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Federal Appeals Court Hears Case On Medical Value Of Marijuana

  • October 17, 2012 4:59 am

asa v dea americans for safe access schedule 1 Federal Appeals Court Hears Case On Medical Value Of Marijuana

By Jonathan Bair, Americans for Safe Access

This morning, the federal Appeals Court for the DC Circuit heard an appeal in the case called Americans for Safe Access v Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is an appeal of the DEA’s rejection of a petition filed in 2002 seeking to change the placement of marijuana as a Schedule I drug per the Controlled Substances Act. Based on the scientific evidence, ASA and our fellow plaintiffs feel that it is simply untrue that cannabis is a drug with a “high potential for abuse” and “without accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” The hearing today offered a glimpse at the Court’s approach to this topic.

In front of a packed courtroom in Washington, the three-judge panel questioned ASA’s Chief Counsel Joe Elford and a federal lawyer about the merits of the scientific case, and the crucial legal issue of “standing.” Standing is a legal concept that restricts the right to sue to injured parties – people who are directly hurt by what they are fighting, and can get relief from a legal judgement. The issue of standing has been the reason why two prior appeals of the DEA’s classification of marijuana were rejected. In the past, patients have not been part of lawsuits against the Controlled Substances Act. The three judges were Merrick Garland, Karen Henderson, and Harry Edwards.

ASA’s Chief Counsel Joe Elford opened his appeal by arguing that the federal “Department of Health and Human Services plays a game of gotcha” by tightly controlling research access to cannabis and then claiming that there is not enough compelling research to justify reconsidering it as Schedule I. The Drug Enforcement Administration erred by determing that cannabis has a high potential for abuse when its findings determine its abuse and harm potential is less than other substances in less-controlled schedules, such as cocaine.

Elford opened his arguments with the issue of standing. He pointed to the affidavit of plaintiff Michael Krawitz, a veteran denied access to Veterans Administration services because of his medically necessary use of marijuana. The Veterans Administrastion’s harmful policy is based on marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance. He also spoke of the many members of Americans for Safe Access, who are fearful of the consequences of cultivating their own cannabis for their medical needs, and that a medical necessity defense in court could be allowed if marijuana were not in Schedule I.

Elford then turned to the issue of the merits of the DEA’s position on marijuana’s medical value, to prove their position was “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore impermissible. The contention that there is not a complete consensus was argued to be an unreasonable interpretation of the regulatory standard, and that many of HHS’s standards are inapplicable to an organic substance. Significantly, the lack of access to marijuana for medical research is a consequence of the scheduling, yet the lack of suitable research is cited by the DEA as a reason for maintaining the schedule. Despite this lack of research access, ASA cited a growing body of high-quality scientific and medical research into the benefits of marijuana.

Judge Garland asked Elford if he was arguing that marijuana in fact meets HHS’s standard for studies. ASA’s counsel cited over 200 studies and argued that a circular standard is impossible to meet. He also said that, given that the schedule is relative, the DEA is ignoring even its own studies showing that marijuana has merely a “mild” potential for abuse.

Joe Elford concluded by arguing that Schedule I was an inappropriate classification of marijuana and it caused harm to patients and prevented meaningful medical research. Rescheduling marijuana would allow for a reasonable policy solution for suffering patients and uphold the intent of the Controlled Substances Act.

Judge Edwards asked about the standing of Mr. Krawitz, and his access to medical marijuana. The judges asked about access in medical states and noted that marijuana would not be legal just because it were rescheduled.

Federal counsel Lena Watkins then presented her position against appealing the DEA’s decision to continue cannabis in Schedule I. She noted that state legislatures or popular votes do not determine accepted medical use. She said that research is inadequate and has not progressed, and argued that the government does provide access for research. Turning to the abuse potential, Watkins said, “marijuana is the most widely abused drug in America,” and dependency is a factor in making that assessment.

The judges questioned the level of access provided for research, and Watkins said that fifteen studies of a specific federal “quality” metric have been allowed. Pressed to explain why these studies haven’t persuaded the DEA that marijuana has medical benefits, she said, “we don’t have the final results yet.” To many in the audience, the circular nature of the government’s position on the science of marijuana was clear. The judges then invited Elford to give a rebuttal.

