Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ask the Drug Czar a Question!

True. Drug Czar John Walters will be replaced shortly. But lets not make these last two months any easier for him. Take just a few minutes to ask him a question or two about U.S. drug policy with this nifty form on the White House website. 

Some topics to ask him about: 
  • Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity
  • HEA Aid Elimination Penalty
  • Prohibition Related Violence in Mexico
  • Increasing Accessible/Affordable Substance Abuse Treatment
  • Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
  • Student Drug Testing
  • State Wide Good Samaritan Policies 
Of course there is plenty more to ask and you'll want to be specific. It will only take a few minutes and SSDP would love for you to post your questions to SSDP talk, facebook, and the comments section of the blog! Feel free to contact me to strategize about questions if you'd like!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Have You Signed the Obama Drug Policy Petition?

Ideas are fantastic. So why not have an idea machine? SSDP has one and his name is Micah Daigle. His latest idea is a facebook petition that has generated nearly 17,000 signatures. What's this petition all about you ask? Well, its calling on President Elect Obama to reform U.S. drug policy. 

We petition that…

When you called the War on Drugs an "utter failure" in 2004, you were right. A 2008 Zogby poll found that 3 out of 4 of Americans agree with you. 

When appointing the head of your Office of National Drug Control Policy, please select someone with health, science, or education credentials rather than a military general, law enforcement official, or "tough on drugs" politician. The next "Drug Czar" should base policy on proven methodology rather than counterproductive ideology. At a minimum, he or she should support these measures: 

*Ending the racially unjust disparity in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine. 

*Ending the practice of prosecuting patients in states with medical marijuana laws. 

*Eliminating the federal law that denies financial aid to students with drug convictions. 

We all know that the War on Drugs is failing because handcuffs don't cure addictions -- doctors do. You have the opportunity to bring us the change we need. Will you?
Sincerely,
The Undersigned
*Note: By the time I finished writing this, the petition has exceed 17,000 signatures!

Please help us achieve our goal of 20,000 signatures by signing the petition here and inviting your friends to sign it. 

Yes we can... have sensible drug policies. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why Smoke One Blunt, When You Could Smoke At Least 5?

I'm in DC right now, gearing up for SSDP's 10th Annual International Conference, which I'm sure you already know all about. I'm actually burning the midnight oil with SSDP's eastern region outreach director Amber Langston. We can see Prince George's County from her house, a place where the county council just voted to do something very unlikely to achieve the goals the council hopes it will. I think it will do just the opposite.
The council voted 8 to 1 to ban the sale of single cigars, requiring stores to sell them in packages of at least five. The new law will also make it easier to charge someone possessing a cigar with a drug paraphernalia offense.
Yes, buying 5 cigars will cost more than buying one cigar, but its not likely to break the bank, even for a teenager. In fact, buying in bulk is a way to save money, not spend more. If a single blunt is $1.00, a package of 5 will probably not cost more than $5.00. And if you look at blunt wraps, which do not come filled with tobacco and often feature attractive individual packaging, you can bet that companies will be happy to create larger packages and advertise the new BONUS SIZE! It will no doubt increase production and possibly consumption (like most American consumers, if I buy the Family Size bag of chips, I'm likely to eat a larger serving per sitting than if I bought a single serving bag - but I'd be saving money by buying the bigger bag).

Maybe this isn't so silly after all. In these times of economic uncertainty, we need to teach youth about smart spending and how to get more blunts for their buck! Then we can arrest them for having a legal tobacco product, charge them with possession of drug paraphernalia, and deny them financial aid to college! Drug problem solved. Goodnight.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote today!!!

I don't care who you vote for. I really don't. Obama, McCain, Nader, Moore, whatever. Still holding out hope for Ron Paul? Fine, just vote.

Please make sure your voices are heard on this day. It will be exciting to watch the results come in, but it will be even more exciting to watch the drug policy reform movement, as a whole, gear up and make plans for 2009 and beyond.

VOTE. VOTE. VOTE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to Make a Drug Warrior Look Foolish

Calvina Fay, executive director of Drug Free America Foundation, recently leaped at the chance to make herself look absolutely foolish by attacking SSDP's ally Law Enforcement Against Prohibition on an email list of over 300 delegates and officials that attended the UN forum on Illegal Drugs.

"These guys in the videos are EX-law enforcement for a reason! Hundreds of thousands of current law enforcement find them to be a disgrace to the uniform" accused Fay before regurgitating common prohibitionist misinformation about drug prohibition and also insinuating that making alcohol and tobacco illegal will keep them out of the hands of youth.

Jack Cole provided a fantastic rebuttal to Fay's "facts". He addresses each one of her statements with professionalism and backs himself up with evidence and sources (far from Fay's childish attack).

