Feds -- Ensuring a Free Flow of Heroin and Meth


This week, a year after the U.S. government "liberated" Afghanistan, they have reclaimed their spot as the world's biggest opium producer; House Republicans want to drain drug enforcement money from police in states that have passed medical marijuana laws, even as those states battle a meth epidemic; Iran/Contra villain Elliot Abrams takes center stage in the Bush II Administration, orchestrating Middle East policy; and New York City medical examiners rule as homicide the death of a 57 year old woman killed after police threw a concussion grenade in her apartment at 6:00 a.m. in a mistaken drug raid.

May 23 -- New Zealand's Otago Daily Times reports: Three years after the Taleban stamped out opium growing in Afghanistan, a United Nations expert said yesterday the country had reclaimed its spot as the world's biggest opium producer.

Afghanistan now produces about 3400 tons a year, about 75 percent of global production, said Sandeep Chawla, head of research at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

May 25 -- The Oakland Tribune reports: House Republicans want to drain drug enforcement money from state and local police in states -- including California -- with medical marijuana laws, giving it instead to federal agents. The proposed money shift within the nation's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) has Bay Area police worried their efforts to combat methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and other drugs will be short-changed.

San Mateo County Sheriff Don Horsley chairs the executive committee of Northern California HIDTA. The HIDTA's mission is to "increase the safety of America's citizens by substantially reducing drug-related crime and violence," its Web site says.

But Horsley said the proposed reallocation illustrates "misplaced priorities on the part of the federal government" and could dangerously strain relations between local and federal law enforcement officials.

"For his own part, he said, "I have a friend who's dying of brain cancer, and I told him if he needed medical marijuana I'd take it out of my evidence locker and give it to him."

San Jose Police Chief William Lansdowne, also on the HIDTA's committee, called the proposal "a terrible mistake."

"Clearly it's methamphetamine we need to go after, not medical marijuana. They need to readjust their priorities -- this just astounds me," he said.

He noted recent figures showed almost seven in 10 men and almost nine in 10 women arrested for violent crimes in Santa Clara County were under the influence of methamphetamine -- not marijuana.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he's "dismayed at the heavy-handed tactics of the Bush Administration.

"Cutting federal funds desperately needed in our fight against major drug operations is alarming," he said. "Cutting those funds simply because Californians have shown compassion by allowing physicians to recommend medical marijuana treatment for critically ill and dying patients is shortsighted, retaliatory and dangerous."

May 27 -- The Washington Post reports: A cycle of disgrace and redemption has brought one of Washington's most accomplished -- and controversial -- bureaucratic infighters back to the center of U.S. foreign policy decision-making.

When Elliott Abrams stood in front of a federal judge in October 1991 and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress, few imagined he would ever return to government. At age 43, he had become one of the casualties of the Iran-contra scandal, detested by Democrats for his combative political style and mistrusted by human rights activists for playing down the crimes of right-wing dictatorships in Central America.

Twelve years later, Abrams is helping to shape White House policies toward many of the world's trouble spots. Appointed in December as President Bush's senior adviser on the Middle East, his responsibilities extend from Algeria to Iran.

May 28 -- The New York Times reports: The city medical examiner has ruled that a 57-year-old Harlem woman who had a heart attack after the police mistakenly raided her apartment, threw a concussion grenade inside and handcuffed her, died from the stress and fear of the raid, officials said yesterday.

At the same time, the Police Department announced it was developing a new system to track information on such raids.

The office of Chief Medical Examiner Charles S. Hirsch formally concluded that the death of the woman, Alberta Spruill, a 29-year city employee, was a homicide, citing the unusual circumstance of "sudden death following police raid," said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the office.

The raid was based on erroneous information from a confidential informer who told the police that drugs and guns were stored in the apartment, where Ms. Spruill, a churchgoing woman whom Mayor Michael Bloomberg later described as a model city employee, had lived for decades.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.

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