The Speakeasy Blog

EXPENSIVE DRUGS ARE MORE OF WHICH YOUR YOU IMAGINE THEY COST THE LIFE

HELLO ADOLFO HORNA SALUTES TO THEM PRESIDENT OF THE THERAPEUTIC CIVIL ASSOCIATION PROFESSIONALIZED “RIO MARAÑON”, INSTITUTION THAT WORKS IN DRUGSDEPENS IN CHICLAYO - PERU I INVITE TO THE PEOPLE AND INSTITUTIONS THAT THEY WANT TO REPRESENT IN YOURS CITIES OR COUNTRIES TO US AND TO COLLABORATE WITH THIS AIM, TO WORK AND TO FORM AN ALLIANCE WITHOUT DRUGS. I HOPE TO COUNT ON ITS SUPPORT TO FORTIFY OUR INSTITUTION AND TO BE WORKING JOINTLY BY A CLEAN WORLD [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected]
Location: 
United States

Blasphemy: College Reporter Quotes Us in Defense of the HEA Drug Provision

Ordinarily a lame anti-drug editorial in a college paper would escape our attention. Not this time. Nicki Croly of The State Hornet in Sacramento uses statistics from our website in defense of the HEA drug provision:

Some people would argue that this law makes it even harder for minorities to get a college education. This argument is invalid because according to www.stopthedrugwar.com, there are no statistics indicating that African-Americans use drugs at a higher rate.

Croly’s interpretation of this statistic is just plain wrong. It’s true that drug use among African-Americans is equal on average to that of Whites. But arrests, convictions, and punishments such as the denial of financial aid for college are imposed upon people of color at alarmingly disproportionate rates.

Furthermore, I highly doubt that our site mentions drug use rates among African-American without also noting the disparity with regards to arrests, convictions, and sentencing. For example, here’s a statement from our HEA talking points page:

Minorities are disproportionately affected by the HEA drug provision. While African Americans make up 13% of the population and 13% of drug users, they account for 55% of all drug convictions. The disparate racial impact of drug law enforcement will inevitably spread into the realm of higher education via this law. Accordingly, minority groups have far higher percentages of their members who are ineligible for federal
financial aid than whites. Currently, more African American men are in prison than in college.

So yes, the HEA drug provision absolutely hurts minorities more than anyone else. But that’s just one of a whole host of problems created by this counterproductive law. Here’s ten more:

  1. College education is proven to reduce drug use. Therefore, forcing students out of college obviously and undeniably increases drug use overall.
  2. The HEA drug provision only affects good students. If you’re getting bad grades you can’t get aid anyway.
  3. Students arrested for drugs get punished in court. It’s not like they’re getting away with anything.
  4. Many students misunderstand the rules and give up on college even though they’re actually eligible. Their lives are changed forever.
  5. Taking away opportunities from students sends a message that we don't want them to succeed in life. All students must be encouraged, not pushed down.
  6. Regaining eligibility by completing rehab is often impossible because it’s more expensive than school. Nor does getting busted for drugs necessarily mean that you need rehab.
  7. Most HEA victims were busted for small time marijuana possession. Casual marijuana use has nothing to do with success in college. Trust me.
  8. The HEA drug provision fails to address the most significant drug problem on college campuses: alcohol.
  9. The HEA drug provision only targets low-income students. These are the very people the HEA is supposed to help.
  10. Judges already have the authority to revoke financial aid. If a judge meets the student in court and doesn’t want to revoke aid, we should respect that decision.

The HEA drug provision causes drug abuse by driving students away from school and towards drugs. If you support the HEA drug provision, you support drug abuse.
Location: 
United States

Is it my breath? or the travails of alternative advocacy journalism.

Sometimes I feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of alternative advocacy journalism. I just don’t get no respect, especially from drug reform foes (for some reason). The two big stories I'm working on this week are the marijuana initiatives in Colorado and Nevada, where big fights are brewing. Here is a list of people or organizations involved in trying to defeat the initiatives who either refused to talk to me or failed to respond to repeated calls about their efforts: The Denver DEA—their public information officer is out of town this week, and I must go through him. Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton's office—they recommended I talk to other opponents. Rob McGuire of Stop Amendment 44—three calls went unreturned. The Delta/Montrose County Drug Task Force—I'm still waiting for that return call. Las Vegas Police Lt. Stan Olsen—didn’t respond to two calls. The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce—no response to two calls. The North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce—no response to one call. The Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce—no response to two calls. The spokesman for Nevada Communities Against Marijuana—no phone number listed on the web site, no response to two email requests. I would like to incorporate what they say into my articles, I really would. But I can't make 'em talk to me. Sometimes when this occurs, I grab a quote from some publication they deemed talk-worthy. Other times, I just say "fuck 'em;" they get to spew their bullshit in enough venues already. Plus, I usually know what they're going to say anyway. Still, even advocacy journalism strives for balance--if it wants to be good advocacy journalism--and if I had my druthers, I'd be talking to these folks.
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United States

No Kidding: DEA Says MJ Legalization Initiative Could Result in MJ Legalization

Reformers may have jumped the gun in condemning DEA’s opposition to Colorado's marijuana legalization initiative. If they're gonna keep saying stuff like this, I say we hear ‘em out.

From CBS 4 in Denver:

"There aren't enough federal resources on the entire planet to handle ounce size marijuana possession," Jeffrey Sweetin, a DEA agent said. "Your viewers should understand if this passes, we're really legitimately legalizing an ounce of marijuana. They're not going to be prosecuted."

That’s the point, silly. If the citizens of Colorado decide to stop arresting each other for marijuana, you’re not supposed to show up and ruin everything. Thank goodness there aren’t enough federal resources to do it, but that’s beside the point.

His observation is helpful though, because it illustrates the impracticality of enforcing federal laws that conflict with state-level reforms. It’s an argument for our side, and I can’t imagine why he’s using it.

Give ‘em enough rope…

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United States

Pot Politics

It's going to be a lot of pot politics in the Drug War Chronicle this week. With the November elections now little more than a month away, there are developments in both Colorado and Nevada, the two states where measures that would free the weed are on the ballot. In Colorado, SAFER Colorado campaign director Mason Tvert is debating Colorado Attorney General John Suthers today.

In Nevada, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana reported late last week that its internal polling shows its initiative leading by a margin of 49% to 43%. I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, this will be the breakthrough year where we actually win a legalize marijuana campaign. But now, organized opposition is starting to rear its ugly head in both states. This week, I'll be reporting on both states, and I'll be trying to talk to some of these opponents and some neutral observers as well as the usual suspects.

Pot Politics: Marijuana and the Costs of Prohibition is also the title of a new book edited by SUNY-Albany psychology professor Mitch Earleywine. It includes chapters by a number of folks who should be familiar to readers of the Chronicle, including Marijuana Policy Project communications director Bruce Mirken, the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative's Charles Thomas, and marijuana economist Jeffrey Miron. My review copy just arrived, but I intend to suck it down in the next couple of days and have a review ready for this pot-heavy issue.

My boss, Dave Borden, will grumble. We are the Drug Reform Coordination Network, not the Marijuana Reform Coordination Network, he will point out. He will want some balance, something about harm reduction or sentencing or treatment. Well, we'll get some of that this week, but it'll just be in the news briefs. This is a marijuana week.

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United States

Cory Maye to be Re-sentenced!

Huge news from Radley Balko. Cory Maye’s attorney Rhonda Cooper was found incompetent during the sentencing phase, which means Maye’s death sentence is vacated, at least for now.

For anyone unfamiliar with the case, Cory Maye was sentenced to death in Mississippi after fatally shooting a police officer who he mistook for a burglar. Maye lived alone with his infant daughter and had no criminal record. The raid appears to have been a mistake, but Maye’s apparent attempt to defend his home and daughter led to a murder conviction and a now-vacated death sentence.

Balko’s article in Reason Magazine provides an in-depth look at the case, which I’d argue is one of the most compelling stories of injustice yet to emerge from our disastrous war on drugs.

Read the article
, then check out Balko’s blog The Agitator for on-going coverage of Maye’s appeal. There's a lot happening with the case over the next couple weeks , so this is a great time to get caught up.

 

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United States

Hilarious Video: The Hazards of Covering the Drug Beat

Now, I don't know if this is real or not, but it is quite amusing. The video clip shows a British journalist attempting to file his report from the scene of a massive drug burn. He has some problems. This has been floating around for awhile, but I think it's worth posting here. Enjoy. WARNING: This link goes to a web site that features naked or semi-naked people. If you are offended (or easily distracted) by such images, you might not want to go there. Sorry about that; it was the only link I could find. NOTE: When I go to the link, the page appears blank at first even though you hear the sound. Wait a few seconds for the page to load completely, then scroll down a bit to get to the video screen.
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Colombia

Barnett Rubin Lectures the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Afghan Opium

