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Parker: Congress and DEA Should Legalize Hemp

Ross Parker

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
Among the many varieties of weeds on my father’s Southwest Iowa farm in the 1950s and 60s was the hemp weed. Dad called it “ditch weed’ because that was where it mainly grew, along with in fence rows and sometimes in our cornfields. My brothers and I hated ditch weed because the plants grew to a considerable height if you didn’t keep it mowed or cut down, and they had extensive root systems which made it difficult to pull out of the ground.

Little did we know that these Cannabis Sativa L plants were cousins to a variety that would swamp the country, defy law enforcement for the next half century, and become the root cause of countless murders and violent crimes and the most widely used illegal drug in the world.

Awhile back, this column weighed the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana. The conclusion was that the unknown medical effects and health dangers of continued usage of today’s marijuana with its greatly increased THC content as well as the potential for escalated use particularly by America’s youth made legalization a bad idea. Some readers probably doubted the conclusion’s objectivity coming from a career drug prosecutor but that’s what I continue to think.

The continued prohibition of hemp cultivation and manufacturing, however, poses an entirely different set of questions.

The hemp plant has a long and storied history. It was used in the Neolithic Age in China to make paper more than 10,000 years ago. Its hardy nature and versatility spread its cultivation until it became one of the most produced agricultural plants in the world.

Its uses ranged widely from ropes on ships, clothing, food, and dozens of other products. It is claimed that Columbus’s ships’ riggings, the Gutenberg Bible, the paper on which the Declaration of Independence was written, and the first American flag were all made of hemp products. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were hemp farmers.

During World War II hemp was used to make uniforms and for other military products. The government considered it so important to the war effort that it produced a film entitled “Hemp for Victory” in 1942. Some irony there.

Hemp’s industrial future crashed in 1970 by its inclusion with marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance which was illegal to grow, sell or possess. Its close relationship to marijuana plants and the possibility of its use as a recreational drug perhaps made that a not unreasonable policy decision at the time.

There was limited scientific understanding of the psychoactivity of Cannabis varieties in 1970 and, even if that had been known, the difference of THC content between the two was not as dramatic as it is today. Ann Arbor pot dealers, when confronted with a dearth of product to sell to University of Michigan students were known to travel to Iowa, cut up some ditch weed, bag it up and sell it to eager consumers. Considering the low THC content, they would have had to share some monster joints for many hours on the Quad to get high. But they still bought it.

Today hemp weed still averages about ½% THC, not enough to produce a psychoactive effect. Although marijuana plants averaged about 1% in the 1970s, they can easily exceed 20% today. Plus hemp contains cannabidiol which some scientists believe has an opposing effect both pharmacologically and behaviorally to THC. But these were unknowns in 1970.

Whether it was a reasonable policy at the time to prohibit the production of hemp I will leave to others to debate. Perhaps today’s retrospective analysis of hemp’s aborted future is exaggerated. Maybe hemp’s day was essentially done, and it would have had limited impact in a more complex world of synthetics and agri-business.

Read more »

Murder, Racketeering Trial of ‘Whitey’ Bulger Begins Second Day of Deliberations

 

Whitey Bulger/fbi

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Jurors in the murder and racketeering trial of suspected mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger will deliberate for the second day after both sides delivered their closing remarks Monday, the Boston Globe reports.

Bulger is charged with participating in 19 murders and wreaking havoc in Boston as the former leader of the Winter Hill Gang. He faces dozens of charges.

Deliberations ended for the day Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. and are expected to pick back up this morning.

Families of the victims didn’t stray far from the courtroom so they don’t miss the verdict being read.

“I feel relaxed, at ease with it, that it’s at the end and we’re here,” Steve Davis, whose 26-year-old sister Debra Davis was allegedly strangled by Bulger in 1981, told the Globe. “But it’s going to be nail-biting, jaw-crunching stress waiting for them to come back and wondering what they’re going to come back with.”

FBI Is Spying on Terrorism and Child Porn Suspects by Hacking Computers

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The FBI is in the business of hacking computers.

