Man to be Hanged in Singapore for Importing About Two Pounds of Pot

A man who imported one kilogram of cannabis (about 2.2 pounds) from Malaysia into Singapore in 2018 is set to hang after his appeal against the conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Apex Court on Tuesday, October 12.

Channel News Asia reports that Singaporean Omar Yacob Bamadhaj, 41, was sentenced to death in February after being convicted of one count of importing cannabis into Singapore. Bamadhaj was caught smuggling three bundles containing at least one kilogram of cannabis.

The country’s zero-tolerance policy for drugs has led to the hangings of hundreds of people, including dozens of foreigners. 

During a routine border checkpoint at Woodlands Checkpoint late in the night on July 12, 2018, police discovered the bundles Bamadhaj was carrying. His father drove the vehicle, but was found to be unaware of the cannabis bundles.

The Alleged Crime

Bamadhaj agreed to smuggle the cannabis—a Class A drug in Singapore—two days earlier on July 10, 2018 and collected three bundles wrapped in newspapers a day later near a mosque. Bamadhaj allegedly obtained the packages from two friends, Din and Latif. Bamadhaj first said that he agreed to deliver the packages and then said he did not know what they contained.

When asked why there were differences in his accounts, Bamadhaj reportedly replied, “I said that because I was not at the right state of mind. I was feeling high from the stick I had smoked with Din. High to me is like being semi-conscious.”

On Tuesday, Bamadhaj’s lawyer Hassan Esa Almenoar said there was reasonable doubt as to whether Bamadhaj imported the drugs knowingly or not, and said it was “difficult to conclude that he planned all this”.

Bamadhaj argued that the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers had coerced him into admitting to the crime, threatening him, saying, “If you refuse to admit to this, I will throw both you and your father to be hanged.”

Tourists who smoke pot may be in for a bit of culture clash if they choose to visit Singapore—a famously intolerant country with penalties for drugs reaching up to death by hanging. Singapore applies corporal and capital punishments to foreigners—going beyond what other drug-free countries do.

In  2016, when a Nigerian named Chijioke Obioha was hanged in Singapore for possession of 2.6 kilograms of pot.

Singapore and Cannabis

Some countries in Asia are exceptionally intolerant when it comes to drugs. In 2014, Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee did six months of hard time in jail after being busted with 100 grams of cannabis in China. But Singapore’s punishments for drugs make China’s punishments look like a cake walk.

In Singapore, you can be jailed for failing to flush the toilet. Business Insider published an article in 2012, entitled “How to Travel in Singapore Without Getting Caned.” It listed other serious Singaporean “offenses” including selling gum or sipping water on a train. Or standing too close to a child. One graffiti vandal, Mas Selamat bin Kastari, for instance, was slapped with “a terror plot” for political stencil graffiti.

Singapore is one of the worst places on the planet to get caught with pot. Singapore courts can dish out the death penalty to anyone caught with over 500 grams of cannabis—around 1,000 joints. 

Singapore also does hesitate to punish foreigners if they are caught with drugs, unlike other drug-free nations such as Saudi Arabia or China. In those countries, a foreigner caught with drugs would most likely be deported instead.

Singapore doesn’t even need evidence of drug possession to jail a foreigner. Singapore might be the world’s only country that will require drug tests to foreign nationals and then arrest anyone who fails the test.

The post Man to be Hanged in Singapore for Importing About Two Pounds of Pot appeared first on High Times.

Former Cop Pleads Guilty to Accepting $14K in Bribes in Pot Trafficking Case

One corrupt police officer in California who pleaded guilty to accepting bribes spun a web of lies and deception worthy of a Breaking Bad episode.

On September 7, Rudolph Petersen, 34, pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge for accepting at least $14,000 in cash from a drug trafficker in exchange for escorting massive shipments of pot and other drugs, and searching a police database to supply the trafficker information on suspected snitches, according to  a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Petersen, who served as a Montebello Police Department for about four years, solicited and received several large-sum cash bribes from an alleged gang member and drug trafficker, according to his plea agreement. Prosecutors say Petersen admitted to taking a total of $14,000 in cash bribes since 2018—mostly for transporting a U-Haul filled with weed and sniffing out people suspected of cooperating with other police.

Peterson was the guy on the inside, who had access to sensitive information about plea deals and the individuals involved.

Federal prosecutors say a drug trafficker, identified only as “co-schemer 2,” told Petersen he’d be placed “on his payroll” during a dinner in 2018, and gave him $500 through a middle man. 

“Three months later, Petersen—who was armed and wearing a security guard uniform that resembled an official police uniform—successfully escorted a white U-Haul truck containing what Petersen believed was illegally grown marijuana from Fontana to a location off California State Route 60 near Rowland Heights,” the report reads. “Petersen returned to the residence of Co-Schemer 2, who gave him a paper bag filled with $10,000 in cash. Petersen admitted to escorting at least one additional drug shipment for Co-Schemer 2.”

Petersen also admitted to escorting at least one other drug shipment, prosecutors said.

