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Editorial: Enough Already -- Stop Funding the Taliban Through Opium Prohibition

David Borden, Executive Director

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/borden12.jpg
David Borden
The drug war is in part a human rights issue. With half a million people in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, with medical marijuana providers being hounded by the authorities, with needle exchange programs that are needed to save lives getting blocked, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy itself opposing San Francisco's proposed safe injection site (when did it become wrong to save lives?), with countries pressured by us to spray their lands with harmful chemicals to attack unstoppable drug crops, the United States through its drug policy has become a major human rights violator. It is a sad chapter.

We at DRCNet partly see drug reform as a human rights movement, and so ten years ago when very few Americans had heard of the Taliban, but the UN and the Clinton administration intended to fund them to do opium eradication, we condemned the Taliban in this newsletter and criticized the proposal. The fear of human rights advocates was that the brutal regime would be able to use the money to further establish its hold on power. Anyone who watched the footage of Taliban atrocities airing on US news stations after 9/11 can understand why that's a bad thing. Other reasons for opposing the Taliban are quite well known now.

Today we continue to fund the Taliban -- we don't say we do, we claim to be fighting them, we even send our soldiers to fight them in person -- but we are funding them. We are funding them by prohibiting drugs. Because drugs are illegal, they cannot be regulated, and so their source plants are grown wherever and by whomever is willing and able to gain a foothold in the market. For a large share of the global opium supply, at the moment that means Afghanistan. And the Taliban are cashing in on that.

And how. Just this week, a NATO commander said opium may provide as much as 40% of the Taliban's revenues, hundreds of millions of dollars -- some experts say it's more like 60%, he added. If opium-derived drugs were legal and regulated, that wouldn't happen. And governments are therefore at fault for creating a funding source for a movement that is destabilizing Afghanistan, that is abusing the rights of its people, and that may still be helping Al-Qaeda, all of this five years after we thought we had gotten rid of them for good.

US officials continue to press for more opium eradication, but experts agree that eradication helps the Taliban too, by driving the farmers into their arms -- of course while failing to reduce the opium crop, instead only moving it from place to place. And while Afghanistan's government has not unleashed all the eradication the US government wants, it has done enough to hurt. A hundred thousand Afghans are employed in the opium trade and don't have another way to make a living. We can't just tell them they can't grow opium anymore, and expect them to comply or that serious damage to the nation-building and counter-insurgency programs won't result.

Ten years ago, the west helped the Taliban for the sake of fighting the drug war. Today, the Taliban is an enemy, and we fight the drug war supposedly to fight them, but in the process instead help them -- see how no matter what direction the drug war compass points, one way or its opposite, it never points to anywhere good. That is why I say, enough already, stop funding the Taliban and other dangerous people through drug prohibition, legalize drugs to make this world a safer place.

