Pubdate: Fri, 02 Jan 2004
Source: Austin Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Austin Chronicle Corp.
Note: Only eight of the "Top Ten" were in the article posted on the 
webpage.  The article is printed in entirety as found on webpagel


1) Ashcroft Busts Chong: In February, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft 
gleefully announced that his drug warriors busted 50 individuals, including 
pot-comedy icon Tommy Chong, as part of a Justice Department-led undercover 
drug paraphernalia trafficking operation code-named Operation Pipe Dreams. 
It seems that although Chong's Internet-based hand-blown-glass bong company 
had refused several previous attempts by Ashcroft's crusaders to have a 
bong shipped to paraphernalia-intolerant Pennsylvania, someone at company 
HQ inadvertently shipped an autographed bong to an assistant U.S. attorney. 
Chong was sentenced to nine months in federal prison.

2) RAVE On: In April, federal lawmakers finally passed the so-called 
Reducing Americans Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act -- but not until they'd 
changed its name to the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act and hidden it 
inside a fuzzy-bunny catchall bill that provided money for things like a 
national Amber Alert system. The act enhances the so-called "crack house" 
statutes and makes any venue owner responsible for any drug activity by any 
person on the property, providing for both civil and criminal penalties.

3) Please Eat the Hemp: The Drug Enforcement Administration's attempt to 
ban all food products containing hemp seed or hemp oil suffered a major 
setback. The DEA attempted to ban such foods because they contain trace 
amounts of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and theoretically 
should be illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. It doesn't appear 
that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will buy that 
argument -- especially since the DEA has not sought similar enforcement of 
items containing poppy seeds, which have a much higher opiate concentration.

4) Decriminalization Touchdown: State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, filed 
the Lege's one and only drug decriminalization bill this year with HB 715, 
which would've decriminalized possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana. The 
bill didn't go anywhere, but Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, did put it up for 
committee testimony. We'd hate to think that had anything to do with the 
fact that the head of Texas' chapter of NORML, ex-Dallas Cowboy Mark 
Stepnoski, was there to testify in favor of the bill.

5) Free at Last: After three years in jail -- and at least two years of 
really bad national press attention -- state officials finally figured out 
a way to free most of the remaining (and innocent) Tulia drug bust defendants.

6) Paul Likes States Rights: This spring, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, 
signed on to the bipartisan States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act, which 
would reschedule marijuana to allow for legal use of the drug by seriously 
ill patients. While the bill has been filed before, and has yet to make it 
to committee, the measure continues to attract more supporters of both parties.

7) Medical Marijuana Wins: In December, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. 
Circuit Court of Appeals sided with two seriously ill California medical 
marijuana patients, agreeing that the federal government likely violated 
the Constitution in attempting to seize their marijuana under the 
Controlled Substances Act. Since the two grow their own pot for personal 
medical use, they claimed the feds had no right to impose the CSA's provisions.

8) Hatch Terrorizes Good Sense: This fall, ABC News snagged a draft bill 
authored by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, which seeks to define the crime of 
"narcoterrorism" and offers prosecutors the ability to prosecute any and 
all drug-related crimes as terrorist acts. We don't know what Hatch has 
been smoking, but we sure don't want any.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman