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The Anti-Dobbs: Winning the War Within Through Drug Legalization

[As part of a series of programs on the drug issue by the CNN show Lou Dobbs Tonight, populist broadcaster Lou Dobbs this week penned an editorial titled "The War Within, Killing Ourselves" -- a piece he concludes by demanding the nation commit to "victory" in the drug war. But informed observers of drug policy understand this to be an unachievable utopian fantasy based on flawed premises. David Borden, executive director of, has written a response to Dobbs' piece that is modeled after it, paragraph by paragraph, but which tells the real deal.)]

WASHINGTON (Drug War Chronicle) -- We're fighting a war that is inflicting even greater casualties than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and which over time has cost as much money. We're losing the War on Drugs. Actually, we've had it all wrong from the beginning.
Lou Dobbs on the drug war -- he just doesn't get it.
That we can't win the drug war is a truth you won't hear from John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who spent last week trumpeting the Bush administration's anti-drug policies. He claims these policies have led to a decline in drug abuse and improvements in our physical and mental health.

While Walters focused on a marginal decline in casual drug use, he made no mention of the shocking rise in drug overdoses. According to CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, "the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week reported unintentional drug overdoses nearly doubled over the course of five years, rising from 11,155 in 1999 to 19,838 in 2004. Fatal drug overdoses in teenagers and young adults soared 113 percent." Hundreds of heroin users died last year when a batch of heroin laced with the powerful synthetic opiate fentanyl worked its way through several major cities.

If drugs were legal, users would be less likely to overdose, because instead of buying drugs on the street, where purity can fluctuate wildly and the batch one obtains might be adulterated, they would get them from licensed, regulated distributors and manufacturers and would know what they were getting. It's not surprising that people like Walters or Dobbs wouldn't like such ideas. But short of ending prohibition, lives could be saved even now by making the overdose antidote naloxone widely available. Tragically, drug czar Walters has opposed even that.

Obviously, John Walters and Lou Dobbs aren't facing reality. There is simply no excuse for causing the destruction of so many young lives through these counterproductive prohibition laws.

How can anyone rationalize the fact that the United States, with only 4 percent of the world's population, holds 20 percent of the world's prisoners? More than half a million of our incarcerated are there for nonviolent drug offenses.

Drug prohibition was enacted 93 years ago, long before former President Richard Nixon called drugs "public enemy number one" and pushed through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Since then the government has waged a century-long war of aggression on its own people, but a futile one. Though supply-side enforcement strategies seek to discourage use by making drugs less available and therefore more expensive, measures of drugs' availability have gone in the wrong direction: Heroin, for example, sold for $329 per gram in 1981 but $60 per gram in 2003. Cocaine prices have dropped to a similar degree.

As Dobbs has pointed out, "more than two million inmates in our nation's prisons meet the clinical criteria for drug or alcohol dependence, and yet fewer than one-fifth of these offenders receive any kind of treatment" even though "studies show successful treatment cuts drug abuse in half, reduces criminal activity by as much 80 percent." Too bad we use up valuable treatment slots on people who aren't really addicted but get "referred" to treatment programs by the criminal justice system anyway, many of them mere casual users of marijuana.

In the midst of the global war on terror along with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, illicit narcotics trafficking made possible by global drug prohibition is giving aid to our enemies through the easy, unregulated profits it makes available to them. We must repeal these abusive, self-destructive drug laws, while providing positive alternatives for youth, successful treatment for Americans struggling to beat addictions, and harm reduction programs like syringe exchange for those who are not yet ready to quit drugs.

Whatever course we follow in prosecuting other wars, we must commit ourselves as members of this great society to only one option in the War on Drugs -- victory through legalization.

Though Lou Dobbs calls legalization "ridiculous," the opinions expressed in this commentary are shared by many of the most thoughtful and respected people throughout the world including judges, attorneys general and heads of state.

OP-ED: This Is Your Brain on Drugs, Dad

San Francisco, CA
United States
The New York Times

The Cartels Are Coming, the Cartels Are Coming! (Or A New Meme Emerges)

No, not the Colombian cartels and not the Mexican cartels. Last week, law enforcement officials in two different federal drug cases on different ends of the country used the word "cartel" to describe local drug trafficking organizations. I'm not aware of previous usages of the word to describe such domestic groups, and I have to wonder if we're not seeing the orchestrated emergence of new meme from the drug warriors. In the context of the drug war, "cartel" certainly is a scary word, calling up images of Colombian "narcoguerrillas" (another term of propaganda) and Mexican mobsters, not to mention the subliminal image of swarthy Arabs stinking of petroleum. It is also an incorrect word. If you look up "cartel" in the dictionary, you get a definition along the lines of "a combination of independent business organizations formed to regulate production, pricing, and marketing of goods by the members." That is an apt description of OPEC, the organization of oil-exporting countries, whose members meet to set production quotas in an open bid to keep prices where they want them. It may also be an apt description of the big oil companies, although they would naturally swear there is no collusion among them. In American history, we have had experience with "cartels," but we called them "trusts" and we went after them as "trust-busters" back in the days when our government wasn't owned by corporate interests. But calling the Mexican drug trafficking organizations "cartels" is simply wrong. The "Gulf Cartel" does not cooperate with the "Juarez Cartel;" instead, the competing organizations are locked in a bloody war for domination of the illicit drug trade. Similarly, the "Medillin Cartel" and the "Cali Cartel," former Colombian drug trafficking organizations did not seek to limit cocaine production, nor did they act in collusion with other producers and traffickers except within their own organizations. If it is arguably incorrect to refer to major Latin American trafficking organizations as "cartels," it is just silly to use the term to refer to relatively small-time, local drug trafficking organizations. But that's what officials did in Colorado and Pennsylvania last week. In Denver, DEA special agent in charge Jeffrey Sweetin gets the credit for using the term to describe a methamphetamine trafficking ring bringing speed to the Front Range. All Headline News ran a story on the bust titled "Feds Bust Major Colorado Cartel" with this lead sentence: "A 13-month-long investigation has dismantled what Jeffrey D. Sweetin, special agent in with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Rocky Mountain division says, is a major drug cartel, headquartered in Greeley." This "cartel" consisted of 21 people, 12 of whom the story noted were "illegal." But despite the rhetorical effort, the story explains that the group was trying to corner the market, not collude with its competitors. The Pennsylvania "cartel" is even less compelling. A federal grand jury there indicted eight people—mostly members of one family—for trafficking crack and heroin into Johnstown. One media outlet, WJAC-TV, led its report thusly: "Eight members of a drug cartel called the 'Philly Mob' have been indicted by a federal grand jury on drug charges.'. The culprit in this case appears to be former Johnstown District Attorney David Tulowitz, who was quoted in a Johnstown Tribune-Democrat story as saying the Philly Mob was "the most violent group operating in the city since the Jamaican cartel was broken up in the early 1990s." When I first saw this pair of stories with "cartel" pop up, I suspected a Justice Department cabal might be behind it, but I have yet to see any evidence of that. Federal prosecutors' press releases didn’t use the word. Still, it seems odd that widely-separated law enforcement officials would misuse the term in the same deliberate fashion within a few days of each other. Let's keep an eye out for further abuses of the English language when it comes to describing drug trafficking organizations. The scarier the better, eh?
United States

Video: SSDP Takes On Drug Testing Spokesman on Fox News

Footage is available online at the DARE Generation Diary blog.
United States

Safe Injecting Room Opponents Use "Stunt" to Try to Discredit It

Sydney, NSW
Sydney Morning Herald

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