Drug Truth Network Update: 4:20 Drug War NEWS 10/22/07

Half Hour Programs, Live Tuesdays & Wednesdays... at 90.1 FM in Houston & on the web at www.kpft.org. 4:20 Drug War NEWS 10/22/07 to 10/28/07 now online (3:00 ea.): Monday 10/22/07 Paul Armentano of NORML Tuesday 10/23/07 Pot Cookie Bakers get Probation Wednesday 10/24/07 Dr. Mitch Earleywine + Rob Kampia of MPP Thursday 10/25/07 Rick Steves, travel author, PBS host smokes pot Friday 10/26/07 Ethan Nadelmann, Exec. Dir Drug Policy Alliance Saturday 10/27/07 Atty. James Anthony on Med. Marijuana clubs Sunday 10/28/07 Poppygate + misdemeanor forfeiture on horizon? NOTE: CULTURAL BAGGAGE (Broadcast onTues) & CENTURY OF LIES (Broadcasts Wed) Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, www.audioport.org and at www.radio4all.net. We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates in the US and Canada., Cultural Baggage for 10/17/07 Medical Marijuana Dispensary Busts: Dr. Mitch Earleywine, Judge James P. Gray, Rick Steves, Doug McVay, Rob Kampia, Rebecca Saltzman, Ethan Nadelmann, James Anthony, Cliff Shaffer, Phil Smith & Poppygate MP3 MP3 LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/007DTNaudio/FDBCB_101707.mp3 Century of Lies for 10/16/07 NORML Conference Special: Rick Steves, Doug McVay, Jeff Jones, Rob Kampia, Steve Dillon, Dr. Mitch Earleywine, Dr. Tom O'Connel, Mathew Robinson & Rebecca Saltzman MP3 MP3 Link: http://www.drugtruth.net/007DTNaudio/COL_101607.mp3 Next - Century of Lies on Tues, Cutural Baggage on Wed: - Cultural Baggage 12:30 PM ET, 11:20 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: Tomm Chong at the NORML Conference - Century of Lies 12:30 PM ET, 11:20 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: NORML Conference Report III Check out our latest videos via www.drugtruth.net/dtnvideo.htm DEA BUST Video, Dispensary info videos 1,2 & 3 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, Drug Truth Network Producer Dean Becker 713-849-6869 www.drugtruth.net
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Join MPP's online social networking revolution

[Courtesy of MPP]

One of the easiest — and most fun — ways you can promote marijuana policy reform is to get active in the world of online social networking.

Not only are the popular social networking sites a great way to show your support for MPP, but you can also subscribe to our blogs and receive daily notices to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in the marijuana policy reform movement, as well as meet and mingle with other supporters.

You can get active with MPP on the following sites:

• Become a friend of MPP on MySpace

• Join the MPP Facebook cause

• Become a friend of MPP on Facebook

(In order to view our Facebook pages you’ll need to be a member, so if you don’t already have an account, just follow the “Sign Up” link on the main Facebook page.)

• Subscribe to MPP's YouTube channel

• Become a friend of MPP on Digg

And there are many other ways you can help to end marijuana prohibition.

1. Tell your friends to sign up for MPP's free e-mail alerts. Send them to www.mpp.org/subscribe today.

2. Send letters to your three members of Congress using MPP's free and easy automated system.

3. Volunteer to circulate sign-up sheets to subscribe others to MPP's free e-mail list. E-mail membership@mpp.org to get started.

4. Host a screening of the award-winning medical marijuana documentary Waiting to Inhale in your community. Contact Kevin@mpp.org for more information (and please be sure to specify what state you live in).

5. Download MPP's printer-friendly handouts and brochures and distribute our literature in your community.

6. If you have a Web site or blog, link to MPP's site by downloading our banner ads, and encourage your Web site's visitors to check out MPP’s work.

7. Use this link to shop at Amazon.com. A portion of the proceeds from your purchases will go to MPP.

8. Donate your car to MPP.

9. Search the internet with GoodSearch instead of Google: Each click generates money for MPP.

10. Encourage your friends to visit www.mpp.org/donate to become dues-paying members of MPP. MPP does not have an endowment or any revenue-generating investments, so we are 100% dependent upon the donations that people willingly give. This means that the extent of our campaigns is limited to the amount of money that 23,000 dues-paying members, a handful of major philanthropists, and new/future dues-paying members are willing to donate.

Together, one person at a time, our work is paying off. On behalf of all of us at MPP, thank you for standing with us in this fight.

Sincerely,

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

Location: 
United States

Video: US Government Encourages Drug Offenders to Choose the Army Instead of College

(As part of an effort to find students who are currently losing their financial aid eligibility because of drug convictions, our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy have put together a viral YouTube video to raise awareness of the law, get supporters to lobby Congress about it, and to let them know about the Perry Fund, DRCNet Foundation's scholarship program that assists students who are in this situation. Scott Morgan blogged about it for us this week, and we reprint his posting here.)

