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Joe Biden's Awful Record on Drug Policy

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Among the likely choices for Obama's running mate, Joe Biden was not the person reformers were hoping to see on the democratic ticket. Radley Balko sums up Biden's drug war credentials:

…from a policy perspective, it’s a disaster. Biden has sponsored more damaging drug war legislation than any Democrat in Congress. Hate the way federal prosecutors use RICO laws to take aim at drug offenders? Thank Biden. How about the abomination that is federal asset forfeiture laws? Thank Biden. Think federal prosecutors have too much power in drug cases? Thank Biden. Think the title of a “Drug Czar” is sanctimonious and silly? Thank Biden, who helped create the position (and still considers it an accomplishment worth boasting about). Tired of the ridiculous steroids hearings in Congress? thank Biden, who led the effort to make steroids a Schedule 3 drug, and has been among the blowhardiest of the blowhards when it comes to sports and performance enhancing drugs. Biden voted in favor of using international development aid for drug control (think plan Columbia, plan Afghanistan, and other meddling anti-drug efforts that have only fostered loathing of America, backlash, and unintended consequences). Oh, and he was also the chief sponsor of 2004’s horrendous RAVE Act.

On the other hand, Biden has recently spoken out against the crack/powder sentencing disparity and introduced legislation to address that issue. Pete Guither also notes that Biden's votes on civil liberties issues have consistently improved over the years, which may be a sign that he's evolving in his thinking. But I see no evidence that Biden has ever stepped back in any meaningful sense from his rabid drug warring ways. If he's made any philosophical realignments on drug policy in general, he hasn't said so out loud.

Thus the silver-lining may be that as Vice President, Biden would no longer be serving on the judiciary committee, where he's exerted his influence in the form of the various atrocities outlined above. As VP he'd technically be losing his authority over drug policy issues, except to whatever extent Obama may seek his advice when selecting the drug czar and so forth. It's certainly possible that Obama's more enlightened views would prevail within his administration, or even that Biden's "tough on crime" credentials could provide cover for reform, but Biden would be a strange ingredient in the behind-the-scenes reform agenda that's so often attributed to Obama by liberal reformers. It was bad enough when Obama softened his reform positions to avoid attacks from the right. Will he now begin watching his step around his own running mate?

(This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Swedish view

I live in Sweden (Europe) and it is of course very interesting what is happening in the states on the drugwar, since it affects our life as well. Sweden is following the USA in almost everything concerning drugs, right now we have a big debate over here concerning a new law that will give the military possibility to scrutinize all electronics communication without any reason whatsoever. This mainly due to pressure from USA, and the main argument is fear of terror but we will definitely find every grower in the country harassed by this. At the same time the police has started to express concern about increased growing (homegrown marijuana) especially among asian immigrants. This is no coincidence this is due to pressure from US and also supported by the large group of people dependent on the repression-industry for a living.

So what happens in your country will absolutely affect us.

Mikael Forsberg

Democrat attacks for pointing out the truth

I too have noticed Mr. Biden's stand on drugs. I have read comments that people have made regarding this. It's hard to believe just how many Democrats vociferously attacked anyone who point out his actual words, deeds, and philosophy regarding the war on drugs. Obama and Biden are made for each other. Anyone who points out the documented truth about these two men are either attacked by the candidates themselves or their supporters. Name calling is common. I read supporters constantly pulling out the race card. This sickens me. Do Obama's supporters have blinders on? I don't think it's ever been about his race as far as I'm concerned. I really detest McCain. But, we have no accurate position statement from Obama/Biden on drugs and what they would do about them. This seems to be Obama's pattern. Say whatever it takes, and change your position if the previous one didn't go over well with the majority. Which makes me wonder if everything he does isn't deception. We are in a heck of a situation and have to pick the best of the worst. Obama/Biden is a disaster waiting to happen. While McCain would continue the disaster called the "War on Drugs" and the Iraq war. As for Barr, I don't trust him either. He comes across as an opportunist. He was one of our nation's most notorious drug warriors. But, became a reformer when it served his interests. How did this guy ever outmaneuver Ron Paul? It probably doesn't matter anyway. The Electoral College actually chooses our president, and it's just a matter of which party will pay this group the most to get in. Our only hope is for every voter to contact their elected officials and candidates and politely demand an end to the war on drugs. Tell them we need to install workable controls over drugs (especially cannabis) via legalization. I did this. You can, too.

you forgot to mention ralph

you forgot to mention ralph nader.

I vote for none of the above

I have no faith in either side of the presidential choices. they both are nothing but base, self serving politicians and prove the failure of the media for crushing the statistics of Dr Ron Paul out of the news when he was out performing both these two fakes.

The rest of the world thinks we are a nation of idiots and I don't see much effort on our parts to disprove them.

We are so in for a nasty comeuppance.

