The Exile Nation: An oral history of the war on drugs
The House I Live in: Drug War film that won the best documentary award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival
According to USA Today, three years after the program began Arizona had tested more than 87,000 welfare recipients. The total number of drug cheats caught was exactly one a single positive result, which saved the state precisely $560.
Checking in again in March, the Arizona Sonora News Service cited state Department of Economic Security figures which found that over the course of more than five years, "42 people have been asked to take a follow-up drug test and 19 actually took the test, 16 of whom passed. The other 23 were stripped of their benefits for failing to take the drug test."
That adds up to a grand total of three failed tests from 2009-2014. The net savings reaped from withholding benefits for those who either tested positive or failed to complete a drug test was around $3,500, once the $500 cost of testing the 19 is factored in, according to one state agency report. The haul is shockingly unimpressive when you consider the $1.7 million in savings state officials promised when they began the program.
Independent, UK - Portugal decriminalised the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs were still illegal, of course. But now getting caught with them meant a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program not jail time and a criminal record.
Among Portuguese adults, there are 3 drug overdose deaths for every 1,000,000 citizens. Comparable numbers in other countries range from 10.2 per million in the Netherlands to 44.6 per million in the UK, all the way up to 126.8 per million in Estonia. The EU average is 17.3 per million.
Perhaps more significantly, the report notes that the use of "legal highs" like so-called "synthetic" marijuana, "bath salts" and the like is lower in Portugal than in any of the other countries for which reliable data exists. This makes a lot of intuitive sense: why bother with fake weed or dangerous designer drugs when you can get the real stuff? This is arguably a positive development for public health in the sense that many of the designer drugs that people develop to skirt existing drug laws have terrible and often deadly side effects.
Drug use and drug deaths are complicated phenomena. They have many underlying causes. Portugal's low death rate can't be attributable solely to decriminalization. As Dr. Joao Goulao, the architect of the country's decriminalization policy, has said, "it's very difficult to identify a causal link between decriminalization by itself and the positive tendencies we have seen."
Johann Hari, Huffington Post - If you get run over today and you break your hip, you will probably be given diamorphine, the medical name for heroin. In the hospital around you, there will be plenty of people also given heroin for long periods, for pain relief. The heroin you will get from the doctor will have a much higher purity and potency than the heroin being used by street-addicts, who have to buy from criminals who adulterate it. So if the old theory of addiction is right -- it's the drugs that cause it; they make your body need them -- then it's obvious what should happen. Loads of people should leave the hospital and try to score smack on the streets to meet their habit.
But here's the strange thing: It virtually never happens. As the Canadian doctor Gabor Mate was the first to explain to me, medical users just stop, despite months of use. The same drug, used for the same length of time, turns street-users into desperate addicts and leaves medical patients unaffected.
If you still believe -- as I used to -- that addiction is caused by chemical hooks, this makes no sense. But if you believe Bruce Alexander's theory, the picture falls into place. The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to. The medical patient is like the rats in the second cage. She is going home to a life where she is surrounded by the people she loves. The drug is the same, but the environment is different.
This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find -- the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding.' A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else.
So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
According to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, 64 percent of Americans favor requiring welfare recipients to submit to random drug testing -- a measure pushed by Republican lawmakers in recent years -- while 18 percent oppose it. But an even stronger majority said they're in favor of random drug testing for members of Congress, by a 78 percent to 7 percent margin. Sixty-two percent said they "strongly" favor drug testing for congressional lawmakers, compared to only 51 percent who said the same of welfare recipients.
California ends higher penalties for crack vs. cocaine
A different way to look at addiction and its cure
How the war on drugs aids the drug trade
The best gun control legislation would be end the war on drugs. - Sam Smith
Great moments in over the counter drugs
THE ISSUE THAT'S KILLING US BUT WE CAN'T DISCUSS
If Obama is elected, by next January we will have had three presidents in a row who - if our laws had been equitably enforced - might easily have been convicted felons. Obama has admitted drug use including cocaine, and there is a high likelihood that both Bush and Clinton used cocaine as well as pot. Being a convicted felon is not a constitutional bar to the presidency but in many states the three could would not be allowed to vote or run for state or local office.
The issue comes to the fore thanks to Scott McClellan's new book. A story in the Atlanta Constitution recounts:
"McClellan tracks Bush's penchant for self-deception back to an overheard incident on the campaign trail in 1999 when the then-governor was dogged by reports of possible cocaine use in his younger days.
"The book recounts an evening in a hotel suite 'somewhere in the Midwest.' Bush was on the phone with a supporter and motioned for McClellan to have a seat. ;The media won't let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,' I heard Bush say. 'You know, the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember.'"
Clinton, for his part, ran Arkansas at a time when it was one of America's leading little narco republics. He looked the other way as Papa Bush ran an arms for drugs operation out of Mena as part of the Iran-Contra disaster. The IRS warned other law enforcement agencies of the state's 'enticing climate.' According to Clinton biographer Roger Morris, operatives go into banks with duffel bags full of cash, which bank officers then distribute to tellers in sums under $10,000 so they don't have to report the transaction.
Sharlene Wilson, according to investigative reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, served as "the lady with the snow" at "toga parties" attended, she reported, by Bill Clinton. She told a federal grand jury she saw Clinton and his younger brother ''snort'' cocaine together in 1979. Investor's Business Daily reported, "Sally Perdue, a former Miss Arkansas and Little Rock talk show host who said she had an affair with then-Gov. Clinton in 1983, told the London Sunday Telegraph that he once came over to her house with a bag full of cocaine. ''He had all the equipment laid out, like a real pro.''' In the 1990s, Genifer Flowers told Sean Hannity's WABC talk radio show: "He smoked marijuana in my presence and and offered me the opportunity to snort cocaine if I wanted to. I wasn't into that. Bill clearly let me know that he did cocaine. And I know people that knew he did cocaine. He did tell me that when he would use a substantial amount of cocaine that his head would itch so badly that he would become self conscious at parties where he was doing this. Because all he wanted to do while people were talking to him is stand around and scratch his head."
Two Arkansas state troopers swore under oath that they have seen Clinton ''under the influence'' of drugs when he was governor. One-time apartment manager Jane Parks claimed that in 1984 she could listen through the wall as Bill and Roger Clinton, in a room adjoining hers, discussed the quality of the drugs they were taking. And in 1984, Hot Springs police record Roger Clinton during a cocaine transaction. Roger says, "Got to get some for my brother. He's got a nose like a vacuum cleaner."
The issue here is not what these men did. After all, in a sane land, their drug use would be considered foolish but legal. The issue is that we stand a good chance of entering a third presidential administration marked by massive hypocrisy, cruelty and destructiveness in the matter of drugs. Obama shows every sign of following in the same masochistic path that has not only failed in its goal, but coincidentally began the dismantling of constitutional government and encouraged manic and self-defeating foreign adventures.
You can not understand what has happened to this country over the past three decades without putting the war on drugs near the top of the list. Nothing has so changed the way we think and function as has our callously unexamined approach to drugs.
My bedtime viewing of late has been the Netflix compilation of "The Wire," which I have come to think of as among the best literature of our times, a Shakespeare for an America in disintegration. The series touches on all forms of urban collapse - in politics, religion, labor unions, the police, the media - but the unbreakable link is a drug trade fostered by some of the worst laws and policies ever conceived. Seldom has a country so deliberately destroyed so much of its being for so little gain.
But if you check the awards "The Wire" has won they are mainly from critic and writers groups and from the NAACP. The pop honors have been strikingly absent as were the ratings.
This is not surprising, because under our cultural rules, the drug war is not something to discuss and argue about. It is to be accepted, funded and promised to be continued by whoever is running for public office.
Significantly, two of the major enablers of this madness have been the media and a liberal elite that has increasingly blended its values with those of the conservative elite, the most notable exception being those of a demographic nature. It's no longer so much a matter so much of what you do but what ethnicity or gender gets to do it.
There are, of course, exceptions such as civil libertarians and populists fighting lonely battles that used to be central to Democratic Party beliefs. But on the whole, such matters simply don't matter that much. Which is why neither Obama nor Clinton have discussed the drug issue or cities other than in passing.
In the case of drugs, there is another factor that is never mentioned, which is that among the media and elite liberals there has been more than a little use of the same substances for which they are willing to send the less prominent to prison. You see just the tip of this phenomenon when a presidential candidate's drug use threatens to become an issue. The great mediators of public discourse quickly declare this topic fit only for the lower sorts and move it off the table.
Such a willingness to punish others for what one does or what one's friends do is bad enough when it is merely an opinion expressed. When it results in prison time, it is despicable.
The liberal hypocrisy on the drug war was an early signs that I was no longer a liberal. I was stunned by the liberal enthusiasm for Clinton, and claims that he was our first black president, even as he sent an ever larger number of young blacks to prison for doing what he had done.
This is not small stuff. Far more young American men have died as a result of the drug war than have died in Iraq. More young black men have died as a result of the drug war than died in Vietnam. Yet we not meant to talk about it.
In the wake of its support of the drug wars, liberals have gone on to support such awfulness as the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind. In many ways, liberalism hasn't died; it's just evaporated.
A progressive populism of the sort that
John Edwards was reintroducing is the sane and logical alternative,
one that provides the most for the most and under which you don't
have to graduate from Yale or Harvard Law School to have equal
rights as a woman or a black. It is obscene to speak smugly of
Obama's rise and yet be indifferent to the tens of thousands
of those whose skin is of the same hue but will who spend the
next four years in a cell rather than in the White House because
they tried to smoke or snort their way to happiness just like
two past presidents, and one potential one, all in a row.
ED BURNS, REASON As for the war on drugs, I dont think well ever recover from the mind-set weve gotten into to fight it. The educational system is an absolute and total disaster. And that of course is fueling the drug war, because there are so many kids who have no alternative but to spend their time on the corners.
The failure is institutional because no one sets out to lose these wars. This is dangerous stuff, self-defeating stuff. Education has no relevance. It doesnt mean anything to these kids because they cant connect to it. They spend those eight years or nine years in school because they have to. Of course, they have to learn something. And what they learn is how to sit quietly in a corner and make the school become a kind of training ground for the corners. The administration and the teachers basically become surrogate cops. And the kids play through these fantasies with the stand-in cops until theyve tested their mettle enough to go up on the corners and try it with the real guys.
Weve had 20, 30 years of this stuff, and 20, 30 years of spending billions of dollars on failed systems. And if you go to one of the private schools and see these kids in action and then go to an inner-city public school, you can see the chasm. Theres separation even in the way of being, in the way they think, in how they operate. Its profound, but its nothing new. Weve been doing this for a long time.
MEDICAL NEWS TODAY - A new UK study suggests that the current UK drug classification system of A, B, and C of the Misuse of Drugs Act is flawed and should be replaced by an evidence-based system of potential harm that would place alcohol and tobacco higher than cannabis and ecstasy. The study is published in The Lancet.
Their proposed system of classification asesses harm in an "evidence-based fashion". They use three main factors to determine the potential harm that a substance causes:
(1) Physical harm to the user, (2) Tendency to induce dependence in the user, and (3) The effect of its use on families, communities and society in general. . . They asked two independent expert panels to score 20 different substances using this new system. . . The two panels found the method easy to use and came up with very similar harm scores for each drug.
In order of overall harm, the 20 drugs were given the following ranking . . .
(1) Heroin (most harmful).
BRITISH POLICE OFFICIAL CALLS FOR LEGALIZING HEROIN, COCAINE
SUN, UK - Ecstasy is safer than aspirin, top cop Richard Brunstrom claimed yesterday. He also repeated his call for Class A substances like heroin and cocaine to be legalized. The North Wales chief constable claimed such a move was "inevitable" - and could happen in 10 years.
ANOTHER RECORD YEAR OF MARIJUANA ARRESTS
NORML - Police arrested a record 829,625 persons for marijuana violations in 2006, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report. This is the largest total number of annual arrests for pot ever recorded by the FBI. Marijuana arrests now comprise nearly 44 percent of all drug arrests in the United States.
"These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor marijuana offenders," said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, who noted that at current rates, a marijuana smoker is arrested every 38 seconds in America. . .
Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 89 percent, 738,915 Americans were charged with possession only. The total number of marijuana arrests in the U.S. for 2006 far exceeded the total number of arrests in the U.S. for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Annual marijuana arrests have nearly tripled since the early 1990s.
NOTE: CIGARETTES NOT A TARGET OF THE DRUG WAR
IN DRUG ENFORCEMENT, IT'S NOT THE USE BUT THE USER THAT COUNTS
THE REVIEW HAS OPPOSED the nation's drug policy for four decades. One reason has been that it is the sort of law that works one way for some people and another way for others. It's not just the cocaine - crack punishment disparity. Consider the huge difference between the percent of blacks and whites imprisoned on drug charges despite similar usage. Or the immune cocaine culture in Hollywood and executive suites compared to tough ghetto enforcement. Or Bill Clinton and George Bush using cocaine and the media not even mentioning it while it's become an open issue in the Obama campaign.
Now we have another example from your nation's capital. In this town where the mayor, Marion Barry, was arrested and pilloried for drug use, we now find that the city's baseball team's new catcher among those listed in the George Mitchell report of those illegally using steroids.
According to the Washington Post:
|||| The report said that Radomski sent performance-enhancing substances to [Paul] Lo Duca's home and to the clubhouse of the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom Lo Duca played from 1998 to 2004. Lo Duca's name, address and telephone number were listed in the address book seized from Radomski's Long Island home in December 2005.
Neither Lo Duca nor his agent, Andrew Mongelluzzi, returned messages yesterday. The Nationals, who signed Lo Duca to a one-year, $5 million contract earlier in the week, issued a statement last night declining to comment on the report in general and on their own players specifically because they "have not yet had an opportunity to fully review" the Mitchell report. . .
The details of Lo Duca's alleged involvement came from the raid of Radomski's home. They included a note from Lo Duca to Radomski in which Lo Duca said his cellphone had broken and he needed Radomski's contact information. On another note -- written on Dodger Stadium stationery -- Lo Duca scrawled, "Thanks, Call me if you need anything! Paul." |||
And from the report itself:
|||| According to the notes of an internal discussion among Los Angeles Dodgers officials in October 2003 that were referred to above, it was reportedly said of Lo Duca during the meetings: Steroids aren't being used anymore on him. Big part of this. Might have some value to trade . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year. That's his makeup. Comes to play. ||||
If the report is true then the Nationals have just signed for $5 million Marion Barry lite. . . a lawbreaker and - since a lot more kids want to be ball players than want to be mayor - an even worse role model for the young.
