DRUG WAR BRIEFS: Marijuana and Religion

November 28- The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports: Proposed Police Department rules have been expanded to cover investigations of religious use of marijuana - but the provisions aren't what marijuana advocates wanted.

The proposed rules say it will be up to the courts - and not the police - to decide whether a suspect's "claimed religion" qualifies him to use marijuana legally.

Under the rules, police would still arrest the person claiming a religious exemption but the arresting officer would be required to document the defendant's religious claims and include them in a police report.

"Marijuana is against the law," said Capt. James Day. "We have to enforce the law. If the Legislature changes the law then we do what the law says."

Kona resident Dennis Shields and Puna resident Jonathan Adler have used religious defenses in court against marijuana charges, contending that it is a sacrament in the Religion of Jesus Church. Shields lost his case and Adler's, which ended in a mistrial, is scheduled to be heard again in January.

Both men say they're unhappy with the language in the Police Department's new proposed rules.

"We really do not find the rules acceptable unless they recognize registered religious use," said Adler, who has announced plans to seek the Green Party's nomination for governor. "Our activities remain legal whether the police recognize them or not."

Shields says the state can't take away his religious freedom without passing a constitutional amendment. "The fact that there is no amendment prohibiting the religious use of cannabis means that any rule or regulation is unconstitutional on its face," Shields said.

Roger Christie, who claims a religious exemption for marijuana, said he is encouraged by the religious section in the proposed police rules. "Even though this isn't the end-all decision, this is a positive increment," Christie said. "We're going to have a glorious victory here, I'm sure."

November 30- Associated Press reports: Congress is ready to cut more than $100 million from the Bush administration's request for counternarcotics programs in the Andes, congressional aides said.

Opponents of President Bush's $731 million request cited problems with the programs including human rights abuses by soldiers, fear of deepening U.S. involvement in South American jungles and skepticism over the programs' effectiveness.

Under a tentative agreement by House-Senate conferees, Colombia's military would have to improve its human rights record to receive any money. Also, the United States would have to offer alternative crops to farmers in areas where drug crops are to be fumigated, said the aides, who spoke Thursday on condition they not be identified.

Many lawmakers have become skeptical about the Andean drug fight. They worry about the Colombian military's links to rights abuses and the possibility the United States could be drawn into Colombia's guerrilla war. They also question whether the aid will reduce drug use in the United States.

Lawmakers also put new restrictions on U.S.-financed aerial drug spraying in Colombia. Farmers complain that spraying has destroyed legal crops, hurt livestock and caused health problems. U.S. officials say the herbicide, glyphosate, is carefully targeted and causes no serious problems.

December 1- The (UK) Guardian reports: Three patrons of Britain's first ever Dutch-style coffee house have been arrested after a pro-cannabis demonstration.

The men were arrested after 40 demonstrators marched from the Dutch Experience cafe in Stockport to the local police station. The Laugh at the Law demonstration was organised to call for the legalisation of cannabis.

Protesters were also showing their support for the Dutch Experience cafe-owner Colin Davies, who has been remanded in custody following a raid on the premises last week.

He faces charges of permitting premises to be used for the smoking of cannabis, possessing cannabis with intent to supply, possessing a controlled drug and being concerned with the supply of cannabis.

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

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