BC decriminalizes hard drugs amid fentanyl crisis

On Tuesday, following the granting of a three-year exemption from Health Canada, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to decriminalize hard drugs, with the government arguing that “substance use is a public health matter, not a criminal justice issue.”

Many have argued that it will only result in more drugs on the street and, inevitably, more dead British Columbians, while some have praised the move as a step in the right direction.

Under the new laws, adults found possessing less than 2.5 grams of certain formerly-illicit drugs will not face criminal charges, nor will they have the substances seized by law enforcement.

Drugs that can now be possessed and used without punishment include opioids, such as heroin, morphine, fentanyl, crack and powder cocaine, meth, and MDMA. 

The BC government emphasized that “decriminalization is not legalization,” noting that, “under this exemption, illegal drugs (including those listed above) are not legalized and will not be sold in stores. Drug trafficking remains illegal, regardless of the amount of drug(s) in possession.” They added that all prior restrictions relating to drug use at schools, airports, and private establishments will remain in place.

While the aforementioned drugs may not be sold in stores, in Vancouver, opioids were recently made available for purchase via vending machines. The project was meant to give users access to safe medical-grade opioids instead of potentially contaminated street drugs, however, it has come under scrutiny as of late due to the potential of misuse.

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The Biggest Cocaine Boom in History

Just as the impact of slavery in the southern US extended deeply into the “free” states of the north — such as slave labor providing raw inputs for northern industries — the international drug trade has had a broad impact on local economies around the world in recent decades.

The biggest cocaine boom in history has its origins outside towns like La Dorada, Colombia, Matthew Bristow reports here. Cattle ranches and fish farms give way to endless fields of coca, the pale green shrub used for making the drug.

“We’re living in the golden age of cocaine,” said Toby Muse, the author of the 2020 book Kilo: Inside the Deadliest Cocaine Cartels, who has been reporting on the Colombian drug trade for more than two decades. “Cocaine is reaching corners of the planet that have never seen it before, because there is so much.”

Satellite photos show that the amount of Colombian land planted with coca rose to a record of more than 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) last year, more than five times what it was when the infamous Pablo Escobar was gunned down in 1993. All that supply is flooding markets around the world, bringing violence, corruption and huge profits with it.

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Drug-Testing Company Used in Child Custody Cases Investigated for Fraud

Averhealth, a drug testing company used by courts around the country to decide whether people go to jail or parents retain custody of their children, was under investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for fraud in 2022, according to emails reviewed by VICE News.

Averhealth runs millions of drug tests a year, working with courts and government agencies in 34 states. The DOJ was looking into the company as early as June 2021, according to emails between the DOJ and Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, (MDHHS), one of the state agencies that contracted with Averhealth. The investigation was still active as of March 2022. The probe led Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services to stop doing business with Averhealth, according to an internal email at the department. 

The DOJ investigation gathered information about court testimony, given by Averhealth’s former lab director Sarah Riley in 2021, that up to 30 percent of the results reported to the state of Michigan’s child welfare agency were wrong, both false positives or false negatives. As VICE News previously reported, Riley testified Averhealth was botching the quality controls that ensure lab instruments are properly calibrated. The company denies those claims.

The DOJ would not comment on the investigation, including whether it was concluded or ongoing. Neither would Averhealth. 

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Cannibalism, Aliens, and Cartels: The Trial of Mexico’s ‘Supercop’ Just Got Weird

In the months leading up to the trial of Genaro García Luna, the highest-ranking Mexican law enforcement official ever to face charges of narco-corruption in the United States, federal prosecutors made it sound like they had a mountain of evidence. Court filings described more than 1.2 million pages of documents, thousands of recordings, and a roster of cooperating witnesses who could potentially testify about delivering multi-million dollar bribes.

But now, with opening arguments in the trial set to start Monday, the high-stakes case hardly seems like a slam dunk. In a ruling handed down Thursday evening, Judge Brian Cogan—who also presided over the trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán—delivered a blow the prosecution, restricting some types of evidence from being heard by the jury and revealing the names of several likely cooperating witnesses, some of whom appear to have major credibility issues.

