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Drug Czar Blames the Media for Marijuana's Popularity

If you wanna hear drug czar Gil Kerlikowske getting served by random people who hate the drug war, check out this NPR interview. As soon as the phones open, Mr. K gets put on the defensive by a social worker, a physician and various others who aren't too fond of the war on drugs. Right on, radio people.

But I think my favorite part is this clueless attempt to explain America's obsession with marijuana:

KRIS (Caller): Thank you. I was wondering - I'm 62 years old, and when I was in high school, I didn't even know what marijuana was. And I'm wondering why is it so rampant now, and it never used to be?

Mr. KERLIKOWSKE: Well, I wish I had a good answer for that, Rachel. I am - I actually just about two years younger than you are, and so I'm afraid I would put myself in exactly the same mindset. But I think that marijuana is popularized on television shows. It is popularized in media. There is only one antidrug media message out there, and that's the one that the Office of the National Drug Control Policy actually funds, and that - the antidrug.com…

Has it occurred to you, sir, that TV shows and the media are talking about marijuana because people are interested in it, not the other way around? It wasn't the press that popularized marijuana, it was the people.

But this isn’t just about the popularity of pot, either. The reason marijuana is in the news constantly isn't just because everyone loves smoking it. This is happening because our marijuana policy is such a complete disaster that every single one of us is affected by it. If there weren't a massive war against marijuana being fought everyday throughout the country, then there wouldn’t be nearly as much to talk about, I assure you.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juarez," by Howard Campbell (2009, University of Texas Press, 310 pp., $24.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer Editor

Howard Campbell's "Drug War Zone" couldn't be more timely. Ciudad Juárez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, is awash in blood as the competing Juárez and Sinaloa cartels wage a deadly war over who will control the city's lucrative drug trafficking franchise. More than 2,000 people have been killed in Juárez this year in the drug wars, making the early days of Juárez Cartel dominance, when the annual narco-death toll was around 200 a year, seem downright bucolic by comparison.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/drugwarzone.jpg
The violence in Mexico, of which Juárez is the current epicenter, has been setting off alarm bells in Washington, and the US has responded with thousands more law enforcement agents on the border and more than a billion dollars in aid to the Mexican government. In other words, what we've been doing hasn't worked, so let's do even more of it, even more intensely.

We've all seen the horrific headlines; we've all seen the grim and garish displays of exemplary violence; we've read the statistics about the immense size of the illegal drug business in Mexico and the insatiable appetites of drug consumers in El Norte ("the north," e.g. the US). What we haven't had -- up until now -- is a portrayal of the El Paso-Juárez drug trade and drug culture that gets beneath the headlines, the politicians' platitudes, and law enforcement's self-justifying pronouncements. With "Drug War Zone," Campbell provides just that.

He's the right guy in the right place at the right time. A professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Texas-El Paso who has two decades in the area, Campbell is able to do his fieldwork when he walks out his front door and has been able to develop relationships with all sorts of people involved in the drug trade and its repression, from low-level street dealers in Juárez to middle class dabblers in dealing in El Paso, from El Paso barrio boys to Mexican smugglers, from journalists to Juárez cops, from relatives of cartel victims to highly-placed US drug fight bureaucrats.

Using an extended interview format, Campbell lets his informants paint a detailed picture of the social realities of the El Paso-Juárez "drug war zone." The overall portrait that emerges is of a desert metropolis (about a half million people on the US side, a million and a half across the river), distant both geographically and culturally from either Washington or Mexico City, with a long tradition of smuggling and a dense binational social network where families and relationships span two nations. This intricately imbricated web of social relations and historical factors -- the rise of a US drug culture, NAFTA and globalization -- have given rise to a border narco-culture deeply embedded in the social fabric of both cities.

(One thing that strikes me as I ponder Campbell's work, with its description of binational barrio gangs working for the Juárez Cartel, and narcos working both sides of the border, is how surprising it is that the violence plaguing Mexico has not crossed the border in any measurable degree. It's almost as if the warring factions have an unwritten agreement that the killings stay south of the Rio Grande. I'd wager they don't want to incite even more attention from the gringos.)

