The State Of America's War On Drugs
It was November 6, just after last fall's election, and John Walters was
crowing. Three ballot initiatives seeking to legalize or decriminalize
marijuana in Arizona, Nevada and Ohio all went down in defeat. "These failed
initiatives represent the high-water mark of the drug-legalization movement.
Common sense has prevailed," he declared.
Unlike his predecessor Barry McCaffrey, Walters -- director of the Office of
National Drug Control Policy -- is not a military man. But this day, Walters
sounded very much like a commander who seizes upon success in one skirmish
to galvanize the troops: "From now on, the tide turns our way," he said.
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Lawyers for Tod Mikuriya, M.D. - a psychiatrist who has lived and practiced
in Berkeley since 1970 - have filed a motion to dismiss the case against him
brought by the Medical Board of California (MBC). If the motion fails,
Mikuriya will spend the week of May 19 in an Oakland courtroom defending his
handling of 17 cases in which medical board investigators claim he "departed
from the standard of care."
Mikuriya, 69, is a leading authority on the medicinal use of cannabis. He
has edited an anthology of pre-prohibition scientific papers and reported
extensively on his own clinical observations. Since Proposition 215 passed
in 1996, legalizing marijuana for medical use in California, he has approved
and monitored its use by more than 7,000 patients, most of them seen at ad
hoc clinics arranged by cannabis clubs in rural counties.
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The Marijuana Policy Project Leads A New Wave Of Local And National Drug
Policy Reform Organizations Looking To Mainstream The Image Of The
For 10 years or so I have had the privilege of being closely involved with
the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (MassCANN), the local chapter
of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law (NORML). I
have volunteered as both producer of the Boston Common Freedom Rally and
served as chair of the local chapter. Recently, I have had to curtail my
involvement with MassCANN due to the demands of this paper and also due to
a realization of the limitations that often plague non-profit,
volunteer-based, grassroots organizations. Most anyone who has spent time
involved with grassroots lobbying efforts is familiar with how a lack of
funds, permanent management and full-time employees can hamper the efforts
of dedicated people trying to affect local and national policy.
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"House Republicans Thursday unveiled a package of bills to combat drug
abuse and vowed to make America virtually drug-free by 2002."-
Reuters, May 1998
Welcome to America, 2002, Land of the Virtually Drug-Free where
President George Bush insists that casual drug users are financing
terrorism, while his niece is caught with crack cocaine in drug rehab.
Where one person is arrested approximately every 44 seconds on a
marijuana charge. Where 77% of Texas drug convictions are found to
involve less than one gram of a drug.
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The drug czar's Office of National Drug Control Policy
(http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov) has teamed up with the National
District Attorneys Association (NDAA) as part of its escalating war on
marijuana. In letters sent to every prosecutor in the country on November
1, NDAA president Dan Alsobrooks and the drug czar's Deputy Director for
State and Local Affairs, Scott Burns, hoisted the battle flag against pot,
signaling prosecutors that they should make the prosecution of marijuana
crimes a high priority and urging them to fight efforts to reform the drug
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I read with concern your Dec. 29 article headlined "Drug traffic's newest
wave." Even though it does not seem intentional, its orientation harms the
Latino community settled in this region, especially those of Mexican
origin. It is very unfortunate that the article attempted to analyze an
extremely complex subject through a stereotyped vision that was overcome
several years ago in the bilateral agenda between Mexico and the United
States. It is true that in Mexico there are important criminal
organizations involved in drug trafficking, which are being firmly fought
under President Vicente Fox's administration, and it is also true that some
Mexican workers are being used to smuggle drugs into the United States.
However, as Andrea Bazan-Manson, executive director of El Pueblo, Inc. [a
Hispanic advocacy group in Raleigh] was quoted as saying, the vast majority
of Latino immigrants come to this country to work arduously in order to
forge a better future for themselves and their families. It is true as well
that the drug activity has no nationality, that the most attractive market
for the trafficking organizations is on this side, and that thousands of
individuals participate in the distribution chain, mainly American citizens.
