With this year just about over, what do we have to show for it? It’s certainly been an interesting year for drug policy reform, and I’d say one possibly our best in terms of progress made in the most important area: building critical mass for reform.
Here are some re-cap stories (and similar items) from various places…
Drug War Chronicle: Top 10 Domestic Drug Policy Stories
- Marijuana Goes Mainstream
- Medical Marijuana: The Feds Butt Out and the Floodgates Begin to Swing Open
- The Reflexive Prohibitionist Impulse Remains Alive — Just Ask Sally D
- “We Must Drug Test Welfare and Unemployment Recipients!”
- Rockefeller Drug Law and Other State Sentencing Reforms
- Swatting SWAT
- America Finally Notices the Drug War Across the River
- Congress Ends Ban on Needle Exchange Funding, Butts Out of DC Affairs
- Questioning the Drug War: Two Congressional Bills
- The Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity
Tony Newman, writing at Alternet, has a slightly different approach to a top-10 for the year: 10 Signs the Failed Drug War Is Finally Ending
2009 will go down as the beginning of the end of America’s longest running war. Here’s 10 reasons why.
- Three Former Latin American Presidents Call Drug War a Failure (February)
- Michael Phelps and the Bong Hit Heard Around the World (February)
- Obama Justice Department Says No More Raids on Patients and Caregivers in States with Medical Marijuana Laws (March)
- Drop the Rock! NY’s Draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws Finally Reformed (April)
Governor Arnold Calls for Debate on Legalizing Marijuana: Voters to Decide in 2010 (May)
- Drug Czar Calls for End to the Drug War (May)
- Mexico and Argentina Move to Decriminalize Marijuana and other Drugs (August)
- The Results Are In: Portugal’s Decriminalization Law of 2001 Reduced Transmission of Disease, Cut Overdose Deaths and Incarceration, While Not Increasing Drug Use. (August)
- Coming Out of the Closet: “Stiletto Stoners” Explain Why They Like Marijuana (September)
- The Marijuana Legalization Debate Hits the Mainstream (Fall )
Note: With both stories above, be sure to go to the original article to read the full description under each item.
This item in The Nation really threw me for a loop. I was rather shocked to come across this poll in a major political magazine:
What was the best political moment of 2009?
- Obama’s inauguration. It marked the end of the Bush years and set a hopeful tone for the year.
- Iran’s revolutionary moment. A new generation of activists’ tweets are heard around the world.
- Obama’s progressive drug policy reforms. A first step towards an exit plan for the ‘war on drugs.’
- The confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor. Obama’s appointment broke with precedent; gave the court its first hispanic woman chief justice.
- America’s renewed outreach to the international community. The Cairo speech heralded a renewed embrace of diplomacy.
Wait. Really? That item stunned me on multiple levels. First, for those of us working on drug policy reform, it’s extremely hard to think of Obama as a leader in drug policy reform. Second, for a major political mag to consider working toward an exit plan for the ‘war on drugs’ to be an important political goal â€” well, that’s pretty exciting in itself.
Of course, good things have happened this year â€” some may say that those things happened despite Obama. After all, his Drug Czar (and all his other appointees) has been no friend to true reform. And didn’t Obama himself derisively laugh at us internet drug policy reformers… more than once?
And yet… and yet… I am willing to posit that Obama’s Presidency has been, if not a friend to reform, in many ways less of an obstacle to reform than past Presidencies. During the Presidential campaign, I said that I felt Obama’s value to drug policy reform would not be as a supporter of reform (that no President who could become elected would be a reform supporter), but rather through “benign neglect” â€” through not completely shutting down the doors that others might go through â€” and I believe that has been the case. In fact, everything from his Drug Czar’s bumbling vocabulary limitations to Obama’s derisive laughter has actually helped us in a backhanded way (I’m not giving him credit, just saying that the actions of the administration have done nothing to shore up the reputation of the drug war, allowing us to effectively chip away at it).
Jordan Smith in the Austin Chronicle has Top 9 Joints
- Patients Free to Inhale
- Some Like it Pot
- Don’t Know What He’s Smoking
- Frustrated Farmers Jailed
- Cracking the Cocaine Disparity
- Pricks Kill Needles … Again
- We Don’t Talk Like That in El Paso
- Pot From Coast to Coast
- Your Choice: Treatment or Jail
The last one caught my eye… Full text is:
After years of hearing the nation’s drug czar jaw on and on about how potent pot is sending more tokers in search of medical help to quit their habit, the feds this year released a new set of statistics showing that â€“ surprise, surprise! â€“ 56% of people admitted to rehab for pot use have actually been sent there by the criminal justice system, as an alternative to going to jail for drug possession. Back to the drawing board, Mr. Czar.
Actually, of course, we’ve known and have been trying to get that information across for some years. But I’m always happy to have someone discover it anew and talk about it.
What are your top stories for 2009? Any that weren’t listed here?