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August 2021



Is Joe Biden an old dog?

It’s said old dogs can’t learn new tricks, or not as easily. So does the old dog rule apply to President Joe Biden? Will Joe learn any new tricks? On May 6, 2021, the President is expected to renew a Trump drug policy that enhances criminal penalties for illicit possession or sales of fentanyl and its chemical analogs. It includes mandatory minimum sentences reminiscent of the crack era:

…according to Premal Dharia, executive director of the Institute to End Mass Incarceration …“We must stop repeating historical choices that we know do not work and start working toward building health and flourishing communities for all,” Dharia said.

Dharia and other advocates said the crackdown on fentanyl-like compounds mirrors the crackdown on crack cocaine in Black communities. Like the fentanyl crackdown, the crackdown on crack was also fueled by sensational media reports and led to massive disparities in sentencing between Black people involved with crack and white people involved with powder cocaine.

“Once again, with fentanyl, people of color are being disproportionately policed and incarcerated just as they were with crack, and with a punitive approach based in fear and misinformation,” Taifa said.

The Biden administration has hinted that it may be open to diverging somewhat from the drug war and embracing harm reduction, […]

The Biden administration has done little or nothing to promote harm reduction or drug law reform since he began office, preferring instead to defend and repeat the drug war’s legacy of error and failure. This is where the old dogs and new tricks theory could prove useful.

Congress should consider creating a new federal research facility. It can be called the Joe Biden National Institute of Old Dogs Research. Drug sniffer dogs nearing retirement would be redeployed into its research programs to determine more efficient and effective ways to teach them new tricks, like detecting tree diseases in avocado orchards, or identifying people infected with COVID-19. Any new and successful training techniques discovered by researchers that help old sniffer dogs learn might then be applied to retraining the President and his group of drug war advisors.

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Afghanistan’s farmers go solar

Afghanistan (AKA Graveyard of Empires) has emerged stronger than ever after 19 years of US intervention in the US led war on terrorism. Still intent on protecting its $1 trillion in untouched metals resources from marauding foreign mining companies, Afghanistan and its farmers have adapted to utilizing 21st century technologies to grow opium poppies:

…heroin supply to Britain has careened in the last decade, namely due to the ‘solar revolution’ in Afghanistan. This has enabled farmers to use electricity generated from solar panels to pump untapped water from 100 meters under the desert. Now, where there was once an arid dust belt, there are fields of thriving poppy, punches of colour lighting up the desert, too much of a lucrative cash crop for Afghan farmers to pass up. […]

Afghanistan was used as a “playground for foreign nations to kill Afghans like a video game” – as one of my young Afghan friends once described to me. It’s highly unlikely British Intelligence Agencies were unaware of the newly blossoming poppy industry, much of which is growing in Helmand, a ‘hotspot’ for drone strikes and aerial surveillance. Today Afghanistan produces 90% of the worlds’ heroin, 3% of the Afghan population are addicts, and production of the crop has more than doubled, from 3,700 tonnes in 2012, to 9,000 tonnes in 2017. […]

The Biden administration characterized the May 1, 2021, Afghanistan pullout date for the removal of 2,500 remaining US troops as “hard to meet,” and said it was not his intention “to stay there a long time.” What the President means by hard-to-meet or a long time is anyone’s guess. In the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk, the British pulled 400,000 of their troops out of Normandy in just ten days.

A clue to Biden’s intentions may lie in his consistency. Even though he began his senate career by opposing the war in Viet Nam, Joe Biden never lost faith in using wars to produce a drug free society, or at least a society free of drug users. He seems to believe drug laws can change people’s understanding of what is right or wrong about drugs. With that kind of attitude, it’s possible a new era of drone wars may bloom in the Afghan desert highlands.

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Where is he getting his data?

“This is a dangerous drug that will impact our kids,” [Nebraska Governor Pete] Ricketts told reporters on Wednesday. “If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids. That’s what the data shows from around the country.”


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Will Joe Biden Depose Rodrigo Duterte?

Since the inception of the Marshall Plan it’s been U.S. policy to discourage or expel troublesome dictators who appear destined to grow in power and external threat capabilities. Political experience recognizes that leaders or governments who treat their own citizens badly tend to show the same ill will toward other sovereign governments and foreign nationals. The situation makes it difficult to ignore despots.

Recently, despot-in-chief and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte expanded his operations from extrajudicial executions of illicit drug consumers and traffickers (the poor) to killing labor leaders, or what Duterte calls “communist rebels”:

…“Nothing could be more apt than calling this day a ‘Bloody Sunday,’” Ms. Palabay said in a statement. She said the killings were part of a “murderous campaign of state terror” by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to stifle legitimate dissent, and she urged the country’s independent Commission on Human Rights to investigate the raids.

Three activists were arrested in the raids, including a paralegal who worked for Karapatan, Ms. Palabay said. […]

It’s not as if the U.S. hasn’t joined other nations or the ICC in the past in toppling leaders unfit for power, or who merely oppose U.S. interests. President Idi Amin of Uganda was removed from power after he admitted to being a cannibal. Manuel Noriega of Panama was deposed after refusing to cancel the Panama Canal Treaty with the U.S. that transferred control of the canal to Panama. To justify his removal, the George H. W. Bush administration indicted Noriega on charges of cocaine trafficking. The alleged cocaine discovered in Noriega’s residence turned out to be flour.

