PROVO -- City mayors and a county commissioner were recently warned of the
impacts the cities and county may have if recreational marijuana was
ever made legal in Utah.
On Thursday night at a meeting of the Utah County Council of
Governments, a monthly meeting of county and city leaders, the
county's Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment made
a brief presentation informing the leaders of what has happened in
cities and states that have already moved forward with legalizing pot.
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Let it be clear at the outset: I am definitely not an advocate for
recreational psychoactive drugs! But I've never been enamored with
staying uninformed on the issue either. So with that caveat, and with
two countries now experimenting a little with legalization of such
drugs, let's summarize a bit.
It should be well-known that the states of Colorado and Washington
have recently legalized certain broad uses of recreational marijuana
and are still working out the fine details of how to control the use
thereof. Uruguay has thrown the doors wide open for marijuana. And New
Zealand has now formalized legislation for all new psychoactive drugs,
while still banning the ones that have heretofore been internationally
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A jury Friday found a Utah man guilty of child abuse homicide in the
death of a teenage baby sitter who prosecutors say died after the man
gave her a lethal dose of drugs during a night of drugs and sex that
also included the man's wife.
The eight jurors reached their verdict about two hours after they were
given the case. Eric Millerberg, 38, was also found guilty of unlawful
sexual contact with a minor, obstruction of justice and desecration of
a dead body in the 2011 death of Alexis Rasmussen, 16.
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Twenty or so years ago I had a student who spent her summers as a
Forest Service trail crew chief in northern California.
Knowing her area to be a hotbed of illegal marijuana growing, I asked
what she and her crew did when they encountered a patch of "weed."
"Our orders are clear," said she. "We immediately turn around and
leave, before we catch a [rifle] slug." Serious stuff, this mobile
Since that time, fans of marijuana have claimed that it is useful for
treating all sorts of medical conditions, including migraines,
arthritis, cancer, glaucoma and many conditions of hard-to-treat pain.
But federal law was and still is -- clear: Marijuana is classed as a
Schedule I substance, meaning that it has no accepted medical use but
possesses a high potential for abuse due to its psychoactive properties.
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Legal and Undetected
Smoking marijuana may not destroy your life like a heroin addiction or
damage your body like cocaine.
It does, however, destroy trust and damage relationships; no parent
wants to be lied to, to lay awake at night wondering what's going on
with their children or to explain to a 5-year-old girl why her brother
isn't around much anymore and doesn't seem to like his family very
Now, a new substance that mimics the effects of marijuana is sold
legally as an incense. It could be causing the same worries - except
most parents have no idea that the marijuana substitute even exists.
They don't know what signs to watch for. They don't recognize the
smell. It's sold by legitimate businesses and does not show up in drug
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Some recent local news stories are reminders that drug use remains a
problem simmering under the placid surface of life in Utah Valley.
* A Provo man was accused of having methamphetamine and marijuana at
a day care facility, according to court records. At the Provo home,
police found several bags believed to contain meth, a glass pipe used
to ingest it and water bongs used to smoke marijuana. The suspect
reportedly told officers he had smoked meth in the home when
children could have been around.
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t's no secret that crime rates have increased over the years in Utah
County, and with that in mind, few Happy Valley residents would be
surprised to learn that felony prosecutions are on the rise as well.
But since the turn of the century, the Utah County Attorney's Office
has been busier than most people would probably guess, and the numbers
have left a lot of people scratching their heads.
Utah County's population has risen steadily since 2000, and crime
rates have risen along with it. But the number of felony cases filed
by the county attorney's office has left other statistics in the dust,
rising at twice the rate of the county's rapidly growing population.
Felonies include serious crimes such as burglary, robbery, murder and
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Poppies were the first thing that British army Capt. Leo Docherty
noticed when he arrived in Afghanistan's turbulent Helmand province
in April 2006. "They were growing right outside the gate of our
Forward Operating Base," he told me. Within two weeks of his
deployment to the remote town of Sangin, he realized that "poppy is
the economic mainstay and everyone is involved right up to the higher
echelons of the local government."
The rumor was "that we were there to eradicate the poppy," he said.
"The Taliban aren't stupid and so they said, 'These guys are here to
destroy your livelihood, so let's take up arms against them.' And
it's been a downward spiral since then."
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The Supreme Court recently considered a 2002 Alaska case involving the
question of limits on the free speech rights of public school
students. In a 5-4 vote it said that school principals could punish
students for making statements that could be "reasonably" construed as
advocating illegal drug use.
At the center of the case was a banner spread in public view at the
Olympic Torch Relay as runners headed for Salt Lake City. In big
letters the banner proclaimed "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS."
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The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation warned that our children
don't fully appreciate or respect the rights protected by the First
The foundation released a national study in 2006 that showed nearly
half the students surveyed believed that the First Amendment went too
far in the rights it guarantees, and 46 percent believed that
newspapers should not publish stories without government approval.
The report blamed educators for not doing a better job of teaching
students how essential free expression is to our system of government.
