Drug WarRant by Pete Guither Heading Image

There's a war going on. It destroys lives and families, spawns violence, suspends civil liberties, tramples on the infirm, locks up millions of peaceful citizens, costs billions, and subjugates reason with fear. This blog looks at the front lines of the drug war, with news, analysis, and the occasional rant.

Drug WarRant
by Pete Guither
Last updated:
3/12/05; 4:44:10 PM

If you support prohibition,
you are part of the
drug problem.

March 2005
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Raich v. Ashcroft -- A Guide to the Supreme Court Medical Marijuana and Commerce Clause Case.

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Marijuana never kicks down your door in the middle of the night. Marijuana never locks up sick and dying people, does not suppress medical research, does not peek in bedroom windows. Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could.
- William F. Buckley, Jr.

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Gone to New York

I'm off for a week of theatre in New York, and I'm taking 26 students with me to show them the city, so I won't be posting much for awhile. I'll still check my email and I'll be able to post if something big happens, but I'm going to try to actually avoid it for a few days.

Consider this an open thread.

8:29:14 PM |   | permalink | comment []

Walters at his most offensive

John Walters spewed his vile lies at our neighbors to the north:

A surge of high-potency marijuana illegally smuggled into the United States from Canada is fuelling a rise in drug dependency among young Americans, the Bush administration's drug czar says.

A frustrated John Walters, the director of the U.S. National Drug Control office, yesterday signalled Washington's ongoing irritation with what it sees as a lax attitude toward drug crimes north of the border, something that has forced it to redeploy drug patrols from the Mexican border to its northern flank.

Walters conceded yesterday American authorities are making no dent in the flow of Canadian pot and he said Canadian police and prosecutors have told him lenient Canadian courts are a root of the problem.

"The big new factor on the scene ... is the enormous growth of high potency marijuana from Canada," Walters said.

I get so pissed off at his lies sometimes. How is he allowed to continue to make unfounded and untrue connections between supposedly higher THC in Canadian pot and supposed increases in dependency or addiction?

Call for help

I have a personal quest. I'd like to file a challenge through the Data Quality Act -- a request for correction of information disseminated by ONDCP regarding marijuana potency and dependency/addiction treatment levels.

I won't be able to get to this right away, but I'd love some help gathering data, if anyone wants to volunteer. Check out the challenge filed by Americans for Safe Access as an example.

Then we need to gather as much information as possible:

  1. All media quotes from Walters and ONDCP staff regarding potency and treatment numbers.
  2. All government web pages that discuss these items.
  3. Actual figures regarding THC levels and potency over time and average potencies in the U.S. and Canada.
  4. Any actual studies that have looked at the connection between marijuana potency and dependency.

Shouldn't be that hard to do. It wouldn't make any huge changes, but it might force the government to admit that it has no proof for its claims.

Drop me a line if you're interested in helping out.

8:12:48 PM |   | permalink | comment []

The Field Museum, Drugs, and Stupid Bureaucrats

My friend Tim sent this one: In today's Chicago Tribune -- a fairly bizarre bit of news about Chicago's Field Museum and Peru.

Apparently the Field Museum has a program in Peru funded in part by USAID:

Field Museum has been deeply involved in the preservation of Cordillera Azul since 2000, when museum scientists first explored the uncharted rain forest in central Peru.  Since 2001, when the region was declared a national park, the museum has been a key administrator of a complex and innovative program to involve surrounding communities in the long-term conservation of the 5,225-square-mile area.

While coca production has spiked and waned around Cordillera Azul for decades, Field Museum staff members have encouraged local residents to reject drug cultivation as damaging to the long-term health of the region and have promoted growth of legal crops.  The museum has never been involved in the U.S.  government's drug interdiction efforts, however.

This is a long-term project to save the rainforest and provide alternate approaches. Well, coca paste was discovered in 3 of the 66 communities in the area, so the U.S. government was going to cut the aid. Fortunately, some cooler heads prevailed for now.

Now, I don't know enough about the project to say how valuable it is, or whether it's a good expenditure of tax money.

It's the knee-jerk reaction that I find all too typical. A couple of incidents and they want to scrap a long-term program that is designed to find positive alternatives to a drug economy. So what would those communities do? Probably turn to the drug business.

[Just like the Mark Souder HEA financial aid law. Made a mistake and got arrested for pot? Well, we'll take away your financial aid so you can't go to college and then you can.. well, sell drugs, I guess. Take action NOW to end that horrible business.]

Back to the Field Museum...

When the museum first came into the area, communities agreed to work with its scientists and staff only after receiving assurances the program would be a long-term effort, said the International Relations Committee staff member.

