(visit last week's week online)
U.K. IN THE THROES OF PROHIBITION'S LAST GASP?
On the heels of the announcement that the prestigious Police Foundation will begin studying the effects of the U.K.'s drug policies, Tony Blair's Labour government, in an effort to counteract widespread criticisms of the Prohibitionist regime, has announced a plan to step up the War on Drugs, American style. On Thursday, August 28, British foreign minister Robin Cook told the London Times that M16 (British foreign intelligence) would dramatically increase its involvement in the drug war. According to the Times, the M16 priorities would "focus on attacking the drug supply chain at every stage, from stifling the production at source to preventing profitability and stopping money laundering."
Two London Times Op-Ed's illustrate a very serious split in the views on drug policy in the U.K. The first was written by Simon Jenkins, a member of the Police Foundation Commission, who decries the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act in his opening sentence which reads, "I doubt if any law on the statute book has done less good and more harm than (the Act)." Jenkins discusses a "startling divide" between an older generation of Britons who want a more intense effort at enforcement and "a younger one which (by two-to-one according to polls) believes the precise reverse."
In response, Ann Taylor, Leader of the House of Commons and chair of the Cabinet's drugs committee, checked in with "Why this government won't legalize drugs" in the same space. Taylor, however, resorts to wholly unsupported statements as to the consequences of ending punitive Prohibition to make her case. This statement ignores the entire history of legal but regulated substances in both Britain and the U.S. Taylor also states, "Look ahead ten years. Any step along the legalisation route and we can be sure that both demand for and use of drugs would massively increase - with no letup in organized crime - along with the creation of a dulled, unhealthy, selfish society, desperate for a "buzz."
Finally, Ms. Taylor cheerfully notes that the Prime Minister would soon be appointing a U.S. style "Drug Tsar" to coordinate its war. Here at DRCNet, we see in this tempest a strong reason for optimism. Faced with mounting evidence as to the failure of its Prohibition, and the emergence of a popular movement to re-examine it, the Prohibitionists are left with only one choice... push down harder in order to prove that the paradigm can work. By definition, more enforcement will mean more corruption, more violence and larger expenditures, without significantly reducing the problem of substance abuse or widespread availability. In the face of the gathering opposition, the "Americanization" of Britain's Drug War might well mark the beginning of the end of a failing regime in the U.K. Not to mention a preview of the final gasps of Prohibition at home.
The U.S. and Costa Rica have drafted a plan which would allow U.S. law enforcement personnel to track, detain and search boats and aircraft suspected of carrying illegal drugs, operating within Costa Rican waters and air space, according to the Associated Press.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THE DRUG WAR
Brazil's federal police, and its environmental agency released a report this week which claims that illegal cocaine labs are dumping millions of gallons of chemical pollutants, used in the manufacture of cocaine, into the Amazon River. DRCNet says: REGULATE.
DUTCH CHURCH TO PROVIDE HEROIN TO ADDICTS
Hans Visser, a Protestant minister in the city of Rotterdam, has decided that his conscience will not allow him to wait while the Dutch government haggles over the politics and the details of their long-awaited heroin trials. Visser will work with local doctors and social workers, as well as "several dealers" to provide clean heroin out of his church, at cut rates, to a test group of ten long-term addicts who are currently compelled to risk their lives to buy expensive, black market heroin of uncertain purity in order to stave off withdrawal.
On Thursday, August 28, the Associated Press reported that "sources in the national office of drug control policy" (ONDCP) had told their reporter that a Mexican drug trafficker had placed a phone call to the FBI threatening to kill U.S. Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, by missile attack, during his week-long tour of the U.S.-Mexican border. The alleged threat coincided surprisingly well with McCaffrey's scheduled next-day press conference which was to highlight the ongoing drug (war) related violence in the region. A call by this office to the ONDCP to verify the story was not returned. At the press conference, which, coming the day after the death threat "leak" was well-attended by the media, McCaffrey declined to confirm or deny the threat. Appearing on CNN Morning News on Friday, McCaffrey was evasive when asked three times whether there had, in fact, been a threat on his life, instead repeatedly praising the U.S. Marshall's service for the security they provide him.
The same day, the Los Angeles Times reported that an alleged gunman for the Tijuana drug cartel, Emilio Valdez Mainero, had threatened to arrange the killing of a U.S. prosecutor who is seeking his extradition. The allegations were made in support of a drug case against Valdez, and were recorded by electronic surveillance in the jail cell of another inmate, Cesar Trevino, according to prosecutors.
DRCNet says: end the threats and violence -- END PROHIBITION.
Doubleday books has reportedly inked a deal with a former CIA agent who claims to have smuggled drugs into the U.S. for the agency from 1974-1992. The former agent, who has only been identified by a pseudonym, "Bob King," says that both he and the men who used to work for him are under threat of assassination by their former employer. King's agent, David Vigliano, insists that the story is true, and that the author's identity will be revealed once the book has been published and the account can be independently verified. Movie rights to the book, titled "Spooky 8," have been purchased by the Hughes Brothers, directors of "Menace II Society."
Bryann Krumm, R.N. of New Mexicans for Compassionate Use reports that on August 29, the New Mexico Board of Medical Examiners refused to issue a statement of position on Medical Marijuana. Board members were apparently supportive of the concept, but with medical marijuana already legal under state law, the matter was out of their hands. "We already endorsed the concept of medical marijuana 20 years ago," said one board member. Another added, "The DEA needs to keep out of the practice of medicine."
Up north, the Wisconsin Journey for Justice, a 210 mile wheelchair trek from Mondovi to Madison, will be taking place from Thursday, September 11th through Thursday, September 18th. The organizing committee still needs to raise $3,500 to cover the expenses of the trip, including adequate hotel accommodations for the patients during this long journey. Also, a number of individual patients are seeking sponsorship for transportation to and from.
According to Journey organizers, the support of Rep. Frank Boyle, Democrat from Superior, Wisconsin, remains strong. Boyle is planning to introduce a medical marijuana bill in the Wisconsin State Legislature upon the Journey's arrival at the Capitol Building in Madison. He has gained a co- sponsor, Rep. Tammy Baldwin a Democrat from Madison, WI.
If you can help, please make checks payable to:
Journey for Justice/Kay Lee
359 South State Street
Mondovi, WI 54755
If you wish to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact patient and organizer Kay Lee for further information. Donations made directly to Journey for Justice are not tax-deductible.
For info, contact Kay Lee at (715) 926-4950, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.gnv.fdt.net/~jrdawson/justice2.htm on the web.
Issue #10 of DRCNet's newsletter is hot off the press and is winding its way through the U.S. to our print subscribers. If you have a print subscription, you should be receiving your copy any day now. If you haven't gotten it by late next week, please e-mail us at email@example.com and include your full name and mailing address.
The web version of issue #10, and all the back issues, can be viewed at http://www.drcnet.org/pubs. The e-mail version is in preparation. To subscribe to The Activist Guide via e-mail, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the line "subscribe guide your name" in the body of the message (not in the subject field).
Since distributing our Reformer's Calendar last month, members and others have sent us quite a few new listings, mainly for events in Washington, DC, but also in Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Hawaii and elsewhere, covering topics ranging from mandatory minimums to methadone to harm reduction to women in prison and more. Some of them are coming right up, so if you're interested, take a look at it now at http://www.drcnet.org/calendarnew.html. (Normally the filename is calendar.html, but this has been changed temporarily due to a brief technical problem.)
Some of our friends sent us listings for events that came and went during the time between the last calendar and this one. We like to be able to get these listings in time to get people to your events, but aren't always able to update the calendar every week. The moral of the story is: send in your listing as soon as you have the information available. This will maximize the chances that we'll be able to get the information out to our members.
DRCNet's isn't the only drug policy calendar on the net. The National Drug Strategy Network has one online at http://www.ndsn.org/CALENDAR.html. The Legalize! group has one at http://www.legalize-usa.org/events.htm. The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has a health/service oriented calendar at http://www.ccsa.ca/calendar.htm. Please send us info on other online calendars you've seen.
