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Asking for more of what ails you

Thanks to Shaleen for sending me this data from a recent CNN poll.

Do you favor or oppose the legalization of marijuana?

White Non-White
Favor 43% 36%
Oppose 54% 62%

Incredible? Perhaps.

And yet, not really.

For us, it’s hard to imagine that minorities would support the drug war. After all, we know that it’s the single most racist public policy since slavery. We’ve seen the figures of use versus arrest versus incarceration. We seen the numbers that South Africa under Apartheid incarcerated 851 black males per 100,000 population while we incarcerate 4,919 black males per 100,000 population.

We’ve seen how Hispanics are targeted by law enforcement in the drug war, including the incredible statistic in the Chicago area that 73% of Hispanics whose cars were searched because a dog sniff “detected” drugs actually had no drugs (the result of the dog’s handler believing they had to be there).

With all of this, there can be a natural tendency for people in drug policy reform to throw up their hands in exasperation at the lack of interest in drug policy reform in many minority communities.

However, we know these things because we study them. The average person does not (at least not until we do a better job of telling them). The average person knows what the government has told them, or what their church has told them, or what has been passed down as “common knowledge.”

One of the few “successes” (and I’m speaking ironically here) of the drug war has been to convince people that the negative effects of prohibition are actually the negative effects of drugs.

People see violence on the street and say “that’s because of drugs” when, in fact, it’s because of the drug war. And so they call for more enforcement even though (as we know) that won’t help the problem but rather make it worse.

And, quite frankly, this issue is much more visible out on the streets in poor/minority neighborhoods than in affluent neighborhoods where the drug trafficking takes place discretely in the country club locker room.

I know. I live in one of those poor/minority neighborhoods. I talked to a neighbor once who told me “I think the next door neighbors are selling pot. I hope the police come and bust them and take away their kids.” I was flabbergasted. But she saw the problem in the community as drugs, rather than as the by-product of the drug war.

This, in my mind, is what drives the fact that minorities lag behind in understanding the need for drug policy reform.

The fact is that we still have not done a good enough job of educating the public regarding the damage done by the drug war. Because of that, we often end up with the strangely incongruous image of a mostly white population of drug policy reformers carrying the banner for ending the most racist policy since slavery.

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28 comments to Asking for more of what ails you

  • darkcycle

    There’s alot more that goes into it as well. The centers of political activity in Many African American communities have been the Churches. There the message is different. Social Justice is the focus, with civil rights as the driver for the last sixty years. Drugs in that context have a moral element, and can be (are) seen as part of the problem set brought to the communities by inequality. Ask a Baptist Church member in an African American community why the kids are on the street, he/she will likely blame drugs. Ask again why so many African American kids get involved with drugs and gangs, they’ll likely respond “‘Cause there aint’ no jobs”. Meaning even there, at heart, they realize that drugs aren’t the driver. Poverty and lack of opportunity are the drivers. But because of the social framework within which activism in the A.A. community occurs, the discussion about the ‘drug war’ doesn’t happen.
    I happen to believe that as activism moves from the last generation to younger people, the churches will stop being the focus of political activity in those communities, and the drug war will be seen in a different context. None of this absolves us of OUR responsibility to address the racist elements of the drug war.

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    • tintguy

      “Ask again why so many African American kids get involved with drugs and gangs, they’ll likely respond “‘Cause there aint’ no jobs”. Meaning even there, at heart, they realize that drugs aren’t the driver. Poverty and lack of opportunity are the drivers.”…..

      Ask again if they think those same kids would be drawn to gang life if the illict market for drugs weren’t there to provide the money they can’t earn at the jobs that aren’t there. Would they give as easily up on legit ways and means if gang life held nothing for income but more traditional sorts of crime?
      If we don’t ask questions that make people really think about the issue from a different angle than they usually do they will continue to believe that the veiws they hold are valid.

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      • darkcycle

        Of course they wouldn’t, tintguy, but there aren’t any employers in these ares….many of these inner city minority communities don’t even have GROCERY stores. No Safeway, no mega Wal-Mart, not even a real mom-n-pop. What has moved in are the Am-Pms, the 7-11′s, Burger Slut, and every shade of pay-day loan/check kiteing racket known to man. Why? the industries moved out, so the people with money moved out, so the retailers moved out, leaving only the poorest of the poor to fight in the ghetto for the scraps. America ought to be ashamed.