Many other U.S.-based programs have made, and broken, similar pledges in the region, the staff member said.

"These are poor rural areas.  The Field Museum is terrified and so is the committee that we are going to break that promise to them," the staff member said.

7:47:24 PM |   | permalink | comment []

NORML's New Arrest Report Data

Crimes of Indiscretion: Marijuana Arrests in the United States, compiled by Jon Gettman, PhD is a comprehensive study reporting and analyzing national arrest data between 1995 and 2002. This online version contains the original downloadable full report in PDF format, various other browser-friendly extracts from the report and NORML's Marijuana Arrests Investigator Flash tool, a companion application specifically designed for this project where you can create custom maps of arrest data dynamically from search parameters you enter.

Very cool (I love good data).

I've looked over the data briefly, and the one thing that strikes me is that any way you look at the data, arresting people for marijuana serves no useful purpose. In fact, some data graphs appear to have a reverse correlation.

The racial statistics are disturbing, though not particularly surprising.

7:18:29 PM |   | permalink | comment []

Andrea's got a new gig

For all you Andrea Barthwell fans... She has added a new organization and website to her repertoire: End: Coalition to End Needless Death on our Roadways. So far, it's focused on alcohol, but it'll be interesting to see if some of her past exaggerations on drugged driving will show up.

[Note: While END has been around in limited form since November, it appears that Andrea has just joined as Co-Chair, and the organization is just now gearing up.]

7:01:02 PM |   | permalink | comment []

Vancouver Sun Series on Target

The Vancouver Sun this week has just run four days of amazing editorials dealing with marijuana -- even more important given the furor over the recent slaying of 4 officers that was improperly and sensationally linked to marijuana. This is a well-thought-out series of editorials that explores the history of marijuana, discovers the lack of positive influence of prohibition, examines the downside of decriminalization, and ends up suggesting that Canada could lead the world in legalization efforts.

I've included some excerpts from each one (the last one ran today).

Part 1: Marijuana Prohibition Caught Hold for Neither Rhyme nor Reason

[1923:] ... The inclusion of marijuana in the list of banned drugs came as a surprise to many parliamentarians, including member of Parliament Ernest Lapointe, who asked "What is cannabis sativa?"

Lapointe could easily have added: "Why has it been added to the list of prohibited substances?," since, to this day, no one knows why marijuana was banned.  Parliamentarians had no evidence that marijuana caused any physical, psychological or social harm. 

Nevertheless, the legislation was passed without debate, which isn't surprising since parliamentarians could hardly have engaged in debate concerning a substance about which they knew nothing. 

While marijuana continued to be a non-problem -- by the mid-20th century, little more than two dozen people had been charged with possession -- Parliament, perhaps influenced by the drug hysteria in the United States which warned people that marijuana turns people into ax-murderers, instituted ever greater measures against the "demon" drug. ...

Part 2: Rising Use of Pot Proves the Law Can't Solve All Our Social Problems

... It's common wisdom that behaviour is influenced by the risk of getting caught, rather than the severity of the law itself.  Yet studies have demonstrated that the amount of money a country devotes to law enforcement, or the number of arrests it makes, has no bearing on the number of people in the country who use marijuana. 

While we would like the law to solve all of our social problems, or perceived problems, it's clear that it's often unable to do so.  Marijuana use, as with so many other behaviours, is influenced much more strongly by cultural factors and social values than by the law. 

This suggests that our attempt to control marijuana use through the blunt instrument of the law is doomed to fail -- indeed, it has already failed.  And while failing, it has created a monster. 

The monster has many heads and goes by many names: the Hells Angels, the Bandidos, the triads, la Casa Nostra.  Be it bikers, Asian gangs or the traditional mafia, all have experienced a tremendous boon from the criminalization of marijuana and other drugs. ... 

Part 3: Canada's Middle Way on the Legalities of Pot Might Be the Worst Way

Now the downright ugly aspect of Bill C-38 [decriminalization]: The bill will do nothing to weaken the enormous power crime syndicates exert over the drug trade - in fact, it will likely strengthen the hand of organized crime. 

The bill leaves the trafficking provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as they are, thereby allowing organized crime to maintain its stranglehold on the business. 

In addition, the bill strengthens penalties for the cultivation of marijuana.  ...

But just as outlawing drugs helped to create and sustain crime syndicates, the harshness of the law does have an effect on the degree to which organized crime controls the drug trade.  The predictable result of the harsher penalties in the new legislation is that "mom and pop" grow-ops will be deterred, leaving crime syndicates to fill the vacuum, since no penalty is likely to deter them. 