On Thursday, I crossed back into the US from British Columbia and spent the day listening to all the back and forth over Chavez's "devil" comments as I drove across Washington, Idaho, and Montana. About 4am, I checked into a motel in Broadus, Montana—which is about 150 miles from nowhere in any direction—flipped on the tube, and lo and behold, there was Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin giving the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a tutorial on the complications of US Afghan policy. What really caught my attention was Rubin's closing remarks. Unfortunately, the C-Span video link to Rubin's remarks isn't working as I type these words (but perhaps is by the time you are reading them; give it a try), but the good professor basically lectured the committee on the foolishness of attempting to wipe out the opium crop. Addressing the senators as if they were a group of callow undergrads at a seminar, Rubin explained that the only way to deal with the opium problem was to regulate and control it. That caused Sen. Frank Lugar (R-IN) to stir himself from his lizard-like torpor long enough to mutter something to the effect that "this is a big issue for another day." Here is what Rubin had to say in his prepared remarks:
"The international drug control regime, which criminalizes narcotics, does not reduce drug use, but it does produce huge profits for criminals and the armed groups and corrupt officials who protect them. Our drug policy grants huge subsidies to our enemies. As long as we maintain our ideological commitment to a policy that funds our enemies, however, the second-best option in Afghanistan is to treat narcotics as a security and development issue. The total export value of opiates produced in Afghanistan has ranged in recent years from 30 to 50 percent of the legal economy. Such an industry cannot be abolished by law enforcement. The immediate priorities are massive rural development in both poppy-growing and non-poppy-growing areas, including roads and cold storage to make other products marketable; programs for employment creation through rural industries; and thoroughgoing reform of the ministry of the interior and other government agencies to root out the major figures involved with narcotics, regardless of political or family connections. "News of this year’s record crop is likely to increase pressure from the US Congress for eradication, including aerial spraying. Such a program would be disastrously self-defeating. If we want to succeed in Afghanistan, we have to help the rural poor (which is almost everyone) and isolate the leading traffickers and the corrupt officials who support them."
What he actually said at the end of his testimony was even stronger. Check it out if that damned C-Span link ever actually works.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Hamid Karzai: Afghanistan Not a Narco-State

I caught an awkward exchange on Meet the Press this Morning between Tim Russert and Afghan President Hamid Karzai:

Tim Russert: Is Afghanistan becoming a narco-state?

Hamid Karzai: No…

I find both the question and the answer problematic. It should have gone more like this:

Tim Russert: So, quite a narco-state you’ve got over there, huh?

Hamid Karzai: Yeah, no kidding…

In fairness, Karzai subsequently acknowledged that he’s got a major opium cultivation problem on his hands. Still, you gotta wonder what a narco-state looks like if Afghanistan isn’t one.

Among his excuses for this year’s explosion in Afghan opium cultivation was the observation that poppies seem resistant to drought conditions.  I didn’t know that, but it doesn’t surprise me. Drug plants tend to grow vigorously; yet another reason that sending soldiers after them is a ridiculous waste of time.

Maybe we should utilize these resilient flowers instead of fighting over them.


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United States

Be careful who you hang out with, Joe…we’re watching.

From the Journal Inquirer in Connecticut:

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman on Wednesday attended a fundraiser in Florida organized by a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, a top aide to the senator confirmed.

Lieberman's communications director, Dan Gerstein, said the reception held at Mel Sembler's St. Petersburg offices - where guests were asked to contribute a minimum of $1,000 to the three-term incumbent's battle against Greenwich Democrat Ned Lamont - went like "gangbusters."

Joe Lieberman is again publicly palling around with Mel Sembler of Mel and Betty Sembler, the mega-prohibitionists responsible for many atrocities (i.e. Straight, Inc.) and who are funding Calvina Fay’s current attack on SAFER and marijuana law reform in Colorado.

TAKE NOTE: According to Allen St. Pierre at NORML, Mel and Betty Sembler also used to help fund Lieberman and Bill Bennett's Empower America's anti-drug junkets and speaking gigs. If Lieberman wins re-election, prohibitionists like the Semblers will continue to have strong access to influential members of the House and Senate.

Want to know more about the Semblers? Read an article by Arnold Trebach, the “Grand Old Man” of drug policy reform and good friend of Stop the Drug War (DRCNet).

As always, Radley Balko at The Agitator also has some great stuff on this.

And plenty more can be found here and here .

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United States

NY Police Handcuff Children and Shoot a Dog all for a $60 Bag of Pot

With Radley Balko busy uncovering conspiracies in Mississippi I guess I’ll address this week’s paramilitary policing disaster:

From the Times-Union in Albany, NY:

A police strike team raided a woman's Prospect Street apartment and handcuffed her children and killed her dog early Tuesday in a $60 pot bust.

