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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lunatic Drug Warriors Still Ignore Science

Newshawk: Medical Marijuana
Pubdate: Mon, 8 Sep 2008
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2008 Independent Media Institute
Author: Rob Kampia
Note: Rob Kampia is executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.


Twenty years ago, on Sept. 6, 1988, the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration's chief administrative law judge issued a landmark
ruling, but don't expect any celebrations or commemorations in
Washington, D.C. Our government has ignored this historic decision
since the day it was issued, inflicting needless misery on millions.

Indeed, most Americans don't know it ever happened.

In response to a petition asking that marijuana be moved from
Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which bars
medical use, to a lower schedule that would permit physician
prescriptions, Judge Francis Young held extensive hearings that began
in the summer of 1986. He heard from an impressive array of expert
witnesses, resulting in thousands of pages of documentation.

Young laid out his findings in a detailed, 69-page ruling, walking
readers through the scientific evidence. He concluded that the law
didn't just permit moving marijuana to Schedule II, but required it.

"Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically
active substances known to man," he wrote. "By any measure of
rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised
routine of medical care. ... The evidence in this record clearly
shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the
distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with
safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary
and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers
and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record."

Remember, this was no pot-addled "legalizer" writing. It was the
chief administrative law judge within the top federal agency
responsible for enforcing our drug laws. Unfortunately, the ruling
had no legal force. In legal terms, it was a recommendation, not an
order that had to be followed.

And the DEA chose not to follow it. Six years after top DEA officials
rejected Young's recommendation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
D.C. circuit ruled that the agency did have the right to ignore its
own administrative law judge.

Because the federal government chose to disregard the results of its
own investigation, the medical marijuana controversy continues to
rage today. Losing patience with the feds, 12 states have acted to
permit medical use of marijuana under their state laws. If Michigan
passes the medical marijuana initiative on its November ballot, that
number will increase to 13, comprising roughly 1 in 4 Americans.

But while those state laws provide considerable protection for
medical marijuana patients, states cannot provide an exemption from
federal law. Even in the 12 states that have medical marijuana laws,
patients and caregivers have been arrested, terrorized and even had
their children taken away.

Meanwhile, the medical evidence continues to mount. Another federally
commissioned study, this time by the Institute of Medicine, confirmed
in 1999 that marijuana has legitimate medical uses.

More recently, newly published clinical trials have found that
marijuana effectively relieves certain types of hard-to-treat pain,
including the nerve pain that often accompanies multiple sclerosis,
HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Other research suggests that by
relieving the nausea and vomiting often caused by the harsh drugs
used to treat hepatitis C and HIV, medical marijuana can help
patients stick to these challenging drug regimens -- and live.

Because our government has ignored science, needless suffering has
been inflicted on millions of Americans who have benefited or could
benefit from medical marijuana. In 2009, we will have a new president
and a new Congress, and they should move quickly to end this sorry
record of federal stonewalling.

Feds violated 10th Amendment by subverting state marijuana laws Judge says

Judge says Feds violated 10th Amendment by subverting state marijuana laws

As It Stands by Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

A landmark decision for all Californian's quietly made history on August 20th in a Santa Cruz courtroom.

For the first time since 1996, when the Compassionate Use Act was passed, the federal authorities have been charged with violating the 10th Amendment for harassing medical marijuana patients and state authorities.

The case of Santa Cruz vs. Mukasey, was heard by U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel, who said the Bush Administration's request to dismiss a lawsuit by Santa Cruz city and county officials, and the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), wasn't going to happen.

In a recent telephone interview with Alan Hopper, an ACLU counsel familiar with the case, I asked him what came next?

”The plaintiff will get a get a court-ordered discovery document that will allow them to get documents, and even depositions, from the federal authorities to support their claims,” he explained.

So now it's the city, county, and WAMM's turn to prove their case against the federal government. The court has recognized a concerted effort by the federal government to sabotage state medical marijuana laws, which violates the U.S. Constitution. The significance of this ruling, the first of its kind, cannot be overstated.

California voters may finally get what they asked for a dozen years ago. When the court said that the federal government had gone out of its way to arrest and prosecute some of the most legitimate doctors, patients, caregivers, and dispensary owners that had been working with state and local officials, it finally drew a line-in-the sand.

An example of the federal authorities violations was their pursuit of WAMM. This non-profit group has been around for many years, and has been fully supported by the city and county of Santa Cruz. They have been referred to, by officials, as the model medical marijuana patient's collective.

The group was functioning so smoothly that the city even allowed them to hold regular meetings to distribute marijuana to its patients on the steps of city hall! The federal agents still went after them, which brought about this court decision.

When the ACLU filed this lawsuit to stop them from targeting medical marijuana providers and patients, they opened a door that may finally lead to no federal interference in California's medical marijuana law.

We must not forget that medical marijuana brings in about $100 million each year in tax revenue. Conferring total legitimacy to the law will allow this cash flow to continue, and hopefully, increase over time.

When the judge ruled the feds were threatening physicians who recommended marijuana, he set the stage for regaining patient's rights. The ruling clearly pointed out that the feds were also threatening government officials who issue medical marijuana cards, and interfered with municipal zoning plans.

