Report Review: New Federal Drug Threat Assessment Finds Prohibition Greatest Drug-Related Menace

Well, not in so many words. But anyone reading between the lines of the National Drug Intelligence Center's National Drug Threat Assessment 2009 could easily come to that conclusion. The annual report from the Justice Department fiefdom based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, with its thoroughly inside-the-box approach to the harms associated with drug policy, does not look at the data it is reporting and see the obvious, but its conclusions that violent drug trafficking organizations and street-level drug retail gangs are the gravest "drug threats" to America beg the question of why.
According to the 2009 report: "Mexican DTOs [drug trafficking organizations] represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States. The influence of Mexican DTOs over domestic drug trafficking is unrivaled. In fact, intelligence estimates indicate a vast majority of the cocaine available in US drug markets is smuggled by Mexican DTOs across the US-Mexico border. Mexican DTOs control drug distribution in most US cities, and they are gaining strength in markets that they do not yet control."

Following close on the heels of the bloody cartels -- 5,000 have been killed in Mexico's prohibition-related violence this year -- are the cartel wannabes: "Violent urban gangs control most retail-level drug distribution nationally, and some have relocated from inner cities to suburban and rural areas. Moreover, gangs are increasing their involvement in wholesale-level drug distribution, aided by their connections with Mexican and Asian DTOs."

While the violence of the cartels and the gangs is deplorable, the NDIC assessment makes no effort to address its root cause: the regime of drug prohibition. Instead it conflates the harms associated with prohibition (fighting the drug trade) with those associated with drug use or abuse.

That conceptual confusion is evident from the very beginning of the annual report. In the first paragraph of its summary, the report observes that: "The trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs inflict tremendous harm upon individuals, families, and communities
throughout the country. The violence, intimidation, theft, and financial crimes carried out by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), criminal groups, gangs, and drug users in the United States pose a significant threat to our nation. The cost to society from drug production, trafficking, and abuse is difficult to fully measure or convey."

Without pulling apart the harms associated with "trafficking and abuse of illegal drugs," the NDIC is conducting an exercise in futility and propaganda. The harms associated with the growth of powerful criminal organizations thriving under a prohibition regime are an entirely different matter from the harms related to drug use, misuse, or abuse, and failing to disentangle them is a service to no one. Similarly, the failure to disaggregate "DTOs, criminal groups, gangs, and drug users" only strengthens the same skewed view of the results of our drug policies.

In the summary's eight bullet points designed to demonstrate the harm of "drugs," four of them -- cartel money laundering, federal anti-drug spending, the huge number of drug arrests, and the high number of federal drug prisoners -- are a direct consequence of drug prohibition. Two others -- a large number of people seeking drug treatment, and children removed from meth labs -- are at least indirectly influenced by drug prohibition. Many people seeking treatment are doing so because of rote court orders, and many home meth cooks would likely simply purchase their drug instead of cooking it if allowed to do so. One bullet point -- that diversion of pharmaceutical drugs is costing insurance companies millions -- is yet another artifact of a prohibition regime, or at least one where access to desired drugs is so restricted that diversion occurs.

The final bullet point -- some 35 million Americans used an illicit drug (or a licit drug illicitly) -- is essentially meaningless without indicating in some way just how those people were actually harmed by using those drugs. But that is typical of a mindset that measures success in drug policy solely by reducing drug use instead of looking at the bigger picture.
NDIC could have attempted to quantify the harms of drug abuse, for instance by looking at lost work days, or the early onset of disease, or other measures, but it didn't.

Such an attitude is also apparent in the report's blunt ranking of the leading threats by drug: "Cocaine is the leading drug threat to society. Methamphetamine is the second leading drug threat, followed by marijuana, heroin, pharmaceutical drugs, and MDMA (also known as ecstasy) respectively."

Given that marijuana is almost universally understood to be one of the least harmful psychoactive substances known to man (see Professor David Nutt's "rational scale" here), marijuana's role as a leading drug threat -- ahead of heroin and pharmaceuticals! -- can only be attributed to its widespread popularity. Again, instead of demonstrating specific harms associated with marijuana consumption, the report simply assumes that marijuana use generates harm.

By NDIC standards, some progress is being made in combating the drug scourge. The report cites declining cocaine availability and purity in some US markets, and a decrease in domestic meth production (although it warns of a looming increase). But even where NDIC can point to successes, it either misses the costs of waging the drug war or conflates them with the harms of drug use.

And with marijuana in particular, it cannot even claim success. Despite record plant seizures and marijuana arrests last year: "Marijuana availability is high throughout the United States. Outdoor cultivation is going through the roof, thanks in part, the report says, to Mexican DTOs expanding into US public lands, and indoor cultivation has increased "because of high profit margins and seemingly reduced risk of law enforcement detection."

