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DrugWarRant.com, the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
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June 2020
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Will a lawsuit stop Kansas?

The state that inspired the book ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas?’ continues to ignore cannabis prohibition’s uncanny ability to ignite a populist revolt whenever and wherever law enforcement exceeds its authority.

Exceeding their authority, the Kansas Highway Patrol targets motorists who are merely exiting Colorado into Kansas. According to studies, the KHP prefers intercepting those who look ethnic, or who display Colorado or out-of-state license plates, this in a state that was anti-slavery during the Civil War. The first complaints arose in 2016. The bogus stops didn’t stop. Now a lawsuit has been filed by the ACLU and three plaintiffs who were detained by the KHP. The legal action is drawing wide public attention to corrupt police tactics, such as the Kansas Two Step:

Ninety-three percent of the Kansas Highway Patrol’s traffic stops in 2017 involved cars with out-of-state plates, according to a lawsuit challenging the practice as an infringement on motorists’ constitutional rights. […]

The complaint … challenges a law enforcement practice known as “the Kansas Two Step,” a maneuver used to detain drivers for canine drug searches. The maneuver, which is included in the agency’s training materials, is a way to break off an initial traffic stop and attempt to reengage the driver in what would then be a consensual encounter.

The way the “Kansas Two Step” works is this: A trooper stops a vehicle with out-of-state plates under the pretense of a minor traffic violation. The trooper issues the driver a ticket or warning for the infraction, then turns around and takes a couple of steps away from the vehicle before turning around and asking the driver to agree to answer additional questions. When the driver denies transporting anything illegal, the trooper requests consent to search the car. If the driver declines to consent to a search, the trooper detains the driver for a canine drug search. […]

Litigating against illegal marijuana searches by the Kansas highway police might seem odd given that Wichita is home to the fabulously wealthy and influential Charles Koch DBA Koch Industries. Koch has criticized marijuana prohibition and he funds the Charles Koch Institute that works for juridical reform. So where is the Koch action plan for legalizing medicinal cannabis in Kansas and eliminating drug related stops and asset forfeitures by the KHP?

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Corporate Successes in the Drug War

The US Congress funds the drug war each year despite knowing for decades about the war’s ineffectiveness and disastrous consequences. How and why such a war continues has long been a matter of debate:

To say that the war on drugs has failed is not understanding something. It is true that for 40 years, the war on drugs has failed in its stated objectives. Everyone knows that prevention and treatment is the most efficient way to address the drug problem, and that foreign operations are the most inefficient way. One has to wonder just what is in the minds of the planners given the amount of evidence that what they are trying to achieve doesn’t work. … The drug war has not failed. … Its consequences are intentional both within the United States and in the hemisphere.—Noam Chomsky, 2012, [Quote–Kindle p. 19].

In his 2019 book, Drug War Pathologies, Embedded Corporatism and U.S. Drug Enforcement in the Americas, Jamaican born author and researcher Horace A. Bartilow says the consequences may not have been intentional. He provides statistical and other evidence that focuses blame for the current drug war on transnational corporations doing business primarily in Latin America:

While drug prohibition is an important component of the U.S. national security state (National Security Act of 1947, P.L. 114-113, Sec 101, 50 U.S.C. 3001), it has evolved into a larger corporatist regime that is predicated on protecting the operations of free market capitalism. American drug enforcement has now become the security face of corporate capitalism and is an important vehicle for leveraging corporate penetration into foreign markets … as well as facilitating international cooperation to combat threats to capitalism that arise from drug trafficking. The principal actors in this corporatist regime are American transnational corporations. The regime also includes policy think tanks, some members of Congress, civil society organizations, religious and political leaders in the African American community, and foreign governments that partner with the United States in the overseas prosecution of the drug war. [Kindle p. 2]

American policy makers, and the larger drug enforcement regime to which they belong, are addicted less to the drug war’s policy failures than to its budgetary successes, in the sense that they have been largely successful in their perennial ability to increase the drug war’s budget. [Kindle p. 21]

With the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing dark money donations to politicians, transnational corporations operating in Latin America will have many new opportunities this political season to further exploit the drug war and its victims.

