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couch, the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
October 2021




Sharing with you a post I made today to a different audience…


This is a disturbing anniversary. Today, June 17, is 50 years since President Nixon declared drugs “public enemy number one” — a speech that kicked off a massive and horribly damaging offensive that has continued to this day.

This is also a time when a whole lot of people are outraged at the notion of “critical race theory.” Why? Because they’ve been encouraged/duped by opportunistic politicians who wish to inflame partisan culture wars along with ridiculous non-issues like Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss. (This will connect to the drug war. Patience.)

Many who oppose critical race theory don’t know what it actually means.

Now, when it comes to things like cancel culture and critical race theory and other culture-war fodder, there is an actual need for informed discussion on the nuances and the real-versus-manufactured outrages, but we don’t see much of that. For our purposes here, I will define critical race theory as “a practice that examines America’s history of racism and how it still impacts the country today.” Simple.

That brings us back to the drug war. And while there are a lot of topics I avoid commenting on because I don’t know enough, the drug war is something I’ve been studying and writing about extensively for two decades.

Yes, some call this the 50th anniversary of the war on drugs, but that’s a bit arbitrary. The origins go back much further and they’re almost all steeped in racism. The war on drugs is an essential part of America’s history of racism.

The first anti-opium laws in the 1870s were directed at Chinese immigrants. The first anti-cocaine laws in the early 1900s were directed at black men in the South. The first anti-marijuana laws, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the 1910s and 20s, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans.

From a Hearst newspapers national column: “Was it marijuana, the new Mexican drug, that nerved the murderous arm of Clara Phillips when she hammered out her victim’s life in Los Angeles?… THREE-FOURTHS OF THE CRIMES of violence in this country today are committed by DOPE SLAVES — that is a matter of cold record.”

And as marijuana found its way into the jazz scene, some of the animus shifted to blacks (for more on the drug war and jazz, also look up Harry Anslinger and Billie Holiday).

“Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.” (Hearst newspapers, nationwide, 1934)

Attributed to Harry Anslinger: “…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races… Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

Fast forward to the 1970s and racism was still connected to Nixon’s expanded war on drugs. As John Ehrlichman said: “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

“But Pete,” you may say, “that’s ancient history — things that only old people like you care about. We don’t do that (or say things like that) anymore.”

OK. Let’s take a look at another piece of history.

Saturday will be the 35th anniversary of the death of Len Bias – a promising University of Maryland basketball player who died of a cocaine overdose. With his death in the news, Tip O’Neil and the Democrats jumped into overdrive to create legislation putting more teeth in the drug laws. The result was the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, crafted by a 44-year-old senator from Delaware named Joe Biden. While the intention of these laws may not have been specifically racist to those writing them, the results were most definitely racist because of other factors in society. These laws resulted in the infamous 100-1 threshold disparity in sentencing between the chemically identical crack cocaine (used more by blacks) and powder cocaine (used more by whites). For more details, read my article about this: Len Bias – the death that ushered in two decades of destruction.

The reason that this history should concern us is that decades of sentencing disparity based on institutional/systemic racism (defined as societal patterns and structures that impose oppressive or otherwise negative conditions on identifiable groups based on race or ethnicity) have resulted in huge numbers of black Americans being disenfranchised (particularly in those states that still do not allow ex-felons to vote) and has, in many areas, dramatically affected family and other societal structures.

Understanding the history of the drug war is an essential element in crafting better ways of dealing with drugs and addiction in the future, and ensuring that laws don’t wittingly or unwittingly affect one group disproportionately.

There were times during my days of writing about the war on drugs when I was under some pressure not to talk about it, particularly since I worked at a university (that pressure never came from the university administration, fortunately). Some of that pressure came from other faculty, some from political leaders. But it turns out that learning history is important. As are facts. Even in education.

Fortunately, grassroots conversations about the history of the drug war have mostly overcome the federal government’s resistance to any meaningful discussion. And people have better come to realize that declaring war is not a good drug policy.

Today, 65 percent of voters support ending the war on drugs and 83 percent say it has failed.

Let’s learn about and understand the dark parts of our history, not for blame assignment, or to make people feel bad about themselves, but to fix the broken things that have resulted (and still persist in often unexpected ways) — and to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes again.

True patriotism is caring about the health and welfare of our country and working to make it better. It’s not about making empty nationalistic gestures of faux fealty while avoiding learning about our past.

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Amazon supports marijuana legalization

Amazon Won’t Screen Employees for Marijuana Use, Will Back Federal Legalization

Amazon CEO Dave Clark said Tuesday that the company will no longer screen most of its employees for marijuana use, and it will back federal legalization legislation.

