Vice Squad
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Recent Drug War Stuff on the Web

A couple days ago I updated the potential Venezuelan drug decriminalization story thanks to a link to this week's Drug War Chronicle. The same issue contains a few other stories that are worthy of mention:

(1) The country with the highest rate of executions (in per capita terms) is Singapore. The majority of those executed have been convicted of drug offenses. Singapore hangs people who are caught with quantities of drugs that are sufficient to generate a legal presumption that the possessors are traffickers, though the amounts that trigger that presumption are not huge. Amnesty International has issued a report critical of the workings of the Singapore justice system. (Incidentally, Saudi Arabia is second in per capita (bad terminology in this case) executions.)

(2) The chewing of coca leaves is traditional in parts of South America. Bolivia allows limited amounts of coca to be grown legally to provide a supply for this traditional practice. Now the legal coca farmers are attempting to have those "limited amounts" increased.

(3) Salvia, "a Mexican herb with weird psychedelic properties," is apparently popular at a US Air Force base in Oklahoma. The herb is not illegal in the US, it seems -- funny that the expectation is that a psychoactive plant is illegal! The Air Force base is unhappy, though, and is now threatening to punish military personnel who use salvia. The linked article from Drug War Chronicle provides the Air Force's definition of a drug: 'any intoxicating substance, other than alcohol, that is inhaled, injected, consumed or introduced into the body in any manner for purposes of altering mood or function.' You mean they let folks in the military drink?

Drug WarRant points to a few excellent stories, too. First, there's this LA Times article (registration required) on industrial hemp. Here's a sample: "Among the world's major industrial democracies, only the United States still forbids hemp farming. If an American farmer were to fill a field with this drugless crop, the government would consider him a felon. For selling his harvest he would be guilty of trafficking and would face a fine of as much as $4 million and a prison sentence of 10 years to life. Provided, of course, it is his first offense."

Two other stories that Drug WarRant highlights are drawn from Left Flank Shooters. One is an update on the safe injection site for intravenous drug addicts that was opened in Vancouver in September; a second is an academic paper that looks at the relationship between drug law enforcement and crime using data from counties in New York state. (An exaggerated version of the bottom line would be, More Drug War, More Crime.)

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