Progressive Review on PID's Drug War




Consumer Reports Magazine, 1972 - In contrast to the many logical arguments in favor of alcohol prohibition, the one decisive argument against such a measure is purely pragmatic: prohibition doesn't work. It should work, but it doesn't. . .

Alcohol prohibition was not repealed because people decided that alcohol was a harmless drug. On the contrary, the United States learned during prohibition, even more than in prior decades, the true horrors of the drug. What brought about repeal was the slowly dawning awareness that alcohol prohibition wasn't working.

Alcohol remained available during prohibition. People still got drunk, still became alcoholics, still suffered delirium tremens. Drunken drivers remained a frequent menace on the highways. Drunks continued to commit suicide, to kill others, and to be killed by others. They continued to beat their own children, sometimes fatally. The courts, jails, hospitals, and mental hospitals were still filled with drunks, In some respects and in some parts of the country, perhaps, the situation was a little better during prohibition-but in other respects it was unquestionably worse.

Instead of consuming alcoholic beverages manufactured under the safeguards of state and federal standards, for example, people now drank "rotgut," some of it adulterated, some of it contaminated. The use of methyl alcohol, a poison, because ethyl alcohol was unavailable or too costly, led to blindness and death; "ginger jake," an adulterant found in bootleg beverages, produced paralysis and death. The disreputable saloon was replaced by the even less savory speakeasy. There was a shift from relatively mild light wines and beers to hard liquors-less bulky and therefore less hazardous to manufacture, transport, and sell on the black market. Young people-and especially respectable young women, who rarely got drunk in public before 1920- now staggered out of speakeasies and reeled down the streets. There were legal closing hours for saloons; the speakeasies stayed open night and day. Organized crime syndicates took control of alcohol distribution, establishing power bases that (it is alleged) still survive.

Marijuana, a drug previously little used in the United States, was first popularized during the period of alcohol prohibition and ether was also imbibed. The use of other drugs increased, too; coffee consumption, for example, soared from 9 pounds per capita in 1919 to 12.9 pounds in 1920.

During the early years of alcohol prohibition, it was argued that all that was wrong was lack of effective law enforcement. So enforcement budgets were increased, more prohibition agents were hired, arrests were facilitated by giving agents more power, penalties were escalated. prohibition still didn't work. . .

In summary, far more would be gained by making alcohol unavailable than by making any other drug unavailable. Yet the United States, after a thirteen-year trial, resolutely turned its face against alcohol prohibition. Society recognized that prohibition does not in fact prohibit, and that it brings in its wake additional adverse effects.



JULY 2008


David W. Fleming and James P. Gray, LA Times The United States has been spending $69 billion a year worldwide for the last 40 years, for a total of $2.5 trillion, on drug prohibition -- with little to show for it. Is anyone actually benefiting from this war? Six groups come to mind.

The first group are the drug lords in nations such as Colombia, Afghanistan and Mexico, as well as those in the United States. They are making billions of dollars every year -- tax free.

The second group are the street gangs that infest many of our cities and neighborhoods, whose main source of income is the sale of illegal drugs.

Third are those people in government who are paid well to fight the first two groups. Their powers and bureaucratic fiefdoms grow larger with each tax dollar spent to fund this massive program that has been proved not to work.

Fourth are the politicians who get elected and reelected by talking tough -- not smart, just tough -- about drugs and crime. But the tougher we get in prosecuting nonviolent drug crimes, the softer we get in the prosecution of everything else because of the limited resources to fund the criminal justice system.

The fifth group are people who make money from increased crime. They include those who build prisons and those who staff them. The prison guards union is one of the strongest lobbying groups in California today, and its ranks continue to grow.

And last are the terrorist groups worldwide that are principally financed by the sale of illegal drugs.

Who are the losers in this war? Literally everyone else, especially our children.

Today, there are more drugs on our streets at cheaper prices than ever before. There are more than 1.2 million people behind bars in the U.S., and a large percentage of them for nonviolent drug usage. Under our failed drug policy, it is easier for young people to obtain illegal drugs than a six-pack of beer. Why? Because the sellers of illegal drugs don't ask kids for IDs. As soon as we outlaw a substance, we abandon our ability to regulate and control the marketing of that substance. . .

So what is the answer? Start by removing criminal penalties for marijuana, just as we did for alcohol. If we were to do this, according to state budget figures, California alone would save more than $1 billion annually, which we now spend in a futile effort to eradicate marijuana use and to jail nonviolent users. Is it any wonder that marijuana has become the largest cash crop in California?

We should also reclassify most Schedule I drugs (drugs that the federal government alleges have no medicinal value, including marijuana and heroin) as Schedule II drugs (which require a prescription), with the government regulating their production, overseeing their potency, controlling their distribution and allowing licensed professionals (physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc.) to prescribe them. This course of action would acknowledge that medical issues, such as drug addiction, are best left under the supervision of medical doctors instead of police officers. . .

Ending drug prohibition, taxing and regulating drugs and spending tax dollars to treat addiction and dependency are the approaches that many of the world's industrialized countries are taking. Those approaches are ones that work.

David W. Fleming, a lawyer, is the chairman of the Los Angeles County Business Federation and immediate past chairman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. James P. Gray is a judge of the Orange County Superior Court.


Bruce Mirken, AlterNet The United States has some of the world's most punitive drug policies and has led the cheering section for tough "war on drugs" policies worldwide, but a new international study suggests that those policies have been a crashing failure. A World Health Organization survey of 17 countries, conducted by some of the world's leading substance abuse researchers, found that we have the highest rates of marijuana and cocaine use.

The numbers are startling. In the United States, 42.4 percent admitted having used marijuana. The only other nation that came close was New Zealand, another bastion of get-tough policies, at 41.9 percent. No one else was even close. The results for cocaine use were similar, with the United States leading the world by a large margin.

This study is important because it's the first time a respected international group has surveyed drug use around the world, using the same questions and procedure everywhere. . .

Some of the most striking numbers are from the Netherlands, where adults are permitted to possess a small of marijuana and purchase it from regulated businesses. Some U.S. officials have claimed that these Dutch policies have created some sort of decadent cesspool of drug abuse, but the new study demolishes such assertions: In the Netherlands, only 19.8 percent have used marijuana, less than half the U.S. figure.

Even more striking is what the researchers found when they asked young adults when they had started using marijuana. Again, the United States led the world, with 20.2 percent trying marijuana by age 15. No other country was even close, and in the Netherlands, just 7 percent used marijuana by 15 - roughly one-third of the U.S. figure.

MAY 2008



This is bigger than Scott McClellan admitting he was wrong about Iraq. McCaffrey was one of the biggest promoters of the drug war during its long sordid history. Of course, most of the mainstream media ignored the story

ST LOUIS TODAY American taxpayers would save more than $46 billion if drug addicts now in prison were instead treated, according to a study released Friday at a national convention of drug court professionals. Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a former U.S. drug czar, and actress Melanie Griffith joined experts in calling on lawmakers to increase funding for such courts. "This is not a war on drugs," McCaffrey said. "This is a problem for our families in America. In order to turn drugs around in this country, we're going to have to treat those 1.5 million people who are addicted.". . .

The study from the Urban Institute in Washington found that about 3 percent of arrested addicts are referred to a drug court, which offers supervised treatment to nonviolent offenders whose records are expunged if they complete the program. "Most addicts need something more than being warehoused," said Judge Charles Simmons Jr., a drug court judge in Greenville, S.C. "Drug courts are putting families back together, and they are decreasing crime at a tremendous savings to taxpayers."

Housing an inmate in prison can cost up to $40,000 a year while drug court treatment costs up to $3,500 per offender a year, Simmons said. McCaffrey said 15 years of research has yielded definitive proof that drug courts significantly reduce crime by as much as 35 percent. He said legislators and the public may get behind the system once they understand its cost savings.


Sam Smith

If Obama is elected, by next January we will have had three presidents in a row who - if our laws had been equitably enforced - might easily have been convicted felons. Obama has admitted drug use including cocaine, and there is a high likelihood that both Bush and Clinton used cocaine as well as pot. Being a convicted felon is not a constitutional bar to the presidency but in many states the three could would not be allowed to vote or run for state or local office.

The issue comes to the fore thanks to Scott McClellan's new book. A story in the Atlanta Constitution recounts:

"McClellan tracks Bush's penchant for self-deception back to an overheard incident on the campaign trail in 1999 when the then-governor was dogged by reports of possible cocaine use in his younger days.

"The book recounts an evening in a hotel suite 'somewhere in the Midwest.' Bush was on the phone with a supporter and motioned for McClellan to have a seat. ;The media won't let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,' I heard Bush say. 'You know, the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember.'"

Clinton, for his part, ran Arkansas at a time when it was one of America's leading little narco republics. He looked the other way as Papa Bush ran an arms for drugs operation out of Mena as part of the Iran-Contra disaster. The IRS warned other law enforcement agencies of the state's 'enticing climate.' According to Clinton biographer Roger Morris, operatives go into banks with duffel bags full of cash, which bank officers then distribute to tellers in sums under $10,000 so they don't have to report the transaction.

Sharlene Wilson, according to investigative reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, served as "the lady with the snow" at "toga parties" attended, she reported, by Bill Clinton. She told a federal grand jury she saw Clinton and his younger brother ''snort'' cocaine together in 1979. Investor's Business Daily reported, "Sally Perdue, a former Miss Arkansas and Little Rock talk show host who said she had an affair with then-Gov. Clinton in 1983, told the London Sunday Telegraph that he once came over to her house with a bag full of cocaine. ''He had all the equipment laid out, like a real pro.''' In the 1990s, Genifer Flowers told Sean Hannity's WABC talk radio show: "He smoked marijuana in my presence and and offered me the opportunity to snort cocaine if I wanted to. I wasn't into that. Bill clearly let me know that he did cocaine. And I know people that knew he did cocaine. He did tell me that when he would use a substantial amount of cocaine that his head would itch so badly that he would become self conscious at parties where he was doing this. Because all he wanted to do while people were talking to him is stand around and scratch his head."

Two Arkansas state troopers swore under oath that they have seen Clinton ''under the influence'' of drugs when he was governor. One-time apartment manager Jane Parks claimed that in 1984 she could listen through the wall as Bill and Roger Clinton, in a room adjoining hers, discussed the quality of the drugs they were taking. And in 1984, Hot Springs police record Roger Clinton during a cocaine transaction. Roger says, "Got to get some for my brother. He's got a nose like a vacuum cleaner."

