US Marijuana Party

Saturday, April 30, 2005

"Cousin" Judge reinstates School Board Pres. License

Will the judge be prosecuted when this guy kills someone while driving drunk?

David Thomas driving again
Judge Herman Thomas gives school board president his license back, for now
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Staff Reporter

Mobile County school board president David Thomas, whose drivers license was suspended for 90 days after being charged with DUI, got his license back after just a few weeks, though he could lose it again for the rest of the 90 days.

Circuit Judge Herman Thomas, who has said that he and David Thomas are friends, fraternity brothers and cousins, though not first cousins, granted the motion.

David Thomas' license was automatically revoked for 90 days because he refused to take a blood-alcohol test when he was arrested on Mardi Gras, Feb. 8.

He appealed the suspension to the Alabama Department of Public Safety, but he lost the appeal in March. Thomas' driving privileges were then revoked, which was reflected in a copy of his driving license record obtained by the Mobile Register on March 25.

Thomas' attorney, Donald Briskman, appealed the DPS decision to Mobile County Circuit Court on April 11. Briskman asked that Thomas' license be taken off suspension until the appeal is decided.

According to a new DPS report on David Thomas' license, he's free to drive.

Anticipating a question about Herman Thomas' action in his cousin's case, Briskman said "there's nothing out of the ordinary" because Herman Thomas was the duty judge when Briskman brought the motion.

The duty judge handles various time-sensitive motions that are not already assigned to a particular judge. A court employee confirmed that Herman Thomas was the duty judge on April 11.

Herman Thomas could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

David Thomas' appeal of his license suspension is a civil matter, separate from the criminal charges pending against the board member, including a felony count of leaving the scene of an accident.

Ken Nixon, a Mobile lawyer who frequently handles drunken driving cases, said he almost always appeals the automatic driver's license suspension and commonly appeals those decisions to Circuit Court.

Two or three times a year, Nixon said, a Department of Public Safety lawyer comes down to Mobile to represent the state in all the appeals that have piled up.

The Mobile Register has fielded several calls from people who said David Thomas was driving recently. A reporter saw Thomas driving Thursday after a school board meeting.

Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. said people have called his office, too. Tyson said his staff had been dealing with the police department to establish if that was true, but he said he wasn't aware that Thomas' license had been reinstated.

Tyson's office is handling the Fat Tuesday charges stemming from the accident in which David Thomas' vehicle collided with an 8-year-old girl, who was on foot. Both charges have been sent to a grand jury, which will decide whether to indict him.

If convicted of the felony, David Thomas will be removed from office -- a specter also hanging over Mobile County Sheriff Jack Tillman, who is facing felony charges of his own.

David Thomas' recent arrest fo cused attention on a previous DUI arrest in December 1998 that had gone unnoticed. In that case, a Mobile police officer reported that Thomas was passed out at the wheel of his vehicle while it was in the middle of Dauphin Street downtown.

Thomas was released from jail without having to stay the customary eight hours to sober up, even though he registered .14 on a blood-alcohol test, well above the legal limit of .08, according to his court file.

A few days before Thomas was scheduled to appear in court, his case was taken up by Municipal Court Judge Wanda Rahman. She ordered that the charge be dropped and that Thomas pay about $100 to the court and stay out of trouble for a year.

Rahman ordered that the case be expunged, meaning it was erased from the court's computer filing system. Paper records were placed in a filing cabinet out of public view.

David Thomas' expungement exposed the Municipal Court's relatively widespread practice of expungement, in which more than 200 cases have been erased annually in recent years.

Sheriff Tillman has said that only a judge could have allowed Thomas' early release in 1998, though the Mobile Register has not learned if that happened.

Stanley Arnold, the corrections officer who released Thomas that night, has said that he remembered the case -- and that he also is a fraternity brother of Thomas -- but he would not discuss it further.

Judge Thomas has previously said he had nothing to do with his cousin's 1998 charge, though he wasn't specifically asked about David Thomas' early release from jail.

Stop Prisoner Rape "Drug War Focus"

I have often wondered how many drug war prisoners are raped while behind bars. The reality of such a thing occurred to me almost as soon as I entered drug policy reform and I often bring up that topic in my speeches. I find the thought of it hasn't occurred to most people on either side of the debate.

I am very happy to see that Stop Prisoner Rape has decided to cover this issue.

The following is from Pete Guither at

Stop Prisoner Rape

I received a note from Andrea Cavanaugh, the public outreach associate for Stop Prisoner Rape, a national human rights organization.

Stories from Inside

SPR is launching a groundbreaking new project built around firsthand accounts of sexual assaults against inmates held on drug charges.

Stories from Inside will examine how the "war on drugs" and three-strikes laws have exacerbated prison overcrowding and led to a dramatic increase in prisoner rape. When it is released to the public, the project will help shatter stereotypes about prisoner rape and the commonly held perception that drug defendants "get what they deserve" while in custody.

SPR is seeking non-violent drug offenders who are survivors of prisoner rape and who are willing to participate in the project.

If you are willing to participate, contact Andrea.

For more background, please read this feature at the Drug War Chronicle. It's an eye-opener.

And remember (paraphrasing William F. Buckley): Even if one takes every allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, drug prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than drugs ever could.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Prisoner Cleared Of Assaulting Deputy With Bologna Sandwich


RIVERHEAD, N.Y. -- A 47-year-old Amityville, Long Island, man who was in custody has been cleared of assaulting a deputy sheriff with a bologna sandwich.

The Suffolk District Attorney said the jury did find Frank Barnett guilty of obstructing governmental administration, a misdemeanor.

The district attorney said it happened on April 8 when Barnett was at the district court in Central Islip for an appearance on an unrelated misdemeanor charge. During a lunch break he allegedly threw his bologna sandwich at Deputy Robert Etheridge. He said he dropped it and was trying to pick it up when he was set upon by deputies.

During the ensuing scuffle, Etheridge told the jury he suffered a back injury that kept him off the job for a month.

However, after two hours of deliberations Monday the Suffolk jury convicted Barnett of the misdemeanor obstruction charge, and found him not guilty of assault.

Judge Gets Envelope Containing Marijuana From Prisoner


AZTEC, N.M. -- A letter containing marijuana that arrived for state District Judge Thomas Hynes Monday was allegedly sent by a San Juan County Detention Center prisoner.

In the letter, prisoner Craig Hopkins apologized for violating his probation.

Marijuana leaves were in the envelope.

The county's corrections director, Tom Havel, said the discovery prompted a six-hour shakedown in Hopkins' cellblock, but no other drugs were found.

Havel said the marijuana could have been smuggled into the jail in a prisoner's body cavity – but Hopkins isn't talking with jail officials

Hopkins already faces charges ranging from possession of a controlled substance to driving while intoxicated and battery on a household member.

Former officer sentenced to nine years for beating man


RICHMOND, Va.- A former Petersburg city police officer who admitted to a role in the severe beating of a man was sentenced to nine years in prison today.

Thirty-two-year-old Michael Tweedy pleaded guilty in January to deprivation of rights under color of law in the October 2003 beating. At least four Petersburg police officers took part in the assault that left Lamont Koonce in a coma for more than two months.

Another former officer charged in the beating -- Michael Perkins -- was convicted in February. He is due to be sentenced May 20th.

U-S Attorney Paul McNulty says police officers are sworn to protect and defend the public and that they will be held accountable when they violate the public trust.

Birmingham police officer sented to 22 years in prison for sodomy

The Associated Press

(AL) - A judge has sentenced a former Birmingham police officer to 22 years in prison for forcing a 12-year-old boy to perform sexual acts.

Todd Easterwood, a 10-year veteran in North Precinct, was convicted of first-degree sodomy in February after a weeklong trial.

The case came to the attention of authorities after the victim, now 17, told his mother last year about the abuse, which happened in Hueytown over a period of three years.

Defense lawyer Jon Terry said Easterwood qualified for an alternative sentencing program and asked that his client be confined to a state hospital for treatment.

But Petelos denied the request.

"I realize that sentencing a former law enforcement officer and someone convicted of a sexual offense to prison poses a problem," Petelos said. "However, that can't be used as a reason for a lenient sentence. I think police officers should be held to a higher standard."

State to cuts funds for girls prison

By Diane C. Lade

(FL) - Legislators have agreed to cut all state money for the troubled Florida Institute for Girls, closing the state's only maximum-security prison for female juvenile offenders.

The institute, the first Florida corrections facility of its kind when it opened west of West Palm Beach in 2000, was to be a get-tough solution for the state's most disturbed teens. But it has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement, violence by guards and inmates and abuse.

"My thinking was that it was one of the worst programs in the state of Florida ... and it should have been shut a long time ago," said Rep. Gustavo Barreiro, R-Miami Beach.

"The providers are out there," he said. "We need better, smaller, gender-specific programs, where girls won't have to worry about having their arms broken or being raped by the guards."

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Some Of The Drug Conditions During The War Between The States

A Paper read before a meeting of the American Pharmaceutical Association held in Baltimore, Maryland, in August, 1898,

By Joseph Jacobs, Pharmacist, Atlanta, Georgia.


Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana
on Ashcroft v. Raich:

Alabama Attorney General (PDF) here.

Medical marijuana bill approved by House committee

The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Legislation to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes got approved by a legislative committee Wednesday, but neither the bill's sponsor nor the panel's chairman expect it to get any closer to becoming law this year.

