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By David Sneed and Julia Hickey — dsneed@thetribunenews.com, jhickey@thetribunenews.com

A detective with the San Luis Obispo Police Department was arrested Tuesday by FBI agents after being charged in a bribery scheme in which he allegedly took cash and drugs from two people.

Cory Pierce, 39, of Arroyo Grande allegedly provided two “cooperating witnesses” with narcotics for their own use, as well as placebo or fake drugs to sell to drug dealers, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Pierce is a six-year veteran of the San Luis Obispo Police Department who was assigned to a narcotics task force with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office. He was taken into custody without incident at the FBI’s Santa Maria office and charged with one count of bribery in a criminal complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The criminal complaint describes how Pierce cultivated two sources, who have since cooperated with the FBI’s investigation by recording conversations with Pierce that led to his arrest. Pierce’s illegal activities were ongoing for as long as two years, and the investigation has yielded no information that other officers were involved in the scheme, said San Luis Obispo Police Chief Steve Gesell at a news conference Tuesday.

Pierce was to have an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. If convicted of the bribery charge alleged in the criminal complaint, Pierce would face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

The ongoing investigation was conducted by the FBI with the assistance of the San Luis Obispo Police Department and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Ian Parkinson said his office became aware of the illegal activity about two weeks ago and asked the FBI to handle the case.

“I am angry and deeply disturbed that this has happened,” Parkinson said.

Parkinson told the staff of his narcotics task force about the arrest. Those officers agreed to take drug tests, which were administered Tuesday. Neither the Sheriff’s Office nor the San Luis Obispo police have a policy of regularly testing its officers for drugs.

The alleged illegal activity began when one of the FBI’s cooperating witnesses was arrested for heroin possession in 2011. The witness and his girlfriend agreed to work with police, specifically Pierce.

But soon after, Pierce made unusual requests for the informants to bring him narcotics, according to the FBI complaint. As the requests continued, Pierce allegedly provided placebo pain pills and real narcotics to the two witnesses.

Pierce exchanged pills and drugs for cash and various narcotics brought to him by the witnesses, including oxycodone, heroin and drugs that treat opiate addiction, according to the complaint. It goes on to state that Pierce on several occasions provided the witness with methamphetamine that was still in police evidence bags.

The complaint alleges that the female witness obtained prescriptions for pain pills from her doctor and from emergency rooms to give to Pierce, and that Pierce would provide her with money to purchase the prescriptions.

The complaint alleges that Pierce used his position as a police officer to influence one of the witness’s probation officers to perform little or no supervision of him and informed him that he could “work off” his heroin possession charge by cooperating with Pierce. The complaint goes on to allege that Pierce informed the cooperating witnesses about ongoing police investigations, including where best to purchase narcotics and which drug houses to stay away from, so that they would not be caught in the act of buying.

Pierce allegedly had the witnesses set up a meeting with a drug dealer. Following the meeting, he pulled over the dealer’s vehicle at gunpoint, seized morphine pills and let the dealer go without making an arrest.

When the witnesses advised Pierce that the drug dealers to whom they had sold the placebo pills realized they had received a deceptive product and wanted revenge, Pierce asked for their identities and indicated he would “take care of it.”

Last month, one of the witnesses began cooperating with a federal investigation and recorded multiple conversations with Pierce. During those recorded conversations, Pierce allegedly instructed the witness to sell placebo pills to a drug dealer for $11,000, money that was to be split between Pierce and the witness.

On multiple occasions, Pierce asked the witness for Suboxone, which is used to treat opiate addictions, indicating that he was personally using the drug, according to the complaint affidavit.

The complaint also details Pierce being caught on a surveillance camera inside the sheriff’s Narcotics Task Force office.

“The San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Task Force office recently installed a camera in its office space to capture the area surrounding its evidence storage location,” the complaint says. On Jan. 31, 2013, the video showed the last employee leaving the office at 5:20 p.m. “Soon after that employee left, the video showed Pierce opening the office door and entering the space. The video showed that Pierce went directly to the sergeant’s desk and removed the evidence key from the top of his desk. According to the video, Pierce then opened the evidence storage area with the key and removed a sack from the storage location.

“The detective reviewing the video recognized the sack as one that contained the placebo pills resembling oxycodone. The video then showed Pierce grabbing two bottles from the sack, returning the evidence key to the sergeant’s desk, removing plastic wrap surrounding the bottles, and then exiting the office.”

The detective said Pierce was only inside the office for two minutes, the complaint alleges.


Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2013/02/05/2382785/cory-pierce-slo-police-arrested.html#storylink=cpy



 
 
US military expands its drug war in Latin America

http://xfinity.comcast.net/articles/news-general/20130203/LT.US.Militarizing.The.Drug.War/

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By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP
1 day ago 

The crew members aboard the USS Underwood could see through their night goggles what was happening on the fleeing go-fast boat: Someone was dumping bales.

