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
Thai Woman Sentenced to Death for Marijuana
Last month, Thailand native Thitapah Charoenchuea learned her fate for being caught with nearly 40 pounds of marijuana last year in Malaysia. Charoenchuea maintains that she is a victim of circumstance, and her legal counsel pleaded with High Court Judicial Commissioner Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab, asking him to consider that his client is the mother of a 10-year-old daughter and recently divorced, before ruling on the case. Despite this, Zaki said on Monday that the prosecution was able to provide him with significant evidence to suggest that Charoenchuea was indeed guilty of violating the Dangerous Drug Act of 1952.
Southeast Asia is notorious for imposing the toughest drug laws on the planet. In countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, as little as 17 ounces of marijuana can mean a mandatory death sentence. In Malaysia, the death penalty is prescribed for drug trafficking, which is defined as possession of at least half an ounce of heroin or at least seven ounces of marijuana.
Foreigners are not immune to these harsh penalties. In April, a 43-year-old British woman (Andrea Ruth Waldeck) was arrested by Indonesian authorities after they found 52 ounces of crystal meth in her hotel room. She, too, faces a likely death sentence. In August, another British woman (Lindsay Sandiford) lost her appeal against a death sentence for trafficking drugs into Bali. A three-judge panel unanimously rejected her appeal. The 57-year-old grandmother’s only hope now is for clemency from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has pardoned four drug dealers on death row since he became president in 2004.
Thanks to High Times
Hundreds of Pounds of Marijuana Fall From Sky Over San Diego
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized more than 260 pounds of marijuana (estimated street value $157,000) in a field near Brown Field Airport in San Diego, less than two miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The marijuana, bundled and tied to a metal cage, was being delivered to a drop location north of the airport by an ultra-light aircraft which had flown over the border from Mexico, around 4:15 a.m. Monday. CBP’s Office of Air and Marine (OAM) spotted and tracked the plane as it crossed into the U.S. and returned to Mexico without landing. Two suspects have been taken into custody.
2014 Is Looking Like a Good Year for Marijuana Law Reform
Cannabis advocates view 2014 as an important year. Colorado and Washington’s adult-use laws, which were voted on last year, take effect January 1, and it’s the first year that those states can generate tax revenue from the legalized drug. Research by the ArcView Group, an advisory firm that connects cannabis-industry entrepreneurs, found that legalized marijuana is one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S., with profits expected to soar by 64 percent to $2.34 billion next year. Legalization supporters hope that once states and legislatures see how much state income is to be had, more lawmakers will be swayed to follow suit. And with 2014 bringing midterm elections, marijuana lobbyists are hoping that more state ballot initiatives for legalization—like the one poised for Alaska—will pass.
Currently campaigners are pushing bills to legalize in state legislatures in Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. In Oregon, there is both a legislative push and an attempt to put legalization on the ballot—despite a similar bill failing by nearly 7 points in 2012.
Meanwhile, there’s been a pronounced push just this year to introduce reforms on Capitol Hill that would change the way the national government regulates businesses that deal with marijuana and states where use is legal.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle introduced three major pieces of legislation in 2013, aiming to eliminate legal roadblocks for marijuana. The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act fights a current federal-banking regulation that makes it illegal for banks to give out loans or open up credit-card accounts for marijuana-affiliated businesses. As a result, all cannabis retailers, including medical dispensaries, have to operate on a purely cash basis. The bill currently has 24 cosponsors including Republican Representatives Mike Coffman of Colorado and Dana Rohrabacher of California.
Another bill, with 12 cosponsors, fights an Internal Revenue Service code that limits marijuana businesses from deducting work expenses, including rent and supplies, from their tax returns. The language was included in the code following a case in the 1980s where a drug dealer attempted to write off a yacht as a business expense. The new bill aims to level the playing field for companies who deal with marijuana, since studies show that the IRS code gives marijuana-based businesses an 87.5 percent tax rate while others businesses function at 35 percent.
A third bill takes the role of a state marijuana rights catch-all. The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act aims to codify the recent DOJ announcement that the federal government will not interfere at this time with states that have legalized marijuana. The legislation would bar the federal government from prosecuting people who use and purchase marijuana in legalized states. It now has 20 cosponsors, including four Republicans.
“The goal is simple. It’s really to alleviate the voices of cannabis business-people and then push federal laws so these businesses are treated just like any other businesses in the country,” says Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “They pay taxes, they have insurance and a payroll. These aren’t drug dealers. They are business people and ought to be treated so under federal law.”
Thanks to The Atlantic
Peter Lewis (Nov. 11, 1933 – Nov. 23, 2013)
On Saturday, Peter Lewis (chairman of Progressive Insurance) passed away just weeks after celebrating his 80th birthday. Perhaps the country’s most high-profile billionaire backer of drug law reform, NORML estimates he had spent well over $40 million funding the cause since the 1980s.
