RSSCategory: Drug laws

Reactions to the partial shift in federal drug enforcement policy

May 11, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More
Reactions to the partial shift in federal drug enforcement policy

Today the Obama administration announced a shift in its priorities regarding drug enforcement.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced a revised approach to “confronting the complex challenge of drug use and its consequences,” putting more resources into drug prevention and treatment.

The new drug control strategy boosts community-based anti-drug programs, encourages health care providers to screen for drug problems before addiction sets in and expands treatment beyond specialty centers to mainstream health care facilities.

At Huffpo, Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, applauds some of the changes:

The Obama administration has taken important steps to undo some of the damage of past administrations’ drug policies. The Justice Department has played an important role in trying to reduce the absurdly harsh, and racially discriminatory, crack/powder mandatory minimum drug laws; Congress is likely to approve a major reform this year. DOJ also changed course on medical marijuana, letting state governments know that federal authorities would defer to their efforts to legally regulate medical marijuana under state law. And they approved the repeal of the ban on federal funding of syringe exchange programs to reduce HIV/AIDS, thereby indicating that science would at last be allowed to trump politics and prejudice even in the domain of drug policy.

The new strategy goes further. It calls for reforming federal policies that prohibit people with criminal convictions and in recovery from accessing housing, employment, student loans and driver’s licenses. It also endorses a variety of harm reduction strategies (even as it remains allergic to using the actual language of “harm reduction”), endorsing specific initiatives to reduce fatal overdoses, better integration of drug treatment into ordinary medical care, and alternatives to incarceration for people struggling with addiction. All of this diverges from the drug policies of the Reagan, Clinton and two Bush administrations.

Nadelmann also criticizes the the budget numbers because they point to a continued waging of the “drug war”: “64% of their budget – virtually the same as under the Bush Administration and its predecessors – focuses on largely futile interdiction efforts as well as arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating extraordinary numbers of people”

LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) also criticizes the budget numbers for the same reason as Nadelmann:

The drug czar is saying all the right things about ending the ‘war on drugs’ and enacting a long-overdue balanced strategy focused on a public health approach,” said Neill Franklin, a former Baltimore cop and incoming executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “Unfortunately the reality of the budget numbers don’t match up to the rhetoric. Two-thirds of the budget is dedicated to the same old ‘war on drugs’ approach and only a third goes to public health strategies. My experience policing the beat tells me that it’s certainly time for a new approach, but unfortunately this administration is failing to provide the necessary leadership to actually make it happen instead of just talking about it.

The strategy devotes 64 percent of the budget to traditional supply reduction strategies like enforcement and interdiction while reserving only 36 percent for demand reduction approaches like treatment and prevention.

StoptheDrugWar joins the chorus, arguing that the budget allocation needs to match the new rhetoric:

President Obama’s first National Drug Control Strategy offers real, meaningful, exciting change,” [Matthew Robinson, professor of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University and coauthor (with Renee Scherlen) of “Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the ONDCP”] summed up. “Whether this change amounts to ‘change we can believe in’ will be debated by drug policy reformers. For those who support demand side measures, many will embrace the 2010 Strategy and call for even greater funding for prevention and treatment. For those who support harm reduction measures such as needled exchange, methadone maintenance and so forth, there will be celebration. Yet, for those who support real alternatives to federal drug control policy such as legalization or decriminalization, all will be disappointed. And even if Obama officials will not refer to its drug control policies as a ‘war on drugs,’ they still amount to just that.

In the past, I’ve cited many reasons and sources that paint the “drug war” as ineffective and immoral. See, especially LEAP’s videos here. Also see the powerful arguments raised by conservative Judge James Gray. Gray has commented that “the most harmful thing about marijuana is jail.” In this post, I refer to John Richardson’s shocking statistics: The amount we spend every year on the “drug war” is enough to pay for universal health care. The insanity goes on and on.

I am buoyed by the recent change in federal rhetoric, however. I am glad that many people (a large proportion of whom are in favor of the use of street drugs) are finding the courage to speak out against the status quo. I would hope that this is the beginning to the end to a failed policy that is based on shrill ideology that results in needless violence and stigmatization and the arrests of almost 800,000 people every year for marijuana charges.

