Indonesia executes 8 drug smugglers by firing squad

(CNN)Two Australians who’d been convicted of drug smuggling were executed Tuesday in Indonesia, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said at a press conference.

The Australians were among the eight drug smugglers put to death on Tuesday, the Reuters news agency has reported, citing local media. The prisoners faced a 12-man firing squad on Nusa Kambangan island in Central Java.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, appearing at a press conference, condemned the executions and said Australia would immediately withdraw its ambassador to Indonesia for consultations.

Abbott called the executions "cruel and unnecessary" because both men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, had been "fully rehabilitated" during a decade in prison.

Abbott didn’t say what permanent actions, if any, would be taken against Indonesia. "This is a dark moment in the relationship, but I’m sure the relationship will be restored," he said.

The Indonesian government had announced that nine prisoners would be executed, but according to local reports, Filipina Mary Jane Veloso was spared, at least for now.

    Lawyers fighting to delay the death of Veloso, a domestic helper and mother of two, have said they’ve given up their bid after her second legal review was rejected on Monday. This came despite a last-minute personal appeal from Philippines President Benigno Aquino to Indonesian counterpart President Joko Widodo.

    The Australians executed were part of the so-called Bali Nine.

    Chan married his longtime girlfriend Febyanti Herewila in prison on Monday.

    The executions of Sukumaran and Chan come despite the fact that both this week received a court date of May 12 to hear an outstanding legal challenge.

    Lawyers for the men also say Indonesia’s Judicial Commission has yet to properly investigate claims of corruption during their original trial and sentencing. They say three of the men’s Indonesian lawyers had been summoned to attend the commission on May 7.

    It’s a day their families and friends hoped would never come, but it’s also one that Indonesia, despite years of protest and legal appeals, has insisted had to happen.

     

    What you need to know about Indonesia drug executions

     

    Under Indonesian law, the death penalty is carried out by a 12-man firing squad, although only three guns are loaded with live ammunition.

    Prisoners are given the choice of whether to stand or sit, and whether they want to wear a blindfold, hood or nothing. The shots — aimed at the heart — are fired from between 5 and 10 meters (16 to 33 feet), according to Amnesty International.

    On Tuesday, the prisoners’ families were heard wailing as they boarded a boat for what’s expected to be their final goodbyes. Reporters at the port in Cilacap described harrowing scenes on Twitter.

    "Myu’s sister Brintha collapsed in screams. Helen Chan was supported by 2 women. Truly heartbreaking. #Bali9," wrote Nine News reporter Jayne Azzopardi.

    CONTINUE READING….

    THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SENTENCES VIETNAM VETERAN TO DEATH FOR USING MARIJUANA MEDICALLY

    https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net/hprofile-ak-xfa1/v/t1.0-1/c0.0.56.56/p56x56/429576_3302917330175_1625630525_n.jpg?oh=4ef142851e3e7a013602e8de4a502246&oe=55CBF242&__gda__=1436346351_445034453cec861adb55aad81ea0db28

     

    Written by:  Cindy Spencer

                              USMjParty Virginia

     

    July 27, 2013

     

    What ever happened to the land of the free?

    He was certainly one of the brave.

    There was no judge or jury. No trial. Just a death sentence. Handed down by Uncle Sam.

            Let’s go back a few years for a little history? My father was born in 1949. He was the youngest of three. He lost his mother very prematurely at the very early age of 12. Soon after his father remarried a very hateful and manipulative woman who had no use for her new husband’s dead wife’s baby boy. His older brother and sister were old enough to be out on their own. He was not. So he was shuffled around a bit between various relatives, meanwhile mourning the loss of his mother and now essentially his father. Add to that, the struggles of coping with having to learn to live without the affections of a mother for her baby boy, and the sting of being discarded by his father when he needed him the most, just to please this new “woman” for lack of a better word, who wanted absolutely nothing around to remind her husband of his first wife.

            Now let’s move on to June of 1967 when he began his enlistment into the United States Army. He went thru the training and arrived in Vietnam July 5 1969. My father never spoke much off his time in Vietnam, as doing so sent him back there, and as many Vietnam vets tell me, they’d do almost anything to keep from “going there”. From what I gather, he was, at least for part of the time, the man the carried the communication device in that kept them connected to base, in which air strikes were called in. because of this, I am quite sure he was definitely one that the enemy would try to “take out”. But really, weren’t they attempting to take them all out? Which they nearly did. He also spoke of the feeling of Agent Orange as it fell and landed on his skin. That their own government poisoned them with. He spent 1 year over there, and returned to the states June 19 1970. I think, it is despicable, no, criminal the way our soldiers were treated upon their return. I also firmly believe that was akin to a secondary wounding, except on friendly soil. I cannot imagine what my father and all those others must have felt after what they had gone thru in an attempt to survive while fighting for their country only to be called baby killers and be spat upon by the very people they were dying to protect. It makes me so angry.

          So, now we go to February 1971 when he weds my mother. He loved her with all the love he had to give. He was definitely wounded in the war, but because his injuries weren’t visible yet, he was not treated, much like many,  many others for PTSD. But he most definitely had it. He and my mother started their family with my birth in December of 1972. Then was my brother in March 1976. Then was my sister in January 1978.  And last but not least, was another brother in February 1980. So here he was with a wife and four kids. With no education other than combat training, he worked long hard hours setting up mobile homes for minimum wage. Which obviously didn’t go too far with a family of 6.  He and my mother struggled long and hard. It took a toll on their marriage, but they stuck it out, for now any way. But he had begun to self medicate with alcohol and marijuana that he was introduced to in Vietnam. This went on with all life’s ups and downs for many years until the kids were raised. It was quite violent at times because of the alcohol.

          After my baby brother graduated high school in 2000, he joined the United States Air Force. By now my dads drinking was daily. He was a very small man weighing in at 119 for most of his life. It didn’t take much and he would be pretty loaded. As long as he drank just beer he really wasn’t as bad. It was when the liquor entered the picture that all of his sense, reason, and self control left the building. This was a huge problem and almost broke our family up for good. Around 2002 my mother had taken all the abuse she could handle, and I mean emotional, and verbal. It only got completely physical once that I know of. And my mom was always slightly bigger than my dad, until recently that is, so she could hold her own, until he pulled the guns that is. I lived with them at this time, as my marriage had fallen apart, and I could not afford to remain on my own for many reasons. So my mom left him. Then it got real bad, he grew more and more depressed. He had been seeing a local backwoods dr. forever for whenever he got sick, and for his “nerves”. That dr. had him on some pretty powerful pills for over 20 years. 2mg of Ativan several times a day. I know he needed something, and they definitely helped him, but it wasn’t nearly enough. This entire time he used marijuana regularly. I truly believe it saved us all at times, not just his life.

