Category Archives: Drugs

What Happens If You Defy Curfew: A Shocking 90-Second Clip From The Streets Of Baltimore

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Liberty Blitzkrieg: May 4, 2015

On Saturday night, a man whose name still seems to be unknown, but who was wearing a “F##k the Police” t-shirt, came out in front of police past the official curfew. This is what happened next:

 

Baltimore is just a Microcosm of America.

Liberty Blitzkrieg: April 30, 2015

Baltimore, Maryland is in many ways the perfect microcosm for these United States of America. If you still don’t get that, you’ll be in for a rude awakening in the years ahead.

A gradual erosion of the Constitution and the civil rights of the citizenry, the abuse of power by people in authority, perverse financial incentives that lead to horrible outcomes, zero accountability, and a ubiquitous surveillance state apparatus; Baltimore has it all. Yet all of these troubling traits have also come to characterize early 21st century America.

As tends to be the case, the populations that have been victimized the longest and most systemically — in Baltimore and across the U.S. — are the poor, weak and disenfranchised.  Like a cancer, corruption, theft, and blatant abuse of the citizenry by the powerful will spread and spread until it consumes everything unless the tumor is removed. It has now spread so deeply and so dangerously throughout American life, the general public will soon have no choice but to confront it and do something about it, or face a total extinction of opportunity and suffer the same desperate fate as the people out in the streets of Baltimore.

David Simon, creator of the excellent hit HBO series “The Wire,” recently sat down for an interview with former New York Times reporter Bill Keller to explain the situation in Baltimore as he sees it; its origins and what is needed to fix it. As you read, think about the many parallels to the U.S. economy in general; the endless criminal maneuverings within the centers of power in Washington D.C. and Wall Street, the forever spinning revolving door of corruption, the marauding gangs of cronies making impossibly large piles of money based on connections, fraud and rigged markets as opposed to adding value, the idiocy of the war on drugs, the fraudulent accounting, and the overbearing surveillance state. Increasingly, when America looks in the mirror Baltimore and Ferguson are staring right back. We just haven’t admitted it yet.

Now, from the Marshall Project:

Bill Keller: What do people outside the city need to understand about what’s going on there — the death of Freddie Gray and the response to it?

 

David Simon: I guess there’s an awful lot to understand and I’m not sure I understand all of it. The part that seems systemic and connected is that the drug war — which Baltimore waged as aggressively as any American city — was transforming in terms of police/community relations, in terms of trust, particularly between the black community and the police department. Probable cause was destroyed by the drug war.

 

Probable cause from a Baltimore police officer has always been a tenuous thing. It’s a tenuous thing anywhere, but in Baltimore, in these high crime, heavily policed areas, it was even worse. When I came on, there were jokes about, “You know what probable cause is on Edmondson Avenue? You roll by in your radio car and the guy looks at you for two seconds too long.” Probable cause was whatever you thought you could safely lie about when you got into district court.

 

Then at some point when cocaine hit and the city lost control of a lot of corners and the violence was ratcheted up, there was a real panic on the part of the government. And they basically decided that even that loose idea of what the Fourth Amendment was supposed to mean on a street level, even that was too much. Now all bets were off. Now you didn’t even need probable cause. The city council actually passed an ordinance that declared a certain amount of real estate to be drug-free zones. They literally declared maybe a quarter to a third of inner city Baltimore off-limits to its residents, and said that if you were loitering in those areas you were subject to arrest and search. Think about that for a moment: It was a permission for the police to become truly random and arbitrary and to clear streets any way they damn well wanted.

 

How does race figure into this? It’s a city with a black majority and now a black mayor and black police chief, a substantially black police force.

 

What did Tom Wolfe write about cops? They all become Irish? That’s a line in “Bonfire of the Vanities.” When Ed and I reported “The Corner,” it became clear that the most brutal cops in our sector of the Western District were black. The guys who would really kick your ass without thinking twice were black officers. If I had to guess and put a name on it, I’d say that at some point, the drug war was as much a function of class and social control as it was of racism. I think the two agendas are inextricably linked, and where one picks up and the other ends is hard to say. But when you have African-American officers beating the dog-piss out of people they’re supposed to be policing, and there isn’t a white guy in the equation on a street level, it’s pretty remarkable. But in some ways they were empowered.

 

Back then, even before the advent of cell phones and digital cameras — which have been transforming in terms of documenting police violence — back then, you were much more vulnerable if you were white and you wanted to wail on somebody. You take out your nightstick and you’re white and you start hitting somebody, it has a completely different dynamic than if you were a black officer. It was simply safer to be brutal if you were black, and I didn’t know quite what to do with that fact other than report it. It was as disturbing a dynamic as I could imagine. Something had been removed from the equation that gave white officers — however brutal they wanted to be, or however brutal they thought the moment required — it gave them pause before pulling out a nightstick and going at it. Some African American officers seemed to feel no such pause.

This is another fascinating microcosm considering how Barack Obama has done absolutely nothing to help the black community or poor in this country. It took a black President to so shamelessly hand everything to a handful of oligarchs and further oppress black communities.

What the drug war did, though, was make this all a function of social control. This was simply about keeping the poor down, and that war footing has been an excuse for everybody to operate outside the realm of procedure and law.

 

“The drug war began it, certainly, but the stake through the heart of police procedure in Baltimore was Martin O’Malley.”

In case you aren’t aware, Martin O’Malley was the ambitious Mayor of Baltimore who had his eyes dead set on the Governor’s seat. So much so that he cooked the crime books of Baltimore to create a crime “miracle,” and destroyed city police work in the process. Mr. O’Malley has recently discussed possibly running against Hillary in the 2016 Democrat primary.

But that wasn’t enough. O’Malley needed to show crime reduction stats that were not only improbable, but unsustainable without manipulation. And so there were people from City Hall who walked over Norris and made it clear to the district commanders that crime was going to fall by some astonishing rates. Eventually, Norris got fed up with the interference from City Hall and walked, and then more malleable police commissioners followed, until indeed, the crime rate fell dramatically. On paper.

 

How? There were two initiatives. First, the department began sweeping the streets of the inner city, taking bodies on ridiculous humbles, mass arrests, sending thousands of people to city jail, hundreds every night, thousands in a month. They actually had police supervisors stationed with printed forms at the city jail – forms that said, essentially, you can go home now if you sign away any liability the city has for false arrest, or you can not sign the form and spend the weekend in jail until you see a court commissioner. And tens of thousands of people signed that form. 

Unsurprisingly, the rule of law often dies at the hands of an ambitious politician.

The situation you described has been around for a while. Do you have a sense of why the Freddie Gray death has been such a catalyst for the response we’ve seen in the last 48 hours?

 

Because the documented litany of police violence is now out in the open. There’s an actual theme here that’s being made evident by the digital revolution. It used to be our word against yours. It used to be said — correctly — that the patrolman on the beat on any American police force was the last perfect tyranny. Absent a herd of reliable witnesses, there were things he could do to deny you your freedom or kick your ass that were between him, you, and the street. The smartphone with its small, digital camera, is a revolution in civil liberties.

 

In these drug-saturated neighborhoods, they weren’t policing their post anymore, they weren’t policing real estate that they were protecting from crime. They weren’t nurturing informants, or learning how to properly investigate anything. There’s a real skill set to good police work. But no, they were just dragging the sidewalks, hunting stats, and these inner-city neighborhoods — which were indeed drug-saturated because that’s the only industry left — become just hunting grounds. They weren’t protecting anything. They weren’t serving anyone. They were collecting bodies, treating corner folk and citizens alike as an Israeli patrol would treat Gaza, or as the Afrikaners would have treated Soweto back in the day. They’re an army of occupation. And once it’s that, then everybody’s the enemy. The police aren’t looking to make friends, or informants, or learning how to write clean warrants or how to testify in court without perjuring themselves unnecessarily. There’s no incentive to get better as investigators, as cops. There’s no reason to solve crime. In the years they were behaving this way, locking up the entire world, the clearance rate for murder dove by 30 percent. The clearance rate for aggravated assault — every felony arrest rate – took a significant hit. Think about that. If crime is going down, and crime is going down, and if we have less murders than ever before and we have more homicide detectives assigned, and better evidentiary technologies to employ how is the clearance rate for homicide now 48 percent when it used to be 70 percent, or 75 percent?