The issue here is not what these men did. After all, in a sane land, their drug use would be considered foolish but legal. The issue is that we stand a good chance of entering a third presidential administration marked by massive hypocrisy, cruelty and destructiveness in the matter of drugs. Obama shows every sign of following in the same masochistic path that has not only failed in its goal, but coincidentally began the dismantling of constitutional government and encouraged manic and self-defeating foreign adventures.

You can not understand what has happened to this country over the past three decades without putting the war on drugs near the top of the list. Nothing has so changed the way we think and function as has our callously unexamined approach to drugs.

My bedtime viewing of late has been the Netflix compilation of "The Wire," which I have come to think of as among the best literature of our times, a Shakespeare for an America in disintegration. The series touches on all forms of urban collapse - in politics, religion, labor unions, the police, the media - but the unbreakable link is a drug trade fostered by some of the worst laws and policies ever conceived. Seldom has a country so deliberately destroyed so much of its being for so little gain.

But if you check the awards "The Wire" has won they are mainly from critic and writers groups and from the NAACP. The pop honors have been strikingly absent as were the ratings.

This is not surprising, because under our cultural rules, the drug war is not something to discuss and argue about. It is to be accepted, funded and promised to be continued by whoever is running for public office.

Significantly, two of the major enablers of this madness have been the media and a liberal elite that has increasingly blended its values with those of the conservative elite, the most notable exception being those of a demographic nature. It's no longer so much a matter so much of what you do but what ethnicity or gender gets to do it.

There are, of course, exceptions such as civil libertarians and populists fighting lonely battles that used to be central to Democratic Party beliefs. But on the whole, such matters simply don't matter that much. Which is why neither Obama nor Clinton have discussed the drug issue or cities other than in passing.

In the case of drugs, there is another factor that is never mentioned, which is that among the media and elite liberals there has been more than a little use of the same substances for which they are willing to send the less prominent to prison. You see just the tip of this phenomenon when a presidential candidate's drug use threatens to become an issue. The great mediators of public discourse quickly declare this topic fit only for the lower sorts and move it off the table.

Such a willingness to punish others for what one does or what one's friends do is bad enough when it is merely an opinion expressed. When it results in prison time, it is despicable.

The liberal hypocrisy on the drug war was an early signs that I was no longer a liberal. I was stunned by the liberal enthusiasm for Clinton, and claims that he was our first black president, even as he sent an ever larger number of young blacks to prison for doing what he had done.

This is not small stuff. Far more young American men have died as a result of the drug war than have died in Iraq. More young black men have died as a result of the drug war than died in Vietnam. Yet we not meant to talk about it.

In the wake of its support of the drug wars, liberals have gone on to support such awfulness as the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind. In many ways, liberalism hasn't died; it's just evaporated.

A progressive populism of the sort that John Edwards was reintroducing is the sane and logical alternative, one that provides the most for the most and under which you don't have to graduate from Yale or Harvard Law School to have equal rights as a woman or a black. It is obscene to speak smugly of Obama's rise and yet be indifferent to the tens of thousands of those whose skin is of the same hue but will who spend the next four years in a cell rather than in the White House because they tried to smoke or snort their way to happiness just like two past presidents, and one potential one, all in a row.


ED BURNS, REASON As for the war on drugs, I don’t think we’ll ever recover from the mind-set we’ve gotten into to fight it. The educational system is an absolute and total disaster. And that of course is fueling the drug war, because there are so many kids who have no alternative but to spend their time on the corners.

The failure is institutional because no one sets out to lose these wars. This is dangerous stuff, self-defeating stuff. Education has no relevance. It doesn’t mean anything to these kids because they can’t connect to it. They spend those eight years or nine years in school because they have to. Of course, they have to learn something. And what they learn is how to sit quietly in a corner and make the school become a kind of training ground for the corners. The administration and the teachers basically become surrogate cops. And the kids play through these fantasies with the stand-in “cops” until they’ve tested their mettle enough to go up on the corners and try it with the real guys.

We’ve had 20, 30 years of this stuff, and 20, 30 years of spending billions of dollars on failed systems. And if you go to one of the private schools and see these kids in action and then go to an inner-city public school, you can see the chasm. There’s separation even in the way of being, in the way they think, in how they operate. It’s profound, but it’s nothing new. We’ve been doing this for a long time.



















MEDICAL NEWS TODAY - A new UK study suggests that the current UK drug classification system of A, B, and C of the Misuse of Drugs Act is flawed and should be replaced by an evidence-based system of potential harm that would place alcohol and tobacco higher than cannabis and ecstasy. The study is published in The Lancet.

Their proposed system of classification asesses harm in an "evidence-based fashion". They use three main factors to determine the potential harm that a substance causes:

(1) Physical harm to the user, (2) Tendency to induce dependence in the user, and (3) The effect of its use on families, communities and society in general. . . They asked two independent expert panels to score 20 different substances using this new system. . . The two panels found the method easy to use and came up with very similar harm scores for each drug.

In order of overall harm, the 20 drugs were given the following ranking . . .

(1) Heroin (most harmful).
(2) Cocaine.
(3) Barbiturates.
(4) Street Methodone.
(5) Alcohol.
(6) Ketamine.
(7) Benzodiazepines.
(8) Amphetamine.
(9) Tobacco.
(10) Buprenorphine.
(11) Cannabis.
(12) Solvents.
(13) 4-MTA (para-methylthioamphetamine).
(14) LSD.
(15) Methylphenidate (ritalin).
(16) Anabolic steroids.
(17) GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid).
(18) Ecstasy.
(19) Alkyl nitrites.
(20) Khat (least harmful).

In their conclusions they comment on what they see as its most glaring deficiencies:

"The fact that the two most widely used legal drugs lie in the upper half of the ranking of harm is surely important information that should be taken into account in public debate on illegal drug use. Discussions based on a formal assessment of harm rather than on prejudice and assumptions might help society to engage in a more rational debate about the relative risks and harms of drugs."



SUN, UK - Ecstasy is safer than aspirin, top cop Richard Brunstrom claimed yesterday. He also repeated his call for Class A substances like heroin and cocaine to be legalized. The North Wales chief constable claimed such a move was "inevitable" - and could happen in 10 years.

About 400 people in the UK have died from ecstasy since 1994. But Mr Brunstrom, known for targeting speeding drivers, called it a "remarkably safe substance, far safer than aspirin."

The maverick cop told the BBC: "There is a lot of scaremongering, rumour mongering around ecstasy. It isn't borne out by the evidence. Ecstasy is not a safe substance and I'm not suggesting that it is. But it is much less dangerous than, for instance, tobacco and alcohol."




NORML - Police arrested a record 829,625 persons for marijuana violations in 2006, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report. This is the largest total number of annual arrests for pot ever recorded by the FBI. Marijuana arrests now comprise nearly 44 percent of all drug arrests in the United States.

"These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor marijuana offenders," said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, who noted that at current rates, a marijuana smoker is arrested every 38 seconds in America. . .

Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 89 percent, 738,915 Americans were charged with possession only. The total number of marijuana arrests in the U.S. for 2006 far exceeded the total number of arrests in the U.S. for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Annual marijuana arrests have nearly tripled since the early 1990s.




Sam Smith

THE REVIEW HAS OPPOSED the nation's drug policy for four decades. One reason has been that it is the sort of law that works one way for some people and another way for others. It's not just the cocaine - crack punishment disparity. Consider the huge difference between the percent of blacks and whites imprisoned on drug charges despite similar usage. Or the immune cocaine culture in Hollywood and executive suites compared to tough ghetto enforcement. Or Bill Clinton and George Bush using cocaine and the media not even mentioning it while it's become an open issue in the Obama campaign.

Now we have another example from your nation's capital. In this town where the mayor, Marion Barry, was arrested and pilloried for drug use, we now find that the city's baseball team's new catcher among those listed in the George Mitchell report of those illegally using steroids.

According to the Washington Post:

|||| The report said that Radomski sent performance-enhancing substances to [Paul] Lo Duca's home and to the clubhouse of the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom Lo Duca played from 1998 to 2004. Lo Duca's name, address and telephone number were listed in the address book seized from Radomski's Long Island home in December 2005.

Neither Lo Duca nor his agent, Andrew Mongelluzzi, returned messages yesterday. The Nationals, who signed Lo Duca to a one-year, $5 million contract earlier in the week, issued a statement last night declining to comment on the report in general and on their own players specifically because they "have not yet had an opportunity to fully review" the Mitchell report. . .

The details of Lo Duca's alleged involvement came from the raid of Radomski's home. They included a note from Lo Duca to Radomski in which Lo Duca said his cellphone had broken and he needed Radomski's contact information. On another note -- written on Dodger Stadium stationery -- Lo Duca scrawled, "Thanks, Call me if you need anything! Paul." |||

And from the report itself:

|||| According to the notes of an internal discussion among Los Angeles Dodgers officials in October 2003 that were referred to above, it was reportedly said of Lo Duca during the meetings: Steroids aren't being used anymore on him. Big part of this. Might have some value to trade . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year. That's his makeup. Comes to play. ||||

If the report is true then the Nationals have just signed for $5 million Marion Barry lite. . . a lawbreaker and - since a lot more kids want to be ball players than want to be mayor - an even worse role model for the young.

Will the Nationals cancel Lo Duca's contract? Will the media pillory him like they did Barry? Will he replace Barry as the cheapest laugh in town? Don't count on it.

Of course, the argument will be made that steroids are far less dangerous or criminal than cocaine, but that is in part thanks to a sports media that has issued the sentencing guidelines for major league violators, namely, somewhere between not much and so what, that's life.

If you are not a major leaguer and use the stuff, it can be a bit different just as it is in the case of cocaine depending on who's taking it. Here is some legal advice from the web site Elite Fitness:

|||| Under federal law and the laws of many states, selling steroids, or possessing them with intent to sell, is a felony. An individual who sells steroids, or possesses with intent to sell, is punishable by up to five years in prison under federal law and up to seven years in prison under New York state law. Of course, whether an individual serves any prison time at all depends upon numerous factors including but not limited to the person's past criminal history, the strength of the prosecution's case, the person's role in the offense, and how effectively the case is either negotiated or litigated by defense counsel. An experienced criminal lawyer can make the difference.

While most steroid investigations by law enforcement target sellers, either big-time or, lately, even small-time, arrests for personal possession do occur. Often, these arrests arise out of car stops for traffic violations and the steroids are found during a search of the car. For example, I recently defended a case where a police officer found a few syringes after stopping my client for speeding and discovering he had a suspended driver's license. In New York, the possession of hypodermic instruments is a misdemeanor, and my client was arrested on the spot. . .

