The Drug Debate

RSS Feed for this category

Marijuana: Daily 4:20 Protests Spark Saturday Arrest in Keene, New Hampshire

Daily marijuana legalization protests in the Central Square in Keene, New Hampshire, led to one arrest Saturday for marijuana possession and one Sunday—but the victim in that arrest was later found to be smoking chocolate mint in his glass pipe and released without charges. The demonstrations began last Tuesday with a couple of dozen people gathering at 4:20 p.m. to toke up as an act of civil disobedience and call for marijuana law reform. After Saturday's arrest, the protests continued, with about 100 people showing up Monday. By Tuesday, the protests had spread to Manchester. The protests are being led by Free Keene, a local affiliate of the libertarian New Hampshire Free State Project. The project's stated goal is to persuade 20,000 libertarians to move to New Hampshire in a bid to shift the politics of the low-population Granite State. Arrested Saturday was Richard Paul, 40, one of the protest organizers. Paul was arrested after police patrolling the square saw him smoking a joint. Protestors shouted at police, yelling "Leave him alone!" and "This is how they did it in Nazi Germany!" After the arrest, about 50 protestors followed Paul and police officers to the police station, where they shouted through the door and sat in a circle smoking marijuana. No more arrests were forthcoming, though. To confuse police at the protests at the square, some smokers smoked things other than marijuana. That was the case Sunday, when police arrested a protester identified only as "Earl" for puffing on a glass pipe. Embarrassingly for police, that substance turned out to be not marijuana but chocolate mint, and Earl was quickly released. Protests continued this week in Keene and have now spread to Manchester. In the latter town, protestors sparked up in the presence of police, but failed to provoke any arrests. Perhaps the cops have better things to do. And that's precisely the point.
Location: 
Keene, NH
United States

Law Enforcement: Facing Budget Woes, Minneapolis Axes Dope Squad

Facing a $5 million budget deficit, the Minneapolis Police Department responded Monday by disbanding its narcotics squad. That makes Minneapolis the only major city in the US without one.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/minneapolis-skyline.jpg
Minneapolis skyline
Last year, the 14-member narcotics squad investigated nearly 4,000 cases resulting in 519 federal and state charges. Officers seized about $300,000 in drug money, as well as 24 guns and 26 vehicles.

Police Chief Tim Dolan said the department still has sufficient resources to handle drug cases. He said community resource teams in the department's five precincts will handle street-level and mid-level dealing, while the Violent Offender Task Force will work on high-level cases. The department also has officers seconded to an anti-drug task force with state, local, and DEA members, and it has just started a gang unit, he said.

"Are we going to be as good as we were before in dealing with drug cases? I don't know," he said. "Their stats speak for themselves."

The former head narc, Lt. Marie Przynski, was not happy. "This unit has been highly productive, if not the most productive unit in the Minneapolis Police Department," Przynski said. "I'm disappointed, and so are my officers, about this decision."

The 14 former narcs will be reassigned, with three of them joining the Financial Crimes unit, including an asset forfeiture specialist and a specialist in pharmaceutical investigations ranging from forged prescriptions to insurance fraud. Other members of the defunct dope squad will be assigned at least temporarily to street patrols.

The department still needs to cut 50 positions to get under budget. It may also reduce the number of deputy chiefs from three to two. Still, Dolan said neither street patrols nor key units, such as homicide, robbery, sex crimes, juvenile, and domestic abuse would be reduced.

One city council member, Ralph Remington, suggested that the department could have more money if its members quit misbehaving. Just three weeks ago, the city paid out $495,000 to a man slugged by a Minneapolis police officer during a drug raid last year. That was only the most recent high-profile settlement paid by the city for departmental misbehavior.

"The department could save a lot of money if they corrected the bad behavior of a few bad cops," said Remington.

Former Mexican President Proposes Legalizing Drugs in Mexico AND the U.S.

