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Tommy Chong's Prosecutor Says He Should Have Gotten More Jail Time

Mary Beth Buchanan, easily the nastiest federal prosecutor in the nation, has finally resigned her post. Yet, even as lovers of justice across the country celebrate her long-overdue departure (and pray she won't run for elected office), Buchanan has managed to turn our stomachs for what will hopefully be the last time:

On her last day in office, Buchanan says her only regret during her tenure was accepting a plea from Tommy Chong. [KDKA.com]

Such pure arrogance is really something to behold. Every legal textbook in the country should display her picture beside the term "malicious prosecution," as the railroading of Tommy Chong is a mere footnote within a career defined by gratuitous excesses.

Of course, Tommy was amused to hear that Buchanan still holds a grudge against him. The feeling is mutual:

"I'm honored to be Mary Beth's only regret. Now does she regret going after me? Or does she regret that I never got enough time? I tend to think she wishes she'd never heard my name. I have become her legacy. Mary Beth Loose Cannon is now looking for a job. She blew her last job busting me. Karma is so sweet! She's looking for a work while Cheech and I start our second multi-million dollar tour thanks to the publicity she created for us! Thank you Mary Beth - may you find peace and happiness in your search for your soul." [CelebStoner

I dunno, Tommy. You might wanna keep the floodlights on at night, just in case. If we know one thing about Mary Beth Buchanan, it’s that she never ever stops. She could be lurking in your bushes at this very moment, drunk with fury and looking to finish what she started.

Cheech and Chong vs. Bill O'Reilly: Worst Interview Ever


Boy, O'Reilly really knows how to suck the humor out of a room:



This should never have been allowed to take place. Bill O'Reilly shouldn't be allowed anywhere these guys, or anyone else who's ever been remotely funny at any point in modern history.

And if anyone can think of a legal way to make O'Reilly stop saying things like this, please share:
O'REILLY: We found out that in San Francisco, which leads the league in marijuana clinics, medical marijuana clinics, a lot of hard-core drug addicts go in there, buy the pot and sell it to kids so they can buy their heroin and meth and everything else.

CHONG: Sell it to kids?

O'REILLY: Yes.

CHONG: Where did you get that information?

O'REILLY: We got it from our undercover people.
Yeah, right. This is one of those social problems that you'll only hear about on the O'Reilly Factor because it only exists in the twisted mind of Bill O'Reilly.

Feature: Fired Up in Albuquerque -- The 2009 International Drug Policy Reform Conference

Jazzed by the sense that the tide is finally turning their way, more than a thousand people interested in changing drug policies flooded into Albuquerque, New Mexico, last weekend for the 2009 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance. Police officers in suits mingled with aging hippies, politicians met with harm reductionists, research scientists chatted with attorneys, former prisoners huddled with state legislators, and marijuana legalizers mingled with drug treatment professionals -- all united by the belief that drug prohibition is a failed policy.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/vigildpa09.jpg
candlelight vigil outside the Albuquerque Convention Center (courtesy Drug Policy Alliance)
As DPA's Ethan Nadelmann said before and repeated at the conference's opening session: "We are the people who love drugs, we are the people who hate drugs, we are the people that don't care about drugs," but who do care about the Constitution and social justice. "The wind is at our backs," Nadelmann chortled, echoing and amplifying the sense of progress and optimism that pervaded the conference like never before.

For three days, conference-goers attended a veritable plethora of panels and breakout sessions, with topics ranging from the drug war in Mexico and South America to research on psychedelics, from implementing harm reduction policies in rural areas to legalizing marijuana, from how to organize for drug reform to what sort of treatment works, and from medical marijuana to prescription heroin.

It was almost too much. At any given moment, several fascinating panels were going on, ensuring that at least some of them would be missed even by the most interested. The Thursday afternoon time bloc, for example, had six panels: "Medical Marijuana Production and Distribution Systems," "After Vienna: Prospects for UN and International Reform," "Innovative Approaches to Sentencing Reform," "Examining Gender in Drug Policy Reform," "Artistic Interventions for Gang Involved Youth," and "The Message is the Medium: Communications and Outreach Without Borders."

