(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #2, 7/10/97
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
On Friday, July 3, DRCNet was featured in the top story of WIRED News, one of the largest daily news service on the Net. ("Taking on the Culture of Prohibition.") Steven Silberman wrote the piece which featured numerous links to various sections of our web sites and plenty of quotes from Dave and Adam.
The article was written largely in response to the New York Times front page story of June 20, "A Seductive Drug Culture Flourishes on the Internet," as well as Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey's announcement that the government will spend $400,000 in cyberspace to counteract "pro-drug, pro-legalization opportunities to learn."
The piece discussed DRCNet's growing web presence and our reasons for taking the fight on-line. This type of major coverage shows that we are earning our stripes in the eyes of those who know and cover the Internet, and it will certainly help to grow the Rapid Response Network, which is already the single most important citizen action network in the drug policy reform movement. You can find the piece at http://www.wired.com/news/news/politics/story/4936.html. Check it out and let WIRED know that you appreciate their coverage of the serious side of "drugs on the net".
FOR EXTRA CREDIT: Send a copy of the piece to the Internet reporter for your local paper. Tell them you believe that a movement is growing right on their beat and that they ought to cover it.
New this week on DRCNet's web site at http://www.drcnet.org/military/ is a scathing piece by Joseph Miranda on the fallacy of a military "victory" in the War on Drugs. Mr. Miranda, who edits Strategy and Tactics magazine, breaks down the mission and gives an interesting and accessible analysis of what such a mission would entail.
If you or anyone you know still believes that further U.S. military engagement in the Drug War would be useful or desirable, we urge you to read this piece. It will forever change the way you view our military's role in drug policy.
ALSO NEW, "Making Sure Drugs Kill". Does a policy designed to make drugs and drug use as dangerous as possible, both to the user and to the community, make sense? Is it rational to believe that we will eliminate drug use, especially among those whose use is problematic, by making the behavior even more problematic? Or would it be wiser to attempt to minimize the harms associated with such use? This section will be expanded considerably as time goes on. As always, your comments and suggestions are sought and appreciated. Online at http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/makingsure/.
It is with heavy heart but renewed determination that we report that after 24 years of semi-enlightened marijuana policy in Oregon, Governor John Kitzhaber signed HB 3643 to recriminalize simple possession of small amounts, under an ounce, of marijuana for personal use on Wednesday night, July 2, at about 10:45 PM. The law will take effect in early October, 90 days after the state legislative session ends. The bill had cleared the legislature on May 17th by a slightly greater than two-thirds majority.
The law also requires that the driver's license of anyone found guilty of the new crime be suspended for six months, and requires offenders to complete a drug diversion program to reinstate their driver's licenses. Note, too, that while enforcement of the new law is expected to cost millions of dollars per year in state tax money, a growing number of teachers, including prevention resource teachers, will be laid off this year across the state due to budget cuts. Thanks to DRCNet member D. Paul Stanford of Tree Free Ecopaper in Oregon for keeping us informed during this process. And thanks to all of you who wrote and called in an effort to keep this bill from becoming law. DRCNet will keep you informed of continuing developments in Oregon as things progress.
This week we feature a link to the site of an organization that is doing groundbreaking work in the areas of AIDS, housing, harm reduction and human dignity. Housing Works Inc., based in New York City, is the largest minority-run AIDS agency in the country.
Born of the vision of its Co-Executive Directors, Charles King and Keith Cylar, and board members Jenny Schubert and Eric Sawyer, Housing Works was recently featured in the New York Times upon the completion of a 36-unit living facility for formerly homeless people with AIDS. The facility, which also houses a walk-in clinic, provides a more-than-liveable atmosphere, ample space, and furnishings from some of the best-known shops and designers in The City (all donated). Personal dignity and respect for the client are the hallmarks of this innovative project, making it truly a place to live, not a place to die. A similar Housing Works project is also underway in Brooklyn.
Housing Works also runs a full-service harm reduction center in lower Manhattan. This too presents a model for the idea that humanity and respect are not extraneous to the process of saving those whom our leaders would demonize and discard.
Check out the Housing Works site at http://www.housingworks.org and tell them DRCNet sent you.