What the National Drug Threat Assessment 2009 shows us is that we are continuing to wage a futile struggle to suppress drug use at a great cost to our society. In failing to disentangle and disaggregate the social ills resulting from our prohibitionist drug policies from the social ills resulting from drug use, it is business as usual. But what do we expect from a drug war bureaucracy motivated mainly by inertia and the imperative of preserving next year's budget?

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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" 'Cocaine is the leading drug threat to society. Methamphetamine is the second leading drug threat, followed by marijuana, heroin, pharmaceutical drugs, and MDMA (also known as ecstasy) respectively.' "

"Again, instead of demonstrating specific harms associated with marijuana consumption, the report simply assumes that marijuana use generates harm."

It doesn't say marijuana use generates harm; it says marijuana itself is a threat. Such is the extent of their cognitive mistake.

these people are on cocaine and hard drugs

This is a true story.
There are a few people in Chicago Illinois that you should know about. These people are a BIG influence on America and their opinions are getting a lot of attention. Are their opinions right? No In fact they could be destroying America.
These people are: Sherry Joe Alta Sims about 53 years black female about 5 feet 2 150 lbs. She is medium complexion and lives in Chicago Illinois. She went to Mercy High School later called Unity High School. The ladies at Unity were suppose to be better that everybody else, though they really were not. They call her Sherry Joe and she is held up higher than anyone in the world practically. She attracts many large corporations and rich black and white men in unbecomming ways.
She seems to have an unbelieveable POWER over people and she believes that people won't survive and will not be mentally healthy or stable. She studied psychology in a University and uses it to hurt people and get money from them and she illegally uses mental health centers. I just so happens that a lot of Sherry Joe's relatives who are nice to her and talk to her often get/got brain anuerisms, brain tumors or developed severe mental problems. She feels everybody is and should be a mental patient and they should all get psychological help-when it is Sherry who needs the help herself. She is in Chicago or Illinois. She lives with a Thomas White her older boyfriend(63 years old) who buys her all the brand new cars and property and clothes that she wants, more than probably any female got from a man in the world(especially not being married to him). She has a son named Joshua Josef David White (17 years old)who following his mothers footstepts is suppose the be the best person and most highly looked up to in the world. And he never even helped anyone or gave them a compliment. People have said this from being around Sherry Joe Sims. They said they feel such stress from being around Sherry that they get severe headaches (even headaches when they think about her) and feel like they have such a mental block that the world is blocking them out. Sherry believes that people from Cabrini Green Housing Project, Harlem and other rough dangerous projects are upper class, cute with their crime, and leaders in the world for abusing people and criminally using people. Sherry Joe wants to be like Cabrini Green and all the projects and she fells their criminal image should run the world. They said they can't think around Sherry Joe Sims and they feel like they are always being rushed to do things by her or her mother and father.They said they can't relax in their seat around Sherry Joe Sims because she is always thinking of a crime to do on someone or them and her brain rushes in a race 24 hours a day with this crime and all Sherry Joe talks about or wants to hear about is crime. And they said this never ending rush for crime never stops. They have said that they get headaches so bad that they just keep bowing over and saying in their mind or to Sherry that Sherry Joe is better than them and so much more special special then their headache get only a little better. People who have been around her find theirself tell Sherry Joe that She is perfect and rarely has problems in her life like they do and they end up with a headache so bad until they tell Sherry Joe all their problems. They said she never helps them with their problems or has a kind word to make them feel better, but she goes and has drugs with her other friends and talks about them behind their back, laughing with her other friends at them and their problems they cried about. They said Sherry Joe had a heavy cigarette habbit that made them sick to watch her smoke and started to give them bad effects at the brain and lungs. They said Sherry started saying that a whole lot of people were mental patients and that they have a mental problem. They said this is her whole conversation-that everybody is a mental patient.They said she dosen't talk about movies or fashion, or the news or anything else except supposedly mental patients and crime and doing drugs. Obviously Sherry Joe is making the world bad for herself and others and she is making people sick and mentally sick. Many people who have talked to her a lot and been around her have been known to have aneurisms at the brain and serious problems thinking and memorizing. Sherry obviously get kicks out of seeing people end up this way and it probably makes her feel more that she is better than every body else. Sherry's mother Constance Connie Sims and her father Joe W. Sims never bothered to get help for theirself or Sherry's problem. He father Joe W. Sims, especially, has been a BIG influence on the world in giving Sherry Joe a big name and reputation for her absurb psychology and criminal pratices.They say her boyfriend Thomas White is criminal minded hisself and buy her more gifts for doing crime and tells her she is so much. Sherry also has a son named Joshua Josef David White. He is following her path and needs to be helped and stopped also.