It is important to know that under the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990 which applies across the country, steroids are in the same legal class as amphetamines, methamphetamines, opium and morphine. Simple possession is a federal offense punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a minimum fine of $1,000. Further, most states have enacted their own laws modeled after the Control Act. ||||

Somehow we have a feeling that Paul Lo Duco doesn't have to worry about this. The hypocrisy of our drug laws and their enforcement is rampant but it is not likely that Major League Baseball and its accomplices in the sports media will be much bothered by this.

Still it has cost the DC budget over $600 million to provide a ball park for such role models as Lo Duco and if there is any residual guilt in the heart of the owners and the city politicians, they might consider squaring things a bit by honoring a local player who went to jail for just one deal and naming the place Marion Barry Stadium.


ACCORDING TO THE Department of Health & Human Services, the highest rate of illicit drug use is among persons reporting two or more races (13%). American Indians are second at 12% following by blacks at 8.7%, whites at 8.1% and latinos at 7.2 percent. Asians had the lowest rate at 3.1%.

Bearing this in mind, now consider some facts from the Justice Policy Institute.

In white liberal Montgomery County, MD, blacks are incarcerated on drug charges 22 times as often as are whites while in neighboring Prince Georges County, where blacks comprise two-thirds of the population, the discrepancy is four times.

Here are the number of times more frequently blacks are incarcerated on drug charges than is the case for whites in other places around the country:

24 - Waukesha County, WI
27 - Montgomery County, PA
9 - Baltimore, MD
37 - Westchester County, NY
23 - King County, WA
17 - Los Angelese, CA
5 - NYC, NY
2 - Philadelphia, PA
15 - Milwaukee, WI
6 - Denver, CO

All the political correctness in the world won't compensate for figures like this. And liberals are as much to blame as conservatives, consistently refusing to add drug law reform to their agenda, looking the other way at the immensely discriminatory aspects of the drug war and ignoring the obvious threats to constitutional rights that, if dealt with in the context of drug laws, might have slowed George Bush's later assault on these rights



WASHINGTON POST -The price of cocaine has increased sharply in the District and other U.S. cities because stricter enforcement has curtailed supplies on the street, federal drug officials said. Nationally, the price of cocaine shot up 44 percent from January to September, and the purity dropped 15 percent, according to a report released yesterday by the White House drug policy office and the Drug Enforcement Administration. . .

D.C. police investigators said that they had no statistical evidence to back the DEA's claim but that dealers appear to be fighting over a dwindling product. They said that could be contributing to a recent rise in other crimes, such as homicides and robberies. When supplies are scarce, some dealers turn to other crimes to make money, said D.C. police Inspector Brian Bray, head of the narcotics branch.

"When there's the same amount of demand and less supply, people are going to try to get what's out there," Bray said. "That's when you see violence on the street level. A lot of these beefs are drug-related. A lot of homicides are drug dealers fighting over turf and supply."

The District has had 165 homicides this year, a 12 percent increase compared with the same period last year. Because many cases are unsolved, authorities can't say how many are drug-related. . .

In the District, Ronald Moten, co-founder of Peaceoholics, a community-based group that works to solve disputes among young people, said he has noticed less cocaine on the streets for months. He said he thinks that some shootings, robberies and fights in the city have resulted from a tightening market. "When you take away supply, more people are willing to take from others," Moten said. "It brings conflicts. It changes the whole dynamic of the scene."


EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON, NEW AMERICA MEDIA - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's survey on the sex and drug habits of Americans last June tossed the ugly glare on who controls and uses drugs in America. The survey found that whites are much more likely to peddle and use drugs than blacks. Non-Hispanic whites had a higher percentage of using cocaine or street drugs (23.5 percent) than blacks (18 percent). Other studies have found roughly equal rates of drug use by blacks and whites. But what made the CDC survey more eye-catching is that it didn't solely measure generic drug use, but singled out the use of cocaine and street drugs - the kind of drugs depicted in "American Gangster."

The findings fly in the face of the conventional drug war wisdom that blacks use and deal street drugs while whites use trendy, recreational designer drugs, and that these presumably include powder cocaine. That once more calls into question the gaping disparity in drug sentencing between whites and blacks.

More than 70 percent of those prosecuted in federal courts for drug possession and sale (mostly small amounts of crack cocaine) and given stiff mandatory sentences are blacks. Though the Supreme Court recently agreed to review the disparities in drug sentencing, it hasn't ruled yet and won't for many months. The majority of those who deal and use crack cocaine aren't violent gang members, but poor, and increasingly female, young blacks. They need help, not jailing.

But that's the morality tale theme that heavily underpins "American Gangster." If you're black and you use drugs you'll either die, become a walking zombie, or rot behind bars. And more than likely the guy that sells the junk will skip away scot-free, live a princely lifestyle, retire with fabulous wealth and, if unlucky enough to get popped, cut a deal to rat out crooked cops or competitors.


[In the nearly 40 years that the Review has written critically of federal drug policy, this is the first time we can recall the Post ever running anything close to this]

MISHA GLENNY IN WASHINGTON POST - Thirty-six years and hundreds of billions of dollars after President Richard M. Nixon launched the war on drugs, consumers worldwide are taking more narcotics and criminals are making fatter profits than ever before. The syndicates that control narcotics production and distribution reap the profits from an annual turnover of $400 billion to $500 billion. And terrorist organizations such as the Taliban are using this money to expand their operations and buy ever more sophisticated weapons, threatening Western security.

In the past two years, the drug war has become the Taliban's most effective recruiter in Afghanistan. Afghanistan's Muslim extremists have reinvigorated themselves by supporting and taxing the countless peasants who are dependent one way or another on the opium trade, their only reliable source of income. The Taliban is becoming richer and stronger by the day, especially in the east and south of the country. The "War on Drugs" is defeating the "war on terror.". . .

The trade in illegal narcotics begets violence, poverty and tragedy. And wherever I went around the world, gangsters, cops, victims, academics and politicians delivered the same message: The war on drugs is the underlying cause of the misery. Everywhere, that is, except Washington, where a powerful bipartisan consensus has turned the issue into a political third rail.

The problem starts with prohibition, the basis of the war on drugs. The theory is that if you hurt the producers and consumers of drugs badly enough, they'll stop doing what they're doing. But instead, the trade goes underground, which means that the state's only contact with it is through law enforcement, i.e. busting those involved, whether producers, distributors or users. But so vast is the demand for drugs in the United States, the European Union and the Far East that nobody has anything approaching the ability to police the trade.

Prohibition gives narcotics huge added value as a commodity. Once traffickers get around the business risks -- getting busted or being shot by competitors -- they stand to make vast profits. A confidential strategy report prepared in 2005 for British Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet and later leaked to the media offered one of the most damning indictments of the efficacy of the drug war. Law enforcement agencies seize less than 20 percent of the 700 tons of cocaine and 550 tons of heroin produced annually. According to the report, they would have to seize 60 to 80 percent to make the industry unprofitable for the traffickers. . .

In Washington, the war on drugs has been a third-rail issue since its inauguration. It's obvious why -- telling people that their kids can do drugs is the kiss of death at the ballot box. But that was before 9/11. Now the drug war is undermining Western security throughout the world. In one particularly revealing conversation, a senior official at the British Foreign Office told me, "I often think we will look back at the War on Drugs in a hundred years' time and tell the tale of 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' This is so stupid." How right he is.

JULY 2007


JACOB SULLUM, HIT AND RUN - The Court seems to be opening up a "drug exception" to the First Amendment, albeit limited (so far) to students in school. It's true that high school students do not have the same free speech rights as adults, but the Court has held that they do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." They have a right, for instance, to wear anti-war armbands. In that case, the Court held that student speech may be suppressed only if it will "materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school." A "mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint" or "an urgent wish to avoid the controversy which might result from the expression" is not enough to justify censorship. But fear of drugs apparently is.

"Schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use," the Court ruled. So where does that leave a student who wears a "Legalize It" T-shirt, who points out the problems caused by prohibition during a class discussion of drugs, or who shares accurate information about the hazards of marijuana with his fellow students? I suspect principals like Deborah Morris would view all of these student expressions as "encouraging illegal drug use," even though they are also indisputably political speech. If expressing opposition to the Vietnam War is protected even in school, how can expressing opposition to the War on Drugs not be? I have a feeling we're going to find out.


INTERESTING WORDS IN JUSTICE STEVENS' DISSENT, drawing a parallel between drug and alcohol prohibition:

JUSTICE STEVENS - But just as prohibition in the 1920's and early 1930's was secretly questioned by thousands of otherwise law-abiding patrons of bootleggers and speakeasies, today the actions of literally millions of otherwise law-abiding users of marijuana, and of the majority of voters in each of the several States that tolerate medicinal uses of the product, lead me to wonder whether the fear of disapproval by those in the majority is silencing opponents of the war on drugs. Surely our national experience with alcohol should make us wary of dampening speech suggesting - however inarticulately - that it would be better to tax and regulate marijuana than to persevere in a futile effort to ban its use entirely.


DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE - The United States Conference of Mayors has passed a resolution calling for a public health approach to the problems of substance use and abuse. The resolution was sponsored by Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City.

The resolution proclaims the war on drugs a failure, and calls for "a new bottom line in U.S. drug policy, a public health approach that concentrates more fully on reducing the negative consequences associated with drug abuse, while ensuring that our policies do not exacerbate these problems or create new social problems of their own."

The mayors urged greater access to drug treatment such as methadone and other maintenance therapies, elimination of the federal ban on funding sterile syringe access programs, and establishment of prevention policies based on needs assessed at the local level.

National drug policy should focus on reducing social problems like drug addiction, overdose deaths, the spread of HIV/AIDS from injection drug use, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and the enormous number of nonviolent offenders behind bars. Federal drug agencies should be judged - and funded - according to their ability to meet these goals.



