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Just Because Criminals Use Drugs Doesn't Mean Drugs Cause Crime

ONDCP's latest blog post boldly proclaims that drugs cause crime because most people who get arrested test positive for drugs. As is their habit, ONDCP's post was created by taking a newspaper article, misunderstanding it, and then drawing exaggerated conclusions that are factually wrong:

The Drug-Crime Link: Most Adults Committing Crimes in San Diego High at Time of Arrest

A new report out of San Diego County illustrates the strong connection between using drugs and committing crime. The North County Times reports:

"While the number of adults that test positive for drugs when arrested dropped slightly in 2006 compared with the year before, narcotics use continues to show up in more than 70 percent of arrestees, according to a report released Tuesday by the San Diego Association of Governments...

The headline alone contains two wildly inaccurate claims. For starters, being arrested doesn't mean you've actually committed a crime. Duh. This may seem insignificant, since drug use rates are probably the same or higher among those convicted. Still, it's a reflection of ONDCP's mindset that arrestees are simply presumed guilty.

More to the point, testing positive for drugs absolutely doesn’t mean you're high. Cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine remain detectable in your system for up to 4 days, while PCP and marijuana can linger for up to a month. We can identify these drugs in someone's body, but we cannot prove when the drugs were ingested or whether they were intoxicated at the time of arrest.

ONDCP's whole premise that drug use makes people go crazy and break the law is just not supported at all by this data. Addicted users frequently commit crimes precisely because they're no longer high, but they'd like to be. This link can be better addressed through maintenance programs and by eliminating the black market that inflates prices and forces addicts to steal.

Marijuana users, on the other hand, are unlikely to ever pass a drug test if they use more than twice a month. How many of these arrestees are just marijuana users who smoked days or weeks before an unrelated arrest? It's the most widely used and most detectable illicit drug, so its inclusion skews the entire picture.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there's a huge drug war going on, which causes drug users to be arrested at alarming rates. It's the number one thing people get arrested for. If we stopped arresting people for having drugs, the percentage of arrestees who test positive for them would decrease substantially. Literally, the government is arresting people for drugs, then claiming that you shouldn’t do drugs because they'll cause you to get yourself arrested.

Don't get me wrong, there is a drug-crime link, but it's not the one you read about at PushingBack.com. It's a product of the great war we've declared on one another, and it will go away only when we admit our terrible mistake.

Location: 
United States

Rudy Hates Pot Smokers (Especially Black and Brown Ones) More Than He Likes Effective Policing

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has gotten a lot of criticism this week for his comments rejecting medical marijuana and suggesting that its advocates are actually stalking horses for marijuana legalization. But his antipathy for marijuana goes far beyond simply rejecting its therapeutic applications and opens a window into what a Giuliani marijuana policy might look like. During Giuliani's years in office in the 1990s and into this decade, the number of marijuana arrests shot through the roof, rising from a few hundred before Giulani took office to more than 51,000 in 2000. At that point, thanks to Giulani's "zero tolerance" or "broken windows" approach to policing, New York City accounted for nearly 10% of all marijuana arrests in the country. But it wasn't that Giulani just hated pot smokers; the results of his marijuana policy show starkly that his ire was aimed at pot smokers of a certain color--and it wasn't white. As an analysis of city pot arrests between the early 1980s and the early 2000s showed, as marijuana busts shot upward during Rudy's reign, the arrests shifted from the wealthy, central areas of the city to the cities poor, black and Hispanic neighborhoods. As the authors of that study noted, "these arrests, which increased throughout the 1990's to reach a peak of 51,000 in 2000, do not seem to be primarily serving the goals of 'quality-of-life' policing - which aims to penalize even minor criminal offenses in highly public locations - anymore." Not only did the mass marijuana arrests not appear to be related to claimed decreases in violent crime, they appeared to be related to increases in violent crime, according to another researcher, Bernard Harcourt, commenting on the report:
New York City’s psychedelic experiment with misdemeanor MPV [marijuana possession violation] arrests—along with all the associated detentions, convictions, and additional incarcerations—represents a tremendously expensive policing intervention. As Golub et al. [authors of the original research] document well, the focus on MPV has had a significant disparate impact on African-American and Hispanic residents. Our study further shows that there is no good evidence that it contributed to combating serious crime in the city. If anything, it has had the reverse effect. As a result, the NYPD policy of misdemeanor MPV arrests represents an extremely poor trade-off of scarce law enforcement resources, imposing significant opportunity costs on society in light of the growing body of empirical research that highlights policing approaches that do appear to be successful in reducing serious crime. Our findings, building on those of Golub et al., make clear that these are not trade-offs in which we should be engaging.
So, not only did Giulani's mass marijuana arrest policy target racial minorities, it also hampered effective crime-fighting in the city. Can you imagine a President Giulani sitting in the White House and ordering something similar on a nationwide basis? It would certainly be a boon for the jail, drug testing, drug treatment, and other drug war-dependent industries, but I hope we are not at a point as a nation where we say "what's good for the prison-industrial complex is good for America." I'll be writing more about Giulani, his crime-fighting career, and what a Giulani presidency might mean for America's criminal justice system next week. But I have to wonder if what America needs now is a Prosecutor in Chief. (This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
Location: 
United States