"I know it's not going to move," said the sponsor, Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill on a sharply divided voice vote Wednesday. Because of the voice vote, there is no official record of how committee members voted.

The marijuana bill now goes to the House with only three meeting days left in the legislative session.

Hall and committee Chairman Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, urged the committee to approve the bill to foster negotiations with medical groups and others before next year's session of the Legislature.

"I want to work through this activity for the next year," Hall said.

Hall's bill would allow Alabamians with chronic or persistent medical conditions to use marijuana for pain relief if a doctor approves it. Hall said marijuana should be an option for people with chronic pain who have found other pain killers ineffective.

The Judiciary Committee first discussed her bill April 20, but delayed action on it for a week so she could make changes suggested by committee members. Her bill originally would have allowed patients or their caregivers to grow marijuana, but she changed Wednesday so the marijuana would have to come from a pharmacy.

An opponent, Rep. Albert Morton, R-Birmingham, said there are plenty of pain medications for people to use other than marijuana, and Alabama does not need to do anything to put marijuana in a favorable light.

"That's an unhealthy lifestyle we'd be promoting," he said.

Black assured opponents that the bill won't pass in the current legislative session. "It's in a format that will continue to require work," he said.

Michael Blain, policy director for the Drug Policy Alliance and a medical marijuana advocate, said getting the bill approved by a committee in its first year in the Legislature "is amazing progress."

Before next year's session, the group will work with Hall to try to build support by conducting a public education program, he said.

House backs off plan to siphon drug raid profits

By Associated Press

BOSTON - House leaders backed off a plan Wednesday to siphon a third of money seized during drug raids, bowing to pressure from rank and file lawmakers who said local police departments and district attorneys need the money more than the state.
When House budget writers unveiled their fiscal year 2006 spending plan, they included a proposal to divide up money seized during drug raids with one-third shares going to the local district attorney, local police department, and the state's general fund.
That's a change from current state law, which splits the money between the district attorney and local police department, with each getting half.
The proposed change met with resistance from police chiefs and district attorneys.
While supporters said the change was a chance to bring some accountability to the system, critics said the proposal amounted to a money grab, designed to drain resources from already cash-strapped law enforcement agencies.

Shirt sends ominous message about drug raid shooting

St. Petersburg Times

ST. PETERSBURG - The front of the T-shirt shows a picture of Jarrell Walker, known as "J Brick," who was recently shot to death by a Pinellas sheriff's deputy during a drug raid.

Atop his picture are the letters R.I.P., and below it are the dates he was born and killed.

The back of the shirt reads, "WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE." Below the big letters it says, "Chris Taylor killed 1 of ours. Now 1 of his must die!"

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is investigating the intent of the black T-shirt after it was confiscated from a 21-year-old man who was wearing it when he was booked into the county jail.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Freedom is NORML Rally

On Thursday, April 28, 2005 I will be speaking at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC as the campus NORML chapter hosts its first ever Freedom is NORML rally.

Musical performances by The Natti Love Joys, After Dark, Free Love Express, and Big Lion. Also NORML members, and other students will be speaking about their experiences with marijuana and the law.

Go HERE for directions.

I will be speaking around 3 pm and then again later on between bands.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Cigarette Nazi's are coming

Beyond a craving

By Charles Duhigg,L.A. Times Staff Writer

Despite all the evidence, why do some still smoke? Smokers suffer more depression and other mental disorders, studies show, yet nicotine may actually help them cope.

When millions of Americans abandoned smoking in the 1980s, many health experts and social scientists thought they had tobacco on the run. But in the '90s progress began to slow: From 1990 to 2003, according to federal figures, only 3% of Americans gave up their cigarettes.

Smokers are more depressed and suffer a higher rate of anxiety disorders and other psychological maladies. At the same time, nicotine may provide a mental boost that helps them cope. These findings help explain why some people won't quit, experts say.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Economics of Prohibition

It is conventional wisdom that alchohol prohibition failed, but the economic reasons for this failure have never been as extensively detailed or analyzed as they are in this study by Mark Thornton.

The lessons he draws apply not only to the period of alcohol prohibition but also to drug prohibition and any other government attempt to control consumption habits. The same pattern is repeated again and again.

23-Month-Old Dies In Foster Care

Government murders child over Mom's urine test.

Link from Last One Speaks

Deaths demand answers

Birmingham News

Three women who died at Tutwiler prison last year received bad medical care - perhaps even bad enough in two of the cases to be blamed in the deaths.

That's the conclusion of Dr. Michael Puisis of Illinois, an expert in correctional health care who was hired by a federal court to monitor Tutwiler's health care services for inmates.

RIP: Harris County drug task force

Houston Chronicle


The saga that began with the notorious Tulia drug stings in 1999 took two dramatic turns earlier this month: A federal judge in Waco ruled that an ACLU lawsuit alleging racial profiling by a drug task force in Hearne can go forward next month; and the Harris County Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force announced it would shut its doors after May 31.
Meanwhile, the Texas Legislature still may get rid of the drug task force system this session. Texas drug task forces are a proven failure. It is time for the state to shift federal grant funds to other, more productive strategies before the money is taken away entirely.

Henson directs the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas' Police Accountability Project.

Scott's Blog: Grits for Breakfast

Organizations seek black voice in drug laws

By Kelly Brewington
Sun Staff

WASHINGTON - Amid the policy-makers and legal professionals who devise the tactics of the nation's "war on drugs," Tara Andrews thinks one voice hasn't been heard.

African-Americans as a group have been silent for too long, said Andrews, director of the Maryland Justice Coalition, a Baltimore organization pushing the state to give nonviolent drug offenders treatment instead of jail time.

Yesterday, representatives of 15 black professional organizations that formed the National African American Drug Policy Coalition in the fall met to devise a strategy for changing drug laws they say unfairly punish African-Americans.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Prison medical care tied to deaths

Birmingham News

Prison medical staff provided poor, incomplete or substandard medical care to the three inmates who died last year at Tutwiler Prison for Women, according to a physician who monitors the prison's medical system for a federal court settlement.

Dr. Michael Puisis of Illinois, an expert in correctional health care, also suggests in a report that negligent, error-ridden medical care might have led to two of the three deaths.

His report is based on visits to the Wetumpka prison March 7-10 during which he reviewed records, interviewed staff and toured parts of the prison. It was required by a 2004 federal court settlement of a lawsuit over crowded conditions and medical care at Alabama's only prison for women.

With current patients, Puisis reported that private contractor Prison Health Services lacked follow-up, made mistakes in prescribing drugs and gave substandard care to 19 of 22 prisoners whose charts he reviewed. Women with HIV, staph infections, diabetes and other conditions were consistently denied treatment, he wrote.

Among the mistakes the report cited in the three deaths:

"This patient's underlying medical conditions were grossly mismanaged," Puisis wrote about one woman, a lupus patient who suffered a brain hemorrhage and died in March 2004, a few months after Englehardt canceled tests recommended by an outside cardiologist. "There is no clinical basis for this decision," Puisis wrote.

"Care (of three chronic conditions) was substandard and may have contributed to her death," Puisis wrote about a prisoner who died in August. Her hyperlipidemia, a form of high cholesterol, was untreated and "unquestionably contributed to her death," he wrote.

This woman needed to go to a hospital, he wrote, but instead was kept in the prison infirmary and was not seen regularly by a doctor.

The third inmate hanged herself while on suicide watch. She was on suicide watch for five days, but was not evaluated by a mental health professional except for a phone call to a psychiatrist who prescribed medication. On Jan. 24, 2004, the woman was crying, saying "Daddy, don't hurt me anymore," and was banging her head against a wall, a nurse reported. The next day she hanged herself.

"It appears that the record is either incomplete or she was not seen for the duration of her suicide watch until she died," Puisis wrote. "This type of death review is inadequate and leaves many unanswered questions."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Alternative School for the "wrong clothes?"

PRATTVILLE -- Usually, a trip to the principal's office makes kids tremble. But when parent Trinise Gilbert left the principal's office Wednesday at Prattville Junior High, she said she was the one shaking like a leaf.

Gilbert said she was one of about seven parents who had to pick their children up from the school because they allegedly were wearing "gang-related" clothing.

"I feel that me and my son (Octavius) were discriminated against," Gilbert said. "My son wore black-and-white to school and they said he had to go to the alternative school because he was wearing gang colors."


Warning on spread of state surveillance

Richard Norton-Taylor
Thursday April 21, 2005
The Guardian

Governments are building a "global registration and surveillance infrastructure" in the US-led "war on terror", civil liberty groups warned yesterday.

The aim is to monitor the movements and activities of entire populations in what campaigners call "an unprecedented project of social control".


ACLU, Global Coalition Launch International Surveillance Campaign

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Likely Dead This Session

Medical marijuana bill likely dead for this legislative session

Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Legislation to legalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons is likely dead for this session of the Alabama Legislature because a House committee Wednesday decided the measure needed more study.

But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, said she plans to try again next session.

"This is not a criminal justice issue. It's a medical issue," Hall told the House Judiciary Committee.

Hall wants to allow Alabamians with chronic or persistent medical conditions, ranging from cancer to AIDS to migrane headaches, to acquire or cultivate marijuana under a doctor's direction. Hall's bill provides that if a patient couldn't acquire or grow the marijuana, then the primary caregivers could.

