Drug War


Common Sense for Drug Policy
Drug Courts in the Spotlight a recent movement which gives an alternative to imprisoning drug offenders
Drug Issues Hot Paper Topics
Drug Law Timeline
Drug Policy, Common Sense for "We provide advice and technical assistance to individuals and organizations working to reform current [drug] policies"
Drug War Facts
Drug Wars: All Things Considered NPR special - "explores why, after three decades of effort and billions of dollars in expenditures, America's war on drugs has no victory in sight. Coverage includes a look at Mexico, money laundering, corruption and drug treatment"
Drug Wars PBS special - "From both sides of the battlefield, a 30-year history of America's war on drugs"
Drug War Facts large site, lots of information
Drug War article from AlterNet.org
Drug war - Monsanto and the Drug War on Colombia full text article
Drugs, Illegal an issue guide from Public Agenda
Drugs, Illegal Public Agenda - great source, lots of information
Drugs, Illegal Family Research Council - this site is against legalization of drugs
Drugs, Illegal Prohibition: The So-Called War on Drugs - this site is for legalization of drugs
Drugs, Legalization of: The Myths and the Facts
MARIJUANA page of links


Just as the current drug war can be traced to Jim Crow, so is the modern system of capital punishment--thirty years old this year--a direct descendant of lynching" (Letters. The Nation, Aug 28: 2).


"In 2004 (the latest year for which fitures are available), there were 771,984 US marijuana arrests. And 88 percent of these were for simple possession--not sale or manufacture. That's more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined.

"But why?

"Is it because marijuana is a terribly dangerous substance?

"Well, no.

"Marijuana is indisputably less dangerous than alcohol. Alcohol is more addictive, far more toxic, and exponentially more likely to provoke violent or aggressive behavior.

"Is it because marijuana prohibition is effective at reducing use and keeping marijuana away from kids?

"Again, the answer is no.

"In the Netherlands, where adults have been allowed to possess and purchase small amounts of marijuana from regulated businesses since the mid-1970s, the rate of marijuana use is at least one-third lower than in the US, for both teens and adults. And because--unlike the United States--the Netherlands has taken marijuana out of the criminal market, thus breaking the "gateway" between marijuana and hard drugs, Americans use cocaine and heroin at three time the rate the Dutch do.

"Thinking people on all sides of the political spectrum, from Dennis Kucinich on the left to Milton Friedman on the right, agree that our present marijuana laws make no sense. Sadly, most elected officials, from both major parties, refuse to listen" (Bruce Mirken, Marijuana Policy Project. "Senseless Drug Laws." The Progressive, August 2006: 6).


Heroin addiction plan works a treat

"A clutch of former pit villages in Nottinghamshire had until recently the unenviable distinction of being one of the country's worst districts for heroin addiction and drug-related crime. But after three years of a radical new approach to the problem, crime in the Bassetlaw area has fallen by 75%, and the number of addicts has fallen correspondingly.

"The central feature of the project is simple: heroin addiction is treated as a medical condition rather than a crime. Addicts are offered a choice between prison or treatment prescribed by their doctor. Four years ago only two heroin addicts in Bassetlaw were being treated, and there were 80 burglaries a month. Now 400 addicts are under treatment, and only 20 burglaries were reported last month" ("Week in Britain." Guardian Weekly, Aug. 3, 2006: 2).


"...More han a million people are serving time in our prisons and jails for nonviolent offenses, most drug-related, at a cost to the public of some $9.4 billion a year... Harsh laws that require lengthy minimum sentences for the possession of even small amounts of drugs have created a boom in the incarceration of women, tearing mothers away from their children. Much of the country's costly foreign-policy commitments... are determined by drug-war priorities. And yet drug use has actually soared, with twice as many teenagers reporting illegal drug use in 2000 as in 1992...

"At the philosophical core of this war on drugs.. are twin ideas: Drug use is a moral wrong in itself, and drug use makes people more likely to commit a host of other crimes...

"In the past few years, however, these policies have come under attack from surprising quarters. Opponents range from public health activists to libertarian-minded political figures.. On the one hand, the critics have argued, these policies have failed to make progress toward a drug-free America. On the other, the war has proved to be too expensive to sustain...

"..New Mexico's former Governor Gary Johnson is.. the only governor ever to publicly support drug legalization while in office. The significant progress he made on drug-policy reform during his eight-year tenure helped to turn the tide for state reform movements across the country... He combatively declared the war on drugs "a miserable failure" and ambitiously investigated alternatives, including legalization...

