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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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August 2020
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Open Virus Thread

Hey gang, I know I haven’t been posting here (thanks so much to Servetus for keeping the site active!) Retirement is a different game, and I’ve been hard at work recovering from my shattered leg two years ago.

Some of you may have extra time during these next few weeks due to virus-related closings and self-quarantine. So what are your favorite drug-related movies and music to watch/listen to while quarantined? Let’s get some fun threads going in comments.

I’ll start off with my all-time favorite that has been a go-to for me since I was in college in the 1970s — Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”

Side note: I just returned from a week in New York leading a student group, seeing Broadway plays. Unfortunately, Broadway shut down the day we were to see our last show — the first preview of “Flying Over Sunset” at Lincoln Center Theatre. It’s a musical(!) about Clare Boothe Luce, Aldous Huxley, and Carey Grant on LSD. And it has tap-dancing. The concept blows my mind and I really wish we could have seen it!

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Aerial Spraying to Resume in Colombia

Donald Trump has ordered the aerial fumigation of Colombian coca fields using the same controversial glyphosate herbicide employed in the past. The Latin American human rights organization WOLA is raising objections to more fumigation:

On February 10, the Colombian government said it planned to eradicate 130,000 hectares of coca this year, using techniques that will possibly include the spraying of herbicides from aircraft. […]

When assessing the wisdom of restarting aerial spraying, it’s also paramount to consider how this policy will impact Colombia’s obligations under international human rights law. The pursuit of drug control objectives does not relieve governments of their fundamental obligations to protect and promote human rights, including people’s rights to live in dignity, to be free from hunger, and to enjoy an adequate standard of living. […]

Many studies exist about the health and environmental risks associated with spraying of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide mixture that Colombia used in the past and proposes to use again … El Espectador reported last year on a Colombian government study that found the following:

“‘In humans, evidence of glyphosate exposure was considered as a risk factor for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, lymphomas, multiple myeloma, and miscarriages.’ In addition, it notes that ‘other outcomes reported as an adverse effect from exposure to glyphosate, with statistically significant estimates, were beta cell lymphoma and attention disorders and hyperactivity.’” […]

The original plan was to end the 50 year conflict that had cost 260,000 lives and to reintegrate more than 13,000 FARC revolutionaries back into peaceful society. Complicating the coca eradication program are dozens of killings of FARC fighters after a 2016 peace deal was entered into under former President Juan Manuel Santos. The human rights of Colombia’s most peaceful demonstrators are violated. Deaths of human rights activists are said to be 289 or 736 depending on who is asked. The murders weaken current Colombian President Duque’s prospects for future peace talks with guerrillas.

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Border Wall Scaled with $5.30 of Rebar

Someone forgot to inform the federal government that drug traffickers are clever and resourceful:

The ladders appear to be made by hand from two poles of 3/8-inch rebar and four thinner poles, fitted with steps and bent over at the end in a ‘U’ shape to hook on the top of the wall.

The El Paso Times reports smugglers could be sourcing the rebar from a local hardware store in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican city just south of El Paso, where six metres of the material costs roughly $5.30 (£4).

To date, almost 100 miles of border have been built under the Trump administration, mostly to replace and improve existing barriers.

Mr Trump’s campaign promised that Mexico would pay for the wall, but thus far the almost $10bn (£7.7bn) budget has come from taxpayer money. […]

A total 450 miles of the barrier is expected to be completed by the end of this year. […]

Failed DEA operations in Afghanistan have already sucked nearly $9 billion into the drug war’s black hole. Total losses in these categories may exceed $19 billion if construction on the Mexican border wall continues. Despite the ongoing fraud and waste, US taxpayers may find a bit of comfort in knowing that a mere 20 feet of #3 rebar can help bring victory and freedom to people around the world in the ongoing struggle against corrupt drug skirmishes and schemes.

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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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