DRUG WAR BRIEFS: When Cops Are Criminals

December 15- The Winston-Salem Journal reports: Federal officials released a 36-page affidavit yesterday documenting part of the investigation of three Davidson County deputies and an Archdale police officer who were arrested this week on charges that they distributed crack cocaine, marijuana, steroids and Ecstasy for more than a year.

According to the affidavit, the officers broke into homes, issued fake search warrants and intimidated suspects to obtain marijuana, cocaine and steroids. The affidavit describes a complex and sometimes strained relationship between the men, who often bickered, stole from one another and at one time discussed killing a deputy who was one of their partners.

The deputies, Lt. David Scott Woodall, 34, Lt. Douglas Edward Westmoreland, 49, Sgt. William Monroe Rankin, 32, and Sgt. Christopher James Shetley, 35, of Archdale are in Forsyth County Jail.

December 15- The New York Times reports: Research on the medical uses of marijuana is scheduled to begin early next year, for the first time in nearly two decades, now that the government has approved new experiments to test whether smoking it can help patients who have multiple sclerosis or who suffer from pain in their limbs as a result of AIDS.

The new approvals, granted on Nov. 28 by the Drug Enforcement Administration, do not make it legal for doctors to give their patients marijuana as treatment; they merely provide for limited use in scientific experiments. In some states, state law allows doctors to prescribe or recommend marijuana; federal law prohibits the practice, however, even in those states.

December 15- The Alameda Times-Star reports: Random sweeps of BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trains with drug-sniffing dogs led to about a dozen marijuana citations and an arrest this week, but they also have some civil libertarians howling mad.

BART Police officers and U.S. Customs Service agents began walking a drug-trained Labrador retriever through the trains Wednesday. When the dog smells drugs on a person, she stops, sits down and points with her nose, alerting officers to make a search.

BART Police Commander Wade Gomes said passengers haven't lodged "any complaints at all. In fact, most of them are happy to see the dogs. Some say, 'You might consider getting some bomb-sniffing dogs.'"

More marijuana citations were handed out Thursday. Gomes said Friday it's a good start, although not quite what they'd hoped for.

December 16- The UK's Sunday Times reports: Cannabis does not lead to the use of hard drugs, a study will say this week. The survey, based on drug users in Amsterdam over a 10-year period, will be seized upon by advocates of more liberal laws in Britain, writes David Smith.

It shows that cannabis users typically start using the drug between the ages of 18 and 20, while cocaine use usually starts between 20 and 25. But it concludes that cannabis is not a stepping stone to using cocaine or heroin.

The study, by Jan van Ours of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, will be published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London.

Four surveys, covering nearly 17,000 people, were carried out in Amsterdam in 1987, 1990, 1994 and 1997. Amsterdam has 5,000 hard drug users, 3,000 of them non-Dutch nationals, among its population of 700,000 and a much larger proportion of cannabis users. There are 300 "coffee shops" in the city where cannabis is freely available.

The study claims that most of the evidence that cannabis is a gateway to the use of harder drugs is circumstantial. It found that there was little difference in the probability of an individual taking up cocaine as to whether or not he or she had used cannabis. "The gateway effect of cannabis with respect to cocaine is limited," it concludes. Although significant numbers of people in the survey did use soft and hard drugs, this was linked with personal characteristics and a predilection to experimentation.

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

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