Campbell compares the so-called cartels to terrorists like Al Qaeda. With their terroristic violence, their use of both high tech (YouTube postings) and low tech (bodies hanging from bridges, warning banners adorning buildings) communications strategies, their existence as non-state actors acting both in conflict and complicity with various state elements, the comparison holds some water. Ultimately, going to battle against the tens of thousands of people employed by the cartels in the name of an abstraction called "the war on drugs" is likely to be as fruitless and self-defeating as going to battle against Pashtun tribesmen in the name of an abstraction called "the war on terror."

But that doesn't mean US drug war efforts are going to stop, or that the true believers in law enforcement are going to stop believing -- at least most of them. One of the virtues of "Drug War Zone" is that it studies not only the border narco-culture, but also the border policing culture. Again, Campbell lets his informants speak for him, and those interviews are fascinating and informative.

Having seen its result close-up and firsthand, Campbell has been a critic of drug prohibition. He still is, although he doesn't devote a lot of space to it in the book. Perhaps, like (and through) his informants, he lets prohibition speak for itself. The last interview in the book may echo Campbell's sentiments. It's with former Customs and Border Patrol agent Terry Nelson. In the view of his former colleagues, Nelson has gone over to the dark side. He's a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

If you're interested in the border or drug culture or the drug economy or drug prohibition, you need to read "Drug War Zone." This is a major contribution to the literature.

Marijuana: Boston Freedom Rally Draws 30,000 -- No Arrests, Some Tickets, in Wake of State Decrim Vote

The 20th annual Boston Freedom Rally brought an estimated 30,000 people to Boston Common on Saturday, September 19, to support the reform of marijuana laws. That would make the Freedom Rally the second largest marijuana reform event in the country, behind only the Seattle Hempfest.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/bostonrally09.jpg
2009 Boston Freedom Rally (Scott Gacek on bostonfreedomrally.com)
All afternoon, tens of thousands of people sat in the sun, listening to speakers extolling the virtues of cannabis and calling for its legalization and bands rocking out for the cause. At 4:20pm, a massive cloud of marijuana smoke rose from the Commons as the crowd celebrated the stoner holiday (or time of day).

Sponsored by MassCann, the Bay State affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Freedom Rally had in some past years been marred by arrests for pot-smoking. In a previous article, Drug War Chronicle predicted that the rally would see "numerous arrests -- if police behavior in the past is any indicator." That was an overstatement -- our apologies to MASSCANN for it. 2007 did see 53 arrests at the Freedom Rally, according to Boston Police -- one of them of NORML founder Keith Stroup. But even that number, while significant, was a fraction of a percent of the attendees. Last year, the number of possession busts was down to just six.

And this year there were none. Massachusetts residents voted to decriminalize marijuana possession last November, and so all the police could do this year was issue tickets with a maximum fine of $100, which they did to 136 people. Three others were arrested for marijuana distribution, and another three on unspecified charges.

Still, participants and organizers of the festival alike lauded the relative freedom of living in a decrim state, while decrying the presence of undercover officers who, apparently randomly, would select members of the crowd to be searched and hassled. On its web site, Freedom Rally organizers have asked that people who were ticketed or searched by police contact them.

Stay tuned for Chronicle coverage of the Massachusetts decriminalization law and of the movement in Massachusetts.

