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September 2004



Important stuff

There’s been so much going on, it’s hard to keep up with it all, so here’s a quick round of stuff…
“bullet” Today’s Washington Post article on the increasing drug war: Russian Drug Unit Criticized Over Dubious Tactics, Priorities. This is an amazing article. Frightening. It’s also a reflection of our own DEA and ONDCP and Justice Department and Congress. Think of those while you read it. Baylen has commented on this story. (Thanks also to Alexander for the tip.) Vice Squad has been following the drug war in Russia for some time.
“bullet” Speaking of Vice Squad, slightly belated congratulations are due to Jim and the rest of the gang for their one year anniversary. They’ve been a wonderful, fun, and informative part of this corner of the blogosphere.
“bullet” Baylen points us to Paul Armentano’s article on the government’s drug war statistics. I couldn’t resist adding my own comment (based on the government’s actual statistics):

99.88% of people who have tried marijuana are currently NOT using heroin.

I guess this must be what the government means by the gateway theory.

So remember, if you want your kids to have better than a 99% chance of not being hooked on heroin, make sure they smoke pot. [just making a point]

“bullet” Radley Balko reporting on some amazing drug war stats from Eric Sterling:

In the last 20 years, the number of people who have died from overdoses of illicit drugs has doubled.
According to surveys of high school seniors, heroin and marijuana are more available to high schoolers today than they were in 1975.
In 29 years of those surveys, the number of high schools seniors answering that marijuana was “readily available” has never been lower than 85%.
The price of all illicit drugs has dropped almost every year for the last 30 years, while the purity of those drugs has gone up (oddly enough, the ONDCP admits as much in its new campaign against “crack marijuana”).
The drug trade is now worth an estimated $50 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars, up from $1 billion 25 years ago.
Last year, 1.6 million people were arrested for drug crimes, more than all violent crimes combined.
Every year, we arrest about 300,000 people for drug trafficking. Yet even after taking those offenders out of the trade (at least temporarily) we’ve still increased drug war spending every year since the onset of the drug war, to the point where last year we spent about $60 billion at the local, state, and federal level. It’s hard to think of a legal industry that thrives, even grows, despite losing 300,000 of its workers every year.
In 1986, the federal prison population stood at 36,000. Today, it’s at 180,000. Twenty-five years ago, the conbined state prison population stood at 250,000. Today, it’s at 2.1 million. One-fourth of those are drug offenders.

“bullet” I’ve been meaning to link to this post by Andrew at Caffeine Dreams. Very nice fisking of farkers’ view of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients.
“bullet” I’ve been getting some nice letters from candidates who have received Drug WarRant endorsements.
Al Barger, Indiana Senate candidate writes:

Thanks for your endorsement for US Senate. Let me re-iterate that not only do I think the drug war is a bad idea, it is also flatly unconstitutional. As a candidate for federal office, there is absolutely NO authority under the US Constitution for the federal government to outlaw or regulate drugs. None.

Another note:

Thanks for the endorsement! Kevin Fleming Indiana District 4

And Jerry Kohn (Illinois Senate candidate) writes:

Pete,Thanks for the endorsement on your blog.æ Perhaps in years to come, we will be able to convince more and more people of the insanity of the “war on drugs”.æ Our children will look back on the “war on drugs” era in the same way that our generation looks on the era of alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s – as a foolish mistake not to be repeated.æ Thanks again.

Nice notes. Means a lot to me.
Interesting that I’ve only heard from Libertarians so far, and I’ve endorsed a greater number of Democrats and Republicans. Not sure if it means anything. Are they just more polite? Or perhaps they’re just grateful to get any publicity, since the media so often neglects them. Or they actually feel politically OK acknowledging a drug policy endorsement, while the Dems and Repubs aren’t as comfortable about it. Or, they’re better at Googling.

Chicago to go with fines for marijuana possession?

Vice Squad and D’Alliance has covered it, and Bill at Peoria Pundit has been wondering what my take would be of this …

Mayor Daley on Tuesday embraced a police sergeant’s scheme to raise money for the city budget by ticketing people caught with small amounts of marijuana, but opponents are already taking shots at […]

Take two aspirin and visit me in jail

A culture of cruelty has arisen in the medical establishment as patients who need medical pain management have come to be seen as agents of impending doom to those who would treat them. Physicians are prosecuted as drug dealers and patients who need opioids to survive are viewed with terrible suspicion, and subjected to every kind of humiliation and intrusion – that is, if they are lucky enough to find care at all.

This is the starting paragraph of a set of materials (532K Word Document) provided to those attending the Congressional Briefing on the Politics of Pain held this past Friday, which detailed some of the horrors that the war on drugs has visited on chronic pain.
The words above come from Siobhan Reynolds, President of Pain Relief Network, who was invited by American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, Rep. Ron Paul, and Rep. John Conyers to speak at the briefing. She concluded:

By thinking we could regulate medicines with federal criminal law and not, thereby, the practice of medicine, we have as a society made a colossal error. The Founding Fathers gave a great deal of thought to the structure of the government of the United States of America, giving only certain limited powers to the federal government, reserving all others to the sovereign states. This was done specifically to protect us from the imposition of oppressive central authority, exactly what we, the people, have suffered here in spades.

The regulation of medicine in the states is protective of medicine and therefore of patients, and needs to be respected by us all.

We are calling upon the Congress to allow the American people to tell our side of the story and to defund the United States Department of Justice in its pursuit of medical professionals who treat pain.

The Montel Show yesterday, and this briefing last Friday, together demonstrate in striking ways that the government’s war on drugs is often being used (particularly by the federal government) as an unconstitutional and immoral war on the people.
On the Montel show it was made clear that harrassment of sick people has absolutely nothing to do with whether there is sufficient evidence of marijuana’s medical benefits. The pain briefing brought out the stories of doctors following acceptable medical practices who have been stripped of everything in DEA witch hunts and patients increasingly having trouble finding doctors willing to treat them.
President George W. Bush recently talked about his concerns with the high cost of malpractice insurance by stating that “Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.” And while I understand that there may be something important in those words (somewhere?), I would like to see a similar sense of outrage for the destruction of doctors who treat pain.
All of us face the possibility of a debilitating illness that requires proper pain management. Will your doctor, out of fear of the DEA, tell you to just deal with it and take some ibuprofen?
Radley Balko of The Agitator attended the briefing, interviewed a number of the people involved, and has reported on it in Doctors, Patients, Latest Drug War Casualties.

Fisher, a Harvard-trained physician, once specialized in the treatment of chronic pain.æHe served a predominantly rural and poor population in California.æAbout 5-10 percent of his 3,000 clients were pain patients, victims of illnesses like cancer, steep falls, or car accidents.

A little more than five years ago, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer initiated a high-profile campaign against pain doctors who prescribe high doses of opioidsæ– drugs such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and codeine.æ

Lockyer made Frank Fisher his example. Lockyer and other California prosecutors likened Fisher to a crack dealer.æThen, to a mass murderer.æFisher was charged with multiple counts of drug distribution, fraud, and most sensationally,æ15 counts of murder.æThe state seized his assets.æ His bail was set at $15 million and he faced a possible life sentence.

He was acquitted of all charges, but…

Frank Fisher is still a broken man.æHe spent five months in prison and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.æHe has yet to get his assets back from the state of California, and he still faces the possible revocation of his medical license.æ

Read the whole thing.