Despite a $40 billion a year "war on drugs" that is premised on the goal of creating a "drug-free society," our country is swimming in them, and they’re going nowhere. Most people start using drugs before they even leave the house in the morning. Yes, that first cup of coffee is what many of us need to start the day. The next drug that millions of Americans use, sometimes up to 20 times a day, is our nicotine! And then, after a long day of work, many of us head to a local bar or to our refrigerator and pour ourselves a cocktail, ice cold beer or a nice glass of wine. And we’re just getting started. There are over 100 million Americans who have used cannabis. Thirty years after Nancy Reagan told us to "Just Say No," half of high-school seniors will try cannabis and 75% will try alcohol before they graduate. What about the college students who use Ritalin to help them focus and put in long hours at the library; how about all of the superstar athletes who use performance enhancing substances; all of the men and women who are deeply grateful for the "little blue pill"; and the businessmen who stay up until three in the morning with the help of a "little bump"? Drugs are so popular because people use them for both pleasure and for pain. Drugs can be fun. How many of us enjoy having some drinks and going out dancing; enjoy a little smoke after a nice dinner with friends? Many people bond with others or find inspiration alone while under the influence of drugs. On the flip side, many people self-medicate to try to ease the pain in their lives. How many of us have had too much to drink to drown our sorrows over a breakup or some other painful event; smoke cigarettes or take prescription drugs to deal with anxiety or stress? Throughout recorded history, people have inevitably altered their consciousness to fall asleep, wake up, deal with stress, and for creative and spiritual purposes. While it is clear that drug use doesn't discriminate and the majority of us are using one drug or another, the reality is that the war on drug users does discriminate. More than 1.8 million people are arrested every year on nonviolent drug charges. In New York City, "moderate" Mayor Bloomberg's police arrested close to 50,000 people for cannabis possession in 2009; 87% of those arrested were black and Latino, despite similar rates of cannabis use as whites. The reason for the discrepancy is that the NYPD stops and frisks blacks and Latinos, but not white people. Last week the New York Times ran a front page story that showed blacks and Latinos were nine times more likely to be frisked than whites. The racist enforcement of drug laws is not limited to just New York or just cannabis. Thanks to the mass incarceration of people for nonviolent drug law violations, the U.S. is the world's leading jailer. The U.S. has 5% of the world's population but has 25% of the world's prison population. Nationally, blacks are 13 times more likely to be incarcerated on drug charges as whites, despite similar rates of drug use.Why are some drugs legal and other drugs illegal today? It's not based on any scientific assessment of the relative risks of these drugs, but it has everything to do with who is associated with these drugs. The first anti-opium laws in the 1870s were directed at East Asian immigrants. The first anti-cocaine laws, in the South in the early 1900s, were directed at black men. The first anti-cannabis laws, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the early 1900s, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans. Too often, the stereotypical "drug user" is someone we see panhandling on the street or the image of a young person of color. The reality is that most Americans use some drugs and most families include someone who is dealing with addiction to a legal or illegal drug. By declaring a "war on drugs" we have declared a war on ourselves, our families, and our communities. We have to learn how to live with drugs, because they aren't going anywhere. Drugs have been around for thousands of years and will be here for thousands more. We need to educate people about the possible harms of drug use, offer compassion and treatment to people who have problems, and leave in peace the people who are not causing harm. And we need to take action against the incarceration of so many of our brothers and sisters who are suffering behind bars because of the substance that they choose to use.
