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Students Across California Mobilize to Control Marijuana Like Alcohol

SSDP letterhead

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 6, 2010
[email protected]

Students Across California Mobilize to Control Marijuana Like Alcohol
Students to Rally with Yes We Cannabis Fire Truck to Sound Alarm For Prop 19

SAN DIEGO, CA –Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP),announced plans today to mobilize student voters in support of Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.  SSDP, the nation’s largest student drug policy group with over 150 chapters nationwide, will rally an army of student canvassers at its regional conference to be held at San Francisco State University October 16-17. Many eventshave been scheduled between now and the election on campuses up and down the state.  With a massive fire truck touring California, the students will ‘Sound the Alarm to Vote Yes on Prop 19.’ (See schedule below.)  Members of the media are invited to tour with the Yes We Cannabis Fire Truck.

“Young voters are the primary victims of the drug war and logically the largest group of supporters of Prop 19,” says Aaron Houston, SSDP’s Executive Director. “We plan to register thousands of students in the next 10 days and help many first time voters develop plans for Election Day.  Meshing good old fashioned one-on-one on college campuses with mobile alert technology sums up our strategy to turnout young voters,” adds Houston.

SSDP already planned a massive canvass in Northern California months ago, but last week the group received a surprise $75,000 dollar donation from David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and another $25,000 from Capitol Hemp Clothing and Accessories. “We are ramping up our outreach to even more students thanks to the surprise support,” says Houston.

Dr. Bronner’s is providing the company’s promotional fire truck to ‘sound the alarm’ on college campuses across California before November’s election.  A California based company, Dr. Bronner’s buys 20 tons of hemp oil for their soaps from Canada each year.  For ten years the Bronner family has financially supported bringing back non-drug industrial hemp farming in the US as an environmentally sustainable crop that can be made into a wide variety of products including food, cosmetics, clothing, building materials and much more. Traditionally Dr. Bronner’s has publicly supported ‘hemp only’ advocates; however Mr. Bronner is now publicly calling for the end of cannabis prohibition entirely in light of the bloody conflict being fueled in neighboring Mexico and the enormous waste of California taxpayer and police resources in the current budget crisis.

Mr. Bronner stated:  “I’m calling up businesses like ours that I know are socially and environmentally conscious with a simple message, “Just Say Now, now is the time to step up support.”  Prop 19 will free up police for fighting real crimes and stop renegade cannabis cultivation by gangs that are destroying our national parks.  Cannabis prohibition, not the herb itself, has been ruining productive and upstanding citizens’ lives with courts and jails for decades.”

The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, is a California ballot proposition which will be on the November 2, 2010 California statewide ballot. It legalizes various marijuana-related activities, allows local governments to regulate these activities, permits local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes, and authorizes various criminal and civil penalties. In March 2010 it qualified to be on the November statewide ballot. It requires a simple majority in order to pass. Yes on 19 is the official advocacy group for the initiative.SSDP is the lead student organization working with the Yes on 19 campaign.

The following is a tentative schedule for the Yes We Cannabis Fire Truck Tour and is subject to change.  To confirm exact times of events email Adam Eidinger at [email protected].

 