                 He honestly never knew that he could go to the VA for his medical treatment the whole time. But in 2003, after essentially “running his wife off”, in his mind, and trying to work with all the flashbacks he suffered because he couldn’t medicate at work, in my opinion that is, he quit his job at a very small cabinet shop where he sprayed finish. A friend of his talked him into riding with him to an appointment at the VA. So while he was there he saw someone who talked him into checking in to get off alcohol. Unfortunately after he did, the stopped his Ativan cold turkey and he had 2 Grand Mal seizures that resulted in a fall and a fractured skull. He went thru an ordeal, but emerged a recovering alcoholic. He was also off the Ativan, and no other medicine of that nature ever took its place. He even stopped smoking marijuana. For a while. But after returning home, alone, except for me being there with him in the day. He knew he would be drinking in no time if he didn’t at least smoke. The dr. at the VA refused to give him any medicine that was controlled, as she had labeled him from the word go, as a drug seeker. Which was completely untrue. He was self medicated. It was his only choice.

            It took him and my mom some hard work, but they started over in a new place in 2007. He had finally gotten his pension money for a service connected disability that he had suffered for years. And he wanted to buy the woman he loved a nice home for them to start the next chapter in their lives. He never got drunk again. As it turned out he had awesome will power once he was treated for PTSD thru counseling, antidepressants, and mostly “medicinal use marijuana”.

             Not too long after they got in the new place, my dad was surveying the wood on his land on his 4 wheeler, and as he went over a large tree root, the 4 wheeler tilted some and he instinctively threw his leg out to catch himself, and “snap” broke his leg. My mom panicking, of course, got my brother to help, and called 911 to come get him. In all the commotion, it never occurred to anyone to remove a marijuana cigarette from his shirt pocket. After they rushed him to the hospital, and began assessing his injuries, and I’m a little foggy on how, but hospital staff observed the marijuana cigarette, and alerted the law. They came, and charged him with the possession of it. Well he was in the hospital a while, but after he got out, he went to court when his paper said to, and thru confusion, they didn’t have him on the docket or something to that affect, and after thorough checking, my parents went home. Here is where it gets interesting. After someone somewhere somehow really “effed” something up, and charged him with being a fugitive from justice. They never came to arrest him at home, which is where he was confined with a broken leg, instead they called him at home from the VA to tell him his money would stop because he was a fugitive. He asked them how on earth he was a fugitive when they called him at home to tell him this. Well he had to get an expensive lawyer to fight the erroneous charges, which he did when, but not before they stopped his money for several months until it was straightened out.

                So, even after all that, he still kept his appointments, trying now to be treated for the pain he was constantly experiencing as a result of the broken leg and subsequent placement of a steel bar. Well, of course that wasn’t going to happen, after all, he was already branded with “the scarlet label”. Only now, he was under the impression that if he continued to smoke, without admitting himself for another 28 day stay, he may again risk losing his income. That, in my opinion, should be criminal. So, fearing losing his money, again, he slacked of going to the VA. He was in a no win situation. His appointments became fewer and farther between. After all, he had tried to be as compliant as possible while maintaining some sort of tolerable balance between mood stabilizers, anti depressants, whatever ineffective pain med they may send, and his old faithful plant that grows from the ground that God himself put here for us to use.

        Now, here we are to 2012. He had been feeling down, and tired, and must have been in excruciating pain, but didn’t let on too much to us. He was spending more and more time in bed. We at first thought he was depressed, as he had been before. But when he didn’t respond as he normally did, we began to urge him to let us take him to the dr. he refused. He said they would just treat him like he was looking for drugs, and he was so tired of that. Couple more months passed by, and he made himself get up more, but I think it was so we would quit trying to get him to go to the dr.  Well on Friday, July 13, 2012 my mom called me upset saying she couldn’t get him to wake up good, and would I come over and help her make him go to the hospital. So we raced over, and got him up and dressed, and I asked him if I could call an ambulance. He said no. so my mom drove him, and my son and I followed.

              From this point things went really fast. So fast, that it is almost a blur. I want to say that it was around 7:30 pm when the dr. came in and asked my dad if he wanted the news with us in there or if he wanted his privacy. My dad said”just lay it on me”. She said “Mr. Spencer, you have cancer. It is esophageal cancer and has spread to your lungs, your liver, and your lymph nodes.” I’m sorry to say that I am unaware of what she said next, as I quickly turned to step out of his view so he wouldn’t have to see my face as I fell apart. I’ve always been daddy’s girl, and have been by his side for a lot of things. I could not face him for a while after that, as I didn’t want him to be anymore afraid than I knew he must already be. He had always feared cancer. Kind of like he somehow knew that would be what got him. The next few days were filled with sobs and drs. And swollen faces, and family members we hadn’t seen in years. This was really it. I begged them to explain why we couldn’t try to treat it, even though I knew.

          My father, James R. Spencer, who fought in the deadliest war in our history, died on July 18 2012 at 12:16 am. Just 4 and a half days after being diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic esophageal cancer. Think about that as I have had to. He battled unimaginable pain and sickness for god only knows how long without the benefit of modern medicine to at the very least ease some of his pain, and for what? He deserved to be treated like a human being. If for no other reason than he was. But he was a Vietnam War veteran with honorable discharge. Why was he treated like a drug seeker just for being sick with a disease he got BECAUSE he fought for this country?  I am so angry. I cannot for the life of me ever remember hearing of anyone who battled what had to have been years of terminal cancer without so much as the mildest pain pill. He did not deserve to suffer like that. All because of the fear that was instilled in him by the Veterans Administration that he would lose his ability to support his wife and put food on the table once he lost his income because he chose a god given flower to calm his troubled mind, and ease some of his suffering once it was evident that he would not receive adequate treatment from the VA for an illness that he did not bring on himself.

         This was senseless almost manslaughter. I may not be a lawyer, nor am I a dr. but I am a human being, and I am an American. I have just as much right to be heard as anyone else. This country is falling apart. Why won’t government open their eyes to see what they are doing to America’s people?  Can someone out there help me? It is now my life’s mission to spread my father’s story to anyone who will hear, and especially to those who wouldn’t. It is those that are single minded about the subject that have cost me and my children our father and grandfather. maybe someday we can change enough minds to make sure that this Vietnam veteran hero didn’t die in vain!! That thru his story, never again would something like this happen to any American!

