The Speakeasy Blog
President Bush never tires of spending our tax dollars losing not winning various wars. Now he wants to give Colombia another $600 million International Herald Tribune reports.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns calls it a strategy adjustment:
"In any counterterrorism or counter-narcotics campaign you sometimes have to adjust strategy to be effective as conditions change," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters in Bogota, announcing the White House was seeking to maintain current levels of support for its caretaker in the war on drugs through 2008. "We'll be open to any suggestions the Colombian government makes."
I think what he meant to say was that we refuse to adjust our strategy and we’re not open to suggestions. And what does he mean "as conditions change"? Nothing's changed since Plan Colombia began eight years ago . That’s the problem.
Meanwhile the police we trained with the last $600 million are getting killed systematically. Sound familiar?
Shaq was cleared of any wrong-doing after being accused of excessive force by a drug suspect. Bear in mind of course that getting cleared of misconduct following a SWAT raid is incredibly easy. So one lucky suspect may very well have gotten his ass kicked by Shaq. That’s awesome, but it could also be a sign of terrible things to come.
The madness of it all left Radley Balko "speechless". Had it not, he would likely point out that this is yet another unintended admission by police that they actually feel quite safe during these raids. After all, if executing a warrant is so dangerous, why would you bring along a man whose body is worth millions? Seriously. He’s easier to shoot than just about anybody.
So Canada spends tax dollars to provide medical marijuana to sick people, while here in America, we spend tax dollars trying to prevent sick people from getting medical marijuana.
If that doesn’t boggle your mind, consider that Canada provides marijuana even though Sativex is already available up there. Meanwhile our drug warriors want sick people here to wait indefinitely while the FDA figures out how to approve Sativex without admitting that marijuana plants are literally soaked in medicine.
And while Canadian patients are choosing between spliffs and sublingual sprays, Americans patients are choosing between suffering and breaking the law.
Even drug-fearing Americans generally agree that this doesn’t make much sense. But if our drug warriors are correct that marijuana can’t heal the sick without hurting kids, then we’ll be thanking them next year when all Canadian children become crack-addicted sex-workers.
This year beheadings are popular. I wonder what people would say if things like this were happening on American soil:
In the most horrendous instance, drug lord gangs busted into a nightclub, toting rifles, and rolled five heads across the dance floor, terrifying onlookers.
People were surprised, but I’m sure everyone knew what it was all about. This kind of thing has been commonplace ever since the drug war began.
Various anti-immigration bloggers are now citing these incidents as evidence that our borders must be secured, for fear that Mexicans will come to America and start cutting peoples’ heads off.
It’s a bit silly, because the worst drug traffickers have no reason to leave Mexico. They’ve got the run of the place. The people crossing the border are poor folks who come here for economic opportunities, less-overt corruption, and white picket fences that don’t have severed heads impaled on them.
If you’re concerned about immigration, note that our drug war incentivizes traffickers to dig tunnels and cut holes in the fence.
If you don’t want your tax-dollars spent educating foreigners, note that you’re footing the bill to train counter-narcotics police in Colombia that just get massacred ten at a time.
And if you’re troubled by all the beheadings near our border, note that our current policy ensures their continuation for the remainder of human history.
Stopping the drug war is our only chance to defund drug terrorists and bring a close to this global catastrophe.