Two more SWAT raids gone wrong in the past couple of weeks have kept the spotlight on the aggressive police units and the tactics they employ. In Polk County, Georgia, an elderly Cedartown woman was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack as a local police SWAT team and DEA agents swarmed the wrong house. In Detroit, in an incident that drew national attention, a 7-year-old girl was killed by police gunfire in a SWAT raid at the wrong apartment in a house. The SWAT team was attempting to arrest a murder suspect, so there was arguably more of a case for SWAT than in the routine drug cases that they are commonly used for; but the incident tragically demonstrates the potential dangers arising from such aggressive police tactic. The raids came before the national outrage generated by the now infamous dog-killing SWAT raid in Columbia, Missouri, has had a chance to die down. In that raid, which you can see footage of on YouTube, a SWAT team executing a cannabis search warrant burst into a family home and shot two dogs; killing one, before ushering the suspect's terrified wife and young son out of the home. All police came up with was a tiny amount of cannabis and a pipe. In the Georgia raid, Helen Pruett, 76, was home alone when nearly a dozen agents entered her property with guns drawn in search of drug dealers. They were actually looking for another residence on the same property, but mistakenly, after two years of surveillance, hit hers. "She was at home and a bang came on the back door and she went to the door and by the time she got to the back door, someone was banging on the front door and then they were banging on her kitchen window saying police, police," said Pruett's daughter, Machelle Holl, adding that her mother was scared to open the door until the Polk County Police Chief convinced her she was safe. "They never served her with a warrant. At that point, she said the phones were ringing with the other men that were in the yard and they realized that it was the wrong address," said Holl. Police Chief Kenny Dodd said police realized the subject they were looking for was not there. "She made us aware that she was having chest pains and we got her medical attention. I stayed with her and kept her calm and talked with her, monitored her vital signs until the ambulance arrived," said Dodd. Bizarrely for a wrong address raid, police said the property had been under surveillance for two years. The DEA said it is investigating how the wrong address raid occurred. That didn't mollify Holl. "They have totally made a really bad mistake. You would think that with the officers and the SWAT team and the DEA they would make sure that all of their I's are dotted, all of their T's are crossed before they go bursting into someone's home like that," said Holl. "My mother was traumatized. Even the doctor said this is what happens when something traumatic happens. He said it's usually like a death in the family or something like that just absolutely scares them half to death, and that is what has happened," said Holl. In the Detroit raid, the SWAT team was attempting to arrest a murder suspect; making the decision about whether to use SWAT was potentially more complicated than in routine drug cases. The incident, however, tragically demonstrates the potential dangers arising from such aggressive police tactics, and it resulted in the death of a seven-year-old Aiyana Jones. According to a statement Sunday by Assistant Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, police had tracked the killer of a 17-year-old man the day before to the house. "Because of the ruthless and violent nature of the suspect in this case, it was determined that it would be in the best interest of public safety to execute the search warrant as soon as possible and detain the suspect while we sought a murder warrant," Godbee said. "Our intelligence was accurate in this case. The suspect in Mr. Blake's death was found inside the home and arrested...But to locate him, we first had to make entry into the home. At approximately 12:40 AM, members of the Detroit Police Special Response Team, or SRT, executed this high-risk search warrant," the assistant chief explained. "According to our officers, and at least one independent witness, officers approached the house, and announced themselves as police. As is common in these types of situations, the officers deployed a distractionary device commonly known as a Flash Bang. The purpose of the device is to temporarily disorient occupants of the house to make it easier for officers to safely gain control of anyone inside and secure the premise," Godbee continued. "As the lead officer entered the home he encountered a 46-year-old female immediately inside the front room of the house. Exactly what happened next is a matter still under investigation, but it appears the officer and the woman had some level of physical contact. At about this time the officer's weapon discharged one round which tragically struck seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones in the neck/head area. Officers immediately conveyed Aiyana to St. John's Hospital while others apprehended the suspect and cleared the rest of the residence." The SWAT team was accompanied by film crews for A&E's "The First 48," a reality TV show that follows police homicide investigators in the crucial first 48 hours after a murder has been committed. The network was taping the raid for a documentary. The videotape could play a crucial role in how this case plays out, and copies of the tapes were reportedly turned over to state police later in the week. The state police are investigating the incident. Prominent Michigan attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who is representing the family in a civil suit filed this week, has questioned the police version of events. Saying he had obtained video footage shot by the TV show camera crew, Fieger said it showed officers rushing the house and throwing a flash grenade through a window before an officer fired into the home from the front porch. The police account was "entirely false," Fieger said. "Of course, I have seen the videotape and the videotape vividly portrays the fact that a percussion grenade device was thrown through the front window and a shot was fired immediately from the outside from the porch," he said. "No murder suspect was found in Aiyana's house," Fieger added. "In fact, there's an upstairs apartment next door which the police did not have a search warrant for and that is where he surrendered; they went into that house too. But he was not in Aiyana's house." This isn't the first time the behavior of Detroit area SWAT teams has generated lawsuits. According to the Detroit Free Press’s archive of stories on the Aiyana Jones killing; a civil suit is pending against Detroit SWAT for a 2007 raid at a home where children were present and a dog was killed, and another lawsuit is pending against the suburban Southfield police for a 2004 raid in which a 69-year-man was brutalized. Police in that raid found a small amount of cannabis in an adult son's dresser drawer. Such raids have consequences. The anger is palpable in Detroit. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has called for a federal investigation, the Rev. Al Sharpton will address Aiyana's funeral, and the city council is preparing its own review. The anger is also still palpable in Columbia, Missouri, where the dog-killing pot raid continues to reverberate. On Sunday, demonstrators picketed the police station, and city council meetings for the past two weeks have been packed with citizens complaining about the raid and demanding that heads roll. The mood wasn't helped by the police department's announcement Thursday that it had investigated itself and found its actions "appropriate." Neil Franklin is a former Maryland police officer with SWAT experience. He is also the incoming head of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). For Franklin, SWAT has limited legitimate uses, but aggressive, paramilitarized policing has gone too far. He blames the war on drugs. "Back in the 1970s and 1980s, we didn't use SWAT teams to conduct search warrants unless it was a truly documented violent organization," he said. "As the drug war escalated, we started using SWAT to execute drug-related warrants. When I first started as an undercover officer, the narcotics team executed the warrant, along with two or three uniformed officers, but not with the high-powered weapons and force we use today. The drug war is the reason for using these teams and the driving force behind them." "Whatever one thinks about using SWAT tactics when looking for a murder suspect, the results in Detroit show how dangerously volatile the tactics really are," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, who is also the moving force behind the Americans for SWAT Reform web site. "There is every reason to believe that conducting a late night raid and detonating flash bang grenades led to the physical contact between the woman and the officer in which the gun discharged, killing the girl. All the more reason to avoid those tactics wherever possible, certainly for routine drug search warrants." As the Chronicle and others, most notably, Radley Balko at Reason and The Agitator blog have reported, these aggressive drug raids gone bad are not flukes, but occur on a regular, if unpredictable, basis. As they become increasingly routine, so do the risks associated with them, for police and citizens alike. Lately, it seems as though there's a new drug raid outrage being reported almost everytime I check my email. It just never stops, and yet the drug soldiers responsible for it all continue to find new ways of shocking our conscience: In the wake of a series of raids last week targeting a Tacoma medical-marijuana dispensary, a Kitsap County mother is claiming that drug cops mistreated her son, took money from her daughter, and trashed her house; and as the detectives looked for cash to prove that the dispensary was illegally profiting from pot sales, Casey says, they confiscated $80 that her 9-year-old daughter had received from her family for a straight-A report card. Where did they find it: In the girl's Mickey Mouse wallet, according to Casey. She also claims that the cops dumped out all her silverware, busted a hole in the wall, and broke appliances. Seattle Weekly stated, I guess stealing a child's money is better than shooting dogs right in front of them, but it's still utterly disgusting and horrible behavior that no one should be experiencing at the hands of public servants. This is exactly the sort of thing police are supposed to prevent from happening to people and yet, thanks to the drug war, they are actually carrying out these atrocities and calling it a good day's work. To top it all off, officers also seized 200 petition signatures for a ballot campaign to legalize marijuana in Washington State. So in addition to ransacking private homes and robbing children, they're interfering with democratic efforts to stop them from terrorizing more families in the future. But don't worry, folks. I'm sure it's all just a big misunderstanding and nothing like this will ever happen again.
A poem for all: It's Okay
It's okay to not smoke pot and support marijuana law reform.
Its okay to educate yourself and others concerning cannabis.
It's okay to allow physicians to care for patients with medicine that could help them.
It's okay to legalize marijuana and keep nonviolent people out of prison.
It’s okay to not crush dreams of those who try marijuana and suffer as part of the penal system.
Its okay to not want families and lives destroyed for nondestructive behavior.
It's okay to not support for profit prisons to house harmless citizens.
Its okay to regulate and tax cannabis to help pay off federal and state deficits.
It's okay to shuffle tax dollars from the war on marijuana to support community programs, health care, education, and fighting violent and destructive behavior.
It's okay to decrease violence and loss of lives due to marijuana importation.
It's okay to exploit this natural and renewable resource.
It's okay to not want marijuana grown in parks to preserve natural habitats and provide safer parks by eliminating marijuana cultivators protecting crops with firearms.
It's okay for adults to responsibly consume this plant.
It's okay to be successful and use marijuana.
It's okay to use marijuana and become the president, just like Obama.
It's okay to use marijuana to relieve stress.
It's okay to be part of a nonviolent and nondestructive revolution.
It's okay to love and take care of your family, pay your taxes, vote, write your legislatures, and smoke pot.
It's okay with me.
I hope its okay with you.
By Matthew Armstrong
Brad Pitt is planning to embark on a career in politics! The Hollywood star is keen to turn his back on acting and make a bid for the White House with the full support of his partner, Angelina Jolie. “There’s not much left for him to do in Hollywood,” said a source close to Pitt. “Brad feels there’s a lot more for him to do in politics, especially considering the rough years the world has experienced recently.” “Angelina would love to be First Lady.” “Brad will run for Senate and if all goes well will mount a bid to become President in 2016.” Brad, the source says, thinks legalizing cannabis would be a good way of getting the country back on its feet. “He’s obsessed with legalizing pot,” the source said. “He believes it would be the biggest moneymaker since the Internet.” Reports last year claimed Angelina is growing tired of making movies and is keen to get into politics. “Angelina has admitted she’s getting bored with Hollywood,” a source said in June. “She said she’s now got her sights set on Washington.” “She is passionate about people’s rights, war and justice and thinks she can get more hands-on and make even more of a difference by getting into politics. She admires President Barack Obama and thinks she could make a big difference too if she were in his position.” “I would place a huge wager on her becoming the first female president within the next 20 years.” “When Angelina sets her mind on something, she goes all out to do it.” “She’s very determined and gets very stirred by her UN work. She is well respected for her humanitarian work and I’m sure she would make as many waves if she moved fully into the political world.”