Focusing on rebutting the government’s claims about research, Elford argued that there has been adequate study and even more since this case was filed in 2002, and noted that he would like to admit additional evidence to the case. Summarizing by turning the government’s “no substantial evidence” argument on its head, Elford said that both sides agree more research needs to be done and that research can only happen if marijuana is released from Schedule I. Requiring the DEA to make scientific determinations on a new schedule would lead to better policy and more relief for suffering patients.

The patients spoke out at a well-attended press conference after the hearing, and Americans for Safe Access is proud to have given patients a day in court. Many observers felt the judges were willing to consider the argument of Michael Krawitz’s direct harm from the Controlled Substances Act, and this issue of “standing” has been the Achilles heel of past lawsuits against Schedule I. However, Judge Garland asked at one point, “Don’t we have to defer to the agency? We’re not scientists. They are.”

We’ll find out whether the judges felt the DEA’s science is adequate, or if patients can sue for a medical necessity defense against harsh marijuana laws, when the judges rule. We don’t expect it for a few months. This opportunity is thanks to the brave plaintiffs who took on the federal government on behalf of many others.

Jonathan Bair is ASA’s Social Media Director. Recordings of any kind were not allowed in the courtroom.

Source: Americans for Safe Access

Medical Marijuana is ‘Sham’ Just to Get High, Obama Official Says

  • July 30, 2012 6:06 pm
renee rendler-kaplan flickr law marijuana doctor.JPG
Renee Rendler-Kaplan / Flickr

If you thought that the Obama Administration’s crackdown on medical marijuana in Californiawas just a political play to please the center in American politics, this might give you pause.One justice official says the Golden State’s whole medical cannabis game is a giant “sham.” Even if you, the California voter, believe that folks with ailments should be able to get pot recommendations and buy weed fairly easily, it’s all about getting high, says Laura E. Duffy, the U.S. attorney in San Diego:

Here’s what she thinks about dispensaries, via New York Times over the weekend:

Most often the individuals who are visiting these places have obtained sham doctor recommendations for really no purpose other than to engage in the recreational use of marijuana. To the extent that blatant distribution of marijuana is not available in commercial businesses throughout California, certainly in this district, I think that’s a good thing.Ouch.

Maybe there’s a bright side of all of this for L.A., however:

Her Southern District doesn’t extend to Los Angeles, a city where about 500 dispensaries fight for turf.

The Times says the federal crackdown that started in spring has shuttered another 500 pot shops statewide.

But at least some rogue shops, we’ve been told, have actually opened up in L.A. to take advantage of the legal confusion and lack of regulation here.

In any case, it’s pretty clear that federal authorities see no legitimacy whatsoever in pot, even for the little old ladies with cancer who inspired Californians to pass medical marijuana law in the first place.

Does marijuana really harm children? Study yields surprising results Continue reading on Does marijuana really harm children? Study yields surprising results |

  • March 4, 2012 6:11 pm

“Our testing showed that the children of women who used ganja had better alertness, stability and adjustment than children of women who didn’t use ganja. This was measured at the age of one month. We measured children again at four years and at five years of age, and found that there were no apparent deficits in the children of marijuana-using mothers. In fact, in many ways, they were better off than children of non-smoking mothers. The ganja-using mothers also seemed better off than non-users.” Dr. Melanie Dreher from

Video: “Melanie Dreher, PhD, explains her cannabis and pregnancy research study in Jamaica. Pregnant women and their children were studied for over ten plus years, both marijuana smokers and non-smokers were included in the study. One of the first scientific studies of the effects that cannabis may have on pregnancy and the child’s development thereafter.”

This study isn’t suggesting that children should smoke weed but does shed light on cannabis use and it’s effects on the general cognitive index for children with mothers who did use. And also children that may have been exposed to cannabis teas and food. Does cannabis use/exposure such as this harm children? The science with this big sample, says it doesn’t hurt and that it just might help.

The study was funded by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).



