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Marijuana, Once Divisive, Brings Some Families Closer

To the rites of middle-age passage, some families are adding another: buying marijuana for aging parents.
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times (NY)
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/us/10pot.html

Mexico’s Growing Legion of Drug Prohibition Orphans

Location: 
Mexico
Largely overlooked is the story of the estimated tens of thousands of children whose lives are blighted by drug prohibition violence. Neither Mexico's government nor the various independent groups studying organized crime keep track of the number of orphans who have lost fathers, and sometimes mothers too, to the drug prohibition war.
Publication/Source: 
Reuters
URL: 
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6952YW20101006

Why Parents Should Support Legalizing Pot (Opinion)

Location: 
CA
United States
Hanna Liebman Dershowitz, an attorney and mother of two elementary school children, opines on why parents should support legalizing marijuana.
Publication/Source: 
Alternet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugs/148278/why_parents_should_support_legalizing_pot

Moms United to End the War on Drugs Campaign Rally

Moms are uniting and leading the charge to end drug prohibition, just as they did with alcohol prohibition in the 1930s.  It's time to end the pointless and punitive criminalization of people who use drugs and the needless deaths caused by the illegal drug trade.

Mothers, family members, healthcare professionals and individuals in recovery will gather to bring focus to our country’s failed drug policies and the havoc they have wreaked on our families.  Please join us.

For more information, contact anewpath@cox.net

Date: 
Wed, 10/13/2010 - 11:00am - 1:00pm
Location: 
10th St. between L & N Streets West steps of the State Capitol building
Sacramento, CA 95814
United States

Boy Shot Dead by Drug War Troops

Location: 
NLE
Mexico
Soldiers opened fire on a family car at a checkpoint in northern Mexico, killing a 15-year-old boy and another person. It is at least the second time this year that a family has been caught up in a shooting involving Mexico's military, which has come under intense criticism for human rights abuses as soldiers fight drug traffickers.
Publication/Source: 
The Press Association (UK)
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5gQR7XRyDpSyIgbfe06G0uSsjx1tw

Oregon Court of Appeals rules mother who tested positive for marijuana shouldn't lose kids

Location: 
OR
United States
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that the state cannot take children away from a mother who tests positive for marijuana use without evidence that shows her drug use endangers the children. The state had argued that the mother's marijuana use "presented a reasonable likelihood of harm to her two children", but the court agreed with the mother's argument that the state failed to provide any evidence connecting her behavior with risk to the children.
Publication/Source: 
The Oregonian (OR)
URL: 
http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2010/07/oregon_court_of_appeals_rules_mother_who_tested_positive_for_marijuna_shouldnt_lose_kids.html

Drug Testing: Missouri Bill to Test Welfare Recipients Passes House, But Faces Battle in Senate

The Missouri House Thursday passed a bill that would require welfare recipients to undergo drug testing upon "reasonable suspicion" they used drugs. But the Senate version of that bill, SB 607, is under sustained attack by Senate Democrats, who are filibustering it this week.

Under the bills, all work-eligible adults who received cash payments through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program would be drug tested if a caseworker has "reasonable suspicion" they are using drugs. Those who test positive would become temporarily ineligible for cash assistance, but their children could continue to receive benefits through a third party.

TANF is a federal program designed to help poverty-stricken parents provide for their children. In Missouri, more than 112,000 people get cash assistance through the program. The average family on the program gets $292 a month.

A legislative staff fiscal analysis of the Senate bill put the annual cost to the state at more than $5 million next year, and more than $6 million in coming years. Those figures represent the cost of drug testing an estimated 90,000 TANF recipients or new applicants each year and the cost of providing additional drug treatment services to deal with those who test positive.

But in debate this week, Senate Democrats said the fiscal analysis didn't take into account the cost of possibly having to care for children whose parents are denied benefits. "The people who are the complete, total innocent victims in this are the kids," said Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Independence), the Senate minority leader. "Let's act like a responsible family," he said. "What about our brother's kids?"

Republicans said the bill just made good sense. "It seems to prevent the state of Missouri from becoming an enabler to addiction," said Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin).

Will the Senate filibuster succeed? Stay tuned.

Drug Testing: Missouri Senate Committee Passes Bill to Drug Test Welfare Recipients

A Missouri state Senate committee voted Tuesday to approve a bill that would require welfare recipients and applicants to pass a drug test in order to receive government aid. The bill, SB 607, passed the Senate Health, Mental Health, Seniors, and Families Committee on a 5-3 vote.

The bill attempts to get around constitutional problems with other mandatory drug testing bills by limiting drug testing to those whom case workers have identified as creating "a reasonable suspicion" they are using drugs. Persons who are then drug tested and test positive would have an administrative hearing and after that hearing, could be declared ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for three years. Dependent children of people thrown off the rolls would not lose their benefits; instead, they would be provided through a payee for the children.

The bill also provides that the Department of Mental Health would refer people who test positive to drug treatment, although it doesn't specify who would pay for it. Nor does the bill have any provision for returning someone to the rolls after successfully completing treatment.

The vote came despite a fiscal impact analysis that found the measure would cost the state more than $2.5 million in 2011 and around $3.5 million in 2012 and 2013. While the state would save some money from paying out fewer benefits, those savings would be swamped by the costs of drug testing, hearings for people who appealed the loss of benefits, and the cost of drug treatment.

Missouri is one of a handful of states where similar bills are moving this year. Similar bills have been filed or pre-filed in Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review Essay: "Righteous Dopefiend" and "This is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America's Most Violent Gang"

Drug War Chronicle Review Essay: "This is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America's Most Violent Gang," by Samuel Logan (2009, Hyperion Press, 245 pp., $24.99 HB) and "Righteous Dopefiend," by Philippe Bourgois and Jeff Schonberg (2009, University of California Press, 392 pp., $24.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

These two books have little in common except that they focus on two deviant subcultures of interest to people curious about various facets of drug policy: Central American immigrant gang-bangers in the former and, less obviously, middle-aged, homeless San Francisco heroin addicts in the latter. Neither group has much to do with the other, except that perhaps some of the gang members could have peddled some of the heroin that went into those addicts' arms. What makes both groups -- and both books -- of interest to the Chronicle is that neither group would exist as presently constituted absent the regime of drug prohibition.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/marasalvatrucha.jpg
"This is for the Mara Salvatrucha" is described as journalist Samuel Logan's effort to peek behind the curtain of one of America's largest street gangs, but with the exception of a few passages scattered through its pages, the book concentrates almost exclusively on the fate of Brenda Paz, a Honduran teenager who got caught up in the gang in Dallas and was quickly brought into local inner circles because she was the girlfriend of a local leader. When Paz's gang-leader boyfriend killed another Dallas area teenager in Paz's presence to steal his car, Paz fled to northern Virginia to avoid prosecution. There, she hooked up with another murderous local Mara leader, got arrested, and turned informant.

Thanks to Paz's extensive interviews with local, state, and federal law enforcement officials, police got their best insights yet into the group's murky inner workings, its origins, and its breadth. Unfortunately, Logan devotes little attention to such things, preferring instead to craft a police procedural, which, while a page-turner in its own right, leaves this reader at least hungry for more solid information.

While Logan asserts that the Mara Salvatrucha is into extortion, dope dealing, and human smuggling, he doesn't really demonstrate it, nor does he demonstrate that the Mara is indeed "America's most violent gang." Logan shows us localized incidents of thuggery, some of them truly mindless and savage, but doesn't describe how the gang actually works, nor compare it in size and scope to other criminal gangs. Nor is there much material about Mara's presence in Central America -- it is particularly strong in El Salvador and Honduras -- a strange omission given Logan's acknowledgement of the gang's origin among Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

"This is for the Mara Salvatrucha" is an entrancing read in its own right, it does open some windows on the much feared organization -- although not nearly enough -- and it makes the reader develop an interest in Brenda Paz and her trip from innocent if troubled teenager to hardened gang-banger to the federal witness protection program. And that's sort of a shame, given how she ends up. I'll say no more; I don't want to spoil it for you.

Logan left me wishing that anthropologists Philippe Bourgois and Jeff Schonberg had written "This is for the Mara Salvatrucha," but that is a bit unfair. The urban ethnographers were able to spend a decade with the subjects of "Righteous Dopefiend," and those subjects, while constantly engaged in petty criminality, were not hardened, violent tough guys. Instead, they were middle-aged long-term heroin addicts, most definitely nowhere near as scary as a face-tattooed Mara killer. Still, whether it was differences in approach -- journalistic vs. anthropological -- or access to subjects -- limited and fraught with danger vs. long-term and fraught with being asked for spare change -- "Righteous Dopefiend" left me much more fulfilled.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/righteousdopefiend.jpg
Bourgois and Schonberg came to be on intimate terms with a group of homeless heroin addicts camped in obscure spaces under freeway exchanges in San Francisco. Some were black, some white, a few Hispanic, a few were women. Good anthropologists that they are, there is plenty of theory mainly of interest to grad students, but it is nicely mixed in with real world observation, field notes, striking photographs (and the theory of the photographic gaze), and numerous transcripts of interviews with the aging junkies. (Before some reader jumps up to object to the term, let me just say I prefer the self-selecting "junkie" to the therapeutically-imposed and disempowering "addict.")

