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hope and change?

4/14/14 1:00pm

Attorney General “Willing” to Discuss Rescheduling Weed


Maybe so, maybe not. Photo via

The Obama Administration appears to be open to discussing the removal of marijuana from the top of the federal government’s dangerous drug list, though Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that any actions will be in collaboration with Congress.

During a House Appropriations Committee on April 4, Holder stated that the administration is “more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled.” His comments came on the heels of a sternly worded letter from 18 members of Congress urging the president to reconsider the way marijuana is categorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Currently, cannabis is listed as a Schedule I drug with a “high potential for abuse,” putting it on the same level as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. In the letter, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) cited President Obama’s interview with the New Yorker, in which he considered pot less dangerous than alcohol. “Marijuana… remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I… a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as example of harder drugs," Obama said. "This makes no sense.”

Any discussion of rescheduling marijuana has incurred a fight from both House Republicans and the DEA itself. The GOP has challenged Holder’s decision to place a lower emphasis on federal marijuana prosecutions while also granting Colorado and Washington the right to legalize pot. They are eying a new bill that aims to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug in Washington, D.C.

In March, the House GOP flexed their collective muscle by amending a bill that required President Obama to enforce federal laws as they are written, including those related to marijuana, or face a civil lawsuit by the House of Senate. The DEA – which Holder oversees as head of the Justice Department – has also voiced their opposition to reclassification, with agency chief Michele Leonhart stating that marijuana legalization would only make her agents “fight harder.”

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By Paul Gaita

policy change needed

4/14/14 10:30am

New Report Shows 250,000 Deported For Drugs Since 2008



A newly released report highlights shocking statistics that 250,000 people have been deported from the U.S. over the last six years for drug offenses.

Research from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University showed that nonviolent drug offenses were responsible for 11 percent of all deportations last year, while tens of thousands of people were deported simply for possessing small quantities of drugs including marijuana.

Roughly 6,600 people were deported in each of the last two years for personal marijuana possession, while over 20,000 people were deported last year for possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Many of these individuals were incarcerated in the U.S. prison system before being sent back to their countries of origin. Only one percent of those removed from the U.S. were drug traffickers, with even less than that amount falling under the category of a violent drug trafficker.

In response, the Drug Policy Alliance is advocating for the legalization and regulation of marijuana, while also banning the arrest, incarceration, and deportation of those who are simply using or possessing drugs. A recent Pew poll also indicates that a majority of Americans are in favor of these policies. Sixty-three percent of those polled said that states should not have mandatory prison terms for drug law violations, while 67 percent advocate a treatment-based approach for nonviolent drug offenders. Fifty-four percent were also in favor of marijuana legalization.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said that “given that the vast majority of Americans don’t think people should be prosecuted for drug possession, it’s time to ask the question: Why are we still arresting people for nothing more than drug possession?”

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By McCarton Ackerman


4/14/14 8:30am

Afghan Woman Maimed By Husband For Not Scoring Heroin



A young wife from Afghanistan is desperate for reconstructive facial surgery after being maimed by her drug-addicted husband.

Sitara, 23, was sold off as a child bride at the age of seven. Her husband, 20 years older than her, was a hashish addict at the beginning of their marriage and eventually progressed into a crippling heroin and crystal meth addiction. She had already refused his demands for a divorce so that she could protect their daughters from being married off for a few thousand dollars each in order to facilitate his drug use. But he mercilessly beat Sitara when she refused to give him money and a ring to sell.

After bashing Sitara’s head in so severely that part of her brain was protruding from her skull, her husband cut off her nose and upper lip with a knife. One of their four children, 10-year-old Somia, witnessed the incident, but he threatened to kill the girl if she screamed for help. Sitara’s husband eventually fled the scene and neighbors who heard the screaming called police. “I struggled but then blacked out,” recalled Sitara. “When I woke up, I tried to touch my nose and lips but I felt nothing."

