We haven’t talked much directly here about the ongoing NSA/FISA and related scandals in the news. After all, one could say, it’s not directly about drug policy. And yet, it seems pretty obvious to me which “side” the vast majority of my readers is likely to find themselves.
Most Americans who pay any attention to politics believe the nation’s great chasm is between “Red State” Republicans and “Blue State” Democrats. While the nation’s two major parties have their differences, the real divide is and always has been between those who reflexively trust the authorities and those who recognize that their own government poses the gravest threat to their liberties.
The latest scandal, in which a whistleblower revealed two National Security Agency programs that gather the phone and computer records of Americans in a fishing expedition designed to find links to terrorists, has jump-started this debate. As the Associated Press reported, this has “reinvigorated an odd-couple political alliance of the far left and right. A number of Democratic civil liberties activists, along with libertarian-leaning Republicans, say the government actions are too broad and don’t adequately protect citizens’ privacy.”
And that’s correct. Drug policy reform has a lot less to do with red vs. green than between authoritarians and those who value liberty.
For those who have seen the destruction of the drug war, who could possibly trust the government to be responsible with our communications while operating in total secrecy? Being concerned with these revelations is a no-brainer.
The real disturbing part of the story is the large number of sheep who are willing to give up their freedom for some vaguely imagined undefined benefit, and who strangely trust government officials to not abuse power.
Finally, I’m a huge fan of the incredible journalistic work done by Glenn Greenwald, who has always been more concerned with performing critically important government watchdog functions than propping up some political party. There are a lot of people in power trying hard to tear him down right now. I hope he gets through this unscathed.
As long as we continue with the failed drug war and prohibition, the losses will continue to mount on all sides. Families will continue to lose fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, nieces and nephews; some to prison, some to murder and too many to both. Neighborhoods like Reservoir Hill will remain captive to violence and decay, and residents will continue to question what happened to the security and prosperity they once enjoyed as a community.
Great speech by Stephen Lewis at the International Harm Reduction Conference. Starts off slow, but really gets going. He rips into the INCB and the UNODC big-time. Here’s a taste:
“You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to criminalize the International Narcotics Control Board. Not to criminalize the use of drugs, but to criminalize the International Narcotics Control Board, and I’d like to put all of them in drug detention centers for a year, and let them understand what they’re doing to so many perfectly innocent people who have a health problem in other parts of the world.
“And then it strikes me that we should go after the members of the Board individually – there’s only a dozen of them [...] I think we should go after them by way of OpEds and by way of letters to the editor and by way of press conferences, and just nail these hypocrites to the mast.”
Call me crazy but I find it absurd to claim we’re a free country while our government dictates what adults can or can not do in the privacy of our own homes. We’ve accepted a massive blow to a fundamental expression of individual freedom if our own minds and bodies are off-limits to personal exploration. [...]
My recommendation would be to allow pharmacies to sell recreational drugs to adults-only, along with plenty of warning information. We regulate and cap the prices at cost — so they’re viewed as cheap and the black-market incentive is eliminated along with the tendency for corruption.
You may disagree with his specific recommendation, but at least it’s a recommendation. It bothers me a bit that we have to turn to Transform in the UK for an actual set of post-drug-war regulatory options. We need a group in the U.S. to put together a version of it (perhaps just adapting Transform’s document) so it can be promoted through our media just how many viable options there are for different drugs other than drug war.
We’ve been making fun of Patrick Kennedy here, for good reason. This doesn’t help. It’s a well-intentioned-sounding piece unless you know what Patrick is spending most of his time these days doing, in which case the irony is unbearable. And no, Patrick, you are not your uncle.
Regardless of laws in individual states, federal officials and local police departments need to abandon policies that evaluate officers based on numerical arrest goals, which encourage petty arrests, along with illegal stops that violate the Fourth Amendment.
This also means restructuring a main federal program that finances state and local efforts to enforce drug laws so that petty marijuana arrests are no longer counted as evidence of effective police performance. Beyond that, law enforcement agencies need to put an end to what is obviously a widespread practice of racial profiling.
Interesting little court case in Illinois with the silly title traditional in forfeiture cases: THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS v. $280,020 in UNITED STATES CURRENCY. This was one of those cases where police were tipped off that someone bought a one-way bus ticket in cash, searched the luggage, found a bunch of cash, had a drug dog sniff it and dutifully alert, and seized the money. The court ruled that buying a one-way ticket isn’t probable cause, and without the owner’s consent to search, the officers had nothing and must return the money. Good call on the profiling, and good reminder to never consent to a search.
Melissa Kennedy and Frederick Willard, parents of the late Danielle Willard, are suing local police in an extraordinary case in which they say that their daughter was shot to death “assassination style” by a now disbanded special narcotics unit that has been accused of corruption and abuse. [...]