The junkie/addict distinction has a parallel in one of the distinctions Bourgois and Schonberg discovered among their homeless chronic heroin users. The white guys were much more likely to be alienated from their families than the black ones. The white guys sometimes didn't even know where their parents lived anymore, but the black guys would go home for birthdays, weddings, funerals, and other important occasions. They were more likely to be accepted as errant but still loved family members, while their white counterparts were more likely to be shunned. The junkies' own self-images reflected these contrasting familial responses, with the white ones adopting a hang-dog "outcast" persona compared to the black guys' graying Superfly "outlaw" persona.

The world of the "Righteous Dopefiend" isn't pretty. There are ugly abcesses and necrotizing fasciitis, there is the violence among the users and directed at them, they live in filth and squalor (although some try harder than others to rise above it), they are constantly driven by the need for the next fix and the fear of getting dopesick if they can't come up with the money to buy it.

But, like any of the rest of us, they are capable of acts of kindness and generosity. In the group Bourgois and Schonberg hung with, there was always at least a heroin-soaked bit of cotton for the person going without. There was romance, too, and a friendship and intimacy among "running partners" probably as genuine as any best friendship among non-homeless non-junkies.

By the way, that kindness and generosity often means sharing needles and cooking equipment. If three of you are going in on a $20 bag of Mexican tar, there is going to be some bodily fluid-swapping going on. Bourgois and Schonberg devote some attention to harm reduction practices, and amid all the talk about knowledge/power relations, one gets the general message that some harm reductionists need to do a better job of listening to their clients. Encouraging them moralistically to not share needles or cooking equipment when their circumstances make it inevitable that they will may not be the best approach, they suggest. Still, despite the critique, it is clear the author and the junkies appreciate the efforts at public health and harm reduction interventions. They are certainly preferable to interventions by police or Caltrans, which result in arrest or the trashing of the homeless camps and the loss of all possessions, and certainly more well-intentioned than the city's public hospitals, which insist that the junkies be literally on death's door before they admit them or the doctors who operate on abscesses without anesthetics and needlessly remove large chunks of flesh, leaving gaping wounds before pushing them back out onto the streets.

"Righteous Dopefiend" is most excellent. Even the theorizing is intelligible to the interested layperson (and will doubtless be grist for many a graduate seminar), and the theorizing is the basis for a well-informed critique of the social forces that create and impact the lives of their subjects. I feel like I got to know these people and gained some insight to how they live and think, and I deepened my understanding of why they live the way they do. What more can you ask of anthropology?

Privacy: Kansas House Passes Bill Mandating Drug Tests for Public Assistance

The Kansas House Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that requires Kansans who seek public assistance to undergo drug testing. The bill, HB 2275, passed by a margin of 99-26. It now heads to the state Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Kasha Kelly (R-Arkansas City), the bill targets the 14,000 Kansans who receive cash assistance from the state Department of Social Rehabilitation Services. Recipients of financial support in temporary aid for families, general assistance, child care support, and grandparents as caregivers programs would all be subjected to drug testing. It would not apply to non-cash benefits, such as food stamps and medical care.

The bill envisions testing one-third of the target population each year. A positive drug test would result in an evaluation and possible drug treatment. Failure to complete evaluation and/or treatment would result in the termination of benefits, as would a third positive drug test.

As the Chronicle reported last week Kansas is only one of a number of states where legislatoes are pushing similar bills. Drug testing public assistance recipients was okayed, but not required, under the 1996 federal welfare reform bill. But the only state to actually implement such a plan, Michigan, was shot down by the federal courts, which held that it violated the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Kelly, unconcerned about constitutional niceties, said the state should work to keep parents off drugs and advance the interests of children. "Shouldn't you be fearful if you're using?" she said on the House floor.

Social Rehabilitation Services Secretary Don Jordan testified that only 3% to 8% of clients would likely test positive for marijuana, cocaine, or other illegal drugs. That figure is slightly below overall nationwide drug use levels. The program would cost $800,000 a year, he said. The bill will not be implemented unless the legislature makes a specific appropriation to cover the cost, but in a fiscal note, legislative analysts suggested the possibility of using asset forfeiture proceeds to fund the program.

The bill was opposed by the Kansas Public Health Authority, but legislators proved receptive to arguments like those of Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita), head of the House Health and Human Services Committee, who said if the bill failed to pass it is as if the legislature would be declaring: "Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, we don't really care if someone buys drugs with your hard-earned money."

Rep. Marti Crow (D-Leavenworth) wasn't buying it. "Testing someone because they're poor? Where does that make any sense?" he asked. "This is crazy and mean."

But Crow was in the minority. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

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