In my opinion, one of the most direct and courageous statements on the “drug war” was made by travel guru Rick Steves:

Share

Read More

Meditation Mitigation Incarceration

May 3, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More
Meditation Mitigation Incarceration

February 1, 2010 issue of Missouri Lawyers Weekly (available only to subscribers online) reports on a new “Enlightened Sentencing Program” sponsored by a nonprofit meditation organization. The MLW article advises that several St. Louis area judges have been impressed with the program. For example, Judge David Mason

Ordered more than 200 people through the program. Of those offenders, he said that he has had to revoke probation only four times, a 2% rate. Mason’s definition of recidivism is if the probationer commits a new crime in the first three years. Missouri Department of Corrections statistics show a statewide average of 28% of prisoners are locked up again within three years after either violating parole or committing another crime.

Presumably, Judge Mason’s statistics are not compiled in a double-blind way–he might be unconsciously skewing the sample by choosing a select sub-group of convicts for the program. On the other hand, this stark difference in statistics does sound promising; it seems like this is the kind of approach that might make more sense than throwing people in expensive prisons where they are subjected to constant humiliation and violence. I think I know what would make me less likely to cope on the outside, and it’s not having someone slam my head against the metal bars of a prison cell.

Judge Mason suggests that Missouri should invest in a pilot meditation program, and then it could see the results among probationers and potential tax savings. “People tend to be afraid to go out in front on the issue,” the judge said. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than a lot of stuff we waste money on.”

Share

Read More

And it’s causing senseless violence and wasting of tax dollars up here too

March 27, 2010 | By | Reply More
And it’s causing senseless violence and wasting of tax dollars up here too

Mexico is the biggest supplier of marijuana to the United States, and the illegal drug trade is tearing Mexico apart.

Mexico has been wracked by murders connected to the drug trade. Last year, it suffered more than 6,500 drug-related killings, triple the number in 2007. And 2010 looks worse. As of mid-March, more than 2,000 people have died in drug-related homicides – which puts Mexico on pace for more than 10,000 such deaths this year. That’s more than one every hour.

The linked article (from the Chicago Tribune) argues that California’s upcoming ballot initiative legalizing marijuana would be the worst nightmare of the Mexican drug cartels.

For the terrible numbers from Mexico at a glance, see here.

Share

Read More

Police chiefs, judges and prosecutors explain why the “war on drugs” is immoral

January 26, 2010 | By | 7 Replies More
Police chiefs, judges and prosecutors explain why the “war on drugs” is immoral

This video by LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) is well worth watching, especially by those who claim to support the “War on Drugs.” The many hundreds of law enforcement officials who belong to LEAP agree that what we have is not a “War on Drugs,” but prohibition, rampant social destruction and corruption.

But won’t people start using a lot more drugs if they are legalized? Not likely, based on the “Holland effect”: Legalizing marijuana in The Netherlands has lessened its appeal: Per-capita consumption is only half what it is in the United States. “They have succeeded in making marijuana boring,” according to James Gray, an Orange County Superior Court judge for 20 years.

Check out the 12-minute mark of the above video for shocking statistics on institutionalized racism.

As one of the police officers states, legalization is not about promoting drugs. It’s about stopping the violence. Once we legalize, then we can go about our work to discourage the destructive use of drugs, just like we did with cigarettes. 50% percent of adult smokers have given up that habit in the past ten years thanks to education. We cut the use of nicotine in half without telling our police to kick down doors and slap handcuffs onto smokers.

Judge Gray indicates that ending the “war on drugs” is the “single most important thing we could do” to improve our urban neighborhoods.

What is the war on drugs? According to one of the speakers in the above video, it’s “sixty nine billion dollars per year down the rat hole.” I agree. The “War on Drugs” should be renamed the “Inject Violence Into Neighborhoods Project.” It is immoral and senseless. And finally, there is good reason to believe that the momentum has changed (based on many things, including Denver’s legalization of marijuana). Large numbers of Americans are starting to question this insane “War.”

Judge Gray makes the point that legalizing marijuana is NOT condoning it. In the following talk (Oct 28, 2009), he gives a long litany of additional reasons for regulating and controlling marijuana. The biggest reason for legalizing is the the present system endangers children:

For much more important information, see the home page of LEAP.

Share

Read More

Against all odds: How marijuana was legalized in Denver

January 23, 2010 | By | 7 Replies More
Against all odds: How marijuana was legalized in Denver

If your quest were to convince the people of your city to legalize a highly demonized drug which was entirely safe, how would you run your campaign? At the recently concluded True Spin Conference in Denver, I had the opportunity to listen to an animated yet highly focused Mason Tvert describing for the audience how he and his small and not-well-funded organization (“SAFER”) convinced the people of Denver to legalize marijuana in 2005, with 51% of the people voting in favor. He also spearheaded a 2006 campaign to legalize marijuana throughout Colorado. Although that latter measure failed, an astounding 41% of the people of Colorado voted in favor.

