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
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South Korea introduced new legislation this week proposing that video games need to be strictly regulated, like drugs and alcohol, in order to promote a “happy and healthy society.” Rep. Shin Eui-jin, a member of the conservative Saenuri Party and former medical professor, introduced the bill, backed by fourteen other representatives, which would authorize the government to regulate online gaming, drugs, alcohol, and gambling, by controlling their manufacturing, distribution, and sale. The bill has yet to be voted on in the National Assembly, but is already causing a stir in the country’s gaming industry. “It is regretful that the government views games in the same category as drugs and gambling,” a member of the gaming industry told Inews24. “[This administration is] talking about a creative economy and yet are constantly trying to regulate one of leading industry for content business.” Gaming addiction is a growing problem in South Korea. The government spends about $10 million per year to fund internet and gaming addiction treatment centers, in addition to “prevention programs” such as imposing a national online gaming curfew for people below age sixteen. According to the DSM-5, video gaming is not classified as an addiction, but continues to seriously affect the lives of those who become addicted.
Silk Road, the Amazon.com of drugs, is under attack by unknown parties. For the past couple days, the hidden “dark net” site has sustained a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, which basically floods it with fake automated traffic until the servers are overloaded and the site crashes. “It is incredibly discouraging to have everything we’ve worked so hard for taken down by some anonymous and malevolent person, but your kind words of encouragement do wonders for our morale,” wrote site administrator Dread Pirate Roberts in an update on Monday. “We are on the cutting edge of anonymity technology here. The attacks being used against us MUST be overcome if Silk Road and any anonymous public sites are to have a future.” Since Monday, the site has been adjusting its servers in order to mitigate the attack and prevent similar future offensives. Various news sites and related forums have floated theories about who is attacking the site and why. Gawker suspects the US government or the DEA have something to do with it, considering the staggering traffic the anonymous online marketplace has had recently. News Australia thinks it has something to do with a ransom threat sent a few days before. BitCoin Magazine addresses the possibility that the hacker isn’t just after Silk Road, but instead all Tor-based crypto-commerce funded by untraceable Bitcoins. Currently, the site is back up, in limited capacity: “Silk Road is open and accessible. As soon as the attacker finds out, he will likely change his tactics and try to take the site down again,” Dread Pirate Roberts writes in today’s update. “Hopefully he won’t be able to, but time will tell.”
Police in England are distributing “scratch and sniff” cards to help members of the public detect the telltale aroma of illicit cannabis farms.
The cards, which replicate the distinct smell of growing marijuana, will be mailed to homes in 13 areas throughout the country, in the hope that they will help people to identify cannabis factories in their communities.
[…] Crimestoppers offers a list of clues for spotting cannabis cultivation, including a “strong and sickly sweet smell; visitors at unsociable hours; strong and constant lighting day and night and lots of cables.”
The U.K. saw a 15% growth in cannabis production in 2011-12, according to Crimestoppers, which the group claimed has led to an increase in theft, violence and the use of firearms, as well as an increased risk of fire in residential areas where growers have tampered with electrical supplies. Supplying cannabis in the U.K. can lead to a 14-year prison sentence.
the anti smoking crusade rages on in new york city
The age to legally buy cigarettes in New York City would rise to 21 from 18 under a proposal unveiled on Monday, a measure that would give New York the strictest limits of any major American city.
The proposal would make the age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products the same as for purchasing liquor, but it would not prohibit people under 21 from possessing or even smoking cigarettes.
It is the latest effort in a persistent campaign to curb smoking that began soon after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took office, with bans on smoking in restaurants and bars that expanded more recently to parks, beaches, plazas and other public places.
[…] The proposal has to be approved by the City Council and signed by the mayor, but its enactment is likely since it is being promoted by Ms. Quinn and is supported by Mr. Bloomberg.
I have a new article up on The Fix, check it out y’all:
Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is up for the third year in a row and heading towards a record high, according to a new UN report. The Afghanistan Opium Risk Assessment 2013, issued by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, attributes the increase to opium’s rising price, making it an even more attractive crop for farmers. The figure for 2013 is expected to surpass the 154,000 hectares planted in 2012, according to the report. Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, accounting for about 75% of the global supply last year. “The assumption is it will reach again to 90% this year,” says Jean-Luc Lemahieu, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan. “We are looking at a record high cultivation.”