Uruguay Is Likely to Legalize Cannabis and Set the Tone for Latin American Drug Policy
This week, Uruguay’s senate is expected to pass the world’s most far-reaching drug legalization. The marijuana regulation bill, which has been passed by the lower house of the Uruguayan parliament, will allow registered users to buy up to 40 grams a month from a chemist, registered growers to keep up to six plants, and cannabis clubs to have up to 45 members and cultivate as many as 99 plants.
The government is designing a new set of legal, commercial, and bureaucratic tools to supplant a violent illegal market in narcotics, improve public health, protect individual rights, raise tax revenues, and research the medical potential of the world’s most widely used contraband drug.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that there are 162 million cannabis users — 4% of the world’s adult population. An estimated 10% of adult Uruguayans — 115,000 people — smoke cannabis. Existing law permits consumption of “reasonable” amounts of marijuana, but forbids sales.
Uruguay is trying to bring the cannabis market under state control by undercutting and outlawing traffickers. If the bill is passed, the government will arrange for a high-quality, legal product to be sold in a safe environment at competitive prices. “If one gram costs $1 in the black market, then we’ll sell the legal product for $1. If they drop the price to 75 cents, then we’ll put it at that level,” says Julio Calzada, a presidential adviser and the head of the National Committee on Drugs.
The market in Uruguay is estimated to be worth $30 million a year, according to Martin Fernández, a lawyer with the Association of Cannabis Studies. The pharmaceutical industry will have more freedom to develop and test marijuana painkillers and other treatments than any other country. The hemp, biotech, and marijuana farming industries are other examples of marijuana-related business opportunities that Uruguay can anticipate to yield big money if marijuana is legalized, as is expected.
President José Mujica, a reluctant advocate of marijuana regulation, says that legalization in Uruguay is “not about being free and open,” but is rather “a logical step” in taking users away from the black market. “We don’t defend marijuana or any other addiction. But worse than any drug is trafficking.”
Thanks to The Guardian
Online Black Marketplace “Atlantis” Shuts Down
September 20, 2013—Silk Road competitor, Atlantis Market, was forced to shut down in September due to “security reasons outside of our control” after less than a year of operating since it was established in March.
The site—an online black marketplace for buying and selling illicit goods and services—offered cheaper fees, a more modern website, and promised better security. Canman, a cannabis vendor on both Atlantis and Silk Road, said Atlantis “has the feel of a more seasoned development team in looks and the rapid deployment of new features” compared to Silk Road. But “experience wise, Silk Road contains the critical mass of buyers which is the main difference,” Canman added. “I would say I sell 20-30 times the volume on Silk Road.”
Atlantis grabbed the media’s attention in June with the launch of their “slick, start-up-ified” commercial (watch it above), which features “Charlie the stoner” who’s new in town and in search of some “dank buds.” The video was picked up and widely publicized by sites like The Verge, Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed, which dubbed Atlantis “The New Amazon for Illegal Things.”
Thanks to The Daily Dot
"Smelloscope" Device Sniffs Out Pot Odor Complaints in Denver
The Nasal Ranger is a portable odor detecting and measuring device that can quantify odor strength, and is used to enforce “odor violations,” or a “very strong industrial odor” that reaches a level of 8:1 or greater, which can result in a fine up to $2,000.
Ben Siller is an environmental health investigator in Denver and uses the Nasal Ranger to sniff out the increasing number of marijuana odor complaints since recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado. He says the complaints are primarily about the smell generated by businesses that grow marijuana rather than people smoking pot. These complaints have doubled between 2010 and 2012, and accounts for one out of every eight odor complaints in Denver.
Denver’s Department of Environmental Health is anticipating another spike in odor complaints when marijuana is sold legally for the first time on Jan. 1, 2014.
August 30, 2013—Despite 75 years of federal marijuana prohibition, the Justice Department said Thursday that states can let people use the drug, license people to grow it and even allow adults to stroll into stores and buy it — as long as the weed is kept away from kids, the black market and federal property.
In a sweeping new policy statement prompted by pot legalization votes in Washington and Colorado last fall, the department gave the green light to states to adopt tight regulatory schemes to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana industries burgeoning across the country.
The action, welcomed by supporters of legalization, could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska could vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.
[…] “If state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust … the federal government may seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself,” the memo stated. States must ensure “that they do not undermine federal enforcement priorities,” it added.
November 5, 2013—Portland, Maine, voters on Tuesday approved legalizing recreational marijuana for residents 21 and older. The measure, Question 1, passed with about 70 percent of the vote, making Portland the first East Coast city to legalize recreational pot.
Adult residents of Portland — Maine’s largest city — may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana under the referendum. The new measure does not permit the recreational purchase or sale of marijuana, nor does it permit its use in public spaces like parks.
[…] Medical marijuana is already legal in Maine, and the Portland referendum is seen as largely symbolic, as it does not override state or federal laws.
