Senator Whose Family Was Caught With Smuggled Cocaine On Cargo Ship Says ‘No’ To Legalized Marijuana

mitch

A cargo ship which has been linked to anti-drug Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell was stopped and searched before departing from Colombia recently, with approximately 90 pounds of cocaine found on board by the Coast Guard. But now, Senator McConnell is doubling down on his reputation as an “Anti-Drug Senator” by railing against legalized marijuana.

The Senate Minority Leader said that he is firmly “against legalizing marijuana,” even while this has put him at odds with his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

McConnell acknowledge that marijuana is “not in the same category as heroin,” even if it is treated as such by the DEA. Still, he said that legalizing the plant could “completely transform your society in a way that I think certainly most Kentuckians would not agree with.”

“I don’t think an answer to this, honestly, is to go in a direction of legalizing any of these currently illegal drugs,” McConnell explained. “This whole movement in various parts of the country is a big mistake.”

This is rather ironic, as The Free Thought Project reported back in November that drugs found on the ship, the Ping May, were carried by the vessel operated by the Foremost Maritime Corporation. That’s a company owned by Mitch McConnell’s in-laws, the Chao family.

Free Thought explained that “this connection is not only relevant because of the family connection, but also because the Chao family has often made large donations to McConnell’s campaigns.”

“In fact,” they continue, “the Chao family has been funding McConnell since the late 1980s. Years later, in 1993, McConnell married Elaine Chao and secured the Chao family as one of his primary sources for investments.”

A gift worth somewhere between 5 and 25 million dollars from the Chao Family made McConnell one of the richest senators in the country in 2008.

The Foremost Maritime Corporation is currently operating 16 dry bulk cargo ships, most of which are currently still in service.

What makes this case even more interesting is that McConnell is well known as a staunch prohibitionist. In 1996, McConnell sponsored “The Enhanced Marijuana Penalties Act”, a bill designed to increase the mandatory minimum sentencing for people caught with marijuana.

Luis Gonzales, an official with the Colombian Coast Guard in Santa Marta told The Nation that the Ping May’s crew were questioned as part of the investigation, but that they have yet to file any charges in the case.

Do you think there is anything strange about McConnell’s war on weed, considering his family’s link to smuggled, black market cocaine?

Perhaps those who deal in black market, unregulated drugs are trying to keep drugs illegal to make sure they maximize their black market profits?

(Article by M. David)

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Patients Are Relying on Congress to Reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr Medical Marijuana Amendment

Steph Sherer Become a fan

Executive Director, Americans for Safe Access

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take part in a “marijuana vote-a-rama” of sorts, with several amendments to dealing with marijuana to be offered on the floor during the FY2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill. The amendments offered will cover topics from hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) to protection of state adult-use laws. Not to be lost in the shuffle is the vote to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which stipulates that the Department of Justice is not to spend any funds inferring with lawful state medical marijuana conduct. Patients, such as 15-year old Crohn’s patient/Colorado refugee Coltyn Turner, need the protection that a reauthorized Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment would continue to offer.

The amendment was originally passed the House in May 2014, 219-189, with a strong bipartisan showing of 49 Republicans joining 170 Democrats. Later in December, Senator Mikulski helped ensure the bill remained in the final CRomnibus bill that President Obama signed into law. While its passage marked the first time since Congress approved a medical marijuana reform since designating marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, momentum for additional medical marijuana reforms grown substantially in the past 12 months with introduction of the CARERS Act in both chambers and the passage of the Veterans Equal Access Amendment offered by Senators Daines (R-MT) and Merkley (D-OR) in Senate Appropriations Committee last month.

Once again the amendment showing strong bipartisan support out of the gate, with 6 Republican, and 6 Democrat cosponsors lending their name to this year’s version: Rohrabacher (R-CA), Farr (D-CA), Ribble (R-WI), Lee (D-CA), Massie (R-KY), Blumenauer (D-OR), Heck (R-NV), Cohen (D-TN), Young (R-AK) Polis (D-CO), McClintock (R-CA), Titus (D-NV). The number of states listed on the amendment has jumped from 32 to 39, with New York, North Carolina,Virginia, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana becoming the latest states to be added to the list. This now means that about 85% of the U.S. population now lives somewhere with some sort of medical marijuana patient protection. Patients like Coltyn cannot afford to wait for the federal government to play catch-up and be denied access to their medicine, and in fact, they won’t wait, as Coltyn has said ““I’d rather be illegally alive than legally dead.” With an estimated 2.4 million medical marijuana patients as of October 2014 who are being “illegally healed” in the eyes of the Department of Justice who makes no internal distinction between medical and non-medical marijuana use, the protections afforded by the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment are needed now more than ever.