 

Because the drug war made cops lazy and less competent?

 

How do you reward cops? Two ways: promotion and cash. That’s what rewards a cop. If you want to pay overtime pay for having police fill the jails with loitering arrests or simple drug possession or failure to yield, if you want to spend your municipal treasure rewarding that, well the cop who’s going to court 7 or 8 days a month — and court is always overtime pay — you’re going to damn near double your salary every month. On the other hand, the guy who actually goes to his post and investigates who’s burglarizing the homes, at the end of the month maybe he’s made one arrest. It may be the right arrest and one that makes his post safer, but he’s going to court one day and he’s out in two hours. So you fail to reward the cop who actually does police work. But worse, it’s time to make new sergeants or lieutenants, and so you look at the computer and say: Who’s doing the most work? And they say, man, this guy had 80 arrests last month, and this other guy’s only got one. Who do you think gets made sergeant? And then who trains the next generation of cops in how not to do police work? I’ve just described for you the culture of the Baltimore police department amid the deluge of the drug war, where actual investigation goes unrewarded and where rounding up bodies for street dealing, drug possession, loitering such – the easiest and most self-evident arrests a cop can make – is nonetheless the path to enlightenment and promotion and some additional pay. That’s what the drug war built, and that’s what Martin O’Malley affirmed when he sent so much of inner city Baltimore into the police wagons on a regular basis.

So much of what was said there characterizes the perverted culture in Washington D.C. and on Wall Street. People are financially incentivized to commit fraud, crime and deceive customers. Those people are then promoted and train the next class. And the beat goes on…

The second thing Marty did, in order to be governor, involves the stats themselves. In the beginning, under Norris, he did get a better brand of police work and we can credit a legitimate 12 to 15 percent decline in homicides. Again, that was a restoration of an investigative deterrent in the early years of that administration. But it wasn’t enough to declare a Baltimore Miracle, by any means.

 

What can you do? You can’t artificially lower the murder rate – how do you hide the bodies when it’s the state health department that controls the medical examiner’s office? But the other felony categories? Robbery, aggravated assault, rape? Christ, what they did with that stuff was jaw-dropping.

Now for the accounting fraud. Looks like Baltimore authorities learned well from Wall Street.

So they cooked the books.

 

Oh yeah. If you hit somebody with a bullet, that had to count. If they went to the hospital with a bullet in them, it probably had to count as an aggravated assault. But if someone just took a gun out and emptied the clip and didn’t hit anything or they didn’t know if you hit anything, suddenly that was a common assault or even an unfounded report. Armed robberies became larcenies if you only had a victim’s description of a gun, but not a recovered weapon. And it only gets worse as some district commanders began to curry favor with the mayoral aides who were sitting on the Comstat data. In the Southwest District, a victim would try to make an armed robbery complaint, saying , ‘I just got robbed, somebody pointed a gun at me,’ and what they would do is tell him, well, okay, we can take the report but the first thing we have to do is run you through the computer to see if there’s any paper on you. Wait, you’re doing a warrant check on me before I can report a robbery? Oh yeah, we gotta know who you are before we take a complaint. You and everyone you’re living with? What’s your address again? You still want to report that robbery?

 

They cooked their own books in remarkable ways. Guns disappeared from reports and armed robberies became larcenies. Deadly weapons were omitted from reports and aggravated assaults became common assaults. The Baltimore Sun did a fine job looking into the dramatic drop in rapes in the city. Turned out that regardless of how insistent the victims were that they had been raped, the incidents were being quietly unfounded. That tip of the iceberg was reported, but the rest of it, no. And yet there were many veteran commanders and supervisors who were disgusted, who would privately complain about what was happening. If you weren’t a journalist obliged to quote sources and instead, say, someone writing a fictional television drama, they’d share a beer and let you fill cocktail napkins with all the ways in which felonies disappeared in those years.

 

I mean, think about it. How does the homicide rate decline by 15 percent, while the agg assault rate falls by more than double that rate. Are all of Baltimore’s felons going to gun ranges in the county? Are they becoming better shots? Have the mortality rates for serious assault victims in Baltimore, Maryland suddenly doubled? Did they suddenly close the Hopkins and University emergency rooms and return trauma care to the dark ages? It makes no sense statistically until you realize that you can’t hide a murder, but you can make an attempted murder disappear in a heartbeat, no problem.

 

But these guys weren’t satisfied with just juking their own stats. No, the O’Malley administration also went back to the last year of the previous mayoralty and performed its own retroactive assessment of those felony totals, and guess what? It was determined from this special review that the preceding administration had underreported its own crime rate, which O’Malley rectified by upgrading a good chunk of misdemeanors into felonies to fatten up the Baltimore crime rate that he was inheriting. Get it? How better than to later claim a 30 or 40 percent reduction in crime than by first juking up your inherited rate as high as she’ll go. It really was that cynical an exercise.

 

So Martin O’Malley proclaims a Baltimore Miracle and moves to Annapolis. And tellingly, when his successor as mayor allows a new police commissioner to finally de-emphasize street sweeps and mass arrests and instead focus on gun crime, that’s when the murder rate really dives. That’s when violence really goes down. When a drug arrest or a street sweep is suddenly not the standard for police work, when violence itself is directly addressed, that’s when Baltimore makes some progress.

But nothing corrects the legacy of a police department in which the entire rank-and-file has been rewarded and affirmed for collecting bodies, for ignoring probable cause, for grabbing anyone they see for whatever reason. And so, fast forward to Sandtown and the Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray gives some Baltimore police the legal equivalent of looking at them a second or two too long. He runs, and so when he’s caught he takes an ass-kicking and then goes into the back of a wagon without so much as a nod to the Fourth Amendment.

 

So do you see how this ends or how it begins to turn around?

 

We end the drug war. I know I sound like a broken record, but we end the fucking drug war. The drug war gives everybody permission to do anything. It gives cops permission to stop anybody, to go in anyone’s pockets, to manufacture any lie when they get to district court. You sit in the district court in Baltimore and you hear, ‘Your Honor, he was walking out of the alley and I saw him lift up the glassine bag and tap it lightly.’ No fucking dope fiend in Baltimore has ever walked out of an alley displaying a glassine bag for all the world to see. But it keeps happening over and over in the Western District court. The drug war gives everybody permission. And if it were draconian and we were fixing anything that would be one thing, but it’s draconian and it’s a disaster.

This is true about the drug war, but even more true about the “war on terror.” Also endless, also used to justify anything.

Medicalize the problem, decriminalize — I don’t need drugs to be declared legal, but if a Baltimore State’s Attorney told all his assistant state’s attorneys today, from this moment on, we are not signing overtime slips for court pay for possession, for simple loitering in a drug-free zone, for loitering, for failure to obey, we’re not signing slips for that: Nobody gets paid for that bullshit, go out and do real police work. If that were to happen, then all at once, the standards for what constitutes a worthy arrest in Baltimore would significantly improve. Take away the actual incentive to do bad or useless police work, which is what the drug war has become.

read the full article at Liberty Blitzkrieg

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Mainstream Media Censors Critical Parts Of Obama Verbal Exchange With Rastafarian

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Barack Obama stuttered for 20 seconds when a Rasta in Jamaica asked him about marijuana (VIDEO)

WTF News: April 12, 2015

The curious legal structure of state and federal laws in America has left many around the world with questions about why marijuana is treated with such a wide disparity in different regions.

A set of intriguing questions on the issue was posed to United States President Barack Obama during a recent trip to Jamaica by a geniune Rastafarian in the town hall crowd named Miguel Williams.