Marijuana: No More Automatic Arrest for Possession in Texas

As of September 1, people caught with up to a quarter-pound of marijuana in Texas will no longer automatically be arrested. Under HB 2391, a bill passed by the legislature and signed into law June 15 by Gov. Rick Perry (R), police will have the option of issuing a summons to appear for misdemeanor pot possession, as well as a number of other small-time offenses.

The measure was pushed by conservative legislators as a cost-cutting measure. "We want to get tough on crime, but we also want to get smart on crime," said state Rep. Jerry Madden (R), the bill's author. "Let's not spend a lot of taxpayers' money putting people in jail who don't need to be there," Madden told Fort Worth Star-Telegraph columnist Bud Kennedy last Saturday. "Let's give local police more discretion."

Possession of marijuana remains a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. But now, instead of using up valuable police time and jail space with marijuana and other misdemeanor offenders, police will have the discretion of just ordering them to show up before a magistrate within 48 hours. If they don't show, the magistrate can issue an arrest warrant.

Other offenses for which police can now issue summonses include petty theft, graffiti, and driving without a license.

"The idea was to free up more county jail space and law officers' time for violent offenders and sex offenders," said Marc Levin of the Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative organization that lobbied for House Bill 2391. "We looked at how to save counties money. We always came back to the same answer: Take the low-level offenders out of the county jail," he told Kennedy.

Leave it to Texas to wise up about criminal justices priorities, even if just a bit. And it wasn't bleeding hearts, but bleating wallets that did it.

PM: War against drugs ineffective

Location: 
Kuala Terengganu
United States
Publication/Source: 
Malaysia Star (Malaysia)
URL: 
http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/6/24/nation/18120248&sec=nation