During the floor debate last year, many of the amendment cosponsors spoke in favor of the amendment, thereby establishing the legislative intent of the amendment. From their words as well as the words of the amendment’s opponents, it was clear that the intent of the amendment was to prevent the Dept. of Justice from interfering with with state legal medical marijuana conduct. As Rep. Farr put it:

“This is essentially saying, look, if you are following State law, you are a legal resident doing your business under State law, the Feds just can’t come in and bust you and bust the doctors and bust the patient. It is more than half the States. So you don’t have to have any opinion about the value of marijuana. This doesn’t change any laws. This doesn’t affect one law, just lists the States that have already legalized it only for medical purposes, only medical purposes, and says, Federal Government, in those States, in those places, you can’t bust people. It seems to me a practical, reasonable amendment in this time and age.”

In practical terms, it is still hard to measure the true effectiveness of the amendment, but there has been an appreciable decrease in the amount of federal interference with state-legal medical marijuana conduct. This is not to say that DOJ is being in full compliance or is even being transparent about how it has been complying with the spending restriction. While DEA raids of state-legal facilities are no longer the regular occurrence they once were, raids and their subsequent prosecutions are still continuing, even in the absence of proof that state laws were being violated, such as the Kettle Falls Five case in Washington State. While Reps. Rohrabacher and Farr have sought answers from DOJ on why this kind of interference is continuing to take place, the Department has largely sidestepped the issue, offering a terse quasi-explanation in the L.A. Times, but little else. But as Rep. Farr responded in a tweet, “@TheJusticeDept lawyers can try to parse words but Congress was clear: Stop wasting funds/resources prosecuting patients!”

We couldn’t say it better ourselves, but it’s worth repeating, it is a waste of taxpayer funds to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana patients. To further reiterate Rep. Farr, passage of the amendment sends a strong signal to DOJ that interfering with lawful state medical marijuana conduct goes against the sense of Congress. This sense is shared by over 85% of Americans who believe that patients should have safe and legal access to medical marijuana programs under the recommendation of a physician. The health of patients like Coltyn depends on the federal government not interfering with state medical marijuana laws (his self-produced PSA underscores the reason why it’s important). Supporting this medical marijuana amendment is not only compassionate, but also fiscally pragmatic and politically safe. This vote should be a no-brainer for conservatives and liberals alike who want to keep big government out of the doctor’s office. Take action and ask your U.S. Representative to VOTE AYE on the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment.

Follow Steph Sherer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/safeaccess

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Rohrabacher Farr Medical Marijuana Amendment Americans for Safe Access Cjs CARERS Act Marijuana Marijuana Medical Marijuana Rohrabacher Farr Amendment Asa Safe Access Veterans Equal Access Amendment

Silk Road Mastermind Gets Life Prison Sentence

The convicted mastermind behind Silk Road, a Deep Web marketplace that at one time was bustling with anonymous narcotics transactions, was sentenced to life in prison in a U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan on Friday

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Ross Ulbricht, 31, received his life sentence after a giving a final, tearful plea for leniency. In February, he was found guilty on seven counts, including drug trafficking, engaging in a criminal enterprise and money laundering.

Silk Road was not the first anonymous Internet black market, but its incorporation of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin helped the business model to flourish like no other. When the authorities shut down Silk Road in 2013, it had hosted more than 1.5 million purchases over the course of nearly three years.

Silk Road’s success helped lift the veil on the mysterious Deep Web, but also led to the unregulated bazaar’s demise. Its rapid growth captured worldwide attention. This popularity could have led the prosecution to request that the judge make an example of Ulbricht.

Ahead of his sentencing, prosecutors sent Judge Katherine Forrest a 16-page letter asking that he be given “a lengthy sentence, one substantially above the mandatory minimum” of 20 years, “to send a clear message.”

