Eric Holder keeps Obama’s promise! Just said “No!” Federal medical cannabis raids to end.

Eric Holder ends DEA raids on medical cannabis patients and facilities!

Buried near the end of a press conference covering arrests of the Sinaloa cartel, Eric Holder responded to a reporter’s question. He was asked if the DEA raids on California medical cannabis (marijuana) facilities just after President Obama took office would be the future policy, despite Obama’s campaign pledge to end the federal raids. The answer was refreshing and is a milestone in the endless War on Drugs.

Eric Holder just said “No.” He continued, “What the president said during the campaign, you’ll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we’ll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy.”

The Attorney General’s simple statement, elicited only by one half of a two part question twenty five minutes into a press conference, was far more important than the subject of the press conference, drug cartel arrests. With the DEA (acting) administrator MIchele Leonhart at his side, we can be certain his policy was heard by the DEA.

The specter of federal arrests and prosecutions has always loomed  for state-certified cannabis patients and care-givers in those states with laws allowing medical use (and growth) of cannabis.

Ironically, Eric Holder’s actions in lessening federal prohibition of cannabis may do far more to reduce the power of the Mexican cartels than all the enforcement actions he announced yesterday. Even though all of the Sinaloa cartel arrests were for drugs other than cannabis, some of their profits come from supplying the American market for marijuana. To the extent that the Attorney General’s new policy will reduce that demand by allowing medical supply in states like California, Oregon, Washington and New Mexico, the cartel’s profits will wane.

Congratulations to Barack Obama and Eric Holder for taking this small step towards medical freedom. No longer will medical consumers of cannabis, nor their state-licensed dispensaries, have to fear raids from squads of federal jack-boot thugs. With the end of this federal harassment, Americans have won back important freedoms long lost in the liberty-killing War on Drugs.

Thanks to Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim for spotting Holder’s remarkable statement.

Lecture China on human rights? The USA, “incarceration nation”, holds no high moral ground.

With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in China, human rights groups are upset that she is not taking China to task for human rights violations. But if freedom from being unnecessarily caged is a human right, then the USA holds no high moral ground to be lecturing any country. For the USA imprisons its citizens at an astoundingly high rate, far higher than any other government on earth. Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project outlined in 2006 how the USA is the “Incarceration Nation.”

The USA incarcerates 2.3 million prisoners at a (2006) rate of 738 per 100,000. For China, the rate is 118 prisoners per 100,000 people less than one sixth the rate in “the land of the free.” No other country comes close to the American rate of incarceration. Turkmenistan comes in at 489, Cuba 487. Over 61% of countries imprisoned at a rate of less than 150 per 100,000 roughly 1/5th the rate in the USA. For more detail see the King’s College of London World Prison Population List (7th ed.) by Roy Walmsley.

Even though China’s is home to over a billion more people than the USA, it total prison population is far lower. Still, Chinese prison population it is second highest in the world, with over one and a half million caged prisoners. China does indeed have egregious human rights violations, some of the worst involve police executioners pumping bullets into the back of the heads of people, sometimes for mere drug possession.

Young Chinese woman prepared for death on UN Anti-Drug Day

Young Chinese woman prepared for death on UN Anti-Drug Day

This is done in a public and festive manner on the United Nations Anti-Drug day in July. In the USA, barbarity towards those convicted of drug crimes is not in public executions. American “justice” is in burial alive in concrete and metal cells for decades, for “crimes” that were trivial before draconian War on Drugs laws.

So before lecturing the Chinese about human rights, Hilary, think about hundreds of thousands of Americans arrested and imprisoned for what should not be crimes during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Free those human rights prisoners first.

Too good for first class, DEA wastes your tax money on private jets.

Should you or I wish to fly from Washington DC to Bogota, Colombia and back, Orbitz discloses a nice flight taking a little over 5 hours each way on an Avianca Airlines Airbus 319. The total cost is $491. A federal bureaucrat recently managed to spend 260 times as much to make the same trip.

Marisa Taylor, reported in McClatchy Newspaper that DEA bureaucrats hired an extravagantly costly private jet when traveling from the American capitol to the Colombian capitol late last October. The (acting) DEA administrator had many choices for her flight.

  • She could have flown commercial, like the rest of us, for less than $500.

She could have flown commercial first class, for about twice that much. Many taxpayers, though, feel that bureaucrats should not be flying first class. We sit back in coach, paying not only the government employee’s salary but also their privilege up in front?

