Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor,
Drug War Chronicle, [email protected]
Each issue of Drug War Chronicle
attempts to discuss what we see as the most important drug policy-related
stories of the week (as well as some that are just too fun or wacky to
pass up), but with prohibition and the war on drugs affecting so many spheres
of our personal and social lives, we can never deliver anything approaching
total coverage of everything making up the drug war and drug reform.
From being drug-tested at work or school to being pulled over on the highway
to being unable to get a pain pill prescription to being imprisoned for
years for a non-crime to losing social services because we have to pay
for that jobs program for cops and prosecutors that is the war on drugs,
the drug war creeps like a totalitarian fungus into every aspect of our
No, we can't cover it all.
The Drug War Chronicle is basically one guy with a telephone and an Internet
connection who is on way too many e-mail lists. Some weeks we may
not cover an issue or event that you think is of crucial importance.
But we are scanning all the time for news on any number of important issues,
and we are always looking for new information sources, particularly in
the rest of the world. Below you will find a list of the issues we
think are important and which we intend to cover in a regular, if not always
continuous, fashion. If you think we're missing anything, send us
Medical Marijuana: An
issue where impressive progress has been made in the past decade, but which
remains contentious. In states where it has been legalized, users
still face recalcitrant local law enforcement and the specter of the DEA,
while in cities and states where it is in play on the November ballot,
opposition led by the White House Office on Drug Policy is strong and growing.
Medical marijuana is one thing, but it leaves millions of recreational
pot users out in the cold. As one organization that frankly wishes
to end prohibition -- period -- we view the achievement of marijuana legalization,
or regulation, in any locale as a landmark to be impatiently awaited.
We are watching Nevada and Alaska, where regulation initiatives are on
the ballot this year, very closely.
Sentencing Reform: The
crime of imprisoning hundreds of thousands of drug offenders who harmed
no one will stain this country's reputation for decades, if not centuries,
to come. With mandatory minimum sentences and harsh federal sentencing
guidelines, the US has become the world's leading jailer. While we
may have seen the worst of it -- state-level politicians, if not the feds,
have begun enacting sentencing reforms -- the US prison system is a juggernaut
that will take years to slow down, let alone reverse, and the number of
prisoners in America continues to grow. And we will continue to monitor.
Needle Exchange and Other Harm
Reduction Practices: Needle exchanges and other harm reduction programs
aimed at reducing the spread of diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis C have
been on the front line of cracking the prohibitionist consensus, through
actions, not just words. But the programs remain on the edge of legality
in some places, are resisted by the federal government, and serve as a
real lightning rod for moralist prohibitionists. The spread of needle
exchange programs is an indicator of both changing public attitudes and
individual acts of courage by legislators.
Pain Management: With
tens of millions of Americans suffering from the under-treatment of chronic
pain, the issue of pain treatment is huge, and it is made vastly more complicated
by the heavy-handed intrusion of the federal government into doctors' offices.
With hundreds of doctors prosecuted or sanctioned by state medical boards
for attempting to prescribe adequate, scientifically justified amounts
of pain relief medications, the clash between medicine and drug prohibition
could not be more clear or more heart-rending.
Drug Testing: Whether
at work or at school, drug testing is a noxious invasion of privacy.
The extent of drug testing and the population's acceptance of it is another
indicator of drug war orthodoxy or, one hopes, eventually the end of it.
Drug testing remains entrenched in large corporations and the public sector,
and the Bush administration is pushing for an accelerated resort to drug
testing in the nation's high schools.
The Drug Menace du Jour:
There always is one. When I first started writing this newsletter
four years ago, it was ecstasy. Last year, it was Oxycontin.
Now, it's methamphetamine. While any psychoactive substance of course
has its risks, once lawmen, the drug rehab industry, and a compliant mass
media demonize the drug of the day, reasonable discourse about those risks
goes out the window. We will watch for these drug panics and try
to deflate the myths and horror stories with realistic reporting.
Police, Prison, and Prosecutorial
Abuses and Corruption: They go along with drug prohibition.
We won't let you forget it. Abuse of authority is one of the offenses
most corrosive of respect for government. While the entire war on
drugs may arguably be viewed as one big abuse of authority, as can specific
drug war practices such as asset forfeiture, we are watching for particularly
egregious examples. Sadly, they just keep on coming.
Creeping Totalitarianism and
the Rise of the Police State: Watch your amazing vanishing Constitution
The Evolution of the American
Drug Reform Movement: It has been little more than a decade since
DRCNet was formed, and while we may complain about the glacial slowness
of drug policy change, the world of drug reform in 2004 is light years
advanced from 1994. Old organizations, such as NORML, have been revitalized,
new organizations have sprung up, and grassroots marijuana activism has
spread like wildfire across the land. And that's just pot.
The drug reform movement has broadened and matured, although not without
some bumps and scuffles, and is now no longer the province solely of scruffy
longhairs and academic cranks. With harm reduction, drug treatment,
public health, and even law enforcement members pressing for radical changes
in the drug laws, the pressure for reform is mounting. The movement
is a central part of our beat, and we will cover it until its successes
mean our work is no longer necessary.
-- END --
Demolishing the Global Prohibition
Regime: Drug prohibition is encrusted in the international legal
system through a series of United Nations treaties, the 1961 Single Convention
and its successors. These treaties are the legal backbone of global
drug prohibition, and glacially-paced efforts are underway to appeal or
amend them. We will continue to report from this front.
