The Speakeasy Blog

Structural Change Also Needed to Stop Drug Trade Violence in Besieged Community

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Following the life-without-parole murder convictions of three ringleaders of the Chester, Pennsylvania "Boyle Street Boys," an editorial in the DelcoTimes called on the community to "unite to defeat the criminals." The operation sounds pretty ugly. According to the editorialist, Andre Cooper and brothers Jamain and Vincent Williams ran a lucrative cocaine operation in the Highland Gardens section of Chester until 2003 and "[f]or years... depended on the "Snitch & Die" mentality to ensure the silence of those who witnessed their illegal drug and weapons business... One of their murder victims was a teenage drug dealer whom the gang members suspected of being a police informant... Another was a federal witness, a 33-year-old mother of two, who was executed in her sister’s car the day before she was going to testify against gang members. Her own cousins were among those who plotted her killing." I wish that passion, even passion combined with action, could achieve the worthy goals the Times is supporting. Some of the community plans could certain do so good; according to the editorial, "[p]art of the strategy is to utilize the Smedley school as fully as possible in its new role as a community center, providing a positive alternative to crime for city youth." Unfortunately, the source of the problem in the largest sense is a structural one that can be really be solved only by changing the structure. That structure is prohibition of drugs. Just as alcohol prohibition increased urban violence and gave the Mafia great power, today's drug laws enabled Cooper, Williams and Williams to become players in organized crime and encouraged them to act in monstrous ways. The Times rightfully regards their future behind bars as a "miserable fate." Sadly, too many young people view prison or early death as inevitable, and may still see the trio as role models. Programs and community outreach can do some good, maybe a lot of good, but ultimately are limited to reaching and succeeding with people one by one. One by one in the end will leave some people out -- enough to continue terrorizing the neighborhood. Only drug legalization can fix the structural problem of crime and violence fueled by prohibition.Neil Peirce discussed this in a speech in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, that was covered by the Wilmington Journal. I can't seem to find the article online -- an opinion piece he wrote about work done in Syracuse by our friends at ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy can be found here. Delco Times seems to be an online venue for both the Delaware County Daily and Sunday Times. I don't know which paper ran the editorial. Letters to the editor can go to managing editor Linda DeMeglio, [email protected].
Location: 
Chester, PA
United States

Coming in the Chronicle this week

I've been down with pneumonia, so I haven't talked to my sources yet this week, but I think I will be writing about a lawsuit filed against South Dakota's attorney general over the ballot summary language with which he is describing the state's medical marijuana initiative. And again, I await word from Portland on whether that city's "lowest law enforcement priority" initiative makes the ballot. I'm sure there is another story or two that'll break this week, and I've already got a bunch of other interesting items ready to go.
Location: 
United States

You Can Put Your Weed in it

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I’ve seen these before, but never in the news:

From the Coventry Evening Telegram:

Drug users will be able to dump their illegal stashes without getting in trouble before they enter a massive dance festival near Stratford this weekend. Warwickshire Police will again have an amnesty zone just before the entrance of Global Gathering at Long Marston airfield.

But why would anyone do that?

"Passive drugs dogs will be walked along the queue to detect any traces of drugs on visitors and anyone found with illegal drugs either at the site entrance or during the two day festival will be arrested and taken into custody.

So the idea is that, upon noticing drug dogs, concertgoers will promptly surrender any contraband they may have. And the article is perhaps intended to warn folks that dogs will be present, so that they might consider not bringing drugs in the first place.

Afterall it would be pretty silly to sneak drugs into South Warwickshire from all over Europe, only to deposit them into the amnesty box at the first sight of police.

But a more astute reader will see that only 22 out of 45,000 attendees were arrested last year. Those are great odds, especially since some of the arrests weren’t even drug related. I’m guessing most drug users attending this event will take their chances, especially since you can always make a break for the “amnesty zone” in an emergency.

Ultimately, the amnesty box will be viewed by many as an “idiot test” commonly deployed in situations where the police can’t possibly enforce drug laws by other means. Such folks may find it amusing to put funny notes and other non-drug items into the box. But the amnesty box isn’t racist or violent like most drug war tactics, so we shouldn’t make fun of it. Maybe someday we can even replace trigger-happy SWAT teams with them.