How Americans really feel about drugs

  • February 20, 2012 8:29 pm

A NYT op-ed uses “moderate” double-speak to deny the truth: Most people want marijuana legalized


Marijuana activist Carrie Sandoval at a protest in Denver on Wednesday, Sept 22, 2010  (Credit: AP/Kristen Wyatt)

Almost exactly eight years ago, I wrote an essay for the Nation magazine looking at how terms such as “centrism” and “moderate” were beginning to be deftly manipulated to shape the parameters of America’s political discourse. In almost every policy debate, these words were being used in with-us-or-against-us fashion to delineate what was — and what was not — acceptable. Through such linguistic propaganda over the last decade, America was gradually taught that anything called “centrist” or “moderate” was Good and Serious because it supposedly represented “mainstream” thinking in America — even as “centrism” was being used to describe policies and politicians that, based on empirical data, increasingly diverged from the actual center of our nation’s public opinion. By contrast, anything positioned in opposition to that branding was wild-eyed “leftist,” “extremist,” “ideological,” “fringe” — and most of all, Evil and Unserious.

As dishonest as this kind of agitprop is, it unfortunately — but predictably — continues unabated. This is, after all, the golden era of agitprop — a moment in which wars are no longer wars, corporations are people, and top New York Times scribes are given a national platform to declare that a key architect of the Republican Party’s infamous K Street Project “is not a representative of the corporate or financial wing of the party.” And so when it comes to who is a “centrist” or “moderate,” the distortions persist without so much as a peep of editorial protest.

The latest example of this insidious framing comes in the form of a Monday New York Times Op-Ed. The piece is written by Kevin Sabet, formerly one of President Obama’s top drug policy officials. Titled “Overdosing on Extremism,” he employs the “centrist” and “moderate” code words to criticize those pressing for reforms that, for purposes of law enforcement, would treat currently outlawed drugs such as marijuana just like far more dangerous yet legal drugs such as alcohol. With the possibility of these reform proposals roiling the presidential race and appearing on statewide ballots in 2012, a breathless and hysterical Sabet sounds an old fear-mongering alarm, writing (emphasis added):

Unless we change the tone of the debate to give drug-policy centrists a voice, America’s drug problem will only get worse.

Indeed, moderates have historically been key contributors to both the debate and the practice of effective drug policy. In 1914, Representative Francis B. Harrison, a New York Democrat, worked with Republicans and President Woodrow Wilson to pass the first major piece of federal anti-drug legislation, in response to a surge in heroin and cocaine use.

Other moderates, from Theodore Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy, made drug policy an important part of their domestic agendas. President Bill Clinton worked closely with Bob Dole, the Republican Senate majority leader, on sensible measures like drug courts and community policing…

So where are the moderates now? … A few tough-on-crime conservatives and die-hard libertarians dominate news coverage and make it appear as if legalizing drugs and “enforcement only” strategies were the only options, despite the fact that the public supports neither

There is no magic bullet for America’s drug problem. The magnitude and complexity of our drug problem require us to constantly refine and improve our policies through thoughtful analysis, innovation and discussion.

Moderates should lead that conversation. To remain silent not only betrays widely shared values of compassion and justice for the most vulnerable. It also leaves policy in the hands of extremists who would relegate a very serious and consequential discussion to frivolous and dangerous quarters.

If ever a college taught a class in how modern political propaganda works — and how it proceeds without any connection to a shred of fact — this article should be required reading because it is such a pure example.

Mere weeks after Gallup’s new poll showed a majority of Americans support full legalization of marijuana, Sabet insists that it’s a “fact” that the public doesn’t support legalization. And mind you, it’s not just Gallup’s surveys that show public support for legalization — in state-based polls in politically diverse states like Massachusetts and Colorado, it’s essentially the same thing: widespread public support for pot legalization.

This, of course, says nothing of the fact that the very man Sabet earned his official government title from, Barack Obama, was elected to the Senate promoting marijuana decriminalization and then overwhelmingly elected to the White House after a campaign in which he pledged to respect states’ decisions to reform their drug laws. It also says nothing of the rise of Ron Paul, an oft-ignored candidate who has been able to overcome media scorn to wage an unexpectedly spirited race for the Republican presidential nomination thanks, in part, to his push to end the Drug War.

