The Speakeasy Blog
Long-time DRCNet collaborator and current Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative Associate Director Troy Dayton is organizing religious leaders in support of Question 7 to legalize adult marijuana use in Nevada.
The Reno Journal-Gazette now reports that 32 churches in the state have pledged to support the initiative:
Calls for reform from religious leaders may intrigue the media, but it comes as no surprise to us that religious leaders are taking a stand against the brutal violence, shameful hypocrisy, and unforgiving callousness that characterize our nation’s war on drugs.Protestants believe that laws should curb "gross outburst of sin," said the Rev. Ruth Hanusa, minister of the Campus Christian Association at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Instead of curbing use, she said, marijuana laws are causing more problems.
"We don't live in a perfect world, and often we don't have ideal choices, but we look to find the lesser evil," Hanusa said. "Part of our call to be good stewards of our community's resources requires us to recognize that. The current policy is overkill and does not promote the common good. Controlling marijuana through regulations makes more sense."
The moral high ground will always belong to us; never those who continue to fan the flames of failure with deceitful rhetoric.
JALALABAD, Afghanistan -- With profits from this spring's record opium crop fueling a broad Taliban offensive, Afghan authorities say they are considering a once unthinkable way to deal with the scourge: spraying poppy fields with herbicide.
Apparently Karzai is opposed to the idea…
But U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington are pushing for it. And on Thursday the country's top drug enforcement official said he would contemplate spraying opium crops - even with airborne crop-dusters - if other efforts fail to cut the size of the coming year's crop.
So if these “other efforts” that have never worked in the history of the world don’t suddenly start working this year, we’ll be pouring poison on the problem. It’s an idea so bad it could cost us two wars at once.
But former Drug Czar and herbicide evangelist Barry McCaffrey is all for it:
We know exactly where these fields are. They're absolutely vulnerable to eradication. And it is immeasurably more effective to do it with an airplane," McCaffrey said by telephone from Virginia. "I've been telling the Pentagon, if you don't take on drug production you're going to get run out of Afghanistan."
But Lt. Gen. Mohammed Daoud Daoud points out that Afghanistan’s biggest opium producing region might be hard to hit:
"They have rockets," the bearded general said, fingering a string of prayer beads. "We can't spray there."
We’ll see about that. General Daoud might be underestimating us if he thinks our leaders are afraid to risk American lives in order to spray chemicals on poor farmers in a foreign country. We’ve done it before, and we seriously don’t care who gets hurt or whether it works at all.
Some people would argue that this law makes it even harder for minorities to get a college education. This argument is invalid because according to www.stopthedrugwar.com, there are no statistics indicating that African-Americans use drugs at a higher rate.
Croly’s interpretation of this statistic is just plain wrong. It’s true that drug use among African-Americans is equal on average to that of Whites. But arrests, convictions, and punishments such as the denial of financial aid for college are imposed upon people of color at alarmingly disproportionate rates.
Furthermore, I highly doubt that our site mentions drug use rates among African-American without also noting the disparity with regards to arrests, convictions, and sentencing. For example, here’s a statement from our HEA talking points page:
Minorities are disproportionately affected by the HEA drug provision. While African Americans make up 13% of the population and 13% of drug users, they account for 55% of all drug convictions. The disparate racial impact of drug law enforcement will inevitably spread into the realm of higher education via this law. Accordingly, minority groups have far higher percentages of their members who are ineligible for federal
financial aid than whites. Currently, more African American men are in prison than in college.
So yes, the HEA drug provision absolutely hurts minorities more than anyone else. But that’s just one of a whole host of problems created by this counterproductive law. Here’s ten more:
- College education is proven to reduce drug use. Therefore, forcing students out of college obviously and undeniably increases drug use overall.
- The HEA drug provision only affects good students. If you’re getting bad grades you can’t get aid anyway.
- Students arrested for drugs get punished in court. It’s not like they’re getting away with anything.
- Many students misunderstand the rules and give up on college even though they’re actually eligible. Their lives are changed forever.
- Taking away opportunities from students sends a message that we don't want them to succeed in life. All students must be encouraged, not pushed down.
- Regaining eligibility by completing rehab is often impossible because it’s more expensive than school. Nor does getting busted for drugs necessarily mean that you need rehab.
- Most HEA victims were busted for small time marijuana possession. Casual marijuana use has nothing to do with success in college. Trust me.
- The HEA drug provision fails to address the most significant drug problem on college campuses: alcohol.
- The HEA drug provision only targets low-income students. These are the very people the HEA is supposed to help.