Giuliani's Cocaine Connection

This post is a little more sympathetic than the title might seem to suggest. One of the big news stories today was the indictment of Rudy Giuliani's now-former South Carolina campaign chairman Thomas Ravenel, the state's now-suspended Treasurer, on federal cocaine distribution charges. Drug policy academic Mark Kleiman points out that Ravenel does not appear to have been a drug dealer:
The other guy indicted in the case seems to be the dealer. Ravenel seems to have been one of his customers, who bought cocaine in quantity to share with friends. Under federal law, there's no crime of selling drugs; the crime is "distribution," which includes giving the stuff away.
(Talking Points Memo, linking to Kleiman, observes that Ravenel would have been buying for "what was probably going to be a pretty big bash".) Ravenel should be considered innocent until proven guilty, of course, and Kleiman points out what I think is a pretty good reason why:
The most likely scenario here: The state cops nailed the dealer (he was already in custody on state charges when the indictment was handed up yesterday), and the dealer gave them a prominent customer in order to buy himself some consideration at sentencing time.
As a legalizer, I have to have some sympathy for anyone caught up in the drug war's headlights. Still, Ravenel was a political official at the highest levels in a state that has some real "tough on drugs" policies in place. Unless he was actively involved in working for serious drug policy reform -- and I'm not aware that he was -- and assuming the accusations made against him are accurate, there's a hypocrisy angle here. Furthermore, the candidate he was involved in trying to elect as president, Rudy Giuliani, is a drug warrior who increased arrests in New York when he was mayor, who tried to shut down methadone maintenance in the city, and who opposes needle exchange and medical marijuana. It's especially hypocritical for a drug user to chair a state campaign for a drug warrior trying to be president, who would presumably continue to be a drug warrior if elected president. Then again, maybe Ravenel intended to quietly lobby Giuliani to shift his views/policies on drugs. I tend to doubt it, but I don't know the guy so I can't say for sure. As for Giuliani, did he have no idea about his friend's (alleged) drug proclivities, or no one who could inform him about them? I've heard from a knowledgeable source that when Giuliani was the US Attorney in New York, the safest place to sell drugs was in front of City Hall. Bottom line: If you're a top-level state official, it's probably not a good idea to organize all-out (all night?) cocaine fests. But if you are in the habit of organizing cocaine fests, speak out against the war on drugs too, so at least people won't think you're a hypocrite if you get caught. Actually, speak out against the drug war in any case. (This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
Location: 
SC
United States

Middle East: Dubai Customs Busts Canadian UN Afghan Drug Worker

An international advisor to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Afghanistan Poppy Elimination Program appeared in the Dubai Court of First Instance Tuesday on charges he possessed 0.6 grams of hashish and two poppy seeds. The Canadian UN worker, known only by the initials H.W., pleaded innocent.

"My client is an anti-narcotics officer who cooperates with the UNODC," said defense attorney Saeed Al Gailani. "During his one-hour transit visit from Kandahar where he was on an anti-narcotics campaign, he was caught at the airport carrying the poppy seeds, which he was taking to Canada for experiments."

As for the hash, Gailani said H.W. participated in collecting and burning massive quantities of drugs. "His trousers must have mistakenly picked up the tiny quantity of hashish," said the lawyer. "It was natural that he tested positive for hashish which appeared in his urine test because he is considered a passive smoker especially that he burns about ten tons a day," said Gailani.

A verdict is expected later this month. The Canadian isn't the only one getting popped for ridiculously small amounts of drugs. Just last week, the Chronicle reported on an an unfortunate Englishman sentenced to four years for 1/100th of a gram of hash and an Italian facing a similar fate for 7/100ths of a gram of marijuana. As we noted last week, don't take your doobies to Dubai.

Latest Entry in the Annals of Excess Department

This is not directly drug war related, but this is such an asinine abuse of both police and prosecutorial power that I thought I needed to share it. Alright, here's the tale in a nutshell: Kid riding in pick-up that gets pulled over, kid videotapes cop during encounter (just as cop-car camera videotapes the pick-up), cops seizes camera, arrests kid, cop consults with prosecutor, then charges kid with felony wiretapping, punishable by up to seven years in prison. To stupidly repressive to be true? Here it is: Video Recording Leads to Felony Charge:
Brian D. Kelly didn't think he was doing anything illegal when he used his videocamera to record a Carlisle police officer during a traffic stop. Making movies is one of his hobbies, he said, and the stop was just another interesting event to film. Now he's worried about going to prison or being burdened with a criminal record. Kelly, 18, of Carlisle, was arrested on a felony wiretapping charge, with a penalty of up to 7 years in state prison. His camera and film were seized by police during the May 24 stop, he said, and he spent 26 hours in Cumberland County Prison until his mother posted her house as security for his $2,500 bail. Kelly is charged under a state law that bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone's oral conversation without their consent. The criminal case relates to the sound, not the pictures, that his camera picked up.
Yes, that's right. Apparently, operating a video camera is a crime in Pennsylvania. Who knew? I'm not aware of mass busts of video camera operators at weddings, in parks, at concerts, at family reunions, or any of the thousand and one other places they are commonly used. I haven't seen the Pennsyvlania cops rounding up media camera operators, either, come to think of it. Oh, and the police have an exemption. They can videotape you, but you can't videotape them. Funny how that works.
Location: 
United States