When the Navy guided-missile frigate later dropped anchor in Panamanian waters on that sunny August morning, Ensign Clarissa Carpio, a 23-year-old from San Francisco, climbed into the inflatable dinghy with four unarmed sailors and two Coast Guard officers like herself, carrying light submachine guns. It was her first deployment, but Carpio was ready for combat.

Fighting drug traffickers was precisely what she'd trained for.

In the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War, the U.S. has militarized the battle against the traffickers, spending more than $20 billion in the past decade. U.S. Army troops, Air Force pilots and Navy ships outfitted with Coast Guard counternarcotics teams are routinely deployed to chase, track and capture drug smugglers.

The sophistication and violence of the traffickers is so great that the U.S. military is training not only law enforcement agents in Latin American nations, but their militaries as well, building a network of expensive hardware, radar, airplanes, ships, runways and refueling stations to stem the tide of illegal drugs from South America to the U.S.

According to State Department and Pentagon officials, stopping drug-trafficking organizations has become a matter of national security because they spread corruption, undermine fledgling democracies and can potentially finance terrorists.

U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, pointing to dramatic declines in violence and cocaine production in Colombia, says the strategy works.

"The results are historic and have tremendous implications, not just for the United States and the Western Hemisphere, but for the world," he said at a conference on drug policy last year.

The Associated Press examined U.S. arms export authorizations, defense contracts, military aid, and exercises in the region, tracking a drug war strategy that began in Colombia, moved to Mexico and is now finding fresh focus in Central America, where brutal cartels mark an enemy motivated not by ideology but by cash.

The U.S. authorized the sale of a record $2.8 billion worth of guns, satellites, radar equipment and tear gas to Western Hemisphere nations in 2011, four times the authorized sales 10 years ago, according to the latest State Department reports.

Over the same decade, defense contracts jumped from $119 million to $629 million, supporting everything from Kevlar helmets for the Mexican army to airport runways in Aruba, according to federal contract data.

Last year $830 million, almost $9 out of every $10 of U.S. law enforcement and military aid spent in the region, went toward countering narcotics, up 30 percent in the past decade.

Many in the military and other law enforcement agencies — the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, FBI — applaud the U.S. strategy, but critics say militarizing the drug war in a region fraught with tender democracies and long-corrupt institutions can stir political instability while barely touching what the U.N. estimates is a $320 billion global illicit drug market.

Congressman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who chaired the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere for the past four years, says the U.S.-supported crackdown on Mexican cartels only left them "stronger and more violent." He intends to reintroduce a proposal for a Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission to evaluate antinarcotics efforts.

"Billions upon billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been spent over the years to combat the drug trade in Latin America and the Caribbean," he said. "In spite of our efforts, the positive results are few and far between."

___

At any given moment, 4,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Latin America and as many as four U.S. Navy ships are plying the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines of Central America. U.S. pilots clocked more than 46,400 hours in 2011 flying anti-drug missions, and U.S. agents from at least 10 law enforcement agencies spread across the continent.

The U.S. trains thousands of Latin American troops, and employs its multibillion dollar radar equipment to gather intelligence to intercept traffickers and arrest cartel members.

These work in organized-crime networks that boast an estimated 11,000 flights annually and hundreds of boats and submersibles. They smuggle cocaine from the only place it's produced, South America, to the land where it is most coveted, the United States.

One persistent problem is that in many of the partner nations, police are so institutionally weak or corrupt that governments have turned to their militaries to fight drug traffickers, often with violent results. Militaries are trained for combat, while police are trained to enforce laws.

"It is unfortunate that militaries have to be involved in what are essentially law enforcement engagements," said Frank Mora, the outgoing deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs. But he argues that many governments have little choice.

"We are not going to turn our backs on these governments or these institutions because they've found themselves in such a situation that they have to use their militaries in this way," Mora said.

Mora said the effort is not tantamount to militarizing the war on drugs. He said the Defense Department's role is limited, by law, to monitoring and detection. Law enforcement agents, from the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection or other agencies are in charge of some of the busts, he said.

But the U.S. is deploying its own military. Not only is the Fourth Fleet in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Atlantic, but the Marines were sent to Guatemala last year and the National Guard is in Honduras.

The Obama Administration sees these deployments as important missions with a worthy payoff. Hundreds of thousands of kilograms (pounds) of cocaine are seized en route to the U.S. every year, and the Defense Department estimates about 850 metric tons of cocaine departed South America last year toward the U.S., down 20 percent in just a year. The most recent U.S. survey found cocaine use fell significantly, from 2.4 million people in 2006 to 1.4 million in 2011.

