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Things to read while I’m gone

I’m leaving for desolate areas of Iowa and western Illinois to help my parents celebrate their birthdays. My mom turns 85 on July 4 and my dad turns 85 on July 7. Part of the time, I won’t have internet, cell phone, TV or any other kind of communication access. I’ll surface for air when I can and drop in.
Before I go, I just want to add a special note to all the commenters here at Drug WarRant (you know who you are). It really makes it exciting to blog on a daily basis knowing that you are there reading, responding (and sometimes correcting). And for those of you who just stop by and read the posts, take a moment to check out the comments. We have some of the most intelligent, educated, and rationally passionate people you can imagine.
Here are a few things to keep you busy (I cleaned off my desktop of recent items that I wanted to find time to blog about).
“bullet” White House Announces Intent to Nominate Scott Burns as Deputy Director of National Drug Control Policy — no big deal. Burns is a major liar, who has worked for the ONDCP for ages as a Component Deputy Director. Although the nomination process could be a good time for asking some difficult questions, if someone in the Senate is willing.
“bullet” Salvia: The Other Story — Drug Law Blog’s Alex has a good post about the recent alarmist stories about Salvia.

The story is simply that salvia, though it is a powerful hallucinogen that is legal almost everywhere, virtually never causes problems for our society. Nobody kills or robs anybody for salvia. Nobody smuggles salvia across our borders. Nobody steals to support a salvia habit. Gangs don’t form to deal in salvia. People don’t wind up in the gutter because they just couldn’t get enough salvia. And taxpayers aren’t wasting tens of millions of dollars to keep salvia users in prison.

“bullet” Press Release from the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies — via David Guard — an excellent press release demonstrating the dissembling of Mario Costa and the UNODC

It is probable that levels of use, abuse and dependence have been reached that will stay fairly constant for a long time, with or without repression. The term “stabilization” could have been used many years ago, but it wasn’t convenient at that time for UNODC and other authorities to do so. Now, because it is impossible for UNODC to pretend any progress in the war on drugs, the term stabilization is used to hide this failure.

“bullet” DPA Press Release: Justice Department Report Finds Largest Increase in Prison and Jail Inmate Populations Since 2000; Prison Growth Despite Public Sentiment for Alternatives to Incarceration. Plus JPI Press Release: New numbers show “alarming growth” in incarceration; Justice Department survey shows biggest increase since 2000.
See also: We’re (Still) #1! America’s Gulag Just Keeps Growing by Ethan Nadelmann

Voters should be outraged that their tax money continues to be wasted on failed drug war policies.

“bullet” The Purple Brain: America’s New Reefer Madness by Marsha Rosenbaum and Paul Armentano.

More than 70 years in the making, the long-awaited sequel to the notorious 1936 film, Reefer Madness has arrived. It’s called The Purple Brain, and just like its unintentionally campy predecessor, its purpose is to frighten Americans about marijuana.

“bullet” ‘Awesome’ Teacher On Pot Charge

An “awesome” counsellor and teacher at Lillooet Secondary is to appear in court next month, charged with trafficking marijuana. […]
The Lillooet News reported that police claimed they spotted DeLong smoking marijuana with two young women. When questioned, the young women allegedly told police they got the marijuana from DeLong.
DeLong was arrested and charged with trafficking a controlled substance.

I don’t know the whole story in that one, but I find it so bizarre that people can be “shocked” that such an awesome teacher would end up doing something like smoke pot. It’s like they discovered that he was a mass murderer or something.
I’d really like to see a story: “Man ticketed for driving 75 in a 65 mph zone. Neighbors are shocked, saying ‘He seemed like such a nice man.’”
After all, speeding is more dangerous than smoking pot.
“bullet” Law Requires N.M. to Grow Its Own Pot

New Mexico has a new medical marijuana law with a twist: It requires the state to grow its own.
The law, effective Sunday, not only protects medical marijuana users from prosecution _ as 11 other states do _ but requires New Mexico to oversee a production and distribution system for the drug.
“The long-term goal is that the patients will have a safe, secure supply that doesn’t mean drug dealers, that doesn’t mean growing their own,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico.

It’s really going to be interesting when the DEA tries to shut down the New Mexico state-run marijuana dispensary. It’ll be a much trickier PR thing for them.
“bullet” Evidence Of ‘Reefer Madness’ Abounds by Tom Oleson.

As is well known, marijuana, the killer weed, causes “reefer madness” in those who have any contact with it. Bureaucrats and politicians appear to be particularly prone to this malady and if they had any sense they would stay away from the weed, but they don’t and so they don’t. The reason seems obvious — they are simply mad. It is pretty hard, in fact, to reasonably account for Canada’s marijuana laws and the way they are enforced without this explanation of reefer madness. […]
To go back to Dickens, the law in this case truly is “a ass — a idiot.”

“bullet” Military sees drop in black recruits. I wonder if anyone will connect the fact that a disproportionate number of black males are in prison or correctional supervision, largely due to the drug war.
“bullet” Up From Prohibition — just one of a number of media discussions involving Michael Lerner’s new book “Dry Manhattan.” It’s nice to see how a new book about alcohol prohibition brings so many to see the parallels with drug prohibition. It seems to me that we’re doing a much better job of getting that message out.
“bullet” Plan Colombia spotlights lunacy of our war on drugs by Froma Harrop.

So why do we do it? Here’s a hint: Almost half of the $630 million in military aid to Colombia last year was scooped up by U.S. defense contractors. There’s money in the madness. […]
In the meantime, let’s acknowledge reality and decriminalize drugs. That would close down international drug trafficking overnight. Really, what Andean peasants cultivate on the sides of their mountains should be no concern of ours.

“bullet” Cannabis Debate Angers Some Indonesians. You think marijuana legalization efforts have it tough here? Try Indonesia:

“If it is legalised, we will wage war with the National Narcotics Agency and we will burn this building,” Eka Jaya told FPI supporters, who had gathered chanting “Allahu Akbar” ( God is great ) outside the Jakarta office.
It also volunteered to help authorities catch drug offenders.
“If the agency is incapable of obliterating the drugs syndicates, allow FPI ( to help ), by giving us access to weapons and permission to investigate and catch ( them ),” Jaya said.

And Indonesia’s version of the ONDCP has got the “making up statistics” part down very well.

The National Narcotics Agency said more than 3.2 million people in Indonesia were drug users, and 70 per cent of those were also addicts.

70%?
“bullet” Life Sentences: Collateral Sanctions Associated with Marijuana Offenses – a report by the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics.

In addition to the punishment imposed by the judge, a misdemeanor conviction for possession of marijuana can trigger automatic bars on educational aid, a bar on serving as a foster parent, denial of federal housing assistance, revocation or suspension of occupational licenses, and suspension of ones drivers license. A felony conviction (for example, growing a marijuana plant) can result in all of these sanctions, and more.
If marijuana offenses are considered less of an affront to civil society than violent crimes such as murder, rape, or kidnapping, or even less of an affront than other drug offenses, our study shows that this consideration is rarely found in any of the collateral sanctions. A person convicted of growing marijuana (a felony in most states) is often subjected to the same, and sometimes greater, collateral sanctions than a person convicted of murder, rape, or robbery

Check the chart. Where does your state fall?
“bullet” Drug-free zones target blacks unfairly, critics sayDrug-free zones target blacks unfairly, critics say (via Drug Law Blog) — a strong article. Be sure to check out the chart: “10 years in the war on drugs”, clickable on the left side.
“bullet” Radley Balko’s testimony before Congress regarding the militarization of the police.

Perspective

Scooter Libby is free. Richard Paey is in prison. President Bush said that Libby’s 2 1/2 year sentence was “excessive.” Richard Paey’s sentence is 25 years.

Joe Biden, drug policy reformer?

Am I dreaming?
Joe Biden, sponsor of the Rave Act and inventor of the Drug Czar, is now positioning himself as a leader in crack/powder disparity reform.
Everybody realizes that the crack/powder disparity is racist in its effect and is absolutely unsupportable, but no politician wants to do anything that looks like they’re reducing penalties for drugs in any way. So political reform bills have involved moving crack and powder sentencing slightly closer to each other, but keeping the disparity.
Biden is actually proposing the correct, simple approach: make them the same.

Senator Hatch has taken a bold and important step in the right direction, and I applaud his efforts, said Senator Biden. But, weve got to go further and solve this problem for good. The current sentencing disparity between the two forms of cocaine is based on false notions and old logic. The bottom line is that there is no scientific justification for any disparity. Crack and powder are simply two forms of the same drug, and each form produces identical effects. I will soon be introducing legislation that eliminates the sentencing disparity completely, fixing this injustice once and for all. I look forward to working with Senator Hatch and others — Republicans and Democrats — and urge them to support righting this wrong.

It sounds good, and implied in the Biden press release is the notion that this fix will simply mean changing the crack guidelines to match the current powder guidelines. However, that’s not stated specifically, and the release does not rule out the notion of equalizing them, in part, by making it worse for powder, which would be wrong (of course, the truly right thing would involve the “L” word, but you won’t see that from this Congress).
Has Biden turned around a little? Or is this just another political trick? After all, this press release came out just prior to the Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate dealing with minority issues…

Via Jacob Sullum

Mark your calendars

On July 12, the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, will be holding hearings on DEA oversight. Apparently, an important part of those hearings will focus on the DEA’s involvement/interference with doctors treating pain, and some outstanding witnesses are being called. If this is an issue of importance to you; if you have a story […]

Standing Silent Nation

On PBS tomorrow (Tuesday, July 3) is the premiere of Standing Silent Nation by Suree Towfighnia and Courtney Hermann

In April 2000, Alex White Plume and his Lakota family planted industrial hemp on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota after other crops had failed. But when federal agents raided the White Plumes’ fields, the […]