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More Video of Drug Reformers and Their Encounters with the "Other Side" at the UN in Vienna Last Month

Last month I posted some video highlights, filmed by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, from a recent NGO session convened by the United Nations drug agency in Vienna where many of our friends participated. HCLU has released some more videos from the session, "Abstinence First?," discussing the flaws of the abstinence-only model; "Student Drug Testing"; and War on Drugs: The New Jim Crow." Follow the links to read introductory comments by HCLU's Peter Sarosi before watching the videos, or just watch them here:

Feature: Going After Congressional Drug Warrior #1

Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) has made a political career out of being "tough on drugs." For years, his championing of such harsh legislation as the Higher Education Act's (HEA) drug penalty, his support of foreign drug war adventures in places like Colombia and Mexico, and his relentless opposition to any softening of the marijuana laws, even for medical uses, have served him well with his conservative northeast Indiana constituents -- or at the least, have not prevented him from being reelected.

To be fair, Souder has in recent years shown some small signs of retreat from his drug war dogmatism. While he championed the HEA drug provision, he was willing to water it down to only apply to students busted while in school and receiving financial aid, although that was partially in response to efforts to repeal it outright. And he has been a supporter of the Second Chance Act, which would presumably help some of the people incarcerated under the drug war he champions. Nevertheless, drug reformers still regard Souder as the devil, or at least a ranking demon.

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Mark Souder -- #1 drug warrior
But while his seat has been safe so far, this year could be different. Not only is the Republican incumbent running in a year that could well see a rising Democratic tide, not only does he have an energetic and well-financed Democratic challenger in 27-year-old attorney Mike Montagano, but now Souder is facing a new political action committee (PAC) for whom drug warrior number one is target number one.

The PAC is the Schools Not Prisons PAC, headed by Darrell Rogers, a 29-year-old who honed his political skills with stints as a congressional intern, a volunteer for the Jim Webb senatorial campaign, and earlier, as executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), a group formed largely in response to Souder's HEA amendment that has helped spearhead the ongoing campaign to kill it dead.

Then Rogers picked up a masters degree in American Government from the Catholic University of America in Washington. Now, he's ready to put all that knowledge and experience to use.

"The PAC actually began as a grad school project when I was doing my masters," he said. "Now, I see a real opportunity for this to grow into something fundamentally sound and sustainable that will be able to have a real impact on selected congressional races."

"Our goals are three-fold," Rogers explained this week from his suburban Washington office. "We want to target and defeat members who have been expanding incarceration while limiting educational opportunities for people with drug offenses. At the same time, we want to support members who are good on our issues of supporting educational opportunity and looking for reasonable alternatives to our policies of over-incarceration," he said.

"But one of our most important goals is to defeat Congress' number one drug warrior, biggest enemy of education and biggest fan of imprisonment," said Rogers, alluding, of course, to none other than Souder. "We want to make having the title of number one drug warrior such a burden for representatives that they will shy away from positions that could earn them that title."

That's something drug reformers have long ached to see. Not only must elected officials understand that they will not pay a price for supporting reform efforts, but the converse must also hold true: Elected officials must understand they will pay a price for supporting punitive prohibitionist policies, the thinking goes.

So far, that has happened on only a tiny number of occasions -- the defeat of hard-line incumbent Albany, New York, prosecutor Paul Clyne by reformist David Soares in 2004, and the defeat of then-drug warrior and Georgia congressman (and now Libertarian Party presidential nominee!) Bob Barr in the Republican primary in 2002 after Libertarians ran a series of TV ads portraying him as indifferent to the suffering of medical marijuana patients.

Mark Souder would make a great addition to that list, said DC-based activists who have gone up against him on Capitol Hill. "Mark Souder is the author and chief proponent of one of the most harmful and misguided drug laws this country has ever seen with the HEA drug provision," said Tom Angell, communications director for SSDP. "It's exciting to see young people fed up with these destructive drug policies fighting back in the political arena."

"Souder is the last of the true drug war extremists," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. Get rid of him and Congress loses its most vocal cheerleader for punitive drug policies. He's in his toughest re-election race yet; it's possible to knock him out."

