Collateral Sanctions

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Top Drug War Advocate Publicly Humiliates Himself

On Nov. 1, Congressman Mark Souder (R-Ind.) sent a letter to his colleagues in Congress accusing hundreds of mainstream public health and education organizations of supporting "drug legalization." Now 16 of these organizations are calling on Souder to retract his statement and agree to a sit-down meeting so they can explain what they are actually trying to do. Is Mark Souder insane? Why would he attack mainstream public charities? I'll explain.

In 1998, Mark Souder authored the Aid Elimination Penalty of the Higher Education Act, a law that denies financial aid to students with drug convictions. Since then, a massive coalition of public health, education, legal, and policy organizations has formed to oppose the law. Their arguments include:
1. College education is proven to reduce drug use. Therefore, forcing students out of college obviously and undeniably increases drug use overall.
2. The penalty only affects good students. If you’re getting bad grades you can’t get aid anyway.
3. Students arrested for drugs get punished in court. It’s not like they’re getting away with anything.
4. Taking away opportunities from students sends a message that we don't want them to succeed in life. Students must be encouraged, not pushed down.
5. The penalty disproportionately affects minorities due to disparities in drug arrests and convictions.
6. The penalty only targets low-income students. These are the very people the HEA is supposed to help.
7. Judges already have the authority to revoke financial aid if they think that's a good idea.
Rather than attempting to understand these persuasive arguments, Mark Souder simply attacked and disparaged his critics, calling them a "small but determined coalition of drug-legalization groups." He attempted to mislead his colleagues in Congress about the agenda of his opponents. And he did it because he's embarrassed that so many reputable organizations have condemned his terrible ideas.

It is no surprise that drug reform groups oppose the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty. StoptheDrugWar.org is one of them. But to attribute drug legalization sympathies to groups like the National Education Association and the United Methodist Church just makes Souder look like an idiot. His bizarre attacks have now earned him some unfavorable media attention at The Hill and The Politico. Beyond that, he's alienated all of the top organizations working on education and addiction issues; groups he'll have to work with so long as he continues to saunter around ignorantly fighting the drug problem.

It just tells you everything you need to know about Mark Souder to see him spit on organizations that work to educate America's youth and help people recovering from addiction. And it tells you everything you need to know about the drug war's political leaders that Mark Souder is highly regarded among them.
Localização: 
United States

U.S. Government Encourages Drug Offenders to Choose the Army Instead of College

We can now add to our long and growing list of drug war grievances that this terrible crusade has become a fully functional army recruitment tool. The U.S. Military has changed its rules to make it easier for drug offenders to enlist. Meanwhile, the aid elimination penalty of the Higher Education Act denies federal financial aid to students with drug convictions. That's right, folks. The federal government thinks drug users don't belong in college, but has no problem sending them to die in Iraq.

Our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy have a great new video explaining the absurdity of all this:

Of course, we support the U.S. Military's new hiring policy. Past drug use should never be a factor in assessing a person's qualifications. But making it harder for drug offenders to go to school, while making it easier for them to join the army, is shockingly barbaric and hypocritical.

One can only hope that this bizarre situation may expose the fraudulent logic by which drug offenders are denied college aid to begin with. After all, military service is widely considered an honorable profession; one which requires great courage, character, and intelligence. The very notion that past drug users can serve their country in combat destroys the myth that these Americans are somehow handicapped because they took drugs.

Now that the U.S. government has acknowledged this principle in one self-serving context, it bears a powerful moral obligation to examine and abolish other forms of discrimination against drug users. Freedom, however one may choose to define it, cannot be defended so long as we arbitrarily injure and obstruct our fellow citizens over such petty indiscretions.
Localização: 
United States

Drug Taxes Out of Control Violating Due Process

Last week I posted some discussion of the Drug Tax phenomenon, along with a scan of a notice one of our readers received following his being charged with an alleged marijuana offense. Last night I got an email from Matt Potter, president of North Carolina State University's Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter and a member of the Student Senate, with some very revealing information recounted from his freshman year in a Law and Justice course. Matt wrote:
My freshman year of college I had a professor for Law and Justice who was the interim director of the NC Illegal Substances Tax division, and he loved going off on tangents talking about his job... [H]e told me several things [about drug taxes], such as that the burden of proof in a drug tax hearing is actually on the defendant. In addition to hearsay being enough to find people responsible for the tax, the person can actually be acquitted of the crime (or not charged at all) and still be found responsible for paying the tax. It is also a retrospective tax. He explained this by saying: If your grandmother smoked an ounce in the 60s and we found out about it, we could collect the tax from her on that ounce.
Well there it is, as Matt put it, right "from the horse's (ass') mouth." I think the evidence is more than clear -- drug taxes are an outrage. As I commented last week, "take this drug tax and..."
Localização: 
Raleigh, NC
United States