           Thank you for your time,

            Cynthia Spencer Mitchell

         CONTINUE READING….

    Do You Know What’s on Your Weed?

    If You Care About Ingesting Weed Free of Harmful Pesticides, You Need to Know a Crucial Difference Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

    by Tobias Coughlin-Bogue

     

    Before looking into it, I naively assumed Washington State’s groundbreaking marijuana legalization law had given us a unique opportunity to do things "right," which meant, to my mind, a crop that’s not only legal but pesticide-free, organic, and eco-friendly. Maybe we’ve all already given up hope when it comes to fruit and vegetables grown by giant agribusinesses, but weed, given all the tree-hugging, organic-food-eating, GMO-avoiding hippies who love it, must be different. Right?

    Wrong. What I discovered was that legal weed is most certainly not pesticide-free, although to be fair, there are severe restrictions on the kinds of pesticides recreational marijuana growers are allowed to use. Pesticide use is so commonplace in agriculture that the question becomes one of degrees rather than absolutes. In a storybook version of reality, we would be smoking pesticide-free fatties with the Lorax and satisfying our munchies with unsprayed apples 100 percent of the time. But as glorious as that would be, that doesn’t reflect the economic or ecological reality of agriculture.

    When the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) was inventing rules for pesticide use on recreational marijuana plants, they turned to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) for some expert advice. The WSDA studied pesticides typically allowed on hops (a close cousin of cannabis), tobacco, and food products. The rules in place are a result of that work.

    The state appears to have done a good job at regulating a previously unregulated and unstudied area of agriculture—a plant the federal government still classifies as a Schedule I drug. All pesticides used on any crop in the state of Washington must be registered with the Department of Agriculture, and the list of approved pesticides is available via the Pesticide Information Center Online (PICOL), a database operated by Washington State University. There are, by my highly scientific estimate, a metric shit ton of allowed pesticides in our state. How many of those pesticides are recreational pot growers allowed to use on pot that ends up in your body? Two hundred and seventy-one.

    That number is not nearly as upsetting as it may sound, given a little context. At a recent meeting of state and local officials working with the recreational cannabis industry, one attendee voiced concern that 271 legally allowed pesticides seemed like a large number. In response, Erik Johanson, the WSDA’s special pesticide registration program coordinator, offered this sobering bit of information: "If we were talking apples, the number would be 1,000."

    When it comes to regulating recreational marijuana pesticides, the WSDA did what government agencies do best when faced with uncertainty: They played it safe. They chose to only allow pesticides that were exempt from any tolerance level requirements—thresholds established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that dictate the amounts at which pesticides become harmful when consumed, inhaled, or otherwise encountered. Being exempt from those requirements is the EPA’s way of saying a substance is so benign, they didn’t feel it necessary to study it further. Also, thanks to the popularity of edibles, the WSDA chose to consider the harvested buds as a food product—though they are not technically classified as such by the legislature—disqualifying a bunch of nasty stuff intended for use only on ornamental plants or otherwise inedible crops. This led to that relatively small list of 271 pesticides. It is primarily composed of the type of essential oils that might lead you to overpay for a bottle of shampoo.

    Many of the allowed pesticides with scary names aren’t even that scary: azadirachtin is an extract of neem oil, potassium laurate is just soap, and bacillus subtilis is a bacteria with antifungal and probiotic properties that occurs naturally in our gastrointestinal tract. None of them are listed on the Pesticide Action Network’s list of "bad actors." Is each and every one of the 271 legally allowed pesticides something you would feel comfortable gently misting over a field of adorable puppies? No. I found two somewhat troubling substances on the list: pyrethrins and their trusty sidekick piperonyl butoxide (PBO). Pyrethrin is listed on PAN’s "bad actors" list, and while PBO is not, it is a chemical synergist for pyrethrin, working to enhance its effects. The duo is most commonly found in fogger-style bug bombs with brand names like Doktor Doom and X-clude.

    Those two ominously named brands are not on the PICOL list, though they are still available for purchase at your average gardening supply store, a clear indication of their popularity. Doktor Doom and X-clude may not be on the PICOL list, but other fogger bombs with the same active ingredients are. (The PICOL list is organized by brand name, not active ingredients.) Pyrethrins are classified by the EPA as a botanical insecticide, being the active chemical ingredients of pyrethrum, an extract of chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrins and PBO are, given their inclusion on the PICOL list, exempt from residual tolerance requirements and thus safe for human consumption in any amount, according to the EPA.

    But if you’ve ever used one of these foggers, you know they’re some pretty heavy shit. Before you use one in your house, you have to cover all exposed food products and remove yourself and your pets from the area for at least several hours. In the context of growing marijuana, they cannot be sprayed directly onto a plant or the plant will die. Most growers agree they should not be sprayed onto plants at all. "It leaves a lot of residue on plants," said Dustin Hurst, head grower at Monkey Grass Farms in Wenatchee, explaining that it’s especially risky to use these products late in the plant’s flowering stage when the flowers begin to enclose into buds, potentially trapping pyrethrin residue within. Daniel Curylo, "lead instigator" at Cascade Crops in Shelton, concurs: "You don’t want to be spraying all sorts of crap on your product, because the residue—I don’t care what anybody says—that stays on there."

    Indeed, a 2002 fact sheet from the Journal of Pesticide Reform cites a study in which pyrethrin residues were found in carpet dust more than two months after application, which is a bit unnerving when one considers the crystal-encrusted tendrils of a flowering pot plant. A later study, published in 2013 in the Journal of Toxicology, found that up to 69.5 percent of pesticide residues can end up in flowers at the point of inhalation. So, if pyrethrin/PBO foggers are being used at any point during the flowering stage of the plant’s growth—which would not explicitly violate any of the WSLCB’s rules—you’re likely smoking some of it.

    How big a problem is that, health-wise? The Journal of Pesticide Reform cites concerns about pyrethrin ranging from disruption of hormonal systems to the chemical’s EPA-granted status as "likely to be a carcinogen by the oral route." The EPA’s own human health risk assessment of pyrethrin suggests that long-term inhalation of pyrethrin in significant amounts can cause "respiratory tract lesions" in rodents. Scarier still, the JPR factsheet notes that pyrethrins are absorbed by humans most rapidly via the lungs.

    If you’re curious about what may be on the marijuana you get in a recreational store, ask. Every pot grow operates differently, but under WAC statute 314-55-087, growers are required to keep accurate records of all pesticides applied—when, how much, by whom, etc. The WSLCB’s team of inspectors can check these records to ensure proper use at any time. And every grower is required to make this information available to recreational stores that carry their products.

    What Kinds of Pesticides Are Recreational Marijuana Growers Using?

    So why would any pot farmer worth a damn want to use the stuff on their plants? Because weed farmers have to deal with pests like any other farmers do. "I think you could bleach everyone and everything, and [spider mites] would still get in," Hurst, the Monkey Grass Farms grower, told me.

    "Everybody gets it—spider mites, stuff like powdery mildew, it’s everywhere," said Curylo from Cascade Crops. Spider mites, which appear as little black dots on the bottom of a marijuana plant’s fan leaves (the part of the pot plant most likely to be superimposed over Bob Marley’s face on a T-shirt), are the bane of growers, along with mold and bacteria. Left unchecked, these infiltrators can ruin an entire harvest. Getting rid of them is a constant battle, and growers have typically employed a wide variety of weapons, most benign but some less so, like pyrethrin.

    But pyrethrin does have legitimate uses. According to various gardening supply store managers I interviewed, if growers are using it right, it’s primarily as a "reset button" between grow cycles when all the plants have been removed from the grow room. Given the surfaces available for pyrethrin to cling to in the absence of fuzzy budding plants, it’s not likely to linger. Regardless, most of the growers I spoke with—both licensed and unlicensed—indicated that they preferred to use lower-impact pest solutions anyway, for both economic and ethical reasons. Most relied heavily on AzaMax, a brand name of azadirachtin. Azadirachtin, as I mentioned previously, is just an extract of neem oil, an age-old Indian cure-all and a very hot seller during scabies outbreaks at Evergreen. Curylo said he planned to stop using even AzaMax, because he has found it cheaper and just as effective to mist using a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution.

    To keep growers from using products even nastier than a fogger bomb, the WSLCB maintains the authority to pull, at random, a sample of any grower’s weed to run a comprehensive pesticide residue panel on it. If any unapproved pesticides show up, growers face a $2,500 fine and 10-day license suspension to start. The penalties for repeat offenders escalate rapidly, culminating in a permanent loss of license.

    There are, of course, recreational marijuana consumers who will argue that all weed should be subject to pesticide residue testing before sale. That was certainly my first reaction when I discovered that the residue test was not part of the required panel of tests that all pot goes through on its way to market. But the system of randomized testing seems to provide a significant enough disincentive for growers to ensure compliance. Given the amount of time and money most people have invested in their operations, a 10-day suspension is a pretty serious deterrent.

    I asked Phil Tobias, who runs Sea of Green Farms in Seattle, whether randomized testing motivated him to stick to the approved list, and he replied, "Yes. One hundred percent. We would get fined if we were to use something else, and we can’t risk that." His primary methods of pest control? Ladybugs and ionized water. (Ladybugs think spider mites are delicious.)

    Hurst, from Monkey Grass, concurred: "If there’s someone there watching over your shoulder, you’re gonna make sure everything is perfect."

    Nick Mosely and Bobby Hines, from pot-testing lab Confidence Analytics in Redmond, were also quick to praise the PICOL list. Hines said the existence of the PICOL list "absolutely" put weed grown under I-502 a cut above everything else. "It’s not just the penalty," added Mosely, "but also that there’s a resource they can look to that guides them toward healthy alternatives." And indeed, a booklet distributed to regulators and enforcement personnel from various state and local agencies includes a section on encouraging integrated pest management, a holistic method of pest control that attempts to avoid the use of any pesticides at all. Mosely also suggested that many of the bad practices being employed were not due to maliciousness so much as an absence of education. "A lot of [underground growers] just don’t know that Avid is so poisonous. They just know their buddy told them it works," said Mosely. "If they know that Avid is dangerous—it’s not on the list, but here’s a list of things that do work—then they’ll go to that."

    Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesperson for the WSLCB, says the agency’s inspectors have the power to decide what constitutes improper use of a pesticide, and can immediately shut down and quarantine any grow operation that they feel to be unsafe, pending appeal. He also stressed that the WSLCB’s enforcement officers, when checking grow facilities, will be examining these records closely to ensure accurate record-keeping and responsible usage. He assured me that if they were to find a grower using pyrethrin bombs dangerously close to harvest, they would put the kibosh on it. So while responsible use of foggers may not be specifically codified into the WSLCB’s myriad of regulations regarding legal weed, it is subject to the (hopefully) expert oversight of the WSLCB’s inspectors.

    If the thought of any pesticides of any sort, no matter how benign, freaks you out, simply avoid growers who use them. There are plenty out there who don’t, and there is even a third-party organization—Certified Kind—that certifies weed as organic in the absence of USDA certification.

    As far as pesticide disclosure goes at our local shops, Uncle Ike’s is ahead of the game, offering a small printed card listing all their suppliers and the substances applied to their products. Ganja Goddess isn’t far behind. I spoke with someone there identifying himself as Al Green, who did not serenade me with his rendition of "Can’t Get Next to You" but did assure me that, while they did not have a list printed up, they would be able to provide the required information to customers upon request. The gentlemen I spoke with at Cannabis City and Ocean Greens were both "not really sure," though I have no doubt they’ll amend that uncertainty once their bosses remind them it’s required.

    The liquor control board hasn’t performed any pesticide audits yet, but Steve McNalley, senior microbiologist at cannabis testing lab Analytical 360 in Sodo, confirmed that his lab was setting up to perform the audits and expects to do so in the "next couple of months." He suspected that the WSLCB likely hadn’t performed any audits yet because they wanted to let growers get up and running before introducing any potential fines. Hines and Mosely told me that calibration for pesticide residual tests was also quite expensive and that screening for all the disallowed pesticides that might be out there was an arduous process, something like looking for a "needle in a haystack of needles." Arduous but worthwhile, according to the WSLCB. Carpenter indicated that the agency intended to scan for as broad a range of pesticides as possible, and will be shouldering the expense of the tests, at least initially.

    What Kinds of Pesticides Are Medical Marijuana Growers Using?

    You might be wondering: Why make all this fuss about the finer points of pesticides under I-502 if most growers play it safe? Well, because legal growers are facing extremely stiff competition from the unregulated medical and underground markets. The fact that legal recreational weed is verifiably free of mold, bacteria, and harmful pesticides is perhaps recreational stores’ most serious competitive advantage over the black market and the medical marijuana market. This distinction is a pretty important one, given the stakes, and I’m a bit surprised legal growers and retailers haven’t publicized it more aggressively.

    A couple months back, I interviewed a few black-market marijuana growers about their take on the cannabis landscape in the wake of legalization, and one of them, Darryl, said something that stuck with me. I asked him why, if legal weed was tested to ensure it was free of mold and harmful pesticides, he nevertheless insisted that black-market weed was better. He replied, "Well, the black-market growers are much more boutique. It’s more of a craft market. They’ve been doing it longer, they’ve got more experience, and they don’t have the same restrictions the legal growers do as far as overhead and regulation."

    Now, I believed Darryl when he told me he is personally dedicated to organic, additive-free growing. But something about his answer didn’t sit right with me. He was essentially claiming that the black market didn’t need testing or any governmental oversight whatsoever because consumers could just trust the experience of seasoned growers. That would be a great argument if the black market (and the medical market, which was not affected by the passage of I-502) were entirely composed of responsible, experienced growers. But…

    I’ve witnessed questionable practices firsthand. I’ve heard countless tales of growers who are just in it for a buck, turning to harsh chemical pesticides for the quickest, easiest solution. Ian Eisenberg, the Ike of recreational marijuana store Uncle Ike’s, told me of buying weed at medical shops and listening to the budtenders extol the organic, locally grown pot they were selling, only to see those same budtenders buy pot from a guy who just pulled a black duffel bag out of a car with California plates.

    When I asked another black-market grower, Josh, if he’d ever seen questionable growing practices, he replied: "Definitely. People using household pesticides out of Lowe’s or Home Depot. I’ve heard some wild stories."

    And Chase, an all-natural home grower who also works at a larger medical grow, had a similar tale to tell. "It’s more common than you think, unfortunately," he told me, in regards to usage of sketchy pesticides in the black and medical markets. "You can go into a [medical] shop and they’re not going to tell you, ‘Oh, we had to spray that one last week.’" He also added that in certain urgent pest situations, his boss at the medical grow had instructed them to use stronger pesticides that would definitely not pass muster under I-502, though Chase did not specify which ones.

    Not knowing where your weed came from or what’s on it is pretty scary when you start to delve into what’s out there. The worst pesticides that I’ve heard of being used on weed are all still available for purchase, as many of them have legitimate uses on the type of plants you look at but don’t eat or smoke. Aqua Serene, a gardening supply store in Fremont, sells both Forbid, an insecticide that was instantly described to me as "horrible," and Eagle 20, a fungicide that received a rating of "gross" from Markia Gwara, the store’s manager. I wanted to know why, exactly, they would still sell these if they wouldn’t use them in their own garden. She told me that there is still a market for them—albeit a shrinking one—and their store is, after all, a business. She was quick to emphasize that she does her best to steer people away from harsh pesticides in favor of natural methods, but regardless, they’re for sale. Most of the people asking for them were, according to her, "not as savvy of gardeners or old-timers who have stuck to their ways."

    Would banning these products from stores help? Probably not. All of the worst culprits—Avid, Floramite, Forbid, Eagle 20, and their ilk—are available online for those who really want them.

    Rick, who was working the counter at Hydro 4 Less in Tukwila when I stopped by to ask about the pesticides they stock, said that he occasionally gets customers in the store asking for the heavy hitters, which they don’t carry. He noted that often the same customers come back but don’t ask again, which he reads as a sure sign they’re getting it elsewhere—either online or from other shops.

    And, harsh chemicals aside, there is always the possibility of mold when buying from untested sources. Much of the weed not legally sanctioned by I-502 is grown in dank basements, hung up to dry in dank basements, and trimmed in dank basements. "The stuff that comes out of people’s basements is often riddled with mold. Basements are moldy and it’s Seattle and it’s wet," McNalley, the microbiologist from Analytical 360, told me. "Basement molds are stuff that you really don’t want in your lungs." He continued, "I would recommend smoking the legal stuff as opposed to anything that’s unregulated. I’m for regulation. Having that limit [on microorganisms] is going to keep things safer overall. You could go to a dispensary, you could buy a nug, and it could test in at only 120 colony-forming units, but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t get the test done. And no one’s getting the test done." This could change—in Seattle at least—under the mayor’s proposed rules for medical shops, but until then it’s still the Wild West.

    If You Aren’t Sure, Get It Tested

    Getting weed from a medical shop or "the guy" will almost undoubtedly be cheaper than going to a recreational store, because unlicensed growers operate without the burdensome expenses and taxes involved in I-502 compliance. Testing is expensive. Rachel Cooper, from Monkey Grass Farms, estimated that the tests they run on their marijuana cost around $3,000 per month.

    Of course, weed that’s been tested is much safer to consume. This quote, from a paper entitled "Testing Cannabis for Contaminants" by the BOTEC Corp., a California lab testing company that advised the WSLCB on its pesticide rules, sums up the situation in the unregulated market nicely: "As a high value crop, cannabis will no doubt prompt some growers to use any and all measures to maximize yields, regardless of burdens or risks placed upon employees, customers, or their surroundings."

    It is an unfortunate truth that, in the absence of regulation, some people are going to cheat in pursuit of wealth. For every 10 medical growers who are dedicated to growing beautiful, organic weed and are willing to send their product in to the lab on their own dime, there’s one guy with dollar signs in his eyes spraying his plants down with Avid because it’s easier and passing it off as "all-natural." Provided he’s got his medical authorizations in order, there’s currently no way to stop that guy from using any pesticide legally available.

    Beyond the fact that it still feels weird and amazing to be able to walk into a clean, brightly lit store and purchase weed, it feels even cooler to know that the weed you get from that store is pretty much guaranteed to be free of harmful pesticides and mold. People have made much of all the things that I-502 screwed up—and that list is not a short one—but it’s heartening to discover something it got right.

    So unless your medical shop or your "dude" is willing to require suppliers to run testing through a certified lab, like Confidence or Analytical 360, and provide you with a list of pesticides used on their product, it’s probably worth paying the premium at the recreational store if you’re at all concerned about the purity of your pot. A sandwich board with a green cross and the word "organic" painted on it guarantees you nothing. A dude weighing out a sack on a cluttered coffee table while Phish videos play in the background is not a safe source. When it comes to weed safety, I think Uncle Ike put it best: "I don’t want to take someone’s word of honor, I want my shit tested." recommended

    CONTINUE READING…

    Bali nine men brace for execution on Tuesday

    April 26, 2015 – 11:27PM

     

    Jewel Topsfield

    Jewel Topsfield
    Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax

    Myuran Sukumaran has painted what could be his last self-portrait: a torso with a palm-sized black hole over the heart dripping with blood.

    The eerie painting, brought back from Nusakambangan by their lawyer Julian McMahon, is a portent of Bali nine pair’s  ghastly fate –  death by firing squad.

    Michael Chan and Chinthu Sukumaran, brothers of the two Australians facing execution, give a press conference at Wijaya Pura, Cilacap.

    Michael Chan and Chinthu Sukumaran, brothers of the two Australians facing execution, give a press conference at Wijaya Pura, Cilacap. Photo: James Brickwood

    Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were officially given 72 hours warning of their executions on Saturday.

     

    Chinthu Sukumaran said his brother’s last wish was to paint for as long as possible. Chan’s was to go to church with his family in his final days.

    The Indonesian government has not officially announced the execution date but the men are bracing for Tuesday night  – the earliest it could be held.

     

    The government had previously said it was waiting on the outcome of Indonesian marijuana trafficker Zainal Abidin’s court case before setting a date.

    However on Sunday Attorney General spokesman Tony Spontana told Fairfax Media the Supreme Court had rejected Abidin’s request for a judicial review late on Friday.

    The Chan and Sukumaran families were once again forced to make the grim ferry trip to Nusakambangan to visit their loved ones..

    Lawyer Julian McMahon carries a self-portrait painted by Australian death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran.

    Lawyer Julian McMahon carries a self-portrait painted by Australian death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran. Photo: Reuters

    Chan’s fiancée, Feby Herewila, brother Michael, mother Helen and long-term friend and supporter Senior Pastor Christie Buckingham all boarded the ferry.

    Michael Chan said the two Australians  are still holding up "pretty well considering they feel that it is unjust given what has has happened over the last 10 years with their case".

    Michael Chan and Myruran Sukumaran’s brother, Chinthu, pleaded with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to intervene and spare their brothers’ lives. 
    "it still doesn’t have to be this way," a tearful Chinthu Sukumaran said.

    "I would ask the president to please, please show mercy. There are nine people with families who love them – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. We ask the president to please intervene and save their lives."

    Somewhere in the legal system in Indonesia, Michael Chan said, there has got to be mercy. "The president needs to show that now. He’s the only one that can stop it and it’s not too late to do so. so I ask the president please show mercy."

    Sukumaran’s mother Raji, brother Chinthu and sister Brintha also visited Besi prison.

    They will be allowed to visit every day until the final hours when only a spiritual counsellor of their choice can be present.

    The lawyer of another condemned man, Martin Anderson, described scenes of desolation and crying as the nine prisoners on death row began to say their goodbyes.

    Anderson, Filipina maid Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, and Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte all refused to sign their notification of exemptions, although this will have no effect on the execution.

    Anderson’s lawyer, Casmanto Sudra, said his client kept repeating in disbelief: "Fifty grams. Death".

    He was convicted of possessing just 50 grams of heroin in Jakarta in November 2003.

    Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made a last-ditch bid for mercy for the Bali nine pair.

    Mr Abbott made the appeal to the Indonesian president while in Turkey on Saturday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign.

    He asked the president to extend clemency to Chan and Sukumaran, describing them as reformed individuals and asking for them to not be executed.

    Mr Abbott said the government had been making representations "at every possible level to the Indonesian government for many months now".

    "We abhor the death penalty, we oppose it at home we oppose it abroad and I want to reassure Australians that even at this late hour we are continuing to make the strongest possible representations to the Indonesian government that this is not in the best interests of Indonesia let alone in the best interests of the young Australians concerned," he said.

    "I know that this is obviously a late hour and so far our representations haven’t been crowned with success – so again I simply make the point that it is not in the best interests of Indonesia, it is not in accordance with the best values of Indonesia.

    "This doesn’t accord with the Indonesia that I know well and respect very greatly to go ahead with something like this."

    He said the topic was likely to come up in discussions on Monday with the French government, and he expected all like-minded countries would stand together in wanting to uphold "the best values of civilisation", which did not accord with the death penalty.

    The Prime Minister has had limited success in his attempts to speak to Mr Widodo about the pair; after an initial phone call, Mr Widodo said he was too busy to take the second and third calls.

    Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who is also in Turkey, said the news that Chan and Sukumaran could be executed as soon as Tuesday was a "deeply worrying development".

    "No one thinks they deserve to escape punishment, but they don’t deserve this," he said.

    "Labor opposes the death penalty in every circumstance, in every country. I believe it demeans us all."

    Earlier on Sunday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi about the pair during a brief stop in the Middle East while flying back to Australia.

    Ms Bishop stressed the need for all legal processes to be determined before any action is taken.

    Evangelist preacher Matius Arif Mirdjaja, a former drug addict and prisoner in Bali’s Kerobokan jail who was baptised by Chan, said Indonesia would be remembered as a nation that killed a pastor and an artist, not drug kingpins.

    "History will write that we are a nation that killed all the repented, a nation that loses empathy and compassion for people who have transformed their lives and helped others," he said.

    On Monday Amnesty International will spell out the words #KeepHopeAlive with thousands of flowers at Blues Point Reserve, overlooking Sydney Harbour.

    A public protest will be held outside the Indonesian Consulate General in Sydney at 4pm on Monday.

    Indonesia Institute president Ross Taylor said retribution in the wake of the Bali nine executions would not be in the best interests of Australia or the region.

    "With (the Australians’) deaths will come calls for retribution, including withdrawal of aid funding, trade and tourist sanctions and perhaps even the withdrawal of Australia’s new ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson," Mr Taylor said.

    "To impose retribution of this kind would be counter-productive to Australia’s interests in the region, and such action will invite an increase in the already high level of nationalistic sentiment, and a ‘tit-for-tat’ response from the new Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo government."

    Meanwhile, lawyers for Gularte, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, will lodge a request for a judicial review into his case on Monday.

    They say Gularte was mentally ill when he tried to smuggle six kilograms of cocaine into Indonesia hidden inside surfboards and should be hospitalised not executed.

    Gularte’s lawyer, Christina Widiantarti, said he became angry and upset when he was notified of his execution on Saturday.

    "He said, I’ve been here for seven years, I did one mistake, everybody uses illegal narcotic, why do I have to be executed?" Ms Widiantarti said. "Everybody there knows Rodrigo is mentally ill. He refused to sign the notification of his death. "Because he was angry, he didn’t say what his last request was, he didn’t say what to do after the execution."

    On Friday lawyers for Veloso lodged a request for a second judicial review on the grounds she was "primarily a human trafficking victim in the first place, and therefore, must be protected".

    However Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told Fairfax Media that under Indonesian law only one judicial review was allowed.

    Veloso maintains she was tricked by her godsister into carrying a suitcase lined with heroin into Yogyakarta, where she was seeking employment as a domestic helper.