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"Meth Among Us, part three: The best weapon against meth? You!"(Dec. 4),
contained a comment by Burnett County Sheriff Tim Curtin: "What D.A.R.E.
teaches is alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are gateway drugs. They open the
door to other, more serious drugs."
The so-called "gateway theory" has been questioned for years. The Institute
of Medicine report on marijuana, commissioned by ex-drug czar Barry
McCaffrey and released in 1999, found it very dubious, and interestingly
enough, the RAND Corporation just released a study concluding that
marijuana use does not lead to experimentation with harder drugs, instead
finding that teens begin using marijuana, simply because it is the most
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Activists Rethink Strategy, Target Drug Czar
Dec. 7 -- Regrouping after state initiatives to relax marijuana laws were
defeated last month, some by crushing margins, advocates plan to build on
public support for medical marijuana programs and have mounted an
aggressive campaign to discredit federal officials who have made opposition
to any tolerance of marijuana -- even for medical purposes -- a cornerstone
of national drug policy.
Supporters managed to get initiatives that would loosen prohibitions or
penalties on personal use of marijuana on the ballot in Arizona, Nevada,
Ohio, South Dakota and the District of Columbia.
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JUST ABOUT EVERYONE HATES THE WAR ON Drugs. Public officials and pundits at
every point along the political spectrum, from the governors of New Mexico
and Minnesota to the former mayor of Baltimore, have railed against its
wastefulness; Detroit Police Chief Jerry Oliver blames it for exacerbating
inner-city crime. William F. Buckley calls it a "plague that consumes an
estimated $75 billion per year in public money"; Christopher Hitchens has
labeled it "grotesque, state-sponsored racketeering." According to a poll
conducted by the Pew Research Center last year, three-quarters of the
country believes the drug war is failing. Enter the words "end the war on
drugs" into Google, and you'll get some 2,400 links, leading to the Web
sites of religious groups, corporate-media sources and drug-legalization
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In the editorial "The terrorist connection" (Nov. 18), you state, "the
alleged drugs-for-arms scheme failed. But how many succeed?"
The only case that springs to mind is that of Ollie North and John
Poindexter. How many others succeed as well is just about anyone's guess.
The question is what to do about it. Nixon declared war on drugs in the
early '70s. Next came Reagan, who renewed the war effort. Then Gen. Barry
McCaffrey joined the battle, and asked for more money.
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"I think I've felt better."
"Can I do anything?"
"Nope. I'll get some pot, and it'll be better."
We were on the wet street outside Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York
where she had just had a transfusion. She is Rosemary Dunne, a relative
from Connecticut, and she has been living on blood transfusions every two
weeks for several years. She has a low red count, and nobody knows why.
That's all there is.
"I'm mad at myself," she said.
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When San Jose high school principal Jacklyn Guevara was offered a chance to
enroll some of her students as guinea pigs for a novel online drug and
alcohol treatment program, she jumped at it. Guevara has only three drug
counselors on her staff. And drug programs for youths are notoriously
An Internet service that employs techno music, chat rooms, interactive
features, videos and real-time counseling to help teens beat their habit?
That sounded terrific. Where do I sign Foothill High School up, she asked?
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"What do you think?" I asked her.
"I think I've felt better."
"Can I do anything?"
"Nope. I'll get some pot and it'll be better."
We were on the wet street outside Memorial Sloan-Kettering where she
had just had a transfusion. She is Rosemary Dunne, a relative from
Connecticut, and she has been living on blood transfusions every two
weeks for several years. She has a low red count and nobody knows why.
That's all there is.
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Washington's crusade against terrorism is pushing the drug war to the
sidelines and causing a sharp reduction in resources and financial
assistance available to many Latin American countries for whom anti-drug
initiatives were the primary source of U.S. aid.
