Policy wonks and deficit hawks weren't the only ones paying attention
when President Obama signed the Fiscal Year 2010 Consolidated
Appropriations Act last week. HIV activists, public health experts
and communities of drug users celebrated--not for what's in the
appropriations bill, but for what's not in it: a ban on federal
funding for needle exchange programs, which has appeared in the
federal budget every year since 1988.
After two decades, this change is a historic achievement. Obama had
already missed one opportunity to lift the ban, neglecting to pull it
out of his budget in May. Still, that same month former Seattle chief
of police Gil Kerlikowske was sworn in as the director of national
drug control policy, calling for a new common-sense approach to drug
addiction. When the drug czar calls for an end to the war on drugs,
it's clearly the start of a new era.
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Quick: What single plant can you use to build, insulate, and heat a
house; help build and run cars; turn into the finest textiles; use to
make tortillas, cheese, veggie burgers, perfumes, skin creams, and
suntan lotions - and also to get stoned?
Gotcha. The answer is none. But if you leave out the stoned part,
you're talking about hemp, the non-smokable variety of cannabis
sativa, botanical cousin of the cannabis that gets you high. It's
currently grown legally in 30 industrial nations, has a history that
dates back to the earliest days of man, was touted by George
Washington and Benjamin Franklin, was probably used to make the first
American flag, and - if given the chance - might help bring Texas
farmers out of troubled times.
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When It Comes to Treatment, the White House Should Put Its Money
Where Its Mouth Is
In Baltimore last week, new U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske made the
case for expansion of drug courts to treat rather than imprison
addicts and called for drugs to be considered a "public health crisis."
Why, then, is the Obama administration proposing to spend an even
higher percentage of its anti-drug resources on law enforcement than
the administration of George W. Bush?
Nowhere are these issues more resonant than in Baltimore. Felicia
"Snoop" Pearson, a star of HBO's The Wire and a native of the city,
said that her mother stole clothes off of her body for drug money and
locked her in a closet. Darius Harmon, an 18-year-old
learning-disabled boy from Baltimore, was killed in April by the
Black Guerrilla Family gang because he was not good at selling drugs.
Despite recent progress, the Drug Enforcement Administration in March
found that Baltimore still has more drug-related crime than any other
city in the nation.
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How Right-Wing Posses Started the Crack Trade, and Other Tales That
Will Blow Your
Vivian Blake's War
In the late 1970s, a young Jamaican man named Vivian Blake, a
scholarship kid from the Tivoli Gardens ghetto of Kingston, arrived in
New York as part of a traveling cricket exhibition, stuck around, and
began selling marijuana.
One of the last great political proxy fights of
the Cold War was then unfolding in Jamaica: Both the left-wing party,
friendly to Castro, and its right-wing opponents built violent
electioneering posses to persuade friendly voters and attack
unfriendly ones--800 Jamaicans died. Blake was affiliated with the
right-wing Shower Posse. He helped funnel pot and, later, cocaine to the
United States and sent guns back home to help the posses intimidate
voters. After the election, the new government tried to drive the posses
off the island, and many arrived in New York and Miami, fully formed,
violent organizations, deprived of their political purpose and looking
for something to do.
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Since 1998, the Drug Czar Has Been Mandated to Lie to the American
People. So What Would a Fact-Based Drug Policy Look Like?
AMONG OUR LEADERS in Washington, who's been the biggest liar? There
are all too many contenders, yet one is so floridly surreal that he
deserves special attention. Nope, it's not Dick Cheney or Alberto
Gonzales or John Yoo. It's a trusted authority figure who's lied for
11 years now, no matter which party held sway. (Nope, it's not Alan
Greenspan.) This liar didn't end-run Congress, or bully it, or have
its surreptitious blessing at the time only to face its indignation
later. No, this liar was ordered by Congress to lie--as a prerequisite
for holding the job.
