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Huge News: Dennis Kucinich To Chair Subcommittee Overseeing ONDCP

It ain't Ethan Nadelmann as Drug Czar, but I'll take it.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has been named chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee, giving him jurisdiction over the Drug Czar's office. Oversight of ONDCP was previously conducted by the non-defunct Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources Subcommittee, chaired by rabid drug warrior Mark Souder.

In short, the responsibility of overseeing ONDCP has effectively been transferred from Congress' most reckless drug warrior to its most outspoken drug policy reformer.

Kucinich's agenda remains unknown at this point, but it's clear that he sought this particular appointment deliberately. From GovExec.com:

As the [National Security] panel's presumed chairman in the Democratic-led 110th Congress, he had a ready platform to advance his antiwar agenda.

But Kucinich said in a brief interview that he might wield more influence as chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, which will have jurisdiction over all domestic issues and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.


If Drug Czar John Walters is now wondering what's in store for him, he might begin by reading what Kucinich has to say about the war on drugs:

I have studied the issue for decades and recognize that our "War on Drugs" has failed. In fact, because our War on Drugs drives up the price, it encourages violence. Prohibition simply doesn't work. It only creates thousands and thousands of Al Capones. Prison should be for people who hurt other people, not themselves. We don't jail people for merely drinking. We jail people when they drink and drive or hurt another human.


The supporters of the drug war have only one solution to this debacle -- more money for law enforcement, more people, more power, more prisons -- with no end in sight. Of course, these happy drug warriors who justify their living hunting down drug users come on TV and promise us that they see light at the end of the tunnel. They promised us a drug-free America by 1995, and instead we see new and more exotic drugs constantly being added to the mix.


The shredding of our rights to privacy and property promoted by the Drug War is inconsistent with a free society. Criminalization of private or self-destructive behavior is not acceptable in a free nation.

The racism evident in the Drug War, and the clearly preferential treatment for offenders with connections, undermine our concept of a just society. Draconian prison sentences that dwarf those for violent crimes, like murder and rape, destroy respect for our laws.


It is time for an honest dialogue on this issue. Time to stop the documented lies, half-truths, and propaganda that got us into this mess in the first place. It is time to face the facts.


With due caution, I must say this is a great day for reform. That the man who spoke these words could even be considered for such a position is a tremendously positive sign. Dennis Kucinich is on our side. He showed up at an SSDP awards dinner for starters.

Stay tuned. This is going to be interesting to say the least.


Dennis Kucinich with SSDP staff, 2004
Location: 
United States

Former Narcs Say Drug War is Futile

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Fox News
URL: 
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,243813,00.html

Newsbrief: White House Announces Dates, Locations for 2007 Regional Student Drug Testing Summits

courtesy NORML News

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will once again sponsor a series of regional summits to encourage middle-school and high-school administrators to enact federally sponsored random student drug testing. The 2007 summits will mark the fourth consecutive year that the White House is funding the symposiums, which are scheduled to take place this winter and spring in Charleston, South Carolina (January 24), Newark, New Jersey (February 27), Honolulu, Hawaii (March 27), and Las Vegas, Nevada (April 24).

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/drugtestinglab.jpg
drug testing lab
Under newly revised federal guidelines, federal education funds may be provided to public schools for up to four years to pay for the implementation of random drug testing programs for students who participate in competitive extra-curricular activities.

Since 2005, the Education Department has appropriated more than $20 million to various school districts to pay for random drug testing programs. Federal grant funds may not be used to pay for separate drug education and/or prevention curricula, nor may any funds be used to train school staff officials on how to implement drug testing. Only federal investigators are eligible to review data collected by the school programs, which will be evaluated as part of a forthcoming federal assessment of the efficacy of random drug testing to deter illicit student drug use.

A previous evaluation of student drug testing programs conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded, "Drug testing, as practiced in recent years in American secondary schools, does not prevent or inhibit student drug use." Investigators collected data from 894 schools and 94,000 students and found that at every grade level studied -- 8, 10, and 12 -- students reported using illicit drugs at virtually identical rates in schools that drug tested versus those that did not.

Currently, only five percent of schools randomly drug test student athletes, and some two percent of schools test students who participate in extra-curricular activities other than athletics. Both the National Education Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose such student testing programs.

Visit http://www.cmpinc.net/dts/ to register online to attend any of this year's summits. Visit http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=3406 to download NORML fact-sheets on random student drug testing.

