Saturday, December 24, 2005

Scrooged and Grinched

December was a particularly bad month for medical marijuana patients in California.

Instead of holiday cheer, the federal government brought holiday fear in the form of vicious raids on many of the state's medical marijuana dispensaries. Now, many suffering Californians will be forced to rely on generous gifts from friends and relatives to tide them over this holiday season. How do you drug warriors sleep at night??This illustration was taken from the brilliant graphic novel, A Drug War Carol, by Susan Wells and Scott Bieser. If you haven't read it yet, take some time to check out here. These inexpensive books make great (belated) stocking stuffers for your favorite (and not-so-favorite) elected officials.

On behalf of California's medical marijuana patients, I'd like to end this post with a song dedicated to Drug Czar John Walters:

(to the tune of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch")
You're a mean one, Mr. Walters.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.
Mr. Walters.

You're a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.

You're a monster, Mr. Walters.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul.
Mr. Walters.

I wouldn't touch you, with a
thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.

You're a vile one, Mr. Walters.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile.
Mr. Walters.

Given the choice between the two of you
I'd take the seasick crocodile.

You're a foul one, Mr. Walters.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Walters.

The three words that best describe you,
are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."

You're a rotter, Mr. Walters.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splot
With moldy purple spots,
Mr. Walters.

Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable
rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.

You nauseate me, Mr. Walters.
With a nauseous super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked horse.
Mr. Walters.

You're a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool
With arsenic sauce.

Okay, now one more time for Mark Souder...

and another for Karen Tandy!

Happy Holidays, Justice Warriors.

Friday, December 23, 2005

How much is justice worth?

Associated Press is reporting that the students involved in the horrid 2003 drug raid at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, SC could receive around $9,000 each in a settlement with the police department and the school district.

But lawyers on both sides caution the deal is far from done.

“Ultimately, the whole thing could fall apart,” said Gregg Meyers, a lawyer for the students. “This is a work in progress.”

Following the Nov. 5, 2003, drug search, 59 students and their families sued the Goose Creek Police Department and Berkeley County School District, claiming the sweep violated their constitutional rights. U.S. District Judge Michael Duffy combined three lawsuits last year and appointed a mediator. Previous settlement negotiations have broken down. The most recent talks started in August.

As you may remember, the raid stirred lots of controversy after the school's security videotapes were released, showing police officers pointing loaded guns at terrified students. No drugs or weapons were found in the raid, and most of the students involved were black (despite the fact that the majority of students at Stratford are white).

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Many of us were left wondering if the Goose Creek Police Department had actually found the only drug-free school in America.

But seriously, how do you determine the amount of money these students should be awarded to compensate for the terror they suffered as a result of official incompetence? Ultimately, the value of the impending court victory will be measured not in dollars, but in terms of the message it sends to drug warriors all around the country:
Lawyers for the students feel their work has assured a similar drug sweep does not occur in the future.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Senate passes reform of HEA Drug Provision

This morning, at about a quarter to 11:00 EST, the Senate passed the budget reconciliation bill by a margin of 51-50, with Vice President Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote. The budget bill contained a reform to the HEA Drug Provision, which would remove the provision’s retroactivity to make students ineligible for financial aid based on past drug convictions. The bill is almost set to become law, pending the President’s signature.

By removing the retroactivity of ineligibility, the provision will now make ineligible only those applicants for financial aid who are convicted of drug offenses while in school and receiving financial aid. This law will be in effect for the next school year.

This is a major victory. Only because of the years of sustained pressure by student activists did Congress reform this disastrous law. It’s a good first step, however this reform is still sorely lacking. If Congress had looked seriously and honestly at the facts, they would have repealed it altogether.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Drug Czar cries over lost allowance

Johnny "Pee" Walters, our all-knowing and benevolent Drug Czar and his cronies are worried that they're not getting enough of American taxpayers' hard-earned dollars to proliferate their misleading anti-drug messages as far and wide as they'd like to. The ONDCP included the following few lines in a press release they put out yesterday announcing the results of the 2005 Monitoring the Future survey:

The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has made great strides in its efforts to alert teens and parents about the dangers and harms of drug use, including marijuana. There is concern that funding reductions in recent years are starting to produce erosion in the perception of harm of marijuana use among young teens. Indeed, the MTF survey shows that among 8th graders, the perceived harm in smoking marijuana regularly which had been rising sharply in recent years, has decreased (from 76.2% to 73.9%).

"The decline in overall drug use is a success for the Media Campaign," said Robert W. Denniston, Director of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. "But we are worried about the effects that funding cuts will have on our ability to maintain the momentum we have built up over the years in reducing drug use among the nation's young people."

These lying fools.

As we reported here a few weeks ago, Congress has increasingly cut the Drug Czar's advertising budget for the past few years because the only large-scale scientific studies that have looked into the Media Campaign have found it to be a miserable failure. If Johnny Walters wants a bigger allowance from Congress, he'd better start bringing home better report cards.

Reclaiming Reality

It’s mid-January and the new semester has just begun. You slide into your Political Science 101 class a few minutes late and covertly take a seat in the back of the lecture hall. Your battle-hardened professor has already started to outline the course, and as she shoots you a perturbed glare, she proceeds to explain that she will often frame political issues using one particular ideological dichotomy. For the remainder of the class, she fleshes out this dichotomy by illustrating how each of the two viewpoints look at the world. Then she assigns homework. One page, double spaced, 12 pt font, answering this question: “Are you an idealist or a realist?”