"It's a step backwards in South Dakota and a step backwards nationally," said Burns. "Do not fall for the con." "The risk far outweighs the benefits," said Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead, who opposes the measure. "There's great concern about how easily this marijuana could fall into the wrong hands."Burns went on to argue that marijuana was not a medicine, that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to an increase in teen drug use, and that it's just not a good idea, darn it! The press conference got play in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader and on the main Sioux Falls TV station, KELOland, but both media outlets made sure to include opposing voices. There hasn't been a lot of other coverage of the initiative, a mere handful of stories. The Argus-Leader editiorialized briefly and feebly—sorry, the link seems to have vanished—against the initiative, with its four-sentence editorial complaining that marijuana didn't come in pill form and that passing the initiative would pose problems for police. Both reasons given are lame. Yes, raw marijuana is plant material. It is not processed, standardized, subject to FDA scrutiny (for what that's worth). But that certainly does not stop patients from rapidly learning to titrate their dosage and to figure out which strains work for them. The law enforcement excuse is even sillier. The South Dakota initiative provides for a state registry of patients and caregivers. If a county sheriff believes he may have evidence of a marijuana grow, the only thing he would have to do is pick up the phone and call the Health Department. If the person is not on the registry, let the evidence be gathered and the search warrant be issued. Two weeks until election day. Will South Dakota voters be as compassionate as those in other states? We will soon see.
From The Observer:
The apparent trend is reinforced by British figures which show that the popularity of cannabis in the UK has plummeted, with 600,000 fewer people smoking or eating marijuana than three years ago.
It’s tempting to argue that reduced penalties have led to reduced consumption, but I wouldn’t go that far. The truth, as experts such as Peter Cohen have been saying for quite some time, is that drug policy just doesn’t have much effect on usage rates.
My guess is that a reduction in marijuana use in England would have happened with or without the change in policy. Of course, that being the case, it makes a lot more sense not to arrest people.
The real lesson here is that easing up on marijuana users doesn’t cause a spike in usage. It just doesn’t. This simple and increasingly obvious fact simultaneously refutes every argument against legalization.
So it’s no wonder our drug warriors are vigorously opposing any attempt to experiment with reduced marijuana penalties. If they actually believed that legalization in Colorado or Nevada would be a disaster, their best move would be to step aside and let us learn our lesson.
Like some drug déjà vu, cocaine use is once again on the rise among students and the rich and famous, a trend University of Florida researchers say likely signals a recurring epidemic of abuse.
"Our data is closest to real time to any data available in the United States," [Dr. Mark] Gold said. "With death reports, there is no fudge factor. The other states will show the same thing: That we are in the early stages of a new cocaine epidemic that is being led by the rich and famous and students with large amounts of disposable income and that is responsible for more emergency room visits and more cocaine-related deaths than we have seen at any time since the last cocaine epidemic."
Oh man, that sounds bad. But Congress will probably think of something. Maybe we’re not being tough enough on cocaine dealers.
And we should warn kids about the dangers of marijuana, which could be causing the cocaine abuse.
The Chicago Crime Commission will hold its Stars of Distinction, 2006 Awards Dinner to recognize outstanding individual and organizational contributions in fighting crime. DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy will accept the Education Award along with Museum for Science and Industry partners responsible for bringing “Target America: Opening Eyes to the Danger Drugs Cause” to Chicago.
The Chicago Crime Commission, whose motto is "combating crime since 1919" ought to know a thing or two about prohibition. It’s Chicago for crying out loud. That they would give an award to the head of the DEA for putting together an exhibit blaming drug users for 9/11 demonstrates a dramatic misunderstanding of every issue the commission works on.
What kind of non-profit gives awards to Washington bureaucrats for excellence in the field of smarmy government propaganda?
The whole thing reeks of string pulling. I’m convinced that this epic travesty is a convenient PR move in response to Pete Guither’s terrific campaign against the exhibit.
So I wasn't surprised to discover that Peter Bensinger, former head of DEA, is on the Chicago Crime Commission’s board of directors.
Coincidence? Hell no.
Afterthought: It’s super annoying that this ridiculous exhibit is now an award-winning ridiculous exhibit. But the Bensinger connection proves this is political, which in turn proves that Pete Guither’s efforts genuinely rattled these guys. Nice job, Pete!