As such, the new legislation plays right into the hands of organized crime by giving it an even greater stranglehold on the marijuana industry. ...

Part 4: Canada Could Be a World Leader in Smarter Drug Strategies

... Countries have failed to consider legalization for a number of reasons: The U.S.  has exerted enormous pressure on the world to maintain the war on drugs, and it often ties foreign aid to a country's commitment to prosecuting that war.  Even countries that rely only on U.S.  trade, not aid -- such as Canada -- face ferocious opposition from the U.S.  anytime legalization, or even decriminalization, is discussed.  If we needed any more evidence on this score, we got it in spades on Wednesday.  U.S.  drug czar John Walters linked the increasing number of American teenagers seeking addiction treatment with Canadian pot exports.  ...

The U.S.  might well remain intransigent, but as the international community harnesses and distributes more and more evidence about the harm caused by the war on marijuana, some nations might feel empowered to consider marijuana legalization and regulation on a trial basis.  Should such trials prove successful, other countries would likely follow. 

All of this must begin, though, with a commitment from Ottawa to develop a national drug strategy, and to communicate the results of its work to the world.  The world is not losing the war on marijuana: It's a war we've already lost.  Canada can help to unify the globe in its efforts to minimize the harms caused not only by drugs, but by drug laws.

Canadians: share these editorials with your friends, your family. Use them as a current events discussion in class. They're a really wonderful series for getting people talking.

[Thanks to Scott for the tip. Thanks, as always to MapInc.org for its extraordinary resource in archiving drug policy articles.]

8:47:19 AM |   | permalink | comment []

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Rise Up

From Raise Your Voice:

Rep. Barney Frank (MA-4) and 55 other members of Congress introduced the Removing Impediments to Students' Education (RISE) Act, H.R. 1184. If enacted, the bill will repeal the HEA Drug Provision, which, since taking effect in 2000, has denied financial aid to over 160,500 students with prior drug convictions. Over 200 organizations and 115 student governments from across the country have called on Congress to repeal the law. With growing concern regarding the effects of this failed policy, education advocates are expected this year to push hard in both the House and the Senate to reinstate aid to those who need it most.

It's time to eliminate this offensive provision for good. Mark Souder's going to try to save portions of it, but he should be ignored.

10:51:27 PM |   | permalink | comment []

KCBA gets nice coverage at forum

Seattle Post Intelligencer: Drug war strategy assailed at forum:

Despite a variety of backgrounds -- from attorneys to outreach workers to recovering drug users -- most of those gathered yesterday at Seattle City Hall to discuss the war on drugs agreed that, as waged today, it is at best ineffective and at worst expensive and unfair.
How about that for a lead paragraph?

A step at a time...

10:43:34 PM |   | permalink | comment []

A brave legislator

Via Jacob Sullum at Hit and Run, a Vermont leglislator has introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana for up to an ounce for adults over 21.

He thinks prohibition hasn't worked and wants to spark a debate. Let's hear it for Representative Winston Dowland!

10:17:21 PM |   | permalink | comment []

King County Bar Association - one well-informed step at a time

I got a wonderful letter from Roger Goodman, Director of the Drug Policy Project of the King County Bar Association.

I was so impressed with the KCBA resolution calling upon the State of Washington to take over the regulation and dispensation of drugs currently under federal prohibition (I think it's one of the most important documents ever created regarding drug policy reform), that I wrote with some questions about the future plans for the proposal.

Here's part of Roger's letter:

We plan to use the Resolution and the report underlying it as the intellectual platform for real legal reform -- this is not a mere academic exercise.  Needless to say, for such a monumental change this is going to take time. 

We've made progress with this approach already.  In 2001 we published Is It Time to End the War on Drugs? (Our latest Resolution and both reports are available at https://www.kcba.org/druglaw/index.html ), which propelled the state legislature in 2002 to reduce prison time drastically and fund treatment for drug offenders.  Now, obviously, we aren't going to see the major culture shift overnight in the present campaign, although we did get the Chair of the Judiciary Committee in the State Senate last week to introduce a bill and call a public hearing on creating a state commission to recommend concrete steps the legislature can take to move toward a regulatory framework for drug control.  It was a great hearing, although the bill will move no further this session, which is what we expected.  Significantly, however, the official public discussion was launched and we achieved our goal this time around.  We basically did the courtesy of putting the legislature on notice that this is a MAJOR coming attraction.

