U.S. & Afghanistan Partners in Opium

This week, a 19-year-old Florida college student is raped in prison as he serves a weekend stint on a marijuana charge; the RAVE Act is used to shut down a marijuana reform rally in Montana; and a US Military spokesman admits that there are no plans for American troops to eradicate the opium fields of Afghanistan.

June 10 -- The Gainesville Sun reports: An Alachua County college student in jail on marijuana charges was raped over the weekend by his cell mate, a man already being held on sexual battery charges, authorities said Monday.

The 19-year-old student was serving four weekends in jail on charges of delivering marijuana, said Alachua County Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Troiano. Last weekend was the first weekend of his sentence.

His cell mate held a ballpoint pen to the teenager's neck at about 9 p.m. Friday and then forced himself on him, Troiano said.

Randolph Jackson, 35, was charged with sexual battery. Jackson has been in jail since July on charges of sexual battery in a different case that is still pending. The two were put in a cell together because they were both charged with felonies, Troiano said. Also, there was very little room in the jail last weekend, Troiano added. There were 918 inmates and the jail's capacity is 920. Jail officials don't house inmates who are charged with misdemeanors, which are less serious crimes, with those who have felony charges, he said.

Troiano said this was the first sexual battery reported at the jail in the memory of jail officials, and Jackson never showed any signs of having sexual tendencies toward other inmates. He has since been moved to his own cell.

June 12 -- The Billings Outpost reports: A canceled Billings rock concert could provoke an early challenge to new national anti-drug legislation. A May 30 fund-raising concert for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws was canceled as bands were setting up for the show. The cancellation followed a warning from a federal drug agent that the Eagles Lodge could be fined up to $250,000 if illegal drugs were used at the event.

The day before, the concert promoter was jailed for a probation violation. The organizer, Adam Jones, said afterward that he would drop his activities in the NORML chapter at Montana State University-Billings and in Students for Sensible Drug Policy as a result of the incident.

The $250,000 penalty was included in the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003, which President Bush signed into law on April 30. The legislation was attached to the popular Child Abduction Prevention Act, better known as the Amber Alert bill.

The bill's sponsor was Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., who has said that it was aimed at those who knowingly profit from illegal drug use at events they sponsor, especially at raves, where participants often consume the drug Ecstasy. But critics say that the bill is so vaguely worded that it could force innocent bar owners and event sponsors out of business.

Some critics also have worried that the law could be used to squelch political activity. Gay rights groups, for example, frequently use concerts and raves as fund-raising events. The NORML benefit here was intended to raise money to place a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in 2004.

NORML Foundation head Allen St. Pierre told DRCNet that the Billings case appeared to be the first application of the RAVE Act and he called it a "very scary precedent."

"Preemptively shutting down a First Amendment-protected event is something that just doesn't happen in America," he reportedly said. "This is absolutely what we feared and predicted would happen if the RAVE Act passed. Isn't Montana known for being resistant to federal encroachment? This should make them mighty uneasy."

June 13 -- BBC News reports: The US military has denied using helicopters to spray herbicides on opium crops in Afghanistan.

The move came after a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper, in which villagers in eastern Afghanistan said US forces had secretly tried to wipe out their poppy crops in April under cover of darkness. US military spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis said: "That's not what we came here to do and it's not in our plans."

Afghanistan is the world's biggest producer of opium, the raw ingredient for heroin. Since the fall of the Taleban in 2001, Afghanistan has reclaimed its position as the world's top producer of opium.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.

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