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Why can’t the FBI get high?

Chicago’s FBI Office recently tweeted a reminder to those applying for a job with the venerable agency:

Illinois decriminalizes recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, but #DYK federal laws on marijuana aren’t changing? To apply to #FBI, you’ll still need to be marijuana-free for 3 yrs.

The waiting period for applicants appears to affect regular marijuana consumers along with people working in the marijuana industry and anyone taking Schedule 1 restricted drugs. Current FBI agents and staff face risky hurdles should they need to self-medicate with federally forbidden substances. And what’s with the 3 years? Why anabolic steroids for 10 years? Do J. Edgar Hoover’s specter and COINTEL schemes still haunt the hallowed halls of the Washington FBI building named after him?

Hoover refused to recruit long hairs, bearded men, “pot heads” and people he called “pear heads.” If by pear heads J. Edgar was referring to small-minded people and not just individuals with misshapen craniums, then why can’t the FBI be euphoric over mother nature’s herbal-based wonder drugs that lead to mind expansion and even improved mental health? Or will the US face a bleak future of pear heads in the FBI and other federal agencies?

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Will Congress Apologize?

Lawmakers File Resolution Demanding Congress Apologize For The Racist War On Drugs

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and several colleagues introduced a House resolution on Friday calling on Congress to admit that the war on drugs has been a racially biased failure, provide justice to those negatively impacted by it and apologize to communities most impacted under prohibition.

Watson Coleman, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus, introduced similar legislation calling for an end to the drug war in 2018.

This year’s version goes further by explicitly condemning “the actions and role Harry J. Anslinger played in creating the War on Drugs,” referring to notoriously racist anti-drug commissioner who served in the 1930s, and urging the creation of a select committee to “prioritize effective, evidence-based health policy solutions for individuals and communities suffering from addiction.”

Language was also strengthened to say that “the House of Representatives should immediately halt any and all actions that would allow the War on Drugs to continue,” whereas the earlier version simply implored a reconsideration of drug war policies.

I’m not holding my breath, but the mere fact that such a strong resolution would be introduced is incredible considering it wasn’t that long ago that Congressional committees were actively talking about whether they could use the RICO act to arrest those who advocated legalization.

It’s clearly a sign of the changed public viewpoint (particularly regards to marijuana, but marijuana criminalization has also been a driving force behind the entire drug war).

This viewpoint is most clearly demonstrated in the recent Pew Research Poll: Two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization. The contrast is startling.

Pew Research Poll

And we’re already seeing signs that legalization hurts trafficking. Marijuana legalization is already making Mexican drug cartels poor

The loosening of marijuana laws across much of the United States has increased competition from growers north of the border, apparently enough to drive down prices paid to Mexican farmers. Small-scale growers here in the state of Sinaloa, one of the country’s biggest production areas, said that over the last four years the amount they receive per kilogram has fallen from $100 to $30.

The price decline appears to have led to reduced marijuana production in Mexico and a drop in trafficking to the U.S., according to officials on both sides of the border and available data.

Glimmers of hope in a world of Idiocracy.

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Drug Wars Promote Settler Colonialism

The Nasa—an Indigenous group in Colombia—want their land back, and they want it back now. To demonstrate their resolve, they’re employing eco-terrorism in an eco-friendly way to sabotage agricultural crops of colonial origins or ownership while simultaneously confronting Colombia’s illicit drug industry over its unlicensed use of their land. The Nasa’s goals have not won them many friends:

Since 2015, they have been carrying out direct actions in which they cut down cane fields, plant organic crops in their place, and allow the native vegetation to cover additional areas within the same reclaimed lands. They call this action “the liberation of Mother Earth,” […]

Since the signing of the Peace Agreement between FARC and the government, the United Nations Security Council in Colombia had verified 226 murders through March 2019. The accord led to the formation of armed dissident groups that splintered from the FARC, including right-wing paramilitary groups like The Black Eagles (Las Águilas Negras) — a decade-old moniker adopted by many disparate groups to spread fear — and an increased presence of organized crime groups, who “are fighting over territory for marijuana and poppy cultivation,” said José.