Barry Cooper should know better than anyone that you don’t mess with the police. He was once a cop, and a dirty one at that. But for the past three years, this former narcotics officer has been irritating the hell out of law enforcement, and he’s been steadily raising the stakes, damn the consequences. It began in 2007, when Cooper gained some notoriety for releasing a self-produced DVD series called Never Get Busted Again. In it, Cooper shows cannabis smokers ways to outsmart the cops and their drug dogs. He says that if you have cannabis in the car, it’s a good idea to also bring along a cat, since that will distract even a drug dog. Got cops knocking on your door? Cooper says it’s best to lock it shut, and then tell them through a closed window that you won’t let them in without a warrant. The Never Get Busted DVDs have a low-budget charm, especially when Cooper uses footage taken from his own patrol-car camera to illustrate a point. Back then, in the mid ’90s, Cooper had short cropped hair. Cop mustache. He liked to lean into suspects and intimidate them until they did what he wanted. On his DVDs, Cooper will freeze the patrol-car video to point out the ways he got people to confess they were carrying drugs or money. (“Don’t ever touch your face when you are talking to a cop. It’s a sign that you’re lying.”) Cooper dropped out of college at age 20 to join the police force in the small East Texas town of Gladewater; here he trained his own drug dog and started making big busts on the highway. Cooper was talented enough at seizing drugs that he was eventually hired by the Permian Basin Drug Task Force, a West Texas unit that became notorious for using unscrupulous tactics and was eventually shut down by the FBI in 1998. To Cooper, being on the task force was a great assignment; he learned all the ways to bend the law to rack up arrests and chase down suspects. Cooper was young, and he says the thing he loved most about being a cop was the adrenaline rush. One of his favorite things was to pull people over on the highway and then, just for kicks, incite a chase. “They taught us at the academy that once we found drugs on someone, we should handcuff them immediately,” he says. “Instead, I would look at the suspect and say, that’s some crack cocaine I found in your pocket. That’s a felony, you’re going to prison for life. And I would just turn around and walk to my patrol car to fill out my paperwork, giving the suspect time to run, and they often did. And then the foot chase would be on and the fight would ensue. And that would get my adrenaline fix.” Some of Cooper’s former colleagues have become notorious. Cooper says one mentor was Barry Washington, who is named in a class-action lawsuit that’s been filed against the city of Tenaha, Texas. He’s accused of stopping dozens of black and Latino motorists, taking their cash and valuables and telling them to keep driving or face arrest. It’s an extreme version of asset seizure, a Texas law which allows police to take property they suspect was acquired illegally without charging anyone for a crime. In Tenaha, the city took more than $3 million in assets, and the DA is accused of giving $10,000 to Washington as a kickback for making the arrests, which is illegal. Cooper says Washington taught him all kinds of tricks to invent probable cause, like how to train a drug dog to false alert, as an excuse to search a vehicle. “I was the biggest asshole you would ever want to meet in a drug deal,” says Cooper. “I was doing illegal searches, such as making my dog false alert. Or I would say I had an informant to raid a house, when I never did. It’s called using a ‘ghost informant.’ It also includes stealing money. I never planted drugs, but I often threatened to, in order to scare citizens into becoming an informant.” Cooper served eight years on the force, but after he was caught doing an overzealous search of a black man’s underwear, looking for drugs, his department was sued in federal court. The department settled, but Cooper left the force anyway, frustrated and angry that his superiors hadn’t defended him. He bounced around for a few years after that, opening several used-car lots, founding a church and even starting a cage-fighting business. But his life truly changed when he fell in love with his present wife, Candi, and began smoking the substance he’d spent years arresting people for. “I literally spent the next year literally in her bedroom, her and I growing closer together, talking and smoking pot,” he says. “I’d never eaten a pizza in bed before in my life. We would order pizza and smoke marijuana, and the first thing I’d do was laugh and laugh and laugh. I couldn’t believe the joy I was feeling. Then that would turn into crying. Candi knew I had a lot of guilt. I would start talking to her about how bad I felt about the stuff I did to people for having this marijuana, which I was enjoying and was healing me. She would say, ‘Yeah. It’s rotten what you did, Barry. But you were doing what you thought was right. The important thing now is people can change, and people will forgive you.” Cooper wanted to atone. So he created the Never Get Busted DVDs. He says he’s sold more than 50,000. But Cooper’s next big idea was even more outrageous. He decided he wanted to do more than just help potheads. He