The Speakeasy Blog
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.
Last night I attended the D.C. premiere of Jed Riffe’s film Waiting to Inhale, which was followed by a debate that pitted Special Assistant to the Drug Czar David Murray against MPP’s Rob Kampia, and DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann (Former ONDCP staffer Andrea Barthwell didn’t show).
The film takes a compelling look at the history of medical cannabis and gives us a glimpse into the lives of several patients who depend on it. For those of us who’ve been following the issue, the plight of the patients depicted is all too familiar. I’d bet that many people who’ve formed snap judgments about medical marijuana would be stunned to see the faces behind this controversy.
Knowing that David Murray was in the room gave it an extra bite. Would he really stick around to defend these atrocities? He looked villainous in the film, and for all the nonsense to which we’ve become accustomed from him, I was somehow still surprised that his head didn’t explode halfway through.
But Murray is a professional, and with no choice but to fight, he faced two of his most articulate critics with as much grace as you might expect from a man who gets paid to excuse the inexcusable.
- When Murray read the FDA’s absurd statement on MMJ, Kampia waved a pair of handcuffs and asked why patients were being arrested for taking their doctors advice.
- When Murray claimed that these guys just want to legalize drugs, Nadelmann acknowledged that he advocates a variety of reforms but considers the persecution of sick people to be the drug war’s greatest injustice.
- When Murray claimed that medical groups don’t support MMJ, Kampia enumerated the rambling list of medical groups that do in fact support MMJ.
- When Murray claimed that DEA doesn’t target doctors, Nadelmann pointed out that DPA had to win a significant court battle to prevent exactly that.
- When Kampia claimed that youth marijuana use in California has dropped significantly since the passage of Proposition 215, Murray claimed that it would take too long to explain why that was misleading.
- When Murray claimed that medicines must be approved through the rigorous FDA approval process, Nadelmann noted that the Federal Government routinely blocks MMJ research.
And so it went, each point disputed on its face with no concessions made by either side. At times, it sounded like they weren't talking about the same drug. Or the same laws, the same patients, the same research, or for that matter the same country.
But I applaud David Murray for being there. He told lies in front of people who know the truth, and that takes guts. He said the film “felt like a cartoon” to him, demonstrating the detachment such a man must summon when confronted with the consequences of his deceit.
That this event even took place is testament to the relentless and growing pressure our movement has brought to bear against those who persecute the sick and dying. David Murray might be able to view Waiting to Inhale in the comfort of arrogant indifference, but the film could prove a bitter pill for less-entrenched adherents to the drug war doctrine.
This is no cartoon, Mr. Murray. It’s real, it’s the truth, and it will never go away.
Sidenote: Tom Angell and I spotted David Murray drinking a beer before the film. I guess even shameless drug warriors gotta take the edge off.
Retired Sheriff's Deputy Jay Fleming of LEAP Joins DRCNet Blogging Team -- Drugs, Crime and Conservation First Topic
New Scientist's inquiries suggest that the narcotics trade is a serious but largely neglected impediment to conservation efforts.The drug war runs on money, and money depends on arrests and forfeitures. Because of this, the manpower for drug enforcement is concentrated in populated areas. Remote areas in the west have always been a hide out for outlaws. The combination of remoteness and lack of law enforcement, make these areas as popular with outlaws today, as they were in the 1800's. I live in Mohave County Arizona where, as New Scientist points out:
Remote biodiversity hotspots make ideal bases for narcotics production and trafficking.As a resident deputy I lived in a remote town 50 miles from the sheriff office; I covered the south end of the county along with one other deputy. There was never time to go to the remote areas of my area. I was responsible for a large chunk of wilderness area; it could only be accessed by horse back or on foot. Since the sheriff's office didn't have horses, if I had a call in the wilderness area, I had to borrow a horse from the Forest Service. I understand why law enforcement doesn't have the manpower to patrol some of the remote areas. What I don't understand is why someone doesn't figure out that drug prohibition is the direct cause of the damage done to these fragile areas. P.S. DEA = Department of Evil Agriculture, the plant police? Click here to submit a letter to the editor to New Scientist or here to share your thoughts with their Online News desk. E. Jay Fleming Speaker Law Enforcement Against Prohibition LEAPSpeaker@Softhome.net Mohave Valley, AZ www.leap.cc LEAP Introduction Video http://www.leap.cc/audiovideo/LEAPpromo.htm Trust in our country is disappearing, parents can’t trust children, husbands can’t trust wives, and people can’t trust their government. Some how our country has lost site of some of the basic principles it was founded on. Those who are to protect us have gone from Peace Officer, to Law Enforcement Officer. Men in black uniforms with hoods over their faces break down doors, in the name of the law, many times killing innocent citizens. Criminals charged with major drug crimes who turn in several others for minor drug crimes, spend little or no time in jail. Undercover cops infiltrate and seize our homes and assets, take children from parents, over a plant that has never killed anyone. E. Jay Fleming 2004
Radley Balko and Norm Stamper spoke at the Cato Institute yesterday about Balko’s new report Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.
It was a powerful presentation, and though I’m familiar with the topic, I was moved nonetheless. Balko began by summarizing his research and went on to propose solutions. Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper followed with a forceful and credible endorsement of Balko’s research and recommendations.
“Soldiers follow orders. Police make decisions,” Stamper observed, illustrating perfectly the fundamental flaw in a militarized approach to policing. I’ve seen Chief Stamper speak before, but I found him particularly effective yesterday. He’s been a strong voice for reform ever since the release of his book Breaking Rank, but he’s getting better, which ought to intimidate the drug war establishment.
Chief Stamper addressed immediate reforms that can help mitigate the problem and smartly waited until the end to make the point we knew was coming: the best way to prevent innocent people from being killed in botched raids is to end the drug war immediately. A burst of applause from the audience demonstrated that more than a few reformers were in attendance.
You can watch the whole thing here.
Humorous side note: Dave Guard and I sat next to a woman who asked what we do and became skeptical upon learning that we work to legalize drugs. She had some questions for us, and though she wasn't hostile, she seemed not to fully grasp the issue. When it became clear that we couldn’t be debated on policy, she switched over to political feasibility, asking “fine, but how will you ever convince conservatives like the Cato Institute?”
In tandem, Dave and I chuckled and quipped that we hardly needed to explain drug policy to the Cato Institute.
Moments later, Cato’s Timothy Lynch began introductions, noting the Institute's support for drug policy reform almost immediately. It may be a sign of progress that this lady can walk into a room full of reformers without even realizing it. We can't be profiled.