After discussing her bill Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee decided by a voice vote to send it to a subcommittee for more study. Committee Chairman Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, said the bill "doesn't have a good chance of making it to the final line" this session because time is nearly out, but he'd like to see it again next session.

"It's an idea definitely worth pursuing," he said.

During the committee's debate, Rep. Albert Morton, R-Birmingham, said he was concerned that marijuana prescribed for medical reasons would find its way into the illegal drug trade. "The problems would be much worse than the good it could do for a few," he said.

Hall said little marijuana would be involved because experience in other states has shown few people ask a doctor to prescribe marijuana.

"There are many more drugs that are more dangerous and addictive that are being prescribed every day," she said.

Rep. Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville, said Alabama shouldn't pass any legislation until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the U.S. attorney general's legal challenge to California's medical marijuana law. The Supreme Court heard arguments in November, but has not indicated when it will decide the case.

Enacting a law before the Supreme Court rules would submit Alabama to expensive litigation, Sanderford said.

Hall told the committee that her personal experience caused her to pursue the medical marijuana legislation. She said her son suffered from terrible pain after being diagnosed with AIDS in 1989, and the drugs that were available before his death three years later did not alleviate his pain.

"If this option had been available, my son and I would have requested from the physician the option to have this," she said.

Rep. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, said he is sympathetic to patients with severe pain who think marijuana might help, but he said they should have to get it through a pharmacy like any other pain killer. He said allowing patients and their caregivers to grow marijuana "seems pretty broad."

I was at the Judiciary Committee Hearing for this bill today and this report makes it sound a lot worse than it was.
Only two House members on the Committee were adamantly opposed and the others were either for it or will be once some things are cleared up.
A sub-committee was formed and as I understood it they are to meet back with the Judiciary Committee next week if they have worked out the kinks.

I'll write more on this later.

Drug Cops to Train Monkeys for Law Enforcement

via TalkLeft

Loretta's New Neighborhood

The View Posted by Hello

I am spending my first night in my new apartment in Montgomery, AL. The picture is a shot from my balcony.

This ought to get real interesting.

Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America Established

March 23, 2005
Waco, Texas

Crossing Borders: The Stark Differences between the US and Canada

In June of 2004 I was invited to attend and speak at the HWY 420 Cannabis Conference to take place in Niagara Falls, Canada on April 16, 2005. I was able to attend and the following is a detailed recounting of my trip.

I arrived in Buffalo New York on Friday afternoon and caught a pre-arranged cab to the Canadian border. I am always afraid that Canadian Customs will delay me for an extended period of time and I usually try and steel my nerves for this unavoidable consequence of traveling as head of the US Marijuana Party.

This was the first time I had ever crossed the Canadian border by land. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The cab driver handed my passport to the border guard and was asked to roll down the back window so the guard could see me.

The guard asked all of the standard questions.

“What is your reason for visiting Canada?”

Since I am always honest with Customs I told him that I was there to speak at a conference.

“Where will you be speaking?”

“At the Niagara Falls park.”

“What will you be speaking about?”

“American influence on Canadian drug policy.”

“Are you for or against American influence on our policy?”

“I am against it.”

“Do you have any pot on you?”

“No. Americans come to smoke your pot so we don’t bring our own.”

“What will I find if I run your passport?”

“You’ll find that I am leader of the US Marijuana Party and that I cross the US/Canadian border often.”

To the cab driver, “Where are you taking her?”

Cabbie: “The Holiday Inn on Murray.”

The guard then looked at me and with a mischievous grin said
“Welcome to Canada…and bring me something back when you come through on Sunday.”

Welcome to Canada indeed.
It is nice to be welcomed with open arms to another country.

Never Eat Thai Food after flying.

On the way to the hotel my cab driver, having heard the conversation with the Border Guard, expressed an interest in learning more about my work. So I filled him in as much as I could in the few minutes we had left. When we arrived at the hotel I had expected to meet my ride who had the cab fare, pay the cabbie and embark on my weekend adventure.

However, my ride got a little lost and hadn’t made it to our designated meeting point yet. I called the cell number I was given but got voicemail.
I didn’t have my credit card on me so I couldn’t pay the cabbie.
He decides that he will wait with me for a little bit and we continue our conversation about pot and drug policy.

“So you guys are going to be in the Queens Park tomorrow having a conference and smoking pot”? The cabbie asks.

“Yes. It starts at 10 a.m. at the library and later on we will march down to the park for a rally. If you are off tomorrow or have some time after work why don’t you join us?”

“I’ll try. I’d love to be there. Here is my cell phone number. Please call me tomorrow and before you leave.”

About this time my ride calls to tell me that it will be another 30-45 minutes before they arrive. I relay this message to the cabbie.

“That’s no problem but I can’t wait with you that long. Let me see what I can do about the cab fare.”

He gets on the radio with his boss and tells him the situation. Near the end of this conversation he says to his boss, “She is head of the US Marijuana Party so I know she is good for it. She’s legit.”

Apparently that was good enough for his boss because he came back and said, “No worries it is all taken care of.”

“Wow. You don’t know me at all and you are willing to drive away without your money?”

“Well it isn’t everyday that the president of the US Marijuana Party rides in your cab. I’ve only been driving for two months but I never thought I would meet anyone famous. You enjoy your weekend in Canada and call me tomorrow.”

Man, I love Canadians.

I sat outside in the chilly Canadian air for a few minutes then decided to go in the bar and have a drink to warm me up, take the edge off my day and make the wait for my ride go faster. I wound up having two Long Island Iced Tea’s and by the time my ride arrived I was feeling no pain.

After exchanging suffocating neck hugs and some unadulterated joy at finally meeting each other face to face I load my things into the van and we strike out for London, Ontario for the night.

The ride was about two and a half hours long for which my host profusely apologized. Apologies were not necessary. I was extremely glad to have made it across the border unmolested and to have found a cab driver that let me off without paying $60 because of who I am.
In my world that is called “batting a thousand.”

We talked and laughed so much on the ride to London that my vocal cords became sore and I began to sound raspy. My host called home to check in with the family and was informed that the cupboards were bare and we should eat before we got home.

“Do you like Thai food?” my host asked me.

“That sounds good. It will be light and maybe it won’t knock me out.”

We proceed to a Thai restaurant where I ordered some things of which I had a basic understanding of the ingredients but could not pronounce. I had not eaten all day and since we had shared some goodie on the road I had a serious case of the munchies.

When my food arrived I devoured it. The spring roll, filled with cabbage and other goodies was divine as were the fried wanton noodles with sausage balls and peppers inside. The cashew chicken was superb.

Feeling full and satisfied we depart on the final leg of our journey. So far, it had been a stellar day for me and I was looking forward to meeting the rest of my host/sponsor family, settling in for the evening and preparing my speech notes for the next day. Life was good.

All of a sudden a nuclear bomb went off in my lower intestine.
“Ruuuumble” “gurgle gurgle” “bubble”

I involuntarily clenched all of the muscles in my entire body.
The pain was akin to that of giving birth to a 20-pound breech baby unaided by modern pain medications.
I broke out in a cold sweat and cradled my swelling, rebelling gut with my arm. A wave of nausea washed over me. I tried not to double over because I didn’t want my host to be aware of the bowel mutiny going on right next to her.

I’m thinking “Dear sweet Jesus that hurts………. Owwwwwwwww” and immediately after “God I hope she didn’t hear that racket.”

I closed my eyes and hoped desperately that my host wouldn’t look over and see the brow-furrowed, jaw-clenched, grimace I was suddenly sporting.

How exactly would I explain that I suddenly felt like the character Dexter from “Dexter’s Lab” in the “Critical Gas” episode where he had a large bean burrito for lunch and suffered such awful gas pains that he became convinced he was going to die and wrote out his will?

How, as a distinguished guest in a foreign country to address important political issues, was I to explain to my host that I was either about to puke or shit, or both, with such ferocity that it was likely to launch me through the roof of the automobile?

Canadians and the rest of the world already think Americans are rude and this certainly would not help repair that image.

Then, as suddenly as the mutiny began it was over.

My first emotion after the red haze of pain receded was gratitude and a promise to myself that I would never eat Thai food again. My second was jubilation that my embarrassing episode had apparently gone undetected by my host and that I still had my dignity.

Whew! That was a close call.

Let this serve as a warning to you, dear reader. Air travel, alcohol and anything containing cabbage, sausage and peppers is a highly volatile and combustible combination.
Steer Clear!

The rest of the evening was spent in my hosts’ lovely, warm home and discussing politics, family life and the exciting day ahead.

HWY 420 Cannabis Conference

The day of the conference dawned bright and clear. We rose early and after we picked up another passenger we headed back to Niagara Falls for the festivities.

The conference room at the Library on Victoria Ave. was packed with activists. There were two long tables loaded with high quality literature provided by Frank Discussion, a long time drug policy reform advocate and member of the Cannabis Culture forums.
There were also loads of hemp and pot cookies provided by “puff mama” and a piñata bearing the likeness of Anne McClellan.

As I looked around the room I saw many faces I recognized.

Tim Meehan, Alison Myrden, Jeff Merklinger (a.k.a. Cannabian), Sinshune, puff mama, Matt Mernagh, James101, Gooey, Whirlwind and the Goodwin’s, owners of “Up In Smoke” café, with their new baby were all in attendance.