This Conference recognizes that addiction is a chronic medical illness that is treatable, and drug treatment success rates exceed those of many cancer therapies

According to the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 112,085,000 Americans aged 12 or over (46.1% of the US population aged 12 and over) have used an illicit drug at least once

The United States has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's prisoners, incarcerating more than 2.3 million citizens in its prisons and jails, at a rate of one in every 136 U.S. residents - the highest rate of incarceration in the world

55% of all federal and over 20% of all state prisoners are convicted of drug law violations, many serving mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession offenses

A study by the RAND Corporation found that every additional dollar invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs, a reduction that would cost 15 times as much in law enforcement expenditure to achieve

The National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study shows substantial reductions in criminal behavior, with a 64% decrease in all arrests after treatment, making public safety a primary beneficiary of effective drug treatment programs

Federal, state, and local costs of the war on drugs exceed $40 billion annually, yet drugs are still widely available in every community, drug use and demand have not decreased, and most drug prices have fallen while purity levels have increased dramatically

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, only 35% percent of the federal drug control budget is spent on education, prevention and treatment combined, with the remaining 65% devoted to law enforcement efforts

Over one-third of all HIV/AIDS cases and nearly two thirds of all new cases of hepatitis C in the U.S. are linked to injection drug use with contaminated syringes, now the single largest factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS in the U.S

Virtually all independent analyses have found ONDCP's drug prevention programs to be costly and ineffective: the Government Accountability Office recently found that both the National Youth Anti-Drug Media campaign and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program have not only failed to reduce drug use, but instead might lead to unintended negative consequences

Blacks, Latinos and other minorities use drugs at rates comparable to whites, yet face disproportionate rates of arrest and incarceration for drug law violations: among persons convicted of drug felonies in state courts, 33% of convicted white defendants received a prison sentence, while 51% of black defendants received prison sentences

Women are the fastest growing prison population in the U.S., increasing by over 700% since 1977, to 98,600 at the end of 2005. Drug law violations now account for nearly one-third of incarcerated women, compared to one-fifth of men

Cities across the country have experienced a rise in violent crime and must prioritize scarce law enforcement resources, yet the nation's police arrested a record 786,545 individuals on marijuana related charges in 2005 - almost 90% for simple possession alone - far exceeding the total number of arrests for all violent crimes combined


[What industry - roughly the size of the pharmaceutical trade - has so much integrity that - at least according to public and media records - it never donates the political campaigns, has no lobbyists in Washington, has no politicians or other government officials in its pocket and never proposes new, self-serving legislation? The illegal drug trade. . . Here is a rare look at the business from an economic perspective]

ECONOMIST - Estimates are hard to confirm, not least because enterprises have been reluctant to open their accounts to public scrutiny, but the industry was thought to claim global annual sales of some $320 billion in 2005 (tax free). And although some better-known trade bodies (the Medellin and Cali cocaine cartels, for example) have been forced to close shop, largely as a result of tough state regulation, the industry as a whole remains in rude health.

But are the heady days coming to an end? A UN report released on Tuesday June 26th suggests that prospects for expansion in parts of the industry are dim. Although 5% of adults are thought to have taken illicit drugs of some sort over the past year, the use of softer brands such as cannabis and amphetamines has apparently reached a peak. In America, for example, cannabis use was highest in 1979 when more than 16% of the general population took it. By 2005 that had declined to just 10.4% of the population.

As troubling for the industry, many consumers in the extremely important American market are turning up their noses at cocaine. By 2005 cocaine use in America was down to 2.3% of the general population, more than 50% lower than the rate two decades ago. Compounding woes in that sector producers of coca (the raw material for cocaine) have seen cultivation decline in recent years. At its peak in 2000 some 221,300 hectares were under coca cultivation in Latin America. Last year that had dropped to just 159,600 hectares. . .

One part of the industry, however, seems to be blossoming as never before. The heroin sector is enjoying a consumer boom in many countries, coinciding with record production in Afghanistan. In 2006 the global output of opium which is used to make heroin, the hardest of drugs, reached an all-time-high, with producers in Afghanistan dominating the market. In the 1980s the country produced just 30% of the world's opium supply, but it has since-despite years of war-boosted output significantly and now accounts for 92% of world supply. A single province, Helmand, is said to have 70,000 hectares of opium under cultivation. . . .

But heroin producers and traders aside, enterprises within the illegal industry may now seek alternative ways to keep profits up. If the drugs business is indeed slowing, then the gangs, such as the Mafia, may have to compete more fiercely, perhaps engaging in hostile takeovers. Crime bosses battling for a bigger share of a slow-growing market is likely to mean much blood on the carpet. An alternative approach could be to diversify, with enterprises using their talents and infrastructure to peddle other forms of contraband such as cigarettes, pharmaceutical drugs, endangered animals, or human slaves. The UN report suggests such diversification is already underway.

JUNE 2007


APRIL 2007


OBSERVER, UK - Government attempts to persuade thousands of young people to stay away from drugs have failed and done nothing to curb the soaring popularity of illegal substances, a devastating report will warn this week. The number of young people using cocaine and cannabis has increased rapidly over the past 20 years despite high-profile campaigns. . . according to an in-depth examination of official efforts to tackle Britain's chronic drug problem. It is also expected to claim that Britain's 'unusually severe drug problem compared with that of our European neighbors' is linked to social and economic deprivation, that punitive laws have had little effect and that police efforts to disrupt the drugs trade have also failed.

The report will be launched on Wednesday by the new UK Drugs Policy Commission, whose members include distinguished figures from the worlds of health, policing, drugs research and academia. . . Their findings are a scathing indictment of decades of education, prevention and awareness-raising campaigns intended to warn youngsters about the perils of narcotics. The three main strategies into which successive governments have ploughed tens of millions of pounds - mass media campaigns such as 'heroin screws you up' in the 1980s, initiatives in schools aimed at pupils as young as seven and targeting of vulnerable groups - have made little or no difference, it says. . . The National Institute of Clinical Excellence recently drew similar conclusions about the usefulness of drugs prevention campaigns.

'It now seems that what might be termed "recreational" drug use has become firmly established as an experience that many young people will go through' because consumption of illicit substances is now so common in their age group, the document says. . .

The report cites an array of official statistics charting the steady growth in Britain's drugs culture. For example, according to the 2005 British Crime Survey, 40.4 per cent of 16 to 19-year-olds have used drugs at some point in their lifetime, as have 49 per cent of 20 to 24-year-olds, 51.6 per cent of 25 to 29-year-olds and 45.8 per cent of 30 to 34-year-olds.

While cannabis use by young people has fallen recently, it remains around 50 per cent and consumption of cocaine has increased. The Home Office last night rejected the new body's findings. A spokesman said research showed that giving young people information about drugs, rather than adopting a 'just say no' approach, was a more effective way of warning them about the dangers.


MARCH 2007


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, LOS ANGELES TIMES - According to a 2006 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, African Americans make up an estimated 15% of drug users, but they account for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. Or consider this: The U.S. has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70%) of them are black or Latino. . .

Unfortunately, a quick search of the top Democratic hopefuls' websites reveals that not one of them -- not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, not John Edwards, not Joe Biden, not Chris Dodd, not Bill Richardson -- even mentions the drug war, let alone offers any solutions.

The silence coming from Clinton and Obama is particularly deafening.
Obama has written eloquently about his own struggle with drugs but has not addressed the tragic effect the war on drugs is having on African American communities. As for Clinton, she flew into Selma, Ala., to reinforce her image as the wife of the black community's most beloved politician and has made much of her plan to attract female voters, but she has ignored the suffering of poor, black women right in her own backyard.

Located down the road from her Chappaqua, N.Y., home are two prisons housing female inmates, Taconic and Bedford. Forty-eight percent of the women in Taconic are there for nonviolent drug offenses; 78% of those in the prison are African American or Latino. . .

A 2000 study found that 1.4 million African American men -- 13% of the total black male population -- were unable to vote in the 2000 election because of state laws barring felons access to the polls. In Florida, one in three black men is permanently disqualified from voting. Think that might have made a difference in the 2000 race? Our shortsighted drug laws have become the 21st century manifestation of Jim Crow.

Shouldn't this be an issue Democratic presidential candidates deem worthy of their attention?



TIME - Britain's drug policy has failed and should be replaced with a system that recognizes drinking and smoking can cause more harm than some illegal drugs, according to an independent study published Thursday.

Shifting the focus of drug education to primary school children from secondary students and the establishment of "shooting galleries" - rooms where users can inject drugs - are among the recommendations of a two-year study into drug policy and alternative solutions by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, or RSA.

New laws are needed that acknowledge that "whether we like it or not, drugs are and will remain a fact of life," the report said. "On that basis, the aim of the law should be to reduce the amounts of harms caused to individuals, their friends and families, their children and their communities.". . .

The report, which aims to influence a government drug strategy review due next year, also called for jail sentences to be given for only the most serious drug-related crimes and for addicts to be given jobs and housing as part of treatment. It recommends the current drug classification system be replaced by an "index of harms."

"The evidence suggests that a majority of people who use drugs are able to use them without harming themselves or others," said the panel's chairman, Anthony King of Essex University.

At the heart of the report is a call to end what the panel said was the current policy's "criminal justice bias" in favor of treating addiction as a health and social problem, instead of simply a cause of crime.

London's Metropolitan Police backed the report's approach. A police spokesman said the force supported the proposed approach of evaluating drug policy success by "measuring the amount of harm reduced and reducing drugs supply by the targeting of organized criminal networks responsible." The spokesman spoke on condition of anonymity in line with force policy.

The report recommended supervised drug consumption rooms - which operate in eight European countries - as a way of preventing overdoses and offering treatment to high-risk users. Addicts are allowed to bring illegally obtained drugs into such rooms, but sharing and dealing is banned, and new or nondependent users are barred.



[Further confirmation of why drug prohibition doesn't work]

JEREMIAH MARQUEZ, ASSOCIATED PRESS - California's ban on tobacco in prisons has produced a burgeoning black market behind bars, where a pack of smokes can fetch up to $125. Prison officials who already have their hands full keeping drugs and weapons away from inmates now are spending time tracking down tobacco smugglers, some of them guards and other prison employees. Fights over tobacco have broken out - at one Northern California prison guards had to use pepper spray to break up a brawl among 30 inmates.

The ban was put in place in July 2005 to improve work conditions and cut rising health care costs among inmates but it also has led to an explosive growth of tobacco trafficking. The combination of potentially big profits and relatively light penalties are driving the surge.



JASON BENNETTO, INDEPENDENT, UK - Heroin should be prescribed to long-term addicts to prevent them from committing crimes to feed their habits, the head of Britain's police chiefs has suggested. Ken Jones, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, also admitted that current policing tactics are failing to combat a "hardcore minority" of heroin addicts.

He called for a political consensus on the issue of heroin prescription on the NHS, and a more "realistic" approach to tackling long-term drug abuse. Mr Jones argued that by prescribing heroin the police would be able significantly to reduce overall crime and prevent deaths from overdoses.

The former chief constable of Sussex is the most senior police officer to give his support to heroin prescription and his controversial view is likely to be criticized by organizations opposed to any form of drug liberalisation.

