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Award-winning investigative journalist (and dad) Peter Gorman has spent more than 20 years tracking down stories from the streets of Manhattan to the slums of Bombay. Specializing in Drug War issues, he is credited as a primary journalist in the medical marijuana and hemp movements, as well as in property forfeiture reform. His work has appeared in over 100 national and international magazines and newspapers.

Peter Gorman's love affair with the Amazon jungle is well-known to people in the field. Since 1984 Mr. Gorman has spent a minimum of three months annually there generally using Iquitos
Peru as his base. During that time he has studied ayahuasca the visionary healing vine of the jungle with his friend the curandero Julio Jerena. He has collected artifacts for the American Museum of Natural History botanical specimens for Shaman Pharmaceuticals and herpetological specimens for the FIDIA Research Institute of the University of Rome. His description of the indiginous Matses Indians’ use of the secretions of the phyllomedusa bicolor frog has opened an entire field devoted to the use of amphibian peptides as potential medicines in Western medicine.

Drug War Follies - Skunk Magazine Issue #5
Med-Marijuana Busts in Cali; Rene Boje One Step Closer to Extradition from Canada, Corruption in Mexico and Detante in Peru.

by Peter Gorman

The June 22 raids by US Federal agents on three San Francisco medical marijuana clubs and more than a dozen private homes represented not only the first strike against California’s medical marijuana laws after the June 6 Supreme Court decision saying federal drug law superceded state drug law, they also represented a new low in anti-marijuana propaganda. The raids were the result of a two-year federal investigation into marijuana trafficking according to Javier Pena, special agent in charge of the San Francisco office of the Drug Enforcement Administration. In an unusual move for a state with clear-cut legal medical marijuana, San Francisco narcotics police assisted with the investigation—against state law—though they didn’t actually assist with the busts noted San Francisco police narcotics Capt. Tim Hettrich.

