DRUG WAR BRIEFS:D'Oh

March 8- Associated Press reports: Despite intensified eradication, coca production in Colombia increased by about 25 percent last year, the Bush administration said, contradicting Colombian government claims of a significant decline.

In releasing the figures Thursday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy admitted that the results of the escalating effort were less than it had hoped for.

The gloomy assessment contrasted sharply with the announcement last week by Colombian Justice Minister Romulo Gonzalez that his figures showed a decline in coca production by about 16 percent -- from 392,000 acres to 336,000 acres -- between August 2000 and December 2001.

He said that trend was a "clear demonstration" the U.S.-backed eradication campaign was working.

The White House statement attributed part of its finding of an increase to the inclusion of a coca growing area not surveyed in 2000 because of cloud cover.

The White House statement said the figures "underscore the pervasiveness of cultivation and trafficking in Colombia; the magnitude and complexity of Colombia's interlocking security, drug control, and economic challenges; and the need for sustained U.S. engagement."

March 9- The UK Press and Journal reports: A Dutch police officer invited to speak to a gathering of Scotland's top drugs police caused a major row yesterday by predicting the introduction of cannabis cafes north of the border.

The Scottish Police Drugs Conference in Dunblane was told by Dutch police inspector Ton Snip that cannabis coffee shops could be expected to appear on street corners in the main cities within just "one or two years".

Inspector Snip - an officer for 20 years with Dutch police and 10 years with the Dutch drugs squad - warned delegates at the conference, organised by Scotland's chief police officers, that the pressure for legalisation of cannabis was irresistible.

He claimed that cannabis cafes had been responsible for preventing football riots and would actually stop young people progressing to hard drugs like heroin and cocaine.

His views were immediately condemned by senior officers and by Scotland Against Drugs, which said cannabis cafes would make the country a Mecca for drug tourism.

Insp Snip said that during the European football championships, which took place in Holland and Belgium in 2000, cafes were successfully kept open for English fans.

He said: 'There was a big debate about whether to keep the coffee shops open during Euro 2000, but the fans of England and other, countries came and we had no problems, because cannabis has a calming effect on people."

The UK's first marijuana cafe The Dutch Experience - opened in Stockport, Greater Manchester, in September.

Despite police intervention and an initial flurry of arrests, it continues to operate.

March 9- The San Francisco Chronicle reports: On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco temporarily blocked the Drug Enforcement Administration from enforcing a ban on food products containing hemp seed or oil.

The ban, which was to go fully into effect March 18, would have taken the anti-drug cause to new levels of ridiculousness. It would have classified hemp as a ìSchedule I controlled substance -- the same as marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

The DEA should stop its chest-thumping and settle the appellate court lawsuit, which has been brought by hemp food manufacturers. It should sit down to negotiate a reasonable set of standards for hemp's THC content. Then it should go to the root of the problem by lifting the U.S. ban on hemp cultivation.

Canada allows both the farming of hemp and its use in foods, under a set of sound, science-based regulations overseen by that country's agriculture and health authorities. There's no reason why the United States shouldn't do the same.

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

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