The month of September will see a number of advocacy events taking place in Washington, DC on a range of drug policy issues, including mandatory minimum sentencing, needle exchange, and methadone maintenance. All these issues are important to us, and DRCNet members are urged to attend and participate. Please remember that while we have much in common with the organizations staging these events, they have the need to keep the focus of their events tightly on the issues that they are addressing, not the larger issue of prohibition vs. legalization or regulation, and it's important that we respect that.
Wednesday, September 10: Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) will be holding a demonstration from noon to 1 p.m. on the eastern steps of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, September 10 to protest the harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws which have led to unjust prison sentences for Kemba Smith, of Dayton Ohio and other non- violent, low-level, first-time drug offenders. Demonstrators will include high school students from Dayton, Ohio, and members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dayton, Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland. Speakers will include Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) Dick Gregory, Rev. Joseph Lowery and more! For more information, contact Monica Pratt at (202) 822-6700, or visit the FAMM web site http://www.famm.org and click on "FAMM hotline".
The National Coalition To Save Lives Now will be holding a demonstration at noon, Sept. 17th, at the Dept. of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Ave., protesting the ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs. Lifting the ban will give states the option of using existing federal AIDS funds for needle exchange, if they choose. For info, call the National Coalition to Save Lives Now! at (212) 213-6376, ext. 17, e-mail email@example.com, or visit http://www.safeworks.org/savelivesnow on the web.
The third event is not exactly a protest. On Sept. 29-30, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is holding "Heroin Use and Addiction: A National Conference on Prevention, Treatment and Research". Methadone patients and other advocates are planning to attend, and some are presenting, and a methadone advocates meeting is likely to take place. For information on the methadone advocates meeting, contact the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates at (212) 595-NAMA or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on the conference, call (301) 468-6004 ext. 431 or visit http://www.nida.nih.gov/Brochure/Brochure.html on the web.
On September 2, a group of academics, elected officials, drug treatment professionals and scientists held a press conference to declare that in the debate between "legalizers" and Drug Warriors, science and rationality has been largely ignored. The group, headed by Charles R. Schuster, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse under Presidents Reagan and Bush, was organized by the Drug Policy Project of the Federation of American Scientists.
The group presented a list of 14 "Principles for Practical Drug Policies" which outlined their views on what drug policy should seek to accomplish in the absence of political posturing. "Polarization and strong emotions give rise to misrepresentations of facts and motives, oversimplification of complex issues, and denial of uncertainty," says the report.
While the group went out of its way to distance itself from what it termed "legalization," and "ending prohibition," even without defining these terms, it also made clear that a punitive, "zero tolerance" drug war was itself causing many unnecessary harms. The fourteen points called for strategies based upon science and results, rather than political posturing; an end to disproportionate punishments as a means of expressing social norms; policies tailored to individual substances based upon risks and use patterns; more stringent regulation of tobacco products; "taxation, regulation and public information" with regard to alcohol; prevention messages which accurately reflect what is known about the substances they discuss; and civility in debate, among others.
Other signatories to the document included William J. Bratton, former New York City police chief, William A. Donohue, President, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Robert MacCoun, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley, Dennis E. Nowicki, Chief of Police, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, North Carolina, and Sally L. Satel, Lecturer, Yale Medical School.
The report and list of signatories can be found at http://www.fas.org/drugs/Principles.
In section 7 above, Protests in Washington, the name Kemba Smith appeared, as a victim of the war on drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing. Smith was a college student with an abusive boyfriend who had concealed his drug trade involvement from her. At age 24, she received a 24-year mandatory minimum prison term, longer than any of the people who were actually running the business. The judge had no power to give a shorter sentence, even though she was not really a criminal.