Souder has fended off attacks from drug reformers before. In 2002, a PAC that included several then-SSDP members went into his district in a bid to knock him off in the Republican primary. It didn't work, as Souder defeated his challenger and went on to win the general election on the rising Republican tide of the early Bush years.

But times have changed. While Souder is busy crusading against needle exchanges, medical marijuana, and any other drug reform effort that he associates with the stench of "legalization," his district is hemorrhaging jobs and his constituents are caught in the same unhappy inflationary spiral as the rest of the country. And the candidacy of Barack Obama, senator from the neighboring state of Illinois, has energized Democratic voters in Indiana's 3rd District, just as it has across the land.

That was evident on primary day. With turnout swelled by the Democratic presidential primary, Montagano pulled in 76,356 votes, nearly double the 40,000 votes Souder garnered in his primary. Montagano's primary vote tally is within shouting distance of the total votes Democratic challenger Thomas Hayhurst got in the 2006 general election and suggests Montagano could pick up even more in November.

In the 2006 election, Souder carried nearly 95,000 votes to Hayworth's nearly 80,000. That gave Souder a victory margin of 54% to 46%. But with the ranks of Democratic voters swelling, that margin of victory is likely to shrink or even be reversed this year.

Montagano is also leading Souder in fundraising. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported this week that, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings, Montagano had received $142,000 in PAC and individual donations since mid-April, while Souder had raised only $91,000.

Montagano also has more money in the bank. According to a Tuesday report in Roll Call examining the possibility of a Souder defeat, the Democratic challenger has $353,000 banked, compared to the incumbent's $320,000.

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Darrell Rogers
While poll numbers are scarce -- the only direct Souder versus Montagano poll was in mid-May, before Montagano even won the nomination, and showed Souder with a two-to-one lead -- political observers are beginning to suggest Souder may indeed be vulnerable. That same April poll showed Souder's job approval at only 46%. In its most recent listing of competitive House races, the respected Cook Political Report moved Indiana's 3rd from the "solid Republican" category to "likely Republican." Similarly, the Roll Call story this week noted that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had begun listing Indiana's 3rd as a "race to watch."

For Rogers and the Schools and Prisons PAC, all of this is a call to arms. "The fundraising Montagano's doing, the primary numbers we've seen, and the continuing reports from the race watchers all lead us to a real call for action," said Rogers. "And this is a presidential election year with an incredible amount of new voters. We have to do something with this; it's an opportunity we can't afford to let pass."

And Rogers is getting busy. He's been hitting the phones looking for donations, both in Washington and in the 3rd District. "Mark Souder has made a lot of enemies in Washington over the years," he said, "so I think we'll have some success here. We're also reaching out to people in the district, trying to get a balance of donors and supporters," he explained.

"We are working on a complete and total campaign package," said Rogers. "The details are still coming together, but it will include Internet and social network organizing, running ads, and an on-the-ground get out the vote effort."

Souder may or may not be defeated come November, and drug reformers may or may not make a difference. But now they are at least on the playing field.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Medical Marijuana: Whole Plant Better Than Isolated Components in Pain Relief, Italian Study Finds

Scientists at the University of Milan have published a study finding that whole-plant marijuana extracts provide better relief for neuropathic pain than isolated components of the plant, like THC alone. The research is an intervention in the ongoing debate between medical marijuana supporters and herbal and alternative medicine advocates on one side and the US government, some politicians, and the pharmaceuticalized medicine industry on the other.

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Marinol advertisement on Google
"The use of a standardized extract of Cannabis sativa... evoked a total relief of thermal hyperalgesia, in an experimental model of neuropathic pain,... ameliorating the effect of single cannabinoids," the investigators reported. "Collectively, these findings strongly support the idea that the combination of cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid compounds, as present in extracts, provide significant advantages... compared with pure cannabinoids alone."

Congressional drug warriors like Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) have long argued that marijuana is not a medicine and that any medicinal compounds in the plant should be isolated or synthesized, as is the case with Marinol, which contains one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found in the plant. The DEA takes a similar approach.

But this latest research only adds to the evidence that that position is mistaken.