One undercover officer was held at gunpoint while attempting to buy $500 worth of cocaine during the operation, dubbed "Heat Wave" for the high temperatures recorded when the operation was started in July. "I was very scared," said the officer, who had previously arranged to buy 10 "jabs" of crack cocaine. The dealers knew he would have several hundred dollars on him, said the officer.Police then stepped in to make the arrests. The market -- reportedly operated by a gang known as "The Conservative Vice Lords" -- operated near a pre-K-8 school, Keller reported. Sgt. Carlos Mostek told her, "Had any gunfire erupted, the children who were attending school would have been in harm's way." That's a valid concern. I hope the bust was not done during school hours or anywhere near school hours, because gunfire could certainly have broken out as part of that. I also hope the undercover officer attempted his buy during non-school hours -- his activity also nearly prompted gunfire. This is a losing situation from beginning to end. Because of prohibition we have this open air markets, staffed by gang members who are willing to shoot at each other -- risking the lives of bystanders in the process -- in order to protect their turf or to capture turf from others and thereby increase their market share. A police raid, while shutting the market down, in the process increased the overall danger in the vicinity, at least for as long as the sting and bust were in process. Will the corner calm down? Perhaps, but the activity may restart even there, and if not it will certainly move to somewhere else. Sometimes these busts lead to more internecine violence as rival operators fight each other for the opportunity to be the new guys on the block. Sometimes the instability even draws in new drugs to the neighborhood that weren't common there before. Legalization, not raids and arrests, is what will clean the mess of the illegal drug trade off the streets. Click here to send a letter to the editor. Note: According to gangresearch.net, the Conservative Vice Lords started as a gang but transformed themselves into a community empowerment organization. I don't know enough about this topic to offer an evaluation; I just got the name of the reported gang from the article. If anyone is able to clarify this issue, please post your knowledge here for us. Thanks in advance.
More and more often, it seems, drugs that were widely thought to be effective against serious illnesses turn out to show little or no value when tested in large, impartial clinical trials insulated from drug company influence.Desperate need for effective new treatment, huh? Look no further. In fact, marijuana may eliminate the need for Alzheimer’s treatments altogether, since it seems to actually prevent the onset of the disease.
These discouraging results speak mostly to the desperate need for effective new treatments for Alzheimer’s.
I have enough experience with Alzheimer’s to know that families confronted with it will usually try anything. It’s ironic to think that the family values fanatics who arbitrarily oppose medical marijuana may soon find themselves shoving a bong in grandma’s mouth.
“The whole process of these marijuana plantations brutalizes the landscape,” said David Graber, Pacific West regional science chief for the National Park Service. The outdoor growing season for marijuana is coming to a close for the year, but some scars left by clandestine pot farms will take months to heal. Anti-drug agencies must deal with tons of trash, human waste, erosion and other forms of soil disturbance, loss of vegetation and chemical pollution that kills marine life. The illegal plots also increase poaching of wildlife, raise the threat of wildfires started accidentally at campsites and put outdoor enthusiasts in harm's way. For instance, the U.S. Forest Service recently warned deer hunters to avoid two areas in Mendocino and Glenn counties until authorities could evict the marijuana growers. Marijuana production on public lands in the United States has risen as the nation moves to further secure its borders and slow the movement of marijuana from Mexico. Mexican organized crime is behind the surge in such illegal plantings, according to law enforcement agencies. Growers favor public property partly because if their plants are discovered, they can flee without leaving behind traceable evidence. But there are other reasons for the popularity of forests and parks. “The nation's public lands have become a haven for this illegal activity due to the relatively few law enforcement personnel and the vast and often remote tracks of sparsely or uninhabited lands,” said the U.S. Forest Service's 2005 marijuana report.Lee talked to only National Forest and law enforcement sources, and even included a quote from drug czar John Walters, but failed to note the fundamental fact that is driving marijuana growers into the national forests: Marijuana prohibition. So I wrote him a letter:
Dear Mr. Lee: Interesting report on the damage done by illegal pot farming, although I’ve seen numerous variations of it before. But like most similar reports, your story begs a rather large question: Why are people growing pot in the forests in the first place? You alluded to increased border enforcement and a law enforcement learning curve, but again, that’s begging the question. Could it be because marijuana is ILLEGAL? Asking that questions sort of shifts one’s whole perspective: From the point of view of people who do not support marijuana prohibition—like me and nearly half of Californians, according to national polls—the environmental damage you describe is yet another unfortunate, unintended consequence of marijuana prohibition. When you write this story next year, I would respectfully suggest you include that perspective. I would be happy to provide you with contact information for California-based marijuana reform activists who are very informed and articulate on this issue. Thanks for your time. Phillip Smith Drug War Chronicle www.stopthedrugwar.orgTo which Lee replied:
Phil... thanks for your comments... i'd suggest you consider writing a letter to the editor. Regards, mleeNow, did I sway Mr. Lee? He gave no direct indication of that in his brief reply, but at least I was able to put the whole marijuana prohibition issue before him. He has been informed that at least one reader thinks he is missing part of the story. I guess we'll have to wait until next year, when he writes next year's version of this annual story. But in the meantime, the ants are working.
Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of marijuana plants 10 feet tall.
General Rick Hillier, chief of the Canadian defense staff, said Thursday that Taliban fighters were using the forests as cover.
Awesome! But it gets better:
"We tried burning them with white phosphorous -- it didn't work. We tried burning them with diesel -- it didn't work. The plants are so full of water right now ... that we simply couldn't burn them," he said.
Even successful incineration had its drawbacks.
"A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those [forests] did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," Hillier said dryly.
This sounds like a job for my college buddies. If the problem persists, I’d be willing to assemble a tactical unit with experience disposing of surplus cannabis.
Colorado ’s initiative would allow adults to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana. That might not seem like much, but, in reality it makes between 30 and 60 joints.
Whatever. An ounce is the same amount regardless of how many joints you intend to roll, and it’s not that much. If you’re rolling 60 joints out of an ounce, try smoking two or three of them. But watch out; large joints are two to three times more dangerous than small ones.
US Drug Czar John Walters says legalization will inundate our drug treatment centers.
No, it won’t. Most marijuana users who enter treatment programs are forced to do so by the criminal justice system. Ending misdemeanor marijuana arrests will dramatically reduce the number of people entering treatment for marijuana. And to the extent that fear of arrest is a primary motivation for some who decide to quit, legalization could reduce voluntary admissions as well.
On the other hand, as my colleague Tom Angell pointed out in conversation, legalized marijuana will carry less stigma and could lead to more voluntary admissions from people who are finally comfortable admitting they’re having problems. If Tom is correct, we’ll end up with more people in treatment for marijuana who want and need it, and less people forced into treatment based on arbitrary criteria such as an arrest. Sounds good to me.
It’s an interesting discussion, but one that John Walters can’t participate in because he’s busy misinterpreting various data:
“We have more teens in treatment nationwide for marijuana dependency and abuse as teens than for all other illegal drugs combined. We have more teens seeking treatment for marijuana dependency than for alcoholism.”
This one’s actually true, but it’s his fault. Thanks to prohibition, marijuana sellers don’t have to check ID, making it the easiest drug to get if you’re underage.
I just keep telling myself that this crap can’t go on forever. Whether we win in Nevada or Colorado next month, or somewhere else down the road, the war on marijuana is an ugly swelling pimple that’s almost ready to pop. Get it over with already. You know you want to.
The show tested 50 parliamentarians by applying what appeared to be make-up to their faces, telling them they were to appear in a debate on the country's budget, the ANSA news agency reported in a story soon taken up by other media.
The make-up actually consisted of chemicals that could detect the presence of drugs in sweat on the participants' skin. It detected cocaine in four of the politicians and cannabis in 12. Both the drugs are banned in Italy.
If there’s a surprise here, it’s that the stunt was successful. But Italian reformers were quick to cry “hypocrisy”.