Understanding that the legislature follows the people, so we're focusing on our education-oriented mission, continuing numerous initiatives through our working groups (Stimulants Group, Race/Class Task Force, Prevention Working Group et al.) and our trained speakers' bureau members will be spreading the message to PTAs, churches, Rotaries, chambers of commerce, retirement centers, etc.

We're getting lots of ink and air time at the moment, as our report's recommendations are reverberating in the media, and today, Wednesday March 9, the full Seattle City Council holds a special meeting on "Changing Drug Policy in Seattle," which is being orchestrated to deliver very progressive messages - stop automatic arrest and booking, stop buy-bust operations, tell the mayor and police to focus on crimes against persons first, against property second and against drugs last, and even look at the horizon - safe consumption and prescription maintenance.

Thanks, Roger.

Smart approaches -- and it appears that this group is in for the long haul of drug policy reform. If you're in Washington State, consider offering to help them. Get someone from their speaker's bureau invited to your Rotary club. Have your student group invite them to do a presentation on campus, or use their resolution as the basis for a class presentation or paper. Work in public relations? Offer your services to help them get the word out.

Tipping the Balance in Drug Policy Reform

We've had a bit of a discussion going on here regarding views as to what will be the event or point that turns things around in drug policy reform. It often seems discouraging with most of the political power structure pushing the drug war and yet I see encouraging signs every day. Some of that is in the desperation apparent in the tactics of pushers like Souder and Walters and Barthwell. The rest is in the determination and intelligence and reach of drug policy reformers.

I think it'll be like the straw that breaks the camel's back. You can identify the straw only after the fact, and there's no way to jump ahead and go right to that straw. It takes all the other straws before it to be placed first.

KCBA is one of those straws. The medical marijuana movement in the states is one - a huge one. Reform efforts in Canada and the European Union are important straws that will eventually cause the U.S. to lose the cover of participating in an international effort. Organizations like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition are critical -- sending police officers to talk to communities has real power -- and don't forget to follow the amazing Howard Woolridge and his horse Misty in their ride across the country.

Every one of the organizations listed here are straws. This blog is a straw. Every time one of you does a persuasive speech on the drug war in class, or writes a letter to the editor, or convinces a friend to read about the drug war, or posts a link on an online discussion board -- more straw.

The camel may still be pretty mean-looking, and straw doesn't weigh much, but I see a lot of straw out there.

1:35:19 AM |   | permalink | comment []

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Have you no shame, sir?

Our Drug Czar finished up his speech in Vienna with the following:
President Bush has recently called for the United States to engage the world in a renewed campaign to realize the core principles of our nation and of the United Nations: human rights, human dignity, and human freedom. When we push back against illegal drug use, we help establish these fundamental principles more securely for all our nations.

bullet image Dogs sniffing cars, and task forces smashing down doors in pre-dawn military-style raids -- I guess that's what human rights looks like.

bullet image Innocent school children and employees peeing in a cup -- that must be the sound of human dignity.

bullet image Having 5% of the world's population, yet 25% of the world's prison population -- that would be our leadership in human freedom.

Thanks, John.

9:06:10 AM |   | permalink | comment []

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Your pants are in a state of combustion

Yesterday, I noted that the Washington Post not only disagreed with our drug warriors regarding needle exchange, but caught them in some bold lies.

Turns out a couple of other major newspapers have done the same. First, the New York Times talks about the stupidity and danger of the administration's international drug policy:

The Bush administration has contributed to suffering and death through the so-called global gag rule, which prohibits Washington from giving money to any group that performs - or even talks about - abortions.  Organizations that provide desperately needed family planning and women's health services have lost their financing.  Now there are moves in Congress and inside the administration to apply a similar rule to needle exchange programs.  That would be an even more deadly mistake.

Allowing drug users to trade used needles for clean ones gets dangerous needles off the street and minimizes needle sharing.  A proven weapon against AIDS transmission, it has not been shown to increase drug use, and indeed may reduce drug addiction by providing a way to talk to drug users and lead them to treatment.  It is endorsed by virtually every mainstream public health group.

Then they nail them:

In the Senate, a member of the staff of Sam Brownback, the Kansas Republican, has compiled a grossly inaccurate chart of programs financed by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that is subtitled "Immoral, Illegal ( with bilateral funds ) or Inconsistent with U.S.  Foreign Policy." Needle exchanges rank high. ... [Representatives Mark Souder of Indiana and Tom Davis of Virginia] claim that a U.N.  drug agency report attacks needle exchange as encouraging drug use.  In fact, the report makes no such accusation and endorses needle exchanges.

Liar, Liar ...

