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Drug Policy at WhiteHouse.gov

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President Obama’s new WhiteHouse.gov site has several drug policy related items worth noting:

* End Racial Profiling: President Obama and Vice President Biden will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.
* Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support: President Obama and Vice President Biden will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama and Biden will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
* Eliminate Sentencing Disparities: President Obama and Vice President Biden believe the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.
* Expand Use of Drug Courts: President Obama and Vice President Biden will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.
...
The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.


Seeing racial profiling, sentencing reform and needle exchange on the White House website ain’t bad at all. If these are the issues the new administration is prepared to address immediately, that’s a respectable forward step for criminal justice reform.

Heck, its decent enough that I wonder why his transition team didn’t mash this together into a response to that tricky drug war question they so blatantly dodged over at Change.gov. Regardless, it’s interesting to consider these policy statements in light of the unresolved drug czar selection process. Any candidate who embraces this stuff would be a major improvement to be sure.

Unfortunately, the site isn’t completely devoid of tough-guy drug war talk:

Obama and Biden will demand the Afghan government do more, including cracking down on corruption and the illicit opium trade.

Thus, despite the positive steps outlined above, Obama still suffers from the notion that drug prohibition can be a stabilizing force in international politics. This will prove to be our greatest obstacle under the new administration, as we’ve heard nothing encouraging from Obama with regards to international drug policy and things are getting damn ugly out there.
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Most marijuana arrests are for racial minorities

If Obama wants to end racial profiling, he can start with NYC, and the NYPD's use of marijuana busts targeting black or hispanic neighborhood exclusively.

NYC has the highest rate of marijuana arrests in the USA, and when a person is arrested, they are usually charged with a Class E felony, even if it's under a gram. If it's the person's first arrest, which is usually is - they will get a conditional discharge where the charge is dismissed after a few months.

It allows the NYPD arresting officers to generate huge amounts of overtime, it's safe for the officer, and it allows the city to have high arrest numbers to sell the public.

If Obama is serious, this is one area he can target.

"most marijuana arrests..."

good comment! We've got to keep the pressure up

Ahh...playing it safe

For one, I hope that when they decide to end the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing, they don't do it by increasing the penalties for powder cocaine to match those of crack cocaine. It wouldn't surprise me...

Then, these drug courts are a bad idea! They are simply one more way to get offenders in the system, in order to keep the tax dollars flowing to anti-drug efforts. I don't think they are so much out to help people; I think the jails are overflowing and they had to come up with a way to keep these people in the system. They make no distinction between use and abuse, and in my experience (I have a sister in DTC) the only people who really pay for the "offender's" actions are the family members. Not to mention the many Consitutional and other legal rights coercees are robbed of.

The new Presidency can do far, far better than this. It will take a large measure of courage and intestinal fortitude. Until they start dismantling the Drug War from the top down, nothing will really change, except maybe on paper. These are band-aids trying to stifle a gaping wound.

I will give them kudos for the needle exchange program. That is a very pragamatic and effective solution to a serious Prohibition-fueled problem. IV drug abusers already pay dearly for their addictions. I, for one, don't think there is any need to punish them further by disallowing them access to clean supplies that will prevent them from contracting hepatitis and HIV. It will also save millions on health care costs.

Matt_Potter's picture

ditto

I had pretty much those same thoughts, in that order. Crack sentences need to be DRASTICALLY reduced, otherwise it is a change for the worse. Drug courts I'm torn on. I don't think they're a reasonable solution by any means.

Needle exchanges are good, and I hope that he actually pushes for federal funding to needle exchange programs. If needle exchanges start popping up all over the country and producing good, tangible results in communities, will that help make the case for decrim/legalization? I'd like to think so.

Matt
--
Matt Potter

Thanks for the reply, Matt!

I see you're up in NC, lucky man, lucky. I was stationed at Bragg, and I miss being so close to the mountains...

You're correct about the needle exchanges. Though I strongly support full legalization, I guess anything that softens and humanizes our drug policy is a good thing!

I once spent some time in Vancouver, BC in 1999-2000. Cannabis was de facto decriminalized, and drug use was tolerated to a much greater degree than here in the states. People sold whatever you wanted out of tackleboxes converted to mini-street pharmacies.