wanted to expose and punish the cops that put them in prison. And Cooper was just the guy to do it. He knew exactly how cops bend the law to put people in prison. So he decided to set up elaborate stings to catch cops doing illegal stuff, and film it for a reality TV show he wanted to create, called Kopbusters. In 2008, Cooper targeted cops in Odessa, where he once worked, for his first Kopbuster sting operation. He believed the cops were still corrupt there, and he had a plan to prove it. And Cooper had a secret weapon, an unlikely benefactor, one with deep pockets. His name was Raymond Madden, and he was a conservative middle-aged businessman who, for most of his life, trusted the police and voted tough on crime. Then his daughter Yolanda was arrested for having an ounce of methamphetamine and sentenced to eight years in prison. Madden was sure the police had planted the drugs on her. He claims it was a botched attempt to frame a dealer known as the Ice Queen, who, like his daughter, had moved to Odessa from Fort Worth. Madden has evidence to show the police haven’t been straightforward, to say the least. They contended that when they stopped the car, Yolanda immediately started crying and told them where the drugs were. Raymond Madden was told a patrol-car video of the stop didn’t exist, but through his connections, Madden got a copy and it showed Yolanda had in fact denied she had drugs and did not give permission to search the car. Then, at her trial, a police informant testified that the police had made him plant the drugs on her. Madden spent years trying to get activists and reporters interested in the case, to no avail. Then he came across Cooper on the Internet. “The first thing I saw of Cooper was his video,” says Madden. “I thought, ‘What a nut job this guy is! But I was desperate. I knew the truth, but I was running out of options.” So Madden flew to East Texas with a suitcase full of papers related to the case. Cooper spent a few hours looking through them and became convinced that Yolanda had been framed. He told Madden that he couldn’t get Yolanda out of prison, but he could embarrass the police and get the press to look into her case. And, sure enough, an unlikely partnership was born. “Barry knew a lot of the players in this deal because he’d been involved in the Odessa scene,” says Raymond. “And he had a knowledge that I didn’t have. He knew how cops think. ... I said, let’s do it.” Cooper’s plan went like this: He would set up a fake cannabis grow house and get the Odessa police to raid it illegally. Inside he’d put a single grow light over a couple of tiny Christmas trees; Cooper’s idea of a punch line. He’d invite local reporters along to catch the police looking like fools when they busted in. Madden spent more than $30,000 setting this all up. Cooper rented a house, wired it with four cameras, bought laptops to watch the video streaming live, hired a crew and a lawyer and put them all up in hotels while they set the trap. To bait the police, Cooper’s crew arranged for an anonymous letter to be sent to a local church, where they knew it would be promptly given to the police. The letter promised a house full of cannabis plants and $19,000 in drug money that would be gone by the next day. An anonymous tip alone is not enough for a search warrant; the police have to have hard evidence that something illegal is going on. Cooper was hoping they’d search the house illegally while he filmed everything. So the letter went out. Fourteen hours later, Cooper and his team were sitting in the hotel room watching the webcams when the cops burst in the back door of the house with guns drawn. The police walked into the living room and stood in front of a poster Cooper hung on the wall that told them they’re on Kopbusters. They lowered their guns. One said, “We’ve been set up, huh.” Cooper jumped in the car to go confront the cops before they left. He was hyped up, swearing at traffic lights, clearly high on adrenaline, just like the old days. Finally, he and his camera crew arrived and jumped out of the car, yelling, “I’m Barry Cooper with Kopbusters. What are you doing in my house?” Cooper ran into the street wearing a bright red T-shirt with “Free Yolanda” printed on it. He started hollering at the police about how they clearly lied to get a search warrant. A comical scene unfolded. At one point, the cop told him he would be arrested if he didn’t get out of the street, and said, “We’re cooperating here, we’re not trying to give no one no hassle.” To which Barry replied, “Yes you are! You planted drugs on Yolanda and she’s in prison because of it. That’s giving people a hassle!” Eventually, the local news crews arrived and the cops just left. That night, the local TV news was full of coverage of the sting, with reporters examining whether it was legal to enter a home on such flimsy evidence. The police alienated even more residents when they threatened to subpoena the local paper, the Odessa American, to get the names of people posting anti-police comments on articles about the sting. An informal poll done by the paper found 79 percent thought the sting had exposed problems with the Odessa Police Department. Raymond got the publicity he was after. A quarter-million people watched the raid on YouTube. Newspapers started covering