Kicking Against the Pricks


This week, a Colombian peasant representative speaks out against America's "War on Coca"; Berkeley, CA's mayor supports increasing medical marijuana patients' personal plant grow limit from 10 to 72 plants; and a Canadian magazine mocks US drug Czar John Walters for giving their pot trade free advertising.

April 22- Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports: Spraying tons of chemical herbicides over Colombia has failed to make a dent in the cocaine supply to the United States, and it's ruining the lives of ordinary farmers, says a peasant organizer from the war-wracked country.

Miguel Cifuentes, 30, executive secretary of the Cimitarra River Valley Peasant Association, criticized the $2 billion U.S. war on drugs in Colombia on Tuesday at the Christus Collegium in Bozeman.

Twenty-five times more Americans die from smoking tobacco each year than die from drugs, Cifuentes argued. "Why don't they decide to fumigate the tobacco fields?" Cifuentes asked. His remarks were translated from Spanish by Scott Nicholson of Missoula, a Montana Human Rights Network organizer.

America has supported indiscriminate spraying of the Monsanto herbicide Round-Up, which destroys far more corn and food crops than drugs, Cifuentes charged. It sickens many peasants, particularly children and the elderly, hurting their eyes, breathing, stomachs and skin.

To survive economically, peasants have little choice but to grow poppies and coca plants, he said. When one drug crop is sprayed, the peasants simply cut down forests and plant more drugs.

Cifuentes argued the peasants are caught in the middle, victims of free trade agreements that hurt the local farm economy, victims of drug traffickers, victims of spraying and victims of right-wing paramilitary groups. He blamed the paramilitaries for the gruesome deaths and disappearance of hundreds of people, and blamed the government for creating the paramilitaries.

Cifuentes argued that the U.S. war on drugs is in reality an excuse to intervene in Colombia and help U.S. corporations gain control of his country's oil, gas, coal and gold.

Don Hargrove, a retired Air Force officer and former Republican state senator, disagreed strongly with the notions that the war on drugs is a sham, or that Colombia's government supports the paramilitaries. Hargrove said he had worked in Colombia for five years as a civil contractor assisting in the war on drugs.

"It's vicious, it's evil, it hurts people," Hargrove said of drug trafficking, adding that he personally knew hundreds of honest police officers who had been killed for fighting drugs.

April 22- The Alameda Times-Star reports: Medical cannabis users and advocates are lobbying city leaders to increase Berkeley's indoor marijuana plant limit from 10 to 72, which is the amount allowed in Oakland.

Advocates say residents with cancer, AIDS, chronic pain, anorexia, glaucoma, migraine headaches and other severe illnesses need more than 10 indoor plants to cultivate marijuana for medical treatment.

Berkeley allows 10 indoor and outdoor plants under a March 2001 ordinance that was brokered under political compromise. The Berkeley City Council will consider an increase proposal Tuesday.

"It's not unreasonable to have 72 ( plants )," said Mayor Tom Bates. "What people have told me is that this is what is needed and necessary, and it's worked out well for Oakland. I am supportive of 72 plants even though it sounds like a ton. I think the people in Berkeley overwhelmingly support ( medical cannabis )."

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration takes a difference stance. "I find it incredible that a person would need 72 plants to grow marijuana for himself or herself, said DEA Special Agent Richard Meyer. "There is something wrong there. Under federal law, marijuana is an illegal substance."

April 22- Canada's NOW Magazine reports: White House drug czar John Walters is whining that Americans can't handle Canadian hydro. Claiming Canada is exporting "the crack of marijuana," Walters maintains that annual weed-related emergency room visits have doubled from 60,000 to 120,000 in the States in the last few years. Does he really think announcing that our pot is tops will cause weed-loving Yanks to stop using it? Just keep the lights a little lower, try listening to Floyd or Air, breath a little deeper, and everything will be fine.

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