Doctors in Afghanistan stabilized Sitara, but the damage to her face was so severe that she was flown to Turkey for reconstructive surgery. Surgeons used part of Sitara's forehead to construct a new nose, while taking tissue from her thigh to rebuild her upper lip. However, she’s unhappy with the results and hoping to find a surgeon in the U.S. for additional surgery.“I hate [my face] every day. It would be better to be injected with poison and die. That’s how I feel,” she said. “When my children saw me after my face changed, they didn’t believe I was their mother.”

Sitara’s husband has still evaded police, leading authorities to believe he fled into the mountains or crossed to Iran. But the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan still stepped in to relocate her and the children into a new home. Somia said witnessing the attack has inspired her to become a doctor so she can help others like her mother.

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By McCarton Ackerman


4/14/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: April 14, 2014


What could go wrong? Shuttstock

By Shawn Dwyer

rob ford

4/11/14 7:30pm

Rob Ford Video Game 'Crackathon' Is Launched


That's a lotta crack! Photo via

When it comes to Toronto mayor Rob Ford, it’s easy to poke fun since the jokes seem to write themselves. And now the joke continues, as the infamous Mayor of Toronto has his very own game called Crackathon.

It goes without saying this hasn’t been launched by Nintendo or any legit video game company, so don’t expect to see it in the local Game Stop. But by now just about everyone has played the game that the New York Daily News has called “outrageously addictive.” The goals of the game? Make sure Ford doesn’t get impeached and rack up so-called party points by collecting crack pipes, pot, and bottles of booze.

Like any good video game, you have to dodge a lot of foes, and in this case it’s reporters with cameras and the police. You collect party points while pushing your way through clouds of crack smoke. The game also features real soundbites from Ford himself, including “Probably in one of my drunken stupors,” “I did absolutely nothing wrong,” and “Get off the property!” If the screen flashes the message that you’ve been impeached, that means game over.

While not the first Rob Ford game - there's also Flappy Ford and Stay Mayor - Crackathon was created by two engineering students from the University of Waterloo, Nick Mostowich and Chris Ngan. The game was created in sixteen hours, and as Mostowich pointed out on Reddit, Crackathon “is not supposed to be taken seriously…Cheers and happy cracking!”

Play Crackathon here.

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By David Konow

up in smoke

4/11/14 5:30pm

Booming Black Market for Cigarettes On the Rise



First, the good news: the number of adult smokers in the United States has declined by 13 percent in the last five years, due in part to a combination of local, state, and federal taxes that have raised the price of cigarettes.

That’s according to a National Health Interview Survey from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, and they are encouraging numbers given how smoking remains a leading cause of death for Americans. But the wave of taxation designed to discourage smokers has also given rise to a booming black market for smuggled cigarettes that generates millions of dollars in sales for its participants and takes away an estimated $5 billion a year from state coffers.

For more than a decade, enterprising cigarette smugglers have traveled from cities where cigarette taxes are high – like New York, where the average price of a pack is $12 to $14 – and purchased thousands of dollars in cartons from states like Virginia and North Carolina, where cigarette taxes are more relaxed. The cartons are brought back to the major cities, where small business owners buy the contraband at a reduced price and then sell it back to customers at a cost that hovers near the legal price. Everyone draws a profit, except for the state. An estimated 57 percent of cigarettes sold in New York City are from black market sellers, which costs the state $525 million per year.

Lawmakers have attempted to cut into smuggling profits with legislation that has made the sale of cigarettes illegal unless the seller has first paid the state tax. Native American tribes in New York have also been prevented from selling untaxed cigarettes to non-tribe members and the city, along with the American Lung Association, has lobbied the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to establish a program by which cigarette packs can be traced from the manufacturer to the individual consumer.

There’s another reason why state and federal officials are interested in curbing the cigarette black market: to reduce the number of young smokers. A study done by the New York City Department of Health, along with economics professors from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Hunter College, estimated that the number of young smokers in New York would drop by 10 percent if cigarette smuggling was wiped out.

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By Paul Gaita


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