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  • Peter

    turkeys volunteering for christmas? Need to publicize Michelle Alexander’s _The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of color blindness_

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  • Scott

    I always believed that our movement suffers from an awful public image.

    Put that awful image against community leaders condemning drug abuse, and we likely lose in the court of public opinion.

    Public relations is all about improving our public image, not by propaganda (as one commenter once stated when I last mentioned it), but by a strategy likely including going into ‘enemy territory’ and proving that the law and science are rationally on our side (which they most certainly are), and that we hold the key to a brighter future for the public.

    I say rationally (noting rationality is critical when interpreting law), because by any rational interpretation of our Constitution, the Controlled Substances Act cannot possibly be law. That’s a very important fact basically ignored in our movement for some unacceptable reason.

    How can ‘preaching to the choir events’ achieve our goals with any reasonable degree of efficiency?

    We are not generally seen as people trying to improve society.

    We are generally seen as selfish people who want to be irresponsible, making it too easy for the public to instantly ignore our message.

    Many (if not most) people will agree that prohibition has failed, but they also believe the alternative would be much worse (and that we’re truly crazy for even proposing it).

    Until we have a public image showing that we’re trying to improve the effort against drug abuse (which we should be) by sound law and science, we will have to continue accepting the painfully slow natural growth that comes from preaching to a thankfully ever-growing choir.

    While I don’t want to dismiss the hard work done in our movement over the past several decades, it’s hard for us not to grow, considering our opponents literally cannot provide a single sustainable point in their favor.

    Our message needs to be a positive one!

    Right now, that message generally is the good guys (i.e. law enforcement) have failed. What kind of message is that for creating hope for a better tomorrow?

    I spend my limited time trying to correct people at the Wall Street Journal comments section (that’s as close to ‘enemy territory’ as I can get for now). Comments sections are a great place to engage our opponents in front of a public audience. Just remember that you’re trying to sell people on our message, so explain (simply) how those people benefit from repealing the CSA.

    There is no doubt that we will win.

    With honest sales, marketing, and public relations tactics as part of executing a solid strategy for victory, we need to take our movement to the highest level to compete with the big dogs calling the shots.

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    • Windy

      Anyone who thinks that law enforcement are the “good guys” has not been paying attention. And THAT is our biggest problem, the average American is NOT PAYING ATTENTION to the abuses dished out by government using the hand of the LEOs.

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      • Scott

        The idea of law enforcement automatically generates the perspective of being run by good people. This automatically paints us as a public enemy, when we position ourselves against law enforcement.

        I certainly hope you are not demonizing law enforcement. That would be foolish on par with demonizing certain drug use.

        I wonder how many times I would have suffered if it were not for cops doing the very difficult work they do.

        The act of demonizing is abusive.

        Whether it be demonizing drugs, law enforcement, capitalism, government, guns, pornography, violent video games, etc., the fact is the real ‘enemy’ is never a demonized target, but the abuse corresponding with it.

        A free nation needs a ‘war’ on abuse itself.

        The popular public instinct instead leans towards more laws affecting ‘all use’ to go after such abuse.

        However, such laws (as you point out) open the door to another flavor of abuse. Abuse is apparently only shifted between flavors, never proven to be reduced overall.

        Stop with the laws, and start with the education (noting people abuse education too)?

        Is abuse inherent in reality, and if so, why do we keep passing laws? Because we are an abusive society perhaps?

        This is why our Constitution exists. It has no desire to be abusive. Unfortunately, interpretation is open for abuse (e.g. Supreme Court illegally redefining the Commerce Clause), and so our beloved supreme law can never be as effective as we need against the ultimate form of abuse, given its generally broad scope of destruction; the abuse of power.

        The negative and positive parts of reality will exist no matter what we do, importantly noting one’s use can be another one’s abuse.

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    • dt

      I don’t think the public image of the drug reform movement has to be that we’re trying to “improve the effort against drug abuse.” This backs us into a corner – the other side can make the credible assertion that any increase in drug availability would increase “prevalence” of drug use, which would entail some increase in abuse. The way to get around this is to emphasize the civil liberties and individual privacy issues that are at the heart of the opposition to the drug war. We should call for a rational harm-based line between legal and illegal drugs, which would increase respect for the law by increasing the law’s respect for individual privacy.

