4. ID MEDMJ INITIATIVE CAMPAIGN THREATENS TO SUE OVER
SIGNATURE-GATHERING, COLOMBIA TO SPRAY COCA CROPS, MORE... (7/14/20)
The Idaho Cannabis Coalition threatens to sue if state officials don't
allow it to use electronic signature-gathering in the midst of the
pandemic, a drug testing lab reports spikes in the use of four illicit
drugs during the pandemic, and more. https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2020/jul/14/id_medmj_initiative_campaign
5. CDC SAYS FATAL DRUG ODS UP LAST YEAR, FL SUPREME COURT ORDERS RARE
SECOND HEARING IN MEDMJ CASE, MORE... (7/15/20)
After the first decline in drug ODs in decades in 2018, the number
jumped again last year, the CDC says; Canadian psychotherapists want the ability to use psilocybin themselves to better treat patients using the
drug, and more. https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2020/jul/15/cdc_says_fatal_drug_ods_last
8. MT LEGALIZATION ACTIVISTS SAY THEY'VE QUALIFIED FOR BALLOT, MEXICAN
CARTEL SHOWS OFF ITS FIREPOWER, MORE... (7/20/20)
New Approach Montana says county-level data shows it has qualified a
marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot but the
results aren't official yet, Canada's health minister says she's open to discussing drug decriminalization, and more. https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2020/jul/20/mt_legalization_activists_say
9. AZ POLL SHOWS STRONG SUPPORT FOR MJ LEGALIZATION, BC PREMIER ASKS FOR
CANADA DRUG DECRIM, MORE... (7/21/20)
The city of Chicago will pay out big time for seizing the vehicles of
people in small-time drug busts, a California bill would undo some drug
war sentencing excesses, the Colombian opposition has filed a bill to decriminalize and regulate cocaine, and more. https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2020/jul/21/az_poll_shows_strong_support_mj
Kilo: Inside the Deadliest Cocaine Cartels -- From the Jungle to the
Streets, by Toby Muse (2020, William Morrow, 303 pp., $28.99 HB)
For the last 40 years, Colombia has been one of the world's leading coca
and cocaine producers, vying with Peru and Bolivia for the title each
year, and recently consistently coming out on top as the world's largest producer. This despite billions of dollars spent by the Colombian
government and the United States to try to eradicate the crop and
suppress the trade.
It's also -- and not coincidentally -- been one of the most violent
countries on the planet. A decades-long civil war between the leftist
militants of the FARC and the Colombian state left hundreds of thousands
dead and millions displaced. And after coca and cocaine took hold
beginning in the 1980s, that civil war morphed into a vicious,
multi-sided conflict featuring not only more leftist guerillas of
various stripes and Colombian military and police forces aided and
abetted by the US, but also various rightist paramilitary forces
controlled by drug lords and conservative wealthy landowners working in collusion with security forces.
With Kilo, Bogotá-based journalist Toby Muse (https://www.tobymuse.com)
dives deep inside Colombia's coca and cocaine trade to provide
unparalleled reporting both on the industry and on the dance of death it provokes again and again and again. He starts at the beginning: in the
coca fields of a Catatumbo province, near the Venezuelan border. There, refugees from the economic implosion across the line now form the
majority of raspachines, the farm hands whose job it is to strip the
bushy plants of their coca-laden leaves. At the end of each harvest day,
they tote large bags filled with the day's haul to the farm scale to be
weighed and paid. They might get $8 a day.
In simple labs -- a wooden shack or maybe four poles and a tarp -- that
dot the jungly countryside -- those humble leaves are pulverized and
steeped in a chemical brew to create coca paste, one step away from the
white powder, cocaine hydrochloride. A ton of leaves is transformed into
a kilo and a half of paste, which the farmer can sell for about $400.
That used to be good money, but the price has held steady for 20 years,
there's more coca than ever, and costs have gone up.