Kind of. NBC reports that the FBI is installing malware and spyware on computers belonging to suspected terrorists or pedophiles, which allows agents to send a virus or other malware to spy on the suspects.

The hacking is so sophisticated that the FBI can switch on the webcam without the user ever knowing it, privacy activists said.

“In the last few years the FBI has created a team that has solely focused on delivering what we call malware — viruses and worms — to people’s computers to get control of them,” Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, told NBC News.

The FBI declined to comment for the story.

Justice Department Files First Charges in Attack on U.S. Consulate in Benghazi

 

Rep. Issa/gov photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Nearly a year after protesters barged into the U.S. consulate in Benghazi , Libya, and killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, the Justice Department filed the first criminal charges in the case, the Washington Post reports

According to numerous reports, the Justice Department filed an unspecified number of counts in the September 2012 attack on the consulate.

“The department’s investigation is ongoing. It has been, and remains, a top priority,” said Justice Department spokesman Andrew C. Ames, who declined to comment further.

Details remain unclear, but members of Congress are pressing the administration for more than charges.

“Osama bin Laden had been criminally charged long before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but was not apprehended,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement. “Delays in apprehending the suspected Benghazi killers,” Issa added, “will only put American lives at further and needless risk.”

Deliberations Reach Second Day in Discrimination Suit Involving Missing Arm

Justin Slaby

 
Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Jurors may decide as early as today whether Army Ranger Justin Slaby, who had his arm blown off, was unfairly denied a job with the FBI because of his prosthetic arm, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Deliberations of the eight-person jury began Tuesday.

Slaby, 30, says he was fired after the FBI discovered he had a prosthetic arm.

In the trial, the FBI’s attorneys contended Slaby’s prosthetic arm was a hindrance.

Slaby said he performed well on the tests and was unfairly discriminated against.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST


Racketeering, Murder Trial of Accused Mobster ‘Whitey’ Bulger Goes to Deliberations Today

 

Updated Bulger photo/wbur

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A jury will begin deliberating today in the nearly month-long racketeering and murder trial against suspected mobster James “Whitey” Bulger after both sides delivered extensive closing arguments Monday, CNN reports.

Bulger, who is accused of participating in 19 murders as the head of the former Winter Hill Gang, was called one of the most “vicious, violent and calculating criminals to ever walk the streets of Boston” by the prosecution Monday.

Defense attorney J.W. Carney questioned the credibility of many of the witnesses, pointing out that some have extensive criminal backgrounds.

“If you cannot say in your deliberation that I personally can believe (prosecution witnesses) beyond a reasonable doubt, then the government cannot prove its case about the alleged murders,” Carney told the jury.

The trial has been marked with colorful testimony and occasional outbursts from Bulger.

Chechen Father Arrives in U.S. to Sue FBI Over Death of His Son in Orlando

 Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The father of the Chechen man killed during an FBI interview at his home in Florida is suing the bureau for the wrongful death of his 27-year-old son, Time reports.

Abdulbaki Todashev, who lives in Chechnya, arrived in Tampa Monday to begin filing the suit with the help of the ACLU.

Todashev’s son, Ibragim, was killed while being interrogated by the FBI on May 22.

The son was being interrogated about his ties to one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect when he was killed.

The FBI has refused to say what happened.

“He was shot seven times,” his father told Time. “In the heart and in the head. What is that if not murder?”

Jury to Decide Whether Prosthetic Hand Made Man Unfit for FBI in Discrimination Suit

Justin Slaby

 
Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Was a former Army Ranger who had his hand blown off in a training accident unsuitable for the FBI?

A jury is expected to make that decision today in the discrimination case filed by Justin Slaby, who said he was ejected from an FBI training academy after authorities learned he had a prosthetic arm, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Slaby attempted to show in court that his disabled hand was as capable to fire a weapon and perform other duties as a real hand.

FBI instructors and trainers said Slaby was unable to safely fire a gun, a claim that Slaby denies.

Slaby said after the trial that he’s remaining strong.

“I have no emotions or feelings right now, I’m just kind of focused,” he told a reporter. “I’ve been continually thinking that it’s amazing this had to come this far. It didn’t need to happen.”