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NYPD to Obey Law

In case you haven't seen our story from last Friday about the New York City Police Department's decision to have its police officers to start obeying the state's decades-old marijuana decriminalization law -- or WNYC's report, which broke the story before any reformers had heard about it, complete with a copy of Commissioner Ray Kelly's order -- check it out. There's also a great set of reports by the Village Voice. It is huge news and an unexpectedly swift victory, if it's for real.http://stopthedrugwar.org/trenches/2011/sep/27/press_release_elected_officials

NYC City Hall
The basic outline of what's happened in the city is that New York State in the 1970s made possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana a ticketable "violation," rather than a misdemeanor as before, unless the marijuana was in "public view." But in 1986, under the Rudy Giuliani administration, and continuing under Mayor Bloomberg, police began to violate the law -- constantly, every day -- by telling people to empty their pockets or take out their marijuana, which had not been in public view, and then arresting people for the public view offense which police themselves had manufactured. Marijuana possession arrests went up by a factor of ten, almost all of the arrestees African American or Latino.

The New York Times called today for the US Dept. of Justice and New York lawmakers to investigate the corrupt practice that has allowed this to happen to upwards of half a million people since then. As the Times aptly commented, Kelly's memo is "too little, too late."

A press conference in front of NYPD headquarters at 1:30pm this afternoon with lawmakers and advocates will commend the change in policy and call for passage of a bill currently in the legislature to repeal the possession in open view offense and thereby secure this change in policy for the future. [Update: Post-rally press release here.]

I have an additional suggestion: Expunge all marijuana possession convictions that resulted from arrests made in New York City between 1996 and today. Most of them appear to have been made on false pretenses, but there's no practical way to review all of them to find the relatively few that were not. Criminal convictions, even for misdemeanor drug possession, can be a lifetime barrier to employment, college aid, professional licenses, all manner of problems. They can also lead to harsher treatment by the system for other future trouble that might otherwise be considered more minor, a part of the so-called "prison pipeline." It's not over when the jail time is completed or the fine paid, and half a million people in New York City are victims in this way of this persistent NYPD misconduct.

NYPD Ordered to Stop Marijuana Possession Arrests

New York City may soon shed its infamous reputation as the pot bust capital of the world. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an internal order on September 19 to the NYPD telling officers they can no longer arrest people for marijuana possession in public view if the marijuana was not in public view before officers either searched the person and produced it or the person produced it after an officer's demand that he empty his pockets.

NYC City Hall
Although New York state has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, the NYPD has made a practice of stopping people -- mainly young people of color -- on the streets, searching them or demanding they empty their pockets, then charging them with possession in public view. Unlike simple pot possession, which is only a ticketable offense, possession in public view is an arrestable offense that typically results in a day-long stay in jail before the defendant can appear before a judge.

New York City and the NYPD have come under increasingly heat over the practice, which has resulted in tens of thousands of marijuana in public view arrests each year in recent years. The policy began under the administration of then Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but has continued under the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who famously admitted having smoked pot and enjoying it.

Both city council members and state representatives have recently taken up the call to end the practice. A bipartisan bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view was recently introduced in Albany.

"Questions have been raised about the processing of certain marihuana arrests," Kelly wrote in the internal order delivered to commanders this week. "At issue is whether the circumstances under which uniformed members of the service recover small amounts of marihuana ... from subjects in a public place support the charge of Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree.

"The specific circumstances in question include occasions when the officers recover marihuana pursuant to a search of subject's person or upon direction to the subject to surrender the contents of his/her pockets or other closed container. A crime will not be charged to an individual who is compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marijuana. Such circumstances may constitute a violation of [the decriminalization statute], not [the possession in public view statute], a Class B misdemeanor.

"To support a charge [under the possession in public view statute], the public display of marijuana must be an activity taken under the suspect's own volition. Thus, uniformed members of the service may not charge the individual with [violation of the possession in public view statute], if the marihuana recovered was displayed to the public view at the officer's discretion."