      Anyway, a sure way to lose is by arguing this on the enemy’s terms, which is something I see reformers do all the time.

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  • Dante

    “One of the few “successes” (and I’m speaking ironically here) of the drug war has been to convince people that the negative effects of prohibition are actually the negative effects of drugs.”

    Sorry, but should that be “the negative effects of drugs are actually the negative effects of prohibition”?

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    • Actually, Dante, the wording is correct in context, I believe. Yes, what is perceived as the negative effects of drugs are actually the negative effects of prohibition. But people have been conditioned/convinced to believe the opposite. They see the negative effects of prohibition (street violence, etc.) and assume that those problems are effects of drugs.

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  • Dante

    With regard to the surprising results that minorities favor drug prohibition, what role does the church play?

    Seems to me that, just like the heinous drug warriors themselves, a lot of (most) religious leaders continually demonstrate heightened moral outrage against drug users/dealers/etc. because it fills up their seats and therefore their coffers.

    I apologize to any religious people who may be offended by the truth about MOST religious leaders. Not all.

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    • Richie

      You need to tarnish the reputation of people who are most influential in continuing the drug war. Ask religious leaders why so many of them do not speak out against alcohol sales in their communities.

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  • The folks at Our Time have pointed out something bizarre about the CNN poll. If you read the poll data (for both marijuana legalization and gay marriages) that is tracked by age, the category of 18-34 is listed as N/A.

    Did they purposefully leave out younger Americans? Or was their sample so weak that they didn’t have enough responses in that age group to be valid? Either way, it makes this poll extremely questionable, particularly when considering an issue like marijuana legalization.

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  • … my thoughts are that the onus isn’t on us although when it comes to online debate/discussion we all need to follow Malcolm’s example of sticking to the facts and avoiding insults and ad hominem attacks against the prohibition lovers. The facts in our favor are aplenty and we don’t need to look like asshats.

    Also… black folks in entertainment – Montel, Tavis Smiley, Oprah – need to be targeted by African-American dpr types LEAP’s Neil Fanklin asking for air time. Black groups like the NAACP (CA is a great example of finding support w/in that org) and black churches need erudite, educated folks making presentations explaining how the WOD is inherently racist in origin and practice. There once was a time when the House Hispanic caucus was vocally opposed to the WOD. My hat’s off to The Daily Show’s John Stewart for constantly providing mentions of the drug war. However even John needs to get folks like Howard Wooldridge instead of Ethan Nadelman (DPA pissed me off, I applied for their CO position and didn’t even get a call back… but such is the job market these days – youth seems to be more marketable than age and the experience it carries).

    Another part of the problem (imho) is that dpr orgs are not united and most focus on cannabis and don’t attack the WOD. Personally I think the piratical free souls (not the OR biker group!) do a better job than most any org when it comes to effectively explaining the grievous and fatal flaws of the WOD.

    Admittedly the WOD is a giant subject w/ many permutations that extend from local issues to international ones.

    We don’t get a chance in the mainstream media to be seen or heard. Somehow, some way, somewhere, we’ll get a key break but some days I feel like we’re just pissing in the wind. I’m so close these days to dropping the WOD as a focus of my efforts and attention. The DPA Colorado job pays between $50K – $70K and lord knows how effective I could be if I just f’ing got paid for a cuppla years to do this work. And in feeling this way I know I’m not alone… it’s tough to battle on the front lines when my larger battle is survival.

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  • darkcycle

    Injustice is injustice. Whether it happens to us or to some “other” group. Me, I’m gonna howl like I was branded every time and place I see it. Fuck the “at least it isn’t me” mentality. That’s the mentalty of a herd animal, and darkcycle may be alot of things, but he ain’t a herding critter.

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  • strayan

    I’m been thinking about the drug war successes. This is definitely one of them.

    A smart fellow over on facebook posted this:

    The Drug war has in fact performed what it was intended to do; move more power to the government, militarized our domestic police force, disenfranchise millions of Americans, targeted the political enemies of its perpetuators and made billions in profit for government contractors and their political cronies.

    Who says the Drug War is a failure? Only if you were hopping to actually reduce harm to users would it be considered a failure.

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  • maxwood

    Smart fellow had a good point about “profit for government contractors and their political cronies”– example, Boehner has received tobacckgo money; has R. J. Reynolds and Philip Morris guys on his advisory council, etc.

