The United Nations declared coca leaves an illegal substance in 1961, but Pope Francis told the government of Bolvia to break out the leaves when he arrives for a visit later this month - he plans to chew them. Coca leaves, which are the raw ingredient of cocaine, are legal in Bolivia for religious and medicinal purposes. It has mild stimulant qualities.
Bolivian Culture Minister Marko Machicao says visiting dignitaries are usually offered coca tea, but when he contacted the Vatican to discuss the tradition, the pontiff had "specifically requested" to chew coca leaves.
"We will be awaiting the Holy Father with the sacred coca leaf," Mr Machicao said.
Image: Shutterstock/Jess Kraft: "Coca leaves and cigarettes for sale in Potosi, Bolivia" and Shutterstock: "Pope Francis" Read the rest
Indonesia has some of the most draconian drugs laws in the world. Smugglers and dealers face execution. (Earlier this year Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were put to death by firing squad for attempting to smuggle heroin into Australia). Magic mushrooms are also illegal in Indonesia. Possession could result in a minimum four-year and maximum 12-year prison term. And yet dealers sell them on the streets of Bali without much fear of the cops. David Allegretti of Vice interviewed some Balinese shroom dealers to learn the story.
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Are you selling the same stuff as all the other dealers on the strip?
Mushrooms yes, because most of us get it from the same guy. But cannabis no, the other guys don't want to sell the cannabis or any other drugs, they're too dangerous.
So why do you sell them?
Because they're only dangerous if you sell or if you take them through the airport, but you're just a tourist and you won't have a lot. If the police stop you they'll just want a little money, maybe around 500,000 rupiah [approximately $40 USD]. They won't take you to the jail—too much work for them. They are lazy brother.
So you're saying the police are corrupt?
Corruption is a dirty word. It's more that they don't waste time on small problems. Police are men, and every man is different. Maybe you can get one in a bad mood and he can cause problems, and that's why it's better to stay in your hotel and smoke.
Michele Leonhart, who has reigned over an out-of-control Drug Enforcement Administration since 2007, is expected to resign as administrator soon.
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Pinch me! I must be dreaming. Illustrated by Michael Arnold
Crappy drug detecting kits used by police yield too many false positives. They result in wrongful arrest and imprisonment of innocent people.
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Sage has been mistaken for marijuana; motor oil for heroin; jolly ranchers for meth; and breath mints for crack. In February, a Minnesota man spent months in jail after his vitamin powder tested positive for amphetamines. Soon after the arrest in Tampa, a Hillsborough police lieutenant conducted his own experiment on the NARK II tests, which cost between $15 and $20 for a box of ten. He found that just opening the test bag to the air produced the same shade of purple as exposure to methamphetamine, according to an internal memo. In February, the Hillsborough sheriff’s department announced it had switched to a different field test, made by the same company, which tests for a wider variety of illegal drugs. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department declined interview requests.
63% of Millennial age Republicans support legal weed, according to the latest PewResearch poll. 58% favor same-sex marriage, too. Most of the older members of their party are in disagreement.
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The lizard people who control the U.S. Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Michael Botticelli to be the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (aka drug czar). Unlike the zero-tolerance drug warriors who preceded him, Botticelli has a background in public health, and is a proponent of medication-assisted treatment.
In the three years that he has played a leadership role in the drug czar’s office, Botticelli has demonstrated his commitment to advancing more science-based and compassionate drug policies. In public remarks, Botticelli has emphasized the need to expand treatment to people who need it, reduce stigma associated with drug use, and reduce collateral consequences following a conviction.
Advocates have praised Botticelli for supporting improved access to naloxone – a drug that rapidly reverses opiate overdoses - and promoting “Good Samaritan” laws that provide protection from drug possession charges when an overdose witness seeks medical attention.
Advocates also have praised Botticelli for leading an effort by the Obama administration to promote medication-assisted treatment. Last week, Botticelli announced a new policy barring federal funding for drug courts that do not allow participation in medication-assisted treatment programs.
New Drug Czar is Better Than Predecessors Read the rest
Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, learns about drunk elephants, the stoned water buffalo, and the grieving mongoose.
Screechy plastic replicant lady Nancy Grace gets a lesson from 2 Chainz about the dangers of weed prohibition.
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In December, Obama signed a bill containing a provision that prevents the federal government from interfering with states' medical marijuana activities. Yet, two weeks later, Obama’s Department of Justice filed "a strenuous defense of the drug’s Schedule I classification — the same category reserved for heroin."