So will New York City marijuana arrest numbers now plummet?

New York City, NY
United States

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed around 40,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Thursday, September 15

In Philadelphia, authorities announced the dismantling of a drug trafficking network with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel. In total, five people were arrested, three of them in Pennsylvania and two in Texas. Ten kilos of cocaine, cash and weapons were also confiscated.

In Matamoros, fire fights and blockades were reported in several parts of the city, effectively shutting the city down. Residents posted pictures of hijacked buses parked across streets and city officials confirmed that incidents occurred on the highway to Reynosa. It is unclear whether any fatalities occurred during the incidents.

Wednesday, September 16

In Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, a car bomb exploded during Mexican Independence Day celebrations. No injuries were reported.

In Querandaro, Michoacan, Independence Day celebrations were canceled after a group of 40 heavily armed gunmen arrived in the town’s main square and ordered the crowd to disperse or be attacked, causing people to flee in panic or hide inside government buildings. No injuries were reported.

Saturday, September 17

In Huamuxtitlan, Guerrero, the body of a missing federal congressman and his driver were found in a river. PRI congressman Moises Villanueva had been missing since September 4th, when the two men disappeared after leaving a party held by a fellow party member. Mexican media reported that both men had been shot and appear to have been dead for some time.

In the Monterrey suburb of Santa Catarina, authorities announced that 44 police officers have been taken into custody on suspicion of working as lookouts for and protecting the Zetas. At least 69 others are still under investigation.

Sunday, September 18

In Mexico City, a high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel leader was arrested. Jose Carlos Moreno Flores is thought to have been the head of the Sinaloa Cartel in Chilapancingo, Guerrero, and is known to have had ties to drug traffickers in Guatemala and Costa Rica. He is also thought to have played a key part in turf wars fought over Chilpancingo between the Sinaloa Cartel and rival groups.

Monday, September 19

In Veracruz, 32 prison inmates escaped from three facilities in simultaneous jail breaks. 14 of the inmates have already been recaptured and the Mexican military has deployed to search for the remaining 18. All 17 prisons in Veracruz are being checked to ascertain whether any other prisoners are missing.

Tuesday, September 20

In Michoacan, the army captured a high-ranking member of the Knights Templar Organization. Saul Solis Solis, 49, is a former police chief and at one time was a congressional candidate for the Green Party, finishing fourth in the 2009 congressional race for his home district. He is also suspected of being heavily involved in narcotics cultivation and meth production, as well as in multiple attacks on federal forces, including a May 2007 attack that killed an officer and four soldiers.

In Veracruz, the bodies of 35 people were dumped on a busy street near a shopping center by a group of heavily armed gunmen who pointed weapons at passing motorists. According to Mexican media sources, most of the gunmen were identified as having criminal records and links to organized crime groups. A banner left with the bodies claimed that the dead were Zetas. Some of the victims had their heads covered with black plastic bags and appeared to have been tortured. One of the bodies has been identified as a police officer who went missing two weeks ago.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least eight people were murdered in several incidents across the city. In one incident, three teenagers were walking along a street when they were intercepted by a group of gunmen, who killed two and severely wounded the third. In another incident, a 32-year old mother of 8 was shot dead outside her home.

[Editor's Note: We can no longer accurately enumerate the number of deaths in the Mexican drug wars this year. The Mexico City newspaper El Universal had been running a tally on which we relied, but it stopped. Our estimate for this year's death toll is just that -- an estimate.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011: (approx.): 7,200

Mexico

Mexico

A Drug Arrest Every 19 Seconds, Says Latest US Data [FEATURE]

More than 1.6 million people were arrested for drug offenses in the US last year, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report 2010, and more than half of them were for marijuana. That's a drug arrest every 19 seconds, 24 hours a day, every day last year. The numbers suggest that despite "no more war on drugs" rhetoric emanating from Washington, the drug war juggernaut is rolling along on cruise control.