The choices weren't any easier at the Friday morning breakout session, with panels including "Marijuana Messaging that Works," "Fundraising in a Tough Economy," "Congress, President Obama, and the Drug Czar," "Zoned Out" (about "drug-free zones"), "Psychedelic Research: Neuroscience and Ethnobotanical Roots," "Opioid Overdose Prevention Workshop," and "Border Perspectives: Alternatives to the 40-Year-Old War on Drugs."

People came from all over the United States -- predominantly from the East Coast -- as well as South Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe (Denmark, England, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, and Switzerland), Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico), and Asia (Cambodia and Thailand).

Medical marijuana was one of the hot topics, and New Mexico, which has just authorized four dispensaries, was held up as a model by some panelists. "If we had a system as clear as New Mexico's, we'd be in great shape," said Alex Kreit, chair of a San Diego task force charged with developing regulations for dispensaries there.

"Our process has been deliberate, which you can also read as 'slow,'" responded Steve Jenison, medical director of the state Department of Health's Infectious Disease Bureau. "But our process will be a very sustainable one. We build a lot of consensus before we do anything."

Jenison added that the New Mexico, which relies on state-regulated dispensaries, was less likely to result in diversion than more open models, such as California's. "A not-for-profit being regulated by the state would be less likely to be a source of diversion to the illicit market," Jenison said.

For ACLU Drug Policy Law Project attorney Allen Hopper, such tight regulation has an added benefit: it is less likely to excite the ire of the feds. "The greater the degree of state involvement, the more the federal government is going to leave the state alone," Hopper said.

At Friday's plenary session, "Global Drug Prohibition: Costs, Consequences and Alternatives," Australia's Dr. Alex Wodak amused the audience by likening the drug war to "political Viagra" in that it "increases potency in elections." But he also made the more serious point that the US has exported its failed drug policy around the world, with deleterious consequences, especially for producer or transit states like Afghanistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

At that same session, former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda warned that Latin American countries feel constrained from making drug policy reforms because of the glowering presence of the US. Drug reform is a "radioactive" political issue, he said, in explaining why it is either elder statesmen, such as former Brazilian President Cardoso or people like himself, "with no political future," who raise the issue. At a panel the following day, Castaneda made news by bluntly accusing the Mexican army of executing drug traffickers without trial. (See related story here).

It wasn't all listening to panels. In the basement of the Albuquerque Convention Center, dozens of vendors showed off their wares, made their sales, and distributed their materials as attendees wandered through between sessions. And for many attendees, it was as much a reunion as a conference, with many informal small group huddles taking place at the center and in local bars and restaurants and nearby hotels so activists could swap experiences and strategies and just say hello again.

The conference also saw at least two premieres. On the first day of the conference, reporters and other interested parties repaired to a Convention Center conference room to see the US unveiling of the British Transform Drug Policy Foundation publication, After the War on Drugs: A Blueprint for Legalization, a how-to manual on how to get to drug reform's promised land. Transform executive director Danny Kushlick was joined by Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Sanho Tree of the Institute for Policy Studies, Deborah Small of Break the Chains, and DPA's Nadelmann as he laid out the case for moving beyond "what would it look like."

"There's never been a clear vision of a post-prohibition world," said Kushlick. "With this, we've tried to reclaim drug policy from the drug warriors. We want to make drug policy boring," he said. "We want not only harm reduction, but drama reduction," he added, envisioning debates about restrictions on sales hours, zoning, and other dreary topics instead of bloody drug wars and mass incarceration.

"As a movement, we have failed to articulate the alternative," said Tree. "And that leaves us vulnerable to the fear of the unknown. This report restores order to the anarchy. Prohibition means we have given up on regulating drugs; this report outlines some of the options for regulation."