In the meantime, look for the official Stop the Drug War Amnesty Box, which we’ll be featuring as part of our table display at future drug policy conferences.

Location: 
United States

Push Down, Pop Up Even Worse

An article this morning in the Daily Journal in northeast Mississippi reports that efforts to restrict purchase of the chemical components of methamphetamine have caused a reduction in the number of meth labs in Lee County. But don't get too excited: there's just as much meth available in the county now as before. Now, though, it's imported, and the stuff is worse -- it's crystal meth, also known as ice, and according to Sheriff Jim Johnson it's a lot more potent than the stuff people are making locally. Push Down, Pop Up -- as long as there's demand for the drugs, someone will figure out how to supply it, and you may wish for the old supply instead. Prohibition is the cause both of the meth labs and the popularization of more potent and damaging forms of drugs. The only way to get rid of the meth labs is through legalization, and regulation has a much better chance of shifting people away from the hardest stuff like ice than the drug war, which seems to be promoting it. Daily Journal letter to the editor information is online .
Location: 
Tupelo, MS
United States

Another Sad Shooting Death in the Projects

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A several part story by Audra Burch in the Miami Herald Sunday discussed the shooting death of nine-year old Sherdavia Jenkins, her life before it and her family in the aftermath. Jenkins was a bystander, playing with a brother and sister and friend, when she was struck down by a stray bullet in "an open space between two buildings that police say became a shooting gallery for a smalltime drug peddler and a street tough." It's the kind of tragic story that is tragically too common to always make the papers. I'd want to know more about the shooting itself -- and it's possible that no more is or even will be known -- before saying definitively that it was a drug trade shootout over turf. But it sounds that way. Even if it was just tensions between the "peddler" and the "tough," that would still have to do with the drug trade, because the drug trade is what paid the "peddler" a living to stand around in a neighborhood. The trade's illegality is the reason that people use guns when making a living in that way. And even if the gun was fired by someone else, that market-driven source of violence is a primary cause of the larger climate of violence in the Liberty Square public housing project where Jenkins lived. Prohibition doesn't get rid of the drugs, but it does bring in this kind of danger and misery. Legalization would not solve every problem facing the projects and similarly poverty-stricken neighborhoods, but it would remove a huge amount of pressure currently placed on them by the illegal drug trade. The kind of people who engage in random gunfire are not going to become angels overnight or ever, but with no one paying them to do that anymore, they would have to get other jobs to survive and would have less time to hang out on the street. The resulting decrease in violence and disorder would in turn open the way for economic development and for general healing from the wounds created by the current situation. (This was the first main reason I got involved in this issue, in fact.) Click here for letter to the editor information. (Free registration may be required to view the page.)
Location: 
United States

They Should Put Surveillance Cameras in Police Stations

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The Allegheny County district attorney's office has launched an investigation into what happened to $4,000 that Glassport police failed to return to a local bar owner when drug charges against him were dropped. "The fact that money was seized and placed in an evidence locker and turned up missing is unacceptable," said district attorney's office spokesman Mike Manko.

I agree, but I’d go a step further and call it a crime. Grand larceny to be specific. Of course, Glassport officers think it’s just a procedural problem:

Officers testified yesterday that the borough doesn't have a strict procedure for handling evidence and they don't know what happened to the money.

I hope Glassport area defense attorneys are paying attention, because they might have some appeals to file. It’s not everyday that your local police department admits general incompetence with regards to the collection of evidence. That’s the sort of candor that gets convictions overturned.

But keep in mind, it’s the honesty here that’s anomalous, not the apparent theft. Illegally searching people, confiscating private property, and stealing from the evidence locker are all routine activities in the war on drugs.

If you don’t believe me, sign up for our weekly newsletter here.