Others that I had not met in person but who knew me began to come over and introduce themselves. Many neck hugs were exchanged and it was wonderful to finally put faces with names.

Travis, who traveled over 4 hours to attend, introduced himself and asked if he could be the first Canadian to contribute to my election campaign. I accepted his offer of a contribution. Then he told me he was on unemployment and I felt bad about taking his $100. I almost gave it back to him. I knew that he could probably scarcely afford that donation. But, looking at him and that genuine smile on his face I knew that giving me that money meant a great deal to him and that if I tried to give it back I might offend. So I gave him a huge neck hug and sincere thanks instead.
I am still very touched by that whole episode.
I find it is often the people who can least afford to contribute that make the most contributions.
Thank you again Travis.

Puff Mama was the first speaker and she gave us all a very informative and poetic presentation about the benefits of eating things made from hemp and/or with cannabis.
I understand this was her first time speaking in public and she did a bang up job. Thanks for the cookies Puff Mama. They helped me keep a level head when going through Fortress America the re-entry process.

Anthony C. Brucato , a deaf presenter and his interpreter, Dr. Gail Rothman, both representing the Rochester Cannabis Coalition, gave a presentation on the New York State Medical Marijuana Bill

David Malmo-Levine was called upon to draw the numbers for the raffle. David is one of those people with the ability to make anything fun, exciting and humorous. He called the numbers with the skill of a trained auctioneer.

Next up was a panel discussion about medical marijuana, compassion clubs and big pharma. The great activists on this panel covered all of the many points on these two topics with complete accuracy. At the end the audience was invited to ask questions of the panel. Audience participation is an important first step in getting people involved in activism and one that I find is often overlooked at events and conferences.

The next presenters’ topic was a shock to me. Ian Levine from Pardons Canada informed the audience that if they had ever been arrested, photographed and fingerprinted by the police, regardless of whether they were charged with anything, that they had a criminal record. He then explained the process of getting your record removed.
This record, he informed the audience, could cause you to be denied entry into the United States.
My first thought was why on earth would anyone who could possibly avoid it enter the US these days?

Another raffle was held and then we took a break for lunch.

After lunch it was my turn to address the audience. Throughout the morning it had been repeatedly announced that I was in attendance and would be speaking. Loud, enthusiastic applause, whistles, hoots and hollers always followed these announcements.
I love Canadians.
And apparently they are quite fond of me and as they have deemed me an honorary Canadian, a very distinguished title, which I am most honored to hold.

I had no prepared speech. I find I am more comfortable in some venues speaking off the cuff and injecting more of my personality into the discussion. My topic was American influence on Canadian drug policy and I opened my talk with the question that occurred to me after Ian Levine’s presentation.

“Mr. Levine’s presentation was very informative and useful but I have to ask you why anyone who did not absolutely have to cross the border into the US would do so?”

I spoke a little about how I got started in activism, but kept that part short, as most in the room were familiar with my story. I wanted to shake the audience up and leave no doubt in their minds about what to expect as the US becomes more involved in Canadian drug policy. I told them about the prison crisis in Alabama and that the largest percentage of inmates are non-violent drug and property offenders.

I predicted that due to the continued linking of the drug war to the war on terror that the US would soon declare Canadian pot a “biological weapon of mass destruction” and that pot smoking Canadians would be declared terrorists.

I explained that the American drug war is used to destabilize entire nations and has nothing really to do with drugs. The government couldn’t care less if you are high.

To illustrate this point I spoke about my visit to Colombia, South America and how the US has raped the land and spent $98 million to send US soldiers to guard an oil pipeline owned by a private US company. The US justifies it’s involvement in Colombia’s conflict to the American people by claiming they are fighting narco-traffickers whose only desire is to get their children hooked on cocaine.

I warned my Canadian family that the US wants it’s airspace for our missile defense program and it’s natural resources for our greedy, spoiled citizens. But perhaps most importantly the US wants fresh-faced Canadian boys and girls to feed to the war machine.

Declaring Canada a nation filled with narco-terrorists whose only desire is to export biological weapons of mass destruction in the form of high quality pot to American children would be the easiest way to get the American people behind an imminent invasion.

I told them to be on the lookout for scapegoating and that I had already seen it taking place. Richard Cowan once said that one problem the US has is that Canada is too white to invade and too close to ignore. And he was correct.

In a lot of recent Canadian news stories about marijuana grow-ops and the black-market pot trade the blame is laid at the feet of the Hell’s Angels and Vietnamese gangs.
It’s easier to demonize them than it is to demonize white people. Most Americans would have no qualms about invading Canada on the pretense of ridding it of those two groups. Hell we’d think we were doing you a favor.

I stressed the importance of entering the political arena and running for office. I have found, as have most others, that you simply cannot trust those already in power to represent our interests. They aren’t going to change anything. They like it the way it is. Our only option in both the US and Canada is to be the change we wish to see and by that I mean form a voting block, run candidates from within and TAKE some power from these war-mongering fools. There is no other way.

I spoke about a few other things related to what Canada will be like if the US gets its way.

I hope I painted a clear picture and that my points were well taken. Judging from the response I got I would say that they were.

After another panel discussion and raffle it was time to march down to Queen Victoria Park for our 4:20 celebration and protest. Alison Myrden, was our mistress of ceremonies for the parade so she set out toward Clifton Hill and everyone fell into place behind.

We were provided a police escort but were not harassed by the police. In the US organizers are often required to pay for police attendance at events. If they are unable to do so then they are denied their first amendment right to peacefully assemble.

Clifton Hill is the main tourist drag in Niagara Falls and it was packed this particular afternoon. Horns were honked in support of our cause and people cheered and voiced their agreement that marijuana should be legal.
I am quite certain we gained a large number of people on our way down Clifton Hill to the park, as the crowd was much larger at the bottom than at the top.

The organizers and speakers climbed a grassy knoll and once again some of us addressed the crowd and thanked them for coming out today. At 4:20 a cloud of smoke larger than the mist coming off the falls rose high over The Queen Victoria Park in Niagara Falls, Canada and everyone went their separate ways in a happy daze.

Behind the Iron Curtain

After a lovely weekend of being treated like royalty and enjoying REAL freedom in Canada it is time to return to America.

I have never had any real problems at any American entry point. They ask me the usual questions and sometimes they search my bags. Usually I tell them where I was and why I was there and where I am going and they let me through without too much hassle. But today was different.

The original cab driver that took me over the border had arranged for someone else to take me back and he told me that as long as I left by 5:15 a.m. I would be ok.
I met the cab at the pre-arranged location and we set out for the border.
The driver asked me if I thought I would have problems and I told him it was possible but that I usually only had problems crossing into other countries and not back into the US. I am way more afraid that I will one day be denied exit from the US than I am of being denied entry.

It was brutally early in the morning. In the last 72 hours I had probably managed to sleep 4 good hours. My vocal cords were totally raw. My ears hurt from flying and those two cookies I had for breakfast and the refreshment my hostess provided on the way to meet the cab had kicked in full force. My eyelids felt like they were made out of lead. I hadn’t had any coffee.

I was in no mood or shape really to deal with what I was about to have to deal with.

When we arrive at customs and I roll down my window and a young, jittery, soldier dressed in a black uniform, complete with jackboots, (hereafter to be referred to as G.I. Jackboot,) steps out and takes my passport.

He had that “special forces” look about him and I instantly knew this was going to be a long morning.

“Where were you here?” he asks me

(Ok I know I am tired…but that question didn’t make any sense.)

“What do you mean where was I here?”

“Where were you here?”

(I am now convinced that Customs Agents deliberately screw up the wording in their questions to confuse you…thereby giving them “probable cause” to basically rape you upon re-entering the US.)

“Do you mean what part of Canada did I visit?”


“Niagara Falls.”

“Anywhere else?”

“Yes. I also spent one night in London and one night in St. Catherine’s.”

What were you doing in London and St. Catherine’s?”


“Why were you sleeping in those two towns?”

I could have been a total smart ass at this point but decided to cooperate because I still sensed a very slim chance to escape unmolested so I said,

“Some people that I wanted to meet live in London and so I traveled there to meet with them and stay the night. I stayed in St. Catherine’s at a bed and breakfast because it is closer to the border and I have an early flight.”

“What were you doing here?”

“Visiting friends and attending a conference.”

“What kind of conference?”

“An international forum on drug policy. My name is Loretta Nall and I am President of the US Marijuana Party and Libertarian candidate for Governor of Alabama in 2006. If you scan my passport you will see that I travel a great deal into and out of Canada.

G.I. Jackboot flips through my passport and asks me
“What were you doing in Colombia?”

I almost responded…”None of your fucking business.” I could feel my blood pressure rising and I was ever more grateful for those cookies.

“I was traveling with a human rights group from Washington DC.”

“What do you do for a living?”

“I am a full time drug policy reform advocate. I am head of the US Marijuana Party and I am a candidate for Governor of Alabama in the 2006 election. I am a politician so I travel a great deal to speak at various venues. I also write for a magazine and online publications such as Lew Rockwell and I host an AM Radio talk show in Montgomery, Alabama.”

G.I. Jackboot steps inside the guard shack and scans my passport. There is a female agent in there that we will call “G.I. Robot” and after a moment of intense silence G.I. Jackboot comes out of the cubicle and looks at me like I am the biggest threat he has ever faced in his short career as a border guard and to my utter despair I hear G.I. Robot say
“Well you know what we gotta do.”