Drug Czar Furious Over New York Times Editorial

Just watch how the New York Times editorial board picks apart the Drug Czar's propaganda:

According to the White House, this country is scoring big wins in the war on drugs, especially against the cocaine cartels. Officials celebrate that cocaine seizures are up — leading to higher prices on American streets. Cocaine use by teenagers is down, and, officials say, workplace tests suggest adult use is falling.

John Walters, the White House drug czar, declared earlier this year that “courageous and effective” counternarcotics efforts in Colombia and Mexico “are disrupting the production and flow of cocaine.”

This enthusiasm rests on a very selective reading of the data. Another look suggests that despite the billions of dollars the United States has spent battling the cartels, it has hardly made a dent in the cocaine trade.

The Drug Czar's blog fired back with a predictably off-target, but uncharacteristically hostile response:

Today's New York Times has published an editorial that willfully cherry picks data in order to conform to their tired, 1970's editorial viewpoint that we're "losing the war on drugs."

Despite our numerous efforts to provide the Times with the facts, their editorial staff has chosen to ignore irrefutable data regarding the progress that has been made in making our nation's drug problem smaller.

 And yet, as anyone can see, the NYT piece clearly acknowledges this so-called "irrefutable data." They list the Drug Czar's favorite talking points right in the first paragraph. But then they do something he wasn't prepared for: they say it doesn't matter. The salient point of the whole editorial is that "the drug cartels are not running for cover." In short, for all the Drug Czar's proud proclamations of progress, the drug trade surges on unabated.


It's really just embarrassing that the Drug Czar's only response is to repeat the very points already acknowledged and overcome by NYT. His whole argument is that rates of drug abuse are lower than they were at their highest point in history. That's true, but it's not surprising, not impressive, and not even remotely a result of the Drug Czar's poisonous public policies. With the rage of a shamed tyrant, Walters claims a monopoly on "the facts," as though only the Drug Czar is qualified to interpret the success of his programs. It's like calling CarMax to ask them if they have the best deals on used cars.

Beyond all that, ponder the absurdity of the very notion that we must consult the Drug Czar and his overcooked statistics in order to know whether or not our drug policy is working really well. We can observe these things for ourselves. When we lead the world in incarceration, when we lead the world in drug use, when we drug test our own sewage, and deny organs to medical marijuana patients, and murder innocent people in their homes, and subsidize brutal civil wars in foreign nations, we have nothing to celebrate. All of these grand travesties fester before our eyes and are not mitigated, even to a microscopic extent, by the indignant self-congratulatory fulminations of the very people who visited this spectacular nightmare upon us.

In other words, when the pool is green, no one gives a crap if the lifeguard says the pH balance is normal.

