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Bunker busted: £1mn worth of pot snatched by cops in nuclear bunker-turned-giant cannabis plantation
The small Latin American nation of Uruguay has taken the brave step of becoming the first country in the world to fully legalize marijuana, one of the several progressive policies being undertaken by the left-of-center government of President José Mujica. The former Marxist and guerilla revolutionary spent more than a decade in jail prior to his release in 1985, and he later climbed his way up the political ladder from an elected deputy to president in 2009. Known for maintaining a frugal lifestyle and a preference for giving most of his monthly salary to charities that benefit the poor, Mujica has overseen the legalization of gay marriage, abortion, and now marijuana. Uruguay has become perhaps the region’s most socially liberal country, and the state’s decision to regulate the sale of marijuana – a de facto nationalization – will allow it to tinker with policies that can be emulated elsewhere if proven successful.
The new legislation would make marijuana commercially available to adult citizens after registering in a government database; users will be able to purchase 40 grams of marijuana from pharmacies every month and cultivate up to six plants on their property. The government aims to make marijuana available for one dollar per gram, with the aim of undercutting the black market rate of $1.40 per gram. Uruguay is estimated to have some 120,000 to 200,000 daily-to-occasional cannabis users, and the rationale behind the policy is that instead of these users getting their marijuana from traffickers and local mafia groups, the sensible alternative is to rein in the $40 million domestic industry by legitimizing it and offering a good quality product which can be regulated and offered in a safe environment.
Cannabis is a healing plant and can even assist in healing cancer if we let it.
March 21, 2013 |
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Editor’s note: Michelle Aldrich, 66, has been working for marijuana legalization —which she defines as “the right to grow it for free in your backyard”— for most of her life. She and her husband Michael live in a comfortable old apartment near the San Francisco Marina which they moved into 40 years ago. The following is adapted from a talk Michelle gave in July 2012 to the Women’s Visionary Congress.
I had smoked cannabis since 1967 but early in 2011 I kept saying I could not get high. I was smoking a lot. I now believe that THC was going to the tumor and lymph nodes, which is why the cancer did not spread more than it had.
On November 15, 2011, I was supposed to have lunch with Diane Fornbacher from the NORML Women’s Alliance. I was too sick to go. I felt like I had the flu.
That week I got a call from Linda Ward, who is now my therapist. I had been looking for a new therapist since 2009, when I got off all the meds that I had been taking for 20 years for depression —Prozac, Lamictal, and Trazadone. Rick Doblin [director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies] found Linda for me just when I really needed to talk to someone. The start of synchronicity.
I felt well enough to go see the doctor on November 22. It was my first visit with a physician’s assistant named Sally Holland. The first thing I told her was that I smoked marijuana. She asked if I vaporized? I told her I didn’t. Then I said my husband and I got the lifetime achievement award from High Times Magazine last June. Her response was that her brother was the general counsel for High Times. I knew at that point that Sally and I would get along and I could trust her and didn’t have to educate her about cannabis. Lovely...
Sally said that I had bronchitis, which I usually get at least once a year. She asked when was the last time I had a chest x-ray. I said a long time. She sent me for a chest x-ray and gave me antibiotics. The next day Sally called to tell me I had pneumonia.
I saw Sally again on November 30 for a follow-up. I was still sick and was given more antibiotics. Sally informed me that the x-ray showed a growth on my right lung, which would need to be checked out. My first response was “cut it out” if it was so small. I wanted to be aggressive. I saw Sally again on December 9. She sent me for lab work and said the doctor wanted to see me.
On December 21, I saw Gary Feldman, MD, my primary care physician, who gave me a thorough workup. I told Gary about the heat I had felt in the middle of my chest for almost a year. The tumor and lymph nodes were right on my heart chakra. He sent me for a CT scan on December 23.
The CT scan showed that the tumor on my lung measured 23 x 28 millimeters. [25.4 millimeters = one inch.] There was also a growth on my left kidney.
On January 4th, 2012, I had another CT scan to evaluate the growth they had found on my kidney.
On January 5th I had an echocardiogram, a procedure using ultrasound to show a two-dimensional picture of the heart.
On January 6th I had a CT fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the lung. Tissue was taken for analysis in a lab.
Denver Post Revolts Against Its Vulture Hedge-Fund Owner and Demands 126-Year-Old Newspaper Be Saved
Kansas lawmaker ‘regrets’ saying African-Americans ‘respond the worst’ to marijuana due to genetics —...
Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News – The first country to defy the ‘War on Drugs’ by legalizing marijuana is Uruguay. It was described as a revolutionary act against the prohibition of a plant that is used by millions worldwide under the former Marxist guerilla and political prisoner who is now the President of Uruguay Jose Mujica. Seems like the Mujica government is allowing Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont among others to operate in Uruguay and harvest marijuana through their GMO-based seeds. Details of how the new marijuana laws will operate by monitoring the population through a database that would collect fingerprints and other parts of your body to assure you are using government controlled “Genetically Modified Marijuana”.
Last December the Associated Press reported on Uruguay’s decision to move forward to experiment on legalized marijuana to undermine illegal drug trafficking and crime in an article titled ‘From Seed to Smoke, Uruguay Testing Legalized Pot.’ The report stated what the Mujica government’s intentions were concerning the legalization of marijuana:
President Jose Mujica’s goal is to drive drug traffickers out of the dope business and reduce consumption by creating a safe, legal and transparent environment in which the state closely monitors every aspect of marijuana use, from seed to smoke. That means designing and maintaining an industry that is small, contained and profitable. Congress only approved Mujica’s grand “experiment” in broad strokes.
The fine print must strike a delicate balance on issues including what strength to allow for marijuana, what price to charge, who can farm it, how to crack down on illegal growers, how to persuade users to buy from the state instead of a dealer, and how to monitor use without being seen as Big Brother. If the rules are too lenient, or too strict, the whole project could fail
The report also quoted Uruguayan Senator Lucia Topolansk (President Mujica’s wife) when she said that “the state would provide cloned seeds whose plants can be traced.” It should not surprise anyone, especially those who understand what corporations such as Monsanto are trying to achieve on a global scale. Mainstream media outlet CNBC reported in 2010 that “most large agribusiness producers and distributors wouldn’t comment on any marijuana cultivation plans while it’s still largely illegal.” Now, Uruguay is fair game since they passed legislation to legalize marijuana. Although they did say that “seed and agri-chemical maker Monsanto isn’t focused on it, says spokesman Darren Wallis, adding that even if that changed tomorrow, development of a mass-scale crop takes time.” Yes, it does take time to produce. CNBC also did say that “other big food and agricultural firms would not comment, saying the proposition was too hypothetical or inappropriate given the largely illegal current status of the drug.” Well, it is not hypothetical anymore since Uruguay passed laws to legalize marijuana cultivation and use. It is now a reality for biotech corporations to move forward with genetic manipulation of the crop because now they have an incentive to dominate the marijuana industry starting with Uruguay. An interesting analysis by www.cannabisculture.com titled ‘Manipulating Marijuana: Monsanto and Syngenta Invest in RNA Interference Technology’ by Tracy Giesz-Ramsay on Monsanto and Syngenta’s investments in RNA Interference (RNAi) technology and what it means for the production of Marijuana in the future. Giesz-Ramsey wrote the following:
Having been cultivated and used ceremonially, recreationally and medicinally for thousands of years, cannabis – despite prohibitive laws surrounding the non-medicinal use of the plant – is undoubtedly on the radar of big agribusiness.
These companies would certainly turn a profit from developing a patentable transgenic seed for sole distribution if the use of cannabis were to become legal. It would be easy for these companies to create a monopoly over the industry by abusing their ties with federal regulators. This has all been a point of much debate within the cannabis community for many years.
With this in mind, it’s fair to say that one of the only positives of marijuana prohibition, with the art of breeding, growing and distributing cannabis heavily underground for most of its commercial history, the Big 6 seed and chemical companies have not been able to dominate the industry with their patented technologies.
The trouble: things may change soon. Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF, Bayer, Dow and DuPont have, until recently, largely focused their energy on monopolizing the food industry, but some have developed a keen interest in this still-illegal plant as well.
The biggest concern with cannabis and GM control now remains. While they gain a monopoly over medical marijuana, the challenge of governments who continue to wage the ostensible “War on Drugs” is being taken on by some of the Big 6. Monsanto and Syngenta are currently investing millions of dollars into a new GM technology called RNA interference.
RNAi, as it’s also known, is a method where the RNA – which is the code from a plant or animal’s DNA that tells its proteins how to organize in order to create, say, what colour the plant will be – is interfered with. In RNAi, double-stranded RNA is inserted so that this original code is obstructed; so that the pigmentation instructions don’t make it to the proteins
As we already know about Monsanto’s GMO seeds, they are genetically modified plants that are resistant to chemical herbicides such as “Round-Up.” The herbicides kill other plants, allowing genetically altered plants to resist the herbicide and be planted closer together than traditional crops normally used by farmers. It apparently allows farmers to gain more from crop production on their farmland than ever before. The seeds are known as “Round-Up Ready.” Farmers are required to purchase the GMO-laced seeds every season once they agree to use the product. Uruguay is falling into a danger zone when it comes to planting GMO seeds in the agricultural-rich country. It can affect natural food crops in the long-run as Monsanto and other agri-businesses would eventually expand into other areas of food production.
With Uruguay’s decision to allow multi-national biotech corporations to operate on its lands, it also opens the door to a police state monitoring its citizens who will use “cloned” marijuana as reported by RT news earlier this month in a report titled “Uruguay rolls out marijuana legal sale details.” It described Uruguay’s methods:
Police will be able to carry out on-the-spot checks to make sure drivers are not under the influence while behind the wheel. Companies and trade unions will also be permitted to carry out random checks to make sure employees are not stoned, particularly while undergoing risky or dangerous work.
The strains of the drug will also be limited to five, which will be allowed a maximum THC level of 15 percent. Each bag of marijuana will be barcoded and radio-frequency tagged, which will allow authorities to determine its origin and legality.
People who buy pot in pharmacies will be identified by fingerprint readers to preserve their anonymity, but their consumption of the drug will be tracked on a government database.
This will allow police to test for illegal weed when they come across it, and arrest anyone possessing marijuana without the proper tracers
Uruguay’s control over all facets of the new marijuana industry with a national database does seem “Orwellian” as it borders on fascism for the fear that legalizing marijuana can lead to higher drug use among the population. It is understandable, but imposing a police state to control drug-use and crime is not an answer to the war on drugs. However, not collecting taxes on marijuana is a good start. Uruguay has also approved a law that will exempt marijuana producers and sales of the crop from taxes that would undermine marijuana illegally imported from other countries such as Paraguay. Reuters reported on Uruguay’s tax policy regarding the issue of legalized marijuana when it said that “The principal objective is not tax collection. Everything has to be geared toward undercutting the black market,” said Felix Abadi, a contractor who is developing Uruguay’s marijuana tax structure. “So we have to make sure the price is low.” Which is true in a sense, since a high risk of incarceration increases the price of marijuana. Uruguay’s new law will also issue licenses to farmers to produce cannabis according to Reuters “Uruguay will auction up to six licenses to produce cannabis legally in the next weeks. The government is also considering growing marijuana on a plot of land controlled by the military to avoid illegal trafficking of the crop.”
