The Speakeasy Blog

Petitioning for the Right to Petition

Tireless DrugWarRant blogger Pete Guither continues to generate press coverage of his campaign against the DEA’s traveling museum exhibit:

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”.


Location: 
United States

What's up with these "pain contracts"?

Spurred by the federal government's crackdown on prescription drug abuse, doctors around the country are resorting to "pain contracts" with patients in an attempt to protect themselves from charges they are Dr. Feelgoods. Such contracts typically require the patient to agree that "lost, stolen, or misplaced" drugs are not to be replaced and that the patient agree to be drug tested. Patients who refuse to sign such an agreement or who test positive for non-prescribed drugs--i.e. marijuana--are likely to be cut off. There is at least one chronic pain patient in the Veterans Administration system who is challenging the pain contracts. I will be writing about his ordeal next week. In the meantime, I sit and ponder: Who benefits from these contracts? It doesn't appear to be the patients, who are basically treated as criminal suspects for wanting to relieve their pain. And how does the Hippocratic Oath fit into this? I'll be digging into the whole sorry issue. Stay tuned.
Location: 
United States

Paging Orrin Hatch

Posted in:

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:

From Gulfnews.com:

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.

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.
Two months ago the same thing happened and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch jumped into action:

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.

Location: 
United States

Taking the Moral High Ground

(from DrugWarRant

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:

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."
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.

The moral high ground will always belong to us; never those who continue to fan the flames of failure with deceitful rhetoric.

Location: 
United States

A Capacious Body Cavity and Some Questions

A small story from the Columbia Tribune in Missouri caught my attention this morning. "Cavity Search Turns Up Mixture of Drugs," was the headline. A gentleman was busted by the cops and arrested "after police conducted a cavity search and found a mixture of drugs hidden inside his body." It was quite a haul: Roughly eight ounces of powder cocaine, crack, ecstasy pills, and marijuana. I'll leave the jokes for others, but I am curious about a couple of things: Dude, how do you shove eight ounces of dope up your rectum? And more seriously: Just what were the circumstances around this search and arrest? This newspaper articles—all three paragraphs of it—is typical of drug bust reporting. The reporters take what the cops give them and leave it at that. If I had been that beat reporter, I would have had plenty of questions: What caused police to stop this person in the first place? What caused them to search him? What caused them to do a body cavity search? How often and in what circumstances do they do such searches? And the question the cops should be asked on every self-congratulatory news release or press conference announcing yet another drug bust: Is this going to make the slightest bit of difference?
Location: 
Columbia, MO
United States

A Failure Cake with Poison Icing

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

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.


Location: 
United States

From the Maras to the Zetas

UPDATE: Check out Phil's book review of De los Maras a los Zetas here. Despite the daily toll of arrests and busts in the United States, America's drug war is waged largely in other countries. Mexico, for example, is likely to see more police killed in a bad weekend than the US will see in an entire year. And in Colombia, the drug war is now part of a messy civil war/war on drugs/war on terrorism with casualties—police, soldiers, guerrillas, paramilitaries, civilians—on a daily basis. But despite the occasional newspaper report, Americans hear very little about how our war on drugs is affecting producing and transit countries. I can't recall the last book published in English on the Mexican drug trade (hmmm…possible Soros grant opportunity here?). But just because it isn’t being written in English doesn’t mean it isn’t being covered. I'm now reading "De los Maras a los Zetas: Los secretos del narcotrafico, de Colombia a Chicago" ("From the Maras to the Zetas: The Secrets of the Drug Trade From Colombia to Chicago") by Mexico City journalists Jorge Fernandez Menendez and Victor Ronquillo. While I get the sense that Fernandez and Ronquillo are fairly mainstream in their approach—the book is in many ways similar to the "drug crime" genre in US publishing—the pair have compiled detailed information on the workings of the Mexican drug trade and opened up a panoramic view of the complex, complicated, and extremely bloody world of the underground economy. I think I will review the book this week, even though it is in Spanish, because the information it imparts is so critical to understanding the consequences of the American insistence on drug prohibition as the only approach to drug policy. Perhaps, if enough people here express interest, an American publisher will pick up this timely and important work. Until then, saber dos lenguajes es mejor que saber solamente uno. The book is published by Editorial Grijalbo, a highly respected Mexican press. When I called to inquire about getting a review copy, the folks at Grijalbo were so happy to get some interest from El Norte that they sent three other drug war-related titles in their catalog, including two by Mexico's most well-known narco-journalist, Jesus Blancornelas of Tijuana. I look forward to reading them. We invited Blancornelas to the 2003 Out From the Shadows conference in Merida, the first hemispheric anti-prohibitionist confab. Blancornelas, who had survived a 1997 assassination attempt at the hands of Arrellano Felix cartel gunmen, said he would come, but only if he could be accompanied by armed bodyguards. Merida is a long way from the violence of the US-Mexican border, and the vibe was entirely different. We didn’t want guns at our conference, so Blancornelas didn’t show.
Location: 
United States