In 1991 a new constitution was enacted in Colombia that included Indigenous peoples’ rights, but according to the Nasa peoples’ documentation, between 1991 and 2005, “15 massacres were carried out in those years, with more than 500 dead.” … [More recently] two members of the Indigenous Guard from the San Francisco reservation in the municipality of Caloto had been killed by an armed group. Five people were also wounded, among them a 7-year-old boy.

“Who did it? It’s an armed group that’s trying to control and manage the drug trade and this has us very concerned, because the threats continue to be very frequent in our territory,” said one of the traditional leaders of the Nasa people, who spoke anonymously for security reasons.

The Nasa and the Liberators of Mother Earth believe that with these development policies, Indigenous people will continue to remain repressed. “The new government says that they’re not going to buy even one more meter of land for Indigenous peoples and they will neither create nor recognize more collective territories for Indigenous peoples,” said José. “On the contrary, the government says that these lands have to join in the development of capitalism. We don’t want to join; we want to liberate the land and live simply.”

Diana, a young Indigenous woman who introduced herself only by her first name, is responsible for the political education of the young people in this village of liberators. “We’re on maximum emergency alert because they’re killing us, and it’s so painful that this is happening in the north of Cauca,” … “Their development policies — and the planting of illicit crops that the government supports — are destroying our way of life.” […]

The history of settler colonialism is rich with the profits from drug wars as prohibitions tend to provide a wide variety of efficient and inhumane tools to repress civilians as well as earth’s liberators.

Examples include Colombian government drug war hype that conflates Indigenous people like the Nasa with FARC. Using similar strategies, international mining and oil companies operating in Mexico are infamous for terrorizing the Indigenous into abandoning their homes and land by getting the government or military to arrest young village men on false drug charges, or by staging phony drug raids outside villages at night, sometimes setting off incendiaries encompassing ten-meter flash zones and sending shrapnel into villages that endangers children and the elderly.

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The Drug War Kills Porpoises

Mexico’s drug cartels—the poisonous fruit of a toxic drug war tree—are overfishing the Sea of Cortez and exterminating the vaquita porpoise, the world’s rarest marine mammal:

Austrian filmmaker Richard Ladkani recorded the shocking and dangerous story of the activists, scientists and journalists risking their lives to save the rare whale in his documentary “Sea of Shadows.”

“The film ‘Sea of Shadows’ for me was one of the most important films that I’ve ever made, … Because here you have an example of criminal syndicates attacking planet Earth. And the clock’s really ticking, because if they continue to do what they do—if they continue their fight against this ocean, for money and greed—they’re actually going to destroy one of the most beautiful places on Earth.”

“Nobody has ever heard about this war even happening,” the filmmaker goes on. “It’s happening in the shadows, but only a five hours’ drive south of Los Angeles. And here you have a species go extinct—the smallest whale on earth, a beautiful creature right out of a Disney movie, the vaquita.” […]

Drug cartels became involved in the … fishing trade partly because … it’s much easier money than selling narcotics. Their … overfishing of the Sea of Cortez … makes it even more difficult for efforts to save the vaquita to take place because of the deadly threat that getting involved poses to activists, journalists and scientists, as well as to the very fishermen entangled in the trade. […]

Cartels that aid the Sixth Great Extinction also make it difficult for researchers working in Mexico’s interior. Environmental protection in Mexico often doesn’t get funded or implemented as meager financial resources get used up fighting an ineffectual and never-ending drug war.

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The NYPD sure is good at catching criminals

NYPD Brags About Weed Bust That Business Owner Says Is Just Hemp

“Precision policing and relentless follow-up” is how the New York Police Department characterized a recent marijuana bust it bragged about. But the business owner caught up in the case begs to differ, saying the cops simply have legal hemp on their hands. […]

What’s more, the packages apparently had been inspected by law enforcement authorities in Vermont before the NYPD’s seizure. A report from the Williston Police Department in that state said it was alerted by FedEx about a possible marijuana shipment.

“Both boxes contained paperwork explaining the shipper as a registered VT Cannabis Hemp grower,” said an officer’s report obtained by HuffPost. “I advised the company that this does appear to be Legal Hemp and not Marijuana and the police was not going to seize it.”