The exchange was originally reported as a funny outtake by Yahoo from an ABC News video but the full version of the video reveals the likely reason that Yahoo declined share the entire clip. The Yahoo article made a joke of a very serious set of questions and left out the most critical parts of the man’s logic, even disrespecting his stated nickname by not capitalizing the first letter.

US President Barack Obama had been on the verdant Caribbean island of Jamaica less than 24 hours — and had already visited Bob Marley’s former home — before he was asked by a dreadlocked Rastafarian about legalizing marijuana.

In a Kingston town hall event, participant Miguel Williams, sporting a “Rasta4life” wrist band, asked the US commander-in-chief if he would become ganja’s champion.

“Give thanks! Yes greetings Mr President,” said Williams, “life and blessings on you and your family.”

“My name is Miguel Williams but you can call I and I ‘[S]teppa’… That is quite sufficient, ya man.”

Unperturbed by giggles from the audience, Williams set forth his case for legalization and decriminalization of the hemp industry and marijuana.

The Rastafari faith includes the spiritual use of cannabis.

“How did I anticipate this question?” was Obama’s joking response. “Well,” he said adding a comic sigh.

“There is the issue of legalization of marijuana and then there is the issue of decriminalizing or dealing with the incarceration in some cases devastation of communities as a consequence of non-violent drug offenses,” Obama said.

“I am a very strong believer that the path that we have taken in the United States in the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has been so heavy in emphasizing incarceration that it has been counterproductive,” he said to some cheers.

But on the question of whether the United States should, in the words of reggae musician Peter Tosh “legalize it” Obama was more circumspect.

“I do not foresee, any time soon, Congress changing the law at a national basis.”

What was skipped by Yahoo is one of the principal questions at the heart of the drug war and an issue of personal liberty for billions around the world.

(Miguel “Steppa” Williams on the island nation’s economic issues relating to the International Monetary Fund)
“It really comes on the foreground of, um… we face economic issues with the [ (IMF)] et cetera, and we find realistically that the hemp industry, the marijuana industry provides a highly feasible alternative to rise up out of poverty, so I am wanting to overstand and to understand how US is envisioning, how would you see Jamaica on a decriminalization, legalization emphasis on the hemp industry… Your thoughts… (to crowd applause)

The virtually global prohibition on marijuana is not new and has failed to hide the knowledge that cannabis and hemp can be used for thousands of commercial products and industrial services, not to mention personal use at home.

The question stumped President Obama for about 20 seconds as he formulated his response. Obama started with a nervous explanation of the laws in Washington and Colorado and the distinction between decriminalization, which is focused on ending the prison problem leaving millions with drug convictions that prevent them from getting a job, versus the legalization aspect which enables the legal sale and taxation of the plant. He went on to bend his response towards a cynical message of “reducing demand” for cannabis, as in lowering the amount consumed by the populace, and then trended into talking about problems of addiction and a public health crisis.

Obama largely ignored the issue of economics and poverty, the critical part of the series of questions asked, giving it very little response time in comparison to the long-winded explanation of the simpler concepts. Well played Mr. President, can’t bash the IMF of course, it is counterproductive to the organization’s goals of “government reform” enforced by debt slavery. Obama simply stated that even if cannabis and hemp were legal, multinational corporations would soon dominate the market and freeze out “small and medium” competitors as he framed it.

(full article at WTF News)

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Former Drug Czar John Walters Spews Nonsense On Twitter; Cannabis Doesn’t Lower IQ

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John Walters apparently likes Twitter:

Except, he needs to do more reading…

Then, a follow-up study published 6 months later in the same journal found that the Duke paper failed to account for a number of confounding factors: “Although it would be too strong to say that the results have been discredited, the methodology is flawed and the causal inference drawn from the results premature,” it concluded.

Now, a new study out from the University College of London provides even stronger evidence that the Duke findings were flawed. The study draws on a considerably larger sample of adolescents than the Duke research – 2,612 children born in the Bristol area of the U.K. in 1991 and 1992. Researchers examined children’s IQ scores at age 8 and again at age 15, and found “no relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ at age 15,” when confounding factors – alcohol use, cigarette use, maternal education, and others – were taken into account. Even heavy marijuana use wasn’t associated with IQ.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

This conversation was a byproduct of Walter’s praise for Chris Christie’s comments about tax from legal Cannabis representing “blood money.” After being challenged by Nick Gillespie at Reason questioning why taxing alcohol is not “blood money”, he apparently blocked him.

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Hookers & blow: Colombian drug cartels funded DEA sex parties with prostitutes

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Drug Enforcement Agency officials caroused with prostitutes in Colombia at “sex parties” funded by drug cartels. Although the behavior resulted in “possible significant security risks,” it wasn’t reported up the chain of command, a new DoJ report says.

When looking into cases of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment allegations within the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that up to 10 DEA agents – including an assistant regional director (ARD) – “solicited prostitutes and engaged in other serious misconduct while in the country,” but that those incidents were not reported to the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).

The report did not name the country, but Politico reported that the activities took place in Colombia.

Colombian sex parties

The OIG investigators interviewed a former host-country police officer who told them he had “arranged ‘sex parties’ with prostitutes funded by the local drug cartels for these DEA agents at their government-leased quarters, over a period of several years” from 2005 to 2008. Another foreign officer said that he had provided protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties and that “in addition to soliciting prostitutes, three DEA [supervisory agents] in particular were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members.”

“Although some of the DEA agents participating in these parties denied it, the information in the case file suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds,” the OIG report states.

Two of the DEA agents who were subjects of the investigation told the OIG that one of the supervisory agents “frequented a prostitution establishment while in their overseas assignment and often took agents serving on temporary duty to this establishment and facilitated sexual encounters there.”

A DEA inspector who worked with the investigators told them that “prostitution is considered a part of the local culture and is tolerated in certain areas called ‘tolerance zones,’” and that “it is common for prostitutes to be present at business meetings involving cartel members and foreign officers,” the report states.

The inspector added that the acceptability of this type of behavior affects the way in which federal law enforcement employees conduct themselves in Columbia, noting that agents needed better training that explicitly prohibits this type of conduct prior to arriving in the country.

The OPR did not report the sex parties or employment of prostitutes to the DEA Office of Security Programs to identify security risks to the DEA and to assess the agents’ continued eligibility for security clearances. This was despite the fact that the DEA inspector had explained to OPR management that most of the “sex parties” occurred in government-leased quarters where agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices, and other government-issued equipment were present, which created potential security risks for the DEA and for the agents who participated in the parties, potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion, she told OIG.

On top of security risks to the US, the agents’ activities also risked prosecutions against the drug cartels in Colombia.

“We found that some of the DEA Special Agents alleged to have solicited prostitutes were also involved in the investigations of the two former host country police officers who made these allegations,” the OIG investigators wrote. “If these Special Agents had served as government witnesses at the trials of these defendants, their alleged misconduct would have had to be disclosed to defense attorneys and would likely have significantly impaired their ability to testify at trial.”

In the end, seven of the 10 agents admitted attending parties with prostitutes while they were stationed. The DEA, which first learned of the parties in 2010, imposed penalties ranging from a two-day suspension to a 10-day suspension. One agent was cleared of all wrongdoing.

But the linking of DEA agents to prostitutes in foreign countries didn’t end there.

Partying with prostitutes in Thailand

“The Acting Assistant Regional Director who supervised the two special agents in [Colombia] was also alleged to have solicited prostitutes” in Thailand, the report states. “In that case, the AARD allegedly engaged in sexual relations with prostitutes at a farewell party in the AARD’s honor. There were also allegations operational funds were used to pay for the party and the prostitutes who participated.”

In Thailand, DEA agents patronized prostitutes “on a regular basis,” held several loud parties with prostitutes that occurred at an agent’s government-leased quarters, and frequented a brothel. One of the agents was accused of assaulting a prostitute following a payment dispute. The DEA management in the country did not report the accusations up their chain of command or to OPR, “treating these allegations as local management issues,” the report found.

(read the full article at RT)

Read the report at http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/2015/e1504.pdf

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Marijuana Doesn’t Make You More Likely To Crash Your Car

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Carimah Townes
Think Progress : February 7, 2015

A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concludes that driving after smoking marijuana does not make you more likely to get into a car crash — especially when compared to driving after alcohol consumption.

Researchers studied 9,000 drivers over the past year to examine marijuana’s impact on driving. Although 25 percent of marijuana users were more likely to be involved in a car crash than people who did not use the drug, gender, age, and race/ethnicity of marijuana users were considered, demographic differences actually contributed substantially to crash risk. Younger drivers had a higher crash rate than older ones, and men crashed more than women.

On the other hand, drivers who consumed alcohol were significantly more likely to crash. Those with a 0.08 percent breath alcohol level crashed four times more than sober drivers, and people with a 0.15 percent level were 12 times more likely to crash.

In the study, testing positive for marijuana was defined as having delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinal (THC) in the system. The number of legal drug users and illegal drug users involved in crashes was statistically insignificant.

Nevertheless, marijuana use does impact drivers’ senses, the study warned, and the number of drivers with marijuana in their system is on the rise. According to the Office of Impaired Driving and Occupant Protection director, Jeff Michael, “Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness.”

Media reports and anti-pot legalization advocates have hyped the idea that “drugged driving” would wreak havoc on the roads now that states are beginning to legalize marijuana. In fact, highway fatalities have gone down since Colorado legalized marijuana.

The NHTSA findings, published Friday, come on the heels of another marijuana study conducted by Emory University. Researchers at the university concluded that people who smoked one joint a day did not have significantly impaired lung function, when compared to non-smokers.

(read the full article at ThinkProgress)

RELATED:
Study shows THC blood tests can’t test impairment

Arizona Supreme Court Rules Cannabis Drug Test Does Not Prove Impairment

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Canada’s Mandatory Minimum Sentences Declared Unconstitutional, Again

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AlternativeFreePress.com

BC Provincial Court Judge Reg Harris has found that Canada’s mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking drugs are unconstitutional. Specifically finding that “the impugned legislation casts a net much wider than is necessary to address the stated objective of protecting young persons,” and that “persons can become subject to the mandatory minimum in circumstances where their actions do not run the risk of exposing youth to the vagaries of drug trafficking.”

This is not the first time that Harper’s tough on drugs legislation has been found unconstitutional. Just under a year ago, BC Provincial Court Judge Joseph Galati sentenced Joseph Ryan Lloyd to 191 days behind bars, saying that that the 1 year mandatory minimum sentence prescribed was a violation of the Charter of Rights and declared it “of no force and effect.” Last year also saw the courts find that it was unconstitutional to forbid licensed medical marijuana users from possessing cannabis edibles.

Harper’s Con-government has an extensive history of writing unconstitutional legislation. In 2013 Ontario’s top court ruled that their three-year mandatory minimum sentence for gun possession is “cruel and unusual punishment,” and their 2014 anti-prostitution law is excepted to be ruled unconstitutional in the future. They also face similar criticism of their Citizen Voting Act, recent changes to the Citizenship Act, and their omnibus budget bills.

Written by Alternative Free Press
Creative Commons License
Canada’s Mandatory Minimum Sentences Declared Unconstitutional, Again by AlternativeFreePress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Sources:
Drug-dealing law intended to protect minors is unconstitutional, judge decides
B.C. judge says mandatory minimum for drug offences is unconstitutional
Lawyers argue law to revoke Canadian citizenship is unconstitutional
Canada’s new anti-prostitution law is still unconstitutional, say sex workers
Mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes ruled unconstitutional

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New police radars can ‘see’ inside homes

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Brad Heath
USA Today : January 20, 2015

At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person’s house without first obtaining a search warrant.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.

[…]

“The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic,” said Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist. “Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have.”

Agents’ use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.”

By then, however, the technology was hardly new. Federal contract records show the Marshals Service began buying the radars in 2012, and has so far spent at least $180,000 on them.

(read the full article at USA Today)

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The Superman pill deaths are the result of our illogical drugs policy

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David Nutt
The Guardian : January 5, 2015

The past week has seen a number of drug disasters in the UK, one of which is the unexpected deaths of three men, two from Ipswich and one from Telford. They all appear to have taken a drug called PMA (phenoxymethylamphetamine). We presume that they did not know this was what was in the pills bearing the Superman logo that they bought – it seems likely they thought it was ecstasy (MDMA). PMA and its close relative PMMA are not new drugs; they were made in the 1950s and tested for beneficial mood effects then. However, they didn’t provide a clear positive effect so were discarded, though were made illegal under the UN conventions.

They have in the past few years re-emerged as a toxic surrogate for ecstasy. In this period they have been responsible for more than 100 deaths in the UK, and now the majority of deaths that the media report as being due to “ecstasy” are, in fact, caused by PMA and PMMA.

Their re-emergence is directly due to the international community’s attempts, via UN conventions, to stop the use of MDMA by prohibiting its production and sale. As the earlier UN drug control conventions were clearly not working, in 1988 a further attempt to limit drug use by impairing production was made by banning a number of precursor chemicals. One of these is safrole, the precursor of MDMA. In 2010 there was a massive seizure of 50 tonnes of safrole in Thailand. This did significantly dent availability for MDMA production, so chemists looked for an alternative source of a suitable precursor. Aniseed oil seemed the ideal alternative, as it is chemically very similar to safrole, so this was used. Unfortunately the product that results from using the MDMA production process with aniseed oil is PMA or PMMA. Hence these substances only exist because of the blockade of MDMA production. That in itself wouldn’t particularly matter if they were not more toxic than MDMA.

PMA/PMMA are significantly more toxic than MDMA for three reasons. First they are more potent, up to 10 times so. This means that a user who is typically safely using MDMA at a dose of 80mg per session will be taking the equivalent of 800mg of MDMA if they take 80mg of PMA. Secondly, PMA works more slowly than MDMA so when users don’t get the expected effects of MDMA about 30 minutes after taking the drug they think they have been sold a weak lot and may take another dose to make up for this. Then, when the effects of PMA kick in at around two hours, they have taken far too much. Thirdly PMA and PMMA are not pharmacological equivalents of MDMA. They have very different actions, which is why they were discarded after first testing. Their major problem is that they block the actions of the brain enzymes that offset the desired effects of serotonin and dopamine release that PMA/PMMA produce. This then massively accentuates their toxicity as the brain can’t compensate for the increase in serotonin so users can develop serotonin syndrome. This is a toxic reaction that elevates body temperature to a dangerous, and in some cases lethal, level.

The emergence of the more toxic PMA following the so-called “success” in reducing MDMA production is just one of many examples of how prohibition of one drug leads to greater harm from an alternative that is developed to overcome the block. This first became obvious when the US pursued alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and many switched to hootch, which was illicitly distilled ethanol, and some even to methanol, both of which are more poisonous than regulated alcohol. The banning of smoking opium led to the increased production and injecting of a more potent and dangerous opiate, heroin.

There are several proven ways we can we stop this rising tide of PMA/PMMA deaths.

(read the full article at The Guardian)


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What’s In My Baggie? [FULL DOCUMENTARY]

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Common drugs from previous generations like LSD, mushrooms, cocaine and opiates are still popular, but they’ve been joined by the likes of MDMA and ecstasy, amphetamines, ketamine, and a massive array of others.

In fact, there are so many different psychoactive substances floating through our country that people don’t even realize how complicated things have gotten.

We quickly discovered that the majority of the time, people were surprised to find that their bag of drugs was not what they paid for.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 243 new drugs have been reported since 2009.

For whatever reason, many festival-goers and other young people alike seem to be thoroughly oblivious to the invasion of dangerous new drugs.

Unfortunately, most substance users are unaware of the availability of substance test kits.

source: whatsinmybaggie.com

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6 Washington Post articles that prove marijuana legalization makes us safer

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Prohibitionists spout all sorts of nonsense claims of impending doom if cannabis is legalized, but those people are clearly very wrong.

