I suspect that they’re both right, depending on where you place the comparative benchmarks.
The War on Drugs and The War on Terror.
Many times over the years we’ve talked here about the parallels between the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, and the misguided public policy principles (as well as outright self-interest) that align with both.
Paul Kendrick at TPM Cafe has an interesting piece comparing the storyline of the fictional drug policy TV series “The Wire” with our misguided history in Iraq.
The allegory reaches its peak when one dealer and enforcer says to his boss Avon, doubting the wisdom of continuing to battle their rivals: “It don’t matter who did what to whom. Fact is, we went to war and now there ain’t no going back … If it’s a lie, then we fight on the lie. But we gotta fight.”
By the end of the season, Avon is headed to prison and Stringer is gone forever. Though it is not shown to the viewer, the final episode of the season was entitled, “Mission Accomplished.” The demand for drugs is unchanged, and the police inadvertently created a power vacuum. That status will not stand, and, shades of ISIS stepping into the turmoil of a new Iraq, that vacuum will soon be filled by someone far worse than the police ever dreamed of: Marlo.
Kendrick concludes with a seemingly obligatory applauding of President Obama’s approach which, in my opinion, is unwarranted given Obama’s overall record in the wars. Otherwise, I think it’s a good, solid analogy that works in describing why both “war” policies are doomed to failure.
Walters, the former Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2001 to 2009, gave a presentation titled “Pot: Hot or Not? The Young, American Democracy, and the Drug Problem,” addressing the effects of marijuana and illicit drugs and their potential legalization.
As usual, he has this wonderful way of taking one of the destructive elements of prohibition and pretending it’s a feature:
“The use of court-mandated treatment has helped get people the care they need,” Walters said.
Walters presented statistics that showed the the criminal justice system is the largest reason people enter treatment.
“It would be nice if people could be educated by family members or friends, but ultimately the single greatest source of intervention and treatment begins with the criminal justice system,” Walters said.
You see, the criminal justice system is simply helping people. They should be grateful when they’re arrested and put in jail.
Yes, the criminal justice system is the largest reason people enter treatment, but that’s because it sweeps up a whole lot of people who don’t need treatment.
I’m playing the piano this week for a production of Noël Coward’s high-farce-comedy-of-manners Hay Fever at Illinois State University, and having a delightful time. Pre-show, intermission, and a few things directly involved in the show, playing music from the 1910′s and 1920′s. Kept me a bit busy.
I did get a chance to see a little bit of the new show “Gotham,” and was struck by a quote in it. Mob boss Carmine Falcone is explaining to young detective Jim Gordon why he “supports” the work of the police.
“You can’t have organized crime without law and order.”
I found that telling, and it connects in so many ways to this terrible drug war, where we’ve often seen either an intentional or unintentional symbiotic relationship between the black market and law enforcement.
That doesn’t mean that law and order is bad, but that, usually through bad policy or laws, it can be co-opted to help criminal enterprise (often without its own officers realizing their role).
In Missouri, sworn law enforcement officers are required to take 48 credit hours of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) continuing education every three years. While some specific courses are required for all officers, such as mandatory firearms classes, the majority are elective courses that simply must add up to a minimum of 48 credit hours. [...]
As it turns out, some of the classes offered aren’t exactly what you might consider official law enforcement training. At the annual conference this past March, one course was titled, “Marijuana Legalization: The Issues.” It was taught by Tom Gorman—a drug cop from Colorado who travels the country on what seems to be a never-ending anti-legalization crusade.
Read the article to see the table of contents from the course and some of the really outrageous things that Gorman teaches as part of that course. Reefer madness, indeed.
I think it’s great that police officers are required to complete ongoing education, but not if it’s taxpayer-funded propaganda.
It would be nice if they had courses like: “How To Interact With Unfamiliar Dogs Without Using A Gun” or “The Fourth Amendment: It’s Not A Myth.”