In case you’re thinking that I’m promoting the use of marijuana, I am not, but neither would I attempt to prohibit any other adult from using it. I’ve never used marijuana (even though I once worked as a musician and the opportunities were ubiquitous. Millions of gainfully employed and otherwise law abiding people do like to use marijuana, but they are paying dearly for their attempts to feel good and seek stress relief. I am for the legalization of marijuana because that our country arrests more than 750,000 people each year for possessing or using an extremely safe drug that successfully makes people feel good. This destructive and expensive waste of government law enforcement is absolutely shameful. The number of people arrested each year is more than the entire population of South Dakota. and these users include many people you know and respect.

There is rank hypocrisy in the air, given that marijuana inexpensively offers the harmless escape that most of us seek much of the time (in one way or another), without any serious side effects and without the expense of many other methods of escape. If there were no such thing as marijuana, when it was finally invented by a pharmaceutical company, we would hail it as a miracle drug (Big Pharma wouldn’t need to lie about its efficacy or safety, as it does for many other drugs). Governments would allow it to be sold at drugs stores and they would happily tax it.

Share

Read More

Medical marijuana is coming to DC

December 9, 2009 | By | Reply More
Medical marijuana is coming to DC

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is reporting that Congress is giving the OK to medical marijuana in Washington DC.

Who is LEAP?

A group of police and judges who want to legalize drugs pointed to new FBI numbers released today as evidence that the “war on drugs” is a failure that can never be won. The data, from the FBI’s “Crime in the United States” report, shows that in 2008 there were 1,702,537 arrests for drug law violations, or one drug arrest every 18 seconds.

“In our current economic climate, we simply cannot afford to keep arresting more than three people every minute in the failed ‘war on drugs,'” said Jack Cole, a retired undercover narcotics detective who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “Plus, if we legalized and taxed drug sales, we could actually create new revenue in addition to the money we’d save from ending the cruel policy of arresting users.”

LEAP’s motto is that while drug use is bad, “The War on Drugs is Worse.”

Share

Read More

Critique of selective testing

December 8, 2009 | By | Reply More
Critique of selective testing

William Cornwall raises this worthy question:

the focus on drug and steroid testing in sports is absurd when you consider that professional athletes are tested more than Supreme Court Justices, Members of Congress, the President of the United States, and other elected officials. Additionally, despite the disproportionately high incidents of substance abuse among health care practitioners and the undeniable potential risks to their patients, there are no uniform workplace testing programs for health care practitioners that are similar to the testing programs in sports. What is it about possessing the elite athletic prowess that justifies treating a man or woman differently from others whose impact on our lives are potentially much more profound?

Share

Read More

Marijuana as an autism treatment

November 23, 2009 | By | Reply More
Marijuana as an autism treatment

What rational person could possibly cast blame at these parents for treating their autistic son with marijuana? This result suggests the need for further research, it would seem.

 

Share

Read More

Gagging the experts when discussing the war on drugs

November 3, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
Gagging the experts when discussing the war on drugs

Jim Webb introduced a bill to “create a blue-ribbon commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom.”

How shall we proceed? A recent amendment to Webb’s bill by Republican Senator Charles Grassley would bar the commission from “considering” “legalization” of presently controlled substances. See also, this post by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Rolling Stone reports in more detail:

Enter unreconstructed drug warrior Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has released the text of an amendment that would ensure the commission not reach any conclusions that threaten 40 years of failure. The commission would be prohibited, thanks to Grassley, from examining any “policies that favor decriminalization of violations of the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substances.”

Here’s the text of Grassley’s proposed gag rule:

SEC. ll. RESTRICTIONS ON AUTHORITY.
The Commission shall have no authority to make findings related to current Federal, State, and local criminal justice policies and practices or reform recommendations that involve, support, or otherwise discuss the decriminalization of any offense under the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act.

Therefore . . . let’s figure out how to revamp our criminal justice system but let’s not discuss the elephant in the room: the fact that the “war on drugs” that has ruined more lives than drugs ever could have ruined. It’s important to keep in mind that some conservatives see the light on the “drug war.”

Share

Read More