Friday, May 25, 2007

Brave kid.

Nothing really bothers me about 11-year-old John Martin's DARE essay. It actually makes me feel kind of warm and fuzzy that he has an outlet to tell his story about his dad's drug abuse problem, his conflicting feelings of love and anger, and how he finds his personal strength. I really can't criticize a healing process, especially when a kid has the guts to undertake one, so power to him.

That said, it would be nice if any set of policies could prevent individuals, kids, and families from being victimized by drug addiction. As long as there are drugs and families, there will be families rendered dysfunctional by drug addiction (although it's worth mentioning that Martin's father is guilty of violent crimes as well). Even though he's become a poster boy for the DARE program, John Martin falls onto the list of people whose lives would very probably be vastly improved by the repeal of drug prohibition. Encouraging people to be drug free does not change the fact that good people still use drugs, does not help those who become addicted, does not reduce their access to dangerous drugs like crack, sends addicts to prison, and increases the type of criminal activities that rightfully send people to prison - not because drugs make people criminally insane, but because that's how they roll on the black market. Not to mention that the DARE scare tactic approach, those offensive ads featured in the action alert above, and prohibition as a whole have not proven effective in decreasing drug use.

John's personal decision to remain drug free is admirable (as most sincere choices based on rich experience and deep personal truths are), and no one knows the extent to which different policies would help him and his family specifically. What we do know is that the drug-free America strategy fails countless families like his. We are working for those families, even when their children are understandably recruited by the other side.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's good to be from New England.

Yesterday was a triumphant day for medical marijuana legislation. Connecticut's House passed their bill 89 to 58, and Rhode Island cleared the "final procedural hurdle" with 51 out of 75 votes. I feel like a sports announcer. Of course, we all remember when Vermont won the championship in 2004, joining Maine in the Medical Marijuana Hall of Fame. CT and RI's legislation come as welcome victories in the wake of NH's crushing defeat this past Spring.

And how 'bout them Red Sox? Well, Massachusetts' Lyle Craker is bringing his game to the DEA, backed by Senators Kerry and Kennedy. Our all-star team continues to struggle against the federal government's foul-ridden offensive. I propose that when we win, we launch a victory parade of greater magnitude than the Pats and the Sox combined. Oh yes. That will be one hell of a wicked pissah paahty.

I find the medical marijuana issue somewhat refreshing in that ailments such as AIDS and cancer, sadly but truly, affect people from all walks of life. It's not just a problem that affects youth, nor is it heavily concentrated around poor and/or minority communities that privileged folk often fail to understand. This is a drug policy issue that, if approached delicately, and granted she's alive and well and sane, you can successfully discuss with your grandmother. Your thirty-second sales pitch need not be catered to different customers. It's simply, "People hurt. Marijuana heals. Give hurting people marijuana. Uh-oh! People get arrested! Change marijuana laws. That's better. Almost - pesky federal government." Ideally, lawmakers would see every issue clearly without the blinders of privilege, but at least these successes show that they're not completely blind. And maybe, since we're awesome, our work on this issue can open their eyes to other injustices of the War on Drugs. Game on.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hope in NOLA's L9

This article deals with a wide range of issues in New Orleans' Lower Ninth ward, and it's a great in-depth read for anyone concerned about said issues. In rebuilding communities, Common Ground's organization actually includes former drug offenders:

In addition to helping people struggle with governments that should be helping them return home instead of treating them as criminals, Common Ground also works with former criminals by engaging them in the rebuilding of L9. Common Ground’s ex-offender program teaches 10 local youth to rebuild houses, which in turn will provide them with marketable skills and careers even once L9 is rebuilt. Malik Rahim points out that most of these youth were drug offenders, meaning that they already had an entrepreneurial spirit. L9 takes that entrepreneurial spirit and channels it in positive directions. Each of the members of the program contributes part of their pay every week to a common fund. This fund will be used to hire the next 10 members of the program. Through this program Common ground proves in practice that no one is disposable – the first and crucial step in building real sustainable communities, based on people’s values and needs, instead of those of government and big business.
Wow. No one is disposable. We should tell that to the policymakers behind things like the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty and drug education and student drug testing. We could even use that argument in our approach to the Campus Change Campaign! Oh wait, we already do all of the above. Like at Maryland, for example, except they didn't listen, thus leading us to believe that students are, in fact, disposable to them. Most victims of the drug war are easily disposed of under the pretense of creating safer communities.

Yet in the most devastated and overlooked sector of New Orleans, youth ex-offenders are valued for their "entrepreneurial spirit" and paid to gain the skills to rebuild. That is an awesome alternative to the prevalent approach of excluding youth drug offenders from various levels of community, from high school sports teams to the university. Every one of our successes indicates that someone in the policymaking department, like those at Common Ground, recognizes both the value of community members harmed by the Drug War and the insanity of punishing non-criminals.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tell your children!

Actually, this pamphlet (also from my local police department) is called "How to tell if a kid is on drugs and what to do about it!"

The next page advises, "If you suspect that your child is using drugs, question everything. Make sure you monitor what your child is doing as much as possible."

This is what the "protectors" of our communities have been telling our parents: If your child begins to experience any changes, invest a sudden interest in their activities. Pay attention not because you care about your kids, but because you care if they're using drugs. Also, since "these signs may indicate a problem other than drug use" (for example, "a lack of concern for appearance or hygeine" may actually indicate being a communist, practicing witchcraft, or having an unhealthy obsession with the conservation of spotted owls), "drugs, traces of drugs, and drug paraphernalia are more direct evidence of drug use." So in other words, look for direct evidence. Perhaps try drug testing. It's perfectly legal for parents to find the evidence without a warrant. However, "Be prepared that your child will probably lie, and you may have to seek outside help." So please feel free to invite your friends from the police department over.

You know what, Officer What's-Your-Name? Don't you talk about my mother that way. (Of course it comes as no surprise that there wasn't any harm reduction literature.)