The woman called it excessive force and a case of mistaken identity, but officers said they stormed the home for a good reason: One of her sons was selling marijuana there.


Woodyear said she is appalled about the way her children were treated -- and said her 12-year-old daughter was hit with pepper spray.

The dog, a pit bull terrier named Precious, urinated on the floor in fear and tried to run from the police before it was killed, Woodyear said.

Police said the animal was aggressive and left them no choice but to shoot.

Elijah Bradley said he awoke to find armed men in his home. "They had the shotgun in my face," the 11-year-old said. "I punched at him. I didn't know who he was."

Apparently they're trying to send us a message:

"The moral of the story is: If you don't want officers barging into your house with their guns drawn, don't let drug dealers stay with you and deal drugs out of your apartment," [Police Lt.] Frisoni said.

If only it were that simple. Alas, innocence is no protection against police violence.

Ultimately, if you don’t want officers barging into your house with their guns drawn, you can begin by contacting your legislators, supporting reform, and taking a stand against the vicious war that encourages our public servants to shoot dogs and pepper-spray innocent children.

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United States

Spying on Rock Festivals: High-Tech Hidden Surveillance at Wakarusa

UPDATE: Drug War Chronicle story about this incident online now. We wrote about police harassment of attendees at the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival when the event occurred in June, but little did we know that was only the tip of the iceberg. Now, thanks to the bragadoccio of a high-tech surveillance equipment manufacturer and a resultant puff piece in an industry rag, we know that state, local, and federal law enforcement officials were all on hand at Wakarusa to check out a demo of some very sophisticated surveillance equipment. With hidden cameras, night vision equipment, and thermal imaging, cops were able to surveil up to 85% of the festival grounds, spot drugs and money changing hands, watch people roll joints, and subsequently make arrests. The cops and the high-tech spying firm are pretty happy, but festival goers and organizers are not. Blogger Bob Merkin has been all over this at Vleeptron (just scroll down until you find it--look for the flying monkey poster), and I'll have a news brief about it tomorrow complete with some interesting links. In the mean time, perhaps it's best to believe that Big Brother is watching.
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United States

ONDCP Ads on Youtube.com

From the creators of a blog that no one reads, and podcasts that no one listens to, comes…

Youtube videos that no one watches!

That’s right folks, ONDCP has created a Youtube profile and it’s about as cool as you might expect. The page includes several of ONDCP’s ads (you know, the ones that were proven to cause drug use), but for ONDCP super-fans there’s also a 3-part series featuring Drug Czar John Walters talking from behind a podium somewhere.

It’s delightfully ironic that, after a barrage of bad publicity, ONDCP has attempted to redeem its ads by placing them in an online popularity contest. Success on Youtube has much to do with viewer ratings, and after only one day, ONDCP’s ratings are as low as the system permits (note: ratings appearing in the user profile linked above are only updated periodically. You have to click on one of the videos to see how bad the ratings have gotten).

A high viewer count could theoretically demonstrate success despite poor ratings, but ONDCP has already removed their two most-watched videos, seemingly because of the low ratings. They’ve also removed the comment option for obvious reasons. Their next step will almost certainly be to remove the rating option entirely, but doing so will doom their videos to permanent obscurity and blatantly defeats the purpose of being on Youtube in the first place.

Enjoy it while you can, kids. When you get arrested for a half-gram of pot, lose financial aid for college, and get your life ruined by the drug war, ONDCP will have the last laugh.

Sidenote: Here's something good on Youtube.

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United States

Lost This One, But Not As Bad As It Sounds

Posted in:
Special thanks to the roughly 1,000 DRCNet supporters who lobbied their Representatives in Congress to reject H.R. 5295, the so-called "Student and Teacher Safety Act." The House of Representatives unfortunately passed the bill, on a voice vote, which means there is no record of who voted yes and who voted no. It is also possible that there might not have really been the 2/3 majority needed to pass it, but without a member of Congress calling for a roll call, that is left up to the ear of the member leading the session. While a few Democrats did speak against the bill, none of them requested a voice vote, probably out of fear that Republican challengers would use the "Rep. So and So voted against a bill to keep kids away from drugs and guns" line in the upcoming campaigns in this high-stakes election season. It's not as bad as it sounds. Most importantly, it is only the House of Representatives that passed the bill. If it doesn't come up and get passed by the Senate -- and we know of no current plans to take it up there -- it will not become law. Secondly, it was exciting to see major, mainstream educational organizations like the PTA come out against the bill. (See Drug War Chronicle later this week for a full report.) And, your support and the work done by our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy and other groups showed that our side is able to mobilize. You can't win all of them, but today's loss notwithstanding our side is winning more than we used to, and I believe we'll get there.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Watch School Search Bill Debate Online