More Border Blues--Canadian Mom Searching for Missing Daughter Denied Entry

Just two weeks ago, in an article titled Border Blues, we wrote about how both the Canadian and the US governments can and do deny entry to people who admit to past drug use or have a drug conviction. Last week, a particularly egregious example of the abuse of this provision occurred. In a sad tale first picked up by the Vancouver daily the Province, "Mother's Hunt for Missing Daughter Blocked at Border", Kamloops, BC, mother Glendene Grant related how she was turned away from the US as she headed for Las Vegas to search for her young adult daughter, Jessie Foster, who went missing a little more than a year ago. Although Grant had made several previous trips to Las Vegas in an effort to find her daughter and even though she was scheduled to meet local law enforcement and appear at a Crimestoppers event about Jessie's disappearance, she was turned away a week ago today. Why? The 49-year-old mother was arrested in 1986 on marijuana and cocaine possession charges. We are looking into this. Right now, I have emailed Ms. Grant to set up an interview, and I have calls in to US Customs and Border Protection and an anti-human trafficking unit in the Las Vegas Police Department. There is apparently some suspicion that Jessie Foster was the victim of sex slavers. But who cares about that, right? Customs and Border Protection appears more interested in protecting us from a harmless woman who got busted on penny ante drug possession charges more than two decades ago than helping her spur an investigation with possible international implications. My understanding that the decision to deny entry to people with old drug convictions is not mandatory (I'll be checking with CBP on this) but discretionary. In the case of Glendene Grant, the denial of entry looks to be an abuse of discretion, not to mention just downright mean, inhumane, and cold-hearted. Is there more to the story? Stay tuned.
Location: 
United States

Feature: Border Blues -- Canada, US Both Bar People Who Used Drugs -- Ever

Nearly one of out six Canadians could be turned away from the United States because they used drugs at some point in their lives, and nearly 100 million Americans face the same prospect at the Canadian border. Under the immigration laws of both countries, persons who admit to past drug use or have a drug conviction can be excluded by the decision of the border guard they encounter and his immediate supervisors.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/I-5.jpg
I-5 at Peace Arch Park, US-Canada border between Seattle and Vancouver
Fortunately for millions of North Americans, the laws are not enforceable if they have kept their past drug use to themselves and not left a record of it in print or online. But for the at least 17 million US citizens who have drug convictions and a smaller but still sizeable number of Canadians with drug convictions, such laws could lead to a rude awakening when arriving at the border.

How many people are actually turned back at the border for past drug use is unknown. US Customs and Border Protection Service officials could not provide a detailed breakdown of the 574 aliens deemed inadmissible on the average day. Nor were Canadian figures obtainable from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

While such policies have been in place for years, they have been little known -- except for people who have found out the hard way. One of those people is Dr. Andrew Feldmar, a Vancouver, BC, psychiatrist, who had crossed the border on numerous occasions, only to be turned back last summer by a US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent who googled his name and turned up an academic article in which he discussed taking LSD on two occasions nearly forty years ago.

An independent Canadian newspaper, The Tyee, picked up on the story last month, and since then it has been recounted in numerous publications, including a May 14 piece in the New York Times that was widely syndicated and appeared on numerous blogs. The Feldmar fiasco has led to renewed attention to the persecution of admitted drug users at the border under a policy that, if strictly enforced, would make hundreds of millions of people ineligible to enter the US.

The relevant section of US immigration law says that the US can exclude "aliens who have been convicted of, or who admit to having committed, or who admit to committing acts which constitute the essential elements of a violation or conspiracy to violate any law or regulation of a State, the United States or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance as defined in s. 102 of the Controlled Substances Act. An attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime is included in this ground of exclusion."