You would think Fay might have something intelligent to respond, or, as the executive director of an organization that actually believes our country can be drug free, she would jump at the opportunity for discussion. But oh, no. She tops it all off by responding to Jack Cole's fantastic rebuttal only with "Message Blocked Due to Offensive Content."

Keep in mind that this went out to over 300 members of the international drug policy community. She proves once again, that reformers are level headed, concerned citizens, that are always eager to debate and discuss drug policy with the intention of creating more effective policies while drug warriors often refuse to debate or even meet with reformers. Because the misinformation they spew only provides one leg to stand on, they often rely on the crutch of attacking their opponents integrity, credibility, and in this case, the many years of service they have provided by putting their lives on the line and fighting this drug war as law enforcement officers.

I leave you Jack Cole's response:
Answer to Calvina Fay’s accusations and statement of “facts”:

My name is Jack Cole. I am the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). I am also a retired detectivelieutenant-26 years with the New Jersey State Police and 14 in their Narcotic Bureau, mostly undercover. I bear witness to the abject failure of the United States’ war on drugs and to the horrors produced by its unintended consequences.

In the last six years the current and former law-enforcers at LEAP have made more than 4,500 presentations on replacing the war on drugs with a system of legalized regulation of all drugs. This includes attending more than 35 national and international law-enforcement conferences. During that time our members have received nothing but respect from other law-enforcers, even those who do not yet agree with us. That is because we spent our entire careers trying to end drug abuse by using current policy. We have not changed our minds about wanting to end drug abuse, we have simply changed our minds about what policies will be effective in accomplishing that goal.

It is only from folks like yourself, Calvina, folks who never spent a minute as a law-enforcer, that we are rebuked with statements like, "These guys in the videos are EX-law enforcement for a reason!" (The reason is we finished our decades-long careers of protecting the citizens of our countries and retired).

Considering the fact that about 80 percent of the current law-enforcers who personally have spoken with us about this issue agree that the war on drugs is a failed policy, it is hard to reconcile your statement that "Hundreds of thousands of current law enforcement officials consider [us] a disgrace to the uniform."

As for getting facts straight, Calvina's “facts” are:

1. …enormous health problems with alcohol and tobacco because they are legal and socially acceptable.

Under the original prohibition, alcoholic products were no longer regulated, resulting in a 600 percent increase in alcohol poisonings treated in our hospitals. "Bath Tub Gin" caused people to go blind and die. Alcohol consumers not only increased in numbers but elevated their consumption to drinks containing more alcohol. In New York City the year before alcohol prohibition went into effect there were 15,000 salons but five years into Prohibition there were 32,000 speakeasies; saloons sold mainly beer, but Speakeasies sold almost exclusively hard liquor. Of course, we also had the highest rates of murder and corruption of public officials under Prohibition ever recorded in the United States-until, that is, the current Prohibition, where we have achieved levels of death, disease, crime, and addiction never before imagined possible.

(For tobacco see my last paragraph)

2. The U.S. may have a large prison population but, it is a much safer nation than most.

The below chart lists 29 countries for reported crimes per 1,000 population and the number of prisoners per 100,000 population. It appears that the United States rates behind 24 of those countries as far as safety from crime is concerned but it does rate number one for imprisoning our own people
3. Low level drug offenders are NOT sent to prison. They are sent to drug courts, community service, and treatment and put on probation.

The truth is, implementation of a policy of war on drugs is destroying people's lives. Police cast their nets so wide that many innocent people are caught in them. A car is stopped and five people are arrested because a bag containing a single serving of a hard drug or an ounce of marijuana (or less) is found under the seat; at least four of those arrestees may have been innocent. Innocent people die when police SWAT teams assault the wrong houses, but I'm sure Calvina would just see this as collateral damage in our drug war.

Even if I believed Calvina when she says, "low-level drug offenders are NOT sent to prison," drug courts are just one step removed from imprisonment, which comes when the probationer fails his or her urine test.

And arrest for nonviolent drug offenses are themselves terribly debilitating since the computerized arrest records track people for the rest of their lives, blocking their ability to be licensed by the state, their ability to be hired by many employers, their ability to attend colleges and universities, their ability to obtain apartments, their ability to travel from country to country, their ability to adopt children: basically their ability to have hope for the future.

4. The drug offenders who are serving time in prisons, BELONG there because they have committed serious crimes.

In fact, there are many people in prison who never committed a violent crime or for that matter any other crime than a drug-law violation. I put a lot of them there myself.

5. We could empty all of our prisons out if we legalized other crimes such as rape and murder, but most people would find that insane.

This is the kind of logic I expect from Calvina. There are two kinds of crime:, malum in se and malum prohibitum. The former refer to an act that is "wrong in itself." It is illegal because it violates the natural, moral or public principles of a civilized society. No one in their right mind would propose legalizing a malum in se crime.

An offence malum prohibitum, on the contrary, is not inherently evil, but becomes so as a result of being forbidden; as ingesting substances, "which being innocent before, have become unlawful in consequence of being forbidden."

Source: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Malum+in+se

Ingesting drugs may be stupid and self-destructive. But neither the drugs nor the user are thereby rendered evil—as are rapists and murderers. To confuse the two types of crime, to equate intoxication and rape tells us a great deal about the person making that claim—but nothing useful about the crimes.

6. Drug use has been reduced dramatically in the U.S. since the 70s -at one point reduced by greater than 50%.

According to DEA, before the war was implemented in 1970, there were 4million people in the United States above the age of 12 who had used an illegal drug (2 percent of that population) but by 2003, DEA was telling us there were 112 million people above the age of 12 who had used an illegal drug (46 percent of that population). Somehow that does not sound like a 50%reduction.

Specific drugs do in fact go in and out of fashion, and when a particular drug falls into disfavor, people like Calvina claim that the War on Drugs is “working.” When drug use rises, they claim we need more troops. But overall, it is ludicrous to associate the tactics of this War with anything resembling success.

7. LEAP, would be better served to help us reduce the supply and the demand for drugs in the world.

Legalized regulation of all drugs would reduce supply and demand for drugs. Legalization would remove the artificially inflated value of illicit drugs, which can increase from source country to sale country by more than 17,000percent! Those drugs come from weeds that will grow anywhere and are worthless until we prohibit them. Then marijuana becomes worth more than gold and heroin more than plutonium. If those drugs were legal their value would drop to the point that drug dealers would not find it worthwhile to sell them on the street or induce others to become addicted to guarantee a customer.

Further, prohibition guarantees that the best way to reduce demand among the addicted—treatment—is not only underfunded but frightening to those who fear that acknowledging their addiction will lead to punitive state action.

8. Science clearly shows that drugs are harmful and therefore, no matter how you sugar-coat it, there is no justifiable reason for making them socially acceptable and easier for people to use and harm themselves as well as put the rest of us at risk with their irresponsible behavior.

I don’t want to get into a "good drug-bad drug" debate with Calvina. Suffice it to say that drugs should not be legalized because they are harmless. Indeed, the more dangerous the drug, the more reason to legalize it because we can't regulate and control anything that is illegal.

Currently the control and regulation of illicit drugs is in the hands of criminals and terrorists. They tell us what drugs will be supplied to our communities, how much will be supplied, how potent it will be, what it will be cut with, what age groups it will be sold to, and where it will be sold. If the criminal wants to sell heroin laced with Fentanyl to ten-year-olds on our playgrounds, that is what will (and does) happen. You have to ask yourself why our children tell us it is easier for them to buy illegal drugs than it is to buy beer and cigarettes. You also have to ask yourself why, according to DEA, there are 900,000 teenagers in the United States selling illegal drugs-but not one selling beer or cigarettes. Legalized regulation removes those drugs from the realm of our children, whether for use or as a business, and places it in legitimate businesses run by and for adults.

Moreover, legalizing drugs does not equate with making them socially acceptable. Tobacco, even though widely promoted and highly addictive, has been made far less socially acceptable through education and regulation. Cigarette use rates are falling faster among our youth than illegal marijuana use rates. In fact, the 50 percent decrease in the overall use of nicotine, the most addictive social drug known, has been the only success story in a hundred years of United States drug policy. The point LEAP makes is that we didn’t have to arrest or imprison a single user or distributor of nicotine in order to achieve this wonderful success story and we didn’t spend well over a trillion tax dollars in the process. There are better ways to spend our taxes than continuing the failed policy of a war on drugs.

Peace,
Jack

Monday, October 06, 2008

If it might work, Drug War policy makers probably won't give it a try

Gulab Mangal, the governor of an Afghani province, Helmand, wants to try a new approach to controlling opium poppies in his land. Helmand is the largest poppy producing province in Afghanistan, a lot of which goes to fund groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. He wants to stop the farmers from planting poppies, rather than destroy it once they plant it. His plan involves actively working with the farmers in his region to provide them with the seeds and training needed to grow new crops and improving their road systems so that farmers are actually able to get their product to the market.

To me, this seems like a pretty effective way of reducing heroin production, if that is your goal. One might think this would be a program the US would really want to get behind.

So far, Mangal has secured over $8 million from the United States and Britain for seeds and fertilizer for 26,000 farmers, as well as for a public information campaign to let farmers know of his plans. But just weeks before the planting season, he was still fretting that they would not arrive in time.