West Valley City is a small suburb of Salt Lake City. Danielle Willard, 21, was fatally shot in the back of her head around 1:30 pm by defendants Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon. The complaint states “since the tragic shooting of Danielle Willard, it has been uncovered that Officers Cowley and Salmon were engaged in a pattern and practice of illegal conduct and widespread and systemic corruption, sanctioned by the West Valley Police Department, culminating in the unjustified and senseless killing of Danielle Willard.” The Complaint details allegations of corruption in the narcotic unit leading up to its disbanding. [...]
The unit was disbanded after the disappearance of money and drugs as well as the tossing out of roughly 100 drug cases.
Apparently it was only after a routine investigation into the shooting that the missing drugs and money and widespread corruption was discovered in the task force. It had to be pretty major to result in 100 drug cases being tossed. And yet the parents of this girl have to file a lawsuit in order to try to find out what really happened to their daughter.
The marijuana regulation law that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed last month includes a quarter-ounce limit on pot purchases by visitors from other states. Colorado residents, by contrast, may buy up to an ounce at a time. As I have mentioned before, making the purchase limit hinge on residency seems inconsistent with Amendment 64, the marijuana legalization initiative that is now part of Colorado’s constitution. The quarter-ounce rule may also be vulnerable to challenge under the U.S. Constitution, since it discriminates against residents of other states.
Regardless of the Constitutional questions, one of my first reaction is bemusement that this is such a big deal.
Has anyone driven from Illinois or Iowa into Missouri? As soon as you cross the border, you see things like this:
In fact, you’re likely to see five or six of these stores right next to each other just inside the border.
Now, everyone knows that the fireworks sold here are legal in Missouri, but not in Illinois or Iowa. And everyone knows that the reason that these stores are at the border… is to sell them to people in Illinois and Iowa. And while theoretically, you might get arrested for bringing them into those states, odds are you won’t.
And unlike marijuana, these things can blind you or cause you to lose a finger.
This morning, the White House is hosting an event: White House Children of Incarcerated Parents Champions of Change. It’s an event to honor some folks who have gone out of their way to work with and help children of incarcerated parents. That’s a good thing.
After all, children of incarcerated parents are generally more likely to end up in trouble with the law themselves, and stopping that cycle is incredibly important.
On the other hand, Rafael LeMaitre (ONDCP Communications Director) tweeted about the program:
Watch live NOW: http://t.co/dXE6CABQOG Children of incarcerated parents. This is why Obama Administration’s #DrugPolicyReform plan matters.
No, this is why real drug policy reform matters. The ideas we have will dramatically reduce the number of incarcerated parents. The ideas put forth by the ONDCP will merely divert a few of the incarcerated into drug courts.
This is one of the most bizarre defenses of President Obama that I’ve ever seen.
Humphreys’ basic thesis is that even though marijuana arrests have remained high during President Obama’s term, marijuana use has gone up, so arrests as a percentage of use has gone down (the number of possession arrests per 1,000 days of use). He uses that statistic as proof that Obama has been kinder when it comes to marijuana arrests.
The first very obvious objection: the notion that arrests as a percentage of use is a statistic that has any relevance. There’s no evidence that law enforcement, all other things being equal, would actually arrest more people for marijuana possession if marijuana use goes up. So the fact that they didn’t isn’t evidence of some kind of lessening of enforcement emphasis.
But that’s only the beginning. Marijuana possession arrests are done by the states and local cops, not the feds. And there’s no evidence that local and state marijuana policy is easing due to federal influence.
After all, federal funding on enforcement has remained stable, despite their rhetoric. And if anything, states have been defying the federal government in terms of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana legalization. When police in Washington and Colorado stopped arresting people for mere possession, it sure wasn’t at the urging of President Obama!
So, Keith is giving Obama credit for something that probably doesn’t exist, and if it does, is more likely happening in spite of Obama.
For all the political flak that President Obama is receiving for digital surveillance of Americans, he deserves some praise for protecting Americans on another front. His administration has helped dampen moves by some Latin American leaders to legalize marijuana in the Western Hemisphere. [...]
Yet with two states in the US (Washington and Colorado) having legalized recreational use of pot last year, some in Latin America saw an opening to push Mr. Obama to bend.
Fortunately, his secretary of State, John Kerry, did not accommodate such voices at the OAS assembly. “These challenges simply defy any simple, one-shot, Band-Aid” approach, he said. “Drug abuse destroys lives, tears at communities of all of our countries.” Other administration officials have been working for months to squash the region’s legalization efforts. [...]
The uncertainties of legalizing pot, let alone the moral arguments against government promoting its use, call for Obama to be vigilant against legalization. He has now done that strongly abroad. He must do much better at home.