Additionally, Petersen fessed up to using a law enforcement database to collect information on an individual whom Co-Schemer 2 called a “snitch” who had allegedly helped law enforcement intercept a cocaine shipment. 

For a bribery charge of $500-1,000 per database search, Petersen delivered information about the “snitch” individual to Co-Schemer 2, plus information on others suspected of snitching as well.

Police say that in September 2020, Co-Schemer 2 paid Petersen $1,000 to determine if tracking devices found on vehicles that he and another co-schemer used were planted by a state or federal law enforcement investigation. Petersen admitted to accepting at least $14,000 in bribes.

United States District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. scheduled a sentencing hearing for January 11, 2022, when Petersen will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Homeland Security Investigations investigated this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Ian V. Yanniello of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering and Racketeering Section is prosecuting this case.

More Alleged Bribes in Central California’s Cannabis Industry

Unfortunately, Petersen’s case isn’t alone in the central California area when it comes to corruption from law enforcement and other people in power, such as public officials.

In February 2019, The FBI investigated whether public officials in Sacramento, California accepted bribes in return for favorable treatment for applicants for licenses to operate cannabis businesses in the city.

Sacramento officials investigated how cannabis business owner Garib Karapetyan and his associates have been able to amass eight licenses to operate dispensaries in the city—one-third of the number of retailers. 

One of Karapetyan’s partners, Ukrainian businessmen Andrey Kukushkin, was one of four men indicted by federal prosecutors for involvement in a scheme.

Even former President Donald Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was implicated at some point in the case. Two other men indicted in the case, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are also associates of Rudy Giuliani.

The post Former Cop Pleads Guilty to Accepting $14K in Bribes in Pot Trafficking Case appeared first on High Times.

Granny Flips Off Police in Mugshot After Cannabis Farm Bust

When law enforcement officers searched an elderly woman’s house and farm last Monday in Jackson County, Tennessee, they got more than they bargained for.

Peggy Brewington told officers that there was “maybe an ounce” of pot on her farm before officers searched the premises and found dozens of cannabis plants and 20 pounds of flower.

After Drug Task Force officers booked the woman, she flipped off the camera for her mugshot as a token of defiance. 

On August 30, the 15th Drug Task Force and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office conducted a search on the property after slowly building a case against her. Three days earlier, on August 27, Brewington was arrested for trespassing. The 15th judicial district Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force covers Trousdale, Smith, Macon, Jackson and Wilson Counties in Tennessee.

Photo courtesy of the 15th Drug Task Force Tennessee.

Officers confronted Brewington and asked how much pot was in the residence. Brewington replied, “maybe about an ounce.” Once the search was completed, officers recovered around 20 pounds of flower from the residence and approximately 40 cannabis plants from the property. 

A second search was conducted at a nearby residence and more growing marijuana and processed cannabis was recovered. All drug cases will be presented to the Jackson County Grand Jury. Agencies assisting with the search were the TBI and THP Eradication Task Force.

“Officers recovered over 20 pounds of marijuana from the residence and approximately 40 marijuana plants from the property,” the post reads. “A second search was conducted at a nearby residence and more growing marijuana and processed marijuana was recovered. All drug cases will be presented to the Jackson County Grand Jury.”

Photo courtesy of the 15th Drug Task Force Tennessee.

The officers at 15th Drug Task Force Tennessee—a government organization—posted three additional photos of lush cannabis plants being ripped from the soil on her farm and tossed in bags like trash.

Brewington was arrested, and promptly flipped off the camera in her mugshot, which is likely to go viral. In line with other cannabis-related arrest posts, reactions were mixed, and many commenters questioned if the streets are any safer without a nonviolent elderly woman growing pot in peace.

Marijuana in Tennessee is a Bust, So Far

As noted by some concerned commenters on the post of the arrest, “a law is a law,” and it’s illegal to grow cannabis, especially in the amounts Ms. Brewington was growing. Medical and adult-use cannabis cultivation and sales are illegal in the state. But that’s likely to change in Tennessee, possibly sooner than later.

Representative Bruce Griffey, a Republican representing District 75, introduced House Bill 1634 last month, slated for the 2022 ballot in the state. 

Tennessee still does not have a cannabis industry, and is only one of 14 states that still does not have some type of medical system in place. Call it an “island of prohibition.”

Senate Bill 854 was sponsored by Senator Janice Bowling and would have legalized medical cannabis for certain patients and developed a Medical Cannabis Commission that would have regulated the production and sale of cannabis. While the Senate Government Operations Committee approved the bill back in March, it was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee later that month.

Tennessee voters consistently support cannabis according to polls, but the state doesn’t have a voter initiative process. That means only elected officials can change state law, so the ballot initiative for 2022 won’t complete the entire process of legalization. For now, people like Brewington will have to resort to other, law-abiding hobbies.

The post Granny Flips Off Police in Mugshot After Cannabis Farm Bust appeared first on High Times.

California Congressman Bulldozes Hmong Cannabis Farmers’ Crops

When U.S. gymnast Suni Lee won gold at the Tokyo Olympics last month, she also won rare headlines for her people — the Hmong.