Location: 
United States

Drug Laws Drive Addicted to Prostitution in West Virginia (and Everywhere Else)

Steubenville, West Virginia, has an interlocking problem of drugs and prostitution, The Intelligencer in nearby Wheeling reported this morning. The article was prompted by an anti-prostitution sting operation that rounded up six men and five women Wednesday night.
"The prostitution and the drugs go hand-in-hand," [police chief William] McCafferty said. "Most of the (prostitutes) are drug users, and that's how they support their habit. None of the men who are coming here to purchase the product the women are selling are from Steubenville, and we don’t need them in our city. "They know the girls are here and have a drug problem to support," he added. "It makes our drug trade better than what it actually is. The 'johns' support the prostitutes who then support the drugs."
But why do some drug addicts need to resort to prostitution to be able to afford some chemical mixtures that could literally be produced for pennies? It's because prohibition of drugs drives up the price by putting it into the criminal underground -- economics call this the "risk premium." Cigarettes are just as addictive as any street drug, but you don't see people walking the streets (or for that matter breaking into cars) to afford them, at least not very much, and the same goes for alcohol. Legalization of drugs would therefore reduce prostitution and help some of the addicted avoid being in that often degrading and dangerous circumstance. In the meanwhile, carting them off to jail probably isn't going to be the thing that helps them stop using drugs once they get out.
Location: 
Steubenville, WV
United States

Doing a story for the Oaksterdam News

It's the day the Chronicle is published, and, as my mother was always fond of telling me, there's no rest for the wicked. I'll be spending the afternoon writing a piece for the Oaksterdam News http://www.oaksterdamnews.com/ The Oaksterdam News wants its readers to know about the Drug War Chronicle, and we're certainly happy to help.
Location: 
United States

Prickly Progressives Impede Pot Progress

Progress Now, a Colorado-based advocacy group issued a statement condemning Focus on the Family President James Dobson for using a signature gathering service that has also worked with the marijuana reform group SAFER.

James Dobson is spending tens of thousands of dollars of Focus on the Family's money to hire paid signature collectors to solicit people for the so-called "marriage initiative" under the guise of protecting Colorado's families. He needs 68,000 valid signatures by August 8 to qualify. Many of these very solicitors paid for by Dobson also are working to collect signatures for an initiative to legalize marijuana in Colorado simultaneously.

For starters, they’re just signature gathers. They’re professionals who work for whoever pays them. It would make as much sense to complain that SAFER and Dobson patronized the same Kinkos.

What’s really troubling here is the implicit negativity of Progress Now’s statement. While they claim that “this is about hypocrisy” and “not about the merits of legalization,” I don’t think you can feign neutrality on the marijuana reform issue while simultaneously trying to skewer a political opponent simply for operating in proximity to it.

For a real example of hypocrisy, try to reconcile Progress Now’s seemingly positive positions on drug policy with their refusal to support marijuana reform in Colorado.

Progress Now accepts suggestions regarding their policy positions here.

My suggestion is not to say this unless you mean it:

[We] support reform to drug laws so that less people are sent to prison and more people are rehabilitated from chemical addictions.
Location: 
United States

To Snitch or Not to Snitch

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill has a fascinating editorial at AllHipHop.com about the moral dilemmas created by the growing Stop Snitching movement.

The movement, which has been accompanied by a flurry of t- shirts, songs, websites, and DVDs, is ideologically grounded in the belief that people should not cooperate with law enforcement authorities under any circumstances.

As you might guess, the movement is not without its critics:

In response to the "Stop Snitching" campaign, community organizations, politicians, and law enforcement agencies have mounted a full-fledged counter-movement, informally titled "Start Snitching", designed to encourage the hip-hop generation to cooperate with authorities when criminal acts are committed.

Hill doesn’t elaborate on their tactics unfortunately, and I’m left wondering how police and politicians plan to popularize snitching among a demographic already ravaged by the criminal justice system.

Afterall, this us-against-them mentality is hardly limited to the African-American community:

Even the police, who are among the strongest opponents of the "Stop Snitching" movement, have a 'blue code' of silence that protects them from internal snitches.

It’s true. Police advocates are fond of claiming that “a few bad apples” are responsible for all police misconduct, but police are loathe to expose criminality within their ranks. It’s ironic that those who’ve maintained a long-standing and virtually impenetrable “don’t snitch” ethic are now begging the public to stop following suit.

Ultimately, the “Stop Snitching” movement is a form of protest literally woven into the fabric of popular culture. A counter movement of police and prosecutors begging young people of color to “Start Snitching” is comically hypocritical, serving only to further legitimize the anti-informant crusade by proving its effectiveness.

The hard truth is that the “Stop Snitching” movement will continue to grow. Those that have been born the brunt of our war on drugs and the crime it causes have discovered a form of silent resistance. Thanks to the drug war, our most dangerous criminals are capitalizing on a climate of distrust between the police and the public in minority communities.

And if the DAs are up in arms over this, just wait til 50 Cent writes a song about jury nullification.

Location: 
United States

Maryland Marijuana Gumballs

Marijuana-filled gumballs, apparently known as "greenades," drew the attention of the DEA after they became available at Ellicott City's Howard High school in Howard, County, Maryland, not far outside Washington, according to DC-area paper The Examiner.
“It’s a new idea and it’s new to the DEA,” said Gregory Lee, a retired supervisory special agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency, who had never heard of anyone packaging marijuana in such a way before. “When it comes to drug-dealing, you’re only limited by your imagination.”
I agree with that last statement -- but what does that say about either the efficacy of drug enforcement efforts or the impact of drug prohibition laws? Because the drugs are illegal, there is no possibility for regulation to control the form in which they are made available -- "hence Greenades" -- and because the drugs are illegal, there is no possibility for regulation to control where and when and by whom the drugs get sold -- hence high school students selling drugs in the schools to other kids. And the endless possibilities for innovation in packaging drugs mean there also must be endless possibilities for hiding drugs too. Or we could legalize the drugs and mostly end this craziness... The Examiner accepts letters at:
Main Office/Letters to the Editor 1015 15th St. NW Suite 500 Washington, DC 20005 (202) 903-2000 [email protected]
Location: 
Ellicott City, MD
United States

Marijuana Grow Outside Santa Cruz -- Could Have Been Dangerous, But Why?

NBC11 in the Bay Area reported that thousands of marijuana plants, valued at $40 million according to authorities had been spotted near Mount Umunhum, in a remote part of the Santa Cruz mountains in south Santa Clara County. They needed helicopters to remove the 10,000-15,000 plants estimated to be there. There's a cool slideshow on the site. My first reaction was, is it just ditchweed? An old report by the Vermont State Auditor found that almost all the "marijuana" destroyed by the government is mere ditchweed -- wild hemp, grows in lots of places, the government subsidized it during WWII. Then I thought, well, Santa Cruz? I'll give the government the benefit of the doubt that this time it's really marijuana. :) Further down in the story police explained that these plants -- which by themselves are unable to move from place to place, being plants -- bring danger with them:
"These operations can be dangerous," Palanov said. "Last year down this canyon a couple miles away from here, a fish and game warden was shot during a marijuana raid." The officer survived. Agents shot and killed the gunman, while another suspect escaped, Garza reported. "Our deputies, and fish and game and everybody else that's involved are hiking into area where the growers have orders to protect their groves at all costs. They have weapons," Palanov said. "You have a lot of environmental damage -- the marijuana goes out on the street, which fuels other criminal activity."
But why is it dangerous? Is the danger intrinsic to the marijuana? No, it is because marijuana is illegal. With marijuana legalization, no one would want to shoot people over the legally grown crop -- even bad people wouldn't shoot people over it, because it would in no way be worth the risk of going to prison for homicide -- because the value just wouldn't be what it is now and one could go to the police for help if one's crop were threatened. The environmental damage -- assuming that's for real, which certainly seems possible -- could also be reduced if not eliminated through agricultural regulation and inspection. Save Mount Umunhum -- end prohibition! Click here to write to NBC11.
Location: 
Santa Cruz, CA
United States

Joint-Rolling Record Attempt Thwarted (France)

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That's the headline of a story that appeared in Australia's Daily Telegraph. This is the sort of story that would never make the Chronicle, but is too good to pass up: Four French pot smokers get the bright idea of breaking the world's record for the longest joint . They were working on a four-foot, 70-gram doobie when they were caught short by a lack of tobacco.
Location: 
United States

What is going on with the DEA and the San Diego medical marijuana dispensaries?