Aboard the Underwood, the crew of 260 was clear on the mission. The ship's bridge wings bear 16 cocaine "snowflakes" and two marijuana "leaves," awarded to the Underwood by the Coast Guard command to be "proudly displayed" for its successful interdictions.

Standing on the bridge, Carpio's team spotted its first bale of cocaine. And then, after 2 1/2 weeks plying the Caribbean in search of drug traffickers, they spotted another, and then many more.

"In all we found 49 bales," Carpio said in an interview aboard the ship. "It was very impressive to see the bales popping along the water in a row."

Wrapped in black and white tarp, they were so heavy she could barely pull one out of the water. Later, officials said they'd collected $27 million worth of cocaine.

___

The current U.S. strategy began in Colombia in 2000, with an eight-year effort that cost more than $7 billion to stop the flow from the world's top cocaine producer. During Plan Colombia, the national police force, working closely with dozens of DEA agents, successfully locked up top drug traffickers.

But then came "the balloon effect."

As a result of Plan Colombia's pressure, traffickers were forced to find new coca-growing lands in Peru and Bolivia, and trafficking routes shifted as well from Florida to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Thus a $1.6 billion, 4-year Merida Initiative was launched in 2008. Once more, drug kingpins were caught or killed, and as cartels fought to control trafficking routes, increasingly gruesome killings topped 70,000 in six years.

Mexican cartel bosses, feeling the squeeze, turned to Central America as the first stop for South American cocaine, attracted by weaker governments and corrupt authorities.

"Now, all of a sudden, the tide has turned," said Brick Scoggins, who manages the Defense Department's counter-narcotics programs in most of Latin America and the Caribbean. "I'd say northern tier countries of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize have become a key focus area."

The latest iteration is the $165 million Central America Regional Security Initiative, which includes Operation Martillo (Hammer), a year-old U.S.-led mission. The operation has no end date and is focused on the seas off Central America's beach-lined coasts, key shipping routes for 90 percent of the estimated 850 metric tons of cocaine headed to the U.S.

As part of Operation Martillo, 200 U.S. Marines began patrolling Guatemala's western coast in August, their helicopters soaring above villages at night as they headed out to sea to find "narco-submarines" and shiploads of drugs. The troops also brought millions of dollars' worth of computers and intelligence-gathering technology to analyze communications between suspected drug dealers.

Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield, head of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, predicts the balloon effect will play out in Central America before moving to the Caribbean.

The goal, he said, is to make it so hard for traffickers to move drugs to the U.S. that they will eventually opt out of North America, where cocaine use is falling. Traffickers would likely look for easier, more expanding markets, shifting sales to a growing customer base in Europe, Africa and elsewhere in the world.

Brownfield said almost all Peruvian and Bolivian cocaine goes east through Brazil and Argentina and then to Western Europe. Cocaine that reaches North America mostly comes from Colombia, he said, with U.S. figures showing production falling sharply, from 700 metric tons in 2001 to 195 metric tons today — though estimates vary widely.

When the drug war turns bloody, he said, the strategy is working.

"The bloodshed tends to occur and increase when these trafficking organizations, which are large, powerful, rich, extremely violent and potentially bloody, ... come under some degree of pressure," he said.

Yet the strategy has often backfired when foreign partners proved too inexperienced to fight drug traffickers or so corrupt they switched sides.

In Mexico, for example, the U.S. focused on improving the professionalism of the federal police. But the effort's success was openly questioned after federal police at Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport opened fire at each other, killing three.

In August critics were even more concerned when two CIA officers riding in a U.S. Embassy SUV were ambushed by Mexican federal police allegedly working for an organized crime group. The police riddled the armored SUV with 152 bullets, wounding both officers.

The new strategy in Honduras has had its own fits and starts.

Last year, the U.S. Defense Department spent a record $67.4 million on military contracts in Honduras, triple the 2002 defense contracts there well above the $45.6 million spent in neighboring Guatemala in 2012. The U.S. also spent about $2 million training more than 300 Honduran military personnel in 2011, and $89 million in annual spending to maintain Joint Task Force Bravo, a 600-member U.S. unit based at Soto Cano Air Base.

Further, neither the State Department nor the Pentagon could provide details explaining a 2011 $1.3 billion authorization for exports of military electronics to Honduras — although that would amount to almost half of all U.S. arms exports for the entire Western Hemisphere.

In May, on the other side of the country, Honduran national police rappelled from U.S. helicopters to bust drug traffickers near the remote village of Ahuas, killing four allegedly innocent civilians and scattering locals who were loading some 450 kilograms (close to 1,000 pounds) of cocaine into a boat.

