by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be
enforced. - Albert Einstein
In a historic meeting in Antigua, Guatemala, Saturday, three Central American heads of state attended a regional summit to discuss alternatives to the current drug prohibition regime, which has left their countries wracked by violence. No consensus was reached and three other regional leaders failed to attend, but for the first time, regional leaders have met explicitly to discuss ending the war on drugs as we know it.
“We have realized that the strategy in the fight against drug trafficking in the past 40 years has failed. We have to look for new alternatives,” said the host, Guatemalan President Oscar Pérez Molina, a former army general who first called for such a meeting last month, shortly after taking office. “We must end the myths, the taboos, and tell people you have to discuss it, debate it.”
According to the Associated Press, Pérez Molina said that drug use, production, and sales should be legalized and regulated. He suggested that the region jointly regulate the drug trade, perhaps by establishing transit corridors through which regulated drug shipments could pass.
[…] US-backed drug policies in the region have in recent years brought a wave of violence to the region, which is used as a springboard for Colombian cocaine headed north to the US and Canada, either direct or via Mexico. Mexican drug cartels have expanded their operations in Central America in the past few year, perhaps in response to the pressures they face at home.
High levels of poverty and the strong presence of criminal gangs, particularly in El Salvador and Honduras, have combined with the cartel presence to make the region one of the world’s deadliest. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, along with Jamaica, have the world’s highest murder rates.
[…] Pérez Molina suggested that, barring legalization and a regulated drug trade, consumer countries should be taxed for the drugs seized in the region on their behalf.
“For every kilo of cocaine that is seized, we want to be compensated 50% by the consumer countries, he said, adding that the has a “responsibility” because of its high rates of drug use.
While Saturday’s summit produced no common platform or manifesto, it is an important step in the fight for a more sensible, effective, and humane response to drug use and the regional drug trade. Leading US drug reformer Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance lauded its occurrence as “significant” and “remarkable.”
“The rapid evolution of this debate is nothing short of remarkable,” he said. “It has progressed in just a few years from the advocacy of activists and intellectuals, to distinguished former presidents, and now to current presidents demanding that all options, including decriminalization and legalization, be seriously evaluated and debated,” he noted.
“The significance of this meeting cannot be overestimated, notwithstanding the fact that no one expects a consensus to emerge from this meeting on alternative drug policies,” Nadelmann continued. “Virtually no one would have predicted” that such a meeting could take place “with the support of presidents in Mexico and Colombia, to discuss drug policy options including decriminalization and legalization. What was once taboo is no longer. The discussion will continue next month at the Summit of the Americas — in Cartagena, Colombia — with President Barack Obama and virtually all other heads of state from the region in attendance. At this point it is no longer possible to put this genie back in the bottle.”
“If you want an example of just how mainstream [marijuana legalization] is becoming, take a look at the Costco Connection, a lifestyle magazine that is distributed to eight million Costco members and read by close to 20 million people. The March issue asks the question “Should Marijuana Be Legal?” with the Drug Policy Alliance’s executive director Ethan Nadelmann arguing yes and Robert DuPont, founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse arguing against.” (via Tony Newman for The Huffington Post)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA / JUNE 17, 2011 - the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of the “War on Drugs”
Several hundred people gathered at City Hall for a press conference and to demand that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the state legislature prioritize vital social services over spending on prisons. Then, accompanied by drummers from the Brass Liberation Orchestra, they marched through the city center to state office buildings before returning to City Hall. (via Rallies, Vigils Mark 40 Years of Failed Drug War)
excerpt from Who We Are and Why We Fight: “People Who Do Drugs, and People Who Don’t, Will End the War on Drugs” - a speech delivered by Ethan Nadelmann at the 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in November:
“[When] people ask, “Who is this movement? Who is this drug policy reform movement?” And some of them will say, “I know who all of you are. You’re just the people who want to get high, smoke your weed and don’t care.” You know what I say to them? “There’s a little truth to that.” Because many of us are the people that do want to get high. And we do enjoy marijuana and that marijuana’s been good to us, not bad to us. We are the people whose lives have been enriched by the psychedelic experiences of LSD and mushrooms. And we are the people who have even figured out how to play with the more dangerous drugs without being caught up by them. We are the people who say if this is my pleasure or this is my vice, then it’s no damn business of the government or my employer what I put in my body, and there is no basis for treating me like a common criminal. Get the government out of my face and my boss out of my face.
But do you know who else we are? We are also the people who hate drugs. We are the people who have seen the worst that drugs can do. We are the people living with addiction in our lives, in our own families and in our own communities. We are the people who have lost children to an overdose, and a brother or a sister to HIV, and a cousin to Hep C, and whose parents were alcoholics or drug addicts. We are the people who have seen the gateway theory manifest itself in our own lives and families. We are the people that wish we could have the drug-free society, the drug-free world, but who know that that is not possible, and who know that no matter how much we hate drugs, that the War on Drugs is not the way to deal with the reality.