I will always remember

There are 2 names I remember from the 80's of democrats who were total cowards in the Reagan dark ages,especially by helping Reagan pass the crime bill of 1986,which took a huge chunk out of the constitution...
Joe Biden and Charles Rangel...I will never forgive them.

We do have choices

Because of how despicable the two "choices" are for civil rights, privacy and war, and on top of it they both want to use hundreds of billions of tax payer money to pay off criminal book cookers, there is a growing resentment against the democrats and republicans, They are trying harder than ever to black out third party options. We have 6 people running for president and vice president, who are on enough ballots to win the Electoral College.
There are a couple of strong movements to open the debates for this year, and for a non-partisan organization to take them over from the DNC/GOP puppet corporation that silences third party voices, the "Commission on Presidential debates". Obama talks about hope and change, and how we can't have the same people in Washington, but most of it's surface, and the rest of it's bad. He brings back the bad of the old, like the Brzezinski world hegemony "New Great Game" wars, the worst of the anti-civil rights drug warriors, and gives them front seat. The new he brings with him is a "volunteer draft" where militery duty is wrapped up with required "community service". This is supposed to be our alternative to McCain? I don't think so. The people can demand better.

Both Nader and McKinney would try their best to end the silly war on drugs. I see Nader having a better chance of actually pushing it through Congress. I also see him as more fiscally conservative and prudent. He has proven over the years to be able to help citizens find their voice and organize. Essentially, if Congress plays games with him on things the people really want, I'm sure he'd have no problem "telling the people on them", and letting them know just who to call for an explanation :)

Concentrate on congress and forget the office of President.

[email protected],Vancouver,B.C.Canada We all know who will be President on November 4th.The best you can do is elect people from congress or the senate who are anti drug war.Let them know your vote depends on what they do on this issue.There's a lot more to this election than the oval office.Either way there's little to look forward to there.Let Obama know at every opportunity that to prosecute the drug war would be the ultimate in hypocrisy.Biden was such a shock it took days to recover.Of all people he was the absolute worst candidate that could have been chosen.

I've heard stories of people losing yatchs for 1 jiont

Biden appears to me to be a miserable man that given any chance wlil make others people lifes miserable because his is miserable

Open Letter to every Politician in America

Dear Elected Officials,

Who’s afraid of the War on Drugs? Why are you afraid; what is there to fear? You can’t say you’re for “change” while fearing to broach the hardest subjects. Isn’t that how we ended up in this situation, at least partly? The price of prohibition is exorbitant. A Trillion dollars a year can’t be overlooked.

I’ve been searching, trying to find the politicians who support saving our country via legalization; so far I have found only two in the whole country, a Councilman in Baltimore and the Mayor of El Paso. In this economic crisis you can’t tell me that all our representatives are not having major discussions about where to spend the Trillion dollars a year that will no longer be spent on a “War”, which can end, simply through legalization! Replace Criminalization with Education and Treatment.

We don’t need politicians who are afraid to demand striking this unaffordable expenditure (even though it does NOT show up as a line item) from the budget! Fear to discuss; you’ve got to be kidding me! We need to see headlines! Details, who’s against it and who’s for it, that’s what we want. If you’re against legalization let’s hear your well researched reasons, and visa versa. But, facts are facts. Take off the blinders!

We need all of you to have open minds otherwise we are never going to recover from this living nightmare. You had better be aware of the facts. Just Google “war on drugs” and add up the real costs. You can’t just ignore it and stick your head in the sand. Every single one of you has a moral responsibility to bring the subject to the floor for discussion, immediately; no matter how much you may fear the idea.

I sure hope there are more than two of you out there and that I’ve just done a poor job researching. It’s the only idea I can come up with for an answer to our new President’s question to the American people “What are you willing to give up?” I’m willing to give up FEAR!

If we can’t get passed the fear, we’re all doomed. Come on Ladies, let the Boys panic, you know you are going to have to be the ones to start the ball rolling; it’s just what we do!

war on who??

Please vote at President Obama's Citizen's Briefing Book which is:

Share your ideas on any issue facing the new administration, then rate or comment on other ideas. The best rated ideas will rise to the top -- and be gathered into a Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in.

Idea for Change in America: End the war on drugs

why I am interested in this:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

FOIA Division
799 9th Street NW, Mint Annex

Washington, DC 20229
Tel: (202) 325-0150

RE: US CUSTOMS FOIA case# 2008f7605

Dear FOI Officer,

This is a corrected FOIA request; the first, sent January 21, 2008, was missing my birthday. See reference number above provided over the phone to us by your office.

My name is Yolanda Marina Zakzuk Pena, born January 21, 1949 and a US citizen. The information I seek, under the Freedom of Information Act and/or Privacy Act, are records related to our family business, Maritimas Internacionales Limitada, a shipping concern based out of Barranquilla, Colombia, headed by my deceased husband (please see attached death certificate and its English translation) Julio Cesar Zakzuk Villadiego (born February 18, 1926). Our company owned, from 1970 onwards, 3 Panamian flagged motor vessels which made regular calls at US ports: the motor vessel (m/v) Don Alejo, m/v Don Julio, and m/v Don Nicky.