Mujica met with US President Barack Obama earlier this month after his government released the details of the new marijuana law to discuss stronger relations between both countries. Obama welcomed President Mujica when he said:
President Mujica personally has extraordinary credibility when it comes to issues of democracy and human rights given his strong values and personal history, and is a leader on these issues throughout the hemisphere. And we share an interest in strengthening further the people-to-people bonds between our two countries, particularly around the issues of science, technology and education
Uruguayan President Mujica’s response:
We have been looking toward everywhere, but towards ourselves a bit also. And from the humbleness of my little Uruguay, my people, who are there amongst an enormous area of fertile and much water, come here to seek out knowledge and research in all groups of the biological sciences, particularly in land that require local research, because the continent must produce much food for the world. And besides, this is the most advanced country in the world for biological sciences, but we don’t want to merely send students out because they get married — and the American corporations pay more money, so we lose these qualified people. We have to bring teachers so then can come, but we need to make arrangements so that they can continue to contribute to Social Security here. Wisdom must be looked for there where it is
President Mujica has called for ‘normalized relations’ between Cuba and the US to end the embargo and has supported South American leaders such as Bolivian President Evo Morales during the time when the US and EU forced Morales’s plane to land in Vienna to search for NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. “We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America” according to the Guardian. In many ways President Mujica is a revolutionary against Western imperialism. But allowing GMO crops in Uruguay is a step in the wrong direction although he probably does believe that allowing GMO’s would actually feed the world. Maybe he is misinformed, which I do believe is the case, after all he believes that smoking marijuana is an “addiction.” However, I do believe he does mean well. President Mujica should reconsider using any form of Genetic Modified crops that is dangerous to humans no matter what he thinks about marijuana use. Hopefully he will create a committee to re-evaluate proven research on the effects of GMO’s. Biotech Corporations just want to exploit Uruguay’s lands as an experiment. Let’s hope the Mujica government will make a U-turn away from corporate dominance.
In an empty, muted family court, with armed guards at its doors, D.C. Superior Court Judge J. William Ryan released a discovery order revealing that the DEA’s analysts are producing false marijuana test reports resulting in wrongful convictions. By critiquing DEA chemist Heather Hartshorn’s reports and testimony through the prism of the 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on forensic tests, Ryan showed that her marijuana report mirrored the NAS’s example of a totally deficient report. Their example read: “Results: The green-brown plant material in item 1 was identified as marijuana.” Hartshorn’s report read: “Exhibit 1 contains a measurable amount of marijuana.”
A number of state courts have “held that the [prosecution] should provide more than the bare test results and reports to the defendant in discovery under similar [expert notice] rules.” For instance, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina has ruled that a defendant charged with selling heroin was entitled to the state laboratory analyst’s “laboratory protocols, incidences of false positive test results, quality control and quality assurance, and proficiency tests.” 
The Supreme Court in Jackson v. Virginia has ruled that reports such as Hartshorn’s, based on non-specific, screening tests are not worth the paper they’re printed on because they do not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the presence of marijuana in a seized substance. Hartshorn herself admitted she used non-specific, screening tests yet testified erroneously that they positively confirmed the presence of marijuana.
Ryan also disclosed that Hartshorn’s report lacked adequate details and data to allow a review of her work by an independent defense analyst to see whether she used valid, reliable tests and applied them correctly. This was a significant failing as the NAS report concluded that many forensic tests “are not based on a body of knowledge that recognizes the underlying limitations of the scientific principles and methodologies for problem solving and discovery (Hartshorn claimed there were no limitations) [and] are not informed by scientific knowledge, or are not developed within the culture of science.”
According to Dr. Vedoster Ingram, a 29-year-veteran of the DEA, this was typical of the DEA. “As reports are normally presented, an official report of analysis is introduced into the court records for litigation without significant explanation.” Reviewable data for Hartshorn’s tests should have included microphotographs of the suspected marijuana sample, highlighting the relevant morphological characteristics; photographs of the Duquenois-Levine (D-L) color chemical test results, including side-by-side contemporaneous images of the suspected marijuana and actual marijuana standard for proper comparison; and photographs or photocopies of the Thin Layered Chromatography (TLC) plate with the measured values and observed colors recorded contemporaneously with the testing.
The NAS report said that such reports were unacceptable and should lead to dismissals of charges. In fact, much of Hartshorn’s report was indecipherable with abbreviations known only to herself. She dismissed this concern by stating that: “It’s not our policy to keep [reviewable data]; it’s not needed.” 
Reviewability and reproducibility are at the heart of verification and the scientific method. Regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the Ninth Circuit Court declared that: “Something doesn’t become ‘scientific knowledge’ just because it’s uttered by a scientist nor can an expert’s self-serving assertions that his conclusions were ‘derived by the scientific method’ be deemed conclusive, else the Supreme Court’s opinion could have ended with footnote 2. As we read the Supreme Court’s teaching in Daubert, therefore, though we are largely untrained in science and certainly no match for any of the witnesses whose testimony we are reviewing, it is our responsibility to determine whether those experts’ proposed testimony amounts to ‘scientific knowledge,’ constitutes ‘good science,’ and was ‘derived by the scientific method.’
Judge Kozinski’s Ninth Circuit opinion noted further that a gate keeping court must decide in part whether “ ‘… scientists have derived their findings through the scientific method or whether their testimony is based on scientifically valid principles….’ (Daubert, 43F. 3d at 1316). In its gate keeping role, the court should view reliability as follows: ‘this means that the expert’s bald assurance of validity is not enough. Rather, the party presenting the expert must show that the expert’s findings are based on sound science, and this will require some objective, independent validation of the expert’s methodology.’” – i.e., review and reproduction of test findings.
The Court of Appeals of Maryland has ruled that: “Access to laboratory information generally is significant for another reason. The validity of testing procedures and principles is assessed in the scientific community by publishing the data in peer review journals …. [P]ublication of a laboratory’s work product and data used in [scientific] analysis, as well as independent replication and validation studies, are essential prerequisites to reliability.” Replication and validation of Hartshorn’s findings were impossible since she presented no supporting data.
For independent reviewability, replication, and validation, lab reports should contain sufficient information to evaluate case notes and interpret the data as well as procedures, standards, blanks, observations, and test results. Supporting documentation should include charts, graphs, and spectra generated during an analysis.  Since Hartshorn provided none of these details, her reports could not be checked out and proved nothing, least of all that the suspected sample was marijuana.
The DEA founded and presently chairs Scientific Working Group on the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG) which provides minimum standards for scientifically sound lab and testing procedures. According to SWGDRUG:
Laboratories shall have documented policies establishing protocols for technical and administrative review.
Laboratories shall have and follow documented analytical procedures.
Laboratories shall have in place protocols for the sampling of evidence.
Laboratories shall monitor the analytical processes using appropriate controls and traceable standards.
Laboratories shall have and follow documented guidelines for the acceptance and interpretation of data.
Analytical procedures shall be validated in compliance with Section 11.
When analysts determine the identity of a drug in a sample, they shall ensure that the result relates to the right submission. This is best established by the use of at least two appropriate techniques based on different principles and two independent samplings.
Method validation is required to demonstrate that methods are suitable for their intended purpose. For qualitative analysis (identifying drugs), the parameters that need to be checked are selectivity, limit or detection and reproducibility.
Minimum acceptability criteria should be described along with the means for demonstrating compliance.
Validation documentation is required. Laboratories adopting methods validated elsewhere should verify their methods and establish their own limits of detection and reproducibility.
Documentation shall contain sufficient information to allow a peer to evaluate case notes and interpret the data.
Analytical documentation should include documentation including charts, graphs, and spectra generated during analysis.
Laboratories shall perform proficiency testing in order to verify the laboratory’s performance. 
Hartshorn was asked whether she followed DEA protocols or at least the guidelines of SWGDRUG. “[T]hey aren’t laws, and so, as of right now, that is not our policy,” she casually responded. In other words, the DEA does not follow its own regulatory body. Even worse, the “DEA does not have such guidance set forth in one particular document type or ‘protocol’ that would provide instruction on how one is to test cocaine or marijuana. . . There are no mandatory methods, and the forensic chemists are afforded considerable discretion in determining which testing methods and instruments to use.” This according to Harshorn’s lab director, James Malone, who testified that the DEA has no protocol or standard methodology and does not validate its drug tests; calibrate its testing instrumentation right before testing; or run contemporaneous scientific controls to prevent and detect contamination.
Judge: For marijuana in this case, for example, there is no calibration?
James Malone: There is not. . . So we’re not running a positive control on the Duquenois-Levine (marijuana test) on a daily basis.
Prosecutor: Now with regard to standard methodologies, DEA has a standard methodology on how to do examinations?
JM: No, we don’t.
P: So for qualitative analysis, the actual identification of a drug, you don’t have such (validation) studies, as you understood her (defense expert) to mean, correct?
JM: Correct. . . Identification – (validation) studies related to identification are not generally – there are no requirements for that. (SWGDRUG: “Method validation is required to demonstrate that methods are suitable for their intended purpose.”)
According to SWGDRUG Recommendations at Part IV.A.6.1.1 (“Laboratories shall have and follow documented analytical procedures”); id at Part IV.A.6.1.6 (“Analytical procedures shall be validated in compliance with Part IV B Validation”); id, at Part IV.B.IA (“All methods shall be validated or verified to demonstrate that they will perform in the normal operational environment when used by individuals expected to utilize the methods on casework”); id at Part IV.B.1.5 (“The entire validation/verification process shall be documented and the documentation shall be retained. Documentation shall include … personnel involved, dates, observations from the process, analytical data, a statement of conclusions and/or recommendations, authorization approval signature”).”
In short, the DEA is not engaged in scientific testing; a conviction machine. Voodoo science as someone commented. It also means that the DEA labs are, in fact, unaccredited because they received their accreditation on the basis that they follow strict protocols and SOPs, determine error rates and test limitations, validate its tests, and run positive and negative controls.