Stars of “From Prison to the Stage” at Kennedy Center return to Connecticut

[Courtesy of The Safe Streets Arts Foundation] We are pleased to report that the Judy Dworin Performance Project, which was a big hit at our "From Prison to the Stage" show at the Kennedy Center on Sept. 5, has returned safely to its home in Hartford, Connecticut. The Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP) was founded in 1989 as a nonprofit organization to provide support for individual artists, particularly the silent and silenced. Over the past 20 years, JDPP has provided innovative, inspiring, educational and collaborative art rooted in the belief that the arts can be a powerful agent for change. Upcoming events of JDPP: • October 30, 6:30pm - Excerpts from the award winning The Witching Hour at the Old State House in downtown Hartford • Nov 5, 6 & 7, 7:30pm - Premiere of What I Want to Say at Charter Oak Cultural Center, an evening that celebrates past pieces and debuts from the Judy Dworin Performance Ensemble. • Feb 2 - Dreamings, a piece created at York Correctional Institution (women's state prison), as further developed by formerly incarcerated women and family members of the incarcerated, at Kinsella Performing Arts Magnet School. Upcoming residencies: The Moving Matters! Residency program of JDPP brings movement-based multi-arts residencies into schools, prisons and community centers through collaborative multi-arts projects. • A 5th year in residence at York Correctional Institution, with workshops in dance, song, storytelling, poetry and personal testimony on the theme of "Bridging the Divides" to culminate in July • A further development of the York Moms & Kids program bridging the divide between incarcerated mothers and their children. For further information about JDPP, its performance or residency work or DVDs of work listed here, please visit www.judydworin.org or contact [email protected] or 860.527.9800.

Prison Tattoo Art Contest Winners

 

Hello everyone,

We have the winners for the 2009 Prison Tattoo Art Contest. Go to our web site and check them out.

www.shotcallerpress.com

We received so much astonishing art that it was difficult to choose the winners, but as usual, we have. We have also selected other artists to be displayed in "Prison Ink" the tabletop tattoo art book that will be released sometime in 2010. Watch our web site for changes and other announcements regarding "Prison Ink".

If you have not been notified regarding the contest you are not a winner. Winners have already been notified. Artists selected to be in the book will be receiving their notification within the next few weeks. Please do not contact us about your status we will send out all notifications by US mail. 

We would also like to apologize for our late beginning for the second short story contest. The delay is due to limited funds. We will be holding the contest real soon - our priority is paying the winners of the art contest. Thank you for you patience and understanding in this matter.

Remember our stories can change the world,

 

Theresa M. Huggins

CEO, Shot Caller Press, LLC

[email protected]

503-890-1027

 

Media Hypocrisy in the Marijuana Debate

Russ Belville shares the fascinating story of some "higher ups" at CBS pulling the plug on a NORML radio show that was about to go on the air. The whole thing is magnificently absurd considering that CBS owns Showtime, home of the hit series Weeds.

If CBS has a problem with marijuana, then they really shouldn’t be out there making money by sensationalizing it. Boy, it would really suck for CBS if word got out among Weeds viewers that the show's corporate owners have some kind of problem with debating marijuana laws.

Ecstacy and the war on empathy.

I recently read an article on the Sotomeyer Hearings, which discussed how "Republicans Question Need for Empathy". This led me to contemplate how our entire war on drugs is a war on empathy, particularly the drug policies started by the Nixon administration. These were of course part of an overall strategy against the counter culture which preached (among other things) increased empathy. The war on drugs was one of the earliest and longest lasting fronts in the culture war which has played such a large part of American politics in my life time. I think the rather disproportionate vilification of ecstacy is in no small part because of an anti-empathy attitude among fundamentalists. So I wrote a little article about it here. Perhaps some of you would enjoy reading it. I look forward to reading any comments.

Feature: Censorship in California -- MPP Marijuana Ad Campaign Hits Bumps as Stations Reject It

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) kicked off a TV ad campaign aimed at gaining support for a California marijuana legalization bill in the legislature on Wednesday, but ran into problems with several TV stations around the state, which either rejected the ad outright or just ignored MPP efforts to place it. Still, the spots are up and running on other Golden State stations.

Playing on California's budget crisis -- the state is $26 billion in the hole and currently issuing IOUs to vendors and laying off state workers -- the 30-second spots feature middle-aged suburban Sacramento housewife Nadene Herndon, who tells the camera:

"Sacramento says huge cuts to schools, health care, and police are inevitable due to the state's budget crisis. Even the state's parks could be closed. But the governor and the legislature are ignoring millions of Californians who want to pay taxes. We're marijuana consumers. Instead of being treated like criminals for using a substance safer than alcohol, we want to pay our fair share. Taxes from California's marijuana industry could pay the salaries of 20,000 teachers. Isn't it time?"

