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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 #17

It’s the dead of winter, and unless you’re in the tropics you’re probably cold and wet. So here are some good news pot stories to take the chill off. Go get them bongs fired up, grab that cup of cocoa, sit back and let the warmth run through you….Not! Ya lazy bastards! You ought to be out there fighting this freaking war, not sitting all cuddled up on you fat asses getting stoned. People are going to jail here, hear?

by Peter Gorman

It’s not often that there’s good news in the war on drugs, but it’s happened a couple of times in recent weeks and the instances are worth noting. It’s not as though these are full celebratory things because the drug war warriors will keep pounding away despite these setbacks, but it’s good to be reminded that fighting the good fight to end prohibition does sometimes result in justice of a sort.

In California, justice was served on December 12, when Judge Meredith Patel of the 9th circuit court dismissed a case against Eddy Lepp based on a bad warrant. The 2004 raid by the DEA and assisted by California’s National Guard Wolf Team on Lepp’s Medicinal Gardens and Multidenominational Ministry of Cannabis and Rastafari netted 32,524 plants, making it the biggest cultivation bust in US history. According to Lepp, the DEA estimated the crop’s worth at $180 million.
Patel, who didn’t comment officially, was probably disgusted at the way the DEA had gone about the raid as well as the warrant.
“There was nothing was on the face of the warrant except my name and address,” Lepp to Skunk. “It was completely blank, which gave them carte blanche to do anything they wanted. And that was patently illegal.”
According to those in the know, prior to the raid DEA agents had, on at least two occasions, driven illegally onto the Ministry grounds—Lepp’s ministry has been recognized as a legal religion in both Nevada and California since 2000—despite two large signs in plain view that made it clear the 20+ acres were church grounds. They then drove into a secluded area to secure photos of the garden which were used to secure the warrant. But US law demands that when a church is to be raided, certain procedures must be followed that are considerably more stringent than those used on ordinary citizens. And Lepp, a legitimate medical marijuana provider in California as well as a minister, was afforded none of those. Agents simply came in and spent two days ripping out the plants on the strength of a blank warrant that made no mention of the fact that the ministry was a recognized church.
“It was tremendously satisfying when she tossed the warrant, which suppressed all the evidence,” said Lepp. “Having a federal judge look at what the government did and seeing and saying it was clearly illlegal, thuggish work, that was something extraordinary. On the other hand, I recognize that the state will have to appeal. They’ve no other choice. I’ve filed a suit for the return of my cannabis, and if they don’t challenge they’re going to have to come up with either 32,000 plants or the $180 million they said they were worth.”
Lepp is no stranger to the drug war. His first bust, for minor possession, occurred more than 20 years ago. He pled guilty and paid a fine. He was later the first person tried and acquitted under California’s medical marijuana law. He was busted again in 2002, in a raid which saw the government seize 300 kilos but no arrests were made in that one because of the CA med-mar law. His lawsuit for the return of the 300 kilos and damages is in appeal and expected to be heard by mid-2007. Then came the 2004 bust.
He’s got another bust still to deal with. In 2005 an informant asked him for a pound of pot. Lepp explained he had none. At a meeting with an undercover, which was taped, Lepp on three occasions explained that following the 2004 bust he had nothing. According to the tape, Lepp leaves the meeting, and shortly thereafter the undercover is heard talking with himself, allegedly counting out money and turning it over to someone whose voice is never heard. Despite the undercover talking into the tape that Lepp has left the restaurant, and then the parking lot, Lepp was arrested and charged with the sale of a pound.
Judge Patel has ordered a January 2007 hearing on the warrant used in that arrest to determine whether or not that warrant is illegal as well.
Lepp is hopeful that will be tossed—and hoping that Patel’s decision on the 2004 warrant holds as well—but he’s also realistic. “The war on drugs is a war against people,” he said. “The last thing they want is that one of us will go free.”
For more on Lepp see www.eddysmedicinalgardens.com.
From our point of view, Lepp has been working the good fight for decades. We’d like nothing better than to see him beat this illegal harassment for good and all and then go on and win his civil cases. Wouldn’t it be a grand sight to watch the Feds have to pony up on $180 million dollars? Man, that would be one of the finest moments in the history of this lousy drug war. And we’re hoping to see it. You rock, Eddy.
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You want more good pot news? Fuggin-A, right? Well, here ya go. On December 17, Jon Gettman, former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) back in the late 1980s and now a policy analyst with a PhD under his belt, published a report estimating the US production of cannabis to be worth $35 billion annually. The report, Marijuana Production in the United States (2006), was published in the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform http://www.drugscience.org/bcr/index.html.
That’s a whole lot of pot. Gettman’s figures were based on federal government reports released between 2002-2005, which estimate that US production of marijuana averages over 10,000 metric tons annually and sells at retail for between $2,400 and $3,000 a pound. Gettman estimated that the producer price per pound was more like $1,606. But at 10,000 metric tons that comes to just over $35 billion.
That figure not only makes cannabis the largest cash crop in the US, again, but places it well ahead of the next biggest crop, corn, which is worth $23.3 billion annually. And it’s more than double the next highest crops, soybeans and hay, worth $17.6 and $12.2 billion respectively.
Tom Riley, a spokesman for the Drug Czar’s office, couldn’t confirm the value of the pot crop but said the feds estimated all US illegal drug use at $200 billion annually.
In an Associated Press story on the report, Gettman is quoted as saying: “Marijuana has become a pervasive and ineradicable part of the economy of the United States… . Like all profitable agricultural crops marijuana adds resources and value to the economy.”
The top five producing states were California, Tennessee, Kentucky, Hawaii and Washington, all of which produce more than $1 billion in pot annually, with California leading the way at $13.8 billion.
Take a well-deserved bow all of you growers out there who risk your necks so that the rest of us have something nice to smoke.

One more gang. In England, three people who ran an operation that produced chocolate bars laced with cannabis that were distributed to people suffering from multiple sclerosis were found guilty of conspiring to supply cannabis in December, but the judge in the case promised them they’d do no jail time.
Lezley Gibson, an MS sufferer, her husband Mark and a third man, Marcus Davies had been operating their little magic Willi Wonka factory since late 2004 when they took it over from its creator, Biz Ivol, an MS sufferer who died that year.
The chocolate bars, which went by the name “Canna-Biz” were each 5 oz and contained 3.5 grams of cannabis. The Gibsons and Davies asked for a donation for the bars but sent them out whether or not they received one. In all it was estimated they’d sent 36,000 bars to 1,800 MS sufferers in the last two years.
During their trial a stream of MS patients testified to the value of cannabis in alleviating their symptoms and allowing them to lead much more normal lives than they otherwise could using standard prescription medicines.
In a Saturday, Dec. 16 story in the UK Times, Lawrence Wood, the chief executive of the MS Resource Center noted, “When…those affected by MS are forced to get their cannabis from street dealers in order to make their lives bearable, it is time for society to take a long hard look at itself.”
That’s the good news and it’s amazing that there were three items to report on in a month. For the reality check, let’s just throw this into the mix: The latest report on incarceration world wide has 7 million, that’s one in every 32, adult US citizens either on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole. That’s the highest figure of any country at any time in the history of the world. And here in bucolic Johnson County, Texas, where there is no crime to speak of, that figure is one in 13.8.
Makes you glad to live in Canada, doesn’t it? And makes you glad I decided to go with the good stuff this month rather than focus on the horror of it all, I’ll bet. Cause there’s always more than three of those stories every month.

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

 

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