What really set off Ryan, however, was Hartshorn’s testimony that the DEA’s marijuana tests as well as her testing are infallible. She claimed a zero percent (0%) error rate with the tests and her testing. “Ridiculous on its face,” said Ryan. “Ms. Hartshorn makes a bold statement in her testimony in which she asserted that the three tests performed in these cases are infallible in their combined ability to conclusively identify marijuana,” wrote defense expert Heather Harris. “She was unable to offer any scientific studies to confirm this assertion, which is a scientific impossibility.” The NAS report concluded that “no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”
Infallibility claims fly in the face of the fact that uncertainty enters testing in many ways, and each life stage of the evidence is susceptible to error. Contamination or misidentification can occur during the collection of the evidence. Analytical methods have practical and technical limitations. Reference standards and controls may fail quality control checks. Laboratory analysts who oversee the entire analytical process may make mistakes. Transcription errors can occur. In short, contrary to Hartshorn’s testimony, there is a panoply of errors that can occur. The three tests she used were: a microscopic examination, a presumptive color test named Duquenois-Levine (D-L), and Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC). None of these tests provide a specific identification to the exclusion of all other possible substances, and each of these tests has an associated degree of uncertainty or error rate.
With the microscopic exam, DEA analysts look for so-called cystolith hairs which occur on marijuana plants. But many other plant species unrelated to marijuana have cystolith hairs. Thus, a false positive (error) is possible with this examination. Also according to the NAS report, the microscopic exam can only be done properly by a qualified botanist. The DEA does not employ botanists.
George Nakamura, who is not a botanist, established use of the microscopic exam as a marijuana test. He examined 600 plants and found 80 with cystolith hairs. He then subjected the 80 “similar” plants to the D-L test, and only marijuana passed the entire test. However there was an elementary scientific flaw in Nakamura’s procedure for which reason his report should not have been published, let alone adopted as a protocol. His plant population sample was woefully inadequate since there are 200 –500, 000 plants he did not examine, and there are at least 24 species of plants with cystolith hairs. Nakamura himself admitted that there were some 30,000 plants which he did not examine.
Nakamura also claimed that the D-L was confirmatory of, and, specific to, marijuana, i. e. identified it to the exclusion of all other substances and did not render false positives. In fact, with the D-L test, false positives are expected based on the analytical mechanism of color tests. Color tests are screening tests that look at molecular groups rather than the specific molecule as a whole. Many unrelated molecules share common molecular groups, so any substance containing the target molecular group would give a positive response. In other words, the D-L test solely identifies the group of chemicals to which marijuana belongs. And there are other chemicals in that group which could give a positive D-L response, i.e., a false positive. Moreover, Nakamura himself reported that there were 25 substances that had been shown to cause false positives with the D-L test. So his claim was contrary to chemical facts and scientific demonstrations, and, again, should not have been published.
The D-L test is actually a combination of two individual tests. With the Duquenois test, a petroleum ether or chloroform extract of the plant extract is added to an ethanolic solution of vanillin and acetaldehyde, followed by addition of concentrated hydrochloric acid. Marijuana gives a deep blue-violet color. With the Levine modification, the blue-violet test mixture obtained in the Duquenois test is shaken with chloroform. With marijuana, the blue-violet color is transferred into the chloroform layer. However, at least 50 legal substances have been shown to give the same color reactions.
As early as 1938, the French pharmacist Pierre Duquenois, who developed the Duquenois test, found that it was not specific and gave false positives. Yet, he reported that the test was specific. Although he claimed it was specific, he worked to modify the original test into the D-L test to eliminate false positives – which as noted above was impossible given the nature of the D-L test. As he should have known in advance, the D-L test was no better and rendered false positives. Still, he reported that the D-L test was specific. Duquenois’s lie was repeated in 1972 by John Thornton and George Nakamura who falsely claimed that the D-L test was specific and in conjunction with a microscopic exam was a confirmatory, identification test. Their study is still the protocol for marijuana identification in crime labs throughout the country even though it was false and rebutted by Fullerton and Kurzman and Whitehurst.
With regard to TLC, its ability to identify a substance, which in this case is not marijuana but rather its active ingredient THC, is limited by the number of distinguishable responses possible. TLC is a method of separation, not of identification. “It is prone to confusion because of the appearance of unrecognized peaks or spots on a chromatograph, particularly when an analyst is dealing with a wide variety of biological samples from a number of sources.” The TLC test as generally performed for marijuana evidence has 100 distinct measurable values and 2 to 3 distinguishable colors. This allows for the distinct identification of at most 300 compounds without taking into account the possibility of compounds that will behave the same as the target molecule, THC. In other words, a positive TLC test could indicate any one of some 300 compounds in addition to THC.
When these three tests are performed in sequence, the uncertainty of the final result is the sum of the uncertainties attributable to each test. In this case, where each of the tests can produce errors, the uncertainty can be great. Moreover, a main concern with this sequence of testing is that the D-L and TLC tests produce results that are heavily dependent on the analyst’s subjective interpretation of the colors produced. What’s dark blue to one analyst, is purple to another. At a minimum, a standard reference material (a sample of known marijuana) should be tested along with the evidence sample as a comparison sample. The DEA does not do this. In addition, without the proper determination of the variability of positive results, the final identification is still simply the analyst’s subjective opinion.
Confirmation bias is also a concern with this sequence of testing. This is the tendency of an analyst to interpret analytical information in a way that confirms his/her preconceptions about an item of evidence as well as the results of the previous test. In a sequence of testing that relies entirely upon an analyst’s interpretation of test results, this is a likely source of error.
Hartshorn admitted that separately each of the tests is a screening test that renders false positives, i.e. errors. But miraculously when they are conducted in concert, they are error-free as is the analyst. In direct contradiction of Hartshorn’s claims of infallibility was a study done at her own lab which found false positives and a very high 20% error rate. And every independent scientific study has found an error rate and false positives with these tests. For instance, a comprehensive series of studies in 1974 involving no fewer than 14 scientists and two attorneys concluded, in part, as follows.
The probability of error in using screening tests for forensic identification is particularly great with marijuana because:
1. Screening tests are not specific;
2. Many common plants are confused with marijuana by “users” and law officers alike;
3. Inexpertly collected plant samples are not necessarily homogenous, i. e., only a single plant; and
4. The flowering plants include some 200,000 – 500,000 species besides marijuana.
As many as 20% (An Army study found 30%.) of the samples presumed to be marijuana and submitted to forensic laboratories have been found in recent years not to be Cannabis. “If BNDD (Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, predecessor to DEA) files are any indication, many. . . marijuana users are getting ‘high’ on parsely, alfalfa, or some other weed.” Common plants which have been confused with marijuana include tobacco, catnip, parsley, oregano, tea and other substances – sometimes laced with various chemicals.
Inexpertly collected plant samples commonly contain some extraneous plant materials – a weed grabbed by mistake, a plant which looked like the others, etc. The forensic analyst then needs to be concerned with one plant passing one screening test, and a contaminant passing another. (Furthermore, it’s not possible to determine if ground-up plant samples are from the same species. To avoid a misidentification, the analyst should assume the sample is adulterated or contaminated.) Because of this factor, and the common presence of added chemicals, the specificity of marijuana screening tests, even when used in combination, is no greater than the specificity of the most specific single test.
Because Hartshorne’s testimony raised serious concerns about her qualifications and “integrity” as well as a “flaw” in her testing, Ryan ordered that the prosecution produce all information verifying that the three tests in combination were infallible. What Ryan apparently did not realize was that Hartshorn was repeating unsupported infallibility claims made by DEA lab directors since at least 1999. For instance, on April 9, 1999, Joseph P. Bono, director of the DEA’s Mid-Atlantic Laboratory submitted a sworn affidavit to the courts that all DEA analyses and tests are “incapable of producing a false positive. . . In other words, even if the test results are inaccurate, the results will not indicate the presence of a controlled substance when none is present in the unknown sample. Even if the instruments used in the testing are not properly calibrated, if no controlled substance is present in the exhibit, then no controlled substance will be identified . . . even when an instrument is not functioning properly, it will not identify cocaine, or any other controlled substance, as being present in a sample, unless that controlled substance is actually present.”
Bono’s successor at this lab, Richard Fox, was more specific in his sworn affidavit which stated, in part, that:
“There is no other plant material that will give a positive result for all three tests. . . Neither the analyst in this case, nor any other DEA analyst, has ever misidentified marijuana. . . As such, the uncertainty measurement associated with the conclusions reached by the analyst resulting in the identification of marijuana is zero.”
Fox’s successor, James Malone, who is also Hartshorn’s supervisor who has signed off on her reports, has testified, in part, as follows in another marijuana case in D.C.
Prosecutor: To your knowledge, while you’ve been at the lab, has the laboratory ever misidentified a controlled substance?
James Malone: No.
P: And when you say – what are you basing that on?
JM: On my knowledge of the operations of the laboratory. We have not misidentified anything.
P: Are you aware of anything which shows that a mis-calibrated system or chromatographer in this case, but any system that was not calibrated correctly would create a false positive for cocaine or a controlled substance?
P: Have you ever seen it in the lab?
JM: Have I ever seen what?
P: A false positive from a mis-calibrated system.
Judge: But Mr. Chawla’s position was, can it ever – can a mis-calibrated machine ever give a false positive?
JM: No. A mis-calibrated machine isn’t going to give you a positive cocaine if there’s not cocaine.
Judge: Why not?
JM: It just wouldn’t. . .
P: More specifically, if the reagent isn’t working, is it going to show that the substance isn’t marijuana? In other words, if the reagent isn’t working, what’s the result of the Duquenois-Levine going to be?
JM: It’s going to be negative.
P: Would I get a positive out of a Duquenois-Levine test? If I used a reagent that wasn’t working anymore and tried to run a Duquenois-Levine with that reagent, what would happen?
JM: You wouldn’t get a false positive, no.
P: With regard to identification techniques, is there any – do you have any reason to believe that a mis-calibrated or non-calibrated device would result in a false positive?
JM: No, I don’t.
Malone’s testimony makes clear that he is basing his infallibility claim on ipse dixit evidence as were Bono and Fox who have never presented data to support their unheard of assertions.
Decades before their infallibility claims, several high courts including the U.S. Supreme Court found that the tests did not prove the presence of marijuana beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled in 1973 that: “An expert opinion that the substance is probably marijuana (based on a microscopic examination, D-L test and TLC) is not sufficient to meet the burden of proving the identity of the substance beyond a reasonable doubt. . . If this were a possession case, the tests would be insufficient. . . It is quite true that the tests used by Mr. Michael Rehburg, a chemist and witness for the prosecution, were not specific for marijuana. . . . He admitted, . . . these tests were not specific for marijuana.”