Damn. Damn. Damn.

My stomach knots up and rolls over. This could get ugly.

I look over at G.I. Robot, smile and ask her “What comes up on your computer screen when you scan my passport?” “Are you able to at least tell me that it confirms that everything I have told you is true?”

G.I. Robot turns her head very slowly towards me, you could almost hear the mechanical gears grinding away, and a very blank stare, almost frighteningly blank, comes over her face. In a monotone, robotic voice she says,
“No, I can’t tell you anything.”

I involuntarily shiver.
God that was creepy.
What border am I crossing again?

G.I. Jackboot comes out again and orders my cab driver to
“Proceed to the platform and for me to enter Cubicle 2.

Noooooo. Not Cubicle 2.

US customs is about to rape me.

Inside cold, gray, dismal, Cubicle 2 was another female customs agent. I went inside and was instructed to sit down and wait.

I have noticed that when customs decides to hassle you there is often a lot of waiting involved. I am convinced that this is done in order to shake and rattle you. Piss you off and make you appear to be nervous or edgy so they can use it as justification to search your body cavities.
I sat very still and pretended to be bored.
I have mastered that skill and thus far have avoided being raped by a latex-gloved, Special Forces American soldier.
I recommend mastering that technique to anyone traveling across any American border. It might save you stitches and your dignity.

Finally Jackboot and Robot returned and the three of them grouped together and had a discussion.

The new one approached and asked me to fill out a re-entry form for the US.

G.I. Jackboot and G.I. Robot disappeared into the back room as I finished filling out the form.

In the space designated for me to declare how much any items I was bringing back were worth there were numbers already printed by a computer.
I scratched them out and wrote $0.

The third customs agent, who I will refrain from nicknaming because she was decent, looked at the form and commented on the weird numbers printed in the $ space.
She took the form, told me to sit down and walked away.

A few minutes later she and G.I. Robot came back out and told me that since there were weird numbers printed on the customs declaration form that I had to fill out another one.
When that was done the female agents disappeared with both forms.

G.I. Robot reappears with the first declaration form and instructs me to empty my pockets on the counter.
I placed my passport and some folded papers, which included my flight itinerary, my Canadian immigration paperwork which states that I have been arrested and convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana, my drivers license, credit card, cigarettes and lighter.

“Have you ever been arrested before?”


“What for?”

“For exercising my first amendment right to free speech and petitioning my government for a redress of grievances.”

“What were you charged with?”

“Misdemeanor possession of marijuana.”

“Were you convicted?”


“How much did you pay in fines?”

“I haven’t paid anything in fines because I appealed the convictions. My jury trial is coming up this week.”

“Have you had any run ins with law enforcement since then?”

“Well only if you count the times Customs has given me a hard time. But no, I have not been arrested again. Don’t you have all of this information in about me in your computer?”

G.I. Robot proceeds to ask me the same questions about where I work and what I do for a living. And I proceed to give her the same answers I gave earlier. She writes them down on the first declaration form.
She then asks me,

“Do you have any websites?”


“What are they?” and

“Any others?”

“You know what?” I said to her…”Google me.” “You’ll find a few thousand pages related to who I am and the work I do.”

“A few thousand?”

“Yes. A few thousand. All you ever wanted to know.”

G.I. Jackboot appears from the back and says,
“So you crossed in at a different point when you went into Canada?”

“I flew into Buffalo and went across by taxi.”

“Why didn’t your friend from London pick you up and bring you back to the airport?”

(At this point I lost all my patience with this nonsense. My flight leaves at 6:49 a.m. and it is fast approaching 6:15 and the airport is still a good fifteen minutes away and they haven’t even searched my bags yet.)

“Because my friend wanted to avoid the anal probe I suppose. You must admit that border crossing isn’t much fun these days.”

“What is your friends name and address in London?”

:”I am not going to tell you my friends name and address in London. My friend is a Canadian citizen and therefore has nothing to do with me getting back across the US border.”

“Where is your luggage?”

“In the trunk of the cab.”

G.I. Jackboot tells the cabbie to go and pull the car into the garage bay. Jackboot waits for the cabbie to open the trunk and then removes my bags.

In my extensive travels and dealings with customs I have learned to pack as light as I possibly can. This cuts down on the time they take to search your belongings. I only had my backpack and one small suitcase.

G.I. Jackboot places my bags on the metal table and he and G.I. Robot proceed to paw through them.

In my clothing bag I had my US Marijuana Party shirt, my “Nall for Governor” shirt and a couple of pot related shirts I had been given at the conference in Canada. G.I. Robot unfolded all of them and had a good long gander.

While she was gawking at my shirts G.I. Jackboot opens my fanny pack and discovers my US Marijuana Party business cards. And with what appeared to be a genuine expression of awe he looks over at G.I. Robot and exclaims in a heavy New York accent, “She even has real business cods” to which Robot replies “And she’s got T-shirts too.”

They both turn around and stare at me.

Jackboot says, “So you’re serious about the governor thing?”

I got so exasperated that I was not sure whether to laugh, cry or scream like a maniac.

“Do people often come through Customs and tell you they are head of a political organization that is dedicated to changing drug laws in the US and that they are running for governor of their respective state? Is that a generic, inconspicuous, low-key story that has become popular at the border?
Yes. I am serious.
I have been completely honest with you about who I am and what I do. Having to spend hours in these interrogation rooms being asked the same questions over and over, having my belongings rifled through and wondering whether or not this will end in a body cavity search is not my idea of a fun day.”

That earned me a very mean look from both G.I.’s but at this point I no longer gave a shit. I knew I had nothing on me and that I had already missed my flight so I had nothing but time to lose.

Apparently I had left an old ticket stub in one of my bags from a previous flight to DC. G.I. Robot discovers it and asks me “So, when were you in Washington D.C.?”

I ponder what this question could have to do with me getting back across the border but can’t make a connection.

“I was in D.C. in January. I travel there often.”


“Yes. Really.”

G.I. Robot finishes her search of my bag and proceeds to get into the back of the taxi with a wand device. She digs around in the seats, in the floorboard, in the ashtrays…then she moves to the trunk of the car with her wand and then to the front. Satisfied that I haven’t corrupted the cabbie with a large amount of drug money in exchange for letting me smuggle Canadian bubble hash back into the US disguised as part of his cab she ends her search for the elusive terrorist weed.

Meanwhile, G.I. Jackboot has discovered my digital camera and decides to have a look at my photographs. He flips through all of them making me wish I had something vulgar and offensive on there just to shock him. Alas, it was only pictures of the conference.
He puts the camera back into my bag.

Then he removes my laptop computer.

I have taken my computer through customs many times and I have never had it seized. But I’ll be damned if G.I. Jackboot didn’t walk into another room with my computer. I couldn’t see what he was doing. I suppose it is possible that US Customs now has a copy of my hard drive. All of my stuff is password protected so perhaps that kept him from accessing anything other than the logon screen. Or perhaps there is now a bug in it that sends them a copy of everything I do.

I am more pissed about the computer being violated than anything else. I was honest with them and told them everything. I cooperated with them until it became apparent that no matter what I did they were going to give me a hard time and make me miss my flight. Nothing illegal had been found in my possession. All of my documents were in order. I should have been allowed to leave at that point without further intrusion into my privacy.

I do not believe that they had the right to take my personal computer out of my sight for one second. I think being a declared political candidate grants me more protection than the private citizen in that regard.

If they thought that my computer contained explosives or some other such hazard then they would have scanned it as I doubt G.I. Jackboot was trained in disarming potential explosives hidden in laptop computers. I am not even sure such a thing exists.

If they wanted to look inside it for pot then they should have opened it in front of me as has been done on a couple of occasions before.

But they took it out of my sight. There was no other reason to do so than to tamper with it. Turn it on and have a look.


G.I. Jackboot was gone for about 15 minutes with my machine. He returned it to my bag and I was told to have a nice flight.

“I have already missed my flight as I am sure you are aware. Do you know what I am supposed to do now? I have never been delayed long enough to miss a flight before.”

“Talk to the airline.”

I turn and get into the taxi before I say or do something that gets me beaten like an Abu Ghraib detainee and landed in a secret cell in Guantanamo never to be heard from again.

As we ride away I think

I’ve talked to an attorney about this matter and if it can be pursued in the court of law then y’all are about to see one hell of a battle between myself and the US government.

Despite all of the inconvenience it has caused me, I continue to be somewhat tickled that I, a harmless Alabama housewife, have been bestowed “red alert” status by the All Powerful United States Government simply for disagreeing with a current domestic policy.
It validates my work in a way that nothing else can.

A Hero to the Sick and Disabled Faces a Dark Day

Guelph, Ontario (PRWEB) April 20, 2005 -- Marco Renda the well known Medicinal Marijuana Guru had a visit from four drug enforcement units on Friday, and lost not only the plants he was growing for a sick friend but his liberty too. Marco the founder and leader of one of the biggest online communities “Treating” ( was arrested and had 31 of the plants he was growing taken, along with his computer!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

GW Pharmaceuticals Gets Canadian Approval for Cannabis Drug

April 19 (Bloomberg) -- GW Pharmaceuticals Plc, a U.K. company developing cannabis-based drugs, said it won Canadian approval to market its Sativex spray for pain related to multiple sclerosis. Shares jumped as much as 14 percent.

