Bill Weinberg's blog

ISIS burns cannabis, snorts coke?

Posted on January 15th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

ISISWe recently noted that the ultra-puritanical ISIS has been burning the cannabis fields in the territory it controls in northern Syria—and that the cannabis farmers of Lebanon are arming to resist any ISIS incursion across the border. Now comes the hilariously predictable news that ISIS fighters might be snorting cocaine to keep their spirits up! On Jan. 6, the Kurdish Daily News posted a video from the town of Kobani in northern Syria, where local Kurdish fighters have been resisting an ISIS siege since September. The footage shows Kurdish fighters holding a stash of white powder in a big plastic bag just taken from the house of an ISIS commander. Kurdish fighters interviewed on camera said the house had been seized from an ISIS "emir" (as they call their commanders) who had earlier taken it over from local residents. The "emir" was killed in the house-to-house fighting now raging in Kobani, and his home searched. In addittion to lots of weapons (of course), the coke stash was found. The Kurdish fighters said they believed the emir was distributing coke to his own followers to fuel their fighting spirit.

2014: international drug war round-up

earth2014 witnessed considerable fraying of the international Drug War consensus—but the horrific violence that finally sparked this long-overdue reckoning continued to take its grim toll. On the upside, Uruguay regsitered its first cannabis clubs, and Jamaica is now studying a decrim initiative. In a very hopeful sign, regional bodies in the Caribbean and West Africa are following suit with studies of potential decrim or legalization. And signs of the failure of the prohibitionist model kept mounting. For a second consecutive year, opium cultivation in Afghanistan broke all previous records—despite some $7 billion spent by the US to combat Afghan opium over the past decade. Hashish busts at sea—especially the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean—also soared. Saudi Arabia went on a beheading spree, targeting drug convicts (as well as those found guilty of adultery, "sorcery" and other such wackery). ISIS (whose beheadings somehow sparked far greater media outrage) started eradicating the cannabis fileds of northern Syria, after the Syrian civil war had sparked a regional hashish boom, with a profusion of militias needing narco-profits to fund their insurgencies. The same cycle that Afghanistan saw with both hashish and opium when the Taliban was in power before 9-11.

Legal hemp coming to Lakota country?

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

South DakotaThe new Justice Department policy to take a hands-off approach to cannabis cultivation on Indian reservations could be a boon for the Lakota Sioux, who have long been pressing their right as a sovereign nation to grow industrial hemp. US Attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon (who is also the US Attorney General's pointman for Native American issues) told AP he's not aware of any tribes in either North or South Dakota actively considering a cannabis industry. The tribal council of the Oglala Lakota Nation this year rejected a proposal to allow cannabis cultivation on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwest South Dakota. The council's Law and Order Committee chair Ellen Fills the Pipe said: "For me, it's a drug. My gut feeling is we're most likely going to shoot it down." (The San Francisco Chronicle's cannabis-friendly Smell the Truth blog couldn't help noting the irony of her name, but also acknowledged fears, realistic or not, that rez pot sales could excacerbate already existing alcohol abuse problems.) But that's the smokable variety, not the industrial. Chairman Dave Archambault of the Standing Rock Sioux, with a reservation straddling North and South Dakota, said that his tribe might consider industrial hemp cultivation.

California Indian tribes to cash in on cannabis? Maybe not...

Posted on December 18th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

CaliforniaIn an historic move to respect Native American sovereignty earlier this month, the US Department of Justice (DoJissued a memo instructing US attorneys to not interfere with tribes cultivating or selling cannabis on reservation lands. The caveat is that the tribes have to be in conformity with state law, limiting the new policy to states that have legalized (Colorado, Washington) or have strong medical marijuana programs (California, Montana). Tribes must also maintain "robust and effective regulatory systems," as John Walsh, US attorney for Colorado, told the Los Angeles Times. But US attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, the Attorney General's pointman on Native American Issues, added: "The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations." US News & World Report even speculated: "Marijuana may displace casinos as reservation cash cows."

Coming soon: Marley Natural brand cannabis

Posted on November 20th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

Bob MarleyReaction continues to mount to news that Bob Marley's name is to be further immortalized as a cannabis brand—not just a strain, but an actual brand name. Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based private equity firm that invests in the cannabis industry, has struck a deal with the estate of the late reggae superstar to launch a global marijuana brand, Financial Times reports. The firm's Marley Natural subsidiary will start marketing its line next year, including "heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains," cannabis-infused skin creams and lip balms, and accessories such as vaporizers and pipes "based on those that Bob preferred." (Oh? Did Bob vape? Really?) Privateer CEO Brendan Kennedy said he is interested in markets including the Netherlands, Uruguay, Canada, Spain and Israel. 

Afghan opium boom again breaks record

Posted on November 17th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

opiatesOpium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose 7% from 209,000 hectares in 2013 to 224,000 hectares, according to the 2014 Afghanistan Opium Survey (PDF) released Nov. 12 by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Opium production may increase 17%, with yields estimated to reach 6,400 tons in 2014 compared to the previous year's total of 5,500 tons. These increases come after record highs were marked in 2013, when cultivation rose 36% and production by almost a half over 2012.

Civil libertarians skeptical on NYC cannabis policy

Posted on November 11th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

New York CityNew York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton whimsically held up a baggie filled with oregano to show what 25 grams (about an ounce) of herb looks like in announcing the new policy to stop making arrests for those found in possession of that much cannabis in public view. The policy is expected to curb the tens of thousands of arrests for low-level possession the NYPD makes each year—busts that disproportionately affect Black and Latino residents despite the fact that whites use the herb no less. Despite New York State's 1976 decriminalization law, the Big Apple has remained the marijuana arrest capital of the world—and arrests have actually increased since the supposedly progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio took office this year. Pot in public view is what is critical—allowing police to make arrests for what would otherwise be just a ticketable offense. But even under the new policy, possession in public view can still get you a summons and a $100 fine, and those smoking in public will still be subject to arrest.

Big Cannabusiness: Reconciling the Recreational Boom and the Medical Marketplace

CannabusinessOn New Year’s Day, as retail sales of cannabis went legal in Colorado, the state's dispensaries registered well over $1 million in sales. Despite cold and wet weather, most of the 36 shops that opened that day reported long lines, with some customers waiting outdoors for hours. By the end of the first week, by which time another dozen retail outlets had opened, the figure was a whopping $5 million. More than 100 dispensaries in the Centennial State have now received licenses for retail cannabis sales and over 500 are eligible to apply. More are applying every day.

"A new industry is developing in a nascent state in Colorado," says Rachel Gillette, director of the Colorado chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "We're not just talking about retail sales, but a lot of other types of business associated with it—construction companies, HVAC contractors, nutrient companies, lighting and equipment sales, packaging, printers, labeling, marketing materials, websites, marijuana tourism, attorneys, payroll companies… This could represent a lot of jobs."

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