Read about Kemba Smith and our current and the indecency of current sentencing policies, on the Families Against Mandatory Minimums web site at http://www.famm.org/kemba2.html, our link of the week. Learn the facts about mandatory minimum sentences at http://www.famm.org/fact.html, including FAMM's new "Fact Flash" -- a different fact flashing on the screen every 10- 15 seconds. The press release for the upcoming protest can be viewed at http://www.famm.org/kemba1.html.
"Making marijuana legal isn't going to make it any worse. Why don't we just legalize it and move on?"
- Tony Craver, Sheriff's Lt. and candidate for sheriff of Mendocino County, CA, 8/28/97
DRCNet's Adam J. Smith offers some thoughts on the new "middle-ground" initiative; then David Borden provides a different viewpoint, though a compatible one.
This week, a group of staid professionals from the worlds of academia, law enforcement, drug treatment, science and politics got together and made like radicals. They released, amidst fanfare and self-congratulations befitting such a revolutionary act, a report -- a manifesto of sorts - - declaring fourteen "Principles for practical drug policies." The report proclaims itself a "third way," a moderate position supposedly drowned out by the politics, hostility, and mutual recriminations of the debate between the zero- tolerance lobby and the "legalizers." Admittedly, the group conveniently ignores the fact that many of the signatories already get lots of media coverage for their "drowned-out" views. And they practice the very stereotyping they preach against by dismissing the entire reform movement as "legalizers" without so much as defining the term. And their true motives may very well be to squelch the growing voice of "radical" reform in favor of their own. But knowingly or not, in a climate of unquestioned loyalty to the Drug War State, they are most definitely talkin' revolution.
Now, if you read their report, full of measured, humanistic language and cloaked as it is in disclaimers such as "we cannot escape our current predicament by 'ending prohibition' or 'legalizing drugs,'" you might very well miss the larger picture. That is, that moderation is the mortal enemy of rabidity. And it is this very contrast, the irreconcilable differences between these principles and our current policies, which expose the Drug Warrior philosophy for the extremism that it is.
For example, #3) minimizing overall damage: "Drug control policies should be designed to minimize the damage done to individuals, to social institutions, and to the public health by a) licit and illicit drug taking, b) drug trafficking, and c) the drug control measures themselves." Sounds fairly reasonable, no? Well, not if you live in New Jersey, or any of the other states where needle exchange is still prohibited. In those states, individual injection drug users are subjected by that policy to tremendously increased risk of AIDS and hepatitis, social institutions bear the brunt of increased health care and social service costs, and the public health suffers by the transmission of these pathogens outside of the at-risk population.
Or take a look at #4) forms of damage: "The forms of damage to be minimized -- whether caused by drugs or drug control measures -- include illness and accidents (needle exchange?), crimes against person and property (effects of a black market?), corruption and disorder (corruption? Hmm...), disruption of family and other human relationships ("educating" children to turn in their parents and friends), loss of educational and economic opportunities (drug testing for student loans? Drivers' licenses? Employment?), loss of dignity and autonomy ("profile" searches? Seizure of property based on mere suspicion?), loss of personal liberty and privacy (search warrants based on confidential "tips"? Expanded surveillance powers?), interference in pain management and other aspects of the practice of medicine (medical marijuana? the DEA's war on pain doctors?), and the costs of public and private interventions" (foreign interdiction?).
The principles also mention truth in prevention efforts (DARE and other "drug education" programs), the injustice and imprudence of disproportionate punishments as an expression of social norms (mandatory sentences, "message to our children") and the acceptance of interventions which do not necessarily produce "immediate complete and lasting abstinence" (methadone maintenance? Opiate maintenance?).
It would be easy, almost natural at first glance to take this esteemed group at its word. These are simply "moderate" guidelines for the development of a "practical" drug policy. It is not until one holds them up against the tenets of the War that one begins to see the problem. We who favor the reform of our drug policies may not agree with every word in this document, but we would be very happy to begin to discuss ending mandatory minimum sentences, legitimizing needle exchange, reigning in the state's expanding powers of search and seizure, replacing hyperbole with honest, fact-based drug education, insuring the availability of adequate pain medication for those in need, allowing doctors and patients to consider alternative medications such as marijuana, and sending the message to our children that not every social problem can be solved with the blunt instruments of law enforcement and military hardware. But although they may pay lip service, the bet here is that the drug warriors will want no part of these principles. Because "moderation" is always at odds with extremism. And because these "moderates" are a lot closer to us than to them.