None of these facts about public opinion and the drug war are all that surprising; after all, in a recent national television ad campaign, Sabet’s own Office of National Drug Control Policy has deemed marijuana “the safest thing in the world.” Yet, Sabet says it’s a “fact” that the public doesn’t support any form of legalization.

How, you ask, can he justify such an assertion? How can he defend his claims considering those poll numbers, the results of the 2008 presidential election, or the rise of anti-drug warrior Paul in the traditionally “just say no” party’s presidential primary? He can’t, but he doesn’t need to in an era where facts no longer matter.

Instead, he (and the New York Times editors and headline writers who published his piece) wholly ignores the indisputable facts and simply deems the millions of Americans in this pro-legalization majority as “extremists” — that is, he pretends that the position in the actual center of public opinion is on the extreme edge of that public opinion. He then asserts that true “centrists” and “moderates” are those who do not support legalization — even though those voices are empirically the extremists whose positions put them far away from the mainstream center of public opinion. And, just for good measure, he employs a bit of ad hominem, suggesting it’s just “a few …  die-hard libertarians” who support legalization — ignoring not only the American majority, but the scores of top law enforcement officials who are fighting to end the drug war.

Taken together, Sabet’s goal in his Op-Ed is obvious: He’s a committed drug warrior with a vested (and, based on his Times billing as a “drug policy consultant,” possibly financial) interest in marginalizing those trying to end the drug war. To do that, he’s employed the most tried and true instruments of marginalization — the newly redefined notions of “centrism” and “moderate” policymaking. And he’s employed them even though the actual facts show that, in comparison to the mass public, he’s the fringe extremist.

Now sure, it’s certainly true that polls showing strong — and growing — support for legalizing marijuana cannot be fully equated to Americans’ views of policies for all drugs. However, marijuana-themed polls and election results are also hardly wholly unrelated to that conversation — and at the very least, those polls and election results should mean that the burden of proof is on someone like Sabet when he declares that being for legalization is the definition of “extremism” and the opposite of “centrism.”

But that burden of proof is nowhere to be found because in the 21st century, “centrism” and “moderate” still have nothing to do with the center of any political debate, or the moderate middle of any policy discussion. They remain political weapons deployed by attention-seeking fabulists against the real centrists and moderates in the American majority.



Amsterdam Cannabis Cup Raided – First time in 24 years

  • November 23, 2011 5:22 pm

When conservatives who seized power in the Netherlands this year closed coffeeshops in the southern part of the country to weed tourists, it seemed like an unfortunate bummer.

This morning, however, police in Amsterdam are in the process of raiding the 24th annual High Times Cannabis Cup Expo. Possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in the Netherlands. But according to tweets on the scene, “everyone will have their buds confiscated, but no one will be charged or fined. This is the first time this has happened in 24 years.”

More news after the jump.

According to @DanaLarsen, Director of the Vancouver Cannabis Dispensary Society, “Police officer told me they investigated yesterday, saw some booths giving out weed and breaking other rules. So now the event is shut down.”

“Everyone has to leave except for exhibitors. Cops are friendly and polite.”

Sweated in the Netherlands

15th Anniversary Of Medical Marijuana In The U.S.

  • November 7, 2011 5:36 pm

November 5th, 2011, marked the fifteenth anniversary of California’s passage of Prop 215, The Compassionate Use Act. The Act passed with 55.58% of the vote and remains the greatest achievement in marijuana law reform in the “War on Drugs” era.

The successes of Prop 215 are well documented.  Two years following its passage, the rest of the West Coast and Alaska passed their own medical marijuana initiatives, with close to equal (OR 55%) or greater (WA 59% & AK 58%) support than California voters gave Prop 215.

The next decade saw twelve more states and the District of Columbia passing medical marijuana laws, with seven of those states doing so through the legislature.  Five of the citizen initiatives topped 60% support.  As states passed medical marijuana, some added more conditions for qualification, some legislated dispensary operations, and the most recent have instituted protections for the rights of patients to drive, work, have a home, get an organ transplant, and raise their kids.  In some ways, medical marijuana has improved in fifteen years.