Overall, 1,638,846 were arrested on drug charges in 2010, up very slightly from the 1,633,582 arrested in 2009. But while the number of drug arrests appears to be stabilizing, they are stabilizing at historically high levels. Overall drug arrests are up 8.3% from a decade ago.

Marijuana arrests last year stood at 853,838, down very slightly from 2009's 858,408. But for the second year in a row, pot busts accounted for more arrests than  all other drugs combined, constituting 52% of all drug arrests in 2010. Nearly eight million people have been arrested on pot charges since 2000.

The vast majority (88%) off marijuana arrests were for simple possession, with more than three-quarters of a million (750,591) busted in small-time arrests. Another 103,247 people were charged with sale or manufacture, a category that includes everything from massive marijuana smuggling operations to persons growing a single plant in their bedroom closets.

The stabilization of drug arrests at record high levels comes as the FBI reports all other categories of crime are dropping. Violent crime was down overall, with murder decreasing by 4.2% and robberies by 10.0%, while property crime was also down overall, with burglary and larceny declining by more than 2% and motor vehicle theft and arson down by more than 7%.

Drug arrests were the single largest category of arrests, accounting for more than 10% of all arrests in the country. They were followed by drunk driving arrests (1.41 million) and larceny arrests (1.27 million). More than three times as many people were arrested for drugs than for all violent crimes combined (552,000) and nearly as many as for all property crimes combined (1.643 million).

African-Americans continue to be arrested for drug offenses in disproportionate numbers. Blacks accounted for 31.8% of all drug arrests last year, while according to the US Census Bureau, they constitute only 12.6% of the national population.

[Visit the Drug War Facts Crime section for updated tables presenting arrest data from 1980 through the present.]

The high drug arrest numbers were grist for the mill for drug war critics.

"This shows that, contrary to what Obama and Kerlikowske say, the war on drugs is not over," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. While conceding that the vast majority of drug arrests are conducted by state and local law enforcement, "the Obama administration sets the tone," he argued. "Kerlikowske said he ended the war on drugs—not the federal war on drugs—but federal money absolutely subsidizes state and local drug arrests by funding programs like the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program and the COPS program. They are supposed to be setting national policy, but they're not doing a very good job of leading by example."

"Since the declaration of the 'war on drugs' 40 years ago we've arrested tens of millions of people in an effort to reduce drug use," noted Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "The fact that cops had to spend time arresting another 1.6 million of our fellow citizens last year shows that it simply hasn't worked. In the current economy we simply cannot afford to keep arresting three people every minute in the failed 'war on drugs. If we legalized and taxed drugs, we could not only create new revenue in addition to the money we'd save from ending the cruel policy of arresting users, but we'd make society safer by bankrupting the cartels and gangs who control the currently illegal marketplace."

While national drug reform groups had harsh words for the policies leading to the overall drug arrest figures, marijuana reformers were equally critical when it came to the herb and the arrests it generates.

"Today, as in past years, the so-called 'drug war' remains fueled by the arrests of minor marijuana possession offenders, a disproportionate percentage of whom are ethnic minorities," said NORML deputy director Paul Armentano. "It makes no sense to continue to waste law enforcements' time and taxpayers' dollars to arrest and prosecute Americans for their use of a substance that poses far fewer health risks than alcohol or tobacco."

"It's pretty obvious that we continue to spend billions a year arresting nearly a million people for marijuana related crime, yet use had not fallen dramatically," said Morgan Fox, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "That shows that this is just a waste of time and money. It's really disingenuous for the Obama administration and the drug czar to say they are concentrating on public health measures and harm reduction and moving away from law enforcement, and then release numbers that show that was not the case, that the arrest rates are staying the same."

Fox noted that pot arrests accounted for 5.7% of all arrests nationwide. "If the drug czar says we can't arrest our way out of the drug problem, then why are we spending one-twentieth of our law enforcement resources arresting people for nonviolent, victimless crimes?" he asked. "We could be using those resources for solving rapes and murders."