That the raids occurred at all is absurd but expected following the Supreme Court’s decision. What was unexpected was that according to the San Francisco Chronicle law enforcement claimed that the raids were not intended to interrupt legit medical marijuana needs but that the dispenseries and homes involved were all part of an Asian narco-trafficking ring that was laundering drug money. Instant images of the propaganda that was used more than 150 years ago against the Chinese in San Francisco spring to mind: the Chinese, brought over to work railroads, help build cities and do the dirty work associated with cleaning up after the Gold Rush stayed when the work was done. To demonize them the local papers—and finally national magazines—printed story after story depicting them as filthy, sub-humans who sat around opium dens all day. By the 1860s the propaganda led to the first anti-drug laws in the US and demonized an entire country. That the Feds would now utilize the same propaganda—without offering up a shred of evidence other than that one of the people arrested in the raids happened to have an Asian name—is an indication that they are willing to sink to new lows to subvert state law. It’s also an indication that they knew there would be an uproar in the wake of the raids so they thought to defuse it with the Yellow Peril gambit before it occurred.
On the same day as the San Francisco raids, Dr. Marion Fry, 48, and her husband, attorney Dale Schafer, 50, were arrested in Sacramento, CA on an unrelated indictment charging them with growing and distributing marijuana between August 1999 and Sept, 2001. Dr. Fry, one of the few California physicians with the balls to sign letters of recommendation for her patients to use marijuana has long been a cherished target of the Feds. Her work at the time in question took place at the California Medical Research Center, in Cool, CA, northeast of Sacramento. By rights she should be lauded as a hero; by Federal authority she may now be tried as a criminal. Dr. Fry had her office raided by the DEA in Sept. 2001, during which 28 filing cabinets of patient records were seized, triggering a battle over patient privacy. The DEA subsequently took away Fry’s license to dispense controlled substances.
Medical marijuana also took a rare blow in Canada, when Justice Minister Irwin Cotler ordered the extradition to the US of Rene Boje, who has been seeking political asylum in Canada for nearly 8 years. Boje fled to Canada rather than face prosecution for manufacturing marijuana in the famous Todd McCormick/Peter McWilliams Cannabis Castle case in Bel Air, California. In that case cancer sufferers McCormick and McWilliams had rented a house and were trying to crossbreed several dozen varieties of cannabis to find out which strains worked best for what illnesses. When police raided the upscale home they discovered over 4,000 plants, and surveillance cameras indicated that they were being watered by Boje.
Boje’s lawyers have long argued that the offence would carry a maximum of two-years in a Canadian jail, while in the US she could face as much as a 10-year mandatory sentence—making her extradition illegal on the grounds that she would face cruel and unusual punishment.
Since moving to BC, Boje, 35, married Chris Bennett, manager of the POT-TV website and they had a son, Shiva, in 2002. Cotler was decent enough to let her remain free while she appeals his decision, a move that might get her another three-months before she is extradicted.
The gutless Cotler, in his 19-page decision, noted that “If Ms. Boje is not surrendered, Canada would be denying our extradition partner’s treaty request and allowing Ms. Boje to escape trial.”
—In Mexico, things change and stay the same. In Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, Texas, corruption of city police forces by drug cartels has gotten so out of hand that on Sunday, June 13, Mexican President Vicente Fox ordered the Mexican Army and Federal agents to detain all 700 members of the Nuevo Laredo police force. Each of them was given a urine test and a background check and within a week 80 had been arrested on charges ranging from drug use to official corruption. For some, it was an eerie reminder of December, 1996, when then-US Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey went to Mexico to meet with General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, Mexico’s Drug Czar. McCaffrey, in a public salute to his Mexican counterpart, described Rebollo as “a guy of absolute, unquestioned integrity.” Two months later, Rebollo was arrested for being the point man in the government for the Juarez Cartel. He was subsequently convicted.
This time around, things came to a head when on Wednesday, June 8, newly appointed Nuevo Laredo Police Chief Alejandro Dominguez, was shot and killed six hours after his installation ceremony.
How Pres Bush and his cronies can bear to look themselves in the mirror, much less tell the world that ‘we’re winning the drug war’, is beyond comprehension. When whole police forces can be corrupted by the black market dollar it’s time to toss the white flag and legalize. Add to that the war on our streets, our overflowing prison system and the millions of lost man-years that represents, civil unrest in Peru and Bolivia, civil wars in Colombia and a dozen other countries worldwide, a quasi-Afghan peace brought about by permitting the tribal chiefs to grow all the opium poppies they want, a former Soviet Union that’s out of drug control and it makes you just want to light up a spleef out of frustration. It makes you want to scream at them to get the point. But then, they do get the point. The mayhem that’s wrought is exactly the mayhem they sought. It gives the US and their allies-in-drug-war-shame the holy right to move in on any of those countries whenever they want in the name of ending the scourge of drugs they’re perpetuating. The real shame is how many decent average Joes believe the lies.
Spent the last month in Peru, where US pressure on that country’s government to get the highland people to eradicate their coca crop resulted in a bloody confrontation one morning in early June which left at least 20 cocalero’s and policemen dead. In response to the slaughter, the governor of the state of Cuzco, Peru’s leading tourist-destination with both Cuzco and Machu Picchu within its boundaries, lifted the ban on new coca planting in the state, which brought threats of Federal intervention—read military intervention--from the capital of Lima against Cuzco. But the governor, not to be bluffed, responded that he would simply call for Cuzco’s independence from Peru if the intervention materialized. The politicos in Lima, wisely, decided to back down and said it would be great if Cuzco’s citizens planted all the coca they wanted, so long as they kept the tourist dollars coming, didn’t start a civil war, and promised that none of their coca leaf would wind up in the hands of the cocaine mafia, which would anger the US and force Lima’s hand. The governor of Cuzco agreed to the demands and all is now peaceful again. Ain’t detante grand?

It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.