Health Canada is the first regulatory agency to approve Sativex, Salisbury, England-based GW Pharmaceuticals said in a Regulatory News Service statement. GW and its marketing partner, Bayer AG, expect to introduce the product in Canada in late spring, the company said.

Sativex is derived from two principle compounds found in the cannabis plant, cannabidiol and Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a psychoactive ingredient.

GW Pharmaceuticals shares rose 13 pence, or 11 percent, to 134 pence as of 12:12 p.m. in London, after rising as high as 138.5 pence.

Green Day highlights marijuana issues

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Should you feel the urge to wander outside pinching a hand-rolled cigarette for a late-afternoon smoke break this Green Day -- that's at 4:20 p.m. on 4/20 for those in the know -- you'll be a part of a tongue-in-cheek observance meant to spotlight that official policy and public perception of marijuana use have never been more at odds.

Diseases and illnesses that can be treated with marijuana

The Birmingham News

+ Glaucoma - Lessens nerve pressure in the eye.

+ Cancer - Reaches the part of the brain that suppresses pain; also stimulates appetite and combats nausea associated with chemotherapy.

+ HIV/AIDS - Combats nausea, stimulates appetite to fight wasting syndrome.

+ Fibromyalgia, severe arthritis and other chronic pain disorders - Works as an analgesic to stop pain.

+ Multiple sclerosis - Can help relieve spasms and contractions.

+ Epilepsy and seizures - Can prevent seizures in some patients.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Prescription for pot?

Proposed bill would legitimize marijuana use for severe pain

Monday, April 18, 2005
Birmingham News

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Prison medical flaws persist

Birmingham News

By the time Teresa Morris died, her legs were so badly swollen that the prison shackles dug into them.

A 53-year-old diabetic serving time for domestic violence at Tutwiler Prison for Women, Morris spent the hours before her March 6 death shackled in a hospital bed in Montgomery.

Prison officials say she died of natural causes. Morris's family believes the prison medical staff, employees of private contractor Prison Health Services, provided inadequate care for her diabetes. They say she was taken off her insulin shots, for reasons the family does not understand.

Morris's relatives did not get a chance to say good-bye. Someone from the prison called them about 3 p.m. March 6, and by the time they arrived from Alexander City she was dead, said her mother, Betty Peters, 72.

The shackles were still on her daughter, a security precaution after she was taken from prison to a hospital.

"They wouldn't take the shackles off her legs, and her legs was so swollen. They were as big as my head," Peters said. "She was still warm, so I kissed her and held her hand."

Prisons order end to using word-puzzles as training

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO - Prison officials ordered an end to using word puzzles as a substitute for guard training Friday after an assemblyman questioned how finding hidden words such as "elf,""snow" and "gingerbread" prepared officers to handle dangerous inmates.

Guards at some prisons were told they could get nearly a quarter of their annual training by completing word search and crossword puzzles on the job.

Correctional officers are supposed to receive 52 hours of training each year in such things as firearms, use of force, and transporting inmates. Forty hours are hands-on, but prison spokesmen said a union contract that took effect last July required the remaining 12 hours be spent studying bulletins with policy changes, administrative directives — and puzzles.

One exercise required guards to find the names of professional football teams hidden among a jumble of letters: "Complete the word find puzzle below and submit it ... to receive one hour ... credit. Good luck and have fun!"

A kinder, gentler, cheaper way of dealing with drug offenders

Steve Chapman

For some time, critics have been saying that the war hasn't been going well, has forced us to overextend ourselves and is gobbling up far too many tax dollars. But many of them were skeptical about this effort from the start. The surprise is that President Bush now seems to be moving their way on the war.

Not the war in Iraq--the war on drugs.

Early on, the Bush administration took a consistently hard line against recreational substances and those who use them--vigorously opposing state medical marijuana initiatives, objecting when Canada considered decriminalizing marijuana and accusing potheads of subsidizing terrorism. But lately, it has changed its tone.

In a House committee hearing in February, Bush drug czar John Walters stressed the need to focus on major drug traffickers instead of individual users. He lamented the consequences of "taking generation after generation of young men, especially poor, minority young men in our cities, and putting them in jail. And I think citizens rightly say, `Can't we stop this?'"

Republicans have not exactly gotten soft-hearted toward heroin addicts. But they have begun to grasp the conflict between fighting the same old drug war and getting control of federal spending. In fact, the president's budget for next year proposes to cut about $1 billion out of various federal anti-drug programs, including measures that fund law-enforcement efforts. Groups like the American Conservative Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, Americans for Tax Reform and the National Taxpayers Union have endorsed the cuts.

The president is coming to grips with something that many states have had to face in recent years: The drug war, as it has been fought up to now, costs too much and accomplishes too little. Several states, caught in a budget vise, have backed away from mass lockups in favor of kinder, gentler and cheaper options.

The biggest shift came in California in 2000, when voters approved Proposition 36, which mandated that non-violent, low-level drug offenders get probation and treatment instead of incarceration. Since then, up to 100,000 offenders have been diverted from prison, and the state's savings are estimated at $1.5 billion over five years.

"Proposition 36 is the single biggest piece of sentencing reform in the United States since the repeal of Prohibition," says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Last year, the Maryland General Assembly embraced the same reform.

Bush may not pay much attention to what goes on in blue states like those, but red states like Arizona and Kansas have followed suit. And the president can hardly fail to notice when the trend spreads to his home ground.

Between 1991 and 1996, Texas tripled the size of its prison system to make room for all the criminals it wanted to lock away. But two years ago, a state budget crisis forced the legislature to reconsider.

At that point, state Rep. Ray Allen, a conservative Republican and chairman of the House Corrections Committee, says he discovered that Texas prisons had some 4,000 inmates charged with minor drug felonies. Considering the state was spending $2 a day to supervise people on probation, compared with $40 a day to keep them in prison, he introduced a bill mandating probation and treatment for first-time offenders caught with small amounts of illicit substances.

"I thought we'd catch hell for it," he said in a phone interview the other day. But one former prosecutor in the House, also a Republican, said, "I've sent 1,000 people to prison for these types of offenses, and I don't feel too good about it." To Allen's surprise, the bill passed both houses without dissent and was signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

"What broke the logjam," says Allen, "was when Republicans who had been tough on crime looked at the fiscal impact and saw that policies that felt good were fiscally unsustainable." By diverting some drug offenders from prison, he says, Texas has saved $51 million, and the savings will grow.

He doesn't see the shift as going soft on crime by any means--just the opposite. Considering the 4,000 prison beds that were then occupied by minor drug offenders, Allen explains, "we as a legislature decided we wanted rapists, robbers and murderers to occupy those beds."

When governments are awash in money, as many were in the 1990s, they don't have to choose between policies that are wasteful and those that are worth their cost. But those days are gone, which means the drug war's days may be numbered.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Falls touted as pot capital


IT'S NO pipe dream for Matt Mernagh -- the pot enthusiast envisions a thriving and legal Niagara marijuana industry to rival the region's wineries. "This is a farming community, so let's make our farmers some money," Mernagh said.

"You can't make too much money off cucumbers, but you can make a lot off marijuana."

Mernagh, 31, will stress that point during today's Hwy. 420 Cannabis Conference in Niagara Falls.

The activist expects at least 500 people to show up for the rally, which will see the marchers descend on tourist mecca Clifton Hill this afternoon.

Today's event -- billed as A Day of Education, A Day of Fun and A Day of Action -- is intended to "roll back the recent hysteria" surrounding drug laws in both Canada and the U.S.

Noted marijuana advocates, including U.S. Marijuana Party president Loretta Nall and Vancouver-based activist David Malmo-Levine, will speak at a morning conference at the Niagara Falls Public Library before gathering for the march at 3:15 at Victoria Ave. and Hwy. 420.

Also: Area cannabis group in Canada to stir pot from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, including mention of the Rochester Cannabis Coalition

Cannabis: A source of useful pharma compounds neglected in India

Cannabis chemical composition info from India

Operation FALCON Fact Sheet

Operation FALCON successfully executed in excess of 10,340 felony arrest warrants and cleared by arrest or other means over 13,851 warrants.

This well-planned and well-executed tactical operation conducted by a dynamic “force multiplier” joint-agency law enforcement team was responsible for:

* the arrest of 154 documented gang members
* the seizure of 243 weapons
* the seizure of 14 vehicles
* the seizure of $373,000 cash
* the seizure of 30kg cocaine, .19kg heroin, 204kg marijuana, 39kg other drugs, a total of 210 drug seizures
* the arrest of 162 murder suspects
* the arrest of 68 kidnapping suspects
* the arrest of 638 armed robbery suspects
* the arrest of 38 arson suspects
* the arrest of 1727 assault suspects
* the arrest of 1818 burglary suspects
* the arrest of 12 extortion suspects
* the arrest of 4,291 major narcotics violation suspects, including Organized Crime/Drug Enforcement Task Force
* the arrest of 483 weapons violation suspects
* the arrest of 553 rape/sexual assault suspects
* the arrest of 106 unregistered sex offenders
* the arrest of 203 stolen vehicle suspects

Here's an example of how Operation falcon worked in Arkansas:
Area task force sweep results in 181 arrests

FORT SMITH — A multiagency task force arrested 181 people on felony and misdemeanor warrants in western Arkansas last week.

Six people were arrested in Logan County on charges relating to a marijuana distribution operation, said Billy Bryant, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Arkansas.