We can now add to our long and growing list of drug war grievances that this terrible crusade has become a fully functional army recruitment tool. The US Military has changed its rules to make it easier for drug offenders to enlist. Meanwhile, the aid elimination penalty of the Higher Education Act denies federal financial aid to students with drug convictions. That's right, folks. The federal government thinks drug users don't belong in college, but has no problem sending them to die in Iraq.

Our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy have a great new video explaining the absurdity of all this:

Of course, we support the US Military's new hiring policy. Past drug use should never be a factor in assessing a person's qualifications. But making it harder for drug offenders to go to school, while making it easier for them to join the army, is shockingly barbaric and hypocritical.

One can only hope that this bizarre situation may expose the fraudulent logic by which drug offenders are denied college aid to begin with. After all, military service is widely considered an honorable profession; one which requires great courage, character, and intelligence. The very notion that past drug users can serve their country in combat destroys the myth that these Americans are somehow handicapped because they took drugs.

Now that the US government has acknowledged this principle in one self-serving context, it bears a powerful moral obligation to examine and abolish other forms of discrimination against drug users. Freedom, however one may choose to define it, cannot be defended so long as we arbitrarily injure and obstruct our fellow citizens over such petty indiscretions.

Editorial: The Arrogance of Stupidity

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden
As regular readers of this column are aware, I'm a legalizer, and I'm sure about it. I am absolutely convinced that on all counts prohibition does far more harm than good, and that the evidence for this is overwhelming.

For example, I consider the effects of sending hundreds of billions of dollars per year into the criminal underground -- only one of prohibition's many adverse consequences -- to be so serious in its impact on crime and violence and corruption as to be unfathomable. I cannot imagine how any realistically conceivable increase in drug use following legalization -- a hypothetical -- could come close in the harm it might cause to rivaling the incredible, well-demonstrated damage done today by just that one aspect of prohibition. Even if prohibition didn't make the drugs more dangerous themselves (which it does), I just couldn't see that happening. Not surprisingly, since I founded an organization devoted to working for legalization.

Still, I'm not so arrogant as to deny the possibility that people who oppose legalization might have legitimate reasons for holding the views that they hold. Not for marijuana -- support for marijuana prohibition is a truly bizarre aspect of our modern society, one that I believe will ultimately be viewed as such. But some of the other drugs that are illegal now do pose serious dangers for some of their users. Not for most of their users, despite popular belief; and the dangers have been greatly increased beyond what they would otherwise be by the conditions that prohibition has created. But there's enough potential danger connected with drugs like cocaine or heroin for the impulse to prohibit them to be understandable -- misjudged, in my opinion, but understandable -- it's not completely strange that many people agree with prohibition of those drugs, even though I think they're quite wrong.

Those of us who see things this way are in pretty good company -- there are legislators, judges, doctors, editorial columnists, former Cabinet members, even some heads of state, counted within our set of strong and fervent allies. In Britain over the past couple of weeks the set has grown larger. Richard Brunstrom, Chief Constable of North Wales, called drug prohibition "immoral" and recommended legalization in a report he submitted to the national "Home Office." His police force has backed him up on it. And this week the former prison chief added his voice to the supportive mix as well.

They are by no means the first Brits to say these things. For example, the current head of the Conservative Party in the UK, David Cameron, is a legalizer, as was the late Mo Mowlam, Britain's "drug czar" equivalent in her time. The UK-based Economist magazine, a widely-read global publication, used to opine for legalization almost non-stop, and still sometimes does so. So to reads the words of Brunstrom's opposition, the country's Association of Chief Police Officers, I have to wonder at the arrogance; ACPO president Ken Jones released a statement calling legalization "arguably a counsel of despair."

Despair? Really? Despite all the extremely smart people in the country who've expressed pro-legalization viewpoints to date, who have explained why they see it making things better, not worse? I completely recognize ACPO's right to take a prohibitionist position, and despite my views I'm not one to say that it automatically makes them unreasonable. But Jones' particular choice of words make me think he is either not familiar with the ins and outs of the issue, nor of the well known support that exists for legalization, or that he is unwilling to acknowledge them.

On this side of the ocean, upstate New York saw some similar illogic emanate from drug warriors in a District Attorney race. After the Democratic candidate, Jonathan Sennett, called for marijuana decriminalization -- not even legalization, just decriminalization, of marijuana no less, he said it's no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco -- his two opponents attacked him on it. One of them, a former Manhattan prosecutor named Vincent Bradley, actually said it was "inappropriate" for a DA to say that marijuana is no more dangerous than tobacco.

Well actually, if one judges by the mortality data, tobacco is enormously more dangerous than marijuana. Not that tobacco should be illegal either, of course. But the facts about what the two substances do are the facts about them, and acknowledging them is not irresponsible. I've already explained what I think about marijuana prohibition, and there are a number of blue-ribbon commissions whose findings back me up. So I think that Bradley's and Jones' comments are a clear-cut case of the arrogance of stupidity. Not because I disagree with them, but because they have taken their positions so arrogantly in the face of many impressive people who completely disagree with them.

We in the anti-prohibition movement can take a few insults. Indeed, the more of them get thrown our way, the more successful we know we are growing. Don't be too confident, Ken Jones, more Britons have heard of Richard Brunstrom now than have heard of you; and don't be too confident about your drug strategy, Vince Bradley. Our message is getting out, and it beats your message, hands down.

Australia: Drugs Are "Evil," Says Prime Minister

Australian Prime Minister John Howard launched a harsh attack on drugs and drug users as he campaigned in Brisbane Wednesday -- and he didn't spare marijuana. He also claimed that his harsh anti-drug stance has been vindicated by swings in Australian public opinion.

Howard has always been a drug war zealot and stalwart foe of any liberalization of drug laws, but what set him off this week was a scandal surrounding an Australian soccer star and an incident in New South Wales where young children at a school playground are suspected of having ingested ecstasy tablets. The problems could be at least partially addressed by semantics, Howard suggested.

"I think one of the things we have to do is stop glamorizing them by calling them recreational drugs or party drugs. All drugs are evil," the prime minister opined. "I have for 11 ½ years preached a policy of zero tolerance. It was ridiculed eight or nine years ago, even by people in my own party. They were wrong. And many people in the Labor Party were wrong."

Howard also patted himself on the back for standing up to a mysterious "they." "They wanted to legalize marijuana," he said. "I was always opposed to that. At long last the community, in some ways, has come to its senses on marijuana."

Australians need to change their attitudes about drugs, Howard chided. "They are evil, all of them, and there should be an uncompromising social condemnation of drugs," he said. "Why can't we have the same attitude towards drugs that a large section of the community has developed towards tobacco?" he asked.

Marijuana: Pot Politics On Display in Local Races in Cincinnati and New York State

Local races across the country will be decided in next month's elections, and marijuana policy is popping up in some of them. In Cincinnati, pot policy is part of a mayoral campaign, while in Utica County, New York, which includes the towns of Woodstock and New Paltz, a candidate for district attorney is taking flak over an apparent pro-marijuana legalization stance.

In the Utica County DA race, Democratic contender and assistant Ulster County public defender Jonathan Sennett is taking flak for reportedly twice saying marijuana should be legalized and once saying it should be decriminalized during campaign events.

"The scientific evidence is pretty solid that marijuana is not more harmful than alcohol or tobacco," he said in an interview with the Daily Freeman. "I don't believe that a substance should be determined to be legal or illegal in inverse proportion to its lobbying effort. We don't prosecute people as felons for selling alcohol to kids," Sennett said.

While Sennett didn't use the L-word in that interview, his opponents, Republican Holley Carnright of Saugerties and Conservative/Independent Vincent Bradley Jr. of Kingston, say they heard Sennett call for legalization twice -- once in a public access interview program in Woodstock and once at a joint appearance earlier this month before the Ulster County Police Chiefs Association at the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center.

