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State-Federal cannabis sweep in Colorado illuminates the essential flaws of prohibition

2:25 pm in Uncategorized by acmerecords

The search warrant allowed the agents to seize “everything from pot plants and cash to financial records, safes and computer flash drives”.

cross posted at mLaw

This past week state and federal officials raided more than a dozen Colorado cannabis dispensaries and greenhouses and two homes. The agents, including officers from both the DEA and the IRS, had obtained warrants for 10 individuals connected with the raided properties. The Denver Post obtained a copy of the search warrant that allowed the agents to seize “everything from pot plants and cash to financial records, safes and computer flash drives”. No arrests were made during the sweep that took place over the course of several hours on Thursday.

An attorney for one of the individuals cited in the warrant, Laszlo Bagi the owner of Swiss Medical in Boulder, said that the agents seized $1 million worth of plants from his client’s facility and that the agents left no “instructions saying don’t replant. There was no court order of cease and desist. No explanation,” adding that his client adheres to Colorado’s state laws regarding cannabis sale and cultivation.

Also named in the warrant are Luis Uribe, Carlos Solano, Gerardo Uribe-Christancho, David Furtado, Juan Guardarrama, Carlos Solano-Bocanegro, Jared Bringhurst, Felix Perez, John Frank Esmeral and Joseph Tavares.

At the time of the raids on Thursday, which took place a short six weeks before the historic Colorado law legalizing the recreational use of cannabis by adults will allow the commercial sale of the substance for the first time in the nation, with no additional context, some cannabis advocates cautiously questioned the motives of DEA as reported in articles such as the Huffington Post’s report on the raids titled, “Colorado Medical Marijuana Raids Show Industry Still Risky“.

The Denver Post dug deeper and on Friday reported that the, “Colorado marijuana businesses raided this week by federal agents are being investigated for a possible connection to Colombian drug cartels,” and that the targets of the warrants have been “actively purchasing area dispensaries and grow warehouses over a sustained period of time.”

The Post reports that the raids were based upon allegations of “trafficking marijuana outside of states where it has been legalized, money laundering and providing revenue for criminal enterprises, including gangs and cartels.” One of the subjects of the search warrant, Juan Guardarrama, was recently convicted of racketeering in a case that involved Colombian and Cuban gangs in Miami selling diamonds stolen from gem dealers. During the investigation that resulted in his arrest, Guardarrama reportedly asked under cover agents to help him traffic legally grown Coloradan cannabis in Miami and “take out” a Coloradan business partner.

The state-federal action has been lauded by both supporters and critics of cannabis legalization. Law enforcement officials pointed out to the Post that the agents were doing their job, and Andy Williams, a Denver cannabis dispensary owner and a member of the local Medical Marijuana Industry Group confided, “I want the bad actors gone, quite honestly.”

The entire incident serves also to deftly exemplify the fatal flaws of cannabis prohibition, especially in the new world created by the citizens’ initiatives in both Washington and Colorado and where broad and sustained majorities of American adults approve of ending cannabis prohibition.

What we saw this week and what all parties agreed was the most appropriate course of action was, a daylight police raid with its attendant dangers, pulled off in several locations including at a home in a toney suburban subdivision (a mile from Denver Bronco quarterback Peyton Manning’s home). Where alleged international gang members’ properties and possessions were confiscated, although no arrests were made. Where the confiscated property belongs to individuals who had multiple business locations and, in the case of two of the suspects, had received approval to invest $6 million to build a cannabis grow house in Pueblo County to help boost to economic development. Where the legal product of other cannabis distributors was destroyed by state and federal officials (many distributors rent growing facilities that are shared by other distributors- as was the case in this raid). Where the crazy quilt of local townships’ desires to increase economic growth, local and state regulations covering everything from simple city licensing and state registration requirements to state and federal criminal statutes and as always with the inextinguishable human impulse to “maximize profits” (in a manner of speaking) in this world of commerce can, really, only lead to 26 year-old Columbian gang members buying $1.5 million homes in a suburb near you (should you live in one of the two visionary and courageous states that have legalized consumption of the benign and medically important natural and easy to grow substance, cannabis).

The director of the federal law enforcement program called the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Tom Gorman, told the Post “I have said it before and I’ll say it again — you cannot regulate this illegal industry. You can’t any time you talk about money and profits, and dealing with a customer base and selling product. There are too many loopholes, too many ways to get around it. You just can’t do it.”

Smedley Butler’s formulation interestingly holds true in this “war on drugs” military engagement: “There is a way to stop it. You can’t end it by…conferences. You can’t eliminate it by peace parleys…Well-meaning but impractical groups can’t wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.” Read the rest of this entry →

Cannabis legalization landslides in Maine and Michigan

7:09 am in Uncategorized by acmerecords

Cannabis leaf

A continuing trend toward cannabis sanity?

cross posted at mLaw

Following the forward thinking Uruguayans and leaping out in front of twentieth century minded politicians in Washington DC and at the level of the states, 70 percent of the electorate in Portland ME and 63 percent of the citizens in Lansing MI voted to legalize cannabis for recreational use in their cities, smashing 80 years of prohibition and sounding a challenge to cities across America to call for an end to the failed drug war.

The Portland city measure allows adult residents of Portland to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis. The measure passed into law by the cities’ residents does not allow the retail sale of cannabis, therefore no system of growers and distributors or tax program has to be created for the law to go into effect.

In Lansing MI, the measure amended the city’s charter to legalize the possession, use and transfer of an ounce of cannabis by any adult 21 years and older on private property. Two smaller Michigan cities, Ferndale and Jackson, also passed measures yesterday legalizing cannabis for recreational use.

Washington and Colorado passed laws legalizing the recreational use of cannabis by adults last year, but citizens in those states await the creation of laws governing the farming, taxation and distribution of cannabis and therefore, though legal, cannabis is still not available for purchase.

Read the rest of this entry →

Musicians applaud Mujica for having the courage to ‘dream on’

12:29 pm in Uncategorized by acmerecords

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica

cross posted at mLaw

Honoring the heart of passion of Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, members of one of America’s oldest rock bands, Aerosmith, made an unusual personal request to have an audience with the visionary leader when they recently visited Uruguay to perform.

Mujica, who has chosen to draw the line calling to end the destructive war on drugs and for the legalization of cannabis in his nation, is hopeful that a critical mass of Uruguayan popular support for cannabis legalization will help chip away the stone of drug violence and crime profits.

President Mujica met with the band members in the afternoon prior to an evening performance in Montvideo’s Centenario stadium on October 9 spending more than two hours participating in both public and private events, culminating in the president and rock stars contemplating the beyond beautiful Motevidian sunset together.

The band’s singer, Steven Tyler expressed the band’s support and appreciation for Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla who was at one point imprisoned for his views and now is the elected president of his country who gives away his salary to house impoverished families headed by single mothers in Uruguay. “He gives 70 percent of his salary for people’s homes. Here in this small country, Uruguay,” said Tyler, “I think he’s doing it the right way, (at the) grass roots, and we believe in that.”

Many in Uruguay believe that Mujica’s action attempting to permanently seal the Pandora’s Box of the US supported ‘War on Drugs’ by ending cannabis prohibition is a good thing because criminally prohibiting the medicinal, recreational and creative natural substance has proven to be a tragic failure. And, like the band members of Aerosmith, many people around the world see Mujica is a man of peace who has what it takes to break these chains of drug war violence and discompassion, who beacons to reasonable and compassionate citizens of all countries to “walk this way”. Read the rest of this entry →

Uruguay, the world’s laboratory for cannabis legalization

3:32 pm in Uncategorized by acmerecords

cross posted at mLaw

A diverse coalition of groups and individuals who support ending cannabis prohibition in Uruguay took to the streets of Montevideo on Wednesday using the occasion of Global Marijuana Day to express their support for a quick vote approving legalization in Uruguay’s senate. After being approved in the country’s lower house in August, the senate vote to legalize cannabis for recreational use by adults in Uruguay is set to take place later this fall, likely in November.

The bill to legalize cannabis was initially put forward last year by Uruguayan President Jose Mujica. Although polling in Uruguay reflects that the measure is not supported by a majority of Uruguayans, and even Mujica himself has spoken about moving forward with cannabis legalization with caution, the bill is expected to be signed into law by the president should it pass out of the senate.

This week in a radio address, Mujica stressed his concern that Uruguay be able to identify and offer treatment to people who suffer from addiction should cannabis be legalized. He added that, in his mind, drug trafficking and the violence associated with it are “worse than addiction.” One of the reasons Mujica proposed legalizing cannabis for use by adults in Uruguay is to remove the profit from the black market sale of the substance, and thereby reduce the violence associated with prohibition.

Groups who support the measure have initiated media campaigns attempting to sway the popular consensus away from cannabis prohibition in Uruguay using television and internet announcements and a poster campaign featuring historical and cultural figures from Uruguay reminding citizens that by “Cultivating freedom, Uruguay grows.”

Pope is dope on peace

12:07 pm in Uncategorized by acmerecords

cross posted at the demise

In a stunning turn of precedent, the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, asked his more than 1 billion world-wide followers to join him in an active peace demonstration, and harkened back to the viewpoint of the wandering philosopher and bare-footed peacenik, Jesus of Nazareth, the same individual who Catholics claim to be their sect’s founding member.