- Judges already have the authority to revoke financial aid. If a judge meets the student in court and doesn’t want to revoke aid, we should respect that decision.
The HEA drug provision causes drug abuse by driving students away from school and towards drugs. If you support the HEA drug provision, you support drug abuse.
From CBS 4 in Denver:
"There aren't enough federal resources on the entire planet to handle ounce size marijuana possession," Jeffrey Sweetin, a DEA agent said. "Your viewers should understand if this passes, we're really legitimately legalizing an ounce of marijuana. They're not going to be prosecuted."
That’s the point, silly. If the citizens of Colorado decide to stop arresting each other for marijuana, you’re not supposed to show up and ruin everything. Thank goodness there aren’t enough federal resources to do it, but that’s beside the point.
His observation is helpful though, because it illustrates the impracticality of enforcing federal laws that conflict with state-level reforms. It’s an argument for our side, and I can’t imagine why he’s using it.
Give ‘em enough rope…
It's going to be a lot of pot politics in the Drug War Chronicle this week. With the November elections now little more than a month away, there are developments in both Colorado and Nevada, the two states where measures that would free the weed are on the ballot. In Colorado, SAFER Colorado campaign director Mason Tvert is debating Colorado Attorney General John Suthers today.
In Nevada, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana reported late last week that its internal polling shows its initiative leading by a margin of 49% to 43%. I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, this will be the breakthrough year where we actually win a legalize marijuana campaign. But now, organized opposition is starting to rear its ugly head in both states. This week, I'll be reporting on both states, and I'll be trying to talk to some of these opponents and some neutral observers as well as the usual suspects.
Pot Politics: Marijuana and the Costs of Prohibition is also the title of a new book edited by SUNY-Albany psychology professor Mitch Earleywine. It includes chapters by a number of folks who should be familiar to readers of the Chronicle, including Marijuana Policy Project communications director Bruce Mirken, the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative's Charles Thomas, and marijuana economist Jeffrey Miron. My review copy just arrived, but I intend to suck it down in the next couple of days and have a review ready for this pot-heavy issue.
My boss, Dave Borden, will grumble. We are the Drug Reform Coordination Network, not the Marijuana Reform Coordination Network, he will point out. He will want some balance, something about harm reduction or sentencing or treatment. Well, we'll get some of that this week, but it'll just be in the news briefs. This is a marijuana week.
Huge news from Radley Balko. Cory Maye’s attorney Rhonda Cooper was found incompetent during the sentencing phase, which means Maye’s death sentence is vacated, at least for now.
For anyone unfamiliar with the case, Cory Maye was sentenced to death in Mississippi after fatally shooting a police officer who he mistook for a burglar. Maye lived alone with his infant daughter and had no criminal record. The raid appears to have been a mistake, but Maye’s apparent attempt to defend his home and daughter led to a murder conviction and a now-vacated death sentence.
Balko’s article in Reason Magazine provides an in-depth look at the case, which I’d argue is one of the most compelling stories of injustice yet to emerge from our disastrous war on drugs.
Read the article, then check out Balko’s blog The Agitator for on-going coverage of Maye’s appeal. There's a lot happening with the case over the next couple weeks , so this is a great time to get caught up.
"The international drug control regime, which criminalizes narcotics, does not reduce drug use, but it does produce huge profits for criminals and the armed groups and corrupt officials who protect them. Our drug policy grants huge subsidies to our enemies. As long as we maintain our ideological commitment to a policy that funds our enemies, however, the second-best option in Afghanistan is to treat narcotics as a security and development issue. The total export value of opiates produced in Afghanistan has ranged in recent years from 30 to 50 percent of the legal economy. Such an industry cannot be abolished by law enforcement. The immediate priorities are massive rural development in both poppy-growing and non-poppy-growing areas, including roads and cold storage to make other products marketable; programs for employment creation through rural industries; and thoroughgoing reform of the ministry of the interior and other government agencies to root out the major figures involved with narcotics, regardless of political or family connections. "News of this year’s record crop is likely to increase pressure from the US Congress for eradication, including aerial spraying. Such a program would be disastrously self-defeating. If we want to succeed in Afghanistan, we have to help the rural poor (which is almost everyone) and isolate the leading traffickers and the corrupt officials who support them."What he actually said at the end of his testimony was even stronger. Check it out if that damned C-Span link ever actually works.
Tim Russert: Is Afghanistan becoming a narco-state?
Hamid Karzai: No…
I find both the question and the answer problematic. It should have gone more like this:
Tim Russert: So, quite a narco-state you’ve got over there, huh?