Mr Jones, who is head of the organization that represents the most senior ranks of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, said: "You need to understand there is a hard core, a minority, who nevertheless commit masses of crime to feed their addiction. . . "

He said: "I am not in any shape or form a legaliser, but what I am concerned with is that we have to shape up to some tough realities. We don't have enough treatment places for those who want to go on them. What we need is a cross-party consensus which considers the overwhelming public view to be tough on the roots of drugs, as well as treating its victims."

Studies on heroin prescription in the Netherlands and Switzerland found significant reductions in illicit drug use among those receiving the treatment. Both the Swiss and Dutch reported a drop in the crimes committed by their addicts.

The widespread prescription of heroin in Britain was phased out in the 1960s. GPs in England and Wales have the legal power to prescribe heroin, but do so extremely rarely.




WQAD, IL - "(I was) made to feel like a criminal -- Made to feel low, dirty. Just totally degraded," recalled Tim Naveau, who says he'll never forget the hours he spent in Rock Island County Jail -- he says all because of his allergies. "They searched me, made me take my shirt off, my shoes off," he recounted.

Tim takes one 24-hour Claritin-D tablet just about every day. That puts him just under the legal limit of 75-hundred milligrams of pseudo ephedrine a month. The limit is part of a new law that Quad Cities authorities are beginning to strictly enforce.

The law limits the amount of pseudo ephedrine you can buy. Pseudo ephedrine is an ingredient in medicines like Sudafed and Claritin-D, and it's also a key ingredient in methamphetamines.

"It's the only allergy medicine that works for me -- for my allergies," Tim explained.

The only problem is, Tim has a teenaged son who also suffers from allergies. And minors are not allowed to buy pseudo ephedrine.

"I bought some for my boy because he was going away to church camp and he needed it," he said.

That decision put Tim over the legal limit. Two months later, there was a warrant for his arrest.

"I was flabbergasted," he said. "Just totally amazed that I could be in trouble."

Rene Sandoval, Director of the Quad Cities Metropolitan Enforcement Agency -- the agency that enforces the law -- says it's meant to catch meth makers, and does. . . "Does it take drastic measures? Absolutely. Have we seen a positive result? Absolutely," Sandoval stressed.



AP - A one-time Texas drug agent described by a former boss as perhaps the best narcotics officer in the country plans to begin selling a video that shows people how to conceal their drugs and fool police.

Barry Cooper, who once worked for police departments in Gladewater and Big Sandy and the Permian Basin Drug Task Force, plans to launch a Web site next week where he will sell his video, Never Get Busted Again , the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported.

A promotional video says Cooper will show viewers how to "conceal their stash," "avoid narcotics profiling" and "fool canines every time."

Cooper, who said he favors the legalization of marijuana, made the video in part because he believes the nation's fight against drugs is a waste of resources. Busting marijuana users fills up prisons with nonviolent offenders, he said.

"My main motivation in all of this is to teach Americans their civil liberties and what drives me in this is injustice and unfairness in our system," Cooper told the newspaper. . .

As a drug officer, Cooper said, he made more than 800 drug arrests and seized more than 50 vehicles and $500,000 in cash and assets.


DONNA LEINWAND, USA TODAY - The San Francisco metropolitan area has a higher percentage of people who are regular drug users than any other major metropolitan area in the USA, a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found. Nearly 13% of San Francisco residents reported using some type of illicit drug, such as marijuana, cocaine or heroin, in the previous month, according to data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health 2002-05. The national average is 8.1%.

Other areas with drug-abuse rates higher than the national average included Seattle, 9.6%; Detroit, 9.5%; Philadelphia, 9.1%; and Boston, 8.5%. Cities with the lowest drug use: Houston, 6.2%; and Washington, Dallas and Riverside/San Bernardino, Calif., all at 6.5%. . .

Chicago, at 25.7%, and Houston, at 25.6%, have the highest rates of binge drinking in the country. Nationwide, 22.7% of people reported binge drinking in the previous month, defined by the study as having five or more drinks on one occasion. Other areas with rates higher than the national average are Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, San Francisco and Phoenix.

Nationwide, about one quarter of the population smokes cigarettes regularly. Only Detroit significantly exceeded the national average, with 27.4% of its residents reporting that they smoked cigarettes in the previous month, the study found. California's biggest cities had the lowest smoking rates, with 17.9% of people in San Francisco and Los Angeles and 19.2% in Riverside reporting previous-month use, the study found.


Since San Francisco is the city with the greatest illicit drug use and DC is one of those with the least (but the most cops), we thought we'd check and see how the war on drugs was keeping us safe. Turns out that in 5 of 7 categories of crime - including all categories of violent crime - it was safer to be living around those awful Frisco druggies. [ Area Connect chart ]

DEA chief thinks alcohol prohibition was just fine



GREEN STATE PROJECT - Marijuana is not a "gateway" drug that predicts or eventually leads to substance abuse, suggests a 12-year University of Pittsburgh study. Moreover, the study's findings call into question the long-held belief that has shaped prevention efforts and governmental policy for six decades and caused many a parent to panic upon discovering a bag of pot in their child's bedroom. . .

The Pitt researchers tracked 214 boys beginning at ages 10-12, all of whom eventually used either legal or illegal drugs. When the boys reached age 22, they were categorized into three groups: those who used only alcohol or tobacco, those who started with alcohol and tobacco and then used marijuana (gateway sequence) and those who used marijuana prior to alcohol or tobacco (reverse sequence).

Nearly a quarter of the study population who used both legal and illegal drugs at some point - 28 boys - exhibited the reverse pattern of using marijuana prior to alcohol or tobacco, and those individuals were no more likely to develop a substance use disorder than those who followed the traditional succession of alcohol and tobacco before illegal drugs, according to the study, which appears in this month's issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. . .

While the gateway theory posits that each type of drug is associated with certain specific risk factors that cause the use of subsequent drugs, such as cigarettes or alcohol leading to marijuana, this study's findings indicate that environmental aspects have stronger influence on which type of substance is used. That is, if it's easier for a teen to get his hands on marijuana than beer, then he'll be more likely to smoke pot. This evidence supports what's known as the common liability model, an emerging theory that states the likelihood that someone will transition to the use of illegal drugs is determined not by the preceding use of a particular drug but instead by the user's individual tendencies and environmental circumstances.


HIT AND RUN - Yesterday Florida's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected a challenge to the 25-year mandatory minimum sentence received by pain patient Richard Paey for "drug trafficking" that did not involve any trafficking in drugs. As the majority explained, under Florida law "a person need not sell anything to commit the 'trafficking' offense. . . A person may commit the offense by knowingly being in actual or constructive possession of an enumerated controlled substance in a quantity equal to or greater than a weight designated by statute" - in this case, 28 grams of the narcotic painkiller oxycodone.

The prosecution presented no evidence that Paey distributed the pills to anyone else or planned to do so. All indications were that he obtained the painkillers entirely for his own consumption, and the only real matters of dispute were 1) whether he had obtained them legitimately or through prescription fraud and 2) whether he truly needed them for pain relief, as he insisted, or had become addicted to them in the course of pain treatment, as the prosecutors claimed. But because of the drug trafficking's statute's broad reach, the appeals court concluded, Paey's conviction and sentence were legally appropriate. And although his history of chronic pain and desperate circumstances "naturally evoke sympathy for what he has endured and concern for his future welfare," the court said, his sentence is not so disproportionate that it violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment" or the Florida Constitution's prohibition of "cruel or unusual punishment."

That conclusion prompted a strong dissent by Judge James H. Seals, who wrote:

"With no competent proof that [Paey] intended to do anything other than put the drugs into his own body for relief from his persistent and excruciating pain, the State chose to prosecute him and treat him as a trafficker in illegal drugs. Instead of recognizing the real problem and the real behaviors that led to his real crimes and holding him appropriately accountable, the State decided to bring out the artillery designed to bring down the drug cartels. . .

"I suggest that it is cruel for a man with an undisputed medical need for a substantial amount of daily medication management to go to prison for twenty-five years for using self-help means to obtain and amply supply himself with the medicine he needed. I suggest it is cruel for government to treat a man whose motivation to offend sprang from urgent medical problems the same as it would treat a drug smuggler motivated to obtain personal wealth and power at the expense of the misery his enterprise brings to others. I suggest that it is unusual, illogical, and unjust that Mr. Paey could conceivably go to prison for a longer stretch for peacefully but unlawfully purchasing 100 oxycodone pills from a pharmacist than had he robbed the pharmacist at knife point, stolen fifty oxycodone pills which he intended to sell to children waiting outside, and then stabbed the pharmacist. . . It is illogical, absurd, cruel, and unusual for the government to put Mr. Paey in prison for twenty-five years for foolishly and desperately pursuing his self-help solution to his medical management problems, and then go to prison only to find that the prison medical staff is prescribing the same or similar medication [a morphine pump] he had sought on the outside but could not legitimately obtain. That fact alone clearly proves what his intent for purchasing the drugs was. What a tragic irony. . . "



AP - A record 7 million people - or one in every 32 American adults - were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday. More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208 were on parole at the end of 2005. Prison releases are increasing, but admissions are increasing more. . . From 1995 to 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.



DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - A very establishment advisory group to British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell has advised the Liberal leader that if he wants to deal with crime and illegal drugs in the province, he has two starkly contrasting choices: legalize it, or unleash an all-out drug war. . . The BC Progress Board is a group of 18 businessmen and academics selected by the provincial government to provide advice on economic and social issues. . .

The board identified illegal drug use and the drug trade as one of four motors driving crime in the province. The others were deficient child rearing and services, mental illness, and the "impoverished and unstable lifestyles" of many people living in inner urban areas.

In its second recommendation to Premier Campbell, the board said that "the provincial government must address the problem of the illegal trade in drugs in a clear and consistent manner." The first option it listed was to "lobby the federal government to legalize the trade, perhaps limiting access to products to adults in the same way that access to alcohol and tobacco is limited."

That would allow the government to treat drug use and abuse as public health -- not criminal justice -- problems and would allow the government to obtain revenue from taxing the sales of drugs.

But the BC Progress Board was careful to note that it was not endorsing drug legalization, merely providing options for the provincial government. The board's second recommendation on drug policy made that perfectly clear. . .


GUARDIAN WRAP - A Home Office trial is permitting up to 400 addicts to take the drug at two supervised clinics, one in Camberwell, south London, and the other in Darlington, Durham. Howard Roberts, deputy chief constable of Nottinghamshire police, argued that it was cheaper to give heroin addicts the drug in the long term to curb thefts. An average heroin addict steals property worth GBP45,000 a year; giving the addicts drugs in the trial costs GBP15,000 a year. . . Meanwhile yesterday, the government's chief scientific adviser on science, Professor David Nutt, proposed that ecstasy and LSD should be downgraded to Class B drugs.



