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March 2021



John Oliver on police drug raids

Nothing really new to us, but great to see such expanded coverage on a major show. This is from last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

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Billie Holliday and Harry Anslinger

Watching The United States vs. Billie Holliday on Hulu. Many people are unaware of how much Billie Holliday (and her dangerously true song “Strange Fruit“) drew the ire of the government and racist drug warrior Harry Anslinger in particular during his ramping up for the war on drugs.

This true story is taken in part from the research in Johann Hari’s amazing book “Chasing the Scream: The Opposite of Addiction is Connection,” which I talked about at length here on DrugWarRant, and the script for the film is by Suzan-Lori Parks. Andra Day, in a very powerful performance, plays Billie.

I thought the direction by Lee Daniels was a little uneven, but it was still an amazing (and disturbing) story to watch, and always wonderful to hear Billie’s songs.

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Washington Supreme Court rules felony drug possession law unconstitutional

Wow. This is big news.

Washington State Supreme Court finds state’s felony drug possession law unconstitutional

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s felony drug possession law is unconstitutional.

Immediately following the ruling, Seattle Police announced they would no longer be arresting people for simple drug possession, and they won’t confiscate drugs under the statute. Other agencies quickly followed suit. […]

In its ruling released Thursday, the high court said the law serves to “criminalize innocent and passive possession” because it is a “strict liability” law, meaning prosecutors don’t need to prove intent.

The ruling strikes down RCW 69.50.4013 Section 1. Without that section, there is essentially no state law on simple drug possession. […]

“Attaching the harsh penalties of felony conviction, lengthy imprisonment, stigma, and the many collateral consequences that accompany every felony drug conviction to entirely innocent and passive conduct exceeds the legislature’s powers,” the ruling reads.

Now, this doesn’t stop the legislature from drafting a new possession law that meets the court’s standards, but for now, simple possession cannot be prosecuted under the felony law.

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Drug Wars are a Social Health Menace

Many people know how the drug war has affected them personally, or those close to them. Less attention is focused on the insidious impact of drug enforcement on society as a whole. A new initiative by the Drug Policy Alliance called ‘Uprooting the Drug War,’ seeks to expose the damage caused by drug wars beyond the usual mass of arrests and incarcerations:

“Even as there is growing momentum for treating drug use as a matter of personal and public health, the systems on which we would normally rely to advance an alternative approach are infested with the same culture of punishment as the criminal legal system and have operated with relative impunity. Today, we expose those systems and their role in fueling drug war policies and logic that compound the harms suffered by people who use drugs and people who are targeted by drug war enforcement,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance [DPA]. “Ending the drug war in all its vestiges is critical to improving the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities….”

…at Uprooting the Drug War, …analysis of six different systems through first-hand stories, data spotlights, and reports … take a deep dive into how drug war policies have taken root and created grave harm in the fields of education, employment, housing, child welfare, immigration, and public benefits. […]

An exposé of drug war social harms is important, but it doesn’t address a key issue needed to scale down the war and end it. What about all the federal, state and municipal employees whose income and livelihood depends on the continuation of current drug policies? President Biden or Congress needs to provide prohibitionists with a parachute—something that allows them to retire early or easily transfer to another line of work. Failing this, the drug war’s labor force is set to continue to act in every way possible to preserve their jobs up until they retire.

Prohibitionists still retain influential and powerful drug war allies, such as Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Chuck Grassley. The two senators recently introduced a bill, HEN21186, that among other things allows a redundant relic of the drug war, the federal cannabis farm in Mississippi, to continue its operations at taxpayer expense, effectively retaining prohibitionists in the federal loop. Ending the drug war will require targeting it from all directions.

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Really, Idaho?

Constitutional ban on legal pot advances in Idaho

State lawmakers on Friday moved forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar the legalization of marijuana in Idaho in an attempt to keep the growing nationwide acceptance of the drug from seeping across its borders. [emphasis added]

That’s right. They’re proposing a constitutional amendment so they can ensure that it won’t be able to be passed through a referendum.

“You guys are so afraid of marijuana, you’re willing to blow up the state constitution,” [Bill Esbensen] told lawmakers.

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Finally, a better use for dog sniffing

Yes, please. Much better than sniffing for marijuana.

The Dogs Training to Sniff Out COVID-19

Promising early results from several studies have encouraged researchers around the world to develop and expand canine programs that may screen people for COVID-19 infection at places like airports, hospitals, or sports venues.

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HHS Counters the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act

After 107 years of drug war-induced misery and futility, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finally reversed the legal remnants of the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act that prohibited general medical practitioners from treating patients addicted to drugs for their addictions. The HHS made history recently by changing 21 U.S.C. § 823(g)(2) of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so that physicians who want to prescribe buprenorphine to their patients for opioid use disorder (OUD) can do so without going to jail. The following restrictions must be met:

• The exemption only applies to physicians who may only treat patients who are located in the states in which they are authorized to practice medicine.
• Physicians utilizing this exemption will be limited to treating no more than 30 patients with buprenorphine for opioid use disorder at any one time (note: the 30 patient cap does not apply to hospital-based physicians, such as Emergency Department physicians).
• The exemption applies only to the prescription of drugs or formulations covered under the X-waiver of the CSA, such as buprenorphine, and does not apply to the prescription, dispensation, or use of methadone for the treatment of OUD.
• Physicians utilizing this exemption shall place an “X” on the prescription and clearly identify that the prescription is being written for opioid use disorders (along with the separate maintaining of charts for patients being treated for OUD).
• An interagency working group will be established to monitor the implementation and results of these practice guidelines, as well as the impact on diversion.