Then we hear from the Chicago Tribune today:

Clean-needle programs have been shown to be effective in controlling the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other diseases by protecting intravenous drug addicts from contaminated syringes. Illinois has had needle-exchange programs since the 1980s, and in 2003 legalized the over-the-counter purchase of hypodermic needles. Buyers receive information on how to use the needles as well as where to get help if they are addicts.

And yet, resistance in Washington to such efforts has been strong. Congress prohibited the use of federal funds for such programs unless they were found effective by the Department of Health and Human Services. Former President Bill Clinton declined to lift that ban, even though his HHS secretary made such a finding. President Bush has made no move to lift the ban.

And now some in Congress want to cut off American support for international organizations that provide clean-needle exchanges. Given the reach of U.S. efforts on AIDS, for this country to stop funding organizations that provide needle exchanges would be a blow to worldwide efforts to contain the epidemic.

... and then they move in for the kill:

Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), is leading the effort to restrict U.S. funding for international groups that, an aide says, "distribute paraphernalia for the consumption of illegal drugs." Souder would direct funds only to prevention and drug rehabilitation efforts. ...

Souder cites a study of a needle-exchange program in Vancouver that, according to his spokesman, demonstrated the "HIV and hepatitis epidemics exploded in the aftermath of the introduction of needle-exchange programs, as did the drug epidemic."

But the doctors who conducted the Vancouver study wrote, in an April letter to the director of the National Institutes of Health, that Souder's interpretation of the data was incorrect. "For Mr. Souder to take the Vancouver data out of context, is selective and self-serving," they wrote.

Liar, Liar, pants ablaze!

Three major newspapers. And while they didn't use the "L" word, they sure meant it.

10:25:35 PM |   | permalink | comment []

Family Values

What's more harmful to a child? Seeing Mom smoke a joint? Or seeing her dragged off to prison?

bullet image Via Jacob Sullum at Hit and Run, California Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian (R-Stockton) has introduced a bill that would make it a felony to smoke pot or use other illegal intoxicants in the presence of your kids.

bullet image Via the Drug War Chronicle, the South Dakota legislature passed a bill so that people who use ANY hard drug in a location where children are present can be criminally charged with child abuse and neglect and be faced with civil proceedings to have their children taken away.

What happened to all the talk about family values? About the importance of a mother and father to raise children? Now I'll admit that drug addict parents may not be the best ones, yet that's a decision that can be made in individual situations based on what's actually best for the children, rather than making irrevocable decisions based on one instance.

These lawmakers, as usual, care nothing for children. They just use them for their political grandstanding.

8:39:31 PM |   | permalink | comment []

Quick! Drive That Gasoline Truck Into That Burning Building

Editorial in the Calgary Herald

Longer Jail Terms Might Help Protect Police and Citizens ...

Thursday's horrific killing of four police officers at a farm near Mayerthorpe, at the site of a marijuana grow-op, tragically highlights why such operations and drug dealers in general ought to receive a much higher priority in terms of investigation, prosecution and punishment.


7:56:07 PM |   | permalink | comment []

Next week in New York

Note: I'll be in New York City next week (Mar. 12-17) hosting a theatre tour. I'll have a few open moments and would love to meet drug policy reformers for coffee. Drop me a line.

8:06:52 AM |   | permalink | comment []

Monday, March 7, 2005

Walters, Souder, and other U.S. Officials Push for Millions More AIDS Deaths

Yes, this goes beyond hyperbole. It's a coordinated campaign to purposely cause the deaths of potentially millions of innocent people. Let's take a look.

bullet image On February 16, Mark Souder held a circus of a hearing: "Harm Reduction or Harm Maintenance: Is There Such a Thing as Safe Drug Use?" (See the report in the Drug War Chronicle.) It was a blatant attempt to put harm reduction in a negative light, including testimony by Drug War Dealers Andrea Barthwell and Peter Bensinger.

bullet image On February 28, John Walters (according to his "blog" - no permalink, you have to scroll down to March 1) began a "five-nation visit to Europe to discuss combating so-called 'harm reduction' policies."

bullet image Today, Walters appeared at the annual session of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes and lied at least twice (based on this Reuters report:

  1. He said "that the majority of the international community opposed injection rooms and similar narcotics 'appeasement' programs." and
  2. "He rejected the idea that opposition to such programs is 'somehow an impediment to efforts addressing another global crisis, the spread of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne pathogens such as Hepatitis C.'"

You see, the U.S. administration has been (since November) pushing for the U.N. to remove all references to harm reduction (including needle exchange) from its literature, and the U.N. has been rolling over and complying. (This administration loves the U.N. when it comes to international drug policy.)

