Drug War Briefs: January 13, 2003

January 2- Half of Canadians want the federal government to decriminalize possession of marijuana, and support for relaxed laws is not confined to the young.

The new survey comes at a time when Justice Minister Martin Cauchon says he is going to remove simple pot possession from the Criminal Code, but his boss, Prime Minister Jean Chretien, isn't sure.

"This is something that is against the law right now and you've got half the population saying let's decriminalize that," said Toronto pollster Michael Sullivan. "It certainly says that we are a relatively liberal society on this issue."

January 3- Canadas Globe and Mail reports: Possessing marijuana is no longer illegal for anyone in Canada, an Ontario judge ruled yesterday.

In April, police arrested a 16-year-old truant in a park carrying five grams of it. He was charged with possession of marijuana.

Yesterday, he was cleared of that charge when Judge Douglas Phillips of the Ontario Court in Windsor agreed with the young man's defence: Federal laws against marijuana possession are no longer valid.

January 3- Kansas Wichita Eagle reports: A lawyer for one of two U.S. pilots who released a bomb over southern Afghanistan in April, accidentally killing four Canadian soldiers, says the Air Force had pressured the pilots to take amphetamines that may have impaired their judgment during the mission.

Maj. Harry Schmidt and Maj. William Umbach face a possible court-martial for dropping the laser-guided bomb near Kandahar on April 17. An Air Force investigation determined the pilots "demonstrated poor airmanship" and ignored standard procedure by not making sure there were no allied troops in the area.

But Umbach's lawyer, David Beck, said he would show at a Jan 13 hearing on whether to court-martial the pilots that the Air Force routinely pressures pilots to take dexamphetamine, a prescription drug also known as "go pills." He said the drug can impair judgment and is not recommended for people operating heavy equipment.

Beck said the Air Force prevents pilots from flying if they refuse to take the pills.

January 3- New Jerseys Bergen Record reports: Citing potential administrative nightmares, the state asked a judge Thursday to delay enforcement of a ruling that bans police and prosecutors from sharing the loot seized in civil forfeiture cases.

Last month, Superior Court Judge G. Thomas Bowen declared the practice unconstitutional after a challenge by a former Cumberland County sheriff's deputy whose 1990 Ford Thunderbird was seized by the state because her teenage son had been caught selling marijuana from it.

Much is at stake: Between 1998 and 2000, the state seized about $25 million in such cases, distributing it among police and prosecutors in all 21 counties.

January 9- Californias Tri-Valley Herald reports: It looks like pro-marijuana author and activist Ed Rosenthal of Oakland is headed for trial soon on the federal drug charges against him.

Rosenthal, 58, a widely known pro-marijuana activist and author, was among those arrested last February when Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided his home office and other Oakland sites; the Harm Reduction Center medical marijuana club in San Francisco, and the Petaluma home of Harm Reduction Center founder Ken Hayes.

California law says medical use of marijuana is legal; federal law says it isn't.

Rosenthal's case has become a rallying point for medical marijuana activists and even inspired the creation of a charitable group - Green Aid: Medical Marijuana Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc.

January 9- Californias New Times reports: After months of delay, Donovan No Runner finally scored his weed from the San Luis Obispo Police Department and fired up a joint in front of headquarters.

The medical marijuana, for which the 23-year-old Grover Beach resident possesses a valid physician's prescription, was taken by SLO cops in August. Three months later, when the matter came to court, Judge Barry LaBarbera dismissed possession charges and ordered police to return the reefer. Police Chief Jim Gardiner declined, citing conflicts between state and federal law, and eventually retired, leaving the matter unsettled.

Last week, the San Luis Obispo City Council met in secret to decide if members wanted to pursue an appeal to LaBarbera's oft-repeated order. They did not, and ordered the city's new police chief, Deborah Linden, to return the 8.4 grams of high-test pot to No Runner.

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

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