Will the Nationals cancel Lo Duca's contract? Will the media pillory him like they did Barry? Will he replace Barry as the cheapest laugh in town? Don't count on it.
Of course, the argument will be made that steroids are far less dangerous or criminal than cocaine, but that is in part thanks to a sports media that has issued the sentencing guidelines for major league violators, namely, somewhere between not much and so what, that's life.
If you are not a major leaguer and use the stuff, it can be a bit different just as it is in the case of cocaine depending on who's taking it. Here is some legal advice from the web site Elite Fitness:
|||| Under federal law and the laws of many states, selling steroids, or possessing them with intent to sell, is a felony. An individual who sells steroids, or possesses with intent to sell, is punishable by up to five years in prison under federal law and up to seven years in prison under New York state law. Of course, whether an individual serves any prison time at all depends upon numerous factors including but not limited to the person's past criminal history, the strength of the prosecution's case, the person's role in the offense, and how effectively the case is either negotiated or litigated by defense counsel. An experienced criminal lawyer can make the difference.
While most steroid investigations by law enforcement target sellers, either big-time or, lately, even small-time, arrests for personal possession do occur. Often, these arrests arise out of car stops for traffic violations and the steroids are found during a search of the car. For example, I recently defended a case where a police officer found a few syringes after stopping my client for speeding and discovering he had a suspended driver's license. In New York, the possession of hypodermic instruments is a misdemeanor, and my client was arrested on the spot. . .
It is important to know that under the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990 which applies across the country, steroids are in the same legal class as amphetamines, methamphetamines, opium and morphine. Simple possession is a federal offense punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a minimum fine of $1,000. Further, most states have enacted their own laws modeled after the Control Act. ||||
Somehow we have a feeling that Paul Lo
Duco doesn't have to worry about this. The hypocrisy of our drug
laws and their enforcement is rampant but it is not likely that
Major League Baseball and its accomplices in the sports media
will be much bothered by this.
WHAT WE COULD BE WORRYING ABOUT INSTEAD OF DON IMUS
ACCORDING TO THE Department of Health & Human Services, the highest rate of illicit drug use is among persons reporting two or more races (13%). American Indians are second at 12% following by blacks at 8.7%, whites at 8.1% and latinos at 7.2 percent. Asians had the lowest rate at 3.1%.
Bearing this in mind, now consider some facts from the Justice Policy Institute.
In white liberal Montgomery County, MD, blacks are incarcerated on drug charges 22 times as often as are whites while in neighboring Prince Georges County, where blacks comprise two-thirds of the population, the discrepancy is four times.
Here are the number of times more frequently blacks are incarcerated on drug charges than is the case for whites in other places around the country:
24 - Waukesha County, WI
All the political correctness in the world won't compensate for figures like this. And liberals are as much to blame as conservatives, consistently refusing to add drug law reform to their agenda, looking the other way at the immensely discriminatory aspects of the drug war and ignoring the obvious threats to constitutional rights that, if dealt with in the context of drug laws, might have slowed George Bush's later assault on these rights
THE AMERICAN DRUG TRADE VS 'AMERICAN GANGSTER'
EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON, NEW AMERICA MEDIA - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's survey on the sex and drug habits of Americans last June tossed the ugly glare on who controls and uses drugs in America. The survey found that whites are much more likely to peddle and use drugs than blacks. Non-Hispanic whites had a higher percentage of using cocaine or street drugs (23.5 percent) than blacks (18 percent). Other studies have found roughly equal rates of drug use by blacks and whites. But what made the CDC survey more eye-catching is that it didn't solely measure generic drug use, but singled out the use of cocaine and street drugs - the kind of drugs depicted in "American Gangster."
WASHINGTON POST RUNS ARTICLE SLAMMING WAR ON DRUGS
[In the nearly 40 years that the Review has written critically of federal drug policy, this is the first time we can recall the Post ever running anything close to this]
MISHA GLENNY IN WASHINGTON POST - Thirty-six years and hundreds of billions of dollars after President Richard M. Nixon launched the war on drugs, consumers worldwide are taking more narcotics and criminals are making fatter profits than ever before. The syndicates that control narcotics production and distribution reap the profits from an annual turnover of $400 billion to $500 billion. And terrorist organizations such as the Taliban are using this money to expand their operations and buy ever more sophisticated weapons, threatening Western security.
THE STUDENT AND DRUG EXCEPTION TO THE FIRST AMENDMENT
JACOB SULLUM, HIT AND RUN - The Court seems to be opening up a "drug exception" to the First Amendment, albeit limited (so far) to students in school. It's true that high school students do not have the same free speech rights as adults, but the Court has held that they do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." They have a right, for instance, to wear anti-war armbands. In that case, the Court held that student speech may be suppressed only if it will "materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school." A "mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint" or "an urgent wish to avoid the controversy which might result from the expression" is not enough to justify censorship. But fear of drugs apparently is.
INTERESTING WORDS IN JUSTICE STEVENS' DISSENT, drawing a parallel between drug and alcohol prohibition:
JUSTICE STEVENS - But just as prohibition in the 1920's and early 1930's was secretly questioned by thousands of otherwise law-abiding patrons of bootleggers and speakeasies, today the actions of literally millions of otherwise law-abiding users of marijuana, and of the majority of voters in each of the several States that tolerate medicinal uses of the product, lead me to wonder whether the fear of disapproval by those in the majority is silencing opponents of the war on drugs. Surely our national experience with alcohol should make us wary of dampening speech suggesting - however inarticulately - that it would be better to tax and regulate marijuana than to persevere in a futile effort to ban its use entirely.
U.S. MAYORS CALL FOR MASSIVE CHANGE IN DRUG POLICY
DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE - The United States Conference of Mayors has passed a resolution calling for a public health approach to the problems of substance use and abuse. 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."
The mayors urged greater access to drug treatment such as methadone and other maintenance therapies, elimination of the federal ban on funding sterile syringe access programs, and establishment of prevention policies based on needs assessed at the local level.
National drug policy should focus on reducing social problems like drug addiction, overdose deaths, the spread of HIV/AIDS from injection drug use, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and the enormous number of nonviolent offenders behind bars. Federal drug agencies should be judged - and funded - according to their ability to meet these goals.
FROM THE RESOLUTION
This Conference recognizes that addiction is a chronic medical illness that is treatable, and drug treatment success rates exceed those of many cancer therapies
According to the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 112,085,000 Americans aged 12 or over (46.1% of the US population aged 12 and over) have used an illicit drug at least once
The United States has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's prisoners, incarcerating more than 2.3 million citizens in its prisons and jails, at a rate of one in every 136 U.S. residents - the highest rate of incarceration in the world
55% of all federal and over 20% of all state prisoners are convicted of drug law violations, many serving mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession offenses
A study by the RAND Corporation found that every additional dollar invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs, a reduction that would cost 15 times as much in law enforcement expenditure to achieve
The National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study shows substantial reductions in criminal behavior, with a 64% decrease in all arrests after treatment, making public safety a primary beneficiary of effective drug treatment programs
Federal, state, and local costs of the war on drugs exceed $40 billion annually, yet drugs are still widely available in every community, drug use and demand have not decreased, and most drug prices have fallen while purity levels have increased dramatically
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, only 35% percent of the federal drug control budget is spent on education, prevention and treatment combined, with the remaining 65% devoted to law enforcement efforts
Over one-third of all HIV/AIDS cases and nearly two thirds of all new cases of hepatitis C in the U.S. are linked to injection drug use with contaminated syringes, now the single largest factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS in the U.S
Virtually all independent analyses have found ONDCP's drug prevention programs to be costly and ineffective: the Government Accountability Office recently found that both the National Youth Anti-Drug Media campaign and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program have not only failed to reduce drug use, but instead might lead to unintended negative consequences
Blacks, Latinos and other minorities use drugs at rates comparable to whites, yet face disproportionate rates of arrest and incarceration for drug law violations: among persons convicted of drug felonies in state courts, 33% of convicted white defendants received a prison sentence, while 51% of black defendants received prison sentences
Women are the fastest growing prison population in the U.S., increasing by over 700% since 1977, to 98,600 at the end of 2005. Drug law violations now account for nearly one-third of incarcerated women, compared to one-fifth of men
Cities across the country have experienced a rise in violent crime and must prioritize scarce law enforcement resources, yet the nation's police arrested a record 786,545 individuals on marijuana related charges in 2005 - almost 90% for simple possession alone - far exceeding the total number of arrests for all violent crimes combined
STUDY CALLS BRITISH WAR ON DRUGS A FAILURE
OBSERVER, UK - Government attempts to persuade thousands of young people to stay away from drugs have failed and done nothing to curb the soaring popularity of illegal substances, a devastating report will warn this week. The number of young people using cocaine and cannabis has increased rapidly over the past 20 years despite high-profile campaigns. . . according to an in-depth examination of official efforts to tackle Britain's chronic drug problem. It is also expected to claim that Britain's 'unusually severe drug problem compared with that of our European neighbors' is linked to social and economic deprivation, that punitive laws have had little effect and that police efforts to disrupt the drugs trade have also failed.
BRITISH STUDY CALLS FOR MASSIVE CHANGE IN DRUG LAWS
TIME - Britain's drug policy has failed and should be replaced with a system that recognizes drinking and smoking can cause more harm than some illegal drugs, according to an independent study published Thursday.
Shifting the focus of drug education to primary school children from secondary students and the establishment of "shooting galleries" - rooms where users can inject drugs - are among the recommendations of a two-year study into drug policy and alternative solutions by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, or RSA.
TOP BRITISH POLICE OFFICER CALLS FOR PRESCRIBING HEROIN FOR ADDICTS
JASON BENNETTO, INDEPENDENT, UK - Heroin should be prescribed to long-term addicts to prevent them from committing crimes to feed their habits, the head of Britain's police chiefs has suggested. Ken Jones, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, also admitted that current policing tactics are failing to combat a "hardcore minority" of heroin addicts.
He called for a political consensus on the issue of heroin prescription on the NHS, and a more "realistic" approach to tackling long-term drug abuse. Mr Jones argued that by prescribing heroin the police would be able significantly to reduce overall crime and prevent deaths from overdoses.
THE HIGHEST CITIES
DONNA LEINWAND, USA TODAY - The San Francisco metropolitan area has a higher percentage of people who are regular drug users than any other major metropolitan area in the USA, a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found. Nearly 13% of San Francisco residents reported using some type of illicit drug, such as marijuana, cocaine or heroin, in the previous month, according to data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health 2002-05. The national average is 8.1%.
Other areas with drug-abuse rates higher than the national average included Seattle, 9.6%; Detroit, 9.5%; Philadelphia, 9.1%; and Boston, 8.5%. Cities with the lowest drug use: Houston, 6.2%; and Washington, Dallas and Riverside/San Bernardino, Calif., all at 6.5%. . .
SAFER THAN ITS MOST POLICED CITY
Since San Francisco is the city with the greatest illicit drug use and DC is one of those with the least (but the most cops), we thought we'd check and see how the war on drugs was keeping us safe. Turns out that in 5 of 7 categories of crime - including all categories of violent crime - it was safer to be living around those awful Frisco druggies. [ Area Connect chart ]
STUDY FINDS POT NOT A GATEWAY DRUG
GREEN STATE PROJECT - Marijuana is not a "gateway" drug that predicts or eventually leads to substance abuse, suggests a 12-year University of Pittsburgh study. Moreover, the study's findings call into question the long-held belief that has shaped prevention efforts and governmental policy for six decades and caused many a parent to panic upon discovering a bag of pot in their child's bedroom. . .
The Pitt researchers tracked 214 boys beginning at ages 10-12, all of whom eventually used either legal or illegal drugs. When the boys reached age 22, they were categorized into three groups: those who used only alcohol or tobacco, those who started with alcohol and tobacco and then used marijuana (gateway sequence) and those who used marijuana prior to alcohol or tobacco (reverse sequence).
Nearly a quarter of the study population who used both legal and illegal drugs at some point - 28 boys - exhibited the reverse pattern of using marijuana prior to alcohol or tobacco, and those individuals were no more likely to develop a substance use disorder than those who followed the traditional succession of alcohol and tobacco before illegal drugs, according to the study, which appears in this month's issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. . .
While the gateway theory posits that each type of drug is associated with certain specific risk factors that cause the use of subsequent drugs, such as cigarettes or alcohol leading to marijuana, this study's findings indicate that environmental aspects have stronger influence on which type of substance is used. That is, if it's easier for a teen to get his hands on marijuana than beer, then he'll be more likely to smoke pot. This evidence supports what's known as the common liability model, an emerging theory that states the likelihood that someone will transition to the use of illegal drugs is determined not by the preceding use of a particular drug but instead by the user's individual tendencies and environmental circumstances.
BLUE RIBBON CANADIAN BOARD SUGGESTS EITHER LEGALIZE DRUGS OR LAUNCH ALL-OUT WAR AGAINST THEM
DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - A very establishment advisory group to British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell has advised the Liberal leader that if he wants to deal with crime and illegal drugs in the province, he has two starkly contrasting choices: legalize it, or unleash an all-out drug war. . . The BC Progress Board is a group of 18 businessmen and academics selected by the provincial government to provide advice on economic and social issues. . .
The board identified illegal drug use and the drug trade as one of four motors driving crime in the province. The others were deficient child rearing and services, mental illness, and the "impoverished and unstable lifestyles" of many people living in inner urban areas.
In its second recommendation to Premier Campbell, the board said that "the provincial government must address the problem of the illegal trade in drugs in a clear and consistent manner." The first option it listed was to "lobby the federal government to legalize the trade, perhaps limiting access to products to adults in the same way that access to alcohol and tobacco is limited."
That would allow the government to treat drug use and abuse as public health -- not criminal justice -- problems and would allow the government to obtain revenue from taxing the sales of drugs.
But the BC Progress Board was careful to note that it was not endorsing drug legalization, merely providing options for the provincial government. The board's second recommendation on drug policy made that perfectly clear. . .