A highland people of the Southeast Asian nation of Laos, the Hmong famously fought in CIA-aided tribal militias against the communist insurgents in the 1960s. When the communists took power in 1975, the Hmong faced persecution, and many came to the United States as refugees. They mostly settled in the Great Lakes states; gold medalist Suni Lee is from Minnesota.

A large community landed in Fresno, Calif. Over the past generation, many have been making their way from Fresno up to rugged and remote Siskiyou County, abutting the Oregon border. With this move, the Hmong are putting their ancestral knowledge as a highland agricultural people to new use: They’re growing cannabis. But Hmong cannabis farmers increasingly find themselves stigmatized and criminalized by the political establishment in Siskiyou. In recent weeks, the situation has approached a boiling point.

Congressman in a Bulldozer

On July 20, social media users were treated to the bizarre spectacle of a congressman at the controls of a bulldozer, destroying unlicensed cannabis plots in Siskiyou. The videos were posted to YouTube by the office of Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA). In a blatant publicity stunt, the videos show LaMalfa behind the wheel of the ‘dozer back in May, joining in with Sheriff’s deputies to demolish an unlicensed greenhouse.

But, as Politico noted, advocates for local growers said the timing of the videos was problematic. The videos surfaced in the immediate wake of the death of Soobleej Kaub Hawj, the 35-year-old Hmong man who was shot dead by police on June 28 during the evacuation of local communities due to the devastating Lava Fire. Barely veiled racism was evident in LaMalfa’s patter to the camera. “I love the smell of diesel power in the afternoon. It smells like victory,” he says in one of the videos, riffing off a quote from Vietnam War movie “Apocalypse Now.” 

In a statement released with the four videos, LaMalfa accused the growers of being organized criminals with dirty practices: “Trash, illegally used pesticides, human waste and fuel cover the ground that has been scraped bare of organic matter with nothing but dust left,” he said. “Nothing about the organized criminal grows in Siskiyou County is legal. These grow sites are destroying our environment. Local wildlife is now nonexistent in the area. This level of criminality cannot be tolerated.” 

An attorney for the Hmong growers, J. Raza Lawrence, gave a statement to the press in response to LaMalfa’s stunt. He said the congressman’s YouTube proclamation “sounds like a divisive message that’s likely to inflame the tensions instead of making them better.”

Mounting Crackdown on Illicit Cultivation

There is much unlicensed cannabis growing in Siskiyou, where outdoor cultivation is entirely banned by county ordinance. On June 20, just a week and a day before the murder of Hawj, Sheriff’s deputies carried out raids in the Mount Shasta Vista area, uncovering and destroying nearly 8,000 plants, along with 52 pounds of processed marijuana. A firearm was also reportedly confiscated. 

Several people were detained, although only two were formally arrested. In the past seven weeks, the Sheriff’s Office said it had eradicated over 30,000 plants. The Sheriff’s Office has also been aggressively enforcing a new county ordinance that prohibits water trucks from delivering to suspected grow sites. Citing the long drought conditions in the region, it additionally places restrictions on use of pumped groundwater in off-parcel plots.

Its passage in May also sparked a protest by local Hmong in Yreka. Demonstrators held signs reading “We need water,” “Stop discriminatory harassment,” and “Asian American lives matter.” Activists said the ordinance specifically targeted Hmong properties — and that it was passed by the Board of Supervisors with racist intent. This is of course denied by Sheriff LaRue. 

Hawj was originally from Kansas City and had moved to Siskiyou recently to help his family. It hasn’t yet been determined if he was growing cannabis, and of course it is unknown how many of the county’s some 4,000 Hmong are involved in cannabis cultivation.

Protests in Yreka

Siskiyou’s usually sleepy county seat of Yreka saw a rare protest demonstration, as hundreds of Hmong and their supporters gathered in the streets July 17 to demand justice for Hawj. A new group called Siskiyou Hmong Americans United 4 Justice organized the vigil and march through downtown Yreka. 

“We are right now facing racism against our community; myself, I am Hmong, all our people here are Hmong people,” activist Paula Yang told local KOBI-TV. She drove up from Fresno to participate in the rally.

“We don’t even know where our deceased, our loved one, is at. It’s been 20 days,” she added with clear anguish. “Typically, in my culture, we have to bring our deceased home so we can do a proper burial.” 

Another Hmong community activist, Zurg Xiong, launched a public hunger strike on the steps of the Yreka courthouse. In a social media statement released about the strike, he says,  “I’m giving a voice because we’ve been denied a voice.”

Xiong broke his fast after 19 days on July 23, when California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced he would open an investigation into the killing of Hawj.

The post California Congressman Bulldozes Hmong Cannabis Farmers’ Crops appeared first on Cannabis Now.

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It’s official—recreational cannabis is now legal in New York State

On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in New York State. Effective immediately, smoking recreational cannabis is now to be lawfully treated with the same approach as cigarettes. Law enforcement has been given new orders on how to respond to cannabis use and for the cannabis community. It’s a breath […]

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