Posted in:
CLICK HERE FOR LATEST UPDATE UPDATE: It's on right now (5:39pm). Turn on C-Span or go to c-span.org, section "live streams." Nearly a thousand DRCNet supporters have contacted Congress in opposition to the increasingly infamous "Student and Teacher Safety Act" as of the time of this writing. If you're not one of them, and if the vote hasn't happened by the time you read this, and if you're a US voter, click here to add your voice to the chorus of opposition. We have allies too: Among the letters sent to Congress by major national organizations is this one from the American Federation of Teachers. If the vote hasn't happened yet (they have one more bill to go through first), you can see it on C-Span via cable TV or on the C-Span web site. (Scroll down to "live streams.")
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

On the Thai Coup Attempt

The mass media today are full of reports about the slow-motion military coup attempt taking place in Thailand. While I'm not a big fan of military coups, I have to point out that this one couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Long-time Chronicle readers may recall Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the man who unleashed a "war on drugs" in 2003 where some 2,000 people summarily executed. That's human rights speak for gunned down in the streets without a trial or even an arrest. Here's a link to just one of the stories we did on Shinawatra's massacre of drug users and sellers. There is much more if you want to dig through our archives. I don't claim to be up to speed on the intricacies of Thai politics. But Shinawatra, a Berlusconi-style figure in Thai politics, a fabulously wealthy media magnate who sought to impose his twisted morality on the country he governed, needs to be sitting in the defendant's dock, not the presidential palace.
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Thailand

Free Willie!

After a 50 year investigation, Operation Follow Willie Nelson’s Tour Bus has finally produced results:

Willie Nelson and some friends were cited yesterday for illegal music downloading marijuana and mushroom possession.



THE ULTIMATE IRONY: Nelson and others weren't arrested because the St. Martin Parish (Louisiana) jail was already filled to capacity. If convicted, Nelson and four others could each face up to 6 months in jail, however, they are more likely to receive probation and/or fines.
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United States

We CAN stop this horrible bill! But we need to act soon...

Posted in:
CLICK HERE FOR UPDATE Already nearly 700 StoptheDrugWar.org members and readers are confirmed to have contacted their representatives about defeating H.R. 5295, the bill that would make it dramatically easier for schools to engage in abusive mass searches. And, SSDP and DPA are rallying their lists as well. Click http://ga0.org/campaign/searches_bill to do your part. Even bigger news is that National PTA, American Association of School Administrators, National School Boards Association, and Council of Great City Schools have all come out in opposition to this bill. Look at some of what they are saying: National PTA: "If we are serious about protecting students and teachers, we must provide ways for schools to address the foundation of these problems, not simply allow teachers the relatively unbridled authority to search a student under the veil of school safety." American Association of School Administrators: “This is not the time for Congress to act like a local school board by creating policies and mandates beyond their jurisdiction. Schools need to focus on the requirements that have already been handed down from Washington. Now is not the time to be adding more.” National School Boards Association: “…this legislation does not do anything to create a more positive learning environment. Worse, H.R. 5295 could mislead school personnel into violating the constitutional rights of students in the errant belief that, as long as their actions conform with the Congress’s general description of “reasonableness,” they must be permissible.” Council of Great City Schools: "It is ironic that a bill purporting to enhance school safety would include a funding cut-off provision for the primary federal source of school safety funds, the Safe and Drug Free Schools program." Click http://www.theagitator.com/ and http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/ for coverage of this issue at The Agitator and Hit and Run, respectively.
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United States

A Look Inside Brazil's Drug "Commands"