Another is Carrol O'Neal about 50 years old dark skinned black female. O'Neal is her maiden name but she might go under the named she married under.She is in Chicago or Illinois. She also has a big influence on America and big corporations and governments. She believes people DON'T know and that they all need to LEARN. She is recently divorced and might use her married name. Supposedly she was married to a policeman in Chicago who is still protecting Carrol O'Neal's wrongdoings and covering up her crimes. He is wrong for doing that too. She got their huge brick house at the divorce and probably child support and alimony too. She believes that only she and all computer programmers KNOW it all. She believes she is the most ORGANIZED and that others have no idea. She believes people are full of excuses for each other. She calls every one else in the world SLOW and she says they cannot think but only she can and that she KNOWS. She feels people NEED to KNOW, because they don't know. She is a Computer Programmer (though not very astute at it). She is said to have a bad ATTITUDE and it rubs off on others. She believes nobody KNOWS more than computer programmers. Of course she is wrong. Some people recall that being around Carrol O'Neal is a real headache. They begin to get very slow at the mind, brain dead, tired, out of breath, and incompetent. They said they begin to feel down about their self and the world and they fell like they can't accomplish anything especially after she starts calling you ignorant and telling you that you DON'T KNOW and NEED TO LEARN. She tells people they don't pay attention. Then Carrol starts to say she is better and that she dresses better and has more and knows more and wants the world to continue to look up to her. She feels she is better than others just because she did he laundry at the laundry matt when she was a teenager and because she had a leather coat to wear to school. Carrol is known to create problems with other people and destroy their relationships (marriages and dating). She has gotten many people fired from their job they say.

American lets correct these people at the end of 2008 and in 2009. Let's aim to go up above them to strive for higher goals that their level of life. Their views should not control the quality of our lives. Lets get them down and correct these wrong attitudes. Let's not let their obscure psychology ruin America. Lets stop the corrupt mental terriorism of these and other people working with them. If people were using psychology to benefit the people advantageously they would have many websites to give free advice family counseling, relationship counseling and help to answer many peoples questions. They would be positive and not give people headaches. Even ask Ann Landers did better with her advice column in Chicago. She did not try to destroy peoples thinking and brains and and try to make them hurt each other and cause abuse. This is destructive psychology at it's worst. What if the tax man tried to destroy peoples tax return and try to make everybody owe the IRS money? No tax men don't do this. But why are these people who studied psychology and randomly use it try to destroy and insult others with it? Let's put a halt to Sherry Joe Sims, Carrol O'Neal and other people like them who are looked up to so highy with bizzare destructive ATTITUDES-using psychology as their basis. The basis in America is complimentary improvement and empowerment not mental destruction of America.
America needs to be at its best and mind healthy and a good attitude.
Please keep my name confidential. I love America and don't want to see it destroyed by these people and their high paced, upscale, overly persuasive wrong views and mental destruction and teriorism. That's BAD PROGRAMMING. We should only sound like simple everyday cool people and not terriorizing people with abusive psychological and social terminology that insults nice Christian people and gives them bad labels in their life.Is it the Universities that are teaching abusive psychology? If so lets stop the Universities from doing this. If they can not teach people to use it positively they do not need to teach it at all. Then they form gangs doing mental abuse and terriorism. Psychology dosen't run the U.S. government and it dosen't run the Federal Reserve Bank. Let's cut their POWER off America! These people need correction theirselves.
Please keep my name, IP address, and any information about me confidential.

New Federal Drug Threat Assessment

Today's Elliot Nesses aren't stopping the drug flow any more than Elliot Ness stopped the alcohol. Let's end the second prohibition.

Of course they take the 'purloined letter' approach

Look every freakin' place for the source of the fire but where the flame is. Anything to keep from looking squarely at the source of the problem, for that would require that they admit that they played a part in that problem by refusing to do so in the past. They just have no excuse, none, for their failures, when every history book in the world could have told them that drug prohibition was doomed from the beginning. Stoooo-pid.

prohibition & racism

To argue that prohibition is anything but racist need only ask why the penalties for crack possession are twice as severe as for possession of powder cocaine. Further, prohibition can also be seen as a viable part of the U.S. Government's full employment program for the undereducated and the poor. The prisons employ millions and the prisoners are not counted on the unemployment rolls.

Drugs, harm, and prohibition

Almost all analyses and comments stop short of examining the mechanism by which drug prohibition causes harm: that mechanism is money.

American drug money is one of the four major contributors to Mexico's economy each year: over $20 billion dollars. That's what everybody (cartels and government) are fightin about. Thats' also what causes drug violence and police corruption in this country.