  • After California decriminalized marijuana, teen arrest, overdose and dropout rates fell;
  • teen drug and alcohol use continues to fall, even as more states decriminalize marijuana and make it available for medical purposes;
  • states with medical marijuana laws haven’t seen any uptick in teen marijuana use;
  • states with medical marijuana have actually seen decreases in prescription drug overdoses;
  • Alaska, where personal marijuana use has been de facto legalized for nearly 40 years, is completely average on a variety of economic and demographic indicators;
  • traffic fatalities have fallen in Colorado since legalization there.

  • Alternative Free Press
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    Key Figures In CIA-Crack Cocaine Scandal Begin To Come Forward (2014)

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    Ryan Grim, Matt Sledge, Matt Ferner
    The Huffington Post : October 10, 2014

    With the public in the U.S. and Latin America becoming increasingly skeptical of the war on drugs, key figures in a scandal that once rocked the Central Intelligence Agency are coming forward to tell their stories in a new documentary and in a series of interviews with The Huffington Post.

    More than 18 years have passed since Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb stunned the world with his “Dark Alliance” newspaper series investigating the connections between the CIA, a crack cocaine explosion in the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of South Los Angeles, and the Nicaraguan Contra fighters — scandalous implications that outraged LA’s black community, severely damaged the intelligence agency’s reputation and launched a number of federal investigations.

    It did not end well for Webb, however. Major media, led by The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, worked to discredit his story. Under intense pressure, Webb’s top editor abandoned him. Webb was drummed out of journalism. One LA Times reporter recently apologized for his leading role in the assault on Webb, but it came too late. Webb died in 2004 from an apparent suicide. Obituaries referred to his investigation as “discredited.”

    Now, Webb’s bombshell expose is being explored anew in a documentary, “Freeway: Crack in the System,” directed by Marc Levin, which tells the story of “Freeway” Rick Ross, who created a crack empire in LA during the 1980s and is a key figure in Webb’s “Dark Alliance” narrative. The documentary is being released after the major motion picture “Kill The Messenger,” which features Jeremy Renner in the role of Webb and hits theaters on Friday.

    Webb’s investigation was published in the summer of 1996 in the San Jose Mercury News. In it, he reported that a drug ring that sold millions of dollars worth of cocaine in Los Angeles was funneling its profits to the CIA’s army in Nicaragua, known as the Contras.

    Webb’s original anonymous source for his series was Coral Baca, a confidante of Nicaraguan dealer Rafael Cornejo. Baca, Ross and members of his “Freeway boys” crew; cocaine importer and distributor Danilo Blandon; and LA Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Juarez all were interviewed for Levin’s film.

    The dual release of the feature film and the documentary, along with the willingness of long-hesitant sources to come forward, suggests that Webb may have the last word after all.

    * * * * *

    Webb’s entry point into the sordid tale of corruption was through Baca, a ghostlike figure in the Contra-cocaine narrative who has given precious few interviews over the decades. Her name was revealed in Webb’s 1998 book on the scandal, but was removed at her request in the paperback edition. Levin connected HuffPost with Baca and she agreed to an interview at a cafe in San Francisco. She said that she and Webb didn’t speak for years after he revealed her name, in betrayal of the conditions under which they spoke. He eventually apologized, said Baca, who is played by Paz Vega in “Kill The Messenger.”
    The major media that worked to undermine Webb’s investigation acknowledged that Blandon was a major drug-runner as well as a Contra supporter, and that Ross was a leading distributor. But those reports questioned how much drug money Blandon and his boss Norwin Meneses turned over to the Contras, and whether the Contras were aware of the source of the funds.

    During her interview with HuffPost, Baca recounted meeting Contra leader Adolfo Calero multiple times in the 1980s at Contra fundraisers in the San Francisco Bay Area. He would personally pick up duffel bags full of drug money, she said, which it was her job to count for Cornejo. There was no question, she said, that Calero knew precisely how the money had been earned. Meneses’ nickname, after all, was El Rey De Las Drogas — The King of Drugs.

    “If he was stupid and had a lobotomy,” he might not have known it was drug money, Baca said. “He knew exactly what it was. He didn’t care. He was there to fund the Contras, period.” (Baca made a similar charge confidentially to the Department of Justice for its 1997 review of Webb’s allegations, as well as further allegations the investigators rejected.)

    Indeed, though the mainstream media at the time worked to poke holes in Webb’s findings, believing that the Contra operation was not involved with drug-running takes an enormous suspension of disbelief. Even before Webb’s series was published, numerous government investigations and news reports had linked America’s support for the Nicaraguan rebels with drug trafficking.

    After The Associated Press reported on these connections in 1985, for example, more than a decade before Webb, then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) launched a congressional investigation. In 1989, Kerry released a detailed report claiming that not only was there “considerable evidence” linking the Contra effort to trafficking of drugs and weapons, but that the U.S. government knew about it.

    According to the report, many of the pilots ferrying weapons and supplies south for the CIA were known to have backgrounds in drug trafficking. Kerry’s investigation cited SETCO Aviation, the company the U.S. had contracted to handle many of the flights, as an example of CIA complicity in the drug trade. According to a 1983 Customs Service report, SETCO was “headed by Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, a class I DEA violator.”

    Two years before the Iran-Contra scandal would begin to bubble up in the Reagan White House, pilot William Robert “Tosh” Plumlee revealed to then-Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) that planes would routinely transport cocaine back to the U.S. after dropping off arms for the Nicaraguan rebels. Plumlee has since spoken in detail about the flights in media interviews.

    “In March, 1983, Plumlee contacted my Denver Senate Office and … raised several issues including that covert U.S. intelligence agencies were directly involved in the smuggling and distribution of drugs to raise funds for covert military operations against the government of Nicaragua,” a copy of a 1991 letter from Hart to Kerry reads. (Hart told HuffPost he recalls receiving Plumlee’s letter and finding his allegations worthy of follow-up.)

    Plumlee flew weapons into Latin America for decades for the CIA. When the Contra revolution took off in the 1980s, Plumlee says he continued to transport arms south for the spy agency and bring cocaine back with him, with the blessing of the U.S. government.

    The Calero transactions Baca says she witnessed would have been no surprise to the Reagan White House. On April 15, 1985, around the time Baca says she saw Calero accepting bags of cash, Oliver North, the White House National Security Counsel official in charge of the Contra operation, was notified in a memo that Calero’s deputies were involved in the drug business. Robert Owen, North’s top staffer in Central America, warned that Jose Robelo had “potential involvement with drug-running and the sale of goods provided by the [U.S. government]” and that Sebastian Gonzalez was “now involved in drug-running out of Panama.”

    North’s own diary, originally uncovered by the National Security Archive, is a rich source of evidence as well. “Honduran DC-6 which is being used for runs out of New Orleans is probably being used for drug runs into the U.S.,” reads an entry for Aug. 9, 1985, reflecting a conversation North had with Owen about Mario Calero, Adolfo’s brother.

    An entry from July 12, 1985 relates that “14 million to finance [an arms depot] came from drugs” and another references a trip to Bolivia to pick up “paste.” (Paste is slang term for a crude cocaine derivative product comprised of coca leaves grown in the Andes as well as processing chemicals used during the cocaine manufacturing process.)

    Celerino Castillo, a top DEA agent in El Salvador, investigated the Contras’ drug-running in the 1980s and repeatedly warned superiors, according to a Justice Department investigation into the matter. Castillo “believes that North and the Contras’ resupply operation at Ilopango were running drugs for the Contras,” Mike Foster, an FBI agent who worked for the Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh, reported in 1991 after meeting with Castillo, who later wrote the book Powderburns about his efforts to expose the drug-running.

    * * * * *

    Webb’s investigation sent the CIA into a panic. A recently declassified article titled “Managing A Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story,” from the agency’s internal journal, “Studies In Intelligence,” shows that the spy agency was reeling in the weeks that followed.

