One War or Another: It's Bongs Over Baghdad

One War or Another: It's Bongs Over Baghdad
Posted by CN Staff on March 01, 2003 at 23:19:30 PT
By Ben Rayner
Source: Toronto Star 
It must have been heartening for every American bunkered down behind duct-taped doors and windows, nervously awaiting a smallpox outbreak or mustard-gas attack, to see their federal authorities could still find time away from the arduous task of combating international terrorism last week to fight a new bogeyman: the bong.The War on Drugs needs a little sexing up for the public eye every so often, something to distract the populace from the fact that it's been a dismal failure from the perspective of everyone but the thriving U.S. prison industry. 
When the War on Terror threatened to steal what was left of its flagging thunder, for instance, anti-drug forces responded by linking the two and warning narcotics consumers that the money they spend on recreational pharmaceuticals could potentially be trickling back into the hands of terrorist organizations. "If you get high, kids, the terrorists win," was the message  coming, rather unfairly, at a time when a lot of fearful people are feeling an uncommonly strong urge to do just that. Drug users were no longer just immoral human beings and criminals to be pitied and incarcerated en masse. No, the stoners were bringing the country down from within. Now, in what can only be seen as a rather wobbly attempt to save face in a long, losing battle, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is crying "victory" in a whole new conflict spun off from the War on Drugs, one we'll dub the War on Drug Paraphernalia.The DEA made a proud announcement this past week that it had snared 55 individuals in countrywide raids on businesses allegedly manufacturing, importing and selling bongs, pipes, scales and other varieties of "illegal drug paraphernalia." Amidst all the "that's one for the good guys" back-slapping and alarmist rhetoric emanating from the various law-enforcement agencies involved, however, there was no mention of anything being done to physically curb the actual drug trade that enables the paraphernalia business to take in an estimated $50 million (U.S.) in the States annually.At the end of the day, "Operation Pipe Dreams," as the crackdown was creatively named, did nothing more than screw up the lives and livelihoods of several dozen entrepreneurs and provide the authorities with an elaborate media stunt to disguise the fact that they're not doing their real job. Inventing a problem is always a handy political tool for manipulating public opinion and diverting attention from the numerous things you're not doing. We've seen the same tactic at work here in Toronto numerous times  when former Ontario education minister John Snobelen got caught musing about "creating a crisis" to ram the Harris government's school reforms through the provincial Legislature, for example, or when the Toronto police force made somewhat spurious claims about seizing guns at raves three years ago to exaggerate the (virtually non-existent) dangers of the after-hours party scene and hasten a clampdown. America must be resting a little easier tonight, now that it's dealt with all those Graffix bongs, tiny coke spoons and crack pipes  the latter's not a hot seller, I suspect, since committed crackheads are more likely to shoplift a pipe or crudely fashion one from a discarded can than they are to walk into a head shop and say, "Hello, might I have a look at your selection of crack pipes, please?" What a crippling blow to the drug trade. Surely the demand for marijuana and blow will dry up now that no one has any means of ingesting them. This War on Drugs is winnable, after all!"People selling drug paraphernalia are in essence no different from drug dealers," was DEA chief John Brown's ludicrous statement to the press. "They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide."No different from drug dealers, that is, except they don't deal drugs. And, if we're to be picky about the structure of Brown's second statement, wouldn't it be more accurate to relate dealers of drug paraphernalia to those who supply murderers with the "paraphernalia" of criminal homicide  gun dealers, let's say  rather than silencers? A silencer is more akin to a roach clip or a glass bowl for a bong; it's an accessory, a tool of the trade. But, I suppose, following logic on this matter might imply some justification for an America-wide crackdown on weapons manufacturers, distributors and retailers, and that's not coming anytime soon.As usual, puritanical U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft found a way to foment middle-class panic by noting that a dozen of the businesses raided were Internet operations that "in some cases" had been targeting "young people" with their products (smart business, really, since young people tend to do the most drugs). "The illegal drug-paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge," he cautioned, employing the same sort of broadly generalized non-reasoning favoured by his colleagues in the DEA. One would think, after all, that anyone ordering a freebase kit from an online retailer is well aware that the illegal drug-paraphernalia industry has "invaded"  or, rather, been invited into  his or her home.The Internet angle is nevertheless a convenient, subtle way of implying a need for stricter monitoring of cyberspace, which  if we're to believe the news  is already a minefield of perverts, child pornographers and con artists preying on our "young people." And, as we all know, governments these days are all hot and bothered about monitoring everything and everyone. For the greater good, of course.It's all  to use a vaguely drug-related idiom  smoke and mirrors, an empty triumph of law and order over a symptomatic "evil" that wouldn't exist had a much larger problem been dealt with sanely and efficiently in the first place. Create a crisis and proclaim yourself a hero, while changing nothing. If I weren't already so tired of talking about the States, I'd say that sounds awfully familiar.Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)Author: Ben RaynerPublished: March 2, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Toronto Star Contact: lettertoed Website: Related Articles:The Latest Drug War is Just Smoke and Mirrors Touting More Nonterror Cases Shop Crackdown Smokes Out The Little Guy
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on March 04, 2003 at 10:06:37 PT
News Article from Snipped Source
New Front is Opened in War on Drugs John Caniglia, Plain Dealer ReporterPublished: March 4, 2003Anthony Yanow and his competitors have made a billion dollars off of bongs, investigators say. And the government wants their fortunes. Federal prosecutors have opened a new front in the federal war on drugs: paraphernalia. Using a fake company based in Cleveland, they targeted a warehouse in California that they said supplied "head shops" across the country with such devices as bongs, water pipes used to smoke marijuana. Greater Cleveland has about a dozen such shops. The government last week accused Yanow of conspiracy to sell drug paraphernalia from his warehouse through the use of scores of catalogs and a Web site to lure retailers into buying pipes and cigarette rolling papers by the trunkload. Snipped:Complete Article:
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Comment #4 posted by cannabinol on March 04, 2003 at 06:25:40 PT:
top 50 cannabis consumption worldwide: USA 15th!