  • She could have use one of the 100 + aircraft in the DEA’s air force. However, using an airplane just for her transportation flaunts taxpayer values and is a climate mini-disaster pouring tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

Barring the availability of the DEA aircraft, she could have borrowed a plane from another government agency.

  • But instead, the DEA paid a contractor $5,380 to hire another contractor to fly her to Bogota and back for $123,750!

The (acting) DEA administrator’s flight was just weeks before auto execs were chastised by congress for flying to Washington in company jets in their search of government assistance. At least these auto exec flew in on their own company aircraft, not hiring pricey chartered jets for 10 times the cost as did the DEA bureaucrat. And the auto companies own just a few planes each, the DEA owns 106.

  • One other difference, the auto exec’s salaries were paid by private industry (at that point, at least). The agency administrator draws her salary (and bloated pension) from the taxpayer trough. Check the McClatchy Newspaper article for the agency’s pathetic justification of such bureaucratic extravagance in an age of economic peril.

The race issue Eric Holder cowardly does not talk about.

Eric Holder observes that as “we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”  When the new Attorney General starts talking race issues, a giant elephant enters the room. No, not the republican elephant trying to smear the new top cop at the Justice Department with spurious allegations about a pardon during the final days of the Clinton administration. No, Holder’s real elephant in the room is the disaster befallen America’s blacks from the ill-conceived and mis-directed War on Drugs.

Because Eric Holder was a principal architect of this decade’s long war on its own people, it is a topic he, rather cowardly, refuses to address. Meanwhile, black people especially, continued to have their lives smashed by their government and are disproportionately jailed in America’s “drug gulag.” As top prosecutor in Washington DC, he tried to increase punishment for minor drug possession.

The “war on (some) drugs” has been – and continues to be – disastrous for blacks in America. Although now a little dated, the year 2000 Human Rights Watch report Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs. It documents he harshness with which minor drug crimes are punished in the USA and how black Americans suffer disproportionate arrest and imprisonment. In 1954, 100,000 black America’s languished behind bars. Now that number is 900,000. Black lives, careers and families have been trashed by a vicious drug war that has had little or no effect on drug use.

President Obama has spoken about the need to abolish the crack sentencing disparity that has landed so many blacks behind bars wth felony convictions. But neither Obama or Holder have addressed the basic problem of a drug war that has declared many Americans, especially black Americans, to be the enemy.

So Eric Holder, as Attorney General, don’t be a coward. Reexamine your prosecuter’s zeal for imprisoning your fellow black American. Help stop the idiotic, and racist, War on Drugs.

California prison crisis: Free the cannabis captives first!

After a decades’ long statewide effort to arrest and imprison ever more Californians, the Golden State’s prison system is in crisis. Now, a federal panel of judges may require the state to release tens of thousands of prisoners to reduce overcrowding.

Even though America’s and California’s jailing so many of its citizens will be seen by historians as reprehensible, the thought of now freeing prisoners warped by their prison experience is terrifying. Nearly everyone incarcerated comes out worse than they went in, less likely to be able to be employed and less of an asset and more of a danger to community and family. California’s (and America’s) incarceration binge has been a negative investment in social capital, just a education builds positive social capital. The prospect of possibly 50,000 prisoners, brutalized and criminalized by their incarceration, soon walking the streets of California is sobering.

One method to reduce the danger from the released prisoners is to release first those that should never have been in prison in the first place. Especially prominent in this group are those incarcerated for any “crime” dealing with cannabis. All American laws against cannabis are based on its erroneous Schedule I classification with the DEA and the Controlled Substances Act. Such draconian scheduling requires that the drug be of no medical value. Research over the last 30 years, most of it performed outside the USA, leaves no inkling of a doubt that cannabis can be of great medical value for preventing and treating a wide variety of medical conditions. The Schedule I requirement of no medical value is clearly invalid in the case of marijuana. Since laws were made and penalties set based upon such error, the penalties of people charged with violations involving this plant should be reduced or dropped.

A down-scheduling should automatically strike penalties associated with Schedule I drugs. Many of California’s 158,000 state prisoners are caged because of these heated penalties. If marijuana were scheduled at a more reasonable Schedule 5, many of the “crimes” that took many of these Californians to jail would no longer be considered crimes, at least not major felonies supporting long years of highly-expensive incarceration.