A member of the Green party who favours decriminalising drug use, Paolo Cento, reacted to the news by slamming what he called the "hypocrisy" of the political class which he said "votes for anti-liberty laws while sniffing cocaine".
He’s right. But I’d draw the line there, because I don’t care at all which drugs politicians use as long as they extend to others the liberties they’ve taken for themselves.
Unfortunately, a representative of The Hyena Show, which administered the tests, says that those who tested positive will not be identified individually. The likely result therefore is a face-saving parade of anti-drug rhetoric among Italian Parliamentarians and at worst a full-blown witch hunt, as each of the 50 clamors to clear their name.
Instead, the information should be used as leverage to encourage sensible policy making. If I had this information, I’d offer to withhold it so long as these 16 individuals stopped supporting the drug war. If any of them voted for a harsh drug law or failed to support a sensible reform, that person’s drug use would be front-page news the next day.
Boy, that sounds like fun. If anyone has information on public officials who use illegal drugs I can be reached at email@example.com.
Close to three years ago, state and local authorities shut down one of the largest ecstasy rings on the East Coast, but gauging the bust's impact on the local drug trade since then has proven difficult. Coming across ecstasy during a drug bust is routine for police, but it is found far less frequently than street drugs cocaine and heroin. So law enforcement officials cannot say for sure whether the biggest ecstasy bust in the history of Northampton County has put a dent in the dealing of the sometimes-deadly designer drug. "I don't think you could say one way or the other," Warren County Prosecutor Thomas S. Ferguson said. "I think it's out there and it's on the radar screen. I don't think we've seen it increase or decrease. I don't think there's any statistical difference since that time."When you get the people responsible for prosecuting the drug war admitting that their efforts don’t seem to make a difference, that is important. Here's another drug warrior admitting the same thing:
Chief Detective Joseph Stauffer of the Lehigh County Drug Task Force said law enforcement has no way of knowing whether the bust dealt a serious blow to the availability of ecstasy in the region. "I would hope that it impacted on it, but ecstasy is still, unfortunately, available in the community," Stauffer said. "I haven't noticed an increase (in ecstasy arrests), but I haven't noticed a significant decrease either. We wouldn't know how much ecstasy would be available had those arrests not taken place."If more local newspaper reporters asked the questions Russ Flanagan asked, their readers would be better served and have a better understanding of just what all those drug busts are achieving. If you just let law enforcement issue its standard self-justifying press releases, you get one picture of reality. But all you have to do is ask law enforcement the right questions, and a different picture emerges. Local reporters, do your jobs!
The “magazine” consists of five sections:
-It's just a plant. How could it be bad for me?
-Rx pot: a prescription for disaster.
-Totally lame (and dangerous and illegal) things to do on pot
-Extreme Grades: from A to D in six months
-Hey dude, where did my future go? Pot, motivation, and you.
They’ve dumbed-down the rhetoric here, which actually makes it more frustrating. Anyone who’s seen a drug warrior speak in public knows that it takes these guys over a thousand words to even approach the truth on any subject. “Stumble Weed” in contrast, is a series of one-sentence lies, too numerous to refute here.
Having read the whole thing so you don’t have to, I found only one surprise. This sentence appears in the “Totally Lame” section:
You can lose your student loan if you sell or grow marijuana while you are receiving educational assistance from the government.That’s powerfully misleading. It should read like this:
You can lose your student loan for any drug offense however minor. Most students who lose aid were convicted of misdemeanor possession.Given the controversy surrounding the HEA drug provision, I’m not surprised that they’re trying to make it sound as if the law only affects suppliers. But on the other hand, they’ve made an entire magazine about the consequences of smoking pot and they’re declining to mention a consequence that could affect many potential readers. The HEA drug provision is harmful enough without the government misleading young people about how it works.