The pair of self-confessed drug warriors were quick to pounce. "I don't understand what (Sennett) means by 'decriminalization.' You can't get less than a violation. It's equivalent to an appearance ticket for jaywalking," said Bradley, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney.

"He can dance all around it and blow smoke, but I think his message is clear, intended or not, that he doesn't think marijuana is any worse than tobacco. It is totally inappropriate for a DA to say that," said Carnright, a former chief assistant district attorney for Ulster County. "I think it's a bad idea. You can't be the DA and send out that kind of message. The message, especially to kids, is (marijuana) is bad for you. Any other message is inappropriate."

Meanwhile, in the Cincinnati mayor's race, the council's passage last year of an ordinance criminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana is on voters' minds. In Ohio, possession of up to four ounces is decriminalized under state law, but Cincinnati council members approved the local ordinance as an anti-crime measure. The candidates were quick to stake out their ground.

"In March of this year I, along with Vice Mayor Tarbell, cast the two lone votes against an ordinance that criminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana... The reality is that many of them are let out of prison early because of a shortage of jail space. Given this problem it makes little sense to me to pass a law... which inevitably will crowd our jails with nonviolent offenders," said Democratic contender David Crowley.

Crowley was joined by one Republican candidate and independent candidate Justin Jeffre in vowing to overturn the measure, but another Republican candidate thought it had worked just fine. "The Marijuana Ordinance has been highly successful over the past 15 months. During this time, the police, using the ordinance, have been able to confiscate over 100 illegal guns and millions of dollars of illegal drugs such as cocaine, crack, heroin and methamphetamine," said Leslie Ghiz.

"Someone asked if (we) would have the 'spine' to repeal the ordinance," retorted Jeffre. "I have vowed to work in conjunction with Vice Mayor Crowley and Councilmember Qualls to do exactly that... Ghiz quotes a bunch of numbers out of context to scare voters into thinking this law does anyone any good... Ghiz says the law targets not recreational smokers, but dealers. Can we really believe that all these thousands upon thousands of people were dealers?"

"Whether you believe in smoking marijuana or not, this is just simply bad legislation which will have the foreseeable consequences of bogging down the court system and using up jail space that should be reserved for violent criminals," agreed Republican candidate Charlie Winburn. "I am not yet certain this is going to make our city safer, but I do know that council has no leadership agenda for reducing violent crime in Cincinnati."

It will be November before we know if candidates with progressive positions on marijuana policy have been helped or hindered by their stands. In Utica County, drug warriors are doubling up on the reformer, but we'll have to see if voters agree. In Cincinnati, three out of four council candidates want to undo the marijuana ordinance, and again, we'll have to see. But at least these days, the campaign discussions about marijuana policy are no longer one-sided.

Europe: Britain's North Wales Police Back Chief's Call for Drug Legalization

Last week, we reported on North Wales police chief Richard Brunstom's call to legalize drugs in a paper he released in response to a call from the Home Office for input on the direction the country's drug policy should take. Since then, Brunstrom's remarks have ignited a firestorm of controversy, but his force has stood behind him. On Monday, the North Wales Police Authority approved plans to send Brunstrom's paper on to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The North Wales Police Authority passed three of Brunstrom's recommendations:

  • That the Authority submits a response to the current Home Office consultation on drugs strategy.
  • That the Authority submits a response to the forthcoming Welsh Assembly Government consultation on the all Wales substance misuse strategy.
  • That the Authority urges the repeal of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its replacement with a Misuse of Substances Act, based upon a new 'hierarchy of harm' that includes alcohol and nicotine.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/independentcover.jpg
Independent legalization cover (courtesy Transform)
While Brunstrom's stand has excited criticism, he has also picked up at least one prominent supporter. Lord Ramsbotham, the former chief inspector of prisons, told The Independent Brunstom's prescription was on the money. "The present regime has failed in every way. If you look at prohibition of alcohol in the US, it failed. The Chief Constable's suggestions must be considered seriously. We've got to stop the dealers who cause so much misery for society."