On Friday, the DEA returned to the more than a dozen dispensaries in San Diego raided a couple of weeks ago and warned them to shut their doors. For the Drug War Chronicle this week, I'll be looking into that and what it might mean across the state. I'm also waiting for the Portland "lowest law enforcement priority" initiative's signatures to be verified. I'll write about that this week if we get an official announcement. And I'm sure there will be more. There always is.
Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States

Drug Prohibition Violence Rising in Orlando, Florida

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Orlando, Florida, has joined the ranks of cities experiencing rising homicide rates after years of partial relief. According to the Associated Press (article link to the Orlando Sentinel web site), the city has recorded 33 murders this year -- the first time the number reached 30 since 1982, but with nearly half of the year left to go. Much of it appears to be about drugs:
Police Chief Mike McCoy stressed that no tourists had been killed, and said most law-abiding citizens aren't at risk. "If you're not selling drugs, if you don't house people selling drugs, if you don't have the proceeds of drugs in your home, then your chances of being involved in a homicide are pretty slim," he said.
Some other interesting comments in the article:
"People can attribute crime to failing schools, failing families. There's a bunch of sociological things you can put your finger on," said police Sgt. Rich Ring, head of Orlando's homicide investigation unit. "All we can do as police is say the biggest things are drugs and robbery, and we're going to take action to attack those issues."
Note that McCoy did not include possession of drugs or drug use itself in his list of high-risk factors. All of the situations he mentioned relate to the drug trade, the commercial act of drug selling or activity closely related to it. And that's the first important point: the vast majority of drug-related violence is not from people getting high and shooting people because they're under the influence. The vast majority of drug-related violence is due to the modus operandi of this highly profitable area of the criminal underground. Legalization would bring all of that to a stop: All of the money that people are now spending on drugs that is fueling this kind of violence could instead stay in the licit economy, where business disputes can instead be moderated in the courts, and where most cash is kept in bank accounts and is therefore not such a tempting target for armed robbery. The other issue is that violence is going up in a lot of cities -- the AP article named some of them, and we are seeing this in other news reports as well. The drop in crime rates over the past decade or so has been a welcome partial relief to communities living under economic stress. But it is probably temporary, and in any case should not be taken as a reason to continue prohibition of drugs -- even if violence were to continue to drop, as long as there is prohibition of a lucrative commodity like drugs, violence rates will be higher than they could otherwise be, and no one seriously thinks that things are at an acceptable level in this regard even now. I don't know if this appeared in the Sentinel in print or not, or where else it appeared. You can follow the message board links from the article, or click here for letter-to-the-editor information. Please post to the comments here with the names and letter-writing info for any papers where you see the article appearing.
Location: 
Orlando, FL
United States

Drug Prohibition Violence Rising in Orlando, Florida

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Orlando, Florida, has joined the ranks of cities experiencing rising homicide rates after years of partial relief. According to the Associated Press (article link to the Orlando Sentinel web site), the city has recorded 33 murders this year -- the first time the number reached 30 since 1982, but with nearly half of the year left to go. Much of it appears to be about drugs:
Police Chief Mike McCoy stressed that no tourists had been killed, and said most law-abiding citizens aren't at risk. "If you're not selling drugs, if you don't house people selling drugs, if you don't have the proceeds of drugs in your home, then your chances of being involved in a homicide are pretty slim," he said.
Some other interesting comments in the article:
"People can attribute crime to failing schools, failing families. There's a bunch of sociological things you can put your finger on," said police Sgt. Rich Ring, head of Orlando's homicide investigation unit. "All we can do as police is say the biggest things are drugs and robbery, and we're going to take action to attack those issues."
Note that McCoy did not include possession of drugs or drug use itself in his list of high-risk factors. All of the situations he mentioned relate to the drug trade, the commercial act of drug selling or activity closely related to it. And that's the first important point: the vast majority of drug-related violence is not from people getting high and shooting people because they're under the influence. The vast majority of drug-related violence is due to the modus operandi of this highly profitable area of the criminal underground. Legalization would bring all of that to a stop: All of the money that people are now spending on drugs that is fueling this kind of violence could instead stay in the licit economy, where business disputes can instead be moderated in the courts, and where most cash is kept in bank accounts and is therefore not such a tempting target for armed robbery. The other issue is that violence is going up in a lot of cities -- the AP article named some of them, and we are seeing this in other news reports as well. The drop in crime rates over the past decade or so has been a welcome partial relief to communities living under economic stress. But it is probably temporary, and in any case should not be taken as a reason to continue prohibition of drugs -- even if violence were to continue to drop, as long as there is prohibition of a lucrative commodity like drugs, violence rates will be higher than they could otherwise be, and no one seriously thinks that things are at an acceptable level in this regard even now. I don't know if this appeared in the Sentinel in print or not, or where else it appeared. You can follow the message board links from the article, or click here for letter-to-the-editor information. Please post to the comments here with the names and letter-writing info for any papers where you see the article appearing.
Location: 
Orlando, FL
United States