That wasn't the only unveiling Thursday. Later in the evening, Flex Your Rights held the first public showing of a near-final version of its new video, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. The screening of the self-explanatory successor to Flex Your Right's 2003 "Busted" -- which enjoyed a larger budget and consequently higher production level -- played to a packed and enthusiastic house. This highly useful examination of how not to get yourself busted is bound to equal if not exceed the break-out success of "Busted." "10 Rules" was one of a range of productions screened during a two-night conference film festival.

The conference ended Saturday evening with a plenary address by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who came out as a legalizer back in 2001, and was welcomed with waves of applause before he ever opened his mouth. "It makes no sense to spend the kind of money we spend as a society locking up people for using drugs and using the criminal justice system to solve the problem," he said, throwing red meat to the crowd.

We'll do it all again two years from now in Los Angeles. See you there!

Drug Czar Blames the Media for Marijuana's Popularity

If you wanna hear drug czar Gil Kerlikowske getting served by random people who hate the drug war, check out this NPR interview. As soon as the phones open, Mr. K gets put on the defensive by a social worker, a physician and various others who aren't too fond of the war on drugs. Right on, radio people.

But I think my favorite part is this clueless attempt to explain America's obsession with marijuana:

KRIS (Caller): Thank you. I was wondering - I'm 62 years old, and when I was in high school, I didn't even know what marijuana was. And I'm wondering why is it so rampant now, and it never used to be?

Mr. KERLIKOWSKE: Well, I wish I had a good answer for that, Rachel. I am - I actually just about two years younger than you are, and so I'm afraid I would put myself in exactly the same mindset. But I think that marijuana is popularized on television shows. It is popularized in media. There is only one antidrug media message out there, and that's the one that the Office of the National Drug Control Policy actually funds, and that - the antidrug.com…

Has it occurred to you, sir, that TV shows and the media are talking about marijuana because people are interested in it, not the other way around? It wasn't the press that popularized marijuana, it was the people.

But this isn’t just about the popularity of pot, either. The reason marijuana is in the news constantly isn't just because everyone loves smoking it. This is happening because our marijuana policy is such a complete disaster that every single one of us is affected by it. If there weren't a massive war against marijuana being fought everyday throughout the country, then there wouldn’t be nearly as much to talk about, I assure you.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juarez," by Howard Campbell (2009, University of Texas Press, 310 pp., $24.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer Editor

Howard Campbell's "Drug War Zone" couldn't be more timely. Ciudad Juárez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, is awash in blood as the competing Juárez and Sinaloa cartels wage a deadly war over who will control the city's lucrative drug trafficking franchise. More than 2,000 people have been killed in Juárez this year in the drug wars, making the early days of Juárez Cartel dominance, when the annual narco-death toll was around 200 a year, seem downright bucolic by comparison.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/drugwarzone.jpg
The violence in Mexico, of which Juárez is the current epicenter, has been setting off alarm bells in Washington, and the US has responded with thousands more law enforcement agents on the border and more than a billion dollars in aid to the Mexican government. In other words, what we've been doing hasn't worked, so let's do even more of it, even more intensely.

We've all seen the horrific headlines; we've all seen the grim and garish displays of exemplary violence; we've read the statistics about the immense size of the illegal drug business in Mexico and the insatiable appetites of drug consumers in El Norte ("the north," e.g. the US). What we haven't had -- up until now -- is a portrayal of the El Paso-Juárez drug trade and drug culture that gets beneath the headlines, the politicians' platitudes, and law enforcement's self-justifying pronouncements. With "Drug War Zone," Campbell provides just that.

He's the right guy in the right place at the right time. A professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Texas-El Paso who has two decades in the area, Campbell is able to do his fieldwork when he walks out his front door and has been able to develop relationships with all sorts of people involved in the drug trade and its repression, from low-level street dealers in Juárez to middle class dabblers in dealing in El Paso, from El Paso barrio boys to Mexican smugglers, from journalists to Juárez cops, from relatives of cartel victims to highly-placed US drug fight bureaucrats.

Using an extended interview format, Campbell lets his informants paint a detailed picture of the social realities of the El Paso-Juárez "drug war zone." The overall portrait that emerges is of a desert metropolis (about a half million people on the US side, a million and a half across the river), distant both geographically and culturally from either Washington or Mexico City, with a long tradition of smuggling and a dense binational social network where families and relationships span two nations. This intricately imbricated web of social relations and historical factors -- the rise of a US drug culture, NAFTA and globalization -- have given rise to a border narco-culture deeply embedded in the social fabric of both cities.

(One thing that strikes me as I ponder Campbell's work, with its description of binational barrio gangs working for the Juárez Cartel, and narcos working both sides of the border, is how surprising it is that the violence plaguing Mexico has not crossed the border in any measurable degree. It's almost as if the warring factions have an unwritten agreement that the killings stay south of the Rio Grande. I'd wager they don't want to incite even more attention from the gringos.)

Campbell compares the so-called cartels to terrorists like Al Qaeda. With their terroristic violence, their use of both high tech (YouTube postings) and low tech (bodies hanging from bridges, warning banners adorning buildings) communications strategies, their existence as non-state actors acting both in conflict and complicity with various state elements, the comparison holds some water. Ultimately, going to battle against the tens of thousands of people employed by the cartels in the name of an abstraction called "the war on drugs" is likely to be as fruitless and self-defeating as going to battle against Pashtun tribesmen in the name of an abstraction called "the war on terror."

But that doesn't mean US drug war efforts are going to stop, or that the true believers in law enforcement are going to stop believing -- at least most of them. One of the virtues of "Drug War Zone" is that it studies not only the border narco-culture, but also the border policing culture. Again, Campbell lets his informants speak for him, and those interviews are fascinating and informative.

Having seen its result close-up and firsthand, Campbell has been a critic of drug prohibition. He still is, although he doesn't devote a lot of space to it in the book. Perhaps, like (and through) his informants, he lets prohibition speak for itself. The last interview in the book may echo Campbell's sentiments. It's with former Customs and Border Patrol agent Terry Nelson. In the view of his former colleagues, Nelson has gone over to the dark side. He's a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

If you're interested in the border or drug culture or the drug economy or drug prohibition, you need to read "Drug War Zone." This is a major contribution to the literature.

Marijuana: Boston Freedom Rally Draws 30,000 -- No Arrests, Some Tickets, in Wake of State Decrim Vote

The 20th annual Boston Freedom Rally brought an estimated 30,000 people to Boston Common on Saturday, September 19, to support the reform of marijuana laws. That would make the Freedom Rally the second largest marijuana reform event in the country, behind only the Seattle Hempfest.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/bostonrally09.jpg
2009 Boston Freedom Rally (Scott Gacek on bostonfreedomrally.com)
All afternoon, tens of thousands of people sat in the sun, listening to speakers extolling the virtues of cannabis and calling for its legalization and bands rocking out for the cause. At 4:20pm, a massive cloud of marijuana smoke rose from the Commons as the crowd celebrated the stoner holiday (or time of day).

Sponsored by MassCann, the Bay State affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Freedom Rally had in some past years been marred by arrests for pot-smoking. In a previous article, Drug War Chronicle predicted that the rally would see "numerous arrests -- if police behavior in the past is any indicator." That was an overstatement -- our apologies to MASSCANN for it. 2007 did see 53 arrests at the Freedom Rally, according to Boston Police -- one of them of NORML founder Keith Stroup. But even that number, while significant, was a fraction of a percent of the attendees. Last year, the number of possession busts was down to just six.

And this year there were none. Massachusetts residents voted to decriminalize marijuana possession last November, and so all the police could do this year was issue tickets with a maximum fine of $100, which they did to 136 people. Three others were arrested for marijuana distribution, and another three on unspecified charges.

Still, participants and organizers of the festival alike lauded the relative freedom of living in a decrim state, while decrying the presence of undercover officers who, apparently randomly, would select members of the crowd to be searched and hassled. On its web site, Freedom Rally organizers have asked that people who were ticketed or searched by police contact them.