EXPENSIVE DRUGS ARE MORE OF WHICH YOUR YOU IMAGINE THEY COST THE LIFE

HELLO ADOLFO HORNA SALUTES TO THEM PRESIDENT OF THE THERAPEUTIC CIVIL ASSOCIATION PROFESSIONALIZED “RIO MARAÑON”, INSTITUTION THAT WORKS IN DRUGSDEPENS IN CHICLAYO - PERU I INVITE TO THE PEOPLE AND INSTITUTIONS THAT THEY WANT TO REPRESENT IN YOURS CITIES OR COUNTRIES TO US AND TO COLLABORATE WITH THIS AIM, TO WORK AND TO FORM AN ALLIANCE WITHOUT DRUGS. I HOPE TO COUNT ON ITS SUPPORT TO FORTIFY OUR INSTITUTION AND TO BE WORKING JOINTLY BY A CLEAN WORLD adolfohr@hotmail.com adolfhr@hotmail.com riomaranon@yahoo.com adolfohorna@gmail.com adolfohr@california.usa.com
Location: 
United States

Blasphemy: College Reporter Quotes Us in Defense of the HEA Drug Provision

Ordinarily a lame anti-drug editorial in a college paper would escape our attention. Not this time. Nicki Croly of The State Hornet in Sacramento uses statistics from our website in defense of the HEA drug provision:

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:

  1. College education is proven to reduce drug use. Therefore, forcing students out of college obviously and undeniably increases drug use overall.
  2. The HEA drug provision only affects good students. If you’re getting bad grades you can’t get aid anyway.
  3. Students arrested for drugs get punished in court. It’s not like they’re getting away with anything.
  4. Many students misunderstand the rules and give up on college even though they’re actually eligible. Their lives are changed forever.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Most HEA victims were busted for small time marijuana possession. Casual marijuana use has nothing to do with success in college. Trust me.
  8. The HEA drug provision fails to address the most significant drug problem on college campuses: alcohol.
  9. The HEA drug provision only targets low-income students. These are the very people the HEA is supposed to help.
  10. 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.
Location: 
United States

Is it my breath? or the travails of alternative advocacy journalism.

Sometimes I feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of alternative advocacy journalism. I just don’t get no respect, especially from drug reform foes (for some reason). The two big stories I'm working on this week are the marijuana initiatives in Colorado and Nevada, where big fights are brewing. Here is a list of people or organizations involved in trying to defeat the initiatives who either refused to talk to me or failed to respond to repeated calls about their efforts: The Denver DEA—their public information officer is out of town this week, and I must go through him. Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton's office—they recommended I talk to other opponents. Rob McGuire of Stop Amendment 44—three calls went unreturned. The Delta/Montrose County Drug Task Force—I'm still waiting for that return call. Las Vegas Police Lt. Stan Olsen—didn’t respond to two calls. The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce—no response to two calls. The North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce—no response to one call. The Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce—no response to two calls. The spokesman for Nevada Communities Against Marijuana—no phone number listed on the web site, no response to two email requests. I would like to incorporate what they say into my articles, I really would. But I can't make 'em talk to me. Sometimes when this occurs, I grab a quote from some publication they deemed talk-worthy. Other times, I just say "fuck 'em;" they get to spew their bullshit in enough venues already. Plus, I usually know what they're going to say anyway. Still, even advocacy journalism strives for balance--if it wants to be good advocacy journalism--and if I had my druthers, I'd be talking to these folks.
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United States

No Kidding: DEA Says MJ Legalization Initiative Could Result in MJ Legalization

Reformers may have jumped the gun in condemning DEA’s opposition to Colorado's marijuana legalization initiative. If they're gonna keep saying stuff like this, I say we hear ‘em out.

