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March 2005
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Gone to New York

I’m off for a week of theatre in New York, and I’m taking 26 students with me to show them the city, so I won’t be posting much for awhile. I’ll still check my email and I’ll be able to post if something big happens, but I’m going to try to actually avoid it for […]

Walters at his most offensive

John Walters spewed his vile lies at our neighbors to the north:

A surge of high-potency marijuana illegally smuggled into the United States from Canada is fuelling a rise in drug dependency among young Americans, the Bush administration’s drug czar says.

A frustrated John Walters, the director of the U.S. National Drug Control office, yesterday […]

The Field Museum, Drugs, and Stupid Bureaucrats

My friend Tim sent this one: In today’s Chicago Tribune — a fairly bizarre bit of news about Chicago’s Field Museum and Peru.
Apparently the Field Museum has a program in Peru funded in part by USAID:

Field Museum has been deeply involved in the preservation of Cordillera Azul since 2000, when museum scientists first explored the uncharted rain forest in central Peru. Since 2001, when the region was declared a national park, the museum has been a key administrator of a complex and innovative program to involve surrounding communities in the long-term conservation of the 5,225-square-mile area.

While coca production has spiked and waned around Cordillera Azul for decades, Field Museum staff members have encouraged local residents to reject drug cultivation as damaging to the long-term health of the region and have promoted growth of legal crops. The museum has never been involved in the U.S. government’s drug interdiction efforts, however.

This is a long-term project to save the rainforest and provide alternate approaches. Well, coca paste was discovered in 3 of the 66 communities in the area, so the U.S. government was going to cut the aid. Fortunately, some cooler heads prevailed for now.
Now, I don’t know enough about the project to say how valuable it is, or whether it’s a good expenditure of tax money.
It’s the knee-jerk reaction that I find all too typical. A couple of incidents and they want to scrap a long-term program that is designed to find positive alternatives to a drug economy. So what would those communities do? Probably turn to the drug business.
[Just like the Mark Souder HEA financial aid law. Made a mistake and got arrested for pot? Well, we’ll take away your financial aid so you can’t go to college and then you can.. well, sell drugs, I guess. Take action NOW to end that horrible business.]
Back to the Field Museum…

When the museum first came into the area, communities agreed to work with its scientists and staff only after receiving assurances the program would be a long-term effort, said the International Relations Committee staff member.

Many other U.S.-based programs have made, and broken, similar pledges in the region, the staff member said.

“These are poor rural areas. The Field Museum is terrified and so is the committee that we are going to break that promise to them,” the staff member said.

NORML’s New Arrest Report Data

Crimes of Indiscretion: Marijuana Arrests in the United States, compiled by Jon Gettman, PhD is a comprehensive study reporting and analyzing national arrest data between 1995 and 2002. This online version contains the original downloadable full report in PDF format, various other browser-friendly extracts from the report and NORML’s Marijuana Arrests Investigator Flash tool, a […]

Andrea’s got a new gig

For all you Andrea Barthwell fans… She has added a new organization and website to her repertoire: End: Coalition to End Needless Death on our Roadways. So far, it’s focused on alcohol, but it’ll be interesting to see if some of her past exaggerations on drugged driving will show up. [Note: While END has been […]

Vancouver Sun Series on Target

The Vancouver Sun this week has just run four days of amazing editorials dealing with marijuana — even more important given the furor over the recent slaying of 4 officers that was improperly and sensationally linked to marijuana. This is a well-thought-out series of editorials that explores the history of marijuana, discovers the lack of positive influence of prohibition, examines the downside of decriminalization, and ends up suggesting that Canada could lead the world in legalization efforts.
I’ve included some excerpts from each one (the last one ran today).
Part 1: Marijuana Prohibition Caught Hold for Neither Rhyme nor Reason

[1923:] … The inclusion of marijuana in the list of banned drugs came as a surprise to many parliamentarians, including member of Parliament Ernest Lapointe, who asked “What is cannabis sativa?”

