Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jan 2009
Source: Huffington Post (US Web)
Copyright: 2009 HuffingtonPost com, Inc.
Author: Maia Szalavitz


Stop Fighting Bush's Wars

As someone who cares about humane drug policy, I expect politicians to
disappoint me. Obama created a rare glimmer of light here with his
honesty about his own experience--but his choice of drug warriors like
Joe Biden and Rahm Emmanuel for high level posts has made me wary.

Now, with a new raid on California's medical marijuana dispensaries
and with Bush holdovers trying to push the UN to drop support for
needle exchange and other harm reduction programs in its document to
set drug policy for the next ten years, I am beginning to lose hope.

Amazingly, however, progressives in Congress (!) are speaking out
about the possible UN fiasco--sending a letter to our new UN
Ambassador Susan Rice to protest the actions of these officials. Reps.
Henry Waxman, Jose Serrano and Barbara Lee write:

Unfortunately, we understand that the U.S. delegation in Vienna has
been actively blocking the efforts of some of our closest
allies--including the European Union--to incorporate into the
declaration reference to harm reduction measures such as needle
exchange. We find it hard to understand how the U.S. delegation could
object to language which would not obligate any country to adopt
particular policies with which it disagrees.

I will go further. Obama has said that he supports lifting the federal
ban on funding for needle exchange programs in the U.S. and that he
supports science-based policy, which backs this action. He has said
that he will end the raids on medical marijuana in states that have
legalized it.

I suspect that he's afraid that any action in this direction will be
jumped on with glee by right-wing critics. I think he fears a repeat
of the Clinton administration's "Don't ask, don't tell," culture war
disaster. But as he pointed out to his critics in relation to economic
policy, "I won."

That's right, Mr. President, you won! And you won not despite taking
evidence-based positions on tough issues--but because you did so.

I think you'll find that when people are worried about their jobs,
it's hard for them to work up steam about imaginary bogeymen like
those hyped by drug warriors. When you face real problems like feeding
your kids, false hypotheticals like needle exchange "sending the wrong
message" and turning us into a nation of junkies just don't get
traction. (Quick question: would making clean needles available make
you start shooting up? Didn't think so-- and same is true for everyone
who is not already doing so!).

When your financial future is at risk, it's hard to see spending money
on raiding and incarcerating medical marijuana users and distributors
as a good investment--or even to see medical marijuana use as a
problem, let alone one worthy of expensive and ineffective police
intervention. (Has medical marijuana made your or your kids into dope
fiends? Surveys find states with it tend to have *less* use by youth).

Take advantage of this rare opportunity to expose the tired rhetoric
of the drug war and do the right thing, as you promised. Support harm
reduction like the rest of the developed world does. Recognize how out
of touch the U.S. has become in its drug strategy.

This is not the 70's or even the 80's or 90's--like Bush's economic
policies, his drug policies have visibly and risibly failed. The main
power drug warriors have left is politicians' outsized fear of their
past success. Don't give them undue credit--and don't underestimate
how the ground has shifted in favor of sane, humane drug strategy, not
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake