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We're not in it for the short haul

We’ve had some good (and some volatile) discussions in comments recently, particularly over what constitutes drug policy reform and its end goals. This is quite healthy (as long as we avoid the name-calling). We have a number of people who frequent this site with different views both of our destination and our route to get there (and even how we should publicly describe our route to get there).

I’m going to inject LEAP’s Norm Stamper into that discussion, with a particularly appropriate piece over at Alternet: Let’s Not Stop at Marijuana Legalization

Yet, I’m alarmed that the above-mentioned poll showing majority support for marijuana legalization also found that fewer than one in 10 people agree that it’s time to end the prohibition of other drugs.

This no doubt makes sense to some readers at first glance, since more people are familiar with marijuana than other drugs like cocaine, heroin or meth. However, even a cursory study of our drug war policies will reveal that legalizing pot but not other drugs will leave huge social harms unresolved. [...]

Marijuana legalization is a great step in the direction of sane and sensible drug policy. But we reformers must remember that we’re working to legalize drugs not because we think they are safe, but because prohibition is far more dangerous to users and nonusers alike.

Read the whole thing — it’s worth it.

Norm’s OpEd very closely echoes my views.

I’m fine with incrementalism. I think medical marijuana, for example, serves us in two ways — on its own merits, and as a stepping stone toward acceptance of marijuana in general. I realize there are others who believe we should instead build and wield the Weapon of Instant Legalization of all things, but I seem unable to make sense out of the blueprints.

I’m not fine at stopping with marijuana. Like Norm, I’m perhaps less interested in the ability to freely shoot heroin than I am in stopping the evils of prohibition. I’m not opposed to regulation, and will accept that to the extent that it makes it possible to virtually eliminate black market harms.

I’m not concerned that we don’t yet have a finalized policy model for each legalized drug. I believe that there’s more than one that is acceptable and meets the requirements, and that these will come with trial and error (probably in the laboratory of the states), but we do have some good blueprints, despite the unwillingness of the “academics” in the U.S. to do their job and actually craft policy options.

Next, while I know some don’t like the word “legalization,” I will continue to use it. Sure, the word can scare people, and our opponents know it and try to demonize us with it. And I understand “framing.” But by avoiding the word, we cede to it that dark power, when in fact, the meaning of the word has nothing inherently in it to elicit fear or shame.

Every time a former cop from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition steps up in front of a Kiwanis Club and says “We need to legalize all drugs, and here’s why…,” the word “legalization” takes a giant step over to our side. When our opponents no long have that word to scare people, what do they have left?

Finally, I understand that we’re in it for the long haul — not just in terms that have to do with continuing beyond marijuana legalization, but because it’s the nature of our fight. The only way we’ll win is by changing people’s minds, one at a time. There’s no wizard who can ride up and wave their magic wand to undo decades of corruption and propaganda. No President is going to step in and tear up the Controlled Substances Act on national TV.

We had a victory this week in Congress on syringe exchange, and I really appreciate the sentiment in this OpEd by Julie Davids at Prevention Justice.

Bill Clinton said NOT lifting the federal funding ban on syringe exchange was one of the biggest regrets in his presidency. But he didn’t fess up to that till he was safely out of the White House.

Barack Obama pledged to lift the ban. Then pointedly didn’t publicly work to do so, even when his imprimatur could have given a much-needed margin of safety for congressional efforts.

But who really did work to lift the ban? People with HIV, drug users, harm reduction leaders and their allies. Long-time and brand new AIDS activists who took to the streets and the halls of Congress and the plaza of HHS and the UN for decades at this point, including those who got arrested in the Capitol Rotunda in one of the first acts of civil disobedience against the Obama Adminstration. Organizers and policy wonks who counted the votes and worked hand in hand with grassroots activists to persuade and convert legislators. Religous people who spoke up about what faith and redemption and compassion really means. AIDS service and prevention providers and drug treatment people and harm reduction counselors and people in recovery, and people in and out of recovery, who spoke up about their lives and their work.

And because of all this – not because of the political cowardice of those who knew they were doing the wrong thing by allowing the ban to persist but who time and again shrank in the face of ideological opposition – the ban will now be lifted.

We’re in it for the long haul.

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49 comments to We’re not in it for the short haul

  • DdC

    I don’t mind “legalize” although for Ganja it is a misnomer since the bogus Nixon CSA lies don’t make it illegal imho. I do object to the “M” word and those willingly using it or unknowingly using it are as ignorant as rednecks using the “N” word in casual settings. It is a stigmatizing degenerating buzzword with 367 pounds of reefer madness attached. It totally degrades the Mexican population inferring any white woman using Ganja will become Hispanic prostitutes and whores, such as Poncho Villa’s supposed lady Maria Juana. Mary Jane has no baring on Ganja or Hemp. Just ignorant prohibitionists and yellow journalism. Yes most know it by this derogatory moniker, and most rednecks know what the “N” word is. Drop it! Ganja is from the Ganges River, Cannabis Sativa means “Helpful Hemp” The “M” word only reinforces the same tired stereotypical labeling common among drug worriers and their masters.

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  • kaptinemo

    It will not be an overnight process to undo decades of injustice…for far too many are profiting, one way or another, from that injustice. They have a ‘stake’ in maintaining that injustice, and will fight tooth-and-nail (and truncheon, and pepper spray and taser and with bullets, all supplied by their victims courtesy of taxpayer dollars) to keep that injustice intact. For as beneficiaries of that injustice, they bear the responsibility for it as well, and rightly fear the inevitable questioning of why was it allowed to go on for as long as it has. Impersonal forces are not the answer; people are. People with faces and names.

    I have long maintained that the DrugWar has been the handmaiden of home-grown fascism in America, and has facilitated what amounted to a low-level, generic right-wing coup in this country, with disastrous results for civil liberties. Putative ‘public servants’ have sought to become public masters, and have embraced what amounts to a theology where dissent = treason and deserves to be dealt with as such.

    Revamping or even eliminating the current drug laws would signal an end to the ‘glory days’ of authoritarians, for they would then be forced back into a position where they could not use a fiction to maintain a fascist reality. It would also signal the revanchement of those eroded civil liberties, and would eventually lead to further roll-backs of authoritarianism, paving the way for a return of lower-case ‘l’ libertarianism to re-assert itself in civil affairs.

    Which would have our would-be masters silently shaking in their jackboots.

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  • claygooding

    A black market will always exist when there is a demand for anything
    and if anyone can provide it at a cheaper than market price or where no market exists,and the seller can make money providing the service or goods. It is the basic law of supply and demand and is at the very heart of a capitalist ideology.
    That the marijuana black market is now evolved into so much criminal involvement is a direct consequence of the fact that it is illegal . The drugs are not causing the violence,the prohibition is.
    If our country removed the prohibition of drugs from our markets,the normal business groups would be supplying the drugs and the criminals wouldn’t be in the mix,unless,as with cigarettes ,the government adds so much tax that the same commodity can be bought and sold at a profit for less than the local price.
    Whether you believe drugs should be legal or not,the prohibition will continue underwriting the existence of cartels and drug dealers.
    We have sent millions of people to prison in the last 40 years and have slowed down nothing,stopped nothing and accomplished nothing except the spending of billions of our tax dollars,making some rich,and all poorer from the experience.
    To continue doing the same thing and expect any different results is stupid.and the claim by any law enforcement official that the war on drugs has shown any form of success is false.

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  • Why we fight

    After watching many many documenarties(‘Why we fight’ and ‘last white hope’to name two) , I no longer recognize this country.

    I feel as Katpinemo stated ” I have long maintained that the DrugWar has been the handmaiden of home-grown fascism in America”. But I think it goes much deeper than just the drug war.

    There seems to be and undercurrent in this country, an oppressive undercurrent. There are many force entrenched in this war on people. Corporate,political,international are the biggest. It seems to me this undercurrent is sugar coated with freedom . This sheeps skin hanging over it all is a horrifying deceit.

    This struggle with drug policy seems to me to be a lynchpin to undo the lie put before us. Is this why elitists are afraid of losing this fight? Are they afraid of us pulling the lynchpin that will expose the injustices imposed on all Americans…and… people around the world?

    This fight over the drug war(war on people) is an iceberg. I feel we are chipping away at the 10% we can see. I have seen many posts that indicate people are willing to stop at cannabis legalization. This cannot happen. As you chip away at this iceberg the rest will ‘float’ to the surface. You will have to keep chipping or quit of exhaustion. The 90% that we dont see may be the worst part of this whole battle. An ugliness that must be exposed. We cannot just stop at the 10% mark.

    The more I dig the more horrified at what I find. Yes the rabbit hole goes very deep.
    I have asked my self if I would go back to my ignorant beginnings in my quest. NO! It has to be done. As I have ventured in this quest, I have found many around me are just as ignorant as I was . Many look at me as a nut, others in fear of what I tell them…afew…fearfully understand now, people seem to be waking from their slumber.

    I dont know where this fight will lead us , I dont know how it will end but, I know how it begins…one mind at a time.

    One thing I am sure of..This is not the country I thought it was and I am no longer the person I was at the start of my quest for…ANSWERS!

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  • Ed Dunkle

    Legalization of marijuana in California is by no means a done deal. The DAs, police, and prison guards will put up a furious battle and could easily win. Let’s worry about this chapter before moving on to other substances.

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  • Pete, as usual, makes very good points. We politely differ, however, on the value of incrementalism as the repeal template.

    Traveling and campaigning as a candidate for a spot on the 2008 Libertarian Party national ticket, I met a lot of Ron Paul supporters. Most were young and many were engaged in the political process for the first time. The two main reasons they gave me for their support: a promise to bring all American troops home, and ending drug prohibition. And, let’s not forget, these enthusiasts donated 37 million dollars to Ron Paul’s campaign.

    So I believe, in the final analysis, it does require that a national political figure or presidential candidate make the case for repeal to the American people. We are, for the most part, ready to have that conversation. And Ron Paul proved that there is real money available to keep the conversation going.

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  • aussidawg

    Why we Fight…very good post. The people of this country are indeed under attack, and from a lot of different angles. The War on Drugs seems to have been the first major step towards a fascist gvernment. This has of course been followed by Global War on Terror which has given us the Patriot Act, MIlitary Commissions Act, etc. The battle to end drug prohibition is but one of the fights we face. I for one am certainly willing to fight this battle as its win would certainly give we the people an enormous step back in the right direction.

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  • skootercat

    Mr. Williams, can you tell us what happened to candidate Bob Barr and his drug war change platform? We kept waiting for something to come from his camp but nothing much happened except Borat’s cheese.

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  • DdC

    US CA: Pot Advocates Claim Signatures For Ballot Issue
    The petition drive collected more than 680,000 signatures in two months, less than half the time allowed for such a drive, said Lee, who owns two marijuana businesses in Oakland – Oaksterdam University and Coffeeshop Blue Sky.

    Ed,
    Fuck the Pigs!
    “This has been a non-paid political opinion and in no way reflects the feelings or opinion of the management.”

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  • BruceM

    Pete, thanks for writing this post. I’m very happy to hear this. I’m also saddened to see my guess confirmed that 90% of people here and other places who talk about legalization are only talking about pot, and that they are die hard drug warriors with respect to every other drug except for pot. Shame on such people. They are lazy hypocrites who wreak of pot smoke covered in cookie dough.

    It’s not the business of the government to be controlling substances. Legalization implies an affirmative action, but all we should really be doing is restoring the proper status quo where such things are not illegal. Getting rid of, and ending the tyrrany of a set of laws is a small affirmative act, to be sure, but it doesn’t need to be replaced with anything. The lack of regulation is freedom, and freedom is the answer here, as it is in most situations. The marketplace will sort out who makes the heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, pot, carfentanil, etc once such things are no longer relegated to the black market.

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  • I’m with Ed Dunkle. We need to have a decisive win as a precedent. And the issue of marijuana legalization is simply not settled. As I mentioned in a previous comment hereabouts, “1st down and goal” is not the same as having points on the board.

    I’m also fine with having a substance-by-substance policy debate.

    Advise and consent and open hearings to provide public feedback is part of the political process of representative democracy. These battles are going to be fought in the legislatures.

    If it were simply a matter of affirming Constitutional liberty, court decisions would be sufficient to overturn drug prohibition. But those court decisions have not been forthcoming. The judicial sector has repeatedly rejected such appeals, in the arena of drug law. They’ve held that the danger to public health and civic well-being trumps individual liberty.

    And it doesn’t matter what those of us who disagree think about that, because we aren’t the judicial majority.

    That puts matters back in the realm of public policy, to be decided by legislative action. And that’s more about persuading the public than it is about ironclad adherence to ideology.

    The public is with us on marijuana legalization. At long last. The fact that huge majorities are opposed to liberalizing the laws against other substances should be a call to acheive what’s possible and than to do more outreach and education, not to demand nothing less than that the public comes around to 100% agreement with our other views.

    That’s an intrinsic difference between democracy and autocracy. For better or worse: as a political tactic, ironclad, obdurate insistence on principle is a tactic that only works from a position of entrenched power- for those who preserve the status quo, not those who challenge it. (And those who employ that sort of brittle obstructionism often find that once it begins to be eroded, it ALL breaks down shortly thereafter. But that isn’t our problem.)

    Furthermore, as a rule, I don’t like the practice of attempting to use public shaming as a political tactic. Beyond the suspect ethics of it, it’s usually a stone loser, especially when applied to a popular majority. It doesn’t change minds. There’s more to appealing to the moral sensibilities of the public than simply trying to shame them.

    We have to be patient with people. And we have to believe that a sufficient number of them are capable of listening to a well-argued logical appeal, and capable of of changing their minds. Because there’s no way to force them, on this issue. Unless 51% of the public demands that their representatives decriminalize or legalize, for example, heroin, it isn’t going to happen. That means we have our work cut out for us- which isn’t to be confused with throwing a tantrum until we get our way.

    My view is, let the other side throw the tantrums- then we can call them out for it, as the adults in the situation.

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  • “The lack of regulation is freedom, and freedom is the answer here, as it is in most situations. The marketplace will sort out who makes the heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, pot, carfentanil, etc once such things are no longer relegated to the black market.”

    I’ll be anticipating this looming Free Market Utopia in regard to the sales of mind-altering drugs, just as soon as all other such impediments are banished from this society- like building codes, workplace safety regulations, anti-pollution laws, zoning laws, meat inspection, pure food labeling, liquor licenses, professional licensing, and regulations regarding other pharmaceutical products. Etc.

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  • skootercat~

    Bob Barr talked the talk better than he walked the walk. Both Bob and Russ Varney, his campaign manager, feared that Bob would be dubbed the “drug candidate” and suffer at the polls come election day. So they rejected the advice they sought from both me and Rob Kampia, and continued to do so even after the loud ovation Bob received on the Colbert Report by just mentioning he’d end the drug war. He only mentioned it once or twice again, and fleetingly.

    When it became obvious that Bob and Russ had shut the door completely on the opportunity, I resigned from the campaign. And while I believe Bob would have garnered more votes had he championed repealing drug prohibition, there were other strategic mistakes made, chief among them wasting our limited resources campaigning in states where the race was close. Had the focus been on states where the outcome was pretty much decided, folks would have been more comfortable “wasting their vote” on a third party candidate.

    Aside from the lumps I deservedly took when Bob bailed on the issue, putting together a national strategy for drug policy reform – even one that was ignored – was an excellent experience.

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  • Voletear

    Great blog-entry Pete. Norm Stamper’s piece in Alternet is must-reading.

    Lest we forget, Transform has put together a “Blueprint…” http://www.tdpf.org.uk/blueprint%20download.htm for what all this could look like. It’s a great starting point.

    My point has simply been that more effort should begin to be spent to advance the rest of the anti-Drug War agenda along with cannabis advocacy.

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  • micbearing

    I’ve only been involved with drug policy reform (admittedly on a modest level) for less than two years now, but I really feel the need at this time to point up some of the blaring inaccuracies and problematic assumptions that drug policy reformers tend to bandy about. Allow me to pick a few from this post and its comments and please let me know why you disagree…

    “But we reformers must remember that we’re working to legalize drugs not because we think they are safe, but because prohibition is far more dangerous to users and nonusers alike.”

    I admire Norm Stamper and have been genuinely inspired by LEAP, but whenever I hear a statement like this I think, “for whom is prohibition really dangerous?” It’s not really dangerous for the millions of middle class folks that see prohibition primarily as a symbolic rebuke of drug culture. You know, like the infamous “parents’ movement”? When their children get busted they typically don’t end up in jail or even with a criminal record, so the costs, or “harms”, of prohibition lie elsewhere, while they enjoy the basic deterrent benefits that any taboo entails. With access to quality treatment and social support should one of their ilk fall into addiction, it’s hard to argue that the direct and ancillary costs of prohibition exacerbate middle class dependence problems to any great extent. One could argue that these people (the constituency most responsible for enabling the modern drug war politically) shoulder indirect costs by paying for all the prisons, enforcement and other CJ system costs, medical treatment for gun shot victims, etc., just as you could bang on about the morality of making poor black folk suffer for the “protection” of predominately white, middle class children. Reformers argue both of these things, and both arguments have merit. But I honestly don’t see either of these arguments shifting majoritarian, middle class political will. Legalizing hard drugs would cost them too much with benefits being speculative at best. The widespread experiential familiarity with weed of the past few American generations, and the current trend toward liberalizing MJ laws it has created, only underlines how much drug policy continues to be based primarily on culture. The cultural, symbolic nature of drug policy isn’t going away any time soon, regardless of educational efforts. So when exactly do you all expect widespread middle class familiarity with cocaine, heroin, and meth?

    “…but we do have some good blueprints, despite the unwillingness of the “academics” in the U.S. to do their job and actually craft policy options.”

    Drug policy scholars like Peter Reuter, Robert MacCoun and Mark Kleiman have attempted to construct hypothetical regulatory regimes, though with results most legalizers probably wouldn’t like. Regardless, I think most academics don’t spend a lot of time on such “academic” pursuits because 1) for the reasons mentioned above, there is miniscule political support for drastically liberalizing the control of drugs other than MJ, and 2) there actually are an array of policy options available within the the prohibition framework that can have a real impact on drug problems and are therefore worth their time and effort. Reformers know such things are true when they support needle exchange and other proven harm reduction approaches. Must we automatically assume that there are no other policy options on the enforcement end that can mitigate the problems of prohibition-created black markets, and that such questions are not worth investigating?

    “The only way we’ll win is by changing people’s minds, one at a time. There’s no wizard who can ride up and wave their magic wand to undo decades of corruption and propaganda.”
    “It will not be an overnight process to undo decades of injustice…for far too many are profiting, one way or another, from that injustice. They have a ’stake’ in maintaining that injustice, and will fight tooth-and-nail (and truncheon, and pepper spray and taser and with bullets, all supplied by their victims courtesy of taxpayer dollars) to keep that injustice intact.”

    Comments like these assume that drugs continue to be illegal mainly because remorseless exploiters and opportunists are profiting off prohibition, and once the brave crusaders lift the veil of ignorance from the people’s brow they will finally see the long-obscured truth. This is nonsense. Drugs remain illegal because, as stated above, for most middle class people prohibition is primarily a symbolic expression of condemnation for recreational drug use, NOT an attempt at pragmatic, rational public policy. In this sense it serves its purpose quite well, producing a policy that is fairly consistent with its intent. The “truth” about drugs that reformers labor endlessly to impart is in many ways irrelevant to the policy’s main purpose. This is why politicians are so preoccupied with the trends in “perceived risk” the MTF and other surveys measure. And as long as middle class people (and, importantly, those who aspire to middle class status) don’t have to bear any substantial direct costs for maintaining this form of “messaging” it will continue. Next time you hear a drug warrior say something like “what kind of message does talk of legalizaiton send to the children?”, please pause to ponder the enormity of a statement typically passed off as pandering drivel. Folks, the drug war ain’t the product of a conspiracy to enslave America or plant the seeds of fascism (unless one understands the proper origins fascism in the resentment and bitterness of the socially enervated petite bourgeoisie); its origins are far more mundane.

    “Advise and consent and open hearings to provide public feedback is part of the political process of representative democracy. These battles are going to be fought in the legislatures. If it were simply a matter of affirming Constitutional liberty, court decisions would be sufficient to overturn drug prohibition. But those court decisions have not been forthcoming. The judicial sector has repeatedly rejected such appeals, in the arena of drug law. They’ve held that the danger to public health and civic well-being trumps individual liberty. And it doesn’t matter what those of us who disagree think about that, because we aren’t the judicial majority. ”

    cabdriver is right about the first part; drug policy is essentially a political question, regardless of how much libertarians try to frame it as solely a question of fundamental rights. But courts don’t need to judge the truth or falsity of claims about the dangers of drugs; they need only be deferential to the will of the majority as expressed through the legislative process (rather than “activist” in countering majoritarian will). This means that reformers who favor legalizing all drugs aren’t outside of some “judicial majority” but rather are well outside of the political majority.

    Well I’ve said too much and now I’m tired. I’d love to hear your good-faith comments/criticism.

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  • DdC

    Cabby, donworry, soon we will know…

    Marijuana: the law vs. 12 million people
    Life magazine Oct 31, 1969. 25-35

    If we don’t cut off the head it won’t die.
    It will only grow another tail, again and again and again.

    Local initiatives are very necessary and carry momentum as emergency measures. But only exposing the subrafuge and hiding the physics of Ganja and Hemp with self appointed moralists edifications. No more redundantly retesting and more diversions and stalling. Hemp is being produced and sold, Ganja horticulture has advanced to ancient China status, with patient feedback clones provide consistency. No schwag leaves, stems and buds. No chemicals, totally certifiably organic buds not only without government subsidies and bailouts. While their tax paid mostly ditchweed eradicators hovered in their helicopters searching for patients herbal relief, only to yank it out and burn it. American lives for statistics should piss off every flag jerker out there.

    Favorite Bud: Grape Krush
    flavor-loaded, super-yielding

    Until honesty and integrity via checks and balance, oversights, play a roll, policy and research will continue to be diverted, stalled and red herrings keeping it a schedule#1. AND as long as Californians permit government to lie about, cheat and try to tweak prop 215 we the people will be forced to jump through hoops and the poor will be disenfranchised once again. Many think pot is not their problem. Tax paid government officials, media and the prison industrial complex and etc etc etc profiting on the Ganjawar, can lie and manipulate and no one cares. Ends justifying means. And the sheople bowed and prayed to the neon gods they made.

    San Diegans: Support Eugene Davidovich
    Unfortunately the district attorney of San Diego, Bonnie Dumanis, thinks that she not only should enforce the law, but make her own and has declared marijuana illegal in San Diego.

    Maybe its our integrity along with the governments that needs work. Without the laws of physics on our side I’d say forgetaboutit. Censorship is the only thing keeping truth and reality from the people. With Bennett as Drug Czar/Education Secretary and the huge influx of corporate involvement in school books. Removing the word hemp because it might confuse the kids. Removing medicinal cannabis bottles from the Museums. The only stories for 3 generations come from kill em all DAREyl Gates, father of SWAT. Its not a wonder why the people seem so strange and get mean when you bring it up. Mind warpage and abstinence of reality. Administrated Education Depravation.

    “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”
    ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

    Overturning any lie is the priority of preserving the Constitution. Nothing can stand or be built on a lie for any good to we the people. Only profits for a few or a portion of we the people. Un-American traitors. Cops get paid by tax payers and have no right to be speaking publicly about policy. That is not their jobs. They are only paid to enforce the law, not build cases for the DA to prosecute. These pencil neck geeks writing policy bastardize the basic policy of who we are. Cops should not be paid enemies. They should uphold the law not judge the individual, neutral.

    “those who do not learn from the past,
    are condemned to repeat it.”

    ~ George Santayana

    Or continue it, no profit in ending it, win or lose.

    There were three drug thug zealots out of the SE GA/FLA area. I assumed they were drinking swamp water. Barr, Mica and McCullum. 4 with Knewt writing to JAMA in favor of RxGanja, while advocating the DEAth Penalty for more than two oz’s. Viscious savage contempt for Americans choosing the safer alternative, Ganja.

    If you go to the Libertarian site page on Crime, Step 2. End Prohibition. I’d say Barr’s stopped drinking, still has utopian notions of many hard core Libertarians but compared to the status weird GOPerversions and Biraq Obombo for Peace, Seems to have a fare grasp of reality towards personal responsibility and prohibition. The others are still selling misery. Florida Reinfested With McKillum. Knewty on Fox, Mica like fungus and the C.S.A. These elected lobbyists keep sliming their way back into government. I wonder if Bob hit the Bong. To go from blocking a citizens initiative inactment, after blocking the vote count for the first time since Jim Crow. Hummm, Same area did produce the Allman Bros. Lil Richard and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd So Barr is still hanging in there.

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  • BruceM

    cabdriver: I didn’t say all laws and regulations were wrong, I just believe there is a strong presumption that freedom should be the default. Only when that presumption is rebutted through clear and convincing evidence of need is freedom rightfully abrogated by a law, regulation, etc. For example, there is more than sufficient evidence that our freedom to commit murder should be deprived. That’s a freedom I am perfectly willing to give up. Society would collapse without depriving ourselves of that freedom. If I can kill you then you can kill me, and anyone can kill anyone else. But the default state of things is for the freedom to commit murder to be in effect. All else equal I’d rather have a freedom than not have it, even if it’s one that I would likely never want to use.

    We have way too many laws. Way too many regulations. I think there should be a limit of 50 criminal laws, at most. That is 50 ‘crimes’ punishable by the state. Even that is more than enough. 2-3 dozen is about right IMHO. Many things, like gambling, prostitution, are rights that have not been rebutted by sufficient evidence of need. The rights to make, sell, possess and use drugs are perfectly legitimate and the state has tried to show a need to deprive us of those rights, and has consistently failed.

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  • kaptinemo

    Micbearing, a masterful exposition, and I’m glad to read it.

    But obviously, I have a few points of argument.

    In examining the early drug laws, the intent of them is quite plain, and indeed, ties in with your contention about this essentially being a class/culture phenomenon.

    In this particular case, the dominant elements of late 19th and early 20th century American society saw minority members of it to be barely civilized savages in need of constant ‘minding’ by The State, because of their (stereotypically) perceived inability to control their passions. (‘Cocaine n****rs, hopped-up peons, the ‘Yellow Peril’, ‘degenerate races’ etc.) That those minority elements were easily identifiable by racial characteristics played a huge role in that. If the intent was a rebuke of the perceived intrinsic lawlessness commonly thought by the dominant White culture to be an inherent quality of minorities, the laws performed quite well indeed in that regard.

    That the minorities in question were perceived by the then-majority as a kind of American version of a lumpenproletariat, incapable of being assimilated into the ‘mainstream’ by nature of those stereotypically perceived racial characteristics, didn’t help matters, and instead created a self-fulfilling prophecy guaranteed to promote contnuance of the policy.

    This process was carried on into the late 20th century partly under the same philosophical underpinning (racism) but had added to it a political dimension, as the Nixon Tapes reveal that Nixon viewed illicit drug use as being symptomatic of political dissent, and sought to strike back against that perceived threat by ratcheting up the punitive aspect of the drug laws.

    Again, your contention that it was a cultural rebuke is indeed valid, but the dominant elements of the ‘culture’ at the time were and remain politically authoritarian in nature, and thus ‘right-wing’. That generation which held those racial views and political orientation is slowly dying off, which is part why once-taboo subjects such as drug law reform are now making headway.

    Therefore, in my estimation, the charge of the drug laws being a tool of fascism, fascism itself being largely a creature of extreme right-wing political aspirations (and ol’ Tricky was about as right-wing as they come) still holds water. The drug laws were born as instruments of racial oppression, and later mutated into ones of political oppression. And so they remain.

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  • Jesse

    To me this whole thing is an issue of, “How far are you going to let your governement go before you draw the line?” People don’t see it as the government overstepping it’s bounds because in our culture it’s the norm…. however with all this recent scandal and government disaproval I feel like it’s the 60′s all over again… only smarter and more organized. people are waking up to the truth, it’s just a matter of time. keep on pushin’

    Ganja don’t make ya parinoid folks’… it just lets you see what you really need to be afraid of…

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  • ezrydn

    Cabdriver,

    Does a field goal over the California uprights give us such a win?

    I’ve changed my tact when I wear my LEAP tee shirt, mostly through airport security (talk about the gawkers!). When the proverbial question comes “WHY?” I say, to save the children. Then, I hit hard and heavy aobut how cartels don’t care who they sell to and evidently, you don’t either. Otherwise, you’ll put iy in the care of pharmacies where the other stuff is kept. Hit’em where it hurts. Use the children in your discussions. It works.

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  • BruceM

    well said kaptinemo.

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  • it ain’t about “legalizing drugs” — thus, it is retarded to take the tack of “legalizing” one drug at a time. as i’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, cocaine, meth and fentanyl are all more “legal” than marijuana is.

    this is not a fight over the relative goodness or badness of intoxicants — instead it is about recognizing and more importantly PROTECTING individual liberty. you have the absolute right to do to yourself as you see fit — and no one has a “right” to kill you in the name of “preventing” you from harming yourself.

    the protection of individual liberty is the entire purpose of “America” — we simply need to live up to the charter handed down to us by the Founders.

    the drug war is an entirely American fabrication that has been forced by us upon the rest of the world — thus, it is OUR responsibility to set things right again. to that extent, we need to fully recognize that “legalizing” marijuana still leaves (literally) a world of carnage in its wake.

    we have all of the data we need to prove that the ills associated with drug abuse have been greatly exaggerated. while there are individual “concerns” expressed about various aspects of drug use, ultimately our job as “reformers” is to educate people, address their issues and prove to them that it is the entire enterprise of drug prohibition that is morally WRONG.

    for those who champion the “one small step for man” approach, i have two simple questions: how much more carnage do you want inflicted against the world in your name, and: how long do you think you’ll be alive?

    if you try to crawl to the finish line i’m afraid you’ll be dead long before you even get close.

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  • micbearing

    kaptinemo,

    Thanks for the response. First off, I definitely agree with your characterization of history. Most early drug laws were directed against the racial, ethnic or class “other” and were in effect people control rather than drug control. Even the American temperance movement of the 19th Cen. was basically an Anglo-evangelical, nativist reaction to “white ethnic”, Catholic immigration. When many people learn about this sordid history the are rightly shocked, and often begin to rethink their assumptions.

    But I think you err when tracing this legacy into the more recent drug war, particularly the one beginning in the 1980s that bookmarked an era of relative tolerance for drug use. I don’t think that the parents’ movement was such a virulent reaction to widespread MJ use among middle class youth because they thought their kids were being corrupted by dirty Mexicans (or becoming more like them); rather, the fear of drugs goes deeper than just their past association with undesirable and marginal groups. Intoxication and recreational drug use do not have an easy fit with core middle class values of thrift, industriousness and self-reliance. Despite the ubiquity of alcohol and tobacco consumption (again, the product of our cultural heritage), our society’s tolerance of this and other purely “hedonistic” pleasures remains grudging, tolerated only insofar as it supports legitimate business practices and wealth creation. It’s hard to imagine a modern society where rampant intoxication would be tolerated (outside of tightly regulated “play” time), and the more powerfully intoxicating certain drugs are (and the more likely they are to be used compulsively) the more likely our society is attempt vigorous control. That middle class fears about certain drugs are inordinate should not obscure the fact that many of their fears are justified, and prohibition is (for them) a relatively low cost and uncomplicated way of protecting THEIR youth. When reformers repeat the witty slogan that “you can get over an addiction but never a conviction” they’re obscuring the fact that most of the people who support prohibition AND either use drugs themselves or have friends and family that use are highly unlikely to ever get a conviction. Reformers know this, but seem to believe that middle class folk will care about incarceration and collateral costs when born by others. Typically, they won’t.

    So what’s the point of all these admittedly nuanced distinctions? I think it matters a great deal when seeking to craft effective approaches to drug policy reform. If, as you say, racism fueled past prohibitory efforts, its clear in an age where most black leaders at the community level support even more vigilant enforcement, NOT legalization, that the issue of race and support for the drug war is complicated to say the least. When people like William Bennett say they don’t hear inner city leaders arguing for legalization they’re generally correct, and the tension between people from the communities who bear the worst burdens of drugs and the drug war and politically minded reformers is palpable, especially when one steps into a policy discussion that includes both.

    If prohibition has morphed into an instrument of “political oppression”, than this assumes that drug use is a legitimate cultural characteristic of those who the dominant group seek to repress politically. Again, though this dynamic makes a good deal of sense when seeking to understand why a relatively innocuous drug like MJ has for so long been the subject of such absurd slander, I think it has far less relevance to the other currently illicit drugs. I cannot imagine a future where regular use of the hard drugs becomes a commonplace and accepted norm of a majority, or near-majority, of Americans. Attempts have been made to incorporate powerful psychoactives into transformative and “countercultural” social movements, but these failed miserably, largely because intoxication is more limited in its value for spiritual and transcendent experience than the hype would have us believe. I think that reformers only hurt themselves by discounting the dangers of chronic recreational drug use (of any kind) or explaining away the complex political and social dynamics that have produced drug prohibition as easily explicable, wanton acts of right-wing oppression. Nixon vastly increased federal drug control spending and inaugurated the “war on drugs”, but he spent 2/3 of the money on a national network to treat heroin users, featuring the wildly controversial (then as it still is now) methadone as its centerpiece. Leftists of the time (including Black Panthers and assorted white radicals) argued that methadone was a tool of the racist, exploitative capitalist system to enslave blacks and the poor in addiction and dependence on the state. How should the question of authoritarianism be framed in this instance?

    Finally, to our friends, the “partisans of liberty”, the urge to sweep away all support for prohibition with a big libertarian broom must be resisted, not only because it is an intellectually lazy cop-out (why do libertarians assume that real reform can be achieved by constantly badgering people to unequivocally accept their principles?), but it’s also wildly out of line with basic democratic principles (you know, the OTHER core American political legacy?). This is NOT simply an issue of overreach by “the government”; the vast majority of Americans want these drugs illegal (for better or worse), and, honestly, the drugs themselves do not have so much redeeming value that many are willing to defend their use. I truly believe that, when it’s all said and done, our policy toward the so-called hard drugs will be much more liberal than it is today. But this will require social and cultural changes that policy can do little to hasten, though it can do a great deal to postpone. In the meantime, we need to stop pounding the table over millenia-old philosophical discussions and do something in the here and now to effectively deal with drug problems and the problems of prohibition to the greatest extent possible. “Incrementalism” is the ONLY way progress will be made. Let’s not forget that a number of early prohibitory movements got their steam not only from racism but also the distaste for the nasty realities of relatively free commercial drug markets (think patent medicines). Outright legalization and commercialization is likely to produce similar problems and backlash today, with the retreat back to prohibition and the disgrace of the reform movement as its consequence.

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  • jayrollinhippy

    I have sat and red many of the post here and agree with many postions here. But now we are nearing the tipping point in the WOD debate and it seems to me it is timme that we attack the foundation of the present Wod postion of save the children.
    WE need to make it clear that what the politicos do actually works in reverse . Hasher punitive measures aimed at saving the children really makes explotation of the children A much more profitabe action for the cartels and criminal distributors of drugs.
    So where are the bumper stickers like
    Save The children Legalize tax and regulate
    Drug Dealers Dont ID legalize
    lgalize a better way
    How many can you think of for a bumper sticker campaign

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  • kaptinemo

    “…I think you err when tracing this legacy into the more recent drug war, particularly the one beginning in the 1980s that bookmarked an era of relative tolerance for drug use. I don’t think that the parents’ movement was such a virulent reaction to widespread MJ use among middle class youth because they thought their kids were being corrupted by dirty Mexicans (or becoming more like them); rather, the fear of drugs goes deeper than just their past association with undesirable and marginal groups.”

    I agree with you, but with a caveat: the formulation of the ‘parent’s movement’ was synonymous with what amounted to a revanchement of right-wing sentiments amongst a vocal minority that were expressed politically in the election of Reagan.

    I say a minority, as, is usually the case with American politics, the majority of the electorate that can vote usually does not, and so a minority that can give the impression of a loud majority courtesy of volume of message is usually mistaken by pols as being a de facto majority.

    The parent’s movement’s credo could best be described as “because I said so, that’s why.” They disdained any use of rationality to sway their captive audience, because they saw that audience – their children – as literal captives within their homes, and wished to assert dominance via force rather than reason. The latter course of action was seen as being ‘weak’, the kind of thing ‘libruhls’ do. I contend that such concerns with impressions rather than substance governed the thinking of those parents…and was a hallmark of the right-wing philosophy which politically dominated much of the 1980′s and 1990′s. And symptomatic of that philosophy was the ramping up of the DrugWar, which up to that point had become moribund courtesy of the harm reduction path taken by the Carter Administration’s Dr. Peter Bourne.

    In the past, I’ve suggested that those who wanted to know about that period of history read at least two books, one that was written at the exact time the backlash began (1980-1981) and one that was published years later, which went into great detail about the process of how the right-wing authoritarian philosophy had come to direct anti-drug policy in the US for essentially three decades.

    I also contend that we are, only now, after those almost 3 decades of de facto authoritarianism, beginning the societal pendular swing back from authoritarianism to a mid-level position, wherein it is becoming politically ‘safe’ to discuss concepts such as drug law reform.

    Perhaps I am wrong to think so, but having become old enough to earn the sobriquet of “Old Fart”, I’ve had plenty of opportunity – and training (B.A as a sociologist) to discern the shifting of societal patterns, and I firmly believe that we are indeed heading towards a period where drug law reform can be accomplished…if only because of financial necessity.

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  • dear “incrementalists,”

    in 1858 if you were working to end slavery, would you propose giving them wall-to-wall carpeting and fancy silverware to “make things better” for them?

    just wondering…

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  • DdC

    It’s more than clear, if we want Freedom,
    we have to cage the Republicans.
    Demokrats are such wimps, they follow anyone.
    GOPerverts are poison to a Free Society.
    No other group terrorizes more citizens.
    No other group harms more citizens.
    No other group is so diabolically retarded.
    Cage the GOPerverts,
    and throw wet sponges at them every morening.
    Our country can’t afford anymore wars for profit.
    Including the Ganjawar. Cage the Republickers!
    Time to go Piss on Drug Warrior Graves

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  • “dear “incrementalists,”

    in 1858 if you were working to end slavery, would you propose giving them wall-to-wall carpeting and fancy silverware to “make things better” for them?”

    It’s a staggeringly invalid analogy to make a comparison between drug war persecutions and slavery. And the suggestion provided in an attempt to guilt-trip “incrementalists” in regard to drug law reform strategies is simply a non sequitur.

    No one is kowtowing to Drug Warriors by concentrating on marijuana legalization. To the contrary: the evidence indicates that we’re confounding them.

    Drug War, Zero Tolerance style, amounts to persecution of culture-alien behavior- but its proffered motivations also partake of other, more defensible practices of government, such as health and safety regulation. The problem arises when the logic of public health is trumped by the irrationality of persecution of the culture-alien, and by the fact that the reality of what transpires doesn’t even begin to match the ideal of the blueprint.

    That doesn’t remotely resemble legally encoded chattel slavery based on ascribed status (race). Chattel slavery is quite upfront about what it wants to achieve. It resorts to a lot less in the way of weird subterfuges.

    The de facto status of the persecuted under slavery is bondage, incarceration.

    The de facto status of those persecuted under the drug laws is of a different order: the status of the disenfranchised, the marginalized, and to some extent that of fugitives and runaways- runaways with different levels of impunity at that, granted as privileges on the basis of social class, racial privilege, community status, age, and to a lesser extent religious and political leanings. Some of the runaways are in almost no danger of being caught, as a practical matter. And if they are caught, the penalty that they’ll pay is negligible if they’re of a favored status.

    The status of “drug user” is, as a rule, inherently concealable. It has to be “found out.”

    The status of “slave” in the 18th-19th century USA was by and large inescapable. And it was more than a matter of disenfranchisement, discrimination, and marginalization. You were property, and born that way.

    As to comparisons between slaves and profiteers in the illegal underground economy- there the analogy breaks down even further, when unpacked. For example: some of the professional criminals dealing the drugs plainly feel and act as if they never had it so good. They’re invested in the status quo, as beneficiaries of privilege.

    That’s the real character of the Drug War, as it’s prosecuted in American society: not that it de facto enslaves all drug users, but that it replaces a society of common rights and a government of integrity and rule of law with a maze of privilege, caprice, and corruption.

    And, as to the one great similarity- both slavery and Drug War persecutions constitute examples of deprivations of rights by the power of the State- no one in the days of slavery ever argued against practices like manumission on the grounds that “no slave should ever become free unless all are free.”

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  • “as i’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, cocaine, meth and fentanyl are all more “legal” than marijuana is.”

    All the more reason to concentrate on cannabis drug law reform, as far as I’m concerned.

    Also: consider that there are some other psychoactive botanical substances I could name that one can easily purchase through the mail for a modest price, and with zero-to-negligible risk of incurring any legal penalty, as long as one keeps their conduct discreet and confines their activities to personal use. De facto decrim, with some examples I could name. (A status I heartily endorse, considering the total lack of outrages to the public order and well-being that have ensued as a result of that laissez faire status.)

    But try doing the same with cannabis, and you’re quite liable to draw serious heat for a Federal felony offense.

    ?

    I have serious disagreements with the notion that people devoted to cannabis law reform are somehow “chickening out”, and pursuing something that’s nothing more than a window-dressing pseudo-reform- or even more pejoratively, begging for a handout from our masters. The people doing that scolding don’t seem to understand the difference between real-time positive results and their favored philosophical abstractions.

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  • micbearing:

    “If prohibition has morphed into an instrument of “political oppression”, than this assumes that drug use is a legitimate cultural characteristic of those who the dominant group seek to repress politically. Again, though this dynamic makes a good deal of sense when seeking to understand why a relatively innocuous drug like MJ has for so long been the subject of such absurd slander, I think it has far less relevance to the other currently illicit drugs. I cannot imagine a future where regular use of the hard drugs becomes a commonplace and accepted norm of a majority, or near-majority, of Americans. Attempts have been made to incorporate powerful psychoactives into transformative and “countercultural” social movements, but these failed miserably, largely because intoxication is more limited in its value for spiritual and transcendent experience than the hype would have us believe.”

    It’s “more limited”, but it isn’t valueless- I speak of the psychedelics, here. And there’s no way to raise that potential in an illegal environment. Time and time again, it starts out benign and even praiseworthy, and often continues that way for some time. And then the professional criminals move in. And even when they don’t there’s that terrible feeling that it’s only possible to take the experience so far, because it’s ruled as illegitimate, illusory, worthless, or worse by the wider society- a status which is not to be changed as long as the behaviors are subject to legal persecution.

    There’s an element of inebriation in psychedelic experience. And that can manifest quite strongly. But that isn’t all it is. Despite that, given the conditions, it often gets consigned to a realm equivalent to an alcohol drunk. no better, with no more potential.

    And the “political oppression” has been far from negligible. A history of being “drug-free” has amounted to a litmus test for nearly every district of public office, for instance. Excluding the president, of course…and a few other elite-deviant districts, or at any rate districts with a tolerance for elite deviance. (“Elite”, “Deviance” and “drugs”- three quite heavily weighted terms and categories, in close proximity to each other.) And even there, on the face of it, things get phonied up for public relations fodder. “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, etc.

    Meanwhile: somehow, most of the rank and file advocates of alternative energy causes for the last 30 years have had to suffer through being slimed as “potheads”/”acidheads”/”hippies”, etc. Same with social justice movements…a tactic tremendously effective at shutting down debate, and marginalizing and disenfranchising social movements. After all, you either resemble that remark, or you don’t. If you do, you’re cast into the Outer Darkness, as far as electability or influence in the media and the public. And if you don’t…well, sadly enough, that’s quite often due to a streak of mendacity that trumps allegiance to principle. Newt Gingrich used to smoke pot and advocate for legalization, for instance. But he “got religion” on that score and became a hardline Drug Warrior, almost certainly because it served his political ambitions as a Protege, to fall in line with the cultural prejudices of his Mentors. That made it easy to talk himself into it…who knows, Newt may even believe his own bullshit on that, by now.

    Simply as a matter of fact: the Drug Laws inherently empower the forces of right-wing authoritarianism. Any time rights are transformed into privileges, that’s a philosophical victory for the right-wing. It’s an old game- it goes back at least as far as the Inca royalty, who forbade coca to the peasants and slaves, while reserving it for themselves. You know, Harry Anslinger made sure that Senator Joe McCarthy got his morphine delivered by personal courier. RHIP.

    It’s also terribly important to realize that the USA has always had a terrribly and uniquely wicked strain of religious hysteria running through it.

    Full disclosure: I’m a self-identified Christian. But not like that. The crazies run Christianity in this country. And this is not a new phenomenon. I’ve just been reading this book, Ardent Spirits…the historic luminaries of the grand sweeping tide of Alcohol Prohibition, the people who led that movement, they were hysterical personalities. Fanatics. Not well people. If you’ve read the life story of Carry Nation, that was not a well-adjusted person. Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, Howard Hyde Russell, Wayne Bidwell Wheeler…the people who made implementing Prohibition their life’s mission were a twisted bunch of people. I’m not big on Freudian psychoanalytical just-so stories, but in the cases I’m talking about, it isn’t a matter or weaving an interpretive narrative out of whole cloth just to nail someone for their social conservatism. These people were seriously aberrant. And it was bound up with a very American-style Christian religious hysteria. Quasi-millenarianism. It was like they were trying to manifest the Millenium, through enforced sobriety.

    In a country that…any 19th century European would tell you that Americans couldn’t- wouldn’t- hold their liquor. Guzzlers. Cowboys. Frontier rogues.

    For that matter, even the Puritans drank. A lot. Even in the morning. Including the preachers. It’s well-recorded.

    That’s the heads and tails of it. My country is craa-zee.

    It also needs to be pointed out- Prohibition is even deeper than a racist campaign. It’s a misguided crusade against Heresy. “Puritianism is that sneaking suspicion that someone somewhere is having a good time.” Having A Good Time = Heresy. Mencken lived in that age, and knew where those people were at.

    I’ve managed to take a bit of comfort from reading that history- that if it seems like the Prohibitionists are strong these days, 100 years ago, they used to reaally run it. But undeniably, that’s still a powerful cultural strain we’re up against.

    Having said all that, micbearing: I think you’ve made some very powerful points. And they are not to be finessed by non-responsive philosophical sophistries.

    Neither are the forces of the opposition to be overwhelmed by a full frontal Charge of the Light Brigade (folks realize what happened to them, right?)

    The fact is: this is a weird country. Pointing out that the drug laws are to a large extent based on religious hysteria doesn’t go very far when one is dealing with that huge fraction of Americans who are, for all practical purposes, religious hysterics. It isn’t that everyone with a touch of that malady is beyond listening to reason- but there are ways of doing that without getting peoples backs up, by directly challenging or ridiculing something as cherished as someones religiosity.

    It makes much more sense to simply point out that the Zero Tolerance Drug Prohibitions aren’t accomplishing their intention, and then to point out a few things that may appear counterintuitive on first exposure to the ideas, but which can be easily shown to make good sense: for instance, the idea that legalization with age restrictions and licensing actually works much better at keeping teenagers away from chronic exposure to drugs than Prohibition’s kindling of an underground economy that, in a fatal irony, pretty much relies on a continually emerging labor pool of juveniles to staff the illegal trade at the retail level.

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  • DdC

    It’s a staggeringly invalid analogy to make a comparison between drug war persecutions and slavery. And the suggestion provided in an attempt to guilt-trip “incrementalists” in regard to drug law reform strategies is simply a non sequitur.

    Morality is always the product of terror;
    its chains and strait-waistcoats are fashioned
    by those who dare not trust others,
    because they dare not trust themselves, to walk in liberty.

    – Aldous Huxley

    Ganjawar: Prison Slave Labor, Rape & Pillage Deterrent

    At the same time, the United States blasts China for the the use of prison slave labor, engaging in the same practice itself. Prison labor is a pot of gold. No strikes, union organizing, health benefits, unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation to pay.

    It is legal in the United States to use slave labor. The 13th Amendment of the Constitution states that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United States.”

    Besides the slave labor for corporations, prison paraphernalia is a multi billion dollar biz. Private prison construction. Haliburdon food catering service. Jumpsuits and flip flops for 2.2 million! Blackwater security, Guns billyclubs, mace and bullets and hiring more guards. Plus keeping the prohibition prices high enough to bring violence or to resell the evidence. Confiscations, homes forfeitured, kids removed for foster care profits. Selling the tools of the trade. Just burn the Constitution and Take over the media. Censor the school books and give grants to Ganja gossip groups.

    872,721 marijuana arrests in 2007 Inhaling or Not

    Kathmandu and the Black Prince

    Kill the Messenger

    Nixon Lie Keeps on Killing

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  • DdC

    “Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose,
    Nothing ain’t worth nothing, but it’s free.”
    ~ Kris Kristofferson — Me & Bobby Mcgee

    Constitution Day 2008

    “Rauschgiftbekaempfung” Meant literally “The combatting of drugs”
    It was the unholy alliance of Nazi eugenics and american prohibition.

    http://drugwarrant.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=352

    Human Rights and the Drug War Aug 22 2008
    Dedicated to the nonviolent prisoners of the US Drug War, to their families, and to all who work for their freedom and to restore respect for all Human Rights.

    Italian fascism and German Nazism had their admirers within the U.S. business community and the corporate owned press. Bankers, publishers, and industrialists, including the likes of Henry Ford, traveled to Rome and Berlin to pay homage, receive medals, and strike profitable deals. Many did their utmost to advance the Nazi war effort, sharing military industrial secrets and engaging in secret transactions with the Nazi government, even after the United States entered the war. During the 1920s and early 1930s, major publications like Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Saturday Evening Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Christian Science Monitor hailed Mussolini as the man who rescued Italy from anarchy and radicalism.

    “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… Corporations have bee enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
    Abraham Lincoln, November 12, 1864

    Al Capone and Watergate were red herrings to divert the countries attention from the Fascist acts of eliminating competition. Booze or Ganja/Hemp. While GOPerverts and Demonkrats bicker over nonsense.

    As soon as your born they make you feel small, By giving you no time instead of it all, Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all, A working class hero is something to be, A working class hero is something to be. They hurt you at home and they hit you at school,
    They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool, Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules, A working class hero is something to be, A working class hero is something to be. When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty odd years, Then they expect you to pick a career, When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear, A working class hero is something to be, A working class hero is something to be. Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV, And you think you’re so clever and classless and free, But you’re still fucking peasents as far as I can see, A working class hero is something to be, A working class hero is something to be. There’s room at the top they are telling you still, But first you must learn how to smile as you kill, If you want to be like the folks on the hill, A working class hero is something to be. A working class hero is something to be. If you want to be a hero well just follow me,
    Working Class Hero by John Lennon

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  • We all know to aim for the head when up against zombies, and as a rule cutting off the head of some vile beast tends to improve its behavior.

    Yet when we find ourselves cutting off heads on a daily basis only to see new ones grow back it’s a sign that we haven’t found the hydras weak spot.

    Incrementalism is a good thing, because it takes one step at a time and we don’t get overwhelmed by the odds we’re up against.

    However, incrementalism without a theoretic framework is like looking intensely at your feet for the next step: you don’t have any idea where you’re going or if there’s any higher purpose to all the walking.

    Bad incrementalism like the “one drug at a time” approach sounds lovely, but I wonder how cool it sounds when someone says “let’s end racism one race at a time”.

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  • Jesper, in the case of a “one-drug-at-a-time” incrementalist approach, we aren’t talking human populations; we’re talking about drugs.

    It’s axiomatic in the anti-racism movement that racial disparities are fallacious, and in fact illusory; the human species is one people.

    The same is simply not true of drugs. Mind-altering drugs require different approaches, because each one tends to be manifestly different in the risks and the amount of hazard presented- both to the person using them, and to public health.

    I’m not going to feel sorry for poor heroin, being so grossly discriminated against compared to caffeine. They’re chemical substances, not human beings. And I think there are sound reasons why some considered thought be given to the postulate that access to heroin should not be equal to access to No-Doz. Etc.

    And DdC: yes, I realize that many people being put in prison are subjected to forced labor in this country. That does not negate the points I’ve made about the differences between the status of drug users subject to legal penalties for their personal choices, and the status of people born into a status of chattel slavery. If the penalty for a first possession offense was life without parole, the conditions would be more closely analogous (although still hardly identical.) But that isn’t how matters play out in this country.

    Believe me, if either of those two arguments were run by a Drug Warrior with debate skills, the invalid analogies and hyperbole presented would be drawn, quartered, and held up for public display, and those both of those assertions could be made to look awfully silly.

    I think it’s absolutely necessary to premise arguments on firmer logical ground than that.

    And please, please don’t act like I just got here! I know about the prison-industrial complex, etc. But no one is going to let people out of jail if they’re convinced they’ve committed an offense that deserves incarceration. The crux of the argument needs to be that there are people unjustly in jail, for conduct that doesn’t deserve to be punished. The numbers are an indication that something is out of whack, but simply presented as statistics, they don’t make a self-evident argument for repeal of the drug laws. It’s too easy for the other side to insist that the actual problem is an excess of law-breakers- that a high jail population is the result of lack of respect for law and order. “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”, and all those other homilies. The argument needs to be about something more substantial than the numbers, or it just goes around in circles.

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  • Surely there are differences between drugs, and I wouldn’t mind them being regulated differently.

    However, I thought everyone knew that this is not a war on drugs but a war on people who use certain drugs?

    So yes, in layer one, racism and drug discrimination seems to target two qualitatively different types of entities, but peel that layer away and the analogy holds water. The population of humans enjoying alcohol and tobacco go free, while the populations enjoying certain other drugs are put behind friggin’ bars if not even murdered by government. While not segregated along neat lines defined by skin color the many different user groups are in themselves minority populations.

    And that leaves another layer open for analysis: us guys in the reform movement.

    What I find appalling is the attitude from the “legalize only cannabis” group when they try to get their ONE DRUG legalized “because it’s safer”, while at the same time they employ the other drugs – and by proxy their ver human USERS – as an argument for their one drug. Their preferred scare-drug has always been heroin. Heroin, heroin, heroin. (May I suggest that everyone go smoke some … it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, that’s for sure.)

    Basically what they want is to join the good company of alcohol and then slam shut the door of prohibition – leaving and increasingly bloody nose on those unfortunate enough to be left behind by the cannabis-only movement.

    The implicit problem with this whole approach is that those who want legal cannabis ends up endorsing the War on Drugs, because for all intents and purposes they want the War on Drugs to continue unabated – just not for their pet intoxicant.

    So there we are again. This one group of people wants privileges of freedom, yet are clearly willing to deny the same freedoms to people who use opiods, LSD, mushrooms, Ecstasy or some other chemical. Not that any person in those vilified user groups have trampled upon anyone else’s rights.

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  • I think you’re misconstruing the case, Jesper. You can’t say what’s going on in the minds of everyone in the cannabis drug law reform movement. The fact that they’re focusing their attention on cannabis does not amount to throwing all other users of illegal drugs under the bus.

    I should also note that California, at least, passed a voter initiative that decreed that 1st time drug offenders- of all types- receive some form of therapeutic treatment, instead of jail. That may not equate to decriminalizing for personal possession, but it beats the former approach.

    “This one group of people wants privileges of freedom, yet are clearly willing to deny the same freedoms to people who use opiods, LSD, mushrooms, Ecstasy or some other chemical. Not that any person in those vilified user groups have trampled upon anyone else’s rights.”

    That isn’t true. What I’m hearing there sounds like pique, in fact. Because cannabis users put themselves and their reputations on the line over and over again to demonstrate that they’re much better and more productive people than the lies told about them.

    So my question is- where’s the Heroin Users Rights movement? Where’s the Cocaine Users Rights Movement? Why should it be necessary for me to stand up for people who aren’t willing to take the heat of standing up for themselves?

    The only drug users I’ve met in the drug law reform movement who are willing to put their own life stories up to counter stereotypes and calumnies are cannabis users and psychedelics users. They’re upfront and unashamed about their advocacy. They’re out there willing to give first person testimony that “No, we aren’t lazy/brain damaged/unstable/stupid/unproductive, etc.”

    And I think that distinction speaks to a difference in the effects that various substances have on the people who take them. Where’s the “cocaine community”, the “heroin addict community”? There isn’t one. Until one shows up, the presumption will be that this is so because the users are incapable of getting one together.

    The medical and sociological/anthropological fact is that the hard pleasure drugs are, at their core, private pursuits. The prosocial aspects that are found among cannabis smokers, coffeehouse denizens, or in alcohol tavern or brew pubs are substantially lacking in the case of the more powerful and addictively reinforcing substances.

    There’s a difference between soft drugs and hard drugs, okay? If you don’t think so, I invite you to argue otherwise. But the street will tell you different. It’s the overwhelming case that people don’t break into cars and houses and steal from their friends so they can keep a pot stash on hand. Coke users, smack users, meth users, on the other hand…they all have an extensive and well-deserved reputation for being sketchy and behaving antisocially. Ripping off people, including their friends and family. Caring about nothing more than their single-minded pursuit of more dope. Often incapable or inadequate as far as applying themselves to social responsibilities- like raising children, to name one problem that looms large for fanciers of those drugs- for reasons directly related to their personal consumption of those substances.

    If that’s nothing more than a false stereotype, then I recommend that the users of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine ought to get together and start Anti-Defamation Leagues for their respective preferred substances, to defend themselves and their drugs of choice against the slanders and libels levelled at them.

    I’ll be waiting.

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  • cabdriver — you flap your gums a lot but don’t really have much to say.

    in case you forgot, the “experiment” of making just one drug “legal” again occurred in 1933.

    so how long do you think we should have to wait for the miracle of medical marijuana to put an end to the crime against humanity called “war on drugs?”

    extra points for brevity, if you can manage it.

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  • My impression is that I don’t have much to say- that you can respond to, as far as offering either refutation or support. Hence the drive-by snark.

    When I attempt to be brief, I succeed only in being obscure.

    I date my activism back to 1978. (And you?) The lack of instant results or fast progress is not something for which I blame either myself or the drug law reform movement.

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  • DdC

    Cabby take the scenic route,
    your memorizing talking points are boring.
    You want to maintain the dysfunction of treating symptoms, not prevent or cure the parasites causing it. You’re armed with ms cleo predictions of the future that never pan out or are directly caused by the prohibition, you wish to maintain, except not for your own selfish piece of the pie. For this you trade the rights of millions of Americans and billions of the world’s population, Lapping up imperialism, morphed into the drug war presently. Escalated to make up for the Cold War premature ejaculation. But nonetheless, adamant about feeding the beast for a few hall passes. Incrementally since 1918, this time. There have always been prohibitions on vice, always profiteers using good intender dupes blind faith ends justifying means. When your predecessors spouted incremental progress, predicting the mood of the public, then Klintoon with the same coward whispering in his ear as Obombo. 8 years of Cheney Boosh pointing automatic weapons at hospice patients no different than McCaffrey. Incremental Change, like Spare Change, like Conserving Compassion, cause those who know absolutely nothing about something but could might fear it and not feel pity for the sick and dying even, like they don’t now extraditing them from hospital beds. Jesus inhaled the Temple Incense, Santa Reindeer run on mushrooms, grow the fuck up and stop persecuting people with your soothsaying and greed, fear or insane repetition, never changing results just keep getting paid going in circles. Always assuming never just teaching them by showing them what others are doing. No effort to discuss it or on TV. Stoner flicks and Reefer Madhatters on the 6 o’clock news.

    I’d say it’s going to be very difficult to do much with the CSA
    Cabby the Hack?

    Then I’d say we’re a country of cowards and don’t deserve Ganja or Hemp and should just stop whining about our kids getting Asthma and Cancer cause it is what it is not a Constitutional attempt at democracy, with some controlled fascism. This greedy spoiled brat yuppie crap is not America. Banksers stealing are Bank robbers same as the crackhead with a gun that cost less than a bag of reefer.
    Pathological liars are not selective. Lying to obtain money may seem out of context for Wallmart Street? Or politicians?

    A.S.A. and others have petitioned for rescheduling and the DEA always ignores or turns it down. They are infallible after all. Science needs some guts to stand up to the politicians if nothing else but for their own integrity. 30 inch yardsticks to economize? Yet we let them and cops. Of all authorities on health and medicine, cops aren’t the ones that pop into my mind. Junkie pharmacologists or dosage titrations with outlawed paraphernalia serves the snitch pool/80% of cases. Serves the propagandist with real statistics not found with Ganja unless it’s made up with DAWN BS. Turn it upside down. Why would someone want crime? If we have spent $1 Trillion dollars arresting people for Ganja since 1937, who gets the money and do they want to fess up and give it back? It gets Uglier and this is only a brief contemplation.

    Scheduled drugs fall under parameters and definitions that cannabis doesn’t fit. Hemp is totally ridiculous. The fact the Feds roll and send joints proves its medicinal, the patents on cannabinoids also prove it has medicinal value and therefore can not by definition be a schedule#1 drug. Though that is the kicker, rescheduling to a #2 would free the Pharm fascists to exploit and still keep the plant outlawed. But it also states for a schedule #1 has to be a menace with no redeeming values and again Ganja doesn’t fit. No one has even overdosed. Not many rob banks to fund their doobie habit. European cops prefer it at soccer matches for quelling riots over booze rage. Driving too. The third stipulation is it has to be highly addictive, which past research proves it is not and no one has ever suffered debilitating results from quitting. Habitual to some but not by definition addictive. So it doesn’t fit.

    It was only included by Nixon to lump Hemp and RxGanja for the corporate world, not the citizens safety. During the red herring Watergate. Same as Booze prohibition and Ethanol. So if any Senator has integrity they should challenge its placement and remove it. The voters are ignorant only because of censorship, that has a cure called total transparency and basic Botany. It tis or it t’aint dude. Incrementalists appease the liars, ConPromise on human lives, 30 shekels of silver and a pat on the head. Anti-Choice Abortionists. Dead babies for oil we can grow in our own soil. Nutrition banned unless its imported, 98% of the vulgar term “marihuana” appeasers agree with is nothing but burlap. The same gullible nitwits prohibiting cigarettes, blaming tobacco for the chemicals added. Causing the poor to buy cheaper with more poisons to get sick being saved while second hand smoke from car tailpipes and smoke stacks choke more citizens, that Ganja might prevent. As it has done since the Gardening began. Good lapdoggies, now go fetch.

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  • Tonight inside The Opium Den I’ll be discussing incrementalism vs all-in as it relates to drug policy reform. 9pm eastern: thepiumden.net

    I invite everyone to tune in, and call in. The number: 727.493.2205

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  • DdC, for someone who’s accusing me of “taking the scenic route”: there’s a certain meandering and picaresque quality to your posts, as well.

    Ironically, DdC, you’re accusing me of being an “incrementalist”, a sellout, etc.- when I find myself in pretty much complete agreement with your personal position- or that portion of it which I’m able to winnow out of your more general commentary, at any rate. I can’t say that I’ve seen it put forth as a clearly outlined and comprehensive policy prescription. Perhaps you have a link to that somewhere.

    For that matter, I don’t see why your posts aren’t being criticized as “incrementalist”, DdC. Their content is overwhelmingly concerned with the single issue of cannabis law reform. I don’t hear you bringing up anything about how you’d handle putting a legal cocaine or heroin market in place, or how you’d deal with drug law reform on any other substance.

    Finally, as for this:

    “You’re armed with ms cleo predictions of the future that never pan out or are directly caused by the prohibition, you wish to maintain, except not for your own selfish piece of the pie.”

    I don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about. I’m not gaming for some piece of any pie.

    Show me these “predictions” I’ve supposedly made. I realize that it makes for a more extensive post, but unless my words are excerpted and counterpointed, I have a tough time getting a clear read on what’s being alleged. I have to infer it, instead- without a guarantee of anything like success in that regard. And if I get that wrong, we could go on for pages, fruitlessly talking past each other.

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  • You’re right that I can’t know what’s going on in everybody’s minds, and that was why I tried to be careful when I wrote this sentence:

    What I find appalling is the attitude from the “legalize only cannabis” group when they try to get their ONE DRUG legalized “because it’s safer”, while at the same time they employ the other drugs – and by proxy their very human USERS – as an argument for their one drug.

    I think that qualifies my statement and makes it specific and not sweeping.

    Clearly lots of people, even those who choose to work single-mindedly for cannabis legalizaton, have the solidarity and deep enough understanding that allow them to attain their own goals without needlessly trampling on their brothers and sisters.

    A bit of your other arguments seem to rest on that misunderstanding and I’ll try not to fault you for kicking over that straw man.

    So … the questions …

    Well, cannabis users have it easy. Cannabis users have never seen the stigmatization that other drug using groups have endured. It is simply less expensive to “out” one self. That, and MUCH fewer people use those other drugs, meaning that the cannabis movement has a vast amount of people to recruit from.

    On the street – as you put it – it doesn’t LOOK good with heroin addicts, does it? Well, I agree. Totally agree. Yet I also know the score off the streets, away from the media, and well – everybody’s afraid to admit much in the way of opiods outside the scene. The pot “user losers” are just pathethic stereotypes hitting way too much cereal while laughing themselves silly into academic oblivion, but the stereotypical “hard drug loser” has open sores, blood borne diseases like HIV and Hep. C. and they look half-dead to begin with.

    Hell, *I* don’t even particularly flash the fact that yes, occasionally I use opiods – including heroin.

    There’s a huge gap there. It sure gotta take balls that clank to equate the two.

    I’m sure you’ve seen things with your own eyes on the street. You should be aware that’s exactly what your opponents are saying about cannabis – they just KNOW how that terrible substance with fry your brain and make your future into pulp. They’ve seen it with their own eyes.

    Personally I find very little reason behind or use for the “soft” and “hard” drugs distinction. It’s a made up distinction that obscures the much more fundamental question of how a particular drug is dangerous. And even that sentence fraks up the fundamental question which is about how to use a particular drug with the least amount of risk involved.

    The hard drug/soft drug distinction applied to my kitchen would mean a separation of kitchen utensils in a “safe” and “not so safe” group. At which point we get to silly points such that sugar is “safe” while my chef’s knife is “not so safe”, because that sugar can’t kill you outright. It’s easy to make the case for sugar killing all of us before the knife does the same.

    So basically my position is that drugs are different, and that completely made-up categories like soft and hard drugs are counter-productive and can’t tell us anything meaningful about what their legal status should be.

    It even leads some people to write: “Coke users, smack users, meth users, on the other hand…they all have an extensive and well-deserved reputation for being sketchy and behaving antisocially

    Next time you hear someone say “Don’t smoke pot. Pot user are …. and pot is dangerous because …”, ’cause if you can deal it out, you gotta be able to take some back.

    You’re taking some high profile abusers and extending their stereotypical behavior to the users.

    I know many occasional users who use the stuff you mentioned above, and they’re by no means a bunch of bastards, nor are they anti-social.

    Now, I would have loved to say the following: you are absolutely, 100 percent WRONG when you say …” Trouble is I haven’t the faintest idea what you mean when you say “hard pleasure drugs are, at their core, private pursuits“.

    It’s hard to compete with the unrivaled niceness of sharing a joint between friends, laughing, eating and having a blast.

    Heroin certainly wouldn’t go on my “social” list, but then again I don’t particularly rate that drug as a very pleasurable drug that makes you go “yay”. It seems, though, to cause the same kind of pleasure in some people as if you and I had a knife removed from our backs. When you’re in pain the absence of pain can feel like nothing short of paradise pleasure. Out opiods into a body that isn’t in pain and it’s such a dull drug unless naseau is your thing.

    In terms of it’s effects I would put MDMA (Ecstasy) in the “hard pleasure drug” category, but that’s a drug almost impossible to enjoy completely without other people. You couldn’t find a more social drug in terms of enhancement and smoothness and it’s not for nothing they call it the “hug drug”.

    Depending on your temperament mushrooms, LSD, MDMA, methylone, AMT, cocaine, amphetamine/methditto and 2C-B can be used with other people and even in public places with hundreds or even thousands of people around you.

    I could go on forever on this topic, but I’m drifting off topic. On topic is, however, that to someone like me who has built up a fair bit of personal experience with a variety of drugs you sorta kinda sometimes come off a lot like those anti-pot drug virgin people who their fair share of opinions he drug.

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  • Brian, my preliminary impression of you is that you’re more concerned with Total Ideological Victory than you are with setting and accomplishing practical goals via persuading masses of citizens to constitute a grassroots popular movement, and then using their power to lean on legislators, doing regular old civics-style democracy.

    You don’t persuade people in a democracy by hectoring or shaming them. Nor do you simply assemble a database of facts and statistics, insist or imply that they speak for themselves, and brook no challenge to your stated conclusions. You have to debate your challengers. They’re liable to bring up objections, and it’s your responsibility to answer them, counter them, clarify them, and elaborate on your case. And that is the case no matter how well-grounded you may feel your rationalism to be, and no matter your ideological views.

    That’s part of what democracy is about. To some extent, I’ve been raising objections as a proxy for the opposition. Better you find a sparring partner for your ideas here than out in the public arena. Simply directing me to a database is not a substitute for open discourse.

    And if you’re going to hurl moral accusations or attempt to impugn the character of the opposition, you damn sure have to have caught them out doing something unethical. Because those allegations and imputations of motive are not to be put forth simply based on the fact that someone disagrees with your position.

    I’m not a professional politician. But if you’re going to accomplish anything in public policy in this country, a generous measure of political sense is more than important- it’s imperative. Unless you intend on shooting your way into power, that is.

    And I’m not ready to sign on to the Jacobin approach to politics in this country, right yet- certainly not based solely on anti-Prohibitionism. I’m even less interested in fronting on Jacobinism as a pose.

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  • cabdriver,

    seriously dude, i mean you no harm — but what we need is less talking and more doing. what we need to be doing to get the job done is exposing the public to the *entire* truth about the honking evil pile of manure called “the war on drugs.” we have all of the ammo we need for the job and the most incredible method of interpersonal communications yet devised by man. when people see the entire poo pile, they usually come to the same conclusion — LEAP proves this over and over. and they (LEAP) actually go talk to the people who contribute the big money to the political machinery.

    when people get to see all of the pertinent info about the situation, it makes it easy to understand why it all needs to go.

    as to my site, it is actually a bit more than simple data pages, so cruise around. strangely enough, some people have seen fit to write about my work and site in their books — several of which are included in this list.

    i certainly apologize if i haven’t done enough work for the cause, but i’m pedaling as fast as i can.

    if you truly came to discuss policy and strategy, however, i suggest that the time is ripe to put the discussion in the forum, where someone started a thread a while ago, that seems like it will suit the purpose well.

    and tune in (and chime in) to tonight’s (12/17/09 9pm eastern US) show at the Opium Den — i’ll be tuned in.

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  • @Brian: I just spoke with a couple of journalist students doing a project on cannabis. One of them told me, with a slight surprise to her voice, that in just a week’s research they had found out that, well, I was right about everything I said and that the science really seemed to support it.

    One week.

    I think that’s amazing. Might take a couple of weeks to cover all the drug issues and make people understand the “Grand United Theory of Drug Policy”.

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  • hi jesper, that’s encouraging on a number of levels.

    clearly, if people actually look at everything we’ve been telling them to look at, it is difficult to continue disagreeing with us.

    the really good news is that we don’t actually have to convince everyone — just slightly more than half of them.

    we may need to come up with a different name than “Grand United Theory of Drug Policy” though — that one just doesn’t condense to a pithy acronym ;^)

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