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A Historic Day at the UN

Last month we sent some emails to our list and posted here about our new campaign to take on international drug policy reform, including but not limited to reform of the UN drug treaties. The first stage of this effort has reached a successful culmination. Two days ago we released a sign-on statement endorsed by more than 100 organizations including some major ones, calling for big changes to how the US and UN do business in drug policy, and for the process of reforming the UN drug treaties to be initiated.

UN headquarters, New York
The statement has been covered so far by several major outlets including WashingtonPost.com and HuffPost Politics, and a second statement on the death penalty for nonviolent drug offenses was covered by HuffPost WorldPost, linked from the Huffington Post home page for almost 24 hours. The broad sign-on statement and links to news articles can be found at http://stopthedrugwar.org/un.

Right now at the UN General Assembly in New York, the "High Level Thematic Debate" on drugs that we've written is unfolding -- a live webcast (and probably an archive later) can be accessed here, and The CND Blog is doing live updates throughout the day here. It has already been historic. Jamaica's minister of justice, Mark Golding, called for a Committee of Experts to be appointed by the UN to study how to accomplish treaty reform, the central ask of our statement, and other countries backed this up with calls for moving to regulation and control instead of drug prohibition and the right of countries to do that.

At 1:30, many of us will gather in front of the UN to protest the recent executions by Indonesia of several people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. We are wearing black ribbons. Many countries' speakers today have condemned the death penalty for nonviolent and drug offenses as a violation of the human rights treaties. Notably, many countries have also called for the criminalization of drug users to be ended as well.

Our work is making a difference in this hopeful process of change that is now unfolding, and we need your support to continue it. Would you be willing to make a donation now to help us take at least this first step? Donations to our tax-deductible nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation, and our non-deductible lobbying nonprofit, Drug Reform Coordination Network, both can be put toward this project and support the needs of this campaign. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate to donate by credit card or PayPal, or send your check or money order (made out to one of the two names listed above) to P.O. 9853, Washington, DC 20016.

We can also accept donations of stock; the information to give your brokerage is Ameritrade, (800) 669-3900), DTC #0188, and account number 781926492 for tax-deductible gifts to DRCNet Foundation or 864663500 for non-deductible gifts to Drug Reform Coordination Network -- please contact us if you are donating this way.

We'd also still like to hear from organizations that might like to endorse our sign-on statement or get involved in the campaign in other ways. You can write to us here.

Washington State Should Improve Protections for Medical Marijuana Patients and Suppliers (Editorial)

United States
The Seattle Times editorial board reiterates its support for Senate Bill 5073, to expand the protection for medical marijuana users and their suppliers.
The Seattle Times (WA)

Medical Marijuana Grower's Punishment Doesn't Match His Crime (Editorial)

United States
The Denver Post's editorial board opines that Christopher Bartkowicz, a medical marijuana grower who bragged about all the money he would make in Colorado's booming dispensary market, simply said the wrong thing at the wrong time and is now bearing the brunt of overzealous federal prosecution.
The Denver Post (CO)

Whether Prop 19 Passes or Not, Legalization is Now Mainstream

Please check out my editorial that ran on Alternet this morning, "Whether Prop 19 Passes or Not, Legalization is Now Mainstream."

We've all been excitedly following the Prop 19 "tax and regulate" marijuana initiative and doing what we can to help it. Tonight we'll find out what fate California voters deal to the measure. But win or lose, the events of the past few months prove that in the big picture we are clearly winning. My editorial makes that case.

Also, I was interviewed live on Colombian National Radio this morning -- would have been on Polish television too, but we missed the call. Prop 19 has international interest. You can check out the Colombia interview (which includes English translation) here.

Last but not least, if you haven't voted already, GO VOTE!

Brain Surgery

Putting the criminal justice system in charge of treating drug addiction is literally attempting to do brain surgery with a billy club. ==== My own idea. Pass it on.

Ecstasy found to Help Alleviate PTSD among Military Veterans

Researchers are gaining ground in the combat against posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in an unlikely way.  Touted as “the party drug,” ecstasy, or MDMA, may just be the saving grace for hundreds of thousands of veterans suffering from PTSD.

According to a study by the Rand Corporation, in 2008 one in five soldiers returning home from Afghanistan or Iraq showed symptoms of PTSD. All in all, nearly 300,000 returning soldiers were affected. Letting individuals with PTSD go untreated is detrimental to both the individual and to society as a whole, as it has been linked to higher incidences of depression, health issues, violence, marital problems, drug use, unemployment, homelessness and suicide among veterans. And although each active military service member is provided with $400,000 in military life insurance coverage, that provides little comfort to families of a PTSD-afflicted veterans.