10/7/2010

San Diego State University

5500 Campanile Drive

San Diego

10/8/2010

University of California, San Diego

9500 Gilman Dr.

La Jolla

10/9/2010

University of California, Irvine

University of California- Irvine

Irvine

10/10/2010

University of California, Los Angeles

405 Hilgard Ave.

Los Angeles

10/11/2010

University of Southern California

1540 Alcazar Street

Los Angeles

10/12/2010

California State University, Northridge

18111 Nordhoff Street

Northridge

10/13/2010

Pitzer College

1050 North Mills Avenue

Claremont

10/14/2010

San Bernardino Valley College

701 Mount Vernon Ave

San Bernardino

10/15-17/2010

San Francisco SSDP Mobilization Tour

Various Locations

San Francisco

10/18/2010

Sacramento State University

6000 J Street

Sacramento

10/19/2010

Golden Gate University

536 Mission Street

San Francisco

10/20/2010

University of California, Hastings

200 McAllister St.

San Francisco

10/21/2010

San Francisco State University

1600 Holloway Avenue

San Francisco

10/22/2010

Mills College

5000 MacArthur Blvd

Oakland

10/23/2010

University of California, Berkeley

2198 University Avenue

Berkeley

10/24/2010

California State University, East Bay

25800 Carlos Bee Blvd

Hayward

10/25/2010

San Jose State University

One Washington Square

San Jose

10/26/2010

University of California, Santa Cruz

1156 High Street

Santa Cruz

10/27/2010

University of California, Merced

5200 Lake Road

Merced

10/28/2010

College of the Sequoias

915 South Mooney Boulevard

Visalia

10/29/2010

Azusa Pacific University

901 East Alosta Avenue

Azusa

10/30/2010

Santa Ana College

1530 West 17th Street

Santa Ana

To arrange interviews contact Adam Eidinger at [email protected]. For further information please visit our website at www.ssdp.org/firetrucktour.html

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Localização: 
CA
United States

"Stoners Against Prop 19" Debunked in New Video

Last week we reported on the forces lined up for and against California's Prop 19. A surprising element found in the "against" mix are portions of the cannabis reform community. Some of them are clearly self-interested medical marijuana sellers, and we believe that all of them are thoroughly mistaken or misguided. It's a loud group of people, but one whose actual size and significance is unclear.

I did not closely follow the evolution of the "Stoners Against Prop 19," but one event that's said to have given it steam was a video interview by California medical marijuana patient KC Kimber with Dennis Peron, the father of medical marijuana in California and sponsor of the Prop 215 medical marijuana initiative, who regrettably has opposed Prop 19. (I'm having trouble find the video, hence no link.) Kimber discovered later that Peron had fed him a lot of disinformation, and has been campaigning since then for Prop 19's passage. Yesterday he released an interview with cannabis expert and Prop 19 proponent Chris Conrad which debunks Peron's claims.

We hope that common sense (perhaps with some help from our reporting) has already made it clear to our readers that Prop 19 is a legalization initiative (albeit the first stage of legalization with more work to be done); that it will help, not hurt, medical marijuana patients (as I've gone into on Huffington Post); and that any compromises it makes are small and necessary ones and that we'll be far better off, now and in the continuing effort, if it passes. We don't want to contribute an exaggerated sense of the importance of the "Stoners Against Prop 19" movement by focusing too much attention on them, but because the vote is likely to be close, and because some of their claims have made it into the mainstream media, we are posting the video here just in case. If you want more information on this subject, we recommend Chris's Prop 19 Fact Check and Rumor Control page.

Regarding Peron, we see him as a hero for what he did to bring medical marijuana into being in California, work without which Prop 19 might not even be possible today. We've heard that he's ill, and we wish him well. Prop 19 is too important to hold back on, and so even Dennis Peron cannot be let off the hook when he spreads false information about it, at least not until the election's done.
 

"Stoners Against Prop 19" Disrupt Debate at Hemp Expo

Tensions within California's marijuana community over Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative, boiled over at last weekend's debates between supporters and opponents at the Cow Palace in San Francisco during the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo, a pot industry trade show.

The measure has garnered some loud opposition in the marijuana community, though the true extent of the opposition is unclear. Some medical marijuana providers are opposing it, arguing that it endangers the rights of patients, but raising the question of whether what is really being endangered is those providers' profits. [Ed: The proposition contains language which unambiguously protects patients.] Some growers are opposing it, for largely self-interested reasons. And some consumers are opposing it, arguing that it isn't good enough, they might have to pay taxes, and it would lead to the corporatization of cannabis.

That has excited a harsh response, not just from the Prop 19 campaign, but also from national marijuana reform organizations. NORML deputy director Paul Armentano likened self-styled Stoners Against Prop 19 to a fringe element and compared their refusal to acknowledge facts with that of the Obama birthers, while NORML outreach director Russ Bellville drafted a line-by-line analysis of the initiative to refute the critics. Cannabis expert and campaign spokesman Chris Conrad has published a Prop 19 Fact Check, and an addendum addressing what he calls Prop 19 conspiracy theories and their authors.

[Editor's Note: Look for a feature article in the next few days examining the claims and the forces aligned for and against Prop 19.]

Medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, the primary motivating force behind Prop 19, was subjected to loud heckling and shouting as he attempted to explain why pot people should vote for the initiative, which is holding onto a not-so-comfortable lead in polls heading up to the election now a month away. A disgusted Lee then rolled away in his wheelchair, leaving campaign spokesman and cannabis expert Chris Conrad to carry on.

San Francisco
United States

Prop 19 Hits 52% in Poll -- California Legalizing Marijuana?

Proposition 19, California's "tax and regulate" marijuana legalization initiative, is winning, according to the latest poll results. A Public Policy Institute of California poll released Thursday had support for Prop 19 at 52%, with 41% opposed and 7% undecided.

Prop 19 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to 25 square feet of marijuana by adults over 21. It would also allow counties or municipalities the local option of allowing a taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. It would not affect California's medical marijuana law.

The survey question asked: "Proposition 19 is called the 'Legalizes Marijuana Under California but Not Federal Law. Permits Local Governments to Regulate and Tax Commercial Production, Distribution, and Sale of Marijuana. Initiative Statute.' If the election were held today, would you vote yes or no on Proposition 19?"

The survey was conducted by telephone (both land lines and cell phones) with 2,004 adult California residents in English or Spanish. It has a margin of error of +/-3%.

The poll is in line with most recent polls, which show the initiative leading by a few points. It is also noteworthy for showing support levels above 50%, something Prop 19 has had trouble doing in most other polls.

The poll suggests a strong correlation between political affiliation and support or opposition to the initiative. Strong majorities of Democrats (63%) and independents (65%) support the measure, while a strong majority of Republicans (62%) oppose it.

While that correlation has been fairly consistent among recent polls, this poll found a high level of support for Prop 19 among Hispanics (63%) than the other polls, most of which had Hispanic support at under 50%. The poll had support among whites at 50% and didn't ask about blacks, who make up only 6% of the California electorate.

As in other recent polls, majorities in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles area support Prop 19, while a majority in the Central Valley does not. Young adults (70%) support Prop 19, while those over 35 are split.

California may legalize marijuana on November 2. But the vote is going to be close, so if you're a Californian please get to California's polls, and tell everyone you know in California who might support this to do so too.

CA
United States

Stand Up to Big Alcohol (Action Alert)

The alcohol industry is fueling the campaign to defeat Proposition 19in California so that adults cannot make the safer choice to use marijuana.

According to campaign finance reports, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors State Issues Committee donated $10,000 to the campaign to defeat Proposition 19, the initiative that would establish a legal and regulated marijuana market and provide adults with a safer recreational alternative to alcohol. 

We understand why Big Alcohol wants to protect its turf and keep Californians drinking; but why does the No on Prop. 19 campaign -- which is calling itself "Public Safety First" -- share this goal?

Click on the button below or visit http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5559/action/prop19to send a message to the head of the No on Prop. 19 campaign, calling on him to explain why the campaign is working with Big Alcohol to drive Californians to drink.  Then visit the campaign's website -- http://www.Yeson19.com -- and find out how you can help bring about a victory this November.

You will be redirected to the Yes on 19 website after taking action!

 

Localização: 
CA
United States

California Law Enforcers Endorse Proposition 19

Today at press conferences in Oakland and Los Angeles, a group of police officers, judges and prosecutors released the following letter of endorsement for Prop. 19/marijuana legalization signed by dozens of law enforcers from across California.

Law Enforcers Say Control and Tax Cannabis to Protect Public Safety


To the Voters of California:

As police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officials and others who have labored to enforce the laws that seek to prohibit cannabis (marijuana) use, and who have witnessed the abysmal failure of this current criminalization approach, we stand together in calling for new laws that will effectively control and tax cannabis.

As criminal justice professionals, we have seen with our own eyes that keeping cannabis illegal damages public safety -- for cannabis consumers and non-consumers alike. We’ve also seen that prohibition sometimes has tragic consequences for the law enforcers charged with putting their lives on the line to enforce it. The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market.

If California's voters make the sensible decision to effectively control and tax cannabis this November, it will eliminate illegal marijuana distribution networks, just as ending alcohol prohibition put a stop to violent and corrupting gangsters' control of beer, wine and liquor sales.

As law enforcement professionals, we especially want voters to understand that legalization will allow us to do our jobs more effectively and safely. In 2008, there were over 60,000 arrests for simple misdemeanor cannabis possession in California, yet nearly 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved in our state that same year. When we change our cannabis laws, police officers will no longer have to waste time on low-level cannabis arrests; we'll be able to focus on protecting the public from murderers, rapists, drunk drivers and burglars. Cannabis cases will no longer clog up court dockets. And room in our costly, overflowing prisons will be freed up when we stop locking people up just because they tested positive for cannabis while on probation.

Because of all the overhead and administrative savings that legalization will generate, our criminal justice apparatus will have more resources to keep more good law enforcers employed serving the public in this time of fiscal turmoil. Ending prohibition will also put a stop to other crimes and problems caused by the illegal marijuana market, such as robberies, gang warfare, gun-running and house fires caused by underground grow operations.

Controlling marijuana through a regulated system will also reduce its availability to kids. Right now, illegal dealers have no incentive to check IDs or avoid selling to juveniles, given that the market is illegal for everyone. But under adult legalization, licensed cannabis businesses will face penalties and consequences that will effectively deter underage sales. Indeed, a recent study from Columbia University shows that teens currently find it easier to purchase illegal marijuana than age-regulated alcohol.

And, because marijuana is illegal and unregulated, its producers aren’t required to do any quality control or safety evaluation, and sometimes it is adulterated with other drugs or harmful chemicals. While law enforcers understand that every drug has the potential for abuse, making cannabis illegal has made it much more dangerous than it otherwise would be under effective regulation.

Please join us in supporting the sensible solution to California’s failed cannabis policies. Let’s vote to control and tax cannabis this November – for safety’s sake.

Sincerely,

MacKenzie Allen
Former Deputy Sheriff, Los Angeles Sheriff's Dept.
Deputy Sheriff, King County Sheriff's Dept. (Ret.)

James Anthony
Former Community Prosecutor, Oakland City Attorney's Office

L. Lawrence Baird
Former Senior Reserve Park Ranger, Orange County

William Baldwin
Correctional Officer, California Department of Corrections (Ret.)

Nate Bradley
Former Officer, Wheatland Police Department
Former Deputy, Sutter County Sheriff's Office

Walter Clark
Deputy District Attorney, County of Riverside District Attorney's Office (Ret.)

Stephen Cobine
Captain, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (Ret.)

William John Cox
Former Officer, El Cajon Police Department
Former Sergeant, Los Angeles Police Department
Former Deputy, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
Retired Supervising Trial Counsel, State Bar of California

Bill Dake
Former Officer, San Francisco Police Department

David Doddridge
Narcotics Officer, Los Angeles Police Department (Ret.)

Stephen Downing
Deputy Chief, Los Angeles Police Department (Ret.)

Rick Erickson
Officer, Lakeport Police Department (Ret.)

Paul Gallegos
District Attorney, County of Humboldt

Dr. Nina Graves
Former Military Police, Santa Barbara

James Gray
Judge, Superior Court of Orange County (Ret.)

Terence Hallinan
Former San Francisco District Attorney

Russ Jones
Former Narcotics Detective, San Jose Police Department, DEA Task Force

Kyle Kazan
Former Officer, Torrance Police Department

Leo E. Laurence
Former Biker Enforcement Task Force Member, San Diego District Attorney's Office
Former Deputy Sheriff, Missouri

Madeline Martinez
Correctional Peace Officer (Ret.), State of California Department of Corrections

Danny Maynard
Former Yolo County Sheriff’s Office
Former Sacramento Port Police Department

Walter McKay
Former Senior Police Specialist, Police Assessment Resources Center, Los Angeles, CA
Former Detective, Vancouver Police Department

Joseph McNamara
Chief of Police, San Jose Police Department (Ret.)

Joe Miller
Deputy Probation Officer, Mohave County Probation Department
Police Officer, Needles Police Department (Ret.)

John O'Brien
Sheriff, Genesee County, MI (Ret.)
University of Phoenix, Southern California campus

John A. Russo
Oakland City Attorney

David Sinclair
Former Deputy Sheriff, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

Mike Schmier
Former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles
Former Administrative Law Judge California State
Former Federal Labor Prosecutor San Francisco

Jeffrey Schwartz
Senior Deputy District Attorney, Humboldt County (Ret.)