Building a Global Legalization
Movement: This is part of what we do. With our "Out from the
Shadows" conference series, DRCNet, in conjunction with numerous other
organizations and individuals, seeks to build a broad-based global social
and political movement to end drug prohibition. You bet we'll be
reporting on new developments from this movement.
The International Harm Reduction
Movement: The movement is strong and growing, from Berlin to Buenos
Aires, Moscow to Mumbai. Here in the US, we have much to learn from
our foreign colleagues.
Drug Prohibition and Political
Violence: The nexus is clear: Black market drug profits fund death
and destruction, whether it's cocaine in Colombia, opium in Afghanistan,
or all of the above in the favelas of Brazil. From Plan Colombia
to the US war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, DRCNet will bring you the
news about prohibition, war, and US foreign policy hypocrisy.
Peasant Producers: Millions
of poor peasants around the world depend on illicit drug crops for a livelihood.
In the case of the Andes, that illicit crop is also a traditional sacred
plant, the coca bush. Under prohibition, these peasants are subject
to loss of their crops, violent attacks by police or soldiers, imprisonment,
and even death for trying to make a living. We hope to get to the
point where we have to worry about how they're going to make a living in
a world where the commodity they grow is no longer illegal.
Drug Reform in Canada:
Our northern neighbor has quietly entered the vanguard of drug policy reform.
While the marijuana laws there remain intact, the laws clearly lag behind
social reality in a country where police in some cities are turning a blind
eye to businesses doing over-the-counter recreational marijuana sales and
where pot has become an economically significant growth industry.
But Canada is also in the vanguard in harm reduction-based drug reform,
with Vancouver hosting the hemisphere's first officially-sanctioned safe
injection site, heroin maintenance trials planned for this fall, and local
activists and health officials now clamoring for a safe crack-smoking site.
We'll be checking for more breaths of fresh air from the Great White North.
Drug Reform in Western Europe:
Along with Canada, governments in various Western European countries are
moving far ahead of the Americans on drug reform issues. Whether
it is the normalization of marijuana, the spread of needle exchanges and
safe injection sites, the decriminalization of drug use, or the ongoing
effort to move the European Union toward a more humane drug policy, we
will be watching.
The Lost Continents: Africa
and Asia. In Asia, especially Southeast Asia, drug war orthodoxy
reigns supreme and is too often practiced in an especially brutal and bloody
form. Death squads in the Philippines, police killings in Thailand,
executions of traffickers in Singapore, mass show executions in China --
when Asian authoritarianism meets American prohibitionism, we will tell
you about the nasty results and asking whether the human rights organizations
are doing enough to try to stop it. In Africa, the repression is
not as organized or as brutal, but with few exceptions, the continent appears
trapped in the Reefer Madness mode of the last century. But even
in Africa, the occasional ray of light shines. We will let you know
when blinded by the light or driven to giggles by yet another Nigerian
narc or Kenyan cop explaining how marijuana is a hard drug.
The Andes: The US government
has for more than two decades aimed to export its domestic drug problem
and dump it on the backs of the residents of the cocaine-producing regions
of South America. Now, under the impetus of the "war on terror,"
US involvement in the Columbian civil war has undergone mission creep from
counter-narcotics to counter-terrorism, while Columbia bleeds and its crops
turn brown under aerial fumigation. US policies toward drug producers
in the rest of the region have also led to an American alliance with the
most repressive sectors of those countries and generated tremendous mass
movements, such as the cocalero demonstrations that unseated Bolivian President
Sanchez de Losada. The area remains explosive.
Afghanistan: The Taliban
suppressed the opium crop there in 2000, but under the US-installed government
of Hamid Karzai and his warlords, the country is now once again the world's
largest opium producer. Will the US drug war bow before the imperatives
of the US war on terror? Will Donald Rumsfeld continue to consort
with some of Asia's largest drug traffickers? Will the Afghan opium
boom make a hit of smack cheaper than a pack of smokes? Stay tuned.
Issue #350, 8/20/04
Editorial: Count the People |
What We Are Watching at Drug War Chronicle |
California Patients Sue to Get Seized Marijuana Returned |
Recount of Nevada Marijuana Initiative Petitions Underway Following Federal Court Ruling |
DEA, Academic Pain Specialists Issue New Guidelines on Prescribing Pain Relievers |
Newsbrief: Canadian Marijuana Activist/Entrepreneur Marc Emery Jailed for 90 Days |
Newsbrief: DEA Raids Massive California Medical Marijuana Grow |
Newsbrief: Justice Department Using Pre-Written Op-Eds to Shill for Mandatory Minimums |
Newsbrief: DEA Training Narcs in India |
Newsbrief: Death Squad Killings Continue in Philippines, Civil Society Begins to Protest |
Newsbrief: Iraq Reinstates Death Penalty, Includes Drug Trafficking |
Newsbrief: Medical Marijuana "Sends Wrong Message" Claims Challenged By Decreasing California Teen Marijuana Use |
Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story |
Media Scan: Chicago Reader on Tribune-Hemp Connection, Counterpunch on California and Medical Marijuana Doctors |
Part-Time and Temporary Job Opportunities at DRCNet |
Job Opportunities at MPP |
The Reformer's Calendar
Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
PERMISSION to reprint or
redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby
granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and,
where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your
publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks
payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for
materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we
request notification for our records, including physical copies where
material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network,
P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202)
293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank
Articles of a purely
educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet
Foundation, unless otherwise noted.