But while the introduction of coca as a cash crop initially brought boom
times, the smell of all the cash being generated inevitably attracted
the attention of the armed groups, those strange hybrid revolutionary
drug traffickers and rightist narco-militias. And that meant fighting
and disappearances and massacres as the men with the guns fought to
control the lucrative trade. Where coca comes, death follows, Muse writes.
Muse follows the kilo, now processed into cocaine, to the local market
town, a Wild West sort of place where traffickers meet farmers, farmers
get paid, and the local prostitutes -- again, now mostly Venezuelan --
get lots of business. He interviews all sorts of people involved in the
trade or affected by it, from the $12 an hour sex workers to the
drunken, just paid farmers and raspachines and the business hustlers who
flock to the town to peddle flat screen TVs and the urban traffickers
who come out to the sticks to pick up their cocaine.
And then it's on to Medellin, famed as the home of OG drug lord Pablo
Escobar, and now a bustling, modern metropolis where cocaine still fuels
the economy but where the drug barons are no longer flashy rural rubes
but quiet men in suits, "the Invisibles," as they're now known. They may
be lower profile, but they're still ruthless killers who hire poor,
ambitious local kids, known as sicarios, to do the actual killing. Muse
wins the confidence of a mid-level trafficker, a former policeman who
learned the trade from the other side and now applies his knowledge to
run an international cocaine network.
And he parties with the narcos at Medellin night clubs, techno music
blasting, guests wasted on whiskey and cocaine and 2-CB ("pink cocaine,"
like cocaine with a psychedelic tinge, an elite party drug that costs
$30 a gram while cocaine goes for $3). This glamorous life is what it's
all about, what makes the constant fear or death or imprisonment worth it:
"The clubs feel like the center of this business of dreams. Cocaine has
all the nervous energy of a casino where everyone keeps winning money,
sex is everywhere, and at any moment, someone might step up and put a
bullet in your head. This is the deal in cocaine and people are happy to
Nobody expects to last too long in the trade, but they live the high
life while they can. Muse's drug trafficker, Alex, doesn't make it to
the end of the book, gunned down by somebody else's sicario. But before
he is killed, that titular kilo makes its way out of the country and
into the eager noses of London or Los Angeles.
Muse's descriptions of life in the cocaine business are vivid and
detailed; his atmospherics evoke the tension of lives outside the law,
where no one is to be trusted, and brutal death can come in an instant.
A young sicario whom he interviews over a period of months, ages before
our eyes, killing for his bosses, afraid of being killed in turn, and
numbing himself in between hits with whiskey and cocaine. He wants out,
but there looks to be no exit.
As a good journalist, Muse also interviews the drug law enforcers, the
cops who bust mules at the Bogotá airport, the drug dog handlers running
the aisles of massive export warehouses, the naval officers who hunt
down the narco-subs. And it is only here, where the futility of their
Sisyphean task is evident, that any critique of drug prohibition is articulated:
"">No one knows how widespread corruption is in the airports and ports.
Police officers admit it's a huge problem, but only in private, off the
record. That's the hypocrisy of the drug war. In formal interviews,
officers point out how well they're doing, the positive results. And as
soon as the interview is over, and the recorder stops, they sit back and
tell you what's really happening. They tell you of the constant problem
of corruption, how the war is unwinnable, and how the only solution is legalization. In private, to state that the war on cocaine can be won
would make you look like an idiot. To admit the war is unwinnable in
public is to end a career."
That's as close as Muse gets to any policy prescriptions. Still, Kilo
digs as deep into the trade as anyone ever has, and he has the
journalistic chops to make a bracing, informative, and very disturbing
read. This may be as close to the Colombian cocaine business as you want
bliss -- Cacao Powered... (-SF4ever at DSLExtreme dot com)
bobbie sellers - a retired nurse in San Francisco
"It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the beans of cacao that the thoughts acquire speed,
the thighs acquire girth, the girth become a warning.
It is by theobromine alone I set my mind in motion."
--from Someone else's Dune spoof ripped to my taste.