"Four months ago I raised my voice, but we have been delayed by bureaucracy," he said. "We have to get to the farmers within one month."

The US funneled hundreds of millions of dollars a year into Plan Colombia, which consisted primarily of aerial fumigation tactics and other military-like activities. The best we could come up with is $8 million between us and Britain?

I’m not advocating spending more money (any money, actually) on eradicating potentially intoxicating crops. I’m merely pointing out that this Afghan governor most likely knows the farmers in the area better than the US government. He has a plan that is much like policies many activist and scholars have been arguing for in coca producing areas since Plan Colombia began and before, and yet the White House continues to push for a similar eradication plan for Afghanistan.

Yet more proof that the US War on Drugs is illogical and destructive at its very core.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

If you want to tax it, just legalize it!

North Carolina is one of 23 states that have a tax on illegal drugs. I can’t speak to the way the others work, but in North Carolina the tax on illegal drugs is considered a purely civil issue. Thus, you can be acquitted of a drug crime and still be taxed on the drugs. The burden of proof is on the defendant, and the tax can be applied retroactively. Meaning if the state can reasonably demonstrate past drug possessions as well, then the tax can be levied on drugs long come and gone.

A few days ago Darwin Bisping, a pizza delivery man who says he uses marijuana for medicinal purposes, and his housemate in Asheville, N.C., were sent a bill of $88,866 as the tax on the 114 marijuana plants seized from their home this summer. WRAL reported:

The state law specifically says that more than 42.5 grams of marijuana can be taxed at $3.50 per gram.

Bisping and McCart each were taxed on 18,053 grams of marijuana and also were charged $25,274 in penalties and $406 in interest.

Bisping said he uses the drug to calm nerve problems and to help him swallow food after esophagus surgery. He also disputes the weight of the marijuana that was seized.

"This ain't about justice, this is about money," he said.

These taxes are ridiculous and hypocritical. Only a quarter of the money raised through this tax goes to education and the other 75% right into the pocket of the arresting agency. That money is probably a nice addition to the cash cow of asset forfeitures they get. When there is this much money on the line for police, is anyone actually surprised when they choose to arrest medical marijuana patients and peaceful suppliers rather than focusing on the dangerous, but less lucrative, criminals? I’m not.

That’s a lot of money for one pot bust. Imagine if all the marijuana growers in North Carolina (there are a lot) paid even half the current tax in order to safely and legally grow marijuana. Police would require fewer resources (probably why they are usually vehemently against decriminalization initiatives), and we could pump a ridiculous amount of money into education, one of the few things proven to actually reduce drug use.

And, you know, allowing people in severe physical pain to alleviate their sufferings without fear of prison; financially crippling, bullshit taxes; ineligibility from food-stamps and public housing; disqualification from participating in the Big Brother/ Big Sister program; or inability to find work would be some nice perks as well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Life in prison for a single dose

This is a slightly old story but I think it needs to be discussed. There are several key points that I feel are important to make.

Eugene Atkins, a 21 year old man from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was convicted in 2006 of selling a lethal dose of heroin to a 17-year-old boy. Matthew McKinney and his friend, Christopher Perrin, bought the heroin from Atkins, and Perrin administered heroin to McKinney. Perrin was sentenced to 2 years for lying to authorities about his involvement. Check out the coverage of the original conviction here.

Tuesday, Atkins’ conviction was upheld.

Eugene Atkins II claims he shouldn't be blamed for Matthew McKinney's death because another person [Perrin] could have called for medical help. He says the jury that heard his case in 2006 should have been given that instruction.

Where is the trial for the pharmacist who gave Heath Ledger his sleeping pills? Why was there no hunt for Chris Farley’s supplier? There are quite a few people in Grand Rapids who claim that the prosecution of Atkins is a racially charged witch hunt.

Whatever the reason, the fact of the matter is, if heroin were legal and regulated properly, it would have been a lot harder for those kids to get those drugs. They would be packed to indicate where the drugs came from, and the cashier would probably have said, “Hey kid, you look young, let me see some ID.” I’m sure that phrase is rarely uttered by drug dealers.

Personally, I don’t believe anyone should be in jail because of this situation. It wasn't bad heroin, just a bad reaction. If this kid hadn’t died, neither his friend nor the dealer would be in jail, and those two being in jail will certainly not bring Matthew McKinney back. And it definitely will not do anything to help prevent similar tragedies in the future.

It’s very sad that this young man died, but it’s even more depressing to think that he might still be alive had his friend called for professional medical help. I don’t know the specifics of what Perrin did or did not do, but I can only assume that he was terrified about what would happen if the cops came and found the two of them in possession of an illegal substance. If Michigan had a publicized Good Samaritan law to protect people from criminal prosecution when calling for medical help for drug overdoses, perhaps Matthew might still be alive. You have the power to help prevent tragedies such as this. Please visit http://ssdp.org/campaigns/ccc/goodsamaritan/ to learn how you can take action to implement Good Samaritan policies in your community.

