The Coastal Post - August, 1998

U.S., U.K. Plan Biological Warfare in Opium-Producing Nations

By Net

According to the Sunday Times, Britain's largest Sunday newspaper, a joint scientific effort is underway in Uzbekistan which has developed a mutant fungus which attacks opium poppies, signaling the beginning of a campaign of biological warfare next year. The project, which involves both British and American intelligence agencies, is being carried out at Uzbekistan's state genetics institute, which was formerly used to develop and manufacture germ agents for the destruction of food crops of Soviet enemies. The Times reports that some of the 30 researchers who are working on the project are veterans of secret Soviet biological weapons programs.

The mutated fungus, a strain of a tomato-eating variety called Fusarium Oxysporum, is said to be advantageous over chemical herbicides because it is self-replicating, and is transferred via airborne spores from dying plants. According to the Sunday Times, the deal with the government of Uzbekistan was brokered by senior staff of the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP), but some U.N. officials are concerned that use of the fungus in a country like Afghanistan (where the majority of British heroin originates) will open the West to charges from Islamic countries of waging biological warfare. Such charges could result in a strengthening of ties between fundamentalist and moderate Islamic states.

Fusarium is well-known in the U.S. where farmers in Florida and Georgia have had crops destroyed by a virulent mutation called "Race 3," which has proven resistant to even the strongest fungicides. In other parts of the world, Fusarium fungi have been responsible for the destruction of watermelons, chickpeas, basil, bananas, and numerous other crops. Any of the fungi's variations is capable of lying dormant in soil for years waiting for a host plant.

News Briefs

The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1998 passed the House of Representatives this week. The legislation calls for grants to help small businesses develop a drug-free workplace programs, such as instituting drug testing and employee training. "This bill is a part of a measured federal response to... the growing problem of substance abuse in our society, and a move toward a drug-free America," stated Rep. Rob Portman (R-OH), the sponsor of the bill.

Washington State Medical Marijuana Initiative Submits Signatures

Washington Citizens for Medical Rights, a broad coalition of doctors, patients and state citizens, reports submitting more than 230,000 signatures July 2 to place Initiative 692, the Washington State Medical Use of Marijuana act, on the November 3 ballot.

"These signatures represent thousands of citizens who care about relieving the suffering of patients with terminal or debilitating illnesses such as cancer and AIDS," states Tacoma physician, Dr. Rob Killian, sponsor of the initiative. "We have worked with doctors, patients, law enforcement and legislators to bring Washington voters an initiative that is tightly drafted, narrowly focused, and protects the doctor-patient relationship," said Killian.

The initiative allows patients with specific terminal or debilitating illnesses to use limited amounts of medical marijuana, and permits physicians to authorize and recommend such use. Qualifying terminal or debilitating illnesses are limited to cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma and some forms of intractable pain. Patients would be required to have valid documentation authorizing the use from a state-accredited physician.

Initiative 692 is modeled after senate bill 6271, which was introduced to the legislature during the 1998 session by

State Senators Jeanne Kohl and Pat Thibadeau. That effort received editorial support from the Seattle Times and Post- Intelligencer. "I enthusiastically support I-692," stated Senator Kohl. "My dearest friend of 23 years died recently of uterine cancer. I saw the difference just a small amount of medical marijuana made in relieving her suffering, she should not have had to die a criminal."

Snippets from the Drug Reform Coordination Network's e-mail newsletter:

From: Fred Mangels

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