The incident drew international attention and demands for an investigation when the DEA confirmed it had agents aboard the helicopters advising their Honduran counterparts. Villagers spoke of English-speaking commandos kicking in doors and handcuffing locals just after the shooting, searching for drug traffickers.

Six weeks later, townspeople watched in shock as laborers exhumed the first of four muddy graves. At each burial site, workers pulled out the decomposing bodies of two women and two young men, and laid them on tarps.

Forensic scientists conducted their graveside autopsies in the open air, probing for bullet wounds and searching for signs the women had been pregnant, as villagers had claimed.

Government investigators concluded there was no wrongdoing in the raid. In the subsequent months, DEA agents shot and killed suspects they said threatened them in two separate incidents, and the U.S. temporarily suspended the sharing of radar intelligence because the Central American nation's air force shot down two suspected drug planes, a violation of rules of engagement. Support was also withheld for the national police after it was learned that its new director had been tied to death squads.

As the new year begins, Congress is still withholding an estimated $30 million in aid to Honduras, about a third of all the U.S. aid slotted for this year.

But there are no plans to rethink the strategy.

Scoggins, the Defense Department's counter-narcotics manager, said operations in Central America are expected to grow for the next five years.

"It's not for me to say if it's the correct strategy. It's the strategy we are using," said Scoggins. "I don't know what the alternative is."

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Dario Lopez aboard the USS Underwood in the Caribbean, Garance Burke in San Francisco, Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, and Alberto Arce in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, along with Romina Ruiz-Goiriena in Guatemala City.

 
 
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By Robert Bonner
February 1, 2013, 8:23 a.m.



Reacting to a federal appellate court decision upholding the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's denial of reclassification of marijuana, The Times states in its Jan. 25 editorial that whether marijuana should be reclassified under federal law to permit its prescription as a medicine should be based on science and an evaluation of the facts, rather than on myths. I fully agree. 

And yet the editorial is based on the myth that the DEA has made it "nearly impossible" for researchers to obtain marijuana for such scientific studies. To the contrary, not a single scientifically valid study by a qualified researcher has ever been denied by the DEA or, for that matter, by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. And there is ample government-grown marijuana, specifically for research, available at the marijuana farm run by the University of Mississippi. More surprising, as your editorial points out, is that there is still no scientifically valid study that proves that marijuana is effective, much less safe, as a medicine. 

As the DEA administrator 20 years ago, I denied the reclassification of marijuana from a Schedule I controlled drug because there were no valid scientific studies showing that smoking marijuana was an effective medicine. In my decision, published in the Federal Register, I interpreted federal law and set forth a five-part test that included whether there were valid scientific studies demonstrating that marijuana was safe and effective for treating any medical condition. I noted that at that time there were none of the kind of controlled, double-blind studies that the Food and Drug Administration would require before approving a new drug application, and I clearly spelled out that this would be necessary before marijuana would be reclassified to a lower schedule that would permit its use as a physician-prescribed medicine

Essentially, I invited those who advocate marijuana use as a medicine to conduct research and then present it to the DEA. I laid out a road map for what they needed to do. If scientifically valid studies demonstrated that marijuana was “effective” and “safe,” as the FDA defines those terms, the agency would reclassify marijuana into one of the other schedules. It is amazing that 20 years later there is still no such scientific study establishing that marijuana is effective as a medicine. And yet in the interim, the well-funded marijuana lobby, including the National Assn. for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and others, have spent tens of millions of dollars on convincing voters to pass medical marijuanainitiatives based on anecdotes but not science. 

The reason the FDA and the DEA have scientific standards is because snake-oil salesmen are able to sell just about anything to sick people without any scientific proof that it has a truly helpful therapeutic effect. If proponents of medical marijuana had invested even a small fragment of their money in scientifically valid studies, we would know one way or the other whether it works. 

One can only conclude the marijuana proponents did not go this route because doing so would have shown that cannabis is not an effective and safe medicine. Alternatively, we are left to conclude that their agenda was not about marijuana to help sick people, but rather was getting voters to pass medical marijuana initiatives as a wedge to legalize the drug for "recreational" use. 

Here is  a response from a long time activist Rick Doblin:

Dear Mr. Robert Bonner,

Hello from Rick Doblin, Ph.D.,(Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, with my dissertation on the regulation of the medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana).  I'm currently Executive Director of the non-profit research and educational organization, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS, www.maps.org), which I founded in 1986.  You may be surprised to learn that for the last 20+ years, I have been inspired by, and frequently  quote, your 1992 statement that you mention in your article above  in which you encouraged advocates of medical marijuana to conduct more research.  

In 1992, you wrote, <Those who insist that marijuana has medical uses would serve society better by promoting or sponsoring more legitimate scientific research, rather than throwing their time, money and rhetoric into lobbying public relations campaigns and perennial litigation."

