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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

Big Name Panel Calls Global Drug War a "Failure" [FEATURE]

The global war on drugs is a failure and governments worldwide should shift from repressive, law-enforcement centered policies to new ways of legalizing and regulating drugs, especially marijuana, as a means of reducing harm to individuals and society, a high-profile group of world leaders said in a report issued last Thursday.

Richard Branson blogs about being invited onto the global commission, on virgin.com.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose members include former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, said the global prohibitionist approach to drug policy, in place since the UN adopted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs a half-century ago, has failed to reduce either the drug supply or consumption.

Citing UN figures, the report said global marijuana consumption rose more than 8% and cocaine use 27% in the decade between 1998 and 2008. Again citing UN figures, the group estimated that there are some 250 million illegal drug consumers worldwide. "We simply cannot treat them all as criminals," the report concluded.

The report also argued that arresting "tens of millions" of low-level dealers, drug couriers, and drug-producing farmers not only failed to reduce production and consumption, but also failed to address the economic needs that pushed people into the trade in the first place.

Prohibitionist approaches also foster violence, most notably in the case of Mexico, the group argued, and impede efforts to stop the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis. Governments should instead turn to science- and evidence-based public health and harm reduction approaches, the group said. It cited studies of nations like Portugal and Australia, where the decriminalization of at least some drugs has not led to significantly greater use.

"Overwhelming evidence from Europe, Canada and Australia now demonstrates the human and social benefits both of treating drug addiction as a health rather than criminal justice problem and of reducing reliance on prohibitionist policies," said former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss. "These policies need to be adopted worldwide, with requisite changes to the international drug control conventions."

The report offered a number of recommendations for global drug policy reform, including:

  • End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
  • Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs (especially cannabis) to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.
  • Ensure that a variety of treatment modalities are available -- including not just methadone and buprenorphine treatment but also the heroin-assisted treatment programs that have proven successful in many European countries and Canada.
  • Apply human rights and harm reduction principles and policies both to people who use drugs as well as those involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers.

"Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government's global war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed," said former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso. "Let's start by treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives, and legally regulating rather than criminalizing cannabis."

"The war on drugs has failed to cut drug usage, but has filled our jails, cost millions in tax payer dollars, fuelled organized crime and caused thousands of deaths. We need a new approach, one that takes the power out of the hands of organized crime and treats people with addiction problems like patients, not criminals," said Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom. "The good news is new approaches focused on regulation and decriminalization have worked. We need our leaders, including business people, looking at alternative, fact based approaches. We need more humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs. The one thing we cannot afford to do is to go on pretending the war on drugs is working."

The Obama administration is having none of it. "Making drugs more available -- as this report suggests -- will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe," Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy told the Wall Street Journal the same day the report was released.

That sentiment is in line with earlier pronouncements from the administration that while it will emphasize a public health approach to drug policy, it stands firm against legalization. "Legalizing dangerous drugs would be a profound mistake, leading to more use, and more harmful consequences," drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said earlier this year.

But if the White House isn't listening, US drug reformers are -- and they're liking what they're hearing.

"It's no longer a question of whether legalizing drugs is a serious topic of debate for serious people," said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and a 34-year veteran police officer from Baltimore, Maryland. "These former presidents and other international leaders have placed drug legalization squarely on the table as an important solution that policymakers need to consider. As a narcotics cop on the streets, I saw how the prohibition approach not only doesn't reduce drug abuse but how it causes violence and crime that affect all citizens and taxpayers, whether they use drugs or not."

"These prominent world leaders recognize an undeniable reality. The use of marijuana, which is objectively less harmful than alcohol, is widespread and will never be eliminated," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "They acknowledge that there are only two choices moving forward. We can maintain marijuana's status as a wholly illegal substance and steer billions of dollars toward drug cartels and other criminal actors. Or, we can encourage nations to make the adult use of marijuana legal and have it sold in regulated stores by legitimate, taxpaying business people. At long last, we have world leaders embracing the more rational choice and advocating for legal, regulated markets for marijuana. We praise these world leaders for their willingness to advocate for this sensible approach to marijuana policy."

"The long-term impact of the Global Commission's efforts will be defining," predicted David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org (publisher of this newsletter). "Most people don't realize that there are leaders of this stature who believe prohibition causes much of the harm commonly seen as due to drugs. As more and more people hear these arguments, coming from some of the most credible people on the planet, legalization will come to be viewed as a credible and realistic option."

Other commission members include Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Canada; Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair); Marion Caspers-Merk, former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health; Maria Cattaui former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland; Carlos Fuentes, writer and public intellectual, Mexico; Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan; Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria , France; Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru; George Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece; George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair); Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy , Spain; Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway; Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board; John Whitehead, banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, United States; and Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico.

While the Obama administration may be loathe to listen, the weight of world opinion, as reflected in the composition of the global commission that issued this report, is starting to create stress fractures in the wall of prohibition. A half-century of global drug prohibition has showed us what it can deliver, and the world is increasingly finding it wanting.