Also, watch this video and share it with your friends by posting it to Facebook and Myspace. Also Digg it at http://digg.com/health/Calling_for_help_shouldn_t_be_a_crime


video

Saturday, August 16, 2008

SSDP on MTV Think!

SSDP is now a group on MTV think. Create a profile and join the group right here.

I know what your thinking. MTV? Involved with something that isn't lowering the quality of popular music and convincing the average 16 year old that they are entitled to a Mercedes Benz and a birthday party that is incomplete without flame throwing trapeze artists and Siberian Tigers? Yes actually.

MTV think is super cool and promotes that young people should organize, speak out, vote, and have a say in policies that affect them. By joining the SSDP group you can promote discussions, upload videos and audio, complete goals and earn badges/prizes, and network with plenty of other organizations and young people from around the world. Groups are broken up into issues such as substance abuse, poverty, health, education, human rights and environment (unfortunately each group is only allowed to pick 2 issues and SSDP is related to just about all of them). One important part of think is that it allows us to bring the reform message to young people that are concerned about substance abuse but haven't heard our side of the story yet. Check out this forum.

Please create a profile and join the group (we only have one member right now and its me!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

DARE Conference Wrap Up

Update: The UStream broadcast mentioned below has been canceled. It will be rescheduled.

Friends,

I'd like to let you know that I'm alive and well -- albeit intellectually exhausted -- following my attendance at the DARE conference this week.

I have video clips and insights to share, but I'll save those for my UStream broadcast next week. I hope you can tune in:

WHO:
SSDP members everywhere.
Hosted by yours truly (Micah Daigle, SSDP Associate Director).

WHAT:
Recap of the DARE conference and discussion of SSDP's role in promoting effective drug education programs.
(UStream allows participants to discuss topics within a chat room, while the host leads the discussion via video feed.)

WHEN:
Wednesday, August 20th
9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific

WHERE:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ssdp-chat

In the meantime, I'll be editing my footage together into a video to post on the internets and YouTubes. The footage varies from interviews with genuinely good-hearted DARE officers talking about the relationships they've built with young people through their time teaching the program, to die-hard zealots preaching about their disdain for evidence-based education programs and harm-reduction.

Although the latter footage is much more damning (and thus valuable to those who oppose the DARE program), I'm going to do my best to portray my experience at the conference in a fair light. We may score quick points by being selective about what we see and hear, but we'll never win this fight if we become zealots like the prohibitionists who oppose us.

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

DARE Conference live blogging: confessions

It's beginning to heat up in San Antonio (figuratively and literally -- it's 100 degrees!).

Before I tell you about what just happened, I should preface it with a few things:

1) As I mentioned in my previous post, I have the utmost respect for the vast majority of law enforcement personnel and truly beleive that the D.A.R.E. program is carried out with the best of intentions. (This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I had a great relationship with my DARE instructor growing up.) Even if we are critical of the program itself, we must remember that their goal is to keep young people safe, and they probably wouldn't be teaching DARE if they didn't truly believe that it works. My experience this week has reinforced that conviction.

2) Since I give DARE officers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their intentions, I'm trying to be respectful and nondisruptive even when I hear something that makes my skin crawl. If I "come out" as an SSDP member, it would create a scene and I'd probably be removed from the conference, which wouldn't be productive. Thus, I'm doing my best to keep a low profile even though my age, video camera and lack of a cop uniform make me stick out like a sore thumb.

and...

3) I'm a terrible liar. A big reason I'm involved in working to make our drug policies more sensible is because I've always been drawn to truth. So whenever I'm the least bit deceptive, my pulse quickens, I feel uncomfortable, and I swear my nose grows four inches.

With all this being said, you can probably understand why I froze when I was identified as being a DARE critic during a packed session and questioned afterward about what brought me to the conference.

The session was entited "How the Media is Killing Our Children." Throughout the course of the presentation, the speaker claimed the following:
-It doesn't matter if DARE is effective or not. It matters whether it has the potential to be effective. In fact, we shouldn't trust studies or numbers. The studies and numbers don't matter, so long as there's a chance that DARE miiight be working.
-If your state passes a medical marijuana law, that means that the guy flying your plane or the guy "driving your taxi when your family visits the 911 memorial" could buy a fake penis to pass a drug test and then get you killed.
-Oh, and the media is killing your children.

To be fair, some of the information about alcohol advertisements geared toward children was spot on. And he was a fun guy with a compelling presentation style.

