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June 2007



Images of drugs can be political speech

The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of this ruling:

A seventh-grader from Vermont was suspended for wearing a shirt that bore images of cocaine and a martini glass÷but also had messages calling President Bush a lying drunk driver who abused cocaine and marijuana, and the “chicken-hawk-in-chief” who was engaged in a “world domination tour.” […]
Williamstown Middle School Principal Kathleen Morris-Kortz said the images violated the school dress code, which prohibits clothing that promotes the use of drugs or alcohol.
An appeals court said the school had no right to censor any part of the shirt.

This is good news in the context of the Bong Hits decision, as it verifies that schools are restricted from censoring political speech, and that images of marijuana leaves, for example, when used in political context, are political speech, not a promotion of illegal activity.
This was an issue for me a few years ago, when the residence halls at Illinois State University denied permission to distribute flyers for hempfest because of the presence of a hemp leaf on the flyer.

False witness against legalizers

Scott Morgan and Allan Erickson have already addressed this, but I wanted to comment as well. In this post by Clara Jeffery at (which has some good points), there is a really uncalled for remark:

As in so many things these days, one wishes for something approximating independent analysis. I don’t trust the government’s […]

Fun with the Lord’s Bong Hits

“bullet” First: Bong Hits 4 Jesus – the game. The trick here is to guess not which ones you should suspend a student for, but which ones you are allowed to suspend a student for/censor, based on the recent Supreme Court decision. Can you get a perfect 23/23 score? (How many times does it take […]

Open Thread


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Democratic candidates touch on the drug war

I didn’t watch this round of debates – Democratic candidates dealing with minority issues: U.S. Senator Joe Biden, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, former U.S. Senator John Edwards, former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel, U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, U.S. Senator Barack Obama and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. But from the brief recaps […]

Why aren’t you in jail yet?

The United States has 5% of the world’s population…

… but 25% of the world’s prison population.

We lead the entire world in incarceration rates.

We even lead the world in actual numbers of those imprisoned

So…, and I’m just asking here…, with all these people in jail, how did we manage to […]

Must reads

“bullet” Transform Drug Policy Foundation has a wonderful chart showing the differences between (in general) the drug policy Status Quo position and the Reform position. Here are a few samples:

Status Quo position
Reform position

Illegal drug use must be eradicated
People have always used drugs,and illegal drug use cannot be eradicated

Any use of illegal drugs is problematic
Most illegal drug use is non-problematic. Many of the health harms associated with illegal drug use are actually because they are illegal.

Legalisation and regulation is a step into the unknown

We have centuries of experience in legally regulating thousands of different drugs

Drug law reform is being forced through by the ‘liberal eliteČ
Drug law reform is supported by individuals from across the social and political spectrum

Prohibition protects the health of

Prohibition creates new public health problems and maximises harms associated with illegal drug use

Prohibition sends an important message about avoiding drugs and their dangers
The criminal justice system should not be used to send public health messages.

Prohibition is based on a strong moral position that drugs are unacceptable

The policy that is most effective at reducing harm and maximising well being is the moral position

Prohibition controls drug use and drug markets

Prohibition abdicates control of illegal drug production and supply to the criminal networks and unregulated dealers

There are a lot more at Transform

“bullet” This is something we mentioned in passing earlier this year, but Maia Szalavitz has a strong article in Reason about Mitt Romney and his connection to child torturer Mel Sembler (founder of Straight, Inc.): Romney, Torture, and Teens

“bullet” Via Drug Policy Alliance:

The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) made history last weekend by passing a resolution calling for a public health approach to the problems of substance use and abuse (PDF). The resolution was sponsored by Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City.
The resolution proclaims the war on drugs a failure, and calls for ča New Bottom Line in U.S. drug policy, a public health approach that concentrates more fully on reducing the negative consequences associated with drug abuse, while ensuring that our policies do not exacerbate these problems or create new social problems of their own.ä

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime World Drug Report

Can’t we just get along? A truce in Mexico

Time Magazine reports A Cease-Fire in Mexico’s Drug War?
But not really.

U.S. and Mexican officials confirm that Mexico’s major rival drug-trafficking organizations, the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels, “may be trying to negotiate a truce” and come to some agreement over control of territory, says a knowledgeable U.S. official.

That’s a little different. I read “cease fire in Mexico’s drug war” and figured that the government and the cartels had come to an agreement. But no, this is a cease-fire in the turf war, not the drug war. Big difference.

The two mafias could be coming to the table for two key reasons. First, “the violence has drawn too much attention and has really begun to hurt [their drug-trafficking] business,” says Steven Robertson, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

It’s actually probably hurt the actual players more than the business, but yes, it makes sense that while turf violence protects black market interests, once it reaches a certain level, it’s no longer productive (of course, in legalized business, violence wouldn’t be productive at all).

And second, Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s popular but oft-questioned strategy of throwing the military at the cartels ÷ some 25,000 soldiers have been deployed to violence-ravaged states like Michoacan this year ÷ “is starting to pay dividends,” insists a high-ranking Mexican official.

Rolling on the floor, laughing. Love the way they throw that in to try to get some credit, but particularly love the fact that it is attributed to a “high-ranking Mexican official.” That’s right — announcing that a massive government program is having any effect can only be done anonymously (perhaps because they’re afraid of being killed? — which kind of ruins the effect of declaring victory)
Of course, the government efforts have been abysmal, adding to the violence and the human rights violations, and potentially the corruption (and then swelling the ranks of militaristic cartel members).

But both countries, rightly, remain as skeptical as they are optimistic. That’s because Mexico’s narco-terror isn’t just about the Sinaloa-Gulf feud. It’s also a struggle between opposing mind-sets in each cartel: the more pragmatic businessmen, who are worried that all the blood has begun to hamper the efficiency of their cocaine distribution “plazas” in Mexico and along the U.S. border; and the more violent enforcers, who tend to see trafficking competition as a zero-sum game. The latter have enjoyed the upper hand ever since Mexico’s traditional cartel structures began to disintegrate about five years ago and gangs like the Zetas ÷ former army special forces soldiers who today are the Gulf cartel’s dominant faction ÷ filled the vacuum. As a result, the success or failure of any cartel negotiation is likely to rest on which priority prevails ÷ commerce or conquest.

That’s an interesting analysis. Keep in mind that the U.S. spent most of its energies trying to break up the “pragmatic businessmen,” while actually helping to train some of the “violent enforcers.” That’s right, the U.S. Army trained a lot of the members of Los Zetas at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia to combat the cartels. They then ended up going into business for themselves.

And even if the cartels do come to an agreement that might reduce the violence, it won’t reduce the trafficking. That’s because the U.S. still has not done enough to reduce its voracious demand for cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines, and because Mexico has yet to really confront one of the main causes of the country’s narco-chaos: underpaid and under-trained cops who are easily bought by the cartels and, in many states and cities, have simply become part of the cartel fabric (and as a result are often the victims of cartel assassinations).

The U.S. or Mexico have also not had any luck repealing the law of gravity.
The main cause of narco-chaos is that drugs are in the black market. Period.

In the meantime, Mexicans hope the cease-fire reports hold true ÷ as does Washington, which stands to see border headaches like illegal immigration worsen if the violence continues to spiral.

Yeah, that’s good policy. Just hope that the drug traffickers can get along. Because the U.S. and Mexico don’t have anything else they’re doing that’ll work any better.

Daily Show

Jon Stewart, showing the banner Joseph Frederick held up on that snowy day at the Olympic torch relay, along with video of the large Olympic torch…

“If Jesus had a bong, that is totally the lighter that He’d use.”