As President Calderon's leadership continues to drive Mexico deeper into the abyss of cyclical drug war violence, his predecessor Vicente Fox is looking for real solutions instead of hollow, tough-guy rhetoric. And it sounds like he found the answer:

Mr. Fox says a thirst for riches propels the street violence. So legalizing drugs — as Holland has done — could have the same effect that ending Prohibition had in the United States in 1933: Removing the incentive for criminals.

But if the domestic market in Mexico collapsed because of legalization, the export market might become even more valuable. Any move toward legalization would work only if done in concert with the United States, Mr. Fox said. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Those are strong words coming from the man who was leading the Mexican drug war just three years ago. Fox knows as well as anyone how powerful prohibition has made the cartels and he's rapidly becoming the nation's loudest voice for reform.

It's almost become a cliche at this point, but the observation that Mexico can’t change the direction of its drug policy without U.S. backing is probably correct. It's awfully hard to just come out and tell the Americans, "Hey, you guys are on your own now. We're not fighting anymore. Good luck locking down your borders and convincing everyone to stop buying drugs." Even if drug sales in Mexico were tightly regulated, the fight over lucrative smuggling routes will continue. You can regulate marijuana sales in Tijuana, but the government can't be arbitrating trade disputes between international drug organizations or issuing permits to dig tunnels under the border.

Nevertheless, the present hopelessness griping the country could form the framework for a massive popular movement to end Mexico's war against the cartels. Everyone already knows the whole mess owes its origins to American drug demand and it may be only a matter of time before a politically significant portion of the Mexican population stops supporting politicians who take drug war orders from the U.S. State Department. The next presidential elections in Mexico will likely bring about the most interesting drug policy dialogue that's ever taken place there.

No one knows what's going to happen next, but I can guarantee you that the current strategy of fighting it out in the streets isn't going to change the game. As hard as it is to imagine a combined U.S. and Mexican withdrawal after decades of aggressive interdiction efforts, it stands to reason that the one viable policy solution will eventually emerge. With leaders like Vicente Fox beginning to speak out, that moment may come sooner than we expect.

Law Enforcement: Facing Budget Woes, Minneapolis Axes Dope Squad

Facing a $5 million budget deficit, the Minneapolis Police Department responded Monday by disbanding its narcotics squad. That makes Minneapolis the only major city in the US without one. Last year, the 14-member narcotics squad investigated nearly 4,000 cases resulting in 519 federal and state charges. Officers seized about $300,000 in drug money, as well as 24 guns and 26 vehicles. Police Chief Tim Dolan said the department still has sufficient resources to handle drug cases. He said community resource teams in the department’s five precincts will handle street-level and mid-level dealing, while the Violent Offender Task Force will work on high-level cases. The department also has officers seconded to an anti-drug task force with state, local, and DEA members, and it has just started a gang unit, he said. "Are we going to be as good as we were before in dealing with drug cases? I don't know," he said. "Their stats speak for themselves." The former head narc, Lt. Marie Przynski, was not happy. "This unit has been highly productive, if not the most productive unit in the Minneapolis Police Department," Przynski said. "I'm disappointed, and so are my officers, about this decision." The 14 former narcs will be reassigned, with three of them joining the Financial Crimes unit, including an asset forfeiture specialist and a specialist in pharmaceutical investigations ranging from forged prescriptions to insurance fraud. Other members of the defunct dope squad will be assigned at least temporarily to street patrols. The department still needs to cut 50 positions to get under budget. It may also reduce the number of deputy chiefs from three to two. Still, Dolan said neither street patrols nor key units, such as homicide, robbery, sex crimes, juvenile, and domestic abuse would be reduced. One city council member, Ralph Remington, suggested that the department could have more money if its members quit misbehaving. Just three weeks ago, the city paid out $495,000 to a man slugged by a Minneapolis police officer during a drug raid last year. That was only the most recent high-profile settlement paid by the city for departmental misbehavior. "The department could save a lot of money if they corrected the bad behavior of a few bad cops," said Remington.
Location: 
Minneapolis, MN
United States

