Rep. Engel Introduces Bill to Create Independent Drug Policy Commission

This looks promising:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congressman Eliot L. Engel – the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere – has introduced the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2009, a bill that will create an independent commission to evaluate US policies and programs aimed at reducing illicit drug supply and demand.

"Billions upon billions of US taxpayer dollars have been spent over the years to fight the drug war in Latin America and the Caribbean," says Engel. "In spite of our efforts, since the early 1980s, the number of US lifetime drug users has steadily risen for marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Clearly, the time has come to reexamine our counternarcotics efforts here at home and throughout the Americas." [LAHT]

Great. Let's do that. Let's reexamine the hell out of this. Good idea.

But I can't wait to see who comes forward to oppose the idea of examining our drug policy and trying to make it less bad. Amazingly, there will be people in Congress who come forward to argue that our drug policy is awesome the way it is and we should be proud that so many people are getting killed because that means things are really getting good.

By the way, Rep. Engel who introduced this bill is a strange character who voted the right way on the Hinchey Amendment (to end mmj raids) every single time, but also introduced legislation to ban selling prosthetic penises used to cheat on drug tests.
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National Institute for Drug Policy Reform

We need cold hard facts. The more number crunching that happens, this nightmare will end for many people but it will not be easy.

Many parties want to keep a lid on the mess they have created in our cities. Look at cities like El Paso who have never participated in a state or federally-funded youth drug use survey to monitor the effectiveness of drug interdiction while Congressman Reyes obstructs any talk of examining the effectiveness of our drug policies. Look at states like Florida who do not make their drug arrest numbers available to the public. Look at the EPA who will not release their raw sewage drug test results for cities around the country because they want to protect their image. Look at the many schools who randomly drug test students but never brag about the results each year, which is usually ~1% of students tested come back positive.

Drug testing school kids and locking up thousands of people is awesome to the politicians and bureaucrats as long as nobody is ever held accountable for the results.

Foreign Relations?

The Foreign Relations Committees are among the most ardent drug war supporting committees in congress.

I can understand your cynicism on this one Scott. We need to see the legislation.

Coming out of Foreign Relations is very suspect.

And why aren't the House Democrats simply supporting Sen. Webb's S-714?

My natural paranoia toward congress tells me that this is an effort to undermine S-714 in that it will not look at the domestic drug war injustices. And in the end the commission would claim a lack of authority to change since the U.S. is simply adhering to international laws. International laws that WE imposed in the first place.

Before I would support this bill I would want to see some interviews providing us with the motivations and perspective of its author and co-sponsors.

ENGEL INTRODUCES BILL (from the Engel site)

ENGEL INTRODUCES BILL TO ASSESS U.S. NARCOTIC POLICY

Washington, D.C.--Congressman Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) Tuesday introduced bi-partisan legislation to create an independent commission to evaluate US policies and programs aimed at reducing illicit drug supply and demand.

Rep. Engel, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said, “America has spent billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars over the years to fight the drug war in Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet, since the early 1980s, the number of American lifetime drug users has steadily risen for marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Clearly, the time has come to reexamine our counternarcotics efforts here at home and throughout the Americas.”

The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission, to be established by the legislation, will submit recommendations on future US drug policy to Congress, the Secretary of State, and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) a year after its first meeting.

Rep. Engel – who is also a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health – added, “To tackle our nation’s horrific drug problem once and for all, we cannot simply look to solutions on the supply side. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it best in Mexico City recently when she noted that ‘our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.’ The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission will assess all aspects of the drug war – including prevention and treatment.”

While the United States has approximately 5 percent of world population, an estimated 17.2 percent of the world’s users of illegal drugs were from the United States. 100 percent of the United States cocaine supply, and 90 percent of the United States heroin supply originates in South America. In addition, the countries of Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico are key transit countries for drugs entering the US.

Representatives Connie Mack (R-FL), Howard Berman (D-CA), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Dan Burton (R-IN) and Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) joined Congressman Engel as original co-sponsors of the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2009.

=========================

This bill has not yet been introduced into the record. Everything about this says its the drug warriors looking to subvert and undermine Jim Webb's S-714.

H.R.2134

Has not been printed yet so there is no text to parse.

Regardless of what i wrote earlier, the fact is that the congress is so backed into a corner on the drug war that there are TWO bills in the congress to examine the efficacy of the drug war. Combined these two bills could shine a glaring light on the failures of the drug war, both foreign and domestic.

And this puts the drug war squarely in the U.S. congress which is where I have always believes the fight should be. The shit is hitting the fan for the drug war.

Drug Policy Commission Act is Suspicious

Besides Congressman Engel, other sponsors of the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2009 include “Representatives Connie Mack (R-FL), Howard Berman (D-CA), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Bill Delahunt (D-MA), Dan Burton (R-IN), Robert Wexler (D-FL), and Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR).”

Dan Burton (R-IN) is a veteran drug warrior whose views on the drug war may or may not have been moderated by the fact that he faced humiliation at being forced to beg for mercy before a judge on behalf of his busted, drug-dealing son.

And then there’s this: “Under the new legislation, the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission will be required to submit recommendations on future US drug policy to Congress, the Secretary of State, and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) 12 months after its first meeting.”

Despite dubious claims that the study will focus on “all aspects” of the drug war (given its huge number of different aspects), the legislation appears directed at intra-agency policy making with no guarantee that there will be a non-moralizing, objective scientific inquiry into the disastrous ripple effects of drug prohibition. Without further details regarding who and what the study might entail, its goals remain suspect.

My Concerns too

I have the impression that this House bill is a counter move by the prohibs in congress.

Until I see the legislation and know for sure though I will support the fact that there are actually two pieces of legislation in the congress at the same time that purport to endeavor a critical look at the drug war.

The deeper point is that there is so much debate going on in the halls of congress that there are efforts to stake claim to positions. Or, out of fear of losing control, co-opt the positions of others. That is what introducing legislation is, an effort to stake claim to a position. There is big shit going on in congress. That fact alone is a powerful advance for reform.

UPDATE

Pete at Drugwarrant has a quote from Engel that makes it clear that the House effort is a prohib counter-attack to Sen. Webb's S-714.

Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission

"Let me be absolutely clear that this bill has not been introduced to support the legalization of illegal drugs. That is not something that I would like to see, nor is it my intent to have the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission come to that conclusion."

This bill is a prohib counter-attack. An attempt to regain control of the debate. Fuck them!.

DO NOT support this bill

This is the House's version of Jim Webb's bill, except this is meant to stop any of what Webb's bill might conclude from becoming policy. How?

Some quotes:

Engel, one of the bill's co-sponsors, on the bill:
"Let me be absolutely clear that this bill has not been introduced to support the legalization of illegal drugs. That is not something that I would like to see, nor is it my intent to have the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission come to that conclusion."

Mack, one of the bill's co-sponsors, on what needs to be done (And my translation in parentheses):
"To effectively suppress the growing drug trade, we need to launch a full-scale effort that tackles the demand for – as well as the supply of – these illicit substances. (More drug courts for users, more DEA agents for traffickers, sellers, etc.) This legislation takes an important first step that will help the U.S. improve its counternarcotics programs in a way that will keep Americans from fueling the drug trade and keep our youth from going down the dangerous path of abuse and addiction. (I'm not even sure if I buy what I'm saying, but I clearly, for some reason, believe that not only can illicit substances be only abused, and not used in moderation, but I also believe that somehow the US government can defeat the laws of supply and demand.) I am pleased to join my colleagues in this very important effort and look forward to continuing to work to end the cycle of drug abuse and addiction that devastates so many families across America and the world. (Although it hasn't worked before, this will, if nothing else, make sure that prohibitionists have something to point to after Jim Webb's findings embarrass them.)"

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