the Yolanda Madden case. A year and a half later, a judge released Yolanda from prison, on the grounds that the prosecution had withheld documents that could have helped the defense. She’s now awaiting a retrial scheduled for July 26. For their part, the Odessa Police Department released a statement saying the house raid was a waste of law-enforcement time and taxpayer money. The police threatened to charge Cooper for staging the sting. But they never did. After Odessa, Cooper went looking for more dirty cops to bust. Without Raymond’s money to spend, these were low-budget affairs. Cooper dressed up a duffel bag to look like something a drug dealer would tote around; including a crack pipe and $45 in cash, hoping cops would find it and take the money. He did this sting three times. In one case, the officer brought the bag to the station as he was required to. In another, Cooper put the bag on the edge of school grounds in Florence at midnight; the spot was in a clearing that was easy to film from a distance, but Cooper now acknowledges it wasn’t a good spot. He says the cop who found that bag treated it like a possible bomb, calling in backup and watching the bag for close to an hour. The third time, Cooper shot video of a cop in Liberty Hill apparently taking the money and throwing the bag in a dumpster. He brought the video to the police chief, who seemed underwhelmed but did thank Cooper on camera for bringing it to his attention, adding that “watch groups are necessary.” On Feb. 25, Cooper posted the video of the Liberty Hill sting on YouTube, with the title Finders Keepers. Six days later, the cops struck back. Williamson County police arrested Cooper, and they did something police almost never do: raided his home on a misdemeanor charge. The charge was: “false report to a peace officer,” for a phone call made to police about the duffel bag left at the school. Cooper’s wife Candi, his 14-year-old daughter and his 8-year-old stepson were home during the raid. Cooper was in handcuffs, but he wasn’t broken. He was sure he knew what this was all about. “I talked to those cops like they needed to be talked to,” Cooper says. “After they had pointed those guns at my wife, I said, ‘Before any of you motherfuckers are going to search any bit of my house, you are going to have to listen to me.’ One of them tried to quiet me down. And I said, ‘Motherfucker, are you kidding me? This is a misdemeanor raid, I’m in handcuffs, are you kidding me?’ So they stood down, and I went one by one, shaming every one of them … explaining to them that we were nonviolent, that this is activism, and we know this is retaliation.” Cooper proved his point about what police are capable of, in a way he never hoped for. The raid squad included narcotics officers, who obviously hoped to find drugs in the house, but all they found was enough cannabis for a misdemeanor possession charge. On March 3, Cooper went to jail for two nights. The police also referred Cooper and Candi to Child Protective Services, saying they found a photo showing they were giving pot to their 17 year-old daughter who, Cooper says, is in college and not living at home. CPS dismissed the case after one visit, but the investigation took its toll. Two weeks ago, Zach, Cooper’s stepson, visited his father for spring break and hasn’t been able to return. Zach’s father heard about the raid and filed for custody. At first, Cooper told me he would keep on stinging cops, just not with anonymous tips. But then he called to tell me he wanted to talk. As soon as we sat down for the interview, it was clear that the experience of losing Zach had stripped away his cocky, unstoppable gusto. “Our son being taken from us was so hard,” he said, choked up, tears flowing. “So for the safety of my family I’m not doing any more cop stings. I never would have done bag drops if I would have known it would have led to this. I’m looking forward to getting my son back. Getting him back; after that, I don’t know, we’ll see.” Kopbusters was over. Cooper had thought his first-hand knowledge of the system would keep him a step ahead. But the cops didn’t need an elaborate ruse to sting Cooper. They didn’t need to plan for months and set a trap and get it all on video. They just needed a reason to come bursting in the front door.
Marc Emery is a Canadian who never went to the U.S. and never grew or sold cannabis. He sold only cannabis seeds in Canada for over a decade, paid taxes on all income, and used the profits to fund political activism. The Drug Enforcement Administration bragged Marc's 2005 arrest was a significant blow to the cannabis legalization movement because hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery's profits are known to have been channeled to cannabis legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. It's all about politics, not about pot. Vancouver police tried to have Marc charged in 2003, but the Crown declined; so the VPD worked with the U.S. to indict him south of the border. In 2008, American authorities offered a plea deal that would allow Marc to serve his time in Canada if he was charged here, but the Conservative government refused. If Marc broke the law in Canada, he should be tried and sentenced in Canada, not sent to a foreign country to be punished under much harsher laws.
