a collection of stories from the past 20 years

homeblogtourshome IIcontact

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 #6
Continuing the 38-year idiocy of the War on Drugs, this month’s displays of barbarism by the powers of prohibition include the arrest of Marc Emery at the behest of the DEA, the arrest of 44-immigrant convenience store clerks in rural Georgia and a proposal by the coke-dealing president of Colombia to purchase all the coca leaves his country produces. Now ain’t that the shit!

by Peter Gorman

Marc Emery busted. Seed bank shut. Sounds like something we’ve heard before, and it is. Only the July 29 arrest of Marc in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he was to speak on med-marijuana at a hemp rally, along with the arrest of his financial officer Michelle Rainey-Fenkarek and seed operation worker Gregory Williams (AKA "Marijuana Man") was not a Canadian Mounted Police operation. It was straight US DEA pushing Canada on the strength of a bilateral treaty that allows either country to ask for the arrest and extradition of those accused of committing federal crimes.

In a July 29 release on the arrests, the DEA claims, “EMERY was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Seattle on May 26, 2005, after an 18 month investigation into the millions of dollars worth of marijuana seeds EMERY sold in person, over the internet and by mail. EMERY and co-defendants GREGORY KEITH WILLIAMS, 50, of Vancouver, B.C. and MICHELLE RAINEY-FENKAREK, 34, of Vancouver, B.C. are charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana, Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana Seeds, and Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering. The charges carry penalties of 10 years to life in prison.”
The DEA claims righteousness in that Emery has been selling seeds, some of which they allege have made it to the US, where they’ve been grown into fine buds and smoked by people like you and me. They also claim they’ve got eight growers they busted in the US who will swear their grows initiated with Emery Direct seeds to save their own worthless asses. Jeff Sullivan, US Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Seattle, where the indictments were handed down says Emery’s “activities resulted in the growing of tens of thousands of marijuana plants in America… . He is a drug dealer.”
U.S. Attorney John McKay goes even further: "The grows that sprout from those seeds are often protected by armed criminals or rigged with lethal booby-traps. They do significant environmental damage, and fuel the organized crime and drug trade that destroys lives."
But for all that sort of talk, the real fact is that the DEA has been looking for a way to get Emery for nearly 15 years, since he began selling High Times in his first bookstore while it was still illegal to do so in Canada. They hated him for paying the legal tab in the Alberto Iorfida NORML case that led to the legalization of HT, Herer’s Emperor, Kerouac’s On the Road and other dangerous reading material in Canada. They loathed him even more for paying the tab on the Canadian medical-marijuana cases that undermined the DEA’s position that med-mar has no value. They pulled their collective hair out when he began openly selling seeds after returning from the Cannabis Cup in 1994—and had a fit when the Canadian government allowed him to do so.
Closer to the US government’s real position on Emery is this, from DEA chief Karen (I’m an idiot, don’t blame me) Tandy: “Today's arrest of Mark (sic) Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and the founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the US and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement... Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery's illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on."
That’s the heart of it. The US simply wants Emery disappeared because he keeps putting all of his profits back into the movement. Because he has courage and puts his money where his mouth is. If he just kept the money, bought yachts and houses and walked around like a gangster, they probably wouldn’t care. But he doesn’t, so they do.
Canada will probably stand up for itself and not permit his extradition on either the seed or conspiracy to distribute marijuana charges—it would be unconscionable to have him do 10-years to life on each of those charges. But the money laundering is sticky. Most of the funds he’s doled out over the years have gone to non-profit organizations. But if they can find a loophole somewhere, it would permit Canada to allow the extradition and still claim no blood on its hands.
If that happens, it will be unforgiveable. Canada has got to grab its cojones and tell the US that enough is enough. Rene Boje, now Marc Emery. Time to stand up for yourself, Canada. Time to show us what you’re made of.
Those wishing to contribute to Marc Emery's legal defense fund can send them to: CC Magazine, Box 15 - 199 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H4, Canada.
This is one that escaped our view last month but didn’t this time around. On June 3, 2005, Operation Meth Merchant was unsealed in a rural area of northern Georgia, leading to the same-day arrests of 49 individuals—44 of whom are Indian immigrants—and 16 convenience store corporations in relation to the sale of products utilized in the manufacture of methamphetamine. The investigation leading to the arrests began in early 2004 and included agents with the DEA, FBI, Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, if that’s not too much of an obvious pun) and more than a dozen local law enforcement agencies. More than 200 police and federal agents were involved with the arrests.
The op was touted by the the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Director Vernon Keenan as sending a “message to anyone involved or associated with this drug that we, as law enforcement, will not tolerate their actions, whether they are making methamphetamine, selling methamphetamine, or supplying the ingredients necessary to make this very destructive drug."
What really went down here is that Johnny Law sent people facing jail and looking to cut their time into convenience stores owned and run—almost exclusively—by Indian immigrants to purchase cold tabs containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine along with other items that could be used to make meth. Those included matches, ‘Heet’ antifreeze, Coleman camping fuel, aluminum foil, kitty litter, charcoal and such. Hidden tape recorders and cameras caught the clerks selling the material to the snitches after the buyers had used phrases like, “I need to do a little cooking,” or “I need to finish a cook.” The hapless clerks, if you can believe it, actually sold the charcoal to people claiming to want to cook. The fact that nearly none of them speak more than transactional English (“Something else, my friend?”) didn’t get in the way of the arrests.
All of those arrested face possible felony jail time—20 years maximum—and the feds have put the word out that stores selling such products should be “suspicious of sales of charcoal, coffee filters, aluminum foil and Kitty Litter.”
“We really wanted to send the message that if you get into that line of business, selling products that you know are going to be used to make meth, you're going to prison,” U.S. Attorney David Nahmias told the New York Times recently.
Don’tcha just love the way our coppers think? Bet it makes you proud to live in Canada.
In South America this month, Colombia’s President and Amerika’s Puppet, Alvaro Uribe came up with a plan that not only makes a good sound bite but which might also afford him a few post-presidential ducats when he leaves his post next year. In what he called a new strategy to cut off funding to the FARC rebels, who have been waging a civil war in that country for more than 40-years, Uribe announced in late July that the government of Colombia would begin buying all the coca leaves and coca base available to halt the coke trade. “As at the country fair, hand over the pig, take the money,” he told an audience at a town hall meeting in the central region of Meta.
The idea was immediately poo-poo’d by political adversaries as both too expensive (estimated cost, $64 million US for the current crop, even at the low-end price of $887 US for a kilo of coca base), and short-sighted, as the farmers would presumably just grow more coca next year and wait on the government’s largesse again or sell the leaves to the highest bidder, as always.
But Uribe may be more clever than people know. As the former mayor of Medellin during the Medellin Cartel’s heyday, as someone who grew up with Pablo Escobar, and as someone who’s former chief of staff and campaign manager during his successful presidential bid was caught importing enough precursor chemical to manufacture 500,000 kilos of cocaine—as well as having been identified by the US State Department as a major player in cocaine cartel circles in the 1990s—Uribe must be recognized as the number one trafficker in South America. Nothing, say insiders in Colombia’s political circles, moves without his okay.
If that last is true, though, imagine the boon it would be for him to have control of not only of an entire year’s crop of leaves, but of tons of coca base ready for refining and shipping to Mexico! Given the rife corruption of the Colombian military—who would presumably be in charge of those supplies—Uribe, who’s been threatening to amend the Colombian Constitution to allow him to run for a second presidential term, might just change his mind and sail off gently into the good night—with billions of US dollars in tow.
It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.