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To the Editor:
Drugs have not "won the war." With a comprehensive anti-drug strategy
in place, involving foreign policy, enforcement, education, treatment,
prevention and media, America's overall drug use has declined almost
by half in the past three decades -- from 14.1 percent of the
population in 1979 to 8.3 percent now who used drugs in the past
month. In addition, cocaine use, including crack -- the source of much
of the former record-high violent crime numbers -- is down 70 percent.
Want to go back?
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PALM BEACH GARDENS -- Destroy opium plants, or U.S. soldiers will
continue to abuse heroin and terrorism will continue to thrive in
That's the message from former U.S. drug czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey,
who was Wednesday's keynote speaker at a conference for the National
Association of Addiction Treatment Providers at PGA National Resort.
McCaffrey, a retired four-star general who served as the nation's drug
czar under President Clinton, believes that drug abuse among soldiers
has doubled in the last four years.
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YUCATAN, Mexico -- The Canadian guy at the swim-up bar seemed ready to
fall off his stool and float away.
In an effort to help him focus, I asked him about Canada's involvement
in Mexico's brutal drug war.
"What involvement?" he said.
And that's the problem. A lot of Canadians don't know about our stake
in Mexico's war against drug lords, which now has a higher death rate
than the war in Iraq.
The war's statistics are staggering: More than 7,000 people killed
this year and last; 50,000 Mexican troops and federal police battling
five big drug cartels armed with rocket-launchers, machine guns,
grenades and armour-piercing sniper rifles over a drug trade valued at
$50 billion a year.
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Mexicans Seek 'True Solidarity'
MEXICO CITY -- After promising $1.4 billion last year under a landmark
initiative to help fight drug trafficking in Mexico, the U.S.
government has spent almost none of the money, fanning criticism on
both sides of the border that the United States is failing to respond
quickly to the deepening crisis.
In June, Congress appropriated $400 million to assist Mexico under the
first installment of the Merida Initiative, which was signed into law
by President George W. Bush. The three-year aid package was passed as
an emergency measure because of deteriorating security in Mexico. In
December, the State Department announced that $197 million had been
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Mexico's hillbilly drug smugglers have morphed into a raging
insurgency. Violence claimed more lives there last year alone than all
the Americans killed in the war in Iraq. And there's no end in sight.
What I remember most about my return to Mexico last year are the
narcomantas. At least that's what everyone called them: "drug
banners." Perhaps a dozen feet long and several feet high, they were
hung in parks and plazas around Monterrey. Their messages were
hand-painted in black block letters. They all said virtually the same
thing, even misspelling the same name in the same way. Similar banners
appeared in eight other Mexican cities that day--Aug. 26, 2008.
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No New Troops Or Funding in Obama's Plan
The Obama administration announced plans yesterday to move more than
450 law enforcement agents and equipment to the southern U.S. border
to combat Mexican drug cartel violence, but its "comprehensive
response" was also notable for what it omitted.
President Obama asked for no new troops, legislation or funding from
Congress for now, beyond the three-year $1.4 billion Merida
Initiative lawmakers gave Mexico and Central America for
counter-trafficking programs last year and a small amount of stimulus
money for border security.
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Guess which city leads the world in kidnappings?
No, not Beirut. Not Baghdad. Mexico City.
And guess who comes second? Ready? It's Phoenix, Ariz.: 370 recorded
cases in 2008 alone, and who knows how many unrecorded cases.
When you think Phoenix, you may think of retirees and golf courses.
But here's what the late Paul Harvey used to call "the rest of the
story," courtesy of the Web site Stratfor.com:
"Late on the night of June 22,  a residence in Phoenix was
approached by a heavily armed tactical team preparing to serve a
warrant. The members of the team were wearing the typical gear for
members of their profession: black boots, black BDU (battle dress
uniform) pants, Kevlar helmets and Phoenix Police Department (PPD)
raid shirts pulled over their body armour. The team members carried
AR-15 rifles equipped with Aimpoint sights to help them during the
low-light operation and, like most cops on a tactical team, in
addition to their long guns, the members of this team carried
secondary weapons --pistols strapped to their thighs.