"Johnson concluded that policies such as distributing clean needles to addicts and opening up regulated heroin-maintenance programs would do more to manage addiction than simply sending the police out to round up addicts; he also concluded that legalizing some categories of drugs and carefully regulating their sale would remove a huge pool of money from organized-crime cartels, boost government tax revenues and free up large amounts of money to be invested in drug education and health centers.

"Retired Judge Woody Smith... "Legalization and regulation are the only answer," he says now. "It's not a perfect solution, but it's a hell of a lot better than what we're doing now."

"This evolution of thinking in New Mexico has spread across the country in recent years. Increasingly impatient with the costly combination of policing and prosecution, voters, along with a growing number of state and local elected officials, have abandoned their support for incarceration-based antidrug strategies and have forced significant policy shifts. From conservative states like Louisiana to traditionally progressive states like Michigan, from small states like New Mexico and Kansas to large states like California, all the big questions are up for debate: Should marijuana be decriminalized, at least for those with pressing medical needs? Should mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders be abandoned? Should prison terms for crimes of addiction be replaced by mandated treatment? Should governments fund needle exchanges and other harm-reduction programs for drug users as a way of controlling epidemics? Increasingly, at the local level, the answer are yes, yes, yes, and yes...

"But while state legislatures have opened up to financial and moral debates about drug policy at the local level, the federal government is having none of it... the Administration has blocked even mild attempts at state drug-law reform and has challenged state reformers over issues such as medical marijuana and needle exchange... "We're seeing a new level of pettiness and aggression"...

"...zeal for militarizing the drug wars overseas... the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has encouraged state prosecutors to go after medical marijuana providers... It has held press conferences against citizens' reform initiatives. And it has sponsored extravagent advertising campaigns.. that demonize teen drug use by linking it to terrorism...

"..the police in many parts of the country routinely arrest users--and even level paraphernalia charges against addicts bringing dirty needles into exchange programs...

"Yet in many ways Walters may be fighting yesterday's war on drugs. States like California, with its extensive system of medical-marijuana buyers' clubs, and New Mexico, with its public support for needle exchange, are beginning to shape up as the vanguard of a whole new approach to drug addiction...

"..researchers produced numerous studies showing that it costs far less to place an addict in treatment than in prison--and that treatment has a higher success rate in breaking the addiction cycle... With drug treatment cheaper than incarceration and increasingly viable in the court of public opinion, drug-law reform is gaining ground despite federal intransigence" (Abramsky, Sasha. "The Drug War Goes Up In Smoke." The Nation, August 18/25, 2003, 25-29).


"Liberal use of incarceration does not result in a proportional reduction in crime. As current research shows, excessively harsh punishment leads to increases in crime rates, a classic unintended consequence...

"Incarceration of a significant percentage of the population makes the community unstable and perpetuates a destructive cycle...

"Treatment and diversion programs that are proven to reduce crime are underutilized" (Ann Del Llano. "Texas Must Reform Its Incarceration Policies." Dispatch ACLU Texas, Spring 2004: 8).


"What should be done about drug addiction? As of 1970, England was the model for us to emulate. With a population of 55 million people, they had only 1,800 heroin addicts. With our 200 million people we had nearly a half-million addicts. What were they doing right. For one thing, they turned the problem over to the doctors. Instead of treating the addict as a criminal, they required him to register with a physician, who then gives him, at controlled intervals, a prescription so that he can obtain his drug. Needless to say, our society, based as it is on a passion to punish others, could not bear so sensible a solution. We promptly leaned, as they say, on the British to criminalize the sale and consumption of drugs, and now the beautiful city of Edinburgh isf one of the most drug-infested places in Europe. Another triumph for the American way.(Gore Vidal. "State of the Union, 2004." The Nation, Sep. 13, 2004: 23-29).


Drugs

"A few nations on the continent still follow the traditional law-enforcement pattern favored in the United States... Sweden and Greece... Most European nations, though, have shifted to a new mindset... from "use reduction" to "harm reduction." The basic thesis of "harm reduction," Cave writes, is that drug addicts are people who need treatment, not punishment. "People do obtain and use drugs, even if you spend billions trying to stop them. The US war on drugs demonstrates that...

"For the most part, users of "soft" drugs like marijuana and Ecstasy are simply ignored by the police in European countries; people caught using heroin or cocaine are picked up but delivered to a treatment facility rather than to jail" (172)...

"There's also a strong dose of pragmatism involved. Since people are going to use drugs anyway, the thinking goes, it is a waste of police time and public money to try to catch them all and jail them... focuses on the traffickers and does not pursue the drug user as a criminal...