    Veloso’s plight has captured the sympathy of Indonesians still reeling from the beheadings of two Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

    The hashtag #SaveMaryJane has been trending on Twitter with several local celebrities supporting her case for mercy.

    CONTINUE READING…

    Warning: protein bars contain hemp seeds

    • By Rachael Tolliver | Fort Knox Public Affairs

      Posted Apr. 23, 2015 @ 11:54 am

      FORT KNOX, Ky. — For anyone who relies on protein bars as an afternoon or after-workout snack, they should be warned about unmilitary-friendly ingredients in their all-natural selections.

      “Strong & Kind” bars, which include Hickory Smoked, Roasted Jalapeno, Honey Mustard, Thai Sweet Chili and Honey Smoked BBQ, contain hemp seeds in their ingredients. These seeds may contain low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, a chemical found in marijuana, which the Army believes may be detectable in drug screening tests.

      This ingredient is not included in the Kind fruit and nut bars and a complete list can be found at www.kindsnacks.com.

      The Army’s position on the consumption of hemp seeds, or its derivatives, is similar to its sister services’ and follows laws and guidelines set forth by U.S. law enforcement agencies.

      Army Regulation 600-85 para 4-2, (p) states that, “…Soldiers are prohibited from using hemp or products containing hemp oil.” And the “…Violations of paragraph 4-2 (p) may subject offenders to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and or administrative action.”

      DoD regulations are based on several considerations, some of which are U.S. laws. In this case, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency categorized hemp seeds, “if they contain THC…” as an illegal product. (www.dea.gov/pubs/pressrel/pr100901.html)

      Additionally, the Department of Justice issued a ruling on what products that contained THC were exempt from being treated as an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

      In part, the ruling reads: “Specifically, the interim rule exempted THC- containing industrial products, processed plant materials used to make such products, and animal feed mixtures, provided they are not used, or intended for use, for human consumption and therefore cannot cause THC to enter the human body.” (http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/fed_regs/rules/2003/fr0321.htm)

      As such, the Army has written its policy to adhere to and to enforce these laws. The bottom line is that soldiers may not consume hemp seeds or hemp oil.

      So how can a product designed for consumption legally contain hemp seeds?

      In 2004 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous decision, which DEA did not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, protecting the sale of hemp-containing foods. Those foods generally contain naturally occurring THC at less than the USDA guideline of 1 percent. Industrial hemp remains legal for import and sale in the U.S., but U.S. farmers still are not permitted to grow it.

      According to University of California at Berkeley, most of the THC found in hemp seeds are located in the seed hulls, which are removed during processing. Today’s hemp seeds are processed to reduce levels of THC to negligible quantities, but 15 years ago industrial hemp had higher THC levels and the seeds were prepared differently for processing.

    How Mitch McConnell got the Senate working again

    The human trafficking bill should have been a no-brainer. When Democrats manufactured an obstruction, McConnell kept his team together and forced a compromise to move the Loretta Lynch nomination and the trafficking bill together.

    By John Feehery, Voices contributor April 24, 2015

     

    I wouldn’t want to play Texas hold-em with Mitch McConnell.

    To win at the iconic poker game, featured often on ESPN and the Discovery Channel, you have to have patience.

    You have to strike when you have favorable cards, bluff when you don’t, and put all the chips on the table when you are confident of victory.

    Nobody is better at this than the Senate majority leader from Kentucky. 

    Test your knowledge So you think you know Congress? Take our quiz.

    Time and time again, Mr. McConnell has made a virtue out of his patience.

    The deal to confirm Loretta Lynch perfectly exemplified this virtue.

    No Republican wanted Eric Holder to stay in his current position any longer than necessary, but Lynch proved to be a good bargaining chip in a struggle to pass a human trafficking bill.

    Passing that bill should have been a no-brainer, but Democrats, desperate to paint Republicans as anti-abortion extremists for political reasons, manufactured an objection to a long-agreed-to compromise, named for former Illinois Republican Henry Hyde, that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for abortions.

    McConnell didn’t buckle, kept his team together, and forced a compromise to move both Lynch and the Human Trafficking bill together.

    The newly minted Republican leader has a history of waiting patiently to play his cards.

    When the House passed a compromise to finally fix permanently a flaw in the formula to pay doctors in the Medicare program, McConnell took his time in having the Senate consider it, making certain that his colleagues had a chance to have their amendments considered.

    When Congress failed to pass a terrorism risk insurance bill at the end of last year, McConnell didn’t panic. Instead he waited until the new majority was firmly in place, and he calmly passed it as one of the first business items.

    When the Senate considered a Keystone pipeline bill after TRIA passed, he was happy to allow for an open process, so open that the Senate considered more amendments in one day that it did in a year under the previous regime.

    That patience also manifested itself when McConnell was in the minority. He was the one who staved off the fiscal cliff and cut a deal with the vice president that made permanent 98% of the Bush tax cuts, a victory that doesn’t get nearly enough credit.

    While McConnell has been patient, he has also been relentless in pushing for regular order, which is why the Senate passed a budget resolution in March and is expected to pass a conference report before the Memorial Day recess.

    It may be a surprise to the general public, but it is no surprise to Mitch McConnell that the Senate is working again, they way it is supposed to work. In McConnell’s mind, it just takes a little patience.

    John Feehery publishes his Feehery Theory blog at http://www.thefeeherytheory.com/ .

    CONTINUE READING…

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership: An Alliance of Money Over Guns

    By Matthew Cooper 4/24/15 at 6:45 AM

    RTR4N6IH

    Congress and the presidential candidates are weighing in on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But what is this trade deal, and what are its prospects?

    Well, the TPP promises to be one of Washington’s most contentious fights during this Congress. But in an unusual way. Most business interests, Republicans and the Obama administration back the agreement, while virtually all of organized labor, most Democrats and environmental groups oppose it. The arguments about whether the pact is a job destroyer or a job creator echo the debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) forged by the U.S., Canada and Mexico in the 1990s —an argument that continues decades after it passed.

    But the TPP is a much bigger deal not only because it has the potential to rewrite American rules about labor and environmental standards, intellectual property rights and other important aspects of the American economy, but also because the countries involved make it nothing short of a major international economic alliance. Here’s a quick breakdown:

    What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

    It’s an agreement, among 12 nations bordering the Pacific, aimed at reducing trade barriers and promoting greater economic cooperation. The idea has been negotiated since 2006, and it got started with relatively small economies like New Zealand and Brunei. It now includes very big economies as well. Among the participants: the United States, Japan, Australia, Chile, South Korea and Peru. The 12 nations make up close to 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Other Pacific-facing nations could join at a later date.

    CONTINUE READING…

    U.S. Supreme Court places new limit on use of drug dogs during routine traffic stops

    By Lawrence Hurley, Reuters on Apr 21, 2015 at 9:01 p.m.

     

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday placed a new limit on when police can use drug-sniffing dogs, ruling the dogs cannot be employed after a routine traffic stop has been completed if there is no reasonable suspicion about the presence of drugs in the vehicle.

    The court ruled 6-3 in favor of a driver, Dennys Rodriguez, who was stopped in Nebraska and found to be transporting a large bag of methamphetamine following a dog sniff.

    In an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court held that a traffic stop lengthened purely to conduct a dog sniff without reasonable suspicion would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy dissented. Thomas said the ruling conflicted with a 2005 decision in which the court held that using drug-sniffing dogs is lawful when conducted as part of a routine traffic stop.

    A police officer pulled over Rodriguez just after midnight on March 27, 2012, after Rodriguez’s car was seen veering onto the road’s shoulder.

    After the initial stop, in which Rodriguez said he swerved to avoid a pothole, the officer wrote a written warning. But before allowing Rodriguez to drive away, the officer asked if the police dog could walk around the vehicle. That added about eight minutes to the stop.

    Rodriguez declined, but the officer insisted. The dog then detected the drugs. Rodriguez was indicted on one count of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty pending his appeal and was sentenced to five years in prison.

    The ruling on Tuesday does not mean Rodriguez is off the hook. Ginsburg noted that lower courts had not determined whether the officer in fact had reasonable suspicion to allow the dog sniff.

    In a dissenting opinion, Alito said the ruling would have little practical effect because police officers just need to learn the correct procedure for conducting a lawful dog sniff.

    "I would love to be the proverbial fly on the wall when police instructors teach this rule to officers who make traffic stops," Alito wrote.

    The case is Rodriguez v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-9972.

    CONTINUE READING…

    Marijuana Reform Activists Push for Change with DEA Head

     

     

    DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.

     

    And the resignation of Chief of Administration Michele Leonhart offers the chance for change

    Marijuana legalization advocates are excited about the departure of Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, whom they long considered an obstruction in their goal of reforming the nation’s drug laws.

    “We are happy to see her go,” says Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. “She’s a career drug warrior at a time when we’ve decided the ‘War on Drugs’ is an abject failure.”

    Leonhart has been at the DEA for 35 years and served as the top dog since 2007. Though the recent scandal involving agents soliciting sex from prostitutes is what will likely most clearly tarnish her reputation, her position on drug policy has led marijuana reform activists to call for her resignation, says says Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Franklin, a veteran of the Maryland state police, calls her position on marijuana reform “archaic.”

    Leonhart has been a major hurdle in the effort to reconsider marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, which could pave the way for more research into the health benefits of the drug. In 2011, the agency again rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the agency spent about $100 million in 2012 alone on enforcement regarding medical marijuana laws.

    More

    Vancouver’s 4/20 Marijuana Smoke Fest Sees 64 Taken to HospitalWillie Nelson to Launch His Own Brand of MarijuanaJurors Shown Video of Tsarnaev Flipping Off Camera NBC NewsReagan Shooter Hinckley Has Girlfriend, Brother Says NBC NewsElian Gonzalez Sparked a Cuba-U.S Firestorm 15 Years Ago NBC News

    “Leonhart opposed medical marijuana, she opposed sentencing reform, she opposed pretty much everything that Obama was doing and for that matter everything Congress was doing,” says Bill Piper, the director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

    The Drug Policy Alliance is one of several drug and marijuana policy organizations that have previously called for Leonhart’s removal. Following a speech in which Leonhart was critical of Obama’s assertion that smoking marijuana was no more harmful that drinking alcohol, the Marijuana Policy Project and over 47,000 citizens called for her to resign. A Drug Policy Alliance petition called for her removal following revelations that the DEA had been tracking citizens’ phone calls for decades. Organizations including Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws have also called for her resignation.

    Though who will be filling in for Leonhart isn’t yet clear, activists say her replacement should be more supportive of ongoing reform initiatives, including reducing mass incarceration and taking the health impact of drugs into consideration when formulating policy. What’s more, Piper says, her removal could lead the Obama administration to reschedule marijuana before the President leaves office.

    “This offers a good opportunity for marijuana reform to move forward quicker than it has been moving,” Piper says.

    More than that, though, it could signal and even steeper change to policy regarding the enforcement of drug laws. As more states consider legalizing marijuana in some form—23 states have legalized medical use and four have given the green light to toking up recreationally. Six additional states could consider legalization during the 2016 election. As the nation’s stance on that shifts, so too should its approach to drug enforcement, advocates say.

    “Within the next 10 years, I see massive drug policy reform and therefore really an end to the DEA,” Franklin says. The new leader, he says, should approach the role as if he or she is “dismantling a decommissioned battleship and selling the pieces for scrap metal.”

    “For most part, the DEA exists because they’re enforcing prohibition,” he adds. “I believe we’re moving away from prohibition and more toward health.”

    CONTINUE READING…

    Patriot Act extension bill introduced by Sen. McConnell

    By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   April 22, 2015 at 9:34 AM

     

     

     

    WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,

    introduced a bill Tuesday to extend the controversial Patriot Act and its surveillance provisions until 2020.

    The extension would allow the National Security Agency to continue to collect data of millions on U.S. phone records daily. The NSA does so under the authority of Section 215, which allows for secret court orders to collect "tangible things" that could be used by the government in investigations.

    The Patriot Act was enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks to combat terrorism. McConnell used a Senate rule that will take the bill’s extension straight to the floor for voting, a move that would bypass traditional committee vetting process.

    Section 215 expires on June 1. The NSA’s mass collection program was revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden, sparking a debate about privacy, security and the reach of government surveillance.

    "Despite overwhelming consensus that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act must end, Senate Republican leaders are proposing to extend that authority without change," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement. "This tone deaf attempt to pave the way for five and a half more years of unchecked surveillance will not succeed. I will oppose any reauthorization of Section 215 that does not contain meaningful reforms."

    Leahy and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee are attempting to end the NSA’s mass collection of records. Advocates for privacy condemned McConnell’s extension introduction.

    "The Senate majority leader’s bill makes no attempt to protect Americans’ privacy or reform ongoing NSA surveillance programs that do not provide any tangible benefit to national security," Harley Geiger, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said. "For Americans concerned about government intrusion in their lives, the bill is a kick in the stomach."

    READ MORE…