Many of these prisoners should never have been arrested, much less deprived of their freedom and their future. They, and the rest of society, are victims of thoughtless, self-serving laws, such as the Schedule 1 based cannabis laws that have jailed so many Californians. Such draconian laws have served the California prison guards union well, but have helped bankrupt the state. If tens of thousands of California prisoners are to be released, then for safety and justice release first those that have run afoul of anti-marijuana zealotry. Release cannabis captives before prisoners that have committed actual crimes with real victims. Avoid arresting and jailing any more people for their involvement with this ancient plant.

Hundred Years’ War on Drugs

February 10, 1909 began like most days across the 46 states of the USA.  However, in one way that day a century ago would have terrible consequences in future decades. The day before Congress had voted its first drug law, and with it, the roots of the counterproductive, destructive and continuing Hundreds Years’ War on Drugs.

In our current age, when drug prohibition, enforcement and related imprisonment are among the main functions of the federal government, it is sobering to remember that up until 100 years ago there were no federal drug laws. No drugs were illegal, except in some anti-Chinese city laws. Most drugs were freely available to all 76 million Americans as medical tinctures, including opium, coca and cannabis. Along with no drug laws, there was no drug problem.  Now, after a long century of ever-tightening laws and prohibitions serving an ever-growing drug war bureaucracy, we have a monstrous drug war problem and a failed attempt to solve a non-problem.

The sad ebbing of American freedom and triumph of bureaucratic authoritarians since that first drug law passed is skillfully documented by author and California NORML Director Dale Gieringer writing in COUNTERPUNCH. Gieringer notes  the insidious worldwide drug war control of indigenous plants such as cannabis in UN Treaties, while entirely ignoring nicotine cigarettes and alcohol as drugs. See Marking 100 Years of Failed Drug Prohibition: The Opium Exclusion Act of 1909.

License to Kill: Drug war idiocy in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, many predict, will become Barack Obama’s Viet Nam War. The situation in that land-locked country is becoming dire. The Taliban control ever more territory and have recently thrown a choke hold onto military supplies coming into the country with attacks on bridges and convoys.

The latest strategy for NATO as directed by the USA seems to redirect military efforts into a war on drugs. U.S. General John Craddock, the NATO Supreme Commander reasons that the $100 million dollar poppy and heroin industries finance the Taliban. He is proclaiming that military action will commence “within days” against a new target in Afghanistan, the opium, heroin and cannabis industries. Under new policy, civilians involved in the poppy trade will become military target coequal to Taliban fighters.

Does Craddock not know or recall that there was a recent model of success in eradicating opium production in Afghanistan, not ten years ago? The Taliban themselves accomplished this feat, for the first time in Afgan history, after a decree in July 2000. Opium acreage reportedly dropped to nearly zero.  And while the good news is the Taliban successfully banned opium production, the bad news in they also banned, pork, pig, pig oil, anything made from human hair, satellite dishes, cinematography, and equipment that produces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, alcohol, tapes, computers, VCRs, television, anything that propagates sex and is full of music, wine, lobster, nail polish, firecrackers, statues, sewing catalogs, pictures, Christmas cards.

American anti-drug bureaucrast were so happy with the (apparent) eradication of the opium trade, the Bush administration actually awarded 43 million dollars to the Taliban theocrats ruling Afghanistan and playing host to Osama bin Laden less than 4 months before September 11, 2001. Less than 6 months after this payment, , the USA attacked Afghanistan, over seven long years ago. At first the American effort seemed to work out well,; the Taliban fled from cities into the countryside and into Pakistan. Much of the populace was glad to see them and their sharia law. But since then, Afghanistan, ignored once America attacked Iraq, has slid into deep peril.  Never in this seven years has the situation looked worse than currently, with the Taliban control closing in everyday on provincial capital and Kabul. The Karzai government is disliked. Wariness of, and weariness with, foreign military occupation are ripe.

Much of the population is unemployed and most civilians with jobs work in the profitable opium industry, the country’s cash crop. If the NATO commander, US General Craddock has his way, this broad swath of the Afghan population may soon come under fire from US (and other NATO) guns.In a bizarre leap of drug war logic, General Craddock proposes that no distinction is now to be made between customary NATO target -the Taliban fighters – and this new group of targets. These Afghans producing and trading opium comprise a good proportion of the populace. Such policy is, thankfully, illegal under international law. The German news magazine Der Spiegel brought this policy and its illegality to the world’s attention in January 2009. Entitled, NATO High Commander Issues Illegitimate Order to Kill, the article documents how General Craddock still argues that such policy is legal and correct. He is opposed by other NATO leaders and General McKiernan.

