Futile Pursuits

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The great and costly drug-war fraud

Location: 
Publication/Source: 
Victoria Times Colonist (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/comment/story.html?id=a915b7d8-e074-4fb3-b73a-54186b8db055

"Snow Fall" Atlantic Monthly article articulates the sheer futility of the supply-side drug war

There's an interesting article by Ken Dermota in the latest issue of Atlantic Monthly, "Snow Fall," a discussion of the failure of interdiction and source country efforts to drive up the US street price of cocaine. Dermota points out the two sides of prohibition's price dynamic:
[P]olicing has a big impact on cocaine prices: On the streets of Bogota, a gram of cocaine can be had for under $2. Recreational users in America, on the other hand, typically pay upward of $50 a gram... Yet over time, cocaine prices per pure gram in the United States have steadily fallen, from $600 in the early 1980s to less than $200 by the mid-1990s.
The government's stated purpose for engaging in supply-side drug enforcement measures is to drive up the price, in order to reduce use. Given that prices have fallen so dramatically, it is safe to say that the supply-side strategy of increase prices has not decreased use (because the price increases never happened). Prohibition itself drives up the price of drugs (with calamitous effects on the people who are addicted to the drugs, indeed driving many of them to commit crimes that affect the rest of us, but that's a separate issue), but supply-side enforcement appears to have failed completely by its own measures. The period of time Dermota cited is about a quarter century, by the way, enough time to conduct a pretty conclusive test, IMHO. Dermota explains why the seizures of illicit drugs that government officials like to hype so much may actually illustrate failure, not success:
In March, the US Coast Guard intercepted a freighter off Panama laden with 20 tons of cocaine, in the largest maritime bust ever. That was followed in April by Colombian authorities' seizure of a 15-ton cache most likely awaiting shipment to Mexico... Of course, the good news is soured by the fact that cocaine production remains robust enough to allow shipment in 20-ton batches.
Drug policy reformer Judge James P. Gray of Santa Ana County in California has made this point as well. He should know -- as a prosecutor prior to joining the Superior Court he was involved in a seizure of heroin that at the time set the quantity record. When he delivered the speech that the link above points to in 1994, that record had long been dwarfed. (I helped to organize that conference, by the way, at Harvard Law School with the Civil Liberties Union of Mass., early during my activist career when I was still a volunteer. Afterwards I guided Judge Gray, former NORML director Dick Cowan and actor Michael Moriarty to the bed-and-breakfast where we put them up.) Dermota may be a legalizer, though not an optimistic one, and he doesn't directly say he is:
Sea changes in policy, such as decriminalization or legalization of drugs, look politically untenable.
Unfortunately, the link above to the article only gets you the beginning, you need to be a subscriber to see the whole thing, or get a hold of a copy of the magazine. Anyway, there's at least one good drug reporter in the country. :) Besides DRCNet's Phil Smith, that is. :) Thanks to Steve Heath for the heads-up.
Location: 
United States

Group claims prohibition, war on drugs is a failure

Location: 
IL
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Daily Vidette (IL)
URL: 
http://media.www.dailyvidette.com/media/storage/paper420/news/2007/04/02/News/Group.Claims.Prohibition.War.On.Drugs.Is.A.Failure-2816125.shtml

In Mexico, a brutal week in a year already full of bloodshed

Location: 
Mexico City
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
The Dallas Morning News
URL: 
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/world/stories/DN-drugwar_17int.ART.North.Edition1.4408147.html

Laws change way users get their drug of choice

Location: 
WA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Tri-City Herald (WA)
URL: 
http://www.tri-cityherald.com/tch/local/story/8651301p-8543088c.html

The folly of prohibition

Location: 
Canada
Publication/Source: 
Winnepeg Sun (Canada)
URL: 
http://winnipegsun.com/News/Columnists/Marshall_Robert/2007/02/14/3616218.html

Op-Ed: Let them have their pot

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-klausner26jan26,0,7295338.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

Irony: Newark Launches "Ground War" To Curb Drug Trade Violence

From The New York Times:

NEWARK, Jan. 8 — Mayor Cory A. Booker and his police director announced the formation of a new narcotics division today to try to defeat a stubbornly high murder rate, firmly linking the trade in illegal drugs to the city's persistent violence.