“Ulbricht’s conviction is the first of its kind, and his sentencing is being closely watched,” the letter reads. “The Court thus has an opportunity to send a clear message to anyone tempted to follow his example that the operation of these illegal enterprises comes with severe consequences.”

Ulbricht also sent a letter to the judge, containing a seemingly heartfelt plea.

“I created Silk Road because…I believed at the time that people should have the right to buy and sell whatever they wanted as long as they weren’t hurting anyone else,” he wrote. “I’ve learned from Silk Road that when you give people freedom, you don’t know what they’ll do with it.… Silk Road turned out to be a very naive and costly idea that I deeply regret.”

“I’ve had my youth, and I know you must take away my middle years, but please leave me my old age,” he concludes. “Please leave a small light at the end of the tunnel, an excuse to stay healthy, an excuse to dream of better days ahead, and a chance to redeem myself in the free world before I meet my maker.”

Ulbricht still awaits trial in Maryland, where he faces murder-for-hire charges.

By Lauren Walker 5/29/15 at 4:11 PM

05_29_silkRoad_01

Ross Ulbricht, the alleged criminal mastermind behind Silk Road, a website that allowed users to anonymously buy and sell illegal drugs and weapons online, has been sentenced in court on May 29, 2015. Ulbricht family…

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International Anti-Drug Forum begins today

International Anti-Drug Forum begins today

The First Qatar International Anti-Drug Forum will start today, under the patronage of HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani, at Sheraton Doha.
The two-day forum is organised by the Ministry of Interior on the theme “International experiences in the detection of trafficking routes and itineraries and methods of
concealment”.
High-level international figures in the anti-drug trafficking field will participate in the forum. They include Interpol secretary-general Jürgen Stock, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) executive director Yury Fedotov, Council of Arab Interior Ministers secretary general Dr Mohamed bin Ali Koman, Arab Office on Drugs director Brigadier General Issa Qaqish Hatem Ali, and GCC UNODC office head
Justice Hatem Ali.
Delegates from more than 22 countries and many regional and international bodies and organisations will also attend the forum.
Lt Colonel Ibrahim Mohammed al-Samih, chairman of the scientific committee of the forum, said that heads of anti-drug bodies in GCC countries will participate in the forum along with directors of coasts and borders security and customs and port authorities. A number of representatives from Arab countries and South, East and West Asia, Europe, America and Africa will
also take part.
“More than 250 officials and experts are expected to attend this international event, where they will discuss more than 16 papers presented by a group of specialists in the field of counter-narcotics from around the world. The discussion of these papers will bring some of the findings and recommendations that will contribute in countering the drug problem and uncovering drug trafficking routes,” he said.

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U.S. Supreme Court places new limit on use of drug dogs during routine traffic stops

By Lawrence Hurley, Reuters on Apr 21, 2015 at 9:01 p.m.

 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday placed a new limit on when police can use drug-sniffing dogs, ruling the dogs cannot be employed after a routine traffic stop has been completed if there is no reasonable suspicion about the presence of drugs in the vehicle.

The court ruled 6-3 in favor of a driver, Dennys Rodriguez, who was stopped in Nebraska and found to be transporting a large bag of methamphetamine following a dog sniff.

In an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court held that a traffic stop lengthened purely to conduct a dog sniff without reasonable suspicion would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy dissented. Thomas said the ruling conflicted with a 2005 decision in which the court held that using drug-sniffing dogs is lawful when conducted as part of a routine traffic stop.

A police officer pulled over Rodriguez just after midnight on March 27, 2012, after Rodriguez’s car was seen veering onto the road’s shoulder.

After the initial stop, in which Rodriguez said he swerved to avoid a pothole, the officer wrote a written warning. But before allowing Rodriguez to drive away, the officer asked if the police dog could walk around the vehicle. That added about eight minutes to the stop.

Rodriguez declined, but the officer insisted. The dog then detected the drugs. Rodriguez was indicted on one count of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty pending his appeal and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The ruling on Tuesday does not mean Rodriguez is off the hook. Ginsburg noted that lower courts had not determined whether the officer in fact had reasonable suspicion to allow the dog sniff.

In a dissenting opinion, Alito said the ruling would have little practical effect because police officers just need to learn the correct procedure for conducting a lawful dog sniff.