I am requesting copies of US Customs documentation related to our ships' US visits, from 1976 onwards until the May/June 1988 visit of the m/v Don Alejo to Port Arthur, Texas, where is was seized and forfeited by the US Customs Service. Our ships regularly visited such ports as: Jacksonville, FL, New Orleans, LA., Tampa, FL., Miami, FL., West Palm Beach, FL., Galveston/Houston/Port Arthur, TX.

We specifically seek documentation related to the incidents our ships encountered after the creation of the black market in illegal drugs by the US Congress; issues such as the lower ranked seamen smuggling small quantities of cocaine into the US onboard our ships and the unjust fines levied upon our company, Maritimas Internacionales Limitada, when these men were caught while going on shore leave.

We seek all documentation related to the recruiting of my husband, Julio Cesar Zakzuk Villadiego, and our ships, by US Customs Tampa Agent Victor Thompson (somewhere around 1982-1984) at the US Customs Service Tampa office. Our 3 ships were outfitted by US government transponders and undercover US Customs officers were assigned fictitious posts onboard, included on our payrolls as cover for carrying out their Congressionally mandated task: interdicting narcotics. My husband was also directed by US Customs Tampa Agent Victor Thompson to engage drug traffickers in Colombia, trick them into placing drugs onboard our ships, and later assist in their arrest in the United States as they showed up to claim their narcotics. These operations went on for years until one of the US Customs undercover agents onboard our ship was discovered to be an informant and, with his cover blown and at risk of imminent assassination, knocked on our door in the middle of the night one step ahead of his would be assassins. My husband had him whisked out of the country by his sons. This incident brought to a close the pro-active cooperation onboard our ships leaving my husband with dozens of enemies and Mr. Thompson with a chest full of medals. We seek all documentation relating to this cooperation provided, every last detail.

We seek documentation related to the Spring 1987 US bound voyage of the m/v Don Alejo during which, mid-voyage, as was standard operating procedure onboard all our ships before and after the time span when US Customs agents were onboard our ships, an inspection was conducted which, as was almost always the case, turned up cocaine. The cocaine was dissolved and dumped into the sea and an Act was recorded in the ship's log. We seek copies of the notification given US Customs upon arrival at the Port of West Palm Beach of the incident, which later led to the kidnapping and torture of my husband, as recorded by our hometown newspaper, El Heraldo in May 1987:

This incident led to our exile to Miami, FL., and the loss of control of our ships. During our exile, the emergency ad-hoc management left in place misused our ships, that id true, but we can provide information which proves our innocence, which was what should have been allowed to be ascertained in a court of law, as any decent law abiding country which respects Due Process required.

We seek documentation related to the seizure and forfeiture, whether administrative or judicial, of the m/v Don Alejo during its visit to Port Arthur Texas in June 1988.

We also seek documentation related to US Customs Agent Victor Thompson requesting the United States Department of State to cancel my husband's and my US visas while the forfeiture process was ongoing denying us Due Process.

We seek copies of all documentation of the US Customs Internal Affairs investigation prompted by my husband's letters to then US President George H.W. Bush, including copies of the letter itself should US Customs have one in its possession. We seek copies of all documentation created by the investigation and subsequent meeting in Curacao between my husband Julio Cesar Zakzuk Villadiego and US Customs Internal Affairs agents, including whatever review they completed along with their conclusions for denying our family, this family that was destroyed by your fake "war" on drugs, any relief.

Which brings us back to our last request: subsequent to the seizure, cancellation of our visas, forfeiture, either administrative or judicially, US Customs, instigated through the Dept. of State a witch hunt against my husband and his good name in Colombia. Why a federal government agency, claiming the pursuit of justice as its stated objective, did not arrest us and try us when we were here in the United States after the seizure of the ship attempting to get legal counsel, if it had an accusation to make against us why did they not arrest us and give us a trial as any nation that claims to follow Due Process would have done. No, they just wanted our ship and then went on to smear our good name; a reputation built over 40 years as honest ship-owners, because they could get away with it, because my husband did not speak English and was a foreigner with scant knowledge of how things really worked under the so-called "war" on drugs, with all the out of control and corrupt politicians sponsoring this black market for them. Not even 6 months had passed from the cancellation of our visas than the US Consulate in Barranquilla "bestowed" a recognition as leading ship-owner in Colombia to a friend of my husband's with a much smaller shipping concern of much less trajectory, in order to deflect attention.

We seek all documents that mention my husband and I, or our ships, under any alias, in any databases or archive system in any format held. We are willing to pay any amount in order to obtain copies.


Yolanda de Zakzuk
Majority stockholder
Maritimas Internacionales Limitada
US Passport # 045624765
Issued: May 22, 1999
At the Miami US Passport office

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