Shooting Down Aircraft


This week, Oklahoma looks at decriminalizing marijuana possession; two Mexican anti-narcotics helicopters are shot down, killing 5 agents on board; Peruvian Prime Minister pleads for a resumption of American program of shooting down suspected drug cargo planes; an Iowa college president is caught smoking and growing marijuana; and a Canadian court throws out a marijuana possession charge, stating that it is currently legal to possess less than 30 grams of marijuana in Canada.

March 9 -- The Oklahoman reports: From resurrecting the prison cap law to making marijuana possession punishable by the equivalent of a traffic ticket, Oklahoma lawmakers are looking for ways to cut the state's prison population and its skyrocketing costs.

Faced with a $677 million budget shortfall next year, the 2003 Legislature is considering sentencing reforms and other proposals to reduce the state's incarceration rate, one of the nation's highest, without jeopardizing public safety.

Statistics compiled by the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center found that drug and alcohol offenses are the leading causes of prison sentences in the state, accounting for 44 percent of all receptions in 2001.

The center found that marijuana possession accounted for 12 percent of all felony drug possessors convicted in 2001. Drummond said Oklahoma has more minor, nonviolent drug offenders in prison per capita than any state in the region.

March 11 -- The Detroit Free Press reports: Two helicopters from Mexico's Attorney General's Office were shot down during an anti-narcotics operation, killing all five drug agents on board.

The copters had just lifted off to fumigate poppy plants Monday when they were hit by high-powered weapons fired by unidentified gunmen, the Attorney General's Office said.

The aircraft crashed in the western state of Guerrero near the town of Tlapa, about 60 miles east of the state capital, Chilpancingo.

March 14 -- The Washington Times reports: Peruvian Prime Minister Luis Solari said yesterday that he expects the U.S. drug-interdiction flights over Peru, which were stopped in 2001, to resume shortly.

"We need, as soon as possible, the resumption of the flights," Mr. Solari told editors and reporters in a luncheon interview at The Washington Times yesterday. "When the flights stop, the price [of cocaine] rises."

In Washington to discuss trade, U.S. investment and drug interdiction, Mr. Solari said that he had met with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, several congressmen and President Bush's Latin America envoy, Otto Reich. (Ed. note: Otto Reich served under Oliver North during the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan/Bush I administrations. Reich was director of the Office of Public diplomacy. Staffed with military "psychological warfare" specialists, the office worked intensively to spread false propaganda and to malign and discredit journalists whose reporting the administration did not approve. Reich also lobbied for, and won, American residency for Cuban-exile terrorist, Orlando Bosch, who blew up a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing 73 people. George Bush I granted Bosch a pardon and U.S. residency n 1992.)

March 14 -- The Houston Chronicle reports: An Iowa college president caught smoking marijuana with six-dozen plants growing in his basement and packages of the leafy drug spread around his home faced drug charges Thursday.

David England, 50, president of Des Moines Area Community College, and his wife and teenage son and daughter were all accused of crimes ranging from manufacturing and delivering a narcotic to possession of drug paraphernalia, police said.

Acting on witness accounts of suspicious activity at England's upscale home, police raided the house Wednesday where he was found alone with a lighted marijuana cigarette.

March 16 -- Canada's Calgary Sun reports: A Prince Edward Island judge stayed a teen's marijuana possession charge, ruling it would be unfair to prosecute him when other Canadians have immunity from the same charge.

Provincial Court Judge Ralph C. Thompson stayed proceedings against the 19-year-old on Friday after considering cases in Ontario.

The teen was charged with possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana in the fall.

Defence lawyer Clifford McCabe argued in a previous hearing the charge should be quashed because it's not a valid offence based on the Ontario cases.

In his 11-page decision, the judge explained an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling, known as the Parker decision, effectively struck down the law that prohibits simple possession.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.

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