More than a decade of drug reform efforts have managed to slow what once seemed to be endless annual increases in drug arrests in the US, but stabilizing at around 1.6 million drug busts a year is not victory, only the first step in putting the brakes on the drug war juggernaut. Now, it's time to start concentrating on bringing it to a screeching halt.

Washington, DC
United States

Canada Marijuana Arrests Jump Dramatically

New numbers from Statistics Canada show marijuana arrests jumped dramatically last year. According to its annual crime report, pot possession arrests increased 14% last year, and accounted for more than half (54%) of all drug arrests in Canada. That has advocates crying foul.

Some 58,000 Canadians were arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, and another 18,000 were arrested for marijuana trafficking, also up significantly with a 10% increase over 2009.

Cocaine possession and trafficking arrests actually declined, down 6% and 4%, respectively, but arrests for all other drugs also increased. Arrests for drug possession were up 10% and for drug trafficking up 5%.

The increase in drug arrests comes amidst a decline in arrests for most other criminal offenses. Almost every category of violent crime dropped, with overall violent crime down 3%, while a similar portrait emerged with property crime. Every category of property crimes decreased, with overall property crime down 6%.

The marijuana arrest figures got under the skin of the Vancouver-based Beyond Prohibition Foundation, which laid into the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper over the uptick, as well as over its medical marijuana policies and its efforts to impose mandatory minimum sentences for cultivating as few as six pot plants.

"What we are seeing is a coordinated effort led by the Conservative government to crack down on simple marijuana possession as part of a multi-billion dollar increase in the war on drugs. At a time when almost every country in the world is recognizing the total and abject failure of the war on drugs, this Conservative government is increasing spending by billions of dollars" said Kirk Tousaw, executive director of the Beyond Prohibition Foundation.

"Mr. Harper continues to talk about how government spending needs to be reduced, and how we can't afford social programs, yet he is pouring billions into the failed drug war," Tousaw continued. "Why? Why did 58,000 Canadians need to be arrested over a plant that more Canadians want legalized than voted for Conservative candidates? Why is Mr. Harper spending billions to arrest Canadians for simple marijuana possession?"

"It's become clear what this government's priorities are," said Jacob Hunter, the foundation's policy director. "A crackdown on simple marijuana possession, mandatory minimum sentences for growing even one marijuana plant, and a dismantling of the medical marijuana program. This is nothing less than a total war on marijuana" said Jacob Hunter, the foundation's policy director.

Canadian marijuana activists, who seemed so close to freeing the weed just a few years ago, have their work cut out for them.

Canada

Defenders of the War on Marijuana Don't Have a Clue Who They're Hurting

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/marijuanaarrest.jpg

The debate over New York City's out-of-control marijuana arrest crusade is getting heated, which is exactly what needs to happen. Forced at last to defend this grand travesty before an angry public, the mayor's office is now trying to convince everyone that this epidemic of constitutional violations and racial profiling is somehow good for the community:

The Bloomberg administration says that by arresting more than 350,000 people for having small amounts of marijuana since 2002, the police have helped drive down serious crime — and that the consequences for the people locked up have been minimal.

Nearly 90 percent of those arrested on charges of personal possession of marijuana are black or Latino, although its use by young white people is rampant in affluent quarters of the city.

Faced with criticism from members of the City Council and the State Legislature, aides to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have emphasized that few of those arrested on pot charges actually end up with criminal convictions because most cases are dismissed and sealed after one year. In effect, they say, the arrest process itself — which can stretch for 24 hours or more, under squalid conditions in holding pens — is the extent of the punishment. (NYT)

It's amazing enough that any sane person would make light of being thrown in a crowded, disgusting jail in New York City. With the exception of the apparently large number of minor marijuana offenders, I'd really rather not meet most of the people who had to be removed from the streets of NYC on a given day. But that's just the beginning:

Yet there are other, hidden consequences, say lawyers and advocates who work with those arrested. People regularly lose jobs for missing work as they wait to see a judge or because their employers do not want anyone connected with even minor drug offenses on the payroll, said Marlen Bodden, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society.