Cogan’s ruling, first reported by VICE News, referenced cooperators (former high-ranking cartel members who cut deals with U.S. prosecutors to testify in exchange for reduced sentences) who were allegedly involved in acts of cannibalism, along with another who has expressed beliefs in aliens, witchcraft, and the Illuminati

The judge also granted a request by the defense to block evidence of García Luna’s “expensive lifestyle” after he left the Mexican government in 2012 and moved to Miami, where he worked as a private security consultant, lived in a waterfront mansion, had access to a yacht, and enjoyed other trappings of luxury. Cogan ruled that prosecutors had so far failed to present any proof that García Luna’s lifestyle was “financed with cartel money.”

García Luna’s attorneys, Cogan said, will be allowed to show the jury photographs of the defendant meeting with high-level U.S. officials during his time leading the Mexican equivalent of the FBI from 2000 to 2006, and later during his tenure as Mexico’s secretary of public security, which ended when he left office in 2012. The defense has said García Luna interacted with former President Barack Obama, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the late Sen. John McCain, along with former directors of the CIA, FBI, and DEA, among others.

On the flipside, Cogan ruled that the defense will not be allowed to tell the jury about all the ways top U.S. officials have publicly praised García Luna over the years. To present that evidence, Cogan said, García Luna would have to call the officials—who are now presumably less effusive in their praise now that he’s under indictment—to “testify as character witnesses,” which would then make them subject to cross-examination by the government.

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Washington Bill Would Legalize Psilocybin Despite Federal Prohibition

A bill filed in the Washington State Senate would legalize the use of psilocybin, setting the stage to nullify federal prohibition of the same in practice and effect.

A coalition of senators led by Sen. Jesse Salomon (D) filed Senate Bill 5263 (SB5263) on Jan. 11. The legislation would amend existing state law by allowing the use of psilocybin for adults over the age of 21. The bill would establish an advisory board for the purposes of a 2-year program development period, ultimately leading to the licensing and regulation of psilocybin manufacturing and sales.

Psilocybin, often referred to as “magic mushrooms,” is a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushrooms. A number of studies have shown psilocybin to be effective in the treatment of depression, PTSD, chronic pain and addiction. For instance, a Johns Hopkins study found that “psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.”

Efforts to legalize psilocybin in Washington State follow a successful ballot measure that decriminalized a number of drugs, including heroin and cocaine in Oregon. In 2022, Colorado voters passed a ballot measure decriminalizing several naturally occurring psychedelic substances. At least 14 cities including Detroit, Michigan have decriminalized “magic mushrooms.”

Psychedelic decriminalization and legalization efforts at the state and local levels are moving forward despite the federal government’s prohibition of psilocybin and other psychedelic substances.

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Youngkin aims to stop sale of some cannabis products, expand enforcement in Virginia

Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration is trying to stop the sale of some potentially unsafe cannabis products.

Youngkin is asking lawmakers for more resources to bolster enforcement in his proposed budget, which will set the tone for debate in the 2023 session. Meanwhile, state officials say existing efforts to expand oversight have not resulted in any criminal penalties or lost permits to date.

Sarah Grant, general manager of “THE Dispensary” in Richmond, said state inspectors have stopped by three times since lawmakers took steps to enhance oversight last summer. They were asked to voluntarily remove all of their hemp-derived Delta-8 and Delta-10 edibles, which account for at least 40% of sales, according to Grant.

“We would at least have to cut staff and then we would have to look at closing our doors,” Grant said.

Grant says Delta-8 and Delta-10 are found naturally in small amounts in hemp, which is legal to sell. But a lack of regulation has allowed potentially unsafe synthetics with inaccurate labels to proliferate, according to some experts.

Grant said they’re currently defending the safety and legality of their products through an administrative hearing, which state officials described as an informal fact-finding conference.