    “The charges could hardly be worse,” the article opens. “A widely read newspaper series leads many Americans to believe CIA is guilty of at least complicity, if not conspiracy, in the outbreak of crack cocaine in America’s inner cities. In more extreme versions of the story circulating on talk radio and the Internet, the Agency was the instrument of a consistent strategy by the US Government to destroy the black community and to keep black Americans from advancing. Denunciations of CIA — reminiscent of the 1970s — abound. Investigations are demanded and initiated. The Congress gets involved.”

    The emergence of Webb’s story “posed a genuine public relations crisis for the Agency,” writes the CIA Directorate of Intelligence staffer, whose name is redacted.

    In December 1997, CIA sources helped advance that narrative, telling reporters that an internal inspector general report sparked by Webb’s investigation had exonerated the agency.

    Yet the report itself, quietly released several weeks later, was actually deeply damaging to the CIA.

    “In 1984, CIA received allegations that five individuals associated with the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance (ARDE)/Sandino Revolutionary Front (FRS) were engaged in a drug trafficking conspiracy with a known narcotics trafficker, Jorge Morales,” the report found. “CIA broke off contact with ARDE in October 1984, but continued to have contact through 1986-87 with four of the individuals involved with Morales.”

    It also found that in October 1982, an immigration officer reported that, according to an informant in the Nicaraguan exile community in the Bay Area, “there are indications of links between [a specific U.S.-based religious organization] and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups. These links involve an exchange in [the United States] of narcotics for arms, which then are shipped to Nicaragua. A meeting on this matter is scheduled to be held in Costa Rica ‘within one month.’ Two names the informant has associated with this matter are Bergman Arguello, a UDN member and exile living in San Francisco, and Chicano Cardenal, resident of Nicaragua.”

    The inspector general is clear that in some cases “CIA knowledge of allegations or information indicating that organizations or individuals had been involved in drug trafficking did not deter their use by CIA.” In other cases, “CIA did not act to verify drug trafficking allegations or information even when it had the opportunity to do so.”

    “Let me be frank about what we are finding,” the CIA’s inspector general, Frederick Hitz, said in congressional testimony in March 1998. “There are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity or take action to resolve the allegations.”

    * * * * *

    One of the keys to Webb’s story was testimony from Danilo Blandon, who the Department of Justice once described as one of the most significant Nicaraguan drug importers in the 1980s.

    “You were running the LA operation, is that correct?” Blandon, who was serving as a government witness in the 1990s, was asked by Alan Fenster, attorney representing Rick Ross, in 1996.

    “Yes. But remember, we were running, just — whatever we were running in LA, it goes, the profit, it was going to the Contra revolution,” Blandon said.

    Levin, the documentary filmmaker, tracked down Blandon in Managua.

    “Gary Webb tried to find me, Congresswoman Maxine Waters tried to find me, Oliver Stone tried to find me. You found me,” Blandon told Levin, according to notes from the interview the director provided to HuffPost.

    Waters, a congresswoman from Los Angeles, had followed Webb’s investigation with one of her own.

    In the interview notes with filmmaker Levin, Blandon confirms his support of the Contras and his role in drug trafficking, but downplays his significance.

    Levin’s film not only explores the corrupt foundations of the drug war itself, but also calls into question the draconian jail sentences the U.S. justice system meted out to a mostly minority population, while the country’s own foreign policy abetted the drug trade.

    “I knew that these laws were a mistake when we were writing them,” says Eric Sterling, who was counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in the 1980s and a key contributor to the passage of mandatory-minimum sentencing laws, in the documentary.

    In 1980, there were roughly 40,000 drug offenders in U.S. prisons, according to research from The Sentencing Project, a prison sentencing reform group. By 2011, the number of drug offenders serving prison sentences ballooned to more than 500,000 — most of whom are not high-level operators and are without prior criminal records.

    “There is no question that there are tens of thousands of black people in prison serving sentences that are decades excessive,” Sterling says. “Their families have been destroyed because of laws I played a central role in writing.”

    The height of the drug war in the 1980s also saw the beginning of the militarization of local law enforcement, the tentacles of which are seen to this day, most recently in Ferguson, Missouri.

    In an interview with The Huffington Post, former LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Juarez, who served with the department from 1976 to 1991 and was later convicted along with several other deputies in 1992 during a federal investigation of sheriff officers stealing seized drug money, described a drug war culture that frequently put law enforcement officers into morally questionable situations that were difficult to navigate.

    Between 1982 and 1984, Congress restricted funding for the Contras, and by 1985 cut it off entirely. The Reagan administration, undeterred, conspired to sell arms to Iran in exchange for hostages, using some of the proceeds to illegally fund the Contras. The scandal became known as Iran-Contra.

    Drug trafficking was a much less convoluted method of skirting the congressional ban on funding the Contras, and the CIA’s inspector general found that in the early years after Congress cut off Contra funding, the CIA had alerted Congress about the allegations of drug trafficking. But while the ban was in effect, the CIA went largely silent on the issue.

    “CIA did not inform Congress of all allegations or information it received indicating that Contra-related organizations or individuals were involved in drug trafficking,” the inspector general’s report found. “During the period in which the FY 1987 statutory prohibition was in effect, for example, no information has been found to indicate that CIA informed Congress of eight of the ten Contra-related individuals concerning whom CIA had received drug trafficking allegations or information.”

    This complicity of the CIA in drug trafficking is at the heart of Webb’s explosive expose — a point Webb makes himself in archival interview footage that appears in Levin’s documentary.

    “It’s not a situation where the government or the CIA sat down and said, ‘Okay, let’s invent crack, let’s sell it in black neighborhoods, let’s decimate black America,’” Webb says. “It was a situation where, ‘We need money for a covert operation, the quickest way to raise it is sell cocaine, you guys go sell it somewhere, we don’t want to know anything about it.'”

    (read the full article at Huffington Post)


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    Saudi Arabia Beheads Four Brothers Over Marijuana

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    Mike Adams
    High Times: August 28, 2014

    While the United States continues to enforce ridiculous and outdated drug policies to perpetuate slave labor within the American prison system, the drug laws in foreign lands are proving to be even more sinister, with recent reports suggesting that Saudi Arabia is beheading people for smuggling marijuana.

    Earlier last week, four Saudi brothers charged with trafficking marijuana into the kingdom, were found guilty and sentenced to die by the hands of a sword-wielding executioner. Although the government news agency did not provide much information regarding the actual execution, the initial report indicates the men were decapitated near the southwestern city of Najran for smuggling “a large quantity of hashish” into the Arab state.

    Unfortunately, the negotiation tactics by the human rights organization Amnesty International were not successful in providing the men with a stay of execution. Family members reached out to the organization in hopes that they could persuade Saudi officials to spare the lives of the brothers, but the interior ministry quickly snuffed out these attempts.

    (read the full article at High Times)

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    Pennsylvania Superior Court: Mandatory Minimum Sentences are Unconstitutional

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    The Joint Blog: August 25, 2014

    The Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled that mandatory minimum sentences – including those imposed on nonviolent drug crimes – are unconstitutional, a ruling which will have a large and immediate impact on the state’s legal system.

    The court made the ruling as part of a case against a Montgomery County man, James Newman, who received a mandatory 5-year sentence for possession of drugs (cocaine) and a gun. The court vacated the sentence, and called the current practice of mandatory minimum sentencing “unconstitutional”.

    (read the full article at The Joint Blog)

    The full opinion can be found at http://www.pacourts.us.

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    Herr Harper’s Canada

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    You won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it” -Stephen Harper

    Here are just 4 of the many ways Stephen Harper is drastically changing Canada in 2014:

    1. Corporate for-profit health care

    The barely hidden agenda is to unravel Canada’s signature public health care model in favour of an aggregate of more expensive, more fragmented, and less universal corporate models.

    Just as the Harper government corrupted the environmental file (in the name of “streamlining”), by drastically removing federal oversight and involvement (vacating jurisdiction), so too is it “vacating jurisdiction” of health care.