“They’re clogging the courts and ruining people’s lives, in terms of potential collateral consequences for housing, employment, immigration,” said Steven Banks, the attorney in chief of the Legal Aid Society, which represented 30,000 people in minor marijuana cases last year.

It's incredible that someone would even have to explain how getting arrested for drugs actually does really, really suck. Obvious truths such as these are routinely and nonchalantly obscured by drug war defenders any time an issue like this comes into focus, and it's easy to lose sight of how genuinely and uniquely ridiculous each and every such statement truly is. Getting arrested for marijuana isn't a big deal? Seriously?

Apologists for mass marijuana arrests will compare the whole process to giving out parking tickets right up until the point when we propose legislation to actually treat marijuana that way, at which point they will predictably go ballistic. The same idiots who claim that we need tough penalties to "send the right message to our young people," will turn around in an instant and announce in the newspaper that the punishment for marijuana is just a slap on the wrist. That's how desperate, dishonest, and confused the proponents of marijuana prohibition have become, and it's a step forward for reform any time we can force them to open their mouths.

Cops Say Forty Years of War on Drugs is Enough [FEATURE]

This week marks the 40th anniversary of America's contemporary war on drugs, and the country's largest anti-prohibitionist law enforcement organization is commemorating -- not celebrating -- the occasion with the release of report detailing the damage done. Members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) hand-delivered a copy of the report, Ending the Drug War: A Dream Deferred, to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar's office) Tuesday after holding a press conference in Washington, DC.

LEAP members pass by the White House as they deliver their report to the drug czar's office.
[Editor's Note: This is merely the first commemoration of 40 years of drug war. The Drug Policy Alliance is sponsoring dozens of rallies and memorials in cities across the country on Friday, June 17. Look for our reporting on those events as they happen.]

On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon (R) declared "war on drugs," and thousands of deaths, millions of arrests, and billions of tax dollars later, drug prohibition remains in place -- the Obama administration's declaration two years ago that it had ended the drug war in favor of a public health-centered approach notwithstanding. Ending the Drug War details how the war on drugs continues unabated, despite the recent administrations' less warlike rhetoric, and the ways it has hurt rather than helped drug users and society at large.

"When President Nixon declared the 'drug war' in 1971, we arrested fewer than half a million people for drug offenses that year. Today, the number has skyrocketed to almost two million drug arrests a year," said former Baltimore narcotics officer and LEAP executive director Neill Franklin. "We jail more of our own citizens than any other country in the world does, including those run by the worst dictators and totalitarian regimes. Is this how President Obama thinks we can 'win the future'?"

The report shows that despite the drug czar's nice talk about ending the drug war, Obama administration spending priorities remain highly skewed toward law enforcement and interdiction -- and it's getting worse, not better. In 2004, the federal drug budget was 55% for supply reduction (policing) and 45% for demand reduction (treatment, prevention). In the 2012 Obama budget, supply reduction has increased to 60%, while demand reduction has shrunk to 40%.

The report also demonstrates through arrest figures that on the street level, the drug war continues to be vigorously waged. In 2001, there were almost 1.6 million drug arrests; a decade later, there were slightly more than 1.6 million. Granted, there is a slight decline from the all-time high of nearly 1.9 million in 2006, but the drug war juggernaut continues chugging away.

"I was a police officer for 34 years, the last six as chief of police in Seattle," retired law enforcement veteran Norm Stamper told the press conference. "At one point in my career, I had an epiphany. I came to the appreciation that police officers could be doing better things with their time and that we were causing more harm than good with this drug war. My position is that we need to end prohibition, which is the organizing mechanism behind the drug war. We need to replace that system guaranteed to invite violence and corruption and replace it with a regulatory model," he said.

Nixon made Elvis an honorary narc in 1970. Nixon and Elvis are both dead, but Nixon's drug war lives on.
LEAP slams the Obama administration for its forked-tongue approach to medical marijuana as well in the report. The administration has talked a good game on medical marijuana, but its actions speak louder than its words. While Attorney General Holder's famous 2009 memo advised federal prosecutors not to pick on medical marijuana providers in compliance with state laws, federal medical marijuana raids have not only continued, but they are happening at a faster rate than during the Bush administration. There were some 200 federal medical marijuana raids during eight years of Bush, while there have been about 100 under 2 1/2 years of Obama, LEAP noted.