Cannabis is sparking quite a bit of controversy; new legislation proposed to legalize medical marijuana in Idaho. Rep Tom Trail of Moscow is leading the legislation and says he's doing it for the cancer patients, for the people who deal with chronic health pain every day. "When you receive the message from the doctor that you have cancer, it scares you to death you think, “Ok, I'm going to die,” said cancer survivor Rhett Wintch. It was a long road for Wintch. "You can get to a place of hopelessness which, if you reach that, you’re wanting something to help you get over that hump," he said. Now, he stands as a cancer survivor. It was an experience that shook his life. "I guess I left out all the needle sticks, all the blood draws, all the CAT scans, all the MRIs I went through," added Wintch. Wintch is also a registered nurse at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. He's felt the pain his patients endure. "They would just relax knowing that I knew just what they were going through," he said. Because of that knowledge, Wintch supports medical cannabis. "Giving shot after shot after shot after shot, wondering there's got to be something better," said Wintch. "Cannabis is not unique," said oncologist Dr. Christian Schull. "It is simply a chemical like any other chemical that we use, and when used properly can certainly, can certainly help people, and when used improperly can harm them." Dr. Schull sees cancer patients’ every day. For his patients, he can prescribe just about everything, but not cannabis. "It would be another weapon in our arsenal of managing the symptoms of progressive cancer and its treatment," said Dr. Schull. "It's a shame that it's simply for societal reasons that licensed doctors cannot, by prescription, make it available." "From what I can tell, there are no real valid reasons for not legalizing it," said cancer patient, David Kent. Fourteen states have legalized the use already, with another fourteen following suit, pending similar measures to legalize the drug. It's not being brought to the attention of Idaho state representatives. "In my particular condition, I do look forward to it becoming legal," said Kent. An appetite, better outlook, something to ease the pain; Dr. Schull understands the misuse of the drug, but sees the same thing in just about every medicine he prescribes. "There is no question that marijuana is a drug," said Dr. Schull. "But it is like every other drug that we use. When used properly it has its place, when used improperly it's a bad thing." As the legislation moves forward with more folks discussing the topic, Dr. Schull hopes people will take the time to research the pros; ones benefiting Wintch and Kent, not just the cons. "Yeah, it would be bad for your 15 year old to use it but guess what, that's not who it is for! It's for the person that has the prescription," said Dr. Schull.
We want to know what you think -- take the Local News 8 poll:
Should Medical Marijuana Be Legal In Idaho?
Background: Cannabis remains one of the most universally used recreational drugs. Over the last four decades, its popularity has risen considerably as it became easily accessible and relatively affordable. Peak use is amongst the young aged 18 to 25 years, although these figures are now shifting towards earlier teens. A strongly installed culture still regards cannabis a harmless drug, yet as more reports have shown there are considerable adverse cardiovascular events linked with its use.
Case Presentation:In this paper the case of a 15-year-old male who suffered a cardiac arrest following cannabis use and survived the episode is presented.
Conclusion:Cardiac arrest is a rare and possibly fatal consequence of cannabis use. Public awareness should be raised by extensively promoting all potential complications associated with its use.
Introduction:The recreational use of cannabis has been on the rise since the 1960s. Its popularity has been catalyzed by an easy accessibility and affordability. Peak use is generally amongst the young aged 18 to 25 years, although these figures are now shifting towards earlier teens. Nevertheless, a strongly installed culture still regards cannabis harmless when compared to other existing illicit drugs. As more reports have shown, there are considerable adverse cardiovascular events linked with its use. Case Plan:A 15-year-old English Caucasian male was brought to our emergency department having suffered a witnessed cardiac arrest, following the use of alcohol and cannabis with friends. Paramedics attended the scene within three minutes of call being passed: cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was in progress by the patient's friends, and the first recorded rhythm was asystole. After two minutes of CPR, the rhythm changed into ventricular fibrillation (VF) which was successfully cardioverted into a sinus rhythm with a single DC shock (200 J). On arrival to hospital, the patient was maintaining his airway with respiratory arrhythmia. His vital signs showed a blood pressure (BP) of 115/86, a heart rate (HR) of 86 BPM and a recorded GCS of 4 out of 15. In view of the respiratory arrhythmia and impaired GCS, he was intubated and ventilated. Investigations conducted in the emergency department showed the initial 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) to be in a normal sinus rhythm without any acute ischaemia. No changes were identified on subsequent 12-lead ECGs. Urine drug screen (Princeton BioMeditech Corp., AccuSign® DOA 4) was positive for THC, but negative for opiates, amphetamines and cocaine. Blood tests including haematology, biochemistry and gases were all within normal. Radiological imaging revealed normal chest X-ray and computed tomography (CT) scan of the head. Of note, the patient had an episode of significant bradycardia whilst being scanned that necessitated a dose of intravenous Atropine. Further information obtained from social workers disclosed the patient to suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADHD) along with a history of previous cocaine and ecstasy abuse. Although Ritalin was prescribed for his ADHD, he had failed to comply with the treatment in the last 18 months. Our patient was admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at a neighboring hospital. He was successfully extubated within 24 hours, and discharged from hospital 5 days later with no neurological or cardiovascular sequelae. Although arrangements were made for an outpatient follow up, he failed to attend his appointments and further cardiological assessments (such as echocardiography) never materialized.