The Study

In the first controlled study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in July, 2010, ecstasy was used in combination with psychotherapy to treat patients suffering from PTSD.  The subjects tested in the trial were patients with symptoms that were not improving with standard psychotherapy and antidepressants. According to Time Magazine, government-approved drugs such as Paxil and Zoloft typically administered to PTSD patients are only effective in about 20% of cases. Therapy has a higher success rate in alleviating symptoms; however, one-fourth of all patients drop out when asked to recall painful or stressful memories.

The Science behind Ecstasy and PTSD-afflicted Military Veterans

The theory behind this very controversial treatment is that ecstasy releases a large amount of mood-regulating chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, in the brain. Patients who have taken ecstasy are more open in therapy sessions and able to talk about otherwise agonizing events.  The results showed that after two months of therapy 83% of the patients that were given ecstasy showed tremendous signs of improvement and were no longer being classified as PTSD patients.

This pilot study has opened a psychedelic door in the pharmaceutical world. There is hope yet for veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder.

Editorial: Thoughts on a Drug Lord's Demise (or, Folly's Continuation)

David Borden, Executive Director

David Borden
Jamaica is often rhapsodized by Americans, who celebrate and imitate its Caribbean culture. But goings-on there rarely grab our attention. This year proved a sad exception, when efforts by the US government to bring drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke to trial, and cooperation with this by the long reluctant Jamaican government, sparked a wave of violence that rocked the island nation's capital of Kingston.

This week Coke turned himself in. His attorney read a statement from him at an extradition hearing. He was flown to the US on a private plane. And assuming there are no surprises, that's that.

That's that for Christopher Coke, that is. For the drug trade in which he achieved prominence, it is mostly business as usual. There may be some jockeying for power or turf, maybe some fighting. If the campaign to get Dudus Coke is part of a larger targeting of trafficking, there could even be a shift of routes to some other region. But as many past efforts over decades have consistently shown, the drugs will continue to flow.

The sad fact is that the fall of any one drug lord is just the latest stage in a repeating cycle. Drug traffickers, or producers, choose a region to use as transit for their drug shipments or for growing the crops and producing the drugs, based on profitability and feasibility, like any other business, and set up shop. Eventually it gets the attention of the government, who focus law enforcement resources on that region to try and stop it. Eventually the enforcers succeed, not in stopping the drugs, but in making it more expensive to do business in that particular part of the world than in other places. So the traffickers shift to one or more of those other places, and it all repeats. The UN's annual drug report, released this week, found this once again, in the form of coca production shifting from Colombia to Peru, having moved there from Peru and Bolivia years before.

This is all harmful enough on its own, but the fall of Christopher Coke demonstrates a particularly poisonous version of it. In this version, the drug lord or organization does not have an incentive to relocate -- a Jamaican drug lord would presumably lose out to someone located elsewhere -- and when a government, usually under US pressure decides to take them one, decides to fight. This time it meant the deaths of nearly a hundred Jamaicans. In Colombia during the Pablo Escobar days, hundreds lost their lives to direct cartel assassination. And it is in the tens of thousands already in Mexico, since President Calderon's escalation of the drug war began 3 1/2 years ago.

The solution to the violence, disorder, and instability of the drug trade lies not in more of this defeatist cycle, but in legalization, replacing the illegal trade with a legal trade that plays by society's rules. In the meanwhile, governments have two choices. They can go the Calderon route, or the more recent Jamaican route, and suffer the violence, maybe achieving some short term change, but not reducing the drug trade. Or, they can quietly tolerate an "ordinary" level of crime, still not reduce the illicit trade, but not see their people slaughtered wholesale in the fighting. The idea of tolerating any level of crime is not politically correct to talk about, but it's the approach that usually gets taken, around the world and here in the US too. It's only when zealots in the drug bureaucracies or political offices decide to push somewhere, that the authorities there ramp it up, and then it really gets nasty.

Those zealots need to drop the zealotry and be real, because the power they have does too much harm, in places whose peoples don't want it. But since on some level they have a point -- tolerating crime is not the ideal system -- we should start undoing prohibition now, so future bureaucrats and politicians won't have to make those distasteful choices. It's too late for the dozens of Jamaican victims of the drug war, or the thousands of Mexicans or countless others. But the sunken costs from past follies do not justify the violent consequences of folly's continuation.

Let's be smart -- let's pull the plug on the drug war now.