I have put my full energies for the last 20+ years into trying to conduct FDA-approved medical marijuana drug development research. Unfortunately, my experience, to which I hope you will give some credence, is exactly opposite of the open door to research that you claim exists.  MAPS has obtained FDA and IRB approval for three different  protocols to which NIDA refused to sell any marijuana, preventing the studies from taking place. In addition, NIDA refused for 7 years to sell MAPS 10 grams (!!) of marijuana for laboratory research investigating the vapors that come out of the Volcano vaporizer, compared to smoke from combusted marijuana.  

Furthermore, MAPS has been involved for the last decade in litigation against DEA for refusing to license Prof. Craker, UMass Amherst, to grow marijuana exclusively for use in federally regulated research. In 2007, DEA Administrative Law Judge Bittner recommended, after extensive hearings with witness testimony, that it would be in the public interest for DEA to license Prof. Craker to grow marijuana under contract to MAPS, ending the NIDA monopoly on the supply of marijuana legal for use in FDA-regulated studies.  DEA waited for almost two years and  then rejected the ALJ recommendation just six days before the inauguration of Pres. Obama.  On May 11, 2012,  oral arguments took place before the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit by Prof. Craker challenging DEA's rationale for rejecting the DEA ALJ recommendation. A ruling is currently pending from the 1st Circuit.  From  my perspective, DEA's rationale for rejecting the DEA ALJ recommendation is arbitrary and capricious, but of course what matters is  what the 1st Circuit will eventually decide.

In your article above, you claimed,  <To the contrary, not a single scientifically valid study by a qualified researcher has ever been denied by the DEA or, for that matter, by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.>   The wiggle room in your statement above is the definition of "scientifically valid study".  One would think that for a privately funded study being conducted without a penny of government money, with the aim of developing marijuana into an FDA-approved prescription medicine, that the FDA would be the regulatory agency to determine whether the study was "scientifically valid" and that Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval would be sufficient to protect the safety of the human volunteers to the study. However, in 1999, HHS created a policy (which could be reversed by Pres. Obama at any time without Congressional action) stating that PHS/NIDA reviewers would have to conduct an additional review of protocols  from privately-funded sponsors seeking to purchase!

 marijuana from NIDA.  This additional PHS/NIDA protocol review process exists only for marijuana, not for research with any other controlled substance. MAPS has been able to make substantial progress with our research exploring the use of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in subjects with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD, including a current study in 24 US veterans, firefighters and perhaps even police officers with work-related PTSD.

It is these PHS/NIDA reviewers who have rejected all three of MAPS' FDA and IRB approved medical marijuana drug development protocols, preventing them from taking place.  You can claim that the rejection of the these protocols was because they were not "scientifically valid".   However, to make that claim, you would be saying that FDA and IRBs have approved studies that are not "scientifically valid",  an accusation against the FDA that  I doubt you really want  to make.

MAPS currently has obtained FDA and IRB approval for a study of marijuana in 50 US veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD. Dr. Sue Sisley of UArizona is the PI and approval has been obtained from the UArizona IRB as well as the FDA. Research into a potentially beneficial       treatment for US veterans is being blocked by PHS/NIDA reviewers who rejected this protocol.  These PHS/NIDA reviewers approached the protocol review as if we were asking for a government grant for a basic science study. Instead, we were seeking to purchase marijuana from NIDA for a privately-funded drug development study. The PHS/NIDA reviewers made numerous incorrect and uninformed comments and clearly didn't understand drug development research. One reviewer objected to our outcome measures when we are using the FDA-required measure of PTSD symptoms, the CAPS. If you or any readers want to review our protocol along with the PHS/NIDA reviewers' comments and my annotated response, the documents are posted at:  http://www.maps.org/research/mmj/marijuana_for_ptsd_study/

The compete record of Prof. Craker's DEA lawsuit is posted at: http://www.maps.org/research/mmj/dea_timeline/

MAPS will soon be resubmitting our marijuana/PTSD protocol for another round of PHS/NIDA review, even though we think this review should be eliminated from the process. All FDA/IRB and DEA approved protocols should automatically be allowed to purchase marijuana from NIDA.

To summarize, you have been an inspiration to me and have motivated me to devote several decades of my life to seek approval for medical marijuana drug development research. My failure to make progress in overcoming the obstruction of medical marijuana research by DEA/NIDA/PHS  provides one of the clearest reasons for state level medical marijuana policy reform. 

My conclusion is opposite of yours, when you said, "One can only conclude the marijuana proponents did not go this route because doing so would have shown that cannabis is not an effective and safe medicine."

Rather, one can only conclude that privately-funded medical marijuana drug development research is being aggressively and actively obstructed by DEA/NIDA/PHS because they know it can be scientifically proven that marijuana, smoked or vaporized, is both safe and effective.

