Non-medical marijuana could soon be growing legally right next to rice and soybeans in Uruguay. The country's government is considering not only legalizing the drug, but creating a state-managed monopoly. The radical plan, created by President José Mujica, would outstrip the decriminalization models seen in the Netherlands and Portugal, and is sparking intense debate in the South American nation about its potential impact. “It’s a profound change in approach,” says Sebastián Sabini, one of the lawmakers working on the proposal. Musica has said that the government must grow its own marijuana—to the tune of 5,000 pounds per month to satisfy the country's 70,000 regular users—in order to put illegal dealers out of business. To avoid potential violence from drug cartels, he also proposes allowing residents to cultivate their own pot for noncommercial use, with professional farmers growing the rest on small plots of land that could be easily protected. Systems would be put in place to regulate the level of THC in government-grown weed, and users would have to sign up for registration cards, helping to keep pot tourists away. Purchases would be limited to roughly 40 joints per month. Uruguay's revolutionary plan is at the forefront of an ongoing trend in South America to find alternatives to the US-led war on drugs. Brazil and Argentina are considering decriminalizing all drugs, while Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has looked at regulating drug transports by possibly charging large customs fees for bulk shipments.
As switching addictions goes, it's an unusual one: Steven Tyler compares judging American Idol to being on drugs. In an interview for the August issue of Time magazine, the now-sober Aerosmith frontman, 64, admits to getting a high from being a judge on the hit show: “I’m one of those people that—obviously, since I’ve wound up in rehab eight times—take dangerous things and jump in with both feet,” he says. Asked if American Idol takes the place of heroin for him, he replies, “I think so. I think I’m addicted to adrenaline. It was a risky thing.” Tyler—who has struggled to stay sober—also said he gets a “high” on stage in an interview on the Ellen DeGeneres Show back in January. Talking about his goal of staying clean, he said: “I got all my friends that are sober now...I can't get back into that world. I can stay high onstage and stay high...I mean out here with you right now my heart's pounding...But you never know if it's going to stick. I just keep with my program, wish and hope." He continued, “I don't want to go back to that place...That place lost me my kids, a marriage, a band...A lot of things and it's for real. That's how dangerous that is. So I take it serious." The rocker announced this year that he will be leaving his new drug of choice—Idol—to get back with his "first love, Aerosmith.” He admits to Time, “It’s television, it's not my forte.”
- Oxycodone Crackdown Drives Florida Addicts to Other Drugs [Orlando Sentinel]
- It's Raining Heroin on India-Pakistan Border [Indian Express]
- Synthetic Marijuana Finds a Following Among Young and Old [Times-Picayune]
- Schoolkids Play Addictive "Gambling Crack" Fruit Machines [The Sun]
- More Towns Ban Alcohol on Beach [Colombia Daily Tribune]
- Relative of Addicts "Planning on Going to Their Funerals" [Foster's Daily Democrat]
- Snoop Dogg Banned From Norway for Two Years After Marijuana Bust [Huffington Post]
In a lifeless economy, the Los Angeles City Council took the unusual step on Tuesday of voting 14-0 to immediately close down up to 762 thriving businesses within city limits. According to the LA Times: "Medical marijuana activists who had packed the council chambers jeered when the vote came down. More than a dozen Los Angeles Police Department officers were called in to quell them. Under the ban, medical patients and their caregivers will be able to grow and share the drug in small groups of three people or less But the activists say most patients don’t have the time or skills to cultivate marijuana. One dispensary owner told the council that it would cost patients a minimum of $5,000 to grow marijuana at home." The report then notes, "In a seemingly contradictory move, the council also voted to instruct city staff to draw up an ordinance that would allow a group of about 170 dispensaries that registered with the city several years ago to remain open. Councilman Jose Huizar, who voted against that motion, said it might give the public 'false hope' that the ban would not be enforced. He said the ban would be enforced, especially against problem dispensaries that have drawn complaints from neighbors. 'Relief is on its way,' he said."
Over at Dangerous Minds, Richard Metzger—who lives on what has been dubbed LA’s “Green Mile”—offered his impassioned perspective: "Since the recession, there have been very, very few new retail businesses that have opened along the 'Green Mile' other than pot dispensaries. A few things, but not many. In every case, they are inhabiting real estate that was not being used, and that had not been used in some time...I have seen no appreciable rise or fall in the neighborhood crime rate." Metzger goes on to insist, "From everything that I HAVE SEEN, these places all seem to be run by law-abiding, friendly, intelligent people. They all seem to be doing okay financially, even though there are so many of them...I guess people in LA must like pot, huh?. I’ve never heard one neighbor complain about the pot dispensaries." He concludes, "No one cares but the politicians. The issue has been settled by the free market, so to speak. The local range of opinion...ranges from positive to benignly not giving a shit...I’ve not seen one business harmed by their proximity to a medical marijuana dispensary, nor have I heard a peep from any local business owners about any perceived negative effect the pot shops have had on them, because there haven’t been any negative effects."
In an editorial published on Thursday, the LA Times summed up the mess quite succinctly: "Is LA's new ban even legal?" it asked. "There's no clear answer to that question, but a recent court ruling suggests that it isn't. After Los Angeles County imposed a blanket ban on pot distribution in unincorporated areas in December 2010, it was challenged by a Covina collective, which won a key victory this month in the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal. Writing for the three-justice panel, Justice Robert Mallano said the county's ban was preempted by state law and contradicted the intent of the Legislature."
So here's where we're at: LA has now banned all but the tiniest marijuana collectives. When it attempts to enforce this ban, the city will be sued. This means that action will be delayed for months—or quite possibly until the state Supreme Court weighs in on a series of marijuana cases next year. Mission accomplished?
The Venezuelan state of Apure is one of the busiest hubs for cocaine trafficked out of Colombia, which it borders. Security forces claim to be making progress there, seizing cocaine and dismantling airstrips in their fight against organized crime. "We are hitting drug trafficking hard all the time,” says Ramón Carrizalez, the governor of Apure. "Very few countries are carrying out a policy like ours." But local residents paint a different picture, saying that the area is inundated with low-flying planes, and is actually ruled by the FARC revolutionary guerrilla organization, which oversees drug shipments. The guerrillas reportedly intimidate local residents, collecting protection money from local businesses, ranchers and fishing camps along stretches of the Venezuela/Colombia border. “We all knew what was going on," says one citizen, referring to traffickers' control of the state's airstrips, "but no one said anything. What were we going to do about it? The one that should be doing something is the government. They should be constantly patrolling the area.” Luis Lippa, a former governor of Apure, agrees. “Our airspace has been taken over,” he says. “Our national territory has been reduced.”
Although the US has collaborated with governments in Mexico, Honduras and Colombia to crack down on drug trafficking, an antagonistic relationship with leftist President Hugo Chavez has hampered such efforts in Venezuela. Back in September, President Obama designated the country as failing to meet its obligation to crack down on organized drug crime, citing a federal report that says Venezuela is "one of the preferred trafficking routes out of South America" and has a "generally permissive and corrupt environment." In 2010, an estimated 24% of the cocaine shipped out of South America—over 200 tons—passed through Venezuela, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.