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Prescription overdose deaths are now second only to motor-vehicle
crashes as a cause of death from unintentional injury. Television is
filled with pro-drug messages paid for by alcohol and pharmaceutical
companies. The Bush administration doesn't have a problem with
corporate drug pushers. But hoist a "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner at an
off-campus high school rally in Alaska, and you'll be fought all the
way to the Supreme Court.
It's not clear how this nonsensical phrase somehow merits limiting
free speech. Culture warriors in the White House seem to think the war
on pot is more important than the Constitution. Unfortunately, it
doesn't stop there: By raiding medical marijuana providers in
California, the very same Bush administration that claims illicit drug
use funds terrorism is forcing cancer and AIDS patients into the hands
of street dealers. Apparently, marijuana prohibition is more important
than protecting the country from terrorism, too.
Suppose that all types of recreational drugs were re-legalized and the
drug were legally sold in local licensed business establishments for
pennies per dose.
Would this solve your drug problems? No.
It would however, greatly reduce your violent and property crime. Many
judges and prison wardens have said that 70 to 80 percent of all
property crime and violent crime is drug-related. Actually, almost 100
percent of all so-called "drug-related crime" is caused by drug
prohibition policies, not drugs.
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How far can a school go in regulating what students say, even off
That's the question the Supreme Court is wrestling with in the case of
Morse v. Frederick, also known as the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case.
The case dates back to 2002, when the Olympic Flame was making its way
to Salt Lake City. When the torch run passed through Juneau, Alaska,
students from Juneau-Douglas High School were given a break from class
to watch. Joseph Frederick, then a senior, was across the street from
the school holding up a sign that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" (whatever
that means) as the torch passed.
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She's the woman you see at the mall, with her 13-year-old tagging behind her.
Getting into her sedan at the end of the trip, new pink sweater in
the Macy's bag, her cell phone rings.
But sometimes when Mechelle Leifson's phone rings, the mother of four
recovering drug addicts' heart jumps.
There have been too many late night phone calls in the past six years
for her stomach to not still drop, for her to not worry about her boys.
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HONOLULU -- Federal officials want the state to conduct background
checks on those certified to supply medical marijuana to patients,
saying the state must close loopholes being exploited by drug dealers.
Ed Kubo, chief federal prosecutor for Hawaii, said the December
indictment of Richard Velasco, a 49-year-old accused drug dealer from
the Big Island, is an example of why the state needs to strengthen
oversight of its medical marijuana program.
Velasco was awarded a medical marijuana caregiver certificate in
December 2004, just months after Hawaii County police officers
discovered 246 marijuana plants growing on his property. He was
arrested for drug trafficking.
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NEW YORK -- Oklahoma, Mississippi and the mountain states have set
the pace in increasing the imprisonment of women, while several
northeastern states are curtailing the practice, according to a new
report detailing sharp regional differences in the handling of female
The report, to be released Sunday by the New York-based Women's
Prison Association, is touted as the most comprehensive
state-by-state breakdown of the huge increase in incarceration of
women over the past 30 years.
Overall, the number of female state inmates serving sentences of more
than a year grew by 757 percent between 1977 and 2004, nearly twice
the 388 percent increase for men, the report said.
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BOSTON -- A study of the effects of peyote on American Indians found
no evidence that the hallucinogenic cactus caused brain damage or
psychological problems among people who used it frequently in
In fact, researchers from Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital found
that members of the Native American Church performed better on some
psychological tests than other Navajos who did not regularly use peyote.
A 1994 federal law allows roughly 300,000 members of the Native
American Church to use peyote as a religious sacrament. The five-year
study set out to find scientific proof for the Navajos' belief that
the substance, which contains the hallucinogen mescaline, is not
hazardous to their health even when used frequently.
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Firsthand accounts conflict so starkly that one might wonder whether law
enforcement busted two separate events last weekend in Spanish Fork Canyon.
Yet the Diamond Fork-area location is among few details confirmed by both
the roughly 300 partygoers and about 90 law enforcement personnel who
dispelled them at 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
Uprock Records of Salt Lake City promoted the event as an "album-release
party" on fliers and Internet sites like www.utrave.org. In addition to
live performances by DJ Craze of Miami and Spor from the United Kingdom,
the party featured typical highlights like a laser light show, barbecue,
oxygen bar and glow sticks.
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Local medicine man James Warren "Flaming Eagle" Mooney was out walking his
dog Thursday morning when agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration approached him with an arrest warrant.
James Mooney and his wife, Linda, were arrested near their Spanish Fork
home on 16 combined drug charges involving possession and distribution of
peyote. Each of the charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Nicholas Stark, an Ogden man with ties to Oklevueha EarthWalks Native
America Church, which the Mooneys founded in 1997, was also named in the
federal indictment. In the indictment, which was filed June 15 but sealed
until Thursday morning, Stark was charged for distribution and possession
of peyote and for possession of coca leaves.
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James and Linda Mooney, the Spanish Fork couple arrested on a combined 16
federal felony drug charges for using peyote in religious ceremonies,
pleaded not guilty to all of the charges Friday in Salt Lake City.
Federal prosecutors told U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Alba that the Mooneys
should be held without bail until the case is resolved. Citing the
complexity of the case and the need for more information before deciding if
the Mooneys should be held without bail, Alba set a detention hearing for
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