Marijuana Possession Arrests Exceed Violent Crime Arrests
Americans are shifting on marijuana. More than half of them think it should be regulated like alcohol and cigarettes, 18 states have passed legislation approving it for medical use and Washington State and Colorado have legalized it for recreational use, but it remains illegal under federal law. And the arrests continue — one every 42 seconds, and 86 percent of those are simply for possession, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
In 2011, marijuana possession arrests totaled 663,032 — more than arrests for all violent crimes combined. Possession arrests have nearly doubled since 1980, according to an FBI report, while teen marijuana use recently reached a 30-year high.
President Obama said last month that going after recreational pot users in states where it is legal is not "a top priority" for his administration, which echoes a promise he made in 2008 not to interfere with states' medical marijuana laws. Since then, his administration has aggressively targeted dispensaries that are in compliance with state law.
Taxpayers have shouldered the cost of arresting and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of people for the possession of marijuana, often in small quantities for personal use. Some national estimates put the annual cost of marijuana arrests above $10 billion, and low-level arrests for marijuana possession cost New York City alone $75 million in 2010. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed decriminalizing possession of 15 grams or less — even when flashed in public view — last week in his State of the State address.
"Every year, this process needlessly scars thousands of lives and wastes millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious crime," Cuomo said. "It’s not fair, it’s not right. It must end, and it must end now."
Marijuana Legalization in Two States Has Mexico, Costa Rica Questioning U.S. Role in Drug War
This week, the president of Costa Rica said that increased demand for marijuana will impact Drug War-torn countries. And on Tuesday, Mexican president Felipe Calderon joined other leaders of Latin American countries to issue the strongest words yet.
The votes seriously reduce the United States' "moral authority" to wage the War on Drugs, according to Calderon, who began the military-style offensive against the drug cartels shortly after taking office.
And while Calderon leaves office Dec. 1, this issue is far from done: His successor favors a discussion of legalization, and Calderon's colleagues say they'll pressure the United Nations to take up the issue of drug prohibition by 2015.
Calderon's six years in Mexico City were defined by the Drug War. Shortly after taking office in 2006, he reacted to drug trafficking in his home state of Michoacan by sending in the troops. To sum things up very briefly, the situation escalated, and six years later, nearly 40,000 people have died. Meanwhile, people in the United States, in Mexico, and in every other country on Earth still use drugs.
But recently, there has been different reactions. Leaders of Latin American countries called for Vice President Joe Biden to consider drug legalization prior to his visit to Mexico in May (no chance, Biden said). On television in September, Calderon stressed the capitalist nature of the Drug War -- without American demand, fewer Mexicans would die.
After Calderon met Tuesday with the leaders of Honduras, Belize, and Costa Rica, he told Mexican media that having a federal American government spend time and money on shutting down marijuana dealers in states that allow marijuana use is a bit curious. Specifically, it "weakens [America's] moral authority" -- "resta autoridad moral," Calderon said.
At the very least, voter approval of legal marijuana means that drug policy needs to be fundamentally rethought, revisited, or otherwise changed. And while Calderon won't be able to get around to that by the time he leaves office next month, the future is bright -- at least for the possibility of continued dialogue on legalization.
Incoming president Enrique Peña Nieto has in the past said that Mexico should consider legalization. So there's that. Then again, his Institutional Revolutionary Party has also been accused of having close, corrupt relationships with drug cartels. So there's that, too.
In any case, the development to watch will be if the United Nations considers its Latin American members' pleas to convene a special meeting and consider the future of drug prohibition.
Two Customs officers to hang for trafficking in cannabis
Ismail Mansor, 43, and Naznin Seman, 48, who were attached to the Kuala Perlis Anti-Smuggling Unit, were found guilty by judicial commissioner Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab.
Zaki ruled that the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and had presented strong evidence against the Customs officers.
"The accused claimed that they were framed in this case. However, the court finds that their defence was a mere afterthought."
The families of the accused were seen sobbing after the sentencing.
Ismail and Naznin were jointly charged with trafficking in the drug at a parking space for heavy vehicles in Bukit Keteri, Padang Besar, at 9.30pm on April 27.
Deputy public prosecutor Azhar Mokhtar prosecuted while Ismail and Naznin were represented by Y. Anbananthan.
Coast Guard vessel returns to St. Petersburg with $36 million in seized drugs
By Stephanie Wang, Times Staff Writer
The Coast Guard cutter Resolute, a 210-foot ship, recovered the drugs during a 10-week deployment in the western Caribbean, according to a media release.
On Sept. 27, a patrolling Coast Guard helicopter spotted a 35-foot "go-fast boat" off the coast of Honduras. Four suspected drug smugglers jumped from the boat in an attempt to escape, the Coast Guard said. The Resolute's crew pulled the smugglers from the water and stopped the unmanned go-fast boat, where they discovered 53 bales of cocaine, weighing nearly 3,000 pounds and worth about $35 million. The Resolute turned the four smugglers over to U.S. authorities.
In another incident, the helicopter tracked a go-fast boat that ditched its cargo: 45 bales of marijuana, weighing about 1,500 pounds. The smugglers escaped into Nicaraguan waters, the Coast Guard said. The Resolute retrieved the $1 million drug load.
The Resolute's arrival Sunday to its home port in St. Petersburg coincided with another Coast Guard vessel's return to Port Canaveral. The Confidence brought back more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana Sunday from counter-drug operations south of Cuba.
DEA head: A thousand dead children means we’re winning war on drugs
Michele Leonhart, our top drug cop, has a funny definition of victory
Producing and distributing illegal drugs is a profitable business, because there will always be a lot of demand and because illegality allows you to charge a great deal of money. That illegality also means that the people who produce and distribute the drugs are generally not responsible corporate citizens. So thanks to our expensive, terribly ineffective and endless war on drugs, lots of people are dying.
The Washington Post recently reported that the victims of Mexican drug cartel violence increasingly include children, who are being specifically targeted in order to terrorize people and intimidate potential business rivals:
The children’s rights group estimates that 994 people younger than 18 were killed in drug-related violence between late 2006 and late 2010, based on media accounts, which are incomplete because newspapers are often too intimidated to report drug-related crimes.
Government figures include all homicides of people younger than 17, capturing victims whose murders might not have been related to drugs or organized crime. In 2009, the last year for which there is data, 1,180 children were killed, half in shootings.
This article is actually almost a week old, but I did not notice, until it was highlighted by Jonathan Blanks, this astounding quote from America’s top drug warrior:
U.S. and Mexican officials say the grotesque violence is a symptom the cartels have been wounded by police and soldiers. “It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs,” said Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The cartels “are like caged animals, attacking one another,” she added.
It seems “contradictory” because that is absolutely appalling spin. For one thing, these “caged animals” are actually attacking civilians and children. And they are doing so because the drug war has made their chosen industry both profitable and dangerous enough to make murder and brutality effective means of winning competitive advantages. If this is a sign of success, maybe we should reconsider waging this war.
Leonhart, a DEA lifer, is actually a Bush appointee, reappointed by President Obama. She is, obviously, an inflexible zealot when it comes to drug prohibition. This is easily the worst and most offensive thing she’s said that I’ve read, but she does have a history of asinine remarks. This is the sort of quote — dead children are a sign that we’re winning! — that should lead to a resignation. But it probably won’t.
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