BRITISH HEALTH SERVICE TO GIVE HEROIN TO ADDICTS
GUARDIAN WRAP - A Home Office trial is permitting up to 400 addicts to take the drug at two supervised clinics, one in Camberwell, south London, and the other in Darlington, Durham. Howard Roberts, deputy chief constable of Nottinghamshire police, argued that it was cheaper to give heroin addicts the drug in the long term to curb thefts. An average heroin addict steals property worth GBP45,000 a year; giving the addicts drugs in the trial costs GBP15,000 a year. . . Meanwhile yesterday, the government's chief scientific adviser on science, Professor David Nutt, proposed that ecstasy and LSD should be downgraded to Class B drugs.
45,000 CITIZENS IN PRISON FOR USING DRUG WEAKER THAN CIGARETTES OR VODKA
NORML - Nearly one in eight drug prisoners in America are behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, according to data released by the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. The BJS study reports that 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug violations are serving time for marijuana offenses. There are now approximately 33,655 state inmates and 10,785 federal inmates incarcerated for marijuana offenses.
The BJS report did not provide specific data on what percentage of US prisoners were serving times for marijuana possession crimes versus marijuana cultivation and/or trafficking. The BJS failed to include estimates on the percentage of inmates incarcerated in county jails for cannabis-related offenses.
A previous BJS report based on 1997 data indicated that in 1999 approximately 39,000 US prisoners were serving time for pot violations. A 2005 study by the Sentencing Project think-tank in Washington, DC suggested that approximately 68,500 Americans are either incarcerated or on probation for marijuana-related offenses.
According to data compiled by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and released in September, nearly 787,000 Americans were arrested for violating marijuana laws in 2005, the highest annual total ever recorded. Among those arrested, approximately 88 percent -- &SHY;some 696,074 - Americans &SHY; were charged with marijuana possession only.
ANOTHER WAY THE DRUG WAR KILLS
DAVID BORDEN, DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - Often people object to drug legalization, at least for drugs other than marijuana, because, as they say, "drugs kill." It's true that drug abuse or even experimental use of illegal drugs can be deadly. But the phenomenon is often a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A rash of overdose deaths in cities as wide-ranging as Atlanta and New York and Chicago makes the point. Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is 80 times as potent as morphine, has hit the streets, either mixed in with heroin or sold as heroin. Not realizing this, users have taken what they thought was the heroin they were used to, instead getting something massively more potent. More than 20 people have died from fatal overdoses in a fentanyl outbreak in Detroit since this weekend alone -- deaths that might have been prevented, advocates and family of victims have pointed out -- if the word had been spread as would have been done if a single bird flu case had cropped up. Instead, it took this week's dramatic tragedy to finally spur authorities into action.
The fentanyl situation is clearly a consequence of drug prohibition, something that would virtually never happen under a system of regulation. Not surprisingly, this angle has been essentially absent from the media's discussion of the incidents.
It's time for the media and for opinion leaders to acknowledge the consequences of prohibition as such. Until they do, the drug debate will continue to languish in its current, highly simplistic state.
Baltimore's former mayor, Kurt Schmoke, recognized this and attempted to educate the public on the nuances of the drug issue. Schmoke pointed out that what is commonly viewed as the "drug problem" is really three separate problems: crime, addiction, and AIDS. Crime, he said, arguably calls for a health-based approach, but addiction and AIDS clearly call for public health approaches.
Thousands of Americans die from drug overdoses every year -- the recent rash of them in some cities is only a particularly gripping case of this. While legalization might not prevent all such overdoses, the fentanyl outbreak shows how prohibition makes overdoses much more likely.
THE LOW PRICE OF DECRIMINALIZING DRUGS
STEVE CHAPMAN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE - Recently, Mexican President Vicente Fox vetoed a bill passed by the Mexican Congress that would have removed criminal penalties for people caught with small amounts of marijuana or other drugs. This came after the Bush administration vigorously complained, predicting it would encourage Americans to pour southward as "drug tourists." But that option is off the table for the moment. So Americans who want to get high without fear of going to jail will have to go some other place where cannabis can be consumed with impunity. Such as Nebraska.
As it happens, no fewer than 11 states on this side of the border have made the decision not to bother filling their prisons with recreational potheads. Among them are not only such states as California and Oregon, which you might expect, but states such as North Carolina and Mississippi, which you might not. About 100 million Americans live in places where pot has been decriminalized.
POT FOUND NOT TO DAMAGE DEVELOPING BRAIN
NORML - Moderate-to-heavy adolescent cannabis use does not appear to be damaging to the developing brain, according to clinical trial data published this week in the Harm Reduction Journal. Researchers at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research and the New York University School of Medicine found "no ... evidence of cerebral atrophy or loss of white matter integrity" attributable to cannabis use in the brains of frequent adolescent marijuana users compared to non-using controls, after performing magnetic resonance imaging scans and other advanced imaging technology.
"It is concluded that frequent cannabis use is unlikely to be neurotoxic to the normal developing adolescent brain," researchers determined. Investigators further added that their findings, though preliminary, "have implications for refuting the hypothesis that cannabis alone can cause psychiatric disturbance such as schizophrenia by directly producing brain pathology."
Why do we have the war on drugs, anyway?
The angry American reaction to Canada's move towards sanity on drug laws raises a question that is seldom asked, let alone studied by academics or the media. Given that the drug war has been a demonstrable failure why does it continue to be so strongly supported by the American political and legal establishment?
One reason that few want to touch is corruption, in both the moral and legal sense, which is to say the corruption that comes from political pressure - with its rewards and punishments - and the corruption that comes from hard cash.
For example, the Drug Policy Alliance notes that the war on drugs includes a $9 billion prison economy, not to mention more billions in homeless shelters, healthcare, chemical dependency and psychiatric treatment, etc. Each one of these industries - as well as the employment of cops, judges, probation officers, etc - would be severely hurt should America decide to give up its war on drugs. This doesn't justify the madness but it is important to remember that we have created a multi-billion dollar economy based on our failed drug policies. Notes DPA, the beneficiaries of the drug war include:
"Prison architects and contractors, corrections personnel, policy makers and academics, and the thousands of corporate vendors who peddle their wares at the annual trade-show of the American Corrections Association - hawking everything from toothbrushes and socks to barbed-wire fences and shackles.
"And multi-national corporations that win tax subsidies, incentives and abatements from local governments -- robbing the public coffers and depriving communities of the kind of quality education, roads, health care and infrastructure that provide genuine incentives for legitimate business. The sale of tax-exempt bonds to underwrite prison construction is now estimated at $2.3 billion annually. . .
"Corporations that appear to be far removed from the business of punishment are intimately involved in the expansion of the prison industrial complex. Prison construction bonds are one of the many sources of profitable investment for leading financiers such as Merrill Lynch. MCI charges prisoners and their families outrageous prices for the precious telephone calls which are often the only contact inmates have with the free world. Many corporations whose products we consume on a daily basis have learned that prison labor power can be as profitable as third world labor power exploited by U.S.-based global corporations. Both relegate formerly unionized workers to joblessness, many of which wind up in prison. Some of the companies that use prison labor are IBM, Motorola, Compaq, Texas Instruments, Honeywell, Microsoft, and Boeing. But it is not only the hi-tech industries that reap the profits of prison labor. Nordstrom department stores sell jeans that are marketed as 'Prison Blues,' as well as t-shirts and jackets made in Oregon prisons."
Far more serious, however, is the role that illegal corruption plays. If one is to believe the media and scholars, it would appear that the drug industry - by UN estimate a $400 billion global business - is the only commercial sector in the country that doesn't buy politicians. In other words, the drug trade is the only honest trade when it comes to politics.
Of course this is nonsense, but try to find the news story that even raises the possibility that some, if not many, of our politicians are beneficiaries of the drug trade either directly or through well laundered sources. To be sure, there are periodic reports of cops on the take, but any suggestion of political involvement is absent.
Further, the collateral beneficiaries of the drug trade - of which money-laundering banks would be a prime example - are exempt from examination as well, unless their misdoings occurred in some foreign land like Mexico or Colombia.
To cover such a story is exceedingly difficult and rarely rewarding. When the Review tried to report some of the connections between Bill Clinton and the Arkansas drug trade we discovered that even many journalists just didn't want to hear about it. It was so much easier to describe the story as "just about sex," one of the biggest media myths of the 20th century.
Mike Rupert, a detective turned writer, gives one example of the stories begging to be covered with the same energy as, say, the misdeeds of Jason Blair. In an interview, he was asked, "Who benefits most from an addicted inner-city population?"
Rupert's reply: "It's not just who benefits most; it's how many people can benefit on how many different ends of the spectrum. We published a story in my newsletter, From The Wilderness, by Catherine Austin Fitts, a former Assistant Secretary of Housing [and Urban Development]. She produced a map in 1996, August of 1996 - that's the same month that the Gary Webb story broke in the San Jose Mercury News. It was a map that showed the pattern of single family foreclosures or single family mortgages - HUD-backed mortgages - in South Central Los Angeles. But when you looked at the map all of these HUD foreclosures, they were right in the heart of the area where the crack cocaine epidemic had occurred. And what was revealed by looking at the HUD data was that, during the 1980s, thousands of middle-class African American wage-earning families with mortgages lost their homes. Why? There were drive-by shootings, the whole neighborhood deteriorated, crack people moved in next door, your children got shot and went to jail and you had to move out. The house on which you owed $100,000 just got appraised at $40,000 because nobody wanted to buy it and you had to flee; you couldn't sell it, so you walked on it. And what Catherine's research showed was that someone else came along and bought thousands of homes for 10 to 20 cents in the dollar in the years right after the crack cocaine epidemic."
HUD, easily the second most corrupt government agency next to the Pentagon, is an extraordinarily comfortable ecosystem for would-be collateral beneficiaries of the drug war, but these days it's hard even to get the legal things at HUD covered in the press.
There is, of course, a rousing business in corruption at the lower levels. For example, Drug Facts reports that half of all police officers convicted as a result of FBI-led corruption cases between 1993 and 1997 were caught for drug-related offenses. But far more significant corruption remains buried.
One way to get a hint of how the drug trade may have corrupted our political system is to look at other countries. For example, the UN Drug Control Program reported in 1998, "In systems where a member of the legislature or judiciary, earning only a modest income, can easily gain the equivalent of some 20 months' salary from a trafficker by making one "favorable" decision, the dangers of corruption are obvious." An World Bank survey in 2002 found that bribes are paid in 50 per cent of all Colombia state contracts. Another World Bank report estimated the cost of corruption in Colombia at 60 per cent of the country's debt.
Marijuana plays a central role in the cruel and corrupt fantasy game called the drug war because (a)so many people use it and (b)it takes up more space than other drugs. Thus there are plenty of criminals and stuff to go after to give the appearance you are actually doing something. In contrast, all the cocaine America needs in a year could be stuffed into a few 18 wheelers. You can't have a profitable war on drugs with such a tiny target.
The war on drugs is, in fact, a war to sustain the drug industry and its collateral beneficiaries. America's drug czar is also the country's biggest drug lord, because without his phony battle, the artificial economy of prohibition would collapse and with it the industry he falsely claims to be fighting.
While clearly, many of the drug warriors in politics and the law are driven by myopic, infantile evangelism, we must bear in mind that for many others, fighting drugs is as much as business as dealing them, a cash business never reported to the IRS. It is long past time to discover who amongst our leaders are merely stupid and who are themselves drug war criminals.
WASHINGTON POST HYPES METH HYSTERIA
THE MOST TELLING part of the Washington Post over-hyped story on meth was the headline, "The Next Crack Cocaine?" Media misreporting on crack led to much human misery and grossly disproportionate prison sentences thanks to politicians caught up in the craze.
The story, as is typical of this sort of thing, is poorly supported by facts, preferring such abstractions as "The number of methamphetamine labs and addicts in the Washington area has jumped in recent years. . . " Loaded phrases include "dangerously addictive," and "ravaged," but we are left bereft of any serious facts other than that the police closed 80 regional meth labs last year as compared to none in 2000. This is a stat about law enforcement, however, and not about health. Besides, as Radley Balko points out, this can merely mean that, as a result, users have switched to major traffickers (who are the source of most of the supply) rather than doing it themselves.
The willingness of media to serve as shills for law enforcement agencies seeking to increasing their budgets is one of the reasons we have such an ineffective and cruel drug policy.
RADLEY BALKO, FOX NEWS - Inevitably, reaction from media, politicians and regulators to a particular drug's fashionability are overblown and do little to diminish actual abuse. Instead, efforts to thwart drug use often result in costly, needless hassling of law-abiding people that chip away at civil liberties (see the DEA's relentless pursuit of Oxycontin-prescribing physicians, for example).
The latest drug panic is over the rising use of methamphetimine. This time, the outrage seems to stem from the fact that some meth users not only make stuff in their own garages, but that a key ingredient, pseudoephedrine, can be derived from common cold and allergy medicines found in the local pharmacy.
JACOB SULLUM, REASON - "Meth has spread like wildfire across the United States," said Karen Tandy, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, at a recent press conference where she announced more than 400 methamphetamine-related arrests. "It has burned out communities, scorched childhoods, and charred once happy and productive lives beyond recognition." Throwing in another disaster metaphor for good measure, Tandy declared the Bush administration's "commitment to extinguishing this plague.". . .
The DEA's site includes a conspicuous link to "Meth Is Death," a site sponsored by the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference. The latter site claims that "1 in 7 high school students will try meth"; "99 percent of first-time meth users are hooked after just the first try"; "only 5 percent of meth addicts are able to kick it and stay away"; and "the life expectancy of a habitual meth user is only 5 years."
Do the math (which the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference clearly didn't), and you will see that 13.4 percent of Americans die as a result of methamphetamine abuse within five years of graduating from high school. According to the Census Bureau, there are more than 20 million 15-to-19-year-olds in the U.S., so we are talking about hundreds of thousands of deaths a year, and that's not even counting people who start using meth after high school.
Such ridiculous claims, now implicitly endorsed by the DEA, can only undermine legitimate warnings about the hazards of methamphetamine. The federal government's own survey data indicate that the vast majority of people who try meth do not escalate to addiction, let alone end up dead as a result.
In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 6 percent of people who have tried methamphetamine report using it in the last month, which does not necessarily indicate addiction but is surely a minimum requirement. According to data from the National Comorbidity Survey, perhaps one in 10 stimulant users ever experiences "drug dependence." . . .