In 1979, a trial judge in North Carolina found that the D-L test was “not specific for marijuana” and had “no scientific acceptance as a reliable and accurate means of identifying the controlled substance marijuana.” This finding was upheld by the North Carolina Court of Appeals as well as the North Carolina Supreme Court which found that: “The determination that the test used was not scientifically acceptable because it was not specific for marijuana was amply supported by the facts. . . The trial court’s ruling that the results of the tests conducted on green vegetable matter by using the Duquenois-Levine color test in the Sirchie drug kit were inadmissible in evidence was supported by the court’s findings that the test is not scientifically accepted, reliable or accurate and that the test is not specific for marijuana because it reportedly also gives a positive reaction for some brands of coffee and aspirin. . . . The conclusion to exclude the test results is amply supported by these findings of fact . . . and the test results were properly suppressed . . .”
Also in 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court in Jackson v Virginia ruled that nonspecific tests could not be the basis for advancing a prosecution or a conviction because they do not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Ultimately, Judge Ryan concluded that “such claims of infallibility belie one of the most basic tenets of science: that some degree of error is inherent in every scientific test, process, or analysis. . .While explaining that each of these tests used alone is presumptive, as distinct from confirmatory, Ms. Hartshorn nonetheless maintained their infallibility when used in concert. With the designation that these tests are merely presumptive, the DEA chemist acknowledged that there is some degree of inherent error calculable with respect to each of these tests when they are performed in isolation. That there is some distinct and additional degree of error calculable with respect to this analyst’s performance of each test is also without question.”
It is clear from Judge Ryan’s remarks that he would have denied admission of the test results as evidence as well as Hartshorn’s testimony at trial, and this would have resulted in a withdrawal of the charges. He did not do so because defense counsel did not request it. Since Kurzman’s study and others occurred before this case as well as applicable court decisions such as Jackson, Daubert and Kumho Tire, defense counsel should have requested an evidentiary hearing for challenging the tests and sufficiency of evidence. Their failure to do so amounted to ineffective counsel.
This is exactly what U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner concluded in a similar case wherein the defense counsel did not request an evidentiary hearing to challenge the forensic evidence. This is seen if one simply substitutes “marijuana” in her following remarks. “Under the ‘prevailing professional norms,’ reasonably competent counsel should have moved for a Daubert/Kumho Tire hearing before trial on all the expert testimony — a) on the [marijuana] laboratory analysis based on the investigator’s failure to use a comparison or control sample and not test beyond the generic finding of [“Exhibit 1 contains a measurable amount of marijuana”]; b) on the [marijuana] evidence, highlighting problems with proficiency testing and emphasizing the limited scope of the testimony; and, c) on the expert cause-and-origin testimony, when the expert’s proposed testimony was scientifically flawed. If counsel had requested such a hearing, there is more than a ‘reasonable probability’ that it would have been granted, that the laboratory analysis and the [marijuana] evidence would have been excluded, or severely limited, at the very least. . . . As the Court held in Daubert, some testimony may be so problematic that the usual trial techniques are just not enough to prevent a jury from giving it far more credence than it deserves. See Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596-97. The testimony should not reach the jury at all. (This was absolutely true with Judge Ryan’s case.) Here, the scientific literature cast doubt on the significance of the [marijuana tests] and even raised concerns about . . . “proficiency” testing, concerns counsel never raised. . . just what the law and literature caution against”
It is instructive to compare the two cases in detail because like Judge Ryan, Judge Gertner also critiqued the government’s evidence and experts through the prism of the NAS report. Gertner pointed out that it was significant that by 2006, a number of articles in legal journals and cases had cast a critical eye on the scientific reliability of arson evidence, methodologies, and techniques. Because of this, competent counsel should have been aware that defendants had been convicted and sentenced on the basis of flawed arson evidence and taken appropriate steps to litigate the issues using all the tools available including challenging the tests and requesting an evidentiary hearing.
The same was even more true of marijuana evidence by the time of Judge Ryan’s case. The marijuana tests had been scientifically established as unreliable and inaccurate, and previous court decisions had excluded admission of the marijuana test results as evidence.
Gertner found that there was ineffective counsel because the defense attorneys did not move for a Daubert hearing prior to trial on any expert issue. They did not seek exclusion of any of the proposed expert testimony or move for its limitation. They did not argue that the expert testimony failed to meet the minimal threshold for reliability of scientific evidence and should not have been admitted at all. They did not alert the Court to the ways in which the government’s investigation undermined their very ability to present a defense.
The same was true with the case of Judge Ryan who called Hartshorn’s testimony “[R]idiculous on its face” and lacking in “integrity.”
In addition, Gertner argued that it was crucial to try to exclude expert testimony before trial because “a certain patina attaches to an expert’s testimony unlike any other witness; this is ‘science,’ a professional’s judgment, the jury may think, and give more credence to the testimony than it may deserve. United States v. Hines, 55 F. Supp. 2d 62, 64 (D. Mass. 1999); see also Michigan Millers Mut. Ins. Corp. v. Benfield, 140 F.3d 915, 920 (11th Cir. 1998) (‘The use of ‘science’ to explain how something occurred has the potential to carry great weight with a jury, explaining both why counsel might seek to couch an expert witness’s testimony in terms of science, as well as why the trial judge plays an important role as the gate-keeper in monitoring the evidentiary reliability of such testimony.’).”
This again was even more true with Judge Ryan’s case because DEA chemists were poised to testify that the marijuana tests as well as their testing were infallible, and that no DEA analyst had ever misidentified marijuana. In fact, defense counsel in Judge Ryan’s case had been involved in previous marijuana case wherein DEA analysts had claimed infallibility under oath. All the more reason why they should have sought to exclude the evidence.
For its part, the DEA was ethically and scientifically bound to suspend Hartshorn and Malone and investigate all their previous marijuana cases. In fact, Hartshorn and Malone were subsequently both witnesses in another discovery hearing in the same court room opposed by the same defense counsel who again had not requested an evidentiary hearing to challenge the same marijuana tests. This hearing was presided over by Judge Florence Y. Pan who had read Judge Ryan’s order. Heather Harris, who was highly praised by Judge Ryan, was the defense expert in this hearing as well. With no justification, Pan found Hartshorn and Malone to be credible as opposed to Harris even though Malone claimed infallibility without any proof. “On my knowledge of the operations of the laboratory,” he said, “We have not misidentified anything.” He also said that “a mis-calibrated instrument would never cause a false positive result.” Asked why by Pan, he replied: “It just wouldn’t.”
As we saw, Malone further testified that the DEA has no protocols or standard operating procedures and does not validate its tests or run sufficient numbers of controls. He threw in that the Analysis of Drugs Manual and the Analytical Sufficiency Document are “the closest thing the DEA has to standard operating procedures for the chemists.” Again, no problem for Pan even though Malone said these documents were “DEA proprietary,” and SWGDRUG and scientific practice require protocols, test validations, and controls. Malone claimed there were published studies validating the tests, but this is not true.
Harris disagreed with Malone on all accounts. No problem for Pan who decreed that: “To the extent the testimony of the witnesses conflicts, however, the Court credits the testimony of Mr. Malone. . . the Court found the testimony of Mr. Malone to be extremely credible and persuasive [and was] impressed by Mr. Malone’s candor, expertise, and professional demeanor. . . His testimony was very clear and logical, and the Court found him to be forthright.” Pan did not mention the lack of scientific data or explanations for Malone’s testimony or that it showed the DEA was at odds with SWGDRUG requirements and scientific practice.
In short, there were more than enough scientific studies and favorable case law before Judge Pan’s case, not to mention Judge Ryan’s order, to justify requesting an evidentiary hearing in an attempt to deny admission of the test results as evidence. Defense counsel also had a highly qualified expert to confirm that the tests results did not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the DEA’s proffered evidence and testimony were false.
As Judge Gertner observed: “If the lawyers do not tee up the issue, the evidence will be introduced without objection.” This is exactly what happens in nearly all marijuana cases. Defense attorneys do not challenge the tests or the sufficiency of the evidence. In 2010, 853, 839 people were arrested on marijuana charges, and you can count on one hand the number of defense attorneys who challenged the tests or even the subjective opinions of arresting police officers.
This failure on the part of defense attorneys is particularly irresponsible because claims of infallibility can be to the advantage of a defendant as they undermine the admissibility of marijuana test results and the credibility of a prosecutor’s expert witnesses. Before a trial, a defense attorney can request an evidentiary hearing wherein he or she can examine the qualifications of the prosecution’s forensic analysts, the laboratory, and the nature and manner of the testing procedures used in identifying the drug the defendant was charged with possessing or selling. If this examination reveals deficiencies or inadequacies, the attorney can challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence and seek a dismissal. Dr. Bruce Stein et al have reported that: “Based on our survey, such a challenge would be warranted in many cases.”
The possibilities of these challenges was seen in a recent case in Michigan in 2010. Defense attorney Michael Nichols obtained a pre-trial evidentiary hearing and cross examined Michigan State Police lab analyst Jerome Waldron who testified that in more than 6,000 cases, he had never encountered a false positive, and that the marijuana tests had an error rate of zero. Nichols then entered a motion to exclude Waldron’s testimony from trial as well as use of the test results as evidence, citing scientific articles, prior court decisions, and Waldron’s lack of credibility. Even before the judge rendered his decision, the prosecutor withdrew the charges.
If lab conditions or procedures do not conform to scientific guidelines and principles or court rulings such as Daubert, the defense attorney can motion to exclude the test results as well as testimony from the analyst at trial. Below is a list of such requests which have led to pre-trial dismissals of marijuana charges because they revealed deficiencies in the lab.
1. Evidence collection forms or logs (description of evidence, packaging, identification of specimens, identification of individuals collecting samples, sample collection procedures.
2. Chain-of-custody records (field-to-lab transfers, and all transfers of evidence and associated analytical samples within the laboratory).
3. Laboratory receiving records (records documenting the date, time and condition of receipt of the evidence in question; laboratory-assigned identifiers; storage location).
4. Laboratory procedures for subsampling (collection of analytical aliquots) and contamination control.
5. Copies of technical procedures in effect at the time the subject testing was performed (often termed Standard Operating Procedures, or SOP’s) for each procedure used during sample screening and confirmation, including; sample preparation, sample analysis, data reporting, and instrument operation.
6. Copies of the two bracketing controlled substance proficiency results for each analyst and technician responsible for preparation or analysis of subject specimens, including raw data and reported results, target values and acceptance ranges, performance scores, and all related correspondence.
7. Copies of traceability documentation for standards and reference materials used during analysis, including unique identifications, origins, dates of preparation and use, composition and concentration of prepared materials, certifications or traceability records from suppliers, assigned shelf lives and storage conditions.
8. Sample preparation records, including dates and conditions of preparation, responsible analyst, procedural reference, purity, concentration and origins of solvents, reagents, and control materials prepared and used, samples processed concurrently, extract volume.
