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Police Chief Stan Knee
Police Chief Stan Knee (Photo By John Anderson)

Top 10 Drug War Moments

1) Ashcroft Busts Chong: In February, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft gleefully announced that his drug warriors busted 50 individuals, including pot-comedy icon Tommy Chong, as part of a Justice Department-led undercover drug paraphernalia trafficking operation code-named Operation Pipe Dreams. It seems that although Chong's Internet-based hand-blown-glass bong company had refused several previous attempts by Ashcroft's crusaders to have a bong shipped to paraphernalia-intolerant Pennsylvania, someone at company HQ inadvertently shipped an autographed bong to an assistant U.S. attorney. Chong was sentenced to nine months in federal prison.

2) RAVE On: In April, federal lawmakers finally passed the so-called Reducing Americans Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act -- but not until they'd changed its name to the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act and hidden it inside a fuzzy-bunny catchall bill that provided money for things like a national Amber Alert system. The act enhances the so-called "crack house" statutes and makes any venue owner responsible for any drug activity by any person on the property, providing for both civil and criminal penalties.

3) Please Eat the Hemp: The Drug Enforcement Administration's attempt to ban all food products containing hemp seed or hemp oil suffered a major setback. The DEA attempted to ban such foods because they contain trace amounts of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and theoretically should be illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. It doesn't appear that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will buy that argument -- especially since the DEA has not sought similar enforcement of items containing poppy seeds, which have a much higher opiate concentration.

4) Decriminalization Touchdown: State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, filed the Lege's one and only drug decriminalization bill this year with HB 715, which would've decriminalized possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana. The bill didn't go anywhere, but Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, did put it up for committee testimony. We'd hate to think that had anything to do with the fact that the head of Texas' chapter of NORML, ex-Dallas Cowboy Mark Stepnoski, was there to testify in favor of the bill.

5) Free at Last: After three years in jail -- and at least two years of really bad national press attention -- state officials finally figured out a way to free most of the remaining (and innocent) Tulia drug bust defendants.

6) Paul Likes States Rights: This spring, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, signed on to the bipartisan States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act, which would reschedule marijuana to allow for legal use of the drug by seriously ill patients. While the bill has been filed before, and has yet to make it to committee, the measure continues to attract more supporters of both parties.

7) Medical Marijuana Wins: In December, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with two seriously ill California medical marijuana patients, agreeing that the federal government likely violated the Constitution in attempting to seize their marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Since the two grow their own pot for personal medical use, they claimed the feds had no right to impose the CSA's provisions.

8) Hatch Terrorizes Good Sense: This fall, ABC News snagged a draft bill authored by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, which seeks to define the crime of "narcoterrorism" and offers prosecutors the ability to prosecute any and all drug-related crimes as terrorist acts. We don't know what Hatch has been smoking, but we sure don't want any.

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