Marijuana and the War on Drugs: Where Will it All End? (Opinion)

Susan Walker reports on a study of the alcohol and drug prohibition eras conducted by Euan Wilson of The Socionomics Institute. Wilson's research includes the role of social mood during prohibition, and provides a fascinating look at when and why society sanctions drugs -- and when society decides enough is enough. Walker says the takeaway message is that the same social mood that drives the stock market also plays a significant role in popular attitudes regarding the prohibitions against drugs and alcohol.
Publication/Source: 
Elliott Wave International (GA)
URL: 
http://www.elliottwave.com/freeupdates/archives/2011/05/20/Marijuana-and-the-War-on-Drugs-Where-Will-it-All-End.aspx

What the Drug War Has Wrought (Opinion)

John Sinclair opines on what drug prohibition has wrought. He says only the most nave, cynical or deluded among us can subscribe to the pervasive mythology of drug police, prosecutors and judges as fearless warriors valiantly fighting a depraved horde of heartless pushers and evil dope fiends whose anti-social pursuit of self-gratification by getting high threatens to destroy the American way of life and everything it stands for.
Publication/Source: 
Counter Punch (CA)
URL: 
http://www.counterpunch.org/sinclair04292011.html

Two GOP Drug War Critics Seek Presidency

Two prominent Republican anti-prohibitionists are seeking the nod to head the party's ticket in the 2012 presidential election. Last week, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson formally threw his hat in the ring with a tweet and a speech in New Hampshire, and this week, Rep. Ron Paul (TX) announced he was forming an exploratory committee for the 2012 campaign, with a final decision to come next month.

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson wants to legalize marijuana. (image via Wikimedia.org)
Both men are libertarian-leaning, anti-interventionist, fiscal conservatives who will compete to gain the support of some of the same elements of the Republican base. Both have long records of speaking out against drug prohibition. They are up against a Republican field that has so far thrown up few strong front runners, and early primary victories could catapult them to the front of the field.

Johnson was in typical form last week, telling ABC News what he was all about. "I support gay unions. I think the government ought to get out of the marriage business. And then for me as governor of New Mexico, everything was a cost-benefit analysis. There weren't any sacred cows -- everything was a cost-benefit analysis. What are we spending money on and what are we getting for the money that we're spending? So in that sense, the drug war is absolutely a failure."

Drug reform as an issue is prominently displayed on Johnson's campaign home page, and his drug reform page is worth noting. "Despite our best efforts at enforcement, education and interdiction, people continue to use and abuse illegal drugs," the page says. "The parallels between drug policy today and Prohibition in the 1920's are obvious, as are the lessons our nation learned. Prohibition was repealed because it made matters worse. Today, no one is trying to sell our kids bathtub gin in the schoolyard and micro-breweries aren't protecting their turf with machine guns. It's time to apply that thinking to marijuana. By making it a legal, regulated product, availability can be restricted, under-age use curtailed, enforcement/court/incarceration costs reduced, and the profit removed from a massive underground and criminal economy.

"By managing marijuana like alcohol and tobacco -- regulating, taxing and enforcing its lawful use -- America will be better off," the issue page continues. "The billions saved on marijuana interdiction, along with the billions captured as legal revenue, can be redirected against the individuals committing real crimes against society. Harder drugs should not be legalized, but their use should be dealt with as a health issue -- not a criminal justice issue."

The issues page uses large-font type to ensure that readers understand that he wants to "make marijuana legal" and embraces a harm reduction approach to harder drugs.

Johnson has embraced drug reform since at least 1999, after cruising to victory to serve a second term as New Mexico governor in 1998. That stance made him one of the earliest high ranking officials in the US to call for pot legalization and a harm reduction approach to other drugs. He retired from New Mexico politics after being term-limited out of office after his second term.

Johnson, who is a relative unknown among the Republican field, is counting on a strong showing in New Hampshire, home of the nation's first primary, to boost his candidacy. "I have to do, and want to do, really well in New Hampshire," he said on the steps of the statehouse in Concord as he announced his candidacy. "So I'm going to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire, where you can go from obscurity to prominence overnight with a good showing."

Drug war foe Ron Paul hopes the third time is the charm (house.gov)
Veteran Texas congressman Ron Paul, for his part, announced Tuesday that he has formed a presidential exploratory committee for the 2012 nomination. If he runs, that would mark his third presidential campaign. He ran as a Libertarian in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008. In the latter campaign, he generated a core of devoted followers, but dropped out in June after averaging less than 10% of the vote in early primaries.

But Paul supporters said their candidate could do better this year. They cited the name recognition from his 2008 run and the rise of the Tea Party, where Paul's fiscally conservative and constitutionalist views, if not always his views toward drug and foreign policy, should find a warm welcome.