But a closer examination reveals a reform strategy that has stalled out and may even be in decline.  The last election saw Oregon fail to pass a dispensary measure for the second time with about the same support after six years.  South Dakota defeated medical marijuana with only 36% support, a drop of 12 points since they tried in 2006.  Arizona only barely passed medical marijuana with 50.13% support, when they had previously seen 65% in 1996 and 64% in a 1998 referendum (both 1990’s Arizona Acts were invalidated.)

Indeed, the national polls show a stalling on the medical marijuana issue as well.  When Gallup asked about support for medical marijuana and legalized marijuana in 1999, support was 73% and 29%, respectively.  We assume that someone who supports legalization for healthy people probably supports legalization for sick people, too, so that means 44% of those polled only support medical marijuana, not legalization.  But in the latest 2011 poll, legalization support has hit 50% while in the 2010 poll, medical support had dropped to 70%, down 8 points since 2005.  How has the support for legalization doubled (25% to 50%) since Prop 215 while support for making a medical exception to criminal marijuana has flatlined?

vote for marijuana

We’ve seen how courts, legislatures, and law enforcement have supported medical exceptions – by trying to make those exceptions as narrow and costly as possible.  No state followed California’s lead in making marijuana available by doctor’s recommendation for any other illness for which marijuana provides relief”, instead crafting strict condition lists and patient registries.  The West Coast standard of a dozen or more home-grown plants became 3-6 plants or no home growing at all.  The precedent of a half-pound or more of usable medicine became 1 or 2 ounces, tracked to the gram and filmed at all times.  Courts all across the Ninth Circuit have ruled that medical marijuana use does not protect patients from job discrimination and patients still experience housing, child custody, and medical procedure discrimination on a daily basis.

Oregon legislators proclaimed the medical marijuana program rife with abuse on the sole evidence that 50,000 patients had signed on, so they doubled the mandatory registry fee (up to ten times greater if you’re poor and previously got a discounted fee) to reduce the medical marijuana registry numbers.  Oregon sheriffs are in agreement with the ATF that patients have no Second Amendment rights.  Colorado legislators passed a series of medical marijuana business regulations making it more difficult and expensive to operate a dispensary than a liquor store and impossible to be a personal caregiver who just supplies marijuana to a patient.  Montana outright repealed medical marijuana, saved only by a governor’s veto, only to enact new strict regulations to decimate (literally) the medical marijuana program.  California localities continue to restrict dispensary operations.  Washington’s governor vetoed a dispensary measure.  Arizona’s governor is stonewalling implementation of dispensaries.  Alaska, Maine, Nevada, and Vermont still have fewer than 1,000 protected patients.  New Jersey and District of Columbia leaders are dragging their feet and haven’t implemented their programs yet.

The basis of medical marijuana restrictions and discrimination depends on a federal Schedule I designation that defines the use of cannabis by healthy people a criminal act.  These restrictions, dropping poll numbers, and failing medical marijuana initiatives indicate a substantial portion of Americans that believe “compassionate use” is a ruse (I wonder what gave them that idea?).

norml remember prohibitionI believe that there are three basic stands on medical marijuana among the voters not personally invested in the issue:

  1. The people who believe pot smoking is evil and will never support anyone using it for any reason (“prohibitionists”).
  2. The people who believe pot smoking is evil, but letting cancer and AIDS patients suffer is more evil (“medicalizers”).
  3. The people who don’t believe pot smoking is evil and would allow any adult to use it (“legalizers”).

The prohibitionists will never support medical marijuana and the legalizers have always supported medical marijuana.  So the fate of any medical marijuana proposal rests on whether a coalition of legalizers and medicalizers can form a majority.  Over the past fifteen years, forming that majority has required more restrictive definitions of medical marijuana to assuage the medicalizers who increasingly think evil pot smokers are getting through the loopholes.  Worse, forming that coalition requires legalizers to tacitly agree that healthy pot smoking is evil.

