News galore 

Reports from around the globe on the War on Drugs

Let me start with a small correction: Eapen Thampy, executive director of Americans for Forfeiture Reform in Kansas City, is not an attorney, and I meant no offense when I misidentified him as a barrister in my last column.

Now, on to the news.

Joe Cain of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, another valuable informant for this column, has sent an alert detailing the several bills scheduled for votes in the Michigan Legislature this fall and says, "All of them are civil rights violations that in fact enforce the concept [that] if you are a medical marijuana patient, you are a criminal and must be monitored closely."

The Senate bills are SB 0377, to make medical marihuana patients' registry information available to law enforcement officers upon issuance of a medical marihuana card; SB 0504, prohibiting the dispensing of medical marihuana within 1,000 feet of a church or school; SB 0505, to establish qualification for designation as a primary medical marihuana caregiver; and SB 0506, to clarify what is a "bona fide physician-patient relationship" for purposes of enforcing the medical marihuana law.

In the state House of Representatives the pending bills are HB 4850, to restrict and limit defenses in legal cases arising from arrest for transfers of medical marihuana; HB 4851, the lower chamber's attempt to clarify the definition of "bona fide physician-patient relationship"; and HB 4852, to allow for local zoning ordinances to regulate the location of medical marihuana facilities.

"These bills are going to be voted on in September or October," Cain points out, "and there is lobbying money coming in from all over the U.S. to force medical marijuana patients into a dispensary model by stripping them of their protection to grow their own. Just from reading these bills, you would never guess we're in America."

It is some idiotic shit.

Speaking of idiocy, Holland continues its belated march along the trail blazed by the storm troops of the War on Drugs, refining its doomed efforts to ban non-Dutch nationals from entering, copping and getting high in the country's 750 coffeeshops. 

In a plan ironically being advanced by the Maastricht cannabis café owners association, the coffeeshops in the Dutch border town are prepared to ban all but Dutch, German and Belgian nationals from their premises in order to "reduce the nuisance caused by marijuana smokers" by a projected 500,000 coffeeshop customers a year — or 20 percent of the total. Some 70 percent of the city's cannabis consumers come from abroad. 

Visitors from Germany and Belgium would still be allowed in the cafés because the two countries border the Netherlands, the association explains, but the Maastricht city council — which has been trying to reduce "drugs tourism" for several years — rejects the plan because it can be considered discriminatory in that not all foreigners are being banned.

My informants assure me that the Dutch government will never succeed in banning tourists from the coffeeshops, but the futility of its cause seems to act as no deterrent in its effort to turn back the hands of time.

Across the English Channel from Amsterdam, the Liberal Democratic Party, half of the right-wing coalition government that rules Britannia at present, is expected to call at the party convention later this month for the creation of a regulated marijuana marketplace and the appointment of an independent panel of experts to study the question of decriminalizing all illegal drugs in Britain. 

One of our most reliable informants, Philip S. Smith of the Drug War Chronicle, reports that the move was confirmed when aides to party chairman Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, told the Daily Mail they anticipated that party members would approve the motion and adopt it as official policy. They pointed out that Tory Prime Minister David Cameron had advocated drug legalization at an earlier point in his political career and "can be persuaded to allow an open-minded inquiry into the controversial topic."

The Liberal Democratic Party motion introduces some serious language into the debate on legalization of drugs: "There is increasing evidence," the motion states, "that the UK's drugs policy is not only ineffective and not cost effective, but actually harmful, impacting particularly severely on the poor and marginalized."

"The motion also calls for the inquiry to review the impact of the Misuse of Drugs Act," Smith adds, "and whether the government [should] seriously consider heroin maintenance programs. It cites the success of the Portuguese decriminalization model as well as the call for reform from the Global Commission on Drug Policy and the findings of Britain's own Advisory Commission on the Misuse of Drugs, which called for the decriminalization of drug possession during the national review of drug strategy last year."

"Even if the motion is passed," Smith concludes, "it is unlikely to become law.... But passage of the motion would mean that one of Britain's major political parties is now lining up behind serious drug reform efforts."

Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., Kristen Gwynne reports in AlterNet that a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll reveals that about 55 percent of Americans "consider the War on Drugs a failure and support the legalization of marijuana, though the majority does not support the legalization of other drugs like cocaine or heroin."

Further, Gwynne says, "in a move towards removing the stigma of drug users and addicts, 64 percent of respondents believe our country has a serious drug problem that affects the [entire] United States, and only 20 percent consider drugs a problem that affects only certain people or areas. 

"Only 5 percent of respondents said America does not have a drug problem, and 67 percent call the War on Drugs a failure, [while] only 9 percent of respondents consider the war on drugs a success."

Pollster Angus Reid concludes: "The survey shows a country that is concerned about the effects of drugs, and at the same time deeply disappointed with the efforts of the U.S. government to deal with the drug trade."

There's no indication as yet that the present administration has its finger out in this particular wind of change, and the casualties of the inhuman War on Drugs continue to mount, federally and locally. This gruesome story by Adriane Quinlan just came in from Allen St. Pierre at NORML:

"Her decision to smoke a marijuana cigarette outside a Manhattan bar where she was attending a bachelorette party landed Jaime Rutkowski in jail, threatened her life and led to a lawsuit that has now yielded $125,000 from the City of New York.

"Ms. Rutkowski, who has diabetes, said she was thrown to the ground and arrested on charges of possession of marijuana outside a club on the Lower East Side.

"Stress elevates her blood sugar levels and at the nearby police station house, the blood sugar meter she uses was confiscated. The police eventually called for an ambulance more than three hours after Ms. Rutkowski had been taken into custody. 

"Emergency medical technicians found that her sugar level was almost four times the normal level, dangerous enough to take her to Bellevue Hospital Center."

Ouch! As a diabetic myself, now I'm even happier than usual to be a medical marijuana patient in the State of Michigan.


—Amsterdam, August 10-11, 2011

More by John Sinclair

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