9. Copies of bench notes, log books, and any other records pertaining to case samples or instruments; records documenting observations, notations, or measurements regarding case testing.
10. Instrument run log with identification of all standards, reference materials, sample blanks, rinses, and controls analyzed during the day/shift with subject samples (as appropriate: run sequence, origins, times of analysis and aborted run sequences).
11. Record of instrument operating conditions and criteria for variables, including as appropriate: Gas chromatograph column, instrument file identification, tuning criteria, instrument performance check (e.g., ion abundance criteria), initial calibration, continuing calibration checks, calibration verification.
12. Record of instrument maintenance status and activities for instruments used in subject testing, documenting routine and as-needed maintenance activities in the weeks surrounding subject testing.
13. Raw data for the complete measurement sequence (opening and closing quality control included) that includes the subject samples. For GC-MS analysis, this would include: areas and retention times, injection volumes, dilution factors, chromatograms and mass spectra. As prepared and as determined values for all quality control samples.
14. A description of the library used for spectral matches for the purpose of qualitative identification of controlled substances, including source(s) and number of reference spectra.
15. Copy of records documenting computation of illicit drug laboratory’s theoretical production yield, including the basis for the computation, and the algorithm used, as appropriate.
16. Procedure(s) for operation and calibration checks of analytical balances used to weigh controlled substances
17. Results of calibration checks and documentation of mass traceability for gravimetric determinations.
18. Results of contamination control surveys for trace level analytes relevant to test methods at the time of analysis, including sampling design and analytical procedures.
19. Records and results of internal reviews of subject data.
20. Method validation records documenting the laboratory’s performance characteristics for qualitative identification and quantitative determinations of the controlled substance, to include data documenting specificity, accuracy, precision, linearity, and method detection limits.
21. Copy of the laboratory’s Quality Manual in effect at the time the subject samples were tested as well as the laboratory’s most recent Quality Manual (however named; the document that describes the laboratory’s quality objects and policies).
22. Copy of the laboratory’s ASCLD-LAB application for accreditation, and most recent Annual Accreditation Review Report, as appropriate.
23. Statement of qualifications of each analyst and/or technician responsible for processing case samples to include all names, locations and jurisdictions of cases in which these personnel testified concerning the same substances found in the present case.
24. Copy of the laboratory’s ASCLD-LAB on-site inspection report, as appropriate, as well as any reports of on-site inspections by any other testing laboratory audit organization.
25. Copy of internal audit reports generated during the period subject samples were tested..
26. List of capital instrumentation in the laboratory at the time subject testing was performed, including manufacturer, model number, and major accessories.
27. Production throughput data for the drug testing section: numbers of tests performed per month or per year, and the number of Full Time Equivalent personnel in the drug testing section of the laboratory.
Marijuana field tests also have specific requirements that are seldom observed by the police. For instance, the field tests used by police officers have expiration dates because the chemicals and reagents in the tubes deteriorate over time and as a result of heat or cold. Before going to a hearing or trial, a defense attorney can find out exactly what brand of field test kit was used with his/her client. This can be done through a public records request and sometimes by simply asking the prosecutor. The defense attorney can then purchase the exact same kit online. In court, the defense attorney can show the judge that the test has an expiration date after which the test would be inaccurate. If the police officer did not check the expiration date before using the test, then the test results should be assumed to be invalid. Under the law, any tests or equipment that are not in good working order produce results that are inadmissible as evidence. If the police officer cannot attest to the expiration date or whether the test was used after its expiration date, the drug charges should be dismissed. Some search warrants are based on positive kit results and may be ruled invalid if the police officer did not know the expiration date of the kit. This should also result in a dismissal of charges.
Even if the field test has not expired, the test does not prove the presence of marijuana in a seized substance because it is a presumptive or screening test only. Information accompanying the kits indicate this fact. For instance, the carton containing one commonly used NIK field test states that it is: “A specially formulated reagent system for the presumptive identification of Marijuana.” In other words, the company itself is saying that the test does not prove the presence of marijuana. It is further stated that: “The results of a single test may or may not yield a valid result. . . There is no existing chemical reagent test, adaptable to field use that will continually eliminate the occurrence of an occasional invalid test results [sic]. A complete forensic laboratory would be required to qualitatively identify an unknown suspect substance.” A defense attorney can show this to a judge or jury and explain what it means. Therefore, if the only evidence is positive results from a field test, the charges should be dismissed or the defendant acquitted.
Recently, defense attorneys in Colorado did challenge the DEA’s test results and blocked their admission as evidence including results from Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis, the gold standard of drug testing. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger of Colorado ruled on April 21, 2011 that based on DEA information and the testimony of DEA chemist Anthea Chan, the prosecution failed to show the existence of reliable, accurate testing being reliably applied that proved the presence of amphetamines. She therefore denied admission of the test results as evidence at trial.
The hearing, known as a Rule 702 (of the Federal Rules of Evidence) Hearing, provided a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a DEA lab. It was meant to determine whether their testing conformed to Rule 702 requirements for scientifically sound testing. Rule 702 requirements are all but identical to Daubert requirements. Krieger’s first task was to determine whether Chan had correctly tested according to DEA protocols and SOPs. Chan testified that she followed no protocols or SOPs and, in fact, was not aware of any protocols or SOPs. These facts alone, said Krieger, were enough to deny admission of the test results as evidence because it was impossible to determine whether Chan reliably applied reliable tests.
Krieger did, not, however, rule at this point because she wanted her ruling to encompass defense expert Janine Arvizu’s findings. Arvizu attempted to reconstruct the practices, protocols, and results relevant to Chan’s qualitative and quantitative test conclusions and whether they adhered to quality requirements and universally accepted standards designed to ensure the quality and reliability of tests, specifically, what’s known as ISO 17025 standards. However, as was the case in Washington, only a very limited amount of laboratory discoverable material was made available making it impossible to determine or evaluate the laboratory’s technical requirements or quality controls during the subject testing.
“That’s exactly the position the Court finds itself in,” noted Judge Krieger, “because it does not have evidence as to the protocol that was used, the reliability of the protocol compared to other labs, or whether Ms. Chan complied with the protocol in a reliable fashion.”
Arvizu was, however, able to determine that Chan’s testing in particular was unreliable and inaccurate. Chan first used the Marquis chemical color test as a screening test, and the suspected substance turned orange/brown suggesting it was amphetamines. But the test was unreliable and meaningless because she did not use a color chart with which to compare her results. As she herself testified: “I believe it’s the same as you saying something is blue and me saying it’s light blue. It’s subjective.” Subjective tests are unreliable by definition.
Her next test was a GC/MS analysis. Chan first ran a “blank” or negative control to check for contamination. The test consisted of putting the suspected amphetamines into a solution and then placing this solution onto the machine. But she first put the solution alone onto the machine, to see whether it would register positive. It did, meaning the machine was contaminated. As Arvizu testified: “When quality control samples fail, the run should be terminated and the failure should be investigated and corrective action taken before unknown sample are tested.” Inexplicably, Chan continued the testing with the contaminated machine.
Actually, even before beginning her test, Chan should have also run a positive control by placing a known quantity of amphetamines, known as a standard, on the machine to calibrate it and see whether it was working properly. DEA analysts are required under ASCLD/LAB and ISO 17025 guidelines to run standards immediately before testing. Chan said she was not familiar with these guidelines and was not required to do so. Chan’s superior Shana Irby, who approved her testing, also testified that it is not required to run contemporaneous standards, and that it suffices if the machine has been checked ten months prior. She claimed to have never seen any protocol requiring the running of contemporaneous standards, and that “as soon as I walk up to an instrument, I know – I generally know if it’s working or not.” She also claimed it was not necessary to check beforehand whether the standard had disintegrated because “[M]ethamphetamine to my knowledge does not degrade.” This is false, and these standards come with an expiration date beyond which they are not useable.
DEA labs are accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board ((ASCLD/LAB) under the international criteria detailed in ISO/IEC 17025:2005 and the 2006 ASCLD/LAB International Supplemental Requirements. Accreditation certifies that the management and technical operations of the laboratory comply with the program requirements, including any corrective action that was required during any of audits. (Details regarding the accreditation program may be obtained from www.ascld-lab.org.) In other words, DEA labs are accredited on the basis that they ascribe to ISO/IEC 17025 and ASCLD/LAB International Supplemental Requirements. Arvizu said the DEA adheres to neither, and is, therefore, de facto, unaccredited.
In today’s On the News segment: Five million low-income people will go without basic health benefits because of their Republican governors; in the debt ceiling standoff, our nation lost at least 900,000 jobs, our economy lost at least $24 billion dollars, and our national credit rating is once again on the brink of being downgraded; California voters want to put marijuana legalization on the ballot; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Only hours before the debt limit deadline, Congress finally passed a temporary measure to avoid default. The plan was approved 81 to 18 in the Senate, and 285 to 144 in the House. The Continuing Appropriations Act funds the government through January, suspends the debt limit until February, and directs both parties to agree on a long-term budget by December 13th. After two weeks of Tea Party hostage-taking, Republicans only got a continuation of the sequester and an Obamacare income-verification rule in exchange. But, they caused serious harm to our nation in their effort to extract more demands. Because of the standoff, our nation lost at least 900,000 jobs, our economy lost at least $24 billion dollars, and our national credit rating is once again on the brink of being downgraded. After both chambers approved the legislation, President Obama made a short statement. He praised Congress for passing the measure, but said, "We've got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis." However, the temporary measure that Congress passed could simply have scheduled the next one. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the deal "is far less than many [Republicans] hoped for, quite frankly, but it's far better than what some had sought. Now it's time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals." Presumably, those goals include trying to dismantle Obamacare, and slash the budgets of other social net programs. In addition to the economic consequences, the debt-limit standoff produced record-low approval ratings for Republicans, so it's unclear why they would want to have the same fight over again. The American people want to see Congress move on to working on ways to improve our nation, and stop this governing-by-hostage-taking.
In screwed news... Five million low-income people will go without basic health benefits because of their Republican governors. These are some of the poorest people who live in red states, where lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid. And, these Americans can't get subsidies under Obamacare, because their income is low enough to qualify for Medicaid under the new guidelines. Twenty-two states have refused to expand the low-income health program, despite the fact that it would be completely funded by the federal government until 2016 – and 90% federally funded thereafter. In those states, many people are stuck in a "gap" between extremely harsh state guidelines for Medicaid, and the minimum income required to get subsidies to buy health insurance. These Republican governors would rather see people suffering in the cracks, than do anything that could be seen as supporting the president. Some red states have come around to accepting the Medicaid expansion, and there's at least five million people around our nation who hope that their governors will accept it as well.
In the best of the rest of the news...