Lyle Smith
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (Ret.)

Norm Stamper
Executive Assistant Chief of Police, San Diego Police Department (Ret.)
Chief of Police, Seattle Police Department (Ret.)

Jeff Studdard
Former Reserve Deputy Sheriff, Los Angeles County

All agency affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.

Localização: 
CA
United States

California Anti-Gay Group Attacks Prop 19 Marijuana Initiative

SaveCalifornia.com, one of the "family values" groups that led the fight for Proposition 8, the ballot measure  overturning gay marriage in the state (which was just struck down by a federal judge), has joined the fight against Proposition 19, the Tax and Regulate Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative.

Prop 19 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce and cultivation of up to 25 square feet by adults 21 and over anywhere in the state. It would also give counties and municipalities the local option to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana.

According to SaveCalifornia.com, Prop 19 would mean the end times are upon the Golden State. The group has announced a web site, StopProp19.com, which should be active by mid-week. In the meantime, it has released a YouTube video, which, ironically enough, has already been restricted to adults by YouTube because it "may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube's user community."

For you grownups out there, the video provides a taste of the group's Reefer Madness rhetoric. Marijuana is the "gateway to meth and cocaine," the group claims. Pot is "the number one addiction for 60% of teens in rehab," the "public service announcement" says. Marijuana is "50-70% more cancer-causing than cigarettes," it warns.

Never mind that the gateway theory has been repeatedly debunked, that the majority of kids in drug rehab for marijuana are there because a court ordered them, not because they are addicted, or that leading researchers cannot find a link between pot-smoking and lung cancer.

"Marijuana could be sold in grocery stores," if the initiative passes, the ad warns, in a hyperventilating preview of opposition arguments. Passage would mean "skyrocketing" teen drug use, increased "drugged driving," and "higher costs for everyone as addictions soar." Passage of Prop 19 means: "Messed up minds, messed up lives, messed up families, California out of control!" as ominous drums sound in the background.

The man behind both the fight against gay marriage, and now, this opposition to Prop 19 is moral entrepreneur Randy Thomasson, who has for the past 15 years fought against "the homosexual agenda." During the battles over Prop 8, the Orange County apostle of traditional family values espoused views so extreme he alienated even his allies in the anti-gay rights movement.

It looks like Thomasson's extremism extends to marijuana policy as well. At least this time, he doesn't have the deep-pockets to gin up another media campaign like he did with Prop 8. At least, not yet. Watch the anti-Prop 19 video here:

CA
United States

New California Poll Has Prop 19 at 52%

A majority of California voters support Proposition 19, the state's Tax and Regulate Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative, according to a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling. The poll has support at 52%, with 36% opposed and 12% undecided.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ballot2.jpg
November 2nd, 2010
The ballot measure would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by those 21 or older, as well as allowing any adult to grow up to 25 square feet of it. It would also give counties and municipalities the local option to approve the regulated cultivation, sale, and taxation of marijuana.

The poll was an automated phone sampling of 641 people who voted in the last election. As Nate Silver of the polling analysis web site 538.com has noted, this is the sixth California legalization poll released in recent months. Automated call polls like this one have consistently shown Prop 19 winning, while human operator polls have shown in losing narrowly. Silver suggests that people are less likely to take a possibly controversial position (such as legalizing marijuana) with a human operator, thus introducing a possible downward bias in the human operator polls.

The Public Policy poll found that 62% of Democrats supported the proposition, as did 55% of independents, but only 37% of Republicans. Among ethnic groups, support was highest among African-Americans (68%), followed by whites (53%), and Hispanics (47%). Only among Asians was there more opposition to the measure (43%) than support (29%).

Levels of African-American support for the measure have been all over the map in the recent polls, and so the numbers should be viewed with a grain of caution. Blacks make up only slightly more than 6% of the electorate, and the small number of actual black people being polled means the numbers are not very reliable.

Nearly two out of five (38%) of Californians said they had used marijuana, but even among those who said they had never tried it, 44% still support Prop 19.

