pot: as cool as commercials
Fighting Mexico’s Knights Templar Drug Cartel
Exactly a year ago today, February 24, 2013, in “Tierra Caliente,” Michoacán, a group of farmers and businessmen in two communities organized themselves to take up arms against the Knights Templar drug cartel. Tired of the absence of the rule of law, the lack of governability, and persistent corruption, they took matters into their hands and formed what they called “autodefensa” militias in towns of Tepalcatepec and La Ruana. In January, we returned to meet the militia leaders, to find out what is happening today in the region known as the Hot Land.
The goal of the self-defense movement was to do away with the extreme violence that gripped “Tierra Caliente.” The Knights Templar not only had control of the production of marijuana and methamphetamine in Michoacán, they also diversified to such a point that the local communities had to pay them extortion “taxes.” Kidnappings, assaults, and homicides became commonplace.
The Knights Templar calls itself a “brotherhood” with its own statutes and codes. Its members use military-style uniforms modeled on the Middle Ages, and even its founding “spiritual” leader, Nazario Moreno, is venerated as a saint.
Little by little, the self-defense groups have expanded into places where the Templarios are strong. In each community they enter, they build barricades and set up checkpoints at every access point. They guard towns around the clock, armed with AK-47s, AR-15s, and other weapons that they claim were decommissioned from the Knights’ forces. However, some authorities have suggested that the self-defense groups are being armed by one of the Knights Templar’s rival cartels, Jalisco Nueva Generación. The “autodefensa” groups deny the claims.
A year after the self-defense uprising, the conflict continues. Negotiations with the government have led the militias to be folded into a little-known body within the government called the Rural Defense Forces. Yet, the principal leaders of the Knights Templar remain at large and uncertainty reigns over the Hot Land. The leadership of the self-defense militias has seen splits and ruptures, increasing the tension.
Police seizing a big bunch of weed in Humboldt County, where residents dependent on sales of (illegal) marijuana are divided on the subject of legalization.
The economy of the rural Northern Californian region is dominated by marijuana, and many growers are worried that when pot becomes legal, prices will plummet and they’ll lose their livelihoods.
Shia LaBeouf Is Currently Doing Some Kind of Super Artsy Thing in Los Angeles
As you’ve probably heard by now, Actor, director, and mirror to our tortured souls, Shia LaBeouf is doing some sort of performance art thing in Los Angeles.
The exhibition/performance/whatever is called #IAMSORRY and is being held at 7354 Beverly Blvd until Sunday.
I headed down to check it out.
I arrived expecting a huge line, but there was none. Just one other guy and a security guard. The guard told me that I was the 75th person to see the exhibit, and that I had to go in alone, “because we don’t want anyone else to ruin your experience.”
After about five minutes of waiting, the security guy gave me the once over with a metal detector, and I was allowed inside.
I ended up in a room with a bunch of objects laid out on a table. I managed to sneak a photo.
There was a ukelele, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a bowl containing print-outs of mean tweets about Shia, a bowl of Hershey’s Kisses, a bottle of Brut cologne, a copy of The Death Rayby Daniel Clowes, an Optimus Prime action figure, some pliers and a whip.
A woman told me to choose an object. I picked up the bowl of mean tweets about Shia.
A copy of the press release for whatever this thing is.
Bowl in hand, the woman led me through a curtain and into a small room.
Shia was sitting at a small wooden table in the center of the space. He was wearing a suit and the “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE" bag that he had on his head in Berlin.
The woman left, and it was just me and Shia. I didn’t sneak a photo of him, out of respect for his art (JK, I chickened out.)
I sat down opposite him. As far as I could tell, I wasn’t being filmed and nobody was listening in.
After sitting there for a few seconds with Shia staring at me in silence, I said, “So you’re not gonna talk, huh?” He didn’t respond.
VICE on HBO – Episode 7: Addiction
Segment 1: Tobaccoland
The dangers of smoking are no secret in the U.S., but in Indonesia, the tobacco industry is virtually unregulated. The result? Over two-thirds of all men are smokers, and it is commonplace for children as young as six to take up the habit. Tobacco is a $100 billion industry here, with TV and print ads everywhere. Investigating this phenomenon in Malang, VICE visits a clinic that promises cures to a plethora of modern ailments through tobacco and smoking — with our intrepid correspondent getting the full smoke-therapy treatment.