But he must have caught me squirming in my seat when he said "I don't trust numbers" because he pointed at me and said "so if this guy is a DARE critic, you can tell him..." He then asked me to turn off my camera and I complied.

During a break in the session, the presenter approached me and politely explained that he asked me to turn off the camera because the presentation includes copyrighted material. He then asked where I was from and why I was at the conference.

I was torn on what to say. I didn't want to lie, but I also didn't want to get in an argument, cause a scene, and jeopardize my ability to continue gathering information about DARE to bring back to all of you. So I told him that I direct the nationwide Good Samaritan Campaign, an effort to prevent overdoses on college campuses. Not a lie by any means (since I do direct SSDP's Good Samaritan Campaign) but not entirely the whole truth either.

The whole truth would have involved me telling him that my friend's mother, who was finally able to relieve her MS symptoms legally after RI passed its medical marijuana law, has presumably never bought a fake penis for the purpose of passing a drug test, nor is she a taxi driver. The whole truth would have involved telling him that I've seen the studies on DARE and realize that the potential to do good also comes along with the potential to do harm -- in fact, some studies have indicated that DARE may actually increase drug use among young people.

But even though I was being completely honest and defused the situation successfully, I still feel slimy. As a friend joked via email today, I'm a wolf in wolves' clothing.

So consider this post a confession of sorts. Although I knew from the start that my goal was to gather information without making too much of a scene, it's getting more and more difficult to hold my tongue because the truth deserves a proper defense.

Tomorrow may be my chance to do just that. It's the last day of the conference, so I don't have much to lose. Besides, they may have googled me and found this blog by now anyway. That doesn't mean I'll be rude or disruptive, but I'll probably be more inclined to ask tough questions and show my cards.

But for now, I've got a bowling tournament to get to. Oh, and I just did a thoroughly entertaining and informative interview with Miss Texas and Miss Maine. I'll post the video soon.

I'll wrap this post up as I began one in 2004:

"I am Christopher Columbus at a flat earth conference.
I am Charles Darwin at a creationist conference.
I am Micah Daigle at a DARE conference."

Not much has changed.

Higher Education Act Supports Drug Abuse

After a full 10 years of contacting representatives, gathering signatures, writing articles, and spreading the outrage, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, along with hundreds of supporting organizations was sure their determined efforts would finally pay off and that Congressional leadership would follow through with their pledge to repeal the counterproductive Aid Elimination Penalty of the Higher Education Act. However, we have yet again been terribly deceived.

If you’ve ever wondered why you’re asked about drug offenses when applying for federal financial aid through FAFSA, thank Representative Mark Souder (R-IN), who somehow managed to slip the AEP into the Higher Education Act in 1998 without any debate or vote. Since then, this amendment has denied over 200,000 students federal financial aid, and in turn access to education. While we assume the reasoning behind Souder’s action was that he thought it would decrease drug abuse, it’s done the exact opposite by forcing students to drop out of school, therefore increasing their risk of drug abuse and criminal activity.

Regardless of the penalty's intentions, it has blatantly attacked hard-working students, people of color, and the lower and middle class. Since the FAFSA already requires satisfactory academic progress in order for a student to be eligible for federal financial aid, the AEP only affects hard-working students who have been doing well in school. While African-Americans make up a fairly small portion of the population, racial profiling leads to an absurdly disproportionate higher number of African-Americans arrested for drug offenses. And since middle and lower class families are depending solely on financial aid, it’s easy to see why wealthy families may not be too concerned.

Many members of Congress who were on our side initially have informed us that they became terrified of facing negative attacks, fearing they’d be labeled as “pro-drug”. In reality,it is precisely the Aid Elimination Penalty they are supporting that continues to increase drug abuse and decrease education. Anybody who is against racial profiling, increasing drug abuse, and decreasing education should be against this penalty. Please fill out this pre-written letter and demand an explanation from your local legislators! Unless they hear from their constituents, they won’t realize what their people want and will continue to follow their misguided instincts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

SSDP at the D.A.R.E. Conference: Day One

Today was a bit of a bust. There were only two training sessions, followed by a parade of all the "pimped out" D.A.R.E. vehicles seized via asset forfeiture laws, a motorcycle stunt show, and an opening reception with mariachi music and fajitas. (Okay, so it was kind of fun.)

I did get a lot of great video footage today, but nothing too juicy to blog about yet. Tomorrow is when the conference really gets going, so there will be much more to report on then.

Also, I found out that the Drug War celebs who I thought were speaking (Gonzales, Hatch, & Walters) are going to be no-shows. The video I posted earlier indicated that they'd be here, but they are nowhere in the program materials. Bummer.

Tomorrow, I'm attending the following two workshops:
  • Drug Trends in America: Raves, Ecstasy, Club Drugs and Inhalants
  • How the Media is Affecting Our Kids

The latter workshop is four hours (good grief!) but should be pretty entertaining.

