Better Living Through Fumigation

August 7 -- The New York Times reports: A Colombian judge ruled Monday that the U.S.-backed fumigation of drug crops could resume in Indian lands in the Amazon. Eleven days earlier, he had ordered it suspended. Judge Gilberto Reyes had ordered a temporary suspension of the aerial fumigations on July 27 after the Organization of Indian Peoples of the Colombian Amazon alleged the herbicide glyphosate was causing health problems and environmental damage.

U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson indicated Monday that drug-crop eradication was key to continued U.S. support for Colombia's anti-drug efforts. "I am very scared that if the fumigation in Colombia doesn't continue, we won't give the level of assistance that Colombia needs," she told journalists.

Gen. Gustavo Socha, chief of the Colombian anti-narcotic police, said Monday's ruling affirmed the government's claim that the fumigation flights are not harmful. "They don't cause any harm to the health of people or the environment," Socha said. U.S. officials say the herbicide, manufactured by the U.S. company Monsanto and sold as common weedkiller under the name "Roundup," is safe.

August 7 -- In These Times magazine reports: British chemical company ICI has pulled out of Plan Colombia's controversial fumigation campaign. The firm was supplying ingredients for toxic chemicals used in the U.S.-funded aerial spraying of coca-growing regions, but abandoned the scheme amid health concerns. Local hospitals in the Putumayo region, where the coca fumigation is taking place, have reported increases in skin rashes, diarrhea and stomach aches.

ICI was providing the Colombian company Cosmo Agro with gluey soap-like substances that help herbicides stick to plants. The Colombian government classes the chemicals made from ICI's ingredients as toxic. ICI's own materials describe them as "irritants" and warns against inhalation.

August 9 -- The Scotsman reports: A Multiple Sclerosis sufferer, Biz Ivol, 53, who makes cannabis-laced chocolates for others with the condition has had her Orkney home raided by police.

Mrs Ivol said: "I've had so many phone calls from people who support me and I now feel I've got my fighting spirit back. I'm determined to fight to the bitter end for what I believe in."

The raid, involving four officers, followed publicity surrounding Mrs Ivol's decision to make chocolates laced with cannabis available to fellow MS sufferers across Britain. She melts chocolate in a microwave, mixes in finely grated cannabis and pours the mixture into the paper cases used for small cakes.

"I've sent out 30 parcels with a week's supply -- seven of the sweeties – to people all over the country," Mrs Ivol said. "Ninety five per cent of them have gone to middle-aged women with MS. But one of the phone calls I had after the raid was from a man in Scotland who has MS and whose legs are paralysed. After taking the chocolates for five nights he had feeling in his legs again for the first time in 12 years."

Mrs Ivol, who was diagnosed with the condition 10 years ago, began smoking cannabis on her GP's advice to ease the pain.

"The people I've sent the chocolates are utterly helpless," she said. "I don't feel like a criminal -- the only criminal is the government for refusing to let us use something that really helps people with MS."

August 10 -- The Las Vegas Sun reports: State officials are busy fine-tuning Nevada's new medicinal marijuana program, and both supporters and opponents of the new law agree success hinges on convincing reluctant physicians to participate.

"All this planning and ideas are wonderful, but the state needs to get its head out of the sand," said a Las Vegas man whose wife has Multiple Sclerosis. "I just don't believe doctors are going to go along with this."

The state medical association, which represents about 1,100 physicians, opposes the program, stating that there were alternatives for treating the symptoms and no definitive evidence exists that smoking marijuana is beneficial.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson at kcnelson@premier1.net.

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