ALERT: #365 Drug Czar Walters Exaggerating Again

[Courtesy of DrugSense] Well if we didn't already know it was the month of May, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in Washington DC led by Drug Czar John Walters is doing their best to remind us - again. For the eighth year in a row under Walters' lead, the ONDCP has used the first half of May to release their annual "latest scary facts about marijuana" press release. Packaged and carefully crafted in the guise of a scientific study, the ONDCP has again done nothing more than take a few correlative facts about teenagers and marijuana use and then 'conclude' that the pot use creates causative and inescapable debilitating health effects for our youth. This year, it's "depression." Citing the results of a dubious survey from New Zealand wherein teenagers who acknowledged feeling depression also often cited use of marijuana, the ONDCP report concludes that teenagers who use cannabis face an increased likelihood of being depressed. Sadly, this is as scientifically causative as saying that many people who feel pain also use aspirin. And that therefore aspirin use causes pain. Even more grim is that such junk science press releases are used to add fuel to the fiery federal insistence that all marijuana use - even for adults, and even for appropriate medical use with a doctor's recommendation (currently legal in 12 U.S. states and Canada) - should remain a criminal offense - an offense worthy of arrest, prosecution, incarceration and a lifetime criminal record. Fortunately, based on our 11+ years of covering drug policy news at MAP, we've come to see that an increasing number of newspaper reporters and editors view information coming from the Drug Czar's office with a cocked eyebrow and/or even a smirking dismissal. That's in large part due to their receiving a steady diet of more honest and truthful information about marijuana - both it's negative effects and it's positive benefits. That flow of alternative personal and professional testimony comes from people like you - the users of MAP and the people most interested in a public drug policy that is founded on facts rather than emotionally driven misinformation. MAP has been archived news clippings that resulted from the ONDCP press release over this past weekend and will continue to add more as newshawks like you find more. All the clippings found so far start with a subject line of "US" and may be found here: http://www.mapinc.org/topic/depression Please consider writing and sending a Letter to the Editor to the listed newspapers of your choice and the newspapers people read where you live. If you write to more than one newspaper, we strongly suggest at least some modification of your message so that each newspaper receives a unique letter. Often the best targets for response are Opinion items (Editorials, OPEDs and other LTEs) which may be printed during the days ahead. Please recheck the link above during the week for additional targets for letters. Thanks for your effort and support. It's not what others do it's what YOU do. ********************************************************************** Additional suggestions for writing LTEs are at our Media Activism Center: http://www.mapinc.org/resource/#guides Or contact MAP's Media Activism Facilitator for tips on how to write LTEs that are printed. [email protected] ********************************************************************** PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER Please post a copy of your letter or report your action to the sent letter list ( [email protected] ) if you are subscribed, or by e-mailing a copy directly to [email protected] if you are not subscribed. Your letter will then be forwarded to the list so others can learn from your efforts. Subscribing to the Sent LTE list ( [email protected] ) will help you to review other sent LTEs and perhaps come up with new ideas or approaches as well as keeping others aware of your important writing efforts. To subscribe to the Sent LTE mailing list see http://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm#form

Drug Czar Walters Testifying in Congress on 2008 Drug Control Strategy; DPA Statement

[Courtesy of Drug Policy Alliance] For Immediate Release: March 12, 2008 For More Info: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 or Bill Piper (202) 669-6430 Drug Czar John Walters Testifying in Congress Today in Support of Bush’s 2008 National Drug Control Strategy Drug Policy Alliance: Walters is Covering Up a Record of Failure Fatal Overdoses on the Rise, Transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C from Injection Drug Use Continues to Mount, 1 in 100 Americans Now Behind Bars Drug Czar John Walters will testify today at 2pm before the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee. He is expected to defend the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s 2008 Drug Strategy, which continues to fund failed supply-side strategies at the expense of more effective prevention and treatment. Below is a statement from Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. Every year the drug czar tries to put a good spin on the failure of the drug war, and this year is no exception. Americans should ask themselves, ‘Are drugs as available as ever?’ Answer: Yes. ‘Do our communities continue to be devastated by astronomical incarceration rates and death and disease related to drug abuse and drug prohibition?’ Again, yes. Despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars and incarcerating millions of Americans, experts acknowledge that illicit drugs remain cheap, potent and widely available in every community. Meanwhile, the harms associated with drug abuse—addiction, overdose and the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis—continue to mount. Add to this record of failure the collateral damage of drug prohibition and the drug war—broken families, racial inequity, wasted tax dollars, and the erosion of civil liberties. The evidence is clear and it is foolish and irresponsible to claim success. What matters most is not whether drug use rates go up or down but whether we see any improvements in the death, disease, crime and suffering that are associated with both illegal drugs and drug prohibition. The current approach, with its “drug-free America” rhetoric, and over reliance on punitive, criminal justice policies costs taxpayers billions more each year, yet delivers less and less. It’s time for a new bottom line in drug policy, one that focuses on reducing the harms associated with both drug misuse and the collateral damage from the drug war.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Press Release: White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Summit

[Courtesy of DPA] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 28, 2008 CONTACT: Jennifer Kern, DPA (415) 373-7694 or Zeina Salam, ACLU (904) 391-1884 White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Summit in Jacksonville on January 29 Largest Study, Leading Associations Call Random, Suspicionless Drug Testing Harmful and Ineffective Concerned Citizens to Provide Educators with Missing Information; Experts Available for Interviews Jacksonville, FL — The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is conducting a series of regional summits designed to convince local educators to start drug testing students -- randomly and without cause. This policy is unsupported by the available science and opposed by leading experts in adolescent health. The third summit of 2008 takes place on Tuesday, January 29th in Jacksonville at the Jacksonville Marriott, 4670 Salisbury Road at 8:30 a.m. The Drug Policy Alliance and American Civil Liberties Union are providing attendees with copies of the booklet Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators Are Saying No, which presents research showing that such testing is ineffective and provides resources for effective alternatives. Studies have found that suspicionless drug testing is ineffective in deterring student drug use. The first large-scale national study on student drug testing, which was published by researchers at the University of Michigan in 2003, found no difference in rates of student drug use between schools that have drug testing programs and those that do not. A two-year randomized experimental trial published last November in the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded random drug testing targeting student athletes did not reliably reduce past month drug use and, in fact, produced attitudinal changes among students that indicate new risk factors for future substance use. “Drug testing breaks down relationships of trust,” said Jennifer Kern, Drug Testing Fails Our Youth Campaign Coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance. “All credible research on substance abuse prevention points to eliminating, rather than creating, sources of alienation and conflict between young people, their parents and schools.” A group of concerned citizens will also attend to provide educators with important information missing from the summit, such as the objections of the National Education Association, the Association of Addiction Professionals and the National Association of Social Workers to testing. These organizations believe random testing programs erect counter-productive obstacles to student participation in extracurricular activities, marginalize at-risk students and make open communication more difficult. A December 2007 policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse and Council of School Health reaffirmed their opposition to student drug testing, holding: “Physicians should not support drug testing in schools … [because] it has not yet been established that drug testing does not cause harm.” Schools in Florida have so far rejected the policy. In November 2006 the Citrus County School Board turned down a $317,000 federal drug testing grant, as board members were not convinced that testing would discourage drug use. Members felt subjecting students to drug testing was a misuse of authority and objected that the grant made them test subjects as part of a federal study of student drug testing. The following month the Hernando County School Board rejected a federal drug testing grant of at least $183,289. “Subjecting students to unsubstantiated searches makes a mockery of the values taught in our nation’s classrooms, undermining respect for the Constitution among its future caretakers,” said Zeina Salam, ACLU of Florida Northeast Regional Staff Attorney. “Random drug testing must not become a rite of passage for America’s youth.” Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators are Saying No can be found online at www.safety1st.org. An excerpt from the booklet is included below: Comprehensive, rigorous and respected research shows there are many reasons why random student drug testing is not good policy: - Drug testing is not effective in deterring drug use among young people; - Drug testing is expensive, taking away scarce dollars from other, more effective programs that keep young people out of trouble with drugs; - Drug testing can be legally risky, exposing schools to potentially costly litigation; - Drug testing may drive students away from extracurricular activities, which are a proven means of helping students stay out of trouble with drugs; - Drug testing can undermine trust between students and teachers, and between parents and children; - Drug testing can result in false positives, leading to the punishment of innocent students; - Drug testing does not effectively identify students who have serious problems with drugs; and - Drug testing may lead to unintended consequences, such as students using drugs (like alcohol) that are more dangerous but less detectable by a drug test.
Location: 
Jacksonville, FL
United States