And, you know what else we are? We’re the people who don’t give a damn about drugs. We’re the people who don’t consider ourselves drug-users. I mean, my kid may be on Ritalin, my wife’s on Prozac, my dad’s on Viagra, but we don’t see ourselves as drug users. What do you care about? We care about fundamental freedom and preserving the Bill of Rights in America. What do we care about? We care about ending the violence and degradation and corruption in Mexico and other countries that have been harmed immensely by the drug war. What do we care about? About ending the racial injustice and the class injustice of the War on Drugs in our society. What do we care about? About treating addiction as a health issue. What do we care about? Individual freedom and human rights and civil rights and all of the important values that we care about. And we target the War on Drugs because it is the single, most vicious thing undermining the values that we care about deeply.
— Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, pictured above at a DPF conference in 1992
Gary Johnson: Pardon Non-Violent Marijuana Offenses
GOP presidential candidate Gary Johnson at the 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference
Young blacks and Latinos use marijuana at lower rates than young whites. So why are police in California arresting young blacks and Latinos at higher rates than young whites, and at greater numbers than their percentages of the population? Based on our studies of policing in New York and other cities, we do not think the arrests are mostly a result of personal bias or racism on the part of individual patrol officers and their immediate supervisors. Rather, this is a system-wide phenomenon, occurring in every county and nearly every police department in California and elsewhere.
Police departments deploy most patrol and narcotics police to certain neighborhoods, usually designated ”high crime.” These are disproportionately low-income, and disproportionately African-American and Latino neighborhoods. It is in these neighborhoods where the police make most patrols, and where they stop and search the most vehicles and individuals, looking for “contraband” of any type in order to make an arrest. The item that young people in any neighborhood are most likely to possess, which can get them arrested, is a small amount of marijuana. In short, the arrests are racially-biased mainly because the police are systematically “fishing” for arrests in only some neighborhoods, and methodically searching only some “fish.” This produces what has been termed “racism without racists.” +
Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries, and City Council members including Melissa Mark-Viverito, Robert Jackson, Letitia James, Brad Lander, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Jumanne Williams all appeared at City Hall today to speak on behalf of the resolution; they argue that the city wastes $75 million annually on these marijuana arrests, while essential social services are being cut or eliminated. They allege that the racial disparities in the arrests have unfairly led to the arrests of tens of thousands of Black and Latino young men.
Most of all, the group wants police to simply follow the intent of the existing NY Marijuana Decriminalization Law of 1977, which states that possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana is decriminalized; unless it’s burning or in public view, it’s a violation worth a $100 fine, not an arrestable offense. However, they charge that the NYPD has routinely illegally searched or tricked people into showing them marijuana in their pockets so they can arrest them for public possession.
[…] The NYPD arrested 50,383 people for low-level marijuana offenses last year, and according to a Drug Policy Alliance report, “86 percent of those arrested are Black or Latino, even though research consistently shows that young whites use marijuana at higher rates.” +
We must—and this is perhaps most important of all—stop our barbaric stigmatization and stereotypes of people addicted to drugs. People like Amy endure a hell we can only imagine. The agony of being made into a ridiculous caricature, something less than human, for nothing more than our own casual amusement is beyond what any young person should ever be forced to endure. We targeted her, mocked her and cast her out as an irredeemable “crackhead” for nothing more than sport. It’s shameful. It’s too late for Amy to hear us now, but our apologies should be sent out en masse to her and to all others like her, struggling, surviving. +
This is an interesting excerpt from the Salon interview with DPA executive director, Ethan Nadelmann, comparing U.S. drug policy under Bush and Obama:
Salon: Stepping back from medical marijuana, has there been much of a shift from the Bush to Obama administrations with “drug war” policy more broadly?
Ethan Nadelmann: I was pleasantly surprised by the first 18 months of the administration. Obama made three explicit promises during the campaign. He said the feds would not go after medical marijuana facilities operating legally under state law, and he appeared to make good on that. He said the crack-powder laws needed to be rolled back, and they got a major reform of that law last year. Third, he said he would support federal funding for needle exchange, and they did support the efforts in Congress on that. Since that time, it looks more and more like the drug czar’s office has been captured by the drug warriors and the anti-drug fanatics who dominated policy-making in the Clinton and Bush administrations. The rhetoric coming out of the drug czar’s office is almost indistinguishable from the rhetoric of past administrations. The personnel they’ve been hiring, and the people they talk to, are overwhelmingly those who have been associated with the failed drug war policies of the past. And meanwhile the Justice Department seems to be getting more and more engaged in enforcement of marijuana laws in ways that really make no sense as a matter of [the] responsible [use] of resources.
Salon interview with DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann
Read the entire interview to learn more about medical marijuana’s current status in the U.S.
Drug Policy Alliance’s Ethan Nadelmann on Freedom Watch
“We’ve put millions of people behind bars; we’ve given tens of millions of people criminal records; we’ve generated levels of crime, violence, and corruption in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, around the world that make alcohol prohibition look like child’s play in comparison.”