DISINFORMATION, 2002 - According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, an office of the US Department of Health, there were 1,206 "mentions" of drug deaths attributable to amphetamines in 40 metropolitan areas in 1999. However, this figure includes individuals with chronic and acute diseases of the heart, kidneys, and liver as well as people who mixed amphetamines with other drugs (usually depressants). Clearly, one cannot objectively blame amphetamines for the death of individuals who used them haphazardously with pre-existing conditions any more than one can blame a pin prick for causing the death of a haemophiliac. . .
If speed is so addicting, where are the "addicted" recipients of over 200 million amphetamine tablets consumed by GI's in World War II? If there were any problems then it is extremely doubtful that Uncle Sam would upgrade to meth (six times stronger) and churn it out in even greater quantities in Korea and Vietnam? The only veteran-related drug concern that came out of the latter was the use of high-grade heroin - a physically addicting drug. . .
US DISTRICT JUDGE RONNIE GREER - Taking all the foregoing factors into consideration, and taking into consideration the congressional mandate that sentences for crack offenses be stiffer than for cocaine offenses, the Court finds that the following factors outweigh the significant weight this Court has determined to give to the sentencing guidelines advisory range . . . 4. The unjustified disparity in the 100:1 quality ratio for punishment between cocaine base or crack and powder cocaine. . .
MARIAH BLAKE, COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW, 2004 - Crack hit the streets in 1984, and by 1987 the press had run more than 1,000 stories about it, many focusing on the plight of so-called crack babies. The hand wringing over these children started in September 1985, when the media got hold of Dr. Ira Chasnoff's New England Journal of Medicine article suggesting that prenatal cocaine exposure could have a devastating effect on infants. Only twenty-three cocaine-using women participated in the study, and Chasnoff warned in the report that more research was needed. But the media paid no heed. Within days of the first story, CBS News found a social worker who claimed that an eighteen-month-old crack-exposed baby she was treating would grow up to have "an IQ of perhaps fifty" and be "barely able to dress herself."
Soon, images of the crack epidemic's "tiniest victims" - scrawny, trembling infants - were flooding television screens. Stories about their bleak future abounded. One psychologist told The New York Times that crack was "interfering with the central core of what it is to be human." Charles Krauthammer, a columnist for the The Washington Post, wrote that crack babies were doomed to "a life of certain suffering, of probable deviance, of permanent inferiority." The public braced for the day when this "biological underclass" would cripple our schools, fill our jails, and drain our social programs.
But the day never came. Crack babies, it turns out, were a media myth, not a medical reality. This is not to say that crack is harmless. Infants exposed to cocaine in the womb, including the crystallized version known as crack, weigh an average of 200 grams below normal at birth, according to a massive, ongoing National Institutes of Health study. "For a healthy, ten-pound Gerber baby this is no big deal," explains Barry Lester, the principal investigator. But it can make things worse for small, sickly infants.
Lester has also found that the IQs of cocaine-exposed seven-year-olds are four and a half points lower on average, and some researchers have documented other subtle problems. Perhaps more damaging than being exposed to cocaine itself is growing up with addicts, who are often incapable of providing a stable, nurturing home. But so-called crack babies are by no means ruined. Most fare far better, in fact, than children whose mothers drink heavily while pregnant.
Nevertheless, in the midst of the drug-war hysteria, crack babies became an emblem of the havoc drugs wreak and a pretext for draconian drug laws. Hospitals began secretly testing pregnant women for cocaine, and jailing them or taking their children. Tens of thousands of kids were swept into foster care, where many languish to this day. . .
ELLEN GOODMAN, BOSTON SUNDAY GLOBE, 1992 - Three years after the epidemic of stories about these children began, six years after hospitals began to see newborns in deep trouble, researchers are casting doubt on the popular demon of the war on drugs. The very phrase "crack baby" is, in any literal sense, a misnomer. Cocaine is rarely taken by itself. It's part of a stew of substances taken in a variety of doses and circumstances. No direct line has been drawn from the mother's use of cocaine to fetal damage.
Alcohol and tobacco may do as much harm to the fetus as cocaine. So may poor nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, and the lack of medical care. Most important, it appears that the children born to cocaine-using mothers are not hopeless cases, permanently assigned to the monster track. . .
HOW A NEWSPAPER FUELED THE 'METH EPIDEMIC'
ANGELA VALDEZ, WLLIAMETTE WEEK - Over the past year and a half, The Oregonian has dedicated itself to exposing the rise of methamphetamine addiction. Beginning with its five-part series "Unnecessary Epidemic" in October 2004 and continuing through this month, reporters have hunted down the causes of the outbreak, revealing a web of international suppliers and offering solutions that previously languished because of a lack of political will.
Devoting at least 261 stories to the subject in the past year and a half, The Oregonian's ongoing investigation is an example of what can happen when a newspaper decides to lead a campaign against a social ill. In part because of the daily's coverage, Congress has passed tough anti-meth laws and Oregon has become the home base for a rising national uproar over the powerful stimulant.
But there is a darker side to the newspaper's achievement. . .
Few local media watchers are willing to criticize The Oregonian's coverage of the meth problem. But skepticism about the growing frenzy has begun to appear in the pages of major papers across the country, from The Wall Street Journal to The New York Times, where columnist John Tierney recently wrote that politicians have become so meth-obsessed, "they've lost sight of their duties." . . .
Dr. Jim Thayer, medical director of the Portland addiction-treatment center Hooper Detox, says The Oregonian's reporting has helped create this "feeling of hysteria. The media latched onto this thing that's been going on for years. I just worry that they'll take resources away that have been working for years and just put them into meth." . . .
In fact, meth use during the past four years has either declined or stayed flat, according to two major national drug-use studies. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that meth use did not increase at all from 2002 . . . through 2004, the last year for which there is data. The University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Study, which examines drug use among youth, actually shows a decline in meth use among high-school students from 1999 to 2005. . .
The Oregonian has often reported that meth "fuels" 85 percent of the state's property crimes. The statistic - which has fluctuated between 80 and 90 percent - has appeared in at least 14 stories over the past four years, each time without any skepticism and four times without any attribution. . .
Despite The Oregonian's reliance on this figure, there is no good evidence that meth causes 85 percent of the property crimes in Oregon. Portland State University criminology professor Kris Henning says the number just doesn't make sense. Department chair Annette Jolin says the unsupportable statistic has become "something of a joke "among statistical researchers in the department. For one thing, Oregon property crimes are much lower than they were 10 or even 20 years ago, the time period of the supposed meth "epidemic."
"If meth causes property offenses, and meth use has gone up," Henning says, "then property offenses should have gone up. And they haven't. It's either that, or all the people who commit property crimes have disappeared and been replaced by a small number of meth users." . . .
The children of the meth epidemic
have become the emotional center of The Oregonian's coverage.
On Aug. 28, 2005, The Oregonian's Sunday edition ran a front-page
story with the headline, "Oregon's meth epidemic creates
thousands of 'orphans.'" Reporter Joseph Rose cited a new
study by the state Department of Human Services that linked half
of the state's foster-care cases to meth. He wrote, "Last
year, roughly 2,750 children-more than half of all foster cases-were
taken from parents using or making the potent drug, the study
DHS coordinator Jay Wurscher compared a list of 2004 foster-care cases-containing the names of parents and other adults-with a database of people who had received treatment for meth. He came up with a roughly 50 percent match. Wurscher's comparison did not show whether meth use specifically caused the children to be taken from their homes. The analysis did, however, reveal a possible correlation between the drug and child abuse.
Like the 85 percent statistic, the large percentage of meth-related foster care cases would suggest a recent surge in the number of children being intercepted by social workers - which has not happened, according to state foster-care data.
DRUG FREE ZONES DISCRIMINATE AGAINST BLACKS & LATINOS
DARRYL FEARS WASHINGTON POST - During the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, dozens of states drew wide circles around schools and called them "drug-free zones" to keep dealers away from children. But a national report released yesterday said the zones have failed to achieve that goal. A report by the Justice Policy Institute, a liberal research organization that advocates for alternatives to incarceration, said the zones have led to a far different result: a disproportionately high number of drug convictions and harsh sentences for black and Latino citizens who live who live near urban schools and other protected areas. . . Alabama's zones cover 27 square miles each, almost half the size of one of its largest cities, Tuscaloosa. Convictions within the zones often come with fixed sentences that are added to whatever jail time is imposed for the crime committed. "In Utah and Washington, people said these zones are so wide they don't target the people they should be targeting," said Jason Ziedenberg, a co-author of the report. "They do not deter drug sales and they do not protect youth from drug sales near schools. People's fears are justified, but these zones are not doing what people think they're doing.". . .
46% OF AMERICANS WANT POT TREATED LIKE ALCOHOL
HIGH TIMES - Nearly one out of two Americans support amending federal law "to let states legally regulate and tax marijuana the way they do liquor and gambling," according to a national poll of 1,004 likely voters by Zogby International and commissioned by the NORML Foundation.
Forty-six percent of respondents -- including a majority of those polled on the east (53 percent) and west (55 percent) coasts -- say they support allowing states to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. Forty-nine percent of respondents opposed taxing and regulating cannabis, and five percent were undecided.
"Public support for replacing the illicit marijuana market with a legally regulated, controlled market similar to alcohol -- complete with age restrictions and quality controls -- continues to grow," NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said. "NORML's challenge is to convert this growing public support into a tangible public policy that no longer criminalizes those adults who use marijuana responsibly."
Respondents' support for marijuana law reform was strongly influenced by age and political affiliation. Nearly two-thirds of 18-29 year-olds (65 percent) and half of 50-64 year-olds think federal law should be amended to allow states the option to regulate marijuana, while majorities of 30-49 year-olds (58 percent) and seniors 65 and older (52 percent) oppose such a change.
Among those respondents who identified themselves as Democrats, 59 percent back taxing and regulating marijuana compared to only 33 percent of Republicans. Forty-four percent of Independents and 85 percent of Libertarians say they supported the law change.
Respondents' opinions were also influenced by religious affiliation. Nearly 70 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Jewish, and nearly 60 percent of respondents who said they were non-religious believe that states should regulate cannabis, while only 48 percent of Catholics and 38 percent of Protestants support such a policy.
A previous Zogby poll of 1,024 likely voters found that 61 percent of respondents opposed arresting and jailing non-violent marijuana consumers.
POT DOES MORE FOR WASHINGTON STATE'S ECONOMY THAN SWEET CHERRIES
JOHN K. WILEY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS - Law enforcement officers harvested a dubious record last year: enough marijuana plants to rank the illegal weed as Washington state's No. 8 agricultural commodity, edging sweet cherries in value. The 135,323 marijuana plants seized in 2005 were estimated to be worth $270 million -- a record amount that places the crop among the state's top 10 agricultural commodities, based on the most recent statistics available.. . . The estimated $270 million value of the plants seized in 2005 ranked just above sweet cherries, which were valued at $242 million in 2004, and just below the $329 million the state's nurseries and greenhouses produced. Apples are the state's No. 1 agricultural commodity, bringing $962.5 million in 2004.
In 1985, it became illegal - albeit unconstitutionally so - for those under 21 to drink. This chart, compiled by Brian C. Bennett, shows what has happened since: not much. In 1985, 87.2% of Americans started drinking when they were under 21. By 2002 the figure was 88.2%. MORE DRUG FACTS
RACE, CLASS AND DRUGS
PAUL BASS, HARTFORD COURANT - He wasn't a Democrat or a Republican, of course. He's a third-party candidate. And he's not a big-time politician like Lowell Weicker or a movie star like Arnold Schwarzenegger. So he may have trouble getting many voters to listen to what he has to say. But in our limping democracy, serious discussion of pressing issues that require painful self-examination can be hard to find. So it's worth listening to what a third-party candidate like Clifford Thornton has to say. Especially when it's about drugs and race in Connecticut.
"Connecticut has a population of 3.4, 3.5 million people," Thornton told me after his public appearance. He doesn't need a roomful of voters to rev up his outrage. "Of that population, black and Latino males make up less than 6 percent. But they account for almost 68 percent of the prison population, with almost 70 percent of them being there for drug-related charges.
"If, in fact, whites were arrested and incarcerated [at the same rate] per illegal drug use and sale, we wouldn't be having this conversation because there would literally be armed insurrection in the streets. For instance, when they have these rock concerts in the Meadows, you will see where they arrested 10 or 15 or 20 people for drugs. Within a 24- to 48-hour period, most of those children are out because most of them come from the suburbs, and their parents will not tolerate that. If the same thing happened to an inner-city youth, chances are he would be doing some time.
SHERIFF SAYS HE'LL USE TICKETS INSTEAD OF ARRESTS IN POT CASES
REUTERS - Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, who oversees the University of Iowa in Iowa City, told a legislative committee he would treat possession of small amounts of marijuana like a traffic violation, allowing hundreds of students arrested each year to graduate without a criminal record. "The guy that's carrying 50 bales of marijuana ... that's a different animal," Pulkrabek said, adding he favored rounding up intoxicated people in a locked "detox center" in lieu of the crowded jail.
THE PROBLEM WITH DRUG TESTING
MARSHA ROSENBAUM, ALTERNET - Random drug testing has not been proven to deter drug use. In 2003, the National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the largest study ever conducted on the topic. Researchers compared 76,000 students in schools with and without drug testing and found no differences in illegal drug use among students from both sets of schools. In a 2005 report that critiqued studies touted by ONDCP in support of random student drug testing, professor Neil McKeganey found fundamental flaws and biases, saying, "It is a matter of concern that student drug testing has been widely developed within the USA on the basis of the slimmest available research evidence."
Random drug testing alienates students. The collection of a specimen is a humiliating violation of privacy that already self-conscious adolescents should not have to endure.
Drug testing can have the unanticipated effect of keeping students from participating in after-school, extracurricular programs -- activities that would fill their time during the peak teenage drug-use hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Random testing infuses an insidious sense of suspicion into the delicate student-teacher relationship, which can create a hostile school environment. This is especially disturbing in light of research showing that student connectedness to their school is an important predictor of success.
Drug testing is expensive and inefficient. School districts across the country, including many in Florida, are in financial crisis and simply cannot afford to shell out thousands of dollars each year while extracurricular programs struggle to survive. Gateway High, for example, in Osceola County, initially implemented a drug-testing program but dropped it a year later due to budgetary concerns.
