Saturday, September 30, 2006



JONATHAN OWEN, INDEPENDENT, UK - The price of cocaine, ecstasy,
cannabis and other drugs is at an all-time low, clearly indicating that
efforts to stem the spread of illegal drugs on Britain's streets are
failing. . . There are a number of factors involved in what is rapidly
becoming a "buyer's market", according to drugs counselors. The
decreasing purity of some drugs is one reason for the fall in prices, as
dealers import drugs and then adulterate them with other, cheaper
chemicals in an attempt to hang on to their profit margins. Another more
fundamental reason for the steady drop in prices is that traffickers are
flooding Britain with illegal drugs, because demand has increased.



HEMP EVOLUTION - Famously tolerant San Francisco could become an even
friendlier place for pot smokers if the Board of Supervisors passes
legislation that proclaims most marijuana violations "the lowest law
enforcement priority" for city police. Supervisor Tom Ammiano introduced
the legislation last month before supervisors took a four-week
late-summer break. His nonbinding ordinance directs police to
essentially ignore all marijuana crimes except those involving minors,
driving under the influence of the drug or the sale of marijuana in a
public place.

Ammiano said Monday that his legislation is consistent with Proposition
W - a measure passed by 64 percent of city voters back in 1978 that
called for an end to marijuana arrests and prosecutions -- and with city
policy permitting the use of cannabis for medical purposes. . .

If passed, the ordinance would commit the city to refusing federal funds
intended for the investigation or prosecution of marijuana offenses. It
also would prevent a federal agency from commissioning or deputizing a
city police officer for assistance in such cases.

THE STRANGER, SEATTLE - Largely below the radar, Seattle has moved to
the new cutting edge of American social policy on adult drug use. The
most obvious example of this is Initiative 75, passed by a strong
majority of Seattle voters in 2003. The measure mandated that arrests of
adult marijuana users would become the lowest priority for law
enforcement agencies in the city, all but decriminalizing pot smoking in
Seattle. It was opposed by drug warriors from U.S. Drug Czar John
Walters on down to Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr, but it nevertheless
succeeded in radically altering the climate for pot smokers here, and
has become the model for subsequent similar measures in Oakland, Denver,
and Columbia, Missouri. Add in Seattle's innovative drug court, which
allows people convicted of drug crimes to choose treatment over
incarceration, and the King County Bar Association's new and
groundbreaking blueprint for drug-law reform in Washington State, and
this city emerges as something of a demonstration project on drug reform
for the rest of the country. . .

Initiative 75, if you believed those who warned against its passage in
2003, was going to confuse kids, lead to an explosion of marijuana use,
and squander taxpayer money on a citizen review board to study the
effects of the new law. None of this has happened, even according to
Carr, the city attorney, who had warned before the law's passage that
I-75 was "wrong for our children and our community."

Marijuana-related case filings by the city attorney's office have
dropped sharply since I-75 took effect, from 178 filings in 2003, the
year the initiative passed, to 59 filings in 2004. That's a 67 percent
reduction in arrests, prosecutions, and jail sentences connected to
marijuana use-and a similarly large reduction in the angst felt by local
dope smokers, the lives altered by jail time for smoking some pot, and
the taxpayer money spent sending stoners through the legal system. . .

At the same time, the predictions of mass confusion and increased pot
smoking among Seattle's youth have not come to pass. A survey of
students in the Seattle Public Schools, conducted by researchers at the
University of Washington, found that the number of 10th and 12th graders
who reported using marijuana within the last 30 days had actually
declined slightly between 2002 and 2004. As opponents of I-75 point out,
the percentage decline is very slight (less than 2 percent in both
grades). But the backers of I-75 respond that they never promised that
pot smoking among high schoolers would disappear as a result of the
initiative; they just said the concerns of an explosion of pot smoking
among Seattle's younger generations were unfounded-and the survey
appears to prove that their position was correct.

In addition, the "waste of taxpayer dollars" predicted by Carr is
nowhere to be seen. He now describes the financial cost of I-75 as "a
small marginal cost"-the cost of, for example, photocopying data on
marijuana arrests for the Marijuana Policy Review Panel, whose members
are not paid for their time.


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