"...decriminalization has worked fairly well in the Netherlands. Drug use in general in the Netherlands appears to be lower than in the prohibitionist United States" (173)...

"The pioneer of the harm-reduction approach for harder drugs was Portugal... Police spent much of their time pursuing drug dealers and users... all this seemed futile...

"...Canas convinced Portugal's parliament to decriminalize the use of all drugs, and to guarantee treatment rather than imprisonment for all addicts... the new law would not tolerate or legalize hard drugs... Under our law, the traficante [the dealer] is still a felon and faces a severe prison term. But the person buying heroin is not a criminal. He is a sick person" (174)...

"The fact is, it is cheaper to treat addicts than to jail them" (Reid, T.R. The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy: 176)...


"Canada is trading drugs for American levels of violence... the green islands that speckle the US-Canada border here. Welcome to the front line of a vicious multi-billion-dollar drug war...

"...marijuana... industrial quantities of a potent strain known as BC Bud, named after the Canadian province where much of it is grown, British Columbia...

"BC Bud is so well thought of on the west coast that it has been known to trade at the same price as cocaine, more than $3,000 a pound. In fact it is commonly bartered for cocaine and guns, which travel in the opposite direction, north into Canada, making it a less safe and predictable place--and more like America.

"Drive-by shootings are on the rise in the Vancouver area, as are house invasions, by which one gange seeks to take over another's marijuana crop without the bother of lights and hydroponic cultivation.

"Last month four officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were shot dead when they stumbled on a BC Bud-growing operation--the most Mounties lost in one day since the middle of the 19th century. The killings shocked Canada and have challenged itss generally tolerant attitude towards drug offenses...

"A lot of the smugglers caught on the border are from ethnic Indian and Pakistani gangs in Canada. Many of the 50,000 grow-ops thought to be hidden across British Columbia are run by Vietnamese clans. But police say some of the biggest organizations coordinating the trade are chapters of the Canadian Hell's Angels" (Julian Borger. "Canada is trading drugs for American levels of violence." Guardian Weekly, April 8, 2005: 8).


"A major chapter in the drug war is ending in Texas, not with a bang, but with a whisper. After 18 years of untold numbers of highway stops and undercover busts of mostly small-time pot and cocaine dealers, funding for the state's network of regional drug task forces officially runs out on March 31. Don't look for a press release from the governor's office, however. Officially, Governor Perry is not ending the program. "We haven't told a single task force to close its doors," press aide Rachel Novier said in early March. The governor is just not going to write them any more checks...

Led by a couple of experienced activists named Will Harrell and Scott Henson, the ACLU has emerged as the task force program's leading antagonist in Texas and has provided much of the fodder used by the Byrne grant's critics in Washington...

"Harrell seized on Tulia as the first big campaign of his tenure... That same spring, the group announced they had found "another Tulia" in the central Texas town of Hearne, where dozens of indictments were dismissed after a task force snitch admitted to fabricating cases. Like Tulia, Hearne wound up in the national press as another black mark on Texas' beleaguered criminal justice system...

"The report, which the ACLU released in December 2002 uner the title "Too Far Off Task," pinned the problem squarely on the task force model itself and advocated scrapping the entire program. The task forces had become known for hiring bottom-of-the-barrel "gypsy cops," Henson argued, and were too driven by competition for arrest statistics, on which their grant funding relied, and seizure of drug cash and assets, which they used to augment their budgets" (Nate Blakeslee. "End of an Era." Texas Observer, March 24, 2006: 16-17, 23).


"Meanwhile, opium production has reached record levels, up 50 percent in the last year. Now Afghanistan supplies an amazing 92 percent of the world's opium supply.

"For this, the Bush Administration has no one to blame but itself. The blunders Donald Rumsfeld has made in Afghanistan--leaving aside Iraq--should have been enough to cashier him long ago. First, he let Osama bin Laden escape from the caves of Tora Bora. Then, he refused to deploy a sufficient number of troops to restore order throughout Afghanistan. (Sound familiar?) And finally, he was oblivious to the rise of the opium trade.

""Senior Bush Administration officials had displayed a complete lack of interest in the Afghan opium problem ever since 9/11," writes James Risen in State of War. "In fact, the White House and Pentagon went out of their way to avoid taking on the Afghan drug lords from the very outset of US military operations in Afghanistan."

"They refused to bomb drug labs. When they stumbled on opium crops and heroin production, they were ordered to ignore them" (Matthew Rothschild. "Afghanistan Unliberated." The Progressive, Oct., 2006: 8-9).


Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS