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couch, the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
June 2004



Student Drug Testing – not the same as TB tests

A bill in California has bi-partisan support and would ban universal random drug testing of students, and only allow drug testing if administrators have “reasonable suspicions.” A companion bill would allow for testing of athletes specifically for performance enhancing drugs. Naturally, this reasonable approach doesn’t sit well with the Drug Czar’s office, which is trying […]

A Tale of Two Wars on Drugs

Dusty Nix in the Ledger Enquirer (GA)

Consider two “drug wars” — one a highly and expensively hyped crusade, the other quieter; but both of tremendous social, economic, legal and cultural significance over the last few decades.

One, waged principally against opiates, cannabis and cocaine by state and federal governments for more than 20 years, has cost billions, perhaps trillions of dollars in taxpayer money; taxed the resources of already overworked law enforcement agencies; sustained a criminal empire the size and riches of which would dwarf the booze kingpins of the 1920s and ’30s; created, with the help of “mandatory sentencing” politics, an unprecedented corrections crisis by stuffing prisons to bursting with drug offenders; and provided the dubious rationale for abrogating the Bill of Rights to an extent even the Patriot Act hasn’t approached. And even the front-line troops in this war have acknowledged it’s a losing campaign.

“Drug war” No. 2, which hasn’t generated nearly as much attention — which, in fact, few people have thought of as a “drug war” at all — has involved relatively little public money, no prison space, little or no effort on the part of law enforcement. Nobody’s been randomly summoned away from a desk or work site to urinate into a cup. And it has been waged against a drug that every year claims more lives than all illegal substances combined.

But the vast differences in expense and approach aren’t the most dramatic distinction here. The biggest difference is that one of them has worked.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported last week that smoking among American teens is at its lowest level in almost 30 years.

This is a point that more people need to notice. The editorial is a strong one, and ends:

So providing people with education and information has proven dramatically effective in curbing use of a drug some experts have said is as addictive as heroin; while draconian laws and sentences and self-incrimination policies have created more problems than they have solved.

Surely there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Brazil to shoot down drug planes

From BBC News:

Brazil is close to adopting a plan to shoot down aircraft suspected of carrying narcotics over the Amazon jungle, the government has said.

Colombia and Peru called a halt to the controversial practice in 2001 after the Peruvian air force mistakenly shot down a plane carrying missionaries.

… Colombia resumed shooting down suspected drug trafficking planes in 2003 and has shot down almost a dozen planes this year alone with intelligence assistance from Washington, AP news agency reported.

Peru is seeking to restart the policy.

Why can’t we force planes down, or, failing that, use our technology to follow them, and arrest them after they land?
Perhaps the better question is… “Why do we continue policies that make smuggling so profitable that they’re willing to chance being shot down?”

Sue ’em for False Advertising

Reported in Now Magazine

Our friendly neighbourhood pot promoters, Canadians for Safe Access ( CSA ), are calling for an immediate moratorium on the distribution of medical pot after independent testing of the feds’ bud revealed that THC levels are nowhere near the 10.2 per cent claimed by Health Canada.

According to two tests conducted […]

THC Delays Progression of Lou Gehrig’s Disease


Seattle, WA: The administration of the cannabinoid THC in mice delayed disease progression of an animal model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), according to clinical findings published in the journal Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis & Other Motor Neuron Disorders. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a chronic, often fatal condition marked by […]

One lady who won’t sit down and die.

Suing The Reaper by Dean Kuipers in Los Angeles City Beat
The story of a South L.A.Sickle-Cell Patient Had To Sue The LAPD To Stop Pulling Up Her Legal Pot Harvest.

Kambui, who relies on marijuana to combat debilitating pain from sickle-cell anemia, was in tears.

Then her eyes fixed on someone who turned her sorrow to rage: accompanying the federal agents was LAPD Detective Steve McArthur.

McArthur had busted Kambui at least four previous autumns, and each time there had either been no charges filed or, most important, she’d been acquitted and her grow operation approved under California’s 1996 Compassionate Use Act, better known as Proposition 215. Unable to get an indictment under state law, McArthur had brought in the feds, whose warrant was based solely on his testimony. After two hours of questioning, the DEA set Kambui free, and one of the agents even gave her a hug.

Kambui, however, had had enough of Detective McArthur. She filed a civil suit against McArthur, the LAPD, the City of Los Angeles, and “John Does 1-50” in January, backed by an increasingly effective medical cannabis advocacy group, Bay Area-based Americans for Safe Access.

This case is particularly important to Kambui, who was diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia at age 19 when she was in the U.S. Air Force. The fatal malady is usually treated with morphine and many patients die from a morphine overdose. Kambui uses marijuana, cooked into teas, tinctures and foods.

“This kind of shows you how ass-backwards all this is,” says Elford [Kambui’s attorney]. “In the name of the drug war, they’re trying to require someone to take much more serious narcotics than relatively harmless marijuana. And in this case, not just much more serious narcotics in terms of toxicity and addictiveness, but in this case, narcotics that are actually extremely harmful to the person prescribed them.”

Senselessbrenner proposes horrible new sentencing bill

Via TalkLeft comes word of another horrible bill with an exploitive and deceptive name: Defending America’s Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2004 sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Jim Sensenbrenner (R-5th district, WI). So far he’s the sole sponsor, but he has a lot of power, and it’s going […]

Government: Some drugs are OK

Jeanne Lenzer with the British Medical Journal (with follow-ups by World Net Daily) has a strong report: Bush plans to screen whole US population for mental illness.
The sweeping mental health initiative that President Bush will unveil in July is part of the government’s New Freedom Initiative, which has some very laudable goals regarding integrating mentally ill patients into the community.
However, the plan includes a major effort to find mental illnesses that go undiagnosed by using the schools to screen the 52 million students and the 6 million adults who work there. The effort will link the screening with “state of the art treatments” using “specific medications for specific conditions” and specifically using the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) as a model.

But the Texas project, which promotes the use of newer, more expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, sparked off controversy when Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General, revealed that key officials with influence over the medication plan in his state received money and perks from drug companies with a stake in the medication algorithm (15 May, p1153). He was sacked this week for speaking to the BMJ and the New York Times.

The Texas project started in 1995 as an alliance of individuals from the pharmaceutical industry, the University of Texas, and the mental health and corrections systems of Texas. The project was funded by a Robert Wood Johnson grantand by several drug companies.

Mr Jones told the BMJ that the same “political/pharmaceutical alliance” that generated the Texas project was behind the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission, which, according to his whistleblower report, were “poised to consolidate the TMAP effort into a comprehensive national policy to treat mental illness with expensive, patented medications of questionable benefit and deadly side effects, and to force private insurers to pick up more of the tab” (

One of the drugs that would be pushed would be Olanzapine, Eli Lilly’s top-selling drug, which grossed over $4 billion last year.

Eli Lilly, manufacturer of olanzapine, has multiple ties to the Bush administration. George Bush Sr was a member of Lilly’s board of directors and Bush Jr appointed Lilly’s chief executive officer, Sidney Taurel, to a seat on the Homeland Security Council. Lilly made $1.6m in political contributions in 200082% of which went to Bush and the Republican Party.

Jones points out that the companies that helped to start up the Texas project have been, and still are, big contributors to the election funds of George W Bush. In addition, some members of the New Freedom Commission have served on advisory boards for these same companies, while others have direct ties to the Texas Medication Algorithm Project.

Bush was the governor of Texas during the development of the Texas project, and, during his 2000 presidential campaign, he boasted of his support for the project and the fact that the legislation he passed expanded Medicaid coverage of psychotropic drugs.

Bush is the clear front runner when it comes to drug company contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), manufacturers of drugs and health products have contributed $764,274 to the 2004 Bush campaign through their political action committees and employeesfar outstripping the $149,400 given to his chief rival, John Kerry, by 26 April.

Drug companies have fared exceedingly well under the Bush administration, according to the centre’s spokesperson, Steven Weiss.

Identifying mental illness earlier is a good idea. However, if the drug companies are running the show, then what will be the standard for the use of dangerous and expensive medication?
And what message are we sending to our children (to use the prohibitionists’ phrase) if we’re sending armed federal agents to harrass and arrest sick people using medical marijuana, and spending billions to arrest those who traffic in pot, while working with other drug traffickers to pump prozac and olanzapine into children whose behavior is slightly off “normal”?

Judge defies sentencing rules

Via TalkLeft comes this AP report:

n a scathing criticism of the system used to punish federal crimes, a judge on Monday called the government’s sentencing guidelines unconstitutional, saying they unfairly limit the authority of judges. In a series of drug cases, U.S. District Judge William Young said the guidelines put too much power in […]

Australian Government should be ashamed

See Last One Speaks for this travesty:

In yet another example of forfeiture run amok, 81 year old David Davies, a WWII vet and his wife Florence had their life’s worth of assets seized because their son was storing 19 kilos of cannabis in the ceiling. In an blatantly apparent miscarriage of justice, the couple […]