Pentagon Looks into Drugs to Calm Rioters

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Sep 27, 2002.

  1. By Matt Kelley, Associated Press
    Source: Associated Press

    The U.S. military is exploring ways to use drugs such as Valium to calm people without killing them during riots or other crowd control situations where lethal weapons are inappropriate. Some critics say the effort violates international treaties and federal laws against chemical weapons, an allegation the military denies.
    "It's a rotten idea to drug rioters," said Edward Hammond of the Sunshine Project, a chemical and biological weapons watchdog group that is the program's chief critic. "Beyond being a horrible idea, it's illegal."

    The Pentagon has long tried to develop nonlethal weapons that would incapacitate or repel people with little risk of killing them. The effort intensified in the 1990s after hostile mobs confronted U.S. troops during peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in places like Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti.

    Officials in the military's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate began discussing whether it would be possible to develop drugs for use as "calmatives," or chemical peacemakers. Those discussions continued at a seminar with British military officials in 2000, according to a joint report on the meeting.

    "During war game scenarios, numerous participants expressed the desire to have a NLW (nonlethal weapon) that could quickly incapacitate individuals with little or no aftereffects," the report said.

    Researchers at a Pentagon-funded institute at Pennsylvania State University prepared a 50-page report that year saying that developing calmative weapons "is achievable and desirable" and suggesting drugs like Valium for further research.

    One hurdle for using such drugs for riot control, the researchers wrote, is finding a way to deliver the substances to large groups, such as in a spray or mist.

    Another problem would be figuring out how to prevent other injuries, such as by people falling down if they are knocked unconscious, the researchers wrote.

    That's as far as the military went, spokesmen for Pennsylvania State and the military said. University spokeswoman Vicki Fong said the researchers initiated the study themselves, not under a request from the military.

    "We decided to step back and make sure the use of calmatives would not violate the Chemical Weapons Convention," said Marine Capt. Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate. "There are still questions, and until those are worked out, we're not going to put any funding into it."

    Hammond said the research itself may have violated the anti-chemical weapons treaty and any use of calmatives would be illegal.

    "If the U.S. is going to denounce countries around the world for violating chemical and biological arms control treaties, it better make sure its own house is in order first," said Hammond, whose group obtained the Pennsylvania State study and hundreds of pages of other nonlethal weapons documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

    The chemical weapons treaty allows military and police forces to use riot control agents, such as tear gas and pepper spray, that produce temporary irritation. The treaty bans use of chemicals that incapacitate people, however.

    The report of the U.S.-British meeting said the American participants agreed that research into calmatives "must be conducted in a manner consistent with our obligations under international law, including the law of war."

    On the Net:

    Sunshine Project:

    Source: Associated Press
    Author: Matt Kelley, Associated Press
    Published: Thursday, September 26, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 Associated Press

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