There's a link, alright. And in time politicians will come to understand that it is prohibition which makes drug-trade violence inevitable. Surely we can't keep addressing community problems with hollow rhetoric like this:

The new 45-person unit, led by a deputy chief, will tackle the city's drug trade as it if were a "ground war," he said.


So basically they're proposing a war on violence. It won't work. It can't work because drug-trade violence stems from an absence of regulation, not a shortage of armed police ready to kick doors in on an informant's tip.

In fact, temporary successes achieved through "ground war" tactics frequently increase violence as new competitors rush to replace those removed from the market by law-enforcement. Nor should anyone disregard the abundant collateral damage that occurs when armed raids are conducted based on tips from shady criminal informants.

The New York Times isn't responsible for making this argument, but they should at least acknowledge it. The discussion of drug-trade violence is incomplete and unproductive when the contributing role of drug prohibition goes unmentioned.

Help us spread the message: The New York Times accepts letters to the editor at letters@nytimes.com.

Location: 
United States

Hemp: DEA Has Spent $175 Million Eradicating "Ditch Weed" Plants That Don't Get You High

In the past two decades, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has spent at least $175 million in direct spending and grants to the states to eradicate feral hemp plants, popularly known as "ditch weed." The plants, the hardy descendants of hemp plants grown by farmers at the federal government's request during World War II, do not contain enough THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, to get people high.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ditchweedchart1.jpg
chart by Jon Gettman for Vote Hemp
According to figures from the DEA's Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, it has seized or destroyed 4.7 billion feral hemp plants since 1984. That's in contrast to the 4.2 million marijuana plants it has seized or destroyed during the same period. In other words, 98.1% of all plants eradicated under the program were ditch weed, of which it is popularly remarked that "you could smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole and all you would get is a headache and a sore throat."

While the DEA is spending millions of tax payer dollars, including $11 million in 2005, to wipe out hemp plants, farmers in Canada and European countries are making millions growing hemp for use in a wide variety of food, clothing, and other products. Manufacturers of hemp products in the United States must import their hemp from countries with more enlightened policies.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ditchweedchart2.jpg
chart by Jon Gettman for Vote Hemp
"It's Orwellian that the biggest target of the DEA's Eradication Program is actually not a drug but instead a useful plant for everything from food, clothing and even auto parts and currently must be imported to supply a $270 million industry," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a group lobbying for increased acceptance of the versatile plant. "While Vote Hemp has urged the DEA to recognize the difference between hemp and marijuana so farmers could grow it here, the federal agency is spending millions of dollars to destroy hundreds of millions of harmless hemp plants."

DEA officials regularly argue that there is no difference between hemp and marijuana, but their own statistics belie that claim. In its reports on the domestic eradication program, the agency clearly differentiates between ditch weed and "cultivated marijuana."

Not only is the ditch weed eradication program a waste of money, it may even be counterproductive, said Vote Hemp national outreach coordinator Tom Murphy. "Much of the ditch weed eradicated is believed to be burned, turning a carbon consuming plant into a contributor of Greenhouse gasses," said Murphy in a post-Christmas press release. "For all the effort to find and destroy these harmless wild hemp plants they are coming back year after year. It is likely that the eradication programs help re-seed the locations were ditch weed is found. The late summer timing and removal method causes countless ripe seeds to fall to the ground where they will sprout again the following year."

Your tax dollars at work.

Mexican troops take drug fight to Tijuana streets

Location: 
Tijuana
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
CNN
URL: 
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/01/04/tijuana.drugs.ap/

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