The comment about "appeasement" programs (Walters' way of attempting to tarnish needle exchange) being opposed by the international community was shown to be a lie with this letter from a group of AIDS organizations, human rights groups, scientific researchers and policy analysts from 56 countries last week.

As far as the rest of it, well we need only take a look at an attempt by the Administration to sneak lies into the Washington Post.

bullet image Check out this editorial -- Deadly Ignorance -- in the Washington Post just before Walters' trip:

THE BUSH administration is quietly extending a policy that undermines the global battle against AIDS. It is being pushed in this direction by Congress, notably by Rep. Mark Edward Souder (R-Ind.). But some administration officials zealously defend this policy error, claiming scientific evidence that doesn't exist.

The administration's error is to oppose the distribution of uncontaminated needles to drug addicts. A large body of scientific evidence suggests that the free provision of clean needles curbs the spread of AIDS among drug users without increasing rates of addiction. Given that addicts are at the center of many of the AIDS epidemics in Eastern Europe and Asia, ignoring this science could cost millions of lives. In Russia, as of 2004, 80 percent of all HIV cases involved drug injectors, and many of these infections occurred because addicts share contaminated needles. In Malaysia, China, Vietnam and Ukraine, drug injectors also account for more than half of all HIV cases. Once a critical mass of drug users carries the virus, the epidemic spreads via unprotected sex to non-drug users.

The administration claims that the evidence for the effectiveness of needle exchange is shaky. An official who requested anonymity directed us to a number of researchers who have allegedly cast doubt on the pro-exchange consensus. ...
The only problem is when the Post dug into it and contacted the researchers, it turns out that all of the studies that were legitimate actually supported needle exchange. (Read the whole editorial for details.)

The administration was purposely lying about studies in order to push for reduced access to clean needles world-wide, thereby sentencing millions of innocent individuals to death (beyond the IV drug users themselves as the epidemic spreads) in order to promote their unworkable abstinence-only agenda.

7:29:13 PM |   | permalink | comment []

Sunday, March 6, 2005

Marijuana and the Deaths of Officers

Two situations involving the death of officers, in two different countries, are causing some lively discussion on the net right now.

1. Alberta, Canada.

I reported earlier about the four RMCP officers killed by a suicidal maniac who may have been growing marijuana among his other problems. Naturally, the immediate knee-jerk response by many politicians was to call for harsher penalties for marijuana grow-ops. Fortunately, others have shown some smarts.

Check out this article from the Toronto Star (archived at Cannabis News, along with discussion).

"The whole reason grow ops exist is because of prohibition," [Lawyer Eugene] Oscapella said yesterday.

"This is very simple economics and it's really appalling that the governments, not just this but the past governments, profess to have such a sophisticated understanding of economics but can't seem to grasp the fact that they've created this incredibly powerful, lucrative and violent black market in Canada." ...

Jack Cole, a former undercover narcotics agent from New Jersey, who now heads the pro-legalization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), agrees the Alberta tragedy is likely a direct result of laws that make marijuana's growth and use illegal.

"And creating rigid laws with stiffer penalties because of this situation is a knee-jerk thing that policy makers (will likely) do because they don't seem to know anything else," says Cole, "But when they do that it will only make things worse... the harsher the penalties, the more likely it is that (more) officers will be killed."

Cole, who worked 14 years undercover with the New Jersey State Police, says his country's 35-year-old war on drugs and its 1920s alcohol prohibition experience show restrictive policies make the use of banned substances more pervasive and their distribution more lethal.

There's a very extensive discussion below that article that shows this kind of issue can cause some real heat.

2. Columbia, Missouri, USA.

Voters in November passed an ordinance that reduces the penalty for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana to a fine. This has been unpopular with some idiotic legislators as well as some law enforcement groups.

Officer Sterling Infield, President of Columbia Police Officers Association (CPOA) wrote a letter asking city officials to "squash this tainted ordinance." In this letter, he referred to two officers who had been shot in the line of duty -- Officer Curtis Brown and the late Officer Molly Bowden -- saying "To stop this ordinance would bring a small degree of justice back to" Bowden and Brown, "who risked all to protect their community."

Now the officers were shot by someone who had marijuana charges (among others), but the change in the ordinance would not have had any affect, which Infield later admitted. Now most of Columbia's police force has been properly following the new ordinance, but Infield's letter has generated some controversy, especially since he posted it at an open forum on the CPOA site (see "Letter to Assist City Administrator" for text of the original letter and check out some of the other folders for some spirited debate).

