Bill Weinberg's blog

New York cocaine trial opens of Venezuelan political scions

Posted on November 8th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

VenezuelaWith Venezuela deep in political crisis, the trial opened in US district court in Manhattan this week of two scions of the country's First Family charged with cocaine trafficking. The two men, Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas, are nephews of Cilia Flores—wife of embattled President Nicolás Maduro. In opening statements, Assistant US Attorney Emil Bove said the pair were secretly recorded planning to ship 800 kilos of coke from Venezuela to Honduras for re-export to the United States.

Taliban versus ISIS in Afghan opium wars

Posted on November 2nd, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

AfghanistanIn a "worrying reversal" for global anti-drug efforts, the latest annual report from the United Nations Office for Drug and Crime (UNODC) finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased 43% over the past year—with a total estimated yeild of 4,800 tons compared to 3,300 tons in 2015, The area under poppy cultivation increased 10% according to the report—clocking in at 201,000 hectares (496,681 acres), up from 183,000 hectares (452,200 acres). Simultaneously, there was a 91% decrease in eradication across the country—with no eradication reported at all in the top producing provinces. "It is very disturbing to see a considerable increase in poppy cultivation in the north which may be linked with a deteriorating security situation in the region," said Andrey Avetisyan, UNODC's chief in Afghanistan, at an Oct. 23 Kabul press conference.

Big pharma, alcohol fund anti-legalization drives —surprise!

Posted on October 26th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Shadow WatchWho do you think is pouring money into the campaigns against the legalization initiaves that will go before the voters in five states next month? Well, an Oct. 22 exposé in The Guardian newspaper will confirm your most cyniical suspicions. In August, the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics became the biggest donor to the campaign to defeat Arizona's Proposition 205, making a $500,000 donation to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP). In making the donation, Insys cited concerns for child safety. But The Guardian points out the delicious irony: Insys manufactures Subsys, a prescription painkiller derived from fentanyl—a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. And the Phoenix New Times adds that Insys is under investigation in four states, including Arizona, for marketing practices related to Subsys that have allegedly resulted in patient deaths.

US extradites well-connected businessman to Mexico on narco charges

Posted on October 19th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

MexicoBusinessman Zhenli Ye Gon, accused of producing and trafficking methamphetamine, was extradited to Mexico Oct. 18. Placed by US Marshals on a flight from Virginia to Mexico City, he was upon his arrival immediately taken to the country's top-security lock-up, the notorious Altiplano Prison. The turn-over comes after he lost a nine-year legal battle against extradition from the US, BBC reports. Zhenli Ye Gon fled to the United States in 2007 after Mexican police seized $205 million in cash from his Mexico City villa. As South China Morning Post notes, this was hailed as the biggest cash haul in the history of global drug enforcement. Authorities say he was importing vast quantities of precursor chemicals for meth production. Ye Gon, who has dual Chinese and Mexican citizenship, denies the charges, maintaining that his company, Unimed Pharm Chem Mexico, was producing legal prescription drugs.

Philippines to turn to China for drug war aid?

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

South East Asia The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in China Oct. 18 for a high-profile visit that western media accounts are portraying as a tilt away from the United States. Washington has historically been the Philippines' imperial patron, providing investment and military aid—but relations are now strained over Duterte's murderous anti-drug crackdown, which is believed to have claimed 3,000 lives. Arriving in Beijing, Duterte blasted Washington and the European Union for their criticisms of his lawless crackdown, and praised his hosts for giving him free rein. "China is the only country to come out freely and [make] a firm statement that they are supporting the fight against drugs in my country," Duterte told Chinese state news agency Xinhua in a comment picked up by the Philippine Star. "The other countries, United States, EU, instead of helping us, they know that we are short of money... all they had to do was to criticize. China never criticized."

California: billions seen from cannabis boom —amid dissent

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

CaliforniaAs Californians prepare to vote on a cannabis legalization initiative, bullish predictions mount of an imminent windfall. The state capital region alone could reap 20,000 jobs and generate $4.2 billion in business if it becomes a hub for a legal cannabis industry, according to a new study by the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Reuters reports Oct. 17 that the study was commissioned by cannabis investment firm Truth Enterprises. "The Sacramento region should be to cannabis what Detroit is to automobiles in terms of both a center of innovation as well as production," said Truth Enterprises partner Daniel Conway. "This region has the ability to be to cannabis what Sonoma and Napa are to wine." Conway is certainly confident. He just left his job as chief of staff to Sacramento mayor (and former NBA star) Kevin Johnson to pursue his future in the cannabis sector.

Flagship Oakland dispensary marks 10 years

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

OaklandOakland's KTVU  on Oct. 5 noted a miltestone for the East Bay city: exactly 10 years of operation for Harborside Health Center, the foremost "pioneering enterprise" in California's cannabis industry. "The world's attitude towards cannabis has shifted massively in the course of the 10 years that Harborside has been open," box-store dispensary founder Steve DeAngelo told the station, noting legalization of recreational use in four states and the District of Columbia. "So we have seen really a massive, tectonic shift in attitudes towards cannabis." KTVU hails Harborside as "a solid, respected business with 200 employees and contractors, serving 200,000 patients."

Cannabis angle emerges in Eric Garner case

Posted on October 4th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

New York CityThe case of Eric Garner—the Staten Island man killed in a police chokehold in July 2014, helping to galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement—continues to make headlines in New York City. In the latest development, reported in the Daily News Oct. 3, Ramsey Orta, the man who shot video footage of Garner's final moments, was sentenced to four years in prison on drug charges. The reading of the sentence was apparently a dramtic moment. As officers placed Orta in handcuffs, protesters stood up in the courtroom, holding their fists in the air and chanting, "No justice, no peace! Fuck these racist police!"

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