Hamid Karzai: Yeah, no kidding…
In fairness, Karzai subsequently acknowledged that he’s got a major opium cultivation problem on his hands. Still, you gotta wonder what a narco-state looks like if Afghanistan isn’t one.
Among his excuses for this year’s explosion in Afghan opium cultivation was the observation that poppies seem resistant to drought conditions. I didn’t know that, but it doesn’t surprise me. Drug plants tend to grow vigorously; yet another reason that sending soldiers after them is a ridiculous waste of time.
Maybe we should utilize these resilient flowers instead of fighting over them.
From the Journal Inquirer in Connecticut:
U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman on Wednesday attended a fundraiser in Florida organized by a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, a top aide to the senator confirmed.
Lieberman's communications director, Dan Gerstein, said the reception held at Mel Sembler's St. Petersburg offices - where guests were asked to contribute a minimum of $1,000 to the three-term incumbent's battle against Greenwich Democrat Ned Lamont - went like "gangbusters."
Joe Lieberman is again publicly palling around with Mel Sembler of Mel and Betty Sembler, the mega-prohibitionists responsible for many atrocities (i.e. Straight, Inc.) and who are funding Calvina Fay’s current attack on SAFER and marijuana law reform in Colorado.
TAKE NOTE: According to Allen St. Pierre at NORML, Mel and Betty Sembler also used to help fund Lieberman and Bill Bennett's Empower America's anti-drug junkets and speaking gigs. If Lieberman wins re-election, prohibitionists like the Semblers will continue to have strong access to influential members of the House and Senate.
Want to know more about the Semblers? Read an article by Arnold Trebach, the “Grand Old Man” of drug policy reform and good friend of Stop the Drug War (DRCNet).
As always, Radley Balko at The Agitator also has some great stuff on this.
From the Times-Union in Albany, NY:
A police strike team raided a woman's Prospect Street apartment and handcuffed her children and killed her dog early Tuesday in a $60 pot bust.
The woman called it excessive force and a case of mistaken identity, but officers said they stormed the home for a good reason: One of her sons was selling marijuana there.
Woodyear said she is appalled about the way her children were treated -- and said her 12-year-old daughter was hit with pepper spray.
The dog, a pit bull terrier named Precious, urinated on the floor in fear and tried to run from the police before it was killed, Woodyear said.
Police said the animal was aggressive and left them no choice but to shoot.
Elijah Bradley said he awoke to find armed men in his home. "They had the shotgun in my face," the 11-year-old said. "I punched at him. I didn't know who he was."
Apparently they're trying to send us a message:
"The moral of the story is: If you don't want officers barging into your house with their guns drawn, don't let drug dealers stay with you and deal drugs out of your apartment," [Police Lt.] Frisoni said.
If only it were that simple. Alas, innocence is no protection against police violence.
Ultimately, if you don’t want officers barging into your house with their guns drawn, you can begin by contacting your legislators, supporting reform, and taking a stand against the vicious war that encourages our public servants to shoot dogs and pepper-spray innocent children.
From the creators of a blog that no one reads, and podcasts that no one listens to, comes…
…Youtube videos that no one watches!
That’s right folks, ONDCP has created a Youtube profile and it’s about as cool as you might expect. The page includes several of ONDCP’s ads (you know, the ones that were proven to cause drug use), but for ONDCP super-fans there’s also a 3-part series featuring Drug Czar John Walters talking from behind a podium somewhere.
It’s delightfully ironic that, after a barrage of bad publicity, ONDCP has attempted to redeem its ads by placing them in an online popularity contest. Success on Youtube has much to do with viewer ratings, and after only one day, ONDCP’s ratings are as low as the system permits (note: ratings appearing in the user profile linked above are only updated periodically. You have to click on one of the videos to see how bad the ratings have gotten).
A high viewer count could theoretically demonstrate success despite poor ratings, but ONDCP has already removed their two most-watched videos, seemingly because of the low ratings. They’ve also removed the comment option for obvious reasons. Their next step will almost certainly be to remove the rating option entirely, but doing so will doom their videos to permanent obscurity and blatantly defeats the purpose of being on Youtube in the first place.
Enjoy it while you can, kids. When you get arrested for a half-gram of pot, lose financial aid for college, and get your life ruined by the drug war, ONDCP will have the last laugh.
Sidenote: Here's something good on Youtube.
After a 50 year investigation, Operation Follow Willie Nelson’s Tour Bus has finally produced results:
Willie Nelson and some friends were cited yesterday for illegal music downloading marijuana and mushroom possession.