When medical marijuana began in the Nineties, the rallying cry was “If there’s going to be a ‘War on Drugs’, let’s get the sick and dying off the battlefield.”  If that’s the case, why do we continue to see a rise in “casualties” on the battlefield?  Even in medical marijuana states, annual arrests of cannabis consumers continue to rise.  All medical marijuana has done for marijuana convicts is improve their population’s average level of health in sixteen states.

Medical marijuana started a revitalization of marijuana activism.  But I believe it has reached a point where any future medical marijuana laws will have to be increasingly restrictive.  And the near future holds DEA rescheduling of plant THC for use by Big Pharma in devices that will provide all the medical relief without the “high”, which will cleave some of the medicalizers away from further reforms.  We’ve gotten to a point in time where half as many people only support “medical legalization” over a decade and support of legalization for all adults now outnumbers opposition for the first time.

This is not to argue that we give up on medical marijuana campaigns.  It is to argue that the campaigns need to be re-framed away from “Oh, no, this isn’t legalization at all!” to “Yes, we’re going to legalize for sick people first”.  Until marijuana is supported as a good thing for all and not an evil thing we allow medical exceptions for, medical marijuana patients will remain in second-class citizenship and healthy marijuana smokers will remain behind bars.

Article From The NORML Blog

Bay Area Reps Slam Barack Obama on Marijuana Crackdown, Pelosi Silent

  • November 5, 2011 12:37 am

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi supports peace; will she support pot?

Members of the Bay Area’s Congressional delegation called on President Barack Obama to cease-and-desist the US Justice Department’s crackdown on California’s medical marijuana industry on Friday, and were joined by representatives from around the country, including a Republican from Southern California and  a representative from Tennessee.

But there was a familiar Bay Area political name absent from the roll, which included Rep. Pete Stark of Fremont, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, Rep. Sam Farr of Carmel, Rep. Mike Thompson of Napa, and Rep. Lynn Woolsey of Marin: there was no sign of San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Leader who was a supporter of 1996′s Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in California.

Late last month, the four United States attorneys for California sent letters to dispensaries acorss the state, informing them they must close or face prosecution. The Congressional letter calls the crackdown on state-legal medical marijuana by the federal government “unconscionable,” according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, and Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, TN.

Obama had on the campaign trail expressed support for medical marijuana and said he would not devote law enforcement resources to policing it; Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009 made similar comments.

The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which means it has no medical value and a high potential for abuse. The nine members of Congress are asking marijuana to be reclassified.

“It is critically important for patients to have safe access to this treatment that continues to be recommended by doctors,” said Farr in a statement. “California voters decided to adopt clear regulations to allow patients to do just that. It is unfortunate that the federal government has decided to target these legal vendors instead of focusing limited resources on those who sell illicit drugs.”



Mexican Soldiers Seize Catapults Used By Gangs to Fling Marijuana Across Border Into US

  • November 4, 2011 8:22 am

The Mexican army says soldiers have seized two catapults that were being used by drug smugglers to fling packages of marijuana across the border into Arizona.

A military statement Tuesday says an anonymous tip led troops to a house in the border city of Agua Prieta where they found a catapult in the bed of a pickup truck and another inside the house.

Mexican troops also seized two catapults in the area last January. Authorities said then that it was the first time they had seen this smuggling method used by local traffickers.

- Article originally from The Washington Post.

Mexico Drug War Update

  • November 4, 2011 12:28 am

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed around 40,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs — or the violence — whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico’s drug war:

Tuesday, October 25

In Reynosa, authorities dismantled a pirate communications network used by drug traffickers to communicate. In the last two weeks, authorities seized 21 antennas, 22 repeaters and dozens of other items.

In Veracruz, marines captured a local Zeta boss. Carlos Arturo Pitalua-Carillo, “El Bam-Bam,” was arrested along with 5 other men. Pitalua-Carillo is alleged to be the Zeta boss for the Veracruz area and has been linked to two separate attacks on military checkpoints.

In Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, a local Gulf Cartel boss was shot and killed. The man, known as Comandante Guerra, was the local boss for Valle Hermoso. His murder is thought to be the result of an ongoing internal struggle between rival factions of the cartel. Firefights and blockades that were reported in Reynosa and Matamoros on Tuesday and Wednesday morning have also been tied to the infighting.