The following table shows you the : Annual prevelance of abuse of the population aged 15 and above. The figures are the results of a UN research project. The total of marijuana smokers worldwide is 147 million, according to this report.Top 50 Countries in Cannabis Consumption, worldwide.1. Papua New Guinea   29.5%
2. Micronesia Fed. State 29.1%
3. Ghana              21.5%
4. St.Vincent Grenadines 18.6%
5. South Africa         18.4%
6. New Zealand        18%
7. Australia            17.9%
8. Sierra Leone         16.1%
9. Zambia             15%
10.Nigeria             14.4% 
11.Ireland              9.4%
11.United Kingdom      9.4%
13.El Salvador          9.2%
14.Canada             8.9% 
15.USA               8.3%
16.Mali               7.8%
17.France              7.4%
17.Morocco            7.4%
19.Mauritius           7%
19.Switserland         7%
19.Spain              7%
22.Dominican Rep.      6.9%
22.Zimbabwe          6.9%
24.Germany            6%
24.Iceland             6%
24.Italy               6%
27.Honduras           5.9%
28.Brazil              5.8%
29.Chile               5.7%
30.Colombia           5.6%
31.Belgium            5.5%
32.Egypt              5.2%
33.Austria             5%
34.Chzech Rep.         4.8%
35.Slovenia            4.4%
35.Denmark           4.4%
35.Greece             4.4%
38.Iran               4.2%
39.The Netherlands     4.1%
40.Kenya             4%
40.Luxembourg        4%
40.San Marino         4%
43.Namibia           3.9%
43.Croatia            3.9%
45.Norway            3.8%
45.RussianFed.        3.8%
47.Argentina          3.7%
47.Portugal            3.7%
49.Ukraine            3.6%
49.Phillipines          3.6%Source: United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime. Netherlands are heavily criticised for having cannabis available through coffeeshops, all other countries do not have any regulated outlets. The UN recently addressed the Netherlands, to complain about the Tolerance system and the coffeeshops, because the coffeeshops are visible and easy to address. The UN did not address any of the other countries on this list about their availability and use of cannabis. The UN can stuff its comments, for all I care.Nol van Schaik.
Willie Wortel's cannabis outlets.
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Comment #3 posted by 312 on March 02, 2003 at 21:36:34 PT
Ban fruit
Check out you'll see an excellent step by step demonstration on how to use fruit for smoking.All greengrocers should be locked up!
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Comment #2 posted by WolfgangWylde on March 02, 2003 at 06:23:16 PT
One positive effect...
...of Ashcroft's seemingly endless obsession with marijuana (I'm guessing a stoner stole his girlfriend in college) is that it makes the U.S. look even more ridiculous to other countries. Anything that highlights the idiocy of U.S. policy is bound to make other countries, particularly Canada, more receptive to other approaches. 
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Comment #1 posted by Virgil on March 02, 2003 at 05:55:35 PT
Statement from NORML Montana
John Masterson - Director of Montana NORML sent out the following e-mail regarding this vote, and discusses the next steps in the process of making medical marijuana accessable to suffering Montana residents. So, the Montana Clinical Cannabis Act didn't pass in the 2003 session. Nobody thought it really would until we convinced the Judiciary Committee by such a powerful margin (13-5). Now people are asking, 'what's next?'First of all, it's OK that this bill didn't pass. It would have been nice if it did, but bear in mind that even on a successful House vote, next step would be the Senate, and then Governor Martz. It's questionable whether it'd have cleared those hurdles. And, don't forget the real value to getting this issue into the hearts and minds (and televisions and newspapers) of legislators and the public.Some have suggested an immediate signature drive to get this through via citizens' initiative. This is what we will likely do, but not yet. There are a couple of bills still pending in Helena which alter the requirements for initiatives. So, it'd be wise to sit tight for a couple months and see how those pan out. Once we know the new rules, we can begin laying the groundwork for a 2004 statewide initiative. If we can get it on the ballot (which takes time, work, and $$), it will very likely pass.In the short term, we are continuing to research the feasibility of a Missoula County deprioritization initiative in 2003. This would instruct law enforcement officials to make small cannabis crimes their lowest possible priority. This strategy is being used in a number of local cities and counties nationwide. More news on this effort soon. So, don't give up hope. The rejection of the Clinical Cannabis Act was expected - a 40% supporting vote is nothing to sneeze at. And (hint hint) this is an excellent opportunity for all of us to write a letter to the editor of our local papers, expressing our dismay that despite the supporting science and supporting citizens, 60 representatives refused to protect gravely ill patients from the threat of arrest and prison.-- 
John Masterson - john
Montana NORML
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