Barack Obama rightfully claimed that George Bush took his eye off the ball of Afghanistan and shorted the effort to nab or kill bin Laden. Now that he is president, he better put his eye on the ball and decide what America;s objectives in that poor, mountainous country, larger than Iraq. Hopefully his policy will not include gunning down agricultural workers from helicopter gunships.

There is some hope: Head of US Central Command,  David Petraeus recalled  the country’s long history. He was quoted by The Washington Post,  “Afghanistan has been known over the years as the graveyard of empires,” he said. “We cannot take that history lightly.” He concedes conditions have deterioated in the last two years but nonetheless encourages an surge-type sustained advance into the countryside to win hearts and minds.

Even such sensible policy may fail. But is is incompatible with Craddock’s license-to-kill the populace for performing the one activity that can help them make a living. Barack Obama stands on the precipice in Afghanistan. He should not be guided by more drug war idiocy. The drug war in the USA has become an enormous boondoggle serving only those in its employ. American drug warriors can not even keep drugs out their own prisons. Now the US military will solve the Afghanistan opium problem by killing Afghan civilians?

Rahm Emanuel – Free Speech Hall of Shame

For a man that likes to curse a great deal, Barack Obama’s Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel does not much believe in the free speech rights of his fellow Americans. Indeed Rahm Emanuel committed an act so in conflict with his Constitution’s Bill of Rights he should be denied any government position. Yet, despite his egregious attack on the First Amendment Right of Free Speech, he is now “the second most powerful man” in the American government.

What was Emanuel’s great crime? In the 1990s the Chicago democrat was a key Clinton administration drug policy adviser. This was a time of rapid rise in drug arrests, especially cannabis arrests, driven by all the new laws and huge funding of the “war on drugs.”  After Californians voted in 1996 to legalize the medical use of cannabis, Emanuel, and fellow drug war mongers Joe Biden and Barry McCaffrey sought to deny these voters their rights by threatening cannabis-prescribing California physicians. In just this one policy, then, Emanuel and company worked to deny state voters their elected choice and also deny doctors the right of free speech in making their medical recommendations. Californians suffering from medical need such as glaucoma and nerve pain would be denied medical information by these bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

So much for democracy. The actions of Rham Emanuel and the drug czar McCaffrey show total disdain for voter rights, states rights, and medical rights. Their coercive policies reek of tyranny. In just about the only US Supreme Court decision favorable to these rights in the last 40 years, the high court said such over-bearing federal meddling violated the free speech rights of the physicians and their patients. Such arrogance and disregard for the US Constitution and the rights of fellow Americans should preclude Emanuel from any important goverment job.

President Obama professes to view Abraham Lincoln as a role model. Good idea. Perhaps, you Mr. President and your zealous chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel should revisit the earlier president from Illinois opinions on prohibition. Abraham Lincoln said,

A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded… Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man´s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes.

Too bad now we are stuck with a presidential chief-of-staff who views medical cannabis in the most reactionary possible way.  Rahm Emanuel is no Abraham Lincoln. Regrettably, neither is Barack Obama.

Michael Phelps and Use of Cannabis

Any human being who can achieve the goal of competing in the Olympics is, in at least some ways and by definition, extraordinary. Beyond that, an athlete who can totally dominate his event and set world’s records for gold medals is all that much more remarkable. That is exactly what swimmer Michael Phelps did in capturing 8 gold medals in last summer’s Beijing Olympics 2008. Now this athletic hero is being castigated and attacked from some sides for using cannabis, after a photo of him surfaced toking on a pot-fueled bong.

Since there is not much wrong with Olympian Michael Phelps, maybe there is something wrong with the prohibitions he broke. Obviously, recreational use of cannabis is not incompatible with great, even epic achievement. Michael Phelps is a poster-boy for ambitious, high-achieving cannabis users. The federal propaganda claiming marijuana causes an “amotivational syndrome” are belied, quite tangibly, by 8 shining gold medals.

More seriously, Phelps is reported to have used a far more dangerous drug at the same party. Unlike cannabis, beer is associated with violence and antisocial activity. Although cannabis does not have a lethal dose, the lethal dose of alcohol is just a few times that of recreational dose, and fatal alcohol overdoses are common. Strangely, the advertisers who would not raise an eyebrow at Michael Phelps’ use of alcohol may abandon him for a picture of him sampling a SAFER alternative, cannabis.