Over and out.

DARE conference live blogging: "Responsible shoplifting"

I'm sitting in a session that's about parents who provide alcohol to teenagers in controlled settings and how "irresponsible" those parents are.

The instructor just gave a speech about harm reduction actually being "harm promotion" and made an analogy about parents teaching their kids how to "shoplift responsibly."

Riiiight. Perfect analogy. Because every high school student shoplifts the night of prom and then tries to drive home while putting on the dress/tux they just snatched up, resulting in deadly collisions.

The logic is flawless.

Monday, August 11, 2008

SSDP at the D.A.R.E. Conference: Prologue

It has been four years since I represented SSDP at the D.A.R.E. conference, a gathering of hundreds of well-intentioned police officers from across North America who teach misinformation and scare tactics rather than honest, reality based drug education.

Well, here I am in San Antonio, TX, getting ready to do it again.

And after watching this promo video, I have to tell you, I'm pretty darned excited. Keynote speakers include drug warriors from all branches of government, like amnesiac victim Alberto Gonzalez, nutcake police Orrin Hatch, and Johnny P. Walters, who needs no introduction. But here it is in case you do.

As was the case last time, the main purpose will be to gather information on D.A.R.E.'s curriculum, which has been proven time and time again to be ineffective, possibly causing more drug abuse than it prevents. As a D.A.R.E. graduate, I demand better results from a program that has been adopted by more than 75% of public school districts.

But as you can see from the letter I distributed at the conference in 2004, my intent is not to attack the motives of these public servants. In fact, I think that the vast majority of police officers are good people -- it's the laws and the programs that they carry out that are unjust and counterproductive. As much as I may disagree with their stance on drug education and drug policy, I have to give them all the credit in the world for putting their lives on the line every day keeping us safe.

One day, when we finally stop using law enforcement to deal with public health issues, young people will look at police officers like they look at firemen and paramedics -- as heroes, not adversaries. And then (and only then) it might not be a bad idea for police officers to be involved with the rest of the community in the difficult but important task of teaching young people about drug abuse.

Each evening of the conference (Tues - Thurs), I'll be keeping you informed about my experience at the conference via blog posts. At some point, I'll also broadcast a live video transmission from SSDP's UStream channel. Keep an eye on this blog for info on the timing of that broadcast.

So, what questions should I pose to D.A.R.E. officers? Your suggestions in the comment section. Keep it respectful.

Remember kids, the world's most dangerous narcotic is ignorance. Just say know.

We Can't Forget: Rachel Hoffman

It has been 3 months since 23 year old Rachel Hoffman was killed in a botched drug sting set up by the Tallahassee Police Department. After being arrested twice for marijuana, Rachel was given an ultimatum, turn informant of face up to 5 years in prison. As a recent Florida State University graduate and with plans to attend culinary school Rachel agreed to work with the Tallahassee police department.

Rachel was given $13,000 cash to purchase 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine, and a handgun from 2 men she did not know. The buy was obviously suspicious and police quickly lost track of Rachel after sending her on the sting.

Rachel's death represents the failure and tragic irony of drug prohibition; a war on drugs created in the name of protecting young people destroys more lives than drug use alone. ABC recently featured Rachel's story on 20/20.



Please make a donation the Morningstar Foundation. The foundation was started by Rachel's mother with the goal of passing a law requiring civilians to seek legal advice before consenting to undercover police work.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Berwyn Heights Mayor, 32 lbs of Marijuana, 2 Labs Shot, Nobody Arrested

The mayor of the Berwyn Heights community in Maryland, Cheye Calvo, found himself last Tuesday evening on the floor of his house with his hands behind his back, wearing nothing but boxers and socks, with his two beloved dogs’ bloody carcasses lying lifeless next to him for hours. The first question that pops into my mind after hearing a description like this is what kind of an evil criminally minded lunatic would go to such disgustingly brutal lengths to torture someone? And what could have Mayor Calvo possibly done that inspired such an attack?

The answer, surprisingly enough, is that it was no criminal at all, at least not according to the government. In fact, it was the Prince George’s County Police Department who broke into Mayor Calvo’s house during a no-knock raid, shot his two Labrador Retrievers, and interrogated Mayor Calvo and his mother-in-law for hours about a package that had been intercepted in Arizona addressed to the mayor’s wife containing 32 pounds of marijuana. After raiding the house with a SWAT team, and finding absolutely nothing, police released the Calvos, coming out with no arrests.

After receiving support and permission from Mayor Calvo, University of MD- College Park’s SSDP chapter held a memorial service in memory of the two innocent lives lost to the War on Drugs last Sunday. Thirty-six people showed up, received ribbons, joined each other in a moment of silence, and listened to a quick speech from Stacia Cosner, former UMD SSDP President, about other tragic cases in which dogs have been killed by police.