Brazil, Latin America's largest and most populous nation gets surprisingly little press in the US. The mass media paid some attention back in May, when the country's "commands"--the criminal gangs formed in Brazil's prisons that control the drug trade and act as a de facto government in some of the favelas (ghettos) surrounding Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro--rose up in open rebellion against the Brazilian state. But since then, the silence in the US press has been deafening. Fortunately, not everyone in the English-speaking press is asleep at the wheel, and I want to use this opportunity to recommend an article from Britain's Observer magazine. Called Blood Simple, the piece by Tom Phillips is an interesting capsule history of the commands and a frightening look at the war between the state and the gangs. Here are the opening paragraphs, just to whet your appetite: "Blood simple Four months ago, the hostility between Sao Paulo's police and gangs erupted into violence - the result was open warfare. Tom Phillips reports from a city caught in a spiral of terror Sunday September 17, 2006 The Observer The taxi driver squints uncomfortably. 'It's like fire there,' he warns ominously, as I pass him the address on the eastern limits of Sao Paulo. We cut through block after block of grimy, graffiti-clad housing. Ahead, ragged shantytowns cling to the hilltops; behind us a trail of abandonment stretches back towards the city centre, in the form of empty warehouses and cracked windows. As we begin the descent towards our final destination, the driver looks nervously into his rear-view mirror. A police car's flashing siren ushers us to a standstill. Under the gaze of their Taurus revolvers we are hauled out of the vehicle, told to place our hands on the car roof and given an invasive frisk down. When we are finally sent on our way, after a 10-minute interrogation, the driver is apologetic. 'I had to pull over,' he mumbles. 'If you don't, they open fire.' Welcome to the periferia of Sao Paulo; the impoverished outskirts of one of the world's largest cities, where hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the megalopolis in search of gold-paved streets have been abandoned to their own dismal fate." There is much, much more about what is going on in one of the worl'd largest cities. Check it out.
Location: 
Sao Paulo, SP
Brazil

Being the Best "Bad Guy" You Can

Posted in:
Guest blogger Jay Fleming of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition points out a painful unintended consequence for police officers who do undercover work: Undercover is being the best bad guy you can. As an undercover officer your job is to be the best bad guy you can, to make people believe you’re a criminal. If you’re good they not only think that you’re a drug dealer, nothing anyone can say will convince them otherwise. Working undercover, you meet many people, sometimes hundreds of people in multiple cities on long-tern operations. You end up making cases, and arresting only a small percentage of the people you contact. The people you arrest know you’re a cop and not a drug dealer. The problem is, no one goes around and contacts the hundreds of other people who are sure you’re a drug dealer and criminal, no one tells them your really a cop, and not a bad guy. This can lead to whispers years later by people who still think you were, or are a drug dealer. Even when you try to explain to someone, you were really working undercover. Even if they believe the “I was really undercover” story, they always have that question in their mind that you were a really a criminal or a crooked cop. E. Jay Fleming Speaker Law Enforcement Against Prohibition [email protected] Mohave Valley, AZ www.leap.cc LEAP Introduction Video http://www.leap.cc/audiovideo/LEAPpromo.htm
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United States

Just Say No to Meth Registries

What sort of criminal offender merits the special distinction of being placed on a public registry? Only the most dangerous, or is it the most demonized? Registries of sex offenders began appearing a few years ago as part of the hysterical response to not an increase in sex crimes, but an increase in publicity about them, driven in part by information technologies that allow the whole country to almost instantaneously watch the latest local outrage with fascinated horror. Who besides baby-rapers is so heinous as to merit inclusion on a registry? Why, that would be tweakers, because we know that meth is nothing but poison and its users dangerous drug fiends deserving no less than the 21st Century version of public shaming that registries are. Beginning with Tennessee, states confronting methamphetamine use and production have begun treating meth cooks like sex offenders. Minnesota, Illinois, and Montana now have registries, too, and bills are pending in six other states, but it doesn’t look like the idea is going to fly in California. The Tri-Valley Herald was on the beat with its "Officials Decry Meth Registry, and staff writer Roman Gokhman deserves some kudos for teasing out the implications of meth registries and talking to officials who recognize them for the feel-good measures they are. The following quotes are taken from the article: "There's more effective ways to combat methamphetamine than public registries," said state Sen. Liz Figeroa, D-Fremont. "You need to go out and educate people. You have to encourage treatments." Figeroa said that taxpayers' money should be used to fight the supply and demand of meth and increase jail sentences, not tell people about former meth manufacturers. "You can't win a war on drugs without getting rid of the demand," she said. Livermore Police Chief Steve Krull said he has not done any research about the registries in other states, but that anything that could result in fewer meth crimes and labs should be looked at. But if the point behind the registry is simply to inform people about their neighbors, "I'm not sure what benefit that would be," Krull said. Critics said the registries serve no real purpose and violate civil rights by punishing a person twice for the same crime. "They served their time and are presumably not a danger to society," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocate against the country's "war on drugs." "The big drawback is that it makes it difficult for former meth offenders to get their lives back in order," Piper said. He said that money should be spent on treatment and that California is a national example of dealing with meth because of Proposition 36, which offers non-violent offenders a chance at treatment instead of jail time. San Ramon Police Chief Scott Holder agreed. "Why a meth registry?" he asked. "Why not a heroin registry? Why not an alcohol registry?" "That's taking government too far," he said.
Location: 
CA
United States

ONDCP Publicly Debates Drug Reform Leaders for the First (and Probably Last) Time Ever

Last night I attended the D.C. premiere of Jed Riffe’s film Waiting to Inhale, which was followed by a debate that pitted Special Assistant to the Drug Czar David Murray against MPP’s Rob Kampia, and DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann (Former ONDCP staffer Andrea Barthwell didn’t show).