Krokodil Is Not Invading America
In the past month, sensational headlines about the arrival of the “flesh-eating, zombie apocalypse” drug, better known as krokodil, in the United States have caused a bit of a panic on this side of the world. Headlines like “Flesh-Eating ‘Zombie’ Drug ‘Kills You From the Inside Out” and “The Most Horrifying Drug in the World Comes to the U.S.” appeared to herald a chilling new age in America’s drug wars.
But according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, they have yet to see a confirmed case of krokodil — a morphine analogue that acts similarly to heroin but with a shorter high — in the U.S. and blames the krokodil hysteria on misinformation and myths propagated by the media. “To date none of our forensic labs have analyzed an exhibit that contain desomorphine,” Rusty Payne, a DEA spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “We have nothing to indicate that it’s out there.”
On September 23, two emergency room patients were sent to the Banner Poison Control Center, a private clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. They told Dr. Frank LeVecchio, the Center’s co-medical director, that they’d developed open sores after trying a drug called krokodil. Before waiting to receive the lab test results, LeVecchio spread the word to fellow toxicologists and the media. “As far as I know, these are the first cases of [krokodil] in the United States that are reported. So we’re extremely frightened," he told CBS5 in Phoenix. "Where there is smoke there is fire, and we’re afraid there are going to be more and more cases." Soon as you know it, Reuters and CNN had picked up the story, and the rest of the world ran with it.
According to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer at Phoenix House — a non-profit alcohol and drug rehab center — the alleged American krokodil cases are easily explained. ”We don’t have a krokodil epidemic, we have a heroin and painkiller epidemic,” he told The Daily Beast. “This is not a new problem. There are serious medical infections that come from injecting drugs.”
In Russia, krokodil has become the next best thing to heroin. Reports of its use there date back to 2003 when Russia started a major crackdown on heroin production and trafficking. Users resorted to a homemade alternative: krokodil, which is made by mixing lighter fluid, codeine, paint thinner, and eye drops, among other things. It earned its reptilian nickname by turning its users’ skin scaly, eating them from the inside, and rotting the brain and limbs before precipitating a painful death.
Thanks to The Daily Beast
For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.
The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.
The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.
[…] The scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by other government programs, including the N.S.A.’s gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act. The N.S.A. stores the data for nearly all calls in the United States, including phone numbers and time and duration of calls, for five years.
[…] Brian Fallon, a Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement that “subpoenaing drug dealers’ phone records is a bread-and-butter tactic in the course of criminal investigations.”
[…] Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the 27-slide PowerPoint presentation, evidently updated this year to train AT&T employees for the program, “certainly raises profound privacy concerns.”
“I’d speculate that one reason for the secrecy of the program is that it would be very hard to justify it to the public or the courts,” he said.
Mr. Jaffer said that while the database remained in AT&T’s possession, “the integration of government agents into the process means there are serious Fourth Amendment concerns.”
[…] The PowerPoint slides outline several “success stories” highlighting the program’s achievements and showing that it is used in investigating a range of crimes, not just drug violations. The slides emphasize the program’s value in tracing suspects who use replacement phones, sometimes called “burner” phones, who switch phone numbers or who are otherwise difficult to locate or identify.
Organizations that include sheriffs, narcotics officers and big-city police chiefs slammed Attorney General Eric Holder in a joint letter Friday, expressing “extreme disappointment” at his announcement that the Department of Justice would allow Colorado and Washington to implement state laws that legalized recreational marijuana for adults.
[…] The missive was signed by the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Narcotic Officers Associations’ Coalition, the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and the Police Executive Research Forum.
[…] Local law enforcement agencies rely heavily on the drug war for funding. Police departments are often able to keep a large portion of the assets they seize during drug raids, even if charges are never brought. And federal grants for drug war operations make up a sizable portion of local law enforcement funding.
The letter warns that marijuana can cause suicidal thoughts, impairs driving and is a “gateway drug.” The missive does not, however, address the failure of law enforcement generally to reduce drug use, even while tripling the number of people behind bars. Instead, the police warn that liberalizing pot laws will lead to an increase in crime.
The United States government took a historic step back from its long-running drug war on Thursday, when Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice would allow the states to create a regime that would regulate and implement the ballot initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana for adults.
However, the Department made clear that marijuana is still federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act and reserved its right to reverse course and file a preemption lawsuit in the future.
The New York City Mayor’s office announced on Sunday that Electric Zoo Festival would be canceled.
The third and final day of the popular musical festival was scheduled for Sunday, but due to suspected drug overdoses, it will not go on.
From the city’s official statement:
"During the first two days of the Electric Zoo music festival, two concert-goers have died and at least four others became critically ill and have been placed in intensive care at area hospitals. Definitive causes of death have not yet been determined, however, both appear to have involved the drug MDMA (ecstasy, or molly).”
The festival takes place annually over Labor Day Weekend on Randall’s Island. This year’s biggest acts included David Guetta, Avicii, and Benny Benassi.