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…

Location: 
United States

Pot Politics

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.

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United States

Cory Maye to be Re-sentenced!

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.

 

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United States

Hilarious Video: The Hazards of Covering the Drug Beat

Now, I don't know if this is real or not, but it is quite amusing. The video clip shows a British journalist attempting to file his report from the scene of a massive drug burn. He has some problems. This has been floating around for awhile, but I think it's worth posting here. Enjoy. WARNING: This link goes to a web site that features naked or semi-naked people. If you are offended (or easily distracted) by such images, you might not want to go there. Sorry about that; it was the only link I could find. NOTE: When I go to the link, the page appears blank at first even though you hear the sound. Wait a few seconds for the page to load completely, then scroll down a bit to get to the video screen.
Location: 
Colombia

Barnett Rubin Lectures the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Afghan Opium

On Thursday, I crossed back into the US from British Columbia and spent the day listening to all the back and forth over Chavez's "devil" comments as I drove across Washington, Idaho, and Montana. About 4am, I checked into a motel in Broadus, Montana—which is about 150 miles from nowhere in any direction—flipped on the tube, and lo and behold, there was Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin giving the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a tutorial on the complications of US Afghan policy. What really caught my attention was Rubin's closing remarks. Unfortunately, the C-Span video link to Rubin's remarks isn't working as I type these words (but perhaps is by the time you are reading them; give it a try), but the good professor basically lectured the committee on the foolishness of attempting to wipe out the opium crop. Addressing the senators as if they were a group of callow undergrads at a seminar, Rubin explained that the only way to deal with the opium problem was to regulate and control it. That caused Sen. Frank Lugar (R-IN) to stir himself from his lizard-like torpor long enough to mutter something to the effect that "this is a big issue for another day." Here is what Rubin had to say in his prepared remarks:
"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.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Hamid Karzai: Afghanistan Not a Narco-State

I caught an awkward exchange on Meet the Press this Morning between Tim Russert and Afghan President Hamid Karzai:

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.


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United States

Be careful who you hang out with, Joe…we’re watching.

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.

And plenty more can be found here and here .

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United States

NY Police Handcuff Children and Shoot a Dog all for a $60 Bag of Pot

With Radley Balko busy uncovering conspiracies in Mississippi I guess I’ll address this week’s paramilitary policing disaster:

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.

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United States

Spying on Rock Festivals: High-Tech Hidden Surveillance at Wakarusa

UPDATE: Drug War Chronicle story about this incident online now. We wrote about police harassment of attendees at the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival when the event occurred in June, but little did we know that was only the tip of the iceberg. Now, thanks to the bragadoccio of a high-tech surveillance equipment manufacturer and a resultant puff piece in an industry rag, we know that state, local, and federal law enforcement officials were all on hand at Wakarusa to check out a demo of some very sophisticated surveillance equipment. With hidden cameras, night vision equipment, and thermal imaging, cops were able to surveil up to 85% of the festival grounds, spot drugs and money changing hands, watch people roll joints, and subsequently make arrests. The cops and the high-tech spying firm are pretty happy, but festival goers and organizers are not. Blogger Bob Merkin has been all over this at Vleeptron (just scroll down until you find it--look for the flying monkey poster), and I'll have a news brief about it tomorrow complete with some interesting links. In the mean time, perhaps it's best to believe that Big Brother is watching.
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United States

ONDCP Ads on Youtube.com

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.

