemp is prohibited. Instead, American manufacturers import hemp at a higher cost from countries like Canada, China, or France to produce everything from clothes to cooking oil. In 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of legal hemp products — mostly in the form of hemp seed and hemp oil that end up in food products like granola bars.
But there’s yet another reason to love hemp — it’s also used for decontaminating toxic soil. In Ukraine — where hemp has been grown for centuries to produce clothes and food — hemp was planted around site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to decontaminate the soil. The 1986 nuclear disaster spread severe radioactive contamination and toxic metals in soil, plants, and animals as far as 100 km (62 miles) from the site.
Industrial hemp has the ability to “hyperaccumulate” metals, extracting such toxins through their root systems and accumulating them in their tissues without being damaged. In this way, pollutants are either removed from the soil and groundwater or rendered harmless. This process is called phytoremediation, a term that was coined by Dr. Ilya Raskin of Rutgers University’s Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment. Hemp, mushrooms, and leafy green plants like spinach, chard and the sunflower plant are also effective in phytoremediation, acting as filters or traps to break down organic pollutants and stabilize metal toxins.
In 1998, Phytotech — which specializes in phytoremediation to clean up metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives, and other toxic substances from landfills — planted industrial hemp near the Chernobyl site in cooperation with Consolidated Growers and Processors (CGP) and Ukraine’s Institute of Bast Crops.
“Hemp’s ability to hyper accumulate metals may prove useful for decontaminating toxic waste sites. In Silesia, Cannabis is deliberately cultivated on wasteland contaminated with cadmium and copper. The crop efficiently extracts the toxic metals from soil and accumulates the metals in seeds. The crop is harvested, and the metals are recovered by leaching seeds with hydrochloric acid. In 1999 a hemp crop will be cultivated near Chernobyl, to extract radioactive caesium-137 and strontium-90 from the soil.” — Hemp Diseases and Pests: Management and Biological Control
Phytoremediation is considered a better, less costly alternative to conventional soil restoration techniques. One example involves relocating the contaminated soil and replacing it with good soil. Not only is phytoremediation less costly, it’s applicable to a broad range of metals and leaves minimal environmental disturbance. Given that there are over 30,000 sites that require hazardous waste treatment in the U.S. alone according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — in addition to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown — hemp’s gradual return to legitimacy with the passage of the farm bill is long overdue. Phytoremediation is being applied near the site of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, where sunflower fields have been planted to decontaminate the poisoned land.
According to the U.S. government, marijuana has a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical abuse.” This is the definition of the category (Schedule I) it’s been placed in under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA) — along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy. According to the category’s definition, marijuana is one of the “most dangerous drugs” with “potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
While marijuana surely can be abused (what can’t?), this is highly debatable, to say the least, that marijuana meets any of those criteria. Its potential for abuse seems lower than that of many pharmaceuticals, not to mention alcohol and tobacco, which the CSA specifically excludes from its schedules.
In an interview that aired last week, President Obama was asked if he was open to reconsidering marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug, in light of his recent observation that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Obama incorrectly claimed that moving marijuana to a less restrictive legal category would require an act of Congress.
In terms of abuse potential, marijuana could be placed in a lower schedule. “When you look at the Schedule IV drugs, you’ve got the opiate Tramadol, the stimulant Modafinil, lethal sedatives like phenobarbital and chloral hydrate, and the ‘date rape’ drug rohypnol. Surely cannabis is safer than these,” argues SUNY at Albany psychologist Mitch Earleywine, author of Understanding Marijuana.
But Harvard psychiatrist and cannabis expert Lester Grinspoon believes “none of the schedules is truly appropriate for marijuana.” But if he had to choose, he’d place marijuana in Schedule V, a category that includes codeine and opium preparations and is for prescription drugs with the lowest abuse potential.
In 1988, Administrative Law Judge Francis Young urged the DEA to reschedule marijuana, calling it “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
Though the advantages of reclassifying marijuana wouldn’t be as substantial as one might think, given the complicated nature of this issue, it would facilitate a more honest discussion of marijuana’s hazards and benefits.
The war on drugs breeds a lot of negative consequences — so many that I’ve never been able to list them all in just a few words. And that’s why this is awesome.
President José Mujica has been nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
In late December, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize the production and sale of marijuana. Mujica’s supporters cite marijuana legalization as a “tool for peace and understanding,” arguably the president’s most notable accomplishment of the past year. Under the new law, which comes into effect in April, the market price for marijuana will be set at one dollar per gram, in an attempt to undercut the illegal market price of $1.40. Residents over age 18 must register in a special state database that will track their marijuana purchases, and can buy up to 40 grams a month. Foreigners are prohibited from purchasing legal marijuana.
“I’m very thankful to these people for honoring me,” Mujica said. “We are only proposing the right to try another path because the path of repression doesn’t work. We don’t know if we’ll succeed. We ask for support, scientific spirit and to understand that no addiction is a good thing. But our efforts go beyond marijuana — we’re taking aim at the drug traffic.”
The intent behind the new policy is to take away business from drug traffickers. Uruguay’s drugs chief Julio Calzada explained it best: “For 50 years, we have tried to tackle the drug problem with only one tool — penalization — and that has failed. As a result, we now have more consumers, bigger criminal organizations, money laundering, arms trafficking and collateral damage. As a control model, we’re convinced that it is more harmful than the drugs themselves.”
By passing marijuana legalization in Uruguay, Mujica has violated international treaties that prohibit the production and supply of narcotic drugs. For this, he’s come under criticism from some in the international community; UN International Narcotics Control Board chief Raymond Yans said Uruguay “knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed treaty.”
Mujica was a top 10 finalist for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, but it went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons instead.
In 2011, former McGruff the Crime Dog actor John R. Morales was arrested in Galveston, Texas after a drug-sniffing dog detected pot when he was pulled over for speeding. Police searched his car and found diagrams for two indoor marijuana grow operations and marijuana seeds. When they raided Morales’ home, the police seized 1,000 marijuana plants and 9,000 rounds of ammunition for an assortment of 27 weapons, including a grenade launcher.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) tore into deputy drug czar Michael Botticelli on Tuesday, highlighting federal drug policy’s failure to address the substances “ravaging our country” while still considering marijuana to be as dangerous as heroin.
Speaking during a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform focused on the Obama administration’s marijuana policy, Cohen urged drug policy officials to rethink marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 substance, which the Drug Enforcement Administration considers “the most dangerous class of drugs.” Other Schedule 1 substances include heroin, LSD and ecstasy, while methamphetamine and cocaine fall under the Schedule II definition.
"It is ludicrous, absurd, crazy to have marijuana in the same level as heroin," Cohen said. "Ask the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, if you could. Nobody dies from marijuana. People die from heroin."
Hoffman, the Academy Award-winning actor, died Sunday after an apparent heroin overdose. Police officials said he was found with a syringe still in his arm.
"Every second that we spend in this country trying to enforce marijuana laws is a second that we’re not enforcing heroin laws. And heroin and meth are the two drugs that are ravaging our country," Cohen continued. "And every death, including Mr. Hoffman’s, is partly the responsibility of the federal government’s drug priorities for not putting total emphasis on the drugs that kill, that cause people to be addicted and have to steal to support their habit."
Cohen warned that by not acknowledging that marijuana is less dangerous than heroin and other substances, as DEA Chief Michele Leonhart has refused to do, the administration is undermining its own efforts to prevent drug abuse.
The organization behind the Super Bowl-themed pro-marijuana billboards that went up earlier this week posted two more billboards near the stadium on Thursday, in response to a competing anti-marijuana billboard that was posted Wednesday by Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana).
Pictured is Project SAM’s ad, which they released in response to Marijuana Policy Project’s first five billboards, which promote weed as safer than alcohol. The bottom two are MPP’s response to this message; the first is a spoof of Project SAM’s ad, and the second features a statement made by the group’s leader, Patrick Kennedy, during a recent TV appearance: “I agree with the president. Alcohol is more dangerous [than marijuana].”
Headlines about the “devout Christian mother of three” who died from “cannabis poisoning” have circulated far and wide this week after a coroner confirmed that the autopsy found no natural cause for her death and it is “more likely than not that she died from the effects of cannabis.”
Gemma Moss, 31, who died with “moderate to heavy levels” of cannabinoids in her blood according to pathologist Dr. Kudair Hussein, was a frequent marijuana user before quitting two years before her death last October. She had started using marijuana again to help her sleep after becoming depressed from a recent breakup. Moss is known to have suffered from depression and was on prescription drugs, though according to the coroner, it did not appear she was taking them at the time of her death. Half a joint was found underneath her body when the ambulance arrived on the night of her death.