The film takes a compelling look at the history of medical cannabis and gives us a glimpse into the lives of several patients who depend on it. For those of us who’ve been following the issue, the plight of the patients depicted is all too familiar. I’d bet that many people who’ve formed snap judgments about medical marijuana would be stunned to see the faces behind this controversy.

Knowing that David Murray was in the room gave it an extra bite. Would he really stick around to defend these atrocities? He looked villainous in the film, and for all the nonsense to which we’ve become accustomed from him, I was somehow still surprised that his head didn’t explode halfway through.

But Murray is a professional, and with no choice but to fight, he faced two of his most articulate critics with as much grace as you might expect from a man who gets paid to excuse the inexcusable.

  • When Murray read the FDA’s absurd statement on MMJ, Kampia waved a pair of handcuffs and asked why patients were being arrested for taking their doctors advice.
  • When Murray claimed that these guys just want to legalize drugs, Nadelmann acknowledged that he advocates a variety of reforms but considers the persecution of sick people to be the drug war’s greatest injustice.
  • When Murray claimed that medical groups don’t support MMJ, Kampia enumerated the rambling list of medical groups that do in fact support MMJ.
  • When Murray claimed that DEA doesn’t target doctors, Nadelmann pointed out that DPA had to win a significant court battle to prevent exactly that.
  • When Kampia claimed that youth marijuana use in California has dropped significantly since the passage of Proposition 215, Murray claimed that it would take too long to explain why that was misleading.
  • When Murray claimed that medicines must be approved through the rigorous FDA approval process, Nadelmann noted that the Federal Government routinely blocks MMJ research.

And so it went, each point disputed on its face with no concessions made by either side. At times, it sounded like they weren't talking about the same drug. Or the same laws, the same patients, the same research, or for that matter the same country.

But I applaud David Murray for being there. He told lies in front of people who know the truth, and that takes guts. He said the film “felt like a cartoon” to him, demonstrating the detachment such a man must summon when confronted with the consequences of his deceit.

That this event even took place is testament to the relentless and growing pressure our movement has brought to bear against those who persecute the sick and dying. David Murray might be able to view Waiting to Inhale in the comfort of arrogant indifference, but the film could prove a bitter pill for less-entrenched adherents to the drug war doctrine.

This is no cartoon, Mr. Murray. It’s real, it’s the truth, and it will never go away.

Sidenote: Tom Angell and I spotted David Murray drinking a beer before the film. I guess even shameless drug warriors gotta take the edge off.

Location: 
United States

Retired Sheriff's Deputy Jay Fleming of LEAP Joins DRCNet Blogging Team -- Drugs, Crime and Conservation First Topic

