Corruption du Jour

Seattle's D.A. Norm Maleng shuts down the Green Cross Patient (Marijuana) Co-op on the same day that Canada "legalizes" medical marijuana nationwide. In separate stories, the DEA, CIA, and UN Office of Drug Control are under scrutiny for a wide range of fraudulent activities.

July 29 -- UK's The Observer reports: Evidence of gross mismanagement and possible corruption at the Vienna headquarters of the United Nations agency fighting drug crime has been obtained by The Observer. It casts further doubt on the competence of the agency's executive director, Pino Arlacchi, a former Italian senator who made his name fighting the Mafia. His contract will not be renewed when it expires in February.

Arlacchi has already been bitterly criticised for his leadership of the agency, where staff morale is at rock bottom.

August 1 -- Seattle Police shut down the Green Cross Patient Co-op. The Seattle Times reports: On Joanna McKee's West Seattle garage door is a big sign: "CLOSED." Beside it, she posted the "cease and desist" letter she received Friday from the Seattle Police Department. McKee has been openly helping patients get marijuana for nearly a decade, providing what she calls "a community service" to help qualified patients avoid buying pot on the street.

Police have long been suspicious that patients -- and those who help them get marijuana, such as McKee -- are simply drug users and suppliers.

Both the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and local federal prosecutors concede that state law doesn't protect organizations like Green Cross. "We've always had a pretty consistent discussion that what they're doing doesn't fit within the statute," says Dan Satterberg, spokesman for Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng.

At the same time, prosecutors have said they have no interest in hauling sick people into court. In most places around the country, obtaining convictions of patients or those who help them has been difficult.

August 3 -- The Miami Herald reports: The Central Intelligence Agency paid the Peruvian intelligence organization run by fallen spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos $1 million a year for 10 years to fight drug trafficking, despite evidence that Montesinos was also in business with Colombian narcotraffickers, The Herald has learned.

New documents obtained by The Herald show how the CIA and State Department first cultivated Montesinos decades ago, and how the U.S. government maintained a relationship with him for a quarter-century despite warnings that he was working for both sides in the drug war.

August 4 -- The Winnipeg Free Press reports: This week, Canada became the first nation in the world to allow the legal use of marijuana to alleviate pain for the chronically and terminally ill. This should have been a useful thing, but Mr. Rock's administration -- he is more formally known as the federal minister of health -- has surrounded this innovation with regulations that have left no one happy.

Canadians who claim that they need marijuana for its medical properties, usually to control nausea or pain, are unhappy for several reasons. The new regulations, these critics claim, will actually make it more difficult for sick people to obtain marijuana than it has been since the courts decreed that they were entitled to use it medicinally. Anyone who is not terminally ill will require two doctors to vouch for the fact that no other painkillers will do the job. Since codeine, morphine and heroin are all legally available painkillers, that may require some stretch of medical opinion.

August 4 -- Pennsylvania's The Inquirer reports: The new head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has pledged to end the agency's use of inflated drug-arrest and performance statistics and to focus on growing drug problems in rural America. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican from Arkansas, was confirmed to the post this week. In an interview, he said that he hoped to lift America's confidence that the drug war can succeed.

Recent Inquirer Washington Bureau stories disclosed that the DEA had no documents to support hundreds of arrests claimed in the agency's latest 36-nation Caribbean antidrug dragnet. Hundreds of other arrests reported by the DEA turned out to be routine marijuana busts by local police.

Of $30.2 million in assets claimed to have been seized from drug traffickers in the operation, the Washington Bureau found that $30 million had been seized before the operation began.

Send comments and tips to Kevin Nelson at

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