When self-described serial entrepreneur Ian Christensen looks around the white-walled medical office he plans tolease in Paradise Valley,Arizona, he sees opportunity. Now all he needs is some pot.
Like hundreds of other would-be marijuana moguls, Christensen courted investors, hired attorneys, negotiated leases, cleared zoning hurdles, purchased equipment and sank tens of thousands of dollars into plans to pioneer an industry Arizona voters created by referendum in November.
Then Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican who opposed the initiative, sued the federal government and would-be dispensary operators in a case that may have implications in California and the 14 other U.S. states that have authorized medical pot. She wants a federal judge in Phoenix to decide whether the state can implement the law without its workers facing federal charges or whether U.S. law trumps the statute entirely.
“They put the dispensaries out of business before we ever started,” Christensen said last week as he toured the office.
Agent John Dodson of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has spoken out against the “Fast and Furious” program, saying it lets guns “walk” into the hands of Mexican cartels, CBS reports. The program, intended to track guns to the hands of criminals in order to build a case, allows straw-purchased guns to move into Mexico, something Dodson’s ATF bosses have denied. The gun that killed a U.S. immigration official in Mexico last week has been traced to a gun smuggling ring operating near Dallas, The Associated Press reported. After the bad press, ATF’s Chief Public Affairs officer sent an internal memo to ATF Public Information Officers in an effort to “lessen the coverage of such stories in the news cycle by replacing them with good stories about ATF.”
The Mexican military arrested three junior officers and 10 soldiers near Juarez last week in connection with the trafficking of 928 kilograms of methamphetamine and 30 kilograms of cocaine, the AP reported. With corruption notoriously widespread among Mexican police, many worry it may spread to the country’s tens of thousands of troops pitted against the drug cartels. Mexico’s defense secretary said in a statement that all 13 have been convicted of drug and organized crime charges in the trafficking of the more than $120 million worth narcotics, CNN reported.
Mexican president Felipe Calderon has said WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables concerning Mexico’s handling of the drug war has caused “severe damage” to its relationship with the United States, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The State Department’s criticism of the Mexican government contributed to Calderon’s frustration, particularly one that suggested Mexican military officials had “risk-averse habits.” Although Calderon suggested tensions were such that he could not work with the American ambassador, he met with President Barack Obama this week in a meeting characterized as one to “mend fences,” NPR reported. They unveiled a deal on Thursday that would end a nearly 20-year ban on Mexican trucks crossing the U.S. border. Read more from The Wall Street Journalhere.
While Calderon was in the U.S., 17 bodies were found in the state of Guerrero and gunmen killed four in Ciudad Juarez, PBS reports. Two Pemex oil workers were also murdered on Thursday near the Texas border, according to Reuters. Unsurprisingly, the violence has taken a toll on tourism in many parts of Mexico. Read more here. In spite of warnings from American officials, college students are once again heading south of the border for spring break. Read more from CBShere.
The 20-year-old who made headlines by becoming the police chief of her town has reportedly fled and is seeking asylum in the United States, according to The Christian Science Monitor. Marisol Valles Garcia, the police chief fled the city of Praxedis G. Guerrero and a single mother, has been receiving death threats from criminal gangs who wanted her to work for them for some time. It remains unclear if the reports of her fleeing are accurate.
Rights activists willing to speak out against the violence of the drug war are being targeted by violent cartel hitmen, Reuters reported. Their homes have been set ablaze, disabled family members have been murdered and children targeted, causing the very people willing to speak out to flee for their lives.
In Seattle, U.S. drug czar and former Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said he doesn’t “think legalization arguments hold up,” The Seattle Times reports. Kerlikowske was in town to be the keynote speaker at the convention of the Seattle-based Science and Management of Addictions Foundation to talk about prescription drug abuse but many in the Emerald City had questions of a greener nature. “If legalization is a way to fund the country and states and cities, I think we’re making a significant mistake when we think it’s just a benign drug,” he said. But the local and national attitude towards legalization is shifting, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Some 45 percent of Americans now favor legalization, up from 16 percent in 1990, while 50 percent remain opposed, down from 81 percent two decades ago. Outside of the event, protesters gathered to support the Times’ endorsement of legalization. “Gil, get with the Times,” one sign read. Read The Seattle Times‘ interview with the drug czar here.
With 28,000 reported deaths tied to the drug cartel violence in Mexico since he entered office in December of 2006, President Felipe Calderon is being forced to open discussions on legalizing marijuana in Mexico. Although Mexico has decriminalized possession of a small amount of nearly all drugs, former President Vicente Fox is among those who believe complete legalization in the country will cut funding to cartels and increase government revenue. U.S. drug policy director Gil Kerlikowske argued it would not curb violence or weaken cartels significantly. Ted Galen Carpenter, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the CATO Institute, says the time has come for similar discussions about American drug prohibition. A change in prohibition policy by the United States would likely lead to similar changes in international drug policies — and have a far more dramatic impact toward weakening cartels.
Not all in California — or even within the marijuana-consuming community — support the initiative, however. The blog for Stoners Against the Proposition 19 Tax Cannabis Initiative expresses concerns that the measure, “reverses many of the freedoms marijuana consumers currently enjoy, pushes growers out of the commercial market, paves the way for the corporatization of cannabis, and creates new prohibitions where there are none now.”