"Drug violations or admissions of drug use fall under the controlled substances statutes and make people inadmissible under certain circumstances," said Mike Milne, a US Customs and Border Protection spokesman in Seattle. "It depends on the totality of the circumstances," he told Drug War Chronicle. "We don't treat marijuana differently from any other illicit drug," Milne added. "It's considered a prohibited substance."

But as the case of Dr. Feldmar shows, the "totality of the circumstances" is very open to interpretation. In Feldmar's case, two instances of ancient LSD use for research purposes outweighed his decades of solid citizenship and professional activity and the fact that he had previously entered the US without problem on multiple previous occasions.

"Denying a respected researcher like Dr. Feldmar entry into the county is just absurd," said Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann, whose organization has begun a campaign to undo the policy. "We have grave concerns about the impact this can have on researchers on drugs writing openly. And what about people coming here for a conference on methadone or on injection drug use and HIV? Many of these people are likely to have been drug users," he told the Chronicle. "Are we to exclude them now? We are also deeply concerned that these increasingly powerful databases make it possible to go back and dredge up anything you ever wrote or blogged or posted on a web page."

DPA is looking into what, if any, action could be taken in Congress to ameliorate the problem, but it is unlikely anything would happen this year. "100 million Americans have used an illegal drug at some point in their lives, and it's hard to find a presidential candidate who hasn't smoked pot; yet we're prohibiting people from other countries who have used drugs from visiting our country. It just doesn't make sense," said Bill Piper, DPA's director of national affairs. "Imagine if other countries adopted similar policies. Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Brad Pitt, Sam Donaldson and millions of other Americans wouldn't be able to travel."

Work in Congress is just getting underway, Piper told the Chronicle. "We just started our first round of lobbying congressional offices, talking to the staff of people on the judiciary and homeland security committees," he said. "People didn't know about this and were shocked at the policy; it just seemed unfair to them to punish people for things they'd written or things they had done in the past."

After educating key congressional staffers, said Piper, it will be on to phase two. "Right now, we trying to gauge how widespread is the interest in this, and then we'll probably go back for a second round of lobbying."

For people thinking about traveling to the US, CBP's Milne outlined what could happen in the event they are excluded. If a person is denied admission because of past drug use or convictions, said Milne, three possibilities present themselves. "In most cases, you can just withdraw your application for admission and turn around and walk away," he said. "Or you can choose to go before an immigration judge to adjudicate the issue. In that case, you would most likely remain in custody until the hearing," he said. "But if you make false statements during the course of your application [if you get caught denying past use or a conviction], you can be subject to extradited removal. In that case, we will document that something illegal took place on this attempt to enter, remove you from the country, and bar you from readmission for up to five years."

Milne could provide no statistics on the number of people turned away because of admitted drug use or drug convictions, but did say that of the 680,000 aliens who attempt to enter the country through ports of entry on any given day, about 575 are denied entry and 63 are arrested.

Famed Dutch drug researcher Peter Cohen isn't taking the chance. "I will not try to enter the US anymore," said Cohen, who has done ground-breaking work on the (lack of) links between drug policies and drug use levels. "Imagine if they read my research!" he told the Chronicle. "I am dead serious. I will not risk being treated like a piece of dirt by US law enforcement people who are known the world over as brutes and idiots," he vowed.

"Just a few weeks ago, we had a story here of a young Dutch man who was in the US one day past his permit," Cohen continued. "They kept him imprisoned for weeks, and his stories about his treatment and his inaccessibility to lawyers and the Dutch embassy were just horrible. No, that is not for me."

A Canadian substance use and drug policy researcher who asked not to be identified told Drug War Chronicle that "border enforcement that focuses on either research into or past personal use of illicit substances directly impacts our ability to study our current approach towards drugs, and will likely stifle dialogue that might move us towards more evidence-based policies and practices." Not only are such policies "a violation of free speech and personal liberty rights on both sides of the border," he added, "stopping the flow of information on effective harm reduction practices in both Canada and the US could have a negative impact on the public health of both our nations."