NORML - Nearly one in eight drug prisoners in America are behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, according to data released by the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. The BJS study reports that 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug violations are serving time for marijuana offenses. There are now approximately 33,655 state inmates and 10,785 federal inmates incarcerated for marijuana offenses.

The BJS report did not provide specific data on what percentage of US prisoners were serving times for marijuana possession crimes versus marijuana cultivation and/or trafficking. The BJS failed to include estimates on the percentage of inmates incarcerated in county jails for cannabis-related offenses.

A previous BJS report based on 1997 data indicated that in 1999 approximately 39,000 US prisoners were serving time for pot violations. A 2005 study by the Sentencing Project think-tank in Washington, DC suggested that approximately 68,500 Americans are either incarcerated or on probation for marijuana-related offenses.

According to data compiled by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and released in September, nearly 787,000 Americans were arrested for violating marijuana laws in 2005, the highest annual total ever recorded. Among those arrested, approximately 88 percent -- ­some 696,074 - Americans ­ were charged with marijuana possession only.



AP - An untold number of otherwise law-abiding professionals in New York are having their pot delivered to their homes instead of visiting drug dens or hanging out on street corners. Among the legions of home delivery customers is Chris, a 37-year-old salesman in Manhattan. He dials a pager number and gets a return call from a cheery dispatcher who takes his order for potent strains of marijuana. Within a couple of hours, a well-groomed delivery man - sometimes a moonlighting actor or chef - arrives at the doorstep of his Manhattan apartment carrying weed neatly packaged in small plastic containers. . . The phenomenon isn't new. It has long been the case around the country that those with enough money and the right connections could get cocaine or other drugs discreetly delivered to their homes and places of business. But experts say home delivery has been growing in popularity, thanks to a shrewder, corporate style of dealing designed to put customers at ease and avoid the messy turf wars associated with other drugs. . .

The corporate model - and its profit potential - were demonstrated late last year when the Drug Enforcement Administration announced that it had taken down a highly sophisticated organization dubbed the Cartoon Network. DEA agents arrested 12 people after using wiretaps and surveillance and making undercover buys.

Authorities estimated that since 1999, the ring made a fortune by delivering more than a ton of marijuana, some of it grown hydroponically - without soil - in the basement of a Cape Cod-style home on 10 acres in Vermont, where an informant reported the smell of the crop was overpowering.

The dealers, working out of a roving call center, processed 600 orders a day - from doctors, lawyers, Wall Street traders - even on Christmas, investigators said. Authorities refused to give names, but in one conversation overheard last October, a courier boasted about the ring's



IF THE polls are correct, we could be hearing the last of Asa Hutchinson, currently GOP candidate for Arkansas governor. But the door won't just be shutting on a career but on a stack of unanswered questions about the scandals of the Clinton years in Arkansas. Although Hutchinson and Clinton were theoretically political opposites, Hutchinson didn't always act that way. And the odd tale of this odd pair is another reminder of how ill-informed many remain about the Clinton story, especially Democrats who persist in the myth that Clinton was victimized merely for engaging in a sex outside of marriage.

Mara Leveritt described it this way in the Arkansas Times:

||| Some strange things happened in [Asa] Hutchinson's district while he was federal prosecutor that he doesn't mention in his speeches. Specifically, a man identified by federal agents as "a documented, major narcotics trafficker" was using facilities at an airport in Hutchinson's district for "storage, maintenance, and modification" of his drug-running aircraft, throughout most of Hutchinson's tenure. The man was Adler Berriman "Barry" Seal. For the last four years of his life - and throughout Hutchinson's term as U.S. attorney - his base of operations was Mena, Arkansas. In 1982, the year that Hutchinson took office as U.S. attorney and Seal moved to Mena, federal officials were already aware that he controlled "an international smuggling organization" that was "extremely well organized and extensive." Agents for the DEA, FBI, U.S. Customs, and IRS were watching him. They brought Hutchinson evidence that Seal was "involved in narcotics trafficking and the laundering of funds derived from such trafficking." . . . My interest in the relationship between Seal and Hutchinson was piqued as I became aware of how heavily drug prosecutions fell on street- and mid-level dealers, while smugglers like Seal, who imported drugs by the ton, rarely ended up in prison. So when rumors surfaced about Seal and his organization, and how they had managed for years to avoid prison, even though the extent of their activities was well known to drug authorities, I wanted to know more. But getting the story has not been easy. In the early 1990s, I asked Hutchinson about Barry Seal and his associates at Mena. Hutchinson provided no information, and politely dismissed the complaints that had arisen by then about his failure to prosecute Seal. He said he had already resigned as U.S. attorney by the time the matter arose . . . For more than 15 years, U.S. government officials, including Hutchinson, who were close to the events have maintained a stony silence. |||

THIS IS THE MAN who George Bush would name as head of the DEA. Leverett late wrote a public note to Hutchinson in the Times:
||| As you may remember, I contacted you, asking your help in persuading the FBI to honor a Freedom of Information request about Mena that I'd had on file with them for years. You promised your assistance, but Rep. Vic Snyder, to whom I'd also written, actually went to work. The FBI stalled, but Snyder's staff persisted. Finally, their efforts paid off -- at least partly.

Two weeks ago, I received 488 pages of FBI records pertaining to Barry Seal, the cocaine smuggler who, as you know, moved his billion-dollar drug business from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to the airport at Mena, Arkansas in 1982.

You were the U.S. attorney for Arkansas's western district at the time, and, according to at least one former agent, you called a meeting soon after Seal arrived to advise federal investigators in the state that the smuggler was setting up shop.

But, though he was constantly watched, Seal was never stopped. He operated from Mena, apparently unimpeded, until 1986, when he was murdered by Colombian operatives. . .

This is what I found most interesting. Notes explaining several of the deletions said that they had been made under provisions of the National Security Act of 1947 and the CIA Act of 1949. So it's quite a mess, you see, these jumbled references to organized crime and national security, to Colombian drug cartels and the CIA -- all within the heavily censored file of a smuggler who found safe haven in Arkansas during the last four years of his life. |||

HUTCHINSON wasn't the only one anxious to suppress his involvement with the Mena story. The governor of the state, Bill Clinton, had a similar problem, as this timeline suggests:


MAJOR DRUG TRAFFICKER Barry Seal, under pressure from the Louisiana cops, relocates his operations to Mena, Arkansas. Seal is importing as much as 1,000 pounds of cocaine a month from Colombia according to Arkansas law enforcement officials. He will claim to have made more than $50 million out of his operations. As an informant, Seal testified that in 1980-81, before moving his operation to Arkansas, he made approximately 60 trips to Central America and brought back 18,000 kilograms. . . According to the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, "Larry Patterson, an Arkansas state trooper, testified under oath that there were 'large quantities of drugs being flown into the Mena airport, large quantities of money, large quantities of guns.' The subject was discussed repeatedly in Clinton's presence by state troopers working on his security detail, he alleged. [Trooper Larry] Patterson said the governor 'had very little comment to make; he was just listening to what was being said.'"

ROGER MORRIS & SALLY DENTON, PENTHOUSE MAGAZINE - Seal's legacy includes more than 2,000 newly discovered documents that now verify and quantify much of what previously had been only suspicion, conjecture, and legend. The documents confirm that from 1981 to his brutal death in 1986, Barry Seal carried on one of the most lucrative, extensive, and brazen operations in the history of the international drug trade, and that he did it with the evident complicity, if not collusion, of elements of the United States government, apparently with the acquiescence of Ronald Reagan's administration, impunity from any subsequent exposure by George Bush's administration, and under the usually acute political nose of then Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. . .

MENA STATE POLICE INVESTIGATOR Russell Welch will later describe the airport, pointing to one hanger he says is owned by a man who "doesn't exist in history back past a safe house in Baltimore in 1972." Another is owned by someone who "smuggled heroin through Laos back in the seventies." Still another is "owned by a guy who just went bankrupt. So what's he do? Flies to Europe for more money." Welch points to a half dozen Fokker aircraft parked on an apron, noting that "the DEA's been tracking those planes back and forth to Columbia for a while now."


A DEA report uncovered by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard will cite an informant claiming that a key Arkansas figure and backer of Clinton "smuggles cocaine from Colombia, South America, inside race horses to Hot Springs."

IRS AGENT WILLIAM DUNCAN and an Arkansas State Police investigator take their evidence concerning drug trafficking in Mena to US Attorney Asa Hutchinson. They ask for 20 witnesses to be subpoenaed before the grand jury. Hutchinson chooses only three. According to reporter Mara Leveritt, "The three appeared before the grand jury, but afterwards, two of them also expressed surprise at how their questioning was handled. One, a secretary at Rich Mountain Aviation, had given Duncan sworn statements about money laundering at the company, transcripts of which Duncan had provided to Hutchinson. But when the woman left the jury room, she complained that Hutchinson had asked her nothing about the crime or the sworn statements she'd given to Duncan. As Duncan later testified, 'She basically said that she was allowed to give her name, address, position, and not much else.' The other angry witness was a banker who had, in Duncan's words, 'provided a significant amount of evidence relating to the money-laundering operation.' According to Duncan, he, too, emerged from the jury room complaining 'that he was not allowed to provide the evidence that he wanted to provide to the grand jury.'"

ROGER MORRIS & SALLY DENTON, PENTHOUSE - According to l.R.S. criminal investigator Duncan, secretaries at the Mena Airport told him that when Seal flew into Mena, 'there would be stacks of cash to be taken to the bank and laundered." One secretary told him that she was ordered to obtain numerous cashier's checks, each in an amount just under $10,000, at various banks in Mena and surrounding communities, to avoid filing the federal Currency Transaction Reports required for all bank transactions that exceed that limit. Bank tellers testified before a federal grand jury that in November 1982, a Mena airport employee carried a suitcase containing more than $70,000 into a bank. "The bank officer went down the teller lines handing out the stacks of $1,000 bills and got the cashier's checks." Law-enforcement sources confirmed that hundreds of thousands of dollars were laundered from 1981 to 1983 just in a few small banks near Mena, and that millions more from Seal's operation were laundered elsewhere in Arkansas and the nation.


ACCORDING TO A LATER ACCOUNT in the Tampa Tribune, planes flying drugs into Mena in coolers marked "medical supplies." are met by several people close to then-Governor Bill Clinton.


