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.
by Peter Gorman
Nothing helps cannabis grow better than good fertilizer, and if there was any way to collect and package the Drug War manure spread around the world this month we’d all be smokin’ good shit for a long time. Key bullspit of the month was the US Supreme Court decision in Ashcroft v Raich, the Medical Marijuana case that pitted the US Federal Government ban on medical marijuana against the California State’s Right to permit its needy residents to grow and smoke it.
TKTKTKTK: DECISION EXPECTED WITHIN A WEEK AND SO MUST BE INCLUDED IN THIS COLUMN.
While the Supreme Court’s decision was the loudest shot of the month, it wasn’t the only salvo fired. According to a presidential report released on Friday, March 4, poppy fields in Afghanistan are busting out all over. Since ousting the Taliban and installing a pro-US government in November 2001—following the unsuccessful US-led invasion of that country to track down bin Laden—the opium business is surging like a muscle-car on speed. The report—released late on a Friday so as not to attract media attention—noted that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached record levels of over 510,000 acres or 800 square miles in 2004. Opium production was estimated at 5,445 tons, about 17 times more than was produced in the Golden Triangle during the same year and enough to supply the world heroin demand for the next few years. (The US annually interdicts about 2,500 kilos of heroin, or just under three tons. At that rate it would only take the US about 1,815 years to interdict this year’s Afghani production.)
With the report being soundly ignored by most media, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an emergency pit-stop in Kabul on March 17 to congratulate Afghan President Hamid Karzai on his country’s efforts to clamp down on heroin production. Rice completely ignored the presidential report, but did praise the Afghan people for the relative calm in their country despite the occasional car bombing—one of which killed five and wounded 32 in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar just minutes before the Rice-Karzai love-fest.
The connection between the soaring opium production and the relative calm appeared lost on Karzai and Rice, though everyone else in the world is probably aware that the US, through Bush’s puppet Karzai, is permitting the production in exchange for peace. Whether it’s with tacit or overt approval doesn’t matter. What matters is that when people are working and making money they don’t want to fight. Watch the hell that breaks loose if Karzai decides to clamp-down for real on opium production next year.
Meanwhile, in Canada, the tragic slaughter of four Royal Canadian Mounted Police troopers at the hands of 44-year-old loner James Roszko in Rochford Bridge, Alberta on March 3 has been utilized by marijuana prohibitionists to spawn the largest number of simultaneous anti-pot propaganda stories in recent memory. In the wake of the killings, newspapers, television and radio stations all across Canada and the US ran banner headlines that ranged from “Four Canadian Police Killed in Pot Raid” (AP, March 4), to “Violent New Front in The Drug War Opens on Canadian Border” (NY Times, March 5). Nearly all of them laid the blame for the slaughter directly on the small pot grow Roszko maintained. Official reaction included Canadian Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan saying she would consider tougher penalties for growers in a marijuana decrim bill that Parliament is preparing to debate, and US Drug Czar John Walters claiming that Canadian prosecutors tell him they need tougher laws to combat growing-operations.
Despite the frantic wailings of these nit-wits, pot had very little, if anything, to do with the killings. Yes, Rozsko had a pot grow, but the Mayerthorpe Mounties who accompanied a local sheriff knew nothing about it when they went to his house the day before the killings to repossess property—as they’d done several times previously when Rozsko couldn’t make his payments. While there, they discovered what they thought were stolen auto parts and the pot-grow, and left to get a search warrant. Hell broke out the following morning at about 9AM when Rozsko, armed with an automatic assault rifle, emerged from a Quonset hut and fired on the officers who’d returned with the warrants, killing four of them. Rozsko was apparently wounded and later killed himself.
But in the glee over making hay about Rozsko’s weed, most media, especially in the US, forgot to note that Rozsko was a convicted child molester who’d also been convicted of 11 other crimes, including breaking and entering and stealing a rifle, and property mischief. He also had a number of violent charges against him dropped—including shooting at trespassers and threatening police—when people were afraid to testify against him. He had two charges pending against him when the slaughter occurred, and a probable third and fourth when the stolen auto parts and pot grow were included.
So it must have been the pot that triggered it all, eh?
The Rochford Bridge killings also triggered a big boost for an Australian report published in the journal Addiction just days prior to the Roszko affair. The study dealt with cannabis use and symptoms of psychosis. Led by Professor David Fergusson, a team of scientists from New Zealand’s University of Otago followed a group of about 1,000 people who were born in 1977 and interviewed them at ages 18, 21 and 25 about their cannabis use. The scientists chose 10 items as representative of psychotic symptoms, and had the subjects self-report on them. They included: “hearing voices that other people do not hear; the idea that someone else can control your thoughts; other people being aware of your private thoughts; having thoughts that are not your own; having ideas and beliefs that others do not share; the idea that something is seriously wrong with your body; never feeling close to another person; the idea that something is wrong with your mind; feeling other people cannot be trusted; feeling that you are watched or talked about by others.”
The results of the study showed that those who smoke daily suffer 1.61-to-1.8 times more of the above symptoms than those who never smoke. Probably fair to say if “having ideas and beliefs that others do not share” and “feeling that you are watched or talked about by others,” is included in a group of pot heads.
So this meaningless study concluded that acute symptoms of daily cannabis use include a touch of paranoia and feelings of being outside the box. I’m glad I didn’t pay for the 25 years it took to gather that info. NONETHELESS, the study was touted as “Drug ‘doubles mental health risk’ in at least one British newspaper, and immediately utilized by a number of anti-pot zealots as proof that all cannabis use leads to psychotic behavior. UK mental health campaigners said it was more evidence of a "drug-induced mental health crisis". Paul Corry, of the UK mental health charity Rethink, said: "We need action from the Department of Health and we need it now if we are to avoid the risk of tens of thousands of young people developing a severe mental illness in the future." Marjorie Wallace, of the UK mental health charity SANE, said: "At last there is a convincing study supporting what we have been saying for many years, that there is a direct link between cannabis and psychosis.”
It was even worse in the US. On March 23 the Drug Czar’s office had researcher David Murray testify before a Senate committee hearing on a bill that aims to criminalize possession of more than an ounce of pot in Alaska. Murray testified that marijuana users develop serious cases of psychosis and that “This is a dirty, dirty drug.”
John Fielder, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco, also testified and was asked by the committee chair Fred Dyson whether there was any connection between pot and violence. Fielder was quoted in the Juneau Empire as responding that smoking marijuana leads to violence down the road. “If I smoke marijuana, I may not be led to rob a store. But I can lose my job and then be motivated to steal,” he said.
It all adds up to this amatuer psychologist as proving that anti-pot zealotry leads to marijuana psychosis—and occasionally, full-on psychotic behavior.
Last item of the month: Not long after 71-year-old Burton Kaplan, an advisor to New York mobsters for years and once one of the biggest marijuana importers on the east coast, squealed on two former New York cops who allegedly secretly carried out hits for the mob, two active mobsters were charged with running grow rooms in Brooklyn and Queens, New York. Peter (Bud) Zaccaro, a former member of the late John Gotti’s crew, who is already in federal custody on racketeering charges, was charged as the alleged ringleader of the grow room op. His brother-in-law Michael Lezamiz, 34, an engineer, was freed on $5 million dollars bail. According to Brooklyn US Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf, “This brazen crew of drug dealers was growing thousands of pounds of marijuana, worth millions of dollars.” According to Lezamiz’s wife Viviana, "that money for growing the marijuana was used as 'a little something to help with the bills.'"
It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.