And LEAP points to the horrendous prohibition-related violence in Mexico as yet another example of the damage the drug war has done. The harder Mexico and the US fight the Mexican drug war, the higher the death toll, with no apparent impact on the flow of drugs north or the flow of guns and cash south, the report points out.

Sean Dunagan, a recently retired, 13-year DEA veteran with postings in Guatemala City and Monterrey, Mexico, told the press conference his experiences south of the border had brought him around to LEAP's view.

"It became increasingly apparent that the prohibitionist model just made things worse by turning a multi-billion dollar industry over to criminal organizations," he said. "There is such a profit motive with the trade in illegal drugs that it is funding a de facto civil war in Mexico. Prohibition has demonstrably failed and it is time to look at policy alternatives that address the problem of addiction without destroying our societies the way the drug war has done."

Ending drug prohibition would not make Mexico's feared cartels magically vanish, LEAP members conceded under questioning, but it would certainly help reduce their power.

"Those of us who advocate ending prohibition are not proposing some sort of nirvana with no police and no crime, but a strategy based in reality that recognizes what police can accomplish in cooperation with the rest of society," said former House Judiciary Crime subcommittee counsel Eric Sterling. "The post-prohibition environment will require enforcement as in every legal industry. The enormous power that the criminal organizations have will diminish, but those groups are not going to simply walk away. The difference between us and the prohibitionists is that we are not making empty promises like a drug-free America or proposing thoughtless approaches like zero tolerance," he told the press conference.

Drug prohibition has also generated crime and gang problems in the US, the report charged, along with unnecessary confrontations between police and citizens leading to the deaths of drug users, police, and innocent bystanders alike. The report notes that while Mexico can provide a count of its drug war deaths, the US cannot -- except this year, with the Drug War Chronicle's running tally of 2011 deaths due to US domestic drug law enforcement operations, which the report cited. As of this week, the toll stands at four law enforcement officers and 26 civilians killed.

It was the needless deaths of police officers that inspired retired Maryland State Police captain and University of Maryland law professor Leigh Maddox to switch sides in the drug war debate, she said.

LEAP's Leigh Maddox addresses the Washington, DC, press conference Tuesday.
"My journey to my current position came over many years and after seeing many friends killed in the line of duty because of our failed drug policies," she told the Washington press conference. "This is an abomination and needs to change."

While the report was largely critical of the Obama administration's approach to drug policy, it also saluted the administration for heading in the right direction on a number of fronts. It cited the reduction in the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses and the lifting of the federal ban on needle exchange funding as areas where the administration deserves kudos.

Forty years of drug prohibition is more than enough. Police are getting this. When will politicians figure it out?

Washington, DC
United States

NYPD Only Arrests Minorities for Marijuana. Here's How They Do It.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/newyorkmarijuanaarrests.png

Since 1977, it's been technically legal in the State of New York to carry around a concealed bag of marijuana weighing less than 7/8 of an ounce. But you could be forgiven for not knowing this, since getting popped for petty pot possession is easier in New York City than anywhere else on the planet.

It's a monumental injustice that owes its costly continuation to one simple tactic: tricking people into committing the crime of displaying their marijuana in plain sight:

What's happening is that disproportionate numbers of black and brown young men, ages 16 to 29, are being duped into publicly revealing their allowable marijuana and then being arrested, thereby gaining a criminal record, advocates say. Police officers will say, "Empty your pockets!" turning a routine stop into an arrest and a police record.

"In 2010 in New York State, there were 54,000 marijuana arrests ... 50,000 of them came from New York City, and -- surprise, surprise -- from neighborhoods that primarily are black, Latino and low income," says Kyung Ji Kate Rhee, executive director of the IJJRA. "It's not like these individuals had a felony charge and marijuana happened to be an additional charge ... You're telling me that 50,000 had marijuana in plain view? Does that sound right to you? After that initial point of police contact, they trick you into turning out your pockets."