California voters want to put marijuana legalization on the ballot. Supporters of the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act of 2014 are circulating a petition to get the measure before voters in 2014. And, the bill is an open-source creation that was drafted by a group of activists and supporters. Last year, the initiative's sponsor, Dave Hodges, came up with idea to collaborate on a proposal with others. So he created a website, email list, and Google document, which activists and supporters used to exchange ideas. Although the process did provide some edits and suggestions that weren't very useful, it eventually led to the creation of a final propsal. Medical marijuana is already legal in that state, but the new initiative would give "Californians the freedom to use, grow, transport, and sell cannabis, subject to reasonable regulation and taxation in a manner similar to alcohol." The proposed bill would also prevent cities from banning medical marijuana dispensaries, which has prevented owners from opening stores in some areas. Hopefully, Mr. Hodges will get enough signatures to put the measure before the voters of California, and they approve this common-sense legislation.
It turns out that ensuring access to birth control doesn't only benefit women. A new paper from University of Michigan economist Martha Bailey explains that family planning services actually help society as a whole. Ms. Bailey examined contraceptive policies as far back as the 1950s and 1960s, and found that expanding access to birth control has long-term positive effects, like higher family incomes and better college graduation rates. In fact, women being able to chose when to give birth actually benefited their kids much later in life. Ms. Bailey found that "individuals' access to contraceptives increased their children's college completion, labor force participation, wages, and family incomes decades later." By deciding when to have kids and how many kids to have, women were more likely to have more time and money to devote to each of their children. Thus, their kids had a better chance of succeeding all the way through life. Those benefits translate into better workers, higher average incomes, higher education levels, and more tax revenues for society as a whole. It isn't only women who benefit from being able to plan their families as they choose, it turns out that we are all better off when women have access to contraceptives.
And finally... Ted Nugent is making threats again, but not in his usual Second Amendment fashion. This time, the Nuge is threatening to run for office. In an interview with Florida-based CBS host Chad Tyson, Ted Nugent said, "The threat of me running for public office is alive and well because obviously our government has been overtaken by gangsters and America-haters." He then went on to add a few nonsense talking points about President Obama being a racist, the need to run the federal budget like a family budget, and the "engineered obsolescence" of federal employees. Just in case that wasn't enough to make you want to contribute to his campaign, Ted added "I have a message for Harry Reid and the president, 'Eat Me!'" Glad to see Ted Nugent's keeping it classy – I'm sure his campaign ads will elevate the political debate.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, October 17, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.
Gloria de Piero, Labour's new spokesman for women, has voiced her disgust and upset after revealing a national newspaper has been offering thousands for pictures of her as a topless teenager.
Gloria De Piero, Labour's new shadow minister for women
She claims she was given "amazing" support by the then-women and equalities minister, Harriet Harman.
TOP STORIES TODAY
Yesterday I learned that a news agency claiming to be acting on behalf of a national newspaper have offered several thousand pounds to obtain topless pictures I posed for when I was a teenager. The offer was made to the owner of a building in Bradford. I understand that he was offered money for access to the building and a further payment if the pictures were found.
I have talked about why I posed for these pictures in interviews before. I thought at the time it was a way of improving my circumstances. This is part of my story and part of who I am. I can’t change it now but this happened over twenty years ago.
It is now time to call off the hunt for these pictures and let me get on with the job I was elected to do, representing the people of Ashfield and serving in the shadow cabinet.
I don’t think anyone wants politics to be open only to those people who were planning their political careers in their teens. I would like to see a politics that represents our country, including many more women from all walks of life, and that is something I am passionately committed to help bring about.
No one should have to worry that something they did when they were young might prevent them from serving their community or getting involved in politics at a local or national level.
The revelation is the latest in a string of stories where politicians have taken the media to task for invasions into their private lives.
Earlier this month, Labour leader Ed Miliband demanded a public apology for the Mail's piece about his father Ralph Miliband entitled 'The Man Who Hated Britain'. He got a right-of-reply, but no apology. But Geordie Greig, editor of the Mail on Sunday, did apologise after reporters crashed a memorial service for Miliband's uncle in the midst of the media storm.
Louise Mensch, the former Tory MP, successfully headed off a story about her youthful drug taking.
In an attempt to take the wind out of the story before it was published, Mensch said it was "highly probable" she had taken drugs at the time.
"I'm sure it was not the only incident of the kind; we all do idiotic things when young," she said.
She won plaudits from political friends and foes at the time for her candour.
Also on HuffPost:
Former DEA agents and cops are lobbying for tougher drug laws that make them rich.
March 25, 2013 |
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When eight former DEA chiefs signed a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this month, demanding that the feds crack down on Washington and Colorado, the states which voted last November to legalize marijuana, there was more than just drug-war ideology at stake. There was money.
Two of the elder drug warriors, Peter Bensinger (DEA chief, 1976–1981) and Robert DuPont (White House drug chief, 1973–1977), run a corporate drug-testing business. Their employee-assistance company, Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, the sixth largest in the nation, holds the pee stick for some 10 million employees around the US. Their clients have included the biggest players in industry and government: Kraft Foods, American Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, the Federal Aviation Administration and even the Justice Department itself.
“These are not just old drug war architects pushing a drug war model they’ve pushed for 40 years,” says Brian Vicente, a Denver lawyer and co-author of Colorado’s Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use. “These guys are asking Eric Holder to pursue prohibition policies that line their own pockets.”
Bensinger and DuPont both deny money is their motive. “It’s true we might benefit from keeping marijuana illegal,” says DuPont. But he argues it's equally true that marijuana legalization could benefit his bottom line, putting forth the old drug-war line that legalization would create more users. “The more success legalization has, the better it is for our business because they are creating a problem for employers,” he says. “That would be smart for us.” DuPont also points out that only 15% of their business is made up of training employers to detect the warning signs of drug and alcohol abuse and supplying third-party testing. But both men are involved in industry-controlled lobbying groups like the Drug & Alcohol Industry Testing Association, which backed the Drug Testing Integrity Act of 2008, outlawing products that help people beat drug tests and keeping their business healthy.
By inserting themselves into the legal-pot debate, Bensinger, DuPont and other drug warriors benefit by promoting their own legacies and bolstering their own business, lobbying and consulting interests—even in the face of an increasingly skeptical public. A 2011 Gallup survey showed that half of Americans favor legalizing weed. “This letter that they signed is their attempt to once again become relevant within the public policy debate that has largely turned its back on such archaic viewpoints,” says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-marijuana nonprofit, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( NORML).
The time-honored revolving door between government and business swings fast and often. It can be straightforward, like the appointment of banking behemoth Goldman Sachs' alumni as economic policymakers by recent presidential administrations. But when it comes to the drug war, the family tree is more like a thicket of interests among law enforcement, federal and state prisons, pharmaceutical giants, drug testers and drug treatment programs—all with an economic stake in keeping pot illegal.
Bensinger and DuPont are longtime allies of the marijuana prohibition group that sent the letter to Holder, Save Our Society from Drugs ( SOS), which was founded by Mel Sembler, a Florida shopping-mall magnate, and his wife, Betty. The Semblers also founded Straight Inc.—a drug-treatment program that used sleep deprivation, beatings and psychological abuse to treat 10,000 teenage patients, in nine states, from 1976 to 1993, at $1,400 a month plus a $1,600 per patient evaluation fee, raking in millions. Straight was shut down after investigations in state after state corroborated the hundreds of complaints. But the Semblers, longtime major Republican Party fundraisers, retain their influence as behind-the-scenes bankrollers of the anti-drug faction.
Businessweek says tech geeks are heavy medical marijuana consumers.
Photo Credit: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
March 4, 2013 |
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Another major marijuana stereotype just got blown totally out of the water -- this time the idea that consuming cannabis is for unemployed slacker types. In fact, pot is wildly popular in one of America's economic centers, Silicon Valley. According to a new report in Bloomberg's Businessweek, the "physical toll" of computer coding has made Silicon Valley workers key consumers in the medical marijuana industry.
In San Jose, which Businessweek dubs the "Bay Area capital of medical marijuana," 106 medicinal marijuana dispensaries span the city's 177 square miles, more than adequately serving its 967,000 residents. One of those dispensaries, Pallative Health Center, told Businessweek that tech workers make up an estimated 40 percent of clients.
“We’re seeing people from some semiconductors, lots of engineers, lots of programmers,” Ernie Arreola, 38, the assistant manager, told Businessweek, which noted, "That makes sense, because the shop is an easy shot from some of the area’s biggest employers—Cisco Systems, Google, Adobe Systems, Apple, EBay—and a short drive from dozens more. Also, people in Silicon Valley do like their pot."
But while Silicon Valley employees are getting stoned in a culture that embraces marijuana use, Businessweek notes policies forbidding drug use and possession at Cisco and Adobe, though neither company screens new employees for drug use. Maybe that's because, as Silicon Valley CEO Mark Johnson told Businessweek, “Pot is an extremely functional drug. Coders can code on it, writers can write on it."
Still, as Galen Moore notes at the Boston Business Journal, weed isn't the only drug popular in Silicon Valley:
The comments section on the tech news site Hacker News offer a glimpse into prescription drugs that are popular as work aids in Silicon Valley's high-tech culture, including so-called "smart drugs" Provigil (Modafinil) and Nuvigil, and pharmaceutical stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.
Some commenters also challenge Businessweek's assertion that marijuana culture is "raging" in Silicon Valley. It may be news to Businessweek, but the reality has always been that people from all ends of the social spectrum use drugs, pot especially. Not everybody, however, is arrested for it.
Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne
New Treasury Secretary Confirmed, Palin Claims Feds ‘Stockpiling Bullets,’ and More
Posted on Feb 27, 2013
Smart Money: A day after Chuck Hagel was confirmed as the secretary of defense, the Senate confirmed Jack Lew as the new Treasury secretary. The vote was 71-26. Lew, who most recently served as the White House chief of staff, was the budget director for Presidents Obama and Clinton. “His reputation as a master of fiscal issues who can work with leaders on both sides of the aisle has already helped him succeed in some of the toughest jobs in Washington,” Obama said in a statement. (Read more)
Coming to a Standstill: President Obama is set to meet with congressional leaders—including House Speaker John Boehner— about the sequester Friday, the same day the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts are set to kick in. The Associated Press reports, however, that it’s unlikely the two sides will reach a breakthrough and hammer out a deal to avoid the sequester. But on top of the cuts, Congress now has something else to worry about—avoiding a possible government shutdown at the end of March. “Republicans are planning for a vote next week on a bill to fund the day-to-day operations of the government through the Sept. 30 end of the 2013 fiscal year—while keeping in place the new $85 billion in cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 8 percent to the military,” the AP writes. (Read more)
Hope for Dope: A new Field Poll shows that a majority of Californians want the state to follow Washington’s and Colorado’s lead and legalize recreational pot. According to the survey, 54 percent of voters in the Golden State favor marijuana being legalized, regulated and taxed, compared with 43 percent of those who don’t. The poll comes just two years after a proposition that would have legalized cannabis in the state failed to garner a majority of voter support. (Read more)
Firing Away: Sarah Palin, who is aways right according to frequently wrong conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, claims the federal government is accumulating bullets to prepare for possible civil unrest if the country defaults on its debt. “If we are going to wet our proverbial pants over 0.3% in annual spending cuts when we’re running up trillion dollar annual deficits, then we’re done. Put a fork in us. We’re finished. We’re going to default eventually and that’s why the feds are stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest,” the former Alaska governor said on a Facebook post. She added: “The real economic Armageddon looming before us is our runaway debt, not the sequester, which the President advocated for and signed into law and is now running around denouncing because he never had any genuine intention of reining in his reckless spending.” (Read more)
Video of the Day: In this edition of “comparisons that don’t make sense,” Illinois state Rep. Jim Sacia, a Republican, says gun control is just like castration. “Here’s an analogy folks. I ask you to think of this: You folks in Chicago want me to get castrated because your families are having too many kids. It spells out exactly what is happening here! You want us to get rid of guns,” he said.