And then there’s the question of why the DEA even has a magazine. Isn’t that what ONDCP is for? DEA is supposed to be busting drug cartels and instead they’re drawing cartoons about how smoking pot will give you a speech impediment. As my colleague Tom Klun pointed out, the CIA doesn’t make children’s magazines about why you shouldn’t be a terrorist.
Of course, government propaganda is harmless if no one reads it. According to DEA’s press release, the website justthinktwice.com, which houses “Stumble Weed” has received 49 million hits since August ’05. Yet the web-ranking site Alexa.com is unable to compute their hits because they’re not even in the top 100,000 websites. We are, and I’m sure we don’t get a million hits a month. Heck, look at this cool graph that compares their site to ours.
Once again, I can’t tell if they’re lying or just plain ignorant. But for what it’s worth, every dollar spent on propaganda is one less dollar spent killing the innocent.
From the Chicago Tribune:
When an exhibition sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration opened at the Museum of Science and Industry in August, Guither showed up with a sack full of pamphlets denouncing the government's anti-narcotics strategy.
But soon after he began handing the pamphlets out, museum officials confined him to what he said was an almost deserted stretch of sidewalk. Then a lawyer for the Chicago Park District told him the pamphlets were "commercial in nature" and that he needed a permit to distribute them at all.
Calling Guither’s pamphlet "commercial in nature" is such crap. But there are a few commercial interests at stake here:
- The museum has a commercial interest in silencing Guither’s valid claim that it has allowed itself to be hijacked by the DEA’s propaganda machine.
- The DEA has a commercial interest in justifying it’s existence by exploiting 9/11 with a ridiculous “exhibit” that attempts to obscure the obvious fact that prohibition funds terrorism.
- Terrorists have a commercial interest in the success of DEA’s propaganda since they get their funding as a result of the same policies DEA struggles to uphold.
Ironically, the only party involved with absolutely no commercial interests is Pete Guither, a college professor who writes about the failure of the drug war in his spare time.
Unless, of course, not wanting your tax dollars spent on a pointless war that kills innocent people and funds terrorism counts as a “commercial interest”.
Update 10/25/06: Hatch's office informed us that Dallas Austin's parents were instrumental in getting the Senator involved. We've now contacted the D.C. Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in the hopes of tracking down this latest victim's family. They've promised to look into it.
Yet another American has been imprisoned in Dubai on a pitifully small possession charge:
Dubai: An American visitor who said he was unaware that he was carrying marijuana with him, which was found in his luggage at airport, will spend four years in jail.Two months ago the same thing happened and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch jumped into action:
Dubai Court of First Instance found the suspect, identified as M.O. and in his late 30s, guilty of illegally bringing in and possessing 0.14 grams of marijuana.
The release of a music producer from a Dubai jail this week, quick on the heels of his conviction for drug possession, turns out to be a story of high-level string-pulling on the part of Mr. Hatch, the conservative Utah Republican and songwriter, along with Lionel Richie, the singer; Quincy Jones, the music entrepreneur; and an array of well-connected lawyers, businessmen and others, spanning cities and continents.
That case involved a music producer with a small bag of cocaine. This one involves some guy in his thirties with 0.14 grams of marijuana, which is about one puff’s worth. He says he didn’t mean to bring it, which makes sense because it’s not enough to do anything with.
But surely Orrin Hatch will come to this gentleman’s aid. Four years for a weak bong hit’s worth of pot is an even greater injustice than that which Senator Hatch so recently stepped forward to redress.
If Orrin Hatch and Lionel Richie gave them anything of value last time this happened, it could explain why Dubai authorities are going to so much trouble to string people up for pathetically small amounts of drugs.
Please help us by contacting Senator Hatch. If his office won't get directly involved, perhaps they'll at least give us some pointers on how to get an American freed from a foreign prison.
Obviously something’s got to be done about these crazy police in Dubai. In the meantime, if you must go there, buy new clothes and luggage first.
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.