Lemahieu was recently interviewed for The Fix’s exclusive report on the heroin addiction crisis within Afghanistan, which has an estimated 1 million addicts. Earlier this month, the UN also estimated that 1 million deaths worldwide have been caused by Afghan heroin since the US-led “War on Terror” began in 2001, while opium production has increased 40 times. Over 70% of Afthan opium is produced by just three provinces. US troops have attempted to subdue the Taliban influence and find alternative crops for these regions’ farmers. But after the end of the three-year “surge” in 2012, poppy cultivation has soared. It may be that people are turning to illicit markets in greater numbers in anticipation of the predicted withdrawal of foreign forces—and cash—in 2014. “This country is on its way to becoming the world’s first true narco-state,” says an anonymous international law enforcement official. “The opium trade is a much bigger part of the economy already than narcotics ever were in Bolivia or Colombia.”
beliebers, welcome to the good fight
April 9, 2013 — Today, a coalition of over 175 artists, actors, athletes, elected officials and advocates, [including Russell Simmons, Sir Richard Branson, Will Smith, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Scarlett Johansson, Ron Howard, Jennifer Hudson, Demi Moore, Eva Longoria, Michael Moore, Mark Wahlberg, Harry Belafonte, Jada Pinkett Smith, Cameron Diaz, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Chris Rock, Russell Brand, John Legend, DJ Pauly D, Mike Tyson, Rick Ross, Jon Hamm, Natalie Maines, Ludacris to name a few] brought together by hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons and Dr. Boyce Watkins, presented an open letter to President Obama, urging him to double down on his efforts to change the United States’ criminal justice policy from that of a punitive, suppression-based model to one that favors evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation. According to Department of Justice data, the U.S. leads the world in the incarceration of its own citizens, both on a per capita basis and in terms of total prison population. More than 500,000 of the 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S. are incarcerated for nothing more than a nonviolent drug offense.
“It is critical that we change both the way we think about drug laws in this country and how we generate positive solutions that leave a lasting impact on rebuilding our communities,” said Russell Simmons. “We need to break the school to prison pipeline, support and educate our younger generations and provide them with a path that doesn’t leave them disenfranchised with limited options.”
The coalition [of concerned activists, humanitarians and celebrities] suggests that the President continue to take a number of reformative actions, including extending the Fair Sentencing Act to all inmates who were sentenced under the 100-to-1 crack/powder disparity, supporting the principles of the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 (which allows judges to set aside mandatory minimum sentences when they deem appropriate), and supporting the Youth PROMISE Act.
Dr. Boyce Watkins added: “The letter is intended to be a respectful appeal to the Obama Administration asking that we develop productive pathways to supporting families that have been harmed by the War on Drugs. Countless numbers of children have been waiting decades for their parents to come home, and America is made safer if we break the cycle of mass incarceration. Time is of the essence, for with each passing year that we allow injustice to prevail, our nation loses another piece of its soul. We must carefully examine the impact of the War on Drugs and the millions of living, breathing Americans who’ve been affected. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.”
Research by Professor David Nutt [professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London] has found that psilocybin switches off part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. It was known that this area is overactive in individuals suffering from depression. In his tests on healthy individuals, it was found that psilocybin had a profound effect on making these volunteers feel happier weeks after they had taken the drug, said Nutt – who was sacked as the chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2009 after repeatedly clashing with government ministers about the dangers and classification of illicit drugs.
Nutt’s team also discovered that another section of the brain known as the default mode network was also influenced by psilocybin. “People with depression have overactive default mode networks and so ruminate on themselves, on their inadequacies, on their badness, that they are worthless, that they have failed – to an extent that is sometimes delusional. Again psilo-cybin appears to block that activity and stops this obsessive rumination.”
A veteran NYPD officer is accused of going well below and beyond his line of duty by helping a crew of robbers to steal more than a million dollars from drug dealers. Jose Tejada, who has been a member of the NYPD since 1996, allegedly provided the robbers with high-tech police equipment and offered the use of his apartment to aid in the scheme. Tejada was arrested yesterday and faces multiple counts of robbery, drug dealing and weapon charges, which could lead to a minimum of 17 years in prison if convicted on all charges. Court documents filed yesterday claim that the robbers posed as police officers and used fake warrants to arrest a group of drug traffickers, then robbed them of their money and drug stashes that included pot, heroin, ecstasy and cocaine. In total, the crew of robbers, including Tejada and the 21 other members, are tied to more than 100 robberies throughout NYC since 2001. Tejada allegedly participated in three robberies in 2006 and 2007, stealing thousands of dollars while dressed in police uniform. Authorities will push for Tejada to be denied bail by labeling him a “substantial flight risk,” since he owns property in the Dominican Republic and has traveled there to visit family at least 10 times in the last decade.