Testing is not the best way to detect problems with alcohol and other drugs. Though it may provide a false sense of security among school officials and parents, who believe it tells which students abuse drugs, in fact testing detects only a tiny fraction of users and misses too many who are in trouble. If we are truly intent on helping students, we should listen to drug-abuse professionals who know that detection of problems requires careful attention to signs such as truancy, erratic behavior and falling grades.
BRITAIN PLANNING TO LIGHTEN DRUG PENALTIES
TONY BONNICI, SUN, UK - Druggies caught with enough cannabis to make 500 joints could escape being charged as dealers under planned guidelines. Home Secretary Charles Clarke revealed proposals to set a threshold for the amount of drugs anyone can claim is for personal use. Anyone who fell below the threshold could expect to face the lesser charge of possession.
Limits proposed are:
HEROIN and CRACK COCAINE: Seven grams in bulk or ten or more 0.1 gram "wraps".
COCAINE: Seven grams in bulk or ten one-gram wraps.
ECSTASY: Ten tablets.
AMPHETAMINE: Fourteen grams in bulk or ten one-gram wraps.
CANNABIS: Resin, 4oz or 10 individual pieces, wraps or blocks. Leaf, 0.5 kilograms or more than 20 individual 2in-by-2in bags. Four ounces of cannabis would be enough to roll about 512 light joints or about 256 strong ones, according to drugs education charity Drug Scope.
INDEPENDENT, UK - Cannabis-based drugs could be used to relieve the pain of arthritis sufferers. The world's most popular recreational drug after tobacco and alcohol has already been shown to have a role in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Other studies suggest it may help treat gut disorders such as Crohn's disease and could even be used as an appetite suppressant.
Researchers said yesterday that the latest study to examine its effect in rheumatoid arthritis found it significantly reduced pain and suppressed the disease. The finding raises hopes for 600,000 sufferers in the UK. . .
The findings are published online today in the journal Rheumatology. Ronald Jubb, one of the researchers, said: "While the [improvements] are small and variable across the patient group, they represent benefits of clinical relevance and indicate the need for more detailed investigations through larger trials".
HOW PRISONS KILL THE INNOCENT
Neither of the these stories are new, but they come back because of a report that DC has the highest AIDs rate in the country. It also has the highest incareration rate of any state or colony. To understand the relationship of these two facts, consider the young black man who goes to prison on a minor drug charge and then is released, thence to have sex with a number of unincarcerated black women. The young man may die for a minor drug charge; the women for no crime at all. In each case, prison - which is meant to cure crime - ends up causing cruel death.
DARRYL FEARS, WASHINGTON POST, FEB 7 2005 - He was, Precious Jackson said, a very fine black man. He was 6 feet 2 inches tall with an almond-milk complexion, dreamy dark eyes and a deep voice. During their nearly two years together in Los Angeles, he was the sunshine of her life, even though he had a habit of landing in jail and refused to use a condom when they made love. "I didn't ask him any questions," Jackson said in a recent interview. "I didn't ask him about his sexual history. I asked him if he had been tested, and he said one test came back positive but another one came back negative. I was excited to have this man in my life, because I felt I needed this man to validate who I was."
The man is now Jackson's ex-lover, but the two are forever attached by the AIDS virus she contracted from him, becoming, in the process, a part of the nation's fastest-growing group of people with HIV -- black women.
That development, epidemiologists say, is attributable to socioeconomic and demographic conditions specific to many African American communities. Black neighborhoods, they say, are more likely to be plagued by joblessness, poverty, drug use and a high ratio of women to men, a significant portion of whom cycle in and out of a prison system where the rate of HIV infection is estimated to be as much as 10 times higher than in the general population.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON, NY TIMES, AUG 6 2004 - While many studies have documented the prevalence of the disease in prisons, researchers are now examining how patterns of incarceration affect its transmission beyond prison walls. The health consequences cut across lines of class, said Dr. Peter Leone, medical director of the H.I.V. and sexually transmitted disease division of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. ''You're not even looking at six degrees of separation in most black social networks between a disenfranchised former inmate and someone who is in college or highly respected in the community,'' he said.
Researchers say high incarceration rates increase risk behaviors associated with H.I.V. by skewing the ratio of women to men, worsening economic conditions and increasing the social capital of men who are not imprisoned. ''H.I.V. is an opportunistic disease that thrives on disruptions of social networks,'' said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina, where several studies on the subject are under way. ''You can hardly get more socially disruptive than removing double-digit percentages of men from communities for extended periods of time.''
FORMER SEATTLE TOP COP MAKES CASE FOR DRUG LEGALIZATION
[Norm Stamper is the former chief of the Seattle Police Department. He is the author of "Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing" ]
NORM STAMPER, LA TIMES - I don't favor [drug] decriminalization. I favor legalization, and not just of pot but of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth, psychotropics, mushrooms and LSD. Decriminalization, as my colleagues in the drug reform movement hasten to inform me, takes the crime out of using drugs but continues to classify possession and use as a public offense, punishable by fines.
I've never understood why adults shouldn't enjoy the same right to use verboten drugs as they have to suck on a Marlboro or knock back a scotch and water.
Prohibition of alcohol fell flat on its face. The prohibition of other drugs rests on an equally wobbly foundation. Not until we choose to frame responsible drug use - not an oxymoron in my dictionary - as a civil liberty will we be able to recognize the abuse of drugs, including alcohol, for what it is: a medical, not a criminal, matter.
As a cop, I bore witness to the multiple lunacies of the "war on drugs." Lasting far longer than any other of our national conflicts, the drug war has been prosecuted with equal vigor by Republican and Democratic administrations, with one president after another - Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush - delivering sanctimonious sermons, squandering vast sums of taxpayer money and cheerleading law enforcers from the safety of the sidelines.
It's not a stretch to conclude that our draconian approach to drug use is the most injurious domestic policy since slavery. Want to cut back on prison overcrowding and save a bundle on the construction of new facilities? Open the doors, let the nonviolent drug offenders go. The huge increases in federal and state prison populations during the 1980s and '90s (from 139 per 100,000 residents in 1980 to 482 per 100,000 in 2003) were mainly for drug convictions. In 1980, 580,900 Americans were arrested on drug charges. By 2003, that figure had ballooned to 1,678,200. We're making more arrests for drug offenses than for murder, manslaughter, forcible rape and aggravated assault combined. Feel safer?
I've witnessed the devastating effects of open-air drug markets in residential neighborhoods: children recruited as runners, mules and lookouts; drug dealers and innocent citizens shot dead in firefights between rival traffickers bent on protecting or expanding their markets; dedicated narcotics officers tortured and killed in the line of duty; prisons filled with nonviolent drug offenders; and drug-related foreign policies that foster political instability, wreak health and environmental disasters, and make life even tougher for indigenous subsistence farmers in places such as Latin America and Afghanistan. All because we like our drugs - and can't have them without breaking the law. . .
Although small in numbers of offenders, there isn't a major police force - the Los Angeles Police Department included - that has escaped the problem: cops, sworn to uphold the law, seizing and converting drugs to their own use, planting dope on suspects, robbing and extorting pushers, taking up dealing themselves, intimidating or murdering witnesses.
In declaring a war on drugs, we've declared war on our fellow citizens. War requires "hostiles" - enemies we can demonize, fear and loathe. This unfortunate categorization of millions of our citizens justifies treating them as dope fiends, evil-doers, less than human. That grants political license to ban the exchange or purchase of clean needles or to withhold methadone from heroin addicts motivated to kick the addiction.
MARIJUANA MIGHT MAKE YOU SMARTER
NEW SCIENTIST - A synthetic chemical similar to the active ingredient in marijuana makes new cells grow in rat brains. What is more, in rats this cell growth appears to be linked with reducing anxiety and depression. The results suggest that marijuana, or its derivatives, could actually be good for the brain.
In mammals, new nerve cells are constantly being produced in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is associated with learning, memory, anxiety and depression. Other recreational drugs, such as alcohol, nicotine and cocaine, have been shown to suppress this new growth. Xia Zhang of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and colleagues decided to see what effects a synthetic cannabinoid called HU210 had on rats' brains.
They found that giving rats high doses of HU210 twice a day for 10 days increased the rate of nerve cell formation, or neurogenesis, in the hippocampus by about 40%.
A previous study showed that the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) also increases new cell growth, and the results indicated that it was this cell growth that caused Prozac's anti-anxiety effect. Zhang wondered whether this was also the case for the cannabinoid, and so he tested the rats for behavioural changes.
When the rats who had received the cannabinoid were placed under stress, they showed fewer signs of anxiety and depression than rats who had not had the treatment.
WAR ON DRUGS IS FUNDING TERRORISM
DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - Among the forces working to sustain extremist organizations like Al Qaeda is one that policymakers don't like to talk about in direct terms -- drug prohibition. The United Nations and leading development economists put the proceeds from Afghanistan's black market opium economy at $2.8 billion, with about $600 million going to farmers and more than $2 billion going to regional drug trafficking organizations, warlords linked to the Afghan government, and other political figures. These prohibition-derived profits are fueling corruption and distorting the political process in Afghanistan and financing Islamist radicals and nationalist insurgencies from Central Asia to the Middle East, according to a variety of sources.
After an August trip to the region coordinated with the US Central Command, Clinton-era drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey, now a professor at West Point, told the Washington Times last week that black market opium profits are energizing Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the ungovernable tribal territories across the border in Pakistan, and widening the drug trade into the Persian Gulf and Iraq, where its illicit profits may be helping to finance the insurgency there.
US officials are reluctant to link black market drug profits to the insurgencies in either Afghanistan or Iraq. The US Embassy in Kabul, for example, Wednesday told DRC Net that it had "no press guidance" on the link between drug profits and an apparently revitalized Taliban - Al Qaeda insurgency in Afghanistan. The Washington Times reported last month that US officials are loathe to make the connection because they fear US forces there would then be forced to take an active role in combating the trade, a task the US and UN have largely dumped on the British, even though the US has budgeted hundreds of millions of dollars to combat the trade this year. . .
"Drugs are not the source of conflict in Afghanistan, but they fuel it," said British international law expert Hugo Warner during a "drugs and conflict" workshop at the Senlis Council's Kabul symposium last week. "The Taliban is clearly involved in trafficking into Pakistan, and the ability of Afghan warlords to maintain and arm their militias is clearly connected to the drug trade."
It's not just the Taliban and rogue warlords getting rich off the trade. "A high proportion of Afghan elites are involved in the trade," Afghan expert Barnett Rubin told reporters during a break in the symposium.
The United States remains firmly committed to drug war-style policies in Afghanistan. US Embassy press attache Lou Fintor told DRCNet the US government was "encouraged" by the slight progress made in reducing opium cultivation this year. "The government of Afghanistan has engaged in a broad strategy to combat poppy cultivation, which the US fully supports," Fintor said. "The US is working closely and cooperatively with the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and other donor countries to assist Afghan officials in eliminating the poppy trade. We are determined to increase our efforts to support the Afghan government in reducing the cultivation of and trafficking in illegal poppies."
But such policies are counterproductive and probably doomed to failure, said experts. "The hope that attacking the illicit economy will weaken terrorism and guerrillas is just a hope," said British international law expert Hugo Warner during last week's Senlis Council symposium. "It has never worked out."
"These prohibitionist policies always have unintended consequences," said former UN drug control program supply reduction and law enforcement chief Tony Snow. "The institutions that make up the international drug policy framework still stubbornly refuse to learn from their mistakes."
While the experts are calling for a new path, the US, UN and Western powers appear committed to more of the same old prohibitionist policies, with all the evils they engender. With a tougher fight against the opium traffic the only option the West is considering, it appears to be guaranteeing a war without end in Central Asia and the Middle East, paid for by the profits made possible by prohibition.
Meanwhile, the Saudi government is reporting a similar dynamic at work in Iraq -- only this time with cannabis as the illicit commodity. Sunni insurgents infiltrating the kingdom from Iraq are smuggling Iraqi weed in and carrying dollars for the insurgency out, Saudi security sources told the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat newspaper last week. "In the space of one year, border police intercepted 10 tons of cannabis coming from Iraq," a Saudi source said. "In the past, the [smuggled] merchandise used to consist of alcoholic beverages and prohibited drugs," he told the newspaper.
"We have reason to believe that profits from drug smuggling have been financing militants who are fighting Iraqi and coalition forces and facilitating the illegal entry of people into the country," the source said. "It also supports Al Qaeda's terrorist activities inside the kingdom."
SEPTEMBER 2005. . .
STUDY: WAR ON POT SMOKING IS A COMPLETE BUST
DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - Despite hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests each year, law enforcement has proven ineffective in curbing usage, the Justice Policy Institute reported in a study. The study, "Efficacy and Impact: The Criminal Justice Response to Marijuana Policy in the United States," concluded that despite a huge increase in drug control spending -- from $65 million in 1970 to $19 billion currently, and that's just at the federal level -- rates of marijuana use have remained essentially unchanged, no matter whether arrests rates go up or down.
The report shows that marijuana usage has remained relatively stable in the past 20 years, except for a dramatic decline in the 1980s, when arrest rates were also declining. While arrest rates jumped 127% in the 1990s, marijuana usage also increased, although by a much more modest 22%.
The report shows that throughout the past 20 years, marijuana usage has remained relatively stable, except for a dramatic drop of 61 percent during the eighties, when arrest rates declined 24 percent. When arrest rates increased 127 percent during the 1990's, the rate of usage remained stable climbing only 22 percent.
In seven out of 10 states, marijuana arrests make up more than half of all drug arrests. On the high end, in both North Carolina and South Dakota, marijuana arrests accounted for a whopping 74% of all drug arrests. While those two states had the highest percentage of marijuana arrests, the per capita arrest rate prize goes to Texas, which arrested pot people at the rate of 222 per 100,000. With an estimated 829,000 marijuana users in Texas, the Lone Star state managed to arrest almost 49,000 in 2003.
There are currently 1,215 people in prison in Texas for marijuana offenses, 1,189 in California -- with a surprisingly high per capita arrest rate of 171 per 100,000 -- and 408 in Alabama. In total, the study estimates that 30,000 are doing hard time for marijuana crime in the United States.