This isn’t an abstract issue relevant only to constitutional obsessives. It’s a basic principle of ordered liberty that arises from even deeper foundations than our founding document. When the laws are in such discord and conflict as our drug laws are now, the enforcement of the law becomes of necessity an exercise in executive whim—compounding the capriciousness of arbitrary, selective application that Obama has made so conspicuous in his approach to governance.
At a time when the legitimacy and uniformity of government coercion has come into deep question among urban blacks in addition to suburban whites, the president needs to realize that in dithering on marijuana law he is playing with fire. His haphazard and contradictory mismanagement of America’s shift toward pot reform lends dangerous credence to the growing sense that our government no longer cares to guarantee our equal protection under the law.
Daily Beast: Obama’s Pot Policy Is Refer Madness
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The federal spending measure passed this weekend, and one of the provisions in it "effectively ends the federal government's prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy," reports the LA Times. The provision forbids federal drug agents from raiding retail operations.
I asked Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, if this was as big of a deal as it seems to be. He said, “It’s an historic vote in the annals of marijuana law reform. The disconnect between Congress and the vast majority of Americans regarding federal interference with state medical marijuana laws at last is over.”
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Carrying on the sleazy tradition of professional liar Harry J. Anslinger (first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics), weed prohibitionists are stretching the truth and outright fibbing in a desperate attempt to reverse the nationwide trend towards legalization.
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Science News: "Death rates from overdoses on prescription painkillers or heroin and other illicit drugs appear to be an average of 24.8 percent lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without the laws." Read the rest
Bob Tyrrell, founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator (the stupid person's idea of a smart magazine) enjoys scotch, which is sufficient reason to lock up everyone who doesn't share his taste in recreational drugs.
Both drinking and pot smoking are "coping mechanisms," he concedes, but alcohol is clearly more "civilized" because people can enjoy the taste, drink while reading or conversing, and imbibe without getting "blitzed." All this is either impossible or quite rare among cannabis consumers, Tyrrell asserts with the confidence of someone who has no idea what he's talking about.
Jacob Sullum: Because Bob Tyrrell Prefers Scotch, Marijuana Should Be Banned Read the rest
Shannon Renee McNeal (right), a 42-year-old woman, has filed a lawsuit against St Louis police and court personnel after they falsely arrested her on felony drug possession charges that were meant for Shannon Raquel McNeal (left), who was 13 years younger. The booking officer at the jail acknowledged that Shannon Renee McNeal's fingerprints didn't match the wanted woman's (who, incidentally, had been dead for three months before the warrant was approved) but jailed her anyway, using the "not my problem" excuse.
A county clerk also allegedly confirmed the officer’s mistake, but Shannon Renee McNeal was still transferred to the city’s department of corrections and assigned a caseworker. After the caseworker also confirmed she was not the suspect, McNeal was allegedly told to retain her own attorney -- which she could not afford -- or notify prosecutors herself.
The suit states that McNeal was kept in jail for two days despite the multiple confirmations of her innocence, during which time she was sprayed with pesticides that burned her stomach and back, before being released on the orders of Circuit Judge Thomas Frawley.
McNeal was fired from her job from the mistake and has to pay to get her named expunged from public databases that falsely claim she has a criminal record.
Insane case of mistaken identity: Woman arrested, told she’s actually dead, jailed anyway
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A vast majority of Floridians, including Republicans, are in favor of medical marijuana. That means Florida's Amendment 2 ballot initiative, which legalizes medical marijuana, is likely to pass in November.
This is alarming to the neo-Anslinger crowd, which has formed an anti-marijuana group called Drug Free Florida, with the single goal of defeating the amendment. It's headed up by 73-year-old Carlton E Turner, who served as Ronald Reagan's drug czar and coined the slogan "Just Say No." Turner was an instrumental figure in the escalation of the War on Drugs, which sent millions of non-violent people to prison around the world, provided funding for terrorist groups, created widespread government corruption, incubated ruthless drug cartels, and led to the establishment of violent militarized police.
In 1986, when Turner was a big swinging dick in Washington, he stated in a Newsweek magazine article that he had visited drug treatment centers and learned that 40% of the patients had engaged in homosexual activity, concluding that their homosexuality “seems to be something that follows along from their marijuana use ... my concern is, how is the biological system affected by heavy marijuana use? The public needs to be thinking about how drugs alter people’s lifestyles.”
Drug Free Florida is Turner's last chance to inflict large-scale massive pain and suffering.
Aiding Turner is gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson who, thanks to the millions of people who've blown their paychecks at his casinos, is one of the richest men in the world. Adelson contributed $2.5 million to the organization. Read the rest