By the way, that “precision policing and relentless follow-up” is apparently getting a call from FedEx and arresting people without yet having tested the merchandise.

Since posting about the experience on Instagram and talking to media outlets, Levy said he’s received an outpouring of support and that he plans to take legal action against FedEx and the NYPD.

“They know they fucked up,” he said.

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D.A.R.E. America is Obsolete

Schools in the US are getting real about drug education by focusing on harm reduction while abandoning prohibitionist approaches that fail to work, such as the D.A.R.E. America (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program created in Los Angeles in 1983 by the infamous LAPD chief Daryl Gates. Gates is better remembered for proclaiming before a US Senate Subcommittee that infrequent or casual drug users “ought to be taken out and shot” because “we’re in a war” and even casual drug use is “treason.”

In its application, D.A.R.E.’s ridiculously inaccurate anti-drug hype served to make many students more curious (and thereby allegedly “treasonous”) when they experimented with drugs they might never have heard of before D.A.R.E. visited their classrooms. Harm reduction education can avoid these problems:

Instead of “just say no” propaganda, harm reduction reduces risks by helping people make the healthiest choices based on evidence-based research, without judgement. […]

…scare tactics have been replaced with useful facts about how drugs work and why the government made some of them illegal (hint: the history of drug prohibition is steeped in racism and classism) […]

With Safety First, students learn about different marijuana products, from raw buds to concentrates and edibles, along with their effects on the mind and body…in the harm reduction section of the unit, students learn that the best way to avoid these potential harms is abstinence — choosing not to use marijuana. However, Safety First recognizes some teenagers will make a different choice. So, students learn the difference between smoking marijuana and consuming edibles. […]

Drug-use safety tips have typically been available from a person’s drug-consuming peers—not organizations like D.A.R.E. Drug war critics have endorsed policies like those of Safety First for decades, only to be rebuffed by politicians and prohibitionists who apparently want the use of illicit drugs to remain potentially harmful. Drugs made less harmful, or those already benign, do little to support the existence or need of specialized drug enforcement personnel. Nor do they help generate politicians like presidential candidate Joe Biden, who’s ridden a wave of public anti-drug hysteria and violence throughout his 46-year political career to gain political stardom.

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Pennsylvania Pastor Fears Occult Cannabis

Pastor Gary Dull opposes Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s concession to state voters who want marijuana legalized, the governor saying he now favors it. Pastor Dull’s response to Governor Wolf’s decision offers the usual inaccuracies about marijuana while adding his own religious views on drugs:

“As a pastor for more than 45 years and serving a church in Altoona for nearly 25 years, I have seen many people agonize over using and abusing marijuana,” Dull said. “I believe it is a great mistake to legalize the narcotic for recreational use for several reasons.” […]

“I make efforts to uphold biblical teaching, and the Bible tells us to avoid anything that may ‘master’ our bodies (1 Cor. 6:12). Most of us know someone who has ruined their life through addictive drugs. Families have been broken, jobs have been lost and lives have even been taken as a result of the use of addictive drugs. Additionally, most people recognize that marijuana is an ‘entrance’ or ‘gateway’ drug that has the great potential to lead to more serious drug use and abuse.” […]

“Various studies have shown that students who used marijuana regularly are less likely to finish high school and go on to higher education than those who do not use the drug,” he said. “This results in future generations that may be less educated and unequipped to teach and lead their families to a more educated and higher-quality lifestyle. Less education and a lower-quality lifestyle contribute to many negative elements in society.” […]

“In the Bible,” he said, “the word used for the administering of drugs is the Greek word pharmakeia, which in some passages is translated to ‘witchcraft’ (Gal. 5:20) and ‘sorceries’ (Rev. 9:21). Thus, the Word of God makes a clear connection between drugs and the occult, implying that the unwise use of certain recreational drugs can lead to having the minds of the users open to wickedness and demonic activity. And that always guarantees a negative effect upon drug users as well as society in general.”