As Herndon finishes speaking, the words "Tax and regulate marijuana" appear on the screen, as well as a link to Controlmarijuana.org. Clicking on that link actually takes you to MPP's "MPP of California" web page.

"I'm a medical marijuana user," Herndon told the Chronicle. "I was at Oaksterdam University with my husband looking at some classes, and the chancellor [Richard Lee] came out and said I would be perfect for an ad they were thinking about. I talked to my husband, and he said maybe I should do it. It is a cause near and dear to my heart, so I did," she said.

The response from acquaintances has been very positive, she said. "I've gotten lots of positive messages, and a few who are worried for my safety or that my house might be vandalized," said Herndon. "I have gotten a couple of odd phone calls, though, so I've changed my number."

The spots are aimed at creating public support for AB 390, a bill introduced in February by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). That bill would legalize the adult possession of marijuana and set up a system of taxed and regulated cultivation and sales.

The bill and the ad campaign come as support for marijuana legalization is on the rise in California. A recent Field poll showed support at 56%. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has gone on the record saying that legalization needs to be discussed. And, thanks to the state's medical marijuana laws, millions of Californians can see with their own eyes what a regime of legal marijuana sales might look like.

It would appear that marijuana legalization is a legitimate political topic in California, but that's not what a number of the state's major market TV stations think. At least six stations have rejected or ignored the ads. Oakland NBC affiliate KTVU and San Francisco ABC affiliate KGO declined to air the ad, as did San Jose NBC affiliate KNTV. Three Los Angeles stations, KABC, Fox affiliate KTTV, and KTLA also refused to air the ad.

KGO told MPP that they "weren't comfortable" with the spot, while KNTV said only that "standards rejected the spot." KABC claimed the ad "promotes marijuana use."

But while some local stations have balked, the ad is running on stations in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco, as well as on MSNBC, CNBC, and CNN, via California cable operators.

"We are astonished that major California TV stations chose to censor a discussion that Governor Schwarzenegger has said our state should have on an issue supported by 56% of voters, according to the Field poll," said Aaron Smith, MPP California policy director. "The two million Californians who use marijuana in a given month deserve to have their voices heard -- and their tax dollars should help solve the fiscal emergency that threatens our schools, police and parks."

"That those stations would refuse to run the ad is appalling," said MPP communications director Bruce Mirken. "This wasn't something we expected; this wasn't a stunt to get press coverage. This was intentionally a very innocuous ad."

Mirken took special umbrage at KABC's suggestion that the ad "promotes marijuana use." "It's a really tortured reading of that ad to claim that," he said. "The ad is simply recognizing the reality that there are lots of marijuana consumers out there unable to pay taxes on their purchases because we have consigned marijuana to a criminal underground," he said.

Alison Holcomb, drug policy director for the ACLU of Washington, told the Huffington Post that while the refusals don't "implicate the First Amendment from a legal standpoint," she believes the practice "undermines a core principle underlying the First Amendment: that the strength of a democracy flows from the exchange of ideas."

As Holcomb noted, the various stations' refusal to accept the ad is not a First amendment violation in the strict sense -- no governmental entity is suppressing MPP's right to seek air time to run its ad, and the stations are within their legal rights to refuse it. But the effect is to suppress MPP's ability to compete in the marketplace of ideas, and MPP smells a double standard.

"When the governor of the state has said we ought to have this debate, it would seem to mean letting all sides air their views," said Mirken. "Pretty much all of these stations that rejected our ad have aired ONDCP anti-marijuana ads, which are often blatantly dishonest, so they are effectively taking sides in the argument. That feels fundamentally unfair."

The battle continues. As of Thursday, MPP was effectively shut out of the Los Angeles market, except for the cable news networks. But Mirken said he hoped to have the ad on the air there by the weekend.

Safe Streets Arts Foundation: International Publicity for Our Prison Art Show

Canadian Radio Station Interview about our Upcoming Pano Prison Art Show

(Listen to It at Your Leisure)

 

Listen to our interview

 live on Monday, June 8, 10:30 pm Eastern time on a prominent Vancouver, Canada radio station at www.coopradio.org or, if you miss it, listen to the podcast at www.rabble.ca.

