DRUG WAR BRIEFS: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

"It's a shame what happened, but this is a war and, unfortunately, there are casualties." -- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-FL, about the accidental shooting down of American missionaries in Peru

June 18, La Crosse, WI -- Five circuit court judges request the decriminalization of marijuana, reducing the consequences to a ticketable offense. La Crosse County DA Scott Horne, who opposes the change, argues to maintain existing misdemeanor marijuana laws.

While Police in Onalaska, WI, have written tickets for first-time offenders for more than 10 years, people in other parts of La Crosse County caught with marijuana for the first time are arrested and booked in jail. The misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of up to six months in jail.

Judge John Perlich, who is spearheading the proposal, said "The punishment ought to fit the crime, and I don't think it does."

June 21, Calgary, Canada -- Medical marijuana crusader Grant Krieger was justified in breaking the law and selling pot to chronically ill people, a jury ruled Wednesday night. The one-man, 11-woman panel accepted the defense's argument that Krieger was saving lives when he supplied marijuana to the sick.

"This is the first time I've ever said to a jury 'my client did it,'" Krieger's lawyer Adriano Iovinelli told jurors.

Krieger readily admitted growing 29 marijuana plants in his home in August 1999. He said the crop was designed to help the chronically ill -- who came to his Universal Compassion Club -- ease their pain and suffering.

June 21 -- The Dallas Morning News reports: Federal law-enforcement authorities said Wednesday they have crushed a major drug trafficking operation responsible for smuggling Colombian cocaine and marijuana through Mexico into Texas and other U.S. destinations.

The 18-month "Operation Marquis," which involved participation from Mexican and Colombian law enforcement, netted 268 arrests, 76 of them occurring in an early-morning sweep Wednesday in 16 U.S. cities.

While DEA officials said the operation has dealt a major blow to the drug ring, they noted that it's only a temporary disruption in the flow of drugs into the United States.

June 21 -- The Washington Post reports: More than half of all black men report that they have been the victims of racial profiling by police, according to a survey by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.

Overall, nearly 4 in 10 blacks -- 37 percent -- said they had been unfairly stopped by police because they were black, including 52 percent of all black men and 25 percent of all black women.

June 21 (AP) -- U.S. law enforcement agencies are placing agents and other officials in Canada to fight drug smuggling and other crimes that cross the border, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Wednesday.

"The increasing volume of law enforcement contact between our two countries has led to calls in recent years for U.S. officers to be posted in western Canada," Ashcroft said.

A legal attache from the Justice Department is now based in Vancouver, British Columbia, he said, and the DEA plans to station an agent there. The U.S. Marshals Service also intends to open a Canadian office, he said.

June 22, UK -- The Guardian reports: Two police officers who helped plan a drugs raid in which an unarmed and naked man was shot dead have been promoted, even though they may be disciplined for their involvement in the botched operation.

Inspectors Kevin French, 47, and Christopher Siggs, 42, will return to duty in Sussex as chief inspectors and their pay increase will be backdated to January 1998, when they were suspended. They are currently on leave.

The pair and Superintendent Christopher Burton were accused of deliberately failing to make a true assessment of the intelligence that led to the armed raid on James Ashley's flat on January 15, 1998.

The extent of the incompetence that led to the raid was exposed by Kent police. Kent concluded the raid had been authorised on intelligence that was "not merely exaggerated, it was determinably false ... there was a plan to deceive and the intelligence concocted." The raid had been "a complete corporate failure in duty to society," it said.

Kevin Nelson can be reached at kcnelson@premier1.net.
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