Feature: Afghan Opium Dilemma Sparks New Calls for Alternative Development, "Normalizing" the Poppy Crop

With Afghanistan's opium crop reaching record levels last year and seemingly destined for a repeat performance this year, lawmakers and officials on both sides of the Atlantic are looking for innovative solutions. Or at least some of them are. Seemingly bereft of new ideas, the US government's official line is that the solution is eradicating as much of the crop as possible with herbicides, as drug czar John Walters announced in Kabul two weeks ago.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/poppy2.jpg
incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)
While the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai has endorsed the notion -- though not yet put it into effect -- it has done so reluctantly, knowing that eradication will infuriate the hundreds of thousands of poor farmers who depend on the poppy harvest to feed their families. As the Karzai government knows full well, angry poppy farmers mean bad times for the government and good times for the resurgent Taliban, which awaits the aggrieved growers with open arms.

But while the US government and a grudging Afghan government are embracing standard drug war tactics, the situation in Afghanistan has created the political space for the consideration of other solutions. Some, such as alternative development proposals, are almost as shop-worn a response as eradication, while others, including various schemes to legitimize the poppy crop, represent a break with the global prohibitionist consensus.

Alternative development -- the substitution of other cash crops for opium poppies and the creation of new economic activities -- is the preferred solution of a number of scholars and non-governmental organizations, as well as the international community as represented by the United Nations and the World Bank. In a highly detailed report on the Afghan opium economy released at the end of November, the World Bank called for a "smart" counter-narcotics strategy featuring both alternative development and law enforcement action against the trade, but even as it did so, it underscored that alternative development would be a long-term -- not a short-term -- solution.

"A 'smart' counter-narcotics strategy will be essential for the effectiveness and sustainability of the fight against drugs," the report noted. "The diversity, flexibility, and dynamic character of the drug industry have been amply demonstrated in recent years. It must be recognized that counter-narcotics efforts -- whether enforcement actions or development of alternative livelihoods -- inevitably cannot be anywhere nearly as nimble or quick as the activities they are targeted against, and they inevitably take time, measured in decades rather than years in the case of alternative livelihoods programs."

But evidence of a "smart" counter-narcotics strategy being implemented is severely lacking. As Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin noted in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, the US government failed to consolidate gains it made with a small reduction in the area cultivated in 2005. "Although the decrease was due almost entirely to the political persuasion of farmers by the government, the United States failed to deliver the alternative livelihoods the farmers expected and continued to pressure the Afghan government to engage in counterproductive crop eradication," Rubin wrote. "The Taliban exploited the eradication policy to gain the support of poppy growers."

The problem of support for alternative development is not limited to isolated opium growing communities, as Barnett noted. "As numerous studies have documented over the years, Afghanistan has not received the resources needed to stabilize it. International military commanders, who confront the results of this poverty every day, estimate that Washington must double the resources it devotes to Afghanistan. Major needs include accelerated road building, the purchase of diesel for immediate power production, the expansion of cross-border electricity purchases, investment in water projects to improve the productivity of agriculture, the development of infrastructure for mineral exploitation, and a massive program of skill building for the public and private sectors."

And that is the Catch-22 of eliminating the poppy crop through alternative development. While the lack of roads, electric power, and other infrastructure for development make it difficult to get off the ground, let alone sustain alternative development, the opium economy, with its hostility toward interference from the central government and the West and its de facto alliance with insurgents and freelance gun men, makes the creation of such crucial developmental infrastructure almost impossible. In fact, in the face of a revitalized Taliban, some of the non-governmental organizations working on alternative development have fled the opium growing regions.

Rubin is harshly critical of US counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan, noting that the US at first ignored trafficking by warlords it wanted as allies, then, as the uproar over increasing opium production grew louder, called for crop eradication. "To Afghans," he wrote, "this policy has looked like a way of rewarding rich drug dealers while punishing poor farmers."

After noting that the current global prohibition regime does not reduce drug use, but does produce huge profits for criminals, armed insurrectionists, and corrupt government officials, Rubin recommends treating the opium problem as a security and development issue. But then we are back to Catch-22. Still, he makes certain concrete recommendations: "[R]ural development in both poppy-growing and non-poppy-growing areas, including the construction of roads and cold-storage facilities to make other products marketable; employment creation through the development of new rural industries; and reform of the Ministry of the Interior and other government bodies to root out major figures involved with narcotics, regardless of political or family connections."

But the continuing expansion of the Afghan opium economy, combined with the reemergence of the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies and the need for US and NATO soldiers to fight and die to try to stop them, has led to increasing calls for an approach that transcends both repression and alternative development. Most recently, in the past few days, a US congressman and British Member of Parliament (MP) have called separately for diverting the poppy crop into the legitimate medicinal market for opioid pain relievers.