The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment. (The Root)

Now this is where I get confused, because if arresting young black and Latino men for tiny little bags of marijuana were as important to me as it is to the New York Police Dept., I would be extremely pleased with these results and eager to take credit for them. It makes little sense to provide your officers with special training in how to make trivial arrests for petty crimes under legally-dubious circumstances if you aren't going to be proud of the outcome.

Why not instead spend the $75 million that all of this costs on something that you're at least willing to admit you've been doing? Surely they can think of something to do with those resources that will make sense to the public, something -- anything! -- other than a massive, utterly pointless exercise in transparent racism that plainly violates the spirit of the laws of the State of New York.

Please click here to send a message to Mayor Bloomberg that New York City's senseless war on marijuana must be ended once and for all.

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 38,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Drug prohibition funds the bloody mayhem in Mexico (Image via Wikimedia.org)
Wednesday, May 22

In Nayarit, 29 people were killed during ferocious clashes between rival groups. Of the dead, 17 were found stacked in the bed of a pick-up truck. Many of the dead were wearing military-style ballistic vests and dark clothing. In the past, much of the fighting in Nayarit has been between El Chapo Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas.

In Michoacan, over 1,800 people fled the village of Buenavista because of heavy fighting between the Mexican military and gunmen from an unknown cartel.

Saturday, May 25

In Texas, a Bexar County sheriff’s sergeant was killed by a gunman who opened fire on his patrol car with an automatic weapon, possibly an AK-47 similar to those favored by Mexican cartel gunmen. The incident is being investigated as possibly being connected with Mexican criminal organizations.

In Apatzingan, Michoacan, a Mexican Air Force MD530 helicopter crashed during operations against drug traffickers. It was originally reported the helicopter had crashed after being struck by gunfire, but the Mexican military has denied this.

In Acapulco, five gunmen were killed in a fire fight with members of the municipal police.

Sunday, May 26

In Saltillo, Coahuila, the offices of Vanguardia newspaper were attacked with a hand grenade. Nobody was injured in the attack, which appears to have been intended to intimidate the local media. In January 2010, Valentin Valdes, a local reporter, was executed after being kidnapped by two trucks full of gunmen.

In Ciudad Juarez, nine people were murdered. Among the dead was a female who worked for the police department who was shot at a gas station. Four others were wounded, including the victim's mother and sister.

Monday, May 30

In Ciudad Juarez, a girl of six years old was among five people who were murdered. The girl died in the hospital after being shot when a Jeep Cherokee pulled alongside her family's car and opened fire. Some reports indicate that a federal police patrol car was in front of the vehicle, but that they somehow didn’t notice the attack.

Tuesday, May 31

In Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexican police arrested 25 people for being members of or helping the Zetas. Among those detained are 10 police officers, including a police chief and two senior officers. The arrests were made after suspects detained on Sunday in the nearby mountains told police that they received protection from the police chief and some members of his command.

In Manzanillo, 54 tons of meth precursor chemicals were found in shipping containers which had come from China. Manzanillo is a major port of entry for precursor chemicals from Asia which are then taken to large-scale meth labs for meth production.

Wednesday, June 1

In El Salvador, the country's defense minister said that Mexican cartels are attempting to buy assault rifles, grenades, and other military-grade weaponry from members of the security forces. Last week, Salvadoran NCO’s and four enlisted soldiers were arrested and stand accused of attempting to steal 1,812 grenades from a military facility.

Editor's Note: We cannot accurately tally the drug prohibition-related killings in Mexico at this time. El Universal, the only Mexican newspaper that was doing so on a regular basis, has stopped. We will have to rely on official pronouncements on the death toll, and will report them when they happen. Below are the numbers through the end of last year. With more than 1,400 reported dead in April alone, this year's toll could well exceed last years. As of this month, we believe the total death toll has surpassed 38,000.]