Location: 
United States

Lost This One, But Not As Bad As It Sounds

Posted in:
Special thanks to the roughly 1,000 DRCNet supporters who lobbied their Representatives in Congress to reject H.R. 5295, the so-called "Student and Teacher Safety Act." The House of Representatives unfortunately passed the bill, on a voice vote, which means there is no record of who voted yes and who voted no. It is also possible that there might not have really been the 2/3 majority needed to pass it, but without a member of Congress calling for a roll call, that is left up to the ear of the member leading the session. While a few Democrats did speak against the bill, none of them requested a voice vote, probably out of fear that Republican challengers would use the "Rep. So and So voted against a bill to keep kids away from drugs and guns" line in the upcoming campaigns in this high-stakes election season. It's not as bad as it sounds. Most importantly, it is only the House of Representatives that passed the bill. If it doesn't come up and get passed by the Senate -- and we know of no current plans to take it up there -- it will not become law. Secondly, it was exciting to see major, mainstream educational organizations like the PTA come out against the bill. (See Drug War Chronicle later this week for a full report.) And, your support and the work done by our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy and other groups showed that our side is able to mobilize. You can't win all of them, but today's loss notwithstanding our side is winning more than we used to, and I believe we'll get there.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Watch School Search Bill Debate Online

Posted in:
CLICK HERE FOR LATEST UPDATE UPDATE: It's on right now (5:39pm). Turn on C-Span or go to c-span.org, section "live streams." Nearly a thousand DRCNet supporters have contacted Congress in opposition to the increasingly infamous "Student and Teacher Safety Act" as of the time of this writing. If you're not one of them, and if the vote hasn't happened by the time you read this, and if you're a US voter, click here to add your voice to the chorus of opposition. We have allies too: Among the letters sent to Congress by major national organizations is this one from the American Federation of Teachers. If the vote hasn't happened yet (they have one more bill to go through first), you can see it on C-Span via cable TV or on the C-Span web site. (Scroll down to "live streams.")
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

On the Thai Coup Attempt

The mass media today are full of reports about the slow-motion military coup attempt taking place in Thailand. While I'm not a big fan of military coups, I have to point out that this one couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Long-time Chronicle readers may recall Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the man who unleashed a "war on drugs" in 2003 where some 2,000 people summarily executed. That's human rights speak for gunned down in the streets without a trial or even an arrest. Here's a link to just one of the stories we did on Shinawatra's massacre of drug users and sellers. There is much more if you want to dig through our archives. I don't claim to be up to speed on the intricacies of Thai politics. But Shinawatra, a Berlusconi-style figure in Thai politics, a fabulously wealthy media magnate who sought to impose his twisted morality on the country he governed, needs to be sitting in the defendant's dock, not the presidential palace.
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Thailand

Free Willie!

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.



THE ULTIMATE IRONY: Nelson and others weren't arrested because the St. Martin Parish (Louisiana) jail was already filled to capacity. If convicted, Nelson and four others could each face up to 6 months in jail, however, they are more likely to receive probation and/or fines.
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United States

We CAN stop this horrible bill! But we need to act soon...

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CLICK HERE FOR UPDATE Already nearly 700 StoptheDrugWar.org members and readers are confirmed to have contacted their representatives about defeating H.R. 5295, the bill that would make it dramatically easier for schools to engage in abusive mass searches. And, SSDP and DPA are rallying their lists as well. Click http://ga0.org/campaign/searches_bill to do your part. Even bigger news is that National PTA, American Association of School Administrators, National School Boards Association, and Council of Great City Schools have all come out in opposition to this bill. Look at some of what they are saying: National PTA: "If we are serious about protecting students and teachers, we must provide ways for schools to address the foundation of these problems, not simply allow teachers the relatively unbridled authority to search a student under the veil of school safety." American Association of School Administrators: “This is not the time for Congress to act like a local school board by creating policies and mandates beyond their jurisdiction. Schools need to focus on the requirements that have already been handed down from Washington. Now is not the time to be adding more.” National School Boards Association: “…this legislation does not do anything to create a more positive learning environment. Worse, H.R. 5295 could mislead school personnel into violating the constitutional rights of students in the errant belief that, as long as their actions conform with the Congress’s general description of “reasonableness,” they must be permissible.” Council of Great City Schools: "It is ironic that a bill purporting to enhance school safety would include a funding cut-off provision for the primary federal source of school safety funds, the Safe and Drug Free Schools program." Click http://www.theagitator.com/ and http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/ for coverage of this issue at The Agitator and Hit and Run, respectively.
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United States

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