"I would love to be the proverbial fly on the wall when police instructors teach this rule to officers who make traffic stops," Alito wrote.

The case is Rodriguez v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-9972.

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Marijuana Reform Activists Push for Change with DEA Head

 

 

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.

 

And the resignation of Chief of Administration Michele Leonhart offers the chance for change

Marijuana legalization advocates are excited about the departure of Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, whom they long considered an obstruction in their goal of reforming the nation’s drug laws.

“We are happy to see her go,” says Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. “She’s a career drug warrior at a time when we’ve decided the ‘War on Drugs’ is an abject failure.”

Leonhart has been at the DEA for 35 years and served as the top dog since 2007. Though the recent scandal involving agents soliciting sex from prostitutes is what will likely most clearly tarnish her reputation, her position on drug policy has led marijuana reform activists to call for her resignation, says says Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Franklin, a veteran of the Maryland state police, calls her position on marijuana reform “archaic.”

Leonhart has been a major hurdle in the effort to reconsider marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, which could pave the way for more research into the health benefits of the drug. In 2011, the agency again rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the agency spent about $100 million in 2012 alone on enforcement regarding medical marijuana laws.

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“Leonhart opposed medical marijuana, she opposed sentencing reform, she opposed pretty much everything that Obama was doing and for that matter everything Congress was doing,” says Bill Piper, the director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Drug Policy Alliance is one of several drug and marijuana policy organizations that have previously called for Leonhart’s removal. Following a speech in which Leonhart was critical of Obama’s assertion that smoking marijuana was no more harmful that drinking alcohol, the Marijuana Policy Project and over 47,000 citizens called for her to resign. A Drug Policy Alliance petition called for her removal following revelations that the DEA had been tracking citizens’ phone calls for decades. Organizations including Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws have also called for her resignation.

Though who will be filling in for Leonhart isn’t yet clear, activists say her replacement should be more supportive of ongoing reform initiatives, including reducing mass incarceration and taking the health impact of drugs into consideration when formulating policy. What’s more, Piper says, her removal could lead the Obama administration to reschedule marijuana before the President leaves office.

“This offers a good opportunity for marijuana reform to move forward quicker than it has been moving,” Piper says.

More than that, though, it could signal and even steeper change to policy regarding the enforcement of drug laws. As more states consider legalizing marijuana in some form—23 states have legalized medical use and four have given the green light to toking up recreationally. Six additional states could consider legalization during the 2016 election. As the nation’s stance on that shifts, so too should its approach to drug enforcement, advocates say.

“Within the next 10 years, I see massive drug policy reform and therefore really an end to the DEA,” Franklin says. The new leader, he says, should approach the role as if he or she is “dismantling a decommissioned battleship and selling the pieces for scrap metal.”

“For most part, the DEA exists because they’re enforcing prohibition,” he adds. “I believe we’re moving away from prohibition and more toward health.”

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Patriot Act extension bill introduced by Sen. McConnell

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   April 22, 2015 at 9:34 AM

 

 

 

WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,

introduced a bill Tuesday to extend the controversial Patriot Act and its surveillance provisions until 2020.

The extension would allow the National Security Agency to continue to collect data of millions on U.S. phone records daily. The NSA does so under the authority of Section 215, which allows for secret court orders to collect "tangible things" that could be used by the government in investigations.

The Patriot Act was enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks to combat terrorism. McConnell used a Senate rule that will take the bill’s extension straight to the floor for voting, a move that would bypass traditional committee vetting process.

Section 215 expires on June 1. The NSA’s mass collection program was revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden, sparking a debate about privacy, security and the reach of government surveillance.

"Despite overwhelming consensus that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act must end, Senate Republican leaders are proposing to extend that authority without change," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement. "This tone deaf attempt to pave the way for five and a half more years of unchecked surveillance will not succeed. I will oppose any reauthorization of Section 215 that does not contain meaningful reforms."

Leahy and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee are attempting to end the NSA’s mass collection of records. Advocates for privacy condemned McConnell’s extension introduction.

"The Senate majority leader’s bill makes no attempt to protect Americans’ privacy or reform ongoing NSA surveillance programs that do not provide any tangible benefit to national security," Harley Geiger, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said. "For Americans concerned about government intrusion in their lives, the bill is a kick in the stomach."

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