Cannabis sativa/indica is a plant that has been known to humankind as early as the 8th century BC in ancient Mesopotamia. It was purposely grown for its fibers that went into the production of rope and tissues, whereas its resin was regarded as a medication to alleviate pain and insomnia. Cannabis was brought to Europe in the 19th century by the returning Napoleonic soldiers from the Middle East. The resin holds more than 400 chemical compounds and 60 psychoactive materials known as cannabinoids with the most potent agent being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC, or simply THC). Progress made in agricultural techniques altered the THC content and as a result, the drug's potency was significantly enhanced. A joint in the 1960's would have averaged 10 mg of THC compared to 150-400 mg nowadays. Cannabinoids, including THC, are exceptionally lipid soluble; tissue distribution is proportional to blood flow with peak accumulation in fatty tissues attained in 4 to 5 days. The plasma and tissue half-lives are around 30 hours and 7 days respectively. It can thus be detected in urine samples several days after a single use or up to months in chronic abusers. In humans, the biological effects of cannabis are mediated by two G-protein coupled receptors: CB1 and CB2. Both have been recognized to be cannabinoid specific. The CB1 receptors, known as neuronal cannabinoid receptors, are present mainly in the central and peripheral nervous system, but can also be found in the lungs, kidneys and liver. Activation of CB1 receptors inhibits the sympathetic response causing vasodilatation that consequently leads to hypotension and bradycardia; an effect that is mediated by the endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitters anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine) and 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol). CB2 receptors are present throughout most of the immune system and their activation might be implicated in nociception. Cardiovascular manifestations of cannabis result from a biphasic dose-dependent physiological effect on the autonomic nervous system: low to moderate doses tend to cause tachycardia and raised blood pressure (proportional to an increase in cardiac output) by increasing the sympathetic activity, whilst high doses produce bradycardia and hypotension by increasing the parasympathetic activity. Myocardial tissue ischaemia secondary to cannabis use is thought to be resulting from one of the following pathophysiological factors: (1) an increase in O2 demand secondary to increased heart rate, (2) a decreased O2 supply secondary to a rise in carboxyhaemoglobin levels post smoking or (3) a reduced blood flow secondary to arterial vasospasm. Reported complication associated with cannabis use is myocardial infarction. It is assumed to be an outcome of myocardial tissue ischemia in people with either normal or atherosclerotic coronary arteries, with the risk of infarction increasing to almost 5-fold in the first hour amongst users. To date, seven cases of myocardial infarction associated with cannabis use have been reported: six were male, age ranging from 17 to 48 years (a median of 32 years), and four had normal coronary vasculature.
Bachs and Morland discussed six cases of acute cardiovascular death after cannabis use. The association was confirmed by a positive serum THC toxicology at post-mortem: all were male aged 17 to 43 years (a median of 40 years), and four had atheromatous coronary vasculature. Although similar fatal cases were also reported, the majority lacked toxicological evidence. Cannabis, in conjunction with alcohol and drugs such as cocaine, creates a more pronounced synergetic effect on the myocardium: it triggers a significant tachycardia that leads to ischemia, and subsequently infarction and even death. Finally, other reported cardiovascular complications included ventricular tachy-arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation. In our case, two facts need to be addressed. Firstly, the cannabis causality was assumed on the result of the positive urine drug screen; hence, a full toxicology screen was not pursued. Secondly, an inpatient echocardiograph was also not documented and later not performed as the patient failed to attend his outpatient's follow up. We feel the effects of chronic cannabis abuse were most likely potentiated by the alcohol consumption. This could have led to a sudden over-parasympathetic activity along with a possible tissue ischaemia, thus triggering the asystolic episode.
It is of interest to point out that there has been no report yet in the literature stating an asystolic cardiac arrest following cannabis use and survival at a young age.
Recreational use of cannabis will remain on the rise with a number of potentially serious, if not fatal, consequences. Availability and affordability has resulted in it being not only accessible to an adult population, but also teenagers. Since 2004, cannabis in the UK has been classified as a 'class C' drug: a fact that is definitely carrying an immense health implication secondary to its consumption with calls already being raised to re-classify it as a 'class B'. Public awareness should be extensively made regarding all possible complications, and emergency physicians should not assume asystolic arrest has an inevitable fatal outcome.