Bill Weinberg's blog

DEA chief: Mexican cartels move into Colorado, Washington

Posted on April 5th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , .

leafDrug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart, in testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee April 2, went on the offensive against the cannabis legalization initiatives in Washington state and Colorado. "What was explained to the voters was how much money that they'd be raising," Leonhart said. "What was explained to the voters was that this was good for law enforcement, because then police could go after the real crimes. What was told to the voters is that this would collapse the Mexican drug cartels." Instead, Leonhart asserted, Mexican drug cartels are "setting up shop" in Washington and Colorado in anticipation of a cannabis boom. "Whatever the price will be set in Washington and Colorado, criminal organizations are ready to come in and sell cheaper," she said. She also claimed, without offering evidence, that many cannabis shops get their supplies from grow operations controlled by cartels. 

Crimea: geopolitical flashpoint ...and hippie haven

Posted on March 19th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

CrimeaAll eyes are on the Crimean Peninsula, which has just been annexed by Russia after a popular vote to secede from Ukraine. Potential flashpoints for escalation, with grave implications for world peace, include the fate of the Crimean Tatar ethnic minority and the thousands of Ukrainian military troops that remain in the territory. But Crimea, with its agreeable climate (by Russo-Ukrainian standards), has also long been a hippie haven. Since 2007, "Fairy Town" festivals have been held several times each year in different parts of Ukraine, mostly Crimea. These events, on the model of the Rainbow Gatherings and Burning Man in the USA, are organized by a group calling itself the Rainbow Academy, based in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and the local Crimean capital Simferopol. And while Crimea's Black Sea coast is now more famous for the Russian naval fleet based there, it also hosts numerous nude beaches that have long been a magnet for Ukrainian and Russian hippies and self-styled Slavic Rastafarians. It will be interesting to see if these ecstacy-seeking bliss bunnies will continue to have a haven as Crimea is contested by rival powers—or, if some of the more activist-oriented Crimean hippies can play a role as peace-makers, advocating ethnic co-existence. We'd love to hear from any contacts in the Rainbow Academy...

Blood avocados: Michoacán cartels co-opt ag-biz

Posted on January 22nd, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

MexicoMexico's violence-torn state of Michoacán produces millions of kilos each year of its famous specialty crop, highly prized in US markets... Yes, avocados. Michoacán accounts for 72% of total Mexican production of this rich, green fruit, and over 80% of the state's output is exported to the United States. The trade amounts to nearly a billion dollars a year—even ahead of the state's notorious (and prohibition-inflated) marijuana. But now the two industries are experiencing a grim synergy, as narco lords acquire avocado plantations to launder money, facilitate smuggling and maintain a cover of "legitimate" income. According to a recent exposé in Mexico's Vanguardia newspaper, the Knights Templar cartel has in recent years been running an extortion racket on avocado farmers, seizing their lands if they can't pay up (on pain of family members being abducted and threatened with death), building a "legal" agrarian empire in the state. The local agribusiness association, with the clunky name of the Michoacán State Committee on Vegetable Health, has been co-opted by the Templarios through threats and bribes, according to the report.

Khat-terrorism connection raises its dubious head —again

Posted on December 27th, 2013 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , .

khatMuslim community leaders in Texas are protesting the latest outbreak of the perennial hype over the khat plant and its supposed links to terrorism. It began when a traffic stop near Houston last year turned up two men chewing the midly psychoactive but thoroughly illegal leaf. This sparked a year-long investigation involving local, state and federal agencies that has so far resulted in more than a half-dozen arrests. The Texas Department of Public Safety took the opportunity to link khat to terrorism in its statewide threat assessment. The statement referred to the "chewable narcotic plant grown in the Horn of Africa whose sale abroad is suspected to benefit Africa-based terrorist organizations such as al-Shabaab." That assessment, the Austin American-Statesman reported last month, was based on Congressional testimony given more than a decade ago by Steven McCraw—then-FBI-assistant director, now DPS director—who said it is likely that khat proceeds "pass through the hands of suspected [Islamic militants] and other persons with possible ties to terrorist groups."

Mystery illness strikes Albanian cannabis harvesters

Posted on November 2nd, 2013 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

EuropeOK, no pun intended, but this one doesn't pass the smell test. Reuters reports all too credulously Nov. 1 that doctors in Albania say hundreds of people have fallen ill from harvesting cannabis. The hospital in the southern city of Gjirokaster said some 700 have sought treatment since June for the effects of planting, harvesting, pressing and packing the crop. "In the last two months about seven to eight people arrive in the emergency ward each day and many more have come earlier with disorders from hashish," Gjirokaster doctor Hysni Lluka told local Top Channel TV.  Lluka said women and teenagers, who account for some 40% of those working in the notorious cannabis district of Lazarat, had sought help for vomiting, stomach pain, irregular heart beats and high blood pressure. One patient reportedly arrived "in a critical state." Uninitiated readers are left with the clear impression that harvesters were suffering from severe cannabis intoxication.

Strange bedfellows in Israel medical cannabis push

Posted on October 24th, 2013 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Middle EastIsrael has the world's highest proportion of registered medical marijuana users—but the program has been kept under tight control of the Health Ministry. Now, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is set to vote on a bill that would allow private physicians to prescribe cannabis for their patients. Health Minister Yael German opposes the measure, making the usual argument that it would open the floodgates of recreational use: "It would not be unrealistic to assume that there would be patients who would pressure doctors to write them a cannabis prescription for any bump, headache or toothache."

Secession fever sweeps Colorado, California counties —cannabis backlash?

Posted on October 7th, 2013 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , .

ColoradoOn Colorado's northeast plains, advocates of secession from the state have managed to put the question before voters in 11 counties this November—potentially bringing a split-the-state initiative to statewide vote by November 2014. As Weld County Commissioner and leading secession proponent Sean Conway explained to reporters, an "advisory" vote at the county level would require local lawmakers to request that state legislators introduce a constitutional amendment allowing the northeastern counties to go their own way. That would require two-thirds approval by both houses. Failing that, proponents could put the measure to statewide vote by collecting 80,000 signatures. Finally, the initiative would have to be approved by the US Congress. So it is an arduous process—but proponents are clearly dead serious.

Anabel Hernández speaks on Mexico's narco wars in the new order

Posted on September 27th, 2013 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Anabel HernandezRenowned Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernández, author of Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathershas been receiving police protection since her reportage outed top figures in the country's security apparatus as collaborators with the drug cartels—predictably resulting in threats on her life. On Sept. 26 she spoke at an event hosted by New York University in Lower Manhattan, entitled "Too Dangerous for Words: Life & Death Reporting the Mexican Drug Wars." She spoke about her journey, and how she views the state of Mexico's narco-wars following last year's change of government.

Who's new

  • YosephLeib
  • Peter Gorman
  • jpproject
  • garrick beck
  • Michael I. Niman