In each issue, THE WEEK ON-LINE will present members with a suggested Letter to the Editor opportunity. Such communications are important, whether they get published or not, as they let editors know that people are watching to see that they cover the drug issue intelligently. Those LTE's that do get published are even more valuable as they constitute an opportunity to educate readers on the issue.
Our success in getting three of our letters published in the Friday, June 27 New York Times shows what an impact we can make by working together.
Each week's MEDIA ALERT will provide a sample LTE (but we encourage you to get creative and write your own), along with relevant contact information for your convenience. All members' published LTE's will be highlighted in THE WEEK ON-LINE.
We do ask, whenever possible, that you send us a copy of your letter so that we can better gauge the response that is being generated. This kind of information is invaluable to us in our constant quest for funding. You can e-mail copies to us at [email protected] or fax them to us at (202) 362-0030 or mail them to DRCNet, 4455 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008.
This week's MEDIA ALERT focuses on a typical problem in Drug War reporting, the failure to ask the relevant question or to address the relevant issue within the story. Making the media aware of this shortcoming will go a long way toward educating the public.
This week, two stories, one in the New York Times and one in the Washington Post, focus on a relatively minor disagreement over whether or not the body believed to be Amado Carrillo Fuentes, leader of one of the largest drug cartels in the world, has been "positively identified". There seems little doubt, based upon fingerprints taken by the DEA, that it is, in fact, him. The Mexican government is waiting for positive DNA tests before making a formal announcement.
The real story here, however is highlighted by reaction from a DEA official. The Times reports: "The DEA official here... predicted (Mr. Fuentes') demise will unleash a bloody war among lesser drug lords to succeed the man who ran the most powerful and lucrative cocaine cartel in Mexico." The Post reports it this way: "The biggest threat, law enforcement officials believe, is an all-out war involving rival drug gangs..."
Neither article expresses anyone's belief that the flow of drugs from Mexico will be affected in the least. The Post story contains several quotes to this effect, including one from Robert Nieves, former head of DEA international operations: "There are any number of organizations wanting to step up there with the ability to get the product to market. It's pretty much that simple."
So the question, unasked by either of these venerable newspapers, remains: If putting major cartel leaders out of commission will not affect trafficking, and if such "successes" will have the effect of spawning even more violence, in which civilians and public officials will likely be killed, what's the point? Is a bloody war a success that our policy should be striving for?
NY TIMES, 7/9/97, pg. A3: "U.S. in Spat With Mexico Over Identity of Drug Lord" by Julia Preston. Send your letter by e-mail to: [email protected]. (Please also send a copy to [email protected].) Or send your letter by mail to: New York Times Letters, 229 West 43 rd St., New York, NY 10036-3959.
WASHINGTON POST, 7/9/97, pg. A14: "More Evidence Points to Drug Lord's Death, but Caution Persists" by Molly Moore and Douglas Farah The Washington Post does not accept direct email, but you can submit your letter via their web site at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/edit/letters/letterform.htm. Or, send letters to: Washington Post Letters, 1150 15th St., NW, Washington, DC 20071.
Be sure to give them your name, address, daytime and evening phone numbers.
To the Editor,
I read with interest your story about the identification of the body of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the Mexican drug lord (title, page, date). In it, the DEA said it expects that the flow of drugs into the U.S. from Mexico will continue unabated. In Fuentes' absence, however, they see the likelihood of a bloody conflict for control of a newly-available segment of the market. Such conflict, it can be assumed, will involve the loss of innocent lives and an increase in terror for those living and working in Mexico.
If this is indeed the predictable result of putting a major drug lord out of commission, the question must be asked: What is gained by our mindless pursuit of Drug War strategies designed to accomplish this? Photo-ops for the DEA? Bigger Drug War budgets paid for with our tax dollars? When will we admit that Prohibition has spawned the largest and most violent organized crime network in human history? And that the more we pursue this course, the more "drug-related" harms we cause?
When a policy's "success" does nothing to address the problems it is designed to solve, at the cost of creating more destruction and ruined lives, it is time to re-think the policy, rather than advocate for more of the same.
GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Organized, artistic self-starter wanted to help conceptualize and layout publications for a nonprofit drug policy reform agency. Responsibilities include laying out magazine and direct mail pieces, designing brochures and annual reports. Must be familiar with PageMaker and Photoshop as well as drawing and spreadsheet programs on Mac. 2-4 years experience preferred, web skills necessary. Send resume, salary requirement, portfolio to: Drug Policy Foundation GD search, 4455 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008. Fax: (202) 537-3007.
GRANT PROGRAM ADMINISTRATOR: Immediate opening for experienced individual to be responsible for day-to-day administration of its multi-million $ grant program. Position requires 2-4 years experience in related position, excellent organization and communication skills, advanced capabilities in computer apps. and database management. Graduate degree preferred, knowledge of field helpful. Send resume & salary requirements to: Drug Policy Foundation GP search, 4455 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite B-500, Washington, D.C. 20008. Fax 202-537-3006.
PLUS: DRCNet is looking for a volunteer in the Washington DC area who can help us connect five pc's in a Windows '95 peer-to-peer network. Ideally, this individual will be able to help us with the entire process including buying appropriate network cards and cables, installing them, and setting up Win '95 networking. Contact us by e-mail at [email protected] or call us at (202) 362-0030 or fax to (202) 362-0032.
"Thomas Constantine is a cretin."
Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., Jesus Silva Herzog, referring to the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. El Financiero, 7/8/97. According to an inside source, a senior Republican aide on Capitol Hill has called Constantine "intellectually incapable of seeing beyond the buy-and-bust".
As a reformer of our nation's drug policies, I find myself discussing the failures of the War on Drugs with nearly anyone who stops long enough to ask, "So, what do you do for a living?" After some indeterminate period of time, I generally have succeeded in convincing, or at least in wearing out, my audience. Once this happens, I can predict one final retort. It comes in many forms, but the crux of it is: "But even if you're right, nothing is ever really going to change."
Overcoming this sense of the inevitability of the status quo may well be the most daunting, and most crucial task facing the drug policy reform movement. Many, if not most Americans have begun to realize that our current policies are not working. This is not to say that people are not still frightened by terms such as "legalization" (whatever that means) or even "decriminalization", but this is more due to a lack of information about the alternatives than informed disagreement. The key is that if you ask a random sampling of citizens whether our drug policies are protecting our children, whether they think that our "drug control" strategy is really controlling anything, most will say no. But nothing will change so long as the people who would advance change are convinced that nothing will change. Period.
This state of affairs is very convenient for those who are making money off of Prohibition as well as for those who profit from it in other ways. As long as no one really expects things to change, there is no incentive for politicians to seek change. Especially while the Drug War profiteers -- the military, the prison construction industry, the corrections industry, the prison guards' unions, the drug testing industry, the defense industry, the drug traffickers, the law enforcement bureaucracy and on and on -- keep raking in the money on a war which is sold to the public with the hysterical exaggerations and out-and-out lies of the politicians whose careers these monied interests are financing.
Politicians, on the whole, have it a lot easier when the money and the voters are on the same side of an issue. Keep in mind, however, that most politicians have no problem with lying in order to *get* the money and the voters on the same side. Keep in mind as well that it's awfully difficult to lie to the money. If you know what I mean.
So here we are, with millions of Americans on our side, and a growing movement underway. We have begun to win some of the skirmishes (Prop 200, Prop 215, needle exchange becoming accepted practice, greater media coverage of the reform perspective, etc.). But it's not enough. Every week, somewhere in this country, a legislature or an executive decides to continue to be a part of the problem rather than the solution (see Oregon Recrim, below). Every battle we lose means more wasted tax dollars, more ruined lives, more drug-related harm and another generation of kids lost to the culture of prohibition.
If you are reading this, you are already a part of the solution. You believe enough in the potential for change that you receive DRCNet's Alerts, and maybe you even respond to one per week, or per month. So what I am asking you to do...yes you... is to find one other person who understands that what is being done in the name of a "drug-free America" is an unworkable and destructive fraud. Find that person and explain to him or her that the single most important reason why "it'll never change" is because he or she has decided that it won't. Ask him to sign up to receive these Alerts. Ask her to write one letter, send one email or make one phone call per month. Tell them to do it for their kids... for themselves... for your kids... for yourself... but tell them to do it. Because their voice is important. And because their voice will bring other voices. Just like yours did.
Adam J. Smith
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Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.