Meet William "Billy" Burton. He's a Thalidomide baby born with short arms and twisted hands. In 1992, at age 29, he was traveling abroad and ran into financial difficulties. He attempted to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana from the Philippines to Australia.
Interrogated without counsel and under duress, Billy was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. When sentenced, he was eligible for release in 8 years. But the Philippines later changed its laws on parole and retroactivity and his minimum time to serve on a life sentence became first 30 years, then 40 years. He wouldn't get released until 2032.
Now 48, and having served the past 19 years at the maximum security New Bilibid Prison, south of Manila, this week Billy was granted a conditional pardon due to his deteriorating health by Philippines President Benigno Aquino III . He's been released to go home to Britain.
Here are some happy photos of him being released from prison.
His release is the culmination of a 20 month effort by organizations in Britain, including Fair Trials International and supporters of the UK Thalidomide Trust. Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne says he also was supportive.
The D.E.A. exercised its emergency rule making authority today and banned five chemicals used in smokable herbal products it calls fake marijuana. Included are the chemicals in Spice, K-2, Blaze and Red X Dawn.
Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States. This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety.
The ban will be in effect for a year. The DEA says:
They are designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances are reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.
The text of the rule, as appears in the Federal Register, is here. [More...]
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105 tons of marijuana seized in Mexico. (Lots more pictures below the fold.) The Mexican authorities at a press conference held by Brigadier General Staff commander of the Second Military Zone, Alfonso Duarte Mujica, said it began with a random observation by the Tijuana municipal police who noticed a convoy of vehicles accompanying a tractor trailer. A shootout ensued and they called for backup and the military and other law enforcement groups quickly arrived. They detained a bunch of people who took them to houses in three different poor neighborhoods of the city, and then they got to a warehouse where they located six tractor trailers loaded with the pot.
So whose pot was it? Apparently not the cartels'. Gen. Duarte Mujica says there are no more cartels in Baja and Tijuana. [More...]
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Forget the Geek Squad, here comes the Grow Squad. Are these the Best Buys of the future?
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Via the Chicago Tribune, Congressman Mark Kirk is introducing a bill to set penalties at up to 25 years for some pot offenses, that would apply to first time offenders:
U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk will call for legislation Monday that would toughen drug-trafficking laws regarding a highly potent form of marijuana, with penalties of up to 25 years in prison for a first-time offense. The law would target offenders who sell or distribute marijuana that has a THC content exceeding 15 percent.
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The Toronto Star reports:
Researchers say they have located the world's oldest stash of marijuana, in a tomb in a remote part of China. The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly ``cultivated for psychoactive purposes," rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany.
The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China.
Batteries of tests were performed on the substance. It had a high "THC" content. Other items in the tomb indicated the deceased was of "high social standing."
The tomb also contained bridles, archery equipment and a harp, confirming the man's high social standing.
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A pot-smoker is arrested every 38 seconds in America. The newest figures for 2006 show marijuana arrests are at an all-time high. Via NORML:
Police arrested a record 829,625 persons for marijuana violations in 2006, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. This is the largest total number of annual arrests for pot ever recorded by the FBI. Marijuana arrests now comprise nearly 44 percent of all drug arrests in the United States.
89% of those arrested in 2006 were charged only with possession. And, get this:
The total number of marijuana arrests in the U.S. for 2006 far exceeded the total number of arrests in the U.S. for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
In the past 15 years, marijuana arrests have increased by 188%. As NORML says,
"This effort is a tremendous waste of criminal justice resources that diverts law enforcement personnel away from focusing on serious and violent crime, including the war on terrorism."
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[Photo via CelebStoner]
Keith Stroup probably regards his arrest yesterday at a Boston marijuana reform rally as a badge of honor.
While delivering a speech at yesterday's Freedom Rally, he announced:
"Eight hundred thousand people were arrested last year for marijuana. Every 41 seconds someone gets arrested for marijuana. I got arrested a couple of hours ago right here."
In all, there were 60 arrests. Those arrested received "Class D" tickets. Even with bad weather, 5,000 attended the event.
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Scooter Libby gets off scot-free for lying and obstructing justice. What happens to those convicted of marijuana offenses? They face life-long consequences.
Some of the findings:
- Sanctions triggered by a marijuana conviction can include loss of access to food stamps, public housing, and student financial aid, as well as driver's license suspensions, loss of or ineligibility for professional licenses, other barriers to employment or promotion, and bars to adoption, voting, and jury service.
- Sanctions triggered by felony marijuana convictions can be more severe than those for a violent crime — and a felony can be as little as growing one marijuana plant or possessing over 20 grams of marijuana.
The report even lists the sanctions by severity and state. Where's the best place for a convicted pot offender to live?
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New Mexico Governor and Democrat presidential contender Bill Richardson supports medical marijuana:
"We've only got a few days to go, and I'm urging very quick action on the ethics package," he said. "I'm urging very quick, strong action on predatory
lending. I want that cockfighting bill, I want medical marijuana, I want my tax cuts."
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Of all the silly things.
A bill that would ban the sale of marijuana-flavored candy to children in Georgia won approval from a legislative committee this morning, advancing the proposal toward a vote in the House of Representatives.
House Bill 280 calls for a $1,000 fine for those caught selling the sweets, also called “chronic candy” or “pot suckers.” The candy comes in the form of lollipops, gumdrops and other sweets.
Read the comments. One is from a prohibition true believer and former prosecutor and drug agent who thinks the bill is a great idea. The other is from NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, who writes:
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Amendment 44, by SaferChoice, was on Colorado's ballot this year. It would have legalized adult possession of up to one ounce of pot. The measure passed in Denver in 2004, and this was an attempt to make it state-wide. It failed.
For anyone who is interested, NORML has put up the audio of my talk to college kids the week before the election on why it should pass and why it is so critical for young people to register to vote and then weigh in on election day. It's about 15 minutes long.
Kids are the future. If you have a political pulpit to reach them, please use it. Rome wasn't built in a day and the Amendment will be back in 2008.
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The number one cash crop in America is now marijuana.
The report, "Marijuana Production in the United States," by marijuana policy researcher Jon Gettman, concludes that despite massive eradication efforts at the hands of the federal government, "marijuana has become a pervasive and ineradicable part of the national economy."
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