The raid led to the confiscation of $112,000 cash and the seizure of 160 acres of farm land with homes, barns and shops valued at $104,000, he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenny Elser said brothers Larry and Terry Bollinger, brothers David and Felix Herrera and Edward Carter, all of the Booneville and Magazine area, and Jessie Ryles of Greenwood were arrested on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

Marijuana bill clears House panel

By Matt Frazier
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Texas lawmakers are one step closer to making possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor, the same category as most traffic violations.

The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved House Bill 254 on Thursday, setting the bill up for debate on the House floor.

Current law assigns the same punishment for possession of a few seeds of marijuana as it does for as much as 2 ounces.

If the bill, sponsored by Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, is approved, those caught in Texas with a small amount of marijuana would pay a fine and attend a drug-abuse-awareness class.

To comply with federal law, they would also have to give up their driver's license for six months, although judges can grant an occupational license.

Those caught three times within 24 months would face a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Austin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have testified in support of the bill, saying it would save the state millions in jail costs and give casual users the help they need to quit.

Opponents have said that lowering the penalty would send the wrong message and increase marijuana use.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Sub wreck could reveal Japanese peace offer

Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Saturday April 16, 2005
The Guardian

An American Vietnam veteran could be about to answer one of the most intriguing questions arising from the second world war: was Japan preparing to seek peace with the allies more than a year before the war ended?

Paul Tidwell, a shipwreck salvager, said yesterday he believes wreckage of a Japanese submarine sunk by US warplanes in the Atlantic on June 23 1944 could contain a peace proposal from Tokyo that never made it into the hands of its intended recipient.

He plans to raise the sub, the I-52, from its resting place 5,500 metres (18,000ft) below the surface between Cape Verde and Barbados, 1,000 miles from the nearest land.

The vessel is thought to be carrying the remains of 112 crew, two tonnes of gold and a similar quantity of opium.

With a large quantity of opium still thought to be on board, the US drug enforcement administration says it wants to post two agents on the salvage ship.

5 Years for Passing a Joint: Stop this Bill Now

Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner has launched his next assault on freedom. The full House Judiciary Committee is set to vote as early as next week on H.R. 1528, which creates a new group of mandatory miniumum penalties for non-violent drug offenses, including a five year penalty for passing a joint to someone who's been in drug treatment.

Alabama needs 'new bottom line' in prisons

The Montgomery Advertiser
By Kenneth Glasgow and Kobi Little

Alabama prisons are overcrowded. In fact, Alabama prisons are 114 percent over capacity and despite the proclamations of certain state officials, plenty of the people who are packed like sardines in these prisons can and should be released. Many of the people in this category are nonviolent offenders who have been reincarcerated because of technical parole violations.

There are hundreds of people in Alabama correctional facilities not because they committed more crimes, but because they missed a meeting with their parole officer or were noncompliant with other parole regulations.

Yes, it is important for individuals who are on parole to comply with the terms of their parole, but in Alabama the problem is that too many people are on parole too long. When this happens, parole morphs from a lifeline used for successful societal reintegration into a rope that trips and hangs people who are trying to lead normal law-abiding lives.

Today in Alabama, there are 11,605 prisoners who are serving time past their original parole eligibility date and 2,843 of those persons are low-level, nonviolent offenders. Likewise, there are thousands of people who, after serving time in prison, are released but are required to remain on parole for five to 10 additional years.

Operators of girls prison get a warning

By Shana Gruskin
Staff writer
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The state Department of Juvenile Justice this week warned the private company that runs the state's maximum-security prison for girls: Fix your treatment program or lose your contract.

Sound familiar? That may be because just last year, the Florida Institute for Girls' former provider, which had managed the facility for four years, gave up its contract after the state threatened to yank it for continually failing to control violence and keep the girls and the guards safe.

Since opening the facility in 2000 under Premier Behavioral Solutions, Florida Institute for Girls had been plagued with hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, sexual misbehavior and poor supervision. Two employees pleaded guilty to criminal sexual misconduct with three girls. Girls had been arrested numerous times for assaulting staff and other girls. And four girls suffered broken arms while being physically restrained.

The violence led to a grand jury investigation, which found a lack of training, massive turnover, persistent staff shortages and a general sense of unrest at the facility.

11 arrested in raids U-M dorm room, frat house, 13 homes searched in marijuana bust

The Ann Arbor News

Eleven people were arrested Wednesday and warrants were issued for 13 others as authorities shattered what they described as a prolific marijuana sales ring on and around the University of Michigan campus.

Officers said they seized 34 pounds of high-grade marijuana during a six-month undercover operation that culminated Wednesday with the arrests. During the operation, police searched 15 homes and other buildings.

Among the 24 suspects are 22 U-M students, one U-M alumnus and another person with no ties to the school. In all, there are 32 felony and 24 misdemeanor charges, said Ann Arbor Detective Lt. John Seto.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bush Mpeg

Dragnet grabs 10,000 fugitives

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- More than 10,000 fugitives from justice have been captured in a nationwide, weeklong dragnet, law enforcement sources said.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Marshals Service Director Ben Reyna are expected to announce the results of the unprecedented coast-to-coast sweep at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Among the 10,340 people captured between April 4 and April 10 are 162 accused or convicted of murder, 638 wanted for armed robbery, 553 wanted for rape or sexual assault, 154 gang members and 106 unregistered sex offenders.

Some targets were considered especially dangerous. In one case, an armed man was found in a cave under a trap door in his kitchen floor.

Some fugitives had escaped from prisons and jail, some had been released on bond and others had been named in criminal warrants but disappeared or failed to appear as ordered.

"We're really amazed. We had no idea we'd apprehend more than 10,000 bad guys," said one federal law enforcement official who asked not to be identified. "We didn't know what to expect, but the response from law enforcement personnel everywhere was truly amazing."

A comparison with Marshals Service arrests in fiscal 2004 gives an idea of the scope of this month's sweep. For that year, U.S. Marshals caught more than 36,000 federal felons, and Marshals-led task forces also arrested more than 31,600 people wanted on state and local felony warrants, according to the U.S. Marshals Web site.

Some fugitives captured this month were less dangerous, and more old-fashioned than others. In cases described by an official as "the new and the old," the fugitives captured included operators of two methamphetamine labs and an illegal alcohol-producing still.

Fugitives were tracked in every state, plus Puerto Rico and Guam, officials said.

Officials insist the operation was strictly designed to carry out law enforcement objectives but acknowledge the scope of the operation was expected to prompt positive publicity.

In addition, one official said the operation, originally considered for later this spring, was timed in part to coincide with "Crime Victims Rights Week."

"One thing this does is demonstrate support for victims of all these crimes. When these fugitives are captured, it helps bring closure," said the law enforcement source.

The mission was dubbed "Operation FALCON", which officials say is an acronym for "Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally."

"Just about anybody with a badge and a set of handcuffs was asked to help out, and they did," said another official familiar with the operation.

More than 3,000 law enforcement officials searched for fugitives, and as many as 10,000 may have helped at least part-time, officials said. The raids were coordinated by five national fugitive task forces and 83 district task forces led by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Among 25 federal agencies enlisted to help were the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Agency; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service and even Inspector General investigators for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Social Security Administration. HUD's interest was related to fugitives with housing benefits, and some of those on the run received Social Security benefits, sources said.

Much of the law enforcement muscle came from 206 state law enforcement agencies, 302 county sheriffs' departments, and 366 city police departments.

Guardsmen Accused of Smuggling Ecstacy

NEW YORK (AP) -- A U.S. military pilot and a sergeant were being held on federal narcotics charges after admitting they flew an Air Force jet from New York to Germany and returned with 290,000 pills of Ecstasy worth millions of dollars, authorities said Wednesday.

Capt. Franklin Rodriguez, 35, and Master Sgt. John Fong, 36, were arrested Tuesday when their cargo plane returned to Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, about 40 miles north of New York City.

The men were ordered held without bail at court appearances late Wednesday.


Nazi's in our Midst

Yesterday the Alabama SENATE set aside a three-week-old filibuster to approve funding to continue a state program that provides AIDS medication to low-income people.

Senator Hank Erwin had this to say.


"We need to send a message we cannot continue to fund a disease that comes as a result of a lifestyle choice. We need to appeal to change the lifestyle, to embrace a lifestyle that is godly and holy." - State Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo.

Now, there are a myriad of "lifestyle choices" that could cause disease.

For example, if you eat at McDonald's too often you could get high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure which could lead to a stroke or heart attack.

If you smoke cigarettes you could get lung cancer.

If you drink too much alcohol you could get cirrosis of the liver.

And apparently if you practice Sen. Hank Erwin's brand of religion you will wind up a mentally derranged lunatic who hates everyone who is not like you. This will cause stress, which can lead to high blood pressure and/or stroke.

So, let's cut healthcare funding for pepole who eat, smoke, drink and practice Sen. Hank Erwin's brand of Christianity.

Those are "lifestyle choices" after all and we want to be fair to everyone.

Drug, wildlife charged expected against preacher

Tahlequah Daily Press

OK -Officials with the District Attorney's Office expect to file drug and wildlife charges against a Tahlequah man arrested last Friday.

First Assistant District Attorney Donovan Dobbs said Roland Clinton Hobbs, 59, was arrested after investigators from District Attorney Richard L. Gray's drug task force and Cherokee County sheriff's deputies served a search warrant on his home.