HOT SPRINGS POLICE record Roger Clinton during a cocaine transaction. Roger says, "Got to get some for my brother. He's got a nose like a vacuum cleaner." Roger is arrested while working at menial jobs for Arkansas "bond daddy" Dan Lasater.

BARRY SEAL ESTIMATES that he has earned between $60 and $100 million smuggling cocaine into the US, but with the feds closing in on him, Barry Seal flies from Mena to Washington in his private Lear Jet to meet with two members of Vice President George Bush's drug task force. Following the meeting, Seal rolls over for the DEA, becoming an informant. He collects information on leaders of the Medellin cartel while still dealing in drugs himself. The deal will be kept secret from investigators working in Louisiana and Arkansas. According to reporter Mara Leveritt, "By Seal's own account, his gross income in the year and a half after he became an informant - while he was based at Mena and while Asa Hutchinson was the federal prosecutor in Fort Smith, 82 miles away - was three-quarters of a million dollars. Seal reported that $575,000 of that income had been derived from a single cocaine shipment, which the DEA had allowed him to keep. Pressed further, he testified that, since going to work for the DEA, he had imported 1,500 pounds of cocaine into the U.S. Supposed informant Seal will fly repeatedly to Colombia, Guatemala, and Panama, where he meets with Jorge Ochoa, Fabio Ochoa, Pablo Escobar, and Carlos Lehder - leaders of the cartel that at the time controlled an estimated 80 percent of the cocaine entering the United States."

RONALD REAGAN wants to send the National Guard to Honduras to help in the war against the Sandanistas. Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis goes to the Supreme Court in a futile effort to stop it but Clinton is happy to oblige, even sending his own security chief, Buddy Young, along to keep an eye on things. Winding up its tour, the Arkansas Guard declares large quantities of its weapons "excess" and leaves them behind for the Contras.

CLINTON BODYGUARD, state trooper LD Brown, applies for a CIA opening. Clinton gives him help on his application essay including making it more Reaganesque on the topic of the Nicaragua. According to Brown, he meets a CIA recruiter in Dallas whom he later identities as former member of Vice President Bush's staff. On the recruiter's instruction, he meets with notorious drug dealer Barry Seal in a Little Rock restaurant. Joins Seal in flight to Honduras with a purported shipment of M16s and a return load of duffel bags. Brown gets $2,500 in small bills for the flight. Brown, concerned about the mission, consults with Clinton who says, "Oh, you can handle it, don't sweat it." On second flight, Brown finds cocaine in a duffel bag and again he seeks Clinton's counsel. Clinton says to the conservative Brown, "Your buddy, Bush, knows about it" and of the cocaine, "that's Lasater's deal."


TERRY REED is asked to take part in Operation Donation, under which planes and boats needed by the Contras "disappear," allowing owners to claim insurance. Reed has been a Contra operative and CIA asset working with Felix Rodriguez, the Contra link to the CIA and then-Vice President Bush's office. Reed later claims he refused, but that his plane was removed while he was away.

PARK ON METER, a parking meter manufacturer in Russellville, Arkansas, receives the first industrial development loan from the Arkansas Development Finance Authority in 1985. Some suspect that POM is doing a lot more than making parking meters -- specifically that it has secret federal contracts to make components of chemical and biological weapons and devices to carry them on C-130s for the Contras. The company later denies the Contra connection although it will admit having secret military contracts. Web Hubbell is the company's lawyer. Right next to POM, on land previously owned by it, is an Army reserve chemical warfare company.

ASA HUTCHINSON leaves the US Attorney's office to make an unsuccessful bid for US Senate. According to police sources, Hutchinson had been aware of what was happening at Mena and the investigation into it, but did nothing. Hutchinson is replaced by Mike Fitzhugh who is reluctant to let investigators Russell Welch of the state police and William Duncan of the IRS present evidence of money-laundry to a grand jury.


JOURNALIST EVANS-PRITCHARD will describe the Arkansas of this period as a "major point for the transshipment of drugs" and "perilously close to becoming a 'narco-republic' -- a sort of mini-Columbia within the borders of the United States." There is "an epidemic of cocaine, contaminating the political establishment from top to bottom," with parties "at which cocaine would be served like hors d'oeuvres and sex was rampant." Clinton attends some of these events.

ACCORDING TO FORMER CIA OFFICIALS David MacMichael and Ray McGovern, Barry Seal makes his way to the White House's National Security Council to make the following proposition to officials there. He would fly his own plane to Colombia and take delivery of cocaine. He would then make an emergency landing in Nicaragua and make it appear that Sandinista officials were aiding him in drug trafficking. Seal made it clear that he would expect help with his legal problems. The Reagan White House jumps at the offer. Seal's plane is flown to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it was fitted with secret cameras to enable Seal to photograph Nicaraguan officials in the act of assisting him with the boxes of cocaine. The operation goes as planned. The photos are delivered to the White House, and a triumphant Ronald Reagan goes on national TV to show that the Sandinistas are not only Communists but also criminals intent on addicting America s youth.

ON JANUARY 17, the U. S. Attorney for the Western District drops a money laundering and narcotics-conspiracy charges against associates of drug smuggler Barry Seal over the protests of investigators Russell Welch of the state police and Bill Duncan of the Internal Revenue.

IN A LETTER TO U.S. attorney general Edwin Meese the Louisiana attorney general wrote, Barry Seal "smuggled between $3 billion and $5 billion of drugs into the U.S."

DAN LASATER, Arkansas bond don who is close to Clinton, pleads guilty to cocaine distribution charges. The case also involves Clinton step brother Roger, who testifies against Lasater in a plea agreement. Both Lasater and Roger Clinton will serve brief prison terms. While Lasater is in prison his affairs will be run by Patsy Thomasson, who later becomes a White House aide.

SEAL IS SCHEDULED to testify at the trial of Jorge Ochoa Vasques. But on February 19, shortly before the trial is to begin, Seal is murdered in Baton Rouge gangland style by three Colombian hit men armed with machine guns who attack while he seated behind the wheel of his white Cadillac in Baton Rouge, La. The Colombians, connected with the Medellin drug cartel, are tried and convicted. Upon hearing of Seal's murder, one DEA agent says, "There was a contract out on him, and everyone knew it. He was to have been a crucial witness in the biggest case in DEA history."

ROGER MORRIS & SALLY DENTON, PENTHOUSE - Seal himself spent considerable sums to land, base, maintain, and specially equip or refit his aircraft for smuggling. According to personal and business records, he had extensive associations at Mena and in Little Rock, and was in nearly constant telephone contact with Mena when he was not there himself. Phone records indicate Seal made repeated calls to Mena the day before his murder. This was long after Seal, according to his own testimony, was working as an $800,000-a-year informant for the federal government.

EIGHT MONTHS AFTER THE MURDER, Seal's cargo plane is shot down over Nicaragua. It is carrying ammunition and other supplies for the Contras from Mena. One crew member, Eugene Hasenfus, survives.

ROGER MORRIS & SALLY DENTON, PENTHOUSE - Tax records show that, having assessed Seal posthumously for some $86 million in back taxes on his earnings from Mena and elsewhere between 1981 and 1983, even the l.R.S. forgave the taxes on hundreds of millions in known drug and gun profits over the ensuing two-year period when Seal was officially admitted to be employed by the government. . .

WHILE MANY QUESTIONS remain unanswered, the story of Mena brings us close to a bitter and unfaced truth about American politics: the uncovered and bipartisan role of the drug trade in our political life.

Arkansas was, during the Clinton years, a favorite haven of for the drug trade. One pilot recalls landing in a field where his pickup was a state trooper in a marked car. And the illegal drug trade, like other American industries, doesn't really care what your politics are as long as you help. It is clear that, at least by premeditated negligence, both Clinton and Hutchinson helped.

With near perfect cynicism, George Bush the Lesser made Hutchinson his DEA chief. Clinton played a close role with the senior Bush's White House, including Oliver North, in setting up the Mena operation. In at least one case, a GOP congressional investigation came to an abrupt halt for reasons never given but raising the suspicion that it had come too close to the bipartisan nature of the story. And Representative Hutchinson also served as one of the managers of the Clinton impeachment, an impeachment that seemed almost designed to fail.

Of course, much of what happened in Arkansas, as with politicians during Prohibition, simply involved looking the other way. They didn't even have to do anything illegal. They had just had to do nothing, regardless of what they heard and knew. It is clear that both Clinton and Hutchinson were good at that.

And the media - with a few notable exceptions - did nothing as well.

Today, the illegal drug trade is estimated to be about the size of the legal pharmaceutical business. If you believe what you read and hear in the media, the drug trade must be the most honest business going since it never has lobbyists working Washington, it never contributes to political campaigns, it never bribes a politician, it never runs PAC ads to get its way. In fact, where politics are involved, it never seems to do anything illegal.

And yet, of course, it does. And part of the reason why remains buried at Mena.


DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - In a voice vote, the US House of Representatives voted to approve a measure that would force school districts across the country to adopt policies allowing teachers and school officials to conduct random, warrantless searches of all students at any time based on the "reasonable suspicion" that one student may be carrying drugs or weapons. The Student Safety Act had no committee hearings and was fast-tracked to the House floor.

Actually, the bill does not offer a blank check for searches, it forces them down school districts' throats. According to an analysis of the bill by the Congressional Research Service, it "requires states, local educational agencies, and school districts to deem a search of any minor student on public school grounds to be reasonable and permissible if conducted by a full-time teacher or school official, acting on any colorable [changed in the final version to "reasonable"] suspicion based on professional experience and judgment, to ensure that the school remain free of all weapons, dangerous materials, or illegal narcotics." And just to make sure school districts get the message, the analysis notes, the bill "denies Safe Schools and Citizenship Education funds, provided under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, to states, local educational agencies, and school districts that fail to deem such searches reasonable and permissible."

While Democrats spoke against the bill in debate Tuesday night, none took the simple step of asking for a roll-call vote, which might have resulted in a defeat for the measure. Since the bill was fast-tracked, it required a two-thirds vote in the House, and it is not clear that the bill could have reached that hurdle had members been forced to vote on the record. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

MAY 2006


DAVID BORDEN, DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - Often people object to drug legalization, at least for drugs other than marijuana, because, as they say, "drugs kill." It's true that drug abuse or even experimental use of illegal drugs can be deadly. But the phenomenon is often a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A rash of overdose deaths in cities as wide-ranging as Atlanta and New York and Chicago makes the point. Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is 80 times as potent as morphine, has hit the streets, either mixed in with heroin or sold as heroin. Not realizing this, users have taken what they thought was the heroin they were used to, instead getting something massively more potent. More than 20 people have died from fatal overdoses in a fentanyl outbreak in Detroit since this weekend alone -- deaths that might have been prevented, advocates and family of victims have pointed out -- if the word had been spread as would have been done if a single bird flu case had cropped up. Instead, it took this week's dramatic tragedy to finally spur authorities into action.