    The agenda is being achieved by starving the provinces of required funding. Once the 2014 Health Accord is expired, the Harper government will reduce its Canada Health Transfers (CHT’s), — monies transferred from the federal government to the provinces – by$36 billion, up to the end of 2024.

    The void of insufficient funding will be filled by corporate health care.

    Once this is achieved, Canadians’ access to health care will be restricted, user fees will increase, insurance coverage will cost more, and patient fatalities will rise in number.

    Here are some numbers.

    According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, public health care costs less than $180 per month per Canadian, while a private insurer in the U.S. charges three times that amount for comparable service.

    Even worse, according to a study by Dr. P.J. Devereaux, and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, if we switch to for-profit hospitals, over 2,000 more Canadians will die needlessly each year.

    What are the drivers behind this agenda which is contrary to the wishes of about 86 per cent of Canadians?

    According to the Council Of Canadians (who must surely be on Harper’s “enemy list”) there are three drivers:

    – Private investors, many based in the U.S, who want to cash in on Canadian health care (NAFTA guarantees equal treatment to U.S companies competing against our public system.)

    – Canadian for-profit providers and insurers.

    – Cash-starved provincial governments.

    rabble.ca (2013)

    That is the long term plan, but there is unfortunately also a shortcut:

    We’re at risk of losing our public health care system in 2014.

    Right now, there’s a legal challenge in motion that could erase Canadian Medicare as we know it – resulting in a two-tier, US-style health care system.

    Dr. Brian Day, owner of Vancouver’s for-profit Cambie Surgery Centre and the leading proponent of privatized health care, launched a constitutional challenge in 2008 that is going to court in September of 2014. This challenge aims to break Medicare in Canada by striking down provincial health legislation that limits the for-profit delivery of medically necessary services, claiming that these rules violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Parties in the case, including the BC government, are calling this the most significant constitutional challenge in Canadian history. Although this case is being heard in British Columbia, experts agree that the case will be appealed and end up in the Supreme Court of Canada – that’s why it’s important to everyone in Canada.

    If Dr. Day wins, he’ll open the floodgates to a US-style system that relies on private insurance, and allows providers to set any price on care that the market will allow.

    BC health coalition (2014)

    2. Festivals Without Freedom

    RCMP are out in force and more than 500 security guards are on hand checking every bag for drugs and alcohol as the Squamish Music Festival gets underway today.

    cbc.ca (2014)

    Police enforcement at festivals has been increasing steadily since 2009, shortly after Harper took power:

    There was a much stronger uniform presence this year, after the event was identified as requiring higher-than-normal levels of policing, with members being drawn from across the region from the Drug Canine Units, the Integrated Road Safety Unit, the Kootenay Boundary Regional RCMP detachment, and more.

    boundary sentinel (2010)

    3. Strictly Controlled Internet

    Bill C-13 offers service providers immunity for disclosing sensitive information to police and other authorities without a warrant. This isn’t just hypothetical, either—Canadian authorities have been making millions of these requests each year for quite some time.
    […] With Parliament off for its summer vacation, Bill C-13 is sitting in a strange limbo. Thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision, it’s likely that at least parts of C-13 are unconstitutional. This includes the provisions giving legal immunity to service providers who disclose customer information to authorities without a warrant and without the customer’s knowledge.

    Despite the court case, the Harper government has shown no intention of going back to the drawing board, or even at least splitting Bill C-13 in two to allow for more debate and input from privacy advocates. This is troubling, since the government is refusing to listen to the privacy expert they just appointed by not even splitting the bill.

    What does the future hold, then, for C-13? If Minister MacKay presses forward as he’s indicated when Parliament resumes, it’s likely that the government could find itself in yet another high-level court case about privacy. With lawsuits from civil liberties watchdog groups already on the books over unaccountable spying at CSEC, we could see a legal action from players in the tech-activist privacy coalition against C-13.

    As the government keeps silent about making any changes to Bill C-13, it’s stubbornly signaling that it doesn’t care much about Canadians’ privacy. Given its track record, we shouldn’t count ourselves as surprised. But we do know that the Harper government does care about its perception as pro-business. As mainstream outcry grows against this “cyberbullying” bill and businesses line up on the side of reasonable privacy protection, the government may finally change its tune.

    vice.ca (2014)

    Bill C-13 isn’t the only threat to internet privacy. The Trans-Pacific Partnership will end the open Internet as we know it by criminalizing our online activity, invading our privacy, and making our ability to access the Internet far more expensive.

    Internet providers will be forced to block content for subscribers who are alleged to have engaged in small-scale downloading or sharing of copyrighted material. It could also kick individuals and even entire families off the Internet for allegations of copyright infringement alone.
    Internet providers would be forced to act as ‘Internet cops’, actively monitoring websites for banned links and for any alleged copyright infringement. As costs would be passed on to customers, this would make your Internet more expensive and would result in a stifling Internet censorship regime.
    A complete overhaul of Canadian copyright law and potential changes to privacy law that would undermine our digital rights.

    rabble.ca (2013)

    4. Dirty Water, Very Dirty Water

    The recent disaster at the Mount Polley mine serves as just 1 recent example of water in Canada after a few years with Harper’s fraudulent majority.

    A complete water ban affecting about 300 local residents is in effect after five million cubic metres of tailings pond wastewater from the Mount Polley copper and gold mine was released early Monday into Hazeltine Creek.

    That’s an amount of water equivalent to about 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

    Local residents are calling it an environmental disaster.

    The waterways affected by the ban, which earlier included Quesnel Lake, Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Cariboo Creek, now also include the entire Quesnel and Cariboo river systems right up to the salmon-bearing Fraser River.

    cbc.ca (2014)

    Reports of sickly salmon with skin that’s peeling off have prompted a First Nations fishing shutdown in British Columbia’s Cariboo region, which was hit by a mining waste spill this week.

    “We are closing all fishing activities down the river immediately, fish are being found very sickly as we speak,” read a notice issued Thursday by the chiefs of the Xaxli’p, Sek’wel’was and Tsk’way’laxw First Nations near Lillooet.

    The Secwepemc Fisheries Commission issued a similar advisory telling its members to “exercise caution and stop fishing until further notice.”

    huffingtonpost.ca (2014)

    The Harper government is waging war on Canada’s freshwater.

    We didn’t start with a strong record. Our national water laws are out-dated, we don’t properly enforce the ones we have and we chronically underfund source water and watershed protection. And consecutive governments refuse to consider the effect on freshwater when creating economic, industrial, energy or trade policies.

    Yet the Harper government appears intent on systematically dismantling the few protections that have been put in place at the federal level to protect our freshwater heritage.

    In its 2011 budget, the Harper government announced a reduction of over $222 million from the budget of Environment Canada and the elimination of over 1,200 jobs in the department. Programs to protect water, such as the Action Plan on Clean Water, which funds water remediation in Lakes Winnipeg and Simcoe among others, were particularly hard hit. Others targeted for deep cuts include the Chemicals Management Plan and the Contaminated Sites Action Plan, both of which are crucial to source water protection.

    These cuts followed the cancellation of a major B.C. coastal conservation project after lobbying by the energy industry and the weakening of key elements of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which eliminated mandatory environmental assessments for major developments such as bridges and dams on Canadian rivers.

    But the big guns have come out in the current Budget Implementation Bill. Parks Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will lose over $100 million in funding and many hundreds of employees between them, which will have devastating impacts on water conservation and watershed protection. Fully cut are the urban wastewater research program and integrated monitoring of water and air quality.

    The Fisheries Act, which made it a criminal offence to pollute or destroy fish and fish habitat in Canada and the only federal water protection law with teeth, is being gutted. Already, the Harper government allows the mining industry to apply to have healthy fish-bearing bodies of water to be renamed “tailings impoundment areas” and thus no longer subject to protection of the Act.

    But the new rules remove legal protection of fish habitat, allowing harm to fish and habitat based on the “on-going productivity” of commercial fisheries. In essence, the new rules legalize activity that destroys wetlands, lakes and rivers unless these habitats can be proven to have a defined economic value.