He added: "I used to reckon that 80 percent of those people received into prison were misusing a substance of some kind when they came in. The amount of acquisitive crime connected to drug abuse is immense. That is why there needs to be a new approach."

A fourth Brunstrom recommendation, that the Police Authority affiliate with the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a leading British drug reform group, is on hold pending discussions between Transform and the authority. Transform is nonetheless quite pleased with the results so far.

"It is hugely significant that the call for a legal regulation and control of drugs has now been publicly supported by the North Wales police authority, and they are to be congratulated in taking a bold stand in this urgent and vital debate," said Transform executive director Danny Kushlick. "There are many high profile individuals who support this position, but this sort of institutional support really puts the debate center stage. We hope to see other police authorities following their lead, and we look forward to the Police Authority affiliating to Transform in the near future. The Government have tried their best to avoid this debate in the current drug strategy consultation and review process, not engaging with any policy alternatives despite the obvious failings of the current approach that the North Wales police highlight so clearly," Kushlick continued. "The call from the North Wales Police Authority makes the continued evasion from meaningful debate impossible: the Government must now engage with the significant and growing body of mainstream opinion calling for pragmatic moves away from prohibition towards evidence based regulatory alternatives."

While Transform is pleased, neither the government nor the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is smiling. In response to a question from a North Wales parliamentarian this week, Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said that strict enforcement of the drug laws was needed.

The ACPO, for its part, suggested that Brunstrom's ideas were a "counsel of despair." ACPO president Ken Jones issued a statement saying Brunstrom's views were "his personal views, to which he is entitled," and that ACPO disagreed. "ACPO does not agree with the repeal of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the legalisation of drugs -- this is arguably a counsel of despair," Jones said. "The reduction of harm caused by drugs to our neighborhoods is a priority for chief officers across the UK. According to the Drug Harm Index it has been reducing since 2001. This is a complex pernicious global problem. Moving to total legalization would, in our view, greatly exacerbate the harm to people in this country, not reduce it. It simply does not make sense to legitimize dangerous narcotic substances which would then have the potential to ruin even more lives and our neighborhoods."

But it is ACPO and its fellow prohibitionists who are on a path to nowhere, Brunstrom retorted. Three million people take illegal drugs in Britain, he noted, while 2.5 million are alcoholics and 9.5 million addicted to nicotine. "This is a real counsel of despair if one chooses to look at the evidence. Seizures of drugs in the UK are less than 1%. In 2003 the UK stopped 10% of heroin coming in and only 15% of cocaine."

Meanwhile, as the debate continues, so does Britain's drug war. The Home Office announced Thursday that the number of drug offenses police reported in the second quarter of this year was up 14% over the same period last year. That's another 55,000 drug arrests for the British police, courts, and prisons to deal with.