DrugSense FOCUS Alert: John Walters Caught Lying - Again

[Courtesy of DrugSense] One of the U.S. government's most persistently dishonest appointed officials - John Walters, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) - has been caught in yet another outright lie to the North American media. His office's first major press release of 2008 made a disturbing announcement. According to Drug Czar Walters, there is a "dangerous new drug threat coming from Canada." The drug? - so called "Extreme Ecstasy." In a news release distributed in the U.S. and Canada, Walters warned that the use of ecstasy is being fueled by Canadian producers smuggling the illegal designer drug -- which is increasingly laced with crystal meth -- into the U.S. "Historic progress against ecstasy availability and use is in jeopardy of being rolled back by Canadian criminal organizations," Walters said in the release. Scott Burns, the primary spokesperson for Walters' ONDCP office, echoed the alarming cry with "They are remarketing and packaging it and trying to glamorize it." Certainly gives the guise of being important information for Americans - especially parents of teenagers, right? Unfortunately, it seems that John Walters and the ONDCP created "extreme ecstasy" out of their own imaginations. The U.S. Drug Czar has been caught lying - again. And this time, the direct rebuttal of his lies comes from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Less than two weeks after the January 4th ONDCP press release, the head of the RCMP's national drug branch sternly rebuked the ONDCP claims. Supt. Paul Nadeau said he doesn't know why Walters would make such fictional statements without checking facts with Canadian officials. He added that he himself has never heard of "extreme Ecstasy.... it would appear that it's a term that somebody came up with in a boardroom in Washington, D.C." Please write a letter to newspapers that carry coverage of the false claims. Let your local and state or provincial media know that the United States Drug Czar is a very unreliable and frankly dishonest source of accurate information. ********************************************************************** Wire services sent versions of the RCMP rebuttals of the ONDCP claims to Canadian and United States media this past Monday, January 21st. The Canadian Press wire service version: VANCOUVER (CP) - The head of the RCMP's national drug branch is debunking claims by the U.S. drug czar, who claims organized crime rings in Canada are dumping dangerous, methamphetamine-laced "extreme ecstasy" into his country. Supt. Paul Nadeau said he doesn't know why John Walters, of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, would make such statements in a widely distributed news release without checking facts with Canadian officials. "I shook my head when I read the release that they put out," said Nadeau, who's never heard of extreme ecstasy. "That term is unknown to us, certainly in Canada, and I can tell you that I've spoken to law enforcement people in the U.S. and they've never heard of it either so it would appear that it's a term that somebody came up with in a boardroom in Washington, D.C." The release has generated huge media buzz in the U.S., with some news outlets using names such as "turbo-charged ecstasy," which is supposedly flowing across the border from Canada. In the release, Walters warns public health and safety leaders that more than 55 per cent of ecstasy samples seized in the U.S. last year contained meth, a stimulant that affects the central nervous system. "This extreme ecstasy is a disturbing development in what has been one of the most significant international achievements against the illicit drug trade," Walters said. "Cutting their product with less expensive methamphetamine boosts profits for Canadian ecstasy producers, likely increases the addictive potential of their product and effectively gives a dangerous 'facelift' to a designer drug that had fallen out of fashion with young American drug users." Nadeau said there's nothing new about ecstasy - the so-called love drug that gained popularity during the 1990s rave scene - being laced with methamphetamine or other stimulants and that it's been happening for the last decade. ********************************************************************** The following links find news clippings about ecstasy and the Drug Czar: http://www.mapinc.org/mdma.htm http://www.mapinc.org/walters.htm ********************************************************************** Prepared by: The MAP Media Activism Team www.mapinc.org/resource === . DrugSense provides many services at no charge, but they are not free to produce. Your contributions make DrugSense and its Media Awareness Project (MAP) happen. Please donate today. Our secure Web server at http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm accepts credit cards. Or, mail your check or money order to: . DrugSense 14252 Culver Drive #328 Irvine, CA 92604-0326. (800) 266 5759 . DrugSense is a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the expensive, ineffective, and destructive "War on Drugs." Donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.
Location: 
United States

Latin America: US Accuses Venezuela of "Colluding" with Cocaine Trade

Drug control policy was the arena where the often acrimonious relations between the US and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez played out this week, with Washington accusing Venezuela of colluding with cocaine traffickers, and Caracas vehemently denying that was the case. Chávez, meanwhile, this week added to the mix by announcing that he chewed coca every day.

The controversy got rolling Sunday in Bogota, when, after finishing a meeting with Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, American drug czar John Walters came out swinging at Venezuela. Chávez, he said, had failed to get rid of corrupt officials or deny traffickers the use of Venezuelan territory.

"It goes beyond 'I can't do it' to 'I won't do it'. And 'I won't do it' means that 'I am colluding,'" Walters said in remarks reported by the BBC. "I think it is about time to face up to the fact that President Chávez is becoming a major facilitator of the transit of cocaine to Europe and other parts of this hemisphere."