Lapointe could easily have added: “Why has it been added to the list of prohibited substances?,” since, to this day, no one knows why marijuana was banned. Parliamentarians had no evidence that marijuana caused any physical, psychological or social harm.

Nevertheless, the legislation was passed without debate, which isn’t surprising since parliamentarians could hardly have engaged in debate concerning a substance about which they knew nothing.

While marijuana continued to be a non-problem — by the mid-20th century, little more than two dozen people had been charged with possession — Parliament, perhaps influenced by the drug hysteria in the United States which warned people that marijuana turns people into ax-murderers, instituted ever greater measures against the “demon” drug.…

Part 2: Rising Use of Pot Proves the Law Can’t Solve All Our Social Problems

… It’s common wisdom that behaviour is influenced by the risk of getting caught, rather than the severity of the law itself. Yet studies have demonstrated that the amount of money a country devotes to law enforcement, or the number of arrests it makes, has no bearing on the number of people in the country who use marijuana.

While we would like the law to solve all of our social problems, or perceived problems, it’s clear that it’s often unable to do so. Marijuana use, as with so many other behaviours, is influenced much more strongly by cultural factors and social values than by the law.

This suggests that our attempt to control marijuana use through the blunt instrument of the law is doomed to fail — indeed, it has already failed. And while failing, it has created a monster.

The monster has many heads and goes by many names: the Hells Angels, the Bandidos, the triads, la Casa Nostra. Be it bikers, Asian gangs or the traditional mafia, all have experienced a tremendous boon from the criminalization of marijuana and other drugs. …

Part 3: Canada’s Middle Way on the Legalities of Pot Might Be the Worst Way

Now the downright ugly aspect of Bill C-38 [decriminalization]: The bill will do nothing to weaken the enormous power crime syndicates exert over the drug trade – in fact, it will likely strengthen the hand of organized crime.

The bill leaves the trafficking provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as they are, thereby allowing organized crime to maintain its stranglehold on the business.

In addition, the bill strengthens penalties for the cultivation of marijuana. …

But just as outlawing drugs helped to create and sustain crime syndicates, the harshness of the law does have an effect on the degree to which organized crime controls the drug trade. The predictable result of the harsher penalties in the new legislation is that “mom and pop” grow-ops will be deterred, leaving crime syndicates to fill the vacuum, since no penalty is likely to deter them.

As such, the new legislation plays right into the hands of organized crime by giving it an even greater stranglehold on the marijuana industry. …

Part 4: Canada Could Be a World Leader in Smarter Drug Strategies

… Countries have failed to consider legalization for a number of reasons: The U.S. has exerted enormous pressure on the world to maintain the war on drugs, and it often ties foreign aid to a country’s commitment to prosecuting that war. Even countries that rely only on U.S. trade, not aid — such as Canada — face ferocious opposition from the U.S. anytime legalization, or even decriminalization, is discussed. If we needed any more evidence on this score, we got it in spades on Wednesday. U.S. drug czar John Walters linked the increasing number of American teenagers seeking addiction treatment with Canadian pot exports. …

The U.S. might well remain intransigent, but as the international community harnesses and distributes more and more evidence about the harm caused by the war on marijuana, some nations might feel empowered to consider marijuana legalization and regulation on a trial basis. Should such trials prove successful, other countries would likely follow.

All of this must begin, though, with a commitment from Ottawa to develop a national drug strategy, and to communicate the results of its work to the world. The world is not losing the war on marijuana: It’s a war we’ve already lost. Canada can help to unify the globe in its efforts to minimize the harms caused not only by drugs, but by drug laws.

Canadians: share these editorials with your friends, your family. Use them as a current events discussion in class. They’re a really wonderful series for getting people talking.

[Thanks to Scott for the tip. Thanks, as always to MapInc.org for its extraordinary resource in archiving drug policy articles.]