SSDP HEA Week of Action

Within the next few months, the US House of Representatives will decide whether or not to continue denying financial aid to students with drug convictions. This is our chance to take this awful law off the books once and for all. We're being counted on by nearly 200,000 students who have been affected by the law, and by countless more who will be affected if we don't repeal it. That's why it's essential that every SSDP chapter band together and participate in the HEA Week of Action on October 15-19. Prior to the Week of Action, SSDP's national staff will send postcards and phone scripts that you can use to generate written communication and phone calls to Congress. But if you're feeling creative, we'd love for you to do something exciting to generate media around the issue. Visit http://www.ssdp.org/weekofaction for further information.
Data: 
Mon, 10/15/2007 - 10:00am - Fri, 10/19/2007 - 6:00pm
Localização: 
United States

Students: Intern at DRCNet and Help Stop the Drug War!

Want to help end the "war on drugs," while earning college credit too? Apply for a DRCNet internship for this fall semester (or spring) and you could come join the team and help us fight the fight!

DRCNet (also known as "Stop the Drug War") has a strong record of providing substantive work experience to our interns -- you won't spend the summer doing filing or running errands, you will play an integral role in one or more of our exciting programs. Options for work you can do with us include coalition outreach as part of the campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, and to expand that effort to encompass other bad drug laws like the similar provisions in welfare and public housing law; blogosphere/web outreach; media research and outreach; web site work (research, writing, technical); possibly other areas. If you are chosen for an internship, we will strive to match your interests and abilities to whichever area is the best fit for you.

While our internships are unpaid, we will reimburse you for metro fare, and DRCNet is a fun and rewarding place to work. To apply, please send your resume to David Guard at [email protected], and feel free to contact us at (202) 293-8340. We hope to hear from you! Check out our web site at http://stopthedrugwar.org to learn more about our organization.

Certification: White House Says 20 Countries Are Major Drug Producing or Trafficking Nations, But Only Two Political Enemies Get Decertified

In an annual exercise of US prerogative, the White House Monday released this year's Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2008. While the document listed 20 countries as major drug trafficking or producing countries, only two political enemies of the US, Myanmar and Venezuela, were listed as having "failed demonstrably" to live up to US demands about how they fight the drug trade.

Under the US Foreign Assistance Act, countries that fail to live up to US drug-fighting expectations are barred from many forms of US aid. But the US government can waive such a bar if it believes it is in its interests to do so.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/leaves-drying-in-warehouse.jpg
Coca leaves drying in warehouse outside Shinahota, Bolivia. The sign reads ''Coca Power and Territory, Dignity and Sovereignty, Regional Congress 2006-08'' (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith, 2007)
The performance of the world's biggest drug consuming county and one of its leading marijuana producers, the United States, was not measured in the annual certification exercise.

The 20 countries on the "Majors List" are Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

While Afghanistan now produces 93% of the world's opium supply, President Bush praised Afghan President Karzai for strongly attacking the drug trade. Similarly, although Mexico remains a major conduit for drugs coming into the US, aggressive drug war efforts by President Felipe Calderón kept it on the US' good side.

The US remains concerned about high-potency marijuana coming from Canada. The problem, Bush said, is that "growers do not consistently face strict legal punishment."

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the certification exercise was the certification of Bolivia despite longstanding and loudly-expressed US concerns over the Bolivian government's "zero cocaine, but not zero coca" policy. Calling Bolivian cooperation "uneven," the document noted that "the Bolivian government has cooperated closely on interdiction, and operations and seizures have reached record levels. The government is on track to reach 5,600 hectares of eradication this year, surpassing its goal of 5,000 hectares."

Still, the Bush administration worried that Bolivia has "focused primarily on interdiction, to the exclusion of its other essential complements, especially coca crop eradication." It called on Bolivia to "eliminate permissiveness in licit cultivation."

Venezuela, whose President Hugo Chávez is a major irritant to Washington, was decertified for the third year in a row, a move that appears to be tied primarily to Venezuela's refusal to allow the DEA to operate in the country, although Washington also cited corruption and lax enforcement.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cocaine-and-precursor-search.jpg
US-funded FELCN (Special Force for the Struggle Against Narcotics) checkpoint between Cochabamba and the Chapare, Bolivia, search being conducted for cocaine and precursors (Phil Smith, 2007)
Venezuelan Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez denounced the US decertification as part of Washington's "psychotic" relationship with Caracas. Washington lies about Venezuela, according to Rodríguez, because, "They know that they are exposed to our process of change that... promotes multilateralism and that will put an end to the polarization that the US has maintained as the police force of the world."

The decertification of Venezuela would normally lead to sanctions in the form of reducing financial support to the country by half. However, citing "vital national interests," -- Venezuela is the fourth largest oil exporter to the US accounting for 1.1 to 1.5 million barrels per day -- the Bush administration said it would waive sanctions for a second year.

"The waiver allows us to continue to support some of their democratic institutions and their society," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counter-Narcotics, Christy McCampbell, told a press conference in Washington Monday.

