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Hash oil explosions in the news...

dab rigOK, here comes the latest media blitz in the backlash against the recent gains for cannabis legalization... The Associated Press on May 6 runs a lurid story (one of several suddenly in the news), topped by a photo of a forelorn burn victim petting his dog for comfort, entitled "Hash Oil Explosions Rise With Legalized Marijuana." The incendiary lede: "The opening months of Colorado's first-in-the-nation recreational marijuana industry have seen a rise in fiery explosions and injuries as pot users try to make the drug's intoxicating oil in crude home-based laboratories. Since Jan. 1, when sales began, the state's only certified adult burn center has treated 10 people with serious injuries they suffered while making hash oil, compared with 11 in 2013 and one in 2012." Firefighters in Colorado have responded to at least 31 hash-oil explosions so far this year, compared with 11 all of last year, according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area—a slightly questionable claim, given that the number of explosions and number of casualties for last year are identical. A police sargeant in the Denver suburb of Thornton, which saw its first such explosion in January, is quoted: "These today are the meth labs of the '90s."

Legalize Peru!

Posted on May 4th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , .

After last year's victories for cannabis legalization measures in Colorado and Washington state, the US prohibition regime is under unprecedented pressure. But there is little awareness in Gringolandia of the strides in breaking with the US-led "war on drugs" in South America. Over the past decade, Argentina and Colombia have removed penalties for personal quantities of drugs, and Uruguay just passed a measure that essentially legalizes cannabis, with even cultivation permitted under state regulation. Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador have all barred the DEA from their territory.

That leaves Peru—now overtaking Colombia as the Andes' top coca producer, and also a burgeoning cannabis producer. Like Colombia, Peru remains a stronghold of the DEA in South America—even as it has moved towards decrim of personal quantities. Both countries have experienced long and bloody counterinsurgency wars related to the struggle for control over coca production. Much to Washington's displeasure, Peru even suspended eradication two years ago—before the empire struck back. But now activists are mounting pressure to break with the prohibition model—both in the remote campesino communities of the mountains and jungles, and in the streets of Lima.

Reefer madness hits Venezuela

Posted on April 23rd, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

VenezuelaVenezuela’s interior minister Miguel Rodríguez announced April 22 the arrest of nine people on charges of leading, financing and organizing violent anti-government protests in the Caracas municipality of Chacao. On the basis of "previous intelligence operations," Rodríguez said 10 homes were raided before dawn, netting the nine suspects who, "according to people detained several days before, were handing out money" to demonstrators. He said police have warrants for 15 more who are supposedly directing "these violent groups engaged in terrorist activities." He added that those previously detained confessed that in addition to cash payments, they agreed to take to the streets in exchange for "genetically modified marijuana." Said Rodríguez: "They give them that drug to get them high and keep them in permanent activity against security forces." (LAHT, April 21)

Cannabis contributes to California drought?

Posted on April 12th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

CaliforniaThe latest boost to anti-cannabis propaganda comes in the form of California's crippling drought. The dought is no joke. For the first time in its 54-year history, the State Water Project has cut off the flow to towns and farmland because there simply isn't enough water. But is cannabis a major factor here? An April 10 report on the Weather Channel, "Marijuana: Another Contributor to California's Drought," reads: "Along the coast of Northern California, where there are thousands of pot plants hydrated by a single, stressed water source, each plant requires as much as six gallons of water per day in the summer months... As an already extensive drought likely gets even more dire this summer, marijuana farms are going to guzzle up a lot of the state's water if dry, sunny conditions persist." Compare this with rice—a key crop of California's heavily-irrigrated Central Valley, and one of the world's most water-intensive crops, at some 435,000 gallons per acre per year according to a UC Davis study. Not counting water lost due to irrigation ineffiiciencies. Cannabis is water-thrifty in comparison. Also highly water-intensive is another key California crop, alfalfa—used almost entirely as an animal feed. As Scientific American noted, "The relatively low-value crop uses up about a quarter of California's irrigation water but contributes only 4% to the state's total farm revenue." Not to mention the water-profligate suburban sprawl in the interior deserts of Southern California, complete with private swimming pools and year-round emerald-green golf courses. Pointing to cannabis almost seems designed as a distraction from some far more critical points.

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 very ominous 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."

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