This Week in Drugs (Feb. 25, 2011)

Federal authorities have launched a nationwide crackdown on drug cartels following last week’s murder of a U.S. agent in Mexico. Arizona’s acting Special Agent in Charge, Doug Coleman, said several hundred DEA agents teamed up with hundreds more federal and local officers, resulting in 31 arrests. “The overall message here is that we as U.S. law enforcement are going to do something when we see that a cartel in Mexico is going to target U.S. agents,” Coleman told The Arizona Republic. By Thursday morning, law enforcement nationwide had seized more than $4.5 million in cash and nearly 20 guns, arrested more than 100 people and confiscated about 23 pounds of methamphetamine, 107 kilograms of cocaine, 5 pounds of heroin and 300 pounds of marijuana. Read more about the crackdown from The Washington Post here.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon will meet with President Obama next week to address the drug war’s increasing violence, especially the murder of a U.S. agent near Mexico City, Business Insider reports. Mexican defense officials told The Wall Street Journal the attack was a mistake in identity, however some believe the agents may have been targeted by the cartel. Either way, U.S. lawmakers are considering ways of arming U.S. agents in Mexico, something that has not been allowed since a 1990 agreement. Read more from Fox News here.

The Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff’s Office reported Wednesday morning the arrest of 102 suspects and the seizure of 3,200 pounds of marijuana after a four-day operation in the Vekol Valley and Silver Bell Mountain areas, The Arizona Republic reports. The drug and human trafficking-focused operation also resulted in the recovery of seven stolen vehicles and 12 firearms.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill Tuesday outlawing the sale of synthetic marijuana, commonly known as ‘Spice,’ the Phoenix Business Journal reports. The federal and state government are moving to make Spice and its sister compounds, once legally sold at smoke shops, illegal.

Months after Butte County, Calif., law enforcement coordinated raids on seven marijuana dispensaries, the District Attorney’s Office has yet to file criminal charges or return confiscated money to the dispensary owners, Toke of the Town reports. More than 100 law enforcement officers on served search warrants June 30 on seven marijuana dispensaries and 11 residences.

A 10,000-square-foot hydroponics store enthusiastically marketing itself as the “Wal-Mart of weed” will open tomorrow in Sacramento, The Sacramento Bee reports. The first national franchise for a company that bills itself as a supply and training destination for legal pot growers, weGrow attracted national attention for its unfettered embrace of pot culture.

Washington’s largest newspaper, The Seattle Times, published an editorial last Friday calling for the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana in the state of Washington. According to Seattle’s alternative news site The Stranger, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske contacted the newspaper to speak personally with the editorial board after the editorial appeared. Seattle Times editorial writer Bruce Ramsey told The Stranger that the White House called “right after our editorial ran, so I drew the obvious conclusion… he didn’t like our editorial.” The meeting, scheduled for next Friday, hasn’t stopped The Seattle Times from publishing pro-pot editorials like one urging House Speaker Frank Chopp to allow a hearing on House Bill 1550, state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson’s bill to legalize marijuana and sell it through the Washington state liquor stores.

A man in Fitchburg, Mass., became the 10th to die in US drug enforcement operations this year after being shot by a state trooper on Tuesday, reports. According to the police, 21-year-old Roger Padilla refused to pull over, leading the trooper on a brief pursuit to a cul-de-sac. The trooper stepped out of his black, unmarked SUV and repeatedly commanded Padilla to exit. According to police, Padilla began driving his car toward the trooper at which point he was fired upon and killed.

New Colombian criminal bands are springing up to take over cocaine production and fill a void created by the U.S.-backed drug war, Reuters reports. Linked to former paramilitary groups, the gangs have slaughtered human rights activists, public officials and civilians, the United Nations said on Thursday.

Finally, the wealthy Mexican city of Monterrey has become a ‘city of massacres’ as drug war violence erupts in the streets. Watch the PBS NewsHour video here:

-David Robles

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