Where does this money come from? Money is the primary product of prohibition (ask Al Capone if you don't believe me.) When both were legal (pre-1935), Bayer sold aspirin and heroin at the same price. Retail generic aspirin now is about $30/Kilogram.

In the 1950s - 60s, when amphetamines (both dextro- and meth-) are among the most prescribed legal medicines, amphetamine was manufactured for less than $1 for a thousand tablets. The average pill was 5 mg, so that's 5 Kilograms for a dollar.

Why should marijuana cost more than other gathered and dried plant parts like tea bags ($1/oz) or coffee ($0.35/oz? Shouldn't pot be at least as cheap as the most expensive vegatable in your supermarket?

Solving the drug war crisis must start by squeezing all this money out of it. That means legalizing.

Buford C. Terrell
Professor of Law (ret.)


This country will never allow drugs of recreation to be legalized because they are making too much money and derive too many benefits from the prohibition of said drugs. How better with this mindset to marginalize people, incarcerate them, disenfranchise them, than to have substances that make one feel good (especially when certain populations are down) illegal. I would love to see outright legalization but I doubt there will ever be enough politicians with the brains and courage to accomplish this! what do you think

Bad Leadership can`t continue

Maybe with the promise of change we will get a better government that dosn`t keep doing the same stupid things , like the drug war. New industries, new tax base , a true cure for the normal man . and the freedom to persue happiness!!!

what does it take?

Slo what's it going to take for the 60% of the us population who believe that marijuana can be used in a free society to be heard? I was just thinkiing about this very paradox the other day when CNN had a segment about the mexican drug cartels and it struck me exactly why the government is doing everything within (and outside of) its power to reduce domestic demand, including suspicionless employee drug testing.

So if we were to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, it would essentially put out a large chunk of these punks' business? AND create jobs, and a new tax revenue, AND create one more barrier to minors being able to purchase it?

Wow..almost too sensible to be considered.....

Unrealistic View of Society

The worst part of prohibition is that it is working toward an unattainable goal. A certain percentage of the population will always seek out mind-altering drugs, illegal or not. To suggest this "Utopian" society in which no one uses mind-altering substances is unrealistic. Alcohol prohibition was also based on such a moralistic "ideal," and look how miserably it failed, just as drug prohibition is failing miserably. You don't have to be a drug user or even a proponent of legalization to admit our current drug policy has not worked. It's time to try something else. Alcohol prohibition ended in the face of great economic burdens of the Great Depression. Hopefully we can learn from that and adopt a similar reform in this time of great economic uncertainty. Starting with the repeal of cannabis prohibition would be a logical start, being that it is the most widely-used illicit substance. Take the large profits away from gangs and "DTO's" and our border security, as well as overall national security, will improve immediately. Someone growing a plant in their basement or out in their garden hardly seems "dangerous." Yet our "Drug Czars" have their jobs to protect.

What would be neccessary for prohibition to end the war?

The government would need to police 100% of the U.S. boarder including all tunnels, they would need to control what goes in and out of peoples homes 100% of the time, they would need to check houses because marijuana seeds are small enough to be smuggled into the house for instance, and they would need to do all this on the funding of the American people, because if the war becomes a success, then the government would receive no further funding from the so called "criminals".

One Voice. One Goal. and a whole huge number of us.

Let's join more together. Let's speak more openly. Let's voice our concerns to the policians. Let them hear our side of the story. Let them hear about the problems we understand so well, that prohibition is the worst possible solution to drug abuse. Prohibition is racist. Prohibition is the root of violence. These three sentences are the truth of today and the truth of history. We have all this truth on our side, and when we rise together speaking, we will be heard. Martin Luther King Jr. was heard. Ghandi was heard. I think you have something on your mind too.... I have a clue for you..
Drop in your zip code and email away. Put this one in your favorites like I did and write them when you feel that little bump of "hey, i thought this was a free country!?" in your chest. One voice. One goal. and a whole huge number of us saying so.

? is open for questions! is open for questions again! Wonder if we can get a different response?


4,000+ questions, so far. Yet, on the drug issue, none?. How could that change since the last poll? MANIPULATION!!!!? Just like all of the politicians before them! So much for change! But, I am not entirely surprised. Ron Paul was my candidate! (But he didn't know anything!?) I would not compromise and vote for either, of the other two.

Drug wars that threaten US>

I am a firm believer in the second ammenment. Contrary to popular belief, legitmate gun owners dont look for trouble.
The fact that there is a drug war is of no suprise to me because they have benn going on for at least twenty years. The magnitude of violence has increased. The areas that promote are not only big cartel's, but also street gangs.

We all must be protected and firearm ownership is just one way. We all must decide that we will not become victims. These wars are already on US. soil . If the National Guard In the affected states then so be it. They are much better prepared for a fire fight ,than citizens are even if the citizens were armed.

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