Recently appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has been applauded by various Christian groups for his applications of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. While on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Gorsuch dissented in Little Sisters vs. Burwell where the court found their religious freedom hadn’t been unduly burdened. Gorsuch favored the Hobby Lobby vs. Sibellius decision complicating birth control options. “Yet he won’t allow the religious liberty law to be used as an excuse for all behavior. In United States vs. Quaintance, he rejected drug smugglers’ claims that their marijuana distribution was motivated by religious belief as insincere and thus not protected by the statute.”

This Halloween season many Christians, wiccans, witches, pagans, humanists, and other smart, open-minded citizens will smoke weed for fun and relaxation. Will religious freedom protect them from persecution? Or will Gary Dull and Neil Gorsuch burn autumn festival goers at the stake?

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US Aids Mexico’s Drug Cartels

Systemic corruption due to drug war activity south of the border keeps the drug cartel fires lit and the acid vats ready for intrepid journalists who expose secrets that might derail the intricate and exploitative system perpetuating America’s drug hysteria, one that includes a quid pro quo system resembling an ad hoc business co-op with Mexico. Other than greater death tolls and profits, little has changed in the US-Mexico drug war since John Gibler provided a few gritty details in his 2011 book, To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War:

Who would believe…that the warden of a state prison would let convicted killers out at night and loan them official vehicles, automatic assault rifles, and bulletproof vests, so that they could gun down scores of innocent people in a neighboring state and then quickly hop back over the state line and into prison, behind bars, a perfect alibi? …Prison director Margarita Rojas Rodríguez…left instructions for the prisoners to be allowed back inside without a fuss. [Kindle pp. 7-8]

…impunity cannot hold without silence. Hence Mexico has become the most dangerous country in the hemisphere for journalists…whose labor requires voice…How many of those murder cases have been solved? Not one. How many of the disappeared journalists have been located? Not one. [Kindle pp. 19-20]

THIS IS WHAT THEY DO NOT WANT YOU TO SAY: The Mexican army and federal police have administered drug trafficking for decades. Drug money fills the vaults of Mexico’s banks, enters the national economy at every level, and, with traffickers’ annual profits estimated at between $30 billion and $60 billion a year, rivals oil as the largest single source of cash revenue in the country. (And Mexico is not the only place where this is so.)…The federal police forces are the main recruitment center for mid-level drug-trafficking operators. The army and the state police are the main recruitment centers for the enforcers, the paramilitary units in charge of assassinations, and the armed protection of drugs and mid- and high-level operators…people working for the various illegal narcotics businesses have directly infiltrated more than half of the municipal police forces in the country. During the seventy-one-year reign of the Institutional Revolutionary Party…the Mexican army controlled the division of territory for drug production and trafficking routes, allocating sub-divisions to local franchises, colloquially called cartels. A given territory under a cartel’s control is known as a plaza. […]

High-level federal officials in United States government know all of this and go along with the theatrics, because, among other reasons, the U.S. economy is also buoyed by the influx of drug money. The defense industries profit handsomely from arms sales to armies, police, and the drug gangs themselves; the police are addicted to asset forfeiture laws; prison guard unions are addicted to budget increases; and the criminalization of drugs has proven a durable excuse to lock people of color in prison in a country still shackled by racism. [Kindle pp. 24-26]

…when approving or covering U.S. aid to the Mexican federal government, such as the $1.4 billion Mérida Initiative. U.S. officials and the press routinely neglect to mention that the Mexican army and federal police very often are drug traffickers… [It is] estimated that the drug organizations’ control over human trafficking along the border brings them another $3 billion a year…The report calculates that drug gangs participated in 30 percent of the recent kidnappings while soldiers and police made up 22 percent of the nation’s kidnappers. [Kindle p. 30, 35]

U.S. intervention in Mexico is simultaneously a grounded historical fear-and-loathing in the population…the insistence of U.S. politicians on an ideological commitment to prohibition that seeks to veil prohibition’s use for social control…Essentially prohibition has been a technique of informal American cultural colonisation.” [Kindle p. 42, 43, 53-54]

Journalists and researchers penetrating the drug war netherworld might want to do a bit of homework first. In Mexico and across the world it’s been a record year for murders of journalists. Anthropologist Jeremy Slack’s recent book, Deported to Death, Appendix, “A Note on Researching in Violent Environments,” provides some useful survival tips.

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