    Industry will now have unprecedented influence over water protection policy and the Harper cabinet will make decisions about which watersheds deserve protection based on political, not scientific, grounds.

    The 2012 federal budget also repeals the Canadian Environment Assessment Act and replaces it with a new law that limits the length of time the assessment process can take, sets strict limits on who can appear before a panel and allows Cabinet to opt out of projects it does not want assessed.

    With the plethora of pipelines planned to carry Alberta tar sands bitumen — the dirtiest oil on earth — over fragile watersheds all across Canada, the politicization of the environmental assessment process poses an irreversible threat to our freshwater systems. The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to the B.C coast alone would pass over at least 1,000 waterways.

    In a mean spirited move, the Harper government is killing the Global Environmental Monitoring System, an inexpensive project that monitors over 3,000 freshwater sites around the world for a U.N. database that Canada has proudly hosted for decades.

    Cut too is the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, which recently published an important paper calling for an end to free or cheap water to resource extractive industries. Perhaps this report was unpopular with the energy and mining companies soon to benefit from the new environmental regime.

    This, just months after the Harper government cut funding for the Canadian Environmental Network, a 34-year-old network that acted as a link between 640 small environmental groups and the federal government and which has been a fierce defender of local watersheds.

    rabble.ca (2012)

    This list is far from complete, in fact, it just scratches the surface.

    Compiled by Alternative Free Press
    Creative Commons License
    Herr Harper’s Canada by AlternativeFreePress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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    Since marijuana legalization, highway fatalities in Colorado are at near-historic lows

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    Radley Balko
    Washington Post : August 5, 2014

    Since Colorado voters legalized pot in 2012, prohibition supporters have warned that recreational marijuana will lead to a scourge of “drugged divers” on the state’s roads. They often point out that when the state legalized medical marijuana in 2001, there was a surge in drivers found to have smoked pot. They also point to studies showing that in other states that have legalized pot for medical purposes, we’ve seen an increase in the number of drivers testing positive for the drug who were involved in fatal car accidents. The anti-pot group SAM recently pointed out that even before the first legal pot store opened in Washington state, the number of drivers in that state testing positive for pot jumped by a third.

    The problem with these criticisms is that we can test only for the presence of marijuana metabolites, not for inebriation. Metabolites can linger in the body for days after the drug’s effects wear off — sometimes even for weeks. Because we all metabolize drugs differently (and at different times and under different conditions), all that a positive test tells us is that the driver has smoked pot at some point in the past few days or weeks.

    It makes sense that loosening restrictions on pot would result in a higher percentage of drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents having smoked the drug at some point over the past few days or weeks. You’d also expect to find that a higher percentage of churchgoers, good Samaritans and soup kitchen volunteers would have pot in their system. You’d expect a similar result among any large sampling of people. This doesn’t necessarily mean that marijuana caused or was even a contributing factor to accidents, traffic violations or fatalities.

    This isn’t an argument that pot wasn’t a factor in at least some of those accidents, either. But that’s precisely the point. A post-accident test for marijuana metabolites doesn’t tell us much at all about whether pot contributed to the accident.

    Since the new Colorado law took effect in January, the “drugged driver” panic has only intensified. I’ve already written about one dubious example, in which the Colorado Highway Patrol and some local and national media perpetuated a story that a driver was high on pot when he slammed into a couple of police cars parked on an interstate exit ramp. While the driver did have some pot in his system, his blood-alcohol level was off the charts and was far more likely the cause of the accident. In my colleague Marc Fisher’s recent dispatch from Colorado, law enforcement officials there and in bordering states warned that they’re seeing more drugged drivers. Congress recently held hearings on the matter, complete with dire predictions such as “We are going to have a lot more people stoned on the highway and there will be consequences,” from Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.). Some have called for a zero tolerance policy — if you’re driving with any trace of pot in your system, you’re guilty of a DWI. That would effectively ban anyone who smokes pot from driving for up to a couple of weeks after their last joint, including people who legitimately use the drug for medical reasons.

    It seems to me that the best way to gauge the effect legalization has had on the roadways is to look at what has happened on the roads since legalization took effect. Here’s a month-by-month comparison of highway fatalities in Colorado through the first seven months of this year and last year. For a more thorough comparison, I’ve also included the highest fatality figures for each month since 2002, the lowest for each month since 2002 and the average for each month since 2002.

     

    CoTrafficDeaths
    Raw data from the Colorado Dept. of Transportation

     

    As you can see, roadway fatalities this year are down from last year, and down from the 13-year average. Of the seven months so far this year, five months saw a lower fatality figure this year than last, two months saw a slightly higher figure this year, and in one month the two figures were equal. If we add up the total fatalities from January through July, it looks like this:

     

    COTotalDeaths
    Raw data from the Colorado Dept. of Transportation

     

    Here, the “high” bar (pardon the pun) is what you get when you add the worst January since 2002 to the worst February, to the worst March, and so on. The “low” bar is the sum total of the safest January, February, etc., since 2002. What’s notable here is that the totals so far in 2014 are closer to the safest composite year since 2002 than to the average year since 2002. I should also add here that these are total fatalities. If we were to calculate these figures as a rate — say, miles driven per fatality — the drop would be starker, both for this year and since Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2001. While the number of miles Americans drive annually has leveled off nationally since the mid-2000s, the number of total miles traveled continues to go up in Colorado. If we were to measure by rate, then, the state would be at lows unseen in decades.

    The figures are similar in states that have legalized medical marijuana. While some studies have shown that the number of drivers involved in fatal collisions who test positive for marijuana has steadily increased as pot has become more available, other studies have shown that overall traffic fatalities in those states have dropped. Again, because the pot tests only measure for recent pot use, not inebriation, there’s nothing inconsistent about those results.

    (read the full article and view more sources at Washington Post)

    RELATED: Study shows THC blood tests can’t test impairment

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    Canada’s jails are filled with legally innocent victims

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    Canada’s jails filled with victims of risk-averse bail system: report

    Chris Cobb
    Ottawa Citizen: July 23, 2014

    A majority of the 25,000 people held in Canada’s overcrowded provincial and territorial jails are legally innocent and victims of a malfunctioning, risk-averse bail system, according to a damning new study by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

    “Canadians spend over $850 million (annually) on pre-trial detention, even though the majority of people who are jailed upon arrest are facing non-violent, minor charges,” said Abby Deshman, CCLA program director and co-author of the report Set up to Fail: Bail and the Revolving Door of Pre-Trial Detention.

    “The cost — personal, societal and financial — of heading down this path is overwhelming,” she added.

    The routine incarceration of people while they await a bail hearing or trial has increased as Canada’s crime rate — especially violent crime — had steadily decreased, notes the report.

    Violent crime is at its lowest rate since 1987 and almost 80 per cent of crime reported to police services across Canada is relatively petty and non-violent, it says.

    “Canada’s jails have not always looked like this,” adds the report. “The remand rate has nearly tripled in the past 30 years, and 2005 marked the first time in Canadian history that our provincial institutions were primarily being used to detain people prior to any finding of guilt, rather than after they had been convicted and sentenced.”

    The system, it says, routinely violates the charter rights of Canadians who have a legal right to presumption of innocence and fundamental justice.

    “The law governing bail aims to safeguard individual liberty, the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial by putting in place a strong presumption of release and only imposing restrictions on liberty or detaining a person where absolutely necessary,” the report says.

    “Legally innocent individuals are processed through a bail system that is chaotic and unnecessarily risk-averse and that disproportionately penalizes — and frequently criminalizes — poverty, addiction and mental illness.”

    “Canada’s bail system is full of pitfalls that punish and criminalize innocent people,” said CCLA executive director Sukanya Pillay.

    Legally innocent people who eventually get bail are often released with onerous conditions and are set up to fail — notably alcoholics who are routinely ordered not to drink as a condition of release, the report says.

    Failure to comply with bail conditions is a criminal offence.

    (read the full article at Ottawa Citizen)


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