Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Federal judge upholds Wal*Mart firing medical marijuana user

On Feb. 11, 2011, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker (W.D. Mich.) upheld Wal*Mart in its discharge of Joseph Casias, a one-time "Associate of the Year" at a Wal*Mart in Battle Creek, Michigan, for using marijuana. Mr. Casias was a registered medical marijuana patient in Michigan. He was drug tested after an accident, and Wal*Mart headquarters fired him

Judge Jonker's ruling reads like a reasonable and straight-forward reading of the law in Michigan, as cruel and tragic as that may be. Of course the problem Mr. Casias faced was foreseeable in developing the medical marijuana laws.

Because of the scandalous indifference of the U.S. Congress and the Drug Enforcement Administration to the public's demand for marijuana to be one of the legitimate medical tools available to the sick and suffering, any state law has to be written in the face of federal law that does not recognize medical value. Therefore, to get these laws enacted, in most instances by popular initiative, they are simplified to ignore obvious issues.

One would imagine that law makers who express their adherence to principles of restrained federal power would seek to make sure that their state's laws can operate without federal interference.

One would imagine that a United States Senator who represents an entire state in the Congress would be especially sensitive to minimize conflict between the laws of his or her state, and the federal law. So with 14 states with medical marijuana laws, there are 28 Senators who might feel compelled to introduce such legislation. And yet it has never happened.

If you live in a medical marijuana state, be sure to write to your TWO U.S. Senators asking them to introduce a bill to modify federal law to assure that your state medical marijuana law can be revised to fully work to protect the sick and suffering!

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Monday, February 14, 2011

"Free Exercise" of Religion?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Familiar, comforting words to us all. One of the great glories of our American way of life. Yada, yada.

If your religion uses a sacrament that is prepared in Brazil and is called hoasca (sometimes called ayahuasca), "free exercise" becomes a very loose term.

Recently, after ten years, the American members of "O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal"(UDV) finally worked out a settlement with various federal agencies on how hoasca can be imported, stored and used. Check it out, and find out how long you can say "free exercise of religion" before you gag with shame.

Imagine what DEA's regulations would look like if it were to recognize the religious use of marijuana in the near future.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Latest on drug trafficking violence in Mexico

From David Shirk's post to the Justice in Mexico blog

02/07/10—Drawing on new data released by the Mexican government, the Trans-Border Institute issued a report today on drug violence in Mexico. The report, Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2010, was authored by Viridiana Ríos and David Shirk and builds on a previous study released one year earlier. The new study reviews available data and analyzes the factors that contributed to extreme levels of violence in Mexico through 2010, the worst year on record.

According to Mexican government data, more than 34,550 killings were officially linked to organized crime during the administration of President Felipe Calderón (2006-12). Based on multiple years of monitoring drug violence in Mexico, the 15,000 organized crime killings that occurred in 2010 set a new record as well as an increase of nearly 60% from the previous year.

The new TBI report underscores the geographic concentration of violence, with 84% of all homicides from organized crime in 2010 occurring in just four of Mexico’s 32 states (Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Guerrero and Baja California) and over 70% occurring in 80 of the country’s roughly 2,450 municipalities. The top five most violent municipalities in 2010 were Ciudad Juárez (2,738 killings), Chihuahua (670), Culiacán (587), Tijuana (472), and Acapulco (370), which together accounted for 32% of all the drug-related homicides in 2010.

Despite this concentration, several areas saw sharp increases due to new clashes among drug traffickers. Four states experienced large, sudden spikes in violence during the course of the last year: San Luis Potosí (from 8 homicides per year in 2009 to 135 in 2010), Tamaulipas (90 to 209), Nayarit (37 to 377), and Nuevo León (112 to 604). Splinter organizations — the Beltran Leyva, La Familia Michoacana, and Zeta drug trafficking organizations — that have broken from the major cartels contributed to the upsurge in violence in these areas.

The report also notes a qualitative shift in violence over the last year, with an increase in the targeting government officials and civilians. In 2010, there was an unprecedented number of elected officials, police, military, and civilians that were caught in the crossfire, including 14 mayors and 11 journalists. In January 2011, two additional mayors were killed, for a total of more than 30 since 2004.

The report reviews recent successes by the Mexican government in dismantling the leadership structures of major drug trafficking organizations, but warns that these efforts could have unpredictable effects. In 2010, the Mexican government’s counter-drug efforts led to the capture of several high-profile traffickers, including Teodoro “El Teo” García Simental, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez, and Nazario “El Chayo” Moreno, which authorities believe may help bring a reduction, if not an end to the violence. However, the report notes that the disruption of organized crime groups also has destabilizing effects, including increased violence among traffickers as well as the targeting of government officials and ordinary citizens.

Viridiana Ríos is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University and a research associate of the Trans-Border Institute. David Shirk is the director of the Trans-Border Institute and principal investigator of the Justice in Mexico Project.

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