Pubdate: Fri, 09 Sep 2011
Source: Austin Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2011 Austin Chronicle Corp.
Author: Jordan Smith


This week we've got lots of news from the feds (none of it particularly
good), new drug laws on the books in Texas, and the connection between
Facebook and crack.

Lets get to it. 


Among the hundreds of new Texas laws that went into effect Sept. 1 are
the state's new drug crackdowns. Specifically, the ban of both not-pot
- - the synthetic marijuana mimicker known as "K2" or "Spice" - and the
powdery stimulant known as a "bath salts." Possession - or manufacture
or sale - of either can now net you a hefty prison term: Indeed,
possession of less than a gram can earn up to two years in a state
jail; possession of up to four grams can turn up to 10 years in the
pen; possession of between four and 400 grams can get you up to 20
years; more than 400 grams can net you life in the clink.

Just when you thought that Texas - what with it's hideous budget
problems and all - might be getting smarter on drugs (or, as too many
lawmakers see it, crime), it hasn't.


Or, more to the point, if the feds arrest or kill a drug trafficker,
does that have any effect on the amount of drugs coming across the

In a word, no. So says the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office
of Intelligence and Operations Coordination, in a intelligence memo
emailed to Reefer by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. According to
the memo, the "removal of key [cartel] personnel does not have a
discernable impact on drug flows as determined by seizure rates."

Meanwhile, in another new report, August's National Drug Threat
Assessment 2011 from the Dept. of Justice's National Drug Intelligence
Center, reveals that drug use is actually increasing and, notably,
that Mexican cartels are actually strengthening their foothold in the

Hmmm.... Lets see if we understand this right: Removing cartel members
doesn't have any effect on the flow of drugs into the country - and it
appears they're actually strengthening their grip - and the number of
drug users is on the rise. But still, we keep throwing millions - err,
billions, really - at interdiction and prohibition efforts. Well,
hell, that makes sense, right? Especially with that pesky deficit and
crappy economy. Carry on! (Read the new threat assessment, here.)

This makes no sense, says LEAP's Terry Nelson, who is a retired CBP
agent. "As someone who fought on the front lines of the failed 'war on
drugs' for decades it is really no surprise to me that our prohibition
policy isn't helping to achieve any reduction in drug trafficking," he
said in an emailed release. "We should have learned this lesson
decades ago with alcohol prohibition, but let's hope that the data in
this new government report helps more members of Congress and Obama
administration officials to realize that their 'drug war' strategy is
an abysmal failure and that it's time for a new direction."

We can always hope.


More than four years after Drug Enforcement Administration
Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner recommended that it would
be in the public interest to allow U-Mass-Amherst professor Lyle
Craker a license to grow a pot crop for use in regulated research, the
agency's administrator, Michele Leonhart has, once and for all,
rejected that finding, ending Craker's quest to increase and speed up
research into the medicinal uses of marijuana.

Craker initially applied to grow the crop - for research that might
end in the FDA approving medi-pot - in 2001. After three long years of
stalling the DEA concluded in 2004 that the request should be denied.
That prompted Craker, backed by the Multidisciplinary Association for
Psychedelic Studies (a research group that seeks to develop
government-approved uses drugs including LSD, MDMA, and pot), appealed
the denial. That led to a hearing before Bittner and, ultimately, in
2007, her conclusion that Craker's petition should be granted.

That didn't exactly sit well with the DEA, and Leonhart rejected her
judge's ruling. That led to yet a round of objections, filed by
Craker's attorneys - ever the optimist, Craker told Reefer in 2009
that the "struggle is still in its beginning stages" - and to
Leonhart's final decision on the matter, delivered Aug. 15, shutting
down the Craker request.

In part, Leonhart says that concerns about "diversion" have prompted
her to sit with her original conclusion. Given the great job the DEA
and others are doing keeping drugs off the streets, the concern about
diversion, from a controlled lab doing research is, frankly,
laughable. Still, the conclusion is not surprising. You can read the
whole sad Leonhart letter ruling, here.

Craker's only option now is to appeal the decision to the 1st U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals.

Read more about MAPS here.


We all know that FB is a bit like crack, right? Addictive and
time-consuming with little to show for all that time invested. According
to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia
University, teens who spend time on FB and other networking sites are
actually more likely to drink or use drugs than are teens who don't
spend any time on these sites. (Wait: there are kids that don't spend
time online? What?)

That's right, this year CASA's annual back-to-school survey of teens
and their parents regarding attitudes about drug use reveals that
teens who spend time on social networking sites are five times more
likely to use tobacco, three times as likely to drink and twice as
likely to smoke pot as their non networking peers.

In fact, the world wide interwebs, and "suggestive" teen programming -
like the gawd awful Jersey Shore and its ilk - are a cause of great
concern to those at CASA: "This year's survey reveals how the anything
goes, free-for-all world of Internet expression, suggestive television
programming and what-the-hell attitudes put teens at sharply increased
risk of substance abuse," reads the report. (Among some of the more
odd findings: 14% of teens who "spend no time on social networking
sites" say they've seen pictures of kids drunk, passed out or using
drugs "on these sites.")

Dramatic? Yes. Over dramatic? Quite possibly. Still, the survey, as
always, is an interesting read. You can check it out here.


As Reefer readers know, Texas has pretty horrid protections against
asset forfeiture. But we're not alone. According to a recent piece in
the Wall Street Journal (the summary is here), there are now nearly
400 federal laws governing asset forfeiture - the government's ability
to seize cash and goods from folks involved in a crime, or even those
it alleges might be involved even if those individuals have no
involvement in criminal enterprise whatsoever. In other words, take
now, ask questions later. Last year, the daily reports, the feds' take
reached more than $2.5 billion.

That's long been a concern in Texas, where protections against asset
forfeiture are definitely lacking. Last year, the Institute for
Justice gave the state a big fat grade of D- for its handling of asset
forfeiture, which they say gives law enforcers a motive to "police for

According to the WSJ, that's certainly the case, exacerbated in part
by the fact that federal law allows the government to share its
sometimes ill-gotten gains with local "cooperating" state and local
agencies; in 2010 alone, the feds paid over more than $500 million to
local agencies, a 75% increase over a decade ago.

The problem - or at least one of them - is that the lack of oversight
over asset forfeiture can lead to things getting out of control.
Consider the experience of drivers through Tenaha, Texas, who found
themselves stolen from by cops who'd pulled them over for alleged
traffic infractions - and it just so happens that a majority of those
unlucky drivers were minorities. Victims of the Tenaha Take have sued
city and county officials over the practice and late last month
federal District Judge T. John Ward certified the plaintiffs and their
suit as a class action. You can read the ruling, here.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.