Top 10 Drug-War Stories of 2004

1) Please Eat the Hemp, the Conclusion: The Hemp Industries Association won its fight against the feds' proposed new rule that would've made it illegal to sell foods containing hemp seed and oil. In February, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the HIA, and in late September the feds declined to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

2) Pretty (and Stoned) as a Princess: In April, the Texas Department of Public Safety kicked off a statewide program designed to put an end to illegal drug use at "organized rave parties." The DPS campaign aimed to educate the public about the dangers of "club drugs" like Ecstasy, and issued a watch list of items commonly identified with ravers – like "colorful, beaded bracelets" and "princess" costumes.

3) Doctors Back Medi-Pot: During its annual state convention in May, the Texas Medical Association (the country's largest state medical association) unanimously adopted a new policy recommendation supporting the right of doctors and patients to discuss medi-pot as a viable treatment option, without fear of legal recrimination. TMA delegates also reaffirmed the association's call for further research on the use of medicinal pot.

4) So Does Kerry: Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry scored an A- on the Marijuana Policy Project's medi-pot candidate scorecard by pledging to end DEA-led raids on medi-pot patients. In Oregon, Kerry said the feds should likely butt out of medi-pot matters, though he did not pledge support for the state's Proposition 33, expanding the state's medi-pot law. Both Kerry and Proposition 33 bagged out on E-day, while the medi-pot fight slogs forward.

5) Istook Mistook: In June, a federal judge struck down the Istook Amendment, which would deny fed dollars to any transit authority that accepts advertising advocating medi-pot, marijuana legalization, or dope decriminalization. The court said that the amendment violated congressional spending power and constitutionally protected free speech.

6) Medi-Pot's Supreme Test: California medi-pot patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson went to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that the feds should stay out of intrastate use of medicinal marijuana. The feds say medi-pot inevitably affects the black market in illegal drugs; Raich and Monson say their use is noneconomic and wholly contained within state borders. A decision is expected this spring.

7) Don't Study the Hemp: In December the DEA denied a proposal by University of Massachusetts researchers to grow pot for research, effectively extending the bureaucratic blockade that has kept research that could result in the drug's reclassification under federal law and enable doctors to prescribe pot. Horror of horrors, how would the drug companies ever make money off the weed?

8) Sensenbrenner's Minimum of Good Sense: Despite growing opposition to federal mandatory-minimum sentencing, U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, offered a bill to lengthen and strengthen man-min sentences. Under a fuzzy bunny title ("Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2004"), Sensenbrenner wants a 10-year minimum for anyone convicted of selling or conspiring to sell any amount of pot to a minor. Keep your fingers crossed – at press time, the bill still hadn't made any headway.

9) John Ashcroft, Ghostwriter: Outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft also entered the man-min fray, with an AstroTurf campaign using the Justice Department to churn out prewritten op-ed pieces supporting man-mins but bearing the signatures of local U.S. attorneys. Unfortunately for Ashcroft, his dishonest scheme was outed in August by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

10) Medi-pot for Texas?: In December, officials with Texans for Medical Marijuana announced that Austin State Rep. Elliott Naishtat had agreed to author the state's first medi-pot bill. The annual Texas Poll showed overwhelming support – whether that'll be enough to push the bill through remains to be seen.

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