John Horner, a 46-year-old fast-food restaurant worker, lost his eye in a 2000 accident and was prescribed painkillers. Years later, he met and befriended a guy who seemed to be in pain himself. His new friend asked if he could buy some of Horner’s pain pills. Naturally, the friend was a police informant. Prosecutors in Central Florida say Horner was ultimately paid $1,800 for pills. “My public defender told me, ‘They got you dead to rights,’” he said. “So I thought, ‘OK, I guess there’s no need taking this to trial.’” His story is recounted in a BBC News Service story about the problematic use of informants by U.S. law-enforcement agencies.
It’s an important subject and the article tackles it well.
But let’s focus here on the anecdote about Horner, because it gets at the utter madness of the War on Drugs. For the sake of argument, let’s presume he’s guilty of selling $1,800 of pain pills prescribed to him for an injury. Forget that he was arguably entrapped. Just look at the crime in isolation.
What sort of punishment should it carry?
You’ve got a 46-year-old employed father, with no criminal record, caught selling four bottles of prescription pain pills. “Under Florida law Horner now faced a minimum sentence of 25 years, if found guilty,” the BBC reports.
Twenty-five years minimum!
It costs Florida roughly $19,000 to incarcerate an inmate for a year. So I ask you, dear reader, is keeping non-violent first-time drug offender John Horner locked behind bars in a jumpsuit really the best use of $475,000? For the same price, you could pay a year’s tuition for 75 students at Florida State University. You could pay the salaries of seven West Palm Beach police officers for a year. Is it accurate to call a system that demands the 25-year prison term mad?
Well. Prosecutors offered to shave years off his sentence if he became an informant himself and successfully helped send five others to prison on 25 year terms. He tried. But “Horner failed to make cases against drug traffickers,” says the BBC. “As a result, he was sentenced to the full 25 years in October last year and is now serving his sentence in Liberty Correctional Institution.”
“He will be 72 by the time he is released.”
Meet his kids:How about a pardon, Governor Rick Scott?
Following the recent passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana possession of up to one ounce for those 21 and older, two Denver entrepreneurs have launched the country’s first marijuana tourism company. In celebration of the worldwide marijuana holiday on April 20th, My 420 Tours has a full week’s schedule of events planned for visitors as part of “World Cannabis Week.” This includes car service from the airport to a “420 friendly” hotel, cooking classes, Home Grow Cultivation 101, concerts, bus tours, daily 4:20PM Happy Hour parties, and more.
Security cameras have been installed, scales calibrated and signs declaring “no returns” hung on the walls at Capital City Care.
By mid-April, Capital City Care plans to begin selling four strains of medical marijuana from its 2,000-square-foot perch on North Capitol Street. Two more licensed dispensaries are slated to open shortly thereafter.
District rules allow patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis or glaucoma to buy 2 ounces of marijuana every 30 days. Prices have yet to be set, but one-fourth of an ounce of marijuana is expected to cost between $100 and $120 — roughly the same as its street value, said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access.
In addition to medical marijuana, the storefront will also sell hash by the gram, as well as accessories such as pipes, grinder and vaporizers. There is a counseling room for individual and group sessions, and [general manager, David] Guard said he hopes to eventually set up a kitchen at the company’s 11,000-square-foot cultivation facility, where items like cookies and muffins can be prepared.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday that President Obama and former President George W. Bush “got lucky” by not being arrested for smoking marijuana as young adults:
“Look what would have happened. It would have ruined their lives. They got lucky. But a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky. They don’t have good attorneys. They go to jail for these things. And I think it’s a big mistake.”
Earlier this week Paul introduced a bill with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would relax the mandatory minimum sentences handed out to marijuana offenders who do not pose a violent threat to the public. The bill has gained the support of some influential conservatives, including anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
- WASHINGTON: Initiative 502 legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over, but does not allow for personal cultivation, except by or for medical marijuana patients. It will license marijuana cultivation and retail and wholesale sales, with restrictions on advertising. Regulation will be the remit of the state liquor control board, which will have to come up with rules by December 2013. The measure creates a 25% excise tax on marijuana sales, with 40% of revenues dedicated to the general fund and 60% dedicated to substance abuse prevention, research, and healthcare. It also creates a per se driving under the influence standard of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.
- COLORADO: Amendment 64 allows adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or six marijuana plants, three of which can be mature. It will create a system of state-licensed cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities and state-licensed retail stores. Local governments would have the option of regulating or prohibiting such facilities. The amendment also requires the state legislature to enact legislation governing industrial hemp cultivation, processing, and sale, and to create an excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales. The first $40 million of that annual revenue will be dedicated to building public schools.