According to Jason Colburn, policy analyst at JPI and the report's coauthor, US drug policy is not only having very little effect on marijuana usage, but it also imposes hefty collateral consequences on those being locked up for marijuana use. "There are 13 million people with former felony convictions in the US, and thousands of people have been convicted of a felony offense involving marijuana. The collateral consequences they will face will not only impact them but their families and entire communities," said Colburn. "Depending on what state they live in, they may be denied public assistance, face substantial barriers to employment, experience drivers' license suspension, and lose the right to vote. Our criminal justice response to marijuana is impacting their ability to take care of their families or contribute as normal taxpaying citizens," added Colburn.
JULY 2005. . .
ERIC STERLING, CRIMINAL JUSTICE
POLICY FOUNDATION - First, the consequences of drug enforcement
and convictions reduce the purchasing power of at least five
million American consumers. Second, the crime, violence, and
disorder from drug prohibition make hundreds of urban commercial
districts undesirable for retail and other commercial development.
Third, the crime, violence, and disorder from drug prohibition
make hundreds of urban residential districts undesirable for
housing and housing development. Fourth, the direct costs of
drug enforcement, now exceeding $50 billion in federal, state,
and local spending each year, are a terrible opportunity cost-as
taxation that restricts investment and profits. This is taxation
withdrawn from the productive economy, a wasted public expenditure
that does little to improve public safety and the economic climate.
There are substantial indirect costs from enforcement that accrue
to the business community and hurt profits. These include, for
example, fifth, the costs of compliance with onerous and ineffective
money laundering regulations; sixth, the inflation of insurance
premiums to pay for underwriting losses attributable to drug-prohibition
crime; seventh, the significant costs of added security; and
eighth, the slowing of international trade to search for contraband
and as a result of growing reporting requirements in financial
matters and shipments of industrial chemicals. Ninth, still other
costs are the lost productivity from drug enforcement. Among
the factors reducing productivity due to drug prohibition is
incarceration. Between 1992 and 1998, the productivity loss due
to incarceration grew by 9.1%, according to the White House report
on the economic costs of drug abuse issued in September, 2001.
DRUG WAR CHRONICLES - House Judiciary Committee Chairmen Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has long been a fan of anti-drug legislation and ever-harsher prison sentences, in past years he has shown a willingness to occasionally come down on the side of civil liberties instead of more policing.
But this year, the suburban Milwaukee congressman -- he represents the district that is the subject of the marijuana-friendly TV comedy series "That '70s Show" -- has used his position as judiciary committee chair to author draconian anti-drug legislation in the name of the children and improperly browbeat federal judges he believes are too soft on sentencing. His moves on drugs and sentencing come in the context of a broader Sensenbrenner offensive on issues ranging from indecent television programming to Internet porn to revising in the Patriot Act to ramming through a national identification card program ostensibly designed to "make America safer."
A year after finishing law school at the University of Wisconsin in 1968, the young heir to the Kimberly-Clark Kotex fortune won election to the state legislature with family money paving the way, and in 1978 began his career as a US congressman. He got off to a quick start, voting to block passage of a bill that would have helped judges around the country reform bail procedures, then joining the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. In the late 1980s, amidst the congressional frenzy to pass ever more stringent drug bills, he served on the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control. He has sponsored his own death penalty bill, and in 1994 he said that Jocelyn Elders had "forfeited her right to be surgeon general of the United States" after her remarks about legalization of drugs and condoms.
Some indicative votes from the past decade include votes for:
More prisons, more death penalty (1994); Making death penalty appeals more difficult (1995); Prohibiting Washington, DC, from enacting a medical marijuana law (1999); Prohibiting federal funding for needle exchanges (1999); Tougher prosecution and sentencing of juvenile offenders (1999); Military patrols on the border to combat drugs and terrorism (2001); and against: Replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment (1994); Maintaining habeas corpus in death penalty appeals (1996); Funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons (2000).
But Sensenbrenner has also sometimes departed from a predictably hard-line approach to crime and drugs. In 1998, he voted against subjecting federal employees to random drug tests. More recently, his was the key vote in removing the censorship and secret search provision in House Judiciary Committee vote on the 2000 methamphetamine bill, and in deleting a clause from the RAVE Act that would have subjected venue owners and event organizers to substantial criminal penalties. That seems to have changed in the last few years. "It's goofy, from 2000 to 2003 he was helpful in stripping drug war bills of their worst provisions and in fighting Ashcroft on surveillance of political dissent," said long-time Wisconsin activist and gadfly Ben Masel. "I don't get what flipped him."
And with this year's introduction of the "Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act, even some of Sensenbrenner's colleagues are wondering if he has flipped out. That bill, stalled for the moment, would make it a federal crime punishable by a two-year mandatory minimum sentence to fail to report certain drug crimes to the authorities. If people are using drugs in a home with children, you must snitch. If you know someone who has ever been in treatment and is seeking drugs, you must snitch. Even if they are members of your own family.
The bill also creates harsh new penalties for a variety of nonviolent drug offenses, including a mandatory minimum five years for anyone who passes a joint to someone who has ever been in drug treatment, five years for someone who has been in treatment who asks a friend to find them drugs, and ten years for mothers who have been in treatment who commit certain drug offenses at home -- even if their kids aren't there. . .
The House Judiciary Committee chairman attempted to intimidate a federal appeals court into altering a drug case sentence he felt was not sufficiently harsh. In that case, the trial judge had sentenced the defendant to a term below the mandatory minimum, and while federal prosecutors could probably have gotten the sentenced increased with an appeal, they did not.
Sensenbrenner lit out after the appeals court that ruled on the case. They were wrong, Sensenbrenner wrote in a letter to the US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and needed to "promptly remedy" the error. But as the appeals court pointed out, it was Sensenbrenner who was wrong, and as countless commentators have pointed out, it was Sensenbrenner who committed an improper act by attempting to influence a pending court case.
"It is perfectly appropriate for the Congress to concern itself with instances of miscarriage of justice," said Sterling, citing cases where the Justice Department failed to act aggressively against corporate crime. "But when the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee sends a letter to a court trying to get it to change the outcome of a case, it violates the procedures the courts are to follow and is done with either an intent to improperly intimidate the court or with reckless disregard of its tendency to intimidate the court," said Sterling, who served as counsel to that committee from 1979 to 1989.
Sensenbrenner's effort to intimidate the federal courts comes in the context of a broader congressional offensive against the judiciary, a nearly two-decades long process manifested in numerous mandatory minimum sentencing bills removing discretion from judges, and most recently in the 2003 Feeney Amendment, which seeks to further tighten the straitjacket around federal judges by requiring the Justice Department to investigate any judge who issues sentences that depart downward from the sentencing guidelines.
STUDY: MARIJUANA DOESN'T CAUSE LUNG CANCER
NORML - Marijuana smoking -"even heavy longterm use"- does not cause cancer of the lung, upper airwaves, or esophagus, Donald Tashkin reported at this year's meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society.
Coming from Tashkin, this conclusion had extra significance for the assembled drug-company and university-based scientists (most of whom get funding from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse). Over the years, Tashkin's lab at UCLA has produced irrefutable evidence of the damage that marijuana smoke wreaks on bronchial tissue.
With NIDA's support, Tashkin and colleagues have identified the potent carcinogens in marijuana smoke, biopsied and made photomicrographs of pre-malignant cells, and studied the molecular changes occurring within them. It is Tashkin's research that the Drug Czar's office cites in ads linking marijuana to lung cancer.
Tashkin himself has long believed in a causal relationship, despite a study in which Stephen Sidney examined the files of 64,000 Kaiser patients and found that marijuana users didn't develop lung cancer at a higher rate or die earlier than non-users. Of five smaller studies on the question, only two -involving a total of about 300 patients- concluded that marijuana smoking causes lung cancer.
Tashkin decided to settle the question by conducting a large, prospectively designed, population-based, case-controlled study. "In summary" Tashkin concluded, "we failed to observe a positive association of marijuana use."
GUARDIAN - The profit margins for major traffickers of heroin into Britain are so high they outstrip luxury goods companies such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, according to a study that Downing Street is refusing to publish under freedom of information legislation.
Only the first half of the strategy unit study led by the former director general of the BBC, Lord Birt, was released last Friday. The other half was withheld but has been leaked to the Guardian. It says that the traffickers enjoy such high profits that seizure rates of 60-80% are needed to have any serious impact on the flow of drugs into Britain but nothing greater than 20% has been achieved.
The study concludes that the estimated UK annual supply of heroin and cocaine could be transported into the country in five standard-sized shipping containers but has a value which at a conservative estimate tops L4bn. . .
Among the data suppressed because it was supplied by an agency involved in security is a table on page 12 from the National Criminal Intelligence Service showing average street prices for various drugs. It estimates the average cost for a heavy user at L89 a week for cannabis and L525 for crack cocaine - information that is presumably at the fingertips of every hardcore drug abuser and dealer in the country. . .
Only 20% of the 280,000 high harm drug users are receiving treatment or in prison at any one time. The report notes that those who are in treatment tend not to stay with it for long.
It says that more than 3 million people in the UK use illicit drugs every year and compares the 749 deaths annually from heroin and methadone with the 6,000 deaths from alcohol abuse and 100,000 from tobacco. It reveals that there are 674 hospital admissions on mental health grounds resulting from cannabis use, compared to 3,480 for heroin users.
The report says the drug supply business is large, highly flexible and very adaptable, and even if supply-side interventions were more effective it is not clear that the impact of the harm caused by serious drug users would be reduced.
JUNE 2005. . .
MONICA DAVEY, NY TIMES - Quite distinct from the oral damage done by other drugs, sugar and smoking, methamphetamine seems to be taking a unique, and horrific, toll inside its users' mouths. In short stretches of time, sometimes just months, a perfectly healthy set of teeth can turn a grayish-brown, twist and begin to fall out, and take on a peculiar texture less like that of hard enamel and more like that of a piece of ripened fruit.
The condition, known to some as meth mouth, has been studied little in dentistry's academic circles and is unknown to many dentists, whose patients are increasingly focused on cosmetic issues: the bleaching and perfect veneers of television's makeover shows. But other dentists, especially those in the open, empty swaths of land where methamphetamine is being manufactured in homemade laboratories, say they are seeing a growing number of such cases. . .
STUDY: HEROIN PRESCRIPTIONS
WOULD PAY FOR THEMSELVES
BBC - There are strong reasons
to support the practice of prescribing heroin to drug mis-users,
researchers claim. A University of Amsterdam team says the treatment
is cost-effective, even though it is expensive.
Previous research has shown supervised medial prescription of heroin improves the physical and mental health, and ability to function normally in society, of users who cannot be successfully treated using just methadone - a synthetic narcotic used to treat heroin addiction
The Dutch scientists looked at 430 heroin addicts who were taking part in methadone maintenance programs in six cities in the Netherlands. Before they took part in the study, they had frequently engaged in illegal activities to acquire money or drugs. The addicts were given either methadone plus heroin, or methadone alone.
The patients were then assessed after a year of treatment. Those given the combination treatment reported a better quality of life, compared to those given methadone alone. And although the costs of co-prescription were found to be considerably higher, they were offset by lower policing costs and reduced costs of crime against property because addicts were not breaking the law to fund their habit.
MARIJUANA TAXATION WOULD PRODUCE
MARIUANA POLICY PROJECT - In a report, Dr. Jeffrey Miron, visiting professor of economics at Harvard University, estimates that replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year. In response, a group of more than 500 distinguished economists -- led by Nobel Prize-winner Dr. Milton Friedman -- released an open letter to President Bush and other public officials calling for "an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition," adding, "We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods."
The paper concludes:
- Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of legal regulation would save approximately $7.7 billion in government expenditures on prohibition enforcement.
- Revenue from taxation of marijuana sales would range from $2.4 billion per year if marijuana were taxed like ordinary consumer goods to $6.2 billion if it were taxed like alcohol or tobacco.
MAY 2005. . .
DRUG WAR PUSHERS STRUGGLING
WITH THEIR FAILURE
KRIS AXTMAN, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR - Evidence is beginning to build that the approach to the war on drugs in the United States could be changing - by shifting attention away from small-time drug dealers and individual users toward major drug traffickers.
The nation's drug czar, for one, has alluded to changes in thinking. "Break the business," said John Walters at a congressional hearing earlier this year. "Don't break generation after generation [of poor, minority young men], is what we're going for."
Endless feed loop
CLARION LEDGER, MD - The Lamar County Sheriff's Department will keep its DARE program solvent, buy several new cruisers and pay for other expenses - all without asking taxpayers for a dime. The money to pay for the projects will come from the seizure of a large amount of cash during an August 2004 traffic stop on I-59. Derryle Smith of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency on Friday gave Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel $195,315 of the original $244,220 that was seized in the stop. DEA will get the remainder of the money. "The best thing about this is we can use drug money, or money that was gotten illegally, to help fight drugs at no cost to taxpayers," Rigel said.
APRIL 2005. . .
86% OF COLORADO
UNIVERSITY STUDENTS WANT POT TREATED LIKE ALCOHOL
DRUG REFORM COORDINATION NETWORK - Students at the University of Colorado in Boulder have voted overwhelmingly to signal their support of equalizing campus disciplinary penalties for marijuana and alcohol. A similar referendum two weeks ago was approved by students at Colorado State University in Fort Collins with 65% of the vote. But CU students outdid their brethren, approving the initiative with a whopping 86% of the vote.
stung by a series of scandals and concerned about CU's reputation,
quickly repudiated the show of student sentiment. In a statement
released Monday, CU officials both denied there were significant
differences in the school's alcohol and pot policies and vowed
to ignore the referendum. "CU Boulder will not be bound
by the outcome of the student referendum," the statement
USED TO BRING IN DRUGS
[As we pointed out in our coverage of the drug trade in Arkansas, the easiest way to bring drugs into this country is in a military plane. This is a rare case of someone being caught]
BBC - Two US military airmen are being held on charges of smuggling millions of dollars worth of Ecstasy into the country, federal officials have said. . . . Both men admitted during interviews to bringing the drugs from Germany on several occasions, the officials added. . . Around 290,000 Ecstasy pills in 28 large bags were found in the two men's luggage after their Air Force C-5A cargo aircraft arrived at the Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York State. . . Sgt Fong admitted bringing drugs on three previous flights and being paid $10,000 each time.
