TOP 10 DRUG WAR STORIES
1) Don't Bogart My Closeup: The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and its fearless leader, drug czar John Walters, got slapped by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office in January when the GAO reported that Walters' band of merry narcos had violated a government ban on "covert propaganda" with its release of prepackaged video news stories, ready to air on broadcast news programs, that failed to identify the ONDCP as the source of the "news."
2) Man-Min Madness ... : In a 5-4 decision delivered Jan. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the federal mandatory-minimum sentencing schemes enacted by Congress in the mid-Eighties in reaction to an increase in drug crimes, opining that, as currently applied, man-mins violate the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.
In order to pass constitutional muster, the court said, the sentencing schemes should be downgraded to just an advisory tool for judges to consider.
3) ... And More Madness: Apparently U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., didn't get the memo concerning the Supremes' ruling.
He went on his merry drug warrior way and, in April, filed the uber-draconian Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act (HR 1528). This wolf in sheep's clothing would create a whole host of stricter man-mins - including a mandatory 10-year sentence for any adult over 21 who sells more than five grams of pot to anyone under 18, and a mandatory three years for parents who are aware of drug-trafficking activities near their children but fail to report the alleged activity to police within 24 hours.
4) Don't Mess With Texas Medi-Joint!: A bill that would've offered Texas medi-pot patients an affirmative defense against pot possession prosecution languished in committee despite bipartisan support and the impassioned testimony of numerous patients and advocates at hearings in April. As the medi-pot movement gains steam, the issue will remain on the table indefinitely.
5) Raiding Raich: In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on one of the most closely watched medi-pot cases, brought by seriously ill California medi-mari patient Angel Raich, ruling 6-3 that the feds may arrest and prosecute seriously ill medi-mari patients who are using medicinal marijuana in accordance with state law. The feds'
need to enforce pot prohibition as detailed in the Controlled Substances Act provides the "compelling interest," the Supremes opined, even if that means arresting sick people and charging them with pot possession. Raich has vowed to fight on, and in November filed another appeal, arguing that the federal intervention in her state-sanctioned, doctor-recommended medi-pot treatment violates her right to due process and contravenes the common-law "doctrine of necessity."
6) Greener Acres: In June, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would free the states from federal restriction and allow for state regulation of hemp farming.
Currently all hemp products sold in the U.S. - including food, body care products, and numerous consumer textiles - are manufactured from raw hemp imported from Canada and Europe. Hemp farming is not illegal per se (indeed, the government actually encouraged it during World War II), but the law requires DEA approval of all hemp-farming ventures - and so far the DEA has only issued one permit, since expired, to growers in Hawaii.
7) Pena Sucks Pot: State Rep. Aaron Pena, D-Edinburg, jumped on the marijuana hysteria train in 2005, filing legislation that would ban the sale of any confectionery containing marijuana-derived ingredients. According to Pena, cannabis-flavored candies are nothing more than a means to "entice our children into a life of illegal drugs." We're not sure what Pena was licking, but it wasn't a lollipot, such as those sold by the California company Chronic Candy, which are imported - with FBI and U.S. Customs approval - and have been sold in the U.S. for nearly a decade.
8) SAFER Partying: Drug law reformers in Denver scored a victory in November when 54% of city voters voted to legalize the possession of up to 1 oz. of pot by adults over 21. The initiative was conceived by the grassroots organization Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation, which sought passage of the measure as a way to bring pot penalties in line with penalties handed out for irresponsible use of alcohol.
9) Let's Play Supercop!: After a couple of years of relative peace, federal narcos - likely emboldened by the Supremes' decision in the Raich case - in December ramped up their war against the seriously ill by carrying out raids in San Diego and San Francisco, busting a total of 14 medi-pot dispensaries, seizing hundreds of pot plants, cash, and reams of patient records.
None of the medi-pot providers were charged with any crime and, according to the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, many of the raided dispensaries reopened the very next day.
10) Treaties? What Are You Smoking?: In December, lawyers for Alex White Plume and members of his Lakota Nation family living on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation argued before a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that they don't need prior approval from the DEA before they grow industrial hemp on their land.
The White Plumes contend that the power to grow hemp was granted in at least two treaties between the American Indians and the feds, back in 1858 and 1861.