The heros in all of this in my eyes are the FDA.  It's not because FDA is pro-medical marijuana, or pro-psychedelic psychotherapy. Rather, FDA is pro science over politics. In other words, FDA are heroes simply for doing their jobs. If only DEA/NIDA/PHS considered the public interest over       their increasingly out of touch passion for blocking FDA-regulated medical marijuana drug development research. 

I urge you to reread your 1992 statement and join MAPS in asking for the end of the PHS protocol review process and for a new policy in which all FDA/IRB/DEA approved protocols automatically obtain approval to purchase NIDA marijuana. In addition, I sincerely hope you will also support DEA licensing of Prof. Craker.  It's time to  "serve society better by promoting or sponsoring more legitimate scientific research."

Sincerely,

Rick Doblin, Ph.D.

rick@maps.org




 
 
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Please forward this to everyone you know and send a letter to the judge:
Honorable Judge McGlynn
Tehama Superior Court
Juvenile Justice Division
Dependency Court
445 Pine Street
Red Bluff, CA 96080

To the Honorable Judge McGlynn January 29, 2013 Tehama County, CA

RE: Daisy Bram

As a mother of a young child, I appreciate and share the concern the court would have for a child in a bad environment, unable to care for themselves. I would hope the court can also recognize when the only evidence of abuse appears now by the Butte County deputy district attorney Jeff Greeson, by tormenting this family repeatedly. Keeping a family with young children together must have more weight than the personal vendetta of a person of authority, who disagrees with personal choices that are allowed by law.

In the case of Drake M. (case # B236769), Division Three of the Second Appellate District, California Court of Appeal ruled on December 5, 2012 that while parents who abuse drugs can lose custody of their children, a parent who uses marijuana for medical reasons, with a doctor's approval, isn't necessarily a drug abuser. This ruling illustrates a growing recognition of the legitimate use of medical marijuana in this state and other states. The kids must be safe; however parents should be able to use legally prescribed medications when children appear not to be at demonstrated risk of harm.

DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, after reviewing all the available evidence on marijuana, declared, “In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” When compared to the dangers of children consuming prescription drugs and alcohol, or the ramifications of a drunk or drugged parent, any home is actually safer if responsible parents utilize marijuana as a harm reduction technique from these other drugs.

The appellate court found that the record did not support the finding that the children would be at substantial risk of detriment if returned to that mother based on her use of marijuana. (Jennifer A. v. Superior Court, supra, 117 Cal.App.4th at p. 1346.) Medical marijuana use alone is not sufficient to take a child away. I truly hope that this ‘de facto’ policy of DCFS is changed, and that no more parents and children have to suffer needlessly. Please limit how authority figures can manipulate laws to separate children from their parents that use marijuana for medical reasons with your ruling.

As a nursing mom, I would also like to remind the court that for little humans, and the mothers who breastfeed their young, have a sacred right to be together, and these young families are now dependent on the court to keep mothers and her young together for nourishment, physical and emotional protection. Can you imagine how you might feel with the center of your universe disappeared for weeks without explanation, without connection, without trust that is so vital to the young years? Babies need constant attention from trusted caregivers to thrive. This situation would be enormously taxing for any adult, perfectly capable of expressing themselves, but a baby who is otherwise being cared for? The stress and emotional toll this has on a mother and child is damaging to say the least, and worst case scenario would produce life-long developmental problems.

I pray this letter will prevent some of the harm I have seen to these children in foster care, when they should have been with their loving parents. Daisy Bram is a loving and caring mother. Please return her children as soon as humanly possible.

Yours Truly,

Dale Sky Jones Executive Chancellor Oaksterdam University Oakland, CA 94612

 



 
 
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I was going to announce the DEA raids yesterday but you never know what the reason for the raid is until after it's over. How did Sheriff Baca not know about this? ~Susan


January 10, 2013 |  2:22 pm

The development director for the charity run by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has been caught up in an investigation by federal authorities over her connection to a marijuana dispensary, a spokesman said Thursday.

Dawn Zamudio’s employment at the nonprofit -- the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation -- ended Wednesday night, though a sheriff's spokesman would not say whether she was fired. 

Spokesman Steve Whitmore called the discovery of the longtime employee's ties to the pot dispensary shocking given Baca's vocal criticism of such businesses.

"This is shocking to the sheriff and the entire department because she was such an outstanding employee.... This is something that was withheld from the department and the sheriff,” Whitmore said.  “We are cooperating fully with this investigation.”

The Times began making inquiries about the Zamudios last month. Public records connect her husband to a marijuana dispensary in Marina del Rey. Court records also show that he had been arrested and charged with two felonies for transportation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, but the case was dismissed in 2009.