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Panic grips Special Forces community amid investigation into drugs, human trafficking

Panic and fear spread throughout the special operations community at Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, North Carolina as CID and FBI agents investigated members of 3rd Special Forces Group and Delta Force who allegedly were involved in drug and in one instance human trafficking, according to nearly a dozen current and former military sources.

The arrests began Thursday, Jan. 5 and culminated with a 100% recall and accountability formation for 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group yesterday.

It is unknown when the investigation into drug and human trafficking in the Fort Bragg area began, but it is known that the FBI became involved in investigating the deaths of Timothy Dumas and Delta Force operator Billy Lavigne in 2020 when both were found shot to death at a training site on Bragg.

Last week’s arrests began with investigators receiving more evidence after an undercover law enforcement officer posing as an underage girl helped arrest a member of 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group back in December. That individual was known to moonlight as a bouncer at a bar in Southern Pines frequented by the Special Forces community, a military source close to the situation explained to Connecting Vets. The Green Beret is alleged to have been pimping underaged girls to the Special Forces community at drug-fueled parties in Southern Pines.

“This is what happens when there is no war, no direction, and an 18-month red cycle with no mission,” a Special Forces soldier said. “So dudes are fucking around with young kids and the craziest drugs. All these lives ruined because people are just bored.”

Whether the individual rolled on his accomplices or law enforcement ripped the data from his cell phone, it quickly led to the arrest of another Green Beret involved in drug trafficking in 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group.

With the information of additional suspects in hand, CID and military police set up shop at one of the main bottlenecks to entering or exiting Fort Bragg: the Longstreet gate between the post and Southern Pines.

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Priorities: Government Officials Want Cannabis Legalisation Bill ‘as Soon as Possible’

Officials within Germany’s federal government are reportedly pushing for a bill to legalise cannabis in the country to be drawn up “as soon as possible”.

Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, a Green MP within the German parliament, has called for the Federal Health Minister to present a draft law that would legalise cannabis in the country “as soon as possible”, a report on Wednesday has claimed.

The issue has been a hot-button topic within the Bundestag for some time, despite the fact that the country has also largely failed to address its woeful energy situation which has seen inflation rise to its highest level in the country’s post-war history last year.

According to a report by Die Welt, Kappert-Gonther, who serves as the Green party’s health spokeswoman within parliament, emphasised that cannabis legalisation has already been agreed upon within Germany’s three-party ruling coalition, which consists of the Greens with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD, red), as well as the Free Democratic Party (FDP, yellow).

Now, the main issue getting in the way of legalisation is the country’s Health Minister, Karl Lauterbach, who has yet to publish a draft bill that would legalise the substance.

“The controlled release of cannabis is agreed in the coalition agreement,” the health representative said. “The Minister of Health must now present a draft law in a timely manner.”

“I’m committed to making it happen as soon as possible,” the Green MP went on to say.

Die Welt goes on to note that — while the country’s government does want to legalise the drug — it is possible that Eurocrats from Brussels may block the legislation should they feel it interferes with EU law.

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The “Psychonauts” Training to Explore Another Dimension

Kevin Thorbahn found himself in a hotel lobby without quite remembering how he got there. There were flashes of brilliant light, indescribable geometric patterns, and the feeling of being blasted through a gigantic stained glass window. And then he was standing in the lobby, as if checking in for a long-planned vacation. All he knew was that he was enamored with the woman behind the counter. Although “woman” wasn’t quite right—it was more like an outline of energy, a feminine purple hue.

Just as he was getting his bearings, ready to make contact with “her,” he was sucked away, the hotel lobby and entity zooming outward down an infinite hallway, until he was back to reality, staring at his prosaic furniture. N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, the molecule coursing through his body, more popularly known as DMT, was already losing its effect. It had peaked for around six minutes, although his journey felt like hours. The memories of the hotel and the being behind the counter were quickly fading like a dream soon after waking.

Thorbahn wanted more time. He wanted to stay and speak with the purple being and map the hallways of that psychedelic lodge.

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