Bill Weinberg's blog

Scorpion-smoking: latest Pakistani craze

Posted on April 18th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

PakistanDon't try this one at home. A grimly fascinating report in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper April 15 features an interview with an aging scorpion-venom addict in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, near the border with Afghanistan. Sohbat Khan, 74, says he has been smoking scorpions to get high off the venom since the '60s, and only recently managed to kick the habit—by switching to opium. "Drugs are beaten by other drugs," he sadly told a reporter, speaking in his native Pashto. The stuff sppears be highly addictive, and when Khan could not find scorpions in his village, he would travel to Peshawar, the regional capital, to buy them in the market. The piece does not make clear if the scorpion trade is officially tolerated by authorities.

US anti-opium effort in Afghanistan: total failure

Posted on April 11th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Afghanistan John F. Sopko, the Pentagon's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, gave a sobering assessment last week of the situation in the country 15 years after the fall of the Taliban. Corruption is endemic and security practically non-existent. More than 700 schools have been closed in recent months due to the ongoing insurgency. And despite at least $7 billion in counter-narcotics spending, opium production hit 3,300 tons in 2015—exactly the same level it was in 2001 when the US invaded.

Merle Haggard, redneck icon who embraced cannabis, passes on

Posted on April 6th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Merle HaggardCountry music legend Merle Haggard died at his ranch near Northern California's Lake Shasta on April 6, his 79th birthday. Haggard had the hard-living authenticity that helped make him an icon for the working folks of rural America. Of Okie stock, he grew up in Bakersfield and came up as a musician in the Central Valley town's local honkytonk scene—before actually turning 21 in San Quentin State Prison after a burglary conviction in 1957, as immortalized in his famous hit "Mama Tried." Unlike what the lyric said, however, he wasn't "doing life without parole." He was paroled in 1960, returned to his music career, acheived success, and was granted a pardon in 1972 by California's then-governor (and fellow conservative icon) Ronald Reagan.

Cannabis interceptions on Mexican border down —again

Posted on March 20th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , , .

MexicoFor a second year running, the US Border Patrol reports drastically reduced cannabis seizures along the Mexican border—and even the mainstream media can't help making the connection to the growing trend toward legalization and tolerance in the United States. In reporting the findings, the Washington Post uses the headline, "Legal marijuana is finally doing what the drug war couldn't." Last year, border agents confiscated some 1.5 million pounds—down from a peak of nearly 4 million in 2009. Increased domestic production in California, Colorado and Washington have driven prices down, especially at the bulk level. "Two or three years ago, a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of marijuana was worth $60 to $90," a Mexican cannabis farmer recently told NPR. "But now they're paying us $30 to $40 a kilo. It's a big difference. If the U.S. continues to legalize pot, they'll run us into the ground." 

Alabama prison riot: more to come?

Posted on March 16th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

AlabamaGov. Robert Bentley visited Holman prison in southwest Alabama March 15—in the wake of a bloody uprising at the facility. Inmates stabbed the warden and a guard when the trouble began four days earlier, then seized control of a dorm for several hours the day before the governor's visit. A Correctional Emergency Response Team was sent in to restore control. Both the warden and guard survived, but the facility remains on lockdown, with visitation rights suspended. Bentley pledged to address problems of overcrowding at the state's prisons during his visit, reported local WHNT.

Palestinian police in West Bank cannabis raid

Posted on March 15th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

Middle EastPalestinian police on March 12 raided a plant nursery in the West Bank village of Yasid, north of Nablus, and discovered more than 2,000 saplings of "narcotic hybrid cannabis" growing in seven greenhouses. A Palestinian Authority police spokesperson said in a statement the bust was part of an ongoing crackdown on drug use across the West Bank. Two suspects found on scene were arrested after attempting to flee the scene, the spokesperson told the indpendent Ma'an News Agency. The report did not mention what was done with the seized cannabis, but it was presumably incinerated.

Empire strikes back against Belize?

Central America OK, we don't want to get too paranoid here. But last month, after years of studying the matter, the government of Belize took a big step toward cannabis decrim. On Feb. 19, the  cabinet formally handed recommendations made by the Decriminalization of Marijuana Committee, assigned to assess the matter, over to the office of the Attorney General for final review. This means introduction of a decrim bill is almost certainly imminent. Sources say the proposed legislation would allow for persons in possession of 10 grams or less to face a fine or community service. The fine is named as 15 Belizean dollars (US$7.50) per gram. The law would also be retroactive, expunging the records of those convicted in the past for possession within these limits. Former National Security Minister Doug Singh, who has pushed for a more lenient policy, said, "Too many young people have this following them, those who are seeking jobs."

Iran: every man in village 'executed on drug charges'

Posted on March 1st, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

Middle EastAmid the alarming surge in executions by Iran comes the news that every man in one village has apparently been executed on drug charges. Shahindokht Molaverdi, the cabinet member for women and family affairs, made the admission while urging the government to provide increased aid for convicts' families.  "We have a village in Sistan and Baluchestan [province] where every single man has been executed," she was quoted by Iran's Mehr news agency, in comments picked up and translated into English by the UK Independent.  "Today their children are potential drug traffickers; either because they will seek revenge for the deaths of their fathers or because they will need to financially provide for their families, as a result of lack of support by the government."

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