The very fact that this prominent researcher requested anonymity proves the point that the policy has a silencing impact. "I'd rather not be quoted in this article although I believe that it's an important story," he said while noting that he has not run into problems at the US border, "because if the US has reduced its homeland security infrastructure to a simple Google search, I worry that it's just a matter of time before they start to hassle me as well, and being quoted in a story pointing out that I haven't yet been harassed or denied entry sounds like the best way to raise a red flag the next time I cross the border."

But the door at the US-Canadian border can be slammed shut by either side, and despite its reputation as a cannabis-friendly nation, border guards at Canadian points of entry are just as quick to turn you back as are the Americans. In fact, Canadian border guards may be even tougher than the Americans, especially for offenses like driving under the influence.

The Citizenship and Immigration Canada web site explains:

"Whether you are planning to visit, work, study or immigrate, if you have committed or been convicted of a criminal offence, you may be prohibited from entering Canada. Criminal offences include both minor and serious offences such as theft, assault, dangerous driving, driving while intoxicated and manslaughter, among others. For a complete list of criminal offences in Canada, please consult the Canadian Criminal Code. If you have juvenile convictions (convictions for crimes committed while under the age of 18), you are most likely not prohibited from entering Canada."

The one bit of good news is that a simple marijuana possession conviction probably won't keep an American out of Canada. Under Canadian law, possession of less than an ounce is a summary offense and does not constitute inadmissibility, said Vancouver immigration attorney Gordon Maynard.

Don't try to deny any criminal history, Maynard warned. "It is not a good idea to lie. The Ports of Entry have access to the NCIC database and can readily see any history of arrests, charges, court proceedings, convictions and incarceration in the database," he said. "Officers have this information even before they ask the questions. Failure to truthfully answer questions on any relevant matter, including criminality, constitutes misrepresentation and is a separate bar against entry and can include a two-year penalty against any further entry."

Still, Maynard told the Chronicle, you could be excluded even with a clean record. "You don't need a conviction to be inadmissible to Canada on criminal grounds," he said. "Pending charges, or an admission of prior criminal behavior, can be enough if the Canadian officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed a criminal offense."

"I think this is one of the worst manifestations yet in the war on some drugs," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law (NORML). "Keeping people out of the US because they once used a drug is absurd, but Canada does the same thing. Although Canada has historically hewed toward a more open and tolerant marijuana policy, has functionally decriminalized marijuana to some degree, allows medical marijuana, and lets farmers legally grow hemp, an American can be turned away if he has a marijuana or other drug conviction or has even publicly acknowledged his drug use."

Publicity over the Feldmar fiasco has the phones ringing off the wall at NORML, St. Pierre said. "We're getting lots of calls now from people with past convictions or people who have blogged or spoken publicly or appeared on TV or radio about their marijuana use," he noted. "This includes people who are NORML lawyers, as well as Dr. Lester Grinspoon. It's his birthday next month, and his family wanted to take him to Vancouver. Although he's never been convicted of any crime, he has admitted to using cannabis, so now the family is worried about whether he can even cross the border. This is a great concern," St. Pierre said.

It's also a personal concern for St. Pierre, who was born in Maine and has family on the Canadian side of the border. "I've acknowledged using cannabis on many, many occasions, so I don't know if they'll let me in," he said. "I'd like to go up there to see family, to go fishing, to go on educational junkets, but now I don't know."

Of course, not everyone has to worry about these laws. Admitted former drug users, such as David Cameron (head of the British Tory party), former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, the current Premieres of Quebec and Ontario, actors Colin Farrell and Pierce Brosnan, British billionaire Richard Branson (Virgin Air) and numerous musicians like Paul McCartney, Keith Richards and George Michael all seem to be able to get into either country at will. Similarly, Canada doesn't seem to have any problem with admitted former drug users like Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Perhaps, as CBP spokesman Milne mused when asked about apparent differential enforcement, "Maybe they all got waivers." Perhaps not.