Paul has long been a critic of the war on drugs, has supported bills in Congress to decriminalize marijuana and hemp, and takes a states' rights approach to drug policy. He is also strongly anti-interventionist, but unlike many libertarians, opposes abortion.

While both men are long-shots in the Republican nomination process, the state of the field leaves the door open to one or both of them. A recent CBS News/New York Times poll found that 56% of Republicans were not enthusiastic about any of a long list of declared and potential candidates. (Johnson and Paul weren't listed in that poll).

And then there were two anti-prohibitionist presidential candidates -- in the Republican Party, no less. Maybe there will finally be a serious discussion of drug policy in the 2012 campaign, even if only in the primaries.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Why It's Obvious We Are Losing the War on Drugs

Ed Dolan, an economist and textbook writer, discusses the economics of drug prohibition. He says drug trafficking organizations are strong because the US drug war strategy makes them strong.
Publication/Source: 
Business Insider (NY)
URL: 
http://www.businessinsider.com/econ-101-hayek-and-why-we-are-losing-the-war-against-drugs-2011-3

U.S. Led Drug Prohibition Wars Have Failed, Expert Tells Panama Conference

Speaking at a regional security conference, Hans Mathieu, director of the Friedrich Ebert Security Foundation, said using violent repression in the "war" against drugs doesn’t work and policies against drug trafficking, especially those headed by the United States, have failed.
Publication/Source: 
Newsroom Panama (Panama)
URL: 
http://www.newsroompanama.com/panama/2532-us-led-anti-drug-wars-have-failed-expert-tells-panama-conference.html

Drug Lords Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Global Prohibition (Video)

Location: 
50 years ago the United Nations adopted the first international treaty to prohibit some drugs. The logic of the system was simple: any use of the drugs listed, unless sanctioned for medical or scientific purposes, would be deemed 'abuse' and thus illegal. As a result of this convention, the unsanctioned production and trafficking of these drugs became a crime in all member states of the UN. There is a small group that benefits phenomenally from the global war on drugs: organized criminals and terrorists. View this video from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and find out more.
Publication/Source: 
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (Hungary)
URL: 
http://drogriporter.hu/en/dli_short

John Stossel: End the Drug War, Save Black America (Opinion)

John Stossel discusses issues related to the devastating impact the war on drugs has on the black community.
Publication/Source: 
Fox News (US)
URL: 
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/03/16/john-stossel-end-drug-war-save-black-america/

Life After the War on Drugs: Reviewing Past and Present Policies with an Eye Toward Legal Reform

University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law
2011 Law Review Symposium

David A. Clarke School of Law
 

"Life After the War on Drugs: Reviewing Past and Present Policies With an Eye Toward Legal Reform"


Introduction (10:00 – 10:15 a.m.)
• John Brittain, Professor, UDC-DCSL, Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (2005-2009)

Panel 1: Drug Policy at Home and Abroad (10:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.)
• Eric Sterling, Advisory Board Member, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
• Brooke Mascagni, PhD Candidate, University of California, Santa Barbara
• Jordan Blair Woods, PhD Candidate, Cambridge University (U.K.), J.D. University of California Los Angeles

Lunch (12:00 – 1:00 pm)
• Lunch Keynote Speaker: Ronald C. Machen, Jr., United States Attorney for the District of Columbia

Panel 2: Conflicts between State and Federal Drug Laws (1:00 – 3:30 p.m.)
• Andrew Ferguson (Moderator), Professor, UDC-DCSL, Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia (2004-2010)
• Robert Hildum, Director, D.C. Dept. of Youth Rehabilitation Services (2010)
• Sumeet H. Chugani, Esq. and Xingjian Zhao, Esq., Diaz, Reus & Targ, LLP (Miami, FL)
• Alex Kreit, Director, Center for Law and Social Justice, Thomas Jefferson School of Law (San Diego, CA)

Panel 3: The Unknown Effects of the War on Drugs (3:45 – 5:00 p.m.)
• Brian Gilmore, Director, Michigan State University College of Law Housing Clinic
• Ken Lammers, Deputy Commonwealth Attorney, County of Wise and City of Norton in Virginia
• Michael Liszewski, Board of Directors, Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Cocktail Reception (5:10 – 6:00 p.m.)

Plenary Panel: Life After the War on Drugs (6:00 – 9:00 p.m.)
• Keynote Speaker: Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
• Jasmine Tyler, Deputy Director of National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance
• Mark Osler, Professor, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minneapolis, MN)
• The Honorable Arthur L. Burnett, Sr., National Executive Director, National African-American Drug Policy Coalition
• Dr. Faye Taxman, Director, Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence, George Mason University

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is limited. To register, see http://www.law.udc.edu/events/event_details.asp?id=136549.

For any questions, please contact Symposium Editor Leila Mansouri at Leila.Mansouri@udc.edu.

Date: 
Thu, 03/24/2011 - 10:00am - 9:00pm
Location: 
4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, Windows Lounge: Building 38, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20008
United States

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