I remember smoking a joint (I quit several years ago:) and watching a beat cop stroll by. As Americans, me and my buddy started panicking and going nuts...then he said "hello guys, beautiful day, eh?" We were like "yes, sir!" It really opened my eyes to how much better things would be for everyone if we took a more liberty-oriented approach to drugs. Our hard-ass, lock 'em up system is going to implode, it's only a matter of time.

Going further on Vancouver, though...Insite wasn't around yet, and the one upsetting thing is that were a lot of IV drug addicts pushing on the streets. We need places like Insite that give out needles and provide secure places to inject cocaine and heroin. We also need to go one further - supply them with pharmaceutical-grade drugs and ample means for addicts to get help when they are ready to VOLUNTEER for it!

I enjoyed reading your reply - keep up the good work with SSDP, you're reaching people at that critical time when their brains are free-thinking and receptive to logic.

Ex-offender support

If he can address this successfully, our crime rate will go down drastically. Here in CA, we have a 2/3 recidivism rate because we have an insane parole system, no rehabilitation, no education or job training in prisons, and many other problems. If he does that and makes it so then first time non violent offenders don't get prison time that'd be pretty damn good. I too am surprised he didn't put that as his answer to the drug war question. Also, in his pdf version of this section that is (was?) on his election website he talked more about looking into ending mandatory minimum sentencing all together. It'd be awesome if he pushed for that too. As a black civil rights lawyer, he definitely knows the problems of the criminal justice system and drug policy, but we'll see how much he pushes for changes.

Rishi Malhotra

Profiling

Words, especially coming from politicians, mean nothing. Actual results mean everything.

I'm all in favor of ending racial profiling (and preventing reverse racial profiling), but how can that effectively be done?

Will real criminals who are racial minorities be let go to avoid profiling and satisfy incentives?

Will more of the racial majority be wrongfully thrown into prison just to pull in money for the legal system?

Like most regulations (e.g. Controlled Substances Act), I see no rational way to regulate racism.

Obama's plan sounds like another taxpayer expense that sounds good, but really produces a negative societal result.

Drug Courts

I think something has to be done about these "drug courts".They may benefit hard drug users who are addicted but sentencing marijuana users to rehab is just a sham that makes the courts look compassionate but is just as much a burden to marijuana users as jail time.Marijuana is not addictive and any rehab center that claims they can "rehab" someone off marijuana is a fraud.Marijuana use is not a disease.

The Question

I have already sent "that tricky drug war question" to whitehouse.gov.

Drug Courts Promote Crack over MJ

Drug courts are bad for reasons stated above, plus their implicit encouragement of crack use -- since cocaine flushes out of the body easier then MJ.

They make NO distinction between use and abuse, or timing of drug use, or of drug form, treating coca tea the same as crack.

Thereby the drug courts are a scam.

Letter to Obama

After visiting the new White House web site I have to say that it was everything that I expected from this right-wing pandering administration. Vacuous and parroting the same tired status quo crap we have heard for more than a generation.

On Tuesday I wrote a letter to our incoming president that I posted at:

http://mysite.verizon.net/aahpat/obama.htm

Your too can write to the White House. Feel free to crib any or all of the letter as you wish.

[email protected]

If they don't hear it from us they won't hear it.

TV SHOW TONIGHT, THURSDAY 1/22/2009

There will be a show on CNBC business news at 9pm EST tonight titled "Marijuana Inc." about America's marijuana industry.

Not bad for a first full day on the Job!

I am impressed with President Obama's first full day on the job. He closed Guantanamo and became more humane toward drug offenders, all in a single day! Imagine what he can do in four years and maybe even eight?

No doubt that the President inherits some of the largest messes known to mankind: economy, war, dollar weakness, recession... I'm sure marijuana legalization might be down the pipe line, but not an immediate issue. Pot although first on the minds of people (change.org and gov), I think Obama is showing some positive change toward using prisons. I am indeed hopeful that drug reform like this is consistent throughout the term of the administration. And who knows, if the economy starts cranking, and Obama team solves our crisis, then pot consumers might be finally set free!

Obama lawyerspeak

End Racial Profiling

Start busting white folks at a more equal rate to black Americans.

Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support
More mandatory rehab. Both in and after prison. More intense probation and parole supervision. Less actual use of probation and parole so that states don't look like they are releasing recidivists.

Eliminate Sentencing Disparities

So that they can get away with busting more white kids for cocaine powder.

Expand Use of Drug Court

Separate justice for drug convictions that is always unequal.

====
This is how these issues actually translated here in Pennsylvania last year when prison costs and over-crowding became an issue in the legislature.

This is also how Obama actually referred to these issues when he spoke about them at all during the campaign.

Don't be fooled by lawyers with silver tongues.

What speaks loudest

on the White House site is what is NOT said.

Obama and his gang of thugs continue to talk about the disease of addiction as a crime rather than as the disease that it is.

As long as addiction is addressed, by the government, as a crime rather than as the genetic based disease that it is the mantra will be more police state and prisons as the primary cure and solution. Anarchy promoting authoritarianism will continue to rule the debate rather than public health, democratic regulatory institutions and constitutional social justice values.

speaks loudest

A lot of what you wrote is correct, but you misused the word "anarchy". Anarchy does NOT promote authoritarianism, those two words are opposites. Anarchy simply means without hierarchical leadership.

Backwards

I have to correct your correction.

I did not say that anarchy promotes authoritarianism. I said that authoritarianism promotes anarchy. Authoritarianism being the public policy and anarchy being its outcome.

Authoritarianism promotes anarchy because authoritarianism does not allow for reasoned democratic regulatory alternatives. Authoritarianism, such as prohibition, is absolutist which promotes anarchic criminal opportunity between the cracks of policy extremes.

As long as the U.S. government

be it Democrat or Republican led, treats addiction as a crime rather than as a disease they are treating an unpopular genetic malady and distinction in the same way that Hitler treated unpopular genetic maladies and distinctions.

Adding More to Drug Law Reform

Drug courts, supporting ex-offenders, ending racial profiling, advocating clean needle exchanges, and so forth; are already in the legislative pipelines in one stage of progress or another.  The stages of progress depend upon specific locations and the corresponding regional politics.  Other than bestowing some official Federal blessing on these programs, much more can be done.

Radically reorganizing or abolishing the DEA, ONDCP and NIDA is necessary if we are to stop these rogue agencies from thwarting the will of the people.  These and other drug warrior bureaucracies block inexpensive, effective medical treatments, and all related research and development on illicit drugs that might bypass the commercial interests of Big Pharma.  The agencies not only interfere with fair and equitable justice, they thwart the democratic process designed to remedy the problems they create.  The hardliners in these organizations who consistently block harm reduction drug policies are little better than serial killers.  Government serial killers should at least be reassigned or shown the door, if not jailed for life.

The idea that a cabal of moralizing psychopaths can dominate entire government agencies and thereby use these entities to inflict their personal political and religious dogma onto their unwilling victims flies in the face of everything constitutional law and democratic rule stands for.   A free society by definition cannot tolerate this kind of tyranny.  There can be no other choice but the complete abolition of the drug warrior culture.

Giordano

"Jam the phone lines" day

It's time for a good old fashioned smoke in. Dominating the discussion at change.org, writing letters to the editor, emailing the White House and Congress, have failed to effect legalization. A well planned and organized smoke in (maybe using fake joints), if as well attended as the numbers would indicate, would at least get their attention, especially if coordinated with a phone in, and email campaign that flooded the Capital all on the same day.

We need to give them time to deal with the things they consider more pressing at this time, and give ourselves time to organize and plan.

I'm thinking we could have brochures and displays about the harm the laws cause, the lives ruined for no reason, the benefits of legalization - including the energy saving aspects of pot, etc.

Sending in a form letter email isn't the best way either. OTOH, some are more articulate than others, so if some who are good writers, and were well informed on the costs, benefits, and just plain justice were to write them it wouldn't appear as much like one massive effort.

This idea just came to me, and definitely needs more discussion and fleshing out. Thanks for your time.

Me above. TrudyAC

I didn't mean to be anonymous.

[email protected]

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