Dobbs said Hobbs had a frozen eagle in a freezer, and the possession of such a bird is a felony. Law enforcement personnel also seized a white, powdery substance believed to be methamphetamine, and a green, leafy substance believed to be marijuana. Dobbs said Hobbs also had some law enforcement badges in his possession.

Hobbs was booked into the Cherokee County Jail on charges of possession of a surveillance camera in the commission of a felony, possession of a scanner in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of controlled drug with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession of paraphernalia.

Dobbs said the drugs, surveillance equipment and firearms were seized during service of the search warrant. Hobbs will be formally arraigned after charges are filed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sentencing Reform in Alabama

From the Drug Policy Alliance

Alabama’s overcrowded prisons and jails have become a public safety and public health crisis. A system designed for under 13,000 people now holds almost 30,000, many of them low-level drug offenders - and the problem is only getting worse. One major problem is that many people who could be paroled or given probation are instead kept in overcrowded cells. Additionally, many people are incarcerated for simple technical violations of their parole or probation – though they have already paid their debt to society, they can end up back in prison because of something as simple as arriving late for a meeting with a parole officer.

A bill has been introduced that would correct this problem by reducing parole periods, which now are sometimes as long as 15 years! SB 365 would create a two-year limit on the length of parole unless the state could show a reason why the person should remain on parole - for example, if termination of parole would pose a serious risk to public safety.

The bill is coming up for a vote in the Senate soon, and Senators need to hear that their constituents support fixing these failed laws that waste both limited tax dollars and human lives. You can play an important role in reform by contacting your Senator to urge him or her to support SB 365.

Get Busy Alabama!!

Medical marijuana bill headed for study committee


NASHVILLE, Tenn. A plan to legalize medicinal marijuana in Tennessee appears to be going up in smoke.
Senator Steve Cohen, the Memphis Democrat pushing the idea, said he recognizes the state isn't ready for prescription marijuana.

Cohen said he will ask that his bill allowing medical marijuana be changed to set up a study committee to look into the idea before next session.

But he said it's only a matter of time before Tennessee joins the ranks of states that allow the seriously ill to buy marijuana.

Eric Rudolph and Pot

There have been a few stories recently in the Alabama media about Eric Rudolph and his alleged affinity for pot.

This latest one comes from The Birmingham News

It is followed by a Letter to the Editor that I just penned. I suggest you do the same.

Rudolph liked pot a lot, Army pal says
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
News staff writer

A former Army roommate of Eric Robert Rudolph says the accused bomber was an avid user of marijuana.

Roy Decker, 35, a resident of Mansfield, N.J., said in a telephone interview Tuesday night that he and Rudolph, both privates, roomed together at Fort Campbell, Ky., when they served in the 101st Airborne Division.

"We bonded pretty quickly because we didn't know anybody," Decker recalled. "He did smoke a lot of pot. Evidently he made a living of it."

Once Rudolph declined an offer to join Decker and another Army buddy for a night of drinking, Decker said. When Decker returned to the room they shared on the base, he found Rudolph with a pillowcase full of marijuana.

Despite the drug use, Decker said, Rudolph was a smart guy who kept to himself except for occasionally screaming at television news reports. "He didn't like any minorities," Decker said. Rudolph, now 38, also was resentful of a girlfriend who he felt "screwed him over," Decker said.

Decker said Rudolph often kept him and another roommate awake with constant snoring. "You had to fall asleep before he did if you were going to get to sleep at all."

According to news reports, Rudolph served with the 101st Airborne in Kentucky but was discharged after a year and a half for smoking marijuana in 1989.

Decker, who now does heating and air conditioning work, said the two remained in contact after Rudolph's discharge mostly by letter because Rudolph didn't have a phone.

Because Rudolph did not have a phone, the two kept in touch via letter and occasionally by telephone.

But, after Decker rebuffed an invitation by Rudolph to come to North Carolina and help him grow marijuana, the two had a falling out.

In April 2004, Decker said FBI agents flew him to Atlanta. While meeting with the agents, Decker said he noticed a map of the mountainous area where investigators believed Rudolph had been hiding.

Decker said the map was full of push pins that investigators said denoted areas where they thought Rudolph was growing marijuana.

"He didn't survive out there because of his Army training," Decker said. "He survived because he's got a lot of friends out there."

Investigators have told reporters that Rudolph might have grown marijuana while on the run.

Decker said he was subpoenaed by the prosecution after Rudolph's capture and was to appear in court last August. The trial was delayed and was expected to be held in June. But Rudolph agreed last week to change his plea to guilty in bombings in Birmingham and Atlanta. He is expected to enter that plea in Birmingham and Atlanta federal courtrooms today.

Decker said he had expected to be subpoenaed again, possibly as attorneys argued over Rudolph's handwriting. Decker had several handwritten letters from his former Army friend. News staff writer Val Walton contributed to this report.

Dear Editor,

I just read the story on Eric Rudolph and his alleged affinity for
marijuana and I must ask you....what in the hell does that have to do
with this man blowing up innocent people?

No pot plants were ever found in the area where Rudolph lived, hid and
was captured. There were thousands of cops of different types all over
that place for about 2 years. They rented expensive homes, flew their
helicopters into back yards, peeped in windows and roamed the hillsides
on patrol for Rudolph. They broke their legs, got snake bitten, where
thrown out of the local Wal-Mart stores, and grocery stores when they
tried to wear guns in.
All those cops, all that time, all that money, all those walks in the
And they never found a marijuana plant!

And even if they had found marijuana it would only prove that
prohibition allows people like Rudolph to finance five years of evading
authorities by growing it.

Please stop creating hysteria by sensationalizing the rumor that Eric
Rudolph smoked pot. Chances are he also drank milk at some point in his
life so maybe milk is to blame.

Or perhaps Mr. Rudolph is just an insane man and neither milk nor pot
contributed to his violent actions.

Can we please stay focused on the issue which is the fact that this man
committed violent acts that were sympathetic to the neo-con agenda on
domestic social issues. He has not been called a domestic terrorist,
which is what he is, and he has been allowed to escape the death penalty
suppossedly in exchange for his guilty plea and his providing
information about explosives he hid in the mountains of North Carolina.

I think the fact that the Bush Administration has not labeled this man
a domestic terrorist and sought the death penalty is because he is one
of their own.

Smoke on that for a minute.

Respectfully Submitted,
Loretta Nall
Alabama Marijuana Party

US mercenaries spill blood over Afghan opium

US mercenaries spill blood over Afghan opium
By Nick Meo in Kandahar province

13 April 2005

It was the first day of Afghanistan's new opium eradication programme and the quiet town of Maiwand in Kandahar province had been chosen for action.

Hundreds of Afghan eradicators under the command of American private security contractors were going to head into the fields around the town and destroy the beautiful red and white blooms days before they could be harvested for their narcotic sap.

But instead of the peaceful, model operation that was promised as an example to demonstrate the Kabul government's serious intentions, Maiwand and its surrounding villages exploded into violence in what could be a foretaste of resistance to Western-backed efforts to bring Afghanistan's opium industry under control.

By the end of yesterday four government soldiers had been wounded by gunfire from farmers, American security contractors were said to be sheltering behind razor wire in a protected camp, and Afghan police and counter-narcotics forces had fought fierce battles which local people said left five dead. Plans to eradicate poppies were temporarily shelved in the area as political bigwigs shuttled to and fro trying to ease tensions and broker some kind of deal with the angry opium farmers.

Dense clouds of black smoke hung over the town from burning barricades, hundreds of shots rang out from gun battles, and American helicopter gunships flew low overhead.

One policeman said he had seen five bodies, but it was difficult to tell from the ambulances speeding out of the town towards hospitals one hour away in Kandahar how many had been injured in the disastrous operation.

The poppy eradication force had driven out of Kandahar two days earlier on their way towards Maiwand in a motley collection of Jeeps and trucks, bristling with firepower and wearing a remarkable array of uniforms and ethnic dress.

Friendly looking Americans chewing cigars - most of them are retired policemen hired by the security company - had waved lazily as the convoy thundered past.

Maiwan was being targeted first for eradication because it was regarded as a relatively peaceful area with effective government control. The hard cases have yet to be tackled.

Driving across the desert from Kandahar, the first sign of trouble was the pall of black smoke from burning tyres pulled across the road, blocking it to traffic. Tall men in turbans could be seen standing next to them chanting. As we wondered whether to chance the blockade, a driver speeding out of town leant out of the car window and shouted at us in English: "Don't go in there or you'll never come out again." As he vanished at high speed into the distance dozens of shots rang out.

Local people told us to go no further, and a passing police commander ordered three of his men to guard us. They assumed macho poses with their AK-47s and gave us bubble-gum.

One of them said the fighting had been so fierce it must have been the Taliban helping farmers to fight back.

A local man heard there were journalists near by and rode out of the town on his moped past the burning tyres to voice the passions being violently expressed within it.

"The farmers are angry with the Americans and the Kabul government," said Ahmed Weil. "It is only the fields of the poor that are being destroyed, not the fields of the rich." Afghans complain that wealthy warlords keep their stockpiles of opium while poor farmers are stopped from growing the crop or have their fields cut down.

There are also persistent claims that farmers are spared eradication if they can afford to bribe teams, or if they share the clan background of eradicators.