Drug Truth Update 09/15/09

The Unvarnished Truth From the Drug Truth Network (Please note new mailing addresss * Ph#: 9639 Railton St, Houston TX 77080 * 713-462-7981) You can tune into both our programs, live, Sundays at 6:30 PM central time on Pacifica's KPFT at http://www.kpft.org and call in your questions and concerns toll free at 1-877-9-420 420. The two, 29:00 shows appear along with the seven, daily, 3:00 "4:20 Drug War NEWS" reports each Monday morning at http://www.drugtruth.net . We currently have 69 affiliated, yet independent broadcast stations. With a simple email request to dean@drugtruth.net , your station can join the Drug Truth Network, free of charge. Cultural Baggage for 09/13/09, 29:00 Paul Armentano, Dep. Dir of NORML, co author of "Marijuana is Safer, So Why are We Driving People to Drink?" + Throwing Down the Gauntlet #2 LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2573 TRANSCRIPT: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2573#comments Century of Lies for 09/13/09, 29:00 Professors Kathleen Stoudt & Tony Payan from UT El Paso regarding forthcoming conference on the war on drugs + Border Czar Allen Bersen & Lew Rockwell "Never Talk to the Police" LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2574 TRANSCRIPT: This Evening 4:20 Drug War NEWS, 9/14 to 9/20/09 Link at www.drugtruth.net on the right margin - Sun - UTEP Professors Kathleen Staudt & Tony Payan regarding forthcoming Drug War Conference in El Paso, 2/2 Sat - UTEP Professors Kathleen Staudt & Tony Payan regarding forthcoming Drug War Conference in El Paso, 1/2 Fri - Paul Armentano, Dep Dir of NORML re forthcoming conference in San Francisco Thu - Phil Smith of Drug War Chronicles re cocaine contaminated with Levamisole, a de-worming agent Wed - "Free Mexican Air Force" by Flaco Jimanez Tue - Border Czar Allen Bersen defends the drug war Mon - Throwing Down the Gauntlet #2 Programs produced at Pacifica Radio Station KPFT in Houston, 90.1 FM. You can Listen Live Online at www.kpft.org - Cultural Baggage Sun, 7:30 PM ET, 6:30 PM CT, 5:30 PM MT, 4:30 PM PT (Followed Immediately By Century of Lies) - Century of Lies, SUN, 8 PM ET, 7 PM CT, 6 PM MT & 5 PM PT Who's Next to "Face The Inquisition?": Reports from Drug War Conference in El Paso & NORML Conf. in San Francisco Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, www.audioport.org We have potcasts, searchability, CMS, XML, sorts by guest name and by organization. We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates in the US, Canada and Australia! Check out our latest videos via www.youtube.com/fdbecker Please become part of the solution, visit our website: www.endprohibition.org for links to the best of reform. "Prohibition is evil." - Reverend Dean Becker, DTN Producer, 713-462-7981, www.drugtruth.net

Room for Debate on Mexico's Drug Decriminalization Law

The New York Times "Room for Debate" blog has a series of comments on Mexico's new decriminalization law. Will it reduce violence, or police corruption? Will increase drug use? Is it really a decriminalization law? Former foreign minister of Mexico Jorge Castaneda is among the participants. Check it out . Also of interest today, Mary O'Grady in the Wall Street Journal on "Mexico's Hopeless Drug War." O'Grady points out that "[p]rohibition and demand make otherwise worthless weeds valuable," arguing that neither the decrim law nor Calderon's ongoing drug war will reduce the violence. Via Tony Newman...

Exit Strategies for the War on Drugs, Part I: Framing the Discussion

(Glen Stark has provided the first installment in a multi-part discussion about the challenges we'll have when crafting a post-prohibition system. We thought it was interesting enough to post to our home page. - Dave) I am gradually of the opinion that drug-policy reform is now a sure thing, and the discussion will need to shift to alternative policies. This is the first in a multi-part series, in which I prattle on about what comes next after the war on drugs. This post attempts to formulate a useful basis for the discussion of the subject.

