Reefer Madness: Top 10 joints

Reefer Madness: Top 10 joints
Illustration By Doug Potter

1) Record Madness: According to FBI statistics released in September, arrests for marijuana possession reached a record high in 2005, with nearly 800,000 pot-related busts nationwide. The majority – 88% – were for simple possession only; the remaining arrestees, just more than 90,000, were charged with sale and/or manufacturing, a category that includes folks busted for growing medi-pot in compliance with state law. Now that's an effective use of law-enforcement resources.

2) Arrest That Ditchweed!: More than 98% of all pot seized by cops under the DEA-funded Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program in 2006 was actually "volunteer" hemp – industrial hemp plants growing wild, an ongoing testament to the nonnarcotic plant's hardiness – and not cultivated, smokeable pot, according to DEA statistics released in September. Now that's an even better use of law-enforcement resources.

3) Rush to Hypocrisy: After years of calling drug users losers and worse, bombastic radio boob Rush Limbaugh in May cut a sweetheart deal with Florida prosecutors after being charged with "doctor shopping" to obtain overlapping prescriptions for his OxyContin habit. Averting prison for his abuse of hillbilly heroin, in July Limbaugh got popped again, this time for carrying a bottle of Viagra not prescribed to him. Never fear – the Viagra offense didn't derail Limbaugh's deal to avoid prison time on the OxyContin charge.

4) Mixed Returns: Three statewide pot-law reform initiatives – including a Nevada proposal to legalize, tax, and regulate pot use and possession by adults – tanked at the polls. Local initiatives in 10 cities – measures making police enforcement of most pot-law offenses the lowest priority – sailed through to passage.

5) Bust the Patients!: For the fourth year in a row, the U.S. House of Representatives in July voted down a measure to prevent the U.S. Department of Justice from spending taxpayer money to raid, arrest, and prosecute ill people using medi-pot in compliance with state laws. The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment – a bipartisan measure attached to the annual DOJ appropriations bill, was defeated 163-289. With Dems taking control of the House, 2007 may be the year of federal medi-pot reform.

6) Find Your Local Dealer: U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., in September proposed creating a national online drug-dealer registry that would require all individuals convicted of drug-related crimes to register their names, addresses, employers, Social Security numbers, and other identifying information. At year-end, the proposal – call it the Scarlet "D" – was happily gathering dust.

7) Hemp Comes Home: After 10 years of planning, North Dakota lawmakers enacted a state law legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp by state farmers. The move puts the state on a direct collision course with the DEA, which has the power to approve, deny, or simply ignore any individual farmer's request for permission to cultivate the crop – meaning this will likely be the Reefer Story to Watch in 2007.

8) Yanquis Cancel Mexican Liberalization: Under pressure from U.S. drug warriors, former Mexican President Vicente Fox last summer withdrew support for legalizing possession of small amounts of drugs – including pot, cocaine, and heroin. The measure was designed as a way to free up law-enforcement resources, taking the focus off small-time drug users and onto the drug cartels, whose narco-battles are implicated in the increased violence in border towns like Nuevo Laredo.

9) Please Drink the Tea: The U.S. Supreme Court in February unanimously cleared the way for the small New Mexico-based sect of the Brazilian church O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal to continue its sacramental use of the hallucinogenic ayahuasca tea. Feds claimed church possession of the tea violated the Controlled Substances Act. The church – led by Seagram's whiskey heir Jeffrey Bronfman – claimed religious freedom, and the Supremes agreed.

10) FDA's Bad Smoke: This spring the FDA got caught with some bad smoke after issuing an advisory to remind folks that marijuana has no medical value and that any suggestion of medicinal use is a cruel hoax – conveniently omitting any mention of a 1999 government-commissioned Institute of Medicine report concluding otherwise. When the IOM scientists noted the oversight, the advisory quickly and quietly disappeared.

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