In both of these cases, while charges of using the deaths of officers for political gain has been bandied about in both directions, it was prohibitionists who first sought to exploit. And what makes that particularly hard to stomach is the fact that their case hold no merit whatsoever. It can be clearly shown time and time again that tougher prohibition makes it more likely that cops will be killed in the line of duty, not less likely.

Drug WarRant supports law enforcement officers, particularly the vast majority who believe in their oath to serve and protect all citizens. When I rant against law enforcement officers, it is those who are vicious and corrupt or who have declared war on the citizens (as in many task forces).

Additionally, I believe that law enforcement officers have often been horribly used in the failed drug war (and I list several among the group of Drug War Victims on my site).

And I despise those who would use the deaths of officers to advocate further war.

Now one of the more interesting debates that often surfaces in this kind of discussion over drug war deaths is the concept of two sides with their own version of how to stop the violence.

  1. Prohibitionists say that if nobody used drugs there would be no drug war violence.

  2. Drug Policy Reformers say if it weren't for prohibition causing the black market, there would be no drug war violence.
The thing is, both are correct.

But are both arguments equally possible?

Option 2 is certainly possible. It is, after all, the status that existed years ago, and it could happen again with the passage of certain laws.

Option 1, however, is impossible. Decades of drug war enforcement have had little impact on the use of drugs and it's clear that no amount of ratcheting up of the drug war will result in the absence of drug use. Even in countries where drug smuggling earns the death penalty there appears to be no shortage of offenders.

So one option is possible, while the other is not. That should at least cause the prohibitionists to consider the options. If the reverse were somehow true (in an alternate university with different laws of economics), I, as a reformer, would feel it necessary to at least seriously consider and discuss option 1 (despite my views on liberty).

It is intellectually dishonest for prohibitionists to refuse to discuss option 2. Yet they do refuse. And instead they exploit the deaths of good cops to further their descent into madness.

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Friday, March 4, 2005

Government Reports Massive Abuse of Treatment Resources, Tries to Shift Blame

The Drug Czar's "blog" (where EVERY day is Tuesday!) reported today (Tuesday, March 4): "A Wake-Up Call: Admissions to Treatment for Marijuana use Increases Sharply"

The startling data:

Admission rates for primary marijuana increased nationally by 162 percent between 1992 and 2002

Their conclusion:

The report serves as a "wake-up call" for parents and young people who still view marijuana as a so-called "soft drug."
The one little bitty problem is that there isn't a single shred of evidence that supports their conclusion.

Fortunately, for a little better perspective, the Drug Czar touted this AP article, which had the integrity to get some proper perspective:

Advocates of legalizing marijuana disagreed, saying the trend was largely due to an increase in marijuana arrests and had almost nothing to do with more people seeking treatment because they thought their own health was at risk.

"They have the option of going into treatment for marijuana or going to jail," said Paul Armentano, senior policy analyst for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

FBI records show a substantial increase in marijuana-related arrests during the decade studied, from about 340,000 in 1992 to about 700,000 in 2002.

If treatment was actually needed for severe addiction based on marijuana use (which is contrary to all scientific data that shows marijuana only triggers mild dependency at most), then where is the data that shows that these people really are suffering from addiction problems (as opposed to just having marijuana listed on their intake form).

Well, SAMHSA spokesperson Leah Young had it all covered with this snappy comeback:

"Being forced into treatment does not indicate you don't need it."
Yeah, and being a spokesperson doesn't mean you know what you're talking about.

The sad thing about this is that massive amounts of resources are going to "treat" tons of people with a mild dependency similar to, or lesser than, caffeine simply because they got caught with a joint.

Of course the treatment industry is having a ball. If marijuana treatment admissions increased 162%, so has their income. Since the treatment industry depends on marijuana admissions for its livelihood, any change in status would threaten their financial health. Legal marijuana would probably reduce their admissions by 50%.

This helps to explain why people like Andrea Barthwell and Peter Bensinger (two of the drug war pushers who have been opposing medical marijuana in Illinois) are so keen to block any change to the legal status of marijuana. They are financially tied to treatment and its related industries.

Andrea Barthwell has huge ties to the treatment industry, including her Encounter Medical Group, which has provided services to the Cook County Juvenile Drug Court Program since 1977.

Peter Bensinger (former DEA head), joined forces with fellow drug prohibitionist Robert DuPont and created Bensinger, Dupont & Associates. The company has provided a variety of services to business and government, including drug testing and substance abuse consulting. Their clients include U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Department of Transportation, they U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Illinois State Police. Their reported revenues in 2000 were $3,900,000. A 2003 report estimates sales at $28,900,000. Nice increase.