The following is available in full, in correct formatting, here.

The Guardian has an excellent article: Prohibition's failed. Time for a new drugs policy. The first line sums it up perfectly "http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/06/editorial-drugs-policy-latin-america". It's clear that the debate now needs to be about what comes next. We've created a stupid war against the citizenry our own country. It's completely fucking up our civil liberties, and in fact the entire premise is completely unconstitutional. Argentina's government has realized this, and if we lived in a healthier democracy, we would have figured out the same thing by now. The good news is we seem to be getting there, so the time for figuring out an exit strategy would seem to be now. The issues aren't simple. We have a monstrous police-state machinery in place. We have to pull out the troops and integrate them back into society, and provide them with counselling to reintegrate them into normal society. While this should be an easy sell, as there is a peace-dividend (reduced spending on law-enforcement and prisons, improved civil liberties, reduced crime...) the drug-warriors don't want to give up sucking at the government teat, and form a powerful lobby. The most difficult question of course is "okay, prohibition doesn't work, what now?". Unfortunately, the people who should be working on this are still too afraid to admit prohibition has failed. While they get up to speed, the most productive discussions in this arena are taking place online, in in the periphery of other discussions. I'd like to discuss the issue more directly.

Goals:

So, let's identify some (hopefully) uncontroversial goals, by which we can judge whether a drug policy is working or not.
  • minimize addiction rates.
  • minimize overdose deaths.
  • protect children and uninformed consumers.
  • minimize crime (e.g. junkies stealing to get their 'fix')
There are other effects which are more difficult to quantify, such as health impacts (cancer and such) and effects on productivity. While these are worth considering, I think it's a reasonable approach to consider them second-order effects. Once we have a policy which optimizes the easily measured first-order effects, we can worry about the second order ones. The key thing to keep in mind here is prohibition is a nightmarish failure, regardless of which effects you consider. It doesn't accomplish any of the desired effects. The results of prohibition are so disastrously bad, that complete deregulation might end up working just as well, without the enormous cost (socially and economically) of funding the war. An error the drug warriors make is framing the discussion in terms of "zero-tolerance". They want to completely eliminate all drug use. What the last 100 years has shown is that that won't happen. You can keep spending more money, you can keep use the constitution as toilet paper after shitting on people's civil rights, you can get more and more violent and intolerant, you can impose increasingly draconian laws, and people will still use drugs. The figures are there. It takes enormous cognitive dissonance to deny them, so let's stop doing There remains of course the question of how much we are willing to pay to achieve those goals. I suspect that the people who are so willing to spend billions on the drug war, will be less willing to spend the same billions on counselling, care, rehabilitation, education, and maintenance programs. Fortunately, the drug war has been so damned expensive, anything we come up with likely be much more effective at a greatly reduced financial cost. This will allow us to frame all such harm reduction spending in terms of savings over the prohibitionist approach. Having identified a set of goals which I hope we can all agree on, let us consider what will be needed to implement a sane drug policy. It's my conviction that a good drug policy will involve the following components.
  1. Rational evaluation of drug harm.
  2. Honest drug education.
  3. Honest drug scheduling (a rational classification system).
  4. A sane handling of the respective classes of drugs.
  5. Reality based assessment of policy effects.
  6. More power to states and communities for deciding drug policies.
Each of these points is non-trivial, and will require some discussion. Thus they will be the subject of future posts. Some might disagree with necessity of a drug scheduling system at all, and would advocate regulating all drugs like we do alcohol. While I see some merits to such an extremely libratarian approach, I would argue against pursuing such a goal for the following reasons: It's unrealistic in today's political climate, it's too rapid and extreme a change, and I suspect such a policy might be nearly as harmful as the current policy. If it's not clear to me, it's going to be extremely unpalatable for the average citizen. Keeping the classification system allows to handle the approach in a more reasonable and rationed manner. We can agree to pursue a policy that accomplished the stated goals, and analyse each drug case by case, based on a rational assessment of its relative harm, made by qualified medical researchers. It also allows us to separate the questions "do we need drug policy reform", and "what is a good drug policy for drug X". The answer to the former question is simple, the answer to the latter is, in some cases, rather difficult. For example, I am torn on what constitutes a good policy for Heroin or Crack (I do know that current American policies are the wrong answer, but I'm not sure heroin and crack bars are the right answer).