 

The subject of the radio interview is

 our upcoming free art show featuring "Pano" art created in prisons across America. This is a special show called "Pano in American Tradition" at Takoma Park Community Center (Gallery 3), 7500 Maple Ave, Takoma Park, Maryland from June 12 to July 25, 2009. The art is part of the collection of the Safe Streets Arts Foundation, which operates the Prison Art Gallery in Washington DC. The opening reception will take place on June 12 from 6 to 9 pm, and will feature live music by ex-prisoner guitarist Dennis Sobin, who has performed at the Kennedy Center.
 
Paño art draws on the deepest emotions of prisoners whose artistic expression is limited only by the materials at hand. The word paño (Spanish for cloth or handkerchief) has come to mean the art form itself -- a ball point pen or colored pencil drawing on a handkerchief.
 
Scholars have yet to determine the origin of paño art but some believe that it emerged in the 1940s among Chicano prisoners in the Southwestern United States who drew on the handkerchiefs or torn bed sheets. They do this because finding materials for artistic expression is difficult.
 
The portable and economical aspects of the Paño (handkerchief) allow prisoners to share their work with family and friends, use in bartering, and to mentally escape prison life. Today paño art is associated with Chicano inmates around the country, both male and female, who neatly fold paños into envelopes and mail them to loved ones.
 
Paños typically depict prison life, loved ones, dreams, memories, or personal experiences. Paño artists take much of their imagery and inspiration from the larger visual arts vocabulary of Chicano art conspicuous in murals, posters, low rider cars, graffiti, and tattoos. 
 
Most prisons offer handkerchiefs for sale in the commissary and tacitly sanction the art. Panos are collected in great numbers by convict patrons. The Smithsonian Museum has a pano collection, recognizing the uniqueness of this art form.
 
The Safe Streets Arts Foundation, incorporating both the Prisons Foundation and the Victims Foundation, is the sponsor of the annual From-Prison-to-The-Stage Show at the Kennedy Center and the Prison Art Gallery in Washington, DC. It is supported through the generosity Lloyd S. Rubin, ex-prisoner and international arts consultant.


For more information about the free Pano art show sponsored by the City of Takoma Park and taking place at the Takoma Park Community Center (Gallery 3) from June 12 to July 25, 2009, contact Stéphan Janin at:  [email protected]

"The Safe Streets Arts Foundation, incorporating both the Prisons Foundation and the Victims Foundation, is proud to sponsor the annual From-Prison-to-The-Stage Show at the Kennedy Center and the Prison Art Gallery at 1600 K Street. NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC, three blocks from the White House."

Location: 
Takoma Park, MD
United States

Europe: Danish Court Says Christiania Residents Have No Right to It

A Danish court has ruled that the residents of Copenhagen's Christiania neighborhood have no right to use the property they have called home since 1971. The ruling opens the way for the government to regain control of the hippie enclave.

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entrance to Christiania, Copenhagen (courtesy Wikimedia)
Nearly 40 years ago, Copenhagen counterculture activists invaded a disused former naval base and created the self-governing community of Christiania in the heart of the city. More than 900 residents lived an anarchic, self-governing existence, complete with the famous Pusher Street, where cannabis merchants openly sold their wares.

But in 2004, the Danish government moved to reassert control over Christiania with an eye to redeveloping the property. It has also forced the shutdown of Pusher Street, resulting in clashes with police. But residents didn't respond only with rocks; they filed a lawsuit in 2006 seeking to block the government from reasserting control.

On Tuesday, the Danish Eastern High Court dismissed the lawsuit. But residents had expected that ruling, Christiania spokesman Thomas Ertman told the Associated Press. "I believe that we will appeal the case" to Denmark's highest court, the Supreme Court, he said.

"No Danes are above the law, neither are the residents of Christiania," said Peter Christensen, a senior member of the ruling Liberal Party. "I am very satisfied that the ruling came out this way."

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