This Week in Drugs (March 27, 2011)

Northern Arizona University associate professor Veronica Perez Rodriguez is reportedly safe after being briefly kidnapped in Juarez, The Arizona Republic reported. The 35-year-old anthropology professor was visiting her family last Friday when armed men abducted her in what is known as “express kidnapping.” Rodriguez was released in less than 24 hours, but it is unclear if she was forced to pay a ransom.

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, approximately 230,000 people have been displaced by Mexico’s drug war, the Associated Press reports. The report is based on independent studies by local researchers; the Mexican government does not compile figures on people who have had to flee their homes because of turf battles between drug enterprises. “An estimated half of those displaced crossed the border into the United States, which would leave about 115,000 people internally displaced, most likely in the States of Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila and Veracruz,” the report states. According to the study, Mexico has done little in response to the mass displacement of its people, although a government census suggests an exodus in some areas.

Hundreds of Mexican news outlets agreed on Thursday to first-ever guidelines for covering the drug war that has drastically increased risks for journalists, The Los Angeles Times reported. Since Calderon’s term, 22 journalists have been murdered in Mexico, at least eight in direct response to reporting on crimes and corruption. The guidelines also urge news organizations to unite against threats to journalists, such as by jointly publishing stories. Under the 10-point accord, the companies should draw up standards for showing violent images such as decapitated bodies and provide more context when reporting on drug violence.

Fresh from a long and hard civil war, El Salvador is now struggling as Mexican drug gangs have begun utilizing the Central American nation’s new, U.S.-funded highway to traffic cocaine north, The Los Angeles Times reports. “El Caminito,” or the little pathway, is being infiltrated by street gangs with roots in Los Angeles and Mexican drug cartels using secretive networks left over from the civil war and the new land route to move drugs. Combined with El Salvador’s use of the U.S. dollar as official currency that makes it easier to launder money, the conditions set the scene of a new chapter in the violent turf wars of Mexican drug cartels.”

U.S. Border Patrol agents recovered more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana in two separate incidents Thursday, the Associated Press reported. Ajo Station agents used surveillance to locate 31 bundles of marijuana hidden in brush in the first incident. In the second, agents followed a suspicious vehicle later found abandoned containing 30 bundles of pot.

Months after the release of the first Wikileaks cables, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual resigned last week, The Economist reported. Although the Mexico City cables were “milder than most,” a furious Felipe Calderón criticized Pascual’s “ignorance” and believed he should go. Pascual’s assessments of Mexico’s mishandling of the drug war and the “grey” senior members of Calderón’s National Action Party, his relationship with the daughter of a leading opposition politician and the fact that he is an expert on the delicate subject of failed states likely all contributed to his ousting.

Four men straw purchasing guns in North Texas bought more than $100,000 in assault rifles over the past six months, including one that was used in a shootout in Mexico that killed eight, federal authorities allege. NBC reports that the men are accused of purchasing 129 assault rifles since October, usually two at a time, that have been used in Mexico’s bloody drug war. They face federal charges of conspiracy to deal firearms without a license.

Federal regulators are forcing banks on California’s North Coast to investigate the financial transactions of clients who may be dealing marijuana, including many operating legally in the medical marijuana industry, according to The Press Democrat. Bringing the local banks into the drug war and instructing them to spend time and money in search of illegal activity has led some banks to simply close the bank accounts of medical marijuana dispensaries to avoid the hassle.

A Las Vegas medical marijuana advocate was arrested in a raid of her house after Metro Police suspected she and her husband of selling marijuana, 8 News Now reports. Medical marijuana patient Rhonda Shade says about  40 mature plants were confiscated by police. Read more here. Read about recent medical marijuana raids by the DEA in West Hollywood here and in Montana here.

Meanwhile, a new report shows medical pot sales have grown to rival Viagra, Time reports. Sales have reached $1.7 billion in states where it is legal, compared to annual Viagra sales of $1.9 billion. The report’s editor, Ted Rose, “noted that 1 in 4 Americans lives in a state in which medical marijuana is legal, and that nearly 25 million people in those states have medical problems for which the drug can be prescribed.” Rose projects sales to reach $8.9 billion in five years.

A new study by CUNY Professor Harry Levine and attorney Loren Siegel shows New York City has spent $75 million arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana in 2010 alone. Each arrest costs at least $1,000 to $2,000 and 50,383 people arrested for marijuana in 2010. Most of the marijuana confiscated is found through controversial “stop and frisk” practices. The NYPD made 600,000 recorded “stop and frisks,” and many additional unrecorded stops last year.

As of Thursday evening, all ten representatives and all five senators of Seattle’s state legislative delegation has gone on the record in support of taxing, regulating, and legalizing marijuana, Slog reported. The unheard of uniform support for legalization in Seattle represents a significant shift in the mainstream acceptance of marijuana.

-DR & AJC

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  • denbee

    March 27th, 2011

    I am 61 years old and although it has been a long time since I have used marijuana I remember that as a young soldier coming home from Vietnam it was a rough time for me that was made easier through the use marijuana. Within a year of being home I developed a brain tumor which only made my life worse. The legal drugs I was taking zonked me out so much and the seizures I was having prevented me from driving and continuing my education. I discovered through use that using marijuana instead of dilantin eliminated my seizures altogether. I stopped all the legal medicines I was taking and used pot instead. It allowed me to heal both physically and mentally and get back to school. I’m a believer.

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