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A crack in the conventional wisdom

bullet image Crack/Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Reform bill passes House and heads to President’s desk

Today, the House passed legislation reducing the two-decades-old sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses. The Senate passed an identical bill in March and the legislation is now heading to President Obama, who supports the reform effort. […]

Before the changes, a person with just five grams of crack received a mandatory sentence of five years in prison. That same person would have to possess 500 grams of powder cocaine to earn the same punishment. This discrepancy, known as the 100-to-1 ratio, was enacted in the late 1980s and was based on myths about crack cocaine being more dangerous than powder. […]

Advocates pushed to totally eliminate the disparity but ultimately a compromise was struck between Democrats and Republicans to reduce the 100-to-1 disparity to 18-to-1. The compromise also eliminated the five year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of five grams of cocaine (about two sugar packets worth). The repeal of that mandatory minimum is the first repeal of a mandatory minimum drug sentence since the 1970s.

It’s a halfway measure, but it’s still extremely significant. Finally, politicians actually voting to reduce a prohibition measure.

And there’s no outcry… no threats to run “druggie” ads against those who passed it… no riots from concerned voters. It’s almost as though they wouldn’t have had to resort to a halfway measure.

bullet image The House also passed the Webb Criminal Justice Commission. Great news, but it still needs to pass the Senate.

bullet image An interview with Major Neill Franklin, new Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

bullet image A federal-state law inconsistency shouldn’t stop Californians from legalizing marijuana by Hanna Liebman Dershowitz. Excellent piece in the LA Times.

Instead of hewing to a misguided and unworkable federal hegemony in this area, encouraging innovation at the state level would be a more rational federal policy. And to be clear, legal scholars have long disagreed with Kleiman’s conclusion that the feds must and will intervene to try to quell state action in this area.

States need not shrink from countering federal policy on marijuana. California can show leadership in driving needed reforms, as it has before. In other words, the law need not be the law if you’re willing to stick your neck out. Cautious academics and politicized public employees will always embrace the status quo, joined by risk-averse politicians who misconstrue a lack of constituent “noise” on this issue as satisfaction with current law, not fear. But voters know better.

Not only can Californians regulate and tax marijuana, we should.

bullet image Here’s a challenge for my loyal readers.

I need an organization.

It doesn’t generally work for bloggers to send out a press release and the title of “blogger” doesn’t work well in trying to get OpEds, etc. If, however, you’re the Executive Director of Concerned Citizens for Legislative Reform, then you get some respect even if your entire organization is a web page… or less. It’s stupid, but it’s true.

Take a look at Bishop Ron Allen of the International Faith-Based Coalition or Al Crancer of Crancer and Associates, for that matter. Andrea Barthwell had about a dozen of them.

So come up with an organization name. It could be something complementary to Drug WarRant that shows our focus (probably should avoid the word “rant,” though), or it could be something abstract like RAND that would be further explained. This is not going to replace Drug WarRant, but give us an organization name when we need one.

The one to come up with the final name for the organization will be offered an honorary officer position in it.

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48 comments to A crack in the conventional wisdom

  • Cannabis

    You mean something like National Alliance for Health and Safety, which is an alliance of one?

  • sixtyfps

    Institute For the Introduction of Reason Into International Drug Policy
    Institute for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP homage?)
    Focus On the Reliably Consistent Failure of Prohibition

  • Couch Potatoes Against Prohibition – CPAP? Just Say Yes? People Against Prohibition? The Peoples Organization Opposing Prohibition – TPOOP?

    just off the top of my head…

  • paul

    You know, reducing the sentencing disparity from 500 to 1 to 18 to 1 doesn’t make me detest congress any less. Don’t know why they bothered. I wish a meteor would strike capitol hill and squash all those mean old bastards. Maybe then we could just fail to replace the federal government with anything at all. Things could only get better.

    Names, hmmmm.

    Committee to end drug prohibition
    Release drug prisoners now
    End prohibition now!
    Citizens against prohibition
    Stop the Drug War Now!

    Or perhaps…
    Alliance for Liberty and Justice for All
    People’s Committee to Kill all the Lawyers (first)
    Liberty Tyrants and Martyrs gardening company
    Release Roderick!
    Ride congress out on a rail.com
    Tar and Feathers Posse
    The Regulators

    “Only together can we pry their boot off our necks!”

  • claygooding

    Take Control Now.org
    Save the Children Assc.
    Hemp For US.org
    Jobs,Taxes and a Buzz

    We are looking at this through our eyes,with our knowledge and experience with/of the propaganda machine that has kept the prohibition in place for 73 years. What will America think of our drug warriors and these propaganda machines after legalization,when they experience first hand the safety and therapeutic applications of marijuana?
    One day all of America will be looking at all of this through our eyes.

    The drug warriors have used guns,military tactics,imprisonment,financial devastation,social propaganda and spent over a trillion dollars,while stoners have used the truth and their wits,and the stoners are winning.
    Latest Angus Reid Poll: 52% of America Want Marijuana Legalization
    http://www.opposingviews.com/i/latest-angus-reid-poll-52-of-america-want-marijuana-legalization

  • Dave In Florida

    Well, it seems the logical choice would be to team up with your friends across the pond and register,
    “Transform West”

  • Paul

    Hemp for Victory!

  • Harry

    I have to take issue with the DPA’s press release above that states in part “…the 100-to-1 ratio, was enacted in the late 1980s and was based on myths about crack cocaine being more dangerous than powder.” No, it was enacted based upon the truism that crack cocaine is much more prevalent in the inner-city neighborHoods than anywhere else. It is a fine example of a modern era Jim Crow law designed to incarcerate minorities for longer periods and at a far greater rate than whites.

  • angryJoe

    How about:

    – Guither Information Logistics (GIL)
    – Drug Policy Information Logistics (DPIL)
    – Controlled Substance Policy Reform Committee (CSPRC)
    – The Hendershot Committee (THC)

    The last one is my favorite because:

    1. It has an interesting and uncommon but easy to say name
    2. The acronym is GOLDEN! I’m not giving it up for f—ing nothing. I’m not gonna do it.
    3. It is ambiguous as to what the organization does

  • larrythelugnut

    Organization of Responsible Drug-using Adults (ORDA)

  • Just me.

    National coalition for peoples rights.
    National coalition of truth in drug policies.

  • it shouldn’t have the word ‘drug’ in it. period.

    since one new game you are playing against seems to be OMG people w/pot metabolites might drive, maybe something like:

    Citizens Association for Truth In Traffic Statistics
    People for Honest Traffic Statistics
    or some variation thereof.

    By picking a name like this, you’d be particularly relevant to the talking points that are being prepared for this round of media manipulation.

    Wanna agitate about a different issue? Print the forms in triplicate and start a second organization The Guthirie Institute for Crime Free Children (or however the hell you spell your name. if my spellchecker can’t spell it either can I) or whatever.

    I think you should do one group for the traffic issue, and another group for the more explicitly drug issues, and don’t combine them.

    and you don’t want me or your other commenters anywhere near your board.

  • NOS

    Tea Partly

    Since this is a loose coalition, hip name “recognition,” you’re only partly about the “tea.” 🙂

    If something serious crosses my mind, I’ll share that too.

  • Pete – I recommend against starting your own drug policy organization. New drug policy reform organizations are a dime a dozen, they compete for limited funding and they can be very labour intensive (with limited output).

    Instead, I would consider approaching the Drug Policy Alliance and asking them if you can take over their blog, or have their “blog” link on DPA redirect to drugwarrant.com. Perhaps you could gradually do some merging in terms of links, graphics and logos. The old DPA blog was rarely updated, and in fact they have shut down their blog with the launch of their new web site. They say that their Facebook page has replaced their blog. Now, I think the DPA is a fantastic organization, but in my opinion a Facebook page can’t replace a blog. They are just not the same and I feel that the DPA is now missing an important communications tool.

    This could be a win-win scenario. The DPA would get an amazing, prolific, consistent, eloquent and reasonable writer with a proven track record of success. You, on the other hand, would get increased traffic and the opportunity to associate yourself with a credible drug policy organization when submitting LTE’s and op-ed’s to print media. Anyway, these are just my personal thoughts on the matter… feel free to accept them or discard them as you wish. 🙂

  • @David B… I think Pete’s idea is not as a viable, dpr org, but as a front org for him to speak out as “executive director of” (or whatever title… “Grand Poobah” perhaps) in Opeds etc. I’ve used the DrugSense state mailing list name for Oregon (DPFOR) on occasion attached to my name on LTEs and it works.

    I doubt Pete wants to wade into the drug reform funding madness… just my humble guess…

    • Thanks, David, and Allan.

      Allan’s right — I have no interest in starting another drug policy organization. I want to work with the existing ones, not to compete with them or compete for resources, etc. If I do this, it’ll mostly be a webpage with me as Executive Director and a list of an Advisory Board of drug policy friends who support my writing and are willing to lend their name, and the entire activity of the organization will be publishing Drug WarRant (no additional labor or staff).

      The idea of approaching DPA is interesting, but quite frankly, I have a freedom as an unattached blogger that can be useful to the reform movement. I don’t have to worry about a funder getting bent out of shape when I go off on a rant. And even though I make nothing from doing this blog, it’s my baby, and that’s important to me.

      I’ve actually been quite happy with the support I’ve gotten from the various dpr organizations, in terms of friendship, links, tips, and collegiality, and I enjoy working with them in that way.

      But thanks, David — I value your advice.

  • U.S.S.A.

    Crack is just the solid form of cocaine. It also made it possible for poor people to enjoy the rich man’s aspirin cocaine. The fedgov leviathan also gets way too excited about LSD and when they catch someone growing some healing herbs they weigh everything planters, trays, tables, mother plants that never bud and won’t stone an ant. People are too goddamn obedient in this country it is way past time to tell the fedgov leviathan to fuck off.

  • JLTrigg

    I think this is a fine idea Pete. You do incredible work. That last post deserves an award.

    Adults for Sensible Drug Policy
    Adults Tired of Failed Drug Policies
    Speak UP for Regulation Not Incarceration
    Committee of Pete’s Couch
    Drug WarRant Committee for Reform
    Drug WarRant: Sensible Policy Committee
    Committee to Educate Everyone That Prohibition Has Failed

    Drug Regulations Using Guidelines Will Assure Real Reforms Achieve New Transformations

    Try to make sense out of a sentence with words starting with D R U G W A R R A N T

  • Dano

    D.E.A.P
    Drug Enforcement Analysis Project
    Drug Education Analysis Project
    Drug Education Against Prohibition

    D.E.E.P
    Drug Enforcement Education Project

    I like having the DEA as part of your acronym. Kinda gives you some real credit!

  • Windy

    I really like Paul’s:
    Tar and Feathers Posse
    with the slogan:
    “Only together can we pry their boot off our necks!”

    Alternately, perhaps something that works with the acronym KGB (Killer Green Bud).

  • tintguy

    The Harm Reduction Coalition or some variation without he word drug in it. We really need to get that term out there more anyway.

  • Emma

    Here is an inspiring story of an early advocacy group, the “Medical Review of Reviews Sociological Fund Committee”. Also, on public relations, see the documentary, Century of the Self, and the short book Propaganda.

    It’s a good idea to collaborate with DPA. It should be possible to affiliate without being controlled. Definitely DPA should have a link to DWR and a feed of your headlines on their sidebar, especially since they don’t have their own blog. DPA seems to have been getting good media advice lately, they might be able to give you suggestions. You should try to get pro-bono advice from PR professionals.

    What about Organization for Prohibition Reform, after the influencial Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform? Also, I like the phrases Effective Drug Regulation, Outreach, Initiative, Replace the Controlled Substances Act

  • Scott

    Your organization name should intuitively be a positive message for society. Something directly optimistic is better (do not use the likes of “No to Drug Prohibition”).

    Rant is not always a ‘flattering term’, but a good rant (which is what you are about here) is grounded in truth, so it makes excellent sense to focus on the word truth.

    Your main ability is exposing the prohibitionist lie. I assume that exposition will dominate your letters and press releases.

    Drum roll:

    Truth Patrol

    It is simple, sharp, and respectable (and once the CSA is repealed, you can extend it to other causes, if you want), noting I do not have time to see if it is already taken.

    Think of an “unbiased” organization receiving a letter or press release from the Truth Patrol.

    Think of prohibitionist organizations going up against the Truth Patrol.

    Truth Patrol is strong, easy for anyone to grasp, does not lean in any political direction, looks good against the corrupt areas of LE, can work great on t-shirts, etc.

  • Chris

    Pete, would you look good on TV? 🙂

  • Rhayader

    I think names that indicate an opposition to the current failed policies seem to carry more weight. That’s why I always thought LEAP was a good name — they’re against prohibition. It implies that the burden of proof rests upon those who want to maintain a deadly status quo, not upon those who “seek to legalize” innocent behavior.

  • Kozmo

    Lots of great suggestions by all.I like the simple ones.

    Citizens Against Prohibition
    Liberty Coalition
    Anti Prohibition Network
    Supporters of Justice
    Proponents of Self Evident Truths

  • Emma

    I like Truth Patrol (Scott). Also Liberty Coalition and Citizens Against Prohibition (Kozmo), or maybe Campaign Against Prohibition. The Constitutional Liberty League was an old anti-prohibition org.

    • Lots of great suggestions! Keep ’em coming.

      Liberty Coalition already exists. And Citizens Against Prohibition is a bit close to the excellent Citizens Opposing Prohibition (COPS).

      Chris: No — I wouldn’t consider myself a “looks good on TV” kind of guy. Plus, while I’m very good at doing the 60-second sound-bite, it’s not something I enjoy. I’d rather get up in front of an audience.

      Suggestions that have come by email…

      Anti-Prohibition League
      The Coalition for American Liberty’

  • Hope

    From your own words.

    Extremely Significant.Org

    Or some variation based on those two words.

  • Hope

    Extremely Significant Truth.Org

  • claygooding

    The news of the Webb commission is very good and the unanimous consent vote for it speaks volumes. Any one that would speak against it or vote against it would immediately label themselves as bought and paid for by special interest groups. While legislators know that other legislators realize that they are bought and paid for,they still don’t want their constituents to realize it.
    And the same thing will probably happen for repeal of the prohibition when we get enough people educated to the special interest groups that want it to be maintained.
    All they used to say was that they were doing it for the children but recently they have had to fall back more and more on debunked propaganda and skewed statistics for rationalization of their support.
    As our economy continues to remain comatose and the price of bread keeps rising,more and more of our citizens are going to be asking why and we will be here to tell them.
    With people like Pete,NORML,MPP,DPA,LEAP and numerous blogging communities ready to pounce on every utterance,
    the people are being educated at a faster rate than ever before.
    And the fact that there are more drugs available and more people doing drugs is a fact that the drug czar
    and the anti-drug coalition cannot lie about or convince America that they are succeeding in protecting the children or stopping people from using drugs.

  • David Marsh

    How about –

    Civic Policy Institute
    Institute for Civic Policies
    Institute for Advanced Civic Policies
    National Alliance for Advanced Civic Policies
    Coalition for Advanced Civic Policies

  • Jeffer Mitchell

    Racked my brain, came up with this:

    American Liberty Restoration Foundation

  • Hope

    Good ones!

    “Coalition for Advanced Civic Policies” and “American Liberty Restoration Foundation”

  • I’m coming a little late to the party here, but am informed by the good suggestion of Allan, David and Pete himself as to what he is trying to do.

    I would also avoid “creating” another astroturf organization, especially one that sounds like the existing organizations or the typical K-street sockpuppet front group. No Americans for XYZ .

    I liked the notion of “Truth Patrol”, but it has no drugwar connection and has a kind of militia-y Freeper kind of name.

    I have a twofold suggestion that kind of gets Pete to where he wants to be. First, a somewhat tongue in cheek name, like “The Just Say ‘Know’ Foundation” or “Just Say Maybe, Inc.”, something that riffs off drug war stuff and conveys the right message without sounding as pompous and ponderous as the typical “real” policy or astroturf lobby group that is more than a self-proclaimed spokesperson with a megaphone.

    The second is to make a subtle shift in the authorship and ownership of the blog to e.g, “The Just Say Know Foundation, Peter Z. Guither, Executive Director. On the blog about page, state the purposes of the organization (overthrow of prohibition regime) and that the new organization’s major actitivity is educational and political organization through the website and blog, published since 2003.

    Presto, you are a foundation. You may actually want to incorporate as a not for profit or for profit. If you don’t want to do that, as long as your name doesn’t imply you are a corporation, all you need to do is file a simple dba in your state or county that you are doing business as “The Just Say Know Foundation”. E-me off line if you want some further general lawyer advice, having set up a few charitable foundations like mbird.org and phish.net.

  • Chuck

    Coalition Against Prohibition!

  • Chuck

    Coalition Against Prohibition! might be too close to COPs but it has a catchy ring to it. I also like “Anti-Prohibition League”.

  • Chuck

    or Anti-Prohibition Coalition.

  • Dudeman

    I suggested the Anti-Prohibition League to echo the Anti-Saloon League. I’m reading Last Call by Daniel Okrent and am struck by how effective the ASL was in pushing Prohibition, even as I lament that it ever passed. I hope that the APL will be able to reverse the ASL’s toxic legacy.

  • Jeff Shivers

    Citizens
    Advocating
    Laws for the
    Inherent
    Protection
    Of
    Children

    CALIPOT keeping children safe and adults responsible through education and regulation.

  • Jeff Shivers

    OK, i am not proofing before submitting.

    Citizens
    Advocating
    Laws for the
    Inherent
    Protection
    Of
    Teens

    CALIPOT -keeping children safe and adults responsible through education and regulation.

    That looks better and the acronym fits

  • Ed Dunkle

    Christians for Small Government (who could be against that?)

    Citizens for Safety

    Mothers Against Black Markets

    Americans for Science Based Policies

    Meh. This is harder than it looks.

  • Center for Accuracy in Drug Reporting and Analysis
    Citizens for Rational and Humane Substance Control

  • Alliance Against the Criminal Control of Substances

    Citizens Exhibiting Truth-Seeking Behavior

    Article & slogan ideas (while I’m brainstorming):

    The Sobering Outcomes of Drug Prohibitions

    Medicalization Not Militarization

    More Substantive Debate of Substance Control

    Your World on Prohibition: We Have Questions

    Conspiracy to Distribute Talking Points: Quote-seeking drug reporters go through the motions with police spokesmen, treatment providers, and politicians.

    Today’s Drug Bust and Tomorrow’s Costs and Benefits

  • Windy

    Ok, IMNSHO, Scott won with TRUTH PATROL.

  • Jeffer Mitchell

    American Lifestyle Decriminalization League
    Alternative Culture Decriminalization League
    Alternative Culture Liberty Coalition
    American Liberty Advocacy Group
    Culture Liberty Advocacy Group
    Liberty Restoration Group

  • jewel

    Voices of Freedom
    Echoes of Freedom Across America
    Freedom and Prosperity for America