Medical Marijuana in South Dakota

South Dakota will vote on a medical marijuana initiative in November, and it looks like it will be an uphill battle. According to my sources within the campaign, the measure is not doing well in internal polling, but it is early. The campaign is laying low for now, but has already found a patient spokesperson and a former policeman as a spokesman. Bob Newland, South Dakota's "Mr. Marijuana," the hemp/pot/medical marijuan activist responsible for the initiative has agreed to keep a low profile, while MPP's experienced cadres run the show. Articles on the South Dakota campaign will show up periodically in the Chronicle. This is my state, and I'm actually here, and I intend to get involved as well as write about it.
Location: 
SD
United States

Drug Gangsters Immortalized in Song

The Associated Press reported Saturday on Colombia's "narco-ballads," songs that "pay lyrical homage to the lifestyles of the rich and dangerous: drug-lords, assassins, leftist rebels and far-right warlords," according to the story. Among the thugs being rhapsodized in song are two of the most murderous, Carlos Castano, who founded the infamous right-wing paramilitary movement that has massacred tens of thousands, and Pablo Escobar, who murdered hundreds of Colombia government officials and once had an airplane blown up in order to take out two people who were on it.
"These songs are about what's happening in our country, we sing about the paramilitaries, the rebels and the drug-traffickers and they all love it," said Uriel Hennao, the king of the genre, responsible for such anthems as "Child of the Coca," "I Prefer a Tomb in Colombia (to a jail cell in the US)" and "The Mafia Keeps Going."
One of the more pernicious consequences of drug prohibition is the glorification that ends up accruing to violent criminals. I don't know enough about the culture in Colombia and among the people who like this music to know whether they are listening in admiration of drug lords like Escobar and terrorists like Castano or simply because, as Hennao said, it's about what's going on in their country, so I'm not going to pass judgment on either artist or audience. But I don't think it's good for any country to be in that kind of a place. I wrote about this phenomenon here in the US (a situation not involving music, but the same cultural corruption idea) in February 2005 in Boston, before moving to Washington, the case of a gangster named Darryl Whiting who by the account of the prosecutor who put him away was someone who lured young people into lives of crime. The prosecutor, Wayne Budd, was the same guy who had brought federal civil rights charges against the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating. But getting Whiting off the streets, he said, was one of the things he was most proud of. I saw Budd speak on a panel at Harvard -- he predictably did not express agreement with my contention that legalization would have been the way to keep Darryl Whiting and people like him from ever getting into that position. But legalization is what is needed for that purpose. Alcohol prohibition turned Al Capone into a pop hero, and drug prohibition is doing the same thing to top-level gangsters now, even if they don't become as well known to mainstream, majority society as Capone did.
Location: 
Colombia

Will It Make a Difference in the Drug Supply in the End?