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A man who punched a teenage girl and a female student, leaving them unconscious on the ground, has been jailed for four years.
Michael Ayoade, 35, was caught on CCTV staging the random attacks in Plaistow, east London.
In the second attack on November 13 last year, he jogged up behind a 16-year-old girl in the High Street and punched her in the head. The teenager fell to the ground, breaking three of her teeth.
A year earlier, Ayoade punched a university student in the side of the head at Plaistow tube station. His victim, Daniella Montieth, was taken to hospital with a broken tooth.
Passing sentence at Inner London Crown Court, Judge Roger Chapple said Ayoade, of Greengate Street, Plaistow, had launched "vicious, unprovoked attacks on young, lone females".
He said: "These images are indeed worth many thousands of words. The footage captures graphically the shocking violence of these attacks.
"In both cases there was but one blow. In the case of (the 16-year-old) it can plainly be seen from the CCTV footage that the force behind the blow was massive.
"The ferocity of the blow that you struck to her after running up behind her with full force was truly shocking.
"In both cases the force of the blow was such as to render the victims unconscious albeit mercifully not for long."
Ayode, who is originally from Nigeria, followed the teenager for 800m before attacking her.
Prosecutor Joel Smith told the court Ayoade said she had "looked at him in a rude way" and that he could not go through the rest of the day having taken "an insult from a little person like that".
Ayode, who was arrested shortly after the attack, admitted two counts of assault causing actual bodily harm and one of possessing cannabis after a bag of the drug was found at his home.
Defending, Gillian Frost said Ayoade, who had smoked three or four cannabis joints and drunk a cup of vodka before attacking the teenager, had not wanted to cause more serious harm to either woman.
He was jailed for four years for the attack on the teenager and 19 months for punching the student, although the two sentences will run concurrently.
There was no separate penalty for the cannabis charge.
First it was Ireland, then the entire UK, then Germany, and gradually it spread to all of Europe (except for France of course, where it was always a delicacy). But it was only once its finally crossed the Alps and made its way to the Swiss factories of Nestle, the world's largest food maker, did the horsemeat scandal truly go global. The FT reports that "the escalating horsemeat scandal has ensnared two of the biggest names in the food industry, Nestlé, the world’s number-one food maker, and JBS, the largest beef producer by sales. Switzerland-based Nestlé on Monday removed pasta meals from shelves in Italy and Spain and suspended deliveries of all processed products containing meat from German supplier, H.J. Schypke, after tests revealed traces of horse DNA above 1 per cent. Nestlé said it had informed the authorities....Nestlé withdrew two chilled pasta products, Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini from sale in Italy and Spain. Lasagnes à la Bolognaise Gourmandes, a frozen meat product for catering businesses produced in France, will also be withdrawn."
And now we wait as the panic spreads across the Atlantic to the US, where every food purist, who until recently stuffed themselves full of pink slime and still eats bucketfulls of the mysterious "meat" known as KFC, will accuse their retailer of horseplay, and demand that every burger be triple tested at massive bottom line losses to already profit-strapped food producers everywhere (but will certainly help Madison Avenue as horse ads become the latest advertising meme).
From the FT:
“We are also enhancing our existing comprehensive quality assurance programme by adding new tests on beef for horse DNA prior to production in Europe,” said Nestlé, which just last week said products under its labels were not affected.
The European food industry has already been crippled as the horsemeat scandal unfolds:
Nielsen, the consumer research group, said sales of frozen burgers in the week to February 2 fell 40 per cent, and more than two-thirds of British adults said they would be less likely to buy frozen meat products in the future.
Two people who attended the meeting described it as “constructive”. However, the minister was challenged by several people on how quickly the Food Standards Agency and the Department of Environment acted on intelligence it had received on the food supply chain. One retailer also said an attack by David Cameron on the supermarkets on Friday “had not necessarily been helpful”.
The testing, which some supermarkets already carry out, will mean extra costs for retailers at a time of weak consumer confidence.
Suppliers reckon they will end up bearing the brunt of the cost – adding to the pressure on margins which, some say, caused the problem in the first place.
“The people who in the end will suffer are the food manufacturers, because they will be forced to undertake testing. And the people with the power in this relationship on the whole are the food retailers,” said one industry player.
Many believe equine testing is just the tip of the iceberg. “I am sure this will rapidly move on to other species,” said Adam Couch, chief executive of Cranswick, a meat and pastry goods supplier, which has not been implicated in the scandal.
This is good news for KFC, because once the testing spreads to Yum's restaurant chain, half the DNA that is consumed on the premises will be found to have no earthly basis, and thus, well, "you must acquit".
As for those who are still a lap behind the latest newsflow in the race for the horsemeat-free trifecta, the Guardian has conveniently released the definitive guide to the Equine scandal.
With the Europewide scandal over the contamination of meat products, from beefburgers to lasagne, showing no sign of abating, study the issue in depth and learn all you need to know about how it came to this with our essential guide.
1. Where did the horsemeat scandal begin?
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland tested a range of cheap frozen beefburgers and ready meals from supermarkets last November for the presence of DNA from other species which were undeclared. It found horse DNA in over one-third of the beefburger samples, and pig in 85% of them.
The majority of the beef ready meals also contained pig DNA but not horse. One beefburger sample from Tesco turned out to be 29% horse instead of beef. Until then supermarkets and enforcement bodies had not tested for horse in beef products, because no one expected it to be there.
There are conflicting reports as to whether the agency began its investigation as random surveillance or after having been tipped off. Because the findings were so serious and likely to do huge damage to commercial interests, the FSAI then spent two months retesting before announcing its findings on 15 January.
The Irish and UK supermarket supply chains are highly integrated. FSAI says it alerted the UK Food Standards Agency in November since what was on sale in Ireland would also be on sale in the UK; the FSA told MPs that it only found out in January. No one knows how long the adulteration has gone on.
2. Where did the horse and pig found by the Irish in beef products come from?
The Irish survey identified three factories as the source of beef products that had been contaminated or adulterated: Silvercrest Foods in Ireland, Dalepak in Yorkshire and Liffey Meats in Ireland. Silvercrest and Dalepak are both subsidiaries of ABP Food Group, one of the largest beef processors in Europe.
ABP pointed the finger of blame at its continental suppliers, with the FSAI saying these were in the Netherlands and Spain. It later said the horsemeat had entered its chain through suppliers in Poland. The Polish government checked its horse slaughterhouses and found no irregularities in labelling. Five weeks into the scandal and the links in the Irish chain have still not been fully established.
Huge blocks of frozen meat at a cold store in Northern Ireland, Freeza Foods, which had been quarantined by officials suspicious of its labelling and state of packaging, were found to contain 80% horse. Freeza Foods said the meat blocks had been delivered to its store by meat broker McAdam Foods but that it had rejected them and only continued storing them as a "goodwill" measure for McAdam. McAdam said it in turn had been sold them by a meat trader in Hull, Flexi Foods, which imports from Poland and elsewhere. ABP confirmed it had been supplied materials by McAdam but the two companies have given conflicting accounts of what the deliveries have been.
ABP has also confirmed that it has been supplied with beef by Norwest Foods, based in Cheshire, with operations in Poland and Spain, which is now also part of FSA inquiries.
The first case of horsemeat being found in fresh beef surfaced this week, when Asda withdrew its fresh beef bolognese. Its supplier was the Irish company Greencore, which said it had in turn been supplied the meat by ABP.
3. Why did some products contain so much more horse than others?
Industry sources and food safety officials believe there are different types of adulteration taking place. Where trace levels of DNA of the wrong species, particularly pig, have been found in beef, the most likely explanation is that they have been contaminated either by failure to clean production lines thoroughly enough between different processing, or that the DNA is present in protein additives widely used in the industry to bulk out cheap so-called value or economy ranges. An economy beefburger can legally contain as little as 47% beef.
Manufacturers add other cheap ingredients including water and fat, and use concentrated proteins to bind the water and fat in. They may appear on labels as "seasoning". One of the cheapest sources of these protein additives is pork rind. It is possible that horse hide is now also being used. The widespread adulteration of cheap chicken breast with pig and beef proteins and water has been uncovered in previous scandals. The beef proteins were derived from hydrolysed cattle hides. It is not illegal to use these protein concentrates so long as they are identified correctly to the manufacturer.
Where horse has been found above trace levels, however, experts believe they are looking at fraudulent substitution of horse for beef. Where horse has been found in high concentrations, they say it suggests industrial scale adulteration.
4. How did the rest of Europe get involved?
Once the Irish authorities had reported their findings, the UK FSA asked industry to test all its beef products for horse. The next round of tests revealed that the "beef" in frozen lasagne and spaghetti bolognese made for Tesco, Aldi and Findus by a French manufacturer, Comigel, was up to 100% horse.
Comigel was making cheap beef meals for supermarkets and branded companies in 16 different countries so the scandal spread rapidly, with horsemeat meals being withdrawn in Germany, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, as well as Ireland and the UK.
5. Is the source of the Irish horsemeat the same as the French one?
The trail of the French manufacturing scandal has taken a different route to the Irish/British one so far. Comigel had subcontracted its ready meal production to a factory in Luxembourg, Tavola. It was supplied with meat by a company called Spanghero. Spanghero had bought meat from a Dutch fraudster already convicted of passing horse off as beef, Jan Fasen.
The Dutch trader ran a company called Draap, which spelled backwards is paard or Dutch for horse. It was registered in Cyprus in 2008, with an offshore vehicle in the British Virgin Islands. It emerged during Fasen's trial in Holland that he had supplied French companies with horsemeat imported from South America and Mexico fraudulently labelled as Dutch and German "beef" going back to 2007.