In the summation, the court found that, “There was a calculated pattern of selective arrests and prosecutions by the federal government with the intent to render California's medical marijuana laws impossible to implement and therefore forced Californian's and their political subdivisions to re-criminalize medical marijuana.”

In a recent column, I mentioned California's Attorney General Jerry Brown had passed out an 11-page directive that all law agencies were to go by. I expressed concern that the federal authorities would ignore those guidelines, but upon finding out about this recent ruling I now have some cause for hope.

It sure sounded like Hopper was looking forward to the next phase, and he seemed confident that positive change lay ahead. Asked which presidential candidate would be more amenable to upholding medical marijuana laws, he cleverly replied that he thought they both would be willing to work for change. He could be right too. This is a year of change.

This on-going battle with the federal authorities ignoring California's laws has been well-documented in the past. Why hasn't there been more coverage for such an epic ruling? Its potential as breakthrough legislation is something all Californian's should know about in my opinion.

The war against medical marijuana hasn't been won yet, but this could be the breakthrough everybody's waited for. At the core of the war waged by the federal government against the voter's will, is the failed War on Drugs by the Bush Administration. It's about time someone told them to back off.

As It Stands, we can score this as a successful round for state's rights.

War on Drugs is killing our soldiers

War on Drugs is killing our soldiers

Dan Gardner, Canwest News Service
Published: Sunday, October 12, 2008

Afghanistan is going badly. "We're not going to win this war," said a top British general this month.

Well, pass the smelling salts.

The War on Drugs created Afghanistan's massive illicit drug trade. This trade funds the insurgency, corrupts the government and destabilizes society. But neither the United States nor the United Nations will acknowledge that the War on Drugs is anything less than a roaring success and so they refuse to discuss alternatives to the policy that fuels the whole bloody mess.

And victory eludes us? Well.

The debate about Afghanistan has always bordered on farce. Every serious observer -- including the country's president -- has said that Afghanistan's illicit drug trade, not the Taliban, is the greatest threat the country faces. And yet the drug trade has always been treated as a peripheral issue.

Discussion has been scant. It has also been ignorant and vapid. Even the Manley report said nothing intelligent about it. "Coherent counter-narcotic strategies need to be adopted by all relevant authorities," the report sagely recommended, leaving the identity of these marvellous strategies to the reader's imagination.

This failure has many causes, but a key one is the simple fact that the primary source of information about the drug trade is the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. For the UNODC, the criminal prohibition of drugs is not merely a tool of public policy. It is a cause, a crusade, a faith. One does not question a faith. One promotes it.

And that's what the UNODC does every year when it releases its World Drug Report.

For journalists and politicians the world over, the WDR is the definitive source of information about drugs and drug policy. Any time you read a news story or political statement about drugs, there's a good chance the WDR was used as a source.

To an extent, that's fine. The report has lots of solid data.

But it is primarily an instrument of propaganda. Its purpose is to praise the status quo, bury evidence of failure and frame the discussion so serious scrutiny of the War on Drugs never happens.

In the latest edition of the WDR, Antonio Maria Costa, UNOCDC director, boasts Southeast Asia "is now almost opium free." This is a model for Afghanistan, he writes.

What Costa doesn't mention is that the large declines in opium poppy production in Southeast Asia occurred at the same time as even bigger increases were observed in Afghanistan. This was not a coincidence.

Squeeze a balloon in one place and it bulges elsewhere. When cocaine production was driven down in Bolivia and Peru, it soared in Colombia. When methamphetamine production was suppressed in the U.S., it shot up in Mexico. It's predictable.

Opium has grown in Afghanistan since time immemorial, but it was never a major source of black market drugs. That started to change in the 1970s, when the balloon was squeezed in Turkey. In the 1980s and 1990s, the squeeze shifted to Southeast Asia and Pakistan.

And today, Afghanistan supplies 93 per cent of the world's illicit opium. For that, we can thank the very actions which the UNODC says are a model for Afghanistan.

Thanks to criminal prohibition, the report argues, "the drug problem was dramatically reduced over the past century." Proof lies in the fact that world production of opium fell from 41.4 tonnes to 12.6 tonnes between 1906 -- when the drug was legal almost everywhere -- and 2007.

There are several problems here. First, the figure for 1906 is almost certainly inflated, as many observers said at the time. Second, it ignores the fact that opium's role in medicine, which was huge at the beginning of the 20th century, steadily diminished.

In 1998, the WDR notes, a UN special assembly "urged countries to do more to control drugs." And they did. As a result, Costa writes, "the world drug situation has stabilized and been brought under control."

It's quite a story. Unfortunately, it's not even close to true. In 1998, the UN special assembly set a goal of "eliminating or significantly reducing the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy by the year 2008."

Over the following 10 years, cocaine output grew 20 per cent and opium production doubled, according to the UNODC's own figures.

Don't be fooled by the UN imprimatur. The World Drug Report is crude propaganda.

Journalists and politicians who take it at face value contribute to the manipulation of public opinion and the stifling of meaningful debate. And that is unacceptable at a time when Canadian soldiers are fighting and dying in the War on Drugs.