Stay tuned for Chronicle coverage of the Massachusetts decriminalization law and of the movement in Massachusetts.

Stars of “From Prison to the Stage” at Kennedy Center return to Connecticut

[Courtesy of The Safe Streets Arts Foundation] We are pleased to report that the Judy Dworin Performance Project, which was a big hit at our "From Prison to the Stage" show at the Kennedy Center on Sept. 5, has returned safely to its home in Hartford, Connecticut. The Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP) was founded in 1989 as a nonprofit organization to provide support for individual artists, particularly the silent and silenced. Over the past 20 years, JDPP has provided innovative, inspiring, educational and collaborative art rooted in the belief that the arts can be a powerful agent for change. Upcoming events of JDPP: • October 30, 6:30pm - Excerpts from the award winning The Witching Hour at the Old State House in downtown Hartford • Nov 5, 6 & 7, 7:30pm - Premiere of What I Want to Say at Charter Oak Cultural Center, an evening that celebrates past pieces and debuts from the Judy Dworin Performance Ensemble. • Feb 2 - Dreamings, a piece created at York Correctional Institution (women's state prison), as further developed by formerly incarcerated women and family members of the incarcerated, at Kinsella Performing Arts Magnet School. Upcoming residencies: The Moving Matters! Residency program of JDPP brings movement-based multi-arts residencies into schools, prisons and community centers through collaborative multi-arts projects. • A 5th year in residence at York Correctional Institution, with workshops in dance, song, storytelling, poetry and personal testimony on the theme of "Bridging the Divides" to culminate in July • A further development of the York Moms & Kids program bridging the divide between incarcerated mothers and their children. For further information about JDPP, its performance or residency work or DVDs of work listed here, please visit www.judydworin.org or contact JDPPinc@gmail.com or 860.527.9800.

Prison Tattoo Art Contest Winners

 

Hello everyone,

We have the winners for the 2009 Prison Tattoo Art Contest. Go to our web site and check them out.

www.shotcallerpress.com

We received so much astonishing art that it was difficult to choose the winners, but as usual, we have. We have also selected other artists to be displayed in "Prison Ink" the tabletop tattoo art book that will be released sometime in 2010. Watch our web site for changes and other announcements regarding "Prison Ink".

If you have not been notified regarding the contest you are not a winner. Winners have already been notified. Artists selected to be in the book will be receiving their notification within the next few weeks. Please do not contact us about your status we will send out all notifications by US mail. 

We would also like to apologize for our late beginning for the second short story contest. The delay is due to limited funds. We will be holding the contest real soon - our priority is paying the winners of the art contest. Thank you for you patience and understanding in this matter.

Remember our stories can change the world,

 

Theresa M. Huggins

CEO, Shot Caller Press, LLC

theresa@shotcallerpress.com

503-890-1027

 

Media Hypocrisy in the Marijuana Debate

Russ Belville shares the fascinating story of some "higher ups" at CBS pulling the plug on a NORML radio show that was about to go on the air. The whole thing is magnificently absurd considering that CBS owns Showtime, home of the hit series Weeds.

If CBS has a problem with marijuana, then they really shouldn’t be out there making money by sensationalizing it. Boy, it would really suck for CBS if word got out among Weeds viewers that the show's corporate owners have some kind of problem with debating marijuana laws.

Ecstacy and the war on empathy.

I recently read an article on the Sotomeyer Hearings, which discussed how "Republicans Question Need for Empathy". This led me to contemplate how our entire war on drugs is a war on empathy, particularly the drug policies started by the Nixon administration. These were of course part of an overall strategy against the counter culture which preached (among other things) increased empathy. The war on drugs was one of the earliest and longest lasting fronts in the culture war which has played such a large part of American politics in my life time. I think the rather disproportionate vilification of ecstacy is in no small part because of an anti-empathy attitude among fundamentalists. So I wrote a little article about it here. Perhaps some of you would enjoy reading it. I look forward to reading any comments.

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