The European defense and drug policy think tank Senlis Council was first out of the gate with that notion, unveiling a comprehensive proposal to do just that. But that proposal has so far gained little traction, garnering the support of only a handful of Western politicians. Still, rising fears in the West that attempts to eradicate the crop will lead to increased political instability and violence by driving Afghan farmers into the waiting arms of the Taliban appear to be leading to a new receptivity to the notion -- or something similar.

Here in the US, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) said last week that he would use his newly acquired seat on the House International Relations Committee to raise the issue this month. "You can't just cut off the poppies because that's the livelihood of the people who live there," Carnahan said. "But providing them with alternative legal markets for pain-relief medication is a way to help cut back on that heroin supply."

Carnahan cited the successful experiences of Turkey and India in the early 1970s, when US officials were worried about a rising tide of heroin from poppy crops in those two countries. Officials in the Nixon administration drafted a treaty that blunted the threat by allowing Turkey and India to sell their crops to make pain medications as part of their legitimate economies. Carnahan is also exploring the idea of using altered, morphine-free poppies containing thebaine, which can be turned into a number of therapeutic compounds, including oxycodone, oxymorphon, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. The altered poppies that produce thebaine are the strain that is used in Australia, where they are grown under license for the medicinal market.

"The idea of creating a trade for morphine-free opium is very worthwhile and needs to be thought through carefully," said Toni Kutchan, a biochemist at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. "It should not be pushed off the table by a knee-jerk reaction against it."

"I'd certainly like to see a study on how feasible that is," said James Dobbins, director at the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp. "I do think that the current US and international effort is at best a kind of a band aid that can't have more than a marginal impact."

"I think the government should give serious consideration to attempting to implement that type of program," said Dr. Charles Schuster, former head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Current US policies alone "are never going to be the solution for this," he added.

But the senior State Department official heading US efforts to fight the Afghan drug trade scoffed. Tom Schweich said the idea was "not realistic." Instead, he counseled more of the same. "You really need to keep it illegal and eradicate it," Schweich said.

Meanwhile, a British MP last week was calling on the British government to just buy up the Afghan opium crop and use it around the world for pain relief. South West Beds MP Andrew Selous asked the House of Commons why not? "Why, given that heroin can have legitimate medical uses, cannot we buy up the Afghan heroin crop and use it around the world for pain relief? That would stop it flooding into this country illegally. We need much serious thought on that issue."

Selous cited the murders of five addicted prostitutes in Ipswich last month. "I read the biographies of the women who were so brutally and horrifically murdered and I cannot have been the only one to be struck by the fact that they were all heroin addicts," he said. "It is a problem that affects all our constituencies -- there will not be a single Member of Parliament who does not have a heroin problem in their constituency. Given that we know that 90% of the heroin on UK streets comes from Afghanistan and that we have a major military presence there, it is extraordinary that we cannot do more to stop the poppy crop ending up here."

While the Bush administration is pushing for tougher measures and chemical eradication of the crops, and the UN, World Bank, and some academics are advocating intensified development and state-building strategies as an adjunct or alternative, the chorus of critics looking for a better way is growing, and they are implicitly -- if not explicitly -- challenging the global prohibition regime itself.

OP-ED: This Is Your Brain on Drugs, Dad

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/03/opinion/03males.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Monitoring the Future Annual Report Warns of Prescription Drug Use

The annual Monitoring the Future survey of drug use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders was released Thursday. The news is mixed, the researchers report. Here's the opening of their press release:
Teen drug use continues down in 2006, particularly among older teens; but use of prescription-type drugs remains high ANN ARBOR, Mich.----The percentage of U.S. adolescents who use illicit drugs or drink alcohol continued a decade-long drop in 2006, according to the 32nd annual Monitoring the Future survey of 50,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in more than 400 schools nationwide. This year’s survey reveals that a fifth (21 percent) of today’s 8th graders, over a third (36 percent) of 10th graders, and about half (48 percent) of all 12th graders have ever taken any illicit drug during their lifetime. The proportion saying they used any illicit drug in the prior 12 months (called “annual prevalence”) continued to decline in 2006, and the rates (15 percent, 29 percent, and 37 percent in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades, respectively) are now down from recent peak levels in the mid-1990s by about one third in 8th grade, one quarter in 10th grade, and one eighth in 12th grade. However, the declines since last year are relatively small—only 0.7, 1.0, and 1.9 percentage points, respectively. (The 2005–2006 decline is statistically significant for the three grades combined, but not for any one grade taken individually.)
While marijuana use was down slightly, the use of Oxycontin, Vicodin, and other prescription drugs was up, as was the use of cough syrup. Hmmm...pot or cough syrup? Also, drug czar Walters crows about declines in the past five years, but we're still at about the same level as 1991 and not that far different from 1975. The peak year for teen drug use was 1979.
Location: 
United States

Medical Marijuana Debate: Should the sick be able to smoke?

The Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation Presents a debate: Medical Marijuana: Should the sick be able to smoke? Featuring: Bob Barr Former Congressman 21st Century Liberties Chair for Freedom and Privacy at the American Conservative Union V. Ethan Nadelmann Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance Moderator: James E. Fleming Professor at Fordham Law, author of Securing Constitutional Democracy Co-Sponsors: Fordham Law Federalist Society & American Constitution Society Eleven states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. This has been largely accomplished by voter initiative but the issue is getting politicians’ attention. In Gonzales v. Raich the Supreme Court majority sided against California and medical marijuana but said “these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.” The new Democratic majority may be more receptive to their calls. What is the medicinal efficacy of marijuana? Was Raich the last gasp of the Rehnquist Court’s “federalism revolution?” What is the connection between this and broader drug legalization? What has been the experience in these eleven legalized states? (Free and open to the public - Reception to follow) RSVP here http://thesmithfamilyfoundation.org/register.cfm
Date: 
Thu, 01/18/2007 - 6:30pm - 9:00pm
Location: 
140 W 62nd Street, McNally Hall
New York, NY
United States

Afghanistan: Government Warns of Possible Poppy Crop Spraying

Location: 
Kabul
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
United Nations Integretated Regional Information Networks (IRIN News)
URL: 
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/52be6f726b83c13d72b098c292febb74.htm

The Best and Worst of 2006?

The year is coming to an end, and it is time to look back at 2006. What did we achieve? What did we fail to achieve? What were the highlights and lowlights for drug policy reform this year? I'm thinking I'll make a pair of feature articles out of this and I hereby invite you to submit your nominations for the best and worst of the year. They can be events, they can be trends... Just off the top of my head, I would include the success of the lowest priority marijuana law enforcement initiatives and New Jersey's passage of needle exchange legislation last week among the highlights of the year. On the downer side, there is the failure of the statewide legalization initiatives in Nevada and Colorado and the failure of the medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota. The continuing methamphetamine mania as an excuse to continue to craft repressive, punitive legislation will probably also make the list. But let's not limit this to the United States. Certainly, there are things going on in the rest of the world that could be included. Perhaps the relative quiet in the Bolivian coca fields during the first year of Evo Morales' presidency is worth mentioning? Or the increasingly shrill shouts from England and Australia that marijuana is linked to mental illness? (And just what is it about that Commonwealth weed? I don't hear too many similar accusations here in the US, even though you would think John Walters and his ilk would be jumping all over it). What do you think needs to be mentioning in the year-end wrap-up? Do tell.
Location: 
United States

Southwest Asia: US Drug Czar Announces Afghanistan Will Spray Opium Poppies

Office of National Drug Control Policy head John Walters announced Saturday at a Kabul press conference that Afghanistan's poppy crops will be sprayed with herbicides in an effort to put a crimp in the country's booming opium and heroin trade. But the Afghan government, which is not enthusiastic about spraying, has yet to confirm Walters' pronouncement.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/poppy2-small.jpg
opium poppies
This year, Afghan opium production increased 49% over last year, and the country produced 6,100 metric tons of opium, or 670 tons of heroin. That's 90% of the illicit opium supply, and more than the world's junkies can shoot, smoke, or snort in a year. This as the US spent $600 million on anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan this year.

Afghanistan will become a narco-state unless "giant steps" are taken to rein in production, Walters said. "We cannot fail in this mission. Proceeds from opium production feed the insurgency and burden Afghanistan's nascent political institutions with the scourge of corruption."

The problem for Walters and the US is that embarking on widespread eradication is also likely to feed the insurgency as farmers and traders turn to the Taliban for protection from the central government and the "infidels." The Taliban is already doing just that, and it is using opium profits to fund its resurgence. So far this year, 189 NATO and US troops and some 4,000 insurgents have been killed in fighting, by far the largest toll since the US overthrew the Taliban in late 2001.

On top of that, after decades of war, Afghans are very leery of chemicals being dropped from planes. President Karzai himself earlier rejected spraying, saying herbicides proved too great a risk and could contaminate water and kill crops growing beside the poppies.

But Walters said Karzai has agreed to spraying, which will use glyphosate, the herbicide in Roundup. "I think the president has said yes, and I think some of the ministers have repeated yes," Walters said without specifying when spraying would start. "The particulars of the application have not been decided yet, but yes, the goal is to carry out ground spraying."

The Associated Press reported that Gen. Khodaidad, Afghanistan's deputy minister for counter-narcotics, said the government hadn't yet made any decisions. But the AP also quoted an unnamed Afghan official who said the government was studying the issue.

"We are thinking about it, we are looking into it. We're just trying to see how the procedure will go," said the official.

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