Adam J. Smith
Associate Director, DRCNet
I am in agreement with much of what Adam has to say. Certainly, these people have the right to profess their viewpoint, as we do ours, and their views should be heard. Discussion of a broad range of alternatives is part of a healthy debate, hence is likely to help us in the end. And their statement of principles contains a good deal of positive thinking, as Adam has described. However, I'm not willing to let these particular "middle-grounders" off the hook quite so easily...
Four or so years ago, another group of staid professionals proffered a statement of principles. This statement, known as the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy (sometimes incorrectly called the Hoover Resolution), made many of the same points that the new statement makes, and called for a blue-ribbon commission to conduct a thorough review of the evidence on drug policy, down to its core, and formulate recommendations for a new approach based on that evidence. (You can read the Resolution and its list of original signers in our rapid response archives at http://drcnet.org/rapid/1993/12-14-1.html -- one of DRCNet's first bulletins.)
The fundamental difference between the two statements is that the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy calls for an objective review of the evidence and of all the options -- put the cards on the table and let the chips fall where they may -- while the middle-grounders' statement calls on Americans to think about new drug policy options, but to first specifically exclude legalization from the discussion.
Legalization is in reality a broad spectrum of alternative structures for dealing with drugs in a non-criminal environment. This group is apparently not willing to let the chips fall wherever the evidence sends them, but wants to rule out a large portion of the range of possible answers in advance. Intellectually this is non-objective and problematic.
And judging from their press release (online at http://www.fas.org/drugs/drugspr.htm) some of the more vocal members of the group don't seem to truly understand the views of people on our side of the fence, or else are playing political games. For example, Jonathan Caulkins, Professor of Public Affairs at Carnegie-Mellon University, was quoted, "Drug hawks construe opposition to long mandatory minimum sentences as opposition to all drug enforcement. Drug legalizers construe it as support for their cause. Neither side seems to allow that someone could favor modifying -- NOT eliminating -- the basic framework of the current drug laws by allowing sentences to be set on a case by case basis rather than reducing them to a formula driven largely by the quantity possessed."
I can't speak for the drug warriors, but I don't construe opposition to mandatory minimums as necessarily equivalent to support for repealing prohibition. I also know most of the prominent anti-prohibitionist activists in this country, and they don't either. Would Dr. Caulkins like to name some leaders in the anti-prohibition camp side who hold this patently illogical view that he ascribes to us? I don't think he can. We at DRCNet certainly feel an affinity with anyone who wants to make drug policy kinder, including the sentencing reformers; but that doesn't mean we construe their views as automatically equivalent to ours.
It should be stated here that we don't view all "middle ground" reformers as adversaries, and in fact tend to see them as allies. For example, Dr. Caulkins was the lead researcher in the RAND mandatory minimums study which we praised effusively in the latest issue of The Activist Guide (http://www.drcnet.org/guide8-97/rand.html). In fact, some DRCNet members and supporters fall into the same category as this group politically. The difference is that they see value in a full discussion of drug policy alternatives, including legalization scenarios, while this particular group was formed to specifically discourage discussion of legalization and instead advocate the truncated discussion that would be left. Despite the group's claim that their middle ground isn't being heard, it is precisely this truncated debate that has dominated the political scene for the past several decades, until very recently.
Lastly, does this group truly represent the middle ground? Politically, to be sure, they do. Intellectually, however, that is less clear. Though they recognize the harms of prohibition and oppose its greatest excesses, they still advocate that, at least on some level, armed agents of the state be deployed in our communities to control the drug-taking aspect of human behavior with coercion and sometimes violence. Whereas we at DRCNet are against drug abuse too, but think it's time to put the guns down and deal with the problem in some more civilized way. That's the real middle ground, as I see it.
Executive Director, DRCNet
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