    Recent Civil War memories suggested a parallel: the tobacckgo $igarette industry “owns” its $lave addict puffsuckers (1.2 billion worldwide); those who threaten that empire (such as cannabis legalizers) are like the “n—–lovers” before 1861 who threatened to “steal” a $lave-owner’s rightful “Private Property”, and “violate” the Fugitive $lave Law, by assisting the $lave to escape to Free Soil in Cannada, Cannecticut or some other place with a name like Cannabis.

    In New York City today a pack-a-day addict paying over $10 a pack delivers over $3652 a year to that Industry, to the multi-level tax collecting Authorities to pay Politicians, to the retail store and to the guy who gets paid to drive the truck full of $igarettes around to the stores etc. Then after spending/sending $100,000 over a few decades he/she or his/shis estate will pay another $100,000 or two for medicine and pain control in the victim’s final decade.

    What if, after legalized cannabis made it legally safe to own and use a vaporizer, e-cig or one-hitter, $igarette addicts started imitating the cannabis users, switching to Low Dosage Utensils and spending ONE TENTH (1/10) as much money on nicotine products– even if they go on using same. The Slave-Owner is thereby deprived of 9/10 of their $lave Property Value! Does that tell you why politicians are eager to say they oppose cannabis?

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  • This is not my America

    Its all about manipulating information,minds,facts ect.

    You know…2+1 =4 ..dont argue..it is 4.

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  • tommy

    I’ve always been a bit skeptical about such poll numbers. Wouldn’t there be some who favor legalization but are afraid to say so?

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  • Duncan20903

    None of this absolves us of OUR responsibility to address the racist elements of the drug war.

    It was some white people telling other white people that they couldn’t do that anymore that ended slavery.

    In the modern civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s black people themselves were instrumental in gaining the recognition of their civil rights. But I don’t think it likely that they would have come so far without the help of people who saw it as their responsibility to address the racism.

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  • DdC

    Thank you Miss Rosa
    * The Racist Ganjawar
    * Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and MMJ Prohibition

    PREJUDICE: MARIJUANA AND THE JIM CROW LAWS
    The Emperor Wears No Cloths by Jack Herer
    * Vicious Insolence: Between 1884 and 1900, 3,500 documented deaths of black Americans were caused by lynchings; between 1900 and 1917, more than 1,100 were recorded. The real figures were undoubtedly higher. It is estimated that one-third of these lynchings were for insolence, which might be anything from looking (or being accused of looking)at a white woman twice, to stepping on a white man’s shadow, even to looking a white man directly in the eye for more than three seconds, not going directly to the back of the trolley, etc.

    It was obvious to whites, marijuana caused Negro and Mexican viciousness or they wouldn’t dare be insolent; etc

    Hundreds of thousands of Negroes and Chicanos were sentenced from 10 days to 10 years mostly on local and state chain gangs for such silly crimes as we have just listed.

    SLAVERY IN THE HEMP INDUSTRY James F. Hopkins
    Without hemp, slavery might not have flourished in Kentucky, since other agricultural products of the state were not conducive to the extensive use of bondsmen. On the hemp farm and in the hemp factories the need for laborers was filled to a large extent by the use of Negro slaves, and it is a significant fact that the heaviest concentration of slavery was in the hemp producing area.

    The primary reason…

    Selling drugs is the best job in the Ghetto. Race is less important in this than economic conditions. Stereotypically, in the past, mostly minorities and immigrants were in the less endowed category. Then after the 80′s and one million homeless, race became less important as a way to stigmatize and segregate. Now unemployed hippies and trailer trash crackers fit into the mix.

    I’d say it depends on sampling too, witnesses. Some won’t give truthful answers if it may stigmatize them down the road. Or if it is the only job that pays worth a damn, the incentive would be for prohibition. Same as the cartels incentives. So asking an age group in a certain race is moot. How one votes is moot. Who counts the votes projects more to swaying opinions than the voters in the poll. 80% of 5 people want it prohibited, that means 4 people. 80% sounds better. If its 5 cops 80% would be low. If its 5 TV informed yuppies it would be a little high.