Hopefully Phil will pardon me for cross-posting into his Chronicle blog. :) This is another example of a news story that is too run of the mill to make our newsletter most of the time, but provides a good example of the limitation of short-term memory that so often plagues mainstream reporting on this issue. An operation that Pennsylvania's Attorney General characterizes as the major methamphetamine supplier in the Philadelphia region has been taken down, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
A crystal-methamphetamine distribution ring allegedly run by the Breed motorcycle gang has been broken and 15 members from Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery Counties and New Jersey were in custody or were being sought, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett said yesterday. From May 2005 through June 2006, he said, the gang's Pennsylvania chapter distributed more than 120 pounds of crystal meth, with a street value of more than $11.25 million.
Will the Inquirer revisit this story in a year, or six months (or for that matter two weeks) to see if meth has been made any less available to its users -- or if instead the slack has been taken up instead of other dealers eager to make the added profit? This is also a "consequences of prohibition" story, hence I've also posted it to our "Prohibition in the Media" blog:
Corbett said a statewide investigation and a grand jury found that from its clubhouse at 3707 Spruce St. in Bristol, the gang "had terrorized Lower Bucks County for several decades by committing crimes involving illegal drug dealing, thefts, extortion, witness intimidation and assaults."
It's clearly the case that those involved in illegal drug activity are going to resort to violence to advance their business purposes and moderate their business disputes -- that's prohibition, it was like that with Al Capone during alcohol prohibition and it's like that with drug gangs now. While drug prohibition laws don't directly account for the thefts and perhaps other crimes that the AG alleges were committed by this particular gang, all the money they were making from meth certainly turned them into a larger and powerful group, perhaps is what got them started in the first place. When prohibition was repealed, the homicide rate decreased steadily for ten years, to about half of where it had peaked by the end of prohibition -- perhaps the steadiness of the decrease as opposed to it all going away immediately reflects the idea that gangs whose financial backbone is based on drug selling will struggle to hold on for awhile before dwindling. But the violence dropped, and that's the main thing. The Inquirer posts letter and op-ed information here. Sadly Philadelphia has been plagued lately with another consequences of prohibition, overdose deaths due to a tainted drug supply. Read what one of Nixon's drug fighters had to say about the long-term effectiveness of massive drug busts.
Location: 
Philadelphia, PA
United States

The Heroin Overdose Wave Continues...

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WFMZ-TV in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has reported another overdose from the fentanyl-laced heroin batch that is ravaging drug injecting communities in cities around the nation. Meanwhile, officials in South Jersey are trying to figure out what is causing the rash of overdoses in Vineland and are wondering if something may be contaminating the heroin supply there -- five people had to be rushed to the South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center on Tuesday, according to The Press of Atlantic City. We need legalization! Heroin use can't be stopped, at least not in this way -- only a legal, regulated supply will allow for any reliable degree of control over the drug supply -- until prohibition is ended, drug users will always be at risk of this kind of often fatal harm, especially the addicted ones. It is indecent that we are subjecting these people to this kind of situation -- and it certainly means longer emergency room waits when the rest of us need the help. WMFZ-TV accepts comments here. The Press has information on submitting a letter to the editor, or a longer guest column, online here. Also click here to take action to support of a bill sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) to fund overdose prevention. And click here for a Drug War Chronicle report on the heroin/fentanyl overdose outbreak.
Location: 
Atlantic City, NJ
United States

Holy Cow, They Busted Holy Smoke!

http://www.holysmoke.ca/ I wrote about the Holy Smoke bust for the Chronicle, but since it hits close to home, I have a little bit more to say about it. Holy Smoke is a Nelson, BC, head shop and activism hub. One of the owners, Paul DeFelice, was arrested last Saturday night and charged with marijuana and psilocybin distribution. Whatever was or wasn't sold at Holy Smoke, local police did nothing about it -- until now. DeFelice thinks the change has come because of the new conservative government of Prime Minister Harper. The Holy Smoke guys are dedicated activists, one of them is an attorney, and they look forward to challenging the marijuana laws again. Back in 1997, they humiliated local police when they tried to shut them down, and they look forward to doing it again. Holy Smoke is part of the Nelson experience. Situated at the end of Baker Street, the five-block heart of downtown Nelson, it perches beside a tiny park where most afternoons you can find a group of people smoking up and chatting. Holy Smoke ain't going away, but if they really were selling weed, for awhile, now, at least, you won't be able to buy it at a store like a regular human being. Of course, that doesn't mean it won't be available; it just means you'll have to buy it off the street dealers who have been loitering around Holy Smoke.
Location: 
United States