Dawn Zamudio had been working for the nonprofit organization, which raises money for youth programs across the county, for the last decade.

Whitmore described Dawn Zamudio as an assistant at the organization. But a 2011 filing listed her as the development director, making $103,700 that year and working 60 hours a week.

“She basically assisted a sergeant,” Whitmore said.

Sarah Pullen, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles, said search warrants were served in connection with the probe Wednesday, but that no arrests have been made.

She said agents would study what was seized at several locations to determine what charges, if any, should be filed. One of the dispensaries searched was Ironworks Collective, the Marina del Rey operation. Ramiro Zamudio’s name is listed on business records for that address. Federal records also describe him as running the operation.

Pullen said DEA agents seized guns at two  other dispensaries, and ammunition and gun magazines at a San Gabriel residence. Federal authorities allege that the residence is connected to the Zamudios.

Pullen would not say whether the Zamudios are suspects in the probe. Federal documents name both but suggest Ramiro Zamudio is a main focus of the investigation.

The Times was not able to reach the Zamudios.

Baca has been a vocal critic of pot dispensaries, saying some have become hubs for crime and have been abused by customers who don’t have a medical need for the drug. Whitmore said Baca did not know until this week that Zamudio and her husband, Ramiro, were connected to the marijuana trade.

Baca said in 2010 that marijuana dispensaries had been hijacked by criminals who see them as an easy way to make money and get drugs.

-- Robert Faturechi and Martha Groves      


 
 
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Ruling regarding state law may affect other pending prosecutions

By Tony Burchyns/Times-Herald staff writer
Published By Times Herald

Posted:   12/20/2012 02:38:42 PM PST



Two Vallejo dispensary operators charged with illegally selling marijuana had their cases thrown out by a judge Thursday.The cases involved the embattled Better Health Group collective, which was raided by Vallejo police in February, March and June. The dispensary at 3611 Sonoma Blvd. was shut down after a third raid on June 22.

Defendants Jorge Espinoza, 25, and Jonathan Linares, 22, both of Vallejo, had been charged with marijuana possession and sale, and operating an illegal dispensary.

But visiting Solano County Superior Court Judge William Harrison dismissed all charges following a preliminary hearing held Wednesday at the Vallejo courthouse.

After the ruling, Harrison said that while not everyone sees eye to eye on the law, dispensaries that comply with the Compassionate Use Act and the Medical Marijuana Program Act are allowed to operate.

"Our Legislature has said you can have this kind of business if you do it right," Harrison said. "I don't think there is sufficient evidence that Jorge Espinoza has committed a crime."

Afterward, Solano County Deputy Public Defender Cheryl McLandrich, who represented Linares, said the court "did the right thing."

"We are pleased with the court's ruling," McLandrich said. "These gentlemen were paying taxes and attempting to comply with state law in running their cooperative. It would have been a waste of taxpayer time and resources for the court to have bound them over for trial."

It was unclear Thursday whether the collective plans to reopen in Vallejo.The case was the first in a series of Vallejo dispensary cases to reach a preliminary hearing following a police crackdown earlier this year.

The raids followed a ballot initiative by Vallejo voters in November 2011 to tax medical marijuana businesses.

At the center of the case were legal and philosophical questions about what constitutes a legitimate medical marijuana cooperative under California law. A pile of conflicting court rulings has added to the confusion, but recent appellate decisions favor a broader view of the law.

During the preliminary hearing, Solano County Deputy District Attorney Jack Harris argued the dispensary did not meet the definition of a cooperative. Harris said the enterprise was not accountable to its membership, and that only a small number of patients grew the marijuana that was sold.

However, defense attorney Scot Candell of San Rafael, who represented Espinoza, argued the group had followed all applicable state and local laws. Candell said the dispensary required members to fill out membership forms and tracked members' prescriptions to make sure they were up to date.

Candell also said the dispensary paid state and local taxes.

"This was a (registered) nonprofit organization with a board of directors," Candell said. "There is no evidence that anyone was doing anything wrong."

Candell also referenced two Fourth Appellate District of California rulings from earlier this year. The rulings, concerning dispensaries in San Diego and Los Angeles, said state law does not limit the number of members a dispensary can have, or require them be growers.

The rulings in the two cases, People v. Colvin and People v. Jackson, also found that storefront collectives can sell marijuana to members as long as the money is used for overhead costs and operating expenses.

Harris, however, argued the club was not a truly a "cooperative" because its roughly 15,000 members were not given a say in how it operated. State laws, however, are vague of what exactly a medical marijuana collective should look like.

"I do not agree that signing a piece of paper makes you a member of a collective," Harris said.

Vallejo police Detective Jared Jaksch testified that three undercover officers posing as patients - including a district attorney's investigator - had purchased marijuana at the business since April 2010.

