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July 2009



A question for the next drug dealer bust press conference

As a follow-up to the previous post… When they come out to brag about a successful operation that resulted in the arrest of some drug dealers, I’d like someone to ask:

Why should we be excited about having more drug dealers? After all, we’ll have all the new drug dealers that will step in to […]

I love watching their heads explode

It’s very hard for some people to grasp the concept that a successful law enforcement operation may not actually end up providing a net benefit to society. In fact, in the drug war, successful law enforcement operations often cause significant damage to society.
It is this fact (which is counterintuitive to many) that is noted by the UK Drug Policy Commission reported in Let drug dealers roam free, police told

POLICE should spend less time pursuing drug dealers, a leading think tank claimed today. […]
The report showed drug dealers were able to avoid having their operations shut down by the police – and even when arrests were made and drugs seized – were “quick to adapt.” […]
It also added successful police operations could in turn have negative consequences, if, for example, they created a turf war between rival gangs.
The report said: ‹Levels of enforcement activity appear to bear no direct relationship to levels of drug use or availability.
‹Traditionally, drug enforcement efforts have focused on arrests and seizures, with the aim of reducing supply, but drug markets are large, resilient, and quick to adapt.Š

Now the UKDPC should have gone on to recommend legalization as the solution, yet their half solution is still logical, given the fact that arrests of dealers cause additional problems — leave the dealers alone and expend your efforts in other areas.
Naturally, the responses were blisteringly fast, outraged, and.. incomprehensible.

Home Office minister Alan Campbell today insisted the report does not signify an end to the war on drugs.
He claimed: ‹Tough enforcement is a fundamental part of our drug strategy, and the police continue to make real progress in tackling the supply of illegal drugs and in reducing the harm they cause.

Talk about not even beginning to addressing the conclusions of the report. But people like Alan Campbell can’t wrap their minds around the truth — it’s too far from their world view.
This head-exploding disconnect was also noticeable in the comments…

Where on earth do we get these idiots from. The more you let go fre the more there will be on the street, then the crime rate will go even higher because adicts will want money for their “fix”

Well, no. It’s simple economics. If you don’t arrest the dealers, there won’t be more dealers because the market will become saturated and any new dealers entering the market will reduce profits too far. So the crime rate actually won’t go higher because the number of addicts won’t actually change.
On the other hand, every time you arrest a drug dealer, you essentially increase the number of drug dealers in the world. There’s the new one that stepped up to take the place of the one you arrested, and there’s the original one that we’re now paying huge sums of money to prosecute and house.
Another commenter:

The solution to the problem of drug dealers is a mandatory life sentence for the second conviction. […]
If they are caught selling drugs let’s get medieval on them. It would make them think twice before they act.

Again, no. You just end up with full prisons and more drug dealers.

Another gem of pure insanity. If you believe you cannot fix a problem, then just give up. Perhaps Labour is keen to get a generation of unemployed into dealing drugs legally. They could then qualify for a small business loan and ultimately the profits from drugs could be taxed. What an asylum Britain has now become!

Actually, the best idea in the bunch, dressed up as insanity. Legalize and tax the drugs, provide jobs and put the criminals out of business.

Let the criminals take over the country we can save a lot of money and anyway a quick snort never did anyone any harm. What a pathetic bunch of free loaders. I will tell you what we should do. Sack these think tanks get rid of all these quangos Get rid of all the so called spy cameras and the millions saved will allow us to employ more police.Back in the 1920s America was over run with criminals they fought back and won.So must we.

Actually, what America did to get rid of the criminals was to end prohibition. Good idea.

Why not prohibit smoking? Commentary: Why not prohibit smoking? by Tony Newman Excellent OpEd comparing the status of tobacco with prohibited drugs to demonstrate the inherent stupidity of using criminal prohibition as a tool for attacking drug abuse or drug dangers.

Instead of giving teens “reefer madness”-style propaganda, we have treated young people with respect and given them […]

Mexico wants U.S. to ‘persecute’ marijuana offenders

Funny. I thought we were already doing that.