LA-Area Methamphetamine Lab Illustrates Need for Legalization

CBS channel 2 in Los Angeles reported that the LAPD had arrested five people for operating a methamphetamine lab in Sylmar. A haz-mat crew was sent out to start the cleanup, and police officers have alleged that the operators dumped their chemicals on the outside instead of using the trash and that the property is therefore highly contaminated. If meth were legal, it would be manufactured by licensed pharmaceutical corporations that know how to properly handle chemicals. Inspectors could monitor the operations to ensure compliance with the applicable regulations. And there wouldn't be the occasional gunfire between rival manufacturers or between suspects and police who are trying to arrest them (not that that happened in this case). Whatever one thinks about meth and its effects on people, at a minimum everyone should admit that we wouldn't have meth labs -- a consequences of prohibition, therefore a reason to enact drug legalization. Visit the CBS2 "contact us" page and select "News Department" and "Suggestion" in the web form to send the station your thoughts on the matter, or use other contact information appearing on the page.
Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States

British Tabloids At It Again With More Reefer Madness

A fine example of yellow journalism appears in today's London Daily Mail. Citing increased marijuana arrests figures since the weed was downgraded from Class B to Class C, the Daily Mail headlines its story "Massive Explosion in Cannabis Possession," implying that use had somehow gone through the roof when it is actually police practices driving the numbers. "Cannabis crime has exploded," the Daily Mail hyperventilates, meaning more people are getting arrested. There is more of this crap at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article...
Location: 
United States

Free Advertising for Drug Dealers

Stupid drug war ideas are a usually a dime a dozen, but I’d pay a quarter for this one.

Officials in Maine are discussing the creation of an online registry of convicted drug dealers. Apparently this is the latest in a series of hysterical legislative responses to the epidemic of meth-related media coverage:

From the Bangor Daily News:

Tennessee was the first state to create a public Web site registry for convicted methamphetamine makers. It now has more than 400 convicted offenders on the list. Illinois created a similar registry earlier this year, and a half-dozen other states have pending legislation to create meth maker registries.

But if meth is so bad, why would you create a public database of local people that might have some for sale?

Somehow these well-meaning legislators forgot that drug transactions, unlike molestations, are consensual acts. Drug dealers don’t have victims, they have customers, and putting their names online is like advertising their services. For example, if I were looking for meth in Anderson County, Tennessee, I’d begin by looking here. See how easy that was?

Before you can say "counterproductive", they’ll be combating underage drinking by creating a public registry of liquor stores that sell to minors.

But if these lists weren’t such a horrible violation of privacy, I might support them, because this ill-conceived effort to shame and stigmatize the victims of America’s war on drugs may soon become a vast and ever-expanding memorial to the countless lives our drug laws have destroyed.

Location: 
United States

Drug Dealer/Police Officer Altercation Endangers North Memphis Neighborhood

A report yesterday by WMC-TV (channel 5) in Memphis was titled "North Memphis Store Sprayed with Gunfire." What happened was that after two police confronted a local drug dealer completing a sale from the parking lot of a convenience store at the corner of Chelsea and May, the dealer "ran over the officer, knocked him down and dragged him some 10 to 12 feet," according to a Sgt. Vince Higgins who was interviewed. The officer's partner then opened fire as the dealer sped away in his SUV. Hopefully the injured officer will recover, but it's lucky that someone wasn't shot by his partner. The moral of the story is, prohibition makes the world more dangerous -- the driver of the SUV was involved in criminal activity because it's profitable, and it's profitable because the drugs are illegal -- legalization would put people like him out of that business. Instead, we have police crawling everywhere (the news report's word, not time) looking for drug suspects to arrest. The suspects don't want to be arrested and imprisoned, so some of them resist, sometimes recklessly or violently. And this time an officer reacted the wrong way to that and put other people in danger too. Let WMC-TV news director Peggy Phillip know you think this angle merits inclusion in the station's reporting when these things happen. A good contact for her to make in this kind of story would be the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
Location: 
Memphis, TN
United States

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