Some members of Congress and former anti-drug officials fear that the
problem is becoming worse as the administration's interest wanes-- even as
President Bush has declared governmental corruption in Latin America a
There have been several critical changes in the White House's war on drugs.
At the end of September, Bush signed legislation that effectively eased the
criteria by which the United States identifies nations as friends or foes
in the international drug war. For more than a decade Washington threatened
sanctions against those it placed on the wrong side. The change is
appreciated in Latin America.
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AT 6:30 SHARP ON A THURSDAY NIGHT IN MID-October, a crowd gathered quickly
at the entrance to 6769 Lexington Ave., a half-block east of Highland in
Hollywood. Aside from the shuffling of feet and the usual sniffles brought
on by the plummeting temperatures of an early fall evening, there was little
commotion until a couple of minutes past the half-hour, when a skinny guy in
a watchman's cap and overalls began to bang insistently on the door. "Hey,
man, you guys gotta open up!" he shouted. A minute or two later, a young
woman with a ring of keys came downstairs, and the "clients," as they're
called by the volunteers of Clean Needles Now, filed into a line that
stretched up the stairs and spilled into the tiny space where volunteers
manned a few folding tables.
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On drug policy, the voting public has proven ready to lead spaniel-like
politicians by the nose, voting for one liberalization measure after
another. But government, state and local officials have begun a crusade to
scuttle reform initiatives around the nation.
Three wealthy drug reform proponents have backed a string of successful
state ballot initiatives across the nation. Focusing initially on medical
marijuana measures out west, billionaires George Soros and Peter Lewis and
multi-millionaire John Sperling have won 12 of 13 ballot measures since
1996. Their handiwork also includes Proposition 36, which mandates treatment
rather than prison for low-level drug offenders and was passed
overwhelmingly in California in 2000. Other activists have similarly
outflanked the officials who lag behind public opinion, and the reform
movement as a whole has won 17 of 19 ballot measures -- much to the chagrin
of drug warriors.
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The Action Speaks Lecture Series Probes The War On Drugs
Despite growing evidence that treatment is a less costly and more effective
response than locking up nonviolent drug offenders, American politicians
remain addicted to the war on drugs. Two-thirds of the $19.2 billion federal
anti-drug budget is spent on interdiction and law enforcement, which has
done nothing to reduce the availability of dope, and presidents ranging from
Bill Clinton to George W. Bush have proved unwilling to back a different
approach for fear of being seen as soft on crime.
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"We have created an American gulag," declared former drug czar Barry
McCaffrey in 1996, describing the widespread and accelerating incarceration
of drug offenders.
Unfortunately, the American drug gulag has grown even larger since then.
And it is a phenomenon that has a human and financial cost.
In 1990, the entire federal prison system held a total of 56,989 inmates
for all offenses combined. By the time McCaffrey made his observation in
'96, there were 55,000 drug offenders in federal prisons. In 2000, federal
prisons held almost 130,000 inmates, of which 75,000 were drug offenders.
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New Mexico has been more progressive in tackling some aspects of drug
reform than virtually all other states, today's author reports, but further
progress will depend mostly on the next governor.
Although he's never used it himself, Kevin Santry can teach you how to
shoot up heroin. Packed into his SUV, Santry has everything you need (well,
almost) to do the job: the little round metal cups you use for cooking the
drug, dental cottons to strain out the gunk, alcohol swabs, rubber
tourniquets for tying around your arm and, of course, needles.
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Now that Nevada is asking voters to decide the issue of marijuana
legalization, talk shows are buzzing.
Asa Hutchinson, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration; John Walters,
current drug czar; Barry McCaffrey, former drug czar; and other government
officials too numerous to mention would have you believe that marijuana is
a demon weed with no benefits, not even medical.
What they don't tell you is According to a Reuters report on March 25, Dr.
Manuel Guzman of Complutence University in Madrid, Spain, released evidence
that THC destroys tumors in rats thus verifying results from 1974 Virginia
published in the September 1975 Journal of National Cancer Institute.
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