Just to make sure his point was getting across, Walters repeated it in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Where are the big seizures, where are the big arrests of individuals who are at least logistical coordinators? When it's being launched from controlled airports and seaports, where are the arrests of corrupt officials? At some point here, this is tantamount to collusion," Walters said.

The charge comes after the US government last fall named Venezuela as one of two governments world-wide that had failed to live up to US drug policy objectives and more than two years after Chávez ordered a halt to all cooperation with the DEA in Venezuela, charging that the agency was violating Venezuelan sovereignty.

Venezuela was quick to respond to Walters. At a Caracas press conference Tuesday, Néstor Reverol, head of the National Anti-Drug Office, said that Venezuela had been very busy fighting the cocaine trade, having seized more than 50 tons of drugs last year, busted 11 cocaine labs, identified 186 airstrips, and arrested more than 4,000 people.

Reverol said Washington should "stop using the fight against drugs as a political weapon" and added that his government would sue the US a the Organization of American States (OAS) over its "belligerence" and "baseless charges" about Venezuela's drug-fighting efforts.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS Jorge Valero followed-up with a speech to the OAS Permanent Council charging that US drug policy is "immoral and interventionist."

The DEA, he said, had monitored drug runs inside Venezuela without notifying Venezuelan authorities, a violation of national sovereignty. "The DEA encourages the interference of the US government in other countries' domestic affairs by hiding behind the excuse of anti-drug cooperation," Valero charged. "Venezuela is not going back to be a colony of any empire. Venezuela is a free sovereign country and claims the right to develop its own anti-drug policies. It should be known that Venezuela is doing it successfully."

Meanwhile, the Miami Herald breathlessly reported Sunday that Chávez had said in a recent speech that he used coca every day and that Bolivian President Evo Morales sent it to him. ''I chew coca every day in the morning... and look how I am,'' he is seen saying on a video of the speech, as he shows his biceps to the audience. Just as Fidel Castro ''sends me Coppelia ice cream and a lot of other things that regularly reach me from Havana,'' Bolivian President Morales "sends me coca paste... I recommend it to you."

While Chávez said "coca paste," which is typically smoked, it seems clear that he was referring to coca leaf, which is chewed.

The Herald and several experts it consulted worried that Chávez had admitted committing an illegal act and even violating the UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which bans coca. One expert even worried that Chávez had named Morales as a "narco trafficker." But neither Chávez nor Morales seem as worried as the Herald and its experts.

Journalism 101: Everything the Drug Czar Says is Wrong

Josh Burnett at NPR has a strong article debunking the absurd cocaine shortage rumor started by the Drug Czar's office. Burnett explains that increased cocaine prices are temporary and that the Drug Czar's claims of "unprecedented" progress are just false.

Burnett reached these conclusions through an increasingly rare journalism technique known as "research." Rather than mindlessly regurgitating the government's claims of drug war success, he called police chiefs in cities with supposed cocaine shortages and asked them if anything had changed. He also spoke with ONDCP veteran John Carnevale, who, despite his extensive drug warrior credentials, conceded that the real trend in cocaine prices is a downward spiral.

Of course, the inevitable consequence of researching the Drug Czar's ridiculous claims is that the Drug Czar will accuse you of bad research:
When asked about the conflicting information found by NPR, Drug Czar John Walters dismissed it. He said his information is drawn from nationwide data collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is based on undercover buys, wiretaps, informants, and local police reports.

"Now we can do it that way or we can do it where you call somebody somewhere and they say something else," Walters said. "That's not data. That's a guy."
It's cute how pissed he gets when someone starts fact-checking his outrageous statements. And it's just priceless to hear the master of argument-by-anecdote accuse someone else of missing the big picture.

The results of Burnett's investigation are inevitable anytime a reporter deliberately researches claims from the Drug Czar's office. The information disseminated by that organization is always false, usually to a dramatic extent, so subjecting them to even minimal scrutiny will reveal that they are wrong 100% of the time.

Reporters need to learn this. It must be understood that press releases from the Office of National Drug Control Policy are a true or false quiz and the correct answer is always "F." If you simply cut and paste their claims into a story you fail the test.
Location: 
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School