Easy question, right? After all, your work with SSDP is certainly directed toward making the world a more ideal place in which to live. And you’ve heard that is a great place to land activist jobs in the non-profit sector. As your professor explained, realists see the world as a static place, but idealists see possibilities for progress in the future. You’ve got to be an idealist… right?

Not so fast. Let’s take a moment to compare yourself to, let’s say, Drug Czar John P. Walters.

Yes, John Walters, the rabid drug warrior who thinks that we can attain a goal of a drug-free society… if only we lock enough people up. John Walters, who has seen teen cigarette smoking drastically decline under a regulated market, while teen marijuana usage has remained the same despite his full-out war against it. John "Pee" Walters, who boasts that children are thankful for random drug testing and intrusive searches because it gives them an excuse to say no to drugs. John Walters, a proponent of abstinence-only drug education that has been shown to be largely ineffective. John Walters, who continues to promote the spraying of South American countries with deadly chemicals, even though the program has never been shown to successfully decrease the flow of drugs into the U.S. John Walters, who fights a war that can never be won.

John Walters is every Drug War Zealot. The clueless idealist… living in a fantasy land of abstinence while reality becomes yet another forfeited asset.

In this sense, we Drug Policy Reformers are the realists. We realize that people will continue to find ways of altering their consciousness regardless of how many people are arrested. We realize that drug dealers will always exist as long as prohibition creates an illicit economy that makes easily grown weeds worth more than their weight in gold. We realize that indigenous farmers in third-world countries will continue to find ways of growing the one crop with which they can support their family. We realize that providing children with inaccurate and ineffective “drug education” while demanding that they urinate into a cup will only push them farther away from those who they need the most. We realize that our brains are not perfectly-balanced, unchanging wads of meat; rather, they are complex ever-changing systems of neural networks and chemicals that can often be responsibly tweaked and altered by using a variety of legal and illegal chemicals. And we realize, above all, that there is no silver-bullet solution to our nation’s drug problems, and there will always be work to be done.

Let me be clear: While we work toward a more ideal society, we need to continually express the fact that our advocacy aims to be sensible and rooted in reality. Whether you call yourself a realist or an idealist (or if, like me, you are skeptical of false dichotomies), we can all agree that the Drug Warriors promote policies that blatantly disregard reality, and end up leading to a society that is much less ideal.

It’s time for the DARE Generation to reclaim reality.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Monitoring the Drug Czar

Filed under "willful distortions of truth."

This morning the annual Montoring the Future survey was announced at a joint press conference between the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan. MTF has followed trends in drug use and attitudes among 8-12 graders for 30 years. As such, it is an authoritative body of knowledge on which we can make science-based policy decisions and measure the success of our drug policies.


Well, that might be true if you were anyone other than one of our nation's leading drug warriors. And, two of the top dogs -- Drug Czar John Walters and DEA chief Karen Tandy -- were at the MTF presser this morning. It should come as little surprise to us that they manipulated the survey's findings to justify (indefinite) extension of the Drug War.

I asked Dr. Lloyd Johnston, the leader researcher of MTF, about the disparity between the comprehensive nature of his work as compared to the selective use of data by the Drug Czar to justify random drug testing in schools. Dr. Johnston thoughtfully explained that his survey does not address random testing, but added that MTF does show little advantage to for-cause testing.

Compare this to Walters, who followed Johnston. He said that there will be a time "not too far off" when student drug testing is commonplace and "we will wonder what the controversy was all about." He also said (with a straight face), drug testing "works and it saves lives."

More Walters: This is what companies are doing and, therefore, it is safe for schools. Drug testing in schools is "similar to testing for tuberculosis" and such testing eliminates public health risks among children.


I don't know if you believe any of this, but it sure makes me wonder if we're talking about the same thing. Most of us are eager for an honest debate about student drug testing. However, I doubt that such a debate can ever happen as long as the facts are bent to an ideological agenda.

16:05 - Update: AP hit on the press conference.
12/21 - Update: C-SPAN video of press conference

It's official.

As expected, Evo Morales was victorious in the Bolivian Presidential election.

Read the New York Times' (slanted as always) coverage here.

Morales comes from a poor, indigenous background, growing up as a llama herder and a coca grower, eventually becoming the head of the Cocaleros, or coca-growers union.

He won by much more than he was projected - I saw polls Sunday predicting 32 percent of the vote for him (I think they were taken in late November). It appears that he has won much more than that, but results won't be official for a few days.

This election makes Morales, as far as I know, the first formal representative of a union of producers of a prohibited crop to become the head of a State.

Morales' election will change the international war on drugs in ways we can't even suppose at the moment.

He's also the first indigenous President of Bolivia, which is one of the poorest (and on-and-off coca dependant) nations of Latin America.

“zero cocaine, zero narco-trafficking, but not zero coca”
This has been Morales' rhetoric about his drug policy for a while now. I don't know if he actually takes prohibition seriously or if it was just to temporarily pacify Washington, but either way, drug policy reformers should keep their eyes on Bolivia for the next couple of weeks.

Coverage in the Sydney Morning Herald