The fentanyl situation is clearly a consequence of drug prohibition, something that would virtually never happen under a system of regulation. Not surprisingly, this angle has been essentially absent from the media's discussion of the incidents.

It's time for the media and for opinion leaders to acknowledge the consequences of prohibition as such. Until they do, the drug debate will continue to languish in its current, highly simplistic state.

Baltimore's former mayor, Kurt Schmoke, recognized this and attempted to educate the public on the nuances of the drug issue. Schmoke pointed out that what is commonly viewed as the "drug problem" is really three separate problems: crime, addiction, and AIDS. Crime, he said, arguably calls for a health-based approach, but addiction and AIDS clearly call for public health approaches.

Thousands of Americans die from drug overdoses every year -- the recent rash of them in some cities is only a particularly gripping case of this. While legalization might not prevent all such overdoses, the fentanyl outbreak shows how prohibition makes overdoses much more likely.



STEVE CHAPMAN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE - Recently, Mexican President Vicente Fox vetoed a bill passed by the Mexican Congress that would have removed criminal penalties for people caught with small amounts of marijuana or other drugs. This came after the Bush administration vigorously complained, predicting it would encourage Americans to pour southward as "drug tourists." But that option is off the table for the moment. So Americans who want to get high without fear of going to jail will have to go some other place where cannabis can be consumed with impunity. Such as Nebraska.

As it happens, no fewer than 11 states on this side of the border have made the decision not to bother filling their prisons with recreational potheads. Among them are not only such states as California and Oregon, which you might expect, but states such as North Carolina and Mississippi, which you might not. About 100 million Americans live in places where pot has been decriminalized.

Maybe there are planeloads of college kids who travel to Maine or Minnesota to spend each spring break hitting a bong, but if so, it's a well-kept secret. In fact, the most noticeable thing about states that have decriminalized marijuana is that they're not - noticeable, that is.

Looking at these places, "you can't tell the difference from how many people use marijuana," says University of Maryland, College Park economist Peter Reuter. A 1999 report commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences found "there is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use.". . .

Laws are only a modest factor in the decision to use drugs or not - just as they are only a modest factor in the decision to smoke cigarettes or not. Most people don't even know if they live in a decriminalized state.

The evidence from abroad is not terribly scary either. The Netherlands has gone beyond decriminalizing pot: For years, the government has allowed the sale of small amounts of pot through special cafes known as "coffee shops." Yet easy accessibility hasn't made the drug any more tempting to the average person. Dutch adults and teens both are less likely to use cannabis than Americans. . .

Italy, Spain and Portugal have decriminalized personal use of all drugs, not just cannabis. But liberal laws don't necessarily lead to liberal behavior. Spain has one of the highest cocaine use rates in Europe - but lower than the rate in Britain, which has a much stricter approach. Italy, by contrast, is about average for the continent, but Portugal is well below average. On heroin, all three are on the high side, though not dramatically so. . .

States and nations don't seem to lose anything when they stop treating drug use as a crime. But there are gains to be had: more police time to combat violent criminals, less need to build prisons and fewer young lives scarred by arrest and imprisonment for behavior that does no harm.


NORML - Moderate-to-heavy adolescent cannabis use does not appear to be damaging to the developing brain, according to clinical trial data published this week in the Harm Reduction Journal. Researchers at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research and the New York University School of Medicine found "no ... evidence of cerebral atrophy or loss of white matter integrity" attributable to cannabis use in the brains of frequent adolescent marijuana users compared to non-using controls, after performing magnetic resonance imaging scans and other advanced imaging technology.

"It is concluded that frequent cannabis use is unlikely to be neurotoxic to the normal developing adolescent brain," researchers determined. Investigators further added that their findings, though preliminary, "have implications for refuting the hypothesis that cannabis alone can cause psychiatric disturbance such as schizophrenia by directly producing brain pathology."


Why do we have the war on drugs, anyway?

The angry American reaction to Canada's move towards sanity on drug laws raises a question that is seldom asked, let alone studied by academics or the media. Given that the drug war has been a demonstrable failure why does it continue to be so strongly supported by the American political and legal establishment?

One reason that few want to touch is corruption, in both the moral and legal sense, which is to say the corruption that comes from political pressure - with its rewards and punishments - and the corruption that comes from hard cash.

For example, the Drug Policy Alliance notes that the war on drugs includes a $9 billion prison economy, not to mention more billions in homeless shelters, healthcare, chemical dependency and psychiatric treatment, etc. Each one of these industries - as well as the employment of cops, judges, probation officers, etc - would be severely hurt should America decide to give up its war on drugs. This doesn't justify the madness but it is important to remember that we have created a multi-billion dollar economy based on our failed drug policies. Notes DPA, the beneficiaries of the drug war include:

"Prison architects and contractors, corrections personnel, policy makers and academics, and the thousands of corporate vendors who peddle their wares at the annual trade-show of the American Corrections Association - hawking everything from toothbrushes and socks to barbed-wire fences and shackles.

"And multi-national corporations that win tax subsidies, incentives and abatements from local governments -- robbing the public coffers and depriving communities of the kind of quality education, roads, health care and infrastructure that provide genuine incentives for legitimate business. The sale of tax-exempt bonds to underwrite prison construction is now estimated at $2.3 billion annually. . .

"Corporations that appear to be far removed from the business of punishment are intimately involved in the expansion of the prison industrial complex. Prison construction bonds are one of the many sources of profitable investment for leading financiers such as Merrill Lynch. MCI charges prisoners and their families outrageous prices for the precious telephone calls which are often the only contact inmates have with the free world. Many corporations whose products we consume on a daily basis have learned that prison labor power can be as profitable as third world labor power exploited by U.S.-based global corporations. Both relegate formerly unionized workers to joblessness, many of which wind up in prison. Some of the companies that use prison labor are IBM, Motorola, Compaq, Texas Instruments, Honeywell, Microsoft, and Boeing. But it is not only the hi-tech industries that reap the profits of prison labor. Nordstrom department stores sell jeans that are marketed as 'Prison Blues,' as well as t-shirts and jackets made in Oregon prisons."

Far more serious, however, is the role that illegal corruption plays. If one is to believe the media and scholars, it would appear that the drug industry - by UN estimate a $400 billion global business - is the only commercial sector in the country that doesn't buy politicians. In other words, the drug trade is the only honest trade when it comes to politics.

Of course this is nonsense, but try to find the news story that even raises the possibility that some, if not many, of our politicians are beneficiaries of the drug trade either directly or through well laundered sources. To be sure, there are periodic reports of cops on the take, but any suggestion of political involvement is absent.

Further, the collateral beneficiaries of the drug trade - of which money-laundering banks would be a prime example - are exempt from examination as well, unless their misdoings occurred in some foreign land like Mexico or Colombia.

To cover such a story is exceedingly difficult and rarely rewarding. When the Review tried to report some of the connections between Bill Clinton and the Arkansas drug trade we discovered that even many journalists just didn't want to hear about it. It was so much easier to describe the story as "just about sex," one of the biggest media myths of the 20th century.

Mike Rupert, a detective turned writer, gives one example of the stories begging to be covered with the same energy as, say, the misdeeds of Jason Blair. In an interview, he was asked, "Who benefits most from an addicted inner-city population?"

Rupert's reply: "It's not just who benefits most; it's how many people can benefit on how many different ends of the spectrum. We published a story in my newsletter, From The Wilderness, by Catherine Austin Fitts, a former Assistant Secretary of Housing [and Urban Development]. She produced a map in 1996, August of 1996 - that's the same month that the Gary Webb story broke in the San Jose Mercury News. It was a map that showed the pattern of single family foreclosures or single family mortgages - HUD-backed mortgages - in South Central Los Angeles. But when you looked at the map all of these HUD foreclosures, they were right in the heart of the area where the crack cocaine epidemic had occurred. And what was revealed by looking at the HUD data was that, during the 1980s, thousands of middle-class African American wage-earning families with mortgages lost their homes. Why? There were drive-by shootings, the whole neighborhood deteriorated, crack people moved in next door, your children got shot and went to jail and you had to move out. The house on which you owed $100,000 just got appraised at $40,000 because nobody wanted to buy it and you had to flee; you couldn't sell it, so you walked on it. And what Catherine's research showed was that someone else came along and bought thousands of homes for 10 to 20 cents in the dollar in the years right after the crack cocaine epidemic."

HUD, easily the second most corrupt government agency next to the Pentagon, is an extraordinarily comfortable ecosystem for would-be collateral beneficiaries of the drug war, but these days it's hard even to get the legal things at HUD covered in the press.

There is, of course, a rousing business in corruption at the lower levels. For example, Drug Facts reports that half of all police officers convicted as a result of FBI-led corruption cases between 1993 and 1997 were caught for drug-related offenses. But far more significant corruption remains buried.

One way to get a hint of how the drug trade may have corrupted our political system is to look at other countries. For example, the UN Drug Control Program reported in 1998, "In systems where a member of the legislature or judiciary, earning only a modest income, can easily gain the equivalent of some 20 months' salary from a trafficker by making one "favorable" decision, the dangers of corruption are obvious." An World Bank survey in 2002 found that bribes are paid in 50 per cent of all Colombia state contracts. Another World Bank report estimated the cost of corruption in Colombia at 60 per cent of the country's debt.

Marijuana plays a central role in the cruel and corrupt fantasy game called the drug war because (a)so many people use it and (b)it takes up more space than other drugs. Thus there are plenty of criminals and stuff to go after to give the appearance you are actually doing something. In contrast, all the cocaine America needs in a year could be stuffed into a few 18 wheelers. You can't have a profitable war on drugs with such a tiny target.

The war on drugs is, in fact, a war to sustain the drug industry and its collateral beneficiaries. America's drug czar is also the country's biggest drug lord, because without his phony battle, the artificial economy of prohibition would collapse and with it the industry he falsely claims to be fighting.

While clearly, many of the drug warriors in politics and the law are driven by myopic, infantile evangelism, we must bear in mind that for many others, fighting drugs is as much as business as dealing them, a cash business never reported to the IRS. It is long past time to discover who amongst our leaders are merely stupid and who are themselves drug war criminals.

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