MEXICO CITY (AFP) — Mexico’s attorney general said the United States had insufficient resources and infrastructure to clamp down on marijuana trafficking, after meeting the US anti-drug czar. Mexico’s increasingly powerful drug traffickers operate throughout the United States and beyond as well as in Mexico. “We frequently […]

The Union

I just finished watching the newly available DVD: The Union: The Business Behind Getting High that was released yesterday. It’s outstanding! It is the most comprehensive documentary review of cannabis policy, politics, history, myths, science, and.. humanity that I’ve seen. It’s compelling (and yes, a little overwhelming — you almost need to take a […]

Bookstore Blues

I used to love nothing better than spending hours wandering through large bookstores. Yesterday, I spent some time browsing the three-story Borders Books in downtown Chicago. Despite looking fairly extensively (though not asking), I was unable to find any books about the drug war. However, prominently displayed on the main floor were “nonfiction” books by […]

One step closer to ending the cocaine sentencing disparity

Via ACLU press release:

The House Judiciary Committee today voted to pass a bill that would eliminate the discriminatory disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing under federal law. Today‰s vote clears the way for H.R. 3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, to be voted on by the full House. The bill removes references to ‹cocaine baseŠ from the U.S. federal code and takes the welcome step of removing the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine.

It’s not victory, but it’s progress, folks. Good news.

More discussion

I’ve been way too busy on vacation in Chicago to get any blogging done, and my wireless access is weak. I’ll be back on Wednesday.
“bullet” Here’s a very interesting article (Thanks, David) in the TimesOnline (UK): The truth about cocaine in Britain – an interview with Tom Feiling. There’s lots of good stuff in it, but I wanted to toss out this particular point…

But I‰m loath to call cocaine addictive, because addiction is a very contentious and overused word. Is alcohol addictive? If so, how come most drinkers aren‰t addicted to it? We hear more about addictive personalities than addictive substances these days; this may be a good thing, as it shifts the focus from the drug to the user. People can have compulsive relationships with all kinds of substances. Most cocaine users can and do control their intake pretty well. A minority don‰t, but it‰s all too easy to blame the drug rather than face up to the user‰s underlying psychological problems.


Open Thread

I’ll be up in Chicago for the next five days, staying in a delightful little dump of a hotel near Wrigley that may not have wireless. Got a friend visiting and we’re going to do some kayaking in the Chicago river, see shows, eat good food, etc. (plus my own show is continuing to run at National Pastime Theater). So blogging may be light. I’ll try to check in.
If I’m not around on Monday, that will be my 6 year blogiversary. Wow. I started doing this on July 27, 2003. What a long trip.
“bullet” In a completely incomprehensible manner, Mayor Daley rips into the Cook County Board for considering minor decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, despite the fact that he had suggested the exact same thing for Chicago.
“bullet” Inappropriate behavior for a judge. When discussing a challenge to a school drug testing program, Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver makes it clear that she’s going to make sure there is a drug testing program in the school one way or another.

“I want everyone in this courtroom to know where this judge stands – I will always stand there,” Weaver said. “If I am going to be in error, I’m going to be in error on the side of saving every child I can possibly save. I am passionate about this.”

“bullet” A must-read piece at Reason: Ryan Grim: The Drug Czar’s High Math – How phony statistics about cocaine prices hide the truth about the war on drugs
“bullet” National Geographic Channel has a series Locked Up Abroad (most are drug offense related).
“bullet” State votes could get a say on pot
“bullet” Better be careful about smooching with your girlfriend in a parked car. Apparently, that’s now suspicious activity to drug police.

Do call 911 immediately if you see a car with people sitting in it apparently going no where. They are waiting to make a drug connection.

“bullet” Legalizing a federal crime: How states could win he war over marijuana

Mikos suggests that by legalizing medical use of marijuana, states may have actually helped re-shape public attitudes toward the drug.
‹The use of marijuana may seem more beneficial and less dangerous or wicked simply because it‰s now permitted by state law.Š

Sentence entrapment

Larry Frankel has a good article in the Houston Chronicle: Stop sentence entrapment in drug case prosecutions

Many Americans have learned about the unjust disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences but many do not know that this disparity allows law enforcement to exploit that difference in ways that compound the injustice. […] He described […]