Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ONDCP's David Murray stymied by prohibition. Poor guy.

Buried in an article from today's New York Times, David Murray, the "chief scientist" for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, admits that the prohibition of drugs makes it much more difficult for public health researchers and law enforcement to study and keep track of them.

In discussing a new research technique that could enable law enforcement to determine where and how a given sample of marijuana was grown, Murray reveals his true awareness that taxing and regulating the plant would contribute to a better understanding of its effects and would bankrupt some the armed and violent gangs that currently make a big hunk of change distributing it on the black market.

Meanwhile, Dr. Murray is optimistic that the Marijuana Signature Project will help the agency better understand and control the flow of the drugs.

“We can’t go out and find this information because it’s an illegal activity where they shoot you in the back alley if you try to find out,” Dr. Murray said. “Today we’re making guesses. This will guide us toward a scientific basis.”

Can someone remind me why it makes sense to cede control of marijuana and other drugs to cartels and gangs instead of actually regulating the market?

photo: NYT

Monday, August 20, 2007

DARE Officer Method Man?

If you're a student at one of 15 select Brooklyn high schools, you might get an anti-drug lesson from Method Man soon.

That's right, the rap superstar has agreed to teach students about the dangers of drugs as part of a plea deal stemming from an arrest earlier this year when Mr. Johnny Blaze himself was caught with marijuana smoke emanating from his car.
According to defense attorney Peter Frankel, Method Man -- real name Clifford Smith-- "is thrilled to do it." Frankel added that his client has "never been in trouble before. He's not a stereotypical rapper."
For realz, I hope Method Man drops some real knowledge on those shorties in the schools, Safety First and Beyond Zero Tolerance style. We don't need none of them whack scare tactics.

Come to think of it, I bet Method Man could team up with Retro Bill, the "Official DARE Safety Buddy," for a major motion picture...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Indictment of drug prohibition in today's WashPost

Former BBC reporter Misha Glenny has an excellent piece on the front page of today's Washington Post Outlook section. In this devastating deconstruction of the War on Drugs, Glenny definitely makes the case for ending prohibition.

Here's a tasty taste.
The trade in illegal narcotics begets violence, poverty and tragedy. And wherever I went around the world, gangsters, cops, victims, academics and politicians delivered the same message: The war on drugs is the underlying cause of the misery. Everywhere, that is, except Washington, where a powerful bipartisan consensus has turned the issue into a political third rail.

The problem starts with prohibition, the basis of the war on drugs. The theory is that if you hurt the producers and consumers of drugs badly enough, they'll stop doing what they're doing. But instead, the trade goes underground, which means that the state's only contact with it is through law enforcement, i.e. busting those involved, whether producers, distributors or users. But so vast is the demand for drugs in the United States, the European Union and the Far East that nobody has anything approaching the ability to police the trade.

Prohibition gives narcotics huge added value as a commodity. Once traffickers get around the business risks -- getting busted or being shot by competitors -- they stand to make vast profits. A confidential strategy report prepared in 2005 for British Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet and later leaked to the media offered one of the most damning indictments of the efficacy of the drug war. Law enforcement agencies seize less than 20 percent of the 700 tons of cocaine and 550 tons of heroin produced annually. According to the report, they would have to seize 60 to 80 percent to make the industry unprofitable for the traffickers.

Supply is so plentiful that the price of a gram of heroin is plummeting in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom. As for cocaine, according to the UNODC, the street price of a gram in the United States is now less than $70, compared with $184 in 1990. Adjusted for inflation, that's a threefold drop.


In Washington, the war on drugs has been a third-rail issue since its inauguration. It's obvious why -- telling people that their kids can do drugs is the kiss of death at the ballot box. But that was before 9/11. Now the drug war is undermining Western security throughout the world. In one particularly revealing conversation, a senior official at the British Foreign Office told me, "I often think we will look back at the War on Drugs in a hundred years' time and tell the tale of 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' This is so stupid."

How right he is.

From "The Lost War" by Misha Glenny (Washington Post; Sunday, August 19, 2007).