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The White House yesterday said that it will push for treatment, rather
than incarceration, of people arrested for drug-related crimes as it
announced the nomination of Seattle Police Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske to
oversee the nation's effort to control illegal drugs.
The choice of drug czar and the emphasis on alternative drug courts,
announced by Vice President Biden, signal a sharp departure from Bush
administration policies, gravitating away from cutting the supply of
illicit drugs from foreign countries and toward curbing drug use in
communities across the United States.
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As Mexico Descends into Brutality and Lawlessness, the Government
Istelf Has Become a Tool of the Drug Lords
The target of the raid was the narcotraficante known as "El Conejo" -
the Rabbit. In keeping with his stature as the main supplier of
cocaine to one of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels, the Colombian
was throwing a lavish party at a sprawling mansion on the south side
of Mexico City. As always, there would be plenty of high-end
prostitutes, who served a dual purpose: They not only made money for
Conejo while they were working, they could also be sent back to
Colombia loaded down with the cash from his drug trafficking - by
some accounts as much as $40 million in profits every month.
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Americans are under attack not in some foreign province but in their
very homes and neighborhoods. Brutal drug cartel violence that wracks
Mexico is increasingly seeping over the border into U.S.
In Phoenix, armed extortionists are kidnapping Americans from their
homes and cars. In Southern California, citizens have been abducted by
armed gangs linked to the Tijuana drug rackets. And in Texas, Gov.
Rick Perry is requesting an additional $135 million for border
security to stem transnational gangs that threaten communities across
the Mexican border.
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AUSTIN -- The state and federal governments have prepared contingency
plans to deal with "spillover violence" from across the border as
Mexican troops clash with ruthless drug cartels terrorizing the
United States's southern neighbor.
"Anything you can think of that's happened in Mexico, we have to
think could happen here," said Steve McCraw, Gov. Rick Perry's
director of homeland security. "We know what they're capable of."
A crackdown by Mexican President Felipe Calderon has turned the City
of Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, into a war zone as
federal troops battle feuding cartels.
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Illegal Drugs Are Causing Havoc Across the World. Over Four Articles,
We Look at Attempts to Curb Supply and Cut Demand, Beginning in Mexico
IN RECENT months Mexicans have become inured to carefully
choreographed spectacles of horror.
Just before Christmas the severed heads of eight soldiers were found
dumped in plastic bags near a shopping centre in Chilpancingo, the
capital of the southern state of Guerrero. Last month another three
were found in an icebox near the border city of Ciudad Juarez.
Farther along the border near Tijuana police detained Santiago Meza,
nicknamed El Pozolero ("the soupmaker") who confessed to having
dissolved the bodies of more than 300 people in acid over the past
nine years on the orders of a local drug baron.
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Imagine if murders in Philadelphia tripled. Imagine if they
quadrupled. Imagine living in Juarez, Mexico. With a population about
the same as Philadelphia's 1.4 million, Juarez had 1,600 murders last
year; Philadelphia had 332.
Last month, Juarez had more than 80 murders. If you think that sounds
like a war zone, you would be right. Juarez is on the front lines of
the so-called war on drugs. That multi-decade misadventure has filled
U.S. prisons with thousands of drug-law violators, but hasn't done
enough to stem our demand for drugs.
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WASHINGTON -- Mexico's attorney general said Tuesday he sees no need
for U.S. troops to intervene in his country's war on drug cartels,
nor to gear up for a spillover of violence across the border.
"I don't see that," Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora said in an
interview with The Dallas Morning News. "I don't see the U.S.
military playing an active role. The size of the problem on the U.S.
side is not calling for that, and certainly Mexico has enough
institutional capabilities to deal with this."
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EL PASO - Gov. Rick Perry said he wants 1,000 troops to help guard
the Texas-Mexico border, and for the U.S. to fund strong security
measures to fight the Mexican drug cartels that have spread violence
and fear in Mexico, including Juarez.
"We're (also) asking the (Texas) Legislature for $135 million for
border security - to go after transnational gangs, for technology and
aviation assets, and for 1,000 troops," said Perry at a news
conference Tuesday at the Chamizal National Memorial.
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