DRUG WAR BRIEFS: Ashcroft, Walters and Mowlam

April 23- The Des Moines Register opines: Last November, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft didn't give a second thought to states' rights when he issued a directive that attempted to halt the practice of assisted-suicide in Oregon. By threatening to pull licenses from physicians writing prescriptions for lethal drugs, Ashcroft disregarded the will of Oregon residents who voted in support of the Death with Dignity Act, which gave qualified, terminally ill patients an assisted-suicide option.

But when Ashcroft picked on Oregon, the state fought back by suing the federal government. "We don't need federal officials pawing through medical records looking for what they might view as non-medical," said the executive director of the Oregon Medical Association.

Last week, the court agreed. In fact, U.S. District Judge Robert Jones criticized Ashcroft for trying to usurp states' rights.

April 26- The Seattle Times reports: (US Drug Czar) John Walters was in Blaine yesterday, the largest northern point of entry west of Detroit, for briefings with a bevy of law-enforcement agents, including some from the U.S. Border Patrol, the Immigration and Nationalization Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office.

Marijuana - especially the high-potency pot grown in the hydroponic indoor gardens of British Columbia - is a far greater danger, and far more addictive, than most Americans realize, Walters said.

Drug seizures have increased markedly along the Washington border in recent years. In fiscal 2001, 7,582 pounds of marijuana were seized at the border in Blaine - nearly twice as much as the year before. (Ed. note: For context, approximately one million pounds of marijuana are seized at the Mexican border each year.)

Having so many drug busts puts a strain on local law enforcement, Whatcom County Sheriff Dale Brandland said. "My jail's full," with 220 people in a facility fit for 148, he said, adding the overcrowding was due to drug prosecutions.

Local judges and politicians are starting to talk about easing up on people convicted of marijuana charges, the sheriff said. Walters replied: "I regret to hear that. ... I will tell you that during this administration we are not going to give up."

April 28- California's Davis Enterprise reports: A Yolo County judge dismissed a case against a Esparto man last week after his attorney successfully argued that the marijuana his client grew was for medical use.

Fermin "Ed" Aldana, 61, was charged with cultivation of marijuana, a felony punishable by up to three years in state prison, after Yolo County sheriff's deputies discovered 50 marijuana plants growing near his apartment last August.

Following a preliminary hearing last Friday, Judge Thomas Warriner dismissed the case after hearing testimony from Aldana's doctor and a marijuana expert who said the number of plants Aldana grew would yield just about the amount of marijuana he used -- about a half-ounce a week -- to curb pain from arthritis.

Deputy District Attorney Rob Gorman, who prosecuted the case, said of Warriner's ruling, "The people who have a legitimate recommendation for marijuana, I think they have a misguided belief that they're immune to prosecution, and they're not."

April 29- UK's The Scotsman reports: Mo Mowlam, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, continued her attack on the government yesterday when she bitterly criticised its drugs policy.

To the surprise and dismay of her former Cabinet colleagues, Ms Mowlam called for the legalisation of all drugs, including heroin and cocaine.

Mowlam - who as Cabinet Office minister was responsible for the government's anti-drugs policy - said legalising and taxing drugs was the only way to deal with the problem.

"I think that is the most effective way because in the end I don't think you could ever stop it.

"Why not regulate it, take the tax from it and seriously deal with addiction which has been around since the 1900s?"

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

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