Segment 2: Underground Heroin Clinic
Heroin is the most addictive drug on earth, and some people will do anything to kick the habit. Enter Ibogaine — a drug made out of the African iboga root, whose intense, hallucinogenic properties make it a Type-A felony drug. But many swear it’s the most effective way to kick heroin addiction — especially when combined with a voodoo-type ritual that involves face paint and chanting. VICE follows the journey of a heroin addict who travels to Mexico, where Ibogaine is legal, to try to finally quit.
Nope, Still No Such Thing as a Fatal Marijuana Overdose
By all accounts, 31-year-old mother of three Gemma Moss recently smoked half a joint to help her sleep, and then she never woke up: a tragic passing that quickly yielded giddy tabloid headlines touting her as “the first woman in Britain to be poisoned to death by cannabis.”
As though some incredible sports record had just been achieved.
And really, the headlines could have gone even further, proclaiming poor Ms. Moss “the first person in recorded history to die of a marijuana overdose!” Which, given the fact that humans have been ingesting the plant in one form or another for more than 10,000 years, certainly sounds like a scoop. Especially when science had previously pegged the dose you’d need to ingest in order to suffer a fatal overdose at considerably higher than half a joint.
According to a 1988 ruling from US Drug Enforcement Agency administrative law judge Francis Young:
Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50. The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity. A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana’s LD-50 rating in test animals, without success. Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death.
At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette…. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about 15 minutes to induce a lethal response.
So if the rather notably anti-marijuana DEA considers fatally overdosing on chronic nigh well impossible, and if even the world’s most rabid drug warriors can’t point to a single previous medically confirmed OD, how the heck did we end up with last week’s definitive headlines? Is it possible that Gemma Ross rolled up a 3,000-pound joint and then consumed half of it in one sitting?
This year is the 20th anniversary of the UK’s Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the legislation that effectively banned raves and sent the whole British scene into the expensive confines of legitimate clubs and venues. To mark the occasion, photographer Tom Hunter is exhibiting his series Le Crowbar—a documentation of his time traveling through Europe in the mid-90s in a convoy of converted coaches, ambulances, and buses, setting up raves and impromptu festivals. See it at the "Life on the Road" exhibition at LCC in London’s Elephant and Castle.
After relocating from Dorset to London at the age of 15 and spending some time as a tree pruner in the Royal Parks of London, Tom Hunter bought a year-long ticket to America. It was on this trip that he began taking photos, but unfortunately, as he told me, “I came back and [none of the pictures] turned out. The lens must have been broken or something.”
Nevertheless, it was then that he decided he wanted to be a photographer—so, in 1991, he enrolled at what was then the London College of Printing. During his time at college, Tom got involved in the squatting scene in Ellingfort Road, Hackney—a thriving community of travelers, converted vans, and derelict buildings that later became the central topic of his 1994 graduation show.
If the War on Drugs Is Failing, Where’d All the Cocaine Go?
Toward the end of last year, the DEA published its 2013 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, a 28-page report chronicling drug consumption trends across the United States. These include the continued rise in abuse of prescription drugs (second only to marijuana in popularity), the increase in the production of heroin in Mexico and its availability in the U.S., and the emergence of synthetic designer drugs.
Much of the report is unremarkable—until you arrive at the section on cocaine. “According to [National Seizure System] data,” it reads, “approximately 16,908 kilograms of cocaine were seized at the southwest Border in 2011. During 2012, only 7,143 kilograms of cocaine were seized, a decrease of 58 percent.”
That sharp decline echoes an ongoing trend: 40 percent fewer people in the United States used cocaine in 2012 than they did in 2006; only 19 percent of Chicago arrestees had cocaine in their system two years ago compared to 50 percent in 2000; and less high school seniors say they’ve used cocaine in the last 12 months than at any time since the mid-70s. In fact, the report indicates cocaine was sporadically unavailable in Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, and St. Louis in the spring of 2012. So where’d the blow go?