The present irony is that President Joe Biden is one of the architects of the drug war, beginning his career in the Nixon era as a naive 29-year-old U.S. senator representing Delaware. Drug Czar William J. Bennett filled Biden’s head with disinformation about drugs, falsehoods like marijuana gateways, the crack-cocaine sentencing disparity, and instant and absolute addiction to crack. Biden acted upon the lies, later being forced to apologize for the disinformation he was fed.

Duterte uses the methods and ideologies of Nixon, Bennett, and Biden as both an excuse and a tool to commit mass murder. Should Biden act to eliminate Duterte, he may find it within himself—after nearly 50 years of public service—to concede to wiping the slate clean of all drug wars and prohibition related U.S. drug policies that tyrants employ against their citizens or opponents. Who knows? The President might even agree to the full legalization of cannabis.

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John Oliver on police drug raids

Nothing really new to us, but great to see such expanded coverage on a major show. This is from last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

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Billie Holliday and Harry Anslinger

Watching The United States vs. Billie Holliday on Hulu. Many people are unaware of how much Billie Holliday (and her dangerously true song “Strange Fruit“) drew the ire of the government and racist drug warrior Harry Anslinger in particular during his ramping up for the war on drugs.

This true story is taken in part from the research in Johann Hari’s amazing book “Chasing the Scream: The Opposite of Addiction is Connection,” which I talked about at length here on DrugWarRant, and the script for the film is by Suzan-Lori Parks. Andra Day, in a very powerful performance, plays Billie.

I thought the direction by Lee Daniels was a little uneven, but it was still an amazing (and disturbing) story to watch, and always wonderful to hear Billie’s songs.

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Washington Supreme Court rules felony drug possession law unconstitutional

Wow. This is big news.

Washington State Supreme Court finds state’s felony drug possession law unconstitutional

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s felony drug possession law is unconstitutional.

Immediately following the ruling, Seattle Police announced they would no longer be arresting people for simple drug possession, and they won’t confiscate drugs under the statute. Other agencies quickly followed suit. […]

In its ruling released Thursday, the high court said the law serves to “criminalize innocent and passive possession” because it is a “strict liability” law, meaning prosecutors don’t need to prove intent.

The ruling strikes down RCW 69.50.4013 Section 1. Without that section, there is essentially no state law on simple drug possession. […]

“Attaching the harsh penalties of felony conviction, lengthy imprisonment, stigma, and the many collateral consequences that accompany every felony drug conviction to entirely innocent and passive conduct exceeds the legislature’s powers,” the ruling reads.

Now, this doesn’t stop the legislature from drafting a new possession law that meets the court’s standards, but for now, simple possession cannot be prosecuted under the felony law.

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Drug Wars are a Social Health Menace

Many people know how the drug war has affected them personally, or those close to them. Less attention is focused on the insidious impact of drug enforcement on society as a whole. A new initiative by the Drug Policy Alliance called ‘Uprooting the Drug War,’ seeks to expose the damage caused by drug wars beyond the usual mass of arrests and incarcerations:

“Even as there is growing momentum for treating drug use as a matter of personal and public health, the systems on which we would normally rely to advance an alternative approach are infested with the same culture of punishment as the criminal legal system and have operated with relative impunity. Today, we expose those systems and their role in fueling drug war policies and logic that compound the harms suffered by people who use drugs and people who are targeted by drug war enforcement,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance [DPA]. “Ending the drug war in all its vestiges is critical to improving the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities….”

…at Uprooting the Drug War, …analysis of six different systems through first-hand stories, data spotlights, and reports … take a deep dive into how drug war policies have taken root and created grave harm in the fields of education, employment, housing, child welfare, immigration, and public benefits. […]

An exposé of drug war social harms is important, but it doesn’t address a key issue needed to scale down the war and end it. What about all the federal, state and municipal employees whose income and livelihood depends on the continuation of current drug policies? President Biden or Congress needs to provide prohibitionists with a parachute—something that allows them to retire early or easily transfer to another line of work. Failing this, the drug war’s labor force is set to continue to act in every way possible to preserve their jobs up until they retire.

Prohibitionists still retain influential and powerful drug war allies, such as Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Chuck Grassley. The two senators recently introduced a bill, HEN21186, that among other things allows a redundant relic of the drug war, the federal cannabis farm in Mississippi, to continue its operations at taxpayer expense, effectively retaining prohibitionists in the federal loop. Ending the drug war will require targeting it from all directions.

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Really, Idaho?

Constitutional ban on legal pot advances in Idaho

State lawmakers on Friday moved forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar the legalization of marijuana in Idaho in an attempt to keep the growing nationwide acceptance of the drug from seeping across its borders. [emphasis added]

That’s right. They’re proposing a constitutional amendment so they can ensure that it won’t be able to be passed through a referendum.

“You guys are so afraid of marijuana, you’re willing to blow up the state constitution,” [Bill Esbensen] told lawmakers.

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Finally, a better use for dog sniffing

Yes, please. Much better than sniffing for marijuana.

The Dogs Training to Sniff Out COVID-19

Promising early results from several studies have encouraged researchers around the world to develop and expand canine programs that may screen people for COVID-19 infection at places like airports, hospitals, or sports venues.

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