Editorial: DEA's "Project Deliverance" Will Undoubtedly Fail to Deliver

David Borden, Executive Director

David Borden
DEA acting chief Michele Leonhart, and her boss, US Attorney General Eric Holder, are bragging about a major, DEA-led operation that has netted 2,200+ arrests, with pounds of drugs and millions of dollars seized. "Project Deliverance" involved more than 300 law enforcement agencies, more than 3,000 DEA agents, and took 22 months. According to DEA's press release, they captured 1,262 pounds of methamphetamine, 2.5 tons of cocaine, 1,410 pounds of heroin, and 69 tons of marijuana, plus $154 million.

Operationally, Deliverance was certainly a big project -- it's easy to see why they're excited. And for the thousands of people throughout the US who were arrested in it, it's a life-changing event, though for the worse. But will Project Deliverance make any real difference in drug use and the drug trade? Is the operation really a big deal, when examined next to the reality of drug use and the drug trade in the United States today?

I hate to be a wet blanket, but if history is a guide, Project Deliverance will have no long-term impact on the drug trade. Though notable in its scale, the operation is only one of many carried out by the US and allied governments over decades. During that time, the measure of drug availability -- price, an increase implies a product is less available, relative to its demand* -- has gone in the opposite of the intended direction, and dramatically. For example, the average US street price of cocaine is less than a fifth in real terms than it was in 1980. Previous drug sweeps have seen their temporary gains erased in just one or two weeks.

The reason is that the big sounding numbers touted by Leonhart, while large for the agency and our government, are small compared with the drug trade and its incentives. Deliverance's 2.5 tons of cocaine constitute less than one percent of the 300 metric tons of cocaine the government estimates are consumed annually in the US. So do the 69 tons of marijuana. They did get a few percent of the heroin, if numbers don't deceive, but even that's still small. And the 2,200 alleged dealers and traffickers arrested in Project Deliverance make up a similarly tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of people employed in the US by the illegal drug trade. Some drug businesses will doubtless be extinguished by Project Deliverance, but others will have little difficulty replacing the lost supply or filling the open positions. And how much powder or weed did the investigators let go by during the 22 months it took to complete the operation? How much will they have to let slip by during the months or years it takes to mount the next one?

Michele Leonhart announcing ''Project Deliverance''
In an uncharacteristically "big picture" review published a few weeks ago, the Associated Press declared the 40-year drug war a failure by every measure. Will media follow that lead and go beyond the surface in their reporting on Project Deliverance? I have a few suggestions for those intrepid reporters who would like to:

  • Ask DEA or DOJ spokespersons if they expect the substances targeted in the sweep to be less available to US consumers of them, and if so for how long.
  • Ask them if previous operations, individually or collectively, have had that effect. If they say yes, ask them to be specific as to how, and compare their evidence with numbers like the aforementioned cocaine prices.
  • Do some follow-up, say two or three weeks from now. Ask government officials, cops who walk the drug beat, and drug users, what if any difference they saw in the supply of the targeted drugs after the sweep, and if so if they see still any. Follow up again in one or two months. See if DEA will give you early access to the price data.

Be forewarned that DEA reps will probably be less excited to address those questions than they were for the press conference. But the questions are no less important. Because the shiny piles of cash and drug bags whose photos you can find on the DEA web site are not the only reality of drug prohibition, nor its most important aspect. The bigger reality is that of countless drug transactions, almost entirely hidden from view, about as many of them today as there were yesterday before Project Deliverance delivered its thin slice of the drug trade, barely scratching the surface.

* Nitpickers and drug war defenders may point out that demand for cocaine has also dropped since 1980, and that the price drop could be explained that way. No dice -- frequent, "hardcore" cocaine and other drug use remained roughly constant despite a drop in the number of "casual" users, and it's the frequent users who account for the vast majority of the consumption.


I have posted before Anon. No longer. I am unafraid and sick (literally) of doctors, afraid of politicians and police, making my pain and the pain of those I love worse because of greed, social status or whatever other stupid reason they want to give for why they must protect us from Ourselves. It wasn't long ago when we could get anything we wanted in liquid form via catalogues, etc. In fact, in many states, not long ago you could still get liquid codeine in small doses by signing a form, etc. But, you know how pharmacies got around this? They stopped keeping it in stock. This is just the beginning of what I have to say. I want you to stay tuned to the stories I have to tell you.

Manufacturing consent and the drug war

I have analysed a recent debate between Aaron Smith and Calvina Fay for media bias. The post can be found here: http://www.glenstark.net/2010/05/manufacturing-consent-and-the-drug-war

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