As the pope was speaking about the “dramatic developments” in Syria, condemning “with particular force the use of chemical weapons,” Francis called for a peace protest sit-in at his house. The Pope invited the international community to join him and his dudes for a five hour pray-in begging the weaponized leaders of the world to “make every effort for peace.”

Francis said, evoking the religious movement’s founder-philosopher’s rhetorical style, “Weapons and violence do not lead to peace, war leads to more war … May the cry for peace enter the hearts of everyone so that they may all lay down their weapons.”

It is reported that Francis retreated to his apartment after the speech to prepare for the sit-in by listening to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” LP.

Uruguay contributes to humanity; in the US, it’s contraband and criminality

5:49 pm in Uncategorized by acmerecords

cross posted at mLaw

A “contribution to humanity” is how Uruguayan President, Jose Mujica, described the courageous step taken by the leaders of Uruguay who agreed earlier this month to fight back against the crime, violence and suffering that has been caused over the course of the ongoing 50-year-log ‘war on drugs’ by repealing prohibition and legalizing cannabis for consumption by adult Uruguayans. Mujica told Agency Press France that the real goal of legalizing cannabis in Uruguay is to eliminate the black market for the substance and consequentially end the savage violence of the drug war.

The history of the world wide drug war, a standoff between criminals who reap billions and militarized police forces who are funded by drug warring nations, can only be viewed as a failure, Mujica told the AFP. In Uruguay, the government spends $80 million a year attempting to stop the cannabis black market that is estimated to be worth between 4 and 5 million dollars per year. “As a business this would be a disaster if you look at it purely from an economic standpoint,” Mujica said, “from a moral point of view, it’s much worse because the violence consumes a lot of people who have nothing to do with it.”

In the US, more than $24.7 billion has been spent so far this year waging the drug war and, over 1 million people have been arrested for drug offenses. The Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a US federal governmental agency, reports that usage of cannabis increased between 2010 and 2012 slightly by 1.1 percent, reflecting that the monies being spent are not achieving the stated goals of drug war enthusiasts in US law enforcement, congress and the White House.

Despite overwhelming evidence that the ‘drug war’ has failed;
on July 25, the Drug Enforcement Agency raided three cannabis pharmacies in Washington state,
on July 31, DEA agents raided a cannabis pharmacy in Michigan, and,
today, August 8, DEA agents raided the oldest cannabis dispensary in Los Angeles.

President Mujica also spoke recently in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba at a memorial celebrating the July 26, 1953 attack on the Moncada barracks that began the Cuban Revolution. In his speech, as reported by Escambray.cu, Mujica said that the rebels who began the overthrow of the Batista regime inspired a “revolution of dignity” across Latin America. “We are convinced”, Mujica said, “that man has the capacity to build a better world, and that fighting capacity must be used to have a world of respect, a world of equality. Human life must be respected, and rich people have to understand and respect the rest of the people”.

Uruguay’s decision to fight drug violence by ending prohibition as an effort by Uruguay’s leaders to “contribute to humanity” reflects Mujica’s commitment to express the capacity of leaders to “build a better world”. Read the rest of this entry →

Australian policy director calls for bongs to help right alcohol’s wrongs

10:43 am in Uncategorized by acmerecords

cross posted at mLaw

Bong

Could pot smoking curb binge drinking?

The head of the governmental office in Australia that is charged with researching the dangerous legal drug alcohol, Australia’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, recently called for legalizing cannabis in Australia as a mechanism to countervail the national scourge of binge drinking.

The agency’s director, Professor Robin Room, told the Australian national newspaper The Herald Sun that legalized cannabis would certainly curtail incidents where teens are injured as a consequence of binge drinking. In addition, Room said that legalizing cannabis for personal consumption would ensure that otherwise normal well-adjusted teens are not permanently stigmatized throughout their adult lives by a drug arrest that would negatively affect education and employment opportunities.

Room suggested that cannabis be sold legally in Australia for personal consumption, in a market that is controlled by the government, where sales can be effectively tracked, where the legal product is not sold in supermarkets and where advertising the product would not be allowed.

Room told the Herald Sun that, while “Cannabis is not without harm,” its dangers are “substantially less than alcohol and tobacco in terms of social harm.”

Because of alcohol’s association with loss of physical coordination and senseless aggression and violence, Room said that Australian teens would be “better off” tempering their intake of alcohol with cannabis. “If you are adding the cannabis to an equal amount of alcohol, then in some ways you’d be probably less likely to be aggressive but it’s a bad idea to add it on if you want to drive a car,” professor Room told the Herald Sun.

Director Room also recommended creating a government controlled monopoly for the sale of alcohol, limiting the number of liquor stores in areas and devising tax policies that would increase the cost of liquor in the effort to limit purchases by Australian teens. Australia is in the midst of an epidemic of social problems caused by binge drinking that range from increased incidents of violence to an up-surge in alcohol related hospital admissions.

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