HELPFUL TO HEART
NIGEL HAWKES, TIMES, UK - THE active ingredient in cannabis protects arteries against harmful changes that lead to strokes and heart attacks, new research suggests. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is known to affect the brain and make cannabis-users "high". The new research shows that it also has an influence on blood vessels. A study of mice revealed that the compound blocks the process of inflammation, which is largely responsible for the narrowing of arteries.
Inflammation combines with fatty deposits to produce obstructive "plaques," a condition known as atherosclerosis. These can block arteries to the heart, causing angina and heart attacks, or to the brain, leading to strokes. Atherosclerosis is the primary cause of heart disease and stroke in the Western world, accounting for up to half the deaths from both conditions. . .
Writing in Nature, the scientists point out that the THC doses used were low - too low to cause the mice to get "high". They wrote: "Our results suggest that cannabinoid derivatives with activity at the CB2 receptor may be valuable clinical targets for treating atherosclerosis."
ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER BUST
The federal government budgets $12 billion a year for the war on drugs. That doesn't include vast expenses at the state or local level or the cost of military assistance.
In sum, once again it's been a bust. Between 2002 and 2003 there was no change in the overall use of illicit drugs. The use of drugs by youths 12 to 17 did not change significantly. The use of alcohol did not significantly change. The number of binge drinkers under the age of 21 is approximately the same as the number of people of any age who use illicit drugs.
What is the single most effective treatment for drug use?
A thirty year old is 72% less likely to use illegal drugs than a 20 year old.
These figures are from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
- In 2003, an estimated 19.5 million Americans, or 8.2 percent of the population aged 12 or older, were current illicit drug users. There was no change in the overall rate of illicit drug use between 2002 and 2003. In 2002, there were an estimated 19.5 million illicit drug users (8.3 percent).
- The rate of current illicit drug use among youths aged 12 to 17 did not change significantly between 2002 and 2003 and there were no changes for any specific drug. The rate of current marijuana use among youths was 8.2 percent in 2002 and 7.9 percent in 2003.
- Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, with a rate of 6.2 percent (14.6 million) in 2003. An estimated 2.3 million persons (1.0 percent) were current cocaine users, 604,000 of whom used crack. Hallucinogens were used by 1.0 million persons, and there were an estimated 119,000 current heroin users. All of these 2003 estimates are similar to the estimates for 2002.
- The number of current users of Ecstasy decreased between 2002 and 2003, from 676,000 (0.3 percent) to 470,000 (0.2 percent).
- An estimated 6.3 million persons were current users of psychotherapeutic drugs taken non-medically. This represents 2.7 percent of the population aged 12 or older. An estimated 4.7 million used pain relievers, 1.8 million used tranquilizers, 1.2 million used stimulants, and 0.3 million used sedatives. The 2003 estimates are all similar to the corresponding estimates for 2002.
- There was a significant increase in lifetime non-medical use of pain relievers between 2002 and 2003 among persons aged 12 or older, from 29.6 million to 31.2 million.
- Rates of current illicit drug use varied significantly among the major racial/ethnic groups in 2003. Rates were highest among American Indians or Alaska Natives (12.1 percent), persons reporting two or more races (12.0 percent), and Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders (11.1 percent). Rates were 8.7 percent for blacks, 8.3 percent for whites, and 8.0 percent for Hispanics. Asians had the lowest rate at 3.8 percent.
- An estimated 18.2 percent of unemployed adults aged 18 or older were current illicit drug users in 2003. Most drug users were employed.
- An estimated 119 million Americans aged 12 or older were current drinkers of alcohol in 2003 (50.1 percent). About 54 million (22.6 percent) participated in binge drinking at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey, and 16.1 million (6.8 percent) were heavy drinkers. These 2003 numbers are all similar to the corresponding estimates for 2002.
- About 10.9 million persons aged 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol in the month prior to the survey interview in 2003 (29.0 percent of this age group). Nearly 7.2 million (19.2 percent) were binge drinkers and 2.3 million (6.1 percent) were heavy drinkers. These 2003 rates were essentially the same as those obtained from the 2002 survey.
- Young adults aged 18 to 25 reported the highest rate of past month cigarette use (40.2 percent). This was similar to the rate among young adults in 2002 (40.8 percent).
- There was no change in cigarette use among boys aged 12 to 17 between 2002 and 2003. However, among girls, cigarette use decreased from 13.6 percent in 2002 to 12.5 percent in 2003.
- The annual number of marijuana initiates generally increased from 1965 until about 1973. From 1973 to 1978, the annual number of marijuana initiates remained level at over 3 million per year. After that, the number of initiates declined, reaching a low point in 1990, then rose again until 1995. From 1995 to 2002, there was no consistent trend, with estimates varying between 2.4 million and 2.9 million per year.
- The number of new daily cigarette smokers decreased from 2.0 million in 1997 to 1.4 million in 2002. Among youths under 18, the number of new daily smokers decreased from 1.1 million per year between 1997 and 2000 to 734,000 in 2002. This corresponds to a decrease from about 3,000 to about 2,000 new youth smokers per day.
- The percentage of youths reporting that it would be easy to obtain marijuana declined slightly between 2002 and 2003, from 55.0 to 53.6 percent. The percentage of youths reporting that LSD would be easy to obtain also decreased between 2002 and 2003, from 19.4 to 17.6 percent.
- Between 2002 and 2003, there was no change in the number of persons with substance dependence or abuse (22.0 million in 2002 and 21.6 million in 2003).
- In 2003, the
estimated number of persons aged 12 or older needing treatment
for an alcohol or illicit drug problem was 22.2 million (9.3
percent of the total population), about the same as in 2002 (22.8
STUDENTS DRINK WITH MEALS
CHRIS CHURCHILL, EDUCATION NEWS - On some Friday nights, students at Colby College can sit down to dinner and savor two beverages found in few college dining halls: beer and wine.
The program began last fall and was initiated by the Student Government Association. It's intended to teach students to drink in moderation while showing an alternative to the binge drinking common on college campuses.
The program began tentatively. On three Friday nights during the fall semester, alcohol was available in Dana Dining Hall to students 21 and over. Students paid $1 per alcoholic drink and were limited to two.
Not surprisingly, the program was popular with students -- at least those of drinking age. But the program was also popular with college administrators, who have decided to expand it to most Friday nights during the spring semester.
"I think people have appreciated it because it's a good way to show that alcohol can be handled in a good and responsible manner," said Janice Kassman, the school's Dean of Students. "We've had only good comments."
Colby officials believe the program is unique in Maine and say they've received inquiries from other liberal arts schools looking to replicate it. They say they've had no complaints from parents.
SOME CAN LIVE NORMAL LIVES ON HEROIN
[This doesn't come as a surprised. Some drug reformers have long argued that addicts receiving medically supervised heroin could function much like those on methadone, essentially a heroin substitute used because of popular hostility to heroin]
SCOTSMAN - Drugs campaigners have condemned research which claims heroin can be taken for an extended period without a negative health or social impact.
Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University say some users of the class-A drug are able to gain and keep employment and achieve educational qualifications comparable with non-addicts.
The study, by Dr David Shewan and Phil Dalgarno, focused on 126 long-term heroin users who were not receiving treatment for their drug use.
Dr Shewan said: "The study shows while there are heroin users with problems, there are also users without problems."
The study sample comprised 94 men (75%) and 32 women (25%) with the majority in a relationship and 74% employed, while only 15% were jobless.
BALTIMORE POLICE ADMIT DRUG WAR CAN INCREASE MURDERS
[Washington DC had a variation of this phenomenon in the 1980s. The launching of the war on drugs upset the local drug market. As the city has never had strong mobs, the result included increasing turf wars between smalltime dealers not infrequently ending in murder. A late 1980s analysis of murders in DC found that despite the number doubling, if you were not buying or selling drugs, you're chances of getting killed was about the same as living in Copenhagen]
LAURA VOZZELLA, BALTIMORE SUN - Baltimore's health commissioner made what sounded like an odd prediction a few years ago: If the city cracked down on the drug trade and got more addicts into treatment, homicides would spike. "The more you crack down on the supply and at the same time crack down on the demand ... there's going to be a smaller market," Dr. Peter L. Beilenson told police and city officials at the time. "People tend to fight over shrinking revenue pies." . . . On Saturday, amid a two-day flurry of shootings that put the city's homicide total for the two-week-old year at 19, acting police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm attributed the recent killings to good police work. As police have clamped down on the narcotics trade and cut into its profits, dealers have become more aggressive about collecting drug debts - leading to more violent confrontations, Hamm said at a news conference. "We are keeping with the same game plan ... putting pressure on drug dealers," Hamm said.
Some city officials said they did not know what to make of that explanation but were concerned by the violence despite Hamm's assertion that the drug-related nature of the killings meant "there is a measure of safety" for law-abiding Baltimoreans.
Last year, the city recorded 278 homicides, the highest number since 1999. Of those, 23 were in January.
PRESCRIBING HEROIN CONT'D
OUR CITING OF A STUDY that found, backing up previous research, some heroin addicts can live normal lives while taking the drug on a prescription basis has been strongly challenged by an ex-addicted reader. We quote him and then some of the research.
Several points to bear in mind:
- All the major research on this matter has been done outside the U.S, where drug paranoia prevents doctors from even prescribing marijuana for medical reasons. When methadone was introduced, you couldn't even get people to even talk about prescribed heroin, let alone research it.
- The research does not suggest an either-or conclusion. Methadone works for some but not for others - 50% of addicts in some studies. Those are the ones most likely to be aided by prescribed heroin.
- None of the research deals with the most underrated aspect of drug use: the social imprimatur of drugs, especially among the young. Oscar Brown Jr once put this well when he suggested that drugs be legally available, but only at hospitals; then the young would associate their use with illness rather than with hipness. The results of treatment should similarly be considered not just for their immediate medical effects but spin-off benefits such as less crime, better personal functioning etc.
TED FRIEDMAN - This article is dead wrong. Dangerously so. I am/was heroin junky, or at least was. Guilty five counts of felony possession with intent to sell. Methadone is an extremely long lasting opiate. You do not get sick, but, also, you do not get high.
Methadone clinics are easy to find, confidential and affordable. 21 day detox means they step you down 2mgs a day over 21 days. I have kicked with this method twice. It's a godsend.
Yup there are "functioning" heroin addicts, but, they are few and far between and soon fuck up their lives. Plus you can OD and kill yourself very easily if you are not careful. As with all opiates you need more and more to get high. If you are shooting, the rush is what kills you, it freezes your lungs, you turn blue, you die. If you make it past the first ten minutes you are OK.
Methadone is used because you can drink it. You can't ingest heroin like that. You have enzymes in your stomach that immediately work against it. Methadone is used because it extremely long lasting. Methadone is used because you do not nod out and fuck up as badly. Man, when I was shooting, my pants would be falling off and I wouldn't know it.
This article is dangerously wrong. Methadone is not used because of hostility towards heroin, but, because it is a safe and effective way to get junkies clean. Some stay on a long time and use heroin too, but the chance is there for them to get off at clinics all over the country. Last time I got hooked was on Oxycontin first. You can easily buy this and other opiates over the Internet or in Mexico. Then I hooked up with some old friends and was quickly shooting daily. Methadone has saved my life twice. 15 bucks a day, cheaper than scoring and again if you wish to, you can be off and free in 21 days.
BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL, 2003 - Objective To determine whether supervised medical prescription of heroin can successfully treat addicts who do not sufficiently benefit from methadone maintenance treatment. . . Adherence was excellent with 12 month outcome data available for 94% of the randomized participants. With intention to treat analysis, 12 month treatment with heroin plus methadone was significantly more effective than treatment with methadone alone in the trial of inhalable heroin and in the trial of injectable heroin. Discontinuation of the co-prescribed heroin resulted in a rapid deterioration in 82% of those who responded to the co-prescribed heroin. The incidence of serious adverse events was similar across treatment conditions. Conclusions: Supervised co-prescription of heroin is feasible, more effective, and probably as safe as methadone alone in reducing the many physical, mental, and social problems of treatment resistant heroin addicts.
DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - A study of 104 British heroin addicts using prescription heroin or prescription methadone has found that most seek the prescription dope because it is safer and more convenient than resorting to the black market -- not because they see it as a means of quitting their habits. The study found that only one of five saw prescribed injection drug use as a means of reducing their use, while three-quarters told researchers they sought prescriptions for heroin or methadone because of safety reasons, to avoid police problems, and to maintain normal social relationships. . .
Prescription heroin is available at limited locations in England, but the government has called for an expansion of the program, citing a need to reduce crime. Advocates of prescription heroin have suggested that it could lead to reduced use. . .
The researchers also came to other startling conclusions, such as perhaps people who want to use heroin should be able to get it, although they didn't exactly put it that way.
In discussing with the Scotsman why injection drug users were more likely to be prescribed methadone than heroin -- it is cheaper, more researched, and easier to monitor -- study coauthor Dr. Deborah Zador explained that, darn it, some people just wanted their heroin and, if all else failed, maybe they should get it. "It may prove the best option for opiate addicts who have not responded well to other treatment," she said.
CANADIAN HIV/AIDS LEGAL NETWORK - There are many problems associated with injection drug use, problems that affect both the users themselves as well as those close to them and the society in which they live. Whether through complications associated with drug use (multiple infections, mental health problems, etc) or through the consequences on those close to them and on society (family dysfunction, crime, etc), the costs of illegal drug use are considerably greater than the costs of treating drug users.
One of the most effective treatments for opiate dependence is methadone maintenance treatment. Despite its effectiveness, in the best-case scenario, this form of treatment reaches only 50 percent of the target population. In order to reach the most marginalized drug users who do not respond to traditional forms of treatment, many countries have prescribed heroin in the context of more comprehensive treatment that includes psychosocial services.
The first country to have prescribed heroin was Switzerland, where from 1994 until the end of 1996, a cohort of heroin-dependent people were treated. The results showed that there were benefits in many areas, including decreased use of heroin and cocaine, a decrease in crime, and an improvement in the indicators of physical and mental health. However, a number of scientists expressed reservations as to the validity of the results, given the research protocol used.
In 1998, the Netherlands undertook a randomized clinical study, the results of which will be known in 2002. Preliminary observations indicate that there have been no problems to date with respect to security and public order, something that had already been noted in Switzerland. Several countries are awaiting the approval of research protocols that are designed to assess the effectiveness of heroin prescription as a treatment alternative for heroin-dependent populations. . .