"Marijuana continues to be a hot button issue in California," said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. "Voters seemed to be convinced that is about more than simply dispensing marijuana, but that such a change could have huge impacts on the state."

CA
United States

Feature: NATO, US Deepen Anti-Drug Operations in Afghanistan in Bid to Throttle Taliban

The NATO and US forces battling Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents in Afghanistan are on the verge of expanding their counterinsurgency efforts by getting more deeply involved in trying to suppress the country's booming opium trade. In so doing, they are stepping into tricky territory because they risk alienating large swathes of the population that are dependent on the trade to feed themselves and their families and driving them right into the tender embrace of the Taliban.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/afghanistan-map-small.jpg
The new, more aggressive anti-drug stance will come in two forms. On one hand, NATO has committed for the first time to actively target and track down drug traffickers and heroin-processing laboratories. On the other hand, US military forces training the Afghan military will now begin accompanying Afghan soldiers as they provide force protection for Afghan government poppy eradication teams.

The more aggressive posture comes as the political and military situation in Afghanistan continues to worsen. Some 242 NATO and US troops have been killed in fighting there this year, 10 more than last year with two and a half months to go, and last year was the worst so far for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Some 33,000 US troops, including 13,000 under the command of the ISAF and 20,000 under direct US command, and nearly 40,000 NATO soldiers, are now in Afghanistan, and the Bush administration is calling for an additional 20,000 US troops to be deployed there next year.

The Taliban and related insurgents have shown increased military capabilities, in part because they are able to supply themselves with funds generated by the opium trade. The United Nations estimates that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are making perhaps $100 million a year from taxing poppy farmers and providing protection to drug traffickers.

A leaked draft of an as yet unreleased US National Intelligence Estimate last week revealed that US intelligence agencies believe the war in Afghanistan is "on a downward spiral," with part of the problem resting with a corrupt government under President Hamid Karzai and part of the problem linked to the "destabilizing impact" of the opium trade.

That deteriorating situation impelled US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to head to Europe to try to bring reluctant NATO members on board for a more aggressive anti-drug strategy last week. European countries have been reluctant to step into the morass of anti-drug efforts there, citing the risk of alienating the population and arguing that law enforcement is the responsibility of the Afghan government.

"Part of the problem that we face is that the Taliban make somewhere between $60 million and $80 million or more a year from the drug trafficking," Gates said at the NATO meeting in Budapest. "If we have the opportunity to go after drug lords and drug laboratories and try to interrupt this flow of cash to the Taliban, that seems to me like a legitimate security endeavour."

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/villageelders-small.jpg
Chronicle editor Phil Smith in formerly opium growing village near Jalalabad
By last Friday, NATO had signed on. According to a Saturday NATO press release, "Based on the request of the Afghan government, consistent with the appropriate United Nations Security Council resolutions, under the existing operational plan, ISAF can act in concert with the Afghans against facilities and facilitators supporting the insurgency, in the context of counter-narcotics, subject to authorization of respective nations."

"At the request of the Afghan government, I am grateful that the North Atlantic Council has given me the authority to expand ISAF's role in counter-narcotics operations," added NATO Supreme Allied Commander US Gen. John Craddock in a statement the same day. "We now have the ability to move forward in an area that affects the security and stability of Afghanistan. It will allow us to reduce the funding and income to the insurgents, which will enhance the force protection of all ISAF and Afghan National Security Force personnel."

That's what Gates and the Bush administration wanted to hear. "It is just going to be part of regular military operations. This is not going to be a special mission," Gates said Saturday," adding that the counter-drug effort was likely to focus on the southern part of the country. "It starts with the commander of ISAF, and then it would be a question of what forces are available. Obviously the United States and the UK are interested in doing this. I think several others would but didn't speak out," he said. "I am fairly optimistic about the future," Gates said. "There is also an understanding that NATO can't fail in Afghanistan."

To that end, the US is taking another step deeper into the Afghan drug war: Using US ground troops to help eradicate poppy fields. The London Daily Mail, among other media, reported that a small number of US soldiers who are training the country's Poppy Eradication Force will accompany their charges as they head into the poppy fields around the beginning of the new year.