While the first undercover officer used a "forged" prescription, Jaksch said the other two showed valid physicians' recommendations and filled out membership forms.

Jaksch said a Vallejo detective last bought marijuana at the dispensary on Feb. 16, and the undercover DA inspector made a May 15 purchase. Other than filling out membership forms, he said the investigators were not informed of their rights or responsibilities as members.

Jaksch also said police spoke to more than a dozen individuals seen leaving the dispensary. He said one customer told police she did not possess a doctor's recommendation at the time. Another, Jaksch said, said she had purchased marijuana at the dispensary without being a member.

However, Morgan Hannigan, a dispensary volunteer, testified that many patients carried identification cards with medical information rather than paper copies of doctors' recommendations. Hannigan, who volunteered at the dispensary from April until June, also said the collective kept records of members' prescriptions on its computers.

"New patients were required to show a recommendation and a California ID," Hannigan said. Returning patients, he added, could swipe their driver license through an electronic identification system that would verify if they had a current prescription.

Asked by Harris how the collective set the prices of its marijuana, Hannigan said the amounts charged were determined by factors such as growers' costs, payroll and other overhead expenses.

"What's left gets reimbursed into the business," Hannigan said.

Prosecutors tried to paint a picture of the dispensary as a massive for-profit business, which Espinoza as the CEO and Linares as the manager. Along with pounds of marijuana, hash and edible products, police seized more than $20,000 cash from the dispensary during the raids.

"I think (Espinoza) is the owner of a business that he's attempted to disguise as a nonprofit organization," Jaksch said during testimony.

In his ruling, Harrison said he didn't agree with the prosecution argument that the business was making money.

"The argument from the people's standpoint ... was because of the amount of money found (during the police raids) it was for-profit," Harrison said. "But the evidence I have seen shows there wasn't a profit ... and I don't think forcing them to go through a trial is the right thing to do."

Afterward, Harris said the ruling could affect pending dispensary cases in Solano County.

"We'll have to re-weigh everything," Harris said. "These (appellate) cases have taken a much looser interpretation of what I think a collective ought to be."



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This is SO rare that law enforcement is investigated and charged. Melinda Haag's offices needs to be contacted and given kudos for this case!


Created on Thursday, 06 December 2012 22:09
Written by IVN
Oakland, California - The former commander of the Central Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET) and a special agent supervisor of the California Department of Justice pleaded guilty to five felony counts in federal court in Oakland today, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced.

Norman Wielsch admitted one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute marijuana and 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, one count of theft from programs receiving federal funds, two counts of civil rights conspiracy, and one count of Hobbs Act robbery.

In pleading guilty to the charges, Wielsch, 51, admitted to stealing from evidence facilities $30,000 to $70,000 worth of marijuana and methamphetamine that had been seized during legitimate CNET raids. Specifically, Wielsch admitted that he stole at least 20 pounds of marijuana and more than 400 grams of high-purity methamphetamine (ice) between November 2010 and February 2011. He further admitted to conspiring to distribute these drugs with his codefendant, private investigator and former Antioch police officer Christopher Butler, also 51.

In pleading to the civil rights conspiracies, Wielsch admitted that he and Butler participated together in a phony “sting” operation in which they falsely detained a young man under the guise of a legitimate law enforcement operation, conducted warrantless searches, and kept narcotics that were taken during the sting. Wielsch also admitted that he and Butler staged what purported to be legitimate sting operations against prostitutes but instead of seizing evidence and citing the prostitutes, they unlawfully took the prostitutes’ money and property for themselves. Wielsch acknowledged that they took more than $10,000 from individuals in the course of their prostitution robberies.

After entering his guilty plea, Wielsch was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. Wielsch’s sentencing is scheduled for February 19, 2013, at 10 a.m. before Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong in Oakland.

Wielsch and Butler were indicted by a federal grand jury on August 9, 2011. Butler pleaded guilty on May 4, 2012, to a superseding information charging the same narcotics conspiracy, theft from programs receiving federal funds, two civil rights conspiracies and robbery counts to which Wielsch pleaded guilty, as well as extortion under color of official right and illegal wiretapping. On September 25, 2012, Butler was sentenced to 96 months in prison and a $20,000 fine, receiving a sentencing reduction for his cooperation with law enforcement in this and other investigations.

The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute marijuana and 50 grams or more of methamphetamine is life in prison with a 10-year mandatory minimum and a $10 million fine. The maximum statutory penalty for theft from programs receiving federal funds and conspiracy against rights is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum statutory penalty for Hobbs Act robbery is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, any sentence would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Hartley M. K. West is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rania Ghawi and Alycee Lane. The prosecution is the result of a lengthy investigation by the FBI with the assistance of the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.