Under the new regulations, actual progress toward ending the drug war is achieved merely by engaging in a harm reduction-based approach that encourages medicinally-based therapies that see addictions as treatable illnesses. By allowing drug treatment to be administered by licensed and general medical practitioners, HHS sidestepped the NIMBY effect where people object to having a drug treatment center in their neighborhood or next to schools or businesses. Under U.S. medical privacy laws (HIPAA), the new regulations protect the privacy and dignity of the patient suffering from opioid addiction, making it more likely a person will seek treatment should they desire it.

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Drug lawfare funds death squads in Honduras

Lawfare turns laws into weapons. No better example of lawfare exists than the never-ending saga of the South American Drug War. Drug lawfare is waged by the DEA and the U.S. Congress to protect oil, gas, mineral, and timber extraction industries from irate villagers. The villagers are upset because the foreign extraction corporations operating in Latin America tend to take a colonialist approach to business, pillaging, and stealing indigenous property to gain access to rich natural resources. The blowback consists of cheated inhabitants who revolt in clever ways and who tend to enlist the aid of anyone willing to back them.

Congress decided it’s the DEA’s job to help counter these revolts and any democratic, socialist or communist political economy that might arise. Legislators legitimatized their tactic by making drug enforcement part of the national security apparatus. Because huge amounts of money can easily be allocated for drug enforcement—no questions asked—the U.S. taxpayer is tricked into funding corporate welfare schemes tied to financing death squads in Honduras and elsewhere. T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and he describes the history and ongoing situation in Honduras:

The cover for setting up a military police force is countering narco- and human-traffickers, but the record shows that left-wing civilians are targeted for death and intimidation. To crush the pro-Zelaya, pro-democracy movements Operation Morazán, [created] the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP)…the PMOP consisted of 4,500 personnel in 10 battalions across every region of Honduras, and … murdered at least 21 street protestors [in 2018]. […]

Between 2010 and 2016, as U.S. “aid” and training continued to flow, over 120 environmental activists were murdered by hitmen, gangs, police, and the military for opposing illegal logging and mining. Others have been intimidated. In 2014, for instance, a year after the murder of three Matute people by gangs linked to a mining operation, the children of the indigenous Tolupan leader, Santos Córdoba, were threatened at gunpoint by the U.S.-trained, ex-Army General, Filánder Uclés, and his bodyguards…crimes against the peoples of the region increased…Lawfare is also used, with over 160 small farmers in the area subject to frivolous legal proceedings. […]

…The names and command structures of U.S.-backed military units in Honduras have changed over the last four decades, but their goal remains the same. […]

Ending the U.S. funded drug lawfare racket in Latin America would compel extraction industries to deal with their own political problems in ways that don’t bleed taxpayers. No longer able to hide behind the plausible disguises of drug enforcement, the need for corporate business and political security would encourage commercial operations to spend their own money to make peace with the locals and to cease using lawfare to rob, attack, or murder citizens, journalists, and political or environmental activists. As a bonus for those opposing corporate welfare handouts of any type, the drug war perfectly showcases the evils of corporate welfare when it’s left unchecked.

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DEA no longer allowed to run Mexico

Via Radley Balko: Mexico Lawmakers Reclaim Sovereignty From DEA

On December 15, Mexico lawmakers passed a law reining in the asymmetrical, imperialist influence of the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration within the country. Supporters hailed the move as a reclamation of national sovereignty. […]

This limits their activities in the country to information-gathering, eliminates their legal immunity and assigns them reporting obligations. Agents will no longer be able to unilaterally execute arrests and raids, and will have to seek authorization from the Mexican federal government for their weapons. Permission from a newly formed security panel is also now required of any Mexican state or municipal official meeting with them.

This is good news, and way overdue.

While it hasn’t been talked about as much in recent times as the emphasis has been on marijuana legalization, the DEA, which has often acted as if it operates outside the law, certainly hasn’t been stopped. They may be less able to focus on marijuana, but they’ve still been pushing the drug war.

Drug warriors invested in the global dominance of the DEA have denounced the legislation. A few days before the Senate passed the law, US Attorney William Barr stated he was “troubled” by the legislation…


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Drug policy wins

Whatever depression you may be experiencing regarding the election process in this country right now, you can at least take comfort in the voters coming through in drug policy reform.

Every Single Marijuana And Drug Policy Ballot Measure Passing On Election Day Bolsters Federal Reform Push

Five more states legalized cannabis in some form and Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapy and also more broadly decriminalize drug possession. Meanwhile, voters in Washington, D.C. also approved a measure to decriminalize psychedelics in the nation’s capital.

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