Conclusion and caveats:

To successfully advocate for drug policy reform, I think keeping the above goals in mind is extremely useful. It provides a concrete, uncontroversial framework for evaluating the failure of current policy, and provides some useful indications for steps in a positive direction. There may be additional goals which are useful to bring into the discussion, but in the terrible situation we currently find ourselves in, we should strive to work toward unifying, uncontroversial goals. Once these are acheived, we can open up more controversial, difficult discussions, such as "what right does the government have telling me what I can put in my body anyway", or the ethical merits of a drug-free lifestyle versus the spiritual benefits of psychotropic drugs.

Global Public Policy Forum on the U.S. War on Drugs

Forty-years ago, President Nixon proclaimed that the U.S. was at war on drugs.This conference takes a comparative look at drug-war policy in an effort to calculate the effects on societies and economies. We consider the burgeoning prison population and different perspectives on addiction and rehabilitation. We analyze the underground drug market which extends to villages in Colombia, slums in Mexico City and warring cartels that have devastated the U.S.-Mexico border. Finally, we consider policy alternatives that better grapple with a forty year problem with a twenty-first century perspective. For more information, including registration, see http://warondrugsconference.utep.edu/. Questions can be directed to warondrugsconference@utep.edu.
Date: 
Sun, 09/20/2009 - 6:00pm - Tue, 09/22/2009 - 2:30pm
Location: 
500 West University Avenue
El Paso, TX 79968
United States

Latin America: Colombian Supreme Court Rules Drug Possession Not a Crime

Upholding a 1994 ruling from the country's Constitutional Court, Colombia's Supreme Court has ruled that possession of illegal drugs for personal use is not a crime. The ruling came in the case of Ancizar Jaramillo Quintero, who had been arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for the possession of 1.3 grams of cocaine. The court threw out his conviction in July and ordered his immediate release.

In its opinion in the case (available here in Spanish), the court held that drug addiction is a disease, not a vice, and should be treated accordingly. Drug use "generates in a person problems of addiction and slavery that turn one into a sick, compulsive individual deserving of therapeutic medical treatment instead of a punishment," the judges said.

The court also invoked a principal that could be likened to "no harm, no foul." "In the exercise of his personal and private rights, the accused did not harm others," so his conduct "cannot be the object of any punishment," the opinion stated.

Although the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled that possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use was not a prosecutable offense, the government of President Alvaro Uribe is trying to undo that decision with a constitutional amendment. It has already been approved by the lower house and is now before the Colombian Senate.

If the Senate approves the measure, it will mean that the Colombian government is out of step not only with its own judiciary, but increasingly, with the rest of Latin America. Mexico decriminalized drug possession last month, and a few days later, the Argentine Supreme Court issued a decision decriminalizing marijuana possession on the spot and calling into question the criminalization of possession of any drug for personal use. Brazil, Ecuador, and Uruguay are headed down similar paths.

Resignation of Mexico's Attorney General Won't Change Much

I have an invited comment online at JURIST, explaining why the resignation of Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora won't change much. (Hint: It's Prohibition.) JURIST, which is published at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, is "the world's only law school-based comprehensive legal news and research service," according to its FAQ. It's also free, archives included. I've already added it to my Google Reader.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School