The reason why every major media outlet from BBC News to the International Business Times has picked up this story is, obviously, because death by marijuana hasn’t come around since Reefer Madness. It’s shocking because it just doesn’t happen.
“From half a joint? That’s ridiculous,” professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Dr. Yasmin Hurd told the Daily News. Dr. Bradley Flansbaum, a hospitalist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said it would be “very, very, very unlikely to get a lethal dose of marijuana if it wasn’t adulterated with something.” Both said that a marijuana death is only possible if it has been laced with another, harder drug, or if an underlying heart condition or similar ailment were exacerbated by the rush or anxiety from toking up.
Moss’ story flies in the face of decades of medical research. According to a report on the toxicity of recreational drugs published by the American Scientist, a person would need to consume more than 1,000 times the effective dose in order to die from marijuana. The report found no published cases that document deaths from smoking marijuana, which it said is safer than getting drunk. It would take just 10 times the amount (of enough alcohol to get buzzed) in order to die from alcohol poisoning.
Stories like these play on the fears of marijuana prohibitionists who cling to whatever evidence they can find that marijuana is harmful. But tell that to Colorado and Washington, where voters (including Bill Gates) legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, and the 20 U.S. states that have approved medical marijuana, with more states in the process of passing similar legislation. And let’s not forget to mention Uruguay, the first country to legalize marijuana across the board. Even President Obama, a well-documented former pot smoker, said pot is less dangerous than alcohol.
So let the prohibitionists ride out this sensationalist blip of a story. It’s all they’ve got, since it’s pretty clear what we know about marijuana in this day and age, and it’s definitely not that it’s going to kill you. Just ask the reddittors over at r/trees.
Five billboards around New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium will show ads promoting marijuana as safer than either football or alcohol, in time for the Super Bowl on Sunday. The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will face off in the first “Marijuana Bowl” or “Super Oobie Doobie Bowl" representing the only two states in the nation to have legalized recreational marijuana.
The group behind the billboards, Marijuana Policy Project, was deeply involved in getting pot legalized in Colorado. They also launched a petition calling for the NFL to reduce penalties for players caught using the drug.
Looking for the billboards? Find their locations here.
In his home state of Washington, the richest man in America voted “yes” on I-502, the 2012 referendum that legalized marijuana. Gates said he didn’t expect the law to pass, but that now “it will be interesting to see” how the program develops. “It’s an experiment, and it’s probably good to have a couple states try it out to see before you make that national policy,” he told BuzzFeed on Tuesday.
He added that traffickers “are going to make a lot less money, and some of the perverse things about the illegal drug trade will be avoided.”
While at Harvard in the early Seventies, weed was Gates’ “pharmaceutical of choice” and he would occasionally “go off to the country and spend time contemplating the universe” with his roommate Sam Znaimer.
Seahawks and Broncos Head to the Super Oobie Doobie Bowl
The Seattle Seahawks came from behind in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC championship game, joining the Denver Broncos, who defeated the New England Patriots in the earlier AFC championship game, in heading to the Super Bowl. Both teams hail from states, Washington and Colorado, that legalized marijuana at the ballot box in 2012.
This year’s Super Bowl will feature the “two most pro-cannabis-legalization cities in the U.S.” said NORML director Allen St. Pierre. He joked that the game should be renamed the “Super Oobie Doobie Bowl.”
The NFL Super Bowl XLVIII is on Sunday, February 2 at 6:30 pm EST.
here’s everything the president said about drug policy in yesterday’s new yorker interview
President Obama’s comments on marijuana prohibition in a new interview with The New Yorker have made waves since it was published on Sunday. In it, the president likened marijuana to cigarettes and alcohol, going a step further to admit marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol:
“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol … [Marijuana is less dangerous] in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.
This statement contradicts the federal government’s position on marijuana, which classifies weed as a Schedule I drug, the “most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence” having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” According to the federal government, marijuana is just as harmful as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy — also Schedule I drugs.
The president also discussed the unjust racial impact of our marijuana policies:
“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do. And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties … We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”
To remedy this inequality, he endorsed the pot legalization experiments in Colorado and Washington.
"It’s important for [the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington] to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
But he adds that we should be wary of slippery-slope arguments that could arise about legalizing harder drugs like meth and cocaine — which, by the way, is in Schedule II.
“Having said all that, those who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case. There is a lot of hair on that policy. And the experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge … I also think that, when it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that? If somebody says, We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?”