The horsemeat found in the recent tests on ready meals exported from France was said to have been sourced by Draap from Romania. The Romanian government has said its meat was legally exported correctly labelled as horse. The French government said Spanghero was the first agent to stamp the horse as beef; Spanghero has denied doing so deliberately. Fasen says Spanghero and French manufacturers were in on the deception from the beginning.
6. Why are the supply chains so complex?
The food and retail industries have become highly concentrated and globalised in recent decades. A handful of key players dominate the beef processing and supermarket sectors across Europe. They have developed very long supply chains, particularly for their economy lines, which enable them to buy the ingredients for processed foods from wherever they are cheapest at any point, depending on exchange rates and prices on the global commodity markets. Networks of brokers, cold stores operators and subcontracted meat cutting plants have emerged to supply rapidly fluctuating orders "just in time". Management consultants KPMG estimate there are around 450 points at which the integrity of the chain can break down.
7. Why has it happenened?
Supermarket buyers and big brands have been driving down prices, seeking special offers on meat products as consumers cut back on their spending in the face of recession. The squeeze on prices has come at a time when manufacturers' costs have been soaring. Beef prices have been at record highs as has the price of grain needed to feed cattle. The cost of energy, heavily used in industrial processing and to fuel centralised distribution chains, has also soared. There has been a mistmatch between the cost of real beef and what companies are prepared to pay.
8. How is the meat industry regulated?
Licensed slaughterhouses across Europe are required to have an official vet in attendance when slaughtering takes place – in the UK most used to be directly employed by the government but many are now supplied under contract to the Food Standards Agency by the private company Eville & Jones. Plants over a certain size are also required to have a meat hygiene inspector. A trend to deregulate and leave industry to police itself, begun under the last government, has seen numbers of inspectors fall from 1,700 at the height of the BSE crisis to around 800 now. Smaller cutting plants are no longer subject to daily inspection. The Food Standards Agency has limited powers – it has depended on industry alerting it to the results of tests voluntarily. Enforcement largely falls to individual local authorities and their trading standards officers, and their budgets have been slashed.
9. What about industry claims that it has full traceability?
The industry has previously boasted that it has full traceability of its supply chain which it audits frequently. The current scandal shows that that traceability is not worth the paper it is generally written on. Most of the factories caught up in the scandal have accreditation with mainstream auditing schemes such as that run by the British Retail Consortium but it failed to spot the problem.
10. What happened to government control of food safety and standards?
The Food Standards Agency was set up in the wake of the BSE crisis when it became clear that one agency that co-ordinated all regulation on food safety and quality was needed. Political memories have been short, however. The coalition government broke up much of the FSA in its bonfire of the quangos, so that responsibility in the current scandal is split. The FSA is still in charge of food safety; the Department of Health is responsible for nutritional standards, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs covers labelling and veterinary medicines.
11. Where do the horses come from?
The Polish and Romanian governments have not only protested their innocence of exporting horse as beef but also pointed out that their horse slaughtering industries are not large enough to account for the scale of adulteration that is emerging. Respected animal welfare organisations have warned governments for several years about the growing trade in knackered horses both between Ireland, the UK, France and Belgium, and between North and South America, and continental Europe. Much of the latter is landed via Belgium. The welfare charities have documented horses in the thousands that have been moved by networks of horse dealers without proper passports. They are a mixture of horses bred for racing and pets.
12. What part do UK horse abattoirs play?
There is an established transport corridor for horses for slaughter from Ireland through Scotland or Wales to England and on to Europe. Last week a horse abattoir in Yorkshire, Peter Boddy, was raided along with a Welsh meat trading company. Three men have been arrested on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act. The Peter Boddy abattoir, now closed, was small, with official records showing it slaughtered 44 horses last year.
13. Why are governments talking about organised crime?
Previous convictions of dealers and traders along with intelligence suggest a link between the horse trade, meat laundering and various forms of trafficking. Lorries transporting horses have been used as cover for smuggling large quantities of cannabis between the UK and Northern Ireland and lorries transporting horsemeat to the continent are believed to be used for people smuggling on the return journey.
14. Is it a health problem?
The government said at first that there was no health risk from horsemeat, but a leading government public analyst pointed out that it could not be sure until it knew the source of the horsemeat. The latest advice from the chief medical officer is that there is a risk but that it is very low.
Horses are routinely treated with an anti-inflammatory drug called phenylbutazone, or "bute". Bute is banned from the human food chain, because it can in rare cases cause a potentially life threatening illness, aplastic anaemia, or bone marrow failure. Since it is not known what triggers the illness, it has not been possible to set any safe level for bute residues in human food. Doses from horsemeat are likely to be very low. Horse passports are supposed to record any bute administered so that animals can be excluded from going for food, but with large numbers of fake passports in circulation, some horses containing bute have been eaten.
Since the scandal the government has changed the rules so that horse carcasses may now only be released for consumption once they have been tested for bute. The first batch of tests found around 4% of horse testing positive. The horse trade from the Americas has similarly been bedevilled by problems with horse passports and drug contamination.
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CHARLESTON - February 18 - Delegate Mike Manypenny (D-Taylor) introduced a bill today to allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. It has been referred to the House Health and Human Resources Committee, and advocates are calling on the committee to hold a hearing on the bill. Similar bills have been denied hearings in the past two legislative sessions.
“There is an abundance of evidence demonstrating the benefits medical marijuana can provide to people suffering from a variety of debilitating medical conditions,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “People with diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis who might benefit from medical marijuana take this issue very seriously, and they expect their elected officials to take it very seriously, as well.”
“It would be unconscionable to deny a hearing on this bill again,” Simon said.
The Compassionate Use Act for Medical Cannabis, or H.B. 2230, allows patients with specific debilitating medical conditions to privately possess up to six ounces of marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The new law initially establishes five tightly regulated compassion centers across the state to provide patients with safe, reliable access to medical marijuana. Patients would also have the option of privately cultivating up to 12 plants in their homes.
“A majority of West Virginia voters want to see the state take a more sensible and compassionate approach to medical marijuana,” Simon said. “We sincerely hope the state’s representatives recognize that many of the voters who support medical marijuana are the same voters who elected them to office.”
“At the very least, they owe the voters their consideration of the proposal and a fair hearing,” Simon said.
A majority of West Virginia voters think the state should enact a law allowing seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it, according to a poll conducted last month by Public Policy Polling (PPP). Specifically, it found voters in the state support medical marijuana by a 13-point margin, with 53% in favor and just 40% opposed. The survey of 1,232 West Virginia voters was conducted January 7-9. The full results can be downloaded at http://www.mpp.org/WVpoll.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. Lawmakers in 12 states have introduced similar legislation this year, and medical marijuana bills are expected to be brought forward in an additional seven states.
With more than 26,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.
Posted on Feb 17, 2013
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Federal Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced Today in Anticipation of Patient-Led Congressional Lobbying Effort
WASHINGTON - February 14 - More than a dozen Members of Congress co-introduced legislation today that would reclassify marijuana for medical use and provide federal defendants the right to use state law compliance as evidence in medical marijuana trials, a right they're currently denied. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) authored H.R. 689, the "States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act," which in addition to rescheduling marijuana will allow states to establish production and distribution laws without interference by the federal government, and will remove current obstacles to research. Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) authored the "Truth in Trials Act," a separate bill which seeks to overturn the prohibition on medical marijuana evidence in federal court. Both bills were introduced in anticipation of a national medical marijuana conference to be held next week in Washington, D.C. during which hundreds of advocates are expected to meet with their Congressional representatives about the legislation.
"Nineteen jurisdictions have passed laws recognizing the importance of providing access to medical marijuana for the hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on it," said Congressman Blumenauer. "It is time for the federal government to respect these decisions, and stop inhibiting safe access." Initial co-sponsors of H.R. 689 include Representatives Cohen (D-TN), Farr (D-CA), Grijalva (D-AZ), Hastings (D-FL), Honda (D-CA), Huffman (D-CA), Lee (D-CA), Moran (D-VA), Nadler (D-NY), Polis (D-CO), Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Schakowsky (D-IL). On the "Truth in Trials Act," Congressman Farr said that, "The federal government for too long has denied due process to defendants who can demonstrate that they were using medical marijuana legally under local or state law. This bill would ensure that all the evidence is heard in a case and not just the evidence that favors conviction.”
"Congress has the opportunity to establish a sensible public health policy on medical marijuana, and do what the Obama Administration has been afraid or unwilling to do," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which has been working with Members of Congress to advance this legislation. "Patient advocates intend to push Congress to take heed of the abundant scientific evidence showing marijuana's medical value, and act in accordance with the overwhelming popular support this issue receives."
H.R. 689 is partly a response to the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) recent denial of a petition to reclassify marijuana for medical use. In 2002, the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) filed a petition, which was denied by the DEA in July 2011. The denial was appealed in January 2012 and just last month the D.C. Circuit refused to reclassify, instead ruling in favor of the Obama Administration's effort to keep medical marijuana out of reach for millions of Americans. The bill also dismantles a cumbersome and often prohibitive research application process for medical marijuana, currently run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which almost exclusively favors studies on the alleged harmfulness of cannabis.
The "Truth in Trials Act" attempts to bring 'fairness' to federal medical marijuana trials. Because of the government's insistence that marijuana has no medical value, federal prosecutors are easily able to exclude any reference to medical marijuana in trials involving cultivators and distributors who have been acting in accordance with their own state laws. Because of this, federal defendants are all but guaranteed a conviction at trial and, as a result, are forced to take plea bargains that impose years of prison time. Just in the past few months, several defendants were convicted and sentenced to between 5-10 years in prison. Since he took office, President Obama has been responsible for nearly 100 medical marijuana-related prosecutions, despite establishing a Justice Department policy that indicated he would do otherwise.
Similar versions of both bills have been introduced in prior Congressional sessions, but the Obama Administration's aggressive and intolerant stance on medical marijuana has brought the issue to a head. Next week, ASA will be holding a National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference, "Bridging the Gap Between Public & Policy," in Washington, D.C. from February 22nd-25th. The conference will feature medical and legal experts, Members of Congress and other policymakers, as well as a wide array of workshops and panels focusing on scientific research, strategic planning, and skills building. On Monday, February 25th, ASA will host a press conference, followed by a lobby day with hundreds of patient advocates seeking co-sponsors and demanding policy changes of their Congressional representatives.
States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/States_MMJ_Patient_Protectio...
Truth in Trials Act: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Truth_in_Trials_2013.pdf
Statement by Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR): http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Blumenauer_Statement.pdf
ASA Report on federal government's obstruction to medical marijuana research: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Research_Obstruction_Report.pdf
Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.