The drug czar cannot continue to spout these treatment statistics as if they support his position. Anything more than a surface reading raises more questions about the government's relationship to monied interests than any real concerns about the dangers of marijuana.

Even on Tuesday.

Update: Just as a reminder, I've covered these statistic games by the Drug Czar before in detail. Treatment Statistics or, The Drug Czar is Lying to You. This is where you can dig into the details and find numbers that come at least a little bit closer to revealing the truth.

Example: Let's take a look at how many are in treatment because they decide that they have a problem (This would also include cases where the parents or other family members decide the person has a problem and refers them to treatment). That would be a much more interesting figure. Well, only 16.6% of those in treatment for marijuana were self/family referred. 31.2% of those in treatment for alcohol were self/family referred, and 63.4% of those in treatment for heroin were self/family referred.

In total, of all people in treatment only 2.5% are self/family referred for marijuana use.

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Four Victims in Alberta

Several people have passed on articles to me about the tragic killing of four RMCP officers by a maniac who had a marijuana grow-op and ended up killing himself.

There have been a number of good discussions about this around the web. The best I've seen so far is this article in the National Post of Canada: Why the War on Drugs Can Never Be Won by Jonathan Kay.

Yesterday, four police officers were killed by a pot thug in Alberta. For those who still believe the war on drugs can be won, it will be but one more reason to pound the chest and call for zero tolerance. But common sense dictates otherwise: These four men were not victims of drugs. They were victims of the war on drugs.

This is not the best time to make this point. When men in uniform -- men with wives and children and mortgages -- are gunned down by criminals, our first human impulse is not to question the mission of the fallen. But we must: There are many good reasons to put one's life on the line -- soldiers, firemen and even taxis drivers do it all the time in a day's work. But the campaign against reefer, that is not one of them.

The number of people who died yesterday trying to fight the marijuana trade exceeds -- by four -- the total number of people known to medical science to have died from a marijuana overdose, ever. ...
Four more drug war victims.

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Positive press response in Seattle

The Kings County Bar Association proposal was released yesterday to the press and, while it's gotten no coverage to speak of so far outside of Seattle, both the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post Intelligencer gave it some nice positive coverage.

It is clearly being seen as an opening salvo in a long-term effort.

Proponents of the controversial idea, outlined in a report released yesterday, say continuing to deal with drug addiction as a crime instead of a medical problem is not only expensive, it simply doesn't work.

They say letting the state regulate now-illegal drugs would curb all kinds of problems in society that the so-called war on drugs has failed to address, including gang violence, petty crime and drug use by kids.

"It's time for us to take a fresh look at how we are dealing with the use and abuse of drugs in our society," said the Rev. Sandy Brown, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, which also stands behind the proposal.

"Our solutions aren't working. ... They've actually created injustices that need to be fixed."

Supporters acknowledge the idea is too new and controversial to get off the ground this year, despite a state Senate bill that proposed a first step. Bar association President John Cary said the idea, for now, is to get a discussion going about a sweeping drug-policy overhaul.

The Seattle P.I. article not only gave the proposal a good overview, it focused on positive comments by supporters, and even reasonable responses by opponents.

King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said the way drug cases are handled "continues to be an important issue that deserves further discussion and study."

In a written statement yesterday, he said, "While I don't agree with the Bar Association's proposal, it's important to note that we have made significant changes in our criminal justice system with regard to decreasing sentences and increasing treatment options for drug offenders."

Within all of that, the one real negative -- naturally from Tom Riley of the ONDCP -- sounded remarkably ignorant

Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, said he didn't see how "making drugs less difficult for addicted users to get stems the problem." He suggested the idea would also invite a flood of lawsuits.

"A state or municipality would have to be crazy to take on the legal liability that would come with distributing products with such known, catastrophic health consequences," Riley said.
It's so like the Drug Czar's office to not even discuss the proposal's merits, but just throw out ridiculous statements that have no foundation.

Probably the key statement was made by Senator Adam Kline:

"I think the King County Bar Association is light-years ahead of the Legislature in assessing the need for a radical sea change in the policy on drugs," Kline said.
Exactly. And we need to work on helping the legislature catch up.

6:13:28 PM |   | permalink | comment []

Liberals and Prohibition

Serial Catowner has written an interesting and provocative post for Guest Drug WarRants. Check it out and leave your comments.

Remember, anybody that would like to write your own material about the drug war is welcome to do so for Guest Drug WarRants. Just send me your post.

5:54:52 PM |   | permalink | comment []

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