Drug paraphernalia is one of the truly absurd subplots of the drug war. Its mere existence seemed to infuriate prohibitionists and resulted in a hodge-podge of strange and hard-to-enforce laws.
I remember when Chicago Alderman Robert Fioretti tried to ban small baggies (I also remember him getting really pissed off when I satirized his reasons.)
In some places, little “rose tubes” sold in convenience stores are outlawed because the tubes can be used as crack pipes.
Of course, we all know that Tommy Chong spent time in prison for the crime of making pretty glass art that could be used to smoke pot, and yet apple orchards are left to grow perfectly fine pot pipes without interference.
My favorite line in the drug paraphernalia wars came from a Wilmington Morning Star editorial:
It was as if the massed forces of Eliot Ness had busted one of Al Capone’s speakeasies and confiscated the little umbrellas that went in the tropical cocktails.
Fortunately, no officers were harmed in the making of this media event.
Now I had always known that the beautifully designed little McDonald’s coffee-stirrer spoon had been controversial because of its use as drug paraphernalia, but I never heard the whole story until now: The McDonald’s Cocaine Spoon Fiasco
According to minutes from the hearing, one [Paraphernalia Trade Association] representative attempted to make a mockery of the proposed law. “Look at this,” he facetiously told the panel, thrusting a McDonald’s coffee stirring spoon above his head. “This is the best cocaine spoon in town and it’s free with every cup of coffee at McDonalds.”
With its long, thin handle and tiny stirring head, the McDonald’s spoon had, indeed, amassed a cult following among drug dealers and aficionados. Light, cheap, and inconspicuous, it could be concealed easily — and best of all, as its scoop held exactly 100 milligrams of product, it doubled as a measuring device.
While the representative’s intention was to deride the anti-drug crusaders’ attack, his stunt fell on the wrong ears — those belonging to former President of the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, Joyce Nalepka. Though Nalepka left the hearing without a chance to testify, she spent her whole drive home “searching for some way to counteract [the PTA’s] McDonald’s spoon statement.”
Then it hit her: she’d contact McDonald’s, inform the company of its utensil’s bad rap on the street, and demand they discontinue it.
And thus, the elegant McDonald’s spoon came to an end.
Who decides what a serving size is? And are they talking about real people who actually eat food?
I’ve been reducing carbs in my diet and watching what I eat a bit. So I find myself checking those nutritional information labels. So often, I’ll look at the label and say “Oh, look — only 5 grams of sugar per serving – that’s not bad.” And then I’ll look at the number of servings per container and realize that I just ate 5 servings… as a snack.
It gets a whole lot trickier when you talk about marijuana edibles.
Here’s a great example. Somebody came up with what sounds like a brilliant idea at first: cannabis pizza.
Yeah, it sounds like a great idea, but look at the size of that pizza. What is that? 5″? That’s like a large canapé. A small pizza (10″) will give you about four times as much pizza, and I have no problem eating a medium pizza. So what good is a 5″ pizza?
But it gets worse.
Here’s the big problem with the pizza: It is insanely strong. One personal pizza has 250 mg of weed. For those of you who have never combined eating narcotics and math before, High Times recommends about 25 mgs per dose of edibles to have a safe, good time. To put that into layman’s terms, that means that even cutting this tiny pizza into eighths might lead you to pass out in the nearest bed, too afraid to even watch The Simpsons, because what if they’re real?
The label suggests eating a quarter of it.
What’s the point?
We waited about 45 minutes, and then we just got hungry—y’know, for fucking pizza. [...] Basically, Stoned Oven Gourmet’s weed pizza is the perfect thing to eat if you wanna be high in an hour and go get some pizza.
I really don’t understand the movement in the industry to have such concentrated edibles. It seems like you might as well take a pill.
Maybe I’m showing my age, but I seem to remember back in the day, that you’d make a nice large pan of pot brownies for 3 or 4 people and you’d each have several brownies and get comfortably high while having had a satisfying dessert, and you didn’t have to divide a single brownie into 8 pieces.