Send comments, tips,
and suggestions to:
Join us on Pete's couch.
couch, the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
June 2007



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 elite
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 a 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.

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.