In Ciudad Juarez, the dismembered pieces of four men were left scattered around the city. Some of the body parts were found near an elementary school and day care center. The bodies have not been identified. A note left at one of the crime scenes suggested the men belonged to the New Juarez Cartel. In other violence, a police officer was killed when his personal vehicle was riddled with gunfire and a quesadilla vendor was also murdered.

Wednesday, October 26

In Ciudad Juarez, a 24-year old pregnant woman was burned alive after the fetus was removed from her body. A note — written in blood — was left on a wall for her husband, who wasn’t home at the time. Another child was rescued by firefighters from the home. The incident occurred at 2:00pm.

Saturday, October 29

In Cabo San Lucas, hundreds of shoppers were trapped inside a mall for two hours as a shootout took place between gunmen and Mexican security forces. Nobody was injured in the fighting. Police arrested two men that are alleged to have been involved in a fire fight the night before which killed a Mexican marine and an unidentified gunman and wounded three police officers.

Sunday, October 30

In Hidalgo County, Texas, a gunfight between sheriffs and Mexican cartel members left one officer wounded and a suspect dead. It is the first confirmed case of spillover violence in the county. Six people were taken into custody, including an alleged kidnap victim. According to a local official, the kidnapping was tied to a Gulf Cartel effort to recover a load of marijuana that had been stolen after the death of the cartel’s second in command, Samuel Flores Borrego, in September.

Monday, October 31

In Agua Prieta, Sonora, authorities discovered two catapults used to fling packages of marijuana across the border into Arizona. Over a ton of marijuana was seized from the location.

In Culiacan, two men were gunned down with an AK-47 as they played in a soccer game. According to Mexican media outlets, both men are thought to have been tied to Chapo Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel.

In Ciudad Juarez, October ended with 153 murders. This is about the same as September, which ended with 146 murders. This is considerably less than October 2010, during which time a record 359 killings took place. October 17th was the most violent day of the month, with 17 killed. According to researcher Molly Molloy, 1,753 people have been killed in the city this year. Since 2008, 9,752 homicides have taken place.

In Phoenix, US authorities announced that a large drug-ring tied to the Sinaloa Cartel has been dismantled. Over the last month and a half, 76 people have been taken into custody. The organization, which had been in operation for at least five years, is thought to have made over $2 billion from marijuana and cocaine shipments into the US.

Tuesday, November 1

Near Santa Maria, Texas, a high-ranking Gulf Cartel boss was captured by border patrol agents as he tried wade across the river into the US. Jose Luis Zuniga Hernandez is believed to be the cartel boss for the city of Matamoros. Two other men were also apprehended.

In Saltillo, several gun battles were reported in various parts of the city. The fighting began at around 2:00pm when fire fights between groups of rival gunmen were reported in the city’s east side, leaving at least one person dead. Later, fighting between marines and gunmen took place outside a local university, stranding students inside.

Editor’s Note: We can no longer tally this year’s drug war deaths in Mexico with accuracy. The figure for this year’s deaths is an estimate, no more, until there is some official toll reported.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011: (approx.): 8,200

TOTAL: > 42,000



Cannabis Use Among Youth not Increased by Medical Marijuana Legalization

  • November 3, 2011 11:21 pm

Today at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Esther Choo, M.D., M.P.H. of Rhode Island Hospital will present findings from a study exploring whether legalizing cannabis for medical use in Rhode Island increases its recreational use among Rhode Island’s youth. While many opponents of medical cannabis claim that medical cannabis programs “send the wrong message to those in our society who are the most impressionable“ or increase cannabis’s appeal and accessibility for teenagers, the study’s findings show that this is in fact not the case. Comparing the self-reporting results of 32,570 students in Rhode Island and Massachusetts between 1997 and 2009, Dr. Choo and her fellow researchers found no significant difference between youth use in the two states and concluded that there have been no “increases in adolescent marijuana use related to Rhode Island’s 2006 legalization of medical marijuana.”