While the memorial service was held to mourn for the loss of Chase and Payton Calvo, a more politically focused demonstration highlighting how often the War on Drugs takes innocent victims’ lives is soon to come.

Thanks to everyone who helped out with and came to the memorial service.

Chase and Payton Calvo, you will never be forgotten.

Monday, March 10, 2008

SSDP Member Kicked Off UMD Senate Ballot!

Stacia Cosner, SSDP Board Member and president of the UMD SSDP chapter was notified yesterday that she will be taken off the ballot for senate elections because of a drug arrest that is nearly two years old. Read about it here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Help SSDP Win $10,000 on Facebook



Get on Facebook and donate some $chedda$ to SSDP! Is doesn't have to be much, even $10 will go a long way. If we can get 250 people to donate just $10 each before February 1st we can win $10,000. If we get more than 700 donors, we could win $25,000 and have a shot at winning $50,000!

While Facebook limits you to 20 invites per day on causes, you can invite an unlimited amount of people to this event and spread the word about this awesome opportunity.

And to top it all off, the #1 recruiter gets a FREE APPLE G4 LAPTOP!

Friends, reform takes money and the opposition has plenty of it. If your serious about reform then help SSDP with something as easy as a point and a click. FACEBOOK.

UPDATE: Jimi D shows us that helping SSDP win $10,000 is as easy as changing your Brita water filter...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Extreme Ecstasy Brah!


Just when you think the ONDCP couldn't backtrack anymore, John Walters warns us of the dangers of "extreme ecstasy".

Why would anyone try to label ecstasy as extreme in the hopes that it would scare young people away from using it? Has the ONDCP ever seen the X-Games or what about Extreme Doritos? The word extreme has been used over the past decade as a youth advertisement tool for everything from snack foods to video games and has been successful. Anyone can guess what calling ecstasy "extreme" might lead to.

By calling the ecstasy extreme it seems like the ONDCP are saying the effects are more extreme or intense. As if this is some sort of new drug "cocktail" that will attract young people because its effects are stronger. This article states the obvious in saying that the "biggest reason [for mixing meth and MDMA] is cost." No other reasons are even listed because there really aren't any.

So this extreme ecstasy is actually MDMA mixed with methamphetamine and apparently is all Canada's fault. I think its important to point out that MDMA stands for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. See that whole part, after dioxy, that says methamphetamine. Okay, good. MDMA provides a stimulant effect. So why mix methamphetamine with MDMA pills? Because it cuts down on cost and increases profit for dealers and still gives the user that stimulant effect they expect from MDMA. Many pills have been passed off as ecstasy and when tested have been found to contain only methamphetamine or even just caffeine.

Is it really "extreme ecstasy" or is just an blatant example of ecstasy prohibition failing miserably by taking a drug that should be a pharmaceutical and placing it in the black market? As American parents and doctors pump amphetamine in the form of Adderal to children in the treatment of over-diagnosed ADD and ADHD one really has to be bewildered at this new scare tactic against ecstasy and methamphetamine.

So now American drug warriors can claim that they not only made a difference in the availability of ecstasy, or pure ecstasy rather, but they have created a new, more "extreme" drug that is more profitable for drug dealers.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Run Mitt Run!

This semester I had the opportunity to intern with Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana in New Hampshire. GSMM followed NH presidential candidates and put on the pressure about medical marijuana. Mainly we wanted to know what candidates were willing to end the raids on medical marijuana patients in the 12 states that have passed legislation protecting patients and their doctors.

National Journal did a story called Tales from NH Town Halls and reported the details of NH town hall events where the candidates had campaigned. In a section of the story titled Adventures with Advocacy Groups, the story discusses the activists that follow the candidates and promote their issues. They wrote about GSMM even including a transcript of my McCain encounter.
[Of all the NH advocacy groups] None has been more persistent than the members of the Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, pushing to legalize the drug.
Clayton Holton, seen in this video depicting the ignorance of Mitt Romney and Rudy Guliani in particular, suffers from Muscular Dystrophy. Clayton is only 22 years old and is the youngest man ever admitted to a NH nursing home. That is where he currently lives, unable to use marijuana to control his pain, nausea, or stimulate his appetite but provided a steady regiment of Oxycontin, a drug he wishes could be replaced with marijuana.

Check out over 40 video encounters with presidential candidates by GSMM at youtube. Unfortunately the GSMM campaign is over but I plan on posting some of the highlights here on DARE Generation. GSMM was probably the most successful marijuana campaign in NH to date and Clayton Holton will surely be NH's face for medical marijuana in the Granite State.