    Since 95% of what TV broadcasts is controlled by 5 corporations. Same corporations making huge profits on prohibitions. Same corporations keeping competition out of the free trade market via the Ganjawar. Propaganda is the used car salesperson. Not exactly lying in the legal sense when they omit certain facts about the car. Meaning the used car salesman is more honest than the DEAth Squads intentionally lying.
    ,
    Denialists do more to perpetuate the war than the Drug Worriers nonsense. Calvina just eats taxes and supports legislators with lies and gossip to pass piss taste laws. But its the appeaser and the profiteers making paychecks hiding their heads in the sand. Libertarians and Greens. Each taking an opposite side canceling out and therefore perpetuating. Like voting for Johnson as a republican. He’s no more a republican than Ron Paul. But they know where the money is and believe the corrupt system can be used against itself.

    The status weird Neocon GOPerverts and Demonkrats put out truck loads of red flag, but the vested ignorant and the appeaser reformers just adjust their blinders and see nuthink, know nuthink and say nuthink. Reforming bogus laws is like voting lesser evils. You still end up with bogus laws and evil. Time for reality over profits. Time for bringing back the Mother of Inventions, Necessity. Boycott Wallmart’s Chinese plastic from Iranian crude oil crap and Fossil Fools chemicals, synthetics and poisons. Then we will get what we need, not what makes them billions to trickle down into foreign sweatshops or less than a living wage paycheck.

    What the hell is everybody doing relying on the political system to change the political system. You have more power keeping a multi national corporation out of your town in spite of the low wage jobs they promise. Most city councils desperate for jobs dismiss environmental controls and health benefits and safe work practices, just for the “jobs”. Selling out your roads and bridges your taxes have to fix. While they are HQ’d in the Cayman Islands therefore sheltered from their responsibility. But don’t use the “F” word. It scares the people or the tin foil hats start being tossed. Like racism, its taught and we learn it and some even graduate with honors and go on to become teachers. Prohibitionism is also taught, generation after generation. Keeping the fires stoked and the profits perpetuating the divisionists Ganjawar. Red flags rippling ore dawn’s early light. None of the students ask where are the victims?

    Scabs are appeasers in that they settle for less than reasonable or fair. That works the same way as corporate undercutting, to drive out small business competition. We deserve a living wage, its not a privilege. We have rights to food, shelter medicine and clothing. Not if we can afford it. Everything on earth that is natural is for every living being to use freely. Not religious lousy stewards selling it off for the moneysluts. We settle for “privileges” and we are steered by fear into compromising on our own children’s health and safety. Just for the Koch roaches profits?

    Not a parent in the group would stand by and let a stranger slap your babies. Yet you let them spew dioxins and cancers from their smoke stacks into their lungs. Their carbon emissions from their tailpipes. Far worse than a slap. But hey its your job. Its your job to sit by and watch 800,000 citizens enter into the criminal justice system for possessing cannabis, inhaling or not. A certain number are dead because of the criminal justice system. Many unemployed. Many lost their license to find work. All in the name of the drug war, and this isn’t a secret. It has to be known and just disregarded.

    So the cosmic question seems to be who deserves Ganja and to hell with degenerate whores fictionally based legislation and arbitrary Acts attempting to control any substance, let alone entheogenics. The gimongous red flags of lopsided double standards. The Pats riot Ax trashing the Bill of Rights and the Biden RAVE Ax keeping cannabis gatherings in fear of $250k fines. Or the bastardization of the Higher Education Act to assist Ghetto kids and give an incentive to study and advocate for better schools. Knowing you could get the funds to enter college and a skill and better job. To bring back to the community and help rebuild the hoods.

    Now its a stupid idea like pouring your life savings into a rich mans poker game. Spit in the ocean. The one time goal of eliminating the Ghetto’s is wing nut rap. Now Koch eaters obstruct any funding. Meaning tax payers will pay more the same as we pay 99 cents on the dollar for the Exxon Valdeeze spill, in spite of their $47 billion profit. Chumps or the proud naive?

    “If the people knew what we had done,
    they would chase us down the street and lynch us.”
    ~ George H.W. Bush to journalist Sarah McClendon

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  • [...] Andrew, here’s an engaging post riffing off support for a drug fight among [...]

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  • [...] Asking for more of what ails you (why minorities are in favor of the war on drugs) [...]

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  • Mimi

    Could you possibly be any more condescending towards black people (and other minorities) here?? “Oh the only reason they don’t agree with me is because they just can’t possibly understand this like I do. Those poor people, they just don’t get it, that’s why they don’t share my opinion. If only some kindly white person like me could explain it to them, then they would see the light.”

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