The only reason for the waiver was to further subvert Venezuela, said Rodríguez. "The groups that receive dirty money from the US do it to put the brakes on the process of change and transformation that Venezuela has sovereignly decided to exercise," he said.

Take this drug tax and...

click on image to enlarge in separate window This week saw some good news, when a Tennessee judge ruled that the state's "drug tax" -- a drug war revenue collection scheme in which people involved with illegal drugs are required to incriminate themselves by paying taxes, and can be billed after the fact for the tax plus penalties -- is unconstitutional. The ruling came in the case of Steven Waters of Knoxville, who was billed $55,000 in 2005 for a kilogram of cocaine that had been valued at $12,000. Scurrilously, the state intends to continue enforcing the tax as if the ruling never happened, for as long as they can get away with it. The drug tax notice posted here, from which we blotted out the personal information, was sent to us by one of our readers. The state of Iowa is prosecuting him and trying to take his family's house that they've owned since building it in 1876 -- obviously not built with drug money, as he pointed out. The tax, as you can see, is well over $100,000. Because the tax action is civil, not criminal, the level of due process he has available to him is much less -- no judge approved this notice, the revenue agency is just saying he owes them 136K and he better pay up. He hasn't even gone to trial yet, and the notice doesn't even specify the quantity or value of the marijuana. It looks like they treat drug taxes more harshly than other kinds of tax dealt with on the form, as it says "If this assessment is for drug taxes, you have 60 days to appeal, but you cannot pay the amount shown and then file a refund claim after repayment." Our friend claims his innocence, and he made the following argument in one of his emails to me:

"The pot that I am being taxed on was found in containers on my property which I couldn't see from my house. I had less than an ounce in my house. You would think if I were going to keep that much valuable pot just laying in the weeds where anyone could help themselves to it, I would have at least put no trespassing signs on my place, which I didn't."
"You should see the list of damage they did to my things," he added.

widely-distributed Tennessee drug tax stamp image While I haven't independently verified our reader's account, I believe him, and will continue to unless I learn reasons why I shouldn't. But it almost doesn't matter, because the laws and the punishments are so unjust in any case. And there's no question, if you want to frame someone, in this case maybe even get his house, there's no easier way to do it than with drugs. As he put it, "Pretty good way to rob someone, just put some containers of hemp on his place at night where he can't see it, then take what you want." And while we don't know if that's what happened, again, it almost doesn't matter, from a policy level at least, because it couldn't be easier to do, and therefore it undoubtedly does happen. We run police corruption stories in our newsletter every week, and this week we have a piece of misspending of asset forfeiture funds too. This case involves multiple issues. It involves asset forfeiture, it involves the drug tax, it involves the always unjust prohibition laws, and it demonstrates the potential at least for framing and abuse. Back in Tennessee, it also seems to involve the arrogance of an agency that thinks it can ignore a judge's ruling with impunity, and sadly is probably right. Since the issue of the week is drug taxes (thanks to an enlightened Tennessee jurist), I will conclude this time by saying, "take this drug tax and..."

Localização: 
IA
United States

Drug Penalties: Tennessee Appeals Court Finds Drug Tax Unconstitutional

(See David Borden's blog post this morning on this topic.)

In a September 6 opinion, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled the state's tax on illegal drugs, widely known as the crack tax, is unconstitutional. The state cannot impose a tax on items it considers illegal, such as illicit drugs or moonshine, the court held.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/tn-drug-stamp.jpg
widely-posted Tennessee drug tax stamp image
Under the law, which went into effect in 2005, Tennessee has collected more than $6 million from drug suspects. Much of the money came from confiscated property.

In the case before the court, Steven Waters of Knoxville was arrested in 2005 shortly after purchasing a kilogram of cocaine valued at $12,000 from an informant. A few days later, the Tennessee Department of Revenue sent Waters a tax assessment demanding more than $55,000. It also filed a tax lien against real property owned by Waters and seized $4,000 from his bank account.

Waters sued, charging the tax violated constitutional self incrimination, due process, and equal rights protections under both the state and the federal constitutions. A trial court found in Waters' favor, and now, the state Court of Appeals has agreed.

The state cannot impose an excise (or "privilege") tax on items it has criminalized, the court held: "Because it seeks to levy a tax on the privilege to engage in an activity that the Legislature has previously declared to be a crime, not a privilege, we must necessarily conclude that the Drug Tax is arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable, and therefore, invalid under the Constitution of this state," the opinion read.

The state of Tennessee has 60 days to file an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Department of Revenue says it plans to appeal and will continue collecting the tax in the meantime.

More than 20 other states have similar illegal drug tax laws.

Getting Busted for Pot Can Cost Your Right to Vote

Localização: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
AlterNet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/58346/

Ex-cons' sentences don't always end with release

Localização: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
USA Today
URL: 
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-07-22-ex-cons_N.htm

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