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war through 2010: 34,883

Mexico

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 38,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Drug prohibition funds the bloody mayhem in Mexico (Image via Wikimedia.org)
Thursday, May 12

In Arizona, two Border Patrol officers were killed after their vehicle was hit by a freight train while chasing two suspected Marijuana smugglers attempting to reach Interstate 8. The area where the incident occurred is a well-known transit zone for drugs and people being smuggled from Mexico to the United States.

Saturday, May 14

Near Ciudad Juarez, a small town police chief and two of his officers were abducted in the town of Nuevo Casas Grandes and later found dead near a Mennonite community in the town of Janos. Manuel Martinez Arvizo was the public security chief for the nearby town of Ascension, which, like many towns in the northwest part of Chihuahua, has been plagued with extremely high levels of drug-related violence.

Tuesday, May 17

In the Peten region of Guatemala, the government declared a state of siege after the massacre of 27 farm workers by Guatemalan drug traffickers thought to be tied to the Zetas. Both the Zetas and Sinaloa cartel have a significant presence in Guatemala, through which substantial quantities of South American cocaine transit on their way to Mexico and then to the United States.

Wednesday, May 18

In a rural area outside Matamoros and near the US border, three gunmen were killed and three others were captured in a large fire fight with the army. The incident began when a military helicopter came under fire after having spotted a 17-car convoy. Reinforcements clashed with gunmen in several rural communities and confiscated a large arsenal which included grenade launchers, a rocket launcher, and over 18,000 rounds of ammunition. 17.6 pounds of cocaine were also recovered.

Thursday, May 19

In Cuernavaca, Mexican authorities arrested a leading member of the South Pacific Cartel. Victor Valdez is believed to be the second in command of the cartel after Hector Beltran Leyva. A local police chief, Juan Bosco, was also arrested on suspicion of being in collusion with Valdez.

Friday, May 20

In Mexico City, a former general and key figure in Mexico’s drug war was shot and killed after a traffic accident. It is unclear whether General Jorge Juarez Loera was killed by cartel gunmen, but the federal prosecutors office has taken charge of the investigation because it suspects the involvement of organized crime.

In Reynosa, a leading Gulf Cartel figure was captured at his own birthday party. Gilberto Barragan Balderas, 41, is thought to be a leading enforcer in the Gulf Cartel is also wanted by the DEA, which had previously offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture or conviction.

Saturday, May 21

In Ciudad Juarez, two young women, aged 15 and 16, were shot dead by heavily armed gunmen who arrived to their home in a luxury SUV.

Sunday, May 22

In Monterrey, nine people were killed in a series of gun battles. The incidents began when heavily armed gunmen shot dead four people outside a popular café. Three of the bodies were then whisked away by unidentified individuals who faced no opposition from police officers who were already on the scene. Later on, five gunmen were killed when the SUV they were in crashed during a car chase with a military patrol.

In Ciudad Juarez, six people were murdered. Among the dead were three known car thieves who were shot over 40 times by unidentified gunmen while they were in the act of dismantling a car. According to statistics kept by researcher Molly Molloy, this brings the death toll in the city to 105 for the month of May and 912 for 2011 so far.

Tuesday, May 24

In Coahuila, Mexican Marines captured the alleged head of the Zetas for the Hidalgo, Coahuila area.

In Monterrey, a soldier was wounded  after a military patrol came under fire from gunmen who were waiting on an overpass bridge, after having been lured to the site by a group of trucks which ignored the soldiers commands to stop.

Editor's Note: We cannot accurately tally the drug prohibition-related killings in Mexico at this time. El Universal, the only Mexican newspaper that was doing so on a regular basis, has stopped. We will have to rely on official pronouncements on the death toll, and will report them when they happen. Below are the numbers through the end of last year. With more than 1,400 reported dead in April alone, this year's toll could well exceed last years. As of this month, we believe the total death toll has surpassed 38,000.]

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war through 2010: 34,883

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