Green Party Press Release: War on drugs is a war on youth, people of color

For Immediate Release: May 16, 2007 Contacts: Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624, mclarty@greens.org & Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805, starlene@gp.org *Greens call for realistic debate in the 2008 Presidential race on the War on Drugs *Democratic and Republican politicians are ignoring the human and economic devastation caused by failed drug policies, unjust laws, and targeting of young people, the poor, and African Americans and Latinos, say Green Party leaders WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders called for a national discussion on how the US's 'war on drugs' has turned into a war on young people, the poor, and African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color. "The human and economic devastation caused by the war on drugs is missing from the range of debate among both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Politicians from these parties, when asked about drug policies, prefer to posture about law and order and endorse failed measures. These politicians don't realize that going along to get along makes one complicit said Cliff Thornton, Green candidate for Governor of Connecticut in 2006 and co-founder of Efficacy, Inc. , which promotes major reforms in drug policy. Greens cited a study by the American Civil Liberties Union ("Cracks in the System: Twenty Years of Unjust Federal Crack Cocaine Law," October 2006, ), 37% of people arrested, 59% of people convicted, and 74% of those sent to prison are African American, even though only 15% of drug users are African American. The Associated Press has reported that "a record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department.... From 1995 to 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth." In state prisons, 260,000 people were serving sentences on nonviolent drug charges in 2005, of whom more than 70% were African American or Latino . The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that nearly one in eight drug prisoners (45,000 Americans) are behind bars for marijuana-related offenses. Green leaders also strongly criticized the punitive denial of financial aid to students with drug convictions, and supported Students for a Sensible Drug Policy in their effort to persuade Congress to reinstate such aid. "The war on drugs is an excuse to ignore the US Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, with long prison sentences for minor and nonviolent offenses. The drug war is meant to be waged, not won," added Mr. Thornton. "This is in part a result of pressure on elected officials from the private prison industry lobby, which seeks to build new prisons and fill up cells in order to win government giveaways and increase corporate profits. The Green Party calls for a public debate that challenges the rhetoric of Democratic and Republican politicians who are under influence of these companies, and that recognizes how the war on drugs has only resulted in more crime and violence." "We need to stop spending $50 billion a year on the drug war, and use that money for treatment. We need to repeal mandatory sentencing laws, which override judges' discretion in determining prison time, and 'three strikes' laws that send people -- mostly the poor and people of color -- away for life on nonviolent and minor felonies," said Kevin Zeese, 2006 candidate for the US Senate candidate in Maryland and president of Common Sense for Drug Policy . The Green Party's national platform endorses decriminalization of victimless crimes, such as the possession of small amounts of marijuana; an end to the war on drugs; expanded drug counseling and treatment; and an end to arrest of 'medical marijuana' arrests and prosecution. "Law enforcement should focus efforts on organized crime, including the laundering of drug money at banks, rather than on street-level drug trade, in which kids who get arrested -- or killed -- are quickly replaced," said Nan Garrett, Co-Chair of the National Women's Caucus of the Green Party and 2002 candidate for Governor of Georgia. "Addictive use should be treated as a medical and social problem. Locking up addicts in stressed prison environments, with minimal effort to address the addiction itself, and then freeing them to go back into the same circumstances that led to their abuse of drugs has only aggravated the problem of addiction. Greens endorse rational solutions to the problems of drug abuse that are based on science and health, compassion for addicts and their families, reduction of harm rather than moral judgment, and respect for basic civil liberties and principles of justice." MORE INFORMATION Green Party of the United States http://www.gp.org 1700 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 404 Washington, DC 20009. 202-319-7191, 866-41GREEN Fax 202-319-7193 Green Party News Center http://www.gp.org/newscenter.shtml Drug War Facts: Drug Offenders In The Corrections System - Prisons, Jails and Probation http://www.drugwarfacts.org/prison.htm Race, Prison and the Drug Laws (with information on the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans and other people of color) http://www.drugwarfacts.org/racepris.htm Crime (with information on the correlation between drug prohibition and violence) http://www.drugwarfacts.org/crime.htm
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School