DRCNet is pleased to welcome Jay Fleming to the Speakeasy. Fleming was for many years a deputy sheriff and narcotics officer in Washington, Montana & Idaho. He is now retired in the US southwest (Arizona) and is a speaker with the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Fleming has graciously agreed to serve as a regular, featured guest blogger here in the Speakeasy, focusing on the impact of drug prohibition on the western United States. The war on drugs affects our world's environment and threatens conservation efforts, far more than most of us realize. A recent article from NewScientist, Drugs, crime and a conservation crisis, pointed out some of the problems as they are manifested in western states:
New Scientist's inquiries suggest that the narcotics trade is a serious but largely neglected impediment to conservation efforts.
The drug war runs on money, and money depends on arrests and forfeitures. Because of this, the manpower for drug enforcement is concentrated in populated areas. Remote areas in the west have always been a hide out for outlaws. The combination of remoteness and lack of law enforcement, make these areas as popular with outlaws today, as they were in the 1800's. I live in Mohave County Arizona where, as New Scientist points out:
Remote biodiversity hotspots make ideal bases for narcotics production and trafficking.
As a resident deputy I lived in a remote town 50 miles from the sheriff office; I covered the south end of the county along with one other deputy. There was never time to go to the remote areas of my area. I was responsible for a large chunk of wilderness area; it could only be accessed by horse back or on foot. Since the sheriff's office didn't have horses, if I had a call in the wilderness area, I had to borrow a horse from the Forest Service. I understand why law enforcement doesn't have the manpower to patrol some of the remote areas. What I don't understand is why someone doesn't figure out that drug prohibition is the direct cause of the damage done to these fragile areas. P.S. DEA = Department of Evil Agriculture, the plant police? Click here to submit a letter to the editor to New Scientist or here to share your thoughts with their Online News desk. E. Jay Fleming Speaker Law Enforcement Against Prohibition [email protected] Mohave Valley, AZ www.leap.cc LEAP Introduction Video http://www.leap.cc/audiovideo/LEAPpromo.htm Trust in our country is disappearing, parents can’t trust children, husbands can’t trust wives, and people can’t trust their government. Some how our country has lost site of some of the basic principles it was founded on. Those who are to protect us have gone from Peace Officer, to Law Enforcement Officer. Men in black uniforms with hoods over their faces break down doors, in the name of the law, many times killing innocent citizens. Criminals charged with major drug crimes who turn in several others for minor drug crimes, spend little or no time in jail. Undercover cops infiltrate and seize our homes and assets, take children from parents, over a plant that has never killed anyone. E. Jay Fleming 2004
Location: 
AZ
United States

Making Sense of the DEA's New Proposed Policy Statement on Pain Prescribing

There are definitely mixed feelings in the pain medicine community when it comes to the DEA's new proposed policy statement on prescribing pain medications. While everyone is pleased that the agency has loosened up its prescribing rules—allowing doctors to write three one-month pain med prescriptions at a time—there is some dispute over whether the DEA's latest policy statement represents anything other than the agency doing business as usual. For Dr. Frank Fisher the new policy statement represents little more than "window dressing," he told the Chronicle this week. The problem, Fisher said, was that physicians are still intimidated by the DEA and as a result, chronic pain patients are going untreated. Siobhan Reynolds of the patients' and physicians' advocacy group the Pain Relief Network used the exact same word, "window dressing," to describe the new policy statement. Reynolds, whose husband, a chronic pain patient, died just weeks ago as the family traveled across the country seeking relief for him, talked about a DEA "reign of terror that has cost people their lives, including my husband Sean." But some physicians working in the pain management and addiction medicine fields have a much brighter view. Dr. Howard Heit, a Fairfax, Virginia, physician called the new prescribing rules "a great step forward." The DEA is "responding to the health care community," he said. There is much more. Look for a Chronicle article tomorrow that delves deeper into this. As for those Louisiana heroin lifers, I guess they'll just have to wait another week. None of the people who asked me so urgently to write about their plight three weeks ago have managed to return my repeated calls seeking more information.
Location: 
United States

Reformers Raid Cato Institute

Radley Balko and Norm Stamper spoke at the Cato Institute yesterday about Balko’s new report Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.

It was a powerful presentation, and though I’m familiar with the topic, I was moved nonetheless. Balko began by summarizing his research and went on to propose solutions. Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper followed with a forceful and credible endorsement of Balko’s research and recommendations.

“Soldiers follow orders. Police make decisions,” Stamper observed, illustrating perfectly the fundamental flaw in a militarized approach to policing. I’ve seen Chief Stamper speak before, but I found him particularly effective yesterday. He’s been a strong voice for reform ever since the release of his book Breaking Rank, but he’s getting better, which ought to intimidate the drug war establishment.

Chief Stamper addressed immediate reforms that can help mitigate the problem and smartly waited until the end to make the point we knew was coming: the best way to prevent innocent people from being killed in botched raids is to end the drug war immediately. A burst of applause from the audience demonstrated that more than a few reformers were in attendance.

You can watch the whole thing here.

Humorous side note: Dave Guard and I sat next to a woman who asked what we do and became skeptical upon learning that we work to legalize drugs. She had some questions for us, and though she wasn't hostile, she seemed not to fully grasp the issue. When it became clear that we couldn’t be debated on policy, she switched over to political feasibility, asking “fine, but how will you ever convince conservatives like the Cato Institute?”

In tandem, Dave and I chuckled and quipped that we hardly needed to explain drug policy to the Cato Institute.

Moments later, Cato’s Timothy Lynch began introductions, noting the Institute's support for drug policy reform almost immediately. It may be a sign of progress that this lady can walk into a room full of reformers without even realizing it. We can't be profiled.

Location: 
United States

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