Drug Truth Network: Cultural Baggage + Century of Lies + DEA Bust Video 10/18/07

Drug Truth Network Update: Cultural Baggage + Century of Lies + DEA Bust Video Half Hour Programs, Live Tuesdays & Wednesdays... at 90.1 FM in Houston & on the web at www.kpft.org. Cultural Baggage for 10/17/07 Medical Marijuana Dispensary Busts: Dr. Mitch Earleywine, Judge James P. Gray, Rick Steves, Doug McVay, Rob Kampia, Rebecca Saltzman, Ethan Nadelmann, James Anthony, Cliff Shaffer, Phil Smith & Poppygate MP3 MP3 LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/007DTNaudio/FDBCB_101707.mp3 Century of Lies for 10/16/07 NORML Conference Special: Rick Steves, Doug McVay, Jeff Jones, Rob Kampia, Steve Dillon, Dr. Mitch Earleywine, Dr. Tom O'Connel, Mathew Robinson & Rebecca Saltzman MP3 MP3 Link: http://www.drugtruth.net/007DTNaudio/COL_101607.mp3 NEW Video: I just uploaded a 6:32 video from last Thursday's DEA bust of the Arts District Healing Center cannabis dispensary in Los Angeles to YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG9cyFi9Pqg Next Week - Century of Lies on Tues, Cutural Baggage on Wed: - Cultural Baggage 12:30 PM ET, 11:20 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: TBD - Century of Lies 12:30 PM ET, 11:20 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: NORML Conference III NOTE: NEW RELEASE DATE FOR CULTURAL BAGGAGE (Broadcast onTues) & CENTURY OF LIES (Broadcasts Wed) Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, www.audioport.org and at www.radio4all.net. We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates in the US and Canada., ck out our latest videos via www.drugtruth.net/dtnvideo.htm 1 video: "Prohibition is Evil" + 2 from townhall meeting on racial disparity. 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, Drug Truth Network Producer Dean Becker 713-849-6869 www.drugtruth.net
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Digg and Reddit Users Want to Legalize Marijuana

The rise of news aggregator websites like Digg and Reddit has become a surprisingly helpful asset to online activism for drug policy reform. These sites allow participants to submit links with their own description, at which point other users vote to determine which stories make it to the coveted main page. Digg, for example, directs so much traffic from its front page that users have coined the term "digg effect" to describe the inevitable server crash that occurs when Digg links a site with insufficient bandwidth.

StoptheDrugWar.org first experienced "the digg effect" in August with the "Marijuana Dealers Offer Schwarzenegger One Billion Dollars" story. Once linked at Digg, the blog post and accompanying press release generated over 100,000 hits, crashing our server repeatedly for over 12 straight hours. It was a bittersweet triumph since few visitors were actually able to view the content due to website malfunctions (and we couldn't receive donations!). Nonetheless, the message about marijuana policy reform was clearly resonating with a massive new audience.

Between Digg and Reddit, we've now had several stories take off, pulling in unusually high traffic and pushing the drug policy debate beyond the self-selected audience of seasoned reform activists. The rising tide has lifted other boats as well, generating massive attention to Pete Guither's "Why is Marijuana Illegal?" and SSDP's "End the Drug War Draft!" Just last week, a front page Digg hit left Mitt Romney's presidential campaign reeling when video of his rude treatment of a medical marijuana patient went viral.

Perhaps it's not so surprising that the new era of user-generated content and internet video would favor ideas that have for too long been relegated to the fringe by the mainstream press. We're witnessing the burial of the antiquated notion that only anti-drug scare stories will sell, and it's long overdue to say the least. The stigma of the "legalization" label, along with the brute force of the law itself, has silenced so many would-be drug war critics, yet the anonymous and democratized realm of online political debate now rages without regard to the philosophical prejudices of the past.

Of course, winning the vote in an artificial internet democracy isn't going to end the war on drugs. But it certainly proves the demand for balance in the drug war debate. As the mainstream media continues to struggle with even the most basic realities about drugs and the terrible war on their users, the truth has to find a home somewhere.

Update: To my great surprise, this post has made it to the front page of Digg. Imagine that. You can vote for it here. What fun.

Update II: There's 300+ comments on this post over at Digg. I haven't finished reading them, but here's my favorite so far:

Look, from someone who has never smoked anything in their life, I'm fine with legalization, but please don't act like assholes with it like everyone in my damn school does. All they do is brag about it, and its funny because I tell my friends I'd do it if it was legal and they say they would stop doing it if it was.

The "stoner" stereotype is a complete product of the drug's illegality, it's true. If we're sick of rebellious potheads, let us take the wind out of their sails by changing the one law they have the nerve to break, thereby turning them into law-abiding dorks.

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