Use of opiates causes many problems and affects both those who are opiate-dependent as well as society as a whole. It is well known that the morbidity and mortality rates of drug users are higher than those in the general population who are of the same age. . .
Drug injection is also an important risk factor in the transmission of infectious diseases, particularly HIV and hepatitis, and is also a risk factor for endocarditis, abscesses, and tuberculosis. The increased prevalence of these infections in this population is due to the sharing of injection equipment, unhealthy living conditions, and contacts with infected people.
In Canada, HIV prevalence in the injection drug user population is estimated at 20 to 25 percent or more in cities such as Vancouver and Montréal. . . Finally, injection drug users also present with multiple mental health problems. They tend rarely to consult the health-care system for their problems and receive less treatment than the general population but, paradoxically, they visit emergency clinics more often than the general population. . .
There are many kinds of treatment for opiate-dependent people, ranging from abstinence-oriented treatments to treatments that seek to reduce use and associated complications through substitute medications. Methadone is the most commonly used form of substitute medication in North America. Introduced in the 1960s, it has demonstrated its efficacy in many respects: reduction of the use of illegal opiates and other drugs; reduction in crime associated with drug use; stabilization or improvement of mental and physical health; reduction in drug injection and secondary reduction in transmission of infectious diseases; and improvement in social and family interactions.
A number of features of methadone maintenance programs are associated with such results, including adequate methadone dosage, access to high-quality psychosocial services, duration of treatment, and acceptance by patients of the rules of the program. . .
people have expressed their reluctance to participate in methadone
maintenance programs, voicing concerns about the pharmacological
qualities of the substance itself, and their difficulties in
complying with the rules and requirements of the programs. A
series of studies has also demonstrated that methadone maintenance
programs lose about a third of their participants in the first
12 months and another third in the following 24 months. Overall,
long-term retention rates range from 30 to 60 percent.
NETHERLANDS STUDY - Supervised coprescription of heroin is feasible, more effective, and probably as safe as methadone alone in reducing the many physical, mental, and social problems of treatment resistant heroin addicts.
COME OUT AGAINST WAR ON DRUGS
[This is significant. The lack of black political opposition to the war on drugs - plus the myopic support of the likes of Charles Rangel - have been one of the key reasons for the its continued existence]
DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - The nation's largest organization representing African-American state legislators has condemned the war on drugs and is demanding alternative policies less harmful to black communities. The move marks the second time in recent months that black leadership organizations have belatedly recognized the disproportionate impact of drug prohibition on their communities and called for a new direction. In October, an amalgamation of black professional associations, the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, came together to seek similar changes in state and federal drug policy
At its annual meeting in Philadelphia in December, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators passed a resolution condemning the drug war and committing its members to repeal mandatory minimum sentences and support diverting nonviolent drug offenders into treatment. Introduced by delegate Salima Marriott of Maryland, the resolution puts the NBCSL on record as calling the drug war a failure. "The war on drugs has failed, and while states have continually increased their expenditures to wage the war on drugs, policies which rely heavily on arrest and incarceration have proven costly and ineffective at addressing these issues," the resolution read in part.
Not only do blacks go to jail for drug offenses at a rate 13 times that of whites despite having similar drug use rates, as Human Rights Watch, among others, has pointed out, and not only do blacks make up 59% of those convicted of drug crimes in the US despite being only 12.2% of the population, but black urban communities suffer the brunt of both drug law enforcement and the community disruption caused by prohibition.
SUPPORT LEGALIZING MEDICAL POT
WASHINGTON TIMES - Nearly three-fourths of older Americans support legalizing marijuana for medicinal use, according to a poll done for the nation's largest advocacy group for seniors. . . AARP, with 35 million members, says it has no political position on medicinal marijuana and that its local branches have not chosen sides in the scores of state ballot initiatives on the issue in recent elections.
BBC - Some Colombian drug growers are using genetically modified coca "trees" to boost cocaine production dramatically, government officials say. Anti-drug operatives say they found new strains with yields eight times higher than normal coca plants. Higher yields could help explain why cocaine prices have stayed low despite US and Colombian air attacks on farms. Colombian scientists and US officials expressed doubts, claiming extra growth could be achieved using fertilizer.
The coca "trees" can stand over 6ft 6in and produce four times as much of the alkaloid active in cocaine, according to a dossier seen by Britain's Financial Times newspaper. Although official Colombian figures claim that the area under coca cultivation has halved since 2000, evidence suggests that coca planters have managed to maintain a net level of cultivation. . .
Foreign agronomists have helped the coca growers to develop the new strain of plant, which is resistant to many commonly used herbicides and can yield as much as four times the regular concentration of cocaine, the Financial Times said.
But a Colombian toxicologist, Camilo Uribe, told Reuters news agency there was no evidence that the plants had been genetically modified. The coca plants' excessive size could be because of "an excess of fertilizer", Mr Uribe said
DRUG WAR; WHY CAN'T THE POLS?
DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - More than two-thirds of some 300 US chiefs of police interviewed in a survey conducted for the Police Foundation and Drug Strategies, a mainstream drug policy research and advocacy group with a strong emphasis on prevention and treatment that also supports some harm reduction measures, said that law enforcement has failed to quell drug use. Released this week, the survey found that 67% of police chiefs believe their drug enforcement efforts "have been unsuccessful in reducing the drug problem."
Similarly, while police chiefs surveyed continued to see drug abuse as a top law enforcement problem -- 63% said it was serious or very serious in their communities -- they also appeared to recognize that the decades-long war on drugs requires a radical rethinking. Nearly half of the chiefs (47%) said the nation's drug policy requires "major changes," while 37% called for a "fundamental overhaul."
While some may find these figures surprising, they are supported by a larger annual survey conducted by the National Association of Chiefs of Police. In one of a series of questions related to drug policy, that survey sent out to more than 22,000 police chiefs and sheriffs asks: "Has the national war on drugs, which has been ongoing for at least 15 years, been successful in reducing the use of illegal drugs?" In the last annual survey, a whopping 82.3% of respondents said no.
"My old profession isn't as dumb as everybody thinks it is," laughed former Tonawanda, New York, police officer Peter Christ, a 20-year veteran of the drug wars who co-founded Reconsider: Forum on Drug Policy and then Law Enforcement Against Prohibition both pro-legalization.
THE DRUG WAR DISASTER
RADLEY BALKO, CATO INSTITUTE - Today, federal and state governments spend between $40 and $60 billion per year to fight the war on drugs, about ten times the amount spent in 1980 -- and billions more to keep drug felons in jail. The U.S. now has more than 318,000 people behind bars for drug-related offenses, more than the total prison populations of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain combined.
Our prison population has increased by 400 percent since 1980, while the general population has increased just 20 percent. America also now has the highest incarceration rate in the world -- 732 of every 100,000 citizens are behind bars.
The drug war has wrought the zero tolerance mindset, asset forfeiture laws, mandatory minimum sentences, and countless exceptions to criminal defense and civil liberties protections. Some sociologists blame it for much of the plight of America's inner cities. Others point out that it has corrupted law enforcement, just as alcohol prohibition did in the 1920s.
On peripheral issues like medicinal marijuana and prescription painkillers, the drug war has treated chronically and terminally ill patients as junkies, and the doctors who treat them as common pushers. Drug war accoutrements, such as "no-knock" raids and searches, border patrols, black market turf wars and crossfire, and international interdiction efforts, have claimed untold numbers of innocent lives.
For all that sacrifice, are we at least winning?
Even by the government's own standards for success, the answer is unquestionably "no." The illicit drug trade is estimated to be worth $50 billion today ($400 billion worldwide), up from $1 billion 25 years ago. Annual surveys of high school seniors show heroin and marijuana are as available today than they were in 1975. Deaths from drug overdoses have doubled in the last 20 years.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the price of for a gram of heroin has dropped by about 38 percent since 1981, while the purity of that gram has increased six-fold. The price of cocaine has dropped by 50 percent, while its purity has increased by 70 percent. Just recently, the ONDCP waged a public relations campaign against increasingly pure forms of marijuana coming in from Canada.
So despite all of the money we've spent and people we've imprisoned, despite the damage done to our cities and the integrity of our criminal justice system, despite the restrictions we've allowed on our civil liberties, despite the innocent lives lost and the needless suffering we've imposed on sick people and their doctors -- despite all of this -- the drug trade isn't just thriving, it's growing. Illicit drugs are cheaper, more abundant, and of purer concentration than ever before.
Like alcohol prohibition before it, drug prohibition has failed, by every conceivable measure. Isn't it about time for America to take a hard look at its drug policy?
THE DRUG WAR
DISASTER 25 YEARS LATER
ANTI-WAR - Neither its nearly quarter-century "war against drugs" nor the almost $3 billion Washington has spent since 2000 on Plan Colombia has resulted in higher prices on U.S. streets for cocaine or heroin, says a major report by the Washington Office on Latin America released Tuesday. The 400-page report, which focuses mainly on the "collateral damage" inflicted on democratic institutions and stability in Mexico and Andean countries, called for a major reassessment of Washington's efforts to cut the supply of drugs "at the source."
"After 25 years and $25 billion fighting drugs in Latin America, we are no closer to winning the war, the drug war - which is ultimately about reducing drug abuse," said WOLA Executive Director Joy Olson at the report's release. Indeed, as of mid-2003, the last date for which data was available, both the wholesale and retail prices of the two drugs were at or close to their lowest levels in the 22 years since statistics were first collected, according to the document.
OONAGH BLACKMAN, MIRROR, UK - Downing Street advisers say the war on drugs is being lost and are warning Tony Blair in a secret report that a new crackdown will not cut crime. Its initial findings said detention and jailings would have no impact on drug-related offences.
The Strategy Unit aides said addiction to substances such as heroin, crack and cocaine had to be treated as a medical problem. A clamp on street sellers - often addicts themselves - would make prices "go up", encouraging more law-breaking to pay for more expensive drugs.
But the Prime Minister will ignore the advice, including heroin on prescription, and tomorrow launch a Queen's Speech crackdown on drugs as a key election policy. "High-harm" users will be targeted, with police having powers to prosecute purely on the strength of positive blood tests, rather than actual possession of illegal substances.
Last night Danny Kushlick, director of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, led the opposition to Mr Blair. He said: "The advice from the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit has been manipulated to dupe the public into supporting the failed policy of prohibition.
SAM SMITH'S GREAT AMERICAN POLITICAL REPAIR MANUAL - Ralph Salerno was a New York City cop who became a specialist on the mob and a consultant to other police departments, A few years ago Salerno was training a grand jury that was looking into organized crime in the Ft. Lauderdale area. He told the group that police estimate they seize, at most, 10% of the drugs being sold. As Salerno described it to Pacific News Service, "I said to them, 'Suppose Ralph Salerno could wave a magic wand and stop 20% of the drugs coming into Broward County from coming in. How many of you would be in favor of that?' All 22 or 23 of them raised their hands. "I then asked, 'What happens to the price of the 80% that is getting through?' And one gentleman -- a businessman -- said it would probably go up. And I said, 'You're probably right. So what would happen to the statistics of breaks and entries and tape decks ripped out of cars and CB radios stolen and little old ladies knocked down on the ground while someone grabs their pocket book and runs away?' And they said, 'My God, they would go up.' "One and half minutes into that educational exercise I asked the same people, how many of you would now like to see me wave my magic wand and cut off 20% of the drugs. And they all voted against it."
DRUG WAR CHRONICLE - In an op-ed piece Wednesday in the Paris newspaper Le Monde, Raymond Kendall, the former chief of the international law enforcement agency Interpol, called drug prohibition "obsolete and dangerous" and said its continuation represented a missed opportunity for reform. Prohibition has failed to protect the world from drugs, he said, and Europe must take the lead in reforming the drug laws, particularly at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs in Vienna in 2008.
"Although I am not personally in favor of the legalization of drugs, the general feeling is that the opportunity has been missed to profoundly reform a dangerous and obsolete legal framework and replace it with a modern and effective policy," wrote Kendall, who headed the international police body from 1985 to 2000 and who remains its honorary head.
Drug prohibition simply does not work, Kendall pointed out. Despite decades of suppression efforts, "cannabis has become a common substance with high rates of consumption, sometimes more accessible than alcohol," he wrote, while the distribution of drugs like cocaine and ecstasy is steadily increasing despite the billions of dollars poured into the drug war.
Prohibitionist drug policies are no match for policies based on harm reduction, the former top cop argued, citing a recent British study that found every dollar spent on health care would save $3 that would have been spent in the criminal justice system. "With regards to heroin, the medicalization of dependent drug users and the prescription of pharmaceutical opiates have led to an 80% decrease in overdose deaths, noticeably limited the spread of epidemics and sharply cut the delinquency of drug addicts," Kendall noted. "The number of heroin addicts has also significantly decreased due to the recent advances in realistic detoxification processes, and because illegal drug supply has moved towards a 'medicalized' market."
Kendall regretted, however, that innovative harm reduction policies have too often been attacked by the international institutions that administer the US-influenced and "obsolete" UN conventions on drugs. Europe must take the lead in reforming the global prohibitionist regime in Vienna, Kendall concluded.
POLICE ARRESTING TWICE AS MANY POT USERS AS A DECADE AGO
Police arrested an estimated 755,187 persons for marijuana violations in 2003, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report. The total is the highest ever recorded by the FBI, and comprised 45 percent of all drug arrests in the United States. "These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor marijuana offenders," said Keith Stroup, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, who noted that at current rates, a marijuana smoker is arrested every 42 seconds in America. "This effort is a tremendous waste of criminal justice resources, costing American taxpayers approximately $7.6 billion dollars annually. These dollars would be better served combating serious and violent crime, including the war on terrorism."
Of those charged with marijuana violations, 88 percent - some 662,886 Americans - were charged with possession only. The remaining 92,301 individuals were charged with "sale/manufacture," a category that includes all cultivation offenses - even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use. In past years, approximately 30 percent of those arrested were age 19 or younger.
The total number of marijuana arrests for 2003 far exceeded the total number of arrests for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
In the past decade, more than 6.5 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, more than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming combined. Nearly 90 percent of these total arrests were for simple possession, not cultivation or sale. During much of this time, arrests for cocaine and heroin have declined sharply, indicating that increased enforcement of marijuana laws is being achieved at the expense of enforcing laws against the possession and trafficking of more dangerous drugs.