The idea is to target land owned by corrupt Afghan power brokers, especially in southern Helmand province, which accounts for the majority of Afghanistan's 93% share of global opium production. That is also an area where the Taliban presence is heavily felt. Some 75 Afghan eradicators were killed last year.

"There shouldn't be any no-go areas for eradication teams in Helmand, and in order to do that they are going to need more force protection," an unnamed British embassy counter-narcotics official told the Daily Mail. "Land that's controlled by major land owners, corrupt officials or major narco-figures is land that should be targeted. Having force protection is more likely to make that possible.'"

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/poppy2.jpg
incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)
A US military spokesman told the Daily Mail there are 11 US soldiers training the Afghan Counter Narcotics Battalion in Kandahar. They will deploy along with Afghan soldiers on eradication missions, he said.

The US has long argued for stronger eradication efforts, but was rebuffed by the Karzai government when it floated the idea of aerial spraying earlier this year. But with manual eradication wiping out only 3.5% of the crop this year, pressure to do more is strong. The question is whether doing more to fight the drug trade will help or hinder the effort to build a strong, stable government in Kabul.

"This whole issue has been discussed in different forums in Afghanistan for some time now, said Sher Jah Ahmadzai, an associate at the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. "The government rejected aerial eradication for various reasons, even though it was desired by the US. But this NATO move is being welcomed by the government and the international agencies because now they are targeting the drug lords, not the farmers themselves. If you go after the farmers, it could backfire on NATO and the Afghan government, so going after the big drug lords is the viable option now. Everyone knows who they are," he said.

But not all drug lords are equal, said Ahmadzai. "There are many drug lords who are involved in the government, there are high ministers who are believed to have been drug lords before they were appointed, there are a number of people in the provincial governments who are involved, but the government is not going to go after them because that could create a backlash," he said. "But the other drug lords, the ones who are openly supporting the Taliban and Al Qaeda, they will go after them."

Only with a stronger Afghan state sometime in the future would it be feasible to actually go after all drug traffickers, said Ahmadzai. "The next phase would be strengthening the Afghan government so it can purge itself," he said.

But Ahmadzai's view is much rosier than some. Critics of the move said it would only worsen the insurgency. "The NATO governments did say they will try to target drug trafficking operations that seem to be in league with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which makes this policy shift merely unwise instead of egregiously unwise," said Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute. "But pressuring NATO and the Karzai government on this simply guarantees that we will drive many people back into the arms of the Taliban, and that's a short-sighted strategy," he argued.

"The Americans have been training Afghan counter-narcotics forces, but they were creating problems for the government because they were aiming straight at the farmers, and the farmers would go straight to the Taliban," agreed Ahmadzai. "If you go after the farmers, you risk alienating them. If you don't, the Taliban and Al Qaeda profit. It's really a double-edged sword."

"The underlying problem is that the drug trade is such a huge part of the Afghan economy," said Carpenter. "The UN says there are some 509,000 families involved in growing or other aspects of the drug trade. If you just consider a standard nuclear family, that's about 15% of the population involved in the drug trade, but when you consider that Afghanistan is very much an extended family- and clan-based society, the real number is more like a third to 40% of the population earning a livelihood off the drug trade. There is no realistic way to shut that down."

There is an alternative, said Carpenter. "US policy-makers could just look the other way, ignore the drug commerce, and focus on trying to weaken the Taliban and Al Qaeda, our mortal adversaries," he said.

While that would leave the Taliban and Al Qaeda free to fund themselves from opium profits, that's a price we would have to pay, Carpenter said. "No doubt those groups derive revenue from the drug trade, but unfortunately for our strategy, so do Karzai's allies. Most major power brokers are involved in some way with the illegal drug trade. It's such a lucrative enterprise because of the black market premium that anyone who exercises power and influence in that society is tempted to get involved."

Noting that the NATO plan to go after only traffickers linked to the insurgency would in effect remove the competition for government-linked drug traffickers, Carpenter said the decision was no surprise. "I don't think that is a deliberate motive, but to the extent that the Karzai government is interested in cooperating, it will be precisely because it will eliminate the competition for those traffickers with backing in Kabul. Expecting the Kabul government to truly suppress the trade would be like asking Japan to eliminate its auto and high-tech industries. It isn't going to happen," he said.

And deeper into the morass we go.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School