Reefer Roundup 2/11/11

Your roundup of drug war news

Good job, Killer
Good job, Killer

This week we've got news of a big APD bust, human handlers affecting the work of drug-scent dogs, a proposed bath salt ban, the DPS warns against travel in Mexico, most people favor marijuana, and more!

APD BUSTS THE SYNDICATE?

According to the Austin Police Department, 11 members of the violent prison gang, the Texas Syndicate, have been arrested in Austin, Laredo, and Brownsville after a yearlong investigation, known as Operation Blue Ice.

During the investigation, police learned that the Syndicate has been using Austin for its "highest volume" drug trafficking, and officials ultimately seized "multiple pounds" of methamphetamine and roughly a half-ton of marijuana.

The operation was undertaken by the Austin are High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, which includes the APD, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Travis Co. Sheriff's Office. Austin was named a HIDTA last year, a designation that frees up resources to combat drug trafficking. According to the APD, the Syndicate is a customer of Mexico's Gulf Cartel – a relationship that should mean access to additional federal resources to combat trafficking activities.

SPEAKING OF MEXICAN DRUG-RUNNING:

The Department of Public Safety has issued another travel warning for Mexico, warning Texans that violence in Northern Mexico makes traveling there not the best idea. "We know that many of our Winter Texans enjoy traveling to Mexico, but they should understand that we cannot guarantee their safety after they cross the border," DPS Director Steven C. McCraw said in a press release. "If violence does occur, we cannot guarantee that anyone will be brought to justice for those acts."

Indeed, there have been several high profile incident since last fall: Last month Texas missionary Nancy Shuman Davis was killed when she and her husband tried to flee from a group of men running a road block in Northern Mexico; the men opened fire on the couple and shot Davis in the head. American David Hartley was killed in a shooting incident on Falcon Lake involving a band of Mexican "pirates" – a murder that has not yet been solved. DPS also notes that a UT-Brownsville student was killed in a cross-border incident in October; and last weekend a U.S. teen was killed in Juarez during a shooting at a car dealership.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, violence related to the drug war in Mexico has claimed 34, 612 lives.

SEE SPOT SMELL?

According to a new study in the journal Animal Cognition, drug-sniffing dogs are influenced by whether their police handlers believe that drugs will be found. "Human more than dog influences affected alert locations," reads the study abstract. "This confirms that handler beliefs affect outcomes of scent detection dog deployments." According to the study, the dogs alerted falsely 225 times during the study – false alerts that happened most often when their police handlers believed there would be contraband present at the questioned location.

"It isn't just about how sensitive a dog's nose is or how well-trained a dog is," Lisa Lit, a postdoctoral fellow in the University of California at Davis' Dept. of Neurology who is the study's lead author, said in a press release. "There are cognitive factors affecting the interaction between a dog and a handler that can impact the dog's performance."

BATH SALT BAN:

When last we met, Reefer Roundup reported on the new fad of snorting the so-called "bath salts." Apparently it hasn't taken long for lawmakers to decide the time is now for a bath-salt ban.

Join Together is reporting that already this year 251 calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers about bath-salt ingestion; in 2010, a total of 236 such calls were received. The drug, sold under names including "Ivory Wave," has prompted drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, head of the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy to issue a nationwide warning: "The pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of young people and anyone who uses them," he said.

Indeed, the bath salt uproar has prompted New York Dem Sen. Charles Schumer to propose a nationwide ban on the sale of the products – a move that mirrors similar state-led efforts in Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, and Utah.

MOST FAVOR MARIJUANA:

Friends of Reefer Madness over at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition alerted us to this news from The Economist magazine: "A huge majority of Americans…support the legalization and taxation of marijuana." That's right, in a new poll from the magazine, nearly 70% in the 18-29 cohort, nearly 60% of the 30-64 cohort and more than 40% of the 65+ers – the age group that, historically, has been less likely to say they are in favor of such things – all now favor legalization.

The results of the poll are nothing to sneer at, especially when you consider some of the other things these folks said they approved of – like giving the death penalty to first-time offenders. Yikes. You can find the complete poll results here.

MORE MONEY EQUALS MORE BOOZING?

According to the latest Centers for Disease Control report on health inequalities in the U.S., more than half of the alcohol consumption by adults is actually binge drinking – which is four or more drinks in a single setting at least once a month. And, as it turns out, there is a correlation between binge drinking and income – the more you make, says the CDC, the more likely you are to binge drink.

Bottoms up!

EVERGREEN STATE WANTS TO REGULATE THE GREEN:

Washington lawmakers this week are considering a bill that would legalize and tax-and-regulate marijuana growing and use in the Evergreen State. This is a perennial favorite in the Pacific Northwest, but this time, with state budgets being what they are, lawmakers are hitting hard the idea that the measure could bring hundreds of millions to the state's coffers.

And it seems this sort of bill may be the start of a trend: According to NORML, similar bills are expected to be filed this year in Massachusetts and California.

Meanwhile, NORML is also reporting that the Montana House of Reps has now voted 63-37 to overturn the voter approved medi-pot law that passed six years ago. Apparently the decision to approve House Bill 161 is related to a claim that the medi-pot law has led to more teen pot use – a dubious claim at best.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Marijuana, drug war, Reefer Madness, Reefer Roundup, LEAP, NORML, drug sniffing dogs, drug-scent dogs, medi-pot, bath salts, Charles Schumer, HIDTA, APD, Texas Syndicate, drug cartels

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