“We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation,” Clark said in a blog post on Amazon’s website. The change in policy comes as a response to “where state laws are moving across the U.S.,” Clark said.

Amazon also pledged to throw its considerable weight behind marijuana legalization on a countrywide scale, saying the company would be “actively supporting The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act)—federal legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and invest in impacted communities.”

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Time for drug sniffing dogs to find a new job

… and we’ve got one for them.

On the Covid Front Lines, When Not Getting Belly Rubs

The three Labradors, operating out of a university clinic in Bangkok, are part of a global corps of dogs being trained to sniff out Covid-19 in people. Preliminary studies, conducted in multiple countries, suggest that their detection rate may surpass that of the rapid antigen testing often used in airports and other public places.

“For dogs, the smell is obvious, just like grilled meat for us,” said Dr. Kaywalee Chatdarong, deputy dean of research and innovation for the faculty of veterinary science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

The hope is that dogs can be deployed in crowded public spaces, like stadiums or transportation hubs, to identify people carrying the virus. Their skills are being developed in Thailand, the United States, France, Britain, Chile, Australia, Belgium and Germany, among other countries. They have patrolled airports in Finland, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, and private companies have used them at American sporting events.

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Protecting children from drug wars

Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5) recently introduced H.Res.356 – “Expressing condemnation for police brutality wherever in the world it occurs.”

The bill is in the early stages of being sent through committees and summarized, but its intent is unmistakable. H.Res.356 will focus world attention on drug war hotspots where children or adults are targeted, injured, or killed by members of militarized police squads ostensibly assigned to enforce that nation’s drug laws.

Children caught in police drug raids in Bolsonaro’s Brazil or Duterte’s Philippines typically aren’t as lucky as a Congressperson’s kid who gets busted for drugs. If drugs are involved, not much happens to the well-connected son or daughter of the public official compared to the subsequent misfortunes of other kids or adults whose lives are put at risk in botched police raids or arrests. Then there’s the ripple effect that runs through families and communities affected by the raids.

Given the bill’s potential to alter how the world perceives drug wars, H.Res.356 is likely to receive stiff opposition from Congressional members still connected to the lost hopes and dreams of a White supremacist drug-free society. In that case, the resolution’s successful passage may very well depend on individuals and citizen groups voicing their strong support for Rep. Ilhan Omar and the House bill that may yet help shield and save children from all drug wars.

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Colombia’s Proxy Drug War with Venezuela

Drug wars and oil wars will not go away anytime “soon” if the U.S. government has its way in South America:

…The U.S. Air Force on March 30 and 31 [2021] flew four C-17 Globemaster troop and equipment-carrying planes to airports in Colombia…the U.S. Congress will soon authorize the sale to Colombia of fighter aircraft worth $4.5 billion. […]

Colombian President Iván Duque in late February announced the creation of the “Special Command against Narcotrafficking and Transnational Threats.” This will be a 7000-person elite military force with air assault capabilities. Its “certain objective” according to the Communist Party’s website, is war against Venezuela.

During the tenure of left-leaning Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and that of his successor, President Nicolas Maduro, Colombian paramilitaries repeatedly crossed the border on destabilization missions. Organizers for a 2000 seaborne anti-Maduro assault called Operation Gedeon were based in Colombia, as were some of the plotters who mounted a drone attack against Maduro in 2018. The U.S. and Colombian governments in February 2019 failed in their attempt to deliver humanitarian aid across the border at Cucuta, Colombia. Their idea had been to divide Venezuela’s military…The outcome of the fighting in Apure is unclear. The Colombian and U.S. governments undoubtedly would utilize any humanitarian crisis as an opening to further destabilize Venezuela’s government.

It’s certain that the U.S. government in the Biden era continues to seek the overthrow of Venezuela’s government. Without question the reactionary Colombian government is at the beck and call of the U.S. government. The U.S. has its eye on Venezuela’s … crude oil, in excess of 550 billion barrels…What is underappreciated is the role of drug-trafficking in serving interventionist purposes. […]

Drug wars conducted by proxy nations are the U.S. military’s answer to manufacturing consent for war. Drug enforcement’s role is to offset the bad optics and crippling economics of direct military interventions. It’s been determined that fielding each DEA or CIA functionary, or each U.S. soldier, costs on average $1 million, up to $1.3 million if a soldier is injured. Colombia’s soldiers are much cheaper.

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Senate Majority Leader

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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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